Sport & Shave Ken and Hot Dogs

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Christmas morning dropped a fresh male onto the Barbie dating scene when one sister scored endless Barbie dates with Ken. And not any Ken. Sport and Shave Ken was handsome and he required grooming. He arrived from Santa, complete with a marker for a DIY beard, a razor, and a small container to hold water for the tiny razor. We scribbled a beard all over Ken’s face, even where real facial hair wouldn’t grow and hey, why not try his chest while we’re at it? Sis, the gift recipient of honor got first dibs on shaving him. Sure enough, the water was all that was needed to shave that facial and chest hair off his body. We slapped him with imaginary Aqua Velva and set him aside for a nap.

All of the Barbies we renamed Barbie Linda, Barbie Susan, and Barbie Cindy scrambled to get ready for their dates. Kissing Barbie Linda wore her best chiffon gown, complete with lip prints. Peaches and Cream Barbie Susan wore her flouncy pale peach colored gown, and Loving You Barbie Cindy chose a gown with red velvet hearts. Ken would arrive soon and choose his favorite. This was way before The Bachelor, but boy, were we onto something.

We fussed over getting the girls ready. Which would be the lucky one? The plan was for Ken to arrive to a non-existent Barbie house in a non-existent convertible to go to dinner at a non-existent fancy restaurant. We decided Kissing Barbie would be the selected One since she already owned a stampable lipstick made just for her, complete with a puckering kissing sound at the press of a handy-dandy button built into her back, right between her shoulder blades. Such a perfect power couple, shaveable Ken and Kissing Barbie Linda that already knows how to kiss. What could go wrong?

A little brother, that’s what.

While we chose outfits and planned conversations to go with a handsome date, somehow, Ken disappeared. So engrossed in the details of a glamorous evening, we didn’t think anything of Ken taking a nap that lasted a little…too…long.

Mom, doing Mom things, walked into the kitchen and started yelling. “What are you doing?” We weren’t doing anything other than getting the girls ready for a date, why all the commotion? Until we realized she wasn’t speaking to us. Cold winters meant the burners on the gas stove blared on high in the kitchen and the table was our favorite play space. This Christmas was a cold one, not surprisingly.

She ran to the stove, turned off the burner, grabbed something from my brother, the flames rising high, threw it in the sink, and turned the water on full blast. “Didn’t you smell that?”

Umm…”No.”

“What were you thinking?”

Umm…Ken and Kissing Barbie are going on a date. We stared, speechless. Was it really Ken or was it a hot dog?

“Why weren’t you watching him?”

Umm… “We were watching him. We shaved his face and chest. He took a nap to get ready for his date.”

Not THAT, HIM!” Mom pointed to where my brother was right before he ran away. “He could’ve set the house on fire!

What in the world did she speak of? We only planned to get the girls ready for a date with Ken. He was clean shaven and ready to go. Kissing Barbie Linda was the lucky one, why would the house catch on fire?

Sis looked around. We all looked around. Then we smelled it. Melted plastic. Ken, not a hot dog. In the sink. Doused with water. We retrieved him, his slacks dripping with water. His hair, singed and stuck to his scalp. A shiny blackened face tried to greet us as we attempted to wipe off sticky charred marks off his cheeks. Let’s try the razor. We can shave it off. Nope, didn’t work. We washed and scrubbed and rinsed poor Ken to no avail. Barbie Linda, Barbie Susan, and Barbie Cindy, were stood up through no fault of their own. Not because they weren’t pretty or dressed up or lacked confidence, but because poor Ken was burnt to a crisp.

Sigh. After some tears, the date continued with a non-existent Ken, driving up in a non-existent convertible, to a non-existent Barbie house, to have dinner at a non-existent restaurant. Except there was room for Barbie Linda, Barbie Susan, and Barbie Cindy. Plus plenty of air kisses sent to whomever would take them with multiple presses of Kissing Barbie Linda’s shoulder blades. Love hurts.

Merry Peeksmas!

I’m a first born. Responsible. But sneaky. My brain likes things that are precise, exact, perfect. Or close to it.

Being in charge of younger siblings while my parents worked, we had a lot of free time on our hands without someone constantly watching us. By the time I was in high school, I met the qualifications-whatever those were-to make sure everyone was looked after for a few hours after school and chunks of time on weekends while one parent made their way home and the other left for work.

