Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Race Gods Hate Me

The first race I ever ran was a five-miler on a Thanksgiving morning (somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 or 12 years ago). I woke up to thunder and lightning two hours before the race. Secretly inside, I was completely relieved to have such terrible weather. I assumed they'd call the race off and I'd be off the hook. My husband at the time (<--now familiar to my friendly internets as 'Ole Tapioca Head') laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more. "You obviously know NOTHING about your fellow runners. The race will not be called off and you know what? Some people would still run even if they DID call the race off." I pointed out the lightning in vain. He chuckled, rolled over, and went back to sleep. I stomped around putting on my running shoes and the most obnoxious lipstick color I could find. (Sidenote: it is my firm belief that the brighter my lipstick the faster I run.) I met my training partner (none other than the most lovely VBGF) and we went to the race. Guess what? (Sidenote #2: every time I say 'guess what' VBGF says 'chicken butt' and it makes me laugh every time!) Anyway, the race was not called off. I came home to some 'I told you so's' but I didn't pout too long because all in all the race was good. (Great even - I mean, I'm still in this crazy sport, right?)

My next first race was a triathlon. They HAVE to call those off if there's lightning. Guess what? (chicken butt - ha ha ha) The race gods decided that instead of challenging me with lightning they would (fellas, cover your eyes for a second if you're squeamish) see what I thought about getting my period early. Swim! Bike! Run! - with Cramps! and Clotting! For the record, I thought it sucked donkey balls. (Ok fellas, you can open your eyes again.)

Now I am in my third first race. You know, the half-marathon I've been panicking about for way too long? I have loudly announced for MONTHS that if my cycle did not cooperate then the race gods could just bite me because there was no way I'd run the race. So guess what? (chicken butt - ha ha ha - see I told you it made me laugh every time) The race gods have gone back to their conventional weapons. There is now a 70% chance of thunderstorms for Saturday - starting around 3 am! And I don't wear lipstick any more! Worse - I have a lightning rod in my lip (um, and metal elsewhere)! Do you think that pierced persons like me are more likely to be struck by lightning? You know, because I needed something else to worry about besides whether or not I can actually run 13.1 miles?!!! Gah.

This is my last pre-race post. (<--That's a whacked phrase. Everything is hitting my funny bone. I think I'm a little wound up. Nervous. Punchy even. Oh lordy, someone find me a paper bag! Breathe, Lilymane, breathe!) Y'all think of me on Saturday, ok?

Wasabi and the Bandit

Rachel-across-the-street (friend to the Ninja Princessa) has a new dog* named 'Bandit'. Fluffy and silent, that's his motto. He looks fierce doesn't he? He fell into Wasabi's water bowl and couldn't get back out. Had to be rescued by two ten year old girls - that's how fierce and tough he is. Wasabi looks a little worried about Mr. Cuteness moving in on his territory, doesn't he?
Have no fear, Wasabi-Wan, we wouldn't trade you for the world - even if you are a Bounce-snorting fiend.
*I assume he's a dog. He's awfully small to be a dog though. And quiet. I haven't heard him make a peep. Perhaps he's a squirrel.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Crack For Dogs

I am sad to report that my dog is an addict. I ignored the warning signs. I picked up the toilet paper shreds and soggy, doggy-slobbered, cardboard paper towel tubes and complacently thought, "Puppies will be puppies." Worse! I enabled. TP in bulk from Sam's. What was I thinking?

Who knew that TP was merely a gateway substance? Who knew that a little recreational paper product use would quickly turn into some serious laundry product snorting?

This is my dog. This is my dog on Bounce.
He is a laundry-loving fool.

See Me Not Panic

See Lilymane run.
Oh wait - you can't - because she's not running. Again.
YIKES! I fooled the weather the other morning by running at 5:30 am - BEFORE the rain got its act together. Unfortunately, that tipped my hand and since then it's rained everyday earlier and earlier. This morning the rain started at 2 am and all I could do was think, "Ok, Rain and Thunder. You win."
Today was my last day for a 'longish' run. I had wanted to do four miles and then take the rest of the week off. Instead, all I've got in my logbook this week is piddly little one and two mile sprints between rain showers. That makes me nervous. THIRTEEN (point one) miles on Saturday! And I haven't even done thirteen cumulatively in the last two weeks! I am trying not to panic. (Don't panic, don't panic, don't panic.)
I'm trying not to hyperventilate. (Because passing out never solved anything.) I don't have a paper bag handy so I've substituted this electronic blog instead. "Breathe s-l-o-w-l-y Lilymane," says the good voice. The evil voice says, "What the f**k are you gonna do if it's raining on SATURDAY?"
Oh please, anyone who has cred with the weather gods, will you kindly put in a good word for overcast and cool - but not raining on Saturday in the lovely metropolis of Nashvegas, home of the Country Music (Half-)Marathon? THANKS!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Signs and Odd Friends

Today's theme - as summed up by Dr. Suess: From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.

"Be nice to strangers. Visit your in-laws." - billboard last week
"It's a wine bong." - said the manager of the restaurant the other night
"I lost my cottage cheese." - said VBGF out of the blue last night
"Where did I put the rest of my face?" - said C is for Coffee on the phone

I'm not sure how one loses cottage cheese or part of one's face and I certainly have no idea what one could possibly do with a wine bong - but I'm beginning to think that the billboard should have said, 'Be nice to strangers. Visit Lilymania.'


Monday, April 24, 2006

Irish Pub Bands In America

Saw this sign when we went to Mulligan's the other night -

Def Leprechaun - cracked me up. Had to share. Peace.

