Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Buddy and Me, We Can Climb up a Tree

After some angst on my part, and cheerful oblivion on his part, Hank started pre-K today. This morning, we packed his Boba Fett lunchbox. He was perfectly happy as we threaded our way through the fiendishly complicated carpool drop-off procedure. Color-coded traffic pattern map of the parking lot. Long, long line of minivans and SUV's. Then, as one of the teachers helped him out of the car, he was struck silent. He looked a little queasy. He went along though.

At this school, the teachers put the kids in the car again at pickup time, no parking and going to the classroom. Which is mighty convenient for the moms, but again, long long line of minivans. I approached the safety cone zone waving my carpool tag against the windshield and scanning for his orange shirt in the group of waiting kids. His teacher saw me right away, and through my open window I heard her say to him, "You said it was a blue car and it is!" She helped him up into his seat and said he had a great first day.

As we drove on, I asked him how it was and he said, "Awesome." Relief! Then he told me all about a game of pretend pirates he'd played on the playground, and how it involved jumping over spikes and also radioactive sludge. I asked him what had gone on inside the classroom. He reported that the snack was apples, and said he couldn't remember anything else. So I did the questioning routine that parents are expert at, and found out that he'd played at all the centers and that the teachers were nice, and everybody liked his lunchbox, even the teachers, he said. Okay, so far, so good.

Sleeping off pre-K

We went home and met Laura, who had a half day of school today, and went to the pool. After swimming a while, I noticed that Hank seemed out of sorts. He acted tired and fractious, not like him. So I took him home and created a nap trap on the couch. I lay down and invited him to climb up next to me, and then I covered us both with a blanket. It worked inside a minute. I may have succumbed myself.

When he woke up, he still had fragile feelings. I think it was just all the newness--new place, new people, new systems--and after a long summer of the familiar and comfortable it was a lot to metabolize. At bedtime though, he said, "I don't want to be tired for the second day of school!"

This morning I was filling out his paperwork, and his teacher had included an index card with the instructions, "Tell me anything you want me to know about your child." I paused over it, and Dad said, "Tell her that he is a golden snowflake, precious and unique in all the cosmos, and that they best be sure to recognize that."

I told him that I need those words made into a rubber stamp. There are a lot of school years ahead of us.

I hope your year is off to a smooth start, my buddies.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Buzz Buzz, Great New Hive

Tonight I watched Winter's Bone on the Netflix. Wow, it was really good, but now I need an injection of Prozac straight into my spinal column. Bleak. I mean, you know, the Ozarks, you have like forty dogs but no car, every adult in sight is cooking meth, what could possibly go wrong? I do recommend it, but it's intense. Jennifer Lawrence is the lead, and she has also been cast as the lead in Hunger Games. I remember some outcry over that, but after seeing her in Winter's Bone, I don't doubt that she will be good as Katniss. She can play tough. And I just realized she was the young Mystique in that X-Men movie earlier this summer? I didn't even notice her in that. It could have been that she was in a scene with Michael Fassbender and everything on screen was blown out by his ridiculous, excessive telegenicity.

Busy day here chez Matron. This morning I had a long tennis practice. A new girl has joined the team who might be worse than me. This is very exciting, the prospect of not being the weakest player on the team. Probably she will turn out to be a bit better than me though, we'll see.

Then I went home, where my parents and I finished painting my dining room ceiling and then tackled the now-vacant office. I had cozened them into leaving their mountain citadel, where temperatures are in the 70's, to come to my house and help me paint. I would say the two rooms were a solid day-and-a-half of work, and I haven't done the office ceiling yet.

I'm very happy with it. I'll have miraculous "after" pics soon, but the color is Behr's Dolphin Fin. I first saw this in my friend Erika's house in LA, and I've had it in mind for two years. It is a great gray, the Mama Bear of grays, as it is not too warm, not too blue, not too green, just right. For the ceiling I went with Irish Mist, which is a barely-there silvery gray on the same paint card.

Funny, when you're painting in your house, you really confront the mistakes made and shortcuts taken by the previous owners and their home improvement projects. I was affronted to realize that the entire underside of the chair rail on my dining room wall was smeared with red paint from some 1990's red dining room moment. Very sloppy work, first owners! There was lots of taping and edging and finally I sat on the floor with a child's paintbrush and scooted around the room until I couldn't see any more red. And the same with the tops of the window frames. I mean, can't we try a little harder?

That kept me and most of the household busy like bees all day. And Hank starts school tomorrow. Fingers crossed for a smooth launch! xoxo

Monday, August 29, 2011

Men with Schemes

My dad is like the Thomas Edison of western North Carolina, especially when it comes to the drinking of whiskey. He is filled with schemes and little lifehacks to make it better and more pleasurable. Over the weekend he decided to wash some river pebbles and then put them in the freezer, in hopes that they would cool his drink without diluting it.

Sidebar: growing up, there were often weird things in our freezer. My siblings will testify. One I remember was an Indigo Bunting that died in our backyard. Dad wanted to figure out why it died, so he froze it, in our household freezer, for some future postmortem. Then there was the time that a Sharp-Shinned Hawk smacked the sliding glass door and died, so Dad took his feet (!) and put them in non-iodized salt to dry them out. They went on the bookcase. And THEN there was the time he took the head of a dead cardinal and put it in an ant bed so the ants would clean the skull. He reports he still has the skull, yes, on his bookcase. You would be right in thinking he is something of a character--kind of a cabinet-of-curiosities naturalist--but lovable and normal-seeming. Normal enough. Also, at this very moment, in the mountain house freezer, my mom has a bunch of bright fall leaves from last year. I guess she was conducting an experiment to see if they'd stay fresh and colorful. They are really quite a pair.

Anyway, so the river rocks were supposed to cool the whiskey without melting like ice. Dad reports that it turns out, they don't cool the drink. I'm thinking that if that worked--if rocks held on to cold like that--mountain rivers would stay icy 'til June. But I'm not the scientifical one.

And on Friday night, I saw him inflate an air mattress with a leaf blower. Ingenuity.

I look different with a mustache.

Sunday afternoon, my mom and I joined the literati of Sylva, NC to hear Ron Rash read from his new book of poems. I admire his work, and he's one of the town's favorite sons. If you liked Serena, you'll be glad to know he has a new novel coming out in April. I think that when the movie of Serena gets made, he'll be a big(ger) deal. Anyway, we got some culture and there was wine there.

Then we went to an antiques barn, where I inspected every piece of merchandise in the place. I scored a Russell Wright cream pitcher, perfect condition, for six bucks. Now I will spend my life looking for its sugar bowl. WHERE ARE YOU, SUGAR BOWL? I also snagged a $7 Italian vase that I think isn't exactly Bitossi but is a Bitossi cousin or step-cousin. Nice mid-century look, in any case.

That's it on the left. It looks happy with its new family, the little Rosenthal-Netter and that Danish egg thing, don't you think?

Mom and Dad took us to a new swimming hole on Straight Fork Creek, just inside the national park. It was beautiful. Also, this just in: beagles are not water dogs. Percy checked the place out for a while, and then went and sat by the car. I had to snap a pic of her in her signature pose.

What I didn't do this weekend was blog. Darn it! But it was such a nice respite from Atlanta, where it was hot as balls last week. Did y'all have a nice one? Did you get Irened?

Missed you. More tomorrow. xoxo

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Flursday Digest

Tonight I lay down in Hank's room while he was going to bed and I fell asleep. Then I woke up feeling hot and pissy. I stumbled downstairs and found that, when Matt went to the store to buy diet soda, he purchased a carton of chocolate ice cream, and that one thing gave me the will to go on in the world. I mostly want to look at cargo pants online, but blogging is better because it will not lead to the purchase of cargo pants. So here are a few items:

1. I took Hank to the little meet-the-teacher event today. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they'd changed all the "John Henry" labels to Hanks. Funny, that's not what I thought they were going to do, but I can chill out, identity/spelling crisis averted! Hank seemed fine with the people and the classroom and all. Later he told Matt about his teachers. Miss L is an older lady and Miss C is younger. He said, and I swear, "So I do like old people, but I like Miss C the best, but it's not mean to say that because I do like Miss L too." Clearly he warmed to the young and pretty teacher more, but he's doesn't want to appear age-ist. He was quite taken with the indoor playground too, and told Matt that it has a slide  that takes an hour to go down.

