Monday, October 31, 2011

Grown-up Halloween

halloween 2011
That's a whole euro-sized pillow crammed in there.
Grown-up Halloween was Saturday night, of course, which is good because then we had all of yesterday and today to refocus our minds on tonight's observance with proper piety. Matt and I stepped out to a couple parties as Santa and Elf. This idea was born because we thought it would be funny but earnest, which is kinda our brand. And then we remembered that my dad owns a Santa suit and bam, I was shopping for elf attire. When the dress arrived, I put it on and realized that once belted, it was indecently short, what with the jagged hem and all. Thank goodness for opague tights, or it would have been a full Harvest Moon.

Okay, do you want to be popular at a party? Go as Santa Claus. It need not be December. It was crazy, utter strangers yelling, "Santa!" and wanting hugs and pictures. And don't get me started on the lap sitting. My mom tried to warn me: She said, "This suit is a chick magnet." (My dad wearing this to the church Christmas party last year and being molested by the Sunshine Seniors Sunday School class is a whole 'nother story.) But she was right, when Santa sits down, somebody wants to be on his lap.

And the sack of tiny wrapped presents didn't hurt either. Matt went to the dollar store on Saturday and purchased 50 gifts. Then he and Laura wrapped them, and he handed them out to folks at the party. People were so delighted, it was kind of sweet.

The first party was here in our 'hood, hosted by my gravelly-voiced tennis pal. Our plan was to pop in and stay the minimally polite time, but it was so crowded it hardly mattered what we did. These people transform their house every year. I think they must start in August. It was really spectacular. The hostess handed me a jello shot. And then someone dressed as Colonel Sanders handed me a drumstick. It might have BEEN Colonel Sanders. He had a bucket clutched under his elbow. He was kind of weird, that guy. I did try a bite of the chicken and then I hid it in my cup. Then I said hi to all my tennis buddies and then we rolled out of there.

We met up with the Hamiltons back at our house:

halloween foursome
He is a ball feeder machine and no, the fuzzy balls joke never got old.
Then we went down to the perimeter to a party hosted by a friend of Matt's, and when we got there, I realized that we should have eaten more food and gotten drunker at the first party, though the logistics of that would have been hard to work out. It was totally the thing where any bottles of actual liquor are empty by the time you get there, and everyone mostly brings beer. Also the food was strange and skimpy. At the suburban party, all the costumes were beautiful and I knew what they were. At the second slightly rough-around-the-edges, party, there were lots of people dressed as characters I didn't recognize, from video games or movies I have never played/seen. And lots of homemade zombies, trailing skin, and a very Slutty Super Girl. Santa was even more popular in this crowd, though.

I like parties, though, even weird ones where Human Centipede is being screened in one room, Lord help us. And I enjoyed my costume. It might be one of my alter-egos. Santa is definitely one of Matt's.

Did y'all have any adult Halloween gatherings?

Have fun tonight! Gotta get ready for trick-or-treaters!   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spoiler Alert

I don't know. Sometimes I want to pop in here and share a quick thought with you guys, and then I think, "That's not a blog post." And then a week goes by. And then the irate messages start arriving from my family. And then I feel all awkward, like I really owe you Something Great.

That Something Great is an elusive butterfly.

So let us unburden ourselves of these expectations.

There now. Last week Matt went out of town for work. This is rare for him. I was all, no problem, I got this, we're cool. Then at 6:30 the first morning he was gone, Laura walks into my darkened bedroom and says, "I'm ready to go to the bus stop." I was all, "What? Who? ZOMGWTF?!?" And I said, "Don't you usually walk to the bus stop?" And Laura's like, "But it's raining," and I was like, "Okay, GAH." So he was missed most keenly.

Alone at night, after the kids were in bed, I made the genius decision to watch Paranormal Activity 2 on Netflix. Just me in a quiet house, darkness pressing against all the windows, nearest neighbors absent or weird.

