Thursday, March 21, 2013

Learning curves

At Coco's most recent HELLRAISER BALLET class, the teacher noticed she tends to lead with her left foot and is therefore, possibly, a leftie.  We nodded our heads together in mutual lukewarm enthusiasm for Coco's hypothetical oddity.

Then the teacher mentioned "a little test" her family doctor mentioned to her years ago.  If you want to know if your child is right-handed or left-handed, stand behind them and, without warning, give them a little push.  Whichever leg they step forward with to avoid faceplant is likely the side they favor.

The following scene may or may not have played out five minutes later in front of the community center:

Me: *shove*
Coco:  AAAAAHHH......
Horrified Onlookers:  You are a terrible woman.
Me:  Confirmed!  A southpaw!

Alex's co-worker from Beijing, who was in Seattle for a business meeting, came over for dinner last week.  He was born and raised in Singapore but has lived in China for many years.  In discussing plans for dinner, he mentioned he'd never been in an American house before and also had never eaten Mexican food before.  Alex decided to take care of both at once -- dinner would be takeout from our favorite fancy Mexican restaurant, Cactus, served in the dusty old American grandeur of Banister Abbey.

I ordered butternut squash enchiladas.  I always order butternut squash enchiladas from Cactus.  They are my favorite and I don't mess with a good thing.  We ordered Singapore/China Dad a Mexican basic -- carne asada tacos.  When the tacos came out of the box and were set before him, he looked at them with question mark eyes.  To him, the almighy taco was a truly foreign object.

Singapore/China Dad is a fascinating guy with a fascinating life.  We had a lively fun conversation but through it all, he remained lost with his taco.  He poked at it for awhile, then scooped the insides out into a pile in the middle of the plate.  He seemed happy with the deconstructed taco pile but after many sidelong glances towards me, Alex couldn't take it anymore and interrupted the conversation for a taco lesson.

When Al said he was supposed to pick up the whole thing and eat it with his hands, Singapore/China Dad looked at Al like he was playing a joke on him.  He then looked at me for confirmation and I said, "Yes, it's true!  Mexican food can be really messy!"  He believed me, likely because I had butternut squash enchiladas smeared all over my face.  They're not messy or hard to eat, I just get a little overexcited sometimes.

When we asked S/C Dad what he thought about Mexican food, he proclaimed it, "exotic!"  That's about the last thing Mexican food is to me -- it's more like a necessary staple, like bread and butter, really -- but I'm happy to give him such a scintillating cultural experience.

 Sibling teamwork.  Lucien on gas pedal, Coco on steering wheel.

I've experienced some dental hell lately.  The dentist tells me I need about five thousand crowns, which is odd given my number of teeth.  I went in recently for the preparation/temporary crown step and the dentist wanted to put a wedge thing in my mouth to keep my mouth open.  Wedging my mouth open with something like a tiny rubber horseshoe?  Dentists, go home, you're drunk!

I take my bodily autonomy very seriously.  I went for a facial chemical peel once and the lady wanted to put these little sticky things on my eyes to keep them closed.  I freaked out.  There was absolutely no need for me to have my eyes open but the fact she was taking away any possibility of me opening them made my fight-or-flight kick in and I punched her in the face.  I kid!  I kid!  I didn't punch, just threatened her firstborn.

Even hugs.  I enjoy being hugged by Al if the hug is a normal one.  But sometimes Alex thinks he's a bear.  When Al thinks he's a bear, he squeezes so hard I can't move.  Then our laughing happy "hee hee we're hugging" turns into me screaming and clawing his face off and him looking at me asking, "My God, what happened to you as a child?"

Claustrophobia ain't just about elevators, people.  And for some reason, for me, it's only kicked in the past couple years.  What is it about getting older and fearing movement restrictions?  My theory is it's a growing fear of the coffin.

I refused the wedge thing.  The dentist said "please?" and I said "no."  She said "you won't be able to keep your mouth open that long" and I said "watch me."  She said "you're absolutely not allowed to move for a very long time" and said "if it will help me avoid the tiny rubber horseshoe of death, I won't."

And I didn't.  Two hours of near constant open mouth.  I didn't move a muscle.  The dentist was impressed.  My will can be cast iron as long as I know I have options.

Al and I have been trolling architectural salvage yards recently.  They are some of our happiest places.  There's nothing like walking into a place full of rusted old house parts and seeing all the possibilities --


"We disagree, we are bored."

My book about Paris has been on the back burner for a long time.  There's always something happening that takes my attention from book writing and focuses it on a house falling apart or a child vomiting in my lap.

I need inspiration, and accountability.  I've signed up for a memoir writing class in the hopes of adding structure to my writing life.  My first class is this evening.  I'm nervous, primarily because it's a class full of "real writers" and I am but a lowly blogger.  I'm sure I'll look stupid.  Thankfully, this is not a deterrent.

 Grand finale -- Al in a bib.

A southpaw!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Moving Bodies

Alex and Lucien ran a 5K last weekend.  The forecast said it would be a beautiful crisp day but when we awoke at 5:45 a.m. to get the guys out of the house, it was just damn cold.

The plan was for Coco and I to meet Lucien and Alex at the finish line so I could share the glorious moment of my firstborn finishing his first race.  But someone (Alex) forgot the plan.  Instead of texting me as they neared the finish line so I could get into place, he chose to cross the finish line discreetly and take Lucien inside for hot chocolate, leaving me outside in the cold to wonder where the hell everybody was.

Here's a nice picture of people finishing the race but they are not related to me

I was outside for a long time, walking Coco up and down in the stroller to keep warm, glancing at the finish line from time to time, looking for my boys.  I became concerned when the race participants became decidedly more unhealthy.  There were several who sat down immediately upon completion and refused to move.  One had diabetes and was taken to the medical tent.  One rather out-of-shape woman cried and yelled for water.

Then there were tourists wearing fanny packs crossing the finish line.  They posed for jokey "crossing the finish line ha ha!" photos and yelled at their friends in a foreign language so they would notice how funny they were being.

When the 15K race participants began crossing the finish line,  I thought, "Oh holy hell what have we done to Lucien?"   If the out-of-shapers and the diabetics and the German tourists wearing sandals AND the 15K participants have lapped him, perhaps this was a bad idea. 

Then I got a text -- "We're in Bay Pavillion!  Lucien finished in half an hour!  He did great! He's had five hot chocolates now! Come pick us up!"

It was an epic communication breakdown, suckas.

I wasn't happy upon entering Bay Pavilion but I was still very proud of The Loosh.  He didn't slow down, didn't stop, just ran that entire 5K like a boss.  He wasn't even tired as evidenced by his jumping on the couch all afternoon.  We've now signed him up for track and field where he will likely receive the nickname, "That Hyperactive Fast Kid."

Have you guys heard of Car2Go?  I learned of it from Blonde Seattle Mom, who knows everything.  We went out for drinks last week but it started raining so we didn't want to walk home.  Blonde Seattle Mom said, "No problem, we'll just grab a Car2Go!"  She made some magic happen by waving a card around and suddenly the three of us were crammed into a Smart Car and she was driving us the ten blocks home.

What's happening?  Can someone tell me what's happening?

The best part of Car2Go is you don't have to make reservations and you don't have to return it where you got it.  You can just ditch it wherever you want: sidewalk, tree, wherever.  It's a Smart Car so you could probably put it in your pocket and carry it around for awhile if you wanted, too.

This isn't an endorsement, I'm just recounting another unexpected occurrence in my life (my favorite kind of occurrence).  I have now signed up for Car2Go and look forward to popping a wheelie in a Smart Car in the near future.

Our neighbors are exactly like us;  they are suckers who purchased a beautiful old "fixer" home (theirs was formerly full of artists who turned out to be squatters, remember them?)  and now spend all their time fixing it and looking stressed.  We share house fixing tips such as, "this sh*t's f*cking hard and takes forever" and wave at each other weakly across the driveway.  They are oftentimes wearing large gas masks -- which reminds me, I should really ask them about that.

As I put Lucien to bed the other night, I glanced out the window and realized people who fix old houses can sometimes look like serial killers --

Whatcha doin' in that plastic-covered room with that spotlight and giant garbage bag, neighbor?

Not that I'm one to talk.  Banister Abbey recently looked like this --

All of us fixers end up with Dexter rooms sooner or later

What the above photo doesn't capture is the dank smell of wet drywall plaster.  Also, the several huge fans set at high speed that sounded like airplane engines all night long and made the plastic billow, flap and ripple in creepy ways. Downstairs was terrifying for two solid weeks.

Our dining room was no longer inviting

 And the refrigerator no longer hospitable

Since the plastic has come down, my life has revolved around priming and painting all the new drywall.  I haven't made it to the gym in the past few weeks but like to think I'm getting some good "Karate Kid" workouts -- roll on, roll off, up ladder, down ladder, brush on, brush off, lean in, lean out too far from top of ladder, fall off ladder, get back on ladder, repeat. 

I can probably kick some arrogant blonde guy's butt right now and don't even know it.

In happy news, Coco is a Butterfly Princess and if you tell her otherwise, she will kick you in the shins --

Coco is also now taking a ballet class. There's a special place in heaven for people who teach ballet to small children.  It's the most accurate example of the phrase "it's like herding cats" I've ever witnessed.

Coco's not too bad, but overall the girls in our class are the most uncoordinated group of children you've ever seen.  If the teacher tells them to skip, they lumber across the room like mini-Frankensteins, often with one leg dragging behind them and seemingly no understanding of the mechanics of their own body.  Most of the girls stop mid-lumber to pick their noses or sit on the floor to scoot around on their butts.

One girl is so hyperactive she runs back and forth across the room the entire class.  I don't understand how she makes so much noise doing so; all I can figure is her tiny feet are made of lead.  For another girl, jumping straight up in the air has proven quite a challenge; she kind of lunges to the side as the teacher looks at her with stupefied concern.

There's one little boy in the class.  Apparently the teacher and the boy's father had a difference in opinion recently because I overheard him say, "He's a little boy! Just let him hold his penis for Pete's sake!"  I'm going to stay out of that one.

There goes Ole Leadfoot

As our children make a mess of ballet, we parents sit against the wall and laugh so hard we cry.  We bury our heads in our arms so the kids can't see.  So far no obvious prima ballerinas have emerged amongst the 2-3 year old set but I'll keep you posted.

Skipping is hard,

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ode to the Goddamn House

Oh, Goddamn House, how we've bled for you.

After two years of negotiating liens, worrying over scavengers and squatters, and fighting the urge to fly down to Texas to punch the vindictive ex-wife of the previous owner in the mouth, it's over.  Not only do we own The Goddamn House, but we've renovated it and, as of today, rented it to a ridiculously adorable family.

We originally heard of The Goddamn House while living in France, and wanted to live in it ourselves upon our return.  But the wait got too long, patience wore thin, eyes wandered, Banister Abbey was found.  It's a long story how we came to own The Goddamn House.  Let's just accept it at that and move on.

I held an Open House to find renters.  There was a good turnout and many applications were filed.  Thank God I received Cute Family's application first because second was a group of college students who said "dude" every other word and talked openly about the "awesome parties" they would have in the house. 

I envisioned all our hard work obscured by a thick layer of pot smoke, the beautiful floors a mess of alcohol bottles and used condoms, the walls punched full of holes, the windows broken by thrown chairs or perhaps thrown people.  I crossed my fingers mightily for Cute Family. 

Cute Family didn't let me down, passed the background and credit checks without a hiccup.  Even if I'd found felonies on both their records, I would have rented it to them anyway to avoid having a beer slip-n-slide installed in the dining room.

To bid adieu to the latest all-consuming chapter of life, here's a before-and-after slideshow of the house we love to love, The Goddamn House.

























I'm going to miss hanging out with the old girl.

Cute Family, I am lurking nearby, and am rocking myself to sleep tonight with the thought I can kick you out anytime I want to live in The Goddamn House myself. 

Now go enjoy your first weekend in your new home, really!