Flashback Friday: The Poopsplosion

Since I just wrote about our newest CCI puppy, Jitter, I thought perhaps now would be a good time to relay one of our all-time favorite CCI puppy stories about Diamond, the first puppy we raised.

Diamond was a great pup and we thought she was awesome. If she had one flaw, it was her penchant for counter surfing, a habit that we accidentally taught her by leaving her alone in the kitchen with one of our other (counter-surfing) dogs, who showed Di the ropes. Diamond would happily grab anything off the counter: leftovers, a pan of brownies that was awaiting book club, a freshly frosted cake for a friend who’d just had a baby… We had to be extra-vigilant.

This story takes place in April, 2011. Because we were visiting Minnesota right before Easter, we dyed eggs at home a few days prior to our trip. We dye a minimum of 18 eggs apiece, winding up with dozens of brightly colored hardboiled eggs, which are typically stored in the refrigerator until I remember to throw them away.
Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 11.23.51 PM
Annie, concentrating hard…

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 11.23.16 PM
Emi and Ella, at work…

Except, of course, for the hours in between dyeing them and storing them (I don’t know why there’s lag time, but there always is), when they’re kept in their cartons on the dining room table.

Diamond had been with us for over a year and a half by this time, and we had learned not to give her any opportunities to access the kitchen counters. It didn’t even occur to us, however, that it might be a bad idea to leave 54 hardboiled eggs in the middle of the dining room table (I mean, if we were okay with this from a food safety perspective, clearly anything goes in our house).

Turns out? Dining room tables are easily reached by counter-surfing dogs.

We found the mangled egg cartons on Friday. One might think that consuming dozens of vinegar-soaked hardboiled eggs wouldn’t go over well, but Diamond didn’t act any worse for wear at first. Then, the mosaic poop began – legions of it. For 24 hours, Di positively Jackson Pollocked the backyard with rainbow eggshells. By Saturday afternoon, though, the poopsplosions were over, with Diamond behaving completely normally. Which was a good thing, considering we were getting on an airplane – all of us, including the dog – for Minnesota that evening.

My sister-in-law, Emi, had been visiting and was headed back to Minnesota that same night. Due to a flight problem, we all wound up on the same plane, which was lovely in terms of traveling camaraderie, but a bummer because our flight change caused us to land well past the girls’ bedtime. Knowing they would be super tired, I was adamant that we hustle off the plane ASAP so we could carry their still-sleeping forms into the car and then off to Grandpa Bill and GranMary’s house.

Which might have been well and good had they actually fallen asleep during the flight. Instead, they remained awake, with glassy, thousand-mile stares that told us they were likely to have exhaustion-induced meltdowns at any point. The flight was otherwise uneventful; even Diamond, who had flown with us before, did a bang-up job… except for the excessive panting.

But, hey. We figured she was just hot. Dogs pant when they’re hot, no?

They do. They also pant when they’re backlogged with Easter egg poop and know that popping a squat in the bulkhead section would probably result in, at the very least, some rather unhappy glances.

By the time we got off the plane, Diamond was in obvious distress, while Ella and Annie were seriously flagging, so we doubled down our efforts to hightail it over to Bill, who was waiting to pick us up. Emi and I each grabbed a girl and a stroller (they were too old for strollers but we brought them anyway); Nick took Diamond; we divvied the luggage up like sherpas; and off we went.

When the tram-train thing that was supposed to take us to the end of the terminal pulled into the station and just sat there for a moment, we were annoyed but didn’t worry. When it sat there for a full minute, annoyance turned to frustration. When the message was broadcast that the tram-train thing was no longer operational, frustration turned quickly to rage and despair. The girls were drooping, Diamond was frantic; we needed that tram.

(Our rage and despair were nothing, however, compared to the faces of the people who were on the tram-train thing when it became un-operational and were unable to get off of it. Yikes.)

Seeing no other options, we began hiking the length of the terminal – which, no joke, was about a mile from end to end. Emi and I were in the lead, moving as quickly as the strollers would allow, with Nick and Diamond following closely behind…

…until, suddenly, they weren’t. We heard a “HEY!” and I turned back to see them a good 25 yards behind us, rushing into a bathroom(??!). Seriously pissed (we were in a HURRY, for God’s sake), we backtracked to see what on earth he was doing.

