Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Hanukkah!

My mom & I started celebrating Hanukkah when I was a teenager and I have continued the practice with my kids. Friday night at sundown, the holiday began. J was at her plant's Christmas bowling party & Boot went to the movies with his buddies. So, Pie and I were on our own for the night. I made a pot of matzo ball soup and we had that with grilled cheese for dinner, along with doughnuts for dessert. I lit the candles of the hanukiyyah and said the traditional blessings in Hebrew and then in English. It was a nice, quiet evening.

Saturday morning, we had breakfast at Bob Evans. Then, J & I soaked in the hot tub with our books for awhile before heading back to the apartment for a snooze. It was a lazy, lazy day. The kids were thrilled not to be dragged to a museum or something like that. They got to lie around watching t.v. & playing video games for a change. J & I laid around, too, watching old movies like "The Lady Vanishes" and "Fire Creek." When she dozed off, I sneaked the channel to Food Network & watched Nigella Lawson for awhile. We finally arose & went to the bookstore.

When we got home, I made a big celebratory feast and we all sat down to dinner. We had brisket, latkes, glazed carrots and homemade applesauce. The recipes can be found at For the first time ever, one of the kids actually ate latkes. Boot found that he likes the crispy edges. After dinner, we opened our gifts, which are always either books or non-video games. We got Pie an Ironman collection & Boot a book containing collected works by and about the Black Panthers. Pie's hero right now is Ironman & Boot's is Huey P. Newton. Pretty funny for a little white boy. He is getting more & more aware of racial injustice, however, which is great. He also seems to be getting more aware of homophobia, which is surprising and welcome. He was talking to me yesterday about not liking Wal-Mart because they are racist & homophobic. I gave J a book on gay history for Hanukkah and she gave me a children's picture book about Cajun Papa Noel. The illustrations of his alligators are so cute! I read it to her before we went to sleep.

Yesterday, we were signed up for coffee hour at the new church. Since they are accustomed to storebought cookies only (last time we did coffee hour, people made a big deal about my having made a couple loaves of pumpkin bread to supplement the cookies), we didn't do our usual pull-out-all-the-stops coffee hour. Instead, we restrained ourselves to a few dips. We heated up some queso from J's plant & served that with tortilla chips. We had a bunch of cut-up bread, along with hot artichoke dip I made (recipe at La Luna Cooks) and brunoise from the plant. The other lesbian couple at the church had signed up to do coffee hour with us, providing cookies. There was also a big cake as a goodbye for the wife of the former pastor. She is moving away & they wanted to give her a warm send-off. Her son attended, too. He is a UCC pastor in a nearby town & his wife is Jewish. They were both very nice. We were able to send food home with a few people so we didn't have too much left. We do have quite a bit of bread, so we need to go feed the ducks or something.

We spent the afternoon taking the boys shopping for one another and for the mamas. Boot did a really nice job shopping, getting Burt's Bees products for his mom and a Nintendogs game for his brother. He has always been our most thoughtful gift giver, really thinking about what an individual would like, while Pie is self-absorbed enough that he tends toward getting people gifts he wants. We had a great time together. When we had a little extra time to kill, we sat in the snack shop at Target talking & eating pizza (Boot) and a hot dog (me). He had fun mixing Icee flavors with soda flavors. Then, we met J & Pie to exchange kids.

Pie didn't do as good a job, trying to talk me into buying a long string of movies like "Talladega Nights" for his mom, who hates Will Farrell movies and others of that ilk. I finally got him steered to the Sci Fi section, after he got mad at me for not letting him get her "The Blues Brothers" & telling him to pick something she would want, not something he would want. I said, "She'll just end up feeling like she can't exchange it because you got it for her." To that, he said, "Oh, like every single thing I ever get from you guys?" I told him I'd much rather have him return any gifts I get him than keep them when he doesn't want them, that it wouldn't have hurt my feelings a bit if he returned the PSP we just got him for his birthday. I had him there & that's when he moved to the films she actually likes, after commenting that his mom has no taste in funny movies. Cranky! He was also aggravated that I didn't let him buy her the video game he wants because she doesn't play video games. LOL! He did get his brother a game I think he'll like, although there was very little thought put into it and he neglected to tell me he'd already gotten his brother 2 video games while he was with his mom. Oy vey!

We spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry & dishes, then J & I went out & bought a (fake) Christmas tree. She really wanted to get a pink one, but we couldn't find one, so it is green and pre-lit. I wish she would have consented to going to a tree farm to cut our own. Oh, well. Next year. We are going to have our tree-trimming party tonight. We picked up some (nearly flavorless) Chinese on the way home and went to bed at 8:30.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pre-Trial Report

As our attorney told us yesterday, our case just got a lot better. The guardian ad litem gave his report in court yesterday, recommending that the children remain with us and that their father get counseling to help him deal with the anger & pain he still feels over the divorce. The ad litem said that the only reason he can see for a change of custody is because that is what the kids think they want, not that they would actually be better off with their father. He comments that the kids seem to be manipulating the rift between their parents to their favor, controlling the situation by using the fact that J & her ex are not on good terms. Basically, playing them against one another. He feels that the boundaries that we set are better for the kids, that we don't allow the kids' acting out in an attempt to control the household to sway us and, further, that the kids are not mature enough to make the decision on where to live. The ex's lawyer pitched a fit when he heard that and said that the judge was supposed to listen to the kids. The judge responded that he listens to kids when they are mature enough, but that according to the ad litem's report, ours are not mature enough. The attorney pushed the judge into doing an in-camera interview anyway. I am not so sure that was a smart move on his part. It's only going to piss the judge off, to be pushed into doing an interview he doesn't deem necessary. We shall see what he rules on Tuesday next. I guess I am to be the star witness. Better get a haircut.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Hickory Hill Holiday

Thanksgiving morning, we were up early for breakfast with the kids before they were picked up by their father. Then, we hit the road for my mom's place in West Virginia. I had already loaded the car the night before, so we were able to get there by 2. After delivering our bags to Graham at the top of the hill, for ATV ferrying back to their place, we commenced cooking at Lenore's. Lenore, my almost grandma, is a sprightly 85 and is perfectly capable of cooking, therefore did not mind that we took over all the cooking, a treat for her. We, in turn, adored her for cleaning up after us.

My vegetarian mama had prepared the turkey, the first time she has cooked a turkey since I was 3 years old, with advice from their neighbor. As we came up the walk, we were greeted by the scent of roasting turkey...mmm. J took over the turkey-sitting process when we arrived, basting and checking regularly. Between the two of them, they produced an enviably golden and juicy bird. I got down to business setting up a cheese (including Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam, a triple cream that absolutely rocks!) and apple (fragrant and wonderful Pink Ladies) tray. I also made hot artichoke dip and set out some Triscuits and Wheat Thins to go with that. We also had olives, sweet pickles made by another neighbor, baby dills and watermelon pickles for munchies while we cooked. My mom made the stuffing and mashed potatoes, J prepared the sweet potato-banana mash that her plant just started making (adding walnuts glazed with brown sugar to the top) and I made green bean casserole & a gorgeous salad with pears, candied walnuts, blue cheese and dried cranberries. My mama had already made the traditional raspberry Jello with raspberries (I was given the always-used cut-glass compote by my grandmom, along with the turkey salt & peppers that belonged to her mother in law, so we had it in that) and cranberry sauce ahead of time, while I had prepared a derby pie the night before. We had wonderful visiting, then a delicious dinner.

Around midnight, we began the long trek from The Homeplace to Hickory Hill. Luckily, there had been sunshine all day and the clay mud had dried up a smidge. It was still treacherous walking, especially down the big hill, but none of us fell. By the time we had gotten back to the guest shack and my mom had gotten the woodstove going at a safe, steady burn, it was 4 or 4:30 in the morning. We had fun chatting, as J slept in the loft above us, but that was a late night! Other than trips down the ladder to use the pee bucket, we spent a restful & cozily warm night in the loft, not awaking until after 9 & staying in the loft reading until 11! I am reading East aloud to J right now. It's a wonderful YA book based on one of my favorite fairy tales, "East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon." I think the author is Edith Patou. My mom came in to tend the stove & listened for awhile, too.

Speaking of good books, I have been reading some fantastic fiction lately. I recently read Neil Gaiman's American Gods (and also listened to his Stardust), Charles de Lint's Widdershins and Rita Mae Brown's The Hounds and the Fury. J is reading de Lint's The Onion Girl, which I want to read when she's finished, and I have just started a book my mom & Graham loaned me. It's by the diva of the Poundy website, which I have yet to explore, Wendy McClure. If the book, I'm Not the New Me, is any indication of her usual writing style, the website must be great. I can hardly put down the book. I'm also working on Candles Burning, a ghost story started by Michael-whose-last-name-I'm-blanking-on and finished by Tabitha King when he died, leaving an unfinished manuscript. Love it.

Once we had emerged from the loft, we had coffee with my mom in the garden while Graham had his noon nap. Then, we visited inside with them and with one of the neighbors. He is making a hope chest for his daughter, who is getting married in January, and my mom & Graham are making the hasp for him. It was fun to hear him talk about the woodworking projects he has done. His whole family is just good. They are kind, good-hearted people. My mom, J & I headed back through the woods to the car around 5. We poked around Lowe's for awhile, then had dinner at TGIF. I love being able to treat my mom to dinner out. She got a big portabella sandwich and J & I had steaks. The service was spectacular, as is often the case with the Cross Lanes TGIF. I had to speak to the manager about it. The food was good, too, but the service was just stellar. I love that. We got a stellar reception at the hotel, too. The manager knows us from our wedding there & put some champagne on ice for us when we arrived. Very sweet. We watched a few minutes of Shrek 2, wanting my mom to see Antonio Banderas' turn as Puss in Boots. Then, we visited in the hot tub until it closed, which was simply luscious.

In the morning, we had breakfast in the lobby & eavesdropped on the people who were in town to go to the dog track. Just typing dog track makes me cringe. I feel bad for those dogs. After breakfast & check-out, we did some shopping. I was thrilled to find a couple pairs of non-stretch Levi's on sale at Goody's & a pair of good hill-trekking boots for $15.00, as well. I had been borrowing my mom's, which scrunched my feet a little. Why, oh why, are they hardly making any women's jeans these days without that damnable Lycra touch??? I HATE stretch jeans. They make me feel like I'm in my pajamas!!! Boot says I should just get men's because they're not doing that with men's.

