Monday, December 27, 2010

Optimism

G: Am I going to get a car when I turn 16?
Me: If you save up some money, I'll put in the extra to help you buy a nice used car.
G: Can it be a Ferrari 458 Italia?

At least she dreams big!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dear Rain

Normally you are my favorite sort of weather. When I wake up to a sky full of black, lowering clouds, my heart sings, and I feel energized and happy. I enjoy going for walks when you're gently drizzling, and I love lying in bed at night and listening to you drum on the roof.

This time, though, we have a problem. This time you've been going on for four days straight, and you are causing the windows and skylights in my house to leak. As a result, I now have an 11-year-old roommate who can't spend the night in her own room because gross, dirty water is dripping from the wall behind her bed. I love the 11-year-old dearly, but she's 5'5" and sleeps diagonally, which means there's no space for me on my own mattress. Plus, I like total darkness and silence to sleep, whereas she gets nervous without light and noise. (In this, she takes after her father, whom I also loved dearly, but whose insistence on leaving ESPN Sports Center playing all night long drove me bonkers.)

In short, I want my bedroom back, and also all the pans and Tupperware containers and towels I'm currently using to catch and/or soak up the drips. So please stop raining, just for a while, and let us dry out. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday music and magic

Today was the annual holiday music performance at G's school. They split it up this year so the upper grades performed first thing in the morning and primary performed just before lunch, and also flipped the order around so sixth-graders were first on the program. It really reduced the crowding in the auditorium, and also prevented the "disappearing audience" phenomenon I've witnessed at other performances: when younger kids are performing, the whole Mom-Dad-Grandma-Grandpa-Auntie-Uncle-baby-cousins family shows up, whereas older kids are lucky if they get one parent. These big packs of people watch their children perform and then get up and leave, so the last group in the rotation ends up playing to a nearly empty room. That didn't happen this time, and I was glad.

Because G is in band (she plays flute), she was part of the show from beginning to end: she sang with her grade, played with the rest of the band between each grade's performance, and also had a duet with her friend A, who plays the piano. They did Bert the Sweep's song from Mary Poppins, and it went quite well, I thought--not to mention that it was a huge deal for G, who has a very pretty singing voice but doesn't like being the center of attention, to grab a microphone and perform on her own in front of 200 people.

Watching her up there, all tall and confident and grown-up looking, I couldn't help thinking of her kindergarten and first-grade holiday shows, when P was still alive, and we couldn't quite believe we were the parents of a schoolkid. It doesn't seem like that long ago, but G herself reminded me just how far she's come since then. When I picked her up this evening, I asked her how the second show was (she played with the band at that one too), and she gushed, "Mom, the little kids were SO CUTE! They're just so little and young!" Yes, my big girl, they are.

La mauvaise influence

G and I amuse ourselves with Google Translate:

Your face looks like a monkey's butt

Votre visage ressemble les fesses d'un singe.

A monkey put a banana in my ear.

Un singe a mis une banane dans mon oreille.

I said, "At least I'm smarter than a monkey."

J'ai dit: "Au moins, je suis plus intelligent qu'un singe."

The monkey cried.

Le singe pleuré.

And then flung poo.

Et puis merde jeté.

After we finished giggling over this, G said meditatively, "I think I'll take French in high school." I should probably warn her that high-school French involves lots of useful phrases, like "My aunt's house is yellow" and "Stephanie and Laurent are going to the disco," and little to no mention of butts or poo.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sign of the times

I need to mail a payment on my way to work tomorrow, and as I was addressing the envelope this evening, I had to stop and think hard about which corner the stamp was supposed to go in. I've been paying everything online for so long that I barely use the postal service anymore, and I'd forgotten.

It occurred to me then that I belong to the last generation of people who will remember getting that big stack of bills ready to mail out each month--G knows "paying bills" as something you do on the laptop, not at the kitchen table with a lot of envelopes and a checkbook. Similarly, going inside the bank is an unusual event for her: where I often went with my dad to deposit his paycheck and get cash for the weekend (if I was lucky, we'd use the drive-through teller, and I could watch the vacuum tube get sucked down and then shoot back up with money and a lollipop inside), she only knows that money somehow invisibly goes into my account and comes out again via debit card and computer, just as invisibly.

I'd never trade the convenience of the electronic method for the old hassles of waiting in line at banks and post offices, but it makes me feel a little like a time traveler to remember a world that doesn't exist anymore. I suppose it must happen to everyone sooner or later, at least in the modern world--if you lived before the Industrial Revolution, and certainly before the Renaissance, day-to-day existence didn't change much in the span of centuries, much less one lifetime. No wonder we're all so neurotic.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Disconnected

On Monday, the cable went out at our house and took our broadband with it. This was annoying for me, since without Internet access I can't read blogs, waste hours watching old commercials from my childhood on YouTube, or enjoy Photoshopped images of Michael Bublé and a velociraptor. But for G, being Internet-less for the evening was a tragedy so epic that Euripides might have hesitated to tackle it. She didn't want to draw, or read a book, or write a story, or play video games, or watch a movie, or dangle toys for the cats, or do any of the myriad other activities that she normally enjoys--she wanted to be online, damn it, and nothing else would do. We got home at 5:30, she finished her homework by 6:30, and then we had this conversation over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over:

She: Is it working now?
Me: Not yet.

I hadn't slept well the night before, and by eight o'clock I was so tired my head was spinning, so I went upstairs to lie down for a while. It would have been great, except that G followed me and spent the next 45 minutes hovering over my semi-conscious body and asking "Is the cable working now? Is it working now? What about now? Can you check and see?" until I finally sat up and said "Look, kid, humans survived for 100,000 years before the Internet was invented. I think you can make it for one night. GO FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO."

"This is torture," she groaned, and moped off to her room, where she sat--surrounded by TV, DVD player, Wii, Nintendo DS, flip video camera, books, movies, art supplies, and various other amusements--and was grumpy until bedtime. I was strongly tempted to get out our copy of The Phantom Tollbooth and make her read the first chapter, where Milo has everything in the world and is still bored.

(Actually, if someone had delivered a phantom tollbooth to our house right then, I probably would have paid the toll and waved her on her way. She could have come back when she'd learned her lesson, or when the cable was fixed, whichever came first.)

Anyway, the next day we had Internet access again and all was right with the world. I'm starting to wonder, though, whether I ought to restrict her computer time more if she's that obsessed with it. I've never actually seen a crack addict in search of a fix, but if I had, I'll bet it would have looked a lot like G did when she was stranded at the side of the information superhighway.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Time in a bottle

I used to be a pretty low-maintenance person. I wore makeup and shaved the parts that needed it and all that, but my morning and evening routines were simple and centered on face-washing and teeth-brushing.

Now, with 40 right around the corner, things are getting more complex.

- Before I walk out the door in the morning, I take my B complex vitamin for stress, my calcium +D for staving off osteoporosis, and my beta blocker for palpitations. I coat my face and neck with Age Shield SPF 55 sunscreen--it's too late to do anything about the sun spot that's already popped up on my right cheek, but I'm not getting any more if I can help it--and I smooth down my poor dry, flyaway hair with shine spray.

- Then before I go to bed at night, I wash with enzyme cleanser, coat my face and neck again with "Revitalift" night cream, use the Water Pik to hold the constantly lurking gum disease at bay, and attack my disgusting crusty heels with a grater. Once a week, I also exfoliate my face with sugar scrub, because no amount of cream seems to completely stop my skin from slowly drying up and flaking away.

- Not to mention that every three weeks, I buy yet another box of hair dye and cover up the grey that has taken over about 50 percent of my head.

And this is all just the basic maintenance work it takes to keep me from falling down dead, breaking my bones, losing all my teeth, or turning into someone who looks like she lures little children to her house of sweets and bakes them in her oven. It doesn't include anything extra I might want to do like painting my nails or putting on lipstick or doing something different with my hair. At this rate, in 25 years I'll only be able to leave the house for an hour a day, because I'll need the rest of the time to tend to my deteriorating body.

I love the Internet

Clearly the work of people with too much time on their hands, but still damn funny:

Michael Bublé Being Stalked by a Velociraptor

The best ones are where the velociraptor isn't immediately obvious, or where you can only see its shadow or its reflection or a tiny part of it.

