Sunday Frustrations

Yesterday, my oldest and I went over some things on the new blog page and got a bunch of things accomplished.  Included among them was the change in the header’s picture to one I took in France in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1998 and a change from the Blog theme, which was malfunctioning, to a simpler one.  It turns out that many of my issues were related to the cool Blog theme I had chosen.  Simpler is better, lol!

Christian showed me how he was going “behind the scenes” to make changes in the blog that were not happening from the “dashboard” and that helped a lot.  However, this morning when I went to do it, there were radical changes that didn’t allow me to put in my subscription widget.  Adrienne e-mailed me yesterday and asked that with the move, would she automatically get e-mails with my blog entries?  I figured not, that was one of the widgets I needed to add.  When I used the dashboard, as mentioned, nothing happens.  When I went to do it behind the scenes as Christian taught me, the resident technology ghost in my house decided to take charge and mess up my plans.  So at least the new blog is up and running.  Sorry, Adrienne and others, the subscription thing is on my list. In the move from the old WordPress address to my new one, I have lost about thirty of my entries and numerous photos.  That is next on my list of things to do.  The old one is still up and running but today’s entry is the second one that will only be present on this site and not on the last site.

I hope that this move of mine isn’t going to be as inconvenient for everyone else as it currently is for me!

Yesterday, after having Samantha and Christian over and having major haircut day with Mikey trimming my follicularly challenged head and doing Christian’s hair as well, we headed out to see a movie with friends.  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, The Eagle, which featured the less than totally respected, Channing Tatum as the protagonist.  The movie is ostensibly about a real event in Roman times taking place in Britain which was then one heck of a primitive, scary place.  The movie kept me awake during its entirety, which for me says that it was pretty entertaining.  I must say that it had some horribly cheesy moments and it was a bit drawn out at times.  What inevitably fascinated me at the end was the fact that it was filmed in Scotland and Hungary, Hungary being a great movie location of late due to the low cost of filming there.  CC and Tony, our friends are always delightful to be with and the dinner afterwards was also good.  CC and I marveled that the movie managed to pull together both of our ethnic backgrounds into a film.  We wondered, as well, whether we would ever find something to match MK’s and Tony’s backgrounds:  Italian (or Swedish) and Slovak!  I think not.  In any case, it was fun seeing a bit more of an “action” film as MK and I are not generally into “couple’s” watching of them, so this was a treat. 

Dinner was at Boston Blackie’s and it was one of those, “We don’t care where we eat as long as it is decent” evenings.  While at Northbrook Court, after the movie, we thought we could stroll over to the “Claim Company” and have dinner, unfortunately, everyone and his uncle had the same idea and the noise and the hour wait wasn’t in our thoughts as being wise, so we went elsewhere.  So it was Burgers at Blackie’s.  Again, doing anything with Tony and CC, who are also our Stratford, Ontario companions, is always a pleasure.  It is a no brainer, always fun, never ever stressful.  The only stress that there might be is figuring out the check because we are on the same wavelength and want to do the right thing.  That is good stress because you never have to worry about trying to deal with an unpleasant situation. 

Today we have a quick birthday party for the three year old daughter of one of Mikey’s good friends who is a talented chef in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He is in town since his parents live here and so we have a quick trip to the bookstore beforehand to get a gift for the young lady.

The rest of the day is somewhat up for grabs though I feel the need to go to the gym.  That is my job at the current time and that was one of my major goals, to get fitter, when I retired from my teaching job.  Our gym is amazing and really, like our local swimming pools, is country club like.  I guess we do get something for our taxes.  In any case, seeing the geriatric issues in our families, I have decided that I am going into this situation head on and I will deal with aging on a kicking and screaming basis.  My sons have repeatedly reminded me that  if and when I get to the point of being geriatrically beyond control that I am going to have a Viking’s funeral set up for me, put on a raft, pushed out into Lake Michigan and having the raft set on fire.  I guess I have my work cut out for me!

The snow has melted a great deal and I continue to watch the progress of the melt on the roof, it frankly worries me.

This week I shall work on bringing my new website up to snuff and seeing how my electronic flashcard app works with the students I am tutoring.  I am planning on working with it a bit with Samantha, doing the numbers for fun..  There is always something and I guess that this is what keeps us young!

