Afloat!

It’s been one of those weeks, oh dear Lord has it.  This is the first week sans nanny – we were unable to locate a suitable replacement, so we’re cobbling together something workable for the last two months of this school year, which this week involved me going to pick up the oldest child at 2:45 and then bringing him back to work with me for a couple of hours.  Unfortunately I have a ton of deadlines this week (five answers, two hearings, one pretrial conference and one dispositive motion all this week, plus prepping for mediation on Monday), so this wasn’t the best time for taking an hour break in the middle of each day to go get him, but so it goes.  Plus I have to leave on the early side to get the other two in time.  What this means is that I worked til midnight on Monday night, midnight on Tuesday night, 2:30 am last night . . . getting up at 5 every day.  I’ve got to keep pushing through but every week is like this through April, and I’m running down like a clock that needs winding.  I’ve been in front of the computer so much, my eyes can barely focus and I’m getting that “trial hunch,” where your shoulders hunch over and your hands become claws and you stomach loses all its tone.  I am, in short, a mess.

In addition to work obligations, the domestic/child obligations have been somewhat heavy this week.  Monday night we also had a little family Boy Scout awards dinner after school, and Tuesday I took all three kids to baseball practice.  I am going to have to learn to keep a set of casual clothes in my office, because both days I totally trashed my professional, expensive outfit (Monday I had to feed the baby dinner in my lap . . . you can imagine how I looked after that.  Tuesday I had to toddle through the dust of the baseball fields in my heels, and then pace in said dust while holding said baby who was being kind of a dickhead about the whole evening, to be honest.  There is so much snot on the shoulders of my suit jacket, I just can’t even.)  Last night was mercifully unscheduled.  Tonight is baseball again, but this time the Professor is home and we can split duties, so Littlest Man doesn’t have to suffer the indignity of sitting and eating snacks and playing with toys for an hour and a half outside, and instead can sit and eat snacks and play with toys inside the house.  A vital distinction to a thirteen month old.

Yesterday’s poem was in response to the line, “Anne Frank’s Neighbor,” which occurred to me while brushing my teeth the other day for no real reason at all.  I thought about how spiteful you’d have to be to turn them in – and then I thought maybe the person who turned them in was forced to – or maybe an anti-Semite – or maybe hated the family specifically due to a social clash and not anti-Semitism – or maybe was being tortured or threatened and broke under pressure - or maybe young and excited and naively ideologically intertwined with the Nazi politics and aiming to please a superior officer – or maybe was trying to buy freedom for someone else with the information – who knows.  I didn’t google it until after, and they apparently have some idea of who did the turning in, but the truth is less interesting to me than the myriad possibilities, and also the Lady Macbeth Out Damn Spot-ness of the palm print image.

Staying afloat.  Cannot wait til this trial  is over.  Good friends are coming for Easter . . . that’s about the time this will all ramp down, and I am looking forward to it for about a million and one reasons.  Jack turns seven that month – hold me.

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Anne Frank’s Neighbor

She almost made it out
into the day light again
after years – years – without.  Fingers
pressed against the pane of glass,
behind a blackout curtain.  Sometimes in
front of it,
when she was feeling brave.
 
She thought it was safe, up so high,
the starlight on fingertips, no one would see.
But I saw. And I
told.
 
They marched out, in front
of soldiers’ guns, her face was
pale and eyes on fire with fear that
I caused. 
A cloudy day, still I saw it all. 
 
Sometimes after,
walking on the street below, I would
look up at the window, and
even decades later, I would see
with my two [very good] eyes
her palm print on the glass.
Posted in Poems | 2 Comments

Sporty sporty sports

Jack’s in baseball again.  We’ve decided to go ahead and enroll him for the spring, even though I can’t imagine how I’m going to handle getting him there.  I’ll work it out.

We had a TWO HOUR PRACTICE TODAY OH MY GOD.  Two hours is a long time.  The Professor is out of town (we got Mardi Gras “off” but karma couldn’t let us have a break so he had to be out this Saturday).  So I had to schlepp all three kids to a practice that I thought would be fifty minutes, tops.  Soooooo not prepared for a two hour entertain-the-littles session.

