Thursday, October 16, 2014

baaaaad business

Our annual adults-only Banister Abbey Halloween party is happening in a week and a half.  The weeks leading up to this event are tense ones in our house, especially for the children.  Lucien and Coco come home from long days at school only to be confronted by objects like these:

The kids are also fed things like this for dinner while I stand over them and ask, "Do these look like bloody severed fingers to you?"

Why aren't you guys eating?

The kids have been awfully jumpy lately.

I hired a tarot card reader for this year's party.  It was the first time I'd interviewed a tarot card reader and I had no idea what to ask.  I figured my opening question should be, "Are you full of sh*t?" hoping the fakes and crackpots would then hang their heads in shame, shuffle their feet and mumble, "Dang, you got me."  It seemed as good a place to start as any.

I didn't end up asking that.  Instead, as I sipped my grande americano at my favorite Starbucks, I was treated to a fascinating history of the tarot and how it works for this gentleman in particular.  He seemed completely sane and passionate about his tarot work.  And bonus -- he can talk to trees!  That was welcome news; I've got an Alder out back that's been reclusive lately and I'd like to know what's bugging it.

In my search for Halloween party entertainment, I also talked to a numerologist who gave me a reading over the phone.  He pegged me, was right on the nose in his assessment of who I am as a person, yet I still don't believe in numerology.  It shouldn't have surprised him when I didn't hire him -- he had just told me five minutes earlier I was a born cynic and very difficult to sway.

In other news, this is what Lucien chose to wear for his school picture day --

the bowtie really takes it over the top

And I made a bowl-like object in my pottery class --

And Supermodel Neighbor has saved the day regarding the continuing work on Banister Abbey.  He may live in Portland now but he has heeded my long distance plea for help several times and remains my most loyal and unbroken contractor.  (I've broken several other contractors, you see, and have no idea where they've scampered off to because they're very good hiders.)

For weeks now my house has smelled like wood stain and bacon -- wood stain because Supermodel Neighbor and I have conditioned/dyed/stained/sealed several new doors and miles of new wood trim, and bacon because it's delicious.

Here's a couple before and afters to celebrate this fumey period in our lives.  The kitchen has always bothered me because everything is new.  The previous owner left no hint of the original character of the kitchen when he remodeled it.  So we decided to fake the character.  Thanks to Supermodel Neighbor's knowledge and his continued gentle redirection of MJ when she bought the wrong product (often), I learned brand new wood can instill old character when finished properly.



The previous owner also installed cheap hollow-core doors all over the place.  We are one-by-one taking those down and replacing them with five-panel fir doors, as the gods intended it to be in houses as old as Banister Abbey.



It's good to have loyal unbreakable friends in the carpentry business.

The Seahawks played last weekend.  It didn't end well.

Alex and I, for reasons we don't understand other than we're pretty random, ended up at an Ethiopian sports bar for the game.  We were the only non-Ethiopians in the place.  The air was thick with accents and the smell of Ethiopian food.  Al and I have never been the only white people in a bar before.  Nobody seemed to give much of a rip about the whiteness in their midst so we happily settled in for the long haul and ordered some of that Ethiopian spongy bread smothered in lamb and onions.

It's not what I would consider "bar food" but I'm not Ethiopian so what the hell do I know.

The game was abysmal and depressing but the company was good.  One man sitting next to us was such a fanatical Seahawks fan he could not sit still.  Whenever the Hawks eff'd up (often) he began pacing back and forth next to our table, wringing his hands and shouting, "That's just baaaad business!  That's just baaaaad business!"

Also, when the Seahawks challenged a catch made by the Cowboys -- it was obviously a legitimate catch and was a dumb thing to challenge -- the guy paced around waving his arms and  yelling, "Awwww no! That was a love-ly catch, a love-ly catch."

I now use both these phrases, much to Alex's delight, often and repetitively and loudly.

Al:   "MJ, I can't find my wallet."
MJ:  "That's just baaad business!  That's just baaad business!"

