Friday, March 30, 2012

The boy is mine

Chickens are a "thing" in Seattle now.  We came back from Paris to find chickens in most of our friends' backyards.  If you're cool, you have chickens.  If you're cool but extremely unlucky, one of your "chickens" turns out to be a rooster.  Those boys are loud. 

A classmate of Lucien's has chickens.  They recently invited us over to see their new baby chicks.  The family is a lesbian couple with two daughters, so I considered saying, "Wow, this house really is full of chicks" when I walked through the door, but didn't.  I'm going to save that comment for when I know them better, though, because I think it's pretty good.

You would think holding chicks would be a delightful experience, but instead it's nerve-wracking, bordering on heart attack-inducing.  Both Lucien and Coco were excited, squeezing the tiny fragile bodies in a terrifying way that made the chicks squeak.  I performed many chick interventions, and gave chick-holding demonstrations, all while being climbed upon by many baby chicks. We lost one for awhile under the couch, then another behind a pillow.  I spent the visit thinking "we're going to kill one, maybe two, so when it happens, Imma run." Remarkably, all chicks were unscathed when we left but they probably needed some stiff drinks.

We've been to a lot of restaurants lately.  They've all been great except for the last one, which was a disaster, but we'll get to that in a minute.

We met our friends, Beer Guy and Beer Gal (they brew beer at their place, thus a new blog moniker is born), for brunch at Skillet diner on Capitol Hill.  The thing that matters most at Skillet, and possibly in this world, is the cinnamon roll.  Skillet's cinnamon rolls are as big as your head, and arrive hot and drowned in icing.  I'd gained three pounds by the time I finished it, but it was well worth snug jeans.

The combination of Bloody Mary and cinnamon roll is a little rough, but who cares.

A few hours later, I had dinner at Marjorie with a childhood friend and his wife.  The childhood friend -- Video Game Guy -- and I haven't seen each other since high school graduation.  Our mutual friend, Facebook, put us back in contact and informed us we were both Seattleites.  Unlike the many times you reconnect with someone via Facebook and realize you now despise them with every fiber of your being, Video Game Guy and I are a Facebook success story.

The food was good, but perhaps not as noteworthy as the sign posted at the bar --

 You can just barely see the sign hanging underneath the guy in the fake Hofbräuhaus t-shirt (a Hofbräuhaus in Vegas?  Is nothing sacred?) It says "No minors. No firearms."  That was just for the bar, though, so the handguns we had at the table were OK.

Also noteworthy is the bathroom.  There's a record player in there, so you can choose the music to which you'd like to pee.  Miles Davis was playing when I walked in.  I could have spent the entire evening in the bathroom with the vinyl but went back to the table for fear Video Game Guy would unfriend me.

 sweet, sweet pee tunes

Now I'm going to change the mood significantly.  Fun and games are over because our third restaurant was a disaster, to put it mildly.  I'm sick, frankly, of talking about what happened so the blog's getting a much-abbreviated version.

We met friends at a nearby alehouse -- an alehouse infamous for its toy corner moshpit, kids underfoot, chaos, and general mayhem.  Perhaps it wasn't the original intent of the restaurant, but it's the environment that's grown there over the years, and it's the main reason we go there, to give Lucien a longer "leash" than we would in a more traditional restaurant.  We thought it was OK to do so.  We were wrong.

An elderly man, unbeknownst to us, grew irate at Lucien and his friend's constant back-and-forth in front of his table.  It's unclear how the altercation began, but according to the kids, it began with Lucien's friend being yelled at by the man.  The friend cried, prompting his father to get up from his table and come over.  Lucien then either said something mouthy or made a face at the man seated in the booth.  The man then grabbed Lucien -- by the neck -- and shook him. 

The dad of Lucien's friend, who was by then standing next to him, yelled loudly and pulled the man's hands off Lucien's neck.  The restaurant went silent, staff (eventually) came over, the man denied he touched Lucien, that "he would never hurt a child."  Right.

The aftermath has been lengthy and tiring.  I mailed letters to the management and posted an angry message on a popular parenting listserve, which got me a barrage of comments from opinionated people on all sides.  I spent a full day plodding through and answering all the direct emails in my inbox, either thanking them for their support or thanking them for their opinion we're crap parents.  That day was long.

But it did have the effect I hoped for -- someone forwarded it to the owner of the alehouse and he was in touch with me within twenty-four hours.  He's a good guy, father of three himself, and was suitably appalled by what happened.  He and his staff are pulling receipts from that evening in an attempt to both identify the man and contact more eyewitnesses. 

