Thursday, January 31, 2013

Raw sewage and birthday cake

I think Contractor God is avoiding me.  When I saw him on the street a few days ago, he quickly donned women's clothing and told me he'd never heard of himself in a high-pitched voice.

I approached him again yesterday but before I could get a word out, he was a contractor-sized blur, leaping over cars and knocking down pedestrians as he ran.

Today when I asked him to do a few odd jobs at our rental house on Beacon Hill, he didn't speak, just growled at me and slammed the door as he left.

(That last one is true, the others are my usual bullshit).

I can't blame him.  He's been through a lot for us, more than any man should ever endure. He's taken on the neverending story that is Banister Abbey alongside the pressure-filled Goddamn House. Worse, he recently came over on a Saturday morning when we called in a panic; our sink was backed up, our basement was flooded and everything smelled like sewage.

Al and Contractor God eventually fixed that (big) problem but it was a long, painful process. All three of us would like to erase from our memories what we saw and smelled that day. Alex had the insight to say, "You should take a picture of all this raw sewage for your blog." but I answered "No" because....

I was a chaperone recently for Lucien's class field trip to the puppet theater.  I generally don't like puppets, in fact am pretty creeped out by the little f*ckers, but I wanted to be a helpful parent.

Regardless of the destination, I do love being a chaperone.  These kids are at the best age; there's nothing in the world like a first-grader's eyes blinking up at you as they ask, "Lucien's Mommy, do unicorns exist?"  It's very entertaining but also hard to spit out the answer -- "Of course not, you stupid little first-grader!" -- in between guffaws.

Lucien sat next to me on the school bus, held my hand and rested his head on my shoulder.  I don't know how many more years I have of him being thrilled to have his Mama along on field trips.  Soon enough I'm going to embarrass the hell out of him just by being visible.

The puppets were surprisingly enjoyable and were operated by award-winning Chinese puppeteers.  After the show, the puppeteers agreed to take questions from the children.  I think they regretted that decision when five hundred small hands shot in the air.

When called upon, the children did one of three things:  1.) said, "Ummmmm....." because they didn't really have a question, 2.) rambled on nonsensically, or 3.) asked something like, "How do the puppets go to the bathroom?"

(Incidentally, you cannot use the words "puppet" and "potty" in the same sentence without sounding like an idiot, no matter how many fancy awards you've won.)

Lucien turned 7 years old last week.  We had his birthday party over the weekend.  We had twenty kids here.  There's something wrong with us, maybe.

Thankfully, we hired the best kid magician in the world to entertain them for the first hour.  I was skeptical it was going to work, expected the kids to turn against Xakary the Magician after ten minutes and pelt him with party favors. But Xakary is a true professional.  He not only kept the kids' attention for nearly an hour, he kept them laughing and happy so we parents could gossip and eat junk food in the kitchen.

Xakary made Lucien the star of the show.  The culminating moment of Lucien's life thus far was helping Xakary pull a live rabbit out of an empty box.  It was a really big deal.

I'm considering hiring Xakary every weekend for the rest of our lives so I can finally get a few things done around here.

Most parents dropped their kids off at the party and ran but a hardy few stuck around so I wouldn't have to bear it alone.  They promised they would bring flasks to help us get through but they lied, they LIED.

There are not many rooms in either Banister Abbey or The Goddamn House that are finished so I've been reluctant to post photos.  I keep waiting for that "Ta-DAH!  F*cker's finished!" feeling but I may be an old, old woman before that blessed moment happens.

Even though the work completed is plentiful, it all still looks unpainted, unfinished.  In our defense, we can't do anything until we do other things first.  But those other things rely on us doing other things and buying necessary doodads.  But to buy the doodads, we must measure the spaces that are not yet there.  It's all connected in one neverending cycle of incompleteness.

I can finally celebrate something kind of close.  I can celebrate the one room in Banister Abbey that is finished, truly finished -- except for putting the pocket doors back in and moving the piano back and getting that one piece of wood above the window back from the stripper (wood stripper, not naked stripper, though I bet that would be a better story) -- but finished enough.

Here's what the parlor looked like before we moved in:

Here it is now:

There was a lot more involved in that room than buying furniture and fluffing pillows but Lord, you'd never know it.  It's disheartening, with all the time and money spent, when friends come over and can only remark, "Oh, you painted!" 

I wish changes could be tracked and highlighted and presented to each guest in a binder.  Then, a Powerpoint presentation full of slides of sheetrock dust, nail guns, chemicals, splinters and pain! 

As for The Goddamn House, it's not done either but it's close.  I'll post more pictures when it's truly done but in the meantime, here's one to prove I'm not lying when I say I think about houses ALL the TIME. 

The kitchen before, with two years of garbage and graffiti still hanging about:

The kitchen now, with sexy back views of Contractor God and Street of Dreams Neighbor:

Those are party lights installed above the cabinets.  They can be set to twelve different colors. They can also blink or fade from one color to another.  
They were Contractor God's idea.
Dear Lord, why?

