Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hosta Surfing

Friday, May 23, 2008

Trimming Back The Branches

Yeah, that's a guy up there in the Oak tree that extends up and over our house. This one, remember? We were doing a little trimming project this morning, and as I drove to the office after the work was complete I couldn't help but see our backyard maintenance as a metaphor for the way this time of year makes us feel. I guess I should say makes me feel, so as to avoid speaking for the entire civilized world.

We're celebrating Memorial Day here in the U.S. on Monday, which means a three-day weekend and the "unofficial" start to summer. Skies are blue, the green is back - seemingly everywhere you look - it's just a great and increasingly casual time of year. Everything feels lighter. It's like the branches have been trimmed back between your ears, behind your eyes.

Don't get me wrong, I like a crisp fall day and freshly fallen snow as much as anyone, but for me they just can't match right now. You hit the air outside and you want to breathe, as opposed to defend against the elements. The focus turns to planning summer vacations, coordinating camp schedules and weekend get-aways. The kids are home from school, shorts and Crocs and backyard BBQs are resurgent. Pools are opened, bikes dusted off in the wind, long and leisurely afternoon walks around the neighborhood are possible again, transient masterpieces in sidewalk chalk, bubbles floating overhead, it's all right there in front of you.

Unfortunately, at this time last year Ava had her little medical emergency, which resolved itself pretty well but did cramp our style a bit in June and early July. We'd like to avoid that kind of trauma this year, and so far so good.

Tonight Madison had something going on related to one of her after-school activities, and Gwen was going to be shuttling her back and forth, so I took Ava out to dinner at the place Maddie and I go most Tuesday nights. We sat in our usual spot near the big glass windows that have been taped shut all winter, and were now flung wide open.

I asked Ava which table she wanted and she picked one in the middle of the row, two on either side of us in either direction. Then she asked me where Madison and I usually sat and I motioned to the table on the side, up against the wall. She took a second to process the information and then said, "Dad, I want to sit there." I asked if she was sure and she said she was, so we moved over.

We ordered and I mentioned that Monday was a holiday and we had a three-day weekend coming up. "I know," she responded, and then our 5-year-old completed the thought with a line I couldn't touch, a piece of evocative minimalist brilliance worthy of Hemingway himself.

"No school, no work," she said. "Just together."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Auto-Reply Message (Out Of Office)

It's been a little quiet around here lately, I know. I was in New Orleans on business from early Saturday through late last night, with little time to blog and - since I was on my own and away from the family - even less in the way of inspiration.

I did manage - around the work - to accomplish a few of the "musts" that go along with any trip to the Big Easy. I had some excellent coffee and beignets one morning at Cafe Du Monde, the original location on Decatur Street. I had a "Debris" Po' Boy sandwich at Mother's - with swiss cheese, gravy and "dressed," just to be completely clear, ample dashes of "Louisiana's Pure" Crystal hot sauce on most of the bites as well.

Enjoyed an excellent dinner at Restaurant August, part of NOLA's expanding John Besh empire. You can't throw a stone in New Orleans, it seems, without hitting a different place where John Besh has cooked something for you to eat. I don't think there's been a town as associated with and overtaken by a single chef since maybe the height of Wolfgang Puck in Los Angeles, 15 years ago.

Anyway, it was a surprisingly enjoyable trip and now I'm back, reunited with the women in my life and on the hunt for new material. They understand the urgency, and I'm confident we'll be back in touch. Took the photo above with my cell phone on the return flight. The sunset looked even more spectacular set against the realization that home was on the other side.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ava, By Ava

Got home from work last night and Madison had an informal art class waiting. We all sat down on the rug in her room and, following her direction, sketched out self portraits in pencil, which we then colored in, using the big pile of crayons our "instructor" had provided.

Ava stuck with her little project longer than anyone else, and we were all very impressed by the result, so I thought I would post it, with the artist's approval, of course.

"Are you going to send it all the way around the world?" she asked me, as I processed the scan of her little masterpiece. I told her I was, and her smile seemed to indicate she was pleased with the idea.

Copyright Ava, 2008, All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

To Moms about to rock, we salute you.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Heat Trumps Chicken

Today marks the second anniversary of this blog, and over the last couple of days I was thinking about doing a kind of dewy-eyed post about how great it has been having this forum at my disposal and how important it is to take the time to really breathe in and celebrate all those little moments with your kids, because they grow and change so fast.

But we're shelving those plans, at least temporarily. The most notable thing happening in our house over the last 24 hours or so has been the onset of what can only be considered early heat in our little Olive. Early "estrus," for all those cat purists out there.

I guess the girls started noticing some differences in our kitten's behavior during the day on Thursday. By the time I got home from work and we moved through the typical bath/teeth-brushing/book-reading/fighting over degrees of "tired" routine, Olive was rolling around on the floor and making a wide-ranging array of sounds that would seem unnatural emanating from any living being not named Aretha Franklin.

