Friday, August 31, 2007

I Don't Do Linear

Do you ever have one of those days where you notice who you are? I'm not sure I can really explain this but I was walking out to my car this morning when I noticed that my big pots of last year's geraniums are decidedly leggy and past their prime.

And suddenly, I stopped short and thought, "Good Gravy, I'm a person who keeps pots of geraniums! How did that happen?"

Because my mom has always had pots of geraniums and I never liked them much. For one thing, I think geraniums stink and for another, they just never look like abundance to me and that's what I like my pots of flowers to be. I like a huge overflowing cascade of rich color --sheer decadence of texture and (non-stinky) blooms. (Granted, this is Texas so they only look like that for about four days before they start the slow lingering death in the heat, no matter how much water and love and plant food I give them.)

But I digress. (Great Balls O'Fire, I am a person who has a hard time staying on point!) I don't really like geraniums and yet I have two big pots of them in my driveway by the back gate.

So, then I got into my silver Honda Odyssey (Jumpin' Jehoshaphat, I am a person who drives a mini-van!), which is so common here in Austin that I used to have to write my kids' names on the window in shoe polish so they didn't get into the wrong silver Honda Odyssey when I picked them up from school.

(Okay, so I have to tell this story, which I don't think I've ever published before, although I've told this story a LOT so if you've heard it before, just go on about your business. (It's a digression, I know, but that's just who I am.) When the van was about two months old, I had both kids in tow and had gone grocery shopping. I came out to find that someone had hit my van, putting a big old dent in the back right bumper.

I just can't tell you how upset I was. My van is the first brand-new car I've ever driven and I told my husband at the time that it was just too much pressure. But it turned out to be actually cheaper for us to finance a new car than to finance one that was a year old, given how these Hondas hold their value, etc. etc. (That, my friends, was a digression within a digression --are you guys keeping score at home?)

Anyway, my van had a huge dent in the back fender and the person who hit me didn't even leave a note! I was almost crying. And loving little Jane was about 18 months old or so and she kept saying, "Someone hit da new van, Mama? And no note?" She was very concerned. I was looking with such suspicion at the cowboy parked next to me (since his door was open and resting on the front of the van while he unbuckled his baby from his car seat.) that he said, "I'm trying to remember if I was here when you got here."

"I don't think you were," I said, my voice positively dripping with tears. We stood there forlornly, trying to figure out what to do. But, well, I had to get those groceries home and my kids out of the sun so I pressed the remote to unlock my car and it DID unlock.

About two spaces up from the silver Honda Odyssey with the dent.

I'd been mourning the wrong van.

I thought the cowboy was going to have coffee come out of his nose, he was laughing so hard. He's probably STILL telling that story.)

Anyway, I kept doing things all morning and wondering how I first came to be a person who does these things. Does that make sense? Like, I took the recycling and the composting out. (Jeepers! I'm a person who composts and recycles!) I knitted on my sock. (Great Caesar's Ghost! I'm a person who KNITS!) I went and visited my beautiful friend Laura. (DUDE, I am a person who calls Laura a friend!)

I realized that a lot of this life I'm living just sneaked right up on me when I wasn't paying attention. I didn't plan to be living this way at 42. I didn't plan to drive this car or look this way or grow geraniums but you know what? Other than the geraniums, it's a pretty spectacular life. I think maybe I need a bumper sticker that says, "I Don't Do Linear."

It just occurs to me, as I'm writing this and feeling all smooshy about my life and the non-linear blessings of it all, that I now have to go pack for my family because we are going to the coast for the long Labor Day weekend. (I'm the kind of person who goes to the coast! In her silver Honda Odyssey! With her husband and two children.)

(Holy COW, I have two kids! I need to lie down!)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Love Thursday and Bodily Functions

The thing about parenting is that much of it has to do with the management of bodily functions.

When kids are little, there is a lot of talking about spit-up and poop. (I noticed on my blog visitor statistics yesterday that someone found my blog by searching for blogs that have "poop" tags.)



(Come on over, honey! Might as well sit on down because you have got some READING to do!)

Then when one graduates to parenting a cow dog named Scout, there is a lot, I mean a LOT, of talk about urine.

Mostly, now that my kids are older, I feel need to talk a LOT about managing blood sugar levels these days.

Toward that end, I was going to attempt another cooking blog entry.

See this?

The sauce was made of my very secret, labor intensive recipe wherein one takes these two things
and drizzles them artfully over the top of a salmon fillet and bakes it on 350 for a time. (The Pam is in that picture because I used it to spray the dish before I put the salmon in it. This might be a good idea, unless you plan on using Soft Scrub on it later.)

Note that no child will actually eat this fish but it was a darn good way to keep my blood sugar levels steady while I was making their completely separate dinners.

Today, I think we have crossed the boundaries of what bodily functions I am willing to talk about in parenting my kids, though. (Stop reading right here if you get queasy easily.)

When my kids were little, I told them the stuff in their noses was called "germs." Because there really is no socially acceptable word for the stuff in our noses, you know what I mean? I don't want to hear a three-year-old talking about "snot." And I, myself refuse to use the word, "booger" because I hate it as much as that four-letter F-word for flatulence. (I know, I know, I am such a prude.)

Jane, having watched some Harry Potter, calls that stuff in our noses, "Bogeys" and that seems fairly innocuous. (Why is it that no matter what is said with an English accent, it sounds so much more civilized and couth? Here is a blogger doing a fake British accent while taking us on a tour of her house. Be warned, she uses some language that would get me an NC-17 rating or worse, but it's funny.))

On Tuesday when Ana was so upset about how messy my van is, she climbed into the back seat and then she shrieked, "Mom! SOMEONE WIPED A BOOGER ON THE SEAT!"

