Friday, February 27, 2009

Going Back to Cali, to Cali, to Cali...

Today is Fifth Grader's birthday. She is eleven years old. I'm a little weepy.

We have just returned home from honoring the tradition of the birthday dinner - the birthday girl chose Olive Garden for her fete - with one too many breadsticks before dinner and a spectacular gob of chocolate-filled chocolate cake afterward. Hello, food coma. However, as I fell asleep while writing my last post before having a chance to finish my vacation tale, I thought I better take a few minutes to do so. Then I will return to my coma.

So where did I leave off? Oh right, the arrival. So the trip from LAX to Miss S.'s house involved driving through a canyon, an experience that Third Grader came to call going "over the hill." She didn't like going "over the hill" for some reason, and every journey out of the house sparked the question "Do we have to go over the hill to get there?" No idea what the issue was with that "hill". might have been the poor man in distress that we encountered during our virgin canyon crossing, the one whose car conked out on him at the very top and who wildly flagged us down (a car full of women and children, please note) to ask if he could borrow our cell phone. We did not oblige, following the natural Mama Bear instinct to Protect the Children, and the girls puzzled over the man's possible fate for the rest of our stay.

It was a short trip overall - only three days - but Miss S. did a wonderful job of filling it with activity. Long Beach Aquarium on Saturday, where Fifth Grader, in particular, really dug petting the sharks and sting rays; local farmers' market on Sunday, where we sampled delectable fruit and spotted celebrities (hello, Willie Garson from SATC). Pottery painting Sunday afternoon, a charming canyon hike and then Hollywood Boulevard on Monday. Just enough sightseeing to wow the Tornadoes and busyness to wear out the toddler, intertwined with rest periods at the house so the girls could "play backyard" with little E. and I could impersonate a slug on the couch. Oh, the slugness of vacation without an itinerary: it is a beautiful thing. Beautiful for the slug, at least. Not so helpful to the hostess - but hey, I did bring two babysitters-in-training with me, right? And it was really lovely to see this other, caregiving side of the girls. (Lovely to watch them, poignant to realize this means they aren't babies anymore themselves).

I wish I had planned things to be able to stay longer than three days, if only so we could have made it to the beach once. I almost left wishing that Miss S. and I could have worked in a chance to go out one night sans kids. Every night we determined to go out, and almost every night we were both too wiped out by sunset to follow through. We did, thankfully, manage to sneak out for dinner and girl talk on my last night there - an evening that I hope to cover further in this weekend's column. All in all, it was a perfect reprieve from life-as-usual.

Having said that, life-as-usual has been particularly rough going this week since we got back. I sort of knew that was going to happen. But life is life, isn't it, and sometimes you just have to deal. I'm sure it won't be long until I am itching to get out of town again for a few days (it never takes long).

Meanwhile, little girls, we'll always have L.A.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is That A Banana In Your Carry On, Or Are You Happy To See Me?

Hello. We're back. We have been on vacation, and have senselessly returned home.

I expected that I would write a little bit while we were in California, perhaps provide a running commentary of our trip, but I have to confess that I pretty much completely checked out of my own daily life out there. I'm not going to apologize. There is a pretty hefty amount of stress in my life at the moment - nothing I can't handle, I don't think, just a lot of things bubbling over at once - and it felt wonderfully liberating to be thousands of miles away from it for a few days. So I will try to hit the highlights of our trip now, and possibly may need a few nights to do it justice.

It began with a banana. Actually, it began with a rampant bout of OCD packing on my part, which means I spent as much time packing the three of us for our five day trip as we spent on the actual trip. I am a chronic overpacker. But I was hell bent on not having to check any bags, so I arranged and rearranged our stacks of clothes and then switched bags a few times and ultimately managed to get each of us not only within the one carry on and one personal item limits but also still somehow slightly overpacked. In addition to being a crazed woman at the suitcase, I am also slightly obsessed with my children's fiber intake. So, as an act of maternal love, I filled their bags with a variety of healthy snacks for the plane including, as a last minute stroke of brilliance, a banana for Third Grader.

We braved the two hour drive into Boston in Friday morning rush hour traffic, then the ridiculously long haul on foot from Central Parking to our terminal lugging six bags, and made it to our gate a comfortable thirty minutes before boarding. This is when I should have noticed that Third Grader's pant legs were damp, but I did not. I didn't notice, in fact, until we were in our seats on the plane, at which time it was much too late. Seems the banana didn't make the commute so well. Seems the little bastard wriggled its way from the top of her bag, where I placed it, to the bottom of the bag, and was jostled and banged about enough to burst open and generously spread itself all over all of the other contents. Banana-covered Mad Libs, banana-covered iPod, banana-covered book, and, most upsetting, banana-covered Nintendo DS. Which stopped working and still has not started working again, six days later. If anyone has any words of reassurance to offer me about personal electronics that cost a lot of money to replace surviving an attack of squishy food, I am all ears.

