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December 2013

November 2013

I'll See You In Hell First

Steve and I are throwing a party next Saturday. I thought we had agreed on something small and dinner-based but he escaped my clutches one night and as he raced through the streets of Minneapolis he shouted invitations to everyone he saw. By the time he returned home he wasn't entirely sure how many people he had invited... just a few, though. Maybe fifteen? Or twenty. Definitely not more than thirty. Or at least not that many more.

I said, YOU DID WHAT? And then, Well! Fine! Be that way. And I invited all of my friends. So he invited more of his friends. And then we remembered all of these other people we both like but haven't seen in a while and the next thing I knew we had sent an evite to 96 people and I was lying down with a cold compress and an aspirin.

Fortunately it is the first Saturday in December so more than half of them will have an office party and the other half will have a winter luau (you roast a hotdish in a pit over an open fire) and in all likelihood it will just be Steve and me and the children with eighteen pounds of cheese and twenty-two bottles of vodka. Then Steve will hear the distant tinkle of bells and remember that he had accepted an invitation to go snow-dashing with some people he met in Minneapolis so... he'll catch us later.

And no, I don't know where we would put these people if they actually show up (oh my god where would they even park?) and no, I don't know what we might feed them. So there's that.

I'll worry about it all later but right now it's my annual 'what-the-hell, evite' rant? I love evite. Once upon a time I used to address actual printed cards but - I don't know if you've noticed this yourself -  ever since I wrote in my last college blue book, any time I try to write more than a few scratches with a pen on paper my hand cramps up like the old man's. The one with the sea. So using evite is much easier since it involves typing. It also saved all the emails I used last year and I still like those people, so that was a bonus too.

However

What is with 'Maybe' as an un-opt-out-able reply? Of course someone may be coming. From the moment I invite them it is a possibility. What I am trying to determine, though, is are they coming or are they not? Yes or No? Two potential responses, each one scrupulously correct.

Allowing Minnesotans to reply 'maybe' to an invitation is just enabling them and I, for one, think they need a little less encouragement and a lot more tough love. We've talked about this before but as a brash East Coaster the Midwestern inability to say 'no' to an invitation befuddles me. I think they fear it is rude. Much kinder to reply with something like, "Thanks so much for thinking of us! I am having my spine replaced that afternoon but if I can I will try to look in." Oooooo Kaaaay. I'll just mark you down for your half-pound of cheese, shall !?

As Edward said to me yesterday as I tried to evade him, "Is that the no part of a maybe or the yes part?"

Touche, Edward.

Contrast this to the behavior of my sainted mother. A few weeks ago she was telling me about the ambiguity of her Thanksgiving plans and I said, "Well you can always come to us."

To which she instantly exclaimed, "Oh god no!"

I was a little startled and laughed and begged her not to spare my feelings.

She then laughed, too, and said yes yes, whatever, thank you for the offer and of course she would love to see us but she only gets the one day off for Thanksgiving and besides nothing on earth would compel her to travel during that week.

It's my new favorite response to an invitation.

PS We're at the farm for the weekend which has an even more pathetic internet connection than we have at home. I think it is the difference between squirrel power and woodchuck power but I don't understand the specifics. I should ask Patrick. Anyway I have been without email for a couple of days so I just checked our evite and we have 38 people coming, a couple of maybes (their typed reasons for the uncertainty proved acceptable to me so I shall not smite them,) 14 nos and 60 people who have not yet replied.

Now, I'm no math major but... does it seem to you that someone has gotten into the evite and done the equivalent of his joy-ride through the Cities again?

PPS No. There is not a chance in hell we would ever encourage (I don't want to say allow because he will be a technical adult by that point, sort of) Patrick to go to college ahead of schedule. Should he be fortunate enough and work hard enough to complete graduation requirements early, lucky him. He can take fun electives or local classes for college credit or do tons of art or get a part time job or, I dunno, maybe a gap year. The DC public school system of which I am a proud graduate didn't have very high hopes for us so by senior year we were done by eleven o'clock in the morning, even with the full course load of three classes per semester. Two afternoons a week I took care of a baby who was within walking distance of the my high school and the other three I took ridiculous classes (Intro to Mythology with multiple choice exams, anyone?) at Georgetown. And I worked in a restaurant four nights a week. Uphill. Both ways.