Five long minutes later, they emerged, the picture of utter defeat. “I don’t know what to do!” he maniacally whispered. Seeing our puzzled – and furious – glances, he explained, “Diamond just shit all over the moving sidewalk!”

Oh. Well, then.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 11.21.38 PM
Bunny Di.

After holding it in for the entire flight and then waiting as the tram-train thing broke down, Di could apparently no longer contain herself – literally. Nick said this became apparent when the people behind him on the moving sidewalk began gasping and saying things like, “Oh, dear God!” Unbeknownst to him, Diamond – still trotting along – had begun leaving rainbow-colored poopsplosions on the sidewalk, causing the other travelers to jump out of the way to avoid them.

Funny/horrible thing #1: Although everyone was horrified, no one felt they could say anything to Nick… because Diamond was wearing her service dog-in-training cape… and, apparently, they thought Diamond was Nick’s service dog… and how do you politely explain to someone who needs a service dog, “Um, sir, I’m so sorry, but your service dog is crapping all over the moving sidewalk”?

Funny/horrible thing #2: Because the sidewalk was, indeed, a moving sidewalk, there was nothing that could be done about the Easter egg poop – no way it could be cleaned up in time – and so it just… wentaround… as the sidewalk ended and mechanically went back underneath.

With (literally) a mile to go to the exit, Nick decided that the best option was to take Dizey into the men’s room and tell her to do her thing; at least it would be contained and he’d be able to clean it up. He chose the handicapped stall so that they’d both fit, which turned out to be wise because the moment he told her to “hurry,” she looked at him as though he had three heads (Hurry? INDOORS? Are you insane?)… and so, remembering that a little movement often speeds things along, Nick began walking Diamond in tiny little circles around the stall to see if her could get things going.

Omg. This is one of the best mental images I’ve ever had, of them circling the handicapped stall with him stage whispering to her to “hurry” and her thinking he was nuts.

(It should be noted that, during this time, I became so upset about the girls still being awake, I offered each of them five dollars if they could fall asleep in their strollers before we reached the car. I PAID MY CHILDREN REAL MONEY TO GO THE EFF TO SLEEP. 

It should also be noted that BOTH OF THEM FELL ASLEEP. If you need parenting advice, don’t hesitate to ask.)

When it became apparent that Diamond would absolutely not disgrace herself by crapping on the bathroom floor, he came to find us. I became rather less pissed and rather more desperate to give Diamond the chance to finish her business.  It was at this moment you could (almost literally) see Emi switch into high gear. She dropped the bags she was carrying, physically grabbed the leash from Nick’s hand, and took off running – calling back to us that she’d meet us at the car – not stopping until, many minutes later, she’d reached the terminal exit where Diamond could finally relieve herself in peace.

Accordingly, Diamond sat down and glanced at Emi as if to thank her for the lovely jog.

We saw no more rainbow mosaic poop, and Dizey had an entirely uneventful Minnesota visit. She would go on to make it through 4.5 of 6 months of Advanced Training; counter surfing was not the reason she was let go, although I understand that she has taken her forever family on a few adventures in this department.

We imagine that the cleaning crew who dealt with the moving sidewalk is still telling the tale of Diamond’s adventure in the airport, too.
Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 11.21.50 PM
The girls and Diamond in Minnesota. ALL SMILES.

Advertisements

So You Think You Can’t Dance?? Try It!

Over Columbus Day weekend, we had the incredible privilege of attending Nick’s sister’s wedding. We were thrilled to be in Minnesota to celebrate with Emi and her new husband, Matt. It was autumnally beautiful – great weather, lovely temperatures – with warmth and pure joy emanating from absolutely every corner.

