Friday, March 18, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

Daughter and I embarked on our annual Spring Break trip this week.  Instead of Salt Lake City, though, Daughter decided she'd like to see Las Vegas.  She goes there for band trips, but she wanted to see the sights with dear ol' Mom.  Gotta love that!

We headed out on March 13th.  I didn't plan that 13, but it worked out that way.  Daughter is recently into Asian boy bands, so guess what we listened to almost all the way there?  I don't know that I've ever been so happy for an iPod battery to die.  Not that the music is bad.  It's just repetitive after a few hours....

We finally made it to our hotel in Vegas.  Hand the keys to the valet, drag our luggage into the lobby, and...are greeted with the longest check-in line I've ever seen.  Another hour of stand-and-drag, stand-and-drag, and we finally have our room keys in hand!  As I watched the clerk write the room number on the folio, I had to smile.

She assigned us a room on the 13th floor.  No kidding.

A quick look at the Guest Services book, and we found our dinner.  A nice pizzeria in the hotel.  The place was noisy, but smelled good.  All the noise seemed to be coming from this huge table of people celebrating something.  One woman seemed quite far gone and was loudly asking each man at the table (whether or not he had a wife present) if he was a member of the Mile High Club, and if he'd help her gain membership.

One guy seemed to take her up on the offer.  During the negotiations, I heard one of the most unfortunate quotes ever uttered by a man:

"Okay, but you'll have to loofah my stretch marks."


The thing about vacationing with my daughter is that you'd better not plan on doing anything in the mornings.  She sleeps like the dead until mid-day.  The upside is that you save a lot of breakfasts.

So, we ventured out on Monday, looking for lunch.  Bought our three-day pass for the monorail and off we go.

Daughter is loving her French class this year, so naturally we catch the monorail (bless that thing) to the Paris hotel's La Creperie.  Thanks to her proficiency in this class, I actually said things correctly when ordering.  The French woman behind the counter remained unimpressed, as the French generally do.

Let me just say here: Good God, Vegas is expensive!!

$50 later, we'd each had a savory and a sweet crepe.  Her mood improves drastically with food.  The pouty I'm-so-sleepy teenager is replaced with the bubbly personality I know and love so much that crepes are worth $50. For once.

We spend the afternoon cruising the shops on the Strip, until we figure out that we can afford nothing we seen. Well, not if we want to get home.  So, our grand plans of shopping here, there, and everywhere kinda crashed and burned.

Soon, it's time to head to our first scheduled event: The Lion King show at Mandalay Bay. Second row. My daughter LOVES the story of The Lion King.  And let me tell you, if you haven't seen this show, it's a spectacular sight to behold.  The costuming is an amazing combination of costumes and puppeteering. The music is beyond brilliant.

My daughter has this friend at school who is adorable, and adorable with her.  Tall, gangly boy with a through-the-roof GPA.  They are in marching band together.  She can't leave school every day without hugs to and from this friend.  He came over for dinner at Jacob's one night.

"Daughter says they're friends," I explained.  "But I think he really likes her.

So, Jacob watched them as they did their homework at the dining table.  He returned to the kitchen, chuckling.  "You're right. He likes her."

"She's really clear with everyone on the fact that she's not dating until she's 16," I said.  Her birthday is in July.

"I know," Jacob said.  "But he strikes me as the kind of guy who has that marked off on a calendar somewhere."

Flashback to Vegas.  While we're waiting for the Lion King to start, she's texting this friend about the show.  All of a sudden: "Oh my gosh!  His favorite song is the same as mine!"  Dash to the gift shop.  Come back with a Lion King CD for him.

After the show, we're crossing one of the bridges over the Strip.  We see a homeless man with a cardboard sign: "Hungry Hungry Hobo."  A moment later, another man is panhandling on the sidewalk:  "Spare change for marijuana research!"  At lease the guy is honest about how he'll use it.

