Friday, November 30, 2007

What Nine Means To Me

My baby turned nine today. Nine. Is it a big deal to other parents? It took me a while today to remember exactly why nine jars me so - why my vision of my child flickers between baby and big kid. It took me a while because it's a gut thing, a sub-terranean thing - this business of what it means to be nine. The first nine year old I ever remember knowing was a strangely wise "big kid" - cool by virtue of her advanced years. In our small troop of neighborhood girls, she was just enough older that if she had pretended not to know us at school, we wouldn't have blamed her a bit. But she never did blow us off. She wasn't like that. She was both too kind and too popular to give in to the schoolyard caste system. She was unquestionably the girl boss in our neighborhood games - the one who came up with better poses for "Swinging Statues"; the one who told us Brownies the spooky Girl Scout campfire stories; the one who knew when to sass the boys back and when to make peace so they'd show us the bird eggs they'd found. I thought her very grown up. In fact, she was so grown up in my mind's eye, that it wasn't until I was in my twenties and saw her fourth grade school picture again after so many years that I realized what a baby she had been at the time. I wept. Big, fat, hot tears splashed onto the ducky fuzzed head of my newborn as I stared at her picture. In that, admittedly post-partum hazed moment, it struck me - literally STRUCK me - that she'd been a baby, someone's baby on the awful, February day she disappeared. I'd known her parents, so my brain must have realized at some point that she was someone's child, but it was my heart - my wide open, new mom heart - that broke all over again.
I had double vision: the confident, capable, compassionate big kid I remember overlaid by the image everyone else had always seen of a vulnerable, achingly innocent, and forever nine-year old girl. Nine. Never ten.

There are some images engraved in my mind that have not changed from that day. These photographs - dark and stark - match my memory exactly. They evoke the hot smells of cigarettes and coffee and the voices of the dozens of tired volunteer searchers - all carried on the cold wind. I can hear the ragged rustle of the bushes outside of my window as the German shepherds lunge through our hedges and comb our yard under the moonlight. I can feel the hexagonal pattern of the fabric on the back seat of our car - a pattern that I traced with my fingers over and over while we waited to be waved through the police cordon to get to our house. This is a view of my neighborhood in 1975:
Copeland Drive, in front of the home of Marcia Trimble, is crowded with police cars, Civil Defense vehicles and other cars as Middle Tennessee joins forces to search for the missing nine year-old. (Gerald Holly / The Tennessean) 2/28/1975

Tom McGinn, a Philadelphia dog trainer, unloads two of his German shepherds with the help of Metro Youth Guidance Officer Howard Bassham, while Sgt. Sherman Nickens, right, watch. (J.T. Phillips / The Tennessean) 3/4/1975

It's been helpful for me to dredge up these images, to write, to acknowledge the links. The formless dread I've been feeling is no longer so formless. I am facing a threat to my family - even if it is "only" a custody challenge and it resonates back in spiraling and layering ways with early trauma, fear, and the first loss I ever faced. A loss that I shared with my neighborhood, my city, and my era.

Now that I have connected some dots - it makes sense that the bare trees, the fading light, the cold wind, and the barking dogs have felt ominous. The pieces are settling. I am settling. My old grief is very much a part of where I come from. My fear of future grief and loss on any scale relating to my children is understandable. Strangely, connecting the two has melted the icy panic inside of me. Connecting the dots of experience enables me to connect to the healing and growth I've gained too. Someday maybe I'll detail how and why Marcia's faith impacted mine. Maybe someday I'll own up to exactly how much time I spent (and how much mayonaise and lemon juice I used) trying to get my hair to look just like hers. Tonight, though, I'm going to go sneak a peek at my sleeping big boy/little kid. Tonight I'm going to breathe deeply. I'm going to trust the process - not necessarily the court process or the police process or even the family process - but the bigger, wider, more cosmic process. Strangely I find that tonight, after all this, I can trust that it really will be ok. No matter what. Peace.

**Edited to add - here is the link for the first story breaking on this case. It is a pivotal story for me personally - and a huge story for Nashville then and now. Peace.


I so wanted to have a kick ass post for the last day of NaBlo! Instead, pretty much all I can dish up is crap with a side order of stress. Weeellll - that's not completely accurate. Today is Havoc's birthday. That's fun. My "baby" is nine! I am working hard today to concentrate on him - his excitement, his sweetness, his enthusiasm. I want to be fully present to his nine-ness without the tinge of sadness that seeps from the past and the worry that casts shadows on the future. It's taking some work not to let my thoughts spiral back to the day Havoc was born. Towards the context that involved my ex. Towards the mixed up way things were when I was desperately trying to hope and pretend away my concerns. I can see myself that day: deliriously in love with my new baby, delighted with my sons who were now big brothers, joyful that my mother was so close and helpful, and lonely/sad/worried about Mr. Tapioca leaving us in the hospital because he was sick and needed to get enough rest to be able to go back to work. I want to shout to my then-self from this point in time and say, "Yes - you're right - those little red flags are not your imagining! Brace yourself! It'll be a little better for a little while and then it's going to suck glass shards! But you and your babies will be ok!"

But I can't shout back to myself. I also can't hear my future self shouting back to me today. I wish I could! I would love to hear that it's going to be rough going for a bit, but ultimately ok. I want that to be the message I would hear if I could. But what if the message is - "Hey - those looming depositions, the lying petitions, and the rest of the soulless court stuff? It is going to shred you and your family! Enjoy what peace drippings you can muster right now, because it's only going to get worse!" Gaaak. Fears, hopes, faith and rage. Nausea. I can't navigate that today. I can't make it go away - or be funny. (I wish I could make it funny! If Linsey can make a post that was both touching and hilarious about the love of her life being diagnosed with celiac disease - why can't I pull an iota of wry humor out of the absurdity that is this pending court case? NOT to trivialize what is so hurtful but to be able to enter into it fully enough to get past the paralyzing aspects. I want to hold up the ridiculous parts in affirmation of the entirety because being able to do so would mean my faith that it will be "ok" was solid. Can't do it today. Not by a long shot.)

No. Here's what I can do. Even if it's it's boring to write about. Today I can go to Havoc's classroom to see their international project presentations. I can admire his "German" chocolate brownies (even if I can't eat them because coconut give me hives.) I can pick up a few more birthday gifts from the Kitchenworks store for the budding chef. I can squeeze him and get us ready for tomorrow's houseful of nine year olds. I can scream and rage "Mr. Tapioca Head is a pathetic, empty liar no matter what happens in court!" in my head all the while smiling at and being pleasant to everyone. (<--I'm Southern like that.) Today I can be a flawed, angry, loving, and not-funny mom. Tomorrow I might could be something else. (<--That's the best cliffhanger I can manage. It translates to "Y'all come back, now. Ya hear?")

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In Which Mayhem Is A Weirdo (I Mean Boy-o)

Last night the kids were maniacally jolly as they cleaned up after supper. They were ricocheting around the kitchen, scrubbing and pinging off of each other. It was NOT quiet but they were operating just under the reprimand threshold. They were silly and sarcastic with each other - all five of them dishing back what they were served - all the while loading dishes, wiping counters, and sweeping floors. The three adults (and the two dogs) retreated to the library which is connected to the kitchen by an open doorway as well as a window-like pass-thru above the sink. In short, we could hear everything but couldn't be seen. Often this is an ideal set up. Every once in a while, it means the adults miss a key element to a situation.

As the kids finished up their chores they trickled into the library one by one. Mayhem, being in charge of trash and recycling, was one of the last to finish. The normal rattling and rustling sounds I heard from the kitchen in no way prepared me for Mayhem's appearance. He walked through the library with trash bags in hand and his (abundant) hair sticking straight up off the top of his head. We are talking a 10-inch long, crazy, white boy 'fro. There was a moment of utter silence, then everybody gabbled at once. "What happened?" "What did you do?" "Your hair!"

Mayhem's face was bright red and his voice choked as he said something about needing to remember to be careful around wall sockets - but he could not maintain when he saw my panicked face. He burst out laughing. He hadn't gotten even partway electrocuted. He had made his bushy hair stand on end by rubbing a trash bag on his head*. Ha ha ha. Not only did he get laughs for looking ridiculous but he scored on mom. The kids think "getting" me like that is absolutely hilarious. Last night they thought it was so funny that it spurred them to reminisce about past successes in pushing the mama juuuuust far enough. They brought up the time Chaos gave Mayhem a swirlie. That memorable incident happened on a day they were being weird and push, push, pushing me. They weren't being "bad" or breaking any actual rules but they had hovered and interrupted, been rambunctious and loud. Some days using every mama tool in my kit just barely covers it, you know? The kids know to a scarily exact degree how hesitant I am to waste my mama credit on minor infractions. They know this, in large part, because they have repeatedly conducted experiments to find out precisely where the line is between pranks that will "only" earn them extra chores and behavior which will result in restriction (or worse). Bet couldn't believe the swirlie. She said to them, "I can't believe y'all did that! What if she hadn't laughed?!" and she made a mock serious "oooooh" face to indicate the trouble they would have been in. Chaos said, "We'd already had to do all our laundry, pick up our rooms, clean the kitchen ("And the bathroom," reminded the Princessa), and walk around the block!" ("Yeah, twice," added Mayhem.) "What else could she have made us do? It was a joke and we had nothing to lose!" Bet mouthed to me across the room, "What's he going to do? Sue you?" Spot on! That day I had played all of my (minor suit) cards and the kids had totally called my "bluff", winning the hand. Although the look on their faces last spring and the look on Mayhem's face last night, when for a split second they had to wonder, "Oh crap, what if this joke is too far?" tells me that we're still squarely in the midst of healthy limit testing and I still (for a few more short years) do hold the trump cards.

