Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Crime, Auctions and Fish Parties

Ain't no party like a pumpkin party

If you're a parent of a school-aged child, you know the joys of curriculum night.  Curriculum night is when you go to your kid's school in the evening and squeeze into tiny chairs underneath trapezoids and parallelograms dangling from the ceiling by strings.  Then the teachers tell you all the ways they're going to force learning into your kid's brain.

I appreciate the teachers at our school but sometimes they offer unsolicited advice.  At curriculum night they told us, "9:00 p.m. is too late a bedtime for a second grader."  My impulse was to raise my hand and ask,  "What if I put my second grader to bed at the respectable hour of 8:00 but he's still awake in his bed at 9:00?  Should I then club him over the head like a baby seal to get him his much needed rest?" 

In a newsletter sent home last month the teachers asked parents to make sure girls wear tights or shorts underneath their skirts because glimpses of underwear were distracting the boys and "it's never too early to teach our girls a little modesty."  Finally, an answer to the nagging question "at what age do we start teaching girls they're responsible for boys' behavior?"  The answer is seven-ish!

Ugh ugh ugggghhhhh.  Hey Lucien, if you catch a glimpse of a girl's underwear, it's probably embarrassing for her so don't make a big deal about it and get your eyes back on your work where they belong.  Personal responsibility and being respectful of others -- internalize it.

So how many 911 calls have you made in the past 18 months?  I've made four.  One was the suspected bomb around the 4th of July last year.  One was the angry guy walking down the middle of our street yelling and throwing rocks.  One was the person who plowed over our traffic island in the middle of the night and knocked down the tree which had been lovingly planted there by our green thumb neighbor.

The fire department came and chopped down the tree because it was bent over and lying in the middle of the road.  They chucked it onto the front lawn of Banister Abbey where I found my sad neighbor standing over it the next morning.  He asked if I cut it down and I was slightly offended.  I admit it didn't look good, tree being in my yard and all, but why would I cut down a tree in the middle of the night?  I'm a very important room mother with numerous mysterious responsibilities.  I must get my rest.

(This just in -- as room mother I was recently asked to purchase several pumpkins with which to decorate the preschool classroom.  I accomplished my mission and stand at the ready awaiting further instructions.)  

My fourth 911 call was this past weekend.  I looked out my window around midnight while brushing my teeth and saw three young men trying to take down our street sign.  They threw rocks at it and climbed on each others backs trying to get at it.  When they began taking blocks from our retaining wall and stacking them at the base of the pole,  I said "OK THAT'S QUITE ENOUGH, A**HOLES."  I called my friends at 911, "Yo, it's MJ again."

Our city neighborhood is a hotbed of strange activity at all times.  We've had friends who live in more suburban neighborhoods ask, "Do you feel SAFE in this neighborhood?"  I would be sleeping with one eye open tonight if I was a street sign but other than that, yeah, I feel OK.

Maybe their question is as surprising to us as ours is to them when we go visit their neighborhood -- "What the hell do you guys DO out here?"  Here in the C.D. we watch dozens of people walk past daily and say "hi."  We walk a handful of minutes to restaurants, bars, theaters, and live music venues.  We stare at a city skyline from up close.  And yes, we call 911 when someone's acting the fool. 

Speaking of criminals, this is me getting fingerprinted --

I wish I could just leave it there, leave you wondering and guessing why this is happening.  
Hey wait, I can!  It's so fun to have a blog.

Al and I attended another charity auction over the weekend.  This is the 1,276,588nd auction we've attended since returning from France.

Our table at the auction was a rowdy one.  We badgered each other into buying things none of us wanted or needed.  They pressured Al and I into bidding on 12 pounds of fresh seafood ("just think of the party you can have!").  Yes, that's true!  So we kept bidding until we won it.  Yee-haw, fish party!

Now that sounds like a really terrible party.  I hate auctions.

The auction was held to benefit L'Arche, an organization I've mentioned before.  It was the place where Alex and I met, the very place where we banded together to fight street crime side-by-side for the next 15 years.