We stopped by TGIF for a quick nib. It took a little longer than we expected, so I went to meet my mom at the hotel & took her back to the restaurant with us. After we ate, we went to the Clay Center in Charleston to see "Wishes," a holiday-themed art display. It was very cool & the gingerbread houses smelled amazing! We looked at the permanent collection, too, and checked out the Sesame Street body exhibit downstairs briefly before they closed. We had so much fun!

For dinner Saturday night, we were down at Lenore's & had leftovers. I remembered to make the hot fruit punch recipe I'd brought along. I suspected that it would be the same as the "fruit tea" I had tasted (and loved) in Tennessee. It was and it was also the "Russian Tea" that J had as a child on family vacations to a cabin in Bruce Mines, Ontario. We had our dinner as we watched "Bruce Almighty" and we are lucky no one choked. It's such a funny movie. I'm not a huge Jim Carrey fan, but he can be just hilarious & he certainly is in this. After we cleaned up, we did the dread hike again. It was easier this time, perhaps due to my new boots or maybe because of the extemely lovely weather drying out the road somewhat. If the neighbors would be more sensible about the road, it wouldn't be as bad, but they make such deep ruts with their trucks and trailers full of atvs that the road can't drain properly. Those guys only use the property for hunting, so they don't get that they are wrecking the road for people who actually live out there. I wish I had the money to fix the road (and maybe buy the neighbors' property from them!) for my mom & Graham. My mom didn't have to stay in the shack babying the woodstove as long, either, but we still got to sleep late.

We spent time visiting Sunday morning, then loaded up the ATV & started the hike. My wishes for the ability to teleport always get amplified when I am staying with my mom. I am so grateful to Graham for taking our things back & forth so we at least weren't hiking with big bags to carry. We stopped to say hi to the neighbors & B.J., the woodworker, presented us with a beautiful spice rack he had made for us. My mom had ordered it & was going to pay him for it, but he wouldn't accept any payment. That's just the kind of people they are. Sweet. Our drive home was somewhat dreary and long with no lunch break, but we arrived in plenty of time to welcome the rapscallions home. They retired to their room promptly, as is often their wont when they return from visitation. They'd already had dinner, so it was just J and me eating the chicken scalloppine and penne with vodka sauce I made. It was the first time I ever made vodka sauce. It was different from the bottled kind...and better. Boot tried it & said, "Good job, Daria!" He is really starting to branch out in terms of his food tastes. The whole meal was so easy, too. We then watched a cute movie called "April's Shower" before retiring to bed.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A No-Blow-Ups Weekend with the Boys

Whew! We made it through a whole weekend with no major meltdowns from either child. I wasn't so sure how the weekend would go because Boot was nasty within 5 minutes of me walking in the door Thursday. Sometimes, I wonder why I bother coming home. But, all was well Friday, with Pie giving me a great big hug when he got home from school and Boot apologizing to me out of the blue.

Friday night, Boot went to see the new Emma Thompson movie with friends. I find it odd that a group of 7th grade boys wanted to see it, but I guess it was the Will Ferrell factor that decided them. Boot says it was odd, but that he would definitely take us to see it. It made him think. While we waited for the call to pick him up, we got a little Christmas & birthday shopping done. We had take-out from Applebee's, riblets for me, a bruschetta burger for J and a plain cheeseburger for Pie.

Saturday morning found us running errands. I got to talk to my mom, planning our Thanksgiving menu. We had a great lunch at Dave's Cosmic Subs, then went to see "Happy Feet", which J loved, the kids liked just fine and I found profoundly depressing. Once home, I commenced making artichoke dip for our appetizer contribution for the church's monthly Dine & Discuss. It was our first time attending that and it was a good time. We're just getting to know people at the church & I think this was a good way to get to know them better, as was helping with the Mission Committee's Thanksgiving dinner last Monday. After a bit of noshing and visiting time, we split into two groups for discussions. We joined the group that was discussing whether people of different faiths are praying to the same god. The general consensus was that we are. I am happy to be part of a church in which that kind of thinking is acceptable. Wiccans and other neo-pagans were not mentioned, and I didn't bring them up, but I was comforted that they didn't only discuss the Abrahamic traditions, but mentioned Hinduism and Buddhism. The house where this event is held each month is absolutely enormous, the biggest private home I've ever been in. It felt more like a conference facility than like a home. I hear there's even a full-size basketball court in the basement. For all that, the hosts are genuinely warm and welcoming. After the meeting, J & I poked around Kohl's a bit before heading home. I got a cute pair of Hanukkah socks with a blue dreidel on them.

This morning, we went to church. There was a brass quartet playing during the service, which was just lovely. During coffee hour, we talked to the other lesbian couple and another woman about Thanksgiving. The other woman, whose name I am not sure of, was telling us she wants to have a party where everyone brings their orphan earrings and we create new jewelry from them. That sounds like so much fun! After church, we had lunch at The Winking Lizard (plain cheeseburger for Pie, garlic wings for J & Boot, a chili cheeseburger for me...and their amazingly good macaroni & cheese bites to share), then tried to join the local gay family group at the Great Lakes Science Center. Sadly, there was a game going on between the Browns & the Steelers, making parking hard to find and expensive! I am unwilling to pay $20 for Science Center parking, so we headed home instead. J went out Christmas & birthday shopping, while I studied & napped & the boys played video games. When J returned home, she made pork chops, mashed potatoes and broccoli for dinner. We had a family meeting during dinner, then it was homework & bed time.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Post Ad Litem

After class on Thursday, I just stayed in town. J & the boys drove down, arriving about midnight, in order to go to an appointment with the guardian ad litem early Friday morning. After about 5 hours of sleep, we went to the appointment, only to be told we'd been given the wrong time & would have to wait another hour. Ugh! I was sure glad I had brought a book! Boot & J got very bored & restless, but Pie was just fine because he had thought to bring his video game. After that appointment, we had lunch at BW-3, where we all ate wings & the boys won scads of toys from the claw machine. J won a Wonder Woman doll, too. The boys were so sweet...they gave a teddy bear they won to a darling little boy who was eating at a table near us. Boot even said it was okay to give him the Diego (from "Ice Age") he very much wanted for himself. After lunch, we conferred with our attorney for awhile. We picked up some groceries on the way back to my grands'. Once there, J started roasting a chicken while I fell into a deep nap over a Mary Engelbreit magazine. She & the boys watched James Bond with my granddad while I napped. J woke me just in time to make the mashed potatoes for dinner. We had some nice visiting time before bed.

Saturday morning, we visited some more, over a big omelet & sausage breakfast that J & Pie made for us. Then, we went down to visit J's folks. Her mom seems to be doing really well, although her blood sugar had a recent rise. She was really with-it, though. We took her some rose lotion & handsoap & a pink button-down shirt for J's dad. They were pleased with those, as with the Guideposts magazines my grandmom sent along. After the boys had gathered their swag bags, heavy with fruit & candy, we headed back to our "bed & breakfast" in the woods. We stopped at Target & Pie was able to buy himself the Lego Star Wars game he wanted. Once back at my grands', my aunt Jeanie called, so I got to talk to her. Then, we went to dinner at Los Mariachis, where I had their fabulous chile verde, pork chunks with a green chile sauce. After hours more visiting and Ohio State game watching, we all went to bed.

In the morning, we went to church, where Brendan preached on Esther. That was really interesting for me because I wrote a paper on Esther last fall. We visited for a long while at coffee hour and were presented with a going-away gift of a door knocker by the congregation. It's brass, with a blessing from the Psalms on all those coming & going from the house. Just lovely. I don't think we can put it on this door, but when we get our own house, it will go up right away. I spent some time talking pastor talk with Brendan in his office while J & Boot went over to check on the house. Then, Laura happened along, fresh from visiting the Buddhist temple with Kat. I talked to her about Sabbath practice & religious intolerance for awhile, then we hit the road. On the way home, Pie chose to ride with me so that he wouldn't have to tolerate his brother's incessant chatter. He played his video game & I listened to Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, each stopping when the other had something to say. We stopped at an outlet mall & poked around (I found a nice preaching outfit with grey skirt & red sweater set), then had dinner at Bob Evans before finishing the last leg of the trip. I spent the evening planning October dinners while Boot did homework, Pie played on his computer and J relaxed on the couch. After the boys went to bed, we watched Without a Trace before heading to bed & fairy tales ourselves.

Beignets & Golf Clubs

The weekend before last, my Beloved & I had a delightful time. After the boys went with their father, we walked around Crocker Park for awhile. We decided to have dinner at Brio & sat on a bench with our buzzer to await a table. The bench was a beautiful, richly-hued wood. When J stood up to go to the bathroom, I saw why. Her backside was striped, like a denim tiger skin! When she checked mine, it was the same. Apparently, the maintenance crew had oiled the bench for glamour and it had not dried, due to the damp in the air. Luckily, it all washed out. We giggled all the way to our table over our stripey butts. Dinner was fine, but the service was quite slow & indifferent & I always feel that Brio is a touch overpriced. The food is fine, but for those kinds of prices, I'd rather skip the chains. For dessert, we opted for beignets from the stand by the bookstore. We sat at a little outdoor table & enjoyed them with a vanilla latté (me) and warm milk (J). After poking around in the bookstore, we went home & to bed.

In the morning, after luxuriating in bed, we went for more beignets! Thus fortified, we headed into Tremont for the Festival of the Flea at Pilgrim church & the Tremont Arts Festival. We found a bunch of books for a little bit of nothing & a set of golf clubs in a butter yellow case for $5. J is so excited to once again have her own golf clubs. After depositing those in the car, we went on to the arts festival. We looked at some wonderful altered art jewelry, were accosted by a pushy children's book author peddling his wares, ate fabulous arepas filled with a creamy guacamole concoction, visited with a number of dogs and met Tricia Dykers Koenig of Covenant Network. I'd had no idea she's based in Cleveland. I really value their work. is their website address. We stopped on the way home for a drink on the Winking Lizard patio, then watched a movie at home. After climbing back into bed for awhile, we roused ourselves enough to throw a couple of Marie Callender's pot pies & a cherry pie into the oven. We had dinner in front of the t.v. before retiring to our books.

