Wednesday, May 24, 2006

School's Out For The Summer

I cannot believe how fast the school year has gone! I cannot believe that I have exactly one day to get my house, my car, my kids, my dog ready for a twenty hour drive to the Berkshire Mountains for a day and a half of my cousin's wedding festivities and then for another twenty hour drive home so that Sweet Hubby can leave for New Zealand (again!) the next day. Don't you wish you were me? See y'all next week!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Another One To Add To Career Day

This weekend VGBF and I went to Charlotte, NC to see the Dead Sea Scrolls - live! - I mean, in person - parts of the real scrolls - written nearly two thousand years ago. It was AMAZING! The science behind finding, preserving, and deciphering the scrolls was interesting and well presented. Did you know molecular archaeologists even existed? I didn't. They are the ones who pieced hundreds of scrolls together from thousands and thousands of fragments by matching DNA in the parchment fragments (because parchment is made from animal skins and they can tell which pieces belonged to the same animal!) And the scrolls themselves? Were tiny! And hard to read (never mind the fact that I can't read Paleo-Hebrew or Aramaic anyway - the letters, had they been in any of the few alphabets I DO know would have been difficult to see.) The scrolls were in lighted boxes with large hanging information panels beside them. There were biblical texts and sectarian texts describing the community rules. There were biblical commentaries and 'lost' books like the book of Enoch that until they found these scrolls in Qumran were only available in relatively recent Ethiopian translations. It was FASCINATING. My favorite was a fragment of Isaiah in which the end days are being described. "They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain." I could go on a little rant about how 'Christians with a capital C' seem to like to ignore the Bible when it tells them to be peaceful - but I won't. Not this morning. I had such a lovely time at the exhibit and learned so much that I think I'll walk away with that instead of a sour attitude. And also? I think I'm going to try to talk one of my kids into becoming a molecular archaeologist! How cool would that be!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Havoc was wound UP tonight. He has asthma and has to use an albuterol inhaler several times a day right now - which we know makes him edgy and makes his heart race. Even so, tonight was a bit odd. He launched into the middle of a long involved story with NO reference points. I tried to ask clarifying questions but that didn't help the situation at all. Part of the conversation went like this:

H: Because I like the dark, at recess today I would hit my stomach and yell, "Bruce!"
Me: Bruce?
H: (Ignoring the question.) And Timothy's team was called, guess what, Mama?
Me: Bruce?
H: (Ignoring the question.) And I like apes too.
Me: That's the name of his team?
H: (Answering the question?) No! But I like sharks the best.
Me: Which team were you on?
H: (Ignoring the question.) And it would get light again and I'd get sad but a cloud would pass over and I hit my stomach again and yelled, "Bruce!"
Me: WHO is Bruce?!
H: (Ignoring the question!) And then we played dodgeball with a tennis ball because it's going to rain tomorrow.

Aaahhhh yes - this incoherent ramble was JUST what I needed to solidify my feelings on the whole 'gifted' label. Gack! What was my child talking about?? I began to get worried he was speaking in tongues (which, don't laugh, happens to other people's kids around here at vacation bible school in the summer - scary!) Is it possible for asthma medicine to 'go bad'? How should I word the note to warn his teacher, do you think? Or should I keep him out of school if he's still like this in the morning? How would I word THAT excuse note? "Please excuse Havoc for missing school on Friday May 19, 2006. He was speaking in tongues." You'd think that with Havoc being the youngest of five, he'd be hard pressed to lead me into some new parenting territory. Perhaps he saw that as a challenge?? Whatever the reason, this bizarre stream of consciousness story telling jag had just better be over by daylight. Also? I am sooo calling the school to make sure he wasn't sniffing magic markers or glue yesterday.

Dog Bones

Mayhem and I went to the grocery store the other day and one of the things on our list was a package of dog bones. <--That is bones FOR the dog. See right away we get to the part I never thought much about. I've already said how before I had a dog I didn't know they actually, in real life buried bones (and they do!) Now I have to admit that I didn't ever once think about where dogs got the bones that they liked to bury. I knew where rawhide shaped like bones came from (=Petco - although now that I think about it more - I don't know about the 'raw' or what kind of 'hide'!) If I had thought about where the 'real' bones come from, I would have assumed that dogs got them from 'doggie bags' of restaurant food brought to them by loving owners. And I would have been wrong! Dogs who get their bones that way are apparently dead dogs! I had overheard enough to know that dogs could choke on chicken bones - but what about all that other stuff? I mean, why do they call them 'doggie bags' if you're not supposed to feed them to your dog?! The one (and only) time I lovingly shared my left over and very special, imported, ultra yummy Calhoun's ribs with Wasabi - Sweet Hubby FREAKED OUT and lectured me. Cooked bones can splinter and perforate doggie innards. I cried and wouldn't let my dog out of my sight for days! (I'm happy to report that while I'm pretty sure the spicy barbecue sauce caused him a wee bit of digestive distress- there was no evidence of any actual intestinal injury. Pfew.) So - where do dog bones come from? "The butcher," SH said. Of course. That makes sense.

