Family

~ The Hot Box ~

Yesterday was a whopper of a hot day here at Pop-pop’s beach cottage.  I mean it was a humid, fly-biting, feels-like-the-air-has-already-been-breathed kind of day.   Around 9 O’clock, I checked in on My Captain, (who is in week two of his beach chair shed project that he and his best friend Ty had started when Ty’s family visited earlier last week)…

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(remember he is on vacation….).

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and found him in the garage, planing wood.

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He was drenched with sweat.  Even his hat was dripping…and it was only 9 O’clock in the morning!

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It was already nearing 100 degrees (it got to 105 by Noon – which in Delaware is most emphatically NOT a DRY heat) and My Captain was out working in it.

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He’s the kind of guy who gets hyper-focused, in case you hadn’t noticed.  Anal Retentive to the extreme, he wouldn’t even stop to drink until I stamped my foot and unplugged his power cord.

Yes,  I really behave like that. I’m a tyrant. Don’t judge.

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So I took it upon myself to make him a work-oasis.  I put a beach umbrella out where he was working in the sun.  I took no less than three INDOOR (as in, not safely meant for OUTDOOR) extension cords and put a fan outside (I’m an incorrigible rebel, I confess.  I also rarely put the milk away when I get it out.) where he would be, and switched that puppy on to ‘High.’

Did it make a difference in the heat?

 

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Er, no.

But I bet he felt loved.

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He did eventually call “uncle” and gave it up around 3pm, when he got tired of the relentless, oppressive heat and biting flies.  We dragged him down to the beach, where he was still in relentless, oppressive heat, and was still sweetmeat for the biting flies, but at least he could go jump in the cool, rather shark-infested Atlantic for respite.

Ah, living the dream, I tell you.  Living the dream.

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He plans to finish the shed tomorrow…has to, really, because he signed up to work Overtime at the firehouse for Friday, and so will be cutting his vacation short. (Someone has to pay for my Lindt and Hershey Chocolate habits, for which no rehab has put even the slightest dent.)  As far as the shed project goes, that means putting the siding on, building and installing the doors, and painting any trim.  But he’s totally got this.  He’s a hyper-focused animal, My Captain.  It’s what makes him so good at his job as a fireman and FEMA task-force leader.  He’s always super focused on the mission!

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And we’ve decided to name this particular mission ‘The Hot Box’ in honor of the tortuous conditions he slaved under and survived!

Thank you, Beloved!!!

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~ A Critter Christmas Tree ~

Since our Christmas season this year is going to be rather abbreviated for various reasons, we had to squeeze a pound of Christmas Do-ings into an ounce of time this weekend.  We hunted for and cut down our Christmas Tree, 2014-11-29 14.13.04 pruned it, put it up, realized it was crooked, and put it up again, decorated it, and decided it was facing the wrong way, so we moved the whole ding-dang show until My Captain’s OCD was satiated.

AND, we went to two shows:  “A Tuba Christmas” and “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells.”

Don’t judge me.  I’m trying to entertain people from the ages of pre-teen through Senior Citizen.  It’s tough to make everyone happy.  Fortunately potty humor is our universal love-language, and we do just fine at venues like these. 2014-11-29 13.41.39 Hunting the tree on a crisp, cold, clear day was lovely, as it usually is every year. This year we actually forgot to bicker, and clearly we need to go back and have a do-over.

A Christmas tree hunt without some minor family squabble feels just plain weird. But without much ado, the tree was agreed upon. 2014-11-29 14.13.56 The children each got their try at cutting….2014-11-29 14.13.22…though to be fair, they might have been napping, it was hard to tell. 2014-11-29 14.15.28 And My Captain, as he does every year, had to finish the job. 2014-11-29 14.19.25 I supervise.  At my age and girth, it is my God-given right to just stand there and supervise. 2014-11-29 14.13.28 Critter found a couple of oddities this year at the Tree Farm.  Most notably was a dead possum at the base of one of the trees in the field. 2014-11-29 14.15.10 Because nothing says ‘Live Christmas Tree’ like a halfway rotted corpse of some unfortunate overgrown rodent.

But also, he found the tree tops of two Christmas trees that someone else had clearly trimmed and discarded right there in the field.

MOM!  I’ve got to have these!

Er, okay.  For curiosity’s sake, why?

I need to make a couple of Critter Cristmas trees!  They’d be like Charlie Brown Christmas trees, only REAL!

