July 31, 2008

Day Nine:View from the Oven

This is the view from one end of the kitchen. The fridge and stove are behind me, the sink is to the left. What you can't see so much is the bricky linoleum that begins right where Buckaroo is sitting in his high chair.

I think I'd like a bit more color in my kitchen, but mostly what I want is light! Hallalujah-Praise-the- Lord kind of Light. Our house is so dark we could grow mushrooms in here-- which is why Buckaroo and I have to get outside every day, rain or sunshine. Walking back from the mailbox today we spotted our first Eastern Goldfinch and (I think) his dull little mate. According to Wikipedia, they are monogamous, seed-eating, and range from Canada to North Carolina. They're also known as wild canaries.
Today a California friend visited and ran around with Buckaroo while I unpacked a few boxes. I don't think I can unpack anymore because we've filled every nook and crevice with our junk. We're just going to have to stuff the rest in the attic and never look back. Isn't that what attics are for?

July 30, 2008

Day Eight: Frogs and Nasturtiums

The poppies may be drowning, but the nasturtiums are thriving. I forgot I planted these little guys by the neighbor's swings, and I when I took Buckaroo over there for a ride, they were all popped up and waving at me.
The package said they won't flower much with over watering and rich soil, but I don't even care! I'm just so happy to see a familiar leaf.

R's mom planted a bunch of these white bloomers around the house, and they're finally bursting with the sunshine. I don't know what they're called, but the neighbor is growing them, too, and hers are purple. Here's an up-close shot:

Other exciting news: Frog Boy and his mama came over today for a swim, and Buckaroo was so excited to have a playmate that he pinched and squeezed and pulled hair and completely traumatized Frog Boy. Buckaroo also shared his chips and fed Frog Boy some peach, so I hope that made up for the abuse.

While we were in the lake we saw a big, stripy frog, and he sloshed through the water with big splashes.

Also, it turns out that Frog Mama and her husband were married the exact same day as R and me. Also, our boys were conceived one day apart. How crazy is that?-- we've been living the same lives on opposite sides of the country.

Oh, and they like to water ski, so when R gets back we're all going out on the water before it gets too coldy.

Now Buckaroo is napping, so I'm off to unpack a box and read the new Anne Brashares book, The Last Summer (of You and Me), which is not part of the Traveling Pants series but has some promise anyway.

July 29, 2008

Day Seven: Blue Skies and a Book or Two

I know it's seventh-grade humor, but there's a town in Massachusetts called Athol, and to me it just sounds like someone saying a swear word with a lisp: "Get outta my way, you Athol!" R looked at me cross-eyed when I pointed this out to him, but when I told my mother that Buckaroo and I were going to Athol for a park day, she started to giggle. "You're going where?" Giggle Giggle.

I could not live in that town and keep a straight face.

The park in Athol, though, is bright and clean with a grassy area for running, and it was a sunny day with blue skies, so we even had to put on sunscreen. Finally. Buckaroo and I made a couple of friends. An all-around success.

Back at home, Buckaroo and I finished reading Elvis & Olive by Stephanie Watson. I bought it for Sweet Potato and Obo, but they left it here. I guess they knew I'd need a good read.

It's about Natalie who has a very ordered life: Her mom is an accountant, and there are no weeds in her garden. Natalie's dad is a pharmacist. She goes to a private school where the kids are so polite it makes her want to scream. Then Annie moves into the neighborhood with her uncle, a bartender who mostly ignores her. Annie doesn't like to wear a shirt, and she keeps a dead bird in her pocket. Annie and Natalie become fast friends and neighborhood spies, until they learn how it feels to have their own secrets exposed.

The book is a little bit grittier than I expected, and it had a twinge of To Kill a Mockingbird about it-- the classism bit anyway, and the smalltowny-ness.

It also had a timeless feel like The Penderwicks-- very few references to pop culture or modern technology. I like that in a book.

When I was googling around about Elvis & Olive, I found this cool blog about tween lit.

Earlier in the week I read The Year My Parents Ruined My Life by Martha Freeman, which I really wanted to love because it's about a girl who moves from California to the Pennsylvania snow, and Sweet Potato has to read it for her summer reading. I did not love it, but I did like it a little. I guess there wasn't anything about the main character that made me really root for her, but I like the way the author shows glimpses of the mom's moving experience through the daughter's story. Of course I'm unapologetically all about the mom.

Tonight, after the reading, Buckaroo and I were eating dinner, and he tossed aside the beans and corn I put on his tray and totally dug into my Thai chicken salad. That's my boy, a born foodie!

I've just discovered that there is one Burmese restaurant in all of Massachusetts. I must get there for the tea leaf salad! This is one recipe that, seemingly, cannot be made at home. I googled that, too.

And that concludes our first solo week. Shew.