But this one is my absolute favorite. (I've stood on that exact street corner, BTW. I wasn't stalking Michael Bublé, though; I was taking a photo of P under the Late Night marquee.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A pause for reflection

Me: And what are you thankful for?
G: Ninjas.

Happy Thanksgiving. :-)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Live and learn and lose

In a tangent to the ongoing family drama, last week I discovered that a lot of our belongings, which were put into storage when we moved just after P died, were auctioned off and sold earlier this year. I had meant to retrieve them when we moved into this house and finally had room to keep them, but when I asked the relative who'd arranged the storage for us about getting them back, I got a vague answer. I had a sinking feeling then that something like this had happened, and now I know I was right.

Among the things we lost were P's comic-book collection, which was extensive and probably worth upward of $10,000, and quite a lot of sentimental stuff, including G's baby clothes and toys--I gave most of them away as she outgrew them, but I'd kept a box or two of favorites--as well as all our Christmas decorations from when P was alive. The first Christmas after he died, I bought a tabletop-size artificial tree and a few miniature ornaments to go on it, and that's what we've been using ever since, waiting on the day when we'd finally have our "real" ones again. I suppose now I can stop waiting and just go buy actual replacements for this Christmas, although I can't really replace ornaments like the one we bought the first year we were married, or the year G was born.

What bothers me most of all about this is that it's my own fault. I'm not a trusting person usually, and I should have known better than to let someone else be responsible for anything I cared about. I did know better, but at the time, I was tired and distracted and this relative was offering to take care of things, so I let him, and I got burned. I'm not even angry at him, just at myself, the same way I'm angry at myself for moving into this house that we now may have to leave, all because of another person's irresponsibility. P would be shocked that I'm in this position--he said to me once, "You don't trust anyone at all, do you?" and I said "No one but you." I should have stuck by that credo. I should have rescued our possessions as soon as possible instead of waiting. I should have done a lot of things, but I didn't. I won't make that mistake again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Advertising of the day

Spotted on a display at the supermarket:

"Gift Cards Make Great Gifts!"

You don't say! I was planning to buy 1,000 of them and use them to tile my bathroom, but maybe I'll try giving them as gifts instead. Thanks for the tip!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The anti-Pandora

I never quite finished unpacking when we moved to this house. I got about 90 percent of it done, and then I ran out of steam, or lost interest, or had other things to do, and the last few cardboard boxes got shoved into closets or banished to the garage.

One of those boxes ended up on top of the clothes dryer, where it sat for nearly two years, not only preventing me from putting anything else on that surface, but also partially blocking the controls. Assuming I do four loads of laundry a week on average, that's almost 350 times I had to lean over the dryer and reach around that box to set the dial, and every time, I thought to myself, I've really got to unpack this thing someday and get it out of the way.

Well, last weekend, someday finally arrived. I was straightening up the garage and decided that I might as well tackle the box as long as I was out there, so I heaved it down from the dryer and discovered that it contained:

1. A nearly empty detergent bottle from before we moved
2. A box of dryer sheets
3. Two half-crushed clay art projects G made at camp three summers ago
4. A bath mat that one of the cats had shredded
5. An cardboard sleeve that used to hold light bulbs

That's right. There was absolutely nothing in that box I really needed, and certainly nothing worth the hassle of reaching around it 350 times in 21 months. I saved the dryer sheets and chucked the rest unceremoniously into the trash, box and all, and suddenly the top of the dryer was a wide-open vista that led to the controls as if to the gates of Heaven. Every time I've done laundry since then, I've alternated between feeling gleeful at how easy it is, and wanting to slam my own head in the washer lid for being dumb and/or lazy enough not to figure out sooner that the box was full of junk. There's got to be some sort of metaphor for life there, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tag, you're it

My friend Zandra asked me some questions in a game of blog tag:

1. What is one TV show you make a point of watching every week?
If you had asked a couple of weeks ago, I wouldn't have been able to answer, because at that time I hadn't watched TV at all for almost two years. But since then I've started watching The Walking Dead on AMC, so that's my one and only show. Ask me after it ends next month and I'll probably be back to not watching TV again. :)

2. Did you wear braces?
No, I won the genetic lottery--naturally straight teeth and no wisdom teeth.

3. How many cars have you owned?
Five--a white 1984 Chevy Citation hatchback, a green 1979 Mercedes something-or-other, a grey 1999 Toyota Camry, a grey 2003 Toyota Camry (yeah, I got boring there for a few years) and my current car.

4. I’m coming to your house for dinner, what will you serve me?
Spinach lasagna, salad and garlic bread.

5. Other than anything having to do with family, name something for which you are thankful.
I'm thankful that I live in a First World country with all the benefits that entails--clean water, plentiful food, sanitation, roads, schools and so forth. Even really poor people in the U.S. have a standard of living that is light-years ahead of, say, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe or Burkina Faso, plus it's unlikely that they'll die of some easily preventable or treatable disease, or that someone will drag them out of their homes at night and shoot them or club them or set a car tire alight and hang it around their necks. I try to remind myself of that whenever I start feeling like my life isn't so great.

---

I don't think I'll tag anyone specifically, but if you're reading and would like to answer a few questions, here they are:

1. What book will you always remember reading?
2. If you could change one mistake you've made, what would it be?
3. If you only needed two hours of sleep per night, what would you do with the extra time?
4. What place do you most want to visit?
5. What was your favorite meal as a child, and what's your favorite now?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fair enough

Me: Time for bed.
G: But --!
Me: It's ten o'clock. Little girls have to sleep.
G: No they don't.
Me: Yes they do.
G: Not if they're cyborgs.
Me: Okay. If you can prove to me that you're a cyborg, then you don't have to go to bed.

She's still working on that one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

And here I thought he never got west of Honduras

While driving home yesterday, I noticed for the first time that the 10 freeway is also called the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway. Ah yes, of course - that'll be the route Columbus took in his covered wagon as he traveled with his intrepid Native American guide on his way to pan for gold.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Marry, this is the short and the long of it"

This afternoon I took myself to see The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. It was a touring production from London's Shakespeare's Globe, which is a historically accurate recreation that sits more or less directly on the site of the original (c. 1600) Globe Theatre, and which not only mounts productions of Shakespeare's plays, but hosts ongoing exhibits and educational activities designed to teach people about his life, work, world and times.

With these credentials, I was expecting it to be about as close to the real thing as you can get, and I wasn't disappointed. I've seen several productions of Shakespeare over the years, including one of Merry Wives, and this was the best I've ever attended -- I think the humor in the plays often gets missed or muted, maybe because the language can be hard to follow, but this one was really laugh-out-loud funny. I especially liked Mistresses Page and Ford, who were thoroughly convincing as both conspirators and friends, and also Mistress Ford's insanely, hilariously jealous husband, but really everyone was excellent, from the fresh-faced young lovers to randy, gluttonous old Falstaff. I also loved the clever revolving set and the live music, which appeared to feature real shawms and sackbuts. It was worth every penny I spent on my ticket (I paid a little extra and ended up sitting smack in the front row, close enough to reach out and touch the stage) and I only wish it were in town for another week so I could go back with G.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Daybook

Outside my window... it's dark and raining.

I am thinking... about all the things I still need to do before I go to bed.

I am thankful for... having the money to pay for the dental crown I need (even if I would much rather spend it on something else).

From the kitchen... one of us had pasta with roasted broccoli, shallots, garlic and Spanish olives for dinner. One of us had plain pasta with sauce. I'll let you guess which was which.

I am wearing... still in my work clothes: grey pinstripe trousers and black sweater.

I am creating... nothing at the moment.

I am going... to work tomorrow, assuming I feel well enough - I've had that ucky just-getting-ill feeling all day.

I am reading. Room: A Novel 

I am hoping... that there's thunder with the rain tonight. I love lying in bed during a thunderstorm.

I am hearing... the cat licking his paw to wash his face.

Around the house... G is watching a Halloween episode of Penguins of Madagascar downstairs, and I'm on my bed. I have one cat with me and I think G has the other one with her.

