fun

Solitaire with Yoda

cards

Dear Dad,

I taught Yoda how to play solitaire last night. He was bugging me to play cards with him and I just needed some time to work a quiet word puzzle, so Bashert suggested I teach him how to play. At first, he was not really interested; too complicated and boring he said then he started to catch on. I think it helped to tell him you taught me how to play and that I was playing with him, that clever boy.

Funny, the things that stick in one’s mind. I remember it was when we lived in Phoenix, in the second house that you taught me to play. That made me about the same age Yoda is now: eleven. You taught me to play left handed despite the superstitious attempts of your teachers to overcome your natural left handedness, some of it still shone through. I never corrected that even though the rest of the world seemed to play in the other direction. This is the way my Dad taught me, so this is the way it is played. I showed Yoda the same.

It took him a minute to catch on – how to build the cards down and up at the same time and to read the entire board – but he got it. The kid can play a mean game of chess, so I thought this wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for him. A few more games and he will see the strategy involved.

I told Yoda, it’s always good to know how to play a game of solitaire with real cards. I told him of how I was stuck in an airport for six hours in the days before portable electronics. After I finished off the book I brought for reading on the plane, I didn’t want to pay airport prices for anything else and people watching only goes so far when you are by yourself. Cards to the rescue.

That story led to other stories and before you know it, we were all laughing and having a splendid time without all the distractions of the television or computers. It was a warm, cozy and fun time. I hope it’s one he remembers down the line.

I ended up teaching him a couple of different games of solitaire besides our old standard, Klondike. He really took to Aces Up. I think because I told him that it could be really frustrating to win. Klondike has about a one in four win ratio, with Aces Up the ratio is a bit wider. He read that as a challenge, I believe. He didn’t win, but he didn’t get frustrated either. I loved that.

He hasn’t given up on learning to shuffle. His hands are almost big enough to handle a full sized deck and he is a hair’s breath away from getting it down. So many things we take for granted until we see someone learning it for the first time.

Thank you, Dad for taking the time to teach me.

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The People You Meet

Lion of Judah – by artfulexpectations. (Bashert w/Yoda)

There are people sent into your life for a purpose, not always is this purpose clear beyond gaining a new friend (or enemy), but there is a purpose. Take my friend Betty.

Betty is an eternal optimist. Like Annie, she knows that even though the sky may be covered in bruise coloured clouds, there is a sun shining fiercely behind it just waiting to break through. Don’t get me wrong though, Betty is no Pollyanna (for those of you not born of an age, go look her up). She doesn’t spout cloyingly sweet phrases or sing to the birds – at least I don’t think she sings to the birds, I’ve never witnessed it anyway. Betty is just, well, happy.

Betty has seen her share of things that would rock anyone’s world. I’ll not relate them here as they are her private affairs and hers to hold on to. Let it suffice to say that these things could bring a lesser person to their knees. Betty rose to meet all comers and came out the victor.

She is the woman, who under any other circumstance would rub you completely wrong, with her: “Hello! Monday, what good have you got for me to start the week?” But Betty in her determined sunny-side of life, makes you inquire what wonders Monday might actually hold.

Her laugh is incredibly contagious. One of my fondest, BEST memories of my college years (the last ones, not these) is of a rainy afternoon down in the sculpture lab with Bashert, Thriver, myself and Betty. We laughed so hard that my face hurt and I couldn’t catch my breath. I will never look at another bamboo paintbrush or container of Preparation H in the same light after that day.

She co-hosted our baby shower for Yoda (her co-host was the friend we lost a year ago – see “Just Keep Singing”) – a marvelous affair with friends, family and lots of yummy food mixed with that laughter. If there is a woman who loves babies, there’s Betty (just ask her granddaughters).

She spends many of her days working with pregnant women. She’s not an obstetrician,  no Betty is an artist – a sculptor. She creates wonderful memories to, as her website puts it, “preserve and celebrate” a child’s first home. No wonder she’s a happy camper.

Betty is a free spirit, who has paid her dues to be so. She takes little for granted and beams her gratitude out with rays of joy. Even in her darkest hours, at least those I have been privileged to witness, she finds a spark, a reason to look for the light to come.

