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February 2015

January 2015

Only Four More Months Of This, I Promise

Given a range of choices for today Steve probably would not have selected Option 12: hire a babysitter in order to drive thirty miles to watch soccer in the company of strangers while paying grossly inflated prices for the Crabbie's ginger beer we already have in the refrigerator. However he is a sweetheart and, as he pointed out, Chelsea v Manchester City was the only potentially important sporting event in the world this weekend so we might as well watch it someplace lively.

[Has anyone else noticed a sort of sustained hollowness in the eyes of their Packers' fan? It's worrisome. I, stupidly, asked Steve: nachos, pizza, chili, Sunday? He told me it was a matter of supreme indifference to him as he is going to spend Sunday afternoon in the basement, shifting the water heater over a few feet. No. I am not kidding. But enough about tackleball.] 

What with the settling of the children and the driving of the miles we were running a little late, so I went into the bar to find us a place to sit while Steve parked the car. And a good thing I did, too. By the time we arrived there were no tables to be had in the main area so the hostess directed me to a side room which she swore was wallpapered with televisions, each broadcasting the game. Which might have been true; all I saw from the doorway was a sea of red jerseys. Arsenal fans! A whole swarm of them and they don't even play until tomorrow. What the hell? I guess Arsenal supporters have to start drinking a day early, the poor bastards.

I spun on my heel and by dint of being both short and stealthy, I managed to secure the last two seats at the bar, wedging us between Very Large Chelsea Fan #1 and Increasingly Louder Chelsea Fan #2. Usually I watch football alone on my couch so the extremely intelligent commentary I offer and the purity with which I warble "Jose Mourinho" to the tune of la donna è mobile is wasted like full many a gem of purest ray serene stuck in all those ocean caves. Not today, though. Today I communed and it was delightful and I am pretty sure at the end, as the entire bar shrieked as if with one voice, "Blow the fucking whistle!" that Very Large, Increasingly Louder and I were all holding hands.

Two observations: I had no idea that so many people in the Twin Cities watch football and it is a miracle that Chelsea did not lose that game.

The... Ambivalent Samaritan

When I went to pick Edward up for physical therapy I had a few minutes to wait while they tracked down his class in the computer lab; so I got to look at the completed work hanging outside the room. They are on a fairytale unit and the most recent assignment was to color a tower, fashion a construction paper princess with braided yarn hair and then answer one of the following two questions: "If I were a princess trapped in a tower I would... " or "If I saw a princess trapped in a tower I would... ."

The first one I read was done by a girl in Edward's class who wrote, "If I were a princess trapped in a tower I would... yell for a prince." I thunked the heel of my hand against my forehead while the Susan B Anthony dollars in my bag spontaneously melted into the shape of a tear. Oh honey, I thought, and wondered if I could drop a hint in Caroline's ear to start preaching her doctrine of Eponine in the schoolyard.   

But just as I was mourning the sad entrenchment of perceived gender roles even in this most recent of generations I saw one done by a boy (he of the ill-fated Chuck E. Cheese panic attack birthday party, actually) and hope for the future dawned anew.

He had written (and spelled it all correctly, too, I was very impressed): "If I saw a princess trapped in a tower I would... crochet a trampoline and use it to jump very high to rescue her."

Crochet, people. CROCHET. A world in which a seven year old boy reaches in times of peril not for the sword but the crochet hook? Is one in which I wish to live. 

PS Caroline opted to be a rescuer not a rescuee - surprise! - and wrote... well she wrote a lot and it was taped pretty high up and her handwriting is a little obscure so I am not really sure what her plan was. Something to do with pickaxes.

On Edward's sheet he had made a princess and a tower but had written nothing beneath it.

"Edward!" I said. "What's up with your tower? You didn't write anything. What would you do if you saw a princess trapped in a tower?"

"Honestly? I didn't want to get involved."

Smart Ass

The following event, in its entirety, has just shown up in my calendar for February:

"Steve is flying on an airplane to Colorado where he will stay for several days seeing clients to discuss [redacted] in the company of [redacted] and [redacted) in order to grow [redacted]"

I offered tentative acceptance, pending further information: what would he be wearing?

"Same as Caroline’s outfit today" was the reply, which - considering it is Spirit Week and she was dressed for 80s Day - I found especially delightful.  


He's all yours, Colorado. Enjoy the side pony.

First You Nibble Off All The Chocolate

About five seconds before Patrick was due to leave this morning for science bowl practice he came into our bedroom.

