Thar She Blows... Out the Candles

Posted on 9/23/2015 04:39:00 PM
This one turned eight this week.

We planned her baptism.

And then asked her what kind of party she'd like to have afterward. She said she wanted a pirate party.  I love this kid and her patience for our weird obsessions.

Bob the Pirate showed up with his new pets to welcome all our party guests.

Party goer: "Where do you live?"
Me: "Here's the street.  You'll know the house because there's a pirate skeleton in the yard."
Party goer: "Wow, that was a really good idea put a skeleton in the yard to help people find your house for the party."
Me: "Yeah... for the paaarrrty... sure... that's why he's there."

She wore her pirate princess costume, devised at a thrift store for our recent trip to the Renaissance Faire.

I made yet another pirate cake (I am seriously starting to run out of ideas for this theme).

And she was dutifully impressed.

Every pirate princess deserves a pirate pinata.

And she managed to show everyone what the emotion enthusiasm looks like when she realized she'd gotten a hamster for her birthday.

I have few words with which to wrap this all up, except to say that this one has been a constant source of entertainment for these eight years.  I cannot wait to see what the next eight bring.

My thoughts: 

Alice's Final Repose

Posted on 9/18/2015 07:31:00 PM
I was cooking dinner last night - fish - and decided to bake it in the oven.  So I laid all the fish filets carefully down in a Pyrex dish with some lemon juice and spices and baked them at a normal, totally-agreeable-with-Pyrex temperature for a determined-to-be-not-too-long amount of time.

When it was done, I pulled the Pyrex pan out of the oven and was moving it over to set it on the stove when I heard a crack and then a split second later, the entire Pyrex pan exploded into thousands of pieces sending glass, lemon juice and fish parts all over the entire kitchen, leaving me standing there holding a small piece of glass with a hot pad.

I was walking when this happened so a piece of glass must have ricocheted off the floor and embedded itself in the bottom of my foot.  So here I was, standing on one foot, still clinging to what was a now a shard of glass in my hand, staring at the floor and wondering where to step and whether or not that piece of glass in the bottom of my foot had actually broken the skin and the pain just hadn't made it's way to my brain yet or if it was just stuck there because it was so hot and had melted itself to my skin. (It turned out to be the latter, and peeled off later once the lemon sticky had cooled enough, so good day for me.)

The Dormouse was just around the corner and witnessed the aftermath and once I realized I wasn't going to bleed out, I first told her to stay out of the kitchen lest she step on any of the glass (or, I suppose, the fish), then finally put the rim-of-the-pan-piece I was still inexplicably holding onto into the trash can, then went to find shoes.  After that, I busied myself with the brand new job of cleaning up the sticky chaos of lemon juice, glass and now disgustingly mashed up fish.  It was a mess, but it could have been worse.

Dinner was a shambles, obviously, so I threw some pasta in a pan for the Shortlings to eat and decided tonight just wasn't my night.  About that time I turned around to find The Dormouse standing in the doorway, looking like she was about to cry.

"What's the matter?" I asked, thinking she had been concerned for my safety while I was trying to figure out whether I'd been injured and was disturbed by the sight of the fearsome glass explosion, "Are you okay?"

"No," she said, "I'm disappointed there's no fish for dinner."

And that is why I'm telling you now, if I go missing for a long period of time, come to my house and check on me, because I'm pretty sure my family will have been stepping over my lifeless body for weeks before calling the authorities and my face may have been eaten by the cats.

My thoughts: 

The Precipice

Posted on 9/08/2015 04:38:00 PM
For each of us, there comes a moment when we cross that line from complete, euphoric innocence to jaded, wistful adulthood.  For The Caterpillar, that moment came a few weeks ago.

We'd been in the new house for only a couple of months and a friend came over to meet us for dinner.  I threw a load of laundry in the washing machine and the dishes in the dishwasher and absentmindedly hit the start button on both while we loaded up everyone in the car and went out for Cuban food.  Good food; good conversation.  It was a much needed respite from some sucky things that had happened that month.

When we arrived home, I walked in through the kitchen door and stepped in a puddle of water.  "Well that's not right," I muttered. The KingofHearts and his friend were still chatting while I tried to figure out whether an ice cube had dropped on the floor and melted while we were away or a cat had upended a glass of water.  They like to actualize all potential gravity, these cats, and some times we find this when we come home if someone was short-sighted enough to leave a cup on a surface.

I made my way a little further in and did not find the end of the puddle.  My brain went through a quick checklist of possibilities and crossed off the refrigerator, freezer, tsunami, flood plain, rain inside the house... by this time, I'd waded across the floor far enough to figure out the real problem: both the dishwasher and the washing machine had spewed out their magical cleaning water.  See, everything in the kitchen empties into the same drain and they had overflowed.  The washing machine particularly, as it empties into a utility sink and the sink fills up with a wash cycle, if it doesn't empty before the rinse cycle, the water just sloshes out over the sink's edge onto the kitchen floor.  

