Friday, June 29, 2007


"Hey, Mom, guess what? Next week I have Thursday night off. You know what that means! We get to watch So You Think You Can Dance together!"

"Oh, sorry, sweetie, but there's something else I was looking forward to watching in my room that night."

"What are you watching?"

"Ummm . . . just a show. You wouldn't be interested."

"Mom--what could be more important than watching our dance show together? Come on!"

"Well . . . it's, ummmm . . . *ahem* . . . I think that's the night the new Big Brother begins?"

"Big Brother? That insipid NON reality show?"

Sheepishly, "Yeah."

Laughing, "Mom, you're such a Loser!"

We speak to each other with such consideration. Sometimes, it's more like a twin language between Beautiful and me. Most of our insults are gibberish that nobody else gets. This insider-only banter of ours particularly got under the skin of Beautiful's ex-weasel-deadbeat-loser-bastard-fiance. heh heh

At the end of the day, we have the deepest respect for each other. But when it comes to outdoing each other with the barbs, it's every woman for herself.

Later, standing in our 2 square foot bathroom together, Beautiful helping me with a 'do, the phone in the kitchen rings.

"Mom. MOM--you're so deaf! Don't you hear the phone ringing?"

"Yeah. And? Isn't Dad out in the living room? He can get it."

"Nice. You want the man with the hurt back to jump out of his chair to answer the phone? You're so nurturing." I hear her chuckling devilishly under her breath to have scored TWICE on me with no sign of rebuttal.

And then, while standing behind me working on my hair, "Wow! There's so much gray!"

"WHAT!?!" I calmly inquire.

Catching a glimpse of her face in the mirror, I can see Beautiful barely stifling an explosion of laughter. She got me good that time.

"Oh yeah?" I lamely retort, stalling while I search for just the right zinger, "well you're . . . you're . . . you're NOT adopted!"

Beautiful is stricken at that idea and begins to cry.

I win. heh heh

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Awwww, thanks, Sweetie.

Back in early May, before my big birthday (and no, I'm not mentioning that birthday again just because I'm not done complaining about it--it's relevant to the story. No, really, it's relevant!) Youngest had a homeschool band end-of-the-year performance at the church where they rehearse every week.

Coincidentally, the end o'year festivities always fall on an unseasonably warm day. And since it's an auditory event and the AC system is too loud to be employed, we are treated to a long, sweltering evening of sitting still and listening, from beginning to end, to a concert that ranges from the squeakily untalented beginner band through the deep and well oiled machine that is the advanced band. Oh--plus the speeches and thank yous and gift giving and goodbye-to-the-grads stuff sprinkled in between numbers. Good times!

Three hours packed into a stuffy, doors closed, no-ventilation-whatsoever church listening to dozens of other kids (and really, I'm only there to hear my kid) in reality only feels like 6 hours. Seven tops. Bored minds tend to wander . . .

So I'm sitting there thinking about boobs (I am unable to untangle the thread that led me to that particular thought) and how women with enormous boobs are intimidating. How when greeting a woman with Dolly Parton-esque equipment, I don't want a hello hug--I don't want hers touching mine (which actually must happen whenever any two women embrace, but is so much more noticeable--and uncomfortable!--when the other woman is of pachydermic proportions.)

Meanwhile, Mister (also no longer interested in the beginner band's halted, strained rendition of Sakura) was contemplating the attractive red headed woman a couple rows in front of us. She looks older than me but is still lovely. She's petite and fit and has kept herself up nicely. Trying to decide her age, suddenly Mister has a shocking revelation. The middle of Mickey Mouse March seemed, to Mister, to be the appropriate moment to share his epiphany with me.

Leaning close to my ear for privacy, he yelled (he's practically deaf--his whispers are everyone else's outbursts) "You're going to be 40?"

"Yes," I answer. And thanks for rubbing it in!

"I just realized," he continues, no notion in his head that he's already speedwalking down a dangerous path, "we could potentially live at least another 40 years. I don't know if I can put up with you for 40 more years."

Husband of the Year, anyone?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

a synapse thing

Perusing through the memes on ajooja's page the other day made me think about me. Men and me.

One of the memes was "20 years, One Lie." Reading through his, I was collating in my mind. What could I say about me at age 5? Age 6? Age 7? The most interesting thing I can think of about me at 7 was that I had my first crush on a boy. Rather, I shared a first crush with a boy--it was a mutual attraction, but at 7, what are ya gonna do about it?