Al:   "MJ, can you help me lift this heavy cabinet that has fallen on me and crushed my spleen?"
MJ:   "That was a love-ly catch... a love-ly catch!"

Al:  "MJ, should we diversify our stock portfolio?"
MJ:  "That's just baaad business!  That's just baaad business!"
Al:  "Really?  Perhaps you're right.  Let's just keep all our money in that one stock."
MJ:  "Uh-oh."

I'm very busy, have to get back to curating my Halloween party playlist and perfecting bloody fingers and entrails and various other disgusting things nobody's going to eat because I am truly that good.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

All routine and no aquamarine

Sometimes I fall face first and stiff as a board onto the couch at the end of the day and wonder aloud, my voice muffled by our peanut butter cracker scented couch cushions, "but what did I DO today?" The days are full but I don't feel a whole lot of personal satisfaction at the end of them.  I mostly feel a bit "what?" with a sprinkle of "sh*t" and a pinch of "derp."

It's a little blurred and a little dull.  Lately it's all routine and no salk vaccine.

(I googled "words that rhyme with routine" in the hopes of finding an inspiring match.  I didn't find an inspiring match.  Instead I found words such as wide screen, propylene, slot machine and salk vaccine.  I'm going to run with it.)

I'm good at getting the daily checklist done.  I pay the bills on time, we rarely run out of clean underwear, I fill out ALL THE FORMS (when you have little kids there are billions of forms), and our fridge is cleared of rotten produce regularly (annually, but whatever). If the rental house has a busted dishwasher, I'm all over it.  If Oscar is due for his shots and/or flea medication, done and done. If Bobo hasn't pooped in two months yet again then -- KABLOWIE! -- it's time for another sh*t-inducing warm bath for everyone's favorite lizard.

None of this is particularly bad but none of it is particularly life-giving either.  I'm guessing most people feel this way about their daily lives.  It's a slog, man, the daily grind.  It's all routine and no arithmetic mean.

You've got to break free sometimes and do something radical, something insane.

I think you know where I'm going with this --

You've got to go nuts and learn how to throw pottery on a wheel

I've always wanted to learn how to throw pottery on a wheel.  The movie Ghost likely has something to do with this, though admittedly I would feel uncomfortable if some guy came up behind me while I was sitting in my class and started kissing my neck.  I would be more, "What the hell is wrong with you, guy?" than "Take me on this pottery wheel while I pretend you're Patrick Swayze."

Throwing clay on a wheel is hard.  To make matters more intimidating, there are many people in my class who have years of experience.  They sit down and touch the clay and beautiful things spring forth from their strong and capable hands.  I, however, touch the clay with the grace of a t-rex and usually spin it right off the wheel -- *thunk* -- into the chest of the unfortunate person sitting next to me.  I *dab dab* their shirt delicately with a wet rag and promise to work very hard on the centering step so it doesn't happen again.

There's one woman in the class who's a beginner like me.  We have thus gravitated towards each other and hunker down at neighboring wheels in the far corner.  We can be found back there either muttering a string of the foulest swear words you can imagine or laughing uncontrollably with tears streaming down our faces and flowing down our arms -- which is handy since one must keep one's hands wet when throwing on a wheel.

We're beginners in the far corner throwing wonky looking pottery made with our own tears.  There's something really great and appropriate about that.

My new friend's clay spun off her wheel last week and hit me in the side of the head and it was all downhill from there.  When she accidentally poked a hole right through the side of her wobbly vessel, she proclaimed, "Oh thank God, that's exactly what I wanted it to look like."  When my own jacked-up piece of work couldn't take it anymore and flopped over on itself, I put my arms up and announced, "I think it's obvious I have learned all there is to know here, I'm ready to teach!"

The teacher comes over to us often but there's little she can do to stem the insanity happening in our corner.  Last time she gave us some pointers and said, "It's so frustrating to learn this and I love that you guys are laughing and not giving up."  Then I said, "Well, at least we're not throwing things yet" and received a collective groan from the class.  It was my first public pun and my first collective groan and I feel good about that.

