Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In Which She Inflicts Vacation Photos On All Of You

Pictures for you

So I'm back, sort of. Back in the sense that the bags are unpacked and put away, the wash is done, the house is in its usual state of disarray and the kitty has forgiven us for abandoning her. Actually, she seemed fine with the whole thing and looked rather horrified when we walked in the door all loud and stinky. She wore that look of "Oh. God. I thought you were coming back tomorrow. I thought I had another day to finish that season of My Name Is Earl."

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All told, we had 4 days in lovely Door County (that pointy bit of land at the NE end of Wisconsin that sticks in such a fragile way between Green Bay and Lake Michigan) and did little but eat, nap, hang out with each other and go fishin'. (Caught nothin' but a very small bullhead that looked really pissed off, but after all was said and done, was left with a belly full of worm and tales to tell of his abduction to the drowning atmosphere above the lake and the monsters that live there. I'm sure he'll get lots of use of that tale down at the fish pub where they'll buy him pints and await the tale of how he single-fin-edly beat up the 4 enormous aliens and then escaped back to the deeps with their sweet, wriggling food. Good for him.)

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We also taught Colin and Sara how to play Monopoly and how he who 1) buys up all the railroads and utilities and 2) doesn't get bored and quit after the first couple of hours tends to win. It's good to pass on such knowledge from one's own childhood to one's offspring.

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We did, indeed, go to a fish boil and ladled butter on fish, potatoes and onions. We ate many cherry-inspired products, like pie. And wine. And brought back lots of pancake and scone mixes. And jam and syrup and dried cherries. And wine. I also let Sara learn to take pictures with my camera, and so for the first time in 20 years,I have vacation photos with me in them because someone else was snapping the scenes as well.

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And so we all had a short, lovely, restful time, except for poor Molly-dog, who just thought the whole thing was wrong and WHAT the hell were we doing in this little house that smelled funny and had red tartan carpet in the kitchen and hall and WHAT would the kitty do with no one to chase her and give her a good butt licking. She clearly felt that it was all so wrong and couldn't understand why we didn't take her hint of staring hard at the car whenever we passed it, and just get in and go back home where we belonged.

It's always good to mess with your dog.

And so we've been and gone and returned and had our vacation.

The second half of the ag-med conference was as good as the first. I can now talk of ROPS and help you figure out what sort of respirator you need if you are cleaning out a silo, working in a CAFO or spraying your fields. I can also be found hollering from inside my car when driving past the fields and barns in my locale, "Hey! You! What the hell are you doing driving that tricycle tractor with the front end loaded!" and "Hey! You! I see you plowing that field in your cabless tractor without adequate hearing protection, sun screen, wide brimmed hat, respirator mask or ROPS!" In short, I've become even more of an embarrassment to polite society.

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Now I must get the contents of the 2" (5cm) syllabus and good-sized textbook into my squash, so I can pass the damn test and make my employer proud to have spent all that money (actually, in the scheme of things, it wasn't that much money as such things go) for me to have done this, which means that I'll still be blogging sporadically for weeks to come. That study time has to come from somewhere.

Charles is winding up his days as principal at his soon-to-be-old district. He drove to work today in the SUV to load up almost all his office-ly possessions and move them to the new digs. He starts next Tuesday, which means we have only one more day of driving in to work together. The end of an era.

And, so, I'll leave you with this year's before and after shots of the front flower beds. You'll notice that the 3 low-lying juniper bushes at the front of the bed have gone the way of Wanda and Muriel, last year's alien-abducted cinquefoil and have been replaced by about 20 pretty-pretty flowering lovelies. (Well, they will be flowering when it's their time to do so.) You'll also notice that I need to get busy and divide all the pretties that have cancer-like grown and taken over the garden, transforming it into something that looks like the Amazon jungle.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gone Fishin'

Bags packed?


Paper towels and plastic bags and fishing gear and more paper towels?


Molly's food, bowls, bed?


10 lbs of kitty food left out and all the toilet lids up (because she just won't drink out of anything else and getting everyone to remember to shut the lids in this household so isn't going to happen)?

Checkity, check, check.

Windows shut so we only come back to a wet basement and not a wet 2nd floor, what with all the damn storms stacked one on top of the other from Kansas on, all pointed straight at us for the next few days?

Oh, yeah, baby! Check!

Crackers, coffee, granola bars, other junk?

Are you kidding me? Of course check. That was the first thing I packed.

DVDs for the kids in the car (clearly I was born a generation too late, having to look out the window and play the 'alphabet game' with license plates and signs) and Harry Potter V on CD for Charles and I?


Destination directions and phone number of the lovely lady renting us a place on the lake in Door County?


See y'all in a bit. Off to spend some time with just us. Then off to the second part of that agriculture in medicine conference.



Kiss, kiss. It's been 7 years since we've done a vacation with just us. I'd say that's long over due. Over and out.