But that's not all...

because the genius who installed the floor in this new house decided to take a short cut and not put down any water barrier under the brand new pergo floorboards. So that two inches of water that had been standing on the floor the entire time we had been out, blissfully eating Ropa Vieja, was now leaking between the floor boards and through the floor, which as you may know, is attached to the basement ceiling... water that was now coming down through the ceiling tiles and onto the brand new carpet in the basement.

What I didn't know then that I know now was that the main drain that everything the kitchen empties into had developed, for reasons we have never come to understand, a giant, mother-of-all-clogs clog in it - completely impassable - and I had just started pretty much every water-making appliance we owned and walked out the door, leaving them un-monitored.  So I wasn't there to notice that the utility sink didn't empty after the wash cycle. Or that the dishwasher didn't empty after the clean cycle, or that the water I'd emptied out after rinsing dishes in the sink never drained, or that the utility sink that was now filled up and not ready to accept more water overflowed after the rinse cycle, or that the water standing on the kitchen floor was now raining down on all our belongings in the basement like a drip drip drop little April shower.

I yelled at the kids to "BRING TOWELS," to which one of them ran and brought me... a single tea towel. I yelled, probably too uncharitably, "NO! Both of you, bring me TOWELS," and then added as an afterthought since I knew what they were thinking as they hurried down the hallway, "ALL THE TOWELS WE OWN!" 

Then we all spent the next several hours on our hands and knees mopping up water that had no where else to go.  And when we'd used every single towel in the house, even the dirty ones, we used robes... and all the dirty laundry.  Every stitch of fabric that was available was sopping with mopped-up dishwater.  Then and only then, had we managed to mostly dry the floor, but all the sinks were still filled with standing water.

The floor is ruined by the way. Inexpensive Pergo doesn't stand up to water very well as it turns out.

The kids were great helping me. They brought their adorable faces along to soften the blow when I had to go next door and ask the neighbors to borrow any house fans they had.  They sponged up water and moved furniture and wiped off bean bag chairs and rocking horses like sailors swabbing the deck. Our home warranty covered at least part of the cost of bringing out a plumber (twice) and although this moment was the straw that broke the camel's back that month and I nearly had a nervous breakdown waiting to find out whether the clog was within the perimeter of the house and fixable with an industrial snake (COVERED by the home warranty) or outside the perimeter of the house and fixable by having someone to dig up the entire yard (NOT COVERED by the home warranty), this was one instance this year where God smiled upon us and the plumbers (it took three of them) eventually fixed it the easy way.

We finished cleaning up around midnight that night, exhausted from spending hours trying to plunge, snake, coax, and plead out whatever was causing the clog. Every time someone used the plunger on one drain, the other two drains would just barf more water out and onto the floor.  We finally gave up and just concentrated on drying off the floor and bailing most of the water out of all the sinks.  I tossed all the water-logged towels in a laundry basket, promising myself I'd wash them all tomorrow, while The KingofHearts researched online the process for making a claim against that brand new home warranty we were now quite happy we'd paid extra for. Then we both went to collapse in bed.

The next morning we all woke up - a bit late for obvious reasons - and while the KingofHearts jumped in the shower to get ready for work, I went into the kitchen to prepare lunches for the kids and get them ready for school. At some point I stumbled over the laundry basket of soaked towels and it dawned on me that The KoH would be getting out of the shower and we'd pulled all the towels from every room in the house the night before. It dawned on him too because at that exact moment, he'd stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel, finding none.   

About the time I was searching for a reasonable facsimile of a towel to bring him, he was tiptoeing through the hall and rummaging through the linen closet for something to use in place of a towel, leaving puddles of water dripping off his wet body the entire way. Finding none, he turned around to search elsewhere.

It was exactly this moment, that The Caterpillar had finally taken to heart the direction to GO AND BRUSH YOUR TEETH NOW THIS IS THE THIRD TIME I'VE ASKED YOU that I'd yelled only seconds before, and headed down the hall. So when I turned the corner to bring The KoH the one remaining dry sheet I'd found, the scene I encountered was the Caterpillar running down the hall, meeting up with The KoH's path and stopping short, jerking her head up to find a completely naked, dripping wet, grown man standing directly in front of her. 

She didn't quite know what to do and neither did The KoH, so they just stood there, regarding each other for a few seconds, like a couple of wild boars.  Then The Caterpillar put one foot behind the other and slowly, surely, backed out of the hallway without saying a word.

She returned from the hallway and went out to face the world again, older, wiser.... and sadder.

My thoughts: 

Rope Swing

Posted on 8/31/2015 05:08:00 PM
So, school has started.  I'm trying to get back into the swing of writing again.  I took the last week of the summer off to spend it with my kids and it was kind of awesome, so the first day of school is a little bit bittersweet for me.  I kind of wish we could do this kind of learning and exploring the world together all the time and I briefly considered finding that commune in Virginia and homeschooling them. 

The first day was full of new school jitters and worries and the need for "outfits" and new backpacks and reassurances and having next to zero information from school administration about anything that might serve to make managing the first day in a new school just a tiny bit easier.  Apparently that is not a goal of this school system.

However, they have both returned unscathed and are now relaxing in a post-anxiety state of euphoria....

with the rope swing Dad made them this weekend.


