Good Morning, Baltimore

Posted on 8/20/2014 09:45:00 AM In:
I climbed up the non-steps side of Federal Hill (yes, that Federal Hill) with my kids yesterday because they thought "it would be fun" and because I hadn't done anything like that in some time so I guess it was high time I nearly broke an ankle.  Note to self: next time you decide to scale the wall of an embankment, three year old thongs are probably not the most appropriate of shoes. 

It was kind of worth it, though, because I managed to get this great panoramic shot on my phone.


click to embiggen
Word of the day: sacrifice.

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Ephesians 6:11

Posted on 8/17/2014 03:00:00 PM
You wish you'd had me to teach that Sunday School class you had to go to when you were a teenager, don't you?





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It's a Cat Carrier

Posted on 8/16/2014 08:16:00 AM
And all these years, I've been spending money on beds and mattresses and bed linens.




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Art Form

Posted on 8/15/2014 09:30:00 AM In:
Just something inside an abandoned building Monica and I happened past while on our way somewhere important, I don't know, like to find the best falafel food truck in the city or to get free pies from the Orange is the New Black Pie Truck or something like that. Next time you decide to go on about how graffiti vandals are a blight on society, just walk around New York for a bit.
 


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Graceful

Posted on 8/14/2014 07:23:00 AM
I work with a youth group of teenaged girls in my spare time (ha! spare time, ha ha ha!) and we try to have a big, combined activity once a month with the equivalent boys' group.  For this month's event, we purchased a large roll of contractors' plastic, tent stakes, several bottles of dish washing soap and went outside with a hose to a hill to set up a godzilla-sized slip 'n slide. Then we had to pretty much push most of the kids down it because as cool and fearless as they all think they are, when it comes to trying something new, they are WUSSIES.

The Dormouse happened to be there with me and was not a wussie.  She wanted desperately to go on the slide and had zero reservations about trying it.  But man, for a kid who does as many things as she does well, this was not her forte.  

Her basic modus operandi for approaching the slip 'n slide was to run, hell-bent for election, right up to the edge of the plastic, stop, jump straight up in the air and then land straight down on her belly, arms and legs spread eagle - basically the on-the-grass equivalent of a belly flop.  This gave her the momentum of a large jagged rock and she'd move about six inches down the slide, coming to a slow rest in the top one-eighth of the run. Over and over, she did this, despite the best coaching from some slip 'n sliders who'd managed to make it all the way down the hill and off the twenty feet or so of plastic we'd installed and at least one physicist's explanation of forward momentum. It was hilarious and I think I deserve a medal for making fun of her as little as I did.

Until now.



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Anyone Else Just Hear a Long Slow Whistle?

Posted on 8/13/2014 08:28:00 AM
In a bit of a one-two punch dealt by the universe, one of my childhood idols died yesterday.

I've loved Lauren Bacall ever since I saw her first film, To Have and Have Not.  I was, what, twelve or thirteen?  In the movies, she was beautiful, powerful, in control, and smart.  The ultimate ice queen.  She represented, for me, an era that I always thought I should have been born into and, to boot, she married my long-time crush, Humphrey Bogart.  And, yes, I'm aware of the fact that my teenage dreamboat-desire in the early 1980s was someone who died long before I was born... that's just a small glimpse into what a weird kid I was. Other pre-teen girls needed a teddy bear to decorate their bed.  I needed a Lauren Bearcall.  In fact, I still have it.

Incidentally, I also have the Humphrey Beargart.
There weren't a lot of opportunities, pre-Netflix-era, to order up a movie made forty years prior and watch it at will, so one of my hobbies back then was scouring the TV Guide (Ha! My kids don't even know what that is.) to find movies with either of those two and setting the VCR to record it, adding it to my collection of Bogie and Bacall movies on VHS tapes that I still probably have somewhere in my basement: Dark Passage, The Big Sleep, oh and let's not forget Key Largo. Oh, how I wish I'd lived New York City-adjacent when she was starring in shows on Broadway.  I would have loved to have been lucky enough to see her on the stage, which is where, I suspect, she really shined.

As I got a little older, I started to learn about Lauren Bacall - the person - and began to admire her for who she was, rather than the movies she made.  She had and valued an incredible work ethic.  She stood up for what she believed in and never backed down.  She wasn't afraid to speak out against injustice.  She taught me that being smart and having your own mind was a quality to aspire to, not to hide.  This is something that made my awkward teen years of not fitting in really anywhere much easier to withstand... and even appreciate.

