Better far to live and die, Under the brave black flag I fly, Than play a sanctimonious part, With a pirate head and a pirate heart. Away to the cheating world go you, Where pirates all are well to do. But I'll be true to the song I sing, And live and die and pirate king. • • • • When I sally forth to seek my pray I help myself in a royal way. I sink a few more ships it's true, Than a well-bred monarch ought to do. But many a king on a first-class throne, If he wants to call his crown his own, Must manage somehow to get through, More dirty work than ever I do.
Only two more days until Halloween C reminded me yesterday. As if I'd forgotten. He'd like to know why there's school on Halloween since it's a holiday. Surely in a country where we get free tacos for stolen bases, and kids get to miss school because some Italian merchant with a few ships accidentally "found" the new world and mistakenly proclaimed the natives "Indians," we ought to get a day off to gorge ourselves with candy. It almost seems unamerican that we don't. Someone asked me if I was the kind of mom who passed out toothbrushes for Halloween. No, I'm not quite that bad. This year I got individual bags of goldfish crackers instead. C, picked them out, they're the ones in all the different colors - how all-natural looking. It's not that I don't like candy, it's just that the kids get enough of it without our house adding to the pile. Take my neighbors for example. We live on a dead end, dirt road, with perhaps 35 houses, half of them empty this time of year. On the whole street my two kids and one other little boy make up the only trick or treaters likely to come calling. That's three kids. So if it were me, I would buy three candy bars, maybe four to err on the side of caution. But at every house we go to there's a big bowl of candy - a big bowl. When we get to the house (we usually team up with Matthew and all go out together), it's always the same, the homeowner will say something to the effect of "well, looks like you boys are the only trick or treaters we're going to get (it's all of 6:15), why don't you go ahead and take more than one piece." In this way, even though we only trick or treat to a dozen houses (maybe less), including our own, where three bags of goldfish sit in a relatively tiny bowl, the kids still come home with enough candy to choke a dentist.
There's frost predicted tonight so I covered up the plants in the garden in an effort to keep them alive until spring. We planted garlic, onions, parsnips, kale, and radishes; something ought to make it. Having never tried to winter anything over, I don't know what will happen. I suppose if everything dies we'll just be staring from zero again in the spring which is where we usually start from. I love the book Being There where the caretaker, Chance, talks about the garden and everyone assumes he's using the garden as a metaphor for life, when in reality he's just talking about the garden. Gardening is a metaphor for life. It involves accumulating knowledge slowly, season by season, year by year, one mistake at a time. It involves working with outside forces that are often beyond the control of the gardener. One should never start a garden and then stop after just one season, just as a homeowner should never single-handedly lay a wood floor in just one room. Once the knowledge has been acquired, it must be used over and over and tweaked to fit new circumstances - in the bedroom, in the hallway, in the living room, and so on. The same could be said for parenting. It stands to reason that we should gain experience, learn from our mistakes, and become better parents with each offspring. What a waste to take all that hard-got parenting know how and not put it to work a second time. On the other hand, and from a personal perspective, have I really learned that much in the past five years? I've learned that you can't believe what you read in parenting books and magazines. Kids like choices for example: me: "Do you want to stop hitting your brother or go straight to bed when we get home?" (long pause) me: "Well? What's it going to be?" him: "I'm thinking."
song: Get it Right the First Time • artist: Billy Joel
With the Cape Cod Marathon happening tomorrow, Ken's friend Duke and our friend John Evans are both spending the night at the house. I spruced up the guest room and put some blankets and a pillow in the living room (the small couch pulls out). C wanted to know why Duke and John couldn't just sleep in the guest room together. "Because they're too tall," I said.