We found some dinner at The Sugar Factory, where Daughter ordered a dessert that made the neighboring tables gawk. Soda Pop Cotton Candy Crepe.  Toasted marshmallow-filled crepe, topped with (deep breath) ice cream, whipped cream, gummi cola bottle candies, cola cotton candy, Pop Rocks, and sweet and sour cherry syrup.

She was kinda sick after that.

We cruised the Sugar Factory candy store, too.  I got some technicolored Gummi Bears for Jacob.  See, they love those things, to the tune of 10 pounds a month.  Then, I saw it.

It's a 4.25 pound Gummi Bear.  Not a 4.25 pound package of Gummi Bears.  One BIG Gummi Bear.

But at $45, it stayed at the store, and I sent Jacob this picture of it.

After I got home, we talked about it.  How fun would it have been for him to pull this out of his lunchbox at work, at set at it with a knife and fork?

The next day, we decided to do a little sight-seeing.  Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum was a hit and a half with Daughter.  Except for the many moments when I had to explain who people were.  Like Sean Connery, Debbie Reynolds, Shirley Maclaine...and Ben Affleck.  That was a sad commentary on a contemporary actor's career....

But we took some great pictures.  Daughter and Will Smith.  And Lady Gaga.  Me and Elvis.  And Johnny Depp.  And Nicholas Cage. Gotta love that.

With time to kill before that night's entertainment, we headed to The Mirage to see Sigfried and Roy's Secret Garden habitat.  Lions, tigers, and dolphins! Oh My!

Sorry...lame joke, but the dork in me couldn't resist!

We were watching the lion habitat.  Daughter was at one end, with a large crowd watching one male lion sleeping, and I was at the other end, watching another male lion sleeping.  Then, my lion got up and started roaring. And roaring.  Dang, he was agitated.  He strolled over to the other lion, roaring the whole way.

He snuggled his head against the other lion and laid down.  The crowd went "Awwww!"

The other lion got up, sniffed his companion, and started humping him.

The crowd silently and awkwardly dispersed....

The Sigfried and Roy habitat.  Go figure.

So, we boarded a tram and went to see Cirque du Soleil.  Again, a brilliant show.  Those performers are unbelievable.  I loved watching Daughter laugh so hard and be so amazed.  Pure magic.  Moments I treasure, watching my little girl.  Who is growing much too fast.

When I booked the show, I didn't get to select our exact seats.  It was "Best Available," so I was kind of holding my breath on what that would mean.  I had to laugh when we picked up the tickets.

Row D. Seat 13.


After the show, we made our way down the Strip, reliving the amazing moments we'd just witnessed and looking for dinner.  We stopped at Serendipity 3, intent on using our coupon for a free frozen hot chocolate.  They seated us outdoors, along the wall that overlooks the sidewalk along the Strip.  Perched above the hedges there, we had a perfect vantage point for people watching.  The breeze was cool and gentle - a perfect evening.

"I'm hungry," Daughter said.  "I think I'll get the steak sandwich."

"That's a 10-ounce steak. Aee you sure?  It also has bacon and three fried eggs on it."

She was sure.

The waiter, Justin, came by with drinks.  When Daughter gave her order, he said, "I hope you're hungry! That thing is huge."

"I am," she said, but he still looked skeptical. But off he went.

We watched the people and the cars.  We enjoyed the evening.  Soon, our food came.  From where I was sitting, I could see it coming.  It was unbelievable.  I mean, my foot-long chili dog was something to behold, but Daughter's sandwich was....gargantuan.  The plate was almost as long as the table.  Justin handed her a steak knife and wished her luck.

In short, I watched her devour the whole stinkin' thing.

When she was halfway done, Justin came to check on us.  "Wow!" he said.  "I didn't think you'd get even that far!  You were hungry!"

Daughter nodded, still chewing.  Off he went again.

A little while later, I saw Justin heading our way again.  Daughter's plate contained a little bit of bread, but she was about to finish that.  She'd cleaned the plate.  I sat back and waited for him to round the corner.

"So, how are my girls doing?" he was saying. Then his eyes lit on Daughter's plate, and he literally took a startled jump back.