I’ve been in a funk lately. The triad of my life; home, school and work have been a little at odds. It’s kind of like the uneven three-legged stool. You keep cutting a little bit off each leg, but it never seems to quite even out.

Whether she knows it or not, Betty has been quietly encouraging me. She’s going through her own struggle right now, but even when she has a set back of some kind, she finds something good in it even it means that she must take a step back. Her fortitude lets me know that there is light to come and that sometimes you have to make your own torch to brighten the way because some tunnels are longer than others.

I may not be able to rise to her level of zen just yet, but she gives me hope that I might get there someday. What an awesome purpose. Thank you Betty.

Day Tripping

The Bedlam family went traveling yesterday.  We hit the ATL; Hotlanta.  Well, we sort of went to Atlanta.  We actually landed in Decatur. It’s a small suburb south of the great city.  It is a city reborn, full of great little boutiques and wonderful eateries.  Our daughter Nené attended their premier women’s college, Agnes Scott for a year.  It’s the county seat of where we lived a while when I adopted Yoda as his legal second parent. It’s a beautiful little city to visit.

 

 

We had two missions, the first was an appointment Bashert made to see one of the downtown shop owners.  Bashert is an artist, too and a good bit more enterprising than I.  Since college, she has actually made money.

 

 

 

 

 

The shop, Wild Oats & Billy Goats, is a funky little place chock full of fabulous folk-art.  We were both in seventh heaven to be immersed in good art again.  A refreshing breath of air.  I believe we would have stayed much longer if we didn’t have Bashert’s second mission to accomplish.  We usually stick around and take all the photo ops we can, but time was pressing, this was a day trip and the weather reports for later were rather ominous for driving.

After a quick lunch at a local pita establishment, we were off to find Dick Blick’s Art Supply.

 

Here is where it gets a little tricky.  You see, I had a couple of very long days/nights this past week.  My archaeology professor guilted me into digging the site for several hours this week on top of having to be at work until 5:30 – 6:00am (yes – AM) and attending classes.  Exhausted doesn’t cover it.  I was asleep when Bashert printed out the routes and all the way up to Decatur.  I didn’t check  the maps.

Turned out that what Bashert thought was just Roswell road, was actually Roswell, the city, just north of Atlanta.

 

 

Unless we have an absolute, written in stone map, traveling with Bashert can be a bit dicey.  She can locate her childhood home with the barest of landmarks, but give her a map?  So when we discovered that the route involved a toll highway, we were put a little on edge.

The day was saved by my new(ish) toy, the iPhone.  We were able to pull up a decent enough map (I refuse to activate the GPS) to guide us around the toll and to the right destination.

Much to our delight, by not taking the highway, we also got to experience downtown Roswell, a place neither of us had been, despite the fact we are both from Georgia; Bashert being born in Atlanta!

Roswell is a historic city, built on the labors of slaves and mill workers.  This month the town hosts the largest Black History celebration in Georgia.  If we had known our travels were going to take us through there, we would have made arrangements for time to stop.

After the shopping excursion in Dick Blick’s (another slice of heaven for us, even though we were just there for supplies for Yoda’s school), we headed back to visit with Nené for a minute or two.  She was at work so it wasn’t a long visit, but Yoda was overjoyed to see his big sister even for a short time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The torrents of rain held off until we got home – not that I would know, I was fast asleep again once the car got moving. Bashert must have known how tired I was because normally I’m not allowed to doze in the car.  I’m navigator and wingman to keep the driver alert.  Bless her little heart.

All in all it a good day trip.

Trick or Treat

Don’t be scared on Halloween,

For things are seldom what they seem.

We look forward to Halloween every year at our house.  Bashert revels in coming up with unusual costuming choices.  Last year we were all Lego blocks.  One year, Bashert and I were Moses and the Burning Bush – we took home a prize for that one during a Purim Festival later next year!

Costumes are homemade and pumpkins carved by hand in these parts. No flimsy, expensive, store-bought stuff here.  Nope, made from scratch all the way.

Our Lego outfits; cardboard boxes, single serving cereal bowls and duct tape.  White karate uniform, rubber boots, cowl made by Gram, a light saber and voilà, instant Jedi warrior.  The good ol’ cardboard box served well for the present Nenè came wrapped in one year.

