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February 2015

Mosaic

Thank you. I didn't remember posting anything last night so it was especially nice to see your comments this morning. I woke up with what I can only describe as a migraine hangover tantamount to what one might experience following a bachelor party. In Las Vegas. On New Year's Eve. 1960.

I remember feeling fine and then I blinked and suddenly I was partially blind in my left eye. I get auras that are usually jagged lightning but this was like a thumbprint smeared across my retina. The nice thing about auras - my fellow migraineurs? yes? - is that they might make me dizzy and disoriented (why do Brits say disorientated? it sounds like a totally unnecessary syllable to me) but they allow for thirty minutes notice before my head hurts. This gives me time to go to my first line of defense (an imitrex, two alleve and a coke) followed by my second line (three ibuprofen) followed by my third (another imitrex) before my last ditch effort (half a glass of red wine.) This works about 75% of the time and if I can crawl into a dark space and fall asleep, all the better.

Last night I didn't even make it to the wine. I barely made it to my room. I have no recollection of anything after the blurry eye; which is scary when you think about it so I am not going to think about it. Caroline and Edward put themselves to bed. My bed, as I discovered when I woke up.

{KEY:

Pink lump plus panda and rainbow striped blanket = Caroline asleep

Everything in the middle = Edward asleep

Tiny strip of beige to the right of the red pillow = where I was}

IMG_6988

How I managed to sleep through the arrival of this colorful diaspora I have no idea but I assume that as I started to go down I told the twins to come to my room and stay there. They broadly interpreted this invitation to include not only themselves but everything that they hold most dear.

Sincere question for migraine sufferers and/or anyone else, really: in the past year or so I have had far fewer migraines but the ones I have had have ended by my feeling more like I lost consciousness than fell asleep; thoughts?

PS Aside: Patrick returned from his Monday through Wednesday environmental field trip this evening wearing exactly the same clothes in which he left. Exactly. When I asked if I wanted to know if he had even brushed his teeth he said, "No."

"No, you didn't brush your teeth?"

"No, you don't want to know."

I said, rather disdainfully because disgusting children with disgusting habits deserve disgust, "Should I just dump your bag of clothes back into your dresser as they clearly haven't been touched?"

And he said, "Er, no! Don't touch my bag!"

So I immediately unzipped his duffel like the most zealous of TSA agents and discovered... a stuffed barn owl and a puzzle made out of a photograph of morels.

"Oh," I said. "Oh," I repeated.

"I was in a better mood then!" he snapped.

"Can I tell your brother and sister that you used your field trip money to buy them presents?"

"I guess."

"That was very sweet of you."

"..."

 PPS The phone just rang and it was a parent volunteer from Caroline and Edward's school calling to 'catch them reading' during I Love to Read month. 

Since Steve is in Colorado and I am, you know, working here I had no idea what the kids were doing but I answered the phone and was pleasantly surprised to walk out of bedroom and find Caroline on the couch, reading.

"Caroline!" I said. "Skippyjon Jones is on the phone to catch you reading?"

"Oh YES," she said and grabbed the phone. "Yes? Hello? Yes! I am! What? Oh I am reading a Sisters Grimm book. Book four? Once Upon A Crime? It sounds like it is inappropriate but it is not so much although the king of the fairies just got murdered."

I closed my eyes and tried to feel more lucky and less embarrassed.

Edward was standing on the back of the couch (Edward get off the back of the couch) saying, "Not me? Not me?" when Caroline said, "Oh Edward? Yes, he's right here."

Edward took the phone.

"Uh, what?" he answered. Then there was a pause. A very long pause.

"Astronomy!" he finally said.

Then there was another pause during which the parent volunteer presumably told him that he could stop by the principal's office tomorrow for a prize.

But Edward continued on the phone...

"I wasn't really reading!" he cried. "But I will be. As soon as I hang up I will go and read Astronomy again. I was reading it before this afternoon and I will read it again right now. I promise! I PROMISE!"

I have no idea what the parent volunteer told him but he looked relieved.


Later

Steve's gone, Patrick is on a field trip, I have a migraine. I think the twins ate valentine's candy for dinner. Misery.


We Said A Lot Of Stupid Things In The 70s

One of the reasons Edward has been getting physical therapy (apart from the fact that he has repeatedly ripped the nails on his big toes half off by tripping over his weirdly positioned walking feet - the last time I took a photograph of his bloody toe stubs so the therapist could share it with our health insurance approval people. they said oooh yuck but no. yay for new insurance.)

Starting over

One of the reasons Edward has been getting physical therapy is that some of his leg muscles are so tight/short it causes him pain to be in certain positions, most notably sitting cross-legged on the floor. In first grade parlance he cannot criss-cross his applesauce.