*You may think - as did I - that rubbing a plastic bag on one's head is a strange and random thing to do (especially when one has been told all one's life by one's worry wart mom not to put plastic bags over one's head). I asked him why. Was he trying to make his hair stick up? Did he know that would happen? And why a garbage bag? His answer, "I had no idea what would happen. That's why I did it, mom. To find out. It's called an experiment." Ahhh. You know, even as a middle schooler, I did NOT look at things and wonder what would happen if I hit them with a hammer, put them in the microwave, or rubbed them on the top of my head. Linus says that's because I'm not a boy. You think?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I LOVE playing the lottery. I know, I know - tax on the poor, the evils of gambling, the curse of sudden wealth syndrome, yada, yada, yada. Still. I love to play. It feels like play. I'm a lucky person in general and it's fun - so why not. It's exciting to pick numbers and dream about what I would do if we won. I don't HAVE to play. I don't buy a ticket every week, but I probably buy one a month. I certainly don't use the lottery as my retirement planning tool or spend money I don't have. I do, however, enjoy it as a big, wild, "what if". If I had to justify it, I could point out that I spend significantly less on the lottery than the average American spends at Starbucks. A chai latte gives me a tummy ache but a lottery ticket gives me a license to dream. This flimsy piece of paper may not be an exotic guilty pleasure, but it's mine and I'm savoring it. For a few more hours anyway. Until I make myself go to the Powerball website. Between now and then, I'll just hang out here with Schrodinger's cat and dream a little dream.

What about you? Lottery - love it or hate it?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Morning News And Compulsive Peace

Maybe reading the news first thing in the morning isn't such a good idea.
This is sad. This is horrifying. Both are senseless. This helps if I can overcome my cynical side sniping and dismissing it as political theater.

My new wf Jeff asked me yesterday about my obsession with peace. I want peace. I yearn for it. I have a passion for it. I am searching for inner peace, outer peace, and sideways peace if it's available. I will visualize it, grow it, document it, explore it, sit with it, and share any little bit of it I can find. If I were a superhero, I would want my superpower to be peace. I'd dish up some serious Pax Lilymana. Peace talks, peace walks, peace deals - grasping at straws is better than refusing to reach. I don't mean to be glib as I repeatedly write the word peace, wish it upon random folks, and generally sling the concept around in my daily life. It's my way of praying without ceasing. It's my antidote to this morning's news - or any morning's news for that matter. The microscopic glimpses I have of peace are redemptive to the degree that I believe a full-sized, industrial-strength, global dose of peace would be nothing short of heaven. If we have the capacity to perceive even the shadow of it - how can we not ache to bring it fully about? Dynamic hope. Transformational love. Universal salvation. Divinity: inclusive, transcendent and immanent. Relational unity. The peace which passeth all understanding. That's what I'm talking about.
Peace be with you.

Tallulah Tinklepants

It is hard to believe that a dog this tiny could piddle so much, so often. Just saying.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Turkey Tettrazini For Eight Hungry Folks

1 pound of spaghetti (cooked)
1 stick of (salted) butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped (I like sweet ones)
garlic, chopped (I use about six cloves - but we love garlic)
1 cup flour
1 quart of chicken broth (I very much prefer Wolfgang Puck's organic chicken broth)
1 pint heavy cream (yummy but fattening - oh well)
1/2 cup cooking sherry
mushrooms (1 medium package, fresh - mixed wild ones if you can get them, or boring button mushrooms or even a couple of small cans if you have to)
chopped leftover Thanksgiving turkey - 3 or 4 cups preferably but we don't always have that much left over
1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan
(seasoned) breadcrumbs for topping (optional)
sea salt (to taste)
pepper (I have a mix of several types of peppercorns - and it makes a difference) (also to taste)
*My boys like it best when I throw in a few dashes of Tobasco but if I'm making it for me, I throw in some Worcestershire sauce.

1. Cook pasta, drain, and place in the bottom of a large casserole dish. (For this much, I use two of the deeper Corningware ones.)
2. While pasta is cooking melt butter and sautee onion and garlic.
3. Stir in flour. (I cook this for about five minutes over med-low heat, because I don't like the flour to taste raw - but some folks are impatient and go right on to the next step.)
4. Whisk in liquids - broth, sherry, and then cream.
5. Add mushrooms, turkey and salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes if using fresh mushrooms - sometimes I even throw them in at the beginning with the garlic and onions but they work fine if added in here.
6. Take off heat and stir in cheese. (And any seasoning like Tobasco or Worcestershire.)
7. Pour mixture over pasta (top with bread crumbs if you want) and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.

So What's He Going To Do?

I was stressing as the boys were going to their dad's (=Mr. Tapioca Head's) before the break. I've wanted to get their hair cut for weeks and weeks but the boys were adamantly against it (and the Princessa weighed in on their side). My mother SNORTS when she hears me say anything about their hair. Her comment is that at least of none of them have purple hair. Ahem. So I let the boys go on being shaggy, until of course the day before they were to go to their dad's when both Mayhem and Havoc said they wanted their hair cut and Chaos said he would allow his to be trimmed. Where do you think that came from? (One guess.)

I also discovered too late to rectify the situation that the boys have outgrown (or put holes in - grrrr) the only khakis they have here at my house. No doubt about it, they need new nice pants and they'll be getting some - but there was no time before Thanksgiving. I let them go to see Mr. Tapioca Head's parents on "my" weekend right before the break and I didn't think to check their clothes two weeks before break. (My bad.)

I sent the boys as clean, well-groomed, and nicely dressed as possible given their baseline scruffy and khaki-less status. I was talking to Bet about it. She was taking a shower. I was pacing our (very large) bathroom and fiddling with stuff on the counters - stressing about what grief I was going to get from Mr. Tapioca Head about it. Grief that I feel like I might deserve (sorta) but that I don't want to deal with anyway. Bet leaned her head out of the shower and watched me for a second as I anxiously racketed around. Then she said, "What are you worried about? What can he do? Sue you?"
Well, there is that. He's already played his trump card. It's the only one he's got and it's on the table. He's got a petition in court (as I recently officially found out) suing me for custody of the children - in his words "to get them out of that warped and demented environment [I] have subjected them to." Yeah. Haircut shmaircut, eh?

In other (and way more fun news) - Happy Blogiversary to me! Two years today I've been in the blogosphere. I love it. I've decided to stay!

I've got more to say today, but I may have to say it tomorrow. My "to do" list is a mile long and for having been up for five hours, I've not gotten a heck of a lot of it done yet. Hope you're making more progress on your Monday. OH - and a total shout out to my buddy Solsys for coming up with the word "Frazy" to describe yesterday. Frantic, frazzled, lazy and maybe a bit crazy to boot. Excellent wordsmithing pal!
Peace to the people!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

If Angst And Ennui Had A Love Child

You know those days when you're hungry but don't want to or can't decide what to eat? I need a word for that feeling. Maybe not one that revolves around food though, but one that describes the urge or impulse to do something that is thwarted by the equally strong and opposite pull caused by unwillingness or inability to figure it out. Stymied is too strong, depression too permanent, blah too formless. Stress and lethargy are factors. Miasma, irritation, lassitude, dread, compression, implosion and funk are all part of it, but they're bit parts - not the starring role. I want a descriptor for a feeling that makes you want to pace but robs you of the energy to do more than mope. I need a concrete label for this vague sense of enervating dissatisfaction.

Today, I am full on wallowing in whatever this feeling is. I have it about eating and also about blogging. I keep standing in front of the open refrigerator without moving until my indecision makes the heat in the kitchen kick on. I want to blog. I "need" to blog. I don't see the value of anything I have to blog about. I have the feeling about running. I want to run, need to run, can't figure out how to tumble into my shoes and go. Too many variables about weather, route, and timing. I've been looking forward to football all week but at the moment could care less. At the exact same time that I have three different thoughts about what today's games mean and who's playing and what my fantasy team's stats are - I have this "why bother" attitude about even finding out where the remote is or what channel the games are on. My skin feels too tight like I might burst, but my brain feels soggy, my thoughts are drowned. I imagine this is what being on uppers and downers simultaneously feels like. (Thankfully I don't know, I can only surmise.)

