Monday, July 28, 2014

Old Photos Are the Best Photos

I was looking through some old photos on my laptop (nope, still haven't gotten all that organized) and I came across this one*. I couldn't help but laugh at it.

Bet you laughed, too.

I stopped laughing pretty quick, though, when I realized that all too soon I'll be wearing that coat in that weather with that baby carrier and an even smaller baby riding in it. 

Winter is coming. And so is the baby. Brace yourselves.

* Taken by my sister a year and a half ago when she and my mom came for Cubby's third birthday party. Good times.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Calls for a Celebration

Today A. and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary. And how did we celebrate, you ask? Why, in spectacular Blackrock fashion, of course.

The celebration began at 4:47 a.m., which is when Charlie woke up. Sickened at the idea of actually getting up at that time, I cravenly allowed him to get into our bed for half an hour more of fitful sleep before finally getting up and starting the day.

Two hours later, I was making breakfast in the kitchen when the MiL went out to feed the dogs. She returned a minute later with a bowl containing dog food and some sort of insect larvae. Appetizing.

She and A. engaged in a no-doubt very educational discussion about how they weren't really maggots because they were too small and look! They have legs. And Cubby was clamoring to save the maggots for fishing (all he heard was the maggots part) and Charlie was grabbing at the bowl too and all of this was happening two feet from where I was making breakfast. I had visions of vermin-infested kibble flying all over the kitchen as a result of the children's struggle for control of the precious substance, so I told A. to take it outside.

Not only did he take it outside, he found a different bowl for Charlie and divided the disgusting dog food so each child had his very own. How sweet. Of course, the dogs managed to eat both bowls of larval dog food within minutes, but by then the children had lost interest.

After that excitement, I gathered the trash and recyclables and we took a family trip to the dump. Because we believe in togetherness.

Upon returning from the dump, A. donned his fishing waders and prepared for battle. With the cisterns.

We've noticed a very unwholesome smell to our water lately, and A. knew he needed to go down into the underground cisterns and see what was causing it. He also knew he wasn't going to like what he found. But since he also didn't like his drinking water reeking of death, on went the waders and into the cistern he went.

There are actually two connected cisterns side by side. In the north cistern, A. found four . . . rodents. He couldn't tell if they were chipmunks or small rats, due to their advanced decomposition, but they were without doubt not something you ever want to see in your water supply. He used a shovel to scoop them into a bucket, handed the bucket up to me, hauled himself out, and dropped down into the south cistern. Where he found eight more decaying rodents.

Dear God in heaven, I have never been more revolted. And that's saying something.

In all the years we've been here, we've only occasionally found a chipmunk or whatever that had fallen into the cisterns despite the covers. Never, ever multiples. I couldn't imagine what would have caused that many rats to get into the cistern, until the MiL told me that one effect of rat poison is a maddening thirst. So I suppose one of our neighbors must have put out the poison and the poisoned rats and chipmunks ended up in our cistern in their desperate search for water.

The only thing worse than a dead rat in the water supply is multiple poisoned dead rats in the water supply. On the bright side, at least we know our UV filter works, because none of us ever got sick from the water.

Anyway. Enough about that. A. shocked the little remaining water with bleach and then started the lake pump to refill the cisterns with untainted water.

After that, we left the children swimming with their grandmother on the beach and bolted from our admittedly sometimes disgusting life for the sterile city. Specifically, we went library browsing, Indian food sampling, and ice cream eating for four glorious hours sans children. A much better way to celebrate than our previous activities, I would say.

Then again, maggots and rodents suit us better than moonlight or roses anyway. For better or worse.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sharing Is Caring, and Brotherhood Is Competitive

My parents' birthday gift to Charlie this year was a toy lawn mower (thanks, Nana and Baca!). I waited until this morning to give it to him, thinking that after all the excitement of so many guests around for two weeks, it was time for a little low-level excitement to nullify the disappointment of going back to boring old mom.

Of course, when I say "give it to him," I really mean "give it to them." Because do you think Charlie ever receives anything that is not immediately claimed by Cubby?

If you think that, you have never seen siblings interact.

I pulled out the mower this morning and told Cubby it was Charlie's birthday present, so he got the first turn. Then I went to pick blackberries. About five minutes later, I heard the angry screaming that heralded the end of Cubby's patience and also Charlie's turn. Honestly, I was surprised Cubby managed to contain himself that long.

I placated Charlie with blackberries while Cubby had a turn, and then I made Cubby* give it back to Charlie. Cubby surrendered the beloved mower, but proceeded to walk six inches behind Charlie the whole time he was pushing it, explaining that he had to watch out for Charlie, because Charlie might hurt himself.

