Monday, October 20, 2014

zombies and cake wrecks

Jack Peter went to the haunted house at the Eastern State Penitentiary last night.  His best friend's family took him.  It's supposed to be REALLY terrifying.  I dispelled the apparition of a a whining Jack Peter running into our room at all hours until he goes to college, and I agreed with some trepidation.  When I was small, I went into a cheesy haunted house at a little traveling fair in Manchester-by-the-sea.  It featured a poorly-executed paper mache hand coming out of a toilet which plagues me to this day.  I used to pee so fast in the night, and then I'd hit the threshold of my bedroom from the hall and hurl myself the remaining 5 feet into my bed.  I was trying to avoid the snakes and lobsters my Dad told me were under my bed.  It was a similar thing to walking on the cracks on the sidewalk.  I knew and know that treading on them will not, in fact, break Susie's back, but I still avoid them if I can. 

I brought him home in the Mini cooper.  It's rare that we sit side-by-side in a car.  Rare because it's illegal, but it made for an intimate conversation.  He told me that it was THE BEST thing he'd ever done in his life.  At some point after exhaustive descriptions of toilets and zombies he said, "I am going to give Steel a big hug when I get home!"  "Why?  She's going to be asleep anyway."  "Because she gave me this dinosaur egg necklace."  Toby just had a MASSIVE birthday party to ring in her 5th year.  There were 27 children there.  I only know this because we had it at a tumbling place where you pay per kid.  Somehow the 3 tumbling attendants managed a believable head count.  I didn't notice that Toby had left the tumbling melee to rip open all of her presents saving me the trouble of pretending I was going to keep track and write thank-you notes.  I always write mean texts to moms who send thank-yous.  It's clear that they are all trying to make me feel like the wretched example that I am.  She got so many presents that Steel had to step in and help her by taking all of the coolest ones.  Steel had given JP permission to wear one of the prize beads in a make-your-own necklace kit.  He was positive that the bead had saved him from something at the haunted house.  Pissing himself?  crying?  puking?

The girls were not asleep when we got back.  They had jerry rigged a blanket into a functioning hammock by weaving it into the wire frame of the top bunk of the bunk bed.  It could hold both of them without failing, so it was a pretty impressive engineering feat, but I was not going to let either or both of them sleep in it.  They asked as soon as Jack Peter and I tip-toed into the room.  We're definitely at the stage that kids ask until they get the answer they want to hear.  If the mailman tells them they can have time on the iPad, it trumps any previous negative reactions to the query from parents, uncles and grandparents.  Tim had told them no, so they were going to try it on with me.  Jack Peter summoned Steel from the bed.  She got out, and he gave her a massive hug.  A visible jolt of pure ecstasy rippled through Steel's body as she returned his affection.  I know that we all worship the ground each other walks on, but to see such a tangible manifestation of their mutual love was pure joy for me.  He told her that the "egg" had saved him.  She looked at him through her very few teeth and said, "Huh?"  Literally,  She said, "Huh?"  He explained, and she nodded attempting to exude an  omniscient aura that would say, "Yes, that's why I stole that from Toby and let you wear it.."

It's so lovely that Toby's favorite presents are from both of her Grandmothers.  The horse is from Carol, and the skirts (turned horse blankets) are from Susie.  I've mentioned before that my kids are a hideous combination.  One loves legos and pokemon cards.  One loves crafts...especially beads and rainbow loom bands, and one loves MASSIVE things like horses, strollers, doll beds, rocking horses, swing sets and chairs.  The end result is that there is big and little shit everywhere in our house.  