He gaped at her.  She smiled coyly, through long curls and big brown eyes.  "I was hungry."  Blink, blink.

"Bull. Shit," he exclaimed, and ran to the wall beside our table.  He looked over and down into the hedges, just sure she'd dumped it over the side.  Nope.

"I've seen grown, manly-men get their asses kicked by that sandwich," he said.  Then, he started applauding.  "Bravo!"

Others in the restaurant clapped, too, but had no idea what they were clapping for.

Then, she shared a frozen hot chocolate with me.

The walk back to the hotel was a little painful.  It's what I call "stupid full."

The following day, we took in the exhibits at the Luxor.  We went to "Bodies" first.  I know, the idea of displays of real human bodies, dried and posed without skin seems macabre.  And it is, if you stop among the exhibits to think that all of these were once people like you and me, with lives, loves, joys, and tears.  But it's also completely astounding to see how your own body really looks inside.  It's jaw-dropping amazing.

Daughter looked at most of it with an artist's eye.  "So, when I sketch a man's arm, I should remember that this is what the muscles do under the skin."  Things like that.

Then, we visited the Titanic Exhibition next door.  This was a somber experience. At the beginning, you're given a card with the name and story of a passenger.  At the end, you find out if your person survived.  Daughter's did.  Mine did not, along with all of her children.

The exhibit itself is unbelievable in their recreations.  They've reconstructed steerage, the promenade deck (with chilly night air, stars, and water), the grand staircase, and a first-class cabin.  The artifacts are amazing, too.  The things that survived a disaster and decades under water....  Completely amazing.

In one room, you can touch a large piece of ice that would have been almost as cold as the iceberg that Titanic struck.  They also have a huge section of the side of the ship that was salvaged.  To stand there and know this is Titanic.... Not a recreation.  Not a movie.  This is the great ship herself.  Gives you goosebumps.

Jacob loves the story of Titanic.  We picked up a replica Third-class cup, with the White Star logo.  He was thrilled with it, when we got home.

The drive home was long, but good.  Weather cooperated, and Daughter was in charge of the music.  I've heard a lot of Korean boy band music lately....  But having time with her like this is so precious to me.  She's getting more independent every day, but still calls me "Mommy."  At the moment, we're happy and building such good memories.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We're movin' on up!

Jacob's house is over 100 years old, on the Historic Register.  Behind the house is a little cottage that was originally his home's carriage house.  It was converted to living space in the 1950s.  When the tenant gave notice that she was buying a house and moving out, I got to thinking.

This might be an opportunity that's too good to pass up.  Daughter and I were spending almost every evening at Jacob's house, and I was developing a strong dislike for the four-mile drive home each night. And it comes with storage space in a detached garage.  No more storage unit with Ranger.

Jacob said he'd rather I was moving boxes into his house, but he'd take what he could get.  So, it was a done deal.  We rented the carriage house.

Moving day came very quickly.  Daughter and I cleaned, sorted, and packed.  We had an ungodly number of boxes.  I rented a truck, Son, and a friend of his for the day, and so it began....

First, we went to clear out the storage unit.  Ranger assured me that it was easy to get to my stuff, that he'd organized it and left a clear aisle to get to things.

He was sorely mistaken.

My things were buried in two places in the unit, with his rock tonnage in the way.  After I threw a fit for awhile, we started digging out.  In the process, Son spotted some rocks he thought were ultimately cool.  I let him take them.

He also spotted some of his old toys and was transformed.  The light that came across his face as he handled the pieces of his wooden train track and old crayon drawings was of such child-like joy....well, it did my heart good to see that my little boy is still behind that "I'm a man now" attitude.

Son and his friend cursed my love of books on more than one occasion that day.  The number of book boxes is kind of overwhelming.  I need more shelves.

At the carriage house, we started the unloading process.  Instantly, we encountered a problem.  The staircase takes a sharp turn at the foot, then there's a low overhang going up.  The combination of the two made it impossible to fit the box springs to a double and queen bed up the stairs.

