Sunday, May 30, 2010


I've known a lot of cats, but to my recollection none like to have their belly rubbed as much as Tiger.  Most days when we come in the front door, Tiger is laid out on the living room with all four of his paws in the air and a hopeful look on his furry little face.
He looks somewhat ridiculous, but he gets a lot of belly-rubbing out of this ploy so I suppose it doesn't really matter how undignified he seems.  Still, I can't help but wonder if he was a dog in one of his previous lives.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Real Life Conversations with JT: Asking and Telling edition

The backstory: We do a lot of NPR listening in my family (so much so, that during the pledge drive when a young woman said she pledged as soon as she turned 18 because she'd been listening in the backseat of the car for all of her life…JT nodded his head and raised his hand in affirmation and solidarity).  All this NPR listening also offers an avenue for me to explain the world to JT.  Thursday evening as we drove home from a Little League game, there was a story about an upcoming Congressional vote to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy in the military.  I braced myself for a discussion of why gays aren't permitted to openly serve.

JT (in an incredulous tone):  You mean they don't let some people join the military and maybe die for their country just because they are gay? 

Mama:  Yes.

JT (now sputtering with anger and shaking his head):  That's just ridiculous.  Just so silly.  Ridiculous.  They want to help their country and we should let everyone help.

One of the things I've noticed about raising my son is that I have to explain the world's injustices to a child whom I have taught to believe in the promise of equality and justice. When these examples of inequality and injustice come along, I have to explain them and then explain why the adults in the world haven't fixed this problem.  And then I have to look into the disappointed eyes of child who trusts grown ups and expects them to do better.

And you know that's the thing: He's right and we should be better than this.  Here's hoping that DADT is swept into the dustpan.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fighting Gravity

Today, right around 1 pm, the underwire on the right side of my bra gave up the struggle against gravity.  I felt a startling snap as I moved and knew exactly what that sound meant.  The good news is that I wasn't teaching class when it happened. The bad news is…..well, underwire failure is never good.

I have an entire category of stories related to cataclysmic bra disasters.  Because I have no boundary, at least one has been posted here before.   On the basis of that experience (and others! so many others!), I know that underwire failures are fairly routine and certainly easier to manage than something like front hook failure, which requires a careful and delicate response. 

 It's one thing to be a tad uneven and yet another to be entirely lopsided.  So in the aftermath of today's collapse, I headed to the bathroom to assess the damage.  Mercifully, it wasn't packed with teenage girls, whose critical eye can be withering.   Damage assessment revealed that if I stood up straight I could make it through the day without attracting undesired attention, looks of concerns, or the whispered negative assessments of teenagers.

I survived the rest of the day without any more personal garment failures.  Under the circumstances, that might qualify as a minor miracle.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Getting By

At this point in the school year, I am pretty well tuckered out.  I live my days on a day-by-day basis, packing lunches by rote, and generally doing my level best to just get where I should be.

This afternoon, I needed to be at the 3rd and 4th grade concert in the lower school.  I sent JT to class equipped with the proper attire and then promised I would be there to hear him sing in the choir.  He was slated to sing around 1:25. I got my class started at 1:20, handed them off to a temporary keeper (called a prefect, which sounds much better than keeper, but isn't nearly as amusing to me), and then slipped into the hall just as the choir started to sing.  As I slid into my seat, JT gave me a thumbs up, our family sign of recognition.

I heard every bit of the choir and then the concert closed with a round of applause.  I walked back up to my classroom and finished out my classes for the day.  Later on, as we talked about the concert, I said to JT, "I made it into the hall with just a second to spare;  I hope you weren't worried."  He stopped and looked at me and then said, "I knew you'd be there, Mama. You always are."

