Category Archives: teenagers

Dog Days Indeed

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Dog Days Indeed

I don’t think there has ever been a better time to be a domesticated dog. Blanche is loving the quarantine life and I feel less guilty taking a walk with my four-legged hall pass. When I get the mail at our PO box I bring Blanche to take her around the nearby shopping village.

This place is usually a hive of activity. They hold seasonal festivals throughout the year, typically with a food theme – strawberry, blueberry, beer. In mid November they flip the switch and the outdoor space transforms into a sparkling Holiday Wonderland. It really is breathtaking. Right now the tulips are in bloom and it’s a welcome distraction from otherwise dreary days. Lately, even the weather is depressed, overcast, cloudy, the sky cries a lot these days.

Blanche doesn’t know why she gets so many walks now, why her humans are home all the time and I don’t think she gives the “why” much contemplation. She simply soaks in the affection, the extra attention, the constant togetherness and the abundant treats. I may be a little envious of her simplicity at the moment.

That’s not the only spark of jealousy though, Blanche got a spa day a few weeks ago. For some reason, it’s legal for her to get groomed. The place where she goes sells pet food so maybe they found a loophole? I didn’t dig too deep. My girl was shedding like it’s her job, ticks are hard to find on a furry black dog and honestly her beard was out of control. Yes you read the right, my lady dog grows a beard…I blame it on the Bouvier. My mutt is a Labradoodle mixed with a Bouvier.

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Not a bear. An actual Bouvier des flandres, source FB Kao Khane des Dasilva Winner

Blanche’s “Before” picture…

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Poor baby is terrified at the vet. That beard though…

Now let me stop you before you start with questions like – Who, What, Why & Where – I don’t know. We adopted Blanche from Brookline Lab Rescue when she was about 18 months old. She and her brother lived with a wonderful family that had to re-home the dogs because a member of their family became gravely ill. They were good people going through a tremendously difficult time and needed to simplify their lives. Blanche’s brother went to an equally loving home so it worked out well for the dogs.

Anyhow, Blanche got her much needed grooming day….meanwhile, I look like an extra from the Walking Dead. To add insult to injury, there was an incident last week.

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This is me looking for pizza…kidding, I wish I was that skinny.

We have been ordering take out from our favorite restaurant at least once a week since this mess started. I have a teenage son with a significant chicken parm addiction and we all like the Brooklyn pizza. The Brooklyn pizza is a large, thin crust, square shaped pizza with 12 slices. Because biology is a sadistic MF to midlife women, I eat one slice once a week and hope to not gain 3 pounds. Everyone else in the house can eat multiple slices and maintain a sleek build (grrrr…Science).

Last week I heard my husband in the kitchen, I was in an adjacent room. I was within ear shot but couldn’t see him.

Hubs: What happened to the pizza?

Me: (I walk into the kitchen) What do you mean?

Hubs: There are only 3 slices left?

Me: I had one and so did she (pointing to our daughter).

Within minutes we confirm that our son has not eaten seven slices of pizza which, let’s face it, is entirely possible. It was Blanche! That bitch went ninja on us and silently stole SEVEN slices of pizza. The real shock was the only tell tale (tail?) sign was that the wax paper had shifted inside the box….somehow and this is the amazing part, she managed to close the pizza box lid. I sh*t you not.

I’m equal parts annoyed and amazed by her abilities. The real rub though…she can eat seven slices of pizza and still have a bikini ready body. And yet again, I wish I could draw because, Blanche wearing a bikini…sigh.

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Thank you Internet for this random photo of a pug wearing a bikini. It’ll have to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Train Indeed

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Crazy Train Indeed

Disclaimer – This was written a couple of months ago before the world turned into a smoldering nuclear sh*t pile. I held off on posting it because I wanted to see if my friends IRL would be able to see a difference without knowing that I “did a thing”. Since we are all in quarantine until *whenever* I have given up on that experiment. Please stay well my friends, I hope this makes you laugh. XOXO, Bryce

So I look horrible right now. Imagine that Ozzy Ozbourne just lost a fight in a rainstorm so his eyeliner is running halfway down his face in uneven splotches and his hair is a stringy mess, that’s me. Except instead of eyeliner, it’s bruises – the stringy, messy hair stands (even dry shampoo can’t save me now).

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Inspirational photo: I hope to look this good again (sigh)….someday.

For the past 10 years, I’ve wanted to do something about the bags under my eyes. When I was 45 I got some filler, the result was just meh. I waited until I turned 50, told myself I could get it then. 50 came and went and there was always a reason not to do it – family plans, work obligations, social events, chicken shit-itis. One primary concern was how to explain it to my teens. Specifically my daughter….I don’t want her thinking cosmetic surgery is a quick fix that’s a dangerous message. So I did what any good mom would do, I lied.

As far as my kids know, I had a revision to the strabismus surgery I had a 16. I did actually have that surgery so it’s not completely unfamiliar to me – the point is that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Don’t judge me Karen I know your “hernia” operation was a tummy tuck.

