Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Game Time

Well, this was nearly it: the weekend that I, the Football Widow, became Cath the Real Live Widow.

I went out with two of my friends from high school, Pat and Steph, and we were having a high ol' time Saturday night. We were drinking, laughing, talking about the old times, forgetting about the stresses of the holiday season, work vibes. We were just chillin'.

I come home, and tell Mike, "Man, did we have a good time."

To which he replied, "Well, I almost died."

Which ... is kind of a damper. But, I'm a nice person and didn't want to seem selfish. So, instead of ignoring him and telling him about my night, I compassionately asked, "What the HELL?!"

When I left the house, he only had Ryan with him. Cara had spent the day with Alex and Barbara, going to the mall, and going to dinner with them. When she came home, she and Ryan decided to play Connect Four, the game with the checker-like red and black chips.

Well, Ryan apparently figured out a way to beat his big sister on a consistent basis. And then she figured out a way to block him. Then Mike, apparently, decided to help Ryan develop a new strategy. Which got on Cara's nerves, apparently. So, there were Mike and Ryan, having a high ol' time developing Connect Four strategem, laughing at their ingenuity, when Cara just grabbed a bunch of the chips and chucked them at Mike, who for some reason had his head thrown back in laughter, so it was in just the right position to catch a playing piece, which lodged in his throat. Apparently.

Now, the parenting magazines I lived on when Cara was a baby always advised that if you come to find yourself choking to death in front of young children who aren't capable of administering the Heimlich, you're supposed to save your own life by launching your abdomen against something like a chair or the back of a sofa. Mike (who was never one for the baby mags), instead, stood up, and then fell to his knees and turned three shades of blue and then somehow coughed it up. It was all very avant-garde.

Me: "Did Cara even try dialing 911?"

Mike: "I don't know."

Me: "How long were you choking?"

Mike: "Twenty seconds. Ten seconds. I don't know."

Me: "Were they upset, or trying to help?"

Mike: "I think they were laughing. Until I fell down."

Oh, yes. While my friends and I were yukking it up, Mike was chuckin' it up. Buon appetito!

Catherine Schetting Salfino

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Birthday Pie

When it came to Mike's birthday this year, he requested that I NOT spend anything on him because he was feeling old -- and old people don't spend money, I guess.

But whatever. As the birthday grew closer, his list of possible gifts grew. To the point where I was reminding him that he didn't want ANYthing to begin with, and at the rate he was going, we'd be putting Amazon on retainer.

Besides the usual book, DVD, and CD choices, Mike came up with something completely different -- pizza. Pizza is his and Ryan's favorite food and many a road trip has been made by our family in search of the perfect slice. Mike's birthdays usually revolve around going for pizza, so this didn't seem like that big of a request. Until he mentioned which pizza he wanted. He'd seen a show on the Food Network that spotlighted a place in Chicago -- that delivers deep dish pizza to your door!

He filled me in: It's the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. The place has been in business for forever. The sausage pie is unbelievable.

All right, already. I went online to buy it.

Well, guess what happens when the Food Network broadcasts two brothers on a road trip to Chicago and they use their Southern drawls to gush over the sausage pizza? THE ENTIRE COUNTRY TRIES TO BUY IT!

So, we were wait-listed three weeks on the deep dish pies.

Meanwhile, a new Uno Chicago Grill, formerly the user-friendly named Pizzeria Uno, just opened two minutes from our house. Ryan suggested we go there for Mike's birthday, but Mike was like, "We won't destroy our tastebuds on pedestrian deep dish pizza. We shall wait for the best this nation has to offer! Silence!"

A week after his birthday, the wondrous box appeared on our doorstep. The cardboard was pried open and we gaped at the miraculous frozen mist as it escaped from the package. Gently, ever so gently, did we lift the mesmerizing pies to the counter. We prepared the oven, prepared the table. And then... we feasted!

And can I just say, the disappointment was staggering.

Ryan kindly offered, "This pizza sucks."

