Sunday, March 31, 2013


hank egg hunt
EB hid all the eggs in the backyard. I don't know why that chair is there.
My sister has a LOT OF NERVE. On my SubMat facebook page (you click that little fb logo up there on the left and "like" my page and then you don't miss a minute of her 'tude), she's all, "Um, blogging 'every day in March.'" This from someone who hasn't blogged in a coon's age. And I was like, March is a long month, gah, and then my Dad helpfully pointed out that there's a difference between metric March and Imperial March. Or something to do with the switch to the Gregorian calendar?

Anyway, I think I liked having my previous post at the top of the page for a couple of days. And we had kind of a whirlwind weekend here so far.

We celebrated Easter with the kids on Saturday morning, because Laura has since headed to the beach with her friend's family for Spring Break and wouldn't be home on Sunday morning. Matt the Easter Bunny hid two dozen eggs out in our backyard, which is a lot of ground to cover and a lot of different terrain. Before long, the kids needed hints. He requested a garbage bag, I brought it to him, and he told the kids that for every few pieces of litter or broken plastic crap they gathered, they would get a hint to an egg location. So they were out there picking up trash and finding eggs at the same time. Truly, he is the Master of Revels. Also, his hints rhymed:

"If not at first an egg you see, get thyself to the crook of a tree."

"If eggs you seek, follow this command: look deeper down into the sand."

There were a bunch of these, each more poetical than the last. I sat on the porch drinking coffee and cracking up, proud to have helped him pass his genetic material into the next generation of humans.

I spent the rest of the day helping Laura get ready to go, with a few bumps in the road. She had recovered from her virus and went to school on Friday, and was feeling fine, but then Saturday afternoon, she went for a run with Matt, and came home complaining that her ear hurt. I was all, damnation. I didn't want to send her off with another family for a week if there was a chance her viral head cold had turned into an ear something. So we headed to the clinic at the CVS. That place looked like an extras casting call for "Walking Dead." There were about six people ahead of us and the nurse was at lunch.

I thought, "To heck with this, I'm calling my neighbor." One of Hank's little buddy's mothers is a pediatrician. They live around the corner from us, I see her almost every day, and I have never never sought her medical opinion or asked for a bus stop consulation. I don't know, I just feel like it's an imposition? Though she has never said anything that would give that impression. But I texted her and asked her if she would look in Laura's ear, and she came right away.

She couldn't get her little ear flashlight to work, but she said the easiest thing, given that Laura was going out of town, was to prescribe an antibiotic and call it a day, so she phoned the pharmacy from my kitchen and we were all good. Normally I would have just kept a watch on her and not gone for the ab's, but Laura was nearly in tears because she thought her trip was imperiled. And I didn't think it was an ear infection, I thought it was exercise-induced ear pressure. But I am not that kind of doctor. Anyway, my neighbor told me several times that she was really glad I'd asked her, and I thought, well maybe she became a pediatrician because she wants to help children, even if they just live around the corner. And her husband is a plastic surgeon, so between them, we're covered.

Later, to Matt, I was like, "That was so convenient!" And he was like, "Having the doctor come to your house? Yes."

As Laura gathered her things together to get out the door, her ear pain lessened and lessened until it seemed she'd made a full recovery. I think my ear-pressure diagnosis was correct. Humanities PhD power! So I delivered her into the care of the other family. Matt and I feel comfortable with her instincts and judgment, as well as with that family, so I'm thinking she'll have a wonderful week. My biggest fear is drowning, and I told her not to go past her knees in the Gulf, which she won't because she thinks there are a lot more sharks than there really are.

Then Matt and I, the carefree parents of one child, threw all our stuff together and headed up to the mountain house, late. Hank fell asleep immediately, and we rode along companionably. One fun topic for musing was, if our family life were a sitcom, who and what would be the best potential spinoffs? Like Archie Bunker spun off the Jeffersons, who were the Bunkers' neighbors. Following that template, we thought the telegenic black family around the corner (my friendly kitchen pediatrician!) would make good viewing. And we conceived of a hipster office comedy involving Matt's twenty-something employees.

I guess the two of us have already talked about all the important things.

Now I'm just telling you everything that happened to me since we last spoke. Sorry.

I hope you have had a wonderful weekend. xoxo

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Price Above Rubies

Rainy Pensacola
Another thing that happened last month while I was not here blogging was that I made a fast trip down to Pensacola, just me. My dear old friend Houston's mother died, suddenly. I've been his friend, and loved his family, since I was Laura's age. I called Betty to come to my house, then I put a dress, a raincoat, and a bottle of wine in my car and went.

It was a very compressed visit, but I got to see them all and be with them a little bit. Back at the house after the visitation, I told them how Houston's mom, Jeanette, had called me one day the summer after I graduated from high school. Houston was gone on to college by then, but she wanted to pick me up and have a girls' day out. She was a proper Southern lady, the real deal, so I knew this called for dressing up, like nearly white-glove level.

So out we went. She took me to lunch and shopping, and bought me a school bag to take to college in the fall. I remember, even with my seventeen year-old sensibilities, feeling special and grateful that she wanted to spend time with me. When she dropped me off that day, she said, "Do me a favor. Do not write me a thank-you note." So I didn't, I took her at her word. But then, when I would look back on that day later, I would think, "Aw, man! I should have written her a thank-you note! It was a test and I failed!" I thought this from about the ages of 22 to 39.

Then, just the other week, but before she died, I was doing something for somebody and I thought something like, "I hope they don't feel like they have to thank me," and I flashed back to that unwritten thank-you note, and I realized that Jeanette really didn't want me to write her a thank-you note. She didn't do it because she wanted to be thanked, she just wanted to do it.

At her funeral, her husband of nearly fifty years read the part of Proverbs about the virtuous woman, and then her children did rise up and call her blessed, and let me tell you, there was not a dry eye in the house.

Houston and both of his sisters spoke about their mom, and something his sister Betsy said has stayed with me. Betsy said that, as a parent, her mother was "easy to please, and hard to disappoint."

As the church people say, when I heard that, I felt convicted. "Hard to disappoint." I'm grappling with what that means. I don't think it means that you don't have expectations, or that you don't discipline and correct, but it seems like something bigger, something more expansive and gracious, something to strive for. To be hard to disappoint. I am thinking on it.

Chime in if that chimes with you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Ultimate in Just No

There's Kate on her back porch.
Y'all, as soon as my sister-in-law Kate sent me this story, I asked if I could share it with you guys because oh my Lord, people just be acting all crazy. It's the first post on her blog in like three years, but we need to convince her to revive and renew her blog now that she's living out on the forty acres next to the haunted church, with some kind of redneck Sasquatch probably roaming her property. I know I would enjoy reading a mommy blog from this milieu. I still think about this four year-old essay she wrote on lipstick at least once a week.

Anyway, Kate is a licensed mental health counselor and is growing shiitake mushrooms on a log. You want her on your team. 

Without further ado, her tale:

This week I've had a flurry of mommy dates.  And there is one thing I've learned: just because we are moms, it does not mean that we should be friends. This is a rookie lesson, I'm sure.  But, man, I'm learning it the hard way. It's strange. This new mommy socializing world. It really feels like dating. Sort of. Anyway.

Take today, for instance. I drove thirty minutes to meet a mom and her two kids at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast this morning. Note: breakfast. As in, both G and I had on clothes and our hair was brushed by 8AM. This is sacrificial in my world. I do not do anything quickly in the morning. But, she had initiated this date a few weeks ago and I wanted to get to know her.  

I was running a few minutes late and so I texted her to let her know I'd be there shortly. I got there before her and waited a little while. Well, G is at the age that if I put him down in a Cracker Barrel we would end up having to buy a couple of throw pillows and some glass frog figurine because he would destroy it all. So, since I couldn't stand around holding him for long, I got a table. After we were seated, I texted to let her know where our table was.  After about fifteen minutes, she still hadn't responded to either text, so I decided to go ahead and order. I mean, after twenty minutes into a restaurant excursion with a toddler and there is no food on the way, you start getting strategic. Another fifteen minutes went by and I rechecked my texts to confirm the location/time. You know how you do. I even sent another text to let her know that we were ordering (she's a texter, by the way). And, of course, I called my husband to announce that I'm pretty sure I was being stood up for the first time. 