Does This Ever Happen To Y'all?

I'm cleaning the dishes and I look down and SCREAM!! I thought it was alive. When my heart stopped racing, I looked a little closer. No wonder the sink wasn't draining.

Jabba the Hutt. Stuck in the garbage disposal. Under the breakfast dishes.

Yeah. It's one of THOSE days.


Time Keeps On Slippin', Slippin', Slippin'

Not long ago I was teaching a bunch of 9 year olds how to knit. I don't know if you've seen 9 year olds knit - but they get things pretty tangled sometimes. I told them that when that happened, what they needed to do was hold their knitting up in the air and let it dangle and untwist, just like when the phone cord gets twisted. Eight pairs of eyes went BLINK.
"But phones don't have cords," one little cherub said.
"Er, right. But they used to and what you had to do was - oh just hold up your knitting like this."

My kids think the house phone is "lame" because you can't play games on it, you can't take a picture with it, and it doesn't even tell the time. I still think the house phone is cool because it doesn't weigh two pounds or have a four inch, permanent antenna on the top and I'm not tethered to the wall! How is it that phones can make me feel so old?

I was always the youngest in my crowd in school. I went to boot camp when I was 17. I married a man five years older than I was. I got carded trying to buy a ticket to an 'R' rated movie when I was 30! I am NOT used to feeling old. I am certainly not used to being made to feel old. But recently? The hits, they just keep on coming.

My twentieth high school reunion is in two weeks. How is THAT possible? Twenty years - fwoosh. May 4th - my senior prom was on May 4th and that's the day our reunion starts. By April 28th we're supposed to have a thousand word essay turned in on what we've been doing for twenty years. Homework. On top of everything, they assign us homework! I have to write a paper - about myself.

I know. I know. I blog about myself all the freakin' time, so how hard could this be? It's hard, I tell you. Darn hard. I don't know what to write. "Tell us what you've done and how you've done it," say the instructions. Gulp. I've done lots - but mostly the hard way. With lots of making mistakes and backtracking and ending up somewhere totally unexpected. I don't want to write about that! The instructions also say we can be creative and write our essay in Chaucerian verse or in the form of a sonnet. (Sidenote: What is UP with people wanting sonnets written? Is a sonnet like the new black or something?) Oh Man. I have to write about 20 years of bumbling around and be clever about it? Think Lilymane, think. Think, think, think.

Ok, I'm thinking of writing something like this:
"But was iz? Iseut? Ere were sewers? The oaks of ald now they lie in peat yet elms leap where askes lay. Phall if you but will, rise you must: and none so soon either shall the pharce for the nunce come to a setdown secular phoenish." -Finnegan's Wake

Joyce was clever. Very clever. So clever, in fact, that few people understand him at all (even with all the linky poohs that are available on the web nowadays) and yet all kinds of people pretend to understand what the heck he was talking about because they don't want other people to see that they are not clever enough to understand James Joyce! That's my goal. I want to write 1,000 words brilliantly describing my last twenty years and I want my brilliance to be so apparent and universally acknowledged that no one mentions the fact that what I wrote is utterly incomprehensible. THAT'S the miracle I want to accomplish. By Friday. This Friday. This Friday which happens to be the day before the race . Which I'm also not ready for. I don't feel ready for anything, despite the fact that I've had years in which to prepare!

Oh, oh, oh - and here's another fly in the ointment (eww, I hate that image - I can't believe I typed it). You may or may not remember that Sweet Hubby is recently back from 2 weeks or so in New Zealand (where his company is based). Guess who has to go BACK to New Zealand? This time for FIVE weeks. Five weeks starting the day before my high school reunion (and spanning the Ninja Princessa's birthday, the end of school, my cousin's wedding, and the first week of summer). Just take one little, teeny, tiny, itty bitty guess. (Hint: not me.)

If I were the kind of gal who was into taking mind altering substances I think I would definitely be looking for a bottle of St. Joseph's Valium for adults this morning. Heck - I'd spend the next two weeks taking whatever it is that s-l-o-o-o-w-s time down and then the next five weeks taking whateveritisthatspeedstimeupagain! Sadly I have no time machine (chemical or otherwise). I guess I'll just spend all that time whining, er, blogging.

Friday, April 21, 2006

My Life As Rendered By Ionesco Et Al

Absurd. I tell you my life is absurd. I'm practicing my line "Well, of all things!" And I'm taking bets on who shows up first, a Rhinoceros or Godot.

My ex has 'fired' his attorney and 'is dropping' the custody case. And by 'fired' I'm pretty sure he means 'refused to pay' and 'is dropping' is clearly a code phrase for 'isn't pursuing until January 2007'. (I predicted this might happen.) What my ex fails to understand (because he has this for brains) is that legal matters do not work that way. I don't actually know how they work - or even that they do work - but I do know that things are not progressing the way my ex assumes they should.

Here is the email I just got from my lawyer:
"You need to tell your ex to call his attorney as he is still his attorney of record!" because this is the email that she got from my ex's attorney:
"I cannot get my client to respond. Please have your client tell my client to call me. "

I am paying thousands of dollars to be in third grade again?!!!! I have now read this email about 20 times and my reaction is still, "You've got to be kidding me." I am supposed to call my ex and pass on the message that he needs to call his lawyer so his lawyer will know what to say to my lawyer who is waiting for answers to the counter petitions to my ex's original (and ridiculously false) petitions whose only purpose is to take my children away from me?!
I fantasize about writing back and saying "I'm not gonna," or "He started it."

