Friday, May 27, 2016

Giveaway! Win a Pair of 18" Doll Shoes

I have a giveaway up at Crafting a Green World for just another 15 hours, which is just enough time for you to hop on over there and enter!

You can win a pretty great, super cute pair of 18" doll shoes, and I know you want to. Your kid wants them. If your kid doesn't want them (although your kid does), then your kid's friend wants them at his/her next birthday party. If your kid's friends don't want them (although they do), then your family's kids want them for Christmas. Wouldn't it be nice to have one gift, at least, all sorted?

But because I don't want you to win anything janky, don't worry, I took up the burden of getting a free pair of doll shoes, too, to check out, and I'm not gonna lie--I wrapped them, gave them to Syd for her birthday, and when she gasped and squealed and said, "Thank you!", I was all, "You're welcome!" Here Syd is running the shoes through their paces:

Yeah, I'd say that she likes them pretty well!

P.S. Go enter! Go win!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Adventures from the International Grocery: Junk Food

We love one particular international grocery store in Indianapolis SO MUCH that when we go, we have to establish a category of purchases for ourselves. Like, "Today we'll only buy frozen food," or "today we'll stick to pasta." If we don't I've discovered, much to my budgetary regret, that we will come home with just a ridiculous amount of frozen food and pasta and fruit and other stuff that we can't identify so that it's just... no. I cannot spend another entire month eating only food that I can't identify on account of I blew an entire month's food budget on that food.

On this latest trip to Saraga, the kids and I focused on junk food. I mean, of COURSE! We didn't, alas, purchase every single potato chip bag and candy packet and box of cookies that we saw, but just one or two selections from every region, just enough to get a good cross-section of international junk food.

Well, we did get some fruit, too. I mean, of COURSE! We got our favorite, dragonfruit, and also a Korean melon (I only know this because I take a cell phone pic of the label of whatever fruit we buy--otherwise, it gets real hard REAL fast to identify it!):

But anyway... back to the junk food!

The deal is that we taste all of our purchases as a family, admiring the packaging and giving our opinions on the flavors and textures of the food and in general just making a really big deal of it. I am an especially huge fan of the packaging, and I save most of it, for what I do not know.

Seriously, though, check out these packages!

Potato Master Chef, amiright?!? The flavor of these chips was "cream and paprika," and they were tasty--the cream was supposed to be more like cream cheese, I think, and you couldn't so much taste the paprika.

And then there's Yokitos:

I was all about the picture of the alligator nomming on a giant ear of corn! Although these chips were different shapes, they both tasted pretty much the same to us--kind of like cheese puffs.

Churritos, now... I can seriously mow down some Churritos!

They're kind of like pretzels without the brown outside--maybe more like mini crunchy breadsticks? The kids liked them okay, and Matt didn't get to try them at all, because I loved them so much that I finished off the bag before he got home. And I didn't even care. He doesn't love spicy food, anyway.

And now to the sweets! Along with my usual buy of Jaffa cakes (yum!), we tried a couple of different kinds of wafer cookies (a mango kind, and an espresso kind) that were NOT winners, and these guys:

The kids are big fans of DiamondMineCart on YouTube, and along with his Minecraft videos, he also posts a lot in the genre of what I refer to as "Cute Boy Eating Japanese Candy." It's not always Japanese, of course, but for some reason those videos of him taste-testing foreign junk food, reacting on camera to what he's eating, etc., are really popular with my girls. 

And so I goaded my girls into making their own video:

I'm sure they'll forgive me one day!

Okay, now this last thing that we bought, this last thing is game-changing. Life-changing. I will never look at bread the same way again.

Here we go: SPRINKLES THAT GO ON YOUR BREAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We ate them one morning on this homemade Hawaiian sweet bread (the last baked thing that you may see from me forever, because our oven died this week and I kind of don't want to replace it) with peanut butter, although I have since learned that you're actually supposed to use unsalted butter instead. Even with that extra punch of protein instead of fat, though?

It. Was. AMAZING!!!

If you don't believe me, then just look at this kid's face as she chews her first bite:

Yep, we like it real well.

Next time we go to Saraga, then, we now have on our list not just mochi ice cream and frozen stuffed naan and Jaffa cakes, but Churritos and Isleri and SPRINKLES THAT GO ON YOUR BREAD!

Oh, and next visit's focus? It may just be all the Ramen. There's a lot of different types of Ramen in the world, My Friends.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of May 23, 2016: Abraham Lincoln, and the Gold that's in Them There Hills

I made it through last week, and perhaps I do feel better with it behind me. Mac's death is less of a shock that I keep reminding myself of every second and more of a constant ache in my head and my gut. But on Tuesday, I spent an entire hour and a half at my fencing class without thinking of him, and I also felt happy, as I beat the advanced fencer who was my opponent in my very first ever electric fencing match. Everyone was excited for me, nobody knew that I was grieving, and the adrenalin did me good.

