Monday, April 15, 2019

Reluctant Spring

Well, spring broke.  It's broken. A cold April is the worst kind of joke. The other day I texted a friend, "why is spring so reluctant? It's like it doesn't trust itself."   Even spring doesn't really believe it's spring. It's been rainy, snowy, and cold for several days in a row. My birthday is at the end of the month and I know it'll finally figure things out but just about this time every year I remind Sean (and myself, and the universe, who is hopefully listening), "You know, I once had a pool party for my birthday."  A POOL PARTY. Because it was warm enough. So you know, I feel just a little bit wronged when it's mid-April and it can't even manage to make it to the 60's. Grrrrr. I believe in you, spring! You just have to believe in yourself.

That said, this deplorable misbehavior does create some interesting imagery. The grass has begun to grow and is kind of insanely green, from all this precipitation. People have begun mowing lawns and everything. Not us though, and our lawn is a freakin' rain forest right now because I'm still in the mindset of winter, when yardwork becomes an non-word in my vocab. Utterly meaningless.  But it's sooo vibrantly green and with that + the few flowers that have popped up (in other people's yards) + these great snowy mountains standing aloft, it's like a brand new color palette that I am just not used to seeing.  I guess that's what snow in spring always is and it's not the first time it's been this way. Still, it's strange. 

So I'm a little bit transfixed, but mostly just perturbed.  Imagine those two expressions simultaneously on my face.  Actually you don't have to. I tried to see if I could portray both and I think I pulled it off ok.  It was hard though: *



transfixed + perturbed


Well, to inspire spring to come and to remind it of itself, I present that old classic poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay, by my good pal Robert Frost. I've blogged about this before but I am re-posting because it's not just a sad thing, like Julian thinks (he still refuses to listen to it, btw) and it's just so nice. I always thought it was sort of a commentary on beautiful things and how they're fleeting, but I realized it's really a poem about spring:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


Spring is not a destination, it’s a thoroughfare. Its transitory essence is like a sunrise. Beautiful, shocking. Gone. It's elusive because it was never meant to last. It’s the earth being re-born and like birth, it’s a beginning--a traumatic, violent celebration trumpeting the song of things to come, but not really of itself. 

Hope always comes into the forefront of my mind at this time of year. It's a tune almost forgotten and one of which we all need reminding. Frost's (his name is extra appropriate now) poem speaks to the tragic impermanence of beauty but lest I forget, it’s also cyclical. It's slow to arrive, dragging its heels,  but when it does, it's repetitively fleeting, a fly-by glimpse of reminders of hope I’ve luckily been witness to before, and (fingers crossed) will again, if it could just remember the song. 




*I've scoured my blog but have found nothing on what I was sure I've mentioned already. It's one of my favorite games I made up with my friend who's an actor. It's called Mixed Emotions and you have someone call out two emotions or expressions, like "nauseous + excited" or "bored + suspicious" and you have to show both of them simultaneously. It's mostly stupid but also very funny watching as you depict one emotion and then another, trying to retain a bit of both.  It's also very challenging. Try it with your friends today! 

Friday, April 12, 2019

At the Dentist

 I recently went to the dentist for a checkup. I've been going every six months for the past couple of years, something I never used to do but a) they have a really fun hygienist who makes it almost worthwhile and b) I'm getting old and decrepit and more aware of my own mortality. It used to be that I'd go to the dentist and be a bit more audible in my feelings of disdain.  This is a place where I think I actually, honest-to-goodness regress a little bit. It's my childhood dentist (probably a mistake) and I just really hated it. I had a lot of cavities as a kid and the shots and drilling were tear-inducingly painful and the gas made me feel so out of it and it took me a while before I even learned I had the option of having it or not. So I finally opted out probably as a teen which made it marginally better.

These days I try to mostly remain silent. Go to my zen place.  When I went a couple of weeks ago I learned that my favorite hygienist, I think her name was Judy, was no longer working there. I was in the middle of debating whether or not to just cut and run when I found myself already in the chair and reclining so I thought I'd better just go on and get it over with.  The new hygienist was nice but quiet and I like someone interesting, entertaining, and engaging. Chatty. I like a chatty hygienist. Someone who will distract me from the horribleness and who has that special gift of being able to carry on a conversation basically one-sided but make you feel like you're an equal part of it as well.  Judy had that.  Judy was good at that. Sniff. I miss her so much.

When I was lying back, this new hygienist (this is now my least favorite word to type) kept asking me if the head rest or whatever was ok and she'd ask me if I was comfortable. Like she went on and on. I said something like, "what? it's fine, whatever you need to do your thing...."  Like, c'mon, let's get the show on the road. She said, "I just want you to be comfortable!" and I said, "Well, I'm at the dentist, so...."

She then did her thing, dentist did his thing, and I learned I have a cavity, the first in a couple of years. RATS.  That old feeling of doom and dread filled me and I felt compelled to take a selfie to depict my feelings: 


 

I scheduled to come in the following week to fill in my one measly cavity. That day came and so did I, dutifully, back to the ol' dentist chair with questionable head rest (as if anyone even gives the thing one tiny thought), and remained mostly quiet for the duration of the procedure.  Before he began, Dr. Dentist asked me if I wanted the nitrous but before I could answer, he caught himself and said, "oh wait, no, you don't like it, do you?"  As if it struck him as a bit unusual. I said, "oh, no, i don't. "  I think someone even asked me why and I said, "Oh, I hate the feeling I get when I'm on it. That out-of-body feeling. And, well, it's already a bit of a nightmare, so...I don't really want to add to it..."  trailing off.  Just very straightforward. Nobody laughed, but it made me laugh, my attempts to remain stoic and enduring even though the hate is very much alive. It was my plain honest answer. I also think i lose whatever filter I have in real life when I'm at the dentist, truth be told. 

The dentist was speedy and i even thanked him when it was all over, because I am actually grateful that there are weirdos in the world who choose this kind of profession. Someone's got to do it, right?  So we should probably be thanking them even though we all hate them. Like, just because I want to punch you doesn't mean I'm not grateful. It's a weird relationship. 