JP got a massive bowl of bacon...Toby gets a massive bowl of "wacamole. " Sadly she no longer calls it that...sniff :(

Toby's birthday was a blur.  The most remarkable part of the night for me was Tim's entrance with the cake wreck.  I had made 4 sheets of Duncan Hines vanilla cake.  They were cooked to perfection because now we have a really cheap GE oven/stove that not only lights every burner on the stove but actually maintains an even temperature throughout the oven.  Our previous super-expensive stove did neither.  I am having the same relationship with my cheap GE dishwasher.  It takes an hour and cleans our dishes as opposed to the Miele, Bosch and fancy Spanish ones that took 5 hours to not clean our dishes, and the Bosch one required that I lay each piece of flatware individually on an annoying 3rd rack at the top.  I don't arrange flatware in the drawer.  I can't tell you how much it annoyed me to have to arrange it for the fucking dishwasher.  Anyway, I'd organized the whole party and made all the food.  Tim was going to decorate the cake with the kids and get the cake and the kids to the party.  I still don't know what happened, but the buttercream mortar did not hold.  Neither Toby nor I care about things like that, so it wasn't a crisis, but my poor Virgo husband was so MAD.  Little did he know that his cake wreck would create my favorite part of the night.  A wrecked cake is an obvious invitation to sneak a bit.  Kids will only do what they think they can get away with, so every kid who passed by this cake took fingers full way before the birthday song.  Watching this little girl, Sylvia furtively cover herself in cake actually took the cake.  Initially she put a dainty index finger full of buttercream on her lips like lip gloss.  That was so sensually pleasing that she allowed herself 3 fingers full on the next pass.  I so wish I'd been filming, but I was as mesmerized by watching her as she was by slowly, but surely, covering herself in butter cream frosting.    

These stills are great, but they don't show how far she went....

This birthday marks the end of an era....I somehow got ahold of this plastic food transporting thing.  It could perfectly hold 30 of any pastry.  30 is the magic number at daycare.  30 is also the magic number at school if you count teacher and teaching assistant, but my kids' school doesn't allow sweets, so my days of making and transporting 30 sweets for a birthday are officially over.  Tim's joy at not having this object anywhere in the house is probably more powerful than my sadness that the "making cupcakes for the class on birthdays is over."   I've replaced it with our new tupperware system...Mr. Lids.  Thank you, cousin Patty.  My marriage has been saved by my husband's  newfound acumen with food storage.

Toby really knows how to dress for the birthday chair.  I thought she'd come home looking like Courtney Love after the Rainbow 
cupcakes, but some wise teacher made her change into a more sensible ensemble for the reception of her turning-5 event.

I don't have images of Toby doing amazing tumbling feats in her new golden tutu that nanny got her for her party, but I do have this image of her in her birthday crown.  The other day she was lamenting that she only had a turning-4 birthday crown (She's worn it regularly for the entire year)  As she was complaining, I received the RSVP from the crown maker asking what Toby would want for her turning-5 birthday.  That sort of serendipity makes me so happy.

 I also love the serendipity of someone catching Tim looking very manly in the piñata chaos.
 JP was the one to break it open.  Watch out Mt. Airy baseball....

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rosh Hashanah

Good bye Northern Liberties!

Jack Peter's first tag was in Northern Liberties....sniff

Happy Rosh Hashanah!  My kids celebrated the holiday by getting into a fight with a plastic tub of applesauce in the living room.  They were clearly making an obtuse Adam and Eve reference.  I was taking a shower.  I thought I’d have a moment to myself after taking the kids to Target to buy a single birthday present and emerging $274 leaner with a pile of crap.  I did score a king size fitted sheet on sale because it was coral. King size fitted sheets suck.  They always tear at the seams, and the sets of King size sheets come with king size pillowcases.  King size pillows are for people who get regular massages and manicures.  That’s not us. Target is too organized for me.  It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.  I like stalking my purchases in the wild: Marshall’s or TJ Maxx.  I might change my tune, though.  The mainstream quality of Target means that all of the bizarre things that would only appeal to me are put aside on the clearance racks.    I emerged from my shower to find Steel asleep and Jack Peter VERY quiet with suspicious clumps of something yucky in his hair and on his shirt.  There was a pile of paper towel on the counter with what appeared to be pleasant-smelling diarrhea on it.  I went to throw the massive wad away and found that the trash was stuffed with more paper towel.  With a cursory scan of my first floor I sleuthed that hey had elected to use and ENTIRE roll of paper towel to not clean up applesauce on the wall and on the couch. All birthday parties and play dates are on hold until further notice, and they each had to write the following sentences 10 times:  “I will not waste food.  I will not waste paper.  I will not lie.  People are starving; I acted spoiled.” 

