Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holidays, Faith, and other Tetchy things

Oh, Holiday Season. ... you are like a very pretty pebble caught between a silk stocking and the finest of footwear.

Tis the season for people to get tetchy. I'm pretty sure that's a Yiddish word, as the Jewish seem to have the best vocabulary for categorizing annoyances.

The annual online war is being waged: Don't say Happy Holidays to me, I'm Christian! Don't say Merry Christmas to me, I'm Pagan! Don't put your Jesus in my neighborhoods secular display! Don't put your Santa in my manger! What the hell is Eid?

I have to say that most of the Jews I know just stay out of the whole mess, keep their heads down, and have beautiful Hannukah celebrations despite the rest of us.

I try to stay out of it, or at least keep it funny. (That's my philosophy for a lot of things.) I don't turn down a blessing of goodwill and cheer, no matter what flavor of faith it comes from. I try to peg my own blessings based on the person; and I hope that when I fail and say Merry Christmas to a non believer, they'll take it in the spirit that it was intended.

This is the time of year, though, when I receive the most questions and commentary on my own faith. Mostly it's people who want to say the right thing, and that's sweet. Sometimes it's not, and that's irritating, but I figure it this way:

If God said for the people who were sure of their faith in him to go forth and prostelytize... well. God's a tricky bugger, and a bit more cynical than me... but I know that when I send a kid out to teach something, what I'm really looking for is for them to learn something new. Maybe this whole 'GO FORTH and SPEAK the word of GOD' thing is just as much for the preacher as the heathen. (Heathen: one who lives on a heath. Not: ONe who doesn't believe in God, eats babies for dinner, worships Satan. See where I'm going with this?)

Does this mean I sit down to for coffee with every evangelical-mormon-watchtower-passing-free-love-hippie that comes along, and try to sway them to my point of view? No. I'm not that bored.

If I were going to, ahem, express my views on the holiday season, though, it would go something like this:

This is the season of the dimming of the light. This is the time of cold winds and ice storms. Nothing grows now. This is when the shadows and darkness take over the world. This time is a test. Will you light your own candle, and have faith in it? Can your undying devotion turn that tiny flame in to the resurgance of something greater than itself?

Your light can be Jesus, or God, or Santa. Your light can be Krampus, the Sun, or magical oil that burns for days. Your light can be the Hadron Collider at CERN. You can call your light whatever you want. It doesn't matter, as long as you light the candle, and have faith in it. As long as you beat back the shadows for another year.

uh oh. He's getting smarter.

Holy brain formations batman! Sawyer has, so far this morning, tried to play his harmonica and guitar at the same time (Youtube stream of Springsteen & James Keyes has been going all AM) and then started running around naming shapes. Which sounds boring, but: "ODEN BUM!" ... lifts tail... "CIRCLE!" AHAHAHA!" is not boring.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's taken 35 years for me to write this.

I've tried to write this post a bunch of times. Each time I've given up, either because I lost my thread, or my voice, or more often, because it made me weepy, and I hate crying. Tonight though, I think that I'll just get it out, and maybe a few tears, and see where it all goes.

This post needs a little background: First, my parents are retired Air Force. My grandparents are retired military. So are my uncles, my aunts, my cousins.. it's a theme. I spent my earliest childhood on White Birch St, a housing community on Pease Air Force Base in NH. I moved to York, Maine when I was 5 or so.

My genetic heritage is this: Italian, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Norwiegan, Cherokee, .. and rumors of a little African thrown in can be verified with one look at my lips. This genetic throw of the dice resulted in my face, which is a face shaped face, and my skin, which is olive. My eyes are dark hazel, although most people would tell you they were brown. My hair is a frizzy, kinky nest of curls that looks dark brown or black, but is pretty darned red when viewed up close and in singular.

I look like everybody. Well, outside of NH or ME in the 80s, I look like everybody. I've been spoken to in Arabic, Farsi, Hindu, Afghani, Pakistani, Egyptian and every single flavor of Spanish and Portugese and Italian. Each time, the speaker thought I would respond in their native languae. I've been told I'm "exotic like Toucan Sam." and I've been told "It's great how far up the ladder someone of your color can come these days." I've been called a nigger, and high yeller,' which is more accurate, but still totally wrong.

What I don't look like, is my mother. We've come to terms with this, and now enjoy the looks we get when we announce we're related. I've got 4 inches on her. She's got red hair and greeny hazel eyes, and burns in two seconds flat on a sunny day. My mother is beautiful, and I've her genetics to thank for my blonde haired, blue eyed and tawny skin, green eyed sons. In black and white, we look like a family. In color photos, we look like a UN meeting.

There's the background. Here's the story.

My God Mother is of Mexican descent, and also part of an Air Force family. So, obviously, are her children, my god siblings. We all lived near each other when I was small. I have a photo of Sandy and the children, taken in the 70s, and that's about all I knew of them, thanks to the Military moving us all over. There are other photos, which show my christening, and I remember looking at those when I was small. I remember asking who they were, and my mother telling me that *this* was my god mother, and *this* was my god father, and *these* were my god siblings.

My mother tried to explain to me the concept of god parents, but I was about 4, and took away very little fact, and even less memory. What I do remember is this: My father was gone most times, and so it was just me and my mother, whom I looked nothing like. Here were photos showing me as a baby along side my god family, whom I had the same coloring as.

So I decided, in the manner of a 4 year old, that when God gives you a 'God Family', he must make you look like them, so you'll fit in later and know each other when you find each other. Because Mom and Dad, they know who you are, so you don't need to look like them. But looking like your God Family might come in handy for ID purposes down the road.

I spent most of Kindergarten and First Grade telling people I was Mexican. I believed it to be so.

Now, 30 years later, I'm back in touch with my God Mother and my God Sister, thanks to the wonder of Facebook. I'm pleased to report that they are even more wonderful that the fantasy I created in my mind all those years ago. My parents made a good choice, when they picked my God Parents.

And here's the lesson: It's not about what the color says, it's not about what you look like in black and white. It's about what you believe, and what you have faith in that counts. Always.

Kids and Christmas. Give Values.

Things Sawyer played with today: welding goggles (superhero) carboard from under the frozen pizza ( frisbee), the dog (noble steed), Aunt Amber (jungle gym), moms ring measurer ( sword), Ruler (sword with numbers), markers and paper (airplanes, train tickets, and eventually a tattoo of a watch on his arm. ) The remote (phaser). People, parents, listen up: Kids DO NOT NEED MANY TOYS. They need supplies, which are oftenth free. With Christmas looming, please, get kids one thing, if you want, that you think they'll LOVE.. and donate the rest to charity. That would be the best gift ever. Heifer INternational is great, you can name the gift after a child. How about a stuffed water buffalo with a reciept of the amount you gave, and a photo of the water buffalo named George? How coll would that be?!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A moment.

Today was hard, I think because it was so normal. And because normal in this household has become defined by hard. My husband works 7 dyas a week. We have two kids, we have a brother living with us, we have a giant dog, we have bills to pay. Christmas is looming, and with it my yearly anxiety attacks. Sawyers birthday is coming up, and 3 is very different than two.

So I was a bit introspective today, listening to music and pondering as I waited at one of Dovers longest stoplights. I was staring out the window at nothing, waiting for the green to mean go. Above the light, a bird soared on a thermal. I looked, and looked again, and realized it was a hawk. I wasn't far from home, so I wondered as I watched it if it was MY hawk, who hunkers down in my aspen tree from time to time. I thought it was funny that for years we've had crows in that tree, and now we have a hawk.

The hawk landed on a branch as I watched, and I glanced at the light, praying for red so I could keep it in view for a moment. I got my wish. I looked back up at the magnificent bird in front of me, and saw a speck beyond it, in the sky. A black dot, getting larger. With none of the dithering circles that the hawk performed, a crow landed in the same tree, a few branches away.

The birds both looked to the south, ignoring each other but completely aware of each other at the same time. I breathed a word of gratitude, and the light turned green. I kept them in sight in my rearview mirror for a block, after I turned, and they were still watching the south, seeming to look right at me.

I don't know how rare this is, but I have to imagine, pretty rare. It's a big city. There's a lot of trees. There's a lot of trees just where I saw these two, and either one could have had a tree to itself, plus a buffer of branches. But they chose the same tree, just feet from each other. Just when I was watching. Just when I was thinking.

So thanks, mothernaturegodgoddessrandomchance, for that moment. I'll be wondering on that for awhile.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Softer Side of Sears

I've made it my personal mission, these last couple of weeks, to be a little more Willow, and a little less Cordelia. For the most part, this has meant me breathing lamaze style through moments.. occasionally hours.. of wanting to be blunt. Blunt like candlestick in Clue blunt. As for the effectiveness of the lamaze breathing? I"d like to remind the reader that I had two C sections.
The big problem, really, is that I'm just not a Willow. I'm a Cordy. It's an honest effort for me not to say what I'm thinking, when I'm thinking it; and I have a hard time accepting that rephrasing my truths isn't being manipulative. It's that balance between "I'm going to say it this way so you do what I want." and "I'm going to try to speak your language now, so that we understand each other."
Hence me spending a major portion of yesterday and the day before being enormously frustrated and irritated with someone. And then realizing, sometimes it's not me. I can phrase and rephrase and smile and breathe until I'm so zen I pass out, but if the other person isn't listening? If the other person is so wrapped up in their own world? I might as well sing Dixie at the top of my lungs and stick my thumbs up my nose. That, at least, would get their attention.
The one place where I've seen some pretty noticible results of this experiment is with my teen. I've read that non reaction is key when dealing with the pubescent race, but I didn't really get it 'til now. I'm not saying it's perfect, or that Tris and I have suddenly become a finly tuned team working in unison.. but the blow ups are shorter. I'm more aware of when the drama is running away with the actors. It's a good thing.
So, in a gesture of help me help you, I spent this evening with a sharpie and my groceries. I labeled everything. "Nope, has gluten!" or "This is just for Tris! Hands off!" I used the calculator and the interwebs to figure out how much insulin he needs to take for each serving of each food, and then a visual comparison of the serving size. So the granola bars are labeled (individually) "2u for 1, 4u for 2" and there's a note on the fridge that says "A cup of potatoes, 4u.' with a drawing of a cup. In scale. I even took a measuring cup and figured out how many cups of milk each of our glasses hold, and labeled them by type. The little blue tumblers, 2u. the big plastic glasses, 6u.
This is all stuff Tris knows. We're going on 10 years living with diabetes. BUT, his ratios changed, and doing the math and remembering the new numbers was a hassle. So I did it for him. I can't go to school for him, but I can do this, and he doesn't have to worry about it any more.
In return, I got blown up at. Because he's a teen. And human. And change is scary. And having things like your diabetes pointed out to you is embaressing. And it's easier to yell "yep! I'm a screw up! I can't do anything right!" and storm away than it is to remember how good you are at so many things, and admit you need help catching up in school.
Remember: However much you try to change? Give the people around you time to catch up. Or not. It's their call. You worry about you.
The upside is this: After the explosion and the storm, and a hot shower for him and a cup of tea for me, the kid came back downstairs. With a better attitude. And questions. And we worked together for a bit on the system. We didn't let the explosion carry us through the night, or the week, being mad. We set it aside, and found a solution to the problem.
That's the goal, right? Acknowledging the problem and finding solutions to them? There's no shame in that. Tell your kids. I think this is one everyone should hear:
It's ok to have problems. It's ok to make mistakes. Just focus on the solutions. Don't beat yourself up. Have the courage to find the answer. It's harder, but you only have to do it once.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Loons are Trains. Fact.