Well, our food came and we ate and it was a good forty five minutes after she was suppose to meet me, so I started to get a little worried. One more text of "Is everything ok?" and she immediately calls me. And, I kid you not, she starts with "Ohhhhh, hey!" and then proceeds to go into a long explanation of how she had both of her children dressed and ready to go and then she got distracted filing papers. Filing papers. And then she actually DESCRIBED to me the papers that she was filing and why they needed to be filed. And, btw, she doesn't work outside the home, so the paper was, like, her mail. I was all HUH? What? OK.

Then, THEN, she goes "Well, what are you doing later today?" And, I'm all "Oh, Yes! Let's totally get together.  I really want to spend more of my time on you today!!!" No, I was not. Instead, I tried to get off the phone as quickly as possible (I had reached the point of letting G play with the creamers on the table). And then she says "Awww, but I was really looking forward to hanging out with you!" And I'm sure there was an apology in there somewhere. But my eyes had gone crossed and I was done with the conversation.

I mean, for real ya'll. I told my mom there are many more excuses that she could have given me that would have given our friendship a chance. But there is something about the filing of the papers--even though your kids were dressed and ready?!--that let me know that we just won't be friends. You know? And, let me add, she better be glad that G is content to sit and eat.  Because I know some other mommas who would have taken their earrings off. You don't make a momma with a toddler wait on you.

No indeed you do not. Thank you for bringing us this tale, Kate. My eloquent response to this was, "omg rude."  But I think there must be something wrong with that woman. And I totally agree, that non-excuse would let me know that I could never count on her for another thing, ever again. What form of craziness IS that?

I mean, do whut?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Her Drama Faculties Are Undiminished

Laura woke up in the wee hours of this morning with a very high fever and a sore throat. Ruh roh. Also chills, headache, the works. Strep was my first thought. I turned off her alarm clock, dosed her with meds, and as soon as the pediatrician's office opened, I called and got her a morning appointment.

Her fever had slowly come down by the time of the doc visit, but she was feeling very poorly as we drove over there. She is never sick, so we were both sort of in a state of dismay.

I asked, "Did you manage to get back to sleep after you first woke up this morning?"

She sighed and looked at the passing trees. "No," she said. "Every hour was like a decade."


The quick strep test was negative, it's just some virus, so there was nothing for it but some good old-fashioned being waited upon--hand and foot--by mama. So that's what we did. We came home, installed her on the couch, and I set about bringing her different drinks, hulling her strawberries, arranging her throw blankets, and feeling her forehead. And no school tomorrow either.

And I know she felt bad, because darned if she didn't stay on that couch until she went up to her room at bedtime. This is unthinkable for her--she is go-go going during all of her waking hours. I offered to bring her something to read, and she was like, "I don't feel like I can focus on anything." So she watched Ferris Bueller. Then she watched War Games, I guess she was in the mood for a Broderick festival. Then she played some Xbox Lego Lord of the Rings ("Don't tell Hank"), then she watched Dancing with the Stars, then, after Hank came home, she watched a show about dinosaurs.

I made a big pot of delicious chicken noodle soup, and she managed to eat that as well as strawberries, toast with cheese, some chicken pot pie, a banana, and popcorn. I figured that was enough nourishment for basic life support.

At one point I ran out to the store for more provisions, and I got a text from Matt. He said he wasn't sure if he was getting sick, but he felt tired, achy, and enervated. He did allow as how these could all be symptoms of the nine-mile run he did this morning. And I was like, let's hope so, I can't advise you because I wouldn't know anything about what it feels like to have run that far. For me it would feel like being dead. But one sick person at a time!

The soup seems to have restored us all, mostly.

Hank is fine. He has a new watch that lights up, and it caused quite a stir in the classroom, with people asking him the time repeatedly. He mentioned that he instituted a policy to deal with his sudden popularity. The first three times you ask him what time it is, he'll tell you for free, and after that it costs a penny.

I didn't know what to say to that, exactly, as I had my hands full with other things.

I hope you are feeling well.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I Have Been Taking The High Road Since Dawn

I mean, seriously, before actual dawn I was not excoriating this random dude who was unnecessarily pedantic on my SubMat facebook page, and instead even enjoying it, as it was a human moment for humans. As I told our mutual friend, we all need to be patient with each other in these turbulent times.

Now for the tennis portion (Matt said to only give you the short version! Can you believe that guy!):

It was cold here today with gusty winds, and yet, tonight was the night that my tennis friend T and I had arranged to play a rained-out Sunday makeup match with these girls from another neighborhood. This other neighborhood is first place in our league, and we are second place, so it's an important match. And it was a bear to agree on this day and time.

Sidebar: I told Pretty Neighbor, "I can't even blog about the difficulties of scheduling this match because I JUST BLOGGED ABOUT my frustrations in scheduling the other match and at a certain point, people will be like, 'Becky, perhaps you are the common denominator here!'" It's like I'm the Taylor Swift of rec tennis, maybe I'm the problem. No I'm not.

As soon as our team's five matches were rained out Sunday, each pair of partners began contacting their counterparts to schedule the makeup. Short version: T and I offered them five (5) different days. They wanted the other day, the day we didn't offer. We said, "We have team practice that night." They said, "Tough." Actually that's pretty much how they said it, and if they'd been nicer from the get-go, we might have said, "Okay, we'll skip practice and play Thursday." But they were inflexible and curt.

So, what we said: "The weather is going to be chilly and iffy, but let's play Monday."

What we should have said: "Because we can't agree among ourselves on a time, we will abide by the league rule and play the match at the default time of this Saturday at 1pm." We could have said this knowing that T and I will be in town Easter weekend, and almost nobody else will--our opponents had already said the weekend was out. So we could have shown up, waited while they didn't show, and then taken the match by forfeit. If you wanna be a total stickler about it.

Okay, whatever, short version!

We agreed on tonight at 6. I thought, this is going to be rough conditions, 40 degrees and windy. But it's still tennis. It is not working in a mine. Or cleaning the grease traps at a Checkers. Probably no real cause for bellyaching. I mean, again, it's tennis.

But Reader, oh Reader. If only you coulda seen these bitches.

The minute T and I got out of the car, one of the girls was complaining. "I saw snow flurries." I said that if it snowed on us or got too wet, we would indeed play Thursday night, but that we were here and we might as well play. "This is ridiculous," she said. And then her partner appeared and they were like, so mad. It was obvious they each had monologues prepared about the injustice of being shackled and forced to play tennis by people so difficult as we.

I listened to them as we walked onto the court. They really thought we were going to say, "You know, you're right, let's not play this match that you agreed to play at this time and which conditions do not prohibit." We just reiterated that we had our Thursday team match on Thursday morning and our practice Thursday night, and we didn't think it was too much to ask that they make themselves available some other day. Which got them all revved up again. We had broken past the barriers of politeness in a way and with a swiftness that was surprising to me. They were acting really aggrieved and T was getting into it with them. I just said, "Hey, let's not get off on the wrong foot. Let's go ahead and start. I brought bananas and waters if anyone wants a snack."

Bananas! Yay!

And I was sure that would be the end of it. That once resigned that this match was happening, they would settle into the idea. Oh ho!

They never stopped fuming and griping the entire time. The whole match! I was embarrassed for them, it was so odd. I mean, the normal way of adult behavior is that, having agreed to do something, you set to it with a will, right? Not like a whiny child who wants to be sure her protest is noted at every moment.

I pumped up my partner and we started. They were pretty good and won the first couple of games, and I said to T, "Okay, we're going to have to play hard." She was downcast and murmuring because they were so mad, but I bucked her up with some of the motivational lingo I have picked up in my association with academics and other learned folks. I think my exact words were, "I don't give a shit. Let's beat them."

Short version!

We won the first set 7-5. Close set. I knew then that we had them; they didn't seem like they wanted to hang around and win two more sets to take the match. During the set break, T and one of the girls went to the ladies' room. I sat on the bench with the other girl.

"So Mandy," I inquired pleasantly, "Do you play Thursday tennis?"

"I work," she said.

"Oh, that's right, I think I saw that you're a teacher?"

"Yes," she said.

"Tell me," I continued, "Your kids must go to that new school, Kelly Mill, is that right?"

"Yes," she said.