July 28, 2008

Day Six: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Band Girl's Mom and I made an expedition to Trader Joe's in Acton today, and she was thoughtful enough to blog about it for me. I've included my comments in brackets:

Went out with Band Girl's Mom and her two whiny girls on an adventure to Trader Joe's. Band Girl's Mom promised a fun day of shopping and eating at an organic restaurant, but all that happened was Band Girl's Mom's toddler screamed and cried and whined, creating a chain reaction of chaos in the "one tire low pressure" van.
[Toddler Girl was very tired, and I often have breakdowns in the car, so I can sympathize. Plus, Buckaroo screamed in the car non-stop for the first year of his life].
After stopping for a hugs and peepee and poopoo break . . . no improvement.
[Buckaroo was happy for the opportunity to nurse during the break].
After not much shopping, the starving kiddies and mommies raced to the organic CLOSED MONDAYS restaurant! After the yummy trip to Trader Joe's, the starving children resumed their cry fest during our search for any local, non-chain eatery that WAS open on Monday.
[I did think that only museums were closed on Mondays, but Buckaroo started the second cry fest all by himself].
Band Girl's Mom succeeded in finding a suitable place to eat (for adults only), and the only item I was chomping at the bit for was "not available" on MONDAY!!
[My quiche was delicious and had less wheat than the ravioli anyway. The restaurant was virtually empty, so the kids had a great time dancing in the windows and playing waitstaff].

The End

PS Did I mention that Band Girl's Mom's toddler tried to poison California Dreamin Mom's babe with wheat crackers and bread???
[It was very sweet of Toddler Girl to share her snack with Buckaroo, and I have developed a hawkeye for children bearing gifts of wheat. Despite the craziness, I was happy just to be out of The Woods for a few hours and having adult conversation-- even between the shrieks].
Me again: I like the idea of being California Dreamin Mom. I still dream about my friends in California every night. When we walked into TJ's it almost felt like home (except that they don't have a beer and wine section. Bah!). When I got to the check out line, I got a little choked up because that's where I would usually make a last minute chocolate purchase to take to my poetry group.
I'm missing poetry, and I'm on the lookout for other wayward wordworkers.
In other news: Today is R's birthday, and he's celebrating with Indian food. Eat a samosa for me, honey!

July 27, 2008

Day Five: MOO and Other Random Thoughts

If one waits until the blueberries are nearly black, they taste sweeter. They're still teeny, and I don't know what they're doing to those store-bought blueberries to make them gigantic. It's worrisome.

Single parenthood is not for the faint hearted. I knew this from my previous stint as a single mom, but it's still true. I know I'm not really a single mom this time around because it's only three weeks for crying out loud and how bad can it be?

This is how bad: I finally managed to shower today (with a whimpering Buckaroo pulling on the shower curtain). As I scrubbed between my dirty toes I thought: This is where I should have planted those poppies.

I know this is a broad generalization, and it's probably bad karma to write it down, and I'm sure that I'm wrong, but I've already thought it, so here it goes: The Market Basket boys all seem to be one enchilada short of a combo plate, as my Papa Orman likes to say. Here's a monologue I heard in the soup aisle yesterday (as spoken by a Market Basket shelf stocker):

"I wonder who my roommate is going to be.
I just really hope I don't get somebody goth.
I wonder who my roommate is.
I really don't want a roommate who's goth.
I just want to know, ya know.
I really hope I don't get a roommate who smells."
Lucky for him I'm not going to be his roommate. I should have wiggled my piggies at him.

Here's a sad thing I learned: My Uncle Mike slaughters cows, and he says sometimes the cows are pregnant, so he saves the calf before the mama is slaughtered (I didn't want to know how this was done). Then he raises the calf until he's big enough to be slaughtered. Kinda makes me want to give up meat. And cry.

So I'll end with the wise words of our friend, Pen Pal, "Why do animals have to taste so good?"

July 26, 2008

Day Four: Say Uncle

My dad has a brother. Had a brother? I'm never certain which tense to use after someone dies. Anyway, I have an Uncle Mike, but until yesterday I hadn't spoken to him in twenty-ish years. No real reason for not speaking to each other-- that's just the Caspers way. He lives in Oklahoma with chickens and cows. Honestly, I could hear the cows mooing while we were on the phone.
Talking to Uncle Mike is a lot like the scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Harry meets Aberforth. If you've read it you know what I mean. If you haven't read it, why are you wasting time reading this rubbish when there is something so much better out there?
Well, my dad was no Albus, that's for sure, but he did have a kind of magic, and a certain disregard for the rules.
Meanwhile on the other coast, R and Sweet Potato are yukking it up. Sweet Potato's dance card is full, and R is enjoying a margarita with the old gang as I write this. Makes me want to poke out my lower lip a little bit.
Ah, but tomorrow I'm going to the hardware store to buy high temperature calk, and I didn't even know there was such a thing until today. Also, my friend Ruth is coming to visit! Yay! So I should stop feeling sorry for myself and tidy up.

Oh, and Obo finally called to tell us he arrived safely in England. We think he is caravanning about now (what we here in the US like to call camping).

July 25, 2008

Day Three: Drowned Poppies

It did not rain today, miraculously. It gave Buckaroo and me a change to head outdoors and inspect the damage. My California poppy sprouts look a lot like this one-- well, the ones that are still standing. Most are laid flat. I also planted some nasturtium in a stump in front of our house, and today there was one brave little sprout poking out. I'm cheering it on.
Plastic flowers are very popular out here. I don't understand it now, but I'm thinking it might make more sense in February.
Buckaroo has a green goopy nose, and I was feeling very low energy, so we didn't do much today. We spotted some gnarly insects, though. There was something that looked like a black bobby pin with wings hanging out on the black-eyed susans, and a couple of daddy long legs-looking spiders, but with bright orange bodies, on the front porch. They must be the guys building their spiderwebs everywhere. I can't keep up with them. They're like doozers.
Other than that, I just wrestled a garden hose and won.

