Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Me, Myself and I

Fifth Grader and I are hanging around the house together today. Eating a little mac and cheese. Watching a little "Hook". Your standard "Mama, I don't feel so good" kind of day.

Fortunately, Fifth Grader is not feeling so unwell that she is retching into a toilet or burning up with fever - just your run of the mill headache/tummyache combination, coupled with the fact that 11 of the 24 children in her class missed school on Monday, seemed like justification enough to give the lass a day or two of downtime to rest. And allows me to say, without looking like a complete ass, that I'm feeling slightly gleeful about the whole thing. Does that mean I want her to be sick? Of course not. But I can't deny that I am enjoying her company - her restful, thoughtful, movie-loving, magic-believing company, which restores my faith in humanity at-small. (As opposed to humanity at-large, humanity at-small encompasses merely my immediate circle of humans. Most days, that is enough for me to grapple with.) And that makes me feel less lonely.

Lonely, you say? Yes, I reply. And it is probably my own doing. Although I can't figure out what I could have done differently that might have produced non-lonely results. I'm talking about a particular aspect of my life, mind you; I'm struggling to find the right word to name this aspect, but for current lack of a better option I'll call it the Peter Pan aspect. (Seems fitting as we are watching "Hook" for the second time today.) This is the part of me that still desperately wants to believe in Santa Claus; that still reads the Sunday comics every week and looks forward to doing so; that feels an inner connection to Charles Schulz and those "Peanuts"; that simply loves just about every movie Pixar has made, and could watch them all over and over and over. And for the most part, I feel a sense of pride in all of these facets of my character. Because that's what they are: they are part of my character, of my being. They are hopeful, childlike, slightly cosmic. Their perspective informs my view of the world. And I am grateful for that.

But lately, I feel like the Peter Pan in me is endangered. And occasionally I experience a twinge of what can only be embarrassment. It's pretty unpleasant. Seventh Grader is pretty good at inducing it, as you can imagine. It was one thing for the three of us to curl up on the couch and watch "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" together when she was, say, six. But now? I must endure the eye-rolling and the sloooww drag away from the computer, and the inevitable hidden cell phone texting in the corner of the couch during the actual thirty minute encounter. Fifth Grader, still in eager-t0-please mode, is much more enthusiastic about such things. Still, it is more and more apparent that she is indulging me as much as herself. To borrow a phrase from Future Husband's perspective on such things, Fifth Grader appears to be "doing her time".

So the holiday season is upon us now, and I am feeling lonely. And fretful. Where normally I would feel joyous and full of anticipation. Next week is Thanksgiving. Then we begin the slow, mad descent into Christmas. Black Friday. The tree. The Nutcracker. The decorating. The music. Where is my joy? Where is my contagious anticipation? Why, oh why, did those kids have to tell Fifth Grader that Santa doesn't exist?

I think I will have try a Red Cup cure. Is the gingerbread latte out yet? Sigh.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An Open Letter

Dear Seventh Grader,

You know that saying, "You're driving me crazy"? Seriously, I really think that you are. Driving me crazy. Look no further than this godforsaken twitch in my right eye. Did you see it just then? No? In fairness to you, I don't see how you could have noticed it, since I don't think you have actually looked me in the eye since your last birthday. But eye contact might be overrated. Conversation is really the key to a mutually loving relationship...of course, those are pretty hard to come by with you as well these days. No wait! I think we had one last weekend. It was fleeting, and of course I initiated it. It's a pretty amazing talent you have there, the whole talking without actually opening your mouth thing. Can't say that I comprehend many of the words coming out. But who needs to understand what you're saying when I can get the gist of it from your facial expressions?

One thing you could do for me? Just a little thing. Won't take up much of your valuable texting time. When I am pulling up in front of your school in the morning to drop you off, I'd REALLY appreciate it if you would not leap out of the vehicle while it's still moving. I know this maneuver spares you the agony of having to actually say goodbye to me. But as the driver, it is highly unnerving to have your passenger exit in this fashion. I promise not to hug you or smile in your direction or anything embarrassing like that. In fact, I've been practicing that whole mumble mouth thing? And I think I can manage "Have a great day" without moving my lips now! Let's just give it a try tomorrow. I won't visibly acknowledge your presence, you wait until the car comes to a complete stop before getting out of it. Deal?

I know you are going to find this hard to believe, what with all the expressions of frustration that are flying around both of our heads recently. But I happen to love you. Don't roll your eyes at me when I tell you I love you! If you rolled your eyes at me just a fraction less, I might even like you. Now that would be something, wouldn't it? I seem to recall that you can be pretty darn likeable. Clearly, your friends find you likeable. All four million of them. Then again, I bet you don't roll your eyes at them. That's a classic move, by the way, the eye rolling. I bet you think you invented it. Nuh uh. Girls have been pissing their mothers off with that one since the beginning of time. It's damn effective.

