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April 2013

March 2013

Name Something That Comes In A Jar Besides Jelly... Jelly!

I had a big stack of mail to deal with today, included amongst was a form from my health insurance company asking tactfully if there was anyone we needed to sue for negligently letting me concuss myself. I filled it out (what: hit head; why: high heels comma oafish) and then looked around for the pre-addressed, metered envelope that had been included with their letter. I couldn't find it. I finished writing checks and licking envelopes (I'm old school) and then I went through the stack to make sure I had a stamp on everything: mortgage, credit, phone, credit, Caroline missive, electric company, pre-addressed metered health insurance... huh. I held the envelope up to the light to see what was inside it and discovered that I had responded to my insurer's request for additional information concerning my claim towards expenses related to a head injury by

sending them the April payment for our auto insurance.

I am almost sorry I caught my error because I suspect that someone in the claims department would have been amused.

Moving on. Most important! I am in an NCAA suicide bracket and I'm in knots over who to pick for tonight. The deal is that you pick one team to win per day and then you cannot pick that team again in the tournament. The only team I cannot take today is Indiana.

Who do you think? Syracuse? Wichita State? Ohio State? I just need someone who is going to win. Please advise.

Quelle Surprise

Hullo, hullo, hullo! What ho, what?

It took about a week for my head to stop bothering me. Since then I've been malingeri..

Holy cats! Three milliseconds ago I received an email saying that Edward (Edward. Edward. Edouard) has lotteried into French kindergarten. Good grief, what is Steve going to say? He thinks the whole immersion idea is... ill-conceived for our family based upon the logistics and now I have really been and gone and done it. When I submitted applications for the twins to various and sundry far-flung language schools I promised him that we didn't need to consider the distances involved because neither of them was going to get in anywhere anyway. And now Eddybear (good grief I can hear it now: Maman! Je deteste l'ecole, hein?!) got into the French place and Caroline (did I tell you this already? no I guess not) Caroline has a relationship through her Saturday Chinese class with the woman who runs the closest ("closest" I'll get to that in a second) Mandarin immersion school and she was unofficially offered a space there a few weeks ago.

Ha! Oh man. What a dilemma.

To help you visualize, hold out your hands with your thumbs touching and your index fingers extended straight up - like a goal post. Patrick's current school (we will hear on Monday if he got into a new school and that would offer a whole different logistical issue) is located at the tip of your right index finger. The French school is at the tip of your other index finger. We live where the right thumb connects with the wrist and the Mandarin school is on Mars.

Ha! I say again. 

I already spend four (4) hours a day transporting children and that is with the twins at one place and Patrick at another. If I did this and scattered them like so many plots I would have to get an RV. Maybe Steve and I could visit with each other on weekends.

Hmmmm, although... I suppose if Patrick lotteries into the new school and Caroline gets some reasonable place on the French school waiting list or I call tomorrow and ask about sibling placements... hmmmm. I am literally tenting my fingertips and tapping them together. I look like Mr Burns. I do so like the idea of immersion schools.

I guess I will wait for additional information on Caroline and Patrick and, you know, good problems to have and Patrick can always stay where he is for another year while Caroline and Edward start kindergarten at the very nice school where Patrick went and I won't have to apply for a long haul license.

Where was I?

Oh right, I was malingering and watching movies. Thank you so much for the suggestions. Patrick, I am sad to say, completely failed to appreciate the brilliance of Strictly Ballroom. His only comment was a terse "thank god" as soon as the final credits started to roll. Philistine. He did like Galaxyquest, though, and Back to the Future. Men in Black was popular. My mind is blanking, what else? Oh we're trying some judiciously edited screenings of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Patrick - oddly to my mind - is enchanted by the animated bits which I found revolting back in the day and I still dislike. Beyond that he appreciates the absurdity of some of the skits; others go straight past him and then, blammo, a depiction of a naked female torso flashes across the screen and he tries to look wordly. Edward was terrified by Wallace and Grommit (whoops. sorry Edward) but Caroline was so enchanted she watched A Matter of Loaf and Death four times before I returned it to the library.

