May 032020
 

Now that Chooch’s online schooling is in full effect, things have gotten more interesting during STAYATHOME, especially when we both have to be on calls at the same time. For instance, two weeks ago when I was trying to do a WebEx with a coworker in Chicago just as Chooch had to join a call with his Gifted Center sculpting class.

“I dunno, I guess he has to make something out of things found around the house,” I explained to Vicki as Chooch scoffed in irritation at me and took his call onto the back porch.

Somehow, this turned into a partner-project, because Chooch is just as helpless as me but when we join forces, we can sort of get things done, leaving about 75% of the rest “for Dad.” I remembered that I had a container of craft bullshit under my bed which also happens to contain a bunch of serial killer cut-outs from when I used to handmake my serial killer cards back in the day. So out of everything in that container, Chooch came down with a picture of Ted Bundy’s head and a piece of white foam paper.

“I’m going to make a white VW with Ted Bundy inside,” Chooch said with a shrug. And then added, “I know that’s the exact car he drove because I watched that Ted Bundy movie.”

And he watched that movie because way back in Week One of Isolation, when I still had energy and motivation and tried to make a school schedule for him, one of MOMMY’S ASSIGNMENTS was to watch a documentary. “Can’t I just watch this Zac Efron Ted Bundy movie? That’s kind of like a documentary” and I gave in pretty easily because I had my own shit to do. BUT SEE?! It ended up having value! My teaching skills are on point, you guys.

He grabbed the box that my vintage lightswitch plate was shipped in, thinking he could use that as a shadowbox-type thing. I found a pair of never-used chopsticks from Noodles & Co (we have an entire drawer full of good chopsticks that we use!), so I flung those at him and shrugged. You never know!

I was sitting at the desk, working, during all of this when I noticed a toy T-Rex that I had spray-painted gold years ago when I was making dinosaur ring-holders (I go through phases) was standing in front of me so I tossed that at him and said, “Here, you can use this too.”

Then he found out that the project was actually a mobile, so the chopsticks were perfect after all! And he decided for a third item to make a model of the coronavirus out of clay and thus, the Dangerous Things mobile was born.

Of course, he left everything in an unfinished heap on the table for a week until late Thursday night when he pulled Henry out of bed because he needed help attaching the mobile to the top of the box, lol. Henry was so happy to help, as always!

Everything was all well and good after that. He snapped a picture and posted it to the classroom message board or whatever it is that they’re using, thinking that would be the end of it.

But then the next day, he had another group call, which turned into a VIDEO CALL so that everyone could share and explain their projects. We both started panicking because he didn’t really put much effort into this and now he was going to have to be like “say hello to Ted Bundy” and I don’t know this teacher and sometimes I really don’t think like a real mother when I’m like, “YES THESE ARE GREAT IDEAS THAT ARE NOT CONTROVERSIAL OR PROBLEMATIC AT THE VERY LEAST FOR 13-YEAR-OLDS, DO IT! HERE’S A SEVERED FINGER THAT YOU CAN ADD TOO!”

I sat there, trying to work, while listening to this call happening behind me, and this one totally suck-up kid was like HERE IS THIS DELIGHTFUL MOBILE THAT I MADE FOR MY MOTHER FOR MOTHER’S DAY of stfu are you kidding me, that’s an instant A. Art teachers lap that shit-milk up!

Chooch and I exchanged horrified looks.

“I can’t show this” he said at the same time I said, “You can’t show that.”

But then some other kid went after that and her’s was just like, a string of crumbled crepe paper so I said, “OK look – yours is better than that one so I guess just go ahead and show it” and he was like, “Christ.” But he did it and I had to get up and walk away at one point because I couldn’t stop laughing.

I had stopped recording right as she said, “Well Riley, I’ve gotta say, this is really unique and creative, the most unique one yet” which, I have to say, as his mom, it felt like she was saying that to me and I did the Champion Fist Shake over both shoulders right there at my makeshift work desk.

Oh man, that was a great moment which made up for all the trash moments during the earlier parts of the week.

I wish his old art teacher at his regular school could see it. She was such a bitch to him.

Later that day, the teacher sent everyone their project evaluations and instead of being pleased that he earned a 25/25, all he could fixate on was that said that she loved “Jeffrey Dahmer in his car” and Chooch flipped out and was like OK BUT IT WAS TED BUNDY.

May 012020
 

Hi guys! I’m up bright and early to tell you about the readathon I joined for May! May, as some might know, is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and in honor of that Cindy from Read With Cindy has created a month-long readathon to get people inspired to read books written by Asian authors, includes Asian characters, or has some kind of Asian content.

Now more than ever with pandemic-fueled xenophobia and hate crimes happening all around, it’s important to show our Asian community some love and solidarity—which obviously should be happening on the daily and not just for a singular month—and this is a really great and fun way to not only support Asian authors, but also learn more about cultures and heritages that differ from our own, which is a huge reason why I gravitate to books written by POC in general. So when I found out about this readathon via Booktube, I was ALL IN. Henry and Chooch were like, “Oh my god, get out of her way.”

There are prompts/challenges that you can follow, or you can just be like me and compulsively add all of the Asian authors to your To Be Read shelf that are available!

I will post Cindy’s explanation video here, but I also wanted to list the books I chose, mostly to hold myself accountable to actually reading them but also to give some inspiration and recommendations to anyone considering maybe picking up one or two for themselves – come on, you know you want to get in on this!

The books that I currently have available, all queued up and ready to go:

  • Miracle Creek – Angie Kim (Korean American; currently reading)
  • Hotel Iris – Yoko Ogawa (Japanese; currently reading)
  • Life – Lu Yao (Chinese)
  • Braised Pork – An Yu (Chinese)
  • The Girl in the Tree – Sebnem Isiguzel (Turkish)
  • My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki (Japanese)
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love – Maurene Goo (Korean American)
  • A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – multi-genre anthology of short stories by modern YA authors of Asian heritage.
  • The Book of M – Peng Shepherd (Indian/American)
  • Tiny Pretty Things – Sona Charaipotra (Indian)
  • This Time Will Be Different – Misa Sugiura (Japanese American)
  • Your House Will Pay – Steph Cha (Korean American)
  • The Stationery Shop – Marjan Kamali (Iranian)
  • Rebel Seoul – Axie Oh (Korean American)

Ones I have on hold:

  • I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn (Japanese)
  • Anna K – Jenny Lee (Korean American)
  • Kim Jinyoung, Born 1982 – Cho Nam-Joo (Korean)
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien (Chinese Canadian)
  • In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park (Korean)
  • Wrath & the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh (Korean American)
  • Written in the Stars – Aisha Saeed (Pakistani American)
  • Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line – Deepa Anappara (Indian, this one has like a 7 week wait so I likely won’t have it in time for the readathon, sadly)

Here’s a handy document of Asian authors and books that Cindy and others have compiled to give you that nudge you might need. 

And finally, here’s Cindy’s explanatory video:

If you’re thinking of participating, let me know! Maybe we can buddy-read one of these books together?!

Apr 302020
 

I’m a damn mess. Here’s a splooge of bullets because I really just need to hear my fingers typing. I just need that. Let me have that.

  • In one of the recent books I read, I learned about a Ghanaian food called fufu, became immediately fixated on it, and now Henry has watched numerous YouTube videos about cooking it and said he’s going to try and do that this weekend, so that
  • Co-workers sounding all upbeat on our weekly check-ins on Tuesday is something I just can’t keep up with. I can’t fake that anymore. Every time I open my mouth, I use up more energy blocking the four horsemen from stamping out to a Wumpscut-produced funeral dirge, holding a ragged banner declaring WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE. I even requested off next Tuesday so I can avoid another weekly check-in. This is nothing against my coworkers AT ALL. I just need a fucking break.
    • Chooch and I had our first real fight since quarantine started because we were doing a Kukuwa cardio dance workout together (begrudgingly on his part; it was “gym class” for that day) and he made some snide comment about how I was doing it wrong and this was after the previously mentioned weekly check-in call and let me tell you, my temper was pulled taut like a rubber band and I fucking snapped, considered running away (TO WHERE – NOTHING IS OPEN), contemplated quitting my job, sent Henry a slew of suicidal texts, contemplated texting a friend but remembered how hard it is to ask for help and everyone else is going through it anyway so why bother them; so instead I watched a booktube video about Asian author recommendations*** and cried, Chooch apologized and let me slap his arm, then Henry came in the door right after that and I said “let me punch your arm” and then I was ok(ish).
    • We are all really going through it, aren’t we? And it’s so weird when you sit down and really try to put your depression / impatience / dread / etc into baskets….”Stuck in the house” just seems like a really silly excuse. But you know it goes deeper than that. Humans are fragile. Some of us have cracked our shells during this.
  • *** Speaking of Asian book recommendations, tomorrow (May 1) is the start of Asian Read-a-thon which I am so excited about and have spent the last week building up a hearty virtual TBR (to be read) shelf. I’m going to post separately about that tomorrow, but rest assured, Henry and Chooch are already SO OVER IT.

