What do fruit flies, novels and houseguests have in common? (Answer: This blog post)

I actually did a search on Google for blog topics.  That’s what it’s come to.  I have nothing to say.

Time to wrap this blog in bubble-wrap and old newspaper and shove it into a box. Seal it up tight with packing tape.  Put it in a corner of the garage.

Well.  Not really.  This blog isn’t going anywhere.  But it’s sitting in a rocking chair with an afghan over its lap.  At least that’s how it seems some days.

So since you’re here, let me just bring you up to date.

  • All four of my kids have a cold, but they have spaced it out, so one is at the lingering-cough stage, one is at the sneezing stage, one has an earache and one is dizzy and worn out.  My husband and I are–so far–avoiding this one.
  • I am obsessed with reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year.  It’s a giant book.  (And best of all, I bought it at a thrift store for $3.99.)  I am thinking of sneaking it into the bathroom when I got upstairs in a few minutes–even though it’s 12:30 AM.  Why do I have to do stuff like work and cook and clean and sleep when there is a good book to read?  As my 12-year old would say, “That’s not fair!”  (I swear, I hear her say that phrase more than any other.)
  • I finally hung a couple of oval mirrors in the bathroom.  The giant mirror fell almost two months ago.  Since then, we’ve been getting ready by stooping to look into small mirrors propped by the sinks.  Very unsatisfactory, but for some reason I am slow to solve these petty problems.  I plan to create an entire “mirror wall” in that bathroom.  Check back in a year and we’ll see how much progress I’ve made.  One must not rush into these things.
  • We survived the heat wave.  This morning, while driving my son to his college class, I noted that the temperature was 66 degrees.  It was downright chilly.  I loved it.  (The warmth returned all too soon–it was 80 in the house by the afternoon.  Boo.)
  • I went with a friend to hear Benny Hester and Kelly Willard in concert last week.  It was the first time I’d ever seen either one in concert and it was simultaneously disappointing and super fun–it was disappointing because Kelly Willard did not sing ANY of the songs she’s written and recorded over the years.  (I don’t understand this.)  But it was super fun because Benny Hester and his band were excellent.  I felt like I had gone back in time to the eighties when his music was on Christian radio.  (Is it still?  I don’t know.  I barely ever listen to Christian radio.)  Anyway, time warp for sure, sitting in that “Christian coffee house,” listening to that music.
  • Tomorrow a friend of ours will arrive for a two-night stay at our house.   He’s just stopping here on his way overseas.  His pit-stop means I will spend my morning Swiffering up dog hair and gathering dishes and cups from every room and returning items to their rightful homes (for instance, that white board needs to be relocated to my daughter’s room.  And so on and so forth.)

And finally, you should know that the fruit fly population has dwindled to almost nothing.  An occasional fruit fly hovers in my line of sight every once in awhile.  I’ve put the brand new bananas I bought into a Zip-loc bag to prevent this whole situation from flaring up again.   I randomly clap flies out of their flight paths from time to time.

Just for kicks, here are the topics HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator came up with for me using the nouns “fruit flies,” “novels” and “houseguests.”

1)  The history of fruit flies

2)  10 Quick Tips About novels

3)  The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on houseguests

4)  7 Things About fruit flies Your Boss Wants to Know

5)  14 Common Misconceptions About novels

 

 

 

Teeny tiny dream

The week promises to be busy, as usual.  My older sons have an appointment in the morning at the DMV to get driving permits.  The other kids have school, of course.  My husband will drive one to school and I have carpool duty picking up our daughter and four other kids. One of the older kids has a college class in the afternoon, then works later in the afternoon.

And I suppose everyone will want to eat dinner.  Again.  Every night it’s the same thing:  “Mom, what’s for dinner?”  SO MONOTONOUS.

Listen, I’d like to know, too.  But I’ve been preoccupied by fruit flies.  Obsessed, even.

For about a week, I’ve been killing hundreds and hundreds of fruit flies in my effective concoction of red wine vinegar mixed with a drop of dishwashing liquid.  I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from.  We had no more fruit sitting on the counters.  I’d taken out the trash, washed out the bottom of the compactor.

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Yet after all that, one morning, a cloud of tiny flies greeted me in the kitchen.

I went a little berserk that day, slamming my palms onto the cabinets, smashing unsuspecting flies.  I actually got a bruise.  I scared my dog by suddenly clapping my hands for no apparent reason.

