Ch-ch-ch-changes

It’s back to school time. The Little Prince (who is not so little, anymore, being fully as tall as me) has his schedule, his supplies, and today was the last piece of the puzzle–clothes. Schedule flexibility is a working writer’s friend–I can only imagine the zoo the stores must have been the last weekend day before OMG FIRST DAY OF EDUMACATION.

This year the Prince is in high school, and right glad to be out of middle school. Both he and the Princess firmly consider middle school the very worst, though I’ve cautioned the Prince not to decide until both are over. Still, I am hoping the thought that the worst is behind him will ease the transition.

So this week is about adjusting to school hours again, though I don’t have to drag my weary self from bed to drive him like I did for elementary. (Like, when his school actually BURNED DOWN, omg.) It’s bittersweet, the little markers of your kids growing up. Like the liberation that happens when you can say, “Get in the car and put on your seat belt,” and there’s no monkeying about with carseat, booster seat, or anything else. Just a check to make sure they’re buckled, and away you go.

This is the first year I won’t have to get up when the kids do at all. I’m not sure quite what to do with myself, really. Technically I suppose I could go back to my night-bird schedule, which is what my body’s really built for. I’m happiest when I resurrect a little after noon, settle to work around 2pm, and go to bed around 3am-ish. It’s been decades of working against my biorhythms, and I used to long for the day of freedom.

Unfortunately, the dogs are on a set schedule too. So…yeah. Probably not ever going to be able to sleep when my body really wants to.

So. Both kids have smartphones, and their own lives. After so many years of guarding every breath they take, it leaves one a bit at sea. The only help is that the process is gradual, it doesn’t hit you all at once. Or, after a long sea change, you look up and notice they’re…if not adult, then damn close, and the shape of the person they always were and the one they are going to become have gradually overlapped. Wonder of wonders, they actually seem to like hanging out with their mother, even when it’s not the obligatory evening dinner. That’s the best thing of all, when your children can stand you.

I’m sure I’ll cry on the first day of school. I always do. Don’t tell anyone, though. I have a reputation to maintain.

photo by: Alan Smythee

Alas, Bandit

So, yesterday, our remaining cavy, Bandit, didn’t eat his salad for breakfast. Normally he devours his greens with a good will, but…yeah. There were a couple other disturbing signs, which led to a vet visit and the decision to let him go painlessly. They go quickly, once they’ve decided to, and he was never quite the same after his buddy Critic passed.

We knew he’d go, and sooner than any of the other animals, but it’s still sad. I console myself with the fact that he had a good life, in his gigantic condominium full of toys and snacks and hiding places.

The week’s been awful. I’m glad it’s over now. Hug your furry friends for me, if you have ’em.

Over and out.

Crumble

When your daughter’s best friend comes home unexpectedly from college, and goes blackberry picking, and generously leaves you a zillion blackberries, there is nothing left to do but make a crumble. I was a little worried, because I just eyeballed the ingredients instead of measuring them. But it vanished over the course of an afternoon, so I guess I didn’t do too badly. *dabs at lips with napkin*

I hope your summer is full of such delights, my friends.

The Penultimate of Canary Shed

My good intentions get me into trouble. We all know this.

So, just to bring you up to speed, there was the squirrel, the dogs, the crushed and fragrant lavender, a garden gnome so upset he was considering giving up pacifism, and just-barely-caffeinated-yours-truly. The first was making a lot of noise, the second were both shut inside and bemoaning the fact, the third was crushed (but would recover) the fourth is still muttering distinctly uncharitable things about “that crazy-ass girl”, and me? Well, first, I decided, I had to find my shoe.

Canary!Squirl: FIGHT YOU! FIGHT YOU ALL!
Emphysema Joe: THERE’S ONLY EMPTY SPACE BETWEEN US, CRAZYPANTS.
Me: *muttering* You are not helping, Joe.
Miss B: *behind the patio door* MUM! MUM! LET ME OUT! I’LL HELP! I’LL HEEEEERD IT LET ME OUT PLEEEEEEASE!
Odd Trundles: BORKBORKBORK! *from my bedroom window* OOOOH MUM I AM ALOOOOONE AND ASCAIRRRRT AND SOMEONE IS YELLING! BORKBORK!

I made it to my black slip-on shoe, thankfully right next to the concrete walkway, keeping a nervous eye on Canary!Squirl’s dancing. Emphysema Joe, well past the limits of even his patience, was all but frothing at the mouth. Willard and Phil, blinking blearily, peered around the fir to see what the rucks was, and Willard started to moan. Phil popped a pebble in Willard’s mouth–for a concrete zombie gnome, Will’s amazingly like a toddler–and cleared his throat.