We were having so much fun! Then I considered my small talk duty to have been discharged and I studied the horizon. The sun was going down, and a duck flew by. The girl looked at her phone. "My daughter is texting me, 'I hope you're not freezing.' Well I am freezing," she shared.

Okay, honey? Now you're just being a baby. I get it, it's winter. You agreed to play tennis in winter. But it's not colder for you than it is for me so please can it with the whining.

So we started up again and I could feel that we were going to beat them even worse that set. And we did, 6-2. They beat themselves, actually. I swear, they were so irritated to be playing that they hit the ball badly. They did shake our hands, unpleasantly. As they did so, I said, "Thank you for playing, I know it wasn't your preference." The girl responded, "Unnnngggghhh."

I told T, "They could have beaten us if they hadn't been in such a snit," and she said, no, we were better than they were, and I was like, I don't think so, but today we were.

And she goes, "We should have told them that we're from Alaska and that we grew up playing in this." Ha!

That was honestly the short version. Sorry.


Edited to add: OMG, in such a situation as this, winning feels better than almost anything. Just so, so good.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

And I Thought Everyone Majored in Communications Now

Matt and I signed up to play mixed doubles tennis together in a flex league--where the system pairs us with opponents and we schedule our own matches, some home and some away--and play starts this week. We are supposed to play one match roughly every week or two weeks. Next week is spring break around here, so though we have until April 8 to play this first match, I thought our first opponents would want to get it played in the next few days. Now, the protocol is that the home team contacts their opponents and suggests a few possible dates. For our upcoming match, we aren't the home team, but I decided to reach out first, because not everyone is fully tuned in to when league play begins and they might need a nudge, and whatever.

So I sent a chirpy little note, something like: Hi guys! I know you're the home team, but I was wondering if y'all might want to squeeze in our match before we all disappear for spring break. Any chance Tuesday,  Wednesday, or Thurs nights might work for you guys? Looking forward to it, just let me know!

Sunshine! Hearts! Flowers!

The wife of the couple wrote back, and this is the entire email:
Becky, our sons have baseball games on Tuesday and Thursday night. Wednesday we have church group at our house. Sorry.
That's it? Sorry? SORRY. Heh omgWTF??!!1

Maybe this is too far up the behiney of our particular circumstances for you guys to get what a dumb-cluck, pointless response this was. I wanted to write back, okay, what about the part where you offer some alternate times? Like Kramer on Seinfeld when he pretended to be the Moviefone: "Why don't you TELL me when you'd like to play tennis?" Or why don't you in any way understand the business we're conducting here? Or just DO YOUR FREAKING JOB AS A PERSON?

And the frustrating thing is that it is still her job to schedule this match. Does she not know this? She basically rebuffed my attempt to get us started in this process. Is this going to be a case where she waits too long and then expects me to rearrange our schedule to accommodate her lack of planning? For the love.

This is right in the wheelhouse of things that drive me crazy and therefore may not be intelligible to others, I don't know. But I swear, reading her note was super DUPER irritating, because she made me feel like I was bothering her or asking her a favor. The favor of playing this match she signed up to play. God!

We are squarely in the realm of My Issues, because even now, hours later, Reader, I am so annoyed by this. It's like, you don't have to be the Homecoming Queen, but it is possible to be so bad at social labor that it just turns me right against you. And it's hard to recover, though not impossible.

I mean, is it me or is it her? It's her right?


The way this works is that we are going to beat them one way or another, hopefully by playing tennis--I looked at their last season and they never won a match--but possibly by forcing them to appear at some inconvenient default play time or else forfeit. I don't know. But GEEZ.

Okay I'll simmer down now.

So I wrote right back to her and said that I understood completely and that I would wait for her to get back to us with some times when they were available. I restrained myself from telling her the ball was in her court.

Does anyone have any idea what I'm talking about? xoxo

Saturday, March 23, 2013

That Egg Hunt Was Totally My Neighborhood

The egg hunt at the clubhouse almost got scrapped due to rainy and generally disappointing weather, but in the end it just got delayed an hour. I took Hank up there to check out the scene. There were pastel balloons on the porch and everything looked springy. When we entered, I saw right away that the lady I blogged about just the other day was standing not two feet inside the door. I began shaping my face into a greeting, but with her usual social smoothness, she glanced away before I could speak, so I just bustled right past her.

The next thing I noticed was that the new neighborhood social director, the one in charge of organizing this event, had made her ten year-old daughter the Easter Bunny. Now, this child, bless her, has some complex of issues that are unknown to me and are not obvious, but one of the ways it all manifests is that she has no sense of personal boundaries and will come tackle-hug you out of the blue. Which is fine, but startling when you don't know the kid and she locks her arms around your waist. She's a big girl too. So the odd result of this choice of Bunny was that, though several little kids were unnerved by the EB and wanted nothing to do with her, this EB didn't wait to be approached, she was coming after you. When we first walked in and Hank clapped eyes on the Bunny, he said to me, very audibly, "I don't like clowns and that thing is just like a clown." So we steered clear and went to the snack table.

I had a very nice chat with a book club friend (post forthcoming), and then with a guy tennis friend, who dangled intensifying divorce rumors about this one couple on our mixed team. It seemed the wife in the on-the-rocks couple had asked my friend to be her partner in a flex league, rather than sign up with her husband, but my friend's wife-to-be had put the kibosh on this plan, supposedly because their wedding planning was going to keep him too busy. We agreed that the wife's not wanting to register to play with her own husband was a sign. Of something. Or not.

Then the egg hunting began and I had an interesting talk with Gift of Gab's husband--I think of him as Mr. Quiet Desperation--about hiking the Appalachian Trail. His lady love sidled over, now ready to acknowledge my presence, and we had a normal social interaction. Then all the eggs had been picked up and Hank and I made good our escape.

Then, tonight, Gift of Gab sent me a linkedin invitation. Idk wtf.

That's all I have but I swear it's the same as if you'd been there. xoxo

Friday, March 22, 2013

These Boys

These boys who live in this house, I mean. They keep my attention from actual dawn until I lay down my head at night.

In two weeks, Matt is doing that Tough Mudder race. Have you heard of this? They have them all over; it's basically a twelve-mile obstacle course that combines trail running with various feats of physical endurance. I think there's, like, climbing over walls and shinnying through a corrugated pipe filled with muddy water. Also there are live electrical wires you have to dart around? And maybe fire? It sounds made up but I think it's real.

Anyway, a bunch of guys from his company are doing it as a team. And one guy's wife. We were at the company Christmas party when I first heard this discussed, and a few people were like, "Come on Becky! You should do it! Jen is doing it!" And they started to make those noises like they were going to cajole me into it. And Matt was like, "Don't even. She's impervious to pressure, y'all." I mean, there was no way. I don't like to run and I don't like elective dirtiness and I feel zero compulsion to be one of the boys.

So there's no way I would have signed up for that, but I am an enthusiastic supporter of the effort as it is undertaken by others. They have been training for it quite diligently. Just now as I was climbing into bed, Matt was down on the floor doing his last set of push ups. Which inspired me to drop and do the ten push ups I can do. Or, I mean, I might be able to do more than ten, who knows. It's like the question of how high can a kangaroo jump? Nobody knows, because nobody has ever known how to really motivate a kangaroo.

So he has been training, but I think he is now in the phase of training where you doubt your training and whether it has prepared you. I don't know, he's tough, and as I said to him, you can do anything for three hours. Hee! I think that whatever happens, it will be a good story for him to tell. Hank is quite interested in this whole thing, and we'll be there to watch and cheer.

Speaking of Hank, I'll leave you with one other moment from my day. He and I went into Target to buy dog food. As we wheeled the cart down the aisle, he said, "Mom, what kind of car do we have?" I answered that we have a Kia minivan. He asked why we got that kind of car, and I answered, distractedly, that we had wanted a minivan and that was a nice one.

"Okay," he said. "Well, I would have appreciated a Cadillac."


"Oh, for sure, me too," I said. I winked at the woman down the aisle who had whipped her head around to see who this little bon viveur was.

Taking this child anywhere usually involves some amount of winking at strangers. Sometimes shrugging.

