Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Overheard at the Pool

Teenage guy, to his cute female friend:

"I gotta find the pool where all the hot girls hang out."



So much to learn.

And later, a much younger teen boy, to a girl swimming by him:

Boy: Hey, are you Ashley?

Girl: No.

Boy: Darn it!

Thank goodness I have already reproduced, because Lord, humans and their mating behaviors. Exhausting.

(Someone's been watching "This Emotional Life" on PBS.)

Now I've arrived at the stage of life where I am officially invisible to young men at the pool. But I find that, for the first time ever, I finally own enough beach towels. Passages, people.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Redneck Water Park 2010

Redneck Water Park Reborn


Now--with addition of slip n' slide and white underwear--fifty percent more redneck! Summer camp groups and Vacation Bible Schools welcome.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Is This How We Respect Others' Things?

Matt and I walked out of chemotherapy on Wednesday and saw this on the back of our car. It's the Shepard Fairey Obama sticker, and it used to look like this.

You know, for eight years I gazed upon those ubiquitous and say-nothing "W: The President" stickers and never defaced one, never lifted a finger to peel or scratch or Sharpie one, because this is not how we do.


The person who stood by my car and peeled off my sticker knew that it was wrong. What a furtive, stupid, uncivil thing to do. Didn't your mama teach you better?

I don't think it's an over-generalization to say that whoever did this feels ineffective in his or her life, and is probably prone to acts of impotent rage. Whatever dumbass, please keep your hands off my stuff.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

4 Years Young

Hank is 4!

We had Hank's birthday party on Wednesday afternoon with our neighborhood friends. It was the perfect number of kids and the perfect level of simplicity. Cake, ice cream, two homemade games, the end.

Party Table

The only thing I kind of splurged on was this pirate ship cake from the store. You didn't think I made that, did you? You sweet thing! I had to have it to go with all the awesome pirate party stuff and decorations that I scooped up for 75% off at Michael's. I bought all that stuff last year sometime, intending to save it for this very occasion. It was so cheap! So, since I saved money on party goodies, I had to spend it on a cake, obviously.

Pin the Feather on the Parrot

Simple Game

This was fun: Laura made a "Pin the Feather on the Parrot" game, and carefully left a blank space on the parrot's shoulder to be the target. We had a "big kid winner" and a "little kid winner." Then the kids played a game called "Don't Eat Pete," which a wonderful local reader named Missy had brought my kids, along with a bunch of other goodies. The game is adorable and it could not be simpler, yet it manages to entertain a mixed-age group--you can download a printable board and directions here. It involves eating candy, secrets, and shouting. The Holy Trinity of party fun.

Then it was time for cake.



I think the whole affair was a great success and Hank was a gracious host. More pics are here. And it felt like I was also celebrating the end of my chemotherapy with a pirate-themed party. Which, why not? Yar!

(I also took a picture during chemo, but it is lacking in cute children. Captures the scene though.)

I can't believe my little buddy Hank has been around for four years. I really love the 3's and 4's. I'm not sure I love not having a toddler anymore. I know there are remedies for that problem, but I don't think we're up to it. What I really, really want is for both of my kids to stay the exact ages that they are now.

I hope your day had a little piratey goodness.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Woman Has A Case of Crazymouth

Matt's mom Betty is visiting us, and she had a close encounter of the Frenemy kind this evening. I eagerly collect stories of other people meeting Frenemy Neighbor and thinking she's as strange as I do. Like, "Look world, it's not me, it's her, RIGHT?" Anyway, Betty took Hank up to the pool to swim before supper, and Laura was already up there swimming with Frenemy's daughter P.

Betty, because she has the social skills that we expect from adults, engaged Frenemy in conversation, asking her if P was on the neighborhood swim team. This should have been a perfectly safe conversation starter, as it is not demanding and it enables Frenemy to talk about her kid. This would normally lead into both parties saying, yes, how nice that these neighborhoods have swim teams, what a great opportunity for the kids, how fun for them, Laura and P are such lively and accomplished girls, blah blah blah. I mean "blah blah blah" in the nicest possible way, as I regard such bread-and-butter smalltalk as the actual glue of actual civilization.

