Friday, July 25, 2008

Beach. Family. Fun.

I have been absent AND remiss at blogging this week. After a plague of migraines (one a day for 8 days in a row), I took Wednesday off from work, had the best day EVER doing a little cleaning, walking the dogs WITHOUT a whining child in tow, eating lunch out with my sister...and so on. I tried hard not to wish too much that that WAS my life every day...a little cleaning, a little dog-time, and a nice lunch out with another adult. Then I got back to work. And reality.

We are going to the beach on Sunday; THE beach, my favorite, the one where we spent a week every August from the time I was 3 until I was 18. As I have written before, living in the same are where I grew up is utterly fascinating at times, as I have the chance to revisit my childhood over and over again. This beach trip is no different, mostly because time has pretty much stood still there. Little houses, many with the original pine paneling that is so reminiscent of my grandmother's kitchen, a shaky old pier, white sand, and us. Luckily, even though we all drive each other a bit crazy at times, our family exists without drama. No worries about the potential for drunken brawls or scratchy cat-fights in the kitchen. Just a new puzzle, that we will start and quickly lose interest in finishing, the endless quest for shark teeth, sand, sun and shrimp. And swimming. Then Kathryn will return to Maui, where she will start wrapping up her life there in preparation for a year or so back here, traveling extensively for yoga. She has started her own blog, but it hasn't got more than one entry yet. I will link to it in the future. Below, pictures from earlier trips to Topsail. And believe me, about a million new pictures next week.
At the south end of the island at low tide. No people. Lots of empty space. We wander here for hours.

Buoy at low tide. VERY low tide.

Flipper exactly 2 years ago. She used to have very very curly hair...adn I miss it. This picture is also on the "Be Present" website. It is a company that sells yoga clothing. still fits!!
Sand pit. And, what remains to this day my favorite bathing suit of Flipper's EVER.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Love You Berry Much

Flipper is In Love with her teacher. And, because she runs a small day camp from her house, Flipper can be near the object of her Attraction every single day. It is precious, this adoration, and I remember it vividly from being a little person myself. Now she feels the need to turn her love into action, and so brought blackberries last week for her teacher, and all the kids ate them on top of their morning snack of granola. Every morning Flipper runs to her, and Patricia picks her up and hugs her. I love seeing how happy Flipper is with other adults unrelated to our family. this morning we made blueberry mini-muffins and carefully put them in a small basket for her to transport to Patricia's house, where, hopefully, the other kids will devour them at some point during the day. The muffin recipe is the best one I've ever tried, and so I will share it here:

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
(sift together in a bowl)

in a separate bowl, mix together:
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Add to dry ingredients, mix gently, then fold in 1 cup of blueberries, or any other fruit, really. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so. Less if you made mini-muffins like we did. I love old cookbooks from the 1950's and 60's; part of me is always astonished at about 3/4 of the recipes in there, and fascinated at the same time. I mean, does anyone eat pot roast anymore? But the above came from an old McCall's cookbook, and it really is a fail-proof recipe.

Finished muffins. I sprayed the whole tray with that strange cooking spray-flour mixture, Baker's Secret, and they fall right out, and wash right up with no burned on anything, like blueberry juice.
Flipper packing the muffins for delivery. I am struck, suddenly, with how grown up her hands look, no longer like very plump starfish. Another remnant of babyhood fades away...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Creating the creative genius

On Saturday Flipper and I went to the thrift store to drop off a bunch of stuff, including the 1970's smoked glass and brass chandelier that resided above the dining room table in my new abode. I love this particular store. Love it. And, Shanna does too! At any rate, we also picked up a new blanket for Sophie to tear apart and suckle, and I bought a bunch of books. Usually, the book selection is pretty hit-or-miss, but there were some good ones this week, and I added to my large parenting advice shelf with this one:

"The Nurturing Parent: How to Raise Creative, Loving, Responsible Children"
by John S Dacey, Alex J Packer

And I'm glad I did. It is really, really good. It puts into words what I want for Flipper, to be creative. And by that I do not mean "be artistic" or "good at music" or something like that. What I mean, is that I want her to be a creative thinker. Why? Because it enables you to be a problem-solver, and gives you the ability to think fast, and land on your feet throughout life's many trials and tribulations. These are traits and skills that I think are vitally important, and help one stay out of trouble, or deal with it as it arises.

