Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rich in Daughters

Laura (left end) was barely five here. Don't know what made me think of this pic.

How are my neighbors? They're doing good!

And here Matt would want to emend, "Superman does good. The neighbors are doing well."

Tonight we walked up the street to a graduation party for a K(C)athy's oldest daughter. Actually, the other K(C)athy moved out a few weeks ago, after a long, long divorce-and-house-selling process. She's gone to a better place. (Not heaven, but a nice townhouse in the one neighborhood that has indoor tennis courts. We're glad for her and we still see her.)

So one K(C)athy remains, and she has six children. Four of them are beautiful girls. I mean, yes all children are beautiful in their own way, of course, but her girls are really beautiful, and nice people too. They range from 18 to 5. And she has two bonus boys. When I first moved here, her youngest was a baby, and I thought, "Six kids!?! Does she know what is causing that to happen?" But now that her youngest is in school, her family plan is starting to look kind of smart. They are your basic big happy family. There is always something going on and somebody to help with it. Especially smart to have all those girls. So many girls! Looking at her tonight, the words came to my mind, "That woman is rich in daughters."

Normal Neighbor was there, and we were remarking that in no time, our girls would be finishing high school. Then she cried and cried through the slide show of the graduate, while I started planning what song I want to use in ours. Not like PLANNING planning, just idly musing, you know.

Her own dance

So, the neighbors:

K(C)athy is sending her grown daughter to college.

Normal Neighbor is cancer free and just got a new chocolate lab puppy.

Frenemy Neighbor has dropped off my radar completely. We never see each other except to wave from our cars, and our girls no longer seek each other out. And I unfriended her on fb after she posted a Glenn Beck screed about how the Great Depression really wasn't that bad.

The older couple on the corner opposite us who didn't believe in global warming, they moved this weekend. To Arizona. Their replacements are already installed in the house but I haven't met them yet.

Conspiracy Guy remains as ever. His daughters still while away a lot of time at my house. The other day, I took Hank to the neighborhood pool party, and they begged begged begged him to take them as well. So he did, then sat in a corner with earbuds in his ears, not in good sight of the pool, while they swam and played. I guess he figured the lifeguard and I were on top of the situation.

My Gravelly-Voiced Tennis Friend broke two ribs this weekend when she got run over by a jet ski. I think those things are dangerous. She could have been killed. And I'm thinking that she won't be playing Summer Mixed Doubles. She told me that it hurts like a mother.

Pretty Neighbor is doing fine and has been navigating the same end-of-school craziness that I have. We are both a little forlorn at the lull in tennis right now, but there is a new rec center near us and we're thinking of trying a pilates class there tomorrow.

Oh, OH, remember when I introduced you to my neighbor who keeps an opossum as her beloved pet? Miss Terry, BLESS HER HEART. Anyway, she was at K(C)athy's party and at one point she suggested to our hostess that she go home and fetch the possum, Louise, and bring Louise to the party. That suggestion made K(C)athy awesomely uncomfortable, as her revulsion at the very thought of it warred with her Southern upbringing, and her inclination to try to please her guests, all her guests, howe'er crazy they may be. She said, weakly, "Um, maybe if you hold her and don't put her down anywhere?"

(Here let me note that this party was BYOB, as the graduate's grandparents were providing all the refreshments and they are strict teetotaler Baptists. And in the middle of this scene of Potential Possum Visitation Discussion, I felt that maybe the one bottle of pinot noir I'd brought wouldn't see me through an Actual Possum Appearance.)

And Miss Terry then said she needed someone to drive her up the block, wait while she fetched Louise, and then drive her back. And K(C)athy was like, "Well, I don't know if that will happen..." Then she slowly walked away, looking transfixed as though something very important elsewhere required her attention. So Miss Terry went home and there was no Louise.

