Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Is On Like Donkey Kong

Oh my Lord are your kids still in school? That is so two-thousand-late. We have been having summer vacation for two days. You better hurry, 'cause we're using it all up.

For Laura, the end of fourth grade was marked by the usual foofaraw, class party and such. At the party, which was held outside, she won Second Place in the hula hooping contest.

Hula Hooper
It reminded me of how, once when I was in college, there was some kind of luau in the dining hall, with shrimp skewers and such, and I too won Second Place in a hula hooping contest. To achieve that level of excellence, I had to hula hoop for like 20 minutes. But Matt's ex-girlfriend hula hooped a little bit longer and won First Place.

Let us say no more about that.

ANYHOO, Laura's class had a nice party. And one mom had on a nice black satin strapless romper shorts outfit. It was an odd choice. She also had on high heeled sandals, which was cute, but her balance was imperiled by her gigantor Louis Vuitton hobo with gold hardware. You know, breezy. Keepin' it breezy for the kids' little party.

Then, in keeping with our tradition, Normal Neighbor and one of the K(C)athies and I ambushed the kids getting off the bus with squirt guns and water balloons. We agreed that it was our most fun squirtgun raid in years. I think it was more fun because the Livingston boys from down the street are now big enough that it didn't feel like just squirting some tiny kids in the face. Not that I wouldn't do that. But this year all the kids were big enough to effectively run away and/or seize weapons and fight back. Even Hank got into it. Last year he clutched a full Super Soaker to his chest, but never fired his gun. Just like one of those soldiers in the Great War.

Then we took all the kids to this frozen yogurt place where you serve yourself yogurt and toppings and pay by the ounce. When it was time to weigh in, Laura's cup cost $6. I knew that would happen--I saw it coming--and I let it. My friend K(C)athy was all, "Oh you let her fix her own? DUMMY." But then she has six kids.

Riding in the car, Laura told me that she feels guilty to leave fourth grade. I said, "Guilty? Honey, what do you mean?" She said that thought it was one of her best years. I said, "You know that 'guilt' means an awareness that you've done something wrong? You might feel sad to leave fourth grade, but you do not feel guilty."  She assured me that she knew what "guilt" meant and that she nonetheless feels like she "shouldn't be leaving." Who knows. I opened my mouth to tell her that was crazy talk, then I realized that I knew exactly what she meant. I felt guilty to leave Santa Cruz five years ago, even though it was absolutely the right move, and not a situation in which guilt should play a role. Then I realized I am raising myself.

Since then we have been swimming and lounging, and Laura's already been to a sleepover, and today while we were out, the dog found a piece of watermelon on the coffee table and decided to chew it to death all over the white sheepskin rug. So, summer. It is on.

What y'all doing? Any fun end-of-school traditions?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hot Mama

The temperature has reached the low 90's here in my ville. In accordance with my usual program, I am determined to wait until June 1 to turn on the air conditioner in my house. Last year I did not meet that goal, because I was going through chemotherapy, and I was all, "Hot and nauseated? Forgizzle." But it's back on, honey. Of course, Matt has a window unit tucked in the office where he (and three other guys) work, and Hank has a window unit up in his bedroom, so is this cheating? I don't know. I am making my own rules.

Today Pretty Neighbor and I resumed our workouts in her basement, after a four week break. We'd paused our routine for me to have my reconstructive surgery. Two weeks ago, the plastic surgeon told me I could go ahead and ease back in to exercise, so I eased back in by spending another two weeks doing completely nothing. Unless reading House Beautiful now counts as exercise, or playing Lego Pirates of the Caribbean with Hank. Or going to the mountains and eating three s'mores.

Three is too many, friends. S'mores are like cocktails. One is the right number. Two is okay but three is, like, let's talk about the choices you're making right now.

And you know what? My energy level took a hit from the no exercising. So many reasons to start up again, so today we did, back at level one of Jillian Michaels's Ripped in 30 Days. Oh goodness I was dreading the first day back, but I got through the workout and only said "OH DAMN HELL" a few times. At the end I lay on the floor of Pretty Neighbor's basement, and I knew my face was absolutely vermillion. Hank asked if he could help me get up. I looked like I'd been lightly broasted, then dragged backwards through an automatic carwash.

