Was best man in a wedding in CA this past weekend and hadn't seen my girls since the Wed before. So nice to see their smiling faces after school, and on Valentines Day no less. They both carried in their arms the Valentines boxes they make each year, this time shaped as baby pigs. I handed each of them a rose from daddy. We walked home as they told me about all the cards they got from their classmates.
I had prepared a nice evening for me and my two dates. Salmon nigiri, steak and broccoli, and to drink sparkling cider for them and bubbly for me. I hadn't lit dinner candles in forever and decided to do so, using the hand carved wooden candle holders that the groom from the prior weekend gave me years ago as a gift upon returning from a trip to Africa.
At dinner time I put their roses in a red, tear drop shaped vase that is undoubtedly a relic from a prior Valentines Day and asked them to dress up a little. A few minutes later Audrey showed up in a nice sweater and Grace in a dress and some black high heels, despite not feeling well. I threw on a red dress shirt and jacket.
They appreciated their favorite dinner dishes but the best part was watching them pour their own cider. They beamed at the chance to behave like an adult and had a couple glasses.
I sang them songs before bed - the usual ones I always sing them. Halfway into the first song they always tune out and by the time I'm done with four songs, one of them inevitably asks me to sing the one I missed, even though I already sang it. Audrey hugged me and teared up at good night, telling me how much she loved and had missed me while I was gone.
Best Valentines Day dates ever.
My great grandmother is here to visit. She arrived a couple weeks ago and her current plan is to stay until May of next year. Why, at 95, she chose to leave Florida and spend the winter instead of the summer in Colorado is an open question. It seems, perhaps, that she is ready to have some family around her to help. She's still sharp but failing a bit physically and uses a roller walker to get around.
I stopped by a couple days after she arrived and she stared at me for a second in disbelief that it was me. We then got to telling a few stories and within the first hour she was telling me what a difficult baby I was and how I hated her when she babysat me.
It's been an incredibly warm fall with many days in the 70s and 80s in October. No snowfall yet at all and maybe one freeze that just touched 32 degrees. Looking out at the pristine lake, which most people gave up on as soon as school began back in August, she wondered aloud why they "shut the joint down" so early. I had to agree - I have continued to boat as recently as a couple days ago and I think it's a waste. But funny to hear it in late October from someone coming from Florida.
She doesn't fly on planes which meant my mom had to fly out and road trip with her back. It took around 10 days and allegedly wasn't so bad. The worst parts apparently were Atlanta and Kansas. Oh, and the part when they crossed the border out of Florida and it was "so windy and cold" that my grandmother "couldn't find anywhere to smoke a cigarette." Priorities. She still smokes three cigarettes per day.
A few days later she opined about the drug problem in our country and how she just doesn't get it. I told her people get addicted and can't stop, just like her with cigarettes. She immediately retorted that she could quit anytime she wants and that she chooses to smoke. In another discussion she told me how terrible it is that they tax booze and cigarettes so heavily. It's just "terrible" she says.
She's been an Obama fan but she's also a Trump fan. Nothing good to say about Hillary at all in fact. I've read articles about old people who have waited their whole lives to see a woman run and get elected. Not her. And it's not about the politics for her (obviously). It's about the person she chooses to like. She doesn't get why Florida is so 50/50 because she feels with all the military people there it ought to sway Republican. I guess I wasn't aware that Florida was so heavily militarized.
She gets away with a lot, I think because she knows people know she's 95 and there's nothing much they can do about it. She comes from a time very different from the one today. As such she'll occasionally make off color comments about other people, race, gender, etc. She thinks in 50 years we'll be so smart as a society that we'll collectively annihilate ourselves.
But she also has a sense of humor. My girls like to play something called "joke circle" when they are at my parents' and the game is simply to go around the table and tell a joke. My grandmother knows two jokes that she claims are inappropriate for children and won't tell those, but has one other that she will. "Why did the chicken cross the road?"
Grace is full of quotables.
Today, for the first time, I had to leave them home alone for a few minutes to walk down the street to attend their parent teacher conference. Nevermind the confused logistics with their mom - that's another post.