My thoughts: 

Llama Trauma

Posted on 8/21/2015 06:34:00 PM
I don't quite know where this came from but we listened to this thing that came home from camp with her non-stop on repeat for about a week.

I kinda adore how serious she is about it.

My thoughts: 

Uses For a Boring, 3-Leaf Clover

Posted on 8/02/2015 08:41:00 AM
Given to me by Small Child, who always sees the potential in every situation.

My thoughts: 

Where is Thumbkin?

Posted on 8/01/2015 05:37:00 PM
Oh, here he is... he just got back from the hipsters' convention.

My thoughts: 
Today, I was asked to substitute for The Caterpillar's Sunday School class because someone was out of town.  Honestly, I had forgotten about it until right before church started so I didn't discuss it with her at all.  My phone just reminded me and may I say that if you ever ask me to do something and you don't see me putting it in my phone, you can pretty well count on that thing not getting done because I will have forgotten all about it.  Also, if I ever lose my phone, I will most likely need to call the police to have them take me to my home because I don't know how to get anywhere anymore without the crutch of GPS.

She had already headed off to her class when I remembered was reminded, so I walked in and sat down next to her on the row with the other kids.  She didn't notice me for a second.  Then she looked me up and down and said, "What are you doing here?"

"I'm going to teach your class today."

She looked confused.

"Is there something wrong with that," I asked.

"No.  I'm just confused."


"Because we already asked the other lady who was going to be our teacher today and she said, 'It's not any of your moms or dads..."

"Oh," I countered, "Well, there's a good reason for that."

"What's that?"

I leaned down and whispered earnestly in her ear, "I'm not your real mother."

For a split second, her eyes widened in horror while this new piece of information bounced around in her brain and then she realized that I was kidding and she rolled her eyes and turned back to the cat's cradle game she was playing with the girl who was sitting next to her.

It's tough to be a member of this family if you have feelings.

It's not so hard if you don't have those.

My thoughts: 

It Figures

Posted on 7/25/2015 06:49:00 AM
A long time ago, I wrote this post about a flowering clematis plant that I tried to make grow and bloom for forever. I wanted one of those explosions of beautiful, purple flowers around the mailbox like so many other people in the neighborhood had.  

I nurtured, fertilized, encouraged, watered and loved that plant for more than a decade and while it never completely died off, and even grew into quite a large vine, it never bloomed more than one or two flowers at a time each year.  Never not once. Sometimes I got maybe a total of six or seven blooms during the season, but they didn't all bloom at the same time.  Instead, one pretty flower would show up, then die a quick death before the next one dared to come out.  So the whole thing always just looked like an errant weed that I was too lazy to pull.

The day before we moved out of that house, this happened.

I hate you, clematis bush.

My thoughts: 

Getting Past the Semicolon

Posted on 7/15/2015 11:15:00 PM
The last time I felt it was six months ago. 

We moved out of the old house and into the new one.  Even though I have threatened multiple times over the past decade that if we ever moved, we would most certainly be hiring a moving company because it was cheaper than the inevitable therapy and possible psychiatric commitment that would be necessary for me after touching every single thing I owned twice (once to take it out of the old house and once to put it in the new one), it became painfully clear that we wouldn't be able to afford it.  Not when we were just moving across town and the distance didn't require such heroic methods.

So we begged, pleaded, asked politely, sheepishly inquired, of a dozen or so friends who all stepped up to the plate, offered trailers, and came with pick-ups, strong arms, willingness to give up a Saturday, and way more good will than I would ever expect for the likes of us.  They showed up in the morning and when the morning people had to leave, others came to spell them.  They took in payment: doughnuts, pizza and Coke.  We didn't even offer beer.  It was terrible, horrible, grueling, and I put more miles on my car in one day of back and forth trips than I had in the previous two months put together.

And much to my surprise, we got it all moved before nightfall, but only just.  Or at least the lion's share and whatever was left was incidental.  We didn't have enough time to put anything away or find our clothes and/or food, and we broke three bookshelves and/or cabinets, and our bed didn't fit through the hallway, and the Shortlings' beds were still in pieces, and there was no way we'd be sleeping in any kind of proper sleeping apparatus that night, but it was all moved and in the new place by that evening.  

Since the beds weren't, ahem, available, we took our L-shaped couch and shoved the two parts of it together to form a giant litter box of sorts.  I threw some pillows and blankets in it and all four of us squeezed in - feet to head to feet to head - exhausted, sore and nearly asleep on our feet.  The KingofHearts pulled out a book and read a chapter to The Shortlings and I put my arms around each of the girls, mostly because there was nowhere else for my arms to go.  I threw my head back against the arm of the sofa and looked up out the window at the stars that night.  The KingofHeart's voice wafted into the air above us and I could hear crickets and was so grateful to have accomplished so much that day and so grateful for the friends who helped and supported us and so grateful to have this family that I love traipsing through life with me and I realized it then: this is what joy is.

Because life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.