Lucien's OK, though still processing.  Sometimes he'll be sitting in silence and suddenly say something like, "You know, Mom, I bet that man just likes to squeeze kids' necks, so he goes to that restaurant because he knows there will be lots of necks to squeeze."  It hasn't slowed him down much, but it's evident he's still trying to figure out what went wrong, too.

We have no interest in suing the man or filing a police report, as many have suggested.  Whenever he's identified, I want only to write him a letter, tell him he can deny it all he wants but we know what he did, it was an assault, and it was wrong no matter what Lucien said or did to him.  I want to scare that asshole so he never, ever touches a kid again. 

It was so confusing in the restaurant,  Alex and I didn't get a chance to confront the man before he left.  Lucien didn't see us defend him, and that pains us greatly.  We just want the chance to do so now.

You have absolutely no right, ever, to touch a child in anger. 
(Everyone knows this except assholes.)

It's been a rough week, posse.  Sure could use a few cinnamon rolls over here,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Queen Anne and rock attack

Lucien said he keeps losing his self-manager badge at school because "it's hard for me to follow the rules, Mom."  When I asked what the rules were, he said, "Don't run...don't show your butt... don't hit the kids... don't pee in your pants."  Sure hope he's losing his badge over the running one.

We were up in the Queen Anne Hill neighborhood last week.  Queen Anne is the neighborhood where you can buy a huge house with a view of the city and water, but only if you can also find ten million dollars stuffed in your couch cushions.

We went to a fantastic sandwich place up on Queen Anne.  It's a typical Seattle place because there isn't a garbage can -- you must choose between "recycle" and "compost."   Alex stood in front of those two bins for a full five minutes, looking back and forth between them, then staring down at the wad of gum in his hand.  "Hey M.J., can you compost gum?" he asked.  "Ummm...???" I replied.

Alex went up to the front counter and asked the hippies if they had a garbage can for his gum.  They blinked at him like they'd never heard of a landfill before.  They finally ripped off a small piece of butcher paper in which to wrap his gum, so he could carry it out of the restaurant and dispose of it elsewhere.

Now don't get me wrong, I dig environmentalism.  I just don't dig places that make you put garbage in your purse and carry it around for the afternoon.

After finding an appropriate waste receptacle, we went to Kerry Park.  Alex was the only father at the playground intent on showing off his muscles.  He flexed a lot, and loudly demanded I feel his pecks.  I wonder what the really rich people thought when I squeezed Alex's boobies in front of the children.

 Is that a Space Needle back there next to your right leg or are you just happy to -- that makes no sense, forget it.

I left Al with his biceps and climbed up to Kerry Park viewpoint.  I've lived in Seattle almost fifteen years (minus a three-year hiatus in Paris), and this viewpoint has never failed to stir my soul.  There's no prettier combination than city, water, and mountains -- and that's not an opinion, folks, that's a cold, hard fact.

There are always photographers standing around Kerry Park viewpoint at sunrise and sunset, waiting for the right light so they can take the same photo a bazillion other photographers have taken.

I volunteered in Lucien's classroom not long ago.  I was a helper to the teacher for the science lesson on wood (from trees...stop being perverts, people).  I soon learned "being a helper" to the teacher meant she could really boss me the eff around.

The teacher gave us the lowdown on the lesson before the kids came in from recess.  Previous wood lessons have been on wood grain and the buoyancy of wood, but our lesson was going to be "how to change wood."  When she said "change," I said the first thing that came to mind (this is rarely a good idea)  -- I said, "Oh my God!  We're going to burn it?"  My palms grew sweaty as I imagined twenty-three kindergarteners with lit matches in their hands and scores to settle.

Teacher looked at me and said slowly, ", we're going to sand it, like with sandpaper."  I was relieved, and agreed hers was a much better idea.  I don't think she's going to let me be helper ever again, which is fine because I can only take so much saying "please don't do that" to the kid trying to eat sanded wood particles off his desk before I go batshit crazy.

Lucien is organizing an attack on Seattle Mom and Dad's neighbor, Architect Neighbor, who's renovating the home next to theirs.  Lucien somehow got the impression Architect Neighbor killed the corn behind Seattle Mom and Dad's house with his excessive building materials.  It's not true, Seattle Dad killed his own corn, but Lucien will not listen to reason.

Lucien has decided Architect Neighbor must pay.  He has been feverishly drawing diagrams of how the attack is to unfold.  It's apparently set for 5:00 a.m. this Saturday and involves throwing rocks, which Lucien is collecting from around the neighborhood and storing in an empty egg carton.  Yikes.

