Nature's Way

Posted on 6/30/2016 10:44:00 AM


This morning, when I was taking the Shortlings to camp, I turned the corner in the car and saw a little bunny running down the middle of the road.

“Oh look, girls! Look at that cute little bunny hopping down the road like he thinks he’s a car.”

Normally, The Caterpillar isn’t looking in the right direction and misses such things. Then she pouts the rest of the car ride.  But we were fortunate, because the bunny was directly in front of us she actually spotted him for a change.  All three of us had a great view actually and there were several seconds while we oooh-ed and aaah-ed over the adorable Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail/road… right up until the adolescent fox in the neighborhood darted out into the road from the bushes, snatched that bunny, and disappeared back into the thicket.

And then we continued on to our destination… older, wiser, and sadder.

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Minutiae - Caterpillar edition

Posted on 6/19/2016 08:32:00 AM In:

I'm not doing so so hot with the keeping up on the blog thingy this year.  It seems every time I get ready to jump back into the regular, some tragedy happens and then I fall off the wagon again.  But that doesn't mean I haven't been documenting my children's lives. Just on my phone where no one can see it.  With might be better in their eyes.  Today is Fathers' Day.  I'm sitting on our deck outside listening to the birds sing.  Watched a fox and a deer with her two babies run by, and everyone else is in the house asleep and in the fridge there's a Peanut Butter Cookie Lasagna waiting for him for breakfast. It's the best Fathers' Day present I know to give.  

In the meantime, I'm clearing stuff off my phone and realized this younger kid he is helping me raise has gotten pretty funny. Here's a minutiae dedicated to her.


"If I had to write about my dad, I'd probably write... he is fun to be with, he is embarrassing to my older sister, he takes the cake (mostly literally), and he's the best dad in the world."



Just got accused of suppressing financial information. 8 year old would like to SEE her savings account statements from now on so she knows that nothing sketchy is happening with her $12.


Parenting protip: Sometimes I buy my kids dumb stuff they want just for a reprieve... so for the next six months, every time they ask me for so much as a stick of gum in a checkout line, I can yell, "FAUX ANIMAL FUR HOODIE VEST!!", and they shut up about the new thing they're about to beg for.



"She always does that when she gets mad. She flattens her nose."
"You mean, she 'flares her nostrils?'"
"Yeah. It looks like her nose is a tiny devil, spreading its wings."


Found this after I turned my back on her for five minutes in a toy store. I'd say the Need To Create Order Where There Is None Thing has gotten out of control, but this isn't even the worst I've seen this week.



 
First conversation with small child after coming home from an out of town trip fielded this thinker: "I really don't think it's fair that cats don't have a birth certificate."

Ah, crazy right off the bat. It's good to be home.


"Who's that on the wall?"
"Billy Joel!"
"Go away, you don't belong in this family."




I showed my kids the Chicken Dance.  I have perhaps created a monster.




"Where's my electrical tape?  It keeps disappearing?  What is everyone using it for?"

Certainly not to make a kilt to wear to school on St. Patrick's Day.  Who would do that?




I just stuck this one in here because it was sweet. This is the only person he will sit like this without having to stand up, walk around on your face and rub his head on your lips, getting cat hair in your mouth. This cat loves her like no one else.




It's good to know that if my daughter ever ends up living on the streets, she at least won't go shirtless... as long as there are plastic bags in the world.




Me: The cold killed all my basil plants last night.
Caterpillar: I'm sorry for your loss.



Dancing to music on the deck in the rain. I wish I was 8 sometimes.




We sat through five different performing groups at The Dormouse's Spring Concert.  Some of us enjoyed it more than others.





Required education for Shortlings this weekend was a screening of West Side Story. While The Dormouse's main problem with the movie was incredulity that anyone could fall in love with someone and decide to run off with them after knowing them only two days. The Caterpillar thought the whole thing was particularly ridiculous because you can't really kill someone with a three inch long pocket knife. I'm kinda glad she's on my side, actually.

By the way, both decided West Side Story was "way worse than Romeo and Juliet because at least Shakespeare didn't force Juliet to live at the end of it all." Perhaps my realism genes have run a bit deep here.


This is exclusively her part every time we take a road trip.




