Thankful for a tradition transition

This year, I’m thankful for a little different Thanksgiving celebration.

My Mom and Dad didn’t come to us this year because they were here last weekend for my Dover Symphony concert (thanks for coming, Mom and Dad). They were only staying until Monday, though, and considering how busy, sick, and exhausted we’ve been over the past few weeks, we weren’t really interested in making the Thanksgiving trek of eternal traffic to visit them in New Jersey. Since our dear friend Sybil (aka, Scott, my brother-in-law) and his wife (hi, Beth!) have hosted the Scheir side of the family for about the past 10 years or so, we figured they’d have their hands full and didn’t invite ourselves along. Nor did we invite any of them here. Ultimately, Craig and I decided that we’d be spending Thanksgiving here at home, with the kids, alone.

We were so excited when my sister hit on the money idea of the decade: Chinese food. Chinatown Buffet (the one by Toys ‘R Us and TJ Maxx), she said, would be open on Thanksgiving Day. Crazy? Crazy enough to really work, I thought, especially since it seemed silly to make a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for 4 people, especially when 1 is a vegetarian. I trial ballooned the idea on Facebook and got all the affirmation I was looking for. My favorite response was from Connie, our pastor’s wife, who called me and said, “It’s so nice that you’re making memories for the children. Just think, someday they’ll say, ‘Remember that time Mom went crazy and we had Chinese food for Thanksgiving?'”

Amen, sister. Pass the chopsticks.

So, 4 hours after a lovely breakfast of cranberry sauce, spoonbread, and eggy/cheesy biscuits, off we trekked to the Chinatown Buffet. And it was aweSOME!!! Sushi! Noodles! Egg rolls! Brownies! Happy service! Happier customers! And no darn dishes to boot–gosh, am I thankful!!

I’m especially thankful that we could be upfront and honest with the rest of the family about our temporary tradition transition. Come to find out that when Craig called his Mom, she said that Scott and family made a tradition departure of their own, going instead to his sister-in-law’s for the day (which, in case you’re reading, is perfectly A-OK by me, Scott), leaving Aunt Kay, Aunt Bebble, and Mom and Dad Scheir on their own for dinner (again, different, but perfectly OK). So it was a low-key change of pace for everybody this year–and the Chinese option was a fun conversation piece.

Would we do it again? I don’t know. But it was the right thing at the right time for a family that bit off way more than it could chew this fall. For the rest and relaxation, we are so very thankful.

The Angel’s Game – huh?

Never did I think I would be a fan of Spanish Gothic (-ish) fiction, but I just finished The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and I think I’m hooked. Cobweb covered tower houses, graffiti coated mausoleums, bullet stopping books, mysterious locked rooms–this book has it all.

Still, I’m a little confused. Not to give it all away (and please stop reading if you don’t want me to spoil it for you), but I was pretty sure all along that the narrator had unwittingly made a deal with the devil (to riff on Ghostbusters, if someone asks you to write them a new religion, say “no.”). Then it came out that the former resident of the narrator’s Munsters-esque home had apparently also made a deal with the devil. Then, all of the sudden, any visit from the narrator became a kiss of death for whomever he’d just seen, as if, somehow, he was an angel of death working for the devil (or the Spanish version of Corleone family hit man of choice Luca Brasi–plus at least one character ends up sleeping with the fishes, if you know what I mean, so there you go). There’s sacrifice of the pure of heart, admiring views from high places, and even a line like this–“I started working on the seventh day.” With all of those allusions, could I be wrong?

Still, I’m not sure. So again, what is probably obvious to the rest of the reading world is something that I’m trying to work out on my own–not unlike English class back in high school, when the teacher would ask something like, “What is the theme of this novel?” and I’d grope in the silence looking for something earth-shattering insight that was inevitably bankrupt and laughable, or at least didn’t at all resemble what the teacher had written down on her handy mental answer card.

Boy, did I hate high school English. It ruined me for college where I took not one single English class. So there.

Back to Zafon. The jacket of the book says that it’s a prequel to Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind–a book which I read a couple of years ago. I wanted to double-check the connections (and nab some reading material for the Thanksgiving weekend) so I went down to the library’s fiction section. I looked under “ZAF.” No book. I looked under “RUI.” No book. I asked the librarian, who, for some bizarro reason, looked under neither “Z” nor “R” but under “S” (?!?!!). No book. So now, I have The Shadow of the Wind on hold and have no hope of receiving it in time for the Thanksgiving weekend.

Ironically, both Zafon books feature a fictional place called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Has the librarian looked there, I wonder? Fat chance.

