Monday, December 22, 2014

It's All Greek to Me

Friday was "Family Movie Night," last night was hamburger out night, and tonight was Greek Night,.
When we arrived at Tom's, Uncle Norm was busy reading a book of Greek Heroes and Legends to Brianna, who was sucking on a blue cheese stuffed Greek olive.

(She didn't like it much)

Elsewhere in the room, Auntie O was reading to Lacie

Meanwhile, Daddy was outside showing off his gyro to Uncle Joe.

We were all convinced he couldn't put what was essentially a meatloaf on a spit and roast it over the BBQ, but he proved us wrong.

Soon it was time for the movie, Disney's Hercules.  The girls dressed in togas and sandals...

...Bri got her Pegasus stuffed animal she bought at Disneyland...

and they settled in with their gyros and dolmas (the gyros were a hit; the dolmas were not).

In truth, the movie was pretty stupid and I was the only adult who stuck it out to the end.  The rest retreated to the patio to watch football on Tom's outdoor television set.

We all were fading fast, so as soon as the girls went to bed, we headed back to Alice Nan & Joe's to collapse ourselves.

We have had 3 nice days with the girls and know that tomorrow Uncle Ned will arrive and they won't even know we are there any more.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Kyle's Kitchen

 We had a text message from Tom, suggesting that we meet at Kyle's Kitchen for dinner.  Kyle's Kitchen is a new burger place that just opened.  

The place opened on Tuesday, so we were part of the shake down cruise.  The philosophy around this place is so cool.  Kyle is a special needs student at Brianna's School (Mountain View Grammar School).  Brianna says he's in the 5th grade. He was the inspiration behind this new restaurant concept.  The menu says that Kyle's favorite foods are cheeseburgers and salads, but his real passion is meeting people.  He is there at the front door, handing out menus when you arrive.

The menu also explains that...

It's all set up for kids, with a whole wall a chalkboard and a cup of chalk there for the kids.

Kyle's siblings are there in the restaurant and other little kids were there when we got to our booth.  We had something like five little girls playing under our table!

The burgers, served on freshly baked brioche buns, have great names like Cheesy Pig, Makin' Blue Bacon, Ahi in my Body, etc.  Burgers start at $5 and if you are adding anything to the classic burger it's an extra $1 (my Cheesy Pig was $6).  

Kyle's Favorites are marked with a KF (his favorite burger is a Bacon and Egg burger).
We all decided to have dessert, mostly because Joe LOVES ice cream sandwiches.

Brianna got both a mint chocolate chip milk shake and a taste of Joe's ice cream sandwich.

We got home from dinner shortly after Norm and Olivia arrived and we were all in time to see the 49ers blow a huge lead against the Chargers.  I'm glad that hadn't happened until AFTER Tom and Laurel went home.  You don't want to be around Tom when the 9ers are losing.

Speaking of which, when the niners were ahead 35-21, Tom asked Bri what the chargers needed to win tie the game.  She thought a long time and finally said "14" and then when Tom kept looking at her, she finally said "Oh!  Two touchdowns."

Other kids have new math or common core or whatever you call it, Bri is learning her math via football.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

I Suck

Around about 3:30 this afternoon, I decided that I suck at being a grandmother. By 9, I was feeling better about it.

Tom asked if we could pick Bri up after school and "entertain her" for the afternoon, which we were thrilled to do.  He gave Bri several suggestions of places she might want to go. She chose the bowling alley, which also has arcade games.

She was definitely in charge.  She knew the drill, knew where we had to go to get everything.  I decided that bowling with a cane was probably not a good idea, so I sat it out and Walt, Alice Nan and Bri played.  Bri was very solicitous of us old people and was careful to give Alice Nan and Walt instructions in how to hold a ball and how to better their score by throwing differently.  Of course in the end, it was Bri with the high score.

I should add parenthetically that when it was Bri's turn, a barricade popped up, making it impossible for her to get a gutter ball.  Neat way for kids to learn without getting depressed about the number of gutter balls they get.  (Though I should mention that Bri needs to learn that you don't throw a bowling ball overhand!)  Alice Nan was scoreless for 3 frames, but eventually came to life and nearly got up there with Walt. But Bri won anyway.

Then it was time for arcade games.

She was a whiz, running from token buyer to one game after the other, at top speed racking up points to be used for prizes later, all the while to the background noise of music and kids screaming. Alice Nan (who sometimes escorts Bri places and has done this "grandma' bit more than I have) and Walt were keeping up with her, I was fading fast.