Tim asked me if we’re definitely not going to adopt.  Yesterday I might have considered it, but today I took the kid seat off of the back of my bike and put my panier back on.  I'm back to being a commuting-by-bike badass, so another baby is off the table.  Our move to be closer to the kids’ school has rendered me a traffic-laden 30 minutes from my studio.  All of Philadelphia should be on notice.  I’m a terrible driver, and google maps sends me a different way every day, so I careen around like a drunken tourist.  I got chastised by a crossing guard for blowing a stop sign on the bike, but I can do far less damage than I can behind the wheel of a minivan.  Biking is good.  I get a massive dose of glee and endorphins, but any glamour I was maintaining is back out the window.  I’m a sweaty, grease-on-the-leg disheveled mess.  My poor girls, both of them want me to wear high heels every day.  If my bra and underwear match, they dance around me clapping.  I get regular reminders about armpit hair, and I can trust Steel to tell me if my posture is out of whack.  Are they going to be little Heidi Fleiss's?

Recent conversation with Steel:
“Mommy, Why do your boobs sag?”
“Well, because they got filled up with milk and were big and then you and Jack Peter and Toby sucked all the milk out, so where the milk was is just saggy skin”

“Oh…Were they REALLY big?”

If the girls had their way, I'd be dressing like this every day.

No, they weren’t, but they were a B.  OK, Maybe a B-.  I’ve hit another weird milestone.  I now have an unavailable bra size.  I had a busty roommate in the early 90’s who, according to another busty friend, had bra issues.  I thought I’d be a nice roommate and buy her a Victoria’s Secret gift certificate for her birthday to get things bouncing and behaving.  It went awry because Victoria’s Secret didn’t carry the requisite 34 DD.  They had to be special ordered.  I made an online pilgrimage to Victoria’s Secret in desperation the other day.  These days they have tons in the large sizes, but they do not carry any 36A.  WTF????  Are all sucked-dry moms supposed to get surgery or do we have to spend  $70 for a bra that fits from Natori?  I could just go to the training bra section of Target, I guess.  Maybe I'll pretend that I’m still a B and use the gaps for a change purse and lipstick.  I could put and extra pair of knickers in each side.  Heather recently went to a trampoline party.  I told her she’d have a blast.  I got a text a few hours later:  “Why didn’t you tell me that having 3 kids and then jumping on a trampoline is a perfect recipe for pissing oneself?  (as are sneezing, laughing, and jumping jacks)  Speaking of perfect recipes, I thought I’d discovered the dream snack, organic cheese popcorn.  Take the cheese packet out of organic mac and cheese and put it on popcorn.  They’ll eat noodles with butter and parmesan.  They won’t eat popcorn that way.  It worked for a week, but now they know it's not the trashy store-bought kind, so they don't like it.  I did get a couple new bras with a little extra padding in there.  Steel noticed immediately.  "Mom, your boobs look bigger, but the right one is bigger than the left one."  "Oh, I got a new bra."  "How did a new bra make your boobs bigger?"  "It's called a wonder bra!"  "Oh."  It's actually not a true "wonder bra" from Victoria's Secret.  It's the Target version.  I call it the "Hyperbole bra"

Meanwhile, my friend Deena was flipping through a health and beauty rag.  One of her twin sons snuggled up to her and said, “Mommy, are you reading that magazine, so you can look prettier?”  She said she supposed so, to which he responded, “You don’t have to read that!  You’re already the prettiest!”  She DOES look like a cross between Selma Hayek and Cher so maybe my girls would say that to me if I looked like Deena, but MY mom looked a lot like Kathleen Turner except prettier, and like my girls, I wanted to glam her up a bit.  Honestly I don’t think Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA could have taken it if Susie Kinder had been anymore sexy than she was already.  Daughters are a tough crowd.

