Neighbors

I have become the neighborhood crazy lady. It seems like since I left my 9 to 5 and started working from home that I have become increasingly more aware of my neighbors, and what they are doing. Until about a year ago we already had a neighborhood busy body but she moved away, apparently leaving the position open for me. I am now acutely aware of my neighbors’ coming and goings, as well as all of their bad habits. They should all be grateful that I am not on the homeowner’s association board. More accurately, they should be thanking sweet baby Jesus that I have not yet convinced my husband to doctor me up some official looking neighborhood watch letterhead. I would be sending one line letters daily with comments such as “hey asshole, vegetable gardens are for the backyard, not next to your front porch!” and “maybe you are unaware that they picked up your garbage on Monday, so there is no need for your recycling bin to be at the curb on Friday, but great job saving the planet!” But seriously, nobody wants to see tomato plants and cucumber vines growing all over their neighbor’s front porch.

My latest obsession has been our neighbor who has no clue where his property line is located. In fairness, our lawn company did cut half of his grass last summer, mostly because they came on Tuesday after the neighbor had already spent all weekend cutting half of his grass, so they followed the line he made. When fall rolled around, he raked about 10 feet of his substantial property and called it a day. I raked up to our property line and left his leaves for a week until the forecast called for snow. I was concerned the plows would come through and push all of his leaves in the street into our driveway so I raked them all up to the curb where they still sit four months later. And now there is snow…

When our previous neighbors still occupied the house next door, we took turns snow blowing the sidewalk. Whoever saw the snow first was “it” and took care of the sidewalk between the houses. We tried this when our new neighbors moved in several years ago but they apparently didn’t understand the game. At the time I was doing a lot of the snow blowing since my husband was working crazy long hours. The first few times it snowed, I cleared a path between our driveway and theirs. Apparently the neighbor interpreted this gesture as me claiming the job of clearing his sidewalk for all of eternity, because when he does his snow removal first, he avoids our house like the plague. He hasn’t stepped more than 10′ away from his driveway with a shovel.

Clearly, our neighbor is both unclear and unconcerned about where his property is and what he needs to do about it. The worst part is that every year, the arbitrary property line seems to move. The good news is we are gaining more property, the bad news is it’s not really ours, we just maintain it. After I watched a giant mound of leaves sit and gather snow for months I had finally had enough. When my husband went out to shovel after the first substantial snowfall, I followed him and told him exactly where to stop. I had done a little research (and measuring) and knew exactly where our property line was. The next day I looked outside to see that our neighbor had shoveled most of his property but left a 20′ piece of sidewalk uncleared. He was apparently throwing down the gauntlet. We had both shoveled at least a half dozen times so far and the large section of sidewalk remained covered. I know it was killing my husband to leave it be, but the more we give, the more they take. Pretty soon we will be taking care of their whole yard.

I have thought of a dozen ways to make this situation worse, but not one that would actually encourage the neighbor to just shovel his damn sidewalk. At this point, I am thinking I should either put some crime scene tape around the patch of sidewalk or build a snowman or ski jump right in the middle of it. At least the kids could get some use out of it that way. A few days ago my daughter was going to go over and ask the neighbor to play and my husband said “I don’t know…can you get through the sidewalk there?” half mocking me. And then last night over a foot of snow dropped on us. This morning my husband went out to snow blow and I watched him walk all the way over to the neighbor’s driveway, clearing the entire sidewalk between our houses. I wanted to tell him that our neighbor would now consider this our job, but I know he wouldn’t really care. He is the one who keeps watching the rest of the neighborhood try to traverse the giant mound of snow with their dogs and small children. Unfortunately, I think I now need to call my landscapers back to get a quote for cutting two lawns this spring.

*I wrote this while trying to drown out my daughter making Instagram reels and listening to my boyfriend (Mr. Henry Rollins).

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Young At Heart

Sometimes my dad buys gifts for my daughter that may or may not actually be for him. I get it, it’s hard not to buy things that you think would be really cool or you remember loving as a kid. I purchased the child fur leg warmers when she was 2 because everyone needs to know what it feels like to be a cat, and they reminded me of the fur coat I wore as a child every time we went to the theater or to a fancy restaurant. But I am losing count of the items my dad has purchased for his granddaughter that he spent more time playing with than she did.

Five years ago the Old Man bought a set of remote control cars so they could race. In theory, this was great, but he neglected the fact that a four year old does not have the dexterity to steer anything with a remote control. It was like watching a dog try to peel an orange, and the results were much the same. The car was thrown and kicked across the driveway more than once. Somehow along the way my mom purchased several more cars which are all on the same radio frequency. The Old Man can drive 4 cars at once while my daughter kicks her one car around the driveway.

