Saturday Smile: And the Winner Is…..

Once a quarter, two kids from third grade at Las Sendas Elementary School in Mesa are selected as Outstanding Students of the Quarter. The winners get the opportunity to get up on the stage with a certificate and smile while their moms and dads shoot photos to send to Grandma and Grandpa. It’s a big deal.

And this quarter, one of the outstanding students was none other than my great-nephew Austin. He was proud to receive the award with my sister — his Grammie —was watching……

Austin is second from left

On the other side of town, Austin’s cousin Carter (my sister Bec’s grandson) was mightily winning his Running Club’s foot race. He ran the one-and-a-half miles in just over 8 minutes, leaving the second runner up in the dust. Running like the wind…..

Have a great weekend.

Thursday Thoughts

We Are Finally Getting a Knee
Jen found out today that her surgery is scheduled for 7 a.m. on Monday. She will indeed have it at a surgical center as an outpatient. That means she will not be spending the night of surgery in the hospital. As a frequent hospital visitor myself, I have assured her that you really never see the nurses during the night anyway, except for the once or twice that they come by to wake you up to take your blood pressure, and generally annoy you. As her sister, I am happy to annoy her that night if it gives her any comfort.

Welcome to The Home
We are getting older, but not necessarily getting any better. Our tiny Arizona house is starting to fill up with medical accoutrements that she will need following her surgery. You got your walker, you got your cane, you got your grabber, you got your toilet accessories. Sigh……

It Feels 10 Lbs. Lighter
Jen and I spent yesterday going through the house and ruthlessly collecting things to take to Goodwill. We are spoiled by our Colorado houses that have basements and plenty-o-storage. When you have a small home with no basement and very limited storage capacity, you have to put your foot down on having too much stuff. We filled up the trunk and the back seat for Trip Number One to Goodwill. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure…..

Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Our Arizona neighbors arrived this week, and we were happy to see them. They live in Alberta, Canada. The day they left, it was -27 degrees C. It doesn’t sound much better in Fahrenheit, as that translates to -16 degrees F. I think it’s safe to say they have enjoyed the past couple of 70 degree days. The first thing they did was take pictures of their yard to show their Canadian friends what they’re missing. And they say Canadians are nice….







The Flavor Holes Don’t Help

A few years back, a couple of Portillo’s restaurants opened up in the east valley of the Phoenix metro area — one near Salt River Field (spring training home of the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks) and one near Sloan Park (spring training home of the Chicago Cubs). As far as I can tell, both Chicago-based restaurants are thriving. Their success is no surprise to this blogger because Portillo’s Italian beef sandwiches are delicious and their onion rings are good enough to warrant a drive across town. Perhaps most important, it seems to me that Mesa is where Illinois comes to retire. Hence, no learning curve needed.

A few months ago, another Chicago icon — perhaps the Icon to define all Icons — made its way to the Sonoran desert. The neon lights of the area’s first White Castle were turned on, and the endless line of traffic into the restaurant, and perhaps even more important, the drive-thru, began to form. Twenty-four hours of nonstop binge-eating commenced……

Bill was very excited to hear the news. Being a Chicago native, he has eaten his share of White Castle sliders. Seven or eight at a time, as is typical. They’re small, after all, and just about the only place open at 3 o’clock in the morning after a night on the town.

The first time I met Bill’s mom and dad was on a visit at Thanksgiving. Not only did I meet his parents, but I also was introduced to White Castle hamburgers. Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t going to be served until early evening, and the McLain consensus, including his mother, was that a few White Castle sliders around lunchtime would tide us over.

Kris, meet White Castle. I eagerly took my first bite. I found myself uncharacteristically speechless. While those around me were eagerly chowing down the tiny sandwiches, I was dumbfounded. I felt like Cindy Lou Who when she spotted the Grinch stealing Christmas and asked “Why, Santa Claus, why?” As I watched them eat the soggy, tasteless food item (I didn’t know what to call it, but hamburger was not one of my choices), I bit my tongue to stop myself from saying, “Why, McLain family, why?”

