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April 2012

Once I Get Started

The bag-that-used-to-be-a-hat thinks I should write a blog post even though I have bills to pay and dandelions to eviscerate. So, hi, we have internet again and before I forget thank you very much for your advice. Also have any of you used Wild Blue and is it really faster than Hughesnet?

Steve was down at the farm last weekend and while he sat in a turkey blind and read the Hunger Games trilogy (Steve was pre-reading it for Patrick but concluded it is wildly inappropriate for nine year olds. Also for me. I'm sensitive) he also discovered that the morels were at their peak down there. This was a problem because he and Patrick were planning a mushroom hunting expedition for this upcoming weekend and Steve was afeared that the morels would have passed their prime by then. He shared this with me on Saturday night and if he had spoken to me two hours earlier or one hour later I would have tsk'd my tongue sympathetically and said "Oh well too bad" but he happened to catch me right after Patrick and I returned from a lovely dinner and the twins were asleep and the babysitter had cleaned the entire kitchen including the stove which she hadn't even used and the glass of wine I had had was casting a lovely pinkish glow over everything; so I said, "Why don't I drive Patrick and the twins down to the farm first thing in the morning and then Caroline and Edward and I can putter around while you two stalk morels? Then I'll drive the twins home in time for karate, we'll let Patrick miss a day of school  and you can bring him home that night?"

Steve said, "Julia! How spontaneous of you!"

And the wine and I said airily, "No'ta'tall."

Forty-five minutes later, though I said, aw, damn it, when I realized I still needed to pack the car and gather boots and jackets and balls and toothpaste and assorted whatnot and what I really wanted to do was watch my secret guilt shows since Steve was gone and the children were in bed (New Girl, Glee and America's Next Top Model - if you must know.)

But we went and it was lovely and it is especially nice that: a) Steve and his friend have resolved many of the deadliest issues with Toddler Death Farm; and b) Caroline and Edward are no longer toddlers, which means a plunge into the watery pit that was once a koi pond would leave them slimy and smelling terrible but not, necessarily, dead.

[Speaking of watery deaths, Caroline's swimming skills are improving rapidly and after the last session her teacher said she is half a skill away from graduating to Ray. At dinner that night we praised Caroline's hard work and she agreed that she was becoming a great swimmer.

Edward leaned forward and said, conversationally, "I can't swim. When someone yets go of me? I sink."

We hastened to assure him that he was getting better, too, and told him that Patrick was a Pike for a very long time, like, years, but now he's a great swimmer and he gets to swim in the big pool.

Edward said, "Yeah, but, you see, the big pool is CAUD. I'm good just sinking in the yidduh pool. Someone always gets me up again."

And he went back to placidly eating his dinner.

Guess who will be wearing a life vest and arm floaties until forever?]

Photos from the farm, starting with a visit to the aforementioned former koi pond. Note that although the twins are poised on the edge I am photographing them from further than arms' reach away. All hail the passage of time! Also, Celexa! Because I swear I would never have let them be that close to the edge last year and yet, really, what would have happened? They would have gotten wet and dirty, that's what. Moving on.

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Patrick and Steve shattered their previous opening days record by finding 700+ morels. My friend Lauren has offered to become his sales rep with her foodie friends and his little black market morel business (if he had one. which he doesn't. but if he had one and called it Northernly Mushrooms Co. which he doesn't) looks like it will have a banner year. When I asked what he plans to do with his profits (which he doesn't of course have) he said, tersely, "Savings."

I swear this child will live with us forever and when he finally succumbs to Time's gentle exhalation it will be discovered that his estate is worth billions solely because he never, ever, spent anything.    

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We went out to dinner that night at a Wisconsin road house (great fried chicken although they called it "broasted" chicken - very odd, these regional differences) and it is so nice to have children that are old enough to eat in restaurants without feeling completely harried by the experience. Patrick and Steve talked mushrooms, Edward flipped around in his chair and watched a television that was, like, thirty feet away and muted, and Caroline ate her way steadily through her dinner, mine and then half of Edward's. I think she's in the middle of a growth spurt because she was so intent on eating she didn't even have the chance to introduce herself to the other diners.

Oh my god that reminds me. Never in my life have I sympathized so utterly with people who complain about children in restaurants than during that meal. At a table near ours two women were chatting over the remains of a pizza while three boys in soccer uniforms (aged about nine) played with oversized super bouncy balls. You know the kind? Three minutes after I sat down one of the balls hit me on the ankle. I said, "ouch!" more in surprise than pain and then had to crawl around the table helping the boy find it again (it had landed in my handbag.) His mother glanced over and said, mildly, "You shouldn't play with that now that the restaurant is filling up."

