I can already see where this Mothers Day is going

My son called from his room at 1:26 am, the ringing phone throwing my heart at the ceiling.

“Mom, I think I’m dying. I can’t fall asleep.” I think I’m dying, too. Of a heart attack. “I’ll be right down.”

I felt his forehead. “You’ve got a fever. I think you have what I have.” I gave him one his sister’s Tylenol her dad sent with her last night—she’d had a tooth repaired after a chip and it was sore. Oh my god, all my kids are old enough to have full-strength pain relievers. “Here, sit up and take this. It’s just the flu.”

“Did I get it from you?” he asked. I think if he’d had the strength that would have sounded almost accusatory.

“Not in the four hours you’ve been here. It takes longer than that to incubate. But thanks for thinking of me.”

I took one, too. When I woke up from a dream in which we all had fur and tails like mice and has no standing until we’d won a spar with the current tail-judo master, my neck was a girder and I was about a thousand degrees too hot. Besides, that mouse was really doing a job on my self-esteem because I couldn’t land a blow on his belly. Think Ripred from Gregor The Overlander.

On my way back to bed I heard a creak from Daphne’s bed and saw the light under her door. Oh, no. I opened up the Tylenol and shook out another pill.

Daphne was sitting up in bed, face flushed with a thousand-yard stare. Oh, goody.

“I knew it,” I said. “You didn’t look right when you went to bed.”

“Mom, I’ve been like this since midnight. I only slept two hours,”she said, as I felt her forehead.

“Yep, you’ve got it, too.” Earlier, I’d begged off from dinner out with their dad and them to celebrate Logan’s birthday. I was too glazed over to steer two tons of German engineering over the mountain pass. Hence their late-night arrival so they could wake here on Mothers Day.

I don’t think breakfast in bed is on the menu anymore. Limp, hot children maybe, but not a fresh, hot meal.

Did I mention Guy has it, too? He asked for the chocolate Hagen Daaz and a spoon as long as I was up. I handed it to him and picked up my iPad to write. I wasn’t interested in chocolate Hagen Daaz. I really must be dying.

3:40 am: the first child starts driving the porcelain bus. Just waiting to see who’s next.

Mid- hurl: “Happy—blergh—Mothers Day.”

Owls, Dogs, and Hydrocodone

So there I was, checking FaceBook (true story), and I see an update from my friend who did our wedding photos (or more accurately, the photographer we hired for the wedding who has since become like family) that goes a little like this:

I was finishing a delightful walk at the beach with my wonderful friends visiting from France. [Her Rhodesian Ridgeback] was on leash. In the parking lot. A great dane leapt out of its owner’s car and came charging at me growling like a maniac. Kooper was on leash but jumped in front of me to protect me. The great dane kept trying to attack me. The two dogs went at it and I jumped on top of Kooper to control him and i think i broke my ankle. Its five times the normal size. Waiting for X-rays. The owners were too scared of their dog to intervene. Ranger had to grab the other dog. A nurse was there and jumped in and saw my ankle and ordered me straight to ER. They wanted me to take an ambulance but i cant afford that.

So I immediately left her a message demanding to know her address so I could get her food and prescriptions and ask how the kids were getting home from school (just down the street from me), and warned her that I didn’t want to hear any macho cop bullshit, I was coming over. Oh, she used to be a cop, and a fireman, and I didn’t trust her for a second to stay put.

She (wisely) wrote back with her address and asked me to come get her insurance card and take her car to get her pain meds and gas because it was on fumes. No problem, I said, I’m on it.

I don’t think I’ve ever driven a minivan before. Weird.

At the pharmacy, I said I’m picking up for a friend, and here’s her insurance card, credit card, and here’s my ID, and the guy looks at me and says, “There’s an owl on your shirt.” I can see how this is going to go.

“Yeah, I’ve been trying to get rid of it all day. Look, she wasn’t sure if her insurance was on file..”

“What’s her address?” I told him. “I don’t have that. I’ve got her in a different town.”

“Oh. Well, she used to live there, but moved and is home alone with her kids now and I’m just trying to keep her from running errands with a broken ankle. Do you need to call her?”

“No, no, it’s ok. Huh. There’s a dog on your credit card.”

Here we go.

“Yep, that’s actually how she got hurt; there was a dog fight.”

“Dog fight? Now I’m thinking of football players.”

“No, she would never—she used to be a cop—” He’s openly staring now. “I’m going to stop talking.”

“Can you give me her date of birth?”

