Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Like She's Trying To Tell Us Something...

1. Sign That Appeared on Bug's Door:

Bug's Room
(except in emergency)

Sign here to show you have read this:

Thank you.

2. Then in the car on the way to the Fryeburg Fair, she announced that she'd written a short story, and she wanted to read it to us.

Clearing her throat, she began, "I open my eyes and wonder where I am. Then I remember, and I'm not happy anymore. I live with my grandparents because when I was three, my mother ran away. Why? I don't know. Since my mother left, I've been wondering who my dad is. I know it's crazy, but my mom was always scared to tell me. Maybe he's the hobo down the street ... no, I doubt it.

I grab the elastic next to my bed and put my hair up, then I clomp downstairs in my fuzzy red slippers. It's hard living with grandparents. They just don't understand the privacy kids need. That's why there are so many "KNOCK FIRST" signs on my door. It doesn't help much, though. I think when I grow up, I'll let my children have locks on their doors, but that's not important right now."


Subtle, isn't she?

Tom, Bear, and I all duly signed her bedroom door proclamation. Tom and I always knock when the kids' doors are closed. I believe in privacy and that everyone should have a space that is purely their own. However, I'm also clear to the kids that I knock to announce myself out of courtesy, but I'm a-comin' in. We pay the mortgage, after all.

Bear, however, is notorious for barging into her sister's room without knocking but freaking if Bug comes into hers unannounced. We're seeking the delicate balance between anarchy and full-blown turf war.

That said, I'm wondering what a shrink would say about Bug writing a story wherein the mother runs away and her father is a hobo? Hmmm.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


In the course of applying to be a sub in my kids' school district, I had to get fingerprinted. It made me wonder: how many prospective school employees make it to that point in the application process, willingly give their prints, and get found out as being a wanted felon? These are the kinds of questions that bother me, that but I couldn't exactly ask without it seeming damn suspicious.

Speaking of which, there's something nerve-wracking about being fingerprinted by cops, even when I know it's for an innocuous reason. It certainly didn't help that the three cops running the Department of Education Fingerprinting Workshop looked like something directly out of a 1955 episode of Dragnet. All three were middle-aged, sported short-sleeved button down shirts, close-cropped hair, and professionally blank expressions. I felt like they knew something about me that I didn't know. Like, maybe I'd had a crime spree several years ago that I'd forgotten. I mean, sometimes (fine, usually) I forget where I've parked my minivan at the grocery store. Who's to say I haven't committed multiple burglaries over the years and had them just slip my mind, much like the eye appointment I keep meaning to make but continually forgetting until 5:30 pm on a Friday?

Cop #1 certainly scrutinized my application form carefully enough like he thought I could be a felon. I found this slightly offensive, since I'd put great thought into the outfit I wore that morning, selecting what I thought was the least felon-like ensemble in my wardrobe (trouser jeans, black heels, black tee, and purple cardigan with pink pearls). Or is that what he was expecting me to do? Should I have gone for the not-even-making-an-effort-because-I-have-nothing-to-hide look of yoga pants, sweatshirt, and baseball cap? Shit.

"Right over here, please," he said crisply, waving me toward the table set up with inkpads.

I held out my hand, trying not to let it tremble (don't want to look like I'm worried) but also not wanting to look like I've done this before. He separated my pointer finger from the others, rolled it on the ink pad, and then gently pressed it onto the print card.

He paused and frowned. OMG, my prints must exactly match those of a wanted serial killer. It would be totally my luck to be the first person on earth not to have unique prints. Shitshitshit.

"You should have moisturized," he said to me.

"Excuse me?" I asked, thinking I'd misheard.

"I can't get a clear print. Your hands are too dry," he told me.

"Heh, heh. I guess I missed my chance for a life of crime!" I joked without thinking. Nice. Jenn. You shouldn't crack jokes about crime while you're being fingerprinted. It's like saying "bomb" at an airport.