The most oomph I can muster is to fret about what to call this crappy state of being. Is it even an actual emotion? I want to name it, pigeon-hole it, have power and dominion over it. If I had a name for it, I feel half-heartedly convinced I would be able to banish it. I wish there were a recipe process for building words. Some languages just let you keep adding on syllables and root words until it means what you want it to mean. I guess if AT&T can push cell phone service in Philawarepragacago, then I should be able to make up my own word for how I feel today. But laziness and uptight perfectionism are allied in preventing me from even the semblance of an attempt. Fuck it. <--That's eloquent, eh? I may not be able to come up with a name for this feeling, but I've got a two-word, easy to remember motto for it! My hope for you, dear web friends, is that you need neither name nor motto and can just enjoy your day. (Root for the Titans for me in case I can't my poop in a group to watch the game, ok?)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

It's A Good Thing She's Cute

Tallulah decided at 4 a.m. that she was done with sleep. I'd forgotten that puppies keep baby sleep schedules. We took turns entertaining her - but it was Wasabi that did the best job. He's such a good big brother! He hops and nips and chases her but he's gentle. They played tug-o-war with that pathetic rag of a toy squirrel. Tallulah tried every trick she knows but Wasabi stood there like a rock. Then he backed up a step or two and dragged her. They both thought that was fun.

He better enjoy that while he can - she's going to be bigger than he is in about three months. He tuckered her out enough that we got another nap out of her. Now if only the adults in the house could catch a few extra zzz's.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dog Lips

Guess what we got today? She's a seven-week old Redbone Hound. Tallulah Rockstar is her "working title" so far. Linus wants to call her Red Sonja. Bet is still deciding what her permanent name is going to be. I'm going to call her Tallulah for now. She is fiesty and independent, sweet and such a gorgeous color. We went to Rebel Red Kennels to meet her. I have nothing to compare the kennel to. Maybe all kennels/breeders are gracious, have beautiful land, provide run space for each dog, have cozy and clean dog houses and well-mannered, beautiful dogs. It seems unlikely - but maybe they are all as wonderful as Rebel Red Kennels. Tallulah came right out and played with us. She and her brother puppy Fred made a bee line for Wasabi - who we'd brought along to make sure he and the new pup would be compatible. I had been a bit worried that she might be afraid of such a bigger dog, but it was entirely the other way around. She had no fear and lunged for his beard. He jumped straight up in the air and cowered behind Linus' legs. They adjusted quickly but the first few moments were amusing. I think all the playing tuckered her out. She slept the three hours home!
She's a kissy little thing. Her face is all wrinkly. Her nose is velvety and she has the softest, flappiest little dog lips. Bet says dogs don't have "lips" but look at her! She has dog lips. And puppy breath. And a poochy little belly while the rest of her is bony. She bunny hops towards Wasabi to play. Her ears are so big and floppy that they dip in the water when she drinks from her bowl.
Then she has to toss her head and flippity-flap them dry. Looks like I might be a doggy blogger again for the next little while as we all adjust to being a multi-dog family! Peace.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey And All The Trimmings

Bet and I ran five miles this morning - two and a half of them UP HILL. I feel entitled to eat all I want today. Good thing, too. We are having a feast.
Baked brie, steamed shrimp (with Old Bay), turkey, cranberry relish, green beans, "company grits" (=with heavy cream, white pepper, and gruyere), stuffing and dressing, gravy, french silk pie, chess pie, butterscotch fudge, and chocolate fudge. Mimosas early on and later a gorgeous white wine. This is the first year in a decade that I haven't made my carrots, parnips, and leeks au gratin. We already have so much - and only five people sitting down to supper - that I'm saving that dish, maybe for a supper next week. I hope everyone out there in Blogland is having a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Uni-dogs, Math Fertilizer, More Pigskin

Canine Singular:
I've never* had more than one pet at a time. I know people with menageries - but my fur babies have always been only children. I bring this up because Bet wants a puppy. She's grieved her sweet dog, Sluggo, for three years (almost exactly three years) and it's time. Bet has been ready for about six months but the timing, what with our family moving, hasn't been right until now. She loves hound dogs. Her Sluggo was a blue tick hound-mutt. We've found a good Redbone hound kennel. And they have a six week old girl pup. We're going to see her on Friday. I'd be surprised if Wasabi is still a single furchild on Saturday. I'm excited and nervous. I don't know if I'll be able to love another dog as much as I love Wasabi. Puppyhood about killed me the first time around. I don't know if I can handle it again. Of course, I know more about what to expect. Maybe that will make it better. I think Wasabi would LOVE to have a sister. He loves the human kids and they romp with him - but it's not the same. Having our friend's dog Grace stay with us for a few days was so much fun. Wasabi and Grace played and played and played. He was so sad to see her go! It seems like such a big step to me though. (I know, I know - for a woman with five children - having two dogs shouldn't cause this much angst - but it does!)

Teacher's Helper:
I helped Bet grade papers today. Having two seventh graders of your own in no way prepares you for the weirdness of seventh graders en masse. It is amazing to me the detailed sketches, doodles, and colored-in silliness that adorns papers that are otherwise devoid of the homework that is supposed to be on them! I think it is beyond strange how many of her students do their math tests in PEN. Ink pen. For math. It is even stranger how many seventh graders turn in papers with what appear to be bites taken out of the corners or sides of the paper. I showed her one with actual TEETH marks on it. "Yep," she said, "they eat the paper." Why? Why would a child eat their own homework? And last bit on the grading front: Bet is teaching prime and composite numbers. More than one child wrote "Compost number" on their paper. Bwa ha ha.

Thanksgiving means:
Football! Glory be - a week with football all over the place. I love it. (I secretly love it more than turkey.)

Is anyone eating something fun and non-traditional for Thanksgiving this year?
Peace, peace, peace.

*Ok - unless you count fish. We had an amazing clam and a puffer-fish cousin that made kissy marks all over the side of the tank - who knew fish could have such personality? But it's not any harder to take care of two fish than it is to take care of one. Know what I mean?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

At Least Chaos Is Happy

Piss. The Titans blew it. I hate that. Vince Young played his heart out but the defense was like a sieve. Rob Bironas did his part and refused to be iced. Our defense better figure out quick how to play without Haynesworth. Even when he gets healthy, I don't expect him to be with the Titans for long. His contract is up and he's been playing like someone with something to prove (and after last year's mess, he better be!) I feel sorry for LenDale White who is from Denver and had 50+ friends and family at the game. I know he wanted to show top form and celebrate a Titans win - neither of which he did last night. Double rats!

This may be it for my posting abilities today. Four of our chickadees are flying the friendly skies this afternoon and that's a little bit of airport craziness right there. Today I am thankful for the unseasonably warm weather in Denver which means the Princessa will not have to repeat her being-stuck-in-an-airport-during-a-blizzard exerience!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pigskin Report, Thread Deficiency, And The Sports Physical From Hell

I didn't run or lift yesterday but I think I did some of everything else on my list! I'm sad to report that I'm still struggling to find a solid balance/peace about the looming court crap - but I've made enough progress that I can eat without throwing up. (Hey, it's a start!) In other news:

Football: (*Non-football freaks friends can skip this part.)
It was an ok day in football land because the Colts won even if the 'Skins and the Dolphins lost. I'll reserve my final verdict for after the Titans/Broncos game tonight. Chaos and I were jokingly trash talking this morning in prep for the game. One of us is going to be sad tonight (and I hope it's him!) :D The Patriots game was crazy. Havoc hasn't seen it yet because he can only stay up for the opening drive of the night games but we recorded it for him. What a happy boy he'll be. He was a tiny bit upset with me yesterday for forgetting to switch his fantasy football team around while he was with his grandparents. About five minutes after game time, we realized he still had Adrian Peterson starting. Oops. He tried to be comforted by his projected stats being a few points ahead of his opponent's, but he really, really didn't want to lose this matchup (and undefeated status). Never fear. The boy is still crazy undefeated. Tom Brady and Randy Moss (just the two of them) got him 70 points while his opponent's whole team got a total of 66 (their QB was Donovan McNabb). And Havoc still has a player - LenDale White - in tonight's game. He's three games and 150 points ahead of the next closest team in his league. He's the FF equivalent of an NFL rookie whose team wins the Super Bowl. I want him to enjoy it while he can because I don't know that he'll ever have a chance to dominate in FF like this again!!