Sawyers Impossible Thing Before Breakfast: Loons are not birds, they are trains, because the baby rides on the mamas back and they sound like a train and they have fire in their eyes like the engine.
I can not argue with this.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Blanket Octopus

Watch this.

Breath taking beauty, especially right around the 50 second mark.


A different point of view.

A fifteen minute video of the pepper spraying at the UC Davis Campus. Slightly less biased and more realistic, from what I've watched so far, than the clips and memes that have been flying around the web. Remember the motto:

THINK TWICE about EVERYTHING you see or read on the web.

CLICK HERE for video.

Thanks to Mr. Ballin for pointing this out.

Friday, December 2, 2011

B.C. (Before Coffee)

We're going to try something a little different this morning. Instead of sitting down to write after a full day and a couple of beers, I'm going to start typing while I sip my first cup of coffee, and see what strange subconscious nuggets float to the surface of a relatively sober brain.

First of all, I say relatively sober not because I've got a shot of whiskey in my Folgers - I don't - but because I'm suffering the lingering after effects of taking a 1/2 dose of Tylenol PM at 10.45pm, and then being woken up less than half an hour later by a sleepless toddler. Half a cup of Folgers is not going to solve this. This may be a 'drink enough Folgers to be able to drive to Starbucks' morning.

I don't know whether to blame the Tylenol PM for this, but I woke up with Creedence Clearwater Revival stuck in my head. Not just one song, either. When I noticed I was hearing it, the song switched from something about a river to Down on the Bayou. It's now pretty much just that, now. "DOOOOWN on the BBBAAAYYOU." over and over again. Because I don't know any other words to that song.

The OCD soundtrack is competing with the sweet sound of Sawyer playing coming over the baby monitor. It sounds something like this:

"Oh No, a fire! OH NO, A FIRE! What do we do? Dinosaurs! Weee-oooo weee-ooo weeee-oooo" (This is the sound of dinosaurs in a firetruck, I think) "Hey Joel, whatcha wanna do today? (Joel is not in there.) Oh NO! A GHOST! Hi ghost! joel, looook ouuuuut! There's a ghost behind you!"

Due to a run of Scooby Doo on our family TV, everything is "BEHIND YOU!" Specificly ghosts, monsters and dinosaurs, but also "Mom! FIRE! Behind you!" (that'll get your attention.) and "Dog! MOM! There's a DOG behind you!" (That's a given. Sawyer could yell that at random and have it be true more often than not.)

And now the soundtrack over the monitor has moved to "MooOOooM, Wheeeere AaaaAaare YOU?!" accompanied by the hammer of a wooden mallet against his door. Time to release the lil'Kraken.

I hope you have enjoyed this foray in to our home before coffee. (Exits stage left, humming Down on the Bayou.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

This one is for Jason

Earlier today, I posted a link on my Facebook account to another blog: Parenting, with Crappy Pictures. The author had updated her status to "I can't do these dishes, I'm too busy drinking wine out of a mug and eating cold spaghetti with a spoon." Now. If you have kids, you are on the floor laughing right now. And if you don't, you should. Not to sound like your grandmother, but kids are great. Plus, an excellent excuse for wine in a mug and eating leftovers at the counter in your jammies.

(Many of my friends are saying to themselves "I have chosen not to have children, which I think is good and right.. but I still drink wine out of a mug in my jammies at the counter with a fistfull of left overs?! Am I a bad person?" No. No you're not. You're probably a better person than me, for not inflicting such behavior on children. But I, I have an excuse.)

In response to my Facebook post, one friend of mine, Mr Jason, said: "But what of YOU? We need a link to YOU so we can post it on our walls and tell others how we love YOU!"

Now, it always freaks me out a bit when people say stuff like this, because I just assume (being a mom) that no one is listening to a word I say. So, to have someone be so complimentary when I was under the impression I was yelling in to the abyss? A little weird. In a good way.

(Jason and his wife have already given their son the middle name Tiberius, which will endear them to me forever.)

This one little comment of Mr Jason's started a landslide of thoughts in my head. How long had it been since I posted to my blog? Who was reading it, anyway? WHY?!

All of this circled around to the following subject: Guys who are awesome influences on my teenage son. (Another benefit of having children: Large leaps of logic and continuity are not 'plot holes' they are 'mom brain.')

Mr Jason is certainly one of those people. Each summer, I yell at my eldest man child "Get your clothes on, we're going to a BBQ." and he replies "Is Jason going to be there?" After I confirm the presence of the all knowing Jason, the boy condescends to wear pants. Jason, you're my hero!

In addition, there's Mr Clow: (No need for sbuterfuge with names here, we call him Mr Clow.) Mr Clow is responsible for the donation of vast amounts of comic books and vampire detective stories. He's also, when in the midst of cooking a BBQ dinner for the entire town of Dover, willing to divide his attention and make my man child feel entirely grown up with a discussion of all things metaphysical, over an open flame. Plus, he makes mix CDs of Soul Coughing's greatest hits. Mr Clow, I salute you!

Mr Graham, also should be mentioned. My son does not 'do' sports. He also does not 'work.' Unless Mr Graham is involved. Then it's wiffle ball tournaments and cleaning the garage for Magic cards all over the place. Thanks, Mr Graham. sincerely.

There's a dozen or more names I could mention here, some female.. some new.. some related to me.. but my mug is empty and we're out of leftovers, so I'm going to go to bed with this note:

It takes a village to raise a child. If you're wise, you'll choose the village. If you're incredibly lucky, the villagers will choose you back.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Let's talk for a minute about words. I don't want to get all 'meta', and I'm not about to describe my 'process' for writing, so don't panic. What I want to talk about is what we say to each other, and what we say about each other.

The Buddha speaks of the Noble Eight Fold Path. The third path is Right SPeech:

" 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth."
(from, with thanks.)

Now, my family will swear to you that I will never master number 4. They may have a point, as, given enough caffeine, I can rhapsodize about the quality of writing in a specific episode of any given Joss Whedon show until even the most die hard fan gets glazey-eyed. Or about the wonders of my childrens eating habits. Or the insanity of the current state of US Politics. I am a *master* chatterer.

But as my teen enters his own "chatter' years, and I become more aware of the glazey-eyed look creeping over my own face when he goes on for what feels like hours about the intricacies of his battle games.. It is teaching me, slowly, to censor myself. Or at least pick my audience better.

Writing, too, has helped me, if not master, than at least acknowledge this 4th rule. When I write, I am trying to convey something, and so the words I choose become tools. I edit, and shorten, and cut, and use the thesaurus, in an effort to keep my readers on track. To get my point across.

So maybe there's hope for me and the 4th rule, yet.

The 1st rule is pretty simple, on the surface. "Don't make shit up." Most people learn not to out and out lie when they're young: they do it and they get caught at it, because children are terrible liars.

A giant dinosaur came through the window and broke the lamp, huh? Go to your room, kid.

You learn when you're young, too, that it's ok to lie sometimes. "I don't know what Daddy got you for Christmas, Mommy!" (You helped him pick out a bathrobe.) "Oh, my gosh, Sally, I LOVE your new hair." (you think it's terrible, but never admit it to her or anyone else.)

I, personally, had a problem with a subset of this rule: exaggeration and tall tales. I'm a writer. I make up stories. I use words to make up stories. I love an audience. When I was younger, and especially when I lived where nobody knew my background, I could and did spin tales. Every action was bigger, more elaborate, more glorious, and everyone I knew was more important. I name dropped like a hipster.

And that backfired. Because, eventually, you go home. Where everyone knows you, and no one cares. Years of building a reputation, down the drain in 1900 miles. C'est la vie.

I still exaggerate though, and I doubt I'll ever stop spinning tales. I'm just more careful, now. Or maybe more careless? I only exaggerate to my own detriment and for the sake of humor. And when I'm asked, at a bonfire or cafe, to relate a story I once told, and I can't remember the version I'm supposed to give? I've got no problem turning to my husband, or my best friend and saying "Right! The time I had tea with the governor dressed like a Hampton Beach hooker. How's that go again?" Because anyone who knows me knows I like to tell tall tales, and anyone who doesn't know me is welcome to the information.

(for the record: I really did have tea with the governor of NH while dressed as a Hampton Beach hooker. And I really did get him to say "I'm just waiting for the flying monkeys." It's a long story.)

So there's rules 1 and 4. If you've survived your teens and 20s with your sanity and soul intact, you've likely broken these rules, gotten slapped around a bit, and now understand them pretty well.

How about #3?

"3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others,"

Well that's easy, right? Don't be mean.
"you're fat." and "Your family is poor." and "You're dumb." and "I hate you." are all pretty easy things not to say.
How about this one, then. This happened the other night, here in my house.

I was sick, Tris was *beyond* stressed out, and we both were working on day five of bad sleep. I asked him to do something, I don't remember what. His reply was gutteral, loud, and sincerely disrespectful. And I replied along the lines of

" Look, you spoiled rotten self centered little brat, I've worked my ass off today, Josh has worked his ass off today, and we're both exhausted. How about you stop thinking about yourself for two freakin seconds, and do what I asked you to do without mouthing off?"

Was that harsh? Yep. Did I mean it? Yep. Did Tris deserve it? A bit. Should I have said it?