One December, I decided to rearrange gifts so they looked like what my sister and I liked to call “commercial” worthy-what you’d see on TV. Our packages didn’t have large puffy fabric bows, but foil bows you got in a bag of twenty for a dollar. Our imaginations filled the void. It was important for us count them. How dare anyone have more than me. Size mattered too. If one of us had a larger gift, what could it be?

At my age though, I figured out the size of the gift didn’t equate the amount of money spent on it. I also had not quite learned that gifts weren’t the real reason for the season. Gifts were THE reason for the season and I wanted to know what I had coming. Periodically, we’d all choose a gift, give it a shake, and take turns guessing what was tucked inside.

This year, I had gifts that didn’t make much sound. Too old for boxes with a heaviness that slid from one end to the other-some sort of toy. I knew who had Barbies, skinny boxes with skinny perfectly-figured blonds on tiptoes inside. I outgrew those, but still helped French braiding their hair when no one was looking. And narrating their dates with Ken because the younger ones just didn’t understand how it really worked. I started watching Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless during school breaks, so I knew a thing or two. Those soundless packages only meant what every teen girl wanted: clothes.

But which clothes? Jordache jeans? A Guess? shirt or sweater? What had I drooled over at the mall recently? It could be anything. But I need to know which one in particular. While the younger ones played, I nonchalantly took a package after having made a picture-perfect TV commercial worthy set-up. No adults were home. I was the next “adult” in line. Fourteen wasn’t too far from eighteen. The younger ones played or watched TV. With three other siblings in a small house, the bathroom was the only place for privacy.

I took a beautifully wrapped package, from my grandma, and headed off to do my business. I turned the fan on so everyone would know it would be while before I was done. I took the package and turned it over and over wondering where it was from. The wrapping was fancy, not the K-Mart paper that wrapped the other gifts. My uncle was behind this one. They asked for wrapping from the store that sold it or he spent a little too much on wrapping paper without my grandma knowing it. Either way, this was the one that intrigued me most.

I turned the box over and found the tape at the bottom. I started picking at it with my fingernail, carefully, like picking at a Band-Aid that’s stuck on too tight. Surprisingly, the tape easily peeled away from the paper without leaving a mark. I sucked in my breath. No on had banged on the door yet. Breathe…I flipped it to the other end to try the other side. The tape easily peeled off again.

Stuck, I had to decide what to do next. If I kept unwrapping the box, would I be able to put it back without anyone suspecting it had been opened? What if I couldn’t get it back the way I found it? You know how you open a box and the contents just don’t fit the way they were packaged? What would happen then? Do I stop here and wait a few days like I’m supposed to?

Supposed to. I was tired of that. I usually do what I’m supposed to do. I’m in theater, I can act like I’m surprised even if I know what’s in the box. No one will ever know.

I kept going.

I completely unwrapped the box, being careful to leave the tape attached. I found a plain white shirt box. We usually used old boxes from around the house to wrap gifts. This one came from not Wal-Mart or K-Mart. As I lifted the top, I discovered more tape. I needed to hurry because someone would need to use the bathroom soon. My heart pounded when I accidentally ripped part of the box. Dang! The tape stuck to the box more than it did to the paper. I’m the only one who would see the box during the unwrapping chaos of Christmas morning, so I continued.

After removing the lid, I discovered neat, white tissue paper gently enclosing the gift, adhered with a round gold seal. Whoa! Super fancy. I knew that would tear, so I lifted everything out and slipped out the gift from one end. I drew in a breath. A pink collarless, button down shirt with mid-length sleeves and a pocket on the left side seemed to smile at me. It even smelled fancy. I could wear it with…everything! I loved it! I silently shouted, jumped for joy, and imagined myself squishing my grandma in thanksgiving. No one was around to relish my joy, but a party of one was enough for me.

With the fan still going, I didn’t have much time. I now faced the task of reversing my actions: folding the shirt where it creased, slipping it back into the tissue, placing it in the box, re-taping the lid, and re-wrapping the gift. It went much more quickly this time, I didn’t have a choice. I calmed myself down, flushed the toilet and washed my hands, all the while grinning as I glanced at the box. I got a sneak peek at my gift. With a little more time, I could open them all, but not today.

