We are not a typical family. We have always lived outside the norm. We manage to fit in just fine, but when people ask questions, sometimes it gets a little weird.
For example, I’m a proud animal lover. Anyone who is also an animal lover knows the excitement you feel when you meet another who is like you. As soon as you’ve done the secret handshake, you start talking about the love you have for your non-human family members with an exuberance not easily understood by outsiders. What I’ve come to realize is that my love may border on something a little like obsession. Other people talk about how well their dog walks on-leash or how their cat loves to curl up in their lap when they read. I say things like, “then there was that time the cops showed up because of the anonymous call about a pig on the loose,” or, “have you read that book on knitting with dog hair?” and all of a sudden they’re running late but it was so nice to chat and have a nice day and please stay back.
The abnormal-o-meter also starts to ping when you meet my husband and struggle to comprehend his complete inability to feel embarrassment. Though I respect and admire his refusal to accept the societal bonds of the stereotypical male wardrobe, there are not many who feel the same. Pink fuzzy pants, leggings, mermaid unitards — none are safe from one man’s quest for comfort. I have never been able to dissuade him from it and have only succeeded in keeping most of his unconventional fashion statements inside our home. Because when you’re a college kid, it’s ok to go to the bagel store in flannel pajama bottoms. But when you’re a middle-aged man, you look like you’re an escapee from somewhere not-good.
Perhaps one of the more non-traditional aspects of our family is my role as frugal extremist. My husband is more of a free spirit when it comes to finances. If left to his own devices, he would own a wide assortment of water sports equipment, as-seen-on-TV paraphernalia, and whatever else anyone with six minutes of training as a salesperson was peddling. Since I don’t want to get any more jobs (we have five among us,) it has fallen on me to hold the purse strings.
Should you require supporting facts on any of these statements, read anything I have ever written about him. And I submit into evidence, the great tomato spate incident of our first year of dating. Living in our first apartment on an intern and part-time bartender’s salary, I was quite judicious with my spending. My brilliant-but-drunk-with-cash fisherman roommate was having none of it. I took him with me to the supermarket one Sunday and as I was comparing prices on ramen noodles, he wandered down the condiment aisle. I’m not even sure how he found it, it was so small. And that’s probably why I didn’t notice it until the cashier ran it over the barcode reader and the number $8.19 screamed at me from the register. An animated conversation ensued. It included incredulous staring, an inability to define “spate” and the promise it would be well worth the cost.
That two-ounce container moved with us, unopened, from our very first apartment to our second, then third, and finally, our first home. When I was, yet again, cleaning out a refrigerator before moving into our second house, I had had enough. I was a mother by then. I had also been married for more than a couple of years and lived through the $700 fish finder that was supposed to be $100, so I was ready to let the $65.52 per pound spate go. (Yes, I did the math.)
So it is not without reason that I have instituted a system of checks and balances in regard to my husband’s spending. Mostly, he’s not allowed to shop alone. Because he never, never, comes back with JUST what he was sent to buy. Run out of milk for coffee? He’ll be happy to run to the market. By the way, did you know that cashews are actually the seed of a fruit? I do. Because there’s a bag of cashew apples in my freezer, courtesy of one of his milk runs.
This past weekend, my eldest fur child was in need of some doggie-boots. This time of year, he gets allergies and if we don’t notice and start him on an antihistamine fast enough, he chews up his paws. Not only am I running out of socks and medical tape to cover his wounds, it becomes a whole thing when he needs to go outside and I try to add plastic bags to the ensemble. To try and make everyone’s life a bit less crazy, I decided that dog shoes were the way to go. (Yes, boots for my dog were my “normal” decision. Let that sink in a minute.)
I found myself in a dilemma as I was too busy to accompany my husband to the pet store. I looked to my son, who has not adopted my frugal ways.
“I mean, sure, I’ll go. But I definitely think the fish tank could use some accessories.”
OK, so that was a dead end. It was time to break out the big guns. I called down the girl child, a young lady who has been known to collect change out of a puddle.
“I need someone to go with dad. I’m sending him shopping. Alone.”
We made eye contact. She nodded once.
“Let me get my things.”
I sent them off with a short and precise list: dog boots and three extra large Kong toys (one per beast). Four items. Four. Here’s the actual text conversation between me and my mini-me.
Her: What do I do now dad is destroying my plans with strong logic and facts.
Me: No. Be strong. I’m right there with you. He’s spending your Christmas money. Don’t let him steal Christmas from you with unnecessary pet store items. Four. Four things.
Her: He says, “you’re not the boss of me and neither is mom” and I don’t know what to say to that.
Me: Tell him he’s a bad man.
Me: Your prolonged absence is concerning.
Her: He perused the fish stuff for way too long but couldn’t find what he needed and he couldn’t find boots but he got catnip.
Me: We HAVE CATNIP!
Her: I told him that.
Me: For the LOVE OF GOD. Just tell him to come home.
Her: He said we’re going to Agway and he won’t listen to me he also is telling me to stop being a rat.
I ordered the dog boots online and had them overnighted. My cats are now perpetually stoned. It wouldn’t be so bad if the one wasn’t so paranoid and mean. Yesterday, I watched her fight the leg of the table. Welcome to the nut shack.
Did you know there is almost nothing that can be done with the fruit of the cashew? If you’re so inclined, you can try to make a chutney (or maybe a spate??) or, according to jamaicans.com, you can turn them into juice.
1 dozen cashew fruits
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (Optional – Do not use if you want to go natural.)
3 drop vanilla extract flavoring (Optional – Do not use if you want to go natural.)
1 cup water
Method: Wash the cashew fruits and remove the nut. Cut up the fruit into cubes. (Be careful not to get the fruit on your clothing as it stains.) Put the fruit in a blender with the water and purée. Pour the juice through a strainer into a container.
Laurie Nigro, is the mother of two biological children and one husband. She also takes care of a menagerie of animals that leave throw-up around for her to step in in the middle of the night. Laurie’s passionate about frugal, natural living, which is a nice way of saying she’s a kombucha-brewing, incense-burning, foodie freak who tries really hard not to spend money on crap made by child laborers. You can hear her rant about her muse (aka husband) and other things that have no bearing on your life, in this space each Sunday.
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