But he has been going to PT weekly since the start of the year and he is making improvements. After his last session his therapist mentioned that he seems to be getting more comfortable and encouraged me to not let him default to his preferred W position (rather than tucking his legs under like a pretzel when he sits on the floor he twists them outward in opposite directions from the knees - it looks agonizing to an adult. I probably have a picture...

ah. exhibit A

IMG_6907)

So, mindful of my responsibilities when I walked into the living room this afternoon and saw Edward splayed rather than crossed as he tried to build a solar-powered car; I said, "Edward. Remember your legs? You need to try to sit Indian-style."

Edward dropped his battery and gaped at me. Caroline gasped. I tried to figure out what was happening.

"Mom,"Caroline said. "That is racist. You just said something that is racist."

"Oh. Em. Gee," Edward said. "I cannot believe she just said that."

I got it. Finally.

"Oh!" I said. "Sorry. Right. Not like an Indian, of course; we used to... nevermind. Crisscross applesauce. Edward, you need to sit crisscross applesauce because it is better for your legs."

But Caroline and Edward were not done with me. Full to the core with knowledge, as they are, they told me all about their indigenous peoples unit and how upsetting it is to native populations to be culturally lumped together and then tied to a five hundred year old mistake. 

"We learned this at THANKSGIVING," Edward said, like, and that was months ago and how old are you and shouldn't you know this by now?

"And there is really an India," Caroline informed me. "And they ARE Indian there. And lots of our friends are from there. Like B and G."

"And C," Edward added. "And S. And R."

Caroline said, "I thought R was from somewhere else?"

"No," said Edward. "He did a poster on India."

I started to leave the room.

"Anyway," Caroline continued, "lots of our friends are Indian from India and when they sit on the floor? They sit crisscross applesauce."

I thanked them and told them they were right and that I was sorry that I had misspoken. And I made a mental note not to let them watch any of the sitcoms from my childhood any time soon. Five minutes of Archie Bunker would shove them right over the edge.


Reclining Straight Angle

Edward started groaning when I reminded him that they had skiing this afternoon.

"I don't want to go," he said. "It takes so long," he said. "I have so much to do at home," he said.

I said, "You have today plus one more Sunday with your group; then you're done. If, after this session is over, you want to try something else... soccer, basketball, diving, skating, I am perfectly happy to look into it. But you have to finish what you signed up for and you have to do something. Exercise is part of being healthy and all of you need at least one activity that gets you moving every week."

Edward said, "But skiing takes three hours. Can't I do something shorter?"

"Like what?"

Edward thought for a moment.

"Yoga," he offered.

"Yoga?"

"Yes. Yoga. I could stretch my legs out in front of me and just sit and think thoughts."

"Edward. That is not yoga and it is not exercise. It sounds like a nap with your eyes open."

"No! I would be exercising my braaaaain."

I told him that his brain was fine and he was still going to skiing today. He returned to his groaning.

PS Oh my gosh! Go Bantams!


Oh. That WAS State.

So middle school science bowl goes something like this:

two teams of four are seated at elongated folding tables in college classrooms that range in size from lecture to seminar. Each competitor is given a button attached to a buzzer/light, one pencil and a few sheets of paper. Facing them are the moderator who asks the questions, the time-keeper, the score-keeper and a handful of parents who are all looking anywhere but at the competitors for fear they might inadvertently mouth, "Tetra-fluoro-bor-ate" and get the whole team disqualified. I saw one parent read her book through an entire round; another was knitting a baby blanket, while a third seemed to be addressing wedding invitations. 

I didn't have this problem since - and I am not exaggerating - I knew the answer to perhaps, ah, twenty of the four hundred or so questions and the ones I did know (Galileo!) usually created a slight but noticeable tremor of frustration (I buzzed!) and derision (really? that's even a question?) from the competitors as the speediest thumb hit the button.

However, I also spent the morning and half the afternoon staring at my fingers (dyed purple, blue and orange after I moved Patrick's latest batch of socks to cure someplace other than the middle of the laundry room) or the ceiling because it was too excruciating to watch. No one on Patrick's team had ever competed before and the first couple of rounds they had a tendency to accrue penalties. Not interesting penalties like in football when a defender throttles Hazard or Diego Costa gets a little stampy but horrible penalties like buzzing in first but blurting out the answer before the moderator has acknowledged you (four points to the other team.) Patrick did this once during the practice round and I thought he was going to have an apoplexy; he was so mortified. There seemed to be something so... personally devastating about a wrong answer or a mistimed answer - for all the kids; our team, their team - that I suffered vicariously through the entire thing.

But enough about me.

