Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It's not my fault, really. Not when you consider the major ice storm. The abbreviated holiday season, courtesy of the major ice storm. And oh yeah, there was Christmas. Well there you go, folks: a month's worth of posts summed up in four sentences. Enjoy!
Actually, I tried to encapsulate the experience of the past few weeks in my new "Tween Us Girls" column, possibly in a more articulate and lengthy manner than that. I'd say "hopefully in a more articulate manner", but I'd probably be using the word "hopefully" in an incorrect way and Flurrious would have to virtually kick my ass. So anyway, please. Give it a read. I'm asking nicely, but next year I'm moving on to empty threats.
Let me just lay out the next few days of my itinerary before I go. Tonight we are having a little New Year's Eve gathering at our house. Admittedly, I haven't done a lot of hosting since the Big D - mostly because I typically ended up being the only one uncoupled in a sea of couples, and it felt kind of ooky. I found it much easier to be a guest. Tonight I am coupled and hosting, ringing out my personal era of ookiness. Tomorrow I will be recovering from re-entry.
Friday is Third Grader's birthday, and to celebrate we are doing absolutely nothing. Actually, we are baking and decorating three dozen cupcakes for the Team Gymnastics Sleepover that night at the gym. Then I am dropping them off - Tornadoes and cupcakes - and going home to rest up for Saturday: Third Grader's birthday party. So I will probably have some things to write about. Hopefully. Can "hopefully" be its own sentence? I wonder.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Anyway. So where have I been then for a week, you ask? Why, I've been all kinds of places. Where I haven't been is at home, due to the fact that Mother Nature decided to teach all of us smug New Englanders, who think they have seen it all when it comes to brutal weather, a little lesson. She dumped about twenty billion gallons of water on us Thursday night and then froze it solid - effectively shutting down all electricity in the region for days on end.
I awoke Friday morning to a dark sixty-degree house. The tornadoes and I tried to make the best of it on Friday, optimistically spending the day playing board games in front of a roaring fire. As I had already chosen to run our food supply into the ground earlier in the week and held an envelope full of coupons and a lengthy grocery list in my purse, we had to sustain ourselves on whatever nonperishables were still kicking around the pantry. Our optimism began to wear off as afternoon approached: still dark, still cold, and some very unreassuring news coming over the battery-powered radio about this situation going on for days, possibly much longer.
"Unprecedented" has become my least favorite word. There has been far too much use of the word "unprecedented" in my life in the past few months, and I can't think of one occasion where it has meant anything fun. In this case, the power stayed off for six days. Other than Friday night, which we spent huddled up in a nest of blankets in front of the ever-burning fire (there goes all my nicely stacked firewood), we abandoned ship. Mom's house, hotels, anywhere that had power. We came back to the house every day to rub some warmth into Problem Child, unpack and repack. My street vibrated from the hum of generators running at my neighbors' houses. We apparently were the only generator-less house on the street. I listened to the radio DJs urge listeners to remember to check on their neighbors and I laughed. Ha! Check on the single mother with two kids? Nonsense! (I did, in fact, call my across-the-street neighbor on Friday night to offer help as we saw her moving between her running car and her dark house, likely gathering supplies to stay elsewhere for the night. Hypocrite I am not.)
We have intermittently attended school and work over the past few days, and since the power came back yesterday we are trying to resume our regularly scheduled lives. However, my house is disgusting. Not a single present is wrapped yet. And I spent a fortune on groceries last night, only to hear that we are expecting two major storms in the next few days.
On that note, I am going now. Possibly to drink heavily.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Gingerbread Village is a confectionary scale model of our beloved town center. You know, the town center - the site of Old Home Day, the place for trick-or-treating. Every year around this time, the Third Graders head down to the town center to select and sketch their individual buildings. They are then tasked with constructing their assigned building out of cardboard, within certain parameters of height and such. Then they bring them all in and spend an entire school day covering them them with graham crackers and candy.
Third Grader selected the Barn of Blood.
I'm tired of all this hyperlinking, so just go on back to October's posts if you want to know more about the Barn of Blood. Suffice it here to say that it is old and large and involves both a house and a barn. I am entirely sure that Third Grader picked it because it is both enormous and, at least here, famous. Fortunately, her teacher had the good sense to divide the barn and the house between two children, so Third Grader ended up with just the house.
What I'm saying is that we are supposed to build this damn thing out of cardboard before Monday. MONDAY. Sure thing. Right after I finish working all day and carting them around every which way all night, I'll get right on that.
I'm not very...buildy, you know? At the sight of that little girl's sketch, I kind of panicked. I knew this was coming and have been squirreling away cardboard for a few weeks, but the thought of actually building it completely freaks me out. When Fifth Grader was Third Grader, I made her father help her. Of course, he was not living a thousand miles away then, so it was easier to make such demands. So, after pondering the matter for several hours, I did something I never, ever do. I played the Girl card.
I'm not very experienced with playing the Girl card. Alas, Boyfriend did not require much display of feigned (...okay, real) helplessness before he stepped up and offered to take over the whole project. All I had left to do was clear the plan with Third Grader...who leapt at the suggestion. Leapt.
She is currently not my favorite.
So after I picked my ego up off the floor, I asked the elated child, "You do know that girls are perfectly capable of building things, right? I just thought you might be happier with your house if he helped you. I can do it, you know...it's just not my best skill, building things..." at which point, having got my drift, Third Grader piped up to reassure me.
"It's okay, Mom. People are good at different things. Like you're good at making coffee!"
Making coffee. This is what she came up with. Thankfully, Fifth Grader then jumped in and rattled off a dozen things that I am "good at." She is currently my favorite.
Noticeably missing from the list of things I am "good at" was my ability to attract comments here. My ego has been bruised, people. By a third grade girl. Do you grasp the fragility?
If anyone needs any coffee while they think of something to say, just let me know.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I can't bear to talk about this meet in any coherent detail right now as we still have one day to go. Fifth Grader competed tonight and Third Grader reports at 8 a.m. tomorrow for her session. Somehow I ended up saying yes to Fifth Grader's request to have one of her teammates sleep over tonight - must have been some kind of crazy in those crockpot meatballs I was eating - so my house is currently very noisy and I am currently very tired and this is not a good mix. So there you have it.
On a positive note, I am comforted to see that my across-the-street neighbors got their act together today and put up their Christmas lights. Most comforting is the presence of the eight-foot inflatable Santa Claus in the yard. You think I'm kidding about finding that comforting, right? Well I'm completely serious, and here's why: the eight-foot Santa over there balances out the eight-foot Frosty over here. That's right. My mother gave me a gigantic inflatable snowman and I actually put it up. Actually, Boyfriend put it up (And I didn't even run outside and wrestle the ropes and extension cords out of his hands in a fit of self-sufficient mania. I stayed inside and out of the way. And that, my friends, is what we call Personal Growth.).
History would tell you that I am not the kind of gal who mounts giant inflatable beings on her property in a show of holiday spirit. History would tell you that I am of the "understated" denomination. I just figured that since I have been looking at that giant Santa over there for three Christmas seasons, Frosty would probably just blend in. Hence, still understated, sort of. Except Frosty went up last weekend and Santa did not. So I have gone a whole week feeling kind of ridiculous, waiting for them to put him up. And there he is. Life is good.
I have to go lay down the law for Fifth Grader and her guest now so I can get some sleep. The fun continues tomorrow.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
He's moving, you know. Tra la la.
Other than that one time, I have refrained from discussing my neighbor. Even now, I hesitate. Why? Because although I have certainly never told anyone on my street about this blog, you just never know. And honestly, I don't want any trouble. I live here. I plan to continue living here, and I would like to do so without vandalism. That's reasonable, isn't it?
So I will stick to telling you the things that anyone with two eyes could see this neighbor doing. Like, yes, how about setting off fireworks in the middle of December on a Sunday night? Maybe it's a silly thing to be bothered by. After all, our houses are separated by a good 1/2 acre swath of trees, so it's not as though they were right outside my front door. It's just the principle of the thing.
And how about driving his snowmobile across the top of my front lawn, leaving a streak of tracks in every fresh, untouched blanket of snow that falls?
How about staying up partying outside all night, howling like a wolf and blaring your music so loud that I can still hear it even through the 1/2 acre swath of trees?
How about never, ever waving back when we pass each other in our cars?
Here's the thing. Everyone moved here at about the same time. When we first moved here, I was married. For six months, we were one big street of best friends. We all hung out together, spent every weekend together, one big happy crowd. Then I kicked my husband out. Suddenly, I was not fun. Plus, since I was the one doing the kicking out, I was highly suspect.
I had to remind myself that these people had only known me six months and therefore had absolutely no idea of the reality of my life. I especially had to remind myself of this when I learned that they were taking odds on how long it would be until I had to sell my house and move. Because clearly I would never make it on my own. I stopped getting invited to most gatherings - although I could still hear them going on - and I struggled for ways to answer the Tornadoes' questions: "Why aren't we going to so-and-so's house? Why can't we swim in their pool?" It sucked. It sucked for a long, long time.