I had yet another wretched craft show earlier this month.  (I hereby declare 2015 to be a craftshow-free year, so you won’t have to hear me kvetch for an entire year)  It was about 95 degrees and sunny.  My metal booth is really great in these instances.  The pots actually become hot to the touch.  I complain about the weather to make conversation with people while they scald themselves by picking up cups and bowls.  One woman looked at me and said, “Yes, it’s brutal, but at least you don’t have boobs!”  Is that oK?  It’s true, and it was one of the few times I was happy about it, but are we allowed to comment freely on other people’s body parts now?  That situation really sums up the whole craft show experience.  You're stuck in this little cage, and people feel free to do and say what they please.  I completely understand why the zoo animals attack people so often.

I was told by someone that parenting in the summer is bliss especially if there are camps involved.  I did not find this to be the case at all.  I had to do the same amount of lunch/snack packing and nagging to get them out the door, and then we had to find tennis rackets, towels, goggles and bathing suits and water bottles.  I spent the first few weeks of summer getting apoplectic about the disappearance of items that cost between $4 and $20.  We were losing 3-5 daily.  I gave up on the goggles and the towels.  Screw it.  They go to sleep faster with puffy eyes, and they'll dry eventually.  Things went a little smoother with that alteration, but then there was sunscreen.  I'd assist in the completion of 12 homework assignments for one thorough sun screen application.  Why didn't I marry a black man?  I guess I didn't have any offers.  The Palestinian might have helped, but he always got pretty pink in the sun.  At some point during the summer every 3rd Facebook post was a warning about the perils of spray sunscreen.  I nearly shot myself.  I had a 3-part system:  roll-on for face and ears, lotion for neck and shoulders and a rotisserie-style spray on the way out the door.  

No cute bikinis for my girls at the suits and hats

There's nothing more fun in the hot urban summer than letting ones children swim in a fetid fountain. They gleefully cavort and collect coins while I wait for passers by to tell me about Legionnaire's disease.  I look at the do-gooder earnestly as I listen to them, I thank them profusely and then bust out an insane rendition of Kelly Clarkson's WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER!!!!  as I splash one of my kids in the face.

School has started and besides the fact that it's inside and thus, UV protected, I have other things to be thankful for:  Both kids got good teachers.  Jack Peter’s has his number, and Steel’s is a cool hippy with a sense of humor-not unlike Sass, our first nanny.   They have gym on the same day, so that’s a logistical break for me.  The bus driver is named Ms. Lightfoot.  That has to be a good thing, right?  She did hit a tree the other day, and on day 2, she was so early to drop the kids off, I missed her.  She let them out alone on a busy street.  They walked home alone.  Zana, the Lithukranian cleaning lady, let them into the house and then left.  (Small children in Lithukrania are VERY independent.)  They helped themselves to sweets and were happily indulging in forbidden electronics when I came home.  I’d been in tears frantically running from the bus stop to the house shouting their names.    The only reason I thought to go into the house was that Toby had to pee.

I also forgot to get Toby the other day while Tim was teaching;  I like to evenly distribute my bad parenting.  Our old bachelor neighbor was the only person to pick up the phone when I frantically called everyone in Northern Liberties at dinnertime.  He took a cab to get her, walked her to his flat, gave her an iPad with Barbie movies and 2 naughty squeezie applesauce tubes.  She told me she wants to be left at school every night.  It was a win-win situation.  She got an hour one-on-one with Chris, the last teacher at school, and then she got completely spoiled by Matt.  (When Chris told all the teachers the next morning the resounding sentiment was, "at least it was Toby!"  Thank God she's fun to be around.)

In addition to leaving my children to fend for themselves, I've had a few tooth fairy hiccups as well that I'm not proud of.  How can you explain to your kid that the tooth fairy had a few too many cocktails and barely got around to brushing her own teeth, let alone finding hers and exchanging it for 3 gold dollars?  Steel has been putting that bitch to work.  She's lost 3 in school so far.