Also, I bet if you could keep your eyes still in your head for a minute, and maybe even temporarily focus them in my direction, you might notice something truly riveting. A mind-blowing something that you could tell all your friends. They may not believe you, but seeing is believing, right? Know what you'll see? That your mother is...get this...a PERSON! A real person! Multi-faceted! With hopes and goals and dreams of her own! And feelings! And a whole lot of stuff on her plate! Who likes to be liked! And doesn't like to be dismissed! I know, it's out there. But it's true.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. I don't want to send you off the rails with the rest of it. I'll just give you a hint. If you were to look in my direction - you know, just long enough to absorb the reality of my being a person - and if you were to keep looking, just a teensy extra minute longer, you might pick up the faintest glowing edges of something else. Only a reflection, actually. A bit of light coming off some unknown source. That source? It's the sun. Like I said, this might be more than you want to know right now. But keep that sun in mind, okay? Because someday, on some test, you may be asked what the world revolves around. And it might seem natural to answer that question a certain way, but trust me. That answer is incorrect.

Hv a grt dy! Lv U!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Maybe the Leaflets are Embroidered

Now that the boxes are unpacked (for the most part) and the contractor is gone (though, interestingly, not finished with the job) and we have befriended our new neighbors (befriended might be an overstatement. More like welcomed all of their children into our home while seeing pretty close to nothing of the parents), I've determined that it's time to take a look around this new town of ours.

My first impression: it's pretty Townie.

It's strange to be the new person in town. All of my experience with this has been in places where I have spent a fair amount of time there already. But the view of any town is different when you live there. Midway through my sophomore year of high school, for instance, my parents decided it would be just perfect to buy a house in a town twenty-five miles north of the only one in which I had ever lived, thereby ripping me away from everyone and everything I had ever known. Truthfully, in many ways this ended up being one of the best turning points in my life. The original friends who were truly my friends are still my friends today. Plus I made a bunch of new friends. And I was able to stop skidding down the path I was surely on to becoming a reclusive Goth and develop some actual social skills. So thanks for that, Mom and Dad. My point, however, is that the "new" town was actually the place where my parents would take me as a child when they wanted to have a rip-roaring "Family Day." We mostly went to the mall. It seemed pretty cool back then, but that same mall today is kind of old and stale. Going to the mall is fine, but moving is something else entirely. This will be the subject of my eventual blockbuster novel written for the angsty "tween" market. But I guess I'll need to insert some zombies or something.

Returning to present day, I actually worked in Townie town for a few years and sent both of the Tornadoes to preschool here. Let me just say that the preschool was not some super-exclusive place with a forty-year waiting list. It was just a regular preschool, strongly recommended by a friend, that initially was very convenient because I worked in town, but became a major pain in the behind once I found myself working in another town. (Ironically, in the town where I lived as a child. Before all the ripping and turning point stuff took place. It will all be in the novel.) Where was I? Oh, yes, Townie town. So I've done a little looking around now, beyond all the places where I used to order lunch. Here are three observations I have made:

They sure do like diners. It seems odd to me that a town of this size can support such a large number of diners. There are downtown diners, drive in diners, off the highway diners. And they're all pretty busy. Doesn't anyone know how to cook an egg around here? I would have killed for a diner in our last town - the one in the middle of nowhere - just for a chance to go out for breakfast once in a while without involving the whole rest of the day in the commute. But this seems like too much of a good thing. There is one particular diner that I pass every morning that is currently advertising 99 cent ice cream cups on its marquee. Who is this sign for? Is this supposed to lure me away from the competing diners? Or is it some kind of global warming commentary, advertising ice cream in the middle of October? What happened to the Sunday all-you-can-eat buffet?

There's a craft fair at the high school this weekend. I know this because it is being advertised all over town via giant handmade signs that are stuck into people's front lawns. As though the craft fair were running for office. Which come to think of it, I may have to go find out how those craft people feel about a few issues. This could sway my vote. Seriously, why is everyone in town so all about this craft fair? I've been to my fair share of these things. Not one of them has been thrilling enough to evoke this kind of mass euphoria. Maybe it's code. Maybe there's going to be a revolution. It's a good thing I bought that cow.

Are there any parents around here? Hello? Maybe I shouldn't share this observation. On the off chance that I actually become friends with one or more of these parents, and they inadvertently read my blog, this could be considered offensive. But who am I kidding? Nobody is reading my blog. So here is basically what I mean. Within days of moving in, the Tornadoes ensnared the interest of every kid between the ages of 7 and 17 within a one mile radius. They all congregate in a giant blob in front of our house. Except when they're inside our house. Now I kind of like that their new friends are comfortable with me and with Future Husband. We both enjoy that Seventh Grader's friends have come to expect that we will be their ride to school on rainy days. It's nice that we've figured out to buy five times as much tomato juice as usual so that Fifth Grader's friend from two doors down will always have a ready supply. This would all be a great deal more fun, however, if the contractor would come back and finish the basement like he was supposed to. That way the kids could all go downstairs and hang out, instead of taking over my kitchen, until their parents call them to go home. Which, by the way, they don't do. So when I tell Seventh Grader to come in the house once it gets dark outside? I look like a big ball of mean. Because apparently all the other kids are allowed to roam the neighborhood indefinitely.