I bought some time with cell phone games and hikes around the track pushing Craig in the stroller.  He took a ten minute nap and is currently upstairs holding his ground on making any addition to that time (i.e. screaming in his crib, but ten minutes is not enough minutes, especially for a monkey who got his little self up at 5 am, and go ahead and scream, buddy, I got time).  Liam got antsy, then about three minutes before practice was over he suddenly absolutely had to go potty right that minute.  I picked up the stroller with sleeping Craig in it and carried it in my arms over a gravel road towards the closer bathrooms – which were locked OF COURSE THEY WERE LOCKED.  So I hauled baby a little further to the far away bathrooms, which were not locked – and prayed that everybody didn’t just leave Jack behind in the chaos of one team leaving the field and the next one coming.

We all survived.  It ran too long, for all of us (Jack was seriously falling apart and losing focus by the end).  Also none of the other parents (who already knew each other) let me hop in the conversation, but whatevs.  I’ll crowbar in there eventually.  Maybe.  However, all these complaints aside it was kind of cool.  I like the sport thing.  They ran a lot of good drills, really working on the kids’ form, and heck of those kids didn’t really improve in the course of two hours.  They’re learning skills, discipline, teamwork, and making friends, and the coaches are really pretty perfect – just the right amount of “pushing the kids hard” vs. “they’re just kids, give ‘em a break.”  Jack is literally 5 days older than the cut-off for age, so he’s the youngest kid out there – some kids are 2 years older than him.

I like getting out of the house.  I like watching Jack be awesome.  I slightly less like watching Jack fall apart in the last half hour and collapse in tears once or twice, and then pretend his bat is a machine gun and “shoot” everybody else when he’s supposed to be practicing his swing.  I liked that I gave my phone up to Liam to play on this coloring app I have – I couldn’t surf the internet or facebook.  it was enforced boredom, which I never get anymore and is good for the soul and mind and spirit.

This is a boring entry.  Basically, as much trouble as it can be, I like taking the kids to sports, though I will be happier when Liam is in baseball next year, too.  The End.

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Lent

I was drawn to this article recently, as I pondered what to give up for Lent.

Giving up for Lent was a thing I used to really get into, even though it’s kind of a “Catholic thing” and I have never been Catholic.  As my everyday schedule has become more punishing, however, the idea of adding more self denial and struggle has slowly lost its charm – three small kids, tough job, husband out of town most weeks makes life hard enough.  I used to give up soda, or chocolate, or alcohol, or meat.  But to be honest, I don’t drink a lot of soda or eat much chocolate these days, and though I drink a glass of wine most nights, it’s just one.  I don’t feel like my once-a-week M&Ms or nightly glass of wine are traps that me from virtue or the life I really want.  And with my job’s long hours, I am already struggling to make three meals a day every day for five people (we go out maybe once a week – Saturday lunch, usually – and other than that I have to plan, grocery shop, and cook).  We don’t eat pork or red meat anymore.  I can’t imagine adding the burden of making all of those meals meatless, or worse, having to make myself a meatless alternative in addition to whatever I’m making the kids.  We don’t have any extraneous spending to curtail – I don’t go shopping, online or otherwise, except for groceries.  Life isn’t perfect and I am not the poster child for self control and self denial, but I am sort of the poster child for managing a ton of responsibilities with juuuuuuust exactly the right amount of resources and nothing extra.  So in the Lenten season, I struggle to find something “extra” to cut out.

And yet.  Forty days of penance . . . forty days of fasting . . . the concept still kind of appeals to me, especially after the over-the-top festivities of Mardi Gras.  This quote from the article I linked to above was a favorite:

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

Instead of cutting out some foible that keeps my body sluggish or my spirit cluttered, I want to use this Lenten season to turn my gaze outward to others, and ways to make them better.  Not because it’s good for me and makes me a better and more spiritual person, but because it’s good for them.

