Monday, August 30, 2010

As Promised ... The Outtakes

Thank you, THANK YOU, all who voted! You made two end-of-the-summer, bored and cranky sisters happy and excited. Except for one small kerfluffle when Bug "accidentally" marked down one of Bear's votes instead of Bear doing it herself (the problem? Bear claims that Bug's tick marks are too thick to be aesthetically pleasing ... sigh), it has been a peaceful last weekend of summer.

So, here, in gratitude are the outtakes of that photo shoot. And, just to be crystal clear, 96% of the photos were outtakes, with a few good ones sprinkled throughout with the scarcity of chocolate chips in store-brand ice cream.

It is with no real regret that I come to terms with the fact that neither of my children have what it takes to be a supermodel. Although the $10,000/hour paycheck would come in darn handy when it comes time to pay college tuition, it's not a lifestyle I'd wish on a kid. I'm sure you'll agree once you see these photos, they just don't have what it takes.

Unless there's a niche market for modelling superhero costumes? Bear seems to have a certain panache that would lend itself to that:Although I'm guessing that most supermodels don't spontaneously adjust their orthodonture while the camera is clicking away:
Or quiz the photographer mercilessly about what's for lunch:
Lucky for me, what they lack in professionalism, they make up for in distractibility.

Bug (as I'm snapping away): Hey, when does this bush flower? Doesn't it get berries?Bear (mid-shot suddenly spins to open the playhouse window): Is our old kitchen play set still in here?
Most supermodels don't openly express disdain for the photographer's camera angles:
Or force the photographer to take a shot of their shoes because "they're really cute, and I can tell you're not getting them in the picture."
Or supply this gem of an expression when asked to "look pleasant":
Or choose a Billy Bob Thornton circa Slingblade expression when told to "smile naturally":

Or have to be told, "Stop looking at the frogs instead of the camera!" And especially not to have to be told that more than twice in a five minute span.
And this? I don't even know what this is, but I can guarantee you that supermodels don't do this in the middle of a shoot:
I'm also pretty sure that fashion photographers don't have to make lunch for their models after the shoot, only to be told that "These aren't the kind of chicken nuggets we like, and the grapes are starting to get soft."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back-To-School Fashion Shoot 2010

It's Back to School for both Bear and Bug this week (and, not incidentally, Back to Routine and Sanity for yours truly). Our summertime disregard for regular bedtimes and waking times around here has led to certain personality malfunctions in my children. As the summer wears on, my tolerance for playing mediator for cranky short people is wearing thiiiiiiin. Like, if I won the lottery and was offered the choice between the cash prize or one day of silence, I'd have to think about it for awhile.

However, a bright spot in the last week has been our Annual Back-to-School Fashion Shoot. The girls have been anxiously reminding me that we're running out of time as the first day of school creeps nearer, and they've been assembling outfits and accessories all week in preparation. Today we finally got around to shooting the pictures.

Here's how it works: The girls have each chosen their six favorite new school outfits to show you. Please vote for your favorite outfit for each kid in the comments. I can guarantee you that they will be hounding me to check my comments every five minutes tomorrow, and tallying votes will be way more entertaining than fighting with each other over who is breathing too loudly. PLEASE VOTE. Do it for me and my ever-dwindling sanity.

Bear, Eighth Grader
#1. Bear: a plaid shirt open over layered camis, worn with accent necklace and jeans.
#2. Bear: a casual graphic tee paired with gray skinny jeans.
#3 Bear: posing with her favorite accessory, her cellphone (Lewis, because naturally she named it) and wearing an aqua tie-dyed babydoll shirt over a white tee with jeans.
#4 Bear: wearing her souvenir t-shirt from band camp, gray skinny jeans, and holding her new backpack.
#5 Bear: charcoal and pink babydoll top over a white tee with dark-rinse jeans.
#6 Bear: a tiered, ruffled orange and white top over a tank, paired with jeans.