Here is a picture (in process) of my mermaid journal quilt page. She's my triathlon winning mergirl: my personal talisman for 2008. I've got a veritable goal trifecta - a finished novel, a full size art quilt and an olympic distance triathlon - all on my plate for 2008. She'll eventually have a medal dangling from her left hand and a bike tattoo on her right shoulder. This pic is her in her basic components (my drawing on the right and her fabric self on left). I based my cartoon of her on an antique woodblock picture. I practiced free motion quilting her on a mock up cartoon/muslin quilt sandwich last night, but I got sucked into football before I got to work on the real deal. (You can click the photo to see more detail. Her hair is awesome shiny, auburn/gold! And her tummy is white on white paisley. I had to layer her right arm to get the depth/texture I wanted. With only one layer - her bathing suit and hair showed through her skin. How weird would that be?) I get stuck sometimes with my lack of technical knowledge about quilting. I don't know if you're supposed to stitch the edges of applique before you make the quilt sandwich or after. Same with embellishments - should those stitches show on the back with the quilting or be hidden inside? I'm forever making it up as I go along and wondering what "real quilt artists" do. Eventually I'd like to be in a show so I suppose I should start finding these things out. It just seems I hit those decision points at ridiculous hours and I'm impatient to keep playing. I don't want to stop and wait hours (or days) to find out the "right" way. I want to keep going! On the other hand, I do value skilled work. I want my art to flow through my medium, not get hung up on crappy craftsmanship. And I don't want to waste my time trying to invent a way to achieve a look or texture that someone else has already figured out! Quilty dilemmas!

The other thing that gets me stuck is that I buy lots of fabric but not enough thread! I love thread. I don't know why I don't buy more of it. Oh wait - I do. It's because I spend all of my money on fabric. It's difficult to convince myself to pass up a fabric I love because the chances of it being there when I come back are slim. I have less urgency with thread. It will be there. In fact, that's the problem. It will be there, right on the quilt shop shelf instead of in my studio at 5 a.m. when I get the urge to quilt! I do the same thing with embellishments - I have hordes of beads and gorgeous fibers - but recently realized I didn't have the right (or for that matter, any) needles or threads with which to sew them! It will probably not surprise you to learn that I also have to force myself to buy fusible web and batting. I hate what that says about me - like I'm a superficial quilter who doesn't remember or value the un-glamorous quilty bits. Am I the Marie Antoinette of the quilt world? "Let them eat beads!"

I took Mayhem back to the doctor to "finish" up his sports physical. We have been through an awful lot just to make it so this guy can play FRISBEE at school. (I realize that it is a sport and they do run around, but come on! It's not a high pressure, contact activity! It's FRISBEE!) Two weeks ago, Bet took him while I was out of town and he FAILED. He hasn't had an asthma attack (or so we thought!) for two years but at the doctor's he could not "pass" the peak flow meter test. He couldn't blow enough air out for them to be happy at all! I don't even have an inhaler for him anymore! I made him use Havoc's and we practiced (which was funny - "Come on, you can blow harder than that! What if that were your birthday cake? Huh? Don't you want your wish?") Guess what? When we got there today, they didn't make him re-do the breathing test! They gave him his own Rx for an inhaler, tested for hernias (he HATES that part), and stressed out about him not having his flu shot yet. (Sidenote: The boy is a shot magnet. Every time we go to the doctor's they discover some shot he needs. It's a little weird. It's also a hassle because the boy has no fatty parts in which to inject vaccine!) While we were waiting for the nurse to come stick him, he asked me if I thought he could have surgery and get a robotic finger when he grows up. (For anyone joining us mid-story - Mayhem was born without a pinky on his left hand and his left arm has it's own size and muscle/tendon geometry.) He began to talk about all the things he thought would be cool about having a robotic finger. I think he's been watching Inspector Gadget. He wants an all-purpose robotic finger: knife, scissors, file, toothpick, flame thrower, etc. The nurse came into the room just in time to hear me say, "I don't think they'll let you on the plane with your Swiss Army finger." She gave us quite the look. Mayhem was laughing too much to even notice the shot. AFTER insisting on him getting the shot and giving it to him, the nurse said, "Now, make sure to stay away from anyone with a cough or cold for the next two weeks, ok?" WHAT?! You'd think she could have mentioned that warning before the shot was given. The boy is getting on a plane tomorrow night along with a million and twelve other people traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. I was already worried about the mutant cold virus but NOW I have to worry that my kid is at risk from the common cold because we got him a shot to prevent him from getting the flu?! Ever feel like you can't win? I don't think I can talk him into wearing a mask, but maybe I could pre-soak all of his clothes in Lysol. Two-fold benefit there - wholesale germ slaughter and potentially cold-infested folks staying away from the kid who smells weird. What do you think? Anyone else have a better idea?


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Avoidance Behavior

What I want most to do this morning is not talk - not let anything out for fear it will be a scream and rant of epic proportions. But then there's NaBlo. I'm not very good about talking without saying what's on my mind. I'm not very good at blogging without spewing if things are brewing with my ex (=Mr. Tapioca Head for any new readers.) And they are. Looks like we'll be in court for this custody battle sometime around the beginning of the year. (Such a great way to start out a year, eh?) The papers saying he is the better parent would be laughable if it weren't for the fact that these are my kids on the line.

My brain is so full of anger that I'm not going to post any more today. I'm going to go get some thread and quilt. I'm going to dig up my favorite book (Rimrunners by CJ Cherryh) and get lost in a (hot) ex-space marine's troubles. I'm going to get sucked into football and probably cheer too loudly. I'm going to run (but not the ten sets because Bet is sick) and I'm going to lift. Through all of it I'm going to pray and throw spells and say affirmations and all that cheesy stuff that has comforted folks and worked magic through the centuries. I'm going to be grateful that my children are healthy and beautiful beings and remind myself that as awful as this crap seems, there are so many moms who deal with worse situations on fewer resources. I hope somewhere in all that avoidance and gratitude I recover the parts of me I like best because the part of me that could easily spend the next two hours typing about what a lying, dickweed my ex is? Not so much my best side.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Morning View: Decisions And Memories

I realized, as I brushed my teeth and looked around this morning, that it might be a bit odd to have my rock/paper/scissors dice juxtaposed with my healthy choices affirmation card. I also noticed that I still had my all time favorite grocery list on my vanity. (We keep a communal grocery list on the island in the kitchen and all manner of things end up on them. Click to see the picture larger if you can't read it.) And I wanted to show you that it is almost time for the wearing of the Bracelet of Awesomeness. I have it out and ready to go, but I can't officially put it on until Thursday.

I was lucky enough to know and be close to both of my grandmothers and they each have their own holiday association in my head. The Fourth of July was my holiday with my Grammy Lois and Thanksgiving came to be connected to my Grammy Mil - even though that's not the time of year we typically got to spend with her. When I was little (starting when I was about 8?), my Grammy Mil sent all of the granddaughters (four of us at the time) a Towle silver charm bracelet. The first charm was "The first day of Christmas" and we got a new charm each year thereafter for 11 years. They were pretty but not a surprise and our mothers didn't let us "play" with them (as you can imagine) - so for the first several years they didn't register very high on our list of favorite Christmas presents. I can't put my finger on the exact year that began to change.

It was tradition that the bracelets could only be worn from Thanksgiving supper until Christmas Day. Thanksgiving was the first time we could wear the charm that was given us the year before. Slowly that became more and more exciting to us. Somewhere in my teens I began to appreciate having a beautiful, formal, and adult piece of jewelry to wear during the holidays. It was fun at family gatherings to have us all wearing our bracelets - the tinkling of the charms an integral part of my holiday memories. Later, for the years I wasn't able to be home during the holidays, wearing my bracelet made me feel closer to my family. My grandmother died when I was twenty one and missed getting to see her final granddaughter's entry into this world. My sister and my cousins and I got together (with our moms) and bought my baby cousin Patricia a bracelet too. A charm a year for twelve years. She's a junior in high school this year. She told me a couple of years ago how much it meant to her that we included her that way. We're all apart this year - not even two of us in the same place - and it will be ok. Physical location is the smallest part of what we've ever shared. We will cook and feast (and watch football) with friends and different parts of our families and we'll remember the even wider circle. Thursday the heavy, silver charms will clink one against the other on my wrist while I stir gruyere, butter and heavy cream into the grits making them "company grits" as Grammy Mil did every year - and I will be connected to my sister and cousins and our generation will be connected to our mothers' and aunts' and grandmothers'.

My charm bracelet is still beautiful and formal and grown up looking - but it is most precious to me because it has become an outward symbol of the way the women in my family are joined by love, shared memories and traditions that span time as well as space. As I fold my hands together (clinkity, clinkity) for the blessing on Thursday, I will give thanks for those I hold dear, but especially for my grandmother Mil.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Squirrel Guts Everywhere

There are so many things I have in my brain to post about this morning - the debate last night, how meeting new friends is stirring up old memories, Beowulf tonight on the IMAX, Bug's 17th birthday party (OMG we are old enough to have a 17 year old son!!), football matchups this weekend (Havoc's fantasy team the Gridiron Chefs are still undefeated even after the Patriots' bye), comments about being transparent but not invisible in my life, etc. And I would post about all of that - or at least about SOME of that except I can't hear myself think!! This is what's going on at the foot of my bed (from which I blog):
(**The soundtrack doesn't come through but imagine if you will - "GRRRRL! RWLLLL! RRGHHHH! RWLLL! GRWWWL!" And toss in a few dozen SNORTS and a few whines.**)

Wasabi has a friend Grace staying over for a few days. They have been playing tug-o-war with a fluffy squirrel toy for HOURS. (You may remember this is Wasabi's favorite game.) Squirrel fluff is flying. Everywhere. It's on my bed, my floor, my hair. Wasabi is ridiculously happy. He and Grace are very cute. They are also very loud. I have tried to shoo them out of my room, but they think I am trying to play with them. Real posting may have to wait until tomorrow!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Else What

Last night Havoc and I talked about his teacher some more. He told me he'd figured out her system. He said that now he knows he's done something right when she stops telling him all the things that are wrong with whatever he's working on. I asked him if she ever told him he'd done a good job. He said no. I asked him if she was that way with everyone. He said no, there were a few kids she praised a lot and some other kids like him that she only said "bad" things to. He said it was ok though, now that he'd figured out her system. (Doesn't that make you want to cry? Or SMACK that bitch? Maybe I've said that before. Sad to have to say it again.)