And here I still am, four years later. Reassembled and doing okay. I have no idea if everyone around here still gets together every spare second, because my own life is pretty darn full. Most of my neighbors are downright friendly again. But more importantly, I have made new friends with whom I can actually be myself. That self is in much better condition than it was a few years ago. Some days it isn't in such great condition, but they are still my friends. Thank you, M, C and D, for that. And while I don't know the reasons behind the "For Sale" sign next door, I can't help but feel a little bit like a Survivor contestant. A nice, non-backstabbing one.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Sure, I could tell you all about how spectacularly my long Thanksgiving weekend went. I could tell you about how my absolutely perfect Christmas tree - you know, this one - is already up and decorated. And how our brand new little outdoor snowmen - replacements for these guys, who didn't survive the ten feet of snow that kept them buried until March - are up and twinkling for all passersby to enjoy. I could even tell you about the fantastic early Christmas present I received: The "For Sale" sign put up last week by this neighbor. I could tell you about all those things, and I know just what you would say.
I mean, seriously. Why would you want to hear about all that? Where's the drama? Where's the conflict? Where's the emotional investment?
I'm sorry. These things don't usually happen to me. Certainly they don't happen all in a row.
If it's any consolation, my new snowmen did get beheaded last night by a fierce and sudden wind...fortunately, their heads couldn't travel too far, what with all the wires from the twinkly lights. Fifth Grader and I reattached them this morning, sooo...not really the satisfying ending you were hoping for...
With any luck, we'll brew up some trouble this week - something really tasty, maybe a holiday mutiny. And we do have the 3-day long Snowflake Invitational to look forward to next weekend. So there's that.
I will leave you today with a quote from Third Grader. As barked at her big sister in the back seat of my car in a fit of fed-up sibling rivalry:
"You know, the university does not revolve around YOU!"
That is all.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Such powerful words. Their utterance saves me so much time and aggravation trying to teach lessons of right and wrong. They hold so much promise, and also fear. I mean, what kid in their right mind wants to tangle with Santa Claus?
This afternoon I wielded this mighty weapon of enforcement for the season's first time. It was on the way to - well, where else am I ever going? The Y, of course - and a scuffle was breaking out in the back seat. One sister placed her personal belongings on the seat of the other sister, and said belongings were promptly launched back. Cross words were exchanged. As I spotted the trajectory of one of these belongings - possibly a book of some sort - cutting through the air on its way to strike someone on the head, I acted fast. "You know, Santa can see what you're doing right this very second." The object froze in midair.
And then, Fifth Grader said, "Oh, Santa." She said it in that way, you know...I nonchalantly turned around to face her, giving away nothing. Third Grader sat quietly, frozen in a state of Santa-induced compliance. I began to turn back around when Fifth Grader caught my eye and silently mouthed, "I know."
We had a moment alone before she went into the building - her sister long gone, running to catch up to a friend - and I must tell you, I wasn't sure what to say. So I said, ever so quietly, "What do you know?"
"I know," she quietly said back. " I know about Santa." She smiled at me with all the love and realization that I'd hoped she would whenever this moment eventually played out. Then she added, "I promise I won't tell my sister." And she was out the door.
Oh, sad, sad day. And happy day as well. Being Santa is one of those things that I fantasized about in the rare moments of my pre-parent life that I imagined myself with kids. (Trust me, there weren't a lot of moments that I actually imagined being a mother.) It is every bit as exciting and magical and aggravating and stressful as I pictured it would be. I confess that I have lately, at times, hoped that this would be the year she realized, if only to cut down on the work involved. Now that it's happened, I'm overcome with a strange sense of determination to keep Santa going. Not in the same way - well, partly in the same way, for Third Grader - but with the intention of keeping the season magical in her heart. Everyone needs magic in their heart, no matter what they believe. And now she can participate in that process a little bit, which I think will only make it that much more special for both of us.
In the end it's just one more bittersweet reminder that she's growing up. It's beautiful and awful all at the same time. And so much more lies ahead. I am thankful, though, that I have the privilege of knowing her heart, at least for now. Hopefully, if I do my job well, I will always have at least a window view.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Alas, there is no Thanksgiving fairy. Perhaps I should have asked the Great Pumpkin. Then this would all be done by now.
I have started...oh, a bunch of posts this week and have published nary a one. Why? Because there are NOT seven trillion more waking hours in my day. All of my current waking hours have been spoken for. By the time I have completed the work thing, the chauffeur thing, the feeding thing, the homework thing, and the tucking in thing, I am done being awake. Plus, it's about ten degrees outside, which means everywhere I go the dry, dry heat is cranked up, and this combination of dry cold and dry heat makes me feel like I have snakey electrical wire for hair by the end of the day, so all I want to do is GET IT AWAY FROM MY FACE before I RIP IT ALL OUT, and if I'm not already done in for the day, that pretty much does it for me.
So although I had so many clever things to say here, I have squandered them. And now it's Friday.
So here's a little trifle about Problem Child. She has some serious maternal instincts. Since we have rendered her unable to reproduce, she has turned her maternal instincts on inanimate objects. First it was a cat toy octopus that she carried around everywhere she went. Then she adopted a furry bookmark of Third Grader's and a strangely alien-looking stuffed animal of Fifth Grader's. We regularly spot her "babies" in her food and water dishes, where she drops them for nourishment. Once they have "eaten," she grooms them and moves them from room to room with her.
Apparently, now Problem Child has decided to best Angelina Jolie. She has decided that pipe cleaners make very fine babies, and has ransacked the girls' craft supply drawer in pursuit of further adoptions. As of this morning, she has added blue, yellow, green, orange, and black pipe cleaner babies to her family. Several are having breakfast right now. The octopus is babysitting one. I think it is bath day, as Problem Child felt it necessary to lovingly groom a red baby on the kitchen counter this morning.
I don't have a good ending for this trifle, other than to say at least those pipe cleaners have found their purpose. Lord knows they were not going to get used for anything crafty.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
We did fabulous work. Fifth Grader won two medals. Third Grader won two medals AND a 4th place all around trophy. So very proud of them.
And I have somehow managed to assemble a column, which I now leave to your kind attention.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I'm talking nails, people. Please. Waaay too frugal to revamp the big stuff. Not that the big stuff needs revamping, thank you very much - but I have long felt a conviction to keep as true to the original model as possible. That is, until I discovered acrylic nails. And highlighting.
Yesterday being a school/work holiday, I marked the occasion by taking Third Grader to the nail salon with me. Normally I avoid taking either of them with me, but I made a horrible mistake three weeks ago and allowed the nail salon to take off my acrylic nails. I was desperate to restore my hands to a condition that didn't call for balling them into fists all day long, so I chanced it.
I don't know what possessed me to let them take the damn things off in the first place. I have been doing this to my nails since I discovered it could be done, something like 17 years ago. Discovering acrylic nails felt something like how I imagine it felt to discover fire. Nothing short of miraculous, really. My real nails are the thickness and consistency of onion skin. Hot water makes them hurt. A strong wind makes them hurt. They peel and crack and generally make my hands look like they have recently been mauled. Once I learned that I could make them look like normal women's hands by letting someone shape tiny piles of smelly goo into hard and shiny coatings, I never looked back.
That is, until my dishwasher broke a few months ago, and I had to resort to manually washing dishes. Not good for acrylic. So not good that, when I went for a maintenance visit three weeks ago, the tech insisted on stripping me of my tiny armors altogether. I still haven't gotten my dishwasher fixed, so I am still manually washing dishes, and I believe I have mentioned that hot water FREAKING HURTS my pathetically weak natural "nails"- more like jagged ovals of skin, with triple the nerve endings. I had to go back. I just had to.
So while I was sitting there, watching the tech restore womanhood to my fingers (while Third Grader got herself a mini mani with blue polish), I got to thinking about the ridiculousness of it. Paying money to get fake nails so I can feel real. I caught my reflection in a mirror, particularly noticing the ultra blondeness of my highlighted hair. My naturally blonde hair. Fake blonde highlights in naturally blonde hair. What is this madness?
I don't really know where I'm going with this. I just thought I'd mention it. Women are crazy, don't you think? Then again, there's Third Grader - sitting there with her clip-in purple hair extensions, getting her nails painted blue. She may be on to something, no?
Thursday, November 6, 2008
It wasn't the statement so much as who made the statement. It was me. And the statement was: "I wish I had a husband."
Whoa. Context, please.
It was just one of those days. One of those days where I threw myself into my work all day and wanted nothing more than to slip into a drama and activity-free night with the girls. A day where I spent my last few driving moments thinking about my pajamas. And, naturally, this means I was then met with truckloads of drama.
