Monday, February 22, 2010

In Which I Have A New Niece And It Is Fake Valentine's Day

Well! My last entry was on Friday, 2/12. As I started posting that last entry, I got a call from my sister in Aventura, Florida, whose first baby was due on 2/24. "I kind of feel like crap," she told me. "Remember how you said I'd probably know I was in labor because I'd feel like there was a bowling ball in my pelvis and I'd have really painful cramps?

I said I recalled this.

"I feel like that," she said in a woefully tired voice.

I inquired as to whether she was having contractions. She said she wasn't sure. Then she yelped and hung up on me. Whereupon I started looking for flights to Florida. Now you have to realize that as annoying as it is to try and get a last minute flight on any given day, getting a last minute flight when a week's worth of flights is still being rerouted due to Snowmageddon, it is a long weekend because of the federal holiday on Monday, and people are doing weekend getaways for Valentine's Day is near impossible. I was cheerily informed by the customer service people that I could maybe possibly get a flight out on Sunday if the stars were properly aligned and I sacrificed a virgin and a pure white goat to the dark and nefarious god of airline travel. I said I'd think about it.

I cursed my niece's timing and began throwing random items in a suitcase large enough to be a body bag. I called my parents, my husband, and my friends to let them know that plan Watch AlmondBoy and AlmondGirl was in motion. My dad started looking for flights.

In the meantime, my sister's boyfriend called to inform me that they had swung by the doctor's office and the doctor timed contractions 3 minutes apart and that he was very, very sorry to be ruining my Valentine's Day again (more on that in a moment) but his daughter was definitely ready to be born and could I catch a flight like four hours ago and also - in his words - "[your sister] is vocalizing more than is perhaps usual for her."

My dad clicked in to say he'd found a flight for me and that my mother was on her way to watch the kids and he was coming to take me to the airport. I kissed the children goodbye, grabbed my suitcase full of heaven only knows what, and went outside to meet my dad. We got to BWI where, just after I made it to my gate, I received a phone call to let me know that my niece had arrived at 12:23. I heard her crying in the background. I was so touched that they'd called me first that I alarmed my fellow passengers by whooping and making high-pitched dolphin style noises.

My sister had wanted to give birth without meds, and her boyfriend proudly informed me that she had done so, and also that it was a darn good thing that had been her plan because she went from 4 centimeters at the doctor's office to 9 centimeters by the time they checked into the hospital 45 minutes later. I boarded the plane not long after, and took advantage of my business class seat by ordering several adult beverages and also stretching my legs all the way out and pushing my toes into the the wall at the front of the bulkhead. I read Valerie Martin's Mary Reilly.

A note about Valentine's Day: My husband and I have never once had dinner together on Valentine's Day. Something has come up every single year to thwart this. I don't really mind all that much because it's a fairly bogus holiday and I am not terribly sentimental, but it's sort of aggravating that our plans get screwed up every year. Though really, it's not even aggravating at this point. It's just funny. So we traditionally end up celebrating Fake Valentine's Day, which takes place within a few days of February 14th. But anyway, this year we had something really nice planned. I had a floor length red satin evening dress. We had dinner reservations somewhere nice. And because my husband is a banker, he is off on Presidents' Day. We had made overnight arrangements for the children. We were very excited but because of our history, when I called him to say that we would be missing Valentine's Day again, he was not terribly shocked. "Really," he observed, "I feel like we probably did the restaurant a favor. You know if we had actually made it there would have been a fire or a truck would have driven through the window or something."

So in any case, I arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport where the proud new father picked me up and drove me to the hospital. When I got to the room, my sister was there with my new niece and I am very relieved to report that she is a pretty newborn. Some aren't and one has to expound upon their dear little hands and sweet toes and brightly remark that the baby looks so alert. But this baby had a lovely round head and was a nice human color instead of looking like she'd been scalded.

My sister - as per usual - looked annoyingly beautiful. Here's me looking not annoyingly beautiful, but very happy (though exhausted from the crazy previous day) with a new little Earthling:

On Saturday I walked my husband through cooking dinner for the dinner party we had planned for the night before Valentine's Day. Reports are that he aced it.

