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Checking In

Knock, knock…
Who’s there?
Me! It’s me again. Can you believe it? I came back. For a visit. To my own blog. This will probably be a brief visit, but anyway…

Did my last post really say that Snags was starting 3rd grade? Because peoples, he has almost finished FOURTH grade. Where have I been? Not at my blog, obviously.

To sum up the missing year and a half: Snags is 10. He plays three instruments, all of them well. He plays the piano, the violin, and the oboe. He wants to play the trumpet too, but it looks like that will have to wait until I can convince the world to add another day to every week on the calendar. I propose we call it “Anotherday” and it should go somewhere in the middle of the week. Kids would go to school on Anotherday, but parents would have the day off from work to run all their errands without having to listen to complaining children demanding to know how many things are on the grocery list and do we REALLY have to stop at Target too, because a new episode of iCarly comes on in 20 minutes, Mom (but if we are stopping at Target, can we look in the Lego aisle?). Anotherday will help free up our weekends a bit, don’t you think?

In the absence of Anotherday, we are keeping our current schedule that does not include trumpet lessons but does include going to school, doing homework, watching Nickoloden re-runs (by the way I HATE Big Time Rush only a little less than I hate that show with that high-pitched whiny kid Fred), music lessons, and Tae Kwan Do (only two belts away from Black belt which means the kid could kick my ass and hard if he tried). And, thanks to The Hunger Games series of books and the movie, Snags is getting ready to start a six week course in archery.

Yes, I do sometimes question the wisdom of teaching a child how to kick the crap out of you and backing that up with weapons training. But really, once you let a child walk on their own and you teach them how to read and tell time, life as you know it is over, so hey, might as well go all out.

And, that’s about it. For today anyway…

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From a Phone

Hi there! Again, it has been a long time since I have visited my own blog. No reason in particular, but maybe lots of little reasons. Time, or lack of it, being the biggest.

Only now I have a new cell phone, and an app (fancy phone speak) that lets me log onto my blog and blog! So I guess this is a test. Maybe with this I will blog more often. But in shorter words. Or maybe I mean fewer words? It’s a small keypad, typing could get tiring, hunt and peck method a must on this device. And also, this phone likes to self correct words I type, only it is rarely right. So if anything here is gobbledygook that would be why. But I will say this much, it found the right spelling for gobbledygook and for that, I am thankful.

Snags starts 3rd grade in a couple of weeks. I don’t write about him as much anymore out of respect for his privacy, but I gotta tell you, 8 going on 9 is an age of new awareness. He comes home from summer camp every day having learned a new bad word, and how to spell it. Some words he hears from his camp mates, some he reads on walls in the city as they go on field trips to study graffiti.

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Off and Running…

Hi there! It’s me again. I have a new thing going. I’ve got a new blog set up, Running With Photos, where I will post pictures of things I see while I’m out running.

“Running?” You ask.

Why yes. This blog, here, the one you are reading, RIGHT NOT, is called, as you know, Running With Books. Because I like running, and I like books (although I realize I’ve written very little (ahem, mostly NOTHING, about either of those topics here). And anyway, now, I’m kind of in love with my Kindle. Picking up a real book seems, oh, I don’t know, like cheating or something. (Rest assured real books, I will hold you again when I go to the beach, because I don’t want sand grains to ruin my beloved Kindle! In the mean time, stay on the shelves, I’ll see you soon!).

Okay, back to running. I run. Not fast, but fairly long. I like half-marathon distance races, and I’m (gulp!) training for a full marathon, coming up this fall. I’m training now, for the race that’s in the fall (in case that wasn’t clear). My goal there, for that race, is simply this: to NOT DIE. We’ll see…

Anyway, when I run outdoors (because a lot of time I’m on the treadmill), I take pictures with my camera phone. I decided to start a new blog where I will post those photos. Mostly of stuff I see on the roads or trails where I run. Maybe, sometimes, of my treadmill (yeah, won’t that be exciting!)

Look, I’m no professional photographer. I’m no elite runner either (I know this because someone scoffed at my most recent half-marathon time and said “That’s not marathon time… those guys finish a full marathon in that time…” Okay, whatever. And gosh, thanks for the compliment…

So the photos will be from my camera phone and you can find them, a new one approximately once a week, here.

I do hope you’ll stop by!

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Can an item, an object, a rather meaningless piece of metal and rock, formed into a piece of jewelry, be a source of bad luck?  History would seem to suggest it’s possible. There’s the curse of the Hope Diamond. And the legend that surrounds October’s birthstone, the opal, and which my mother told me when I was young: Opals bring bad luck to those who wear them if they aren’t your actual birthstone. 

Is it true? 

When I was five I begged, Begged, BEGGED my mother to let me wear her opal earrings to school one day. She relented, and of course, I lost one of them. Was that because I was born in June and so should have been wearing pearls instead?  Or was it because I was only five and probably shouldn’t have been trusted with a pair of nice earrings?