Oh well, soreness awaits, tomorrow, as well as another workout. You got to use it or lose it in this life.

Speaking of which, tonight on Facetime chat I asked my sister if she is still going to Zumba and if the instructor had laughed at her again. She said that the other night she'd been trying to master a particularly tricky dance move, and the instructor had smiled at her and said, "It's okay, just jump." OH DAMN HELL, no she didn't!

Are y'all doing okay?

Friday, May 20, 2011

I Went Tubing Wearing A Jacket


This past Friday night, we drove up to North Carolina to meet my parents, brother, and sister-in-law at the mountain house. We'd visited several times throughout the winter, but now that it's getting warm, it's like a whole new season of good times up there. Matt said, "I feel like this is really the first mountain weekend of the year."

Why was he so keen? He has just one thing on his mind: Tubing. The man just wants to get in a tube and float down a stream, all the live long day. He's done it by himself. He's done it in the rain, multiple times. He's done it in a box. He's done it with a fox (me).

We'd had a week of temps in the 80's here in Atlanta. I figured it would be more than warm enough for me to put my fanny in a cold mountain river. Then, on Friday, it was suddenly 20 degrees cooler. On the deck for Saturday morning coffee, it was in the low 60's.

Morning Coffee

Hmm. But Matt, ever intrepid, went down the river by himself that day. He wanted to check out a new stretch of the Tuckaseegee to see if it was kid-friendly. The rest of us went down to town and looked at books, had coffee, and messed around on Main Street. I found a used copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, and I pressed it into Laura's hands.  I said, "You are ready to read this, and you will be very interested in it." She finished it while we are up there. But after just a few chapters, she came to me and said, "I'm surprised that someone wrote a book about this stuff." I think she was taken aback that there was a book about the private thoughts and feelings of girls, feelings she could identify with, in contemporary language, not all calico and bonnets. It made me realize I need to take a more active hand in her reading. When she finished, she said she'd really enjoyed it. I keep meaning to send a fan tweet to @JudyBlume.

Hank acquired a gun that shoots little foam balls. His feelings about that were not as complex.

Back at the house, I took a few snapshots:

mountain laurel
Mountain Laurel

side yard
Chairs that Mom painted to match the house.

Side View
View from the side yard...hey, there's Matt!

hot tub matt
Hey hon. He needed some hot tub after his excursion.

Then I spied the kids coming back from the creek.

creek feet
Never too chilly for a creek walk.

Laura mostly likes to ride in the jeep, I think.

On Sunday it was still coolish, but quite sunny and beautiful. Matt had enjoyed his solitary tubing reconnaissance mission and pronounced it "warm enough when the sun is shining." So of course the kids wanted to go. Just a short trip. Just a little tubing. Understand that while this conversation was taking place, I was sitting in the full sun wearing jeans and a warm-up jacket, zipped all the way, with my chin tucked inside.

Tubing did not seem like the most likely way to spend the afternoon. Reading Country Living, yes. Styling my mom's new bookshelves, yes. Chatting about babies with my sister-in-law, definitely. But I didn't want Matt to have to wrangle both children by himself. So I agreed to go along. How chilly could it be?

Well I'll tell you this: you don't think of wearing a coat while you're tubing, but you totally can. I put on my bathing suit like normal, and then I put my black track jacket right back on over it. For the tricky tube-embarkation part, I just hitched the jacket up under my boobs to keep it dry. Then I was floating along, and the black sleeves kept my arms warm. As for the rest of me, there were some goosebumpy moments. Matt was right, it was warm enough when the sun shone. During the few minutes when it wasn't shining, however, I was about to make for the bank. I thought, "We are crazy people. Crazy people do this." The kids, I think, were insulated by their life vests. But then the sun came out and I was glad we were there. We had a calm, gorgeous float, with plenty of daylight left afterward for all of the other important things, like chatting and losing little foam balls that had been shot from a gun.

Hank had just said, exasperatedly, "Dave, China and Japan are the same thing."
So if you are willing to wear a jacket in your innertube, and get in the river in mid-May, there is a good four months of float season at that elevation. Here's to going ahead and starting early.  

I hope y'all have had a good week. Mine has been filled with loading the dishwasher and taking children places. Laura's last day of school is next Wednesday. Bring. It. On.