The invitation said that the wedding was to begin at 6 p.m. and would be followed by the reception, cocktails, and dinner, with “awkward but enthusiastic dancing” (their wording – how fabulous is that??) to last from 9:00 p.m. until 1 a.m. (which, for the uninitiated, is 2 a.m. EST; I’m not good with The Math but I do time zones quite well). I assumed that Ella and Annie would ace their roles as flower girls (or junior bridesmaids; they insisted they were the latter), that they’d enjoy the party, but that they would start to fade relatively shortly after that. As such, we’d scheduled a babysitter to meet them at our hotel room so that Nick and I could drink without guilt really let loose and celebrate with everyone. I had no idea how I would manage to stay upright until what felt like 2 a.m., but by God I was bound and determined to try.

wedding pic
Taken sometime after midnight, mostly upright.

I’m not usually much for dancing. I have dragged myself into a dance club (is that what they’re called? Would “club” suffice, or does that not imply dancing?) at the insistence of others exactly twice in my life, and each time I avoided the dance floor as much as possible. It’s not that I’m a terrible dancer… well, okay. I’m a terrible dancer. But it’s more that I typically just don’t have a whole lot of fun dancing. Watching people dance, on the other hand, is something I genuinely love, so I figured that I’d spend much of Emi and Matt’s reception observing from afar, joining in only when it seemed to be bridesmaid-duty necessary.

wedding dance2a
The girls, on the other hand, hopped on the dance floor as soon as possible – which, in this case, happened to be during Emi and Matt’s first dance. Ella’s elation and Annie’s twerk-ish expression make me smile.

I hadn’t had opportunity to cut too much of a rug prior to the girls retiring for the night, so once I returned from dropping Annie and Ella off at the hotel, I screwed up my courage and decided that I would make my obligatory appearance on the dance floor. When that dance was over, I thought I’d subtly slip away to one of the nearby tables to rest up and giggle at the other people shakin’ their groove thangs. Instead, I found myself not wanting to leave. It was fun! Nay, it was hilarious! There was laughter! There was exuberance! I was making a complete fool of myself and, for some reason, I did not care one whit! (Part of the reason may have been alcohol, but that’s just a guess.)

After my four-hour frenzy on the dance floor, both participating and carefully observing others, I feel that I am now somewhat of a dancing expert. Or, at least an expert in Almost-40-something White Girl Dance Moves.* In case you have not found yourself on the dance floor in quite some time, or in case you are not an Almost-40-something White Girl, allow me to more fully explain the crackerjack moves that are, apparently, all the rage these days.**

* Given that I am an almost-40-something white girl, I feel that I can make this ridiculous statement. Yes, it’s an obvious over-generalization and is meant to be absurd. Carry on.
** “These days” = at Emi and Matt’s wedding. Which clearly means they are absolutely true for everyone, everywhere. Carry on again.

Because I’ve seen only a few of the photos from Emi and Matt’s shindig with people actually dancing, I cannot provide you with much visual evidence. Knowing that it wouldn’t be much fun to see reenactments of me attempting these steps, I asked Annie and Ella for help and they graciously volunteered to be my models, knowing that I would post the photos here (which is yet another reason why having children was a good idea). And so, I present to you…

Dance Moves That Are All The Rage These Days, At Least If You’re An Almost-40-something White Girl (aka Me) Dancing At A Wedding

0) The Circle

I’ve started with ‘0’ because, as everyone knows, it is illegal for any wedding reception dancing to take place without at least some of the participants first forming a circle. The Circle is an effective tool for being able to dance oneself while simultaneously keeping an eye on the other dancers, especially if someone elects to start a move that is best when copied. The Circle is critical for when one must break out one’s most bodacious moves in the center of said circle (say, for example, The Worm… in your bridesmaid dress… across the reception-hall floor. OH YES, IT HAPPENED). The Circle is also useful for creating a space across which one may strut when one simply must stand next to another dancer at right that very moment. Which brings us to the actual dance moves, starting with…

1) The Squat

wedding dance5

This is the most essential of all the moves, as it is the building block for everything else. You are not attempting to do a full-on squat like you would at CrossFit or during that horrible fitness test in gym class, but rather a half-squat where your knees are just slightly bent and your pelvis is tucked back. For this move to be authentic, you should step side-to-side between both feet as though you are keeping time or are about to start the Funky Chicken.  Be sure to really dig into your heels so you can grind them into the floor later for support.