The kids crashed our date night last weekend.  Alex and I were set for a nice dinner at Salty's with a heart-swelling sunset view of downtown across the water.  Our time alone is rare these days and we had much to catch up on.  But then our babysitter didn't show.

After a brief deliberation, we decided to keep our reservation and expand it from 2 people to 4 people.

Hey kid, what are you doing on my date?

It ended up being a good decision.  It was a truly enjoyable family dinner at a nice restaurant and those are hard to come by.  Plus now I know what Coco looks like through a pink balloon --

So this little girl is turning 5 this weekend.  Here she is climbing her aunts' tree and marveling at her feat as only a kid can --

Damn, she's five already. When did that happen?  I often feel I'm missing a large chunk of my kids' childhoods because I've got my head down too much, stuck in the boggy details of daily living.  More often than not it's "Coco, I can't read you a book right now, I've got to get dinner started."  I hate that but in the moment it's fatigue and trying to check the boxes for the day so I can go to bed.

It's the ole paradox of parenting  -- the days last forever but the years go so fast.

I'm going to promise Coco this year will be different.  I WILL read that stupid book I'm sick of for the umpteenth time and feed everyone bologna sandwiches for dinner.  She's not going to stay young and cuddly and thinking I'm awesome for long so I better live it up.

It's all routine and no time machine,

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stupid City Folk and Unlucky Children

Summer is over so I'm back.  I hope I can reclaim my writing mojo after these months of neglect.  It was a lost summer in terms of blogging and book writing but it was a winner in terms of kids staying up late, dirt and bugs. Oh, and Minecraft.  Lots and lots of Minecraft.

I'll start with a quick update on the kids, just a few anecdotes to illustrate not much has changed, they are still very much themselves.

I asked Lucien to bring me my purse the other day. This is what happened when he handed it over:

Loosh:  "Mom, I found some sticky stuff on the bottom of your purse so I licked it."
Me:  (staring) "Lucien, why would you ever lick a sticky mystery substance off a purse?"
Loosh:  (shrugging) "I figured there's always a chance it's maple syrup!"

He's not technically wrong.  He also doesn't appreciate the overwhelming odds that sticky substance was bar sludge gathered when I sat my purse on a bar floor during our last Moms' Night Out.  

I took Lucien to pick up some wood stain for the house and asked him to help carry the various cans to the car after we'd checked out.  Lucien looked at the cans and suddenly began waving his arms around and yelling in the small store: "Hey everybody!  Help!  Help!  My mom's trying to kill me over here!"

Isn't it wonderful that kid can still take me by surprise?  I whispered, "What the HECK are you DOING?" as all heads swiveled in my direction and beady eyes pointed at my face.  Lucien then pointed at the label on the can of wood stain, put a hand to his heart, and read aloud in a voice befitting the most seasoned of stage actors: "Warning!  Poison! Keep out of reach of children!"  Then he bowed.

Coco is doing well in her new preschool.  She now thinks she can write (false) so every surface in the house is covered in an indecipherable scrawl -- it's like a cross between a Picasso sketch and sanskrit.  I hate it when she hands me a piece of paper covered in the stuff and says happily, "Read it, Mommy!"  I start making stuff up but realize I'm veering wildly off her intended course when the corners of her mouth turn down and her eyes turn hard.  Then she usually grabs the paper from me in a huff and tells me I don't know how to read.

Coco has also begun to address audiences -- gathered several times a day for her meandering ballet and singing shows in our entry hall -- as "Welcome to my show, unicorns and gentlemen."  I asked her what happened to the "ladies" and she shrugged and looked unconcerned.  She did recently tell me she wants to be a unicorn when she grows up so perhaps the two are related.