Dramatic moment number one concerned the after school program (ASP) teacher's report on Third Grader. Third Grader bit Fifth Grader. That's right. She bit her sister. Fifth Grader displayed for me the telltale semi-circle bite mark on her hand. I cannot recreate the details of the events leading up to the bite because I wasn't really listening. I was too busy trying to deflect the glare radiating from Fifth Grader's eyes that said "I do hope you are going to punish her for this."
Fifth Grader frequently complains that I do not practice equal opportunity punishment. For instance, when she whacks her sister in the head, she gets punished. When Third Grader does the hitting, no punishment. This is the World According to Fifth Grader. My response? Scenario two doesn't happen. Third Grader doesn't have an aggressive bone in her little body. On the rare occasion that Scenario two does occur, I can only conclude that her sister must have really ticked her off to warrant being belted. This, says Fifth Grader, is unfair. And here before me was her golden opportunity to prove her point.
But Fifth Grader then did herself a giant disservice by immediately creating Dramatic Moment Number Two: a massive tween meltdown, in front of everyone, about how I never let her do anything that all her friends get to do. I think what she meant to say was this:
"Mother, you know how we have that Winter Enrichment program in January? The one where we have to pick an activity for Wednesday afternoons? You know how today was the deadline for picking snowboarding, and we talked about how expensive that would be and I decided to pick something else? Well, I've had second thoughts, and they are giving me one extra day to discuss it with you again. Can we please reconsider?"
What she actually did was something like this:
(Yanks bitten hand from my view and pulls me away from teacher) "MOM! I forgot I asked S to sign up for snowboarding with me and she did but I didn't and plus ALL of my other friends signed up! (Face rapidly turning red, tears flowing) And now I'm the only one not going just because you said I CAN'T! How come everyone else can afford it and we CAN'T? I want to go too, they gave me another form today and said bring it in TOMORROW! If I can't go it's NOT FAIR!"
As you can surmise, the rest of my evening was enormously unpleasant. We had quite a heated "discussion," if you want to call it that. About not embarrassing me in public like that ever again. About how our initial snowboarding discussion actually went - which did not include the word "can't" - and about the fact that none of her friends' families are in possession of a money tree, either, but have to make choices like everyone else, including us. It eventually concluded - with hugs and restored respectfulness, and my promise that I would sleep on the whole issue.
I called my friend D to vent about the whole ordeal, and in doing so expressed my frustrations at facing these decisions alone. Hence, my "husband" statement. My choice to get divorced, I know - but that does not make the actual moments like these any less overwhelming. Do I punish? How do I punish? Am I depriving her? Am I spoiling her? Where's the line? Where are any of the lines? Not that having an active partner would magically produce all the answers, of course, but you know. Strength in numbers. Good cop/Bad cop. "Ask your father." All those options a single mom doesn't have. That's all I'm saying.
I did address the biting incident, by the way. It was as I suspected - an unseen first blow by Fifth Grader, which she admitted to. Reciprocal apologies and hugs, and stern words delivered on the wrongness of using our hands (and mouths) for violence. That pretty much tapped me out for the night. The snowboarding paperwork didn't get completed.
Until this morning.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
This of course is where I took the Vampiress and her big sister, the Heavenly Devil (half-angel half-devil, how apropos), but not before turning on our lights and leaving an offertory bowl of candy on the front step like everyone else on our road. You can never be too careful with those teenagers. Anyway, it seems the economy has taken a swipe at our little town's Halloween ritual. Several houses that normally decorate to the hilt had taken a pass this year and just doled out their little Milky Ways from a Tupperware bowl. The house known for its snack spread and adult beverage offerings? Miller Lites and store bought cupcakes. Blah. Also surprisingly low on trick or treaters for some reason. The Barn of Blood, a perennial kid favorite, was at least still open for business. Don't let the name fool you: The Barn of Blood is a known lame performance, but the proprietor, "Dr. Death", features a "bottomless candy buffet" at the end of it. He's good for about half their take for the night, thus a popular fixture.
Anyway, enough of Halloween. I don't enjoy it. I don't like the cold or the dark or being scared. I don't even like candy all that much. So now that that's done, my brain has moved onto bigger and better things. Namely...Christmas. I woke up this morning humming Christmas carols. Ack! I was tempted to throw on a little Harry Connick, Jr. over breakfast to perhaps exorcise the tunes from my head, but that could certainly backfire, so I resisted. And they are still there. In my head. Playing. And they must go, because it is not right.
What I need is a tune of more timely import. An Election Day carol, perhaps. Do you know any songs about the end of Daylight Savings Time? How about hunting season? I may have to write something myself.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
First of all, we took a bus. A big white YMCA bus. The bus was not mandatory, but I thought the camaraderie would be good for the girls. The bus driver, who looked to be on his "retirement career," began our trip by announcing that he had not driven into Boston in twenty years. Yeah. It's changed a bit since then. Fortunately, he assured us, we were equipped with GPS. Judging by the chorus of groans rising up from the parent section of the bus, this did not have the reassuring effect that the driver hoped for. He did, in fact, get us into Boston before things went awry, at which point we pulled over on some desolate little road of nothing while various irate mothers barked directions at the poor overwhelmed driver. As it turns out, we were within shouting distance of our destination, so all out disaster was averted.
Our fearless leader, Head Coach M, had managed to get enough people to come along in our group so that we got to go to the Chalk Talk before the actual show. I admit, I was a bit star struck by this. Thirty elite athletes are warming up while you watch. Nastia freaking Liukin is right there, tossing herself around on those bars. Very buff boys are doing handstands everywhere you look. Meanwhile, three of the gymnasts sat and took questions from the audience and then gave out a smattering of autographs. Fifth Grader managed to get her program signed by Shannon Miller - the most decorated American gymnast of all time, mind you, yet a bit before Fifth Grader's time and therefore not the biggest thrill of her life. Oh well.
On to the show - but wait! I forgot to tell you about JF. Well, she didn't come...but the daughter did, accompanied by the two older daughters. You know, the amazing superstars that she bragged about? Let me tell you, I have not seen two sulkier teenagers since I myself was a sulky teenager. And not only sulky, but ravenously hungry, judging by the way they devoured package after package of...wait for it...Reese's peanut butter cups. I kid you not! Do you think I felt a little smug? Oh yes. Smug indeed.
Anyway, the show. The girls were very dancy. The boys did not wear shirts. The girls were beautiful and graceful and, at times, a little edgy and funky. The boys did not wear shirts. It didn't suck. I have a new found respect for these men and their athleticism. Good heavens, they were strong. And shirtless. I was a bit surprised at the amount of rock star-like screaming going on in the audience. I've screamed at a few rock stars in my day, and I doubt any of them could even spell pommel horse, never mind do the things these men were doing on one. Lesson learned.
The ride home was only slightly painful. Given the day's excitement, the decibel level on the bus was a bit heightened. We did make one rather misguided stop at McDonald's - just one more thing standing between the parents and much-needed cocktails, I'm just saying - but fortunately, we had a different driver who actually knew where he was going and made pretty good time.
So there you are. Only slightly cheeky.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
For instance, today. Today was Practice Meet day, the precursor to the official meet season that gives all of the girls the chance to perform in front of official judges without the pressure. What's cool about Practice Meet is that you get to see all of the levels perform in a quite condensed amount of time. The Level 8s and 9s are pretty fun to watch. Plus, they get to pick their own floor music, so you don't go home in a trance from the incessant repetition of your own child's floor music, which is exactly the same song for every single girl in her level. (Speaking of which, here's how old I am: today I saw a 16-year-old girl perform to the techno-enhanced version of Europe's "The Final Countdown". Do you think she had any idea what that song was when she picked it? I think not.)
I knew the seating would be difficult today, so I stuck around for the whole warmup just to save my portion of cold, metal bleacher. A handful of parents made a similar decision, but many chose to arrive right at showtime. At the end of warmup, Third Grader flew out to me. "We have five minutes to get a snack! I'm STARVING." Being the good mother that I am, I made her save my seat and tore down the hallway to the vending machine. What does a good mother get her starving child to eat right before an athletic competition? Chips? Candy? No. Peanut butter crackers! Yes!
I weaved my way through the horde of arriving parents back to my child and began to tear open the cellophane when, behind me, I heard, "Ohh! Peanut butter!" Sitting on the top bleacher is a bird of a woman, fluttering her little bird hands in front of her face in horror at Third Grader's snack. Of course, you know who this woman is. Yes - it's my friend Jane Fonda. "I'm allergic to peanuts!" she said, still fluttering her little hands.
Now, I don't mean to make light of this affliction. I realize that this peanut allergy is a real and potentially dangerous thing. Nobody wants to asphyxiate, okay? But this woman was looking at me as if I had just whipped out a pack of Pall Malls and jammed one in my kid's mouth. So what did I do? Naturally, I hauled Third Grader into the bathroom so she could inhale a few crackers over the sink and then scrub the vile peanut residue from her skin. Isn't that what you would do? And what do you suppose became of my seat? The one that I had warmed for 90 minutes already while Jane Fonda snuck in at the last minute? Why, it was given away to Jane Fonda's parents, of course, who showed up while we were in the bathroom!