Sunday, we went back to the local church that was the first area church we visited. Saturday, God had nudged me, saying, "Hey, you should check out that first church again." I thought it wouldn't hurt to at least check the website to see what time the service is. When I opened the website, however, I saw that the church is just beginning the discernment process on whether to declare themselves "open & affirming"! They've had a task force checking things out & were holding an informational lunch after worship. So, we went. As soon as we walked in, we saw one of the friendly lesbians who had talked to us when we attended in early June. She remembered our names, welcomed us back & asked us to stay for the lunch. People were very friendly, there was ample evidence of social justice leanings and the sermon was a dialogue between the two pastors, on difference. It was really good & really encouraging. We stayed for lunch & by the end of it, an older couple had gotten us to sign up to host coffee hour with them! So, I am going to call the pastor & see what he thinks about me doing my internship there & how likely it is that the congregation would support me for in-care status when the time comes for that. He told me to call anytime, so I am taking him up on that.

After church, we came home, fell into bed for awhile, then cleaned house & hung fairy pictures. Our bedroom is all fairyed-out & I even found a Linda Ravenscroft calendar for next year. Once the boys got home, we took Pie to the pool. Boot had homework & although I urged him to bring it to the pool like I was doing, he knows himself well enough to realize he'd be distracted down there. So, he stayed home. What a responsible kid! He is very serious about his school work. The kids had already eaten, so we stayed at the pool until it was getting dark so that Pie could enjoy this last hurrah of summer swimming. Once they were tucked snug in bed, we had Swiss steak for dinner. We watched some t.v., I read a faiy tale to J & then she went to sleep while I spent time with Reformation studies.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Raising Productivity

My beloved decided on Friday morning that we needed to have a just laze around the house weekend. Not too long into Saturday, a few minutes after her pretty green eyes opened, that changed into "We need to get some things done around the house!!!" I think this was due, in part, to the fact that large amounts of dishes had accumulated over the days I'd been gone, large amounts of dishes I had left alone Friday. J had told me, "You didn't make the dishes, you don't need to clean them up. You just leave them for me" as she left Friday morning. Ordinarily, I would have ignored her and done them anyway. In the future, I will likely also follow that path. But, for this past week, I wanted to conduct the experiment of letting her handle everything. I couldn't stop myself from vacuuming & sweeping, but I left the dishes untouched.

Luckily, I didn't then have to plunge into the dishes Saturday morning. I am not a morning person and I don't enjoy doing backed-up dishes that someone else has made. J & Boot popped out to Starbucks. By the time they returned, I had arranged myself to pull off my delicious, if absolutely true, excuse for not busying myself with housecleaning right away. I had to study. In fact, I had spent most of Friday night sprawled on the living room floor doing just that. I was happily immersed in Luther, Zwingli and those fellows Saturday morning when J brought me a vanilla latté, kissed me and looked at my books and binders approvingly. She got the kitchen mostly clean before she flopped onto the bed with the boys. Boot was watching a football game on the t.v. and Pie was watching "Mystery Science Theater" (and laughing a deeply pleasured laugh every few minutes). I moved on to my reading of Michael Gemignani's Spiritual Formation for Pastors: Feeding the Fire Within for class in two weeks. Hey, I have to have the entire book read then, it's good to get ahead. It felt like cheating, though, because it's truly an enjoyable read.

I finally forced myself to stop reading, though, and made a pre-emptive strike on the closet so that I wouldn't have to finish the kitchen job. We have been meaning to re-organize our closet & I decided this weekend was a likely time. I managed to get the job done in one afternoon, aside from hanging some things there aren't yet hangers for. They have been residing on the closet shelves and would be much happier hanging. So, I left them out in order not to just get complacent about their folded status again. The closet looked so nice that I took a break in there, reading a book just for fun & enjoying the soft carpet & inquisitive cats. We ran some errands and had tacos for dinner.

Sunday morning, we went to church and really enjoyed the service. The kids of the church, young and old, were responsible for the whole service. I love to see a church that values its children so highly. Too many churches don't realize that they have much to learn from the kids, just as the kids do from the adults. The sanctuary was adorned with balloons, the kids' reflections made up the sermon and we all wrote prayers on varicolored paper airplanes & flew them all at the same time. We then picked up airplanes and took them home to include in our personal prayer time. I think that was the most meaningful part of the ritual for me. I know a good many people who would utterly disapprove of flying paper airplanes for the benediction, but what a delightful way to have our concerns carried to God! I can imagine a big grin spreading across God's face as they flew. It was our kids' first visit to that church. They thought it was very odd to have the children do the service, but liked it better than any of the others we've visited. I so hope that they will let me intern there even though they already have an intern.

On the way home from church, I exercised admirable restraint in not biting Boot's head off, literally or figuratively. He was asking what Hair is about. I told him & he said he'd hate it because it's anti-war & he hates people who are anti-war. He said that he hates "all those hippies who were against Vietnam"! AUGH! He spends all this time condemning people for not being Christians and for saying they don't believe in God, then he totally ignores the Christian message of love and non-judgment. Drives me crazy! This black and white phase of legalism has surely got to end soon. At least, I hope it's a phase. I remained very, very calm & said, "Then, that means you hate my mom." He said, "I guess I do." I wanted to pull the car over & wail on him because my mom is one of the kindest, best people I've ever met & deserves better than that. Since I am not the kind of parent who whacks the kids, I kept driving and calmly explained the reasons why I am against war, reasons that my Christian faith will not allow me to condone war. I told him that plenty of Vietnam vets also think that the Vietnam War, along with the present war in the Middle East, is immoral, unethical, just plain wrong. I told him that I don't condemn those who serve in war, I just hate that they have to. I hate that they come home and are treated like they don't matter by the government. I hate that so many young, young men didn't have any choice about whether to go to Vietnam. And I hate that some anti-war activists, who just didn't get it, spit on some of the soldiers returning from Vietnam. I told him that was plain wrong. I said that just because I think war is immoral and unChristian, especially when it is a thoroughly unjust war, doesn't mean I don't think the soldiers fighting it are bad. I told him that I am sure his uncle, who spent much of his life glorifying the Vietnam War & what the Marines did there, was really brave and was doing what he thought was the right thing to help his country. I also told him that I think the people working for peace are brave, too. I hope some of it sunk in. He didn't argue with me, at least. I see him headed right toward the military and I pray he veers before he gets killed fighting for government and big business to make a profit and "win" some kind of ridiculous pissing match.

Once home, we had some lunch & watched Hitch with Boot. It was cute movie. Even J, who hadn't wanted to see it, watched & liked it. We ran more errands and cleaned house more. I fried some catfish for dinner. So, while it wasn't a terribly exciting weekend, it was a perfectly lovely one.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Back to School

I started dreading this past week sometime this spring, when I realized I would have to commute to school during the week & be away from my beloved. Of course, getting extra time with my grandies appealed greatly, but the separation 2 nights a week was too much to even consider.

Tuesday morning, things were crazy, with getting the kids ready & out the door at the same time as J. I bid them farewell & thought that I would also not get to see J again until I returned because she had to go out of town for work. Luckily, though, she was able to stop by on her way, so we got to have a more relaxed goodbye after all. I did some things around the house, packed my bags and was out the door by noon. After a few errands, I was truly on the road. I finished listening to Frances Mayes' A Year in the World, which was a fun listen but not as good as her Tuscany books, perhaps. Then, I listened to a great audio seminar by Joan Borysenko called Your Spiritual Quest, which I highly recommend! She is grand, with wonderful teaching stories, deep wisdom and a delicious, silly, sweet laugh. I like a spiritual person with a good sense of humor. This was my first exposure to her work. I've been meaning to read her for years.

I spent time studying at the seminary library, then went to the church where my UCC history & polity class meets. I already knew most of my classmates. It's really going to be different to be in a class with all UCC folks. Different and nice! The instructor I didn't know was thrilled that I am a transitioning Presbyterian, saying he always likes having a Presbyterian in his classes. Laura joked, "I don't know, it always makes me a little nervous." Later, when she discovered that I took the Reformation portion of church history with my particular prof, who is a Luther expert, and am taking his Reformations course this semester, she said, "Oh, I'm in trouble." After class, it didn't take me long at all to get to my grands', where my grandmommy had meatloaf waiting for me. She cooked me an ear of sweet corn from the local stand and I made some mashed potatoes. When I went to bed to study, I found a little plate of Oreos on my pillow. She is so sweet!

In the morning, I popped up & went to class. I sat with one of my new UCC aquaintances at the plenary. I was sorry to discover that I have the same core group as last year, as I didn't feel that we ever really meshed. They are kind people, it just didn't seem like it worked the way it is supposed to. However, we have 3 new members, all women I respect and like. The dynamic will change, I imagine. When they heard about all the custody craziness that is going on, they decided to pray specifically for me & did a laying on of hands. I felt kind of weird having all the prayer be directed for me, knowing that the others in the group have stuff going on, too. My life coach says I need to work on accepting gifts. She used a really good analogy regarding this. She asked me how I would feel if I found a really special little figurine for J, brought it home and she dropped it on the floor & broke it. Same thing, says she. (by the way, if you'd like to avail yourself of her wisdom, she is quite wonderful & her website is

We went up to the Catholic church for the convocation & graduation ceremony for Fall grads. My church history prof gave a good keynote speech, about the importance of history for our ministry, in the lemon-furniture-polish-scented, light-filled sanctuary. I always like seeing everyone process in their robes & velvet caps, like so many Hogwarts wizards. We had lunch afterward & I ended up sitting next to a new student whose brother-in-law turns out to be Boot's principal! Small world happenings like that are so much fun. I attended the dedication of a model of the Wright glider & then went to my Reformations class. There are only 6 of us in the class & it promises to be great.

After class, I went back to my grands' & had some hot tea & a Russian sandwich with my grandmom while I made soup for our dinner. They had some amazingly good rye bread from Big Sky that we had with it. My grandmom made a spinach salad with feta and olives, too. When I was studying in my room, she brought me a little slice of apple cake. It's lovely to be so pampered. It's even lovelier to have grandparents who are also close friends. We talked some about the whole ridiculous custody case. Brendan had his interview with the ad litem Wednesday & turned up at Bible study in his black shirt & clerical collar. I have never, in all the time I have known him, seen him in it. He usually looks more like the attorney he also is, in crisp shirts and dress pants. I guess I had better give some thought to how I will present myself as a pastor. Jeans just aren't going to cut it all the time. J talked to Brendan on the phone for an hour Wednesday evening. He sounded upbeat, which is a comfort. he is such a good pastor & such a good friend.