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Anyhow…I was supposed to have this procedure (lower blepharoplasty – just lower bleph now that we’re close) done in November but then that pesky zombie arm came out of nowhere. My priorities shifted and I had neck surgery instead. A few months out from ACDF and I got restrictions lifted so I got my bleph “strabismus” on the calendar again. I selected a date that would give me two weeks without client visits so I booked it.

I scheduled it despite the fact that there is sh*t going on in my family right now because let’s face it, if I wait for the day when nothing is happening, I’ll be dead. For some reason I felt a strong pull to be true to myself in this situation which is relatively new territory for me. Perhaps that unanticipated neck surgery reminded me that life is short and you need to be your own advocate.

Yesterday was the big day and I felt as prepared as one could be…I’ve been taking Arnica Montana and Bromelain. I purchased a special eye mask for icing the area, have been eating pineapple and making sacrifices to the soft fruit Gawds in the hopes that my bruising would be limited. I realize it’s only day 1 but I already know I will look like hell for a minimum of two weeks (3…it was 3 weeks of looking like Rocky Balboa after he’s gone too many rounds with  Ivan Drago). One just knows…at least the physical pain isn’t that bad. The procedure itself was very INTENSE.

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I must admit I went into this with a bit of bravado. My recent stint with neck surgery made me a wee bit over confident. It’s after all a cosmetic procedure….surely I can get through this with a single Valium and needles to localize the area. I soldiered through but if a close friend inquired, hell if a stranger asked, I would urge them to consider general anesthesia or at a minimum, a fist full of Valium.

First the surgeon took a picture (please Geezus don’t let that end up on a his website) and placed some marks under my eyes. The doctor asked me what kind of music I wanted played, I went with 70’s classic rock. Then I walked into the operating room and placed myself on the table, that part was fine. I got concerned when they strapped my arms down. That was a red flag, flailing limbs must be a concern. Not sure if the straps got added after one spectacular event or if it was a series of minor mishaps that prompted the addition. Inquiring minds want to know but not as I’m getting ready to board this crazy train, tell me two weeks from now.

You close your eyes for most of the procedure. The nurse warned me before each numbing injection. She also informed me that each needle would burn and take it’s sweet time getting to that numb phase which was required. I probably had 6 or 8 needles on each side. I was hoping to pass out from the pain but sadly that did not happen.

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Ok the needles were finally done…onto the actual incision. I didn’t feel that though, I did hear the faint sound of snip, snip, snip, snip – similar the sound of hair being cut. As I was lying on the table, I realized I was too far in to get out at this point (Duh, this is why the arms are restrained). I braced myself for the next assault which turned out to be olfactory in nature. The smell of burning flesh is not pleasant, particularly if you are the owner of said burning flesh. The smell was accompanied with a faint sizzling sound which has been seared into my brain. I will reflect on this whenever I hear Fat Bottom Girls by Queen. I’m left wondering if that song was purposely put into the shuffle to plant a subliminal seed for future procedures. I still like my ass doc stop trying to up-sell me, we don’t all want a backside like KK.

 

The last bit was stitching which I started to feel because apparently Satan’s numbing needles don’t last all that long. The whole process took about an hour, that is a long stretch to be in the midst of that hot-stinging-fleshburning-blooddrenched mess. My hubs drove me home and I was in significant pain, maybe a 7 out of 10. I took two Tylenol when I got home and that helped tremendously. I then followed a regime of 15 minutes with ice/15 minutes without for the first 24 hours. I wasn’t as fastidious over night, I just iced it whenever I had to get up to relieve myself which turned out to be several times (thanks tiny bladder). I woke with an expanded bruise zone. By expanded, I mean it went from the width of a dime to the size of Warren Buffet’s bank account.

And now we wait…

 

 

Smile & Wave…

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Smile & Wave…

When things get bad I either retreat inward like a turtle hiding in their own shell or bleed all over the floor, on a stage with spotlights and a large audience. It seems I’m not great at middle ground. I use to compare parenting to jumping off a cliff with no knowledge of what you’ll be landing on – could be a pillows, could be razor blades, no one knows. Right now I feel like I am threading a needle in the dark with shaky hands, it’s not a great place to be in.

Most of the monsters I am fighting are not my own. This adds to the frustration and the fear, the unknown is a formidable beast. Throw in vastly different opinions regarding medicine & parenting and you have yourself an unsavory cocktail of emotions and no real path for progress. I’m in a bit of limbo right now, a shitty version of purgatory, not sure which direction we’ll be going in next.

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Anyhow, moving on….I haven’t posted in a while so here’s an update for the curious –

Two weeks ago I got cleared off restrictions from my ACDF surgery. That means I can go back to the gym (YAY!!!!). This made me obscenely happy. Exercise is my primary means of maintaining mental health. Not exercising to the level that I am accustomed was tough during my recovery. I understood the need, I just missed the endorphins and the familiar faces at the gym.