My annual solo-parent road trip with my two young children happened last month.  I drove them to Denver, where my mom had recently undergone surgery to replace one of her knees with a titanium counterpart.  I felt perhaps I could be of assistance in the aftermath of such major surgery.  Judy may now be part machine but she and Dad could probably use help procuring groceries until she gets her bionic legs under her.

Very few people understand how happy I am to do these road trips with my kids.  Most people tell me it sounds like torture.  It's not even close.  It's a heart-swelling combination of my kids having strange conversations in the backseat, my favorite music blaring loudly, the open road with nobody on it, an incredible view and an 80 mph speed limit, and a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos within arms reach at all times.  How can that be considered torture? It's euphoria!

Have I inspired you to round up some kids (preferably your own) and drive long distances?

This was somewhere in Idaho.  Maybe Utah.  Hard to say.

I like to believe our time in Colorado was helpful or at least uplifting to my recovering Mama but I fear it was mostly exhausting.  Dad and I took the kids to a nearby skate park daily so Mom could rest.  Lucien ran into Coco pretty hard at the skate park at one point, knocking her off her scooter.  He apologized but as he scooted off again he yelled over his shoulder, "Ha! I'm awesome!" Coco dusted herself off, shook her head and muttered, "He's not awesome, he's dumb."

Coco gave all my old Strawberry Shortcake dolls a ride
on the Remington sculpture.
Some are faring better than others.

We took the scenic route home to Seattle via Arches National Park in southern Utah.

We were inside the park well before 7:00 am -- a result of having early riser children and in this case a total plus. Instead of sharing the arches with five million tourists, as usually happens when one visits Arches, we had the arches all to ourselves as the sun rose over them.  The kids and I scrambled around Sand Dune Arch, and up and down under Double Arch, completely alone for the better part of two hours.  It was some of my happiest time on earth so far.

When the first giant tour bus pulled into the parking lot, we left.  
We were no longer willing nor able to share the park with others.  

After returning from our road trip, we immediately packed the car back up to go spend Labor Day weekend with our friends on one of the San Juan Islands.

There were 16 of us scattered about in tents in the yard and the nooks and crannies inside our cottage rental. There was only one bathroom.  It's a damn good thing we're a very close-knit group.


We stumbled across many sleeping men during our long weekend on the island.  We did what anyone would do in our situation -- we messed with 'em.

We decorated this one with meat.

We zipped this one into his sweatshirt.

Bam, rabbit ears, sucker

We made headlines during our island stay, at least the imaginary ones in our minds.  We went for a group hike one day and nearly lost all our kids when they followed each other Pied Piper style towards a cliff. After we'd screamed and gathered them back up again, we were able to laugh and picture the headline we would have generated: "Wow, stupid city folk lose ALL NINE of their children."

Seattle Dad gathered wood for the bonfire one night and returned with a beautiful thick cross section of a log.  We commended him for the great find.  The next morning we realized he had "gathered," and we had subsequently burned, the piece of wood the next door neighbors used as a step from their backyard down to the beach.  The absence of said log created quite a drop.  That incident spawned our next imaginary headline:  "Elderly woman faceplants attempting beach access when stupid city folk burn her stairs."

Now that I've more or less done a crappy job of wrapping up our summer, it's time to move on.  The first items to address are our wills, or lack thereof.  Alex and I have been without wills all this time and realize it's unacceptable with small children in the picture.

We met with a lawyer to right our wrong.  It's fun to sit in a room with a lawyer and envision how life will be when you die.  Bossy people must love making wills because they can be all, "I'm gonna tell you what to do even after I'm DEAD, HA!"

Al and I decided pretty quickly that Raba and Zee should take the kids if both of us croak before they're grown.  Then the lawyer asked, "What happens if both you and Alex are dead and Raba and Zee are dead?" and we exclaimed, "Dear God!  These are very unlucky children!"

Anywho, I'm back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

We live!

I didn't intend to take the summer off from the blog but I seem to be doing exactly that.  I don't have any good excuses for doing so.  I haven't jetted off to some remote vacation locale nor have I become Supermom and spent every precious summer moment doing arts and crafts with my kids.  Trust it, I have not come close to doing either of those things.

