Archive for the ‘Franny’ Category

No I will not wear the cone of shame

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

This week we are focusing on things like multiplying binomials and solving inequalities in systems of equations. Have you flashed back to tenth grade yet? FOILing?? I woke up in the middle of the night last night a few times and I was kept awake by the idea that maybe I should be reviewing volume. WHAT IF THERE IS A VOLUME QUESTION? I think I was supposed to go through this 20+ years ago with the SATs but I never bothered paying for them. Too busy buying Boone’s Farm (sangria flavor, because that’s the classy one).

Post apple picking in August

I don’t think I felt this way ramping up to the GREs either. If you have seen the melodramatic, snot-silently-running-into-your-mouth fest that is Les Miz! then you know there is a super maudlin scene where a bunch of children in pirate shirts are all Morrisseying about how they need to pour one last one out for their homies, etc, before the next morning’s last stand, where they will be bayonetted into curly frites. That was my run-up to the math portion of the GRE in 2002; the freedom fighters were unprofessional and doomed, but had to make a good showing so historians wouldn’t call them little bitches later.

Stepping stones I made at the cement masons union way back in July

Now, I actually have a shot, because stuff is staying in my head now. I get what everyone meant about math building on itself. I have that crazy hoover-it-all-up cokehead feeling like the more I cram in the better because it’s only 30 questions! If I miss just one or two I actually know how to calculate that percent now! AGGH.

On the positive side of things I am getting a lot of rest right now. I think I had a successful in-person yesterday for a temp holiday gig, after a good phone interview with them. I have a better feeling about going back to tech now for a short time. Mostly because I feel like it’s going to be A SHORT TIME. And a paycheck to boot. They told me they want someone “yesterday” but I am hoping that means Tuesday (the day after my exam) so I can take full advantage of this time to obsess and lick my hot spots.

Dinner Doge would like more gravy plz

Of course I am focused on other things right now, also, like making sure the girls are transitioning back into school smoothly. Franny has an analytical writing class that’s based on the films of Hitchcock and Kurosowa. She is also taking bio and geometry, as well as her usual Japanese and art. She is about to turn 15 in less than two weeks and very shyly asked if Boyfriend, Neo, could come over for dinner and cake. Hell yes, as long as he takes the bus home later. It’s a Friday and what is happening is yoga pants.

Strudel is having a VERY good fifth grade year so far and is over the moon in her advanced program. She can now also hoover in and retain all the information now, like me, but better, because her brain is new and spongy. Her teacher is very organized and enthusiastic, and apparently has the whole class enraptured. We hear that her terrible teacher from the third grade, who told the dead bunny story and screamed at people most of the time, now has a classroom monitor. There is justice, albeit slow justice. I hope the angry emails I wrote from when I was sick in bed are stuck to her file like glue, along with the other parent complaints.

A turkey sleeping in my armpit who is much larger now:

Mal Mots avec Franny: Franny In Revolt

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

On Friday Franny came home and apologized for being late, and said she was exhausted. She had been told that day that she was going to help with the school’s packing efforts in service of their site move into their former building, now refurbished, for next school year. Her advisor told her that she would not be able to register for her classes next year if she didn’t, because the packing counted toward her required community service totals. So she had stayed behind packing for two hours after her classes ended.

My antenna went up. “Didn’t you already take two classes this year that count toward community service?” I asked. She was DJing at a very small local station and helping out with a school for kids with developmental disabilities.

“Yes,” she said.

“Hmm…I’m just going to shoot a little email to the Superintendent’s office clarifying if this is a district policy.”

I didn’t have a problem with her packing. Not at all. I think it would be/is good for her for a few reasons. I didn’t care for the way it was presented as a threat, at the last minute, and I felt uncomfortable with the reliance on student labor. The whole thing just screamed “future unnecessary lawsuit,” which. C’mon school district. You don’t need that. (NOT to be filed by me, I will add.)

I sent the email on a Friday afternoon (CC’ing the ombudsman’s office) explaining the situation. I asked if this was official policy because I was concerned about Franny being barred from registering from classes her sophomore year. I heard nothing back, which was fine. I had made my attempt.

Yesterday Franny’s classes ended and she made ready to start four hours of packing when the principal and her advisor cornered her. She called me afterwards because she was grumpy and this is what she said happened.

“I got an email from your mom. I heard she complained about you having to pack,” the principal said.

“She sent an email asking the Superintendent if I was going to be prevented from registering for classes if I didn’t pack,” she replied. I’m sure the SI’s office forwarded my email to the principal, so he knows exactly what I said. I figured if I sent it right to him it would disappear.

He asked her a few more questions and she told him to talk to me. “She’s the one who sent the email,” she said.

“I will email her, then,” he said. No reply yet. I don’t care either way.

Franny said once she wouldn’t discuss her thoughts with them on the matter, they double teamed her with some jive about building community and being a family.

“That is a thing people say when they want you to do something onerous and be quiet about it.” I told her about one of my first jobs in Seattle where someone tried that on me to build a case against a coworker who was suspected of stealing. “Anyone who is paid to spend time with you is not actually your family,” I said.

“It’s like they try to get close to you and get you to tell them your secrets so they can pull this shit on you,” she said.

“Manipulation?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. She is very sensitive to manipulation.

“Do you want to leave?”

“I should stay.”

A vile person once told me that there is a Buddhist principle (and I am sure this is mangled) about giving of yourself or your time. And about how if you can give it freely, it’s a gift, but if you’re going to resent it terribly, it’s probably not worth it. It has a price. At this point it was obvious that it was volunteerism presented under false pretenses, and I thought it was her choice if she gave of herself or not. I shared this thought with her and she said she would stay. No problem. I told her I was proud of the way she had handled them coming at her.

