Clyde’s and quilt.

Yesterday, a group of us from the patent office went out to lunch at Clyde’s (Tower Oak Lodge). Vickey’s mother-in-law loves to give gift certificates to restaurants as Christmas presents, so this is us spending that gift certificate. As Vickey notes, the venue was beautiful, but the food was mostly average, but satisfying. The three other women have December birthdays (Karuna & Satya), so they all got dessert for free! We haven’t all been together since before the pandemic.

Vickey’s mom (my quilting coach) was taking a class to make this enormous king sized quilt. Of course, she was more qualified than the teacher and might have taken over teaching the class herself. But because I’m the only person with a king sized bed that Vickey knows (!), I got this incredible handmade quilt which I will use everyday!

New plant! Happy new year!

New year, new plant! Lauren spied this on her neighborhood listserv and I felt immediately drawn to it. I totally could rescue this plant! And then I found out that the person giving it away paid $150 for the plant originally and then I really wanted it (I think it came in a very nice pot to justify the price, I didn’t get the pot, lol.). Lauren picked it up New Year’s Day and I went to her house to pick it up. And so on a 65 degree day in January, I trimmed all the dead leaves off of it and we had a chance to catch up.

I went to Home Depot and got a pot and some potting soil and then repotted the entire thing and put it in the most glorious spot in the house and I’ll see if it won’t die (I think they overwatered it trying to get rid of the cat pee). As I’m getting older, I feel more and more like my mother (who is amazing) – Jeremy noted that this was a very Rena behavior, rescuing dead plants from the side of the road. Haha. I’m really waiting for the outdoor gardening gene (I don’t like it now, but I’m open to it in the future) to kick in, I told Jeremy and he said – that would be nice. My mother has an incredibly green thumb and can coax many things to grow, but she can be lacking in uhhh, taste? aesthetics? – her gardens always look a-tumble and jumbled together with things she got for free…

Here it is temporarily replacing the money tree which was thriving there.

It’s a new year, and with that new goals, right? Of course, all the things I want, I can’t really control – like that we make it through as healthy and together as we can. Other things I want is to be in nature more, to squeeze it all out of life and experience it as much as I can. To love and be loved. To serve and be served in time of need. To rest if I need to, to surge forward if I’m energetic. I’m lucky to be here another year, not everyone has a chance like that.

Cat sitting Ivy.

We spent New Year’s Eve putting the house back together, doing laundry, taking down all the Christmas decorations. We also spent some time watching Ivy and Elka try to be friends. I think they are friends now, kind of.

It’s my dream that they end up curled up next to each other sleeping through the night. We’ll see if that happens, lol.

And we bring on the new year…

Everyone left yesterday and we are all still friends. We all have standing invitations to each other’s houses and we’ll keep celebrating Christmases together with each other in the years to come, but it was very stressful and I was, at times, crying.

The whole thing, of course, stemmed from our differences in how we feel about covid. Sweden, famously, was very lax with their prevention of the spread of covid – so the Swedes never had school shut down, they are not used to wearing masks, it is literally nbd. We, on the other hand, are still masking in grocery stores, reluctantly go to restaurants, but we are figuring it out – like we did go to a large Christmas party, I have gone to restaurants more frequently. But there are still reminders – Jeremy’s paranoid office, for example, still had a virtual Christmas party, my friend’s school cancelled a very popular holiday get-together. My parents are still very covid sensitive, and mostly in my circle, if you test positive, you cancel plans, stay in your room away from your family and have chicken soup delivered to your door which you eat on your own. I understand and have wonderful friends in the US who have flown covid+, gone to out to plays, concerts while covid+, stopped testing and did everything holiday with sniffles and coughs, so I’m under no illusion that anyone else is following my covid protocol. People are just milling around, little covid vectors. I also understand that it’s mostly just a nuisance, no one is going to die from covid really, there are lots of treatments, it’s a more mild variant, it’s mostly ok – now it’s not about dying, it’s mostly about what you think “good manners” are. Also, besides the covid, there are just differences in how we each run our families that have always popped up when we have these family vacations one of which is how we all think about time. We like to get up early and go to bed early and plan the days with like – ok 9 am, we are doing this and we’ll have lunch at noon, but we need to shop and so I’ll shop before 9 am to get the food before anyone gets up and we like to be at the train station 10 min ahead of schedule. The Swedes like to get up late and stay up late and play fast and loose with time – they like to run to catch the train because why would anyone waste time waiting on the platform for the train? I will tell you that there are advantages/disadvantages to both systems – I do think, overall, the swedes have more “fun”, but, man, their style would give me a heart attack every single day. Also, we are more go with the flow, like if you say – I want to go to Baltimore and buy a beer and then find Edgar Allen Poe’s grave at midnight, I might try to edge it closer to 8 pm, but I’d be game. But the swedes have stronger ideas about what they want to do.