"You'll just have to get out of the lease," my mother said. Always butter-side up, I swear.

I went to talk to Jacob, who was home sick from work.  He came and examined the problem.  In no time, he had the double bed's box springs up the stairs.  Son was gaping at him.  My folks were impressed.  Leprechaun magic, I said.

The queen wasn't so easy.  Jacob tried removing the handrail.  One good shove and...the box springs knocked a big hole in the wall.  Someone suggested dismantling the box springs, then reassembling upstairs.

As this discussion went on, Jacob laughed to himself.

"What?" I asked.

"Oh, I was just thinking that we could take it over to my room," he said, quietly to just me.  "Then, you and I could break it, then move it over here...."

Yeah, we know how to break bed-things.  I had to laugh, too!

Plan B.  No box springs.  We got plywood and built a platform in my bed frame.  Jacob later made a sweet offer.

"How attached are you to that bed?" he asked.

"Very," I said.  I love this furniture.  It's the bed I bought when I finally released I didn't have to keep the big king bed that I'd bought with my ex.

"Oh, because I could build you a nice platform bed," he said.  "Very Japanese!"

So, Daughter and I have been settling in to our little cottage.  It is little.  Tiny, actually.  But it's oh-so-cute.  And we're all oh-so-happy with it.  Seeing her, the first night she snuggled into her bed, amid a roomful of boxes, smiling as she typed out a journal entry...well, she was happy.

As am I.  And Jacob and his girls.  He stops to say "Good morning" to me as he leaves in the morning.

"I don't have makeup on," I said.

"You're beautiful," he said, then kissed me and went on his way.

The other night, I crept over to his house and snuggled into bed with him in the wee hours.  It marked the first time we awakened together in the morning, and it was beyond delightful.

Only one incident marred the week.  I was home, unpacking.  I took a break to play with Foursquare.  There is a checking spot for the Historic District.  I used it.

Unbeknown to me, Ranger was waiting at a bus stop.  Four blocks away from my house.  I've avoided telling him where I'm moving to, although he's aware I moved my part of storage.

Apparently, he saw my checkin and set about finding me.  He spotted my car.

I got a text.  "123, eh?" he said.  ("123" being the numbers of my address.)

Then, a knock on the door.

I was not happy.  I'm making my Foursquare checkins private now, so no one else can see them.

Jacob asked later if he could help.  "I can come out and act like a psychopath," he said.  "Try to bite my own face and all that."

That mental image about slayed me.  And it just might work!  Ha!

But today, we switch gears.  Daughter and I are off on our annual Spring Break trip.  Vegas, baby!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Daddy dearest

Since my divorce, I've determined that my children will forge their own relationships with their dad.  I will guide and protect them whenever necessary, but my experiences and opinions about the man will not impact their own.  They love him and see him in a different light than I do, and it's as it should be. 

The tough part about all this is that I can't warn them about him without looking bitchy and bitter.  That harms my relationship with them, and we can't have that.  So, I'm there when he lets them down.  It's inevitable.  He's big on promises and small on follow-through. 

For instance, there was the promise to never move away from them, follow shortly by the announcement that he was moving 10 hours away.  Then, there was the time he married a woman they had met once and couldn't stand, without telling them.  He told me a few days after the fact, and I was supposed to break it to the kids.

This is how he shapes his relationships with them.  I don't have to say a word.

Over the last couple of years, Son has been asserting himself with his dad and setting boundaries.  Basically, he's said, if you can't do anything but chew me out when we talk, then we won't talk.  So, for a year and a half, they didn't talk.  Now, if your child wasn't talking to you and told you why, would you consider changing your behavior to make it right?

Not this guy.  He just sent Son blistering emails and voicemails about what a jerk he thought he was being.  This is why Son doesn't listen to voicemail anymore.  He sent them to me, too.  He wanted me to force Son to talk to him.  Yeah, that'll work out nicely for everyone.  He retaliated by not sending Son birthday and Christmas presents.