I was a little out of patience with Her Highness of the Princess and the Pea, so I told her that no one would do that (ick! gross!) and to just sit down, Missy!

Well, yesterday, I cleaned my car.

And it was definitely a booger. Someone had wiped a booger her GERMS on the seat.

Love Thursday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Socks and Superheroes

I think I might be getting sick, because my normal glass half-full outlook seems to be more of a glass a quarter full with a slow leak. But then again, it may be that my writing career has stalled for the moment, my foot is still messed up (although slowly getting better--I really believe it is), my arse is the size of a barn (although I'm getting on the bike trainer every day), and my daughter Ana didn't even want to ride in my car yesterday because it's so dirty. (Who can blame her?)

It might just be that Jane and I seem to be locked in mortal battle and she has finally, after almost seven years, transferred her affections to her father. She used to be such a Mama's Girl; she and I had a little mutual admiration society. I knew it would end eventually, I really did, but I still don't seem to be prepared.

Maybe that's because Jane is such a creature of extremes (hmmm... wonder where she gets that?) and she'll tell me flat out, "I HATE YOU." I don't think Ana's ever said that to me. Jane writes it down. I wish I hadn't recycled the note she left on her bedroom door after I wouldn't let her watch television this week because it would make a funny picture. It said, "I hate you Mom. By the way, Cep out. Dad you can com in."

Yeah, no sting there or anything. Not taking THAT personally.

Of course, it makes sense because I am most often the one thwarting her on her path of destruction and terror. Dad comes home from work and gets to do THIS:

I always refuse to read comic books but maybe I should rethink that.

'Thimble of Water to the Chicago Fire' Socks Done

I finished the socks for my neighbor Sarah, whose son Jack was killed in a car accident less than two weeks ago. I wanted to finish them in time for the first day of school, which was this past Monday, but I'm just not fast enough. I guess it's okay because I know there is nothing that can bring true comfort to her, no words or actions that will make her feel one tiny bit better.

So, I sat and did what sock knitters through the ages have done: I knitted everything I was feeling into a little pair of red socks in hopes that each intentional stitch of love might grant some ease to my friend. I knitted everything I was feeling into those socks. All my sorrow and tears and grief and my wish for something to do that might bring some comfort -- that might bring a little warmth to her, and a reminder of how much I love her. She might not "get" that; sometimes it's hard to see all that written into a piece of knitting.

But I'll know it is there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Unemployed in GREENLAND

I think I got fired.

In my most recent work incarnation, I was the Editor of Austin Family Magazine, a regional parenting publication. I loved it and I would still be working there if I hadn't started doing things like, oh, forgetting to fill out some paperwork that affected the whole course of my daughter Jane's end of school last year and the beginning of this one.


So, I resigned and the June issue was the last one with my name on it as Editor. I kept my regular humor column, though, even though I wondered if that was such a good idea. I mean, I wanted to stay involved with the publication--the Publisher and I have become good friends and I adore her --but I'm not sure that doesn't make for an awkwardness for the new Editor to have the former Editor hanging around keeping a watchful eye on things, doncha know.

Even though I wasn't actually doing that (who has time with all that painting to do?), I'm sure it didn't feel so good to the new Editor. But I didn't want to give up my humor column because it made me happy to be a "brand," of sorts. The humor column is always the back page in Austin Family and when I would hang out at the local Randall's and watch people pick up the magazine (What? Oh, like you wouldn't do that if a magazine had your name on it and all... Um, wouldn't you?), they always turned to the back page first. Which just thrilled my narcissistic little soul to pieces.

Recently, though, the new Editor and I had a disagreement about word count for the column. When I was Editor I wrote about 500 word columns. When the new Editor took over, I cut back to 400 word columns and now the magazine wants to be able to fit more graphics in so the new Editor cut me back to 300 word columns.

I couldn't be funny in 300 words. I tried. I really did but I just couldn't do it.

Some would probably say that I wasn't that funny in LONGER columns but even *I* knew I wasn't funny in 300 words. I think it's because I'm too conversational in my normal writing style so when I try to cut all that out, it sounds like the ARMY writing a humor column.

"A pedestrian walks into a drinking establishment at oh-eight hundred hours. He was wearing a water fowl on his head. The proprietor questioned him in accordance with Army Code 47-345 B. The water fowl requested assistance in removing the pedestrian from his gluteus maximus. The Pedestrian was detained for questioning."

50 words, right there.


I sort of suggested that if they were going to keep the column at 300 words, they should probably find someone who could be, um, funny in 300 words. Being as how it's a humor column and all.

So they did. They decided to start taking submissions each month for the column and pick the funniest one.

My friend Kaye, the Publisher, called me today to tell me and DAMN if she didn't manage to fire me, back-up her Editor (which is what good publishers do), and still make me laugh and keep our friendship completely intact. That's a gift, my friends. I have always said that there is a way to skin a cat so that the cat doesn't know it's being skinned and Kaye just proved it. She urged me to still submit columns but at 300 words, I don't think it's going to work out for me.

I'm bummed, though, because I will have lost my lone writing gig and because now I have to, gulp, start submitting to other places. Yikes! My friend Tiffany has been telling me I needed to start submitting to other publications for years, but it's just so much more comfortable here in Denial/Psychotically Shy Land.

The good news is that a door rarely closes without another one opening up (especially in MY house) and just this week, a friend/reader sent me a note telling me about how our local paper now has a parenting column that is accepting submissions so maybe I'll stop feeling all sorry for myself and submit something there.