In an attempt to help my daughter become better coordinated and athletic, my dad has purchase a baseball mitt, a golf club and a drone. She has reluctantly used all of these things and still remains clumsy as can be. These purchases have improved my dad’s golf game and allowed him an excuse to toss around a ball. The baseball mitt now resides with my dad, the golf club is missing more often than not and the drone didn’t last a full day. Last year he bought her a snowboard which she used exactly twice, most likely because my dad has no ability to get out on the slopes with her. It sat in our family room for a week during the first snowfall in an attempt to pique her interest in the sport to no avail. 

This year my dad made yet another purchase that may have been because he could picture himself as a young man using it. He bought my kid a hoverboard. The minute she opened it, all I could think about were the 500 funny videos I have seen of people wiping out. She rode it around the family room and, surprisingly, did not even wobble. Unfortunately, I think this gave the Old Man some unfounded confidence in his ability to stay upright. Within 24 hours he tested his balance, and much like his high school French grade, it was not good. He managed to steer himself around in circles and move backward and forward, which may actually have been attributable to his bow legs more than skill, but he did cover a fair amount of ground on two wheels. But like a novice gymnast, he could not stick the landing during his dismount. He attempted to hop off the hoverboard knowing that keeping one foot on could be disastrous, but he moves slower than he used to and the hoverboard spun around before his feet were off throwing him to the floor. I patted myself on the back for not commenting on the irony of his age and falling on his hip until I knew that he did not actually break any bones. Instead, he cut himself above his eyebrow, which probably actually made him feel like a young man since he suffered the same injury numerous times during his hockey playing days. He immediately tried to get back on the board at which point my mom had to intervene and forbid it.

Luckily, the hoverboard has moved into my daughter’s playroom and stayed there. The Old Man eyes it every time he comes over but he has not made a second attempt to conquer it. My husband, on the other hand has attempted to ride it and wiped out. He was fortunate enough to do so without me seeing or filming it, and without causing any injuries I could poke at. But today my dad asked me if I had fallen off yet and I told him no but I had ridden it successfully. Before he could even think about going for another ride my mom looked at him and said “over my dead body!” Unfortunately, I think he may have taken that as a challenge…

**I wrote this while listening to some music the Old Man likes…

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Love Cats

My husband and I have had an ongoing argument for six years. I have wanted something soft and cuddly to love (other than him) and he has wanted a fur-free house (other than his own). My daughter has watched every one of her friends welcome new pets into their homes since she was of school age and both of us have requested a pet for the last five birthdays. Two birthdays ago my husband actually bought me a stuffed cat that makes angry faces when you squeeze his head. I named him Fido. He is surprisingly not a cuddler.

The argument really heated up in the last year when my daughter started coming home with weekly new pet announcements from her friends. This poor kid wanted a cat so badly she was labeling the neighbor’s cats as strays and trying to covertly “adopt” them. The argument finally came to an end the week before Thanksgiving, just like all arguments are resolved, on the internet. My friend posted several photos of a kitten who needed a new home quickly. I showed the post to my husband stating loudly “this is the universe telling us we need a kitten. Listen to the universe!” For once, he listened to the universe. I’m fairly certain he knew he was going to lose this war eventually. I am nothing if not persistent (read – nag).

Within 24 hours we were across town picking up our new fur baby. We were informed that she had been locked in a bathroom for three days due to the sudden injury of her previous owner and the need to keep her contained. She screamed the whole 45 minute drive home during a storm while her carrier bounced on my kiddo’s lap. My daughter promptly dubbed the 3 pound spitfire Brody after Brody Dalle of the Distillers. She lived up to her name quickly when she walked around the house the first night meowing loudly and pushed her way into my arms to wrap her body around my face for a quick nap. I was awoken the following morning by a furry punch to the nose. I hadn’t slept much anyway after Brody decided that crawling under the covers to bite my kneecaps at 3 am was a super fun game. By the end of the first 48 hours, half of my body was covered in scratches and teeth marks, but I didn’t mind. I am a bit like that big doofus who halfway smothers Bugs Bunny by over-loving him.  

My whole family suffers from allergies of all kinds, so it was not a shock to find my daughter covered in hives with itchy, watery eyes within hours of bringing Brody home. We proceeded to heavily medicate her while searching for remedies online. Within an hour four different types of kitty shampoo, allergen reducing fabric spray and food were being shipped to our door. Who knew they made cat food that changes the allergen production in pets. Three weeks later, my daughter was still sneezing and itchy but adamant that these conditions were not due to the kitten. A month later her allergies disappeared. Apparently that miracle cat food actually works. Yay science!