She came home after six, exhausted, and while we were in the middle of Monday Night Dinner with my sister on the patio. “I feel like my spine is going to crawl out of my back,” Franny said.

I threw Buddhism for Assholes out the window and intervened.

“I forbid you to go tomorrow,” I said. “There. Your mom is being a Crotchasaurus Rex and will not let you stay. Done.”

“Oh good,” she said, relieved.

She left this morning bright and early for her last day of her freshman year. “Are you serious about me not staying?” she asked. Yes! I said. “Okay, I’m off to ‘protest,” she said. “I’ll call you.”

In Other News

I picked up P. from the train station on Sunday after his visit to Portland. He had his father’s bike with him. It had been kind of kicking around at his widow’s house since he died a few years ago. It’s one of those really nice ones that weighs about as much as a paperclip.

We hung around for the afternoon and I made salmon cakes for dinner. We ate on the patio, as we’ve been doing almost every day it hasn’t rained, which has been most days. Strudel had eaten an extremely late lunch (3 p.m.) and was behind on her weekend chores, so she was not sitting with us and would eat a bit later. As we were finishing, I noticed that P. had some salmon bones on his plate. I had worked really carefully to pick all the bones out before seasoning and mixing the salmon with veggies.

“Oh man, I got bones in yours!” I said.

“It’s okay,” he said.

I was being a little silly and overly solicitous, and carried on with things. “Your welcome home dinner should not have bones in it.” Franny picked her up empty plate and rose to walk towards the house.

“It’s okay, guys,” she said, over her shoulder. “You can have bones in your welcome home dinner. Everyone likes a good WELCOME HOME BONING! AM I RIGHT?” She finished by laughing like Gordon Shumway and went into the house.

I laid my head down on the table, next to my empty plate.

“I guess we were not as quiet as we thought earlier,” P. said, softly.

“Am I dead now? I would like to be dead,” I said. I felt my face catch on fire.

In OTHER other news

I applied to a program for women that is a “pre-apprenticeship” for trades and I got in. I’m very excited. It’s a 12-week course and it’s meant to address any gaps women might have that might make them fall short when applying for union apprenticeship in a trade.

They explore several trades and take you to job sites, and can help with things like math. Some women who are underemployed or single moms get grants to cover living expenses. Mostly I am interested in making connections with people in the industry, since I am doing decently in my tech math class. I made it clear I didn’t want to take away financial help from others and she said they don’t bar people based on income. Awesome. So I will pay for my boots, some opportunities, etc.

I had emailed last week to ask about the Tuesday orientation and the program manager said, “Why don’t you just come in for an interview on Monday?” It sounds like they need to fill seats. In the email she said there would be some paperwork and a “physical.” I interpreted this as a blood pressure check and peeing in a cup. Wrong!

I ran flights of stairs (timed), planked for 3 minutes (fell twice), did as many push ups and sit ups as I could, and more. I was not actually expecting a physical test and hadn’t eaten breakfast, only coffee, since I thought I’d be in and out in an hour. WHOOPS.

“Wow, this stairwell is really hot,” my test administrator commented. It was at least 85 F in there. “This weeds some people out right away. They refuse to even try the exercises,” she said. “But you’re doing great.”

Before that I did a math, reading, and tool ID test, which I passed. The math portion was pretty easy. I think the test I will have to sit for to get into the union will be much harder. I believe I am set on a trade, but I’m going to keep an open mind for the next few weeks, in case I see something that turns my head. I’ll let you know if/when I am accepted.

I’m very excited about this change. At the grocery store the other night Franny asked me what I wanted to be when I was her age. I thought about it. “A truck driver or a farmer,” I said.

My interviewer, who I think is going to be my case manager, asked me why I wanted to switch to trades. I told her I like to think and be on my feet, and work with my hands. “Tech was safe when my girls were little,” I explained. I could stay up with them crying or puking all night and come in to work and be a zombie and not worry about putting someone in danger. It was a steady paycheck. She has kids and she nodded along.

“And now you’re free to do what you want to do,” she said. “I get it.”

Franny fetch me my ax

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

On Sunday after doing the bees, and after giving the whole house a deep clean over the course of the week in addition to studying math, I decided to have a lazy Sunday. (Okay there was a little laundry.) I set up in the dining room and played games on my laptop, which is something I don’t usually have time to do for hours at a stretch, unless it’s at the expense of sleep.

My sleep has been funny this month. For the first 5 days of the Whole30 I was pretty sleepless, and now I am in Sleepy Valley. Last night my arms felt like lead and I could barely lift the big ceramic bowl of watermelon I served with dinner. I slept for about ten hours. This is pretty normal for day seven.

So I was a captive audience at the table.

“Mooooom can I give you a makeover???”

“Okay, but you have to do the whole thing. Base and all.”

She did it.

Check it out, I’m getting old. I even have some silver hairs sprouting at my part. Remember when I was in my early 20s and had a toddler and no crows’ feet? Ha. WATCH as this blogger ages before your eyes and forgets to move on to a new hobby.

This is one of her homemade crayon lip colors. Her boyfriend came over later and he got to dine with me in my Captain Hammer teeshirt and 27 pounds of makeup. Franny was very proud of her handiwork. The boyfriend and I talked a little about Reddit geekery as usual. Other than the animal heads (vegetarian) I think he likes it at our house.

