Friday, February 27, 2015

Kafka is a riot

The bad news is I'm guilty of blog neglect.  The good news is I've been neglectful because there's so much incredible fun livin' going on around here.


exhibit a

For example, the kids and I have recently taken up geocaching.  Geocaching, to most participants, is an exciting worldwide treasure hunt using GPS coordinates to find random hidden stuff stashed all over the place.  For me and my two kids and my finicky inaccurate GPS, however, geocaching is being lost in the woods for two hours, walking in circles, and never finding what you're looking for.

We knew, thanks to a clue on the geocache website, that the thing was hidden in a fake rock at the base of a tree.  We eventually began kicking rocks under every tree we passed in a desperate attempt to find the thing and feel successful.  Trust me, you do not realize how many rocks are under trees until you start looking for a specific one under a specific one.

In other fun news we lost the Super Bowl.  We threw a Super Bowl party that was really exciting and energy-filled right up until the end of the stupid game.  Our guests were so upset, so desperate to flee and nurse their wounds in private, they left within thirty seconds of the last play. They left in such a rush and in such emotional states, two people left without their shoes.  Sad barefoot football fans roaming the streets, that's what that day did to us.

We're mostly over the loss but it's hard because our house continues to mock our pain.  Every morning we come downstairs to this festive bunch of Seahawks balloons which, for some upsetting reason, refuse to die.  I could pop them but I paid a lot of money for them so can't bring myself to do that. Perhaps I'll let Coco play nearby with a ladder and a sharp knife.

perky as ever

Alex and I went to see a band Thursday night.  Sonny and the Sunsets are a fun band but their opening act was a real stinker.  It was a solo lady with a guitar who apparently kissed her boyfriend a bunch of times.  I am assuming this because she sang a song in which the sole lyrics were "I kissed my boyfriend I kissed my boyfriend I kissed my boyfriend."

Things took a turn for the worse after that.  I think her boyfriend dumped her and got a new girlfriend because the next song's lyrics were "Jessie's got a new girl Jessie's got a new girl Jessie's got a new girl" sung over melancholy chords while wearing a dark pair of sunglasses. Jessie was probably not into being kissed 24 hours a day and needed some space.

Alex and I felt awesome being out late with the band-listening crowd.  Band-listening people wear perfectly worn-in jeans and vintage corduroy jackets with ironic patches on the back like "Pete Peterson's Family Friendly Gun Shop!" Indeed, it was fun to feel part of the scene again but then we made the mistake of leaning against the back wall.  We immediately began dozing off from the overwhelming fatigue our aged bodies were experiencing.

We went home halfway through the set, leaving all the hipsters wearing overalls and women with ombre shaded violet hair behind.  It's OK to try to be young again but it's also OK to be true to your damn selves and get out when your feet start to ache from all the standing.

we came.  we saw.  we left early.


I'm still learning how to throw pottery on a wheel.  I'll let you know when I make something that doesn't make people laugh out loud upon seeing it.

I'm also in a writing class.  I needed a boost for my Paris book writing, needed to shake off the stagnant place in which I found myself and mix it up a little.  I enrolled in a humor writing class, first class was last week.

Right off the bat, immediately after roundtable introductions, our teacher told us to re-write the first paragraph of The Metamorphosis by Kafka but make it HILARIOUS.  We would then read our paragraphs out loud.  It was strongly insinuated if we didn't make our teacher laugh, we were failures. He gave us ten minutes for this exercise which, when re-writing Kafka as uproarious comedy, doesn't seem like enough.

That was quite a bonding experience.  We scribbled furiously, occasionally stopping to glance at one another and silently mouth swear words in wide-eyed panic.  I re-wrote The Metamorphosis in first person and turned myself into an ant, awakening in my room to the sudden overwhelming desire to lift a Buick.  The teacher laughed so I didn't fail.  Not yet anyway.