Then we went to Mother-Son bowling with his school. I played Laser Tag, y'all. I may have gotten really into it.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Judith Martin May Actually Have Covered This Situation

So one thing that happened during all those dark winter weeks that I wasn't blogging was this:

I came back home mid-morning on a day when Fabienne, my Hungarian gal, was here cleaning my house. I'd been out when she arrived, so she was going about her business when I came in. We met in the kitchen and had a brief catch-up. How are you, how are the kids, etc.

It had been a tough couple of weeks, she said. Her boys had colds. And, she said, "The worst was that I had the flu, but it was because I was disobedient to God."

Now, Reader, setting aside for a moment the urgent theological/doctrinal issues invoked, and asking only as a point of good manners, when someone dangles something like that in front of you, are you or are you not on firm ground in responding, "WHAT DID YOU DO?"


I mean, surely one doesn't bring up her own disobedience to God unless she wants to do more than lightly touch upon it?

I already knew Fabienne to be a very, very sincere believer and a devout practitioner of her brand of Christianity. She is part of an evangelical community up the road a bit, and she works many volunteer hours manning the prayer room at her church, like an on-call prayer partner for walk-ins. She didn't get a Christmas tree this year because she has been studying these things and has become convinced that it's if not actually idolatrous, then a Christmas tree is definitely a distraction from the main event. So, okay, here we have very serious, very devout Fabienne. In no way did I want to say, "What in the sweet world are you talking about?"

I mean, Jesus wept!

Like, for real, he did.

But back to etiquette.

The first thing I said was, "So God made you sick?" It came out as more of a pointed question, but I meant it as just a request for clarification. Like, who the what now? She half-quoted from scripture but it went by me because it seemed fearfully out of context. I tried to look comprehending. And then I said, "Oh, well, that's why I got a flu shot." Which I just blurted out. And then talk turned to other things. But I also didn't want to shut her down because, I dunno, every word in her declaration could mean something different to her than it does to me, and I always want to leave these avenues open for future exploration. If that makes any sense.

So that was a social moment that happened. In the Choose Your Own Adventure version of this scene, what conversational choices would you have made? I am sure my sister would have whipped a preachable moment out of her back pocket and it would have amazing.

I, though, am still curious about this disobedience.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This Lady, I Swear

If my blog were a book--I mean, if it were a novel composed by me, not if I turned my blog into a nonfiction book--there would be people I just couldn't put into the story, because the sketch of them would be too broad, not subtle enough; they wouldn't make good fictional characters because some of their character traits are too obviously ridiculous. Like, you wouldn't write a novel in which an evil villain twirled his mustache.

Take my neighbor (please)! I've mentioned her before? I think? I don't have a blog epithet for her, yet. She's one who wouldn't speak to me at the pool the whole summer I was bald from chemo, even if she'd been standing three feet away from me, but then would say to Pretty Neighbor, "I saw Becky the other day but didn't get to say hi."

But whatever, people deal with illness in different ways, and sometimes not well. My leading with that tidbit makes it sound like I harbor some bitterness towards her, but I truly don't. I never cared for her. She will talk the legs right off a donkey, but it's all about her and her things and her kids, she really doesn't want to hear about anything else. She's oblivious to social cues. She's loud. And calling her boring is a disservice to things that are just honestly boring. No shame in being boring.

Once she had Pretty Neighbor hostage, talking to her in the driveway, and PN slowly worked her way into her car to leave, murmuring her goodbyes all the while, but Gift of Gab wasn't finished with her and put her hand on the hood of PN's car to keep her in place so she could finish sucking what was left of her soul away.

It goes without saying that whatever your kids are doing, her kids are doing it just a little bit better? And ahead of developmental schedule? Or just a hair more wonderfully than your kids. You've just got to hear how baby Fletcher did at swim lessons, the teacher said she'd never seen a baby put its face in the water so quickly and willingly!

Naturally social media makes all this into an absolute nonstop farce. My own social media history with her is that I friended her, reluctantly, at her request, only to unfriend her when she posted some thing about how Obama had a bunch of relatives in this country illegally, whatever, and then she sent me another friend request, who does that? I accepted and put her on some status like, "Only show me this person's updates never," or something, but still they come through. And part of me would miss the entertainment.

She's very active on a facebook page for fanciers of tiny, ornamental dogs.

You see? You would never make this person up.

She is fond of using facebook to "check in" everywhere. Like, I kid you not, her couch or her bed. Because that's clever, huh huh huh ha ha....I'm dead.

But her favorite places to check in are 1) Church, every Sunday that she attends, so she'll receive full credit; and 2) Restaurants, where she eats every meal. One day recently, she ate four meals out. Her friends comment on her status, "Do you ever cook?" It's a culinary Grand Tour of Taco Mac, Dunkin Donuts, and frozen yogurt places.

And the irony is that she is a sales rep for one of those cookware/bakeware companies where the stuff is sold at parties.

Anyway, I can't even remember all the things that have made me go, "Oh my GOOD GOD," and roll my eyes back into my head while simultaneously texting Pretty Neighbor at the speed of light, but tonight the thing that set me off was her announcement that her middle schooler brought home her report card, having received straight 'A's for the third quarter in a row.

We were at that moment marveling at how Hank, on his report card today, earned a 2 out of a possible 4 in "Conventions of Standard English." Proud!

I was venting to Matt about the insufferable and gassy puffery of this person and how one time she said something like, "So glad my family is up early serving the Lord" or some such. I mean honestly.

Matt goes, "Well honey, you are blessed with the talent of being able to toot that horn more subtly."

Hmmmph! I say again, hmmmph!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Don't Wanna Miss A Minute

Yesterday my dad interrupted a lengthy phone chat I was having with my mom. He just wanted to tell me how much he loves me and admires the person I've become? Nope. He wanted to say, "Tell her she owes me a blog post for Saturday." And now for Monday but I know nobody is really keeping track RIGHT?

We'll make it up as we go. I'm realizing I need to make time during the day to blog, because once night falls and the stars appear over the village green, and all the people are snug indoors, there are just too many things competing for my attention: parental duties, marital leisure, basement ping pong, the hope of an early bedtime, and also Matt and I have started watching Justified.

Since last we spoke, Troy the rat trap checker came back. We were both glad to see each other. He went up in the attic and informed me that we'd murdered another flying squirrel, and I received this news with equanimity. Then I went to play tennis, where my friend said, "Oh, you paid the exterminators what? You should have called me, I have a guy."

I should have called her. She always has a guy.

Then I took Hank to karate and Laura to swimming and made a black bean and sausage soup. Laura and I nearly both lost our minds over her math homework. What's a hectoliter, quick!

Then it was today. Now I'm just telling you everything I did.

This morning I went to tennis team practice and then hung around and hit with some of the girls. The weather was gorgeous, and after three hours out there playing, all my cares had flown away. I had lunch with Matt, grabbed Hank, and checked Laura out of school to take them both to the dentist. It was there that my joy turned to chagrin.

The kids go back and then in a bit the dentist ushers me into his office and goes, "I have bad news." First of all, I have an allergy to the words "bad news," and I only want to hear them when it is bad, bad news. He told me that Hank has four cavities, which will have to be remedied in two lengthy appointments, probably involving some kind of sedation. Poor bud!

There was a fair amount of implicit judgment floating around about my slatternly ways of letting him brush his own teeth instead of doing it for him. I dunno, he has one of those spin brush things and I thought he was doing okay. But he was not! And now I am covered in shame.

Obviously Chick-fil-a was called for.

So there we repaired to nurture our spirits and kill a little time before I could drop Laura at swimming. A number of waffle fries found their way into my mouth. Laura ate a pile of chicken and then some of her brother's food. After a few minutes she goes, "Is it weird that I'm hungry right now?" I encouraged her to wait twenty minutes and then reassess. The girl can eat.

We chatted as Hank went to and from the play area. I petted Laura's hair and said, "Your hair is really  long, do you want to get it cut before spring break?" "Not really," she said.

Hank looked at me and said, with all the accumulated wisdom of his six years, "Just let the girl do what she wants."

Not bad advice.

But even with such charming company as those two, I stewed and was glum about Hank's dental situation. Laura, sensing the mood, goes, "Are you, like, traumatized right now?"

"No," I said, "but I was just realizing that one of Hank's cavities costs the same as killing one flying squirrel."

