Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring is...still trying to spring

I get the whole metaphor about spring and new birth. And frankly, having birthed 4 children with 15 in circumference heads, I'm going to say now, like I said then (each and every time), can we just get this over with? Spring in the great white north doesn't occur as it does with most places; it doesn't happen with the temperatures slowly rising and the spring jackets being broken out, with the grass gradually turning green and the temperature slowly moving up from "winter" to "spring" on the thermometer.

Nope. That's not how it happens in Minnesota. Here, we get a "teaser" in February. It's a day when the warm wind blows and melts all the snow and you SKIP the spring jacket because, c'mon, it's like 65 degrees. We breathe a collective sigh that THIS year, spring has come early. Only to awaken one morning with 6 inches of snow on the ground and a desire to haul the covers over our head AKA groundhog and come out when it REALLY is spring. This ugly cycle continues for...oh about 2 months. We can count on...seriously...count on, one more snow storm sometime the first 2 weeks of April. Now, normally I don't mind those (and this year I minded even less because I was in New York) because I know that after that spring IS here.

Well, I think spring arrived last week. We had some pretty warm weather, reaching into the mid 70s. Then Saturday the temps dropped into the 50s, still warm by "north" standards. Then Sunday and yesterday we were hit with April Showers. COLD April showers. Like back to the 30s and 40s. And windy. But Mother Nature is going to tease us northerners with an 80 degree day on Thursday (which is what the weather men say...but I'm not biting). Before plunging us 20 plus degrees and bringing on more of those April showers.

Personally, I think Mother Nature is a vicious bitch. It's not like we don't already have to endure 8 months of winter in Minnesota, she has to taunt us with the prospect of spring, but first, she has to get us to resign ourselves to the fact that spring will only happen when we least expect it. When SHE says.

I still have half of my roses to uncover (I did the ones in front of the house on Sat), not to mention digging up a HUGE hydrangea (which has become unruly it is that big), cutting back all my sedum heads (I leave them up in the fall because of the pretty red color), raking up all my rotted hosta leaves (which I neglected last fall...won't do that again), digging up all of my lady's mantel (about 10 plants that have been there for about 10 years) that I have for the past 5 years said I was going to do because I HATE the flowers on it, so I have stuff to do.
I also have to find a spot for a 5 foot tall Korean Dwarf (Bwahahaha) Lilac that was displaced when our septic was removed. But I'm NOT doing it in 38 degrees and winds from the NNW at 22 MPH.

Not to mention the two huge dump truck loads of black dirt we have STILL piled in our back yard from where the city switched us from septic to city sewer back in JANUARY that need to be spread so that we can reseed. Although the dog seems to enjoy the piles of black dirt, I am less enthusiastic. Especially after those April showers.

So, as I get back to the "birthing" metaphor, I'm gonna say now as I did then, that I went for the numbing effect of the epidural. My epidural of choice these days is Bud Light Lime...because as the ad says..."seasons change, tastes don't".

Friday, April 17, 2009

When You Need "Incentive"

Last night my husband took my youngest on a walk (OK...he walked, she scooted). The typical path is to take a road into a development behind us which leads to several options for a nice walk. The only problem is that right turn puts you on a road that is down hill...which means an up hill walk on the way back.

When they got home, my husband asks me..."do you know what Beanie uses as a mental image when she needs incentive to get up the hill?" Well, knowing my youngest, it could have been a plethora of things, most undoubtedly involving a high concentration of sugar. My guesses, however, were wrong.

Apparently, my youngest, in imagining her carrot at the end of that hill, was imagining...a bowl of my corn chowder. Who knew?

So, if you need a "carrot" to see you to the top of your hill, consider Corn Chowder with Bacon. I will readily admit I stole the recipe from Chris at Notes from the Trenches making some changes that were my own. I also don't bother to do it in a crock pot because, IMO, it's more work. I'm home during the day and can keep tabs on it. And actually, in reality, by NOT doing it in the crock pot, I can have it ready in about 1 1/2 hours by preparing it on the stove top.
So, enjoy. Be sure to leave a note for Beanie, why you understand her "carrot".