We arrived in L.A. in the afternoon and were greeted by Miss S. and Little E., the most precious 2 year old I have ever laid eyes on. Maybe it was the banana fumes, but I think all three of us pretty much instantly fell in love with the little guy. The girls took about a hundred pictures of him in the car on the way to the house and spent a good part of the rest of that day studying him, playing with him, and just generally gushing over him.

I have now arrived at the end of our first day - in essence, our travel day - and I must stop. I must stop because, perhaps you didn't notice, I just accidentally dozed off. In the middle of writing. This might mean I need to get some sleep. I will come back tomorrow night to finish.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Fastest Post I Have Ever Written

It's 8:30 p.m.-ish on Thursday, and while I wait for the Tornadoes to finish their baths, hairdrying and teeth brushing, I thought I'd say hi. Hi!

I'm very disappointed in the recent lack of attention I have been paying to my blog. I'm even more disappointed in my recent lack of attention to other people's blogs. Reading your blogs has become part of my daily routine, and I have certainly felt the absence. And? I am totally amazed that those two sentences just came out of my...well, my keyboard, I guess. It wasn't all that long ago that I could barely conceal my disdain for the blogosphere, and now here I am fully entrenched in it. How did this happen? Did I actually embrace something new? Or is it all ultimately inescapable?

All this adaptation makes my head hurt. Take facebook. As I believe I told you, I relented a few weeks ago and joined. Reluctantly, but I joined. I joined mainly because I wanted to stay in better touch with a handful of people who have been, and continue to be, important and relevant to my current life. I did not go seeking out long lost friends, classmates, and coworkers. Of course, I did hope to come across some of these people, for the purely selfish purpose of introducing them to my blog and column. Did I just say that? My god, I have embraced this...anyway, so as I have gone through the process of very selectively "friending" people I haven't talked to in years, I have experienced the strangest sensation. Connection.

Okay, a few of the initial old/new again friends have turned out to still be fairly irrelevant to my current life. I tried. Still, it was nice to see what they are up to these days, exchange some nice words, and feel all warm and fuzzy about it for a little while. And then move on. But as the days (and weeks) wear on, I find myself reconnecting with some people who mattered very much to me in the past...and, it turns out, still matter to me. Half a dozen close friends of mine from high school. A whole slew of people from elementary school just in the past week.

And that part blows my mind the most. I definitely felt like the world's squarest peg right up through junior high, but I am getting the sense that most of these "kids" felt that way about themselves to a degree as well. Everyone seems fully able to laugh at themselves now. Many of these "kids" have actually turned out to be adults that I would actually like to get to know.

All of this "connecting" means, of course, that my highly developed sense of cynicism has been put to the test. I refuse to give up my cynicism. But I can't deny that I am intrigued, and in some cases even excited.

So we are off to L.A. in the morning. Which means I need to wrap this up and try to wrangle those girls into their beds. Miss S., also known as "girl who is primarily responsible for getting me involved in blogging/facebook," is most likely connected to the internet - so perhaps I will deliver a west coast post. I'm sure a little time in la la land will do wonders to revive my cynical core. One can only hope.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Apparently, I Really Need It

We are heading out to L.A. at the end of the week to visit Miss S. and family for a little vacation. Yay!

Vacation is not really my strong point. I'm getting better at it, but it takes some doing for me to really relax. In fact, I wrote about it here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentines Shmalentines

The Tornadoes got on the bus this morning, armed with a box each of those little valentine's day cards for their friends. Remember handing out valentine's day cards in school? Some years the teachers were really into it and had us all make these elaborate "mailboxes" to receive our fond wishes. Other years - when teacher woke up on the cynical side of the bed - we simply walked around the room and dropped our cards on each other's desks. Then we ate a cookie and quickly rifled through our piles to see if the cute boy we liked had thought of us. Preferably not with a Hot Wheels valentine, but if so, with some kind of hint that he had set aside the most special of the Hot Wheels design just for us.

Or was that just me?

I seem to recall this whole "girls and boys liking each other" thing starting much younger for us. Fifth Grader has alluded to liking a particular boy since the beginning of fourth grade, but she's certainly not all moon eyed about it. Today's V-day party doesn't appear to mean anything more to each of them than that they get to eat sugary snacks when they would normally be doing math. I should be relieved, I suppose.

I'm kind of conflicted on the whole Valentine's Day thing. I don't really buy into the idea as a rule. I distinctly remember feeling annoyed when my former husband used to present me with some ridiculous box of chocolate or a teddy bear holding a heart. In fact, I wanted to scream. How many years do you have to know someone before it sinks in that this person doesn't like chocolate, nor are they seven years old? Plus, the day has absolutely no relevance to my own personal relationships, so why must it be held up as "special?" The whole thing reeks of corniness.

And yet, I am a romantic. Stop laughing. Seriously. I can't say that I really ever believed in love, or even romance, until not so long ago - which made it a lot easier for me to ridicule this silly made-up "holiday" - but things have happened, and I have more faith in the existence of love than I used to have. And what surprises me the most about that realization is that it doesn't seem to make anything any easier. At least, not always easier.