One of my favorite things...  my laptop.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  G is camping with her Cadette troop this weekend, so we need to drop her gear off with her leader tomorrow evening. While she's camping, I'm going to see the Saturday matinee showing of this play. It'll be my second Shakespeare of the year - G and I saw Taming of the Shrew together over the summer, at the Old Globe in San Diego.

Here is the picture I am sharing...

This is G's drawing of a character she invented for a story.





Monday, October 18, 2010

Altercation

I hear a commotion in G's room and go in to find her all tangled up in a disheveled bed ...

Me: What happened?
G: I got into a fracas with the quilt.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Scenes from a supermarket

At the supermarket this afternoon, I saw a man standing in the bakery section, staring off into space and ranting at people who weren't there. He was a short, thin, seventyish man with a beige windbreaker zipped right up to his chin, and his voice carried all the way through the adjoining produce department, over the piles of broccoli and pomegranates and potatoes and bananas; loud and piercing, but curiously uninflected. I couldn't make out the individual words, but I could tell he was repeating the same few sentences over and over again, as if he were anxious to make sure that his audience got the message. No one in the vicinity said anything, though a few of us exchanged nervous looks as we grabbed what we needed and hurried away.

While I finished my shopping, I kept wondering how that man had gotten where he was. He was alone (I'd looked around for someone who might be escorting him, but there wasn't anyone), so obviously he'd been in touch with reality long enough to drive (?) himself to the store, get a shopping cart, and go inside like everyone else, but what happened after that? Did he get overwhelmed by all the different colors and smells and sounds? Had he forgotten to take some medication this morning, and it just caught up with him right then, between the vegetables and the bread? How was he going to get home again? He wasn't there by the time I got to the checkout - or at least I couldn't hear him anymore - so the situation must have been resolved somehow. I hope it was a solution that worked in his favor.

The worst part is, I suspect the distance between that man and the rest of us isn't as far as we think. All it would take would be a random chemical imbalance, or the onset of Alzheimer's, and you or I or anybody could be standing there and yelling at no one in the supermarket, and everyone around us would be too scared to approach and ask if we were okay. It's a sobering thought.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All quiet on the western front

To my surprise, this past week has been quiet. (If we were in a movie, this is where someone would chime in with an ominous "Too quiet.") I haven't heard anything else about the house sale or the associated drama; the long-term afterschool care issue is still in limbo; and nothing has exploded in any of the other spheres of my life. Even the weekend has been unremarkable, with the highlights being yesterday when I successfully used these tips to make the toilet in G's bathroom stop running, and today when we went to a local Oktoberfest celebration to see the dachshund races.

There's nothing too dire looming up in the coming week either, except that I have to choose a new gynecologist so I can make an appointment. I've never had to look for a gynecologist before -- I got the previous one when my then-primary care doctor said "Congratulations, you're pregnant, here's a referral" -- and so far I've found it to be an odd process. I want a woman, not because I'm bothered by male doctors, but because I assume women are more likely to understand how annoying various female complaints are, and thus more willing to do something about them. I also want someone who speaks reasonably unaccented English -- whether it's her first or second or 15th language, I don't really care, just as long as we can communicate with each other. Those are pretty much my only criteria, so I've found myself reduced to browsing my medical group's web site, looking at each doctor's photo and trying to imagine how I would feel about her poking around in my business. It's like a weird sort of online dating, only instead of getting a free dinner, I have to hand over a $30 co-payment.

I wonder if people would be more excited about going to these appointments if there were some sort of reward involved -- like the "treasure chest" at G's dentist's office, only instead of Silly Bandz and stickers, it would have full-size Godiva chocolate bars and Starbucks cards. Maybe I should wait until I've been to the new office a couple of times before I suggest that.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Oasis

Today I took a much-needed vacation day to try to decompress from the last few weeks. I wasn't quite sure what to do with the free time, but around noon, as I was looking out the window at the cloudy skies and drizzle - my favorite sort of weather - I decided that what I really wanted to do was take a walk in the rain.

So, off I went to the park. I was expecting to be the only person crazy enough to be there, but apparently ladies over sixty-five also like to go walking on rainy days, and I said hello to several of them as I wandered through the park's 350-acre expanse. Here are a few photos I took along the way:



















This park and I have a long history together. When I first moved to California at age nine, my toddler brother and I played there. A few years later, my middle-school cross-country team had its meets there. Not long after that,  I ditched high-school classes to hang out there (sshhh), sometimes with friends and sometimes by myself. I took G there for play dates when she was younger, and now that she's too old for slides and sandboxes, I can still occasionally convince her to go for walks there, or sit on a bench with me and people-watch.

It's been years and years since I was there alone, though, and I had forgotten how quiet and peaceful it can be, especially on weekdays when the usual soccer-playing, dog-walking, picnic-having people are at work. The deeper you go, the more you can forget that you're near strip malls and fast-food restaurants and busy streets, and the more you can imagine that you're someplace far away from your everyday life. It wasn't something I'd planned to do today, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A new wrinkle

The last 10 days or so have been quite interesting, and when I say "interesting," I don't mean interesting, I mean interesting.

Without going into too much detail, there's some family drama brewing, drama that, while it has nothing to do with me and G personally, will most likely lead to us having to move because the house we live in (rented from a relative) is going to be put on the market for sale. I'm trying really hard not to be bitter about this, especially because the relative who owns the house is also having her hand forced and isn't to blame, but so far I haven't been very successful. The realtor is coming over tomorrow morning to inspect the property and take photos, and I feel bitter every time I think about it. The idea of having photos taken seems very invasive, but I imagine it's nothing in comparison to how invasive it's going to feel when potential buyers are trooping through here, opening cupboard doors and testing the shower head. I'm sure I wouldn't mind if I owned the place and were selling it for my own benefit, but I don't, and the whole thing is harshing my mellow in a most unpleasant way.

I do have to give a shout-out to the B complex "stress support" vitamins I started taking when all this first went down: I started sleeping better and feeling less on edge almost immediately, and I'm still much calmer than you would expect under the circumstances. I freely admit that it may be a placebo effect, but I really don't care if it is. Vitamins certainly won't do me any harm, and $14.99 is a small price to pay for being able to keep it all together during a trying time. We'll see how well they work once the house actually sells and I have to find a new place to live, then pack up and move all our stuff for the third time in five years. Wherever we end up, we'll have to stay there for a while, because I'm running out of friends who are willing to keep lugging my 500-pound entertainment center and 39388404 boxes of books from one home to another.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Living the dream

G: *hands me empty food wrappers*
Me: Why are you giving me your trash?
G: Because you like cleaning things.
Me: I don't like cleaning things. I clean because someone has to do it. It's not my hobby.
G: Yes it is.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sometimes you have to fight dirty

Today I insisted that G get dressed and go out with me for the afternoon. She wasn't thrilled, but gave in because she could see I meant it, and I wasn't going to let her get away with dragging her feet until it was so late we ended up staying home, which is her usual ploy when faced with the dreadful possibility of leaving the house on a weekend.

We had a nice lunch at Buca di Beppo - spaghetti for her, ravioli for me, cannoli for us both - and when we got back in the car, she asked, "How much of the afternoon is left?"

"That depends," I said. "Do you mean how much chronological time is left until the afternoon ends? Or do you mean how much longer am I going to keep you prisoner on this outing?"

"The latter," she said.

"Oh, about a couple of hours."

"Two hours! But --"

"There's no point arguing," I said. "We're going to spend some quality time together whether you like it or not. If you're nice, I might buy you the book you've been wanting. And if you're not nice, then we'll go shopping for new underwear for me."

"Oh no," she said, turning pale.

"Oh yes. I'll take you to Victoria's Secret and hold up every bra in the place and ask you loudly what you think of it. Maybe I'll even try some of them on over my clothes."

"I'd die of embarrassment," she said.

"I know," I said. "Let's go to the bookstore, shall we?"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Vomitus absurdicus

Earlier this afternoon, I had finally succeeded in dragging G away from the computer, prodding her into the shower, prodding her out again, and making her get dressed so we could go out for the first time since Friday evening.

We went downstairs and she put on her shoes, and then I stuck my foot into my flip-flop and promptly yanked it out again. The flat surface and toe strap were both cold, wet and slimy, and that's a combination that never means anything good*.