Asked her to put a pile of underwear away after it came out of the dryer. She took them, disappeared, then came back, somersaulted through the kitchen while singing the theme from Mission: Impossible and yelled, "Mission complete!"


Caught Caterpillar outside today kissing a toad. KoH's response, "That's the wrong kind of amphibian, you know.  You have to kiss a frog to get a handsome prince."

"I know, I just love him."


Incomprehensible question of the day: "Mom, do camels use bad manners?" 


Apparently, we're still in bed this morning.




"It's time to leave for school, are you ready?"
"Almost. Let me just get my underwear on."
"Aren't you already dressed?"
"Yes."



We've been battling mice in the attic lately, so when I found the cats pawing at something under the closet door, I assumed one of the mice leaders had finally gotten the courage to venture into the house and was cornered in the closet. I was half right.




Went looking for pins in The Caterpillar's room and found this. What the heck, you little maniac?



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More Poetry

Posted on 5/10/2016 04:37:00 PM
I know, I know, "Who cares about your kids' poems? No one, that's who!"

Just the same, I want to keep them and the scraps of paper they get written on aren't really archival material. Hence, poetry entries.

The Dormouse participated in a School-Sponsored Poetry Slam last month, and let me just hold right there for a moment and repeat that: School-Sponsored Poetry Slam.

When I was in the seventh grade if anyone had said the words "poetry slam" in our school, two things would have happened:

  1. All the parents would have called the police because they would have been certain that a large amount of The Reefer would be present at The Poetry Slam.
  2. All the children would have run screaming from the building
And yet, here they were, at a School-Sponored Poetry Slam. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one. They met in the library after school, turned down the lights and set up battery-powered candles all over the place, then wore berets and black stretch pants and snapped their fingers in appreciation every time someone said something the crowd agreed with... or maybe some of those things came from an Audrey Hepburn movie I saw once.

The Dormouse hadn't written anything for this event, but she had showed her English teacher some of her other work and he encouraged her to attend. So while she was sitting there listening to others' poems, she jotted something down on a piece of paper and then got the encouragement only friends and peers can provide to go up and recite it without edits. Look, I was a pretty gutsy kid when I was her age, but there's no power on earth that would have gotten me to write something on the spot and then get up and recite it in front of everyone.

Here's what she wrote down.


Want

We come far.
We work hard.
We soar.
But even though our wings have reached the sun,
Still, we want.
Want to achieve more,
Want to help more,
Want more happiness
Most wants are for making good.
And what I say to these good-deed thoughts, is keep dreaming.
Keep wanting. So that you can change those "I wants" into "I wills."
 

And then there's this one, from The Caterpillar, who isn't learning poetry in school, but doesn't like to be outdone, so she just writes this stuff on post-it notes and leaves them around the house.


Under the Piano

Loud, graceful, sweet and sorrow, under the piano.
Soft, presto, neat, and narrow, under the piano.
Staccato with every note, like a woodpecker on a tree, pecking.
A smooth beat floating across the sky like a cloud...
...under the piano.
Beautiful melody, under the piano.

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This Could Also Be a Syndrome When You Think About It

Posted on 5/04/2016 05:20:00 PM
The Caterpillar came home one day this week, telling me about the different kids in her group at school. One of whom, she says, randomly yells out the word, "vagina" in class sometimes when it's quiet... 

"Then he gets in trouble," she says.

"Well, that's not really very appropriate," I say. 

She agrees. 

"Does he have Tourette's Syndrome or something like that?" I ask.

"No, he's just a jerk."

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Alice's Tea Party

Posted on 4/26/2016 04:30:00 PM


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dad

Posted on 4/14/2016 07:28:00 PM
No I haven't forgotten about you, blog. Just too much... too many... ugh, just too.

My dad died.

Those have been the words I've avoided writing here for weeks now.

Not that it would be any more real if I wrote it down or any easier, or more difficult for that matter; it's just that I don't know how to talk about it.  But the problem is I can't seem to move on in this format without talking about it.  So I guess I need to write it out.  Here goes.

My dad was a complicated guy and we had a complicated relationship. 

There's no question that I loved him. And I don't doubt that he loved me in his own way.  It's just that neither of us ever really said it much or knew how to express it.