The book encourages parents to let their children explore what they want, keep their room as messy (or clean) as they want, and to think for themselves, even when their ideas and opinions run counter to yours. Many of the things suggested by the book we already do (no coloring books, lots of options for creating) and some are ideas we'll explore, like specific problem-solving exercises, although she is too young yet for these. But I must confess: I might have a prblem with a seriously messy, chaotic, unorganized room. And after one night on the floor on the old dog bed, it is back in mine. Unlike me, she doesn't get hot at night! I turn off the AC at night and we sleep with the windows open and a small fan on us. She edges closer and closer, and I push her away, and then she gets closer and closer and I get hotter and hotter...But I don't think it is even remotely hot yet! Does anyone but me remember how awful it was last summer, day after day of brutal heat?

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Bad Day. Subtitle: I miss you and so will be evil

Christ, was yesterday an awful day. As so often happens, I figure it all out...way too late. Even though, frankly, I think I drive Flipper bonkers most of the time with my lazy, passive parenting, as well as being the Decider in our household, I forget, because I am so used to her happy independence, that she actually WANTS and NEEDS to be with me. Even though I drive her crazy. I leave for work a good hour before she awakens. I pick her up at 2, and we generally spend the rest of the afternoon and evening together. But this week, for some reason, she has been having more and more mini-meltdowns, completely unrelated to the humid weather, ,and things are generally a nightmarish screaming fit/whinefest from the minute I arrive to pick her up. You would think she would be HAPPY to see me. After all, it has been something like 16-18 hours since we last laid eyes upon each other. I am happy to see HER. But instead, it is Punishing-Child that waits for me. Yesterday Keith picked her up and brought her home at 4. She was a nightmare. I finally lured her to the pool, where the water made her happy...for about 30 minutes. But then she just lost it, had only the second tantrum of her whole life, screaming, crying, trying to slam her went on and on. And, frankly, there is only so much I can take of anyone screaming. How much? Well...not a lot. So I finally freak out, she cries, and then as though a light switch gets flipped, she turns sweet and tractable and easy once more. A good supper, a long discussion about dinosaurs and how sad it is that they eat each other, a little BBC documentary watching on my bed, and then sleep. This morning she cried again when I left for work, and my mom was going to pick her up and take her to the pool after school today (her pool, not mine) but Flipper said No. Just me for pick-up. The irony is that she won't be any better behaved to have ME get her and spend the rest of the day with her, but I'll happily do it anyway. I feel so sorry for her when she is, clearly, at her wit's end. So here's hoping this afternoon is better than yesterday's. We both need it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Lions are my favorite big cat. What, you don't have a favorite big cat? I do. And a favorite bird, marine mammal, dog...and so on. Flipper is partial to tigers, herself. Even her favorite shark is the tiger shark. I try not to fall into sappy sentimentality, but I simply cannot resist this one. WARNING: Might bring tears to eyes.
WARNING #2: MUTE your sound unless you LIKE Whitney Houston.