Work continues on Banister Abbey.  Supermodel Neighbor is here again. He now carries enough authority in the house to give my children stern talking-tos when necessary and has his own shelf in the refrigerator. He's family.

S.N. is currently building stair railings for our two flights of stairs.  It's a momentous time -- Banister Abbey is finally going to have banisters.


As a reference, this was the 3rd floor stairway when we first viewed the house nearly three years ago --

 Welcome to your new home
we strongly suggest never going upstairs


Before we moved in, we had a temporary railing made of splintery 2x2s installed so nobody would fall off the stairs and die on their way up to the office --




But now, after just a few weeks of Supermodel Neighbor cursing repeatedly, here's where we are --


Never mind the blue painters tape.  I'm in the process of priming and painting the unfinished newel posts and skirts.  It's still a work in progress but trust it, it's going to have pizazz.

The balusters and hand rail used above are originally from the main staircase. They are original to the home, circa 1904, and were located here when we first saw the house --

they don't make them that awesome anymore


Now regarding the picture at the beginning of this post --



Despite being the only person in the room -- in fact the only person on the first floor -- when the lamp was snapped in two, Coco still claims absolutely no knowledge of events.



Punk


My apologies for neglecting the blog.
In my defense, it's very difficult to blog when I'm lost in the woods.
MJ

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Snafus and lessons learned

Welcome to this side of 2015.  With the holidays behind us and our Christmas tree lying pathetically dry and alone on our front lawn, I decided to check back in and tell some stories of our holiday season.

Guys, please, can I just get one good picture in front of the Christmas tree?
No, mom, you can't.

First, a weightlifting snafu.  Alex lifts weights in our basement -- a truly admirable thing given the terrifying nature of the space.  Our basement is claustrophobic, maybe 100 square feet, with low ceilings and damp concrete walls standing three-quarters of the height to the ceiling.  The remaining quarter, the space between wall and ceiling, is a void.  It's a deep dank abyss into which you cannot see but from which you can occasionally hear a faint rustling.

What I'm saying is the basement sucks and I avoid it as much as possible.  I thought Alex was nuts as he carefully, piece by piece, carried his weight set into the basement.  He brushed aside thick cobwebs and whistled cheerfully as he assembled.  Unbelievable.  I'd rather pump up my muscles naked in the front yard with a camera crew present than spend time in that hellhole.

I'm a supportive wife, though, so whenever Alex needs a spotter for a weight-lifting session, I descend the wobbly narrow stairs agreeably.  I've done this dozens of times without incident, for the record.

This time we were both off our game.  The first set went fine but the second set quickly went to hell.  Usually when I spot Alex, I only have to apply a small amount of force to the weight, just enough to help him get his arms back under it again.  This time, though, he fatigued earlier than usual and I wasn't ready, wasn't quick enough on the draw.  The weight bar came down on his chest, with all of the nearly 200 lbs attached to it, and there it stayed.

I panicked as he turned red in the face.  The bar was so tightly pressed to his chest, I couldn't get my fingers even a little bit under it.  Even if I could have, I cannot lift 200 pounds because I'm not an ant and cannot lift two of myself, especially while in a bent over and panicked position.  I settled for screaming in Alex's face instead.

We should have practiced this scenario beforehand.  I could have run around to the end of the bar and pushed it up and off him.  Instead we did the worst thing and began rolling the bar down the length of his body.  As it rolled over his ribs, it did some damage.  He finally wiggled out from under the thing and eventually, after what seemed like forever, stopped yelling, "OWW! OWW! OWW!."

He's on the mend but is still walking around the house moaning and clutching his torso.  He's also telling everybody within earshot his wife tried to kill him for the insurance money.


Aside from that disaster, we also had a squirrel poop snafu.  Coco and I sat outside her preschool one morning waiting for it to open.  It was a gloriously sunny day so Coco asked me to open the sunroof.  I did and soon thereafter a couple things hit me on the head and bounced into the open hood of my jacket.  At first I thought, "Oh! Some delicious berries!" and reached back into my hood.  I very soon -- and yet way too late -- realized I was handling squirrel poop.  I threw the poop out the window and ran into Coco's school, begging to be let in early so I could wash my hands because, well, poop.