I am really not in favor of creating and and "us against The Man" kind of mentality but I need my kid to know that I do NOT agree with this woman's "system"!! I told him exactly what I objected to. We talked about how this is likely not the last terrible teacher that he'll have. We talked about how we needed to come up together with strategies for him to learn and be nurtured despite the somewhat toxic environment this teacher has created. Havoc promised me that he would keep being respectful to her and that he would work hard to correct the challenges she'd identified for him (being more focused on the work at hand, reading only the books she wanted him to read in class, not talking or squirming around). He also promised me that he would say ten good things about himself, to himself every day and that he would listen for when other grown ups said positive things about him and share them with me. He told me that his other teachers - the math group teacher, the art teacher, the teaching assistant, the literacy coach - are all positive and encouraging people. He said it was easy to see the difference between the way they taught and the way his main teacher taught.

Havoc was glad I talked to him about all "this stuff". He was proud of his report card and surprised about the other things the teacher said about him. He'd felt sick to his stomach when he'd first heard how the conference went. He'd been outraged in a very 8 year old way that his teacher told us he was so far behind when he wasn't. ("Mama, I promise I'm on Chapter 16 but she'd told me to go back and write more about earlier chapters before writing about that one, so I did! I'm not behind! She KNOWS I'm not.") He knows now that he's not in trouble with us. He knows we are proud of him and he has some appropriate strategies for navigating better in that classroom. He loves his friends and doesn't want me to try to have him switched. He loves school in spite of his teacher. He said that he can find a way to make it work. He told me that it was like how he was sure when he grew up (to be a chef) that he would love his job even if there were one or two difficult people to work with. I LOVE my kid!

Later he said, "I forgot to tell you one more thing about my day when I got distracted by us talking about 'elllsnowot'."
Me: "By us talking about what?"
Havoc repeated what sounded like "ellsnowot."
Me: Owl sweat? Elf snot? What were we talking about?!
Havoc: Elf snot? Mom, gross! We weren't talking about elf snot or owl sweat. We were talking about elsewhat. ELSE. WHAT. We were talking about elsewhat and I forgot to tell you this funny thing.
Then he went on to tell me the funny thing - but I think the word elsewhat is funnier. Look at my kid making up words to fit his need. And his teacher doesn't think he's creative? I am fixing to give her what for (and maybe a bowl of elf snot or owl sweat too.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Blogosphere Playground

Sometimes blogging is like a big playground. For a while I've been hanging out in one corner playing foursquare and jump rope with the same awesome people. Recently, because of NaBloPoMo , I've been wandering around looking at what else is going on here. Yesterday, while I was contemplating the monkey bars probably, I got sucked into a meme by Tootsie who said, "Red Rover, Red Rover, send LILYMANE right over!" Actually since she used the word "tag", that's probably what they're playing but dang! I don't like tag. I never could run fast enough to catch anyone. I hope I'm better at blogger tag! At least they tell you how it works:

1- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
3- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here goes:

1. I'm scared of monkeys and clowns. Monkeys dressed as clowns (or clowns dressed as monkeys for that matter) would send me over the edge.
2. I still like Duran Duran.
3. I suck my thumb when I'm sleepy or trying to figure something out.
4. If I could have three celebrities over for a party, I'd invite Queen Latifah, Jodie Foster, and Madeline L'Engle. (<--I know, I know she died! I'm soooo sad about that, but pretend she's still alive and could come to my party. Wouldn't that be a kick ass group of women to get together?)
5. I know more about Pern than I do about China.
6. My friends refer to me as an Episcopagan.
7. I have a freaky (but random) ability to remember (some) dates. It's not very useful to remember my kindergarten pal Sam Marney's birthday when I forget my dear friend C is for Coffee's birthday - but there you go. It's what I do every year. On July 17th I think, "Hmmm today is Sam's birthday. Wonder what he's been doing for the last 25-30 years." And on December 1st, 2nd, or 3rd I think, "Oh shit! I missed C is for Coffee's birthday AGAIN!!! I even talked to her ON her birthday last week and I didn't remember to say anything."

Now, "Red Rover, Red Rover send Aimee Greeblemonkey, Ali, Chronicler, Not Fainthearted, Urban Housewife, Daddy Dan, and Jummy right over!!" Ok, ok, "TAG!" if you prefer. You've been chosen at random* to join the game. Please play along.

Hope you have as much fun as (and less anxiety than) I did playing. I see meme's all the time but had never been tagged before. It was a little tricky to come up with seven things about me that I haven't mentioned in the two years I've been blogging. I'm not sure what the "point" is but then again, what's the point of racing around during recess, shrieking and giggling? It's just a good thing to do every once in a while.

*The instructions say "random" but I had to have some structure from which to start. I decided to pick a random group on NaBlo and then to choose the first blog icon that caught my eye and tag them. (I did that seven (no, nine) times.) I confess I almost did not include Aimee Greeblemonkey (because monkey!!) but I didn't want to cheat on a randomness rule I made up for myself even if no one else would know it. Well, that and her blog looked nice (no real monkeys). And just like in real tag - folks are hard to catch. Twice I chose someone but by the time I posted the link and went to leave them a comment, they'd been tagged by someone else. It doesn't say that a person can't be tagged twice, but it doesn't seem right to me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Scatch N'Sniff Wasabi

I have had two cats in my life - one for 19 years and one for 13. I don't remember anything about their scent, except for the second kitty who smelled terrible on the day before he died from renal failure. Other than that, all of my sensory memory of them is about their sharp little kitten teeth; their silky, soft fur; their dry, raspy tongues; or their freaky, yodely meows.

My dog, however, is a whole different experience. Yes, he's soft and fluffy. Yes, he barks (and growls and sometimes whines, if there's a squirrel to be seen.) But mostly, he smells weird. Even when he's DRY, he smells weird. I suppose it's my fault for naming him after a spice that makes my nose run and eyes water. Scent karma or something. One reason Wasabi smells strange is that he frolics in the yard and regularly crashes through the herb garden in pursuit of cheeky chipmunks. Last week the yard rodents must have lured him out to the furthest edges of the garden because Wasabi smelled of jasmine and sage. You could smell him the minute he walked into a room. Havoc said, "He smells like one of your candles." His odor is not always so savory. Once he chased a squirrel under my 12 year old car and came out smelling like grease and gasoline. Squirrels are his downfall. Not only does he follow them to places he shouldn't go, but now he's begun to act like them.

This morning I've been cleaning house and doing laundry with a little help from my furry pal. I sat down on the couch to take a break (and check the final score of last night's game). Wasabi jumped up beside me and gave me a slurpy dog kiss. I scratched his ears and snuggled with him. Wasabi's breath smelled like Bounce-scented acorns, his fur like rosemary and his paws like corn chips. Ah, the heady perfume of my bizarro dog. I ask you, is this normal?? Do you think he's the canine equivalent of the "too much cologne wearing man"? Will other dogs turn their noses up at (or away from) him? I wonder about this* because he has a playdate on Thursday with our friend Jeff's dog, Grace. Should I try to de-stinkify him? Or let him be himself in all of his olfactory glory?

*In lieu of stressing about money and holidays and crap with my ex and the evil teacher and what to cook for dinner tonight and whether my kids are as well adjusted as they seem and...

Monday, November 12, 2007

What Was She Thinking?

What on earth was his mama thinking when she named him Craphonso? It doesn't sound nearly as bad as it looks spelled, but still! How could you not notice that the first part of your baby's name is C-R-A-P?? He has such a nice smile, don't you think? I wish him the very best of NFL careers. Do you think he became a football player to keep people from messing with him? I wonder if he likes his name. Sometimes I wish I were a journalist with a license to ask famous people offbeat questions. Wouldn't that be fun?

Snapshot Of A Divided Day

I have the blah's. I can think of good things this morning, but I'm having a hard time feeling them. I'm a little whiny and grateful at the same time. Does that ever happen to you?

The Titans, the Colts, the Dolphins AND the Redskins lost yesterday. It's been a LONG time since all of the NFL teams I like most lost on the same day. (Still a bad football day in November is waaaayyy better than a day without football in March.)