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Speaking of familiar faces…I saw one lady at the grocery store last week and she asked where I’d been. I gave her an update and we chatted pleasantly, told her I’d see her back at the gym. Fast forward to Saturday and the gym parking lot was a hot mess. I had to wait for an open spot because the lot was completely full. I had my blinker on waiting for a car to vacate….then a women rolls up next to me and starts screaming.

Her face was distorted with rage, she was using hand gestures and possibly frothing at the mouth. I responded with a few friendly shrugs, pointing to the spot I was waiting for and a what-can-you-do look on my face. Who was this angry woman….the same lady I chatted with at the grocery store. A few days later I was in the gym parking lot again and she walked past my car – we made eye contact, I smiled and waved enthusiastically, she looked down at the ground and walked to her car. Namaste parking lot lady.

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I went back to work with Rob and Laura after the holidays. For the first couple of weeks I just went out on solo missions to do their shopping. I would also cook them meals and run errands as needed. One day Laura forgot I wasn’t cleared to drive them yet. When I arrived in the morning she had her coat on, ready to go. When I reminded her of the temporary grounding, I got some side eye and a huffy “Fiddlesticks!”

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Fortunately I can drive my friends again.

Pain in the Neck…

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Pain in the Neck…

What’s new my friends, lots happening here. I’ll give it to you in bite size pieces, it’s a lot to chew on.

Rob & Laura Update

My nonagenarian friends are still on this side of the dirt which is a good thing. Dear Rob has had two TIAs (min-strokes) in the past 7 weeks and he is starting to slip cognitively. Laura lost her hearing aid which caused her great frustration until she finally relented and posted bail to get a new one (just under a thousand dollars and that was with the discount, YIKES). There was a lot of shoulder shrugging, exasperated sighs and general annoyance until that got resolved.

Rob’s family is originally from Virginia, last week he told me that when his grandfather was about 8 years old his family had a special guest over for tea, Robert E Lee (yes that one). Then we had an interesting discussion about the confederate flag, Civil War statues and reparations. Oddly enough that afternoon he got a call from a member of his Quaker Community that was eager to change the name of one of their member organizations currently known as the “Overseers”. Rob was hesitant to change the name and he referred to himself as a curmudgeon which is not how I see him at all. He was brought up in a different era, in a geographic area which has a complicated history. A lot of things have changed in his 95 years on the planet and it is refreshing to see someone remain adaptable this late in life.

Caring for them when I’m in physical pain myself is getting exhausting. I know that if I saw one of them about to fall, I would hurl my body in their direction to mitigate the damage likely to my own demise. It would be a visceral reaction and I doubt I could control it. So I have to find them some additional help while I recover, it’s hard to find another me.

Medical Update

I saw a surgeon this past Monday to review my MRI and discuss the options. My options are do nothing and put myself at risk of falling off a metaphorical cliff at some point…potentially losing balance and control of (coughs) bowels and micturition (new Scrabble word). My issue is progressive and will not improve with physical therapy, vitamins, a Chiropractor, voodoo, acupuncture, lavender oil, your cousin Stephanie’s smoothie blend or CBD oil. So surgery it is folks, Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion in case you’re bored and want to Google that mess.  I “get her done” in early November.

I texted my twin brother to discuss it –

Me: Guess who has two thumbs and a new neck in her future – THIS gal.

Him: New neck???

Him: Get a giraffe one and freak people out

And this is one of a thousand reasons that I adore my brother. Then he immediately offered to drive twelve hours and care for me post op. Heart of gold that one.

Marital Bliss

The other night my husband hydroplaned on the way home from Newark, New Jersey Airport. He called me from a sketchy neighborhood to report the news. Bear in mind his car is a Tesla Model S with a Pennsylvania plate, he did not blend in. I told him I would get him so he could take all of his personal effects out of the car and wait to get it towed. It was an hour and a half for me to get there in windy conditions which caused me to have a death grip on the steering wheel for about 3 hours in the middle of the night.

Physically my husband was fine and I am incredibly grateful for that. That said, I’m going to blame his brazen stupidity on the way home on the the two 360’s he did on Route 78 which landed him facing the wrong way on a typically busy highway. He bitched about my driving on the way home at least three times. I was so pissed and in so much physical pain at the time all I could do was grunt, like a bull. Yes, I was in the left lane traveling at a safe speed. It was 1am with little traffic and a wind ban on the turnpike at the time.

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The next day I bitched to my brother about the situation, via text.

Me: Something off about fetching your man from a sketch neighborhood in the middle of the night because he had a car accident AND then listening to him bitch about your driving all the way home while you are in INTENSE pain.

Him: Yikes. How many cars has he messed up and how many have you?

Me: 3 him, me 0

Him: That’s a pretty solid data set to support your argument.

Did I mention that I adore my brother?

 

Kids

Told the kids about my surgery and downplayed it as to not panic them. One kid asks how I am the other takes a different approach…

Kid 2: UGH, my foot fell asleep! (hobbles into kitchen)

Me: Bummer, that’s how my arm feels all the time now.

Kid 2: We get it mom, your arm hurts.

