Project disasters

Lowering Holiday Expectations: A Timeline of the Plague of Easter 2012

We got flooded at Thanksgiving last year and then we had bronchitis and other family disasters at Christmas time. We’ve endured a lot of complicated living situations and crud, so I figured a really fun Easter might turn things around. I was prepared; I had the eggs, the Easter baskets, enough chocolate to put us all in a diabetic coma, adorable Easter cards made and photos taken. I talked the kids into being excited about the Easter bunny, or at least remembering that there is something called an Easter bunny, which they only understood in a vague way. This was going to be the best motherfucking Easter ever. (just like the best motherfucking Christmas ever.. sigh, I should have known).

Everything looking promising

Then on Wednesday night just as I was drifting off to sleep, early for once after weeks of being an idiot watching episodes of Mad Men all night long (I heart me some Don Draper), I heard the sound that strikes fear in the heart of every parent; the violent hack of stomach contents being ejected all over a bed. If you ever wondered what sleep deprivation sounded like, it’s all summed up in that distinct cough. Immediately you know that you’re going to be tending to the poor soul who just heaved his supper all over the bed and producing laundry at an exponential rate for an unknown quantity of time. If you have multiple kids you might hold on to the faint hope that you can keep them quarantined but deep down you know it’s only a matter of time before the second one falls.

Things went downhill for us leading up to Easter weekend. I couldn’t force enough fluids into Patient Zero and the vomiting would not end. Stupidly, I maintained a high level of optimism that things would turn around and Easter would be resurrected (see what I just did there?).  It was not to be.

Good Friday

Expected: Trip to the farmer’s market for ingredients for gourmet Easter dinner! Loads of time with Daddy! Out with some friends for birthday drinks!

Reality: Good Friday started with the haunting memory of being in an ER waiting room with about a thousand other vomiting 3 year olds. It’s not something I will soon forget. Patient Zero spent about 11 minutes awake all day and had to be force-fed pedialyte. I did make it to the farmer’s market where I was served chilaquiles heaping with salsa verde that resembled the impending mess that I was about to discover in my children’s diapers for the next several days. I never want to go to the farmer’s market again. We had now spent 3 days trapped in the bedroom in the vain attempt to ensure that the second kid remains healthy and Easter is saved.  I have watched Monsters Inc. eleven thousand times.

Chilaquiles: A visceral foreshadowing of impending doom


Expected: Easter egg decorating! Basket hiding! Getting hot cross buns! Idyllic walks in the park talking about bunnies!

Reality: All is looking good on our quarantine attempts in the AM. Patient Zero is starting to turn around, and the second child is careening  around being a flying dragon with no volume control. And then just like that the second child morphs into Patient A by vomiting all over Grandma and Grandpa. Chaos ensues where I force Daddy half rinsed out of the shower to bathe vomity Patient A and myself for good measure. Daddy is mildly resentful for the rest of the day.

Patient Zero (in green shirt) maintained this exact pose for the next 5 hours

I experience the classic control freak dilemma; allow Daddy to do the shopping for Easter dinner or take care of ailing children? I send Daddy off for Easter lilies and ham, knowing that he has never purchased either and that all dreams of a gourmet meal will be dashed by whatever is cheapest at Safeway. Daddy returns with non-Easter lilies and a deli ham. Mommy decorates eggs on her own, resignedly dunking them in colours foregoing the sparkly gorgeous madness she envisioned. Patient Zero takes a mild interest in eggs and dictates colours to put the egg into for a few minutes, resulting in inevitable brown egg.  Eventually we all retreat to bed and wait for the vomiting to stop. It doesn’t.

The making of the brown egg

Easter Sunday

Expected: Brunch! Egg hunt! Thrilled laughs over Easter baskets, bubbles, chocolate for breakfast! Joyfully slaving over a gourmet dinner that my whole family will gather around and relish!

Reality: Bodily fluids, mess, laundry, pre-cooked ham, hot cross buns with that weird gummy dough on the top instead of glistening fresh farmer’s market ones, sleeping on the couch with a diaper perilously aimed at my lap, tears. Patient A curls himself around the bucket of Easter eggs and refuses to let go of his “DIYASAUR EGGS” without tears and flailing, so we let a whole bucket of hard boiled eggs spoil with the body heat of a fevered toddler.

Patient A and his diyasaur eggs

Patient Zero gets into the spirit of things and refuses to remove his bunny ears despite there being no evidence that Easter is happening. Neither child can summon up the effort to look for their Easter basket which is fine because I have now raided most of the candy from them. We all eat in front of the TV with half filled plates because the sheer amount of body fluids expelled has ruined everyone’s appetite. Watching a dude called Bubba win at golf, which was probably the worst part of the weekend.

