Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Crappy Weekend

The weekend started off innocently enough. Smunch had an 8:30 soccer game on Saturday. The team played well...for that particular team. They didn't lose, but it will still be merciful when the season ends next weekend.They didn't win either. They tied 1-1. Yet again, Smunch played goalie for a quarter. I barely watched.He seems so small out there. And often the empty field in front of him and the offensive plowing towards him seemed pretty daunting. But he's not that fragile. He's a decent goalie. And the one time he's been scored on (which was not this weekend), he didn't seem to care, even though the ball went right between his legs. That didn't happen Saturday. He made a bunch of saves and did just fine during a quarter when he saw a lot of action.Mam, meanwhile, has befriended the little brother of the most "problematic" of Smunch's teammates. Fortunately, the little brother (who is the middle of three brothers) is very friendly, fairly nice and loves to play with Mam, despite being a year younger. The moment they spot each other is always the best moment of the game or practice. It also happens that they get to hang out while their brothers take swim class on Mondays.This little guy calls me "Ryder". I'm not sure exactly why. I think he asked once and I must've said "Mrs. Ryder" and that's how he interpreted it. It cracks me up. I don't plan to correct him.

It was a cold and cloudy morning, but a successful game, by our standards. The beginning to the crappy part of our weekend was just around the corner, however.

After the game, Mam took off for yet another Pump It Up party while Smunch had one of his teammates come home with him for a playdate. His playdate is a super nice kid who is on his team, in his Cub Scout den and in his second grade class. They needed to go distribute door hangers for the Boy Scouts' annual food drive, so I left all that to Daddy.

When Mam and I got home, Smuch and his friend were just getting back from their scout duties. They'd had a good time and had played nicely and quietly together. It's amazing what a nice, quiet friend will do for our kid's disposition! But by 1 o'clock, things were starting to go south. I'm not sure why. Maybe Smunch got up too early, maybe he wasn't feeling well, maybe he's just weird, but you could feel the hyper and wound-up chid coming out. Daddy is good at spotting this stuff early and made the executive decision to have our playdate picked up. It was a good choice.

Smunch's friend left and he and Mam went out to play with some of the neighborhood kids out in the street. That was fine, but Smunch had to be warned a couple of times not to mess with his sister. When she finally came in saying that he was trying to knock her off her bike, Daddy went out there and made him come in and go to his room.

I don't think any child would be overjoyed with that news, but Smunch was livid. From the other end of the house I could hear the massive racket he was making in his room. It sounded like he was throwing things around and screaming. Maybe that was part of it. The truth didn't come out 'til hours later. He'd been in his room, hitting his forehead on his bed frame. He'd hit himself so hard that a big, bumpy bruise was coming up from his hairline to the top of his nose. I don't know if I've felt more alarmed in recent memory. "I was punishing myself," he said. If only he knew how that kind of crap punishes the fragile psyche of mommies.

That wasn't the end of the crap, of course. Mam had disappeared off into one of our neighbors houses and I had to go fetch her for her own soccer game...the last of the season. She came home relatively willingly. She loves soccer after all. But she forgot her bike and had to go back for it. I waited, hairbrush and hairspray in hand. And I waited some more, until I stomped over to the door to find out where the heck she'd gone.

There she was, with her bike in the floor between our two vehicles...the mommymobile and the Daddysmidlifecrisis...just standing there. There are only a couple of feet between the van and the car. The kids never take their bikes between them, for good reason. The mommymobile has had more than its share of child-caused vandalism. It was rear ended about a month ago and although the damage was minimal, I used it as an excuse to have the whole side of the van repaired and repainted. I have a great body shop. It looked brand new again (at least on those panels that they did). I got it back last week. And this week...?

You guessed it. This week, it is now scratched all the way down the side by a little girl's bike handle, or fender or something. I was pissed. I made her cry. I made this sweet little thing cry. I'm not proud of that, but it almost seemed necessary at the time. Seriously, why did I bother getting all those dings repaired. I must be an idiot. Unless I was going to adopt my children out, there was no logical reason to try and make the mommymobile prettier or less embarrassing to drive.

Mam had recovered by the time we left for her game. It was another rip roaring success.I'm going to miss this team of little girls. They changed so much over the season.Mam no longer stands out as the star. Now they all know what they're doing. Mam scored once, but her teammates scored three or four more times. They know what they're doing...just in time to forget it all for next year.

