Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Digest Form

Snowcone Summit Meeting
Snow cone meeting.
1) Tonight our neighborhood swim team had its end-of-season party up at the pool. It was pure mayhem. So many kids in the pool, so, so many. And the organizers had put about 100 beach balls into the water. They were flying everywhere, it was like being in a popcorn machine. Hank and I were sitting on the steps, and when a ball would come near him, he would toss it in the air and bounce it away. This woman waded toward us and said, "Can you not throw these? I'm trying to get them all in this area." I said, "Oh, why? What are you going to do with them?" She shrugged and said, "No reason, I guess I'm just a little OCD." I thought, "Wow, yes you are." But I said, "Hmm, I don't know if that's going to happen."

2) One of the swim moms presented the swim team director with a gift we had all chipped in for. The organizer is not the paid coach, but a mom who volunteers and who manages the coaches. And it's a lot of work. I laughed though, when they unveiled the gift: a Tervis tumbler crammed with wadded up ten-dollar bills, a bottle of vodka, and a tub of Crystal Light lemonade.

Pause that refreshes.

3) Also at the swim party, the mom of Hank's friend saw me and started heading in my direction, calling out, "I have got the dirtiest book to give you!"

Best conversational opener ever. Ever.

4) I can't believe the neighborhood swim season is already over. It is short, but intense. Laura had meets last Thursday, Saturday (that was the big all-county meet down at Georgia Tech), and last night. Three inside a week. I think it's a great activity, both as a social thing and as a sport for these kids. When I'm standing with her at the start of a race, and the whistle blows and she dives off the block and swims away, my face squinches up like I'm about to start crying. Only it's a happy squinching. And a proud squinching. Then I yell myself hoarse. "Go go GO GO!" I love watching her swim.

This does not mean that I can't also bitch about how hot it is at the meets and how they last four hours and ohmigod the sweating. Last night I took a can of cold beer from my neighbor's cooler and held it with my crotch.

That image should be on our Christmas cards.

5) Hot. So hot, like hell is hot. Upstairs AC unit seems to be losing the fight.

Denial on this issue should last one more day or so. But by then I will be in the mountains where (I hope) it is cooler.

6) Laura has a friend sleeping over, the girl from that troublesome sleepover. Cue ominous organ music! This is the first time we've had her over since that time. Her mom called me today and asked if Laura would like to sleep over at their house, and I steered the plan around to my doing the hosting instead. The other mom agreed with this idea, saying, "Yes, that way they'll have more room." Which was a weird moment because she lives in a huge house in Fancy Land, but from what I've seen her house is borderline-hoarder cluttered. So I didn't know if she was acknowledging her clutter issue or if it was just meaningless conversational padding.

When the little girl arrived, we were all chatting for a moment about how late the kids are staying up now that it's summer, blah blah, and the mom said, "Oh, I can't do it. I go to bed before them." Meaning her ten and thirteen year-olds. And the little girl said, "My brother and I stay up 'til two!" And I said, "Gracious!" But I thought it was all symptomatic of a certain loosey-gooseyness over there. Anyhoo.

7) Speaking of routine, it is time for Mama to watch "The Wire."

That was my day, in part. What are you doing?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Look at This Lad

Hank, Instagram

There are many like him, but this one is mine.

Because I have grown wise in my years, I mostly believe that you all love your children as much as I love mine. It's part of the growing belief in the minds of others that doesn't really kick off until you're about 27 and will probably fully ripen later on into middle age, when (I think) the last vestiges of youthful narcissism have been metabolized. So, okay, you love your kids as much as I do. I'll stipulate that. But wow, I love this one a whole heap.

Hank turned five last week, which is impossible because in my heart he is still three. Thank goodness his dial is still turned to max snuggle.

He is also prone to make koan-like pronouncements about the world. In the car last week, he mused, "Sometimes when you want to marry someone, it takes a long time for them to stop slapping you and say yes."

I didn't really know where to begin in responding to that. Because I didn't come to that realization until I'd reread F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night.

So what I'm saying is that you want this boy on your team, especially when it comes to slapping and/or matters of the heart.