At last, I realized that something ugly lingered inside the trash compactor, so my son helped me figure out how to get the crusher-thing to come down.  Sure enough, there was . . . well, ick.  I cleaned it out and the fruit flies have lessened, though they haven’t quite disappeared completely.

Some people are out changing their worlds.  I’m merely trying to keep fruit flies from copulating in my kitchen.

September 11: I remember Thomas Kuveikis

This originally appeared on my blog on September 11, 2006.  I’m reposting it again as I remember Thomas Kuveikis who died in the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.

I will never forget.

You may want to read the comments here and here.  Here are two comments made by people who knew Thomas.

Kathy Kuveikis Kurtz September 9, 2011 at 8:05 am

I did a search today for my cousin Tom as the 10th anniversary approaches. I came across your post and wanted to say thank you for saying all the kind things about Tom. He really was a great person, a wonderful dad, but most importantly a hero. Like people have stated over time, “It is so easy to run away, but to run towards the tragedy” requires a true gift of heroism. My cousin was and is my hero always.

James Schaus September 11, 2011 at 7:36 am

I remember Tom “Las Vegas” Kuveikis as the coolest guy in our class, and a very good friend. Tom had a magnetic personality, and of course had the starring role in our high school movie project “Born to Be Wild…Starring Wheatley’s Wildest Cats”. He was also in our Sha La La music group, and was the only one of us who actually looked good in gold lame. I guess you can take the boy outta Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn outta the boy. He returned to Brooklyn to do what he loved, helping others, and he left this world what he always was, a hero. We are forever grateful for his courage, kindness, and heroism.

* * *

I am participating in the 2,996 Project, for which 2,996 bloggers volunteered to write a memorial for one person who perished in the attacks on 9/11.

Today, on the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States, I remember Thomas Kuveikis.  He was forty-eight when he died, younger than I am now.

 

Thomas Kuveikis was known to his family and friends as Tommy.  He grew up in Brooklyn, attending Blessed Sacrament Elementary School.  He graduated from Wheatley High School in 1971 after his family moved to East Williston.

Tommy studied architecture at both SUNY Farmingdale and the Pratt Institute, though he never completed a degree.  He dabbled in carpentry, a skill learned from his father.  He joined the New York Fire Department (FDNY) in August of 1977 when he was twenty-four years old.

Within a year, Tommy made a name for himself as an aggressive, brave and tough firefighter.  His younger brother, Tim,  once said, “If I could be half the fireman he was, I’ll have a really good career.”  (Newsday.com)   He loved the action of firefighting in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood.  (His father was a legendary firefighter who died in November 2001.)

But Tommy wasn’t just a tough guy.  He came up with an idea to help a poor family at Christmas.  Starting in 1987, members of his squad visited a priest at St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church and asked for the name of the poorest family in the parish.  Then they would contact the family, set up a Christmas tree and provide presents.

Tommy was married twice and was about to be engaged to Jennifer Auerhahn, who described him as “sweet, funny, kind gentle and unselfish.”  His brother Jimmy wrote about him on September11victims.com website saying,

“It was really tough to lose Tommy as he became such a kind, considerate guy over time.  He was not always this way, especially in his twenties, but ‘life’s difficulties’ made him become a great human being.  He was a vegetarian, he gave money and time to Putnam County Land Trust to preserve ’special’ land . . . he loved animals, kids and good people.  Tommy was already a tremendous fireman, working in a poor area of Brooklyn, where he could experience many more fires than the average fireman, just like his father did.”

Kathy Gelman said her brother, Tommy, was “honorable, honest, humorous, humble, humane, and hero.”

In his spare time, Tommy worked as a carpenter.  In fact, he built a steam room in Squad 252’s firehouse.  He had a reputation for not charging enough for his carpentry work.  One day a year, he would donate a day of carpentry to the Putnam County Land Trust.

Tommy had one daughter, Kristen.  He had five siblings, sisters Christine, Karen and Kathleen and brothers, James and Timothy.

Tommy had been a firefighter for twenty-four years and a member of Squad 252 (“In Squad We Trust” was their motto) for five years when his squad answered the fifth alarm at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, at 9:00 a.m.  He was forty-eight years old that day.  CNN footage shows his squad pulling up to the east side of the Trade Center around 9:28 a.m.  The six members of the squad entered the north tower, rescued a man from an elevator.

Two of the firefighters’ bodies were found in the C stairwell 18 days later.  The other four men of Squad 252, including Tommy, were never found.