I urged Franny to call her father on Friday and start figuring out her summer. She’s been having what sounds like typical teenage angsty squabbles over there with him and her stepmother, and is struggling with the food thing over there. She needed a break so hasn’t visited for about a month and a half. I’m delighted to have her, but I don’t want trouble from him. Also, I hate to say this, but I think it’s important that she do things that are not always fun or comfortable. The part of me that is her mommy and wants to pave every road in marshmallows and puppies for her fights with the part that knows she needs to fulfill her obligations and not always take the easiest path.

But I also get the dread of spending time in a place where you’re likely to eat something that can impact your health and mood for weeks, and are called an ingrate for avoiding things that may make you sick. It’s a tough one. I respect her for taking a break and some time to cool off.

So she called her dad to arrange her next visit (Father’s Day weekend). I think since they happened to talk he told her that her grandfather had suffered a minor stroke the night before. I told her to call him and check on him and offer to visit on Sunday (a couple of days ago). Her grandfather declined, saying he wanted to rest. The doctors thought he wouldn’t have any significant effects from it and she said he sounded fine. She was weepy Friday night but felt much better after talking to him on Saturday. She was dismayed her father hadn’t gone to visit him. She wanted to send him flowers so we did.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen after Franny’s grandpa dies. I do worry about him. He has always loved his fine dining and has been feast or famine about exercise. It’s worrying to me when someone is overweight or has high blood pressure and then hits racquetball really, really hard once a week. Perhaps the torch for organizing family vacations and whatnot will go to the Auntie Jaguar. Zod save us all if SeaFed inherits.

Today’s fun fact is that iodized salt contains dextrose

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Thetans! Thetans errwhur!!

Weird week. I had really vivid nightmares all week, and night sweats, and just generally woke up a lot. I realized partway through the week, once cool lesions started opening up on my scalp and my lymph nodes started raising again, that I had gotten corn from somewhere. The list of symptoms is long, and it’s unmistakable now.

I’m discovering more and more that things I buy are often cut with or cross contaminated by something, even if there’s no listing. I’ve been reading about the adulteration of honey, and olive oil, and the practice of adding (corn-based) glycerin or HFCS to some red wines. This made me think about why, even if I was making every sauce and meal from ingredients that read “contains 100% whatever this is called,” I was still having adverse affects sometimes.

So this week it was tamarind paste–I happened to be at a Whole Foods, which carries a different brand than my home store. It said 100% tamarind paste so I bought it and added it to a chutney, which was nothing else but fresh herbs, a little safe seasoning, and whole dates. I made it to go with some onion pakoras that were a terrible fail in the fryer (not enough batter). I salvaged them by mounding them like drop biscuits and baking them on a high temp. Strudel and I ate the chutney for a couple of days with leftovers and she got sick too.

“How are you feeling?” I asked her when she came home. I had gotten a call from the nurse earlier that day, who said she had fallen, knocked her loose tooth out, and swallowed it.

“Well, pretty bad. And dizzy. Which is why I fell down. Also my throat is sore from swallowing my tooth.”

I poured out the leftover chutney.

At this point, I think my best bet is to compile a list of brands with the reactions they cause (and more importantly, brands that do NOT cause reactions) and make it accessible by phone for shopping (I’m about to pull the trigger on a new smart phone so it should do more than just make calls and send texts that my janky old grey mare has been reduced to).

I woke up this morning feeling super hungover (no booze for the past two days) and in theory I am supposed to be running in a 5K on Sunday. I felt marvelous last weekend when I had a houseguest and was wrangling bees. Now I have not been running enough and have been falling into bed exhausted. P. keeps asking me about the race and I am so demoralized right now I don’t even want to think about it. It felt completely attainable last week. Maybe things will turn around by Sunday.

Franny was hanging onto corn for the past few months. She told me she wanted to see how she did, to see if maybe just cutting out wheat and most dairy would do it. She had a pretty serious crash over spring break on a day when she treated herself to a giant Arizona Iced Tea “juice” (HFCS). She came home and tried to do the crossword puzzle in People, of all things, which could really be worked out by a moderately clever grey squirrel, and got frustrated and was going all dyslexic in the letter spaces. Then she wandered around the house for a while, and cried for what she admitted was “no reason.” She was in bed by 8 p.m. that night.

I used to get these odd narcoleptic crashes after lunchtime sometimes where if I was sitting my body would shut down as if I’d been drugged for about ten minutes. Things would literally start to shut in on me and go kind of black–aggressive unconsciousness. If we were on a road trip I could stop midsentence and then come back to life about ten minutes later, snapping awake as if I’d never been asleep, and finish my thought. I used to sleep on the commuter bus from Microsoft daily a few years ago.

So it was all kind of familiar. I talked to her about it the next day after she’d slept it off. “Sooo, I noticed you had a large corn drink earlier that day, and your crying for no reason and brainfog and tiredness seemed familiar….” Later that day she said she was going to try to deliberately cut out corn.

“I have no idea what I’m going to eat at my dad’s house now,” she lamented. “He already gives me a hard time. ‘Don’t you get tired of no variety?’ he says. My choice is to feel like crap or eat nothing sometimes!” She eats a lot of rice there.

This is…kind of frustrating, but kind of just silly. We have a ton of variety here, in the world of spices and flavorings, and every kind of seasonal veggie, and loads of gluten-free grains. As I’ve written about, we make gluten free breads or cookies sometimes. From what she describes, there’s not much chance for “variety” over there because ingredients that don’t work for her are in most meals. I don’t like that she’s being treated like she’s making a strictly moral dietary choice or is being a picky teenager for no reason. She feels her stepmother still has no understanding of what she’s dealing with. (“What is Celiac anyway?”)