"Mom," he whispered and I tensed, squeezing my eyes even shut-er. History tells us that a child about to walk out the door often remembers six dozen cupcakes needed for a previously forgotten bake sale  and I was prepared to play dead if necessary.

"I got this for you at the ski chalet last night," Patrick continued and he pressed... something... into my hand. Then he was gone.

I squeezed the thing a little and shook it next to my ear and finally squinted at it by the light of clock, which is when I realized that I had been given a king-sized KitKat.

! !

I felt just like that sick child on the top of the icy mountain must have felt after his visit from the little country bunny. You remember, when she used the golden shoes and stuck an egg onto his palm. It was, without question, the nicest thing anyone has ever given me before seven am. Ever. In my whole life. I was so touched that I almost managed to save some of it for him.


Vernon Serif

I have probably said it before and I will definitely say it again but I truly do not understand why I am lucky enough to have the smartest, funniest, kindest, wisest, most thoughtful, most introspective, most extrospective, most supportive people on the internet commenting on my blog. I had missed writing here for a lot of reasons but it wasn't until I started up again more regularly that I remembered how frabbing brilliant you people are and how much I enjoy, respect and learn from you all. I wish I could find a more sincere font in order to give the following statement sufficient gravitas but over the past four weeks this sentiment has once again been delivered to me by doves: really, I do not deserve you.

[Which is sort of not-ironic because my other resolution for the year was to stop reading comments. Not here, of course, but just in general. I swear upon the grave of John Peter Zenger that the Washington Post could publish a piece co-authored by a baby and a puppy about friendship and four hundred people would sign on to write that infants on planes should be punched in the face and the rest would say that the only time they like puppies is in sausage. Sorry. I cannot believe I just wrote that. But it's true. A couple and their grandchildren were killed in a house fire in Annapolis this past week and you would think the only thing a sane person could find to contribute about the deaths of these apparently loving, hard-working people and those beautiful beautiful children is: how tragic; I am so very sorry but... you don't even want to read those comments. They are, quite literally, sickening.]

Where was I? Oh right, shuddering.

But before that I was conveying my gratitude for the facility with which you... everything. Express yourself. Share. Help. Entertain. Connect.   

So thank you. If this were a sexploitation movie from the 80s and we were all drunken frat brothers; right now I would be slurring "I luff yer gys" while giving you hug noogies.  

PS I just went into the living room and found Patrick sitting on the couch.

"Hey! You! Perfect! I need you. What would you call a sincere font?"

"A sincere font?"

"Yes. You know, a font that would convey sincerity."

"Wooden Teeth," he said promptly.

I stared at him for a moment and then said, "Oh, ok. George Washington?"

He nodded, "But that's not it. Hold on. Wash. Geo. Washing. The font of the fort? Necessity. Orge. Trenton. Trees. Cherry. Virginia hill... Oh! Got it."

I thanked him for his time. He told me he would put it on my tab.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

Of course, Steve's version of Tradeshowgate - if he cared enough to have one, which he doesn't - would probably start with him telling me that he was going to a trade show for something or other at the end of January, progress to his sending me an Outlook invite to said trade show and end with his tuning me out as I yapped at him about it in the car. I would think he was wrong (he never told me;) he would think I was flaky (he might have told me) and we would both have been Minnesotan, excuse me, passive-aggressive in never seeking to clarify the exact nature of a looming event in our shared calendar.

It works for us? I don't know. I was smiling, you know all exasperatedly, when I wrote about it and Steve did kiss me goodbye at o'dark-thirty this morning after making an effort not to wake me up as he made coffee and put on his socks.

"Surf drively," I muttered affectionately and promptly fell back asleep. 

I spent part of the morning not getting the tax stuff organized. Instead I read up on the all the hype leading to the fifth round FA cup draw and... ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. I get it! I am sorry that I said that Steve said it wasn't important. In my defense I am new to this and I simply didn't understand. It turns out that the FA cup is just like March Madness: many teams winnowed down to fewer teams, sudden death matches, tremendous upsets. And to think that I was in love with football before. All I need now is to get in on some kind of money pool and and and. I cannot even complete that sentence, my mind is too boggled. 

So, anyway, when Chelsea lost to Bradford City it was like when Duke... good god could these analogies for Chelsea get any worse? First the Patriots and now Duke. Duke. But I don't care. I have a babysitter - an honest to god babysitter - coming on Saturday morning so that I can go to a proper bar and watch Chelsea v Man City with other proper football fans. I mean other proper football fans and Steve, of course. He has to drive. And keep me from rioting. 