I liked 'men' very early. I love men. Always have. Sad how watching my nearly 20 year old daughter stumble her way through one 'relationship-lite' and one serious-but-with-an-unworthy-weasel relationship has led me to distrust most men.

But I have swerved.

Back to that first crush. It was a boy named Dean. Dean something. I can't remember his last name now. Dean was tall, dark, handsome and brooding. You know--in that missing teeth, gawky, 2nd grader kind of tall, dark and handsomely brooding sort of way.

Dean. He was also the cutest boy in the class. Being among the top 3 cute girls, I had the power, at age 7, to reign in pretty much any little boy I felt like. Learned that early, didn't I? What a shock junior high was! In the big pond with all those other pretty girls from the north end of our county, I found that I was only second tier. Still, I was able to snag top tier guys. Almost all of them fitting the handsomely brooding category. Rarely a sunny, laid back one. With the notable exception of Colin, who I still have the fondest feelings for.

Rummaging around in my Dean crush, there was a sudden flash in my mind. It hit me hard--like being struck by lightning on a clear day--that Dean was exactly the same kind of man my Young Guy is. Tall, dark, handsome and brooding. No wonder I felt that instant connection with Young Guy.

In high school Dean created some trouble with the law, ran away from home, eventually dropped out. Wicked intelligent Young Guy didn't drop out, nor did he have any run-ins with the law (none that he has told me about) but he does have a troubled background.

So what is it with the dark, brooding guys that pulls me in? Am I attracted to the potential for drama? Does the shy, country mouse in me secretly crave something a little edgier? Or is there some tie to my need to nurture? I don't have an answer for that.

I don't have an ending to this post. No destination in mind. Except maybe to say that though I love those dark, vulnerable men, I do not regret having married a sunny, laid back guy. He's worth his weight in gold. Seriously. And he loves me--always has--with a warm passion. Does 'warm passion' make sense to anyone else? Doesn't matter--it works for me.

lifted a meme from ajooja

Man, I wish I had more to say. Kinda feeling empty right now . . .

DO YOU SNORE? I like to think of it as breathing a little on the loud side.

ARE YOU A LOVER OR A FIGHTER? Lover. Unless I'm too busy fighting.

WHAT’S YOUR WORST FEAR? Don't want to talk about it.


WHAT DO YOU THINK OF “REALITY” TV? Most of it is overly manipulated. But I love "So You Think You Can Dance." Those folks are incredibly talented.







ANY SECRET TALENTS? I can throw pizza dough.

WHAT’S YOUR IDEAL VACATION SPOT? Any tropical beach. With a tropical drink.

CAN YOU SWIM? Yes. Love swimming.


DO YOU GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE OZONE? Can't think about it. Too overwhelming.

HOW MANY LICKS DOES IT TAKE TO GET TO THE CENTER OF A TOOTSIE POP? I counted once when I was about 10. Wrote a letter to the company telling them it took something like 376. Hoped to get a free bag of tootsie pops for my efforts. Instead, they sent me a poorly copied certificate lauding my efforts. Tight fisted bastards.



WHAT’S YOUR STAND ON HUNTING? I know men who hunt to feed their families. That's okay by me.

IS MARRIAGE IN YOUR FUTURE? Past, present and future : )


WHAT ARE YOU ALLERGIC TO? The shorter list is what I'm not allergic to.


DO YOU CRY AT WEDDINGS? Every damn time. It's embarrassing.


ARE BLONDES DUMB? Yes. And all red heads have tempers. And all Danes are stubborn. And all men are pigs . . .


WHAT TIME IS IT? 8:37 a.m.

DO YOU HAVE A NICKNAME? The missing puzzle piece to my entire life: I've never had a nickname.

IS MCDONALD’S DISGUSTING? Yes, Clarice, it is. But you can still find their wrappers in my car.


DO YOU PREFER BATHS OR SHOWERS? If I have the time, long hot bath. Ahhhhh . . .

IS SANTA CLAUS REAL? Send the kids out of the room: nope.

DO YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR NECK KISSED? You mean beneath my ear? Down my neck, towards my shoulder? Kissing . . . nuzzling . . . a soft little bite, maybe? Can't answer, I need to go talk to my husband . . .










ARE YOU PSYCHIC? Nope. Thankfully, my scary dreams never portend reality.


DO YOU PLAY ANY INSTRUMENTS? Not anymore. Youngest is trying to teach me guitar.


CAN YOU SNOWBOARD? Probably not.