So here is my Lenten “fast” – a daily act of service (to people other than my children, who receive daily acts of service from me already!)  It could be to write a snail mail letter for a friend, or make a small donation to a charity, or volunteer to spread mulch in a local kids’ playground or pick up litter in our local square on my lunch break.  It can be small or big, but it has to be daily.  I’m busy, but not so busy I can’t be of service to my community.

Forty acts of good.  And then . . . spring.

Posted in Navel Gazing (and I Don't Mean Oranges) | 2 Comments

Mardi Gras 2015 in Pictures

We’ve managed several more parades this year than last.  A certain little baby grew up into a toddler, making it both easier and harder to get out of the house.

Birthday baby

Birthday baby

We’ve done a few Mobile parades, but NOLA Mardi Gras always beckons, and we have made a tradition of going back to the Mardi Gras Mother Ship* for the last weekend of Carnival.  Endymion on Saturday, and on Sunday the triple header of Thoth, Okeanos, and Mid-City.  We have friends who live on each route, and close bathrooms and a good “home-base” make parade-watching with three young’uns much more do-able.  I love it.

Hanging at a friend's house, waiting for Endymion to start

Hanging at a friend’s house, waiting for Endymion to start

Seen in mid-City.

Seen in mid-City.

Together again - Jack, Liam, and Owen.  Owen lived in the apartment above us when we lived in NOLA, and he and Liam were born just a few months apart.

Together again – Jack, Liam, and Owen. Owen lived in the apartment above us when we lived in NOLA, and he and Liam were born just a few months apart.

Often when we are with other kids their age, the kids are drawn to Jack and tend to exclude Liam.  This is partly of Liam's own doing, since he tends to take or leave company (while Jack would always rather be with friends).  Anyway, Owen is pretty much the only one who seems to bring them together rather than drive them apart, and I love it.

Often when we are with other kids their age, the kids are drawn to Jack and tend to exclude Liam. This is partly of Liam’s own doing, since he tends to take or leave company (while Jack would always rather be with friends). Anyway, Owen is pretty much the only one who seems to bring them together rather than drive them apart, and I love it.

Endymion

Endymion

Endymion is a super krewe, with dozens of double decker floats, many of them linked into a “float train” that’s 6, 7, 8 floats long.  The floats are elaborate, and often each of them have their own, float-specific throws.  We were right at the beginning – in fact, we missed probably the first ten floats as they were way up ahead of us.  I saw enough!  This one up above was really gorgeous – we saw it right at dusk, sparkling and lively.

We actually had two Endymion parties – we went first to a friend’s house in mid-City, where they had preserved us a parking spot.   We got the kids out to run around in the backyard for a while, and the two men went over to set up a spot on the route while the two women watched all five kids (our three and their two).  People began to filter in to the party, wandering in and out with plastic cups (“Cajun china”) and complaining about parking and meter maids.  The weather was glorious – sunny, warm but not hot.  After the men finally wandered back, the Professor and I loaded up our kids on the trusty old double stroller and walked a mile or so to party #2.  That home had a small front yard surrounded by a nice black fence – a convenient “pen” for the children to run around in while we had adult conversation.  We ate some purple, green, and gold frosted cookies, and some mini hot dogs wrapped in bacon and maple glaze, and then collected the boys to walk out to the route.

We had a wide neutral ground spot, where most of the marching bands were resting and waiting their turn.  The floats were lined up and parked around us, and the boys occasionally managed to sweet talk a throw or two out of the bored (and drinking!) riders.  We played some football, ate some snacks, basked in the glorious sun and chatted with friends.

As the sun started to go down, the parade started to roll.  We actually saw floats twice – we were right at the spot where the parade did a U-turn, and so we saw them coming and going.

See me?

See me?

This was the last float this year – called E-TV, it focused cameras on the crowd and broadcast our pictures on a huge screen.  I caught it while it was waiting to move, and the camera focused in on me and the boys.  It was a neat one.

