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The school continues to let me chaperone trips, which is nice.  I’m not a very good chaperone, but I do enjoy the hell out of these little trips.  I tend to ignore the handouts full of exercises/things to look for/questions to answer.  We tend not to follow maps or guides.  We tend to run when we aren’t supposed to (okay, THEY run.  I cannot imagine having the spare energy needed to run).

This time, the lower elementary went to Ft. McHenry in Baltimore.  I had Lily and three other girls in my group. They were…energetic.  I managed to point out, in the visitor’s center, an example of the rockets (of “the rockets red glare”) and a bomb (that apparently was not one of the ones “bursting in air”) and a shell fragment (that apparently was) before they zinged out the door and across the expanse of lawn.  I’m not, in general, one to rhapsodic about childhood, but one thing I always love about kids is how they just HAVE to run across a big stretch of grass.  It’s sad that most of us lose that desire to run for the sheer joy of going fast.  It’s irksome that they couldn’t all run in the same direction.  It was still early in the day, so I was still concerned that someone’s mom would be mad at me if I lost a kid, and I tried to keep them together.

They wanted to eat first, of course, so we went over to the picnic grounds on the other side of a huge statue of Orpheus.  Orpheus, of course, is nekkid but for his fig leaf which is…superglued on?  Why not at least a little strap on that thing?  He is also, as one mom muttered to me, “built like a brick shithouse” a phrase that has always perplexed.  This is as complimentary as we can be as a people?  He’s so sturdy that you could take a crap on him in a stiff wind and not worry that he’ll blow over?  Anyway, faced with the figleaf, the girls were quick to run around to the back of the statue and squeal “You can see his BUTT!”  And then ran ’round to the front again to determine that “if you look up from down here, you can kind of see under that leaf.  You can see his other thing.”  So yes, ballsack as big as a watermelon? check.  Is that on the scavenger hunt sheet your teacher gave you?

They decided to eat at a table with a nice view of his enormous hinder (“He’d have HUGE farts!”) which was nice b/c it meant we could watch each and every child come around and shout “HEY, YOU CAN SEE HIS BUTT!”  It reminded me of sitting outside the McDonalds in the square in Heidelberg where the tourist buses unloaded.  American after American emerging and exclaiming “Hey!  You can get BEER in the McDonalds!”  Lunch took forever with the getting up and running over to the butt statue.  Also, the slow eater.  Always annoying to have one child who eats in a civilized manner.  My kids toss it back like field hands and then we’re just left waiting…Shovel it IN kid, you can digest on the go.

He has huge farts.

Look!  Butt!

If I’d realized what an exhausting day lay ahead, I might have let them take their time…I headed us into the fort, with each girl, at some point, zinging off on a tangent. Squirrel, friend spotted, sudden need to GO.  And if not zinging, lagging.  I spent the whole day going “One, two, three, four” in my head trying to make sure I had them all.  About 2 hours in, I decided that there really wasn’t anywhere they could go that wasn’t crawling with people from the school.  Figured that if I lost one, someone else would take her on.  See?  Bad chaperone.

It was all made more difficult by the fact that I was actually interested in the place and wanted to read the signs.  But I spent enough of my own childhood a slave to historical markers that I didn’t hold them up.  As a child who threated to ” just lay down in the road and let a horse run over me” if exposed to another “old house” at Colonial Williamsburg, I have sympathy for those not yet turned on to history.  But I’m old now, and I want to read.  Plus, it’s early 19th Century naval battles and we KNOW how I am about those.  I’m geeking out about the cannon technology and saying “Girls look!  It’s a French 36 pounder!” and they’re saying “We want to pick a bouquet for Miss Amy.”  And then the rolling down the hills.

Few people know that Ft. McHenry was built by hobbits.

Once they’d exhausted the hill rolling possibilities and realized just how much goose poop was on the ground, they zipped off to the barracks area.  They buildings are arranged in a circle and they just went around.  Open a door, go in, allow your eyeballs to skim it, declare that it smells funny, get out.  Next door, repeat.  Extra points if you can get into the next door before the last member of your group gets out of the last one.  Try every handle.  Even if it says “private” or “closed to the public.”  Any that will open, must be opened.  Those that don’t must be met with an “Aw man, it won’t open!” and then move on.  When they came to the one labled “Women” they barged in just like every other door only to discover that it was the bathroom.  I’m only glad Women came before Men.  They got through that whole area in what was surely record time.  I expect there will be a plaque the next time we go back.