P. and I put our heads together and asked if it would help to have some kind of grocery list. Her dad takes her to the store every Friday that he picks her up, which is nice, but expecting a 14-year-old to meal plan on the spot, not knowing what is in his pantry, is challenging. I didn’t really get good at weekly meal planning until I was in my late 20s (and finally had a fixed, consistent cashflow and budget that was barely above the poverty level I’d been living at for years, that was key).

So I sat down with her and made a short list of staples that she could prepare as sides with little fuss or cost, like baked potatoes, or putting fried eggs on rice. I winged a really simple beans and rice recipe for her. I told her to take Kind bars out of our pantry as backup. We tried to think of things her little sisters wouldn’t want to raid–not to be stingy, but so Franny’s “special” stuff would not get eaten, leaving her with things she could not eat.

Okay, okay, so I admit that I am often overzealous about hacking my kids’ lives so they will run better and smoother. It’s definitely an overreaction to having zero help with things when I was a child. Sometimes my brain goes, “Hey, you came out of it fine”…except those times that I was unsafe, or underfed, or hiding the fact that I needed medical attention because asking for a lift to the doctor was a bad idea. I am trying not to do everything for them. I know they will go out into the world and step on 28 rakes on the first day, but I want them to have a shot at realizing that there’s more than one way to solve a problem. And that it is okay to ask for help with things.

Anyway, I am happy that most of the time I can go for a run, especially in light of the fact that I was laying in bed most of the time a year ago, and that most of the time my scalp is not covered in lesions. (HA. There’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write. wtf) I’m happy that Strudel is kicking ass and taking names most of the time now as well.

P. and I “worked” the bees midweek to see what was happening in there and to see if the queens were out loose from their cages. We took the tops off the hives and straightened comb out as much as we could. I didn’t see any eggs yet, but if things are going well we should see larva tomorrow. I will bring my camera for that. I wouldn’t say we were in a rush on Tuesday, but the sun was setting and it was rather cold and miserable. It has been thrilling to see foragers bringing in their fat pollen legs on the nicer days this week. P. says he can feel his brain crinkling because there is so much to think about.

And, for posterity, here is Shan and I on Sunday in my yard after she spent the night. HER phone will deign to take pics. Unfortunately for her she was swamped with monitoring posts for her site/various social media on Saturday night, so I said HEY LET’S BE VEGETABLES. I turned on a few episodes of Flight of the Conchords and we just kind of giggled and had a glass of wine and didn’t talk exhaustively to 1 a.m. or anything. It is nice having the type of old friend who you cannot see for a year and a half and then just sit with them. I am very grateful to her. If she hadn’t gotten in my face on my blog in 2003 or so, I never would have gotten to know her. I get my head pretty far up my obtuse, increasingly introverted ass sometimes, so I am happy that some people have decided to B&E into my life.

Hello to Sring*

Monday, April 13th, 2015

* The infamous “sring” cake in all its glory.

Busy weekend, and busy past couple of weeks. I guess I should start with Easter. What happened? Not much. I decided to see what would happen if I followed the recommended advice and set aside eggs in the back of the fridge for a couple of weeks. I was very surprised I was coordinated enough to remember to do this! As expected, the air bubble was bigger and they were easier to peel. Whoopie. Cross another one off the bucket list, I suppose.

Sometimes I like to show off my eggs because they turn out cool, but this year they were kind of a hash. I bought discounted egg dye kits a couple of years ago after the holiday (tie dye, marble, and glitter) and they were kind of lame! Next I think we will go back to feats with ordinary dye. These eggs were quickly ushered into an egg salad made with spicy chipotle mayo.

Other than dyeing eggs with the girls, and making some nicer dinner since lamb’s on sale and it’s a Sunday, I am wildly inconsistent about Easter. I don’t do a lot of candy because I feel like I have to draw the line somewhere–Easter really isn’t our holiday. But it’s nice to say hello to spring. And baths! Have some bath loot, girls.

I made Franny an Easter basket plate.

And also Strudel.

And then I roasted a lamb leg that I stuffed in part with minced preserved lemons I made in February. I got down to my last one-and-a-half and I sliced some more and added more salt to the jar while I watched part of Going Clear. I know Japanese pickles can be done in an “endless” way like this so we’ll see if the same is true of lemons. Between the acid in the salt I doubt I’m breeding new life forms in there. And it is FUN to dig around in a salty lemon-oily jar. It’s like beach mad scientist as a kid.

I was a Bisy Backson yesterday in the sense that I did all those things you put off in the week, because enough is enough in one day sometimes. I took Strudel out for a refurbed taller bike, which she named Dr. Krieger.

This will be her last bike before she gets a full-sized one, unless the frame explodes or something. Am I winding down on child ranching or what? There’s a lot of parenting left to do, but I cannot even pretend I have little kids anymore.

I also finished a mini-project last weekend: tagging the trees.

I used 18 tags, and only one of the trees came with the house (the Italian prune). We’ve been busy. To be fair, four tags went on the frankencherry alone.

I wasn’t as helpful with the beehives this weekend as I would have liked. We decided to divide and conquer. I helped where I could (caulk, moral support) and P. just hit it really hard. It was forecasted to rain today (and has) so we tucked them onto the porch for now. Franny is on deck to paint when it clears up a little later this week.

I ran out of caulk so I’ve not quite finished the roofs.

Hello have you heard the good news about beehives

This Saturday we’re going to pick up two packages of Italians and then bring them home and dump them into the boxes. I know people have done this thousands of times, but it still sounds bizarre. I will bring my camera so I can capture the site of a truck full of bees (I hope).