I don't think we're going to become friends anytime soon, JF and me.
Tomorrow we are taking a Y bus to Boston with the whole team to see the Olympic Gymnastics Superstars Tour. It should be a lot of fun - the tornadoes are really looking forward to it. I'm not sure if JF is actually going, but I should probably pass on that peanut butter bath I was planning to take tonight - just in case. With my luck there will be assigned seating and I will get stuck with her.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
First there was the early morning orthodontist appointment. Doctor Torture warned me last time we were there that this appointment might run a little longer. He had that glint in his eye when he said it, the one that wanted me to get the code. I got the code. So I prepped Fifth Grader with a little breakfast Tylenol.
She emerged from the torture chamber with three more brackets and brand spanking new wires. Noticeably thicker wires than before. She seemed unfazed, so I took her to school. It was too good to be true, naturally.
Just as I was settling into the idea of actually seeing my week play out exactly as I planned it, I got the call. The "come get your kid" call. It seems that Fifth Grader's breakfast Tylenol lasted her all of two hours before she went begging for more. The nurse refused her, but noticed that her nose was a little red and went in for a closer look. Then she called me. Apparently, Fifth Grader had cooties.
Are cooties real? I don't know. Probably not, but given the pitch and tone of the nurse's voice, I drew the conclusion that they are, and that my child must have them.
Actually what she has is a little skin infection. A very, very little skin infection. Like about the size of the word "like." Easily taken care of with a quick trip to the doctor's and a little tube of medicine - but highly contagious, it seems, so no gymnastics last night, and no school today. You would think this news would please the girl. A sick day without being sick! Woo hoo! EXCEPT she was too busy wailing like a siren from the pain of her newly adjusted braces to hear a word I was saying.
The wailing continued all the way home. All the way to drop off her sister at practice. All the way to the pharmacy. Two doses of ibuprofen and half a dozen freeze pops later, we returned to something resembling normal communication, which got us through Third Grader's commute from gymnastics to acting class. And then? More wailing. Begging through tears to "take these things off of me please!" The most delicate sips of a milkshake for dinner, followed by additional wailing. At this point, I am pretty sure I was wailing, too, at least on the inside - about how much it sucks sometimes to be the grownup.
She seems better today. Still sucking down the freeze pops and ibuprofen, but also thoroughly enjoying her day of sanctioned hooky. Well, wouldn't you?
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I've decided to switch to a Sunday night/Monday morning schedule instead of the mid-week thing I was doing. Partly because I think more people screw around on the internet on Mondays (that whole "I don't wanna go back to work" thing) and partly because, if the last few weeks are any indication, my own week has the tendency to implode by Tuesday. So give it a read, I think you'll enjoy it.
More importantly this evening: I am happy to say that I survived my first 5K! In fact, survived - please - I ran my best time ever! No doubt, I was NOT in it to beat anyone. I just wanted to finish the damn thing without collapsing in a heap. And finish it I did, in something like 28:30 or right around there...I was pretty much focused on remaining upright as I approached the finish line, but I know the giant clock had a 28 on it as I passed. I feel pretty good about the time, because I am actually a very slooow runner, but hey - you want some motivation? Ask someone fifteen years your junior to be your running partner! And, oh! Make sure that running partner knows everyone in the freaking city that is totally ripped and beautiful! And get them all to show up and talk about "respectable finishing times" in a circle around you while you silently panic! Yeah. That'll get your butt moving.
(Seriously, K, good race. We'll do it again. And next time, you can get new clothes - I promise I won't freak out.)
So I loved the adrenaline rush of being in that crowd, and I'll definitely be running more races. In the spring. My plan is to get into 10K form by then, so I'll have to take a look at the training schedules that I photocopied - er, I mean, took copious notes about on a separate sheet of paper. Also, don't a lot of athletes have rituals? I need some rituals. Starting with my pre-race breakfast: corn flakes and coffee. Next time, more coffee. But definitely corn flakes.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Yep. Little Miss Jane Fonda.
Thankfully, she was dressed normally. She did not stretch or bounce or flail around like a crazy person. She just perched her miniature little person on the vacant chair across from me. I didn't protest, mostly because I didn't notice her right away. I was too busy trying to locate Third Grader. I noticed her when she spoke to me, and the conversation was thus:
JF: Are you looking for your daughter?
Me: Oh...uh huh. I just saw her...
JF: She's probably in the bathroom getting dressed - these girls out here are just levels 5 and 6 now.
Me: Uh, yeah, she's practicing with them.
JF: Oh? Is she a level 5 or 6? I don't think I've met you before.
Me: ...No, she's a 4, but she's asked to stay for the extra half hours at the end. She wants to move up. (Please stop talking to me. Where is Third Grader? Ah - there she is.)
JF: Oh, isn't that cute. So-and-so is my third competitive gymnast, so I know all about how they can push themselves.
Me: (Of course she is.) Huh.
JF: We used to go to a private gym, but I really wanted this daughter to just have fun, you know? Take some of the pressure off. They're all so competitive with one another.
Then there was a lot of blathering on about how amazing and marvelous her two older daughters were, how much they won, how they eventually burned out and became raging drug fiends...just kidding about the drug fiend stuff. Meanwhile, the group of "level 5s and 6s plus my daughter" were working on back handsprings on the low beam. I can't imagine a scarier thing to put your body through, and these girls all looked mighty scared, even with a spotter.
JF: My goodness, that's a level seven skill, you know! How wonderful that they're working on it already! And look at that little tiny blonde girl, my goodness! She's almost got it already! Whose daughter is that?
Me: ...well, that's my daughter.
That shut her up.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It wasn't a devastating day, mind you. As days go, it was just your run-of-the-mill disappointment. In fact, I'll amend my earlier assumption about the universe giving me the finger by saying I didn't actually SEE the universe give me the finger - but I'm pretty sure it was. At least behind its back.
Let's begin. Given Monday's encouraging world events, I set off for work feeling pretty optimistic. I had good things lined up. If all went as planned, I would make several people a little fatter and happier. This week would be simpler, perhaps healing in ways. Plus, I had time to make my own lunch - your standard tuna fish sandwich and shiny apple - and therefore would not have to squander seven dollars in some middling sub shop. All in all, looking good.
My first candidate for fatness/happiness called to cancel his appointment. I writhed in pain for several minutes, then spent several hours watching my printer chew up perfectly good pieces of paper. That's all you really need to know. The rest of the day went accordingly. My one bright spot was lunch, which provided me another opportunity to savor the feel of seven dollars remaining in my wallet.
Late afternoon meant - what else? - gymnastics practice for the Tornadoes. The timing of Tuesday practices usually allows me a few hours to go back to the office, but I decided I had had quite enough of that party for the day. Numerous errands later, I allowed myself some quiet time in my car to finish the book I'm reading - The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson. A word about my selection process: When I'm feeling the most boxed-in, I typically go for travel writing. Lately I've been battling regret that I did not take the girls on our planned road trip this summer, prudent as that decision turned out to be. This particular book details the author's road trip through 38 states after having lived abroad for several years. I'd never read Bryson before, but for some reason I had it in my head that he was the worldly intellectual type. What he is, it turns out, is incredibly snarky. I like snark as much as the next person, but I was not looking for snark. So - disappointing.
I went in to watch the rest of practice. While I almost always get to see Third Grader practice, Tuesday is typically the only night of the week that I actually get to watch Fifth Grader. This is because there is only a forty-five minute gap between when their classes end, compared to two hours on the other nights. So last night, I watched Fifth Grader for forty-five minutes. For forty-five minutes, she worked one one skill. One. It's called a "squat-on" - charming, right? - and it basically involves balancing your body at the abdomen on the lower bar, hurling your legs backwards and landing with your feet on top of the bar. Squat on. Get it? Fifth Grader somehow managed to completely dominate the attention of not one but TWO coaches who got her to try about a hundred of these in a row. She landed maybe five of them. It was heartbreaking.
(As an aside, I have to say that I LOVE their coaches. They are awesome. They're encouraging and inspiring and sometimes tough - but nobody's shooting for the Olympics here, so the girls always have a lot of fun as well. I just thought I'd mention that, lest you think I am subjecting my dear girls to involuntary torture)
The end of practice eventually arrived. Fifth Grader managed to regain feeling in her jello-y little arms by the time we dropped Third Grader off at acting class and reported to our regular Tuesday night dinner haunt. She ordered her regular roast beef sub from our regular waitress and it all felt very comforting and familiar. Which was exactly what we needed.
Third Grader, bless her heart, remained her cheerful, oblivious little self through the entire day. I suspect the universe will never give Third Grader the finger, even behind its back.
So yet again, I am declaring it a New Day. Let's see if this one takes.