I won a painting in the silent auction. It was painted by Carol, a woman I used to live with in the Seattle L'Arche community.  She was 52 years old with Down Syndrome and barely verbal.  We were friends and loved each other very much.  I shared more belly laughs with her than I've shared with just about anyone.  We also got mad at each other sometimes.  She hit me hard in the arm once while visiting the zoo.  Carol, you were so stubborn.

My grandma died while I was living in L'Arche.  After I heard the news from my parents over the phone and came downstairs, Carol saw the look on my face before I said a word to anyone.  She squinted at me for a second, then rushed to me and wrapped me in a bear hug.  I cried into her shirt as she stroked my hair and said, "Oh Bustabee.....Bustabee...."  (Carol called everyone she loved "Bustabee")  She saw me through that grief unlike anyone else could.

Carol passed away while we were living in Paris.  I tried to write something for her memorial service but couldn't adequately articulate the importance of her well enough to send anything good.  I deeply regret it.

I'm so happy to have a piece of her -- her fun-loving self, her contagious laugh, her enthusiasm for life, her sweet soul -- now hanging in the Abbey.

 You were awesome, Bustabee.

So maybe I don't hate auctions.

We're busily preparing for our 2nd annual Halloween party.  This year I've added a giant glow-in-the-dark spiderweb and a blacklight to the decorations.  Should be fun when people get drunk, become hopelessly entangled, and fall down.

I hope our guests really like fish.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Room Mother


It's tough restoring a grand old house like Banister Abbey because everyone is watching you and giving you lots of opinions.  Our neighbors peer at our every design decision and occasionally offer the very unhelpful, "ya know, what you should have done is..."  It's a real dick move, in my opinion.

We like our neighbors very much.  I think the problem is they've been staring at our house for many years in its disrepaired state and have developed many ideas over those years they're itching to finally share.

One neighbor suggested we paint each of the newly-installed dentils a different color.


The contractors and I regularly inspect old photos of the house procured from the city in our attempts to put her back the way she was in 1904.  We stand in a circle on the driveway, photos in hand, heads bowed, squinting, silent.  To passersby, it may look like we're praying and that's not too far from the truth -- if we don't get the soffit detail right, we're surely going to hell.

 I hope we did right by the corbels

As I put the kids to bed a few weeks back on a very rainy night, Lucien said, "You left the faucet running in the bathroom, Mom."  And indeed, that's what it sounded like.  But I was pretty sure we did not have a sink out on the stairwell landing.

I investigated the source of the sound and found a lovely cascading waterfall entering from the corner of a  piece of plywood (which is currently standing in for a transom window) and landing on a brand new piece of wood furniture directly below.

Lots of swear words later, the water is gone but that lovely new piece of furniture will never be the same.  Welcome to renovation hell,  furniture, where windows are luxuries and pieces of plywood are sometimes your only defense against a very wet climate.  Accept it, and try to enjoy your new warped and wavy texture.

Oscar has fleas.  Correction: Oscar has "really really bad" fleas, according to our vet.  The vet looked at me strangely when I replied, "Oh, good! Can I feed fleas to a praying mantis?"

The vet gave me a giant spray can with instructions to spray all fabric and carpet surfaces in our house then stay out of the house for a few hours while it dries.  Before I unleashed the toxic flea-killing fumes this past weekend,  I gave my family strict orders:  these are dangerous chemicals, go outside and wait for me in the car.

Those were the only instructions I gave and I honestly don't think they were too difficult to understand.

I sprayed upstairs. It was pretty intense. When I came downstairs I found my entire family in the entryway, just standing there staring up at me like a bunch of dummies.  "What are you doing in here?  Get out, get out, get out, you imbecilic idiots!"  I screamed, light-headed from the fumes, possibly flailing a bit in the arms area.

Maybe it was a harsh critique of my loved ones but come on, people.  There was only one instruction -- "Go" -- and you botched it.