Anyway, here's my point. I have to pick up a little something for the girls to give to them tomorrow. And I am thinking I may peruse the cards for an appropriate fond wish for Boyfriend. I don't think I have bought a valentine card for anyone of the male gender since the sixth grade, and if memory serves, that didn't go so well. So I'm a bit wound up about doing it right. What if I overplay it? Maybe I should just grab one with a picture of two basset hounds staring into each other's eyes on the cover, with some goofy understated sentiment inside. That just feels all wrong. On second thought, this seems like a bad idea altogether.

I've never wanted it to be February 15 so badly in my life.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Tale of Ten Emilys

So I think I have figured out something really cool. Well, really cool for me - for you, maybe not such a big deal. Anyway, I seem to have hit upon the sweet spot of all the possible menial job assignments at these never ending gymnastics meets. And they call it scoring.

Now, don't be silly and confuse scoring with judging. Scoring is simply arming oneself with a palm pilot that speaketh to the scoreboard, sitting at one of the judge's tables, and punching in the scores determined by said judge. Very little brain power required. Plus, sometimes there's candy. This job has erroneously come to be regarded as one of skill, and the idea of operating a handheld computer for some reason scares some parents away. This is good, because they are needed to fill other jobs that I don't want to do. Like selling hot dogs and raffle tickets. For instance, Jane Fonda does excellent work at the food table, while also providing the necessary deterrent for me (with merely her presence) to not buy brownies I don't need. Everyone's happy.

This weekend I - um, scored - a scoring assignment at both the Saturday and Sunday meets. One of the pluses about this job is you are right out there on the floor, so you can generally see your own kid's entire rotation without the annoying distraction of other parents jumping up in front of you with their stupid camcorders. I mean, really, is it necessary to record every moment of every single meet? Are you making the kid study the game film? Have you saved nothing for college? Anyway, another rather obvious plus is you get a pretty good idea of how this thing is going down, at least on your assigned event, because the whole roster of eighty-plus girls is right there in front of you and you know how every single one did.

About that roster: What was going on circa 2000 that caused so many women to name their daughters Emily? I have never seen so many girls named Emily in one place in my life. And if not Emily, then Hannah. If not Hannah, then Madison. That's about it. Eighty girls, three names. Madison suffers the most variation of spelling. This may have seemed charming and unique at the girl's birth, but it's going to cause her no end of practical aggravation throughout the rest of her life. What are women thinking to spell their daughter's names phonetically? I just don't understand it. We're smarter than this.

I'm happy to report that, in the midst of this plethora of Emilys, both of my girls came away from their respective sessions feeling successful. It's frequently one or the other that does well; thankfully this time we got a twofer.

Best of all, only one more home meet to go! One more crock pot contribution, one more dreadful cleanup, and one more round of Emilys, Hannahs, and Madisons.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Is There a Recession In Fairyland?

Third Grader lost a molar over the weekend. She concerns herself a great deal with making the right impression, so the tooth had to soak in a cup for two days before it was worthy of presentation to the Tooth Fairy. This ritual of hers causes me a mild amount of anxiety - so far, she has always made me aware of when the tooth finally passes inspection and can be placed in the tooth pillow which is then placed under her own pillow. She's a bit of a pillow freak, that one. It's rather important for me to witness under WHICH pillow it goes, or else we might face disasters unknown in the wee hours of the night.

So under a pillow it went, and we all went to bed. The Tooth Fairy did not make her appearance until 5 a.m. this morning, having fallen asleep in her book the night before and accidentally forgetting her duties. Oops. She tiptoed downstairs to get her purse. It seems, however, that the Tooth Fairy had only enough cash on hand to give to Fifth Grader for snowboarding snacks and dinner later that day. So she very quietly rummaged through the box of loose change she keeps around and came up with eight quarters. In case you didn't know, two dollars is the minimum going price for a 2009 molar. She taped the quarters together in a little bundle and tiptoed back upstairs.

Having witnessed the placement of the tooth the night before, the Tooth Fairy found it relatively easy to retrieve for the swap. She also found a note. Startled, she carried the tooth pillow and note into the bathroom to read it. It read:

"Dear Tooth Fairy,

Instead of money this time, what I would really like is the 500 pack of Bend a Roos. You don't have to. Love, Third Grader.

p.s. If you could leave me the Bend a Roos, it would be a dream come true."

This created a quandary for the Tooth Fairy. She does not like to disappoint. She considered the situation. First of all, she didn't happen to have a 500 pack of Bend a Roos lying around. Also, she really didn't want to end up on the front page of the Fairyland Times for providing exorbitant gifts during a difficult time. (Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and Cupid is already in a panic.) So, she found a pen and wrote a reply in her very worst cursive on the back of the note:

"I am sorry, I have only money to give. Perhaps this is enough for you to buy your dream come true."

She totally knew the eight quarters were not enough, but that's how it goes. She slipped the quarters in the pillow and slid everything back under Third Grader's sleeping head.

Third Grader awoke and was not at all disappointed. In fact, she loves to buy things for herself and has been stockpiling Christmas and birthday money for quite some time. Before school, she placed a pencil and paper on the coffee table. Her mission tonight, she announced, is to write down the phone number from the Bend a Roos commercial.