He finally got it and backed off.  He and Son talk occasionally.  But I still hear about it when Son doesn't return a message.

One of Daughter's most embarrassing moments happened on a visit to her dad.  Riding in the car with her Korean friend, he decided that doing his Chinese accent would be a good idea.  She was mortified.  It's evidential of how he doesn't take Daughter seriously.  She gets weary of conversations with him because everything is a joke to him.  She's stopped talking about friends and interests because he either makes a crack or just says, "Oh."  It's frustrating to not be heard, so she finds little to say.

When he married his third wife, the woman told him that Daughter is a teenager, so she wants to talk about boys.  Neither of them really bothered to figure out the reality of what Daughter wants to talk about.  They just decided.  Keep in mind, this is the man who told me he's not into the same things his daughter is, so that means he doesn't have to try to relate to her about them.  I know - he so doesn't get that it's not about him.  Was I into baseball when Son started Little League?  No, but I learned because it was important to him.  It's about the child, not about you.

For the record, Daughter does not want to talk about boys.  She is comfortable in the fact that dating doesn't start in our house until age 16.  She watches her friends' dating drama and is thankful to not have it.  Her guy friends are her friends.  But she doesn't mention them because her dad is predictable in his reactions.  He'll hassle her about them.

That said, Daughter has developed her own entertainment surrounding her dad.  She'll toy with him.  It's become sport to her to make the man go into orbit.  Anything related to her growing up will set him off.  I've watched her do this.  For instance:

"Dad, I am starting to wear makeup."  She grins, waiting.

"Makeup?  Why would you want to wear makeup?"  His hackles are up.

"I'm old enough now.  And I like how it makes me look."  Grins again.

Now he's indignant.  "You're not old enough.  You can wear makeup when you're 35.  And you look just fine without it." (Not that he'd know....he hasn't seen her since September 2008, but that's another story.)

She laughs.  "I made Dad get all puffed up," she says.

She has a new obsession lately - Korean boy bands.  Remember that Korean friend of hers?  Yeah, she shared some YouTube links and got her hooked.  Daughter talks about them all the time.  I mean, ALL the time.  She even infected Jacob's oldest with this obsession.

But she does not tell her dad.  Why?  She doesn't want to hear the Chinese accent again.

However, last night, he sent her a chat message on Facebook.  After getting a good raking over the coals for not answering her phone (dead battery), she decided it was time to mess with him.

"Hey Dad, I have a new hobby."

"What's that?"

"Korean boy bands." Sends a link.

Pause.  "Are you serious?"

"Yes!  They're so cool!  Check out these videos."  More links.

"Ah so.  Me like-a sushi."  Really?  Attempting an Asian accent online?  Daughter face-palmed.

"No, that's Japanese, Dad."

Pause.  "Ah so. Me like-a chop suey."

"No, that's Chinese."

"It's all the same, anyhow."

"No, it's not."

"Why Korean boy bands?"

She debated about telling him about her Korean friend.  Instead, she got my attention and said, "Watch this."

To him, she said: "Because they are HOT!!"

Pause.  "No. You did not just say that."

And Daughter is in hysterics.  Button pushed.

She's almost 16.  You wanted her to be interested in boys, Dad.  Now, she is.  Deal with it.

I can't believe she's almost 16.  We're beginning to plan her Sweet Sixteen party.  The head of the Art department here is a friend, and she's letting me have the Art gallery for this event.  She's met Daughter and seen her work.  We're going to hang Daughter's artwork from over the years, play music from her iPod playlist, and have it catered with her favorites.  It's all about her.

Will her dad be here?  I don't know, since he still feels he doesn't have to relate.  That still breaks my heart a little, but she and Son have learned to be content in the relationships they've made.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Cruising right along....

That earlier experiment worked out so well that we did it again. A day off to ourselves, but this time I picked up breakfast burritos so we wouldn't have to leave the house, if we didn't want to. And we didn't want to.  It was sensuous and cozy and wonderful, all day.  There's something to be said for spending a day at home, without the necessity of pants.