We got Madison and Ava to bed and then went immediately to consult that omnipotent force technology has made available to people in distress everywhere - Google! After just a few moments spent throwing around search terms like cats... heat... symptoms... how soon... our situation was relatively clear. At four months and one week of age, our little Olive was gettin' jiggy with it. She was relatively calm watching TV with Gwen and I over the course of the night, even made it through the jarring and increasingly inscrutable distress of "Lost" without incident. Then Ava crawled into bed with us about 3 a.m. and threw off the group's equilibrium.

I tried to make a go of the middle for about an hour, then wound up taking refuge in Ava's room. She stayed with Gwen, and Olive wandered about, clearly having issues and perfectly happy to let us know about her situation through the darkness, mainly from the landing area at the top of the stairs, within convenient vocal range of all of us. Madison, who has had a terrible time with seasonal allergies this week, was zonked out on Children's Claritin and did not emerge from her comparatively tranquil slumber.

By yesterday morning, we were more convinced of our diagnosis than ever, as the odd sounds and movements continued. The girls kept asking what was going on, wanting to know what was wrong with our newest family member - a question that made Madison's "what's chicken made of?" query, which helped launch this little writing project, seem like, well, child's play.

We said Olive obviously wasn't feeling well, and that Gwen was going to take her to the vet to see what was wrong. At one point, during the morning ritual of warm milk and Noggin, Madison looked down from her chair and saw her cat laying with face and front half pressed against the floor, hindquarters raised.

"OK, that's a strange position," she said.

I agreed and tried to change the subject, but Maddie stuck with it. "It looks like she's wanting something," she continued, before observing that Olive had been unusually affectionate over the last day or so. We had several decades of life experience and an Internet search engine at our disposal but, as is typically the case, our 7-year-old quickly made up the ground.

We got the girls off to school and Gwen took Olive to the vet, who confirmed our untrained suspicions and offered to schedule a spaying for Monday. Gwen responded with some version of "um, that's just not going to work for us" - I don't ask for specific details anymore - and magically a slot for later that morning opened up.

She picked up our woozy little post-op patient about 3 p.m., and in response to the girls' questions delivered the basic messaging we'd discussed over the course of the day. Olive was trying to tell us that she was ready for a special shot that dogs and cats get at this age, to help keep them healthy, and it's such an important shot that they actually have to do a little cut to make sure it gets to the right place. We opted not to raise the specter of fertility and offspring at this moment, as part of this conversation. The approach seems to be working, and the questions have ceased as our pet, after a few uncharacteristic hisses while coming down off the anaesthesia, quietly recovers.

"I feel so bad for Olive," an emotional Madison said when everyone was back at home. "I would have my stomach opened if the doctor said it was between me and her."

[The patient, post-op, as bundled up by Ava]

Last night I brought home pizza and salads - an emerging Friday tradition - and we watched High School Musical to cap a fairly rough and hectic week. Gwen took our "baby" Ava to her kindergarten pre-screening on Tuesday, then cried off and on for two days. Our adorable and still tiny kitten rounded things out with her own coming-of-age issues, sort of a non-human but similarly unsettling variation on the theme. There's no escaping it, our girls are getting older.

And this blog is two. And although I sometimes wonder why I continue to post, what it means and who it's for, I have to admit... I'm still glad it's here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Just Passing Through

Is it just me, or do late-stage Bleeding Hearts start to look an awful lot like space aliens? Just thought I would share this curious little transformation.

We've been double-locking the kitchen door just in case these guys get any ideas, and Olive has been put on high alert. No issues so far.

Monday, May 05, 2008

White Hearts (Not Bleeding)

This time of year we get the Bleeding Hearts running wild in our backyard, I've posted photos on here before, most recently as part of the Wild Art compilation.

Over coffee and Cyberchase this morning, Gwen mentioned that there was actually a white one out there as well, a little further up the hill, a companion plant to the usual red/pink we've gotten used to seeing.

I grabbed the camera and headed out back to take the shots above. And, just to round out the post, here's a shot of the "conventional" variety I took last week.

Beautiful plants, and a nice harbinger of our favorite time of year.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Favorite Spot

Not quite sure why I'm posting this, but here it is. This has become by far Olive's favorite spot in the house, especially in the mornings.

I have to say, despite my well documented reservations, she's been a terrific addition to our home and family. Allergy issues related to her arrival have been non-existent, a fact that was confirmed about a week ago when seasonal allergies (and their resulting misery) kicked in with a vengeance. Nothing like that from our little ball of Siberian fur.

Another thing I've been wanting to post, for no particular reason, is the curious way Olive drinks. She does occasionally take a conventional sip, but seems to prefer dipping a paw into her little bowl and then "drinking" the water off of her appendage. Either approach is fine with us, except when she leans up on the bowl to get a better angle and spills its contents all over the floor.

Here's a little visual progression of her interesting hydration process.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Never Invisible

When Madison came home from school last Friday this project was in her backpack. She said her teacher had asked all the kids to describe themselves by coming up with words that began with the letters in their names.

I was really very happy to see that our 7-year-old makes art, is absolutely friendly, a dancer, thinks she's incredible, a swimmer and someone who is generally awesome.

But it was the last line that stopped me cold, blew me away, and told me everything I needed to know about how our little girl sees herself, her continuing ability to teach and inspire someone more than 30 years her senior, and how far she can go if she holds on to feelings like this.