They wanted to go back down by the harbor, so off we went.  Then, oh happy day, a locust bean tree.  “hey girls, listen” shikka shikka shikka “It’s a rattle.  Pick up a bunch and it’s like a maraca.” Now THAT they were into.  And once they found the beans inside?  I got to just settle onto a bench while they picked the beans out and sorted them.  yay.  They invented some elaborate game about getting the beans out before the boats reached some point on the way out to the harbor.  That was a nice half hour.

Then we had to go in for the flag ceremony. I figured it would just be lowering the flag over the fort, but no, they got out a huge flag, like the one that Francis Scott Key saw and wrote about, and let the kids unfurl it.  It was pretty cool.

And then it was over, and I could release them back to the teachers.  Who somehow manage to wrangle 24 with more ease than I manage 4.


First, we need a snaggletooth update:

And there’s another loose one.  Poor child will be on soup.  Fingers crossed for those guys coming in nice and straight.  We’ve been lucky so far. Knock knock.

In the bubble cave she created in Grandma’s jacuzzi tub last time we were there:

This boy could use a haircut:

And, as promised, photos from the play.

The did Once on This Island,  billed as a retelling of The Little Mermaid (the grim Hans Christian Andersen version, not the one with singing crabs) set in the French Antilles.  It won a lot of awards, so I can only assume that the Jr. version eliminated the stuff that made it make sense and not be annoying.  To be fair: the kids did a terrific job.  It really was one of the best productions we’ve seen at the school, polished, great costumes, good directing, etc.  But I was not a fan of the show itself.  Ostensibly the message was “love is stronger than anything, including death” but really it seemed to be “stick to your own kind or you will die.”  Thanks Anita.

Julianna was Papa Ge, the god of Death, main antagonist in our story.  She offers the heroine the life of a boy in exchange for her own.  And then, when she cannot have the boy, tell her she can have her life back if she kills him.  In other words, Julianna’s favorite part in the show.  She was great, really relishing the role and taking control of the stage when she was on it.  She was worried, b/c singing is not her thing, but no one knew she was anything but confident.   I was proud of how well she was able to push it down and get on with the show.  Some photos:

She wasn’t all that amused when we told her she looked like Slash.
Hangin’ with the the Pantheon
In full makeup after the show

Check out the cool flowers.  I went into the flower shop downtown (En Masse, for you Frederick Folk) and told them that I needed kind of cool, spikey weird flowers for the god of Death.

So anyway, that’s over.  She starts rehearsals for the next play on Tuesday.  Sheesh.

I have a teenager now!  Julianna turned 13 on Thursday and so far, so good, but she’s hardly been home since then.  She had her play performance Thursday night, so I didn’t see her until 8 that night.  Then Friday was the Cast B performance and then cast party, so I didn’t see her until 9:30 that night.  And yesterday she went to play paintball with a bunch of the drama kids at a friend’s house, followed by a bonfire, so I didn’t see her until 9 that night.  So it’s been pretty easy.  What are all you people complaining about?

She's the only one that looks anything like me.


Oh, so fun to dress...

It's good to be the first child, with unlimited art supplies and a huge, sunny playroom.

Bumper crop of fennel that year...

Wearing the birthday hat and rocking her new NomNom bag. Get yours at

I’ll post pics from the play in a separate post…

In other season-changing news, we’ve got our False Spring.  It’s technically Spring now, and it sure feels springy, but I’m sure we’ll get one more cold snap.  I ordered my seeds yesterday and it was so weird to think that I’ll need to start my tomatoes and melons/squashes before planting.  It feels like direct-sowing weather.  I will put in the sugar snap peas today, though.  Maybe some greens, too.

I’m optimistically planting melons and squashes again.  The squash bug infestation wiped out a whole, lovely crop a couple of years ago.  Any non-chemical tips for avoiding those suckers are welcome.  I’m thinking of planting on landscape cloth this year.  Thoughts?  It was so hard to limit my seed buying.  It all looks so good right now, but I need to remember how uninterested in it all I feel in late July.  And also how CHEAP some things are at the market in the late summer.  No need to grow beets if the farmers are practically shoving them into my arms.  Here’s what I’m planning so far:

3 kinds of tomato–one a good canner, one a good eater, and a cherry.