Today, I remember Thomas Kuveikis.  Thomas Kuveikis is one of the 343 FDNY firefighters who died on September 11, 2001.  He is a hero.  We will never forget.

We will never, ever, ever forget.

Snapshot

This is my week to drive carpool.  I pick up five middle schoolers from school and deliver them to their homes.

Today, one of the girls said the words, “Rainbow sheep!” and somehow, that became an incredibly funny thing for them all to yell out the open windows at pedestrians.  (One of the kids:  “Pedestrians is a fancy word.”  Another kid:  “Well, it’s just another way to say ‘person walking down the street’.”)

After dropping them all off, I took Grace to Starbucks for one final birthday treat:  a frappucino without coffee and a pumpkin muffin.

Then home to clean up the kitchen and cook dinner.  By the time I finished, I was too hot to eat and instead, read a little bit from my book and took a fifteen minute nap.

I drove Grace to church for youth group and then parked by the beach to watch the sunset along with these seagulls.

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And then I came home and watched Big Brother . . . truly a mixture of the foolish and sublime today.

Twelve years ago

Seven years old

Seven years old

Today was the twelfth anniversary of the last time I gave birth.  In other words, my daughter’s twelfth birthday.  Back then, it was about me.  Now, it’s all about her.  (Isn’t that the story of motherhood?  At this point, nothing is about me; everything is about the kids.)

Twelve years ago, my labor started unexpectedly.  Sort of.  After all, I was nine months pregnant and three days away from my due date.  Somehow, though, I had convinced myself that I was going to have the baby on the 10th of September since that was a week after the beginning of school.  She was due on September 5.

My twins were starting fourth grade on September 3rd, the day after Labor Day.  See?  I had a scheduling conflict.

But it was Labor Day and labor I did.  She was born in a hurry after six mostly ignored and denied hours of labor.  (I sent my husband to the community pool with our three sons and told him I just needed to rest to make the contractions stop.  I believed in my super powers,  I guess.)  When the midwife came, I joked that I changed my mind and didn’t want to give birth but I did two hours after she arrived.  (And ten minutes before my husband returned home.)

Today, my baby girl went to sixth grade.  She started school last week.  For the first time since we moved here just over three years ago, she is attending a “real” school rather than doing school at home.  She complains about school and wishes summer would last forever, but she really wanted to attend a school and this is the perfect school for her.   I think she likes it a lot.  She comes home with a lot of things to say about her day and the other kids.

Almost 12 years old

Almost 12

For the first time in ten years, I am not supervising any of my kids while they do school at home through a virtual/online public school.  You might think I’d feel nostalgic but mostly I feel like I just climbed a sheer cliff while clinging to it with my toes and fingertips.  I’m exhausted.  I can’t believe I didn’t plummet to my death.

So I rejoice.  My work here is not done but at least someone else is directly responsible for educating my last child.

Here’s how we celebrated her birthday:

Birthday shopping (clothes, of course, from Tilly’s)
Birthday lunch (Rubio’s)
Birthday pedicure
Birthday party at our good friends’ home where we they grilled burgers and we played Corn-hole and badmitton
Birthday cupcakes made with chocolate ganache
Square and diamond-shaped birthday balloons
Gifts (including and not limited to a new cell phone)

 

 

Intermission

Hurricane Marie spins in the Pacific, beyond our sight.

Surfers came to experience the giant waves spun by the hurricane and I did, too, but only from the shore. Instead of a surfboard, I brought a point-and-shoot camera and my iPhone.

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I watched men fling themselves into the sea, bob in the distance and then saw a few limp out of the surf, stretching shoulders and bending over to cough out sea water.
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The waves in Carlsbad weren’t even as big as the ones farther up the coast.
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I found an abandoned pond earlier beach-goers had dug, perfect for perching and watching the foamy waves. And then the foam turned aggressive and not only filled the trough but also splashed me and chased me from my spot.
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I lingered long after the sun slid down the sky, noticing the slimmest sliver of moon hanging in the sky above the waves.  You’ll have to trust me on that since it was impossible to really capture it with my inadequate cameras.

And now back to our regularly scheduled lives.

Centered

In astronomy, they call the body orbited by a smaller satellite the Primary.

That’s me.  I’m the Primary.

For years now, I have been a fixed point in the universe about which my family orbits.  I stay and they go.  They are the International Space Station and I am Earth.  They are stars and moons and clouds and travelers with carry-on luggage for quick movement.

