Archive for the ‘Love that dirty water!’ Category

My best of times, worst of times Mother’s Day.

May 15, 2017

Mother’s Day is never an easy day for me.

I’m filled with gratitude for this amazing village that surrounds me, helping me to be the best me – as they step in to designate hit for me when needed – and helping to raise my girlies for me. I have great sisters (birth sisters and accumulated sisters), cousins, friends, and the best dang stepmom I could have dreamed of. So many people help keep us upright and I am blessed!

But even with all of that happy, there’s the reality of my own mom. Mother’s Day goes in both directions. And my mom is…not how I remember my mom. But I still need to honor Mom as she is. I called her and let her talk for as long as she could. I talked to her about what was going on with us, and she didn’t have much to add from her end. But I know it meant a lot to her to hear from us. Kim and Rhi were there, so I felt like I was, too. Talking – even when she’s obviously having a bad spell – is good for her.

But it wrecked me. Seeing Mom be Not-Mom is always a gutpunch. On Mother’s Day, even more so.

So.

But let’s rewind. The girls and I were having an epic, wonderful weekend. We had a dance party on Friday night, and then after we wore ourselves out with wii-dancing, we played board games and talked and talked and talked. Everyone got along and it was great!

Saturday was the same. The girls went on errands with me without complaining, we went summer clothes shopping for Gracie (who has outgrown all of her clothes since spring), and Bee found a thing or two. She had more that she had picked out, but when I would point out that they wanted $20 for a tank top, she decided herself that it was ridiculous. Watching her carefully weight wants and needs, and the spending of my money, it was glorious!

After shopping, Bee knocked out her project and did it with minimal fuss. Gracie ran out grocery shopping with me, like she does, and I only had minimal grumbling when I made her. She put away the groceries when I got back while I helped Bee finish her project. Bee even wielded the hot glue gun all by herself! And the project was AMAZING:

Bee made the house and lined up the cotton and grapes. It was my idea to do a beginning, middle, and end slide on a rolling paper background, wrapped around two pencils to wind and unwind the paper scenes. (I am so frickin proud of my idea to mount the pencils on push pins that I super-glued to the base. The pencils went onto the push pins with the eraser. That way the bottom was attached firmly, but the pencils could still twirl. Genius, right?!) And then Saturday night the girls kept asking to do something as a family! Something as a family! Please? So we watched movies and had make-up tutorials that we re-enacted on ourselves. Don’t ask me how late I let them stay up! Because they weren’t arguing and we were having fun all together.

And then actual Mother’s Day showed up. Bee decorated all my usual seats with scarves, to make it fancy. The girls got ready for church and gave me a million hugs and told me how much they loved me. It was lovely.

After church, they came home and we opened cards and…no gifts. The cards were nice – don’t get me wrong! But – and here’s where I feel like a horrible person who’s a little materialistic, but let me explain how it’s not – I know I shouldn’t take how my Ex sees my value as a mom by him helping the girls get me a gift for Mother’s Day, but I do. I know he appreciates me – we get along so much better now and we’re honest to god friends, like I was at one point afraid we never would be. I’m close with his new wife, the girls’ stepmom. We call ourselves sister wives! ha! But I can’t say the lack of gifts didn’t hurt a little. I felt like I wasn’t worth the effort. My sister Kim helped the girls get me something, just in case, and it was lovely. Bee picked out a season of Victoria, that she and I could bond over together. (Kim’s right – time period costuming is definitely in our future!) And Gracie got me a bouquet of roses that she arranged.

But, after Gracie arranged the flowers and I got big hugs after church….everything went downhill in a hurry. The girls bickered all afternoon. They entrenched themselves in the living room and turned into zombies, playing Minecraft. I had to do laundry. I had to load the dishwasher. No one wanted to do anything fun with me. My afternoon of watching Victoria wasn’t realized. They were busy. No one wanted anything to do with me. I had my heartbreaking conversation with my mom and the girls had their turns talking with her. And then they went back to…not me. Which, I could have handled in small portions. I don’t expect every single moment to be devoted to me. I just wanted some sort of acknowledgment that it was Mother’s Day and I mattered. That they liked spending time with me. Without me asking. Just one activity together. Like the rest of the weekend!