Adulthood is long enough without starting it early, says I.

I just mentioned it because it would never have occurred to me that this is what is worrying him right now if he hadn't told me; and I don't think he would have told me if he hadn't unbent under the combined effect of unlimited salad and my penetrating gaze at the Olive Garden.

PPPS Steve started college early and I am sure it was the right decision for him; as it was no doubt the right decision for you. Just not Patrick. 


Me Of Little Faith

You might recall that once upon a time Patrick had some coordination issues. His left and right sides seemed to be unable to communicate with each other to the extent that they were functioning in separate time zones. Watching him attempt a jumping jack was an experience unto itself; half-tragic, half-comic... like when a clown dies. We took him to both physical and occupational therapy but even so I told Steve (incorrectly) that he would never ever learn to swim and - although Patrick enjoys tumbling and has gone every week for five years - I have always been glad that the gym carries insurance because it seemed inevitable to me that Patrick would one day do a cartwheel and knock out some other kid's eye.

Shame on me.

I am sitting here at tumbling and just looked up from my laptop to watch Patrick execute a front flip. Like, a front flip. He was standing there, then he gave a little run and a hop and... spiiiiiiiin THUNK feet down/arms up, landed. 

My jaw is on the floor and the lesson, I guess, is to never underestimate, um, anyone in their determination to do anything.  

PS I took him out to dinner afterward, just the two of us, and I am so... I don't even know, so... something by how much he unbends to me when he gets undivided attention. He was originally monosyllabic as I asked about how life/school/friends was/were going but after we brainstormed things he might say to a stranger while travelling alone via airplane (our favorite, suggested as a response to a person sitting next to him who might ask how old he is:

"I'm eleven. Have you ever wondered what your childhood pet might have looked like inside out?")

he laughed and then told me about all of his social angst and his prevailing worry that taking his geometry this year will mean he will have to go to college a year or two early.

I reassured him.

My hope is to continue to provide him with many opportunities to talk as he enters junior high and high school but I worry about my ability to do the same for Caroline and Edward. Although they are such different people they are so... connected. It's tricky.

The twins didn't have school today (fortunately because Edward has gotten my cough and is therefore about four minutes away from a fever and possible pneumonia) and when I came home from driving Patrick I found them on the couch like this:

IMG_1037

I think their closeness will serve them well but... well I hope so.


Four Days In A Hollow Tree

I have had an irritating cough for the past several days. You know the kind where it is dry dry dry and then you somehow hit a goopy pocket in one lung and you GAK and then it's dry dry dry again; I sounded so awful the other night that Patrick (Patrick) called downstairs to ask if I was ok. Twice.

In deference to the cough and in an effort to get better before Hogmanay, I have been going to bed before nine o'clock every night and consuming lots of healthy kale-based drinks.

And, although I am turning a lovely shade of pale green, the cough, if anything, is getting worse. So tonight I am writing this with a glass of wine and later I plan on staying up to see the entire Monday Night Football game, possibly while drinking medicinal rum straight from the bottle.

This season I could take football or leave it alone (since all five of the teams to whom we could offer our moral support are bad) but this week I am heavily invested because I am actually in the lead in my mom's office pool and that means money and the children need new snowpants. Last night I was all excited for about five minutes until the Patriots went down 24 to nothing and I went to bed. It wasn't until my mother congratulated me this morning that I learned that New England had had a miraculous come-back thus putting me in a tie for first place in the pool, pending tonight's game. Go me.

Acshuwee. Cough. I say 'me' but in fact it is Edward who does the heavy work; I just skim a wee 90% off the top. Seriously, the kid is like a pigskin rocking horse winner. After several dismal weeks on my own (4-10 anyone?) I lured him over to my computer with promises of shopping online for a Christmas dinosaur cuddly and after I got him wedged on my lap I pulled up the picks page and said, "But first... New Orleans or Atlanta?"

+

Edward was telling me about Friendship Rainbow Club the other day when Caroline asked, "Hey, why do you go to Mrs. S sometimes?"

Edward said, "I fink it is so dat I can learn to be nice to people."