I guess the lesson is don't park under a tree with the sunroof open.  And if you do, don't wear a hood that can serve as a squirrel poop receptacle.

Then there was a tequila incident.  We were invited to a tequila tasting at a local bar by some friends. Alex and I were starving upon arrival because we'd forgotten to eat for hours.  We were greeted at the table by an enthusiastic group of people and seven bottles of tequila.  Alex turned to me and said, "Seven shots of tequila on an empty stomach.  I'm sure this will end well."

Fast forward -- it didn't end well.

here's a unicorn Coco made out of some paper

Then there was the birthday party snafu.  Lucien was invited to a classmate's birthday party at a local family-friendly establishment.  When the birthday girl still hadn't arrived 15 minutes after the start time, one of the parents asked an employee what was up.  The employee responded the birthday party had been cancelled.

After much grumbling, all the other guests left except us.  We decided to stay because the kids were occupied and happy, there was free WiFi,  and Alex and I needed a block of time to work on the final versions of our official wills.  It seemed reasonable to stay put.

Five minutes later the birthday girl walked through the door with her frazzled mother and little sister. The mother said they had waited in line forever to get the birthday cake and were therefore late to their own party!  Then she asked where everyone was.  Alex and I froze, looked at each other with wide eyes.  It was an epic miscommunication involving so many people.

Alex and I have many faults but one thing we do well is can-do attitudes.  We told her it was OK! We were going to have a great birthday party right there, so private and intimate, and won't everyone else be sorry they gave up so early and left.  The mom started to cry anyway.  Then the little sister decided to practice her reading skills in front of Alex's laptop screen.

As the mother cried, the little sister read aloud our intentions should Alex and I die.  She read (she's a super good reader, little devil) all about who gets our kids should we both bite it at the same time and how to divide assets if we die and our kids die and everyone is dead.  It didn't help the birthday party get off the ground, in fact gave it a rather somber vibe.

Lesson to learn -- if you hear a birthday party has been cancelled, get the hell out of there. Whatever you do, do not start working on your last will and testament.  It is not the convenient time you believe it to be.

Christmas happened.  I knew I was getting sick as I prepared my pork tenderloin for Christmas Eve dinner. Not just getting sick, but going down really really hard.  I hit the couch to sleep and Alex, confused by the pork tenderloin laying phallic-like before him on the counter, ordered Italian take-out for dinner.  It's not the way I pictured spending our last Christmas with both kids semi-believing in Santa Claus.  (The jig is already up with Lucien and Coco has been naturally skeptical of  The Man in Red since she was born.)

I stayed coherent long enough to play Santa.  I had to, it was my last year.  Setting out the milk and cookies made me gag so I laid on the floor for a minute, motionless.  Usually I eat the cookies myself but this year I weakly fed them to the schnauzer.  Oscar was delighted to take advantage of my illness, little jerk of a dog.

Christmas morning I managed to bake the sausage strata, start the coffee and pour the orange juice (when moms get sick they still get sh*t done, you see),  I then collapsed on the couch while my family opened presents around me.  I don't remember much about it.  I think the kids liked their new bikes?  At least for a minute they did.  They went outside to try them on the sidewalk and within thirty seconds Lucien flew over his handlebars. Brand new brakes are touchy.

seconds before it went wrong


It's time to focus on things that are going well and make me happy.  One is the fact I'm friends with the guy pictured below and he showed up at my house unexpectedly to wish me a Merry Christmas. His two passions in life are antiques and rebuilding cars so he was driving this --

The return of the prodigal Dan the Man

The other is my family.  My parents and brother came a week after Christmas to celebrate "late Christmas" and to attend the opening of Raba and Zee's play, A Streetcar Named Desire.  Raba and Zee have started a new theatre production company and for their first outing, it is spectacular.