  • Two weeks ago, I hit the point in quarantine where my lightswitch plates started to bother me. Especially the one that’s in the background of the video calls I have to make every week. So I went on eBay in search of clown ones and the options are actually a’plenty, but then this super adorable/creepy cuckoo clock-esque one caught my eye, and well, THE REST IS HISTORY as they say. Or, you know, I clicked that “Buy Now” button in case you didn’t understand what I meant. When it arrived last week, I used a butterknife to swap it out with my old one and then I posted a picture on Instagram which got way more attention than most anything else I post, so I see your niche interests, Instagram feed. But yeah, this made me feel nice, like there was one thing I could control in this house while everything else is peeling and falling, lol.
  • We got Chooch a three-day Hello Fresh box for his birthday and the shit he made was MAGNIFICENT (I feel like I used to use that word constantly as a kid and now I’m just like ‘awesome’ and ‘cool’ so thanks, Retro Erin). Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of third meal (some strange flatbread that I don’t think he cared for either because we all kind of ate it quietly and never spoke of it again) but there was a divine chickpea-ish taco thing and then green bean tempura or something that I wouldn’t mind eating for the rest of the my life, on alternating days. PICTURES BELOW:

  • I bought myself some charms and pins from Idol Collective because that’s how I have been coping with life, by TREATING MY BITCH SELF. They arrived on Chooch’s birthday and he was so pissed because he thought it was a birthday present for him and I was like, “Nah boy, this is a gift for my C-section incision scar, no piss off.” I love Idol Collective because not only does she make my favorite kpop pins, but she also has some gnarly horror designs too and that is like the perfect cross-section of interests for someone like me. Anyway, in addition to this glorious Digging Up the Marrow pin, I bought her Hereditary and Midsommar charms because that girl knows good horror. I hadn’t seen Hereditary in a while, so I conned Henry into watching it with me on Sunday and he was really scared even though it was daylight when we watched it. Also, I don’t think he understood it. (God, I LOVE THAT MOVIE SO MUCH.)
    • Speaking of Hereditary, I saw that Toni Collette is allegedly going to be in the adaption of “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” which I recently read and I LOVE THAT FOR HER. Toni Collette is so awesome magnificent.

  • In other weekend news, our lilac bush has bloomed and will proceed to delight us for about two weeks before going back to resemblig a large, hearty weed-bush that grows back and doubly-unruly no matter how much Henry tries to trim it.

  • Henry has been making some progress on my Seoul subway picture and I’m really hoping it’ll be done this month, god please let it happen. I am so ready for new wall stuff.

  • Peenlop was really interested in whatever poetic opinion Kayla from Booksandlala on YouTube was waxing. (She’s my second favorite Booktuber, in case you were wondering and I’m pretty positive that you weren’t but for the sake of this blog post, pretend with me.)
  • My neighborhood has been so quiet. I’m not sure why I thought that a stay-at-home order would rile shit up around here, but people really do seem to be staying inside and not, you know, drunkenly shambling around but I guess the state stores being shuttered could have a lot to do with that. So yeah, I’m really missing my local windowsill entertainment. Oh well.

Well, I can’t stretch this out any longer than this. I’m sad, bored, empty, opposite of magnificent.

Apr 282020
 

My mom just texted me this old picture of my Pappap (left) with his dad and brother. I somehow never knew this but apparently my great-grandfather has bought a baking company and my Pappap used to help out. My mom said that Chooch reminds her so much of my Pappap, especially now that he’s developing this love of baking, and that is pretty much the best thing my mom has ever said to me. If my kid reminds her of my Pappap (her dad and my favorite person in the whole entire world), then we are for sure doing a fine job over here.

I have been feeling so down all day [week? Month(s)?] but this photo put the air back in my sails. I love it so much.

Happy Tuesday, pals.

Apr 272020
 

Quarantine has really got me in a reading groove so I’m splitting my April recap into halves because I make the rules around here.

  1. I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go

This British thriller revolves around the search for the suspect in a hit-and-run case that kills a little boy and it’s told from various perspectives. I ended up liking it a lot more than I imagined and it evoked some strong emotions from me (domestic abuse trigger warning).

2. Sour Candy – Kealan Patrick Burke

Sour Candy

This horror story is short but definitely not sweet! It’s about a man who encounters a small boy throwing a tantrum in Walmart and, well, shit escalates. After striking out several times with horror books (I am really picky and hard to scare which is funny because IRL I’m extremely easy to startle and have a very strong deer-in-headlights visage going on most of the time), this one was just what I needed to save the genre for me. Quirky, twisted, and frustrating—I think I gave this a 4 and immediately put Kealan Patrick Burke on my NEED TO READ MORE list.

3. Sadie – Courtney Summers

Sadie

I’m not the biggest fan of audio books (I can’t listen to them unless I also have the print book in front of me as well) but I have found that they are a great coping mechanism while I’m working from home during quarantine so I’ve been trying to be more open-minded about it. Mostly, I have been getting ebooks through Libby, but I try to make sure that I can also find the audiobooks for some of them as well so that I can work my way through extra reading that way. A lot of them I immediately nix because the narration is just, ugh (I suffered through an awful one later in the month, which we will talk about in the second half of this book round-up). I don’t normally seek audio books out but I kept hearing about how phenomenal the audio book for “Sadie” is, so I figured, “What the hell, I’ll bite.”

Friends, listen to me. This was INCREDIBLE. The book is about a girl who is murdered and her older sister’s quest to track down the killer, but it alternates between that and a podcast about the murder and the now-missing older sister. It’s a full-cast audio book and the podcast chapters are so realistic, like, you can hear background noise when they podcast host is interviewing the owner of a diner, shit like that. It is SO ENGAGING. I was so upset when it ended. I highly recommend this, also though I will mention that the main character has a stutter, so if that bothers you, well, you’re a jerk, but still—just wanted to point that out.

4. Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan 

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians, #1)

This is another one that I opted to go the audio-route with and I will always recommend that for books that steer away from your own nationality/ethnicity, because it’s always good to hear different languages spoken rather than just glossing over it with your eyeballs. The narration makes this so much more authentic and I learned A LOT about Singaporean/Chinese culture. There were some cringey parts where some questionable language was used, but overall, I really enjoyed this and thought it was way better than the movie mostly because I kept imagining Siwon as the main character, Nick, (yes, he’s Korean, but I still kept picturing him and really disliked the actual guy they got to play him!).

Also, hilariously this book was relevant a week later when we got this big project at work which involved searching Chinese names in our database and one of my work friends asked me how I would search this one particular name. I got to respond with, “Well, you don’t have to search ‘datuk’ because that’s a Malay title for royalty” I AM THE CHAMPION, MY FRIENDS.

5. See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done

This is a fictional account of the Lizzie Borden murders. The chapters alternate between Lizzie, her sister, the maid, and a man that the Borden sister’s uncle hired to kill Andrew Borden. It wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but the author really got those descriptions down good. The way she described the condition of the house in the summer heat, the mutton that the family ate for days, the pears…it made me so uncomfortable. It was also fun to read this because as I’ve mentioned a million times in this thing, I’ve been in the Borden house twice and I can only imagine how stifling it was to live there, especially in the sweltering heat, with a father you hated. It really puts you inside Lizzie’s head, but it also succeeded in making me feel especially sorry Lizzie’s older sister, Emma.

6. If We Were Villians – M. L. Rio

If We Were Villains

Yeah, I didn’t care much for that. It centers around a group of friends who attend some pretentious Shakespeare-centric art college and all these reviews I read beforehand were like, “If you don’t like Shakespeare, you will still like this book” and it’s not that I don’t like Shakespeare, but I only know the bare minimum of his work and am fairly uncultured in general when it comes to plays.

Well, all those assholes were wrong, because these idiot kids basically speak to each other in Shakespeare quotes throughout the entire book and I didn’t care about a single one of them.

Oh, there’s a murder. I didn’t care about the person who gets killed, nor did I even really care o know who did it. It was not great. Maybe if the character development had been better, I don’t know. Also, the guy who ends up in jail (the book starts out with him getting out jail years later, so this isn’t a spoiler) is a complete dummy. I’ll be damned if I take the fall for a murder, is all I’m saying. Janna, if you kill someone, you’re on your own, friend. I’ll send letters.

Until I get bored.

7. Gingerbread – Helen Oyeyemi

Gingerbread

My head spins every time I try to pull out a review. Right off the bat, I was going to DNF this. The style is fairly unconventional so it wasn’t holding my attention and then THIS HAPPENED:

If you know me, you’ll know what pulled me back in, lol.

There were other little Korean bread crumbs throughout the book and it made my head spin because even though it takes place in a fictional country, it’s implied that it’s some Eastern European area. It’s also disorienting because in the flashbacks, I had a very 1970s rural country image in my head, but then there are cell phones…I love/hate when books and film have that kind of ambiguity.