July 24, 2008

Day Two: Take Out

Buckaroo and I woke up at 8 a.m. with the help of my handy dandy new cell phone with alarm. We are on the fast track to East Coast time now. We dashed out the door and into the dagnabbed rain for a trip to the not-so-local library's story time. Our local library doesn't believe in storytime, it seems. They also don't have an online card catalog or seem to enjoy their patrons all that much, but I've heard a rumor that they don't ever charge late fees, so who can complain?

We drove the half hour down to the faraway library, and then Buckaroo was grumpy and cried and wanted to nurse through all of the nursery rhyme songs. He wasn't even interested in the shiny green bear sticker at the end.

The trip, however, was not a total loss because on the way home I stopped at A Taste of Vietnam for an $8 bowl of soup. I don't know what they're brewing in that soup to make it so expensive, but it's possibly the only Vietnamese place in all of North Central Massachusetts so I imagine I'll go back for more. It was tasty. It tasted a tad different from the pho I know, but it didn't have any tendon to avoid. Yay! I planned to share with Buckaroo, but he fell asleep, and I accidentally ate his portion.

Later, Buckaroo and I watched Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway. That James McAvoy sure is easy on the eyes, I told Buckaroo, but he said he thought Hathaway was not convincing as Jane Austen. We both agreed that Maggie Smith (also known as Professor McGonagall) served as the perfect inspiration for Lady Catherine De Burgh. Dun Dun Dun.

I have to say that I was fairly spookified out here last night, but (praise be to the goddesses!) the rain has finally let up-- and yep, I'm knocking on knotty pine.

July 23, 2008

Day One: The Gloomiest Day Ever

It's like Wuthering Heights around here. I took Buckaroo for a walk after dinner, and I fully expected Heathcliff to come bounding through the brush hollering after Catherine's ghost.
So Buckaroo and I dropped the rest of the family off at the airport today. R and I had a very hasty goodbye while Buckaroo pulled my hair and Sweet Potato cried, "What? This is it? We're parting ways already?"
Obo was very excited about his visit to England and even shaved his fuzzy mustache for the occasion. That's our boy.
Buckaroo and I managed to find our way home from Logan airport. I was hoping to stop by Whole Foods on the way, but we got-- not lost, but misdirected. It was probably best because Buckaroo was asleep in the backseat anyway. It was a very slow drive home because it rained the kind of rain where you can't see the car in front of yours and the windshield wipers are working so hard it seems they might fling themselves off of the glass.

At home the rain let up for two minutes, so we went outside to play and that's when we saw the lake all shrouded in mist. Very eerie. I wonder if that's what it looks like in the fall. It felt like October-- or how I imagine October feels here. A California October is really the best month of summer.
Oh, and we also saw our owl friend again-- just a glimpse and he swooped low to the ground through the trees.
Tonight: More torrential rain with thunder and lightning.

July 22, 2008

Owl Sighting

Tonight R and I had to get Buckaroo out of the house because he was having a conniption, so we took him for a walk in the rain. We were just past the mailboxes when we spotted a barn owl in flight. He landed on an oak and stared at us for a long time, but he wouldn't give us a hoot. When he flew away again we couldn't even see him; he blended in with the trees so perfectly.
I wonder if he's eating all of the chippies. There are very few around this year which leaves loads of blueberries for us!
We got drenched in the rain, even Buckaroo because he refused to sit quietly in the jogger with the rain cover. I told R that I really do like the rain and thunder and lightning, but I know that the summer season is exceptionally short here, so every day of rain is one less day of sunshine-- and then, bam: snow.
Everyone says that this is an unusual amount of rain, which fits right in with the unusual amount of snow they had last winter, I guess. Alright then weather, I say. Get it all out of your system now so we can have a few mild years while I warm up to New England.

July 21, 2008

Yes Woman?