So basically everything is fine here. Now you're caught up. How are you?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Highlight Reel

What tennis looked like today:

Mah ladies.
What it looked like only THREE DAYS AGO:

Even with the terrible blur you can see that I am fully bundled.
Yes, our long hibernal nightmare may be over. Temperatures shot up the last few days, and it was a totally glorious weekend. Heading out to play tennis today, I felt lucky to be strong and alive. The luck o' the Irish indeed. Even though Pretty Neighbor and I lost, it still felt like a great way to spend a day.

Notice the matching outfits on my girls up there. They totally didn't plan that, but I told them we need to pair them together one week, and that would be the Most Annoying Ladies Doubles Partnership Ever.

I bet someone would go home and start a blog about it.

Another highlight: Matt's cousin and her family blew through town and spent the night with us. It was good to get the kids together with their cousins.

See how the back door is open? Heaven.
Hank and Wade, age 8, were playing in the book room, and I overheard Hank say, "You know, you're really good at Legos." Respect. Then Laura flat-ironed CJ's hair and put shimmery eye-shadow on her. The adults ate a pot of stew, drank a bottle of wine, and very efficiently downloaded a lot of life information. A successful cousin meeting by any stretch.

I haven't heard any skittering in the attic in days. Either the creatures are all neutralized, or they're up there, waiting for us to get comfortable.

Both Saturday and Sunday mornings, Matt arose at the crack of doom to take Laura to her eternal and never-ending swim meet. He did not repine, because he knows that, with me, his name will be written in the Book of Life.

Jesus on the mainline, tell him what you want.


Friday, March 15, 2013

At The Crack of Doom

Laura had to be on deck for a swim meet at 6:45 this morning, forty-five minutes from our house. When I first opened the email containing the session times, I winced in an exaggerated fashion. Like, I pulled my shoulders up around my ears. I have written before of my dislike of scheduled things, and when the scheduled things are early in the morning, I am like BEYOND GAH.

A meet on a school day is a new thing for us. This particular meet is Friday, Saturday, AND Sunday, and Laura is swimming all three days. At 5:45, I rolled out of bed, put on jeans, and pulled a fleece on over the camisole I slept in. I nudged Laura and in ten minutes, we were out the door into the dark. She had packed her backpack the night before, she has always been easy to get going in the morning. I got her a sausage biscuit on the way because if it is still dark outside, there is no such thing as a healthy breakfast. Just please hand over the grease and bread. I had a banana, because banana and coffee are two of my favorite tastes together.

We got to the meet and found seats in the bleachers. I said, "Didn't you bring anything to read or do?" She said, "I never bring anything." And then she sat there and watched every event. I remembered, duh, this is her sport, she wants to watch it being done. A big sign on the far side of the room had that pool's records for each event, for men and women. We studied the list; Michael Phelps's name was all over it. Then, watching the 15-18 boys swim a long, grueling medley, Laura gestured toward the records and said, "Michael Phelps would be done by now." That made me laugh. I said it sounded like she was quoting the worst coach in the world, just comically non-motivating. "You know, guys, Michael Phelps would be done already. He'd be dried off and eating an entire pizza, probably folded in half like a taco. Step it up."

Then she swam her events and it was all good and we were out of there at 11:30. But even though I had nothing demanding on my schedule for the rest of the day, to my friends I was all, "You GUYS, OMG so early! And driving down to Chamblee! But it's for the children!!!" Then we got Hank, had lunch, saw Fabienne the cleaning lady out the door, relaxed for a little bit, and then went up to the playground and tennis courts for Laura's lesson. I watched some of my friends play and enjoyed the sudden turn to gorgeous weather after the raw, bone-chilling and spirit-breaking, chilly-damp soul funk we've been enduring.

Matt had to get Hank ready for school and this is how that went.

The whole family has been going pretty hard all week. The tennis, y'all, good lord. I had five tennis matches or practices between Tuesday and Thursday night, including two three-set, three hour grinders. (Winning!) Funny how you can feel two different ways about two different matches you won. One I was annoyed about, because we never should have let those ladies take us to a third set--we played like utter goofballs and the pace was so slow you would have cut your own throat--and the other I felt absolutely triumphant and glowing about, because we lost the first set and had our hands full, these girls were good. It did not look good for us, but we adjusted our game and took the match. I ran from side to side for three hours--nobody who has known Becky for a long time would have recognized me. I don't even know, it's like I'm a stranger to myself.

That night I ate the whole world, then climbed into bed feeling various pains. That's not usual for me, but my toes hurt, my legs hurt, and my elbow was sore from overuse. I resolved to take today and tomorrow off from tennis. I turned down a match and I even turned down an invite to a St. Patty's Day party tonight, because I think we were all craving some downtime. Also the party hosts are loud, prone to drunkenness, famously volatile, and on the brink of divorce. Which is basically the same as saying, they're on our mixed doubles team.


Matt is taking Laura to her meet tomorrow, otherwise there is no way I'd be awake and blogging. God bless you all and God bless America. xoxo

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Well I Guess The Child Has Heard One Thing I've Said

laura in backyard

This morning Laura and I sat in the car waiting for the school bus. She had cajoled me into driving her up there because it was 31 degrees, and baby might catch a chill. Anyway, so we sat together in our heated seats and I took in her outfit.

"Oh, I didn't know you ever wore those yoga pants to school," I said.

"Well," she said, "Yoga pants, a sweatshirt, and Toms, that's the thing now."

"That's the thing now?" I asked, "What about jeans and cowboy boots, is that no longer a thing?"

She assured me that jeans and cowboy boots was still also a thing.

In the rear view mirror I spied her friend Claire getting out of her family's SUV.

I said, "Wow, you're right. There's Claire wearing yoga pants, Toms, and a sweatshirt. She has a bow in her hair and is also chewing gum."

Laura said, "Her mother lets her chew gum."

I opined as how that must be nice for her. What's funny is that I don't actually FORBID GUM, but it is not part of our lives, and whenever I see Laura with gum, I say, "Where did you get that? Why don't you go spit it out?" I think it's one of the least attractive things you can do with your face.

Laura went on, "Whenever any of my friends asks me if I want gum, I say, 'Noooo.'" And here she affected a glum, hangdog look.

I said, "Yes, as I have mentioned before, you will never see Kate Middleton with gum in her mouth."

I offered that as though it closed the case. Laura sat in silent acquiescence.

I don't know why I make a thing of the things I make a thing of, I just do. There's a method to it all, somewhere.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bring Your Own What?

Hank's Kindergarten teacher has sent home a letter and a permission form for Bring Your Own Technology. BYOT, as they call it, is widespread in our school system, but with Laura I don't remember it being a thing until she was in the fifth grade.

I remember the middle school orientation at the start of the year, where it quickly became apparent that it was basically required for each kid to have some kind of device they could do certain tasks on and use to read their online textbook. Parents were saying, "So should I just buy her an ipad, or some other kind of tablet? A laptop? Just say the word." I was like, "Do whut?"

I don't have an ipad. I have my beloved iphone 5 and a four year-old laptop that, though nice in its day, is now missing the left-sided shift, capslock, and 's' key covers. 

Not being able to hit the left-side shift has done interesting and probably permanent things to my typing.

Laura has an ipod touch that she got a couple Christmases ago and a Kindle Fire that she spent her 11th birthday money on. (That kindle is nice--I think those are a good deal.) Her Kindle Fire is what she takes to school and works on. Hank has none of this. He has a Nintendo DS that he plays with sometimes. He has our xbox, Legos, and the air and sky. I have not been inclined to put a smart phone-type object into his six year-old hands. Having that kind of thing is not part of his six year-old life.

Really, it's not even about the money, at a certain point it's about the having, maintaining, and keeping up with all of these small expensive objects. And indeed, since our older kids started doing BYOT in school, I know of a handful of lost and broken devices among my friends and neighbors.

Of course, the teacher writes in the letter that no child will be left out, that it's not mandatory, that there are a few classroom devices for kids who don't have one, etcetera. On the way to school this morning, Hank brought it up. "Mom, the permission form for BYOT is in my folder." (The way he says BYOT, with emphasis on each letter, is adorbs. Bee, Why, Oh, TEE.)