Caroline said, "You're nice to me."

Edward said, "Yeah but I could be nicer" to which Caroline nodded and said, "Yes that's true."

Then she went back to coloring.

Edward said, "Well what about me?"

"What about you?"

"Do you fink you could be nicer to me?" he asked.

Caroline said, "No."

+

I read The Fault in Our Stars for my book club last week and although it was a lovely book IT WAS SO SAD. I don't want to spoil it for you but OH MY GOD IT WAS SO SAD. So I recommend it with that caveat. Think: sad.

I was invited to join a new (both in the sense that it is new to me and also newly formed) book club this month, which we are calling...

back up.

I've probably told you this before but many moons ago a friend of mine was attending her son's umpteenth game in some tournament or other when his team finally lost. Yay, she thought, we get to go home. Then she was informed that they needed to continue playing other teams that had not won for... well, for whatever reason.

My friend said, "Oh they have to go through the losers' bracket?" and she was quickly corrected. No no, she was told, it is not the losers' bracket it is the celebration bracket

"It is a bracket?"

"Yes."

"For the teams that lost?"

"Yes."

"But it is not the losers' bracket?"

"Oh no!"

"It's the celebration bracket?"

"That's right."

D'ok.

Sometime thereafter a book club to which she belonged succumbed to strife and in-fighting, resulting in a schism from which two book clubs emerged but neither side claimed my friend.They formed two new book clubs with two new email lists and she was on neither of them.

She has never fully recovered from this blow.

... so we are calling it The Celebration Book Club in her honor.

We had our first meeting last week and I enjoyed it tremendously. We read Ender's Game to which Patrick and I had already listened but it was much more satisfying to discuss it with a bunch of women. When I complained at the time that the book was making me morose Patrick just shrugged and said, hey, that's battle school, lady, toughen up. My book club, however, agreed that those poor children were treated very badly indeed.

The discussion was good, she had cheesecake but most of all it was nice to meet some new people.

+

Which brings me to the fact that they added Wellbutrin to the Lexapro (seventeen thumbs up on the anxiety control; two wobbly swollen hands on the side effects) to see if that would help counteract the sluggishness and weight gain and TRALALALALALALALALALA... yes those are bluebirds holding up my little cape, do you like them?

Speaking of books Patrick and I had an Audible disaster on our roadtrip which resulted in our listening to some library books I had grabbed at random from The Sisters Grimm series. It is not something Patrick would read on his own but they make a nice audiobook for the commute to school. Easy to do in small chunks, if you know what I mean. At first we didn't put it on when Caroline and Edward were with us in the morning but then we started trying to listen really quietly and the twins wound up getting into the story as well. Although it is not a series I would necessarily pick for kindergarteners they like it so much that Steve has started reading the first book to them at bedtime.

I'll circle back with you later for more age-appropriate audiobook recommendations but not right now because I think we still have five books to go in the series. Oh! Let me know if they get too too Big Kid, though, in later books, please.

So in rambling conclusion:

1. I need San Francisco to beat Washington tonight AND the teams have to produce a combined total of 49 or more points.

2. I recommend The Fault in Our Stars but only if you don't mind weeping copiously.

3. Ender's Game still has one of the most surprising surprise endings ever but in retrospect I still don't think I liked it.

4. Totally random audiobook recommendation from me to you (WARNING - IT IS A ROMANCE NOVEL AND THEREFORE DON'T EXPECT A WHOLE LOT. ALSO THERE IS SEX IN IT.) I suggest: Laura Kinsale's The Prince of Midnight as narrated by Nicholas Boulton. I give it five fluttering fans and a loosened corset.

Your turn. Please recommend a book. Any book. But. It cannot be sad.


What I Don't Know Could Fill A Barn

No seriously - or, more likely, since you're probably scrunching up your face at me - yes seriously, I know absolutely nothing about Common Core (my point about Minnesota not yet debating/adopting the new standards was simply my lame excuse for not realizing that there was a debate in the first place) and I am abashed that I used it as a launching point to talk about Edward. There I was letting my ill-informed whatsit hang immodestly in the wind like a torn petticoat. 

