I can barely walk today after my mad frenzy of cleaning and rearranging yesterday. My calves and thighs are really stiff and sore. Maybe that means I "lifted with my legs", since my back is fine. The college guys have gone off to school so first I mucked out their bedroom, closets, and linen cabinet. Then I made the semiannual attack on the boys' bathroom. Took the shower curtain out back and shot it. By this time I'd entered a whirling dervish consciousness of unlimited strength and energy. I was seeing neon colors, man! I dealt with the storage space under the stairs. Moved a bookcase upstairs for all the required high school English books and college stuff students can't bear to sell. Stashed the sci-fi paperbacks, "novels" by Star Trek alumni, and role-playing books in a cupboard. Moved a table downstairs, and the sewing cabinet and rocking chair upstairs. Moved the computer from the dining area into my room, and moved the bookshelves across the dining area so the table finally sits centered under the ceiling fan! It was like Tetris nirvana! Rearranged everything in my room so the computer would be near the window and phone jack. Took a trunkful of stuff to Goodwill, and three black trash bags to the dumpster. In the middle of this religious experience Steven showed up with his pals for lunch unexpectedly. Their view of this sweat-drenched, crazed 48-year-old maenad wearing, gasp, a sleeveless shirt, flapping her arm flab and heaving stacks of National Geographics around the living room will probably haunt them for years. Plus, there wasn't anything good to eat, and I sure wasn't cooking. They'd have been better off cruising for fries.

Spent the afternoon today studying the blue damselflies sitting alongside the pool. Watched ants scurrying on seemingly random paths. Observed clouds forming and dissipating in a largo bass violin concert. A streetlight loomed its brontosaurus neck above the privacy fence.

Gave the new black and orange mollies in their pristine aquarium a slice of zucchini to nibble. They are ecstatic. To them, something wonderful fell from the sky!


Bounteous harvest

The mail brought another batch of return address labels from non-profits today. That makes three batches this week alone. I used to feel guilty about using the labels without sending a check, but now that I get enough labels to wallpaper a small bathroom, I'm over it. My mom used to make us throw out the Christmas Seals that came in the mail because she wasn't contributing, instead of letting us paste them all over the cardboard shoebox that held our crayons. We grew up taking the U.S. Mail, like most everything else, VERY seriously. The feds finally got Al Capone for violation of the Christmas Seal Abuse statute, you know. When they captured Pretty Boy Floyd, he had Christmas Seals pasted all over his brown Florsheims. You don't even want to know about Bonnie and Clyde.


Reentry difficulties

I feel like a Gemini astronaut returning to earth and having trouble with the increased Gs. I'm splashing down after an intense week in an alternate orbit. Freeze-dried ice cream may be required, or at least spiked Tang.

Had a terrific, memory-making visit with my folks. They arrived Thursday to spend time with the boys heading off soon to college, and to attend the last Capers' summer camp "show day". It was a hoot to have my parents and my sons attend my preschool students' "Magic Carpet" show, see our funny art, and hang out with my dear friend/coworkers.

Howie & Fritz feel very connected because my students use all the recyclable goodies collected from the Lincoln bridge club ladies and golf buddies in their art projects. My folks have perfected a process for removing RX labels and washing bottles, then they ship the goodies to me. Their efforts have mushroomed to the point where the bridge club ladies' next-door neighbor's friends are saving Rx bottles for my students. We do worry about the ladies that forget to use up all their pills before they contribute the bottles. I received some interesting bottles this time from a woman who is on her very last chemo. She is as good as she will ever be, but she still gets a kick from sending odd containers for our art constructions. I'll send her photos of our "Magic Carpet" genies and bazaars as soon as I can download them from the digi camera. I hope the photos will make her laugh. Our genie puppets were made of seriously groovy mid-1970s polyester fabrics. Our Arabian bazaars used many recyclables. We went with the idea of camel caravans trading goods and stories. We had little clothespin people dressed as shopkeepers, princesses, thieves, genies, and heroes. We even had litters for the princesses made of plastic strawberry baskets with "silk" curtains. (There was some confusion between "litters" and "scraps".) One girl kept removing the clothespin people's clothing to put them into the Rx bottle hot tubs she had glued on the roof of her bazaar. Even Scheherezade needed to unwind sometimes!

Had a great trip to Ft. Worth's Cultural District on Saturday. Saw the Egyptian exhibit at the Kimbell, the new Modern Art Museum, and the expanded Amon Carter Museum. That was a lot of walking for my dad, but my mom just kept getting more excited and energized as the day went on.