Tomorrow we are having a birthday party for him and his buddies at one of those bounce house places. We invited all our neighborhood friends and last year's schoolmates as well. The grocery store is making us a cake with a dragon on it. And I am off to Party City to get stuff for goody bags. Ideas? We have 16 kids coming and I don't have that many bars of soap.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More Pomp Plz

Just popping in to say that I am flying to Santa Cruz tomorrow for my PhD graduation ceremony. I'm going out there alone, but lots of friends will be there, and my gal Erika is flying up from LA to make it a weekend of special lady time.

I had dreamed of our family of four all going to see me walk. As the time drew closer, though, it was clear that there were better ways to blow a few thousand bucks. Like eating food and living inside. But I just didn't want to miss it, as I'm certainly not going to ever earn another degree. I mean, this one took for freaking ever, I should go mark the occasion even if I did get the diploma back in the fall.

So today I was busy getting ready for my trip and such, and in addition I made two separate trips to the pool at the swim club--not our neighborhood pool--once for each kid to have lessons/practice. And I worked out with Pretty Neighbor and I parented the foster kids a bunch. Finally at about 5:30 I was opening my mouth to tell Matt that I was going to go get my nails done before the nail place closed. At that moment he told me that he was about to leave to play basketball with the guys from his old office. They needed 8 to play and he was number 8.

I just looked at him, assuming that any moment he would realize the importance of my arriving in California to see all my friends with properly groomed nails. I said, "So you want me to not get my nails done before I fly to California to see all my friends and be in my PhD graduation ceremony?" He went into, "You know I am happy to watch the kids whenever you need me to, you just have to tell me so I can plan," etcetera blah blah. I don't mean "blah blah" in a bad way. But you know. He really hated to back out of the game, wouldn't it be fun to get a pedi in California, man man husband talking. Reader, I am not even asking you to take my side, because even the very rocks cry out that they are on my side.

So I did what anyone would have done, which was to lie down on my dining room bench and cry. Matt came and stood concernedly over me, squeezing my knee, while tears trickled down into my ears.

"It's not even about my nails, I just feel that this whole graduation ceremony is an afterthought and nobody notices and nobody cares but me and even my finishing my dissertation was a story that got swallowed up by cancer last year and who really gave a crap and I had a lot of happy feelings a few minutes ago that just went away just now," I explained.

Nearly daily I have reason to be glad I put a bench in my dining room. You will never be sorry if you do.

Matt made protesting and soothing noises about how proud he was of me and how he hadn't been thinking of this graduation as a big enough deal. He seemed a bit taken aback by my sudden emotional fragility, and so was I. We were a sad little tableau, there in the dining room. Me prostrate on the bench, him standing there in befuddlement.

Then I had a brainwave. By this time, the foster daughters, who I had sent home fifteen minutes before, were back in my house having never gone home at all. I asked them if their father was awake and they said he was. I texted him and told him that I had a nail appointment and could Hank come over there please? He said of course, and it is lucky for him that he did.

Then I went away and got a mani pedi and darned if that didn't make me feel all better. And Matt and I kissed and made up. Our bark sails on. And Hank stayed at the neighbor's for two hours, and now I am all packed. I have narrowed down my graduation dress to three choices and I'm taking them all.

I'm taking the same shoes I take everywhere. I believe that there is no shoe environment I couldn't conquer with my Haflinger wool clogs and my tall Kork-Ease wedges. And I threw in a pair of cheap thong sandals I got at Target. They are a metallic pewter and when I put them on and saw how my pedi looked with them, I wanted to have sex with my own feet. Gross!

I will pop in later and tell you how everything went. I love you all!

Monday, June 6, 2011

HOA Has Their Dang Panties in A Bunch

One day a couple of weeks ago we were delighted to receive not one but two letters from our Homeowners Association. Two on the same day. They were writing just to say hi, lookin' good.

Not really.

They were writing because in one of their panoptical surveillance drive-bys of the subdivision, they decided that our house and yard were failing to meet the design standards put in place to beautify our neighborhood and protect all of our property values. And they knew we would want to be informed of this breach in our covenant with them as soon as possible.