That was the last time I noticed it.  Because then life got really, really sucky.  The renovations on the old house didn't happen as fast as we wanted and then the selling of the house didn't go smoothly and the new job wasn't all that great and all hell broke loose with family and friends and the kids' school year went out like a lion and I worried about it all way more than necessary and everything pretty much sucked for a long time, which has happened before, but my ability to cowboy up and get through it pretty much sucked too.  We kept slogging through, mostly because what else are you going to do?  We tried to do things that would help - to find those little moments of joy.  We carved out time to go to plays and movies.  To spend time with friends and to eat good food.  We tried to scare it away with humor and love.  To make sure to notice the universe and enjoy the beautiful spring in this beautiful new yard we have.  But it all just felt hollow to me.  I tried to remind myself that there are so many good things, and I was right.  Intellectually, I know that.  It's just sometimes hard to feel that.

Depression lies. 

It tells you everything is bad when it its neither good nor bad; it just is.  It tells you you're not ever going to feel that moment of  joy again when that moment is sitting right there waiting for you to notice it.  It says there is no light at the end of the tunnel while it holds a blindfold over your eyes.

Sometimes the only way out is through.

I don't know if I'm close to the end of the tunnel yet; I'm pretty sure I'm still slogging through.  But tonight, I drove the Dormouse back from an activity and it was clear and cool out and I had the windows down with my arm stuck out one of them.  I drove past a field filled with Queen Anne's Lace and four horses grazing in it, wading up to their withers in flowers.  Then I parked in the driveway and went out to get the mail while The Shortlings went inside.  I could hear the cicadas and the frogs and I looked up at the tree tops slightly moving in the breeze while I stood in the middle of the street with my head pointed skyward, looking like a crazy person to any of our neighbors should they happen to glance out the window.  There was nothing special about this evening to make it better or worse than any one of a dozen evenings over the last month.  And then I noticed it again.  It was only a tiny flicker of contentment, but it was there.  And that counts.

I think I can see the light.

For those I know who didn't make it through.

My thoughts: 


Posted on 7/09/2015 07:44:00 PM

My thoughts: 


Posted on 7/07/2015 05:07:00 PM
Either that storm was very forceful or we have extremely fast-growing trees in this part of the country.

My thoughts: 

Secret Meaning

Posted on 7/06/2015 05:05:00 PM
In Hawaii, if you wear a flower behind your left ear, it means you are married, taken, have a significant other, or maybe you just don't want anyone bothering you! If you wear a flower behind your right ear, it means you are single, available, and approachable. 

If you wear a flower over your entire face, it means you're gonna need some help crossing the street.

My thoughts: 

What's More American*

Posted on 7/05/2015 10:33:00 PM
*Sing it Bing. 

Our Independence Day started off with great bang (no pun intended) as we discovered one or both of The Shortlings (I have my suspicions about the guilty party) had smuggled home some friends from camp in the form of a colony of lice.


If you have read about the Great War on Lice 2011, you'll know we're old hat (pun intended) with this issue and honestly, finding it myself meant the children weren't under threat of expulsion from school.  This fact alone, meant I could deal with it swiftly and wasn't going to have to miss a couple of very important Work Things coming up while I tried to convince some school nurse that my children were no longer unclean! unclean!

So whilst I simultaneously washed every stitch of bedding in the house, treated three heads of shoulder length hair for lice (I still don't really think I had them, but basically if one person in the house does, you need to assume they all do), combed through them all with fine-toothed combs (I totally get that expression now), and tried to explain to The Dormouse why we had to postpone our promise of a trip to the rock climbing gym (you generally have to wear their gear/helmets and knowingly transmitting parasites to gym equipment seemed pretty skeezy, even for us), I was pretty proud of myself for not being overly irritated about the whole predicament.  That is until I did twelve loads of laundry on a holiday and both The Shortlings were pissed at us because they didn't get to do Every Single Thing they wanted that day.  Then I fantasized about leaving them on the side of the highway with signs around their necks that say, "Good kid.  Take one."

The KingofHearts helped though.  He went out and got a haircut.

Stupid men and their stupid short hair.

By the time we really finished with that, it was about five o'clock and we had just enough time to try and salvage some of the day.  So we packed up an impromptu picnic and drove over to a parking garage where we spent last fourth of July.  It's our secret weapon when we can't get somewhere specific for the Fourth, like the Capitol lawn or Philadelphia art museum steps.  We find a fireworks show we'd like to see which we know will be way too crowded for comfort.  Then we find a parking garage near it with an open air top floor and drive up there and tailgate.  

We are not the only people who do this, but there are few enough of us that we can generally spread out and enjoy ourselves.

While we were waiting, The Shortlings made friends with the Ethiopian family in the van next to us. Then they all got together and managed to involve the Asian kid down the row, the other white kid on the other side of the lot, and the mixed race kid across from us in a grand game of hide and seek behind parked cars. 

 The Caterpillar has a unique way of counting when she is It.

Some more folks showed up and a few of them brought soccer balls and footballs.  So then there were soccer games and games of 500.

And at some point, I realized everyone on the rooftop is sharing food and toys and pop-its and suggesting games for the kids to play together and oh look see that kid in my car?  That's not mine. But weirdly, I'm cool with it and so were his parents.