IMG_0279I am the home base, the number you call in case of emergency.

I am an anchor snagged on the ocean floor.

I will hold your place, hold your purse, hold your hand.  “Hold on, I’ll be right back,” you’ll hear me say.

I am steady and planted in cement and locked with all the padlocks on sale at every Home Depot in America.  If someone wanders away to explore, he or she can follow the trail of breadcrumbs and find me here.  Still sitting, still waiting.

They start calling my name from other rooms in the house as soon as they need me.  “Mom!  Mom!  Mom!’  If I answer when they start calling, our shouts turn into a weird game of Marco Polo.  They adjust as they shout, heading for me.  “Mom!’  “What?” “Mom!’  “What?”  “Mom!” until I am so annoyed that I yell, “STOP MOMMING ME!”  But they follow the sound of my voice anyway, a homing beacon that never fails.

I plan itineraries, buy plane tickets, wrestle the luggage from the garage to the house.  I wash their laundry, pack their clothes, collect miniature toiletries in a quart sized Zip-loc™ bag.  I check them in online and print their boarding passes.  I drop them off at the airport and I pick them up and I ask, “How was your trip?” and while they are gone, I carry on being here.

I am, I said.

To no one there.

(Well, hello, Neil Diamond.  Fancy meeting you here.)

Sometimes I want to be the one waving goodbye.  I want to ride a bicycle for a thousand miles.  I want to drive a car to Maine.  I want to fly over the ocean and land on an island with a runway so short I have to hold my breath while we land.  I want to be alone in the world, just for a moment.  Or two.

Instead of being the vendor holding the cluster of helium balloons, I want to be that one balloon that slips away and floats higher and higher until it’s out of sight.

I want to be in the parade, not saving spots on the curb while everyone else buys cotton candy down the street.

And yet, that’s just part of me, the part that values independence and freedom and adventures, the “me” that yearns to be unshackled and untethered, free to roam and poke around and daydream.  That part of me craves solitude and a ramble with only my thoughts for company.  Sometimes, I want to grab my keys and leave without a trace.  (But in a certain time-travel kind of way that would leave no one missing me.)   (I was that “me” thirty years ago, come to think of it.)

The other part of me signed up for this life.

I have no regrets. Really, I don’t.

When my kids think of “home,” I want them to see my face.  I want them to call me day or night to save them from catastrophe.  I want to be the stability, the dependable one who remembers to buy milk and knows how to cook Thanksgiving dinner.  I want to be easily found, within earshot, able to hem pants and offer advice and remember the street addresses to all the homes we’ve owned.  I want to be the holder of the family photos and the keeper of the memories, the knower of the timeline of our life together.

I am the Primary and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Mom!”

“What?”

“Mom!”

“What?”

“MOM!”

“I’m here!”

I’m here.  I’ll always be here.  You can count on it.

And today I did not see a celebrity at Legoland

I keep not writing here because I don’t have time to craft a beautiful blog post, one of those posts that make me feel like a real writer.  I check out the clock on the lower right of my computer screen and it’s already so late (past 1:00 AM) and I know how early I have to get up so I think, tomorrowMaybe tomorrow I will write.

But the problem is that every day is the same, even though it’s different.

So for tonight, I am going to just type awhile before going upstairs to finish the novel I’m currently reading.  (Gone Girl.  Yes, I’m very late to this party.)  I really should not read before sleep but I am so close to the end.  I’ll probably fall asleep turning a page, though.

*

Today my 11-year old and I went to Legoland after we dropped her 16-year old brother off to work at the employee gate.  One of his job benefits are a bunch of Legoland passes, so we took advantage of that even though a summer day at Legoland is a day full of toddler tantrums and heat and lines and very slow moving people who block pathways.  And did I mention the lines?  (I find toddler tantrums to be adorable, mainly because I no longer have a toddler, so I admire the tantrums without having any obligation to deal with them.)

We first went on the roller-coaster to see my son in action.  Before we got to the front of the line, my daughter chickened out.  She hates roller-coasters.  Then, on to the waterpark–the world’s most adorable waterpark, really–and I started reading while she went in the wave pool.  All too soon she was done and we left the waterpark area and had lunch and wandered through Miniland and then onto the Coast Cruise but then we were so hot.  Back to the waterpark we went.

I ended up sunburned despite my sunscreen.  Which is annoying.  I am developing a well-defined farmer’s tan.