Corn Chowder with Bacon

10 slices of bacon (or more...I used...gulp...1.5 lbs of thick cut bacon)
two 1lb bags of frozen corn (I made sure one bag was white corn...it's sweeter)

3 cans of creamed corn (I used 2...that's all I had on hand. 3 will work I'm sure)
6-8ish cups of diced potatoes (I think I used 6-7 medium sized potatoes...it was fine)

1 small diced onion
1T sugar
sea salt, to taste
couple shakes of worcestershire sauce (optional, I omit)
½ tsp cayenne pepper (this is an alteration from the recipe...it adds just a tingle at the back of the throat...it's subtle and you can add more if you don't have children who will refuse to eat it if it's too spicy. Or you can leave it out completely. IMO without it was bland)
½ finely chopped red pepper (another alteration. Adds color to a somewhat monochromatic meal)

The original recipe calls for this to be done in a crock pot. My issue is that it also calls for the potatoes to be "browned" (so that they don't fall apart) in the bacon grease and since I'm home during the day, it was nothing for me to just do this on the stove top in a stock pot and not dirty the crock pot. So, if you need to be gone all day, feel free to put in a crock pot.
Peel and chop potatoes.
Fry bacon. I did this by cutting the bacon up (while in a sliced slab into 1 in pieces, breaking up) and frying it in a stock pot. Normally when I do bacon I do it in the oven but it takes much longer and again...it means me dirtying another pan...so why? (see me being lazy) When bacon is done, take out and drain (and crumble if you left in slices). Then you will dice up the onions and potatoes and fry them up in the bacon grease. Brown them slightly, just enough so that they will hold together while cooking in the crockpot and not turn into mashed potatoes.
Meanwhile, put all of the corn in the crockpot with your sugar, sea salt, and crumbled bacon. About 10 slices of bacon. Dump the potatoes and onions in the crockpot as well. If you're just keeping everything in the stock pot, just start tossin' stuff in...the bags of frozen corn, and cream corn, sugar and spices.
On the stove, it really doesn't take long...maybe 30-45 min. I like the bacon to not go quite so mushy so I usually wait til the last 15 min to put it in. I put it in with the red pepper (it adds color). If the chowder seems to thick (which in my opinion, it is), I add 1-2 cups of fat free (yes, I know...with all that bacon, why bother or use some milk) half and half. Heat til hot and serve. It really is fast and easy if you do it on the stove top. I haven't tried it in a crock, but I'm sure the flavors will meld well given the time. Cook on low in a crock pot for 6 hours or so. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread.

Now the funny part? We had already eaten dinner. And it wasn't Corn Chowder.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

I'm back from NY. I flew home Saturday night and it was an uneventful flight. I even landed about 15 minutes early AND my bag (the one I checked) was one of the first one out AND my husband pulled up at our designated spot within a short time. So, one would think all was well in my world. I guess it was. Until Sunday.

Tradition in our house is that I make homemade cinnamon rolls for most of the major holidays and the first day of school. Usually I make them the night before and refrigerate them, pulling them out before church to come to room temperature and then rise. But I was tired so I got up early Sunday morning.

Now, let me preface this by saying...before I left for NY, KNOWING I was going to be gone the whole week before Easter, so I made sure that the kids' Easter Baskets were put together. I also made sure that they not only had something nice to wear, in most cases new, but that they were for the most part hanging in their closets. I also called home not just Friday but also Saturday asking that the girls all be showered on Saturday evening so that we wouldn't have a mad rush Sunday morning trying to get 6 people showered (4 of those 'girls' with long hair needing to be dried). When I got home Saturday night, I found 2 of my 3 girls had done as I requested.