Thursday morning, I hung out with my grands & wrote my reading summary for the other Laura's class. I went to school a bit early to get some materials for next week. Then, I had my class with Laura, which promises to be interesting. It's about spiritual formation & how to prepare ourselves to guide our congregations in formation. She made us go around the room & introduce ourselves with name, denomination and hobby that's not to do with the church. I named anything to do with food (cooking, going out to eat, food writing), reading & altered art. Next, we had to number our paper from 1-15 and then we had to list, in two minutes, as many life-giving activities that we like to do as we could think of. I got all of the spaces filled in. Then, she asked us to jot down the last time we did each of them & asked us to share insights. Mine was that I seem to have been playing too much lately. She said, "I knew you were gonna mess up the curve!" She said that most clergy can only fill in about half of the spaces & had rarely done any of them recently. There is a real crisis in self-care for the clergy, with them often being the most spiritually hungry. Laura then explained to us that we will be committing to one "life-giving practice" that we will be expected to do every week & report back on doing to our classmates. Wow, graduate school credit for playing! Yippee! I think that I am going to choose art, but I may end up being led otherwise during our discernment process.

Another thing she said, when going over the syllabus, is that she will often deliberately use the feminine pronoun when reading from scripture or praying. She likes to prepare students for that probability in advance. She said, "I always leave a little extra time for comments & questions at this point. So, any questions? Comments?" I said, "Hallelujah?" Several other women laughed & echoed me. She said, "Thank you." Honestly, that is one of my very favorite things about Laura as a prof. I was absolutely electrified when I first heard her do it, when reading a passage from Isaiah to the ministry formation groups last fall. I was electrified when she said, "She who was, She who is, She who always shall be" during Brendan's installation service, too. She gave me the courage to do it in the benediction at the UCC last winter. While Brendan is more directly a mentor-type for me, being a pastor full-time, I greatly admire Laura, as well.

From school, I drove right home & was ecstatic to see my dear wife. How good it is to fall asleep in the arms of the one you love.

Tasting Cleveland

Last weekend, after the kiddos left with their father, J & I prowled around the outdoor mall. We sat on teak furniture with luscious deep orange cushions to people-watch. We stopped at a little bakery stand for beignets & café au lait. Well, J had coffee, I had Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon & just a smidge of cayenne. I added a great deal more & liked the drink much better. Love that kick! Then, we did a little shopping at Trader Joe's before stopping for Indian food. The rest of the evening was spent in, watching Failure to Launch, which was a decent rental movie, largely due to Matthew McConaughey's personal charm & not much due to excellence in scripting or anything silly like that.

In the morning, we stayed in bed late, enjoying each other's company & our books on the last weekend before our weekly separation would begin. I just finished Jennifer Weiner's Little Earthquakes, which is wonderful, as are all of her books & J was reading C.J. Cherryh's Chanur trilogy. When we finally emerged, we went to A Taste of Cleveland, which was great fun even in the rain. I had some fabulous chicken tikka masala from Saffron Patch, my favorite taste of the day. J's favorite bite was the pizza margherita from Holiday Pizza. We also got to watch Hungarian dancers & a Japanese drum troupe, who were amazing.

We spent the evening shopping. It drives J nuts that I rarely buy myself clothes, so I did buy a couple of things at Marshall's. I found a neat long jacket with a Mandarin collar, red trim and lovely orange & red embroidery and also a long-sleeved t-shirt with a spangled mermaid on it. We stopped at Red Robin for dinner, then headed home to read more. I also did some advance studying.

Sunday morning, we went to church, where we ended up sitting with a really cool woman who turned out to be involved with the national offices. We had a great conversation about sexuality education with her as we ate delicious chocolate cake in honor of the darling children who had been baptized. After our dessert, we had lunch at Panera before doing some antique shopping. There wasn't much in the way of vintage photos, but I did find a darling hot pink velvet hat for 4 bucks! I also found a white 1920s sideboard I loved, but we just don't have the space here. Perhaps some day. I spent the late afternoon studying while my beloved napped. When the kids got home, we went to the pool, where I studied. Then, I made braised chicken, Cuban-style, for dinner before more studying.

We spent Labor Day morning shopping for more clothing for my darling oldest, who has become quite the clothes horse. He absolutely adores clothing! I love that the kinds of clothes he wants these days are button-down shirts and polo-style shirts. He even wants a pair of cuff links. I would love to find him some elegant gold ones for his birthday. I wonder what he would make of monograms on his cuffs, like my church history prof favors. I finally broke down & got the rolling backpack I had admired at Marshall's. Then, we took the kids to Taste of Cleveland, which they seemed to quite like. Boot had pizza & pulled pork, while Pie chose ribs & a huge burrito. My choice was pulled pork & a fabulous éclair. Pie got so full he said that he felt like aliens were getting ready to come out of his stomach. He said, When I get into the pool, I'm going to sink like a rock!" On the way home, he was having fun playing with the wind, his hand out the window. He was exclaiming, "I'm grasping the wind!" ecstatically. Boot was much disturbed, convinced Pie would lose his arm. He kept up a steady holler & moan routine of "Put it in!!! Roll the window up!!! You're going to give me a heart attack!!! I hate you, Pie!!!" I am certain the game went on longer than it would have had Boot not objected. He was incredibly cranky for the rest of the evening, hollering at Pie & throwing things because he thought Pie should be cleaning instead of watching Sci Fi.

We did go to the pool, after I did some editing work, and Pie did not, in fact, sink like a rock. We had a good time, although I spent much of the time there reading about the Reformations. J made patty melts for dinner. Before we went to bed, I finished editing the last chapter of the book, a fitting end to the summer.

A Couple of Good Movies

We finally saw a movie my beloved has been wanting to see since before it came out & one I have felt the same way about. This was a couple of weeks ago, but I have been so busy getting ready for the big return to seminary that I haven't been posting like I would like to. I think this is the preposition-endin'-sentence-est post I've done. Anyway, we watched "V for Vendetta" one Friday night & had to keep looking at each other with a "Do you get it?" look. The reason is that, while the movie is cleverly disguised as a futuristic piece set in England, it came across as some very good social commentary about what's been going on in this country the past 5 or so years.

I watched Andy Garcia's "The Lost City" one afternoon and when J called me from work, I was sobbing so hard that she thought someone was dead. I said, "I hate Castro" and she thought that perhaps my father or uncle, who came over from Cuba in the early years of Castro's reign of terror, had been vacationing in Cuba for some reason & had been captured or killed. However, it was just that the reality of what it was like for Cubans who didn't support Castro's regime really hit me for the first time. Oh, I had always known intellectually that it was awful, but it had never hit me at the soul level. While I hated the things Castro had done to my family, putting them in prison, driving them out, I somehow never really got it completely. Now, I do.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Egg Boy

My son's superhero alter ego, were he to have one, would surely be Egg Boy. In the week that he has been back with us, Pie has begun to lose the anti-social, macho veneer he had attained in the presence of his father & brother all summer. Yesterday, he wanted me to help him make an omelet, just show him the ropes. He has cracked the eggs & chosen the fillings for numerous omelets we have made, but never made one the whole way through. I let him complete all the steps on his own, standing back & offering guidance instead of jumping in to show him how & what to do. The result was absolutely gorgeous! I was so proud of him. It was not only perfect in appearance, but tasted great, too. Wow! He changed his Wednesday dinner choice to omelets, with him being the chef for all of us. His brother wants scrambled eggs, though, so he asked if I would teach him to make those today. I promised I would.

When I took him to the store, shopping for school supplies, he somehow happened upon the kitchen aisle while I was hunting down Sharpies & rulers. He came back to me with his hands behind his back, saying, "Daria, I have $5 with me & Mom has my allowance, too. May I have a dollar loan so I can get this? Please? I love it!" I expected to see a video game emerge from behind his back, so was astonished to see a 12" non-stick skillet! What on earth??? I was thrilled, of course, and agreed that he might have a loan, if he was sure he didn't just want to use our skillets. He wanted his very own. However, the skillet was quite shallow, so I suggested he get a deeper one & I'd pitch in to make up the price difference. After holding several & testing their feel, he agreed. He then begged me to loan him money for a spatula. A spatula! Okay, kid, you got it. The one he chose was a red KitchenAid one, with a nicely-angled handle. He was so very excited...Disney trip excited...about his new possessions. He plans to hang it on a special nail in his room.

He promptly named the spatula "Sprite" (he doesn't want his brother to know they are named, but if he finds out, Pie plans to tell him that it's named after the soda, not the fairy type, its true origin) & the skillet "Russell" and he just loves them. He carried the spatula into the grocery store, kept kissing it and told me he doesn't need video games anymore & that inanimate objects can be just as much fun as animate ones. He is so cute. He told me all about his plans to open a bed & breakfast when he grows up. He wants to make "omelets & special pancakes with boysenberry sauce for breakfast & stuffed mackerel with cranberry sauce for dinner. And I will offer a whole turkey dinner for 4 people for $59." He told me all about how he'll decorate his B&B. "Guess what color the sheets will be, Daria! Pearl!"

We ran into J while we were grocery shopping & he excitedly shared his plans with her, too. When she made the burritos for dinner last night, he insisted that she use Sprite & Russell. This morning, he made his own fried eggs for breakfast, with my supervision. He washed his pan & spatula, then used them again to make us cheesy scrambled eggs for lunch. He is over the moon about cooking for us tomorrow night. He just loves to cook. He's even good about cleaning up after himself. He wants an apron, but doesn't want his brother to know. J bought him one today at lunch...he doesn't know it yet. While I am teaching Pie to cook eggs, I am also teaching Boot to iron. He asked me today if I could show him. With my guidance, he did a very nice job on his pink & blue striped polo shirt. These boys are going to have very happy wives when they grow up. I am going to watch a Godzilla movie with Pie now.

Taking the Boys Visiting

Our boys, newly back from summer visitation with their father, got to spend time with both their grandparents & mine over the weekend. Friday, we set out for my grands' home as soon as J got home from work. We stopped for dinner at Bob Evans, then hit the road again. By the time we reached our destination, my grands had gone to bed & so did we.