Dinner was more of the same. Bee asked if she had to make dinner. Why couldn’t I do it. (Sigh.) They watched me set the table. I finished first and rather sit and talk to them at the table while they ate, I just got up and left. I shut my door. You’d think they’d realize I was hurt. They definitely got it when I came out, hours later, and was crying. I had to clear up the leftovers. The girls went right back to Minecrafting in the same seats they had been in since they got home from church. I told them through tears how hurt I was and how they had ruined my day, since they only came to talk to me when they were complaining and tattling about their sister.

So, no. Mother’s Day wasn’t my favorite. So many things went wrong. And no one took any trouble to make it right.

I could have kept quiet. I could have just sighed and hoped next year would be better. But I decided to write about it because this is the truth of what happened. It might hurt some people’s feelings. I don’t mean it to. I just needed to write it out, to purge my hurt feelings.

And maybe things will be better.

It’s gonna be a little kitsch, but I don’t care.

April 11, 2017

The idea came to me when I was on a run, like all of the best ideas do. I think I had passed a house that had a giant butterfly or two attached to the roof (talk about kitsch), which made me think of our neighbor when we were growing up, Albina.

Albina was like a grandmother to us. She was quiet, and kept to herself, and with our side yard being so big (more than two house lots, but just), it wasn’t like we could throw pleasantries over the fence. So we kids talked to her whenever she was out gardening and we were out playing, and she must have talked to my parents from time to time. I know that when she drove past in her little four-door sedan (with the electric windows that we thought were so. fancy.) and we were outside, she would stop and talk to mum.

Not only did we talk to Albina when she was outside gardening (which seemed like all the time – the woman loved her flowers and plants), she sometimes borrowed me to help her run errands. We go driving around the city, picking up various things. I think she liked the company. She didn’t have any family. So I was her stand-in granddaughter. And I liked that. She always took me to McDonald’s for lunch when we ran errands, and she knew all the best McDonald’s with the coolest outside playgrounds. Even if the “cool” ones were far away, she would take me there. She liked to treat me.

Sometimes the errands we ran included picking up new ceramics from her supplier. Albina ran a ceramics class out of the basement on her side of her duplex. The shelves were lines with unpainted figurines. Everything from bears to kittens to clocks to doll’s heads and hands. Everything! She had shelves and shelves. She had two long tables with chairs and so many jars of paint! And there was a TV and two giant kilns in the corner. It was a wonderland!

For a couple summers, Albina taught Kim and I ceramics two days a week. We’d go over in the afternoon and stay for an hour or so. Albina would pick out a piece for us (or sometimes ask us for ideas) and that’s what we’d work on. We did Care Bear banks, a Holly Hobby clock, a baseball nighlight for Joey, and so many other things. We’d paint whatever section Albina had picked out for us, and we’d use whatever paint she gave us. There wasn’t really a lot of choice involved, but we didn’t mind. And we watched Albina’s show, Days of Our Lives, while we painted. Mum wasn’t very pleased about that, but not enough to say something. I laughed to myself when my roommate in college was addicted to that show and I still knew so many of the characters, just from the short time I spent watching it with Albina.

One of our favorite things about ceramics class, though, was the walk. We’d leave our yard, walk to the end, past the three giant pine trees, and turn onto Beanie’s path. (Beanie is what we called her; she always chuckled so at her nickname!) Once we hit her walkway, Kim and I would start counting the ceramics we saw attached to Beanie’s roof, or the side of her house, or hidden in her garden. There were gnomes and butterflies, kittens and frogs, signs and mushrooms and stepping stones. It was all so magical! Truly, each piece felt like a talisman of some sort.

And so that’s my tribute: I want to start placing nice pieces of ceramics around my gardens, fairy gardens, and house. I want to cover my yard in a tribute to Albina. I’ll try my best to keep it from being too tacky, because I want to capture a little bit of the magic that Beanie’s house had. I think keeping most of the pieces at least partially hidden might be key.

We’ll see. I have an entire yard and house to start decorating. Kitschy or a bit magical – I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Baby, it’s cold outside…

March 14, 2017

…and if I say that it’s because the low today is 40° and we’re in serious danger of some patchy frost, my sisters and family and all of my friends just might will most definitely chuck snowballs at me with enough force for them to make it.