Raba is playing the role of Blanche. She's painfully good.  The reviews of the play, and her in particular, are glowing, raving, and well deserved.  My heart ached watching her up there, slowly unraveling, slowly and brutally being betrayed by everyone around her.  Streetcar, you are such a cruel bitch of a story.

And finally, our Seahawks.  I won't rehash the NFC championship game; if you like football, you already know the details and if you don't like football, you'll skip over them anyway.  It is enough to say it was the greatest comeback in the history of anything, ever.  A game that seemed impossible to win (and had all of our guests silently nursing their beers with somber faces) was won in spectacular fashion in the last few minutes. Then our guests were spilling beer everywhere because of all the jumping and yelling and hurling ourselves into each others arms.


And now we're going to the Super Bowl.  AGAIN!!!

Seahawks never say die.
(or is that The Goonies...)


I, too, have always depended on the kindness of strangers,
MJ

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mary in a bell

This is a preschool field trip I recently chaperoned.  We used the city bus to get there and back because we love the environment at fancy preschool.  Yee-haw.  


We may love the environment but we chaperones don't love the anxiety and logistics involved in putting 20 kids on a city bus already full of people and getting all 20 back off again.  I had a nightmare the evening before the field trip and you guessed it, I left my entire group up in there somewhere.  As of my waking, they hadn't been heard from since.

Yes, we preschoolers may love the environment but I'm not sure our fellow riders loved us an equal amount.  That was evidenced by the face of the one guy who got pinned in the back corner.  His expression turned from genuine friendly smile into frozen mask of terror as tiny kids piled all around him and asked his name repeatedly.

It's Lucien and a gigantic snake.  Just be cool. 

Let's talk holiday.  Christmas is my favorite holiday but it's gotten harder.  Christmas as a kid was about twirling in circles in new holiday dresses and sucking on candy canes. Now it's about sitting bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night nursing the panicked thought, "I forgot to put the speech therapist on the thank-you holiday gift list!"

(I then go downstairs and write her name on the list immediately, lest I forget to purchase an Amazon gift card for the woman who made my unintelligible daughter somewhat intelligible.)

I miss being young at Christmas.  Gone are the days of lying under the Christmas tree with my brother, staring up into the branches at the lights and giggling. We had large-bulbed brightly colored lights on our tree back in the early 80s, not the chic tiny white lights of today.  Those giant hot lights could burn your nose off if your face got too close so lying under the tree was flirting with danger.  In addition to the potential injury, the lights blinked maniacally giving our living room the constant feel of a disco.  It was a 1980s Christmas and it was glorious.

My mom was often baking things.  She probably felt the same way I feel now when I'm trapped in the kitchen baking things.  Had I understood back then that Christmas could be stressful, that it was often an agonizing month-long preparation purgatory, my six-year-old self surely would have helped Mom or at least patted her on the back reassuringly.

Or maybe not, because I was busy.  I was busy grabbing Mary, the blessed mother of the baby Jesus, from our nativity set, sticking her head inside a bell-shaped Christmas tree ornament and declaring her "under the hair dryer at the beauty salon."  Mary was more often dangling from that "dryer" than resting in the manger with her newborn son.  My mom suspected this activity was sacrilegious but Mary's head fit so perfectly inside that bell there's no way it was wrong.

In other holiday news, Thanksgiving happened.  My parents flew in to join my sister Raba and sister-in-law Zee at our table. It was a warm and happy time but we missed my sweet brother who couldn't get the time off work to make the trip. He probably misses simpler holiday times, too.

We added a stray to our family Thanksgiving, a French man from Alex's work who had never experienced Thanksgiving before.  French Man is outgoing, warm, excited to sample everything Seattle has to offer.  He smiles all the time.  He bounces up and down a little when he talks.   His hugs are like being enveloped by a psychotically happy octopus (How can he have so many arms?). He's such an enthusiastically positive force for good, Alex once said, "It's like he's not French at all!"