Once after I'd moved to D.C., she was appearing at the Kennedy Center in a lecture series and I paid an arm and a leg to go see her, just to be in the same room with the woman who disliked being called a legend.  I was extremely poor then and couldn't afford it, but I never regretted spending the money.  She was brilliant, funny, and life-affirming. 

Like Robin Williams, I feel mostly for her children and family who will miss her.  But I also feel sad that she's not going to be in the world, adding to it, anymore.  The world is a little less classy today.  A little less opinionated.  A little less forthright. But in my mind, I imagine Hoagy Carmichael playing in the background and her wiggling across the dance floor into Bogie's arms and that makes me smile.



Some of my favorite Lauren Bacall quotes:

“Looking at yourself in a mirror isn’t exactly a study of life.”

“I am not a has-been. I am a will be.” 

“I find that through the sad times, work is what made my continuing, not breaking down, possible.”

“My life has had meaning, with the friendships full and valuable and essential to me. My children, Steve, Leslie, and Sam, are all different–all first-rate human beings with high standards–whom I completely and unequivocally adore–don’t always agree with–but always admire and respect. They all have wit and a sense of humor and, thank God, I have hung on to mine.”

“I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.”

"You don't always win your battles, but it's good to know you fought."

“Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you’re alive, it isn’t.”



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SFX

Posted on 8/12/2014 06:51:00 PM
I almost forgot that when we were in Pennsylvania last month, we ran into a couple of special effects makeup artists and had a nice time chatting with them.  They offered to put some wounds on The Shortlings and they jumped at the chance.  Because who doesn't need a big gaping wound on their forearm right before they take a personalized tour of a museum not any time near Halloween? No one! That's who!






At least we were the most memorable museum patrons of the day.

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Oh Captain!

Posted on 8/12/2014 11:47:00 AM
A personal blog mostly about dumb things my kids tend to say is probably not the most appropriate place to do this, but I went to bed thinking about the loss of Robin Williams last night and I woke up with that profound sadness still in my head. 

This has actually been a blog post forming in my brain for some months that will now never be written in the same way, but earlier this year, my husband decided our children's comedic education must be Handled and he bought them the entire Mork & Mindy series on DVD.  We've watched scores of hours of Robin Williams in our house during the better part of the year and I've marveled over and over about lucky I was to watch this talent emerge from a one-off, guest spot on Happy Days that I watched on network TV sitting on the floor of my living room in 1978, into the Academy Award-caliber actor he turned out to be.  I imagine my grandmother felt something like this about the likes of Sid Caeser, whom we also just lost... just lucky to have seen it unfold.

I know it was a silly series and it got sillier as the seasons wore on, but I defend my love of Mork & Mindy and here's why: Robin Williams has helped me talk to my kids about the Klu Klux Klan, about homelessness, about valuing the elderly, about substance abuse and self-medication.... and about kindness, something I'm finding to be a rarer and rarer commodity these days.  The thing everyone who knew him personally seems to be saying today is how kind a person he was. I'm not sure I knew that before today, but it doesn't surprise me.

This morning, I sat my kids down and told them. 

We cried.  

Because as they've grown to love Mork, they've seen Williams' other movies and his series The Crazy Ones (The Caterpillar loved that one in particular for some reason - so disappointed when it was cancelled) on television this year, and they have also grown to love Robin -- something I wasn't even aware of until today that I had also done.

We talked about all the fun moments he gave us and I told them about how his best movies were movies I really cared about, but that I was waiting until they were bigger to understand: Dead Poets' Society, Awakenings, Seize the Day, The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, What Dreams May Come, Good Morning Vietnam, August Rush, this amazingly quiet appearance on Louie...  

I talked to them about depression and how it lies. About how getting medical attention for depression is no different than getting medical attention for a broken arm.  I reminded them how important it is to talk to someone if you're feeling bad and I pleaded with them that if they ever feel like life isn't good and it might not be worth living, to talk to me, talk to dad, talk to a counselor or a teacher or a doctor, talk to anyone, I don't care, just get help because if you are sad and you don't feel like it is worth going on, that's because depression is lying to you.

Maybe that's the last thing he had to teach us.