We've moved.  The packing was going so well in the beginning.  (See organized box image)  The day of the move things degraded as you can see from the following images.  The purging was fantastic.  I realized that I could safely get rid of any cooking apparatus or spice that doesn't involve oil, garlic and salt.  Imagine my dismay when I discovered that the waffle iron made the cut again.  Where the eff is that supposed to sit for another 4 years until we move again?  Some things aren't getting unpacked nor are they getting pitched.  I have now packed and moved Tim's books three times.  He has 4 boxes of books on or by Franz Kafka.  They will remain in their 4 boxes marked Kafka in the basement.  Moving really gets you in touch with your own filth.  Books in particular hold so much dust and grime.  In addition to making my entire family puffy and sneezy, I felt like crap about having watched every trendy Netflix series, borrowed 50 Shades of Grey from Heather and not read any of these amazing books.  At least this time I'll have the excuse that they never got unpacked.

Morning Glories are now officially on the list of things I can grow.  The other thing on the list is Geraniums.  That's it.  Mt. Airy, be prepared to be dazzled by my landscaping prowess...

Am I happy about the move?  I was told that once you go to Mt Airy, you'll never return to the city.  We might be exceptions to that rule.  At first I was thrilled because I was on a runner's high.  The Wissahicken park is a half mile away.  It's amazing.  I hadn't run in 10 years and was doing a 3.5 mile loop every other day.  Last week, though a 50-year-old woman was raped at 5:30 in the park, so my enthusiasm is waning.  That's the thing about Mt. Airy.  You feel like you're in the suburbs, because the houses have big lawns and you don't have 15 bars and restaurants within 50 feet of your front door.  BUT it's still dangerous, and the schools still suck.  So it's sort of the worst of both worlds.

There's a food coop near us that I was looking forward to, but it's the most rage-filled place I've ever been.  Old, mean, passive-aggressive hippies are all following some unwritten rules that I don't know and getting mad about it.  I thought it was just me, but one of my local friends says she "practices a lot of patience when she goes to Weavers Way."  If I'm going to have to practice patience, then I'd better be getting a bargain which I'm not unless I've been missing the massages and blow jobs I should have been getting with every $80 bag of groceries.

It's probably a good thing that we don't have as many eating-out options near us.  The last time we went out in Northern Liberties, I'm pretty sure some glass broke, and Steel got a massive wad of gum caught in her hair.  She'd put the gum behind her ear to be like Violet Beauregard, but it meandered out into her bob.  I actually had to ask the waiter for some scissors to give her a haircut right there and then because the gum seemed to be grabbing more and more hair by the second.  I don't think the health department would be thrilled about haircuts and food service going on together.

So now that I've moved to a new neighborhood, do I join another mommy listserv?  I do want to hear about violent incidents and cool things going on, but I get at least one e-mail a day saying something like: FOR SALE gently used baby bjorn with 2 straps missing $4; e-mail me off list if interested.  I then get 9 more e-mails not off-list asking which straps are missing and could a bungee cord work and would she take $2.50?  I suppose I could start reporting Weaver's Way incidents:  Wanted, an explanation from the woman with the grey hair down to her butt who smelled like lavender and patchouli for harumphing at me in the line repeatedly and glaring at my kids.  

Who could glare at these guys???

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Car Crashes and Train Wrecks

Jack Peter turned 8 on May 14.  We'd cancelled his turning-7 birthday party last year because he'd gotten himself kicked off of the school bus.  That parenting decision was maligned by a number of our friends as WAY TOO HARSH.  This was revealed casually throughout Jack Peter's 8th year.  On Jack Peter's actual birthday we did a little family/close friends dinner.  After eating we went around the table saying something we love about Jack Peter.  I would have been a hot squirmy mess listening to all of that schmaltz.  Jack Peter smiled regally, nodding in agreement.  When we got to the last person Jack Peter said, "I want to tell you all something great about me...."  I can't remember what it was, but it's good to know that kid doesn't have any confidence issues.