And no one is really keeping score about who gave which kids what or who's allowed to play wiht that basketball they're using to set off the pop-its because we just kind of all like each other even though we only just met three hours ago.  

Then we watched fireworks and celebrated our country's independence through the t-top of a Jeep Wrangler. 

I've been pretty disappointed in the discourse of our country lately and am astounded at the ability of entire Groups of people to thumb their noses at entire Other Groups of people and basically say, oh I know what you think doesn't affect or diminish my life in any way but I don't care what you think so screw you.  It's disheartening.

This night was a microcosm of that great American melting pot I sang about on Saturday mornings when network TV used to try to trick children into learning.  We likely won't see one of those families ever again. We didn't exchange information. We won't call or meet for dinner.  But we had this moment together on the roof of the parking garage.  This lovely, perfect, un-pressured moment.  This is kind of the point of the whole grand experiment, I think. To see if we can all make it work and get along. 

I'm pretty sure we can. It's just whether or not we want to.

My thoughts: 

For My Husband on Fathers Day

Posted on 6/21/2015 07:49:00 AM

Everyone knows I abhor sentimentality, so I'll make this brief.  

I've alluded to some struggles we've had this year and if I've made mine sound in any way bigger or more profound than his, I've been self-centered and guilty of the same navel-gazing everyone claimed bloggers are subject to in the last decade.  In fact, many of the dilemmas I've grappled with recently are in trying to figure out just how to support him and make his life a little easier and the trouble is I'm either not doing a very good job or I just can't.

For Mother's Day I got this:

A barbed wire cactus to hang on the wall.  There is a long history to this cactus and how I tried for years to get The KoH to steal one from a Mexican restaurant we frequent and he was too damn ethical to grab it while I distracted the owner with my good looks and poorly pronounced Spanish.  Then I tried to get him to buy it and he actually did try many times and each time the owner refused, saying it was simply not for sale and he couldn't even sell it to customers like us who supported his restaurant for years, but then a few years later, we went in for dinner and the cactus was gone and we asked about it and the owner said, "Oh some customer wanted to buy it so I sold it to him," and I was like, "NOOOOOOOOooooooooo."

So The KoH found a bale of barbed wire when he traveled back to Nevada this Spring and packed it IN HIS SUITCASE and brought it back, then made this for me  in the basement the night before Mother's Day.  Best. Gift. Ever.  Also: suck it, Mexican Restaurant Owner.

(Just kidding; I still love that guy even though he gave away my cactus.)

The other thing I got for Mother's Day was a croquet set we could use to teach the Shortlings to play Extreme Monster Croquet.  This is a game invented during my internship with my fellow interns and housemates wherein the course usually took up the entire neighborhood and had so many obstacles and non-traditional turns, you needed a map to follow it and could often take your life in your hands to get from one gate to the next.  Then we'd argue vociferously about whether this person went through the gate the correct direction before the car almost ran over it and if that person properly jumped the stream before sending that other person's ball forty yards out into the front lawn of the mental hospital and every game would end like this:

Our Mothers Day croquet tournament took it easy on the Shotlings, but we made sure to include at least a few proper course hazards.

The sharp left turn required after this gate made it acceptable, but only just.

The fact that The KingofHearts knows me well enough to know that these two gifts were better than any Mother's Day bunch of flowers or candy says quite a lot about how much better he is at marriage than I.  I don't know if I have a better gift for him this year than many of these things, but I tried.  If I could give him anything, it would be a break from all the nonsense he's had to deal with this season.

I don't think most of us fully appreciate the depth of influence fathers can have on their children and families and perhaps that's because many dads simply don't try to do so.  But you know who does try?  This guy: 

Every day, he is an active participant in our lives and quite honestly, that alone is more than a lot of people get.  He reads to them.  He listens to them read to him.  He packs lunches.  He does chores around the house.  He fixes things when they break.  He worries about their social, emotional and educational development every bit as much as I do.  And yay for him for being a partner in all that.  But he's also fun to be around: funny, sweet, creative, smart and more supportive than he usually gets credit for.  I tease him a lot for his obsessive benders, but the truth is I only do that because I know he can be a good sport about it and I don't mind his obsessions so much; I'm glad he is interested in things (though I wouldn't mind getting back that three years of my life where every discussion had to have a fishing metaphor in it).  

Today he will be attending a dance recital because that's when The Caterpillar's studio scheduled it (I know, RIGHT?!?) and while I know he'll enjoy the five minutes she'll be on stage, I know the other two hours of the program while other peoples' kids dance, he'd rather be somewhere else.  But he will go and he will sit there because I refuse to be those parents who get up and leave in the middle of a performance because their kid has already gone on and they're no longer interested.  And he'll do it without complaint because that's what a Dad does.  OK, he might complain a little... ok a lot... but he's gonna go of his own free will and choice... -ish.

So Happy Fathers Day to one and all.  You aren't lucky enough to have this guy in your life, but your dad is probably good too.