Franny has been in fine form lately. She was in a great mood on Sunday and decided to dawdle some before cleaning out the chicken coop by giving the dogs rides. Poor Edith was tiny terrified until Horace joined her.

Horace joins the fun.

Bonus party trick.

A kiss is not a contract

Monday, March 30th, 2015

“What’s the difference between venerating women for being fuckable and putting them on a purity pedestal? In both cases, women’s worth is contingent upon their ability to please men and to shape their sexual identities around what men want.”

–Jessica Valenti

Franny called me early on Saturday and left a message. She’d been at her dad’s house less than 24 hours, which is always a…sign. Could be okay, could be not so good. I listened to it.

“Mom, something annoying and lame happened. Can you call me back?”

I finally got ahold of her on Saturday night. She went outside her grandfather’s house, where she was having an overnight visit, to talk on the phone without being listened to.

“Guess what happened when I got into my dad’s car yesterday? He immediately asked me about my boyfriend!”

“Uh oh,” I said. Her boyfriend was something she was super not ready to share with her father or his family, and so she had decided not to.

“Yes, and he said he found out because of YOUR BLOG.”

“Oh, shitballs,” I said. I understand all too well that what I write is public, but I didn’t think he had any interest. It got worse.

“THEN he decided to have a sex talk with me, and it was so awkward I wanted to die! He said, ‘When I was your age I started having sex and all high school boys are trying to do is get into your pants.’ I was like ‘UGH TMI DAD’ but I was just like, ‘Ok.”

“…That’s pretty terrible. You know he said that because that was his perspective, right? We know not all boys are like that.”

She and I talked about it more later, after I’d related the cringe-inducing story to P. He and I talked about how crappers it was to take this tack–the idea that Franny doesn’t really have any agency herself, doesn’t have any sexuality herself, and sex is something that will be winkled from her because blah blah girls have to protect their own virtuecakes whatever. Also this issue of promulgating the notion that all boys are predatory. UGH. He’s probably just freaked out because his high school girlfriend had an abortion (an acceptable solution, but one that he felt was Morally Wrong).

I had a hinky feeling about this whole thing and I left my ringer on for the rest of the weekend. There she was again, Sunday night around eight.

“Mom, I don’t know what to do. Dad’s been barfing all day and he’s just disappeared into bed and I don’t know how I’m going to get to school tomorrow and I HAVE TO BE THERE.”

“Okay, take a breath, let’s figure this out,” I said. We arranged it so we could go down to the ferry docks and pick her up (normally her dad would take her to school on Monday and she would come home from there).

Her stepmother took her down to the docks on their side and dropped her off. Franny said on the way down her stepmother heaped praise on SeaFed for having a sex talk with her, and wasn’t he a cool dad? And not every dad could talk to their daughters about sex.

“The message is possibly more important than the act of talking itself,” I ventured.

“Oh, Mom, there’s more, he also told me that you should get me on birth control.”

“Okay, I’ll get right on that.”

She told me what happened with her dad over the past couple of days, about how there was a birthday pizza party for one of the children and how he was drinking throughout the day. I get it, he had a couple of days off and was kicking it with his dad. It’s often kind of fun party times with SeaFed’s dad, but not in a creepy “WOO LET’S DO SHOTS” way. Just fun.

“So your dad had beer and pizza all weekend?”

“Yes, he was drinking a lot. When we were on our way back from Grandpa’s and waiting for the ferry he threw up off the dock.” She told me this nightmarish tale of how the usual island hop takes about an hour and a half, but it took four hours yesterday, because her stepmother kept stopping at stores and everyone had to pee and there was a child screaming because they ran out of movies to show in the minivan and then a child screamed for french fries and so THEY PULLED OVER AND GOT THEM.

“Hold up,” I said. “A child screamed for french fries and then was taken through the drive through and given french fries?” I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been hearing these stories for years now.


“Further delaying the trip home even?”


“I would walk into the ocean with my mouth open until I drowned,” I said.

“…OOOOOOR you can just say, ‘No’ to that sort of thing as a parent,” said P., sensibly, as always.

A person could look up the word “hyperbole” in the dictionary and there would be a picture of P. with a strike through it and the caption would say “NOT P.” SIGH.

On top of all this drama, here’s SeaFed thinking he has food poisoning. He’s had problems since he was a small child, or so he told me several times when we were married. Daily stomachaches and frequent headaches. Franny said in recent years he’s been complaining of vertigo. We were discussing his condition in the midst of all of this.

“He has these body and joint aches and feels terrible and I say ‘DAD, you should get off the wheat!’ He says he’s in good health!”

“Yeah, his mother had a ‘bad stomach” too,” I said.

It just made me think…there is a weird style of “AHA!” parenting I have observed (and was practiced on me at times) involving “busting” and humiliating your teenager. It really, really seems to make them not want to talk to you and more likely to keep secrets next time.

I guess this is how SeaFed was treated in some cases, though. I think of his stories about his phase of breaking into cars and stealing stereos, hood ornaments, etc. His sister found his stolen goods and instead of speaking to him about it, pulled all of the items out from under the bed and displayed them on his bed, hoping their parents would find them and draw the obvious conclusion. (Not saying that Franny is doing anything bad here–her boyfriend is delightful, really.)

So it came out that his mother-in-law has been reading my blog [HELLO THERE] and was the one who blabbed all this to Franny’s stepmother and father. After how the weekend went, I can’t imagine why Franny was so reticent to share this news.