Because it’s blizzarding back home, with about 20 inches forecast, so what – maybe three-foot drifts? I’m trying to remember. Enough that one sister (at least) joined the milk and bread (and wine) crazies, and bought a flotilla of apples – enough that her flotilla would be even when she lashed the apples together, making me worry that my other sister had hacked the first one’s account – one sister with OCD is all I can handle – and then reported back that she also got four bottles of wine (evidence again), two kinds of cheese (evidence for), and a frozen cake. DEFINITELY RHI, THEN! (Kim would have bought baking supplies.) So the Stisters are okay.

Meanwhile, I wore a sweater with a deep (and really cute) v-cut in the front and back necklines and I’m freezing. Because I forgot my scarf. The scarf that would cover that one teeny tiny patch and then I’d be nice and toasty warm. I did remember a coat, because my blood felt awfully thin when I opened the back door to let the dog out. It’s a good thing I know for a fact that my blood thickens right up again when I go home for visits, or there would be some sort of madcap immersion therapy going on right now.

You know – after I got over being cold because my neck is uncovered.

Good thing it’s going to warm up to 67° later!! (Here is where I tell you that I have three extra beds, a couch, and a lot of floor space for those who want to evacuate before the next Snowpocalypse.) Have fun storming the castle, everyone! Let me know, occasionally, that you haven’t gone all REDRUM!

Because I still can’t believe that happened.

February 15, 2017

Yes, this post is, like, two weeks late, but I still have thoughts. And daydreams, and squeals of joy, and jaw-dropping, gaping, lit-face kind of wonder.

My team, the Patriots, those guys so dear to my heart (even if I broke up with my fantasy husband) – they won the Superbowl. SERIOUSLY. They WON THE SUPERBOWL! I mean – !!!!!!

(And that’s with 10 days to pull myself together. I still just have handfuls of exclamation points. I’m trying.)

Brady (my new Ex), has been demure in his interviews, insisting it wasn’t his best game, and I have to agree – both with his assessment of the quality of play, and also with my loyalty as a fan. Some bad karma’s gonna come of this, and I fully expect it will be doled out in free agency.

We went all out for preparations. I think we bought every type of chip that exists in the world. Gracie made sour cream and onion dip, and Bee arranged everything and made some salsa. The family Superbowl pool was drawn up, squares were picked, and the excitement was through. the. roof.

superbowl

And then: the game started.

It was not the best game.

I couldn’t believe (but kind of) that the dumpster fire of 2016/2017 was consuming my Superbowl. I mean, I knew Julio Jones was going to be a beast, but really? None of the Pats were going to show up?

At halftime, I removed myself from the game as an act of self-care. My anxiety couldn’t be quieted by any of the meds I fed it. I felt like a traitor, but I did it. I had to. I planted myself at my laptop in my room and followed the game on my phone. (Hey, I couldn’t remove myself entirely.) Gracie had abandoned the game, too, fleeing to her room in tears. Apparently, she also started FaceTime-ing with The Boyfriend as her own act of self-care. And this is kind of important to remember for later.

So there was Bee, our anti-football girl, sitting watching the game by herself. She would run in and tell me when something big happened. I explained why I had removed myself and she said she would only come in when we scored…which happened just as soon as I put on my good luck ring that I had worn during the last Superbowl, but forgot this time.

Yes, I am ridiculously superstitious about football. And since we had scored (and then again!) when I walked out of the room, and when I put on my ring…that meant I couldn’t go back. I can’t lie – that second score gave me a glimmer of hope. I started thinking that at least it wouldn’t feel like we got skunked. Every time Bee came tearing into the room with a score update, my heart beat a little faster. And that fourth quarter – !!!! Gracie had drifted back to the living room, and so I was trying to interpret the game from a room away based on my tweenager’s screams. Anyone with a tween knows that screams and squeals could be anything – good or bad. And they were a lot more instant than my twitter updates. “WHAT’S HAPPENING?!” I yelled back more than once. When we made that 2-point conversion, I started hoping way more than was healthy for me. If it didn’t come off, “crushed” wouldn’t begin to describe how hurt I’d feel.

