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June 2015

Saturdays In Summer

After an absolutely spectacular summer day in which

1. I woke up after exactly the right amount of sleep in an empty bed to the sound of rain

2. Steve went to his post-lasik check and returned home with a box of doughnuts

3. I got to enjoy the look on Patrick's face when his engineering camp materials arrived and he read that a daily shower will be mandatory - remember when he went to the Y sleep-away camp and never took off his bathing suit, ever? Yeah, well, NOT

4. The children played amongst themselves

5. Steve then took them fishing, which left me alone in the house to indulge my secret passion (I vacuumed Patrick's mattress and then gathered up all of the end-of-school papers, sunglasses, jump ropes, loose change and dead batteries that have been covering every surface in the laundry slash mud room for the past two weeks and put it all neatly where it belongs 

- which reminds me of the list of 11 Things Only Introverted Parents Will Understand that Bopper kindly left for me when I was so sick the other week: "You'll develop lurid, detailed fantasies about time alone" the description of which includes cleaning the junk drawer)

6. Steve came home with mahi mahi (which I love but have not eaten in years since I think they used to fish for it using clubbed baby seals as chum - something like that - but can apparently now be responsibly sourced; if our grocery is to be believed)

7. Lewis Hamilton was up by two tenths of a second in the last round of qualifying only to lose control on the first turn ONLY to have Rosberg then lose control on the last turn, leaving Lewis with the pole - heh heh heh; c'mon Sammyx where are you? you are the only person who gets my F1 fixation

I am now being bedeviled by unbelievably annoying children

1. Patrick keeps replying to every request with a snappy "Yes, ma'am!" followed by... absolutely nothing whatsoever. As in: "Patrick come down, get this laundry basket and put your clothes away." "Yes ma'am!" and then silence and no movement; leaving me to choose between repeating  myself with increasing volume and shrillness (ugh) or marching upstairs to bodily prod him into action (double ugh.)

2. Caroline has decided to teach herself to play the recorder - fine - but she has been working on a squeaky B for the past hour and a half and I am about to go mad

3. Edward is in an awful mood and went rebelliously off to bed saying, "I hate going to bed" "I hate brushing my teeth" "I hate going to the bathroom" "I hate wearing pajamas" "I hate... water". On the last one even he thought he might have slipped into the ridiculous but he rallied and proceeded to condemn his pillow, his book and the night sky.

Good riddance.

But overall still a very good day and I hope you had an equally lovely one.

PS I started this post by complaining about how the children were driving me batty. Then I felt guilty because it really was a very nice day. So first I wrote the recorder/noncompliance/Edward the Grouch part and then I qualified it with the good stuff. Then it seemed ungrateful so I inverted the two parts. Then I read it over and realized it is a mess but I don't want to fix it; I want to go watch Doc Martin with Patrick.

So if you think this reads like I upended a bucket of thoughts onto a linoleum floor I agree and I'm sorry. I still hope you had an enjoyable day.


Steve had to get re-lasik'ed today since the first attempt resulted in his vision becoming worse in one eye. Not optimal and certainly not worth the money - if I'd known he wanted to go through life squinting like Popeye through a pair of reading glasses I could've poked him in the eye with my finger for free. Fortunately, the place offers a lifetime guarantee so they did today's adjustment gratis (you could do this every month if you liked! I told him after he staggered out) and with a minimum amount of fuss. The biggest hassle was the scheduling, which - like all surgeries - heavily favored the convenience of the doctor and/or clinic.

I was in the middle of figuring out the best way to secure childcare within the broad parameters of: Friday, for an hour or two, sometime between eight in the morning and three in the afternoon; when a realization struck me like a meteorite. 

To wit: Patrick is moments away from being thirteen. The twins are a robust seven. All three of them are capable of dialing not only 9 but also 1 and 1 again if needed. Patrick, in fact, proved himself to be fairly adept at setting off the security system and bringing state troopers to the house whether they were needed or not. In short, there was no reason why Steve and I could not leave them to tend themselves for a couple of hours in the middle of the day while we went to a doctor's appointment a couple, several, ten miles away.

It was as liberating as it was startling.

PS As I was sitting in the waiting room trying to read my book  - and cursing the prevailing belief that there must be a television in all such spaces, it must be on, it must be really loud and it must be tuned to HGTV; pet peeve of mine. can't we all just wait quietly and amuse ourselves for a few freaking minutes? - my cell phone rang. It was Caroline.