2. The “Hey Girl!”
wedding dance6

This one is a cinch. While performing The Squat, simply raise one hand in the air to salute a fellow dancer – most likely female – across the circle from you. You may point at her, you may wave your hand in the air, you may hail, you may fist pump – so long as only one hand is in the air and you maintain The Squat, you have affected the “Hey Girl!” properly.

wedding dancing
As mentioned, I haven’t yet seen many dance photos from the wedding – but if ever there were an absolutely perfect Almost-40-something White Girl dance example, THIS IS IT.
First, we have formed The Circle (it’s a messy circle, but it’s there). If you look carefully, you will see an additional dance circle in the corner of the photo, just beyond the gentleman in the pinkish shirt.
You will note that one of Emi’s other bridesmaids, K (in the silver sweater and rockin’ blonde hair) and I (yes, I’m wearing a lei; don’t ask) are really feeling The Squat.
Finally, please note that our dear friend H is performing the “Hey Girl!” to K and me, with her right index finger pointed righteously upward.
THREE MOVES IN ONE – BAM!

3. The Power Squat
wedding dance7

Sadly, there are times when the delicacy of The Squat will simply not suffice; you must feel that music and get even lower to the ground. This is where the Power Squat comes in handy. (Note that this is different from how you will get down to the ground when the “a little bit softer now” part of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” is played and everyone flattens themselves onto the dance floor; the Power Squat is far more rhythmic and athletic, obviously.) For added effect, you may do mini fist pumps while in the Power Squat.

4. The Squat Driver
wedding dance8

Part of what makes The Squat such a fantastic building block is that, while in it, you can perform additional classic moves – the Swim, the Sprinkler, the Cabbage Patch, etc. In this case, Annie has incorporated the Bus Driver (complete with mini stank-face, which is totally necessary while performing the Squat Driver in a circle so that you can properly entice the people across the Circle from you).

wedding dance13
It’s a little difficult to see here (unless you have x-ray vision and can see through H’s arm), but I do believe I’m executing a lovely version of the Squat Driver in this photo… 

5. The Phantom Lighter
wedding dance9

Okay, so no one uses lighters anymore at concerts, instead replacing them with cell phones, but the concept is the same: you wave that arm overhead, left to right and back again. While dancing, no cell phone is necessary (although it may certainly be present) and your hand may be empty, but you can still thrust that arm into the air and move it to and fro. Don’t forget to keep your Squat intact; abandoning the Squat is grounds for immediate disqualification (or at least being elected as the person who needs to go get the next round).

6. The Grabwedding dance10

For this, you will need at least two people (more are certainly possible). While still performing The Squat, reach out and clasp the hand (or hands – go on, double up) of a nearby dancer. The Grab is best executed when you look your partner square in the eye and make a stank face. This is not meant to be an elaborately choreographed routine; it is merely to gain physical contact with another dancer. Be careful not to lean back too far, nor to rely solely on the person whose hand you are grasping to hold you up; wedding reception dancers are notoriously unbalanced and depending on anyone for support is a risky proposition.

7. The Shoulder Press
wedding dance11

When you need to get close to another dancer (trust me, you will) and back-to-back moves are unsatisfactory because you cannot see your partner’s face (see also: unbalanced), the Shoulder Press comes in handy. This way, you can continue to perform The Squat (duh) while cozying up to someone else and looking them in the eye. Bonus points for smiling, nodding, and awww yeah eyebrow raising. This move can be carried on for several moments, then can easily segue into the Grab or the Spoon (see below). Or you could decide to separate and rejoin the rest of the dance circle, giving a quick “Hey Girl!” to one of the dancers across the Circle from you; the possibilities are endless.