Friday, June 06, 2008

Bleak, Living Hell

There's this wan, peacefulness I've seen in the faces of grandly multiparous women. You know the ones--those with more than 5 kids. They seem serene in the face of all sorts of chaos and I'm fairly sure I know why.

They've had enough of their souls removed, a piece at a time from that horror of horrors: the school concert. In particular the Grade School Concert. At least in the secondary years, the 'music' is at least somewhat recognizable and, if you are lucky, there's a tune you know and can therefore count down the stanzas until it's done. Unless it's been butchered by scatting and whatnot by some demonic jazz stylist, and then you'd best just resign yourself to your misery.

I've heard there are some districts, pushed to the brink by budget crunches, that are forced to cut music in the schools. "Hah!" I scoff. It's not that the parents are not willing to pay the taxes, it's that they've wised up and realized that if they vote down referendum after referendum on school funding that they'll NEVER HAVE TO GO TO ANOTHER SCHOOL CONCERT AGAIN. These are fine, intelligent, free-thinking people.

"It's not that bad," you who have yet to experience the horror say. I, too, remember performing in these concerts and looking forward to the singing of "Feelin' Groovy" and "Rainy Days and Mondays", complete with hand gestures and careful swaying in time while standing on the bleachers on the stage, or the playing of "The Theme From M*A*S*H", if you were of an orchestral bent. (This was particularly subliminal as the lyrics, as most of us know, go "Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it as I please." I wonder if the actual suicide rate did bump over the following days among those exposed to such sawed out works. Someone commission a study.)

So as I sat, with Sara at my side (the kindergartners only have to do the winter concert), in the 100+ degree F (38+ degree C) fetid, rancid gymnasium, hunched among the sweaty family members of the rest of the student body (some who spent the entire time in a slack-jawed stupor, others, like the pair behind me, desperately trying to hang on to their shards of reality by dissecting the private lives of various and sundry of their village acquaintances throughout the whole thing in normal speaking voices), I realized that I felt progressively lighter and lighter--the result of bits of my soul being torn away, piece by piece. The largest bite, sadly, was when Colin's grade performed a piece called, I kid you not, "Galactic Swamp Dance" entirely on flutophone (a cheap, plastic recorder sounding rather like a kazoo, but more nasal and grating, if possible). Painful does not begin to cover it. Nails on a blackboard could take a lesson. We had descended to the depths of hell: hot, smelly, humid, hopeless, helpless, interminable. At this point, trapped as Sara and I were, in the middle of the bleachers, having gotten there too late to score one of the folding metal chairs or at least a bottom seat on the bleachers, by the doors and the fire alarm pull, I abandoned myself to my fate and sunk into a funk. "Oh, woe is me" droned on the interminable chorus of one song. Oh, woe, indeed. Trapped like rats.

But then! Lo! Sara pulled free, and summoning her strength (and perhaps with the help of a guardian angel or 4) uttered the words of my salvation, "Mommy! I HAVE to go to the bathroom N.O.W." A small shaft of light pierced my psyche and somewhere the trace of a breeze stirred. The lackluster clapping of my fellow suffers gave me hope and a shifting of time and space indicated a slight path down from the bleachers.

I grabbed Sara's hand and took the shining way, jostling those still trapped in their misery and garnering many baleful and downright angry looks. "Sorry, coming through. She needs the bathroom." While envious, none dared to bar our escape. No one wants to mess with a child in need of the toilet.

And so, we spent the last sets of the most recent Concert from Hell seeking out and then dawdling in one of the grade school bathrooms. And then we caught the Grand Finale, standing just outside one of the gym doorways, where all the little darlin's come in and do the splashy finish-y song, some incomprehensible number called "Save the Earth", complete with cheerleaders (Yes. Really.) and hand gestures and cartwheels.

Actually, just before breaking into this cacophony, some poor kid spewed his gastric contents all over the gym floor, next to the piano, causing an interminable delay as the janitor was frantically sought via loud speaker and faculty runners. He appeared with mop and rolling pail and attended to the sick. Sadly, the rest of the audience was too far gone to break free and flee, and just continued sitting there while this took place, waiting as cows for the slaughter.

But finally, it was over and Sara and I (Where the hell was Charles? Why at school registration. So he said. I'm not entirely sure, though, as he is widely known to have an extra helping of brains and more than his fair share of dislike of such things.) struggled through the halls, with the rest of the lemming parents, in search of our young, who had been kept hostage-like from us. (The only announcement at the start of all this was that we WERE to REMAIN seated until ALL the children were done performing. NO ONE would be allowed to collect their children before the concert was over. Sneaky bastards.)

It wasn't quite as bad as this, but close. At least last night's concert had a program that could be followed, so you could count down the years until your sentence was served.

And so, here I sit, several ounces lighter, thanks to the soul-ectomy, plotting ways to organize my fellow parents into a "We'll pass any tax that'll fund schools as long as music remains firmly separated from us." Sort of like church and state. Complete separation or else no tax dollars.

I see why people home school. It's starting to sound worth it.