September 29, 2008

Getting Leashed

I've been in a bit of a funk since we returned from our New England getaway, and I thought it was just because I missed my opportunity to try the world's best hot chocolate in Mystic Connecticut, but now I think not.

Here's the thing: R starts his new job on Wednesday, commuting about an hour each way. I figure he'll leave at 6:45 a.m. and be home by 6:15 p.m., on a good day. It's a humongous change from the five minute commute he had in California.

Here's the other thing: I never wanted to be a home owner. When I was growing up I couldn't understand why anyone would own a home when it would be so much more fun to travel all over the world. Later, when I learned about inflation and cost of living increases, and all that boring stuff, I thought maybe owning a home might not be such a bad idea.

Meanwhile, I was waiting for my life to start. My life will begin when. . . I'm out of college, I start my career, I get married, I get married again (you know how it is), when I get published, and finally, when I own a home. Sometimes I would have to be quiet and remind myself, "This is my life. Right now, I'm living it." I could never quite believe myself, though.

So here I am, beginning the rest of my life on Wednesday.

There was a kid on a leash at the Mystic Aquarium-- Sweet Potato argues vehemently that such things should be illegal, but there he was-- and his leash was a toy. He was all strapped up with a little stuffed monkey on his shoulder, and the monkey's tail became the tether to the boy's mama.

Is that me? Am I tethered to this beautiful house on a lake? Is it not so bad if the leash keeps me close to R?

I know I'm a whiner. Waah Waah. I've got so many thankfuls, too. Here are a few:

Sweet Potato loves school
Everything is turning red and yellow
The skies are blue
The lake is calm
My impatiens are still blooming
My husband found a job and we bought a house in this insane economy!
We're all healthy
I'm about to eat freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

September 28, 2008

Baby Beluga

I've been singing the "Baby Beluga" Raffi song since Sweet Potato was a wee sprout, but I'd never seen a real Beluga until this weekend.

R and I took Buckaroo to the Mystic Aquarium where the belugas are plentiful. Here are a few things I learned about them:

Belugas like to hang out in shallow water, which is troublesome for them because of the stinky pollution. It causes them cancer.

Beluga caviar does not come from the whale; it comes from a sturgeon.

The babies are usually gray when they're born.

Their main predator is the polar bear, who attacks when the belugas are trapped between floes.

It's a tough life for a whale.

We stood at the deck and watched the whales for a long time while Buckaroo sang, "Baby Booga" over and over. They're very friendly and chatty, dolphinesque.

And thinking of friendly, R and I have decided that Buckaroo is here to teach us a lesson in social skills. The boy is gregarious. He says "Hi!" to everyone who walks past, and he'll climb into the lap of any sitting mama or tug the pants of any daddy. He's been known to hug unsuspecting strangers. We meet so many people these days.

We've all returned to The Woods, including Sweet Potato who says she carved out some time to watch the presidential debate and thinks that Obama was far and away the winner.

September 27, 2008

Postcards from the Elf Shoe

Buckaroo learned a new word this weekend: Rain. After a late night of GPSing our way to a gas station in Rhode Island where we rendezvoused with Sweet Potato’s dad, we arrived at our destination in Hyannis (I like to pronounce it High Anus, but R frowns upon this) where it began to rain. Not rain, pour. The news peeps were predicting hurricanes for us.

We dilly dallied around Friday; read, shopped, napped. Buckaroo is enjoying the beach house we rented, a late season deal. He especially enjoys turning the TV on and off and trying to make a break for the wet outdoors.

We took advantage of a short break in the rain to explore the beach, about 150 feet from our front door. Buckaroo did not enjoy the wind and after two minutes announced, “All done!” We dragged him down the shoreline, though, and I couldn’t believe how many shells there were. It was a seagull's buffet. We also saw several (dead, unfortunately) horseshoe crabs, which I think should be called helmet crabs as that’s what their backs resemble. R says they’re not crabs at all, but part of the arachnid family— which makes me shudder violently— whatever they are, we don’t have them in California.

They have a long sword (or tail) out the back, which we thought they used to stake their enemies, but it’s actually a rudder and helps them flip when flopped.
Meanwhile, Sweet Potato is living the high life in the big city-- more about her after she’s been fetched on Sunday.