8. The Spoon
wedding dance12

Sometimes, you’ve just got to get close – I mean really close – to your fellow dancers, and the Shoulder Press simply isn’t cutting it. Enter: the Spoon. The beauty of the Spoon is its simplicity – all you need to do is come up from behind, join your dancing buddy in The Squat, and make your presence known. Nothing complicated or intricate. No need for introductions. In fact, apparently you don’t even need to have met the other person before performing the Spoon. (I’m convinced that, while being Spooned at the reception, I was touched in places that had previously only been seen by my husband, children, or mother – by somebody to whom I hadn’t even been introduced.) You can also perform the Spoon with someone with whom you’re intimately acquainted.
wedding dancing
Look carefully: H’s husband [pinkish shirt] is in the process of starting the Spoon as H performs the “Hey Girl!”).
FOUR MOVES IN ONE! BOOYAH!!
——————-

There are many (many) more moves, of course, but these nine (don’t forget The Circle) should get you through several hours of very happy boogie-ing down. Dancers in situations like these enjoy a shared experience, where everyone loves everybody else, much like communes or cults. While you are dancing, it is beautiful and wonderful; only after you successfully pull yourself away and look back do you realize the slightly bizarre and potentially questionable relationships you had with everyone involved.

The best part about these moves is that they require no formal training and can be performed by absolutely anyone. You need not be an Almost-40-something White Girl, nor attending a wedding, and you certainly don’t need to have even one iota of rhythm or natural dance ability. What you do need is the desire to have a boatload of fun, the willingness to make an absolute ass out of yourself, and a lot of stamina.

(Be forewarned: if you decide to wear your heels for the entire four hours that you are dancing – especially if you do not normally wear shoes with any sort of heel at all – your feet will really not appreciate it.)

wedding dance3
High heels? Nope. But after dancing ALL NIGHT LONG, anything other than slippers was pretty much torture.

As an added bonus, dancing like this is tremendous exercise. Turns out, maintaining The Squat for such an extended period of time puts a surprising amount of strain on your quads. Unless you’re an ultra-marathoner or the stunt double for The Hulk, you’ll likely awaken the following morning to discover that you can hardly walk and your entire body below your armpits will ache for a minimum of three days… which makes these Almost-40-something White Girl Moves both a cardio workout and a strength workout.

Fun, laughter, incredible memories, and you can scratch Going To The Gym off your calendar?? Sign me UP!

Two-and-a-half weeks post-reception, I’m no longer in pain (save for the agony caused by the emotional humiliation). Looking back on that night, I can’t quite believe it was me out there – but I’m damn glad I decided not to be an observer. Yeah, when the rest of the photos appear (there were an awful lot of people taking an awful lot of pictures), my quads may grumble all over again, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be giggling.

In the meantime, I have these sweet new moves to practice. After all, I am an expert now; that reputation was hard-earned and I’m not about to let it go any time soon.

Jurassic Kitchen

Now that we are finally back to life (back to reality), the process of de-summering the house has begun in earnest. Beach towels that hung on the hooks in the front hall have been folded and put in the closet, making way for fall coats. Stale snacks that never got consumed (because of the ice cream, duh) have been pitched, with fresh school-year snacks taking their place. Toys that had been left on the counter since June were finally shelved, replaced by a new caddy (on sale at Target, score!) filled with school supplies (that must remain in said caddy under penalty of death because, for the love of God, how do the scissors disappear so quickly up in here and did you really need to use the entire roll of tape for your “special project”?).

The art closet remains on my to-do list; stay tuned.

While happily helping the orphaned items find their homes, I was reminded of another (perhaps the only other?) time this summer when I reorganized a portion of the kitchen. Except it wasn’t really reorganizing; it was more excavating. Back when Nick and I went away to Puerto Rico in July, my sister-in-law, Emi, came to watch the girls… which meant I had to do a serious house-clean. Okay, I didn’t have to – but I really wanted to.

You see, Emi is one of those uber-organized, super-clean people (yes, we get along extremely well; stop laughing). Whereas my motto is It’s Time To Vacuum When The Dog Hair Starts Rolling Across The Dining Room Like Tumbleweeds, Emi’s motto is Why Vacuum Three Times A Day When You Can Vacuum Four? Nearly every time she comes here, she re-sorts and reorganizes the Tupperware and makes sure our counters are always nice and shiny.