I saw him once.  In a bookstore in Baltimore.  He was looking through some photography-type coffee table books and I was just wandering around; had ducked in from the Inner Harbor from whatever I was doing that day.  I wanted to talk to him, to tell him how much his work meant to me in the times in my life when I was deciding who I was going to be.  But in the end, I couldn't find the words and I didn't want to disturb his day.  It felt kinder to let him enjoy his privacy in that moment than to bother him for my own personal needs of having a story to tell later ("Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I met Robin Williams?!?").  It's the only celebrity sighting I've had where I wondered if that was the right thing.

I've loved everything Robin Williams has ever done, (with the possible exception of Popeye, which I still find to be just... well, weird), and every time I happen to catch a special about him on the biography channel or whatever, I can't help but watch to the end.  He was a hugely talented comedian, of that, there is no doubt. But his real impact for me were the (many) movies he made that made me think differently about life and helped me form my philosophy of it.  Most of the biographies I've seen recently have spent a significant percentage of time devoted to talking about "a certain kind" of movie he began making and criticizing him for choosing those feel-good movies -- as if Patch Adams wasn't something worthy of his comedic talents.  Yes, he was funny as all hell, but these "other" movies? These are the movies that I love and that matter to me.  These are the movies that he was nominated for Academy Awards for over and over (even though he didn't win one until years later, he deserved Awakenings and Fisher King; I still think he was robbed). These are the movies that reminded me during some pretty formative years that there is joy in life. He had his demons.  Even though he couldn't win the fight against his own demons this day, he did manage to win the fight for a whole lot of days. And he helped me in some way to keep fighting mine. I'll always be grateful to him for that.


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My Dream Hotel Room

Posted on 8/11/2014 06:39:00 PM

This is the headboard of the bed.  Of course, they don't come this way just because you reserve a night.  You have to know people. People who need to start updating their blogs again.

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How Many Clicks Does it Take?

Posted on 8/10/2014 06:34:00 PM
The Caterpillar put together a particularly preppy outfit the other day for camp and I asked her to pose for a photo.  The problem is she's turned into a bit of a ham lately. So it takes a few shots to get a decent, non-goofy photo of her these days.  How many shots, you ask?


























13 at least.  But I'm not certain that last one counts.

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Plucking the Feathers from the Lark

Posted on 8/05/2014 02:45:00 PM
Not to be outdone, The Caterpillar also had her own moment of glory this summer as well....

at her dance recital.

I hate that I didn't remember to bring my camera for this photo, but there's a very good reason for that.  Keep reading.


This one was particularly troubling because I had a board of directors' meeting to attend on the same day as the recital so I was ducking out of my meeting early to be there.  That's not the troubling part.  The troubling part is that this particular studio requires that there be two "Stage Moms" for each performance.  It's actually a good idea.  Since there are multiple ages and groups that all perform, the performance is about two hours long.  Which is fine if you're sitting in the audience; but if you're a group of a dozen six-year-olds dressed up in tu-tus, makeup and ballet buns, that stuff all needs to be kept in-tact by performance time and that's kind of a long period of sitting.  So what they do is they keep the kids back stage and only call them up when it's their time to dance. So far, so good.  The problem here is the instructors all teach multiple classes so they can't be back stage with the group.  Hence the need for Stage Moms.  

TL;DR: Basically the Stage Moms are two prison wardens who arrive early and keep the tiny inmates from escaping and beating each other to a pulp while they're locked in a room together and cabin fever sets in.  Then when it's their turn to dance, the stage moms supervise their Death March To The Stage, watch them perform like trained monkeys and then march them back to their cell until the evening is over and parents come to effect their respective paroles.

Oh, and also the Stage Moms volunteer to do this. They are there for the dress rehearsal and for the performance.

Last year, a lovely couple of moms agreed to do it.  We were told to put snacks, water, and something to do in a backpack for our kid and they'd bring a video or two.  It worked out great.  Everyone was happy.

This year no one could do it and it was an issue.  The dance teacher told us that if no one volunteered, they'd hire someone and we'd each have to chip in ten bucks or so to pay that person.  Knowing I had this board meeting and might not even be there for the beginning of the performance, I raised my hand and said, "Sign me up for THAT!"  All of the other moms threw a big, hairy fit about it because they didn't want to pay, but none of them was willing to volunteer either, so finally a couple moms said, Look, I can do it on the performance days but I cannot come to the dress rehearsal because I'm working, or I have boy children who are not allowed backstage or only my husband is available, or some other legitimate reason why springing this on the parents at the last minute and then just standing there waiting for someone to say, "I'll get it" (I really need a video of Cecil Turtle drawling those words over several seconds for the right effect here, but am unable to find what I want so let this suffice) is a bad idea on the studio's part.  