I left to get some quiet and to visit the ladies room.  On the way back, I stopped to check with Tom that it was OK to take her to the yogurt shop across the street (since it was nearly 5 p.m. and I didn't want to spoil her dinner) and to drop a text to Char saying "I suck at being a grandma." I realize I had hit the wall and Bri had barely broken a sweat since we left school several hours earlier.

We went across the street to get yogurt.

While we were there, we were noticing the security camera hanging on the wall.  Walt, Alice Nan and Bri went out to check it out and have me take their picture off of the TV monitor.  Then Bri whispered to me that I should be sure to take her picture.  She disappeared and I snapped her picture when she appeared on screen.  When I looked at it, I realized what she was doing.

She is growing up fast!!!

It made me happy when Alice Nan told Bri she would not be going back to her house to do "family movie night" and when Bri asked "are Grandma and Grandpa coming?" and learned we were, she yelled "YAY!"  I think we are finally friends.  We had a great chat over yogurt about her "Passport" program that I bought for her, where she learns about a different country each month.  Best conversation I've had with her ever.

We we went to Family Movie Night.  First Bri showed me her "Advent Calendar," a program I buy each year from Jacquie Lawson and have sent to Tom.  Very, very fun activities to do each day in December and Bri has really made the most of them.  we must have spent an hour decorating ornaments, wrapping packages, and making vases of flowers to decorate the living room (which is the home page of this program).
Movie Night was The Santa Clause and I loved more than the movie, watching Tom watching his kids watch the movie!

I'm still not sure what Lacie was supposed to be.

We stayed until the girls had taken their baths and told us good night.  Bri gave me a big hug without being asked to and both of the girls at some point during the movie came to lie in my lap.  So maybe I don't suck as much as I felt I did earlier in the day!

All in all, a really wonderful day with Brianna (and shorter time with Lacie).

The Bowling Team
(the one in the middle was the winner)

Friday, December 19, 2014


Performing in two shows a day is intense for seasoned actors, for first graders in their first play it downright incredible...especially when they are two different plays performed on the same day.

We left Salinas at the crack of dawn and were in Santa Barbara with enough time for Walt to get in a nap before it was time to go to Bri's school.  The first play was just Bri's class and they were singing little songs about the people in our communities who help us.  Folks like chefs, plumbers, mailmen, dentists, veterinarians, the ever popular garbage man, and many others, each with its own song and dance.

What amazed me about this production (other than it being so irresistibly cute!) was the incredible number of lines, lyrics, and choreographed steps the kids had to learn--and they did a great job!  Bri was in several of the fact, so many that she had more props than anybody else and dropped everything on her way to the stage before the show.  Four girls jumped down and helped her up.

Some of the kids were better than others...and the little girl in pink on the right side of the stage was a real pistol.  She was even smaller than Bri but had just great stage presence and enunciated very clearly.
When the show was over, Bri went back to class and the rest of us returned to Alice Nan's, where Walt took an hour nap and I took a two hour nap.  Then it was time to go back to the school for the grammar school production of The Music Man.

It was a 45 minute Music Man with a female Harold Hill, but by God they did it.  They had almost all the songs, abbreviated, a lot of the dialog, some unintelligible (since I know the show inside and out I knew what they were saying).  Some songs, like the opening number on the train were spoken, not sung, but it worked.  They eliminated the school board (don't think it was possible to get a grammar school barbershop quartet!) And it was just a darling little show.

I told the director...

(I didn't get his name) ... that he was either insane...or brilliant!

He tells me that their next show is going to be Annie.  God help me!

So we've done what we came to do...and it was worth every mile Walt had to drive to get here!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sleepless in Salinas

It is 11:30 p.m. and we have just arrived at the Best Western in Salinas, the home of the John Steinbeck Museum (which we saw a couple of years ago).  As we dragged ourselves through the lobby doors, I expected to be welcomed by a Christmas display, but apparently this motel's only acknowledgement of the holiday season is a lonely little poinsettia plant on the front desk.

But the woman at the front desk (it is her first night working) was very pleasant and in no time at all we had arrived at our 2nd floor room and were fighting over who got to use the bathroom first (I won because (a) Walt is a gentleman and (b) I was more desperate).

When I got inside, I remembered this place.  This is the hotel with the small bathroom where when you sit on the toilet, you look at yourself in the mirror directly opposite.

This bathroom was obviously designed by a man who doesn't have to check himself out when he stands to pee. There is nothing less appealing than the sight of yourself, in all your glory, flab hanging off the sides of the toilet while you're doing your business.  Definitely not a pretty sight.

