Monday, August 25, 2008

an impending ceremony

"Mommy, there's going to be a ceremony soon," announced five year-old Lucy importantly, "for the Lucy Club and for EVERYONE WHO HATES IRIS!!"

oh, if only I could control the world

My niece, who has a toddler and is pregnant again already by a different guy, has a bedraggled stuffed animal which is still a security object for her. "Oh, he goes everywhere," she said as she packed up the nearly furless dog. "I'm the only twenty year-old that still has to have a stuffed animal with her. I've had him since I was in the first grade."

I felt sad that she didn't bring any stuffed animals or toys to speak of along for her little boy (he did have a little pillow with a monkey face on it and one little toy car). I wondered also if she brings this stuffed dog along on sleepovers with her boyfriends.

There should be a rule that if someone is still actively using a stuffed animal as a security object, she should be banned from procreating.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

the birthday non-surprise

The Sober Husband and Iris Uber Alles have birthdays just four days apart (indeed, as Iris was late, the Sober Husband had great hopes that I'd deliver her up on the correct day. "Where is my baby?" he demanded. "It's not UP TO ME; tell the damn baby to get out," I retorted crabbily). I did my shopping for them both this year at, a website I recommend highly for anyone with a geeky loved one.

When the package came, Iris Uber Alles was happily engaged in ranting at her visiting cousins, and I whisked the big box upstairs and started wrapping her presents. Unfortunately her little sister Lucy came in before the big present, a radio controlled dalek, had been wrapped. I swore her to secrecy in return for letting her help me. Lucy was in heaven, putting a "Knock First" sign up on the door and insisting to Iris that she stay out.

"You must be wrapping my presents!" said Iris presciently.

"If you come in, I'm keeping it for myself," I said.

"Oh, you ARE!" shouted Iris happily. Lucy giggled crazily.

As soon as we were done, Iris was in, prodding the package. "Can I pick it up?" she asked.

"No! Leave it alone!" I insisted.

"Lucy, give me a hint!"

"Lucy, I want you to just say to Iris, ' Sorry, I'm sworn to secrecy.'"

Lucy made an important face. "Sorry, Iris, I'm SWORN TO SECRECY."


With continual hounding and rapid fire questions like "Have I wanted this for a long time or a short time?", Iris got out of Lucy such admissions as "It ends with a K,", "You want to do something with the cats with it" (the girls are a huge fan of that subgenre of Youtube videos, radio controlled daleks vs. cats), and "You could find it on" Iris grabbed my laptop without permission and started combing, mumbling over and over again, "What ends with a K?" and "Lucy, I'll give you a dollar if you give me another hint."

"LUCY, don't you dare tell your sister any more! Tell her you're very sorry, but your lips are sealed!" I was getting genuinely cranky at this point.

Within less than five minutes of the present being wrapped, Lucy had given it up to her big sister. "It's a radio controlled dalek!"

Iris left and opened up an IM window, typing in to her father, "Lucy is a blabbermouth! She just told me I'm getting a radio controlled dalek!"

"Whoo hoo!" typed her father, safely away at his office.

Emboldened, Iris opened my email and started reading a rather sensitive email out loud. "Iris, YOU DO NOT DO THAT!" I snapped. "You are driving me INSANE! First you get Lucy to tell you what your present is, and NOW YOU'RE READING MY EMAIL! I DID NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION! CLOSE THAT COMPUTER NOW!"

"But I'm IMing with Dad-dude."

'CLOSE IT NOW! AND LEAVE YOUR POOR MOTHER ALONE!" The children tiptoed out of the room and ran downstairs. "I'm getting a radio controlled dalek!" Iris shouted to her visiting cousins. "Lucy told me!"

"What is a 'dalek'?" asked her non-geeky cousin blankly.