So about 5 days before the swedes were supposed to fly to the US, Reuben, the youngest son, had tested covid + and then 3 days before they were to fly, Johanna tested + and they asked if it was still OK to come to the house, they had mild symptoms and were feeling better. Bob and Katherine (Jeremy’s parents) seemed ok with it all, so Jeremy and I agreed to have them come. I cancelled Christmas plans with my parents because of their sensitivity to covid (so that meant that they were going to have dinner by themselves on Christmas which is also my father’s birthday) and they came. Emy, who is in the middle of packing up her life in NY and moving out west, did not want to be sick on this cross-country trip, and would prefer to have the covid + people sequester in the basement struck a compromise with the Swedes to mask in the common indoor spaces. So we tried to stick to that promise – we ate separately and generally masked while we were together. Christmas Eve was lovely and mostly fine. But by Christmas Day, it was clear that the Swedish kids were not reliably masking indoors and wanted to continue to not reliably mask. So then Emy decided to not come to Christmas dinner about two hours before it was to be served which was well within her rights (she and Seth were staying at a hotel down the street) and she left early on the 26th (which was the plan) and she did come back to the house and say goodbye to us and, more importantly, to her cat Ivy.

So we stumbled through Christmas dinner and then we woke on the 26th we were facing a full week of togetherness. I had spent a good amount of time this month thinking of activities which ranged from a s’mores bonfire, to outings to museums, to visits to arcades, possible hikes, etc. I bought sparklers, games, procured tickets to museums, etc. in advance of this visit. Anyways, on Monday, there was a trip downtown to see the newly semi-renovated Air and Space museum and various art museums which was mostly fine. Then on Tuesday – two things happened. First, Felix tested newly positive for covid (which resulted in me cancelling my girl’s night out with four of my friends that night – I was hoping for no more + test results, by this day, both Ruben and Johanna were negative) and they wanted to see Avatar (excitedly!), which I was game for. Not normally a movie I would clamor to see (or ever see, really), I was driven by my friend’s Vickey rave review of it and the fact that Jeremy, Bob and Katherine did not want to see it and it seemed poor form to have them go by themselves (without Felix). Vince also wanted to come. So I drove extra to find an IMAX theatre and we went out together. Vince and I, in our normal way, had a fight throughout the movie in our regular passive aggressive way, the highlight (or lowlight) of which was that he was using his phone during the movie. I let it go for two hours, but by the third hour he was actually playing game, I was really irritated and leaned over to correct his behavior, to which I knew he would be furious at me. So at the end of the movie, I asked him what he thought of the movie and he glared at me and told me he hated action movies, and I was hurt by this because, of course, he didn’t have to go and he knew it was an action movie. Then we all went out after the credits to pee and regroup, and I told Johanna that I enjoyed the movie, mainly because I did enjoy it for what it was (which is a James Cameron movie, no Jane Campion..) and also because it’s generally what you say when you are doing something you would prefer to not do, but are doing because the other person wanted to do it. But she hated the movie because there was so much killing (to which I was like – uh, it’s an action movie? and usually, there is a lot of killing in those movies) and then everyone got into how much the movie sucked and they hated it which is, of course, a valid reaction, but then I felt like I had wasted my time and all this money because you know, I don’t like taking people to do things that they hate to do (which, I thought was preventable because the things they were complaining about seemed, to me, obvious before one walked into the theatre). Anyways, I started to cry while walking to the car and then I really started to cry uncontrollably on the way home and Vince, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, could see that I was crying and tried valiantly to rescue the situation – by saying how great the theatre was or how nice the special effects were, but it was too late, I was too hurt, not by just this outing, but by the stress of the entire week. Anyways, I drove home in awkwardness trying to stop the crying, but I really couldn’t. And I couldn’t stop until well after midnight (I know! An overreaction, but I couldn’t stop..). And then I released myself from any more planning or outings and left it to Jeremy. (Vince (who read this before I hit publish) wants to say that he was not irritated by me correcting him using his phone, and his reaction to the movie was an honest reaction, not to “get back” at me for making him put away his phone. He was using his phone because he thought the movie was boring, but agrees with me now that phone use during movies is rude. So, you know, I misinterpreted his reaction…)