There was a pizza party to celebrate and medals were awarded to all of the girls. Both of our two wonderful coaches had something really nice to say about each player. I give these guys a lot of kudos. It's got to be hard to coach "beehive soccer" and they did a fantastic job.

And so the evening ended with us hanging Mam's new medal from a shelf in her room and sending the kids off to sleep.

Daddy wasn't feeling so great, so we got in the jacuzzi tub for a little bit, then went to sleep.

He was up again a couple of hours later and I could hear a torrent of rushing water. What?? I went and looked outside to see if there was a broken pipe or something. Nothing. It was the bathtub in the hall. Turns out, Daddy had woken up with a raging fever. Not wanting to bother me, Daddy had gone to put himself in the hall bathtub. Of course, neither of us knew that it's crazy loud in our room when you do that.

I got up and went to sleep in another room. I couldn't go back to sleep. And I finally heard Daddy get out of the bathroom. I heard him go back to our room, notice I wasn't there and then head for the room where I was. He opened the door and I uncharitably said,"What do you want now??? He sounded irritated at my tone and said he needed to tell me something, then rambled on about how the cats had peed in the bathtub and we'd both bathed in watered down urine and that he was itchy and hot.

What??? I just wanted to sleep. I didn't question him, I let him go. He doesn't remember this conversation. Apparently that fever was BAD! And he's still sick. I'm quite sure he has the flu. Could be H1N1 ("the swine flu") or more of garden variety, but he's been looking green and staying in bed all day.

Tomorrow's Monday. I think I'm looking forward to it.


Late last week, my prizes arrived from the San Francisco Giants. They didn't have any Tim Lincecum signed baseballs to give away...or at least that's what they told we made do with a ball autographed by Matt Cain, the Giants' other pitching ace.
(AP Photo/ George Nikitin)
(No, his signature isn't worth nearly as much.) They also threw in a couple of "extras".

But let's back up. Because the real gift came a few days after Halloween when it was announced that on the day prior to Halloween, our adored Mr. Lincecum was stopped for speeding in his Mercedes on the way up to see his dad up in Washington state. That might not have been so newsworthy (it was hardly newsworthy anyway) if the officer hadn't been smacked in the face with the stench of marijuana and made The Freak had over his little stash and his pipe.
(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Now, I have to admit that I don't care a lot about Timmy's personal habits. I hear he doesn't shower very often either. I doubt I'd find that appealing. He was not charged with driving while intoxicated. Either he gave the officer and autograph and got out of that one or he really wasn't. It was 8:30 in the morning, after all. But who knows. There's certainly a contingent out there that says, "Duh, of course Timmy's a stoner."

I don't know. I don't really care. BUT, there's never a time when I care more about that sort of stuff more than when Smunch picks up the sports page in the morning. Like most second graders, he can read and a headline that says, San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum faces pot charges in Washington is bound to peak his interest more than just a little. It meant a long, drawn out conversation about drugs and why Timmy made a big mistake. I resent having to have that conversation first thing in the morning. I can't help it. Timmy, do what you want, but please keep your newsworthiness to your pitching.

So, when my package from San Francisco arrived with a grey, knit beanie hat in it, I immediately dubbed it the "stoner beanie". You'll see why if you take a look at the picture below, which Daddy took last year at FanFest.Mine looks just like this, except with a little SF logo on the front. And I look just like Timmy when I wear it.Now all I need is some weed...oh, and a Mercedes to go with it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

And the Winner is...

ME!!!So I worked really hard on this pumpkin carving...mostly just to see if I could pull it off. I could point to all kinds of things that went horribly wrong, including how the whole face fell out on Sunday afternoon (bummer, I wanted to light it up again!). Plenty of things weren't quite how I'd planned, but it still turned out pretty cool.

Because one person asked and because I think it would be cool to preserve this information for posterity, I'll go into some details about this award-winning carving. I started out by choosing an online photo of "The Freak" that I thought would work for my purposes. I chose this one:I cropped it so that only Timmy's face showed and then ran it through Photoshop's "Cutout" filter that made it look something like this:I used that as my template, but it lost some detail, so I had Daddy go back and find me an appropriately sized SF logo for the cap and I added the white of his eyes, which you could see in the original photo.

