Sunday, October 24, 2010

Camping (Cabining)

Recently I went camping with the family. Technically, I guess you could call it cabining. Usually we do a weekend of tent camping sometime in September, but this year we thought it would be groovy to spend an October weekend enjoying some fall foliage. The Mister had found a campground in the mountains (which look more like hills to West Coast freaks like me) and suggested we book a two-bedroom cabin for the weekend. We soon found out that this idea had occurred to, oh, pretty much everybody else about 10 months ago, which left us with the option to camp Thursday and Friday night and shove off Saturday morning. Check in was 3:00 pm Thursday and, fearing the competition would be stiff for the creme de la creme of rustic accommodations, we decided to bust the kids out of school early. I called the school at eleven on Thursday to say I'd found nits in Slappy's hairbrush and arrived 20 minutes later, minivan packed with weenies, spare pillows, s'more supplies, alcohol, etc., to find Phartacus and Slappy enthusiastically scratching away in the nurse's office. We piled into the van and headed off for a weekend of relaxing, low tech, quality family time. Are you snickering yet?

The mountains (hills) were ablaze with color, and we scored a secluded cabin at the end of the gravel road. The Mister and I lugged bag after bag of "essentials" inside while Phartacus and Slappy lapped the cabin, shrieking like banshees to let all our neighbors know the fun had arrived. After settling in, we took a stroll through the woods and found a lovely stream. I took endless photos of trees (enjoy below), and we returned at dusk to find that we were locked out of the cabin. And the van, since I hadn't taken the keys on our stroll. The cabin had a battery-powered keypad entry, and after 15 minutes of arguing about the code we were given at check-in, The Mister set off on foot for the mile-plus hike in the chilly gathering dark to the main office in search of help.

90 minutes, two park employees and two AA batteries later, we were defrosting in front of a crackling fire, reading books, doing puzzles, playing games, and having *conversation*. THIS is what camping -- I mean cabining -- is all about. These precious moments that slip away all too soon. The quintessential family moment. Right? Laughing yet?

Cut to the second day. It rained all morning. Phartacus and Slappy soon tired of books, puzzles, games, conversation, and quintessential family moments and moved on to running in and out between the tiny main room and the tiny screened in porch, which featured a hydraulic-free screen door that slammed like a rifle going off. Highly relaxing. After a few hours the skies cleared, and the afternoon was filled with whining and brotherly brawling, interspersed with increasingly obnoxious interludes of fishing, rowboating, hiking, and marshmallows.

Come 6:00 pm, back with the crackling fire, and a good case of lumbago, and the rifle shot screen door and the fucking puzzles with pieces everywhere and the endless chattering nonsensical *conversation*, I was halfway through a bottle of wine and all the way through my patience for the weekend. When Phartacus complained about Slappy's game-playing deficiencies for the umpeenth time, I lost it and sent him out to the rocking chair on the screened in porch to shiver and reorganize his priorities for 10 minutes, followed by one of those Big Talks about gratitude and character that so adeptly makes children's eyes glaze over. I even busted out my mother's old line about "mistaking kindness for weakness" (Let me know if you haven't heard that one. It's a goody.) After the lecture, I retired grumpily to my lumpy mattress (making sure not to lie on the sloping side by the nightstand lest I roll off onto the floor) to lose myself in a strangely gratifying read about Vikings enthusiastically slaughtering 9th century Britains.

Saturday morning found me fervently (and stiffly) packing up the minivan, pathetically eager to say goodbye to low tech, quality family time. As soon as Phartacus and Slappy buckled their seatbelts, I handed them their Nintendo DS's and heaved a deep sigh of relief. The high tech drive home was pure bliss.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Invisibors

Still haven't had more than a brief glimpse of the new invisible stealth neighbors, or Invisibors, as I'm feeling free to call them. This is glorious, really, but I am beginning to suspect they are NSA operatives fronting as rednecks. While they remain out of sight, at least seven telecommunications vans have spent considerable time in their driveway since their arrival.

Last week, the utility company sprayed red lines all over their yard and, enjoyably, over my fence and onto my lawn. There's now a bright red arrow in my grass pointing towards nothing, which I know from experience will remain there for at least 10 months. This morning another cable company van parked in front of the house, and the man spent an hour rolling out black cable lines along our fence while our dog pulled every muscle in his tongue trying to lick the guy through the slats. A little while ago, a white car the size of a postage stamp with an orange flashing light stuck to the roof pulled up, and out came a teenager in a sideways baseball cap holding a large can of orange spray paint. For a moment I thought we were finally getting some urban action around here, but then he too proceeded to spray lines all over the Invisibors' grass and, yes, over the fence and onto my lawn again. I went outside and told him we were all stocked up on spray-painted grass over here, but he said he "had to".

