The Open Door
Kein Ayin Hora

How I Spent My

Hello, strangers.

For what it is worth I have felt guilty every moment since mid-July. Well, maybe not July but by August, definitely. Every day I would ponder writing a little something and then the laziness would grab me by the ankles and drag me back into its sweet, soporific embrace. It was a little like sleeping really, really late. Like, hours past your normal wake up time. So late that you aren't even remotely tired anymore but it feels so good to lie there with your eyes shut that you resist all of your brain's attempts to point out that the cat is throwing up on the rug and it sounds like the children are using chainsaws to murder a parrot. 

So hiya and I am sorry but I kinda really enjoyed blowing off writing for two whole months and thank you for checking on me and on the plus side - in addition to the fact that all of that nothing has left me feeling refreshed - you didn't miss anything.

We stayed near Big Sky in Montana, which is a ski resort but so outrageously beautiful in the summer that it is hard to understand why everyone in the world does not live there all of the time forever.

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Lots of conifers, carved rocks, high meadows and waterfalls. This part of Montana is now a close second to my favorite place, ever, which is the Valley of the Ten Peaks near Banff - a location well worth a visit, by the way. Steve and I were so impressed with Montana that we considered moving to Bozeman; a fantasy that lasted the entire drive home and only faltered when we saw our garage and realized that if we moved we would have to pack. And that? Is just not going to happen.

So we will die here and be buried - literally - in one of the piles in our garage (maybe Empty Amazon Box hill? it's so pretty there in the gleam of the headlights) and it is probably all for the best.

After Montana Patrick did some JAVA programming thing and I put the twins into Chinese immersion day camp. To be honest I had only meant to register Caroline but Edward overheard me and said he wanted to go, too, and what was I supposed to say? No, Edward, Caroline is the language one; you, in turn, are the best damned detective on the force but you're a hot-headed maverick, a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules, and no one wants to be your partner let alone your Mandarin immersion teacher? Of course not. That would be pigeon-holing and that is wrong.

So I signed them both up and was pleasantly surprised when Edward not only went but enjoyed it. And then something about seeing a cheerful Edward clutching his carefully inked interpretation of the Qinling Mountain Range and telling me that his favorite part of the day was the green tea and shrimp crackers (shrimp crackers?) had a galvanizing affect on me. Edward. In a classroom. At the end of the day. Happy.

It just struck me so forcibly that Edward was able to spend a delightful and engaged day in a school-like setting (yeah, camp, but it was A LOT like kindergarten and conducted in Mandarin to boot) and that next year (um, this year) didn't have to be a repeat of the previous one. Kindergarten was a miserable experience for Edward (no blame to the teacher or the school or his classmates or anything - it was just a horror show for him for whatever reason) and I failed to intervene [blame there, certainly. we should have done... something, I dunno, anything sooner.]

Our intention had been to switch Edward's classroom and give him and Caroline some space from each other but after seeing him all Leo-like and blooming under the gentle glow of kicking around his own jianzi I thought, huh, I wonder if I can find some entirely new school for him? A clean slate. A place that does not already know Edward as The Kid Most Likely To Curl Up In A Ball With His Hands Over His Ears For Months. Preferably a school that served shrimp crackers but, you know, I'd accept smaller class sizes because what Edward really liked about camp wasn't the Chinese (that actually kinda freaked him out and as far as I know he never spoke a word of it) but the fact that the group was tiny, he was given lots of time to work on projects and he felt like his teacher liked him.

Fair enough, right?

So I started looking for a new school in July and it seemed utterly, utterly hopeless since a) there aren't that many schools out here; and b) most school registrations closed in February but I slapped them onto every waiting list that made any sense whatsoever and lo (and behold) two weeks ago Caroline and Edward got spaces in a fairly convenient charter school. Yay. Before you ask I know absolutely nothing about this place - I mean nothing. like, I cannot even remember if this place is really into common core or really against common core or really into being somewhere in the middle on it - other than the fact that they shoot for a max of 19 and hard cap class size at 21 and it is located 6 minutes away from Patrick's (new*) school.

Done and done.