I guess I can't help wondering where I fall on the parenting spectrum. In our former town, I found the overall parenting standard to be Rampant Overinvolvement - to the point where it became difficult to discern the children from the parents at times. Here? Well, the kids are all wearing shoes and seem to be attending school regularly. Good signs indeed. But where are they getting the shoes? Not entirely clear. And why can't anyone else's mother ever pick up from a school dance or movie?

You know what I think? They're all off getting ready for the "craft fair." Well that's fine. I'll just stay here, cook up some steaks for the kids.

Maybe later we'll all go out for ice cream cups.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Date Night and The Other Man

Now that Future Husband - and Seventh Grader and Fifth Grader - and I are cohabitating, I felt it enormously important to insist upon a regularly scheduled weekly "date night". Just me and Future Husband. Alone. Doing whatever. Initially, I had a whole bunch of creative ideas for what might constitute the "whatever" of these specially set aside two hours. But the effort of thinking up all those ideas was so exhausting that I'm pretty sure we'll end up simply agreeing upon the Restaurant of the Week, throwing back a few watered down drinks and a nice piece of fish, and hastily making out in the car before one of us reluctantly volunteers to pick up the Tornadoes at gymnastics practice.

The non-picker-upper will be faced with going home for a little "alone time", (which is code for "Relax, but not too much or you'll fall asleep, for crying out loud DON'T FALL ASLEEP! Date's not over! Must! Stay! Awake! ...Maybe I'll my eyes for a few minutes...*cue pillow-drooling*...). The picker-upper will have to resign him or herself to the fact that whatever mild aphrodisiac buzz may have been earlier set alight will now, most likely, be killed by the extended break in events. And will have to be conjured up all over again from scratch if called upon. Which it won't be. Because the non-picker-upper is unconscious.

At least that's how it went last night.

We haven't actually managed to pull off too many of these "date nights". In fact, when I think about it, last night was only the second in the roughly eight weeks we've been in cohabitation mode. This has been a point of frustration for me, one I have made known to Future Husband. Points to be made with Future Husband - I have learned the hard way - must be cushioned in a nest of the softest possible introduction, using a minimum number of sentences that begin with the word "You." Figuring out how to express dissatisfaction to him has become a bit of an art form for me. A creative outlet, if you will. Not that I find myself dissatisfied with a lot of things. Just a few. Date night is not the ideal place to practice this form of personal expression, but last night I found the opportunity to outline this handful of items (gently, in hushed tones, while wearing my new sweater) positively irresistible. They were as follows:

1. What's with the lack of date nights? As I said, we are eight or so weeks into this new living arrangement. The monotony is absolutely killing me. It turns out that, while not killing him, the monotony has been at least noticeable to Future Husband and has caused him at least a moderate degree of discomfort as well. That made me happy. We were able to revisit the way we'd like our life together to be - which is NOT monotonous - as we have dreamily talked about together on many occasions leading up to cohabitation. And while I may find the very concept of "date night" to be about as glaringly symptomatic of monotony as is possible, I was able to voice my insistence that we must carve out this time to, if nothing else, continue to talk dreamily about all the ways we will not become monotonous. Point made.

1. What's with your boyfriend? Future Husband has a male friend with whom he is particularly close. I'm talking to you, CB. Future Husband and CB speak by phone two to five times per day. It's weird.

True, he lives several hours away in an entirely different state. True also, I consider him and his wife to be friends of mine as well. We've vacationed with them. CB's wife was highly instrumental in the design of my engagement ring. They're good people. But seriously. Two to five times. Per day. Very frequently these calls take place when Future Husband and I are in a car together. And they consist of approximately this:

FH: Hey.
CB: Hey.
FH: Heading to the office.
CB: No s**t. Me too.
FH: Talk to you later.
CB: Yuh.

One or two of their daily conversations are longer than this. CB is particularly fond of ending all sentences with the words "and s**t", so it might sound something like this:

FH: Got much going on today?
CB: Yeah, I have some appointments and s**t. Thinking about knocking off early, go drink some beers and s**t.
FH: Yeah, that's cool. Talk to you later.
CB: Yuh.

Really, this is their relationship. And the thing is, I'm jealous. What I'm jealous of is the fact that Future Husband has someone, other than me, that he can reach out and talk to every day. Even if, technically, I wouldn't really call that talking. Women cannot have conversations like that. There must be substance. Substance is time-consuming, and all the women with whom I am friends are very busy people. As am I. So I don't have any daily calls. I don't even have any weekly calls. And so I am a little jealous of the man-love between CB and Future Husband. No need to curb it, or do anything differently. Just voicing a little frustration and s**t.