That brings us right back to Mayhem and I looking at every single package in the store that looked like it could possibly contain raw bones suitable for the pup. No joy. Lots of raw meat, lots of steaks with a little bit of bone, but no packages with mostly bone and priced accordingly. So we stood in line for a million years while the three little old ladies in front of us by turns flirted with and harangued the young, Nascar-hat-wearing, sincere-yet-not-so-bright butcher. Really, he's probably more like the butcher's apprentice because he seemed more than a little baffled by his job. "You want me to cut that up?" he kept asking them one after the other AFTER they'd already handed him their packets and spent ten minutes detailing exactly which piece of meat they wanted cut which way. (Mayhem and I learned a LOT about how meat used to be cut and packaged back when these ladies were first young housewives.) I figured when it was finally our turn, we would be the easy customers. All we needed was to have him point us towards the dog bones. And I was right. The kindly butcher's apprentice looked much relieved when I explained that we couldn't find the bones for dogs. He said, "Oh, we just got some in. I'll go look in the back."

Imagine if you will, the look on my face, when he trotted back out, grinning proudly, with an ENORMOUS (and I mean four and a half foot long) raw bone of woolly mammoth in his hands. <--Ok, maybe it wasn't an actual woolly mammoth bone - but I wouldn't bet against it. This sucker was HUGE and the kindly butcher's apprentice stood there looking like Bam Bam. Mayhem's eyes goggled. The butcher's apprentice held this thing out at us - mind you with no wrapping - just offering it to us. Um...? Did he expect me to pluck it from his hand and plunk it into my cart?! Mayhem got the all over giggles. The butcher's apprentice looked at Mayhem and looked at me and then looked at the bone. "Uh...You want me to cut that up?" I thought Mayhem was going to pee his pants he was laughing so hard. "Yes please," I said. "My dog is a terrier. I think that might be a bit much for him as is." "Ok, be back in a second." A short while later he returned with a shrink wrapped, styrofoam package containing exactly one teeny, tiny little round bone. The three of us bent over to look at the package and then stared back up at each other. "Um, is that all there is? Could I, perhaps, buy several pieces of that giant bone you just cut up?" "Oh. Yeah. Sure. That would be ok." After just a few more such exchanges, Mayhem and I managed to be able to cross dog bones off the list. Mayhem giggled off and on for about an hour over the whole thing and Wasabi was certainly appreciative enough of his treat to justify any hassle - but I keep wondering to myself "Is it this way for all new dog owners?"

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Nature, Red Of Tooth And Claw

A friend sent me this story today. Only his version had pictures. Ewwwwww.
On an intellectual level though, I'm not sure that the link I gave you isn't worse! In the version I see when I follow that link, instead of pictures there is a big ad that says "San Diego Zoo's WILD Animal Park - Are you game?" I, for one, think it's a TERRIBLE slogan to link with a story in which one zoo inhabitant eats another zoo inhabitant unexpectedly and messily in front of visitors!!
I asked my friend why oh why he insisted on sending me scary bear stories (of which this is only one of several) and I told him I wasn't sure I could eat lunch now.
His reply?
Don't skip lunch, just don't order 'monkey kabobs'.
I might not forgive him for putting the phrase 'monkey kabobs' into my brain. I. can't. get. it. out. (Ear worms, they're not just for breakfast anymore.) Monkey kabobs may never officially make the Orgel list, but realistically? It is waaaay more memorable than the word 'dearth'. Maybe we could start a write-in campaign?

Reading Labels And Label Reading

Yesterday Havoc was officially labeled with the 'disability' of being gifted. Isn't that just a bit off? I understand the reasons for the legalese. I still think it's a strange way of doing things. And the process by which this label was obtained has been nothing short of Byzantine. I am extremely ambivalent about it - about the process and about the label itself. Havoc is brilliant. He has the academic benefit of being the youngest of five. (After all, how many pre-schoolers do you know who know their multiplication tables? But with two, third-grade siblings doing a half an hour of math drill in the carpool every single solitary morning for a year, what can you expect??) In addition to that though, he has always been an atypical thinker. He is fascinated by patterns and maps and relationships. He connects and reconnects facts over and over again. He looks at things from very interesting perspectives. He also reads like a fiend. We're a book oriented family, no doubt about it - but he takes the cake. He is in the first grade and is reading The Thief Lord - a wonderful book my fifth graders read at the beginning of the year! It is awfully difficult to find books that are interesting enough for Havoc from a language standpoint - but which are thematically appropriate. Not that I am complaining! There are waaaay worse challenges to have.