DO YOU LIKE CAMPING? Only if it's in a nice hotel.


DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? In a young girl's heart?


YOU BELIEVE IN DIVORCE? [Can't improve on ajooja's answer] I believe in divorce when one or more of the participants isn't capable of taking part in a real relationship with the other person.



IS IT COLD OUTSIDE TODAY? No. It's a gorgeous, sunny morning. The reason the song "The bluest skies I've ever seen are in Seattle" was written.


DO YOU WEAR NAIL POLISH? Only on my toes.


WHAT’S THE MOST ANNOYING TV COMMERCIAL? Some dude who sells mattresses and looks for all the world like the biggest child molester who ever lived. I literally change the channel every time he comes on.


FAVORITE SONG AT THE MOMENT? "Mr. Brightside" by the Killers.

Monday, June 25, 2007

post modern love

I told you how we met, my Mister and I, on a blind date nearly 23 years ago. Today I was reminded why I fell in love with him.

I had just turned 17. Mister was 22. Five years is a hefty age difference for a teenager. Most people, my mother included, would have assumed that it was a case of a suave, slick older guy trying to nail a naive, inexperienced teen. That wasn't Mister at all.

Mister was not suave. Nor was he slick. He was funny and charming. And within the first hour of meeting me, he was in love. He told his mother the very next day that I was the kind of girl he wanted to marry. His mother suspected that I was perhaps more than just 'the kind' of girl. That maybe I was the girl.

It wasn't love at first sight for me. I enjoyed his company very much. He was laid back and easy to talk to and obviously well-liked by his friends. But I was shallow. Mister was non-enigmatic and cute, but I liked dashing, brooding men. Yet we'd had a great time together. I accepted when he asked me out again. And again. And again.

Mister had a healthy respect (go ahead and substitute fear) for my dad. He appreciated that though I was out of high school, I was yet a minor living at home and I had a curfew. He was hard working and honest. And very funny. Funny in a goofy, quick, well-timed way.

Sitting next to him in his car with our friends in the back seat, we were headed to the state fair. Knowing that I liked David Bowie, Mister was playing the "Let's Dance" cassette. When the song "Modern Love" came on, without any forethought, Mister did what he has always done. He started singing along to the song and making up his own lyrics.

"Modern love, no comprende . . . "

It struck me as devilishly funny. He was saying many things to me with one silly line. I was hooked. I can remember exactly where we were on Viking Avenue and how the light from the setting sun was flooding the car when he sang that song. I looked at him, he smiled his charming, guileless smile at me and I thought to myself, "Oh man, I think I love this guy."

I was reminded of that sweet scene this evening when Mister came out to the dock to pick me up. I walk almost daily to a dock a mile and a half from our house. I like to sit alone and think for awhile before walking back home. This evening was cold and windy and I didn't have a jacket so I called Mister and asked him to come get me. I also asked him to bring a blanket so we could sit together for awhile.

Fifteen minutes later (it should have taken less than 2 minutes, but he spaced out and forgot me . . . ) he came walking out towards me with a white blanket bundled in his arms. Just before he reached my bench, he flung the blanket out fully around and behind him and started to dance and sing Stevie Nicks' "White Winged Dove." But in his own style,

"Just like a one winged glove . . . "

My meditation was over. It's hard to meditate when your husband is doing a Stevie Nicks impersonation and making up lyrics. This, I told myself, is why I love him and why I will always be with him. He is still that same charming, loving, sweet man who isn't afraid to be foolish to make me laugh.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

the trouble with anthropomorphizing

Mothering is a bitch. I like being a mom. Mostly. But it does come with its share of afflictions. Just ask the Great Blue Herons that nest 100 yards from my house. The mothers go out to feed and while they're away the crows and eagles attack and eat the heron young. My problem isn't quite that dire. There are days, however, when I wouldn't mind an eagle dropping in from out of the lovely blue and snatching away one or more of my young . . .

I am way too involved in my grown daughter's life. Not so much with my grown son's life, however. This is somewhat due to the fact that he lives 350 miles away from me for most of the year. And also because he is quietly insistent on us keeping boundaries. Good for him. Wise move. Somehow, it is different between my daughter and me.

[Ironically, as I compose these thoughts on mothering, Number One is watching something on The History Channel about Nero making two assassination attempts on his mother before finally having her clubbed to death because she was too controlling. Karma's a bitch too.]

