I am SO EXCITED, Y'ALL. Next Friday I am driving to Cleveland to meet up with my dear friend Tamsyn. It's a mini road trip and a visit all in one, since it's almost an entire day's drive to get there. I am SUPER PUMPED. I love road trips. I love Tamsyn. I may even love Ohio. While I'm there, we're going to shop and gossip and I am going to snarf down her deliciously cheeky ten-month-old son on toast.
I'm clearly not as kickass as Bossy, since I did not manage to find a sponsor for my trip, but this is still a trip that was born directly from events that were set in motion by the internetz.
You see, back in 2003, I was engaged to be married to the love of my life, my inspiration, and joined the Knot. Like most online forums, the Knot was (and is) often an enclave of heinous, heinous bitchery and bad behavior. At some point, one of the cooler girls on the board I frequented created an MSN board for Knot girls to hang out on. That quickly evolved into another enclave of heinous bitchery and bad behavior, so another girl created a second MSN board, this one private, and invited the nice girls and the funny girls (and one big dork, obvs.) to join. I met Tamsyn (and Chick and KittyB and a bunch of the other people I frequently mention here) on the Knot, and still hang with them on our MSN board.
On my way to Cleveland to meet up with Tamsyn, I hope to meet up with the apathetic one. I knew T.A.O. in high school, but we didn't really become friends in earnest rather than acquaintances with mutual friends until we started talking on old-school IM and realized we were both geology majors and Terry Pratchett fans. Score #2 for the internet. And then, on my way back home after my extended girls' weekend with Tamsyn, I'm going to spend an afternoon with the delightful Daisy Jo, a blogfriend I've never met in person.
I am taking my laptop with me, and I am assuming (hoping) my hotel will have free WiFi so I can blog while I'm there. I'm also going to attempt to log my journey on Twitter if anyone is interested.
Finally, if anyone is roughly located along the route from Louisville to Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland and wants to meet up, just drop me a comment or email. I'm feeling all bold and extroverted!
One of the many small and random tasks I have at work is to collect weather data every day to send in to NOAA. Although I don't really enjoy going out to get the info on days when it's pouring, or icy, or broiling hot, I definitely have noticed that I'm more aware of the seasons now. Keeping our garden this summer has added to that sense of being tuned in to what's outside. Before I started our garden, J-Dog and I were google chatting one night, and she said, "Getting food out of dirt is AWESOME." She was totally right. Some days, the food feels like a bonus, and I could almost forget that I didn't start the garden just so I'd have an excuse to go outside and listen to the cicadas humming and the birds settling in to roost, to watch for lightning bugs and butterflies.
I read Dean Koontz's latest, Odd Hours, a few weeks back, and there was a line of Odd's that stuck with me: "Because knowing the names of things is a way to pay respect to the beauty of the world, I know the names of many trees." For a long time, I've felt like learning about the world around me helps me to appreciate its beauty and experience a deeper sense of connection to it. I've learned the name of trees, like Odd. I've learned the names of flowers and bugs and birds and rocks, and anywhere I go, when I see something that I know the name of, that place feels a little bit like home. It works the other way, too. When I can identify the trees on my morning walk with the dog, or know the name of the bird that's singing in the tree outside work, or see the familiar shapes of constellations in the sky over our yard, it makes it easy to remember that we are never more than a small part of a large, amazing world. Rather than making me feel insignificant and alone, this tends to make me feel connected and watched over. Hokey? Probably. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
Man, I have sucked at blogging lately. Sorry about that! It seems like on the nights I have something to say, I fall asleep in front of the computer (laaaaaaame) and the nights when I'm not asleep by 10:30 PM, I can't think of anything to say.
The dog is enjoying his pool, and I finally caved in to him and MB and agreed that as long as we put a towel down first to catch all the hair, Indy can sit with us on the couch. He's curled up next to me right now, acting as the world's cutest armrest.
I finally got a new tower thingie to keep our DVDs in, since we outgrew our wire DVD rack a long time ago. I'm not sure it's perfect for the space, but it's growing on me, and it's much classier-looking than what we had before.
The garden is growing like crazy. We have a zillion green tomatoes on the vine, but until yesterday none were trying to ripen. Now we finally have two that are rapidly turning orange.