(our stereotypes are expressed with the greatest affection and we miss you, French people...)

French Man's presence at Thanksgiving upped the ante.  I would normally have foregone many traditional staples for more contemporary options but instead felt the need to stick with the oldies, most of which sound unpalatable to foreigners.  Pumpkin pie?  Cranberry sauce?  Potatoes covered in so much brown sugar and butter they should be classified as dessert?   Crunchy curly things on the green beans, what?

I expected at the very least some hesitation but French Man dove into everything and pronounced it "amazing!" and "incredible!"  I wonder if there's anything I could have thrown his way that would have broken his can-do spirit.  Maybe Jello with suspended sliced bananas?  Easy Cheese on Ritz crackers?  Marshmallow Fluff eaten out of the jar with a spoon?  I'll have to invite him again to try these things and will report back.

I forgot to take pictures at Thanksgiving but here are a couple of Mom tickling Coco's feet --




Speaking of French people, Alex and I attended the Beaujolais Nouveau event, sponsored by the French-American Chamber of Commerce, a couple weeks ago.  It was a fancy event held on the top floor of our tallest building downtown.  It was an impressive location for a wine that's widely agreed to be awful.


Thankfully there were other things to drink besides the B.N.   I accepted a glass of rosĂ© from the roving servers when we arrived and immediately said, "Alex, we've got to ask the bartender for the name of this wine, it's incredible."  Alex walked away to do just that and returned a few minutes later with a kindly Frenchman who kissed my hand and said, "I hear you like my wine, Madame."  I asked Alex to get the name of the wine and he returned with the winemaker.  It was well played, Al.  

The Beaujolais Nouveau fĂȘte was full of "somebodies," a few of whom I didn't like.  Once they've reached "somebody" status, some people stop being authentic and start being schmoozy to an uncomfortable degree.  They should also lay off the tanning beds because it's Seattle in winter and they're orange.

Orange folks aside, the view of my city was awesome

Most of the people I met were great.  I made a new friend at our table when he leaned over and asked, "Why are you sitting there laughing all by yourself?"  I was indeed laughing all by myself because two elderly people had begun dancing right next to my chair.  It would have been a sweet moment but for the nature of the Serge Gainsbourg song to which they were dancing.  Alex is a fan of Serge so I know most of his songs, including the English translation of his oft-salacious lyrics.

I'm pretty sure those sweet silver-haired people aren't as familiar with Serge as I am.  I leaned over to my new friend and said, "Do you think they know they're dancing to a song about doing it in the butt?"


I'll be under the tree if anyone asks.
MJ

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dammit Karen

Alex and I were invited to a going-away dinner for one of his co-workers Saturday night.  Al told me the send-off was for a small group of people, just a couple others besides us, and that it was "a pretty casual thing."  I asked him if it was jeans casual and he said "probably, this is Seattle after all."

Seattle or not, I don't feel right wearing jeans to a dinner party so I wore my favorite dress but casual-ized it with a funky frayed cropped cardigan and clompy Seattle style boots.

We arrived at a giant house on a hill with a view for miles to find an extravagantly set table for 26 people and a handful of caterers in the kitchen.  Servers immediately descended upon me and offered a glass of champagne and some dainty spinach/cheese ball things.

After a quick panicked appraisal of the situation including the hostess's elegant cocktail dress, I whipped off my weird tacky sweater and flung it into the corner.  I also quickly got rid of my clunky boots, declaring I was "one of those people who believes it proper to remove one's shoes upon entry." (I'm not that person at all, I love my shoes)  Thankfully my tights were a lovely warm cinnamon color and were also blissfully hole-free, a condition in which most of my tights do not find themselves.

I shot Alex a sidelong stinkeye.  We've been together a long time so he knew exactly what I meant.  "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm not a detail person!" he hissed in my ear as he glanced frantically around the room and mentally evaluated his own wardrobe choices.