When I left I instructed them to continue doing their homework, not answer the door, and not eat anything. In the midst of Audrey's conference, Grace texts me, "Can I eat cadavers?" Of course I replied no, trying not to laugh. Later she told me she meant "crackers."
We went to Cheesecake Factory for dinner. They wanted cake. Figured it was appropriate after dragging them to the post office to renew Grace's passport and then taking them to the dentist for Grace to get two fillings and for Audrey to get a tooth pulled. Two weeks earlier Grace had another two fillings and a tooth pulled. Going to the dentist sucks and both are scared of the novocaine needle. We went to 7-11 for Slurpees today too, of course.
While reading the menu Grace wondered aloud, "What's the crab cheesecake? Gross." When I looked it said "Carb Cheesecake." People: if you're going to Cheesecake Factory but watching your diet, you're not watching your diet. Whatever they're serving and calling low carb is trading fat for sugar for sure. Don't eat there.
Obviously focused on dessert, Grace then asked what the "mouse cheesecake" was. "Mousse" I corrected. She immediately told the server she'd have that.
After that we of course had an hour long dance party to burn off the sugar. And they did some homework in between.
Audrey and Grace are teed up for ski season. After having skied zero days last season (yes, that's what I said) but having held onto their old gear, Audrey is now a size 23 boot up from size 20 and Grace is now a size 21 boot up from size 18. And they're going to be getting used to some longer skis for sure - 130 for Audrey and 120 for Grace. Nice thing is Boulder Ski Deals has a trade in program where new (used) gear replaces old and and you get a 50% credit for turning in the old gear. Basically you're just renting stuff for a season but can keep it as long as you need to. So you get to keep swapping it year over year without buying new equipment for ever growing kiddos. The process itself could use some improvement but it works.
Today around breakfast:
Dad, why can't we have decaf beer?
Do you mean non-alcoholic beer, Grace?
Yes that. So why can't we have it? Like in a cup instead of a bottle so it doesn't look weird that we're drinking it?
Today in the car:
Dad, a Porsche isn't my dream car. Nor is a Range Rover, nor is mommy's car.
So what's your dream car, Grace?
Today after dinner:
Daddy, can we play chase?
Grace, I'm tired.
Dad, I know you're 40 and rickety but can we please play chase?
I bought this in May and little did I know that it would quickly become Audrey's car. She demands that we take it anytime we go somewhere. I didn't know she had any particular passion for sports cars.
Grace outwardly feigns indifference for the most part but that isn't stopping her from texting her friends. I do usually keep my garage locked at Grace notes below in a text to her friend Sam.
Meanwhile Grace's friend Sophia doesn't seem to have much empathy for anything. Grace goes from being sad to talking about the car to asking about her lost bathing suit, all with no response.
Not sure which iteration of beta fish we're on now. Maybe the 4th or 5th. These are the first boys though and they are much more decorated than the females.
I think the prior fish were Amona and Sparkles. And before that Ramona and something else. Before that I have no idea on the names. The original one was Audrey's very first pet - her name was Refrigerator.
Today the girls did their second day at RMDC. I can already tell it's going to be one of those camps where there will be tears and heartbreak among campers and counselors when it's done. They are having a great time and their friends are there too.
The best part for Grace today was after camp. She went to her friend Ayla's and played with baby goats, ate honey comb, rode a paddle boat, fed horses and saw giant spiders. She couldn't stop talking about it. Audrey was jealous.
The best part for Audrey was learning about what her group is going to do to the boys tomorrow. The boys are getting TP'd at some point and she is excited about that. Hopefully there is no retaliation.
Was so proud of Grace yesterday. She's had a tooth that just won't fall out and finally she just twisted the thing out since the tooth behind it is already coming in. I offered to help but she insisted and over the course of 30 minutes worked it out.
I screwed up though by forgetting to do the tooth fairy thing. First time I've forgotten. Felt terrible when Grace came in this morning and said the tooth fairy forgot, probably because her tooth had slid out from under the pillow. At least that happened so as not to totally ruin it. I told her that's such a bummer and that I'm sure she'd come back tonight.