(For some reason, that bit of dialogue from The Princess Bride keeps going through my head:

Fezzik: You never said anything about killing anyone.
Vizzini: I've hired you to help me start a war. It's an prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition.
Fezzik: I just don't think it's right, killing an innocent girl.
Vizzini: Am I going MAD, or did the word "think" escape your lips? You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic land mass.
Inigo Montoya: I agree with Fezzik.
Vizzini: Oh, the sot has spoken. What happens to her is not truly your concern. I will kill her. And remember this, never forget this: when I found you, you were so slobbering drunk, you couldn't buy Brandy!
[turning to Fezzik]
Vizzini: And you: friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed in Greenland!)

This blog entry is 877 words.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Really? Yes, right here.

That's a Spam subject line from this morning. Does it seem like the Spam subject lines are getting less whimsical and more graphic lately? It's a bummer because I have to go through my Spam every day very carefully--all e-mails to subscribe to my column (So, the thing is) go into my Spam folder for some reason.

On the other hand, I am learning a LOT.

(I can even START a blog entry with a digression. I so totally rock.)

So, as predicted, my house seems too empty and I feel all mopey and regretful.

My girls started school this morning.

Last night, Jane received her shultuette, which is a German tradition where the First Grader receives this large cone of school supplies and candy to celebrate going off to FIRST GRADE.
My mom brought this one back from Germany (it's collapsible!) so it's a little bit bent but it worked just fine and she loved it. (Thanks, Mom, in case you ever read my blog.) Jane didn't eat much last night and she didn't eat much this morning --which is unlike Jane. And she had a difficult day yesterday and a hard morning this morning--I think she was just nervous. We never think of Jane as BEING nervous somehow but it's true that she's just six years old. Larger than Life in her own head, but only six years on this planet. I have shoes older than Jane.

Ana was so happy and excited and confident right until the time came to sit down in assembly when she got very pale and got those tell-tale red rings around her eyes.
I leaned over and told her a joke and then I told her, as seriously as I know how, how proud I am of her and how much I love her. I told her how I loved fourth grade and how there was a moment on every first day of school when I thought I'd just changed my mind but right after that, things got better. I whispered how her dad said to me yesterday that there just wasn't that big of a difference between him as a fourth grader and him now, except he thinks he was a better cyclist back then. (She liked that.)

And then they went off to school
and I came home and took a little nap with my Edward kitty, who let me use him as a pillow AND put both paws on my hand to keep me from leaving.

Because I try to have a little something to get excited about on the second day of school, when the realization sets in for the kids that they are going to have to do this every day for the rest of the school year, I'm off to Target to buy new lunchboxes.

I finished the first sock for my neighbor and cast on the second.

I'm not sure why the foot part always looks so big in my photos of socks because it's actually a smaller foot than normal. Anyway, I wish I had the pair completely finished because today must be so hard for my friend, whose son would have started his senior year today. I wish I could think of something to give her--just a little, "I'm thinking of you" token.

(Amy, you'll love this. Ever since I took the toilet paper over to their house in the spirit of 'nothing being too small or trivial for us to do if it might help,' my husband now prefaces his ideas with, "In the spirit of the toilet paper, what say we take some trash bags and extra trash stickers over to our neighbors?")

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Um, well, --Isms

My daughter Ana is one of those girls that we all knew in high school--very quiet, and assessor, mostly innocent, instinctively proper. Orderly. A deep thinker and a big reader.

Her sister is instinctively mischievous. On Friday, she had a friend over for swimming and at one point, they were both running around without the bottoms of their bathing suits. I asked Jane today, "What were you doing when you guys took your bottoms off?"

She said, "Playing a game of dares."

My life flashed before my eyes. Oy, I'm so worried how we are going to survive that one's adolescence.

But Ana--well, that just never would have occurred to her. She's just a lot more careful and deliberate. She's a rule follower.

So you can imagine our reaction when, tonight (over a lovely steak dinner to celebrate the beginning of school tomorrow --yesssss), she asked guilelessly, "Um. What does it mean when someone says he has the 'runs'?"

I explained, very carefully NOT looking at my husband until the very last word.

Whereupon, we both fell out of our chairs laughing.

I mean, you KNOW how I feel about potty humor. But this was just so unexpected. And considering the source, I just lost it.

Yet another example of stellar parenting.

I Was Kinda Hoping for a Tapeworm

Tomorrow is the first day of school for my girls. Jane is going into first grade and Ana into fourth. They are both excited about the new school year and Ana's already packed her backpack and picked out her clothes for tomorrow.

Jane is a little less enthusiastic although she's looking forward to seeing all her friends. She's also REALLY looking forward to terrorizing the new little Kindergartners now that she's in first grade.

(She scares me.)

Neither girl is looking forward to the return to our No Television on School Nights policy but there is no way that I am signing up to fight over television every single freaking day. Sorry. It just works better to have an absolute rule, because I get really tired of negotiating and then hearing my husband complain that I am too lenient with "screen time." But at any rate, I decided if they had to give up something, *I* have to give up something.

I'm giving up my hips.

Well, I'm not giving them up entirely, just like the kids will get to watch television on the weekends. I'm giving up the excessive hip habit I've acquired since the first of the year, but particularly over the summer. It's just time for me to enter the real world and stop messing around and pretending I'm all cute and between films when really, the truth is that if I get any fatter, I'm going to have to hang a red flag off my butt. So, today, I climbed on my bike on the trainer and sat there for 25 minutes, pedaling and listening to my Ipod. It's not a huge workout but it's a start.

Of course, I had to let the kids watch TV while I did it but I guess we're all starting slow.

In Other News

The girls decided they wanted to start a composting program in the spirit of our neighbor who was killed so tragically in a car accident this past week. He was very concerned about the environment and was a vegan, etc., and as we were talking about how we could possibly do anything to honor his memory (you know: reduce, reuse, recycle) we decided to start a compost pile. Because, frankly, the amount of garbage we generate in an average week is appalling.