Friday, August 22, 2008

the scare

I had a terrible night's sleep, lying awake thinking about my problems. When I woke up, my first thought was to take action on one particularly pressing problem: to send out an email asking AGAIN for an emergency vet appointment for my foster kitten who is going blind (when I took her in previously, she was only seen by a vet tech, which annoyed me no end as I specifically asked to see the vet and I am not a foster parent given to creating emergencies when there aren't any). While I was writing that email, the Sober Husband (who had himself not yet had a shower or gotten dressed) came in disturbed. "I think you should come downstairs." My twenty-year old niece was downstairs, thinking that she was having a miscarriage.

"Just a MINUTE. I'm sending an email," I said.

"I think you should come downstairs right now. She's crying. She wants to go home early and see her own doctor."

"I'm almost done sending an email ABOUT MY CAT WHO IS GOING BLIND, and I just need to finish this," I said crankily. "There's nothing you can do about a miscarriage in the first trimester, anyhow," I added somewhat callously.

I put on a bathrobe and a sensitive, caring expression and went downstairs. My niece was at the dining room table sending email herself. My nephew was out back smoking. When my niece saw me, she started crying. I pulled a chair up next to her and rubbed her back. "What is it, sweetie?" I asked.

She reported, among tears, that she thought she was having a miscarriage because "my pee is red."

"Honey, you had beets for dinner last night. That's why your pee is red. If you're not bleeding, then I don't think there's anything wrong with the baby."

"But it was red before I had the beets last night."

"Sweetie, you had beets the other day, too. Remember? We all had beets? I'm peeing red, too." I had roasted a big pan of fresh beets with tarragon and olive oil, which we'd eaten over a couple of days.

It turned out there were no other symptoms. I explained how one's diet affects one's urine, using asparagus and dehydration as other examples. My niece took the point and gradually calmed down. The Sober Husband came downstairs while he was trying to rebook her flight on his iPhone, and we told him to forget it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

in vino the veritas comes out

My nephew is 19 years old. He dropped out of high school and hasn't gotten a GED. He's unemployed and blames his mother's live-in boyfriend for preventing him from getting a job (the boyfriend supposedly does this by tying up the phone lines all the time, so places where my nephew have put in applications can't reach him), but he has also said that no one will hire him. He lives in an small, dank room in the basement of his mother's small, cluttered house (his room is actually meant to be a storage room; it doesn't qualify as a bedroom because it has no window for ventilation). S. gets into fights often and is anorexic. For opaque reasons he doesn't want to take the GED. He claims the local community college won't let him take classes (it does not sound to me that he filled out all the enrollment paperwork). He gets into lots of fistfights, many of them with his mother's boyfriend, who is allegedly a dirty fighter who often resorts to "choke-outs."

He does devote time to writing horror stories, and his great success in life is acquiring girlfriends. Having been broken up with by one just before he left to visit me, he's already got another one positioned via IM and Myspace to take up the role on return.

Since he got here a few days ago, we've been tactful and tiptoeing around the subject of his plans, which appear to be to do nothing at all as the years creep on. I've been mindful of the fact that no one likes nagging or judgment. The Sober Husband has made noises about wanting to hear from S. why he lives like this.

Yesterday my nephew spent the day sitting on the couch IMing and Myspacing, although he's in one of the world's most loved and visited cities and has been presented with a map and a key to the house. I took my niece, great-nephew, and children to a children's museum for a big part of the day, leaving the nephew to his own devices (I was irritated because the night before I'd taken him to "Tropic Thunder", and he hadn't thanked me or had any interesting conversation to offer). Feeling fed up with both my niece and nephew and depressed, I escaped into my bedroom in the late afternoon and tried to sleep. Eventually I gave up and came downstairs, where I drank a few glasses of wine while making pasta with lake beans, fresh tarragon, and bell peppers in a wine sauce, with traditional polenta on the side ("traditional" meaning made in the manner of a Sicilian peasant, where you add the corn meal grain by grain to the boiling water and then stir it for half an hour over low heat to prevent lumping)(yes, I know it sounds heavy, having polenta besides pasta, but I was cooking for a brain-damaged 2 year-old and a 5 year-old who eschews all spicy flavors among others, and very good polenta is one of my secret weapons with picky eaters).