Today I took Julian to the dentist.  After he brushed and flossed, I watched him give his last will and testament "to my cats-- all of my possessions. To my mom, all my love."  (sucker, Dad) Watching Julian at the dentist these past few years has been interesting, entertaining, and downright remarkable.  Also a bit heartbreaking. What it is is me seeing myself, as a child, in the dentist's chair.  And I swear to you I worked SO HARD at not poisoning his tender mind, knowing my extreme bias and past trauma. Like, why would I? Why would I make it worse than it already is? But alas, through the years with each passing visit, he discovered the nightmare all on his own and watching him is hard because I feel the same way. Still. All of the things he hates, I hate too.  I see him reject watching a movie because that would only add to the out of it, nightmare feeling.  I see him wanting to know exactly what they'll do so it's not some big mystery.  I see him vent ALL his feelings when they ask questions.  "How you doin', Julian?"  "Not good."  "No? Why not?"  I'm always amused when they seem to forget what going to the dentist is like.  Because I'm HERE, dummy.  Ok, maybe dummy is harsh.   Once again, I am silent for almost the entire stay. I sit nearby to observe and support when needed.  I laugh also when called upon, because he is still funny.  But it's mostly just super sad because kid has serious anxiety about it. I see him breathing hard and fast in the waiting room.  He's pale.  Like, it's so real for him. And for me.  It does break my heart.

Judy once told me the reason she became a hygienist was to face her fear, which is the only reason that makes sense to me.  She hated it so bad when she was young-- like, really bad-- so she decided to try to make it good for other people.  What an angel.  Sniff.  The hygienist today was young and also (unsolicited, i might add--it's like they feel like they have to explain themselves. And they kind of do) explained why he was a dental assistant. He was really interested in orthodontics so he's getting his foot in the door, learning the ropes, making connections this way.  Also makes sense, I guess.  But I am amused at listening to people in these professions like it's a confessional.

But there is a lot of trauma involved. The last time we were there, Julian freaked and would NOT let Dr. Dentist check his teeth and scrape off the gunk.  He cried and cried was just a total mess. I got to the point of openly bribing him with all sorts of things which I am not inclined to do, all to no avail, of course.  This was not about getting things.  It was truly a nightmare and it lasted foreeeeveerrrrr.  Finally he allowed the dentist to scrape if he could lay his head in my lap and i hold him. Aaahhh so traumatic. *shudder*

But this time was so much better.  I prepped him the best I could and told him, "I can't tell you it's fine. I can't tell you it's no big deal. It doesn't FEEL like it's no big deal. And it doesn't feel fine. I know this.  But I do know it will be over and that you can endure it.  And it's worth it if it prevents you from having problems later. This is all stuff I tell myself EVERY TIME I GO."   I also reminded him that immediately after letting the doc scrape his teeth and finish up, he was elated and said, "I could do that all day!"  This was helpful to remember. I also told him under no circumstances are we doing that EVER AGAIN, what happened last time. It just wasn't an option.  He understood, in spite of his feelings, bless him. Happily, he had no cavities and felt the sweet bliss only the weight of having the dentist visit over + having no cavities can bring. I'm feeling it too, vicariously. That feeling lasts for days for me.  Days.

Some time ago, I came across this article written by a dentist and initially felt the need to personally defend myself and the rest of the human race. But, I will do my best to be fair with my honesty, understanding that when all is said and done, going to the dentist is a good thing to do. It's still the unbelievably worst.  Also, I know there are people out there who have never had a problem with the dentist. It's been easy, they've never been in pain, what's the problem? I do not understand this.   In fact, I had a friend recently who had some dental issues, maybe cavities when she's never had one in her life {straight eyes and mouth emoji} and she told me she GETS IT NOW.  She gets the trauma.  Yeah, you do.  Of course you do. You think people are making this up? Ugh.

So, the article. I will be posting the article here with my rebuttals, but if you'd like to, click here to read.


Ten Reasons Your Dentist Probably Hates You Too

#10 Bad manners

The first thing you say when you sit down in my chair is, “I hate the dentist.” Really?!? Did your parents teach you any manners? Did they ever teach you that it is impolite to tell someone you hate them the moment you greet them? What I really want to say back is, “aww, I hate you too.”

Please do. Since you don't seem to understand, I'll explain: What that is is someone in the throes of fear and anxiety.  I'm sorry if I forget my manners. I'm about to be the most vulnerable a person can be. Letting you inside my mouth. Well, upon second thought, second most vulnerable.

#9 Oral Hygiene Basics

You come to your appointment, and it’s obvious you haven’t brushed your teeth in days. I’ve had some people with great hygiene come in and apologize because they’ve just eaten lunch and couldn’t brush. This is not what I’m talking about. I mean food and thick plaque everywhere. After 10 years of seeing blood and rotten teeth and some really nasty things, this is still the 1 thing that makes me dry heave. You know when you come to us that we have to be in your mouth. Would you clean your home before having company? Additionally, I have spent hours literally bending over backwards repairing your teeth. Could you at least pretend that you are caring for the work that I have struggled to complete for you?

That is really gross. I always brush and floss before I come, mostly to avoid any dental shaming but also because I'm trying to be considerate and make my stay as short as possible.  That said, YOU CHOSE THIS PROFESSION. It's so inherently disgusting, I think it can universally be agreed upon. Soooo... crapping on your own doorstep? as the old saying goes.


#8 Billing

After we have spent hours of meticulously repairing your teeth, you complain about the bill. Would you walk out of the grocery store with a bag full of groceries and expect not to pay? I’ve just helped you to continue to smile and eat comfortably, two pretty valuable things that help your quality of life.

I have no real comments about this. Everything costs.  And lots of things cost big. Dentist is no different and I really do want to smile and eat comfortably. But also, i have complained about the grocery bill before like, "whoa! Whoopsy daisy." Because... I'm a human? And humans complain about bills?

#7 “Urgencies”

I tell you that you have a cavity and you need a filling, and you wait months or even years to get the necessary work done. Eventually the tooth starts hurting. Two weeks of pain go by, and you call me on a Saturday night while I am at dinner with friends because your tooth that needed a filling a year ago and that started hurting 2 weeks ago is suddenly an emergency.