I suppose that what I'll really do, though, is call and leave him a message to call his attorney. I'm such a lemming.

Oh, look! A rhinoceros. Well, of all things!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cap'n Jack Sparrow (In Miniature)

Remember when I told you which treasures the children grabbed to take to shelter with them during the tornados and I told you that Havoc took his beloved picture of himself? Here it is:

A Johnny Depp Mini-Me? Ok, Ok, so maybe it's not quite the link to Johnny Depp photos that author and fantabulous blogger Joshilyn Jackson was looking for, but it's all I've got. And for the record, since she is very particular about ratings - I have to say this G-rated pic falls well within her target PG-13 category. I was a little stumped about how to write an ode (sonnet, whatever) to J.D. that did all of the things Joshilyn was looking for! Clearly, DebR had no such trouble. However, I have something that DebR doesn't have - even with all of her hiakus, limericks, and odes (sonnets, whatever) : I have a joke! You heard me right. As a bonus feature I'll even throw in the joke that Havoc loves to tell while staggering around dressed as a pirate. (Sidenote - Havoc, at 7, doesn't quite understand why Jack Sparrow staggers. He thinks it's maybe because Cap'n Jack was born with 'sea legs' that he HAD to grow up to be a pirate. After all, you can't have a land job if your legs are permanently flimsy.) Ok, so here's his joke (and you'll just have to imagine the staggering, the dimple, and the pirate accent):

Q: What kind of socks do pirates prefer?

A: Arrrrrrrrgyle, Matey!

Hahahahahaha. Pfew. Ok then. I'm done now. Peace!

In Which Lilymane Is Almost Struck By Lightning

Guess what?
It only LOOKED like it was done raining.
Ha ha. The lightning and thunder and rain were lurking. Just waiting for me to even THINK about running. In fact, when I came back in I had to turn off and unplug my computer, there was that much lightning. You know how I said the kids were freaked out this morning? And the dog? Well you can just add Lilymane to the list of Those Officially Freaked Out!
Guess what else?
I need to take a shower. I'm a mess. But I'm a little worried that the lightning is still lurking. I plugged my computer in to test things out a bit.

Haven't been hit by lightning yet. Ha. Sissy lightning. Too chicken to come in the house after me, eh? You're only big, bad Lightning when I'm outside being blown all around by your buddy Wind. Is that it?

(Shhh. Do you hear any thunder? Does it sound close? I think maybe they're truly gone this time. Or at least further out than lurking range. Do you think they could come back before I could shower? I can rinse off really, really fast. That would be pretty safe, wouldn't it? Keep your fingers crossed, ok? )


Whatever It Takes, Right?

This sign was in San Fran and it cracked me up. It helps me when I need to get out and run but don't want to. Like today. Only today I have an excuse. It's still raining. There's no more hail, but it's still raining (and thundering a little). I didn't run yesterday because it was raining then too. Only it got sunny (i.e. steamy) in the afternoon and I could have run but it's so hard to run when it's almost 90 and steamy. Whine. Whine. I told myself (promised myself even) that I would run today.
Sad. I hate to break a promise to myself. But did I mention it's still raining (and thundering a little)? What a fair weather runner I've turned out to be.

I could mention that I have new shoes that I don't want to get all mucky. I got new shoes because the guys at the store where I've been buying my running shoes for 20 years (yikes!) told me the cushion on my old ones was COMPLETELY blown. I said, "Really? How can you tell?" I was made to understand that the lack of cushion in my shoes was so obvious that anyone with eyes could have seen. From miles away. Apparently I have no eyes. Even so, I trust these guys. Blind faith? I dunno. They sold me my first pair of running shoes - the ones I took to boot camp. They are both coaches and sell just running stuff. It's not a sporting goods store: no baseballs or soccer cleats or anything. It's all running all the time. I don't think they need a billboard to make them laugh so they can run. They probably don't even think about whether their new shoes (which look EXACTLY like the old ones to people without eyes) will get mucky. I suspect they just run. Like I should be doing right now. Instead of blogging about how I'm not running yet.

EEEEEEK! The race is in 9 days. Nine. Days. The running shoe guys told me that one thing that newbie half-marathoners do is that they don't 'taper'. They get in too much mileage in the last couple of weeks. Whew. Lucky me. THAT's not my problem. Of course, when they told me to 'taper', I don't think they meant for me to 'stop running completely'. The running magazines have helpful articles that address every problem but mine. They cover how to force yourself to taper (key - ease off on the training, do NOT put in too much mileage) , how to come back from an injury (key - ease back into training, do NOT put in too much mileage), how to get better race times (key - ease off on the mileage but run FASTER in training), etc. Not one of the articles answers the plea, "Help! I've stopped running and I can't start back up!"
It's just a wee bit intimidating to realize I'm in a sport where apparently every single person (besides me) has to be cautioned about running TOO MUCH.

You know how the Red Cross gets people to donate blood? Well, I think I should get a bunch of runners to come in and I could suck the motivation out of them and store it for people like me, people who, for whatever reason, need a motivation transfusion. I'd give all the donors t-shirts. And pins when they've donated enough motivation. (Have you earned your Five Marathon Pin yet?) Yeah, yeah, that'd work.

Dang. It's stopped raining. I guess I better go run (even without a transfusion.) But y'all? If you happen to have extra running mojo that you're not using today, you could go ahead and send it down this way.