My neighbor on the other side had a composting hutch he wasn't using and he gave it to us. The hilarious thing is that they never use their backyard and they don't have a dog or really any reason to get out back very often. So in the course of getting the hutch for me, my neighbor found and pitched this many tennis balls back over the fence. (There may have actually been more since I found another three just walking back up to the house.)

I've written before about our dog Scout who lives to play fetch. He's a better fetcher than I am a thrower so the balls frequently go over the fence. My neighbors are the best sports about all this kind of stuff. I don't know how we got so lucky to move exactly here right between the best neighbors in the world but there ya go. I don't know how Scout got lucky enough to be adopted by us, either, but he did. It's just dumb luck.

Of course, Scout is not really that SMART. Here he is frantically trying to find a ball to play with and totally missing the one at his feet.

(This is my first time editing a photo in Photoshop! It only took me about three hours!)

And yes, that's really what our back yard looks like. It's horrible. I tried to mow it yesterday but I got started too late because I'd only mowed a little when I heard, "BACK AWAY FROM THE MOWER!" It was my husband. I was so busted.

(Have I mentioned how ready I am to have my foot back to normal and that it seems like it will never be normal again?)

(Just so you know, the formatting of my text keeps changing on me and the spacing I've created keeps disappearing. I've fixed it at least seven times and it still won't just STAY the way I've formatted it. I'm trying not to eat an entire bag of Salt and Vinegar chips out of frustration so I'm just going to leave it now.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sappy Stuff (I'm Sorry)

I apologize in advance for this blog entry. I haven't even written it yet and I can tell it's going to be totally sappy. Because I've been thinking all these sappy things and I'm about to write them all down. So, if you're not in the mood for the maudlin musings of a mooning mom (Am I GOOD at this alliteration thing or what?) just pass right over this one.

I wrote that our neighbors lost their seventeen-year-old son in a car accident this past week. I can't write much more about that because, although I feel this profound sense of loss and horror at the idea of losing a child, I don't think we can really understand what it means to those parents. Sympathy can only go so far, even when coupled with good imagination and your own sense of grief.

But I'm so worried about my neighbors. They are such good and loving and kind people --just the best kind of parents. In this past week, they've aged about 100 years. She, who is this beautiful woman with an almost palpable serenity about her, seems to just be permeated with sadness. She radiates it. I wouldn't expect anything different, but I am still very worried about her. Last night, she and her husband came out and mowed their lawn and I kept wanting to go over and take the lawn mower away from them and do it all myself. Luckily, I had a friend over who has a degrees in counseling and psychology. ( I didn't even know this about my friend --it just came out last night in conversation. Do you think I should be worried that so many of my friends are mental health professionals? Do you think maybe they are DRAWN to me for some reason?) My friend said that I should just leave them to do their lawn. "It something to do without thinking," she said. "Maybe it's a little bit of normalcy for them."

But I couldn't help myself. I just hovered at the window, wringing my hands. I guess I should have been knitting. I've been thinking a lot as I've been knitting my "Thimble of Water to the Chicago Fire" Socks for the boy's mother. Thinking about her loss; the permanence of it. What I would do differently if I knew I only had seventeen years with my child.

Not to be all ME ME ME or anything, but I think it's had a dramatic effect on my mothering because, Dude, life can be so freaking fleeting and I really don't know what I would do if the last thing I said to my child was, "And listen, Missy, when you get home, we're going to have a serious talk about how those Polly Pockets managed to "fall" into the toilet and cause some sort of stoppage that made it overflow. There will be a Loss of Privileges. You can count on it." Now I try to make sure the last thing I say to my kids is, "I love you so much." and then I give them a good hug (whether they like it or not, dammit.)

The thing about parenting is that emotionally, it's kind of schizophrenic. Mostly, I feel like I am a good mother. My kids know that I love them more than life itself and I think we have done a good job so far in attending to their emotional needs, etc. I haven't poisoned anyone. Both girls are potty-trained, can dress themselves, can almost get all of the soap out of their hair during baths.

But I also think that I constantly have some kind of guilty conscience going. I feel guilty for being so crabby when they are being, um, children. And for not enjoying them more in these last few moments when they still like me, if you know what I mean. I'm crazy about them but when the bickering and whining starts up, I'm not patient. I'm not kind. I'm not creative about distracting them or coming up with fun things to do instead of torturing each other.

And here it is, the weekend before school starts and I'm out of time to show them how fun it can be hanging out with mom. I THINK they had fun this summer --we did a lot of fun things -- but I also feel like I spent a large amount of our time together saying, "No."

"Turn off the television."


"You've had enough sweets today."


"Just eat it."


"I'm sorry, were you under the impression that I am MADE of money?"


It's just hard. Ana went to spend the night with a friend last night. She's nine but she's only made it through one entire night away before last night. I woke up every two hours because I was so anxious. But she was fine. She's growing up and she's more self-reliant and she's also copped to the idea that if she sleeps over at someone else's house, she gets to stay up late and then return home an uncooperative zombie. Sleep over AND torture everyone around you--win-win.

I don't know. I'm filled with a sense of loss --and it's not just about my neighbors and their son. It's about the lost days of summer when I wished my children would leave me alone. Because now, they'll be in school and I'll BE alone and after a few months, that's going to get old, don't you think? No, I'm kidding --they'll be in school and I can already tell that I'm going to miss them.

Unlike my neighbor, though, I'll get to tell them that I missed them and to tell them how much I love them and to hug them tight.

My heart breaks. I really need to finish these socks.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Groceries and Freaking Love Thursday

I had to go grocery shopping.