Go West Brom. And Cambridge United (just imagine the headlines, Toni: Cambridge United Stuns Arsenal in FA Cup Final, CU Toilets to Resemble Taj Mahal.)

PS Sarah wanted to know if Steve is so disconnected from the daily routine that his absence does not require advance planning. The short answer yes, I guess so. Not that he doesn't drive Patrick to early morning science bowl practice or do bedtime for Caroline and Edward or take the kids to skiing or make dinner (Game Night - it has a whole different meaning than what I hoped. No Carcassonne and I eat soup) or pick up from school if he can and I need him to do so, but for the most part the household runs the same whether Steve is here or not. Of course, if he disappeared entirely we would be homeless and starve to death so it is not that his role (in addition to all that squishy love we have for and from him) is not vital, just that the day-to-day responsibilities are mine.

I would think this is true for most [insert your personally least offensive description for those who do not earn money outside the home] parents, though, no? I kinda picture it like a big wall of things needed to be done on one side and a big wall of the money needed to do them on the other and a set amount of time that two people use to divvy up the two walls. Generally, I sit in line at the CVS pickup window waiting for prescriptions to be filled while Steve works because that is the best use of our collective time but lately he has also been doing the evening house stuff so that I can write. 

I don't know. How do you do it? (Oh and by "it" I don't mean you+other and kids/house/money. I mean you with or without other and whatever/money - our garden here has many different blooms, I know.)

[Secret Message to S: I wasn't kidding about the Italian Beef. From Portillos. Dry. Hot. No cheese.]

Hypothetically Speaking

Steve and I... well, I don't want to say that we have a difference of opinion because that makes it sound like we are not in all things, at all times, in perfect harmony, always. Which would be wrong. But we... well.

Last night we went out to dinner with friends and during the course of the evening Steve mentioned that he is going to be out of town this week.

I turned to him and said, "What?" because this was the first I had heard of it and I like to think I am on the shortlist of People Who Need to Know When Steve is Traveling.

He said, "You knew that. It's on the calendar. Darling."

And I retorted, "If you mean that thing about XYZ Trade Show, yes, I saw it but I had absolutely no idea what it meant. Since when do you go to trade shows? What trade show? What trade? Where? I assumed that you had had a fit of some kind and your fingers just smushed down on the keys. Obviously if you were planning a trip you would have followed up that obscure calendar entry with a verbal communication. Like a normal person. Sweetheart."

Then I realized our playful banter was probably making our dinner companions feel left out of our love circle so I decided to drop it. Steve is going to some kind of trade show that is being held outside of Minnesota for some period of time this week. Got it. Nothing else to say, really.

Until about an hour later when we got into the car and he shut the door and I picked up with, "But seriously don't you agree it's a little strange to just stick an out-of-town trip into the calendar without ever once saying anything about it? I mean it's not like we haven't seen each other. It's not like there haven't been at least a few opportunities in which you could have said, 'And speaking of the Great Chicago Fire I will be there on Tuesday, would you like me to bring you back an Italian Beef?'"  

And Steve. Hmmm. What DID Steve do? It's hard to remember now... I think he either agreed with me wholeheartedly or he seized me in his arms, murmuring, "you bewitch me" as he showered my upturned face with burning kisses. Or both. Something like that.

(He certainly didn't continue to assert that XYZ Trade Show = "I am going to Istanbul on Monday". Because that would be asinine.)

I Have... The Blues

No one was airing the Chelsea fourth round FA cup match today (and we still have internet powered by lethargic squirrels) so I had to follow gameplay by scrolling through a live feed on my phone. Chelsea scored. Then Chelsea scored again. Excellent. Perfect. All shipshape and Bristol fashion, as we football fans say when we suffer not only from anglodelerium but also a touch of 19th century Royal Navyitis.

So I had breakfast, did a little parenting, put away some socks and returned to my phone to find that Chelsea had lost 4-2. To a team called The Bantams. I have never even heard of The Bantams. Granted until about two months ago I had never heard of the FA Cup either but that's not the point. When we Hippogriffs give our hearts it is like that. Quick, intense, forever. If Chelsea wanted to win the silly cup then, damn it, I wanted it too.

Four. Two. At first I thought it was one of those weird European things, like when they write 02/01/15 when they really mean 01/02/15. Or perhaps the score was a joke. You know the English - so witty, so dry. But no. Chelsea lost; Bradford City won and will go on, one hopes, to even greater glory. Godspeed, small chickens, I bear you no ill-will. Four unanswered goals, my god. Against Chelsea. At Stamford Bridge. 