I am not the only one. I have several friends with grown children who struggle with those hopelessly knotted apron strings. We know it's unhealthy for us and for our children. But detaching . . . DETACHING . . . I can't even begin to describe it because this medium doesn't translate the facial expressions and hand gestures and guttural groans necessary to pass on the depth of expression. Detachment is a bitch.

But any human with half a brain knows not to keep hitting her head against the wall and instead search for another way out of the room. And so I look in other places for inspiration. How do other cultures manage to respectfully loose the bonds with their children? How did our foremothers handle that task? And what about the animal kingdom--mother bears, mother hens, mother snakes--they all seem to let go of their maternal grasp at a predestined, and healthy, time in their offspring's lifespan.

I enjoy birdwatching. I particularly love watching the Great Blue Herons. Sitting on the dock today, I was watching the Blue Heron parents out for feeding. It struck me that it's not the same as me scurrying to the grocery store to pick up something for dinner. The herons are measured. Methodical. They stand, observing for long periods of time. They patiently seek the richest hunting ground of the day and quietly, slowly stalk their prey.

I could learn a lot from the Blue Herons. I could be more patient about everything I do with my kids. I could stand back and watch carefully. I could choose my moments. I could be quiet and let things unfold in their own time instead of rushing in headlong where I don't belong.

Then again, while the herons are being all slow and methodical and patient, their children are being snacked upon by predators. Screw the herons. I'll just keep on hitting my head against the wall. Eventually a large enough hole will open up for me to escape.

Friday, June 22, 2007

lovely . . .

Visiting over at Suburban Turmoil turned up this fun little time waster: Anagram Genius.

Type your name in, hit the 'generate' button and voila! a fun anagram pops up. Fun if you don't mind cosmic irony. Or some such crap like that.

Remember how I've been bemoaning my recent induction into the quadragenarian club? (How could you forget, seeing as I won't let it go . . . ) Karma has it in for me. Plugging in my full name generated this happy little anagram:

"this wrinkled pain"

effing anagram generator . . .

Better luck to the rest of you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We All Took the Class Together

I mentioned awhile back that I was considering attending an Introduction to Swedish Massage class in order to test the waters a bit.

Over the last few years, with the realization that Youngest only needs me to teach him for another five or so, I have had, in the back of my mind, the question, "And what shall I do with the rest of my life?" After Mister's car accident and the resultant change in his physical abilities, the flame on the back burner got turned up to medium high.

Volleying back and forth the pros and cons of physical therapy assistant versus massage therapist, I found myself leaning towards massage. An intro class seemed like a good way to dip my toes in before signing over $10K and a year of my life to school.

The class was scheduled for early June. Kristin called the school and had us put on the list. We opted not to prepay, however. Country Mouse felt the need to leave an escape hatch open, just in case . . .

Resistant to change and intimidated at the thought of leaving her comfort zone, Country Mouse waged an insidious campaign in an attempt to manipulate Peach and Kristin into postponing the class. "There will be other classes," she persuaded. "There's more time to think about this," she slyly encouraged.

The balance was starting to tip. Peach and Kristin were buying into Country Mouse's proposal, but Beautiful's friends stepped in. H and her sister T heard about the class and wanted to come too. Country Mouse knew she had lost the battle. We would not let H and T down. We would put on a brave face and go to the class.

June 2nd dawned sunny and promising and the whole cast timorously climbed into H's car. Off to school we went.

First thing through the door, a sign informed us that we had to take off our shoes. I spend most of my time in my house and garden without shoes, but barefoot at someone else's house is way beyond what I can comfortably handle. A determined Peach removed the shoes, ignoring Country Mouse's irritating refrain, "don't say I didn't warn you!"

One hurdle clumsily jumped, the next Herculean task quickly followed. It introduced itself as John, the instructor. Outgoing, laid back, welcoming John greeted each student by saying hello while placing a friendly hand on one shoulder. Country Mouse nearly jumped out of her skin and was tempted to run back to the car. It was all Peach could do to force a smile and an unconvincing "hi."

Shaniqua LaShaundra LaBelle had had enough. "Are you kidding me?!" she rallied the troops. "We're at a school of massage people! Of course they're going to touch you! What did you expect?" Country Mouse lamely explained that she knew she would touch someone else, but didn't realize other people would be touching her. The Mama, well versed in deflecting childish excuses, hurled a stony glare in Mouse's direction and bravely climbed the stairs to the classroom.

And then the nakedness ensued. Oh god, it was a long day . . .