In the morning, we had breakfast & watched the birds just outside their windows. My grandmom is teaching Pie all the different kinds of birds. We see blue jays, finches, cardinals, woodpeckers and all sorts of others, close-up. Pie's favorites are the hummingbirds. After we'd had a bit of a visit, we headed down to Cincinnati to visit J's folks. Her dad came to the nursing home with "swag bags" stuffed with fruit & candy for the boys. They love that! We ordered LaRosa's pizza & ate it in the room while we watched the original "Dr. Doolittle" and chatted.

On the way home, we stopped, as promised, at the flea market for Boot to drool over Nikes...and get a pair. For some reason, he really wanted them from the flea market. He & J are fascinated by the place. It's an interesting little parking lot fixture, a blend of old white men with card tables full of produce & young African men speaking a French-based patois & selling things like sneakers & clothing. Boot got a pair of Air Jordans that he spends a great deal of time gazing lovingly at and even petting. We also went to a regular store to buy school clothes for both boys. Pie was less than enchanted with this stop. He has no interest whatsoever in clothes, while his brother adores them. He will happily wear his brother's cast-offs, or anything we pick for him, provided it has no prominent logo.

We spent the evening visiting with my grands & had a great summer dinner. My grandmom had been to her favorite produce stand for tomatoes & sweet corn. We had Russian sandwiches (open-faced sandwiches with tomatoes, bacon and sharp cheddar, broiled until the cheese melts) & corn on the cob, my grandparents' long-time summer staples.

We skipped Sunday school in favor of bird-watching, then went to church. I was really unhappy because our pastor was on vacation. Then, we heard the sermon & I was blown away. It was all about how very important love is, how love is the core & center of everything Jesus was trying to teach & do. She talked about how congregations & presbyteries get to arguing about all kinds of things, from stewardship campaigns to what marriage means. She talked about different kinds of love, the romantic kind you share with a life partner (her term...hurrah!), the kind between close friends and the kind within communities like the church. The scripture was the famous, famous Corinthians passage about love that's used at nearly every church wedding. It was nice to hear a fresh take on it & it was really nice to hear love being preached. We stayed for coffee hour, of course, and visited with everyone. Pie was disappointed because his friends weren't there. His disappointment was compounded by the fact that they were supposed to be acolytes & Pie & Boot had to fill in for them!

After church, we stopped by our house. It really is a lovely house. I am so surprised that no one has snatched it up, especially since it's under $200,000. Oh, well, the right buyers will come along & fall in love with it. I want the new owners to have as happy times there as we did. It was a wonderful place for us while we lived there. I miss the deck & the big rooms. I don't miss not having my own tub & only having 2 burners & a small oven.

After checking in there, we started for the Golden Jersey Inn, where we were meeting my grands for lunch. However, we had a little excitement first. I was driving along & suddenly, what I thought was a HUGE grey spider appeared by my rearview mirror, in the open window. I screamed bloody murder & flailed about, scaring J half to death & probably amusing the kids greatly. I am always the calm one. Pie is forever disappointed that I don't startle easily. Well, I was beyond startled. I realized, though, that it was only a moth & calmed down...until I realized it was actually a toad! I managed to get the car pulled over & Pie hopped out to rescue the toad (well, me).

Once we got to the restaurant, we had a wait. Anything affiliated with Young's is guaranteed to be a wait on a summer Sunday, for reasons which escape me. During the wait, I ran into a classmate of mine, a very kindly man who was part of the whole homosexual ordination debate in my Old Testament class last fall. He had stated on the class forum that he was opposed to "them" being ordained, although he "has no problem with them". Afterward, he assumed, like many, that I was terribly wounded & wanted me to go to lunch with him. Pissed off is a better descriptor of how I felt about that whole thing, but I wasn't pissed at him. He just doesn't get it. He means no harm & I think he will learn. It was nice to see him, at any rate, and he got to meet my wife & kids. Lunch was good, even if Boot got revved up & the rest of us could hardly get a word in edgewise.

We packed up our things back at the ranch & headed out, the goodbyes easier knowing that we'll see them this Saturday at my cousin's housewarming & baby welcome party. On the way home, we stopped twice, once to complete football shopping with cleats, cup and mouthpiece, and once for dinner, again at Bob Evans.

Butterflies & Botanicals

The other Friday night, my beloved & I tried a new restaurant. She didn't have anything in mind for dinner, but didn't want to have what I had planned, either. So, I took her to The Saucy Bistro. We were able to have a table on the patio & the air felt so fresh, like we were right by the lake instead of a few miles from it. The service was very friendly & the food was good, too, if a little pricey for me. We shared a combo appetizer of sautéed calamari (fantastic rendition), lamb lollipop and spicy shrimp scampi. I chose filet mignon with wild mushroom reduction & rosemary mashed potatoes for my entrée, while J had seared scallops with a soy-based glaze & a sticky sesame rice cake with wonderfully crisp brown edges. The rice cake was my very favorite thing that we ate that night. For dessert, we split a volcano cake. Good, but not my chocolate nemesis, just as the rest of the meal was good, but not The Winds. As the evening got later, the owner brought tall heaters out to the patio, reminding us of wonderful dinners in Monterey & Carmel (especially the fabulous Forge in the Forest). A woman whose coat we had admired turned out to be the smooth-voiced singer for the evening. After dinner, we stopped by the bookstore, then soaked in the hot tub before heading for bed. The evening was utterly lovely. If the pool had been open, it would have been a perfect swimming night, with the just-past-full moon overhead.

We spent much of the morning in bed, before getting ourselves going to the Westside Market. We had a grand time prowling the stalls there. As we were waiting for our breakfast, a Cornish pasty, we ran into the brother of my very hip friend from high school, Mimi Flaherty. Mimi & I used to go to dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse Friday nights, then hang out in the Oregon District browsing the thrift & vintage shops, as well as Paprika's, which sold an eclectic bunch of things like art deco rubber stamps & black & white postcards. She was the friend who called to invite me to Denny's late one Thanksgiving, where we wore vintage clothes & pretended to smoke Eve Menthol 120s, just because we thought it was funny. She was the friend who skipped school with me & went to Cincinnati, with my older friend Rachel (who was skipping work), to go shopping at the fancy department stores and have a chi-chi lunch at the Hyatt. Mimi wore an amazingly garish green vintage gown to the prom, which David Letterman did not attend with her, despite her inviting him. Mimi was cool & we lost touch until very recently, when she moved home from San Francisco with her amazingly gorgeous daughter, Mirrin. Mike was always a pretty nice guy, 3 years ahead of us in school. He seems like he's still a nice guy. We are so new here that is absolutely astonishing to hear my name called out in a public place. We talked a bit about our hometown, about Cleveland and about food. Mimi had told him I was doing restaurant reviews, so he wanted my take on good places to eat here. We will have to have him over to dinner sometime. He seemed lonesome, having only moved here in the past few years himself.

After lunch, we went driving by the lake, checking out the beach possibilities & having a snack at a place called Gus' that seems to have had its heyday already. The clientele were generally older & the menu reflected that. It reminded me of the Apple Tree, a restaurant we used to go to for Sunday dinner after church when I was a kid. We had a plate of nachos, listened to an old woman boss her long-suffering husband around incessantly & then moved homeward for a nap. I had been seized with a deep exhaustion, so I was thrilled when J suggested napping. We woke up so late that cooking anything fancy would have been impractical if not disastrous. So, she permitted me to make the scrambled eggs with basil & cheddar I'd planned for the night before. I made some corn toasties with them & we had cherries, too. She ended up loving it. We had fun watching Bill Engvall on Comedy Central while we ate.

Sunday morning, we left without directions to the church we had attended & liked the week before. I couldn't remember the exit number, so we ended up driving all over Cleveland before giving up & going home to plan our afternoon. We couldn't decide between the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame & the botanical garden, so we rolled the dice & got the botanical garden. It was wonderful!!! Just wonderful! First, we went into the butterfly houses. Amazing! One even landed on me, which felt like an honor. My favorites were the orange Julias & the great big blue ones. The garden in the South American butterfly house reminded me of the Opryland Hotel. We grabbed a bite to eat & then went outside. I love weddings & got to see a bride going about the gardens getting her pictures taken, which is always very exciting for me. I don't know why I adore weddings like I do, but I really do. The flowers for the reception were gorgeous, bluish-purple hydrangeas in low, graceful arrangements. The flowers outside in the gardens were beautiful, too. I would love to take Pie, who is a rose fan, to the rose garden in June. My favorite garden was probably the herb garden, reminding me, with its scented geraniums & knot layout, both of trips to Meadowsweet Herb Farm in Vermont & Carnton Plantation in Tennessee. After our delicious afternoon, we stopped for ice cream, then got serious about getting pictures hung. By the time we sat down to our roast, the apartment looked marvelous!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Weekend Antiquing

The weekend started with bad news. We had been expecting a visit from my mom, but she called Friday morning to tell me that her dear, sweet kitty Bobo is very ill. He has a respiratory infection, can barely eat and is getting very weak. Anyone who is inclined to do so, he sure could use your prayers!

With the visit postponed, we decided to make it a weekend for poking around the antique stores in Avon. Friday night when my Beloved got home from work, I had to greet her with the news that I had prepared a bum crockpot recipe. Not enough liquid was called for and the cooking times were off. It burned. So, we decided to have dessert first. I made a reasonable facsimile of Applebee's white chocolate walnut blondie, a treat I was introduced to by my friend, Evvi. It is delicious and this version was no less so!

With our bellies full of sweets, we headed to the bookstores. My order was in & I used my gift certificate for that. It is a book called Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. It was recommended to me by my life coach. I hosted a book signing for Barbara Sher when she was touring for her fabulous book, I Could Do Anything (If I Only Knew What It Was) and found her to be a delightful person. I also picked up a (so-far) thoroughly enjoyable novel by Kris Radish called Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral. I've been eyeing it for a few weeks & finally decided to pick it up. I limited my magazine intake to 2, Weekend and Somerset Studio Home. I've already begun to implement one of the ideas in that, an old tin plate embellished with vintage photo images. J got C.J. Cherryh's Chanur trilogy, a book on vocabulary for those who don't need it and a book of 100 vampire stories (this last $1.00, a penny per story!). After shopping, we wandered across the street to Hoggy's for some barbecue. It wasn't Bubba's Q, but it wasn't bad. I had a brisket sandwich and macaroni & cheese with chili poured over it.