I'm disturbed by how this dentist clearly doesn't believe these patients and thinks they're solely trying to ruin her dinner. This is madness.  Yes, they should have filled the cavity a long time ago buuuut pain is pain, man.  And yeah, that is just good clean denial.  Again, people who have DPTSD don't think very rationally. Also, don't think I don't know dentists charge whatever they want when they sense it's an emergency. This happened to a friend of mine and really, it was an exorbitant amount just to unlock the doors.

#6 Complaining

You come to me so I can help you, but you make it hard for me to do a good job. You wince and make faces when it’s not hurting. Oh, really? Please tell me more about what I'm feeling. The idea that I’m hurting you makes me just as uncomfortable and stressed as you are. Really? Just as comfortable and stressed? Yes, let's compare. Also, again, you chose this. If it hurts, please tell me, and I can help you with that. But if it’s because you don’t like the whole experience, you are only causing me to work in undesirable conditions, making it harder to do my best. And when you push your tongue in the way, or you don’t open wide enough, it makes it physically impossible to get my work done. Don’t you want it to be easy for me to do the best job for you?

Wow. Ok. Again, I am surprised I have to explain this, but the person is not consciously doing those things. "Here's what I'll do, I'll sabotage the dentist! I'll put my tongue in the way!"  No. It's just so awful, it's a natural reaction. Understand this. Forget not your sensitivity, your patience. Also, as a child, my dentist was always surprised by how much "pain" i was "allegedly" "in." But I think he believed me in the end. But I think i just had a low threshold for the tooth pain or something, I don't know.  I was always like, yeah, whattaya think?? I'm not making this up. But maybe it was different for other people.  That would certainly make me feel less wimpy. Or this was just in the old days and he was still trying to figure out proper medication doses.

#5 Blaming someone else

You call and say, “my tooth didn’t hurt before you worked on it.” You came to me with a cavity. I did not put it there. You did. I am simply fixing a rotten hole that was in your tooth. To do so, I must use a tiny drill to cut the rot out of your tooth. If I took a drill, cut a hole in your femur bone, and then filled it in with a foreign material, don’t you think it might be sore for a while? Same concept.


I will blame dentists for all of my bodily pains/life problems.  I feel completely fine doing so.

#4 Those @#$% X-rays

When we try to take an x-ray, you won’t bite down on it. We have to do this to see what is going on with your tooth. Without knowing the problem, we can’t properly treat you. I know, in some cases some people really can’t do it; but some people could and won’t just suck it up for 15 seconds. I’ve had x-rays too, and they hurt and dig into my gums, but I just do it.

Wow, I'm really starting to have real hate feelings for this person, instead of general hate I hold for all dentists.   Listen- nobody explains anything to you when you go to the dentist. They don't know how much pressure to use. As a child they tell you all sorts of silly nonsense (or not-- my dentist told me nothing, ever. They all just began) and as you grow up it's all one big mystery. I didn't go often enough during my 20's to really figure anything out and there was just so much pain and trauma there.  I decree that before each visit, each patient should be be given a briefing on all the events that will transpire.  Or a laminated piece of paper to read as a refresher, with illustrations and diagrams.  I would appreciate that.  I know Julian would appreciate that.  So they're not doing it on purpose if they don't bite down hard enough. They just didn't go to dental x-ray school.

#3 The “jokes”

You tell me that you bought my car for me after having a crown done. Contrary to how it seems, you actually didn’t buy me a car. You bought yourself a crown. I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education, and have spent hours making this crown fit precisely in your mouth, so maybe you helped me make a portion of a student loan payment. But you certainly didn’t buy my car.

This is stupid and I hate you.

Also this is funny because my dentist used to tell terrible jokes and I was always like, boooo just get on with it.  Today, Julian's dentist was fine. I liked him ok and he seemed to have confidence (this is another thing I'm noticing lately. I always prefer the hygienist or medical assistants or radiology technicians to the actual MD in charge. They're always so shifty and uncomfortable. But that's a topic for another day probably).  He started by asking us if we had any weekend plans. Julian and I looked at each other, at peak anxiety, and I said, "Uhh.. I think we're just trying to get through this."  So he continued, "well, my wife bought us tickets to Fit Con." And that provided enough entertaining follow up conversation for the rest of the visit. I tried to ask as many questions as I could without openly ridiculing but I did say (again, minimal filter environment) "huh... that sounds super weird," with a quiet nod from the hygienist.  But my opinions on gym culture are another topic for another day.


#2 On appointments

You no-show an appointment or cancel last-minute. Some things are unavoidable, but when it’s because your hairdresser got a last-minute cancellation and you had to take that appointment instead, this is just rude. Not only am I unable to fill the 2 hours of my schedule that I reserved specifically for you, but someone else who wanted to get in had to wait 2 weeks for his/her appointment. And on that note, when you have the first appointment of the day, and you show up late for your appointment, I am late for every other patient the rest of the day.

Cry me a freakin' river. 


#1 Denial

When I tell you that you grind your teeth, you deny it, as if I am accusing you of having a horrible disease or being a baby murderer. It’s not that bad to be a tooth grinder. I’m just pointing something out and maybe offering a way to prevent more problems in the future. This observation is concluded from signs or symptoms that are based on real science, not myth.

And along those lines… bonus #11. You tell me a diagnosis I make is simply wrong without listening to me. If you know so much, why are you coming to me? You do the filling or root canal yourself. You obviously don’t need me.

Sigh. Let us all once again emphasize the importance of bedside manner. Having a little sensitivity. Listening to patients. Because I've definitely felt dental shamed plenty of times-- "Ohh, looks like you hate that tooth!" (actual statement said to me)  Ohh looks like I'm going to punch you IN THE THROAT. I CAN DO IT, I'M IN A GOOD POSITION HERE.   So just be frank, be real, get to the point, and stop being so judgy.  "So what i'm seeing is teeth that look like this. This could be due to this or that but I'm wondering, do you grind your teeth? This is super common."  Like, treat me like a person. Why is it so hard?