Over dinner more tactful conversation was made, and I found my nephew's evasiveness and excuses maddening. I erupted into a wine-fuelled monologue:

"You have to do something! It doesn't have to be college; you could pursue a trade [lengthy foray here into the examples of an uncle who is a very successful stonemason and my beloved hairdresser's boyfriend, who after unfulfilling office jobs has more happily taken up installing solar cell panels). I can't stand to see someone who is so smart not doing anything! You're a smart guy; you could go to college so easily! College is an easy way to try living somewhere else, since you say you don't want to stay where you are forever. [A weak assertion that college is impossibly expensive was quashed by my pointing out the options of state schools and community colleges]. When I was your age, I did things! I was engaged, I traveled, I had jobs, I went to college! When I was your age, I was studying in Madrid, and all I had to do for that was fill out some forms and get a couple of professors to write letters, and then my college bought me tickets to Madrid and found me a place to live there! I went all over Madrid not knowing the language well and not knowing anything, and I learned so much! [This appeared to score, as my nephew looked a bit like he'd been punched in the gut]. You have a lot of girlfriends now, but TEN YEARS FROM NOW when you're still living in your mother's basement and you don't have a job and you aren't doing anything, no one is going to want to date you! You can get away with that with charm when you're 19, but when you're 29, it won't work!"

While I was monologuing, my niece, husband, and Iris Uber Alles all silently excused themselves from the table and started clearing everything away.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

a rare moment of victory, rare as a unicorn

I was arguing over the telephone with my father about whether oil drilling should commence ASAP in all areas of America where oil is likely to be. He is of the Republican opinion that duh, we need oil, and those lily livered environmentalists should stand out of the way. (Surprisingly enough this man holds that opinion after writing a guide to energy conservation in the seventies and spending much of his life tinkering with solar power before it was fashionable).

"Even if all the oil reserves in the U.S. were exhausted, that would only buy us about a year. It's just a blip in the world oil supplies." That point didn't seem to go anywhere, as my father seemed to feel it would be gentlemanly of us to take up the burden of oil production so long demanded of our global acquaintances.

"California has a huge economy, it's a rich state, and our major industry is tourism. It would be asinine to risk our beautiful coastline, on which we depend for our biggest industry, tourism, for just a few months worth of oil supply. It's the same in Florida; they make all their money off tourism, and it would be crazy to risk it with offshore drilling."

My father says slyly, "So how many tourists you got there this year, with everyone staying at home?" I can tell he thinks he has me.

I close in for the kill: "Hotel occupancy rates are way up. The city's full of Europeans. And it's affecting everything. I read in the Chron that they're all determined to try the best California wines, and with the dollar so weak, they're ordering $200 bottles when they used to get cheap ones. They come to shop, because everything costs so much less here than back home. It's like they're running around in a bargain basement store. They get a lot of electronics."

He actually took this point and gave up the debate.

I am over forty, and I have finally won an argument with my father.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

one of the true joys of life: "Project Runway" in its Canadian and American forms

I came to "Project Runway" a little late. I'd heard of it, but I resisted seeing it. In general, I'm not a big television watcher, and I tend to assume television shows suck. However, I went to a big house party, and everyone stayed up 'til 3 AM (including then six year-old Iris) watching "Project Runway", and I was hooked.

The Wall St. Journal reported that sewing machine sales and sewing classes have skyrocketed due to "Project Runway." This illustrates how inspiring "Project Runway" is: you see the creative process, and you feel more creative yourself. I look at the world differently now and feel more likely to create and to find innovative uses for everyday objects. Iris loves to sketch outfits now, and even Lucy has developed a catwalk strut as a result of PR.

Our dear Hughman is recapping the current series over on Pink Navy, and so I won't both summing it up myself. Let's just say that once again there's a spunky bunch of egotistic designers, and our darling Tim Gunn is aristocratically overseeing their endeavors (the man once said, off the cuff, "It's looking a little Happy Hands At Home", which struck me as one of the more brilliant ripostes, even though, of course, my own creative endeavors are nothing but Happy Hands At Home). Tim Gunn is a walking Wodehouse character.