Saturday morning, I made scrambled eggs with salsa & cheese, eaten dipped up in pinches of tortilla. This craving was brought on by reading The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Urrea. What a great book! After breakfast, we hit the antique stores. We had an absolute ball & ended up finding all kinds of wonderful vintage photos, a darling little 1930s table for J's stereo equipment (I decoupaged vintage beach & lake photos on it yesterday & it looks really neat) and some old shutters for an advent calendar project I've had in mind. We also ended up accidentally meeting someone who knew my cousin back when he was playing hockey for the Cleveland North Coast Barons. I paid with a check & the owner expressed surprise over seeing my last name. I figured perhaps she knew my uncle or aunt, who also live in this area. However, it was actually my cousin. Her son played hockey, too, and they took my cousin in just when he needed it most. I have long heard about how kind they were to him. She now owns an antique store.

Lunch on Saturday was so good that we made reservations for Sunday on our way out the door. We stopped at The Tree House Tea Room, which isn't actually a tea room, but is definitely a purveyor of lady food. J had lobster bisque so good that she had to order another cup and half a tuna salad sandwich. I opted for chicken artichoke soup and chicken salad. All served with copious amounts of fruit. For dessert, we split the decidedly old-fashioned grasshopper pie, feeling like we should break out the bridge hands next.

Dinner on Saturday wasn't as good. I got started cooking late & by the time we ate, it was way too late for lamb, which is what I made. It was a great gourmet meal, but all either of us really wanted at that hour was salad. We have made a pact that if we get in late & it looks like we won't eat until after 9 if we cook a fancy meal, we will simply eat out or have something simple and quick like soup & sandwiches. We eagerly devoured our iceberg wedges with homemade Maytag blue cheese dressing and toasted almonds. We picked at our wine-braised lamb shanks & lemon caper mashed potatoes.

Sunday morning, we tried a new church in Cleveland. I think it may be a good fit for us. The structure itself is beautiful, the service was to our liking and the people were friendly, encouraging us to eat our coffee hour watermelon at their table. There was plenty of diversity, in economic status, race, orientation, age. There were lots of kids, too. I hope they will take me on as an intern for the coming year.

After church, we headed out for more antiquing and another Tree House lunch. This time, we both got the lobster bisque and I tried their quiche, which was nearly as good as my almost-grandma's. J had the lobster salad, which was also great. Instead of being in the back room, this time we got to sit on the glassed-in porch, surrounded by greenery. It reminded me that I would really like to have a sleeping porch on our new house. My grandmom's stories about the sleeping porch when she was a kid have affected me.

We poked around Michael's & picked up some craft supplies, went to Kohl's & picked up some gifts for my cousin's new baby & clothes for our kids and checked out an open house, a beautiful 2 story house with a huge kitchen. I wish our other house would sell soon! The apartment is wonderful for a temporary space, but I want more storage room!

Sunday night, J suggested we grab dinner out. We were mulling over the possibilities when I suggested the Savannah. It was really smoky the last time we went in & we ended up turning around & leaving. On a Sunday afternoon, though, the smoke wasn't too bad. And the cheeseburgers were amazing! We ran into my aunt's sister, too, which was fun. All in all, it was a very relaxing weekend, which we need in the middle of all this custody craziness.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

August Update

You'd think with no classes in session, I would have more free time, but such is not the case. This is just a very brief check-in with my week so far. I spent almost all day Monday, along with my Beloved, being interviewed (grilled?) by the guardian ad litem for the children. He was decent to me, but really tough on J. The main thing he mentioned to me, aside from the need to give the boys a consequence every time they lie and the need to protect Pie from his brother's controlling & bullying, is that there are pictures, supposedly of our apartment, with empty liquor bottles scattered all over the place. I don't know if these are the old staged photos from the first round of custody or ones the boys staged here, perhaps using liquor bottles supplied by their father's best (and only) friend, Henry the Bartender, who wins every time he goes gambling. Oy vey! Since neither of us drinks heavily and J doesn't drink any alcohol at all but beer, this is ridiculous. It is made more so by the fact that their father left the Navy after a period of time in a military alcohol treatment program, stated reason being alcoholism, and the fact that he was arrested for domestic violence against J while abusing alcohol, by his own statement to the police and later to a psychological evaluator. Mister, if you're going to cook up false allegations, pick something that is remotely possible...and that won't hit close to home for you! The liquor bottles in our house rarely get empty because we rarely open them. I have a 3/4 full bottle of rum that I bought for my 34th birthday party. I just turned 36. I buy alcohol so infrequently that I don't even know where the liquor store here is. Another piece of information is that the ex doesn't seem to be working. Why should he? He has no bills, his mommy pays them all. I wonder if she pays for his fancy new Jeep.

Anyway, we went back to my grands' to debrief after the interview, which lasted from 1:30 until 7. We headed home about 9, stopping for carry-out Steak & Shake near Columbus & arriving home around 1:30. I was too keyed up to sleep, so I read The Hummingbird's Daughter, a wonderful book by Luis Urrea, until 2, when I made myself go to sleep. J had to work Tuesday, so didn't have the luxury of going back to sleep. I took lunch to her and heard from her shortly after that that she had a migraine, her first in months. When I picked her up at 4:30, she went right to bed. I heated up her headache pillow, rubbed her back with Tranquil Sleep oil and hit the kitchen to make some comfort food. I took in trays of roast chicken with herbes de Provence, garlic whipped potatoes with gravy, corn and Rainier cherries and we had dinner in bed.

Yesterday, her head was better, but she was still feeling pretty down. That is his entire intent, to drain her emotionally and financially because he is still furious with her for leaving him. And the kids are busy stomping on her heart. It's very hard to watch. I reminded her that all we have to do is get through another 4 years of this, less time than we have already spent together. Once Boot turns 18, I am sure he will choose to move in with his father right away. I don't think he'll fight for custody of Pie. He's never really wanted Pie. If we can survive the next 4 years, things should be easier then. The whole affair is just tragic, whichever way you look at it. I wish that their father could find a way to be happy, genuinely, heart-healingly happy. Then, he could move on & stop torturing J. And the children. I don't know if he realizes at all the damage he is inflicting on the kids. I doubt he would care if he did realize it.

Last night, I made more comfort food, Southwest beef stew, beer bread and fresh baby spinach. We watched the amazingly fatuous "America's Got Talent"...what an embarrassing show for me as an American to watch. We also watched a bit of the coverage on Fidel Castro on the news. I am sickened by the thought of Miami Cubans celebrating his grave illness in the streets. Yes, he has been cruel and done some very evil things. I should know. He put my grandparents in prison. However, to celebrate someone's serious illness or death is beyond the pale, no matter how dark they are.

This morning, I spoke to my mom. We had been looking forward to her visit this weekend, but she had bad news. Their sweet kitty, Bobo, has been very seriously ill with a respiratory infection. They have been giving him medication and rubbing baby food on his lips so he can lick it off & get nourishment. But, it wasn't until today that he could drink any water. He might be doing better. He was at the bottom of the loft ladder this morning, meowing good morning greetings. He was also able to jump up on one of the bookshelves. But, still, my mom will have to stay close, so no visit right now. I am so worried about that kitty-boy. He is fabulous. I understand why they might want him on the other side, but we still need him here. Handling a pet's illness is such a hard thing. Going through what I went through with Thor and then with Jasper, my heart is with them as they work to help him heal.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sweeties, Queers and Stingrays

We started last weekend with our monthly anniversary dinner, necessarily observed at a place amenable to the kids. They would, I'm certain, have preferred to celebrate with pizza delivery...or not at all, in the case of our oldest, who has developed a delightful case of homophobia in the past year. While I would have preferred we go to Brio, we ended up at an Irish-style pub instead. It was fine, although the children opted not to interact with us much, hurting J's feelings. Their father's influence is not helping matters. At least Boot wasn't texting with him the whole time. Pie had his standard cheeseburger, Boot insisted on wings and also a chicken sandwich (he is going to sprout feathers), J had a fabulous steak with blue cheese butter and I went for Irish stew. I shouldn't have. It wasn't bad, just not as good as mine. I shouldn't order things in restaurants when I make them well. After dinner, we poked around Trader Joe's for a few minutes, Pie griping all the way because he is screen-addicted & wanted to be at home. Because he griped so much about wanting to GO NOW, J decided it would be fine to stop at the bookstore at Boot's request. We bought him a book on American cars of the 1960s, while Pie refused to look at books. I got People en Español for myself as a reward for accomplishing one of my life-coaching goals.

Yes, I have started with a life coach, a friend of mine who recently hung out her shingle. I have always considered her wise, but now she is doling out her wisdom & her positive attitude for a living. When she offered to take me on as a pro bono client, I jumped at the opportunity. The main thing we're working on right now is my tendency to procrastinate. This seems to run in my family & I often joke that I've got a PhD in it. However, the joke isn't really funny. I always get what needs to be done done, but I suffer worry about it...or stubbly legs...until I do. Why go through that when I don't have to? So, my assignments for the week are:
1. Make a list of everything I've completed in my life
2. Empty out & organize 3 boxes of papers in our closet so that I have room for a well-organized and easily accessible art supply storage spot
3. Buy a shower curtain I love, with no input from anyone else
4. Create an enjoyable ritual for beauty time just for me (I have vowed to take a bubble bath every Friday & shave my legs while I'm at it)

After we took the boys home, we popped out to Baskin-Robbins & enjoyed our dessert on a bench in front. Can you imagine little boys who would rather go home than get ice cream??? They begged us to take them home before getting ice cream! "Oh, PLEASE don't make us get ice cream!!!" What on earth? After our Rocky Road and Peanut Butter Chocolate, we came home. J went to bed to catch up on her vampire book & I ran myself a tub. It was delightfully relaxing.