(END OF ARTICLE)




In conclusion to all of this, I'm beginning to think this dentist's patients might hate her because she's just a terrible person, so my advice is, don't do that. Don't be that way. If you're a lame human, you will probably make for a lame dentist. Another possible conclusion: All dentists are human-hating robots, because no real human would ever want to do anything like this, no offense to my cousin Rob who is probably a super nice robot dentist. I mean, his name is Rob. C'mon. (shoutout, Rob!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Chocolate Chip Cookies 2019

Well, everyone, I think I've finally found it.  A good, basic chocolate chip cookie recipe (with my own adjustments, of course).  The original recipe itself is actually a little bit ridiculous but the proportions of ingredients is good.  I like this one because it's a half-batch recipe, since I'm never looking to make 48 cookies. Well, mostly never.  It's easy, has just a few ingredients, and I think I've mastered the small tricks that really make the difference.  Here's the original recipe which I have stolen and renamed to make my own with my bolded adjustments:


)en's Perfected Half-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes about 18 normal-sized cookies)


7 T salted butter, softened.
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
just about 1/2 tsp. salt (+ crushed sea salt for sprinkling later)
1 c. mixed varieties of choc. chips/pieces
_____

1. Bring that almost stick of butter to room temp, good and soft.  Pull out the egg as well, while you're at it.

Pinch of Yum's recipe is super finicky about the butter. She acknowledges this but still, I refuse. "Turn on oven + watch butter like hawk + turn OFF oven and let it sit for 30 min??" NO. That is madness. I've made this recipe at least 5 times recently and letting it soften the normal way works just fine for me. Also: Seven tablespoons? really? Fine.

2. Mix flour + baking soda + salt in a small bowl.

I do not require the extra flour, like Pinch of Yum says. So I just omitted that. What I do instead is scoop out the flour instead of, say, spooning the flour into the measuring device.  Maybe I get my extra flour there.  I know spooning it is supposedly more accurate but it's just so tedious so I'm glad I've found a shortcut there.

Also, why do people not add enough salt to their recipes? Why? I would argue that salt is just as important to chocolate chip cookies as the chocolate chips. I use not quite 1/2 tsp but I'm still debating on whether I should just fill that 1/2 tsp all the way up. Jury's still out.

3. Put butter + sugar + vanilla into a large bowl and, with a hand mixer, cream for at least FIVE minutes, using a spatch to scrape down periodically.  The extended creaming is important, I've learned. 

Pinch of Yum uses mostly white sugar but that sounded super gross to me so I replaced it with dark brown and it's great.

4. Add the egg and mix until well combined. 

5. Incrementially add the bowl of dry stuff to the wet and mix with mixer until combined.

6. Mix in the chips with a wooden spoon.

My favorite is using Trader Joe's semi-sweet baking pieces vs. chips.  But I ran out so I had to use a combo of a 72% baking bar + semi-sweet chips.  That baking bar was fairly bitter and i didn't want to scare off Julian too much but the combo made it pretty great, and there's just something about the way pieces are incorporated and how they melt in the dough that makes the cookies so good.  They're like ribbony layers. So chocolate chips are kind of out for me these days.

7. Using a cookie scoop, scoop out however many cookies you want to bake onto an ungreased tray.
Pinch of Yum says this makes 10 large cookies but I prefer smaller cookies so, comme tu veux.

Crush some sea salt into your hand and sprinkle over the cookies.  That salty kick will be just the ticket.  Bake at 350 for 9-10 min. 
______

Now. I apologize for no "print recipe" option but I don't know how to do that.  But aside from my chattiness, this recipe really is super simple and easy.  I love how few ingredients i need and how basic it all is. I also love the shape and rise and I didn't even need to refrigerate the dough first.{celebration emoji}   Here is a pic of the cookies I made last night.  Sean's chocolate pieces he crushed resulted in some very fine bits which made for some fun chocolate-speckled cookies. Also, look at the diff between those pieces and chips.


                                                                      





Also a picture of a post-cookie Julian who is growing up, yet still can't eat a cookie without getting it all over himself, a fact I find terribly adorable and cling to with all my might.  We were almost out the door and he was like, "ok, I'm ready to go!" and I caught a glimpse of him and had to laugh. "whoa, hang on!"   Here's the face he gave me as I took his pic, exasperated not at the picture-taking, but at his own immature cookie-eating. {heart}{heart eyes} {heart, heart}




Sunday, March 17, 2019

LA Escape

Winter trips are a priority in my life. Or at least I've made them such in recent years.  Getting out, getting a break, does so much good for my soul. Fortunately Sean's birthday lands on the most trying part of the winter so we hit two birds with one stone and fled this year to Universal Studios, specifically Harry Potter World, to celebrate.

I have to say, the trip was THE BEST.  We had two fun-filled days and it was such a good time. Our post-trip high lasted a good couple of weeks.  I tried to write down all of the good memories and jokes I could think of (gotta keep a trip log, after all) and will put them here. 

But before I do,  I will first mention that the trip was a surprise for Julian.  Sean and I stealthily packed suitcases and made arrangements without his knowing and it was AWESOME.  We woke up as usual Thursday morning, got ready for the day (got the cats extra ready. Oh, need an extra heaping pan of food? Just because?) and, as a "treat," Sean got to come with us to "take Julian to school."  Just as we drove up I said, "you know what? Let's not go to school. Let's go do something FUN!"  and we drove on by and waved to all the learning-bound suckers.  Julian was utterly flummoxed. It was pure joy to see his stunned expression in the back seat, him wearing his backpack with his lunch bag packed not with lunch but with apples and carrots and cheese for the road trip ahead. YAY!

I wrote down trip highlights super randomly so I'm going to try to organize them into a sort of category as best as I can:

THE DRIVE

Turns out we kind of love this drive and are getting to know it well.  It's about 11'ish hours long, give or take, we do it all in a day and we can do it and it's not bad.  So three cheers for that. It makes me breathe a sort of sigh of relief knowing the ocean is only a day away.  Highlights of the drive include:

1. Julian's car jokes.  They had me rolling. At one point he said out of the blue, "did it ever occur to you that someone near you might not be wearing clothes?"  Without looking back, Sean yelled, "put your pants back on!" and Julian and I just laugh.  It's just such a funny thing to say. Also, after being in the car for a while, we stopped to get gas. With jelly legs and crooked knees, he and I hobbled our way into the station and he exclaimed, "how do I walk??"  Just busts me up. Seriously, how? My legs don't work anymore.