3. When are we GETTING MARRIED???? ...Actually, this didn't come up last night. Nor do I think it ever will, at least not in that manner. I'm kind of digging being engaged. Not that I want to be just engaged forever and ever. I'm sure there is a limit, somewhere out there. But I haven't given it a lot of thought yet. In fact, I thought for sure that if there was even one point of dissatisfaction that Future Husband would reciprocate with last night, it would be "What's with not remembering to tell people the good news?" Because I do forget a lot, when we see people whom we haven't seen in a while, to tell them about the engagement. If it were him forgetting, I might be bothered by that. But he didn't bring it up. So either he was ruminating on what I had said, or it isn't an issue. Why isn't it an issue? Doesn't he think I should be shouting it from the rafters? Is there a problem I don't know about?

We'll have to discuss this on our next date.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I'll Take Eleven Chuck Roasts, A Dozen Ribeyes, and Thirty Pounds of Hamburger. And Another Piece of Pie, Please.

I have just returned home from a lovely dinner at an old friend's house where we discussed, primarily, the ideal way to hack up a cow. Lots of fun.

We didn't lead with cow-hacking, because that would have just been weird. This is a friend whom I have not seen face-to-face quite literally since high school graduation. And honestly, I don't exactly remember what time I may have spent with her on that specific day. There was a lot going on. But thanks to the miracle of social networking, I have been able to reconnect with said friend. We have "chatted" and what have you over the past year or so. Catching up with her has been one of a variety of positive experiences I have had since I reluctantly dipped my Luddite toe ever further into the realm of twenty-first century communication.

Another of these positive experiences took place a month or so ago, when I was reunited with another high school friend, whom I have also not seen since the fated step-up into the real world. This other friend - CG, we'll call her - showed up at my house to carry away a desk that I was not taking with me to the new home. Drove multiple hours to get to my house, in fact. We then found that we did not have the collective strength to carry the desk down the walkway, so we proceeded to empty her car of blankets and random two-by-fours to craft a device for dragging the desk across the lawn. I didn't ask why she had 2x4's in her car. Because I remember her in high school. Anyway, then she left to drive multiple hours back home. It was nice. But odd.

So back to the original friend. We'll just call her C. So we had occasion to get together this evening for dinner, and continue the catching up process, with the excuse that we needed to discuss how to cut up the grass-fed cow that we had decided to purchase together. Well, half a cow, actually. Anyway, according to the cow's current custodian, it seems the time has arisen to prepare for its arrival. So C and her husband had us all over for dinner (a fine barbecued rib roast, thank you husband-of-C, who also bakes a mean apple pie.)

After dinner, Husband-of-C presented a diagram of a cow. The four of us - C, Husband-of-C, myself and Future Husband, then took a trip around the cow, in sections, and I now know precisely where the meat for steak fajitas originates. Husband-of-C was quite knowledgeable about the regions of cow. Apparently, there is some butcher shop experience somewhere back in his youth. This was a relief. I fear that, without him, I may have just elected to grind up my whole quarter of a cow into hamburger. There are lots of ways to use hamburger, you know. Fortunately, Husband-of-C was able to educate us to a degree about the various kinds of roasts one can procure from the Round Region. And the answer to "why can't we select both porterhouse AND filet mignon"? Well, I doubt I can relay it in any kind of educated fashion, but you just can't have both. But you can have strip steaks with your filet. So that's good news.

Our take on this joint cow purchase will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 pounds of meat. I'm feeling a little Ted Nugent-y about the whole thing, to be honest. But I've done a fair share of nutrition reading this year, and this seems like a wise decision for a family that is going to eat red meat anyway. And for a woman who has always secretly wanted to own a deep freezer. Which I guess we will be purchasing in the near future. Because the cow is coming. And he'll need a home.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This is Me On Fumes

Seventh Grader amuses me. She amuses me greatly. This evening, she is amusing me by making her way around the house in the manner of a 90-year-old woman. This is the direct result of being two days into gymnastics camp after three months of root beer and Teen Nick. But you know, her thumbs are in excellent shape from all that texting.

Fifth Grader also amuses me. She is not amusing me so much tonight, because she is in TV mode. She is borderline catatonic when she's in TV mode. I'd object on grounds of wanting to appear Super Mom-like, but hey. I gave that gig up. I'm now going for Average Mom.

You know what is not amusing me so much? Moving. Packing. My house being in shambles. The fact that the moving truck is arriving at Boyfriend's apartment tomorrow, and the new house is still not done. Seriously. Not. Done. I'm pretty sure the paint will literally be drying on the walls as the movers unload the truck. This? Not effing amusing.

Somewhat lightening the frustration for me today was my follow up visit to the U Haul store to buy more boxes. The nice man at the store inquired as to what college I would be attending. Nice, nice U Haul box-selling man.

This seems like a pretty good time to tell you that Boyfriend is now officially Future Husband. Don't take offense, but a whole slew of people needed to be told personally before I felt I could mention it here. Of course, if you are reading this, you are probably one of those people anyway. So in case you weren't really paying attention the first time, Boyfriend and I are engaged. And if I haven't told you the proposal story, don't look to read about it here. It was lovely and romantic and not at all exasperating, and therefore not suitable for publishing in this venue.