September 24, 2008

Drama Princess Joins the Club

Although Sweet Potato loves to create real-life drama, she doesn't want anything to do with the fictional kind-- at least in front of other people. Tonight, though, after some coaxing, we attended the first parent/student meeting of the middle school drama club, and it was packed! We asked the director if Sweet Potato could stay behind the scenes and help out with sets and costumes, and the director gave us a resounding yes. Plus, we discovered that one of Sweet Potato's new friends is also joining the club, and she did a little jig when she saw Sweet Potato across the room. Drama.

The first show, Godspell, will be performed in January.

And speaking of music, my days of listening to my songs are over. Buckaroo made it very clear today, on the long ride home from the grocery store, that he prefers upbeat tunes, especially those that repeat the word baby often. He insisted on a loop of "Take Me or Leave Me" from the Rent soundtrack all the way home. I'm going to have to make him his own iPod playlist.

R and I are taking Buckaroo to Cape Cod tomorrow to celebrate our soft landing on the East Coast while Sweet Potato is Brooklyn bound to celebrate her aunt's wedding. I'll probably be blogless for a few days, but I'll leave you with this happy little quote from my mom regarding home ownership: "You'd better get yourself a nice little sledge hammer and a pair of safety goggles."

Buying the Camp

Completely different concept from buying the farm-- and from where did that expression come, I wonder?

The first time I heard my neighbor refer to her house on the lake as camp, I thought she was just quirky, but no. All of the wood-folk, except R it seems, refer to their summer- lakey homes as camps. I haven't quite got used to it. To me, a camp is a patch of ground with a couple of tents and a can of pork and beans bubbling on the fire-pit.
R has always referred to this house as The Cottage. That doesn't quite fit either because I don't imagine a cottage with so much knotty pine.

In any case, whatever we're going to call it, it's ours-- as of yesterday. R and I took Buckaroo down to close the deal with the in-laws and the attorneys. I had Darcy and Bingley's opening lines from Pride and Prejudice (the movie) stuck in my head all day:
Bingley: It's a fair prospect.
Darcy: Pretty enough, I grant you.
Bingley: Ah, it is nothing to Pemberley, I know. But I must settle somewhere. Have I your approval?
Darcy: You will find the society something savage.
Bingley: Country manners? I think they're charming.
Darcy: Then you better take it.
Bingley: Thank you. I shall. I shall close with the attorney directly.

Of course it must be read with an English accent.

I haven't found the country manners savage, but you know that Darcy was a something of a snob until Lizzie set him straight.

After our appointment we had dinner with R's parents and while the cauliflower was steaming, R said, "Come look out the window!" and there were the mohawk headed cardinals swooping around the bird feeder and twittering in the trees. I've kept my eyes open for the red guys since we moved here, but this was my first sighting-- five of them, just like there are five of us (when Obo is here) and just after we made our stay permanent. They were downright auspicious.

R's mom said she's never seen a cardinal in The Woods, and I guess that's because they like open woodlands-- I'm not sure what open woodlands means, but I'm thinking it's the opposite of what we have.
The first picture was taken on Monday evening. The four of us rowed (well, R did the actual rowing) out to the islands and munched on the plethora of blueberries growing there. Unfortunately, a blueberry past its season is super seedy and not very sweet.

R's dad was up on the weekend to help pull out the boat and store it with Bob the Boatman, so we are motorless once again, but it was good to have the quiet paddling of the oars in the flat-bottom boat and fresh air. We made it to the islands and back despite being about 150 pounds over capacity. Oops.

September 22, 2008

Signalling Home

I grew up in Auburn, California, but until I hit my 30s, probably, I wouldn't call it my home town. My mom and step-dad moved me to Auburn when I was seven-ish, and I was bitter about it.

American River, Auburn, Calif.

I realize now that I was bitter about so many things, divorce and the end of my only-child days included. I focused all my bitterness on the town, though, and it stuck for a long, long time. I guess I'm a girl who holds a grudge-- even a misplaced one.

If you ever drive to Auburn, just before you get to Old Town and the giant statue of gold miner Claude Chana, there's a spot where the train trestle crosses the freeway, and it feels like the gateway to the city. One day long after I'd moved to the Bay Area, I was driving to the foothills for a visit, and when I saw the trestle, my whole body sighed, and I thought, "Ah, I'm home." Just like that, no warning, I forgave the town all of its ugly sins (real or imagined) and went all nostalgic.