2. Snow all the way up until the mountain pass past VEGAS.  What?? All roads leading to our destination were closed and we were determined to get there before the sun rose the next day. As I have done before when the fate of our future is unknown, I went into full emergency mode, taking inventory of our possessions which included a ton of food and two huge blankets and we fully planned on pulling over and sleeping in the car, if it came to that, so we'd be ready to go as soon as the road opened.   It's kind of funny and a little bit strange how quickly I can get there.  I hope I never find myself stranded on an island with no adult supervision. Could be disastrous.  Fortunately (I guess) it wasn't long before they re-opened and we could finally get to a place with no snow.

3. Guess what, long car rides are perfect for doing schoolwork. And they really help pass the time. Julian had a storytelling assignment and was selected to tell his story (guess what? It was Millions of Cats) to the whole third grade the following Monday after we got home so the car was perfect practice time.  Also, we're a little behind on our multiplication tables no thanks to frustrating 3rd grade curriculum that doesn't stress teaching it until waaaay late in the game, but that's a story for another day.  But we drilled and drilled and drilled and we covered our 4's, 5's, and 6's.  He also had his first Battle of the Books battle on Monday so we quizzed him on that. On the drive back he didn't watch one show or play one game. It was all math drills, book quizzes, and car games. Fun parents!


UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

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1. Let's talk about Universal Studios.  What a bizarre, hodgepodge land of misfit shows and movies. We saw characters from The Simpsons, Trolls, Beetlejuice (emphasis added for bewilderment) , Hello Kitty, Shrek, and more. At every turn I was more confused than before.  I was doing one continuous shoulder shrug the whole time. Also, let's talk about the main attractions based on super rando movies that nobody cares about.  The Mummy ride?? Waterworld?? Really? This was their main attraction in the whole park. In two days I spent more of my life reading up and talking about freaking Waterworld than I ever wished to.  They had a live performance involving stunt actors, explosions, crazy tricks using planes and jet skis and, of course, lots of water. Super entertaining but still-- why?  In the end, we decided it was just part of its charm.  Also, the Jaws attraction was closed, as well as the Jurassic World, sadly.  So, next time? When we return in seven years?

2.  There was this happy candy store called ItsSugar that Sean and I first visited a million years ago on a trip to Atlantic City. There we found the fanciest, prettiest gummies i've ever seen in my life and they tasted just as good as they looked. They sparkled like jewels and tasted like them as well. Behold!

It's so beautiful. {cry face}
We also bought a box full of Japanese snacks and ate them in our hotel room. Some were great and some were so utterly bizarre, I still don't have to words to describe.  Though, I {heart} all the things Japanese. 



HARRY POTTER WORLD

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1. Harry Potter World was magical, of course.  I had been to the one in Florida but Sean and Julian had not and I had to try really hard not to compare, because the one in FL blew me away with the new addition of Diagon Alley.  The one in CA just has Hogwarts castle and Hogsmeade village. And like the other, I was reminded of how desperately I want the magical to be real.  Even though the place is swarming with people, how I experience it is just me, with Sean and Julian having transformed into Ron and Hermione (I'm Harry, obviously) and we're there on just another Hogsmeade weekend.  We appreciated all the little details most of all. The structures of the buildings like the neverending rafters in the Three Broomsticks. Moaning Myrtle moaning to you as you use the toilet.




Twins
2. There are only two rides there. One is The Hogwarts ride. I can't remember the name. You walk through the castle with fun things to look at and listen to as you go from class to class (because you're a real wizard and it's a real wizarding school). That was the best part. I wish I could have just done that part of it, said Grandma Jen.  Ride-wise, knowing what was in store for me, I braced myself and kept my eyes closed for almost the entire ride because I would have puked my ever-loving guts ev-ery-where. I kept cracking open an eye only to be like, NOPE. Dang, I hate these screen rides. Give me the old school coasters! Julian hated it too but out of fear, not so much the sickness.  Sean got a little bit sick but was able to tolerate it better and loved it. He couldn't get over all the cool effects that Julian and I were sadly blind to.  So lame.  We never did that one again due to the fear but we peer-pressured Julian to do it again the whole rest of the trip which made for a fun memory in and of itself.  I did succeed to persuade him to ride the Mummy ride which i was told was like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, the best one, and WOW it was crazy, also an inaccurate comparison, for the record. Indiana Jones is a million times better. The ride started fine and calm with creepy mummy things and rooms full of treasure. Like you'd expect. Then, suddenly, they turned out all the lights and jetted us forward a million mph and then again in reverse, all in pitch black. Everyone was screaming just to keep it together. I had to sincerely apologize to Julian after that one which he didn't let me get away with so easily.  Ha ha, geez, Mummy ride.


3. Flight of the Hippogriff is the other ride in HP Land. It takes place in Hagrid's pumpkin patch.  It's a short wild roller coaster, much more Julian's style. We went on it seven times. At the end of it one time, Julian yelled "JAM!" and I thought he said something else and everyone around us laughed at my young swearing kid and I was like, what in the world?? Apparently this is a thing kids say at school. He is still so innocent and doesn't even know what the swears are and I'm trying to keep it that way as long as I can. But it was funny, but I couldn't laugh too hard, which was difficult.

Accidental yet awesome photo. Notice wand in hand.


4. Eating the fun British food at The Three Broomsticks.  We consumed butter beer in four different forms: regular, hot, frozen, and ice cream. Excellent, job well done. We got fish 'n chips, sticky toffee pudding that I want to learn how to make. 

On the second day there we had really exhausted ourselves and I was a little bit out of my mind.  As we were contemplating the menu items, in my delirium I said,

"there's bangers and mash.. shepherds and pie..."  and everyone made fun of me. "Mmm..  shepherds and your pie. My favorite combo. Classic British dish..."  

Seriously though, so incoherent.  (We ordered all of it, by the way, and it was delish and felt very British.)


