Saturday, September 29, 2007

For the record

About halfway through Friday night cocktail hour(s), I realized that I had inadvertently made my first two vodka-and-gingers with gin. I didn't know that Big Daddy had foregone his usual Hendrick's in the distinctively squat, dark bottle in favor of a cheaper brand in a tall, clear, vodka-like bottle.

About halfway through Saturday, I realized that, apparently, gin makes me act like an asshole. Who knew? And even though my official stance is still that I was not drunk, I'm pretty sure that the gin devil sent me into "people are stupid and I hate most of them" mode. This is unfortunate because, although I do feel that way, I also don't, if you know what I mean. And I'm sure you do know because, while you are people, you are most assuredly not stupid. And that's just what I mean.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Midsouth Fair

My parents and I took the kids on our yearly excursion to The Fair the other day. Joshua couldn't wait to go, and kept saying "We're going to the Midsouth Fair!" and "Nicholas said he went to the Midsouth Fair last weekend." We went right after the daily after-school roundup and stayed for about four hours. Big Daddy does not like rides, fried food, or crowds of freaks, so The Fair really holds no charm for him. Loser.

Since it was wristband day, we (and by we, I mean my parents) shelled out $20 each for wristbands for the three older kids so they could ride an unlimited number of rides, and I bought a handful of tickets for myself so I could ride a few things with them, and the swings (officially called "the yo-yo") which is my favorite ride. It quickly became apparent that Joshua's $20 was wasted, because he refused to ride anything that leaves the ground in any fashion. No kiddie airplanes or hot air balloons, nothing. He rode the motorcycles twice, and the trucks. He and Somerset and Genevieve and I all piled into the interior of a giant honey bear's abdomen to spin around and around while also revolving around the ride's center axis. He slid down the kiddie version of the giant slide a few times, and he and his siblings went through the house of mirrors three times in a row, and that was it for him.

After the first ride, I realized that all of the operators just assumed I had on a wrist band and were not looking for my tickets, at least in the kiddie section. Eventually, though, I took Joshua's wristband off of his arm and bootlegged it onto mine. This done, I rode Calvin's first roller coaster with him. It was called the Crazy Mouse, and consisted of round cars on multiple casters going around a series of hairpin turns and up and down a couple of steepish hills while sometimes turning around backwards. It was bigger than the true kiddie coasters, but smaller than a real one. A few of the turns at the top make you feel like you're about to be flung out into space, and I had to close my eyes and think about how old I am to have become a wus. It was a major milestone for Cal, because he has inherited his father's temperment, not mine, which means that he tends to be anxious and expects the worse to happen at any moment. I'm always trying to help him overcome that without pushing him to do things that are too scary. I was proud of him for riding a few things that were a little outside his comfort zone.

When we got to the Yo-Yo, he was still undecided about whether he would ride it with me or not. He wanted to, but the fact that we couldn't sit in a seat together was holding him back. In the end, he decided to go for it, and settled for sitting right behind me. As we were lifted into the air, I heard him say "this isn't that bad." Then we started to really spin, and the seats started to tilt back and forth and swing out and back, out of line with each other. I worried that he'd be scared, but if I spoke to calm him, he wouldn't hear it. In a few minutes, it was all over and we had our feet firmly on the ground. "That was fun," he told me. Now he says it's one of his favorite rides.

I had a first at The Fair this year, too: I had my first deep-fried Snickers. I always thought it sounded gross, but at Andria's urging (Steph voted for a no-nut candy bar), I tried it. It was so good! It's all about the meltiness factor. I also had at least a bite or two of a smoked turkey leg, a funnel cake, a box of popcorn (the only Fair food Joshua would eat), chicken-on-a-stick (with a few dill pickles threaded in between the chunks of chicken), and two cups of $1 sweet tea from the 4-H booth. I like to support the farm kids, you know.

Just as we were about to leave, the sky opened up and dumped rain on the great unwashed, causing us to skip the petting zoo visit we'd planned on the way out. All in all, it was a satisfactory Fair visit, and possibly the last since The Fair is being either moved or canceled after this year. Assuming the Memphis city government can decide what to do with the Fairgrounds. Yeah, right.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rockin' the 90s

It's homecoming week here at THE high school. That means things like "tacky day" and "sports fan" day have been going on all week. So today is "Decades Day." Each grade level is dressed in a way that they believe represents a different decade; the freshman are 50s, the sophomores are 70s, the juniors are 80s, and the seniors are 90s. How is it possible to have 90s day when the 90s are barely over? Or at least, that's what I like to tell myself. The kids could not figure out exactly what to wear to look "so 90s," either. A lot of things have changed for the worse since that decade, but at least our clothes are not that different.