Monday, May 16, 2011

No Matter How Small The Accomplishment

Hank the Preschool Grad
Proud Preschool Graduate
Thursday was Hank's last day of preschool. Laura and the elementary kids are still in school until the 25th, but Hank's school decided their work was done. We all went to the ceremony, at which the kids sang, I swear, ten songs. It was very cute, but I wonder whether they shouldn't focus on quality rather than quantity of musical numbers? Then teacher announced what each kid wanted to be when he or she grew up. Hank wanted to be a fireman, but the biggest laughs were earned by the boy who wanted to be Spiderman and the girl who wanted to be a grocery checkout lady.

There were enough aspiring firemen to put out a good-sized fire. Hank might make a good fireman, actually. He's very brave and I know he would love riding in the truck.

That evening was also the first time I got to take off my giant post-surgical bra. So I was having a small secret party in my mind.

Matt and Hank

Laura and Hank

The school made a big deal out of there being no flash photography and no parent videotaping during the ceremony, as they had hired a videographer to tape everything, and for $15 we could buy a DVD. I thought that sounded fine, since the resulting video would certainly be better than anything I could produce. Plus, I am not one of the parents who videos these events anyway. I will snap a few pics, but I'd rather not be staring at the viewfinder the whole time.


Friday afternoon we got an email saying that "due to a technical glitch," the video had a good picture but NO SOUND and that they are going to have the kids come and re-do the whole performance on Tuesday. Grumble. Then I found out the scoop: the school has hired the same video guy for years, but he was booked, so they tried to do it themselves. Turns out, these things are tricky and you really need a pro. So they are going back to school on Tuesday for a movie-and-popcorn day and a warmed-over graduation ceremony.

Hank and Harrison
Hank and his buddy Harrison

Proud Graduate
Someone looks grown up.
Oh, and I'm proud to report that when the class awards were given out (yes, everyone gets an award), Hank was named Most Imaginative by his teachers. Judging from some of our experiences with these teachers this year, I'm not sure that Most Imaginative was an unalloyed positive. Other awards were Most Careful Worker and Most Willing. But then again, if you have to come up with a superlative for all 16 kids, you dig deep.

So now school is out and Hank thinks that his education is complete. He is so happy to be free. He doesn't really know about the next dozen years of schooling. I'm not even about to tell him.

Heck, by the time he actually gets to Kindergarten, he will be a hardened veteran. You see, Hank doesn't turn five until June, so he'll be going to a Pre-K next year instead of starting Kindergarten as the youngest five year-old. Around here, kids tend to be older in kindy. What's it like where you are?

I think this is regional; but once a critical mass of parents hold back, everybody has to. I might have made a different choice if Hank were begging to go to school, school, more school. But he likes his carefree life and jammie mornings with me, so I am not in a rush.

That reminds me, I was four when I started Kindergarten, and didn't turn five until December. So I was seventeen when I went off to college. Maybe a bit young, in retrospect, but at least I did get my MRS degree. Heh.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day Monday!

That's a thing, right? Like Easter Monday is a holiday in Europe?

How did y'all spend your Sunday?

I slept until noon.  I don't mean "noon" like, I slept really late but it was only 9:45 or so. I mean I straight up slept until 12:00 pm. Then we went to lunch and sat outside to eat. The weather was gorgeous. I drank a margarita.

(A note: this last week's celebration of Cinco de Mayo prompted me to bring something to your attention. There is this practice of calling margaritas "'ritas." Have you heard this done? It grates upon me. No need to be informal. Please accord the margarita the respect of using its full name.)

Then Matt asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him that I wanted us all to go to the pool, and that I wanted to sit in a lounge chair and read a magazine while he played in the water with the kids. So that's what we did. I was going to go for a pedicure afterwards, but we stayed too late at the pool. So I'm going to execute that part of the plan sometime this week.

Then later, Matt cleaned up our bedroom while I reclined on an enormous pile of pillows. I consumed another margarita at that point, while I peppered him with witty banter. He submitted to it with good grace.

It was a wonderful, relaxing day, and I would take it on repeat if some sort of Groundhog Day situation were available.

Hey, my sister has committed to blogging every day in May. Go by and give her some support! I have half a mind to make the same pledge, but I'm afraid I might sprain something.