I don't think any sort of disciplining we've done has been "WAY TOO HARSH"  Let's hope this is the 3rd and last conduct referral this year.  I texted the image to Jen.  If you can't read it, it says "sitting under the desk not following instructions"  She texted back.  "That's progress.  He wasn't on top of the desk exposing himself!"  Friends are great at helping me get perspective.  Speaking of WAY TOO HARSH...a conduct referral for sitting under the desk 5 days before the end of school??

Speaking of confidence issues, In early May, I was a part of the complete decimation of a little boy's confidence.  I already harped on my recent craft show in Rittenhouse Square, but I forgot about the WORST PART.  I was setting up my booth early Friday morning.  As we set up, the locals walk around.  I was putting up shelves, and I could feel eyes on my back.  I could hear whispering, so I turned around to see a mom holding her almost-two son.  As I faced them his eyes widened in HORROR.  The mom was continuing the banter.  Apparently, they'd left the house that day in search of Anna from Frozen.  I was wearing 2 braids, and I have light blue streaks going through my platinum blond hair.  From the back, it was clear that they'd reached their destination.  The mom was so thrilled that their mission had been a success.  She was gushing about their having found Anna.  When I turned to face them, it was clear to the kid that I am not Anna, but his mom, for fun, was insisting that I was.  I'll never forget the horror in that kid's eyes.  He was being lied to flagrantly, and HE KNEW IT.  What a blow.  Not-even-two, and discovering that it's all a SHAM!!!!!

Jack Peter's birthday party had a Minecraft/karate theme.  Everyone who wanted to, wore gees.  I put together 50 varying-sized cardboard boxes on the stage at the park, and they built things, kicked them over, put each other in boxes, kicked out of them, dumped them all off the stage, threw them back on the stage, etc.  I had the optimistic notion that I was going to break down all of the boxes and bring them back to my studio for packing and shipping.  They were TRASHED. We did the obligatory piñata. Who's idea was it to blindfold kids and give them a weapon to flail at a moving object, a moving object holding candy, so while the blindfolded kid is hacking away, anxious toddlers are running towards the weapon in hopes that the candy is coming out?  Did the Mexicans steal that idea from Auschwitz?  Jack Peter has a future in party planning.  The box idea was his, and he'd asked for a punching bag piñata.  Belting a piñata with boxing gloves makes the process so much less stressful for the parents!  Unfortunately, I'd started the punching bag piñata a week before the party, and it was a damp week, so I didn't get as many layers on it because it kept not drying.  It withstood 3 punches.  Even the candies were anti-climatic.  JP picked Werther's candies to go inside it.  They're good, but they are such grandmother candies.

The cake was uneventful except that in my drunken magnanimity, I let every kid pick out the exact piece he or she wanted.  It looked like the boundaries of the Middle East by the end of it.  Brandon, our baker friend, wasn't impressed by my carving prowess.

On the day of the big party we decided to go house-hunting.  Moving wasn't on the list this summer, but Johnny (Tim's brother, and the realtor in the group) had somehow promised one of the four bottom units at our glamorous place (that Tim designed and built) to two people.  One of the people is a couple in their early 30's.  The male half of the couple has been gravely ill for a year.  He's gone through chemo.  He doesn't seem to be improving.  I try and bring food over periodically.  Having watched the effects of Dick's illness on my mom, my sympathy for Alexis, the female half of the couple is strong.  They currently live in one of the units, but they keep thinking they'll have to move out because they only have one income.  Our friends, Ashley and Kurt were the other couple.  She's pregnant, and their first child is testing high for lead.  They need to get out of their old Fishtown house.  Rather than say, "no" to either of them, Johnny suggested (in a heated phone conversation with Tim about TAKING RESPONSIBILITY) that WE move out.  I said, "Let's go!"  We saw 2 places the morning of the party.  One was small and smelled like dog, and the big kids dumped Toby out of the hammock they had in the foyer.  The other was bigger and smelled like the oil tank that had been leaking for the past 3 years.  Despite the stench and the beeping batteries in the smoke alarms in the house, the kids chose the second house.