Wed and Thursday passed with various outings by various parties. We do much, much better when we don’t try to force us all to be together, if we try to break up the party a little bit. I do enjoy each person, but it’s hard to manage everyone all together all at once. No one tested positive the rest of the time. We managed some good discussions, a puzzle was completed, there were takeout meals. Dogs were walked and cats were fed. And we took exactly 2 group photos – neither of which are perfect, but that is who we are, imperfect people having an imperfect Christmas together. At least we never ran out of coffee or cookies and the power stayed on the entire time, and for that, I’m grateful. (We are all waiting patiently to see who has covid. Jeremy is feeling a bit under the weather, so is masking and backing off from his workouts. Vince has a stuffy nose, but can’t tell if it’s from his allergy to the cat (who he loves and pets and lets sleep on his chest) or if he’s getting sick. Edda and I are just hanging out watching TV and taking down the Christmas decorations and doing laundry).


We are fine, but Christmas was stressful, and at times, full of unhappiness and hurt feelings. But, we made it through, and now it’s the day after Christmas and we with determination we move onward and upward. A highlight of Christmas Day was a walk on the C&O canal. I had wanted to hike on Section A of the Billy Goat Trail, but it was closed due to flooding, so we made do with a more modest hike along the flat canal. The boys were entertained by throwing ice and sticks onto the frozen water – I feel a bit silly having Swedes entertained by ice, but I guess it was fine and fun. So cold! But bright and beautiful and I’ll include the photos of my two nephew-in-laws and one that Felix took of me.

A holiday, slightly sick house.

The house is starting to fill up with Martins. Jeremy’s parents arrived yesterday in the afternoon. The Swedes (two of which are covid+ (yikes, I know.., I know..)) are arriving on a flight this afternoon. Emy and Seth were supposed to arrive yesterday. Our house is full and we knew it would be full and found possible places for them to say, but both houses where they could have stayed have sick people (my parents, my dad has a cough and is on antibiotics (covid -) or next door at Mike and Sofie’s, they are sick too (covid -)), so I think they are coming to say hi and drop off their cat (we are long term sitters as this Christmas stop is just a stop on a cross country move, they’ve been packing and packing for weeks before this Christmas break and are headed west on the 26th), we are booking them a hotel room. So the tentative plan is have the covid + family quarantine in the basement until they feel better (the basement is not a crappy basement, it is a finished basement with full sized windows). Apparently, the latest version of covid is mild and quick – 4 days of positive tests vs 10 days for us in April of 2022. We’ll see. Last night at dinner, we recounted the many, many pre-covid holidays we’ve had where we’ve all been slightly sick. Did we used to just be sick all the time and hand it around like a plate of cookies without caring very much?

I realized I haven’t properly introduced Ginny, who is Edda’s new weekday caregiver. She started in October? Anyways, she is a lot of fun for us and for Edda. Edda’s gone with her to football games and plays and so we are grateful for her presence. She’s in Florida this week and soaking up the sun. She’s visiting a Floridian friend who said – it’ll be cold, be sure to bring your jeans! lol. It’s going to be 9 degrees here today!

Holiday party.

We visited Edda’s class for the annual holiday party. We brought the fancy cupcakes (including gluten-free for her teacher, Mr. Pat) – sometimes I can get cranky about the cupcakes because they are expensive and we have to drive to Bethesda to get them, but they are a bit of consumer and sugary magic. We celebrated birthdays and being together. I did cry for a moment when I got home. Only because I am so grateful for her classroom and how I’ll miss it terribly in a few years when she can’t go anymore. (When Edda was a wee kid in elementary school, I used to cry because it seemed so sad with all the kids. These days, I feel like these kids are triumphant, working with what they have and what they’ve been dealt with grace, grit and determination.) Here we are with Edda’s good friend Izzy and her teacher Mr. Pat. Izzy and Edda are like two peas in a pod.

Edda looking at her cupcake.

Sofie was over last night to make some LA county school district coffee cake and that went very well. And today she’s running a fever… I won’t go into how complicated Christmas is becoming with various people not feeling well. I’m thinking I’m not feeling well too.

A lot.