I said, "What the ...?" and bent down to look, and one of the cats had thrown up in my shoe. Not a single spatter on any of the other shoes, not a drop on the floor, just a perfect blaarrrghhh that covered the inside of my flip-flop like a revolting custom-made insole. And as I hopped around, trying not to get any of it on the carpet, I thought, I would be a lot more upset if this didn't so neatly symbolize how the last couple of weeks have gone for me. It was like the universe punctuating a long joke with a rim shot.

There was nothing for it but to laugh. And then go back upstairs and scrub my foot with antibacterial soap. Ugh.

*Unless you're a frog on a blind date, but how often does that happen?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

House of cards

This school year began with high drama when, a week before the first day, I was informed that the city-run afterschool program had been cut for budget reasons. I had personally called the city's administrative offices the day before and received confirmation that yes, the program was on and would move ahead while the school tried to raise money to help pay for it, so it came as a surprise to me when I received a terse e-mail from the school that essentially said You are all fucked. Actually, I sort of wish they had just come out and said that. It would have added some much-needed humor to the situation.

I called the YMCA, which was the alternate suggestion provided in the e-mail, and was given a price quote for ~12.5 hours a week of "care" that made my head explode. After I'd picked up the fragments of my skull, I spent the next three days worrying and coming up with Rube Goldberg-esque plans for transporting G the two miles from her school to our house. I knew she would be fine on her own once she was safely at home with the door locked, but getting her there, in the absence of school buses, seemed next to impossible. Then, the Friday before school started, I got an automated message on my voice mail - actually half a message, as the first part had been cut off - that retracted Tuesday's e-mail and confirmed what the city had told me in the first place.

If you're imagining me being jerked around like a marionette on a string, that's more or less how I felt by that point. Hey, it's okay! I enjoy stress and uncertainty! They keep life interesting!

Only not.

Anyway, this experience highlighted just how much I rely on the routines I've developed over the last four years. I frequently get told that "you make single parenting look easy," and maybe that's true, but if so, it's not because I'm some sort of superwoman - it's because I have systems in place to keep everything running more or less smoothly. Throw a wrench into one of those systems, and instantly I become that single mother, the flaky, unreliable one who makes people roll their eyes and say uncharitable things under their breath. I've sometimes found myself in conversations where people say those things to me about other single mothers they know, and I always tell them to have a little more sympathy, because I know I'm just one broken-down car or canceled afterschool program away from being in the same position - and that's with only one child to tend to. I can't imagine what it would be like if I had two or three or four.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Talk about being pissed off

Dear cats,

Look, I know you don't like the new cat litter I bought because it was on sale. I don't like it either. I don't know who thought it would be a brilliant idea to create a type of litter that smells of cat pee even when it's fresh out of its plastic jug, but someone did, and I bought it and brought it home, and now we all just have to live with it for another week until I can buy some more. Okay? Okay.

Also, I think you're both making entirely too much fuss about this. I have visited public restrooms that made your litter box smell like a field of roses drenched in essence of vanilla and topped with chocolate sprinkles, and do you think I responded by peeing on the restroom floor in protest? No! I sucked it up and went where I was supposed to go, and you can too. So quit being such drama queens, because if I find another puddle of cold, stale pee outside the litter box between now and next Friday, I swear I will not be responsible for my actions.

Signed,

Not Quite a Crazy Cat Lady Yet

Friday, August 27, 2010

Seriously?

10 a.m. - G has a dentist appointment because a loose baby tooth has started breaking and coming out in pieces. In the waiting room, women in khakis and T-shirts, each with two or three little kids in tow, look askance at me in my work clothes with a gangly teenage-looking girl who appears years too old to be visiting "Dr. Sarah's Jungle of Smiles," even though she really isn't. After a few minutes, we're called to the back, where our kind and lovely dentist determines that the baby tooth has sat in G's mouth so long past its time that it's basically a hollow shell; also that the gum has started growing up around it. I pay her $60 to pull it out with a massive pair of pliers, and then we leave.

12 p.m. - I arrive at P's mother's house to drop G off with his aunt, who also lives there and is supposed to be keeping her for the afternoon. Auntie isn't there (later, I find out she had to go to jury duty), but Auntie's husband is, and looks startled by our sudden appearance. No one told him we were coming. Argh! I ask him if he's going to be home for a few hours and he says he is, so I say, "Well, I've got to go to work, she's already had lunch, you'll hardly know she's here, see-you-later-bye" and flee, feeling a little guilty about imposing on him. But only a little.

1-4 p.m. - My shoes, which I've owned for at least five years and which have never hurt before, begin to rub a blister on my left foot that ends up requiring a Band-Aid.

5 p.m. I pick G up again, and we go out to dinner because it's hot and I have no desire to cook anything. The restaurant we go to offers make-your-own s'mores, which I almost never let G get, but I figure after the morning's dental trauma and her afternoon of boredom, she deserves a treat. We're sitting there talking and toasting marshmallows when the tabletop fire pit spits a spark directly into my eye. If you've never had a spark in your eye, here's a bit of advice: Don't. It will sting and burn and make your eye water like a spigot, until your other eye finally starts to water in sympathy and you think you've gone blind, which is not a good finish to any meal.

7 p.m. At home, I enjoy my only triumph of the day when I successfully install a new toilet seat in my bathroom. I may have a blister on my foot and a second-degree burn on my eyeball, but I am aces with a screwdriver. Maybe tomorrow I'll take the hinges off all the cupboard doors, just because I can.

Or maybe not.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Call the police, there's a madman around

We're in the car, and I'm torturing G by not only playing, but also singing along to, the Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" ...

G: Oh my GAWD, do we have to listen to this?
Me: This is classic stuff. Classic! Pure 1986!
G: It's not 1986.
Me: Well, think of this as me giving you an education in great music from the past.
G: Aargh ...
Me: TOO MANY SHADOWS, WHISPERING VOICES
Me: FACES ON POSTERS, TOO MANY CHOICES
Me: IF, WHEN, WHY, WHAT, HOW MUCH HAVE YOU GOT?
G: This is so embarrassing.
Me: See, look at the sticker on that car in front of us, waiting to turn. The Sisters of Mercy. That's another fine eighties band.

(pause)

Me: Of course, you're probably thinking that this just means we're behind a car driven by old people.
G: You read my mind.

First of the lasts

Tonight, as I was working on G's back-to-school forms, I realized that this is the last time I will ever do paperwork for elementary school. Next year she'll be in seventh grade, and while I'm sure there will still be a shedload of forms to fill in, they won't be for this school, the only school she's ever attended. It's the end of an era, or at least the beginning of the end.

Filling in this final round of elementary-school forms also represents the completion of a goal for me. I was determined from the beginning that G should have a stable, consistent school experience: by the time I reached sixth grade, I'd been to seven schools in five states, and while in retrospect I probably did get something out of all that diversity (if nothing else, I know that in Louisiana the cafeteria serves red beans and rice, and in New Jersey it serves shepherd's pie), when I was in the middle of it, it felt like endless chaos and upheaval. Just as I'd start to settle into a school, make some friends and feel as if I belonged, we'd move and I'd have to start all over. I remember begging and pleading to stay in certain places, but there was nothing my parents could do about it; we had to go, and so we went.

In contrast, G has grown up in the community of a single school, knowing what to expect each year from the kindergarten play to the third-grade bell choir to the sixth-grade chicken-mummifying experience, and I think it's been a calm center for her at times when other parts of her life haven't been as calm as I would have liked. I don't know if it'll have an enduring positive effect on her, but at least I know I've done everything I can.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Reunion

G (flopping down on my bed) My legs hurt. Will you pull them for me?
Me: Sure. (pulling) It's no wonder your legs hurt. Grammy told me you spent so much time lying around at her house, she thought your muscles were going to atrophy. Do you know what "atrophy" is?
G: Not at all.
Me: It's when you don't use your muscles enough and they shrivel up.
G: Ew.
Me: And there you were at Grammy's without your regular leg-puller. (pause) So, did you miss me while you were there?
G: Eh.
Me: Not even a little bit?
G: Eh.
Me: Not even a molecule? Not even an infinitesimal particle?
G: Maybe less than that.
Me (pouncing on her): Yes you did! You totally missed me! Because you love me!
G (laughing): Ack!
Me (squeezing her and kissing the top of her head): You LOVE me! You LUUUUURRRRVE me! When you saw me, you wanted to yell "MOMMY!" but you didn't because it wouldn't be cool.
G (still laughing): You're crazy!