Because I'm the grown up. He's not. I'm old enough and experienced enough to know when I'm too tired, too sick, too stressed to speak rightly. He's not. It's my job to teach him. To act. I failed, that time. I resorted to name calling. Which proves that I'm human.

I apologized later, and said: "I'm really, really sorry I called you names. I shouldn't have done that, and it wasn't ok. You're not any of the thing that I said, not really. But in that moment, that is how you were acting, and so that's how I reacted. Please forgive me for being human for a minute."

He did forgive me.

Then I said: "Thank you. Now, the way you spoke to me does not excuse the way that I spoke to you, because I'm the grown up and your mom and should do better than I did. BUT. The way you spoke to me was disrespectful and hurt me a lot, and you need to apologize to me and try to do better in the future. "

He apologized. And he did better. And I'm absolutely positive that we're going to have this conversation again in the next few years. Because we're human. Because rule #3? Not speaking harshly? That's a life long lesson, for all of us. That's overcoming every time your parent, sibling, relative, teacher, friend, acquaintance, and store clerk had a bad day and took it out on you. That's realizing that you are human, and that your basic monkey hind brain wants to pass shit down the pecking order. And that you're not always going to be able to stop it.

This story is a good example of a corollary to Rule #3, as well. It's the other side of talking. the other side of using words. It's choosing which words you hear.

When Tris mouthed off, I could have said "It's unacceptable for you to speak to me that way. Please apologize." or "I don't think you realize how much that hurt me." or any of a dozen other things. But I didn't. I listened to his words, which he really didn't mean, and I responded in kind, with words I didn't really mean.

So the corollary to rule #3? Consider the source.

Who's saying it? Why? What history do they have? What state are they in? And then respond with honor and dignity. Don't feed in to the self created worlds of people who have not mastered rules 1, 4 and 3. Listen as well as you speak.

Listen. As. Well. As. You. Speak.

Tomorrow? Rule #2. Gossip is bad.

Friday, August 26, 2011

35 and Glad of it.

I'm 35 now. (And thank you for all the birthday wishes, dear friends!) Unless I plan to live to 140, I have to admit that at this point, I've reached middle age. I hereby call in those bets. (ahem *MOM* ahem)

From what I see on the internet, 35 is a milestone. Apparently, at this age, I'm supposed to be going to yoga everyday, eat nothing but organic low fat, free range foods, spend no more than 4 hours a day cavalierly listing my hand crafted, sustainable, upcycled, eco-friendly art on, save the polar bears, and teach my child mandarin so he's prepared when the Chinese take over. I should weigh about 10lbs more than I did at 18, and I should begrudge those 10lbs, and bitch about them constantly. (even tho those 10lbs are all in my chest, and all that's keeping me from looking like a 16 yr old boy.)

Well. I've got the Mandarin thing covered, thank you Joss Whedon.

Meanwhile! Back in reality world! Here's what I did today:

I woke up late and snuggled enticingly with my husband. Right about the time things were about to get really relaxed, the dog barged in our room to inform us that, while he could wait for food, he needed to go OUT. NOW. The door hitting the wall alerted the toddler (who is 2.5 yrs, but the size of an average 4 yr old) that we were awake, and he began rattling the hook lock on his door. (yep, we lock him in his room at night.) Apparently 'play quietly in your room time' was over. I got up, shooed the dog downstairs, free-ed the kraken (ahem. toddler.) and then carried him, complete with sodden diaper, downstairs to care for the dog. Why? Because when a 130lb dog has to go out, and you weigh the time it's going to take you to change a diaper against the size of the dog mess you're going to have to clean up? You let the kid wait a minute.

Then, clad seductively in a giant t shirt and granny panties, I changed the toddlers diaper on the kitchen floor. I let the dog in, fed him, and then caught the 35lb toddler as he threw himself, cannonball style, at me. (For the first time today. Keep track of how often this happens. I did.) I plopped Sawyer in a chair, let the dog back out, found cereal, fruit, juice and "Baby" (Sawyers dinosaur) and made breakfast, with stuffed toy companion, for my toddler.

Next, I went upstairs, (left the toddler, the dog and the cereal alone together. LIVING DANGEROUS!) and roused my teen. This involved throwing shoes and threats of punishment. On my way back down, I grabbed a pile of laundry.

Back in the kitchen, I dropped the laundry and caught the toddler in mid air (that's twice) before sitting him back down, starting a load of wash, folding what was in the drier, running the dishwasher, and finally making myself some food and water, and starting the coffee maker.

After breakfast (organic black beans on home made toast. At least I get the food right!) I wiped Sawyer, Baby, Oden, the chair and the table down (in that order, and with the same rag.) and sat down to work on etsy with a cup of coffee.

Typing is hard when a 35lb toddler keeps grabbing your arm and swinging from it great ape style. I gave up on working, packed a diaper, wipes, a cup, a snack, a book and Baby in to a diaper bag, caught the toddler again (3rd time.) and loaded him in the car.

First stop? Mr Singhs. I set the kraken (ahem. Toddler.) free, and got another coffee, a water, and paid for my gas. Then I went in to the back room, and found my son, where he was hiding behind the mop bucket. He yelled "I FOUND YOU!" and launched himself at me, knees tucked up like a ball. Again. (that's 4)

I suggested to Gina (the Saturday girl at Mr Singhs.) that we might want to keep that door closed, in the future, and went out to pump the gas. Immediately, a fire truck went by. Followed by a police car. Followed by a billion bikers. The weekends poker run was headed through, so I sat Sawyer on the hood of the car to watch. He promptly made a 'shooter' out of his hands, and started picking off the bikers as they went by, complete with recoil. I tried to stop him, but then noticed that the early 20s boys in the car next to ours were laughing hystericly at the little boy 'shooting' the bikers as they went by, and figured, what the hell. My guess is that he 'got' half of them. My boy has aim. After the second fire truck and police car, Sawyer launched himself at me from the hood of the car (5) and I plopped him in his car seat, and buckled him in before he could get away.

Thanks to a divine intervention, I was able to achieve a life long dream today. With all the windows down and the radio cranked, I screamed the lyrics to "Radar Love' along with the radio as I peeled out of the toll booth. My 11 year old station wagon doesn't peel easily, and I don't listen to the radio much any more, so that was seriously a gift from god. Thanks, god.

The divine intervention was the grace before the storm, as I drove in to downtown Portsmouth. Apparently, I missed a notice. Everyone who has never driven a car before, never been to Portsmouth before, never seen humans before, or never worked a four way stop sign before is supposed to get in front of me at 10.30 on a Saturday morning, on my way to the farmers market. Then they should rubberneck, stall out, consult their GPS in the middle of an intersection, slow down to take pictures of hipsters, and generally scare the bejeeesus out of me. If it weren't for Radar Love still playing in my brain, it would have been obsecenities out the window. So, thanks again, god.

Safely parked in the muni lot, I unloaded my favorite stroller from the back.

here's the thing: We have 3 strollers. One is a nice, used tricycle jogger, which I like because it compensates for a long stride, but loathe because it gives me carpal tunnel to steer. BUT, it was free. The next is a cute little number with four wheels and a recliner, which I have lent out and don't remember to whom. It's handy, but a little unweildy, and no good for tall people. The last, my favorite, is an umbrella stroller. It weighs abotu 2lbs, is stained and crusty, has no storage, and is far older than Sawyer. I got it for a buck at a yard sale, but new, it's about 10 bucks. It is my favorite thing ever. Tristen had one just like it, and the only flaws in the design are that it's light enough to tip over if you don't balance your bag carefully on the back, and that it's too short for a tall person to walk fast - you kick it constantly. But for a'city run?" it's perfect.

We entered the farmers market. We saw friends, we got honey sticks, we chatted up friends, we listened to music. Then we bought tomatoes, and saw more friends. Finally, we rounded the corner and came upon Mecca.

Zachs Corn.

For anyone not raised within 20 miles of York, Maine: Zacharias Farms, or Zachs corn, is the best, yummiest, tastiest, most sought after corn in southern maine. It's also the biggest employer of teen farm hands: My first job was selling corn at a roadstand, and I'm SOO EXICTED that I no longer have to drive to the back of nowhere, that Zachs has made it as far as the farmers market!

I parked Sawyer, content with a honey stick, and started digging in to the pile of ears. I've got a little experience wit this, and found the best of the best while I chatted with the man running the stand. (Kates next eldest brother, class of 92, FYI, Yorkies:) At my knees, Sawyer yelled " Mom! Mom! Bees! Mom! Bees Drink! MOM BEES DRINK!" until i finally bent over. Sure enough, I'd parked him in front of a display of sunflowers. Which were covered, end to end, with bees. Dozens of them. About 6 inches from his face. I backed him off a foot, and then we talked about 'bee dances' and drinking nectar while Mr. Zach totaled our purchase.

We made our way down the hill, through the lot, and across the street to the porta-pottys. I, renegade that I am, left Sawyer strapped in his stroller, OUTSIDE THE PORTAPOTTY, where I couldn't see him, for a full 30 seconds. I totally got dirty looks for that. From other moms. Who thought it was more sanitary to bring there kid in *with* them? Um, ewwww. I'll play the odds on kidnapper outside a park filled with parents paying attention vs. FLESH EATING MICROBES any day, thanks.

Now it was time for the BIG THING. We went to the BIIIIG playground. The one with sections for big kids and little kids? The coooool playground, near the Saturday market, where all the cool kids go. I parked Sawyers stroller, and set him free. And then. And! Then! I Sat on a BENCH!

yep. I didn't chase him all over the playground. I didn't referee his disputes with other kids over see saw rights. I didn't play 'drive thru" with him (as I saw another parent doing, ordering a pretend burger and fries.) I didn't climb in to the tree house and protect his cute littel chin from accidental bruising. I just sat. When he moved to another jungle gym, I followed, and sat. When he needed help up a rope ladder, I was there. Then I sat down. And what I saw, was this:

Sawyer wanted to play with the 'wheel" (It's like a ships wheel, kinda cool). He walked up to the boy playing with it (his age, but waaaay smaller.) and said "HI!". The boy shoved him in the chest and said "NO MINE!" The boys father looked up from his iphone and said "No, Boy, you have to share." and then went back to his iphone. I stayed mum. Sawyer approched again, and again, the other boy shoved him. "NO MINE!" he yelled. The father didn't look up.