The Canadian version of Project Runway, rather unimaginatively named "Project Runway Canada", was even better than the American version. PRCanada had designers even more talented than the usual sprightly American casts. They had challenges even more clever than the usual American ones (my favorites were designing a bathing suit for a plus-sized model -- and they really DID use plus size models, not what is called "plus sized model" in this country but doesn't even qualify as overweight on the BMI scale-- and creating cocktail dresses out of broken umbrellas). PRCanada has Iman as a judge and host, who makes American host Heidi Klum look like a bubbleheaded idiot. (What drives me crazy about Heidi Klum is that she speaks in such a high, girly voice and that she always wears dresses no longer than her crotch and stands with her legs waaaay splayed apart. The woman seems to have a fetish about having people look up her skirt). Iman has such gravitas and a thoughtful, deep voice. On the downside, the other PRCanada judges were personality-less, unlike dear, bitchy Michael Kors and outspoken, glamorous Nina Garcia, and their sweet and caring mentor, Brian, wasn't as good with the bon mots as Tim Gunn.

However, Brian grew on me as the season progressed. He clearly worked hard, cared about the designers and inspired them to excel. I fell for him when cranky enfant terrible Biddell whined about having to make that plus-sized bathing suit. Brian firmly told him that the women who could afford to buy Biddell's clothes were not going to be the size zeros who model them on the catwalk and that he needed to learn to love every voluptuous inch of them. Bravo, Brian. Biddell took the point.

Last night I saw the first episode of the British version, "Project Catwalk." It completely and utterly sucked, and so I shan't bother to watch the rest of the series. (It was reported to me that "the bit torrent for Project Catwalk is really weak", signifying that the internet as a whole has formed a thumbs' down opinion of Proj. Catwalk). How could the Brits take such a clear winner of a formula and fail to copy it adequately? The only thing they did right was to cast Liz Hurley as the spokesmodel, and Liz seemed more interested in getting to know the designers than Heidi Klum (who evidently is quite cold towards them when the cameras are off). The cast seemed thrown together at a moment's notice (including a teenage first year fashion student who seemed quite obviously unprepared, a stay-at-home mother of several blind children who didn't function well out of her house, and an older designer who didn't seem creative in the least). However, the joy of Liz Hurley soon paled, as the Proj. Catwalk people insisted on a constant voice-over of her bright, burbling voice. Instead of showing us the idiotic designers having a drink, we had to hear Liz tell us they were about to have a drink, then tell us that they were having that drink, speculate that they were going to have hangovers, then inform us that few of them had hangovers, and so on, and so on. The Proj. Catwalk people seemed to feel they should make it a "Big Brother" sort of show, and their focus seemed to be on their relatively inarticulate and uninteresting contestants interacting in a small and crowded house. There was virtually no creative process shown whatsoever, completely stripping the show of its interest.

Incidentally I looked "Project Catwalk" up on Wikipedia and learned that three seasons have been made, with Kelly Osborne hosting the last two. Kelly Osborne? A drunken teenage American reality star? Obviously the Brits have given up on producing a quality show about creating amazing and imaginative clothes on a shoestring and are still aiming at that "Big Brother" trainwreck feel.

At least we still have the American Project Runway. If you haven't seen this current series yet, read Hughman's recaps to catch up and join the fun. And perhaps someday, if we are very good, we shall be rewarded with another season of Project Runway: Canada. Pray, my darlings, pray.

what do you do for a trainwreck teen?

In one hour I'm driving to the airport to pick up my niece, nephew, and great-nephew, and I am so dreading it. Ever since I found out that my young niece is pregnant AGAIN, I've felt like canceling this visit. Instead, I decided to cancel the Santa Cruz leg of the trip and just hang out in San Francisco instead.