The other day I emptied a drawer that was full of candy wrappers. Grace, when she sneaks candy, stashes them there. I told her later not to eat candy without asking and then asked why she wanted to keep them. 'Because they're memories, daddy.' Well dammit if that doesn't make me want to let her eat candy whenever she wants.
It's almost like I suddenly have new little girls. Yesterday they woke early and managed to bathe, dress and prepare breakfast before I even woke up. It was fun to come downstairs to a breakfast of broccoli, bananas, blueberries and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. This morning it happened again, except they only managed to dress before I was awake. Makes the mornings so much easier.
For the last two plus weeks I've thought we had a skunk living under the deck on the west side of our house.
It started with Grace reading in our front room with the natural gas fire going. She had other projects happening too but all seemed normal.
That evening the girls and I smelled something funny. Audrey thought it was natural gas leaking. I thought no way but once you start wondering that your mind sort of runs wild. Around midnight I called the energy company to ask them to come check it out, just in case. An hour later the guy shows up, walks in and almost immediately says: it's not a gas leak, it's a skunk. He checked things out with his meter to be sure but no gas leak.
The smell got stronger in the following days and I decided the only thing I could do was call an animal control specialist to check it out. A guy showed up and looked under the deck and didn't see a skunk. But he said there were lots of leaves and a depression in ground, so it was certainly possible a skunk could be in there staying warm. The fireplace! I thought. Maybe he was basking in the heat radiating through the wall.
The guy asked if I wanted traps set and I said yes. So he set two and gave me a number to call if I noticed any of the doors shut. The traps don't kill them, he said, they just trap them so they can be relocated. And a skunk is not too smart and easy to trap usually.
Days went by and no closed trap doors. The smell persisted. Then I went to the mountains. I came back to another smell - it was that of a dead animal. Oh crap I said - a skunk died in one of the traps. Sure enough, one of the doors was closed.
The smell was horrible and I couldn't understand how it permeated the inside of the house so much. I called the trap hotline and within hours another guys shows up to check out the traps. He was cautious so as to avoid getting sprayed but upon further examination it wasn't a skunk. It was a squirrel. A rather sleepy one in fact.
Damn I thought. So do I have a dead skunk under my deck next to my foundation? For the next hour this guy poked and prodded under the deck and went board by board with flashlight, peering though the cracks. But he found nothing. I'm stumped he said. And your foundation is really well buttoned up. Even if it were a dead deer you probably wouldn't smell much inside the house.
As I was talking to him the other trap slammed shut. That's funny he said. He walked over to it, again cautiously, but found nothing inside. Weird I thought. It had been open for over a week only to close now.
We went to the porch and he said, are you sure you've checked around inside the house? I said generally yes but maybe I should go through the toy baskets and other stuff more thoroughly.
We went back to the room with the fireplace. I moved things away from the wall. He opened an enclosed below the fireplace and peered in. Nothing. Moments later however I hear him say, I found your skunk. I turned and he was holding a green tray. Smell this, he said. I almost vomited. It was a tray in which Grace had made another mixture. Clearly she had used eggs and food coloring and who knows what else. And it was sitting in my front room.
I couldn't believe it. It had been two weeks of this. The guy chuckled and handed me the tray. I quickly walked outside and dumped it and threw it in the trash. I nearly threw up again. I sort of felt embarrassed that I'd put myself through this ordeal but mostly grateful the smell would be gone.
I thanked the guy for coming. He acted like it was just another visit. Maybe that's because they earned $210 for their trouble.
The girls did over twelve hours at Disney yesterday. In the midst of using our Fast Passes we developed the goal of seeing as many Disney characters as possible and getting photos and signatures. There are so many and I knew we wouldn't get them all but I'd say we did pretty well. Combined w prior trips plus our upcoming cruise in Feb I'd say we've covered most of them.