And how about the bad luck that fell upon the Brady Brunch after Bobby found that Tiki idol on the construction site in Hawaii?  Greg almost drowned while wearing the thing, a spider crawled into Jan’s bag while she was carrying the idol, and Alice threw her back out when she had it hanging around her neck.

I’m thinking of all of these things because of a ring I bought.  It’s a rustic looking ring, hand made by an artist who sells his wares on the internet.  It’s copper with a green stone of Seraphinite, all coils and beads, and my husband says it reminds him of Star Wars.  It reminds me of a clock’s works.  I won’t say where I purchased it because I don’t want to be accused of suggesting the artist is selling cursed jewelry in any sort of way, but I need to document the events that have occurred since the ring arrived in the mail:

1. My husband wrecked my car.  My still new car, the one we had just bought back in the fall.

I had JUST checked the mail and was rather excited to see the package with my ring had arrived when I looked up to see my husband backing my car out of the garage.  A split second later I heard an awful crunching sort of sound, and then I saw him stop the car, half in and also half out of the garage, while the garage door came down upon the car’s roof. And then I watched as my husband started to inch the car forward, back into the garage, with the garage door upon the roof of the car, scraping the paint off the roof as he went along.

“STOP!  STOP!” I screamed.  “What are you doing? STOPPPPPPPP!”

He stopped.  But by then the damage was done.  The passenger door mirror was broken off the side of the car and the roof looked like Freddy Krueger had been giving it a good back scratch.

Afterward, my husband said that I must not have pulled the car into the garage very straight. Which explains why, if the car isn’t straight, you’d back it out straight to correct the problem, ripping side view mirrors off in the process, no? And then, for added insult, you’d go ahead and close the garage door onto the top of the car.  Perhaps trying to hide the fact that the mirror damage came first?  Was this my fault for parking slightly crooked?  The garage door’s fault?  My husband’s fault? 

Or maybe, just maybe, this new ring is bad luck…

2. I nearly broke my toe off on a chair leg.  I walk past this particular chair 20 times a day and it’s never grabbed my toe before, but this time, it made a special exception.  This was minutes after my husband broke my car.  By this time I was wearing the ring.

3.  Still wearing the ring, because apparently I never learn, I smacked my son in the face as I was talking with my hands.  The ringed hand didn’t get him, but still, I left a nice red mark near his eye.  Why did he sneak up behind me like that?  Did the ring CALL to him?

Those are the things that happened soon after the ring arrived in the mail and I put it on.  I haven’t had the nerve to wear the ring since, but it’s still in the house and since then:

4. The printer ink cartridge exploded all over my son’s hands in a rainbow of colors and it took many washings and half a bottle of rubbing alcohol to get the ink off.

5. A button popped off the top of our brand new leather ottoman coffee table and I can’t figure out how to get it back on.

6. Five of the new fish we bought have died.

7. I got a terrible sunburn.

8. There’s a nest of stinging flying insects hiding in our bushes.

9. A giant black spider crawled across the computer desk right in front of me.  So I’m ending this here because SPIDER!!!!!, and Jan Brady … and hell, I’m not THAT slow.  I know what I need to do next. I have to go get the ring and return it to the ancient burial ground in Hawaii…


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A Little Bit of Knowledge

There are people, you know the ones, who know everything about everything, right? And there are some people who know a little bit about everything.  And still others who know nothing. At. All.  And so a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  Or a funny thing. Or just plain… wrong, like when you’re seven years old and trying to understand the world.  Or trying to apply your understanding of the world to how the world actually works.  Then your mom is left to correct you so you don’t embarrass yourself.  But then she goes and writes about it and embarrasses you anyway.

We got a parakeet.  It’s a male.  Or so we think.  He’s a little young still to be 100% certain, but that’s what the breeder thought and that’s what the vet thought too. 

“Mom?” Snags asks. “Can a male bird lay eggs?” 

I explain that no, male birds don’t lay eggs. 

“Well then,” he says.  “Maybe one day we could get a female bird.”

“Maybe,”  I say.  “But let’s start with one bird and see how it goes.  One bird at a time right now, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”  Snags agrees.  “Cause you know if a male bird and female bird get together, you know what’s gonna happen right?”

And there it is, right there.  The birds and the bees.  Or at least the bird, anyway, in a cage in front of me.  Oh! My! God!  I think.  How did we get from feeding the parakeet to talking about the birds and the bees?  This is so UNFAIR!  I can’t believe it’s happened AGAIN!  I’m stuck in the conversation and my husband is nowhere to be found.

But to my surprise, instead of saying that when a male bird and a female bird get together they’ll have baby birds, Snags says “If a male bird and a female bird get together, one of them is going to end up DEAD!