When we were in high school, Janna was dating this totally brainiac – the kind of genius whose mind was so brilliant that he was almost intolerable. Once, he wrote her this letter about thread that was so flooded with metaphors and symbolism that even when working together, we had a helluva time deciding it – and Janna and I were smart kids!

(Whoa, two Janna shout-outs in one blog post!)

That’s what this reminded me of. Helen Oyeyemi is a fucking genius. It’s the only explanation. At times, I hated this book and wanted to hurl it across the room because IT’S NOT EASY TO READ. It presents like a wall of text at times, with staggering chapters which left me feeling anxious and impatient because I needed to put it down for the night but at which point should I read to?! But then I finished it and instead of chucking it across the room, I picked it up again and admired the cover. Then I looked at the author’s picture. Then I googled her. Then I started watching interviews on YouTube and she is a fucking DOLL.

Also, it turns out that she lived in South Korea (and even visited North Korea!) while writing this novel, and she loves K-dramas, so it makes sense why, for instance, the fireflies in this book speak Korean and a Korean parent makes the main character danpatjuk when her daughter is in the hospital.

I would recommend this. It was a challenge for me to read because I get distracted easily, so I needed to be still and quiet while diving in, and I could only read so many pages at once before I needed to put it down, but it was so worth it. I still can’t stop thinking about it and I’m going to read everything by her. She is brilliant. I stan.

8. Final Girls – Riley Sager

32796253

This was my second Riley Sager novel and it didn’t disappoint. It’s about a girl who was the sole survivor when someone murdered the friends she was camping with and how she has since been labeled by the media as a “final girl.” I wasn’t like OMFG while reading this, but it was entertaining and I think it would be a great book to read in October.

**************

OK, that’s all for now. I have like 10 more that I need to recap – April was clearly a great reading month for me, can’t imagine why.

Apr 262020
 

 

Even though we weren’t able to do anything outrageous for Chooch’s birthday yesterday, I’m sure it will still be memorable for him simply because of pandemic times. But you know, it really wasn’t too bad of a day. For one thing, the weather forecast called for all-day rain for Saturday, but it ended up being a BEAUTIFUL spring day!

We went to Jefferson Memorial for a quick “14th Birthday” photoshoot, but there were actually quite a lot of people there so we had to be quick in order to get the hell out of there.

In all of the years I’ve been taking pictures at this pond area, I have never had to contend with lollygaggers, but it was the place to be on Saturday.

This worked to Chooch’s advantage though because he was trying to get this over with as quickly as possible. Also, Henry didn’t bring any of my other camera lenses, so I ended up just using my phone. Thanks, Henry. Wouldn’t be a photoshoot without a heated argument!

Chooch won me that stuffed character in Seoul, and his mask is also Korean. #represent

The balloon was just from Giant Eagle, though.

One of my friends made a comment on Instagram about how they can’t believe it’s been 14 years already (it’s funny how many of my LiveJournal friends especially say this because they virtually went through my entire pregnancy with me!) and I was like, “Oh I know, it’s so weird how he keeps aging and I’m just over here still being 26.”

And another of my old LJ friends, Jeri, made a similar comment which brought back this strong wave of memories from when I found out that I was pregnant and had a three-way call with her and our other friend Kelly and Jeri was like, “This is very exciting but you should wait until you’re at least out of your first trimester before publicly announcing anything” and I was lie, “That is very sage advice, thank you Jeri” and meanwhile, the very next day, I was like, “DEAR LIVEJOURNAL, YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE IT….”

Man, LiveJournal was so major in my life. I might not use it anymore, but I have some really solid friendships that have survived time and distance and I will forever be grateful for LiveJournal for that. Even to this day, if I mention a name that Chooch isn’t familiar with “irl,” he’ll go, “LiveJournal?” and I’ll just nod.

I think we’ve done a fairly decent job getting him to 14! I remember when he was a baby, thinking that I wasn’t doing enough, because I wasn’t signing us up for Mommy & Me classes or whatever, but it ended up OK after all. I eventually learned that everyone has a different parenting style and I think mine is just very…I dunno…relaxed and casual? I mean, sure, he started swearing when he was like, 2, but we always just stressed that he couldn’t talk like that outside of the house, and lo—he’s made it all the way through 8th grade without us ever getting a phone call about him cussing out a gym teacher or whatever. Never even slipped in front of his grandma!

I mean, they’re just words.

Wow, I’m really getting derailed.

What if I wrote a parenting book. LOL.

So, Chooch’s present was supposed to be a weekend at Canada’s Wonderland but, you know, quarantine. Man, if it had me when I was 14, I’d probably have smashed some porcelain figurines and cut myself or something if birthday plans were ruined, but he definitely was gifted the “shrug it off” gene from Henry. He never once pouted or complained yesterday about being stuck at home.

We promised that we’ll go to Canada’s Wonderland later, when it’s safer. And in the meantime, we got him some small gifts, like a set of Apeach dishwashing gloves (he won’t wash dishes without gloves, and Apeach is his favorite Kakao Friends character). He also got Apeach pot holders, a three-recipe vegetarian Hello Fresh box, and a food processor, because all he cares about lately is kitchen stuff.

Then he had a virtual Netflix party with his friends Trevor and Santana, so at least there were options for him to celebrate with friends while still practicing social distancing.

And he baked his own birthday cake! It was strawberry, and while his frosting skills still need honed, it tasted fantastic!

He was so proud!

I gotta say, I don’t hate Chooch’s newfound interest in baking. Thank you, coronavirus….?

And then today was the pick-up day for the vegan pints we pre-ordered from Sugar Spell, so we got to drag his birthday celebrations out for one extra day.

All-in-all, not the worst 14th birthday, I guess! And I didn’t even have any phantom C-section incision pains all day!

Apr 242020
 

Guys, hold the phone – tomorrow is Chooch’s 14th birthday so I’m devoting today’s Friday Five to my five favorite birthday parties that I threw him hahaha because it’s all about me, why bother asking him for his opinion?!

It’s going to be weird not having a party for him tomorrow or taking him to dinner at the very least, but we will make the best of it and for as much as I scream at him for acting spoiled, he’s actually not that bad (considering who his mother is) and he’s pretty content with laying low and having a Netflix Party with some of his friends. 14 is a weird age, anyway.

OK, in no particular order, here are some of the birthday parties he’s had! Click on the links to go to the original blog post for each party, where you can see more pictures and probably multiple paragraphs where I complain about how stressed out I was, make me a martyr already.

  1. Rollerskating Party

This is kind of weird to include this one on the list because it was his first birthday party right after the BLOG CONTROVERSY at his old Catholic school wherein I wrote about some of the bitch-moms and they found it and there was a confrontation and shit got real and then they punished me by not letting their kids go to his party, because yes – I’m the one who suffered there. Some of the kids did still come, but we had a lot of friends who turned this into one of the most funnest parties ever! We rented out the roller rink and even though one of my friend’s son’s fell and broke his wrist, it was quite a nice 6th birthday!

We had become pals with the people who ran the rink at the time (it was since taken over by some not-great people with questionable beliefs so we don’t go there anymore), and they were so generous with their contributions to the party!

2. THE CAT PARTY!!

I was so proud of how this party turned out! We had all kinds of cat-themed food and games and a cat-themed photo booth and so many people came and Lisa’s baby puked on Janna and Bill had a feud with a kid and stole one of his toys and threw it out when he was in the porta-john, and seriously, when I think back on these parties, I love my friends so much, lol.

Bill and Jessi came all the way from Michigan (I mean, this can be said for nearly every one of Chooch’s birthday parties though, they are legit family to us, man) and it was so much fun decorating cat cookies the night before. Party prep is so much more tolerable when you’re drinking with friends!

This party was a great blend of friends, family, and Chooch’s school friends. Let’s be real though, his real friends are my friends, which should be annoying to me but I guess I’m OK with sharing my friends with him. (Most of them like him better than me anyway, lol!)

3. The Disney Shocker

For Chooch’s 10th birthday, we took him on a surprise road trip to Disney World. He thought we were going to visit Henry’s “Uncle Walt” right up until we arrived in the parking lot of Disney, he’s so dense. This one was really hard for us to pull off because we are not rich people and, you know, Disney ain’t cheap, yo. We were even less rich 4 years ago so it was nothing short of a miracle that we managed to scrounge together the funds to make this happen. He was so happy though and this honestly was such a huge win for us as parents. I love giving the gift of EXPERIENCE!!

4. The Zombie Party

cake

I just remember that a bunch of people showed up for this at my mom’s house and we had a little graveyard set up where people could get their photos taken and Bill accidentally scared Chooch too hard and made him cry, which was promptly added to the list of Times Bill Accidentally Made My Kid Cry (surprisingly, many times, but they are still best douche-cups for life!).

billchoochfeast

I’m pretty sure I have a picture of Chooch crying on the actual blog post, so you don’t forget to click those hyperlinks!

charlievictim

My friends are such great sports!

kara

Kara and her son Harland, who I can barely remember ever being that tiny!! He’s so tall now!