"Hellllo!" she said.


"How are you?" she asked.


"How is Daddy?"


"So, we have an emergency here." 

"Oh?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

I waited.

"Do you want to know what the emergency is?"

"Sure," I said.

"Edward cannot get on the server."

"I'll be home in about thirty minutes, Caroline."

Remind me to have a little talk with her about the word 'emergency'. 


At breakfast today Patrick said, "Edward, if you get any more syrup on your face I am going to wrap you in a pancake and eat you."

Edward, stung, responded, "What? Is that what you want? For me to die by being devourated?"

Then Patrick said, "Devour-ated? Now I just want to eat you because you make up really good words."

Edward wasn't sure whether he should be offended or gratified so he just said, "Well. OK. But No. For whatever reason."

So Patrick leaned over and licked him, Edward shrieked and I had to tell everyone to keep their hands, feet and tongues to themselves or else -

but I really just wanted to laugh.

It's Actually Not A Bad Phone. For A Camera.

Thank you. I made notes.


I now have enough ideas to help one hundred Patrick celebrate one hundred birthdays. And in the hopes that it will give you as much pleasure as it gave me, here is Shannon's comment following her recommendation for sparkfun: "I bought the materials from them to make a turn signal sweatshirt- conductive thread, leds, controller, accelerometer.  I programmed it to go off when I drop my arm up then down."

Can you imagine how delightful it must be to be walking behind Shannon as she signals that she is about to turn left?

I've said it before and I will no doubt say it again: I really love you guys. Really, really.

And since I am pulling pictures off my phone for the first time in months, here is one from today in which Patrick looks like a giant despite the fact that he is crouched down.


And here is one of Steve and me in Montreal. Note: the first day we were there we got caught in the rain and missed our ferry by about five minutes. Since the next ferry was not scheduled to depart for another hour we made the decision to just walk back to the hotel rather than wait. We were, however, on an island and we were grievously ill-informed as to how far away the bridge was. When the rain finally let up and we started to cross the river in the right general direction I insisted we take a photograph to celebrate.  


We're smiling like that because we're too stupid to realize we have six miles still to go and it is about to start bucketing rain again. Also, let the record show that my raincoat actually absorbs rain and then distributes it evenly through the layers underneath. I have never been so wet in my entire life.

PS We were at a motor race. I have a soft spot for Lewis Hamilton.

People All Said Sit Down

I am meeting friends out tonight for wine and games of chance (yes, I will be attending the oldest established permanent floating crap game in the third-tier suburbs of Saaaaaaaint Paaaaaaul - if I were a bell I'd be RING-ing) so this will be brief.

I updated Firefox and now I can no longer leave a comment here, which is especially annoying because I had so very much to say about Lucy Eyelesbarrow and personal waxing. Sorry. Lucy Eyelesbarrow full stop. New paragraph. And. Pause. Personal waxing. There. So let me fidget with the browser settings and I'll get back to you.

More urgently Patrick is turning 13 in nine days and I have absolutely no idea what to get him. I cannot even offer him cash because I would probably have to borrow it from him to put in the card. He really is the most vexing person for whom to shop. When I asked him what he thinks he might like he told me that he is in a good place right now but he'd let me know. A GOOD PLACE RIGHT NOW. Great, Patrick. Cool man. That's groovy and I'm totally digging what you're laying down but what flavor do you want the goddamned ice cream cake and where shall I put this clown?

And you don't have to tell me that it seems the birthday is more about me than him. Obviously. So back to me and my dilemma.

Have you seen anything... odd lately that might appeal to a Patrick? Small or big, technical or arty? Or do you have any experiential suggestions, like going to a baseball game except whatever the exact opposite of that might be? Oooh, also, if you have a good source for quirky - and I mean quirky - tshirts please let me know. I usually get him several for his birthday but my go-to person has been done and gone.

OK. I'm out of here. Wish me luck. It's $5 to get in the game and then the stakes are enormous. Like, a $15 payout.