I say all this to say, I’m looking for a book to read this weekend. Any suggestions?

Announcing my Drama Rehab Journal

A couple of days ago I realized that my love/hate relationship with drama, stress, worry, and anxiety has to end (see my “Drama Junkie” post from 11/19). Perfect timing, as the holiday season is nearly upon us. I’m going 45 days without drama–which should get me through to the new year. Every day I’ll be logging my near occasions of drama, and I hope there will be no direct hits to report. You can read my daily drama report by clicking on “Drama Rehab Journal” in the column to your left.

Readers’ encouragement, cheerleading, and words of wisdom are more than welcome. If I know myself, I’m going to need it.

Drama Junkie

Yup, that’s me. I just realized it yesterday. As much as I dislike drama and its accompanying tension, emotion, and no-win decision-making, I find that I also kind of dig it—not in a weird, ambulance chaser kind of way, though. Maybe in more of an “I’m stressed, therefore I am” kind of way.

Imagine this scene. My poor husband, down since Friday night with a non-hospitalization-requiring case of H1N1, had to sit through me ranting and raving Tuesday morning—before 8 am, I might add—because I just had to, had to, had to get all my Boy Scout concerns off my chest. Why? Because a Boy Scout friend of my son’s said, “Dude, you need to go on the camping trip this weekend. That’s when you get your requirements signed off!” I don’t know what requirements the kid was talking about. I didn’t even know there was a camping trip coming up. But in no time, my fear that my son would never amount to anything rose up in me, breathed fire on my otherwise sensible brain, and convinced me that the world would come to an end if he didn’t go camping—and NOW!

I’m sure you’d agree that mental priority number one for my in-bed all week spouse is cramming a 2-night camping trip into his big recovery weekend when we already have a birthday sleepover, a theater outing, Junior Orchestra rehearsal, grandparents coming, faux Thanksgiving on Saturday, Junior Orchestra performance, Mom’s Symphony dress rehearsal, and Mom’s Symphony performance already.

No wonder his fever returned.

My stress, my constant companion, the recurring theme of this blog, my universe, and everything has been with me since I was a kid. Sometimes disguised as academic anxiety, sometimes as insomnia and nightmares, sometimes as pure, classic overreaction, my stress has periodically asked me, “You seem awfully calm right now—shouldn’t you be worrying about something? There’s always something to worry about.” Then I’d think for a moment and realize, yes, there is a test coming up or there is that kid who teases me on the bus or, barring anything else, there’s always those deadly diseases and random accidents lurking where you least expect them. And then, ahhh, I was somehow comforted to know that I wouldn’t have to grope my way through an unfamiliar, disturbingly peaceful, stress-free day.

Freakish, I know.

Now here I am, all grown up, with my drama potential multiplied by three other people, a dog, and their respective pandemic viruses, mean girl issues, pressure-perpetuating Boy Scout buddies, and enormous dietary missteps. But when you’re hammering a guy with a low grade fever and grade A bedhead about how he absolutely must e-mail the scoutmaster right now to see whether we can get in on 6 ½ hours of a 48 hour camping trip, the handwriting’s kind of on the wall.

So I’m officially declaring a 30-day rehab—maybe 45: drama-free through Christmas. I’m going to try it. My higher power and my higher reasoning should be enough to stave off my higher blood pressure. In the immortal words of Huey Lewis and the News, I want a new drug. Maybe instead of drama, I’ll get hooked on lateness, the result of no longer rushing everywhere, all the time. Maybe I’ll start running addictively—for exercise, that is. Maybe I’ll start overdoing it on sleep—that’d be a switch.

Whatever it is, it’ll be better for me, my family, and everybody. Except maybe all of you. I mean, without the stress, what will there be to write about?

Mean Girls

Dear Mom’s blog-o-buddies,

I’m 9 years old, and I have a problem. I have a friend who keeps telling me what other people think of me, and—let me tell you—it’s not good. My ‘friend’ told me that one of the girls in the neighborhood only likes to play with me because she likes my toys. And she said that another girl she knows just thinks I’m weird.

My dad says that the friend who keeps passing on bad news to me should keep her trap shut. My mom says that some girls are moody and kind of exclusive about who can be in their circle of friends and that makes them act unkindly to other people. My brother pretty much can’t stand any of my friends because once, one of them went into his room, stole his Rubik’s cube, and wrecked it.

What should I do?