No, I mean, I really HAD to go because I hadn't actually done a Big Shop, as I like to call it, since my foot surgery in March.

I'm not kidding.

I have done some Lessor Shops and my poor beleaguered husband has been to the grocery store about five times a week on his way home from work. In fact, this is really the reason why I felt like I HAD to go today, because when I told him that I hadn't gone to the grocery store yesterday because we had all these kids at our house on various play dates, he said, "I think you're just going to have to take those girls and lower the hammer if they are awful." And then he said something about how if I could go, it would make it much easier on HIM and since I've been feeling all guilty about how much he does around the house and with the girls in addition to working a full-time job and funding this little frat party we've got going, I made up my mind to go.

Jane went to a friend's house and I called the mom and told her that I had to go grocery shopping, otherwise the girls could play at our house. Could they come play over here when I got back? I guess I wasn't specific enough about how long I'd be gone, though--but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, Ana and I set out at 11:00.

We got home at 1:15.

Yes, we were gone for more than two hours.

Grocery shopping. For more than two hours.

We spent...

{are you ready?}



And I didn't even buy WINE!


Well, okay, I used some coupons and the total came out to $383.82.

Big freaking difference, that.

Do you want to know how much $383.82 will buy at the grocery store?

Do you?

Well, I can't show you because I couldn't take the time to take a picture because I had frozen foods and all that had to be put away as soon as possible.

But I did take a picture of the register tape.

(That's the sock I'm knitting for my neighbor who lost her son in a car accident last week. Because, why, yes, I am the type of person who would have shown up to the Chicago Fire saying, "I have this thimble full of water --will that help? Oops. Spilled it.")

(Seriously, I want to do something and there is nothing to be done. Nothing that will make her feel better. Nothing that will bring her boy back. Not food or flowers or anything at all that hasn't already been provided. So I am knitting and praying for her with every stitch.)

So, get this, we get back from the grocery store and my husband's car is in the driveway. "Thank you, Lord," I murmured. "Ohthankyou! Someone to help me unload all this stuff!"

But no, it turns out that he had forgotten something and come by the house to get it when JANE showed up at the door. My friend had to go somewhere and was waiting for me to get home, not suspecting that I would be gone for more than two hours. And my husband, who had a meeting in about five minutes and needed to leave, couldn't reach me because I didn't have my phone.

So, he was highly stressed and had to leave quickly and he was late. He was really, really nice about it and all, except when he said, "And you didn't have your PHONE" when I think I might have heard a low growl. (It's sort of an on-going source of friction that I am cell-phone-challenged. I never have it when I need it and I can't hear it ring half the time and I refuse to talk on it when I'm driving ever since I read that your chances of having an accident go up by 400% (FOUR HUNDRED FREAKING PERCENT!) if you are talking on the phone.)

So, anyway, he left and I finished unloading the groceries and then I put them away, all of which took me another WHOLE hour, during which I discovered that Jane had dropped the one bag I asked her to carry in, and it just happened to be the bag that had the eggs in it.

Not that I'm bitter.

Are you wondering if from now on I will go grocery shopping more often and avoid these types of marathon...sessions? (Ooh, DUDE, I just wrote a phrase that starts with "cluster" and ends with something very foul. Forgive me. Clearly I am overwrought.) Are you thinking that I might have learned my lesson and will go grocery shopping weekly from now on?

Not bloody likely.

Happy Love Thursday. I'm going back to bed now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Seattle, Sushi, Sightseeing, Swine and Sweethearts

(Feeling all alliterative today.)

In Seattle, we ate at this sushi place that had sushi coming around on conveyor belts. You choose your sushi and you pay by the plate.

All of these plates only cost us $28!

Some enterprising soul should put one of these by every college campus. Especially because it would promote ethnic diversity --almost all of the workers in this Japanese restaurant were Hispanic.

This is a gratuitous picture of my handsome husband driving me around. I had many opportunities to take pictures like this because we spent a LOT of time in traffic. Seattle is a traffic town--they even have traffic updates on the weekends and at night!

(Plus, you know, turn about is fair play--you know he's always taking pictures of me when I can't defend myself. Or, um, duck.)

One of the highlights to our trip was going down to Pikes Market and seeing the fishmongers tossing the fish around. This was a big crowd pleaser.

Look at this bouquet of flowers. In Austin, this would have been at least $45. At Pike's Market, it was only $15! I had to buy the hostess of our dinner that night an enormous bouquet of sunflowers because it was only $5!

So, the reason there are pigs all over Seattle is that there is this big brass pig at the entry to Pike's Market. It's a landmark. (I have no idea who that guy is. He walked into my picture like a big bottle of Soft Scrub With Bleach.

And here are a few extra pigs just because it's amazing what creative people can do with a few pig sculptures.

Here I am in a cafe having the best clam chowder of my entire life.

And here is my husband at the REI flagship store, which is bigger than a few cities I could name. I think we only saw about a tenth of it before my foot gave out. Apparently, there's an entire mountain biking trail on the premises but we didn't find it.

Anyway. That's my little jaunt to Seattle. We had a great time. I was telling my husband how I'd forgotten how much fun it was just to hang out with him. Like, with no agenda or weighty topics to discuss. Just to make jokes and tease each other and talk about... stuff. Here, don't we look like we're having a great time?

And it's not even Love Thursday! (Which is a good thing because I discovered there is a different way to post blogs on Blogger, using the, HELLO, compose feature. Apparently I am doing something wrong though, because it kept eating my pictures so I ended up having to re-upload all of the pictures in this entry about four times.

I would like to state for the record that, yes, I used a filthy word at one point but no children were in my house at the time so it doesn't count. Which I think is a long asked philosophical question: If an expletive falls in the Cooper household with no children to hear, does it warrant an R rating??