I said, "Well bud, what are most people doing for BYOT?" He had the precise metrics: 16 kids in his class have an ipod touch, he said. And Christopher and Max have ipads. The remaining six of them can use the classroom computers and the three classroom ipods. 

Having to use one of the classroom devices sounds fine to me. Hardly a deprived situation, right? And he didn't complain or whine about it. I just said, "Well honey, you don't have an ipod, I don't think you really need one." 

But this morning I told Laura that I would like for her to do her brother a favor and lend him her ipod every Friday, with the understanding that if it gets lost or broken, I'll underwrite the loss, and she was fine with it. 

What do you think? Is this the norm where you are? 

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Hope It Wasn't Nutkin

Last Tuesday the Wildlife Exclusion Specialist came from the exterminator and set about addressing our roof rat scourge. Go back and read up on it if you missed any of the skittering creature sounds and the marital intrigue that naturally resulted. The Wildlife Exclusion Specialist was a very tall, broad man named Mark. Mark looked like he knew a lot about hard work. But still he was only one guy. I had been kind of expecting a small squadron, each with a different job function. Maybe one would be the communications guy, one the brains, and one the grease man, okay this is starting to sound like Ocean's Eleven, I don't know.

But I said, "Are you going to do it all yourself, Mark?"

"Aw Ma'am," he said (I SWEAR), "There really ain't nothin' to it."

Well, okay, but I am paying a lot of money for this service, I want to feel that it's fiendishly complicated, you know? A little too perilous? But Mark wasn't the sales arm of the Wildlife Exclusion biz, he was the doer of the thing. And it actually did look pretty perilous once he had to take that ladder all around the outside of the house.

"How about this wind?" I said.

"It's blowin'," he said.

So Mark sealed up the roof line and then went up in the attic with baited traps. All this took about four hours. Then he came to me with a printed schedule of when the traps would be checked. I said, "Will you be coming back, Mark?" And he said no, that it would be a different person, which was a shame, because I had enjoyed our talks, and he seemed really very capable. But away he went.

That night it seemed like I could hear even more skittering, I supposed because the creatures weren't able to get out for their nightly forage? Matt observed, helpfully, that we had chosen the course of action that closed the rats in with us. It was not a soothing thought. As I sat in the evening, and as I lay down that night, I was half listening for the sound of a trap slamming shut.

I began to consider different nightmare scenarios. One was: the traps quickly became full, the other rats couldn't get out, and so chewed their way down into our living space. I wanted to call Mark or somebody to come check the traps the very next day. But I refrained. I looked at their printed schedule and noted their five to six-day intervals, and I thought, maybe they know what they're doing. So I waited.

I heard a few little skitters for a couple of days. Then it got quiet, then we left for the mountains.

And while we were in the mountains, I considered another doomsday scenario and grew fearful: The rats are up there in the attic, sealed in. Some of their number are dead in the traps. There is no food. The house is quiet, and sensing that its inhabitants have abandoned it, the stronger rats chew their way into our living space and basically live it up all weekend. Sunday night, we walk through the front door with our bags to see them lounging on the sofa, reading the new Vanity Fair and eating the little bags of chips that are only supposed to be for school lunches.

I am not lying when I tell you that I entered my kitchen last night with a slight but real feeling of trepidation. But no gnawed apples in the bowl, no tiny rat cigarette butts anywhere. Also no smell of decomposing rat. Just our calm house. Phew.

And this morning, as per the schedule, a young man came to check the traps. His name was Troy, and he was somewhere earlier on the path to becoming a fully-fledged Wildlife Exclusion Guy like Mark. So he went up in the attic and was there a long time. I posted on facebook about it. I sipped my coffee. I waited for news from the front.

Troy reappeared with a white garbage bag that had something in it. EW! He took it straight out to the truck, then came back and told me that the traps had caught three flying squirrels.

Flying effing squirrels?!?

Where are the horrifying rats? "I was told there'd be rats," I said, or words to that effect. "Well, if they're in there, we'll get 'em," Troy said. Then he told me that one other trap had been tripped, but the critter had gotten the bait and got away. So awesome, there is a super-smart, canny King of Rats up there, waiting for us to exhaust our pitiful tactics so he can launch Phase 2 of his rat plan.

Matt came home tonight and sat down to dinner with me. "So as I understand," he began, "we paid over a thousand dollars to murder three squirrels?"

"Murder seems like a strong word," I replied. "More lentils, dear?" Then I told him how Troy had said to me that squirrels were really just cuter rats but equally pestilential. And then I realized that I couldn't say the word "rat" even one more time. And we enjoyed our supper in silence.

I told you I'd keep you posted and now I sure the heck have.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Would Have Done Such Wonderful Things

Such wonderful things with that golden hour that was taken from us today. I know that complaining about something to do with clocks is zzzzz but there it is. I kind of lost the hour in which I was going to blog a real post.

What I did instead of blog with the limited time available to me today:

Woke up late, still at the mountain house. Farewelled Matt's departing family.

Had some coffee and ate supper leftovers for brunch. Didn't want to take a lot of food home.

Started reading Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James. If you are an Austen fan, you would really like it. Usually when someone attempts to imitate Austen's style and tone, it makes me feel a deep, deep sadness. But not in this case.

Texted with four people to find out what was going on, in real time, with our Sunday team's tennis match today. The news was mixed.

Played a board game that Laura had spent the morning making. It involved buying lottery tickets to get ahead and win. Hmm.

Stripped/made a bed. Policed our area and gathered our belongings. Cleaned the kitchen. Directed children through the sub-par performance of cleaning jobs. While Laura was on her knees cleaning something off the kitchen floor, she said, "I feel like Cinderella!" Matt said, "Only the Cinderella who always gets to go to the ball? And doesn't ever work?" I chimed in that there was a name for that Cinderella--it's the evil stepsisters. Laura harrumphed.

Then I gave Hank some glass cleaner and some paper towels, and honestly, watching a young child attempt to clean a pane of glass is just something. Something character-building. I showed him how to do it better and then we did it together and a lot of paper towels died in the process.

Read some more while Matt and the kids had one last hot tub.

More light reading.

Shut down the mountain house and locked the door behind us. It is always strange to me to think of it sitting there, cooling down, empty and waiting, the rays of sun traveling across the rooms day after day and nobody there. Except the ladybugs, who are wintering in the corners.

Sat in the passenger seat and provided color commentary on all of life while Matt drove us home to Atlanta.

Played a little Rock Band 3 with the family. Found that child bedtime came quickly, more quickly than the kids felt was just. Matt announced, like the closing-time bartender, "You don't have to go to sleep but you can't stay here."

Watched an episode of Game of Thrones with Matt. Watched the very first episode again because now we know who the heck everyone is.

Sat in bed and instead of blogging, let Matt show me some of the new parts of his game, Dungeon Blitz. It's looking great.

Wrote this post.

Tomorrow morning's wakeup is gonna be tough. xoxo

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Of Buckets

We are in the mountains this weekend with Matt's mom and brother. It was a very quiet day today. Highlights were: Staying in bed until 11am while Betty tended our children, playing boardgames, inspecting a mudslide that has buried one of the mountain roads, and washing rich brown mud off of two dogs.

Mudslide or landslide? I don't know the difference.
Hank can somehow read now and that has expanded his game access.
During an afternoon hot tub with the kids, they asked Matt to give them riddles and puzzles. This is one of their favorite things. He came up with a set of questions that everyone had fun with, and I thought you might like to use them with your littler people.

He started by telling the kids that they had two buckets, a five-gallon and a three-gallon, and they were standing on the shore of a lake with unlimited access to water. They must come up with exactly two gallons. How to do it?

After some cogitation and false starts--Laura wanted to just eyeball the amounts of water in the buckets, Hank wanted to go get two gallons of milk and compare--even Hank realized that five minus three is two, and that you fill the five-gallon, pour as much as will go into the three-gallon, and you are left with a certain two-gallons of water.

One of the ground rules was that Hank was allowed to guess and think aloud, but Laura couldn't speak up until she was exactly sure of the correct answer. When she broke this rule, Matt ordered her to get out of the hot tub and run a lap around the house. Hank was then like, "Can I run a lap?" and wanted to use the physical challenge as an escape from thinking about the problems. Eventually we let him run a lap too, because why would I prevent a child from running around outside in a wet bathing suit on a winter day?