 Holy sh*t, the kids have boulders. Or maybe large eggs?  Whatever -- run.

The Loosh has recruited kids from his class to take part in the attack.  He's explained the corn-killing offense, and told them if they want to take part, they have to write their names on slips of paper and put them in the "Attack Architect Neighbor" envelope.  Each day, he proudly shows me another little piece of paper with "Isabelle" or "Jonathan" scrawled across it.

His recruits have also started drawing pictures of kids throwing rocks at grown-ups, which I'm sure is somewhat alarming to his teacher.  She probably mutters, "The kids are planning something, the kids are planning something" in the break room, clutching her coffee mug and rocking maniacally back and forth until another teacher slips her a Valium and smooths her hair.

This is getting long.  I'll leave, but will be back, because there's more, there's always more.

Sleep with one eye open this weekend, Architect Neighbor!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


We are still hoping to own The Goddamn House someday, but have decided to buy everything else in the city in the meantime.  We're looking at both investment properties and back-up homes for The Goddamn House, so we've been studying listings, obsessing over houses, and writing offers all over the place. 

One investment property has recently fallen through -- another short sale because we apparently hate ourselves -- and just last night we wrote an offer for an old Victorian that makes The Goddamn House look like pristine clean perfection.  There are currently 26 offers on the Victorian, so perhaps our only chance of getting it is to seduce the seller, which is a bank, so that may be uncomfortable.

I know what you're thinking -- "But MJ, with all that going on, how can you possibly have time to blog?"  The answer is I don't have time, and am risking my life crashing and burning around me as I write this.  Blogging is a compulsion, and it's sick. 

Alex just emailed me one sentence: "We need normal lives."  Good point, my man.  Because besides the intense housing situation, there are other strange things afoot.  For instance, I spent my morning with a man in a storage facility in Bellevue, a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Earnest Hemingway.  We were there to switch ownership of a storage unit from him to me.  It's a long story, so just take it at that.

I've met Hemingway Guy before;  he's always been a vibrant, energetic, funny man.  In fact, it was Hemingway Guy who spun his dance partner into the dessert table at the wedding we all attended in Provence a few years back.

But something's changed for Hemingway Guy, something I noticed right away at the Bellevue storage unit.  It appears H.G. is going senile  Or maybe he was drunk.  Or stoned.  He insisted my name was "Nikki" and shuffled slowly when he walked, usually in the wrong direction.  I had to jump in front of him a few times to turn him around.  When I asked if he'd brought the key for the storage unit, he said, "I think so," pulled handfuls of tiny keys from his jacket pockets and dumped them all on the front desk.  I said "Hmm....that's not good"  and the man behind the desk laughed into his hands.

We walked to the storage unit and tried all the tiny keys.  None of them worked.  Mr. Chuckles behind the front desk said he'd be happy to cut the lock off, but he was out of grinding discs, so could I come back tomorrow?  I'm almost certain I'll find Hemingway Guy still roaming the corridors when I return.

Another strange thing happened, too.  I dropped Seattle Mom and her three kids off at the train station early Saturday morning so they could catch a train to Portland.  I drove them in Seattle Mom's minivan, which used to be my minivan until she bought it from me when we moved to Paris but that's not important right now. 

On my drive home from the train station, a man ran a red light at high speed -- really ran it, as my light had been green for a long time -- and came straight at me.  I saw Red Runner coming and braked as hard as my body could brake.  Red Runner careened past, the nose of Seattle Mom's van grazing the side of his car and peeling the trim off like one of them tasty Fruit by the Foot snacks.

Red Runner didn't stop, just took off into the still-dark early morning.  I pulled over to inspect the damage to Seattle Mom's van and was relieved to find there wasn't any, just some dark paint smudged on the front and Red Runner's trim curled up like a handlebar mustache in the lower grill.  I broke it off before driving home but in retrospect should have left it there because oh my gosh, so silly and curly!  While inspecting the car, several kind Seattleites ran over and congratulated me on my cheetah-like reflexes.

   Nice try, Red Runner, you asshat

Alex and I took the kids to the YMCA when I got home because there's no better way to celebrate narrowly avoiding a major traffic accident than by running around an empty gymnasium with your family and yelling. 