So we are engaged, and in mere days we will be living under the same roof. And of the myriad of things I could possibly be worrying about relative to giving up my status as Single Mom Extraordinaire, here's what is weighing on my mind: will I still be able to read in bed?

I am far too tired to worry about anything more. Perhaps I should sleep.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beige, With a Hint of Bite Me

I am so done with this house renovation. Seriously.

We are approximately five weeks away from moving day. I am contemplating spending this remaining time in a state of perpetual drunkenness. But first I have to confirm a few things. Namely, will being drunk exempt me from having to look at a single other sample of tile? How about paint samples? If I promise to show up completely reeking of hard liquor, will I be allowed to just sit in the car outside the showroom?

At this point, actually, the majority of the picking out has been done. As of this morning, in fact. Thanks to Boyfriend and Contractor - who took it upon themselves to make Trip Number Three to stand outside in the beating hot sun and stare at giant slabs of rock with the purpose of selecting just the right slabs from which to carve bathroom countertops - I no longer need to fear that we will be taking turns brushing our teeth outside with the garden hose. Trip Number Two should have gotten the job done. I know, because I was involved in Trip Number Two. As was the paid consultant with whom we spent it. Said consultant paraded chunk after chunk of rock in front of us at the counter in her showroom until we all agreed that rock # 18 and rock #35 were absolutely perfect. Sadly, said consultant did not confirm that pieces of rocks #18 and #35 were actually available in inventory. She was smart enough to know that the chunks of rock retrieved by Boyfriend during Trip Number One were all wrong, but apparently was not smart enough to know that the actual available inventory could be found online. Hence, Trip Number Three.

Now the key will be for the vanities to show up on time to be installed so that the Slab of Rock People can take the proper measurements for cutting the chosen slabs of rock. Of course, even if they show up on time, it will be important that Contractor first get the staircase leading to the second floor rebuilt. Because the last time I stopped by? No staircase. Curious.

For the record, our original plans called for new paint. That's all. Okay, maybe take out some old carpets and sand the floors. But primarily it was paint. How hard is paint? I'll tell you how hard. Somewhere around three hundred dollars worth of paint samples, generously swabbed on every available wall, only to find that most things called "gray" are actually purple. And oh! Sometimes they change the names of the paints without telling you! And green? Is really, really hard to get right. The Tornadoes both want green bedrooms, preferably lime green, but not the SAME lime green. You can say eww, it's all right.

I believe that trying to solve the lime green crisis is how we ultimately ended up with the paid consultant. She claimed finality, and an end to the color swabs, and the clouds parted and the cherubim sang. Then she arrived for the first consultation, and she was armed. With questions. About bedding and window treatments and furniture and WHERE IS THE DAMN TYLENOL? This, on top of the fact that, as I mentioned, the countertop samples were all wrong, led us to spend two hours last Sunday in her showroom seeking to once and for freaking all get these colors picked and be done with it. So we did. W picked beige. Oh sorry, I mean sandstone. And cabot something or other. I think. Something about a field, or a garden, whatever. Beige. And for Fifth Grader, something called Stem Green which is a lot like lime green but not disgustingly neon. For Seventh Grader, Mermaid Green. Mermaid Green is actually blue. It's distinctly different from Stem Green. Because it's blue. And Seventh Grader hates it. She cried giant, colorless tears.

So sometime next week, Seventh Grader and I are going to see the consultant together. She seems to have moved on from lime green and would now like electric blue. So this should only take three or four more trips.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why I Might Run Away

I made a decision this year to scale back on the amount of summer camp to which I subjected the Tornadoes. And, subsequently, to which I subjected my wallet. So it seemed like a pretty good idea at the time. Last summer, as I was only a few months into the New Job, I pretty much drove them straight from the last day of school to a 10 week succession of adventure camps, acting camps, gymnastics camps, run-around-in-a-bathing-suit-all-day-and-learn-slightly-crude-limericks-from-other-kids June it all sounded like fun, but by mid-July it dawned on all of us that we had not been free of a regimented schedule in a full year. And it was worse for them, I thought, because they were still being told at what time they could eat their lunches or go to the bathroom. By the middle of August, when all the camps rolled up their sign-in tables and sent their counselors back to college, we were completely fatigued. We had exactly nine days of actual summer vacation left. And we still had to go school shopping.

So this year, after much contemplation, I decided to cut the camp schedule down to about half. Gymnastics came first, which means one week away and two weeks locally. I did a little "Tornadoes will be away, Boyfriend and I will play" dance. And then I offered my ladies a variety of brochures describing a plethora of experiential opportunities for their other-activity-selecting pleasure. Ultimately, we ended up with a few weeks apiece of art camp. Oh, and Fifth Grader chose a week of bird-watching at the local Audubon Society, but I suspect that was mostly for the opportunity to learn new songs on the bus trips.