I've been toodling around Massachusetts, enjoying the changing colors and the quiet lakes, starting to recognize people's faces. More and more often I'm able to find my way without the help of GPS. I have friends. This isn't so bad, I keep repeating to myself.

The homesickness hits unexpectedly, like any grief. Today I received a postcard photograph of the Auburn train trestle, taken from the highway-- from behind the windshield, I think-- just as it looks when I'm on my way home. My mom sent it. I was returning from buying Sweet Potato a new dress, and I stopped to check the mail. I saw that stretch of highway, and I was back there, almost home, anxious to stop at Taco Tree for my two bean burritos and small rootbeer. And then it was so far away.

I sat in the car and cried while Buckaroo munched on his french fries in his car seat and read The Big Hungry Bear. It was a brief burst of tears, mostly because I know the neighbors now, and I don't really want them to see me crying in front of the mailboxes again.

I wonder if there will be a time I'll see a landmark in The Woods and feel like it's signalling home.

September 20, 2008

Farm Season

"When most people think of Massachusetts, they really just think of Boston," Sweet Potato said today, and I was definitely one of those people. I had no idea that a big chunk of the state was covered in farmland. In 2002, there were more than 518,000 acres of farm land here, and that showed decline. I knew the pilgrims planted crops; I just didn't know someone kept tending them.
Out here, conversations about corn on the cob-- which roadside farm stand has the best ears and how much they cost-- run neck and neck with discussions about the cost of oil and the abundance of rain.

The farms aren't just for food now, though. They're a huge source of entertainment for the people of the woods: Pick-your-own berries, pumpkins, apples-- depending on the season-- bog tours, tractor rides, hay rides, corn mazes, Christmas trees, wine tasting, walking trails, gift shops, bakeries, and food contests. One farm even boasts a state-of-the-art milking parlor. It makes me giggle to think of the jersey cows sipping tea cross-legged in the parlor, waiting a turn to give milk.
On a whim we decided to go to our nearby apple-picking farm today. Sweet Potato was really hoping the trees would have Pink Ladies (secretly, I was too) but I think they're grown in Australia. We picked McIntoshes.

I love the names of apples and once included a list of them in a poem I wrote: Braeburn, Pippin, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Jonagold, Crab (so yummy soaked in cinnamon!) . Too bad it was a lousy poem, but maybe I can part it out one day.
Back to the farm: We were too cheap to pay 30 bucks for the corn maze and goat petting, but Buckaroo had a good time riding around in the wagon. Sweet Potato and I enjoyed our caramel apples very much, while R gobbled his warm apple pie. Not as good as my mom's (QW), he said-- always a gentleman.
Buckaroo enjoyed sampling apples straight from the tree.

Afterward we ordered take-out from the Thai restaurant down the road. My idea of the perfect day.

September 19, 2008

You Little Turkey

That's what Grandma Irene would say whenever she discovered that I'd chewed up all of her Big Red or ate the rock hard Twinkies straight out of the freezer, but other than hanging out with my bad-behaving self, I've never spent much time with a turkey. Nana Pat had an old domestic guy named Tom who strutted around the yard, but we mostly avoided each other.

Today, taking that same circuitous route to the hair salon (where I got a fancy new do), I passed a rafter of wild turkeys-- that's what the group is called, a rafter; I had to look that up-- and stopped to watch them comb the grass in front of the farm house. At first I was mystified because the birds are long and sleek with their feathers flat and don't look much like the cartoons I know.

Here's what I've learned about the bird, from Wiki of course:

They're much smarter than their domestic cousins; It's probably best that the cousins be a bit slow anyway, given their fate.

They are agile fliers and usually fly low for no more than a quarter mile.

The males are polygamous, and usually have a harem of five hens. Lucky boys.

They mate and are hunted in the spring. Wild turkey hunting is quite a racket, apparently.

Here's my favorite part-- According to Wikipedia, no one's sure if Ben Franklin publicly advocated for the wild turkey as our national bird, but he was not at all happy with the choice of an eagle. Here's a letter to his daughter:
"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country...
I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

I never knew the Bald Eagle was a thief. It seems that instead of calling me a turkey, Grandma should have said, "You little Bald Eagle!" whenever I pilfered her sweets.