Overtime. Slater won us the coin toss. And I knew. I knew after that 4th quarter momentum that there was no way we’d be denied. I hovered on the threshold of my room, superstitiously refusing to watch from the living room. Our comeback had been staged with me in the other room. I couldn’t jinx anything. But that moment. That moment when White crossed the plane of the endzone and everyone went nuts, HOLY MOTHER the scene at my house! There was jumping, screaming, yelling – it was chaos of the purest joy. I maybe yelled that Goodell could suck it, and then Gracie’s Boyfriend maybe chuckled from her phone where he was still on FaceTime. I was mortified – I haven’t even met the kid! – but went back to partying with a (slightly) cleaner mouth.

superbowlb

I ordered us all Superbowl Champions hoodies and shirts. I read every article I could find online. I made Gracie stay up to watch the post-game coverage with me. I maybe yelled “LET’S GO TO HOUSTON!” A 4-hour drive was totally do-able! Undoubtedly fans would still be partying when we got there. My kids somehow talked me out of that madcap adventure.

It was midnight before I went to sleep. And I still haven’t come down off this high. One day it will feel real. It will feel less like a daydream. But apparently two weeks isn’t nearly enough time. Not now. Not for a good while, I imagine. And I’m glad for it.

Three years.

January 19, 2017

I saw a dad on the side of a the road, blinkers on, helping his kid change a tire on their own car. I couldn’t help it; I started crying out of the blue. If that wasn’t the signiest sign.

Then I started laughing, like I was nuts – crying one minute, laughing the next – because I wasn’t sure that a bigger sign wouldn’t have been the dad standing there, patiently explaining what the kid needed to do next to change their own dang tire.

In either case: you are missed.

And the Christmas season is officially under way!

December 6, 2016

Confession: I was tempted this year, because of everything going on, to try to convince the girlies to set aside our Advent(ure) calendar. Everyone is so busy and I didn’t know if my heart was going to be in it. I was sad all of the time, because of the boy. I didn’t think I wanted to mess with everything. Or rather – with anything.

But then Kim was asking if we could make owl ornaments, and she was booking tickets to come rescue me, and the boy actually moved out and I felt better (who’d a thunk it?), and I was glad that I hadn’t had the heart to ask if anyone’s Christmas would be ruined.

So I scrambled in the end to fill the Advent(ure) Calendar (practically an Advent(ure) Eve tradition), and on December 1st, ther were some very familiar sights around here…

There was this (not so) little girl opening the calendar to read our first task…

advent2016

Not that the girls needed to open it. The first adventure is paper chains; it is always paper chains. The girls delight in their knowing, just as I delight in the joy that dances across their faces as they open the very first drawer, tickled because they think knowing is SNEAKY. Bless their little Christmas hearts!

So, pretty soon the girls were stretched out across the living room floor, busy taping ribbons of green and red paper together while I studiously used my paper cutter to make said strips of paper.

advent2016c

It was a rather cozy scene. I’m glad I got to sneak in an activity or two at the beginning of December, because then the girls left for their weekend at their dad’s house and I was left to carry on Christmas cheer all by my lonesome.

It’s the first weekend I’ve spent completely alone in the house in more than two years. I love spending time alone – I am great company, if I do say so myself! But I am still adjusting to Life Without Boy. Even with all of the apologies and his extraordinary effort to “fix” how he left (which has repaired a lot of the damage), I still struggle. Anyone would. Still – I reminded myself in ways big and small to choose Joy.

Like posting this picture on Saturday:

advent2016d

Sven, my reindeer, used to live on my Woodland Creatures shelf, but he for the past two years, he’s lived next to my JOY sign, and it just didn’t look right until I brought him over. Choosing Joy helped get through my day, and it was with Joy in mind that I got all fancy for my adventure of the day – making ornaments. For it’s a well known fact that a tray filled with fancy tea in good china, and a side dish with fancy tea cookies, makes ornament creation much more joyful. Right?

advent2016e

Catching up with cousins while you’re crafting makes it feel like you’re sharing a cup of tea with them, too, like we would be doing any Saturday afternoon if we were local. Truly, that was my favoritest part of my Saturday!

It was a lovely way to start Christmas off. It will be different this year, and maybe a little sad from time to time. But it will also be more mindful, and the ups will be uppier.No matter how many of you silly people argue that isn’t even a word. (Is too.)

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your adventures are just what you need, when you need them!