I'm sore all over and tired. (Bet and I ran 10 sets of 6 x 2's - which means we ran for a total of an hour and walked for 20 minutes. Without the ocean. Yay us! This week we're upping to 7 x 2's. I'm determined to get my short runs in this week so I don't die on the long run next Sunday.)

The kids are out of school again today which means the house will be loud and busy. Unlikely that I'll get much time for my writing projects today. (It's a fun change to get so much play time with them. I've gotten one on one time with them and had enough time for them to get together with friends.I love having long weekends with them - even if by the last day I'm worn out from it.)

Linus has to go out of town today. (I shouldn't complain since I got an extra day with him. Originally he was to leave yesterday.)

I'm craving rare steak and Snicker's bars. (I don't eat chocolate.) I want salted, mashed potatoes with a pool of melted butter in the center. I want Coca-Cola. Oh, goddess I want Coke. (I haven't had any in almost a year but I will never stop being addicted to it. I LOVE Coke!) I need something cheesy and hot, maybe with pepperoni on it, for breakfast. That or french fries. With cheese. PMS much?


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Who Wears The Skirt In This Family

Bet lost a bet and had to wear a skirt and heels to school. That may or may not seem like a big deal to you, but I assure you it was a BIG deal to her. They were having contests between the homeroom classes. Bet was sure her homeroom would win and force the other teacher (a die hard Tarheel) to wear Duke gear for the day. Alas, her kids let her down and she had to raid my closet. The reason this was photoworthy to me is that I've known Bet for 16 years and I'd never seen her in a skirt or dress before. It is not her thing. At all. To my knowledge, the only other time she's worn a skirt was to a beloved Div school professor's son's bar mitzvah at an Orthodox temple. Ten years ago. Since it might not (probably won't) happen again, I had to get a picture. And share. :D

Bet was a good sport. If she was uncomfortable, she didn't let it show. She modeled her "big girl shoes" for her colleagues who came by in flocks to peek into her classroom window. She fended off comments like, "But you look so good! You should wear skirts and heels more often," without growling. But I bet she'll never wager on her homeroom again.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Serious Tool User

Find more photos like this on NaBloPoMo

I took a bunch of new photos today to post to NaBlo and they made a little slideshow for me. Isn't this cool? I'm going to make an actual Who's Who post with static pictures sometime soon. The 100 Things post is two years old and needs updating. I think a visual guide would be fun. So consider this a preview.

In other news:
The Bat Mitzvah was incredible. Anna has a beautiful voice. She's been studying and training one on one with a woman from her synagogue specifically for this day since she was in the third grade. Her Torah portion was exquisite. Her smile as she sang the last few bars was radiant. I could tell her mother was tickled pink. It was a wonderful service, very inclusive. The only hitch came when they processed the Torah and started on the side of the room that had no idea what to do. Even that was ok, though. The sanctuary (temple?) was architecturally stunning. Beautiful woods, the Ark made from gorgeous lapis tiles, soaring beamed ceiling with windows up high letting lots and lots of light in. It was spacious and intimate at the same time. What a beautiful place to worship. I love sacred spaces. The reception afterwards had yummy food and great conversations with other parents. It was a lovely experience.


Linus just asked me how many posts I've made for Blog-O-Plamm-O. (I was laughing and snorting too much to point out that he could read my blog and count for himself!)

The Saturday Morning Post

Thank you for the support about the teacher. I can't get Havoc out of that classroom, but I have decided to go talk to the principal. I have also decided to talk to Havoc very frankly about this situation. He LOVES school. He is a pleaser. I want him to know that he does have to figure out how to live by this teacher's rules and function in her classroom. That's an important skill even in (or maybe especially in) a situation where there is a personality conflict. However, I need my kid to know that I have issues with his teacher. I don't want him internalizing something she says (like "Havoc, you are just not creative.") It's the same way I am with my kids about music and tv and books that express a value or opinion that I either don't share or that I'm totally against. I don't forbid (most of the time) but I do make them talk to me about what they understood and what they think and I let them know where I stand and why. I can't figure out anything else at this stage - but I very much appreciate your comments!

In other news, we are off to a bat mitzvah. I've never been to one and I'm really looking forward to it. The Ninja Princessa's friends are incredible. They read and study together. They have been asked out by boys but they've decided they'd rather be friends with boys right now. (And they mean that. The Princessa stayed good friends with a boy she had a crush on and who asked her out. He totally understood her. She even thinks he's more comfortable with her now than before.**) The girls are organizing a bake sale to raise money for mistreated animals. The Princessa openly wears her pentacle and there is no issue. They talk to each other about their beliefs and experiences and affirm each other even though they are very different. It is SUCH a change! The girls from last year (with few exceptions) were boy crazy, materialistic, righteous and preachy, exclusive and bratty. Their entire repertoire was shopping for slutty clothes, gossiping about what a bitch some other girl was, sniping about whose church was better, and whining to/about their parents. I was tempted to think at first that The Princessa lucked out with her closest friends here, but even her casual friends seem like intelligent, sweet, and quirky girls! I am so willing to help the Princessa invest in these friendships. Not only are the girls great, but I've enjoyed all of their parents! (Well, duh. With just a tiny bit more thought, I suppose that's not so surprising.) I'm truly looking forward to the bat mitzvah. The only thing that has me the least bit trepidatious is that I don't know what to expect from the ceremony itself. I'd hate to make a fool of myself. Surely they'll have some way of guiding visitors through the appropriate protocols, right? Hanukkah and Passover Seder are both full of instructions and easy to be a part of (sing this, repeat that, and best of all - eat this!) I think we'll be ok. We care, we're respectful. Really we'll be ok. I'll stop worrying. Any minute now.
**In a weird twist, it turns out that we were already friends with this boy's moms. Bet taught the boy's older sibs but since she's not teaching him we didn't put it together. At the housewarming party the Ninja Princessa eeked at me, "That's HIS mom! That's HIS mom!" I guess the Princessa's still a little crushy. The inadvertent shrieking up there in those bat frequencies gave it away. She may not be as calm and cool about this boy as she'd like to be, but I'm ok with her wanting to go slowly. Linus would like her to go even more slowly. In fact, he'd like her to move so slowly as to have all motion in the dating direction imperceptible to the naked eye. Scratch that! He doesn't want the word naked coming anywhere close to his daughter. Poor dad. Being realistic, I think we've got a few short months before the boy friends start becoming boyfriends. Still, the Princessa could do worse than this boy. He's kind, very goofy, and has nice mamas. But Linus can rest easy for at least one more night because this boy won't be at the bat mitzvah. Anna's mother told her she could invite boys and she said, "Eew. Why?" LOVE these girls.

Friday, November 09, 2007


I absolutely LOVE this picture from the site What Would Jesus Blog. It seems like it would be irreverent, but it isn't really. I think my old boss (the dean of the Episcopal cathedral) would appreciate this image immensely. It's that living word thing, don't you know. I just love it. I'm not sure I quite understand the site as a whole (since I don't listen to enough music to know what it's talking about) but I enjoy the way the author (JC? :D) rides right on the line between deeply respectful and utterly outrageous. Absolute gem to find tonight. Thank you Terminally Cute for having this crazy link on your blogroll.

Worst. Parent-Teacher Conference. Ever.

I've spent over a week trying to process the experience of meeting with Havoc's third grade teacher. It has not helped. At all.

Yes, Havoc is my baby. Yes, I think Havoc is brilliant. No, I do not think he is perfect. But you know what? At this stage of the game - of having FIVE children, of having been a school volunteer, of having been a soccer coach, of having been a cubscout leader for years and years and years - I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on where along the spectrum of 8-year old boy behavior my son's falls. I happen to think he's towards the upper middle end. His teacher, apparently, thinks he falls much closer to the lowest pit of the deepest, darkest bottom end.

I had ONE note home from her about a month ago that said Havoc was having a little trouble talking during class. I wrote back and said we'd speak with him and please let me know if it continued. She wrote back to say things were much better. That's all I'd heard. Until the conference. She started right off the bat - Havoc was disruptive, "hyperactive" (I have NEVER had anyone say that about him before - ever), talked all the time, had to be separated from other students in order to get his work done, was behind in his work, didn't focus, didn't listen. The woman looked me in the eye and said, "He's just not creative. He's smart enough but ..." and I don't even remember what negative things she said there because I thought my head would explode. She had said not one positive thing about my child - well, unless you count the "he's smart enough but..." comment - which I DO NOT. She said definitively my child was not creative. NOT mind you "I'm having trouble getting him to write creatively," not "It's a challenge to pull him away from the facts and get him to talk about the story in terms of feelings and experiences," but "He is not creative." I wanted to SMACK her. (What kind of teacher talks this way? Is this the kind of thing she says TO my child?!! Oooh - it best not be!)