I said, "Well, I have the opposite problem; I'll be just barely making it here for the performance and in fact, might miss the first half if things go sideways at my meeting.  So what if I do the rehearsal (with another mom who had the same issue) and someone else does the performance?"  This was acceptable to all (least of all me, but I was willing to take my lumps because of the moms from last year) and we agreed to proceed.

Only some mother in the group who was not staying with the kids at all then decided to micro manage everything and spent the better part of an hour trying to assign different people different things.  Who will bring snacks?  What kinds of snacks are acceptable?  Who will bring videos? What videos are acceptable?  Who will bring DVD players? Who will bring water?  Who will bring crayons?  Who will bring paper? Who will bring tissues? Who will bring a fan? Who will bring a first aid kit? (yes, a FIRST AID KIT!)  Oh, it was painful.  At one point, I suggested the 'just put stuff in your kid's backpack for them to eat and do' method, but this was not nearly organized enough for her and WHAT IF SOMEONE BROUGHT PEANUTS AND A KID WAS ALLERGIC TO PEANUTS? 

Me: "Is anyone in this class allergic to peanuts?"

Her: "Well, no, but...."

So after the greatest minute details were considered and determined.  All agreed to have their child and their assigned task ready to drop off to me at the dress rehearsal at the appointed time.  

On the day of, I had a sneaking suspicion that I should be prepared for literally everyone to forget most everything.  So I brought some crayons, paper, a few snacks, and bottles of water in my car, just in case.  This turned out to be prescient because no one seemed to think that what they needed to bring for the two-hour performance on Saturday was also what they needed to bring for a four-hour dress rehearsal on Wednesday and I ended up with only the stuff I brought and a box of Vicks Vapo-rub scented tissues, brought by a dad who really didn't understand why he was handing them to me but was told to do so by his wife.  And because the dress rehearsal started around five o'clock in the evening, most of the moms didn't think to feed their kid beforehand. And because for some intelligent reason, they powers that be scheduled six-year-olds to perform in the last quarter of the performance schedule, they were stuck in a room with me, trying to keep them bloodless in their tu-tus and precious makeup for three hours before they even got the chance to move toward the stage. 

One mom came in, dropped off her kid and told me, "Oh by the way, she's a flight risk.  If you turn your head, she'll run out the door," then plopped her unceremoniously down on a chair amidst a dozen other kids and left.  Thus, I began obsessively counting kids for the next three hours because as it turns out, when you dress them up to look the same, they... you know... all look the same... and I couldn't even tell which kid was my kid, much less which one whose face I'd only seen for a minute or two once a week and was the known flight risk.  I just kept going over and over, "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12.  Wait, did I count that one twice?!? One more time: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11.  Wait, where's the other one? Oh, it's grabbing my skit. OK. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. Whew! OK! Who wants to color? 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12."

I had brought crayons and paper and coloring books, which was my saving grace.  But you know how kids tire of doing the same thing for more than oh... A MINUTE... and the natives grew restless.  I snatched one kid out of the air who was trying to do a swan dive off the table.  I stood guard at the door when they all tried to make a break for it thinking their numbers could overpower me. I tried to stop them from running full speed after each other in a circle and just settled for them doing it NOT in stalking feet.  I wiped noses. I reset hats. I found lost shoes. I readjusted bobby pins in hair buns.  I staged karaoke contests with my phone and I suggested quiet contests, which, let's be honest, never works.

About forty minutes in, one mom (who had her son in tow, which is why she couldn't be a Stage Mom - no boys allowed backstage) came in and said, "Where are the videos?"  I looked at her like a stroke victim, with wide eyes.

"No one brought them, huh?"

I shook my head, unable to form words.  

"I thought that might happen." So she went out to her car and brought in not one, but two portable DVD players that belonged to her and a bunch of videos and I'm not sure because it all happened so fast, but I think I kissed her hand.

This occupied them for awhile.


But only awhile.

One mom (one of the ones who never supplied a valid reason why she couldn't be a Stage Mom, but came to the dress rehearsal by herself and sat in the audience the entire time looking at her phone) came in at this point and saw her daughter squeezed in, watching between two other ballet-bunned heads and complained to me, "My daughter can't see the screen very well."