I hope your weekend left you ready to meet the challenges of the coming week.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crochet Coral Reef

crochet coral reef

I have been meaning to show you one of my favorite things we saw on our spring break to DC last month. In the Museum of Natural History, in the back of the oceans hall, they have this crocheted coral reef. This picture just shows the front; it extended back through that open space.

coral reef

Over 800 people contributed their work to make this massive, woolly, marine extravaganza. I have never seen any kind of craft--and few pieces of public art--draw people in like the crochet coral reef did. I spent a long time going over it. You could study it from every angle and still not see everything. Walking around it made me feel like a kid. I felt joy.

purple reef

red reef

crochet critter
Some little dainties like this were in their own display.

orange critters

reef critters

reef tubes

white reef
In this white section, some of the pieces incorporate plastic trash, like bags and other junk that winds up in the ocean. As much as I love the colored sections, the whites might be my favorite. All of the delicate creams and ecrus. I am so glad we got to see it.

I don't know how much longer this will be in the Smithsonian, but it is worth a look if you are in the neighborhood. When you come in the back door of the museum, you are practically right by it. Then you can walk through the ocean hall, under the whale, then admire the big stuffed elephant, elbow through the Harry Winston Gallery, then go and get an espresso while your husband enjoys the giant sloths. That will be a very nice afternoon for you.

Crocheted Coral Reef, also here and here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Back in Business

The business of having two boobs, that is. (Alert, if you have any discomfort with the word "nipple," you might want to read a different blog today.)

How are y'all? I'm doing really well.  Yesterday was the first time since my surgery on Wednesday that I felt like my normal energetic self. I spent my last convalescence credit last night, to get out of washing actual shit off the dog. (I'm sure that Matt would chime in here and explain that there is no way I would be doing that job even if I were at peak fitness but whatever.) And my mom and dad left my house this morning, so I guess I am returning to duty.

I wasn't too, too nervous on Wednesday morning, and seeing Dr. Hottie in the pre-op room put me at ease. She drew all over me with a marker, and we were asking her how she would do the nipple reconstruction, and she was like, "Well, I've got a few ideas, we'll see when we get in there, there's lots of ways to make a nipple."  Matt said, "Really? Because I would have thought there was maybe one or two." Then we laughed. What do we know?

But she was as good as her word.  It looks amazing. That woman is some kind of wizard.

I mean, I thought that the nipple would look like something. I thought the goal would be to fashion some little origami thing that would be in the right place and would be basically 3D, but that wouldn't really look all that great. But she made a nipple-looking nipple. I still don't totally understand how she did it. I know that she used some of the scar that was there from my surgery last year. And pixie dust? I don't know, there was some major skill involved.

I guess that with state-of-the-art plastic surgery, you can have a nipple just anywhere you want. So keep that in mind.

I woke up in the recovery room in the biggest most industrial-strength sports bra you have ever seen. There's a little tag inside that says it's the "Sweetheart" model. Yeah, right. This is a bra you speak to with "Yes Ma'am" and "No Ma'am." They told me I had to wear it all the time for two weeks, except when showering or washing it.  It looks like something from the Soviet People's Number 1 Unmentionables Factory, circa 1960. It is a serious thing. I have pretty much gotten used to it, except you know that moment at night when you would normally take your bra off? Not taking it off is kind of a bummer.

And I have a thing that's like a little nipple cozy to wear for two weeks.

Lots of pleasant mental pictures for you guys.

So I woke up wearing Madam Bra and I really didn't have much pain.  I took the meds they gave me for a couple of days, but I haven't needed them since. I'm still supposed to stay away from strenuous exercise while it heals, but I'm at least upright all day and not needing a nap every afternoon. The human body is amazing.

Also amazing are my parents, who came last Tuesday and ran the household until this morning. Matt and I slept in like teenagers every day, while they got Laura to her bus stop in the morning, then fed and dressed Hank and got him to school. They also cooked and cleaned, and kept me company while we watched the South get ravaged by tornadoes that scary night, then the fancy wedding, then the news about Bin Laden. What times we live in.

And Laura had a swim meet, and we half-raised our neighbor girls, and Matt's company added a new employee and there are four guys working in what used to be my guest room, and, as mentioned above, the dog rolled in something bad, really bad. It was a full week.

Thank you for your prayers, hugs, and good wishes. I hope you are all in the pink.