Monday, October 13, 2008
It seems that, when it comes to our jobs, a lot of bloggers draw themselves a line that says "I will only discuss this so far." Me? I refuse to discuss it at all. Because that's not why I'm here. I'm here to discuss pretty much anything BUT my job. In fact, one of the things I most love about writing - be it here, my column, a note inside a birthday card - is that it has the effect of squeezing out any remnant of work-related thought that's still kicking around. I like that very much. Even on a slow day my job can be pretty intense, and it is with a glad heart that I come here to forget about it and tell you trivial stories.
And I still don't want to talk about my job. But last week? Well. You may have noticed that the world is a little grumpy right now. You may have noticed that fortunes are being lost. You may have noticed that an election of substantial consequence is looming directly over our heads. And last week - actually, the last few weeks, but especially last week - I have had the great discomfort of repeatedly hashing these things over with a variety of people hour after hour, day after day. Oh, and also trying to reassure them that the world is not ending.
Second biggest understatement of the year: This can tire a girl out.
So I missed my column deadline last week. Okay, it's a self-imposed deadline - but still, missing it is not exactly good for its promotion. I could barely summon the energy to breathe at the end of each day, much less write. Anything. Hopefully I didn't miss anyone's birthday...but if I did, seriously, I'm calling a mulligan. That's why Hallmark invented "belated".
But it's Monday again, and time for new hope. New energy. New starts. And I have identified the following silver linings in last week's cloud of gloom:
* No potato chips entered my house. If ever there was a week for a potato chip chow down, that was it.
* I actually didn't mind that my girls had standardized testing most of last week - though I fiercely disagree with the whole concept - because it meant little to no homework to tax my one remaining nightly brain cell.
...That's all I've got. There's no school today, so I'm working from home, which means I will require large quantities of coffee. Better go get started.
Monday, October 6, 2008
I seem to be failing the fifth grade.
Important distinction: Fifth Grader is doing swimmingly, as evidenced by her first progress report, which featured such comments as "extremely organized" and "working hard on her math facts." I believe I have made it clear that math is not my forte, so Brava! to Fifth Grader for persevering with my limited usefulness.
Having said that, I am actually good for something. Namely, I'm good at instilling reading habits. I have so thoroughly convinced the Tornadoes that reading is an authentic and worthwhile choice of how to spend your leisure time, in fact, that they are both a little bit obsessed with it. On any given day, they are each reading two books at a time. This is in addition to the fact that we are engrossed in a book together as part of our bedtime ritual, alternating readers nightly. Then I retreat to my own room and pick up my own book.
So, yes. We are a big bunch of nerdy bookworms. But you'd think this kind of behavior would be looked upon favorably by a teacher, wouldn't you? Particularly by a teacher who made it very clear at Open House that READING is the epicenter of the fifth grade curriculum? Who went so far as to proclaim that she does not assign homework because she expects her students to spend that time READING?
For starters, that "no homework" thing is a crock. Or maybe I wasn't supposed to notice that. For another thing, there seems to be this whole new microscopic way of reading - or at least of monitoring said reading - which should be working in our favor, quite frankly, but is not. This new method includes the "Thinkmark" upon which Fifth Grader is required to jot down any astounding passages, words, or ideas that she discovers. Then there is the "reading log" upon which she is required to record how many minutes and pages she reads each day and which I am required to initial. Finally, there is the "book log" upon which she will list all the books she completes this year. My guess is that this system replaces the antiquated book report of yesteryear - more importantly, though, to a family of readers? It is a veritable loaded crack pipe. We are so going to excel at this. Except we're not.
Yesterday I received my third chastising note of the year from Ms. Teacher imploring that Fifth Grader must read one book at a time. Additionally, she must bring that one book to school every day to demonstrate that it is her one book. Furthermore, it is imperative that Fifth Grader refer ONLY to this one book on her "Thinkmark" and reading log. Please sign and return so that Ms. Teacher knows that I understand.
But I don't understand. So...she should not excel?
I know there are some teachers out there reading this post. I ask you, what is up with this? Is mediocrity the new black?
Sunday, October 5, 2008
For what it's worth, I haven't had my coffee yet because I demanded four miles on the treadmill from myself before I would be allowed such delights. It wasn't a pretty four miles, but I did them. It looks like a positively gorgeous fall day outside and I did consider that I should take my run out there this morning - but it's fairly nippy out. I don't do nippy.
While I was running, each of the girls appeared in front of me with phone in hand, asking me do I know what so-and-so's number is. And so, because I knew the answer, I am about to be invaded. Serves me right for being such a baby about running outside. Anyway, having served my time and showered, I decided to keep the healthy groove going and prepared a little smoothie for Fifth Grader and myself. It was fabulous, I must say: mango, banana, sunny D and a little orange sherbet. Third Grader shuns my smoothies on principle - they do not contain cheese - so Fifth Grader and I slurped it down and made many loud proclamations of how tasty it was and how Third Grader would never know such joy since she will not try new things. Third Grader was unaffected.
Somehow I ended up sitting on the couch with my smoothie and the Sunday paper and determined that I would sit right there for the rest of my days, never to get up again. Never to cook a meal, wash a dish, bark at a child. I would live and die in a comfortable little ball on that couch, reading the Lifestyle section and drinking fruit potion. Then I remembered the pending invasion.
So I got up.
It's almost a moot point at 11 a.m. to start loading up on caffeine, but if you've ever suffered the effects of withdrawal, you will agree that it must be done. At any rate, there is a ginormous bag of apples down there with my name on it, and I have promised pies and crisps and the like, so I am off to peel my brains out. And drink my coffee.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I know we are ten-odd days into the season already, but some part of my insides refuses to acknowledge its presence until October arrives. Perhaps it's because those first ten-odd days don't look a whole lot different than the thirty or so before them. It also might be because, once Labor Day hits, my life becomes one big blur and I forget to pay attention for a little while. But right about now is when the foliage begins to change in my neck of the woods - and since I am quite literally surrounded by those woods, I wake up.
"Pretty!" I say to myself. And I am right.
Autumn also means that I have to take my running inside. It's now pitch black out almost until school bus time (Hello, 7:05 school bus. I love you.). I'm not one hundred percent on this, but I'm fairly sure that if I were to run in the dark and encounter a bear or other woodland dwelling wildlife that had not yet had its breakfast, my failure to return home might make a couple of little girls I know cry. This is a shame - the not running outside part, I mean. The good news is that I got a truly kick ass new treadmill about a month ago that - in addition to allowing me to watch movies while I run - has also made me a little less stupid.
In the roughly year and a half that I have been running on a consistent basis, I have graduated from huffing and puffing through the shortest imaginable session to running four miles a few days a week. I only know that it's four miles, mind you, because I drove the route first and measured out a circular mile that I can run four times. It's important that you know that.
Anyway, I began to picture myself running longer and longer distances, even someday completing a marathon. I wondered how one trains for a marathon. I thought it might make sense to try out some road races first. So I signed up for my first 5k, which takes place in about three weeks. Then I wondered how one trains for a 5k.
Luckily, my kick ass new treadmill has an "events" button with programs for 5k, 10k, half- and full marathon. How convenient. This is where the story takes an embarrassing turn. I decided to give the 5k program a whirl after giving myself the following pep talk: "This won't be so bad. How much harder can it be to run a 5k than it's been to run four miles every other day? I can so do this."
Well, yeah, dumb ass. Last time I checked, 3.1 miles was less than 4 miles. I'm telling you, sometimes I just don't know how I've made it this far in life.
This awakening naturally made me completely doubt that I knew what I was doing at all - like maybe I was even running wrong, maybe putting one foot in front of the other on a repetitive basis was completely loony - so I did what I always do when I confront my own stupidity. I read three books about how to run. It turns out that the "one foot in front of the other" method is cool...but the four miles every time I run? Not cool. Who knew?
I am now on what I think is a sensible running plan, and looking forward to completing my first 5k. I hope there isn't an IQ test at registration.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Instead, I share this: I think I am addicted to grocery stores.
What other explanation can there be for the fact that I find myself in one every three days?
It's not like I don't plan. Seriously, I'm a planner. I plan meals and make lists and take my lists to the store and purchase the items on the list. There is almost always a loose version of a weekly menu stuck under a magnet on the side of my fridge. I cook things. We eat them. It's all very Zen.
And yet, on Friday night I found myself in Target stocking up on Goldfish crackers and breakfast cereal while Fifth Grader was at practice. This is after committing a heaping sum of cash to what we call "Big Shopping" not more than six days earlier. (...And yes, I know Target is not technically a grocery store - but have you seen their prices?) At any rate, what I really needed was produce, and the grocery store was going to be my next stop. But I ran out of time.
I managed to go the entire weekend without taking my car out of the garage, and that's saying quite a lot. I usually reserve that kind of zany behavior for when there's three feet of snow piled up in front of the garage and I have no choice but to stay home. Somehow I pulled it off. Even in the face of Third Grader wistfully longing out loud for fruit salad, I did not run to the store.