Always concerned for Charlie's well-being, that's Cubby.

On the whole, they've been pretty good about sharing it today, though I have had to step in a few times to arbitrate whose turn it is. Maybe I should get them one with a blade that can actually cut the grass--might as well get some use out of all of this. 

* Cubby informed me this mower did not have a guard on it and he almost cut his leg off, but luckily he managed to get his leg out in time. Little Tikes should hire him as a safety inspector for (non-bladed) toy mowers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The (Abbreviated) Life and Times of Mr. Goby

A. and his dad took Cubby and Charlie on an adventure to Lake Ontario on Sunday. While they were fishing on the pier, they saw a man catch a goby. Gobies are an invasive species of fish in the Great Lakes. They are caught with some regularity, and are not supposed to be returned to the lakes. So A. gave the fish to Cubby to examine.

He does love to examine fish.

After about fifteen minutes of close study, A. suggested maybe they could take it home and keep it in a fish tank in Cubby's room. Cubby, of course, was all for this idea, so the goby was placed in A.'s rinsed-out coffee cup with some lake water and transported home.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to see it.

Also needless to say, that was sarcasm.

But who can resist the excitement of a boy with a fish tank? We fortuitously had a 50-gallon fish tank in the cellar, which A. hauled up to Cubby's room, put on his dresser, filled with water, and deposited the goby into.

And then the goby sat. Or rather, hung out there on the bottom of the tank. He didn't eat the worm A. dropped in for him. He didn't swim around. He just . . . sat. This did not prevent Cubby from running back to his room every five minutes to check on Mr. Goby.

When Cubby went to bed that night, Mr. Goby still hadn't eaten his worm. An hour after he should have been asleep, I found Cubby in his room with the lights blazing, checking on Mr. Goby. When Cubby came down early the next morning, he told me he got up early to make sure Mr. Goby hadn't died.

He hadn't. But he also hadn't eaten the worm.

Yesterday Cubby collected some stones and shells from the lake for Mr. Goby's tank, as well as some of the dried corn that had been used to chum for carp on the beach. Mr. Goby didn't seem interested in these offerings, although he was at least swimming around in a more lively manner.

Then, this morning, Cubby came downstairs and told me he thought Mr. Goby was dying. When I asked him why he thought so, he said Mr. Goby used to be gray, but now he was white.


I told Cubby to go find his father and show him. Better him than me.

Mr. Goby was indeed gone. But he is not forgotten, oh no. A. made sure of that by popping him right into the jar on Cubby's dresser that contains the pickled lamprey eel. How touching.

And thus ends Cubby's first experience as a pet owner.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ghosties and Ghoulies

The subject of ghosts seems to come up a lot in conversations about our house. People always want to know if we have one or have seen one.

Short answer: No.

Not that I'm the best person to ask, since I suspect I would be the last person on earth susceptible to a haunting. Too practical and impatient. If I heard chains rattling in the middle of the night, I would be not so much afraid as pissed off that one more thing was disrupting my sleep.


A. always claimed that the only reason we don't have a ghost is because it's been the same family living here for 140 years. He suspects that if anyone else moved in, the ghost of Aunt Elizabeth (a turn of the 20th century relative renowned for her unpleasantness) would haunt them out of the house.

However, my niece, who is twelve years old, and one of our current house guests, who is eleven, both used the word "creepy" to describe our house. So maybe there's some kind of restless spirit that only haunts pre-teen girls?

Or maybe pre-teen girls who have spent their lives in modern houses find a setting so old and antique to be vaguely disquieting.

In any case, for anyone who has ever wondered, there is no resident ghost at Blackrock. And there had better not be as long as I'm living here. I have enough to deal with. The ghosts will just have to haunt someone else.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Historical Nomenclature

We are anticipating a full house of guests this week. When the MiL was discussing the room in which one particular guest would be sleeping, she referred to that room as "Audrey's Room."

Say what? That particular room has always been referred to as "A.'s Old Bedroom," (for obvious reasons) since I've lived here and never before have I heard mention of an Audrey. Addy, yes. The very back bedroom upstairs is always referred to as "Addy's Room." Addy was the last servant ever at Blackrock. She went back to Harlem to visit her family in the 1930s (I think) and never came back.

Can't say I blame her.


I of course requested enlightenment from the MiL about the mysterious Audrey. She was the hired girl during World War Two, and she apparently had problems with wetting the bed*.

Almost ten years in this house and its history still surprises me.

* Not the same bed that is currently in there. You may think this would be obvious, but this is Blackrock we're talking about. My children sleep in beds that date to at least the 1950s.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Happy birthday to
the indomitable Charlie