Celebrated Sunday with breakfast at the old-fashioned cafe we've been visiting together since 1990. The folks have watched the boys grow from kids to men on 2 eggs over medium, 2 sausage patties, and 2 pancakes. Now it takes two orders of french toast plus black coffee, bacon and grits for those "little guys"! My sentimental 18-yr. old had the waitress take our picture. I get teary when I think of it!

Put on a lunch break spread Monday for the HS juniors with open campus. Six kids can consume vast quantities of food and Dr. Pepper in half an hour. My folks' outlook for the next generation was drastically improved by the neat, respectful, funny, ravenous students. My dad went down Memory Lane to the late night snacks his mom prepared for his HS buddies back in the Great Depression. I can't "whomp up a meal" like my grandma could, but I do think teenage boys can be the sweetest humans on earth. Some moments are worth all the smelly sweat socks in the living room and growing oil spots on the driveway!


My dear college men:

You are about to embark on a grand adventure, but be sure to wear flip-flops in the shower so you don't get foot fungus! There is much to be said for independence, freedom, self-determination, cooperative living, and partying on. There is nothing to be said for foot cooties. What are your ideas about a shower caddy for hauling personal hygiene products to the potties (I can't help it if I teach preschoolers) There are some small buckets in the shed. Try to stock up at your dad's on shampoo, soap, hayfever medicine, ramen noodles, envelopes, stamps, vitamins, Tylenol, phone cards, detergent, deodorant, LOTS of deodorant!

You are welcome to take any towels and washcloths from upstairs EXCEPT the navy blue ones. Please check with me about blankets, but you are welcome to most of them. You can take ALL the Christmas coffee mugs, and it would be a great relief to me if you did. You are welcome to the icky silverware. I would be glad to show you what qualifies. I don't want any of this stuff back, ever! I have dreamed of this day for years.

Please sell off some role-playing books and card collections before you leave, or else store them in your dad's attic. The same goes for non-classic sci-fi books, and free weights.

I think you should take your suits and dress clothes for interviews and convocations. Do you need a refresher course on ironing?

I need all your dorm address and phone info, and your roommate's name. You do not have to like your roommates, but you do have to be respectful and pleasant. Set clear boundaries. Expect the same from them. Ask yourself, "How important is it?," when they leave their used dental floss on your desk. It's just like being brothers, really, and you have a lot of experience with that. If they bring a pet turtle and smuggle canned veggies from the cafeteria to feed it, you might be able to get a new roommate. It is not okay to make them eat their Moody Blues album. I speak from experience here.

I will continue to pay for your gas, especially if you are driving to a job! I will try to pay for your cell phone for awhile, but we will have to see how that goes. Try not to use it as your primary communication device.

Take the Zout and Shout! Remember, the longer dirt and sweat stay in clothes, the less they wash out! Composting is not the answer to your wardrobe needs. Somehow this reminds me that you may want to register to vote in your new town, or apply for absentee ballots!

Make sure you have all your health insurance information and cards from Dad. I can make copies of your immunization record if you need that. Remember you are both allergic to Ceclor.

Turning yourself blue with fabric dye can make you sick. If you must tattoo or pierce yourself, make sure it will never be visible to your mama or any potential employer. If you are going to do weird things with your hair, get it out of your system soon. If you are going to get religion or become a vegetarian, please expect a lukewarm response. Avoid box-cutters and gambling on football games.

Remember that I love you!!! Email me every week so I don't worry. When I worry, I call very, very early on Sunday mornings. I am so proud of you both. The world is lucky to have you on board.



Twenty-one son

My oldest son turned twenty-one today. What an amazing adventure this parenting has been! Threw me for an emotional loop today, reminiscent of the post-partum hormonal weirdness of August, 1982. Had to have a cheeseburger and fries for lunch to make it through the day. I'll bloat up like a parade balloon tomorrow. Twenty-eight preschool students with fake tattoos will struggle with the tether ropes to keep me from bumping into buildings. Twenty elementary girls in pink sequin flip-flops and "Princess" t-shirts will do Kilgore Rangerettes routines. Eight elementary boys will keep water in their mouths all the way back from the drinking fountain, looking like tuba players (so they can spit it on the classroom floor). Five GOLDEN rings....


Ozone Alert

Poor air quality is predicted for the next few days. In fact, we are at level purple in the DFW area; dangerous for all people and poodles. When I go out to get the newspaper at 5:45 a.m., I expect to see a purple haze hovering over the parking lot. Purple haze. All in my brain. Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! My lyrics are starting to braid. It's quite a double helix.

Today we did fabric mache on top of the papier mache camel. We're trying to get the camel texture with frayed and thread-bare terry towels and offensive double knits from the Bridge Club Ladies' Polyester Amnesty Program. If it turns out weird when we paint the camel, we'll give it a splendid saddle blanket. Fabric mache makes the project stronger, but I have never used it as the final layer before. This is the most inspiring papier mache book I've ever found:

The Simple Screamer: A Guide to the Art of Papier and Cloth Mache, by Dan Reeder.