2. Yesterday I watched Laura's tennis lesson for the first time in a long while. We took a few weeks off in the summer, but she's been taking a weekly small group lesson since April. For a long time, it was clear all the girls were having fun, but they were awkward and funny to watch. Then, yesterday, I went to watch, and darned if they haven't learned tennis! Their strokes look good, they can volley back and forth, and Laura's serve is pretty. I told Normal Neighbor that we should have a Mother-Daughter tournament, except that I might not be good enough to be Laura's partner. It was fun to see that their time and practice has paid off.

Then the coach gave them all popsicles, and there were popsicles for the little brothers who'd helped pick up balls, and there were popsicles for the moms too. Popsicles for everyone. Then all the girls and Hank changed into their swimsuits and jumped into the pool. Watching Laura with her girlfriends, I could see she felt happy and free, and I said to Normal Neighbor, "In my next life I want to come back as one of my kids."

3. Pretty Neighbor and I have been hitting our workout hard. We haven't missed a day this week, bolstered by a study that shows beer is better than water at hydrating you after exercise. A study! It is science, people! And I am spending an alarming amount of time wearing a pair of short spandex shorts. I now think that they are proper attire for many occasions. Hello world, this is me.

4. Normal Neighbor got somewhat ambiguous results from her scan. She is going to talk to a surgeon about having this procedure where they will remove the little spot from her abdominal wall--a spot they can't decide about even after the scan--and give her heated intraperitoneal chemo, right there in surgery. It sounds kind of scary to me. Her oncologist thinks she might be a perfect candidate. She is worried that the recovery will be rough. I'm worried about that too.

5. Matt and I have been watching "That Mitchell and Webb Look" on Netflix streaming. It's a British sketch comedy show, and it has moments of pure brilliance. If you need a short thing to watch to unwind with your beloved, this is a good choice. Watch some clips on the YouTube.

6. Speaking of the YouTube, here is Hank dancing. This vid is too long, but I do recommend the first 30 seconds or so.

I have loved y'all's comments on my post yesterday. I so enjoy what y'all have to say. Smooches.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It Pays To Increase Your Word Power

At the fifth grade curriculum night last night, Matt met Laura's English/Language Arts teacher and heard about this vocabulary program they do--you probably have it in your school--where the kids learn Latin (and later Greek) word stems, prefixes, and suffixes, and build up a healthy reading vocab from that.

As a little illustration of her goals, the teacher gave Matt a list of 100 Classic Words that are said to let students "read comfortably" in classic lit. Go take a look and see what you think.

When I got home from my meeting and we sat down to swap info, Matt mentioned the list and said, "There were two words on the list that I wasn't quite sure about."

Reader, my interest was piqued. Positively piqued.

(Sidebar: Matt insisted, "Okay later when you blog this, you have to find a way to tell them that, when I said I didn't know two of the words, your eyes shone." It may be true. My intense interest in this vocabulary issue may have been communicated through my eyes. As they are the window to the soul. And my soul was on fire to know what words Matt didn't know, so I could see if I knew them, not out of a desire to one-up him, but because this is where I live, where we both live. When he brandished that list, it was like, oh let us commence to play.)

Then he handed me the list and my eyes immediately went to a little '?' he had drawn next to "verdure." This made me, I admit, begin to smile involuntarily, because I knew what verdure meant. I knew I knew! And Matt, seeing this involuntary twitching of my lips, was like, "Oh you are so happy right now!" And I was! Then he said, "Well, I suppose it means greenery," and I was like, yes. Go Latin!

Then he said the other word he wasn't sure of was "fain." We agreed that this is a tricky one, as it is truly, truly archaic. You will read it in old books, but you will never hear a living person say it. He said he had a sense of it though, and thought it meant reluctant. It means the opposite of that, "willing, glad, or eager," which I only knew from reading old stuff. The only example I could think to quote him was from one of John Donne's sonnets, where the narrator says (addressing God), "Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain, but am betrothed unto your enemy." That was in the seventeenth century, and I think "fain" was on the way out then. I would look in the OED but that is so many buttons to press.

That is a really hot poem, now that I think of it.

Anyway, of the whole list, I thought "fain" was the least likely to be in the reading vocab of even an educated reader. What do you think?

Funny, when I looked at the list, I got tripped up by "tremulous." Which is way more familiar, right? I mean, I would have said that it meant "fearful," but when I come upon a word like that, it crowds into my mind with so many of its synonyms and cousins--timid, timorous, trembling, trepidatious--that I start to think I might not know exactly what it means, that I might have it confused with something else. It's a word I would avoid for that reason, I just don't feel totally confident of it.

Then we were just tucking in to a juicy discussion of "sublime" in all its different senses in aesthetics, philosophy, and critical theory, and then a phone rang and also the dog needed to be let out, and I forgot the no-doubt crucial point about Edmund Burke I was making. Just as well.

So I guess there is no great punchline to this story. I just know y'all like words, right? And this is a thing that happened in my house. Also, I am blogging every day.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Our Pre-K Class Is "Peanut-Friendly"

Thanks be to Zeus and George Washington Carver for that.

Tonight, Matt and I did what you should never do in a haunted house. Heh, we split up. He went to Curriculum Night for the fifth grade, which turned out to be fiendishly complicated, what with the switching of classes for different subjects and all the different teachers to find and meet, and then the having a list of 100 Latinate vocabulary words handed to him. Of which more about in a mo'.

So he did that and I went to the parents' meeting at Hank's new school. Now, Hank is not in Kindergarten yet, owing to his having just turned five and my wanting to guarantee his total shock-and-awe domination when he does finally matriculate, so he is going to a "young 5's" pre-K class at the big red church across the street from the medium white church where he went last year. The white church's school was fine, you know, nothing to really complain about except that they were a tiny bit DULL and he never loved going there. Cf, the blueberry incident. Meh. The big red church is supposed to be the bestest one, the one with the long, long waiting list for every year, conveniently, except the 5's. ('Cause most of the 4's go on to Kindergarten, I suppose.)

Anyway, it is a lovely place. Great outdoor space as well as a shiny, fancy indoor playground, a library, and a PE teacher. Really, a better facility than many, many elementary schools. Both of the 5's classes are headed by certified teachers. They have gobs of experience. I was thinking tonight, if this place were in Manhattan, it would cost 30k a year and there would be people trying to bribe their way in. And, if the program is as good as the staff kept telling us in their little presentation, it will be plenty good enough. Seriously, it was all, "Big Red Church is the premiere preschool in this area. Congratulations!" That was the pastor of the church saying that, not the director of the school. But okay folks, I am ready to be persuaded. Show me.

Then we went to our classrooms and I saw that on the class list posted by the door, they had Hank down as John. Understandable, because his name is John Henry, but I am sure than when I was filling out all the reg forms, I had "Hank" everywhere. I thought I'd better mention it to the teachers before they went crazy labeling his cubbies and folder and coat hook and everything. Hank is what he calls himself, Hank is what he can write, Hank is what he can read. Hank is, you know, his name. Hank the Tank. Hank Hank Hoobastank.

He is just such a Hank.

Also, you need to know that Matt and I regard the naming of our children as among our greatest accomplishments as parents. Sometimes we still high-five each other and say, "Nailed it." True fact.

So I introduced myself and said, "I'm John's mom, but you know, he goes by Hank. I wanted you to know before you wrote his name on everything." Well, they had already done just that--labeling it all "John Henry"--but the assistant teacher was making noises like they would just change everything. Then the head teacher said, "But what would you like him to learn to write?"

And that caught me up short. I mean, John Henry is his name, yes, and I do expect that one day he will write it and own it. So should he start learning that now? I didn't know what to say. What is the purpose of the labeled cubbie? Is it just so the child knows where to stow his bag? Or is proclaiming him back to himself? Reinforcing what he already thinks? Does a child need to be challenged by his cubbie label? Made to deal with the slight unfamiliarity, the momentary dislocation of realizing that, after all, it is oneself who that strange cubbie name refers to? I guess what I'm saying is, what is in a name?

Am I over thinking this?

Then the teacher said, "Because I do think it's good for him to learn to write his official name." And what I said was, "Well...I guess...that's's just that we are nickname people..." (Nickname people? HUH? Meeting me, you would never, never think that I am smart.) So we buzzed about it a bit more and the way we left it, I think, is that they were going to put "Hank" in a few key places and he was also going to take on the mantle of John Henry. I was very clear that they need to call him Hank when talking to him or he will just not even turn around.

The version of what I just told you sounded like the following when I came home and told Matt about it: "They've got all his stuff labeled John Henry and they want him to learn that, so I don't know, I guess we will work on it." And he was like, "Okay." Reader, I concealed my inner turmoil.