In truth I don't have any idea why they no longer offer half-day kindergarten at our school (I guess it could be looking forward to the Common Core, which seems to require it in order for a school to be successful) but I have spent the past two months thinking what a pity it is. Well, kinda thinking, because when I took the time to complete that thought I was presented with a conundrum. We originally chose this school for five-year old Patrick because they do a combined K-1 classroom and that seemed to make sense for him. It also makes sense for Caroline in that she gets to join the first grade class for reading and still be with everyone for writing and scissors, I dunno, gym. But when Patrick was there they also did this brrrrrillllliant thing in which they transitioned the kindergarteners from half-day to full-day over the course of the year. Patrick did not start going all-day until the Spring; probably at the exact moment he learned to zip up his own coat and that was great for him although at the time I had baby twins and I would have been willing to bribe or blackmail just about anyone who was willing to keep him until three o'clock.

 So I had been thinking that the individual transitions to full-day would have met both Caroline's need to stay and Edward's need to curl up in a ball in the afternoon and I mourned the fact they no longer offer that option.

Then I wrote my post and thought about it some more and I slapped myself in the face. Good. Lord. Would I REALLY want to drop off Patrick, drop off the twins, go home, come back for Edward, go home, get Patrick, go home and then return to school to get Caroline?

!!!!!!!!

No. So. Would I prefer that Edward be curled up on the couch with a cup of cocoa and his cuddlies by noon at the price of dragging Caroline home just as she got the good part in the Count of Monte Cristo?

Ummmmmmmm.

No.

So clearly I have no idea what I think; seeing as how I am conflicted about kindergarten within my own person, let alone my own family, school and community.

PS In fairness to Edward the part of school he likes best is when they are actually learning new things so perhaps the intensification of kindergarten is working for him? He prefers math (probably not coincidentally like Patrick who clearly had to learn math before he created Edward's universe) but he also got all jazzed when they were introduced to the rudiments of punctuation and he is now reading well enough to completely nail Garfield and muddle through Calvin and Hobbes. Edward likes his fiction short and punchy with lots of pictures. I see lots of graphic novels in his future.

PPS Which reminds me of the Neil Gaiman quote when told by someone or other that he didn't write comics he wrote graphic novels. He said, "[A]ll of a sudden I felt like someone who'd been informed that she wasn't actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening."

PPPS Which further reminds me that I intended to clarify my comparison of Patrick hanging the doll in my doorway to Waldo Pierce. Waldo Pierce, in addition to being a wealthy gadabout, a forgettable artist, a terrible husband and a devoted father once played a very elaborate joke upon the concierge of the building in which he lived. He presented her with a tortoise and then gradually and secretly replaced this creature with increasingly larger tortoises while she exclaimed and showed off the incredible growth of her pet. Then he repeated the process in reverse as she watched her tortoise shrink almost before her eyes.

This inspired the Roald Dahl story, Esio Trot. 

PPPPS I don't think Waldo Pierce was a very nice man.   


Not That I Want Him Home All Day

Although I knew I had been insulted by Arne Duncan with his recent remarks about my, um, group and our unified views* on the Common Core standards (jeez, why are politicians always bashing the white suburban mother? oh. wait... ) but I was embarrassed to admit that I was a little shaky on the details. Last I heard - and I am the first to admit to political ignorance - we were all holding hands from coast-to-coast and agreeing that No Child Left Behind was awful. I didn't even know we had moved on to a new template for American Excellence in the Global Marketplace through Education. I felt a little better when I googled it and discovered that Minnesota is one of the five states to not adopt the standards. A little. I don't get out much but clearly my failure to stay current with affairs is a problem.

That said, I have had an opportunity to educate (heh) myself on my assigned position and now I really do want to punch The Honorable Mr. Secretary right in the nose. Not so much because higher standards may cause me to re-evaluate my take on the brilliance of my children but because, even in non-adoptive Minnesota, this is why half-day kindergarten is no longer an option at our school. And you know who really would have benefited from half-day kindergarten? Edward. That's who.

Some kids (Caroline) are perfectly willing to learn to conjugate all the live-long day while others (Edward) need some milk and some gingerbread and, if not a nap, then at least a quiet lie-down in the afternoon. Adopting educational standards that fail to allow for reasonable differentiation is lunacy. You can, of course, lead a horse to water, sir, but you cannot make it learn that the P says pah, especially if the horse is cranky and wants a juice box.