I’ll also remember this as the day my friend Christy (Chooch’s godmother) told me she was pregnant with twins!

5. The Surprise Butterfly Party

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For Chooch’s 11th party, I realized that while we had that surprise birthday trip to Disney, we never actually had a surprise PARTY for Chooch. And I used to be the QUEEN of throwing surprise parties! It was like, my thing back in the day, to the point where probably everyone expected one eventually. But look, you have to know this thing about me: I thrive on taking things that people HATE and using those as themes because I’m fucking rotten.

TO THE CORE.

I mean, I have a rotten apple tattooed on my arm for God’s sake.

My child is not exempt from my devious ways.

Anyway, he was surprised and annoyed all at once, and then happy when he looked around and saw the people who were here but tried to play it off by saying he was just happy for getting a balloon, because he resorts to untimely awkwardness just like his dad.

Oh wait, I mean, his mom.

Tomorrow will be low-key, but I will still try to make his 14th memorable. I mean, turning 14 during a pandemic is memorable in and of itself, I guess.

Apr 232020
 

It’s no secret that I collect religious things (my bathroom decor is very religious, if you’ve ever visited you may have felt inspired to genuflect in front of the commode, Janna always does that I think). One of my favorite pieces is this creepy and hopefully haunted last rites box that I purchased from a flea market quite a few years ago (8 maybe? I’ll let you know in a minute when I copy and paste the old blog post about it because copy and pasting is how I write these days).

I remember Henry was pretty against me buying this because it was during the Poor Years but I stamped my foot probably and lo, it’s been hanging on our wall ever since like the saddest conversation piece (literally no one has ever asked about it lol).

It came with the original (so the seller said) last rites accoutrement that the priest would use when he came to, you know, deliver the last rites, the holy peace out, the heavenly DEUCES.

Anyway, please enjoy the story of how this beauty came to live in my house. (And i was tight! It happened in 2012. March, specifically.)

————-
Last December, I found the most majestic religious artifact this side of the Vatican
: a Last Rites shadow box with a statue of Saint Rita inside. (Coincidentally, this is how my Saint Rita obsession started.) Of course when Henry heard the asking price, he kept walking. Erin and her stupid collector’s quirks, right Henry? You asshole.

Sunday morning was warm and gorgeous, so we decided to kill some time at the flea market before the 12:30 Pens game (no comment on that).  Everything was fine, Henry and I acted cordially to each other, even allowing our hands to graze at one point. Even Chooch was obedient and seemed content with the pack of Pokemon cards and 25¢ Happy Meal toy we let him buy (I would totally not have been content with that at age 5, for the record. – Silver Spoon Girl.)

And then it happened: several rotted-teeth Steeler fans parted at just the right moment to allow a sliver of the most wondrous wood-encased sight to peek through. Henry was the one who saw it first; I almost kept right on walking but he stopped me and pointed to it.

It wasn’t the Saint Rita, but a Pieta; still,  its level of divine beauty paralleled it, for sure. And it was the same man with the dancing eye-mole who was selling it.

“$75,” he told Henry, who then walked away. But not me. I stayed there, lightly running my fingertips down the side, drooling just the tiniest bit and feeling a sense of longing I haven’t felt since I was Scott Dambaugh’s 8th grade science partner.

The man noticed that I was still standing there and he came back over to tell me its history, how it was over 90 years old and belonged to his grandmother who had it built into her wall; he opened it up and showed me the spoon that was used to pour holy water over the foreheads of the sick and dying.

Meanwhile, some man began encroaching on us and I felt myself moving closer to the box, shielding him from its availability, readying my foot for the impending crotch-kick it was about to perform.

Turns out he was only looking at some stupid baseball memorabilia on the table behind it. KEEP IT MOVIN’, BUDDY.

The seller left me alone with my painful materialistic yearning to snatch money off some dummy buying something lame.

Determined, I gave it one lingering caress with the promise that I’d return, then I did my Phoebe-run down the walkway to Henry, who was several tables away by this point, looking at rusty tools and vegetables, which is all he cares about.

“I only have $50!” he yelled when I careened to a halt in front of him, pouty-lip and sad-eyes at the ready. I was really starting to lay it on thick (he still owed me for making me miss the Sleeping With Sirens show at the beginning of the month! I don’t forget this shit) so he sighed and said, “See if he’ll take $50.”

“You!” I wailed.

“This is all you! I don’t want that thing, you do!”

OH REALLY THEN WHY DID HE POINT IT OUT TO ME. I would have probably walked right past it! He just likes seeing me hurt, that’s why.

I snatched the money from him and stalked back over to the guy’s table, stood sentinel next to the Last Rites box and waited for him to finish a much-lesser transaction.

When I proposed the new price of $50, he shook his head, dragged his hand over his eye-mole, and said, “No, I couldn’t. I gotta get at least $65 for this because it’s my sister’s in North Carolina and I gotta send her some of the money. These things are worth a lot of money,” he went on. “Just shipped a really rare Saint Rita one to Philly for $125.” (MOTHERFUCK!!!!!)

And then my lip went out and the tears fell down. I was kicking myself for getting him to spend $2 on cookies moments earlier. Then I’d have $52! $52 might sound more enticing to Dancing Eye Mole than $50. “Oh sure, you can have it for $52! That is so much more lucrative for me than $50!” he’d surely not say.

But when he saw my newly distressed state, all the tears and such, he sighed, looked up at the sky and said, “Get him to give you 10 more dollars and it’s yours.”

“OH THANK YOU!” I said in my best Shirley Temple voice, swiped away the tears and galloped over to Henry.

“No,” he said immediately.

“IT’S JUST TEN MORE DOLLARS!” I screamed. “I have a $20 at home that you can have!” (Of course I had no intention of actually giving him that though.)

“No,” he said, holding firm. “I have other things that need paid that are more important than that.”

“But you OWE me!” I hissed.

He just kept walking though, so I fell back and walked alone with my arms crossed.

“Do you want to get some incense?” Henry suggested.

“…..”

“Do you want to look at the stuff inside?”

“…..”

“Do you want me to throw away your coffee cup?”

“…..”

“Oh come on, don’t do this,” he pleaded.

“…..”

He could have asked me to marry him at that moment and my reply would have been a resounding, “…..”

I made Chooch walk real fast with me back to the car. My plan was to leave without Henry until I realized he had the car keys. By the time he had left the parking lot, I had totally wore him down with my pouting and he angrily drove to the closest ATM and got out $10.

It had started raining by the time we made it back, and as I raced over to the man’s table, he was just starting to pack everything up.

“WAIT! I’M BACK! HERE I AM!” I shouted, huffing and clutching my chest.

As he was removing the candle holders and putting them inside the box with all the last rites accoutrements, he reiterated that it would have been mine for $50 if it was his and not his sister’s. Yeah yeah, just give me my fucking treasure!

He placed it carefully into my arms like a baby, and I whispered to him, “I will give it a good home.” And then I tiptoed back to the car, mouthing the words, “Don’t drop it” over and over.

As we left the lot, the shadow box resting handsome-awkwardly on my thighs, Henry mumbled sadly, “Now I don’t have any money to get pretzels.”

(Don’t worry, he dug up change.)

Apr 222020
 

In an effort to get out and beg the sunshine to help ward off depression, Henry and I have been really taking advantage of the beautiful cemeteries here in Pittsburgh, and it’s been kind of nice because we used to take walks in the boneyards a lot in the early years of our relationship so it’s kind of a throwback. And I really love cemeteries so much in the springtime – you get to enjoy all the pretty flowers and foliage without dealing with crowds that you’d find in the city parks or public gardens (or wherever we would normally go to look at nature, it’s been so long, I can’t remember), which is really relevant in the age of social distancing. However, we would typically be the only people there, and now we’re one of like…6 or 7, which is odd for these places (we go to the smaller ones) so now we just pretend like we’re dodging zombies. 

The cemetery we went to on Saturday was one that we used to visit a lot way back in the beginning of our relationship and I actually haven’t been here in a while because there were some times I’d roll up solo, get out of the car, and almost immediately get REALLY BAD VIBES. Like legit “Somebody’s Watching Me” skin-crawls. 

Therefore, I felt like it would be the perfect locale for Saturday’s stroll because Henry and I had started the audiobook for “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (I also read along on my Kindle, but you guys, if you’re going to read this, definitely get the audio too, you’ll know why when it happens) and this book is tense. I definitely recommend it. Henry and I sat on the back porch late Saturday evening and powered through the rest of it because we couldn’t wait until the next day. I kept saying, “One more chapter?” and then finally I was like, “Maybe I can just speed up the audio?” and we ended up finishing it right after midnight, on the back porch, with the kerosene heater on, and it was so cozy and scary! 