I could! I’d scrawled it on my hand before I left her house! So I peered at my hand, turned it a little, read him the date, and then realized how insane I looked while trying to pick up Hydrocodone. “Sorry, I’m a little hyper and mad at her for driving herself to and from the hospital. I took her car. My palm’s sweaty.”

“Is that a bird on your keychain?” I looked down and sure enough, there was a tiny pillow in the shape of a bird attached to her car keys.

“Apparently.”

“So let me get this straight: you’ve got an owl on your shirt, a dog on your card, and a bird on your keychain. I can’t wait to hear what’s on the car.” And then I realize he’s messing with me and is not letting me go until I’m completely discombobulated. He’s just mad he didn’t throw me with the owl crack. “Aha! You blushed.”

“Yes, thank you. You win. I blushed. Can I go now? Because I think we should stop talking.”

And then I couldn’t remember what kind of car she drove.

I stood in the parking lot counting aisles, remembering that I only jogged over one lane so it must be… I’m walking… omfg there’s a minivan with a Rhodesian Ridgeback sticker on the back. Bingo. Off to the gas station, where I poked and prodded at the gas panel but it wouldn’t open. There was no button. No lock. It just sat there. So I climbed back in the car and looked at all the buttons. There’s one for SONAR, but not for the gas cap.

I texted, “How do you open the frigging gas cap??” and waited for like five minutes with no response. I was leaning against the pump with one foot up on the door jamb, wondering what to do and wanting to kick something. And then I looked down. Right next to my foot was a shy little lever with a picture of a gas pump on it. Hallelujah.

Later, the updates were flying:

“You must have looked like quite the doofus…wandering around with pain meds in one hand, a puzzled look on your face and car keys in your other hand…. Bwahahaha!!!!”

“That’s when you press the little alarm button on the key fob and hope you are close enough for it to work.”

“I have empathy. Even more so because I have done that with my own car (doesn’t help that Toyota Sienna minivans are popular where I live).”

And dammit, it WAS a Sienna.

I still didn’t get out of going to Daphne’s science fair. I’d hoped that taking care of Pascale would stir up enough sympathy in my daughter to tell me it was ok not to drive for an hour through rush hour traffic in the rain, over the mountain, to her fair 45 miles away. After all, we’d been living and breathing this project for a while now and it wasn’t as if I didn’t know—”That’s ok, Mom, you can still make it. The fair goes for an hour and a half. You’ll get there for the last few minutes.”

And so I did.

Natasha, Ingrid, and cleaning out my desk

So I was cleaning out my desk this morning—no, really, true story—and I found a notebook full of writing prompts that belonged to one of the kids four years ago. Four years is an eternity when it comes to kids’ stories at this age, and let me tell you, it blew my mind that this stuff came out of the same too-cool head of the kid I dropped off at school this morning. And like SO MUCH ELSE in our life, it’s unprintable.

I’m gonna need to start selling Amway, because the ratio of stuff going on in our lives to stuff I am allowed to write about is the square root of nothing. It’s killing me. I’ve shifted focus to writing books, and the occasional inane Facebook update. Oh, look, I’m like a hundred million other people out there.

Back to the notebook. As I was flipping through the pages, a half-sheet fell out, with a poem. It was called “Unwritten.” Which is exactly my problem these days. (Months. Whatever.) The first and last stanzas were highlighted, and I know I didn’t do it so I offered a little prayer to the goddess of serendipity and decided to post those lines.

But THEN, I noticed that the author looked a bit like the singer whose song was playing as I pulled into the driveway after the school run. It’s called “You & I” and was part of our wedding playlist. I looked up the video for the song because it’s a happy song and if I do nothing else productive today I’m posting something happy. For Aunt Barbara’s sake, I CLEANED OUT MY DESK. I’m done for the week!

Ingrid. Natasha. Those aren’t real common names here, Rocky & Bullwinkle notwithstanding. I found a video of the first song—not a poem after all—right there on youfrickentube. So you get both.

“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined

I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you

open up the dirty window

Let the sun illuminate the words that you cannot find

Reaching for something in the distance

So close you can almost taste it

Release your inhibitions

P.S. In the back of that notebook? I’d written the original organizational outline of chapters for the book I’m currently finishing up. Wasn’t THAT helpful? I’ve been looking for that for AGES. Guess what that means, honey? When you return from Shanghai this weekend, the dining room table will be covered in sticky notes representing 42 chapters, so that I can rearrange and organize and optimise the order of ideas. And there isn’t a thing you can do about it because it’s the kind of crap you’ve been trying to get me to do forever. So, HA! (My work is always a little more fun if the chaos it creates also accomplishes your personal wish fulfillment because I know you won’t dare touch it.)