Me: Went to bed so I wouldn’t do anything rash it was 8pm.

For some reason that little exchange reminded me of Erma Bombeck’s tombstone which has “I Told You I Was Sick” on it.

 

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Not sure whose tombstone this is but you get the point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bananas

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Bananas

Sweet Geezus the bananas are out of control…AGAIN. Those pesky peels are showing up everywhere. Real damage is being done, people are dying slipping on those damn peels. Even the schools are not safe. Teachers who went into their chosen field to educate and enrich the lives of their students have to carve out time to teach students what to do in the event of a banana peel emergency. And an emergency is bound to happen, they always do. We’ve already had a handful of banana peel incidents this year and it’s only February.

Great minds have been debating this banana peel issue for decades and still no solution for the problem. Some people say that all bananas should be removed from circulation. Others argue for more restrictive banana rights. Others say “hey leave my bananas alone, our founding fathers fought so I could have a right to my bananas.” Maybe some people can’t handle the power of the banana, maybe not everyone needs one. Perhaps there should be a consistent test to determine if someone is within the right frame of mind to carry a banana?

We could make public places safer to avoid unwanted banana entry. Schools should probably be built more like prisons to keep the bad bananas out. That makes sense right? Really high fences – 20 feet high with barbed wire, a few guards at the entrance a banana pat down on the way in, maybe a retinal scan, we have the technology. Sure schools are going bankrupt paying for pension funds and a push to redistribute property taxes. Put all that aside for a moment…I’m sure Congress will loosen up the purse strings so we can keep our bananas AND make schools safer. We do after all value the safety and well being of our children as well as a free and accessible public school system.

There is a lot of speculation as to why the banana problem exists: poor family values, antidepressants, a lack of love & God, mental illness, video games, the pro-banana board which spends gobs of money keeping bananas accessible. At one point Australia had a banana problem and they just said “turn in your f*cking bananas.” Apparently that’s working for them. That couldn’t possibly work here. The UK, Japan and Germany also have a low tolerance for bananas. Shocking as that is, those countries have fewer banana fatalities than we experience in the USA. What could it be? We need our bananas we aren’t like those other countries.

I don’t know what the answer is…I mean I guess you just have to say a prayer and hope your kids don’t slip on any peels when you send them to school. That seems to be working out just swell…as long as it isn’t your kid slipping on the peel.

 

This was originally posted on a sister site in February of 2018 after the Parkland mass shooting. It’s September now, that time of year when parents wonder if the bullet resistant backpacks will hold up, teachers try to anticipate which kids will have panic attacks during the “active shooter drills” (the new fire drill except this “fire” mimics when a maniac comes into your kid’s school with an assault rifle) and teachers mentally calculate how many more months they have to deal with this insanity before they can retire.

Sadly, the post is still relevant. Thank you teachers everywhere for still showing up under these obscene conditions. Kids I don’t know what to tell you, I’m so sorry we haven’t collectively done better. You deserve a safe place to learn, all of you.

Fellow Americans do you remember when drunk driving was a HUGE issue in this country? In the 80’s grass roots organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) got fed up and pressured the government to do something…the legal drinking age was changed to 21 across the nation. Drunk driving laws were tightened and strictly enforced and the public’s behavior changed. People still have a cocktail with dinner, they just plan for the drive home with more caution now.

Why can’t we use a similar common sense approach to guns? Thorough, consistent background checks, close the purchasing loopholes, be a little more selective about who can purchase a weapon. I have to show ID to purchase allergy medicine can’t we have at least that much scrutiny for a military grade weapon? Or shall we just continue to traumatize the generation we’re supposed to protect? Is that better because that sounds bananas to me.

“See” Day

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“See” Day

After Tallin, Estonia we had a sea day…in my case it was a “see” day because that evening was the last of the four Princess Production Shows – Born to Dance! For those that are just jumping onboard, this post is part of a series about an 11-day Baltic Sea Cruise I took in August. My niece, Peanut, and her boyfriend, Special K, are entertainers on the ship. Peanut sings and Special K dances, it’s kind of amazing to watch them. And yes those are nicknames because this is still an anonymous blog, kind of…I’m keeping the pen name.

This day started with a behind the scenes stage tour open to all of the passengers. Special K was assigned to work this event. Peanut joined me and mingled with the other guests and answered questions. The most frequently asked question was about their makeup – as in who does it? Spoiler – the cast does their own. Except when Special K is a Sorcerer, then Peanut does his eyeliner but it isn’t in her contract.

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It was great to hear from the production crew and go back stage. The backstage is like a gigantic theater version of Tetris. They have gotten very creative with storage out of necessity. It’s not as if they can move stuff to Joey’s garage if things get tight, they have the space they have and that’s it. After the tour I had a greater appreciation for the behind the scenes choreography that happens with each show. Unlike the dancers on the stage, their dance is supposed to be seamless and invisible to the audience – they do a phenomenal job.