So, I got up. Made coffee. Made cinnamon rolls and cream cheese frosting. It was about 730am when I was finished. I knew that we had the choice of going to 9am or 1030am services. I thought surely my family would arise and we could get the show on the road but they were firmly entrenched in their beds. My husband finally got up at 8 and we debated briefly the pros and cons of each service and decided that getting to the 9am service was the way to go. That meant 4 of us had 1 hour to shower and get all 6 of us to church. So my middle daughter who failed to shower went first and I had to remind her 3 times during her 20 minute shower that OTHERS had to shower too. She asked me to find the top I wanted her to wear and I started looking where I thought it was, on the drying rack downstairs, but was unable to find it. So, I'm starting to get a little torqued. My youngest had eaten her breakfast and asked me what I wanted her to wear and I went to pull it out of her closet, since I KNEW I had hung it up, the skirt and jacket, before I left. It was GONE. Seriously. I couldn't find it anywhere and would have questioned that maybe I DIDN'T put it where I thought I did except that the matching shirt and socks WERE exactly where I had put those, on the shelf in her closet. So, thinking she wore it during the week, I looked in the hamper. I couldn't find it anywhere.

About this time, my son (14) arrives upstairs and wants to know...does he HAVE to wear what I had purchased for him? Which was nothing more than a pair of khaki cargo pants and a blue henley shirt. Now, in his defense, he could have been really snotty which he wasn't ( yes, I consider lack of bad behavior a positive). But in MY defense, do you think he could have brought up the issue he had with what I had purchased for him 2 weeks ago when he tried it on (yes he tried it on)? Then, I happened to mention to my oldest daughter that I didn't want to see her cami hanging down beneath the hem of her sweater to which she replied in the snotty Imateenvoice, "you don't expect me to TUCK IT IN????" God NO, I replied, I do NOT expect you to tuck it in. *eye roll*.

OK, so where are we...My oldest doesn't want to wear what I purchased for him, my next oldest doesn't want to tuck in her cami, my middle daughter can't find her shirt (which was located under a hanging rack that had collapsed and no one bothered to pick up all the clean items that were on it, but rather left them all laying on the floor), and my youngest's outfit was completely missing. And the inevitable question would be...why did I bother?

As it turns out, my son chose a long sleeved rugby shirt that worked fine, I turned a blind eye to the presence of the cami below the hem of her sweater, I found the third child's top and the youngest...well, apparently she had decided last week, while I was in NY, to place her outfit in a "safe" place...that being under the pillow on her bottom bunk (she sleeps on the top), so was actually dressed correctly for church.

We made it to church without my yelling. Which I consider the second miracle of the day.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nickel and Dimed

Dad has finally made it out of ICU and in his own room. He's lucky, most of the rooms on the "Progressive Care" floor are doubles. He has a newly renovated single and for that I say Thank God! Hopefully only one or two more days here and he'll be discharged. Today he starts doing stairs.

This morning I started gathering up my stuff and repacking, leaving out items I'll need for tomorrow. I had a rude awakening on my trip out here and I'm going to take this opportunity to whine. I came out here with a laptop, my purse and a 20 inch rolling carry on that I checked, only because I had my toiletries with me. It was then I had my awakening. I know that airlines are now charging for bags, I just didn't realize that the passenger no longer even got one. That means, my $300 ticket, was really (or will be) $330, once I add the $15 for my rolling carry on each way. So, while I was home, I tried to ascertain if I could carry my carry-on through. I figured I had enough room in the carry-on that I could put my purse in it and carry just my laptop and the rolling carry on, if I could figure out a way of dealing with my toiletries. So, I pulled out a quart ziploc to see if I could make it work. I can't. Even though I had bought 3 oz travel size containers for my conditioner and "sprunch", and I have a travel sized Noxzema, I used my dad's toothpaste at the house, I still had my deodorant (gel roll on), my shampoo (less than 3 oz in the peri-bottle I still carry my shampoo in when I travel, and have since my son was born 14 years ago), my face lotion (which has less than 3 oz in it and I use the pump to scrape out what I need but it still has a good 2 weeks worth of scraping in it) and *HORRORS* my razor, which is NOT a disposable and I am not willing to throw away. How do people travel with razors these days and carry them in their carry on bags? The reality is, there is no way I could fit these items into a quart ziploc bag and actually close it. And that doesn't even address my BE make-up which I'm sure would also have to be included with the toiletries. Even though it's powder. But looking at TSA website, perhaps powder isn't included. Until I arrive and don't include it and then it will be included. Murphy's Law and all.

