Father's Day and the Week We Almost Didn't Survive

Oh Internets.  Have I told you lately how awesomely awesome Tony is?  And not just because it's Father's Day and he's a great Daddy, because it is and he is, but that isn't the reason.  The reason is that he had an out of town work training seminar thing this week and ZB and I both have been battling summer colds and there's only so many days that you can be on 24 hour snot wiping patrol for someone who doesn't know how to blow her own nose and would rather DIE than let you anywhere near her with a tissue before you get all burned out and fed up and want to just throw in the snot-covered towel and be done with it.

You know the old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder?  Personally, I always thought that was a bit of a stretch, but man is it true.  As he packed up his bag on Monday I was like, "No problemo.  We manage to make it through the day while he's at work.  How much harder can it be to do a few more hours until bedtime?"

How much harder indeed.

The thing is that Tony does a lot more than just work a full time job.  Apparently he also gets up and feeds the cats breakfast sometime between 4am and 6am, and cleans out litter boxes and picks up hairballs and takes out the garbage.  After work he comes home and plays in the floor with ZB while I steal a few precious minutes to myself, feeds her dinner and cleans up the kitchen after she tosses all of that dinner into the floor.  He mows the lawn, takes the recycling out to the curb and makes sure that the house is all locked up and secure before going to bed.  He does all this quietly and without making a big deal out of it, so I kinda figured it wasn't that hard.

Trust me.  It is hard.

While Tony was gone, the cats did not get breakfast at 6am.  They got breakfast at 9:15 when I finally realized that I had forgotten to feed them and that was why they were following me around like the Pied Piper of Purina.  I was very proud of myself for cleaning out the litter boxes on time...right up until I realized that I had forgotten to get the ones in the basement that Bella likes to use.  I almost coughed up my own hairball while trying to clean up the one they left me out on the porch.  (Do you have any idea how gross that is?!?  And how hard it is to pick something up while refusing to open your eyes?  And how much I'm gagging even now just thinking about it?)  I got the garbage can out to the curb in time for pickup, but not in time for me to empty the trash that was in the house into the outside can first.  ZB spent the first few days standing at the front door, waiting for him to come home and play with her.  I tried to wrestle in the floor with her like what he does, but after she accidentally poked me in the eye and boxed me in the ear within a three minute time frame, I called a halt to floor wrestling.  After she tossed all of her dinner on the floor the first night, neither one of us was really interested in cooking, so we distracted ourselves by eating at various fast food places.  (I know.  I'm feeding my child a McDonalds cheeseburger just so I don't have to pick things up off the floor.  There goes Mother of the Year).  Speaking of the floor, I relied on the less sanitary but equally effective cat cleanup system.  I didn't sweep, they ate all the food bits they wanted, and I figured it would tide them over for the next time I forgot to feed them.  Win Win...sorta.  The lawn I ignored completely.  There is just no way to mow and watch ZB at the same time.  And on the second night he was away, I locked up all the doors and windows and set the alarm before bed, only to realize the next morning that I had left my keys hanging in the front door knob all night.  (Good thing we live in a safe neighborhood).

But beyond all the things that he does, we just missed him.  I missed sharing my day with him and ZB missed being played with and talked to and kissed on the head.  We missed hearing about his day.  (Well, he called on the phone, but it wasn't the same).  The cats REALLY missed him, because evidently I am an unreliable provider. And I'd even go as far as to bet that McDonald's missed him because of the mess we left on their floor (and they don't even have cleanup cats).

You know, when that many people miss you, you must be doing something right.  Tony doesn't have a fancy job title or a big status symbol car or custom suits or a mansion to make him feel important.  But he does have us.  And we love him.  And need him.  Without him, we are just not complete.

So I'm going to make sure he knows that.  Not because it's Father's Day and that's what the Hallmark card had written in it, but because it is true and he's important to us.  Every day of the year.

And also that he's never allowed to go out of town without us again.  Ever.  Let's put that in a Hallmark card.

Our Very Classy Pop-Up Picnic, or Alternatively, The Time We Were Almost Eaten By A Bear

So I trust that everyone had a good weekend, right?

