I’m moving back to WordPress.com, where I never was before, in fact, because I want to stop being self-hosted and just have a free blog again. Then it can stay here forever and I don’t have to feel bad about not updating or being a blogger. It’s just a place to keep my stuff. You’re welcome to read, though.
I got into the car at 5:20pm with my hair still wet, to go to a parent association meeting at Dash’s school. Everyone will think I’ve come from the gym, I thought to myself, amused by the irony, because why else would someone shower in the middle of the afternoon?
I imagined the conversation going something like this:
– Were you at the gym?
– No, I just showered now because at 7am I had to wake my third-grader with a cat and make waffles and at 8am a guy appeared on the doorstep to vaccuum all the heating vents and at 9am I was jubilantly booting the third grader in the door to school and then having a conversation with a mom-friend about our impossible children and at 10am I was back at home wondering if the vents guy had accidentally let out one or both cats and trying to write through the din of sucking how many years of dust through the tubes behind the walls and at 11am I was on the phone to the hospital in Ireland hearing about my dad’s brand new broken leg and at 12pm I was paying the vents guy an inordinate amount of money and locating in the basement the traumatized cats and at 1pm I was talking to the estate agent in Dublin about house showings and at 2pm I was printing out forms from the solicitor that I’d already signed and sent back but that appear to have gone astray in Hurricane Ophelia to send by registered post all over again and going to the supermarket for more juice boxes and at 3pm I was in the car driving to school to pick up the sixth grader and at 4pm I was finally able to take a shower so that at 5pm I could make myself a sandwich before welcoming my husband home and leaving the house again to drive to the ten-miles-away school for the second time today for this 6pm meeting.
I might have just told them I was at the gym after all, to save us all that, in spite of the ridiculous lie that would have been. But nobody asked, because everyone else’s day was probably just as busy as mine and quite possibly more so, because that’s how life is.
At 8pm I got to write a blog post with a gin & tonic and a bottomless bowl of pita chips while spinning the Twister arrow and laughing at the rest of my family contorting themselves as they sang along to the Buffy musical episode soundtrack.
It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s just that I keep starting posts and then something in our ever shifting summer dynamic shifts again and I can’t finish them.
So herewith, some bullet points, with photos of times we went outside:
I have a new phone, so that small children will no longer remark on how tiny my phone is. It was getting embarassing. My new phone is still an old phone, (Samsung 6s) but it has a good camera and it’s a lot smarter than my old one. There will be Instagram. (But not Snapchat because who do you think I am.)
What you know by the time you turn 44 is that if you want a nice birthday you are responsible, at least somewhat, for making it nice yourself. So I bribed the children and took them to the beach, which was slightly easier than it had been the week before, so I think they actually like it. I told the husband what I really wanted (the new phone), so I got it. I booked the babysitter for tonight so we can go out to dinner.
The summer break began with nothing but screens and fighting, but we are all shaking down into a routine of sorts, where the children are constantly watching something and demanding food, and I spend a while working, a while trying to persuade one or both of them to leave the house with me, and a while wondering why I’m doing all this laundry.
So far, Mabel is learning Spanish on Duolingo, I’m brushing up on my Italian, we’ve started rewatching the Great British Bakeoff, and Dash has discovered that he does like Minecraft when it’s in survival mode and you can blow things up with lots of TNT. We’ve also moved all the furniture around in Mabel’s bedroom and baked a few things.
The pace is slower, and we’re learning not to freak out about it. We’ve gone to two different beaches. We’ve gone to the pool, but not a lot. We’ve baked fancy biscuits. Some of us have done some reading. Next week Mabel starts camp and everything changes again. We’ll work it out.
The cats continue to cat. They’re very good at it. I feel like I’ve really accomplished something since my last birthday, because now we have cats.
There’s a cauliflower in my fridge and it’s laughing at me. That’s what cauliflowers do. They simper in the supermarket, saying “Buy me, I’m healthy. You can make all sorts of nice things with me.” And then I bring it home and it sits in my fridge for two weeks laughing at me because I never really want to make any of those nice things. Not enough to actually do it.
My husband says this never happens to him. He’s cauliflower-resistant. I need to be more like him.
I do have several delicious recipes for cauliflower – this one, and this one, or this one if I had some chicken – but tonight, when I was finally determined to quash that vegetable once and for all, I went and sabotaged myself by making a dessert first, which then turned out to be taking up the oven for the entire time until dinner, at the wrong temperature for any roasting of any cauliflower. Also, I was tired of cooking because the dessert was more fiddly than I remembered.
It’s even a purple cauliflower, because I’m just that fancy. And it’s still there, in the fridge, laughing at me and living to see another day.
We are also suffering from a surfeit of fruit at the moment. I know this shouldn’t be a bad thing, but there you have it, I’m a bad person. We have blueberries because a friend bought a giant container of them at Costco and then gave me some because her family wouldn’t eat them all. (As if I thought my family would be any different.)
We had rhubarb because I’d been looking out for rhubarb and it finally appeared in the supermarket and I bought some and made strawberry and rhubarb crumble and that was lovely but there was still rhubarb left over (the dessert I made today was for that).
And then our neighbour appeared at the side door with a big bag of freshly picked strawberries, which he gets at work somehow or something, and of course I was very grateful and polite and said thank you and yes please, but now they’re sitting in the fridge looking at me too. I could freeze them but I did that before and we ended up never eating them. I thought I’d make smoothies. I didn’t. Nobody eats that stuff in this house. Healthy stuff that’s not bread. Nobody.