For most of my childhood, my parents would load us into the car (sans seatbelts, a la the 70s), and drive us over to my grandmother's house for Sunday lunch. She had a crock pot full of chili, the world's tiniest yet somehow bottomless Corningware sweet tea pitcher, and a cabinet coffee table whose innards were packed with old magazines. By the time I was in middle school, the 80s were in full swing, and I would look at those 70s magazines with a mixture of horror, fascination, and pity. I can clearly remember thinking how bad everyone looked, with their flat bangs and their earth-toned makeup. I also thought the people in the pictures looked old for their age, and I nodded smugly to myself when I thought about how much better we looked now. When I saw people in the real world who still had that 70s look, I was baffled about why they wouldn't get with the fashion program. I couldn't understand how someone could get stuck in a decade that had, quite frankly, seen its better days.

Now I tend to see the 90s as a golden era. Everything was good about the 90s: the 80s were over (never underestimate the goodness of the 80s ending), Bill Clinton was president (I drove to Little Rock at midnight with my roommate, Laura, to see and hear Bill Clinton give his acceptance speech), a lot of great music was being made. It was also an amazing time in my life. I spent the first four years of the decade in college, immersed in ideas, tending bar, experiencing life outside the bubble in which I was raised. Sure, there was some painful stuff along the way, but it was growth and for the most part, I reveled in every minute of it. In the mid 90s, I married the love of my life, and I rounded out the decade by having my first baby. It was a good ten years.

I haven't been participating in the dress days this week, but I couldn't resist 90s day. I suspect that my look is still fairly 90s anyway. How could I pass up an excuse to wear jeans and a black tee, my uniform of choice, with my black Dansko clogs and, the piece de resistance, my biggest, most-loved dangly stone-metal-and-bead earrings from the good old days? No the jeans aren't acid washed, and the tee doesn't hit me at mid-thigh, but my outfit is my millennial version of the 90s look. Hopefully, that means my look isn't completely stuck in the decade of my glory days, even if my heart is.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weekend Update, sadly not starring Tina Fey

Some things I did this weekend:

-Had friends over for cocktails.
-Baked a birthday cake for my Dad.
-Ate pizza for too many meals in a row.
-Threw a bowling party for Somerset's birthday, a week and a day after the fact.
-Finished The Yiddish Policeman's Union .
-Learned that when Genevieve poops in the bathtub, she wants out. Now.
Watched people more motivated than myself run a 5K past my parents' house.

Things I did not do, but should have:

-Refrain from eating birthday cake, twice.
-Clean my house in any meaningful way.
-Take a nap.
-Anything that remotely resembled running, or exercise of any kind.
-Remember to buy Somerset the ballet slippers she needs while we were in Cordova, where they have stores that sell such things.
-Find the cable that would allow me to upload pictures from the party and post one here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Problem of Evil

Restated: If God is all loving, all knowing, and all powerful, why aren't babies born with all their molars?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Time Flies

As it turns out, time not only travels with a one-way ticket, but it takes the Concord. It seems like just yesterday that I was lamenting the end of summer vacation, and now here we are at the end of the first six-weeks grading period. How is that possible? Once again, in spite of my best intentions, I find myself swamped with papers to grade. And yet, I am oh so easily distracted from that task. Because I don't want to do it.

Not only am I swamped with this week's workload, but I'm already dreading the supremely dreadable Research Paper grading. I figured out last year that if I spent just five minutes grading each paper, I would spend 14 hours on them. And that's optimistic, because I tend to spend ten minutes on each one. Now to make matters worse, the department has decided, in spite of my dissent, that senior papers should be a minimum of seven pages for the regular classes and ten for honors. TEN! That's five pages of reasonably reasonable text, and five pages of slaw. When I discussed this with my students today, they laughingly promised to blend the slaw in rather than stacking it five-on-five. Very reassuring.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just Like Old Times

There was a time in my early twenties when I became acutely aware of the fact that we only get to lead one life at a time. Maybe it sounds unreasonable to you, but this was a hard fact for me to accept. I'd learned all about opportunity cost in that required semester of high school Economics, but the concept didn't really hit home for me until I had some life experience under my belt. For a while, I became sort of fixated on the wish that I could go back to certain phases of my life simply by going back to the places where I had spent my time. If I went to my old apartment on Madison, I would find people and things just as they had been when I lived there. You get the idea. Imagining that possibility, and having to admit its impossibility, was a way for me to reconcile myself to the cruel reality that time travels only in one direction.