He frowned again and reached for a water bottle, "Let's wet your hand a little and see if that helps."

I let him spritz my hand, blot it off, and try taking prints again. "We'll have to see if that can be read or not," he said doubtfully.

"What happens if it can't?" I asked nervously.

"Well, then we'll have to amputate your finger," he said with a perfectly straight face.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Fair Day (pronounce "fayuh" for Maine authenticity)

I've wanted to go to the Fryeburg Fair ever since we moved to Maine nine years ago. It's the latest fair in Maine, falling on the second week of October, and it's one of the oldest. This year, the kids happened to have a teacher in-service day during the fair's run, so Tom took the day off work and we struck out for western Maine.

A word about Maine roads: while there is a lovely, modern, multi-lane north-south running highway (Yes, a . We have only one interstate here in Maine.), there is no east-west highway. Sure, there are roads that they call "highways" laced all over the place, but they are two-lane (and often with no shoulder to speak of), densely wooded, twisty little roads with houses sprinkled along them every few miles. It gives you a taste of what America was like before the interstate highway system.

We were heading mostly west, so it was twisty little backroads for two hours. The leaves are stunning right now, the lakes the deep rich blue of fall, and the sun was shining. On the other hand, I had two girls prone to carsickness (one of whom is also terrified of twisty little roads) in the backseat. I passed out the Dramamine and sneaked occasional surreptitious glances back at them as we drove, checking for imminent puking. It was a gorgeous, yet harrowing - and thankfully, uneventful ride.

The fair was everything a fair should be: gaudy, noisy, overpriced and lightly perfumed by onion rings, fries, and caramel. Plus, there were flush toilets, which pleased me immensely. One reaches a certain age in life where one feels one has reached one's quota of Port-o-John usage.

There were many darling farm animals to coo over, like these two goats cuddled up together.
This alpaca was practically Disneyesque in his adorableness.
The oxen fell less in the "cute" and more in the "formidable" category. I declined to walk through their building with Tom and the girls. Dudes, they were about eight feet tall and loosely tethered in open stalls. I wasn't about to walk two feet behind them. Instead, I loitered outside and watched a woman blow-drying a calf in preparation for judging. Then this gargantuan steer and I eyeballed each other. I was pretty glad when Tom and the girls emerged from the barn untrampled.
We watched oxen pulling because Tom wanted to. In terms of entertainment, I rank it somewhere between watching my breakfast cereal get soggy and attending a tax seminar.

We rambled through exhibition halls, while the kids asked repeatedly when we could go back to the midway.

We ate some surprisingly decent Filipino food and passed around one $3 water bottle.

We shuffled through the craft hall, while the kids asked repeatedly when we could go back to the midway.

We walked through barns full of livestock, while the kids began to make passionate cases for purchasing some ducks, or perhaps just one chicken. I offered to take them to the midway.
Speaking of fair animals, have any of you every seen an adult male boar? In person? I guess I hadn't because when we sat in the packed grandstand to watch a little livestock judging and they trotted out some boars, I about fell off my bench. First of all? HUGE. Like, six feet long with their heads close to waist-high on a man. Second of all? HUUUUUUGE. Their, um, scrotums.

They looked like two partially deflated basketballs. I mean, that big. Seriously. Bug perused the judging for a couple of minutes, then asked in a clear, ringing tone,

"WHAT is that THING hanging off the pig's butt?"

Bear shot me a panicked look of embarrassement, a clear please, please shut her up message in her eyes.

Tom, sitting next to Bug, murmured something about "discussing it later."

She sat quietly for a minute or so, then asked loudly over the murmur of the crowd, "No, seriously, I have to know. WHAT IS THAT THING HANGING OFF THE PIG'S BUTT??"

Tom leaned down hastily and spoke at length into her ear. I watched her expression slide quickly from curious to horrified. Bear tried to cover her face with her hair and slid microscopically further away from her sister.