Me: What?
Phil: THIS WON’T END WELL.
Me: Oh, now this is revealed unto you? How did she get up there, anyway?
Canary!Squirl: FIIIIIIGHT YOU! IIIIIIIII…WANNA BEEEEEEEEEEEE…AAAAAANARCHY!
Phil: I THINK SHE’S GIVING A CONCERT?
Odd Trundles: BORKBORKBORK ASCAAAAARIT MUUUUUUM…
Me: Have you seen my coffee mug?
Phil: WHAT?
Me: Never mind.
Emphysema Joe: YOU’RE OFF KEY, YOU PUNK WANNABE! COME DOWN HERE AND FIGHT IF YOU WANNA! I USETA BE A CONTENDAH!
Miss B: *throwing herself at patio door* MUM! MUM! I’LL PROTECT YOU! MUUUUUM!
Willard: MRPPPHBLEGRRRRP
Me: Oh, my God.

I dumped grass and pebbles out of my shoe, got it on, and stood up, somewhat shakily. I eyed the shed and the dancing, screaming squirrel, sticking my fingers in my ears to ameliorate the noise.

Then, deciding nothing about this was going to be simple, I edged across the yard. There were several problems to solve, but number one was getting to the shed door. That’s where all the shovels are, you see.

Now, if you read those last two sentences and said, “Lili. Honey. Don’t,” YOU WOULD BE RIGHT. You would be much smarter than I was at that point.

I had, you see, some hazy idea of getting a shovel, or finding something to make a squirrel-ramp out of, or something like that. Canary!Squirl made another attempt to leap into the fringe of the cedars and thudded back onto the shed roof, rattling both the sheet metal and, I suspected, every bit of rodent brain she possessed.

Canary!Squirl: AAAAAAANARCHYYYYYYY!
Emphysema Joe: IMMA CLIMB THIS WALL TO GET TO YOU, YOU–
Me: Watch yourself, Joe.
Emphysema Joe: DID YOU SEE WHAT SHE DID?
Me: You know Miss B gets excited–
Emphysema Joe: THE GODDAMN DOG AIN’T THE PROBLEM, MA’AM!
Me:
Canary!Squirl: FIGHT YOU! FIGHT YOU BOTH!
Me: Oh, Lord.

I gathered myself for a tricky bit of business. You see, in order to get into the shed, one has to kick away the rock holding the door closed, then open the door outward, then step into a dingy, spiderweb-festooned, Very Small and Crowded Space. The door has a habit of swinging closed when someone is inside, but open when nobody is–look, don’t ask me, it’s par for the course around here.

ANYWAY. The thought of being inside that cramped dark space with a wild squirrel loose on the roof was not appetizing, but if I was going to get the tools to get the damn squirrel off the roof, I had no choice.

That was, at least, what I thought.

So I braced myself, thought I should cross myself though I haven’t been Catholic in decades, glanced at Emphysema Joe–who was ranting something about knowing a few Hell’s Angels–and nervously at the shed roof, where Canary was making a fuckton of noise but, because of the angle, could not see me. (Or so I hoped.)

I made it under the shed eaves. Kicked away the rock, hunching as far as I could. I swung the door open, and I ducked inside. The door kept going–I may have used a little more force than necessary–and hit a hummock of dirt right at the edge of its arc. That, of course, shook the whole shed, even more than the dancing on the roof.

Which…stopped. And so did Odd’s yowling, which probably meant Miss B had trotted into the bedroom to boss him around, being unable to see me clearly anymore.

The sudden quiet was unnerving, to say the least. I found myself crouching next to our lawnmower, peering up at the shed rafters where the shovels (including the SHOVEL, brought from the other house, if you’ve read SquirrelTerror you know the one I’m talking about) are. Normally I stand in the doorway and lift one of the implements in the rafters down, but having a squirrel land on my head didn’t seem wise, right? Plus, there was the rake hanging on the back wall, and I had a hazy idea that might be a better choice for squirrel rescue, perhaps?

But…there was the sudden silence, and in it, I heard Emphysema Joe take in a startled breath. There was only one explanation: Canary!Squirl had noticed something.

That’s when things got…interesting.

…TO BE CONTINUED

The Ballad of Canary Shed, Part II

I ask you, my ever-faithful Readers, have you ever carried a very excited Australian shepherd up two flights of stairs while a squirrel screams imprecations from your shed roof and a garden gnome is using language he probably learned on a Grateful Dead tour?

…maybe I should back up.

So I compounded my error of opening the damn door by actually going down the stairs, and peering around the fir. It was too-early-o-clock for the amount of noise Canary!Squirl, on the shed roof, was managing to produce. I’m sure the neighbors already hate me, there was no need to add to it, right?

Not only was the goddamn squirrel screaming, and Emphysema Joe using language unfit for the gentleman he usually is, but Miss B was in what you’d call a perfect goddamn fury. She worked around the shed at top speed, busting through the kiwi vine on the south side, knocking over various stacked garden things, desperately seeking a way up to get to whatever was making that glorious, wonderful, oh-so-interesting noise.