Alex is in Japan again.  The night before he left, he accidentally set off the alarm downstairs.  I was brushing my teeth upstairs, assuming he had it handled and would turn it off in a second.  When it continued to go off, I went to the stairwell and leaned over the banister, "Al?  All OK?"

Alex ran past downstairs, flustered and disheveled and yelling, "What do I do?  What do I do?"

Piercing sirens can fluster even the most together of men,

Friday, January 18, 2013

The wide world of sports

Here are the kids playing a game called "Castle."  In this game, you face your opponent and throw rocks at them, inflicting as much bodily harm as possible.  The most successful "Castle" players have quick reflexes and can duck behind the concrete pillars (which we dug out of the ground during Banister Abbey's facade renovations) before taking a rock to the face.
Alex and I were in the yard fixing his bike.  We were so engrossed in covering ourselves with bike grease we didn't notice the violent game happening ten feet away.  By the time we looked up, both kids were injured and very mad at each other.  They each said things to the other that can never be unsaid.  I hope their youthful brains forget quickly; otherwise, all future family Christmases are doomed to be tense.

Speaking of games, I was a football fan for a few hours last week.  Our Seattle Seahawks were in the playoffs and looked to have a pretty good shot at the Super Bowl.  In retrospect, of course, we had no chance at all because the Seahawks will always break your heart.

I joined a handful of friends at our local sports bar where we commenced drinking beer at 10:00 a.m. 10:00 a.m. is a strange time to drink beer but we don't get to choose the start time of the game.  We can only blindly obey and put beer to lips when that kicky guy kicks the ball down the field and people start running all over the place on the TV.

The Seahawks were down 0-20 at halftime.  My football fanatic friends didn't want to talk much at that point, just wanted to search their smart phones for a ray of hope.  They looked up stats for teams who came back to win after such a miserable score at the half.  The search results were not comforting so my friends then sat there looking grumpy.

Help me, phone

Then, in perhaps the greatest comeback in NFL history, Seahawks scored and scored and scored some more.  They scored like they'd known how to score all along but just wanted to mess with us.  The bar turned into a madhouse.  Every time the Seahawks did something worthy of applause, they got more than applause from our bar, and likely every other bar and living room across the entire city -- they got screaming and fist pumping and crying and people leaping through the air.

The man at the table next to me, a large man wearing a Seahawks jersey with the name "FAN" written across the back, was suddenly my very close friend.  As we stared intently at the screen together, we clenched hands.  He dug his fingers into my arm on several occasions and yelled the "F" word.  Sometimes he kicked my leg under the table and it really hurt but I didn't blame him -- it was apparently his "tension release" leg so regularly shot out with no warning and caught me about the shins. 

When the Seahawks scored, "FAN" and I jumped into each others arms and screamed into each others ears.  He nearly knocked me over a few times, running me into a few tables which resulted in some really ugly side thigh bruises.  I didn't notice the pain because I was too busy high-fiving every goddamn person in the bar. 

I may not watch a lot of football but I can absolutely get behind an event that puts every single person in a bar on the same page, every person bonding with every other person because they're all fervently hoping for the same outcome.  I get it -- it's really really great to be a home team fan.

Seahawks were winning 28-27 at the end of the game, only twelve seconds left to go!  Everyone in the bar was on their feet, pulling their hair and screaming!!  We were gonna do it!!!

Then the Falcons kicked a field goal and it was over.  We lost.  The crowd packed up almost immediately and left the bar, quiet, dejected, heads down.  "FAN" didn't even say goodbye to me but I have my ugly leg bruises as a reminder of the love we briefly shared. 

(When I changed into my pajamas that night, Alex looked at my legs in horror and said,  "Oh my God, did they take the Seahawks fans out back and beat them after the game??")

Next season better

Al and I take the kids to swim lessons Saturday mornings.  They have lessons at the same time so Alex gets in the water with Coco and I sit by the side of the pool to watch Lucien.  Lucien is still more interested in entertaining his fellow swimmers than actually learning to swim.  It's fun to watch the instructor's confused face as Lucien tells him fart jokes while clinging to his torso for dear life.

Al is also still an entertainer.  He waved at me sitting at the edge of the pool and yelled, "Hey, MJ, watch this!" He then sat Coco upon a floating mat and pulled her around the pool.  She was delighted. 

Alex, caught up in the joy of a moment shared with his precious baby girl, swung the mat in one direction then inexplicably whipped it in the other direction, causing Coco to lose her balance and fly off the mat into the deep end of the pool.  Alex yelled, " SHITSHITSHIT" in the echoey family-friendly pool establishment and paddled/lunged to where Coco was flailing around in the water. 

Another parent sitting at the side of the pool grabbed my arm in horror and said, "He did NOT just do that!"  I confirmed that yes, he had, in fact, just done that and she said, "Oooh, I bet he's in trouble when y'all get home!"  She was reading my mind.