Mickey and Minnie welcome show at castle
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Mad Tea Party Garden - Alice
Splash Mountain Exit Courtyard - Woody and Jessie
Thunder Mountain Railroad
Malificent show at the castle
Pete's Silly Sideshow - Minnie, Daisy
Pete's Silly Sideshow - Donald, Goofy
Princess Town Hall - Elsa, Anna
Princess Town Hall - Cinderella, Rapunzel
Magic Wishes fireworks
Ariel's Grotto - Ariel
Pinocchio Village Haus
Town Hall - Tinkerbell
Pirates of the Caribbean
Prior trip characters that I can recall off the top of my head at either Disneyland or Magic Kingdom:
It was a long day actually getting to Epcot because we had to travel 2 hours across the state, get checked in to a hotel, regroup and catch a bus to Epcot (the Disney Caribbean hotel doesn't have rail or boat service). The Uber ride was a good idea - super easy and far less painful than a rental car would be.
We didn't do every single good attraction because we arrived in the afternoon biter did pretty well:
Spaceship Earth - girls laughed over and over at the ending
Finding Nemo - just ok but short wait
Talk w Crush - I liked this interactive attraction but Grace especially seemed not into it
Fiesta Tour - a Mexican take on It's a Small World sorta. Basically a nice boat ride
Test Track - long wait but fun ride. The look on Grace's face when we were going 50+ mph was priceless
Ate in China - food was quite good
Illuminations - amazing fireworks display set to music over he water - definitely a highlight
Soarin - we did this late during magic hours and it was really cool. Audrey loved it
Living from the Land - interesting tour thru the Epcot green house and a fairly long and educational ride
Circle of Life - a sort of cheesy film short about taking care of our planet
We wanted to do Test Track one last time but park hours ended. Ten attractions wasn't bad and we hit most of the better ones. There's only a few more I'd spend the time doing.
We were planning to head to Disney on New Year's Eve but then I began hearing and reading about how that's equivalent to the dumbest thing ever because of the rest of the world has the same idea every year. So we stayed another night w grandma.
Turns out it was the far better choice, primarily because how many more
New Years are we going to get to spend w someone who is 95?
We visited the Winn Dixie and bought some food and booze (and lottery tix grandma) and the picked up enough fireworks for the 4th of July. When you buy fireworks that shoot into the air in FL they make you sign a thing that says you're using them to scare off wildlife. That's amusing but I like that concept for CO.
The girls had a blast doing fireworks although Audrey got eaten up badly by mosquitos. I made her stay inside the screened in pool area after awhile. Must have been grandmas first live fireworks show in years.
We stayed up far too late but I had to get up early to pack and head to Disney.
Her massage therapist came today. She'd forgotten because when she called them this morning the message said they were closed. But they actually called two days ago reminding her that her appt was still on for the 31st. Once the therapist arrived it took thirty minutes to talk her into actually doing the massage. I was the next volunteer in line if she refused.
We went to cash in her lottery tickets. It took 10 minutes for the lady to process all of them. She won about $130 and I'm guessing she had spent $50. Better luck than me w the lottery.
The pool guy came. I talked to him for a bit about getting a new fountain and to tell him some beads had been sucked up in the filter. He found them. Later grandma said she thinks he's gay. Why I said. Because he isn't married. I guess that means a lot of people are likely gay in her book.
Her friend Joe came by this morning. He hadn't been by since Monday and she clearly was annoyed. She called him up for the first time ever and told him he'd better come by and he did. Joe told us more about Helen across the street. She used to work in hospice. The way she got her house was by conditioning her care for patent upon inheriting his house. Talk about conflict of interest.
We're still visiting my grandmother. Yesterday we visited Oasis Beach on Honeymoon Island - it's far better than the main beach (no rocks) and the waves and sand are excellent for kids.
The day before was Weekee Watchee which, since changing hands from private ownership to state park ownership a number of years back, just isn't the same as was when I was a kid. The clientele isn't the same if you know what I mean, and the underwater mermaid show, while entertaining and even a little scary for young kids, comes off half rehearsed and stale.