Pah! Indeed.

It took a couple of months but Edward has finally settled down at school and is no longer a danger to himself or others. In fact, he has become the model prisoner I always knew he could be. Fortunately (most fortunately) he has an excellent teacher and she was not only able to intuit his specific needs among the twenty-three other need-suckers surrounding him but she has been diligent about accommodating him. He wants to decompress in a quiet corner for three minutes before joining the others for math? Fine. The moment she stopped trying to nudge him along he relaxed and now they seem to be in perfect amity with each other. And I no longer have to dread opening his folder every afternoon.

Good good and good.

* A general rule of thumb for all mammals, especially political mammals: never say that [adjective] [nouns] believe [creed.] It invariably offends through both inclusion and exclusion.


Every Contigency

To anyone (STEVE! MOM!) who has ever doubted that I might some day have a use for the human teeth that I keep in my desk drawer I would like to publicly say: HA!

Caroline had a tooth so loose that it fell out today while she was eating a banana. Then it vanished. Maybe she swallowed it or maybe it is buried in the couch or maybe we just didn't see it on rug and walking barefoot in the living room now carries with it a risk of a toothing. In any event it is gone and Caroline was inconsolable. 

"I'll never get my dollar!" she wailed. When I explained that she could write the tooth fairy a note in lieu of the tooth, she gave me a withering look and went back to scrabbling under an end table like a manic badger.

So I got a tooth from the tooth bag and returned to the living room where, in a dazzling display of prestidigitation, I proceeded to 'find' Caroline's lost tooth. Ta daaaaaa. Jazz hands. Best. Mom. Ever.

But

Patrick got an odd look on his face as Caroline proudly showed him both her tooth and her tooth gap.

"Huh," he said tapping his chin and ignoring the fact that I had started to growl at him. "Let's see, Caroline. The tooth in your hand is a molar and that hole in front... ."

We will never know whether Patrick was actually going to complete his thought or if he was just teasing me because at that point I screamed to direct Caroline's attention to an enormous albeit imaginary spider and she went off to find it; giving me the opportunity to lock Patrick in my bathroom with a bucket over his head.


Coup

Steve was very careful not to wake me up this morning when he arose at 5:00 to do a little deer spotting. As it turned out he needn't have bothered to creep around so silently since I was on another floor, sound asleep in Edward's room; having returned Edward to his bed at 2:00. I covered him with a blanket and said, "I'll just lie down with you for a moment but then I am going back to my bed."

Famous last words. I was asleep again before I even realized that I was using Edward's stuffed snake as a pillow.

As an aside: Steve woke, got dressed and left without ever noticing that I was no longer in the room and this is not the first or even the fifth time this has happened. While I applaud his desire to let me sleep I do find it a little troubling that he is incapable of recognizing whether or not there is another living being within four feet of him. Not only does it not speak well of his instincts; I keep telling him that no one will believe him when I disappear and he claims that he didn't even know I was gone.

"Even the good cop isn't going to pretend that makes sense," I told him this morning.

However, at the time, I didn't know anything about his stealth. At 5:00 I was out cold in a race car bed and I did not wake up until Caroline burst into Edward's room shortly before 7:00 caroling, "Eddybear! Great news!"

Then she looked at the bed and said, "Oh."

I blinked at her from beneath a pile of stuffed animals and blankets and she said, "Oh. I thought you were gone."

Later, over breakfast, I asked for clarification on her jubilant entrance into Edward's room and she explained that when she had entered our room and discovered the empty bed she had concluded that Steve and I had left the house.

"Why?"

"I don't know," she said. "I thought maybe you wanted to learn how to go hunting too."

"And what were you going to do with both me and Daddy gone?" I asked

She cocked her head to one side and studied me as if pondering how I had managed to survive to adulthood before she said, carefully, "Anything we wanted."


Jokester

My alarm goes off when it is still dark and I give myself ten minutes to lie there before I get out of bed. Then I get up, turn off the radio, brush my teeth and get dressed before clumping out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Every weekday exactly the same.