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Unthinkable

On Friday morning, just before my husband and I left for Seattle, our next door neighbor's son Jack was killed in a car accident. He was seventeen.

I haven't written about this because it's still so inconceivable that he is gone, and also because it's not my story to tell and his parents are very, very private people. Here is the obituary that was in today's paper. His family wrote it.

Tonight, I went to a memorial service in the park, at the invitation of the family. I took the girls because I thought they needed some sense of saying goodbye to someone they'd idolized for all the seven years we've lived here. It was possibly the most heroic and heartbreaking event I've ever attended (including my own father's funeral.) It's just so wrong when a child goes before a parent. I've always felt that losing a child is something no reasonable person could be expected to survive.

The parents did this amazing job of putting the thing together in such a non-maudlin and inclusive way--she's a psychologist and he's a district judge --and they both spoke at the end. They were so utterly heartbroken and yet so determined to carry forward Jack's message of love. And to never ever forget him or the lessons they learned from having had him for seventeen years. A lot of his friends spoke and since he was a champion debater, you can just imagine the nature of the speeches --really exceptional, moving, heartrending stuff. I hope that my girls will take away the idea that a life is measured by the relationships with those around you --and not the number of years on the planet or the amount of stuff a person accumulates.

I'll never forget this: His mom said that when Jack was born, he was the sweetest, sweetest baby. And ALMOST perfect. Almost. That he had this one ear that was a little bent and she was so glad of it because it was a reassurance that he was bound to our imperfect world.

I guess maybe his ear wasn't bent anymore.

This life... it's precious and fragile and tenacious and fleeting. It's only love that endures, though. Hug your babies if you've got them.

Them In Coffee

I got some Spam with that subject line today and it seemed appropriate since we were talking about Seattle. Seattle has a LOT of coffee places. It's the birthplace of Starbucks, for example. You can visit the original store, which initially only sold coffee beans until the late 1980's when it started making coffee drinks and an Empire Was Born. I love me some Starbucks, although I try to visit local coffee places when possible to support the non-behemoth establishment, doncha know. But I love Starbucks for the consistency of its coffee and the friendly, efficient and quick staff people.

I did meet one this trip who made this odd... um... sound at me. I went to order something but my mouth wasn't working right so I made that obligatory joke about it being impossible to order coffee before you've HAD coffee and she looked up at me, smirked and made this...sound. It's hard to put into consonants and vowels but it was sort of like this, "heeeeerrrrrn."

As in, "God, I haven't heard THAT joke more than 60,000 times TODAY, you more-ON. You damn tourists are ruining our slacker, grunge, tattooed vibe and if one more person makes some cliched joke in a perky little southern accent, I'm going to SPIT IN HER COFFEE."

I mean, if it were possible to sum all that up in one sound, this would be the sound. I don't really blame her or anything but it didn't increase the size of her tip, either.

My other favorite coffee moment in Seattle was as I was approaching a Starbucks and saw these two foreign men standing directly outside of it having a very animated conversation. I couldn't pinpoint the accent but as I slipped past them and into the store, I overheard THIS:

Man 1: "And THEN you squeeze it?"

Man 2: "No! NO! You don't SQUEEZE it! There is NO SQUEEZING! Never do you squeeze it, NO!"

After a doppio espresso, this was darn funny.

(I am still trying to figure out what they were talking about, though.)

I'm waiting for my husband to upload the pictures we took in Seattle so I can tell you about Pike's Market and the conveyor-belt sushi place but it might have to wait because he's got a bad cold and I don't want to add to his to-do list. I left the camera with him and he's still there until late tomorrow.

Someone impersonating my parents stayed with my children over the weekend and didn't take a single picture. Okay, maybe it WAS my parents. Maybe they were just really busy --especially my mother, since I notice that she managed to trim my enormous ficus tree, as well as organize the condiments in my refrigerator into rows by size.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Home Again...ZZZZZ

Well, here I am. Back at Ye Old Keyboard.

I thought about not coming home --not because I didn't miss my kids because I didn't.

(Oh, you guys! I'm kidding! Just kidding. I did miss them. Who'd a thunk it?)

But I thought about just staying on the airplane and flying all over the country because my husband, the most thoughtful human ever, upgraded my seats to First Class using some points he had handy.

In my 42 years, I've NEVER flown First Class. And I have flown a LOT.

I don't know how to say this delicately, but flying First Class doesn't suck. The only thing missing was my husband because when you're completely LOVING an experience, you want to share it with someone you love, right?

Of course, at first I tried to be all nonchalant, like I've flown First Class all my life but you know, after the flight attendant had to show me where the tray table was, the jig was up. So, I had a mimosa. But only one, because I was knitting that damn Tidal Wave sock and I am easily confused on it. I did take a break from knitting in order to recline my seat back to where I was practically letting all the blood rush to my head and I took a nice snooze with my blankie that I didn't even have to ask for. Then when I woke up, there was that lovely flight attendant to offer me a hot towel and a breath mint.

I might have told her I loved her.

I had a stop in Dallas, which was fine because my husband had even upgraded the two-minute flight from Dallas to Austin to First Class.

I have to confess something, though. Before you judge me harshly, please read to the end of the story.

When I sat down in my seat on flight to Austin, my seat mate was on the phone. She said, "Hi, this is {Satan} and I'm just getting on the plane so I'll be later than anticipated. I have a rental car so I'll just meet you..."

Her name wasn't really Satan. But it was the name of a person I do not care for very much and do you want to know how infantile and childish I am? I disliked this person based totally on the fact that she had the same name as this other person who isn't so nice. And she asked about my knitting, in what I interpreted as a pejorative way because you know how some people can say, "Oh, what are you knitting?" and sound really...