I spent the first two days at my sister's apartment cleaning up for their homecoming, taking care of the dog, etc. There were several mishaps. Like the time I had to call a locksmith because their lock is weird and I locked myself and the dog out and discovered that they do not have a spare key. Or the time I set the smoke alarm off while teaching my sister how to make her own thin-crust pizza. I helped my sister with breastfeeding and pumping, I cooked and baked, I did laundry and took the dog out. We spent a lot of time on Skype. I got Mr. Marzipan a suit marked down from $1150 to $250.

I was christened Auntie M.

Their building is very nice (gym, pool, sauna, steam room, and - my favorite - a valet) and there is a beautiful canal that runs behind it. I liked walking under the palm trees and looking at all of the fancy boats, and watching the herons in the tall grass by the edge. I taught my sister how to use the baby sling and we all took walks. My niece seems to love fresh air. I sang The Big Ship Sails over and over for her. We took her out for a fancy dinner on Thursday, and she was a perfect lady. On Friday night, we threw a one-week birthday party for her. I cooked Shabbat dinner and made a chocolate peanut butter cake for dessert. Her daddy got to give her her first bottle of pumped milk. Because they know how practical and boring I am, they surprised me with a straightening iron I'd been coveting.

On Saturday, they dropped me off at the airport in time for my noon flight. "Now don't worry," I said. "Mom will be here in five hours." They laughed and we said our goodbyes and they took the puppy and the baby to the dog park. I went to check in for my flight which, for some reason, no one could find record of even though I had a confirmation number. I was extremely perplexed, as were they.

Until the ticket agent realized that I was at the wrong airport.

My husband had helpfully booked my return flight, but he booked it out of the Miami airport instead of the Fort Lauderdale airport. There was no earthly way I could make that flight. I called the airline in a panic and, after a few tense (and slightly hysterical) moments, they got me on a nonstop flight home six hours later. I felt awful, because my kids had been looking forward to greeting me at the airport, but this did mean that I'd get to visit some more. So, embarrassed, I called my sister and they came and got me. I baked them Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Of Guilt. I made some more pizza sauce.

Then I left for real. And when the plane landed, I realized my cell phone was dead. Kind people let me use theirs, and my dad picked me up and brought me home. When I got into the house, I saw that Mr. Marzipan had turned off the lights and lit candles all over the place. The coffee table was laid with three of my favorite cheeses, a bottle of wine, fresh berries, beautiful stone ground wheat crackers, and chocolate covered pomegranate seeds.

"Happy Fake Valentine's Day," he said.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In Which There Is A Vendetta

Okay, so it snowed another 22 inches on Wednesday. That''s a lot of effing snow. (My friend Eleanore recommends that I start measuring in fuck-tons rather than shit-tons. I am taking this under advisement.)

Mr. Marzipan was out shoveling thrice on Wednesday because the snow was flinging itself angrily from the sky with no clear intention of ever stopping. He wanted to stay on top of it. So he cleared our steps and sidewalks and, because the road hadn't been plowed, shoveled our cars out and the section of road in front of our house. He piled up the snow on the little spit of sidewalk where the mailbox is. Most of our neighbors did the same, so while the road wasn't clear, it was reasonably passable for those with larger vehicles.

My dad has a very large, heavy, snow-capable SUV. He loaned it to me yesterday so I could get the kids out of the house and let Mr. Marzipan get some work done since his office was closed. My mother and I were out shopping and so my dad had a coworker give him a ride home. The coworker agreed to swing by to pick Mr. Marzipan up at the bottom of our street and bring him to my parents' house for dinner.

When Mr. Marzipan left the house, he noticed that the neighbors across the street had shoveled their cars out as well. But instead of piling the snow out of the way, they dumped it in the middle of the street, blocking our cars in with about a four-foot wall of snow. They did this last time there was a huge snowfall. Mr. Marzipan spoke sharply to them at the time and they shrugged and said they didn't feel like hauling the snow anywhere else. Despite the fact that this is a clear case for justifiable homicide, we did not kill them at the time.