September 18, 2008


Isn't it funny how we learn something new and then hear about it or see it everywhere? The word excoriate, for example, showed up twice in this issue of Poets & Writers magazine after I'd just learned it. Then I wrote about sumac and said I'd never seen it. The next day R and I took a drive and the stuff (the benign bush with red berries) was growing along every highway.

Same thing with hostas. The first week, maybe even first day, we were here, our neighbor was planting hostas in her front yard. R's mom ooh-ed and ahh-ed over them, and I thought, "Hmm, not sure we have those green things in California."

Also, I imagined the word spelled H-A-S-T-A, like the Spanish word for until-- Hasta la vista, baby-- and I thought it was so cute, as in "until I grow big and flower." I know, I know, the H in hasta is silent, but you know how these crazy Massachusans pronounce words all wacky.

Actually, the plant is named after Austrian botanist Nicholas Thomas Host. I'm not sure what he did to deserve his name on a plant, but it makes me think the plant should be pronounced HOE-STA. The original name was Funkia, so that's what I'll call it. I don't really like the things, but I might grow one just so I can say, "Look how our Funkia blooms."
Well, whatever they're called, the plants are everywhere, and they are gigantic-- tropical rain forest sized. There's no escaping them.
In other news: R is going so green he's going to turn into Kermit. He's discovered this fabulous lighter footstep web site, and now he wants to stop drinking from plastic bottles, make our own microwaveable popcorn (did you know the factory workers get popcorn lung from the butter-dust? Crikey), eat vegetarian once a week, use natural cleaning supplies, and -- I cannot believe this one-- aluminum-free deodorant! I've been pushing it for four years, but better late than sorry, I guess.
*Sweet Potato ran away from home today, or she went on a really long walk, depending upon how you look at things. In any case, she got a taste of what a small town it is-- not in terms of walking; it's quite a large area for a pair of legs-- but word travels faster than a kitten on roller skates around here, and we imagine she'll be the hot topic of conversation at school tomorrow.
*We think Buckaroo has finally grown some molars, and we're hoping for a few whine-free days (hours?).
*I've started my new job as subscription manager from Embassy Events. As a perk, my new employer has offered to let us paddle around in his canoe. He lives down the road but has his own pond with lily pads and otters.
*Tonight I volunteered at the middle school for a couple of hours, and I had to take the circuitous detour home. It's a gorgeous drive, it turns out, tree-lined with ponds, farms, rolling green hills, and tonight-- the biggest, most beautiful orange moon ever. The kind of moon that says Halloween is on its way.

September 16, 2008

The Big Hungry Bear

I've always wondered what I would do if I stumbled into a bear's path, and now I know: I'd run like hell. I know, I know, we're not supposed to run with bears; we're supposed to play dead? Is that right? I really need to look that one up.

Behind our house is The Woods. In the woods we have a composting bin, and because I'm lazy I often end up dragging my sorry bum up the hill, full bucket o' scraps in hand, late, late at night.

Before I continue, let me just say that it's incredibly dark here at night. You know the kind of dark when you're camping, and you have to pee in the middle of the night, but it's so dark you can't see your feet, so you just decide to hold it 'til dawn? It's that dark.

I don't take a flashlight with me up the hill, though, because I'd have to get it out of the closet, and the bin's just that side of the trees, and I just dash in and dash out.

So tonight I head up the hill, squint into the darkness and see nothing, so I lift the compost lid, toss in a moldy watermelon, and turn toward the house. That's when I hear it: the giant growl of a big, hungry bear.

Oh, did I run. There was no thinking involved. Down the hill, down the steps, up the back porch, listen listen listening for the stomp of paws behind me, smack the screen door and in the house.

Inside, I was all a-flutter. My legs were wobbly, but I managed to zip to the window and turn on the stadium light R's parents installed for just this occasion, waiting for a glimpse of the beasty.

You're probably wondering about the storybook picture? It's one of Buckaroo's top five faves right now, and I've got the whole thing memorized. Buckaroo's favorite page is: "BOOM BOOM BOOM the Big Hungry Bear will stomp through the forest on his big hungry feet and SNIFF SNIFF SNIFF find the strawberry. . . " I have to read those lines to him at least ten times before I'm allowed to turn the page. I get to the sniffing, and he signs for more, more more.