 

A short, crazy, busy, restful weekend.

October 18, 2016

I was dreading this weekend. Some of you know how high my anxiety has been lately; seriously, it’s been at peak pestiness. My Ex had to travel out of town this week for work, convoluting kid coverage (thanks to their awesome Stepmom and to Jeff for stepping up), Jeff’s brother is in town this week, and the girls have eighty thousand activities this week. And on top of all of that “everyday” stress, my phobia about flying meant I was utterly convinced that I was going to die while trying to get home. I don’t think they make sedatives strong enough.

But! One of my favorite uncles was getting married and is happier than I have ever seen him. A girl doesn’t hide from getting to see family marry the love of their lives.

So I didn’t make up excuses. I took a deep breath, had a drink or two at the airport, and boarded the plane. And you know what? My weekend was a very lovely, very necessary time-out.

Kim and Rhi and I giggled over every little nothing. I got to see my gorgeous home state in the middle of Fall – something I haven’t had the pleasure of in many years – and was astounded at how I could have taken that for granted. I felt moments of true peace that helped balance out the crazy, which in itself was worth the price of tickets. We took a trip to the Book Barn, which is heaven on Earth, where I found many books about the history of my hometown, and quite a few romances that look like they will be amazing to Mystery Science 3000 my way through. I got to see a few friends Saturday night that I didn’t get to see this summer, and we laughed our way through several bottles of wine, bags of chip, and every card in the Cards Against Humanity set. That night made my heart sing with love for my friends and reminded me that I will get through this rough patch and be okay again.

But by far, my favorite part of the weekend was the wedding. Spending time with my cousins (and aunts and uncles) is always my favorite part of going home. We grew up close to everyone, seeing them every weekend when they stopped over for a cup of coffee or tea, and cousins and my sibs and I ran amok and plotted so many adventures that I could book on those alone. Not everyone was able to make it for the wedding (a few cousins were traveling abroad), but catching up was still fun. Especially with the several jokes and side conversations and trying to avoid everyone’s eyes at different times so we didn’t get yelled at. We were that table.

And hanging with my cousin Hillary and her girlfriend Emily after the reception… Let’s just say I’m already plotting how to get them down here for an extended visit. I think they’ll hate Texas, but they’ll love our adventures! Dueling piano bars, laser tag, Irish nachos, oh! and I’m pretty sure we’ll get kicked out of the Perot Museum. They’re idea of “hands on” and our idea are going to be slightly different. Just a guess. You know – for this list of adventures I’m already scheming. (Also, Hill, I stole some of your pictures. Don’t sue me for copyright infringement!)

A wonderful weekend that was a great timeout from most of my responsibilities at home. And now I’ve hit the ground running with choir concerts and cheerleading tryouts and huge meetings and deadlines at ThePlaceThatShallNotBeNamed and all kinds of fun. Wait, wait – I meant “fun.” If you can think of a scheme that will get my cousins down here to help me cope with it all, you will be my absolute favorite!

Silly stisters.

August 25, 2016

It’s good to know you’ve got silly stisters, and that they’ve got your back. Especially after a tough week.

I took this great selfie of us while at the Adventure Park, befittingly…

Sisters

And this one of the girls back at Kim’s apartment. It looks like any other shot I might make them take, but what makes me smile is the story behind the outfits. They hoodwinked into buying them these soft (leather? rawhide?) shirts from Justice, and the matching duster sweaters. Matching outfits, you guys. From the duo who won’t stop arguing and wants nothing to do with being related to the other one.

Sisters2

So there’s hope for them, that they’ll grow into the YaYa-ness of being stisters, is what I’m saying. The silly – well, they’ve had that down for awhile.

Top Ten Tuesday: Flashback edition!

August 23, 2016

Last week’s Top Ten Tuesday was themed “10 books about a place”, or something like that. First of all, can we discuss – there’s a theme that goes out?! I’m the dolt who thought everyone just picked their own theme, or saw something cool and piggy-backed. Apparently someone hosts and publishes a theme in advance. Brilliant!