No, there's just something about this summer that's made me lose the desire to do anything. Part of the issue is our relaxed summer schedule, up an hour later than usual and moseying to the car instead of sprinting because who the hell cares if the kids are late to summer camp.

Part of it is the ever-changing nature of that same relaxed summer schedule.  Every week looks different; there are no more constants. I'm a creature who craves predictability so the shifting schedule has given me an off-balance paranoid vibe. I stare at my calendar often and give myself pep talks. I know I'm about to let something fall through the ever changing cracks and I'm rarely wrong -- so far we've missed speech therapy twice, t-ball practice once, drove to the wrong camp once and left lunches in the fridge at home dozens of times.

The other issue is our new back deck.  I install myself out there in the shade of the morning with a cup of coffee.  My intent is to read the newspaper then stand back up and go about my day.  But once the sun peeks up over the top of the house, it begins to bake me to an uncomfortable degree and I go limpy, newspaper discarded, arms dangling off the sides of the chair, sweat pooling in various places on my body. The sun saps me of energy and strength.  It's a good thing I live in Seattle and only have to deal with that damn thing a handful of months out of the year.

Coco is playing t-ball now.  Four-year-olds playing t-ball is an exercise in confusion and chaos coupled with unbridled joy and random enthusiasm. Parents must be stationed at all bases and must constantly wave their arms and direct the children where to run; otherwise the vast majority skip first base entirely and charge straight ahead to second or what the hell, some direction where there is no base at all.

there are three kids on first base and no one can explain why

My personal favorite is when our entire team runs after a ball hit by the other team and fights over it in a writhing wrestling heap in the middle of the field.  The victor eventually holds the ball high over his/her head with a beaming face, yells, "Look! I got it!"  then inexplicably walks over and hands the ball to the nearest grown-up.  Meanwhile the other team is lapping the bases, usually out of order.

Four-year-old t-ball is a good show all day long yet we parents dread the practices and games.  I can't explain that.

Lucien and Coco both took swimming lessons this summer.  We enrolled in lessons with "The Swim Whisperer," a woman who holds small lessons in private residential pools around the city.  She's a treasure but takes no prisoners.  One kid in Coco's class refused to get in the pool so The Swim Whisperer walked over and just chucked him in.  The message was clear -- The Swim Whisperer doesn't f*ck around.

Good luck my darling

The biggest news of the summer is my sister got married.  Actually she was already married -- that happened months ago in the shotgun chapel saloon girl costume incident -- but this was the official version with friends and family.  I was her "special person" (best I can tell, that's Seattle lesbian wedding code for Maid of Honor) and therefore I had many important duties such as picking up the "gaybies" the morning of the ceremony.  I didn't know what a gaybie was but I was happy to be of assistance.

These are adorable gaybies being rapidly consumed by children  
(They're rainbow-colored mini cupcakes and they're delicious)

It was a beautiful ceremony by the lake.  Raba and Zee are so happy.  We love them both and we love them together.  There can be no other way.

Raba and Zee's joy is palpable; it radiated throughout their wedding, rippled through their guests, and touched us all right in the hearts.  Except for Lucien, that is, because he was too busy.  Unbeknownst to me, Lucien stood behind me -- ME!  THE SPECIAL PERSON! -- at the ceremony and did stuff like this --

Oh my God, this child

Lucien read his quote from Maya Angelou at the ceremony with perfect speed, diction and projection.  He was also 100% himself as usual.  Bravo all around, son, you're an original and a keeper even if you gave me these permanent circles under my eyes.

Here's a picture of one of our more disastrous happenings this summer --

(don't worry, he lives...)

