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Betsy Block


Vacation Home

Vacation Home
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Last Friday night we got home from a 4-night vacation that was supposed to be a 7-night vacation but had to be downsized due to relentless rain, not to mention that - there's really no delicate way to put this - our rental house smelled awful. (Lesson learned: no more last-minute online rentals! I should have known better. I have a friend who once left a B&B because the bed had polyester sheets, so at least I'm not alone. Or at least my friends are as freakish as I am. Or something.)

Anyway, I've never been so happy to get home and do eight loads of laundry. In fact, I was so relieved to be in a clean place that I actually couldn't stop cleaning. I did the front hall closet (it was like a clown closet, with its contents strewn across three rooms), all that laundry, and even the oven. That's how bad the rental property was. (If you're ever planning on renting a place in Westport, Mass. off the Internet, I'd be happy to tell you the address of the stinkhole we'll never stay in again.)

Next, E's best friend M came to stay for two nights. He was supposed to be visiting us at our glorious vacation home, but - you know how that story ends. We promised we'd make it fun somehow even though we were just be here at boring old home.

We've known M since he was born, and his mom is one of my best friends, so we're always thrilled to have him with us. In the past, he's said things to us like "I only really live when I'm with you," but this time he took things a step further. Right after his mom dropped him off, one of the first things he said was "BD, I'm going to call you "dad" this weekend. "Dad," what time is it?" Of course, I was "Mom." I told him that if we were going down that road, since it was allowance day he too would get a ration (cheering in the back seat!), but that he'd have to help out with chores (falsely cheerful agreement from the back seat!). He agreed to my devilish deal. When the cashier at the farm stand told us our two kids were keepers, and yet only our own daughter P and our temporary son M were with us, I just smiled and told her I agreed. "We're pretty lucky!" I said.

I could tell we were off to a good start when, the next morning, all three kids worked together to make BD and me breakfast in bed. But then things started to sour just a tiny bit when we took the kids to a local organic raspberry farm for some wholesome berry picking and the boys ran into a girl M knew from camp. "Mom, this girl won't stop following us around," he said loudly right in front of her. I chuckled nervously and said, "Be nice, you guys."

Next thing I knew, M had lost all of his allowance to E in a brotherly ping-pong match. In this case, M was happy to learn that in our house, BD and I have the final say on underage betting and that he would, in fact, be keeping his five bucks ("no more betting, you guys"), but he wasn't always so charmed to discover our family's ways: Over the course of his short stay he emptied the dishwasher four times, helped bring in groceries, and had to take a shower. Yeah, I was "Mom" all right.

By the time his own "mom" came to pick him up and I was admonishing him to be nice to her too, he'd had enough. "You're not my mother!" he yelled through the closed car window, and then they drove away.

Three Kids Raspberry Jam
The three kids and I made this ridiculously easy jam from Epicurious. Despite the rave reviews, I found it way too sweet so after we'd cooked it down I squeezed in a bunch of lemon juice. If I'd thought of it, lime juice would have been even better. Best of all might have been a different recipe altogether.