Second of all, my dear friend Trish (I’m not picking, I swear) hoodwinked me into helping me think of some really good books set in Texas (Ruby by Cynthia Bond immediately came to mind). Of course I helped; I can’t resist any question about reading and books! And then that sneakypants wrote a post about books set in the BEST state: Texas! Which – no!! This is not the best state and I live here under protest! (Yes, yes, I’m going to be flooded with people who love it here. And that’s great! You can love it here! Keep living here! It’s just not a good fit for me and mine.) My (pretend) issue was that I contributed to such a list…uh, even though Trish hasn’t yet met read Ruby and didn’t use it for her list.

The point is that our banter challenged me to create a top-ten list of books from Massachusetts (although I reserve the “best state” moniker and twist it into a “best region” for New England because I simply can’t choose). So here’s my list. That I, um, came up with in 20 minutes after Trish asked. Yes, I’m ridiculous. (And well organized – I checked my New England list on Goodreads.)

I give you, in no particular order, my Top Ten Books set (at least partially in some cases) in Massachusetts:

Book175In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick. You know I tend more towards fiction, but this book had already been on my radar when the movie trailer hit everyone’s screens. The fervor caught me, too – and for good reason, I realized, once I started the book. I’ve read a bunch of books by Philbrick – he’s a New England historian I especially admire. His facts are straight, his storyframing is solid, and his writing reads like fiction. I read this while away for vacation meeting Jeff’s parents and it was a welcome escape at times. Has to be a 5 of 5 stars book for that action alone!

Book176Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane. I could have picked a couple of Dennis Lehane novels – he does love the Boston area. My original choice (a runner up, in fact) was Mystic River, which really captures the essence of Boston and its people so well. Lehane novels are gritty, but they’re good reads. He’s great at observing people and pinning them to paper. Shutter Island was another book I devoured before seeing the movie (with Kim, I believe) and it was creeeeepy as facking anything! Not something to read at night, alone, if you’re weak-hearted!

Book184All Souls: A Family Story of Southie, by Michael Patrick MacDonald. My sister Rhianyn kept going on and on about how I should read this, and so I finally picked it up at my used book store. It’s another non-fiction, a memoir this time, and once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Now – I’m not really from Boston. My sister Kim gives me crap all the time for identifying with it so strongly. I’m really from a much smaller city about 40 minutes east of Boston, just far enough outside its reach to not be considered a suburb (though it would be if the cities were here in Tejas). But no one writes stories about the Woo, and so I turn to stories about Boston – like this one. The people in All Souls remind me of the people in my hometown, and so I loved the book. The loyalty, the stubbornness, the contradictions, the poverty (although Southie has it way worse than my section of Worcester). It was hard not to root for the author and his family all the way through.

Book177Stronger, by Jeff Bauman (with Bret Witter).  The Boston Marathon has always been something that defined Boston. It’s one of the toughest and most elite marathons in the world of running. The survival stories after the  bombing at the finish line that occurred three years ago will define the residents of Boston for years to come. Our city repaired itself without a ripple, shrugging it off and running again as soon as the idiots were caught. The people who were hurt: not as easy. This memoir was written by one of the icons photographed that day, a man who lost both legs above the knee. It was a story I had to read, and one that I found honest, well-paced, and incredibly inspiring. It’s not for those looking for vicarious thrills in graphic medical or crime novels, but those looking for inspiration in how to keep on keeping on.

Book178Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey. This Caldecott Medal winner not only has gorgeous drawings to keep children engaged in the story, it’s awfully fun to read to your children, especially if you’re missing home. Bonus points if you bring out your New England accent while reading the adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their ducklings. [Bonus story: I read this book to my children so many times that when we needed to walk single file while out in public, I told them to “duckling up” – and they knew what I meant.]

Book17986 Years: The Legend of the Boston Red Sox, by Melinda Boroson. This is another kids book with warm, detailed drawings, but the real fun is the story behind the Red Sox first World Series win in…yes, 86 years. Gracie was just a few months old when the Red Sox did it, and yes, I stayed awake for every minute of every game, waaaaay into the early hours of the morning. Reading the book out loud – even to my too-old children, even to myself – still gets me choked up, every time.

Book180The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This is one of my favorite classics, the story of Reverend Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne in the wayback Puritan colony of Boston. And I mean waaaaay back. 17th century wayback. The romance of the story didn’t do it for me, it was the gothic feel almost, the way everyone seemed doomed and the drama was over the top. Feelings, man – they’ll ruin ya. But it will be extremely entertaining for those reading the story.