But it did not go down that way. No my friends. Here's how it did go down:

Betty: So is P on the swim team with Laura?

FN: No, we don't do aggressive.

OMG. Pause. "We don't do aggressive?" What in the sweet fancy hecks? But here's where I love my mother-in-law. Whereas I have a congenital need to always appear to understand the utter nonsense that is coming out of someone's face, Betty is completely willing to play dumb when needed. I think this is where Matt gets it. We have a game we run on my doctors that we call Smart Cop, Dumb Cop. That's a whole 'nother post. Anywah . . . let's wade back into our scene, where Frenemy has just said that P doesn't do swim team because they don't do aggressive.

Betty [squinting]: Are you saying that swimming is aggressive?

FN: Yes, and it's all about winning, and the parents get so competitive and aggressive. We don't care about winning and losing.

Betty [all astonishment]: Do you think that Becky gets competitive and aggressive??

FN: Well . . . no.

At this point in the conversation, Betty said that Frenemy "began mumbling something about golf." Her daughter P, she explained, plays golf. Because apparently golf is a model-in-miniature of Utopian social relations and how they could burst into full flower if we would all only control our aggressive impulses and vain strivings for personal glory. Also, while playing golf, the ten year-old P is unlikely to encounter poor people. Or persons of color. Not so fast, Tiger.

So there you have it. First, let me explain. Here are three things: shit, shinola, and what goes on in swim team. These are three things that Frenemy has no idea how distinguish between. She doesn't have the first notion of what swim team is like. P has never been on swim team, despite the fact that Frenemy has spent money on one-on-one lessons for her. I remember that P has, in the past, even expressed a desire to do swim team. I think FN probably said no for two reasons:

One, for the five or six weeks that the swim season is in full swing, it takes a lot of time. Practice every day and meets every Thursday night.

Two, when one is swimming with a large crowd, especially with children from other neighborhoods, one is immersed in fluids with people whose church home may be unknown to you.

But the fact that Frenemy has been steering P into golf ever since she pulled her out of school to home school her is the perfect emblem of that child's isolation. And also an emblem of her mother's striving for class security. I'm sure P goes to play golf or hit golf balls with her mother, and NOT with other ten year-old children. I can guaran-damn-tee you that. (Oh I said "tee"! Titter titter!)

Lord, why am I such a bitch? Oh yeah, it's the dexamethasone. And come on, you love it. I just cannot stand when people talk nonsense and get all smug about their nonsense, ESPECIALLY when it is in response to politeness, like, "Oh you thought you would ask me a nice question and boy did I make you sorry! But listen to this important Thing! That I Think! I Thinked a Very Important Parenting Policy Thing!"

In conclusion, moments like that are why I think my mother-in-law is so awesome. She will not suffer your bullshit, your total frenemizing bullshit.

In further conclusion, my fourth and last chemotherapy infusion is tomorrow. By which I mean, Wednesday the 23rd. Waiter, may I please get a "Woot"? Raise the roof y'all.

And in an epic example of awesomely great planning, I am also having Hank's 4th birthday party tomorrow afternoon, after the chemo. It just worked out this way, and I'll be feeling fine, but I may be making goody bags while they're hooking up my IV. Also the air conditioner guys are coming some time between 12 and 6. I like that window. Like, "We are coming some time between the Treaty of Versailles and the release of the iPhone 4. We'll call thirty minutes out."

It's all good.

Anyhoo, that's what cooking in Crazytown.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cool Me

Here is something ominous: I just went up to my room to fetch a thing and it seems clear that the upstairs air conditioner is not cooling. I hate to even say it for fear that my words will usher a possibility into a certainty. For a couple days now, it has been warm upstairs, but it's been a hundred degrees outside. Who can say whether an AC is truly broken or is just having trouble keeping up with the heat here in Hell's Foyer?

But I think it's broken. Crap! Anyone know a good HVAC guy around here? Who works for free? Heh.

