Family

At least we didn’t get shot 7

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For this former Washingtonian, the Denny’s in Parkland brings back floods of fond, maple syrup covered childhood memories. Whenever my parents felt like an evening out, the six of us would pile into our wood panelled station wagon and make a pilgrimage to “America’s Diner”. Before the waitress even had the chance to hand us menus, my father would order six $1.99 grand slams and six waters. ”It’s the best value.” he would sternly say.

As we cleaned our plates, I dreamed of one day working at Denny’s–earning a king’s ransom in tips through exceptional service and witty banter with my customers. Free pancakes and popcorn shrimp would obviously be an added bonus.

Over the years, the restaurant of my youth has declined–or perhaps it’s always been crappy and I never noticed. Either way, I still secretly love eating there, despite it’s rough demeanor and questionable breakfast meat.

All this is to say, when my sister sent me the following text last Friday, I wasn’t exactly shocked.

Deny's text message

Apparently, she wasn’t either. ‘Ish like this really isn’t out of the ordinary in our ‘hood.

Speaking of P-town, the next morning I found myself back in my old stomping grounds–my parent’s house, to be exact. I had made plans to take my mom to breakfast prior to attending a wedding later in the evening.

ME: So…where do you want to go eat, mom?

MOM: Let’s go to Denny’s!

ME: We can’t go to Denny’s…two people got shot there yesterday–it was a drive-by. Let’s go with something a little less violent.

MOM (completely unphased): Oh…okay. Wagon Wheel?

ME: Yeah. Wagon Wheel.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the hot spots of the 98445 zip code, the Wagon Wheel is a 24-hour Parkland institution that sells beer for $1.50. They’re famous for having delicious, chicken-fried breakfasts, and a large, obnoxious sign.

Unfortunately, we made quite a disappointing discovery upon rolling up to “The Wheel.”

They had up and gone out of business.

ME: Look mom…they’re closed. For good. Do you just want to go to Starbucks and get pastries?

MOM: No, not really. I’m still kind of in the mood for Denny’s. Is that OK?

Long pause.

ME: I guess so. I mean…if someone just got shot there, chances are it won’t happen again for at least another month or so–statistically speaking, our odds for survival are actually pretty strong.

MOM: Right. And Starbucks doesn’t have good bacon.

She had a point. Five minutes later, we found ourselves seated on opposite sides of a booth in an extremely crowded dining room. Apparently, the people of Parkland are more than willing to risk their lives for a three dollar omelet.

Being that this could potentially be my last meal, I decided to go all out with a short stack of blueberry pancakes (extra butter and syrup), hash browns, sausage links, scrambled eggs, and several cups of coffee. Mom had the same.

MOM: Why does coffee always taste so much better when you don’t make it at home?

ME: I know. This coffee is totally worth a bullet wound. So are these pancakes.

MOM: Especially the pancakes.

We wolfed down our food, caught up on our gossip, and complained about my dad and his ridiculous pants collection. We felt totally safe — like the drive-by shooting never even happened. I even worked up the courage to use the ladies’ room before we left.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, our bellies full with grease and simple carbohydrates, I breathed a sigh of relief.

ME: Well mom, we didn’t get shot.

MOM: At least not yet. Hey–wanna go to the Quilt Shop?

ME: Not really. I kind of needed a few things from Target.

MOM: Yeah…but we’re far less likely to get shot at the Quilt Shop.

She was right. Worse case scenario, one of us would get stabbed with a crochet hook–but those things aren’t that sharp anyway. We probably wouldn’t even need stitches…just maybe a tetanus shot.

With an argument like that, I couldn’t really say no.

Well played, Mom. Well played.

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Birthday Diva 3

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After demanding diamond earrings this year, and throwing a hissy fit after last year’s missing husband bicycle catastrophe, it’s probably apparent that I’m somewhat high maintenance when it comes to birthdays.

While I realize this isn’t the most appealing quality, it’s actually not my fault.

You see, my birthday diva tendencies are completely genetic.

Dad

The original birthday diva.

That’s right — my dad, who celebrated his sixty-fourth birthday earlier this month, is even worse than I am.

There is one difference worth noting. While my birthday demands tend to come with a hefty price tag, Mark wants all of his birthday glory free of charge.

Let me explain.

Last Friday night, our family went out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Coronado, California. While the food does cost over ten dollars a plate, there’s free bottomless chips and salsa, so Mark agrees to dine there. We had just settled into our seats when I heard the faint sound of singing. Gradually, the melody grew louder and louder, until the table next to us was surrounded by six different waitors singing the restaurant’s official birthday song. As the performance commenced, the birthday “Ponchito” was presented with a slice of ice cream cake that was quite literally the size of a small pony.