In fact,  I am the always-there sort of mama.  And my boy knows this about me.  I worry so much and so often about doing right by this miracle of mine and I need to remind myself more often that we seem to be getting by just fine.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pretty Package

Last week, I had occasion to wrap a package.  Inside was a decopaged bowl from Julia's Adorabowls, an  Etsy shop. And the outside of the package was pretty satisfying as well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Update, part II

When this bathroom project began, I wasn't sure what I wanted the final product to look like.  While I didn't love my bathroom, I didn't dislike it.  So I hadn't been thinking about how to make it look amazing.  Moreover, the renovation began for very practical reasons: the 85 year old plumbing was leaking and had to be replaced.  The old pipes ran along the floor and then up the wall that connects to JT's bedroom.  The plumber and I agreed that the best strategy was to streamline the plumbing into one place.  So a new wall was built, dividing the shower and bathtub from the toilet.  With the fixtures placed, the rest of the plan was up to me.  

As I thought about the final product, I kept envisioning a light-filled space that felt clean and relaxing.  The bathroom isn't huge, but it does have high ceilings.  The plumber and carpenter agreed that the window in the shower-space could be contained with tile and marble and therefore saved, preserving outdoor light in the room. But the toilet, now behind a partition with all the shiny new plumbing, is at risk for seeming dark and dank; I decided that lighter colors would prevent that corner from a cave-like feel.

I settled on a combination of white tile and trim, complemented by a blue-grey paint (the color is Behr's rain-washed) and a line of opaque glass tiles in shades of the wall color  Right now, the old flowery wallpaper is still in place.  Within the next month, it will be replaced by something in the new color scheme.
Later this week, the toilet, sink and radiator will be re-installed and the bathroom will be fully functional again.  In the years ahead I will never take for granted an upstairs toilet in the middle of the night.  I've already begun to enjoy the amazing new shower.  I'm feeling good about the tile and color combination.  The hard parts are finished and I only await the new wallpaper.  When I've settled on a pattern and it is hung, I will make and post final pictures of the completed renovation.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

All Taped Up

The woodwork painting was completed last night and this morning I got out my painter's tape and went to work.  This afternoon, I'll paint the ceiling and then the color will be applied to the walls.
 The upper third of the walls is slated to have wallpaper.  I'm undecided about wallpaper on the new wall, so I've decided to paint both sections of that corner and then decide if that upper third should also be papered.
 Updated photos later today.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weekend Update, part I

This week, my bathroom renovation reached the point where things needed time to dry and set.  So each day featured just a little bit of progress.  As of this weekend, I'm at the paint stage of the project.  I am doing the trim, wall, and ceiling paint myself in order to save some money.  It's not a huge job, but it does require that I plan out my attack.  The trim ---- both the chair rail, the molding, the door and its frame ---- will be painted first.  In the case of the door and the door trim, that will require some sanding and a tackcloth. The door trim took a beating in the renovation (and hadn't been perfect to begin with).
Update: the first coat of trim paint has been applied and things look good. The contrast isn't easy to see (the hazards of an all-white bathroom), but I'm happy.  Tomorrow's paint will be the color and once that's up, I'll have a better feel for the changes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

On the Downhill Slide

I play the on-line Set puzzle nearly every day.  In most areas of my life I have proudly held steady at the level of mediocrity but when it comes to my daily Set puzzle times, I can brag.

After two months at 39 seconds, a plateau that I was plenty pleased about, on May 18 I finished the daily puzzle in 34 seconds.  I hasten to note that this accomplishment was not the result of any performance enhancing substances or illegal doping.  This here is the outcome of consistent training and raw ability.

And it likely reflects the high point of my 42 years on this earth.  It's all downhill from here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Little League Mama

This year's Little League season has found JT spending a good deal of time behind the plate, wearing a catcher's mask and mitt.  He's thrilled to be in this position and spends hours of his free time practicing to catch the ball and generally fantasizing about that perfect ESPN moment, where he makes the last-minute catch and tags the runner just in time to preserve his team's playoff hopes…….