A few minutes later another ball flew past my head. We had one of the boys under our table twice. The older couple dining next to us looked furious. The six top to my left were merely incredulous as the boy waited for his ball to bounce all the way underneath their table before retrieving it from beneath a lady's shoe.

His mother warned, "I don't want to have to take the ball away... ."

We later joked about more appropriate ways to end that sentence under those circumstances: "I don't want to have to... break your arm" or "I don't want to have to... lock you in the truck of the car" being Patrick's favorites. I thought "Madam, please, I DO want to take the ball away. Allow me."

But I didn't.

Patrick and I talked about it last night and he asked what I would have done to him if he had been playing with a ball like that in a restaurant. I said it would never come up. He said yes but IF... and I said, ok, fine, the first time something left your body and rolled under an adjacent table I would have you apologize profusely and then whatever it was would go into my bag and stay there."

Patrick said, "What if it was my head? What if my head just popped off and rolled away?"

I said, "Then I would apologize on your behalf. Because what have I always said? What is the single most important thing to remember when you are in public?"

And Patrick said, in that annoying pre-teen oh god I KNOW this already way, "That I need to be aware of the people around me and that I am not the only person in the world and that my actions can disturb others and that everyone just wants the same thing..." he lowered his voice and hissed "...revenge!"

It's so nice to know that the lessons I have sought to impart have stuck with him and I listened patiently as he went on to explain that everyone has a robot army and whether someone's robot army is big or very small they are still entitled to enjoy their dinner in peace.

Good heavens where was I? Oh right. Judging. I was judging those two women. Seriously. Short of frisbees I am hard pressed to think of anything less suitable to give your child in a restaurant than a freaking bouncy bouncy ball and if this is the sort of thing childfree people are complaining about then bless their hearts and I agree completely.  

Karate. Oh sweet merciful cupcakes Caroline and Edward finished their third week of karate and it is pretty much the greatest thing ever. Edward races to go. Caroline loves it. The teacher is patient, firm and engages their attention completely. She corrects gently. She encourages. I heard her change Caroline's "Yeah" into a "Yes."

Why didn't you tell me how great this was before?

(I said that to my brother yesterday and he was, like, UHHHHHHH JULES because he has been trying to have me put Patrick into karate for years)

Also, they are cute as hell. Some mothers may swoon over their daughters in tulle and tights (and yes Caroline is darling in her ballet stuff) but, man, give me a Gi any day.

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And finally I could use some advice. After eight years of struggling with an issue Patrick's pediatrician has put him (for gastroenterological reasons that I assume you can deduce but Patrick has asked me not to share with anyone, not even my mother. ha) on a diet that restricts carrots, apples, bananas, rice and all dairy. All. Dairy. The first two are annoying but not shattering and he frankly hates both bananas and rice but the removal of yogurt and cheese from his diet (cheese. as in pizza. and cheese and crackers. and pizza) has left him bereft. I bought some soy substitutes that were horrifying and then some almond milk ditto that were slightly better. In fact Silk chocolate almond milk is a huge hit here, especially with Edward, and one look at the sugar content told me why.       

Any thoughts on switching to a dairy free household? Any products you really like? What are earth do you give for snacks when yogurt and cheese are forbidden?

PS Don't forget my Wild Blue question if you've used them. What are your download speeds?

PPS Updated after a few comments: milk proteins. He has trouble with the protein not the lactose. Thanks!

PPPS A BOUNCY BALL, PEOPLE.


Not A Post

Our internet is down until further notice so I cannot receive email, arrange our Netflix queue, bank or look up the equation for the surface area of a cone. It suuuuuuuuucks. And when Steve bristled in outrage and told tech support that seven to ten days for a service call was completely and utterly unacceptable he found himself backed into a corner when the satellite company said oh yeah? Like, go ahead and cancel, forestchump. Enjoy the squirrel powered dial-up.

It is so unbelievably frustrating that we can get neither DSL, cable or cell service here. The first two come within half a mile of our house and stop and the last is impossible due to the fact that we are in a valley. Cozy, sure, and picturesque but utterly effed when it comes to accessing the technological advances of the past decade. Did you know I can't watch YouTube? True story. And we have no future options either. The last time one of our neighbors tried to lure the cable company out here they said ok, sign here and here and we'll need $64000... .

Gar.

If any of you have any clever ideas about getting high speed internet that is not satellite dependent feel free to chime in.

In the meantime I am borrowing five minutes of WiFi from a strip mall.

So I took Caroline and Edward to the zoo and they were cute and I took some pictures.

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The end.