Indeed part of the rationale for the Santa Cruz leg was so thrillseeking Iris Uber Alles could ride the roller coasters with her big cousin B., who is the only one who likes them, but as B. is pregnant, she wouldn't be able to ride them. The other part of it would be going to the beach, but given that my niece and nephew are both anorexic, that leads to other issues. My surly nephew complained that his body is not beach-ready (and no, he's not gay. He runs through teenage girlfriends like I go through bottles of extra virgin Kalamata olive oil).

My niece and nephew have not been blessed with a great nuclear family. My sister is narcissistic; their deceased father was lazy, morbidly obese, and a congenital liar (his children to this day believe their father bagged corpses in Vietnam for a year but on leave filled in for one of the Doobie Brothers in a Japanese stadium date). My oldest nephew, who had drug issues, killed himself soon after his father died and his mother moved in a boyfriend within months of that death.

As you can imagine, I really want these teenagers to have healthier role models and to be exposed to more things in life than they see in their ugly, ugly Denver suburb. However, how long do I consider them malleable? I'm about to give up on B. now that she is over 18 and pregnant AGAIN. Her first baby was severely abused by his teenage father, so badly that the baby was airlifted to a hospital for surgery at risk of death. (I'm concerned that the great-nephew may have lasting brain damage). The baby spent a year in foster care, and the father is in prison for the abuse. I told B. again and again how hard motherhood is and that she couldn't expect her 15 year-old boyfriend to take care of a baby; I encouraged her to consider open adoption; I invited her to come stay with us so we could help her with the baby. This time around, seeing as how she must have learned nothing from the past, I don't feel like saying anything. I feel like giving up. She's nominally an adult now, albeit not legal drinking age, and she's evidently choosing a career path of being a babymomma.

And then there's S., my nephew. He wants to write, and he does write plays and stories. However, he dropped out of high school and doesn't seem motivated to do anything likely to lead to supporting himself. I talked up college to him the last time he visited me, explaining how it would expose him to new things, help him try living in a part of the country (he lives in a basement room in my sister's, ugly, ugly house on an ugly, ugly street in an ugly, ugly suburb), get him to hone his writing. My own husband dropped out of high school and, after a bit of a teenage pothead louthood, went on to earn a Ph.D. in physics from one of the country's most prestigious universities (skipping the GED step, so technically he never did get that high school education), so I'm not going to say all is lost by dropping out of high school. (Indeed, I kind of wish I'd dropped out of high school. My senior year was a waste of time). But one needs drive to get somewhere when you're starting from such a crappy position, and I don't see drive in my nephew.

I feel pessimistic. B. is doing her best, cranking out 2 children before age 21, to create a whole new generation of fuck-ups. My sister, never a contender for mother-of-the-year, said blithely when B. was pregnant the first time, "I always say, 'If they're old enough to have 'em, they're old enough to take care of 'em.'" There has been no sign that the horrific abuse meted out to the newborn and the year he spent in foster care changed my sister's mind on that point.

What am I supposed to do for or with them? I feel like there's nothing left to do other than give them a free vacation (I couldn't afford the tickets this year but bought them anyway... before I discovered B. was pregnant again. Pettily enough I'd only have brought S. out if I'd known). At what point is someone old enough that you give up on helping them or inspiring them?

Friday, August 15, 2008

don't sell yourself too cheap, Castro boys!

I took the subway downtown yesterday, and the Castro station turnstile I used had a delightful problem with its digital display, which read "ASS OR $1.50." I fear for the MUNI employees, as it's only a matter of time until someone drunk enough to have some real fun with that message stumbles along.

In less amusing MUNI news, a twentysomething hipster lost consciousness on my train, causing a delay. What really perturbed me about this was how blase the paramedics were. They were practically rolling their eyes and snapping their gum, and they seemed to really take their time about getting him onto a stretcher and removing him. I relayed this to the Sober Husband, who was disturbed. "They should be racing around, looking really upset and concerned" like TV emergency workers, he felt. "I want to think it will be like it is on television if I ever get hurt."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

my nerves are past frayed and into flayed

The day after we got back from the East Coast, I came down with a debilitating flu, leaving me homebound and miserable for a week. I didn't leave the house for days apart from an emotionally draining marriage counseling appointment (current verdict: I need to be meaner to my husband and refuse him more things, but yet my wrath is too scary to him, so I need to be nicer so that he can speak up more about things that bother him. I'm not sure that makes a lot of sense to me overall). As soon as I started feeling human again, Iris got sick, so I spent several days at home keeping her company in front of endless "Dr Who" episodes.

