Pedicure perspective


I found time yesterday to treat myself to a pedicure. I suppose I could have used the time in a more valuable way – I could have exercised, or tackled the mountain of laundry (about 63% of which is comprised of orphan socks I discovered beneath The Boss’s bed when we disassembled it Monday night), or steam-cleaned the yuck out of my carpet. But instead, I found myself at the mall, because that’s where Sears is and they sel Lands’ End and I was in need of a bathing suit.

(Aside #1: I had bought another Lands’ End suit in May, full price. But it doesn’t fit right, so I had to buy another one. Now I’m kind of pissed off that I just got the same thing for half the money. Gah.)

My purchase complete, I wandered out into the mall in search of a nail salon.

(Aside #2: Mall Food Courts = Lowest Common Denominator. Am I right?)

I popped into a salon and asked if they could take a walk-in, which was kinda stupid because there were only two other customers in the whole store. A nice Vietnamese lady named Gina motioned for me to follow her. As I settled into the massage chair, we started with the small talk. We discovered that we both have sons – each of us has a 14 year old, and a younger one also in middle school.

We talked about how the older boys will be heading to high school. We also talked about their grades. Gina was upset that her older son got one B instead of all A’s! She said she expects him to try his hardest, and she knows he can get all A’s because he did so the first three quarters. But the last quarter, he got a new math teacher because they bumped him up to a higher math class, and he ended up with a B. Which was an 89, which is almost an A. And she was disappointed, and her son apologized and said he would try harder.

I said, wow, I think those are still some pretty good grades! And she said yes, they are, but she expects him to do well because she and her husband don’t have a lot of money to send him to college, so he’ll have to earn scholarships. She said she didn’t do well in school because she’s first-generation here, but her son was born here and has all the advantages of having been raised in America, so she figures, no excuses. (And I figure, I am way too soft on my kids.)

I asked Gina when she came to the US. She shared with me her amazing story.

She said she left Vietnam when she was 11 years old, in 1982. Her parents put her and her older sister on a boat to send them to the US. They paid a lot of money to get their girls on the boat, knowing that the money would not guarantee safe passage. Yet, they wanted their girls to have a better life in America.

Gina’s parents did not tell her they were sending her away “permanently.” She just thought it would be “for a while.” She also said that her father would not allow her mother to cry as they said their farewells. He told her it would be bad luck for the girls, and they might meet peril on the sea if she cried. So, she had to hold it in.

A voyage could take days or weeks or months. At the time, there were boats full of Thai marauders who would pillage and plunder the boats of Vietnamese refugees. (A quick Google search yielded this article with some details on the practice, and Wikipedia has this on the boat people.) All females on board – no matter their age – would be raped if the Thai bad guys came on board. Men coming to the defense of their female relatives would be beaten or shoved overboard. But, there were German boats patrolling the waters, looking to rescue the refugees and protect them from the bad guys. One such “Germany boat” (as she called it) got to her boat just 36 hours after they’d set sail, even as a Thai boat was within sight, fixing to attack.

The Germans took them to the Philippines, where they stayed for a couple of years. They learned some English there. Once their paperwork was in order, they came to California. They ended up in Maryland because her husband had relatives here.

Gina can’t tell this story without tearing up. She has shared it with her boys, so that they may understand the sacrifices she has made so that she could provide them with a good life in America.  She has asked them to think about what it would be like to live without their mother and father at their age (as she had to do).

Gina – and many of her friends – works 6 days a week doing nails. She said her husband was also trained to do nails, but ended up working in sales at Sears, and eventually secured a job as a mail carrier with the postal service. That way, they have good benefits (she gets none).  They hope to send their two boys to college – an opportunity she never had.

I told Gina that she should write a book, for hers was an amazing story. She was delightful. I tipped her big, and I’ll ask for her next time.

Childless (this week)

DON’T GET ME WRONG: I love my boys. More than words can say. With every fiber of my being; to the very depths of my core. Even the fleeting thought of something bad happening to one of them causes my heart to quicken, my respirations to increase, and a huge lump in my throat. Each of my boys is unique in his own way. They’re precious gifts, blessings from God, and we are thankful every day for them.

But this week? They’re four hours away, frolicking with their grandparents and their cousins, and I couldn’t be happier.

Parents of school-age children know that the school week is a grind. There is homework to be kept track of, schedules to mind. There are children to be nagged reminded to do their chores / homework / get off the XBox already / go to bed / when was the last time you showered, stinky??

Summer camps are little relief. First of all, they’re expensive! Second of all, it’s a whole new routine you have to learn. The regular camp day is usually not as long as a regular school day, and it’s likely you’ll be dropping off and picking up your kid at some location that is less convenient than their school. Plus, there are lunches to pack and sunscreen to be applied and electronic gadgets to be left at home, lest they be lifted by some random camper.

So yesterday, we rendezvoused with Curt’s parents at a McDonalds parking lot in south-central PA. We handed them the key to the ‘Burb, with all of its precious cargo. They handed us the key to their sleek, crumb-free German sedan. We shed tears waved goodbye, then watched them head north while we giggled pointed their car south.