It was hot enough today that I agreed to take the kids to the pool in the middle of the afternoon. Normally, I never show up at the pool until evening. But we loaded up and drove there (no way we were walking in this heat). And we couldn't find a parking place. We had to park on the next street.

It's so hot that only whining really helps. I think it's helping.

When we got to the pool, everyone was in it. Like, everyone. Normal Neighbor and her crew, the Mystery People, it was like someone took my blog and made soup.

Maybe a nice cold soup would help. Like gazpacho.

Now we are going to go get Mexican for Father's Day. Mexican food that is. I hope y'all are having a happy, cool day with the ones you love.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Finally, I Have a Parenting Philosophy

Well hello Friday, here already? I guess you might as well come on in.

It's hot. This is June on drugs. Hank is in the backyard with my two foster daughters from next door. They are playing in a biggish wading pool, and they asked Matt if they could turn on the hose again to fill another tiny pool we have, I guess because two is better than one. Matt told them we didn't want to turn the hose back on, then he gave them three buckets. He suggested they fill the pool by bailing, and they did. Though somehow a fair amount of dirt was introduced into both pools.

I can see this from the sun room window. I'm lying on the couch listening to their voices. I can hear them but I can't tell exactly what they're playing.

This whole summer/backyard/dirt/scene is somewhat chaotic and messy. Laura has this whole area of the yard devoted to something called Indian Camp. Indian Camp is both a place and an activity--she and her friends can spend a long time out there pretending to be pioneers, moving tree branches around, and making up themed nature tours that they then take the littler kids on. As for Hank and his bucket brigade, I know that I could swoop out there and introduce some order, clean things up, and start them in some more organized game. But I figure that this kind of unregulated kid business is an essential part of learning. It's what we used to mean by "playing," before playing became a more highly parent-sponsored and supervised event. When I was a kid, nobody had playdates. But we played all the time.

Our moms weren't running after us trying to optimize our experiences. Maybe they were inside watching "Days of Our Lives?" I just know that right now I'm having some me time, while Hank has some mud time.

There's a new book out that I'm hoping lends support to our laissez-faire child rearing method, it's called The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Anybody read this yet? Matt and I are nothing if not laid-back parents, and now we can say that, heck no, this method is not laziness on our part, it's in a book, y'all.

Anyway, all this unstructured, Rousseau-ian, leave-the-kids-alone backyard time means that I have to basically bathe Hank from head to toe every time he comes in the door. There is a lot of foot washing at our house. Mama has her new couches to think of.

Perhaps in a future post I'll explain my method of child conflict resolution, in which I holler "Stop fussing!" from the other room until peace breaks out. Note that you shouldn't attempt this move unless you know how to holler. Simply calling or even yelling will not get it done.

Now, y'all quit your fussing, go rinse your feet off, and have a good weekend.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Some the Worse for Wear

Laura got back today from her trip to the mountains with her friend. It was her first time ever being away with anyone but family, and she had a great time. She also scraped her face on the bottom of a pool. Ouch. I'm not totally sure how that happened, I think it involved a handstand.

It was three nights, which I thought was too brief for a trip, but once she was gone and I was talking to her on the phone, we both realized she didn't want to be away any longer. She called me one afternoon while I was in the grocery store, and said that she was a little homesick, but fine, but then she asked, what if she got really homesick? I think she just wanted to know where her parachute was stowed. I gave her some coping strategies and a pep talk, and told her that it would be a big deal, but that her grandma and papa could drive over from their mountain house to get her if they needed to. Somehow I think just having an exit strategy eased her mind, because I barely heard from her after that.

On the subject of vacation reading, she came home having read Roald Dahl's The Witchesand loved it. She's been giving me a play-by-play summary of it. Maybe one to recommend to your kids.

I am glad to have her home. And she brought me some fudge.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I'm Doing Instead of Ordering The New iPhone

Sitting on my hands, that's what. Why do I even know that today is the first day you can pre-order the new iPhone? I'm not one of those Apple people. Even typing the small "i" and the capital "P" in "iPhone" makes me feel like I've capitulated to some form of domination. It's like when fast food restaurants get you to say their dumb branded words, like, "Yes, Josh, I would like to biggie size my order." Just no. This is not English orthography, Apple, I won't just roll over like that.