We here in the House of Quirk actually did something other than our usual weekend routine, ie spend the evening watching tv in our pjs.  We actually got all dressed up and attended a pop-up picnic at World's Fair Park on Saturday night.  (I know! With other people and everything!  And some people that we didn't even know!  Which would technically make them strangers!  For several hours!  Over dinner!)

(It's like we were body-snatched by party-going extroverts!)

(Extroverts that use a lot of exclamation points!)

Anyway, the downtown YMCA was doing a fundraiser by hosting a "dinner in white" pop-up picnic. (What makes it a pop-up picnic instead of just a regular picnic is that no one knows the exact location of the event until about an hour before.  Then a mass text or email or whatever goes out and everyone converges on this secret location all at once. It makes it more spontaneous that way, hence the popping up part).  Like I said, ours was a dinner in white too, which means that in addition to eating dinner outdoors with people he did not know, Tony also had to wear a nice white button up shirt and khakis instead of his regular Saturday night pjs.  So yeah, happy camper there.  But he's a trooper, and more importantly he had no choice, so we all dressed up in our fancy white finery and packed up our picnic basket and headed out to the secret location.

(Ya'll, Tony grumbling about his shirt notwithstanding, we were so cute in our matching white outfits!  ZB wore her Easter dress, and Tony wore a short sleeved button up white summer shirt, and I wore a white gauzy dress that Mom and Dad picked up for me on their last trip to Mexico.  Pair that with our authentic picnic basket that someone bought us ages ago as a wedding present, and we looked like one of those families in the J Crew catalog.  Just add giant oak tree and tire swing.)

It turns out that the secret location was on a picturesque bridge in the 1982 World's Fair Park in downtown Knoxville.  And while there wasn't an oak tree or tire swing, there was a big fountain and a rocky stream and pretty lights everywhere, so it was quite lovely anyway.  And the tables!  The tables were all set up and decorated with pretty china and real silverware and candlesticks and flowers and whatnot, and I turned to Tony and was like, "We are in a J Crew catalog!  I always thought picnics that looked like that were just make-believe to make the rest of us feel like we weren't classy enough!"

The secret location for our picnic at dusk.
We had a good sized crowd there, and festivities kicked off just before sunset.  Each table had a different menu, and ours had ham and grilled chicken and broccoli rice casserole and bread and fancy cheese and cold peach soup (which in my opinion is more like a dessert than a soup because it is sooooo tasty).  I'd spent the previous 3 hours carving up a giant watermelon and making hundreds of melon balls and shapes with cookie cutters, but I think the effort was well worth it since it seemed to be a big hit with the guests.
ZB stuffed down some bread and cheese (she's partial to Gouda), but was really too excited to eat much.  (Bless her heart, she's a natural party person.  She spent most of her time running from table to table, greeting people and charming them with her bubbly cuteness.  I have no idea where that outgoing personality came from).  Add in the lights and the water and the fountain and the little boy that was roughly the same age and the party was a total hit in her book.

ZB and her Grandpa, goofing around at the picnic.

So we were very sophisticated and elegant with our picnic party...and it wasn't until we got back home later that night that we found out that a 300 lb black bear had been roughly a block away the whole time.  (Yes, you read that correctly.  Somehow a fully grown black bear wandered down from his mountain home and into downtown Knoxville where he sauntered around the UT campus A BLOCK AWAY FROM OUR PICNIC FULL OF EASILY ACCESSIBLE AND POORLY DEFENDED FOOD.  Who knows?  Maybe he was on his way to the picnic when animal control caught up with him.  It's like somehow we fell out of our J Crew catalog and into a Yogi Bear cartoon.

And I'm the idiot holding the picnic basket.

But!  The bear, despite being within sniffing distance of our culinary delights, did not crash our picnic, and we did have a lovely time, and we all looked very classy doing it, and the food was delicious, and we were able to raise money for a good cause.  I look forward to doing the whole thing again next year.

Just maybe without Yogi and/or Boo Boo this time.