song: Let's Spend the Night Together • artist: The Rolling Stones
There are a million tiny ways in which we can turn into our mothers. When I was a kid my mother was a perfectionist when it came to costume making and doll clothes. All the outfits my Barbie had featured matching hats, ponchos (it was the 70s after all), tank top shirts, and bellbottom pants. All hand knit and packaged with little color-coordinated high heel shoes. My mother would lie the ensembles on styrofoam trays, that, in a previous lives had served as the backing for some store-bought vegetable or another. The packages was neatly arranged and then finished off by securing clear plastic wrap over them. She sewed perfect hemlines in skating costumes that got worn on the ice for all of two minutes when other moms simply cut skirts off at the right length and didn't even bother to turn up the bottom. On Sunday I made my first-ever scarecrow. As noted previously, it doesn't have a penis. It's a decent scarecrow, but not anything to crow about. I tried to complete it in an afternoon and not obsess over details. In my sixth grade after school art class we made life-size dolls, from pillows, tights, and wigs. My doll had a nylon heads that I hand-stitched a face onto. I called her Suzie. It took all my willpower not to take scarecrow creating to the level of life-size doll making. I worked hard to convince myself the scarecrow didn't need a wig. It didn't need any hair. It didn't even need a face. For clothing I settled on a plaid shirt and resisted putting my old frayed-around-the-sleeves jacket on over it. For the head I ended up using a plastic shopping bag stuffed with other bags, covered by a baseball hat. The only problem being I couldn't find the duct tape to secure it and it's been windy every night since Sunday, meaning that every morning the scarecrow's head is somewhere in the yard. I think this lends a legend of sleepy hollow-type air to the whole thing. I carried the don't-sweat-the-small-stuff philosophy, otherwise known as "don't become your mother," into last night as well when I spent two hours sewing white stripes onto C's pirate vest. A pirate vest should have stripes, I reasoned; but after using the better part of two hours to sew three stripes onto one side of the front of the vest and still having the stripes on the other side merely pinned on, I revised my position on the subject. A pirate vest should have stripes on the front. The back could be left empty. After all, it only has to make C happy and he was perfectly happy without any stripes at all.
song: I'm Slowly Turning Into You • artist White Stripes
I see in the paper that the co-inventor of Rice-A-Roni has died. Surely I owe this man a debt of gratitude. I'm not clear how one co-invents a rice product, but Mr. DeDomenico would no doubt be pleased to know that his jingle lives on in my heart and his little boxes of Rice-A-Roni fill my kitchen cabinets. So here's to Mr. DeDomenico for keeping me awash in Spanish rice in the style in which I've become accustomed. I wonder if the inventor, or co-inventor, of Near East is still alive.
Recently I told another mother that C was heartily entertained for two hours one afternoon gluing a big clump of acorns together using my glue gun. The other mom was surprised I'd let a five year old use a glue gun. "He did burn himself once," I admitted, but think of those two hours! Heck, I'd let my kids play with power tools if it entertained them for 10 minutes.
It looks as if H is going to be as succinct as C is loquacious. When asked by the library staff where is brother was (at preschool), H answered: "Gone." When pressed he elaborated: "Gone in daddy's truck." Yesterday when he was upstairs I yelled up to ask what he was playing with: "Toys." Over on the other side of the world - yesterday C asked me which way the earth moved around the sun, and, was the earth moving around the sun as fast as it takes his fingernails to grow. The answers? I don't know, and, I don't know. They both have one thing in common though, independently of each other they both pull things out of the trash and tell me: "Don't throw this away, Momma."
Sorry, I know the women of production have already heard this one. I was thinking that really we only have to come up with one more boy name that we like. Say we decide to go with Matthew. One twin can be called Matthew, the other, "not Matthew." We will not however, under any circumstances, be naming either twin Boston.
This afternoon C suggested we make the world's first anatomically correct scarecrow. "Is he going to have a penis," he asked as I stuffed moth-chewed oak leaves into a pair of Ken's jeans. "Even if he had one you wouldn't be able to see it," I said, though I don't know why I answered that way instead of saying, "of course not!" "But you could make him going to the bathroom," suggested C. I'm sure the neighbors would love that.
song: Rain on the Scarecrow • artist: John Mellencamp
Earlier today I was thinking that my life was like a credit card commercial: Two pirate hats: $17.99 Two eye patches: $2.58 Two plastic swords: $9.98 Two scarfs from the thrift shop to wear as sashes: $4.00 One vest from the thrift shop: $1.50 One white shirt from Woods Hole Child Care Center's Rummage Sale: $2.00 Watching my children chase each other around the backyard in their Halloween costumes: priceless But then this happened. Driving home from the Silver Lounge tonight we passed a car on the side of the road - the driver was changing a flat. A second car was on the scene with its lights shining on the first vehicle. I commented to Ken: "look at that poor guy changing a tire." C: What? Mommy: That car had a flat tire. C: What? Mommy: That car by the side of the road. C: Where? Mommy: That we just passed. C: When? Mommy: Just now. So you see really my life is like an Abbott and Costello sketch.