Ground cherry

french green beans

some dried beans from last year’s harvest, not sure which ones, but definitely the black and the purple.

corn–I have crap luck with corn, but I’m going to try a minature blue corn, some popcorn, and an ornamental with gorgeous multi-hued leaves.

cukes–a standard cuke and the French cornichon/gherkin cuke

squash–I just ordered one kind, a good keeper, and hoping the bugs don’t eat it.

melon–one musk melon variety and two watermelon

bell peppers

black cumin–turns out my beloved nigella is of the cumin family.  I’ll plant more.

standard herbs


some cutting flowers–straw flowers, globe amaranth, asters, zinnias, etc.

Now I need to get that garden plot tilled up and get to planning…

What is more second grade than this?

As you can see, we’re in the school library in that shot.  I’m Library Lady for Lily’s class on Wednesdays.  When I pulled into the parking lot, her class was out there playing.  I heard her teachers say “There’s your mom, Lily!” and she usually runs over, but didn’t this time.  I figured she was just engrossed in her friends.  But she wanted to surprise me, so she burst in the library with her snaggletoothed grin.  It’s not like we didn’t know it was coming…she’d been grossing me out for a week, showing me how she could hang the tooth outside her lip or flip it up with her tongue.  Ew.  But now it’s all cute.  And soon she’ll have giant big kid teeth and I won’t have anyone left with a little kid mouth.  sigh.

Today Julianna said she thinks there should be something you say to acknowledge coughs.  The way you say “Bless you” or “Gesundheit” or, in the case of my friend Jane’s mom, “Star Trek” when someone sneezes.  I suggested:

Oooo, Lolly!

May the blessings of Our Mother Earth be upon you (accompanied by some weird hand motion)


Dude, have you seen someone about that?

What say the rest of you?

That was my favorite Onion headline ever, after Gene Siskel died.  I went to the movies last weekend, for the first time in…ages.  I feel like surely I’ve seen a movie since the last Harry Potter, but I can’t be certain.  I mean, I’ve seen them at home, but the theater?  no.  I abdicated taking-kids-to-movies duty to Steve and/or grandparents.   I never even saw Up.  But Johnny Depp and Tim Burton together was enough of a draw to drag me back into the theater.  I was delighted to find that you don’t HAVE to watch it in 3D.  What is it with you young people and your 3D?  don’t you get enough of that in real life?  Can’t you just accept that movies are flat and deal for a couple of hours?  You can go back to your 3D world right after the movie is over.

While I’m Rooneying about this whole experience: why so many previews?  Two or three, fine.  Nice to see what’s coming up.  Three or four, I would like to see the movie I paid for now, thanks.  Five or SIX? mutheragod, people, I do not want to see any more of this crap!  I get it, every children’s book written in the last 10 years has been made into a movie.  And it will contain dragons.  And it will be in 3D.  And it will suuuuuuck.  Now play. my. movie.  I have things I need to do, I do not need 20 minutes tacked on so that I can know that Nic Cage has bills to pay.

The movie started out all costume-drama-y and made me realize I should re-watch the BBC Emma on Netflix Watch it Now this week (I love that service.  I watched two episodes of the old TV show Fame last week, it held up surprisingly well.  The acting was really stagey, but it was still enjoyable and Bruno was still dreeeaaamy.  I’ve watched a couple episodes of The Tudors, too…can’t decide how I feel about that.  I’m too distracted by how modern everyone looks.  It’s irking me.).  Once Alice goes down the rabbit hole, it gets all Burton-y.  Really weird and dark, of course.  The effects range from “holy crap, how’d they do THAT” to “is Roy Harryhausen still working?”    The girl playing Alice is a stunning creature and well-cast for the role of the 19 year old Alice.  My Johnny is kinda gross looking with his too-large eyes and pancake make-up.  But he periodically lapses into a Scottish accent, which, yum.  So I need to re-watch Finding Neverland too, apparently.  There were several moments, though, in which he looked a LOT like Helena Bonham Carter.  So it seems Tim Burton has consistent taste, at least.  When we first see the Red Queen (played by HBC), I thought “oh please don’t let everyone in Underland have  that creepy huge head.”  It was kind of unsettling.  But it was fine.  The other disfigurements (giant ears, huge platter of breasts, long nose) were silly without being disturbing.