Feeling more insecure by the moment

(Insecure, that is, not unlike my mom, who had her share of mean girl medicine back when she was a kid and still gets a case of the galloping insecurities whenever someone says something to her like, “I’m so glad you stopped wearing baggy clothes” or “I’m not sure if it’s because of the way you make it, but turkey doesn’t seem to agree with me anymore.”)

At just the right time…

Sallys flowers…Sally called.

I was in the midst of preparations for my evening book club, and my lovely neighbor Sally called with an offer of cut flowers from her garden. How could she have known I was wishing for exactly that? That I had already been to the market and passed up every last bunch? That I had 2 huge brownies in the cupboard to offer as a thank you to her and her dear husband, who is sometimes misunderstood, but unceasingly generous to me?

Sally’s offer really made my rainy, rainy day. A not-so-random kindness. A blessing.

Comment codes you don’t want to see on your child’s report card

bad grade

01 Lack of organization

05 Missing/Late homework

10 Exhibits schizophrenic tendencies

11 Regularly fabricates voodoo dolls of lunch lady in art class

13 Aggressively ambushes teachers behind slide on playground

14 Sets fire to classmates without remorse

17 Draws biker gang insignia with finger on misted bus windows

22 Interrupts circle time with anti-government sloganry

28 Sharpens pencils with Buck Alpha CrossLock PBS hunting knife

30 Conference is requested

Can I rant?

Big Boom

Minor kaboom this morning in daughter Hayley’s room—

It seems that her weekly, hours’ long, quasi-efforts at room cleaning have been helped along by a healthy dose of stuff-shoving, as evidenced by a pile of under-bed junk the likes of which has not been seen since I myself hoarded up my own pile of under-bed junk as a kid back in the 1970’s.

Admitting it is the first step, right?

All the clothes, books, dolls, etc, etc, etc from under her bed is now spread out all over the carpet as if TV slob Oscar Madison had been evicted from his apartment. Hayley is on some serious probation, considering that she’d been hearing Mom and Dad’s “no shoving” clause for months and chose to ignore it. Now she has to pay the piper, in the form of skipping one of two super-fun evening activities tonight and getting the job done. Too bad, as her dad and I were planning on dining out alone during one of them (sorry, Craig). Looks like we all lose on this one. Rats.

It’s not the mess so much as the lying that’s getting me, though as I say that, I think it sounds like, “It’s not the heat, as much as the humidity,” or “It’s not so much dropping out of the sky; it’s more the sudden stop when you hit the ground.” It’s both, really, but somehow it’s comforting to prioritize.

I have to say that this issue comes not long after another disturbing encounter. The other day, Jake owed Hayley some money, but didn’t have enough to cover the entire debt. I paid the remainder and said Jake could owe me. Then Hayley said, “It’s better to owe Mom, because she forgets about it.”

My response: “?!?!!?”

You better believe I followed up on that debt, taking a Reese’s peanut butter cup from Jake’s Halloween candy stash in lieu of the 50 cents I was owed. I had his permission, of course, because, hey, someone’s got to be honest around here.

Small comfort


I finally thought I had a handle on this sleep thing.

I was wrong.

After resculpting my life so that I limit caffeine, exercise often, worry less, and try to go to bed at about the same time every night, I’m now finding my sleep, daily comfort, and general sanity interrupted by just about everything—the children’s go to bed music, the dishwasher, the dog, the shifting sheets, the too flat pillows, the nighttime chill of autumn, the overheated effect of wearing socks to bed, and the ill-timed and unceasing surprise beeping of electronic gadgetry midway through the night.

All that, plus my hairdresser didn’t give me a short enough trim last time I saw her. Now everything in my life just seems all wrong.

Concurring with my sleep angst, my husband (he’s usually the one who escorts the dog outside at 3 a.m.) suggested a bed makeover. “Yes!” I thought. “As for so many ills of life, the solution is shopping! New sheets! New comforter! New bed skirt! Hooray!”

What I didn’t realize is how many comforter sets are dark, geometric, and look like they’re from Tony Danza’s “Who’s the Boss?” bedroom. Holy 1980’s—yuck.

In the end, I settled on an all white, puffy, fluffy, comforter set (even with pillow shams—I have arrived!). It was a run-off between that and a tasteful green ensemble which, once on my bed, looked like the kind of thing a toad would slip into after a particularly warty evening; the princess and the pea green bed—ewww. Still, while everything is now on and looks great, I have another note for next time: when stripping (or in my case, gutting) one’s bed down to that very icky, shiny, lingerie blue mattress surface, especially when alone, be sure to allow half an hour of work time and to utilize sweat-wicking sportswear.

Perhaps all that work will be enough to make me sleep through the night tonight. We’ll see.