Things were looking up. The girls were going to get some actual downtime in between camp weeks. I would be able to hoard a bunch of days off for when The Move takes place, possibly work from home for part of the summer, and feel like a competent mother AND a responsible professional all at once. Plus, that week they would be going away for gymnastics? Pure gold. They get to have a weeklong sleepover with their friends while training intensively at their beloved sport. I get actual private time to spend with Boyfriend. Possibly with dinners at actual restaurants. Or not. Whatever. No kids! And we don't have to get on a plane and go far, far away! Which, by the way, is so not in the cards for us this summer. Because of The Move.

Well that was all fine and dandy until Seventh Grader projectiled herself over the uneven bars in May and landed all wonky on her arm. Many weeks of physical therapy and orthopedic evaluations later, guess what? No gymnastics for you, little girl. Not away, not locally, not on a house, not with a mouse.

Of course this upset her at first. But she seemed to settle into the idea that she could now potentially have absolutely no reason to leave the house - or maybe even sit upright - for the majority of the summer. She has essentially assumed the form of a cooked noodle.

Fifth Grader is upstairs right now, packing. She leaves for Away Week tomorrow afternoon. Without her sister. Naturally, she is overjoyed. Seventh Grader is in the family room right now, with a guest Tornado. They were up until 3 a.m. They just woke up and they are already bored. They want me to take them swimming.

There are eight weeks of summer left.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Think They Call This "Quality Time"

If memory serves, it was right around this time last year that Seventh Grader - then just a Sixth Grader in the making - began to change. Over time, she transformed from the familiar and loving child I had known, and accordingly groomed, into an unpredictably moody and friend-obsessed other being. Not yet boy-obsessed, simply friend-obsessed. Which, really, was bad enough. If I had just a few extra fingers, I could feasibly count on two hands the number of complete weekends she has spent at home in the last half of the school year.

It would take me absolutely oodles of posts to capture the essence of who she is at this stage of her young life. (Consider that a warning. This is quite high on the list of topics that constantly occupy my conscious mind.) And yes indeed, boys have now entered the picture. So it's been a challenging year with that one, let me tell you. She's still a fantastic kid. But boy howdy. Do people still say "boy howdy"? I bet they don't. See, this is one of a kabillion things that I might say out loud around Seventh Grader that would just utterly devastate her with embarrassment. For example, today I was reminded of a song I learned in the third grade from a particularly memorable teacher - a sweet song about a fly who goes into a grocery store - and I sang it to Seventh Grader. We were all alone in the family room, mind you. Not a soul around but her and me. Still, she was mortified.

So we've made it through the Sixth Grade. And for some reason, with summer now upon us, the child seems to be softening. Last night, for example, she actually tolerated my presence for an entire hour of television watching. Granted, she spent the majority of the hour IM'ing and texting, but still! I was not dismissed or made miserable in hopes that I would find something else to do! And, after this hour of what would have passed as the most meaningful of togetherness time in my own youth, she and her electronics actually followed me to my room and sprawled themselves across my bed while I attempted to read my book! And as if that was not enough, she proceeded to voluntarily share with me the general nature of what she was IM'ing and texting! Admittedly, for just a split second, I did find myself a bit annoyed that I couldn't get past a full sentence of my book without being interrupted...but then I told myself, "you IDIOT. SHE'S PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU!" and from that point on I merely pretended to read so that I would not look as pathetically starved for her presence as I actually was.

It was totally awesome.

And where, you may be wondering, was Fifth Grader during this bliss? I'll tell you where she was. She was on the phone, quietly but methodically badgering one of her friends about potentially arranging a playdate/sleepover/trip to the beach/camp out in her front yard sometime this week. And this morning, when Fifth Grader woke up, she started her campaign up all over again. She doesn't have a cell phone, so she had to resort to sneaking the house phone off to desolate corners and whispering intently. It took her a good six hours of effort, but guess where she is? At the beach, with her friend and her friend's beaten down mother. Poor woman. She fought the good fight.

So it appears that the friend obsession is beginning a little earlier for Fifth Grader. Color me frustrated. But you know, Seventh Grader and I put this afternoon to good use: A quick trip to the mall to get a birthday present for her friend (so what if it set me back double the twenty-five dollars I said I would spend?), a couple of subs in the food court (so what if that salmon I took out earlier today is going to spoil and end up in the trash can?), not to mention a half hour playing catch in the front yard, at her request, once we got back home.

Totally. Freaking. Awesome.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Little Johnny Post

I tend to read all kinds of strange things - really, any kind of printed material that is lying in close proximity. One time, many years ago, a stray magazine devoted to soap operas confronted me; next thing I knew, I was hip-deep in some article about how characters are done away with and later brought back under dubious explanation. I remember that the example was given of a prominent soap "family" with multiple "sons" that faced the problem of needing to weed out some kids. Too many characters and not enough plot line to go around, or something like that. So one day, the writers sent little Johnny up to his room to get his ski...gloves? Hat? Mask? It doesn't really matter, because little Johnny never came back downstairs, and nobody ever asked what became of him. Or if they did ask, the writers felt no compulsion to explain. Many years later, when a new, but somehow familiar, character was needed to round out a blossoming storyline, guess what the writers did? They brought back Johnny, all grown up! And all was forgiven.