Oh, and the teacher said that nobody in the class has a peanut allergy, which is good, because peanut butter is the base of Hank's food pyramid. And I think the class will be good. I hope it is not too rigid, I don't think so. I am hopeful. I hope they will engage his attention and let him play enough and generally have happy times, and that they will know he is my golden treasure. Also I met a few moms who were nice. One of them had a great Marc Jacobs Blake bag from several years back, and I thought, "Oh it is ON woman!"

You know, just a normal night of hopefulness, questions of identity, latent competitiveness, doubt, self-examination, surprising moments of connection, and yearning, like you get at literally any parents' night.

Oh lord the vocab list. Will have to tell you tomorrow.

Edited to add: Matt read this and said that in no way did I conceal my inner turmoil. Hmnph.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh, Well Let's Go with That Then

The other night I was milling around in the cafeteria at Laura's open house. I tacked toward the table for volunteer sign-ups and stood, studying the twenty or so possible lists I could add myself to.

My reverie was broken when I heard my name growled. I knew exactly who it was because the only person who manages to startle me ROUTINELY in what should be normal social situations with no moments of alarm mingled with annoyance, is my neighbor the Bunco Girl. I am calling her that because she roped me into playing Bunco one time. But she is also the Tennis Girl and the PTA Girl, God help us. And she's all over the swim team. She really is everywhere.

Do you remember that post? In it, Bunco Girl makes her debut. I just went back and read it. Goodness, what got into me? So bitchy!

Anyway, the woman is a good soul but she's gruff as a bear. She was calling my name, raising her eyebrows, and craning her neck forward to get my attention, looking slightly exasperated that I hadn't noticed her even though I'd just walked up. And it is ALWAYS like this, every time I run into her. So I always start our encounter feeling like I should apologize for having not seen her, as though I were deliberately not seeing her. I mean GAH.

I'll hit the fast forward button and tell you that I signed up to help with the tennis tournament she is organizing to benefit the school. And this morning I went to a meeting about it with about twelve other ladies. We had an agenda and spent a lot of time talking about getting sponsors for the event, getting a catered lunch donated, how the play would be organized, etc. The tournament is going to be held in Fancy Land, our neighboring subdivision, and their tennis director will run it. So a class event. As you will soon ask, what was I doing there?

We got to the agenda item for winners' prizes, and I spoke up, "What were we thinking for prizes? How about big Tervis tumblers? Everybody loves those things." And the girl to my left said, "No, I've got a contact at Waterford. We'll do crystal. I'm going to see if I can get tennis balls." Everyone nodded.

Oh. So not insulated plastic cups but instead lead crystal. Sure, that sounds neat too. I guess.

And a "contact at Waterford"? Like, in Ireland? Okay, I'll hush now. I think those crystal tennis balls sound downright nifty. And then there was some discussion of whether people prefer a bowl (yes) and whether it should be engraved on the bowl or on a pedestal. And then I had a flashback to the crystal bowl that Obama got on his inauguration day. I have issues with the engraved pedestal and we should leave it there.

I mean, people DO really like those Tervis tumblers.

So I managed to sign up for helping with set up and clean up. NOT for selling raffle tickets or acquiring raffle items or something else I don't want to do.

I will keep you posted on this matter.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy Hour with Normal Neighbor

A few of us gathered for drinks at Normal Neighbor's on Friday, and this afternoon I sat with her at the pool. Lots of good NN time. If you're just coming around, I have told in the past about Normal Neighbor's colon cancer, here and here. I thought I'd give y'all an update.

When she was diagnosed back in January, I was terrified for her. After her surgery I was still terrified for her, as they were able to remove all the cancer from her colon but had to leave a couple of lymph nodes. Now, though, I'm happy to report that she is doing great. She had six cycles of chemo, and not the twelve she'd first thought she was having. That was a huge relief, because chemo was really tough on her. She had every side effect going. Terrible neuropathy, nausea, fatigue, blurry vision (!), you name it. I thought, there's no way she can live like this for twelve cycles.

I brought her lunch at chemo one day and sat with her until she could go home. I wondered what I would have made of the place if I hadn't been through it myself. It's not exactly cheery, an infusion room, and hers was less cheery than mine had been. Having done it, though, it just felt familiar. And while I was grateful I wasn't there for treatment, it was very much on my mind how possible it was that I could be there again one day. Mostly I hated that they couldn't seem to get a handle on her side effects. It was frustrating, as I didn't think she was making a big enough deal of it with her doctors.

She had a scan midway through her treatment that showed no cancer in her lymph nodes, so the chemo had worked and was working. There was one suspicious spot on her abdominal wall, but the surgeon thought it could be scar tissue from her surgery. Then she finished chemo at the end of June, and on Thursday she had another scan to take a look at everything. She'll hear the results Monday.

In the meantime, she had a great summer. She's back to playing tennis--our ALTA league starts Tuesday--and they went on some great trips. She's very tranquil about all of it, though we commiserated about how anytime we feel a pain, anywhere, we think, "It's the cancer." I told her that if my ankle hurts, I wonder briefly whether it could be ankle cancer. I try to mostly keep this hypochondria to myself.

So Friday she made little chicken salads in phyllo cups, and I walked around the corner with a bottle of wine. We gathered with the K(C)athies and another tennis friend on her back porch. Gossiping was carried out. One of the K(C)athies is getting a divorce, so we got updated on that. It was the first time I'd seen her since I got back into town at the end of July and noticed a 'For Sale' sign in her yard. The minute I saw it I thought, "Oh dear." She gave him divorce papers on Friday. So they have their house on the market, but they're both still living there. Awkward. We touched only lightly on the whole subject, she is not the gut-spilling type.

Then I told Normal Neighbor about the Dustbuster Mom, and after she finished a bout of hysterics, she said that she knows that family from girl scouts. She said, "Yes, she is friendly, but if you want to take them on, it might be a project." Hmm. The only anecdote she shared was that once her daughter had bailed out of a sleepover at the dustbuster house after only an hour, because it was "too chaotic." Then again, Normal Neighbor's daughter has some delicate sensibilities.

Then I sat with her at the pool today and she told me a bunch of things about how assy K(C)athy's husband is. Short version: assy, with anger problems.

Anyhoo. That is what is up around these parts. Housework, pool, now I'm making this soup.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Old Picture

Three Sibs
My sibs and me in 1984 or 1985, Hurricane Lake, FL
I found this little snapshot about to be thrown away with a pile of things from the basement. It was in a basket, sitting in the sandbox with a lot of other discarded stuff from my childhood room. I noticed the basket had a stack of photos in it. Every other picture was garbage, but this was on the bottom. I hate to think it was almost gone.

I have good relationships with my brother and sister today. We always did, and we are close. But this photo is poignant to me because it reminds me that there was a real, vital time when we all lived together and were growing up together. When I think about us today, I think about our adult relationships, especially with Dave, who was just seven when I went off to college. We are all busy and noisy and verbal when we get together these days. We have finished talking about being children together. There are tons of things to say to each other that have to do with our far-flung adult lives, lots of things we're engaged in, and just catching up on current events takes all our time. But in this picture, we are here together in our first family. It is moving to me. I can see in it that we are our integral selves, the same people we are now, that childhood isn't a waiting room for adulthood. We were David, Amy, and Becky then, if you get what I mean.

I showed this picture to Hank and he recognized me right away. But then he said, "I don't remember this time!" He assumed the little boy in the picture was him, because it does look so dang much like him. It kind of blew his mind. And I never realized how much Amy there is in Laura.

Dad, here is your blog post. He texted me this morning to complain that I hadn't posted late last night as has been my habit in August. I said that I was tired and that nobody was really interested in reading me on the weekend anyway. He replied that perhaps I ought to go out into the garden and eat a worm. See how he is the wind beneath my wings?

I do hope you are having a lovely Saturday.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Have Practically Attained Nirvana in My Asceticism

My mother-in-law Betty and I made our quarterly trip to Ikea today. The last time we went is here, and the time my sister almost lost her shizz in there is here. This time wasn't just a meatball trip, because Betty actually wanted to buy things. And buy them she did.

That was just one of our two carts. She bought those two armchairs (the Ekenas for you enthusiasts) and a couple of the Henriksdal dining chairs. And six pairs of curtains and a bunch of pillows. You should have seen the two of us getting those armchairs onto that cart. And then into my van. Oh me. I was sweating like a whore in church by the time it was over, and we had to take one of the chairs out of the box to fit it in, but we got her done.