I wish I knew how to make the YouTube square show up here so you can click it tostart it playing, but hopefully this will suffice. And anyone that wants to let me know HOW to do so, please feel free!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


In my endless quest to save energy/keep power bill to 45.00 or below all summer (I'm a third of the way there!) I open the house at night to catch (hopefully) the cooler night air, and shut it in the morning, before turning the AC to 78. Sometimes the AC won;t even come on until 2 in the afternoon! Anyway, sleeping with Flipper's burning hot body beside me is tough. But yesterday, it was solved, at least temporarily, and serendipitously as well. I went to Costco and bought two new dog beds with Nightmare 1 and 2. They are HUGE, cool cloth patterns, zip-off covers, and filled with cedar. I had a memory flashback to childhood, and the first (and most beloved) of our many pets, our fat hamster, Gypsy. She was so named because she had a hole in her ear, and a tiny gold ring would have been precious. My dad brought her home from his lab. he did this several more times, culminating in a a huge white rabbit named Buttercup. Buttercup was Kathryn's. So, no doubt my dad saved them from God-knows-what kind of fate as lab animals, and they lived happily at our house. Anyway, the smell of the fresh cedar shavings reminded me so much of Gypsy, and how much we loved her.
Back to my CURRENT life and story...I immediately tore of the mangled coves from the old beds and threw them away. But Flipper wanted me to keep the old interior beds for her to sleep on. Remember the summer of "yes"? I have kind of figured out her current sleep-desire stage: in my room, but not in my bed. Near me, but not beside me. And what better way to achieve this than sleeping on an old dog bed? The below pictures are what the floor of my bedroom looked like last night, and right up until 5 this morning, when she abandoned the dog bed and climbed up beside me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bugs. DEET. Popsicles. Summer.

Last night a friend and I sat on my front steps and watched out children crouch inside a huge hula hoop, eating Popsicles. And in a flash, we both had the same thought: this is it. This is summer, all rolled up into a sticky package. Finally, (due to our travels it has happened later), we have reached the Zen state of summer, a time when I say A LOT of "yesses" and let Flipper fall asleep much later than I ever would during the school year, when she can watch more than one 20-minute animal DVD, although it was disconcerting, in Hawaii, to hear the little factual nuggets she would drop into our beach outings. Things like, "This is where tiger sharks live!" or "Piranhas don't live here! I think..." Anyway, summer IS here, and it is good. We are not suffering from the hideous drought like last year, although the mosquitoes have got to go. I have many freaky hang-ups, and putting almost anything on my skin is one of them. No lotion, no sunscreen, no bug repellent. And not because I think they will give me cancer, although I do think we go way overboard on sunscreen, but because I cannot stand the way it feels on my skin.

Once, when driving from here to Oregon and back one summer, I stopped at a gorgeous campsite in Montpelier, Idaho (that is one beautiful state, people) and purchased, on the advice of the owners, some seriously hard-core bug stuff. Not just mosquitoes out there, but incredibly aggressive, noisy, painful-biting black flies. The tiny jar was incredibly effective. In fact, although it was about 3 ozs, I still have some left. still works, 13 years later. Why? Well, because it is 99% DEET. You actually read that correctly...99%. Read your can of "OFF" one of these days and you will see why that percentage is so shocking. But, once again, I digress. I love these days, even though they spin by faster and faster week by week. In three weeks we will be back at the beach. I have the incredible fortune, although at times it feels like MIS-fortune, to directly experience my childhood over and over again. Same town, same pool, same beach. Until then I will try to overcome my hatred of bug-spray enough to go blackberry picking.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Come sail away with me...

On Friday afternoon, my parents picked Flipper up from daycamp and we went sailing for the week-end. Kind of. It wasn't a real sailing trip (that will come soon, I have no doubt) but a mini-adventure instead. My dad, who has been sailing something like 40+ years, now owns a 35-foot Tartan. He started out with a tiny Sailfish, then graduated to a Hobie Cat 14, then a 16, then a 28' Tartan, and now this one, named Dash. I think this information is meaningless unless you know something about sailboats. Anyway, he has been begging me to come sailing with Flipper, and over the week-end we went. Needless to say, she loved it. We stayed at his marina for the most part, watched the Croaker Festival parade in Oriental, whereupon Flipper got pelted with an entire Halloween's worth of candy, and on Saturday afternoon, took the boat out for a few hours, anchored and ate dinner, and returned to the dock around 9 pm. So now a "real" trip is on her (our) future, a week-end when we go somewhere else, moor or stay at another marina, and sail home.