Book181Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love all of Lahiri’s writing, but this was by far my favorite! Short stories that knit together, all of them filled with love and light and interesting musings far to clever for me to have imagined, and, yes, maladies of all sorts. The characters are rich, the writing richer – this is a collection not to be missed.

Book183Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt. I re-read this series almost yearly. The story of four kids abandoned by their mom who has a mental breakdown while trying to drive them to the safety of a distant relative, the oldest daughter somehow walks the kids to Connecticut, improvising survival skills along the way. A gorgeous coming-of-age story and one about the value of family and knitting together in hard times. God, if you haven’t read it yet, I don’t know why. It’s certainly at the very top of this list.

Book182Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi. Ironically enough, even though I just explained that no one writes stories set in the Woo, um, this one is. At least, the beginning of the story is set there, and then moves on to a nearby suburb. The story itself is a spin on Snow White, a fantastic, wonderful, awesomely impactful story of the wicked stepmother as she inherits a stepdaughter, Snow White Whitman, who is beautiful and lovely and challenges Boy’s image of herself. Naturally, Snow gets shipped off to a distant aunt when Boy’s own daughter is born, but Bird is born dark-skinned, revealing that her parents have been passing all this time. The story is meaty and revelatory and filled to the brim with so much to unpack – be careful you don’t miss it for thinking it a simple story. Oyeyemi is genius.

Books that should have been on the list, but I actually kept it to 10: Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane; The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud; With or Without You, by Domenica Ruta; the Autobiography of Malcolm X (starts in Boston, so it counts); The Boston Girl, by Anna Diament; Girl, Interrupted, by Susannah Keyes; I Am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier.

In which Bee is part (or, um, entirely) lemur.

August 9, 2016

One of my favorite things I got to do with my family while on vacation was visiting the ropes course at Storrs Adventure Park. We tried to let Bee, our resident billy goat, go climbing while we were at Lake Winnipesaukee, but we didn’t quite have enough time for it. She took it well, but you could clearly see how crushed she was. And so Auntie Kim happened to mention that there was a similar course near where she lived…

By similar, Kim clearly meant “more awesome.” The staff at the adventure park were shockingly young, yes, but they all enthusiastically loved their jobs, engaged with the kiddos without once speaking down to them (it helps that the minimum age requirement is seven years old, perhaps), and explained all of the safety gear over and over for the few of us who weren’t repeat climbers. (Though we obviously will be – I would buy a season pass if I lived even two states away.)

Added to the awesomeness of being one with nature again was the fact that it was randomly Lemur Day at the park. There was free pizza, and – even better – a stuffed lemur was hidden one on of the seven courses each hour. Any child 11 years old or younger was welcome to pick one up and then redeem the lemur for a free pass – oh, and you get to keep your new buddy.

Bee and Gracie maybe grumbled when I insisted on starting on one of the basic courses, but I wanted to make sure everyone understood the mechanics. There were two combiners, or whatever you call them – giant clippy things – that attached to the safety wires. Once you locked one onto the heavy gauge wire, you used the red “tweazle” (no, I’m not kidding) to unlock the other clippy thing. Then you attached it, too. If the tweazle was blue, you knew to grab your giant slidey thing so you could race down to the next platform. It took us all a minute is what I’m saying. And then we whipped our way through the 20 or so events.

We had a blast! And I’m only the slightest bit bruised (although I could barely walk that afternoon – I miss running and regular exercise!). Bee was convinced she was going to find a lemur since only one other little girl in our group qualified. I reminded her that we might not run into one. We only had two hours before we had to go to back to Grandma’s house. And then, at the end of a zip line, you ran face first into this furry friend:

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Bee was so tickled! It was her special activity, the one that make her feel like she was a priority, so I’m glad she felt even more singled out. Lemmy the Lemur hung out with that kid the entire rest of the trip. Bee even scoffed when I went all rogue and, you know, packed the thing so he wouldn’t get lost.

Yes, I imagine the ropes course will be a mandatory stop every time we go back. I’d like to go do a night course to see all the twinkly lights some time. It’d have to be in the middle of the summer – I hear it gets quite busy once the students come back from summer vacation – but someone I don’t think anyone will mind.

Especially not this kiddo.

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