It's Raining Again

My kids are freaking out. So is the dog. They are all hovering near the bathroom, just in case they should need to jump in the tub and pull the mattress over them again.
There are no tornados. I promise. I've showed them the news. They believe me (sorta but not really), but they still want to be close to the tub, just in case. There are no tornados. There is thunder. And lightning. And even some hail. But no tornados.
"Mom! The air is GREEN! I'm going to play cards in the bathroom on the floor, ok?"
"Honey the air is green because it's morning and it's dark and we have green stuff everywhere - see the trees and the ivy and the wisteria? The light is filtering through the clouds and then through all of that. It's a different green than the tornado green."
"You want to play cards with us? We'll let you go first. Hey, Wasabi's taking up all the room in the tub!"
I've told them I'm so confident that this storm is nothing to worry about that I've left all the computers and the tv plugged in - and on - so they can check the weather. See, I'm even blogging?
"Hey mom, we're going to let Havoc go first, ok?
I better go give them some extra love. How many hugs do you think it will take to erase the fear of tornados? I better get started.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Chaos = Calvin

I used to love Calvin and Hobbes. And then...something happened. The cartoon was made flesh. And his name was Chaos.

Don't get me wrong. I guess I still love Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin is whacky and everyone needs a Hobbes in their life. It's just that it's a little different for me now that I live with it everyday. I am not exaggerating. Chaos was given a stuffed lion on the day he was born and I suspected nothing. Not a thing.

ChaosLion (whose name is more euphonious in real life) has a mane the exact same shade as Chaos' hair. More than once (or twice or even a dozen times) I have leaned over to kiss a sleeping Chaos and gotten a mouth full of lion fuzz instead. Chaos used to assure me that ChaosLion liked kisses so it was ok. In fact, ChaosLion liked goodnight kisses far longer than Chaos would tolerate them. I used to LOVE to listen to the two of them talking. It cracked me up and probably would have worried me some if not for Calvin and Hobbes. Once, when Chaos was 4 and up waaaaay past his bedtime, I went in to shush him. He said, "Mom, it's not me! Tell ChaosLion to stop roaring. It's keeping me awake and he won't listen to me!" Hmmmmm.

I kept the Calvin and Hobbes books on the TOP shelf because I didn't want Chaos to get any ideas about flame throwers and babysitters! Maybe what everyone else has always liked about Calvin and Hobbes is that Calvin is an archetypal (archetypical?) Boy. I don't know. I thought he was mental and it cracked me up. Now? Things I thought were freakin' hilarious when Calvin did them are, in real ife, annoying (and sadly, still freakin' hilarious). I'll give you a case study. (Ever see the strips where Calvin has to be in a picture?)
I should probably explain that the Quality Inn was a bit odd. They told us they had given us a 'suite' with a jacuzzi - but they didn't mention that they had replaced one of the four BEDS out in the middle of the room with the tub. No kidding. I'm sitting on one bed taking a picture of my family in the 'spa'.

I ask you. Is this normal?

Or this?

Or this? I try not to laugh because it only encourages him - and he has learned (by earning himself weeks of extra chores) that I won't tolerate his silliness in formal portraits or at Thanksgiving. Still. Did you do this when you were a kid? I didn't. It didn't occur to me!
Also - I have to point out how cool the pool water is! Wouldn't that be an awesome quilt detail?

Well, if you ever want to meet Calvin and Hobbes in real life, I have a boy and a lion I would be glad to loan you for your next family photo op.

Shoes, Penance, and Chaos' New Look

I have a dear friend, let's call her 'C is for Coffee', and yesterday I got to see her for the first time in months. Our original plan was to split a Salmon Caesar Salad but we got distracted by shoes! Look at these! Aren't they a great reason to skip lunch (and um, my posting responsibilities for the day)?

And since my shoes (cute as they are) aren't really enough blogging penance and also, since I'm in a picture posting mood - here is a picture of Chaos' new look:

Ok, Ok. I didn't really pinch his head off for getting suspended. He just didn't want his picture taken. And I'll tell you why. Remember how Chaos used to look like Ron Weasley? Remember how I surrendered somewhat gracefully when I lost the Hair War and let my 13-year old have some control over his image? Well, during the War, many of the battles were about image/perception/behavior. I pointed out that if he looked like a thug/slacker he was more likely to act like one and/or be treated like one. He pointed out that his look was 'cool' and only completely old and square people like me thought he looked like a thug/slacker and he didn't care about their opinions. (Truth? He made his point in much more polite terms - but that is essentially what he was saying.) He's a good kid with good grades and I allowed as how he could have some more control over his image - hence the scraggly hair, the saggy jeans, and the obnoxious t-shirts. The conditions were that 1) he had to keep his hair clean and out of his face (need I say we later disagreed about exactly how 'out of his face' was defined?), 2) he had to wear clothes I considered appropriate to functions important to me (e.g. Thanksgiving Dinner and church), and 3) his 'bad boy' image did not get to translate into 'bad boy' behavior. There was probably a bit of a gray area in telling him that if he got into 'trouble' he would have to cut his hair. His grades dropped ever so slightly and we had to have follow up amendments defining how big of a grade slide counted as 'trouble'.

However, good kids with (just slightly less) good grades can still make bad choices when angry at being bullied in embarassing ways. Instead of telling the bullies to stop, instead of coming to a teacher, administrator, parent, or coach, and after putting up with it as long as his proto-coping skills and newly minted testosterone would allow - Chaos told the two kids that he would shoot them if he had a gun. This caused him to get into 'trouble' with no gray area WHATSOEVER.

