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.