Sawyer approched a 3rd time, and this time, when the Boy tried to shove him.. Sawyer took a step to the side. the Boy missed him, and stumbled forward. Sawyer took a couple steps and started playing with the wheel. Boy, confused, wandered back over, and played with the other gizmos. In seconds, they were playing together.

The dad never looked up from his iphone. And also? My boy? NINJA!


I've driven to Newburyport and back three times this week. That's 3 more times than I've made that trip in the last 2 years. Day one, I worked with Lil... whom I first met when she was 3, and who is now somehow this incredibly beautiful, capable, put together young woman, totally able to run a large jewelry store. How on earth did that happen?

The next couple days, I just drove back and forth, delivering. Yesterday, I took Sawyer to the riverwalk there, and let him look at the boats. He made friends. Lots of friends. Friends with dogs, and people, and the harbor master, and fishermen... His vocabulary consists only of nouns, but he gets his point across.


umm, Hi!


I'm fishing...

FISH! FISH! NOM NOM NOM! (Sings a little 'fishing' song in the style of a Pteranadon..)

do you, umm, like fish?

FISH! WHERE FISH? YAY! (Looks in bucket, sees fish already caught) HEY! HEY! GOOD JOB! (Gives two thumbs up to random fisherman, continues down the pier... repeat ad nauseum for an hour, with the same enthusiasm for fish heads, seagulls, an elderly couple, and a shitzu.)

It is absolutely impossible not to be in a good mood when confronted by Sawyers relentless cheerfulness. He really, really, loves people. And things. And animals. And food. He is the most cheerful person I've ever met. He thinks strangers are his best friends that he has not met. This, occasionally, makes life interesting.

This morning, on the beach:

(Me, laying on my belly in the sand, taking photos) Sawyer! No! You can NOT shoot us with the water gun! No!

Sawyer nods, turns, and starts running. It's a big, flat beach, with no one on it. I let him go. Take a picture. Notice in the LCD screen that there's a person in the picture, and that Sawyer is headed straight for her. Look up. Yep, he's barreling towards a complete stranger, about 200 yards away, and he's carrying a loaded water gun. I take off running.

He's gotten a few shots off before I catch up. That little guy can MOVE. The 'victim' is laughing hysterically, running in circles, trying to evade ice cold ocean water. I send up a little prayer of thanks that she has a sense of humor, and grab the salty gunman.

"Sawyer!" I say. And then stop. Where was I going with this? I told him he couldn't shoot US with the water gun, and he went and found other people to dampen. How do I explain this one?

"The watergun is for MONSTERS Sawyer, only monsters!" I say. "NOT PEOPLE."

I get a confused face in response, so I turn him bodily towards the water and say

"Monster! In the water! GET IT!" And he takes off running, again.

"Sorry," I say to the lady who is now catching her breath.

"Oh, don't worry!' She replied. "I saw him coming at me with that water gun, and I had to play along. That was fun!"

I have no idea what to say to this, besides, thank you so much. Who gets shot with freezing water by a 2 year old stranger and isn't upset? this lady. Who can pick the playmate out of the crowd? My kid. Thank you, God, for putting those two together this morning.

We spent the morning eating blue popsicles, (Smuf tongue!) digging, building, swooping through the waves and 'fishing' like a Pteradon, and learning to body surf. Yep. He tried it. On his own. With no board. If he could have closed his mouth, instead of screaming in glee, it would have been perfect. Instead, he was happy as a clam and had a belly full of water when we left.

We came home at noon, after making friends at: a hotel, where I'd left my shorts (that's the whole story. Sorry, wish it was more interesting.) and Sawyer conned the desk lady in to reading him the paper; the cops outside the hotel, who gave him a wave and a quick buzz of the sirens for no particular reason, and the drive through lady at Starbucks, who offered to babysit, any time, after Sawyer said 'Thank you' f. or his snack.

I put the kid to bed. I worked. I got him up. we drove to Newburyport and back with thankfully no adventures. We went to Hannafords.

I, being out of my mind, let Sawyer get in the 'car cart'.. which is a giant, hard to maneuver plastic car on the front of a grocery cart. Sawyer knows how to work the seat buckles, so that's useless.. which led to him both: Leaning out of the cart, waving one arm, and yelling: "ALLL ABBBOOARD!!" for five aisles... AND randomly leaving the car altogether, and wandering off at high speeds. Thankfully, there was a grand-parent type couple in the pet food aisle who had a long talk with Sawyer about their cats, our cats, our dog, their dog, and eventually played with him using a cat toy surreptisiously taken from it's wrapper. I'm not making this up. Very nice people, and they were laughing and smiling when we left, so I guess Sawyer did his job.

Commence checkout. This is a tag team effort between me, the clerk, the supervisor, and Jonathan, who happened to be standing there and whom knows Sawyer. Between us all, I managed to pay for the groceries, and only had to run and grab Sawyer from the doorway once.

Now, we've got the car cart. Which is, big, hard to maneuver, and loud. I lead Sawyer to the corral IN the store, and we ditch it. Which leaves me with a bag of ice, a bag of groceries, and a bag of dogfood. Really, I need a cart.

"Sawyer" I say. "Let me put this stuff in a little card, and we'll take it to the car."

"OK!" says Sawyer, promptly heading out the door, alone.

I whistled and slapped my leg. "Hey! Here BOy!" I called.

Sawyer stopped, turned around and came back to me. And then I realized what I'd done. I looked up, already prepared to crack up at myself, in to the eyes of another mom, who had an infant in one arm and a toddler by the hand. We locked gazes, and both began laughing, until we were both weepy. Because, when it's 100 degrees out, and you're that tired, and someone catches you whistling for your dog when you mean to catch your kid, what can you do?

I hope she's at home right now with a glass of wine, telling her husband all about it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recipe: Horsetaters Salad

I mixed up this potato salad yesterday, for an evening with girl friends. I made a huge batch, and so there was some left over for my husband and boys.. who also fixed big dishes for themselves this week. Guess it's up to me to eat his salad by myself! ;)

dice and boil 5lb red potato, when soft, run under cold water.
dice two scallions, 1 large apple (I like crisp flavors here, like granny smith)
mix 2tbsp mayo with 1 tbsp prepared horseradish, set aside
mix 1tsp celery salt, 1/8th cup (2 tbsp) each: dill, garlic granules (dehydrated garlic, not powder!) and 1 tsp black pepper.

Dump everything in a big bowl, stir, and chill well before serving. Add more dill, horseradish or salt to taste.

This salad is low fat (That's not a lot of mayo for a big salad, a third of it is horseradish, so it's still creamy!), low salt, gluten free.

Should you have leftovers, I recommend this: 1/4 cup salad sauteed in a skillet until the potatoes start to crisp. Crack in an egg, scramble. Ammmaaazing.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hi, Universe, Thanks!

Sometimes, all the Universe wants, is to be paid attention to. In fact, that's generally all it wants, ever. Which seems easy, right? I mean, we live in this Universe, we see it every day, it shouldn't be that hard to pay attention and notice it now and then...

I lamented earlier this week, that I was overwhelmed. Too much to do, too many people to see to, not enough money, not enough time. What I really wanted to do, I screamed, was write! Why couldn't I just freakin' write?

And what about getting out of town? Could I leave my house now and then? Please? Could I see other people? Is that so much to ask?

12 hours later, I got an email from a friend. Would I take a look at her novel, and point out any plot holes?

Then another eil: Mel's coming home! Party in my yard with all my friends!

A day later, a panicked phone call from another friend: Her partner in a project wasn't able to carry on, and could I write a piece to accompany her art? In a day? With non-existant guidelines?

Then a heads up from my family: Oftyfest 11 is a go, and we're going to have 7 people and a puppy come visit this weekend! I have people to try my new chili recipe on, and Oden has a buddy to chase!

Today I went to pick Tris up at camp, and timed it all wrong, which ended up with me stuck on a hot, sandy playground with a way over-tired toddler, for an hour. So I called Susan, to pass the time. And got invited to go to Rangley for a weekend, to stay at a fishing camp, with my fisherman husband. Oh, and the giant dog gets to go, too.

Today, I gave away a huge furniture set on freecycle. I picked the person who was the most polite, of the three receivers who emailed at the same time. Her name is Angela, and she'll be here tomorrow for the set.. and she sent the most lovely note about an hour ago. She'd seen my blog tag at the end of my emails, and liked my posts. The one about Amy and Teddy made her weepy.

I want to write! I want to see people! I want to go away! I yelled. The Universe paid attention.

And, because that's the way it works, the Universe is going to yell sometime, and I'm not going to be able to ignore it.

Today a bunch of people in Iran and Turkey, IRAN and TURKEY of all places, read my words.
Thanks, Universe. I'm yours for the taking.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Miss Amy Bettcher, I do.

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a friend. An old friend. A good friend.

Her name was Amy Bettcher. She was 34 years old. Ovarian Cancer. She fought like a fucking trooper for a year.

In the last days, after hearing rumor upon rumor about how she was doing.. that she was still fighting, that the next round of chemo might work, that she was not going to make it after all, that maybe she was already gone?
I contacted her family. And I asked them if it would be ok, if they would be ok with it, if I took on the job of keeping in touch with her friends, to let them know what was happeneing. Because it seemed to me, that an event of such magnitude, that Amy's death and passing, should not be left commemorated to the local Portsmouth gossip mill. And because I thought I could handle it. I'd known Amy nearly more than 17 years. But we rarely saw each other any more. We talked on the phone often, especially since she fell ill, but I hadn't seen her more than a few times since my wedding, almost 2 years ago. I'd tried, but each time we made a date, she was too sick, or more often, my kids were, and germs were verbotten.. I was close, but removed.

so, it seemed I was a good candidate for the job.

Her family agreed. I, and Jocelyn, and Amys sister in law Jess, started collecting email addresses. I talked to Jess, then I wrote a mass email. Every other day. It was only a little more than a week, but it seems like it was months.

I have two children, and have been through one marriage and started another. My eldest son nearly died of complications from Juvenile Diabetes when he was 6 years old. When I was pregnant with my now toddler, I was told that tests showed he may have a brain disorder, and either abort before being born, or in best case, he would live no more than weeks.

Between Dec 23 2010 and Dec 31 2010 my 64 year old father had a massive coronary, infections from surgery, a four way bypass, was in a coma for 3 weeks because of PTSD reactions to the anesthesia, spent 4 moths in the hospital and had a total of 8 surgeries. On Dec 23rd 2010, I hadn't spoken to my stepmother in 7 years.