The house is currently 11 minutes from the kids' school (although a 2-year-long traffic diversion is supposed to ruin that)  The plan is to fix it up, move there for two years while we build our dream house in Northern Liberties, and then we'll flip it.  It was $174,000, so it's got nowhere to go but up, right?  So now on top of his 2 full-time jobs: teaching and running an architecture firm, Tim has taken  managing what he hopes will be a month-long renovation project.

I'm just excited for a change and a massive PURGE.  I mentioned how stressful it is to own nice stuff in my last blog.  Our current place at Thin Flats is so nice...WAS so nice.  It deserves better.  Our car was so nice when we bought it a year ago....

yes, that's a melted crayon, a wretched thermos filled with dried kale smoothie, and a festering sleepy time vanilla tea thermos inside a sticky coffee cup....that's where the ADULTS sit...

Speaking of cars.  My dad visited last weekend.  He turned 80 on June 6.  Our MIT niece, Brittney, turned 20 on June 2.  We all descended on Nanny's house for a Gemini birthday bash.  Brittney is a vegan; my dad is obsessed with longevity; and Johnnie kills it at the grill with the veggies.  All my dad could say on the ride home was, "Jesus, I embarrassed myself deah (dear) I gwoa-jd (gorged) myself!  Those VEGETABLES!!!!!"  We hung around for quite a while because Johnnie time is about 2 hours later than Patrick time which is about 1.5 hours past Tim/Carol time.  The kids don't care.  When they're at nanny's all rules are off.  They get to watch crap TV and eat pretzels.  My dad was happy.  He had a new audience.  He's either a complete hermit or a comedian.  Patrick and his high school friend, Tommy, were mesmerized by Peter's accent and his stories.

Peter went to both Princeton and Hahvahd Lo-wah (Harvard Law) with Ralph Nader.  Somehow he was regaling Pat and Tommy with stories of Ralph.  Ralph and Peter had almost gotten expelled from Harvard because they copied and shared the exams from the previous year with a posse from their class.  Ralph was off trying to import serapes from Mexico when it all went down.  The climax of Peter's story involves Ralph loping across campus in a serape with the dean and 5 horn-rimmed-glasses/Brooks-Brother-suit-bedecked classmates anxiously awaiting his arrival to clear them of malfeasance.  That story went down well, so Peter went into Ralph Nader's bio a little more deeply.  He started talking about Ralph's book on Cah Crashes.  (Car Crashes)  Pat and Tommy were rapt, so Peter kept going.  Things unravelled when Peter said he came across a terrible Cah Crash on Route 95.  Pat asked incredulously, "WHO WERE YOU WITH????"  Confused, Peter said he was alone in his car.  For the entire story, Pat and Tommy had been hearing the words COCK RASH instead of CAR CRASH.  (Was Pat picturing my dad's passenger dropping his drawers in the front seat on 95????")

The story has a bad ending.  In general my dad feels pretty good about how he's looking and feeling at 80.  He prides himself on his ability to play on words.  His not hearing "cock rash" and his temporary bafflement by Tommy's and Pat's confusion was a huge blow to his ego.  I'm sure he's still pissed about it, and here I was trying to make his 80th special!  How do I feel when my conspicuously absent dad shows up for McDonald family functions talking about jock itch?  I spent a lot of my life trying to heed all of my dad's decrees, but now I have to balance his with the equally forceful decrees of my kids.  "Deah, when you're interviewing with a woman, put your hair up.  When you're interviewing with a man, wear it down."  (It's worked for me all my life.  Craft shows are populated by women...ponytail it is.  When my dad is here, down it goes.)  BUT, despite my fathers constant caveat that long dresses make tall women look like curtains, the one maxi dress I own is my daughters' FAVORITE look.  Risking hearing my dad bellow something negative about "MU MU'S," I wore my hair down for him and the maxi dress for the girls-democratic as always.  It was great to have him; I wish he'd come down and gwoaj himself more often.