Not only was the dinner much fancier than anticipated but some of the "big guns" from the company were invited.  I'd heard the names before but had never met the people behind them.  Alex used to toss sleeplessly the night before giving presentations to these names and now I was about to meet them in my stocking feet.  I made a mental note never to listen to Alex's words again because they are false.

It was all ado about nothing, as are most things I get worked up about.  One guy did show up in jeans (this is Seattle after all) so I put my sweater back on because dang I was cold.  I met a woman who grew up in Detroit, a neighboring city to my hometown of Toledo, and now we're friends.  "The big guns" were no different from the underlings -- friendly, easy to talk to, good senses of humor.  Not once did I get nervous and blurt, "How much money do you have, money person?"

It was a success even though I felt dumb with no shoes and spent a crazy amount of time talking to a Civil War buff.  I was just faking it with that guy, I really don't know much about General Lee.

Sunday was glorious here in Seattle: clear, sunny, crisp, cold. We left our house in the morning with only a vague notion of what we were trying to accomplish then bounced around from place to place until we ended up back home.  Aimless days are usually the best days.


Playing Uno under the watchful eye of the Tabasco sauce



Ziplining into her brother



throwing rocks into the lake



Dad kid pile



a cheap haircut and an old school arcade


I'm snack parent at Coco's preschool this week and that's no laughing matter.  I must provide a full week of healthy snacks for 20 kids.  Each day's snack must include one protein, one carbohydrate and one fruit or vegetable.  Also, snacks cannot be repeated two weeks in a row. I have no idea why they can't be repeated but based on my experience, it's a rule designed to flush out the weak from the strong.

Your snack "menu" must be filled out the week before and submitted for approval.  Filling out my snack plan took an inordinate amount of time because I would think, "I'll bring pretzels for the carb on Tuesday" but then I would flip back to the week before mine in the snack menu book and "DAMMIT, KAREN!"  Karen had brought pretzels the week before my week so pretzels were no longer an option, they were dead to me. 

"OK....so...I'll bring pita chips then...." 
*flip flip* 
"DAMMIT KAREN!"  

Rinse and repeat with Goldfish crackers.

My snacks got obscure after that -- flax seed smoothies and salami wrapped breadsticks and hard boiled eggs dipped in strawberry coulis.  Karen sure as hell didn't do any of this, HA, I thought as I scribbled my snack plan furiously in the snack plan book.  

I'm getting carried away but all I'm trying to say is being snack parent is a weighty responsibility.  I awoke early this morning to chop up dozens of colorful bell peppers, portion out ham slices and count my rice crackers because it's just a big damn deal.  

We were hustling out of the house after my snack preparations when I took pity on our dog -- he's an old guy now, is deaf and has to wear a dog diaper at night -- and agreed he could ride with us in the car that morning.  But as soon as I opened the fence gate to shoo him into the car, Oscar, that idiot animal, took off down the street.  I yelled, "Oscar!  Oscar!"  as I ran after him clutching my cup of coffee and my snack bag full of prepared delicious goodness for 20 preschoolers.

Did I mention Oscar's deaf now?  He was so happy to be free.  He was oblivious, tail wagging, couldn't hear my frantic screaming.  For just a second he thought everything was right in the world and he was a young dog again.  Then he stopped to pee on a tree and Lucien pounced on him.  He looked up at us so hurt and confused.  He didn't understand our flailing arms and angry faces.  

We dragged him back to the car.  I opened the passenger side and he attempted to jump up on the seat.  Old guy he is, he got stuck halfway between the ground and the seat and dangled there whining until I grabbed him around the belly.  In grabbing him, however, my coffee, which was now clutched under an arm to load the dog, tipped at a precarious angle.