I managed to get my instruction-averse family out the door, hopefully without any further brain damage, and we drove up north to a pumpkin patch.  Did you know pumpkins can talk?  They talk all wonky and slow out of their sideways mouths.  Never mind, possibly still the flea fumes.

We met up with some friends at the pumpkin patch.

This photo is more awesome if you zoom in on what Lucien is doing to Coco's face --

Why can't men just push a wheelbarrow normally, without getting all nuts about it?

There was a pumpkin cannon at the farm.  We stood in line at the cannon watching pumpkins soar off into the distance with very loud booms.  Alex looked down at the youngest and smallest of our posse members and said, "You ready to fly, little buddy?"  The boy's eyes widened and he whispered  "no" before hiding behind his dad's legs.  And a lifelong fear of hairy men with accents is born.

The pumpkin patch/farm was awesome until the point of absolute saturation, which is the very second you realize you can't be in a place for one more second and are ready to chew your arm off if that's what it takes to free you.  It's also the exact point in time all the children in your group will scatter in different directions, leaving parents glassy-eyed, desperate to herd yet unable to move and wondering aloud if they can go home without the kids because OH MY GOD WE'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE.

My friend, Seattle Mom, and I are room mothers for Coco's preschool class.  So far we have no idea what that means.  We've asked several times what we're supposed to do as room mothers but our questions have yet to be satisfactorily answered. 

Until we understand our responsibilities as room mothers, we will continue to abuse the imagined privilege that comes with such a lofty rank.  Cutting people off in the parking lot, stealing shoes from that little girl because they're cuter than Coco's, letting the door slam in that kid's face because my arm is tired and I don't want to hold it open -- B*tches, I'm room mother, I do what I please.  

(This just in -- we're responsible for sending emails and gathering money for a teacher appreciation week present.)

I'm finally a somebody!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Il nage comme une pierre

There's an earthquake button in this elevator. I fear it's a Godlike button that would bring about an earthquake if you pressed it. Maybe it's more of an informational button, like you suspect you're in an elevator during an earthquake but aren't sure so the button starts blinking to let you know you do, in fact, have the worst timing ever.

Maybe it's a hidden camera thing -- it captures the image of anyone stupid enough to press an earthquake button in an elevator and sends it immediately to the police because that person should not be out just walking around making decisions all the time.

I'll never know the answer in an empirical way because everyone who stepped onto the elevator and noticed the button quickly jumped back with a "what-the-HELL-IS-THAT?"  The U.S. elevator etiquette rules no longer applied;  my fellow elevator riders and I clustered together in one corner, as far from the button as possible.  Even the other elevator buttons sensed the danger and tried to stay away.

We're in earthquake country here in Seattle.  We don't eff around.

But damn, she's so pretty

Coco and Lucien have swim lessons once a week after school.  This past week, they got involved in some kind of intense project in the yard right before we were to leave.  I yelled out the front door repeatedly, "Don't get too wrapped up in that, we have to leave for swim lessons soon."  Then two minutes later, "Guys, don't forget swim lessons, don't forget swim lessons," and a few minutes after that, "Swim lessons swim lessons swim lessons love those crazy swim lessons."

Then I walked off to continue painting the guest room.  It's such a pretty color in there now, makes me feel like I'm doing a back float in my very own hidden tropical lagoon.  So peaceful.... so peaceful.  Lucien appeared an hour later in his swimsuit to find me covered in paint and hugging the wall.  He said, "What time do we leave for swim lessons?" and I looked at the clock and said, "Oh....yeah, we missed swim lessons."

Then Lucien gave me the most peculiar look, almost as if he was realizing he was not born to the most impressive authority figure.  He was skeptical; perhaps I had no right in the world to tell him what to do and perhaps he should be surprised I can even get up and dress myself in the morning?  I could tell I was about to lose his respect so I did what I had to do -- I quickly accused him of farting.  He flailed around in denial, totally distracted.  Works every time.

