Sunday, September 30, 2007

Romantic getaways

I'd been deliberately evasive about our weekend plans. "We're going camping," I'd told my friends.

That wasn't untrue. We stayed in a cabin a little way outside Binghamton. It had neither running water nor electricity. I prepared for this by spending the night before at the Holiday Inn, my previous idea of "roughing it". We went up with Alec's cousin Elissa and her fiance, Dan, trying to figure out who we were actually going to meet up there and why there was such a long prelude about the dog.

Shotgun camp.


Shotgun camp.

No, seriously. What did you do this weekend?

We spent the weekend at an intensive clinic to learn how to use a shotgun.

I was, as Lauren likes to say, more than a little apprehensive. On Saturday morning, I took copious notes in my composition book:
Your gun should always be unloaded if you're not firing it
It should always be pointed in a safe direction even if you know it's unloaded
Keep your finger off the finger off the trigger unless you're firing it
I learned how to load and shoot. I actually managed to hit some of the clay pigeons and steel plates despite having a short arm length and a cross-dominant eye. I have a good sized bruise against my left shoulder. But I expected I would learn a lot. I expected at the end of the weekend to have actually managed to shoot. I didn't expect it would be as much fun as it was. It was really great.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Number 3

Lauren and Paul at halftime on Sunday. United won (both sides, in fact).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wild and sordid things

I almost have too much to write about this morning. Recall that line from Ghostbusters? "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria." Welcome to my yesterday.

My neighbor Ed stopped me last night to ask me if I have a huge black cat.

"Why yes, I do. A huge black cat with no tail."

He narrowed his eyes. "And he hates people?"

"Well, I don't know about that. He's a nice cat to us."

"My daughter Holly said it was your cat and he won't let anyone pet him."

"Yes, that's possible. He's only been out for a couple of days, he'll warm up."

"He was setting the motion detectors off back of my house..."


"And was in my garage..."

"Oh, sorry..."

"Well, it's alright, I mean, there's a raccoon and a skunk living together in my garage..."

"Um, really?" I bit my lip.

He nodded vigorously. "They used to live under the front porch but I put moth balls there."

Note to self: moth balls keep animals from living together in sin.

Photo credit: Jerry McCrea/The Star-Ledger

On a serious note, we had an incident at the high school yesterday. Rumors were flying about a gun having been brought into the school. Bus stop conversation revealed that that wasn't so - there was a report of suspicious activity in front of the school, the middle and high schools (share a campus) followed lock down procedure, and the building was searched by the police. Nothing was found, well, except that the procedure is flawed and needs to be reviewed.

It's scary. I jokingly complain about the attitude of some of the staff at Lauren's school, but these are the people who are charged with executing these plans in assuring our children's safety. I'm not feeling good about that. Perhaps I'm seeing the exception and not the rule, but they seem pretty dissatisfied with their jobs.

My friends tell me these days I have volunteer-itis. I wanted to be involved because from the sidelines it seems that a lot of things go on that don't make a lot of sense. I'm involved now and still things don't make sense. I felt we'd achieved a victory by drafting that the kids can't be punished by taking away their recess, but that's meaningless if they're not safe on the playground, y'know?

I have no answers today.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Old cat, new tricks

Seamus is in the midst of some sort of mid-life crisis. He has been sneaking out of the house like a truant teenager. It seems he would prefer to spend his evenings alfresco, and come home in the afternoon for a snack and a trip to the litter box. Yesterday, around 2 PM, I heard him trying to open the front screen door with his paw. When it didn't work, he called with a loud meow for me to open it for him.

He hasn't messed the downstairs bathroom since we've been letting him out, though, I've been closing it when he comes in.

Shannon is happier, anyway. She's eating more. It's usually most apparent that Seamus is in a bad mood when Shannon drops some weight because he won't allow her downstairs.

I wonder if everyone else's cats are as neurotic as mine...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The worst birthday party ever

You know how much I enjoy parties. Heck, I had 3 of them this summer alone. Four if you count the dozen or so friends who had barbecue with us after the garage sale last weekend. I've become much better at keeping things pretty simple, finessing simple salad recipes, not spending 3 days cleaning my house for a 2 hour party.

During one of the summer street fairs, the girls and I visited the pottery/ Asian Arts center on Main Street. We toured the pottery studio, peeked in at the dance floor, and Lauren danced as they played their drums. The proprietress told me that they had birthday parties there, where the kids would paint figurines, enjoy a brought-in birthday cake, and then finish off the afternoon by playing drums and dancing around on their dance floor. About 6 weeks ago, I came back, was regaled with the same party scenario a second time, and paid my $50 deposit. "You can bring in any food and drink you'd like," she said. "And we just charge per piece, so about $15 per child."

So we ordered Lauren a Carvel Ice Cream Princess cake, and bought wine, cheese, crackers, and fruit. I had invited all the parents, figuring we would relax with snacks while someone else ran the show.

