FAFSA Family Fun

The day after a major holiday is usually the only 2 days I have a day off during the year, That is with the exception of Sundays, twice a month (depending on the season). I’ll probably blog about this at some point,  but I digress. Those 2 days off are usually new years day and black Friday. If I am lucky enough to have my family at home, I always have this amazing fantasy that we will spend the day together, after I return from a much needed yoga class, cozying up together from breakfast time, throughout the entire day, and then into the evening, either perusing a movie, or catching up by the fireplace.

The truth is that this NEVER happens, as reality wins out, but I’m guessing that you already knew that was coming.  There are platters, dishes, and wine glasses to wash and put away, tablecloths, kitchen towels, and pot holders to launder, the continuous loading, running, and emptying of the dishwasher, and the overall reinstituting of normalcy to put the house back together as much as allowed, give or take the number of visitors.

The kids sleep in, and I look in on them, cherubs that they are, peacefully recharging, contentment on their faces, hearts full, bellies happy, and I marvel how they have gotten this big, this independent, have lives of their own, and schedules to abide by, and I am grateful for their goals and accomplishments, and even give myself a little pat that I had a little something to do with their upbringing, and I didn’t mess it up completely. We all know, there are days as parents when we just KNOW we did that, so these moments restore my faith in my own humanity, even if few and far between.

I give them till 10 am, then 11, and then 12 before I begin to lose it…I’ve been taking care of the rest for hours and just want them to get up already…picture Christmas morning in households across the country with the  kids and parents in reverse.  I refrain from barging into their respective rooms, climbing onto their beds and clucking like a chicken, though the thought does cross my mind. I have one task that I used to “celebrate” new years day with every year, and need their assistance to do their part, but none of us have any desire to do it, and they KNOW it has to happen. And, thanks to the government, the FAFSA, as those of us affectionately call it,  is now available October 1st (like anyone can get to it then or even wants to).  I decide, by noon,  to log onto the site on my own and wing it until I need their input. I mean, how bad can it be? We’ve done it several times before, but, alas, much like the pain of childbirth, I forget….


I boot up my laptop, arm myself with a copy of last year’s taxes, my previous log in info and past completion receipts, get online, type in FAFSA.GOV, and then, the fun begins..fafsa-image

The site, forever challenging my notes, my memory, my tax returns, and challenge questions, not to mention our unreliable Wi-Fi, manages to take a task that should take the returning user 10-15 minutes, straight to a complete melt down, a possible trip to the ER for a stress test and immediate admission to the cardiac care unit, all in under four hours….so much for 15 minutes.   My cherubs, beckoned to assist, become beyond unreasonable, colorful in their language (which I despise immensely; My mother never let me use the word hate… “I despise that immensely or intensely…she preferred intensely.)  and I admit to clearly being no picnic either, huffing and puffing, beyond frustrated, but the LAST thing we want to do after that is be together.  What makes a site so challenging that it can, so easily,  destroy the fabric of a family as we know it?  I’m all for heightened security on a site that contains so much personal information, but, if I have all of that information, in addition to the answers to all 5 challenge questions, can’t they then presume that I’m their parent?   I mean, what’s next….photos from their births?  A copy of their tuition bills? Do we need to get matching tattoos? I mean, who would WANT to spend time on the site for fun?  I can think of a plethora of things that might be more fun to do as a family, and none of them contain the initials FAFSA.  Isn’t it enough that there are other things to take care of while they are home, like flu shots, dental cleanings, eye exams, and clothing alterations? Not to mention the dreaded answers to questions like “is your suit clean for the bar-mitzvah in a few weeks that you are soooo thrilled to be attending with us and the rest of your extended family because there is nowhere in the world that you’d rather be?! Oh, and did we mention that you’ll be sharing a room with us at the hotel because we knew we could torture you further? …Good times.

Personally, and I’m sure most parents will agree with me here, the  whole site should just be reconfigured to be much more user-friendly…unlock a free glass (or four) of sangria with each question answered or section completed…earn a free night at an expensive hotel for overall completion, or even just provide a free movie ticket for each member of your household that you claim.  If they did that, then immediately thereafter,  you could each attend the movie of your choice without having to sit in the same theatre with each other…so much for quality time spent together…it’s a fantasy, but it seems like a plan to me.







What’s two more?

The sweet potato casserole, string bean casserole, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and orange cranberry jelly are all done. There’s lots more to do… However, the fridge has been cleaned out and set for the preparation of the rest of the meal, and yet organized enough to allow for the storing of the yummy leftovers that will feed us and sustain our hearts for the  next few days. I have now shopped three times (yes, I’ve made another trip since my last blog; fingers crossed that three times is the charm) (yes, I remembered the rolls–thank you) the linens and platters have been pulled out, and the dishwasher has now been run twice. Dinner is in the oven and also in the crockpot.  I am off to work, and the empty nest will begin to fill tonight while I am out  and will continue to do so, well into the wee hours. In the morning it will be very quiet while everyone who has returned home remains asleep, or, at least,  pretends to be,  while the hubby and I head to work. I’ll be back to tackle the now empty, but not a chance tomorrow, sink, regroup, and head out to my second job. The craziness has only yet to begin… This year, I’m not quite ready, but I welcome it. The house will not be nearly as full, but the preparation is no different, the aromas that waif through the air are the same, and the smoke detector will go off, and the yelling will begin, as if it’s been scheduled.