Two-thirds of the way through, I had to pause it and text Beth:
You have to tell me if this baby dies. Why am I watching this movie?
She reassured me. Beth always answers texts quickly and she's seen every movie. She should operate a kind of moviefone for these questions. But here's the spoiler alert...

I think that having viewed Paranormal Activity 1 and Paranormal Activity 2: Mo' Paranormal, I am finished watching movies where women get dragged by the feet by invisible demons, demons who drag them offstage, presumably to invisibly demon-rape them. Yeah. Done with that. I mean, a little goes a long way, right?

It is a spectacle that I no longer enjoy. I mean, not the way I used to enjoy scenes of invisible demon rape.

The weird thing is that if you take out the scenes of women being dragged backwards by the feet, I thought it was a pretty okay movie. Oddly, it was a good portrayal of the mundanities of normal family life. And I'm into that. I never thought to look for that in a horror movie, but there it is. It's something these "found video" movies can do well, and this one does.

So that was something I did last week.

What are you doing? Are you ready for Halloween? Do you like scary movies? Any good ones to recommend? Talk to us.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

All Happy Families Are Alike

baby bjorn3
Say hi to Gabriel!
My sister Amy called me last night on the way to the airport. They were out in California, having already slipped back that far back west, about to get their flight to Sydney. By now they will be almost home. Gosh, I hate to see them go. Amy told me she thought it had been their best trip ever back to the states. I think so too. It was just filled with good things. All of us meeting Dave and Kate's new baby. The kids being the perfect age to play together, tirelessly and peacefully. Lots of great adult time, and having a beautiful place we could all gather in. For some reason I've held off blogging about it, maybe because it was totally wonderful and it seems unnarratable. Like, possibly of only local interest. (Yes, I hear you saying, "Well Beck, a lack of general interest never stopped you before."

We made our way to the mountain house, all my sibs and their families under one roof with mom and dad, and we had a blissful five days together. I love having unstructured time from morning 'til night. Drink some coffee, shoot the breeze, hold a baby, go out and get sweaty, come back and drink a beer while making some trenchant observations on the State of the World Today, read a magazine, holler at kids, eat some cheese, sass and be sassed, ride in the jeep, play some cards, stay up late chatting, let the dog out one last time, stand outside and shiver in the cool air, go to bed. That was the basic itinerary and if heaven is like that, it will be great and I'll totally already know how to do it.

The only bad thing that happened was that, one day, my dad came home from a trip to the dump and said, "I saw what looked like a pair of nightstands in the back of the Swap Hut." (You might remember my mentioning the Swap Hut. It's where I found my owl lamp. O Hut of wonders!)

I said, "A pair of what? A what? A pair? What did they look like?" He said that they'd been at the back of the hut, but he could see that they were "blond wood, kind of blocky, maybe you could describe them as mid century modern."

He had left them there. I vowed to remedy that.

An hour later, my brother-in-law Jason and I were heading down the mountain. I don't know where we were going, but we had some kids with us and we were going into town. I asked him to please detour by the recycle center so I could peer into the Swap Hut.

The nightstands were gone. There were no nightstands. There was nothing in the hut. Only emptiness, in the hut and in my heart. I got back in the car and fumed to Jason, who didn't seem that upset about not needing to get out of the car at the dump and load furniture. I said, "I can't believe he left them there! A pair. A pair! You take a pair of anything, I don't care if it's gilded turds!"

Jason pursed his lips, eyes on the road. "Gilded turds," he said, with an air of meditation. I think the subject of his meditation was how crude his sister-in-law is.

In my mind's eye, the Lost Nightstands have become someone's meticulously cared-for but discarded Heywood Wakefields. Oh well. I'll go on. But it still hurts!

Some of our adventures need their own posts, and Baby Gabriel, the cutest and smartest baby ever seen, definitely does. But here are a few pictures, and more are here.

amy and me at falls
See how I'm just smiling but Amy is really selling it?

papa and laura

3 dudes

handsome nate
Handsome Nate

Jason fussed at by ranger for riding on top of jeep backseat.

mom and dad 2

hunter trapper
He's a hunter-trapper.