I was pretty much done by this point, "Well, I don't know what to tell you.  It's not a theater.  Those are the only DVD players we have and there are other activities at the other table.  So she can either squeeze in, which she seems fine with, or she can color over there.... or you can stay in here and play a game with some of them if they need something different to do."  She looked back at her daughter and left.

By about seven o'clock when we hadn't even been called to the stage yet, the four small bags of goldfish crackers I'd had in my purse had been consumed and everyone was complaining that they were hungry.  I called the KoH in desperation and he went to the store and delivered more snacks and the bottles of water I'd never had time to go back to my car and get.  (If I had never come up with a better reason for marrying him seventeen years ago, THIS would have been it, right here.)  He got way more than I needed, really, so I split the bevy with the group next door.  "Bless you," said my shell-shocked counterpart.

Finally, at hour three-and-a-half, we were called to the stage.  I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Minus the Post Part at this point and sat down in the audience next to the other Stage Mom while they all tip-toed on stage and performed Alouette, the dance they'd spent the last twenty or so weeks practicing. 

It lasted less than two minutes and was the most anti-climactic thing I'd experienced in my entire life... and that's saying something because I watched Dune in its theatrical release.

As they tip-toed off the stage and we got up to follow them, I turned to the other Stage Mom and said, perhaps a little too loudly and much too deadpan, "Well, that was TOTALLY worth it."

I got the biggest laugh of the evening.

The Caterpillar had a great time. She thinks she'd like to dance professionally one day.

Which is good because all the wages she'll earn can cover my therapy bills.



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Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps

Posted on 8/01/2014 09:11:00 PM
I haven't written about it much this summer, but the Shortlings are attending camp again.  The same camp they went to last summer.  We've done a few short weekend trips here and there but we won't take a vacation or do anything that takes us away from camp time.  Why?  Because camp time is sacrosanct.  First, because of the obvious reason that I gotta pay whether they go to a day of camp or not.  And I pay a not insignificant amount. So I insist on getting my money's worth.

But the second, and more important reason, is because this camp is amazeballs.  And if you didn't take that with the gravity it was intended, consider that I have never before used the word amazeballs in a sentence, verbal or written.  This camp is worth every overextended penny I put into it and they need it so I will not take even a day of camp away from them.  They need an experience where they have fun and go outside and ride horses and paddle canoes and swim and learn archery and acting and people like them for who they are and they make real friends and there is no pressure and no testing and they learn and people try make learning interesting and fun and they get to be creative, I mean really creative not just creative in an 'as long as this fits into the state-mandated curriculum and it doesn't require the teacher to spend any time thinking about it outside the classroom' kind of way and oh my goodness, why can't I go to camp??

I love this place. An added benefit is it is also the kind of camp where the campers get older and become junior counselors in high school and then counselors in college and staff as adults if they want to do so.  There are camp people and not camp people.  If you are not camp people, you may not know what I mean, but if you are camp people, you probably get this.  I have never been camp people despite having done my share of camp counselor-ing, but my kids are camp people and I can easily see them doing this as their summer job for a long time to come.  If not, well then at least I have an option for them to not be sitting around in the house all summer when they are in high school and maybe as an added bonus they get some resume experience working with people which will prepare them for jobs they might one day have or at least become fodder for a college entrance exam.

This year the camp director somehow made a connection with a musical duo from Cuba called Blanco y Negro.  My understanding is these two are pretty well known in Havana and they came to the U.S. after some sort of educators' summit/exchange.  They've been here for several months to perform around the area and to teach the kids the at the nearby school about Latin music.  Since this camp is attached to the school, they are also doing workshops at the camp.

This year we also discovered the wonder that is Gaby Moreno when The KingofHearts and I went to see Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band.  Hugh was fantastic, but Gaby was out of this world and I bought every album of hers I could get my hands on. (I sooo hate ending that sentence with a preposition but Oxford says it's OK so I'm going with... that's right... on.)  I highly recommend Postales, by the way; it's an incredible album and I played it non-stop in the car for a month after I saw them.  The Dormouse is often prisoner to my musical selections and she also fell in love with Gaby.

All those things came together when apparently last week, the Blanco y Negro guys were working with The Dormouse's group at camp and they asked if anyone knew any songs in Spanish.  The Dormouse said she knew two, La Bamba (her school chorus sang this last year; don't get me started on some of the pronunciation the school music teacher taught them; I've been trying to undo that for months *shakes fist at sky*), and this other song Gaby Moreno sings on Postales, Quizas, Quizas, Quizas, which is actually an old standard by Cuban composer Osvaldo Farres.  The visiting Cubanos were, I guess, impressed (or dubious) that she knew this one and asked her to sing it for them.  She's listened to the album enough that she knows all the words, despite the fact that she doesn't know what they mean, so she obliged. 