We got a bit of a shock at Brody’s first visit to the vet. First, we found out Brody is a boy. I had manhandled this little boy at least 10 times while bathing him and had no idea he had a penis. I don’t know if that says something about me or him, but now I feel bad every time I call him my “little man”. We were also informed that he has a heart murmur sever enough that he needed to see a cardiologist before they would perform his neutering and declawing (which were requirements for living with my husband). Our vet pulled some strings to get all of these procedures done before Christmas and on December 22 I got a call informing me that his heart freaked out a minute into the surgery and they could not declaw him but were able to steal his manhood. I had been preparing for such an event and already had nail covers in multiple sparkly colors bookmarked. I figured since we had already mislabeled him as female and stolen his nuts, sparkly pink claw covers would not bother him even a little.

He came home from his surgery and immediately jumped onto his cat tree where he had previously been able to hang by his sharp little claws. He bounced off the post three times as he attempted to use his claws that were no longer of use. He was still too stoned from his surgery to feel any pain so he just kept throwing himself at the structure until we removed it from the room. Within 30 minutes of being home, he also managed to soak himself in water and roll around in his litter box while pooping. Naturally, he then jumped into my bed trailing clumps of litter and poop all over my quilt. My original plan to keep him in our bedroom was quickly amended and I took his litter box directly to the basement. I then spent an hour attempting to de-poop Brody’s tail wondering when he ate the glue that was clearly making the poop similar to dried cement all over his tiny butt. The next two days consisted of hiding medication in food that he refused to eat, cleaning up water that he consistently splashed out of his bowl like a propeller, and carrying the little fur ball around the house like an infant since he demanded my full attention. Surprisingly, Santa still brought my little man a giant sack full of toys.

Brody has been with us almost two months and we are finally all settling in. The humans know we are unable to get off the couch without having our ankles bitten or walk up the stairs without a sneak attack. Brody still punches me in the nose every morning but it’s to wake me for his heart medication, which he is now taking with a tablespoon of wet food. He also demands that a tabletop fountain be turned on for his daily water consumption, and that the curtains be opened or he will climb them and try to open them himself. He has even made friends with Fido. A few nights ago I heard him making all kinds of noise and dragging the evil stuffed animal up the stairs. I think he is trying to form a kitten gang. And so the adventure begins…

**Well look at that, Brody likes to listen to his namesake!

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The Valley of Malls

My family has many holiday traditions. Some are fun like watching A Christmas Story 400 times, some are challenging, like baking 800 cookies, and some are straight up worse than a root canal, like going to the mall. My dad insists on this last one every single year. No matter what I do to try to make his shopping easier, he somehow drags me to the mall. The Old Man is not a great gift giver, but he thinks that if he goes to the mall, the world’s greatest gift will somehow find him. I have been playing this game with him for over twenty years and I have yet to see a gift fly out of a store and beat him over the head, but I am hopeful that I will be there if it ever happens.

This year he called me asking “what do you think about those glasses that let you walk down streets in New York City and see the Sistine Chapel?” My first thought was that my mom doesn’t do so well with technology, so virtual reality glasses are about as useful as a unicycle (my dad’s gift to my mom, Christmas 1971). In all fairness, he did know the name of the oculus glasses and told me all about them. At the end of his explanation I said “they are owned by Facebook? No, just no. You may as well ask me to make a purchase at Walmart. Not happening.” My husband also made a very valid argument against such a purchase. He pointed out that my mom fell in a hole without anything on her head obstructing her view. I have to admit, I have watched my mom fall down more times than I can count and have seen her knock things off tables with her purse. We have a running joke in my family about my mom running into things. I can only imagine her trying to navigate a room while thinking she is somewhere else entirely. Unfortunately, my dad had to ask “is this idea up there with the unicycle?” to which I had to inform him yes, it was.

He did have a few other ideas that were actually good, and as it turns out, I could actually order said ideas online while on the phone with him. Unfortunately my dad declined my offer to do so stating that he wanted to touch the items before purchasing them. Apparently his sense of touch is far better than his sense of sight, or judgement for that matter. I searched online until I found a local store to purchase one of the items that was not at the mall, so we drove the 11 miles to the store so my dad could manhandle the gift. After wandering through the store for 20 minutes, we were informed that the item we wished to fondle was only available online. We proceeded to the parking lot where I ordered the gift online on my phone. My dad still claims we purchased the gift at the store to keep his purchasing record clean. I’m fairly certain he believes there is a reward for the effort of shopping in person.

One of the things my mom specifically asked for was a chair. She has a queen anne recliner at their lake house that is just her size. My mom in an average size recliner looks much like Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann, but this small, stiff chair fits her just perfectly. She loves the chair, and asked for another one in a different color, which is kind of a theme for my mom. If one is good, two is better, and you can never have too many chairs. She apparently found one online for $300 and told my dad about it. Unfortunately, she may have been shopping on wish.com because we were unable to find a decent chair for twice that amount at any of the many furniture stores we perused in person (including Macy’s at THE MALL). We eventually found one that I declared too ornate, my dad declared too uncomfortable, and my mom declared too expensive, so it was clearly the perfect chair. It will arrive in 4 months. Happy Easter mom!