I actually managed to make an Excel sheet of the movie suggestions this time and if I can figure out how to post a file on the sidebar I will put it up for you. Remind me. The two I want to try next are Romancing the Stone and Groundhog Day but would you believe that our library owns copies of neither? Nothing ages you quite so much as the asumption that films from 15 or more years ago are fairly recent.

What else? I am feeling oppressed by the permasnow that always lingers in March and have started rearranging all of the furniture in the house. I moved Patrick's painting stuff out of my office (my actual office not my hiding-from-the-children-at-the-vanity-in-the-bathroom-office) which is a small room off the kitchen that we think was intended to be used as a dining room but we're not sure how. You could fit a table in here or you could fit chairs in here; it would be difficult to do both. We originally used it as a playroom/baby jail for Patrick and then it became a playroom for everyone and then it morphed into my office which meant there was space for my laptop and a loveseat and all of Patrick's painting and dyeing and sewing and soapmaking whatnot. In time I started to feel oppressed by the towering tributes to Patrick's craftiness (and neverending winter) so this weekend I moved his stuff into the basement (next to a giant window! great north light! don't judge me.) This has left me alone in the room with a small desk, a too-big loveseat and a liquor cabinet. Sure it sounds great but it looks weird. You would think after a decade of HGTV I could know what to do to fix the room (bring the outdoors in, throw pillows, a dog bed in the sunny corner plus matching accessory dog) but I don't.

We just taught Patrick how to play Ticket to Ride (excellent game. one of my all-time favorites) and I told him we would start at 8:05 if he would leave me in peace until then. I'm honor bound.

PS So hypothetically speaking: how far would you drive to get your child to kindergarten?

Not Like An Egg, More Like A Boulder

It is Spring Break and to keep in the spirit of things I kicked off the week by fracturing my skull. I know, I know. You're thinking, Julia, DON'T jump off the motel balcony into the pool but in the excitement of the moment...

In truth I had been at my friend's fundraiser for all of about forty minutes on Saturday when I excused myself from the table to use the bathroom. While I was in there I managed to trip (high heels/tiled floor) and crashed headfirst into the side of a pedestal sink. Blammo. If I were a bell I'd have been riiiiingiiing. Sunday I felt gross. Monday I still felt gross. Tuesday I went to the doctor who diagnosed a concussion and ordered a CT scan from which the radiologist noted a "clinically insignificant" linear fracture. 

I was, like, "Aaaaaaand?"

And nothing. That's it. Concussion. Insignificant fracture. Rest, try not to do anything (think, watch TV, read) for more than twenty minutes at a time and avoid high-risk activities because the second concussion is the killer.

"You mean high-risk activities like walking into a bathroom?" I asked.

"For you, apparently," the doctor zinged back and for a moment it was like I was talking to Dr. Future Patrick.

Speaking of Patrick, he has stepped up to fill the breach left by my languishing and Steve working and has cobbled together a fairly decent Spring Break preschool program. He is going to make some lucky international family a great summer au pair one day although I am thinking I might need to connect him with one of the more easy-going countries (say, Australia) where they won't necessarily expect all of their children to be returned at the end of the day in exactly the same condition in which they started.

He built snow forts


and then he armed the twins for snow battles


[not pictured: Caroline in a flood of tears after being hit in the head by a snowball]

He made hot chocolate and got bowls of teddy grahams for everyone


then entertained them with a teddy graham-based puppetshow


[not pictured: my face as I realized that his teddy graham narrative was macabre beyond measure or the speed with which I cut him off]

He has introduced a game in which he is the airplane and Caroline and Edward take turns being passenger but only after they correctly identify their arrival city/state or city/country

(Caroline woke me up from a mild doze on the couch and said, "Quick! What's the big city of a catrickle of Nebraska!"

"Urhhm... Omaha?"

Three minutes later she returned, flashing spite.

"Mommy! You were wrong! What's the REAL capital of Nebraska?"

Lincoln, people. It's Lincoln.


Enough said and that is it for my twenty minutes.