Best of all, we got the chance to just talk.  We don't often get time alone to speak freely, without texting.  We paused our movie and cozied up on the couch.  At one point, he apologized for feeling so talkative that day.  Really?  I soak up such moments, and wish they happened much more often.  We always discover more parallels we have

Mid-afternoon, we picked up our respective children and had a wonderful evening with them, too.

Our "family" evenings (as we've come to think of them) are spent with dinner, movies, games, and Legos.  One of our favorite games is Apples to Apples, the Disney edition.  If you haven't played this game, the short description is that the "judge" player puts down an adjective card and all the others (anonymously) put down noun cards to go with it, then the judge decides whose noun wins the round.  You can lobby for your noun card to win, too.  Every time we play, we laugh until it hurts!

One night, during the game, Jacob excused himself for a moment and disappeared in the direction of his office, returning shortly without explanation.  When it was my turn to be judge, I found out why.  As I'm flipping through the noun cards everyone else put down, I find this:

(in case you can't read it, the note says: Pick this one)

It caught me by surprise, and I about laughed my ass off.  "Gee, which card is yours?" I asked.  Jacob grinned. 

I can't remember at the moment, if I ended up picking this card for that round.  I also kept the note.  Later, I was looking at it and thought how each day, I find new ways this man is beautiful to me.  I texted him.

"Some thing occurs to me, about your 'Pick this one' note," I said.  "In many ways, I already have."

More smiles.


Last week was an up and down kind of week.  It started out rough.  I was typing away on this blog, during a break at work, when the light from my window dimmed.  It's behind me, so I turned to see what happened.

Ranger stood there.  Looking in the window at me.

When he saw I spotted him, he came into the building and sat in my tiny office.  He seems to think he can talk his way out of this situation.  Like, if he can convince me to let things go back the way they were, then he doesn't really have to get off his ass and get his life in order.

Let me say here that I really do hate hurting him.  I hate hurting anyone's feelings.  But he's putting in the position of saying things that he doesn't want to hear (again), and saying them bluntly.  I mean, I don't have a heart of stone.  I cared about the man for a long time.

For the next hour, we rehashed why I'm not with him and that, no, his promises to do better are not going to fix things. Promises mean nothing.  Words from Ranger mean nothing.  Too many lies and secrets have existed there, and still do.  I can't live or love that way.

He seemed genuinely surprised.  "So, me just saying so isn't enough?"

Right. Not that this should be news to him.  But right.

For an hour, we did this.  At my place of work.  That cannot happen.  I told him that he couldn't show up like that again.

"But doesn't it prove something that I'm willing to walk all this way to see you?  Especially when I'm hurting like this?"

No, it doesn't.  It's creepy.  And the hurting he's referring to is not emotional; it's physical.  He has a serious problem with his back.  So, he thinks he's proving something because, in his mind, he's hurting himself for me.

Does that sound sick to anyone else?  Because I'm a little disturbed by the whole thing.

I finally had to leave to get him to leave.  I literally had to take him somewhere else to get him away from my office.

The rest of the week was ok.  It's the week before payday, so things are always a little thin.  I got my tax refund, which was much less than previous years.  I booked the annual Spring Break jaunt with Daughter, but on a tighter budget this year.

I discovered a Borders gift card that I didn't know I had.  Our local store is closing, so I high-tailed it over there.  They were out of the books I wanted, so I snagged a Lego set that I thought would be fun at Jacob's.

That night, at his house, I lamented that I wasn't able to find those books.  "What books?" he said.  I gave him the author's name.  He grinned.  "What titles?"

I named them, and he went to his shelves.  "You should check with me before buying any books now," he said, handing me the exact title I wanted.  He had the other one, too, but it was out on loan.

I love this man!

After dinner, more smiles.  He'd gotten Lego sets for everyone.  As we dumped out the bags of little bricks all over the dining table, he said, "We're gonna need a bigger table."

True.  It was covered.  We played, and we were all very happy.