May 2010

Me and Randy McGee

File under: weekend update

I'm am used to writing blogs while watching TV or a movie because I am all about multitasking, but sometimes it doesn't go very well. Pat and I are watching Wesley Willis's Joyrides, and it's dominating my attention right now. I will have to make this short, so for now I'll just talk about the highlight of the weekend.

To preface, a kid named Randy was my first best friend. We grew up on the same dead-end street, and I was born 19 days after him. We hung out all of the time. We had other friends on the street over the years, but one constant was Randy and me. Not surprisingly, as we got older, we found other best friends. We lost touch for years here and there, but we always seem to find each other (yay for the Internet!), and we always make a point to catch up. We hadn't physically seen each other since 1997...until this weekend. Randy invited us to a party at his house this Saturday, and of course we had to go. So we dropped Greta off at my parents' house, and we headed over to Randy's.

It was SO NICE to see him, and it was fun to introduce Pat to thee Randy. Considering how close we were, we are so, so different. Randy was and still is all about adventure. I was always the one nervously advising him not to jump off the roof of the barn, or not touch the snake, or not swim out in the middle of some sketchy pond. We were like an after-school special, and I was the nervous do-gooder friend. Anyway, so it was not surprising at all that when we got to the party he had an absolutely ridiculous amount of wood stacked up for a bonfire. Once it got dark, he started the fire, and it was raging within minutes. It was probably 12 feet in diameter and two stories high. I may or may not have advised him that his bonfire was dangerously big...old habits die hard.

My friend Randy's bonfire. Everything in moderation.

Whoopsie. There are two fire trucks. Naturally, the fire fighters didn't look pleased.

And there goes the fire...Bye, bye, fire.

I was really excited to hang out with my first ever BFF.

For those of you who forgot, I also talked about Randy here and the local Syracuse commercial he was in. It's still so awesome.


We Keep it Stinky

File under: soapbox

My friend Kim said she wants to "see a compost post," and I like to oblige all requests that are within reason. So, despite the fact that I don't really feel like I know what I'm doing in the composting realm and I usually like to pontificate only on those things I think I know a lot about, I am going to give it a whirl.
A few weeks ago I mentioned we started composting. I actually did sort of a lot of research before we proceeded. And what I found is that just about anything goes. I am a staunch rule follower, so I found this frustrating. The information I found gave guidelines, like you can get an enclosure (anything from a plastic commercial bin that has a door and spins, to a garbage can with holes drilled in it and a bungee cord to keep the lid on, to a very homemade enclosure made out of 2x4s, chicken wire, or even disassembled [and then reassembled?] pallets) OR you can forgo the enclosure and just toss stuff in a pile. You can have multiple composts going that are in different stages, or you can have one. You can add worms to your compost, of you can just let nature do its thang. The only real rules I saw are as follows:

  • Composting microbes need air—so whatever method you choose, you should make sure things are well ventilated (eg, with holes in the enclosure) and that you mix stuff up with a pitch fork or something to make sure things don't get too matted down.
  • Composting microbes need water—again, holes in the enclosure will help let water in, and having grass clippings and kitchen wastes like leftover fruit and veggie products will help keep the dry leaves and such moisty-moist. Hey, who else hates the word moist? I do!
  • Composting microbes need food—they like brown stuff (eg, dry leaves, woody stuff) and green stuff (eg, grass clippings and most kitchen scraps).
  • OMG, composting microbes are divas!