Chooch kept coming out to check on us and he was like, “IS HE SLEEPING OR CLOSING HIS EYES TO IMAGINE WHAT’S HAPPENING?” and just couldn’t accept the fact that his dad was listening to an audio book with me, haha. 

Henry, when I’m like, “let’s read a book!” And then after we finish it, he starts googling for info about the upcoming film adaptation, lol.

What a great day for a cemetery walk! The next day, we went to a different cemetery but instead of listening to a new audio book, I jawed Henry’s ears off with stories from my past, which he just loves, especially when they involve BOYS. 

I’m glad that the sun was out on both Saturday and Sunday. It’s hard enough staying home, but even worse when it’s gray and rainy. I feel like I’m on the ledge enough as it is, at least give us some sunlight for Christ’s sake. 

Mrs. Drew Beringer.

If we’re going to be stuck at home, at least we have a small sanctuary in the back of the house that’s pretty worthless during winter but now it’s SO INVITING. 

I don’t even know what else. The weekends are just extensions of the week at this point. We’re home. We leave only to take carefully plotted and strategic walks. Maybe Henry will put his mask on and go to the store for essentials. But mostly, we’re here, we’re doing nothing but something being extremely loud about it. We’re watching K-dramas (Itaewon Class and Welcome are my two current faves), eating things that Chooch bakes for us, I’m obsessing over my Libby shelves and examining the house for new projects for Henry (I want him to redo the entire kitchen in a cost-effective way because we don’t own this house but I really can’t stand the kitchen any longer and now that Chooch is all about baking, he’s echoing all of my FIX THE KITCHEN demands). 

What are you guys doing to pass the time? I feel like March was the longest month ever but somehow, against all odds, April is flying past. Maybe I’ve grown accustomed to this new lifestyle. 

LOL, nope. Never. 

Oh! Also, you know it’s dire straits when I succumb and play Heads Up with Chooch because I hate that game so much and every time he sees people playing it when we’re standing in line at amusement parks (OMG what is an amusement park), he’d be like, “PLEASE CAN WE PLAY” and I would always say no because I get too heated to play shit like that around so many strangers, but anyway, we’ve been playing in the evenings sometimes and it’s fine. Everything is fine. I’m fine. You’re fine. We’re ALL FUCKING FINE.

Apr 202020
 

Also known as: some pics.

We got the back porch spring-ready and it’s been such a nice change of scenery considering we’re stuck in the house. It’s so cozy out there and the kerosene heater has been keeping it nice and toasty during the chilly spring evenings.

I would say it’s my favorite place to read except that every time I go out there to read, either Chooch follows me and starts playing TicToc on his phone or Henry plops down and starts chewing or breathing or both.

So far, Chooch’s baking bonanza isn’t a phase. He’s been churning out delicious treats nearly every day and I feel blessed especially since he’s so conscientious about the nutritional value so that I won’t freak out about what I’m putting into my body. Look, I am a food-spaz with a super gnarly sweet tooth and especially now that we’re housebound, I have to be extra careful about what I’m eating. I love that Chooch considers this and looks for “healthy” versions of sweets, like that bangin’ apple cake up there that he made with applesauce and Stevia. It ws so good! 

He’s making his own birthday cake this weekend and said, “Sorry, I’m not making a healthy one” and that’s fine – it’s HIS birthday, after all! I guess my needs and I can take the backseat for once, sigh.

When I was rifling through my drawers looking for old Denny’s picture for my post last Friday, I found this picture of me from 1982, perched on the stereo cabinet in my grandma’s famed clown room and I was so happy because I was just talking about this photo recently – I want to get it blown up and framed to hang on my bedroom wall in between these two climbing clowns I have hanging on one of the walls and is that weird to have a giant photo of yourself hanging in your bedroom? Well, I don’t care because it fits the theme.

Man, I love clowns a lot. 

What a great picture of my Leno chin and Drew!

In other news, I cracked a year-old case the other day. OK, this might seem dumb to you but look: I got really excited last year because I was doing a Leslie Sansone walking workout and I noticed that this one broad looked A LOT like my favorite Jillian Michaels backup…exerciser? She’s in Body Revolution and HAS SO MUCH VIM AND VIGOR. LOVE HER. Her name is Mimi. I was so sure that they were the same person, but Chooch was like, “No they’re definitely not the same” and then I found out the Leslie Sansone one is named Kamilah so then I was like, “MAYBE THEY ARE SISTERS” and I started calling her “Kamilah, Mimi’s sister” and Chooch would get so angry about it and I even labeled the “from” on one of his Christmas gifts “Kamilah Mimi’s sister.”

ANYWAY.

I was doing an older Jillian Michaels kickboxing workout on Friday, and Mimi is in this one. Normally I turn these off immediately after the cool down, but this time I let it go and happened to glance at the credits where they list the names of the backup people and there was no Mimi listed BUT THERE WAS A KAMILAH. THEY ARE THE SAME PERSON. KAMILAH IS MIMI’S REAL NAME AND SHE LOOKS KIND OF DIFFERENT IN THE LESLIE SANSONE VIDEOS BECAUSE THEY ARE MORE RECENT.

I WIN! CHOOCH LOSES!!

OMG it was such a weight lifted off my shoulders. 

jillianmichaelsworkoutjunkies

I just found her on YouTube! 

OK BYE!

Apr 182020
 

I’m not going to pretend that I would have watched this Global Citizen live event if SuperM hadn’t been one of the performers but I did end up keeping it on afterward and maybe I even shed a few tears.

Lady Gaga is a mega angel for organizing this and even if she wasn’t personally responsible for snagging a SuperM appearance, I am legit thankful that it happened because everything is so sad and bleak so seeing SuperM singing “With You” made pieces of my heart find their way back. Look at these guys! Look at the joy they exude! They are precious babies and Kai is putting together Legos! TAEMIN IS COOKING, FOR GOD’S SAKE! Henry’s response to this was, “But…Taemin can’t cook..??” Lol – he knows way too much about Kpop idols.

Anyway, please do yourself a favor and watch this. It is so uplifting.

Even JANNA watched it!

Apr 172020
 

Look, I’m skipping my Friday Five: COVID Diaries edition for this week because it’s quite literally more of the same. I had the day off on Monday which consisted of, you know, more of not leaving the house, but less of work-stuff. So that was nice, not having to rot in front of the computer for 8 hours. 

But the rest of the week was: work, exercise, books, Kdramas. Chooch has been doing admin shit in Minecraft which really shows off his sociopathic side, that’s for sure. He built a house for someone, wow how nice, filled it with diamonds, WHAT A GENEROUS CHILD!, lured the guy in there, collapsed the roof on him, rude!, and SPAWNED A BUNCH OF WITCHES TO FILL THE HOUSE, what a psycho! He was laughing so hysterically that it was as contagious as the coronavirus. 

Aside from that, we haven’t Battle Royaled it out yet, though he did jokingly come at me with a knife today and I had to pull out that age-old parental line of THAT’S HOW ACCIDENTS HAPPEN!

One of the books I’m reading currently is Haruki Murakami’s “After Dark.” Several scenes take place in a Denny’s, of all places. I guess I’m just very emotionally fragile these days because I immediately felt a strong pull of nostalgia as I imagined these scenes playing out at a Denny’s in Japan. It’s probably been about 7 years since I’ve been to a Denny’s, for several reasons: 

  • since I started adjusting my diet in 2012, diner-like food makes me so SICK, that I have to eat it sparingly;
  • I refuse to pay what they charge for a fucking grilled cheese in this day and age!!

But hoooo boy, what I wouldn’t give to be able to leave my house and sit in a Denny’s at all hours of the night with some friends and a pack of cigarettes right now, am I right?

(OK, we can deep-six the cigarettes.)

I didn’t eat at Denny’s very often with my family (my pappap always preferred Italian restaurants, but when he felt like “slumming it,” we’d always go to Blue Flame, obviously). So it wasn’t until high school when I really became a Denny’s loiterer, probably when I became friends with Lisa. It was always the artsy/music scene types that hung out here (who knows where the “preps” and jocks hung out), and we’d just sit in a booth for hours on end, socializing, smoking, making new friends (I even went on a date with a guy I met at Denny’s, but that’s a story for another day), watching Lisa smash her molten lava cake into a soggy mess, acquiring a legitimate taste for coffee. 

Denny’s is where I started a fight with this guy James (who I later became friends with and his wife is the one who did my majestic Marcy tattoo!) because he was harrassing my friend Dan at school. (I literally pulled James out of his booth by his collar and made him go outside with me so I could yell at him – I had SOME decency to be a loud mouth in private, OK?). Denny’s is also where I wanted to go the first time, all those years ago, Henry said he wanted to take me out to dinner.

“Really? Denny’s?” he asked, surprised.

“I want a grilled cheese,” I shrugged.

