Friday, February 22, 2008

A few short notes about Will

For the last month or so, Will has spent much of the day being a puppy.

Briefly, for a week or so, he was Mingo the Bassett Hound.

Briefer still, Pointer the Beagle.

For the last three days, he has awakened, hopped out of bed, barked three short barks, and said, "I'm Little Puppy on your service!"

Someone needs to get this child a dog.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Stormy Weather

Here's how I'd define a trooper: Someone who soldiers on through difficult circumstances without complaint. Someone who gets the job done, no matter how hard the job is or becomes. When life gives the trooper lemons, the trooper makes a lemon meringue pie and invites all her friends over to eat it.

Am I a trooper? It depends. I am good in situations that force you to wait patiently for long periods of time--traffic jams and flight delays, for instance. When my children have taken suddenly ill (that time Will threw up during school pick-up, when we were sandwiched between hundreds of cars and had no way out) or have had scary falls, I haven't panicked. I do pretty well with flat tires and broken down vehicles. I once had a baby without an epidural, but I'm not sure I can claim trooper status for that, since I was screaming my lungs out for an epidural, only Will's head had already crowned and they wouldn't give me one.

I am not a trooper when I'm sick or in pain. I ask my dentist for double doses of novacain. If my throat is the slightest bit sore or I have the tiniest of sniffles, I cancel every appointment on the books (I am the opposite of my husband in this regard, who last year was such a trooper he ended up in the hospital). And I am most certainly not a trooper when it comes to traveling in bad weather. My motto is: If there's half a chance of snow, I won't go. Tiniest bit of ice? Home is nice.

Which brings us to yesterday. I was supposed to fly to Huntsville, Alabama yesterday afternoon for school visits on Monday and Tuesday. I was feeling a little stressed about taking this trip to begin with, and then I made the mistake of checking the weather to see whether or not I needed my heavy coat for the trip. Thunderstorms were predicted across Tennessee for Tuesday afternoon and evening, when I'd be flying home (Tennessee making up the bulk of my trip). I googled "flying in thunderstorms" and learned that they are probably the most dangerous sort of weather to fly through.

As I was getting myself good and freaked out about thunderstorms, the wind outside my own window was building up a head of steam. Tree limbs were crashing on the roof, gutters rattled and hummed. So maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise--and it certainly was a relief--when I arrived at the airport only to discover that my flight to Atlanta had been suddenly canceled. The plane from Atlanta had gotten all the way to Raleigh, but it couldn't land because of the high winds, and so it turned around. Word was, all flights to Atlanta were canceled for the day.

Oh, well, I thought, that's too bad. I stood in line for an hour to find out how to retrieve my bags. I felt good. I'd had a bad feeling about this trip, and now I didn't have to take it.

Only, it turned out, I did. The airline folks very kindly re-routed me. I would fly to Cincinnati, get my connection there, and then fly to Huntsville. I was disappointed, but I was a trooper and I trooped on over to Gate 18, resigned to my fate--death by thunderstorm on Tuesday afternoon.

The Cincinnati flight was delayed ... and then delayed some more. When they finally boarded, I asked the man who took my boarding pass if we'd make it to Cincinnati in time for me to make my connection, and he said, "Oh, sure," but I knew he had no idea; he just wasn't in the mood to deal with me.

Walking across the tarmac to the plane--or should I say the tiny, insubstantial jet--I felt like crying. The zen of this trip was getting so bad. But I was a trooper, and I trooped up the rickety steps into the tiny, tiny aircraft, stooped down (which at 5'4" I don't often have to do) so I wouldn't bump my head, and found my tiny, tiny seat. The passenger next to me was a very nice young man, a freshman at Boston College, who had been visiting his brother at Duke. He was also coughing out cold germs like no tomorrow, which he was apologetic about. Like a good mom, I gave him a peppermint.

We sat on the plane. We sat some more. Finally, we taxied, and I accepted the fact that within a few minutes I would be dead. The winds would push this tiny plane down to the ground, it would explode, and maybe someday someone would find a tooth of mine over in the grass somewhere. I could have freaked out at this point, but I was trying to be a trooper, and so I didn't.

And then the pilot spoke: "Ladies and gentleman, we seem to have a mechanical problem here, so we'll have to taxi back to the gate and have it fixed. It won't take long, and then we'll be back in the air."