She came home that night uber-excited and told me they'd invited her to attend one of their performances next week and sing the song on stage with them.  At this point, I had no frame of reference for any of this.  I didn't know who they were.  I wasn't there when the invitation was extended.  I half-assumed they hadn't really meant it and it came off as more of a "you should come sing with us sometime" which she'd misunderstood and they meant she could, you know, sing along with the audience.  So I tried to support her enthusiasm, but at the same time, manage her expectations a little bit...

because I didn't want her to get her hopes up and be disappointed...

or because I am a misanthropical shrew.

Probably the latter.

The concert was an outdoor event in the little amphitheater they have near the camp.  The community was invited, as were the campers and their families and the families of the students of the school.  Also, curiously, a group of Buddhists from the Thai Temple down the road. (Thai Buddhists listening to Afro/Cuban music under the stars in suburban Maryland, THIS is why I love D.C., people!). 

We got there a little early because The Dormouse wanted "to practice" and I, in my head, thought that wouldn't be a bad idea so we could scope out the situation and deal with it if she found out that the whole thing wasn't quite what she thought it would be.  In the week since she'd been asked, she hadn't really brought home any credible information or an official invitation or talked with anyone in charge, and she'd been on an overnight trip and not seen the actual guys, so I'd grown more skeptical.

When we walked in, however, the two performers on stage doing sound check looked up and yelled her name, motioning her to come on stage.  "Ok, so maybe it is Something," I side-whispered to The KoH.  They brought her down, showed her where her mic would be and began an introduction to the song she'd been planning to sing.  This was the first time I realized that not only had they expected her to come on stage and sing with them, they expected her to come on stage and be The Singer with them.  

*heavy sigh* I am such a cynical human being.

Their concert was a ton of fun, even without The Dormouse being a part of it.  I liked their take on combining Cuban and Afro rhythms with newer stuff (this clip is especially cute) and they were inherently likable on stage.  Toward the end of their set, they gave The Dormouse an extremely nice introduction and explained how they'd met her and how impressed they were with her, then brought her up on stage.



I felt badly about her microphone cutting out in the middle of her verse (they were having a lot of trouble with that mic), but they handled it brilliantly.

The woman sitting behind us was from Peru and when The Dormouse came back into the audience to sit with us, she leaned over and started speaking to The Dormouse in Spanish.  She and I had conversed a little before and she knew I spoke Spanish, but I had to turn around and tell her that The Dormouse didn't actually speak Spanish, she just memorized all the words from the recording.  "Oh, but her accent is so good! I can't believe it," she said back to me, "You have taught her so well!"  Sadly, I cannot take any credit for that.  That's all Gaby Moreno's excellent diction.

I spoke to both Yenobis and Reimy before and after their set and they said some really lovely things about my daughter to me, which I will not share here. Suffice it to say, for a mom who is constantly being told my daughter is too opinionated, too loud, too confident, too outspoken, just too... much.... they nearly brought me to tears.  I've always held onto the belief that being smart, confident, opinionated kids will serve my children extremely well when they're adults and I still stick to that. But the problem with raising smart, confident, opinionated kids is you've got to deal with smart, confident, opinionated kids.  And most people - certainly most public school teachers - fail to appreciate those qualities now.  Kids who are shy and quiet and don't disturb the class by telling the teacher she's wrong about something get validation.  Kids like mine get told to shut up in class and yes, they need to learn some self-control, I'm aware, but they also need to be told they are valued and that, sadly, has not been the greater part of our public school experience.  I am only too often at fault as well.  So this is one time I get to love and appreciate my smart, confident, opinionated daughter and have some external validation for that too.  I know it's just one evening and a two-minute song at that, but these two guys made that happen. Do I love them for the opportunity they gave my child?  

Perhaps.




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Hairbrained Ideas R Us

Posted on 7/29/2014 10:55:00 PM
-or-
How to Kill a Sunday Afternoon

Step 1. Gather kids and husband. Say to kids and husband, "I bet you I can cut a watermelon in half using only rubber bands."

Step 2. Watch while family scoffs and declares you crazy.

Step 3. Produce watermelon.


And large bag of rubber bands.


Step 4.  Wrap rubber bands around middle of watermelon.