My thoughts: 

For the Grandparents

Posted on 6/15/2015 11:24:00 AM
Our church held a youth recital this weekend, which I think is a really cool thing to do.  They apparently started this last year to give kids who study music an outlet to share their talents and to reinforce the parents' support of music education.  It's not a "play stuff appropriate for church only" event.  It's just a recital of what they're working on if they take lessons outside of church.  It's wonderful; I'm in full support of this.  But what is even more wonderful is that the administration of this congregation is also in full support of this and not only allows this to happen, but enthusiastically dedicates time and resources to something like this.  Doing stuff like this in prior congregations wasn't prohibited, but it was almost always relegated to a back room somewhere, hit with a whole bunch of ridiculous requirements, and usually like pulling teeth to get it done since in general, the decision makers weren't musicians and didn't really see any use or importance.

This congregation is new to us since we moved and the girls have been having some growing pains getting to know the kids their age there.  There are more of them, which is one of the reasons for our move, to be honest, but, if I'm being honest, I think an unanticipated side effect of that is these kids have already organized themselves into groups and my kids aren't yet assigned to one or more of those social groups.  The Dormouse is a bit at odds with this and doesn't feel like she fits in.  She's never experienced cliques at church before.  There weren't enough kids her age to worry about that kind of thing in the last congregation - they were just all in it together.  In fact, one of the really lovely things about the last congregation we attended is that all the kids, even the teenage girls whom I worked with, were weirdly above that teen-girl, mean-girl thing that you see so much in kid groups - especially girl kid groups.  I marveled at that the entire time I held the position of Young Women's President - how even though the young women there had diverse experiences and backgrounds and went to different schools and were in different social groups, they were never unkind or snarky with each other that I ever saw.  I never noticed anyone trying to exclude anyone else in that way teen girls are so masterful at doing and I never heard any one of them complain that someone else did it to her.

I've been trying to help The Dormouse see that this is just a more difficult time to make friends in life and it takes a little longer, so just give them a chance.  I'd chalk this up to her being a pre-teen and having my DNA, but I've noticed this with The Caterpillar too.  When we go to a church event, The Caterpillar runs around, trying to say hi to people in her class and "talk to her friends" (which she considers all of the people in her class to be) and they look at her like an apparition, then simply walk off.  It's unclear to me whether they are shy and just don't get her unique brand of instant-friendliness, or if they're actively trying to snub her.  I want to believe the former, but it's been a few months now and the momma bear in me is starting to get pissed.

Last month at a church picnic, I found The Caterpillar sitting by herself under a tree.  I walked over and asked her if she was all alone.  She said no, that she was waiting for her friends, then clarified, " tiny friends."  I started to wonder what imaginary people she had to make up to get her through the event, but before I could ask, she told me they were in the bathroom and getting permission from their moms to come back - as if to prove to me they were real.  Turns out she was playing with the little kids three to four years younger than her because all the girls her age had wandered off and left her.  She was having a good time, directing them like a circus ringleader, so I said nothing.  It probably bothered me more than it did her so I thought it best to keep my trap closed.  But I filed it away and continue to wonder what I should do - if anything - about it and if so, when.  

I shouldn't be surprised, because the adult women - mothers of these children - are all very nice.  They consistently greet you in the hallway, they all know my name and seem to be genuinely happy we are here.  I have no sour observations to draw on, but my experience so far in having a conversation with any of them has been tricky.  I often feel like I'm talking to a robot that has been programmed to greet everyone and be incredibly friendly, but does not know the next human step to take.  I sort of get that same, deer-in-headlights-look-then-wander-off experience The Caterpillar has been getting from their daughters.  It's a little Stepford-Wife-y, but my history in making friends with adult women is sketchy at best, and this is me:

I don't need another friend,
I already HAVE TWO. I'm willing to sit back and give them the benefit of the doubt -- or just not care, whichever is easier.  Seeing my children have a difficult time with it is a bit heart-wrenching.

That is why I encouraged the Shortlings to participate in this recital and sat in the audience with a smile plastered on my face last night while thirty-two - THIRTY-TWO - kids, who all needed their moment in the sun, dressed up in their best and brightest and played music they had worked on for the past several weeks.  It was long and most of it boring to everyone but parents of the one performing and some of the kids seemed to have the "one piece or two short pieces max if playing different instruments"  rule applied only loosely to them, but we sat through it all and applauded loudly each time some kid walked up and did the metaphorical, "Look what I can do."

The sacrifices you make for your children, they are many and varied.

Hey! Look what my kids can do.

The Caterpillar:

The Dormouse:

My thoughts: 

Writer's Block

Posted on 6/05/2015 02:22:00 PM
“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it -- or my observation of it -- is temporary?”  
- John Green

These last six months, in many ways, have been some of the most difficult of our marriage.  Not THE most difficult, mind you, but a close second, anyway.  