Also, you prolly shouldn't add any type of animal protein to the compost and you should prolly take some sort of measures to keep animals out of the compost.
At this point I'll reiterate that I barely know what I'm talking about, and there is an abundance of good information on composting out there. But like I said, the amount of information out there was sort of frustrating. I just wanted to see someone say, "Here's what I do..."
I reminds me of this time in college when some friends of mine and I went to this piercing/tattoo place. We were getting various stuff done (I got my tragus pierced–edgy, yet safe, like the Volvo of piercings), and I remember the place didn't take credit cards. One of my friends needed cash, and we asked some woman there where there was an ATM nearby. She said there was an ATM in some location none of us were familiar with. My friend Sarah asked if we could walk there or if we should drive there. The woman, who didn't seem like the brightest bulb responded with a slow drawl, saying, "Well, you could walk there, or you could drive there." Trrruuuue, but we wanted to know the ideal method of getting there. For a good portion of the rest of the night, we imitated her, saying things like, "If there was water, you could swim there. If there was ice, you could skate there." Anyway, the point is, I don't like a lot of options. I want to know what worked for someone else. I will also add that I think that composting might be the only topic on the Internet where people aren't all opinionated and bossy about how they know the very best way to compost. (Ooh, the search engines are going to love that combination of words, so I'll say it again: the very best way to compost.)
Man, this is getting long. Apparently I can pontificate about pretty much anything. So, anyway, I thought I would give a few details about how we're handling composting.

  • We did end up buying a commercial bin because Pat really wanted an easy method to get the good stuff out when it's all broken down and so it will hopefully last us a long time. We found a really nice size bin for $5o at Home Depot. I can't find the model on their site, so I guess they don't get a link. I'm sure they're deeply saddened by this.
  • We bought a pitch fork for $1 at a yard sale, and Pat stirs stuff up two or three times a week.
  • I keep a plastic container with a lid on the kitchen counter (nothing fancy) that we throw compostable food scraps into, and every couple of days we toss it in the bin.
  • We didn't get worms, as things seem to be breaking down really well so far on their own.

One last thing I want to say is that the first few days things were minimally stinky, and I'd take a big whiff and think, "Ahhh, smells like home." (My parents and grandparents had compost piles, and I grew up in front of a cow farm.) But now it's getting really stinky! I think I have a sensitive nose, but it can be really intense, and I'm worried it's stinking up the neighbors' yards too. If anyone has any suggestions to improve the odor, let me know. The only idea I have is to hang up a bunch of air fresheners all Se7en style, but  that it not really a viable option.
Jeez, Kim, do I have enough dumb thoughts on composting??

Evil Cheeks

Yes!!! Comments in the double digits for the last post. Thanks, dudes! Keep 'em coming!

We got a tankless water heater today. (Yay for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009!) It was an all-day process, and the guys didn't tell me before they turned the water off for more than three hours. It really caught me off guard when I used the bathroom and then went to wash my hands and no water came out of the facet. I was really distressed. I ended up soaping up my hands and then used my glass of drinking water to rinse my hands. Why am I telling you this? Well, I'd rather be dehydrated than have dirty hands. Now you know. Although the chances of me actually getting dehydrated were pretty low, while the chances of me getting my dirty hands on my laptop were extremely high.

After the recent dreams about the old house and the new owners, I've continued having distressing dreams. I had two dreams that my old company asked me to come in and do some consulting for them. In both dreams, I went in, ready to help them solve some type of problem, and both times I got completely shut down by the people who are still working there, and I left in tears. Hmm, I really don't feel bitter toward them. In fact, in real life, I recently went there and had lunch with my former boss and a couple coworkers. They bought me lunch and gave me a copy of the last book I copy edited for them, which was really super-duper nice. But apparently my subconscious is still a little ticked off. Oh, so there were those two dreams, and then I had a dream I got laid off from my new job. I really don't feel all that stressed out in my waking hours, but these dreams must be a manifestation of something, right?  Me thinks it's time to go back to the acupuncturist.