This year Yoda is a gangster – not a gangsta’, but a true 1930’s Enemy Number One gangster complete with pinstripe suit, shiny shoes and space blaster.  Hey, when its homemade you make do sometimes.  Bashert and I are not dressing this year, although I think she would make a really good gun moll.

There’s a wonderful neighborhood just down the street from where we live.  The main avenue that runs through it is closed down and an off duty cop keeps watch.  We hit the street before dark so as to avoid the rowdy teenagers and scarier aspects of the holiday.  The whole street really gets into the spirit, either dressing up their homes or themselves – sometimes both.  It’s an old fashioned block party.

Sometimes Yoda brings a friend, as he did this year.  Two gangsters making away with all the loot they could carry.  Bashert and I ran into friends and acquaintances all up and down the street.  We stopped off at a friend’s house for a short visit for Yoda to play and take stock, while we grabbed a quick snack ourselves – they always have great food and company.

The boys gave out before the houses did, which is just as well.  We usually find long forgotten Halloween candy buried in the closet months down the road.  For all of us, its more the process than the result.  Its still the wonder of a holiday where people give you treats only for putting pride aside and dressing up in anything you want from fairy princess to wicked witch.  How great is that?

So next year instead of dreading coming up with a costume for your children or yourself, take on the challenge and celebrate the magic.  Here’s to cardboard boxes!

Happy Halloween!

Roller Derby Mama

Yoda has been invited to a roller skate birthday party.  Bashert has bravely stepped up to attend with.  I don’t do roller skates anymore.  She, however can be a glutton for punishment.

Now, once upon a time, roller skating meant family time.

On Saturday’s mornings, a four year old Nenè and I would join my sister Raquel and her family at one of the local skating rinks.  The Starlight offered three hours dedicated to kids under the age of 10 and their parents for around $1.50 a head plus skate rentals.

Imagine that – a good and cheap way to have fun with your family.

The routine was basically the same every Saturday.  We’d go in, the elders of us would rent our boots and hit the hardwood rink ready for about a half hour of precarious balancing.

In Nenè’s case, I buckled on her Fisher-Price “learn to skate” skates and she would walk around the rink – never was much of a risk taker in those days, Nenè.

We would all skate to the fantastic urban beat of “Ice, Ice, Baby” and “Ghostbusters”.  Those of us feeling brave enough would mime out the letters to “YMCA”, while still rolling.

After the half hour of free skate, the games would begin.

I always enjoyed the Hokey-Pokey, except for the turning about.  Turning about makes me motion sick, so I would end up doing some strange version of jazz hands while remaining in place.

They used to give out Tootsie Rolls at the end of that segment, but the floor ended up too gunky, so that had to end.  Too bad, I like Tootsie Rolls.

The next activity arranged was usually some sort of race.

The race that became my downfall, figuratively and literally was Red Light/Green Light.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this particular game, it goes as such;

The Moderator instructs everyone to line up at the start.  The Moderator then turns their back to the assembled racers and yells “Green light!” at which time all the participants run or in our case skate, like mad demons to get as far as they can before the Moderator turns and yells, “Red light!”  Anyone caught moving after the red light call is put out of the game.  First one across the finish line wins.

At the Starlight, winning usually meant a token for food or free skate rentals.  Stuff that brought out the competitive spirit of all those kids and parents.

So there we were, all lined up and ready for fierce competition – my sister Raquel, her husband M’pudi, daughter Noël, son Epic, me and Nenè.

Recall that Nenè is wearing skates that have stops on the wheels that prevent them from free movement.  We would not be in competition for first place.

“Green light!”  And we’re off.  “Red light!” We stop.  “Green light!” Another few feet for Nenè and me – Raquel has zoomed to the front of the pack.

“Red light!”  I positioned to brake and felt my knee with the torn cartilage start to give. As soon as I shifted my weight (which wasn’t so considerable back then) to relieve the knee, the world went black and down to the floor I sank.

I vaguely remember trying to avoid crushing Nenè as I came down.

Nenè began to cry saying she hurt her elbow.  My ability to speak was hanging in the air with the little bursts of light circling my head.  I eventually managed to squeak out a feeble, “Are you okay?”