I used a pin to poke the outlines into the pumpkin, through the paper. I started carving with a Dremel, with a small router bit attached. It kinda worked. At least it gave me a specific depth to carve to. After carving the brightest bits to that depth (the deepest it could go through a 1-inch+ thick rind) and just scraping the skin off the things I wanted to get less light from...that taking a mere several hours...I determined that no light was going to get through that and used a plain ol' knife to cut out the thin parts entirely, then used the Dremel to drill the other parts deeper.

I cut a circle around the outside just so the cap would show up. Unfortunately, I didn't quite think that through all the way. Cutting too far was going to make the face fall out, so I only got part way and ended up with sort of a lightning bolt edge on one side. By then, the pizza had arrived for dinner, so I took a break.

I wanted to write "Beware of the Freak" around the outside, but trick-or-treaters were already starting to come to the door and I was worried that if I tried to cut too much, I'd end up breaking all the delicate stuff I'd already done. Still, I thought the "Freak" aspect was particularly apropos, considering "The Freak" is one of Tim Lincecum's nicknames and because it was Halloween. So, I settled for "Freak". And this is what I ended up with:It looks like it took a lot of work, but it hardly looks like it'd be impressive. i was pretty psyched when I first checked it out with a candle inside. Totally worth the effort!

As mentioned in the previous post, I submitted it to the San Francisco Giants pumpkin carving contest. For all I know, no one else bothered to enter. I mean, the Giants' season has been over for weeks now. I can't even tell you what I was doing poking around on their website, where I noticed the contest ad.

I enter the occasional contest here and there, but I never win. So imagine my surprise when I got this e-mail from the Giants' Marketing and Entertainment Manager:


Congratulations, you are the winner of our Pumpkin Carving contest! You have won a player autographed baseball. If you can please reply all to this e-mail and provide your address we can get this out to you as soon as possible.

Congratulations once again and awesome job, your “Freak” pumpkin is very impressive!


Huh. Imagine that! We'll have to see how that whole "autographed baseball" thing turns out!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween - The Real Deal

After having more than a week of Halloween already, it was almost a surprise to find the main event suddenly upon us like the boogey man. I'd managed to buy a couple of creepy window hangings and Daddy and I strung some cobwebs across the front of the house. That meant yesterday was a mad rush of carving pumpkins and finishing up decorations before setting off for an evening of candy collection.Oh, and soccer, of course.

We had a lazy morning at home. Since I had some undeniably ridiculous plans for pumpkin carving, that was probably a poor plan, but I was still trying to talk Mam out of the large pumpkin she'd selected weeks earlier. She'd selected two others in the meantime and I needed a really big one for my planned carving.

I set the kids to work carving their own pumpkins. Mam had carved her little pumpkin from the farm trip a couple of days earlier, but we still had two others. While I helped them out with their pumpkins, I finally got permission to start on my own. They were long done before I'd really even started.I'd only just started cutting as Daddy starting shoveling lunch at the kids in preparation for Smunch's post-lunchtime soccer game. Not to be completely distracted by my mental illness, I left the house shortly after the rest of the family to see the soccer game. Smunch's team won, 1-0, a fairly unusual event. Just their second win of the season. Smunch was playing great by the end of the game, but it took a while for him to warm up.

We went home. I spent another 45 minutes working on my pumpkin, then putting Mam's ponytails in and spraying them in place for her soccer game. I'd made only a little progress before we had to leave again. Another fun game for Mam, putting her goal total for the season at 22, I think. They also won (6-2), although they don't technically keep score.

I'd planned to make soup for dinner, but we ordered pizza instead, in the interest of my completing my pumpkin before midnight. Daddy called our favorite pizza place. They said we could pick up our pizza in 2 hours. Two hours??? We opted for some Round Table instead.

And Daddy got the kids dressed. Mam still had her ponytails in, but it turned out to be a cute addition to her costume. The knocks started coming and it soon appeared that we probably hadn't bought enough candy this year. Our neighborhood was buzzing with activity. It was great, but unexpected. Still, just because our neighborhood was buzzing, didn't mean our dark, narrow cul-de-sac was all that busy. In the end, although I came home and raided some bags of candy the kids had collected at a Cub Scout event earlier in the week, I think we probably had just enough candy in the first place.

