Sunday, September 26, 2010


A week ago today we were coming to the end of our camping weekend - our first family camping trip, with borrowed tent and sleeping bags. Cora has been asking for months to go camping. I'm not sure what sparked her interest - whether it was something we read, something she saw on a TV show (did Curious George go camping? Oh, that's right, Olivia went camping! Mystery solved.) - and finally it seemed like the right time. Nothing else planned, fall weather so the mosquitoes might be dead or at least too weak to do much damage, and because it is the school year again, Chris could meet us if we picked a point half way between us. So we did. We found a State Park, reserved a campsite, and I started my lists.

The lists paid off. We had good meals. We had everything we really needed. I got to sit by the campfire reading Dracula the Un-Dead by flashlight (oh, the book is not good at all, except as a further permutation of the story, but I am reading it anyway!). We roasted marshmallows every night and that is still Cora's favorite part. I put my Girl Scout training, my family camping training, and my matriarchal fire-building genetic advantage to work in building the fire, making hobo packets, washing dishes in a basin, and generally accepting the discomforts of camping with as much fortitude as possible.

It was beautiful, it was relatively quiet. We were surrounded by trees. It came at the end of a week when I'd had the luck to spend two different days with friends who are also writers. I got my chapbook manuscript close to finished. I did some reading. By Sunday afternoon I was feeling more like myself - my idea of myself - than I have in a year. When Sunday afternoon rolled around, we got everything packed up, headed to the nearest town to have lunch together, and then drove our separate directions. We all felt good. We'd had a great weekend. Cora was excited to watch Alice in Wonderland (Disney animated version) on her little player. No tears.

After ten minutes on the interstate, the temperature warning light flashed red. Then the oil light came on. The car beeped at me. And then the smoke (later identified as steam; the water pump had blown out) started pouring out from under the hood. We pulled off on an exit ramp, called for help, got towed nine miles back to a little town with no Sunday mechanics. We stayed at a roadside motel - the managers were nice and helpful, but it was still a setting straight out of 45% of the horror movies ever made! (No deadbolt, no peephole.) We survived the night. We walked 30 minutes to the Ding Dong Cafe for breakfast. Our car was fixed by 4pm and we made it back home. Much of the serenity and self-restorative power of the weekend stripped away.

As we drove into our neighborhood I was explaining to Cora how camping had been so nice, and then our unintended adventure kind of ruined the weekend. She was shocked. But Mom! Wasn't it fun to eat snacks in the motel? Wasn't it fun to watch a new TV show?  Truthfully, it wasn't, for me. But I suppose the fact that she thought it was indeed fun, was simply another good adventure in the weekend, also says something about what the weekend did for my state of mind: I may have felt like the weekend was somewhat ruined by the misadventure, but I didn't ruin her weekend.

I'm almost as proud of that as I am of my fire-building skills.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Well, I didn't go back to school this fall - no more teaching for me until sometime after we move. Yesterday would have been the first day of classes, and it was a day of mopey glumness. But, I am not without something having to do with "back" - as in, back injury, back pain, etc. Nearly two weeks ago I threw out my back (every time I say that I have a mental image of myself standing over the garbage can about to drop in a spine) - "all I did" was lean over in a twisted position and pick up Cora. You know, like I do every day, a couple of times a day. This was the wrong day for it though, and I am still working my way back to normal.

Why have that happen now? Let's see...loss of our oldest cat, Chris headed back to North Dakota, waiting to see what happens with the house sale, lack of access to standard stress-relieving activities...obviously, my back was a ticking bomb.

But, slow recovery notwithstanding, Friday is still a holy day to Cora because it is a STAY AT HOME day, and there is nothing she loves like a stay at home day. She gets to see some TV shows she doesn't usually, like CSI reruns...just kidding. There are some NickJr and PBS shows that she only gets to watch on Fridays. Also, since Chris's return to the long-distance daddy gig, I've tried to make sure we have some art projects and some cooking projects for Fridays.

But first is the freeform morning role playing. This morning I was a mommy, a baby, a hunter, a circus lady, and a police man. Cora was a daughter, a mommy, a hunting dog, a circus dog, and a police dog. But, here is my favorite conversation from when I was the daughter and she was the mommy:

Cora: Well, darling, now it is time for you to go into the world and live on your own!
Me: Really?
Cora: Yes, darling. Please just go.
Me: How old am I?
Cora (rolling her eyes): Thirteen! Of course!
Me: I think I'm too young.
Cora (in the tone of someone trying to be very patient): No, darling, and if you are lonely, you can adopt a baby who looks just like your mommy. Now, please don't argue with me anymore and just go into the world!

Later we made some paper dolls (really basic dolls) and dresses for them. And here's the shocking part - I finally gave in and got down on the floor so I could color next to her, and once I managed to stand back up, my back felt a lot better. Did it just need to be really pushed to do more? Will I pay an awful price tomorrow morning? Was it the magic of art therapy?

Cora has decided that every time Chris comes home we need to make a welcome home cake. Last week it was a real cake. This week it was gingerbread, which she is looking forward to eating tonight, even though the batter "looks like Arvo's throw up and it smells good AND bad." Then we made pizza dough for dinner tonight.

There's nothing like a kitchen helper who wears an apron, "pearls," and a tiara...and secretly eats flour when she thinks you aren't looking. There's nothing like having someone who thinks your art skills are amazing. There's nothing like being reminded that you are, in fact, always teaching.