In cat news, you would think that now that we have pets, the constant whining for a pet would have stopped. But no! You would be mistaken. They both still want a dog – of course; Mabel still wants a pet that’s exclusively hers to take care of and love and squeeze and call George.
Then yesterday she solved this problem for herself (at least temporarily) by announcing that Birch was now hers and she alone was going to feed him and scoop his poop. ‘Okay,’ we said, not remonstrating nearly as much as she’d expected. Then Dash decided that Oak, of course, was now his. We looked forward to an easy retirement from feeding and scooping the kitties. This morning Mabel insisted on getting up at 6:30 to be the one who fed the cats. (She graciously agreed to feed both of them.) However, when I pointed out that one of the cats had pooped before she left for school she said that was definitely the other one.
However, I’m still the one at home with the cats all day, and I’m the only one who can stand the smell of the wet cat food enough to give them some, so they know that really they’re my kitties, and I’m the one they’ll rescue when they have to choose a favourite family member.
Oh wait, they’re cats. They’ll run away and leave us to our fate.
About this time last week, my list of things to worry about looked like this
Being killed by terrorists.
ISIS expanding to take over all of Europe and then the USA.
and far down below those and everything related to them, quotidian things such as
Dying in a fiery car crash on the Beltway.
Being killed by a random gunman because I live in the USA, or having that happen to my husband at work or my children at school.
Having the house broken into (while B’s away).
Having the house broken into (while we’re all here).
B dropping dead while running, leaving me ignorant of passwords to online bill paying, so that as well as being bereft and lonely and bored with nobody to make up appropriate lyrics for any song at the drop of a hat, we would have our electricity cut off and freeze to death.
Getting stuck behind a fiery car crash on the Beltway so that I’m late to pick Dash up from school, and discovering that my phone refuses to hold any contact numbers any more so I couldn’t even call them to say why I’m not there.
Mabel refusing to open her mouth at her upcoming dental checkup.
My turkey being dry on Thursday.
and so on, in descending order of terribleness or likeliness; you get the idea.
This week my sense of statistics has righted itself and those first two have dropped down to somewhere below the others. Climate change is in there somewhere too; I’m never quite sure where. And maybe the zombie apocalypse, sure, if I’m in the mood for fretting.
Of course, statistics are no comfort to all those families in Paris, in Mali, to a family not far from here who lost someone. To everyone who has died in car crashes or mass shootings or all the other terrible things that happen and continue to happen.
So, in conclusion, this isn’t a very comforting post, is it? But I really like how everyone’s tweeting cat pictures in Brussels. That seems like a very good way to deal with the tension. I’ll be over here trying to keep my worry weebles the right way up.
There’s listening to your heart and your head. There’s going with your gut and trying again. There are lessons in perseverance and determination. There’s making a judgement call.
There’s listening to the universe when it drops a few hints, and picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and changing tack. There’s trying something new even if you feel old, taking a road nobody else has taken because it feels right, or exciting, or you’re up for a challenge.
If you’re still here – and even, maybe, if you’re not – you didn’t fail. You did something else instead.
In spite of how it looks, this was not inspired by some terrible knock-back from an agent. It was just something I thought of when wondering what advice I’d give to school-leavers.
Mabel has this first-aid book of which she is extremely fond. It’s not a kids’ first-aid book, it’s an old one that’s been on our shelves for ages, since my husband once thought he should be better prepared in emergency situations or something. She found it once when she was much smaller and was entranced by the drawings of people in varying amounts of agony, skin sliced open in different ways, tourniquets and slings and gunshot wounds. There’s even one of a baby being born. (Not graphic. Lots of towels and hot water.)
One of the pages has a painful-looking picture of someone with a fish-hook through their finger, and a diagram of how exactly you would approach bandaging this (if you could then take him to hospital) or removing the hook (if you were camping in the wilds of beyond and couldn’t get to a proper doctor, I presume).
Anyway, I always thought, when my eye fell on that particular squirm-inducing illustration, “What a ridiculously obscure injury. How many people get fish-hooks in their fingers?”
You might fear you can see where this is going; but don’t worry, it’s not. Nobody ends this blogpost with a fish-hook embedded in any part of them.
However. On Saturday afternoon I took Dash to a friend’s birthday party which turned out to be a lovely lazy afternoon by the bay, where the boys waded and swam and also got to do some fishing off the little dock. Now, I know absolutely nothing about fishing, and nor does my husband, so when Dash was given pestered me until I bought him a fishing rod last year, his one outing to try it out was not very successful. So the opportunity to have people who actually know how to fish show him what to do was pretty special.
Not that he caught anything, because it was the wrong time of day. But there he was, and there were several other people near him, and they were all casting away and suddenly I felt like getting a fish-hook in the thumb would be a very very easy injury to attain, and that if I didn’t step back quickly I might be on the wrong end of a fish-hook in the eyeball instead, and the book hadn’t even addressed that one.
But instead, the afternoon continued to be lovely; and there was a Minecraft cake and a Nerf battle and we went home without any fish-hooks embedded anywhere but with a happy boy who had done some fishing.
And the understanding that one day’s obscurity is the next day’s commonplace, because you just never know how things will turn out.