Monday, March 24, 2008

One man's trash is another's treasure

The longtime Middletown Press building is coming down.
Friday morning, T and I took a drive to buy colorful plastic eggs at CVS. He and I had decided to fill them with jellybeans (T's favorite sweet) and hide them around the yard.
He delights in egg hunts. Last year, his hunts lasted well past Easter. He'd urge me to hide them around the house (empty) over and over again, and he'd spend hours trying to find them. Then it was his turn. To give you an idea of how a 3-year-old's mind works, unfailingly, T would hide them in the same dang places every single time, and I would have to "hunt" for them, feigning surprise that an egg would be hidden in the baby wipes box, under the pillow, on the windowsill, ect.
So this day, I was sure he was eager to get home to get the project started.
But then we drove past the Press.
Excavators, Bobcats, dump trucks, workers in hard hats, piles of red bricks all populated the site, milling about. T was fascinated.
Although it was cold with a terrible wind, he stood on the wooden bench just past the sidewalk and ... watched.
For half an hour.
Dad walked around the corner, then went up to one of the workers and spoke for a few minutes.
We couldn't hear because of the machines' noise.
He trudged back against the wind, carrying two large bricks in each hand.
T was in heaven.
We brought the bricks home and T went about re-constructing the site with his own trucks. He used the digger to scoop the dark earth in our flower bed area, next to the pachysandras. I winced, watching the dirt spill onto our slate walkway, and his tan pants, winter coat and fingers get really soiled.
But I let him play.
It kept him busy for hours that day, and again the next day and even Easter Sunday.
We drove past the Press this morning on the way to preschool.
The building, only a concrete frame, rose up from mountains of bricks.
It's a difficult sight for one who worked there for more than 11 years.
But T saw the scene not nostalgically as I, but as inspiring.
I'm sure a whole new construction site will be created this evening when we arrive home.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A sure sign of spring

Nope not the birds chirping or the crocus and other spring flowers beginning to push their way through the soil.

Driving down Washington Street today, I saw a something that means spring is really coming.

Resting in the parking lot at Palmer Field were trailers and carnival rides.

Coleman's is coming.

Any bets as to how much rain we'll get this year?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Toy story

“I’m yook-in’ for some new toys,” T said, with the attic door wide open, bleeding heat into the crawl space that serves as our storage area.
(My husband tells me this is physically impossible, since cold air forms a barrier that heat cannot penetrate.)
“Mom! Help me!” he called, while I made the bed in the next room.
We go through this periodically.
T thinks there’s a box — or two — of toys, dubbed “new,” that he has long ago “lost.”
It’s like a treasure hunt for him, a chore for me, as he directs me to open boxes and bins containing potential booty that he spies from the door’s threshold.
He won’t venture any further inside, leaving that task to me, because he thinks there a badger in there.
OK, it was me that told him that years ago, hoping he’d stay out and stop messing up my organized area.
I know terrorizing your kids is one of the top 5 no-nos as a parent, right up there next to remembering to feed and clothe them periodically.
But the only thing T responds to is his badger phobia. Dinosaurs are his friends, bugs are cute, werewolves are not real.
I think he thinks the attic is an infinite source of toys, like how Jesus’ basket yielded unlimited bread and fish.
How nice it would be if the principle applied to all our material wants.
When I’m in there, I’m under pressure to produce something fantastic and never-before-seen, or at the very least — forgotten.
Look what I found: A wooden mouse-shaped clapper, complete with brown felt ears; a chunky, red-wood, old-fashioned string-pull top, his seldom-used indoor tent with the missing pole.
“Gimme dem all,” T instructs me, holding out his little palm.
His response is always the same — and wonderful: “I’ve been yook-in’ for deese forever!” he’ll say gleefully.
“Ganks, Mom.”
I’ll clean up the mess tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mommy Math

This past week can be summed up in a simple equation:

stomach virus (1 husband + 1 preschooler) + double ear infection (1 infant) = one tired momma

Thankfully everyone is back at school and work as of today.

Anyone willing to be the odds maker as to whether or not I can avoid getting sick as well?