This is when I stopped being a trooper. There was no way I would make my connecting flight in Cincinnati, and I no longer cared. Sure, I called my husband, asked him to go on line and see what the possibilities were, but in my heart I knew that I wasn't going anywhere. When we got back to the gate, I got off the plane. I tried to get ahold of my luggage, but interestingly enough, it had made it to Huntsville, Alabama without me (somehow it had gotten booked on a direct flight; I still haven't figured this out). I filled out paperwork to get it flown back to me. I called the Scholastic Books representative who was meeting me at the airport, and who I had been updating on my flight status all afternoon.

Could I fly out in the morning, she asked? There was a 6 a.m. flight in the morning that would get me to Huntsville in time. No. I was no longer pretending to be a trooper, and besides, getting up early is something I simply am incapable of being a trooper about. Getting up at seven is a burden. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. to make a six o'clock flight? Forget it.

Maybe, she speculated, we could call the schools in Alabama and see if they could switch their schedules around so if I got there at noon, the show could still go on? No. A trooper might have done that. I was no longer a trooper. I would happily reschedule for another time, I told her, but now I was going to go home and wait for my luggage.

And that's where I am now, happily writing this while I drink my coffee. Like a trooper, I will reschedule my trip to Alabama, but after that I'm going to stick close to home whenever possible (or whenever there are no direct flights to the places I'm invited). There are schools all over this town, and all over the next town, and the town next to that. I'll go visit them. And then I'll come home and sleep in my own bed, where I belong.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

It's Quite Possible I'm Insane

Today I'm helping to host a Tall Tales Hot Lunch for Jack's third grade class. They've just started their Tall Tales unit and are learning all about Paul Bunyon and Davie Crockett and Johnny Appleseed and the like.

This isn't the first time I've helped with a hot lunch, but it's the first time I've been pretty much in charge. It's me and Victor's dad, and somehow I got signed on as the head honcho. Victor's dad and I divvied up duties--he's responsible for all the stuff you can get cheap at Sam's Club, I'm in charge of picking up a six feet worth of a subway sandwich, making humongous chocolate chip cookies and putting together some vegetables and dip.

Now, usually I'm just a helper mom. I'm the mom handing out napkins and sticking straws into juice boxes. There are a lot of Super Moms at Jack's school, and I've always been happy to let them do their thing. Now that it's my turn to be Super Mom, well, I decided the least I could do was make a centerpiece. So of course, in my insanity, I have made Babe the Blue Ox out of a plank and some boxes.

Remember the six-foot sub? Well, I wanted to come up with a fun way to serve it. I'd planned on just covering a long piece of cardboard with foil and calling it a party, but then today, when I was reading Henry and the Club House by Beverly Cleary, where Henry Huggins is hunting around for boards to build a dog house for Ribsy, I thought, "Hey, we've got boards out in the garage--I could make an ox to serve the sub on!" Yes, this is how my mind works, which is why it's best I make my living at home, by myself, not bothering anyone else.

(By the way: I was very excited by the idea of bringing a six-foot subway sandwich, all of a piece, for Jack's class. I even ordered one from Subway. I canceled my order after learning that a six-foot sub from Subway costs $64. That's over ten dollars per foot, and a lot more expensive than buying six one-foot subs,which is of course what I immediately changed my plan to.)

The funny thing was, while I was constructing ol' Babe, Will was playing happily with his Lego Star Wars ships and did not seem to find it the least bit odd that I was covering a seven foot plank of wood with blue construction paper, nor did he deem it odd when I covered a cardboard ox's head with fabric from our old kitchen curtains. Of course, he's five and insanity is a way of life for him.

Anyway, this whole deal sums up the insecurity of being a creative-type individual. Because, to be honest, I like my crazy, folk art Babe the Blue Ox--but I'm perfectly aware I might be friggin' out of my bean. If I hated it, I'd feel confident in my hatred. I'd know it was bad. But when you create something and like it, then it's more of a crap shoot. Believe me, I know what it's like to be in love with one of my creations and find that no one else shares my affection.

My husband claims to like my blue ox, but, you know, he could just be taking the easy way out. He knows that a classroom of third graders won't care one way or the other, so why not just pat me on the head and say, "That's neat!" So I don't consider him a trustworthy critic.

No, Victor's dad will be the true litmus test--because my husband has been dealing with my kind of crazy for a long time now, and he knows how to put on a straight face in the face of it. But other people's husbands, forget it. They have no defenses. They've got no game. Their fear of crazy ladies shows the minute they get the slightest hint that one might be in the vicinity. So if Babe the Blue Ox is just way off the chart, I'll know it. Oh, honey, believe me: all it will take is one terrified look and I'll know it.