We left soon after that and decided to break for a snack. We girls all have our particular fair food weaknesses.
No fair experience is complete without hitting the midway, although neither of my kids are fans of fast rides. As a mom who has watched several hidden-camera 20/20 shows about the (un) safety of fair rides, I was OK at giving the rides a pass.

The girls were gung-ho to try some of the midway games. I was very clear with them before we got to the fair that we would pay for them to play two games, but they'd have to cough up their squirreled-away allowances if they wanted to play any more. One glance at the luridly colored stuffed animals dangling enticingly from the booths, and they happily plunked down their dollars. (I only let them bring a specific amount, or I'm sure they'd have each burned through $50 in pursuit of prizes).

They were steely-eyed with concentration as they threw darts at a balloon, tossed rings around bottles, or threw baseballs at piles of cans. Tom rolled his eyes elaborately but wisely said nothing. Blowing a wad of cash at a fair midway is a childhood rite of passage.
They were divinely happy with their armloads of junky prizes. And broke.
It was a great family outing and a beautiful fall day. We often talk about going places for a day trip, but don't always make the effort to make it happen. It's all too easy to get caught up in mowing the grass, painting the garage, and the myriad of other things that need to get done. There are always things waiting to get done. Sometimes it just feels right to set aside time for fun. I'm so glad we did.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rumors of My Death Are Mostly Exaggerated

At some point during the last almost month of blog silence (Huh. Didn't feel that long.), I did have this monster of a migraine where I briefly wished I was dead, but only until I thought about how I really wanted to lost twenty pounds or so before anyone saw me in a casket. At the time, amidst the blinding pain, the flashing lights in my peripheral vision, and the extreme sensitivity to sound, this is what I came up for as a reason to live. I am nothing if not shockingly shallow.

Frankly, I don't know how this many days have gone by since my last post. Stuff has happened, photos have been taken, and several blog posts half-written in my head. Somewhere between the thought and the keyboard, life got in the way. Then, the longer I went without posting, the more whiz-bang amazing it seemed like the next post had to be. And that threw me into a prolonged state of writer's block, which I attempted to self-medicate by shoe shopping. (Didn't work, but I have the cutest new black heels. Sorry. Again with the shallow).

We've settled back into the routine of the school year and the after-school activities schedule. Tom and I sat down the first week of school to take a good hard look at our budget (not recommended as a mood enhancer unless you are Bill Gates). After listing all of our normal monthly expenditures, our exorbitantly expensive health insurance (the joys of self-employment), and the fees for the girls' extracurricular activities, we totaled the whole mess up and compared it to Tom's monthly net salary. We squinted at the numbers, re-totaled, and discussed.

Bottom line: after fourteen years of being out of the classroom, I'm heading back - this time as a substitute teacher. It's something I said I'd never do. Funny how that always comes back to bite you in the ass, isn't it?

"I'd never want to be a sub! What a terrible job!" I've been known to say airily. And it is terrible (the pay is laughable - transients probably make more money washing windshields at intersections for one hour than a sub does in a day). But it also dovetails with my kids' schooldays, it brings in more money than I'm currently earning (which would be $0 per year), I have the luxury of not subbing if my kids are sick, and it puts me back in the classroom with kids. Even though I came to the decision by necessity, I find that I'm really looking forward to it. Teenagers may be moody, hormonal, and prone to questioning authority, but I've missed the little buggers.

Also! I got to go clothes shopping. I assume that they don't want subs in yoga pants and hoodies, which has been my uniform since 1996. I also have a festive array of baseball caps and flip-flops, which I switch out for sneakers in the cold seasons. I picked up some dress pants, skirts, blouses, and cardigans. Tom, of course, grumps about how many subbing days I've already "spent" with my wardrobe enhancement, but he is a big fan of the pencil skirts and high heels.

Can you imagine the blog fodder this could generate? It's a win-win all around.