In the end, I'll spend the $15 to check my bag, again. And gripe about it. Because I can. I guess I should look at the bright side. Although I didn't have to use the lavatory on the plane, I'm told that the airlines are now charging to use it. Talk about being nickel and dimed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


So, my youngest daughter called me Tuesday night. I could hear her but couldn't make out a word she was saying and I kept saying..."I can't understand you". Finally, she figured out what she was doing wasn't working and told me, clearly, she was on the "underwater phone".

I sighed heavily and said, "Sweetie, we don't have an underwater phone. We have a waterPROOF phone, but that just means we can set it near the hot tub and if it gets splashed, it will be ok, not that we can take it IN the hot tub and try to talk underwater."

I should have asked...where's daddy?

She called me once more. To tell me her skinny markers at school had dried up. Could I run out and get her some new fat markers? I suggested that perhaps, if she needed new markers tomorrow, she might mention it to daddy, who could easily obtain them for her within a reasonable time. Or, if she really needed me to get them, she would have to wait til Monday, for me to fly home.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Taking a Tour

Dad's (thankfully) doing good so today, shortly after my brother arrived, we took a short tour of town. And I'm still at a loss for words, but given that persistance is my middle name, I'll give it a shot.

I'm going to steal my brother's words (because he won't read this) and say that probably part of the issue is that while TECHNICALLY it is spring, spring has not yet arrived at this latitude. This could be part of my problem in perusing my home town....I'm seeing the last vestiges of winter contribute to the depressing landscape. Would it look different if the leaves were on the trees and there were flowers blooming? Maybe. Or maybe I'm seeing the town as having lost 1/3 of its prosperity when the base closed 15 years ago and this is one of the effects. We toured the base and that was equally depressing. The "new" house we lived in 30 years ago...completely razed. Heck the road we lived on was gone. Oddly enough, we found the first house we lived in on base...or we found where it should have been. It was a small court and it too had been completely razed (although, we did get to see where it was). For anyone who has been on a base, you know that base housing is alot like poorly made townhouses...packed tightly together. What I found odd was that they razed the houses but for some reason kept the garages standing. So, there were LOTS of garages, just garages,just standing...with nothing else in the vacinity.

We toured downtown and found all the bars we went to as teens (yes, I've dated myself...when I was a late teen, the drinking age WAS 18) still standing. The second hand book store, still there. But most of the businesses I recalled, gone.

I keep thinking I'm some kind of snob. That I am trying to look at a town that has undergone its own metamorphosis through the eyes of my 40 something year old self and my brain is seeing what it used to be and wondering, how did this happen? The town ages, I do not.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


You know that feeling when you end up somewhere and you have no recollection of getting there? I must have been on autopilot last night because I left the hospital around 1030pm and next thing I knew, I was turning down my dad’s road. I very vaguely recall glancing around and realizing that I was on my way home but not really thinking about where I was and when I should turn what way. It just happened.

Now, if I came home more frequently I wouldn’t even be thinking about this, but I come home maybe once every 5 years. I spent Christmas of 1995 at home. The next time I returned home was in March of 1998, when my mom died. The next time was March of 2004 when my dad remarried. And here I am again, in the spring of 2009. No, the town doesn’t change much…some business shut down, some change ownership, it's all a very French; Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

An interesting thing about autopilot. It's not always COMPLETELY accurate. I pulled into my dad's house and realized...I missed the right house by 3 driveways.


Monday, April 6, 2009

When the Tables are Turned

I'm a mom. So I know what it's like to worry about a sick child. And while I lost my mom 11 years ago, I wasn't there for the hospital part. Now, I know what it's like, seeing a parent down...I mean really down. I was there with my step-mom when they brought Dad out of recovery into ICU. I was there when they turned down the ventilator...from 12 breaths/min, to 8 breaths/min, encouraging Dad to make up those 4 breath difference on his own. Then down to 4. Then when they turned off the ventilator, to do it all on his own. Then when they had to test how deep he was breathing, encouraging him to take that deep breath so that they could get the breathing tube out. I held his hand as they pulled out the breathing tube and told him he HAD to cough. Deep cough. With a chest that was just sawed open and now wired shut.