Now - I tried listen. (Do you know how HARD it is to listen past the verbal attacks on your kid?) Havoc can be spacey and forget what he's doing in the middle of it. He does like to talk. He likes people. He's social. His big brother Mayhem is ADD as hell, so maybe now is when it starts showing up in Havoc too. All of these bits of knowledge add up to the fact that it is entirely possible Havoc is causing this teacher SOME trouble. Well, clearly he was driving her crazy. But he seems like a totally normal third grade boy to me and she's a career third grade teacher! What floored me was how over the top she was about everything - eyebrows lowered, serious frown on her face, shaking her head side to side with every word she said. From what she was saying and the way she was saying it - you would think my kid was the worst, most disruptive and disturbing child this woman had ever seen in her entire teaching career. She spoke in absolutes and labels. It was awful. I kept thinking, "If he is THAT bad, why the heck have I not heard of this sooner?!! If it's this much of a problem, how is it not reflected in his work? How could I not know something this dire about my child?!"

I asked her. I said that I had checked his work (almost all 100's!), I had not had a single note about late or missing assignments - so how were we to know he was "behind", and why hadn't she written more than that one time in his weekly folder if he was causing such tremendous problems? Her answer? She went and got another student's reading response journal and flipped through it page by page to show us how good it was compared to Havoc's. She did not actually answer any of my questions! Also? Havoc's handwriting is beautiful and this "model" student's was horrible. (Just saying.) Havoc's reading journal did, in fact, start out quite paltry, but you could see day by day that his entries were getting longer and longer and he was answering more of the "How did this reading relate to an experience you've had?" kinds of questions. Linus noted Havoc's improvement and this woman GRUDGINGLY admitted Havoc was getting better. Bet asked, "What can we do at home to support him in this?" The woman shook her head again and sort of threw up her hands while making a "phh" noise. She said, "I don't know." She had no ideas - no suggestions - as if Havoc were beyond hope. Bet started asking things like, "Would asking him these kinds of questions and getting him to write more at home help? Should we check his work for him? Should we have him..." Really, Bet came up with three or four ideas and all the teacher could do was agree with her by saying, "He needs all of that. He needs whatever help he can get." Did I mention I wanted to SMACK that bitch???

She lost what tiny shred of credibility she may have had left with me when we finally looked at his actual report card and talked about the End of Grade (EOG) tests. His report card was FINE! His grades were as good as they could possibly be! (They haven't had an opportunity to do above grade level work in two classes so those had to be marked "meets expectations" rather than exceeds them but everything else was top notch.) In terms of the behavior categories, she had only marked that he "sometimes" talked out of turn and "sometimes" didn't follow instructions. The other options were "Often" and "Always" which she did NOT mark. It was unbelievable what a discrepancy there was between what she was saying and what she'd written. Then we got to the EOG pre-tests. They'd sent home the scores for the math portion but not the reading. Turns out they are re-norming the reading test so there were no scores to give parents an idea of where their kid stands. Fishing for at least ONE FRICKIN' POSITIVE COMMENT about my child, I said, "But we don't need to worry about Havoc passing the reading EOG's, do we?" I should point out that Havoc is an amazing reader and has always tested well - a point which I EXPECTED his stupid ass teacher to remember about him and at the very least say, "No worries there." What did she say instead, you ask? She was silent for a minute and then said, "Well. He should probably be ok." Bet had had to leave early and I think she was gone by this point, but I know Linus whipped his head around. "Probably be ok?!" he asked. "Isn't he excelling in reading?" The woman pulled out a sheet of paper and looked up his in-class, beginning of the year assessment. She showed us numbers that said Havoc reads on a 7th and 8th grade level, is in the highest vocabulary and reading group they have, and that his global comprehension skills were in the 99th percentile. "Probably be ok" MY ASS! He's in the THIRD grade! What more does she want? Well, clearly she wants him to shut up. We can work on that.

I spoke with two other mother's who have sons in the same class. I needed to know if I had lost all perspective about my child. I asked them both to tell me honestly what they thought of my child's behavior in the classroom when I wasn't there. These women are both straight talkers. They would not sugar coat it. (If anything, I think they would have told me if he was out of line in any way. They both know about the court stuff and I think they thought I was asking because of that.) They both (separately) told me not to worry at all about his behavior. I pressed them. Yes, he talked some. ("They all do!" is what they said.) Yes, he squirmed some. ("They all do.") Both moms told me that Havoc was polite and respectful and they wanted to know what was going on. When I told the first mom what the teacher had said, she was floored. "No way! I PROMISE you he is not like that." The second mom called her husband over to hear what the teacher had said. He looked at his wife and said, "See! I told you! She should not be teaching. Either she doesn't like boys or she picks favorites or something!" Turns out they had had the exact same experience in their conference with her. They had been stunned because they had NEVER heard anything like it about their son. I know - and ADORE - their son. I will have him over any day of the week and twice on Sundays. I can say that about three of the boys Havoc has ever been friends with. Not only did hearing from those parents make me feel better, but I've heard third hand that previous parents have had the same complaints about this teacher. Some kids she decides she doesn't like - and that is that.

It would have been so different if she'd said things like, "Havoc is a great reader but we really need to work on digging deeper into the story. He gets the plot details but what I want him to get out of third grade is the ability to relate what he's reading to his feeling and experiences. Here are some ideas, some leading questions you can ask him when you read together at home. You do read together, don't you?" Or if, on the behavior parts, there'd been any escalation of communication showing that his squirmy-ness was beginning to be an issue. I thought parent-teacher communication was THE POINT of the Wednesday folder with the line for comments. I thought treating these issues immediately was why they had the system of warnings and moving cards over with increasing disciplinary measures for each move! How am I supposed to feel comfortable with an experienced teacher who cannot come up with a single, solitary positive comment about my child? How am I supposed to entrust my kid to her each and every day?

It is ridiculously frustrating to know that my kid is stuck in a classroom with a teacher who is completely biased against him. I hate knowing that he has to put up with a teacher who has such limited mental and emotional resources, that she can't cope with him. He may have some issues but they just cannot possibly be as severe as she made it sound or we would be hearing it from more than one source and we are not. I know that it is not at all helpful to the educational process that her attitude and negativity and unprofessionalism have made me unwilling to hear anything further she has to say about my kid. Sigh. I guess there's always hope for fourth grade.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Icons, Badges, And Buttons - Oh My!

You may have noticed a little more clutter in my right side bar recently. I've found two wonderful sites (groups? what exactly is the right blog word for these eddies in the ether stream?) I may have to move my blogroll (and I sure as heck need to update it!) so I have room for these other ways to connect. I have enjoyed surfing other people's blogrolls but recently I've been finding myself clicking on their button affiliations more often. I'd love to hear what works for other people. Do you zing around on your own? Do you follow links (blinks or blogrolls)? Do you like buttons and badges better? Comment at me! :D

Now here's what I've found:
The first new gem is my "Passionate Blog" badge. It connects to Magpie Girl's Small is Beautiful manifesto which starts by saying, "We believe stories are valuable, no matter how matter how many people read them." How can you not like that?? If you have time, check out their blog roll or their Saturday prompts. I found this just when I was needing some reaffirmation about baby steps. I took a few steps ignoring whether I was being watched (evaluated, judged) or not and now my training plan is zipping along and I have some sketches for my quilt project. Sometimes it takes a nudge here and there!

The second delight is the "Wishcasting" icon. I loves me some magic. Her concept? To provide a safe space to launch wishes. She encourages you to be a magic maker and a wish tender by inviting you to offer up your own wish and to support someone else's. Communal wishing! Fantastico! (*I'm not sure why social bookmarking strikes me as silly but communal wishing thrills me down to my taproots. If I were consistent, I'd be boring.) Check it out. Send a wish into the world - and hey, while you're there, look for my wish and give it some oomph in the comments. Easy, fun, magical, brilliant.

The third thing (which lest you think (again) that I can't count, isn't really considered new since I already told you to look for it) is my NaBlo button. I am having gobs o' fun with NaBloPoMo! Click my badge over there and see. It's connectivity with zero pressure. I've added a dozen interesting blogs to my "I want to read more of THIS" list and I've met several new friends. Me! Anxious, tentative, bag of self-doubts me - making friends out of strangers. Cool, creative, insightful, fascinating strangers, no less! It is absolutely a testament to how telling our stories (e.g. blogging) can bring us together - which I didn't know when I started nearly two years ago. (Hey - blogversary coming up on the 26th! Can you believe it?)

Talk to me today! Tell me about your linking, surfing, blog winnowing habits. (<--This is known throughout the (blogging) world as "begging for comments" and it's considered a tad bit unsavory so don't make me take it to the next level, my dearest internetters.)
Admire my icons. *preens* Make a wish. Think Small, be inspired.
Venture forth to NaBlo.
And as always,

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

And What If We'd Said Rubens Instead?