I bought: three doormats (what becomes of all the doormats?); two tea towels with pictures of teacups on them; and that white plastic stool with the little rubber circles on top, the one that everyone has from Ikea. I think that is probably the most ubiquitous Ikea object out there. What do you think?

We've actually had one for years, but in our working on the basement, it worked its way down there, and yesterday I found myself needing it upstairs, and I was like, "I cannot live this way." Stools.

So I only spent like $21 and it was all cool. I just repeated my mantra, "I already have nice things," and it was fine. EXCEPT when I saw that they now make a cushion for the Poang chair--another thing maybe one in three people have--a cushion that is made of gray sheepskin. Holy macaroly. Look upon it. All must love it and despair.

It cost $189. I thought, "That pays for a month of electricity in the summer, when the A/C is running." That helped me walk away but I am not kidding, I have thought about it all afternoon. It is so me that there is no more me beyond that.

I mean, the two Poang chairs we have had for about eleven years do have functioning cushions, if a little worn and faded. When we first got those chairs, they were our main furniture. They've suffered a process of slow demotion over the years. Now, one is in the book room, and one is in the basement nerd lair. They are super comfy though, as you know if you have 'em.

This is a thrilling post: Old Furniture I Have Known

So, yes, Betty got some lovely things to fix up her living room. And Hank got a cinnamon roll and to play in the Smaland. And I got some meatballs and a feeling of sanctified austerity. A win-win-win.

Any retail item that's got you yearning?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Matt told me that he was walking through the paint department at Home Depot when something about the young guy working there caught his attention.

Matt said, "Am I crazy or are you also the paint guy at Lowe's?"

The guy looked straight at him and said, "You are not crazy, but I do not work at Lowe's."

Matt said, "Got it."

He told me he walked away berating himself for his lack of smoove moves, to have blurted out the question like that. 'Cause ya see, that guy did work at Lowe's! He did, he did! I would have been all, "Oh OKAY DUDE I'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE! BECAUSE HOW WOULD I HAVE EVER SEEN YOU, HAVING NEVER BOUGHT PAINT AT HOME DEPOT, WHICH IS HERE, AT HOME DEPOT! MAY I WINK AT YOU NOW?"

Your secret is safe with me and my blog readers, Paint Department Guy!

(I just love being in the know about something. You?)

Matt and his boys moved down to work in the basement today. The project's not done, but it's habitable for them right now. We got all the walls fixed up and primed at least, and it just looks like they're white. The concrete floor looks good. The bathroom works. It still needs real paint and finish carpentry, but the FIVE of them just decided they couldn't stand another moment in the tiny veal-fattening pen of my guest room.

I forgot to take a picture before they moved in their mismatched, whickety-whack office furniture. But I will when we get the prettier paint up. They have a fridge down there and everything. I'd like to go hang out and drink soda and flush the toilet, but they're all, like, working and stuff.

So today, when they vacated their old room, I was pleased to see how big it really is. It just looked small with five desks in it. Funny, that. All that's left of them is some nerdy books and the dirty spot on the wall where Matt put his feet. First order of business: repaint that room. Second: use the groupon thing I bought for carpet cleaning (that room has carpet, gaargh).

The kids are thrilled to have an empty room to run into. It was the headquarters for an intense nerf gun battle earlier tonight. I totally get their excitement, it just gives you an expansive feeling, having new (old) space. And the downstairs, big time exciting! Something about that expanse of empty, shiny floor. Before the guys moved their desks down there, it would have been the most awesome private roller rink.

It is not late, but I'm going to crash. Smacks,

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Other People's Housekeeping

So Laura has only been back to school a few days, but she's made a new friend in her class, and on Friday afternoon, the girl's mom called me to invite Laura over. They're just one subdivision away, so I was over there dropping her off lickety split. The other mother was very friendly, outgoing, great. We chatted on the driveway for a minute and then I drove away.

When I came back for the pick-up, I stepped inside. I was regaling the mom with tales of our basement project (yes I'm talking about it with everyone), and saying hi to the other members of the family. There are three kids in the family and a couple of those tiny dogs that always seem to be wet on some part of their bodies. So while I'm chatting and trying to be all getting-to-know-you, my eyeballs are magnetically drawn to look at the staircase, which is right in front of me, facing the front door. It was a stair with hardwood steps and white painted risers. What I couldn't stop ogling was a black dirt stain in the middle of each riser, as though months (and years?) of feet had kicked the riser on the way up. I thought, this is totally an instance of how you sometimes don't see your own dirt, 'cause there is no way she wouldn't be scrubbing that right this minute if she knew how it looked. I was trying to pay attention to our convo but my neck wanted to swivel around and look at the stairs. I longed for a magic eraser and a moment alone.

Anyway, we said our fond farewells and then I was in the car with Laura. She said what a great time she'd had with her new pal. Then she said, "Their house is really messy though. It was kind of hard to be there." And then I'm all ears, but I'm trying to be all casual and not lead the witness, and I want to say DID YOU NOTICE THE STAIRS?? but I also don't want to be snitty, but I am hoping simultaneously that I'm raising a child who is observant of these things, even though it is not a huge deal, and so on. So what I decided to say was, "Oh?"

And she said, "Yes, we were making cookies in the kitchen, and it was kind of dirty, and Mrs. D was using a dustbuster to catch fruit flies out of the air."

I said, "Wait, she was doing WHAT?" And Laura described how her friend's mom was standing in the middle of the kitchen, holding a hand-held vacuum, like a butterfly hunter with a net, turning and spinning this way and that, jabbing into the air with her suction wand.

Y'all, I laughed this cleansing laugh that started deep in my belly and bounced off of the sky. It rumbled over the hills and awakened tawny deer nestling in the woods, my laugh did.

Just picturing it, man!

Then we were back home. I told Laura, "Okay, do it again, act out what she was doing." She assumed a half crouch, with the turning in a circle, the crinkled brow, and the semi-fearful jabbing at the air. And she said "Vrrm! Vrrm!" to be the vacuum cleaner noise. Vrrm! Vrrm! Jab jab. Vrrm vrrm!

I wonder if that even works as a way to rid one's living space of fruit flies?

As we say down here, BLESS HER HEART. I want to spend more time with this woman. I think her housekeeping needs work, but I really like her. She has a certain joie de vivre that I want to get next to. Just a hunch.

Vrrm vrrm!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Daily Blog

BeckBloPoMo rolls on. (That's Beck's Blog Posting Month for those of you just joining us.) Let's do this blog post.

Last night Matt and I stayed up pretty late priming the main room in the basement. Until 4:00, I believe. We have a five-gallon bucket of primer and a lot of unpainted drywall. I got one of those little square pads that are good for edging, or "cutting in" as the pros insist on calling it even though nobody's dancing, and I edged/cut in everywhere. Then we both went to work with rollers. Turns out that using a long roller engages the muscle that I'd pulled a week ago, and which had slowly gotten better until I did a bunch of painting. Now there are certain positions that I can't get into and out of without making exaggerated grimaces. It's also a muscle that hurts when I sneeze or laugh. Or, I guess, sob, but nothing has gotten that bad yet.

Interlude: Before our painting work began, Matt came to where I was sitting on the couch, minding my own blogness. He said, "In a minute can you come down to the basement and hold the flashlight and not tell me that what I'm doing is crazy?"

While he said this, he was wearing knee pads.

Reader, I was intrigued. I told him I was fine with the first part, but that I wasn't sure what might come out of my mouth in the heat of the moment. It turns out that he was cutting more sheetrock but I can't talk about it.

Go now and get a drink from your fridge before Matt hangs sheetrock over it.

So, priming. Which is like painting only nothing is pretty afterwards. We got the main room finished and could have started the bathroom, but our trays were empty and it was late/early. You know, it was fine. I sound kind of negative right now, for no real reason. This morning I was rather draggy and tired. And all day I just felt a little, I don't know, flat.

It caused me to reflect on the fact that usually, I feel really, really good. Almost euphoric, even. I haven't talked about this. But I have wondered sometimes, especially in the last year or so, if I have some kind of mental issue or problem that causes me to feel better or happier than is strictly warranted. I think of it as my irrational exuberance. I do know to be grateful for this. It's odd, though. I always feel as though something wonderful is just around the corner, that something good is building. Somehow this coexists with, or is maybe sharpened by, the occasional dread and worry I feel about things. Is this a chemical thing? Is this just what we call being happy? Blogging-induced narcissism? (Prob-uh-blee.)

It's possible that I'm crazy from sleep-deprivation.

ANYHOO. So, we were up late priming, priming like crazy. We were prime as goats, hot as monkeys...ho ho! Shakespeare references are fun.