With that basic bucket puzzle theme established, with the five and the three-gallon buckets, Matt built up to asking them how to get one gallon, how to get seven gallons, etc.

I admit the seven gallons stumped me for a second. I have no ego in this area and I don't mind saying.

Play around with it, it's fun!

After the kids got out and went inside, we were like, "Yeah, those two are bright enough but I don't think they're exactly geniuses." I just have to trust that with their other strengths, they'll make their way in the world somehow.

That's the scene here today. What are y'all up to?

Friday, March 8, 2013

I Got Served

Until today, I hadn't lost a ladies' doubles match in months. Like really, maybe October? I've been on a hot streak, I don't know why, either I've improved, or I've been paired with strong partners, or it's luck and trickery. Probably all of the above. Hey, remember when I blogged about the first match I ever won? I was so excited! Adorable. At that time, I figured that I would probably blog about every subsequent match I won, because it would be such a rare occurrence.

There have been a couple tennis career highlights lately. Our mixed doubles team won our division in the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association, yielding us a coveted bag tag. The bag tag is just that, a little piece of plastic that says something like, "ALTA 2013 Division Winner," and you are supposed to hang it on your tennis bag to strike fear in the hearts of your foes. Some people have a lot of them. It's like wearing a necklace of bones as a trophy or something. Yeah, like that.

I was reading on some online tennis talk forum, and the subject of Atlanta came up and what a tennis town it is, and somebody said, "Second only to the Wimbledon trophy is the precious ALTA bag tag."

And all the people said amen! And now it is mine! And Matt's.  

Just an example. Not my bag, LOL.

Also this winter, a tennis friend, Peg, and I signed up for a flex league, where we were matched with opponents and scheduled our own matches. We won all of our matches, winning our division. Our prize? Not only ANOTHER bag tag, but OMG friends, wait for it: A car magnet. It too says "Division Winner." An outward and visible sign that we are winners. It says "winner" right on it.

To understand the wonderfulness of this car magnet, you would have to be deeply immersed in my milieu and the folkways of my people. I know it doesn't sound like much, but when the magnet came in the mail today, Laura ran out and put it on the back of the minivan. Then she turned to me and said, with seeming seriousness, "Do you feel like you're one of them now?" Who is the them? I don't know. The winners!
 And people actually display them on their cars, like I am doing. I know it is the least cool thing ever, but winning.

So Peg and I won our division, beating this lady who has a reputation for being bitchy on the court. Every neighborhood has a different nickname for her, seriously. She is famous in our league. She rides to the court on a bike with a big basket, and people call her the Wicked Witch. I didn't find her bitchy, exactly--in fact I think I'd probably like to know her--but I sure enjoyed beating her in a third-set tiebreak. Then we had to play her again in the first round of playoffs. I was like, "Peg, we have to beat her, because she thought she should have won the last time, and if she beats us now, she will feel she was right." So we beat her again in another three-set match. Whew! And I swear, we beat her in spite of her and her partner being better than us. That happens sometimes, I felt like we just outplayed them. They did not know what happened. And that led us to today, a bit farther along in the bracket, our second playoff match.

Our opponents were a tall, pretty Swedish girl and a tall, pretty British girl. It was like playing against a Model UN, like, only with actual models. And you know that scene in Elf where Will Ferrell is getting hustled out of the Empire State Building by the security guards, and he says, in wonderment, "You guys are so strong!" That's what playing them felt like.

We did everything we could, but they were too good. They were so good that our being merely smart wasn't enough. We lost 3-6, 3-6. I don't know if we ever put any real pressure on them. They might have had another gear they could have shifted up to, I'm not sure. But it was a beautiful day and they were as nice as they could be. I felt okay after we left, because I knew that my little train had chugged as far as it could--I felt I'd been playing above my level and was lucky to get that far.

The prize for winning the playoffs and being city champion is another, different, car magnet. No lie.

So my streak is over, but Spring tennis is starting and maybe I can start a new streak.

Longest post evar. Aren't you glad I'm blogging every day so that you won't miss a minute?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

That's My Racquet

Tonight, at the end of all our activities, I sat down on the couch and announced, to the heavens, that my cold is terrible, terrible, ugh, snuffle! And Matt studied me and said, "Yes, you're so ill that you were only able to play tennis for hours today."

True. But, as I said to him, exercise is good for a cold. Studies show this. So he suggested that if it gets really bad, I might go for a run. Hmmph.

Here on the brink of spring, Thursday has yet again become Tennis Day. Thursday morning is match day for our Thursday team--the one I'm co-captain of--which usually occupies me from nine until after noon. Today we kicked off our season, playing our Easter week match early.

At four, I'm back up at the courts for Hank's lesson. Then I drive all over the place and drop Laura at swimming, take Hank home, try to feed everyone, etc.

At seven, we have an hour-and-a-half practice for our Sunday team. The coach fires balls at you like a machine and talks non-stop. "Becky, I'm not gonna lie to you, that was your ball. You gotta go get that ball. We see the ball and we go get the ball." Imagine this spoken in the style of an auctioneer.

So by the end of the day on Thursday, I'm tired.

I have a post brewing about the politics of our tennis team(s), but that sounds, um, kind of hard right now? I'll save it for when I'm more alert. But suffice it for now to say, you would not believe the number of different conversations that have to take place in order to generate the weekly lineup, that is, who is playing and in what order. Getting advice, building consensus, consulting stakeholders, getting buy-in. You would not believe. I mean, I really like to talk and even I am like oh come on. 

My co-captain is confusing interpersonal busy-work with due diligence, and I may have to wrest control soon.

More anon, friends.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Home Health Aids

Hank and I took a sick day today. We have colds. But they weren't really so bad that we couldn't have gone on with our normal activities. Sometimes, though, I feel like I just want to give it a day--like go ahead and rest and just have a cold--and then bounce back the next day. And you know how you always feel worse first thing in the morning? At six thirty, I was like, "I can't gooo ooooonnnn...." I knew Hank was feeling the same and I made a game-time decision that we would sleep in today. I figured that if given the chance, he would cough all over everyone in kindergarten, and that's no way to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. So I fell back asleep with a tissue sticking out of one of my nostrils.

Laura got up, got her own breakfast, made her own lunch, and went to the bus stop unassisted and unheralded.

I have numerous elixirs that I dosed myself with throughout the day. They are of varying levels of efficacy and intensity. Some are just warm beverages. My favorite is just hot water, lemon juice, turmeric, and honey. For some reason, I call this hot ham water, in homage to "Arrested Development."

I mean, I don't call it hot ham water in the sense that I ever have occasion to say this aloud. But while I'm whisking in the turmeric with my little bamboo whisk, I think, "hot ham water," and chuckle inside. Watery, with just a smack of ham.

For some reason, that is the main thing I wanted to tell you.

It was wild and windswept here all morning. A good day to be inside. Just us and the rats that may have been trapped in the attic when the roof was sealed up yesterday. You know, cozy.

Hot ham water.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Some Kinds of People

Okay well it's not quite that bad but honestly.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Of Unusual Size

My sister-in-law Kate, she of the forty acres in the country and the haunted church, posted this picture on facebook this morning. "This giant groundhog keeps trying to get into my house," she said. Adding, lest we thought she was kidding, "I'm not even kidding." She said he had tried the patio door, the garage, and the front door, and was just then staring at her from the backyard.

This led Amy to comment/wail, "Why are rodents attacking our family??"


And speaking of which. The professional mouseketeers are coming tomorrow morning to begin mitigating our roof rat situation. 

When last we checked in on the delicate marital dance--the dance that ensues when a man and woman love each other very much and they buy a house together that some rats love to nest in--I had turned the decision-making process over to Matt and had given him the contact info for Tim the critter guy. I figured that he would talk to the guy and either negotiate some reduced level of service or just pick his brain or I didn't know what.

I had turned this issue over to Matt in a spirit of wifely submission. And here's what I've learned about wifely submission: For wifely submission to work, like, as a maneuver, it can't be a maneuver, it has to really be the authentic thing. I was all, "I surrender this issue to your judgment and if you want to make a hobby out of catching rats in your spare time, I will never issue the first peep of second-guessing you because we are one flesh and I don't think you are wrong and I don't even want to be right."

Or I didn't say all those words, but it was like, the gist.