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In-between stage tours, long walks with Peanut and smoothies, I was hustling back and forth to the cabin. Sadly my daughter was getting sick so I was fetching her tea and ham croissants every couple of hours. I purchased DayQuil at the rate of $1.25 pill which seemed steep for something you wouldn’t take at a Rave (yes, I’m old). My girl rested most of the day as I coated myself in hand sanitizer and blew air kisses her way.

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That night we went to watch Born to Dance, a nod to many of the most beloved Broadway Shows, the emphasis on dancing. Here’s a clip that Princess created for the show – Born to Dance

This was an incredible show and the entire cast really nailed it! I watched both the 8pm & 10pm shows as I didn’t want to miss a minute of them on stage. I’m grateful my own kids aren’t into theater because I would be the most outrageous stage mom on the planet.

Naturally I posted an obscene amount of photos when I got home. Most of Peanut and Special K’s family and friends won’t get to see these shows so they were happy to see the posts. The next day my daughter and I were scheduled to tour Berlin.

Stay tuned…

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Estone-a-what?

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Estone-a-what?

After two action packed days in St Petersburgh, Russia we were ready for a slower pace. My niece took my daughter and me into the Old Town section of Tallin. Her boyfriend had drill duty on the ship that morning and planned to meet us later. The walk from port to town was easy to navigate.

Tallin is the capital of Estonia. Estone-a-what? you ask….Estonia, a small country which borders the Baltic Sea with Russia on it’s right and Latvia on it’s left. It went by the German name of Reval from the 13th century through the first half of the 20th century. They’re pretty keen on changing city names in that part of the world (St Petersburgh to Leningrad – back to St Petersburgh). It was also known by it’s Russian name of Revel and a few other names. Such a pretty country, strategically located, many larger more powerful countries were eager to take over the place.

After being passed around like a party platter between the Danish, Finnish, Swedish, and plenty of guys named Vlad, Estonia gained her independence in 1918. Independence was short-lived as Estonia was occupied by the Red Army, then the German Nazis at various times during World War II. Despite the occupation, Tallinn was never razed or pillaged and as a result has kept her Old Town charm. Unlike many of the sites we visited in St Petersburgh Tallinn did not experience significant war repair renovations to it’s Old Town. Estonia reclaimed it’s independence in 1991 and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Enough with the history lesson, what did we do in Tallinn…we ate and shopped and it was divine. We started with mini pancakes dolloped with Nutella and a shocking amount of confectioners sugar. Peanut (niece) went with raspberry preserves and condensed milk (OMFG are you kidding me???!). I sampled both as was my duty as the eldest adult. I proclaimed Nutella the winner but the condensed milk did cause me to hesitate (actually it caused my heart to stop momentarily, defibrillator anyone?)IMG_9239

After stuffing our faces with mini pancakes we walked around a bit to fight the carb coma that threatened our ability to stay upright. We wandered around the open air market where we looked at knits, Christmas ornaments, hats and other odds and ends. We found a side alley which featured a couple of cat statues….ON THE CEILING (paw prints and all). I stopped to buy a postcard for Rob & Laura and entrusted the store clerk to mail it for me after I purchased the postage.

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Me after consuming mini pancakes.

Then we decided to pour some caffeine on the morning and headed to a favorite cafe. Peanut and Special K have a favorite cafe in every port along the Baltic Sea. I’ve yet to be disappointed in their selection. This place in particular had fantastic Chai Tea and something I really appreciate, a sense of humor as noted on the sign.

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After Special K (niece’s BF) joined us we headed to The Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments, because that’s what my kid is into (makes sign of the cross, says silent prayer). It was a predictable assortment of horrific devices used to inflict as much pain as possible in creative ways – explanations and diagrams were provided. Then it was time for lunch because who doesn’t get hungry after a morning of mini pancakes, cats on ceilings and torture devices.

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We walked a bit more after lunch to the scenic overlook and passed through one beautiful street after another. The weather cooperated fully with blue skies and a just right air temperature. Cleaner than an Epcot Country it seemed like something out of Shrek (inspiration for Duloc?). Thanks for the memories Estonia.

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From Russia With Love…Part 1

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From Russia With Love…Part 1

One of the ports on our 11 day Baltic Sea Cruise was Saint Petersburg, Russia. To be honest, it was never on my travel bucket list, I didn’t know much about it. We booked the trip last minute so I could see my niece and her boyfriend preform on the ship. They both got jobs as entertainers and this cruise was one of the itineraries during their 9 month contract. I started digging in a bit and somehow convinced my husband to send our daughter and me.

To prepare for this port I watched The Last Czars series on Netflix. It was really well done and fairly accurate according to people who know more about Russian History than me (nearly everyone). Saint Petersburg featured prominently in the series as it was the capitol of the Russian Empire from 1712 – 1918. Nicholas II was the last Czar of the Russian Empire, he ruled from November of 1894 until he abdicated the throne on March 15, 1917. Spoiler – he was a shitty Czar. Whether that was due to malice, ignorance or ineptitude is up to debate, perhaps a toxic mix of all three. If you plan to visit or just need something to binge watch, I recommend the series (Netflix feel free to send me something for the plug).