Sleep deprivation.

So all day I was a little flat and didn't want to do anything, and indeed not much got done. In the afternoon, Pretty Neighbor texted me and asked if we were going to get together for our workout. I had been hoping she would forget my phone number. But I could only say yes. So we did, even though I thought I was too tired and my muscle was too sore. I have an injury! But it was fine. And the workout made me feel good. And then we drank a beer.

And then I came home and Matt's mom was here, and we took Hank to the store and got him an icee, and I came home and made red beans and rice with sausage. And other stuff happened and it was all fine.

So this is a story of how I felt a little run down but basically fine. Brought to you in living color by daily blogging. See, this is the kind of stuff that winds up on the cutting room floor when I'm not blogging every damn day.

Now I really want to get horizontal but I'm actually going to go down and see if I can help Matt. Let's talk tomorrow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Proper Send-Off

Hank and I were playing Legos in the book room yesterday morning. As usual, it was some kind of pitched battle with heavy Lego fighting all over the place. A blue lego man got hit with a cannonball fired from one of my pirate boats, and he fell off the castle. Hank determined that he was dead and needed a grave, so I made a little box out of blocks and sealed the Lego man into it with a bigger block.

I said, "Okay, he is buried." Hank said, "Good job, now we need to visit his grave." So all the Lego people ceased their fighting, and we lined them up around the tomb. Hank said, "Now we need to say a prayer. Dear God, please bless this Lego guy who is dead."

"Amen," I added. We were silent.

I said, "Okay, is that it?"

Hank said, "No! Now we need to celebrate his life."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Epic Basement Action

It took me all day yesterday to recover from what went on in the basement Thursday night. I've been too tired to even tell you, omg!!!!1!

Our builder dudes were finished with their work on Tuesday, a bit earlier than was expected. In accordance with his scheme, Matt then spent all day Wednesday and Thursday down there hanging drywall in three additional rooms. Since our marital discord around this plan the other day, I had kept my mouth shut and waited to see what would happen. I was busy with life on the main floor, but I thought maybe it would work out or maybe he would change his mind once he got into the project, and then we would move ahead with our floor staining and painting.

Matt did tell me that he had done drywall before. I was like, "Really? When in our sixteen years of marriage, a time in which I've been pretty closely observing you, did you manage to get around and hang some drywall?" (That's me keeping my mouth shut.) He reminded me that he did construction one summer in college. Ah. I hadn't remembered that. I just remembered how tan and muscly he was when he got back to school. So yes, drywall. Drywall is hot!

And then, lo, he got it done, he got all the drywall in place. One thing I forgot in this situation is that Matt is like a force of nature. Once he decides to do something, something that is important to him, he will not stop. Honey badger don't care.

So it got to be Thursday evening and Matt had not surfaced from his basement activities. I knew that according to the timeline he had in his head, he wanted to have the first coat of stain on the concrete floor by bedtime. That meant that the drywall needed to be taped and have the first round of mudding done. Then the storage area--a  room we call the bomb shelter--needed to be cleared out because we're staining the whole floor, even in the unfinished areas. Then the bare floor needed to be cleaned, and cleaned well. Then the stain needed to be put on.

I decided that I better step in and help, and that this situation was covered in some portion of our marriage vows. I can't remember which part but I know I promised a buncha things. So I put the kids to bed Thursday night and went down into the depths about ten o'clock. Our bud (and Matt's coworker) Lincoln showed up to help.

Reader, we worked until 6:30 Friday morning. OMG. Yes, to the break of dawn!

It was not the all-nighter that dreams are made of.

First I got a crash course in taping drywall. It involved getting up and down off a stepladder a lot. Then I got to apply the joint compound. That was kind of fun--the joint compound is the consistency of heavy-duty frosting, and it was like decorating a fugly cake. When that was done I was kind of tired.

But nobody showed any sign of slowing down. The whole time Matt and I had been working on the drywall, Lincoln was emptying the bomb shelter. He picked things up and carried them out the back door for two hours. We chatted. They talked about work a lot. I frosted the walls.

Then that was done and the entire 1500 square feet of basement floor was cleared off. We swept. Then I vacuumed, and then Matt vacuumed. That white dust that sheetrock produces...oh man, we sucked so much of that off the floor and out of the crevices. At one point the vacuum cleaner gave signs of walking off the job, and Matt took it out into the backyard and gave it a talking to. Or cleaned the filter. Then Lincoln and I mopped, the old-fashioned way, with two buckets of water, one for clean water and soap, and the other to rinse.

Have you ever mopped a concrete slab? It does not make you feel like the smiling housewife in a 1950's commercial. More that the water disappears before your very eyes, soaked into the concrete, and you hardly feel like you're doing anything, except the mop and then the water and then you get filthy. And this feels like progress. Also, mopping is hard. It wasn't like schmooping or schmopping or whatever my hardwoods, with the cute microfiber mop head and the darling spray bottle. This mopping made my back sore. And it was a lot of floor and it's not smooth, frictionless floor.

Even so, morale was high. There was a definite esprit de corps, and many hands make light work and all. It just got later and later. And Matt showed no signs of stopping. Like the Oompa Loompas in that one part of that movie. Or like Kurtz. Dude was determined. Did I totally get the timeline and the urgency? Do I now? Not really, but I didn't want to be the weakest link.

Somehow in typing all this it doesn't seem like that much work. But at the time, I swear, I thought, "We few, we happy few! The bards will sing of what we have done this night!"

We got the floor clean, and it was dry almost immediately. Matt rigged up the sprayer with the concrete stain and put the first coat down. We sprayed our way out of the basement and up the stairs. I staggered into the dawn and realized that Laura was getting up for school. I got her on her way, showered, and fell asleep. And Hank, bless his sweet heart, slept until after ten o'clock.

Not much was accomplished on Friday. I was too tired to work out with my neighbor. But not too tired to roll over there and eat birthday cake with her family. I figure I burned a lot of calories mopping that concrete slab.

So the floor is coming along. Matt put a second coat of sealer on it this afternoon. I'll do a post with all the floor details, it might be edutaining for someone. Here's what it looked like after the first coat of sealant.

So that is what is going on below decks. And the whole night, Matt and I got along beautifully and never squabbled. Until today when he started talking about something crazy and I was all, uh, not on my watch beeyotch, and he was all ??? and I said, um, I didn't mean for that to sound as negative as it did and he said, yeah, you couldn't have meant for that to sound as negative as it did.

I'm paraphrasing.

Longest post ever.

Happy Saturday, my dears!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Just Ask Anyone

First Day of School
First Day of School
Laura went to her first day of fifth grade today and came home full of her usual vim. I met her at the bus stop, and when we got into the house I said, "Okay, tell me everything that happened. You got on the bus, and then what?" Later, when we were having supper, Matt said to her, "Okay, so tell me everything that happened today. Start with getting on the bus. Who did you sit with?" We were a willing audience for her reportage and she was a very willing narrator.

The thing that's rocking her world the most is that one of her teachers is a real, live man. This is a first. The fifth graders switch classrooms for different subjects, and she has a dude for her Math teacher and she is already crazy about him. Thus begins her life of having crushes on male teachers and professors, as certain other people have done before her. Until she gets to grad school, and then suddenly it's the female professors who are more crushable. That's a whole 'nother story, what was I talking about?

So Laura applied today to be a peer tutor and be matched with a Kindergarten kid. She brought home her application, on which she had written her qualifications:
I believe I would be a good peer tutor because I love kids, I have been around the school a long time, and I do not get exasperated easily. I am very patient and I get good grades. I also have great behavior. Just ask anyone!
The "just ask anyone" absolutely slew me. "I mean, don't take my word for it! Just ask anyone. Literally anyone." Her complete and joyous confidence is heartening and even inspirational to me. I imagine there will be world enough and time for it to be tempered with a little modesty.

Have some of you guys started back to school? I know in civilized places there are weeks more of summer vacation. Such a weird time of year, I feel pulled in two directions.

Gotta go back downstairs and help mud the drywall. Oh yes. You'll be hearing about it. xoxox

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Got A Box Full of Letters

Do you know that song by Wilco? It came out the year I got married. It has a verse I think is funny:

I got a lot of your records,
in a separate stack.
There's some things I might like to hear,
But I guess I'll give them back.

That says more about the end of a relationship than entire novels I have read. It's that word "might." Economy of language, friends.