Cara just left half her pizza sitting on the plate.

I didn't want to be mean, since it was Mike's special birthday pizza (obviously an Italian concept), so for once I kept my big mouth shut.

...We're lining up at Uno's this week.

Catherine Schetting Salfino

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I've Been Punk'd

A few weeks back, we decided to take the kids pumpkin picking. I called my folks to let them know we were coming up by them, and asked if they wanted to meet us at the highway robbery store, I mean the farm.

I grabbed some denim jackets and we headed up to the farm. Where we froze our asses off in the 42-degree temperatures of the bucolic countryside. My parents, who were bundled for the Antarctic, met us at the place -- which was overrun by 50,000 people looking for cheap pumpkins (reality: $25 per) and a hayride -- then conveniently "remembered" they were meeting friends later and were overcome with an extreme need to beat it the hell outta there.

We all left, with nary a punky, and went to a dollar store. My mom got the kids some little trinkets and candy while Mike and I recovered from frostbite and considered our options: find another farm nearby that's not impersonating Grand Central Station, or take the kids for a rollicking ride to the supermarket, where they could pick pumpkins out of a giant cardboard box in the produce aisle.

We said good-bye to my folks, and were seriously heading back to the highway home, when I remembered another, smaller, farm. A little pick-your-own place. We pulled in, and it was set up with the hay rides, the barbecue, the farm store--but no Times Square-like crowds.

With our frostbite re-commencing, we climbed on the free hayride. I asked the driver where we could get pumpkins. "I'm driving you to them," he replied, amiably. One long bumpy ride later, we were in a field with all the pumpkins still attached to their vines. We were cold and hungry so we wanted to pick the perfect pumpkins as fast as we could. Cue Ryan and his bathroom dance.

Me: "Why didn't you go when we were up by the farm stand?"

Ryan: "I didn't have to go THEN."


He ran to the end of the field behind a pile of logs, did what he had to do, and ran back out, unable to do his snap with his jacket in the way. I bent down, got him fixed up, and we re-joined Mike and Cara. Four or five pumpkins later, we got on the hay ride back, and our thoughts turned to thawing out as the sun sank into the western sky.

That's when I realized I didn't have my sunglasses. I tried to appear calm as I frantically patted every pocket of my denim jacket, checked down my shirt and rummaged through my purse, all while balancing pumpkins between my feet. My Maui Jim's, my favorite shades. A classic style that was just discontinued this summer!

Me: "I have to go back to the pumpkin field."

Mike: "Have you been drinking?"

Me: "I lost my sunglasses in the pumpkin field."

Mike: "The sun is going down, the field is full of vines. Did I mention I was tired of this day about three hours ago?"

Well, we ALL got on the next ride out to punkin' patch. We ALL trampled around the vines and pumpkins. Mike and Ryan went to where Ryan relieved himself, but came up empty. Mike was like, "We have to leave. It's getting dark. This is a bust." He started railing about sunk costs and recovery probability.

I was like, "I'm checking that log pile one more time."

And there they were, right near the pile of logs. Frankly, I have no idea how Mike and Ry didn't STEP on them.

I was so grateful that when Ryan said he wanted to do the pumpkin bullseye when we got back to the farm, I was like, "Fine, do it."

...We couldn't just leave, could we?

The pumpkin bullseye was $1 a pop. You put mini pumpkins in a slingshot cable, pulled the cable back as far as you could, and let it rip, seeing if it could hit a board in the middle of a field.

Well, since the frost bite had gone to our brains, Cara and I decided we'd join Mike in pulling the slingshot. Mike goes, "We let go on 'three.' One (we strained backwards), two (we strai...)...." BOOM! He let go. Cara and I hit the ground. Every one of my fingernails was shredded. Cara was reeling with hay and dirt in her hair.

Me: "If that isn't a signal to get off this farm...."

We immediately headed to the nearest restaurant, with a bar.

Catherine Schetting Salfino