My Captain’s mind was way ahead of us.  Right after he got our precious family tree up for us to decorate, he took Critter to his work area, 2014-11-29 19.37.59 and proceeded to do manly things like glue with super heavy duty, oh-lord-don’t-get-this-on-your-clothes wood glue.   2014-11-29 19.43.12 and drill with a heavy duty, two speed, supercalifragilistic drill, 2014-11-29 20.03.30 and nail…gently, so you don’t split the wood!  And because Mama is watching, and you KNOW how she gets. 2014-11-29 19.45.12 And the next thing we knew, Critter bellowed, “Eureka!” and it was done.

Okay, there was no “Eureka!”   It was more like a “Behold!”  Or maybe it was a “Woot!Woot!”  I can’t really recall.  But what I DO remember is his face.  It reminded me of the Absentminded Professor right after he invented Flubber. 2014-11-30 11.00.21 But a Critter Christmas Tree is way, way, WAY better than any silly ol’ Flubber.

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~ What Kids Really Need ~

I took Varmint and Critter to see the movie Mr. Peabody and Sherman a couple of days ago, then afterwards stopped at My Captain’s fire station to visit.  We hadn’t been there long before the munchkins, who were fired up after eating precisely 5.356 pounds of gummy bears, each, during the movie, began to be raaawwwwthar annoying.  You know…..

“I’m not touching you!”

“Quit it!”

“I’m not touching you!”

“Quit it!”

“I’m still not touching you!”

“Mom! Tell him to stop!”

“Critter, stop it.”

“Mom! I never touched her!”

That kind of thing.  I was tired by that time of the day, and wasn’t in the mood to deal with it well.  I begged the guys on the shift to help corral the brats.

One of My Captain’s Shift’s Master Firefighters, Craig, has kids of his own, and knew exactly what to do.  He walked into the office, and said, “All right, kids, time to wash the truck.” And then he turned and strode confidently to the engine bay, without looking back, as if there were no question that his order would be followed.

Both kids looked at me, perplexed.

“Well, Go On!” I nodded.

They whined and griped, but reluctantly followed him.

I waited a couple of minutes…just enough to let Craig get them started, then snuck into the bay to catch this on film.

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They spotted me and glared at me.

I snickered.

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“This is so unfair!” one muttered.

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“We’re not even getting paid.” one whined.

Craig chuckled and pointed out spots they missed.

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And he kept them at it until it was done.

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And then, something wonderful happened.  Halfway through, the whining stopped.  You could see my brats start to take pride in how clean the truck was.

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Some of the other guys on the shift stopped and watched.  You could tell the kids knew they were being observed, and made a show of putting extra elbow grease in.

It was attention, for the right reasons:  They were helping.  Being productive.  Being selfless.  They felt like a part of the team, like their efforts mattered.

And they were proud of it.

THAT is what kids need.  They don’t need more toys or channels, or more Ipods and x-boxes.  They need to be put to work, so they can prove to themselves that they matter, and what they do matters.  You can tell them until you are blue in the face that it’s not what they say in life, but what they do that makes them, but until they actually do, DO, it can’t really register.

Master Firefighter Craig has several kids of his own….he knew what he was doing.  This wasn’t his first rodeo!  He turned their negative behavior around…morphed it into positive, self-image-building work, and, quite possibly saved their lives in the process.

Thanks, Craig!

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~ Usurper ~

Sit back and read a story of betrayal.  Brace yourself for a tragedy and travesty so disheartening, you’ll be left weeping bitter, salty tears.

The story revolves around Macaroni and Cheese, My Captain, the rest of my traitorous family, a prosthetic knee, and me.  You can tell just by those players that this will be a real seat-gripper, can’t you?

Understand this:  I love to cook.  I always have.  I also love to eat.  And almost more than those two combined, I love to feed.

And I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  Almost got cocky about it, really.  There are few problems in life I can’t solve with a decent Baklava.  People know if you are hungry, I can fix it.

Last week I had an arthritic knee taken out of my right leg, and had a new, prosthetic one put in.  It’s been a rough ride because I’ve had not one, but two infections after my surgery.  The knee is doing really well; but I’m still a sick puppy, and on more antibiotics than my stomach can handle.

Nausea has been my constant companion.

So not only can I not stand long enough to cook, I can’t really even enjoy the thought of food. This is the first time in my life for that, I assure you!

Enter My Captain.  If you have read any of my previous posts, you’ll know he is a Captain, Station Commander, Firefighter, Paramedic, Rescue Technician, former Task Force Leader, builder, athlete, outdoorsman, and general manly-man.  But even as varied is talents are, “Cook” has never really something he is known for.