Or yes I will. Dammit!

After all, my iPhone 3G is working just fine. And a new one would cost money that I don't really need to spend on such a thing. I just want it. A minute ago I moseyed over to the AT&T website and looked at my upgrade options. Then the website broke from all the other people doing the same thing. Now they have a huffy message up saying that they can't deal with your request and could you just please call them on the phone?

Okay already, I can wait. Maybe Hank will drop my phone in the toilet again, and this time, it won't make it.

So what am I doing today then? And would you like that in a bulleted list?

  • I ate some sardines. My dad has been loving them for years and I've finally seen the light. Delicious on a cracker with some wasabi mayonnaise and lemon juice. Though good old mustard is nice too.
  • I took the kids to the summer dollar movie. Or I took Hank and two of our friends--Laura's in the mountains with Normal Neighbor's family. It reminded me of doing the same thing when I was a kid. Only then they showed old Disney movies, like Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion, and there were cartoons first. It's all different now in the age of DVD, when kids are likely to own the movies the theater shows. Maybe not as exciting for them? I don't know. Matt and I have tried to impress on the kids how, when we were little, you couldn't just watch any movie you wanted at any time on dvd, Netflix streaming, or on-demand. I can well remember going to the Curtis Mathes store as a family and renting a VCR--like the actual machine--and the movies to watch on it. For my kids that's like hearing a description of churning butter. Remember waiting for the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz on TV?
  • My neighbor, one of the K(C)athies, dropped by and gave me an earful of back story on the Mystery People. She gave substance to the rumor I had heard about the Mystery Guy and the foreign exchange student (you really need to click that link), then told me that after his first wife left him, his neighbors on the other side complained about all of his hookers (LOLZ!). Then she opined that the current Mrs. Mystery actually began her relationship with Mystery Guy in something of a hooking capacity. I know that sounds like such a Gladys Kravitz thing to say, but it's actually slightly credible.
  • It is 100 degrees here today. In June. It is hotter than . . .I have nothing. Nothing clever to say, too hot. Send cool plz.
What are y'all doing?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Wrong Beach Reading

Today I was perusing Amy of Fraught's post about her recent vacay weekend, and how she wound up reading a heavy memoir of addiction during what was supposed to be a boozy girls' getaway. Then Gretchen chimed in and said that she'd once packed The Bell Jar as her reading for a beach trip. Downer.

This made me think about the time I set off on a nineteen-hour Greyhound bus ride with only Henry James's The Ambassadors. I defy you to read that on a Greyhound bus. It cannot be done.

(Actually, I probably have a couple of friends who could manage it. You know who you are.)

The things we require of a beach read and a of Greyhound bus read are different, probably. Maybe. Mainly I require that I never again be on a Greyhound bus. But it got me thinking.

I asked Matt what his biggest beach reading mistake was. He knew right away. "It was the time I started reading that awful James Patterson book," he said. We must share a brain, because I remembered the exact time he was talking about. It happened in the late 90's. I said, "You mean the one that begins by narrating the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby?" He said, "Yes, ugh, I was like, 'What is this crap, murder porn?'"

If all of life were a high school yearbook, Matt would be Least Likely to Read An Entire James Patterson Thriller. But I reminded him that for most people, that's exactly the kind of book they read at the beach. I am sure that dog-eared James Patterson paperbacks are lining the pressed-wood bookcases of thousands of rented beach houses up and down the shores of this great land.

He dug deeper. "Okay, once I took Linear Algebra to the beach." I said, "Um, good night, why did you do that?" He said he'd been studying it, but admitted that he didn't actually get any linear algebra done that week. Nonetheless, I was all, NERD NERD LOOK AT THE NERD! HEY FOUR-EYES! Like I didn't already know that.

So I wanted to ask y'all, what unfortunate or improbable vacation-reading choices have you made? Or what was a perfect, memorable match of vacation with book experience?