PS We have watched a ton of movies from the library this week and I expect we'll watch a ton more. The twins are easy with the old standbys but I finally accepted that they like Chicken Run (I don't) and got them Wallace and Grommit and Shaun the Sheep. For Patrick we've tried the new Star Trek (with the young Kirk) and Pink Panther 2 (Steve Martin.) Both were wildly popular but I am about to press my luck with Strictly Ballroom which I LOVE and haven't seen in ages. Steve and Patrick are skeptical.

Other movie recommendations for ten year olds? Do you think Austin Powers is too suggestive?

Let's Go For Two

A couple of you asked about the dog, which would have struck me as a perfect reasonable question nine years ago but now that I've lived here for a while you should know that I am looking at you like you have two heads - pretty much the same way Ol' Neighbor I-Don't-Want-To-Know-You looked at me way back when. The dog? The dog was fine, of course, and became one of the many numerous hazards around which I eventually learned to navigate. Deer, longboarders, turkey, bicyclists, opposum, those people who ski on dry land... any one of them might pop out in front of you at any moment and most/many/some dogs roam like roaming hordes. I never figured out where that particular black lab lived (that way somewhere) but I did come to know his summer schedule, which involved him taking himself for a brisk walk down our road followed by a swim in Whosits' pond. In time I also realized that telling Mr. Wilson that there was a dog in the road was like dropping the shocking news that we have squirrels in our yard. Not Done, Dear.

Oh see, hey now, how nice. I just got a text from one of my new friends (a text. I told Steve that I needed a smartphone despite all evidence to the contrary and now just look at me - all texty) saying that they are meeting out for the birthday of one of her friend's tonight and she'll send me details if I want to join them. To continue with my point from yesterday, how amazing is that? To be completely honest I am not sure if I am going to be awake and mobile by 8:30 (what is this? Chile?

total digression:

Steve and I went to Santiago to visit friends once upon a time and we were appalled to discover that the locals don't eat dinner until ten o'clock and then they go dancing. We tend to keep country hours so by 7 o'clock we were gnawing on our own arms whimpering with hunger and by 9 we'd be curled up into sleepy balls. We were a lot of fun.

Which further reminds me: Steve and I went to Maui for our honeymoon and somehow managed to never adjust to the time change. Feel free to interpret that in a suitably risqué way, all waggling eyebrows and twirling mustaches and fortune cookie entendres - why yes, we had a lovely time in Hawaii... in bed ho ho ho. So we would call for restaurant reservations and it would go like this, "Oh. OK. Well, when do you open for dinner? Fine. Two people at 5 o'clock then." I think the reason we never saw any whales is because they aren't nocturnal.)

Anyway. I have been invited out for drinks later and I am very pleased although in the time it took me to type this she has changed the time to nine so... we'll see.

I opened the front door last night and discovered this on the porch.


Patrick. Of course. And if you require a frame of reference he named this charming tableau "Crime Scene". 

Local Time

When we came to this small town/exurb nine years ago we knew eff all about the place. Steve wanted one two many acres and liked the trees. I appreciated the illusion of interesting topography offered by the ravines (they call them valleys - sob.) The school district was purported to be "good". The river was close and we have nothing against rivers. Target was almost as close as the river. The house was lovely and our favorite sushi place was less than half an hour away in no traffic. So we packed our stuff and our cats and baby Patrick and we moved.

Five minutes later we discovered that our new town was rife with political in-fighting, possesses such draconian building laws that it would be easier to convert the Parthenon into condos than build here and the people... well, let's just say they are iconoclasts. 

Three true stories:

1. About a week after we moved here I turned the car out of our driveway and almost ran over a black lab. I assumed the dog was AWOL and worried about contacting his owners to retrieve him before he got flattened by some other car. I checked for nonexistent tags, then drove down the road a bit until I saw a person working in his yard. I parked.

"Hello!" I called. "Hello! Excuse me, hello!"

The man walked over. I introduced myself, complimented him on his lawn, explained that we had just moved in a few houses away and expressed my concern over the dog I had almost murdered. Did he happen to know who the owners might be?

He frowned.

"Black lab?" he asked.

"Yes, black lab."