PS (I switched parking lots)

It was unjust of me to blame the problems with Magic Kingdom for Sale entirely upon the author. At Patrick's insistence we have continued to listen to it and although I am still bothered by the inert and predictable writing (I have taken to pausing the book at random to see if we can guess the next similie* - we usually can) but it was remiss of me not to mention that the reader is awful. So awful that he might be making the book sound even worse than it is - it's hard to judge. Would I notice each limp verb if it wasn't... articulated... so... slowly? Maybe not. In conclusion: I would give this audiobook two thumbs down but I need those thumbs to stick into my ears.

As for Death at Pemberly... it makes me sad to say this because it should be good and I have such respect for PD James but... YAWN. I'm now three-quarters of the way through and although I like the premise and I am trying to get into it, I still cannot. The characters feel like clothespins with faces drawn on and I'm pretty sure the police inquiry is wildly anachronistic and I'm beginning to wish that a few more people would get murdered just to liven things up again.  

* Patrick's class started a poetry unit and we learned that Patrick writes some kickass metaphors.

Edward, he wrote, he is a thunderstorm.


Than Never

Typepad keeps eating my posts. Granted I have only written two in the past two weeks and one was about three words long with seven hundred pictures but still... faults on both sides, no doubt, but I wanted you to know that I have at least been trying to write something.

Migraines are ok. Some headaches. None as awful. I'm trying to exercise more and eat lunch every day, which sounds odd but there it is. To each her own triggers.

Speaking of lunch, Edward made himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich yesterday. Start to finish. He pulled a chair over to the counter; got the knife, bread, and jelly and was in the process of trying to cut it on the diagonal when Steve came into the kitchen. This snippet is probably not remarkable to anyone who has not spent the past decade in close commune with Patrick but I guarantee you that prior to Patrick's interest in the culinary arts (all of five seconds ago) he would have had an easier time turning himself into a rabbit than he would have had telling you where the peanut butter lives or how - exactly - one might go about putting two slices of bread together.

But Edward. Edward has his own agenda and he is very determined to be allowed to follow it without any interference. He would have made a good Highlander (ye can take awa' his Octonauts but ye cannae take his frrrrrreedom... and don't take away the Octonauts either or he'll slay ye) but generally - charming self-sufficiency aside - he makes a hell of a preschooler. Oh, excuse me. Spirited. He's a spirited preschooler.

Like:

I was offering a headband to Caroline when Edward snatched it away, declaring that it was his because it was blue and blue is for boys.

"Boys yike boo things and girls don't," he told me with all of the hostility of one who is determined to preserve the natural order of things no matter what those damned liberals have to say about equality and justice and human dignity. "So this is MINE."

I conceded.

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Edward. Defending machismo since 2007.

Or the other day when we were getting into the car and it suddenly occurred to Edward that car seats are really chump seats for chumps. Rather than climb into his, therefore, he kept going in the car until he was settled in Patrick's seat in the back. I looked at him. He grinned at me. I told him to get into his car seat and his eyes narrowed and I realized that this was about to be the barricade upon which Edward would unchain himself from the shackles of my tyranny so I tried to forestall the fireworks by pointing out that this was the Law

"Edward, if I drove you to swimming class and you weren't in your car seat the police would stop our car and ask why. And then they would tell you to get into your car seat."

Caroline said, "I'm scared of the police!"

I said, "No no. The police are here to help us. The reason they would stop us is because it is not safe for you or Edward to be in Patrick's big kid seat and they want us to be safe."

Edward looked thoughtful and then climbed into his car seat. He said, "Poyeesmen ohso catch bad guys."

I said, "Sure."

"And enemies," Edward added.

I said, "OK."

Caroline asked, "What are enemies?" and Edward said, vaguely, "Oh, you know, yike bad guys and squirruhs."

Squirrels? Caroline accepted this definition with a nod.

Edward said, "How can I become a poyeesman?" and I told him he would need to go to a special school to learn how to be one.

He said, "I want to do that. I want to catch bad guys." He added, generously, "You can be a policeman, too, Caroyine."

Caroline said, "No. No thanks."

She was quiet for a moment and then asked, "Where do I go to school to become a burglar?"

So sweet. So pretty.

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So ninja.

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Oh and goofy.

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With the discovery of Patrick's surprising and highly gratifying penchant for skiing I went a little activity crazy this month, thinking that I should be exposing the kids to more/different things because who knows what they might like? Not me, obviously. As a result I put Patrick into an ice skating class (HA! HA! HA! sorry. but HA!) He's also taking a community ed cartoon drawing class plus his usual tumbling and swimming. Oh, speaking of swimming he is officially a Shark or Shark! Shark! Shark! as I keep saying while he blushes and tells me to stow it. But SHARK! I'm so proud of him. Caroline is also in a tumbling class but will be stopping that next week in order to free her up for... karate.