I walked back to the living room with the gift behind my back. I side-stepped toward the tree and dropped it back into the pile. No one noticed. I went back to rearranging them again. I picked up one of the skinny boxes, my youngest sister’s name on it. I called her over. “Want to know what you got for Christmas?”

Family Recipe

People who have recipes passed down from generations have always fascinated me.

“I have my grandma’s tomato pie recipe.”

“This strawberry cake is from my great-great grandmother.”

“I baked this bread with my great aunt and she got the recipe from her aunt’s grandma’s cousin’s sister-in-law…”

I don’t have recipes like those.

Nana in the center, her niece, Ruth, on the left, and my great-grandmother, Welita, on the right.

Nana’s tortillas were measured with her hands: several scoops of flour, shortening-tantito así –just this much, a few sprinkles of salt and pinches of baking powder. Heating water on the stove, she’d dunk a finger to test the temperature, who needs a cooking thermometer for accuracy? It’s either too hot or too cold. Agua tibia, she’d instruct, even though it looked much hotter than warm, judging from the steam rising and the bubbles just starting to form along the inside of the pot. Pouring a stream of hot water into a small well in the mound of flour, her other hand worked it quickly into a dough. A little more, the dough started coming together. The final stream, just a tad, and the dough was smooth and ready.

She pulled apart small portions of dough and rolled them into balls, covered the green Tupperware mixing bowl with a dishcloth and continued with the rest of the meal. Carne guisada. Rice. Frijoles. No recipes for those, either. She just cooked and her tastebuds guided her.

There was no Martha Stewart or Pampered Chef tortilla rolling guide for her to roll out the balls of dough. She rolled them out, perfectly, with a smooth and well worn rolling pin Papá made from some repurposed tool. Probably the handle of a broken garden hoe. Each tortilla hung over the edge of the bowl awaiting its fate on the comal.

This was the best part. As she stacked warm tortillas and wrapped them in another dishcloth, we’d snag one and smear it with butter. Folding it in half or rolling it up, we’d take a careful bite, they’re hot! These were our appetizers. No fancy snack trays or crudités.

My mom tried to translate hand measured scoops and portions into measuring cups and spoons for us to use. Since she learned from Nana at a young age, she doesn’t use conventional measuring tools either. I’ve tried to make them as well with the guidance of other people’s recipes or the assistance of “just add water” mixes. They aren’t the same. We buy them from the grocery store bakery.

Some day I’ll stop long enough to give my patience a rest and pick up the art of homemade tortilla making. I just have to pull up my sleeves, heat up some water, and scoop out handfuls of flour into a bowl.

December 7, 2021

Thanksgiving: Past, Present, and Future

Thanksgiving has always been one of those holidays I look forward to, but I’ve learned to be wary of. I hate disappointment, so I’ve learned not to be too dependent on it. Keep your expectations low and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Thoughts of Thanksgivings Past

First Grade Thanksgiving

Elementary school, first grade, our annual Thanksgiving gathering. Some of us were pilgrims, the other half represented Native Americans. Looking back, this would event would be different today. However, even as a six year old, I didn’t fit in. We weren’t of Native American heritage and we certainly weren’t white. But in first grade, I was a pilgrim. Hmmm…didn’t know much about what to make of that, I just ate the lunch like everyone else.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was part of every Thanksgiving Day early on. We lived in rural Texas. Looking at those kids wrapped up in fur coats watching, or better yet, performing in the parade gave us a little taste of what life was like living in New York City. At the time, we had no idea you probably needed a ton of money to be on the front row, but wow, those floats. And Santa waving at the end. I don’t remember the last time I watched the parade. It’s on one sister’s bucket list and we plan to make it happen. You’re never too old for a parade.

My parents worked hard. When I was in high school, Macy’s parade in the background while I helped make mashed potatoes in the kitchen, I started to see it differently. I’m making the mashed potatoes, but Papa won’t be there for the meal because it’s cotton gin season. If we’re lucky, he’ll show up for leftovers at 9:00 in the evening. Dad is working. Mom is working. We’re going to Nana’s for lunch; those of us who are old enough to help and relatives who aren’t working. Eventually, we set our own date either the weekend before or after to accommodate everyone’s schedules. Some years, it was Shake n’ Bake chicken, mashed potatoes, a can of corn, refrigerated biscuits, and pumpkin pie for lunch. We’ll save Mom a plate when she gets home from her twelve hour shift. Macy’s parade? Maybe for the younger kids. We’ll have turkey at Christmas. Or is this the year we have tamales?