While I've been housebound (I have a severe case of cabin fever developing), my next door neighbor, the one I believe to be a participant in the witness protection program, is having some work done on her house. She didn't tip us off ahead of time, which I would have appreciated as the acoustics of this particular work make it sound as though someone is repeatedly breaking into my garage with a sledgehammer. When it first started, I grabbed a cordless phone, dialed 911 but didn't hit the transmit button, and crept down the stairs with my heart pounding, without saying anything to sickly Iris or healthy but crabby Lucy. (I actually own a delightfully powerful handgun, but ever since we procreated, we've kept it unloaded in a locked box. It's worthless to me if there's an intruder. I'd have to go downstairs, get my keys, go back upstairs, dig out the locked box, then unlock it, only to try to bluff someone with an unloaded gun. I have no idea whether there's any ammo in the house and where it might be --- probably there's a small quantity of it stored somewhere in the garage. It would make more sense to try to club someone over the head with the little locked gunbox). Over the past few days I've grown somewhat used to that racket and haven't had to do a house-sweep again, but it's taking a toll.

On top of that, yesterday I paid off a favor owed to one of my mommy friends by hosting her daughter, one of Lucy's dearest friends and Iris's mortal enemy. Iris stayed home sick, and the two children were clearly spoiling for a fight all day. The visiting child, Lawyer, Jr., at one point jabbed me in the arm with her index finger. "Iris is watching a scary TV show upstairs," she said, "and when we walk by, we can hear it." I was not about to deny Iris the pleasure of watching Dr. Who behind closed doors, so I instructed Lawyer, Jr. and Lucy to play together where they couldn't hear the television. After all, it was a gorgeous day, and they were authorized to play with the hose in the backyard, plus there were four kittens afoot downstairs. But our young guest was not appeased.

An only child of an attentive and permissive stay-at-home mother, she is accustomed to a higher level of service and accommodation than the children receive here. Iris balefully kept track of Lawyer, Jr.'s complaints, which included "I don't care for green grapes", "Bananas make me throw up", "There's a MOSQUITO IN THE BACK YARD!", "I stepped on a dead snail", and many, many more. Iris was gleeful when she had counted up ten complaints made by Lawyer, Jr. to me (many of which were accompanied by poking me with an index finger). "She complained about ten things! Ten things!" I think Iris is hoping to get Lawyer, Jr. banned from our home, but that's not going to happen so long as she remains one of Lucy's dearest friends.

Earlier in the day I'd had plenty of energy, and I picked up around the house and invited a neighbor to come by for drinks to discuss our errant cat, Rachel, who spends a lot of time over at his house whenever I have foster kittens (Rachel also spends time at another neighbor's house as well, and there's some other unknown house she likes to visit as well, because she often sets off purposefully in the other direction). But after a day of being shut up with these children, including the nitpicking and complaining visitor, my nerves were shot, and by the time the neighbor called back, I'd already turned to Ben & Jerry's for some self-medicating (there wasn't anything I felt like drinking around, so it was ice cream instead of alcohol). "Tell him to come tomorrow," I hissed as the Sober Husband held his hand over the receiver. "I'm just not up for dealing with ANYONE right now."