So that happened, and we had some cake and little chocolate eclairs, and then we walked over to see Normal Neighbor's puppy, with his baggy puppy skin and huge paws, and then we came home. Thought you might want to know what the nabes are up to. Where did I start this post? Something about daughters.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Mean Gah

Is anyone else like this? I just hate having stuff on my daily calendar, like things to do at pre-scheduled times. When I look ahead to the next day and there are several, like, appointments, it kills my joy a little bit, and I feel dread and assume that I will spend the whole day feeling harried and gritting my teeth. And it doesn't take much. I guess I am kind of a delicate orchid, 'cause like, three scheduled things in a twelve-hour period and I'm all I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS.

Today's agenda was...
Sleep late because Hank is out of school: This did not present a problem
Morningish: Get Laura a dress for her graduation
2:45: Go help set up the gym for the fifth grade dance tomorrow.
4:30-5:00 Hank swim lesson at our pool: this is a new thing this week and not assimilated into my routine
Clear dining room table of Legos for Matt to have a board game night with his buds
Prepare dinner?
5:15-5:45 Hank karate
6:00 play a tennis match
Laura swim practice, either at her swim club 5:30-7:45 or in our pool 6-7:  not gonna happen

Because every post needs a picture.
Okay, looking at that list, my stress could have been that lots of these things overlap or potentially would overlap if they all happened, and it makes me feel that I am not doing well with logistics when I can't be in two places or feel like I'm letting something slide. And some of the things are optional-ish, like Hank's karate and Laura's swimming. They just need to be done a certain amount every week, so every day I'm alert to whether we can squeeze those activities in or not. Matt helps with the kid transport some (he usually retrieves L from her practices) but 5:15 is a bad time to ask him to participate. Really the three things at 2:45, 4:30, and 6 were what was crowding my joy, but there was no problem with their overlapping or with the things themselves. All perfectly pleasant! And yet, seeing them in my calendar, I just wanted to take to bed.

So all day I'm twitchy and jumpy and I'm not sure when unscheduled-but-important things (shopping, cooking, cleaning) will get done. I asked Matt about taking Hank to karate and that was a non-starter.

Then later Matt comes to me and says, "About later, I need to go to a thing at 6, it will take an hour." And it's a thing that is kind of a fun thing, sorta, but also a work/networking thing. And I'm all instantly pissy, and I go, "Well I have tennis, what are you going to do with Hank?" (I am delightful.) And he says, "Can you really not take him with you to your match?" And so then I'm into a big thing of "Well I don't knooow, what if I take him and our match lasts three hours?" And he goes, "Well maybe you could take him with you and then I could come retrieve him," and I'm like, "I guess I could leave him here with Laura..." and we're into this sort of stand-off thing, and it's NOT EVEN A BIG DEAL except for the schedule! The SCHEDULED THINGS have got me all twitchy and feeling like we're all caught in a net. So then I sniff, "It seems like when YOU want to do something, I need to be super flexible, but when I want to do something, there is NO FLEXIBILITY." And Matt, with this tone of infinite love and patience, says, "Do you really think that is the truth?" And I realize I can't argue with him because it's not like he ever does anything except work his ass off. And I was like, okay I'll stop now.

So this is what the scheduled things do to me. The scheduled things!

And then, THEN, none of it amounted to anything! Unsurprisingly, I was able to do everything in sequence like a normal person and it all got done. Laura skipped neighborhood swim practice to stay home with Hank. (The game company boys were downstairs too.) And whereas I thought the whole day would be one long endurance test, I was finished with my match by 7:22. I arrived home to find Matt welcoming his friends, pizza ordered, and Hank asleep in a chair. Matt carried him to bed, there was tons of daylight left, Laura had her clothing plan for tomorrow's graduation all set, and I was like, "Oh." Then I drank a beer and watched Mythbusters with her. I am a crazy person, you have no idea.

Or probably you do.

I don't know. I mean, I have no problem having things to do. I am busy all day long. But as soon as there are certain times things must be done, I am like, FORGIZZLE. The kids' dentist appointments? Cast a shadow on my brain for days in advance. Just me? You?