In an effort to be more open to change, I read Yes Man by Danny Wallace. My friend Peter the Reporter recommended it, and I really got into it. Wallace spends nearly a year saying yes to everything that comes his way, including advertisements and canvassers. There were some sections that were mildly annoying, like when he endeavors to discover who's behind the "Dear Sir: I am the son of a dead sultan" e-mail scam, but there were other bits that made me snort out loud.
Saying yes brings Wallace all kinds of fabulous opportunities, and as I was reading it, I was thinking: This is what I need to do. I should just say Yes to Massachusetts, Yes to the rain, Yes to the mosquitoes, Yes to the naughty pine!
Then again, saying yes to everything seems frightfully expensive and time-consuming, and though I'd love to try it, I'm not sure I could afford it.
I've joined three online moms' groups, so every morning I have about a dozen emails inviting me all over Massachusetts for various child-friendly activities. I realized this morning that if I said yes to all of my emails, I would have had to haul Buckaroo to at least five different towns, farms and parks a day. Poor guy would be tuckered out. Hey, but then maybe I'd get some more sleep! I'd probably really need it, too.
So, I've decided to say Maybe more. Beginning Wednesday I have three vast, nearly empty, weeks ahead of me, and I could fit in a lot of yeses in that time with two children and one husband away. I can't just jump on that yes boat though, so I'll start with the maybe dinghy and see how I float.
Other yeses: Obo has made fast friends with Band Girl and her fellow marchers. Today he went off with them, swam, had ice cream, and watched Legally Blond. An ideal day for Obo (except that he was too embarrassed to pee at Band Girl's house and ended up in an exceptional amount of pain). I hope he learned a lesson, but I doubt it. But get this: He learned that he likes mushrooms. It's nothing less than a miracle.
No Girl: R and I spent a good portion of our day trying to convince Sweet Potato to get off her NO. She says making friends is too hard, and she'd rather just read the seventh Harry Potter for the tenth time. She has agreed to invite our neighbor girl over tomorrow (she reads for crying out loud!) but there were many tears shed in the process.
Yes to technology: Today Buckaroo had a webcam playdate with his old buddy, Monkey Girl. There was lots of waving and blowing of kisses. At one point I think he was really distraught that he couldn't squeeze her. It was very sweet, and then he fell apart and had to go for a walk in the jogging stroller. We all miss Monkey Girl, and her parents too.
R and I had a day of No. It was just one of those days where we didn't click. We weren't on the same page, or even in the same book. I realized that it's hard any time to be out of sync with one's love, but it's especially hard when one's love has dragged her 3,000 miles away from her comfort zone. I'm making dinner, thinking: This isn't my house, this isn't my life, this isn't even my frying pan, and now I'm really peeved with the person who brought me here. Thinking thoughts like that could make a person ugly.
Luckily, I didn't turn into a hell monster. I just unpacked some boxes and found some goodies I'd been missing (poetry books and a journal/scrapbooky thing my friend Katherine made for me) and then I felt better. R went for a swim in the dark, and he felt better, too. At least I think he did.

July 19, 2008

Mr. Magoo and Buckaroo

Buckaroo has decided he is a walking aficionado, tackling every hill and stair with bravado. I'm not sure how he manages to survive. He prefers to walk the stairs solo now, and he also likes to stand as close to our beach mini-cliff as he can and throw rocks into the water. He really does look like Mr. Magoo, swaggering and swaying and nearly falling over every edge, but then catching himself at the last minute, completely unaware that he has avoided injury. He just needs the glasses. Luckily, I've taught him to put on my sunglasses, shake his head, and say, "Who loves ya baby?" in a deep, bluesy voice-- ok, I actually do the speaking, but I know he'll say it eventually-- and with glasses he really does look just like the Magooster.
Big news for Obo! He's decided to be support staff for the high school marching band. Tomorrow he's having ice cream with Band Girl who is a senior and excited to tell him all about it-- according to her mother, who happens to be a doula and is excited to tell me all about the volunteer doula program at the hospital. And I thought my doula days were over!
Then, next week, Obo flies to England while R and Sweet Potato head the other direction to Smoky Cali. Buckaroo and I will be braving the wilderness alone for three weeks, and I'm really hoping not to spot a bear while they're gone.
So, here's a funny thing I learned today. R and I were driving to Lowe's to buy an under the counter garbage can thingy, and there was a whole radio program about the Massachusetts accent. Apparently, people in Western Mass don't believe they have an accent at all and that it's only Bostonians who have the accent. I've probably been offending people left and right with my accent comments. Then, the dialect varies depending on where in Boston folks originate. The radio guy gave examples, but I couldn't hear the difference. Also, nobody in all of Massachusetts speaks like John F. Kennedy because he made up his own accent with a speech teacher. Who knew? Well, speech professionals, I guess, that's who.
And-- all so interesting-- some Bostonians pronounce the H in the letter H (heych), just like they do in Ireland. R picked up his heych in England, though, and he refuses to let it go, but at least now it goes along with the rest of his misplaced Rs-- which makes R a very good initial for him.
Our FMF are Irish, and when we toasted with our beers last night, he said, "Slainte" (pronounced slan-cha) and said it was a Gaelic cheers. I was so excited because I have two bags by Slainte, but I never knew how to pronounce it, or even what it meant for that matter. I probably could have asked my friend Peter if I'd thought about it. He's always excited to talk about those Gaelic words.
So, yes, I have a baby with possibly the most Irish name ever, and I don't know how to speak Gaelic. I realized that's ok, though, because my Nana Ivy was a McAdoo, and that almost sounds like Mr. Magoo.

July 18, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

We went to our first (well, mine anyway) Mass. baseball game. It wasn't the Red Sox, though, because the Red Sox game are apparently sold out for the next 50 years. We went to see the Lowell Spinners, a minor league team. I can't remember which team they were playing, but I'm pretty sure they lost. Did I mention I'm not much of a sports fan?
I did very much enjoy sitting in the bleachers at 9 p.m. on a warm, summer night. Obo and Sweet Potato mostly sat hunched near each other and grunted, only perking up to ask for the occasional junk food item. Buckaroo was wriggly and cranky until he figured out that he could run back and forth from one end of the bleachers to the other. Amazingly, when it was pointed out to him, he did stop to watch the pitch and the hit with more attention than I gave it.
I mostly enjoy people watching at these events. I do like the required clapping and stomping and shouting, too. If I wasn't trying to watch my wheat I probably would have enjoyed the fried dough as well.
The best part, though, was the view. It was all green, and there were some terra cotta smoke stacks with a matching terra cotta bridge, and then the most beautiful golden full moon. The whole night was worth that moon. Plus, no mosquitoes! And we didn't even get lost, thanks to our handy dandy GPS.
Buckaroo is now rubbing strawberry into the kitchen floor and eating it. Gotta dash!