With my newfound interest, I decided to book a tour during our two day stop in Saint Petersburg. After stalking cruise experts online and reading dozens of reviews, I went with the Grand Group Tour with Alla Tours. The group sizes were much smaller than the ship excursions and the prices were better with similar itineraries.

The morning we arrived in Russia I was a bit nervous. I grew up during the Cold War, Russia was enemy #1 for a big chunk of my youth and let’s face it, they get bad press on the regular – land grabs, election rigging, poisonings, scary stuff. So I open the curtain to my cabin balcony and THIS greets me –

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Russia is that a missel or are you just happy to see me?

That was a bit intimidating…according to our guide, Roman, it is an 87 story sky scrapper (not a scraper, a scrapper) which is owned by a petroleum company. Oh and Roman said it looked like a corn husk. Roman also said the Crimea land grab was fake news so draw your own conclusions.

Our first stop was the Palace Square which features the Alexander Column, the Winter Palace and the General Staff Building. It was gorgeous and we got a clear morning which is rare as SP only averages 60 sunny days a year.

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Winter Palace completed in 1762 was the first building constructed in the square and became the primary residence of Russian Czars. While visiting the Palace Square we ducked into a souvenir shop which, immediately offered Russian wine and vodka to all the customers, it was 8am (slurs speech, it’s 5pm somewhere Ruskii). My daughter tried on those big furry Russian hats, eyed the Faberge eggs and ultimately fell in love with this Russian nesting doll –

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I didn’t buy it at the time because $45 seemed outrageous. Then when we got home I found it on Amazon so, someone will get this at Christmas….shhhh.

The Hermitage (1764) was our next stop, the place is infested with gold and precious works of art. We had the good fortune to see works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and countless other artists at a mind numbing pace.

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Danae, Rembrandt (1636 w/later revisions). This painting was seriously damaged in 1985 when some jackass threw acid on it. Extensive restoration and repair were done with some of the damage left intact so as not to entirely redo the painting.

After a couple of hours, my daughter was going numb from the barrage of information so she started to amuse herself by photo-shopping Michael Jackson’s head on famous works of art. I thought it was genius.
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After the Hermitage we went to a restaurant for lunch which consisted of Borscht and Chicken Kiev. I enjoyed it, DD is not a fan of beet soup but she tried it and the chicken was better received. We were given pastries with a cream inside as dessert, yum. Next stop was the Peter & Paul Fortress and Cathedral.

The Cathedral featured the remains of the Romanov Family, including Nicholas II the last Czar. Their bodies were not interned until 1998 with the exception of Prince Alexei (born as heir to the Czar) and Princess Maria. The remains suspected to be of Alexei and Maria were not discovered until 2007. These bone fragments have since been tested and identified as the missing Romanovs though the Orthodox Church has not yet interned them with the rest of their family. The entire family was murdered in July of 1918 after being held captive by the Red Army in the city of Yekaterinburg (pssst…watch the series, you will not be bored).

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We finished the day with a trip to Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin. It was exhausting, crowded and monotonous – gold, mirrors, chandeliers, hall, followed by more gold, priceless antiques, rare works of art and yes, more gold. Keep in mind this Palace, along with the other cites we visited had extensive renovations after being devastated in World War II. I kept thinking of the people that went hungry while all this gold was being brushed on for the renovation.  Here’s the backyard –

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…and more gold for the road, stay tuned for the rest of St Petersburgh!

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DMV

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DMV

Hello my blogging friends, I have missed you. Nothing exotic happening here I just haven’t been able to steal time from other parts of my life to get a post up. I have some catching up to do…

My teens are off from school, that happened approximately 312 hours 37 seconds ago. I’m teaching one of them to drive, that’s fun. He’s a good driver for the most part, sometimes he takes turns like he’s in an electric go-kart. When we sent him for camp and winter league a few years ago, I didn’t think through the driving habits that were being downloaded into his brain at the time. I try not to gasp out loud or visibly wince, that’s been tricky. Now I make the sign of the cross and genuflect before I get in the passenger seat so that’s new.

The first official day of summer break I took my son and my mother to DMV. My mother and I needed to get photos for license renewal and my son needed his permit. Once again, I didn’t think this one through friends. We went on a Tuesday which apparently is the worst day to go (because of course it is). The DMV is closed on Sunday & Monday so Tuesday is the busiest day of the week and I can vouch for that.

My son was going to a different counter he was number 442. My mother and I were 195 and 196. As soon as we arrived, mom plopped her stuff on a chair that I found for her (the last chair, I had to race to beat a 90 year old to it and she almost got there first but I did a home base slide to secure it…I’m sure the walker slowed Ethel down). Anyhow, mom doesn’t even sit down she goes out to get some air (smoke). So I sit in her seat to hold it and ignore the dirty looks from Ethel and her friends from Sunnyside Eldercare. Mom comes back forty minutes later sipping from a large aromatic coffee cup and says “I guess I should have asked if you wanted one” as she reclaims the hard plastic throne.