Raison D'Etre

Right now I am listening to:

1. a Heyer (The Toll-Gate, one of her lightest and not in my top ten) 

2. a funny bodice-ripper (The Duke's Holiday by, gimme a minute, Fenton? Maggie Fenton?) that is over the top in its plotting and a complete disaster when it comes to the period (I think she was going for Regency) but, you know, fun

3. a boring bodice-ripper (I was trying to remember why I never got into Stephanie Laurens since there are about forty of them in her Cynster series and then I started listening to the second one and it came back to me: I hate her writing)

3. The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society (absolutely charming but I have read it and I know it is going to be emotional so I am only able to take it in tiny chunks so far) 

4. The seventh Artemis Fowl book with the kids (love)

5. The Princess Academy when it is just me and Caroline and Edward (loathe)

6. An Agatha Christie (the 4:50 to Paddington, one of my favorites)

7. The Accidental Highwayman with Patrick (still. apparently we never have time alone together because this book is taking us forever to get through. I still think I like it but I am still unwilling to commit to a recommendation yet)

And if that isn't enough to make you think I am having trouble living within my own reality, I am also reading:

1. The Girl on the Train (for book club. not far enough along to have an opinion)

2. Middlemarch (every three or four years I read Middlemarch. I don't know why I love it so much but I do)

3. Poirot Loses a Client (this is my current bathtub book)

4. a lot of short, frothy Regencies; the kind that take about three hours from start to finish and never involve anything warmer than a meaningful glance and the press of a hand - I have read all of Marion Chesney, then I went through all of Barbara Metzger, then Susan Carroll and now I've started on a bunch by Joan Smith and...  

I have to tell someone about this book. I have to. But then I wondered, who on earth can I  talk to about a troubling cheesy romance novel?

You'll be flattered to know you sprang instantly to mind.


I started this book last night and about ten minutes into it I realized that the premise is as follows: the hero hires the heroine to play the part of his twelve year old daughter.

Got that?

The entire novel (such as it is) is centered around the burgeoning romance of Lord So-and-So and a woman who spends 90% of the book calling him Papa and thanking him for the doll and skipping rope. She's short! So she looks twelve! But she's twenty-two! So it's ok!


Yes? That is utterly icky, right?

Thank you. I just had to share that with someone.

A Many Splendor'd Thing

Before we had Patrick, Steve and I once spent a weekend staying with friends who also had another couple and their toddler staying with them. I don't remember what - if anything - we were all doing there but I have a very clear recollection of a conversation we had one night over dinner. Steve and I had four cats at the time (as we had for most of our relationship until Rusty and, later, Darwin died) and I said something fatuous about one or another of them; like you do when you're the sort of person who has four cats.

The woman laughed and said, "Oh we used to be the same way! Totally into our cats, pictures of them on the walls, the whole thing. Then we had Michael," fond maternal beam, "and the cats could have run away for all we would have cared."

To say I was appalled at the time would be an understatement. I was as shocked as I would have been if she had confided they'd purchased their child off the internet. The idea that you could have these animals that you love until some other... creature shows up and suddenly you don't love them anymore? Yowza.

Fifteen years and three children later we are down to two geriatric cats and I kinda understand what she was trying to say but I mostly do not. We no longer have framed photographs of our cats - we don't have any of the children either so I think it's a wash - but I still tell stories about my cats at dinner parties...

I know, I know... but they're so interesting! Jamy has lived in a series of different closets for eighteen years. She's a veritable feline Howard Hughes and it's only in recent years as she's succumbed to dementia that she's become even a little bit social. This inevitably leads to questions as to why Steve and I would spend over a decade providing for something that offered absolutely nothing in return and the answer is that's life, right? We got her as a stray when she was around six weeks old and we had no idea she was a lunatic with the constitution of a Galápagos tortoise. She is what she is.

Meanwhile Kelvin, our beautiful inbred Ragdoll with congenital cataracts and a predisposition to chew on electrical cords, routinely threatens suicide by howling at the top of his lungs until everyone comes into the living room; whereupon he dangles half his body over the edge of the banister from the floor above us as if he's about to jump. He has also developed a fierce attachment to Patrick. Kelvin sleeps on his bed during the day and on his pillow at night; he has a stool upon which he sits to watch Patrick use the computer; and when Patrick goes to a sleepover Kelvin spends the entire night pacing the house, yowling his loneliness and frustration.

Long answer to Ellie's question but yes, we still have a cat. Two actually. Eighteen and sixteen and both as nutty as brittle.

I think Caroline really just wanted something that was specifically her own, which I understand, but the reason I can so quickly say NO to a puppy (or a dog) is because I do not have to be psychic to tell you what two old, mentally unstable cats would do in response to a canine in the house: they would pee. They would pee everywhere. 