But this. Amy's passing. The emails, and the phone calls. The conversations, the thoughts, the dreams, the emotions. This was harder. Harder than any of the other things I've gone through.

Because my sons are fine. The diabetes is under control. The brain scans were a lottery, and we won it. My dad survived his ordeal. My stepmother and I talk now, occasionally. I still have them, all, to talk to.

Amy was harder. I didn't get to say goodbye in person. I talked about her every day. I wrote emails to people I didn't know, or worse, to people I had known for years, and I told them all what I could. That Amy was safe. That she was in no pain. That she was at peace.

But in the end, of course, Amy died.

We used to run as a pack. Downtown Po-town. The Elvis Room Kids. We smoked cigarettes, and drank coffee, and worked odd jobs. We wore black, and got in to trouble. We took over the square, and made it home base in a game of tag that lasted years and had over 100 players. We were a family.

And we lost some of our own. Drugs. Suicide. Car wrecks. Sudden medical conditions.

This is the first time, for me, though, that the death of one of the Square Kids, has been forseen. That we had time to think, and to mourn, and to process. That we had to be adults about it.

At the funeral yesterday, sitting in the back of the church, between men and women I've known and loved for years, yards from the benches that were home base in that game of tag. that's when it hit me. We're adults.

There were many speakers at Amys funeral. Her uncle, her cousins, Andrea, who spoke from the heart, and Amy's brother Teddy, who spoke from the soul. I've known Teddy since before he could shave. I haven't known him much since then, though.

And then at the end, Jess, Teddys wife, stood to speak for the last time. She'd done so well, for weeks, and taken on so much. That last piece, though, got her. She started to loose it at the podium, to weep enough to affect her words.

Behind her, Teddy stood up. Her husband. Amy's little brother. He took two steps forward, and gently put one hand on his wife's shoulder. Jess didn't look around. She just took a deep breath, and finished her words.

I looked at this man, no longer the kid I knew, and I wept.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What Love Is Not

Every parent wants to teach their child about love. It becomes especially important when the teen years strike, and hormones flood their miniature adult bodies, and bad decisions suddenly abound.

And here’s the deal: we can’t. There’s no course we can give them, book we can force on them, church that we can drag them to that’s going to teach them what they need to know about love.

Because all of the books, and the lessons, and the sermons are incomplete. Because we, who teach, and write and preach them.. are incomplete. Because we don’t stop discovering what love is until two days after forever. Love is the continually diverging path, always moving forward, always collecting in its map of experience a new and varied wealth of knowledge. Death can not stop love. We love people long after they are gone. Birth does not start love, we adore the shinning possibility of children before they are conceived.

So as a parent, I’m not going to try to teach my child about what love is. God knows I don’t know, in the end, all the twists and turns of love. I won’t do love a disservice and try to pretend I do.

I can though, teach my kids what love is not.

Love is not blood. We live in an era where stories of parents killing their children, children murdering their families.. these horrific tales are available day and night on cable news. If we tell our children what we wish to be the truth: that all parents love their children and vice versa, unconditionally and without exception.. we diminish love. Respect for our families is a must. Love is not a given.

I will not bring the rest of the world in to it, I can not speak for all parents, and wish they wouldn’t speak for me. I love my children, unconditionally, and without exception or reservation. This is not a universal truth. It is simply my truth.

Love is not by definition recipricol, and is often not reciprocated. You can love someone who is too broken to love you back. You can love the idea of someone, and not the person.. their essence, their wit, their personality.. you can love the memory of someone who is no longer who they once were. Remember your place in these times. Protect yourself, because love can also be a weapon, a hand offered in compassion but taken in pain by a broken spirit. Be aware of the fearful, and don’t offer them more love than they can take, lest they use it against you. ( This is aimed at those with a ‘savior’ complex. )

Love is not sex.

This is a tough one, I think, for my generation. The Gen X’ers, the first of The MTV kids. We have been taught by the media since first we got cable that love and sex are one and the same. Some of us got children out of this misunderstanding.

Sex is awesome, and powerful, and healing, and painful and truthfully, sometimes the best sex in the world is with people you don’t love. Sex is not love. Love is not sex. Have fun, be safe, be kind. Don’t listen to the hippies. It’s not free love, it’s free sex. Not bad, but not love.

Making love is way better than sex, and can be done with all of your clothes on.

A conversation that you would have with no one else. Hands held while watching fireworks under leafy trees. Turning to the same person through crisis, joy, ritual and mundane life for years on end. That’s making love. Opening your heart, and your life to a person over the course of a life time, and having them do the same for you. Those conversations, those hugs, those moments in the sun and the rain, that’s making love. It takes longer than sex. It’s far more difficult, delicate, and time consuming. Sex will likely muck it up beyond all repair, but if it doesn’t, marry the person immediately.

Love is not marriage, marriage is not love.

Another tricky one for the MTV generation, and I think even harder for the years that followed us. We were the first children of divorce, and the first children to grow up knowing when our parents didn’t love each other, divorced or not.

One can be married without love. A couple can be in love, together, raising children, building a life together for years.. and never be married.

Likewise, a couple who marries without love can find common goals and achieve them, and gain love that is as strong as iron.

And a couple madly in love can have children, and begin a life together that is killed by ego, or jealousy, or simple differences. Marriage is commitment to something greater than yourself. If you’re lucky, love enters in to marriage at some point in the path.

Love doesn’t always stick around.

If summer lasted forever we would long for winter. Our perfect days are perfect because they happen so rarely.

Some loves have expiration dates. Not the date that we stop loving the person, but the date we must be apart from them. For ourselves, for them, for whatever reason. Nothing is meant to last forever. Some loves are destined for much shorter than that. These are the ones that are the hardest to let go of, that will stick with you, and bring you doubt and wonder. When this happens, refer back to ‘Making Love’ and ask yourself which, exactly, you were doing. Be honest.

So there it is. What I want to teach my children about what love isn’t. I can’t teach them what love is, because I’m not done figuring that out myself. Here’s what I have so far:

Love is a single shared TV program, whose opening music brings a smile to both your faces.

Love is an air conditioner on one side of the bed, and extra blankets on the other.

Love is a plan, and a backup plan, and a beer together when that doesn’t work out.

Love is working 70 hours a week so your family has what they need, and making your kids get jobs so they have what they want.

Love is knowing when the other’s heart is too broken for just you to heal, and sending them out to find what they need.

Love is starting with yourself, so you always have enough to go around.

Love is dandelion bouquets gone to seed and blown for wishes.

Love is the single most important thing in the world. It doesn’t die, it isn’t created. It simply is. Forever, in any moment. It just is.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm Dirty and I Smell Bad... Life is good.

Memorial Day Weekend for my husband: (every year)

Friday: Buy beer, build a contraption to keep rain off when canoe-ing.
Saturday AM: Load canoe, tin boat, life vests, beer and beef jerky in to truck. Wait for friends to meet up. Drive to the Saco. Put beef jerky, life vests and beer IN to boats. Get in boats. Float.
Saturday" Drink and float. Eat some jerky.
Sunday: Drink and float. Paddle a few miles. Load out empty beer cans and boats. Realize you've lost 1 paddle, 1 life vest, 1 cell phone and 1 ipod. Drive Home.

Memorial Day Weekend for Me: (every year)

Friday: Kids get home from school. Do a billion loads of laundry. Put manure on garden and soak it. Till two more gardens. Work. Cook. Clean. Call all the parents about Saturday. Find 1) the camping grill 2) the tent and 3) the propane in the basement, all of which are EXACTLY where you said they were. give them to husband. Don't punch husband.

Saturday: Drop toddler at a friends. Pick up three teens, for a total of four. Drive them to Short Sands Beach in Maine for my teens birthday. Dole out arcade money for kids who didn't bring any. Set teens loose. Find a cafe. Eat a REAL SANDWHICH! WITH BASIL AND MOZARELLA! Feed NONE to a dog or toddler. Drink coffee, without having to hide it from a caffeine fiend two year old. Read a book. Decide this is SO WORTH any money spent.
Gather teens, spend some time talking and walking with each one.
Drop all teens at my house.
Pick up toddler. Spend half an hour chatting with awesome friends who babysit about other awesome friends who are dying.
Drive home. Find that teens have gotten out the water balloons and squirt gun cannons. Dump toddler in the middle of the melee, and call it bath time.
Put toddler to bed.
Send two teens home, chat with both and their parents. Send son home with last teen, bless teens parents for taking your kid.
Put toddler to bed.
Realize you are, for all intents and purposes, ALONE.
Put on your favorite music that everyone else in the house hates. Crack a HUGE bottle of mead. Drink, laugh, and sing really loud off key, while dancing.
Finish mead. Find another. Repeat.
Realize it's nearing 2 Am and you have to squint at the computer. Go to bed, laughing and singing.

Wake up to toddler yelling MOM MOM MOM MOOOOM MOM MOM! Realize you have the mother of all hangovers. Decide it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. Shower, dress, eat, guzzle coffee, clean house, do some laundry. Discover forgotten gatorade in fridge. Do happy dance.
Around noon, get teen back. Immediately send to showers, he smells that bad.
Once he's clean, load car with toys, juice, snacks and chairs. Load toddler and teen. Pick up niece (Or, teen 2, as I call her). Drive to friends house for BBQ. Turn all children loosee on big lawns with lots of toys and people for the teens to talk to, and one exceptionally forgiving dog for toddler to chase. Sit in chair for five hours. Don't move much. Talk to people a bit. Find self coloring in a Hello Kitty coloring book, thoroughly content, discussing Crayola shades with woman next to you, whom you don't know. No kids are involved in this coloring. Notice your back and shoulder feel weird. Realize it's because you're relaxed, and that's a new sensation.
Milk. It.
Watch toddler curl up with new dog, using dog for pillow, drinking his sippy cup. Realize it's bed time.
Load everything we came with. Say goodbye. Drop off niece. Go grocery shopping. Put toddler to bed. Put away groceries. Make a loaf of bread. Feed teen. Work on inventory for a couple hours. Do some laundry and dishes. Spend two hours cleaning bedroom and switching winter for summer wardrobe. Realize it's midnight. Go to bed.

Spend from 1 am to 2am up with toddler who had a bad dream.