I find the whole topic of beach reading so crammed full of memory and desire. Do you get me? Like, I remember that I started reading the Harry Potter series at the beach. I remember that I read John Fowles's The Magus at the beach. PERFECT BEACH BOOK. I remember that once, Matt's brother and mother were each reading The Da Vinci Code, and I offered ten dollars to the first person to finish a copy and give it to me. This makes me laugh now. But it was a good beach read, despite not being a very good book.

And speaking of beach readers, it does not get any more major league than Matt's family. They come to read and they do not eff around. Seriously. They each arrive with a stack of books, having discussed and outlined their week's reading plan on the way to our destination, and then they hit it hard. They read, with absolutely athletic focus and determination, all the day long, while eating, while rocking on the porch, while sunning. I had always thought I was a great reader, but damn. They are the bigs.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tastes, Sorted into Categories

Ten days out, I'm totally recovered from last week's chemotherapy. Everything feels great, except for a few little things. Like some (lots?) of my taste buds don't work. It's not uncommon, chemo can be hard on all parts of the mouth. This effect has built up gradually, but it still surprises me sometimes when I eat something yummy and it tastes like nothing, or even worse, it tastes bad.

Stuff that is not tasty: coffee, wine (really totally lost on me), bread (the texture is annoying to my tongue), most sweets, savory meat flavors, plain water. Matt brought me a glass of water the other night and it tasted like licking a toad. He had to spike it with a lot of lime for it to taste normal.

Stuff that is tasty: mustard. Mustard is like my new favorite friend, which is perhaps fitting given that one of my chemo drugs, cyclophosphamide, is a mustard gas derivative. I think mustard's strong taste and vinegariness make it work even for my impaired taste buds. Likewise any strong, spicy, sharp, or bitter flavor: cabbage, peppers, green tea. I enjoy those. Anything with a creamy mouth feel is still a champ, like greek yogurt or cheese, because I realize they rely on texture as much as taste. And risotto is a champ. But when is risotto not a champ?

Other stuff that's going on in the health arena:

When I met with the oncologist before my chemo infusion last week, she had the results of some kind of genetic assay thing that she'd sent my tissue out for. It's a proprietary test--I won't name it because I don't really want to awaken the maker's Google alerts--that looks at 20 different molecular attributes of your tumor and then runs them through some magical donkey algorithm to predict an individual patient's risk of disease recurrence. Apparently it is all very sophisticated but well validated. Okay. So the magical donkey says I have a low risk of recurrence and that for my population chemotherapy may provide little additional benefit over hormonal therapy (i.e., taking Tamoxifen for five years). Great timing on that information! But low risk. That's good. The doc said, "So everything we're doing right now is just putting the icing on the cake."

Yes, that cake is getting totally damn iced. We'll file this under: Good news.

My eyebrows and eyelashes seem thinner. I'm really glad I stopped having my brows waxed months ago. I've heard that if they do fall out, they're the last to go and the first to grow back in. We'll file this under: Whatever.

My skin is smooth all over, and not just the parts that are hairless. Like, it's all nice and soft. Don't know why. File under: Unexpected Benefit.

I tied a bandanna around my head in a new way and went in to Matt's office to show him. I said, "What do you think of this look?" He said, "I would like for you to take me down to Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty." Yes, in what was a vulnerable moment for me, he made an Axl Rose joke. File under: Don't tell him but I thought it was funny.

Sometimes when I get an email I don't like, I flip the bird at my iPhone. Why am I telling you this? I'll be holding the phone in my left hand, and I give it the finger with my right hand. I make a face and give it a lot of gusto. Thank goodness nobody has ever seen me do this. File under: I am a goofball.

Have a good weekend y'all! I have to go take Laura to get her hair cut. She is trying to grow it long, but I persuaded her to have it shaped up a bit. File under: FINALLY.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Is That What He Thinks I Do?