I pulled out some old photo albums this morning thinking that I would look for two or three pictures I knew I had from various hangouts at Denny’s back then, but was surprised when I found around 12 almost immediately. I thought it would be fun to share them here because who doesn’t like sharing pictures of themselves with bad hair, fat faces, too-thin eyebrows, etc etc. 

I WILL NEVER FORGET THIS DAY (even if I wanted to – I have hours of it recorded on 8mm). This was the day of our friend Evan’s art show at Carnegie Mellon. We went to Denny’s first, of course, and our friend Justin and this guy Tony who was visiting from Virginia and whose mom was friends with Lisa’s mom and asked if we’d let him hang out with us and then he kissed me in my driveway hahaha) also were there, and Evan stole a door knob from a door in one of the CMU buildings and it looked like it was a super antique, and I think he gave it to me (do I still have it!!??) and then afterward we went to visit my friend Jeremiah in Hazelwood who tried to help me join a girl gang but I didn’t drive and didn’t know how to take a bus to get to the initiation. 

This was the best fucking day. 1996 could have been a perfect year if it wasn’t also the same year that my Pappap died. 

Justin!

Lisa and I were so well-known at Denny’s but no one, and I mean NO ONE loved us like our favorite waitress Marianne. She even kept my school picture in her keychain next to his actual kids’ pictures!! Sometimes I think about her and wonder if she’s doing well. She really cared about us. 

Meanwhile, there was this waiter, Gerard. He was like, Denny’s After Hours. Everyone who hung out there late at night knew him and the “Gerard Special,” which was a banana split made to resemble a weener and balls. When I was dating Psycho Mike in 1997 and he got kicked out of his house, Gerard let him crash at his apartment for a bit and Mike said it was one of the scariest times of his life which is really saying something because he once burnt down a house and spent time in a juvenile mental institution at least twice.

Don’t mind my Devilish expression, but Denny’s is also where my friend Brian fake-married me and my first love, Justin K., three years after we had broken up, lol.  I also have a picture of Justin fake-kissing me that I kept hanging on the fridge but then Henry would flip it over so the picture-side was hidden, and I eventually put it back in my photo album because it was starting to get ruined. 

Henry hates knowing that I had past lovers, lol. 

Also, this was the closest I ever came to actually getting married. 

LOL, I used to place personal ads all the time because I LOVED going on dates (this was also when I was dating Jeff, and he was not really on board with this). I would almost always take friends with me though. This particular time, I met a guy named DeeDee who was aghast that I didn’t like football. We went to play pool and then of course went to Denny’s. Lisa came with us and brought her friend Petra, who was an au pere for a family that Lisa used to babysit for. I think she was Slovakian? She was very sweet and I remember stopping by my parent’s house at the beginning of the night for some reason and talking to my dad in his garage. Petra gushed over his classic cars (he had two at the time, a 55-something and a 36-blah blah. My dad was like OBSESSED with her after that. It was hilarious. 

(Sadly, DeeDee and I didn’t really hit it off and never hung out again, but it was still a super fun night!)

Justin (not the one I fake-married, but the one mentioned earlier) sleeping in the best booth. We could do things like that at the Denny’s on Rt. 51. 

I think this was 1999, sometime in the fall. 

Janna looking bored AF (in her defense, it was likely 3AM). And we were almost always there with Jon and Justin because none of us were 21 yet and it was either sit at my apartment all night or sit at Denny’s, sometimes both. 

Dang, now I want a grilled cheese and coffee, really bad. (And kind of a cigarette too, ugh.)

Apr 152020
 

In tonight’s edition of “Things Around Erin’s Shanty,” I’m featuring the print of a painting I made for my brother Corey several years ago, to memorialize our legendary trip to Sugarcreek, Ohio. We went to Heini’s, a cheese place, and encountered several fascinating characters and peed our pants from laughing so much. 

One of those characters was the guy doling out samples of THE BEST BUTTER IN THE WORLD. Would you care to read about him and our magical visit to Heini’s? Sure you would. You’re self-isolating – you need shit to read!

Once the world reopens, I would like to go back to Sugarcreek. I need some butter.

*****

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I felt kind of bad that Corey and I opted to visit Heini’s Cheese Chalet over our dad’s suggestion of Walnut Creek Cheese. He’s a self-professed expert on Ohio Amish Country, so I don’t doubt that Walnut Creek Cheese is a wonderful establishment. However, when I did my own research last week and stumbled upon Heini’s Cheese Chalet, I was like, “Holy fuck, this is the one.” Because:

  • it’s a cheese CHALET
  • it’s called HEINI’S
  • it offers cheese factory tours!!

I texted Corey and he was like FUCK YES HEINI’S. I noted that some of the Yelp reviews mentioned it was imperative to get there before 11:30, because that’s when it gets really crowded. We made it to Millersburg around 10:45, after squealing and pointing at all of the Amish buggies we passed along the way because we are Those People Who Remind the Amish Why They Chose That Path. …because they don’t want to be American assholes like us. We pulled into the parking lot of Heini’s at the same time as a large tour bus, and I was like “WHAT IF THE CHEESE TOUR FILLS UP?!” so we ran toward the entrance at the same time as four older woman, who laughed at us because they too were trying to beat the bus. THEY EVEN HELD THE DOOR OPEN FOR US. Corey and I thanked them sweetly and then exchanged excited LOOK AT US, MAKING FRIENDS! looks. If those old ladies really knew! I went straight to the restroom, knowing that an empty bladder was imperative considering how quick I am to laugh to the point of pee-drops.

When I came out, I found Corey standing near an information kiosk with a comically-old man who said he was willing to give us a tour anytime we’d like. Which obviously was RIGHTNOW. This was around the time that I realized literally no one, not one single fanny-packed Midwesterner, was trying to get a spot on this critically-acclaimed tour. It was just me and Corey with some old guy in a Cosby sweater who was extremely stoked to tell us the story of how cheese is born. We got started at the beginning of a hallway, where we could peek through windows into a large factory-room with industrial-sized bins where milk apparently does things. There was no cheese being made at the time, so our guide kept expecting us to “imagine” the process, but you guys. I have to admit, it was pretty boring. Curds and whey and blah blah blah. Corey looked extremely bored. He spent most of the time looking away, and all I could think was, “Oh no. Corey’s not having fun! I built this cheese tour up too much!” But then I quickly realized that he was trying not to make eye contact with me because he knew, and I knew, that we would both start laughing. While fidgeting to get my phone to start recording, I tried to occasionally nod my head and say things like, “Wow” and “Whoa.” I mean, this guy was so into it, almost treating it like it was the greatest bedtime story ever told, and I waited for him to invite Corey and me to sit on his knees so he could be better inspired to tell us wayback stories about how he used to walk 40 miles in cardboard-soled shoes in the winter to fetch Heini cheese for his mother while Father was in town watching nudies at the theater.

Nudies.

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“And this is the man who invented yogurt cheese right here at Heini’s!” Father Cheese proudly exclaimed, and then stepped back to watch Corey and I gape at the portrait. I was surprised that the yogurt cheese man wasn’t a Heini! Man, he must be heralded by all those lactose intolerants.

We moved at a snail’s pace down that hallway, pausing to peer through new windows that offered the same views of large, steel vat-things, and I became acutely aware of the fact that the cheese shop had become twice as crowded since we started our tour. People were shoving cheese samples into their gluttonous maws mere feet from where we stood, listening to Father Cheese talk about the aging process for sharp varieties, like your CHEDDARS AND SUCH. I could feel the giddiness begin to churn deep inside my gut, just like all that HOT MILK THAT MAKES THE CHEESE. I just kept chewing on the inside of my cheek, digging my fingernails into my palms, and repeating “Don’t make eye contact with Corey” over and over. I was thinking that maybe I was going to make it through without making a complete asshole of myself! I found out later that Corey too was employing the physical pain infliction method of curbing the giggles, along with the classic “thinking about depressing things” tactic.

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“What kinds of things do you like in your cheese?” he interrupted his curd-y fact-sharing to ask us. Corey just stared back blankly, so I quickly blurted, “You know, I like FRUIT in my cheese.” WHICH IS A LIE! WHY DID I SAY THAT?! I mean, I’ve had cheese with dried cranberries in it that was pretty tasty, but fruity fromage is not something that I would consider a staple on my cheese board. I wanted to take it back and tell him that I meant dill or fennel, horseradish even! But he had already plunged head-first into a passage of fruit-infused cream cheese spreads. By this point, he had backed us into a dead end while explaining to us how the cheese got its shape or something, I can’t remember. Full disclosure, I retained absolutely nothing from this walk down Learning Lane except that the men working in the factory were wearing BEARD NETS.