My junior year of undergrad, I transferred to The University of Texas, a good seven hour drive from home. There was no sense in flying home for Thanksgiving only to have to go back a few weeks later. There wasn’t money for it either. With food service down that week, I planned for pizza dinners and trips to convenience stores for sustenance. I made the best of that first friendsgiving with girls from central and south America who studied English at the international school.

One year, a roommate invited me to Thanksgiving dinner with her parents. This was the first time I had the infamous green bean casserole. It was delicious. To me, it seemed like the perfect Normal Rockwell Thanksgiving. We ate off matching china, not styrofoam plates. We sat in a dining room with linens, not Nana’s living room couch. Matching cutlery, no plastic forks. Fancy glasses, not the red Solo cups for our drinks. A buffet table was adorned with desserts so pretty I didn’t want to touch them. Pies, they were full of pies. But I did miss the desserts in the mismatched rectangular Pyrex dishes that cluttered the kitchen.

When we headed back, my roommate thanked me profusely for accompanying her. There was something going on and she didn’t want it to come out on this occasion, thus the invitation. I thanked her profusely for the invitation. I would’ve wound up on the phone for a bit, choking back my words, pretending everything was fine, eating a frozen chicken pot pie and watching TV alone into the wee hours of the night.

I learned to do Thanksgiving on my own for a while, and now, on our own with my family of four. Sometimes we travel to my parents’, sometimes they visit us. There have been Thanksgivings at a Dallas Cowboys game, with friends, with newborns, accompanied with grad school assignments, kicked off with a turkey trot five miler and now with a teen straddling adulthood and tween straddling the teens. Still not quite fitting in, but doing the best we can to be grateful more often than just once day a year.

Thoughts of Thanksgiving Present

I’m grateful for a break. I’ve given up on advocating for a restaurant meal. Not that I don’t enjoy Thanksgiving, but we have so much food. And guess who winds up eating most of the leftovers? This year, I decided to keep quiet and let my husband cook all of the things. It’s his love language. I voted for going out to eat, but he wouldn’t have it. I call our family The Carbdashians. Instead of arguing over which dessert we would bake (I prefer pumpkin pie) I handed the menu over to him, including dessert. I might make Martha Stewart’s pumpkin whoopie pies if the mood strikes. And usually, it doesn’t. I might sign up, last minute for a Turkey Trot, although the hubster warns of rain in the forecast, but that hasn’t stopped me. I’ll stay out of the way and sip on coffee or mimosas. He wants no help in the kitchen, so I’ll do the dishes. All of the dishes because he uses everything we have.

Thoughts of Thanksgiving Future

Who knows how our Thanksgivings will evolve. Maybe the kids will start cooking something. Maybe heating up a can of canned corn. Or following the directions on a box of Shake n’ Bake chicken. Mac ‘n cheese. Maybe they’ll invite friends whose families are hundreds of miles away. Friends will pop in here and there. Maybe no one will need to work, and if they do, we’ll make arrangements to celebrate another time. And maybe some day, we’ll be in New York, bundled up in our winter gear, waving to Santa watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in person.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

A Plan for Spontaneity

My Nana could never keep a surprise. She managed to accidentally slip regarding surprise parties, gifts, events, pretty much anything she was asked to save for later. Most of us inherited her trait, which is why I decided not to say anything to anyone. Then I kept second-guessing myself. Responsible me, who sometimes over-worries, tried to keep it a pure, untainted surprise. Tried being the operative word.

Nosotros

I knew a few weeks ago, Uncle Danny would be visiting Texas. I looked at flights and compared availability with my work schedule. Nothing worked, a given in education. I could get there, but I couldn’t get back home if I flew, the best option compared to an eight hour drive plus pit stops. Three summers have come and gone since we were all together. He’d been back to Texas, but living so far from my hometown, I usually miss out on non-summer visits.

All day Friday, between classes, I mulled around the idea. If I leave right after school-impossible since I had nothing packed-and drive four hours, I can get a hotel and leave early for the second half of the trip. If I go to bed by 9:00-impossible since I decided to make homemade pizza for dinner-I can leave at 4:00 a.m. and still be there at noon-ish. Or maybe I won’t go. I’m accustomed to missing out. This is what I get for choosing to live so far away from family. I’ll catch up with pictures. There’s always Face Time. No big deal.