I had him tested for the magnet school two years ago - and he qualified and got put into the lottery to determine places on the waiting list. I am sure that it had NOTHING to do with the fact that I was the only parent unable to be present for the drawing, but he was 'randomly selected' to be 39th on the waiting list of 39. I was told he'll probably make it to the top of the list by 7th grade. Ok. It turns out that I'm not as upset about that as you'd think I would be. I took a good look and listen at the parent meeting I was able to attend. The other parents there? Like tennis moms or cheerleader moms - but of the dork persuasion. Seriously. Overbearing, with voiced, out-of-control high expectations for academic achievement and gobs of free floating anxiety. I didn't meet any of the kids, but the parents freaked. me. out.

I tried to get the 'regular' elementary school to let Havoc skip up a grade. He only misses the cutoff to be in the next class up by a couple of weeks anyway with his November birthday - but no go. Apparently, that's not fashionable in educational circles these days. They cited things like maturity and peer relations. (Ahem, remember the part about his siblings all being 4+ years older than he is? I KNOW how he relates to older kids. Just fine! Besides he wouldn't be THAT much younger than his classmates anyway!!) The educators also were worried that it could impact his self-esteem negatively if he was unable to keep up academically. Did they even LOOK at his achievement test scores? (*The answer to that question is 'No' but more about that below.) They had scheduled us for one hour of testing but couldn't stop the test until he missed a certain number in a row. After TWO AND A HALF HOURS Havoc complained a little about how long it was taking and the tester explained how it worked - and voila! He missed the right number in a row and got to be done and have some candy. He was six. He got the highest percentile their test could measure and was in the middle of sections for fourth and fifth grade work. That was last summer! Right after Kindergarten. He was moving to a new school - I thought it would be perfect. He could just start in second grade and all the kids would accept him as a natural second grader. School's answer: No can do. I kept asking questions. I kept answering the objections they brought up. It came down to the principal saying that it was her decision and hers alone. She did admit that she had in the past allowed children to 'skip' but her answer in my child's case was "No." I'm sure it has NOTHING to do with power, influence, country club membership (or my lack thereof). No, I couldn't possibly get that impression from her shellacked face, coiffed hair, expensive yet ugly tailored clothes, or her patronizing tone and lecture about how I may not know very much about private schools, but here at ____ Elementary the environment was very competitive and although my child had performed well in another (and lesser) environment her experience led her to believe that he would not be able to maintain it at her institution. (Can you tell I wanted to spit?) After much reading about the qualifications it takes to become a nationally recognized "Blue Ribbon School", I am now also sure that the principal's refusal to even consider changing my child's placement has NOTHING to do with the benefits the schools receive when they have kids score well above their grade level. Grrr.

Other options? The 'gifted' program. When I was a kid, the 'gifted' kids were obnoxious. And smelled funny. I realize that is not a very intellectual or rational reason to resist this label for my child - but there it is. I found out waaaay later in life my test scores had qualified me for the 'gifted' program at my school but my parents hated that label and wanted me to be routinely challenged in the general curriculum, not pulled out and treated differently. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, now does it? They chose to pull me out of public school and send me first to a 'non-graded', Catholic school and later to a secular, college prep, all girls' school. I don't have comparable options so we're trying the 'gifted' thing. Oh, I go back and forth about this!

In addition to the detailed paperwork, we had to meet (multiple times!) with a commitee whose purpose was to consider whether my child met the criteria for futher evaluation to determine if he was an appropriate candidate to be tested in order to find out if he is in fact, "gifted". At this committee meeting of seven (teachers/administrators/psychologists), it was explained that if the four intermediate steps were successfully navigated, that my child would undergo several testing regimes including IQ testing, achievement testing, creativity assessments and the like. I asked if there was an issue with the testing that had already been done. The committee chairwoman looked at me blankly. "Already done? What tests?" I said, "The IQ testing, achievement testing, creativity assessments, etc that were done last July." She flipped through her folder. SHE HAD NO RECORD OF IT!! The principal sat there blank faced, studiously NOT LOOKING AT ME! Havoc's first-grade teacher (whom I adore and who is pushing to get him the resources that he needs) said timidly with nervous glances at the principal that she believed she might perhaps have a copy in her files if she could just run get them. The principal glared at me but deigned to allow the copies to be brought forth. I wanted to SCREAM! This mean, petty, power tripping woman had WASTED all of these teachers' time calling a meeting for a screening to determine whether my son was qualified to even take take a test he had ACED a year ago?!! She had the NERVE later in the meeting to pointedly explain that one of the main things the committee would be looking for was whether my son was truly 'gifted' or whether he was "simply a superior academic achiever". If found to be 'merely academic' then he would not be eligible for the gifted label or program she assured me. It is only my deep and abiding faith that snarky, insufferable people come to bad ends that kept me from flipping her off.