Yep. That's what makes me so much fun. :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Me, myself and I

Things I have learned this week:

1.  It takes me four and a half days to generate enough trash to fill the kitchen can.
2.  It takes half a day less than that to fill the dishwasher.
3.  Filling the dishwasher would have taken longer if I hadn't used the big mixing bowl.
4.  If I lived alone, it would be weeks before I ran out of clean forks and spoons.
5.  Drinking glasses are another story.
6.  I can eat for a long time on $25 worth of groceries.
7.  I talk to the cats when no one else is around.
8.  I'm not as bothered by that as I probably should be.

In case it wasn't obvious, G has been at my mother's house since Sunday. It's the longest she's ever been away from home - her previous record was three days and three nights, also at Grammy's Big Fun Resort for Kids - and at first I put off calling her because I was worried that it might make her homesick.  On Tuesday afternoon, I finally got her on the phone, and when I was about to hang up, I said, "Bye, I love you," and she said  ... wait for it ...

"Yeah, see you later."

At that point, I decided that since she clearly wasn't pining away for me, I might as well enjoy having the rest of the week to myself. (Well, the rest of the week minus the nine hours a day I spend at work.) I read and wrote a lot. I cleaned the house. I took myself to see Inception, which I really enjoyed. I drank Pyramid Audacious Apricot Ale and I ate chocolate-chip cookie ice-cream sandwiches, although not at the same time. It was all quite relaxing.

But relaxing as it's been, I'm looking forward to G coming home tomorrow. I'm an introvert and it's easy for me to spend time on my own - an accident of personality that I sometimes think is almost an unfair advantage, given my situation - but I miss my little girl. She's messy and stubborn and full of tween attitude, she can empty the fridge and cupboards in a matter of hours, and she resists showers with every molecule of her being, but she's also funny and quirky and creative and charming, and I love her to bits and pieces. Thank goodness I've still got seven years until she leaves for college.

P.S. When I talked to her on the phone this evening, I said "I love you" again, and this time she said "I love you" back. She probably won't admit it when I see her, but I know she missed me too.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

High flight

During the school year, when I'm on my way to pick G up after work, I pass a gas station that is also home to a sizable flock of birds. The gas station has a flat roof, and sometimes the birds perch along its edge, or on the power lines just above it. The rest of the time, they fly over the building and the intersection where it sits.

Because of the way the traffic signals are timed, I usually miss the green light and end up waiting there for five or six minutes each evening, which gives me plenty of time to watch the birds in their flight. I don't know how they do it (instinct? nonverbal communication? psychic powers?), but every bird in the flock knows exactly when to take off, when to flap, when to glide, when to land, and how much distance to leave between itself and the next bird. They wheel above that intersection in formation, sharp-edged black V-shapes against the rose and gold of the sunset, and something about them is beautiful enough to break your heart. Maybe it's their precision, or the grace of their turns and dives, or the way they clearly don't care that they live above a paved gas station and a busy, exhaust-choked street, and that no one but me pays any attention to them. They fly the way they're built to fly, the same way they would fly over an ocean or a forest or a mountain, in front of a crowd or without a single witness. And when I watch them for those few minutes, I always think how good it must be to be a bird: to know all on your own, without being told, what you're supposed to do and exactly how to do it; and to spend your days doing that thing.

The older I get, the less I believe that there's a God in the way most people imagine God; in the last few years, I've gone from theist to deist to agnostic, and I don't foresee a reversal of that trend. But if there is some sort of higher power or greater intelligence at work in the universe (which is possible, though not probable), I think you'd find it there, in the space between two birds' wings. I tried to explain this to a friend not long ago, and he just looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I guess you have to see it yourself to understand it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The elusive male figure

Someone asked me recently if G has lots of "male figures" in her life, e.g., uncles and grandfathers and so forth who have taken the place of her dad. I told him the truth, which is that G doesn't really have any male figures in her life at all -- many of her male relatives are out of state or in other countries, and we rarely see the ones who live nearby. P's middle brother does see her about once a month and sometimes takes her shopping or out for frozen yogurt, but as far as regular interaction with men goes, that's it.

However, the other side of the equation is that G doesn't seem to feel the absence of "male figures" in her life, or to have any interest in seeking them out. I've heard that girls whose fathers aren't around will often cling to any man who crosses their path, sometimes inappropriately, but G regards my male friends with suspicion and appears horrified when her friend C's big, bluff, friendly dad tries to tease and joke around with her. I know she remembers P, mostly from reading her school assignments, but I can't see any sign that she misses his presence from day to day*. After four years**, "normal" to her is the two of us together; she likes our life the way it is (that much, she's told me directly), and while she'd probably rather not have to explain her situation every time she meets someone new -- "Yes, I live with just my mom. No, my parents aren't divorced; my dad died." -- I don't think she sees it as lacking anything.

All that said, the fact that people even ask the question makes me wonder if I'm missing something, and G is secretly starving for some sort of male influence. But all I know is that from what I see -- and I spend enough time with her to see a lot -- she is a supremely, almost eerily well-adjusted kid. If you met her in real life, you would never know she'd suffered a loss unless she told you: she has plenty of friends and does well in school and is absolutely brimming with self-esteem that borders on cockiness. She's not the bubbly, outgoing type and tends to be reserved around people she doesn't know well (but once she does know you well and feels comfortable, prepare to have your ear talked off), but she's been that way since long before P died. I think it's just her nature, as it is mine.

I guess if she grows up and starts attaching herself to skeevy boyfriends out of desperation for male approval, I'll know I was wrong and should have hooked her up with a Big Brother. I can't really see her going down that path, though. Even now, she's not very motivated by anyone's approval, be they male or female, adult or kid. She is who she is and she likes what she likes, and she doesn't seem to care much what anyone thinks about it. How she's managed to reach that point in 11 years when it took me almost 30 is a mystery, but one I'm grateful for.

*For me, not a day goes by when I don't think of P (usually more than once), but 95 percent of the time, my "normal" is also just me and G together, and nothing feels awry. I'll go on like that for months, and then I'll suddenly find myself missing P very keenly for a day or two -- not weeping and wailing and falling apart, but wanting to look at photos and read old journal entries to remind myself of what life was like when he was here. Then it passes and I'm back to normal again. It's very strange.

**As she recently pointed out when we were discussing something else, four years is a third of her life. If you look at it that way, four years for her is the equivalent of 13 years for me. That's a long time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kryptonite

Six Words That Need to Be Banned From the English Language

This immediately made me think of my friend Veronica, who shares the author's hatred of the word moist. I don't hate moist particularly, but I do have a personal shortlist of words I dislike, including veggies, ooze, spurt, congeal, panties, and greasy - that last especially when it's pronounced greezy, the way my high-school journalism teacher (a nebbishy little man with the worst dandruff I have ever seen on another human being), always said it. If you could combine those six words into one sentence it would probably kill me.

I do like pulp in my orange juice, though. I would totally buy a carton labeled "Holy Shit Pulp" if I could find one. G is completely grossed out by both pulp and OJ, and I enjoy walking into her room with a tall, cold glass and announcing "I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to drink my PULPY JUICE now. MMMM PULP." Hey, I've got to entertain myself somehow.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A night at our house

It's 24 minutes past midnight, and I just crept downstairs, silent and stealthy as a ninja, and removed a box of cereal from the pantry. I eased the pantry door shut again so it wouldn't close with a bang, then slowly ran a finger under the sealed flap of the cereal box and teased apart the cellophane bag inside. Then, moving with the precision of a bomb-dismantling technician about to snip the red wire, I opened a cupboard, delicately lifted a bowl from the top of the stack, plucked a spoon from the silverware drawer, and managed to fill the bowl without letting cereal rattle against the sides.