Anyway, while we were eating lunch, I got a text-message from my son who was on his lunch break and it said this:

Mom, Nicholas Cage is here.  He just went on Technic.

What the what?  Technic is the roller-coaster where my son was working.  But he was on his lunch break . . . he noticed this guy with a VIP pass (an “old” guy, he said–Nicholas Cage is one year older than me) who was with a woman and two kids.  And then my son’s supervisor said, “Hey, did you see Nicholas Cage?” and my son realized he HAD seen Nicholas Cage.

So, there’s a Brush with Greatness.

*

Sunday night, I was working in my downstairs office when I heard a loud crash.  I ran from my office to investigate.  My son told me the noise came from my bedroom, so I opened the door and my husband–who had been asleep for a few hours–sat up and asked, “What happened?”

I thought maybe the pictures I’d hung in our bedroom earlier in the day had fallen.  When I flipped on the light, though, I found this (photo taken at 12:20 AM with my phone, so excuse the quality!):

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The 7 foot by 3.5 foot mirror from the master bathroom had simply fallen off the wall.  Eventually, I concluded that the installers had used too little mastic which had failed for no apparent reason.  And there were no clips reinforcing the mastic, though there should have been.  (I have been to Home Depot already to buy clips to reinforce my other mirrors.)

I cannot believe that the mirror fell.

I cannot believe that no one was hurt or . . . worse.

Well, with that, I’m really going to bed.  My husband is out of town, so I have to get up a little earlier than usual to take two of my sons to work before I start my own job.

A short and winding path (at the beach)

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One of my co-workers lives in the Midwest.  Her home was struck by lightning and her electricity and Internet were out for a few days which meant I had to work some extra hours for a few days.  That explains what I was doing when I last wrote in this blog.

Meanwhile, we had a house-guest who had arrived mid-June and stayed until mid-July.  Even though she was undemanding and easy to be around, a house-guest is still a house-guest.  Extra people exhaust me.  Who am I kidding?  Even the regular number of people exhaust me.

On July 13, my daughter, our house-guest and I went to Imperial Beach (an hour south) to watch a dog surfing contest.

Hilarious and entertaining and just plain fun.  I highly recommend you spend an afternoon watching dogs surf, should the opportunity ever present itself.

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Then in the past week, these things occupied my time:

1)  Daughter went to day camp all week, 9 AM to noon;
2)  All three sons went to jobs;
3)  House-guest went home;
4)  My sister arrived for a visit;
5)  My husband left for a business-trip (a denominational annual meeting in Rhode Island);
6)  I worked;
7)  My sister flew back home to Seattle.

I did a lot of driving around, delivering kids to their jobs and activities.  And yes, at some point the kids will drive, but they don’t yet.  (It’s complicated.)

So, that’s why this blog has been neglected.  I’ve had a few thoughts I wanted to share, but I can’t remember what they are.

And now, it’s time to sleep because I have to deliver my youngest son to work by 8:15 AM.  And so it goes.

Listing

Reading: 

Schindler’s List.

I saw the movie in the theater when it released back in 1993 and it remains one of my favorite movies.  I have had the book on my shelf for a long time and just picked it up recently.  I’m a little more than halfway through.  Excellent book, lots to ponder.

Watching:

24

I have been an avid fan of Jack Bauer from the very beginning, back in the old days when I didn’t have a DVR and had to watch carefully with devoted attention so I wouldn’t miss anything.  I am loving this new (short!) season.

Big Brother

I can’t help it.  I’m a voyeur and like reality shows like Big Brother and Survivor and The Amazing Race.  I work at my computer 8+ hours a day and have my television on most of the time to keep me company.  Reality television doesn’t demand my full attention and is the perfect accompaniment to my work day and night.

Listening:

I never listen to music at home.  In the car, I listen to talk radio if I’m alone and a station that plays old (old?!) music from the 80s and 90s.  At home, I listen to the sound of kids discussing pointless topics and the dog barking her fool head off and most days, an electric guitar in a distant bedroom and the other random sounds pollution in my house.

Anticipating:

My sister’s visit in a week.  School beginning in a month.  A surf dog competition next weekend.  Supergirl Pro surf contest in August.  My 27th wedding anniversary soon.  More sunsets at the beach.

* * *

And now, since I’ve promised to make my husband pinto beans and cornbread for dinner tomorrow, I have to go sort beans and soak them in a pot.

My life is all sorts of glamour.

 

 

 

 

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