I saw what was going to happen before it happened yet I was powerless to stop it.  The coffee cascaded in a lovely arc straight into my meticulously prepared snack bag.  What didn't hit the insides of the bag ran down my dog's back , soaked my white gloves, and dripped down the front of my beloved red and white houndstooth coat.

 oh animal

Oscar was fine but was no longer welcome in the car that morning.  He was placed back inside the house.  I blotted the contents of the snack bag best I could.  The crackers were unscathed in their plastic container but the ham and bell peppers didn't fare as well.  I considered confessing as I handed the snack bag to the teachers with a cheerful smile but I knew they would make me re-do all that chopping and I didn't have the strength.  

To review, I served 20 preschoolers a healthy snack with one protein, one carb, one vegetable, and a healthy sprinkling of caffeine.  It should be an interesting day over there today.


Karen most definitely did not do that. HA!
MJ

Monday, November 10, 2014

No dice, pumpkin spice

Halloween is over so I can have a life again until next week when I start prepping for Thanksgiving. I will then have a brief life again until Christmas preparations begin, which will be alarmingly soon after the Thanksgiving meal has been consumed.

My grocery shopping for our annual Halloween party revealed America's perplexing obsession with all things pumpkin flavored and pumpkin scented.  There were pumpkin waffles, pumpkin lip balm, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin marshmallows.  I didn't investigate too thoroughly but I wonder how far it goes. I wonder if there are pumpkin flavored hot dogs.  I wonder if there are pumpkin scented suppositories, to remind you of Grandma's pumpkin pie when you take your butt medicine.

We need to get a hold of ourselves because if you truly cut open a pumpkin and take a sniff of the insides, or god forbid taste them, the experience will be more akin to day-old cat vomit than the deliciously warm and comfy scent those marketing geniuses have concocted.

Banister Abbey Parents Gone Wild Halloween 2014 was the best one yet.  It was the year I finally bought my own beer tap.  It was also the year I made sure to set our fire extinguisher on the counter before the party began.  I love my friends but they are definitely capable of burning down my house so it's best to have that thing handy.


I made the worms again

We had over 50 people this year, more than we've ever had before, and they were all enthusiastic, fully costumed, fully on board.  I dressed as Elvis Costello and didn't set my guitar down all night.  I couldn't.  My costume became nebulous without the guitar, something between a Blues Brother and a 1940s era hit man.  I smacked a lot of friends in their chests and shoulders with my guitar as I walked through the party but I think it was worth it to uphold my vision.

It's two Elvises and two White Stripes

Alex was a giraffe --

Animal costumes were popular this year
but what is up with that eagle cow?




A tarot card reader sat in the TV room and gave readings all night, some of which were life changing and had people crying on their way out of the room.  (That could have been the booze, though; too much of the hard stuff seems to have the same effect.) Our friends reported the tarot reader was amazing and right on point, minus the one lackluster review from a wife whose husband had just been told to come out of the closet.

Whoops.  I hope they don't come to the party next year costumed as a divorced couple.

has your life changed yet, Seattle Mom?

The final revelers left near 2:00 a.m. after one guest yelled, "You guys, seriously, MJ calls 911 all the time.  Believe me, she will call 911 on her own party if we don't leave."  I then placed the phone back down gently, grateful someone knew me so well, and understood who I am, at my core.

Here are my kids on actual Halloween, with a Victorian ghost up top --

Halloween
the only holiday that doesn't take itself seriously

exhibit A: my boy is a piece of bacon


As for other recent events, Coco had a starring role in her preschool's class play.  The play was based on an ancient theme, one that has plagued mankind for ages -- Coco had grown a pumpkin that was too big and she couldn't figure out how to get it off the vine.

One by one the other kids came by with helpful suggestions. There was a lot of tugging on the pumpkin -- a little melodramatically overacted, if you ask me.  After the 15th round of tugging and pulling and shrugging of tiny shoulders, Alex leaned over to me and whispered, "Someone give these kids a decent hacksaw and we're done here."