90 minutes later we are starting to get to our place in line, 192 pops up on the display. Mom decides to get more air. I pointed to the display and reminded her that our numbers were almost up, she shrugged it off. “I’ll be back in a jiff” she smirks and she’s out the door before I can lift my jaw from the floor. Three minutes later, the numbers get to 194. The average wait time between clients has sped up from a 10 minute average to 90 seconds. My son’s line is also making progress with just a few people ahead of him. I send him out to do a quick Nannie search, he comes back sweaty and panicked, “I can’t find her”. OH FFS I think to myself and then my number gets called.

I am clearly distracted as I go through the process of license renewal. I steal side glances to see if mom has returned and wonder how much stalling I can do to buy her time. My brain goes blank, I give a pensive smile for the camera and do not take the time to check my hair or put on lipstick. I regret the lack of primping as soon as I see the image that will humiliate me for the next 4 years, sigh.

While I’m taking a shitty picture and contemplating the location of my mother, my son’s number is called. I slide from counter A to B and join him for the inquisition. The gentleman, Reggie, working the counter is a textbook definition of a disgruntled government employee. My son takes his paperwork out of his jean pocket which has been folded into a square. Reggie conjures his inner thespian and makes a dramatic display of unfolding the papers and mentions that he’ll need to “ern them”, which took me a second to mentally translate to iron.

I continue to smile and act pleasant while Reggie sighs heavily and gives off the I-want-to-end-it-all vibe that radiates off him like heat on asphalt in July. My son remains respectful, a little anxious, waiting for instructions. Reggie grunts and points to a row of computers which my son and I interpret as a cue to take the written test online.

I wait nearby and watch as Reggie makes the “I’m going to lunch” announcement. Announcement isn’t entirely accurate, it was more like a muttered statement that I happened to over hear. For a moment I get hopeful that perhaps a more charming individual will replace him and we will end this nightmare on a positive note.

I finally see my mother who has somehow managed to slip in just in time to hear her number. The boy finishes his test and stands next to me, I tell him about Reggie’s lunch break. Then I am hit with the sad realization that there will be no Reggie replacement and we need to wait for him to get back. I cry a little but only on the inside because I’m a winner, damn it.

We meet other Reggie castaways as the minutes tick by and we all come to the same conclusion, Reggie sucks. After about thirty five minutes our counterman is back and he begins his reign of disregard toward his line constituents. When it’s our turn he doesn’t say anything beyond, “here” as he shoves paperwork into my son’s hand and thank GAWD it included his permit. I make a mental note of how time moves differently at the DMV. For instance, 10 minutes at DMV is equivalent to 3 hours outside. I suspect it may be comparable to prison time, we managed to survive 27 hours in the joint.

How’s your summer going?

Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

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Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

It’s fine, I’m fine, everything is FINE….my Gawd why do I get so emotional at these predictable Hallmark milestones? My kid just finished 8th grade and naturally there was a ceremony, we have one for everything now, first period parties, hard pass. I approach these events with the cynicism of a crone, meh, it’s 8th grade not med school, calm the hell down and yet…

As I scan the faces on the stage I feel a strange mix of emotions. I’ve known a dozen of these kids since preschool, most since Kindergarten, half the grade has been at my house at some point. It’s not a huge grade maybe 115 kids and as I watch them, I’m reminded of the ever growing gap in the parental/child relationship. I’m keenly aware that while I once knew everything about my kid, I’m no longer the primary confidant. One of my friends summed it up – once we shared them with the world, now they share a piece of their world with us.

Throughout the day I hear the refrain of Sunrise, Sunset go through my brain and my emotions play out like a predictable plot, so pedestrian in their ebb and flow. Somehow I’m OK with that because this is the shared camaraderie of parents. I can catch a side glance toward another mom and within seconds I know she’s on the verge of losing it as I quietly pass her a tissue. There’s comfort in that, knowing your peers are experiencing a similar cocktail of bittersweet emotions.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When, did, they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they, were, small?

Sunrise, Sunset – Jim Nabors

I’m sure the middle school promotion ceremony plays out in a similar format throughout America. The same six kids get recognized every year – leadership, citizenship, athleticism and all around Stepford child awards. My kids never get them. My son was one B away from straight A’s in middle school.

The single B was from 7th grade gym class where they had to choreograph a dance. Three dudes where set to shake it to Shaggy’s  Bombastic but some Lynne Cheney type bish decided that was too risque so they had to switch songs at the last minute. So basically censorship prevented my kid from making straight A’s in middle school. That same year they were forced to do square dancing and since there were more guys than gals, his partner was a known douche bag who likes to pick fights. I don’t think I’ve hated anything more in my kids school careers than 7th grade PE.

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My girl had one C in middle school and it happened last semester in Algebra. I can barely spell Algebra let alone do the equations, I won’t hold it against her. My kids are good. They usually make the Honor Roll, don’t get in trouble and they are respectful around adults (well, the girl gets testy around me, she is fine with other adults). So in sum, my kids are slightly above average academically and there isn’t an award for that.