ART

1. Another moment of Jen delirium was on our second day. 3/4 through our trip, Julian learned we were in the city of Los Angeles and he exclaimed, "what?? we're in Los Angeles? I know about something here! I read a book at school about a big mural painted by Judy Baca."   a) haha that he didn't know where we were and b) we were so glad he knew about it because we put it in our GPS and went there and it was awesome! Officially called The Great Wall of LA:





We thanked Julian for his knowledge and this fantastic tip which he was pretty pleased about and he continued to thank himself for the rest of the day.  "Thanks to me..."   Here's my delirious quote, said upon arrival at the great wall:

JULIAN: Woowww, the wall is so long!

JEN: It is wall! I mean long...

Again, everyone made fun.  "Look how wall that long is!"  It was pretty funny but also kind of embarrassing when words like that just come out, loud and clear, with no excuse to blunder it up.


2. Because we were celebrating Sean's birthday and art in general as we always do, we had to see the Getty Museum he's always wanted to visit and which I would describe as the fanciest, palace museum I've ever been to. It is huge, white and sparkling, and sits on a cliff overlooking the whole city.  A Pontormo show was going on and Julian, the experienced museum-goer, knew just what to do. Get a map of the place and we race to see who can spot each of the featured artworks first.  He and I did that while we left Sean to experience it at his pace and leisure, though I would have liked to linger a bit longer in certain rooms.. It actually felt like it wasn't as much about the art inside but the overall museum experience, which was interesting.

I think we're seeing a pattern here with the cool guy poses.

Shen
It also had fantastic gardens and it just felt so good to be in a place with greenery and sun. We all got some sun on our faces and like the grandma that I am, all I really wanted to do was just sit in the sun for like 100 minutes. "No, I'm good here."  For souvenirs, Sean bought a Pontormo art book to add to his collection and Julian and I got a comprehensive history book for adults kids that breaks down all the main events through the ages, something I've seriously been on the lookout for quite some time.  Yes I spotted it and started reading it first and yes, Julian took it from me and asked if we could get it and yes the gap between our ages grows ever smaller.

                                     
Julijen



     Unsolicited picture help.  Yes, we would like a terrible photo. Could you? Thx.
  Also, click here to read up on the Passerby Photographer Phenomenon or PPP.
                                        

I could go on and on about all the fun but just for my own records, I'm going to finish my making a list of random things I noted in my book. 

MISC. HIGHLIGHTS:

1. The terrible instructions at the Waterworld show. We were standing in a snaking line, in the depths of some serious crowd/territorial mentality, and someone on a speaker said, "it's not a line, people. Fill the spaces. People who get there first get a better seat.  If people in front of you don't seem to understand or aren't listening, just go around them. They'll figure it out."   Sean and I felt this was exactly what NOT to say to a huge pulsing crowd of amusement-park goers.  They really said that. It was weird and got a little crazy.

2. Then, a-midst our crowd mentality of getting a seat ASAP, as we were shoving our way in, we heard a commotion behind us and saw a little girls standing having just puked and her dad was behind her bracing her. Our reaction was so funny/ a little bit sad. As we rushed past we were like, "that kid's throwing up! Good, get ahead of it so we're not held up!"  Like, our reaction was, "get ahead of it!!!" not "oh, sad, poor girl."  No compassion! SEAT.  Anyway, we got a good seat and I bet that girl was ok, so it all worked out.

3. Driving around downtown. Seeing the Hollywood sign. LA is such a weird city. I don't know what the vibe is at all. So sprawling and varied. But with palms and citrus trees, so yay.  I cheered every time I saw an orange or lemon tree.The foliage is so beautiful. I love it so.

4. Playing HP trivia games while standing in line for rides. At one point Sean and I quizzed each other on every spell we could think of which was totally entertaining.

Question: What's the spell to fix broken glasses?  Answer: Epixy.  
Question: What spell do you use to summon something? Answer: Accio
Question: What spell makes it so people around you can't hear you?  Answer: Muffliato.

See? fun. Kind of want to make this into an official game.

Ahhh, this post is so borrriiing.  But I'm too lazy to redo it to be more entertaining. So oh well. Suffice to say, mini winter trips are the best, these two are my favorite traveling buddies and I just want to go on another and another and another, etc.


    Friday, February 22, 2019

    More Winter Poetry

    I have a writing group consisting of 3 tween girls and myself. I love it and I love them. We meet about once a month and talk about stuff. Usually there's a snack involved.  We discuss a writing prompt for them to work on for the next month and then when we meet again we take turns reading what we've written, weather it's the prompt or anything at all.  It's just a chance to share something we've done. I really want to support writing in girls, but mostly, I just want an excuse to hang out with them.  Last time we read Robert Frost's winter walk poem and I assigned them to do the same. Go outside at some point, be in the snow and cold, notice things, and write a poem about it.

    As mentioned, we had a big blizzardy storm a couple of weeks ago and I wrote a poem of my own. I tried to write it in the style of Frost's and it was kind of hard.

    It's called, Snowy Daze.  Just kidding, it doesn't really have a title.


    Pushed a-drift, my eyes are blind
    Snow spray and ice wind most unkind
    Into a washed out winter seascape
    Slippery earth leaves me behind.

    Gale confused goes un-refused
    Each shrub and fragile tree abused
    All who breathe do so at risk
    The snow, from street to street, transfused.

    The whole world narrows like telescope
    All I know is what I hope
    The good faith bestowed on travelers e'er
    Pray paths don't cross on impending slope.

    Adventure screams, chaos careens
    Beckons us in our machines
    Will we respond? Or will we shrink
    Let's wait until plow intervenes.


    *****

    One of my girls recited her poem and I was basically shocked at how good it was. I felt like I had to keep my cool because W-O-W.  It was like free form poetry. Free verse? Like something to be read at a poetry slam. It was written in paragraph style and had definite rhythm but it just did what it wanted. It was good. Real good. And I asked if I could publish it and she said yes.  So here it is:


    Wonders Are the World Around
    by Ella H. age 10.

    Winter walk with poem of life.
    Snowflakes falling all around

    slipping, sliding without a
    sound. Me? I'm out back

    taking a walk. While many 
    voices in my head talk
    about the house instead.
    Where's the mittens? Bring

    the sled! I ignore them as
    I think, Maybe the snow

    would like a drink. I run
    inside, get the skates, get
    all tidy, rush! I'm late!
    To the pond of frozen water.
    Where aside I start to
    wander. Wonders  are the
    world around. Just to
    think without a sound.
    Think of time, rush back
    home. Oh, how I forgot
    to comb! Get the tree
    the ornaments too! Christmas
    time, how I love you!