"Let's play dodgeball!" said Alex to the kids.  "It'll be me and your mother against you two."  Initially excited to play a new game with Mommy and Daddy, their enthusiasm evaporated when we fired those balls at their tiny bodies.  Al and I won in five seconds so the kids have to buy our beers this weekend.

victory is sweet
We put the kids in the Y's childcare for a bit so we could exercise for real.  I headed for the elliptical machines, the cool ones with TVs attached to them.  Everyone around me watched news or sports but I threw caution to the wind -- let them judge me! -- and watched The Golden Girls.  It was the episode where Dorothy sleeps with her ex-husband, Stan, and then considers getting back together with him.  "Don't do it, Dorothy," I cried,  "He cheated on you with that bimbo Krissy, remember?"  The guy next to me startled a bit when I laughed out loud but I couldn't help myself -- that Sophia is such a pistol.

When I wandered over to visit Alex at the free weights, he made fun of me.  "The Golden Girls?  Really?  At the gym?"  I replied, "You can only dream of knowing friendship like theirs, Al,"  It was a total Golden Girls burn, and he felt it, and cried for hours.

Lucien's school had a multicultural night last week.  Each class did a song or dance from a fancy exotic culture somewhere in the world.  Lucien's class did a Japanese dance with fans, which we all agreed was culturally enlightening.  The audience was perplexed, however, when the next class did a Hank Williams song.  Ahh, yes... the mysterious, exotic culture of Hank. 

I so badly want to blog twice a week.  There are many things to put on the record, many tales I want to remember for all time.  But life is at goddamn warp speed over here suddenly -- calendar full, responsibilities numerous, homelessness imminent.  I will be here when I can, but for the foreseeable future I'm going to be a once-a-week blogger.  I never wanted to be that person, and therefore feel like a failure.

Thank you for being a friend,

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Taco heartbreak on the street of dreams

Wow, comment posse.  I asked, "Is anybody out there?" and you all stood up, waved your arms, and jumped up and down.  As a thank-you for being awesome,  here's a funny picture, courtesy of my Facebook friend, the spanking Santa --

It's the best thing ever to come out of Facebook

We experienced a sad loss recently.  It's the taco bus.  The taco bus is not in its usual spot and has seemingly disappeared into the dark, lonely night.  The neighborhood is abuzz with rumors about why it went away, why it left us all alone.  The most popular rumor is the owners were being pressured by thugs for "protection money" and either got scared or sick of it and left.  I don't believe in negotiating with thug terrorists, but damn... I probably would have offered a few bucks to protect my tacos.

I'll never forget you, sweet little carne asada beauty with extra cilantro and spicy sauce.  I'm sorry the sh*tty people of the world made you leave.  They always ruin the good stuff for everybody else.

Lucien lost his self-manager badge almost immediately at school Monday.  He was not too upset about it because 1.) same-old same-old, and 2) he had a plan B -- when he got home he fetched paper and scissors and made a new self-manager badge.  His plan was to take it to school the next day and say, "What do you mean, I got my badge taken away, Ms. Teacher?  It's right here!  Can't you see it?"

Good plan, Loosh.  No one will suspect a thing.  Now if you could just manage to get it over your head without ripping the paper...

Lucien has also taken to wearing his jacket backwards.  If it's raining, he puts his hood up, which covers his face, so he has to hold onto my arm for the walk home from the bus stop.  He trips a lot on account of not being able to see a damn thing, which sometimes makes us both fall down.  Coco's like, "You guys are freaks," and walks on ahead like she doesn't know the people on the ground.

I cut Coco's hair.  I was going for Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby until Alex took the scissors away and said, "Stop that." I guess everyone can't be a fan of the pixie (or haircuts on their baby girls inspired by movies about devil spawn) --

that's "the look" that tells us even though this one is quieter than the other one, we're still totally screwed.

I went out Tuesday night with Seattle Mom and two British guys from "The Street of Dreams" -- that's what Brit One called the street where they all live, which is also the street of The Goddamn House, so I'm going to adopt it as another stupid blog label.

We joined Brit One and Brit Two (neighbors from the Street of Dreams!) at their favorite bar for trivia night.  Our team didn't do so well.  I wish we knew more about Hard Drugs and Anatomy.

I took the following notes that night so I could remember stuff for the blog.  I'm sure these things were hilarious at the time but I'll be damned if I can remember the context for any of them.  Brit One said at one point, "My God, woman, you've got the attention span of a fruit fly," so that might be part of the problem.

Anyway, for what it's worth, these are my notes --  "The English gave us syphilis.   F*cking idiot from Yorkshire, it's always a pleasure.  Daft cow.  Throwing out toys with the pram.  He's got a strap-on."

Whatever the hell all that was about, sounds like a fun night to me!

I drove everyone home.  We were parked in a dark gravel parking lot and I didn't see the railroad tie parking space divider thing in front of the car, so tried to pull forward to leave.  I smacked right into that railroad tie thing, which compelled Brit Two to yell in his strong English accent, "Now MJ, ya don't want to be doing that, now do ya?"  Brit One yelled something like, "STOP GOING FORWARD" and Seattle Mom just kind of yelled in general. 