A pair of fried eggs revealed the intruder.
My husband slid them from the tiny frying pan onto his plate, next to a slice of rustic 7-grain toast.
“Honey, look at this!” I heard him yell from the other room.
“What does this look like?” he asked, indicating what looked like a handful of ¼-inch-long, coal-black miniature seed pods.
“Caraway seeds?” I offered, perplexed.
“Mouse droppings,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“No way do we have a mouse,” I returned, never having encountered one in all my life.
But he was certain; dumped his plate in the garbage, then opened the metal drawer under the oven, where we store the pans.
“Yup!” he said, pulling out pot after pot onto the floor, inspecting the insides for droppings.
He was right. We had a mouse.
As visions of mousetraps snapped in my head, I cleaned the area, making sure to wash my hands afterward.
T scampered into the kitchen. “Here, mousey, mousey; chirp, chirp, CHIRP!” —like he was calling a cat.
The next morning as Dad and B slept, T and I hatched our plan.
“You know how Gramma has those mouse traps that snap shut and kill the mouse?” I asked him.
His eyes grew wide.
“I’m going to find out a way to capture the mouse without hurting him,” I said.
“Yippee!!” he yelled. “We’re gonna catch a m-owwwww-se.”
As I set about looking online for “humane mouse traps,” it occurred to me T was thinking we’d keep the little guy as a pet.
First we looked up “mouse droppings” to make sure we weren’t dealing with — gasp! — a rat.
Next, we watched two You-Tube videos demonstrating a homemade trap using white mice. It worked within minutes, the video assured us.
We had all the elements: a paper towel roll, peanut butter, cheese, newspaper, container, books and blocks.
I pulled out the under-oven drawer and T and I set up the trap in the now open area.
Stack up the books and blocks to the level of the trash can, place a gob of peanut butter at the end of the slightly flattened paper towel roll; balance it precariously, so the baited end is over the receptacle, crumple newspaper in the bottom; and place a slice of cheese on top. Move the contraption to the wall, where mice travel for safety.
The plan was the mouse, drawn to the dark hole of a tube to investigate, would run toward the peanut butter, his weight would force the tube into the garbage can and he’d land on soft newspaper, find the cheese, eat his heart out, then fall asleep with a full belly.
The first morning, T woke up before sunrise and thumped downstairs.
“We caught the mouse, Mom!” he yelled. I ran to the kitchen.
No mouse, just a tipped-over tube.
But, upon closer investigation, the cheese had tiny gnaw marks along all four sides.
We were on the right track.
The next night, we set out a toilet paper tube. And a deeper pail.
I asked T if he thought the mouse would remember the previous night’s trap.
“I don’t know,” T answered, after thinking a minute.
The next morning, T was up again early. “We caught the mouse, Mom!” he yelled. I ran to the kitchen.
No mouse. No tipped-over tube, either. This mouse was smart.
Inside the trash can, the now dried-up piece of American cheese bore the telltale mouse tooth marks.
From what I could tell, the only two ways this guy got out of that pail were another mouse held onto his tail as he walked around the toilet paper tube and dangled into the pail, nibbling to his heart’s content. Or, a friend pulled him out.
Stymied, frustrated and out of cheese, T and I took a break from setting up the trap last night.
But I’ve got plans. Tonight, I’m recruiting our 4-foot kitchen garbage can for duty.
T's got his flashlight ready.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I fought the hat

And I finally won.

Back in December I wrote about the hat that was supposed to be my grandfather's Christmas present and how I couldn't finish it in time. I put the project in "time out" for a bit. Really, I wanted the yarn to think about why it should work with me instead of against me in making this project.

After the baby knitting was done, I took it back out and tried again. I went up on needle size and added some stitches and then last week I looked down and realized it was finished. It was a little bit big on me -- which I took to be a good sign, as it should fit my grandfather.

The word I received at work tonight - my grandfather was happily wearing his new hat while watching UConn basketball.