They had no flavor. None.

Finally, yesterday morning, I gave in to Bill’s excited and frequent requests that we eat lunch at the new White Castle……

We drove the nearly-30 minutes to the restaurant, stood in line for another 20 minutes, ordered our shareable pack of original sliders, and waited another 20 minutes for our order. We sat down to eat. Bill finished one sandwich in a couple of bites, and reached for a second. He ate the second sandwich much slower. I think I heard him sigh. About a bite into his third, he looked at me with sad eyes and said, “These are really bad, aren’t they?”

I of course had figured that out after my first bite. I might as well have been standing at the kitchen counter in Chicago some 30 years ago trying to swallow my very first White Castle hamburger.

“Yes,” I told him, “they really are.”

We brought the rest home for Austin and Lilly who have enough Chicago blood in them from their father’s side to love them.

“They just didn’t taste good,” Bill said to me as we drove home. “The buns were…..” And he stopped. Then he said (direct quote, hand to God), “…..I just can’t talk about it. It’s too sad.”

We Still Need a Knee

After literally months of anticipation, Jen spent yesterday NOT having her knee replaced. Did she chicken out? Heck no. Gloors don’t fear painful surgery. Bring it on! Did the replacement knee providers run out of spare knees? Nope. That wasn’t the issue. Knees to spare. Did the doctor decide he was just okay like in the commercials? No, he seemed willing and ready to go.

The problem was that Jen caught a virus on the plane ride from Denver to Phoenix on Christmas Day. I know. I know. Christmas was a long time ago — over two weeks in fact — but this was a virus she just couldn’t shake. She visited urgent care and was diagnosed with a sinus infection. She took Mucinex and Alka Selzer Cold and Flu and her antibiotic and drank tons of water and green tea to no avail.

She saw the doctor on Wednesday, and he told her to keep doing what she was doing. She was to give him a call on Sunday and tell him HONESTLY whether or not she felt better. They will not do surgery on someone with an infection because apparently infection attracts infection, and that’s a bad thing when you are having surgery. If she couldn’t have surgery, she would have to wait for at least two more weeks. Blah.

Sunday morning, Jen felt just as bad as she had felt for the past two weeks, except crabbier (it’s not easy having nonstop coughing and sinus pain for days on end) and more dejected. So she dialed the phone number the doctor had given her to report that she was no better. Except he didn’t answer his phone, and there was no way to leave a message.


She tried several more times throughout the day, but it was no use. She couldn’t reach him. He was going to show up at the hospital the next day, washed up with scalpel in hand, and she would be a no-show.

But in that way that God has of taking care of us, Jen’s daughter Maggie remembered that a friend of hers was acquainted with the doctor’s wife. Maggie didn’t hesitate for a moment to call in the Big Guns. The friend called the wife, and a short while later, the doctor sheepishly returned Jen’s call. He may operate the scalpel, but his wife runs the family, just as in most cases.

But here is the real surprise: After all of this, the doctor casually mentioned to Jen that she shouldn’t worry about waiting two weeks because he could also do the knee replacement AS OUTPATIENT SURGERY whenever she is feeling better.

Two reactions. 1) You didn’t think to tell me that in an earlier conversation? and 2) YOU CAN DO KNEE REPLACEMENT SURGERY AS AN OUTPATIENT?

Wow. Just wow.

So, our hope is that Jen gets better day-by-day, and surgery — either outpatient or in the hospital — will transpire very soon. If not, she has the doctor’s home number!

As for Jen’s grands, they look at the bright side. Grammie will be here longer than she thought! “Are you going to live here forever?” Lilly asked her.

No, it only seems like it.

Here Comes the Airplane

As is wont to happen when seven Baby Boomers get together, our conversation took a turn down the younger-generation-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket path. The word “whippersnapper” never came into play, but it might as well have.

Still, it was seven intelligent women, and so it wasn’t silly conversation. There were very few sentences that started “when I was a kid”, though, admittedly, the topic did come up. Instead, it was more along the lines of having observed that there seems to be a noticeable lack of person-to-person generosity and common good manners present in the generations following ours. And yes, we blamed it on the media and general social mores.