The other day I was piloting our vehicle around while Hank pondered in the backseat, wondering aloud about different kinds of work he might like, and whether he could do various jobs when he grew up. For example, he wants to go through the swinging doors in Publix, the doors back by the lobsters, and I told him that only people who work at Publix go back there. He asked if he could possibly work at a grocery store one day, and I told him that he surely could if he wanted to--that he could probably do whatever job he wants when he grows up.

He said, "Mom, why did you want to grow up and not do anything?"

I kid you not. That's what he said, just as sweetly and sincerely as can be. His honesty just floors me. FLOORS.

I thought, "Oh God this is a great moment, thank you for this moment on Earth," and I said, "Is that what you think I do?" He said yes.

I said, "Well, first of all, I take care of you and Laura. And Daddy." He made no response.

So I launched into, "And I've also almost finished writing a kind of book that will let me teach college. Teach school." I tried to put the whole concept into preschooler terms. I think I used the word "dissertation." He listened politely.

Then he said, "That's not a real job."

I was so loving my life at this point. I asked him to please expand, what did he mean, pray tell?

He said, "A job is important." He put such particular emphasis on this word, only in his pronunciation it came out "im-PWAWR-tant." And his tone was nearly exasperated, just so barely patient with my ignorance.

Of course I prompted him further. So what jobs does Hank regard as important? They are, in his exact words:

1. Working on electrical wires.
2. Making tires.
3. Fixing toys.
4. Putting dead peoples' bodies in the ground.

I worked him over a little bit on the "mom job" and talked up my extensive experience in nurturing, administration, and domestic engineering. I asked him if that sounded important and finally talked him up to a "half important and half not important" rating.

I think I need better PR? Or I need to learn a trade.

Edited to add: Matt felt I should clarify that "this was not a conversation someone made up and put in a child's mouth to make a point," that these were indeed the actual unprompted words that issued forth from his face. Let it thus be clarified.

How I Spend One Hundred Percent of My Time: Mountain House Edition

That's about the size of it. It's been too long since I served pie. And what are you so all fired busy with?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Here Are Some Pretty Flowers

ox eye daisy

Ox Eye Daisy

mountain krigia

Mountain Krigia

mountain laurel

Mountain Laurel

I took these last weekend in North Carolina, while Hank and his cousin Luke played in the old tractor up the road.

See Tractor


See boys

boys in tractor

And I know lately my blog tends to be one big "Okay I just had chemotherapy and I feel fine but tired and now someone is driving me to the mountain house." And that is in fact what's about to happen. Matt's taking me up there tonight to meet up with the kids and also with the inimitable brother Dave and Kate.

My prescription for those undergoing cancer treatment is lots of social time, if it's a social situation of your choosing.

What else did I do today?

1. Woke up too early, felt a slight hint of queasiness, which may have been only the fear that I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep. Alligator, crocodile, whatever--Ativan solves that problem.

2. Said goodbye to my bud Erika. Bravely withheld tears.

3. Had a smoothie. Bladderwrack!

4. Sat on my couch. Watched Anthony Bourdain in Iceland.

5. Drooped lower on my couch.

6. Snoozed fitfully.

7. Rallied to compose this post.

So as you can see it's been a full day already. I can't believe it's the weekend again, but I hope y'all have a nice one. I will be like ten times more interesting next week, promise.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Girl Time

Since I know you want to be apprised of all my movements, I will tell you that my friend Erika is here visiting me and we got our toenails done today. Her color is unknown, mine is OPI's You're a Pisa Work. So that's taken care of.

I had my third chemo infusion today. One more to go, woot! Erika came and sat with me--I told her it was five hours and she was still willing--and we had a lovely time. I got through about a quarter of a People magazine, and the rest was Olympic-level chatting. Then I got to give a pep talk to another young woman who was there for her first treatment, and she asked me where I got my wig, and I talked to her about the whole hair issue. I felt like such an old hand.

Now we are about to watch that movie An Education. Lecia recommended it the other day, and I remembered that when Erika and I were discussing our mutual love for Peter Saaaaarsgaard. This was about hour three of chemo.

Oh and did I mention that Mom and Dad took the kids up to the mountain house for the next several days? And could life get any better? Have a good night, y'all.