So this isn’t a sex talk?  At first I’m all confused. I’m silent.  Thinking…. These are parakeets we’re talking about. Gentle little birdies.  How did I miss this part about their murderous nature?

And then it dawns on me.  Snags attended a birthday party a few weeks back.  An animal adventure party where the kids got to hold and learn about a variety of animals: chinchillas, hedgehogs, bearded dragons, cockatiels, a boa constrictor, and my least favorite, a tarantula.  My skin still crawls when I think about that one. 

Snags learned that the way to tell the difference between a male and a female tarantula is to put them together in a cage and the one that ends up dead by morning, that’s the male.  So of course it only makes sense, when you’re seven, that birds would be the same way.

From a book called Hungry, Hungry Sharks, Snags learned that more people die from bee stings each year than die from shark attacks.  Snags has food allergies, but I don’t think he realizes that people can be allergic to bee stings, and that without the same life saving shot of epinephrine we use for food allergy reactions, a bee sting can be fatal to those with bee sting allergies.

And so he asked me, “How would people die from a BEE STING?”  Before I could answer he went on, “Oh I know!  Killer bees!” 

“Do we have them here?” He asked, sounding worried and looking a little green.

Myself, well, I don’t know for sure, I don’t think we do.  I haven’t heard any news stories about killer bees in our area, so I chose to skirt the issue by responding with what may or may not be a lie: “No, I think killer bees only live in places like Texas. Or maybe Mexico.”

Snags was relieved, because he knows those places are far from here.  But then he said, “Yeah, so that couldn’t happen here because Mexico is in Hawaii!”

To all of my former college geography professors:  Forgive me.  I obviously have failed my son.  “No,” I said. “Mexico is in South America, it’s a whole different country from us (and yeah, I know.  My husband, also a geography major, corrected me later.  CENTRAL AMERICA, he said.  CENTRAL AMERICA.  So yeah, geography professors, if you really want to come take my degree back, you can.  It’s old though, and so am I.  I doubt it’s worth much anymore.)  “Hawaii,” I went on, “is in the United States, in the Pacific Ocean.  Mexico is basically SOUTH of Texas.  Hawaii is WEST of Texas.  WAAAAAAY West, across the country and then out across part of the ocean.”

“So do we control Mexico?” Snags asked. 

“No,” I told him. 

“So their Queen can’t control us either, right?” he asked.

“Right,” I said.  And I left it at that.  Because at that point I wasn’t sure if he thought there was a Queen of Mexico or if he was talking about the Queen Bee of the Killer Bee Hive.

On the morning of President Barrack Obama’s Inauguration, schools here opened a couple hours late because of snow.  I had the television on while Snags played with Legos nearby.  “Barrack Obama is the first African-American president!” Snags announced.  “I know,” I said.  “Do you know what that means?”  I asked him. 

“Ummm… Not really.” Snags said.  “I know it means he’s from Africa and somewhere else.  I don’t know where.” 

I suppose I could have said America.  Or Hawaii, and left it at that. Barrack Obama, the President from Africa and Hawaii. But I didn’t want Snags to go around telling people that the new president was from Africa.  I like the guy, and he certainly doesn’t need any other rumors spread about him, more ammunition for some of the idiots out there who still claim he’s not a citizen and can’t be our President.  Because he is, and YES, he can.  And so instead of leaving it at Hawaii, I had to explain to Snags what African-American meant.  About skin color, something he really hasn’t registered before.  A little bit about our country’s sordid history and slavery and how it was wrong and how everyone is equal and the color of someone’s skin doesn’t matter.  Should never have mattered.  But that there are still some people in this world, in this country no less, who are mean and think it does matter, but they are wrong.  That nobody should be treated differently because of the color of their skin.  He understands.  And yet he doesn’t.  I suppose he will, when he’s older, when he studies American History in school.  Right now though, he doesn’t understand the significance of it all.  And I can’t decide if that’s good, or if that’s bad.  I hope it’s good.  I hope it means an entire generation of children, and future generations beyond this one, will grow up not noticing skin color.  Or religion.  Or sexual orientation.  Or any of the other differences that make us interesting, but really, not so different from each other after all.

But back to sex.  Snags got some sea monkeys for Christmas. The other day I noticed that two of them were stuck together.  They’ve been swimming around that way for days now.  My husband thought they swam into each other and got tangled up, that they’d probably die if they didn’t get unstuck.  I however, am smarter than that.  I did a little internet search and learned that no, they aren’t stuck, they’re mating.  They might mate like this for weeks.  I probably shouldn’t stare at them, but sea monkey porn, I have to say, is kind of interesting.  For one thing, the two little black spots on the one sea monkey aren’t balls, but egg sacs.  For another thing, WEEKS?

I made the mistake of pointing this out to Snags: that two of his sea monkeys were stuck together.  “Yeah, Dad said they’re gonna die,” Snags said.