July 16, 2008

Bad News Blues

I found out yesterday that my cousin Chuck died. He was my dad's cousin, really, and he and my dad were best friends. When my dad died, Chuck and his partner, Cheryl, did so much work. They drove out to Alabama from Georgia and took care of everything. I talked to Chuck almost every day during those weeks. He just kept telling me how much my dad loved me, and how he was so proud of me, and how he talked about me all of the time-- things my dad never told me.

I don't believe in heaven, but I can't help thinking of my dad and Chuck together somewhere playing pranks on each other-- or maybe they're playing canasta with Nana Pat, Aunt Donna and Nana Ivy.

July 14, 2008

Blooming Season

I read that summer didn't start here until July 4th, but I didn't really think it was true. Sure enough, the rain has slowed (although it poured last night and into the morning) and all of the flowers are abloom. The picture is of a lily from the planter in front of the house. My poppies have sprouted, but they're struggling with the rain and shade. No blooms yet.
In the background you might be able to see a blur of the plethora of rocks surrounding our house. If I ever feel the need to join a gym I can just go outside and start raking rocks. We've raked a little patch of them for Buckaroo's play area. They'll never be completely gone because they are imbedded in the dirt, but R bought some redwood mulch to throw on top so Buckaroo won't hurt his tushie when he zips down the slide.
Sweet Potato had her first playdate today with Girl Scout, who lives down the road. Girl Scout says she doesn't like to read, but Sweet Potato doesn't really believe anyone can feel that way about reading. Girl Scout did ask Sweet Potato if she knew anyone famous because she's from Cali. I said, "Did you tell her that your mom is a famous writer?" Har har. Dare to dream!
So Obo is all sad and lonely today because he didn't have his own playdate. I imagine they don't call them playdates anymore when they get to highschool. He's also bummed out because his passport was denied, so it's going to be at least another two weeks before he visits Jolly Ol' England.
and here's a funny little conversational tidbit with which to end:
R's dad, looking through the phone book: "Here's a guy named Schmuck. Could you imagine having that name?"
R: "Dad, you named me Dick"
R's Dad: "I know"
R: "Do you know what it was like going through junior high with the name Dick?"
R's Dad: "I know"
R: "That's why I changed it, you know"
R's Dad: "I know" with a shrug and a smile and the shake of his head.
R's mom, though, doesn't know. She still calls him Dick or Dickie. Plus, sometimes she calls me Julie (that's Obo's mom's name). The poor neighbors can't figure out who we are.

July 13, 2008

The Good, the Odd, and the Pretty

The Good:
This morning I hopped on my bike (recently revived), and pedaled my little self up and down the hills. It's windy today, so the mosquitoes aren't out, and I felt like a little kid whooshing around and pumping my legs up the hills. It's been a while, so my thighs were burning, and not in a romantic way.
Down the road I stopped where the neighbors had put up a"Toy Sale" sign, and I saw that they were selling a water play table, which Buckaroo enjoys very much. I rang their bell, and the mom came out and sold it to me for $8. A bargain! Then we discovered that we have girls the same age, so I rushed home, dragged the still-sleeping Sweet Potato from her warm bed, and we went back over to pick up our purchase and make some introductions. Sweet Potato has a playdate arranged for tomorrow. Yay!
The other good news is that we have boatability! Bob the boatman finally came back and really fixed the boat this time, so we've been tubing a storm up and down the lake.
The odd:
I can't figure out the grocery stores here. Not only do I not know my way around, but the food isn't even stocked in the same places. For example, the peanut butter and jam is next to the bread, and the sad little selection of tortillas is not at the end of the aisle (that's where the wraps are). Tortillas are in the middle of the aisle in the bean section. I did see salmon for sale, but tuna seems to be more popular here. Oh, and the blueberries! So cheap.
Everyone is wild about cutting down trees. Our neighbors just cut down four oak trees because they are tired of raking the leaves. R's mom says I will understand when raking season comes. Did you know that cut oak smells like a winery? I always thought it was the fermented grapes giving off that scent. I told R that we're going to plant four trees on our property to make up for the loss. R wants to cut down one of our trees eventually to build a three-car garage. At this point we only have one car. I think there must be a way to build around a tree.
We had a meeting of the Lake Folk a few days ago, and there sure is a lot of hullabaloo about a lake. Apparently our dam is barely up to standard, and some government whobodies made the Lake Folk cut down all the trees around the dam because they could tear out the dam if the wind blew them over. Now the dam area is uglified with bare stumps. Plus, they had to put up some horrid concrete barriers to keep cars from falling over the edge. It's all very sad, but R says it's here to stay. Can't they build sweet, decorative barriers?
Here's another little tidbit: The police direct traffic through construction zones. R says that construction companies are required to hire the police for this purpose, and they must pay them a handsome sum as well.
The Pretty:
Some of the hullabaloo about the lake is that the Lake Folk don't want foreign boats coming into our water because they'll bring in other nasty foreign plants. One of these is the lily pad. I just for the first time saw blooming lily pads in a pond. They are beautiful and fairytale like little things. I could imagine a the frog queen living in a pond like that. R, however, says the lily pads are evil because they take over the water. Bummer.
The ladybugs out here are bright red, cherry red. In California we always called them red, but they're more orangey. Also, yesterday I saw my first june bug, which isn't really as pretty as its name-- just a gigantic black beetle with wings. It was kind of iridescent in the sunlight, though.
Prettiest yet: The key chime my mom made for me from old keys she found. I dug it out of the moving boxes and hung it up on our front porch. We didn't have a place for it to dangle in California, but now it's turning in the breeze.
And completely unrelated, Books We're Reading:
The Calder Game (3rd in the Balliett series)
Stop in the Name of Pants
Sweet Potato:
Harry Potter (as usual)
Startled by His Furry Shorts
Buckaroo: (recent favorites)
Where the Wild Things Are
Dear Zoo
My Friends
Babies on the Go
Stumbling on Happiness
The No-Cry Sleep Solution
Yes Man
Sense and Sensibility
As a family we just finished Anne of Green Gables, and I think it took us a year to read it. Bleak little ending, that one. We are now courageously tackling Anne of Avonlea.
Now we're off to an outdoor summer concert picnic thing. Adios!