Ott House Pub, Emmitsburg MD First stop? The Ott House Pub in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Located near the National Fire Training Academy, this bar draws trainees and other public servants from all over. They leave their patches, which get placed under the bar and tacked on the wall. Curt enjoyed the wings and we drank drafts and played pool and pinball and fed money into the electronic jukebox. For, like, a few hours. Which is not something you do when you’ve a five year old in tow… or, for that matter, an impatient teenager.

Then, we meandered our way south, avoiding Route 15 because the back roads are always more fun. (It’s all about the journey.) We decided to stop at The Cracked Claw – someplace we’ve been by many times but haven’t yet visited. Our bartender was great and the beer was cold, and I bet the food is good (we didn’t have dinner) … but the decor inside looks like it hasn’t been updated since the first Bush administration. This site also boasts an Off-Track Betting facility, but by the time we got there it was closed. Because it was Sunday night and what are you doing haunting the bars, anyway? Shouldn’t you be at home with your family??

*crickets chirping*

Soooo… we headed home and watched a baseball game on the big HDTV in the family room, which is usually showing some drivel from the Nickelodeon family of channels.  I made a pizza, but I could just as easily have eaten a bowl of cereal. We stayed up too late. We cursed like sailors, really loud. We did not have to clean up anyone’s spills or dishes or wrappers. We did not have to force anyone to shower or go to bed or shush anyone whose late-night plans featured loud video games in the bedroom across from ours. It was… quiet. And relaxed. And quiet, did I say it was quiet? Because it was. Shhhhh.

And? We have the added bonus of knowing that our children are having some quality bonding time with their grandparents! They’ll be breathing in the fresh country air, visiting cousins, and also? Shooting things!

Two years ago, when Seth was confirmed into the church, his grandparents commemorated this religious milestone by giving him a gun. Because nothing says “Praise Jesus!” like the gift of firearms. But it was OK – the gun stays at the grandparents’ house and is only used under the close supervision of an exceedingly well-qualified Pappy.  Well, this year, The Boss was confirmed, and this year he gets his gun.  Which he will love because the kid likes to shoot. He just spent a bunch of money on a new airsoft gun.

As I write this, it’s 7:00 a.m. I’m not frantically trying to finish because I have to get the Peezer up and around and drop him off and still make it to work on time. Curt is long gone. It’s… quiet. Today, I like it. By the end of the week, I’ll miss the mayhem. I won’t miss the crumbs or sticky spills or the clutter, but I will miss the mayhem, and I will miss the kids.

But that’s five whole days from now.


SUMMER IS IN FULL SWING Chez Soup. The school-age boys are sleeping till noon and don't go to bed until never late.  They've occupied themselves this first week of summer break by doing a whole lot of nothin'.  Well, that's not true – Seth did some chores, but only because he is a Young Capitalist. The Boss? Other than the occasional dog walk, he avoided the excessive heat by retreating to the air-conditioned comfort of the basement, playing shoot-'em-up computer and XBox games.

It is parenting by the path of least resistance up in here.

Meanwhile, we've been heading to the pool after work so Peezer can have a quick dip after his long days at daycare / camp. (You should see him swim – the child is a fish!) This has the effect pushing dinnertime back to, well, when bedtime normally is.  I was freaking out about the late dinners, but my Facebook friends told me to chill, it's summer. They're right.

But the real fun comes on Sunday, when we pack up three boys and all their stuff and drive them two hours north, into Pennsyltucky. We will rendezvous with my award-winning in-laws, trade car keys (picture "Trading Spaces", only in a McDonalds parking lot). Then Soup Husband Curt and I will run in the other direction drive their car south while they drive ours – and its contents, human and otherwise! – back to their home. For a whole week.

Oh, happy happy day of days! Oh, most joyous of occasions! I am dancing a happy jig right now!

Ahem. Sorry.

Anyway – it's not like we have anything planned for our kidless week.  We will work like normal. We still have to feed the pets. (Does anyone want to take our pets next week? Text me.) We might eat out. We probably won't go to the pool.

Actually, there is one project.  The older boys, who have been sharing a bedroom all these years (except for our six month exile in PA), have decided it's time for The Boss to move downstairs, into whichever room we can convert into a bedroom for him. This is more easily said than done… but it's on the agenda. (Stay tuned.)

Speaking of summer – and we were, weren't we? – my pal Foolery posted today about the songs that most remind her of summer. And I have a variation on this theme.  I Seeburg%20C-TT-1-W have been thinking recently about my home town's municipal swimming pool and the fun hours I used to while away there each summer. There are certain songs that were on the jukebox there (and here I provide a helpful reference link for anyone born before Methusaleh 1980) that I swear never got removed. This being the turn of the century late '70s and early '80s, the coin-operated record machine (kids, that's a Context Clue) (go Google "record" and "coin") (shut up) featured hits from the Rolling Stones, the Cars, and lots and lots of Elton John.

In particular, I remember Life's Been Good by Joe Walsh and the B-52s' Rock Lobster… Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street, Dire Straits' Sultans of Swing…  all links go to the video on YouTube.

Those are some of the songs that scream SUMMER!!! to me. Please, tell me – what are some that you remember from when you were a carefree teenager, or make up the soundtrack of your summer memories?