“Actually,” I responded, “I looked it up on the internet.  They arern’t going to die.  They are going to have babies.”

“Really? How?” Snags asked. “Is one a daddy sea monkey and one is a mommy sea monkey?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“But HOW are they going to have babies?” Snags asked. 

I had to think about that for a minute.  I’d gotten myself into the conversation, but I wasn’t about to get out of it with an explanation of the mating behavior of sea monkeys.  Or the mating behavior of birds, or bees, or people for that matter.  If I started, there would be no end.

Before I could formulate an answer Snags asked if they were carrying eggs.

“That’s right!” I said.  “They swim around like that protecting their eggs!  And then when the eggs are ready to hatch they’ll come apart and we’ll have baby sea monkeys! I’m so proud that you figured that out!”

I’m dreading the moment when Snags asks me how the sea monkeys got the eggs in the first place.  When he does, I’m going to change the subject back to tarantulas and killer bees.  Safer ground, for sure.  Even though I know next to nothing about them.  Even if it does make my skin crawl.


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First Grade

First Grade.  My son is starting First Grade today.  He breezed through Kindergarten last year and summer vacation has disappeared in the wink of an eye.  I don’t know where the time has gone.

We met my son’s first grade teacher last week.  The school holds an open house so all the kids can come and find their new classroom, meet their new teacher, and drop of their new school supplies at their desk.

Long gone are the days when I was a kid and you could show up to class on the first day with nothing but yourself and some money for your lunch.  I always insisted on wearing my new school clothes, a pair of jeans with a new top of some sort, both of which turned out to be too uncomfortable for the first day of school.  I was always hot and sweaty and sorry I’d chosen that particular outfit to wear the first day. I was always miserable in the new school shoes my mom had chosen.  They were too stiff, too formal.  I wanted Keds, or Docksides, or Vans like the other kids.  Not nerdy brown leather lace-ups with a slippery sole.

I remember coming home the first day of school and insisting that my mother HAD to take me out to get school supplies THAT.VERY.NIGHT.  I NEEDED my new Trapper Keeper notebook for the second day of school for sure.  The stores were always crowded.

Now the stores are crowded in advance.  Our local Target has a binder in the school supply aisle that contains lists of all of the needed supplies for each grade at each school in the county. I found it two months ago, surrounded by a circle of women, like a coven of witches, mumbling to themselves.  It wasn’t a spell they were casting. They were simply committing to memory as many supplies as they could from the list so they could gather the necessary items before returning again to elbow their way in to check the list for more. More pencils, more pens, erasers, pocket folders, spiral notebooks, more glue sticks, crayons, scissors.

We went to the school and we met Snag’s first grade teacher, found his desk, his locker. We went back to his Kindergarten classroom from last year to see his old teacher, let her see how much he’d grown.  She told Snags that she’d met with his first grade teacher and told her all about him.  She told her that Snags liked to eat brisket, and in the understatement of a lifetime, that he liked Star Wars.  I told her we were going to see Clone Wars that very night.  Snags was very excited.

And we did see Clone Wars.  And Snags pronounced it one of the best movies he’d ever seen.  In the very beginning of the movie some words scrolled across the screen, something like: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” and as they did so, I leaned over to Snags to read them to him.  He shushed me loudly then added angrily, “I can READ, Mom!”

I had to admit, it was true.  He can read.  He learned how in Kindergarten.  I guess he’ll learn even more in First Grade.  I hope he pays attention because there is one thing he doesn’t really know the answer to and that is this: How did Jabba the Hutt have a baby?

I pray that my son isn’t the only First Grader out there concerned about the reproduction methods of the nasty green Hutt.

“Maybe Jabba was married at one time,” I offered.

“No,” Snags said.  “That isn’t it.”

“Well, um, I don’t know then,” I said, giving up quickly and hoping he would give up too.

He didn’t.  He pondered other ways the baby Hutt may have come about:

“Maybe something grows on Jabba the Hutt and then if falls off and they put it in a jar with some chemical stuff and it turns into a baby Hutt…”

Hmmmm.  Maybe.  It’s Star Wars, after all.  But YUCK. I cringed.  I took slow, deep breaths, trying to pretend that I wasn’t having a Hutt sex talk with my six year old.  Why do these conversations ALWAYS happen to me?  And why do they always happen when I’m driving, and hit me out of the blue?

“Or maybe,” Snags continued.  “Maybe Jabba the Hutt laid eggs and they came out of the end of his tail and hatched into the baby Hutt!”

And me, shuddering: “Yeah.  That sounds possible.  But let’s not worry about that right now!  We need to think about what kind of new clothes to buy you for school. And shoes, we’ve got to get you a new pair of shoes too.”

First Grade.  Do they teach Hutt sex-ed in First Grade?  Does anybody know?

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