Sheesh, you'd have thought we were the Titanic and I'd just struck the iceberg with the level of pandemonium in the car.  I was like, "People, chill, I got this, I know how to go backwards, too" but from that point on they didn't trust me and were horrible backseat drivers all the way home.  Next time I'm going to put them all in cabs.

 I'M the menace?  No, YOU'RE the menace!

Goodbye, awesome posse.  See you after the taco candlelight vigil,

Friday, March 9, 2012

Am I doing better this time?

I got radio silence on that last post, except for three of my most loyal commenters, Duchesse, Debbie, and Bec, who are quickly turning the comments section into social hour.  Ladies, comments sections are not for fun-having, gossiping, or bonding.  They're for MJ idolatry, of which there wasn't much last time, so... carry on with whatever you three are doing in there, I guess.

(They can't all be winners, folks.)

I dropped Coco off at her preschool the other day.  One of the other mothers told me that when her young son overheard her talking about Coco at their home, he looked up at her and said, "Coco?  What a delicious name!"

Coco's delicious, all right.  She's also still refusing to talk.  Or, more accurately, she thinks she's talking, but we can only stare at her with our heads cocked to the side, like, "What that German?"

What is it with these kids of mine, who have both refused to do anything the way they were supposed to, in the timeframe in which they were supposed to do it?  And while I'm asking rhetorical questions, is it a good thing when someone asks you, "Awww, did she dress herself today?" but you dressed her?

 All me

While I'm talking about the kids, I want to mention Lucien and his happiness.  Many people don't understand why I'm not depressed as hell to be done with Paris, but our boy is a huge reason.  Our Paris school was not a good fit for the loud Looshman.  What used to be a tight-lipped, sullen kid after school, a boy who used to regularly say things like, "I'm the bad kid," has turned into a smiling, happy kid who tells me about his day when he gets off the bus.  And now he says things like, "I'm not the bad kid anymore!  Jason is!" 

I recently met with his teacher to discuss his progress in the classroom.  He's behind the other kids in reading and math because they hadn't done that stuff yet in his Paris school.  His teacher says Lucien is learning quickly, but will catch up even faster if he "stops trying to entertain the class like a pint-sized Robin Williams all the time."

They have "self-manager" badges in Lucien's kindergarten class.  The kids who have their badges enjoy greater freedoms in the classroom and on the playground. The kids who lose their badges pretty much have to follow the teacher around like ducklings and ask permission to breathe.

We have fingers crossed that Lucien, just once, will hang onto his badge all week.  He's come pretty close a couple times -- one week he made it all the way to Friday morning.  We were fattening the calf and preparing the celebratory feast when he lost it in the eleventh hour -- to kung fu with Finn during story time. 

Every day when Lucien gets off the bus, I ask, "Hey, buddy, still got your badge?"  Many times I've received the reply, "Nope, I lost that thing in like five minutes."

I went out to dinner with Cavanaugh again last night, this time to Terra Plata on Capitol Hill.  I'm going to continue going out to eat with Cavanaugh because he really knows his food, and makes me try stuff I don't want to eat, such as crispy fried Brussels sprouts with maple and rosemary.  I hate Brussels sprouts but I'll be damned if Cavanaugh wasn't right again -- they were nasty veggie divine.

Cavanaugh takes pictures of all his food.  Downright embarrassing.

When friends know you have a blog, sometimes they get demanding.  Cavanaugh said something witty at dinner, then pointed his pointy finger at me and said, "write that down."  I said, "Oh no, Cavanaugh... you're not becoming one of those 'write that down' friends, are you?"  And he said, "Yes, I am, and you can quote me on that."

I got my hair cut over the weekend and it made me wonder why they offer you something to drink at salons.  You're only able to sip coffee for two seconds before they put the cape thing around your neck.  Then your arms are under the cape, so to take a drink you must first ask permission, then free your arms from underneath, which dusts up all the hair, which puts hair in your coffee, which is cold by then anyway. 

Every single time I've accepted a cup of salon coffee, I've initially thought, "mmm, sounds delicious," but that quickly turned to "this is ridiculous, I really didn't need anything to drink right now."  I'll never go down that dark path again.

So long, posse, hope this post was more agreeable to you.  If not, there's no hope, because I really did my best,

*Breaking News!  Tara has since commented on my last post, too.  Sure, it was just to join in on the social hour, but I'll take it.*