It took the field of play a moment or two to realize that a player was down for the count.  Raquel often reminds me that she was about to cross the finish line first when I my accident called a halt to the game afoot.  She still hasn’t forgiven me totally.

M’pudi helped get me up off the floor and rolled me over to the side lines.  There I removed my skating boot and witnessed a rather large egg size swelling on the outside of my right ankle.

It was agreed that I should go to the emergency room and have it checked out even after a physician who was there with his kid looked at it and said it was most likely just badly sprained.

Yeah, badly sprained doesn’t make you want to throw up when you put the least little pressure on it.

M’pudi and Raquel loaded me into the car and M’pudi took me to the emergency room while Raquel took the kids on home.

Long story short?  Four hours later I was in surgery having two screws placed in my broken ankle and spending the night in the hospital, while my mother packed her bags and began her drive down from Virginia to come help me for two weeks.

About six years down the road, I got back on skates just to prove a point – what and why I’m not sure, but I did it.

Nenè was skating on her own and Bashert was with us.  That may have been the night that Bashert broke her coccyx, trying to avoid slamming into a small child.

Nope, I don’t do roller skates anymore.

Iratus Pennipotenti

Yoda declared “best day ever”.  Again.

We opted to return to a smaller, at home birthday party this year.

But the older Yoda gets the more space his friends occupy, the smaller our townhouse becomes, so we decided to make it a pool party.

The theme, chosen by Yoda – Angry Birds®.

For the most part, Bashert prefers to make decorations and whatnots rather than purchase stock merchandise. The past several days our house has been awash in fabric markers, paints, paper cutouts and multicoloured sprinkles.

I generally stay out of the way of such craftiness.  It works to our mutual benefit.

Bashert creates wonderful, imaginative decorations and I keep my sanity.

She did not disappoint.  Here’s just a quick sample.  Check out bashert04 (see blog roll) for more photos and how-she-did-its

   

Blue Bird Tee - hand painted

Each kid got a home-made t-shirt.  Bashert had ordered three shirts for us to wear, but in the process of washing and drying, both hers and Yoda’s shrunk to fit only a two year old and an anorexic posh.  How lucky was I that my pig shirt survived.

There’s a metaphor or something in that for sure.

We had a bit of a panic when the townhouse manager let us know that our pool was closed for the weekend due to some chlorination issues.  But he offered up the use of the one across the street at the adjacent apartments, so we breathed a bit easier.

Shlepping a cooler and pool toys across the street would be a breeze as opposed to entertaining seven boys in a two bedroom townhouse for 3 hours.

As parties go, it went without much fuss.  There were no injuries or permanent emotional scars. A near tussle over a ball in the pool – boys and their balls (sorry, couldn’t resist) – was the only iffy moment.

We returned to the house just before the rain hit to have cake (complete with Williamsburg candle), egg-shaped peanut butter sandwiches and snacks.  A good time seemed to be had by all.

But of course like all the best parties, the most fun was had at the after-party.

A couple of boys (The Boy & The Barber’s Son) stayed a while after the majority had left.  At that time there ensued a small scale war between the pigs and birds.  Iratus pennipotenti versus viridis sus. It was epic for its size.

When just The Boy and Yoda remained, the dancing began.  Yoda received a KidzBop© cd and wanted to try it out.  The Boy and Yoda gave quite a performance.

We had everything from a mock Charleston to The Boy doing the robot while dressed in Yoda’s Lego Halloween costume.  That we got on video.

Yoda kept saying he wished this day was a dream so that it would not end.  A great compliment to his Momma’s hard work, I’d say.

It’s just before 10pm our time and Yoda is finally asleep.  Bashert is not far behind, so its just me and Shit Dog reviewing the day.

Shit Dog & Viridis Sus resting after the Battle

And a good day it was.  “Best day ever.” Again.

Pole Dancing on the DC Metro

I don’t know if I’ve seen Yoda this excited since he was anticipating his first ride on the ‘train’ at the Riverbanks Zoo.

From the moment he found out that we would be riding the Metro, he was practically vibrating.  This was icing on the cake for our visit to DC.

When we got on the red line toward the Chinatown, Yoda was overjoyed to find out that he could stand in the aisle and hang on to the support pole.  The swaying and inertia was great source of entertainment for him, us and 30 or so other passengers, as we were treated to a 20 minute pole dance.