They stopped doing sports when they realized that concussions are a strong possibility and my son got sick of @ssholes on the soccer field. My daughter flirts with instruments – flute, piano, and now guitar, she has some musical abilities she just hasn’t stuck to one thing long enough to excel. Should I force her to play the piano an hour a day? Seems stupid to me and I’m done paying for lessons that aren’t enjoyed.

And those six kids that get the awards, they work their asses off and so do their moms. These kids have been groomed in utero and on through to this day to stay on track – musical instruments, student council, tutors, travel sports – resources and talent have been carefully mixed to keep their kids in the front of the pack. I admire their tenacity yet I opted out. I picked calmer weekends and weeknight dinners around the table, I was hoping for some sanity.

If my kids decided they wanted to do something specific, I followed their lead. We had one year of travel soccer (crazy and expensive) and a brief foray into lacrosse, neither stuck and I wasn’t too sad about it. So now my kids don’t do sports and I think the Grown & Flown types would have me feel bad about it but I just can’t muster up the guilt (yawn). BTW, the Grown & Flown Facebook Group has some seriously mean people in it. The posters routinely include “please don’t be mean” in their posts because there are some ragers in there.

As I’ve been a witness and a participant in this raising of humans, I am constantly aware of the privilege around us. I did not grow up like this. I was raised by a single mother and I had a dead beat dad, we were broke. My brother and I had to fend for ourselves. There were no tutors, no activities that required rides from mom or added any extra expense, it wasn’t an option. We were latch key kids who understood that there wasn’t money for extras, we barely got by.  I used to clean my neighbors apartment so I could earn money to go roller skating.

My kids don’t know that struggle. They have two parents that would set themselves on fire to give them what they need and we have financial resources that neither my husband nor I had growing up. He came from a working class family, his parents were immigrants, they worked their asses off to get their kids a better life.

When the college admissions scandal blew up this spring, I wasn’t surprised. I can see this happening where we live, these people are so primed for it. All the money, time and sweat equity they have poured into their offspring, they aren’t settling for anything less than Penn State. The ones that want Ivy Leagues pay for college coaches, they’ve all spent at least a year’s tuition on the prep before they receive their admissions letters.

Back to the ceremony…there was the obligatory photo montage featuring a small collection of photos for each student. A guarantee for tears is what it is…pictures of babies morphing into high school kids on a continuous loop until the ceremony begins. My brain went through a total recall of my daughter’s childhood. It extended into the known parts of her friends, past and present.

There were times when I felt like I knew too much…that girl is on anxiety meds, that one is struggling with her sexual orientation, another was once a close friend until she wasn’t, that kid’s dad has cancer, his parents are separated, divorce, divorce, affair, those 4 kids each lost a parent (one dad died 7 weeks ago, heart attack), the boy who has been in a wheelchair since he was two, the blind kid who has the same birthday as my daughter…..my heart broke a million times yesterday knowing some of their struggles. And while, I am still somewhat involved in the district, I don’t know everything. Each one of those kids is struggling with something, regardless of the awards, perfect hair or blatant talent, privilege can’t take away every obstacle in life.

Last night there was a party at the school for the kids. It had a theme because of course it did. I can barely remember a time when parties didn’t have a theme, barbaric. The theme last night was Aloha High School. Some moms came up with theme related activities. Decorations included grass skirts around the basketball hoops. These parents are EXTRA, they go all out. There were at least 8 different activity stations all with Hawaiian flair – hot potato, scooter hockey, volley ball, an inflatable obstacle course, limbo, hula hoops, and my personal station Flip Flop Flippin.

Flip Flop Flippin or FFF as it is known on the street, features two elevated hula hoops and flip flops. The goal is to flip a flip flop off your foot through one of the hoops. Yeah, sounds easy, in reality, not so much. It’s easier to do with a heavier shoe, I know this now, I know it deep in my sole (typo intentional, calm down grammar nerds). I had maybe five customers in 2 hours.

Midway through the party,  I went over to assist at the inflatable obstacle course. Actually, I wandered over to chat with a mom friend, she soon put me to work. Before I knew it was the inflatable course warden yelling at boys to stop grabbing each other’s ankles as they attempted to climb the slide. I yelled to the point where my throat hurt and some dudes got black listed from the course. I have without a doubt destroyed my daughter’s chances of dating any of those guys, mission accomplished.

Despite the carefully planned curated activities it turned into a zoo in no time. Noodles for the scooter hockey were immediately weaponized as 14 year old boys unleashed their inner Zorro. The boy in the wheelchair had at least 4 kids on the square scooters trailing behind him in a whip chain for at least 40 minutes (I was happy about that, he had a blast and his mom is a G-damn hero).

In the end, the gym looked like a Hawaiian party war zone. The “no food in the gym” rule was breached, a Moku dessert bowl bleeding pomegranate on the wooden floor. Remnants of leis were scattered like ashes from Mauna Loa. No doubt, the remains of a good time as they leave this part of childhood behind. I’m not crying, you are.