In pursuit of that goal, I've practiced with him and we've reviewed the rules.  JT knows that the catcher must own home plate and protect the ball.  He's not afraid to be knocked over by the runner (though at this level of Little League, running into the catcher is not permitted).  He understands the need to give the pitcher encouragement.  He knows he's got to keep his wits about him when things get exciting.  The need for snap judgments doesn't frighten him.  He's as ready as a ten year old can be.
 At last Sunday's game, it all came together.  As the ball flew JT's way, he stood right on home plate, caught the ball, tagged the runner, and then fell to the ground (the runner kept on running), still in possession of the ball.  The umpire behind the plate called the runner safe.  In that moment it was like another person occupied my body.  I flew out of my chair, shouting, "he was out, he was out."  Before I could scale the fence and shake the home plate umpire into getting a clue, the umpire near first base intervened and announced that the runner was out.  The batter had never left the box, the runner tackled the catcher after being tagged out……….he didn't cite the matter of the deranged mother behind the fence, fiercely shaking the chain link and frothing at the mouth, but that may have simply been an act of diplomacy.

Or fear.

Either way, your average soccer mom has nothing on me.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sweaty Sanity

Amongst my irrational fears is a fear of body odor.  While my shower was out of commission, I was reluctant to work out and work up a major sweat, feeling that I could not get clean enough to play my role in civil society.  Lest you judge, please recall that I spend my days with teenagers.  I like them, but they are a critical group of people.  I feared a funky smell and exchanges of knowing glances as the students rapidly backed out of my classroom, pinching their noses.

The return of the shower means that I am back to working out every day.  That's a damned good thing because my sanity was hanging in the balance. I knew that my daily hour on the elliptical was time to think, read, and generally sweat out my tensions. I knew that it helped me to sleep through the night.  I knew that it made me feel strong.  But knowing in my mind and knowing in my body were very different.  I missed my workout. 

As of Thursday of this week, I am back to my daily workout.  Rarely have I been so grateful to work up a sweat. Not to mention the glorious post-workout shower. And I have every reason to believe that my sanity is in the process of making a full recovery.

Though this is my version of sanity, so I wouldn't get too excited about that.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


There is still plenty of work to be completed in the bathroom, but as of last night we were authorized to shower.  Words cannot express my true joy at this development.  The first thing that the boy and I did when we got home was set up the new shower curtain.  Before bed, JT enjoyed the first run in the new shower.  As he stood under the full force of a brand-new shower head and plenty of warm water he announced, "Mama, this is gooder than the old shower." 

The grammar might be imperfect, but the sentiment is spot on.  Gooder, indeed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Suds in the Bucket

Some years ago, JT was fixated on a Sara Evans song, "Suds in the Bucket."  He loved the tune and would sing it from his perch in the backseat of the car.  It was one of the great pleasures of my day to hear his little voice sing that song.  And it came to mind when the bathroom got torn up and we went to bathing in this:
Last Thursday, the tub was installed and limited bathing was once again authorized.  But as tile and grout are drying, the tub, which looks most lovely from a distance….
…has briefly returned to the forbidden zone.
And so this morning found me once again humming "Suds in the bucket."  The marble apron at the door is installed and some of the new floor tile has been laid down.  Paint has been secured and today more tile and more new drywall is being installed. 
 We're getting tantalizingly close to completion. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Real Life Conversations with JT: Much Loved edition

The backstory: Grandma and Grandpa have been in-house for the last 10 days, providing entertainment, emptying of the dishwasher, clean laundry, construction supervision, baseball trivia, and much love.  But they fly home today (in search of warm weather and a hot shower).  This morning, as we were getting ready to say goodbye, JT pulled me aside for a conversation.

JT:  We'll see them in less than 6 weeks, right?

Mama:  Yep. On the boat to Alaska in 6 weeks.

JT:  Good.  Because I don't want to cry when I say good bye.

Mama:  I've got you covered, sugar. 

Safe travels, Grandma & Grandpa.  And enjoy that hot shower.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fence Me In

I have two new peony plants in my yard.  I planted them on either side of the front walk but they are still young plants.  It will be a few years before I have the large bushes I envision.  In the meantime, they need a little protection from life (between me and my mower and the boy and his feet, life is risky in the front yard).