Well, yesterday was a day: 1) Noah was still here in the am, a bit teary, but Brian picked him up to go to day care and we took down the tent in our bedroom, 2) I cut Jeremy’s hair which I’ve been promising for weeks – I actually find him not as attractive when it gets too shaggy and then I can’t stand it, and then I wait three or four weeks and then I spend 15 minutes cutting his hair, 3) Vince’s computer broke and needed to be sent back for warranty repair 4) I was trying to help a friend get my job and I thought they’d be a shoo-in and they got a flat-out first round rejection, I feel like I gave bad advice 5) Jeremy is really busy at work and they are offering high level jobs to people and so he’s distracted (but in a good way I guess) 5.5) I applied to an internal year-long detail at work which was some work to do 6) someone who is supposed to be here at Xmas has covid 7) i’m afraid we might have gotten some sort of bug from Noah (he was coughing and his mom wasn’t feeling well when she went into labor), we still feel well though 8) our Civic, who I loaned to a dear friend, got into a fender bender, so there is that. Nothing life shattering, but, kind of a lot for one day. Oh yes, and Elka ate a pair of scissors. At least the handle end and not the sharp end.

But look at this beauty of a breakfast sandwich that Jeremy made me.

Baby! Not mine, thank goodness.

The Christmas excitement continues….Ning had her baby yesterday! They were here on the 10th and she was already 3 cm dilated – the baby not due until Jan 4th and we were like – that baby is going to come any day now! Grandma wasn’t scheduled to come until Christmas Eve, so we told them that if they needed help with Noah if the baby comes early, we would be happy to step in. The parents went to the hospital at 9 or 10 am, Noah was already in day care, so he spent the day there. And then Dara picked him up at five and brought him to our house for dinner. We had Ginny and her son here and then we invited Mike & Sofie over and it was a raucous party.

Tons of credit goes to Sofie who happily entertained Noah until 8:30 pm when it was everyone’s bedtime. Brian came by to drop off clothing and loveys, but there were tears and a hard goodbye.

Yes, we set up the tent the the master bedroom. The house is a disaster, laundry not done, paper and packages strewed all over the place, toilets all in mid-repair (I needed to replace and repair almost all the toilets in the house before Christmas, last weekend I spent hours, and hours doing this…they are almost all done and working) – and now I keep making it messier by setting up tents and trains and other things all over the house.

And Edda had (unusually) a strong seizure in the middle of the night last night. We don’t often see them, but I think they are on the uptick these days, unfortunately. And then Noah got up and had a bowl of Cheerios and blueberries.

Weekend update.

So, as you know, I don’t wrap gifts. We only open delivery boxes. But I realized the secret santas would start on Sunday Dec 18, so the boxes needed to be opened before then. So on Friday Dec 16th, we held what I considered, the family gift opening day – 9 days before Christmas. Elka got this funny hat. My father walked away with the best present of the night, an Apple Watch. Normally, I would not have gifted this to him as I thought he wouldn’t be interested and the watch can be a little not intuitive to use, but sometime in late fall, he got really interested in Jeremy and my Garmin watches and we gave him an old one to try out and he really enjoyed it and texted us questions about it, so we decided to get him the most recent Apple watch which pairs better with his phone and is just better overall. We are all eyeing the Apple watch – but not yet for any of us, I’m patiently waiting for my Garmin watch to die, usually the battery or the charging port – though it’s still quite hardy and I get texts and it tracks my running better than the Apple watch (for now – it’s next iteration, I think, will surpass Garmin’s running capabilities). Jeremy is always deciding when to jump ship from Android over to Apple – he covets all Apple things besides the phone itself – the watch, the earbuds, the iPad. So whenever he switches over, it will be an expensive day.

Elka did not like her hat. She’s pretty good at taking it off her head and then eating the pom pom at the top.

Jeremy spent Saturday morning clearing out extra jars. He likes to keep extra around, but we were starting to get too many extra.

Saturday night, we went to Jen and James’s annual Christmas party – our first non-family, big party after Covid. We saw some old friends from the dog park there and had a good time. We walked the couple of miles there and back to play Pokemon go and spend some time with each other at night and also condense the time at the party (we can be a bit intimidated by parties) and we put on our best themed-outfits.

And because we were walking in the dark, Jeremy put on his light-up safety vest!

On Sunday, we did the secret santa gift exchange for the DC martins (I did wrap these gifts!). Vince and I made a tiramisu and as a gift for the first night of Chanukah, I let Bette have at it by letting her unabashedly licking the serving dish from which dessert came.