I will admit, I stood there for a second, my pre-caffeine fog thinning but by no means lifted, gaping.

Canary!Squirl: FIRE! FLOOD! FUCKING ANARCHY!
Emphysema Joe: YOU STEP ON MY GREEN AGAIN IMMA RECONSIDER MAH PACIFISM, YOU GODDAMN–
Miss B: HEEEEEEEERD IT! HEEEEEEERD IT!
Odd Trundles: *sound drifting out my bedroom window* BORK BORK BORK ALERT ALERT LONELY SAD! WHY MUST BORK? BORK BORK BORK!

Part of herding is, of course, circling, which B was bound and determined to do, stopping every quarter-revolution or so to attempt launching herself at the roof. Each time, she was doomed to fail, so she would visibly decide circling was the best strategy, only to get overexcited and attempt again.

I made it cautiously across the yard, downing gulps of scorching coffee. Of course, I had the hazy idea that catching B’s ruff while juggling a full cup wasn’t optimal, but not enough horsepower to realize that maybe I should have just set the damn thing down. In any case, I was between one mouthful and the next, B landed in the lavender, Emphysema Joe began to really get warmed up, and Canary!Squirl made an amazing leap for a fringe of cedar branches hanging over the roof.

Miss B: HEEEEEEERD! HEEEEEERD!
Emphysema Joe: *spluttering curses*
Odd Trundles: WHY THERE NO MUM? ALOOOOOONE! ALOOOOOONE AND LONELY BORK BORK BORK!
Canary!Squirl: *splat*

That’s right, friends and neighbors. Her leap was a masterpiece of power and passion, but it…fell short. She landed on the roof with a hollow bong! that was hilarious. Or at least, it would have been if B hadn’t come around the corner again, intent on wrecking more of the lavender launchpad, and almost took my knees out from under me.

My coffee mug, thankfully empty, went flying. Emphysema Joe sucked in a horrified breath. I let out a “JESUS CHRIST!” worthy of Graham Chapman, almost fell onto a metal bar that had once held up deer netting (previous owners, I guess, thought we’d have suburban fawns? I don’t even know) and Canary!Squirl, suddenly conscious of our presence, began to scream afresh.

Canary!Squirl: I’LL FIGHT YOU ALL TOGETHER! I’LL FIGHT YOU ONE AT A TIME! ANNNNNNAAAAAAARCHYYYYYYYYY!
Miss B: YOU HEEEEEERD TOOO MUM HEEEEEEERD GET IT!
Emphysema Joe: HOLY FUCKNUGGETS AND DOLLY PARTON, YOU OKAY?
Odd Trundles: *still in my bedroom* MUM? MUM IS THAT YOU? MUM I’LL SAVE YOOOOOOOU!
Me: *using “fuck” as every other syllable, and every part of speech, too*

I managed not to get stabbed by my own garden architecture, braced myself, and caught Miss B by the scruff on her next round. Barking hysterically, she was not amenable to being dragged by said scruff all the dim-damn way across the yard, nor was I particularly enamored of that strategy. The only other thing I could think of was getting my legs underneath me and my arms around her, and picking her up like a shepherd with a particularly naughty sheep.

I will spare you the details of the language I used, the language Canary!Squirl used, and the horrified moaning that commenced from Emphysema Joe as he began to take stock of the smooshed green. I shall also spare you the details of how I lost a shoe, staggering across said yard with an excited, wriggling, extremely flexible and motivated 50lb+ Aussie in my arms. I have a bruise on my hip from hitting one side of the stairs on the way up, fell on the landing and managed to keep hold of her, got her to the door, had to put her down and sink my fingers in her ruff to free a hand and get the door open, then toss her inside.

Odd Trundles: MUM? MUM IS THAT YOU? MUUUUUM I’M ASCAIRT! BORK BORK BORK!
Miss B: *scrabbling at patio door* LET ME AT IT! LET ME AT IT! I ALMOST HAD IT! I HEEEEERDED IT!
Emphysema Joe: JUST LOOK AT THIS. JUST LOOK AT THIS MESS.
Canary!Squirl: THAT’S RIGHT MOTHAFUCKAS, ANARCHY IN THE BACK YARD!
Me: …I liked that mug.

I collapsed outside the patio door and gathered what little wit I could lay claim to.

Damage: Bruised hip, hiccups (all tasting of coffee), torn fingernail (I don’t even know), possibly broken coffee mug (goddammit), crushed lavender (that’s fine, it’ll give Joe something to do), lost shoe somewhere in the yard (why me, God, why me?), possibly insane squirrel (is there any other kind, I’m wondering?) still on shed roof, neighbors no doubt awake and cursing me roundly, and dog slobber all over my arms and pyjama top.