Ask kids to count rubber bands.

Step 5. Add more rubber bands. And more rubber bands.  And more rubber bands.


Step 6. Realize this is taking way too long.  Try to add rubber bands in groups of fives.  Realize five heavy duty rubber bands is too many to stretch at once. Tell kids it's time to learn to count by fours.  See? It's not wasteful, it's educational.

Step 7.  Continue adding rubber bands. Begin to notice a change in watermelon shape.



Step 8.  Continue adding rubber bands.  Realize watermelon is now sweating juice from its pores.  Wash hands several times.

Step 9.  Begin to video tape final exciting climax.  Realize you have just run camera out of batteries.  Switch to camera phone. Decide against video because extra set of hands is needed to steady watermelon during rubber band installation phase.  Also because hands are still covered in watermelon blood and phone is not watermelon-juice-proof.



Step. 10.  Add two hundred, thirty-eighth rubber band.

Step 11.  Duck as top half of watermelon pops off and flies across deck, nearly taking out beloved rosemary tree. Retrieve halves for photo opportunity. Marvel at perfectness of halves.  Claim to have expected this all along when really, you just thought it would be crushed into four or five unruly pieces.



Step 12. Retrieve what is now a single giant rubber band ball.




Step 13. Feed watermelon halves to Shortlings.  (You didn't think we were gonna waste it did you?)  Call this dinner.



And drinks.



Step 13. Treat blisters on husband's hands from wrapping 238 rubber bands around a watermelon.  For fun.  Consider how weird this will look when posting on a blog later.  Share stupid quirks and dumb ideas to entertain self and children with world anyway.  Why start hiding it now?

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LIRR

Posted on 7/27/2014 03:35:00 PM
I'm not entirely a photography purist even though I lean more toward SOOC shots and almost always prefer the cropping I do with my eye in the viewfinder to any improvement I can make later with the crop tool.  I post process a lot of my photos, but it's generally with a minimalist's touch.  Some pictures are different though and they call out to be messed with until they're right.

I worked for a long time in Photoshop before I got this image as gritty and overexposed as I think it wants to be. I'm still not sure I got it but it reminds me of a Terry Richardson photo.  So it must be close.




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Skeleton in the Closet

Posted on 7/26/2014 03:04:00 PM
Meet the only child who had to fight her parents in order to go into the closet.  Despite the fact that we secured a relatively nice hotel, this is where she chose to sleep on a recent weekend trip out of town. 


It was actually pretty nice because this was the first hotel room we've stayed in quite awhile where I haven't been woken up in the middle of the night because one of the two of them kicked the other in her sleep.  So I hope she enjoys sleeping in the closet until she's eighteen.

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Herbs Drying in the Window

Posted on 7/22/2014 08:00:00 AM

And yes, it smells fantastic in my kitchen right now.

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Stuffed Bird of Hope

Posted on 7/20/2014 06:50:00 PM
A recent storm blew this nest and two robin's eggs from one of our trees.  The KingofHearts found them a couple of days later.   We're pretty sure that's not a Robin's nest, but it's an amazing piece of construction and fascinating, so we brought it in the house for the kids to inspect.  The KoH brought the eggs in a few hours later and handed them to me.  I didn't quite know what to do with them; it seems a shame to throw them out.  So not wanting them to break (because that'd probably smell unpleasant), I just put them in the nest.



The little, parentless eggs have distressed The Caterpillar greatly and even though we've explained that the little birds inside the eggs would have to have died in the days the eggs were outside unattended - before we even found them - she is still looking for ways to care for them, "just in case." 

I thought we'd gotten past the inevitable realization; I had a long talk with her yesterday.   But tonight, we found her saying a little prayer over the eggs and covering them with the plastic pieces the bird had woven into the bottom of the nest.  

"What are you doing?"

"Maybe if I keep them warm, they'll hatch. Maybe."  

I was sitting on the couch a little later and looked up to catch The Shortlings skulking around and whispering in hushed tones, which is never good. So I got up to investigate and found this:


I've struggled lately with my outlook on life and the world in general.   In recent years, I've become more and more conflicted between wanting to stay informed about the world around me and needing to stay sane because it's all just so damn depressing.  I completely stopped watching the news on television because I simply cannot abide any more anger and uncharitable opinions from talking heads and politicians who cut a wide swath entire groups of people with just a few stereotypical adjectives... as if they've met every one.  I've even sworn off reading the entire internet once weekly as is my habit because there just isn't much good out there. Facebook? Ugh. Facebook has just made me realize that most of my friends are jerks. But this picture above? This is one of the pros of having and being around kids.  They remind you that there is still some good in the world and if you work very hard, you can nurture it.  Because if a little girl can care this much about two little eggs, maybe we can all move toward caring about people some day soon.  OK, probably not soon.  But at least for now? This makes me happy.