He is lucky he was not expelled. He knows it. I certainly know it. I was a youth minister when Columbine happened. How can a threat like that not be taken seriously today??? Oh my boy. My angry, embarassed, smart-in-some-ways-and-not-in-other-ways boy. I love you. But we're not letting any of this slide. The school has been fantastic. The teachers all said he is respectful, and a leader, and a little silly in a good way, and they like him very much. The administrators said they believe he is a good kid who made a bad choice and they want him to stay in their school and they want to help him learn some skills for navigating the rocky road that is middle school (and high school and life!) The Vice-Principal told me that he stood up straight, looked her in the eye, and told her the exact truth about what he'd said. She said she was very impressed with that show of character. She said he truly understood the severity of the situation and he was honestly remorseful. She reassured me as not only an experienced Vice-Principal, but also as a mother of grown sons, that as serious as this is, it would be ok.

When I picked him up from school (just before the tornados), he wasn't sullen or pouty or obnoxious in any way. He told me he was sorry. He hadn't meant the threat, but he'd wanted them to stop and leave him alone. He also admitted he was angry about lots of stuff and that it had come out indirectly. My mother (who is a therapist and also his biased grandmother) spent an hour talking to Chaos that night. She was surprised at how well he was handling everything. He talked to her about what had happened, about what he could have/should have done instead, about his new restrictions, and about his feelings. VBGF (who is, as you may remember, a seventh grade math teacher) talked to him, too, and reassured me that I wasn't being naive - that he is a good kid, that this will be ok, and that she believes with all her heart in him. I needed to hear all of those things - because when the Vice-Principal first called I was completely shaken. Chaos had been so well behaved at home for two or three weeks. Not in a fakey way either. He had a genuinely good attitude about things and was showing some proactive kindness, generosity, and hop-to around the house. He was being so responsible that I had finally given in three days before and let my sons use their money to buy Air Soft Guns.

I had been EXTREMELY reluctant to allow these, in my opinion, real-looking guns. They are modern BB guns. Only safer, actually. They shoot soft foam pellets. But they look real, the foam pellets still sting a bit sometimes, and darn it - I was hit in the face with a BB gun as a kid and I don't like the idea of them. LOTS of kids here have them. Heck - LOTS of kids around here have real hunting guns and like to shoot animals with them. ICK!!! At least my kids aren't interested in that at all. But they LOVE army games. They love strategy and weapons and running around. Laser-tag, nerf guns, paintball - they LOVE stuff like that. After talking to other parents (and trying NOT to remember how my guy friends in high school had loved nothing better than having bottle-rocket wars in the middle of the night at constructions sites!!!) I finally agreed the boys could buy these guns - BUT I had LOTS of rules. They had to buy protective eyewear with their own money too. They had to sign the contract with all of the rules printed out on it and there was a zero tolerance policy. No skirting the lines. They muck about with ONE safety rule, or aim at one animal, or in any way shape or form break a rule - that was IT. No more guns. Permanently.

Arrrgh. Can you imagine the first privilege I took away? The airsoft guns were gone before I even went to pick him up from school. Chaos lost his investment (almost a hundred bucks!) and he lost the privilege for everyone. Mayhem will get his money back, but there won't be any more airsoft guns in my house. When I did pick Chaos up from school, we went straight to get his hair cut. (I didn't know about the tornados heading our way at the time.) My ex had a hissy fit and accused me of embarassing our son, shutting him down so he wouldn't talk, and in general, of being a bad mother while he himself sympathized and wanted Chaos to know how much he 'supported' his son. Ole Tapioca Head will take any position that lets him be the buddy, buddy 'good guy'. I explained very carefully that I had no interest in embarassing or shaming Chaos. I was instituting restrictions that made sense and I was following though on the agreement Chaos and I had made. A deal is a deal and actions have consequences. (What kind of mom would I be if I didn't bring home this lesson on consequences??) One consequence for our son is that his hair, butt-crack revealing jeans, and snarky t-shirts are gone. At this very moment he's at school in cargo shorts (that don't even need a belt to stay up), a collared polo shirt, and with hair that looks like

In truth, he misses the sloppy pants and his beloved "I'm so dark I fart bats" shirt more than he misses his hair. He told me that at least he won't be so hot this summer.

I'll say one last thing. I do worry very much about boys, violence, and stupidity. I didn't grow up around boys at all. When I started dating them, they completely baffled me. It's not like I was totally prissy. I think I just had a healthy appreciation for reason and safety. Not so the boys I knew. They did stuff like throw explosives at each other and laugh when direct hits resulted in burned clothes and hair. They stole their parents cars in the middle of the night and ran into trees. I totally didn't grok it. And then I had my very own baby boy. And then another. And then another. How do you (and why should you want to) raise a son to be 'normal' if you aren't comfortable with what it means to a 'normal' boy? I was bound and determined to win the nature vs nurture battle. And often, I realize I'm losing. Sometimes it's ok. I have found out that a lot of 'normal' boy stuff is actually ok with me. I've also learned more about raising girls. I know now that it's not totally a nature of boys vs nature of girls issue. I needed all the reassurance that my husband, VBGF, my mother, and the Vice-Principal could give me that Friday afternoon. But ultimately, do you want to know what reassured me the most?

Chaos himself did. Not by saying the right things to the right people a la Eddie Haskell or even by doing the right things like standing up straight and looking folks in the eye. What reassured me most that Chaos was the sweet boy I believe him to be was this. When we finally got home on that long, dark day in the break between the tornados, the kids grabbed a few precious things to keep in the bathroom with them. Mayhem grabbed his totem bear Prometheus and his D&D books. Havoc grabbed Day Horsey, his picture of himself as Capt Jack Sparrow, and his dice. The Ninja Princessa grabbed her copy of Harry Potter and a blanket. Chaos? He grabbed Wasabi's things and yelled down the hall to me, "Mom, the little kids are all set up in this bathroom. Can you come be with them? I've got the dog and I'm going to take him into the other bathroom and get under the counter. He's scared and I think he'd be happier in there but I don't want him to be alone. Ok?" His 'treasure', the thing he cared most about, was to make sure the little ones were ok and were going to be more ok by me coming to be with them - and that the dog was loved and taken care of.