I thought I was free and clear after walking through more stores in a few weeks than I have in six months, but I was mistaken. On our way home from what I thought was our final trip my dad declared that he forgot all about her apple pencil. Apparently when he bought my mom her iPad two years ago he also bought her the pencil to go along with it. She tried to use it once and when it didn’t work, she set it aside for two years. My dad decided it would be a good idea to take the pencil back to the apple store at the mall to replace it. When we arrived, we were informed that this was not, in fact, a good idea at all. The security guard who stopped us at the door told us we should go home and take care of it online. I barely contained my smirk as I repeated his instructions like shopping online was a novel idea. 

By the time my dad had completed his shopping, every item he purchased was being delivered. This was clearly not going to suffice, so one last trip to the mall was necessary, this time with mini-me to assist. We walked directly to a store with lots of sparkly things where the Old Man immediately pointed at the same thing he bought his wife last year and said “do you think she would like that?” to which I replied “well, she liked it last year…” The child walked him around the store pointing out the items he had already purchased and moved him directly to a display of new merchandise. If only she had been born in the 90s when he bought the same earrings two years in a row and I was too stoned to realize it. We exited the store a half hour later with gifts for my mom, including one from the child that she didn’t even have to pay for, and my kid carrying a brand new fur backpack that she also didn’t pay for (or shoplift). Apparently my father is grooming her to take over my shopping duties by bribing her with free stuff. It took him long enough to get sick of listening to my commentary while fondling mall wares. That man has a high threshold for mockery.

All in all, I think the Old Man did okay this year, as long as all of his purchases arrive on time. I don’t have any faith in the postal service since they have been holding several of my packages hostage in the vortex called “in transit” for a month now. And suddenly I am beginning to see why he likes to do all of his shopping in person. Maybe that old guy is actually onto something.

**After hearing Mariah Carey at the mall and wanting to gouge my eardrums out with a chop stick, I found it necessary to listen to some good old fashioned Christmas songs about sex changes and killing people.**

 

 

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Santa Baby

Every year I ask my daughter what she is going to ask Santa to bring her on Christmas morning. Every year I am confused by her requests. This started very early in life. The Christmas before her third birthday she asked for the Hulk. She had a major crush on the big green guy for a few months prior and wanted a 12″ plastic action figure which she then slept with and carried around for months. The following year, she asked for a Catman stuffed animal and Velma barbie doll. Both of these things took months to find and cost more money than the drum set that also arrived Christmas morning.

The nearly unattainable gift requests have continued almost every year. The problem seems to be that my kid, much like her mother, leans toward the unconventional. Last year she asked for a KISS onesie (which do not come in kids sizes), Hocus Pocus dolls (which do not exist) and a hand written note from Santa placed under her pillow (good thing she is a heavy sleeper and I can forge almost any handwriting). I’m not sure if she makes these requests to test Santa’s abilities or if she is just really high maintenance, but at this point I am almost looking forward to the day she no longer believes in the fat man.

I am guessing that day may be around the same age she gets her driver’s license. I believed in Santa for years after my peers gave up. In my defense, my dad was an elfing genius. We took off for midnight mass every Christmas Eve and when we returned home hours later, the tree was packed with gifts. I found out years later that he had some guys who helped with the gifting. I am still impressed that someone was able to get a giant gymnastics mat through the door and into the living room alone.

This year when I asked my daughter what she would be requesting for gifts she exclaimed “a grappling hook and a bullhorn!” without missing a beat. I have no idea what she plans to do with either of these items, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the grappling hook is to climb up to the roof and the bullhorn is to yell at me to bring her things while she is on the roof. Maybe I should get a second grappling hook for my inevitable rescue mission. Actually, I should probably get three so my husband can make the climb once both of his girls are stuck on the roof.

The most ridiculous part of the requests from Santa is that every single year she talks about something she wants for months and then decides she doesn’t really need it at the last minute, but really needs something else (like a KISS onesie). Every year I tell her Santa must be watching her when she receives the Harry Potter onesie she talked about all summer, so I guess it actually helps the cause. This year I was sure she wanted an enormous Harry Potter lego set. I was wrong and I don’t mind being wrong, but it would have been a lot easier to swallow four months ago when I had an additional $400 in my bank account. The good news is both bullhorns and grappling hooks are pretty cheap. But then she did what she does best and informed me that in addition to the two items she already mentioned that she was going to ask Santa for a gaming system and a dozen video games… at least it’s not a pony!

**I’m just elfing around listening to some punk rock Christmas music over here while I simultaneously shop for electronics I know nothing about and try to list a brand new lego set on eBay!!

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