Bug, Fifth Grader
#1 Bug: floral tee with sleeveless gray vest, paired with jeans and her spiffy new backpack.
#2 Bug: gray dancer t-shirt worn with flower necklace and jeans.
#3 Bug: hot pink babydoll shirt worn over a white tee with jeans and plaid flats.
#4 Bug: green and pink graphic tee worn with a pink ribbon necklace and jeans.
#5 Bug: gray striped sharkbite tank worn over a lime tee with jeans.
#6 Bug: gray and yellow striped cardigan worn with a coral cami and jeans.
Bonus Enticement for Voting! If the kids manage to accrue a respectable number of votes (i.e., enough to keep them from bickering), I plan to post the outtakes from this photo shoot early next week. And, trust me, these outtakes are not to be missed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No, You Can't Have a Live Koala as a Pet. Or a Manatee.

On the last day of our Ohio visit, my parents took us all to The Columbus Zoo. Jack Hanna (of Tonight Show fame) is the director of this zoo, and it is fantastic.

I learned something valuable that day, and I'd like to pass it on to you as life advice, which you should probably write in permanent ink on your hand. It's that important.

Here it is: If you go to the zoo on the hottest day of a Midwestern summer, just go ahead and skip the rhino enclosure. Particularly if you have a fairly hair-trigger gag reflex.

Holy STENCH. There are no words. I'll just say that no Port-a-Potty I've ever encountered could come within 1/1000 of the odor of that enclosure. They must outfit the trainers with gas masks or something. Not only did I not pause to admire the mighty rhino, I picked up my sedate pace to something approximating a quick trot until I was well upwind.

The brown bears just sat around looking big, dumb, and goofy, trying to convince us that they wouldn't mind at all if we climbed over the fence and cuddled them like big fluffy teddy bears. Unfortunately for them, I've read this book, and it was so completely terrifying that I will never, ever be tempted to walk up to a bear. The quote I remember from that book, which is a true account of people who have been attacked by bears, is one from a man who was dragged out of his tent by a grizzly. His friends reported hearing him scream, "Oh God, it's got my leg off!" as he was being mauled to death.

Nice try on the cute act, bears. I saw those teeth when you yawned, and I'm not falling for it.
The newest exhibit was the polar bears. They had a beautiful enclosure complete with a moat full of rainbow trout with a viewing deck both from above-ground and underwater. The polar bears are twin sisters, rescued as orphaned cubs near Alaska.

They are also rude and inconsiderate.

How, you ask, can polar bears be rude?
Well, keep in mind that it was HOT that day. Like, jungle hot. Not a cloud in the sky. High humidity. Scorching sun. Sweat dribbled constantly from my scalp down into my eyes, and even my purse felt cloyingly hot pressed against my side.

Meanwhile, the polar bears, rudely did THIS the entire time we were on the observation deck. Over and over again with palpable glee. Almost like they knew we were about to pass out from heat exhaustion as we stood, pressed against the glass watching.
Then this. As if they were filming a goddamn Mountain Dew commercial or something. Jerks.
At least this guy was gracious enough to look as hot and uncomfortable as the zoo guests. He laid on his shaded platform with his harem the entire time we stood watching, raised his head for precisely one second while I snapped his picture, then flopped back down to wait for the cool breezes of evening.

That's manners.
I was bizarrely taken with the flying foxes, which were bat-like enough in appearance to horrify my mother. She has an iron-clad "no bat" policy, which was severely tested last summer when one decided to take up residence in their patio table umbrella. He was, to put it mildly, dispatched.