Two more tidbits from the San Diego trip:
Thing 1) On Sunday we sat around recovering from the busy events and watching football. I mostly bonded with Lisa's husband and sons over this because LT, her daughter Meg, and her friend Rose weren't particularly interested in it. By the third game (classic NFC rivalry: Eagles vs Cowboys!) I think Rose was ready to scream. But boredom often presages some great creative endeavors. She and LT started watching the people watching the game rather than the game itself. LT, Rose, Meg and I were piled up on a feather mattress on the floor - brushing each other's hair, giving back rubs and commenting about all kinds of things about the game besides the plays. Not catty things - but we talked about things like the announcers (I LOVE Madden and Michaels) and the Philadelphia fans (who are ridiculously quick to boo their teams!). Contrast that to LT's husband Rob and her two sons (ages 17 and 21). The boys were all sitting at least four feet away from each other doing separate and silent things like reading the paper, playing PSP, and searching for internet connection while watching the game. Earlier during the exciting game the guys and I had all been on the couch watching intently and talking a lot and exclusively about the play(er)s, coaches, teams, philosophy of positions like Tight End etc., but by the third game when we had all mostly worn out our football jones - there was a definite slide back to the mars/venus ends of the spectrum. Very interesting.

Thing 2) When the family stuff was getting a leetle overwhelming (Saturday night?), LT and her 18 year old daughter Meg slipped away from it and into the room that Rose and I were sharing. We talked girl talk. It was fun to have Meg there - beautiful, adult, compassionate, quirky Meg. She's right at that cusp where she's welcome and valued in adult circles but can still sit at the Thanksgiving kids' table if she wants to. I'd been in her car earlier with two daughters of a friend and a young cousin. The thirteen year olds were all adoring of Meg because she's a fabulous illustrator and an expert in manga. Their conversation veered into the weird as they discussed which anime boy they had "dibs" on if he ever became human. (It took me a while to cotton on to the fact that they were talking about Bleach, not bleach. I'm quick that way.) Anime boys are the updated Prince Charming archetype; this generation's version of the old Teen Beat idols like Scott Baio and Shaun Cassidy. With a difference. The unattainable celebrity boys of my generation were at least - um, real to a certain degree. They were at the core - human beings even if their press was over the top. I overheard Meg use the words "tasty, male flesh" to describe fugiyachimoogu (or somebody like that) and I thought, "Tasty? Tasty how? What could he taste like? Paper?" I'm ok with all of that though. I like that the girls are taking their time dreaming about unreal boys. I like that they're spending their time building friendships not drama prone romances. It was fantastic to see how comfortable Meg is in her own skin - how easily she navigated between being the new girl in her mother's circle of friends and being the older, wiser, cool cousin. The gate between girlhood and womanhood used to have everything to do with marriage and babies and now it doesn't. Some girls get lost in nowoman's land - but LT has been such a good mom and helped Meg find her own transition. I loved getting to be a part of the circle.

Thing 2b) I just remembered one more bit to share. We were lounging about discussing unwanted curves in our figures. I will never be able to see this picture again without thinking of my dear friend and her daughter. Rose and I were cheering LT up with references to womanly figures in history and Meg misheard us. Meg heard "pot of jelly". Much hilarity ensued, including the words, "Repeat after me. 'I'm proud of my jiggly butt.' " (And if you do not know Foamy then follow the link and click on Jiggly Butt. You will be disturbed but amused, I promise.)


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In Which I Served

Well, I've blown the Nablopomo thing already - but it's truly not my fault. We had connection for the first day then none the next. I managed to get my pal Lisa's broadband card and squeaked in a post. Then, between traveling and connection difficulties - no posting for two days. Waaah. And oh well. I'm going to keep posting every day this month as if I hadn't blown it.

My friend LTs retirement ceremony was on Friday morning. Her last billet (if that's the word they use for officers) was as an officer on the USS Tarawa (LHA-1). I got to go with her early on Friday to help her take care of last minute details for the ceremony which was held on the flight deck of the ship. She was going seven different directions with people demanding her attention in every quadrant. Literally at the last second as she was being herded over to speak with a former commanding officer of hers from Hawaii, she was calling back over her shoulder to the duty officer who was taking over her section. She wanted to make sure that one of her sailors whose leave had gotten fouled up, got some time before the ship deployed again (Sunday). The officer made a cutting motion with his fingers in front of his belly button and told her to let go; he had the watch. She smiled with tears in her eyes and turned away. I think it was very, very hard for her to know she won't ever have the watch again.
She was given a shadow box: hand made piece by piece by one of the officers in the ward room. Her captain said glowing things about her and made one wry and incredibly amusing observation about her. Her sailors had volunteered to be in her ceremony, even as they had tons of work to do to get ready for the upcoming deployment. Her pals (like me) and her family flew in from all over to be with her. She gave a speech that was filled with gratitude and one which put her retirement in perspective. She is in only the third generation of women even mathematically capable of retiring after a twenty year career. It's been a bare sixty years since women were first allowed to stay in the Navy. (Before that they were allowed to fill in while the men were on the front but had to leave the service when the men came home.) So much has changed in the Navy and in the world in the twenty-one years since we first met in "A" school, fresh out of boot camp. We were trained to be Russian linguists together in a world where the leader of the free world denounced the Soviet Union as the evil, red empire. Today it's the axis of evil that we're up against and LT's skills were turned in different directions a decade ago in response to the "needs of the Navy."
It was great to be at her retirement ceremony. It was incredible to take a tour of her ship. I stood in the spaces with a pang in my gut for the road not taken. I was a reservist and was not allowed to transition to the "real" Navy to serve aboard a ship. (In fact, when we first went in, women who did our job were not allowed to fly or to be aboard ship. That has all happened since I've been out.) It was hard to look about, knowing I could have been good at the job and wondering where I would have gone, what I would have done and seen. Then I heard her "roasted" and remembered how much I hated living life in a fishbowl with gossips noting every detail or making them up when the real details weren't exciting enough to pass on. I reminded myself of the long months and sometimes years LT had been away from her kids because of deployment or duty stations that weren't open to or advisable for families. I thought about my piercings, my college and work experiences, and my incredible relationship and family - none of which would be at all possible had I been able to stay in the Navy. The pangs lessened. I was grateful to be there - to hear about and give witness to my dear friend's long, enthusiastic, and passionately dedicated service. I've been away from the service for so long now - landlocked in my home town for 15 years; I've been so violently disgusted with the war mongering policies of the current administration; I'd all but forgotten how amazing it is to be a part of a group that serves so selflessly. I could (and often do) say all manner of accurately horrible things about the way our armed services have been used, but I will never say one negative word about our sailors themselves. I was reminded of how hard they work, how much they give up, and how little they can expect in return, but how proudly and honorably they serve nonetheless. I know it sounds like so much indoctrinated rah-rah bullshit - but at the core, I know it to be true. I had tears in my eyes a lot this weekend: when LT was piped ashore for the last time (first picture), when they read "Old Glory" and slowly, oh so slowly each saluted the folded flag (which had been flown above the Tarawa on Sept 11th) and passed it up a long line of sailors - finally coming to rest in my friend's white-gloved hands (second picture), and when we went to a piano bar which was all silliness and drink until they pulled everyone who was serving or ever had served - army, navy, air force, marines, coast guard, firefighters, or police - up on stage and sang Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The USA". I am deeply conflicted about the politics of war and feel betrayed and embarrassed by our government often. But I'm proud of the service to our country that my friends and I have given. I wouldn't undo it if I could. And still I long for...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Gundecking The Blog Post #1

*This post was backdated. I ported it in from NaBlo because I realized that I didn't know how available any of my posts on that site would be after November and I want to keep this one. Since I wrote it to "make up for" the two days I had absolutely no way to post. It makes sense to me to stick it here.*


My first SoulCollage card. I'm a tiny bit vague on the details of the "suits" as I didn't run right out and by the book and spend three weeks researching the exact "right" way to do it (=usual m.o.). I jumped in. (After all, I had cardstock, catalogs, scissors and rubber cement!) I think she'll end up being called "The Navigator" or maybe "The Pathtaker" and it seems like an internal voice card. I love cloaks and I loved that I found reversed colors and reversed directions - especially in purple and green. Purple is all about the spirit and green is a color of growth. (And aren't choices about growth even if they turn out to be "bad" or "wrong" choices?) I have one descending and one ascending - but there's not judgment of good/bad with that for me. Sometimes you have to go down/inwards and sometimes you have to go up/out. I included some fun navigational tools (compasses both old and modern) and some background paper of the inside of a geode. I'm not super skilled yet with the macro feature of my camera but I think it's not a bad photo.

It was fun to cut and paste (the old fashioned way) and end up with something tangible. Strangely it was a relief for me to use paper instead of fabric/fiber today. I thought a lot about making quilt artcards along SoulCollage lines and embellishing the heck out of them (because that's what I love to do) but this was simple and gratifying. Definitely primed the well. (And hey, I'm posting twice today to "make up for" the two days I didn't get to post when I was traveling and couldn't get connection. It doesn't "count" for anything other than for me but it feels symmetrical or like good blogging karma or something.) Peace.

PS - If you're reading this and you've made some art cards/SoulCollage cards/or quilted cards that aren't sort of at the top of your blog where I could find them in the 30 minutes I have left on my surfing allotment, would you send me a comment with a link? I'd love to see other people's take on this idea. Thanks!!