Although this is, indeed, lovely – and, one might think, motivation for me to not tidy up before she arrives, since she’ll do it better than I would, anyway – I nevertheless want to at least try to have things in some semblance of order before she visits, not because Emi judges me (she doesn’t at all), but because I like to prove to myself that I’m capable of holding to a higher standard. For a couple of days, anyway. This time, I went for shock value and actually went through the Tupperware on my own (ah ha!) and made sure the food in our cupboards was safely accessible (by which I mean re-stacking the canned goods so they didn’t conk you on the head when you opened the cupboard to get yourself some cereal).

As I attempted to sort through the baking supplies, I discovered that some of them didn’t move, and was mortified when I remembered the reason why: they were still stuck in the Karo syrup that had spilled. When we were making Christmas cookies. Last December. I mean, it wasn’t a surprise; I’d known that the syrup was there all these months. In fact, I’d deliberately left it there when it spilled, sloshing its thick sweetness all over the drawer, because how in the heck does one even begin to clean up that much Karo syrup? (For the uninitiated, Karo is a brand of corn syrup that is occasionally used in baking. It is dense, like molasses, but clear – and sticky, like… syrup – and makes an excellent ingredient in cookie frosting because it causes the icing to harden to a glossy finish. For this same reason, it is a complete nightmare when it, say, spills and covers a drawer.)

By the time I realized what had happened (back in December), the other baking supplies were nestled in a bed of syrup at least a quarter inch thick. It made my head spin just thinking about removing everything – dragging strands of syrup through the air like tacky mozzarella – and then getting the Karo off of each box, bottle, and bag. And then there would be the mess of syrup in the drawer that would need scrubbing… I simply couldn’t even.

So I did what any other (procrastinating) person would have done: I just left it there. Another day, I’d tackle it. Another time, when I had the energy. But then the syrup, um, hardened, creating its own little veneer, and suddenly cleaning it up became far less urgent. The baking supplies were still stuck, of course, but they were relatively easily pried out – and when I did, I was met with a thin layer of sugary plastic rather than sticky terror, so I just kind of forgot about it.

Until I knew that we’d be gone and Emi would be here and she’d see the fossilized remains in our drawer and would be all, How the heck did this happen? and I’d have to explain that it had been there since December and I’d been too lazy busy to clean it up, and, well, that was just too much, even for me. It had to be taken care of.

drawer debacle
Yup. Just a little bit of a mess down in there.

After removing everything that broke free without a fight, I was left with what essentially amounted to an archeological dig. Remember in Jurassic Park when the mosquito is trapped in the amber? That was basically my kitchen, except with Anise Extract and a rubber band instead of a fossilized bug.

drawer debacle1
You can’t really see it here, but the things that I’d pulled from the resin-y bottom left impressions behind, so it was totally like an archeological expedition. This was right above the mesozoic layer.

I tried to remove the remaining veneer by hand but soon discovered that doing so was impossible because it was, you know, stuck to the drawer. As it had hardened, it left no room between itself and the laminate, so I couldn’t reach beneath and pry it loose. I considered removing the drawer and filling it with water to, I don’t know, melt it down but that seemed to be pure folly.

“You know,” I informed Nick, “I’ve decided that it really isn’t a problem. I mean, it’s been here for seven months. Do we really have to clean it up?”

He just gave me a look.

“Okay, fine. Be all sanitary. Whatever.”

It became clear that the only option would be to chip away at it – literally – using some sort of chisel. We don’t happen to have chisels lying around, but we do happen to have my grandfather’s old toolbox filled with all sorts of random utensils, including this delightful file-like thing.
drawer debacle3
We like to get all 
Home Improvement up in here.

drawer debacle2
What, like you don’t ask your husband to snap photos of you chiseling away fossilized corn syrup in case you ever decide to blog about it. Psh.

It was tedious – and surprisingly tiring – work but eventually the veneer came up, one little plastic bit at a time. Twenty minutes later, the drawer was filled with shards of see-through rock candy, which was fairly easy to dump into the trash. A few paper towels and some GreenWorks squirts later, and voila – good as new!

drawer debacle5
Please ignore whatever schmutz is on the front of the drawer. It’s always what’s on the inside that counts anyway, right?

After re-filing the contents, I stood back and admired my handiwork. Quite amazing, really. THIS DRAWER IS SO WONDERFULLY ORGANIZED. Surely you would feel welcome in our tidy, cozy home, Emi. Would you like to put leftovers in some Tupperware? BOOM. Right there. How d’you like me now?