The end of the school year is such chaos in general-gemini birthdays aside.  I have constant shame that I'm not the recess mom, the PTA mom, the kindergarten aid mom.  Of course, when my half-hearted pledge to chaperone the kindergarten field trip to the aquarium was accepted I WAS THRILLED!!!!  It actually wasn't so bad.  They gave us 5 kids and let us do what we wanted.  My life is managing 3, so 5 for 3 hours wasn't a huge push.  I also know the aquarium pretty well, so my hideous lack of orientation didn't factor in.  My phone did die, so meeting the 1:00 deadline at the bus was challenging in the dark.  Towards the end of our stay, I lead everyone to the outdoors penguins, so I could see who had a watch and could ask them the time.  Whiling away 35 minutes with 5 exhausted kindergarteners in 90 degee weather in front of lackadaisical penguins should be an Olympic sport.  Thankfully the penguin with the ankle tag number 6195 swam up to us, looked meaningfully into our 12 eyes, and took a cloudy white penguin dump in the water right in front of us.  I put on penguin voice and introduced myself as 6195, but you can just call me 5 because I feel we are so close.  I didn't expect to hit this level of intimacy so soon, but so it is....I don't normally poop RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU ALL!!!!!!  I'm not sure what I had for breakfast.  I feel so ashamed!!!!! For the next 30 minutes and for the 45 on the bus the boys in the group demanded, "DO NUMBER 5!!!!!!"  So now I'm Steel's mom, the one who talks about penguins pooping for the next 8 years.  I also let them horse around on the escalators.  Steel fell and got a massive, band-aid requiring gash on her shin.  I also committed the Green Woods Charter School sin of messing up the waters of two students.  Sharing is NOT ALLOWED with food at Green Woods.  I gave Gia's pristine water to Ryan, leaving her with Ryan's backwashed-cracker-filled-semi-clear one.  I've probable gotten myself out of chaperoning field trips for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of bad parenting decisions, I made an epic one after Toby's ballet recital.  This ballet thing is no joke.  There were Saturday rehearsals.  The 3-page single spaced instructions for recital day scared the crap out of me, but we made it through, and 13 McDonald-family-Toby supporters filled a whole row at the theater.  It was actually one of the most moving 2 hours I've had in a while.  Jacquetta, the head of the ballet school had chosen a Maya Angelou poem, "Phenomenal Woman" to be a theme for a couple of the older kids' dances.  When Maya died, Jacquetta carried the theme throughout the show.  Each dance started with a Maya Angelou quote delivered a by solemn little dancer.  Living Arts Dance is one of the few things we do in Philly that is truly diverse.  With my WASPy New England sensibilities, I was honestly wondering how it was going to come together.  Over half of the older girls are either overweight or obese.  The recital still brings tears to my eyes.  By far the most amazing dancer was a girl who is carrying at least 40 extra pounds.  She was astonishing.  Each of the dancers appeared to have a McDonald-size posse there supporting her.  Jacquetta MC'ed with poise and love and tears.  It was life-affirming and perfect.

A super-amazing bonus to the already amazing recital was the introduction of the sock bun to our lives.  Each of us has a sock buried into our hair in these photos.  It takes 20 seconds to do, lasts all day, and only works with dirty hair.  I honestly couldn't have dreamt a more perfect hairdo for all of us.

A bunch of us went out for food after the recital, and we had a few margaritas.  The recital was perfect.  The after party became a train wreck.  Toasts and tell-alls abounded.  The kids were almost asleep in the booth when we left the restaurant.  Somehow Tim had doused Steel with water.  She was LIVID.  In my drunken attempt to appease her, I asked some outdoors diners whether I could take their pint of water.  They obliged.  I gave it to Steel and told her to douse her dad with it.  Of course it shattered on the pavement, and Steel's hysteria rose exponentially.  Who the hell gives a 6 year old a glass pint of water off of a random person's table to pitch at her dad?

The same person who decided to make egg cups without measuring.....