Tuesday, what more can I say?

It is almost noon and I must face facts, I am lazy today.  I told MK and Mike this morning at breakfast, before heading out to the gym that I was having a “Rich Day.”  Mary Kay laughed and said that a “Rich Day” is nothing more than a day I spend in running around the house doing things.  She is right, but I am not sure what I should have called it. 

I am still in my leather easy chair but I do have my beloved laptop with me.  I have spent the morning messing around with blogorganization, making sure that I have everything properly documented and filed.  I have done some e-mailing and also a short translation from French into English for Christine in France, who requested that I go over something for a special “Fair Trade” exhibition taking place in a Strasbourg church in the near future featuring bronze statues from Burkina Faso.  It amazes me that a small piece of my work might soon be sitting in a French church.  It also just occurred to me that I forgot to mention to Christine, although with her English I am sure she is aware, that I used the American spelling of mold which would be mould in British English.  Oh well…

Yesterday was absolutely wonderful with Samantha but for some reason it flattened me a bit!  I fell asleep in my chair during her afternoon nap, something I don’t do all that often.  I thought about it and realized that I have really been terribly busy, so why not just have a plain old lazy day?

I had a great workout at the gym early in the morning.  Mike’s was less successful as he was dealing with Charlie’s somewhat unexpected exercise routine that “confused” his own a bit.  Mine was going along just fine, some cardio, my shoulder/chest machines, and then a “super” cardio finish because somehow having Michael next to me on a treadmill had me working harder than I otherwise might have. 

So, I came home, did some organization, a bit of translation, and am quietly sitting finishing up the herbal tea I prepared.  Lunch, perhaps?  Darn, I am going to have to prepare it myself!

I also did some work for MK’s upcoming birthday.  As usual, I will set some “grenades and bombs” of confusion about what will take place and about what she might be receiving for this particular “big” birthday that she wants no hubbub about.  I love the element of surprise and the stress as one wonders exactly what is going to happen.  Honestly, I haven’t done much planning…or have I?  Since she reads this blog, perhaps I am setting her up from this vantage point.  On the other hand, is her birthday this month or next month?  She knows me too well, I am not the normal husband, I remember these things.  My mother trained me well, Queen of Hallmark that she was!

So, although I am blogging later in the day than normal, at least I got to it!  Still keep wondering…the day is young, there are all kinds of mischief I can get involved in!

Trying to get back to normal

Yesterday started out busy and a bit hectic. The last thing left to do was to return the rental car. Since we had changed the original plan and decided to return it on Sunday instead of Monday, we had to take it to O’Hare, which was the only Hertz open. This necessitated, obviously, taking another car to pick me up. Mary Kay and Mikey drove in the Subaru and followed me.

As usual, I thought I had planned for every possible outcome. It is this planning for every outcome that sometimes leaves me in the lurch. I say that because if things don’t work out fitting into my planning, I find it very annoying.

The only major annoyance of a rental car in Chicago is the tollway and its issues. The Illinois Tollway system is quite interesting. They want you to purchase a transponder so you don’t have to stop for tolls. That is nice, and we actually have an extra one, but in my cleaning details, I had organized so well, I couldn’t find it. Technically, that is illegal anyway as I found out, since they are supposed to be “connected” to a car.

My usual car, which has a transponder, was not at home, being borrowed by a son. No biggie, I thought I would just pay with cash.

So, I get in the car and I drive toward the airport. I get off and get ready to pay the toll. Unfortunately, no human beings at the toll stop and the money baskets demanded $.80 in change, and I only had a dollar bill. Therefore, I was forced to “illegally” pass through. That annoyed me to the point where I had what I would call a “meltdown,” a temporary time where something stupid caused me to “lose it” for a moment or two. When I was picked up by MK and Mikey, I was still in that phase. Not that it lasted that long, but I guess the big stresses finally came out in me as I tried to deal with the stupidity of the Illinois Tollway system.
Here is what ensued: I went online and answered a few questions. I finally came to the conclusion that I could not pay my toll online as they said I could, since I owned a transponder and I was in a rental car. After calling the Tollway personnel, they told me that in fact, I had to pay online, that my mistake was in thinking I had a transponder. If I happened to be in a rental car, I had NO transponder. Go figure.