On the way to the ferry Sunday night, she said that her stepmother was kind of nice. Points deducted from Hufflepuff for praising SeaFed for that “sex talk” but then she was kind of apologetic about her embarrassment and conceded: “Well, Gabba’s nosy sometimes.”

I told Franny I could stop blogging about her, and assured her I am keeping it positive and/or neutral now that her peers are online. (There’s really nothing “bad” to write, though. She is really not a troubled kid.) I apologized profusely for the embarrassment I had caused her at the hands of her father.

She said it is okay if I keep writing about her, but I realized there’s lots of other things I could write about. I could write about how many times Franny has stumbled upon her stepmother’s “secret” cigarette stash. I could write about how Franny has stumbled upon her father’s and stepmother’s weed stash several times in the course of looking for ordinary household items. I could write about what Franny found in her father’s drawer this weekend when he asked her to fetch a handkerchief (“…And I knew IMMEDIATELY it was his dick piercing.” “Yes, honey, this is why your father sits to pee.”). I could write about the strife and tension caused in the household by having a mother-in-law who barges in, hoovers down all the milk, and then splits. I could write about how much SeaFed hates his mother-in-law’s dogs and how Franny has to hear all about that.

And no, I don’t have the good sense god gave a goose and I am a terrible person. Have a nice day.

The Devil’s Bargain

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

“How would you know you weren’t being a phony? The trouble is you wouldn’t.”

–JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Here I am behind a desk again. This is a strange one. No one really seems to know what the temp I’m replacing did, or who supplied her with work, or what I should be doing on a daily basis. I ask questions and my emails go unanswered. There are whole days where I don’t really speak to anyone. I am told I will be copywriting “soon” so that should be fun to exercise those muscles again.

I’d probably be panicking if I was trying to seriously get my foot in the door in marketing as an FTE, but. Eh.

So I have a love-hate relationship with situations like this. On one hand, I am making a paycheck again. On the other hand, it is taking me away from my precious math studies. MATH DELICIOUS MATH. I feel like I am not making progress towards my goals like I was, but it’s nice to have less financial pressure. I’m just going to ride this for now.

I know I have 3.5 hours completely alone this morning and no tasks, so it’s going to be a review of engineering and scientific notation. I cannot make this stuff up, folks. This is how exciting my life is.

We did St. Pat’s early because my sister comes on Mondays for dinner. I don’t know what possessed me to buy a lamb shoulder–so bony! But the meat was really nice. I did it pretty easy-style, no bells or whistles. We came home and went for a short jog–me, P., Strudel, the spaniels. I get a little kick out of thinking how ridiculous that little train must look galooping around the neighborhood, but I’m excited to run a 5K with Strudel in April.

When I got home I knocked together an “American” soda bread. Of course I had to add caraway, and I did sultanas and currants, which I think is more like the one in our ancient Joy of Cooking. I threw some fingerling potatoes, chunked carrots and onions, and wedges of cabbage in a roasting pan, and everything went in the oven. I had set the lamb on a delay so when I came home it had already been roasting slow and low. P. made a chocolate cake and frosted it with mint icing, and boom, St. Pat’s for people who are utterly mutts but the closest thing they have to a heritage is being told they come from Southern Irish trailer trash.

We did have some good news last night–the school district finally sent a letter saying Strudel was accepted to both tiers of advanced learning. The highest tier would require us switching schools, which we are not keen to have her do, so next year she will be in the rigorous program in her home school for fifth grade.

This is a long time coming–she’s been testing almost every year since kindergarten, and she had often fallen just one point short percentile-wise. We didn’t have her test last year because she was falling behind. Her terrible third grade teacher gave them ten minutes of math a day when she felt like it, and usually didn’t bother photocopying any homework for them. Strudel was put into a rigorous supplemental class this year and has caught up. I think she’s also doing so well in large part because of her diet. She has focus, energy, and is calm. (Like her mother, who can also math now.) I remember being her age and how hard it was to focus and take a test, even if I knew the material.

When we opened the letter I think we all expected disappointment again, secretly, but she SMASHED it. She was in the top percentiles and we did a happy screamy dance in the dining room. The only downside, and it’s a small price, is that she will have to retest every year to stay in the program. But she’s used to the testing and I hope she finds the challenge to be worthwhile.

Morgan was rather fried last night since she’s doing the morning shift of the pledge drive again at KEXP. She talks on the air for four hours and goes to her other job, and by the time I get to her she is pretty tired. I offered to let her run away after dinner and save more Twin Peaksin’ for next week, but we managed to fit in one episode anyway, before she had to run home and sleep.

Me being kind of fried and Morgan being VERY fried worked out, though, because Franny had a lot to say last night. She had another strange weekend at her father’s house. I feel funny about her weekend stories because it seems like she’s a terror over there, in part from how angry she feels about the situation. I was telling P. this weekend that I kind of feel for her stepmother but my loyalty is with Franny, of course.

“I feel like, ‘How can you not like and pet my flatulent, venomous snake?” I said to him, by way of explaining my attitude about it.

She was a little manic when she came back. She got into the bookshelves over there due to boredom and is cracking into Carl Sagan and John McPhee. Her father was always Mr. Popular Science guy, when I first met him, but after a few years the books weren’t read, they were just displayed. But she was full of ideas. It was very cute.

“I had no filter this weekend,” she declared. “My sister asked me if I like our room and I said ‘NO’ because I just feel like a guest and there’s always crap piled on my bed. And the kids just scream at the table through every meal.”

“You are sowing dissent,” I warned her, which of course fell on deaf ears.