So after dinner at my parents' house, my dad drove us home. He got about halfway down our street when we could go no further because of a stuck car in front of us. My dad and Mr. Marzipan got out to help him. "I was doing all right," he said, "until I hit this WALL OF SNOW." He gestured at the glacier in front of our house.

My dad was stunned. He turned to Mr. Marzipan. "When you said they had shoveled snow in front of your cars, I didn't quite realize what you meant."

Mr. Marzipan looked grim.

I hustled the kids inside and got them ready for bed. Outside, Mr. Marzipan and my father had given up trying to shovel. My dad turned his SUV around and - because he is that kind of guy - found a suitable tow-line in his trunk. He hitched it to the guy's sedan and hauled him up our street and onto the main road. He returned to help Mr. Marzipan deal with the snow.

They started shoveling the snow back around the neighbor's cars. After a time, the neighbor noticed this and came out yelling. His wife shrieked from the steps that she was calling the police. Mr. Marzipan offered her his cell phone.

"The plow is coming!" our neighbor insisted. "Who cares if it's in the street?!"

Mr. Marzipan said that he cared considerably, as the county informed him that the plow might not be by until Saturday and he would like to go to work in the morning.

"Where were you this morning when we were all out shoveling?" his wife demanded. "Why didn't you help?"

"Because I did it yesterday," Mr. Marzipan explained with thinning patience. "That is why I am pissed."

"You should have knocked on our door," she insisted.

"Last time I did that, your husband said he didn't feel like moving it. So now I'm moving it. And I'm going to pick where it goes." He and my dad started shoveling again, to the background of a volley of curses from the neighbor and his wife.

The neighbor, underestimating how pissed Mr. Marzipan and Dad of Marzipan were, got into his car to back it up, theorizing that no one would dare shovel snow directly on his car. He miscalculated.

By sheer accident, my dad dumped a shovelful of snow on the car just as the neighbor got out. It covered him and then he pretty much lost it. He threw snow at my dad who - being about 7 inches taller than the neighbor - had a distinct advantage. Many shovelsful of snow were exchanged, with my dad being the clear victor. Another guy came out in a show of support for the snow-dumping neighbor. Ungentlemanly sentiments were exchanged.

Other neighbors, drawn by the shouting, emerged to see what was going on. Mr. Marzipan, realizing that this was going nowhere fast, pretty much invited Jerk Neighbor to either help with the shoveling or take his punishment like a man. After much grumbling, he decided to view Mr. Marzipan's offer as being somehow humbling to Mr. Marzipan and, with great condescension, agreed to help shovel. Other neighbors helped as well. The father of the family next door informed Mr. Marzipan and my dad that he was glad somebody finally had the balls to hand the guy's ass to him. (Well, he didn't say it quite like that because he is a very kind-spoken Pakistani gentlemen, but that was the gist of it.)

My dad then towed Mr. Marzipan's car around the corner in case of late-night mischief.

This morning, several neighbors came over to shake Mr. Marzipan's hand. "I called the county about the plow," one of them said. "They told me they wouldn't come back until people quit shoveling snow in the road."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In Which We Prepare For Snowmageddon II: The Re-Snowening

You guys. There is a metric shit ton of snow in Baltimore right now. (The metric shit ton, in case you are interested, is 240 pounds heavier than the imperial shit ton.) When I measured Sunday, I had about 34 inches of snow on my lawn. AlmondGirl spent the night at my parents' on Friday and the roads were so bad they couldn't get her home until Sunday afternoon. She reported that they gave her too much sugar.

Another 16-22 inches of snow is on the way.

I love snow. I do. I love the coziness of being safe inside and watching it come tumbling down from the leaden sky, piling up in improbable little puffs and softening the hard edges of the world. I love how clean and inviting it looks, bluish in the hollows and blinding in sunlight. I like knowing that people are being forced to slow down, staying in to play board games and bake cookies. I brought cocoa out for the neighbors while they were all out freeing their cars.