Hiiiiii ya! (see above. her current sensei is Kung Fu Panda - not sure if he's accredited.) 

Edward's going to be doing karate, too, but I'm less certain about whether he's ready for it. We watched one class and while Caroline followed along on the sidelines, bowing and kicking as if to the manner born, Edward wrapped himself around my neck and told me he wanted to go home. I wonder if his future chief will mind that Det. Hippogriffs is always accompanied by his mommy?

"Damn it, Griffs, you're a trigger-happy maverick and a pain in my ass but you're also the only hope I have of nailing..."

And I'll say, "I'll just go get Edward a tuna sandwich and some juice while you finish up here. Oh and Chief... Edward has promised to drive me to a revival of Wicked tonight so he won't be infilitrating any Canadian drug cartels until tomorrow or maybe the day after."

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They finally came to replace the carpet in the basement last week. We moved everything out of the affected rooms and stacked it all in the main area where the children, under Patrick's leadership, turned the whole mess into a kind of fort. Essentially half our belongings are in a pile and the children tunneled through it. Last night Steve and I went to a movie (21 Jumpstreet. Sincerely, straight up, very funny. Really) and when we came home we realized that if we were going to hide Easter eggs in the basement as I had vaguely intended we had about two hours work ahead of us to pick up first.That was not remotely appealing; so fortunately Steve had the idea that a more challenging egg hunt, one rife with peril, would be more fun for everyone. He took five minutes and scattered the plastic eggs wily-nily and voila! Extreme Easter (I did not write Eggstreme. You're welcome.)

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The Easter bunny brought Caroline a vet kit. She loves it.

Patrick and I started listening to a new book called The Emerald Atlas. I did not last very long with it because - and I know this is heresy - Jim Dale was driving me bananas. I did not listen to his Harry Potter so I will take your word for it that he was sublime but in this book he made the young characters sound adenoidal and every sentence he read was fraught. with. meaning when, really, sometimes narration is just moving us from point A to point B.

When I could no longer stand it I got the actual book out of the library for Patrick to read (he's half-way through and says it is great) and we moved on to a book called Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold! I had high hopes for this book. The blurb I had read simply gave the premise, which is Ben Halliday buys a magic kingdom and finds it is riddled with problems. I thought it was going to be light and whimsical. In fact it is tedious beyond measure and I find myself theorizing about the author more than I follow the story. I've decided that the guy who wrote this book is a retired attorney with limited creativity and major control issues. You'd have to read it yourself to fully get what I am talking about but he refuses to ever let the reader (listener, whatever) draw their own conclusions about anything. You know, like, when an average guy encounters a dragon and anyone with reasonable intelligence can assume that this was a surprise to him? The author has to tell you that the guy was surprised. Very surprised. Because he had just encountered a dragon. And average guys do not usually do that. Because it's unusual. Because dragons are unusual. So it surprised him.

I want to punch this book in the face.

I thought we should give ourselves a break from Terry Pratchett so as to enjoy him all the more when we returned but I am longing to start Wyrd Sisters. Longing.

In other genres I am reading Death at Pemberly, a book in which PD James co-opts the characters from Pride and Prejudice. I am reading it for my book club (I'm in a book club! note my modest pride. remember when I made a complete fool out of myself by shaming some neighbors into including me in their book club and for my pains I wound up hosting an evening that featured a woman who said that she refused to see Brokeback Mountain because she was sick to death of "the gays" "forcing" their "gay agenda" on "good" "normal" "people"? one of my prouder moments, truly. but my friend Lauren invited me to join her book club and this will be my second month and the first meeting was so good it was like a book club made by Godiva.)

So I'm reading Death at Pemberly. I'm kinda fascinated by this book. I'm not sure if someone who has never read Pride and Prejudice would like it - as they would not really know the characters - nor do I know if someone who has read Pride and Prejudice would like it - knowing the characters and perhaps having different ideas from Ms James about how they would, say, live happily ever after, come to their just desserts or conduct a murder investigation. That said, I like it, kinda, maybe, and I've read Pride and Prejudice about 20 times.

And when I do the dishes or put away laundry I am listening to Georgette Heyer because there are few things more pleasant than a good Heyer (The Unknown Ajax and The Grand Sophy being two that spring to mind.)

What are you reading?

PS I signed them up for karate because there is a school next door to our favorite pizza place and Caroline was desperate to start some kind of martial art. I intended to ask you first, though, because I remember that many of you had some pretty strong opinions about karate vs jujitsu vs whatever but I could not recall what they were. We can always make a change so, please, remind me? Do you think one is better for kids?