I will miss having my folks here, and my brother and sister in law; my husband’s parents have not come for many years, and as my family has married and moved, other traditions have taken over, so I hold very tight to those who do come. However, this year I have been thinking a lot about two people who have been gone now, for several years…

My brother in law, is an only child, born to parents who had him later on in life,  long before my career driven generation evolved.  His dad, a long time  Cantor of a large temple, and his mom, everything you would imagine of a loving, adoring wife and mom, who walked everywhere along king’s Highway  Brooklyn, to shop, launder, and care for her family, as they, naturally, didn’t drive. I didn’t meet these people until they were in their late 70s, and they were my grandparents contemporaries, rather than my parents’. Nonetheless, we welcomed them into the fold with open arms, when he and my sister became engaged, and then married, four years after I did.  They often turned me down when invited over…”it’s such a schlep”, “it’s not necessary”, “we’re just fine staying home”, “we keep kosher and wouldn’t want to make things difficult for you”, and the famous “we can’t leave skippy (their dog) that long; he might die”. Ummm…seriously?

I always thought that maybe they just didn’t believe that I would abide by their laws of kashrut, or didn’t want the chaos of being in a houseful of people, or just weren’t comfortable, but,  slowly, and with my persistance, they came.  Yes, at first, they came with their own food, (who does that?!) but, eventually realizing that I had prepared specifically for them, they came without it. Jeff, did have to schlep back and forth to Brooklyn for them, but they wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. Over time came this little dance we would do…Me: “we’d love to have you.” Them: “We don’t  want to trouble you.” Me: “What’s two more?” Them: “Okay; we’ll consider it.” (So non-committal, but, they were older, and often unwell).  Even when his mom, Ruth, was ill and in the hospital, I could eventually convince his dad, Max, to come, and allow him to enjoy a walk around our neighborhood, which he so enjoyed, and he’d allow me to send back leftovers for Ruth. Over time, this became less and less often as they became less able to come and go, and it began to take a toll on those that had to “schlep” them.  …And then they were gone, within a short time of each other. I never had the pleasure of having my own grandparents for a big family holiday, but I’d like to think that Ruth and Max represented that whole generation for me, and maybe even for anyone else that has been here.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my brother in law, Jeff and I were talking about how different it is to have so many less people coming this year, and he said something that stilled my heart…”you know”, he said, “my mother loved you… You were one of her favorite people…always including them, making food FOR them, and pushing them to get out and be a part of the family instead of alone.”   I was speechless. I really had NO idea, and thought I had annoyed them continuously to leave their comfort zone. Sometimes you really have no idea what it means to be asked, again and again,  to be a part of something. We all need to know that you really DO want us there.  So, if you’re like me, make lots of food, and can’t scale to size anyway, or even not so much, think of asking someone to join you, that has turned you down before, because hey, what’s two more?

13.45 pounds is NOT that big

My Thanksgiving shopping is done. Well, round two anyway…

Years ago, I used to earn that “free turkey” within days of the start of their promo with just my usual shopping list; With a houseful of eaters, spending $250 was hardly difficult, and sometimes, I could earn a second one and donate it. (major score! Feed others who can not feed themselves.) …And then the goal became $300, then $350, and, more recently $400. #Seriously? and all for a turkey? That turkey also went from “your choice, between 22-28 pounds”,  to a store brand, frozen,  16-22 pounds….or a ham, or a lasagna. The price per pound also went up over time, so a $30 bird became a $50 bird. Ok, I get it, technically,  but come on.  Does the average family have that kind of money, and if it’s a half pound per person, does the average household really have that many people at their table that day? Or even need a big turkey? And how many other side dishes and hors d’oeuvres are also being served? Not to mention, dessert, which any triptofan coma induced person MUST experience within moments of finishing their meal…though at our house, we play Balderdash first… but that’s a whole other blog post!