We put Bobo the Bearded Dragon on a leash and took him outside for a walk.  We thought he would enjoy soaking up the hot sun rays because his previous owners assured us he did indeed enjoy this but he didn't appear to enjoy himself at all.  He froze. If anyone came near him, or made a noise, or a breeze blew across his back, he puffed his beard and emitted a low steady hissing sound.  Our docile little animal had gone native and we were terrified of the little f*cker for a minute there.

I moved very slowly towards the end of the leash, planning to gently lead him back inside where I could put him back in his tank and mark the outing a colossal failure.  Bobo had his own plan, though.  He wasn't going back inside.  He was going to escape from the bastards who tied a piece of string attached to a leather harness around him, which by the way made him look like a lizard who enjoys light bondage.

The second I pulled on the leash to lead him inside, he bolted in the opposite direction towards the street.  He struggled so valiantly against the leash he managed to wiggle his legs out of the leather harness. I watched the harness slip down his body and thought, "Holy hell, if he wiggles all the way out of the thing he's going to make a run for it and when I go after him he's going to bite me."  I panicked and pulled the leash tighter which resulted in the harness portion tightening around Bobo's back legs and tripping him.  He fell on his lizard face.

A few tense moments later, I had a dazed and confused Bobo in my arms and was running him up the stairs.  I dumped him back into the safety of his tank.  Lucien and I took a few deep breaths and looked at each other with wide eyes.  It's unlikely we'll ever take Bobo into the great outdoors again.

Coco has the best view at the Bite of Seattle

Our friends who live in Sweden visited this summer.  They came over for a "quick dinner" because that's all their busy visiting schedule allowed. Our "quick dinner" turned into a very long dinner with a lot of wine and ultimately led to this --

-- inflating bright blue air mattresses on the stair landing and finding clean sheets for the guest room for our friends and their three sons at 11:30 pm.  At this point the kids were maniacally hyper overtired and the adults were even worse behaved.  Impromptu sleepovers are the best; they're the kinds of events where you stumble into your kitchen the morning after, survey the wreckage of plates caked with food and warm glasses of beer still on the table and say sleepily, "Whoa..."  followed by high fives and "Thank God we're still fun."

Then you brew strong coffee and fry up some bacon and eggs before saying goodbye for what will likely be a very long stretch of time.  No matter, we'll still be good friends on the flipside.

As an aside -- all three of those little Swedish boys speak fluent English.  Our friends said that in Sweden, if a child has a parent that speaks another language they have a right to a private language tutor.  Their kids get private English lessons because their dad is a Seattle native, courtesy of the Swedish government.  Damn it, Sweden, why must you do everything so awesome?

Our Swedish friends emailed us upon returning to Sweden and said their middle son has been talking a lot about Lucien.  He said, "Lucien is so lucky.  He has three pets:  a dog, a bird, and a dinosaur."  I didn't mention in my response the "dinosaur" may enjoy light bondage and may hate my guts at the moment.

We had some friends over for dinner on the deck for Alex's birthday.  Alex made it clear he didn't want a birthday cake because he's low-carb these days.  He instead requested a cheese plate for dessert.  Like we used to do in Paris.  I stuck a candle in a delicious French blue and we called it a day.

birthday cheese plate: a new tradition or something dumb that should never be repeated?

I'll be back here before school starts to post some more happenings of the summer.  Unless I don't get around to it.  Thanks to those who emailed to make sure we were OK --that's a glaring sign you've let your blog go a bit, isn't it -- we're all alive and well, just lazy and confused.

I just know I'm supposed to be somewhere right now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stories, most involving screaming

The end of the school year is chaos.  There's a ceremony or event every day at one of the kids' schools. None of them are very fun and they all seem designed to make parents insane by being either emotionally manipulative (Her "graduation"? What? She's four years old!) or too overwhelming ("Come to the school carnival where a constant stream of screaming kids are going to step on your toes as they run past you. And you have to work at a booth. And it's going to be hell.")

School stuff aside, our general contractor showed up on our driveway recently and started to cry.  His wife of 30 years just left him and now he can barely get out of bed.  It's hard to pressure a guy in a situation like that so our exterior project may never be finished.  We may have to be OK with a half painted house.