Swimming lessons are kind of futile anyway.  Lucien is not catching on and has little interest in doing so.  As I recently said to my in-laws, who are here visiting at present, "Il nage comme une pierre."

(He swims like a rock.)

We have a grossly obese praying mantis.  I don't think praying mantises are used to eating as much as we're feeding ours.  Mantisy thinks he's hit the jackpot but his mind will change when his abdomen explodes.

This is a normal praying mantis

This is Mantisy

We just love him so much.

My in-laws are in town so Alex and I absconded to a hotel for a night.  It sounds sexier than it is; we spent most of our evening lying facedown on our side-by-side queen beds saying things like, "Ahhh...these sheets don't smell like feet.  Let's never leave."

The city looks so much prettier when you don't have one kid darting into traffic and the other tugging dangerously hard on your skirt's elastic waistband and begging for Cheetos.

Al and I headed to Pike Place Market early the next foggy morning to collect ingredients.  We were having some friends over that night for a seafood extravaganza dinner.  The guys at the seafood stand were very helpful in our selection of dungeness crabs and halibut fillets and mussels and scallops but I still punched one in the face when he gave me the grand total. We love our friends (and the cioppino was delicious) but you people pricey.

We still feel lucky to have this in our backyard

Coco turned 4 over the weekend.  Coco is a study in contrasts.  She invited mostly boys to her party and insisted on sword fighting with them but also insisted on wearing this --

And insisted on having a cake that looked like this --

We put Lucien in charge of entertainment.  He took his job seriously and planned games all week.  When the time came, Lucien was a rock star.  He held the rapt attention of all party-goers, many of whom suffered from a case of Lucien-worship before they even arrived at the party.  He's either going to be President of the United States or a cult leader, tough to say.

He had great success with his treasure hunt and straw throw (?) games.  He then taught the kids a game called "Make it Rain Money" in which he stood at the top of the stairs and rolled pennies towards the rosy-faced kids below.  He faked them out by adding occasional bottlecaps, which one boy promptly began putting in his mouth.  "What?  Aren't we past that age now?" I wondered as I pried open his surprisingly strong lips.

The kid with the most pennies at the end "won."  There was lots of scrabbling on the floor, some bonked heads, some tears.  Hey, it's a cutthroat world out there.  These kids gotta learn you've got to fight for every cent you have, even if it means hitting someone over the head with a My Little Pony to get it.

(My sincere apologies to the parents of the children at the party.)

And happy, happy birthday to our favorite Paris souvenir. 
Snow White will cut you.

For now, Lucien is staying put in his public school.  The deciding factor was my many meetings and communications with his current teacher. She's just too damn good to leave.  She's not warm and fuzzy but I don't need a teacher to stroke my hair while I tell her my troubles.  I need a teacher who will work with us regarding what he needs in the classroom, a teacher who's got her eye on The Loosh and will notice, and grab onto his collar, if he slips into the pit of despair.

Her sharp-eyed hawk-like nature pleases me immensely.  So we stay this year.

With the 50 bazillion dollars we'll "save" this year by not sending Lucien to private school, we will be able to afford lots of occupational therapists, tutors, assorted psychologists, and clowns. We can have one tucked away into every corner of Banister Abbey should any unanticipated educational or emotional crisis arise.  On second thought, drop the clowns.  Clowns tucked into corners and popping out at unexpected times may be a recipe for trauma.

My in-laws have been here for a week.  I love when they visit because not only are they great people, they always do the dishes after dinner.  I was also happy to discover I remember a lot of my French, at least once I've heard it again for a few days and have had a couple drinks.  It helps.

The bad news is after they leave us, my in-laws were originally supposed to visit Yosemite.... and Kings Canyon.... and some other national parks.  *cough cough we suck*  They are now restructuring their entire vacation from our dining room table. 

I'm roasting some potatoes right now.  In the recipe it said "sprinkle generously" in regards to the seasoned salt mixture but I read it as "sprinkle dangerously."  And for just a moment, I felt alive. 

Fingers crossed we make swim lessons this week,