After Endymion, we hung around under a street light for a few moments to perform a special task that we had been assigned by my sister’s boyfriend.  Saturday was Valentine’s Day, and he had made arrangements to take my sister out to dinner.  He planned to ask her to marry him at this dinner, and he wanted my boys involved since they are very special to her (crazy girl regularly takes vacation days and spends them chasing my children instead of relaxing!  She really loves these boys, and they love her).  So we had worked out a little cute schtick – we would Facetime them while they were at dinner, and each boy would ask her to be his Valentine – Jack first, then Liam, then Craig would hold up a sign with the same question.  Then Craig would “ask” her to marry Uncle Justin by holding up a sign that said “Will you be my Valentine . . . and . .  . will you be Uncle Justin’s wife?”  Meanwhile Justin’s there with the ring suddenly, my sister is caught unawares, tears and joy all around.

So this is actually how it went down, believe it or not – the children largely cooperated.  However, since I had forgotten that Valentine’s Day was also Endymion day, we had to work out doing this from the parade route, amid all the noise and chaos and out in the dark.  I found a really powerful streetlight in an area several feet back from the route, and so at about the right time I pulled the kids over there and we waited for the cue from Justin to call in.  He texted “CALL NOW” and, heart pounding, I facetimed while collecting children while trying to keep everyone under the light and trying to get the boys’ focus in the midst of such chaos.  We did it – Jack was enthusiastic, Liam was sort of distracted, and Craig did his part perfectly (he had signs, so it was kind of hard to mess it up).  I’m so pleased it all worked out so well, and my very deserving sister got a memorable engagement story, and the boys got to be a part of it!  We had fun delivering such special news.  A Mardi Gras/Valentine story for the ages!

After discharging our duty as agents of Cupid, we walked a mile back to the party house, said our good-byes, and then drove on “home” and went to bed in the tiny room-over-garage that is the Professor’s NOLA apartment.  When we sleep there we unfold a futon couch, and the side of the unfolded couch almost touches the side of the bed, which almost touches the side of the pack and play, which does touch the head of the stairs.  Pretty much no room to walk up there with all of us, but we managed one night together.

The next morning is always the best day of Mardi Gras – the uptown parade day.  We have a great spot with friends, and the big boys borrow their ladders a few times to sit up high and get a great vantage point.  This year we saw tons of friends from the law school days, including one that just happened to be walking by.  It’s like a huge street party with thousands of your closest friends – love it!  We even saw the Professor’s sister, who drives down from SC with her NOLA husband every year to spend the weekend and Fat Tuesday with his extended family.

She was desperate to hold a baby who did NOT WANT TO BE HELD, NO THANKS.

Owen’s sister Anna was desperate to hold a baby who did NOT WANT TO BE HELD, NO THANKS.

Up on the ladder

Up on the ladder

Catching beads!

Catching beads!

When the parade stops, the kids get up close and riders hand them special throws.

When the parade stops, the kids get up close and riders hand them special throws.  Mobile has crash barriers around most of the routs, so it’s hard to do this in Mobile parades.

We had a late lunch at a seafood place with friends and then drove home.  The boys were in bed almost on time, and everyone slept well after a long weekend of fun.  The kids have Lundi Gras and Fat Tuesday off, so we parents took turns doing kid duty and working on Monday.  Today is Fat Tuesday, and we’re about to get dressed warmly (that gorgeous sunny weather fled, leaving clear and cold days in its wake) and go out to the final parade of the year in Mobile, the Order of Myths.  Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday – I’ll have to think of something to give up for Lent.  Meanwhile, we have enjoyed another fun Mardi Gras season with friends old and new, in the two Gulf Coast towns that we have called home.  Happy Mardi Gras!

Buddies

Buddies

*As any Mobile native will remind you with a sniff, Mardi Gras started in Mobile before it started in New Orleans.  Be that as it may, NOLA remains our first MG experience, and first in our hearts.  There is a good deal more snobbery and haughtiness about the Mobile Mardi Gras experience – only “certain” types of people and old-Mobile families are permitted to participate in parts of the revelry, and there is a hierarchy and class exclusion that I never saw in NOLA.  So there.

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