The zucchini is doing reasonably well, and I got a mutant overgrown squash off the vine yesterday.
The cukudzu still seems hell-bent on world domination and has starting creeping along the top of the fence into the tomato plants' territory.
Last Saturday, I took the volunteers I supervise at work to the Adventure Science Center in Nashville. I was kind of nervous about the trip before we went. Not because I was taking seven teenagers out by myself, because even though that is sort of terrifying, they're all really good kids. I was just kind of freaked out because the trip was the first time I've ever been the official and only adult for something like this.
For most of my life, I've been one of the kids on the trip, not the one taking the kids on the trip. Last year when I took the kids caving I drove the rented minivan, but my boss was there and so I didn't feel the pressure of sole responsibility. This time it was all me. All me and seven teenagers in a monstrously huge 15 passenger van. When I picked the van up on Friday after work, I was wearing my favorite pair of three inch wedge heels and got caught in gridlock traffic. Ay chihuahua did that suck. It turned out to be pretty good practice for the drive down to Nashville, which went off without a hitch. I told the kids that the van was a sign of the depth of my love and affection for them, since it was huge and embarrassing and smelled vaguely like a dog.
They were all perfect angels, and the trip was really fabulous. Perhaps being an adult isn't all that bad.
Mike at Cry it Out posted a great entry today about finding a Big Wheel for his daughter Emme at a thrift store. I had a Cabbage Patch Kid themed Big Wheel when I was a kid, and we also had a yellow and black "Suzuki" Big Wheel.
I was surprised to learn that Big Wheel bikes apparently fell out of favor for quite a while, but was happy to find that Big Wheel is back and available at Target:
I've already informed MB that we will be purchasing two of these and sticking them up in the attic, just in case Big Wheels go back out of style before we sprog.
Thinking about Big Wheels got me thinking about other toys from my childhood that I absolutely loved. Of course, there were Legos and (much) later K'Nex. But I'm talking back even before that, back in the mid-80s.
*cue wavy flashback fade*
Let's talk about Tonka trucks. I had a dump truck and my cousin Macgyver had a backhoe:
I'm pleased to see that Tonka seems to be offering steel trucks again, even if they are marketing them as "classic," because for a while they only had plastic ones. I do understand why they would want to eliminate sharp edges and toys made entirely of metal, but the plastic ones just did not have the same appeal.
However, I have to say I'm disappointed and borderline offended by Tonka's marketing angle, which suggests that only boys play with Tonka trucks. Indeed, their main slogan is "Tonka: Built for Boyhood," the Tonka Toddler line is branded as "Built for the road from baby to big boy," and the regular Tonka Trucks are marketed with the phrase "boys are built different. TONKA's got the Blueprint." Not a single action shot on the website features a girl, and every line of copy states clearly that these trucks are built for boys and only boys. I really thought we were past all the bullshit about girls playing with "girl toys" and boys playing with "boy toys." Tonka can kiss my fair white female ass, though I guess they win because they'll get my money eventually, whether I have girl children or boy children -- especially if I have girl children, actually. Hmmph. Maybe I should write them an indignant letter.
How about Construx? Did anyone else have these? They were sort of like early K'Nex in a way. There were gray plastic bars in various shapes and lengths, which could be connected together with these little blue plastic thingies that hurt like a sonofabitch when you stepped on them barefoot. I don't know what birthday it was when I got these, but I got a few sets, and I LOVED them.
Or those brilliant but broken-ankle-waiting-to-happen oddities, Pogo Balls! I wanted one forever and finally got one as a gift from my grandma, but it eventually got leaky and flat and wouldn't pogo anymore.
And, I'll admit, I loved my Barbies. I didn't get my first Barbie until I was seven, and my parents got me the Heart Family first. The Heart Family was a less scandalous option, since the mom and dad dolls were married (with wedding rings and everything) and had boy / girl twins. The year I got the Heart Family for Christmas, one of my aunts gave me a huge and completely kickass house for them that she made. She took four boxes, cut the top flaps off, and turned them on their sides to make rooms that were open in the front. She wallpapered with wrapping paper and covered the floors with faux-tile Contact Paper. The walls were decorated with pictures of clocks and paintings and cross-stitch samplers that she'd cut from catalogs. She made all the furniture in the parents' bedroom, the kids' room, and the living room out of various boxes, with hand-sewn bedclothes and pillows and couch cushions. She bought a Barbie kitchen setup with fake food and everything.