The great thing about the story, if you don't know it, is that the bear doesn't really exist, and that's my favorite part. He's just a ploy to get the mouse to share his red, ripe strawberry. That's what I'm thinking about while I'm staring wide-eyed into the night from my bedroom window watching for the flash of eyeballs, and that's when it hits me: The sound I heard wasn't the growl of a bear at all; it was the sound of the lid on the compost bin closing slowly, dragging itself against the inside of the bin, pushing out the air as it shut-- very growly-like.

No bear, just like the story, but I couldn't convince my knees. They shook for ten minutes. So, I think I'll take a flashlight next time.

September 15, 2008

You Cahn't Get Theyah from Heeah

This is a favorite New England saying. It translates (for the native California readers) to "You can't get there from here." R likes to repeat it whenever we're making fun of his Mass accent, but then he reminds us that this particular dialect doesn't come from Massachusetts at all. Today I Wikied it and found that the phrase comes from Maine-- more specifically, from a Bert & I story:

"A number of well-worn sayings and rehashed jokes have their roots in Bert & I stories. One common phrase, sometimes said in a New England accent, 'You can't get there from here' . . . was the punchline to the story 'Which Way to Millinocket?' (not to be confused with 'Which Way to East Vassalboro?', which had a different, anti-urbanite theme.)"

Gotta love that Wiki.

Well, in our case the phrase holds true in any accent. We really can't get there from here because the road is closed-- not just a road, but the main artery connecting us to the whole western half of civilization. Closed for a week.

Now I don't like to go around saying that this or that in California is sooo much better because there are a lot of things that are better in Massachusetts (school, for example) but in California they do have this way of doing road work at night-- from, say, 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.-- that makes it so drivers can still use the road during the day. I don't understand how it works, but the road is dug up at night and put back together by morning. I have to say I think that's better. Also, the taquerias.

Other tidbits:
Saturday night R and Buckaroo were having some nakey bottom time on the lake (Buckaroo's nakey botom not R's) while I napped. I woke up and went down there just in time to see an osprey diving in the water for fish. The fish were jumping like crazy, so when we heard the loud splash we thought a really big fish was leaping, but then we saw this huge bird heave itself out of the water empty-clawed and shrug his shoulders to shake the water. We watched him dive again, and this time he came up with a fish and flew up the mountain toward the trail we just hiked a few days ago.
There was no wind at all, and we could see thousands of insects covering the water and the fish going wild, so R brought down his fishing pole, cast a lure, and reeled in a sun fish. Just like that. Then he changed lures and reeled in a pickerel. I fished for a while and thought I was going to come up with a big goose egg, but I did eventually catch a bitty sun fish. We showed them all to Buckaroo and let them go.
Yesterday, R and I took the kidlets to visit R's old marching band buddy and his family. We ate lunch in the sun room, which was built out of knotty pine, and I liked it! There might be hope for this pine yet.

Later we mosied over to R's parents house where we picked up-- tell them what they've won Bob-- our neeeew car!

We bought a car from R's parents. I have concerns about its lack of four wheel drive, but R doesn't, and he's the one who's going to be driving it. R and Sweet Potato drove it home last night and agreed that it was a smooth ride.

Too bad we can only drive it east.

September 13, 2008

Poison Sumac

These are fully mature poison sumac berries. I'd never heard of sumac, let alone poison sumac, but word is that the rash from poison sumac is much worse than that of poison ivy or oak.
They do look menacing, don't they?
We don't have poison ivy in California, so I've never seen that either, but I've been told it likes to climb the trees.

Anyway, back to the poison sumac: I read that it's fairly rare, only shows up in swampy areas, although there are plenty of those around here, and its berries are much different from the regular (staghorn) sumac.

This one is the staghorn sumac, and apparently it's all over the place, though I don't think I've seen any. One is supposed to be able to tell the difference because the berries of the non-noxious plant grow in one big clump, and the leaves are jagged. This one grows in dry areas, so I'm told that you'll never see the staghorn and its evil twin growing side by side.

The leaves of both turn red in autumn and drop in winter, and then all that's left are the berries. I like the staghorn best at this stage, at least in the photos-- adds some color to the dreary landscape.

September 12, 2008

Palin & Pinocchio

I just couldn't resist this one:

Sarah Palin, regarding her stance on climate change:
"Show me where I have ever said that there's absolute proof that nothing that man has ever conducted or engaged in has had any effect or no effect on climate change," Palin told ABC News in an interview broadcast Thursday and Friday. "I have not said that."
Courtesy of Yahoo News

Doesn't she sound a lot like Shrek's Pinocchio being interrogated by Prince Charming?