All this so that G, whose bedroom is on the same level as the kitchen, and who is still wide awake even though I made her go to bed more than an hour ago, would not hear me and yell "HEY MOM, ARE YOU EATING SOMETHING? YOU'RE EATING SOMETHING, AREN'T YOU?  WHAT IS IT? I'M HUUUUUUNGRY!"

It's hard living with a junior insomniac!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

If you can't beat them, show them how it's done

Me: *comment about something*
G: *eyeroll*
Me: No, no, no. You need to work on your technique. You can't be a proper teenager without a really good eye roll. Do it again, only more exaggerated.
G: *big dramatic eyeroll*
Me: Okay, now to really add some impact to it, you'll want to put one hand on your hip, like this.
G: *hand on hip, rolling eyes*
Me: See? I was your age once. And now add in some sound effects, like this: "Gah, Mother. Ugh." And maybe a tongue click and an exasperated sigh.
G: *repeats, giggling*
Me: There, that's much better. Now ... don't ever do it at me. Got it?
G: Right.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Four years today

I have some thoughts to share later, but for now, I'll just repost this video from two years ago, and remember the good times. We had a lot of them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What's for dinner? Pizza and sarcasm.

Earlier this evening, G and I were in her lounge, sitting directly across from each other in identical pink-paisley butterfly chairs. I was reading e-mail on my laptop while she, a child of the new millennium, multitasked with Sims on her own laptop, Club Penguin on the DS, and a copy of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I had ordered a pizza about half an hour before, and we were waiting for it to arrive when we had this exchange:

G (glancing up): Is the pizza here yet?
Me: ... Did you hear a knock at the door?
G: No.
Me: Did you see me get up and go downstairs to get the pizza?
G: No.
Me: Then I'm gonna have to say it's not here yet.

Belatedly, it occurred to me that if she were just a couple of years younger and less savvy, I could have had a lot of fun with that same conversation:

G: Is the pizza here yet?
Me: Yes. When the pizza guy knocked on the door, I froze time in a one-meter bubble around your chair. I went downstairs, got the pizza, ate, washed my dish, put the leftovers in the fridge, and then unfroze time again. Since you've missed dinner, I guess it's time for bed.

Or:

G: Is the pizza here yet?
Me: Yes. I got tired of waiting, so moving faster than light, I ran eight blocks to the pizza place, picked up the pizza, ate it all, and threw the empty box in a dumpster. Then I ran home and was back in my chair before you noticed I was gone. There aren't any leftovers. Sorry about that.

But, she's 11 and a half and has mastered the Look of Withering Disbelief, so it's probably just as well I didn't.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

An anniversary of sorts

Twelve years ago this weekend, I was feeling peculiar. Food tasted funny, I was a little queasy, and I had inexplicably blossomed by a full bra size almost overnight. I also hadn't had my period since March, but had thought nothing of it until then, since I skipped at least one month out of every three anyway.

"Wouldn't it be funny if I were pregnant? Ha ha!" I said to my dad when he came over to our apartment that Saturday.

"Ha ha," he agreed.

"Hmm," said P.

"See you later," I said, and left to spend the day at a festival.

The following day, P, who had clearly been thinking about all this, said, "You know, maybe you ought to take a pregnancy test."

"I'm sure it's just a false alarm," I said.

"Take one anyway," he said.

So I went out and bought a pregnancy test, thinking that it was probably a waste of money. P and I had vague plans to have a baby in a few years, after I finished grad school (to which I'd just received my acceptance letter the previous week), but we certainly hadn't been trying to have one right then. This was bound to be a false alarm, I told myself, as I took my little white stick into the bathroom and got busy.

While I stood there watching the chemicals do their work, I heard the phone ring.

"Hello?" said P's muffled voice in the living room, just as the plus sign on the test finished turning bright pink.

Holy crap! I thought.

"Okay, hang on," said P, now right outside the bathroom.

"It's [friend's name]," he called through the door.

"Tell her it's not a good time!" I said. "Then come in here!"

"Oh my God," said P, coming in with the phone still in his hand and looking at the stick. "We're going to have a baby."

And that is how I found out I was pregnant with G. It wasn't planned, and at the time I thought I wasn't ready, but it turned out better than I could have imagined. Not only did we get G, in all her gorgeous, clever, delightful quirkiness, but had we waited, we might not have had any children: when the time we'd intended to "start trying" finally rolled around, P's health had deteriorated to the point that we probably would not have tried at all. Things really do have a way of working out, eventually. And sometimes even sooner than that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Food for thought

G: You put a video of my band concert on Facebook?!
Me: I shot it from halfway up the bleachers. No one can possibly tell which kid is you.
G: ARGH! MOTHERRR!
Me: Look at it this way. I post your photos and videos and drawings because I'm a proud mom and I want everyone to know how beautiful and talented I think you are. Would you prefer it if I were ashamed of you and tried to pretend I didn't have a kid?
G: ... Oh.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Great moments in advertising































Yes, this 15.8-oz. box does contain more cereal than a 14.5-oz. box.  It also contains more wheat than corn cereal, more frosting than non-frosted cereal, fewer simians than a barrel full of monkeys ... I could go on stating the obvious all day, but I think you get the point.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Remembrance of summers past

G: Today is May 13, right?
Me: Yes. Nearly  the end of the school year. It's so close you can almost taste it. It tastes like chicken.
G (laughs): Ew. We don't eat chicken. (pondering) I don't know what the end of the school year would taste like.
Me: Actually, I think it would taste like popsicles and hose water.
G: HOSE water? Ugh! Why?
Me: Well, when I was your age, kids played outside all summer long. You'd get up in the morning, have your cereal, and then run outside barefoot and stay there until lunch. When you got thirsty, instead of going back inside to get a drink, you'd drink out of the hose, and the water always had a unique sort of taste.
G: Like what?
Me: Metal and dirt.
G: Gross.
Me: I'm sure there are places where kids still play outside in the summer, but this isn't one of them.
G: No, most kids go to day camp or on vacation.
Me: It's kind of sad.
G: I like it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The circle of life

I think a mouse has died in the wall of the staircase that leads up from our garage into the house. At first it smelled musty and moldy, like wet towels, and now it just smells, well, dead. Everything I've read online indicates that my options are a.) knock holes in the wall in an attempt to find and remove the unfortunate deceased, which may or may not be successful, or b.) wait it out until decomposition does its work and the smell goes away. Since I don't own this house and I have no idea how much it would cost to get a ripped-up wall repaired, I've been forced to go for option b, gross as it is.

The bulk of the smell is located near a large heating vent, so one of my friends has kindly volunteered to come over tomorrow, take the vent cover off and see if he can locate the offender that way. I know how to operate a screwdriver and could technically do that myself, but I'd really rather not (yuck), so just this once I'm going to take him up on the offer, and hope to God it works. The smell is minimal today because I've opened up windows and aired everything out, but when G and I got back from San Diego yesterday, it was a bit thick as we came in from the garage. (Not the sort of welcome-home you want to receive, let me tell you.) At least the top two floors, where we spend most of our time, are mostly stench-free; it's all concentrated in that stairwell, so we only have to smell it when we go in or out.

We had gone to San Diego because last month, as I was thinking about how depressing the last several Mother's Days had been, I decided that this year I was going to take preemptive action and plan something for myself. San Diego is only about a 90-minute drive from here, so I found a cute, reasonably priced hotel near the downtown Gaslamp District, and I made a reservation for Mother's Day weekend. Here are a few photos from the trip.















We stayed at The Bristol Hotel San Diego, and I couldn't believe how nice it was for the price I paid. It wasn't a bad location either, within walking distance of hundreds of shops and restaurants.















At the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. G had the cone, I had the Rocky Road sundae. It was delicious, but I only managed to finish about a third of it. I'm not that much of a pig.
















People playing giant chess at Horton Plaza. There were giant checkers too.














Outside the San Diego Museum of Art.  Yes, it was yet another cloudy day for an outing.




















 Part of the sculpture garden and courtyard near the art museum. That's the bell tower and carillion on the left.
















Museum of Man















Mayan stele inside the Museum of Man.




















 Hall of Modern Humans. Each of those circles had a human invention or milestone and the year it happened. My birth year was the computer microchip; G's was the euro.