7.30AM: Get up. Feed dog, scrub kitchen, feed children, do dishes and more laundry. Call mother. Spend half an hour talking about friend who is dying. Realize you're going to loose it any second. Put toddler down for nap, leave teen in charge. Drive aimlessly for half an hour singing and crying with radio. Get a coffee so you have an excuse for having been gone. Go home.
Give teen chores. spend more time supervising chores than you would have spent doing them yourself.
Convince teen to help you in garden. Head outside. Have landlady and toddler both decide to come outside right then. And help.
Manage to get garden half planted, while teen strings bamboo and twine for a fence. Call it good.
Have husband come home sunburnt and ... um.. sunburnt. ;)
Go buy frozen pizzas, cause you don't feel like cooking.
Sit on patio for three hours with landlady and surprise guest Pete, drinking beer and talking.
Pass out.
Repeat next year.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Love Spiders. So Should You.

Today is Thursday, the day my friend R takes charge of his nieces and nephews and ventures out in to the world. For weeks R and I have had a running 'maybe' play date. When he called this morning, to remind me he had the kids, I looked out the window at the glorious spring day, and then back at my computer, where I was contacting friends and friends of friends to let them know just how sick A is, and that we're going to loose her.

I closed my laptop, packed my toddler, and forayed in to Maine. Sunshine and children suddenly seemed to be the most important thing in the world. That the home we were going to was on the same back roads I traveled two weeks ago was helpful. Knowing where we were going, I was able to soak up the sun, I knew where the 'kisser hills' were, and I took in the scenery with aplomb, even though Sawyer insisted on yelling "LOOK OUT LOOK OUT" at every curve.

R was house sitting, at a lovely, wonderful, huge and inviting home. The play structure in the front yard had the one at Henry law park beat by a mile. We turned the kids loose, and sat in the grass, chatting over iced coffee. Parts I didn't know were tense started to unwind.

There were 4 kids: Girls named Monkey and Bubbles, aged 6 and 1. The boys were D and Sawyer, ages 4 and 2. Quickly, Monkey and I established that we had the same flip flops. That we both loved purple. That bunnies were awesome and soft, and that she had a baby one, and it was the best. thing. ever. We were friends for life.

Sitting in the grass, I noticed a spider. A huge, female brown house spider, my favorite kind. She was carrying a giant egg sack under her belly, struggling along the way giantly pregnant women do.
'Wow, look at this spider!" I said. 'She's going to have babies!"
Instantly I was joined by Monkey and D. So fast, in fact, I thrust out my hand to keep them from stepping on our specimen. "Careful! We don't want to squish her!" I said.

I pointed out the spider, and the egg sack. Our little class was more interesting than the swings, and we were joined by the younger kids, Sawyer and Bubbles. Neither of them cared about the spider, but they wanted to be where the action was. All the kids studied the tiny mom, and we talked about how she was going to have babies.

"Spiders are cool!" said D. (he's 4)
"Spiders are gross." Said Monkey. "They are icky."
"Spiders are scary! " said D. (Some day, their parents will long for such unity between siblings.)
"Spiders are my absolute favorite all time best bug." I said. "I like them better than ants, or beetles or "
"Butterflies?!" interrupted Monkey.
"Yes. Better than butterflies. I like spiders best of all. Even more than butterflies." I said. I explained why. We sat in silence for a few minutes, and the other kids wandered off.

"Butterflys are my favorite." Said Monkey. "They're pretty. Spiders are ok."
"Well," I said. "Butterflies ARE prettier than spiders. But my favorites are still spiders."

Monkey nodded and tore off to play on the swings.

I think she and I should go on the road. Our next stop? The Middle East. If we can find common ground with butterflies and spiders, Israel and Palestine should be a snap.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Universe Gets a Sense of Humor

It's 3AM. I am sound asleep. The 'sound' in that sentence is the important part. I haven't slept soundly in days, maybe weeks.

I wake up to my husband thrashing next to me. Next, I hear swearing. Finally, he jumps out of bed and dashes from the room. Now I'm awake, and hearing the noise too. Voices, and thuds, and yelling. I decide that they aren't in the house, whomever they are, because the dog hasn't barked, and when my dog barks, you know it. The whole block knows it. Josh comes back in the room, still swearing. He peers out the window at the cemetery across the street. It is huge, and old, and built on a fairly steep hill, and easy as hell to hide in.
"There's some asshole kids in the cemetery." He says. "Throwing rocks on cars as they go by. I called the cops."
My husband is pissed. Pissed that he was woken up. Pissed that before he woke up, he dreamed that the asshole kids were in our house and yard, and that's why he went tearing from the room. Pissed that his adrenaline is flowing and he is NOT going to get back to sleep.
I decide that now is not the time to ask him to contemplate karma and his own misspent youth. I go back to sleep.

At 6.30am, my alarm goes off. I slap snooze.

At 6.33am, my phone rings. It's my mother, who above all other humans knows not to call me before.. ever. I answer, thinking it must be an emergency.
"Hi!" She says. "Are you awake?"
"I don't know." ... I'm being honest.
"I just wanted you to know that they canceled school at the middle school today." she says. I hear my stepdad in the background, laughing.
"What? Why?" I ask.
"Lightening struck the school." she says.
"Really??" I ask.
"Yes! Really! Go back to sleep! No school!" She tells me, exactly like she did when I was 7 and there was a foot of snow. I hear my Stepdad in the background, laughing.
"YEEESSSS!!!" I cry and perform a sleepy fist pump. I say goodbye, and then send a text to my BFF and to Sandy, who drives Tris to school.

"No school at DMS! Lightening strike!" I say in my text. Then I pass out again.

45 minutes later, I wake up, because the toddler hasn't yet woken me up. I contemplate how very unfair this is as I lay in bed, listening to him on the monitor. He's moving around a bit, playing, safe in his room. Why can't I go back to sleep? I doze.. and then hear:

I fly through the door, expecting carnage, intruders, hobbits, something terrible.

And find my 2.5 year old son, perfectly fine, stark naked, sitting in the now empty third drawer up of his dresser. He is yelling and crying because he has just peed himself. In the dresser drawer. Which is wood, and antique.
(Good thing he got those absorbent, washable clothes out of the drawer first! I mean, really, that would have been *SO MUCH* harder to clean up.)

I install the toddler in the shower with toys and go to clean up his room. As I pass by the door of my teenagers room, I pound on it. No response. I enter, and throw some clothes from the floor and one shoe at him until he sits up. (I can't get to his bed without spelunking, throwing things is easier.)

"WHAT?!" He growls.
"Schools canceled. Lightening strike. Go back to sleep." I say.

I'm watching his eyes, so I see it. The moment when the fact school is canceled overcomes the primal need to yell at me for waking him up. He does a fist pump and yells "YESSSS!" and passes out again.

I clean the baby, and his room, and apply clothes to child and drawers. I settle him in with breakfast in the kitchen, and run back up for my phone.

And find a text, from Sandy, who is the most reliable person I know. It says "Are you sure school is canceled? Can't find it online or on the news!"

I call my mother to double check. She doesn't answer. I look online, and can't find any info anywhere about school being canceled.

It occurs to me that I've dreamed very, very believable things before. That I have acted, on waking, about things I dreamed about. That I am, in fact, notorious for this behavior. And it occurs to me that dreaming that my mother telling me there is no school is pretty simple. I mean, I would dream that.

I think of calling the school, but I have had no coffee yet, and dealing with their phone system is beyond me on a good, caffeinated day. I call my best friend instead. I tell her what happened, and in a panicked voice, that I may well have dreamed it. I apologize if I misinformed her, and if because of my dreams, her daughter, my niece, is out without permission and can't go on the trip to DC with the rest of the 8th grade.

My best friend assures me that I didn't dream it. School is canceled. She doesn't know why it's not listed on the website, but it is true. Lightening took out the fire alarm system, so they can't have kids in the building. Ava can go on the trip. Everything is ok.

I celebrated my lack of insanity by taking my breakfast on the porch, with coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Turtles, Teens, and other oddities of Nature

File this one under: random notes at 1 am.

I love this turtle.

For the past week we've been turtle sitting for friends of ours who are on vacation. The turtles name is Corneilius Talmadge, but we call him Corny.. or, The Turtle. Last year we had him for three weeks.. this year, we've had a sparse week with my little shelled friend. I'm going to be devastated when his owners retrieve him! Each morning he greets me with swimming strokes and chomps on food sticks taken ever so delicately from my hand. By noon he is perched on his rock, head held proudly, surveying his domain. At some point in the day, I will catch him harassing his tank mate, a slow and stately catfish. And at another point, I'll bust out laughing as I walk by his tank and find him propped like an abandoned car, both right fins tucked in, listing on his rim. Corny, when you move back to Maine, remember me? And come visit again soon. I'll miss you.
Teens are not for the faint of heart. They will scare you, daily. Sometimes with death defying stunts. Sometimes with decisions that are so poor you want to give them food stamps. Sometimes with logic that is terrifying because it is right. The eyes of the un-jaded see lots of things that we have immuned ourselves to.
And sometimes they will scare you because you see in them an honesty, a purity and a determination that you know you have lost. And you will look at them and say "I was like that once, and now I'm not. How did that happen? And if I'm not them? Who am I?" And that, my friends, is the abyss looking in to you.
I'm blessed with two amazing young adults in my life, and as much as they drive me crazy, they keep me sane.
Death happens.
This week has been filled with death for me. That sounds awful, right? But it's not, always, awful.
There was a little boy this week, last Saturday, who passed away from too much medicine. His mother, terrified and not in her right mind, left him under a tree, covered by a blanket in Southern Maine. I don't know how he died, or why she gave him the medicine. I don't know if she meant to kill him, or if she thought twice about the dosage, or why she didn't just call the EMTs. He died, and twice that day, I drove by him, not even knowing he was there. Drove by on my way to and from a play date with friends and a total of 6 boys of our own, aged 11 months to 13 years.

Someone I know is dying of cancer. Someone I've known a long, long time. Someone who wrote me letters when I was a scared single mother in Georgia, someone who makes me laugh, and who I can pick up a conversation with after weeks, months, years of not seeing each other. She's younger than me, barely. She doesn't have kids, which is a blessing. There's no rhyme or reason to her death, it just is. I knew it was coming weeks ago, but she didn't want to admit it so I didn't either. I thought about taking the kids to see her, but why? They barely know her, and I doubt she'd want them to see her so sick. I'll go, though. I'll bring the cards she sent me 14 years ago, and pictures from a few years before that. And I'll tell her it's ok. And that I love her, and that I'll miss her. But mostly, that it's ok.