She was not present at yesterday's meeting - which I correctly interpreted as a likely indicator that Havoc would get to be in the program next year. In spite of the horrible principal, I like this school. I like the teachers I've come to know (and I detect the tension between them and the administration even if they are too professional to say anything negative -which makes me like them even more!) I have been reassured by many parents who have shared my concern about labels that especially in elementary school these days, the labels are not as big of a deal as they were in 'our day'. One parent who volunteers in the classroom a lot says the kids often mash the two main program names ('resource' and 'search') together and say they're going to 'research' and no one bothers much. I think the Search teacher is amazing. She has told me that she believes Havoc belongs in her program. If for no other reason, she said, than to have some quieter time than the large classroom setting offers to be around the other 8 or 9 kids his age who think and read the way he does. She promised that they really don't smell funny.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Room In Progress

Sweet Hubby showing the Ninja Princessa how to paint trim.

Now the Princessa is painting solo. She is very thorough. I think her father would like it if she'd speed up just a tiny bit.

She has 8 or so of these lovelies dangling from her ceiling. Her room is going to be like living in the middle of a May day all year long.

I love her brightness and optimism. I'll be a little sad, yet not too surprised when she wants a new paint color in about three years. Who will give me odds that she'll want 'Death Black'?

Watching Paint Dry

It's been a sweet, quiet Mother's Day. I have my kids home - but they are content to putter and play. We are redoing the Princessa's room. It has gone surprisingly smoothly. Yesterday was all churn and moving furniture and garbage bags and wrenching decisions about what treasures to keep and which ones to let go to new homes. Today? Quiet. In fact, the loudest thing about today is the paint color she has chosen: Awakening Green. She said she wanted 'Lime Green' - and this is sort of limey. It's the kind of lime that probably grew near Chernobyl - manic and glowing - but she LOVES it. (And really? I can't say a word because I sent the Princessa to Lowe's with her color-blind father and her two best friends to pick out paint! I'm ever so glad we limited the paint to one color because the 'coordinating' color paint chips they brought home had names like "Cheery Aqua" and "Orange Delight". YIKES!!)
We're in between coats right now and we're fixing to rip up the carpet. We already ripped the carpet out of her closet and that was surprisingly easy. I hate to jinx a home-improvement project right in the middle of it - but I think it's going to be done on time! Her carpet will be installed tomorrow and the bed her grandmother is giving her is ready for pick up at our convenience. Her other grandmother and aunts are taking her shopping for bedding/curtains on Wednesday. I think all should be in place for her Friday night sleepover. Considering the months and months my studio took - this is feeling easy peasy to me. Maybe next time I do my studio I'll choose 'lime' green too.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Weather Permitting

I'm off to dig up irises with a long-lost, soon-to-be friend. We're going out to the retreat center where I used to live in a board and batten cabin with my first husband and three young sons. When the house is small (770 sq ft) and the land is big (77 acres) - you tend to spend lots of time outside. I loved being a 'country mouse'. The boys and I would go for 'rambles'. We would walk through the woods down to the river. We'd hike around at the bottom of the bluffs. We'd scour the fields for wild flowers and we'd play hide and seek in the orchard. It was all very Walden and Tintern Abbey. We had almost no money for toys and no room to put them in the house even if we could have afforded them. My guys had mud instead of play-doh and sticks and rocks instead of action figures. They used to talk to flowers. To this day, peonies are the flower I most associate with motherhood: they bloom around Mother's Day, smell divine, and I can remember Mayhem telling me (at age 4) that he liked to talk to them the best because they listened and bobbed their heads to show they understood. (They also end up heavy and drooped on the ground which is how I felt so very much of the time with three baby boys!) Mary Oliver understood: lush/fecund life, mysterious/dark death, peonies. If you don't have the book American Primitive, you need it.
Today - we live in a suburban neighborhood 45 minutes away from that rural outpost. And even my youngest baby is older than the oldest was then. My boys are in school and know other kids. They have action figures and video games. But you know what? All three of them love going back and have taught their new siblings to love it, too. This morning they all want to go with me and my almost-new friend to dig in the dirt. They're out of school in only two weeks - so I've promised to take them soon. But I may have to bring them back a peony blossom (ants and all) just for old times' sake.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reunion Churn