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What it Means Is We Better Not Forget Dinner

Posted on 7/19/2014 06:08:00 PM In:
"There are two ways to look at today: either we didn't feed our children lunch or we didn't feed our children breakfast.  Either way, I think that makes us bad parents." 

"We fed our children brunch. That makes us fancy parents."  

"I'll take it."

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Esherickesque

Posted on 7/18/2014 06:30:00 AM In:

The real discovery of our Blobfest weekend was not campy street festivals, nor tin foil hat and scream contests, but a new favorite artist.  While we were sitting in The Colonial waiting for The Blob to begin, The KingofHearts and I saw an advertisement on the screen for a nearby museum.  After we'd sucked the marrow out of Blobfest, we weren't hip on heading back home quite yet, so we took a little detour to check out this museum.  Neither of us had ever heard of Wharton Esherick before and we just wandered in on our way out of town.

As it turns out, you can't just wander in to the Esherick museum.  You have to make a reservation.  It says so at the entrance.  There was a lovely woman in the gift shop who explained and that's when we realized we'd walked right past the sign that clearly states such.  So we shrugged our shoulders and said we'd try to come back another time.  The girls let out an "awww," but that was about it - we apologized for being jerks who couldn't read a simple sign.

But she stopped us as we were going out the door and said, "Hang on a second, there might be someone who would be available to give you a tour right now, but it's only a chance.  Let me see if he can come over."

So she picked up the phone and a few minutes later, we were beginning our personal, private tour with none other than the curator of the museum and let me tell you, this place was a-mah-zing.  We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the house so I only have a few to share, but there's a nice virtual tour of the house here.  You should look at it, but more importantly, you should physically go there because those photos might be nice, but in person, it's an experience.  

Here's what I learned about Wharton Esherick.  He was a contemporary and good friend of Louis Kahn (who is one of my favorite architects), though their aesthetics couldn't be more different.  He tried to be a painter in the early 1900s and didn't have much success at that (though I do not understand why because what I saw of his early work, I loved).  So he and his wife moved to Pennsylvania to become subsistence farmers - or as the curator said, "to lead an organic life" - while he tried to sell his artwork. He started to carve frames for the artwork he sold and found more interest in the frames than the artwork, which eventually led him into a career as a wood sculptor that lasted the rest of his life.  He designed and built the entire house and all of the furniture in it.

This is the garage. THE GARAGE!
The original portion of the house was stone.  He added the wooden addition later but always felt the balance of the house wasn't right.  So he added that silo section when he was in his 70s.  That's not paint; he tinted the stucco on the outside of the silo to mimic the colors of the surrounding forest.

His sculpture is amazing and easily able to impress even the geekiest artist and/or woodworker wannabes, which coincidentally describes The KingofHearts and me to a tee.  He liked non-traditional lines and mimicking nature and finding the natural abstract form of whatever he was working.  What we didn't expect was how impressed by the place The Shortlings would be.  Every time the curator took us into a new room, he was met with gasps of awe and surprise from my kids.  They. Loved. Everything.  From the artwork, to the floor, to the carved wooden spoons and cutting boards in the kitchen.  The Caterpillar declared her desire to live there and offered to be the caretaker of the house.  The Dormouse asked how many years before she could come back and be a docent.  They both asked somewhat-relevant questions.  Most of the time, kids walk around without the sense God gave a goose, but every once in awhile they surprise you and this was one of those times for me.  About halfway through the tour, the curator turned to me and said, "Oh my gosh, I love your kids!"  I suppose it's possible that some of their interest had to do with being told they could touch the sculpture and a lovely gentleman who treated their questions like important matters and not just an irritant, but I can't help but think that it maybe, just a little bit, had to do with the beauty surrounding them too. 

The curator mentioned that if we liked the work and wanted to support it, one way we could do so - since they weren't able to accept our kids' offer of indentured servitude - was we could tell others.  So that is the purpose of this post today.  If you are in the area, get yourself to the Wharton Esherick house.   Tell them Winnie-the-Pooh sent you.


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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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