(We're giving him some time to regroup and then will gently suggest he focus on his work, that his work will give him strength and pull him through...)

I chaperoned Coco's preschool field trip to a nearby farm a couple weeks ago.  I spent most of the farm visit shielding a little girl from view of the pigs, of which she was inexplicably terrified.  If she happened to look up when my body wasn't blocking her view of said demon pigs, she would start screaming.

 this is how far we had to stand from the pigs

At one point we had to walk past the pig pen and that was a tense moment indeed.  I picked up the little girl, her screams in my ears and her kicky legs landing directly on my kneecaps, and ran past the pigs.  I deposited her safely on the other side of the pig pen in front of a cow who had her nose stuck through the slats of her fence.  The little girl didn't like that cow either so I had to pick her up again and run past the cows.  Rinse and repeat at the goats.

That was exhausting but the worst part of the field trip was the constant singing of "Frozen" songs from the four little girls packed into my car there and back.  It seems I wasn't the only one suffering; when we got back to school, a fellow chaperone threw open his car door and fell helplessly to the pavement pleading, "If I hear one more "Frozen" song I'm going to lose my mind, please make them stop, please, please."  But they didn't stop, they'll never stop.

Coco had another sleepover with her aunts recently.  She did their nails because Coco is convinced she's good at giving manicures. (She isn't.)  The worst part is when she blots your still-wet nails with a napkin and tells you "It helps them dry faster" when you protest.  Then you have to spend the next week walking around with pieces of napkin stuck to your nails because if you remove her manicure, so help you God, she will glare you to death.

I volunteered to work the Prize Booth at the elementary school carnival last night.   That's a brutal job, especially at the end of the evening when all the kids swarm the prize booth to redeem their tickets for prizes.  I'm well suited to that kind of chaos for some reason (it's because I'm raising Lucien).  I can usually roll with yelling and jostling kids but this event stretched even my limitations.  I lost my voice halfway through and needed water so badly I began grabbing the wrists of friends as they passed and croaking, "water....please..." in a hoarse voice that frightened them.

Alex eventually joined me at the Prize Booth.  If I'm well suited for that kind of work, Alex is born for it.  He immediately morphed into a carnival barker.  He held up crappy toys, declared them the "must-have toy of the carnival" and then held an auction for the hot ticket item when the kids started fighting over a toy they weren't interested in five seconds prior.  Alex cleared the prize table of a lot of crap with his wheeling dealing methods.

Some big news around here is Lucien finally learned how to ride a bike.  He's resisted learning to ride a bike for years, always told me he was happy with his scooter and didn't care about bikes.  I would tell him bikes are faster than scooters but he never believed me.  He would then challenge me to a bike/scooter race down the sidewalk and would always win because he has less concern for smacking into the many pedestrians on that sidewalk than I do.

The turning point was a sleepover at a friend's house.  His friends wanted to ride bikes but Lucien told them he didn't know how.  So his friends -- two on either side of the bike and one standing in front yelling directions and encouragement -- taught him how to ride in about five minutes.  He took off around the block and hasn't gotten off the bike since.

Maybe I can convince his friends to teach Lucien how to tie his shoes, too.  All I get on that is, "Meh, just keep buying me these kinds of shoes" as he points down to his slip-on Vans.

I played a game of chess with Lucien this evening.  I had him cornered and said, "checkmate."  Lucien then grabbed his king and, arm stiff like a windshield wiper, wiped all the remaining pieces off the board while yelling, "Oh my God, my king's gone crazy, what is he doing, I don't know what's going on!"  He then ran out of the room and up the stairs into his bedroom where he locked the king inside a storage bin.  He still claims I haven't won the game.

I texted the chess story to Alex, out for drinks at the time with his old European posse who are in town for a work meeting.  Alex relayed the story to his friends and the German guy responded, "I think that's how the French won all their wars."

Please, Coco, please no more manicures,