Saturday night, Pat announced that he was taking Greta to see Shrek in 3D. He asked if I wanted to come and I said no and that I didn't think he should take her to a 3D movie. My reasons? Because it's expensive and because Howard Stern said he thinks that 3D movies mess with kids' vision and brains. Howard Stern and I have no evidence to back this up, but it might be true. (And Howard Stern and I aren't alone!) After I said my reasons I felt silly but had to stand my ground because I'm stubborn and because I had a vision of me with two hours of free time. Both of those reasons seemed like good ones to let those guys go off and have some daddy-daughter time. I'm glad I did because I used the time wisely and put a fresh coat of paint on my childhood vanity. Plus, I got to witness Greta running in the house after the movie with her 3D glasses on, smiling ear to ear, and then listen to her talk a mile a minute about what happened in the movie. It was a pretty awesome evening for all.

Ooh, more about my vanity. It was a Christmas gift from my parents when I was maybe twelve. My dad spent a lot of time painting it and assembling it in the basement before Christmas. I remember being completely disappointed when I saw it, and I'm sure I was not at all good at hiding my disappointment. But as I got older, I spent more and more time sitting in front of it. It was white with bronze hardware and a bench that had a fuzzy, cream seat cushion. It was so very girly. When we moved to this house, I asked my parents if I could have it back. It has seen a lot of wear and tear over the years, and at some point in college I put a bunch of stickers all around the mirror part. It's still a work in progress, but I cleaned it up, painted it black, reupholstered the bench cushion with a black and cream damask pattern (leftover fabric from my dining room chair project), and, in honor of its original girliness, I got pink glass knobs and a pink and white handle to replace the brass hardware. Hopefully I can finish it soon so I can show some before and after pictures here. It goes with nothing else in my house, but I love it.

Sunday we met up with some friends we hadn't seen in years. They have a daughter who is just a couple months older than Greta. We met up with them at Wild Wings (the facility in Mendon Ponds that cares for injured birds of prey, not the gross restaurant). We saw the birds, which was very cool, and then we took a hike. The girls were very good, aside from being a bit competitive and turning the hike into a race. Here they are walking with Pat, or who our little friend Hanley nicknamed, "the kid master."

In conclusion, speaking of cute things kids say, tonight I was reading Greta a book called I Love You, Every Little Bit. On one page, it says, "I love your cheeks, round and sweet..." and Greta cut me off to say, "My cheeks aren't sweet, they're evil!" It was funny at the time. Hopefully it's not foreshadowing.


I had an idea for the title, but then I forgot it

Lemme see here. Bullets for  you.

  • I sure used to like when more than one or two people left comments for a blog. Hint, hint. I know I haven't exactly been an avid blogger the last year or so, and the image to the left says something about wanting spring to come, but I'm ready for your tough love to end and for you guys to start commenting again. Are my updates really so boring? If so, tell me what you want to hear.
  • We celebrated more birthdays this past weekend than should be legal. Friday night, there was a birthday party for the woman Greta's day care is named after (who is no longer with us in this world but who is still worth celebrating), there was a two-banger kids' birthday at Powder Mills Park on Saturday, and there was another kiddo birthday party at the Y on Sunday. Oh me, oh my!
  • If you live under a rock and you didn't know, the great Ronnie James Dio passed away earlier this week. Apparently it's pretty well known that I have a special place for him and his music in my heart because multiple people contacted me to offer their condolences. If only he knew there was some nerdy mom in Rochester, NY, who so many people associated with him with. I don't know what the significance of that is, but it seemed notable to me. RIP, RJD. May you ride the peace.
  • I have a weird obsession about our old house, and I don't know why. I have a semi-recurring dream that I meet the women who bought the house, and we get into some sort of competition. I'm talkin' like a gym-class-type of relay race. It's so weird! In real life, we saw a former neighbor and she told us the new owners ripped out the hedges that had been in front of our old house. I always disliked the hedges, but in some weird way, I was sort of incensed when I found out they got rid of them. It had never occurred to me to take out the hedges! So they think they're better than us??  (Joking - sort of .) I didn't even really like that house. Can you imagine if I had? Why do I care?? When we told Greta they took out the hedges, she cried. I think the whole thing is very strange.
  • I decided I'm getting LASIK. I absolutely hate wearing glasses and contacts are even worse, and I hate squinting in the sun. I can feel new squinting-related wrinkles from the sun forming as I type this. After Pat's dicey LASIK experience and the fact that I am a major tightwad, I am shocked to be saying this. But I am getting LASIK. A friend of mine highly recommends one place in Rochester, but it's 'spensive. Like, twice as much as Pat's was, but it is MY EYES and perhaps you get what you pay for? Anyway, if you know of a good LASIK place in the ROC, let me know. I want to get it done within the next month or two. If you thought you would be funny and recommend the place Pat went to, let me stop you right here and let you know they closed up shop. SHOCKING, I know.
  • Ugh, I haven't taken a photo that hasn't been with my phone in ages. Sorry, bad Fran. I'll try to get better about that.