While I was gawking at two of them pushing a cart of cheese up a ramp, Father Cheese made some comment about how heavy such large quantities of cheese is. “Look at them, pushing that booger up there,” he said adoringly, and in my head, I was like HAHAHAH HE SAID BOOGER, DON’T LAUGH DON’T LAUGH. But then bits of pieces of the last 15 minutes came flying back into my face: the fact that Father Cheese’s wife made him a breakfast shake out of WHEY that morning, the picture of the man who invited YOGURT CHEESE, the tour bus full of people HUNGRY FOR CHEESE, the bonnet-wearing cashiers who I’m not sure were actually Amish, Father Cheese’s sweater, us racing the passengers of the tour bus because we thought they were going to fill up the cheese tour…. THE IDEA OF PASTEURIZATION ALONE WAS INJECTING ME WITH GIGGLES, RIGHT IN THE FACE! LIKE THE GIDDIEST ROUND OF BOTOX OF ALL TIME.

And then I accidentally made eye contact with Corey right as Father Cheese was ticking off the BIG CITIES where one could find Heini’s cheese (Pittsburgh is one!). Corey made some kind of painful squeak from trying to contain the giggles, and that was all it took. Flood gates opened. We laughed so hard that it actually, physically hurt and even though I had purposely peed before the tour started, I felt a drop threaten to fall. It was hilarious and horrifying all at once because I have never actually been busted laughing in someone’s face like that before. I mean, at the Bayernhof, there were people (and music boxes) to hide behind. But here, it was just the three of us, and I was backed into a corner. Literally. This used to happen to me a lot when I was a kid. In church. Sitting on a pew among hundreds of silent parishioners, and there I go. Snorting and wheezing and my whole body shaking because YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO LAUGH IN CHURCH WHILE THE PRIEST IS TALKING ABOUT A MAN WHO WAS CRUCIFIED.

But it was never this bad. Father Cheese stopped talking and slowly looked from Corey to me. He was confused, yet trying to keep a smile on his face. He knew that nothing he was saying was funny, but Corey and I were fucking scream-laughing at this point. I was slightly squatting to stop myself from peeing and Corey’s face was bright red from the exertion of hilarity. You need to know about Corey and me that we are basically human hyenas. We will laugh at nothing and everything and then proceed to feed off of each other’s hyper-inappropriateness and it’s just a hot, douchey mess.

So, that’s all it took: one quick contact with the eyeballs and there went our sanity, slipping off our faces like rotted banana peels. I thought about how disappointed our dad would have been right then, at his kids making a mockery of Amish Country; and how disappointed Henry would have been, at the mother of his child setting more examples of assholery. And how disappointed Father Cheese certainly was, at these two spoiled brats who were laughing all over his very livelihood. We might as well have been squirting Easy Cheese into mouths right in front of him, that’s how badly our laughter was desecrating the entire Amish cheese process, right down to the Amish milk shooting out from Amish teats. What probably only lasted for 30 seconds felt like watching a wheel of cheddar being aged. It was so uncomfortable, awkward, mortifying, embarrassing—-but SO FUCKING FUNNY.

Poor Father Cheese though, he was so confused. Finally, I was able to psychically bitch slap myself hard enough to stop laughing long enough to explain that we had been in the car all day and were extremely slap happy. Father Cheese smiled and placed a hand on my arm. “I understand. Why don’t we just end it here,” he said in grandfatherly tones lightly seasoned with exhaustion and a desire to suckle butterscotch; he handed me a sheet of paper with additional information, including great advice such as: Do not put cheese in your car trunk [on hot summer days]. This would be the hottest place. Corey and I had to walk back down the hall with him after that and it was excruciating. We purposely fell behind and then pretended to be SUPER INTERESTED in a bulletin board full of children’s cheese drawings until we were certain that Father Cheese was far enough away for us to safely proceed. This was the first time in my life that I ever had to flat out confront my immature and out-of-place bray and it was A REAL EYE OPENER. Not enough to suddenly put us in check though. We were practically hiccuping at this point from all of the fermented laughter. I texted Henry:

Me: Well, I peed my pants from laughing so hard at our first stop. Henry: I’m glad it’s just the two of you. Me, Oh, you would be so pissed!

Henry: I’m sure of that.

And then we proceeded to get in a line that would eventually herd us like cattle past veritable troughs of cheese samples. 

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Somehow, Corey and I were able to stifle our giggles long enough to devour Heini cheese samples. I was delighted to see that nearly every type of cheese had a tupperware container in front of it, loaded with tiny tastes in cube-form. Corey and I grabbed toothpicks and got to samplin’. The store was very crowded, and nearly every person in line was also buying stuff, so the line moved pretty slow. To the man behind me, this was unacceptable and rather than wait 20 seconds until I moved forward, he stretched his body across me so that he could blindly spear spear. I gave him a good once-over with my judging eyes and he did not appear to be OMG STARVING. I guess he was just in a hurry. Buddy, I don’t think they were going to run out of cheese.

Corey and I were intrigued by the weird cheese flavors in the aisle next to us, flavors such as rainbow sherbet, which looked beautiful but I thought for sure would not taste as such. Then that entire aisle turned out to be fudge, so I guess Heini’s isn’t really that progressive after all. I didn’t try any fudge samples because I knew it would culminate into my shaking entire containers of the minuscule slivers into my mouth because I can’t do stuff like that in moderation. One sample would quickly turn into an easy 5 new pounds on the scale Monday morning. Sigh. Corey tried some and said it was amazing. Of course it was! It was Heini’s brand. At one point, I looked around and felt sad at the urgency these people were popping sample after sample past their cheese-lusting lips. Sad and sick. Welcome to America! In fact, after crawling past the cream cheese spreads (the fruity ones were great, thanks for the heads up Father Cheese!) and beef sticks, Corey and I decided that we really didn’t care to stand in line and eat anymore, especially since we were going to be headed to lunch afterward. So we took our wares to the nearest register.

Corey bought some Amish noodles for our dad, and I showed tons of restraint by only snagging two types of cheese: horseradish and Vidalia onion. I really, really love cheese, but I’m also super cheap and don’t enjoy spending money on food. I also grabbed a jar of gooseberry jam, though. Because I could always go for a good gooseberry.

We ALMOST left right after this. The joint was a madhouse of directionless tourists and I can’t stand crowded stores. But I needed a souvenir! There were other areas of the chalet, like a candy room, a cafe, and also a room in the back that was full of Americana home decor, cat calendars and souvenirs…but also samples of butter. AND NOT JUST ANY BUTTER. Father Cheese had mentioned this butter during our excruciating cheese tour, and told us at least twice that we were lucky to have come to Heini’s that day, because the butter was ON SALE. I remember thinking that I didn’t care. In fact, I had forgotten all about this highly-touted Heini butter, until we walked into the back room where a man in a blue shirt stood behind a counter and cried out, “THIS IS…THE BEST BUTTER IN THE WORLD. YOU WILL NOT FIND A BETTER BUTTER!” while methodically slathering Wheat Thins with smooth, yellow globs.

Corey and I exchanged wide-eyed looks of hyperbolic wonderment and marched over for a sample, fully prepared to refute this man’s lofty claim. But goddamn if that wasn’t the best butter in the world. I mean, maybe I’m just really sheltered when it comes to the best butters, but this seriously was the BEST BUTTER that ever touched my tongue.

“And today, you can buy not one but THREE for $5!” the butter-slinger announced. I had a vision of myself splayed out on a hammock somewhere in Georgia, maybe, spreading perfect smears of the best butter in the world on hot biscuits and quite honestly not giving a FUCK about anything else, because why would I? The best butter in the world was melting in my mouth. I made a beeline for the cooler behind him, where I snatched up three tubs of the perfectly-churned bread lotion before the tour bus people caught on and another grotesque lined formed. I won’t be beat by the fanny-pack set. Across from the Best Butter-slinger was a small section of postcards, mugs, magnets and t-shirts for those sentimental types (me me me) so I grabbed a magnet for my collection at work. (I like to show my new magnets to Glenn right before I stick them on my closet-thing; he will say things like “wow” or “cool” without so much as a glance.) There was also a pile of red Heini shirts. A bright wheel of cheese was displayed prominently on the back, right above the informative phrase: WHERE THE CHEESE IS MADE.

Corey said, “Should we?” and I said, “Oh my god, definitely!” He had to go out to the car to get more cash, which left me alone, unsupervised and undistracted for way too many minutes with the Butter Monologue. It was like falling inside an infomercial at 3am: monotonous, cheesy (oh hahahaha), outrageously boastful…the only thing missing from his hyper sales pitch was a BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! I guess probably because there wasn’t more. The best butter in the world was enough on its own. Do you think Butter-slinger wakes up at 6am every morning without the aid of an alarm, bounds out of bed and brushes his teeth with a squirt of that slick pasteurized cream while reciting facts to the mirror, such as BUTTER IS GOOD FOR YOUR LIVER, before rubbing the best butter all over his nude body while making orgasm-faces before going to his woodshed and slaughtering the Amish hostages he has chained up and frying up their flesh in the best butter? Does he bring his own to-go tubs of Heini’s best butter to restaurants with him so he doesn’t have to use disgusting, white trash Land o’Lakes? (The horror.) I wonder if he’s married. If so, did they have a butter sculpture at their wedding reception? TELL ME YOU’RE NOT WONDERING ABOUT THIS NOW. I sat on a bench with an old lady who totally busted me filming Instavids of the butter show, so I got up and moved to a different area, where people were too busy looking at racks of wind chimes and other such Amish novelties to notice me being weird.