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My Private Tropical Getaway

Having had a few difficulties during the past couple years, my friends have become accustomed to hearing me say (at least once during every conversation we have), "I just want to be on a tropical island with a pitcher of margaritas!" These extraordinary women went to much planning and work to grant me my wish--or as close to it as possible. And it could not have been more perfect! I'm pretty sure Mary was the major instigator, and I am just as sure that she would never take the credit.

Mary and Clarice decked the place out! This is the view into Clarice's dining room and it shows just a fraction of the decorated fun.

The butler never looked so dignified as he did after Clarice's girls got done with him:

Clarice made fan-freaking-tastic mango margaritas! Here is my own special margarita glass that looks (up close) quite like beach glass:

A special guest, courtesy of Clarice's youngest daughter:

One day, Clarice will be the chef in Heaven, and this is what we shall eat--I'm quite sure of it! A dessert especially made for me: chocolate pate with cream Anglaise sauce delicately infused with coconut. The only way for me to describe this amazing slice of pure decadence is to call it an oral orgasm. That just about does it justice:

And here was the centerpiece for the table and my gift from Angie. Angie who is nothing less than genius! It's mer-me! And it captures me exactly as I am--a hot, middle-aged babe in a green bikini-ish thing, riding the crest of the 40 wave and raising my glass to salute all that is waiting for me! Or something.

Youngest kept looking at the felted doll and looking at me, "Mom--her eyebrows, her smile, the way her hair comes over her shoulders, her coloring--she looks just like you! How does Angie do it?" Yep. Angie's a genius:

They all shared their wonderful food and warmth and laughter. And, to be expected at any A-list party, there was entertainment! After I learned that it was my night to indulge in as many margaritas as I liked (which is why I was supposed to have shared a ride with Tracy--but I blew that) I called my sweet Mister to come pick my car up. Though he had been busy working on a project, he dropped everything to honor my request.

The girls and I were at the dinner table when we heard a low, sexy, almost stripper-like voice coming from the kitchen. "Did someone call for a handyman?" asked the smouldering voice. In walked Mister, unzipping his coveralls. It was hysterical. Though I was a teensy bit worried that the zipper wasn't going to stop at chest height . . .

And finally--a friend (a guy--naturally) sent me this. Follow the link and click on the track titled "On Tropical Islands." I like to imagine this celebrity recording the piece as though he were serious about it. hee hee

But the piece d'resistance of my personal, private tropical getaway had to be the lovely cards and letters my posse gave me. A whole stack of letters telling me what makes me uniquely me and why they love me. Interestingly, many of the things I view as faults are viewed by my friends as strengths. I have much to learn! I won't reprint their lovely words except this tiny little excerpt from Angie:

"Another thing I love about Kristin is that though she'll notice all the grammatical errors I've written in this card, she won't judge me or like me any less!"

How much more blessed can a girl get?

Oh--and one last photo. This is my birthday present from Mister. That sweet, sweet man. Donchya just love how the present goes with the party theme? Me too:

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh . . .

Thank you Clarice for your lovely home--and your food!; Mary for knowing exactly what I needed; Tracy for the years and years of late night confidance; and Angie for your always down-to-earth support and your creativity! Better friends never walked this Earth. *sniff*

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Gateway Crime

I am not a rule breaker. "Fifteen items or fewer" line? I'd sooner deprive my family of a pantry staple than try to sneak in with 16. Misuse handicapped parking? Never! One of our local markets reserves parking spots for expectant and new mothers. It's just a suggestion--not a law. Still, I would not dare take one of those spots. If that market had specially marked parking stalls for crack hos and the criminally insane I wouldn't dream of parking there either. And not because people might mistake me for one of those unfortunate folks. I wouldn't want to be guilty of being unaccommodating to crack hos or the criminally insane.

Seat belts, speed limits, turn signals. I obey everything. I put my grocery cart in the collection rack, I rewound videotapes (back when that was relevant) and I don't fudge on my taxes. Yes--I color inside the lines.

Today, however, I committed an infraction that I am still suffering guilt over. I may have to turn myself in to the authorities.

I had exactly two hours from the time I left my doorstep until the time I had to be back home to meet up with one of the kids. In those two hours, I was trying to find something special to wear to a dinner party. I rushed into Macy's and picked out several things to try on. Speed walking back to the fitting rooms, I was stopped by the sign near the door: "Four garment limit." I had eight.