I was brought up in a household where food is love, and I have to admit, this holiday is my favorite…wonderous smells, seasonal colors, gratitude, family, good wine, warm rolls, fresh from the oven, and laughter, devoid of religiosity or gift giving. I prep for days, with everything imaginable, and thanks to having the flu together with a newborn many years ago, the hubby takes care of the bird and makes his fabulous cranberry/sausage/oyster stuffing, which, I have to say  is to die for. There’s a vegetable platter, dips,  crackers, hummus, a cheese platter, stuffed mushrooms (but only if I can get the really big ones…Fingers crossed that i find them for my son who returns only for them, I believe) sweet potatoes, and sweet potato pie for those “not watching their sugar, gluten, or dairy”, string bean casserole, Brussel sprouts, regular (inside the bird) stuffing, the hubby’s famous stuffing, two kinds of cranberry sauce (fresh, whole-berry, homemade with oranges, and the jelly one, because I love the sound it makes when it leaves the can…no joke.) And then there are the pies…

We usually have about a dozen or more people at our feast, and I wrap up care packages for all of our guests, and keep a stash for ourselves for those fabulous little midnight sandwiches stacked high on dinner rolls with everything served on a giant dining room table, that takes up the entire table. I go for the 26 pound turkey, just to be safe that there’s enough…until new years? And, let’s be honest, I don’t stop eating from the beginning of prep until somewhere around January 5th, and that’s only because the FAFSA has to be filed.

This year, we will be 7 people. It just so happens that we have a big family event a few weeks later, so all of the out of towners have opted to not travel twice. I’m really not sure how to prepare for this.  I have trouble scaling to size, and I am pacing myself. I also have to admit, that with money being tight, I’m not going to qualify for that turkey. In fact, I bought one outright to help meet the criteria, and I still won’t get there. I have a few forgotten  incidentals to go back for, like the rolls…I must not forget the rolls…must not forget the rolls…rolls…but its not going to get me a “free” turkey.

Though it is only 13.45 pounds, so I still can’t help but wonder, and it taunts me; will that be enough?

No appliance November

November always makes me nervous. VERY nervous. Weird things happen in our house within days and/or weeks after  Halloween when initially my anxiety begins to set in.

We’ve had sewage come up through our guest shower, lost a sump pump, air conditioner, vaccuum, dishwasher, clothes dryer, garage door, stove; our furnace in 2012, while my floridian parents were here after super storm Sandy, and, just last year, our refrigerator,  after I had just finished stocking it for thanksgiving, but only a week before the pipe under the kitchen sink burst, leaked through the first floor and flooded the basement, all while taking out a printer along the way, causing ink to splatter the walls and carpet, and destroying the insulation in its path. Oh, did I say we had a houseful of people still staying here enjoying the holiday weekend?

I begin looking at our appliances in a distrusting way as soon as the leaves begin changing color. November first comes and my faith in prayer is restored with great importance. We set the clocks back, and I take a deep breath. I begin organizing and shopping for Thanksgiving, and begin whispering to and petting our appliances, willing them to be gentle with me.

In our state, teachers convention/college visitation weekend arrives, and I begin to get the shakes. I walk around, greeting each appliance, and tell them what a great job they’re doing and how great it is to have them with us. I tally which of them has been around the longest, and which might decide to bite the bullet.

The phone calls go back and forth between me and my parents, confirming holiday plans, flights, and transportation, and then, it happens….my parents arrive from Florida, the temperature drops dramatically, and the snow begins to fall. In all fairness, the snow has fallen on October 13th, during my nephew’s bar-mitzvah,  but yes, my parents were here.

Now, they swear that they are not a part of the equation , but it IS pretty suspicious, AND even my Facebook friends have noticed a trend.

We already need to replace our sliding door that self-imploded in August while I was away, and I’m concerned for our washer, dryer, dishwasher, and, especially, our hot water heater. I lack trust, like a girl who has been cheated on before, and I have to admit that I am secretly thrilled my parents are skipping the turkey this year and flying in for a family affair in December. …Maybe it will buy us time? Maybe it is them? Or maybe my appliances suffer from seasonal depression.

All I know is that in the last few days, 3 different light bulbs blew out within hours of each other, and just an hour ago, I flipped on the light switch in our master bathroom, and three bulbs simultaneously  exploded, and I was left dumbfounded….cue the twilight zone music…I have glass to clean up.







The birth of a blogger

About a year ago, my daughter, who happens to be a fabulous writer and blogger, asked if I would step in as a guest blogger.  Her college roommate had been a guest blogger, and she was truly epic.  Having never done anything like this before, I initially hesitated, I mean, how could I compete with people who are naturals at this sort of thing  but then I thought, how bad could I be, and this could  really be fun!

The blog coincided with her return home for Thanksgiving, and quickly evolved into our traditions of her returning home and the requirements to “squeeze it all in” while she was home for a mere 72 hours. There are always specific things that you want to do with/or for your kids before they leave you again, but I didn’t realize until then how funny we are together and how silly  some of those things really are!

Now, almost exactly a year later, I’ve been thinking about that blog post and how much I am looking forward to not only their return home for Thanksgiving, but the traditions that it brings. I decided, as well, that blogging should also be one of those traditions, and not just for her, better known as “leaves of logan” or for her college roommate, “sticks of sara”, but for me as well.

I give you “cloves of Carolyn”.