I spent literally countless hours playing with that Barbie house. My parents let me have the run of a little attic room off of our upstairs landing, and it was the Barbie Room for years. Of all the toys I loved as a child, even though I was pretty much the quintessential tomboy, I do think I might have loved my Barbie Room best of all.
How about you guys? What toys did you love best as a kid?
Rusty showed up on my parents' porch about a week ago. My dad would probably claim he never wanted another cat, but we wouldn't believe him since he told my mom there was a kitten on the porch. "If he didn't want me to keep him," Mom said, "he should've just shoved him right off the edge with his foot and kept walking." Mom and Dad let the kitten in the house, then put him back outside again when they went out to see if he'd wander off. He was still there when they got back, so they let him in and named him. As our family knows quite well, once an animal is named, it stays for good.
Rusty spent his first few days in the family feeling a bit under the weather and sluggish, but as of yesterday was back in fine form. Even hale and hearty, Rusty weighs about two pounds.
This is Maggie:
Maggie is a one-year-old Border Collie / Australian Shepherd / German Shepherd mix with the energy of five Suns. Maggie weighs 44 pounds. Maggie LOVES Rusty. When he first moved in, Maggie fawned over him for days. She brought him toy after toy and tried to get him to play with her. She sniffed him so hard Mom said it looked like she was trying to hoover him up her nostrils.
According to Mom, the other morning Maggie was chilling on the couch with her and Rusty came around and started bugging Mags. Finally, Mags had had enough. She gently took Rusty's entire head in her jaws, as if to say, "All right, you little shit. I am the boss of you."
Rusty pulled his head out of Maggie's mouth and stared at her with disgust and disdain. Then he wrapped his twiggy little cat arms around her neck and started chewing on her face. I bet if you look up "self confidence" in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of a small marmalade-colored tabby kitten.
After a long week of anticipation, we took Indy out to Danger's family's lake today for his first swim. Things started out very well, as Indy got acquainted with Danger's brother's dog, Max.
At first, Indy seemed quite happy to splash around in the water with Max and to explore the shallows along the edge of the lake.
But then we tried to get him to do some actual swimming, and that didn't go quite as well.
Not at all tempted by the tennis ball (Note firmly planted hind legs)
Shortly after this photo was taken, I went further out into the water and called Indy over to me. He actually swam about two feet all by himself, and then as I was praising him for his great courage, he clambered up onto me, using my body as high ground. There is, unfortunately, no photo of him standing on me, his back feet on my thigh and his front feet on my shoulder. If he could've stood on top of my head, I think he would have. I was laughing too hard to tell MB to snap a picture. I cannot imagine how ridiculous we looked -- black Lab trying to use human as stepstool to get out of the water.
After another fifteen minutes or so of coaxing and then bodily carrying Indy out into the water, I finally got him to swim one more time -- in a frantic scramble for the shore:
Note: the water is not waist deep. It is mid-thigh deep and I am crouched down. My dog is a weenie.
Our grand day of swimming turned into a bit of a glorified wade, but it was still a really good day. We got to hang out with Danger and MacGyver and Max. We got to spend time outside on a gorgeous summer day, lolling about in the lake as a redtailed hawk soared overhead. And even though he didn't take to the water quite as enthusiastically as we'd hoped, Indy did give it a try, and that's enough for me. Indy was so tuckered out by his big adventure that he slept in the car on the way home, and then took a three-hour nap.
Just because they're impossibly cute, here are some photos of Indy wearing his new backpack, which was on clearance at Petsmart:
Also impossibly cute, my parents' new kitten, Rusty:
Apparently all I needed to do to get past my blog-block was bitch about it. Several people were kind enough to oblige me with questions, so I felt it was only right to answer them.
Elise asked "What message board? (Does that count as a question?)" It does count as a question, but I don't have much of an interesting answer. I belong to a private MSN message board that started as a spinoff of a spinoff of the Knot. It's really great, but you can't come in. Sorry!