I graduated 41st in a class of 82 girls. "How mediocre can you get?" I used to wonder way back when. Pretty soon after graduation, I realized that number, especially taken out of the crazy context of my brainiac class, said very little about me as a person. Until my twentieth high school reunion this past week, I hadn't even thought about that statistic for about 19 years. Reunion churned up a lot of stuff for me - and a surprising amount of it was in the form of statistics - old and new. Here are a few:

Of my class of 82 girls, 22 of them qualified as National Merit Semi-Finalists. (I was one of them. That's an unprecedented - even for my school - (more than) quarter of the class!)

I went to an all girl's school where 30% of the student body was diagnosed bulimic/anorexic. I was not part of that 30%. My stat fell in the bulimic, yet un-reported category. The school staff tried to address the eating disorder problem, bless their hearts. Sadly, their well intentioned assemblies only served to make us aware of purging methods we hadn't figured out on our own and alerted us to which 'warning signs' we needed to hide. Seventeen years of recovery later and I still don't know what more they could have done with a population seemingly handpicked to be at risk: teenage girls (age and gender), upper middle to upper class (socio-economics), caucasian and Southern (ethnic and cultural), competitive school/families with (sometimes unreasonably) high expectations (environment), in the 80's (the skinny jean, skeletal, super model era). When I think about it that way, I am grateful that at least half of our class was healthy!

Fifteen of us now have at least 3 children (with only 3 sets of twins and only one set of those in a 3+ kid family) - and that's with updates on only 60 classmates. I don't know how that compares to the general population - but it strikes me that I was in a very fertile class.

One hundred percent of my class went to college (eventually). More than half my graduating class has multiple college degrees. (I'm the only girl who didn't go immediately after high school and it took me 13 years to finally get ONE degree.)

Surprisingly, our class falls well below norms in terms of gay girls with only two of my classmates being out and only one other (that I know of) still somewhat closeted. Perhaps statistics from the quarter that didn't report back would bring us closer to national averages. I'm sad to think that perhaps some of my classmates felt unwelcome at reunion.

1/82 of us are pierced in places other than ears. (Guess which one of us that is?) ****UPDATE: TWO of us are pierced. And at least three of us have tatoos. We are a little further ranged as a class than I first gave us credit for being. Woo hoo.****

Ninety percent of us have traveled/studied overseas at one point in the past 20 years. Five of my classmates still live in other countries.

Two of my class were in the military. (Both of us were Navy - different times, different places - but GoNav!)

Although I don't know exact numbers, I know enough to say that our class is right in line with the national averages for rape, abortion, divorce, and remarriage.

All these numbers float around in my head. Why do we even keep track? What other numbers are there and how do we track things that aren't sound-biteable? Then it was grades and college acceptances. Now it's degrees and babies. In between it was elation and work and sometimes trauma - but it's all reduced to statistics except between you and your closest friends: the ones who were with you the whole way through and don't need the 1,000-word synopsis.

This weekend I experienced an expected amount of chafing. I found myself - with girls I hadn't seen in 20 years - back in the same high school constellations because we hadn't charted anything in between. It was great to discover that it was possible (even at this late date) to change those fixed positions. I came out of reunion weekend with plans for this week with two different women I'd not spoken to in any meaningful way since May of 1986. One was a close friend when we were sophomores and the other was in almost all of my classes and yet we never once had a one-on-one conversation until Friday. She and I are going to go dig up irises tomorrow.

I was unpleasantly surprised to find myself thrown back into old patterns with old, still-close friends with whom I already had charted new paths. Specifically, I was amazed at how much it hurt for four friends to all name each other and exclude me in post-college, life-in-DC-together anecdotes. I lived in the same building with three of my friends and the fourth lived two metro stops away. They all named each other and each one of them forgot I was even there. One of the four is my good friend and also my first cousin. She and another one of the four were close enough to me (in my heart) to have been invited into the delivery room with me in DC when I gave birth to my first child. Being excluded by them, even in the most casual way possible, hurt my feelings in a way I had completely forgotten existed. Being left out, being included, feeling out of place or like an alien, wanting to know and be known, issuing/receiving pre-emptive/retaliatory rejections - ahhhh the good old days!