When we finally stepped up into the light of day on the Mall after that long, vertical rise from the subway depths, Yoda squealed with delight.  “We’re in Washington, DeeeeeCeeeee!”.   Again, our kid is not the Disney Magic Kingdom type.

We briefly toured the National Portrait Gallery.  It had been recommended that we see the ‘electric wall’, that Yoda would get a kick out if, so we felt a bit obligated to seek it out. Don’t go see it if you are prone to seizures.

Next order of business was to find the Spy Museum.

After a couple of prerequisite wrong turns, we found it – taking up an entire block.

We toured the museum.  I’d tell you about it, but then I’d have to kill you.  I’ll just tease you a bit and let you know that Yoda loved crawling through the air shaft and the gift store.

The Spy Museum is located in the Chinatown area.  Neither Bashert nor I in all the visits made up here have ever been to Chinatown, so we took this opportunity.

We ate at a place recommended by the DC for Kids guide, The New Big Wong.  What happened to the Old Big Wong, we didn’t want to know.

This could have been a real gastronomic adventure, but we were tired, hungry and feeling very American by this point.  Lo Mien and Sesame Chicken it was, albeit it was true, freshly cooked Chinese Lo Mien and Sesame Chicken.

I was fascinated by the Chinese family that came in and was seated next to us.  They ordered what we were afraid to.  When the dishes came there was a plate full of what looked like still moving squid and another with vegetables I couldn’t quite identify.

When we finished our meal and I mean finished, we walked about Chinatown for a bit.

Lots of restaurants.  Lots of trinket booths.  Beautiful colours and ornamentation.

Yoda and I were transfixed by one restaurant that had a viewing window where we could watch some dim sum being made.  It was also pretty cool that they had the ducks with the heads still on and complete squid soaking in water.  This was the real deal.

Bashert stood back from that one.

After being on the road for several hours that morning, spending time at Echo Park and then making this trip into the city, we were pretty beat.  It was time to head back to Bashert’s cousin’s house where we are being hosted.

The ride back was filled with chatter and Yoda seeing if he could hear conversations around him with his new spy phone.  Bashert and I felt a bit more like the ‘going’ portion of Norman Rockwell’s painting, Coming and Going.

Day one of our DeeeeeCeeeee visit was complete.

Dinner for Three in Colonial Williamsburg

We have left after two days and a half days in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

A rousing good time was had by all, especially if we are to judge by the fit of pique that Yoda threw last night.  He was so exhausted he was literally screaming into his pillow.

Ah, good times.

It is a family tradition to recap our favorite thing about our vacations.

From this leg of our week’s journey, Yoda declared, “Everything!”; my favorite was my birthday luncheon in the tavern and Bashert chose yesterday’s recital of the Declaration of Independence.

I think a close second for all of us was the dinner we had a Shield’s Tavern on our final night.

We had very late reservations at 7:15 – okay, late for us.

We normally eat dinner around 5 since I have to go to work immediately after, but that’s neither here nor there for this story.

The program we had attended lasted from 5 to 5:30 and we were stuck with almost two hours of roaming around to do after all the shops had closed down.  Bashert convinced me to go ask if there had been any cancellations.

Luckily there had and we made it in to dine about 6pm.

As it had been in the tavern on Monday, the atmosphere was really fun.  The waitress wasn’t near as saucy, but we were seated in the VIP room, so I guess they needed to be a bit more mindful of their manners.

The food was wonderful.  We each ate more than we thought we could, even Yoda finished all his macaroni with butter sauce and found room for ice cream.

We were entertained by a duo that sang a couple of ballads and a fun rendition of
Yankee Doodle”.  We even had a dandy come in and give Yoda a lesson in what it was like to attend school during this time period, as well as, the proper way to bring a drink to your lips rather than tipping the head back.

It was all well worth the heart attack I nearly suffered when the bill arrived.

On our stroll back to the hotel, Yoda brandished his pistol and practiced his proper greeting with his brand new tricornered hat.

A lucky couple walking toward the colonial city was treated to his most elegant and flourished bow.  Yoda said the gentleman saluted him in return.

Bashert & I were glad that we had extended our visit for an extra day.

And that we had chosen the right magic kingdom.