Add caption

This family group picture, oh man. The night before, Amy and Mom and I were agreeing on the need for such a picture, and I said something like, "Okay everybody, you know these group picture situations are stressful and there will be people who don't want to be in the picture and we'll lose patience with each other and there may be some bitching, crying, and snapping involved. Let's just commit to the process and we'll get through."

The next morning, while a large contingent was still down at the Waffle House (Ava wanted to experience the WaHo), I scouted locations and checked lighting. Then they returned, and Jason and Dad moved a bench out in front of the house, with only a minimum of lip. I did, at one point, have to bark, "I just want you to stand there and reflect light!" Which caused them to snicker and make smartypants rejoinders. Lacking a proper tripod, I built one out of a kitchen stool, three game boxes, and an overturned plastic ice cream bucket. Then Hank was upset and not wanting to be in the picture, causing Amy and then me, independently and unknown to each other, to offer him bribes for cheerful compliance. Finally everyone drifted toward the photo spot and assembled themselves, where they got that look of impatient passivity that people have when they're waiting for the photographer to do something.

Y'all, I loved this moment so much. They were all standing there while I looked through the viewfinder one more time, and then pushed the button to start the timer. Then everyone suddenly has that sense of urgency, you know? Like, "Okay, come over here! Right here! Quick!" Even though you have ten leisurely seconds and you could saunter over to take your place before the shutter clicks.

But I did hurry to them. I pressed the button and ran around and up the slight hill to slide in behind Hank. We did this a few times. Afterwards I realized that I'd felt pure joy. Seeing the family arrayed there, expectant and still, with me in motion. The crunch of the gravel and the beeping of the camera. Matt holding out his hand to me, beckoning. Running to them, whirling around, and smiling. And watching them all wait for the time to smile. They couldn't see themselves like I could--that's the photographer's privilege, I guess--but then I could join them and be part of the scene too. There was just such pleasure in it.

I hope you found some pleasure in your week. I missed y'all, I'm back on duty now. xoxo

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Accidentally on Purpose

Laura is fond of writing notes. They are always informative. Yesterday morning I found this:

So she wrote the note before leaving for the school bus, my tennis shoes on her feet. She had apparently realized her mistake, and paused to pen this apologia. What she did not do was change out of my shoes. This is classic Laura. She believes that a few well-chosen words can make up for just doing whatever the heck you want.

I wonder where she got that?

Hank is the same way. If I allude, however obliquely, to some wrong-doing of his, he says, "But that is in the past and we don't have to worry about it, RIGHT?"

Even better is that she wrote that note on one of her monogrammed gift-insert cards. Where did she have to go in the house to find those?

When she came home, I just thanked her for having left a note, as I had had tennis practice that morning and I would have worn myself out looking for the proper shoes instead of just sighing and putting on my running shoes.

Since Monday night, it's just been Laura and Matt and me at home. Hank stayed in the mountains to play with the Australian cousins. Here are some things about that:

Parenting one child is crazy easy. Especially if that child is a ten year-old, maybe even more if that child is Laura. Seriously, I feel like my work is done with her and I could just go get a froyo.

At night, instead of having an elaborate bedtime ritual that includes exhortations to brush teeth and my lying down in Hank's room, we say, "It's bedtime, goodnight Laura." Then, in the morning, she gets herself up, dresses, eats breakfast, and goes to the bus stop.

Not having to do preschool drop off and pickup for a couple of days has given me loads of extra time. I've composed a symphony. Okay, not true. But I did have lunch with Normal Neighbor yesterday. I think if I had never had Hank, I would probably be accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature soon. But I would not have nearly so many Legos, and I would not have benefited from Hank's wisdom these five years. Example: "Mom, sometimes when you ask a girl to marry you, it takes a long time for her to stop slapping you and say yes."