I was guarded in high school. Even in a small school with all girls - I think it's the only way most of us survive the high school turbulence. I don't think I had a (larger than normal) chip on my shoulder in high school - but I certainly had my conscious rebellions and intentional filtering devices. When I dyed my hair purple, it wasn't even against the rules at my school. It hadn't occured to the administration that one of their girls would consider (much less actually do) such a thing. The uniform code was immediately amended (although I had amnesty.) I loved my purple hair. It kept away people who were easily freaked out and it was fun. My real friends knew I was more than the color of my hair and they also knew I looked at things from a different angle. Going to reunion, I thought I had my shields up again. And I did. Except it didn't occur to me to have them guarding me from the friends I've stayed close to all these years. Don't get me wrong. It's not a death wound to our friendship. It's more like a really nasty (sharp and unexpected) papercut that bleeds all over everything for about two days and then disappears. And you, my lovely blogniks are like my bandaid. I don't know why, but blogging helps. (Well, blogging and the three Long Island Teas, half a pack of cigarettes, kissing on my love, and dancing until 3 am at the Lipstick Lounge after the reunion stuff was done - all of that helped. Yeah, yeah. I know. Mature, healthy, centered that wasn't. And yet...I had fun, blew off steam, got re-anchored and re-perspectified, and most importantly remembered why I don't drink and smoke like that anymore. Blech!)

There you have it, reunion in a nutshell: statistics, churn, new friends from old acquaintances, papercuts from old friends, and blognik bandaids. I'm glad I went. I'm glad we don't have another one for a while.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

He Lies Like A Rug

This is my offering for today: more doggy blogging. I'll have more tomorrow on the churn that was reunion. Today Havoc and the Princessa are both home from school (for asthma and a foot injury) so we'll likely be at the doc's all the live long day.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Heavy Medal

Here's the picture I wanted to post: VBGF and I with our medals! Did I tell you how heavy those suckers are? It was ridiculously reassuring to feel that weight around my neck. I want a whole collection of them!

Little Known Fact

St. Ann pretty much double-dog dared me to post this tidbit of trivia -

Most people don't know that back in 1912, Hellmann's mayonnaise was
manufactured in England.

In fact, the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment
scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the
next port of call for the great ship after its stop in New York.

This would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever
delivered to Mexico.

But as we know, the great ship did not make it to New York.

The ship hit an iceberg and sank, and the cargo was forever lost.

The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise, and were
eagerly awaiting its delivery, were disconsolate at the loss.

Their anguish was so great, that they declared a National Day of
Mourning, which they still observe to this day.

The National Day of Mourning occurs each year on May 5th and is
known, of course, as

Sinko de Mayo.

WHAT!!!! You expected something educational?

Paschal Wasabi

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fusion Cuisine By Havoc

If Havoc ever offers to make you a sandwich, you might think twice before saying yes.
I found out too late to do anything about it (other than be completely grossed out) - but today, when the kids got the chance to make their own sandwiches, Havoc made his a provolone cheese, strawberry jelly, and mayonaise sandwich on oat bread.
You were warned.

Prom Night

Did I mention that my reunion - my freaking 20th high school reunion - is this weekend? This is a picture of me and the boy I was sure I would someday marry. We dated for three high school years (which are like dog years.) We were certifiably the old married couple of our crowd. I couldn't get the scanner to work so the better picture I have is languishing here on my desk. Otherwise you'd see what an incredible dress I was wearing. It was a Victor Costa, knee length, cocktail dress that my mother refused to buy for me on the grounds that a) it was too 'mature' for me and b) it cost $250. Evil (and pissed off) child of parents who were mid-divorce that I was, I got my father to buy it for me. My mother was furious. "What's your damage?" I remember asking her. (<--What a pill I was! Did you catch the part where I was pissed off that my parents were divorcing?) I'm lucky I got to go to prom. I'm lucky I had a head in this picture! I was actually already enlisted in the Navy and leaving in a few short weeks, so I suppose my mom figured ripping my head off might be a breach of contract or something. I can't imagine any other reason for appearing unscathed in this picture. Be that as it may, I had a FANTASTIC time at prom. Twenty. Years. Ago. I can't get over that part. And now, will someone please explain to me why my children (who are too close to their own prom nights for my comfort) are "creeped out" at this picture of me? Anyone? They just hee and haw and make shivery, shuddery motions. I guess being a pill runs in the family.


Poster Child For Diversity

When Havoc was four, his father got remarried. Havoc LOVED getting to wear a tuxedo that day. He said to me, "When I grow up, I'm going to wear a suit all the time - even on days I'm not getting married." (Sidenote: now, as a special treat, right when he is about to outgrow them, I let him wear his suit/penny loafers whenever he wants. I'm sure the neighbors think it's odd to see him tearing around the yard or climbing a tree in a suit and tie, but what the hey, scaring the neighbors is nothing new.)