What happened was that Matt decided he didn't even have the time and braincycles to spend on talking to the guy. Which was a good proof-of-concept of the truth that if he didn't have time to talk about some rats, he didn't have time to stalk, bait, trap, and dispose of rats.

And that is how that is turning out.

So tomorrow the professionals will be here. I will have smelling salts nearby in case I have to actually lay eyes on a rat.

If that groundhog had been laying siege to my house, I would have totally let him in and tried to figure out what he might like to eat. Then I would have made him a bed in a laundry basket and later, just maybe, put him in a bonnet. You?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Three Years Away from That

Today I took Laura to a get-together with some of her swim friends at a trampoline park. I took Hank too, and I planted myself on a bench in a central location where he could buzz by every now and then and I could verify that he was still alive.

Another swim mom sat down next to me. I almost never see these women because we all just drop off at practice. There is really no standing around the side of the pool chatting. Too loud and too wet and the kids are too big for that now. We're practically strangers to each other. This lady was wearing a head scarf in a way that pretty clearly said, "I am having or have had chemotherapy."

I am long, long past the time when I needed to talk to everybody about my breast cancer. Not sure I ever really did, actually. But this lady and I chatted, first about swimming, then about child-activity juggling in general, then about tennis, which is always a topic of widespread interest around here. I said, "I had breast cancer three years ago, and I started playing tennis in earnest after I was finished with that."

That opened the door for her to talk about herself and her ongoing treatment and so on, and we talked through the rest of the hour of the kids' jumping time. Part of the time it was like we were two med students presenting a History & Physical to each other. I noticed that she was very, very conversant in cancer treatment--in oncotypes and histology and staging--whereas I was a bit rusty. I told her, "You know, it's hard to understand how, but I actually can't remember some of this." She said that was good to hear. I said, "Believe it or not, a lot of this treatment stuff will come to seem like just a really bad weekend."

I'm almost three years to the day from when I heard that diagnosis on the phone. I would love to think that the three years means I'm safer. Probably I am, a bit. We talked about the fear and dread, the cancer-worry that is now part of normal fabric of everyday life. It hums along at low volume most of the time, with occasional loud blasts of noise. I told her, "The good news is that you get it all back, all the stuff you're losing right now. It comes back." She complimented my long hair, and I said, "Yeah, I should really get it cut, I've made my point, I think."

The funny thing was, about forty-five minutes into this conversation, I'd had enough. There was pleasure in making a human connection and in listening to her share about herself, but then it was like I wanted to push back from the table. I am not at the point where I could, like, help with a support group or do some kind of work with people having cancer treatment. Maybe it's like what peace of mind I have is too lightly held, I don't know.

Normal Neighbor's colon cancer is back. Or it never went away? It has been two years since her diagnosis and treatment, and she has been very well during that time. But now it's back, and it's awful. She's having chemo right now, a more intense course. She is dog-sick. Her hair is thinning and I gave her my wig. Remember Codi? I don't know if she will need it, but she wanted to be ready. She came to my house to get it, and it's the only time in all this junk that I've ever seen her shaky and upset. I hugged her and told her that she would still look like herself, no matter what.

Living, man, it is not for the faint of heart. That's all I got.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Genus Rattus Species Rattus

You guys. So the other night I happened to be sleeping without the single earplug I usually wear. (I am a side-sleeper and I wear one earplug in my top ear, so I cannot hear the dog breathing and the music of the spheres and whatever, but so that I can hear it if someone speaks my name or if absolutely all hell breaks loose. Yes, I do move the earplug from ear to ear during the night.)

So there I was, having heedlessly fallen into slumber with my ear canal unplugged, when I was awakened by something. I lay there and tried to determine what had disturbed me. Then I heard it: a skittering in the ceiling above my bed. A skittering and a scuttling. It was quite loud, an almost urgent-sounding kind of skitter. In my sleep-fogged state, I tried to alert Matt. I remember tapping on his hip and trying to murmur, "Critters." But I can't be sure that my mouth was really working right and I might have just patted him and sussurated in his direction.

Later, awake and vertical, I remembered that when we bought this house, the attic was home to some number of flying squirrels. So when the exterminator guy happened to be here, I confided in him about the skittering. He went up into the attic. When he came down, I was sitting on the living-room couch. He said, "Well, I've got bad news. It's not flying squirrels, it's rats."

Reader, when he said that, I actually shushed him. Shushed him like you shush a child in church. Then I put my hands over my ears. He looked compassionately at me and waited.

He explained that there are these black rats, he called them roof rats, that live in trees and high places, and like to come sleep in our attic after they've been out foraging for food. They're using our insulation for nesting material. I wailed a bit and asked why we couldn't have something cute up there, like raccoons. His eyes grew big and he said, "Oh no. You don't want raccoons. They never leave."

Then he went outside and performed various calculations and observations. When he came back in, he said that for $1360, they would go over every bit of the roofline and seal it up, then set traps and come every couple of days to check them until the problem was solved. I agreed to this and established a day and time for the work to commence, then he went away.

Well, you can imagine what Matt's reaction to this was: We will trap them ourselves, he said.

Reader, I said nothing, said it in the most tolerant and understanding wifely way that you can imagine.

I did not wish to quash either his thrift or his can-do spirit, but I did quibble with his choice of pronoun. No, I demurred, there could be no "we" in the case, as I could neither trap a rat, look at a rat, think about a rat, or really even know about a rat.

Then I said, "Sweetie, do you have the time and energy to devote to this issue? Because I do think this could be the sort of thing where we either pay now or pay later, having thrown just enough money and time at it to decide that you don't want to tackle it, given the many and various demands on your time."

Then I postponed the attic work for a week to give him time to think about it. And I gave him the critter guy's business card and suggested he chat with him.

Then I discussed it with several girlfriends, both at home and abroad, who understand the delicate marital dynamics of having rats in one's attic.

Tonight I discussed it with our house guests. "I think I heard them," our friend said. In the kitchen, Matt announced, "I went up into the attic today and I have a plan. It seems very doable."

I listened to the plan and it may be doable, I don't know. I just asked that he call the critter guy and tell him not to come, because I am ready to remove myself from that loop, and that we do something fun with that amount of money. My tennis friend just got back from a trip to Dominica that she got with a Groupon, something like that would do okay.

I will keep you posted, trust.

Friday, March 1, 2013


laura blue jacket
Laura J Bean, as she is called.
Y'all, there is just so much living, so much, and it is just going by, going on by.

This won't do at all. I'm at risk of slipping into the Unexamined Life. Yesterday I emailed Elizabeth and I said something like, sometimes I get the urge to blog but then I think, "Well, THAT happened last week and I didn't blog about that so I can hardly pick up with this mundanity." Some kind of total bullshit like that.

Let's reconnect. I'll blog every day in March and maybe I'll work my way around to the really important mundanities. I mean, there is just so so much tennis to tell you about and also rats in our attic. Honestly, it's a rich tapestry over here.

A big milestone this week was Laura's 12th birthday. Huge. My neighbor wished me a "Happy Birthing Day," and I thought, whoa. That day I spent having that little baby was twelve years ago. And then, conversely, I thought, "Wait, Laura is a whole entire personality and is one of the more intricate parts of creation and she is only twelve?" Most of my sheets are older than that. I have a lot of things older than that.

So I had told her once, long ago, that she could get her ears pierced when she was twelve. You know, one of those parenting-as-random-number-generator moments. She filed that away, and then she pulled out the file and reminded me daily for the last three months. I told her, you know, just because you're turning twelve doesn't mean you have to get your ears pierced. You could wait. Well when I said that I wasn't aware that she was the absolute last person on earth without pierced ears, and there would be no more waiting. So we gathered up two of her besties and off we went.

Then we shopped and ate dinner and were all very satisfied with ourselves.

She came home from school on the actual day of her birthday and said that her friends had decorated her locker, covering it with wrapping paper and taping candy to it, and that she had been sung "Happy Birthday" to seven times, once by each class period, so I think she felt pretty celebrated.

Matt asked her to stay eleven, and she refused. I remember him asking her to stay three. I don't know where the time has gone, but it can slow the heck down please.

So now you're up to speed on Recent Birthdays and Rites of Passage. I'll be back tomorrow. xoxoxo