Prince Charming: So you do know where he is!
Pinocchio: I'm possibly more or less not definitely rejecting the idea that I undeniably. . .
Prince Charming: Stop it!
Pinocchio: Do or do not know where he shouldn't probably be. If that indeed wasn't where he isn't!

Ah, it makes me chuckle.

Hiking for Treasures

Yesterday Puppy Boy's mama invited us all to hike up the mountain (it's a small mountain) behind our lake. The north side of the lake is undeveloped, with a trail that leads to a flat granite boulder where there's a beauteous view of the water. Our beach is down there on the right.

Sweet Potato brought along salt and vinegar chips, and she and Puppy Boy wrestled for them all the way up the mountain and down while they discussed Australopithecus Afarensis. Buckaroo had the easiest ride, on R's back.

I examined all of the new and interesting goodies along the way. One of my favorite trees is the birch when its trunk is all silver. It looks like a disrobing prom queen. I had no idea there were so many types of birch trees. I thought they were all the same birch turning colors during its different stages-- until just now when I Wikied it.

We've also spotted all different kinds of berried plants, and Buckaroo tries to eat them. He thinks everything is a blueberry these days, even tomatoes. We keep telling them they're bird berries, but he insists they're edible. These berries turn dark purple, aubergine even. No idea what they are.
While we were up there on the mountain, we heard big loud animal crashes, and some of our party wanted hang out and see if we could spot a moose. I thought we might spot a bear instead, so we moved along.

R has been searching for teaberry leaves since we arrived as he says one can make a tasty tea from the leaves, and we finally found it. The plant we found didn't have any berries, though. It took me a long time to decide that it smelled just like kindergarten paste. I always did want to eat that stuff.
Puppy Boy and his mama said the broken branch of an ash smelled like rootbeer, but R and I thought it was more minty.

Back home I got a shot of my blooming nasturtium!

September 10, 2008


At church on Sunday we talked about home: Coming home to church after a summer away, what home means, what makes a home homey. We were asked to think back on our childhood homes and remember our favorite places within them. I thought about my closet.

In one of the houses we rented I had a walk-in closet that I loved. It had been a bathroom at one time and still had the medicine cabinet on one wall where I stored all of my treasures. There was also a loose baseboard where I stashed my dollars on the rare occasion that I had any.

All of my toys were in there, too: board games, Simon, a million stuffed animals, including the giant dolls my Nana Pat made that looked like my parents. It was dark in there, but I didn't mind the dark back then. It was hot, too. It was the only place I could go and work my imaginary magic uninterrupted until dinner time-- most days. I felt protected.

When I told Sweet Potato this tale she said, "You must have been a challenged child."

I'm not a fan of the closet anymore. I'm happiest in the sunlight, as I think I've mentioned. Most of my favorite spots in the home as an adult have been near a window looking out on the passersby. I think this means I'm growing, like a plant. Also, I'm a reader now, which requires light.

So that got me thinking about my favorite place in my new home. I don't have one. It makes me restless. I need to create a nook for myself, and I need to create it soon. R and I should be proud homeowners by next week, though, and then I'm going to bring in the light. Until then, I have the beach.

In other news: Today Buckaroo and I found a giant consignment store for children's clothes. They even have Sweet Potato's size. I bought Buckaroo his Halloween costume, too, and he's going to be a skunk. Sweet Potato said we should let him trick-or-treat in his stinky diaper.

Oh, and I've got my first nasturtium bloom! It looks like an orange pterodactyl head.

September 9, 2008

Watching the Weather

This photo of Buckaroo was taken yesterday, while it was sunny. We spent most of the day at the mall, and the FMF asked me why on earth I would go to the mall on a sunny day. Well, I forgot that my sunny days were numbered until I was halfway there, and then it seemed silly to turn back. In October, in the Bay Area, every day is sunny. Also, I really needed a watch with a metal band (because I twist the soft bands until they break; it's nervous habit) and Buckaroo needed a good pair of running shoes. He got a new hat and truck, too.

Today I noticed that our neighbor, Running Man, was wearing pants for the first time ever, or since I met him in June. He always wears running shorts, but today he was cleaning the gutters in his jeans.