I remember once when I was a little girl this distressed me quite a bit - probably because I'd heard some church sermon or after school special about telling the people you love that you love them before it's too late or something.  All my friends were very demonstrative with their fathers.  They didn't seem to have a problem expressing love and affection.  We were somehow different.  I worried about it for weeks and then one night before I went to bed, finally screwed up my courage and stopped in front of the television, in front of his chip bag and his glass of Coke and whatever ongoing sportsball game was happening at the moment and I just blurted it out: "I'm going to bed. I love you, Dad."

"I love you too," he replied, without thinking, barely looking up from the television.

I was surprised.  He didn't refuse to say it back.  It hadn't hurt him to say it.  He didn't even hesitate. No great truths were exchanged.  No tears shed. No earth shattering moment happened.

It was only a moment.  Just a moment among so many other moments.

He didn't even know how hard it had been for me to tell him that.  And he'd said it back without effort, without marking the moment in any way.  That's the first time I realized that my dad loved me, but probably not in any way that I could ever understand -- and maybe in the only way he was capable of, which was different than most other people.

Looking back, this story says more about my relationship with my dad than almost anything else I can think of.  Of course he loved me; why would he have stuck around if he didn't?  Of course he could say it back.  But why would he need to on any regular basis?  Of course I didn't know that he'd loved me before that moment.  How would I have known?  He never said it.

I once was chatting with a friend about difficult family relationships and he was saying how his parents were always there, together, in the picture, but that he didn't really know them because he was the youngest of many and he'd been raised more by his sisters than anyone else.  "When you think about it, my dad was really just..." he trailed off.

"...that guy that lived in my house," I finished.

"Yes!! No one's ever got it more right when I've tried to explain it," he exclaimed.

I thought about my dad like that for a long time.  But in recent years, I've come to understand that that's not quite right either.  Because while overall, I knew very little about him, he was always there.  A fixture in my life.  Because while I never really felt like I knew him, and I'm quite sure he never really knew me, he was always supportive.  He was at every orchestra concert.  Every recital.  At every show where I played in the pit orchestra and no one even saw my face. At every dumb awards ceremony or school presentation. It was during those long motorcycle rides in the desert when I felt closest to him.  Ironically, when neither of us said anything to the other.  Deep conversation is not possible with forty-five mile an hour wind rushing into your face and I guess it took the pressure off.  We just enjoyed the ride together... or next to each other, I'm not sure which.  

I was not really into sports as a kid, which was his great love.  And he had little authentic interest in the things that I was into.  He went for my sake.  During times when I'm sure he would have much rather been doing ANYthing than listening to the latest Beethoven interpretation no matter how good the orchestra (and I know some of mine were not good), or going to some bookish play I wanted to see, he showed up.  And honestly? That's a lot more than some people get.

Once when I was a little older, just out of high school, I think, he had to go on a trip to Chicago and he invited me to come along. It was an unprecedented invitation to an outing with just the two of us.  I had a great time We did dumb stuff that only tourists do like river boat tours of the city and double-decker bus tours of the architecture of Chicago. We went to a Cubs game at Wrigley field and took a cab to go to the top of the Sears Tower, looked at all the locations where The Blues Brothers was filmed and the Marina Tower that Steve McQueen drove his car out of in The Hunter, and visited the museum where Ferris Bueller's Day Off kids went, and passed by the bar where Mr. T. worked before he was discovered (and yes, it was like the late 80s if you hadn't already figured that out).  I'm convinced that my deep-seated love of Chicago and its architecture started with this trip.

He taught me to work.  He taught me to fix things.  He taught me if I couldn't at least attempt to fix it, I had no business owning it.  He towed my car home from the dozens of places it broke down and taught me how to change the oil and fix a flat tire... how to repair the clutch or replace a fan belt with an old pair of pantyhose so if (and more likely when) a breakdown like that happened again, I would be able to do it myself.  It's because of him that I spent most of this week updating and grounding all the outlets in my house and I didn't feel like I had to defer that task to my husband or hire it out.

He taught me to use computers.  He made me understand that they were machines like any other machine and they were built to do a Thing That I Wanted and all I needed to know was how to make them bend to my will.  In a time before a computer class was even available to me, he had a computer at home and taught me how to use it for fun and profit and not to be afraid of them.  Hell, he was the first person to show me the Internet.