Patrick and company eventually settled down and - I think - had a good time. They won their first two rounds and started to feel more confident and comfortable. The third round they faced a team who had a boy so... extraordinary, so astonishingly brilliant that I think we all just enjoyed the experience of listening to him.

At one point his team had twenty seconds to answer a math question and he did his stare into space thing for a few moments before saying whatever the answer was: X. Or W maybe. Science bowl multiple choice answers are labeled W, X, Y and Z and I can only assume that they label the answers this way specifically to fuck with the students because when you get a multiple choice math question you are read things like "if f of x is equal to open bracket x squared etc" and then your answer choices are "w: f of x is equal to...; x: f of x is equal to 4x squared... ." Most confusing. Well for me at any rate but... see above. I didn't know what was going on 98% of the time anyway (Galileo!)

Where was I? Oh right, that kid! So he told his captain what he thought the answer was and his captain said "Are you sure?" and he turned his full attention to the captain and started to sketch with his hands how a triangle within the given circle would look. Not because he was trying to convince the other kid that his answer was correct but because for that moment I believe that he had completely forgotten that he was in a competition and they had about eight seconds left to answer the question. He was absorbed in the math and needed to explain it. It was utterly charming. Anyway, they beat Patrick's team by a lot and afterward Patrick and his teammates had nothing but enthusiastic admiration for them, which I liked.

Then they (Patrick etc) won again and were able to move on to the double-elimination round where they found themselves paired against... the first team from their own school.

"Do you practice with them on Wednesday mornings?" I asked.

"Yep," they said.

"And... ?"

"They beat us."

"Ah."

It wound up being my favorite round of the day. Everyone in the room knew each other, they liked each other and the older kids were kind to Patrick's team without being condescending. As they got seated Patrick called out, "Hey Mom! Who are you rooting for?" and I said, "I haven't decided yet."

Patrick pointed at the other table and said, "Well these guys usually beat us so they're kind of like your Patriot-Chelseas. You know how you like a sure thing."

I thanked him for the inside information and promised to take it into consideration.

Then the science teacher who oversees their program said, "I don't know, I think Team One should watch out. Patrick just dyed that new pair of socks and they look pretty lucky" at which point all nine kids (team one had an alternate - very fancy) turned and said, essentially, there is no such thing as lucky in science bowl. But then they assessed whether Patrick's red/orange sock might offer some statistical advantage over his blue/green sock on the basis of increasingly absurd criteria.

This is fatuous and I apologize but ultimately:

all of the competitors had to fill out a survey about their participation and hand it into a judge before they were allowed to get lunch. I glanced over Patrick's shoulder to see how close he was to being done and saw the statement: "I have made friends as a result of my participation in Science Bowl" after which Patrick had circled Yes.

And thank Tesla they didn't win it all because the first place team? Has to go to NATIONALS.


I Meant... Until State! Of Course

As I dropped Patrick off for his last practice before the science bowl tournament I said, "Well, just one more day until you're finished bowling for science."

He looked at me reproachfully but it wasn't until I was halfway home that I realized it might have been tactless to imply that tomorrow's competition is essentially a placeholder between now and the inevitable moment when they lose. 

I am going to go out on a limb and bet that Patrick will not be dedicating his Nobel prize to the mother who always believed in him.


I Guess The Rest Of Us Were In Line For Concert Tickets

I know I promised my mother that I would stop perseverating on the faults of others and tend to my own garden and I have been trying, really but...

as I was in line to drop Caroline and Edward off this morning a person at the back of line suddenly realized that she had kids in the car, kids she needed to drop off at school! So she pulled into the non-existent secondary lane, passed the ten or so cars that had been in front of her - zipping through the crosswalk, naturally - and then swung to the front of the line where she proceeded to unload.

GAHURKK?

I can only assume that she had just been bitten by a poisonous snake and realized that she had ten minutes to make it to an emergency room before she slipped into a coma. Please note I said "assume" and not "hope" because I am saintly.

I propose that for sheer selfishness and effrontery nothing beats a school parking lot but I am willing to ponder alternate suggestions. In what situations do you find yourself most wanting to smack the heads of strangers?


Name Something That Comes In A Jar Besides Jelly... Jelly!

I hope Sarah doesn't mind but I am going borrow her comment about her daughter's National History Day fair:

"We had a preponderance of John Deere and Adolph Hitler and Vince Lombardi. (On Wisconsin.) And there is no one one else on the internet who I thought might enjoy hearing that."

First, yes, I enjoyed hearing that very much and, second, I keep imagining Betty White on $25,000 Pyramid:

"John Deere... Vince Lombardi... Hitler... "

"People Wisconsonites identify as leaders."

Bing!

The absurdity amuses me. We had a Hitler presentation at Patrick's fair, too. Patrick was right next to him, then Feynman, another Oppenheimer and finally Dr Seuss. Odd.