H likes to sing Happy Birthday To You. He breaks out into it at odd times and for no reason that I can detect. He sings it when we're driving in the car, during dinner, whenever the mood strikes him. It's disconcerting since I'm often confused about details such as what day of the week it is or what month of the year it is, now I have to stop and consider "whose birthday is it today?" It just so happens that today is Eleanor's birthday. We were at the Silver Lounge tonight (the caboose) and from the main dining room we heard an enthusiastic rendition of Happy Birthday To You being sung to someone named Eleanor. I turned to H and said, "they're singing your favorite song," then I turned to Ken and said, "I'll bet Eleanor's turning 90." Turns out Eleanor was turning 99.
There's this magazine called More, maybe it's new or maybe I just never noticed it before. More is a magazine for women forty and over, I guess the idea being there's more to life than being youthful and shapely though you'd never know it from the magazine's advertising; but that's another rant. The issue I picked up (in the free bin at the library) included a feature about how men find gray hair sexy. This is news? Sorry, but in my, albeit limited, experience, men are turned on by any woman they think they might be able to get into bed - they might not be interesting in a long-term relationship - but long-term relationships weren't the focus of this article. The article merely examined the idea that men find women, even women with gray hair, sexy. I know I'm generalizing here and of course this doesn't apply to my darling husband, or the sensitive men my sons will grow up to be. In their own defense men are up against many millennia of conditioning. Here's a similar take on the subject using males of a different species. According to the book Elephants on Acid, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania were intrigued by a male turkey that tried to mate with a lifelike female turkey. They decided to remove parts of the turkey model one by one to see how many turkey appendages they could take away before the male turkey would lose interest. They ended up with nothing but a fake female turkey head on a stick and still the male turkey was interested in a proverbial roll in the hay. There was no data in the report on whether the fake female turkey head had gray hair or not.
Ah Fridays. When I can come to work. Where it's quiet. Where no one asks me to play chess, and I can feed my unborn children junk food from the office vending machine. This Friday was better than most food wise though, Cindy left me some fruit and I snuck some coffee cake out of sales. Speaking of fruit - did you know that technically speaking any type of produce that contains seeds is a fruit and not a vegetable? That means: tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and peppers are all fruits. And it means Ronald Regan was wrong when he tried to classify ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches. Just an interesting fact you may want to use at the next cocktail party. It cracked me up to hear the song Five O'Clock World being played in Betsy's Diner on Thursday with the defiant refrain, it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows. No one owns a piece of my time. When does the whistle blow when you're a mother? At 8:30 when the kids are finally asleep? Then it's time to start the second shift, cleaning the kitchen, bringing laundry downstairs, picking up and folding clothes and making lunch for preschool tomorrow - lunch, by request, with a lot of snacks in it. Even asleep they own a piece of my time. Now if I was sentimental I would point out that the Vogues song ends like this, 'Cause everytime my baby smiles at me, I know that it's all worthwhile.
C had a well-child appointment at the pediatrician's office last month. After a few minutes in the waiting room we were called in by the nurse for weighing and measuring and then it was time for all three of us to pile into the bathroom so C could "leave a sample." At our pediatrician's office you just leave your sample in a Dixie cup. H saw the cups and demanded a drink of water. So I poured him one. Yes that's right, I let my kids drink tap water. Since I hadn't received any further instruction on what to do with it, I left the sample on the back of the toilet. We exited the bathroom with H in the lead, still clutching his cup of water. The nurse saw us coming and a look of horror spread across her face as she immediately jumped to the conclusion that I'd let my two-year-old son carry his brother's urine sample. "It's just water!" I yelled out as H tripped and spilled it on the floor.
song: Stumblin' In • artist: Chris Norman & Suzi Quatro
C has been helpful lately in offering up name suggestions for the twins. "How about we name one of the twins Abbie?" he said. "Well, Abbie is mostly a girl's name and the twins are boys." I said. "Why can't we name one Abbie anyway?" "Won't that be confusing? People will think the baby is a girl when it's really a boy." "What if we name one Mr. Abbie?"