    *******

    I snapped a pic and feel it's important to include her actual writing:






    Later when it was just she and i, we talked about it more. She explained parts to me and concerns she had while writing it. She said, "I wanted it to be about movement."  I was like, UHHHH... YEAH.  It is.   It was just crazy.   I was telling Sean about it later and he joked, "you're like, 'would you mind taking a look at my poetry?'"   For real.   Anyway, she has some serious talent and I take immeasurable joy at hearing serious-effort writing by kids. This group is great and I'm still figuring out what it should be exactly but I'd call this meeting a success.

    Poetry is important to me.  I love to read it and I love to write it.  It might be my favorite thing to write, though it is often quite challenging. I told Sean, when writing that winter poem, "it's hard to sit here and write about the outside."  He told me Robert Frost's poem was very simple and just an observation and I said, "yes, but he was out in it. Nature begets poetry. It's different to be out in it, come in, and then write about it."  How can I draw on inspiration from within a past moment?  I mean I assume that's how he wrote it.  Pulling out a leather-bound writing pad with his ink pot and quill. Ok, maybe that's not what he did. Also I don't really know the writing implements of his time. {googling} Whoops, looks like he died in 1963.  You know, 3 years before modern pens were invented-- ha ha.  Anyway.
    To close, we're edging near the end of February and winter's still ok.  It sure feels hecka-long, though. One thing I do love is the view of the snowy mountains near me.  They are stunning and I took a picture while driving a few days ago. I wish I could get a decent pic without all the dumb houses but they're still the star of the photo.   And staring at the mountains staring at me, I felt inspired and wrote another little poem:


    Snowy mountain in its place
    Elusive beauty I cannot chase
    Of all the mountains I embrace
    I love most the winter mountain face.
     
    I'm pretty sure Ansel Adams took his best photos from his car.





    Tuesday, February 19, 2019

    The Valentines

    Well, Valentine's Day was a few days ago.  A couple of weeks ago Julian told me this year they'd be making and bringing their own boxes/receptacles from home instead of doing it in class.  THIS IS IT, I thought.  IT'S TIME. The chat went like this:

    JULIAN:  So we need to bring our own boxes for Valentine's Day. Do you think we could get that box at Walmart that we saw?

    JEN: WHAT! No! Julian, you have a dad! You have a Sean dad! This is what he is made for!

    And I then told him of all the times Sean has made me some crazy box or package or whatever. The year for my birthday he hid presents around the apartment in crazy shapes like pyramids that he made.  Or the time he made a cardboard carrying case for heart-shaped pizzas when we were attending a valentine's party. I reminded him of his cool dragon mask that he didn't even end up wearing Halloween night (I did, though). And to be quite honest, I have been looking forward to the day when he'd help with Valentine's boxes for a very long time. Pre-Julian time. 

    So Sean and Julian discussed and Julian decided on a cougar.  I came home the Saturday before Valentine's and saw Sean in the midst of the build and I sat next to him and just watched, totally in awe. The way he works the cardboard. I mean, I saw a little bit of the Titanic construction but this is just crazy.  How he strips off pieces, rubbing them back and forth on the edge of the table to make them more bendy. And how he's able to visualize it all. What? How?   It really is a thing to behold.  So here are the pictures I took while I sat and occasionally helped with the glue gun:



















    The best was when Julian first saw it take shape. He came in the room, gasped, and exclaimed, "I have a DAD!" for he finally, truly understood the great gift he'd been given.  I laughed, while Sean expressed confusion to such a statement. But Julian got it. He gets it and fully appreciates. The finished cougar:




    He had such a fun day and though we tell him repeatedly not to gloat, sometimes it just is so fun to have the cool thing.  I guess I just need to teach him how to gloat on the inside.  Because I love so much the things Sean chooses to create and I want to show them to the world.

    Moving on, Valentine's Day kind of crept up on me this year. Normally I'm in full-on valentine-making mode a couple weeks in advance but I just couldn't get it together this year.  But I pulled out some ideas and had a valentine-making party with some 10-11 year old gal pals of mine and I shall feature some creations of one in particular.  She was killing me with her heart people. So funny. I had to write down all of the specific titles she gave them.

    This particular girl is the oldest of six kids and I like to adopt her from time to time. She and Julian are pals with a similar sense of humor. We like to take her along when we do things. It gives us a friend and I think it gives her a break from craziness at home.  So this valentine she called, "depressed parent."
    "See, she's drooling a bit. She's got two babies at home."
     This next one was "I'm trying to get the nose dirt."  Her dad told her boogers were basically nose dirt. Like, what kid would make a valentine like this? It's just so funny to me.


    So good.

    Another thing I fully embrace is the galentines, in whatever fashion to whatever degree. I went to dinner with some gal pals and one card I found was so funny to me, I bought 3 of them.  So I will share it here because it's great.


    yaaaay PUNS! Also puns + swears= YAY. I also gave one to my parents because my mom likes to "accidentally" swear. JK Mom, but they loved it.


    It's still a new tradition but I want it to solidify and be the thing we do forever which is a romantic family dinner where we exchange cards and chocolate gifts and declare our undying love for one another.  This year's was great with a delish dinner made by Sean and chocolates galore.  Also, Julian wrote me the cutest message that honestly made me tear up a little.  Good work, small one.  You now understand the power of loving and appreciative words to a mother.   Valentine's week, I had been sweating a little bit trying to figure out what to give the lads and finally came up with some funny pictures and pulled it together in the last minute.

    First is Julian's.  I feel like since I'm taking kitty selfies on the daily anyway, why not turn one into a valentine to give to Julian a keepsake featuring those he loves most:


    Also I found a cool app that does cool things. 