In a few days my anorexic, violent, high school drop-out nephew, my teenage niece who is pregnant yet again, and my toddler great-nephew who was in foster care for over a year after sustaining severe, life-threatening injuries from his teenage father (who is now in prison) are coming to visit. I'm so disgusted and annoyed with my niece for being pregnant again that I felt greatly tempted to cancel the visit, but I haven't met my great-nephew yet (he has been in foster care for most of his short life). My flayed nerves are not in the best shape for this visit, sigh.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

grown-ups vs. children: the children behave better

This year I finally managed to get into a class at the renowned Sharon Arts Building in Golden Gate Park (I've been hearing about this place for years, have often kept well-thumbed class schedules about, but have never before pulled off the onerous registration procedure, involving showing up in person and waiting for hours outdoors in the early morning. I accomplished it this time around by sending the Sober Husband and Iris Uber Alles, who took lawn chairs, blankets, and an iPod loaded with Simpsons episodes for their vigil). The children and I are taking the "Family Clay Day" class together, which is for children from 5 to 11 and their parents. Children under 8, such as Lucy, must be accompanied by a grown-up, who must be enrolled in the class.

It turns out that a lot of the children in the class are dropped off and picked up by parents, who have chosen not to participate. Of the few adults who are participating, two are not particularly into doing any sculptures themselves. "I have no imagination," one complained over and over again. The other is mainly interested in chatting and in getting her daughter to press handprints into clay, which the mother can glaze. There are just two grown-ups who are more interested in sculpting than their child proteges are: the Drunken Housewife and a grandmother with a marked dowager's hump and two rather browbeaten grandchildren.

Our first class was the very morning after we'd returned from the East Coast. We were all tired and cranky, and Lucy got frustrated with the stiff artist's clay and burst into tears. I found this aggravating, as although I was sleep-deprived, I was completely obsessed with finishing a sculpture of a fish. The soft-spoken and warm teacher took Lucy away to show her some work and give her ideas, allowing me to obsess about my fish, but brought her back quickly when Lucy spouted an epic nosebleed. I ministered to Lucy, who was spouting both blood and tears in vast quantity, while everyone hovered about unnerved. Eventually Lucy stopped excreting fluids and made a little clay cat, two smiling clay snakes, and a tiny smiley face. Iris made a tip jar (she has taken to panhandling about the house) and a little mushroom.

The children were ready to go by the end of class, but I parted with my fish reluctantly.

Later I felt ashamed of my selfish behavior. I should have been more focused on Lucy; I should have been helping her more, rather than insisting on making something myself. I resolved to be more Lucy-centric next time.

Today we went back to Family Clay Day, and we ended up sitting with the grandmother and her two charges. The grandmother is a passionate amateur sculptor and brought her own box of tools and brushes, which she allowed her grandchildren to use. Our pieces had been fired and brought out, and we spent the entire class glazing them. I held my fish, still warm from the kiln, in my hands reverently. Lucy was happy to be reunited with her cat, which she chose to glaze purple. Iris painted exuberant polka dots on her tip jar. "You know, Iris, you're going to have to provide excellent service if you want good tips," I observed.

Iris paused. "I guess I won't get big tips."

I started the class with good intentions, helping Lucy get set up, pick the colors of her choice, and watching her glaze. Then I got completely sucked into glazing my own fish carefully with several coats, pondering color choices and agonizing over getting it right. I regretted not having gone down to order bifocals, because they would have helped me with the finer detailing. I did help Lucy whenever she needed more paint or more praise, but I was absorbed in my fish. So much for my good intentions. The children finished their projects well before the end of class and were pulling at me, "Come on!" while I was still glazing my little fish.

I think I'm going to give up my idea of being less focused on sculpting my own pieces, because I already have my next project in mind: I want to make a little green parrot standing on its own two legs. At least the children like that idea. "Be sure to make a parrot," said Lucy naggingly. "Don't forget next time to make a parrot."

My shame was mitigated by the fact that I wasn't the worst adult there. At least I praised my children for their creativity and tried to encourage them to do their pieces how they wanted to. The sculpting grandmother screamed in the middle of the class, "THAT'S A GOOD WAY TO RUIN BRUSHES!" at one of her grandchildren. She also repeatedly tried to tell her two grandchildren how to paint their pieces. "I have some brown for that door. I think you should do that part gray. Aren't you going to paint some daisies on that?" At one point, with real disgust, she said, "You just ANNIHILATED that" to one of the children. "That was cute before, but you just ANNIHILATED it the way you painted it," she ranted, shaking her head and stomping away.