You may now draw what parallels you must between that story and my return to AficioNada.

Moving on.

Today is the last day of school. Not just ANY last day of school, either, but the last day of elementary school for Sixth Grader and the last day of school, period, for either of the Tornadoes in this particular school district. At some point over the summer, we will be moving to our new home in a new town. New schools for everyone! Hooray! But also, holy crap! What have I done?! Am I ruining their lives? Or is this the best decision ever? I just have absolutely no way of knowing what is coming once this move takes place, and it is scaring the bejeezus out of me.

But that's okay. I have plenty of time to ruminate on the wisdom of this move because, guess what? NO freaking clue when it's going to happen. I know I said "at some point over the summer"...but that was a bluff. Truth is, I have no idea. What started out as a little painting, maybe refinishing some floors, change a few light fixtures, has morphed into "let's just keep the shell of the house but tear out everything inside it and start over". Which pushed the move-in date from June to late July to - last I heard from Boyfriend - MAYBE the middle of August. Giant letters on the MAYBE.

But that's okay. Know why? Because nobody wants to buy my house. Correction: nobody wants to even look at my house. That's right. The For Sale sign has been up for three months now, the staging that makes me feel like I live in the furniture department of Macy's is still all around us, and how many showings have I had? It's a number between one and one. One! Right! So hey, good news: we don't all have to try and cram into Boyfriend's apartment for an interim time "between houses". Bad news: two mortgages.

This is the gist of what is going on inside my head today...actually, there's a lot more going on in there, but it's terribly angsty. Lots to do with the evolution of Sixth and Fourth Grader into SEVENTH AND FIFTH Grader. Once upon a time, Seventh Grader was Fourth Grader. And Fourth Grader, who is now Fifth Grader, was but a mere Third Grader. But now they are Seventh and Fifth, and I am still 36, and the dish ran away with the spoon.

My point being, that's enough for now.

P.S. They make a lot of Father's Day cards to give to Husband, but only two to give to Someone You Love. I bought one of those two cards last year, and the other one is really ugly. Just saying. Life is hard enough.

P.P.S. Thanks for reading again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Like Fuzzy Socks or Potato Chips

You know, life isn't fair. My kids told me. In fact, they tell me that one thing or another isn't fair, according to their calculations, on an average of twice a day. Today, for example, Fourth Grader concluded that it wasn't fair that she only got to snowboard for four hours. And then it wasn't fair that I expected her to read an entire chapter of her book before she could zone out watching television. It's just not fair, you know?

Sometimes the only thing a girl can hope for is a little comfort. Comfort food, comfort clothes, comfort vodka...obviously, these are forms of comfort for me, not for Fourth Grader. But forget Fourth Grader for a minute. This is about me, and I have been in dire need of some comfort recently. And after giving all three of the above options a go over the weekend, I still wasn't really feeling comforted. In fact, by eleven this morning I was feeling downright miserable. There wasn't any real reason for my misery - other than the fact that it's winter, and the view out the window is cold and gray and dreary. And the fact that the Tornadoes' father plans to grace them with his rare presence in a week's time, regardless of the fact that it is not convenient for anyone but him. And the fact that Sixth Grader and I had an insanely frustrating exchange last night that left us both in tears and me feeling like I possibly didn't matter to anyone at all for any reason.

...And also, I have to sell my house. I don't mind selling my house, but I do mind all the work that will be involved in doing so. Conveniently for my misery, I met with the stager this morning at ten. This was enough to seal the deal - on my misery, that is - and to nearly send me running for the nearest bag of Cape Cod Robust Russets. Window treatments on rooms where I didn't feel the need for them while I've lived here? Really? Renting furniture to fill a room that I have always hated and rarely enter? This is what the real estate market has come to?

Sometimes, in these situations, a few comforting words are enough to do the trick to start turning things around. And this afternoon I heard them. Standing in the snow at the base of a mountain, watching a disgruntled Sixth Grader and her disgruntled friends do my bidding by escorting Fourth Grader up a hill only slightly more difficult than the beginner's slope - and therefore not worthy of them and their mad snowboarding skills, this seemed to be the general nature of their disgruntledness - I found myself on the listening end of a fellow mother's expression of frustration.

"I don't think I'm going to survive this age," she sighed. The age in question being that of the sixth grade posse. What? You mean, I'm not alone? You mean, my Sixth Grader is not the only one who is occasionally possessed by demons? My parenting is not broken? LIFE ISN'T FAIR TO OTHER PEOPLE EITHER?

As pathetic as I'm sure it sounds, I felt a million times better after hearing that one simple sentence from my fellow mother. It was just so incredibly reassuring. I practically skipped. But I didn't skip, because it was really slippery out there in the snow. So I simply invited the nice, comforting woman to call me sometime if she wanted to compare notes on the "joys" of tweenhood. I'll bring the chips.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Splintering News

So it's official. We're moving. In seven months.