My instinct, naturally, was to obey the store rule. I searched for a rack on which to hang my extra items. None existed. There was no attendant. I was running out of time. Glancing from side to side, I boldly stepped beyond the fitting room doors with all 8 items! Never have I so blatantly crossed such a threshold.

If disregarding department store policy came so easily, what's next? Tomorrow will I refuse to hold doors open for others? Will I be out jay walking with abandon? Am I capable of littering? Will I be taking two cheese samples at the deli?!

If I can't manage to get this crime spree under control, I may one day qualify to park in one of the spots reserved for crack hos and the criminally insane. I'm so glad my mother doesn't read this blog . . .

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm glad I'm not the only one . . .

Check out today's xkcd. It's like that guy lives inside my head!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I am dim. And I have the BEST friends in the world!

May 23 At Angie's house for our weekly homeschool group day.
Clarice: "We haven't had a dinner just for the moms in a long time. What does everyone's calendar look like for early June?"

Angie & Mary: "We're pretty open."

Kristin: "I'm open in the evenings. And I know that Tracy's final 4-H meeting is on the 5th--dinner with all of us would be a great way for her to celebrate!"

Clarice: "Does the evening of the 7th work for everyone?"

Angie, Mary & Kristin: "Yes."

Clarice: "Okay. My house at 5:30. I'll call Tracy to make sure it works for her."

After Kristin left the house
Clarice: "Do you think Kristin was suspicious? Did we choose a date that's too close to her birthday?"

Angie: "She didn't look like she caught it."

Mary: "The 7th is almost a week before her birthday--I doubt she thought anything of it."

May 30 At Angie's house for our weekly homeschool group day.
Kristin: "Hey--what's everyone making for dinner at Clarice's house?"

Angie: "I'm trying a grilled tofu with five spice wrapped in romaine leaves and rice on the side."

Mary: "I'm making those kabobs with the salami, tortellini, fresh mozzarella and veggies marinated in Italian dressing."

Clarice: "A fruit dish, margaritas and a special dessert."

After Kristin left the house
Clarice: "Quick, Angie! Before Kristin can make it back to her house, call her husband and let him in on the plan so he will encourage her to share a ride with Tracy."

Angie: "Do you think Kristin caught on that all the food is island/tropical themed?"

Mary: "I couldn't tell, but it doesn't matter. Even if she figures it out, it will be a lovely party for her."

Angie: "Her husband wasn't home. Do they have caller ID? I need to think of some plausible reason I would have been calling her house right after she left here just in case she has caller ID. She's going to figure this out."

June 5 At Tracy's final 4-H meeting.
Tracy: "Would you like to carpool to Clarice's house on Thursday evening?"

Kristin: "Sure! Pick me up around 5ish?"

Tracy: "Okay."

Kristin: "Oh--I meant to ask you, what are you bringing for dinner?"

Tracy: "That chicken satay with peanut sauce."

Kristin: "Yay--my favorite! I haven't decided what to make yet. I should get on that."

Later that same day . . .
Tracy, on the phone with Clarice: "It's all set up, I'll pick Kristin up at her house at 5 and we'll be at your house at 5:30."

Clarice: "Do you think she has any idea?"

Tracy: "Hmmm, I'm not sure. I don't think so. I've driven past their house at least a dozen times trying to catch them at a time when Kristin is gone but her husband is there so I can enlist his assistance. So far, no luck."

June 6 At Angie's house for our weekly homeschool group day.
Before Kristin arrived
Clarice: "I'm pretty sure she must know by now--with Tracy picking her up, the tropical menu, so close to her birthday. She probably knows."

After Kristin arrived
Angie: "Clarice, I can't find the menu from the organic restaurant I wanted to show you."

Clarice: "Don't worry about it. Bring it tomorrow if you find it."

Me thinking to myself: Oh. They're getting together tomorrow and I'm not invited?

Clarice: "So Kristin, you're coming tomorrow at 5:30?"

Kristin: blank stare . . . crickets chirping . . . tomorrow? huh?

Clarice: "Dinner?"

Kristin: "Oh!!! Dinner! Yes! Oh geez, Clarice--you must feel so insulted! Seriously--I've been totally looking forward to it--I just somehow forgot between yesterday when I talked to Tracy and just this moment . . . "

After Kristin left
Clarice: "That's a girl who doesn't have a clue. I don't think she knows!"

Angie: "I don't know . . . I overheard one of the kids telling her Youngest about it. She might still catch on before tomorrow."

Mary: "I'm not too concerned about it. It's still going to be lovely and she will appreciate the gesture, whether it's a surprise to her or not."