One woman told us about a story she heard on one of the national morning news programs in which a woman proudly touted her clever invention of a band one wore around ones head while feeding the baby that held a cell phone playing a children’s program. It kept the child’s intention captured and his/her imagination bound as tight as a tick. What ever happened to Here comes the airplane into the hanger? Feeding my infant son was one of my most pleasurable experiences. It made up for all of the nighttime fussing, and almost made up for the nights I laid awake worrying when he was a teenager. Almost.

One woman spoke about the children’s programming she has seen on Disney Channel in which there never seems to be parents around, and when they are, they seem to be complete idiots. The same holds true for any kind of adult figures. It’s no wonder the younger generation feels so entitled. From their observations, there is no one who will tell them no.

The subject of all-kids-receiving-participation-trophies never came up.

I left the lunch feeling somewhat downcast, wondering if we really are going to hell in a handbasket. How do we get a handle on this, I wondered.

And what occurred to me is not the answer to the problem. It’s bigger than that. But I began thinking about just what little ol’ me could do to address this situation. The answer, I thought, was modeling.

Don’t worry. I didn’t suddently decide that I should put on a bikini (God forbid) and start a modeling career. But I can practice what I preach.  I can be kind. I can be patient. I can be generous. I can say please and thank you. I can open doors for others. I can let people into my lane when driving. I can let harried mothers go in front of me at the grocery store. Bottom line: I can model a gracious spirit, not just to my grandkids and great nieces and great nephews, but to my environment at large. Maybe I will impact someone. Maybe someone will be thankful for me and pay it forward.

Or maybe it won’t do a bit of good. But it certainly feels more empowering than feeling dejected by the world around us.

Saturday Smile: Pucker Up

Maggie and Lilly came over for dinner Thursday night while Austin was at baseball practice with Coach Daddy. I grilled burgers, though I did so under light sprinkles. As part of my condiments, I offered some of my homemade dill pickles. Five-year-old Lilly took a bite…..

…..and said, “Aunt Kris, you make a mean pickle!”

Have a great weekend!

Thursday Thoughts

Tick Tock
As of the time I wrote this blog post, Jen is still scheduled to have knee replacement surgery on Monday at an as-of-yet-unknown time. This surgeon is keeping us all guessing. Apparently we will know when we see the lights of his eyes and the glint of his surgical tools. Despite the fact that she has been fighting a cold, she has a very positive spirit. Between her daughter and her two sisters, we will take good care of her. She is her mother and father’s daughter, so she will come through like a trooper and nothing will slow her down.

Last night, Jen and I were sitting outside having a glass of wine and waiting for our lemon chicken to finish baking. The evening was gorgeous with the sun setting in the west and the moon coming up in the east. Suddenly, we heard a ruckus. Mark had stopped by with Austin and Lilly to surprise Jen. After they left, I said, “There is nothing like a surprise visit from your grandkids, huh?” She responded, “That’s the first time that’s ever happened. It was awesome.” Since I get frequent visits from my grandkids, I know I’m blessed…..

Cookie Time
I was excited to read that it’s nearing Girl Scout Cookie season. I’m down to only one granddaughter selling cookies. I texted Mylee this morning and asked her if she was selling cookies yet. She responded quickly, telling me not yet. I told her to save me some of the new lemon cookies that are being offered this year, and she promised she would. I don’t know what will happen when she is no longer a Girl Scout. I guess I will no longer be able to blast by those little girls selling in front of the grocery store…..

Oh, the Weather Outside is Lovely
We’ve had some really glorious days this past week or so. Highs nearing 70 with lots of sunshine. In fact, last night, I was about to turn on the fan in our room, but was too lazy to get out of bed. It’s supposed to turn a bit cooler next week with slight chances of rain. Despite the 70 degree temps, Lilly wore her Ugg boots yesterday. Those little desert children wouldn’t survive Colorado temperatures at their lowest.