I tried not to make eye contact with my dad, but it was too late. The seed had already been planted.

“We should tell them it’s my birthday” he suggested.

“Dad,” I calmly responded, “you’re birthday was eight days ago.”

“So?” he shrugged. “I didn’t get free dessert anywhere else on my birthday…I might as well claim it now!”

I rolled my eyes and went back to my chips and queso. This universal rule about being able to transfer your free birthday dessert to a later date was certainly news to me.

By the time our waitor had returned to take dinner orders, it seemed Mark had forgotten all about the free cake. Unfortunately, the Ponchito sitting on the other side of our table just so happened to also be celebrating a birthday. As the second slice of pony-sized ice cream cake whizzed by our table, Marks eyes gleamed with envy and desire. Again, I did everything in my power to avoid eye contact.

“Hey,” he whispered, “When the guy comes back, tell him it’s my birthday.”

“But Mark, it’s not your birthday” my mom protested.

“How are they going to know?” he grinned. “I don’t have my wallet, remember?”

This was true. Dad’s wallet had been missing for twenty-four hours. Suddenly, I wondered if the missing billfold was a desperately elaborate scheme for free frozen dairy product.

Each time the waitor breezed by our table, dad begged us to let him know it was his birthday. After three failed attempts, Mark decided to take matters into his own hands.

“Excuse me,” he inquired while tapping the waitor’s elbow. “How far from your actual birthday does it have to be for you to get the free cake?”

We cringed. Scott buried his face in the chip basket out of pure shame. I swooped in to salvage what was left of this humiliating exchange.

“Sorry sir,” I nervously muttered, “His birthday was…um…yesterday, but well, we didn’t get a chance to celebrate until tonight. Do you think you could sing to him?”

Our server generously obliged. As he walked away Dad turned to me and winked, wearing the biggest smile I’d seen on his face in a very long time.

Twenty minutes later, his moment in the spotlight arrived.

While most people blush a deep shade of crimson when publicly serenaded with a Tex-Mex version of “Happy Birthday”, Mark chose to sit a little taller, savoring each wonderful second of complimentary birthday glory. He glowed with pride as he claimed the attention of the room, along with his very own slice of pony-sized ice cream cake.

I’d be lying if I said the largest portion of the pony-sized ice cream cake didn’t go to me. Us birthday divas have to stick together, after all.

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Fanny packs need love, too. 1

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Is it just me, or does anyone else revert to their childhood self when they get together with their family?

Unfortunately for myself (and my next of kin) my childhood self is…well…kind of a brat.

Late last night, Scott and I returned to ‘Sota after five days in beautiful California with my parents and younger brother.

My brother is stationed in San Diego, and scheduled to leave on his first deployment to the Middle East in just a few weeks. We wanted to make it down to California to see him off and spend some quality family time together.

Let’s just say we certainly got our family time in. Remember how we still hadn’t booked a hotel last week?

I think you can see where this is going.

Long story short, Scott, myself, both my parents and my brother ended up holing up at his two-bedroom apartment. There were five adults and only four bath towels.

Did I mention he has a roommate?

To say we wore out our welcome would be an understatement.

To say I grew slightly crabby after being in such close quarters with my parents?

Also an understatement.

A gross understatement.

Essentially, I fought with my dad for the majority of the trip. I’m certainly not proud of this, but anyone who knows both myself and my father is probably not all that surprised. Basically, we’re the exact same person aside from our gender, age, and spending habits.

Also? He willingly wears fanny packs.

Anyway…both my dad and I are extremely stubborn. We also both insist on getting our way. Unfortunately, my way is generally the polar opposite of his way, which results in some good old-fashioned head butting.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

(Most of the time.)

The funny thing is, I always regret our little spats after the fact. Yet during the actual argument…I seem to be totally on auto-pilot. It’s as if I’ve been transported back into my snotty, Old Navy-wearing, hormone-raging, sixteen-year-old self, and am completely incapable of acting like an adult and simply biting my tongue, no matter how hard I try.

Also…we fight over the silliest things. There was literally a fifteen minute debacle regarding milkshakes.

So, while the trip was a total blast, my sassy tantrum-throwing ways certainly put a damper on things. I really feel terrible about squandering the last visit before Leif deploys by engaging in petty squabbles and making snide remarks towards my dad.

I realize this blog is typically a place of jest and facetiousness, but today, I’m being one-hundred-percent serious– please take every opportunity you have to treat your family with love, respect and care.

Even if they do willingly wear fanny packs and have horrible taste in milkshakes.

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‘Til Compost Do Us Part

‘Til Compost Do Us Part 6

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Yesterday, Scott and I celebrated 5 years of wedded bliss.