The day before was Winter the Dolphin in Clearwater. The story around Winter is pretty cool but frankly it's hard to get a really good view of her and she wasn't wearing her prosthetic tail. Her friends Hope and Nicholas were easier to see and we wound up spending more time petting sting rays and watching the turtles and otters. We also managed to spend $68 for our picture to be taken. We got a cool dolphin shaped USB drive out of it though.
Last night we took my grandmother out to Inn on the Gulf. According to my mother it's nearly impossible to get her out anymore. At 95 years old she didn't hesitate at all and ordered crab cakes and a martini as usual. Grace ordered snow crab legs and Audrey ordered mussels - I think the server was impressed. Grace needed help w her crab legs and our server sat down for 10 minutes and helped her crack and eat all of her crab. That was a first.
My grandmother's neighbor Helen calls about 5 times per day - the first call is usually around 9am. There's no point to the calls - it's because she's lonely. My grandma says well who cares, everyone is lonely. But that doesn't stop Helen. Even friends and her doctor had told her to only call once per day around noon. It drives my grandmother crazy and she sometimes takes the phone off the hook. I told my grandma that maybe one call per day is good in case she falls, which has happened a few times. But it's far more than that.
Two days ago Helen asked us to come over because she had some 'gifts' for us. These gifts were expired food and some figurines for the girls from her china cabinet. Yesterday Helen has scripted out a message for my girls to write to my grandmother along with some fake flowers. Not exactly an organic gesture but nice I guess. She means well and is lucky to be here - she had cancer in her eye which they had to remove, and maybe 6 or 7 years back when I saw her she didn't look so good.
My grandmother asked her housekeeper to buy a toy airplane for when we came. She came back with one of those new drones. I spent awhile trying to explain to her what it was and then showing her how it flies but the thing is impossible to control. If you're not careful it winds up at the top of a tree or will fly away and be lost forever. However she doesn't understand this and therefore thinks I suck at flying the thing.
Last night I heard the story about how my father once put me in the car by myself when I was misbehaving at a restaurant. Then they finished dinner. I should have driven away. I reckon if someone did that nowadays they'd promptly get in big trouble.
I also heard stories about how my mother showed up past 11 one night and that was the end of that boyfriend. Frank was very strict. Another time when she stayed out all night Frank would have had cut her date's extremities off had he found out.
My grandmother keeps too much cash on her person which wound up resulting in theft. I told her she needs to keep it in the bank. But she says she read an article about banks going under some years back and can't risk losing her money. Hence she keeps three or four hundred dollars around. I tried to explain FDIC insurance but to no avail. Not to mention that much money isn't going to last long anyway.
She wanted to know why my girls weren't sunburned from the beach. I told her because they were wearing sunscreen. Sunscreen is bad for you she said. I told her it's not but insisted wisely. Musta been propaganda from the 1940s or something.
She brought a card with writing on it out to me and told me she was told I'd understand it. Yes, I said - that's a WiFi network and password. She said she was told I'd be interested in it. I told her yes it would be useful. She wanted to know how it would be useful and I wound up drawing a diagram of the Internet. I think it just convinced her further that cell phones and Internet are a nuisance. The idea that it simply makes life easier and more convenient is lost on her. For example, she said to me other day that she and Frank always had paper maps and never had a problem. Well yes, except that using one is a giant nuisance. I could use an abacus instead of a calculator too.
Her car is a Lincoln and I'm guessing is at least 15 years old. It has 23k miles on it. I've been working hard to drive it long distances each day. One day when it is sold someone may think something is wrong w it when they can't understand why there are so few miles on it. Or maybe that's a phenomenon across FL.
She likes to tell me about how many people die on Hwy 19 right before we head out. I tell her we'll be fine. Truthfully though, 19 is a disaster. It should be a freeway with frontage roads but instead it's a wanna be freeway with plenty of stop lights and interim right and left turns that makes it akin to playing a video game where you dodge random obstacles to survive. Add to that idiots in souped up Honda Civics, red necks in lifted pick up trucks and old people who take 5 minutes to get to full speed and you've got the worst road in FL. The engineers who designed were surely fired but it's too late now.