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Titled: Edward Contemplates the Lake

He likes his occasional solitude. Who am I to argue?

Today was the second day of the new school and frankly it was a like a freaking circus but I expect things will get better. Pickup and dropoff were... you know how much I perseverate on carpool protocol so don't get me started but! the new lowest of the low that I have ever seen was the car that was facing the WRONG WAY at dropoff this morning. Picture, if you will, forty cars pointing this way, waiting to deposit our children and the one car driving in from the opposite direction - the mind it boggles.

Where was I? Oh right, Edward and Caroline started a new school and I am optimistic. Mostly because it could not possibly be any worse for Edward than last year and nothing makes Caroline happier than an opportunity to spread her sunshine to new horizons.

*We had applied for a space in a different, math-y and science-y charter school for Patrick for last year. He wound up being 73rd on the waiting list for sixth grade and that was fine because he was happy to finish elementary school where he was. This year he applied again and, although I think our local junior high would have been great, too, this place is a perfect fit and we were pleased in March when he got a letter saying that he was first on the waiting list for seventh grade. First. A gimme, right? Obviously some family or other would be transferred to Malaysia and some other kid would move to Jamaica to pursue her Olympic bobsledding dreams and some child would finally convince his parents that he hates both math and science and, truly, he wants to go to junior clown school.

March became April became July and still we did not hear from the new school. I actually checked in with them mid-summer to see if he was still on their list; an act of insecurity that reminded me uncomfortably of the days before call waiting in which you (I) would pick up the phone reallyquickly just to make sure it was still working because Someone still hadn't called you. (me)

In August we made our yearly visit to Steve's birth family in Vermont and upstate New York and the day after we got back Caroline and I departed for Milwaukee to hear several of our favorite Gaelic-speaking bands perform Live! at an Irish music festival to which the Scots had been invited. My mom and Edward came too (Caroline asked them both. they graciously accepted) and although neither of them care very much for the music of the Gàidhealtachd it wound up being the MOST splendiferous time. The four of us stayed in a fancy hotel and had great meals and Edward fell in love with a Kadinsky exhibit and the Milwaukee public museum has a butterfly room where the butterflies land all over you and only twice did I have to wag my finger at the three of them and say HEY! this is MY trip to see MY bands so sit down and eat your sugar-coated giant pretzels and shut it for another 43 minutes .

And Caroline got the opportunity to speak to the band to whom she has listened nonstop for the past six months (Mànran) and she announced "I am a HUGE fan!" Whereupon the one guy promptly replied, "And naow we're huge fans of yers." Then they all signed her festival map (with LOVE she pointed out before she had me frame it) and let her take a picture with them; the result of which speaks for itself.   

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That is one ecstatic Caroline.

We got back from that trip and a few days later Steve and Patrick left for a mountain backpacking excursion in Colorado that they have been planning for months. Every year until fairly recently Steve and a bunch of friends have strapped twenty-five pounds of stuff onto their backs and disappeared into the Sangres for a week or so in late summer. Steve cites me and the children as the reason why he no longer does this annually (I personally think it is because of his k-n-e-e-s. whatever) but he has not been in a while and he thought it would be great to return and take Patrick with him. I was a little less sure. After all, I am the one who packs Patrick's lunch and I am quite certain that there has never been a freeze-dried meal included but hey! who am I to stand in the way of a man, a boy and their desire to be as physically uncomfortable as possible?      

They spent weeks weighing toothbrushes and carrying bags of flour up the hill in our backyard and it was really pretty charming and then right before they were set to leave Patrick got offered a space at the charter school. Great! But then he left and was completely off the grid and I had to field questions like can he come in for math placement testing? No! Does he want to do Lego robotics? Um, yes? Does he want to attend the mandatory laptop session on Tuesday or Wednesday? Neither! How's his Spanish? No es bueno?       

I attended the back to school night information session for new students in his stead and I felt like a complete fool when they asked who was the incoming seventh grader and I raised my hand. Also, I had to get help when they gave us a chance to try out the lockers and I was completely unable to make it open. Stupid lock.

OK. That's it. More to say but... done.

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