Completely normal?

Like a nice, interested person?

Yeah, I'm crazy. She was PERFECTLY nice. I found out exactly HOW nice when I had this freak accident with a knitting needle and it flew through the air and landed beside my seat and in my scrabbling around to get it, I somehow pushed it up into the nether region of the aircraft. It's probably in the black box even as we speak. Thank God I didn't put anyone's eye out.

So, I couldn't knit any further on the Tidal Wave sock, but I had some new yarn I purchased in Seattle (WHAT? So, SUE ME! I had a rental car and a GPS--it's not like I was gonna hang out at the Courtyard Inn, right?) and I had the needles that were the proper size to knit with that but first I had to wind it into a ball.

So, I draped it around my knees and wound it and I looked completely freaking ridiculous doing it.

But even though I'd snubbed her earlier ("What are you knitting?" "A sock." The "You wanna make something of it?" was implied.) she said, "Now, why do you have to wind it into a ball?"

And I explained that it gets tangled if you try to knit it off of a skein so you have to wind it into a ball and then I said that I'd been knitting on the other sock but I'd lost a needle in a freak way and she looked honestly stricken at the thought of my loss.

So, we ended up having this great talk all the way to Austin and I found out that she lives in Manila with her husband but that her family lives in Austin and her sister is a knitter. (I did not hold it against her that she said, "OR a crocheter, I don't know." Because by then, I was hers, you know. She'd totally won me over. The name of Satan has been redeemed.)

(Well, metaphorically speaking.)

I'll tell you more about the trip tomorrow. It was awesome.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hello From Gorgeous (Rainy) Seattle!

Um. It's raining here. But it's a DRY rain.

No, seriously, I'm not sure how it does this in Seattle but it's raining without humidity. I can prove it, ready?

You know how normally my hair needs its own zip code on the average rainy day in Austin? Well, maybe you don't. But trust me I could make Chaka Khan look like she needs a perm.

Here's my hair in the Seattle humidity: That's almost straight hair for me. Are you just totally fascinated?

I know that Rockstories was kidding in the comments when she suggested that it would be really funny if I gave Leslie (our cousin and good friend and the hostess of our great trip and the mother to the unbelievably adorable Theaux) only one sock but um, well, I only really had ONE sock to give her. She had the best reaction to receiving a hand-knitted sock that it has ever been my pleasure to witness, although it is true that she's the only person I've ever seen receiving only ONE sock at a time. But I hadn't finished the second one yet. Leslie spent the whole time we were at dinner alternating feet with that one lone sock. I took a picture but now I can't find it. Here she is after I finished the second sock and she got to wear BOTH of them, though. I like to think it made the whole experience that much more special because she had to get them one at a time. (Work with me here.)

Okay, I have to run because we are heading out for another day of sightseeing and wine drinking. (Did you know how many wineries there are in Washington? More than in Napa Valley!

Dude. If the median price of houses in the Seattle area wasn't $481,000, I might think about moving here.)

I leave you with this--an image of a pig. There are artistic pigs all over downtown. I asked Leslie why there were pigs all over downtown and she said, "well, you know how some cities have things sort of like city symbols stationed all over town."

I looked at her like she was crazy. And then I remembered that Austin has these. Funny, I hadn't even paid much attention to the ten-foot-high guitars all over downtown Austin.

I "Kinneared" it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Um, hello, love Thursday, dang it.

Hey, we're on vacation!

Well, okay, we're not technically on vacation YET but we're heading out at dark-thirty in the morning and I'll be having a Bloody Mary on the plane at about 9:00 AM. (Just kidding--I can get one in the airport bar before the plane takes off. No! Seriously, I'm kidding because I'm under pressure to finish knitting this sock, which is a hostess gift. Of course, if they confiscate my needles on the plane (which could happen from what I've read) I will be the one singing the flight attendant's instructions to the tune of "Take This Job and Shove It." Was there ever a better drunk song?)

(Time for another Famous Digression (we should all be famous for SOMETHING): Once, back in the days when there was an airline called Muse Air, I got on a plane that held about 100 Shriners, and, well, ME. At this time, Muse Air had free drinks.

And the Shriners all had whistles.

I was speaking in tongues by the time we landed. And this was just a flight from Dallas to Midland.

Muse Air subsequently went out of business.)

So, my husband and I are heading out to Seattle in the morning. He has a business...thing and I'm going along to bask in weather that doesn't have three digits when people talk about the temperature. And, it's good to get away for a bit, just the two of us. We don't ever do that --preferring to spend our vacations torturing each other with visits to our respective families (just kidding, Families!). We need some time to reconnect because the stress of life is a heavy weight on a relationship, I think.


I'm having some issues with my foot after physical therapy today (Did I tell you all that my Physical Therapist can sing the SpongeBob Square Pants theme song in Spanish? And that he's, um, really cute? and that today I had to bounce on one of those mini-trampoline things and after 20 seconds, I almost saw my life flash before my eyes because I am so grossly out of shape now?)so I'm going to be in my boot for at least tomorrow. Which is always fun going through security. (Man, by the time you look at my five double-pointed sock knitting needles and then look at my Stalin-esque walking boot, it's clear I'm going to be detained.) After PT, I cleaned house for, like, a million hours because my parents were coming down to stay with the girls and then there was this fiasco with Jane and her forgotten piano books and now I can't bend my second toe. Apparently, that's an important toe to use in walking because I am all ...verklempt.

More about all this tomorrow. Plus pictures of the finished sock (God and the FAA willing) and SEATTLE!

I'll post more from the road, if at all possible.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Socks and Life Lessons

Knitting socks may hold one of the great secrets to life.