Each morning I've been making breakfast. She didn't seem pleased that we don't eat bacon and eggs every morning so I quickly decided I'd better get on it to keep up impressions. She says I make excellent eggs and spends about an hour or so enjoying her meal. My girls basically nibble on the bacon and that's it.
She's been staying up past her 7pm bed time most nights. The other night I was bringing her crab cakes from a restaurant in Clearwater and we didn't get back from the aquarium until 8:15pm. And last night we didn't head out for the restaurant until around 7 because we'd been at the beach all day which meant bed at 9:30.
The only day she slept in was yesterday. The night after Weekee Watchee I decided to buy chicken and salad at Publix and prepare it at her house. She decided to call my parents to say hello after dinner and around 8:15 poured herself a martini which is kinda late but she felt like partying I guess. I was having white wine. Around 10 it was finally bed time. She said, are you sure you don't want to hang around all winter? We'd have a ball.
My girls and I went to FL to visit their great grandmother. There is almost a 90 year difference between young and old.
She'a hard of hearing but that doesn't stop her from telling stories.
She and my grandfather went on dates for two years before he kissed her. She told me her friend would pick a date for her and every once in while it would be Frank. She didn't care who it was she said. And one day when he dropped her off he stood on the steps staring at her. And she wondered what was wrong. And suddenly he ran up the steps and kissed her. Not on the lips mind you. On the cheek.
Her parents divorced when she was young. Maybe 2. She got to 10 years old before knowing that her step father was not her real father. Once day her mother told her she had been talking to her sister in law. What does that mean? said my grandma. It means your father's sister, said her mom. And that's how she found out. It was a secret until she was 10. And so she went to NYC for a weekend to see her real father. Box checked. And then never saw him again.
My grandfather's parents divorced when he was young as well. Maybe 7. His dad went out to get a birthday cake. And never came back. They never saw him again.
She also talks a lot about the social issues of today. She doesn't get it. The world has basically gone to hell in her mind.
Tonight Audrey had a play date with her friend Beija and Grace and I watched movies together. She cuddled next to me and did an occasional headstand against the back of the couch in order to watch the TV upside down. She chose the move Twitches, which is about twins who are witches (get it?) and then along came Splash, Hoosiers, Whitewater Summer and Blades of Glory. We didn't finish any of them except maybe one, and they all had some bad words, but I guess I'm caring less about that. She's becoming a big girl.
Daddy: I'm glad you like the stuffed koala you got for Christmas. What's her name?
Daddy: Iona? What's she named after?
Audrey: An island.
Daddy: Which island?
Audrey: One off the coast.
Daddy: Off the coast of where?
Audrey: I dunno! Off the coast!
"Hi. We have your bunny." Click.
It's miraculous actually. A little gray bunny, who goes by the decidedly mystifying name "Peanut," wandered through an opening in a courtyard gate, down a sidewalk and through a parking lot, across an intersection and down another block toward Broadway. He may have traveled a half mile or more. And survived.
No one suspected as much.
Maybe he was looking for a ride. A thrill. A carrot perhaps. It was impossible to fathom what drove him to wander off.
A search team assembled. It was dark. Flashlights frantically scanned the landscape. Little girls, friends, parents, dogs and even neighborhood cats searched. No one knew exactly how long he'd been missing but it was awhile. There was talk of mountain lions in the area.
After an hour of searching there was no sign of him. An area of at 2-3 city blocks had been thoroughly covered. Day break would happen soon.
Hope began to fade. But then a phone call from a strange number. No one quite knew how he had been found in the throes of darkness, let alone how someone knew who he belonged to once they managed to grab him.
Cheers echoed down the streets. A procession went to recover the bunny who had wandered so far. A little girl's anxiety began to dissipate. She was relieved. We all were.
Peanut was home.
Grace learned about a thing called monster toast at school so naturally we had to make it at home. It's edible art.
Want to make it yourself? Add 2-3 drops of food coloring to 1/2 cup of water for each color. Use a small paint brush to apply. Toast in a toaster or toaster oven. Spread butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
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