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August 2013
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September 2013

Serpentine

Have we talked about my fear of snakes? I'm sure we have but if we have not I can sum it up thusly: snakes; I'm afraid of them. Some of my worst dreams involve being bitten repeatedly by multiple snakes - on my hands and on my feet and on my neck... I'm shuddering. The very thought of the way they undulate makes my heart race and no, STEVE, it doesn't help to tell me that that snake is harmless or it is more afraid of me than I am of it. It should be afraid of me; if I were capable of getting within five feet of it without fainting I would smack its head (spoon-shaped or otherwise) with an umbrella .

[I once saw a House Hunters International in which a couple was planning to move from, I dunno, Somewhere Australia to Somewhere Else Australia and in the opening scene they are shown calling the local snake place to see if the snake removal person had time to pop round and carry off a giant seven hundred footlong snake that was sunning itself on their patio. Steve had to pour cold water over my head to stop my soundless screams and by the time I had recovered enough to watch the rest of the episode I was stunned to learn that the couple's requirements for a new home involved a few bedrooms, some bathrooms, a good kitchen... but not once did they mention that they would prefer fewer patio snakes.

Australians. I love you. But I do not understand you.]

Anyway.

Steve is in Colorado this week

(although... help me out here. I know math is hard, Barbie, but when someone - a spouse, say, or a co-parent - tells you that they want to go on a hiking trip with old friends for a week; how many days would you think that means?

Did you just say twelve?

Yeah, me neither and yet here we are. Or aren't, as the case may be.)

So Steve is gone but his spirit remains, mostly in the form of notes that he has left for me in our shared Entourage calendar. Sweet little nothings that keep popping up to surprise me like, "Clean the Litterboxes, Julia!!!"

(I think all of those exclamation marks are supposed to represent kisses, don't you?)

Monday's love note was brief but underneath the written words was a soul laid bare; the beating heart of a man straining to control the passion which threatened to unseat his reason: "Trash and Recycling MUST be out before 7 a.m."    

I fanned my heated cheeks. Then I went into the garage to drag our enormous trash can down to the curb. It smelled gross. I trudged back up to the garage, got the recycling bin, ditto.

As I started back up the driveway my attention was caught by a... a movement on the ground near my feet. I stopped. I stared. I...

HOLY MOTHER OF THE BLESSED IGLOO. IT WAS A SNAKE. ON MY DRIVEWAY! A SNAKE! EIGHT INCHES AWAY FROM ME!

It wriggled its awful body and raised its horrible head and glared at me with its dreadful, dreadful beady, little black eyes.

UGH!  

I gasped and turned and ran to the house. I locked the doors. Then I took a shower. Then I sent an email to Steve telling him exactly what I thought about people who tell other people to do stuff without mentioning the extreme risk of snakes. Eventually I called my mother who said soothing, motherly things and then asked, "Was it a very big snake?"

"Shuh-huh!" I said. "It was huge! It must've been, I don't know, maybe four inches long and about the diameter of a juice box straw!"

She paused and then said, "Four inches?"

"I know!"

"Was it a baby snake?" she asked.

I said, "Yeah, I guess, probably. At first I thought it was an earthworm but then it did that awful S-thing with its body and lifted its Tic-Tac sized brown head and my blood ran cold."

She laughed. I mean my mother laughed (no doubt trying to bolster my courage) and then she said she sympathized because if the snake was that little then perhaps the mommy snake and the daddy snake and all twenty of its little snake siblings were still...

I have yet to regain consciousness.


Ten

Edward spent most of the summer with his face pressed against the crack under Patrick's door, trying to watch him play Minecraft.

He would heave a sigh and gaze at me wistfully with his lovely grey eyes and say, "I wish I could play Minecraft."

I tried to resist. Really I did. With one addict in the house already it wasn't like I am not familiar with the risks. I've seen it happen before. The Minecraft kid starts harmlessly enough, placing one block on top of another, but the next thing you know they've enrolled themselves in a Java programming course the better with which to create a ghast/pig/creeper mob hybrid and they sleep with their arms bent at the elbow, fingers perpetually flexed in keyboard mode. 

But I am weak and the summer was long and I somehow managed to convince myself that maybe Minecraft would be educational for Edward. Yeah, that's it. Educational. Spatial reasoning, mouse and keyboard skills, reading, spelling and animal husbandry (spoiler alert: pork chops? come from pigs.) Not to mention the opportunity for positive family interaction: I imagined Patrick lovingly instructing in the nuances of the crafting table while Edward shone with pride in himself and admiration for his brother; both of them (and this was the linchpin) shutting up for five goddmned seconds so I could listen to my audiobook while I loaded the dishwasher.

Alas, only part of this came true. Yes, Edward has become a full-fledged, glassy-eyed Minecraft zombie complete with his own username: Dreadward07 (Caroline has yet to succumb although she has toyed with her own username which she thinks should be Deadline - my kids are so morbid.)