We are here because tomorrow is the big day.  Brianna is appearing in not one, but two plays, one in her class at 1 p.m. and the other, The Music Man, at 7 p.m.  Don't know where that is, and since this is the grammar school version of the play, I can't wait to see how they adapt it.

I think I have heard that Harold Hill is played by a girl, which should be interesting.  Oh how I wish Paul were here to see this!

In a perfect world, we would have left this morning and been in Santa Barbara in time for dinner, but it is not a perfect world and Walt had a meeting he could not miss at 5:30.  So rather than try to drive all night and arrive, if we were lucky, at Alice Nan's house at 2 a.m., he decided we would drive to Salinas, about 3 hours away (we actually made it in 2 hours and 55 minutes), and we would spend the night here, leave at the crack of dawn and get to Santa Barbara in time for the classroom play.

We listened to David Baldacci's "The Target" on the way down, but I fell asleep and missed about 4 chapters of it.  When I woke up, totally different people were the focus of the story than the ones I had been listening to!

It was a very busy day.  I insisted on making two more batches of cookies, which I needed like a hole in the head, but 4 types of cookies just didn't make an interesting enough looking plate. (Actually one of the 2 new batches was a second batch of chocolate chip cookies, since we had gone through the first batch, what with eating them and giving them away).

I got all the rest of the Christmas packages wrapped and into boxes for transporting to Santa Barbara.
I also had to get my mother's meds over to her, so she would not run out while we were gone.  Ed and his sister-in-law were there visiting.  I had a nice visit with them, though my mother seemed kind of vague, but I didn't take time to worry about it because I had to get home.

While I was going to Atria, the plumber (our friend Scott) was attacking the bathroom sink.  Walt figures that my earring from the girls. which fell down the sink when I was trying to put it on, is now worth about $100.  I will never take it off again.

I certainly did not leave the house a show place, but I did at least get up our "Christmas tree" so things wouldn't look so stark for Ashley and David.

(This table was piled high with stuff this morning, so I feel very good about this!)

But now that we are actually on the road, there is nothing more I can do.  If I forgot it, it didn't get done and the world won't end.  I can finally take a long cleansing breath, which my new therapist recommends for calming myself down.  I haven't had time for short panting breaths, much less long cleansing breaths this week, so maybe now I do.

And tomorrow we watch Bri on stage.  I know it is going to be the cutest thing ever.  Maybe cuter than T-ball.

Walt pointed out that there were fast food joints near here that were still opened (since we had no time for dinner) and asked if I wanted a hamburger. I chose to sit here and write this instead, so I could get to sleep sooner, which I will now do!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Spirit is Willing...

One thing you learn about getting old(er) is that no matter how much you want to do "stuff" and think you can do stuff, there is a finite energy reserve and it just ain't what you had at 30...or 40...or 50 or, heck, even 60.

I am always complaining about what my mother does not do and how she does not participate in any of the activities at Atria and how she says that she's earned the right to do nothing if she doesn't want to.
If I'm not careful I'm going to start sounding just like her any day now.

We leave for Santa Barbara tomorrow night, and Ashley and David move in to take care of the dogs.  I had grand plans for what I wanted to do to get the house ready for them, but I also wanted to bake Christmas cookies, had laundry to get done, packages to wrap and a host of things that sneak up on you when you lose the last 3 days before the holiday itself.  

We will be celebrating Christmas with Tom and family, Ned and Marta and Walt's sister and brother and their respective spouses on the 22nd, so we can drive home on the 23rd to be here to finish up Christmas preparations on the 24th and "have Christmas" with my mother on the 25th...and then do it again the next night when Jeri and Phil arrive.

I got up this morning filled with good intentions which included a trip to the bank, a trip to the store, a trip to visit my mother, and baking at least two more batches of cookies. That would, of course, include cleaning the kitchen between batches (Walt has been wonderful about keeping the dishwasher emptied).  I got some packages wrapped in the morning, then we did the bank and the supermarket and then I went and took a poinsettia to my mother and visited for an hour.  

I figured that after I got home (at 3:30) I could get a batch of cookies made, dinner made, and then get the house straightened up (including removing a thick accumulation of dust on everything), a small golden tree put up on the dining room table, and the rest of the packages wrapped.  The big ones, for the girls.

Yeah, it would be a long day, but I've done it before, I could do it again.

Problem was that my body just wouldn't move after a certain point.  I had to sit down to regroup several times and each time I sat down to rest my body it was for a bit longer time.