We left a bowl of candy at the door and took the kids around the neighborhood for an hour or so...until they decided their pumpkin baskets were too heavy to carry anymore.They returned home happy with their Halloween.As I put them to bed. They both told me what a great time they'd had. Worth all that harried silliness.

Smunch was the sweetest of all. "Mom," he said. "I love your pumpkin." A boy after my own heart.
[Entered in the SF Giants Pumpkin Carving Contest]

Or was I after his?

Stretching the Spooky

Have you noticed that celebrations for children seem to go on and on and on these days? Was it like that when we were kids? Don't get me wrong. It's really fun, but it also makes each event something to "get past" before anything else can happen. Know what I mean? In this instance, of course, I'm talking about Halloweeen.

Halloween in our house started a full week and a half before October 31st. One of the fabulous mommies from Mam's kindergarten class hosted a Halloween tea for all the little girls in the class. She has the perfect house for such things...huge, unmanicured yard and a rambling, non-upated house. Nothing to destroy. Absolutely perfect. And, of course, it was crazy cute.We had a fun couple of hours relaxing in the sunshine and it was a great way to kick of the excitement for Halloween.

A few days later, we made our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, to meet old friends and see everyone's costumes. And, of course, to take photos of the kids that actually include pumpkins. Sir Smunch was a wee bit baffled, apparently.Mam, on the other hand, was all about the posing with pumpkins, even though the bright sunlight wasn't exactly camera-friendly.My sister and I used to pose for these very same pictures in this very same pumpkin patch. Things were simpler then. It wasn't crowded. There was no $5 bounce house, no haunted house. No pony rides or petting zoo. No costumes either. I need to get hold of those photos, just for comparison. I suppose we still did plenty of wandering among the pumpkins, but we didn't look nearly this noble.And I don't recall the need to kick-test them, but maybe that's a boy thing. I'm quite sure there was plenty of this: And my mom probably even helped us pick that pumpkin up and purchase it...unlike me. I opted for the $3.99 pumpkins at CVS instead of paying $20 for this bad boy.

The pumpkin patch trip (followed by the annual pilgrammage to Jake's Pizza) was a whole week before the big event, giving us time to work up some eager anticipation for the Halloween parties and parades at school on Friday. As usual, I overvolunteered my time, not realizing that Smunch's Halloween party was at the very same time as the kindergarten parade and party. Fortunately, the front of his classroom is directly opposite the back door to Mam's kindergarten room and I managed to go back and forth and not miss much.

However, I was in charge of one of two crafts for the second graders. And all 80 second graders would be rotating through Smunch's classroom, so it wasn't a small job. The craft had to be explained three times and I'd failed to cut streamers to length, which turned out to be a fatal flaw in my plans. There were always at least two of us busily cutting streamers as fast as we could. The projects turned out cute though and the kids seemed to like them.I loved seeing all the kids' ghost wind socks together on the table. They're way cuter as a "flock" than they are flying solo. I wished I could've taken them all home myself!In mid-craft, I ran over to the kindergarten yard to watch Mam's parade. It was small and low-key, but obviously, it was important that I made it. She was already dressed when I got there. After the grand march, the kids were treated to Frankenstein hands (gloves filled with popcorn with candy corn "fingernails") and pudding with chocolate crumbs on addition to cheese pizza. Spoiled any?I ended up having to drag Mam back to the second grade room, where she made her own ghost, we cleaned up and hightailed it home for lunch before going back to school to help Smunch get dressed for the whole-school parade.
The parade was fun, but very long and too hot for so many kids sitting out on the blacktop. Mam only begrudgingly participated in this second parade, even though most of her class had returned for the event. For Smunch, it was the main event. But he didn't see me in the sea of parents, so I didn't get much of a photo.His mask was always falling down, so his chin was pointing up towards the sky trying to keep it on.

After the parade, the second graders (and many younger siblings) headed to the multipurpose room for a 20-minute viewing of It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, complete with their own Frankenstein hands (their other craft from the morning) for munching.Then all the little monsters and goblins went home for the weekend, completely hopped up on sugar and excitement...thinking the next 24 hours couldn't pass fast enough.