We are all three going back up to the mountains tonight, because--HURRAY--Dave and Katie are bringing my new nephew Gabriel down there from DC. I have never yet gotten to meet this baby guy. Their presence plus the Australians makes this something like a celestial event, not to be missed. It will be a hootenanny.

I hope you have something nice to look forward to this week. More later.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Am Kind Of The Normal One

Did you guys know my sister and her family are visiting from Australia? Goodness! If I would stop blogging about tennis for even one minute, I could have filled you in on this important fact. They landed a week ago today, and I had them all, plus my mom and dad, at my house for a few days, and then they went up to mom and dad's mountain house, where the kids and I joined them for the weekend. Apparently the weekend lasts through Monday because we are still here. Anyway.

A campfire is a necessary ritual.

Laura declaims


Foil-wrapped s'more!
Foil-roasting the s'more leads to better melting.
This happened: my father roasted and ate a cricket at our s'more campfire. For some reason, little crickets kept leaping into the flames, maybe drawn by the heat? It was a disturbing thing, this cricket suicide. We saw one on the rocks, poised to leap, and Dad said, "Wait, I will eat him!" The kids reacted with shock and squeals of disbelief. They didn't think he would do it. I squealed because I knew that he would indeed do it.

He caught the cricket in his hand, and finding it to be too small to properly skewer, he stuck it to a half marshmallow left on his stick.

That bothered me more than the outright eating of an insect, the mixing of the cricket with another food. Ew. I think there are some food cultures where the eating of insects is acceptable, but I am pretty sure they don't mix the bug with marshmallows.

Then he roasted it and ate it. The kids were very, very impressed. Then he ate another one. Then the little boys wanted to be shown edible plants. I ate a second s'more while this was happening.

Later on, the kids were tucked in bunk beds in the basement, and I was lying down with Hank for a few minutes. I started to receive a flurry of emails and texts from upstairs, summoning me to come play cards. I hauled myself up stairs to see that Amy, Jason, Mom, Dad, and Aunt Kathy were all arrayed at the table with the cards shuffled and dealt.

They waited for me as I went to the kitchen and started making tea. I wandered to the table, played a card, and went to get my tea. They made noises of impatience which I ignored. I was ready with the tea, but then I espied a chicken leg in the fridge, so I pulled it off the bird and hastened to the table. There was much protestation from the assembled company: "Oh now we're going to have chicken grease on our cards!" and "Don't you want a plate? Gross!" Like I was the one who ate a bug.

I gave them a no-chicken-grease guarantee and then sat at the table to play my turn. But just then I had a chicken leg malfunction. As I bit into the chicken, the whole top part of the leg separated from the bone and was dangling from my mouth. Obviously I had to go to the kitchen to tend to it, even though by now I was taxing their patience to the last reserve, and I can assure you, they were annoying me way more than my chicken situation was delaying them.

So I handled the chicken problem and came back to the table, and Dad passed the deck to me. It was my turn to deal. But I found that the vigorous wiping I had given my lips had left them feeling chapped. I said to the gang, "I really need to go get the Burt's Bees, my lips are chapped. Do I have to shuffle these right this second?" And they all died of vexation. And they were dead. The end.

No, that's not the end. My dad pulled his Carmex out of his pocket and said, "Shuffle!" Then he dabbed his finger into the Carmex and applied it to my lips. I leaned towards him so he could get good coverage and I shuffled and dealt so they would stop bitching for one tiny second.

Then, as we all looked at our cards, my dad said, "I used the cricket finger."

Cricket finger!

I said, "But you took a shower!" He said, "Yes, but I kept it wrapped in a bread baggie."

And then those people had the nerve to gripe about how poorly I'd shuffled.

There is no moral to this story, but it is something that happened.

Amy Stuffing Face
Amy stuffing a s'more into her face. Ha! Revenge.

I hope you had a good weekend. Look out for Cricket Finger.