I’m pretty sure it was the methodically catalogued baking cabinet that allowed Emi to not totally lose her mind when all three dogs got into the trash and wound up recycling its contents – out both ends – on her bedroom floor. I hope we left the carpet cleaner out, because if not, she’d have to have waded through the cupboards containing the cleaning supplies, and let’s just say they’re not exactly as easy to sort through as the Tupperware, if you know what I mean. One can only order so many areas of the house, no? Plus, I appreciate the irony of untidy cleaning supplies. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

So, in closing, if you were concerned that the stash of Easter candy you just found – in September – was horribly negligent on your part, allow me to assure you that you are are in very good company. Also, by way of a Public Service Announcement, I can now say with confidence that if a bottle of Karo syrup spills in your baking drawer, it is much easier – and more fun, in an archeological kind of way – to just let it harden before attempting to remove it. True, you could probably chisel the stuff out sooner than seven months later, but hey, why rush it?

drawer debacle6
I could try to convince you that, seven weeks later, the drawer is still this neat… but I prefer not to waste anyone’s time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where else would you go for a January vacation?

When we moved to Rochester in 2007, we knew what we would be gaining: a great job for Nick, a super-short commute, a very affordable cost of living, amazing schools, a wildly family-friendly community, a superb neighborhood, more time with my Grandma, and more snow than we could shake a stick at. We also knew acutely what we’d be giving up: living near family and friends. (Because we’re so awesome, we have since made more friends, but the family thing is probably never going to change.)

As a result of living near none of our parents, siblings, or extended family (save for my aforementioned stupendous Grandmother – hi, Phoofsy!), we do a lot of traveling and hosting-of-guests – averaging at least twelve visits a year, both here and there (and everywhere). We try to see everyone fairly equally, but sometimes that’s just not possible.

To whit: Nick’s mom (whom the girls call Gigi, rhyming with jiggy) and stepdad (whom the girls call Grandpa Ray, rhyming with Grandpa Jay), who live in Minnesota, kind of got the shaft in terms of visits over the past several years; we were seeing as much of Grandpa Bill (and GranMary) as we could – quite understandably, and we’re damn glad we did. But still… although they’ve never complained (or even mentioned it), Gigi and Grandpa Ray definitely got the short end of the visitation stick.

But wait! you might say. They could have come and visited you, instead! And yes, technically, that’s true. They’re certainly welcome, and they have visited us, indeed – but it’s not quite that simple. You see, in the fall of 2008, Gigi earned superhero status when she beat the (almost unbeatable) odds and survived a ruptured brain aneurysm. Yes, you read that right: she had an aneurysm. That ruptured. In her brain. And she kicked its ass.

The aneurysm did its share of ass-kicking too, however, causing Gigi some rather significant problems – including making it difficult to travel. Complicating things, Gigi has been battling Multiple Sclerosis for nearly fifteen years; her symptoms have worsened recently, and have effectively prevented her from being able to visit us and Nick’s sister (and her family) as often as we all would have liked.

When it became clear that Gigi and Grandpa Ray wouldn’t be able to head out to New York any time soon, it became equally clear that we needed to book a trip to Minnesota. The long weekend in January provided us with the perfect opportunity for a quick jaunt west, and so we found ourselves headed from one frozen, snowy suburb halfway across the country to another.

Come on. When you think, Where should we go in the dead of winter to escape all of this Rochester cold and snow? the Twin Cities are SO the first place that comes to mind.

Although the purpose of our visit was to spend time with Gigi and Grandpa Ray, Annie and Ella had another mission: to get to know their Aunt Emi’s fiancé, Matt, and decide whether or not they approved of their upcoming nuptials. I bet Emi and Matt are thrilled they asked the girls to be in the wedding.

Turns out, they needn’t have been concerned: Matt (who, by the way, is a freakin’ neurosurgeon. So he’s not smart. I can totally talk music theory circles around him, though, don’t worry) jumped right in and assumed his soon-to-be-uncle role. He carted the girls around on his shoulders, shared his sweet dance moves, watched kid movies, sprung for ice cream, and braved amusement park rides with nary a sigh. He was earning it, you guys.
jan mn visit1
Ready for lift-off at the Mall of America.