One of the letters directed us to, "Please trim back shrubs/bushes in front of house." Fair enough. We have this giant snowball verbena bush that blooms in early spring, and then goes totally bananas foster with the leafing out. Going crazy and reaching for the sky. Huge bush. I have actually blogged about this thing before, and the difficulties of grooming it due to its position at the edge of a little cliff on the side of our house. I've blogged about it multiple times. It is probably the most blogged-about bush in the county. Except for the Real Housewives of Atlanta. badum-CHING!

Yeah, so the second letter said, in bold type, "Please pressure and/or paint the rusted chimney." I am sure they meant "pressure wash," as that rust stain has ignored my pressure for five years. Our chimney cap had rusted and stained the siding on the chimney underneath it. We had the chimney cap repainted when our roof was replaced this winter, but the stain remained. It's not that we liked the stain, but we have been living with it because one time Matt climbed up on the roof with a bottle of CLR and it was nearly the last thing he did on this earth. Our roof is too steep and the chimney, we decided, was accessible only to God.

So when Matt saw that letter, he had some really heartfelt things to say in response. Very heartfelt and colorful. I listened to him and validated his frustration because it's important to do that in a marriage. Then I went about trying to find someone crazy enough to get up on that roof. And Reader, I found him.

In your neighborhood, do you get handymen and other entrepreneurial types taping flyers to your mailbox to advertise their services? We do, and I think those flyers are a nuisance. They blow everywhere and make litter. But I called one of those guys. His name is John and he came on the double. He seemed undaunted by the immense precariousness involved in the job and quoted me a very reasonable price. Friday morning, bright and early, he set to work pressure washing our entire house and cleaning the chimney.

He was here for twelve hours.

Over the course of the afternoon I progressed from offering him cold drinks to wanting to fix him a hearty meal and tuck him in bed. Dude was working. I was afraid we would break him. I was afraid he would fall to his death. I was afraid he would run out of daylight before he got the chimney cleaned, but as twilight deepened, he was packing up his ladders and the house looked great. The pressure washing is totally one of those things where you don't realize how dirty it was until it's clean. Anyway, this John has gumption and he does everything. I feel that I have found a treasure beyond rubies.

Meanwhile, inside where it's air conditioned, an electrician spent a few hours hanging a chandelier and fixing our smoke detectors and left with twice what I paid John. Message: Kids, learn a trade.

On Friday while this was happening I was like, "Oh, it is so exhausting supervising tradesmen! Swoon!" And Matt was like, "How exactly did they change how you spent your day in any way?" And I had no great answer but men don't really understand these things.

Between my pressure-washed exterior and my new chandelier, I feel like I have a new house. The old house was soiled, but now I have a fresh one! It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Plus, the HOA will be off our backs, because weekend before last, I also purchased a motorized hedge trimmer and made the effort of personally asking Matt to work on the verbena while I was in the mountains. Which he did. And when I got back, we walked outside and I said, "Okay honey, let's talk about your work on the shrubbery. Walk me through your vision." Because there was a big notch cut out of the verbena, like it's missing a tooth, and Matt explained that no human could have reached that spot so he just held the hedge trimmer above his head and cut whatever he could reach. Like a bad haircut, I guess it will grow out. Also his work was free.

Believe it or not, this story could have branched out in several more directions but I know that you are wishing you could throw yourself off my roof right now, so I will close. I hope you had a good weekend and that all of your labors are bearing fruit.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Actual Dialogue with My Neighbor's Children

My foster daughters from two houses over are here and have been for hours. At one point they got a notion that their father, Conspiracy Guy, my stay-at-home, homeschooling-dad neighbor, might take them to the pool, so they ran home to ask him. Five minutes later they were tumbling through my door again.

Me: What did your dad say?

Girls: He said we can't go to the pool because he's got too much work to do.

Me: Oh, what kind of work is he doing?

Youngest Girl: I don't know, it must be sleepy work, 'cause he's sleepin'.

I say again, how nice for him.

My thinking has slowly shifted on these children. I no longer resent the massive amount of free childcare I provide. Or I don't resent it as much as when they were smaller. Now I'm actually thinking, not to sound immodest, that being in our house with our family is an enriching and good thing in their lives. I'm getting better at seeing them as little people with needs and with growing, moldable minds, and not just as little people who leave my fridge door open.

I am not always as nice on the inside as I should be, y'all, but I am trying.