It reminds me of this time shortly after we got married mumblesomething years ago and we bought and moved into our first house.  Then everything went to hell in a handbag.  We moved in.  We were pretty much children back then and only barely made enough to get by after the mortgage was paid.  And before we made the first payment on the house, I totaled a car.  Then exactly one week to the day while driving me home from the Metro station I was now obliged to frequent, The KoH totaled his car.  I was driving in the first accident and got a lovely seat belt bruise/burn from my left shoulder to my right hip from being thrown forward and then I was the passenger in the second accident so I received the same mark from my right shoulder to my left hip and walked around for a month with a giant X on my torso.  I remember sitting on the median of the highway, waiting for a tow truck to come and watching pieces of The KoH's truck bouncing up and down on the road as other cars drove and just laughing because it was too ridiculous to cry.  These were not even the most significant things that went wrong that month.  We started referring to April as "Wrecktember."

And that's not even what I mean when I talk about the worst time in our marriage because in addition to "Wrecktember," there's also been "Sucktober," "Blowvember," and "Debtember."  Trouble tends to follow us in packs; it always has.

In the last six months, The KingofHearts has been laid off and we lost the contract on the house we were buying.  We had some medical issues of our own, which I'm not quite ready to talk about just yet. We had to cash out a retirement account and ended up paying way more taxes on that than we were expecting (and we were expecting a lot).  We remodeled our old house with mostly our own four hands, put it on the market, sold it, lost the contract on that, sold it again, had a month-long argument with the prospective buyers who learned that once, half a decade ago, a raccoon had gotten into the attic and we evicted him within the week, but they worried they were going to be murdered in their sleep by the errant raccoon when he came back with his Raccoon Gang That Returns To The Scene Of The Crime Every Five Years and what were we going to do to make them feel better about that, huh?!?  I suggested we tell them not to worry, the Monkey Fighting Snake up there in the Monday-to-Friday Attic would most assuredly scare off the raccoon and then we post this photo on the attic door, but our long-suffering real estate agent suggested this wasn't quite the right tack to take.

Finally on the last day of that contract, it turned out that these buyers couldn't even secure financing, despite a letter their bank wrote for them saying they were approved for the amount. (The bank said they wrote it in error: "Our bad.")  So we lost an entire month of market time, three other viable offers, and put the house back on the market.  We sold it again in a matter of days, but then almost didn't get to complete the sale because the county had screwed up something about the filing of the title four years before we even bought the house and threatened not to let us sell it, but we certainly could continue paying the mortgage they gave us when they let us buy it without a secure title.  While dealing with all that, we had a flood in the new house, we lost a close family member suddenly, lost a close friend suddenly and another friend is currently in the hospital.  This after an already difficult previous year of helping friends and family manage illness and loss. 

Some really great things have happened too, but not without clawing, scratching and fighting for them tooth and nail, which seems to be how most things work out for us anyway.

All of this is not to try and elicit sympathy, but rather to put it in perspective here and to possibly explain how as much as I want to write about this and work out my thoughts, my inner voice has almost completely gone dark lately and I don't know how to start it up again.  I've tried over and over to sit down and put some of these experiences on screen... for maybe no one even, other than myself and my kids one day.  To try and show how we all eventually deal with times like these and if we are strong - and most of us are - we get through them.  We might get through them with grace and we might not, but we get through.  And how even at the darkest of these times, there is still so much joy.

So I sit at the keyboard and I put my index fingers on the J and the F and this comes out:


And then I shut the computer and go look for whatever new catastrophe has happened that day.

Today we are spending a ridiculous amount of money to have a few dead trees on the new property cut down because they are threatening the house and with our luck as of late, it's only a matter of time before a stiff wind blows them over and we can hang mugs off the limbs coming through our kitchen wall.  It's the prudent, adult thing to do, but what I really want to do is take the money, purchase a plane ticket and get on the first flight out of here.  I don't care to where.  Just away.

I know we will get through the dark times because we got through others and they were much darker, but for now I just wish it would STOP for a minute.

So instead of working, I'm sitting here on the floor with my feet up on the fireplace, watching Larry, Moe and Curly (*not their real names) try to take down a single tree without killing any other trees, hitting the house, or dropping said tree on one of their bodies. A big branch just hung up on another tree and while one of the guys walked under it, it started to drop.  The other two yelled at the top of their lungs, "HEADACHE!" and he jumped out of the way just before it came crashing down to the spot where he'd been standing.

There is a chipmunk under my herb garden who looks just as amused by the arborists as I am.  He's been back and forth most of the morning. He watches The Stooges for awhile, then runs off to - I don't know, find a nut - and comes back a few minutes later to watch some more.

This morning, I woke up early to find a coyote poking around our yard, followed by a couple of lazy deer who seem to have missed the memo that someone lives here now and are always surprised to see us moving around by the window.

A beautiful swallowtail butterfly just lit on the azalea bush, despite the fact that the chainsaws are making such a racket a few feet away from him, I can't believe he wouldn't be scared off, and a hummingbird flew up to the feeder we hung outside.

I think the universe wants to be noticed.

My thoughts: 

Ode to Charlotte

Posted on 5/23/2015 07:07:00 PM
A follow-up to the Charlotte's Web discussion.

My thoughts: 

As Seen From My Car Window

Posted on 5/21/2015 07:00:00 AM
Bagpiper alone on the grounds of the University of Maryland.

As all good bagpipers should be.