Not to be outdone, Gigi took her grandmother role equally seriously. Waking up early because her granddaughters were still on east coast time? Done. Smiling and laughing through lunch at a St. Paul restaurant, despite fighting wicked nausea from her MS medications? Absolutely. Resting in the afternoon so that she could trek to Emi and Matt’s downtown Minneapolis apartment for dinner on Saturday night, then playing an epic game of Go Fish with Annie and Matt, fighting through dizziness to see the cards? Her granddaughter asked her to play; of course, she would.

jan mn visit3
Getting clarification on Annie’s “rules,” which were ever-changing… which might explain why Annie won this round.

jan mn visit4
Come on! It’s not brain surgery!
Yes, I went there. For both of them. Awwww, snap.

Watching the girls with Grandpa Ray so that we could go with Emi and Matt (and also Molly and Molly’s sister, Katie) to a Wild game? Wouldn’t miss it. Braving the American Girl store in her wheelchair so that she and her sister could take the girls to lunch with their AG dolls? You better believe it.

Then finally, on Sunday night, searching through her sewing materials to find an adhesive backing that I could take home with me to sew up Annie’s hole-filled, most favorite silkie blanket, all the while apologizing that she didn’t feel well enough to actually fix the silkie herself… then holding the wall for balance so that she could ransack her fabric to locate an appropriate silk-like piece that I could bring back with us, admitting sadly that if she weren’t so nauseated, she could mend it in no time flat… then explaining that her medication often causes her to awaken super-early, so perhaps she could repair the silkie at 4 a.m. before our flight… then drawing herself up and visibly steeling herself and saying with determination, “No. I can cut these silk fabric patches myself. I’ll make them the right size and you can bring them home and iron them on – it’ll be simple”…? YES. I BEAT A DAMN BRAIN ANEURYSM AND THIS EFFING MS MEDICATION WILL NOT STOP ME FROM DOING THIS FOR MY GRANDDAUGHTER.

Except she didn’t say “damn” or “effing” or actually any of that, but the sentiment was there. And I know reading this will make her laugh. Hi, Karen!

… and then deciding, Screw it, I’m in, and not only cutting the silk patches and adhesive backing, but getting out the iron and the silkie and having everything ready to go to repair Annie’s damaged blanket… When Annie appeared, sobbing, from the bedroom, saying that she couldn’t go to sleep without her silkie, and she just had to have it back.

In spite of all of the superhuman effort she’d just put in to cut the fabric and the adhesive and get the iron ready to repair the blanket, Gigi simply said No problem, she understood perfectly, and handed Annie her silkie, who wiped her eyes with it, then trundled back to bed. The silk circles and adhesive backing were meticulously put in an envelope for me to take home so that I can repair the blanket at a later date. Gigi shook off her nausea once more to climb upstairs just in time to watch Downton Abbey with Grandpa Ray, making sure to get to bed early so that they could awaken at 5:30 a.m. on Martin Luther King day to say goodbye to us before we headed to the airport.

As I looked at the envelope containing the patches, the circles that Gigi had used sheer willpower to make, I was struck, almost physically, by the depth of love involved in their creation. We may not live near any of our extended family, but that hasn’t diminished our relationships with them; if anything, it makes the time we do spend with them all the more sweet. How incredibly lucky Annie and Ella are to have grandparents – from Gigi and Ray to GranMary and Grandpa Bill, Grama and Pops, and Papa and Grand Meg – who adore them so.

jan mn visit2

It was a marvelous visit. Even if we did go from one winter wonderland to another.

Oh – and the girls gave Matt two thumbs up. The wedding can go ahead as planned.
Thank God, because otherwise, the black and white (“formal”) Rainbow Loom bracelets that Ella has made for the bride and groom to wear on their wedding day might just go to waste. And that would truly be a tragedy.

* Gigi’s story – of her aneurysm and her battle with MS – are shared with her permission and blessing. Although she may change her mind in the future…