I mean, praise be that I don't have an actual J-O-B. God forbid.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fantabulous Wedding in LA

matt and me
At the start of the evening...
top hat
...and at the end of the evening.
Last week I was so flustered with Hank's end-of-school stuff and playing vast quantities of tennis, badly, that I might not have told you guys that Matt and I were going to our friends' wedding in Los Angeles. And then I told you on facebook (you should "like" me 'cause I like you!), only I might have only said that we were in an airport (and that I yelled "Dark meat!" across the concourse because I was seized with fear that even after sixteen years of marriage, Matt might not know my chicken preference). So gosh, there is just so much living that sometimes bits of it slip away from the narrative grid upon which I want to index all of life.

Our friends Mike and Amy got married at a place called Hollywood Castle in the Hollywood hills. It is, well, this castle place. Or it is a house built to look like a castle in a kind of Disneyland way. And also like Disneyland, before you get there you're not sure what to expect, and then when you arrive you're like, "Oh, wow, this is just pure fun. Castle, YES!" And even better than Disneyland because open bar.

View from the wedding
View from the driveway

The setting of this place, right on top of a hill, was wonderful. We could see the Hollywood sign from one side and the city from the other. The wedding couple was beautiful, and we got to see friends we haven't seen since we left California six years ago. Half of the wedding guests (three-quarters?) were in costume of some kind--medieval, fantasy, steampunk, who knows--and the whole effect was lovely. Definitely an unforgettable night.

table assignment dragon

This was the moss topiary dragon that watched over the table assignments. He was charming. His name is I Cost More Than College. Ha ha! jk, higher education has gotten crazy $$ the last few years. And the bride told me his name is Edgar.

The ceremony was on a green lawn overlooking the city, and then while we were having drinks, magic elves set up tables for us to have dinner out there.

our table
Our table
matt at dinner
My date
I'm not sure why this pic came out tilted; it can't be all that mead I drank.
This picture shows the little moat surrounding the castle, a charming wee moat that I almost fell into when the heel of my shoe got stuck between the boards of that bridge. I only went down on one knee though, so I'm sure everybody who saw me just thought I was kneeling in sudden prayer. I kinda wish I had fallen in because I probably would have come out clutching Excalibur. Usually that is what happens when I fall down at parties.

Then there was cake and dancing. Matt and I got to practice one of the two dance steps we know. And though Matt is against the idea of our renewing our wedding vows, as he believes our original vows are still in force and why cast doubt on that, I always feel a little like when we go to a wedding, those vows renew themselves a tiny bit.

Have you ever been to a themed wedding that you really loved? This was a nice one. For more pics of the scene and lots of pics of me but only one lonely picture that shows my shoes, click here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Word Power

Hank soaks up all kinds of words and then peppers his conversation with them. Sometimes he is not even in the ballpark of their actual meaning.

Today, walking in to see Pretty Neighbor and me working out in her basement, Hank goes, "Mom, you are looking really predictable." Only he pronounces it pwuh-dictable. He said it a few more times, with great relish, but I was huffing and puffing and could not stop and unravel his meaning.

But sometimes he nails it. A moment later, PN and I began doing the part of the Jillian Michaels workout where you do "fast feet," up on your toes like a football player. Hank, joining in, goes, "Well this is ex-scwushiating!"

I had to concur.

Tonight, at bedtime, we were talking over his imminent pre-k graduation and all the things that his classmates want to do with their lives. I said, "Remember last year at graduation, the little boy said he wanted to grow up and be Batman?"

Hank laughed, and then, embarrassed for the naïveté of his preschool colleague, said, "Well that's not even plausible."

I said, "Hank, what does plausible mean?" He said, "Batman is science fiction." Then he looked at me like, duh mom, and goes, "That means it's never gonna happen."

I started to suggest that maybe the little boy wanted to take his idea of Batman and make it real and Hank was all, that wouldn't BE BATMAN, and I was like, okay, you have a point. Now stop talking and go to sleep.