*sigh*

I won’t deny I sat there for a few moments, feeling utterly unequipped to deal. But if there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s that dealing is not optional. You don’t have a choice, especially when you suspect that crazy-ass squirrel might not be able to get down under her own power. Besides, I had to go find my mug anyway, right?

So I made my third bad decision of that morning, my dear Readers.

I made up my mind that a squirrel rescue was in order.

TO BE CONTINUED…

photo by: Alex E. Proimos

Go Straight Through

In between housework chores yesterday I finished reading Vincent Shih’s The Taiping Ideology. Interesting in and of itself, the book is also fascinating as a snapshot of Chinese studies in an American university during the late 60s. It was published in 1967, so Johnson’s escalation in Vietnam was well underway, which meant Communist China was a bad guy as far as a lot of Americans were concerned. The fact that the party line in China views the Taiping Rebellion as an early attempt at class revolution makes it even more interesting. Teasing out implications and looking for signs of academic one-upmanship is one of my very favorite things.

The footnotes were pretty amazing, too. I love footnotes.

So that was my weekend, other than (finally) laying more concrete for the garden walkway on Saturday. For those curious, we’re using this heavy plastic mold. It takes an 80lb bag of concrete for one, with a little left over, so every fourth or fifth there’s enough for another full mold. The kids and I have our mixing, filling, tamping, and lifting down to an art now. You can definitely tell how we’ve gotten better as we go along.

We laid eight bags of concrete, well over six hundred pounds of lifting and shifting. That’s our upper limit; it took us an hour and a half and we were all pretty much done by the time cleanup was finished. The larger part–the patio extension–may have to wait to be fully finished until next summer, but we’ll get the part around the upper garden boxes done before the rains move in this autumn, just on weekends, six to eight bags at a time.

It’s a good thing we can all work together without killing each other. Kind of like when we painted the loos–close quarters, hot work, tempers liable to fray. But the kids are fascinated by the concrete process, and seeing the end result gives them both a glow of accomplishment. Me? Well, my back is okay, but my arms and legs are noodles after each session. The glow of accomplishment is kind of overshadowed by the need for ibuprofen and the urge to wash concrete dust off in a cool shower.

And today, of course, there’s an 8km run dialed up. I should get out before it’s too warm, and see if my legs have forgiven me for all the lifting on Saturday. There’s a particularly intense scene to write today, too. I’m not sure if my protagonist is going to get a crossbow quarrel in the back, and the only way to find out is to go straight through. As usual.

Over and out.

An Unserious Post

Coming Home
© Kwest19 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
One of the things I always loved doing was walking at night. Especially with a camera that functioned well in low light settings. I am, by nature, a night person. (Which surprises nobody.) Having diurnal children means I’ve been fighting my body for years now. The entire world is set up for the daytime people.

I always told myself that when the kids were older I’d allow myself back on my preferred schedule. But then…dogs. Especially Miss B, who is a BRIGHT SHINY HAPPY MORNING DOGE. Of course, as she grows older, she’s more inclined to have a bit of a lie-in, but her idea of one is a full fifteen minutes of hard snoring before nosing me hopefully or sticking her paw in my armpit to make sure I’m still alive.

She does so love to be helpful. It absolutely torments her if I shut her out of the bedroom while I do twenty minutes of yoga. Apparently that is an eternity of cold loneliness, so bleak and terrifying she has to howl at the door. It’s kind of hard to relax, even in Corpse Pose, with a dog wailing that she MISSES, and LOVES, and CANNOT BREATHE without, YOOOOOOOOU. Then, of course, Odd Trundles, who doesn’t understand quite what’s going on, thinks that because the smarter dog is wailing something must be wrong, gets in on the act.

It’s either deal with that noise outside the door or let them in, where they decide to helpfully nose or hip-check me in every pose. Downward dog? They have to be underneath me! Plank? Try to knock Mum over or take out her arms! Reclined side twist or Figure-4? Sit on Mum’s hair! Reclined Goddess? Crawl over Mum’s knees to give her a Van Damme groin stretch! Tree Pose? HIT HER ANKLES! AGILITY TRAINING!

…yeah, so either way, those twenty minutes of yoga are probably far more…active…than any swami or guru ever intended. At least the last time they decided to cavort under me while I was trying to stay upright in Tree Pose, I fell onto my bed instead of Odd’s crate. Small mercies.

I did have a Serious Post planned for today, but apparently I’ve become distracted. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Wandering around at night to take pictures.

Maybe there will come a time in my life when I can do that again. Sadly, it’s not yet, so I have to do other things I love. The bright side is, I have so many things to love and be interested in. Even if I have to drag my protesting body out of bed and subject it to wakefulness when it’s genetically designed for sleep.

*shuffles off to find more caffeine*

*also, dodging dogs*