Today? Fruit salad for dessert.
They say the first step is to admit you have a problem, right?
Hello, my name is Tress...
Friday, September 26, 2008
I don't know whether to be relieved that she is back on the hunt or totally creeped out that she is finding so many mice. I think both. I'm sure it's the change of seasons that is making them so bountiful - their friends probably told them this was a nice, warm place to bed down in the cold. Roomy. Plenty of mac and cheese boxes in the pantry to chew through. No killer cats to dodge - wait, whose back feet and tail are these? Jerry? Oh, Jerry!
Anyway, gold star for Problem Child.
So then who got the beating, you ask? That would be Fifth Grader. Not an actual beating, people - jeez - though she has reached a new adolescent milestone this week: her first grounding. She's growing up so fast...
Yes, we're having a little trouble respecting authority figures at the moment. Fortunately it is not ALL authority figures, just a few select ones. There have been some changes made to the after school program she attends a few days per week. Changes that are rubbing her the wrong way, whipping up a previously unseen defiant streak inside her and resulting in my standing with the program director for ten minutes at every pick-up time since school began listening to a report of how Fifth Grader wouldn't stop singing at quiet time, Fifth Grader wouldn't line up to go outside, Fifth Grader wouldn't put her snack away when told to do so a bazillion times. I can't say that I am thrilled with the military-school-like structure that is being implemented this year - particularly after five years of this child BEGGING me to be able to go to the after school program more often because it's so much fun - but this is where she must go some days. And my kids? Will not be those kind of kids. No freaking way. So - she is grounded until I get three glowing reports.
To her credit, after bawling hysterically for about twenty minutes, she seems to have taken ownership of the situation. She told me yesterday that she had warned all of her friends not to call her or email her, and - if they know what's good for them - not to have any birthday parties or sleepovers until she has delivered her three good reports.
This of course means that I will actually see her this weekend. Lucky for us, it's going to pour buckets for the next three days. If we score big, we may even lose power. Did I ground myself by mistake? Maybe I need more practice at this.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Gymnastics practices offers parents a choice of seating. Choice one: a set of aluminum bleachers cozied up to a metal railing which separates spectator and gymnast. These are mostly occupied by the parents of very small gymnasts with very short practices - often with toddlers and their coloring paraphernalia in tow. The parents read magazines or knit scarves or chat amongst themselves. The toddlers color the bleachers and put their sticky hands all over everything. Including the occasional stranger's leg.
Choice two: a pair of high top tables set up on the other side of the gym - essentially in the hallway -behind a large picture window. This is where the veteran gymnast parents congregate. Nothing and no one is sticky there. I am happy to say that, with two competing gymnasts in the fam, I qualify for this option.
As I said, there are only two tables, and thus only four chairs. If I can't score a chair, like tonight, I perch on a small staircase located just a hair behind. This is where I was parked tonight when she showed up.
She arrived toward the end of the last practice, with about fifteen minutes to spare. Newbie. Probably just upgraded from Saturday mornings, or her daughter went to a different gym last year. Whatever. She wore lycra pants and perfectly coiffed hair fluffed out over a headband. She leaned over the back of a just vacated chair and searched out her kid through the picture window. Then, apparently, her aerobics class began.
First, she did donkey kicks. Two full sets while hanging over the back of the chair. Then some deep knee bends. A few torso twists. Third Grader sat next to me on the stairs, eating her tomato sandwich, mystified. "Mama, what's she doing?"
"Exercising, I guess."
"Here? In the hallway?" Jane Fonda now had her arms extended and was doing some twirly thing with her wrists. Ten circles forward, ten circles backward.
"Looks like it."
"Wow. That's weird."
Lesson for aerobics woman: When the little girl eating a tomato sandwich on a staircase in the hallway thinks what you're doing is weird? It's probably time to stop.
And don't hog the chair!
Friday, September 19, 2008
"Wicked" is what we say here in New England when no other adjective quite captures the sentiment of exaggeration that we want to get across. It does not mean that I am wicked. In fact, I'm not wicked at all, really...except, maybe a bit when I'm trying to get lost in the hotness that is Jon Hamm on my latest TiVoed "Mad Men" episode, and I discover Fifth Grader secretly watching from the kitchen under the cover of darkness. Mama gets a little testy when this happens. Fifth Grader is too young for admiring hotness.
It's been one hell of a week. As a family, we operate on a carefully balanced, Moving At The Speed of Light day-to-day routine that depends MUCH too highly on everyone being well-fed, well-rested, and at least mildly cheery. Any one of these elements goes awry, we have issues. This week, we had a lot of issues.
So I'm sad. I'm sad that I was not able to get to the desk a few times, at least to read and comment on what everyone else has been writing about. I'm sad that I did not have a chance to respond to some new commenters here, because I do like me some comments. I'm sad that I told a certain Stefanie that I was going to add her to my list and then didn't. (It's there now, Stefanie!) I'm sad that I did not have two minutes to write about Open House at the Tornadoes' school. Or about the black bear and the baby fox that I saw in the same day. Or about the totally amazing WWII aircraft display that I took Fifth Grader to see, the one that I described in her homework agenda book as "History Field Trip" to make up for the fact that I basically made her blow off her actual assignment for that night.
Truth be told, I'm sure I did have two minutes, but I spent them sleeping.
I am now off to enjoy the crowning jewel experience of my week: the one hour drive from work to the school to fetch Fifth Grader, followed by the twenty minute commute to deposit her at gymnastics practice; the retrieval, feeding and bathing of Third Grader from her practice; and the return commute to, once again, fetch Fifth Grader.
All to be followed by a wicked stiff drink.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
For one thing, we just finished our first true "back to school" week, complete with three nights of gymnastics in the mix. Everyone made it to practice on time, nobody forgot to do their homework, and - glory be! - the girls were too exhausted to fight with me about bedtimes. All systems go.
Saturday held the promise of late sleeping children followed by Old Home Day in the center of our little village. Old Home Day, for you city folk, is just a little celebration of life in the woods - er, small town - complete with music, food, games for the kiddies, and clowns. Oh, and no adult beverages. How many of you wish you could have gone with us?
Honestly, I wasn't planning to go at first, until I found out that my group of friends here in town were all going. Certainly that would take the sting out of dealing with clowns. Plus, hey, a little wholesome bonding time with the Tornadoes? Always a good thing.
So we arrived about half an hour before the parade stepped off and immediately went in three different directions. Third Grader was abducted by the middle school girls volunteering at the Sand Art table. Fifth Grader went off to find her friend with whom she would be leaving in a few hours for a soccer game and -naturally - a sleepover. I tried unsuccessfully to find my friends and to avoid the clowns. We reunited for the parade, but I can't really compete with candy being thrown in to the street, so really I watched it by myself. Where are my friends? I wondered.
About then, I saw them. In the parade. The whole group of them up there in the back of a tractor full of hay, waving. Alrighty then...
Fifth Grader left with her friend shortly after I stood in line for twenty minutes to get her a burger. Third Grader and I crossed paths a few times, mostly when she needed to dump off her latest balloon animal or game prizes. There wasn't a lot of hanging out with friends as they were being yanked in different directions by the little ones. I ate a semi-edible cheeseburger and watched another mom play the fiddle with the band onstage. The next time Third Grader flew by, I hooked her and said "Time to go."
We went home for a few hours to relax before the evening's fireworks...long enough for Third Grader to finagle herself a sleepover at a friend's house. See how this is lining up? Fifth Grader gone. Third Grader going. The Hope Diamond's got nothing on a free Saturday night.
I called Boyfriend.
Boyfriend is busy. I knew that already, but a free Saturday night! I said something supportive of his previously arranged busy-ness while simultaneously trying to transmit telepathic promises of irresistible enjoyment. Either Boyfriend is not telepathic or I am quite resistible. Either way, no Boyfriend.
Third Grader and I headed back to Old Home Day with sweatshirts and chairs. I set up chairs in the grass while Third Grader disappeared into the fray. I sat in my chair. And that is what I did for the next ninety minutes. I sat in my chair by myself, watching the blues band play, watching the sky darken, watching the couples around me on their blankets and in their chairs, and hated them all a little bit. Yes, there, I said it. I could not have felt more completely alone if I had been sitting beneath a blinking neon arrow that said "NO ONE WANTS THIS WOMAN'S COMPANY TODAY."
Third Grader did make it back to me to watch the fireworks, but then she left with her friend, and I came home. I did what any self-respecting woman with a free night and no date would do: I ran a bath and poured a drink. I lay there in my luxurious bath, drinking my luxurious drink, soaking in my luxurious aloneness. Five minutes later, I went to bed.