I went into Steve's office and flung myself onto the floor next to him, resting my head on his knee in my grief.

"You don't know what it's like to have your team be eliminated from further competition after a painful loss," I whuffled into his pants.

Steve removed his black ribboned Cheesehead and stared at it while his right hand stabbed a pen convulsively into a map of Seattle.

"At least your team only lost a chance at one of the many cups they play for and not even an important one at that."

I brightened. "Yeah, true, sorry. It's not like the Packers just lost to the Seahawks in a bake-off with the NFC championship still pending, is it?"

Then I noticed Steve's expression and scurried away, covering my throat protectively with both hands as I fled.

What? Too soon?


In my most narcissistic moments I see Caroline and Patrick as if I were viewing them through my own reflection in a fun house mirror: one version so concentrated; the other so expansive. Patrickness interprets my whatsit as if it were a beam of sunlight and he is the magnifying glass. Caroline makes me feel as if I am peering at life through the tiny slits in a phenakistoscope. But Edward. I get Edward. Edward likes to be comfortable; Edward likes to feel secure; Edward likes to know things. History, science, literature, mathematics, ancient civilizations, why someone thinks something is funny... he just wants to understand it all. It drives Patrick and Caroline crrrrraaaaaazy but I stop our audiobook about three or four times on the drive to school because Edward asks, "Wait. Why did he say that?" And I pause and try to explain the what or the why because I often feel the same need to process things when I am reading.

So I have to make a concerted effort not to over-identify with Edward. I don't want to say that he is just like me - how the hell would I know; not to mention the fact that he is barely half baked - but right now he responds to situations in ways that make sense to me and it is hard not to feel... validated by that. Really, Edward? You don't want to go to the party? You would rather stay home and read? Wow. Me too!

It's a fine line between empathy and appropriation. So fine that I often cannot see where it lies and I blindly stumble forward; navigating the spider threads that tie what Edward deeply fears with what he finds merely uncomfortable, all the while trying not to be tripped up by my own anxieties.

Tonight I had to cajole Edward into skiing because he really wanted to stay home and build something. And I understood this but, you know, fresh air, winter, exercise. Eventually he agreed to come with us but by that point Steve and Caroline and Patrick had been gone for almost an hour. 

This meant that for the first time it was just child and me, in the dark, skiing, and I realized within seconds of getting on a non-bunny hill chairlift that my fear of falling is a full-on phobia. A lung squeezing, heart racing phobia. Apparently I can handle it, barely, when there is sunlight and I am alone or with Steve but when I have 48 pounds of child being pulled earthward by gravity plus darkness and skis and boots... my god. The higher we went, the tighter I wrapped my arm around him and the more tightly I twisted my other arm around the metal bar to my left. It was horrible. 

But Edward, who worries about so many other things, was not afraid. So I nodded when he complained about my grip. When he told me how often he rides the chairlift and how he never has to sit so far to the back and how his ski teachers never strangle him like I was doing. And I made a conscious effort to relax my hold. A little. And when he said he wanted to go on another run we did. Twice.

But now I am having a glass of wine and I have tucked all of the children into their beds three times over and OH MY GOD DO YOU KNOW THAT SOME CHAIRLIFTS DON'T EVEN HAVE BARS IN FRONT?????????

A Practical Romantic

After Toni left me the link to a terrific football-related Les Miserables parody (BPL Transfer Deadline Day the Musical) I have had the score stuck in my head. So I went to find my, yes, cassette tapes only to realize that they are missing and, further, I don't have a cassette player any more. At least not one that is located some place useful, like in my car.

So I treated myself to the original London cast recording through iTunes and for the past several days Caroline and Edward and I have been listening to it after we drop Patrick off at school. It's taking a while because I have to try to explain the backstory and what's going on between songs and you know what? Les Miserables is a real cluster, that's what.

Today we listened to A Little Fall of Rain and when I looked in the rear-view mirror I was startled to see that Caroline had tears running down her face.

I said, "Oh, Caroline, sweetheart, it's ok."

She said, "She died! Just like Fantine. She let herself get shot instead of Marius who doesn't even love her because he is so busy singing with grown-up Cosette. It's just like Fantine. She is dying and he's telling her that it's fine because he is there but then she is dead and he leaves to go be happy."

I didn't know what to say.

"It's a really pretty song?" I offered.

She agreed, "But Marius should have died instead. He was the one who thought the fight mattered."

Well. Ok then.