PS As we were at the cash register buying Caroline's fish - seriously. at the cash register - she turned to me and asked, conversationally, "So how many of these do I have to have and then have die before I can get something like a guinea pig? Like, three do you think?"

Edward punched her arm and hissed, "Caroline! Don't tell her your scheme! Never reveal the scheme!"

Not In Expectation But In Hope

You may recall that I once turned to Steve in horrified dismay and wailed something like, "The Scots can't play footer worth toffee" and having watched, well, more than five minutes of Scottish Premier League I stand by this statement.


Let us turn our attention to today's excellent UEFA Euro qualifier in which Ireland met Scotland and the football gods beamed benevolently down upon us all. That, my friends, was a good match and before you get all upset that you might have missed it fear not. I guarantee you that they will be replaying all of the qualifiers about fifty times between now and next November and I know this because every time I tried to record a Tuesday game on a Tuesday I was never able to get the actual match but instead would wind up with twelve hours of god only knows what games from last Fall.

Anyway, Ireland v Scotland. It was scrappy, intense, fairly balanced, the Irish played a little dirty, the Scots got a little robbed...

someone once sent me a very funny video in which Jason Sudeikis plays an American football coach who is hired as an English football coach and at one point he is shown shouting at the ref, "Tell me how that was offsides!"

Which he then follows with, "No. Seriously. Could you please tell me how that was offsides because I really don't understand it."

Offsides - exhibit A: Ireland's goal

Moving on...

But apart from that and the fact that the commentator was so biased in favor of Ireland that I began to suspect he was an actual leprechaun, it was terrific and well worth watching. Although, you know, back to that leprechaun.


Scotland was at the Irish goal, playing well and putting on tremendous pressure and all the commentator could do was dully observe, "Naismith to Fletcher. Fletcher. Back to Naismith."

On the other end of the pitch, however, it was, "And the crowd is on their feet as Ireland surges toward the goal! Buoyed by the momentum of their tremendous defense, Ireland rises like Aphrodite, poised to set the inevitable seal of victory upon this most important of matches... " and then something something about the sun glinting off the LA bronzed features of Keane, the Emerald Isle's beloved son, returned at this, the hour of his nation's most pressing need.

It was all I could do not to throw up. And I like Ireland.      

But not as much as I like Scotland. 

In completely related news the first cracks in my mixed marriage began to show today when I said, "Hey what to do you think about trying to get into the lottery for tickets to the Euro matches next summer in France?" and Steve said, "No."

Do you know what is not an appropriate response to "what to you think about... "?


'No' is not an appropriate response. It doesn't even make sense. What do you think about Putin? No. What do you think about cilantro? No.

See? Nonsensical.

But Alba gu bràth? Yes!

What Does Persistent Mean Again?

I spent yesterday on the couch with the worst sore throat ever and 1) I'm so glad my mom seems to have avoided getting our virus; and 2) I feel so lucky not to have been sick for our vacation. Thursday was gray and cool and rainy and it is possible that even if I hadn't been felled the children would have been... doing whatever it was they did all day. Minecraft, probably.

Patrick came to the couchside and gave me periodic pep talks, "Mom, I know how you're feeling. Your head hurts, you're hot and you don't want to move. That was me yesterday but it only lasts for twenty-four hours and then you'll be better. You want a wet cloth?"

"Yes," I groaned, so he brought me one.

Edward stood on the far side of the living room and announced, "No offense but I don't want to get your germs so I'm just going to stay over here. Also I can make my own lunch."

I thanked him and said that I didn't want him to get my germs either and, yes, by all means, make his own lunch.

Caroline was my ministering angel. She propped me up with so many cushions my face was practically in my lap. She covered me with blankets until it felt like I was in a sweat lodge. She woke me up to see if I needed to drink some water.

I said no, thank you, I think I will just finish my nap. Then I suggested that she should take a break from all her nursing and go find something fun to do.

"Do you think I am taking good care of you?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Do you think I am being responsible?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Can I get a puppy?"


"Can I get a white-crested cockatoo?"


"Well, could I at least please get a fish?"


I guess I said yes?

PS His name is Skye and Edward, who knows me better than I thought he did, whispered to me in an aside, "Don't worry, I looked it up and bettas only live for a couple of years."  

PPS Patrick was right. I woke up this morning and I felt much better.