Patient Zero refusing removal of bunny ears at any time

Easter Monday

Expectation: Kids in daycare! Daddy and Mommy having Ferris Bueller’s day off! Happy family reunion at the end of the day with two relaxed and happy parents and two happy and tired children!

Reality: We’ve given up. No one has been outside in days except to schlep over to the pharmacy and perhaps for emergency coffee. There is a mountain of laundry we may never recover from. As 11 am approaches we have a moment of silence for the spa treatments that were supposed to happen and finally resign any hope of adorable excited shrieking children. We eat all the leftover ham and cake. It doesn’t make anyone feel better.

Perilous lack of layers separating me and Patient A, but I give up

But you know, at least we endured our crap-tastic Easter as a family. And I managed it entirely booze free and without yelling at anyone except fate, which makes it a personal best for me on the holiday front. This is actually the best Easter I have ever achieved.


Gutter Peach

Yesterday we went to retrieve a bunch of stuff from the house and check out where things were at. As we were leaving I noticed a squirrel viciously guarding something from a swarm of magpies who were waiting for their first opportunity to get at whatever the squirrel had. The squirrel even gave me a stare as I approached; long enough that I thought twice about going to see what it was. I didn’t need a rabid squirrel bite on top over everything else.

It was, of course, Willis’s peach.

Gutter Peach

So to all the local wildlife, you’re welcome. Take the peach as an offering of good will, and I hope you don’t use this opportunity to take up residence in my abandoned house.

Oh f@#% it.

So I have a problem, y’all. I can’t pick a carpet. I want to be eco friendly and such, but the only one I can find so far is made with corn sugar polymers. So basically my kids would be walking all over high fructose corn syrup. I have so many issues with corn subsidies in the US that end up stripping the soil to create an overabundance of cheap beef, enough high fructose corn syrup to make us collectively obese and drive up the need for fertilizers and pesticides. And now they want me to buy a carpet made from that shit? Ok, I just decided. I can’t buy a corn fiber carpet.

Wait. Why am I choosing new carpet, do you ask? Did you not just go through renovations and have a terrible experience? Well, let me tell you. That shit got worse.

This is my house.

Ceiling not where we left it

Seriously. No, this is my house.

This used to be my main floor bathroom

This used to be my main floor bathroom

I think I might keep the curtain idea

Reasonably sure we had drywall in our basement just a few days ago. And our living room and our dining room.

Evidently I built up a lot of bad renovation karma complaining endlessly about my contractors. I still think that 6 months is unreasonable to redo two bathrooms, but now I would gladly go back in time and say only kind things about them in order to reverse the bad juju hex they put on me. The plumber came to do the final, final, final installation of the tap on the clawfoot tub. I was excited to come home and take photos of the completed bathroom and finally take a bath in my tub on a cool rainy day. The kids were drowsy and would go down for a nap. But something was odd; I couldn’t get the front door open and the roof over the porch was leaking. I finally wedged the door open and my motherfucking ceiling was hanging down into a puddle and water was pouring out of the light fixture. Needless to say, the tap installation went horribly wrong. I am not going to get into that because there is a mountain of blame to pass around to a few people and if I think about it too much I am going to start feeling all stabby again.

I locked the kids back in their carseats. I rushed in to try to find the water main shut off and checked out all those precious mementos that should be safely locked away in a safe deposit box. They weren’t, and I was minutes away from losing all of our photos, my kids baby stuff and all those things that you should take better care of. Now they’re in a pile of boxes in my kitchen that I will probably never unpack. I grabbed my laptop so I could get our insurance info: note, not a smart place to put this in case your internet is out.

The dogs were locked in their crates getting rained on in the basement, so I let them out and shoved them outside. They promptly ran away. I don’t blame them one bit; that’s what I felt like doing too. So while I was on the phone with insurance I had to keep randomly yelling “MAEBY, GET THE FUCK BACK HERE” like a demented, indecisive dog trainer. Eventually I was in a standoff with one dog at one end of the street and one at the other, neither budging. I couldn’t go back in to get dog treats, so I rifled through the van to see what was available. I found a peach and held it out to either dog. Neither was willing to get within 10 feet of me, probably out of fear that I would lock them in for more water torture. I set the peach on the ground. Willis couldn’t resist and slunk toward the peach, grabbed it, and ran away. So now I still had two dogs on the loose and I was down one peach. I hope our insurance adjustor was used to salty language.