I've held back on telling the story of how Boyfriend found a house he loved, brought me to see it so I could also discover that I loved it, and how we then moved forward, in a glacial series of steps, to eventually reach yesterday, when we scheduled the closing. Believe me, it was better for you that way. I also refrained from telling just about any of my friends, and definitely my neighbors - for what real reason I don't know, other than I didn't feel like the time was right to say anything - but it appears that everyone within a thirty mile radius already knows due to the fact that a certain Fourth Grader does not understand the words "private matter until I say otherwise." Seriously, people have been texting and emailing me for weeks: "So, you're moving?" Always, always, the source is the same. Love that kid. But anyway, here we are, and in twenty-one days I will be the proud owner of one and a half mortgages.

So, yay! We are buying a house together. And, eventually, moving into it. In seven months, give or take. First, it needs a little updating...and when I say a little updating, I mean there has been one family living in it for the past forty odd years. So imagine a family that has lived in the same house for forty years and raised three children in it and who now find themselves on the second half of this little mountain we call "life" - maybe updating the wallpaper from the 80s wasn't such a priority. Nor were the bathrooms. Stuff like that. So, since Boyfriend is renting, and I still have a house to sell, we figured we'd get all those things done prior to the move-in.

Which means, fair readers, that I have just opened up a giant trunk of future post material. There's the little matter of selling my house - already proving to contain comical elements, judging by yesterday's initial walk-through with the realtor. There's the merging of things, people, habits, tastes, preferences in cleanliness...oh, you don't even know the bounty of material available in that last item alone. And of course, all of this needs to take place in the midst of our regularly scheduled programming.

But all of that is not for today. Today I have a few phone calls to make, to line up the handyman and the stager. And then I will gaze out the front window and begin my long goodbye to that monstrous garage being built across the street. Goodbye, monstrosity. Goodbye.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Play The Music As Loud As You Like. But No Streaking.

This is a quote from an actual conversation that took place this past weekend between myself...and Fourth Grader. And? It was absolutely necessary.

Fourth Grader has officially entered the land of double digits. She chose to mark the occasion of her first birthday to end in a zero by filling our house with similarly aged children and riddling them all about the furniture from sometime Saturday afternoon until after breakfast on Sunday. We invited 10, expected 6, and received 7. So with the birthday girl included, I had eight tweens to contend with.

Mercifully, Sixth Grader was invited to a sleepover across town that same night. This solved the problem of having to allow her to have a friend over, as I had allowed her little sister to do last year at her party. Because Sixth Grader can never choose just one friend, you see. They travel in a pack. So Sixth Grader was absent, and her pack was riddled across another parent's furniture, and all was good.

I can't remember what details I shared with you last year after Sixth Grader's sleepover party. Did I tell you about the never ending dance-off? Probably. About how she didn't want a birthday cake but instead wanted her candles stuck into a ring of monkey bread at breakfast? No? How about the streaking? Did I tell you about the streaking? Actually, there was only one streaker. Unfortunately, it was my child.

I recall that the party proceeded pretty normally up until around 1 a.m. I insisted on pajamas and movies around 11 and attempted to go to bed myself, fully expecting that I would have to get up and reiterate "time to calm down, girls" at least one or two times. It was more like forty times. No sooner would I doze off then the music would start blaring. Up and down the stairs I went, each time more agitated then the next, until finally I decided I didn't care anymore as long as they contained themselves to one room. I buried my head under a stack of pillows and somehow managed to get back to sleep - until about 2:30, by which time the girls had violated my Stay In One Room! rule and were spread across the first floor of the house, right around the staircase, and I distinctly heard several of them say the word "naked". At which point I had no choice but to get up and investigate, and made it as far as the top of the stairs where I was immediately "treated" to the sight of Fourth Grader (Third Grader at the time, mind you), entirely unclothed, running at full speed through the front hallway, AND then completely frozen in the spot where she had realized that her mother was watching the whole thing from above.

Fast forward to Fourth Grader's party a few days ago. First of all, she is a traditionalist, so there was cake. I took her to a bakery earlier in the week and she asked them to make her cake look like the Game of Life, which they didn't even bat an eye at (And it turned out so totally cool, I must say. Kudos, Frederick's Pastries.) Second of all, she really really really wanted to have a sleepover and she PROMISED me that they would not stay up until four in the morning and she would keep everything under control and nobody would even cry. Fine. On Saturday morning, we drove to the bakery to get her cake. This was my time to detail for her all of the many things from the last sleepover party that had frustrated, horrified or otherwise mentally scarred me - the icing on the cake (pardon the pun) being the streaking episode. She PROMISED me that nothing like that would ever happen again, (I PROMISE, MOM, REALLY)...and that, by the way, her choices that fateful night, under the wicked demands of her older sister and the pack, were to A) lick the litter box, B) drink a cup of toilet water, or C) streak.

What do you say to that? "Well chosen, love. Well chosen."

So there was no streaking. No truth or dare. No crying. Fourth Grader kept all of her promises to maintain control, and her friends strangely complied. Yes, the music was quite loud for a while. But they were all tucked in at 11 and asleep by 1. Which was lovely.