I finally got the info I needed, went back online, and paid my $.80 fee with my credit card. The oddity there is you would think I could take it off a transponder account but no, I had to enter all my info and proceed that way. I was happy when that was over, it was a silly annoyance! They even made me tell which toll stop I was at, which direction I was headed in, the license plate and state of the car.

The rest of the day went okay, Mikey and I went to take a swim at the gym pool. We arrived to find out there was a pool party and we would have to do a workout instead. Luckily, I had my workout clothes, Mike didn’t though!

Mike took the pot roast from the previous evening and made wonderful tacos, they were delicious and we “veged” out for the rest of the evening.

This morning, I flew out quickly when Mary Kay left for work, got in my swim and returned home before Christian showed up with Samantha. She and I took the “whites” I had washed and hung them up. We are almost all done with the cleaning of Mike’s clothing. We still have some shirts that need to be taken to the dry cleaner’s but we are at least normalizing.

After that, Samantha and I watched a little of “Flushed Away,” her new “favorite movie. Of course, we are watching it in French!

More to come…

Back in Illinois

The plaque over our back door reads:

“Que Dieu bénisse notre maison et ceux qui en franchissent le seuil.”

God bless our house and everyone who enters it.

Got up about eight in the morning. Slept like a log. Been doing wash to clean ‘California’ out of Mikey’s clothing! We have pretty much put everything away, he has his technology up and running.

Last night was amazing and crazy. The last several hours of the trip were really a pain as we re-entered the Chicago area. It began to snow just as the sun set and the road became wet. The visibility was awful and it was hard to determine how icy it really was. I was driving again and luckily, after about an hour of that nastiness, it got dry as we did our final hour of the drive.

We enjoyed the warm reception we got once home. The baby was there and we quickly emptied the car. It was a great stroke of luck we had purchased six large rubbermaid type plastic containers which made it easier to unpack. The dinner of warm pot roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, and fresh bread made our return even better. We quickly got everything in order as the dinner was finalized. It all began with Samantha giving us big hugs and making the return even more special.

The best part was the coffee after dinner. One odd note to our travels on Interstate Route 40 which parallels the famous Route 66 is that good coffee is non-existent in our eyes. Laughter would often ensue as “Dad” would ask the restaurant people about the coffee being served. Usually, the server would have pretty much no clue about what I was getting at. Although Starbucks is decidedly not my favorite, as I feel they burn their beans, we would have enjoyed some as a safe coffee haven in the storm. Starbucks was pretty much non-existent along the route and any other good coffee houses as well. We did resort to using the instant coffee from Starbucks to “fortify” the coffee we were drinking, but idiot me would often forget it in the hotel room. Note to self, take the one cup coffee makers we purchase from Bodum for ourselves and the boys since it takes up little space but makes a decent cup of coffee.

Today we will take the car back to O’Hare, which was not the original location of the return. Since we changed our original plans of return to Sunday, we have to go there, That is no biggie!

The entire trip was about 2100 miles or so… It was amazing! I feel so sorry for those who have not seen the beauty of the ride, it is worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Essentially the plan for us was to drive during the entire daytime, leaving at dawn and finishing up around sunset.

Mikey is up, it is about ten o’clock and Mary Kay is preparing waffles in the kitchen. We are attempting to ‘normalize’ and that is a good thing. It is pretty much going to be a day of rest.

Oh, and did I tell you that we finally figured out that the Superbowl is next week?

I wonder what kind of mischief I shall be able to get in today?

Day Three of Daddy Boot Camp

I got up early this morning and expected and looked forward to sitting down with my coffee after setting up breakfast for Mary Kay and me.  I arrived in the kitchen and realized that Mikey is at home and that I was going to have some cleaning up to do in order to enjoy myself.  I sometimes wish I were different but I need a certain order to be able to enjoy myself, something that is a double edged sword.