They can't all be winning weekends, I guess. On a positive note, I did get to run this morning without guilt, and I've read half the paper already. In a few hours, the Tornadoes will be home to not appreciate me in person. Perhaps we will have dinner out. There are few things that can make me appreciate my alone time like going to a restaurant with the Tornadoes.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Naturally I'm not alone, and naturally, I'm not in possession of only my own children. It just wouldn't be the weekend if we weren't involved in some sort of child swap. Usually I'm strictly a receiver, the girls taking in one roomie apiece - we stick to the "even number of children" plan in order to lessen my need to pummel anyone for excluding and/or tormenting the odd girl out - but tonight I only have Fifth Grader and Friend. Friend has a little sister who is chummy with Third Grader. So we traded.
Don't think for a second that this equates to peace and quiet around here. Au contraire. Fifth Grader and Friend weren't together for five minutes before they asked if I would take them to the mall. Dear God, have I arrived at the "take us to the mall" stage already? Suddenly I'm very, very sad...Well, taking them to the mall was less likely to completely annoy me than what I had in mind (sneaking off for a little nap while they amused themselves with Fifth Grader's tween magazines - never would have happened. A sleeping me is a Tornado magnet), so off to the mall we went, under the conditions that
A) I did not invite any credit cards along, so don't ask, and
B) After the mall? Tress at computer, wri-ting; Fifth Grader and Friend somewhere else, not both-er-ing.
And they haven't bothered me - EXCEPT for when they had to know exactly where all the flashlights are and exactly where we should all gather if the "fits of wind and pelting rain" knocked the power out. EXCEPT for when they thought it best that I make their dinner right away while we still have power. EXCEPT for when the wind became less fitty and the rain less pelty, and it was time to crank up the dance music that sends a shiver through the surface of my drink. Oh, and EXCEPT for when they emerged from Fifth Grader's bathroom in a cloud of glitter and perfume, their faces obscured by large amounts of Fifth Grader's tween makeup, wearing unintended combinations of Fifth Grader's clothes and in general looking about five years older than they actually are, and asked me if I could take a picture of them.
Um, let me see...NO.
So that's my Saturday night. Hopefully yours is more...well, less of what mine is, I guess.
Friday, September 5, 2008
I'm here to say that this winning attitude made it two full days. Today is day three. Three of one hundred and eighty. And what did Third Grader wish for this morning? The last day of school.
It's the bus ride that kills them. I'm telling you. As much as I love the 7:05 pick-up, as convenient as that is for me and my own schedule, I know that they, like me, are once again in for a hellishly long morning commute. HELLISH. This is basically a patience issue, of course. The Tornadoes - again, like me - have none. Forty-five minutes is a repulsive amount of time to be on your way to somewhere. Anywhere. It's purgatory in a box.
Fortunately for them, they do not come home on the bus. No, they get to hang out with their friends for several hours in the structured joy known as "After School Care" which has the amazing effect of washing away all of their angst. Yes, they generally have returned to their happy, bouncy, regular selves by the time I pick them up - which is a double-edged sword, because driving to pick them up takes me NOT forty-five minutes but one full hour, after which I am usually cranky and pretty much ready to eat the blacktop in the parking lot. And most days? They don't want to leave. Hello, rocketing blood pressure.
So, after a mere two and a half days, all three of us are crawling with exhaustion. There has been no bedtime dispute - they are all too happy to call it a day, and I am right behind them. (Well. Except for that one night that I stayed up to watch The Speech. This is not a political forum, so I will say no more on that - but noontime would have worked out much better for me and my attention span.)
My big plans to sit down and eat dinner together as a family every night? My reinstatement of the "No TV on school nights" rule? On Wednesday, I watched Fifth Grader grimace her way through a thoughtfully prepared turkey dinner, while Third Grader scooped up mashed potatoes with her fingers. On Thursday, Kid Cuisine dinners (for them) and Lean Cuisine pizza (for me) in front of the television.
Eh. We'll go hardcore next week, honest. After I get some sleep.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Time to send the Tornadoes back to school. To return to our regularly scheduled program of planned chaos. To get back to business.
I could apologize for not breathing any life into this portal since last Wednesday, but I'm not going to. It has simply been too perfect outdoors these past four days - and this after a summer of incessant, cold rain - that there was really no choice to be made. The sun was shining and we were going to bask in it, damn it!
Something about this long overdue taste of summer seemed to bring home the fact that the girls are a grade older now, a fact I have clearly tried to deny all season by continuing to address them by their former grades. I've been asked a few times recently if I was looking forward to the new school year beginning - asked by fellow mothers, mind you, whose own sense of joy was palpable - and truly all I could muster in response was: "meh."
One could say that this is not a "milestone" year for us. We are not entering grades with any special significance to the American Greetings of the world. One could say that. But One would be wrong.
It must have been the Tornadoes' own mounting anticipation over recent weeks (read: school supplies carefully organized; pencils sharpened; backpacks ready and waiting at the front door for ELEVEN DAYS; first, second and third day of school outfits selected) that finally opened my eyes. It is a milestone year. It's another year that they are truly excited to go to school. Excited! How many kids are really excited about going back to school? ...Okay, I was always pretty excited, I admit...but I do remember a great number of my classmates sporting a pronounced lack of enthusiasm, or at least faking disinterest, in pursuit of whatever popularity that won them.
Yes, the Tornadoes are still young, and yes, there are still plenty of future First Days to contend with. Yes yes. But today? A tiny, fingertip pat on my own back for whatever small role I've played in convincing them that school is GOOD. And a bucketful of gratitude for the teachers who do the heavy lifting. They keep them engaged and they don't even get to occasionally take them to the beach.
So. Third Grader and Fifth Grader -there, I said it - let's do this thing.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The Problem Child, please recall, is the cat. The cat who attacks perfectly nice veterinarians. And snuggles up to mice. Instead of killing them, as she was hired to do. She prefers, instead, to sleep all day and then curl up into a snooze ball at my feet all night. Needless to say, she is on written warning.
I really thought I was going to have to let her go last night. I spent a good half hour listening to her repeatedly dash across the tile floor downstairs and slam into the cupboard. Her future was not looking bright, let me tell you.
Until this morning, when I awoke to find her blissfully stretched out on the floor. Eating a mouse. Her paws held down the bottom end while she crunched away, and she left not a morsel behind.
So, so gross...and yet I approve. Warning withdrawn.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Boyfriend has been wondering when I was going to get around to acknowledging his existence. Poor Boyfriend. It is certainly reasonable to want your existence to be acknowledged, and I feel it's time to do so. Particularly since it will be helpful to me in telling stories.
A few more words about Boyfriend. First, he is essentially dating three ladies at once - and by that, of course, I mean myself and the Tornadoes. Dating is not a state of being that I ever pictured myself dealing with again...and it turns out I was right, in the conventional "two people spending time alone together" sense of the word. It's more like how I intend to allow the Tornadoes to (one day far from now) spend time in the company of boys, which is only in a group setting and under heavy supervision.
Which reminds me of the second fact I will share about Boyfriend: he is exceedingly patient.
Fact number two is important - in many ways, you can imagine - but specifically it is important to today's woodpile update. It is also at odds with fact number three, which is that Boyfriend is very...tidy.
...Not that I am untidy, mind you, but I do have to relax my standards a bit due to the fact that - well, I don't call them the Tornadoes for nothing.
Boyfriend helped me clean my basement last weekend (which is probably in the top five hottest things a man has ever done for me) to make way for my new kickass treadmill and my firewood. When I say "clean" I am not saying we moved things around and swept the floor. Cleaning entailed loading up a flatbed truck with junk and taking it to the dump, vigorous scrubbing and vacuuming, painting the floor (who paints the floor?), and assembly of my new kickass treadmill. Tres jolie, my basement.
The one thing he was unable to help me with was stacking the firewood. Because, if you recall, it wasn't here. So I have been chipping away (ha - made a little joke there) at it all week, filling the rack in the basement and, as Boyfriend suggested I might, stacking the excess in lincoln log fashion on a palette outside. Maddeningly, the pile appears to be the same size as when I started. Also, my lincoln log structure? May not have perfectly straight edges.
Here's the thing: I want to do it myself. Why? Because I do. I get like this sometimes. Like a two-year-old. And I just know that Boyfriend is going to get a little twitchy about the non-straight edges and then he will want to help, and that will make me a little twitchy, because?
I WANT TO DO IT MYSELF!
As I see it, here are my options:
Option A: Find the nicest, calmest, most non-two-year-old way to say, "I so love the help but really, I can manage this one." Finish job over course of weekend (BY MYSELF - sorry, did I say that already?)
Option B: Retreat to kickass treadmill at first sign of lincoln log disassembly. Later, self-soothe with sight of neat, orderly stacked wood and disappearance of messy pile.
What do you think?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sweet, sweet firewood.
How ridiculous is it that I have been stressing for a week over the arrival of a pile of wood? Not that ridiculous, actually.
Winter, if you recall, is a neverending story in my world. (...This would be an ideal time to hyperlink to last winter's string of posts about the snow that would not end. Alas, do not know how to hyperlink. Please turn to November through March in your AficioNada handbooks.) New Englanders, in general, are all adither right now over the looming cost of heating our homes, and I base this wise declaration on the following:
1) I recently spent a Friday night with friends hanging out, drinking Grey Goose, eating spaghetti...and discussing the merits of pellet stoves.