When I first started knitting socks, I joined this Yahoo Group of sock knitters. All socks, all the time. Don't post about anything other than socks or you get reprimanded.

You would not even believe how big and busy this board is. It has more than 11,000 members!

If you're not a sock knitter, though, or even for those of us who are fairly new, it's freaking amazing to think that so much correspondence and interest can be generated about SOCKS. (Nothing else or there is some hand slapping. Don't ask me how I know this but just don't join unless you want to talk seriously about knitting socks and ONLY ABOUT THAT.) I mean, I couldn't believe it at first--after you talk about HOW to knit socks, I mean, how much more is there to say?

Go on, it's me here. You can 'fess up. You're thinking the same thing.

I cannot adequately explain the lure of knitting, and talking about knitting, socks. I just can't. Trust me that once you are hooked, you'll need some sort of 12-step program to understand how not everyone sees this as the most fascinating subject on the planet. Plus, there are as many varieties of hand knitted socks as there are SOCK KNITTERS, my friends. And sock knitters are amazingly helpful and generous in sharing their time and expertise and patterns and pictures of their finished work. For some of the participants, it almost seems like a full-time job.

But here's where *I* confess. When I first joined, I heard people talk about how "the yarn hadn't told them what kind of sock it wanted to be yet."

You can just imagine my response, right?

But I kept quiet and still people kept talking about experiences they'd had "trying to make a yarn be something its not."

But then, I took this gorgeous yarn and tried to knit a sock with it. Specifically THIS sock

I was TRYING to make THAT sock into THIS sock. But you can see how the color is "pooling" in areas, which makes me crazy.

This wool is so beautiful but used in this sock pattern, it looks splotchy and the pattern looks... funky. (Plus, it appeared to be growing with each round. It would have made a nice sweater for the dog by the time I got through with it.)

So, I tried it again.

And again.

And just once more for good measure. Until I looked like this.

And then, just as I was losing all hope, I "got" it. The yarn was telling me it didn't want to be that pattern. It wanted to be THIS one.

(I'm sorry but I think I uploaded the big version of that picture so if you click on it, it's going to look like the sock that ate JAPAN or something.)

Look at how the color doesn't pool on this one. Just look at that!

It's a plain pattern called "Bamboo Walking Socks" and it really shows off the gorgeous yarn. Makes Barb VERY HAPPY.

You know, I'm a writer and I've had similar situations where characters didn't want to do what *I* wanted them to do. They just wouldn't go there. I don't know why it was such a stretch to think that sock yarn would be the same way.

And I have children, as you know. Before I had them, I thought they came into the world like little lumps of clay and that it was my job to mold them into fine upstanding people. (Every mother reading this just spit soda at her keyboard. "BWAH HA HA HAHA! MOLD them! HAH! That Barb Cooper--she is so silly!") But see, they come into this world like certain yarns and you have to wait for them to TELL you what they need to be. If you try to fit that gorgeous introvert into an extroverted pattern, you will find one splotchy sock whose true beauty may never shine through, regardless of your knitting.

(Work with me here --I'm making a total ass of myself for a reason. I have a point. That almost never happens.)

My point is that I should never judge the utterings of knitters until I've knit their patterns. And sometimes, my friends, you gotta listen to what the yarn is telling you it wants to be.

Words to live by.

PS: It's very hard to take pictures of yourself, even when you're TRYING to be silly. Be gentle.

Hey Look! Someone Reviewed My Blog!

Click here to read the review.

I don't know why this is so exciting --maybe because she said such nice things. (I am WAY into THAT, of course.) But maybe it's because when you're a writer, being reviewed by other writers makes you feel more writerly. Or maybe it's that this blogging thing is so new to me that I'm never quite sure if I'm doing it correctly and she seems to "get" what I am all about, even though HER blogs are very different subjects.

Anyway, it's a nice boost. And I'm not even related to her!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In Which I do Not Even MENTION Feces...

I've been being a real mom today.

As opposed to the Mom Who Tries to Get Other Things Done. Consequently, I have gotten nothing done today and am dang tired.

But oh.

It was a fun day.

Ana had a friend over for most of the day but it seems as though JANE'S friends are all out of town on the last of the summer trips. And she's such a little social butterfly, she's been sort of lonely. She actually asked ME to play with her.

We played a lot of Balloon Lagoon. (Now there's a song that will be featured prominently on the sound track in Hell.)

Both of my girls are so used to me whipping out a camera that they don't even flinch anymore. But that doesn't mean they actually... um, cooperate, either.

I took all the girls ice skating. AND, I remembered my camera, even though the pictures aren't great. I should Photoshop them a bit but I really am wiped out. Jane learned to go backward on skates. She's very proud of herself.

Ana spent the time going between her friend and her sister, which was a nice big sister thing to do, actually.

She had a good time, I think.

Doesn't Ana look so grown up these days?

Jane and I also watched Elmo in Grouchland today. Both of my girls feel that movie is just WAY TOO SCARY, being as how it has to do with a LOST BLANKIE and all. But we toughed it out.

Quote of the Day:

Jane, trying to get me to cave on the issue of buying Bratz: "Mom, they have some Bratz that are SMILING."

Barb: "I don't care, Jane. I am not going to buy any Bratz dolls."

Jane: "Why noooottttt?"

Barb: "Because I don't need anything else in this house that can be called a 'brat.' they have bad attitudes and they make me crabby just looking at them. I don't think they are wholesome dolls for you to play with."

Jane: "Okay, but when you die I am going to buy a LOT of them."

Barb: "Fine with me. You can buy them when I'm dead."

Jane, reflectively (for her): "But Mom? I would miss you if you died."

Oh, I'm all warm and fuzzy.