Saturday morning, we slept in deliciously late. When we finally got the kids roused, I made doughnuts for us all. Of course, they claimed to like the ones from the store better, but I noticed Boot ate his whole share and some of his brother's, as well. We went to a big flea market & found some fun things there. I got an old household ledger & a couple of old photos. J found some photos, too, and the kids got a Nintendogs game for the new DS system we bought them later in the day. We also had some great food. Boot got a cheeseburger & fries, which he doused with hot sauce & then didn't eat. J & I picked up an empanadilla and a couple other Mexican treats to share. Pie just wanted to go get his DS!!! We stopped on the way home & picked that up for them. They had been given the choice to go to Geauga Lake, Dave & Buster's or Fun World or to get the DS. Of course, once they had it, they didn't want to go anywhere. So, we allowed them to go home & we walked around Crocker Park's Independence Day fair. There was live music and sidewalk chalk art, a rocket car giving rides and free plants from Aveda. We each got a vinca & have them planted in our planting bed here at the apartment. We had a very nice time walking around in the sun together, people-watching & enjoying the day. We stopped for chocolate-covered strawberries, sitting by the fountain to eat them. That evening, J grilled hot dogs & Italian sausage at the pool. Once home, J re-immersed herself in her vampires and I watched Spanish-language t.v.

In the morning, we tried another church. Liberation UCC is listed as "Open & Affirming" on the UCC website. My mentor, Dave, had told me that in their case it means open to heterosexuals and affirming of their life choices. I suspected it would not be for me and I was right. The people were friendly, the service was nice & traditional in form and the sermon was right on target. However, there was simply not enough diversity for me. If there had been even a few straight folks, I might have considered it. However, everyone there was gay, as far as I could tell. Boot was incredibly hostile about the whole thing. His homophobia is rampant enough right now that he refused to put the dollar we gave him into the plate...and wouldn't let his brother do it, either. He did, however, stay polite enough to shake hands and to respond briefly when greeted, which I considered a victory. When the kids complained that they were the only straight people there, J told them that now they can understand how she feels when we go to other churches. Boot has the crazy idea that they would try to make him gay if we went there. He doesn't understand that we are not in the business of recruiting, that we know better than anyone that there is no changing someone's orientation. We are perfectly happy for him to be straight. Pie, too. In fact, J would rather they were. I just want them to be happy and comfortable with themselves, whomever they end up loving. I do hope Boot grows out of his homophobia. He says, "I just don't agree with it. The Bible says it's a sin." Well, buddy, the Bible says a lot of things (like children who don't honor their parents are to be put to death) and has been interpreted as saying a lot more things. But, the primary lesson in the Bible seems to be to love God and one another. And to do justice. He did say, in the car, "That ain't right" when J said something about someone losing their job for being gay. There is hope.

Again, the kids refused to accompany us on our fun excursion, to B.A. Sweetie candy store, which claims to be the biggest candy store in the world and is certainly the biggest I've ever been in. Can you imagine kids not wanting to go to the candy store??? So, we went without them. I was on the hunt for gummi octopuses for a cake I wanted to make. I found them, too! We picked up all kinds of fun things for both the kids and ourselves. I think Pie's favorite was either a huge Symphony bar or a toy Gamecube filled with gummi Mario Brothers characters. Boot seemed quite fond of his worms & dirt in a test tube, that he got to eat with tweezers. He was also big on the root beer and blue raspberry Fizzies we got. You drop them in water & they make soda. After our candy store visit, we refueled with some chips & dip at Don Pablo's, then hit the grocery.

Once home, J made an angel food cake & I made Jell-o. Then, we went to the pool with Boot, giving in to Pie's begging to please be allowed to stay at the apartment. At least Boot likes the pool! I made dinner right out of this month's Gourmet: tilapia & salmon with lime butter sauce, angelhair with fresh tomato sauce, corn with chives and basil, green beans. For dessert, I decorated the angel food cake to be a beach cake, with blue waves frolicking on the sides and gummi octopuses and cocktail umbrellas adorning the top. Pie said it was the coolest cake ever & Boot ate large amounts of it, too, even sneaking it Monday morning before breakfast.

While Boot was sneaking cake, J & I were in bed watching the last half of The Net, one of my favorite suspense movies. We had a real lounge-around day, due in part to J's migraine. We spent the morning & early afternoon at the pool, even making Pie come (he refused to get in). Then, J napped on the couch & the boys played together while I ran to the grocery. J & I watched Crash when I got home, then I made BLT pizza for dinner.

The kids were with their father most of the 4th. We had McDonald's for breakfast, then they were out the door. J had wanted to go to the zoo Sunday & Monday, but the kids pleaded not to be dragged to the zoo. Can you imagine kids not wanting to go to the zoo??? So, we headed out ourselves while the kids were with their father. We walked around the zoo from 10:30 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. We got to touch sharks & stingrays. The sharks were fairly reticent & I only touched one and that very briefly. It was bumpy and much rougher than I'd expected. The rays, though, were soft as velvet and seemed very interested in being touched. We would hold our hands, palms-up, in the water and they would come along & swim up to slide their undersides against our palms. It was very cool. We saw baby giraffes, all kinds of fabulous cats, a gorilla that beat its chest at J when she made monkey noises, elephants who wanted OUTSIDE (their outdoor area was being cleaned), polar bears with itchy noses. We got a ton of exercise, too.

On the way home, we stopped at The Winking Lizard for drinks on the patio. Then, we went down to the pool for shish kebabs and a swim. Since the boys weren't around to try & dunk me, squirt water at me and generally make the pool an unfun place for me, I got in & swam. J & I did some laps, some dolphin-diving and some floating. I practiced my handstands & somersaults, too. I love being in the water. Once the kids returned, we watched fireworks from our balcony with Pie, who says he's going to be a "pyromaniac technician" when he grows up. That kid adores fireworks! We went outside & let him do a sparkler tree, then watched fireworks in another direction. What fun! Next year, when they won't be returning late, we will get to go to a display instead of watching them from home.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Indians and Greeks

J was able to get us tickets for really decent seats at our first Cleveland Indians baseball game. They played the Reds Friday night. We showed up in plenty of time, were able (through diligence) to find $5 parking instead of $20 parking and had time to get a bite to eat before the game started. I spent much of the game being vigilant so that no foul balls would conk me in the head. Have I mentioned that sports and I do not mix? I spent a decent portion of my formative years dreading gym class because I was afraid of the ball & hated to run. I was always picked second to last for teams and invariably got blamed if our team lost. My grandparents say I was born a pacifist, so while I have always loved things like swimming and canoeing (a true water baby), I have never been a competitive sports fan. I imagine the attitude of my classmates toward my abilities did not encourage a love of sports, either. Imagine my surprise several years ago when I was coerced, after using my dressy shoes as an excuse only to be confronted with a spare pair of size 11 sneakers, into playing volleyball with a bunch of lesbians at a party and was actually able to serve fairly well. Or my astonishment when I played miniature golf with J & the boys last summer and beat the pants off them. Boot is convinced that I could be a good athlete and love sports, if I would just try. I have let go of a similar illusion regarding him and books.

So, despite my need to be vigilant & the kids' decrying of said need, I had a delightful time at the game. I can actually follow baseball to the point of knowing if someone scored or not. I don't know the names for all the pitches or plays, but I dated a boy who played baseball years ago & learned some then. I credit that same jock boy, who wasn't good for much else, with my football knowledge. I also love to watch the players' little rituals as they prepare to bat. That's my favorite part of the game. After the game, there were fireworks. And what fireworks! It was one of the most spectacular shows I have seen. Pie sat open-mouthed in wonder through the entire show. He adores fireworks. J & I were also rapt. Boot looked bored the whole time...surprised he wasn't text-messaging back & forth with his god...I mean, dad. Ah, teenage ennui. I was bratty enough at almost 16 to try to stay in the car when my grands took me to the Grand Canyon. When required to get out, I glanced at it and then said, "Okay, I've seen it. Can we go now?" What an absolute BRAT! In my defense, I had been on the road with my grands & staying in Los Angeles with our Vietnamese friends for 3 weeks and just wanted to get home to my mom & friends. Still. I was rewarded for my brattiness by also getting to see the Hoover Dam.

Saturday morning, after some sausage gravy & omelets, we spent much of the day at the pool. The kids complain that I never do anything fun at the pool. I "just sit in the water & read" instead of having fun. I blamed the cold water for awhile, then realized that my idea of fun in the pool and the kids' idea (and J's idea) are radically different. Even when I was a kid, I was never into dunking, splashing and squirt gun wars, nor did I indulge in "Tip The Raft" or "Race You To The Deep End" type games. J says it's because I never had brothers. I imagine my grands would say it's because I was born a pacifist, like my uncle Vic, who became a Canadian citizen in the late 1960s. The games I liked to play as a kid, the games all my girlfriends played, included "tea parties" on the bottom and contests to see who could do the most somersaults in the water ( I have been known to do 6 in a row), the longest hand stands, the bravest swim down to the drain, the quickest quarter retrievals. We would "dolphin dive" across the pool and see if we could keep our eyes open while emerging from the water and, yes, gossip on our towels during rest periods (that is, when we weren't flirting with cute boys at the concession stand at the bottom of the hill). So, the rough-housing J & the boys love to do in the water looks, frankly, unpleasant to me. I don't like to play like that. So, why should I? The boys make me feel as though I am boring or a bad stepmom because I don't play like that. Then, I look around & see that J is one of only a few adults actively engaged in such play. I am simply being grown. Now, if they would play the kind of pool games I like, I might join in. In the meantime, I will stick to trashy pool mags like Jane and conversation with the other girly girls.

After swimming, we had dinner at Alexander's with my uncle & aunt. It is always great hanging out with them & Saturday night was no exception. We sat on the patio talking for hours. They are getting ready to re-do their floors, all by themselves, with wood flooring. I am impressed! When they invited us to come by & visit the dogs, we nearly said yes before realizing that might be more than our bored boys could withstand.

We hit the first church on our shopping list Sunday morning, a congregational church in town that is not listed as "Open and Affirming" but which we thought would at least be close-by. I was happy to see a woman associate pastor and thought the church was lovely. The people were nice, although they seemed fairly conservative. The music for the day, selections from the Bill Gaither collection, made me long for good old karaoke church Christ-Pop like "Forever" and "Open the Eyes of my Heart", so dreadful was it. J kept writing me notes saying, "Make it stop!!!" Why can't we have the blues in church? At coffee hour, we met a very nice lesbian couple, so if we attend there, we won't be the first lesbians. That would be a nice change from the Presbyterian church we've been going to. Groundbreaking is all well & good, but it gets tiring after awhile. Boot, our little misogynist, hated the church as soon as he saw that there is a woman pastor. Pie just doesn't want to have to sit still that long.