That said, things are getting a bit out of hand. My husband is developing a deep and abiding hatred for our shovel. If I bake anything else, I will have to be removed from the house via forklift come spring. My children will probably not be back to school until late April at this point. Facebook is alive with "OMG WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR KIDS WHAT THE HELL IS THIS CRAP???!1!!1!" (Today, the answer to that question is "bringing them to Marzipan's house." Six-kid playdate planned. I am making pizzas and will share the recipe in my next post.)

But in the spirit of fun, I will share with you these pictures.

AlmondGirl's Calvin and Hobbes style Drowning Snowman.

Mr. Marzipan shoveling. He is 6'5, for reference.

Where the sidewalk ends:

AlmondBoy and I say "to hell with this" and go in for cocoa.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In Which I Prepare For Snow And Valentine's Day

We're due for about two feet of snow this weekend. It's supposed to start tomorrow and last through Saturday night and I AM SO EXCITED! I love snow. This has been a very snowy winter indeed and I couldn't be happier about it.

Forseeing a possible snow-in, I'm going out tonight to pick up shoes for the romantical Valentine's evening Mr. Marzipan and I have planned supplies to make Valentines for AlmondGirl's classmates. I also signed up to make cookies for their Valentine's Day party, so maybe we'll bake cookies this weekend too. They freeze well. I use this recipe from Epicurious for my cutouts, and I think the subtle nutmeg flavor really adds a lot to the standard sugar cookie experience. I've also heard good things about this shortbread though. Perhaps two batches of cookies are in order...

Frosting-wise, I'll probably do standard royal icing. I like do to a piped edge and then flood the center before letting the kids decorate with various sprinkle.

Cookies! Snow! Arts and crafts! I'm such a child.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In Which I Am A Bit Sappy

I don't usually care for this sort of thing, but my friend Erin had this vid on her Facebook page and it spoke to me so deeply that I got teary watching it. I hope it speaks to you too. Share it with someone you love.

Monday, February 1, 2010

In Which I Am Annoyingly Indecisive

I am bad at making decisions. I am a waffler. And when those decisions involve sizable outlays of cash, I am even more indecisive. Mr. Marzipan and I both enjoy photography and have decided to go ahead and treat ourselves to a beginner DSLR now that the kids are old enough to be taught to fear death and dismemberment if they break the camera or touch it or look at it for too long with great intensity. Also because our current camera is suffering from a lingering malaise where it will intermittently not work/take shitty pictures/refuse to be on speaking terms with the computer.

We went to the camera store yesterday where I was highly overstimulated and made rodent-style squeaky noises and bounced a little on my toes. Mr. Marzipan eventually became tired of trying to prevent the children from doing the kind of damage that would wipe out our retirement funds. He took them to Trader Joe's while I beheld a Nikon display with the big starry eyes one generally associates with anime characters.

The nice man there took out a few models for me to play with, as though I don't haunt his store like the ghost of Ansel Adams. After a moment I set down the D5000 and cradled the D90 in my hands. "Pretty," I breathed, pushing buttons and listening to it whir in a soothing fashion.

"It has an 800 volt capacitron with a 550 gigahertz quantronium adjustificator," the man assured me. Something like that, anyway.

"Ah," I said, nodding sagely, sizing up the macro lenses.

We shared a moment of understanding before I handed the camera back. "Well, I'll be back once I decide," I promised him. For the third time. I wandered over to Trader Joe's where my son was drinking decaf and my daughter was stalking a kid who was hiding the Pirate Bear, so that she could then retrieve it and turn it in for a lollipop.

"Have we made a decision yet?" inquired my husband, eating the little chicken samples they had available at the sample station.

"Um," I said.

"I see."

My daughter returned with the Pirate Bear, looking triumphant. "I found him! And I'm getting two lollipops. One for each of us," she clarified, as her brother had begun to look mutinous.

We finished our shopping and then went to my parents' house for dinner. (Tacos.) The highlight of the evening was watching Mr. Marzipan and my parents play Outdoor Challenge on Wii. My mother is like a savant at Mole Stomper.

If I had a better camera, I'd've taken pictures to show you.