I got remarried the next year, on a beach in Mexico and, of course, we talked about weddings again. We had many funny conversations (including one where he asked me why we weren't going to play games and hide everyone's shoes during the ceremony like at dad's wedding - uh...???) but my favorite was this one:

Havoc: When I grow up, I'm going to marry Dora the Explorer.
Me: Why? (Wondering if I should point out that Dora is, er, a person of the cartoon persuasion.)
H: Mom, she is so cool! She speaks Spanish! And she does all kinds of stuff like having adventures - and have you seen her?! She's pretty.
Me: Oh, so you like Latina girls?
H: Huh?
Me: Hispanic girls. Girls who look like Dora. You know, girls who look like the girls in Mexico.
H: Yes, and I'm going to have a black son. So he can have his hair in braids. Not girl braids. BOY braids.
Me: Hmmmm. Are going to adopt this baby boy?
H: No. Her tummy will get big and we will have a black son.
Me: Well, if you marry a girl who looks like Dora and you have a baby together, then that baby will look sort of like you and sort of like her. Not black.
H: (rolling his eyes at me) Mom, by the time I'm old enough to get married, they'll know how to let peach persons like me have black children.

I am hopeful that the world, indeed, will know how to let peach persons like him have black children by the time he's old enough to marry. What a lovely vision, don't you think? I LOVE the way my child looks at the world. Havoc is not your average bear. And I bring this up, because I've found the perfect wife for him! She's not a cartoon character; she's a real, live girl. She's ethnically Chinese, not Hispanic - but oh, she's brilliant and quirky! I love her. I know he would love her. Her name is Nora (which rhymes with Dora - see it's a match made in heaven!) If only arranged marriages were still in vogue! I would so be negotiating with mimi smartypants right now!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Career Day

Guess who was a guest speaker at the elementary school's Career Day today?
You got it! Me.
I spoke to four different third grade classes (for twenty minutes each - yikes!) about what it's like to open your own business and then the kids got to ask questions. They were great. You could tell the teachers had gone over some sample questions before hand and that they were limited to one question apiece. In the first class, I could see two boys debating their questions almost like they were fighting. Turns out they were daring each other to ask me about my lip ring but neither one wanted to waste their question or get in trouble. They were thrilled when I brought it up myself - but then argued about who won the dare.
Several of the girls drew pictures of hearts and butterflies and slipped them to me as they were filing out of the room. Turns out that I already knew several of the kids and have taught them how to knit - which made them minor celebrities in the class. It was all a lot of fun.

During one of the breaks, I noticed that there was a list where the kids had apparently had to write down what they wanted to be/do when they grew up. There were many, many vets on that list, several nurses, soliders, mechanics, and of course performers (country music star, rock star, movie star). Not one person had written down "Knit Shop Owner" but several kids said as they were leaving that they wanted to be just like me. I'd like to think that means I've inspired a couple of them to open their own businesses when they grow up. However, it's possible that they meant when they grow up they want to wear lip rings and flip flops and get chocolate bars as thank you presents from the teachers. I suppose we'll have to wait twenty years to find out!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Marketing Strategies I Don't Understand

Chicken Poop $3.99.
That's what the sign says.
My boys swore that they saw the sign last week, too, with their grandmother - only Havoc insisted it said, "Chicken Poop Lip Balm."
Sweet Hubby chalked it up to a disgruntled employee. And then.... I went to Walgreen's today for Epsom salts and this was sitting on the check out counter. Apparently, I am the last woman on the planet (besides my mom) to find out about this hot new trend. I think I must not be the normal consumer, because somehow putting the words 'butt' or 'poop' in a product's name does not compel me to purchase it. I fail to see the 'genius' in potty marketing. My children, on the other hand, have helped make this man the millionaire I'm sure he is. Sigh. I would ask "What is this world coming to?" but I'm afraid the answer is clearly, "Poop." One year (when I was ten?) the hottest ingredient in cosmetics was baby oil. Everything had baby oil. Later it was aloe vera. I missed the transition from plant to poo - but I'm convinced that jojoba had something to do with it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't jojoba swedish for 'bat guano?'

What will they think of next? Wait! Don't answer that. I don't think I want to know.

Race Pictures

Blogger relented. Here is a picture of Team Tutu in all of our pre-race glory.

Does this give you ANY idea of how crowded it was? You can barely even see the corral fence there but essentially the people in collared shirts on the left are in the process of getting infected with Half-marathonitis.

Here I am with VBGF in back and C is for Coffee front left. I think C is for Coffee is worried that I might bend over and heave into one of those strategically placed garbage cans, but I was fine.