We've had fun reading these stories about camels:

What's the Matter, Habibi?, by Betsy Lewin.

The Camel Who Took a Walk, by Jack Tworkov.

How the Camel Got His Hump, by Rudyard Kipling.

Then, of course, there's the seven hump Wump in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by my hero, Dr. Seuss.

Voodoo-zoodoo! I'm getting an inspiration for an art project with camels brushing their teeth, [and it's about time!], like the kitchen kangaroo project.


Roomier nest

Sending my second son off to college soon. I feel so relieved and grateful to know I have helped raise a child to become a reasonably self-sufficient young adult! I enjoy my email relationship with my eldest. We don't talk on the phone very often during the school year, but I like it when he calls with a problem we can brainstorm together. We now have more respectful conversations between two adults. I love NOT knowing if he ever washes his sheets and towels during the semester. Since he's lived on campus for three years, I haven't had to worry about him driving, or living on Ramen noodles. It's nice hearing how he has solved his own problems, or found people to give him good advice. I like finding that he has good sense choosing friends, has gotten along with roommates, and has learned (the hard way) to keep track of his bank card expenses. I haven't agreed with all his choices, financial or academic, but he's chosen wisely more often than not.

In some ways, having the guys go off to college is like the transition from pregnant to parent. There's a lot of accepting that I don't have all the answers, and I can't control it all. When a college kid smiles at you, it is almost as mind-boggling as that first baby's first smile. Heavens! I've helped create a young citizen of the world!

Building a better camel

Ah, but it feels good to be in the final camp of the summer. The theme? "Magic Carpet Ride". Not the Steppenwolf song, but the Arabian Nights with poofy pants, magic lamps, and strong-willed floor-coverings. Okay, I admit I would jump on a Harley chopper with Peter Fonda if it wasn't too hot outside, but this is a different fantasy. Imagine a hooded cobra saying, "Charmed, I'm sure," in Alec Guiness' voice during polite introductions. "Swish and slither," according to the girls. "Suck-all-your-blood reptile convention", add the boys.

The preschoolers think the camel armature is a "Campbell", so we may have to name our desert creation, "Soup". Henry, age four, says the camel is not real because, "it is made of materials". Recycled materials, I might add. My favorites are the plastic jugs that held the sourdough pretzels from Office Depot. It is always good to know you are contributing to an artistic masterpiece and an environmental nirvana when you are compulsively chomping on pretzels. Oscars for Best Supporting Junk in a Documentary go to poster mailing tubes, wire coat hangers, egg cartons, plastic Easter eggs, Sara Lee foil pie pans, and sponge packing materials (from Raytheon, our corporate recycling genie). Held together with several rolls of clear packing tape, the camel/Campbell is now ready to papier mache. Of course, the empty rolls from the packing tape will be transformed into the golden bracelets of Wali Dad:

The Gifts of Wali Dad: A Tale of India and Pakistanby Aaron Shepard, Daniel San Souci (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Edition: School & Library Binding

It is good to rub the lamp and free some magic on a day when it is 108 degrees. It is good to imagine being Wali Dad, the grass-cutter in his small hut. Help us all find moments of self-sufficiency, simplicity, clarity, and contentment.


It's not velour, it's dust!

2300 hours---Noticed homeland obscurity on every surface. Was it as thick and plush as the red shag carpet in my 1977 apartment? 'Fraid so. Does the enemy wish to lull us into fluffy complacency in the face of a parental visit? Must snap out of it!

0800 hours---Embarked on Operation Lysol Liberty. Was I excited? You bet! Was Rummy on hand to provide play-by-play and color? Or off trying to spin confusion from clarity?

0900 hours---Elite team of one began search for Webs of Dust Encrustion. Were they in short supply? Hardly!

1000 hours---Convoy delivering Greased Lightning, Fantastic, and Windex encountered smoke screen from evil enemy vacuum cleaner belt. Would I use my complete chemical arsenal against the enemy? Would I consider a nuclear attack? Would that be safer than Scratch and Sniff?

1100 hours---Doubt entered stage left. Could I go the distance? 24-7/11-365-409? Did I have the psychological stamina, hormonal drive, and enough trash bags? Should I expect resistance from the local sofa spud residents? Duh.

1200 hours---Sixth Texas Laundry Load unit arrived at ironing checkpoint. Did Tony Blair use spray starch on dress shirts? Could the French change recessed lightbulbs?

1500 hours---Struggled against enervating heat to move $110 of groceries from armored vehicle to mess hall. Were native males available to assist? Shirley, you joke.


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