After talking to him when he got up, I realized that he was really not capable of the cleaning up as he is still having issues with sleep that clearly, from what I can see, area a major reason for a relapse when you have an addiction.  It is somewhat akin to torture to a recovering addict to have to deal with.  A nightly fear of how the sleep routine is going to go.  It is hard to rationalize and realize that it is a temporary phase.  I recall days of insomnia before having children.  My boys did a great number on me and taught me how to sleep standing up and, for the most part, insomnia is no longer a part of my life.  Periodically, everyone has an evening of sleeplessness, my most usual scenario of late is to fall into a deep sleep, wake up completely wide awake, and stay up for a few hours.  I am guessing that I may well need less sleep than most people, anyway.

Mikey did a bit of research and knows that the sleep issues could last for a while.  That doesn’t make it necessarily easier to deal with. 

I am enjoying my house almost devoid of Christmas trappings.  I enjoy the clean aspect and not having to see the needles on the carpet.

I am wondering how long to continue what I call the Daddy Boot Camp.  How long is this going to go on?  When I say this, I am saying it in reference to the daily journal entries.  Time will answer that issue.  This morning, once Mike got up, we decided to watch a movie together.  I wanted to “chill” and see about getting my blood pressure lower than it has been, so watching a movie seemed to be a good solution.   It has been in the slightly higher than the borderline range, but I am not happy about that and I am avoiding medicating however I can.  If I really need it, that is one thing, but if I can somehow lower it wholistically, I shall.  My breathing session today lowered it to a more normal range; I am going to continue to try the controlled breathing each day. 

Mike is eating us out of house and home, his new “clean” status is bringing out his appetite and he actually could use a little padding.

We had lunch with his oldest brother and now we are getting ready to go to the gym.  Later this afternoon I have a tutoring session to attend.  

So, off to the gym for a swim and spotting Mikey to be followed by a visit to the grocery store and picking up items for dinner and for Mikey’ moments of hunger.  My routine is in transition.

Dismal rain and melted snow on Day Eleven of rehab

I am not sure, but the exterior temperature must be very warm because the huge mounds of snow have dwindled down to almost nothing.  It is raining and has been raining all night and that has aided the cause of the warmer temperatures and rendered the snow mounds ugly with flecks of black and other sooty colors on their surfaces.  The overall effect is one that is depressing instead of renewing and I wonder if that is reflecting our spirits as we head into day eleven of rehab.  I am going to say it isn’t.

We spoke to the young man yesterday and his spirits were high.  He is very anxious to get out.  In the family, we continue, as a group, to communicate and discuss where we are in all of this. This communication has taken every current shape from texting to actual discussion and is ongoing.  We have discussed all sorts of issues that are going to be important as we transition Michael and ourselves from the clinic to real life.  We have made plans here and there to take care of many different things, from the phone (which was paid for by the older boys’ business) to how to get Michael active again (his Christmas present morphed from what it was to a paid membership at either the Park District gym or at a private one).  We have continued to dialogue with counselors at the clinic to get input when we weren’t sure what the best official stance is that we should have in certain areas.  We intend to do everything we can to help him avoid situations that may compromise the progress he has made while “incarcerated.”

Many family members have a background in psychology due to the fact of their teaching credentials, but Christian’s wife is the most expert of all having done her Masters in Clinical Psychology.  She uses it in her daily job working with autistic children.  These connections do not hurt our family goals at all as we all try to help him.

We are not even all sure that he really needed an extensive treatment program such as he has had to endure.  My take is that that is probably accurate.  “Hollywood” as he is nicknamed in the “facility” had himself chosen to fly home without his supporting cast of chemicals and at a certain point tell us he couldn’t do it alone.  My real feeling is that the rude shock of being in a county facility, seeing the horrible effects drug use has on others, and being with people you often don’t have much connection with  is a very good “wake up” call.  This facility is not a “spa like” situation where perhaps he wouldn’t have felt the full effects of what he has done not only to himself, but also to his family.

I have to say that I am not enjoying the tree as much this morning.  My coffee is good despite having been made twice.  Ridiculous man that I am I had done a great job of setting up the coffee yesterday, grinding the beans, cleaning the carafe, filling the receptacle with water, only to find out this morning as I craved my first cup of coffee, that the carafe was filled to the brim with hot water!  I had neglected to install the ground coffee in the gold filter!  As Michael must do with his life, I had to start over.