+

Oh and another total aside. We were listening to the second Artemis Fowl book on the way home when the narrator referred to the adrenaline rush that enables a mother to lift a fallen tree off her children.

Patrick looked at me and said, pointedly, "Or push one on top of them."


Are Doomed To Repeat It

I was... not excited to leave the house fifteen minutes after we got home in order to drive back to school (weren't we just there?) for Patrick's national history day Ffaire (6:30 to 7:30) but

I'm just going to let that sentence fall off a cliff.

The theme this year is leadership and legacy and it was impossible not to be charmed by all of these seventh graders wobbling - as they do with almost everything at this age - between earnestness and awkwardness.

+

"Shirley Temple! What a great idea. What made you choose to learn more about her?"

"She was awesome."

"True. And were you most interested in her dancing and singing or a specific movie or the huge symbol she became for America during the Depression... ?"

"Yes and she was awesome. And she didn't wreck her life like every other child star."

"Hmm. Judy Garland."

"Exactly. She became the ambassador to Czechoslovakia instead."

+

"Bridget Bishop? How interesting, I see she is from Salem on your board but I am afraid I don't know who she is. Can you tell me about her?"

"She was the first person to be hanged during the Salem Witch Trials."

"Oh! Yikes. What happened?"

"Well I have these quotes where they talked about her dressing differently, wearing a red bodice and she was the innkeeper. They say here that she was very merry and lively and that went against what the Puritans believed in."

[What I thought was: ah ha. the round-heeled barmaid was free with her favors and got hanged as a witch for her trouble, the poor darling. She should've stayed in England where she might've gotten it in the neck for stealing bread but never for just tupping the squire. Then I realized I couldn't really discuss the nuances of seventeenth-century quasi-genteel prostitution with a twelve year old girl to whom I have not been formally introduced so I changed the subject]

"And how was she a leader, do you think?" and then I could have bitten my tongue because how tactless was that?

"Well they killed eighteen more people after her so she led them in that."

"Very true," I nodded.

+

I approached a studious-looking young man who was standing in front of a board about Thomas Paine and I asked him how he came to choose his subject.

"I knew the time period I wanted."

"Yes?"

"Because their weaponry was so primitive at the time that their warfare relied much more heavily upon tactics."

"Yes!"

"So I wanted to focus on the great minds of the Revolutionary War and that led me to Thomas Paine who did not lead in the fighting but lead by inspiring the people and the soldiers by explaining what they were all fighting for."

"YES!"

"Power of the pen!" he shouted.

"YES! YES! YES!" and I don't think he was hand-slapping type so I kept my palm down but I am pretty sure we high-fived with our minds .

History geeks unite.

PS I saw my friend Ted who, after complimenting me on my Chelsea scarf and asking how Steve was taking my sudden descent ascent into football fanaticism, told me that he was impressed by how much Patrick knew about his subject.

"He might be in danger of going on to regionals," he said and then he laughed when I looked at him in horror.

"No." I said, very firmly. "This National History Day year? Is OVER."


Mot juste

Steve and I woke up with matching colds on Friday and proceeded along our miserable, snuffling ways until Saturday night when we met friends out for dinner. If we hadn't rescheduled on them twice since December we would have cancelled but we had; so we didn't. Steve bathed himself in hand sanitizer, brought three handkerchiefs and a wooly scarf and he ordered hot tea at the bar. I agreed that something warm sounded appealing so I asked for a hot spiced cider, liberally laced with 2 Gingers whiskey to ward off the chill. Then over dinner, since I obviously had a designated driver in Chamomile Carl over there, I split a bottle of red wine with my friend. Finally, for dessert, I had a tiny, delicious glass of muscat.

Two days later I have never felt better and Steve is miserable. I spent the entire day trundling glasses of juice and mugs of tea and soup into his office before I finally convinced him to just go back to bed.

Which, of course, reminds me of the part of "Heavy Weather" when PG Wodehouse recounts the moralistic tale of two brothers: Freddie and Eustace. Freddie was the sensible one; Eustace abjured spirituous liquors. One day their French chef discovered a dead hedgehog in the road and decided to pocket the marketing money and serve the corpse, en casserole, to the brothers instead of chicken.

As Wodehouse describes, "Eustace, the teetotaller, turned nile-green, started groaning like a lost soul, and continued to do so for the remainder of the week, when he was pronounced out of danger. Freddie, on the other hand, his system having been healthfully pickled in alcohol, throve on the dish and finished it up cold the next day." 

Ah. Wodehouse.

PS I am refraining from making an obvious and yet sexist remark about men and fortitude and colds. I am, however, thinking it.