But it is a big deal. With everything the past year and a half has dumped on us, why not? I decided to go to bed early, despite the tedious dinner I planned on cooking. I wasn’t in bed by 9:00, but I instructed my youngest to pack a bag and get ready for bed. We were on the road by 5:30 the next morning. I turned on my tracking app and kissed the hubster goodbye.

My niece, first place winner in her mountain bike race under 18 age division. 18 miles in the heat!

No one back home knew we were on our way. I got a feel for the family gathering on Saturday after I called my mom. Driving too fast without getting caught and skipping our regular pit stops made the drive seem quicker. Until I was about an hour and a half away, I was doing well with the surprise. However, I wanted to be certain to catch everyone. We have a way of changing plans on whim and I didn’t want to wind up missing them in case they decided to leave early or go visit someone.

One sister, who is always late to everything, (I’m the other one) called me while she was on the road as well. I let her know what we were up to in case anything changed. I tapped into my inner-Nana and “ruined” the surprise. Sensible me said it was for safety purposes. What if something happened on the road?

We arrived at noon-ish, 12:14, actually. I messaged the Keeper of the Secret. The plan was to call, then get on Face Time to say hello to everyone.

I called my mom and without skipping a beat, she said “Where are you? Don’t tell me you’re parked out front.”

What in the world? Did the Keeper of the Secret leak it out?

“Yeah, I wish!” I make small talk and walk towards the entrance to the outdoor patio where everyone has gathered for lunch. Mom shrieks when she sees us and this is the start to one of the most joyful, low-key, family focused weekends since summer. Road trips are standard for summer break, but unplanned weekend road trips are a little extra—everything.

I went outside my comfort zone only to find myself in another one.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Happy Halloguin

I belonged in a family that semi-celebrated Halloween
Nana said we'd go to hell,
it's the devil's festival
But my pastor uncle, 
took us to almost every house
in our small town, 
twice
always starting 
on the good side of town,
the ones that gave out mini-candy bars
and never stopping at Nana's
Rule follower me
reminded him we'd already been
to this house or that
"They don't remember, 
go get you some more candy!"

Once, my mom took us trick-or-treating-
one round, no fancy houses, quick-
there are other things to do
"There's candy by the door," 
she instructs Dad.
But it's Monday Night Football 
and the Dallas Cowboys are playing
We return home with our bags
all the lights out
darkness
Where is he?
In the bedroom, 
under the bed
a portable black and white TV 
flickers
mini-figured gray football men, tackling
Dad,  
a pillow propped 
under his chest
lying on his stomach, 
mesmerized.
A bowl full of
black and orange 
paper wrapped
peanut butter nougat candy
untouched,
waiting for us to split it.
"I didn't want anyone to interrupt me."
We give him some of our Snickers, 
his favorite.

I became the family 
makeup artist 
the year all the younger cousins 
were clowns,
costumes cheap
to assemble
and there was enough face paint 
to go around 
transforming my little brother
into a skull
Charged with getting everyone 
out the door, 
I don't remember them 
paying me 
with candy.

I got married 
one Halloween
my engagement ring 
cost a dollar
A white fuzzy pipe cleaner 
looped into a circle
a rock salt crystal gem
hot glued 
to the top
"I do." 
"I do."
And that was that,
teen-aged Halloween carnival vows
without the promise of forever
Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Which Story Do I Tell?

Of all the tiny stories that make up a day
a week, a month?

Do I tell the one about being unable
to make it to my cousin's funeral,
the one who was like a sister when we were kids
but somehow we grew up and drifted
our separate ways like a dandelion seed
puffed out of someone's wish?

Do I tell the one about how I missed 
first day of school pictures?
The one my husband took that wasn't full
of smiles and eager tween bubbles giddy to meet
friends in person once again?
The one with one less in the picture because
that one is enrolled in the University of Life?

Of all the tiny stories, which one do I tell?

Do I tell the one about the caterpillar in its
terrarium?
The one I caught wriggling and undulating,
pumping its whole body,
hard,
to shake itself loose 
of its old skin for good,
embracing its metamorphosis
instead of fighting it?

Do I tell the one of all the ordinary things
that add up to a melting pot 
of emotions
and reflection 
and trudging along,
embracing changes but dreading them 
at the same time?