On Thursday I took the kids to the Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The garden and mansion are part of the historic Newport Mansions, overseen by the Preservation Society of Newport Mansions . It was mid-week in October meaning, while not completely empty, there weren't a lot of visitors to the garden that day. So much the better since it meant no one caught my kids touching the topiaries, shaking the bamboo, trying to eat the grapes off the arbor, and stirring sticks around in the fish pond, all activities I'm sure the preservation society would frown on. Upon leaving, we went to a conservation area that was recently mentioned in a Boston Globe travel article. According to mapquest, the spot was less than two miles from Green Animals but I went by it at least three or four times before finally figuring out where it was located. The reason being, the road came off the circular driveway of the elementary school with no street sign to suggest the driveway was anything but the entrance to the school. It seems to me the Globe should have mention such an important detail. Something along the lines of "to get to the conservation land you must pull into the Melville Elementary School," but alas, I was on my own. Strangely though, I knew where I was. It was exactly where Gene and I got lost and had to do several turnarounds trying to find a fishing spot while researching On The Water's Fishing New England: A Rhode Island Shore Guide. It dawned on me when I pulled into this small shopping plaza thinking maybe it would lead to the conservation area. The name of the road was King Charles Drive and I remembered Gene and I did the same thing. We took the road thinking perhaps the location we were seeking, Weaver Cove, was just behind the shopping complex. The road led to neither conservation land nor fishing hole, just the shopping mall. Not to criticize the Globe, but in our fishing guide, we gave both specific directions, and, a darn good map of the area. In fact I wish I'd brought my guide book along on Thursday, since I also recall that the fishing spot was a lot nicer than the conservation land turned out to be.
On Monday evening C came home with a broken piece of concrete. Preschoolers collecting rocks is nothing new, but this piece of concrete looked suspiciously like my chunk of the Berlin Wall. A historic piece of concrete that was procured through the sweat and toil of my friends Clayton and Peter back in 1990, when the three of us were in Berlin and the Berlin Wall was still in Berlin as well instead of being in little pieces in people's desk drawers. "You could sell it on ebay," suggested Ken of my chunk of German history. I could, but how could I verify that it is an actual piece of the Berlin Wall and not just another piece of concrete my five year old brought home from the sports center? I could enclose a photograph of the piece being held after it was hacked off the wall. That might be convincing, but still, a photograph can be staged. There's a funny story about my piece of the Berlin Wall. When we arrived in Berlin we had to walk along next to where the wall used to be for some time before we came to a spot where there was still some wall left to chip away. While we were walking, one of the three of us picked up a piece of metal. I'd say it was three inches by eight inches-long. It was all we had to work with to attain our goal - free souvenirs from Berlin. We got to the wall and began hacking away. We, being a relative term, Clayton and Peter hacked, I took photographs. During the time the two of them were hacking, a bus load of Japanese tourists pulled up. The group, equipped with pick axes, exited the bus. In minutes, using their superior tools, all the Japanese tourists had their souvenirs. Many then returned to the bus, but some stayed behind and took video of - you guessed it - the ill-equipped American tourists who were woefully unprepared for their encounter with the wall. Somewhere out there is copious video footage of two unshaven Americans banging away at the Berlin Wall with a piece of metal. If only I could get a hold of one of these clips I could use it to authenticate my ebay posting.
song: Another Brick in the Wall • artist: Pink Floyd
On Monday I squandered my first day of having C at preschool until 3:30. He's been asking me since the first week of school when he could stay and have lunch with his friends. Signing him up for lunch seemed like a bad deal for mommy because a) I'd have to pay another $5 a day, and b) I'd have to make him lunch. Sending him for the full day, twice a week, seemed like a better solution. So, with the whole day, until 3:30, stretched out in front of us, I took H to the outlet mall in Sagamore to buy ski pants for C to wear to ice skating this week. It was a great plan but it was foiled when, after parking the car, I realized I didn't have my wallet with me. H and I persevered and went in to price ski pants anyway before giving up and going to feed rainbow trout at the fish hatchery. In the ladies room at the mall we got to witness a woman answering her cell phone in the stall next to ours. That she answered the phone didn't surprise me that much, that she told the other party she was going to the bathroom struck me as more information than the caller might have needed to know. She didn't offer to call her friend back, she talked through the rest of her business, through the flush, and through the hand wash. She was still talking when we left her meeting up with her husband outside the bathroom. Is there any situation when people consider it inappropriate to answer a cell phone? During sex? At a funeral? While giving birth? While your wife's giving birth?
Lying on my back in bed at night with my hands on my stomach, I wait for a kick. At this stage it's like trying to watch for a bolt of lightening during a storm; even though you're scanning the skies and covering as much ground as possible, you're never looking in the right spot. Here's a fact, the chances of a woman having twins increase as she ages, regardless of family history or use of fertility drugs. Identical twins are a truly spontaneous occurrence, again not dependent on family history. Now they tell me!