Elise also asked: "If not, then what is your most favorite place to eat when you are STARVING?" OMG, Longhorn. LONGHORN. I am craving firecracker chicken wraps right now.
Twitchy didn't have a question, but was kind enough to delurk. Hi, Twitchy!
Dawn~a~Bon said, "Here's my question: Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight? And some disturbing questions that come in the wake of the first: Does anyone actually keep their chewing gum on the bedpost overnight and then try to chew it the next day? EWWW! That's crazy! What if a fly pooped on it?" My cousin and I must've heard about or read about people keeping their gum on the bedpost overnight, because we did try it. I don't remember if we tried it at her house or not, but when I did it at my house, the gum tasted like bedpost varnish the next day. NASTY. My favorite thing I'd do with my gum when I used to chew it all the time was to stick it in my drink at dinner. It floated around in the soda or water or whatever, and got really hard from the ice. Once I was done eating, a few chews and the gum went back to normal. Try it sometime! Even better, chew up ice WITH the gum! Crazy!
It's a miracle I'm here talking to you right now, y'all, instead of under arrest for punching someone in the face. See, I had to go to the grocery store twice after work today. I don't mind going to the grocery during the day when it's pretty empty, or if MB and I go together, but going right after work is always a crapshoot, because it's likely to be really crowded. I am not the world's most patient person by nature, and though I have learned to be quite Zen most of the time, it really irks me when people fuck with my grocery store efficiency mojo. Really, people, I have a list and I just want to get in, get my shit, and get the hell out of Dodge. It doesn't help that two of my biggest pet peeves are people who lack common sense and people who lack common courtesy.
When I shop, I always make an effort to park my cart as far to the side as I can, so as not to block other people's progress. If I park my cart to browse, I'll stand in front of or behind it, not beside it so that my cart is blocking one half of the aisle and my body is blocking the other. When people park their carts (or their asses) in the middle of the damn aisle, I start to get a wee bit irritated. So, of course, at the first grocery I went to after work (let's call it Swanky Grocery, since it's a little nicer than most of the stores we frequent), the produce section was full of aisle blockers and the dreaded millers -- people who mill about aimlessly, staring slack-jawed at their surroundings and moving at the slowest pace possible.
One woman had a kid roaming around and another in the cart, which she had parked EXACTLY in the middle of the section. I waited patiently behind another woman, who was picking out melons and who smiled apologetically when she saw that I was blocked in. The first woman finished bagging up her greens or whatever, chucked them in the cart, moved her cart two feet forward and then stopped again and walked off. At that point I had to bail because I could tell I was about to bust out some Angry Jazz Hands.
Things got better for a bit, until I encountered a chick in pink yoga pants, yapping on her cell phone in the wine aisle while her cart sat cockeyed in the middle of the damn thoroughfare. I seriously wanted to slap a 'ho, let me tell you. I went around the other end of the aisle, got some wine for MB, and made my escape. There were a few things left on the list, but I was clean out of patience. It didn't help that I went to the Ghetto Grocery (so named for its location, clientele, and lack of selection) yester-damn-day after work, and was only at the Swanky Grocery because the Ghetto Grocery didn't have some of the stuff we needed.
When I got home, MB announced that I had "forgotten" to get his soda pop and corn chips for the salsa he wanted to make. I say "forgotten" because he had not asked me to get the chips OR the soda, even though I asked him twice if he needed anything. He wheedled and made sad eyes and against my better judgement I finally agreed to drive down to the smaller, crappier grocery about five minutes from our house to get his damn chips and soda. We'll call this one Crappy Grocery since the selection is kind of limited and the dairy section is highly suspect. (For real, almost every time I've tried to pick up yogurt there, every cup of Yoplait on the shelves was expired. Gag.)