And then tonight, two little deaths.

I talked to my niece for hours today. She is an amazing young woman, and I'm proud to be in her circle of trust. And I miss the days when the biggest decision she had to make was whether or not to ride her scooter while carrying a sword. (she did. She lived through it.) Not a little girl anymore.

On my way to drop off my niece, I stopped to pick up my son. I found him holed up in an office, above the pub I frequent. Tonight was MAGICK night, and he was playing card games until curfew. When I got there he was sitting around a table, kicked back in a chair. Everyone in the room was at least 3 years older than him. As I entered, one player looked at me suspiciously, ready to throw me out. I pointed at my son. "He's mine." I said. "Time to go."
Tris gathered his things. The defensive young man relaxed. "You're taking him home?" he asked.
"Yep." I said.
"Good." said the player. "He kicked my ass, and I want to rethink my strategy before I play him again.

And there's my little boy, hanging out with the big kids. Doing the right thing, being smart, having fun. Not a little boy anymore.

So, gone are the days when these two young people were little kids. When they ran through the grocery store head butting peoples shopping carts, flapping their arms and yelling "Look out! We're Buffalo Chickens!"

And here are the days of their first jobs, and how to spend the money. Of leaving behind friends that are bad for you and carrying through the friends that love you best, no matter how far apart you grow.

When I was the same age the kids are now, I met my friend who is dying for the first time.
A thousand dreams, a million years, several lifetimes ago, and yesterday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


(That's a drumroll.)


Sea Perch: Building a Robotic Submarine

featured on

NH Chronicle


(click here for video)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Laurell & Hardy Replaced by Two Stooges

It's bedtime.

Actually, it's past bedtime, because the late afternoon part of my day somehow got sucked in to a quantum whatchamaho, and I can't winkle it out with a straightened hanger.

Sawyer is half-naked, and not the cute half, on his bedroom floor. There is poop everywhere, and where there is no poop, there is diaper cream. I'm trying desperatly to affix the 'velcro' tabs on his diaper, and he is NOT COOPERATING. He has both feet propped on my leg, and is doing reverse push ups, or whatever you call it when a two year old is driving his bony little heels in to your thigh, and squirming his rear around, trying to evade a diaper.

He is also yelling:

"Mom. Moom. MOM. MOMMM. Momomomomom. Mom. HI mOM!" at the top of his lungs, in singsong.

"Sawyer." I say reasonably. "I'm RIGHT HERE. You are TOUCHING me. Your head is a foot away. You don't have to YELL MY NAME!"

"MOM! Momomomom. Mom? mom. Mom!" Said Sawyer, performing a twist that will leave a bruise on my leg tomorrow.

Tris walked by just then. He stood in the doorway and listened to our exchange, then came in. Carefully, he positioned his feet next to his brothers head, about a foot from me. Sawyer looked up at his big brother in awe, then promptly became distracted as I fastened one closure on his diaper. He redoubled his efforts to avoid the next, and his singsong began again.

"MOM!Mamama!MOM! momomom. mom. MOM!" he yelled, gleefully.
This time, big brother joined in. Without moving his feet, he leaned in, until his mouth was a foot from my face.
"Mom! MOMOMOM!" Tris cried. "Mamama! Mama! Mom! Mommy!"

Sawyer was stunned in to silence by the solidarity. I closed the diaper and applied jammy pants in record time.

"Thanks, Tris!" I said, as I sat the contemplative toddler on my lap.

"Potty training, Mom, it's a thing. Look in to it." he replied, and wandered off.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Laurell & Hardy Quickie

Sawyer was sitting on a wooden kitchen stool eating his cereal. Oden sat beside him. With the addition of the stool, Sawyer was finally taller than Oden, and taking full advantage. He swooped his spoon under the dogs nose, hugged his neck, and in general made Oden wait as long as possible for his cereal milk.
Finally Oden got fed up and walked away. Sawyer, upset he would have no one to bug, grabbed Odens tail, yelling "No, Stay!"
Oden kept walking. Sawyer didn't let go. Oden pulled him right off the stool. Sawyer hit the floor, looking indignant. Oden went in the next room and laid on the couch.
I said to Sawyer, as he picked himself up: 'You so deserved that."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Comeback

Yesterday was not so much fun. Yesterday was SO not much fun. Today was better.

I woke up at 6.30am to cries of "mom. Mom. MOM. MAMA!" from my toddler. I let him do that for awhile, then remembered it was Saturday, and that the landlady, who shares a wall with the toddler, might still want to sleep, so I got up. I changed his diaper, got him dressed, and then remembered the most beautiful thing: My teen is in TROUBLE! With absolutely NO guilt, I roused Tristen and installed him and his brother in the living room with cereal and cartoons and instructions to stay alive for a few hours. I fed the dog, let him out, let him in, and took care of the turtle. Then, with great glee, I went back to bed.

The next time I looked at a clock, it was 9AM. My husband was looming over the bed with a greasy paper lunch bag in his hand. He grinned at me and said: "This is for you!"

Feeling brave, I opened it. The greasy bag turned out to be full of the most wonderful popcorn, lathered in garlic and paremsean. I scarfed, figuring morning breath couldn't get any worse. The bag had come from the movie night Josh had attended the evening before, where he watched Troll Hunter with our friends. The bag was my goody bag, since I had missed the showing. At the bottom, I found a small bundle, wrapped in paper and tape. Inside was a handmade pendant on a leather cord.

"Chris made them." Josh said. "They're Troll Crosses, to protect you from troll attack."

I promptly took off my dove pendant and donned my cross. Then I passed out again, knowing I was at least safe from trolls.

The next time I opened my eyes, it was after 11am. There was a curious lack of yelling, screaming, fighting, or harranguing me to get out of bed. I milked it until my bladder protested, then snuck to the bathroom. The cat accosted me, but I escaped back to bed, and stayed there until almost noon, staring at the ceiling, trying to remember when I had last slept so late.

I think it was the smell of my own garlic - parmesean- garlic breath that got me out of bed. I got myself dressed, and started hunting down the things I would need to pack for the day ahead. I chatted with the landlady a bit, about gardens and porches and grass. I supervised the outfit picking for my teen, and convinced him that a RED shirt was much more defiant than a black one. We were going to see my high school friends, after all. They had seen me in black shirts for years.

By two we were on the road. The back roads of Berwick and Ogunquit and Wells, which have a hypnotic effect on my family. We all look out the window, and slow down at houses for sale, and contemplate what it would be like to live in the woods. Sawyer yells "Look out! Look out!" when we go around curves. I could drive with my family all day through Maine.

With only one wrong turn, we found Walker Stables, home of my friend of umpteen years, Danielle, and her family. Noelle and Sean, whom I also went to school with, and their boys were already there. So were Janice and her husband, and their son. High school reunion take 5 began.

I'm not positive, but I think I was the only one there who had seen everyone else, and met all the husbands as well. We had 6 kids between the four families. ALL BOYS. Jackson, 11 months. Sawyer, 2.5 yrs. Travis, 4 years. Luke and Alex at 6 & 8 years (?) and then Tristen, 14 years. Danielle boards horses for a living, and teaches riding. There were also: goats, chickens, ducks, cats and one very brave squirrel.

I could go in to detail, but I'll sum it up with this quip:

At one point in the afternoon, Danielle, Janice, Noelle and I were sitting in the kitchen, sipping glasses of wine. All of the boys and our husbands were outside. Through the window, we spotted the three middle boys surrounding the front paddock. Each had a large stick or two, held like bows and arrows, or possibly machine guns.

"I think the boys are hunting the ponys." I said.
Danielle and Noelle didn't bother turning around, but Janice leaned a bit to the side to see out the window. "It's ok. Travis knows if he 'kills' something he has to eat it." she said. We all nodded and sipped our wine. "So," Noelle said. "Have you heard about the recall on drop side cribs? Turns out they're dangerous."

A few minutes later, Tristen came in. He had the same hunted look as the ponies. "How's it going out there?" I asked.

"Good," he said. "One of the ducks cornered Sawyer in the barn, but we got him out." We nodded. "Then one of the ponys bit him." he added.

"Is he yelling?" I asked.

"No, It just got his shirt and he fell down. No marks." Said Tris. We nodded.

"Then," Tris added. "One of the boys, Travis? Grabbed the electric fence."

We looked at Danielle, who just smiled and said "It's off."

"So he's ok, then?" I asked.

"He's fine." Said Tris. "But now he thinks he can channel electricity through his stick. The boys all headed in to the swamp, and the dads are chasing them. I had to use the bathroom so I came in."

We nodded, and sipped.

That was the best afternoon I've had in a long, long time. I grew up with these women ( and Sean!) and in the woods, and with horses and electric fences. I chased people through swamps and fed chickens. Later in the day, Sawyer would head off by himself to play digger trucks in a pile of what I like to call "Proccessed dirt." (Horse poop.) I watched him and remembered doing the same thing myself, in the woods, alone. I didn't die from it, and I was sure he wouldn't either. And I was surrounded by women who also grew up with processed dirt, and ducks that corner you, and swamps to chase people through. And for once, I didn't have to explain myself, or my boys. My husband was there to see it, and my kids. To get a little perspective on what I was like as a kid.

We left at bedtime, with hugs and promises to do this again soon. At home I dumped Sawyer in the shower with his digger truck, and then did a serious tick check. He went to sleep easily, talking about 'the farm."

I got to pat a horse today. (A horse that is older than me!) I got to watch my boys run wild one minute, be compassionate towards 'hurt' friends the next, and then tear off down a hill after a flock of chickens. I got to spend some time with some awesome women who have honestly known me longer than anyone else I still hang out with. I got to come back to the place I was growing up, and feel like I belonged there.

Best. Day. Ever.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Nothing Gets Done Around Here

Sometimes, my husband comes home from work, and the dishes are spilling out of the sink. The toddler is playing with the cheese grater, the dog is pulling the eyes off of one of his stuffed animals, and the teen is sullenly slamming cabinet doors. I'm in the middle of it all, typing an email to a client, trying to make some money. Josh gets this look on his face, and I can hear his thoughts: "Why doesn't anything get done around here?"

Today was a good example of the big WHY?