So I'm left wondering if that small satellite dish near the property line will be used for Dish Network or decoding Russo-Chinese signals in outer space. You never know how far technology has really progressed. I mean, we send texts from a tiny cell phone up into outer space many times a day, so who's to say what that innocuous-looking dish is REALLY up to, hmm?

I also suspect they are NSA operatives because they've got more game than your average Splendaville residents. I know this without having met them because last weekend, The Mister took Phartacus around the neighborhood to hock scout popcorn, and called on the new neighbors. Turns out they have their own little scout (clearly a Romanian orphan brainwashed for the job) and The Mister came home with a $9 sale on the order form and a $17 bag of caramel corn under his arm that he purchased from them. Have I mentioned that The Mister makes his living in sales? Way to close that hard sell, baby.

Oh yeah, they're up to something.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why She Thinks All Mommy Blogs are Bullsh*t

A friend showed me a fellow fledging blogger's initial post. I think she makes some excellent points, and I share her lack of enthusiasm for detailing the minutiae of children's lives. But I did feel obligated to offer a counterpoint:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stick Figures & Jesus Fish: A Photo Journey Around Splendaville

The complete package.
Note Charcoal Honda Odyssey on left.

The Early Bird Gets the Worms

This morning at 8:15am, after dropping off Phartacus and Slappy at school, I found myself trudging into Wal-Mart with a grocery list consisting of worms, syrup, wine, and a paper mache' skull.  Disappointingly, none of these items had anything to do with one another. The worms were for Fluffy, a small snapping turtle that is overwintering in a 10-gallon tank on Phartacus' dresser. The syrup was for the Eggos that I plan to feed my children for breakfast this week while The Mister is out of town at a meeting and sending me disgruntled texts about how it's being run by someone who apparently sounds like Foghorn Leghorn. (His latest text reads, "I meana meana you about as sharps as a bag a hammuhs boy a bag a hammuhs.") I doubt I need to explain what the wine is for, but the skull is because Wal-Mart is selling them for $4, and who doesn't need a $4 skull made by starving oppressed Chinese peasants? Luckily that sort of thinking is A-OK in Splendaville...

In any case, 8:15 in the morning is an excellent time to visit Wal-Mart, if one must. The aisles are mercifully clear of dawdling lane-hoggers and toddlers in the midst of learning a lesson about how long their parents can ignore their screaming. The trouble starts when all 11 shoppers converge on the one open checkout lane manned by the employee deemed least capable of handling a crowd. But the rest is gravy.

I scored one of the noisy shopping carts that I adore, even though it was hardly necessary at this hour. I'm serious about the noisy shopping cart; it's an absolute must for successful Wal-Mart navigation, though I'm not sure I should be revealing this secret. When I was younger I would cringe if I got a rattly cart and fruitlessly try to push it without causing a racket. Now I look for the rusty misshapen one that's been hit by a few duallys in the parking lot and has a gob of gum stuck to one tire, the other tire spinning freely in its axle,whose thumpity-thump-thumping becomes increasingly alarming as it gains speed. If I can get up enough steam with one of these, I have a fighting chance at parting the Redneck Sea.

As I clunked and thumped back toward the worm refrigerator in the hunting department, (Get your mossy oak insulated bibs right here!) I spied a mom I know, and rattled quickly behind the nearest aisle. There are some things you just cannot face at 8:19 in the morning, and after seeing this mom at Phartacus' final soccer game last night, she was one of them. Her son was on the other Splendaville U10 team and, at their first match a couple of weeks back -- as her son's team scored goal after goal while Phartacus' team waited politely for their turn -- she made sure to come over and tell me that their team was undefeated and had been hand-picked by their coach. I highly doubted anyone had hand-picked her son, who spent more time digging his shorts out of his behind than chasing the ball, but I managed to cram my fist in my mouth and walk away.

Luckily, Braggy Bridget was too engrossed in ceramic pumpkins and cornucopias to pay any mind to the ruckus in the next aisle, and must have remained so during the single-lane checkout exodus. And now the worms are living out the remainder of their doomed lives on the middle shelf of my refrigerator in a leaky styrofoam container that I'm told must remain upended for easy worm retrieval. You would think this might be an appetite suppressant, but I can assure you I remain undeterred.