When we arrived, 15 minutes before party time, no one there knew we were supposed to be there. The woman working the pottery studio called Song, who was supposed to be our instructor. "She's about a half hour away."

So, Karen, Chris, and I set up our snacks, and I thought, well, 15 minutes late isn't too horrible. There was a Rutgers game yesterday at 3 and it was possible she was in traffic.

At 20 minutes past, the kids were restless. I went upstairs and selected pieces for all the kids. I realized Song was upstairs doing paperwork. "The kids are waiting..." I said. "I think we need to get started before they start running around the studio..."

She said, "Oh ok, I just got in, sorry. I will be right down."

She came down and began setting up paints and palettes for the kids, and passed out brushes. We parents hung back with our wine as the kids happily painted. About 20 minutes later, they were done and restless again, Song was nowhere to be found. We moved our pieces, cleared the palates, brushes, and paints, washed the kids up, and had Lauren start opening presents. Alec prepared the cake.

After cake, Song was still nowhere to be found. The kids were full of sugar and ready to run around. Alec and I looked at each other, weighing our options.

"I think we should just clean up and leave."

"I can't believe this." Alec said. "What was supposed to happen?"

I sighed. "This was the worst birthday party ever." I blinked away tears. But as I looked around, the kids seemed pretty happy. They'd painted stuff and eaten ice cream cake. As far as they were concerned, this had been a tremendous success.

Friday, September 14, 2007

From the Bronx Zoo

In the catbird's seat

We took a trip to the Bronx Zoo yesterday since the kids have off from school for Rosh Hashana. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and cool. "It'll be an easy drive," I told Fred, "since it's a holiday." I was right about the drive, but the Zoo was packed. It was the busiest either of us had ever seen it. Having avoided the huge line to enter, and survived the 40 minute food court line with 4 children in tow, here are some pictures I took in the Children's Zoo.

Paul and Lauren looking at the fish tank

Nicole and Lauren are a conjoined twin turtle

Fred feeding the sheep

Lindsay eating her raisins on the car ride home

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A snapshot

I like this picture. It was taken in October 2002 and marked the first time I went out after Lauren was born. I look tired and pale. I even look a little pissed off. More accurately, I'm terrified and I thought the only way to get through that was to white-knuckle it. I'd fought a hard path to becoming a parent, and it was nothing like I'd thought it would be. I mean, I knew that babies wake up at all hours, but I don't think you can know what waking up every 2 hours for 4 months is like until you do it. You go through times where you're just too tired to even cry about it. At 28 in this picture, I had magical thinking that I would have kids and the rest of everything would suddenly become perfect. I think I've done some growing up since then.

For the year and change I've written this blog, I've known the title Abandon Hope doesn't suit it. There have been plenty of times - stretches of many years even - that I've felt faithless and deserted. But these past 5 years, I haven't been there. I haven't been dancing in fields of wheat either.

Yesterday I realized that the title of these over 600 little glimpses of my life, some of them funny and some of them whiny and annoying is Screw Perfection. A week before my 33rd birthday I realize that the times I'm happiest are the ones where I throw my hands in the air and don't try to be the perfect mom, wife, sister, daughter, or friend. It doesn't mean that I don't have plenty of personal goals, it just means that among them trying to be perfect isn't working for me. It's actually downright toxic.

So there it is. Screw Perfection.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What the hell is wrong with people?

Lindsay is cute as the dickens. She's just could-eat-her-up adorable. I know that. She's also a very tenacious little person who believes she can do just about anything. That's very cool, sure, but also hard when anything is to stand up in the shopping cart, yell "Whee!", and then plop down on one's bottom.

The woman who cooed over Lindsay in the line at Target didn't surprise me. She seemed very pleasant at first. She said hi, Lindsay said hi back. The woman was taken aback, as everyone is, because Lindsay is a small person and usually mistaken for younger. The woman held her hand in front of Lindsay, thinking she was going to hand her the stray clothing tag she held in her hand, but this is a Lindsay game where she pretends she will hand it to you, snatches it away, and then laughs. After this, the woman held her hand to be "slapped five", which Lindsay didn't oblige.

It was when the woman asked Lindsay if she wanted her to hold her that I became uncomfortable. By the time she asked Lindsay if she wanted to go for a walk around the store and pick out some candy that the adrenaline began pumping through me so fast that my ears were ringing.

I quickly scooped Lindsay up and held her on my hip. Lindsay snuggled her forehead against my cheek.

I'm sure she thought this was a perfectly pleasant interchange. I smiled and proceeded on to the checkout saying, "Bye bye, lady!" cheerfully rather than "What the hell made you think you were going to pick my daughter up out of my shopping cart and walk her around the store while I checked out, person I haven't met?"

My dad has a saying that goes something like "never attribute to malice what could be more easily explained by stupidity". I'm trying to hold out a little more faith for people than that, but damn, I was so certain in that moment this woman was trying to get her hands on my toddler. Too creepy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lauren is 5!