All in all, it was a pleasant weekend and a huge improvement over the last few years. One of the nasty little surprises of widowhood is that while you can organize all the major holidays on your own, no one is going to pick up the slack on the days that are supposed to be about you. It's taken me a few years to get there, but I'm finally in a place where I can arrange my own special event and not feel bad about doing it myself. I'm already planning a similar approach for my fortieth birthday next year -- not sure where we're going yet, but I'm going to make it as good as I can. Surely I must deserve it by now.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The geometry of romance

G explains to me, using aliases, who likes whom in her grade at school:

G: Okay, so Susie likes Tom, but Tom likes Susie's friend Mary. Mary likes Joe and Joe likes Trixie. Trixie likes Carl, and Carl likes some other girl whose name I can't remember.
Me: I'm confused.
G: It's not even a love triangle, it's like some strange polygon.
Me: *rofl*
G (with a disapproving head shake): Dating in the fifth grade. I don't know what they're thinking.

Some time later:

G: Everyone says I act like a grownup and not a kid.
Me: Why do they say that?
G: Because I like things they think are boring. I like classical music and I read a lot and I enjoy writing for the school newspaper.
Me: Those are perfectly good interests. Everyone is entitled to like what they like.
G: I know! Screw them!
Me: Um, that's not a polite thing to say. But it's true that it's none of their business.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Twihard


G is a secret romantic. Or maybe not so secret.

Friday, April 30, 2010

I enjoy being a girl

This evening, G showed me the pamphlet she got at the Growth and Development (a.k.a. "Fun With Puberty") presentation at school.

It said that while 80 percent of mothers think they've prepared their daughters for the emotional effects of having their period, only 10 percent of girls report knowing exactly what to expect.

So I said to G, "Okay, here's the truth. Having your period makes you grumpy."

And she looked me up and down and said dryly, "I know."

Erm. I guess I don't hide those crazy hormonal mood swings as well as I think I do.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Faire thee well

Today we went to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. We've been several times before, but our last visit was at least five years ago, and I was ready for another trip. G was all over the idea when I proposed it last night, but when it was actually time to get ready and leave this morning, she said she had changed her mind and wanted to stay home and play video games all day. "Some people just want to be lazy," she opined, to which I said unfeelingly, "Yes, well, your desire to be lazy is interfering with my desire to have fun, so get dressed and let's go."



















This is not us, but if we had gone in costume, I like to think we would have looked that good.











A troop of combatants marching away after a staged battle.















Horses! We both spent a long time patting them and scratching their necks. They seemed to enjoy it, or at least not to mind.













Let's all take a moment here to be grateful for our automatic washing machines.



















I'm not sure what this pile of brush and sticks and random objects was supposed to be. Maybe they were planning to burn someone as a witch later on.

I wish I could tell you that G was completely into the Faire once we arrived, but of the three hours we spent there, at least two of them were set to a constant refrain of "It's so hot! My feet hurt! There's too much dust! It's so hot! I can't do this anymore!" However, she did enjoy some of it, especially the horses and the booth where she got to shoot bolts from a crossbow. As for me, I would have enjoyed myself more if there had been more enthusiasm and less complaining, but it was good to make the point that sometimes you have to suck it up and do what someone else wants to do, rather than what you want to do. Only children don't get much practice at that, since they never have to sit through their older sister's dance class or their little brother's Barney video, but it's a lesson everyone needs to learn before they're grown up.

The real highlight of the day came on our way home, when we stopped at a KFC to pee (both of us would rather have exploded than use the port-a-potties at the Faire) and get something to drink. As we pushed open the front door, we nearly collided with a guy dressed up like Colonel Sanders, white goatee, pale-pink suit, string tie and all. He was doing some sort of promotional appearance and there was a professional photographer who would take your photo with him, so of course I could not resist saying to G, "Now's your chance to get a picture with The Colonel!" The look of absolute horror on her face was a wonder to behold. I managed to play it off for about five seconds before I broke down, laughed, and told her I was only joking. It was a surreal moment, though. You don't expect to walk into KFC and see The Colonel any more than you expect to walk into McDonald's and see a man in a clown suit.

Where I've been


visited 18 states (36%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

This is the best I can remember - I'd have to ask my dad if there are any I missed or added by mistake. Of those 18 states, I've lived in six: Florida, California (twice), Georgia, New Jersey, Louisiana and Texas. Also, while I've flown across the country and back a few times, I've traveled that entire route down the East Coast and across the South and Southwest by car, too, some of it more than once, and all of it before I was 10 years old.

Of the states I've missed, the two I'd really like to visit are Washington and Oregon. I'm more focused on finding a way to travel outside the U.S. right now, so we'll see if I get to them anytime soon. I do want to show G more of the country eventually, though - she's only been to California, Arizona, New Mexico and New York so far.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Putting her face on

G had a field trip to see a concert at the local performing arts center today. Apparently she was excited about it, because she not only got up when the alarm went off and started getting dressed without being told, she also brushed her teeth and hair (!), and accessorized her outfit of cream sweater, black skirt and leggings with a bracelet and a sparkly headband.

It wasn't until we were in the car and nearly at school that I realized she also had accessorized her face with lip gloss (okay) and blue eyeshadow (forbidden at school). I said, "Are you wearing eyeshadow?" and she said "Yes," with such a guilty expression that you would have sworn she thought I was going to smite her on the spot. I was about to turn into the parking lot at that point, so I just told her to use her fingertip and blend it a little more - she'd applied it pretty subtly anyway, which is why I hadn't noticed until I saw her in full daylight - and not to be surprised if her teacher caught her and made her wash it off.

I suppose I ought to have scolded her about it, but in fact I found it kind of funny, because she had such a Busted! expression, and it's such typical behavior for her age. Most 11- and 12-year-old girls (me included) try to sneak off to school with makeup on at some point, or else hide it in their backpacks and put it on when they get there. I did remind her that she's not allowed to wear makeup to school until seventh grade, though, as she knows full well. Clear or sparkly lip gloss is fine, nail polish is fine, those strawberry- and bubblegum-scented teenybopper perfumes are fine, but not the heavy stuff.

Even when she does expand her cosmetic horizons, I'm sure I'll be checking every morning to make sure she hasn't caked it on - a bit hypocritical of me, given the amount of black eyeliner I wore in high school, but yesterday's moody Goth teen is today's fussy mother. Although come to think of it, I do still use a lot of black eyeliner. Hmm.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I can't believe it either

While shopping at a craft store today, I saw a book called I Can't Believe I'm Knitting Socks. I giggled over it because it sounded so startled, as if the author had never knitted in her life, then looked down one night while watching television and discovered that she was holding a pair of needles with a half-finished sock dangling from them. I don't think sock-knitting usually takes people by surprise like that, but what do I know? I buy all our socks at Target.

G is at a campout with her Girl Scout troop this weekend, which is why I have time to roam around shops and muse about socks. She goes to this particular event every spring, and I've found it makes a great yardstick for how much she's matured that year: from first grade, when she attended as a day camper with me right beside her, to third grade, when she managed to sleep over one night before needing to come home, to fourth grade, when she thought she could only do one night, but ended up staying both nights and loving it. This year, fifth grade, I signed her in at the campsite, gave her a hug and said "Have fun," and she said "Bye Mom!" and was off like a shot.

I should probably be more sentimental about my baby not needing me, but if you knew G as a small child, and how clingy and terrified of everything she was, you know this level of confidence is practically worth throwing a party over. I may launch an independent adult yet!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

But I didn't mean to!



Orchard Bank might want to rethink their marketing campaign. It's an invitation to apply for a preapproved credit card, but it reads like a Puritan minister thundering accusations from the pulpit. Oh, you can try to hide, but we all know where the blame lies. YOU made this happen! Do you feel guilty? YOU SHOULD.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Conversations with G, continued

Lugging a huge box of just-purchased kitty litter to the car:

Me: Ooof, this thing is heavy.
G: How heavy is it?
Me: Twenty-five pounds. It's like carrying a toddler, except toddlers hold onto you.
G: They do?
Me: Yes. They put their little arms around your neck.
G (menacingly): And strangle you until you're dead.
Me: Good grief! What sort of demon baby are you expecting to have one day?