My thoughts: 


Posted on 5/19/2015 07:00:00 AM
This week, the Shortlings got the chance to volunteer on an actual archeological dig.  We've been by this place a few times and never found them open, but happened to be in the area and noticed the sign saying they were having an open house.  We were heading elsewhere but as it turned out, had a few minutes to kill so we stopped in to stave off curiosity, more than anything else.  Imagine our surprise when the "open-house" turned out to be an "invite-the-public-in-to-help-find-fossils-house."  At one point in my childhood, I was very interested in archeology and I was rasied on the idea that dig sites are sacrosanct.  No one goes in who isn't authorized and only those who know what they're doing are allowed to look for fossil or artifacts.  

But this place is quite different.  There is no active digging (unless someone finds something and then the professionals take over, of course), but they actually want the public rubes to come in an help look for interesting fossils.  So they ushered us right in, did a quick orientation about what is a fossil and what is not, and then turned us all loosed to scour the place with our eagle eyes right away.  At this stage of investigation, all they want to do is look for stuff.  They're not going to dig the hillside away unless there is something real and important known to be there, but there are tiny fossils just lying around or that get exposed after rain and wind erosion and one only needs to look closely to find it.  When you enter, you promise that anything significant you find will be the property of the park collection.  If your find is important, it will go to the Smithsonian museum and you get finder's credit and your name on the fossil as it is displayed in the museum.  If you find something that is not significant, you may just get to walk away with it if the lead archeologist says it's okay.

While we were there, someone found a fossilized crocodile tooth and a couple of bald cyprus cone fossils, which the workers got really excited over (because with these fossils, they actually know what kind of wood it is, I was told) and earlier that morning someone had found a tooth from a Liopleurodon (or at least I think that's what he said; Professor Google can't search me up any other relevant results). 
The Dormouse found this piece of iron stone with impressions of ancient wood in it, which they let her take home.

And The Caterpillar found this:

Which looks like a bit of old firewood, I realize.  That's what I thought it was anyway.  But one of the park workers explained to me that this is actually a fossil.  I come from the land of the Petrified Forest, so fossilized wood looks like this to me:

 So this stuff that crumbles in your hands?

Not a fossil, in my mind. But the archeologist explained to me that when conditions aren't quite right for the minerals in the wood to turn to stone like in the Petrified Forest, all the minerals leach out and what's left is just the carbon.  So what you think you have in your hands is a piece of wood burned in some frat party campfire a couple of years ago, but it's actually a piece of 4 million year old fossilized wood.

Jinkies, that's impressive. 

We had a good time helping the archeologists search and now that we know that this place is there and when they're open, will definitely be going back to look for more.

But the best find of the month didn't even come from the Dinosaur Park, it came from our own back yard. 

The Caterpillar looks for things to make her go everywhere and comes in from the yard with seed pods, rocks, trash, dead bugs, pieces of metal in the road, pieces of glass, etc., constantly.  I find crap like this squirreled away under her bad, in her closet, in her bed, in my car.... oh, and on the floor.  Because eventually, it all makes its way to the floor.  It's actually pretty annoying because do you know how much of that stuff you can wash in the pockets of someone's pants before ruining the washing machine?  Well, I don't either, but I think we're approaching the limit.  

The other day she showed up with this:

A little Googling revealed this unusual little rock is similar to a Petosky stone, though it can't technically be called that unless it comes from Lake Michigan.  It's the fossilized impression of Haxagonaria, a type of coral that lived 350 million years ago.  We had no idea where it came from, if it's even native to Maryland or whether it's valuable.  The people at the Dinosaur Park told me I could bring it in and they would authenticate it next time they were open.  But I think I have to take The Caterpillar's packrat-ing a little more seriously now.

My thoughts: 

Wickedly Talented

Posted on 5/18/2015 04:30:00 PM
I forgot to post last month about how we spent way too much money (Christmas present from The KingofHearts to all of us) and went to see Wicked in Baltimore last month.

Don't let his face in the background fool you. He loves this crap as much as the rest of us.

My only regret is that the wickedly talented Adel Dazeem, was not a member of this cast (though I hear she is working on a side project with Jorn Tromolto, so, you know, she's probably busy).

The set design was amazing.

Though apparently they are touchy about taking photos inside the theater - even before the play starts - because shortly after I took these photos, The KingofHearts pulled out his phone and just acted like he was taking a photo and he got yelled at by some usher.  I didn't bother to tell her that I'd already taken these two, so shhhh, don't let on that you know.

The Shortlings, especially The Dormouse, loved it... and that's probably the understatement of the year.  She has been asking to see this for a couple of grades now, so it was pretty cool for her.  Me?  I love musicals of any kind, but this one has never spoken to me the way it does to some.  It's a very cool concept, but I never really got worked up about wanted to see this one.  But even so, even I was floored by a couple of moments.  I am amazed at what humans can do.  The depth of talent on a stage like that can't be overlooked and I live for those moments in live theater where what happens on stage touches you in a physical way that will never, ever happen on a recorded medium.  There were a few moments like that in this one, so I've kind of made my peace with Wicked.

And the looks on these kids' faces at intermission was well worth the price of admission.

My thoughts: 

Me in 3 Seconds

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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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