My husband finally got home and corralled the dogs and then promptly proceeded to reach the same level of freak out panic that I was at. I ran to find a neighbor to watch the kids and dragged my poor neighbor’s mother in law out of their house and ran around trying to grab things.. anything. Just things. Then I threw things in the van with the kids and the dogs and fled to the safety of my parents house, abandoning my husband to defend us against the evil plumbers and the spectacular fight over insurance.

Things have basically gone downhill from there and we find ourselves homeless for months and having to make a lot of decisions. I am decisioned right the fuck out already, so I am not sure how this is going to work out.

So basically focusing on bourgeois problems like the source of carpet fibres and corn subsidies is keeping me from bursting into tears in the liquor store because we are homeless and I am sleeping in my parents unfinished basement. Ok, I totally burst into tears at the liquor store today, but thinking about carpet kind of helped me keep it under wraps.

And here's me on a toilet in my kitchen. That's a future gauge for whether your day is working out as planned. Toilet in kitchen = not working out, generally. I don't know, maybe you do want a toilet in your kitchen. It's my gauge then.

How to box a tub in 26 easy steps

We recently acquired a tub from Home Depot and it was basically an unmitigated disaster. Long story short; free shipping, tub on sale turned into backorder hell; turned into surprise delivery; turned into delayed delivery; turned into OMFG sitting in this tub feels like being in a coffin, this is not what I signed up for; turned into return; turned into me feeling happy again; turned into my contractor’s e-mail not working; turned into contractor unpacking tub and throwing everything out in the rain; turned into me having  a hissy fit; turned into husband saving the day and drying out the packing; turned into us having to pack up tub on Sunday night the day before shipping company arrives. So for those who find yourselves in this position I have developed an easy to follow manual for how to box up a tub. It’s easier than you think!

Goal Repackage tub so that package resembles the original box and shipping company can safely remove it from our house.
Challenge Cardboard has been ripped apart, warped by rain, and tub is 23 stairs above our heads, and we are both resentful of the fact that we have to do this. On a Sunday.
Opportunities None. There is a zero % chance that this will go smoothly.

Step 1 Take eleventy billion pieces of cardboard (that used to be one piece of cardboard) off our front porch.
Step 2 Get support board that was underneath tub supporting it in the box off our front porch
Step 3 Realize that board did not make it out of the garbage even though repeated requests for husband to remove it
Step 4 Look for board in dumpster, realize that it’s  one of two items now covered in tons of other garbage now soaked by a weekend’s worth of rain
Step 5 Be somewhat thankful that you bought a step stool today for other reasons
Step 6 Yell at husband because you’re mad at the world and a shitty wife
Step 7 Yell again when wrong board is removed from garbage, but mostly for reasons mentioned in Step 6
Step 8 Get yelled at because I haven’t figured out how to reverse time and make the contractor not unpackage the tub and also because of Step 6 & 7
Step 9 Silently wish that I could reverse time and never started bathroom project and developed serious love for yellow tile
Step 10 Get right board from dumpster
Step 11 Yell at dog for taking dump on front lawn at bottom of newly acquired footstool while husband is at top of said footstool and ruins a shoe
Step 12 As a couple, stare at tub in bathroom for 4 minutes in silence, both running through every curse word in our vocabulary
Step 13 Come to terms with the fact that we have to get this fucker out of here
Step 14 Get tub half way out of very small doorway before we realize it has to be stood on end
Step 15 Stand tub on end
Step 16 Shimmy tub down the hallway yelling the entire way, ass sticking out 4 ft behind you trying not to land tub on your toes, be thankful for hulk arms from carrying twins
Step 17 Place tub on board, inside cardboard infrastructure while failing to avoid stepping on staples and also failing to warn husband that this is a possibility
Step 18 Realize board is not in right place and you are not very good at teamwork
Step 19 Tape the ever-loving shit out of that thing. Waste an entire roll of tape trying to get eleventy billion pieces of cardboard resembling “original box” again
Step 20 Realize that packing tape is bullshit
Step 21 Realize that you forgot what the “original box” looked like
Step 22 Realize you don’t give a shit what “original box” looked like
Step 23 Realize that you are not destined for a career in the shipping and handling business
Step 24 Put some more tape on that shit
Step 25 Call it a day, glad your marriage survived intact and retreat to separate rooms
Step 26 Half an hour later realize your newly acquired step stool is still out in the rain.
Congratulations! You now have a boxed tub that looks nothing like the original and you can get a good night’s sleep to prepare yourself for a fight with the delivery company tomorrow because there’s no way they’re getting that box out in one piece and it’s totally unsafe!