Scott and Katrina wedding photo

Although if you average everything out, it’s technically been about three years of wedded bliss, a year and a half of “meh”, and six months of “If-you-even-look-at-me-right-now-there’s-a pretty-good-chance-I’m-going-to-shank-you-with-the-toilet-scrubber.”

Please tell me I’m not the only married person who feels this way.

Five years later, no one has actually followed through on the toilet scrubber threat, so I figure we’re in pretty good shape. Also…toilets get way cleaner when you scrub them while you’re angry.

Just saying.

Scott’s family was in town this weekend, so we didn’t have our traditional romantic dinner, which was fine by me. I lucked out with some pretty awesome in-laws, and spending our anniversary with them was a total blast.

Spending our anniversary cleaning rotten compost juice from the trunk of our car?

Not a total blast.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Scott and I offered to host the family for a day of Smalltown-style fun on Saturday. By the time everyone arrived, our compost bin was practically bursting at the seams. Living in an apartment means we’re forced to drive our bin nearly ninety minutes to Scott’s dad’s house whenever we need a place to legally empty it. As we were about to cook two large meals for twelve people, an empty compost bin for scraps would have been ideal. Yet despite our imperfect circumstances, the King of Composting was somehow able to work his magic, pressing the compost down to make room for eight more pounds of organic material. By the time we drove it to his dad’s place the next morning, it was packed tighter than Times Square on New Years. I swear…the thing had to weigh at least 30 pounds–carrying it down the stairs was like a smellier version of lifting weights.

Things were complicated by the fact that before stopping at Scott’s dad’s place, we drove two hours to watch him compete in a mountain biking race. I recall hearing a thump in the trunk of the car about fifteen minutes into the drive, but assumed it was one of the mammoth salad-filled Pyrex bowls we had packed to share for lunch. Fortunately, the bowls are sealed with some pretty serious lids, so I didn’t think twice about one of them potentially falling over.

Five hours later, and about fifteen minutes from my father-in-law’s home, Scott made a critical observation.

“Something smells like…vinegar.”

“Yeah,” I replied, “I noticed that, too. Uh…is it your feet?”

(If by some off-chance, you saw two adults–one of whom was driving–and a small child heading north on I-94 while smelling each other’s feet at approximately 2:30 pm yesterday, now you know why. The fact that we didn’t get pulled over is nothing short of astounding.)

While I’m happy to report that everyone’s tootsies smelled fresh as daisies, I’m not so happy to say that the culprit was about forty ounces of putrified compost juice.

Putrified compost juice that had baked in the trunk of our car for approximately five hours in 100 degree heat.

Putrified compost juice that, by my estimation, came mostly from some rotten tomatoes and egg shells that were about three weeks old.

We stood there scrunching our faces, trying not to breathe, and wondering how in the world we were going to undo this extremely unfortunate organic tsunami. Finally, I broke the silence.

“Hey, Scott…can you get brain damage from a smell?”

(In case you’re curious, brain damage smells as if Satan himself had rolled about in a vat of cream cheese and cigarette ashes before descending in to the heat of hell and working out for seven consecutive days without so much as a shower of single swipe of deodorant.)

As everyone ran off to play volleyball and prepare lunch, Scott and I were tasked with cleaning up the “compost gravy”. He assured me neurological damage from the odor was out of the question, but I wore a protective mask as a precaution anyway.

Happy Freaking Anniversary.

While I certainly would have hoped to avoid the great compost flood altogether, I’ve got to say, Scott and I made a pretty good team. He removed the lining of the trunk, hosing it down with soap and water, before laying it out to dry in the sun. I threw all of our reusable grocery bags in the washing machine and sanitized the dozens of pieces of contaminated Tupperware. Together, we wiped the rancid sludge from the nooks and crannies of Jolie’s pink dog crate.

We didn’t fight, we didn’t blame, we didn’t even complain. Without any verbal communication whatsoever, we divided and conquered. We didn’t rest until the trunk smelled less like cream cheese Satan, and more like a Febreeze overdose.

We were a team.

A really good team.

As I sat on the front porch, vigorously scrubbing the compost bin with a toilet brush, I wasn’t even halfway tempted to shank my compost obsessed husband with it…partly because I was sure it would be really efficient way to give him MRSA, but mostly because I genuinely love the guy.

Finally removing my protective mask, I started thinking about the nine years I’ve spent with Scott as my boyfriend and husband. Suddenly, I realized the last sixty minutes had been one giant, foul smelling metaphor.

Sometimes, life is a lot like a lot like a compost disaster in the trunk of your car. It sucks, it smells like Satan’s B.O., and it seriously tests the boundaries of your sanity.

But it’s a whole lot easier to handle when you have your best friend by your side.

Love you, Scott.

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