Alex, comforting a sputtering Coco and perhaps hoping NOT to be in trouble when we got home, called out cheerfully, "MJ, I bet she's not afraid to go underwater anymore!"  My reply was, "She's likely more afraid, Al.  You've probably set her fear of underwater back four years, which is hard to do because she's only three." 

Turns out Al's right.  Coco now puts her face in the water no problem.  She smiles afterward.  She's not afraid of swim lessons with Daddy anymore.

But I am.

No.  really.  trust him.
Goodbye, "FAN."  I'll never forget the times we shared,

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Free the guinea pigs

The flu came to visit recently.  It floored me (and only me) for a handful of days.  It reminded me of the old adage, "When mama's sick ain't nobody gonna take care of mama and she still has to take care of some other people, too."  Catchy adage.

Those days were miserable.  I was pale and bleary-eyed and my hair stuck out at funnier angles than usual as I collected Coco from preschool and Lucien from the bus stop.  Everyone was too polite to scream in horror but they sure did keep their distance.

In a feat of impressively bad timing, my three really sick days were also the three days I'd agreed to watch Seattle Mom's son while their nanny's on vacation.  The only thing harder than the flu with one three-year-old on the loose is the flu with two three-year-olds on the loose.  They really don't give a damn you don't feel well.

Whenever I come out of an illness, on that first day of being functional again, I feel invincible.  I can do anything!  Cure some cancers! Scale that mountain over there!  Karate chop a stack of boxes at Costco!  Macrame!

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to do any of those things this time around because as soon as I felt better, Coco got the flu.  I discovered she was sick when she said, "Mommy, my belly hurts me" and threw up all over both of us as I read her favorite bedtime book.

I moved Lucien into the guest room so I could sleep in his bed on wheels (yes, wheels, we're stupid) to be next to Coco if she got sick in the middle of the night.   Those "on call" nights are rough.  I woke up every time she stirred and rushed to her side armed with a pan, a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Febreze aimed at her face.

My overreaction startled her awake.  She looked up at me with wide "What the hell, Mom?" eyes so I hushed and cooed her back to sleep.  But as I tiptoed across the room and climbed back into Lucien's bed, it rolled across the floor.  My delighted surprise woke Coco up again so I had to start over with the hushing and the cooing.

Let's get back to what I wanted to write about before the flu.

I went out with Seattle Mom last week to see the movie version of Les Miserables.  I, like many others, was obsessed with the musical in my younger days.  In high school I was sure I was going to play Eponine on Broadway.  To prepare for this, I walked around my house wearing a trenchcoat and looking sad.

Sometimes I laid down on the floor in my trenchcoat and sang "A Little Fall of Rain" over and over again, never tiring of dying in the arms of my beloved in such dramatic fashion.  Mom would walk past and I'd overhear her say to my dad, "Well, MJ's dying in the living room again."

Years later, when I met Alex and discovered one of his middle names was Marius, my family agreed it was a sign.  Dad even asked the priest to say at our wedding, "Eponine finally got her Marius."  It was sweet.  I promplty donned a trenchcoat, laid down in front of the altar and sang my death song.  It was a really weird wedding.

The movie version was good.  It wasn't good enough to win me away from my first love, the stage production, but it was done well and made me cry a few times and isn't that what Les Mis is all about?  Eponine was pretty good but she's no me.

Seattle Mom and I met Contractor God and another neighbor, Funny Woman, for drinks after the movie.  Funny Woman just returned from a vacation in Mexico.  I can't see an ounce of fat on Funny Woman but she claimed her goal for Mexico was to erase the tan lines made by her "rolls" over the summer.

To accomplish this, she needed to tan in a certain position. She demonstrated for us there in the booth; it looked like she was lying backwards over a beach ball, rolling side to side and yelling, "COME ON! GET IT!"  It apparently worked so I wanted to pass the tidbit along in case anyone else had the same problem.

So Happy New Year to everybody!  Our New Years Eve was spent at a friend's house.  It's a long story, but the rallying cry of the evening was "FREE THE GUINEA PIGS!" and the party attendees ended up walking through the neighborhood carrying a bottle of champagne and a light-up disco ball.

One of our friends has been having a New Years Day Open House for over 20 years --

The Quartz Bay Buzz Bomb is always the drink of choice on New Years Day

The annual party ends with the burning of the hosts' Christmas tree.  This tradition started in 1989 when everyone in attendance sat around and talked about how horrible their year had been.  It spiraled quickly from "1989 sucked!" to "Let's burn the Christmas tree, RHAAA!"

That 1989 Christmas Tree didn't see it coming.  It was dragged into the yard by angry New Years day revelers and burned on the spot.

It's a little more planned now.  Everyone gathers around the fire pit where the tree is dismembered methodically before it's thrown in the fire pit and burned to ashes.  Writing that made me feel creepy.

Lucien came to me upset last week.  He said Coco kicked him hard in the shins.  I asked Coco if she kicked her brother and she said, "No, I pushed him with my feet."  At least when she's sick, she puts the evil genius bit on hold.

This was a long one.  Rough week.  Let's go burn a tree, RAHH!