I could go on and on, but I won't. Leave a comment, damnit!

Mother's Day with Dan Zanes

File under: greta | music

Even though I hate being in the car for any extended amount of time, I spent a good portion of Mother's Day this year and last year in the car. Last year we were driving home from NOVA after our friends Pete and Rachel's wedding. (Happy one-year anniversary, P & R!) This year we were driving home from Massachusetts after visiting our friends Kensey, Tim, and Maren and seeing Dan Zanes perform. Thankfully for me, I really like all of those people, so being in the car that long after seeing them seemed totally worth it.

A month or so ago we found out Dan Zanes would be performing in Northampton, MA, less than a week before Kensey was due to be induced with baby #2. I really didn't think they'd want guests the weekend before their baby would be coming (and, really, babies can come whenever the heck they want - they're rude like that), but they were game. I'm not sure I would have been open to the idea if our roles were switched, but luckily they're cooler than me. And what I didn't really realize at the time was that the Northampton tour date was on Mother's Day, but honestly I couldn't think of anything I'd like to do more on Mother's Day than take my kid to see her favorite performer. Aren't I selfless? (Oh, don't worry, I've read too much Ayn Rand to actually think that's true.)

So Saturday we took a leisurely drive to MA. We made pizzas, had some tasty Mass-brewed beers, and watched the girls play. Maren and Greta were so cute together, taking turns like champs and just generally being sweet. Greta loved Maren so much, and all day Sunday she was calling Maren her best friend. It warmed my heart so much.

Sunday, we headed to Northampton for a nice lunch before the show. Here is Greta eating my wonton soup. Selfless act #2.

The Dan Zanes show was a special one. He played solo for about half the show, and then he was joined by a children's chorus called Whole Children for another part and was also accompanied for some of the songs by a band called Kandoo Band. As a music therapist, Kensey has worked with both of the groups in some capacity, and it was awesome to see kids she's worked with performing.

Here's GB outside the church while we finished our coffees.

The show was in a gorgeous old church and we were (obviously) sitting in pews. It was a pretty low key, intimate show. Three things I feel the need to mention - because that's just how I am - are as follows:

  • It was Greta's first time in a church. That's sort of weird but true.
  • There was a lot of nose picking going on. I know the crowd was mostly under 10, but still. I was amazed by how many fingers I saw in noses. (Kids are gross.)
  • Greta got kicked in the face. The whole thing was actually pretty innocent. A little girl in front of us was a very, very active two year old who was trying to crawl over the pew behind her and she kicked Greta right in the face. There were tears and apologies. I mostly mention this because I have been kicked in the head at concerts my fair share of times, but I can't say I ever got kicked in the face while in a concert in a church, but Greta can. Kind of awesome.


Right after the show we headed home and we didn't get back to Rochester until after 10 PM. I feel like I am still recovering from the drive home. I can't wait to go to bed. Zzzz. I was so tired today I wore sweatpants to work for the first time ever. (For those of you who missed the memo before, I work from home now.) Wearing sweatpants to work is overrated, but it is nice to have the option.