The story….drags.  There were several times when I thought “okay, let’s just get to the big battle scene, I have things to do” but I’ve been established as an antsy movie-viewer.  Said battle scene is so very Narnia, very pretty, and you know who wins.  And it’s followed by a weird CGI Depp Dance (which, for reasons I cannot fathom, our audience applauded.  Mr. Depp is not actually in the room.  he cannot hear you).  It does look cool, though, it’s mostly enjoyable, esp. if you don’t have the ants in your pants that I apparently have.  Oh, and Crispin Glover is in it!  When he first appeared, I thought “That dude looks just like Crispin Glover, only I’m pretty sure Mr. Glover would be older and institutionalized by now.”  But it WAS him.  Being batshit crazy apparently keeps you young.  Wish I’d known.

Recommendation: If you plan to see it at all, see it in the theater.  unless you have one of those monster-big screens in your house.  I’m happy to sit most movies out at the moment, although I’d really like a seriously funny movie to come out.  There hasn’t been one in a long while.  I rented The Hangover, hoping to laugh my butt off, but I only snorted a couple of times.  Things ARE funnier in the theater, though, so if something actually side-splitting shows up, let me know so I can drag my butt in there.

Ahhhh, sun!  The air was filled with the sounds and smells of melting snow today.  I know that in college, the first day over 40 degrees got a lot of sunbathers.  I wonder if they pitched their lawn chairs on the remaining snowbanks and cranked up the Bob Marley today?  No longer in college, I went out for a walk in a fleece and a bucket hat like I was a 70 year old Asian woman.  Then I sat on the back porch in the sun and ate pistachios.  The sun felt good on my skin.  It’s only a matter of time until we get real spring.  This is the Spring Preview; usually there’s another cold snap in March, often with snow.  But there’s no heart in it.  Winter has given up.

Here’s a sign that’s by my front door:

I really feel like “Craytor of Clud” would make a good fantasy hero.

Things the kids have made:

Julianna had to make a doll to go with a biography she’d read.  She made Frida Kahlo:

Ben made (with my help) a Link costume (Legend of Zelda game, for those non-geeks out there):

And Lily made a totem pole of paper:

Back in January, I got to escape to NYC with some of my friends.  I’ve had this on-line parenting group I “hang” with since Julianna was about 18 mos old.  A while ago,  a bunch of us that are trying to figure out how to heal our damaged aging bodies started chatting about diet and digestion and decided to take our poop talk off the board.  One of those, Emily, had access to an apartment in NYC, so we all booked our trains and planes and headed out for a weekend of high-fat eatin’ and elimination discussions.  It was awesome.

Nell came up from Charlottesville and we’d planned that I’d catch her train at BWI.  Nell is, apparently, Amish and does not have a cell phone, so we just planned for her to be in the last car possible and I’d get on in the last car and work my way forward.  As it happened, I missed the train.  The stationmaster called “last call” as the train pulled away, which was not particularly helpful. They put me on the next train, which was an express, and I got to whip past the old steam powered train Nell was on (because she’s Amish).  That got me to Penn Station first, with no earthly idea where I was going.  Eventually, Emily and Michelle arrived from LaGuardia, Nell arrived on her iron horse and Jutta came in from JFK.  We got to stay in Chelsea, in a apt at the Episcopal Seminary.  It was sweet.  If severely overheated.

Mostly, we hung out and talked about food.  We also played Settlers of Catan.  I developed a bit of a Catan addiction.

The Red Hat Society Settlers of Catan Club

I’m a little horrified by all the purple.  that wasn’t planned.  We’re just old.  And, as it turns out, when you are old, you will wear purple.

I met a college friend and a friend of hers that I befriended through Facebook (I’m SO modern) for lunch one day.  Alyssa is just one personality disorder away from being eligible for Project Runway, so she gave me a map of all the good garment district stops.  That night, we all went to the Upright Citizens Brigade (suprise guest?  Mike Birbiglia!  Woo!) for some improv.  The next day was our day for walking around the garment district area.  Of course it was a flipping monsoon.  Seriously.  The rain was horizontal, we were drenched.  But we made it to Mood (store where the Project Runway folks shop, for those who have no taste in TV).  Michelle and I were on a mission, the others flashed-back to childhoods spent waiting for Mom to finish up in the fabric store.


I didn't get that one in the end. But I came close. I made it work.

See Swatch the dog on the chair? Tim Gunn scratched his head. And so did I.

When we came out, we squelched over to our lunch reservation at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill.  This was every trash can in NYC:

We figure everyone buys a $5 umbrella, carries it until it dies, trashes it, buys another.

NYC, where the sidewalks are paved with gum.  And urine.