The day started off well. I got Tris off to school, then I hung out with Sawyer, who is allergic to pollen, going through a growth spurt, and cranky as all get out. We played, and read, and I got him settled in with a movie while I showered and started to clean the kitchen. I made lunch for my husband, and loaded and started the dishwasher. Did a load of laundry, and folded three more. Put the dog out on his run with a fresh marrow bone. Got to spend some time with my husband while he ate his late breakfast.

Then, about 11, he left and the day started. I went 'to work' in my library - office - art room, currently awash in the debris from my recent basement cleaning. Sawyer was down for a nap - a nap it took three books, a dose of benadryl, a bunch of hugs and a crying jag to get him down for. (His crying jag, not mine. This time.)

I walked in to the room and found that all of my previous work was spilled over and tipped on the floor. There was a riding fire engine crashed in to the stack of trays, and jewelry everywhere. Time to clean up? Half an hour.

I checked my emails, answered some, and put my desk back together. (It, too, had been struck by a 2 year old tornado.) I set up to do my job of the day: pricing. Total time: half hour.

I worked for about 20 minutes, then the phone rang. It was a friend I trade work for work with, and I had to take it. He and I have been playing phone tag for a couple weeks, due to raging illness here and tornados wiping out half his home town. We talked business for a bit, and
caught up a bit. I started coughing and sneezing while we talked, and without thinking about it, took a sudaphed. Time: half an hour.

I sat down at my desk again, ready to do pricing. Got distracted by the cut of an amethyst. Focused. Noticed how nicely my engraving pen writes when I hold it just so... Focused again. Watched the python who shares my office climb her enclosure, then fall in to her water dish. Laughed. Realized Sudaphed in the middle of the day was not a great idea. Focused again. Did some work. Total time? yeah, 30 minutes.

So, 2 hours in to nap time and total work done? About 30 minutes.

I poured myself a coffee, chugged it, poured another, and sat down with some serious determination.

15 minutes later, the phone rang. It was the number for the school, so I answered it. My son is diabetic, and I was fully expecting to hear the school nurse on the other end, telling me he was out of snacks, or needed a refill of something, or maybe that he had a high BGL. Instead I heard the voice of the Dean Of Students... who has the same voice as my High School Vice Principal. Adrenaline and anxiety cleared my head, quickly.

"Mrs. Toffic?" He asked. I didn't bother correcting him.
"Yes?" I asked.
"Tristen is fine." He said. (They tell you that first, when your kid is diabetic. I appreciate it.) "But he's in trouble. I hate to make this call, Tris is a great kid, but it's school rules."
Now. My son is going to be 14 in two weeks. He's never had a detention. .... Ok, he's never had a detention for anything other than not turning in homework. He's not a trouble maker. I asked what he did, with a certain air of resignation.
I won't try to re-create the phone call. I'll just tell you what happened.

Tristen found a lighter. He put it in his pocket, and last night, used it to heat and mold plastic for his models. This morning, he threw on his jeans and went to school. At lunch, digging for milk money, he realized it was still in his pocket. Being a brain damaged kid (all kids are brain damaged. Ask Bill Cosby.) he sat down at the lunch table, and told his best friend - and everyone else in earshot, what he had.

Which led to a conversation (Remember: 14 year old boys.) About what smells horrible when burned. Human hair is bad. Dead leaves are good. There was a debate about the olifactory properties of cat hair. It was determined that it would probably smell bad, but perhaps they should get some cat hair and try. Whiskers might smell different?

Now, this debate was between Tris and his best friend. The best friend in question is a great kid, who has bunches of animals, and for whom I personally have iguana-sat over vacations. They were not thinking of doing harm to any animal. Trust me, in both of these houses, dog and cat hair is readily available, simply by sitting on the couch.

BUT! Tris was sitting in earshot of a kid who hates him. ( I got this info later, from my niece, who is in the same grade.)

So what the Dean was told was: There's a kid in the 8th grade who has a lighter, and he's going to use it to light a cat on fire after school.

Next thing you know? I'm getting a call from the Dean. He didn't tell me about the cat thing at first, and was sincerely apologetic that I had to wake Sawyer to come get Tris. He gave Tris a 1 day suspension, the bare minimum he was allowed. He assured me that Tris was a great kid, that he was sure it was a stupid mistake. But there was something else we would have to disscuss in person.

I got to the school, and talked to the Dean. He took one look at the armband tattoo of cats I have and said "Yeah. I'm not worried about this, but I have to tell you what I heard." He told me about the killing cats bit, Then he picked up Sawyer and tickled him til he laughed and squirmed. I have a huge fondness for the school Dean. He is a most sensible man. We talked to Tris together, and I think the case for "Not a psycho." was made when Sawyer ran to Tris and hugged him, and Tris automaticly picked him up and played with him while we talked.

By now it was 2.15, and I had an hours plus work ahead of me. I got another iced coffee, and went home. I told Tris to take Sawyer in the yard to play. I got my work done. I talked to my mother briefly, changed a stinky diaper, packed the car, loaded the dog in, and settled Tris and Sawyer in with "Here comes a train!" and a bowl of popcorn. I drove to the store to drop of my work, and spent half an hour discussing the robbery. (Oh, didn't I mention? My store was robbed yesterday. Everyone is fine. They got the guy, and the goods are safe. They can't be sold, but they're safe.) I drove to the bank to cash my check, and discussed dog breeds with the teller. (She's madly in love with Oden. Oden is suspicious of anyone who looks in to our car, but swayed by the magic drawer that dispenses cookies.) I drove home.

I walked in, and the phone rang. It was my niece. "I know Tris is in trouble," she said. "Can I come over anyway?" I shrugged mentally, and thought "One more for dinner. Sure!" and said yes.

I started unloading the dishwasher, but all the dishes were dirty. Realized that it wasn't my imagination, the dishwasher has actually stopped working. AGAIN. FOURTH TIME.

My phone rang. It was #. # and I have been friends for 17 years. She HATES talking on the phone, and always texts. Always. I answered it.

"Hi. I'm at work. I just talked to * (her boyfriend) and I'm worried. He got in from a bike ride, and he is having trouble with his vision. He can't remember words, and he's slurring his speech. He thinks he might have to go to the ER. Would you please go check on him?"

And that little paragraph right there is a great example of why I love this woman so much. She's been like a sister to me for years: We don't always get along, we rarely agree, we get upset with each other. But when the shit hits the fan, we work together with a minimum of words and a lot trust.

"I'm leaving now. " I said. I yelled to Tris, explained the situation fast, and told him to keep his phone on and the door locked. I walked over to *s and rang the buzzer. He knew he needed to go to the ER, so I drove him in his car. As we pulled out the driveway, I saw my niece walking to my house. I pointed her out, and * said: "She's a great kid." She is. The timing was perfect, because with Ava and Tris BOTH in the house, I don't worry at all.

I got * to the ER with a minimum of fuss. # arrived soon after, and I returned *s car, then walked to my house. I'm leaving out a lot here, besides the names. It was scary. Being responsible for people who are having trouble with their brain is scary. Driving a different car through Dover at rush hour, trying to keep a conversation going and at the same time evaluate the other persons brain is hard. I would do it again in heart beat, but, scary and hard.

I had called my mother on the ride back, and stayed on the phone with her while pounding on windows to alert the kids inside that they needed to let me in. (They had locked the screen doors, per my instruction.) Eventually, I was allowed entry. I assured the kids that * would be fine (They are his friends, too.) and leaned against the counter to catch my breath and contemplate the broken dishwasher.

And then Amber walked in. She had no idea what was going on. Not the suspension, not the ER trip. She had heard minimum about the robbery. And she had business for me. I reset my brain AGAIN, did the business, told the stories, and was a little grateful when she shooed Ava out the door.

Which left me with Tris and Sawyer. I cut the kid population in half by putting Sawyer to bed. Texted Noelle, called # to check on *. Sent Tris outside to the porch.

In this house, with Tris at least, haircuts are punishment. Given his will, he would look like Slash all the time. Screw ups are met with scissors.

While I chopped, we talked. About actions, consequences, and being a lame 14 year old. About cigarettes and pot, about beer and booze, about what his friends are doing, what he's doing, and how not to look like a sociopath in front of your friends. His answers were good, so his hair is longer that I would like.

I sent Josh a text when it was done: "Tris suspended from school. Just got back from taking * to ER. Everyone is fine. Have fun on your night out." And I said it with not a hint of sarcasm. Josh works 60 or 70 hours a week, every week. If he wants to go watch Troll Hunter with our friends? I am all for that.

And now it's 9.30 at night. I'm tired, but I still have *'s car key, so I can't go to bed yet. Oden is 130lbs of 'hasn't been walked gonna bug you to play with me now hey the kids are asleep this is MY mom time play tug with me now please I love you". We're turtle sitting, so I have to re-read Shellys instructions and make sure Cornelius has his light off and is asleep, and then feed the fish that shares his tank. (Other wise Cornelius the turtle will eat the fish food.) Josh called on his way to the Farmhaus to watch Troll Hunter, so that's taken care of. I have emails to return, a bunch of packages to ship, and one client who hasn't received a piece meant for a wedding in five days... so I guess tomorrow AM I get to go to the post office and bug them in to tracking it for me.

I could end this post by telling you about the HELL that was Mothers day.. or about the massive amount of phone and paper work I need to do to get both the kids set up with new doctors and dentists, fast. Or about the possibly life changing plan we have re: work and hiring an assistant. Or I could bitch that my bedroom did not clean itself, that the drawer Sawyer dumped yesterday is still strewn on the hardwood. I could brag about the awesome job I did turning Sawyers room in to a scene from Ranger Rick, and how much he loves it. I could tell you about how I tried to get a friend a job re-doing my deck, and yesterday he came and looked at it and the quote he gave my landlady about killed her. I could tell you about the two friends I have called and not heard back from, and am starting to panic.. and I could tell you about the awesome, incredible book series I just finished that everyone should read. I could let you know that a good friend I've met once just sent me a book on JV Diabetes that might change my life, and Tristens for the better. Or that I have to get ready for a jewelry show at her house in a month. Plus, there's the garden. I could do a blog JUST about the garden.

But I'm a little tired.

And tomorrow, I'm having a date with my best girlfriends from high school, and their husbands, and their kids. And I have to think of a way to tell Josh that when Sean says "Hey, I knew her first!" it's a joke, and he shouldn't punch my friend.

It's all about priorities, really.