Sunday before last, the kids and I got home from the mountains really late. As late as it was, Matt was down in the basement busily sorting and clearing out so that Larry and Darryl the basement guys could start the next morning. I wanted to just stare into his eyes and feed each other grapes, you know, but he had different ideas. He led me to four cardboard boxes. I tried to pretend I had no idea what he was asking, but his meaning was clear. I recognized the four boxes as things from my old room at my parents' house. Boxes that had come straight to our basement unsorted. Three of them were books, but one was a box full of letters.

Matt wanted me to go through them and decide what to keep and what to chuck, so I did. I was merciless on the books. Then I opened the last box. There were three strata: high school stuff with a little middle school thrown in, letters to and from college friends and boyfriends, and notes and memorabilia from my study-abroad time in Rome. I knew that if I'd had time and a more comfortable place to sit, I could have fallen headlong into a slough of memory and desire. But I was kind of efficient. When I found bits of an old journal, say, I didn't read it so much as take note of its existence and move on. This was all stuff I had wanted to save at one time. Now a good bit of it was garbage. I threw away a bunch of grades and official records/awards type junk. I kept a fair amount of high school writing, my own and others'. I kept anything that had been written by a friend I still have today. So if you are within the sound of my voice right now, and you knew me in high school, there's some poetry of yours that needs analyzing. I threw away my ACT scores but kept my SAT's, figure that one out. I threw away my notes from my Opera class in Rome, I kept the Art History ones.

The absolutely untouchable category was the letters. It's amazing to think now, but in the early nineties, we college kids wrote each other letters. Lots of them. I had a tight-knit circle of friends, and when we were separated by school breaks or study abroad, we wrote. Some long letters, some postcards. Now those letters speak of lazy summers and low-end jobs we had between terms. Who has time to do that anymore? It's odd. I think we had email addresses--I remember the school gave them to us, maybe--but we must not have used them? I know I never in college had a personal computer. Now, by early 1995 when my long-distance courtship with Matt was heating up, we were both on AOL. Then we emailed and IM'd and all the rest. But there are lots of letters between us from before the dawn of email. I felt pleasure pulling them out of the box. Something about that physical, tangible object. It feels like a gift from the letter writer, the letter is a gift to you of the time it took to write and send it.

Of course, at the same time, this is what my dissertation was about: letters and letterness, especially the way a letter's controlling fiction is that it's an intimate, true, "real" piece of the writer's presence. Once, in a class I taught, one of my brilliantest students was musing on the difference, in genre terms, between a letter and a postcard. She said, "It's like a letter presents the person and is all about closeness, and a postcard embraces the distance." And I thought, "I could put down my chalk and leave the room, 'cause they get it."

Anyway, so I was pulling these various letters from various people out of the box and exclaiming over them. I couldn't get into reading them because there were miles to go before we slept, and Matt and I hadn't seen each other in a few days and we had important chatting to chat. So I put them all in a safe keeper pile. I just don't have it in me to throw out someone's personal letter.

Which brings me to the funny thing that happened: down in the box was a pile of letters to an old boyfriend of mine from another old girlfriend of his, somebody before me. I never knew this person or laid eyes on her. There were ten or twelve letters on business-sized stationery. She had beautiful handwriting and she decorated the outside of the envelopes. Again, who has time to do this anymore? Reader, I don't know why I had these. Maybe they were part of some of his belongings that transferred to me somehow? We never lived together so I don't know. I didn't remember them at all. I don't know if I had once read them or not. It seemed an odd thing for me to keep. But there was no way I could throw them away.

So I messaged the old boyfriend on the facebook. We've always been on good terms; we have mutual friends, though it's been ten years since I saw him. I told him, hey, I found these old letters from your old girlfriend X, don't know why I have 'em. Would you like me to send them to you? I didn't want to throw them away, but if you don't want them now, lemme know and I will give them a respectful burial.

And he hasn't written back to me. That was a week and a half ago. I'm kind of surprised I didn't hear right back, one way or the other. He is married now, but I wasn't offering to send him naked pictures of this other girl. So I don't know. Maybe it just seemed like something he didn't really want to deal with? Or didn't want to make a decision about? If he doesn't ask for them (I don't know his address), I really have no reason in the world to keep them, except that it seems utterly impossible to throw out the work of someone's hand like that.

What would you do? What will probably happen is that they'll live in my possession for another fifteen years. And then I will be less sentimental and one day they'll get tossed. Or my heirs will puzzle over who are these people and are these now precious family treasures?

That was a nice night in the basement, even if we weren't feeding each other grapes. I thought about how much I enjoy Matt's company and who he is and our life together, and how sometimes I feel like life is rushing by and there might not be enough time to talk about all the things I want to talk about with him.

It's hilarious that I've had this blog for three years, because in all that box of letters, I didn't read anything that I had written. I put it all aside for some future time when maybe I can stand myself. You know?

Other Important Things Besides Our Basement

School starts on Thursday and Laura will be in the fifth grade. I took her to get a back-to-school haircut today. I know that as a mother, there is no greater gift I can give her than the confidence that comes from a salon blowout.

Can you tell in this picture we are a tiny bit in love with ourselves? Tonight was her school's open house, and she joked about how she'd introduce herself to her teacher: "Hi, I'm Laura, and this is my blowout. Where is our desk please?" She even stayed home from the pool this afternoon to keep it nice. I mean, the girl loves the pool, but that is the smooth blonde hair of dreams. She'll probably sleep sitting up until Thursday.

You should see my hair right now. I am like a tawny lion. Here.

That's mah hair pushed back with a little headband. When I've just washed it, like I did today, the curls cannot be tamed. Forgive the low light and Michelle Bachmann crazy eyes. Lion! Rawrr!

Hank is not so concerned as Laura with his coiffure.

Yesterday I was out with Hank, and he climbed down from the car and stood in the parking lot. "It is hot as HELL out here," he said. He made this pronouncement not at all like he thought he was swearing, just exactly like I would say it. I couldn't even come up with a correction, because he was perfectly right. It was absolutely mothereffing hot as the hinges of hell and it was the perfect moment to remark such. I just said, "Mm hmm. Now hold my hand in the parking lot."

Then, THEN, I walked Hank and his buddy into Kangazoom, one of those bounce house places. A while back, they had a Groupon that offered a 10-visit punch card for $20 or $30. I can't remember which, but it was a really good price. We had gone once, in the spring, right after the Groupon, but I was waiting until a day when it was, you know, hot as hell to come back. So Hank and his bud and I all walked into Kangazoom, all wearing the all-important socks and ready to rock. I signed the little waivers for the boys. And the girl behind the counter told me that would be $18.50. Yes, a walk-in visit to this place costs $9.25, choke. I remembered I hadn't shown her my punch card, so I pulled it out of my wallet.

She pointed to our little friend, "Is he related to you?" No, I told her, he's our friend. She said, "Well you can't use the punch card for him, it's just a family pass." I studied the punch card. "When did that start?" I asked. "It's been that way from the beginning," she said. Hmm, I thought. She said, "Did you get that from the Groupon?" And I said I had. "It was on the Groupon," she said. Hmm. I didn't remember any provision that the pass was only good for one's own children, but I supposed it was just possible. I didn't want to make a huge thing. "Okay," I said. While I was looking in my wallet, she had a sudden change of heart, punched the card twice, and handed it to me. "Here," she said, "I've had a really bad day." I didn't know what to make of that so I thanked her and joked, "Is all the screaming getting to you?" "No," she said, "It's the moms." Whoa. So I smiled and we went on in and the boys jumped.

And I looked up my Groupons right there on my handy Groupon app. I could still read the fine print for the Kangazoom deal. There was nothing anywhere that indicated it was to only be used for one's own family. That wouldn't even make sense. How would that even be worded? It just said that it was valid for one punch per child per day. It annoyed me because it seems like a clear instance of the merchant, in this case Kangazoom, thinking better of the whole Groupon thing and wanting to have backsies on the deal, at the expense of the customer. Which will do nothing but tick people off, because even if I'd had to pay for our friend right then, I am gonna get my ten free jumps sometime. I would have complained to Groupon if the girl hadn't gone ahead and honored the punch card. I still might. Heck, I am now. If the point of participating in Groupon is to build goodwill among customers who have a choice of a million other bounce places, this won't do it.

Anybody had a similarly icky situation with a Groupon? I've heard mixed things. I've always been happy with the ones I've bought, but I'm pretty selective. Like, only buying Groupons for restaurants we already go to, stuff like that.

ANYHOO. I bought the boys each a drink and snack from their snack bar because she'd made me feel like a freeloader. And a good time was had by all.