But sometimes, when we are patient, life will indulge our little whims. This past weekend, I got an opportunity to revisit a part of my life that ended about three years ago. For those of you who don't know, I used to own a little store called Mothersville, which is now owned by my friends Andria and Melissa . The store is located just where the Cooper-Young Festival begins, and for various reasons that are better heard from the ladies themselves, they needed a little help this year. Now, I feel compelled to admit here that I am not one of those people who loves to offer up my time to every cause and person that requests it, mostly because I'm just lazy and I like to have a lot of time to sit around my house in my comfy pants and no bra. However, in this case I willingly volunteered to pitch in. I asked my parents to watch the kids, and I went to work at my old store, and did what I used to do six days a week for a little over two years.

When I got to the store, I warned Melissa that it would be hard for me not to dominate the floor, and that she should feel free to rein me in as needed. She told me to stop talking crazy and get out there and sell stuff. So that's what I did. It was fun to be back there demonstrating sling-wearing techniques and explaining how cloth diapers work. For a few hours, it really was like my little fantasy of being able to walk into a place from my past and find everything there waiting for me, just like old times. I even saw several of my old regulars, who stopped by to say hello. But of course, the babies who were waiting to be born then are preschoolers now, and there were lots of new faces and new babies to meet. I really enjoyed myself, and I'm grateful that I was able to be back there, if only for a little while.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Somerset

Five years and nine months ago, I was just getting used to having two children. I was the mom of two boys, a four year old and a five month old. Big Daddy and I knew we would have at least one more child...some day. I was exclusively breastfeeding and had not seen the dreaded "aunt" in over a year, but somewhere around month six, I got a funny feeling that I might be pregnant. I took a test and, sure enough, two lines. I walked out of the bathroom, looked at BD, and just blew out a big cleansing breath. I think it was two weeks before we even talked about it. We needed a little more time to just be the parents of two boys. But soon enough, the truth sunk in. I remember telling my friend Kimberly as she stood at her kitchen sink washing dishes. Without turning around to look at me, she tossed her head back and just screamed for about a minute. It was outrageous to think that one of us could go from having one child to having three under four in just over a year, but I was about to do it.

The day BD and I went for the ultrasound, I was hoping desperately for a girl, and I think he was too. We could not have loved our boys any more than we did, but both of us wanted at least one daughter, and under the circumstances it seemed likely that the third baby would be the last. I lay on the table with my belly covered in goop, clutching Big Daddy's hand as we both stared at the fuzzy images on the screen. Finally, the tech gave us what we were waiting for: the news that we were having a girl.

That summer we took both boys on the train to New Orleans and then rented a car for the last three hours to Pensacola for BD's little sister's wedding. On the train, we talked about names. I wanted to name the baby Veronica June. Veronica had been my girl name with Joshua before we knew he was a boy, and I was still holding onto it. BD wanted to name her Somerset. I liked the name a lot, but I was still lobbying for Veronica. I was also lobbying for us to move our bedroom into what was then the back den so the baby could have the front room instead of bunking with both boys. So, I made a deal. There on the train, I agreed to name the baby Somerset if he would agree to move rooms, and that was that. Now I can't imagine my Somerset by any other name.

Happy birthday Somerset. You are my beautiful little spitfire. You are the only one of my four children who has my eyes and my bravado. You aren't the baby of the family any more, but you will always, always be my sweet baby girl.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Watch this right now

This is a segment from Al Jazeera television showing Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychologist from Los Angeles, making very powerful statements about the true nature of the "culture clash" in the Middle East. I fear for this woman's life, but she is amazing and she deserves to be heard.

Let Us Prey

The other night, Big Daddy and I had the opportunity to attend an open house at our kids' school. Since we have three children now at the same fairly large public school, this involved quite a bit of running around. Joshua's math and science teacher was particularly chatty, which meant we had to stand around and wait while she held mini conferences with several other parents. When it was finally our turn, she wanted to tell us a cute story about something funny Joshua had said. Apparently they start each day with a morning meeting on the rug, at which time they may play a variation of a game that will only be familiar to you if you ever attended an urban elementary school. Basically everyone stands in a circle and claps out a rhythm while one person is in the center. In this case, the group chants "Hey, hey Joshua, what do you like to do? Tell us what you like to do." So my sweet little Joshua, according to his teacher, replied "I like to pray."

At first she thought he must have said "play," but upon asking him she was assured that he had, in fact, said "pray." She thought by telling me this, she was acknowledging that we were a good Christian family who had taught our children well, and that maybe we are raising a future priest or something. Imagine her surprise when, in my surprise, I said "Well, that's really funny because we are in no way a religious household." If you live outside of Memphis, you can't imagine what a shocking statement this is considered to be, but trust me when I say it was not the response she was expecting.