For those who care the pattern is Kent's moss-stitch-beret, with some adjustments for my failure to make gauge - brim was done in size 7 needles and the body of the hat in size 8s. I also cast on 100 stitches instead of 90. For my version I used Malabrigo worsted in Azul Profundo.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Parents: honorary team players

It's the last game of the city basketball season and my son's team is matched up with one of the best in the intermediate league of 10- to 12-year-olds.
The teams go through their paces, warming up in two lines, one shooting and the other returning the ball.
B starts off the game in offense position.
All season, B's played with variable effort, 8 a.m. games see him slightly foggy in the first quarter — he's still waking up. In later games, he shows middling effort — with occasional bursts of glory.
And ... they're off!
Right away, our top ball handler, a stick-legged boy, smallest in the league, who as singlemindedly as any pro player uses his explosive speed to dance around, in between, over and in one magnificent instance — through the legs of a leaping forward twice his size, falls then skids across the floor like it's waxed to a high shine.
But it's not — this is skin to wood and he's smacked his knee for the umpteenth time this season.
We've got to watch this — the audience of aunts, uncles, grandparents, players waiting for their game in the next hour, older siblings goofing off, little brothers and sisters figeting as they devour their Skittles, and parents — who shout, "Shake it off!" and sit rigid, half a court away from their injured son, torn between dashing to his aid and remaining part of the amorphous crowd, bobbing heads of parental concern.
But — he's up! — squeezing the tears from his eyes and limping as the coach arcs his arm across #12's slight shoulders, and a ripple of applause runs through the spectators.
The game resumes. Our team shows a ferocity it's never before displayed, hungry for this last win. But the other guys are taller and faster and work together like one 10-armed, smooth-running machine.
We onlookers may see that dynamic, sizing up the match swiftly from the bleachers. But our kids are in the game, each a pawn with his moves known, but knee-jerk reflexes triumph — we're racking up fouls like brass rings.
But — hey, parents, we're not part of the action. We're not even on the floor.
"Stop him!" I yell, "Cover your guy!" and "Get the ball!"
(My husband smugly says, "It's called 'defense.'")
I don't know basketball, I want to scream at him, I never even paid attention to a game before B began playing three years ago. I'm Mom, B's number one fan and a vital component of his game!
But I'm not, really.
Last year, I asked B if he heard my direction from the stands, my uncontrollable commands and howls of praise.
"No, Mom. Just stop screaming. You're embarrassing me."
Thanks, kid.
A boy tumbles just inches from my seat in the front row. I see him slam down on his right side so hard his sneaker flies off.
It's my son!
It all happens so lightening-fast, the ref's got him up and hobbling back to his spot under the left side of the hoop before my maternal instinct even kicks in.
My kid's never been hurt, the crumpled heaps on court have always been other parents' boys that I've been sick with worry over for the long few minutes our collective injury resolves itself.
B's eyes are red, and wet; he's grimacing, trying to run but markedly last in the pack — if this was a herd of Plateosauruses, my 4-year-old's obsession with all things dinosaurs so ingrained in my head I'm of pack mentality, invisioning my older son's certain doom from a pouncing predator.
But it's only a game, Mom! And B's out of it now — the ref's realized he's too momentarily hurt to continue play.
He's safe! I want to yell, but this isn't the Mesozoic Era, it's a bunch of fifth- to seventh-graders' last hurrah.
Two minutes on the clock and we're matched 25 to 25, then up a point, down two, matched again, 28 to 28.
Two long blasts of the ref's whistle. "Two minutes overtime," he says, barely audible without a mic.
My son's on the sidelines, red-cheeked with his chin in his palm. That's me, I think, vainly inserting myself in the game. I can still cheer on my teammates ...
Shoot after shoot barely misses the hoop. The other team racks up the foul shots because our guys are playing full-court press — it's do or die.
Miraculously, all the other team's shots are uneven — one of two or no foul shots make the hoop, then we meet their score, surpass it by one or two, then they advance ...
I can't take this anymore, I think, like I'm the one out there leaping and desperately trying for half-court baskets.
Double overtime — this one-hour game turns into one and three-quarters.
"Sudden death," the ref explains gravely, like he's on camera. "No foul shots, it's gotta be a two-pointer. First team to makes a basket wins."
32 to 32. I'm ready to throw up. I don't need to be here, I realize. If I stay or walk outside for air, the action will still continue.
But I'm unable to stop watching, drawn like a magnet to the drama.
Our best scorer takes a wild shot as his teammates pound the empty metal folding chairs with their fists — thunder.
It's in! Our team goes nuts — B's jumping sky-high, his good leg leading across the court, plunging his fist in the air.
Wow: what a game. B takes a couple shots on basket with a few of the stragglers as the crowd disburses — "Good game," parents assure each other, alternately triumphant and — in fairness — consoling. "Great season," we tell the other kids and their parents. "See you next year."
I gather my son, his sweatclothes, coat — my faculties — and head for the car.