It might be a long and rocky road - and we may be at the very beginning of it - but I think it will truly be ok.


Monday, April 17, 2006

It's Not Mary Oliver


by Timothy S. Donahue

It's not M. O., but it's my second favorite poem of all times. For almost fifteen years, it was my favorite and then I read Mary Oliver. Sorry Tim! (Timmy? Mr. Donahue? T.S. Donahue?) Even if it's not my very, very favorite anymore - I still love this poem. I love that it's in all caps to be even (not to scream - handwritten it would look like military handwriting); matter of factual angst; and rhyming in almost a little kid way. It's like an existentialist's hand clapping rhyme - 'Say Say Little Playmate' for black turtleneck wearing folks (or were those the Beatniks?) . Whatever the labels or dress code, I love this poem. I love it so much that it's almost worth getting sued for sticking it here without permission. (I don't know where to go to even ask for permission! Universe, can I have permission to put this, my now-second favorite poem of all times, on my blog? I'll take that as a 'yes' thank you.)
And today? It fits my mood (in a back-to-basics kind of way) so I thought I'd share.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What Is Up With Easter Bunny Scarecrows?

There are two of these tall, skinny, painted, made-of-straw Easter Lawn Bunnies in my neighborhood. Are the people who put them there trying to scare something (or someone, like me) away? I am not big on lawn decorations to begin with (<--understatement of the century) - but I seriously hate these skinny, strawy, scary bunnies. Second place winner in the "why oh why, someone please tell me why you would put these in your yard" category are the GIGANTIC, plastic, colored eggs that look like what stegosaurus turds would have looked like if dinosaurs could have pooped in technicolor. Do I even need to mention that the people who have these most horrid of decorations are the VERY people who are convinced that there was a 'War on Christmas'? These are the uberChristians who routinely amaze me with their narrowness and obliviousness. Has no one EVER explained to these folks that the bunnies and the eggs are all PAGAN pre-Christian symbols of spring, regeneration, and fertility? I'm all for celebrating those things myself - but I happen to know that those folks aren't. I like the redemption and resurrection parts of Easter too. I can't really find anything I don't like about Easter - except the lawn bunnies and dinosaur droppings! Gah. I guess I'll go explode some Peeps in the microwave to get my frustrations out.
Oh, hey - I don't have a microwave, or um... any Peeps. I think I'll take myself to the movies instead!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Easter!

We've packed up the kids and are driving about 4 hours to go to the zoo, a museum, and a pool. We'll probably spend the whole time clustered around the table playing games but it's good to pretend we might do something a little more mainstreamly cultural.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

In Which I Become A Grammar Nazi (Of Sorts)

Maybe it's hereditary?
When I was about 11, I sent my paternal grandfather a letter - an actual letter, not an obligatory thank you note - telling him about my new school and life in general. He sent it back to me with my grammar mistakes circled in red pen. Yeah, that was the last letter he ever got from me. I continued to correspond with my other grandfather for 15 years, but THAT man? No way. He totally blew it right then and there.

My father was never quite that obnoxious. To this day, he still corrects my French and English and sometimes misses the whole point of what I'm trying to tell him, but I don't get bent out of shape about it. In fact, on occasion I've been able to give as good as I got. One of my favorite moments of all times was getting to correct his correction by being able to explain in complete detail the French grammar rule that he had learned incorrectly. He is a good sport and we've spent hours looking things up together. When this book came out, we sent each other copies that crossed in the mail. I have had to explain (and frequently remind) my father that his parental status may give him the right to correct me forever and ever amen, but it does not extend to correcting other adults, even those related by marriage (e.g. my first husband or my in-laws for heaven's sake!)

"Really Daddy! Don't be rude." I used to say. But what I wanted to say was, "Oh now you've done it! Now I'll have to listen and be sympathetic and reassuring all the way home to smooth his ruffled feathers! Can't you just let it go for once?" My ex was very defensive and I had to put up with a lot of "Who does that man think he is?" after these episodes. My new husband? You know what he does? He says things to my father like "Hey, where's your phone book at?" On purpose. He totally loves getting my dad's goat. I think Sweet Hubby is just angling for a way to work in the phrase 'up with which I will not put' a la Churchill, but so far my father hasn't fallen for it. Falling for it or not, my dad loves my new husband. My father couldn't imagine why a sane man would date a woman with three young sons, but he realized Sweet Hubby was perfect for me when he heard us arguing over which dictionary was authoritative enough to decide our word squabble. He immediately gave us his blessing.

I've never been much of a grammar nazi myself, or so I thought. I decided early on that the grammar nazi gene must skip generations or something. Sure, it made my eye twitch to hear the ladies at daycare tell my son to "lay down", but I didn't ever say anything about it. I was sure that the minute I corrected anyone I'd hear back, "Hey Pot, this is the Kettle. You're black too!" After all, I have creative punctuation and I like to make up words and run-on sentences and fragments are fun!! Recently though, I've come to realize how judgmental I really am. I can forgive dangling participles and random captilization. I can (easily) ignore ignore split infinitives (and pointless paranthetical expressions). Fiddling with idioms or using the completely wrong word, however, grates on my nerves.