I thought the flying foxes were fantastic, although I concede that they have extremely creepy feet. They reminded me of tiny, elderly British gentlemen, with their raincoats tucked securely around them. They just need little derby-style hats, and the image would be perfect. I
considered writing "Please supply the flying foxes with little hats" and submitting it in the suggestion box, but they'd probably have to staple them to their heads because of the whole hanging upside-down thing. And that would be wrong, so I let it go. Reluctantly, because it really would be fabulous.
Manatees eating lettuce. I'm putting this shot on my fridge as substantiation for my theory that eating salad can so make you fat, so really, why not just focus on cheesecake?Snoozing koala. Adorable. My girls want one as a pet. Me too, but I couldn't find any zoo personnel who could confirm if they could be litter box trained.
The girls were as excited as preschoolers to find a misting station on that hot afternoon. Even Papa joined them under the cooling mist.
It looked tempting, but I believe I've already established on this blog the effects of humidity on my hair? I was afraid that the misting system, combined with the day's heat, would lead to me poking out some hapless tourist's eye with an errant frizzy curl. (Also, I knew there was a decent chance that I'd wind up being in a photograph later that day, and then I'd have to explain the 'do to future generations looking through my photo albums. Much better to appear red-faced and sweaty than with The Frizzy Helmet of Shame).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Think It's Time For School To Start Back Up Again

Bear (hollers from the living room): Mom, are we allowed to be on the computer?

Me: No, I think you've had enough computer time for today. Go get a book and read.

Bear (happy to be the informant): Well, Bug's on the computer. (to her sister) Buuuug, you have to get offfffff.

Bug: Mom, can I just listen to music on the computer while I read?

Me (opening mouth to reply):

Bear (snotty): Um, there's this thing? It's called an iPod?

Bug (right back atcha snotty): Yeah, and there's this other thing? Called a sister? And it's ANNOYING ME.

Bear (hollers from living room): Moooooom, Bug just told me I'm annoying!

Yesterday, for similar mutual heckling that culminated in shrieking and thrown puzzle pieces, they both wound up spending the hour before dinner in solitary (in bedroom, no iPod or phone). Anyone care to lay bets that they won't find themselves in solitary again today?

It's that time of the summer - two weeks to go until school starts - when sibling rivalry and boredom has come to a head. They're tired of swimming, playing outside, and all the standard summer activities, and in their boredom they've turned to the only remotely entertaining activity around: annoying the shit out of your sister. It doesn't help that they both happen to excel at this activity (what can I say - they're gifted), and one carefully chosen remark is all it takes to send the other one in a stompy, door-slamming maelstrom of sisterly fury.

Right now they're both sullenly folding laundry with cheerful Mary Poppins-y assurances from me that there's plenty more where that came from should they care to bicker while folding. Is it wrong that I secretly hope they'll get into it, so I can make them Swiffer the floors, too?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back From Vacation, part 2

An added bonus to our Ohio trip was that my aunt and uncle from California were there for the first two days of our visit. We hadn't seen them in seven years. Seven! How that much time slipped by I couldn't possibly tell you.

Joe and Donna were The Cool Aunt and Uncle of my childhood. You know the kind? They were the anti-parents of my childhood, and every kid should have at least one. My parents' house was loving and fun, but with a definite overlay of rules and structure. Staying at Joe and Donna's meant a much looser regime. I remember once being scandalized out of my young mind to discover that my older male cousins wore only boxer shorts to bed. Mine was a pajama-wearing household, and it had never occurred to me that every single other human being on Earth didn't also wear pajamas to bed.

I once spent an entire week at their house when I was around seven. Donna took me to the base swimming pool every single day that week without complaint, let me brush her long hair endlessly, and bought me an ice-cream sundae one day for lunch. Joe called me "lady" and engaged in long, serious conversations with me about the Betsy-Tacy books I was reading. I was even allowed to sniff his after-dinner crème de menthe glass, which felt very glamorous at the time.

When I mentioned at the grocery store how pretty the multicolored mini marshmallows were, Donna tossed a sack into the cart. That evening, as a special treat for my parents' arrival to pick me up the next day, we crafted a God-awful, sickeningly sweet pie out of pudding, mini-marshmallows, and whipped cream. My 12-year-old cousin and I smashed the graham crackers for the crust using a ball peen hammer. I was divinely happy.