Later that night, I called Joshua into my room and asked him very casually about what he said he liked to do during the game in morning meeting, and he replied "I said I like to pray."

"Ok," I said, "but when do you pray?" After looking confused for a minute, he answered "Somerset." OoooK. "Somerset is a who, not a when, honey. Do you know what 'pray' means?" He nodded. "Can you tell me what it means?"

"It means eat," he said, like duh, mom. "You know, like a lion." Slowly it dawned on me that what Joshua likes to do is not pray, it's prey.

Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The End of the Innocence

My oldest child is almost ten years old. I feel lucky that he has maintained his childhood innocence and wonder to an age that, if the media is to believed, is practically post-puberty for the average American kid. But I'm afraid this is the beginning of the end for some of that wonder.

A few months ago, he started asking me very earnestly "Mom, is the tooth fairy real?" I found myself torn between telling him the brutal truth and letting the magic go on just a little bit longer. It's not that the tooth fairy is such a big deal, but if the tooth fairy's a fake, what's next? How far down the path is it to Santa Claus? Yes, Virginia, he still believes in Santa Claus. At least, he did yesterday. All that may have changed by now.

This morning, Calvin came out of his room on his own, before any of the other kids had woken up. He walked up to me grinning and drawing attention to a newly-formed gap in his smile where a loose molar had recently been. "Oh, you pulled your tooth," I said, smiling back. "Yep," he replied, "yesterday."

It took a minute for that to sink in. I'd been duped! I knew this was something he'd been planning to do, based on veiled comments and his recent revelation that his best friend had lost a tooth the day before, but he had waited to tell me. As if I were possibly in cahoots with all the other parents, making clandestine phone calls at the shocking hour of 10:00 pm to alert them to their children's tooth fairy sting ops.

He didn't seem upset this morning, just satisfied that his plan had worked. He asked me what I did with all the teeth. When I told him not to spoil it for his siblings, he replied "Well, you better give me a dollar then, because they're going to ask to see it."

A little later, he came into the bathroom where I was doing my makeup and asked "The next time I lose a tooth, can I put it under my pillow?"

"You should have thought about that before you got in such a rush to figure everything out. Especially since the dentist said you're about to lose a bunch of teeth!" I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him, though. I also couldn't help but wonder where his thoughts would take him over the course of the day. I know my child, and I know that this is going to be a big deal for him. One thought is going to lead to another. And even though I don't remember a single moment when I stopped believing in Santa Claus, and I know I was never upset about it, it kills me to think of him losing that magical idea. He has been one of the last hold-outs in his class, insisting on believing. And now that's probably over for him. I've always known that growing up is hard to do. I just never knew how hard it was to watch.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Long and Winding Road

A few weeks ago, my mom called and asked if I would be interested in taking the kids to a cabin in Chattanooga over the Labor Day weekend. My sister lives about half an hour from there in Dalton, Georgia, and she was throwing a party for my nephew's second birthday. A friend of my mom's told her about the cabin, and it sounded great, so I agreed. I did so knowing that Big Daddy would most likely have to work, and that I would have to drive all four kids myself for the five hours there and five hours back. And that's exactly what happened.

It went well, for the most part. Genevieve took a decent nap each way, and the older three were pacified as usual by "new" movies from Netflix on the van's DVD player. There were moments when Genevieve was awake and no longer willing to be bribed with french fries or cookies, but we survived. Once we arrived, we were immediately taken with the mountain views. The yard was flanked by two beautiful weeping willows in addition to a huge fig tree loaded down with fruit. The cabin was really more of a small house, which had been remodeled to very nice effect. Huge porches span the house across both the front and back, which looked out on the sloping lawn and the river. Floating on a raft off the back dock, I was completely surrounded by mountains. It was really peaceful and relaxing.

The kids were not so much with the relaxing, but they had a great time swimming and playing on the rope swing.

The place turned out to be twenty minutes up the mountain, which required the passage of a very dark and twisting road to get anywhere. My sister's house turned out to be well over an hour away, and Saturday night found me driving my children and my parents back up said road after 11:00 pm. Even the highway through Chattanooga is winding and dark. I have to say that the white-knuckled drive back made me acutely aware of how dangerous an enterprise driving really is, and how much we have to block out to be able to hurtle ourselves and our loved ones along at break-neck speeds mere inches away from other hunks of metal traveling equally fast in the opposite direction.

So there was a lot of driving, some of it scary, but for the most part we had a really great trip. The kids loved being outside all day, and when we left, Joshua was heard to say "I wish we lived here!"