Browsing at Barnes & Noble:

Me: Hey, come over here and look at this.
G: What is it?
Me: It's an Edward umbrella.
G: Oh, now they've just gone too far.

At bedtime:

Me (cheerily): Okay, little princess, it's time for lights out.
G: I'm not little, and I'm NOT a princess. And I'm still reading my magazine.
Me: Jeez, I try to say loving things to you, and look what I get. All right, you're not a little princess anymore, but I need something to call you instead. How about if I call you my big ...
G: Penguin?
Me: Fine. From now on, I will refer to you as "big penguin."
G: *giggles*
Me: Time for lights out, big penguin.
G: *hysterical laughter*
Me (leaning over): Let me kiss you goodnight, big penguin!
G (between gasps): Stop! No more! You're going to make me pee.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hectic

Yesterday started out with G and me frantically frosting bake-sale cupcakes at 7:50 a.m., went on to include a day at work and a detour to an Irish pub for a colleague's celebratory happy hour, and ended with the annual sock hop at G's school. By the time we finally got home and ate some real non-bake-sale food, it was after 8:30, and I was so tired that when G went to watch some Pink Panther cartoons on the TV in her bedroom, I crawled into her bed and went to sleep for two hours. It was a long day.

The sock hop was shaping up to be the painfully boring event it usually is (for me, not for G), when I spotted G's music teacher, Mrs. R, at the next table and decided to save myself by cornering her and talking to her about music and the band program for an hour. The poor woman was probably desperate to get away from me, but she was there by herself and no one came over to rescue her.

I told her that G started out the year thinking that playing an instrument was going to ruin her life and has since fallen in love with it, which is true - she plays her flute daily, without being prompted, and is always hunting for new sheet music to download off the web. Mrs. R laughed and said that she wasn't surprised, because every day she sees G either practicing her music or reading a book during the afterschool program, while everyone else is running around the playground and field. (G doesn't like to sweat or do anything strenuous. She's going to be one of those girls who always tries to avoid dressing out for high-school P.E. classes, and when she does show up in uniform, limply goes through the motions of running laps or playing softball while the teacher exhorts her to show some energy.) She also said that the school G is going to for seventh grade has a fantastic award-winning band, which G will be thrilled to hear.

On that topic, G is much more excited about junior high and high school than I remember being, but that's probably because by the time I was 12, I wanted to be grown up, immediately, without going through any of the steps in between. When other girls were fantasizing about the prom, I was thinking about the glamorous career I was going to have - I was leaning toward either Tony-winning playwright or international undercover agent - and how I was going to decorate my cool loft apartment*. I think G's got more of the right attitude by looking forward to her teenage years - you've got to get through those years one way or the other, so you might as well enjoy them for what they are, if you can.

*I never said my fantasies were realistic.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gallimaufry

How do cats always know where to find you? Both of mine were sleeping peacefully on the mezzanine just now, and didn't twitch a whisker as I got out of my chair. I went upstairs to my bedroom, and two minutes later, they both appeared, leapt onto the bed with me and are now sleeping again. I think they'd like it if I were in traction for a couple of months, just so they could stop following me around the house all day and night.

Ho hum. I've been starting and scrapping posts for two weeks because most of them are like this one - boring observations about pets, or shopping, or how I got the shower grout really clean with baking soda and a toothbrush. The ones that aren't mostly start out all right, but end up being too personal to put out there on teh intarwebz, which sadly is not my private confession box, no matter how much I'd like it to be.

Moving on, this evening G and I visited the local police station with her Girl Scout troop. Here are a few things that 9- to 11-year-old girls are interested in knowing during a police-station tour:

* Will we get to try handcuffs on? (No.)
* Will we see the jail part? (No.)
* Can we go inside a cell? (No.)
* Are they gonna taser someone? (No.)
* Have you got a shooting range here? (Yes.)
* Can we practice shooting? (NO.)
* Is this juvie? (No.)

What they did get to do was visit one of the police briefing rooms, where a nice young officer talked to them about drinking and driving, had them do some of the standard roadside tests, and showed them how the breathalyzer works. They also saw the watch commander's post and the juvenile holding cell (there was a teenage boy getting interrogated in there the first time we passed by - I'm sure he enjoyed being stared at by a gang of younger girls), viewed the records area, and got color-changing pencils with the [name of city] Police Department logo.

I found the tour quite interesting, but thought it must be incredibly depressing to work there. Everything was painted a sort of industrial paste color and lit with harsh fluorescent overhead lights, and the nameplates and paneling and other fitments had all clearly been there for as long as I've been alive. I can see why they don't bother making the holding cells nice for the perps, but I wouldn't mind a few of my tax dollars going to spruce things up for the officers and support staff. It's worse than the DMV.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Life goes on, brah

I have had the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" stuck in my head for the last two days. It's not a bad song (unless you're John Lennon, who reportedly hated it) but forty-eight hours of "Happy ever after in the marketplace/Desmond lets the children lend a hand" is enough to drive anyone insane. Help!

In other news, we're going to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland this afternoon. I'm excited! Our tickets are for a show in a little more than two hours, which means I need to start preparing to leave right now. You have never seen anyone get ready for the day as slowly as we do. G is a great big lazypants and drags her feet about getting dressed, even to go and do something fun; but it's not all her fault, because I usually take way too long in the shower and get distracted by chores, etc., that could wait for later. It's a miracle we ever get out the door at all on weekday mornings.

And with that, I'm off. Review of the film later, maybe. If I feel like it.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Tea and sympathy

This morning, while closing my bathroom door, I somehow managed to catch the big toe on my left foot in the gap between the door and the tile. It might have been slightly less excruciating if my toe had been chopped off with a hatchet, but I wouldn't bet on it.

I yelled and said AAARGH and FUCK and a lot of other less-than-ladylike things, and then I hobbled downstairs, still wincing and making pained hissing noises, because I wanted to tell someone about my agony and G was the only one to tell.

"I hurt my foot," I said as I limped into her bedroom.

She glanced up from her Wii game.

"What happened to it?"

"I shut the bathroom door on it. It really hurts a lot. I'm surprised it isn't bleeding."

"Your toenail polish is scraped," she observed, and then she said:

"Can you get me some cold pizza? I'm hungry."

Thanks a lot, kid. I'm bowled over by your concern!

And yet when she saw a kitten with an injured-looking paw on our patio a few months ago, she was in tears begging me to catch it and take it to the vet. Apparently you need four legs and a tail to get any sympathy around here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blue birthday

If P were still alive, today would be his 40th birthday. Here are some photos in his honor.


This would have been sometime in mid-1994. That's his black Honda Accord coupe off to the left. He LOVED that car. Somewhere I have another photo of me sitting in it with the door open, taken because, as he said, he wanted a pic of his two most prized possessions together. (Yes, I know, but we're talking a 24-year-old guy here.)


October 1999, helping G figure out that standing thing.


County fair, summer 2002 or 2003. G doesn't look too sure about that corn cob, does she?


I think this is in the boardwalk area at California Adventure. It takes a real man to look cool while riding a seahorse on a carousel.


Batman was his all-time number-one hero.


I don't know where we were or what we were doing, but I love that look of cool skepticism.


I'm pretty sure this was at SeaWorld, waiting for the sky tower ride.


Disneyland, 2004ish.

I've never gone to the cemetery very often. Even at the beginning, I only went on holidays and when his parents asked me to, because I didn't feel he was there. His ashes are in their niche, but if his personality, his self has survived, it's someplace else. And thank goodness for that, because who wants to spend eternity hanging around even the nicest cemetery? Not me.

But I did visit today, while G was busy selling cookies with her Girl Scout troop. I played some of his favorite music in the car on the way there, and I brought flowers - not the blue hydrangeas I've brought in the past, because Gelson's was out of those, but yellow mums that looked bright and cheery on this grey, rainy day. I put them near his niche, and I wished him a happy birthday and told him I miss him. And God, how I do, even after four years. It's nothing to do with where I am in life - I'm fine, good even - I just miss him. I'm not sure if you ever can stop missing your best friend.