I should've known it was a bad move when, as I was trying to walk into the store, I was accosted by a woman with a bad bleach job, who forced one of those "I'm deaf, buy this useless trinket" cards into my hand as I was passing. I'm all for charity, but ( 1 ) I just want to get my damn groceries and go home, ( 2 ) I don't carry cash, and ( 3 ) if you can afford a cigarette habit, I'm not going to feel all that inclined to give you my money. I managed to quickly round up the freaking chips and freaking soda and headed for the checkouts. Both open registers were pretty backed up, but I picked the one with the shorter line, falling in behind a middle aged guy with only two items. As I pushed my cart into place, the register next to that one opened. Now, I'm not any kind of traditionalist and I think it's kind of sexist to assume that ladies should always get to go first, but I think it was a little extreme for him to whip around, practically shove my cart into my stomach, and push past me so he could jump to the next line. Because my mother raised me right, I did not yell, "What the fuck, asshole?" at him or throw a bag of chips at his head. I really think I'm growing as a person.
I can't believe I forgot to tell you guys one of the funniest things that happened at camp last week. I was wearing a Wallflowers concert tee from 1997. The girl sitting next to me at dinner gave my shirt an appraising look.
Kid: Is that, like, some band you guys used to listen to?
Kid: Some old band?
VBG: Hey, they're not that old.
Kid, unconvinced: You guys probably like Patrick Swayze, too.
VBG:ARRRRGH!! How old do you think I am??
* Wikipedia later informed me that Jakob Dylan is actually 15 years older than me. Swayze, however, is only two years younger than my FATHER, and even when I liked Dirty Dancing well enough to watch it a few times with my foster sister, I never thought Johnny Castle was all that cute.
As relayed in the dreaded spider story *, from the summer before 7th grade until the summer before 12th grade, I went to Girl Scout camp for a week every summer. I loved my camp. I still love my camp.
This year, I finally did something I've been wanting to do for a while, and I volunteered to go out to camp and lead some nature activities. The bibliophile and I went up there on June 2nd to go "bug fishing" and do a leaf scavenger hunt. For the bug fishing, we took the girls down to a shallow area off the main lake and had them hunt for macroinvertebrates. We didn't get as many bugs as I can usually find at the local wetlands, but they had a really great time catching tadpoles and tiny frogs.
We managed to find one dragonfly nymph, and it was a pretty proud moment when I introduced this ugly-ass bug to a bunch of 8-year-old girls as a baby dragonfly and they went, "AWWWWW!!"
The girls were pretty rad all around. During the leaf scavenger hunt, one of the groups spotted a snake up a tree, and instead of freaking out, they all wanted to see it.
Added bonus -- one of the counselors was in my unit the last year I went to camp, so it was really cool to reconnect with her.
We went back out on the 25th for a night-themed session. I didn't realize it at first because the name has been changed, but this session was the exact session I went to for my first year at camp. How appropriate is that?
We started out with a simple owl lesson. Did you know, for example, that for a human's eyes to be proportional to an owl's, they'd be the size of baseballs? Also, owls don't have eye muscles, which is why they turn their heads so much. They can't actually do a full-on exorcist twist, though. They can only go 270 degrees, not a full 360. It was actually pretty fun. I borrowed some props from the nature center where the Master Naturalist program is based, so I could show them the adaptations on the owl's feathers that allow it fly silently and show them a real taxidermied talon and stuff. After that, we got to the good parts, and the girls dissected owl pellets. One kid found an ENTIRE rat skull in her pellet, and then she donated it to the "sample jar" of bones I'd saved from the last time I did this activity as examples to show other participants. Rock on.
While the girls had "me time," the bibliophile and I hiked down to a little rock hollow near the swimming area. While we were down there I found what I thought to be an empty turtle shell, which is totally awesome and something I've been hoping to find for years. Alas, it was only mostly empty. I got a few Ziploc bags from the kitchen to seal off the smell, and figured I'd come up with a solution later. (Incidentally, I may see about leaving it out at Danger's place for a while with a bunch of almost-unstinky bones that MacGyver has found on his rambles. Of course, if it's not done with it's circle of life stuff before they move, things might get complicated.)
After dinner and a little dusk-time kayaking for the girls, we headed up to the top of the hill to make simple starwheels and go stargazing. It was so cool. The sky was absolutely perfect, and we saw at least a dozen constellations. The two-hour drive home, starting at 12:30, was kind of brutal, but I'm pretty sure it was worth it.
*Seriously. It's a great story, but not for the arachnophobics.