The line had grown a bit by the time Corey came back to buy his shirt, so we had to endure an additional fifteen minutes of butter superlatives barraging our ear drums. Corey made eye contact with the cashier while he was purchasing his t-shirt and he said she gave him this “I know, right?” look. Once Corey paid for his shirt, we fled the butter room before we wound up having another fit. As we made it closer to the main area of Heini’s, we realized that Father Cheese’s voice was emanating from the ceiling, like God himself, and then we saw him with a HEADSET ON! And not only that, but somehow Best Butter had made it to the front of the store without us knowing and was HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH FATHER CHEESE! WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE! OUR TWO FAVORITE HEINIS!!

We had originally wanted to say goodbye to Father Cheese, mostly so that we could show him that we bought things, maybe that would convince him that his cheese tour wasn’t all for naught, that Corey and I aren’t so bad after all and at least Heini’s made a few dimes off us. But there was an actual wall of people blocking us from his information table and I was starting to sweat at the idea of trying to Moses my way through. As if that wasn’t a great note on which to end our visit, we noticed that some broad was arguing with Father Cheese.

The joint had become so packed with tourists hungry for cheddar that Father Cheese was trying to direct foot traffic. It appeared that he mistakenly told the poufy-haired broad to get into the wrong line, and she was FUCKING PISSED. Corey and I stood there in horror. How could anyone yell at Father Cheese?! He’s so old and frail and has TWO hearing aids! I wanted to march over and save him, but then a ginger-man standing nearby began speaking to me, because apparently this is what people do in Ohio Amish Country: cultivate small talk. “This is ridiculous!” he spat through a set of interestingly-directioned teeth. “I been standing here watching people cut in line this whole time! My wife has been standing in line forever trying to pay and I seen THREE WOMEN—I’ll just leave it that, three WOMEN, I won’t say anything else about them—walk past all those people and cut right in front of my wife!”

OMG OK “I’m Not Racist, But…” Guy.

It was incredibly awkward and he just kept ranting about how out of control the place was. We stood in mutual silence for a few seconds, taking in the rowdy cheese epicure-wannabes, 80% of whom I guarantee have a fridgeful of Velveeta and individually-wrapped Kraft slices, anxious to taste the next sample and buy all of the cheese before it had a chance to age anymore. Finally, I shrugged and said, “I mean…it’s just cheese” while slowly backing out of the door.

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As soon as we got outside, we absolutely lost our minds all over again. IT’S JUST CHEESE.

Apr 132020
 

Easter is my second favorite holiday (second only to HALLOWEEN, of course) so I was determined to still make it a memorable one even though we’re stuck at home. Now, we’re not religious people, so not being able to go to church wasn’t an issue, and we never celebrate Easter with extended family, so the inability to have a big family dinner wasn’t making us shed any tears either. 

For this particular Easter, we had planned to be at Efteling Park in the Netherlands, so any back-up plan I came up with was going to pale in comparison. Yet somehow, it ended up being one of the nicest Easters ever!

Chooch kept saying that he didn’t want anything, didn’t care if he didn’t get a basket, but all he REALLY WANTED was for us to hide eggs for him. I really think he’s going to grow up plagued by the Peter Pan syndrome that he undoubtedly inherited from me. I kept saying, “NO WE ARE NOT DOING THAT YOU ARE TOO OLD, GROW UP. THE EASTER BUNNY ISN’T REAL” and I guess he really believed that we weren’t doing anything because he originally woke up at 8:30 and then said, “I’m going back to bed, wake me up at 9:30 I guess.” I was so mad because I woke up early and raced against the clock to hide the fucking eggs for that little bitch-kid. 

When he finally woke up and went into the bathroom, he was met with Doll and an egg, so he knew that it was going to be an alright day, lol.

(He is REALLY BAD at finding eggs though. Or else I’m really good at hiding them. But one was literally inside a book, so it was like wide open.)

We got him a basket too because come on, what kind of shitty parents do you take us for? IT’S EASTER FOR GOD’S SAKE. He didn’t know that he was getting one so it just sat in its hiding spot all morning until I finally couldn’t take it any longer and exclaimed, “OH WOW, WHAT IS THAT.” 

I LOVED getting an Easter basket. I still like white chocolate to this day because it reminds of me the white chocolate lambs and bunnies with the blue or pink candy eyes that my mom would always tuck in there among the jelly beans (which I didn’t like) and the Sarris chocolate eggs, and OF COURSE THE TOYS, HELLO. For most of the Easters during the elementary school years, I got a new My Little Pony. I LOVED My Little Ponies (the new ones are dumb) so I always looked forward to seeing which one I was going to get. 

Knowing me and my warped memory, this probably only happened on one Easter, lol.

I also associate Easter with springtime and baseball (loved baseball as a kid, neutral about it as an adult) and wearing pretty dresses to church and having a casual Easter dinner at my Pappap’s house. 

I try to make sure that we’re always doing something for Easter, whether it’s traveling for a concert (we saw Emarosa in Lancaster, PA one year on Easter and it was a really nice weekend), being in KOREA, inviting friends over for a Pizza Party for Jesus Christ, or just having a family dinner at a Chinese restaurant. This year, I wanted to have the Inkigayo sandwiches again like we did last year, because I think this could be a new tradition for us. 

And you know how I love a fucking tradition.

Chooch the Baker wanted to make a carrot cake for Easter, so that turned into a Battle Royale between him and Henry in the kitchen while I sat out here and read a book and watched YouTube videos about reading books and finding books to request on Libby and exercising. 

I mean, his cake decorating needs practice, but the cake itself was A REAL GODDAMN DELIGHT. And he cut back the confectioners sugar big time in the frosting and it was such a good call, because it was perfect. I don’t like super sweet frosting, especially cream cheese frosting, so Chooch got a big thumbs up from me on this one.

Henry probably would have ruined it.

The weather was  nice on Sunday so we were able to comfortably eat on the back porch and it was a Big Time Spring Mood. I could not have been happier!

Inkigayo sandwiches and kimbap, a Korean Easter picnic! Henry forgot to buy banana uyoo so it wasn’t perfect but I’ll let it slide this time, I guess. 

We’re all big fans of the famous Inkigayo sandwiches here in the Oh Honestly household. I highly recommend them! The convenience stores in South Korea all sell variations of these sandwiches and I happily devoured them when we were there. One of them had a limited edition blueberry edition! IT WAS THE BEST ONE!

We were probably making fun of Henry’s mouth-sounds here.

I’ve rambled about this sandwich on here before but a quick summary: There is a weekly music show in Korea called Inkigayo and legend has it that the cafeteria in their studio makes these tri-layered sandwiches and the kpop idols go nuts over them. Of course, regular civilians cannot go to this cafeteria to get an authentic one, but there are numerous variations of the recipe online. 

Yes, that’s strawberry jam in the middle, surrounded by an egg & potato salad (there’s also crab in this layer but Henry omits it for us vegetarians) and a cabbage salad that includes corn and apple. It sounds hideous, but it is SO STUPIDLY DELICIOUS. And filling. I split mine with Henry, and Chooch saved his second half for today’s lunch.

Drank my coffee from my Lotte World mug to keep it extra Korean. 

(I know it’s obvious, but my heart breaks more and more each day I’m not in Korea. Sorry if I’m annoying, but this is who I am.)

The Inkigayo (or EASTERgayo, as I lovingly call it on Easter) is a two-handed affair.

You guys. Chooch’s carrot cake. Fuck yes. The best thing to come out of this quarantine (for my family, anyway) is Chooch’s blossoming interest in Kitchen Times. 

Easter, After Hours.

Really, I think this will go down as one of the best Easters. It was so casual, laid back, lots of laughing (on my part), lots of Kitchen Feuding (on Henry and Chooch’s parts, also the catalyst for my “lots of laughing”), and it made me appreciate even more that although these are scary and strange times, at least I’m going through them with Chooch and Henry and we’re still, somehow, having fun. <3

Apr 122020
 

(Stay-At-Homeaster? Quaranteaster? Easter Homeday? No? OK, I tried.)

Today was great. I hope everyone who celebrates Easter was able to find a way to connect with family, do the church thing online, eat a pandemic Peep, etc.

I will do a more thorough recap later, but for now, here’s our obligatory Easter family photo, with me catching flies as usual.

Super awkward, that’s us! But, at least it gave me a reason to actually do something with my hair other than air-dry it & throw it in a bun, haha ughhhh.