Never the less, over this past week and a half,  he has really stepped up to the plate.  The entire week that I was in the hospital, he never left my side.  And the last few days that I have been home, he has only left my side to do the work that would normally fall under my responsibilities, like laundry, or helping me get in the shower, or preparing ice bags for me, or making sure the kids got to their scheduled events on time, or charting my medicine schedule, or, my personal favorite, putting my jammies in the dryer to warm them for when I got out of the shower. (Ladies, THAT is where you separate the men from the boys!)

Absolutely grateful for this man’s giving nature, the extreme challenge of the last 10 days has been mitigated considerably.  And everything on that list he has done in his own, inimitable, perfectionist way.  It’s been amazing.  I’ve fallen in love with him again, and again, this week alone.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday My Captain cooked dinner.  It was a special dinner – Critter had a birthday!  Critter wanted homemade Mac-n-cheese, fresh mangos, and a “BOB” (from Monsters Vs. Aliens) birthday cake.  Obviously I wasn’t up to the task.   But this was a big deal because Critter loves my homemade Mac-n-cheese.  So I tried to supervise (micromanage) the culinary proceedings until my nausea quite literally drove me out of the kitchen, along with My Captain’s constant, “All Right!  All Right!  I got it already!”

Finally, it was finished.  My Captain, my children, Grandma Jane and I sat down.  It began almost immediately.  “This is the BEST Mac-n-cheese I’ve ever had!”  and, “Wow, Mom has got to do whatever it is you do with this recipe!” and, “Can I have thirds?”.  Even my own mother, who has always had my back in life, got on the bandwagon with, “I don’t usually like Mac-n-cheese, Troy, but I sure would like the recipe for this.”

And me?  My contribution to the discussion?  “It needs salt.”

My Captain hasn’t smirked.  He hasn’t snickered, or rubbed it in.  He has been ever the humble gentleman about it.

And do you know why?

Sure, sure, it has something to do with the good man he is, but deeper than that, it is something far more powerful.

He knows that he has to sleep sometime, and stealing even a piece of my Kitchen Goddess Crown is a dangerously perilous marital crime!

I will say, though, it was tasty……

dammit.

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~ If You Can’t Beat ‘Em….~

Every year we decorate the Carved Wooden Moose outside the Little Cottage for various holidays.  On Christmas, he sports Ol’ Saint Nick’s red hat. He really is as festive as any 9-foot moose can be.

Last year, his red hat had a little bit of a mishap, and had to be thrown away.  (By mishap, I mean that I got so frustrated when I couldn’t remove the hat post-New Years, I ended ripping the ding-dang thing clean off of his head.   Apparently I have anger management issues….)

So this year I had the task of sewing the Moose a NEW Santa Claus hat.  My Captain promised he would help design it.  I loved this idea because whenever My (big, strong hunk of a) Captain does something as sweet and sensitive as pick up a sewing needle, I get all gushy and warm inside.  Last year, it happened when Critter’s backpack needed mending….Talk about CHICK magnet.  Good NIGHT!)

Where was I?  Right, My captain started to help designing The Moose’s new holiday hat. I was envisioning just making a ginormous cone hat out of red felt, and then cutting an “X” wherever an antler or ear might be.

This is NOT how My Captain’s Left-Brain personality works.

Before I knew it, he had blue-prints, schematics, and back-up logistic plans in effect.  He was prepared.  Newsprint for pattern making?  Check.  Tape Measure?  Check.  Sharpie?  Check.  Red Felt?  Check.

But My Captain did NOT plan on one eensie weensie, but ultimately IMPORTANT aspect of this process.

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Sir Monty of Stinky Butt.

Oh, sure, he LOOKS benign enough,

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He LOOKS like he is only being attentive….

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He LOOKS like he hasn’t an evil-mastermind within that wee fuzzikins head of his.

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And then…..The Butt Wiggle.

The Butt Wiggle means attack is imminent.

The Butt Wiggle means you’d better hurry up and finish what you’re trying to accomplish.

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Especially if you are working with Sharpie Pens.  On Cream Carpeting.  New Cream Carpeting that would be reason enough for your wife to beat you like a piñata if you got ink on it.

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My Captain tried in vain to ignore Sir Monty.  He endeavored to work around him.

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All that did was induce Monty to call in the reinforcements.  Silly Captain.  You thought this would be straight-forward.  It’s just a Santa Hat, after all.

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My Captain is a smart man.  Wise enough to know when he’s made a fatal miscalculation.  Humble enough to admit defeat.

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He picked up his tape measure, and joined the party.

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Of course, Sir Monty knew all along that this would be how it ended.

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Sir Monty: 1, My Captain: 0.

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