“I was mean to my stepmother too. She buys all these dumb face creams and I walked in and she was piling some on, and I told her, ‘You know that stuff doesn’t work, right? You just get wrinkles anyway. She took a deep breath and she said, ‘Go. Away.”

OUCH. I am pretty sure that karmically, Franny just earned herself a face that will look like one of those dried apple dolls by the time she’s 32.

“AND SATURDAY,” she went on, “was kind of worse because they had dinner guests and right before they came my dad insisted on getting out a board game and setting it up so it would LOOK like we were doing something. I called him out on it. I said, ‘Dad, we never play board games’ and he said ‘So?” and I said, ‘It looks like you’re just doing this because company’s coming over and he said, ‘Ha ha ha’ like I said something funny!”

It got a little dark, then. She told us her stepmother asked her to fetch some pills out of her nightstand.

“There are prescription pill bottles EVERYWHERE–in the kitchen, the bedroom,” she told us. “Pills for anxiety, pills for depression, pain pills…she takes so many pills.” Her mother just had back surgery, and I think this is after knee and hip surgery a few years ago, and is laid up right now. Franny said there was some yelling from her stepmother about not being able to take care of one more person. And I knew from experience that SeaFed was numbered among those she is taking care of.

Strudel turned TEN last week and I was already feeling so grateful to have my youngest in the double digits. So grateful to have dug myself out of the health pit I had fallen into. And then to hear about how things are going at his house…I’m sure they will all muddle through, or they won’t, that’s life. But last night I had that “someone has walked over my grave” feeling, but not my grave. The grave I would have had, had I zigged and not zagged.

You can’t go home again…but you sure as hell can’t stay here either

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

1. Cat Update

Goethe is doing well! She went into surgery on Friday early in the morning. They warned me in the estimate that they may find unexpected things, like a broken jaw or other problems. It turns out some of her incisors were cracked/smashed as well, so they had to come out. No broken jaw, but her lip was slightly ripped and had to be repaired. They also cleaned her teeth while they were in there.

Pictures of pictures, sorry, but I thought it was cool that they discharged her with pictures of the work. There were also xrays and after pictures. The vet tech was a really kick ass lady and I was happy Gert was her only patient that day (as she told me). I had not been fishing around in her mouth at all because I knew it would do no good, so it was neat to see these pictures.

I think she’s in decent spirits. She looks kind of funny face-on. I cannot tell if it’s a scab on her lip or if the change is permanent yet. Her face looks kind of elongated now, and she reminds me more of how her sister Matilda looked (left) before she vanished.

She kind of has a lisp when she purrs now. She’s been doing a surprising amount of purring as she sleeps on my stomach or feet at night. And she is eating an ungodly amount of wet food, which I had to buy special. I have also set up a spare litterbox at the bottom of the stairs. Usually one is sufficient since they go in and out, but of course Gertie is on house arrest right now.

We had a bonus incident on Friday when Gert was in surgery. I had the cat flap locked when she was home, but as I left to drop her off for surgery, I opened it to swing freely so the spaniels could let themselves in and out all day. I took the girls to an art museum while we waited to get the call about Gert (the girls had the day off as a between-semesters day).

For some reason (*cough* TINY BRAINS) the spaniels assumed they were locked in and did not even try the flap. They spent the day pissing on a bag that was in the downstairs bathroom, which we did not discover until bedtime Friday night. It was really a bummer because there has not been an accident in the house for over a year, when Edith first came home and was being trained. I know some little dogs can be nightmares about potty training but these two are great (Friday excepted).

“A LAKE of pee,” P. kept repeating gloomily as I mopped. My own personal sweet Eeyore who knows that when it rains, it sometimes golden showers.

Our first thought was that Mere was pissed off (ho ho pun). But we quickly realized it didn’t have that death ammonia cat smell, thank god, and then we realized it was our poor dumb dogs. Little animals cannot change routine well. We have been keeping the bathroom door closed post-cleaning and have been letting the uninjured animals out FREQUENTLY. We have the flap set to “in only” so they can let themselves back in when they are ready.

Between cat surgery and the hot water heater dying, January was an expensive month!

2. Not Yo Cheese

Second, thank you for indulging my Xtreme (90s style) whining the other day. I don’t want to make glib remarks about the scale of human suffering, but yeah, I am pretty low on it. Like I have said, I think this will all kind of inadvertently save my life. Except, you know, I am being advertent about it.

Today I found out that “advertent” is a word. I NEVER, EVER hear anyone saying it. I thought maybe it didn’t have a buddy, like “untoward.” WELL, you learn something new every day. And then forget it by 5 p.m. or so.

Speaking of things I never thought I’d advertent, I made…wait for it…vegan nacho cheese. AKA, “Just fucking kill yourself already.”

It was pretty fun. Start with a shit ton of oil, which sounds like cheese already.

Then add various aromatics and spices. Then cashews (and potatoes), which if you know anything about vegan recipe land, you know that cashews are kind of a staple in sauces and gravies. I always feel for the people in the comments who are like “I am allergic to nuts and three other ingredients in this five-ingredient recipe. What should I sub?” Um, here’s a carrot. Good luck. :(

Finally you add almond milk and some water and simmer everything until it’s tender. And then whirl it for a long time in your food processor.

The result is a lot like that classic mac and cheese made from a bechamel base. To be honest, I was never super keen on this particular “mother sauce.” I like the texture and adding things to it, but I don’t mind a vegan replacement one bit. I’m more about broth-based sauces or a nice hollandaise.