The tables are slowly turning and I don't like it. To see the one who has always been my rock...my cheerleader...my calm in the storm so... vulnerable. It's heartbreaking. I'd change places with him in a heartbeat (no pun intended), knowing I could withstand the pain better than him. But I can't. So, I need to do the next best thing. I need to need to figure out a way of controlling the water works, and stiffen up my spine because tomorrow they're getting him on his feet. They're going to make him take deep breaths when he wants to do shallow ones, cough when he wants to stifle. He'll do everything they ask of him because he is determined. So, it's my turn to be his rock, his cheerleader, his calm in the storm.

Heck...knowing Dad he'll probably be two-stepping by the weekend. We can only hope.

Who Knew...

I could hold my breath that long? Or even that I WAS holding my breath. But I think I was because the second the Dr called after 5 1/2 hours and said the surgery went fine I exhaled, and exhaled, and exhaled...and cried. Yes, I'm a big baby.

I'm hoping that the tough part, the waiting, is over.

Now comes the fun part. The "recovery" from someone sawing through your breastbone and wiring it back together. Pulling an artery out of your leg and reattaching it to your heart. That's only the basics of what I know they did to him. Not sure my tear ducts would take knowing what else was done.


It's not like I typically spend alot of time in hospitals. I had all 4 of my kids in hospitals, have had various minor surgeries over the years. Most recently, my husband had his appendix out (back in Feb). And I am not wanting to be disparaging of this one, but I'm a little...concerned. It's like I walked through a time machine, back about 20 years. Not a confidence builder when your almost 75 year old dad is headed in for a triple bypass. I know hospitals have "smells" but usually they are either antisceptic or cafeteria-ish (esp if it's around "feeding" time). The one that assaulted my senses as I walked in was one of mold. Damp.

Maybe it's due to my coming from a metropolitan area where you pretty much can't swing a dead cat with out hitting a hospital. Heck, the small town I live in has a hospital that was built while we were there, while this hospital, while having been enlarged, is pretty much as it has been when we moved to NY 34 years ago.. I guess I'll be praying that I appearances are deceiving.

Updated: Dad's still in surgery but we were brought back to ICU and I am feeling al ittle more confident. I guess I should be happy that the hospital is spending more of its money on seeing to the patients' needs and not on the family members left in waiting rooms. And that's the way it really should be.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Can You Ever Go Home?

I was on my way to the airport yesterday, on my way to New York. My dad is having a triple bypass on Monday and I was flying home, probably more for my sake than his, but there you have it. Anyway, in the car on the way to the airport I said to my husband, "I'm not really sure where it is I'm going". I mean, I'm going home...but what exactly is "home"? As a child of an military parents, I always considered "home" the place where I had lived the longest. When I was a child (waaaayyyyy back when) that was Maryland...because dad was stationed there longer than anyplace else. Then, he was stationed in New York, where we lived in 2 different houses on base before he decided that this was where he wanted to to retire (after he put in his 30 years, figuring that he only had 3 more years to go and of COURSE the AF wouldn't transfer him so close to the end of his career) and my parents bought a house. And then received orders to Louisiana. So instead of having 30 years, he retired with 27 years 9 months in the house they just bought. But I digress...

So, I'm in the home where I spent the last 2 years of my high school years, the first 2 years of my college years before going to Indiana to finish college. From there, I moved to California and spent 6 years having a ball. Still, home was New York. Then I moved to Maryland (for work and to be a bit closer to my now aging parents), got married and had 2 of my 4 kids before packing up and moving lock stock and (smoking) barrel to Minnesota, where we have lived, adding 2 more kids to the mix, in the same house for 12 years. I think of that and go WOW...I have lived in this(actually that...because I'm "home" now) house longer than I have lived ANYWHERE in my entire 40 (something...ahem) years.

But is it "home"? What is "home"? Will we always consider the place where our parents are "home" until we no longer have parents? When I consider my daily life, of course home is where I live, love and laugh (OK, sometimes fight) with my husband and kids. But in the grand scheme of things, when you hit my age...where, or maybe more appropriately, what is "home"?