All these things are things that I do and use in my life every day now.  It's partially because of him that I have the job I have now - and so many jobs before this one.  It's partially because of him that I have the life I have now. Because of him I'm somewhat independent and confident and feel like I can tackle tasks I've never encountered before because I'm always ready to learn.  He taught me that.  Those are things I'll always be grateful to him for leaving me.

He was a father in every sense of the word he understood it to be.  He was there for me in every way but the one that counted most to me.

There's no question that he was a good guy.  There's no question that I loved him.  As enigmatic as he was, I do miss him. Part of my esoteric reaction to his death is that I wish I missed him more.  Wish I felt a bigger hole in my life.  

Some people don't get half the father I had.  I realize that. 


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The Awakening

Posted on 2/23/2016 03:14:00 PM In:
One of the first art installations I remember ever seeing in D.C. was the sculpture, The Awakening.  We visited long before I moved here - I was a kid - and how my father knew to drive (or did we ride bicycles?) out to Hains Point and look at it is a mystery. But he did, we did, I have pictures of me sitting in that hand to prove it, but you might not believe me if I found them because that was mumblesomething years - and pounds - ago.


After I moved to D.C., I returned to visit him often.  I saw him waking up in the Spring, I saw him waking up in the snow, I saw him when Hains Point was under water and I had to wade over to the thumb.  

He is no longer at Hains Point. His bed has been moved to the National Harbor.  I dislike seeing him here, but he is still fodder for children and adults trying to take these oh, so iconic photos of him, and for those who try - and mostly fail - to climb up that giant arm reaching out toward the sky and back down.


And it makes me happy that generations of kids have enjoyed him.

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Snowing... Again

Posted on 2/16/2016 05:20:00 PM
We're on day number five, six, eight, I've totally forgotten, of No School due to "someone saw a snowflake" this year.  

I thought we were doing okay until after like the seventh day in a row of kids home from school, I heard screaming from the bathroom and turned the corner to find two children fighting over a spatula.  And not just fighting, knock-down, drag-out, one of them dragging the other one across the floor by the spatula they were both clutching and screaming about. 

I broke up the fight like Morgan Freeman in Lean On Me.  Grabbed the spatula away from both of them and exclaimed, "Now WHAT is so important about this spatula that you two have to act like animals about it?"

They both stared, wide-eyed and then just said small-ly, "Well... I wanted it."


I can barely form a coherent sentence right now, but I have discovered a really cool app based on Deep Dream that I've spent a lot of time playing with this month. 

It turns this:





Into this:



And this:


Into this:


If anyone wants me, I'll be in the bathroom with the iPad.

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They're Love Balls

Posted on 2/03/2016 04:21:00 PM
We bought these ridiculous Christmas decorations years ago for this project, fully intending to toss them out immediately afterwards, but never got around to that part.  They've been kicking around in the attic ever since.  This year we moved everything and they got put in with the Christmas decorations, so I put them outside on the Narnia lamp post.

It's February now, and even though it would take almost no effort and less than four minutes, I still haven't gone out there to take them down.   I'm like that person who leaves their lights on year round and tries to tell you they're just up early for next year.  Perhaps I could leave the pink and red ones and try to convince people it's for Valentine's Day.

 


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Hairy Ice Balls

Posted on 2/02/2016 04:08:00 PM
I know, I know.  I'm a 14 year old boy at heart.

Looks like someone stayed out too long in the snow.



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Now Are the Foxes

Posted on 2/01/2016 02:57:00 PM
One night when we were coming home in the car late last November, we turned the corner to find a group of three or four deer gamboling through the neighborhood. And when I say "gambol,"  I use that not to be pretentious, but because that's the only word that effectively describes what they were doing... prancing and jumping about with no clear direction or leader.  I'm not one to over-anthropomorphize animals but it's hard to see them as doing anything else besides just "goofing around."

Then we looked a little lower to the ground and realized they weren't alone.  They had a small fox companion, who was jumping and running along with them in and out, underneath their feet, probably chasing after whatever small rodents they were kicking up from under the leaves.  

We've heard tell of fox in this neighborhood and I saw one a couple of times last year, but much like the coyote I kept seeing last Spring, no one believed me because they didn't actually see it themselves.  