This one is my favorite. VBGF ran with me for 11 miles but then I sent her on. I knew I'd finish then and she needed to push herself. She crossed way before me but she waited just on the other side of the finish line so she could be there with me at that moment. We don't even have our medals yet in this picture. It was an amazing experience. I'll do it again next year! Join me?


The Race Gods Love Me

Or maybe they love YOU! They love somebody.
Blogger, however, hates somebody. I cannot get it to upload any pictures. Waaanh.
I have some great pictures! Pictures I can't show you. Like, pictures of how many freaking people there were! Twenty-two thousand people already sounded like a lot to me - but I have to tell you, on Saturday it felt more like there were 22 kazillion people there! Ok wait - I have to back up. Let me 'splain you: running is contagious. You go to a big race to cheer a wacky friend on one year and next thing you know, it's a year later and you are on the wrong side of the corral fence in newish running shoes feeling like you're going to throw up. You look desperately at the lovely folks who showed up to support you and your only comforting thought is, "Next year. Next year, you'll be on this side." That's how this race has grown so big, so fast.

In my little corner of the running world, the infection began with VBGF. We had done triathlon training together many years ago and I knew she'd gone on to the Half-marathon. I'd heard about her other friends inexorably falling into her running orbit. I wished them luck from afar. I'm not really a runner. I only put up with running because I like the other two out of three triathlon events. I naively thought that 'not being a runner' made me immune to anything that uncoupled the word 'marathon' from the only two words that should precede it (i.e. 'Star Trek'). Hah! Little did I know that I was primed for infection by my very resistance to the idea of being a real runner! Never mind that the Half is 13.1 miles of the event I like the least. Never mind that I'm not a jock. Never mind everything I thought a Half-marathon was. For the first time in the five years VBGF has been doing this, I actually went to the race with her last year instead of sending her off with 'good luck' hugs or emails.

Imagine my surprise when the folks who lined up for the Half were all shapes, all sizes, all ages, and all abilities. ALL. The marathoners looked like marathoners (i.e. NOT like me) but the Half-marathoners looked like everybody. EVERYBODY. There were grandmas and kids. There were fat people, and skinny people, and people in wheel chairs, and people with no hair from chemo, and people with prosthetic limbs, and people pushing strollers, and even people in costumes! They all looked nervous at the start and triumphant at the finish. It is practically impossible to look at all that and not wonder, "Well, if they can all do this, why can't I?" And you know what? The answer was, "There is NO reason that you can't. You can. You, Lilymane, could be one of those triumphant folks crossing the finish line." That's how it happened. That is why this past Saturday morning, I was standing on the inside of corral #17 instead of on the outside. I stood there well rested, well fed on Gatorade and PowerBars, with no more excuses because even the weather was perfect. PERFECT. I stood there next to my Team Tutu training buddies wondering if I was the only person who felt the need to pee and hurl at the same time. I hugged my support crew over the fence and we were OFF!

The race runs smack dab through the center of Nashville. It starts in front of Centennial Park and finishes at the Coliseum (home of the Tennessee Titans). The good folks of the Music City really get into this race. There are official bands (sponsored by the race organizers) every mile to mile and a half - playing music, encouraging the runners, having a good time. In addition to that, there are people with guitars in front of houses, or dulcimers and banjos, or even folks who set up huge stereo systems (my favorite was the family that blasted A Flock of Seagulls). It is an amazing experience to be cheered on by thousands and thousands of strangers. If you have your name on your shirt, the crowd will cheer you on by name! There are posters everywhere saying things like "You can do it!" and "We believe in you!" and also funny ones like "We know a short cut" and gross ones like "Fart - you'll run faster!"
There is quite a bit of wackiness to this race. Maybe there is to all big races. Maybe I'll be all blasé about it next year, but there were times when I was quite overwhelmed by the banners with encouraging bible verses and by the well-meaning volunteers shoving these at me and by the John Deere cheer leaders shouting "Git 'Er Done!" But then there were the plumbers! I wish I'd gotten a picture of these guys. There were two men running in fat suits - with well-defined clefts shown off by costume jeans sewn low on their false butts - with a furry tuft attached just above their fabric cracks. They ran with plungers in their hands. It was so wrong, yet... oh, so funny. They finished! In fat suits! With plungers! There was NO WAY I was going to drop out if they could do it. It's that kind of race. Hard. Hilly. Fun. Crazy.
It is the perfect synthesis of individual challenge and communal effort. I got so much out of this race: renewed self-confidence, a tour of Nashville, great time with family and friends, a substantial medal, and the chance to pass the infection on. Already the Ninja Princessa, Chaos, and C is for Coffee are talking about doing the race next year!