The strange thing is, as low as I'm told the temperature drops here, I thought I would be able to find warm clothes. No. All of the stores in the mall sell the same items they sell in California and Minnesota, I guess. I couldn't find a long sleeve to save my life. We must suffer for fashion? Next time I'm going to REI.

A few things I forgot to mention: R and I saw a turtle crossing the road over the weekend. He was black with a red stripe on his shell. He moved quickly for a turtle. He made it past the ugly concrete barrier and down to the water without any assistance. I thought he might be the snapper I'd heard so many stories about, but R says snappers are thorny-headed.

A caterpillar (they are everywhere) tried to build its cocoon on our stairs. It wasn't the smartest place, and when I went to get a photo of him, he'd already given up the spot. Survival of the fittest holds true for even the tiniest, fuzzy creatures apparently. Buckaroo loves the guys, so we help him pet them with one finger, and he squeals and squeals.

Oh, and I got a job. It'll earn me about $100 a year-- just enough to pay for my Lucky Charms addiction. Actually, I'm going to give up sweets as soon as I eat all of the sugar in the house, so I guess it'll pay for my once a year highlights.

R and I have been discussing siding. I know it's practical, but I don't like vinyl siding. It turns out that what I do like is only seen on 200-year-old barns that have been left to their own devices.

September 7, 2008

Meeting the Unitarians

R and I took Buckaroo to the Unitarian Church for the first time. The church is huge, the congregation is small, and Buckaroo made a heap o' noise. I cringed as he ran up and down the empty pews and shouted, "Bye bye" to the people, but then the minister paused her sermon to say how nice it was to have a little one in the sanctuary to remind us what it's really about. Shew.

I don't follow the news very closely-- mostly I just read the election headlines-- since my dad died I don't like to hear about the violence. My old therapist (have I mentioned that I miss her?) said it's a symptom of post traumatic shock. Every ugly, senseless thing takes me back to a highway in Alabama and what I imagine happened there. This is one of the many reasons I avoid TV altogether-- had my share of real-life drama.

This is why I didn't hear about the shooting at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville TN-- until today. I thought I misunderstood the minister when she mentioned it. Two people were killed for believing what I believe-- in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. That's all I have to say about that right now.

In happier news: R bought a wake board, sort of like a surf board for skiing, and I pulled him behind the boat for the first time ever. First he pulled me, and it was magical out there. The sky was cloudy pink, there was a sliver moon above me, and the water was not too cold. Then it was his turn, and I couldn't see what he was doing but Sweet Potato and her friend were ooh-ing and aahh-ing at his tricks, so I think he had fun, too.

Now I'm off to make a cake for the UUs to deliver to the homeless shelter tomorrow. Tootle loo.

September 6, 2008

Gargantuan Mushrooms & Rain

These mushrooms are growing in our neighbor's yard. I dashed in there to get a photo when I though no one was peeking out the windows. They don't grow so much as appear. One day nothing, next day: Poof, fungi. It looks like something oceanic.
We've got hurricane type rain happening this weekend. It really puts a damper on water skiing, and the winter clock is ticking so loudly now. Our neighbors have already pulled their dock out of the water, but R says we're leaving ours until they drain the lake in Oct.
R's got boat fever. He searches Craigslist for ski boats with a faraway look in his eyes and sometimes a little drool in the corner of his mouth. It's not as high on my list of priorities, though; our boat may be stinky but it gets us around the lake pretty alright, so we're having many conversations about this.
Update on the math book: It still isn't found. Sweet Potato was directed to look in the Lost and Found at school, but she forgot. Her teacher didn't shout at her, so it's all better. She was so worried about it that she did forget to brush her hair for the school photo. Erg.
Sweet Potato is at her sleep over tonight, so R and I left Buckaroo with the FMF and had a date. We had dinner and discussed the virtues of tin ceilings. I had a strawberry beer, too: Too much beer, not enough strawberry. Next time I'll stick with lemonade.
Speaking of dates; tomorrow is our first date with the Unitarians as they have finally returned from summer vacation. It's the merging of the water service, so everyone brings water from their travels far and wide. If I'd known, I'd have brought a bit of the Pacific with me, but they'll have to do with a bit of lake.
R has been IMing Obo, and he starts school next week. He says he's keeping updated with the blog, too.
Hi Obo! We lurve you.