And now Matt is down in the basement poking around. I better go see what he is doing! And offer my opinion!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

So Harmonious Already, Like Oxen Sharing A Yoke

Well, that didn't take long. Matt and I have already enjoyed our first home improvement argument. Or it wasn't a full-blown argument as neither of us would show steel over something like this. It was more that we sketched out the contours of a possible argument that we could have and then I left the field, perhaps saying something like, "Well obviously you have no need of my opinion," like one says, and then Matt called foul on me for saying that and criticized the approach I was taking to the argument. It was like a meta-argument except that the idea of a meta-argument makes me so exhausted I would never admit to beginning or engaging in one.

Aren't you so glad I'm blogging every day?

The scene was set by a long trip we made to the home improvement store tonight. Matt was going and for some reason I wanted us all to go. I am still giddy with the notion of paint cards and floor finishing and things that are fun, you know? So the idea of going seemed exciting. It wasn't as exciting after I remembered I don't really like those places and then I wound up holding Hank in my arms due to an invisible, minor, and possibly illusory scratch he suffered on his arm. Before that, I did manage to have a long conversation with the flooring associate about carpet for the basement stairs. I found out that installing carpet on stairs costs $13 per stair, and that all carpet is scandalously ugly. It just is. I have carpet all over my second floor, and I've never really felt one way or the other about it. But I realized I've never bought carpet, and it isn't fun to pick out. Especially on those disembodied sample sheets. Seriously, there were some Berber samples she showed me that made me feel like I would never be joyful again. That wasn't Matt's fault.

The whole point of the trip was so that Matt could do some reconnaissance on what would be involved in going further than the basement guys are going, and sheetrocking a couple more rooms himself after they finish what they're doing. When he told me this plan, he prefaced it by saying, "Free your mind." Which is our throat-clearing utterance that we use when we want to propose something that may be met with resistance. I promised that my mind was free, and then when it turned out that his plan was something to do with building materials, I was like, "Fine, if you want to do that, go for it." And on the way to the store, I was supportive. I let him know this by saying, "I'm supportive of your plan."

But once we got home, the kids were in bed, and we were standing down in the basement, I just felt that he was being a scoosh unrealistic about how much can be accomplished before next Monday, which is when he wants all his guys to move down there and work. He says Monday is "not negotiable." Keeping in mind that Larry and Darryl the basement guys will not be gone until Wednesday. And we then need to clean and prep the floor, stain and seal it, and paint the walls. I can't see a major construction project happening if Monday is the goal. That was my position, and to strengthen it I cited Matt's well-documented and not-always-warranted optimism about how much can be done in a limited amount of time. I could give you chapter and verse, but it will all be in the biography I will write about him so I will spare you here. His optimism and self-belief are among his most appealing traits, they are. Anyway.

So I was like, "It will take us all four days to do this floor and paint. There is no time for anything else." And he was all, "Yes there is. I will do it." And then I realized that there was no need for me to draw that line in the sand. What was I arguing for? If the man wants to hang some sheetrock, why not? He wasn't asking me to stand there and hold his nail apron.

Then I gestured to a wire rack hanging on the wall, where I used to store gift wrap. I told him that I looked forward to having a little gift wrap station down there again, maybe with a little table under it. He said, "Hmm, maybe in the far future, but there won't be anything in these rooms that isn't office-related." And then I was like, you're kind of being a butt, and killing my joy. And he said he didn't want to kill my joy.

But it was too late. The joy was dead. Then I stood up and brushed off the seat of my shorts and came up here to tell you about it. He followed me to admonish me for beginning to argue about the basement. That's also what we call being a butt.

Possibly I was also being a butt, due to some submerged and obscure issues of my own. I don't know.

So that is what's going on in basement today.

I'm glad we had this talk. I'm sure in a little while we'll be lapping out of the same dish again.

I love you guys and I know you would never tell me I can't have a gift wrap station in your new home office.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Science

Are you curious about what happens when you drop a smoke bomb into a glass of water? The SubMat family bravely carried out that very experiment last week and I give you the results here. Please forgive the odd moment when I turned my iphone sideways while recording.

Does this count as a vlog? Am I a vlogger?

What are y'all up to? Except for our trip to the hardware store yesterday, I have not left the house. Last night the Hamiltons came over, and we had Mexican takeout and played a card game Matt made. Speaking of science, today I taught Laura how to clean a toilet. Then I showed her how to use Spotify. (Guess which one she liked better?) Actually, an old post of mine about the proper way to clean a toilet still gets Google traffic every day. Yet Klout continues to say that I'm influential on "parenting, Manhattan, photography, and shoes." What the hecks, Klout? Why are you so blind to my toilet influence? I've now blogged about toilets like three days in a row. (Sorry.) I mean, Manhattan? I did go there one time.

So Laura and I tackled the bathrooms today, then I vacuumed the downstairs, getting the baseboards and all the corners where it turns out Fabienne had been kinda half-assing it. Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as vacuuming under a couch. Then I cooked a chicken. Then I jumped on the trampoline with Hank and pulled a muscle. Now I'm reading a library book. I know it is boring, but I said I would blog every day and this is what happens.

Shall we reconvene tomorrow?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

We Are Flushed with Excitement

This is Laura exulting in the fact that there's now a working toilet in our basement. That's the bathroom-in-progress behind her. As soon as the kids saw that potty, they both wanted to use it. Something about the novelty of peeing in a room in your house you could never pee in before? I will admit that I felt it too, the desire to give the toilet its maiden flush.

It is exciting though, just the idea of having more usable space in the house. The basement guys were down there all week, working on a couple of rooms for Matt and the four (!) other guys who are now in my guest room. (They hired another guy last week and things officially went from crowded to some kind of reality-show dare.) The basement space is going to be very basic--no granite wet bar--but it will give us all some much-needed wiggle room. Like I will get to wiggle back into what used to be my office.

In a spasm of frugality, Matt told the basement guys that we would do the floor and the painting ourselves. Because we are so, so handy. No, we are not. But we are game. And I have always liked the look of a concrete floor that has been stained and buffed, so we decided that's what we'd do. I researched it this morning. Most DIY websites make it seem super-duper complicated, like, compose your mind, then put on rubber waders and etch/clean the floor with acid, and then neutralize the acid with baking soda, and then pour out libations to the gods, then clean up the libations with a shop-vac, and so on.

Then I read a bunch of old Apartment Therapy posts and people were like, "Oh yeah, just throw some stain on that shit! Put a bird on it!" So I thought that if the actual task were somewhere in between those two scenarios, we could handle it.

We loaded up the whole family and went to the big box home improvement store. Matt and I talked to a fairly knowledgeable dude in the paint department, and he made it seem pretty simple. He told us that with an untreated slab, like we have in the basement, there is no need to etch it or clean it with acid, it is rough enough. We can just clean it, clean it again, apply the stain with a sprayer, and then decide if we want to put a glossy sealer on it (I do). So we left there with the tools we need to do the job, we think. I'm sure you will hear more about this.

The basement guys should be finished in the middle of the week. I will not miss the pounding. Oh my God, the pounding. When I returned from the mountains late last Sunday night, Matt warned me that they would be starting work at 7:30 the next morning. I thought, "It will be in the basement, I sleep on the second floor, how loud could it be?" Oh ha. Ha ha. It turns out that when someone is doing framing work at the bottom of your house, they are banging on the bones of your whole house. It is loud, best believe.

So, to recap: if you come to my house, we can offer you an additional place to potty. And Matt and I are going to stain the floor. I know it will be really good for our relationship, because they always say that trying new things keeps your marriage fresh. Onward.

Friday, August 5, 2011

At Quietwater Beach in Pensacola

Laura on the dock
Laura heads to the end of the dock.

To Jump?
To jump in or not?


Perfect Form!
Like that form.

laura at quietwater beach
Happy to have taken the leap.

When I'm Right. . .

Last month I was up in the mountains for a weekend that turned into ten days, 'member? Because our car was broken and then it was more broken, and I had a lot of stress eating I needed to do. In fact I moved through all the five Kübler-Ross stages of grief: shock, stress eating, cussing, whining, and finally watching "The Wire."

Then some friends from California arrived and everything was groovy, we had our van and were going to redeem the other car after the weekend was over. Then, the afternoon of our last full day up there, I walked out of the store into the parking lot and happened to really look at our front tires. I am not in the habit of looking at my tires, but even I could tell they didn't look good. Maybe I had in mind that Elle had had a tire blowout on the highway not long before, I don't know.