June 7
3:00 p.m.
Kristin, on the phone: "Hey, Tracy? I'm running late today. Instead of carpooling, I'm just going to drive myself."

Tracy: "Uh, well, you know I'm usually running late. It won't be a problem. I'll just pick you up a little later than 5?"

Kristin: "Thanks--really--but I don't want to put you out. I'll just meet you there. See you tonight!"

Tracy, on the phone to Clarice: "I tried! I really did! She insisted she didn't need a ride. So she'll be a little late, but she'll be there."

Clarice: "It's okay, we'll work with it."

5:29 p.m. At Clarice's house.
Clarice: "I heard a car in the driveway."

Mary: "It has to be either Angie or Tracy. It can't be Kristin!"

Clarice: "There's no way it's Kristin. She's never early."

The kitchen door opens. A voice says "hello?"

Clarice & Mary whispering: "Omigosh--it is Kristin! She's early!"

Clarice & Mary to Kristin: "Surprise?"

And this is how I blindly stumbled into my surprise Tropical Getaway 40th birthday party. Even when I walked into Clarice's kitchen and could see tropical streamers in the living room, I still didn't get it right away! I was thinking maybe it was something a little special because both Tracy and I have birthdays this week. But really--it never occurred to me that it was a whole big deal just for me. It was the best! I am blessed with the most thoughtful friends!

Photos to follow . . .

Friday, June 8, 2007

Hair Products for Women

Erin has infiltrated my thoughts . . .

I love this hair product! When I use the straightening iron and finish with a dab of this stuff, it makes my hair soft and shiny and silky. It's just the best. But the packaging is a little . . . hmmmm . . . well, it's just somewhat . . .

I don't know.

You be the judge:

Is it just me, or . . . . . . .

Thursday, June 7, 2007

This time it's mostly about a train

continued from yesterday's installment . . .

Undaunted, Number One went a-traveling once again just a shy year later. This time, he took his 17 year old sister, Beautiful. A month together in France, Spain and Portugal. Just the two of them. No tour group. No parent or other responsible party. Just them. I already mentioned the concerns of my extended family?

Depositing our two oldest children with their backpacks and guidebooks at the airport, we gave our son one instruction and one instruction only: Do not lose your sister. Period.

They were about halfway into their trip when . . .

Having enjoyed Arles, the kids were hurrying for the morning train. They hadn't eaten breakfast and knew it would be 7 or 8 hours before they would have the chance to eat again. A plan was hastily concocted. Beautiful would walk the quarter mile down the main road to the train station. Number One would buy bread from the bakery next to their hotel and then jog to the train station to catch up with her.

It was a simple plan. It was a foolproof plan. So you know it could never work.

Beautiful is not a stupid girl. In most situations she's the one you want for a navigator. She's in tune with direction. She notices details. In fact, it was a little detail that derailed Number One's perfect plan.

About halfway to the train station, Beautiful saw a sign with a train symbol on it and figured that must be the way to the train. She had a quick conversation with herself as to why her brother's directions had been a little off, but she figured the folks in Arles knew where their train was better than her brother did. She put her faith in the sign.

When the sign took her beyond the dense town into the less populated residential area, she had a flicker of doubt. When happy, close little houses gave way to open fields, the flicker became a smoky, choking blaze. By that time she was 3 miles out of town. She knew she had missed the train. She knew her brother would be frantic. She knew it was going to be an ugly reunion.

Meanwhile, back at the train station . . .

Number One had been anxious during the trial separation from his sister. He knew nothing could possibly go wrong, but he would feel so much better when reunited with Beautiful.

He entered the station with some apprehension as his parents' words "Do not lose your sister" played over and over inside his head, looping themselves like a noose around his conscience. Not catching sight of her face right away cranked the adrenaline meter up a few notches. When searching the crowd a little more closely yielded still no sister results, his adrenaline blew through the roof. Trying to keep his nerves in check, he looked through the passenger cars of the train--hoping she'd boarded before he arrived. She hadn't.

I am not sure at what point he started praying. But I do know he prayed. A lot. He would tell me much later that when the train pulled out and the station was all but abandoned and he stood in the middle of France with not a ghost of a clue as to his sister's whereabouts--or well being--he was terrified in a way he had never been before. And this is the boy who had stood alone in the wee hours in the shady part of Athens and had lain helplessly ill in a sad hotel room in Turkey. This boy knew from terrified.