September 5, 2008

The Case of the Missing Math Book

The day Sweet Potato received her math book (Tuesday), her teacher told the class a detailed story involving two boys and two math books-- one lost and one stolen. She warned them to be very, very careful about where they kept their books and to never give out their locker combinations.
That's the last time Sweet Potato remembers seeing her math book.
Yesterday we had a whole search party checking every nook and cranny of the house-- nothing. I drove her back to school to search (no short trip)-- nothing.
There were an overwhelming number of tears shed last night. Sweet Potato is certain she will be forever marked as "The Girl Who Lost Her Math Book."
She was somber as she left the house this morning to face her fate. The really bad news is that today is picture day, and she's going to have swollen, puffy eyes for the photo. I hope they have picture do-over day out here.

September 3, 2008

Knock Kneed Ski Mama, Etc.

We decided to ask Sweet Potato to hold Buckaroo and be my ski spotter this evening because the water was perfect and there was not one boat on the lake. We were nervous about the sitter/spotter combination because, while she loves her little bro, Sweet Potato has limited (five minutes) patience for him most days. She's also easily distracted. It was quiet, though, so we gave it a go. It went swimmingly, or skiingly, rather.

Here I am waiting as long as I can to dunk myself in the water. It is chilly these days.

Here's my pigeon-toed, chicken-legged position. When I climbed back in the boat Sweet Potato said, "Mom, you looked like Jesus in elf shoes." At least she's imaginative.

My post-ski victory cheer. I got out of the water on my first try, and I skied one and a half times around the lake until my back started shouting, "Who do you think you are, some young whippersnapper?" and I let go of the rope. Before that, though, I was even skiing on the edge of the wake, but I was not ready to venture into open water.

Finally, my post-ski bliss face:
Apparently I look like a 45-year-old man when blissed out. I never knew this about myself.
In other news: I had a dream about Obo last night. He came back to live with us, just showed up and demanded that we re-register him at the high school. He wouldn't talk about why he changed his mind. He was wearing his brown hoodie with the hood around his face, just like the day we dragged him up Mt. Watatic, and he pouted and walked 300 feet behind us in his clompy untied shoes. I was so relieved to have him home that I didn't even want to make him talk about it. I was telling R, "Just let him go to school, and he'll talk when he's ready," as I woke up. It was one of those dreams that puts a mama in a funk. Even a step-mama.
Also, I attended my first book club meeting tonight, and we discussed The Gathering by Anne Enright. Fortunately, they didn't kick me out for failing to finish the book. My friend Red Mama (she's a Republican, gasp!) agreed that we didn't like the main character, so it makes it difficult to listen to her story.
The really good news is that the book clubbers like to snack while discussing books. Food is always a bonus.
Oh, and I learned something tonight: That Christmas game where everyone brings a gift, takes a number, and steals from each other-- out here it's called Yankee Swap. What are the Yankees trying to say about themselves? I have a feeling that eventually it will not be politically correct to call it the Yankee Swap, and they'll start calling it the Gracious Grinch like in California.
I call it the Greedy Grinch-- I mean, come on. Stealing gifts at Christmas, and from your drunken, dysfunctional family members? Who thought of this game? Satan in elf shoes, that's who.

September 2, 2008

On the Band Wagon

Sweet Potato has agreed to try out the school band for six weeks. She'll play piano for a while, and then she'll have to choose another instrument. She's not thrilled about the arrangement, but we've agreed to give her a break in the sport area until she's on her musical feet.
This morning I had moms and toddlers over for an end of summer splash. I think the moms did more splashing than the kids, really. It was a sunny day with just a hint o' breeze, and the water was still. Gorgy-oso. Lots of snacks and shrieking children-- a great way to say goodbye to the season, although I'm still hoping for one more turn on the skis before it's officially over.
R learned that as soon as he starts his new job they're shipping him off to Dallas for a week. He'll be gone Oct. 5-10. Grr.

September 1, 2008

Water Skiing Superstar

This is so not me. R pulled me about as slowly as he could while the sound of my knees knocking together echoed across the lake. I did it, though! I pulled my big bum out of the water and skied for about five minutes until some tsunami-type waves scared the begeezus out of me and I let go of the rope. Woo hoo!
Knitting and Skiing, two goals down. Now I'm off to learn guitar plucking and snow shoeing.