Of all the tiny stories, which one gets to fly?

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge II-Texas Style

Stonehenge II-Ingram, Tx

Father’s Day, 2019. My husband’s “gift” was a weekend trip to Kerrville, Tx. Nostalgic for the hot summers in the Texas Hill Country where he spent some of his summers as a camp counselor, he wanted to share some his favorite places with us.

As our trips tend to go, there was bickering on the way there. I wanted to stop in Fredericksburg to stroll into the shops on the way there. I packed sandwiches and drinks so we’d have a nice picnic lunch at a park. We get there, the kids are hangry, we unpack our lunches, the flies start annoying us and everyone is grumpy. I mange to snap a few selfies because no one wants pictures.

Dooley’s, Fredericksburg, Tx

However, we popped into Dooley’s, a legit five and dime store. I swear I stepped back into my childhood. This is a place where you can still buy polyester day robes, the kind my grandma used to wore way before yoga pants and stretchy bands were a thing. Even the store fixtures time warped to their original tasks. I’m not sure if they were there in the 70s or earlier. My kids found souvenir keychains. And candy cigarettes. The kind I used to “smoke” when I was a kid that didn’t ever turn me into a real smoker. They each got a pack, the grumpy lunch experience soon forgotten. Word of advice if you go: Take cash or write a check. They don’t accept cards.

While on the road, we realized we departed for our weekend adventure on June 21st, the Summer Solstice. We also had no idea Ingram, near Kerrville, housed an art installation perfect for the occasion–Stonehenge II, along with Easter Island statue replicas.

Finding quirky roadside attractions is my favorite part of a road trip. I don’t remember how I found it. I think we were discussing the solstice. I must have searched it on my phone to read about its history and found information about all the people who travel to Stonehenge each year. It popped up on my search results and we added it to our itinerary. We were the only people there that late afternoon and ran into Chet of The Daytripper, who happened to be filming an episode for his PBS show. My son was more interested in the show and the video equipment than the replica of Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice. Sigh…

A volunteer community theater performs along the Guadalupe River. That summer they performed Madagascar-A Musical Adventure. The kids enjoyed it more than we expected. Buy the kids popcorn and soft drinks and it elevates their experience. Buy Mamma a mini bottle of wine and everyone’s happy. Like the ups and downs of the hills we travel, such is the way of a road trip. We find gems along the way, forget the grumpy parts, and take the good memories with us.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

They Hate Road Trips-2021

This is the first of my summer road trip musings, in reverse order to my childhood.

Texas-New Mexico state line

I grew up in the Texas panhandle, New Mexico nearby, but we never went there when I was a kid. No snow skiing or summer hikes for us. Our summer vacations, if we had one, were usually to south Texas to visit my dad’s side of the family. If we were lucky, we’d get to visit the beach, but we mostly stayed at my grandma’s and visited family.

The past two years, summer vacation plans fell through. We always go back home to visit our family, but now we travel north. Last week we spent the first half of our vacation with family and then invited my mom to tag along with us for a few days in New Mexico. Six years before, almost to the day, we attended the U.F.O. Festival in Roswell, spent a day at Carlsbad Caverns, slid down the dunes in White Sands, and did a tiny bit of hiking in Ruidoso.

Santa Rosa, NM

Albuquerque and Santa Fe were our destinations this year and I wanted to stop at as many roadside attractions as possible. In reality, we didn’t stop as often as I anticipated. I had a grand plan to map out everything, but the beginning of summer break had us busy with day long projects for two weeks straight. Not much time for planning. As I got lost in the depths of Pinterest and the web, I decided we’d play it by ear. I started my sightseeing list, asked the kids to do their own research and give me suggestions (they didn’t), and quickly realized we’d need more than three days to do everything. Plan B: do what we can with the time we have.

We stayed at a beautiful home in Albuquerque via Vrbo. We bought enough groceries to prepare breakfast and dinner. When we arrived, I almost didn’t want to leave the house. I spent the mornings on the front porch of the courtyard sipping my coffee while watching hummingbirds and other birds I couldn’t identify stop by the fountain for their morning sips of water. My mom joined me and we took our time catching up. It had been almost a year since I’d seen her.

The kiddos, right before they ditched us. I’ll take what I can get.