Words, man. Any good vocab got you excited lately? I was reading something in the last few days where a person was described as "raddled," and it was such an old word and one I see so rarely that I had to stop and enjoy it for a while. Raddled. Not rattled. Just the right word, you know? The right word is a balm to a weary soul.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Is Mother's Day Monday Not A Holiday, Really?

Hank and the beloved Annabelle.
Hey y'all, Happy Mother's Day Monday! (It's a thing.) I spent the morning at Hank's end-of-preschool class bowling party. It was fun but if we are being honest, it must be noted that five year-olds cannot bowl for crap.

Then, because I was down in its vicinity, I went to the Goodwill to look for jeans for myself and Matt. I went to the Goodwill not even because it is cheaper, but because it is closer, and if I have to go all the way over to the Gap at the mall, just no. Like I should spend my precious life force doing that.

So I went to the Goodwill and one of the benefits of being my new smaller size (single digits, OMG I'm telling everyone!) is that there are lots of cast-off jeans that fit me. I think that most women must be a size 12, because that's what I used to be and I could hardly never find good jeans that fit me at that size. Actually I was a 12 for a long time, and then I was a 14 for a while and then maybe I was kind of a large 14, I don't know. So today I had a choice of three good pairs of nearly new Gap jeans, and Hank sat patiently while I tried them on. Then I bought one of the pairs for seven dollars and got Hank a vanilla milkshake to reward his patience. Really, I complain sometimes but he is good as gold. Oh, and I found a pair of new boy's Sorel snowboots for ten bucks. They will fit Hank in a couple of years, so score.

I couldn't find any cheap jeans for Matt because of his inseam.


Yesterday morning, Mother's Day, it was raining, making for nice sleeping-in weather. At a perfect hour, not too early but before Matt or I was up, Laura appeared at my bedside with a cup of coffee and some buttered toast. She doesn't know how to brew coffee, but she had very enterprisingly microwaved a cup from the day before.

She climbed into bed with me. Then Hank appeared, proudly bringing me a carrot and the jar of peanut butter.

Breakfast in bed, from each according to his abilities. I ate the toast and the carrot and the peanut butter and it was the perfect amount of food.

Bedside coffee is awesome and I told Laura I want it to be a new Sunday tradition. Though I might teach her how to make a fresh pot.

Then I sat up against my pillows and read my book, and had Laura bring me a refill of reheated coffee. Reader, I did not leave my bedroom until it was time for us all to go to lunch. Then we ate and went to see The Avengers.  

Did you mothers have a nice day? I hope you got some R&R time. Oh and every moment of the day, I had that song "Motherlover" lodged in my head. Nice.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

They Came Back

dad and kids
Dad, 50 pounds lighter since December; kids inherit his old pants.
My mom and dad were in Australia forever but now they are back and badder than ever. We went up to the mountain house on Friday night to see them, not having enjoyed our preview of their deaths. Guess who else was there? Baby nephew guy, Gabriel!

laura and gabe
A happier baby there is not.
Gabriel brought his parents too. We didn't do much. A little eating, a little hiking. I noted with happiness that Katie has completely blossomed into motherhood, and I listened to my brother tell me the plot of the first 250 pages of The Brothers Karamazov. In case there is a quiz. And Dave played the guitar and we also entertained the baby.

hank and gabe

Did you guys get to see the Super Moon? It really was a super moon! Even if it did take 4-evah to clear the ridge behind the house, not becoming visible to us until 11:30pm, when Hank had given up and gone to sleep on the couch. We had a great view of it with Laura's Astroscan telescope, and we stayed for a good long look. Laura and I kept trying to put our phone cameras up to the eyepiece of the telescope, which did not really work.