P.P.S. I sure hope there’s Chinese food tonight after your meetings.

P.P.P.S. For context, the last time he was in Shanghai, his team took him out to dinner on the last night. “It’s a great restaurant, no one knows about it!” So they got into a taxi and crawled through downtown traffic for 90 mintes to travel about seven blocks. They had been in meetings 12 hours that day and were exhausted, so as Guy stepped out of the car and looked up at the restaurant, he said, “I sure hope they serve Chinese.” The team didn’t get it but his British boss was doubled over.

For Sale: Terrifying Commute with Chance of Screaming Plummet to Death

I drove a little ways into the backwoods this morning to look at a house for sale on eleven acres that was just gorgeous in the pictures. I had to prove to myself that it was either totally out of reach price-wise, or not conducive to housing eight people, five of them boys under 13. I tend to do that. If I can just see it and dismiss it, it’s out of my mind. As opposed to letting it gnaw at me with what if’s and creative financing scenarios and delusions of giving the kids land to run around in and play their own version of The Hunger Games.

Just as I sat down to write this, my husband IM’d to say he’s been listening to our wedding music at work (must be a REALLY stressful day). I said, what a coincidence: I was humming it because if I’d tried to plug in my iTunes I would have driven off a mountainside and Pachinkoed my way down 500 feet of redwood trees spaced perfectly for a bouncing car.

“What a deathtrap.” I said, “The drive, not the house. Eleven acres? Awesome! Oh, it’s all sheer cliffs and mountainous forest? Not so much. I actually drove part of the way on a newly paved road that curved AROUND the landslide that isolated that whole part of the valley in last year’s storms.”

“Great, perpetual chance of not going to work or school.”

“We’d wind up eating each other.”

“Plus forest fires in the summer.””I’d have to learn to hunt like Katniss.”

I’m serious, it was only two miles off the main drag, but the road narrowed oh-so-subtly to a single lane with slick, grassy shoulders about three feet wide on either side, just enough to squeeze over for a car careening by going the other way without knocking each other’s side mirrors off. And you’d better hope that you’re on the downhill side, because that uphill side has a terrifying view of the gorge hundreds of feet below the road. I don’t even know how I got up that high. I must have been concentrating on the grassy shoulders and watching for falling trees. But they said there was room for horses, or a vineyard, so it had to get better, am I right?

The house itself was really beautiful, but constructed of octagons connected by hallways. Each octagon was divided into several rooms such that no bedroom had a wall long enough for a bed AND a dresser. I suppose we could weave baskets from the reedy hillsides and store our shit there.

And what about the horses? Apparently, they would have to graze single file on the shoulders, and back up when it’s time to bed down in the octagonal barn.

Of course, there was an absolutely to-die-for-feature that almost made me not care where anyone else slept, because in the master bath, there was a ROCK SHOWER. WITH A VIEW FOR KINGS. It was so totally Game of Thrones that I stood there long enough to make the realtor nervous.

So, having turned that buzzing little mind gnat off with a slap, I rolled my way back down to civilization and got a good look at the neighbors. I may have heard banjos. I know I passed at least one commune, with a rainbow-painted propane tank that would house a family of five. And probably did. No joke, they had erected their own street sign: “Love Street.”

I think we’ll stay in our planned development five feet from the freeway where I can safely do donuts in the intersections.

The Games. Of Stuff.

It seems that all the sagas around here are the Games This and Game of That. I’ve read all four Game of Thrones book and the three Hunger Games books, and now we are working our way through the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Only…how did they cram two thousand pages of high drama into the first six episodes? I mean, trim here, cut there, but criminy! Make [dashing character] gay rather than include a whole subset of plots? How can you pass over [her] and [him] and all their shenanigans? (There will be no spoilers here; I slogged my way through the series and so will you.)

Between discs three and four I was circling the living room, shouting in a ridiculous Seven Kingdoms accent, “He’s not GAY, he’s well LIKED! He throws parties! He dresses well! But he’s not gay! And his friend? Is HANDSOME, not his bloody boy toy! If they’re going to compress the rot out of this story, what’s going to be left for the next season? It starts in two days! Seven Hells!”

Guy, laughing, pulled me to him and said, “Come here and give me a kiss. This is why I love you.”

He folded his arms around me and smiled into my hair.

“Because you’re insane.”