As for the rest of it - god.

Edward sat in front of the computer shrieking for Patrick to come help him find the Never (Nether? I don't ask anymore) and Patrick stayed in his room on the floor above him belowing down "NO! I'm BUSY!" until Steve stormed out of his office and said, "Hey! I'm trying to work in here!" and I alternated between trying to take the volume on Audible to eleven and flushing my own head in the toilet.

Now why did I start this? Oh right! I remember. I was telling you that Edward is now a Minecrafter.

So, yesterday we went to a party on the other side of town, which meant that the entire family was at my mercy for almost an hour as we drove and I took unfair advantage - as I always do - by using the enforced togetherness to expose them to some music that *I* like and then I lectured them about it.

My choice for Labor Day was the first volume of the Mermaid Avenue project, which resulted from Billy Bragg and Wilco putting to music the writings of Woody Guthrie. One song in particular captured Caroline's attention - Way Down Yonder in the Minor Key - and we listened to it five times in a row before Edward finally put his hands over his ears and begged us to just. make. it. stop.

Edward is not what one might call "a fan" of "music."

So I turned it off and was getting all enthusiastic talking about the origins of folk music in this country when Caroline asked about keys. Keys! I love Caroline. So I started to describe the difference between minor and major keys when Edward suddenly perked up. He cleared his throat.

"Minor? Mining? Speaking of Minecraft... " and he proceeded to talk without stopping, telling us all about this thing he did in Minecraft that time and then that other time and then there was this other Minecraft thing and then... .

Steve and I burst out laughing. Speaking of Minecraft... oh, were we? He's like the guy who hears "I broke my foot" and responds, "Foot? Football? Yes! I know! New season finally starting, am I right!"

I have created a monster. A square one.

PS Good grief how many times did I just type the word Minecraft?

PPS I still don't understand the appeal.


Two! Two! Two!

 I'm going through pictures from this summer to see if there was anything interesting that I failed to tell you during my days of whine and dozes.

The short answer is: no.

Patrick had a great time at camp and returned wearing a bathing suit he had not removed for three days, his second t-shirt of the week and the pair of shoes in which  - he told me, with pride! wasn't he efficient? - he had been sleeping. When I think of all of the time I wasted labeling and neatly folding pajamas that returned just as neatly folded I could smack myself and when I asked if he had, you know, showered since I had last seen him he said, "Oh yeah, of course, I swam in the lake most days."

Needless to say he was filthy.

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It is a testament to how much Caroline missed Patrick that she is standing so close to him in this picture. She is usually much more fastidious and did I mention he was filthy and bug-bitten and filthy?

But he had a great time and the second thing he said when I picked him up - after telling me that the food at camp was much better than what he gets at home - was that he wants to go back next year.

Steve finally got glasses, which is a consumation devoutly to be w.'d not only because he no longer inspires me to go all Deputy Dawg's Moley on his squinting (Hey Muskie! Whazz happenin'? Whazz happenin'?)

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but he can now see well enough to teach Caroline how to throw a frisbee.

Hmmm, what else?

We went to Vermont and saw Steve's birthfather and half-brothers for a day, then went to Tyler Place for a week and, finally, visited Steve's birthmother and her daughters and grandchildren (plus an aunt and a cousin) for a long weekend in upstate New York.

I know I say this every single time we interact with Steve's birth family but I just feel so lucky that they are all so kind and interesting and loving and fun and that they have all embraced him as much as they have.

The one brother lives in a kid's paradise.

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They have ducks.

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They have chickens.

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And they have Lake Champlain in their front yard.

The other brother studies and travels and has a fascinating job and this year he brought his girlfriend for our visit. She just finished her doctorate in the philosophy of physics (ummm umm-hmmmm, ummm-hmmmm m'yes) and she rescues dogs and she has promised to send me her recipe for vegan cheese kale chips that she swears taste really good. I am not ashamed to admit that I followed her around with my mouth hanging open, eyes glazed in adoration.

Seeing Steve's birthmother and her family is always really lovely. The granddaughters bookend Caroline and Edward and the grandson will be three in the Fall.

I'm trying to find a photo to post that doesn't have the other kids in it but it is hard. Caroline and the girls were inseparable and Edward decided he was going to mentor Phillip. In fact, he had the following conversation with him:

Edward, with his hands on Phillip's shoulders: Phillip, I'm your Patrick.

Phillip (visibly confused): No. I Phiyip.

Edward: No no. I mean *I* am *your* Patrick. I'm the big kid. You're the liddle kid. I'll help you and you do what I say.

Phillip: I Phiyip.

Edward: Gaaaaaah! Fine. Come on, let's look for snails.

Phillip: OK!

Huh. I really can't find a picture without the cousins in it.

Oh wait, Portraits of Edward Who Lost Another Tooth While On Vacation.

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Summertime.

And now we are all caught up.