July 11, 2008

The Dirty Truth

I'm filthy. My hair is really oily because of the humidity and hangs in clumps in front of my face, and I'm lathering myself with bug repellant every day, which is just oil, and I'm hanging out in the sand which clings to the oil, and then Buckaroo is covered in dirt and hanging off of my hip. Plus, he's forever mashing the remains of a half-chewed strawberry on my pants. It's not pretty.

But here's the real dirt: I want to go home now. I thought I would have until the snow fell before I felt homesick. I thought it would feel like vacation until it got cold, and then I could hunker down with the lousy weather.

It is so incredibly beautiful here, and I've realized how much I've missed driving windy backroads lined with green trees and listening to my music. Driving was like that where I grew up in California, so-- with the exception of the price of gas-- it's familiar and comforting. There's one part of the drive to the house where the trees are really tall and lean toward each other across the road, stretching for sunlight. That's my favorite place to pass through.

And today the sky was something I've never seen before, some crazy combination of cloudy and dark with patches of blue sky and sunshine that winked on the water. Buckaroo and I picked blueberries by the lake while the big kids swam, and I tried to teach him the difference between blue and green.
I keep asking myself how I could want anything else.

Everyone we meet is so friendly and welcoming, and they have really knocked themselves out to introduce us to other people and let us know what's what. It's hard making new friends, though, too. I'm always a little drained afterward, probably from trying to conceal what a freak I really am.
The other day I was driving back from a playdate, and Buckaroo fell asleep in the car, and I was starving, so I stopped at Taco Bell (which is probably the dirtiest truth in this post, but I'm so missing the taqueria). I sat in an ugly, 1970s strip mall parking lot, wolfing down my fake tacos, and Patti Griffin's "Rain" came on the iPod:

"Strange how hard it rains now
rows and rows of big dark clouds
but I'm still alive underneath this shroud. . . ."

I just started sobbing. Bits of crunchy corn shell flying every which way. Pathetic. I just let myself go there for a few minutes, though. I thought about how much I miss my dad, too, and about my new dreams where I go back to the accident and save him. Waking up is painful. I keep thinking that he's going to call any day, but how will he find me here?

Then I pulled myself together, threw away the fast food evidence, and drove home. That night the rain poured down again.

Last night, though, from our bedroom window, R and I heard the hoot of our first owl. It didn't sound anything like I thought it would.

July 10, 2008

Buckaroo's Babysitter, aka The Lobster Date

We hired our first babysitter, Miss A, tonight to watch the buckaroo while we went out for lobster. Sweet Potato and Obo helped out, too. They said he enjoyed himself until the last half hour when he wanted to nurse and completely fell apart. Poor Miss A said Buckaroo threw about five signs at her at once (he signs for milk, food, more, books, and a diaper change), and she couldn't remember which was what. Plus, he would only let Obo hold him.

The date felt a little rushed and very expensive, but it was good to get away for a few hours. I finally got my lobster!

Last year when we were visiting Mass we asked R's parents if there was somewhere we could go to have lobster. They said they never eat lobster at a restaurant because they always buy it fresh and make it at home. Since we've been here I've asked several people, and they've all said the same thing. I know if I waited until somebody bought fresh lobster and cooked it at home (I'm not so culinarily advanced) I may never eat lobster again.

One day we were driving some windy road somewhere, and I saw a restaurant with a big lobster on it and practically shrieked. Miraculously, R remembered how to get us back there.

My friend Jennifer K. Sweeney has a poem in her book Salt Memory about how lobsters are affectionate with each other and hold claws in the ocean (Well it's about more than that, but you'd just have to hear it). While I was dipping it in butter, I tried not to think of my lobster holding claws with its love. Maybe I was a vegetarian in a past life.

After R dropped Miss A off at home, Obo gave us the full scoop on the babysitting experience. He deemed it an overall success.

July 8, 2008

Mass Miscellaneous

This is one of the wacky plants we saw on our hike up Mt. Potato. I have no idea what it is.

Today we met our neighbors, P, P & B. They are crazy year-rounders just like us! B brought over his friend K-- who also lives on the lake, and all of the kids went swimming. Obo was shy and sat on the beach raking sand, but I coerced Sweet Potato into making conversation, and she eventually had fun with them. Afterward, Obo said, "Why don't you call B and invite him over again tomorrow, and tell him that I'll talk this time." So that's the plan.