"Well," he said. "The Jojansonsens used to have a black dog up at the farmhouse," he gestured southward "but they left about twenty years ago. We wouldn't know anyone since then."

Then he turned on his heel and walked away and despite the fact that we live (lemme count) three houses away from him we have never again exchanged words.

2. A new family moved in across the street this summer. We met them through friends (that reminds me - I need to invite them over again) and had a bottle of wine on our porch as she told me about her first experience in town.

She saw a woman pulling up to her mailbox to collect mail and hailed her, explaining that she and her family had just bought the house next door.

The woman said, "Oh? Well it's not like we have neighborhood barbecues or anything."

Then she rolled up her window and drove away.

3. We discovered that our town has no gun laws when a guy who lives just over the ridge went through a period of confusion (rumor has it he was suffering from a bout of paranoia brought on by an undermedicated mental illness) during which time he routinely went around the perimeter of his house firing guns at two in the morning. This startled the beejeezums out of his nearest neighbors who promptly called the police. The police asked if they were filing a noise complaint and when they explained it wasn't the noise that concerned them so much as the bullets, the authorities explained that the man was within his legal rights as the shooting of guns at random in the dark is not prohibited here.

[the guy's nephew lives in town by the way and was able to sort things out and get the guy help. they also removed his guns. I am always saddened when I see people with mental illnesses demonized as if they are evil/just not trying hard enough to be Normal so I want to be clear that I am not doing that]

Anyway, we live in this beautiful but weird and vaguely unfriendly little town and our monthly newsletter from city hall just arrived with the following line -

"Remember: shooting coyotes is a privilege not a right" accompanied by a little note about a man in town who just accidentally shot his neighbor's dog in dim light thinking it was a coyote.


I have been puzzling over the gentleness of this rebuke ever since. I also sometimes wonder how a nice girl from Washington DC (yes we were the murder capital of the world once upon a time but we weren't, you know, depraved) wound up here in the badlands of Minnesota. I'm not even Norwegian.

Seriously, though, I beat myself up for a long time because we moved here and we had this baby and I had quit my job and I had no friends and I couldn't seem to make local friends to save my life but now that I have (slowly) made (some) friends* and things are better I can say... I don't think it was entirely me. The percentages might have been against me.

PS Edward insists that he kept coming into our bed because his bed is lacking in soft sheets and cozy blankets. Soft black sheets, he specified, because he wants black sheets. Whatever. Anyway, I debated with myself and finally bought him new black sheets and - as a coup de theatre - a supersoft microfleece blanket emblazoned with Darth Vader's face.

It is quite literally the tackiest thing I have ever seen and I mourn wee Patrick with his letter bedding fetish but, oh well, to each snowflake their own pattern. Edward took one look at the black sheets and pillows and Vader and gasped, then clutched the blanket to his chest and said, "I am never ever lllllleaving my bed again. Ever."

And for seven glorious nights he honored his word.

This morning I was getting my last four precious minutes of sleep before the alarm was set to go off when Patrick appeared at my bedside complaining of a headache, sore throat, sinus congestion and general malaise.

I opened my eyes to assess when a voice from near my elbow piped up, "Patrick go away! Mommy and I are seeping."

I turned and said, "Edward! What are you doing in my bed?!"

There was a long pause before Edward said, "Uh oh" and then "Meow?"

*I am never going to be wildly comfortable making new friends. People - all people: Steve, my children, my best friends - exhaust me and I need lots of time to recover in the bathtub after even the most pleasant of social interactions. Recognizing this fact and forgiving myself for it and steering clear of people who need a lot of time and attention in order to feel supported by me without resentment has helped as well. I love lots of people dearly but if there are not giant spaces in our togetherness I go spacefuck crazy - it's not you really it's me etc.

That said, I have some friends now. Friends who started in the blog but who I have loved enough to make real. Friends who stay inside the blog but are real anyway. Local non-coyote-shooting friends. Preschool friends. Friends of friends who have become my friends. Exclamation point. It's kind of amazing and I had only vaguely realized how lonely I was when I wasn't so lonely anymore.