Alternative titles for this post could have been "Mother's Day Is a Failure Unless I spend More than Five Hours in the Car" or "I Left the State Two Times in Less than a Month!" Sometimes I can't think of a single decent title, and sometimes I can think of three.


Do you ever feel like you're being haunted by a living person?

File under: nada mucho | rant

Rochester is a small city, and having lived here for-egad!-15 years, it's not uncommon to run into someone I know when I'm out and about. That is something I really love about Rochester, but every once in a while, like in the following account, it's just obnoxious.
To preface, in the early 2000s, I was on grand jury duty. Every other day for a month I had to show up at the Monroe County Courthouse and listen to cases that could potentially go to trial. Overall, it was an interesting experience, and I'm glad I got to take part in doing my civic duty. Blah, blah, blah. I was in a thankless job at the time and figured skipping 10 days out of the month while getting paid for it would be delightful. The first day, after being selected for jury duty, they took us into the room we would be spending quite a bit of time in for the next month. I shuffled to the back row and stuck my head in a book (figuratively speaking). If I learned nothing else about the judicial system, it was that things move extremely slowly. I also learned that jurors can be lumped into one of three categories: the people who quietly read and occasionally make small talk, the people who don't read and quietly sit there seemingly doing nothing, and the people who don't read and love to hear the sound of their own voices. As you can probably imagine, I was in the first category. I think I read more during jury duty than I did my entire senior year in college. Anyway, there was this guy in my row who I absolutely couldn't stand. Of course he was the third type of person. In addition to loving the sound of his own voice, he was also a busybody and super nosy. Those are three traits I absolutely can't stand. Basically, he was my nemesis. For the sake of this blog, we'll call him Hal.
During jury duty one afternoon, we were on a break between cases, and things started back up earlier than we had been told they would. Some jurors weren't in the room, but there were enough people to vote on things, so it was fine. We heard 5 very quick cases; meanwhile, the door was locked. Anyone who was outside was stuck outside. I was in the room to hear cases, but Hal wasn't. This brought me great joy because I knew he would be in a tizzy about it. After hearing the cases, the stragglers were let back inside. Hal was indeed in a tizzy, and he came back and blurted out to me, "What'd I miss?" I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Just a few cases." He said, "Let me see your papers." (We could keep track of notes on the cases in personal folders.) And I was like, "No!" But he was obsessed. He finally wore me down and I showed him my papers for the 5 cases because he promised me he just wanted to get the case names and what the votes were. But then he started reading my notes and wouldn't give them back to me! If you know me well, you know I was ON FIRE. In a word, it was ridiculous. Finally he gave them back. He and I simply did not get along. I just have no tolerance for people like that.
So imagine my dismay when, five or so years down the road, I found myself walking into a lab to have my blood drawn for tests to try to figure out why I wasn't getting pregnant...and Hal (apparently a phlebotomist) was behind the desk. He took my paperwork, looked through it, and asked, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" *Sigh* "Yes, we were on jury duty together. We sat in the same row," I said. He then took my blood. He was pretty much the last person on earth I wanted there at that moment.
What I didn't know at the time was that I was in fact pregnant then (yay!). When you're pregnant, you get your blood drawn a lot, and since that lab was literally next door to my OBGYN's office, I saw Hal a lot in the next 9 or so months. As time went by and I saw Hal in a professional capacity, I started to hate him less, and I will begrudgingly admit that it was sort of nice to see a familiar face and chat with him briefly while having blood drawn.
Fast forward to a couple years, and I went back to that lab with Greta so she could have blood drawn for her lead test. If you haven't had the pleasure of holding a child while he/she is having that test done, let me tell you, it is AWFUL. First, this test was administered during the height of Greta's stranger-anxiety phase. Second, Hal pricked her finger (ow) and then basically milked it for 4 or 5 minutes while he raked her finger against a test tube (double ow). Needless to say, she was screaming her brains out. I said, "Wow, you must hate having to give this test." And then Hal said, "It's usually not bad. Most kids are good during it." WHAAAAA? Seriously?? I find that very hard to believe, but whatever. Jerk.
There are quite a few labs around town, so needless to say, I never went back, and when G or I need blood drawn, we go to one down the street. That had been my last Hal slighting...until today.
I had to go get a bunch of shipping package thingies, so I decided to go to Wal-Mart to get them because I am an idiot cheapskate. I run in, get what I need, and run out. From a distance, I can see there are two men having a conversation next to my car. I get closer and I can see that one of them is actually SITTING ON MY CAR. Who does that?? And as I get even closer, I see it is Hal! Get out! He realizes he is sitting on the car of the person who is approaching it and makes some stupid little remark. I make a semi-snotty remark in return, and I get out of there as quickly as possible. I don't think he recognized me. Or if he did, he didn't say anything. But, what the heck? Why is this guy cursing me? Why???