2) Upon visiting M - one of abovementioned friends - a week later, found that she and Mr. M had purchased BOTH abovementioned pellet stove AND four cords of wood for fireplace. Four cords. Do you have inside information, M?
3) A few weeks ago, in the heating oil equivalent of Whipping It Out, a (female) co-worker and I engaged in a vigorous contest of "Who Can Pre-Buy Cheaper." Sadly, she beat me by ten cents a gallon.
What does it all mean? It means we're all freaking old. Cripe. We're getting our kicks from outdoing each other on how to stay warm. Ever hear of body heat? Or tequila shots?
It also means that I will be stacking wood for the next few evenings, just as summer has finally decided to show up. I'm actually looking forward to it, sense-of-accomplishment-driven girl that I am. Sick, I know. Wait til I tell you about my new workout regiment later...
Saturday, August 16, 2008
"Yes, hello, this is Tress. It's about seven o'clock on Thursday night and I have just come home from work to find that - yet again - my firewood delivery has not been made. I don't mean to be rude, but I've spoken to you three times since Sunday and each time you have said my delivery would be here the next day.
I was just wondering if there is some problem you'd like to tell me about. If there is - you know, if something is going to keep you from being able to make my delivery - I'd appreciate it if you'd just tell me. That way I can make other arrangements. Because, you know, I actually do need to get wood this year. Thank you."
Message I received back from Man With The Wood on Friday:
"Hi, this is Man With The Wood calling you back. I am so sorry. We just got back from vacation, and things have been a little backed up around here...I had some help, you know, making deliveries, but he's been really busy, too. I don't know if you realize this, but delivering wood is just PART TIME for me...you know, I have a REAL job, too...anyway, I will get that delivery out to you myself, it will be there TONIGHT."
Please note that the time is 7:40 pm on Saturday. I still have no wood.
Discuss amongst yourselves.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I am in a very bad mood this evening, for a variety of reasons. Normally I would not hoist my bad mood onto my blog for all to see, but I thought, perhaps, a little vulnerability might be endearing and, therefore, excused, just this once.
What is up with the mood, you ask? Well, for one thing, I went back to work yesterday. Although it was not exactly relaxing staying home with the Tornadoes for nine days on vacation, being forced to find ways to entertain them in the never-ending rain that ruled out almost all of our intended plans, it did accomplish one thing. It allowed me to forget, for a short period of time, how work has felt lately, which is - oh, how does one say - excruciating.
It is not always excruciating. In fact, what I do for a living is usually pretty gratifying, as it serves a very real purpose, and I enjoy helping people. I have worked very hard for many years to get to the point I am at and I (normally) take a healthy measure of personal satisfaction from a day's work. Except not so much recently. And especially not so much when, after nine consecutive rainy days off, the clouds completely vanish and the sky goes all cornflower blue for the first two days that I am back on the job. Add to that kick in the face the fact that I spent my first hour of my first day back engaged in an epic struggle with my bursting-at-the-seams inbox, and you have yourself an unpleasant return.
Now I know there are a handful of people out there from work who read this, so let me say right now, this here is just a little tantrum. Just a blip, nothing to get excited about. In fact, let's get back to that craw and see what else is stuck in thar...
Ah yes, there's the fact that I have been waiting for four days for a delivery of firewood that I was told would be delivered - well, four days ago. I should have known this would be problematic, because when it comes to trying to get any major task accomplished at home, what isn't? But I allowed myself to believe that when The Man With the Wood said it would be here on Monday that it would actually be here, and then when I called him on Tuesday and he said "So sorry, it will be there tomorrow morning" that it would actually be here the next morning. And here we are on Thursday night and alas: no firewood. So now, instead of being able to let off a little steam and simultaneously get a little exercise stacking wood, I am going to eat potato chips. Why? Because. Because of the real, actual reason that I am in a very bad mood tonight.
I am hormonal as hell.
Gentleman readers, you may want to step off now.
Returning to work happened to coincide with - insert whatever cutesy terminology you prefer - what I call Day One. Day One of what historically has been three to four days max which has, in the past year, become a mind-boggling six to eight days. In addition, Day One has come to include an absolutely enraging amount of physical agony AND this "hormonal as hell" feeling AND the sense that I have blown up to the size of a parade balloon. I brought this phenomenon up with my doctor a few months ago, fearing something had seriously gone haywire, and he quite nonchalantly responded, "oh, that's just part of getting older." Well, thanks a lot, buddy.
So what to do? Strenuous, sweat-inducing exercise is about the only thing that usually helps. Running is my poison of choice. I never thought I would say this, but I have come to love running. I have come to love it so much that I completely burned out the treadmill that my sister asked me to store in my basement for her (well I couldn't just let it sit there) and had to start running outdoors, which has made me love it even more, which lead to me cashing in a truckload of what I will call "Attagirl points" that I earned in this crazy incentive program at work to get a really kickass new treadmill for FREE, which is right at this moment sitting in a crate in my garage waiting to be set up, which isn't happening until this weekend when I will have some assistance, and seeing it sitting there, waiting, makes me feel sad and not much like running outside.
So. Potato chips.
That's about it. Back to work. Out of "Attagirl points." Getting older. No firewood. Treadmill in a crate.
Consider this craw officially emptied.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
And now I am watching the turkeys.
There is a family of wild turkeys living in my woods. They visit often, usually early in the morning. When I say "family," I'm talking Mom and Dad plus twelve babies. Twelve! Mom and Dad turkey are highly protective - and rightfully so, given their food group placement - and have managed to keep all twelve alive and together since springtime. Nice work, Mom and Dad turkey. The babies are even kind of cute. In a plumping-up-nicely kind of way.
Oh come on now, I'm just kidding.
Speaking of stuffing, though...time to get running!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Maybe if I were the kind of person who could lay perfectly still and be happy about it, things would be different. In fact, that's not really the problem, because I can lay perfectly still and be happy about it. Just not with children about.
So what have we done? Well, let's see. Since my last post, we went to the movies twice. Let me pause here and tell you that I am a complete movie theater freak. Totally in love with the whole "going to the movies" experience. Sadly, do not get to go much. Have been to the movies without the Tornadoes only twice in the past year, and both of those times were last month to see SATC. One of these occasions marked the first time I have ever been to the movies by myself, which - if you love going to the movies as I do - I HIGHLY recommend. Unless you can find an ideal moviegoing companion, as I did for my second viewing of SATC - my friend K, whom I cannot thank enough for being quiet and watching the movie and letting me sniffle in silence and again, very important, for being quiet. A belated thank you, K, really.
Tornadoes? Not ideal moviegoing companions. Starting with movie selection. My pick? Mamma Mia!
What we saw? Space Chimps.
Not bad enough that we went to Space Chimps. Tornadoes talk. and talk. and talk. all the way through Space Chimps. Don't ask me what the damn chimps accomplished in space, I don't know. I couldn't hear.
So on Friday I make them go to Mamma Mia! because, you know what? I'm on vacation, too.
Fortunately, they are highly distracted by the constant singing, so I am able to follow along this time. That is, until Fourth Grader throws herself into my lap toward the end and mashes her face up to mine to check if I am sniffling. She finds it comical that I sometimes get weepy at movies. Why is this funny? ...And yes, if you must know. I was a little weepy. And now a little irritated, because she is blocking my view of Pierce Brosnan.
And? It's still raining.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I have only just now made it upstairs to my laptop after spending the entire day scrubbing down my kitchen. Why on earth I invested a whole day in the gargantuan task of emptying cupboards and drawers, cleaning shelves, and then completely rearranging the layout of abovementioned cupboards and drawers, I don't know. But I take extreme pleasure in knowing that I have rid my house of all those kid's cups from TGI Friday's, and a little weirded out to know that I owned plastic taco holders. Oh, and two snow cone machines.
The taco holders went. The snow cone machines stayed. You never know when you might want a snow cone. And that kind of rationalizing comment is probably exactly how I ended up owning two snow cone machines.
So yesterday was Water Country day and it was great fun - except for the part where the sun never came out and we froze our butts off. The Tornadoes tackled all but the most daunting water slides and even managed to talk me into going down a few. By midafternoon we had all had enough. Naturally, as soon as we got home, the sun finally showed itself.
Oh well. It's projected to rain every day for the rest of the week. Apparently I will be spending tomorrow putting Second Grader's closet back together, as she and her friend have emptied it of all clothing, shoes, bags, etc., and dumped them in the middle of her room to make way for their fort/schoolhouse/doll nursery. Fourth Grader will be a breeze since she'll be sick in bed, having insisted that she and her friend should be permitted to play outside in the rain this afternoon. Whatever, kid.
Perhaps a nice snow cone will make her feel better.