All that fun stuff

Today is Lauren's 5th birthday. Happy birthday, my big little girl! It seems like yesterday we tucked you swaddled in our arms and tried everything to get you to sleep. Now we cajole, and sometimes negotiate, and still hear you telling stories to your stuffed animals well after bedtime. You dress yourself most days in clothes that actually match, down to velcro shoes (can't tie yet) and socks. Your silly sense of humor cuts your seemly constant chatter. These days a fart joke makes you laugh like nobody's business.

Your usually sunny demeanor occasionally breaks into general irritation at how slow the rest of the world is, particularly your parents. You roll your eyes and sigh through pursed lips.

You've developed an appreciation for that little person who joined our family 15 months ago and get her in a way I don't. You're usually much better at guessing what she wants, even when it's rewarded with pulled hair or a smack on the head.

I love you, Lauren. Have a great birthday!

My own first day of class was excellent. I'm looking forward to it. The subject matter is somewhat tough - it's a biomedical course about AIDS - but it's a freshman level course so it seems pretty well-laid out.

What else? We did a major purge of stuff through a garage sale on Saturday. What didn't get sold got set curbside and it seems there are only a few items left for tomorrow's garbage day: a rusted sprinkler that was in our front yard when we moved in, a couple of lawn chairs circa 1980 that we'd purchased at a garage sale for a dollar apiece, the fan we removed from the dining room (its hardware has been picked out) and a few books.

We decided that we can't cook in a second car and our falling-apart 21-year-old refrigerator probably won't make it another 6 months, so we measured the cabinets we acquired in Alec's dad's house remodel, and got some paint, tile, and floor samples from the Depot. In laying out the kitchen, Alec discovered that we probably need to purchase a couple additional cabinet pieces. Which isn't a big deal. It just seems that money adds up very fast in the kitchen with a couple of thousand dollar appliances (and those aren't low-end, but they aren't the high-end either...) and the cost of counter top (geez! I would have to cash out both college accounts to have granite). The couple of things we've settled on long ago were a black-and-white checkerboard floor, white appliances (I think stainless steel is going to look dated shortly), and a tiled back splash. Although I had not initially liked the maple cabinets (I wanted white), I think it will work out well. The paint color has me swooning. Did you know yellow kitchens make for domestic discord? And that blue is an unappetizing color? So much to think about...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

First day of school

Lauren awoke with Dora hollering "Come on! Let's GO! Vamonos!" from her little red alarm clock at 7 AM. She sleepily got out of bed, brushed her teeth and hair, and dressed herself for her first day at school.She came downstairs to her usual breakfast: a multigrain waffle cut into dip-able slices, a half an apple sliced similarly, a half tablespoon of honey for dipping, and a half glass of soy milk. She wore the pink sweater set she'd picked out at Macy's for her first day of kindergarten. After breakfast, I gave her the small box containing the tiny silver charm with the letter L with a diamond chip in it. "So you always remember how much Daddy and I love you, and your first day of kindergarten." She beamed.

We walked the mile to school, so we could be there early to set up for the PTO-sponsored breakfast for the parents. For the first time, she didn't complain that the walk was too long. We arrived at school, and set up in the cafeteria, meeting our friends Katie, who is in Lauren's class, and Mackenzie, who is a year ahead. Although I hadn't intended to, I waited in the library with the girls while the kindergarten teachers retrieved their students, and then walked with them to their classroom.

"I like kindergarten so much that after 30 years, I still come here every day," Lauren's teacher said cheerfully as she introduced herself to her new students and their parents. "We're going to discuss where we put our stuff when we come in every morning, so," she said smiling, "it's time to say goodbye to our parents..." She nodded in our direction.
I blew a kiss at Lauren.

She wiggled her way across the room and gave me a hug and a kiss.

"Have a great first day of school! I will see you at the bus stop."

"OK. See you later, Mom." She ran back to her place on the carpet and waved goodbye.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The last day of summer vacation

Lindsay, riding the carousel at Central Park

Yesterday, we were at school stuffing folders for the PTO. We met Lauren's new teacher and saw her classroom. The teacher seemed very nice, and the classroom is the second from the front door, close to the cafeteria and the nurse's office. Lauren is very excited about her first day of kindergarten tomorrow.

The last day of summer was spent with friends. We ventured into New York City to Central Park. We played on the playground, rode the carousel, visited the zoo, and ate ice cream. I don't think we could've scripted a better end to vacation.

I hope Lauren remembers this summer - lazy days at the pool, hanging out at her friends' homes, our great San Diego vacation with family, and some great day trips with friends to the zoos and beach.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Party pictures

The birthday girl and Auntie Jules


Nick and Jack

Lindsay applauds Sybil's cake

Alec tries on Lauren's present

Lindsay after her shower with Mama

Auntie Jules and a skeptical looking Lindsay

Lauren enjoys her presents