So this past Thursday I did go to see Peter Lovenheim speak at Barnes and Noble about In the Neighborhood, and the event was great. After reading the book I just had to drive down the street and see gawk at the houses I had read so much about. It was really cool. Every time I read a good book, I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to read it. That's exactly how I feel in this case. I love seeing authors and artists speak, and I don't get out to see speakers nearly as often as I'd like. Every time I do, I wonder why I don't do it more often. Anyway, Peter Lovenheim was a good speaker and story teller, and I especially enjoyed the question-and-answer session, mostly for selfish reasons. There were a few tense moments with people who took issue with the way he described the neighbors/neighborhood. And then there was the wacko who asked such a weird, blatantly racist question. I love to see when people handle things well when they're put on the spot (because I feel like I am so bad in situations like that). He handled the tense moments seemingly with ease, which was fantastic. Oh, and I did end up buying an actual copy of the book so he could sign it, and we chatted briefly. I must have disguised my crow's-feet particularly well that evening, because he asked me if I am in school. Ha! I turned bright red and stammered that I am too old for school. Yeah, I am so not smooth.

Friday, Pat got some pizza and our friend Rebecca came over bearing wine. It was so fun to gorge ourselves on unhealthy food and laugh and laugh. It is always so fun to catch up with Rebecca. Greta pretty much summed it up when Rebecca was leaving and she said, "Don't ever go! Stay here forever!"

Saturday was so busy it was almost ridiculous. Pat headed out to Imagine RIT for festival duty, while Greta and I headed out to a birthday party for Colin. Greta was chased around the majority of the time by the boys, who were pointing various boy playthings at her head and making shooting noises. Greta was having fun, but at one point she said, "Mom, why are they doing that?" I said, "Get used to it. It's going to happen pretty much from now until your boy friends figure out it's more charming to talk to girls than chase them...which will probably take a while." After the sun and fun over there, we went to RIT to meet up with Pat and walk around the festival. We had a blast walking around and seeing all of the creative nerdiness (where else can you see multiple different T-shirts with leetspeak on them saying rude things about your mom AND homemade robots AND a strongman competition AND enough big brains to cause some serious potential damage?), chatting with friends we ran into, and eating. Greta had her first cotton candy experience and she loved it (shocker, right?).

Today we had a fantastically productive day. I cleaned and organized the basement and the attic; Pat mowed the lawn; Greta rode her bike around the block while I basically ran behind her (girl is fast) and we ran into our old friends and new neighbors, the Johnsons; Pat did homework while Greta and I worked on mother's day cards and gifts for her grandmas and great-grandmas; we had a picnic dinner in the back yard; and Pat installed the new light fixture we got for Greta's room, which is probably coming down tomorrow because she tearfully expressed it "isn't pretty enough" (and that is fine by me, because now it's going to go in my office and I think it is quite pretty enough).

Also today Greta set up this little fancy robot configuration. Happy robot wearing a parasol in a shot glass day.