Abandoning the backpack, he set out running to find her. He ran back down the road to their hotel. He looked in the bakery. He looked down all the side streets. He widened his circle again and again--as fast as he could run--and still found no sign of her.

Hope fracturing into desperation, he thought of asking the Station Master for help.

Did I leave out the fact that Number One doesn't speak French? Beautiful knows just enough French and Spanish to get by. Number One doesn't. They did not anticipate that becoming a problem.

Number One addressed the Station Master in English. Mr. Master did not speak English. Mr. Master replied in French. They didn't get very far.

Hearkening back to his previous travels, Number One thought of maybe substituting another Romance language. He attempted the plea for help in Italian. Mr. Master appreciated the effort, but didn't understand. He did understand that Number One had an important message and was casting about for a common tongue. Mr. Master made a valiant, but wasted, attempt at Spanish.

Feeling himself coming unhinged, Number One took the only route left open--he plead his case in what little Latin he could reconstruct from his lessons all those years before. Blessedly, Mr. Master understood enough of the hurried, broken Latin that he called the police to help locate the lost American sister.

[The moral of this story, by the way, is that Latin is not a dead language and should be a requirement for everyone! Okay, and maybe before traveling to a foreign land one should have a rudimentary acquaintance with its language . . . ]

Just as Mr. Master was hanging up the phone, in walked a sheepish Beautiful. In a split second Number One understood the meaning of being overcome with emotion. He didn't know whether to cry or cry. He didn't know whether to hug her or hug the life out of her. In the end, all he could to do was collapse onto a bench and breathe again. As Beautiful said it (when they finally told me this story, which was well over 2 months after returning home,) "He was awash in relief just like any mother hen would have been."

After calming down a bit, they continued with their travel plans and all went relatively smoothly from that point on. Just before flying home, they spent a couple days in Paris. They called me from somewhere on Champs Elysees to wish me a happy birthday and they brought me back French chocolate and perfume.

And here is the point of my story:

If you're ever thinking of allowing your underage children to travel abroad on their own, do it near your birthday because the presents (since the kids will be full of love for their far away parents and guilt for not having followed the rules to the letter) are bounteous and well worth the trouble!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Planes, Trains, and . . . well, there were no Automobiles

The first time Number One Son went to Europe was with a school group when he was 15. Though my kids were homeschooled, they did take some on-line tutorials, including Great Books, Latin, and Rhetoric. It was with a group of homeschooled kids from all over the country and a teacher from California that Number One visited Italy.

Am I telling you that I sent my 15 year old son to Europe for two weeks with a stranger we met on the Internet? Yep. That's pretty much it.

The second time he went abroad, he was 18. It was with another school group. But this was a group from a college where they held physical (as opposed to virtual) classes. Number One did not attend that college. In fact, he was still a high schooler at the time. He got hooked up with this group by way of a recommendation from another on-line teacher we actually know in person. Hmmm . . . Number One knows him in person. I've never met him. Sometimes the extended family does stop to ponder my fitness as a guardian.

But wait . . . there's more! Not only did Number One join the ranks of a much older crowd, having never met a single one of them, for a 2 week tour of Greece--he then struck out to see Turkey for three weeks. Alone. By himself.

As the tour bus full of waving, well-wishing students pulled away from him at 4 in the morning in Pyreus (which is the scary/bad Port of Athens) what had seemed like a well mapped out choice before he left home suddenly tingled up his spine like a ridiculously insane idea.

Gathering his wits and his courage, Number One did a commendable job of navigating foreign territory with no help. Even so, it was a little lonely at times. And when he picked up a nasty intestinal virus in Turkey things got kinda scary.

Dehydrated, emaciated, on the brink of exhaustion, he managed to drag his carcass back to Athens where he stopped for a quick hello at a convenient hospital. A non-English speaking doctor took one look at this pale, weak boy and admitted him on the spot. Hooked Number One up to an IV; rustled up a translator so he could ask vital questions; ordered rest and attentive care--all without a single question as to insurance. That was the day we all learned that in an emergency situation socialized healthcare is. the. shit!

Number One managed, a day and a half later, to board his flight home where we were anxiously waiting. He was never happier to see his family! All's well that ends well.

[Side note: Speaking to your very sick child on the phone when he's halfway around the world, giving him the best advice you can think of, and then saying goodbye and just hoping you'll hear his voice again is one of the most helpless feelings a parent can experience. In case you were wondering.]

But I told you all that in order to tell you something else.

To be continued . . .