Friday, August 08, 2008

dissatisfied with the basic amenities

"I want a satellite dish! Seems like it would be a little bit classier," said five year-old Lucy, who sadly resides in a home lacking even basic cable.

Monday, August 04, 2008

home, sick

I woke up yesterday feeling sick, spent the day feeling sick, had horrific nightmares about space zombies all night, and here I am again, still sick. My theory is I picked up something on the plane; at least I wasn't ill away from home with all that driving.

Feeling like crap, I dragged myself into the bathroom at one point to find Tux (a rescue cat given to us for socialization who seems to be becoming a permanent fixture here) and Al (the orange skeleton who is allergic to his own teeth) there. Princess Henry (the Christmas present cat) followed me in. All three cats, still in that honeymoon glow of being happy to see me home, rubbed up against me, purred, and sought attention while I attended to my needs. This bathroom is a small bathroom, and it was crowded in there with all those happy cats. I called the Sober Husband as I washed my hands around Al and Henry. "Come here! Come here!"

He came slowly, probably dreading some invalid request.

"I'm having a crazy cat lady moment," I said. "I feel like a crazy cat lady."

The cats were swarming and purring. "I see what you mean," the Sober Husband said thoughtfully. "They seem like a lot in there."

Thankfully as I dragged myself back into the bedroom, the feeling dissipated. My bedroom is a very large and airy room, which could hold a lot more cats if need be.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

home again, home again

These urban, San Francisco-born children have driven ATVs (wearing safety helmets and being chauffeured by either their cousin Ashley or Aunt Robin), driven a tractor with their Uncle Dick, ridden horses with a neighbor of my cousin's(who didn't ask my permission before putting my children up onto the horses), gathered eggs, petted cows, raked blueberries, dug for new potatoes, and done no end of rural things. They are fully prepared to move to rural Maine at this point, and the Sober Husband (who loved lobsters and fresh blueberries) is feeling the charms of New England as well. "You don't know what it's like in the winter," I observed acerbically. "It's not this much fun in the winter."

We came home to a message that our cat, Rachel, had been reported as being a stray, and the Sober Husband retrieved her while the children and I were at our "Family Clay Day" sculpture class. The rescuer pointed out that Rachel had been at her house for a full week and we "didn't notice", and that Rachel was lacking a collar. The Sober Husband argued that we'd been gone for two weeks, our teenaged petsitters couldn't be expected to be on top of everything, and that she had a collar when we left. While he was having this discussion, Rachel wandered out of the self-styled rescuer's house and towards a neighbor's house. When the Sober Husband went to retrieve her, this neighbor protested, "That's MY cat!" Evidently while we were gone, Rachel acquired not one but two new homes. Clearly she doesn't need us at all (whereas all the other cats were hanging about the premises and appeared excited to see us again). The Sober Husband thanked this second person for feeding our cat. Incidentally one of these kindly braintrusts had taken Rachel to a vet out of concern that she was pregnant and had learned that no, she's long-neutered and just fat, and I note that maybe if all these people STOPPED FEEDING HER CANNED FOOD she'd reach a more reasonable weight for her petite stature. Now returned to her home, Rachel is reclining on the floor, bloated, and refusing to eat any dry kibble, screeching emphatically whenever anyone walks towards the canned food. (Rachel is a middle-aged cat we got off of Craigslist five years ago who was homeless at one point and who has clearly mastered the art of scoring canned cat food).

We've already picked up four foster kittens, as one of the other fosterers has a wife in the hospital and some kind of crisis at work and was accordingly thrilled to drive over and drop off his four charges. "They have trouble using the litterbox" was his parting shot.

Broke, tired, a wee bit on the cranky side, but rich in cats: we're home.

for a bad mommy

"You are a good mommy for a bad mommy," said five year-old Lucy approvingly.