I drove back up to the house and told Matt, "Those front tires on the van are not safe. I don't really want to drive them home to Atlanta tomorrow and I'm sure not driving them to Florida the day after that." Matt was like, "Hmmm, well, they're not going to blow out anytime soon, but you're right, they do need to be replaced, so I'll see what I can do in the morning before we leave." He didn't exactly say, "Okay precious, I don't share your feeling of urgency, but if it will make you feel better," but that was sort of the mood, you know?

So the next morning was tightly scheduled because we had to leave the mountain house in some kind of order, pick up our other car, and make it down to Atlanta in time to pick up Matt's mom from the airport. So we found a tire place on the internet that looked okay (it had seven five-star reviews in Google!) and Matt said he would be there when it opened. Our friend Mike offered to go with him, I think because it sounded like a manly outing and in my experience, guys don't like to hang around the house with the women and children when there's something that involves tools or danger or picking up pizza. So, even though Matt didn't think it was completely necessary, bright and early, they set off for the tire place.

And they got a flat tire before they were off the mountain.

With the two of them, it was no problem to put the spare tire on and roll along to the tire place, where they were taken care of promptly and sent on their way again. And when Matt got home and told me they had a flat, did I say "I told you so?" Reader, I did not. I had no need to. There was no righter I could be and no need to say it myself. I just stood there clad in Righteousness.

Later I asked Matt if he thought the tire place deserved all their five star reviews, and what was so five-star about the place. He said that they had put on four new tires and balanced them in 25 minutes. And he said that they had a relaxed sort of casualness about their operations, that you drove your own car onto the lift, and that they seemed to have no problem if customers wanted to stand around in the garage, or smoke in the garage, or remove their shirts in the garage. You know, friendly-like. In Sylva, NC, that is five-star service.

Reader, have you ever been proven so delightfully right? The moment still savors, you know?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Class We Bring to Every Situation

One morning in the mountains last week, Hank could not find his shoes. He can't find things for crap but I couldn't find them either. We do provide shoes for the child, even shoes that fit him and have laces, but he has spent the last four months wearing a single pair of blue World Cup edition Crocs, the "Italia" ones with a snazzy flag on the back. Yes, he picked them out. Because of his deep love of professional soccer? I dunno. But they're his go-to shoes and the only ones he had with him up there.

The Crocs, in happier times.
Then they were missing and we were trying to leave the house to go to town and get some lunch. Everyone was already in the car, waiting. I said, "Okay, our first stop will be at Walmart and I will get him a pair of flip flops." I am not a Walmart fan, but I wanted to pay approximately 89 cents for these shoes, and Mom had errands to run, and she could run them there.

When we got to the parking lot, I grabbed a buggy from near the car, carried Hank to it across the 200 degree asphalt, and sat him in the little seat. I wheeled him through the entrance, planning to beeline to the shoes. Then I heard an ancient, creaky voice saying, "Ma'am? Ma'am!" I realized I was being interpellated by the Walmart Greeter. I had never heard a Walmart Greeter actually speak, much less, um, Greet. So I had to blink for a moment or two before I could respond. This gave the blessed antediluvian soul time to state her business. "You have to keep him in that seat, hon. You can't let him get down with no shoes." She shook her head apologetically, as though letting one's child run barefoot through a big box store really should be one of the freedoms we take for granted as Americans, but this world today, what can you do? I smiled brightly and said that I was going straight to the shoes.

So that is how we were almost not well-dressed enough to enter Walmart.

And then, THEN, we get back to the shoes, and Hank turns into a tiny Tim Gunn on me. The flip flops he couldn't keep on his feet--it was comical--so those were out. And when I presented him with a pair of faux Crocs (Frocs? Crocks?) he said, "Those aren't really my style."

Oh, of course, would sir allow me to show him something in a Lightning McQueen slip-on? His style, RIGHT.

I finally found a pair of plain black canvas tennis shoes, like pretend Keds, that he agreed to wear. And they cost $3. I put them on his feet and we completed our business. At the check out counter, I wanted to have them scan his foot, but I removed one shoe instead. And then the next day I found the blue Italia Crocs behind the hot tub.

So that was a thing that happened one time. Having my sense of decorum justifiably called into question at the entrance to Walmart. xoxox-B

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cue The World's Tiniest Violin, Again

Last week, while I was in North Carolina, my house cleaner Fabienne broke up with me in a text. I'd been expecting to hear from her about which day she was coming to clean, but what I heard instead was that she's taken a full-time job and won't be cleaning anymore. Her text also said that her stepmother could take me on.

I read this text and my mouth fell open, just like a comic strip character's. I felt happy for her but also sad for me. And confused about what stepmother and who is this stepmother? I felt this needed to be a phone conversation, so I called her and left her a voice mail saying how happy I was for her and that I wanted to hear about the job, etc.

The next morning she called me back and apologized for having texted me. She went on at such length that I realized she felt my phone call to her had been some kind of admonishment for texting. Anyway, Fabienne has been hired as an administrative assistant at a non-profit, with hopes that the job will convert to something more down the road. She is a single mom of two kids and this is a good move for her. I told her how glad I was and she said, "I'm ecstatic not to be cleaning houses anymore!"

Then I was felt like I needed to say, "Yes, that must have sucked!" or something but it also didn't seem quite right. So I jumped in with, "But I will miss you!" and she was like, yeah, miss you too, whatevs, hasta ya later, gator.

I also thanked her for the offer of her stepmother's services, but told her that this was probably a good time for us to take a break from having a house cleaner and to use that money to beef up our emergency fund. As I heard myself saying these words, I was like, "What the HELL am I saying? This sounds like some adult has seized control of my body! GET OUT." But it is the truth, and spending two grand on our cars in a single day the other week made this crystal clear to me.

So I came home from the mountains and stood in the kitchen with Matt. It was a solemn moment. "Listen," I said. "We're on our own now." I pointed to the downstairs bathroom that he and his coworkers use all day. "Nobody is coming to clean that bathroom anymore." He said, "You mean, Larry Bird is not going to walk through that door?" And then he laughed and laughed. I looked quizzical and he explained that this was a reference to the world of sports and that it was hilarious. Yes, so no Fabienne and no Larry Bird and no Big Bird. This seemed like a good time to tell Matt that I would not be cleaning the new Blue Mammoth Games bathroom being installed in our basement. So I did tell him that.

Funny, one of my very first blog posts was about getting rid of our old cleaning lady, back when I had only four readers and not the dozen(s?) I have today. It's all about fat years and lean years, I guess.

So I am still a little shaken at the prospect of losing Fabienne, but I will rally. It is some comfort to look back over the highs and lows of our relationship.

A low point: when she broke my Red Wing bowl and also when she wasn't dusting in my bedroom.

A significant point that I don't know how to categorize as high or low: when she was standing there at ground zero of my getting diagnosed with breast cancer.

A high point: when she gave me all those wigs. 

I mean, I knew this day would come, that either she would break it off or I would. But I wasn't quite ready. What various permutations of this sitch have you experienced?

So, that's another feature of my mental topography this week. And hey, I have an idea that I'm going to blog every day in August. I'm two for two already! This will result in my telling you some really boring stories about stuff like getting new tires and not being well-dressed enough to enter Walmart. See you!

Monday, August 1, 2011


Look at this baby guy! His name is Gabriel Wayne, and he was born one week ago today to my brother and sister-in-law. He weighed 8lbs, 5ozs, and has already gained back his birth weight, as he is a chow hound like his Aunties.

Y'all, I was in such suspense waiting for this baby. I was glued to my phone all last Sunday night as Katie labored and labored. And labored. It is hard not to get a little worried as the hours roll by, even though we know these things most always turn out just fine. Finally, at two-thirty in the morning, I texted my sister and said, "I don't think I can stay up anymore." She took that to mean, "Call me!" Which she did, an hour later, after I'd fallen asleep. I couldn't summon the wits to answer the phone, but I rested easier knowing that she was on the daylight side of the world and would handle the worrying and waiting for a while. He finally came in the wee hours, and everyone was fine. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to that picture up there. Such relief! I fell in love with that little doll face.

Look at this smooshy thing. Just look at it. I know, let's all go get pregnant RIGHT NOW.

So that was the big news of the last week. The other thing that happened was that I ate a fried Oreo. And the other news is that there are fried Oreos in this world.

I was in the mountains all week, first with Matt and the kids and Matt's mom and brother, and then Matt came back home to work and we stayed on with my parents. I came back last night and Matt kept me up 'til the wee hours. Cleaning out the basement, awww yeah. Today there are two dudes down there banging around and building some kind of Bat Cave for Matt and his coworkers to move into. This means I'm getting my guest room/office back in the near future. I'm high-fiving you right now.