Today, however, was a little different. Alarm, doze, teeth, dress and then I shrieked and shrieked like a terrified monkey because dangling above my head in the darkened doorway to my bedroom was... a thing. A pale dangling THING.

Continue reading "Jokester" »


Solo

For the past week Steve has been down at the farm, alternately annoying and amusing the wildlife. I think the squirrels resent his presence in their trees; the deer have just shrugged and flipped their fluffy white tails at him. Historically I have always been very pro-deer in the annual Chingachcook vs Nature struggles in which he engages but this year I actually am hoping he is successful in his endeavors. May the winds bless his bow and speed his arrows.

I had a weird epiphany while dining with Patrick in New Orleans. For no apparent reason - I was eating Patrick's salad while he plowed through the raw seafood trio I had ordered - I suddenly realized how stupid it is for me to be all holier-than-fowl about Steve's hunting when I have no qualms whatsoever about eating everything with a face. I am not (I emphasize. carefully) saying that it is stupid to be opposed to hunting for ethical reasons; I am merely observing that it is incredibly hypocritical of me to chide Steve over the deer that fed him and the children for an entire year (venison burgers, venison tacos, venison sausage... it is literally the only red meat the kids eat at home) when I have so recently consumed a Baconator.

Speaking of which, Caroline talked to Steve on the phone tonight and she ended the conversation by saying, "I hope you bring back lots of deer meat!" and then she added, "And bacon!"

No kidding. Also milk and paper towels and asparagus but only if it looks ok and a couple of those long-sleeved t-shirts I like from Target...

Where was I?

Oh right. Steve has been gone and Edward has moved into our bed. Originally this was Patrick's perogative but it's been quite some time since he has had any interest in bunking with me. In fact, the other day Patrick found himself leaning against me while we watched TV and when he realized where he was he sat bolt upright and said, "What am I doing?" with such obvious horror that I laughed as he scooched himself in the opposite direction. Patrick doesn't really like to be touched, it turns out, which explains why every attempt on my part to soothe him as an infant failed. If only I had realized that he prefers to be alone in a dark, silent room I would not have spent his babyhood wrapping him in my arms while the nightlight glowed and music played. We probably both would have gotten more sleep.

I digress again.

Edward and I were sleeping quite soundly at o'dark-thirty this morning when the sound of light, quick footsteps heralded Caroline's arrival. I was very, very sleepy and wary. There are times that Caroline wanders downstairs and falls back asleep again but for the most part she is up because she is UP. So she climbed into bed with us and wriggled and wriggled and asked for water and sighed and kicked at the blankets and kicked at Edward and kicked at me and sighed some more until I hissed at her to either settle down or go to her room. 

About a minute elapsed before she whispered, "Mommy. I am sorry to disturb your sleep but can Edward and I go to the basement and play in the fort?"

Edward snored, loudly, and I whispered back, "NO. It is the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. DO NOT WAKE UP YOUR BROTHER. Go to sleep or go back to your room and, I dunno, read or something. But shhhhhhhh!"

She was quiet for another minute until I felt her start to crawl across the pillows. She must have lost her bearings in the dark because I then felt a gentle slapping on my cheek and felt her breath as she whispered in my ear, "Edward. Edward. Wake up."

"CAROLINE!" I moaned at the exact moment Edward sat bolt upright and said, "Yes?"

Eventually everyone fell back asleep in their respective places and everyone had a hell of a time waking up a few hours later. Edward was groggy and Caroline was both groggy and angry, accusing me of having meanly thrown her out of my room in the night. I reminded her of the fact that she had been trying to wake up her brother at the time and Edward burst out laughing.

"I know what she was trying to do! She was trying to trick me into sleep-walking to my own room so she can sleep in your bed," he chortled. "Not gonna happen!"

Caroline and I looked at each other. She bared her teeth. I scrubbed my face with my hands.

Remember when I was gone and Steve just put Edward and Caroline in the same bed and shut the door? He does it so much better than I do.


What The Brits Call Twee

Patrick helped the twins get dressed this morning and I know I am a terrible person but

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I felt a little foolish as they bobbled along with me at Target today.

"Are they twins? Look at their matching shirts! How precious!"

Yeah. Precious.