So my dad McGyvered up a little round fence to keep them from harm's way. 

Friday, May 07, 2010

Real Life Conversations with JT: Speaking in Codes edition

The backstory: My parents are in town for the week (to help supervise the bathroom renovation and generally hang out) and Thursday night we were sitting around the table after supper.  Supper was late because baseball practice ran until 7:30 and things were more chaotic than usual (which is saying A LOT). Why? Because in addition to the non-functional bathroom upstairs, the toilet downstairs had sprung a leak.  The leak required water shut-off to said toilet, rendering it useless as well.  Living without a shower is one thing; no toilet is a whole other.  So I devised a solution, albeit a risky one whereby the victim would use the toilet and then I would quickly turn on the water to fill the tank, flush, and then shut off the water at once to minimize leaking.  Flushing that toilet could no longer be considered easy.

My life is so glamorous.

So we had things generally under control, though I wouldn't call it a restful evening.  JT, eager to comply with the rules, started the following conversation with me as we finished supper.

JT:  I have to use the bathroom.

Mama:  Well go ahead.  BUT DON"T FLUSH.  I'll flush it later.

JT:  That won't do.

Mama:  Why?

JT:  Because, Mama.......

And then he made one hand into a glove and with the other flashed two fingers, just like a catcher calling the pitch.   We fell out laughing.

Friday morning, the amazing JP the Plumber fixed the new problem before he set to work on the old.  The man is a miracle worker.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Spa Life

Yesterday, a package arrived at the house.  My sister sent my mother and I spa slippers.  They are a most impressive addition to my world.  Soft, plush, and unbelievably cushioned...these slippers are a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

My mother and I immediately put them on.  Chances are good that we will never take them off again, which should add some color to the weekend's shopping errands.
We plan to wear them to the local spa tub, which isn't quite the elegant setting one would hope for when one owns spa slippers. 
Things are coming along nicely in the bathroom, by the way.  The tub is actually functional as of tonight (limited bathing.....but bathing nonetheless) and tile is being installed tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bathroom Update I

Things are proceeding apace in the bathroom.  The old pipes are gone; the rest of the wall clean-up has been started.  This room will have new insulation when the project is done.  That's happy.
Last night, we took a trip to the store to score some tile for the tub and shower area.  Floor tile will be secured later this week.  JP the plumber is under the impression that the tub, currently chilling on the front porch, might be in by Thursday.
JT the boy is under the impression that the new bath-free regime might last forever.

My hopes are more with JP.  So far, so good.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


You might recall the trouble in the bathroom.  Yesterday, the trouble got bigger.
I'd be worried, but this particular trouble is self-induced, so I can't get too excited.     Bathroom demolition has begun.  It is to be followed by bathroom reconstruction.  JT took a final bow in the old bathtub on Sunday evening. 
When we got home from school on Monday afternoon, the bathtub was no longer suitable for a leisurely soak as it was in three pieces on the front porch. 
The toilet is now in the closet in JT's bedroom closet, which JT finds oddly unsettling.  It's not flush-worthy at the moment anyway.
And we've gone down to bare studs. 
The lead plumbing is making an exit, to be replaced by new plumbing, insulation and waterproof sheetrock on the walls.  These will be installed alongside a  new tub and a whole lot of tile.

Take note: For the moment, bathing in this house is confined to a wash rag and a bucket...unless you'd like to go outside and enjoy a chilling shower in the sprinkler.
Updates as warranted.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Apple of My Eye

Usually, I post photos of my apple trees on the 1st of each month.  I did get the photos made, but it was a whirlwind of a weekend and it's taken until now to get them posted. 
Between Little League, cutting the grass, planting the garden, and getting ready for the bathroom demolition that starts today (more on that later this week), things have been just a tad hectic at Sassafras House.

But the trees, they are green and lovely; lush like the rest of the backyard, and in terrific health.  Things in the back of the yard are so green that it's hard to see the trees at all.  They are the gatekeepers to my enlarged garden patch (another weekend project) and they are enjoying the recent spell of warmth.