Tomorrow Buckaroo and I are going to a playdate in Lunenberg. I just love the name of that town. If I were to live in a town because of its name, that's the one I'd pick.

R and I are going green! Well, it's mostly his doing. Yesterday the plumber installed two new low-flow toilets. I never thought I'd be excited about a toilet, but there it is.

There is much talk about heating out here, and everyone talks in tons-- as in, "How many tons of wood pellets does it take to heat your house in the winter?" I cannot fathom how much a ton of wood pellets is, or a cubic yard of sand for that matter, which is another purchase we are about to make.

Bob the boat man was supposed to come back today. He said we've got a bad fuel pump. R figures he'll be back on Thursday. We'll see. Apparently Bob was supposed to fix R's dad's generator-- which we will need if we invest in a pellet stove and the electricity goes out-- and he's had the thing for five years. He's still waiting on a part.

Tonight we grilled tuna steaks on the bbq, and I put too much salt in the cajun spice mix, but otherwise it was tasty.

Time to get the Buckaroo to bedfordshire.

July 7, 2008

Doom's Falls

On Sunday, R and I took the Buckaroo to Royalston to hike Doane's Falls. It was too early for the big kids, but they want to go next time. I think of it as Doom's Falls because there are all kinds of signs prohibiting hikers from going anywhere near the water. I guess four people have drown while swimming there in the recent past.

We hiked two miles (it felt like ten-- we need to get out more often!) to Tully Lake Dam, and it was gorgeous. The trail changes from large granite slabs to narrow and rooty and soft with pine needles, to cragged and mucky.

The river mellows, and at one point we looked over a bridge into the water, and the moss was flowing like mermaid hair. We saw baby trout (we think), geese, turtles, blueberries and tea berries everywhere. R says we could make tea from the tea berries, and it's very tasty. I was hoping to see a wood duck (another creature I thought was mythical) but we didn't spot one. When it got warm we could smell the pine trees, and it smelled like home.

The lake fingers out, cattails grow around the edges, and there are islands in the middle.

We stopped at the dam and had lunch while Buckaroo tried to throw himself in front of cars in the parking lot. The hike back to the car was much shorter. Why is it always that way?

Other firsts:

Saw my firsts bats on the lake after sunset. For a second I thought they were giant moths.

R took the big kids kayaking, and they all had a great time. Sweet Potato was worried because her last and only other kayaking experience didn't go so well.

I put on my swim cap and goggles and swam a few laps at sunset. Then I flopped onto the tube and watched the thumbnail moon cross the sky while listening to Jack Johnson from the neighbor's beach.

The stars are out tonight! It's the first cloudless night, or at least the first one I've noticed. Oh, how I've missed the stars.

I went to the packie today (govt liquor store) to buy makings for drink recipes from our friend Deanies Tini Lounge. R is stewing up the mynt symple syrup right now.

Sweet Potato thought she spotted a fisher cat. We have yet to confirm any fisher cat sightings in the area.

I shopped at Wal-Mart! Argh. I feel so dirty. Folks here don't seem to have any problem with shopping at the evil empire. I thought this was a blue state. Don't they know that last year alone Jim Walton (son of Sam) donated $37,300 to the Republicans? Haven't they read Nickel and Dimed? Ok, I'm hopping off of my soap box now.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be anywhere else to shop around here. When we came out of the store we saw that a shopping cart had rolled into our car and scratched it. Karma, I tell ya.

July 6, 2008

Mt. Potato

R kept telling me that he was an outdoorsy boy, but I never believed him, so now I think he's trying to prove himself by hiking his off his little legs. We took the whole brood to Mt. Watatic (which I like to call Mt. Potato) on Saturday. Obo refused to go. He wanted to stay home, sit on his bum-oley, and read.

Much to Obo's chagrin, I remembered Ginger. In college, Ginger lead all kinds of outdoor trips all over the place, and while leading a hike in the Grand Canyon she told me that her parents were avid hikers, and when she was little she hated it, so she would sit down in the middle of the path and shout, "I'm not going any farther!" Amazing!
And in that spirit we bit Obo's ankles and dragged him to the car by his earlobes. He didn't threaten to sit down on the path, but he did hike about 300 feet behind us the whole way. Ah, well, baby steps.

We slathered ourselves with bug spray, and we saw some cool plants and fungi, including red mushrooms! I've seen so many cartoons of red mushrooms, but it never occurred to me that they really existed. I thought they were just out of fairytales, but no! They're in New England.

Oh, and R pointed out that the Massachussans mark their hiking trails much better than they mark their roads. Far better than they do in California, too.

We weren't able to finish the hike because we got a late start. It took a long time to drag Obo to the car, and Sweet Potato had to wear her hair in pigtails, etc. We made it about halfway and turned back, so we'll have to go again and photograph the view.

July 5, 2008

Avaricious Squirrels

This is our bird feeder. I don't know how well you can see him, but there's a squirrel inside of there. We think he's the same squirrel who's using our porch as his potty area at night.
R filled the bird feeders, even though the neighbors have warned us about attracting the local bear, and every morning it's like Snow White out there. We open the front door, and all of the little critters run up the hill.
The big kids finally seem to be enjoying the great outdoors. A few days ago they built a big sandcastle on the beach, and yesterday Sweet Potato photographed all of her playmobils enjoying different outdoor activities. Today she played croquet with the neighbor's granddaughters, and when she came home for lunch, she burst in the door and said, "I made friends!" I knew she had it in her.
People try to introduce themselves to Buckaroo, but he just shakes his head and says no. I think he's missing his favorite Monkey Girl.
R finally hooked up the radio in the front room, and we're rocken out!