At the end they decided if they all pulled together they could get the pumpkin off the vine.  I guess it's necessary to suspend one's disbelief when watching a preschool play because I don't think even 20 tiny kids pulling together could rip a pumpkin the size of a Volkswagen off a 12-inch diameter vine.



I hit a parked car a couple days ago.  That was the start of a bad day.  Drop-off in front of Lucien's school is always a mess.  Parents are supposed to drive north down the street in front of the school to drop off their kids but there's always some dumb parent trying to come south.  You have to move over as far as you can to let the stupid idiot through. I moved over as far as I could which, I now know, was too far.  I pushed the limits of what was possible according to the parked truck I broadsided.

Lucien, helpful little soul he is, started yelling from the backseat, "OH MY GOD MOM STOP! STOP!  YOU'RE HITTING THAT CAR, MOM, YOU'RE HITTING THAT CAR" to which I replied through clenched teeth yet at full volume (I'm amazing) "I'M AWARE I'M HITTING A CAR RIGHT NOW, LUCIEN, THANK YOU."  The crumply crunchy screechy sound was my first clue, how about you, son?  What was your first indication the morning had gone to hell?

I left a note on the truck, not only because it was the right thing to do but because I knew Lucien would be running his mouth about it all day at school.  If I hit-and-runned it, it would take mere seconds for the school to track down the culprit thanks to the wise guy in 3rd grade.  I have no morals, really.

The truck guy hasn't called yet so fingers crossed he likes the modifications I've made to his vehicle.  Mine looks much worse, by far.  The entire side is torn up.  I may not get it fixed because it makes me feel kind of badass, gives me a little street cred, makes people fear me.


I returned from the school drop-off debacle to find Supermodel Neighbor (he's here working on the house again, both kids now believe him to be an uncle) pacing the house.  He told me he couldn't find his jacket, which he wouldn't worry about too much except his wallet was in the front pocket.  We'd gone out the night before to a friend's stand-up comedy competition (so fun).  We both remember him wearing his jacket home; it had been raining and we'd run to the car with jackets over our heads.  It had to be in the house somewhere, there was no other option.

So we ransacked it.  We tore it apart room by room all the while muttering it didn't make any sense. Then we went outside to search the car, which is when Supermodel Neighbor saw the torn-up side of my vehicle.  "What the hell....?"  he said and I said,  "Oh yeah, I hit a truck earlier,"  Then he opened the passenger side door and recoiled in horror, "WHAT THE HELL...?"  "Oh yeah." I said, "I forgot, Oscar (my dog) also threw up in the car this morning.  I should probably clean that up."

Supermodel Neighbor looked at me funny then, like he wanted to get in his car and drive back to Portland at that point but couldn't.  Because I had his wallet somewhere.

On a whim I called Alex to ask him if he had, for some unimaginable reason, taken Supermodel Neighbor's jacket to work.  And of course he had.  He was trying to return it to a Halloween Party reveler at work who had forgotten his jacket at our house thanks to the too-strong but delicious "Rosemary's Baby" punch.  Alex saw a strange jacket thrown over the back of a chair that morning, grabbed it and and hopped on his bike, whistling, believing he was doing a very good thing indeed.

The wallet was still in the pocket even after its ride to Corporate America.  I breathed easily again until I went to pick up Coco at school and stepped in a giant pile of dog poop -- dog must have been the size of a rhino -- right outside the school's front door.  A friend, who had been in touch with me via text all morning and knew of my struggles, witnessed this.  She went back inside the building and gathered up Coco's things while whispering to her and smoothing her hair, "Now be a good girl for Mommy, she's a mess today."




In good news, my pottery wheel instructor told me I was "a natural born potter."  I'll hold onto that nugget of goodness as I jettison my favorite pair of shoes towards the curb because I am never getting the dog sh*t out of all those crevices on the bottom.

That's mine in a nutshell.  How's yours?
MJ




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.


Before

After

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.

Before


After


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.
MJ