Bested by a fucking cookie press

Before Christmas, I was seduced by  displays at a home outfitting store. I had visions of myself setting a golden brown turkey down in front of an adoring family on a beautifully decorated table. I came across a cookie press that makes cookies in all kinds of fancy Christmassy patterns and I suddenly saw the key to my domestic prowess. I was going to press out a gazillion motherfucking cookies and give them to the whole neighborhood. Probably sing carols and tote around a thermos of hot chocolate too.

That isn’t how things worked out.

In retrospect, there was a lot of things working against me.

1) I am a terrible baker. There is not a single instance  where I have successfully made anything that didn’t come out of a box.  I believe it has something to do with my inability to follow instructions, but I also think that there’s a deeper baking magic at work that I just don’t have.

2) I got into an argument while buying the press. So by the time I got it home it was already tainted with misery. My new credit card has a chip with no PIN, which is apparently my bank’s method of driving me crazy. When I tried to explain this to the clerk she lectured me about getting in touch with my bank and I blew my top.

3) The instructions for the press show all the different patterns of cookie you can make and one of them is clearly a camel cookie. Yet it is labelled “Dinosaur”. This should have been a strong clue that the instructions might leave something to be desired.

4) My kids and husband were sick and I was operating off of weeks of sleep deprivation.

But my optimism prevailed. I was going to conquer Christmas. Here’s how it went down.

A full week before my cookie exchange I went drinking with my friends as usual on a Friday night. It had been ages since I went out. I got carried away and maybe wasn’t feeling so shit hot on Saturday morning. Husband was still sick on Saturday morning and just failed to get up with the kids so I was up bright and early. While they were playing before their morning nap I thought to myself, hell, this is a PERFECT time to make cookies. I swear I read every instruction carefully and followed it exactly. I wasn’t going to fuck it up with my pretend genius this time, I was going to follow INSTRUCTIONS.

First thing that went wrong was that I had recently reorganized my spice rack and hadn’t gotten around to labeling things yet. I rummaged through and found the pumpkin spice. Goddammit, that was coriander.  Scrape away excess coriander, liberally sprinkle more pumpkin spice in. This is going wrong. I forged ahead, the dough was like glue. This didn’t seem right. I fiddle around with dough until it seems more like cookie dough and put in fridge for chilling. Lay head down on the counter while kids scream their heads off. Nap time for all.

While kids are napping I attempt Press 1. This is not working. Dough is not sticky enough. Pan is not sticky enough. I am out of parchment paper. Tamper with dough for a while. Kids wake up and I retrieve them. Carry on trying to tamper with dough which is now resembling a giant wad of bubble gum. Son is standing in middle of the living room with his diaper half off. Abort! Abort! Hurdle baby gate to secure diaper.

It’s not even pretending to stick

Throw mess in fridge, feed kids lunch and everyone has to go lay down.

Part 2, several hours later. Dough is now a giant sticky wad of bubble gum. I know I have to thin it down so I start adding water. Soon enough I have a slurry of dough. Put dough in cookie press and the lid pops off. Try a different shape… lid pops off. Dough is expanding at an exponential rate inside of cookie press. It is a supernova that explodes through all efforts to contain it. Take break, e-mail back and forth with friend on vacation in Germany. Husband, “why are you making cookies if you’re so tired.” Cue meltdown. Yell out sentiments of “YOU DON’T APPRECIATE ME… I  AM UP TRYING TO TAKE CARE OF OUR CHILDREN AND JUST TRYING TO MAKE CHRISTMAS HAPPEN.” I beat my breast a little and flailed about until I finally put wads of dough on a cookie sheet and let them bake so I didn’t waste 3 lbs of butter (in retrospect, I should have maybe made 1/2 a batch first instead of 3 batches). 

Tasteless wads of dough

The cookie press sat in the sink rusting for 3 days until my husband rinsed it off and two weeks later I shoved it back in the box and returned it with half the pieces missing. I’d like to think that it was my sheer ferocity that forced the clerk to return it, but I think he was just a completely apathetic seasonal worker.

From there I went on to make gingerbread men, which was another disaster due to my inability to remember to double EVERY ingredient when doubling a recipe. Then I ran out of molasses and bought a lighter molasses the second time around. The two batches of dough wouldn’t mix properly and it wasn’t pliable enough to peel off the counter after cutting them so there were a lot of missing limbs. Result: crispy calico gingerbread men that looked like they survived Chernobyl.  Also, I got the flu and didn’t have time to decorate them. No one would eat them. Dammit.