July 4, 2008

First Family Fourth

This is the first year our little family has been all together for the 4th of July. Obo said he was determined not to enjoy the holiday since he is a Brit. I said, "Obo, you are half American, remember?" and he said, "Then I'll half enjoy it."
I think he did enjoy the junk food.

We went to a bbq with our FMF. Oh, and as an aside, everyone out here assumes that we're vegetarian or vegan because we're from California. Ha! I say. We delight in meat. Actually, I am thinking of cutting way back in the meat department and only eating it once a month on special occasions because I think we'd all be healthier, but that is totally off the subject. Now back to it: We thought there might be teenies or tweenies at the barbie, but it turns out they were all off gallivanting around the globe. The big kids were left to their own devices. I, however, was invited to a moms' night out and a book club! R was invited to create a band, but, alas, he sold his drums.

We thought that we would be bereft of fireworks because they are illegal in Massachusetts, so we were very excited to see everyone shooting them off illegally around the lake. It is very wet out here, I suppose, and they are pretty. But, then, what is it with men and dynamite? I don't understand the loud booming things that have no sparkly lights. What is the point, I ask you? All they did was wake up my baby from a perfectly lovely slumber at 9 p.m. and keep him up until 10:30. The whole place sounded like a war zone, so then I thought: Is this what the 4th is all about, recreating war? That's a bizarre little way to celebrate-- right up there with creating the effigy of a conspirator and burning him.

R says it's time for bed now. I'm almost adjusted to the time change.


Sweet Potato took this photo of everybody's favorite dog, Marley. He's incognito. It's funny that Sweet Potato's favorite stuffy is a dog because she does not enjoy dogs at all in real life. I think they make too much noise for her. In fact whenever a family member (usually Obo) brings up the idea of adopting a dog, Sweet Potato goes mildy ballistic.

We are thinking of adopting a furry friend when Buckaroo is all potty trained -- in a few years-- and our FMF told us that they adopted their dogs through an organization that rescues them from Puerto Rico. Very cool.

July 3, 2008

Blueberry Season

Yesterday I tasted my first wild blueberry, and it was sour. I guess they still have to ripen even though they look blue enough. I just hope the jays haven't eaten them all before I get my paws on them. R dug up one of our plethora of bushes, and we're giving it to our FMF (see previous post). They want to trade us for a raspberry bush, but I'm not hot on raspberries, much to my friend Laura's dismay. No, really. They don't taste like anything to me. Plus, I am not a fan of thorns.
Also, yesterday the kids and I got completely lost trying to find Best Buy. I think they do not believe in street signs in Massachusetts. They also can't seem to give a street fewer than three names. I had heard this, but I hadn't really experienced it until the GPS couldn't figure out what I was asking of it. We did make it eventually, but it cost me a few swear words.
Well, Bob the boatman did not fix the boat after all. Now we're thinking of shelving the stinky boat for the summer and taking up kayaking. Our neighbor, G, says we can borrow her kayaks any time. We can always learn to water ski next year.
Today is windy, and the mosquitoes have been momentarily blown away! I'm off to enjoy the bug-free outdoors while it lasts.

July 1, 2008

First Mass Friends

This is a picture of a clematis growing in our neighbor's yard. R's mom planted one here, too, and said I need to water it more often. I thought the rain was doing a great job on its own, but we haven't had any rain today!

Also, Bob the stinky boat man finally showed up! Unfortunately, he left the boat with a dead battery, so we still don't know whether or not there is smoke billowing from the engine because we can't start the engine. R says Bob is the last of a dying breed in Massachusetts and we'd be hard-pressed to replace him. Erg.

So, we've made friends, and they took us to a tasty Mexican restaurant last night. Yippee. We attempted Mexican food in New Hampsha one day, and it was ok, but the margaritas seemed to be made of only ice and tequila. I was about to ask the waitress if the lime and sugar were coming separately when I saw that the people at the table next to ours were slurping their margaritas happily. I decided to keep my California mouth shut and mix my drink with Sweet Potato's lemonade.

Anyway, back to the FMF (as they will forevermore be known). They are the friendliest people I've ever met in my life. At first I thought it was just a Massachusetts thing, but now I think it's just them. They've practically invited us to move in with them.

Last night on the way home from dinner R decided to have an impromptu, "How ya feelin' about the move" check in. Obo said he's much happier now, and he's looking forward to making some friends. Sweet Potato said she likes the lake, but she's also looking forward to her trip back to visit California. Buckaroo said he doesn't care where we live as long as we keep him stocked with Tings (actually he just made the sign for more food, or oof as he calls it).

How do I feel? Tired, mostly. I think I still haven't recovered from the time change. It is fairly amazing to go for a long, hot walk in the woods and then jump into the lake to cool off, which I did yesterday, but I'm missing my old life, too. I miss seeing someone I know every time I go out. It's only been two weeks, though, and I've been told I have to give it two years.

I asked R how he felt, and he said, "I love it here."

Buckaroo is making the milk sign, and he's covered from head to toe in soy yogurt. Time to sign off.