The meal at Mesa Grill was yum.  When we came out, the rain had stopped, but I decided I couldn’t drag non-sewers to any more fabric shops, so I’ve saved that map for another day.  Instead we strolled back toward Chelsea, courtesy of my Google Maps navigation:

seriously. Best invention EVER.

Popped into one of those museums that NYC is so famous for:

Okay, we just went into the gift shop.  They wanted $15 admission.  I don’t think there’s THAT much to say on the subject to justify that cost, so we didn’t go in.  We just headed back to rest our weary bones.  And play some more Catan.

We drank wine, we ate a LOT of cheese, we laughed a lot.  It was great fun and I’d like to do it again.

This is my cover collage for 2009:

It’s not big, only 43 books.  I may have forgotten some (and I’ve left out any medical or nutrition-related non-fiction), but it’s close.  And that whole Patrick O’Brian swath was actually audio, so with my eyeballs, I read much closer to 29 books.   I don’t think I’ve read that little since I could read.  And then you might notice that four of those books are graphic novels and I just realized that those last two, the Fables comics, I actually tagged wrong b/c I read them THIS year.  So the real total is 41, with 27 having been actual physical books…and then you might note that sixteen of those books are from the young adult or even children’s sections of the library…so eleven grown-up books.

That, folks, is a slump.  I don’t know what causes them, but they crop up on me now and again.  This was the worst, though.  I was reading up until around March or so, I think.  And then just…stopped.  I’d pick up a book and put it down.  I managed to read Bridge of Sighs somewhere in the middle of the year, enjoyed it, thought it would launch me back into books, but no.  Maybe American Gods was so good my brain didn’t want a lesser work shoved in there?  It WAS really good.  And I can’t rave about the Patrick O’Brian books enough.  I’ve finished the series (20 books and a  few chapters of the book he died while writing) and I already look forward to reading them again.

Toward the end of last year, I picked up the House of Mystery graphic novels (comic books bound into one book, in this case) at the library.  I really enjoyed them, they were engaging and very creepy.  So I decided to read the Sandman books as well.  Steve had the Fables books upstairs, so I read the first of those as well.  All that finally got me to the place where I wanted a book with fewer pictures again.  I had saved a list of book that the Washington Post listed as the best of 2009, and downloaded a couple first chapters onto my iPhone.  I ended up checking out The Confessions of Edward Day by Valerie Martin–it’s about struggling actors in NYC in the 70s.  A bit of a thriller, pretty funny, I really enjoyed it.  We’ve started having screen-free evenings here, so it’s easier to get some reading in.  I finished it in a bit over one night.

I keep track of my books on Library Thing.  I like that I can see who else has read the books I’ve read.  I go see who has liked my favorites and see what else they’ve liked.  A person who really liked American Gods and Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell also liked Baltimore; or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden.  I read that one in about a day and a half (thanks for leaving me waiting in the exam room for an hour, Dr. Williams!), it’s an engrossing, creepy Gothic horror tale. And now I have Glover’s Mistake by Nick Laird, which is supposed to be funny.  I could use some funny after Baltimore. Grim, that was.

But mostly, I’m thrilled to be out of the slump, at least for now.  Having a book to think about keeps my brain distracted from worry a bit.  And it makes my year end collage much prettier.  And really, we know that’s the real reason I read.

So if you pmp when you lol, have we got an event for you!  Apparently Poise pads is promoting itself through a “Ladies Who Laugh” home party…you sign up to, as far as I can tell, make your friends laugh so hard they pee themselves–on video–and then convince them to buy Poise pads?

From the site:

If selected as a host, you’ll receive a FREE “Laugh Box”, which includes:

  • Handheld digital camcorder, for host
  • Costumes and accessories to help in creating your funny videos
  • One month Netflix® gift certificate
  • 10 Poise® sample kits including 1 Poise® Liner, 1 Poise® Long Liner, 1 Poise® Ultra Thin Pad

I didn’t think anything could seem more horrible than one of those “naughty” lingerie home parties, but I was mistaken.

What sort of costumes, do you think?  Surely something HIlarious to induce in-the-pants-pee.  Accessories include rubber sheets and kegelcizors.  I get that lots of women have a bit of a “leakage” problem, particularly after having kids (not *I*, kegel-queen that I was), and sure, let’s not be all shaming about it…but a home party?  really?

One host will win a trip to Chicago to see a concert by “a top recording artist.”  Guesses?

Peete Seeger is probably out…Weezer, maybe? I’m sure it’s a Number One selling artist. Dont’ groan, urine no position to judge me.


March 2010
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