After church, we allowed the kids to have a video game break. We fed them, then went to the Greek festival. When I was a kid, I would never have passed up an opportunity to go to a festival, but I was obviously a very different kid than these. We toured the beautiful church, with a retired priest who is definitely a vampire hunter when he is not leading tours. He was very kind & very interesting, with lots of historical knowledge to pass on to us. When we got to the "holy of holies" (not really, but the inner sanctum where the Word rests and women are never allowed), he said, "Now, I am going to show you something you have probably never seen before." When he withdrew a book from the altar, I expected something very old or very ornate. However, it was simply a Bible with Greek on one page and the English translation on the other. Heck, we OWN one of those! The priest held it up to J, expecting her to be amazed that it was in Greek. Instead, she began to read it aloud. What a great surprise for that priest! He turned out to be the one amazed, asking her, "Where did you learn ancient Greek???" She told him about her Master's degree in Judeo-Christian Studies in the Greco-Roman Period. A marvellous discussion ensued and we all had a great time. After the tour, we looked at the vendors' booths and had a bite to eat. J got a plate of fabulous chicken & artichokes with lemon-dill sauce and a tyropita. I had a combo plate, containing pastitsio, a Greek meatball, rice, a spanakopita, and dolmades. Before we left, we picked up a couple of pastries, too.

Sunday evening was spent at the pool, at the request of Boot. We grilled hot dogs & they played in the pool, while I read on a lounge chair & made bruschetta Caprese for an appetizer. It was a lovely evening until Boot got water in his eye & went stomping home. Temper, temper. The rest of us hung out in the hot tub for awhile before heading home ourselves.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Custody, Round Three

And so it begins, another round of ridiculous allegations, edgy kids, miserable wife and money down the drain. A couple weeks ago, J's attorney notified us that her ex-husband, SS (or Fat Bastard, if you prefer), was suing for a return to shared parenting, all visitation at his home near Erie, us meeting him halfway for visitation, J providing him with "copies of all psychological evaluations or reports performed" on the children, the right to claim Pie on his taxes and 8 weeks' visitation in the summer. We found this fairly outrageous, for a number of reasons.

As if that weren't bad enough, yesterday we got a letter notifying us that he is going for full custody again. Don't yet know what the allegations are, as the letter just said that he believes the children would be better off living with him. Complete nonsense & it makes me wonder what lies he is going to coach the children to tell this time. Last time, it was that we dressed Pie in a dress and make-up and made him walk around the block as punishment for pooping his pants, that we gave Pie laxatives to make him poop his pants at his dad's (Uh, no, you're just stressing him out so much that he has encapresis, Dad!), and that J & her former partner smashed beer bottles all over the kitchen floor and laughed about it. Her partner was dead from heart disease when these allegations were made. Disgusting. So, the pre-trial is today & we could really use your prayers. We find out what the allegations are today, I suppose. I am so tired of all this. He has taken her to court for custody twice & has settled before trial twice, once for large sums of money...he was getting $1200 a month in child support as the non-residential parent for 2 years, plus he got spousal support and half of her 401K. Now, he pays $1200 a year for both kids. He lives in his mom's basement, so has no bills to pay. He is just an outstanding fella, let me tell you.

Checking in on The Grands

Since my grandfather had to do a round of chemo, we figured it would be a good idea to visit & cheer him up last weekend. Besides, it was a good excuse for a visit! We left as soon as the boys had been picked up by the Odious One. Since we went in J's Bug, we didn't have any books on CD to listen to, so we played a game where J would ask, "What's the most romantic...?" and we would both answer. Most romantic movie (she said "Altered States", I said "Something like 'Practical Magic' or 'How to Make an American Quilt'. Maybe 'Hope Floats' "), most romantic meal, most romantic setting, etc. The great thing about our relationship, among many great things, is that we never get bored of one another's company. Near Columbus, we stopped at Macaroni Grille for dinner. It was delicious, from the rosemary bread with olive oil right through the main courses. I loved the bread so much that I would've happily skipped the appetizer. J chose her own pasta blend (bowties with garlic cream sauce, artichokes, sundried tomatoes and caramelized onions) while I ordered the chicken scallopini, which was terrific.

With our tanks refueled, we again hit the road. The grands had gone to bed when we arrived, so we climbed into bed, too. In the morning, we had a nice visit with my granddad while my grandmom got her hair done. She came home with McDonald's apple pies for all, thinking that Boot and Pie would be with us. So, we had apple pies for breakfast. J spent the morning making French onion soup, then the two of us went shopping for groceries and a pair of capris for me. I actually found 2 pairs, on sale for $20 apiece. J found a great new swimsuit covered in lime green and lemon yellow flowers. We also got some candles & candleholders for our new living room, as well as some things for the boys.

Once home, we visited some more & J made dinner for the grands. We all had cups of soup, then J presented my grands with pork chops, rice, and green beans. After more visiting, we had a late dinner on the patio at The Winds. It was a lovely meal with superb food. We started with a bread basket, containing the most wonderful ciabatta, and olives. Then, since they were out of our beloved Nueske's bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed figs, we tried softshell crabs (which I liked & J hated) and had the cheese service. My favorite this time was an old favorite, a triple crème called Belletoile. J couldn't decide if she liked the Fiscalini bandage-wrapped cheddar, the Oakvale Farmstead aged gouda, or the Pimientino best. She thought the Pipe Dreams goat cheese, which I love, tasted like "stinky toe cheese", but found the Belletoile to her liking. For the soup, we chose a cup of the Catalan garbanzo stew. Then, we split the halibut with bouilli butter served over Israeli couscous with tomato lemon broth. Wow, was that fantastic! J was just going to have a bite of my dessert (chocolate espresso cheesecake) until she saw cannoli cake on the menu.

In the morning, my grandmom went to church while we met the power-washing guy at the house for an estimate. Then, we went to my grands' & I visited with my granddaddy at the kitchen table while J cooked for us. When my grandmom returned from church, we had a Father's Day dinner of beef stroganoff on noodles, corn and ciabatta. Once we had eaten and cleaned up the kitchen, it was time to hit the road. It was a great visit & I am so glad we went, even though we missed Cleveland Pride to do it.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Da Vinci Code & Teenage Woes

I have been spending a lot of time unpacking this week, but have also had time for some fun. We promised Boot way back before his 13th birthday in December that when he turned 13, we'd take him to a PG-13 movie that his brother was not allowed to go to. He has been wanting to see "The DaVinci Code" since before it came out, so this week, I took him. We had a really good time together, splitting popcorn & talking about the movie afterward. I hated the book, thought it very poorly-written. The movie was better. Boot can't understand what the big deal is & why the movie & book have been so controversial. Of course, I have no answers for him on that because I don't get it, either. Both of us think that since it's fiction, there is no reason for it to threaten anyone. Also, so what if it is true?

When J got home, we went to the bookstores, Borders first & then, at cranky Pie's insistence, Barnes & Noble to try & find an Ironman book. Boot got a Boondocks book & Pie did find his Ironman book. I personally like Sandman comics better, but he is not interested. Probably just as well. J got another vampire book & a book on tantra, along with some books to send her dad. I got Lamb by Christopher Moore and a Red Hat Society novel.

In the car, the boys, who were both wired, started talking about how women suck & all the things women can't do. I teased them, saying, "our little misogynists" and Boot started going on & on about how much we hate men. Excuse me, but I could name any number of men I simply adore. I have no reason to hate men, since I don't have to try & be in a relationship with a bad one. I go by the individual person, not their gender. Although the boys' father has accused me of "engaging in gender politics" I am probably one of the least likely to actually do so. I was about to enumerate the men I adore as we pulled into the parking lot at The Winking Lizard, but Boot got out of the car, surly & temperful. We had chosen to eat at The Winking Lizard at Boot's request. Left to our own devices, we would surely have chosen Brio. But, his bad mood was well-activated & when his mom requested that he leave his cell phone in the car, he refused. Ever since his dad got him this cell phone for his birthday in December, the rule has been that he may text message his dad as much as he wants, but that when we're doing family things like eating dinner out, as well as for school & bedtime, it is to be left behind. He usually complies, although he & I had one showdown on that in which he grabbed my arm hard enough to leave a red mark. No compliance that night, though. I followed up J's request with, "Boot, do you want to put that in the car?" "No" was his response. Thinking he hadn't understood, after J's original "Leave your phone in the car" & my request, I said, "Boot, you're going to leave that in the car." He became belligerent & stalked over to the dumpster. I thought he was going to hide behind it so J couldn't take his phone, as she was following him trying to talk him into putting it in the car. Nope. He chucked it in the dumpster. Crazy! "I am so mad at you that I am throwing away my most prized possession, the one that you are annoyed by! Take that!!!" Of course, he didn't say that.

So, we got them back into the car & went home, where Boot went in his bedroom & refused to eat. J made Pie some soup & sandwiches, we had some goat cheese & caper puffs from the freezer. In the morning, J tried to get him to call his dad & tell him either what happened or that he lost it so his dad could have it turned off. He refused, saying he'll tell him this weekend. I bet he'll try to blame us somehow. Wonder if Pie will lie for him or tell the truth. Wonder if it's at all safe for him to tell the truth. He's had bad repercussions for truth-telling before, from both of them, but especially from his brother. Sometimes I wonder if Boot has to act badly toward us when he's had a particularly good time with us because he feels like he's betraying his father. Other times his temper has flared out of control have been when we've spent the day at Ohio Caverns or at COSI. I think his dad has him all messed up. Luckily, he woke up yesterday in a fine mood & apologized. I feel awful for him because he should be allowed to love & enjoy both his parents, without guilt. Whatever we may think of his father, we do not talk smack about him around the kids, ever. I don't think his father employs the same policy toward us. I expect they get fed all kinds of misogynistic & homophobic crap by him all the time.

More successful family dinner times have been when we've grilled down at the pool. J made sausage sandwiches & burgers the other night & hot dogs last night. They played in the pool & I read & enjoyed the hot tub. Boot has been helpful, cooperative & fun at those times. Weird.

So, I am left wrestling with how to get a teenager to comply when he doesn't want to. Losing privileges doesn't phase him. Nothing seems to.