Asleep in the V-berth (at the front of the boat).

Heading out of Brown's Creek into the Pamlico Sound.

At the helm with Grampy. Look how big the wheel is!!

On the deck, looking towards the stern of the boat.

Looking for something; I know not what.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Swim Meet Hell. To me, that is.

I am going to complain, date myself as old and out-of-touch, and be a total bitch ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!! There is, in the press, endless stories about nightmare sports parents, ones that are banned from their kids' games because they act like such assholes, as though some soccer or baseball or football were actually important, as though their kid is on the path to a college scholarship and then a career as a pro-when there are many more dollars available for academic scholarships and something like .001% of any high school athlete even makes it to the pros, but do you think these parents are encouraging their kids to stop playing so many sports and study more? Why, of course not. Never. So. They are so invested, so over-involved; when and how and why has this happened? Anyway. Back to my story.

Yesterday evening Flipper and I went to a local pool (a private club) to meet some friends and frolic in the waters. But when we pulled up, I noticed about ten million cars and suddenly, I remembered. It's Wednesday. Swim meet. Blessedly, our club has two pools, a rec pool and one for swim meets, practice, etc. And those ten million cars, 90% of which were mini-vans? They had that dreadful paint stuff on the back windows, all proclaiming how great THEIR team is, complete with little graphics and cheerful slogans. People. Get a grip. This is a small-time, summer league swim meet. Don't sully your poor car as though it is some sort of automotive cheerleader. But it got worse. I dragged Flipper over to watch for a few minutes, as it brought back a rush of memories for me, after all, I was on this pool's very same swim team when I was just 5. But it was so crowded with millions of parents-not kids-either aimlessly milling about in a futile search for their kid, or, more shockingly, working. Now, these meets need a certain number of volunteers. You need to have timers. And a runner, that picks up the timer's cards after each heat and takes it to the tally table, where the scores a tallied. And one or two parents to write on the backs of the ribbons, if you even get those anymore.
But there were parents selling food-candy and pizza, and kids wolfing down candy bars in the misguided belief that it will give them some sort of "edge" in the pool. Tons of fathers with sullen kids trying to squirm away from unwanted advice from a parent that has probably never swum more than 4 laps in a row in his life. And most irksome to me, there were "official chaperons." WTF? Their job, and I use that word loosely, is to get the kids to the chairs where they sit awaiting their heat. Folks, this is a distance of, oh, maybe 10 yards. AT THE MOST. Now, for the very very youngest, I can see this. Maybe. But 11-12 year olds? Give me a break. Those kids can pay attention to the meet, listen to the loudspeaker announcing the upcoming event, figure out how much time they have before their presence is required, learn how to judge time accurately, be responsible for making it thereon time in order to NOT disappoint teammates and their coach, and on and on. Instead, they are treated like babies that cannot think and act for themselves. Miss your heat because you weren't paying attention? Too bad-and you probably won't ever do it again. What is this shepherding kids through things they can easily do on their own? Why are there a million parents milling about-sit down and watch!!
What is happening out there? And the sad part is that it makes me want to opt out more and more from these kinds of things because people take it so seriously, want it To Be Meaningful. But it isn't. It can't be, and it shouldn't be. I swam on that team for 13 years, and for all four years of high school. Looking back now, no meet from my childhood stands out at all. Not a single one. My mom was one of the ribbon-writers, and my dad might saunter down from the tennis courts to watch if he felt like it (like all the other dads) and while we were waiting to swim, we played, talked, sat, gossiped...all by ourselves. Just kids. It was FUN. Our coach would drift by, saying, "A few more minutes, girls." And we would get ourselves the whole 10 yards, to the cheap plastic chairs, all by ourselves.

And Flipper? No interest in being on any kind of team, "because it will make me sad if I lose."