The poor lady next to me at the nail salon the other day has things that grade on her nerves. I'm lucky THAT isn't my problem. My problem is that I've realized how much I subconciously believe that the inability to tell the difference between certain words and phrases indicates stupidity. My son, Chaos, drives me batshit by saying things like, "Wow. That musta cost a leg and an arm." He's a smart guy, but I just know that someday he's going to say something like "For all intensive purposes..." and I'm going to LOSE it. Don't those people make you want to SCREAM?!!!!!!!!

The grammar nazi gene has clearly not skipped me although I've only gotten partial expression. Perhaps the gene has been damaged somewhat as it's been transmitted down through the ages? Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that it has skipped Chaos entirely. Or worse. What if the grammar gene is recessive and the malaprop gene is dominant? What if caring about the correct use of homophones is merely a remnant (a vestigal appendage) of a predisposition for grammatical skills? What if the ability to perceive grammatical choices (much less the ability to make 'correct' ones) is becoming extinct while hereditary malapropism is on the rise? What if my ex's genes are more powerful than mine in the long run???

Given the evidence, this is conceivable. Probable even. Chaos' father sent me the following in conclusion to a battle we've been having over how to handle what happened last week. He wrote, "On the subject of [our son], and the consequences of his suspension, I respect your opinion, but I defer in it." Wouldn't it be peachy if he did 'defer'? Alas, I can only conclude from contextual clues (aka scathing remarks earlier in the email) that he really means 'differ'. There is hope for Chaos though, even if his high school English teacher and I have no effect on his malapropishness. I know I worried here about his career options, but just this morning I was told there people like him in major corporate headquarters.

At our Burger King (yes, the same folks who brought you this), the new digital ordering screen has a streaming banner across the bottom that says, "We now except credit cards!!!!!" When I asked the nice manager if she could perhaps change it, she replied, "Naw. There's nuthin' can be done from heyah. You have to talk to the folks at the Big Office. I think they check those things real good." Yes. I'm sure they do. I wonder if they will still be excepting job applications when Chaos is ready to enter the workforce.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Still Not Unpacking

I'm still in the midst of garden therapy. Or maybe it's yard therapy, since I'm fairly sure that the extensive gardens I inherited with the house last summer have given up on me. I don't know a thing about actual gardening. I'm pretty good with irises - but as those are quite difficult to kill, I don't think that's much of a feather in my gardening cap.

I've been so unsettled this week after all of last week's sturm and drang. It's helped to cut the grass and water the flowers I can find. It's helped to pull up weeds (or flowers ugly enough that I think they're weeds.) It has helped to do all of this with my son at my side. He has nattered on and on and on about War Hammer and plate mail and chain mail and Roman soldiers and Vikings and face plates and weapons through the ages. We have talked a little about what got him in trouble and we've talked a whole lot about everything else he's interested in. I've needed that reconnection with the earth after last week's fearsome storms. I've needed that reconnection with the sweetness in my son after last week's surprising trouble. I haven't quite figured out a solution for the whole 'gifted' mess I have to untangle for Havoc, but maybe you'll get an earful of that tomorrow.

For now, we're going to fix some lunch and eat in the courtyard and then go lie in the grass. I'll leave you with my very favorite poem of all times, Mary Oliver's Summer Day. "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Monday, April 10, 2006

Drive By Blogging

Today's post is barely a post.
I have so much to say and so much need to say it - but I can't. I can't unpack last week. I can't put it all neatly on the blogging table. Not yet. I will when I can.

When I can - I'm going to rant about the label 'gifted' and the dysfunctional process of acquiring that label for your child.
When I can - I'm going to wail about what it feels like when the school calls to say your child has just earned 3 days of Out of School Suspension.
When I can - I'm going cope with what it was like to be with my children 'locked down' in the school hallways, cowering under gym mats while tornados ripped through our community.
When I can, I'm going to figure out how to answer my children's questions about the tornados that savaged their old school, shredded new brick homes, and killed more than a dozen people in subdivisions not far away.
Today? Today I can't process any of it. I can't do more than this quick blogging pass, even though I have electricity and the cable connection back a week earlier than 'they' thought it would be restored. Today all I can do is take my kids (and three or four of their friends whose parents had to work though the county schools are closed) outside to garden, scooter, play with the dog, and revel in this gorgeous day. Today we're trying to remind ourselves that Mother Nature is good (most of the time). Today we're being grateful to be here to enjoy the day together.

Friday, April 07, 2006

8 Miles

NOT to be confused with 8 Mile. I can promise you there won't even be any Eminem on my MP3 player tomorrow when I try to run 8 miles. EIGHT. MILES. In a row. Without anything but me, my cute running shoes and socks, and my Eminem-less MP3 player to power me along. Unless you count VBGF who will be running beside (and probably in front) of me. She might come in handy in case I need her to drag me along or point me out to the ambulance crew.
There are days when I think, "What on earth is up with this running thing anyway?!"
And then remember how much I want to do this. Sigh. Ok 8 miles, ready or not, here I come.
(If I don't post tomorrow, you should guess that there are not dataports in every room in the hospital, no matter what their brochure says.)

Oh, The Bad Mommyness

Recently I took all my children shopping at Chez Target. I will try not to wax poetic but you must know how much I love that place. In particular, I laud and magnify the store designer who thought to centrally locate the dressing rooms! Gone are the days of trying to keep four boys from misbehaving while bored out of their gourds in the girls' department as their sister tries on EVERYTHING. I (once and only once) went the route of sending my sons over to the boys' dressing room by themselves. What brand of crack was I smoking that day?! Anyway...