This year, the fox is back and he's brought a girlfriend.  We've seen them both hunting in our yard in the early mornings.  They're gorgeous and fascinating to watch.  They'll split up and circle around the house in opposite directions, then meet again around the other side.  And we'll "chase" them around the house, try to get a glimpse out of the side window, then the back then the girls' bedrooms, and so on.  One morning I saw one trotting off with a squirrel in it's mouth.  When they appear, you'll first see all the squirrels go up the trees and then start chittering and shaking and waving their tails wildly in warning.  If you notice this happening and keep an eye pealed, then soon will be the foxes!



This morning, I happened to have my camera close enough to grab it before they were gone.  They're hard to photograph because they move so fast but I did get one decent picture as proof.




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My New Favorite Shakespeare

Posted on 1/31/2016 10:51:00 AM
Last month we went to the Folger Shakespeare Library (they do some amazing stuff there, cannot recommend highly enough) and saw Pericles and it was amazing. And not just because The KoH got us seats so close I could put my feet up on the stage and get sweated on by the actors, either.


The show has closed now and they are on to other things, but I need to immortalize this sign for posterity, because while this sign wasn't totally why the play was so amazing, it certainly didn't hurt.


"This production will include a mild strobe effect.
This production will also include pirates."



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Noir Morning Routine

Posted on 1/30/2016 10:10:00 AM
Came out of the shower the other morning to find Humphrey Beargart interrogating Lauren Bearcall with the bedside lamp and small child voicing the parts with, "Where were you on the night of January 16th?"



There are so many things I love about this moment, I can't begin to start with number one.

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Winter Seating Arrangements

Posted on 1/29/2016 09:53:00 AM
Despite it getting pretty cold here in D.C., the living room stays pretty warm because of a large window wall.  But that doesn't mean there isn't significant pushing and shoving to get the last warm spot.

Oh good, someone put the cat away.



And then they poured it into this basket.

 

For where there is a fire and a lap, there will a cat be also.




This is a terrible photo, but I adore the look on this cat's face.


Selfie with Cat.  (or is that selfie with human?)



Cat is all, "Dude get out of my sunbeam."



Looking for a warm bed. Any bed will do.



Come to think of it, maybe the cat isn't cold. Maybe she just hungry.




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Wondering

Posted on 1/28/2016 09:28:00 AM In:

I almost forgot until I was cleaning off my phone that we attended the reopening of the Renwick Gallery on New Year's weekend.  This is the first building built specifically to be the nation's art museum. It used to house the Corcoran Gallery before the Corcoran moved to a larger space and when it was built in 1859, it was known as "the American Louvre".  Thank you Wikipedia.

It's been closed for renovations for a long time and I've been itching to get back in there.  This was a really cool reopening because while it was still closed, they invited artists to come tour the empty space and decide what they'd do with it and develop their art installations from empty inspiration.  The resulting exhibition is called "Wonder."  We loved it and highly encourage you to see it if you can because photos just don't do it justice. Just the same, here are some photos.  Also because it is a Smithsonian gallery and there's no admission fee.

We walked into this room and The Dormouse immediately named this artist without seeing anything about it.  I thought that was pretty impressive by any modern art lover's view because I know and love this stuff and still cannot name the artists' names hardly ever and also, where did she see his stuff before because I had only seen internet pictures of it.  Then she let it slip that there was a big feature on him in a past Highlights Magazine, so yay for kids' throw away reading material.  

The whole room was filled with these pods built entirely from twigs.  No good way to get a photo of the scope because the room was enclosed, you have to check out Patrick Dougherty's other works here.  The kids adored it.



 We probably spent more time looking at this installation than all the others combined. 



 It was fascinating from all angles and in all lights.


And with all patrons.





For scale:




This one, I just wanted to climb inside, but it was hanging from the ceiling and, I fear, not built for me weight.


This was maybe my favorite room.  All four walls were covered with this kind of stuff.  


Which, upon closer inspection...


I wanted to stay in here all day, it was so fascinating.  Even the paint on the walls was made from crushed bugs.

This last one was so interesting.  It was a reproduction of the energy wave from the 2011 Tsunami.  The lighting shifted every few seconds. We had to wait in line for awhile to get into the next exhibit and I just let the kids lie on the ground under this and stare up. 





If I were extremely rich, I'd pay good money to have a slumber party and let my kids invite all their friends to sleep under this one night.  Good thing for the Smithsonian we're not.

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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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