I was so glad that Bear and Bug got to spend some time with them on this trip. They were only three and six the last time we saw Joe and Donna.
The main enticement for making this trip to Ohio when we did was that Joe and Donna brought with them from California my 92-year-old Mamaw. By far my closest grandparent, she and I have evolved from sleepovers (chocolate pudding for dessert, pancakes for breakfast) when I was tiny, to writing letters when my father joined the Air Force and we moved away from Pittsburgh, to phone calls in more recent years as my life became busy with marriage and children and her handwriting became shaky.

It was wonderful and difficult to see her. She is losing her memory, repeating things often, and easily confused. She seemed fragile to me, no longer the invincible and independent grandmother of my childhood. Widowed in her early fifties, she never remarried. She put herself through nursing school after my grandfather died, and eventually opened her own business (a wallpaper and paint store that she ran for many years). She has always been supremely independent, and I can tell how frustrated it makes her to have to ask for help.

Despite knowing that she was staying for a week at my parents' house while Joe and Donna went to his high school reunion in Pennsylvania, she woke up and stripped the sheets from her bed three mornings - convinced that she was leaving that day. When my mother helped her to unpack her suitcase and put her clothes in a chest of drawer, she was puzzled and upset to find her suitcase empty the next morning, thinking she'd run out of clean clothes.

The old stories she remembers faultlessly, and I never tire of hearing them. Growing up as one of three sisters (and two brothers), she told me how each of the girls were allowed to receive their beaux in a different room of the downstairs. Mamaw in the kitchen, Edith in the living room, and LaRay in the dining room. At the end of the evening, as a signal that it was time for the young men to leave, her father would start harrumphing and scuffing his feet upstairs. If they didn't heed the signal, a few minutes later he would come marching down the stairs in his red one-piece long underwear. "My, those boys would run out then!" she told me, "One of LaRay's suitors tried to leap over the front porch rail and wound up in the rosebushes with a broken leg."
On the morning Uncle Joe and Mamaw were leaving for the airport, we all got up early to say good-bye to them. Last thing, after we'd hugged and Mamaw was walking out the front door, she turned back and caught my hand, "Be sure to bring the girls to visit me. I just know they'd love Kennywood."

Kennywood is the amusement park in Pennsylvania where my father worked as a teenager. The amusement park that Mamaw has lived three thousand miles away from for more than twenty-five years. My heart snagged, but I smiled and told her I was sure the girls would love it, too.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back From Vacation, part 1

These past two weeks, I've been off-grid vacationing. While I realize that to most of you, this probably conjures images of camping in the Yukon, climbing a distant Tibetan peak, or perhaps a safari in the wilds of Africa. For me, "off-grid vacationing" loosely translates to "lounging around in my parents' house in suburban Ohio while eating my weight in delicious food, making me too damn lazy to crack open my laptop."

Look! Proof! The night we rolled in, my brother and sister-in-law hired a Spanish chef to prepare the following:
There was tapas. And bronzino (fish! not self-tanner as one [me] might initially think). There was a garlic-saffron aioli that I would like to carry in my purse for condiment emergencies.

Sure, I posted a few desultory updates on Facebook, but the bulk of my trip can be summed up in two words: Food Coma.

The girls, on the other hand, basked in the ten kasquillion candlepower glow of being the only grandchildren AND only nieces (no nephews either, for that matter). They are the sum total of the next generation, and MAN did they reap the rewards. From shopping for school clothes with Nana, to bookstore spending sprees with Papa...
To rides in Uncle Awesome's convertible...
To Aunt Fabulous teaching them to bathe the puppy while wearing a dress and heels...
This was a lifestyle to which Bear and Bug would LOVE the chance to become accustomed. They became un peu insufferable and slightly wired at all times. To wit:
They are currently undergoing Spoiling Detox back in the cold, harsh reality of life in Maine with their parents. A life in which their mother, instead of allowing them to eat Junior Mints before lunch, will say, "What ... are you kidding me? Hey, since you're in the kitchen, unload the dishwasher." and then chuckle maliciously when their expectant little faces fall.