These days it's Target or nothing if I have them all (or even four-fifths of them all) in tow. On this particular day in Target, we were stocking up for spring and early summer. And we weren't the only ones. Maybe it was the tornado outside or maybe it was simply 'the' place to be on a Thursday night after 8, but that back corner where the dressing rooms are was hopping.

Havoc, who is seven, had finished trying on his clothes before all of his sibs - which is not surprising because he likes everything I pick out for him and 8 slims fit him perfectly. He was skipping around being cute and everyone (all 412 of them loitering around the changing rooms) thought he was the bomb diggety. Especially compared to his brothers who were not remotely adorable. Chaos was insisting that any pair of jeans that came in contact with his body above his butt crack were waaaay too tight. Mayhem was complaining about the itchy tags and icky colors of everything. The Ninja Princessa was neither adorable nor a pain in the potatoes - she was just intent on making sure she knew ALL of her clothing options. (If you think that my timing in hitting Target a mere hour before they close was accidental then you have NEVER been shopping with the Princessa before! It's a great way to limit the damage without being the bad guy. Try it on your own Princessa. You will love me for it.)

The other mothers gave me knowing looks and sympathetic smiles as they dealt with their own (pre-)teens. The hordes of older teenagers hanging around all wanted to talk to me about my piercings (and thereby completely fool Target management into thinking they weren't either the best friends or the love-stricken admirers of the two ridiculously beautiful girls handing out dressing room numbers and manning the walkie-talkies.) More than one teenager commented on what a big family we had and more than one mom said something like, "I don't know how you do it. It's all I can do to manage with just two." Right on the heels of one of these comments, up skips Havoc.
"Mom! Mom! Can I have these cute flip-flops? They're right over here!" Then he skips just around the corner and YELLS, "They're blue and gold and say Co-Ro-Na! Oh Mom! Your favorite!! CORONA! Just like the church key you have. Doo da loo da loo loo! Cerveza senor?"
Ok - I do, in fact, have a bottle opener that sings a little song and asks (in a sultry voice) 'Cerveza senor?' (it was some freebie somewhere along the way) and for my whole life bottle openers have been called church keys but... man, that boy's timing! The teenagers thought Eddie was EVEN MORE adorable now and the mothers chuckled.

Oh the bad mommyness of it all! Of course, I told Havoc he could not have Corona flip-flops (and no, they weren't sized for a seven-year old anyway or there'd be waaaay more to this little vignette.) I really, truly hope that I did not leave the impression that it takes alcohol to have a big family (in the first place) or to manage it (in the second place)! And if I compromised on the definition of "above your butt crack", bought Hanes shirts with no tags, bribed the Princessa with her very own copy of Harry Potter on DVD to hurry up, drove through the end of a tornado, put the kids to bed immediately and had a beer (with a twist off cap), then I'm not telling a soul.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Go Terps!!!

NCAA CHAMPS in College Women's Basketball! Over DUKE. D-U-K-E!! Go Maryland!
I'm not a rabid sports fan. (Really!) I've managed to see only one or two of the women's games this year - but ya' gotta be true to your school, right?
And it was a hell of a game! Coming back from a 13 point deficit (tying the second biggest comeback ever) in OVERTIME and winning the women's title for the first time in the school's history - with a team that was mostly freshmen and sophomores!!!
Oh Maryland, my Maryland!!! (Did I mention they beat DUKE??)

Dangerous Things To Do In San Fran

  1. Believe the hotels that say they have a dataport in every room. (Hah!)
  2. Stay in a hotel next door to this. (Almost makes up for the lack of dataport.)
  3. Allot less than an hour here. (Really I think I almost had a stroke trying to decide what I absolutely couldn't have. I wanted EVERYTHING!!!! An hour is NOT enough time to decide which Angelina fibers you can live without.) *Ok so it's technically NOT San Fran - being on the Monterey Peninsula two hours south of the city and all - but still you were warned. Give yourself more than a fly by in this shop!!!
  4. Look up at this too long. It is ridiculously easy to fall in love with a tree.
  5. Order a margarita from the Orbit Room if you happen to be allergic to blood oranges, mint, hibiscus, or cranberry! Or if you have any time limits at all. I'm telling you, a margarita from this place is a thing of beauty but a girl could die of thirst while the prissy boy bartender makes the drink just so!! (For a more traditional (and much faster!) marg, try Harvey's!)
  6. Rent a really hot Mustang for the week without having a budget for speeding tickets.
  7. Eat at 'We Be Sushi - Just Like Mom Used To Make'. (It's the only dangerous thing on this list that I did not personally do. Perhaps they are the best sushi joint in the whole town. It's quite possible. I just wasn't brave enough to find out! (Also? It was 7 am when we got lost and saw that sign. My bravery may be time sensitive.)
  8. See V for Vendetta on a Saturday night in the heart of the city and then go to an amazing, pulsing club, get no sleep, fly home through storms, storms, and more storms, and forget (in the turbulence) that Dramamine and beer are probably not so good together!

I'm finally awake. I had a FABULOUS time. I faced my demons in Monterey (and will likely have a quilt to show for it.) I ran along Asilomar Beach (1 hour 12 min and 37 seconds!!) I wandered the Castro with my very best girlfriend. I ate Lobster Bisque at Fisherman's Wharf. I lost my mind in art (color, fabric, ink, fiber!!!) shops. I reconnected with folks I hadn't seen in years and years. All in all, it was a successful, powerful, and transformative pilgrimage.