That was just a preview of how things were going.  I straightened up a few things, and then sat down to the disarray caused by our canine in the living room.  I hate visual pollution and am not happy by the displaced ornaments and pine needles she has knocked down during the night as she heads toward our front window.   Years ago we had replacement windows put in our house,  which is about as old as I am, to conserve energy and to keep me from losing my cool each fall and spring when I struggled with storms and screens.  I have always had little battles going on in all sorts of life areas and that was a monumental one.  Our storm/screen situation was somewhat scary at times since the windows are large for a house that isn’t and the flimsiness of the storms had them bending and flexing as I worked with them only to shatter at the first incorrect move I would make.  It was nearly impossible to fit them in without a struggle and it was a biannual moment of stress I certainly don’t miss.  Anyway, the front picture window was replaced with a bow window with an accompanying seat.  The seat and its surroundings match the décor of the house quite well as they are in oak that I finished to match the furniture we have in the nearby dining room.  Sometimes we don’t think about the ramifications of what we are doing, we ignored here the fact that our dog, Ali, was going to take this location over the minute we left the house.  Not thinking about that I sanded it beautifully and gave it layer upon layer of tung oil, finishing it all to a beautiful luster.  One day we returned home to find enormous gouges in the seat area of the window, attributable to Miss Ali who had, in her quest to rid the house of its mailman attacker, scratched the window seat almost beyond repair.  I immediately took charge, re-sanded the whole affected area, re-tunged it (if I can say that) and once dry I purchased a carpet runner and cut it to fit over the entire seat.  Now Ali has a deluxe area that she can not only use as her attack runway but also to bask in the sun of the afternoon and stretch her long legs out.  At first she would never do this in our sight, now she is bold enough to do it the minute we leave the house.  On top of this, we must leave the blinds open because if we don’t, her afternoon mail attacks damage them!  And then, of course I have had to resort to a plexiglass square sheet directly in front of the window screen on the sides, because Denali has ruined two window screens already as she throws her body against the windows in anger as the mailman passes by and “attacks” our mailbox.  The surprise I just yesterday was that she even cracked the plexiglass!  Ali’s commitment to her job as border collie protector is only matched by Koerner reaction to challenge.  She is not unlike her owners!

So, here it is New Year’s Eve and I have spent all sorts of time talking about my past battles.  It seems that I have a bigger battle at stake here and, as usual, my mind wanders around all sorts of battlefields wondering how to most correctly attack the situation at hand.  I only hope that God grants me and my family the strength and ability to correctly deal with what we have at hand.  Despite what I am seeing in front of me in terms of disarray and ugly weather, I firmly believe we shall be able to conquer the devil that attacked our son and our family.  The support of our family, friends, and overall network will see us through it!

Happy New Year!

Granola, Russian teacakes, and nuts!

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Today I decided to start the cookies.  I did what I have done since I was a kid in elementary school; I started with the task that is the least appealing to me.  Therefore, I mixed up the Russian Teacakes, which in and of itself is not unpleasant, but the mess that ensues after the baking where you have to roll the freshly removed, set but not browned at all, teacakes and roll them in powdered sugar while hot is sloppy.  When I think about it, it really isn’t my cup of tea to do that, I don’t like messes.  When the kids were small, I was always amazed at Mary Kay’s willingness to get really messy and cook with the kids.  When I would do it, it was always in a more engineer-planned, step by step preparation that was less artistic in design. Anyone who knows me would get that.  Sometimes, when the kids were small, they would say, “oh boy, here with go with military daddy (mind you, I was never in the military)” when I would be alone with them for the day.  So, I made the cookies and immediately went haywire with my “Honey Don’t List.”

I need to be careful here since Mary Kay seems to catch a glimpse of my blog each day and when she comes home, lately, there have been no surprises for her.  Darn, I so love to mess with her!

Mary Kay and I are the same age and both teachers by profession.  We met in grad school at Ohio University.  Our paths almost didn’t happen as I was not looking to stay at my alma mater for grad school.  I was planning, ironically, to go either to the University of Illinois (where MK did her undergrad) or to Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.  I didn’t hear about my fellowship at the U of I until after I signed up to stay at OU.  Mary Kay came because she didn’t have a teaching job and OU contacted her and offered her an Assistantship.   She came to Ohio sight unseen, having never heard of OU and being quite unhappy to be in the middle of nowhere.  But that is another story.