Oh, also, the whole family dived into this pit of facebook crazy--one of those terrible political threads where you argue with people you don't know in real life and it just goes downhill fast, fast, fast. I just can't even. It is really not like us to do this. Everybody was mad, I took to drink, and my mother had to shut the whole thing down by quoting scripture. It was like that.

beach glass
Aussie beach glass
Mom brought this beach glass home from the beach in Kiama. She also brought me a zillion tea towels and another jacket that says "Australia." Oy oy oy!

We had to leave early this morning so I could get down to Atlanta in time for my tennis playoff match. The bummer-ish way this works is that the two teams play until one team has won three matches. For me playing in line 4, this meant that we were 4-3 in our first set and then my team finished losing the first three matches and we had to retire. Like, our match was over right there. We shook hands and left the court. And there had been ugliness in one of the matches over someone reaching over the net and a lot of other hysterical lady business. I am glad I got to play even a little, but I left the mountains early for that noise?

Oh well. Did you have a good weekend? Whatcha doing?


PS: Sherlock on PBS tonight.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Useful Information

A few nights ago when I was in the throes of my daily blogging adventure, I asked Matt, "What should I write about?" I asked for his input in spite of the fact that a few days earlier, he admitted that he had only skimmed some of my April posts. Skimmed! He goes, "I kind of read for the main idea; there's been a lot of tennis."


So then I got onto him about never having commented on my blog, never in FOUR YEARS, a period in which my father, my brother, all of my male friends, my brothers-in-law (ALL OF THEM), and my MALE COUSINS (3!) have dropped by my comment section. This conversation was on my blog anniversary, and I said to him, "So this is four years of your unbroken record of silence. Congratulations!" And he was all, "Well at this point it's kind of part of the schtick, right?"

The schtick!?! I mean, honestly! I can't even.

Okay. But obviously we are still in love and we can work through this.

So I asked him what I should blog about, and he goes, "I like it when you post useful information." He cited my broccoli-cauliflower post, my health insurance post, and my toilet-cleaning post of yore. I said, "Okay, what else would be useful information, do you have any?"

He offered, "Well, when you're playing basketball and you're really big but you're not that great at basketball, but you still want to make a contribution, remember that when you're guarding someone, nobody likes contact. So get in under the basket and box out. Fight for your spot." He went on, but that was the gist. Hmm, I thought about that. Nobody likes contact. A useful sports insight but I don't know if it's that tailored to my audience.

So here is my recipe for lentil soup instead.

You need:

bag of dry lentils, rinsed (lentils don't need soaking)
four slices of bacon
an onion, chopped
celery stalk, chopped
couple carrots, chopped
clove of garlic
32 oz. box of broth
2 cups water
salt n peppa
bay leaves if you wanna get fussy
an immersion blender or even a potato masher

In your heavy bottomed pot (I use a cast-iron dutch oven) cook the four slices of bacon. Now, I have made this soup with sausage and also with no meat at all. So you don't have to use the bacon. But...why wouldn't you? So cook the bacon and then use a fork to pick the pieces out and put them aside on a plate. Leave the bacon fat in the pot. Cook the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery in the bacon fat. Your kitchen will smell like heaven at this point. One of the guys who works in your basement (you have those, right?) might wander in like a child and just stand there, sniffing the air.

When the onions are looking cooked, pour in the broth and dump in the lentils. Add two cups of water. Add whatever seasonings you feel up to and stir the whole thing together. Bring to a good boil, then turn down the heat, put the lid on the pot, and simmer for maybe 25 minutes. The lentils will start to come apart a little bit and then they're done. Tear up the bacon you cooked into tiny pieces and put them back into the soup.

At this point you need to decide what consistency you want the soup to be. Before I had a handheld blender, I would give the pot a good going over with a potato masher, just to break up some of the lentils and leave others intact. Now I give a few pulses with the immersion blender, but the basic integrity of the lentils remains.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Vital.

Even Hank eats this, and there is no greater endorsement that I can give for its kid-friendliness.

Hopefully you will find this to be Useful Information. Enjoy in health, and also remember that when you're playing basketball, get in there and work that caboose.