I made them to order. Ready, this is like a really boring story problem (oxymoron?): An asshole wants to make seafood mac and cheese. Strudel will not eat bay scallops, but loves crab. Her father will eat bay scallops but NOT crab. Franny and SJ are winners and will eat everything. What time will the trains collide and derail? A: Make four separate bowls with tin foil labels. I assembled the noodles, seafood, and sauce, and gave it a quick blast so everything was nice and toasty but not dry.

3. Boyfriend

I think it could have been a little better if I hadn’t held supper for so long for my dawdling daughter, who was downtown with her boyfriend. I think the two of them got together around Thanksgiving but he was a mysterious secret who I was not allowed to meet until Saturday. I think she was getting used to the idea she was having a boyfriend at all. At first, questions resulted in “MoooOOOOOoooooOOOOM” until she unclenched a little.

I, Nosyface, pelted her with questions from the get-go: what is his last name? (“Ummm…” She knows it now.) How old is he? (“Uh, 15 I think?”) So he’s a sophomore? (“Uhh yeah, is that tenth grade?”) It turns out he is sixteen and a junior. She knows many facts about him now. I forgot that when you’re a kid and this is new you don’t immediately need someone’s entire dossier–you just like someone.

I had the world’s most awkward talk recently while I was making dinner about not doing things she’s not ready for. “Like, um, sex stuff,” I said. Klunk. “Because it’s important to feel ready and like it’s the right person.”

“I know, Mom. He’s not like that.”

“And you can talk to me or your aunt if you need anything or have questions. And if you do decide to have sex, you can stop anytime. You can’t revirginize or anything, but you can stop and you don’t have to have sex with every next person. It’s a choice every single time.”

“Okay, okay.”

(It is important to pause here and note that Franny REGULARLY mocks me with this line, but I think she appreciates the check-ins.)

After meeting the boyfriend, I feel less worried. He seems like a very calm and friendly sixteen, with none of that oozing Lothario quality I used to go for. His mom dropped him off and she was nice too.

In failure news, I also decided to try making tamarind candy at home. Rather than using pods, I bought blocks of paste. My one regret is that I added the citric acid the recipe called for optionally, for “extra pucker.” It was TOO pucker. I had a couple of pieces last night, one sweet and one spicy, and it made my teeth flare up into sensitivity again.

It was a good reminder that I need to get a fucking grip (like always) because I was like ACK ACK ACK I am falling apart again!! And then in the next beat I remembered the citric acid and switched off my electric toothbrush to a regular one for last night.

Next time I will just have one! Tamarind may have replaced bergamot in my heart, now that they have long since stopped making bergamot gum.

Batman’s to the left of me

Friday, January 16th, 2015

So, Franny hath peaced out for this long holiday weekend, and her dad will pick her up after school tonight. SeaFed got a bug up his butt in December and decided we HAD to go to conferences with her main advisor this month and emailed me to that effect, saying I could go with him or separately, but he was going to schedule something. About once a year he comes out of the woodwork to do some kind of Parenting Action. This is fine. Basically this meeting is just a once-a-year check in that has a more flexible timeline than the structured “conference week” for youngsters like Strudel.

I replied to him, okay, my contract ends December 22nd, any time after that would be great. Maybe early January? I sent him another email last week to follow up–“Any word on conference times?” He replied and said “Franny was supposed to text me dates that worked for her teacher.” I asked her about this when she came home that night. “Yeah, I was supposed to text him but I’m still mad at him.” (This is about the whole “if she in ungrateful about treats that may make her sick, then let her not eat any cake, including cakes she could eat safely”).

She revealed a little more of her fury to me when I took her jeans shopping recently. I cannot overstate the value of taking your teenager out alone in a car to someplace like the mall. It’s like you bought the golden ticket to being unloaded upon, which is invaluable really. She said she’s overheard her stepmother doing the whole “We don’t even know if she HAS Celiac disease” loudwhisper [tm Grima Wormtongue] at SeaFed when she thinks Franny is out of earshot. To be fair I did have her tested after she had balked and was refusing to eat wheat and was already feeling better. Strangely I could not get either of my children to ingest wheat to do the test “properly”…. It’s like my whole household has this weird bias against explosive diarrhea.

But back to the matter at hand. Okay, first of all, you do not leave conference-arranging up to your fourteen year old, unless she is Rory Gilmore or Tracy Flick. Uh. I guess I don’t have a second point. Except to say that I think I am going back to work soon, so who knows when or if I can meet with this advisor. Also that I am a little disappointed that she is handling this passive-aggressively, but I know from experience that handling things aggressively with him kind of bounces off. She’s entitled to be pissed off. I printed off a few things about cross-contamination for her to give to them over there when she gets back.

While I wish I could be a fly on the wall for this conference (or attend, time allowing), I am tempted to just let it happen. I always feel that the more people who discover what he is like the better. Also I am super, super not worried about Franny’s progress at school in any way, nor do I have any questions really. We show up for events and she shows me her homework and she seems happy. She’s recently taken off on her DJ slot that she has on Wednesday afternoons, which is adorable. (“I played Nick Cave AND Roy G Biv by TMBG today!”) I am just happy to see her excited about art and music and her friends AND doing her algebra homework. He can go tick off the conference box. And he can deal with how mad she is at him right now…but realistically, he probably won’t figure it out.

“Life, love, stress, setbacks”

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

FrannyNewPhone 10:06 AM: jmpjtm?tjtpwpwg

FrannyNewPhone 10:10 AM: Bloop bleep mgmp9jamdadwpw0egd-THEOWLSARENOTWHATTHEYSEEM-ngdjsme89fnhsh

FrannyNewPhone 10:11 AM: