Friday, September 30, 2005

The Glories of Produce

Beautiful day yesterday, and the first day of the week the kidlets don't have obligations after school. So pick up time felt early--too early to just go home and do homework and shit. They wanted to do something FUN!

We went raspberry picking.

We go to a place that is someone's home, with a huge near farm-sized lot. She has about 25-30 rows of raspberris, with nearly a thousand bushes. We were the only ones there.

There is a treasure hunt involved in berry picking. You want to find ones that are ripe--if they are bright red, like strawberries, they aren't ready yet and will taste bitter. The wine-dark ones are best, but only if they haven't gotten too dark. Once they are too ripe, they fall apart into their component drooplets, and you end up with juice and not berry.

On a beautiful day, you can afford to be finicky. You need to find just the right balance of purple and red in the color, and then you can reject any berry based on asymetrical drooplets. They should fall off the bush with the slightest of pressure--but if they fall off before you pull at all, then they are too ripe.

When you pick your own, you get to sample as you go--Juanita only charges for the berries you actually bring back in your bucket. So you get the sun-warmed flavor of berries as you go--some are purely sweet, some have a little bitterness to give them a kick in your mouth.

The Pony now likes raspberries, and she sampled many before determining the color characteristics of the ones she wanted to pick. The Bunny doesn't like to eat raspberries because they taste "too hairy."

We left with 4 pints of berries for $10 (way cheaper than at the grocery) and a lovely afternoon together. Given the stress of school right now, an afternoon like that is priceless.

Overheard At Volleyball

The Pony plays volleyball for her 5/6 grade team at school--a small private school in a city stuffed to the gills with Catholic schools. So, Our Kids play in the Catholic league, and are the only god-doubting pagans--I mean, ecumenical--kids in the league.

Which leads to some odd commentary from parents.

Parent 1: Were you at the soccer game last night?
Parent 2: No. What happened?
Parent 1: That other team were just awful--they kicked our kids, they laughed when kids got hurt, they cheated while the ref wasn't looking.
Parent 2: Oh. That must have been the Holy Angels.

What are the UNholy angels like?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Why Not SUPER-Intelligent Design?

The Pony had an assignment the other night to list responses to a list of identifiers: e.g., "name a planet". The kids were encouraged to be as creative as they could be.

One of the things to identify was "A House Of Worship." My respomse would have been the Dover, Pennsylvania School Board.

Yes, once again, we are seeing people trying to reconcile the conflicts between faith and science, by making science into faith. It's been a long standing conflict, since the "invention" of science as a system of observation and testing. Remember the old saying "If man were meant to fly, he'd have wings"?

Here is the best thing I've seen written about the failure of "Intelligent Design," by Dahlia Lithwick, one of the sharpest legal journalists I've read:

There are many thorny medical mysteries doctors can't explain: How can
pluripotent stem cells give rise to any type of cell in the body? Why is the
genetic marker for Huntington's disease characterized by an excess of
trinucleotide repeats? What accounts for the phenomenon of spontaneous remission
in some cancers? With intelligent design, we don't ever need to find out. Years
from now, we'll all lie in our hospital beds while ID-trained doctors hold our
hands and assure us that we are merely dying of God.

We'll all be able to huddle around our radios and listen to Car Talk as a family. After the question is posed, we can all yell out in unison with Click and Clack that the
mysterious drut-drut-drut coming from that lady in Vermont's carburetor is …

And Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit will be vastly improved when
Mariska Hargitay can look ruefully over at Chris Meloni, shake her head over the
dead victim's limp frame, and shrug: "Heck if I know what happened. It's a real
mystery. I guess we'll have to get a warrant for God." Sigh. "Again." Cut to
closing credits.

Evolution is an observable fact--biological entities mutate and change over time. Science has made all our lives immeasurably safer, healthier, longer.

Hey, maybe God is smarter than we think, and gave us brains that we might use them!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It IS A Small World

Our puppy, Constable Windsor Bermondsey of the Back Yard, is a rescue dog. Given his record with us of eating through power cords, leashes, harnesses, etc., I'm pretty certain he chewed himself free and ran off.

Fortunately for us, because now he is ours. We got him through a rescue organization called Homeward Bound, which is based out of a small city quite some distance away.

Today, as I was walking him around the neighborhood, we met some high school girls--one of whom volunteered for Homeward Bound, and remembered our puppy when he was called Toastie.

It was a happy reunion, especially for Bermondsey, who got to have more people make a big fuss over him, which is his favorite thing ever.

The Glass Is Not Half Empty

This is turning out to be a difficult time for me. Due to erratic taking of appropriate medications, I spent some serious down (way down) time in July and August. Things have gotten better this month, but I'm still fragile and damaged in unpredictable ways.

The other night, I got a small glance of disapproval from someone important to me--over something that was not a big deal, and could be easily addressed--but it just knocked the wind out of me. Totally took me apart, and I found myself aching with unshed tears the rest of the night.

Today, I am recovering from some serious insomnia, accompanied by emotional havoc. My brain just hurts. It's scraping against my skull like sandpaper, like the gritty way my eyes feel when I've cried too much. I once had an IV of erthyromyacin, which irritated my veins just exactly like my brain feels today.

I have long thought of myself as a capable and strong person--when the chips were down, I always thought I would come through. I thought I was an optimistic person. Depression has shaken that view.

The glass is neither half full nor half empty. The glass is broken.

I Joined A Different Army...

...the one with the condos and the private rooms. --Private Benjamin

See, this is how I feel about being a parent right now. When I became a parent, I thought it would be a chance for me to love someone, and give them what was the best of me. I knew it would be hard, and it has been, but I basically saw it as a lifelong commitment to love the little person who was born. I would help when I could, but that the job of living the actual live was the kid's job.

Now, I'm not so sure. The Pony is in middle school--which believe me is as much a surprise to me as to anyone, that we both made it this far--and there are some real struggles coming up fast. Fast like a solid wall comes up on a crash test dummy fast.

I can see some of these crashes as they approach, and I can even probably help her avoid some of them. Not all of them. Which ones are the right ones to hit? I can't tell.

And I deeply fear that if I do interfere, I will simply make things worse than if I don't. At what point do you let a kid go and make her own mistakes? Yes, it is the job of a parent to do hard and unpleasant things, but I value my relationship with my kidlet--and I fear that by barging in where I am so clearly unskilled, I will do more harm than good, and also spoil the good things we have between us.

Who knew parenting would be all about me?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Dog. Lying on keyboard. Snuggling against my wrists. Can't...type...must...stop.

Top Things To Remember About The U2 Concert

I don't know if you know this, but I went to the U2 concert last Friday. Did I mention that? Top things to remember:

  • Bono and Edge doing "Old Man River"
  • Woman holding up a sign "I lost 75 pounds to dance with you Bono"--so he pulled her up on stage and said "One thing you must know--Irish men can't dance. We can do a lot of other things though." Okay, maybe it wasn't technically "dancing" (John O'Hurley has nothing to worry about) but it was a definite groove--and she stayed on stage though the entirety of "Elevation."
  • Bono taiko drumming at the end of "Love And Peace Or Else"
  • Introducing "Miss Sarajevo," Bono said "We recorded this with Luciano Pavarotti. He's not here, but I have been putting on some weight."
  • The band exiting from the point of the ellipse, with Edge going one way, the other three going the other way. Bono putting up his microphone and improving "I'll take the high road, and you take the low road." The band members waving at each other.
  • Bono announcing that "Edge is from the future" and that the doctors at Mayo Clinic examined Edge's brain and declared it "impossible"--Edge's expression like "What're ya gonna do?"

I'm sure there are more, but I'll stop now.

Is It Live, or Is It TV?

So, the U2 concert last Friday? We went. Did I happen to mention that we were going? We did. To U2. Concert. Us as 20,238 other people, most of whom didn't matter. Because. We. Were. There.

Actually, it's been so long since I've been to an arena concert that I can't even really remember what it was like. I tend to prefer smaller venues--like my iPod. REALLY small.

The first time I went to an arena concert, it was Bruce Springsteen touring for "The River." And it was surprising, mostly for the realization that media had messed with my mind. No, I mean even more than I realized.

I had seen the "No Nukes" concert film in a real movie theater that had only one screen. So it was loud, and big, and I was in the middle of a crowd of people. Somehow, when I went to the concert, I had failed to realize that being there in person was NOT like watching it later. For one thing, you are MUCH FARTHER AWAY. And contrary to expectations, just because he is a Rock God, Bruce Springsteen is NOT 15 feet tall, like he looked in the movie. Nope. Not even close.

Plus, oddly enough, an arena built for guys on skates to hit each other (and occasionally a puck) doesn't have nearly the acoustic balance as a movie theater, much less my tacky stereo system that I got as a premium for opening a bank account (but I had to pay a little bit more). So, really, Bruce was neither as big or a loud as I had expected.

It was a great concert, and the Boss was awesome. Just different.

U2--great concert. Awesome band. We had seats directly across from the stage, front row behind the sound guys. Full spectrum visuals--nothing blocked our view.

But again--arenas don't have the sound system. I had kind of expected to be inside the wall of sound, with a bass line pacemaker, forceably changing my heart beat with the force of volume. I expected to go slightly deaf from the Edge's guitar. Even some of the band banter got lost in the sheer deadness of empty arena space. It's just hard to be as close to the band as you imagine you might get to be--based on seeing the videos.

I had a friend in law school who got an awesome summer job working the the TV network that Letterman was working for at the time--NBC or CBS, whatever--in New York. The one "perk" that she asked for (it was unpaid, I think, but still awesome) was to get to see Letterman's show live. It was scheduled, and rescheduled, and delayed until about very last day she was there. And she had a ticket, and a seat and was waiting for the show to start...when something happened, and she had to give her seat to someone else and got moved to the producer's booth, where she---watched it on TV.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Unclear On The Concept

This morning, my whole Awesome Family was snuggled in the big bed, and the puppy was happily rolling around on top. He has a tendency to go completely loose, as if he has left out all his skeletal structure, and his happy to just flop around as if he is simply stuffed.

"Hey," said unnamed family member. "He's just like a snake. A furry snake. With legs."

The Trials Of Aging--and U2!

We're going to the U2 concert tonight, Mr. Sweetie and I! Did I mention that we're going to see U2? Oh, and we're going to U2 tonight.

I did not want to go as Mini Van Mom with my wardrobe of comfy clothes perfect for a trip to the grocery store or Target before picking the kids up from school. I wanted something a little more--hip. You know. Cool-ish. I'm a mom. There's a limit to how cool I can be, and I know that. I don't want to look like I'm wearing a costume either--it's a bit too far from Halloween to pull THAT off, and a yet close enough for that to be a possible danger.

So, I went shopping yesterday for a jeans jacket. That would work, right? Just a simple, preferable faded, denim jacket that I can wear to blend into a hip nighttime crowd. Is that asking too much?

Alas, it seems so. I traipsed all over the MallDale (prior to the Mega Mall, all our shopping malls were surnamed "Dale") and found destroyed denim, designer embroidered denim, nipped, tailored, and teeny tiny denim jackets, but no plain, classic jackets. There were some that were so tiny they were designed to cover only the collarbones--but with long sleeves.

Where is a County Seat Levis(TM) store when you need one?

You know, when you don't shop the fashion stores, they change on you. Wasn't Abercrombie & Fitch once a bastion of preppy athletics? You know, yachting caps and crew paddles and Old Money fashion? And Banana Republic was once casual chic clothing. Now they both look just like each other, with loud music.


I FINALLY found one at The Gap. The music there was not good, but at least it did not cause bleeding from the ears. I know there is a generational thing, and I am the wrong generation for the new Banana Republic and A&F. That's okay, really. But isn't there something a little--oh, I don't know--cynical--about corporate policy setting the "hip" music standard? You know it wasn't just the guys working retail who turned the music up that loud.

I'd have liked it better--really! I would have--if I could just even have pretended that one of the stock guys brought in some totally awesome speakers from his basement and set them up after hours, and one of the sweater folding girls had sneaked in her totally bootleg cut of some band that is virtually unknown outside this one club in Glasgow.

Sadly, guys in suits at corporate headquarters shipping out anonymous techno pop doesn't feel cool to me.

But U2? THAT'S cool, baby.

Autumnal Equinox

Summer is ending--we had temps in the 80s, high humidity, sweaty hair and whirring air conditioners on September 21. Then, that night, big weather came through--severe thunderstorms, flash flood warnings, thunder and lightning all through the night, and even a tornado sighting. Cool weather arrived with a bang!

Last night, I sat outside in the dark, my bare feet just a little too cold, and heard a pair of geese honking and calling through the dark as they flew to join a flock. Trees have started to turn scarlet and gold, and we woke up this morning to temperatures in the low 50s.

The bright colors of my summer wardrobe look out of place now--even if the temperature soars again, I don't think I'll wear apple green capris again. Long live brown and black!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

This Cannot Be A Coincidence--Too Many Pirates!

Yes. I have a crush on Johnny Depp, especially as Captain Jack Sparrow. Yes, I celebrated International Talk Like A Pirate Day, with rum and grog and a few well placed "Arrrghs!"

Yet, suddenly, I realize that pirates are more than just fun. They have an important place in our ecosystem.

This information comes from the website for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, an "alternative" to Intelligent Design, and a great way to point out why ID is religion, not science, and should not be taught as such.

As a religion, it comes with some benefits: As set forth on the FSM page:

Flimsy moral standards.
Every friday is a relgious holiday. If your work/school objects to that, demand your religious beliefs are respected and threaten to call the ACLU.
Our heaven is WAY better. We've got a Stripper Factory AND a Beer Volcano.

Not to mention the required wear is "full pirate regalia."

ARRRGH, mateys! Surrender, or prepare to be plundered!

Is It Passe To Hate Car Alarms

I was walking past the private school in our neighborhood yesterday, and there was an insistent car alarm. Whooooop, whooooop, whooooop, whoooop...on and on. I walked a least a block and a half before it gave up.


Whoooop, whoooop, whoooop, whoooop.

The street was lined with Beamers, Lexuses, Hummers, tricked out minivans, Jeeps, Mercedeses...every luxury car you can imagine. The one with the alarm was the little, junky, parrot-puke green Mazda--the one that was styled after a Dodge Colt, or some other misbegotten American dud of the last half century.

Is that what they call a Napoleon complex?

Bad Parenting Alert!

So, Mr. Sweetie and I are totally excited about Our Big Date on Friday--we're off to see U2. So, we've been playing their music on the iPods, and suddenly, The Pony has become aware of them. I was playing "Until the End of the World" and the dissonant chording at the beginning caught her ear, and she pricked up like a spaniel on the hunt:

"What song is THAT?!?"

So, out of the total goodness of our hearts, we sat the kidlets down last night and played some of the Slane Castle DVD, from the Elevation tour--U2 live in Dublin. It's a great, great show, and now the kidlets are complaining.

How come we get to go see U2 and they don't.

Mr. Sweetie said it was because if U2 was their first concert, the rest of their lives would be down hill from that.

Actually, they've threatened to call Child Protective Services on us, but they're not sure whether failing to take them to the Vertigo Tour constitutes "abuse" or "neglect."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Avast, Ye Spammers!

I be gettin' some spam this day, and it ain't even in piratical speechifying. So, ye scurvy spammers, prepare to be boarded and run up the yardarm, then keelhauled and used for shark bait!

If this keeps up, we'll be deletin' the comments with our broadswords! Take no prisoners!

And if that don't keep the swamp beasts away, we'll be loadin' the cannon with "word verification" to blockade them spammers til they starve! Aye!

Arrgh! And More Arrgh!

So me matey Bermondsey went ashore last night for some R&Arrgh, and came back to the ship with some sticky burrs all about his midships. Ye olde barnacle scraper weren't up to the task, see, so I used one o'me sharpish shears about his neck.

Arrrgh! Ye can see where this sea tale's a-goin', can't ye? I done nicked up the salty dog but good, and he had to be to see the ship's doctor this mornin'. Stitches, it took, to close up the mighty wound I done gave him. He be sleepin off the "sedative," at's what the doc feller called it, but I says its grog!

Anyway, I guess I'll be giving him an extra helpin' o' Cookie's slops this evenin, don't cha think so. But I'm not soft! Arrrgh! I still be a mighty pirate--all day! Arrrgh!

As Summer Slips Away

It's been warm recently, and muggy as well, as summer has ignored the start of the school year and held on. This morning, however, it is clear that the forces of autumn are about.

As Bermondsey and I walked around the block, the sun was only about ten degrees above the horizon, and the wet ground began giving up its moisture from last night's rain. The sky was clear blue, with only the smallest of fluffy white clouds, yet below the branches of the trees a rising mist blanketed the ground.

Canadian geese are crossing the skies southward, honking and flocking--they are only in twos and threes, but the migration is beginning. With the sun so low in the sky, the undersides of their wings are illuminated, flashing black and gold with each beat. The ivy and sumac are starting to flush crimson. Autumn is on its way.

Do Ye Be Knowin' What Day T'day Be?

It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day--that be what day this be.

So gits out yer rum, and stump about on yer peg leg, else ya be a land lubber.

Fer yer eddification, here be a pirate joke, ta be sharin' with all them swabbies ya be convertin' ta pirate ways today:

A man met a pirate with a peg leg, a hook for a hand, and an eye patch.
"It looks like you've had an exciting life," he said.
"Oh, aye, that I have," agreed the pirate.
"How did you get that peg leg?" he asked.
"That there leg was lost the time a mighty storm swept me overboard, and the sharks got ahold of me leg. They chewed it through before I was able to pull meself back aboard ship."
The man was impressed. "What about your hand? What happened there?"
"Arrgh, that was lost when we was capturing a treasure ship. We fought bloody hand to hand battle, and I lost me hand to a swordsman."
The man was silent for a moment, awed by the daring of the pirate before him, but he found he had to ask "What happened to your eye?"
"That, well man, that was when me parrot shit in me eye."
The man couldn't believe this story. "You lost your parrot poop?"
"Arrgh, well it was the first day with me hook."

That there joke was translated for ye scurvy dogs so's you could understand it proper like. Now go and be pirate-y, or the Flying Dutchman'll scupper yer ship.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

It's This Kind Of Spontaneous Publicity...

Hey! I got my first piece of comment spam! Here it is:

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I feel like Steve Martin from The Jerk: "The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!"

Tragically Unhip

I am a consumer of American culture. I like to think I have some grasp of lots of different aspects of out society--movies, TV, music, books, that sort of thing. Even if I don't actually watch much TV (occupational hazard once the kidlets get old enough to work the remote), I follow the trends. Veronica Mars: yeah! Reality TV: not as good as the days of the first Temptation Island.

I read voraciously, and gulp down People, Us, Entertainment Weekly to keep up on the movies I don't actually see. I'm hip, right? I read Television Without Pity; I have IMDB on the internet equivalent of speed dial.

Since I got my iPod, though, I tend to listen to the music I already have. Which can get stale and leave me in a sort of retro/college/new wave/big hits/big name bands kind of rut. So, I've been trying to branch out a little--find out what the latest in music is all about.

So, I've been listening to The Current, the newest public radio station in town. Neither news nor classical music, The Current has hired an eclectic set of DJs and allows them to program what they want. There is a LOT of music that no one has ever heard of, and I was trying to remain open minded and learn from it all.

What I learned was that I am really unhip. No hippie chick I. I think its a wonderful idea, and I'm glad that people who are so passionate about the current music scene are allowed to share it with the world, rather than be bound into the straight jacket of commercial programming. Really.

But I got to tell you, that the other night, around midnight, when the Crooning French Guy and his Gallic Banjo came on, I totally gave up.

There's A Bright Golden Haze On The Meadow

I am not a morning person.

Which is sort of like saying Antarctica is not a picnic at the beach.

Those who know me know that with a running start and a little tail wind, I can sleep 12-14 hours at a stretch. My college roommate used to come back from her day of classes and wake me up in time for lunch. So, no, I am not a morning person by nature.

Being a mom, and a dog owner, however, means that I still have to get up during those godless hours of 6 to 8 a.m. Yesterday, I was actually dressed and walking the dog as the clock edged toward 7.

Did you know that there are people out and about at that hour? I saw kids walking to school, school buses grinding their way down the streets, a striking blond woman in a fuschia linen dress and black flats returning from the gym, a very cool newspaper deliverer in his bright red Excursion running papers like he was doing training exercises at football camp. There were other dog walkers, runners, contractors in big SUVs on their way to the work site.

Wore me out. I had to go take a nap.

And That's All I Have To Say About THAT

Re: Hurricane Katrina--

Those of us who are not suffering in its wake:
Be grateful you have a roof over your head
Pay attention to the small blessings of food, safe water, clean and dry clothing
Hug and kiss your family, because you are with them.

God bless.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hello! hello lo ooo

Can we hear the echo? School started this week, and the kidlets are trundling off happily to be stuffed full of Scholarly Goodness.

And I can hear myself think again.

Or I could, if there were actually any mental activity going on.

I love my kids. They are both kind and smart and sweet through and through. But they are kids, and the world of kidlets has not so much to keep the Mommy Mental Faculties very sharp. Plus, because they are, in fact, not adults, they need Care! And Help! And sometimes just the comfortable Mommy Presence!

Which is my own damn fault--I mean, I COULD have raised them to be disaffected and independent little snots who stop by the house for cash and car keys, as well as the occasional clean laundry. BUT NOOOOOO! I had to go and make myself an important part of their daily lives!

So, they've had summer vacation, and I've been the Operator Standing By To Take Your Call all summer. Which means that no matter what I am doing, I am likely to be summoned to assist, or view, or participate in kid-dom.

The silence now, with everybody gone, is beyond golden. My brain feels a bit bruised--like it's taken a few hard hits recently--and it feels so good when that stops.

Posting should increase in frequency a bit, as I find my way back to some semblance of mental acuity.