So here I am at 11 p.m., writing this (as my latest break to rest my back).  There is absolutely no strength left in my arms and I can barely stagger to the kitchen. Even my butt aches. The cookies are now finished, the utensils and pots and pans are in the dishwasher and now I can finish wrapping presents and straightening up the house.

But I have hit the wall.

Five years ago I could have done this.  Tonight I cannot.

And so I understand my mother, who is, of course, old enough to be my mother, when she says that she just doesn't want to move out of her chair.

But we had a good visit today.  Today was one of those "I'm old...why am I here?" days, but we got to talking about her death and how she preferred to die.  I managed to make a lot of jokes about her death.  I'm getting really good about death jokes, which sounds morbid, but it's something that makes her laugh.
For example when she worries that she might die while I'm not in town, I tell her that if she feels she is going to die she should quickly run out into the hall waving her arms and yelling "I'm dying! I'm dying" so that someone will notice and be there so she doesn't have to lie on the floor for a long time.

When she worries about what will happen to her body if she dies when I'm not here, I tell her I've arranged with the chef to hang her in the meat locker until I get home.  She giggles at that too, but it does stop her concerns about dying when I'm out of town.

I just hope she doesn't die tonight because if they called from Atria, I'm not sure I have the strength to drive over there.  Just put her in the meat locker and I'll be there in the morning....

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kissed by the Rain

The parking lot was dotted with a rainbow of umbrellas, bobbing up and down as patients rushed toward the entrance of the medical office building.

I had come to Kaiser in Vacaville to meet my new therapist.  It was time.  I knew when I found myself sitting in the car at Atria a week or so ago screaming at the top of my lungs that I needed to Seek Help.

The drive down to Vacaville had been scary.  It had not been raining all that much when I left home, but by the time I got to the freeway, it was pouring, the kind of pouring where the rain coming down combined with the rain being splashed up by the cars in front of me made it almost impossible to see.  It was definitely a white knuckle drive.

I had not been to the Vacaville Kaiser facility before and I learned that our GPS is so old that I could not put in the address because it did not recognize the street.  But it's a big facility sitting out in the middle of nowhere, so how hard would it be to find it?

Well...more difficult than you would expect.  Yes, there was the big complex but it was unclear where I was to go.  I was supposed to be in Building A and there were four buildings there.  I went looking for "Quality Drive" and couldn't find it, so turned in at the last entrance, the Emergency room.  There was a big map there so I could get an idea of the layout of the place.

With my unerring sense of direction (I am always wrong), I managed to find the parking lot farthest from Building A.  But at least I had a parking space.  As I got out of the car, in the rain, people rushed by me, huddled in their parkas, bent over with hoods on their heads.

I had not worn a coat.  I was in a long sleeved shirt, slacks, and my ubiquitous Birkenstocks (in retrospect, perhaps the Birkenstocks were not a wise decision!). Of course I had no umbrella.

As I walked to the building (I didn't know yet that I was a very long way from Building A) I was loving it.  Yes, it was raining.  A moderate amount, but it was delightful.  I have always loved the rain and we have had so little of it in the past three years, I was happy to enjoy every drop of it and to, as Langston Hughes said, Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

It wasn't cold and I felt sorry for those people trying to hold their coats close to their bodies, and fumble awkwardly to get the hoods over their heads.  It wasn't bad at socks didn't even get very wet, and I was loving the opportunity to feel the rain on my face.

One of my fondest Christmas memories of my childhood is sitting in the window seat of our flat, with the Christmas tree behind me, and watching the rain falling outside, the cars struggling to get up the hill and people holding onto their umbrellas and negotiate the steep slope of our hill.  It is a memory that makes me feel warm and cozy.

I love lying in bed and listening to the rain on the roof and splattering against the windows.  Again, it is an experience that makes me feel warm and cozy, though we have very little opportunity to experience that these days, so I'm loving this storm and glad to see it is continuing for a couple more days.

It turned out I was parked near Building B and had to walk the distance of that building, across a courtyard (more chance for rain) and the distance of Building A, and then with my unerring sense of direction, turning the wrong way and walking the whole distance of the building before realizing that the station I wanted was behind me.

My new therapist is named Debbie and I love her.  Not quite my age, but no young thing either, zaftig, practical and very easy to talk to. She is putting me back on an anti-depressant and getting me to try meditation. She also had some practical ideas for dealing with my mother.

I see her again in January.

It had stopped raining by the time I went back to the car, so I missed another walk in the rain, but at least the ride home was less scary.