Teaching jobs were impossible to find and we both sent out over five hundred letters.  We sent them mainly to the Chicago and Ohio area and wherever there were job openings.  As it happens, she got the job in Illinois so off we went right after grad school and a wedding.

Once children were on the way, we decided that the one who didn’t have the job would stay home.  By this time, I had a great job at New Trier High School.  I honestly couldn’t believe it since I almost threw in the towel during my one year as “Hausherr” and substitute teacher.  But it happened.  She stayed with the children for about fourteen years.  We decided that we could make a go of it on one salary (barely!) and that she would be the “college tuition.”  Living off my salary was tough at times, even at the affluent school I taught at, I remember that car we had with the hole in the floor, need I say more? 

As we approached her time to get back on the saddle, she was convinced that it wouldn’t happen, who on earth would want her?  Once again, MK literally fell into one job after the other, first part-time at Deerfield High School (which was perfect) and finally helping out at Lake Forest High School in a job which soon morphed into a full-time German position, something which is unheard of.  Then, she became department chairman and set off to do things she never planned on.  Lucky for them to have her, because she has soothed the souls who were having such a tough time under the previous leadership (if you could call it that) from a quite eccentric individual.

I have really digressed!  Let’s get back to my day!  After putting the house back together after breakfast, I first mixed the granola.  It is an amazing recipe which MK and I got in Maho Bay, on St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  We had wanted to go to their green, eco-friendly place since early on in our marriage.  They have special “tents” as the call them on the side of a mountain. The tents are joined by walkways that are recycled wood (where possible) and the walkways are connected to steps, all put together to save the setting and ecosystem.  It is in the National Park donated by the Rockefeller Family and since it is less snobby in appeal than some nearby resorts coupled with the fact that there isn’t a major airport on the island, there are fewer tourists.  We have been on their beaches (which are pristine) and seen very few people.  We so loved the breakfast of granola and plain yogurt that we asked for the recipe and got it.  You will find it at the end of this article.

After the granola making (which is a large batch we share with the kids), I made the cookies.  Then, the devil got a hold of me and since I had stockpiled so many nutmeats, I made Cajun pecans and sugared walnuts from a recipe I got in the Chicago Tribune this morning.  I will also admit that since the oven was on, I wanted to take advantage of it! Now at least I have some major things out of the way.  The rest of the cookies I find to be less daunting. 

So, here I am in my dining room, about to have some tea.  I am looking into my clean kitchen, the big pans having been put in the oven to dry off.  The Christmas tree is sitting in the back yard, visible to my eye from where I am and I am wondering…

Should I attack the Christmas dishes?  Make the switch from the buffet cabinet up into the glassed in portion?  My question to myself is WWMKD?  What would Mary Kay do?

Maho Bay Granola

1 box of Oatmeal (42 oz. container)

2 cups chopped walnuts

2 cups chopped pecans

2 cups almonds

2 cups shredded coconut

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 pinch nutmeg



1 ½ cups peanut oil

1 ¼ cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla

Combine the three above liquid ingredients in a saucepan on low heat.  Stir until honey dissolves.  Then add the above dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is moistened.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 275° oven until it is light brown in color.  Seems to take at least an hour.

Note:  I almost always forget to add the nutmeg!  It tastes great without!  I have also doubled the amount of nuts from what the Maho Bay people gave me.

Option:  1 to 2 cups craisins added after it cools

Cajun pecans

Lightly toast 2 cups pecan halves

Stir once during 5 minutes in 350 degree oven

Remove from oven, allow to cool, reduce oven to 325 degrees

In large bowl: 1T Worcestershire sauce, 2t coarse salt, 3/4t each: ground cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, 1/2 – 1t hot red pepper sauce

Toss to coat

Bake 15 minutes

Loosen nuts with spatula, let cool

2 cups

Classic Spiced and Sugared Nuts

Oven at 225 degrees

Beat 1 egg white with 1t water in medium bowl to soft peaks

Put 1lb. Pecan or walnut halves in a large bowl and fold in beaten egg white

Mix together 1/2C sugar and 1/2t cinnamon and toss with egg coated nuts

Spread on non-stick cookie sheet

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes


4 cups