In Santa Fe, we went to Meow Wolf, the immersive art exhibit in a remodeled bowling alley. The kids ditched us. We went on our own and had a great time anyway. Parents with younger kids wrangled and steered them in the direction they needed to go. Some hollered at them to figure out where they had wandered off–there are lots of nooks, crannies, and secret passages. I don’t miss those days. But here I am, without my own kids. I didn’t experience their wonder or joy, but they did show me their pictures. Sigh…

We headed out for lunch then for some shopping. Even if they’re older, they still get tired. I didn’t get to pop in to as many shops as I would’ve liked. They aren’t much into shopping unless it’s for candy or ice cream. Kids have a way of telling you things without telling you things. It was hot and they were done with the walking even though they’d been fed. It doesn’t stop at toddlerhood.

We spent the following day in Albuquerque. The oldest didn’t want to join us and I didn’t prod. This is probably our last full-family road trip. Heading back to Texas, we stopped at a large souvenir shop I remember from my own last full-family road trip to Las Vegas before my senior year of high school. It’s funny, no matter how old the kids get, there’s still the allure of filling up a little bag of polished rocks. Although they had their own spending money, I bought them both said little bags full of rocks, the youngest correcting me, “They’re crystals, Mom, not rocks.”

As we got back onto the highway, my mom announced she bought me a little something. I turned around and she handed me a small plastic rectangle. I flipped it over and discovered my name printed on it. I squealed like a twelve year old on a road trip. There’s still the allure of getting a little license plate souvenir keychain with your name on it, no matter how old you get.

Souvenirs are my fave!

Let Us Eat Cake

Rave Reviews Coconut Cake

When I was in high school I frequently baked. I grew up in a tiny town. There wasn’t much to do or anywhere to go, so I baked. Plus, my grandfather’s sweet tooth needed sustenance. My husband takes over in the kitchen, usually. By the time I get around to baking something, he’s already beat me to it. Last week, my daughter turned 12. I asked if she wanted me to bake a cake for her and she declined. There’s a strawberry cake from our grocery store’s bakery she enjoys and that’s what she requested. I didn’t try to convince her otherwise. We celebrated her day with an HEB strawberry cake topped with strawberries and white chocolate curls.

Three days after her birthday, we get to celebrate Father’s Day. I have a track record for important events catching up to me and I’m scrambling to get everything ready on time. Why break tradition? I spent most of Friday with said twelve year old watching too many shows on Disney, but hey, summer break.

Saturday morning, I realize I have nothing for Father’s Day. Sure, the kids need to do their part, but I’m the one who has been organizing the celebration since I birthed them.

This year will be different and I’ll be ready. Nope. It hit me head-on.

I planned to have a gift ready and to bake a cake my husband would flip over. I’m searching for the recipe on my phone in the cookware section of the grocery store. Thank goodness for phones. I found the ingredients and continued with my shopping. I didn’t buy a gift. There were a few tech items I planned to gift him, but he beat me to it. He broke the rule about buying something before a big holiday. Oh well. That’s how it goes. Always.

At around 9:00 that night, I start baking the cake. There’s some game he’s watching on TV. I pop in my earbuds and listen to my audiobook while I do my best to whip it up. I don’t mind baking, but cleaning up is the worst. I took a deep breath and got lost in my book while I beat the batter, put the pans in the oven, toasted coconut, and mixed up the frosting. The cakes didn’t stick to the pan-win! I had plenty of frosting-win! It fit perfectly on the cake stand I bought earlier this year-win!

I set it on the table, almost a full twelve hours before we’d cut into it. As time consuming as it was, for some reason it didn’t feel like such a chore. Maybe it was my lack of preparation that helped me power through rather than giving up and buying another strawberry cake. Maybe I felt I was secretly competing with him to make an over the top cake I knew he had never tasted. (This recipe is from my high school days and it’s only the second time I’ve made it.) Maybe I came to terms with rolling with the ebbs and flows of life to do the best I can.

Sunday afternoon, we cut thick slices of a coconut cake with cream cheese frosting. Sure enough, it wins the hubster over. We had a virtual tasting with my dad via Face Time. I missed my grandfather and imagined him sitting with us, me dishing out a double sized slice for him served with a piping hot cup of coffee. It’s been a while since I’ve baked cakes. I think they want to visit us more often.

*Get the recipe here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021