    Next is Sean's.  I had taken a shower one night and and my hair was all fluffy and weird and I was like, maybe if I take an artsy pic and use my new app to make it funny or interesting? It wasn't a great plan. But then I saw it and remembered something funny between the two of us which is that sometimes my hair makes me look like specific people. One is Doc Brown from Back to the Future and the other is Andy Warhol.  I have this wig I wear on occasion-- ok, only on Halloween. But last year I wore it as we were trick-or-treating and friends who were out and about were like, "are you wearing a wig? I thought that was your hair."  And I thought, it's cool to wear a wig that's barely different from your own hair.  And it made me laugh because it's the same wig I wore when I went as Andy Warhol one year.  Anyway, saw the pic, made it black and white, behold, I turned into Andy, and a valentine was born:



    See what I mean?
    Image result for Andy WarholRelated image


    I also wrote some poems for them because that's what I do. Such a fun day. The excitement for valentine's day is so fleeting for a kid but I hope to keep it alive for as long as I can.  I was telling the boys if I were to rank holidays in terms of their "largeness" of the impact they have to the day.. the feeling of the day, I might rank them thus:

    1. Christmas
    2. Halloween?
    3. Thanksgiving/Valentine's tie. 

    And then I couldn't think of any other holidays we celebrate that remotely comes close.  4th of july? Kind of. Everything from May- September is celebrated by eating outside.   Oh, I forgot Easter. I love Easter. I'll have to insert that somewhere.   I was trying to explain to Sean why I love Valentine's Day so much and I said, "I think it's just things I love. Cards + poetry + chocolate + love."  And it's so simple. It's not a big to-do.  So yay for that. 


    End.



    Saturday, February 16, 2019

    The Weather Outside

    Weather is one of my favorite pastimes.  Thinking about it, talking about it, incorporating it into every aspect of my life.  It's everywhere.  It's everything. 

    One of my favorite weather hobbies is to scroll through the forecasts on my phone.  I have a handful of favorite places that I like to compare my own weather to.  I recently took some screen shots of my phone to illustrate.  Let us go on a journey together, to experience the different weather of various parts of the world. 

    First, my home. I left out the name of my town even though I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it in my blog already but just in case you were considering stalking me-- DON'T.  But let's just say I live in the northern half of Utah.  

                                  Northern Town, UT's weather looks like this right now:                                                      

    It's been cold, like in the 20's and then teens at night. Right now it's 29 and getting warmer. I believe the high today is listed as 41 which is balmy for this time of year and I'll take it. Plus, our 4,500 feet of elevation makes us almost an actual mile closer to the sun and you can feel it and it's awesome. In the winter in sea-level New York, I was always like, "what is.. 'suhn'?"   Not only did it always lie low, always obstructed, but it felt like merely an image projected onto the sky, not a real, living breathing ball of gas emanating anything whatsoever. Speaking of, naturally I have NY's weather on my app. Let's scroll:



    Midday right now with some freezing rain. Gross.  Even though deserts miss the rain, I do not.  I am really happy for "moisture" as they say around here-- let's just call it precipitation, everyone-- because last year felt like living in a dried up pit full of ash and broken dreams. But rain in the winter is such a bummer.  I'm surprised New York hasn't gotten more snow, actually. My friends keep me updated saying they've received a little here and there, but nothing like the usual unleashing.  It's still early though. Stay tuned. (You know I will)

    If I get to feeling a little bummed out about the winter, I might scroll to Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, Canada, a location I picked on the map that looked like a place the universe forgot but where people still live. (pop: 20,000) Check it:

                                                               

    Oh happy day, Thursday soars to zero! This is actually quite mild compared to what it's been the past few weeks. Highs in the -20's + (this is getting confusing). But again-- HIGHS.   I mean what is that even like?? So I feel better after I visit Yellowknife. I'll take my hot sun and above zero temps. 

    In an attempt to lean in to winter, I like to visit Hammerfest, a municipality in Finnmark County (now that's a little confusing) on the tippy top of Norway.  I like this one because it's just snowing all the time and I imagine it being just a winter wonderland in all the best ways. I think to myself, if I'm going to go do winter, I might choose Hammerfest. 

                                                            

    Sometimes I think about where some family members are living and lovingly feel a little jealous hate for them in Oceanside, CA, where the temperature fluctuates (-- I actually first spelled that with an 'x'! How embarrassing, ha ha) by 10 degrees max. Ok, more like 30 but still. The highs for the year in the 80's and lows in the 50's?  What a dream.

                                                       

     

    And of course, I can get a little more embittered and i may spitefully journey to another warm winter spot, like Phoenix, AZ, classically miserable in the summer and suddenly everyone's dream vacay in the winter:

    While living in NY I once visited Phoenix friends in March and it was sooo weird.  I felt like I'd jumped through a time portal, missing a very important part of seasonal progression.  Where did spring go?? Did i actually sleep through winter and miss it??  Still, it's weird but also wonderful.  I need more winter trips in my life. I mean, 71? What? Just, what.

    Next we do a complete flip of seasons, travel through a real life portal to another dimension and land in Sydney, Australia, which is smack dab in the middle of summer. Which is crazy. "Aaah, February.. it's so hot...mate."  is what I imagine locals saying.    


    It's nighttime there right now, of course, and the days are actually quite temperate.  Perhaps it's not reached its peak heat point? Or maybe it's that Sydney's on the coast?  So recently I scoured the country looking for a more outback-y kind of locale for something more extreme to add to my collection. That brought me to Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory of Australia, but more or less in the center:


    Now that's more like it.  Hot beating sun, bone dry and full of scorpions and scary outback animals.  I ask myself, well, Jen? Which would you rather have? your weather now? Or death hot Alice Springs where you'd be fighting off killer spiders and begging for a cloud.

    Speaking of death, I also have included in my weather repertoire Death Valley which I believe is officially the hottest place in the planet.  Well it might be, but not right now.  Looking real good right now, Death Valley.  Again: road trip, anyone?


    Oh, I just did some research (googling) and discovered the title of hottest place actually goes to Al Aziziyah, Libya with a recorded high temp of 136.4 degrees in 1922.  Maybe I should add that spot to my weather collection? I think I might. I've got nothing from Africa.

    And then, finally, at the end of my journey, when I feel like I'll probably not actually visit anywhere temperaturally significant, I console myself by saying, what Jen, you want to go to Tahiti? You don't want to go to Tahiti. Look, it just rains all the time. It's in its rainy season. Gross. Better stay where you are.

                                                       



    The End.