The fact that somehow during the match I jacked up my knee also did me good, I think, since I wasn't able to run around like a maniac to distract myself for the rest of the week, and instead had to slow down, rest my body, and consequently think the thoughts and feel the feels. Yuck, but I'm probably the better for it this Monday, when I probably am going to start running around like a maniac again.

As usual on our weeks off from formal work plans, I required the kids to continue with a lesson in Math Mammoth and a required reading assignment every day, and then I tacked on a couple more little assignments for them each day. We played a lot with our Zometools:

The kids both completed the web version of the Denali National Park Junior Ranger book (and now both REALLY want to go there to meet the huskies in person!), finished their animal posters that they began the previous week, Syd made cupcakes, Will mowed the lawn, Syd had a friend over, Will mowed over that friend's polka-dotted hoodie, and we spent a day in Indy, visiting the Children's Museum (we're going to start volunteering there in July!), buying sheet metal, and detouring to our favorite international grocery and buying a stupid amount of foreign junk food. Chili lime churritos--nom!

Cursive this week is copywork from a poem in the Story of the World v. 3 activity book, the one in chapter 42 about gold. The kids can earn a couple of extra bucks for memorizing it, and Will might want to, because it mentions a despotic monarch, the type that she's a fan of. Books of the Week consist primarily of non-fiction about Sutter's Mill and Abraham Lincoln, the two brief unit studies that we'll be undertaking this week. There's no Project of the Week this week, as it's a short one, and I'm hoping that this time we can actually play with the Sculpey that I want to be our open-ended material of the week, since last time that I suggested it Syd countered with Perler beads AGAIN. Well, she already knows this week that we can't do Perler beads, as I still have to buy the three shades of brown that I need to complete my Perler Bead Doctor Whooves that's in progress on the playroom table, so Sculpey will simply have to suffice.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: We were supposed to be just getting back from a weekend camping trip today, but we had to cancel that trip after rain that was NOT forecast as late as Thursday insisted on pissing down all of Friday afternoon and evening and much of Saturday morning. Of course just as we decided that even if it stopped raining right that second the forest would stay too wet to enjoy for the rest of the weekend, it stopped raining right that second and the rest of Saturday and Sunday were gorgeous. Today is gorgeous, too, goddamnit. I really needed that camping trip!

So instead of packing up our campsite this morning and then coming home to shower, eat, sleep, and veg, we're going to our volunteer gig at the local food pantry as usual, stopping by the library so that the children can sign up for the summer reading program, and sitting down to schoolwork. In Math Mammoth, Will is finishing up ratios--which she FLEW through, thank goodness, since I'm still traumatized by how much trouble she had with multiplying and dividing fractions--and moving on to decimals, which she already has a good grasp of so should hopefully also fly through. Syd is finishing up geometry this week by reviewing perimeter, area, and volume, and then she'll move on to fractions next week.

For our American Revolution unit on this day, we're reading From Colonies to Country about the War of Jenkin's Ear, the important takeaway of which is that it becomes clear, during this war, that so many countries are never going to be able to peacefully occupy North America. The children each have a copy of this early map of North America, and they'll label the colonies on it and we'll discuss who "owns" what, where the Native Americans are, what's going on in Indiana at the time, and why this setup is unstable.

This week's California unit is focused on Sutter's Mill and the Gold Rush. The site of Sutter's Mill is actually called Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, and it's unlikely that the grandparents will actually be able to take the kids there, as it's a bit of a hike, but it is a possibility, and you can't study California without studying the Gold Rush! Even though it's a state park, the place does have a Junior Ranger program, although don't tell the children that since you have to buy the patch for it yourself, we won't be completing this one and mailing it in if they don't happen to go there. Patch or not, a Junior Ranger book is a good way to get a good overview of the park and learn some of the vital information about its history and cultural context.

The kids both LOVE the PBS series, Nature, so I try to make a point to put a Nature film fest into our school week every now and then, to keep us caught up. We sit on my bed, eat popcorn, and color, and it's a darn good time.

TUESDAY: A few weeks ago, Matt helped me design centimeter-gridded paper models for all the squares from 1 to 12, and the kids colored them and cut them out, and we talked about them a little, but most of that lesson was about the making. On this day, we'll bring them out again for more exploration. There are interesting discoveries to make with these square models on the topics of area, perimeter, volume, ratios, and even decimals and fractions. And since they're done in centimeters, I can break out the Cuisenaire rods and Base Ten blocks for more interesting explorations.

The kids have studied Abraham Lincoln off and on throughout the years, but on this day, we need another brief, biographical overview of him in preparation for a field trip that I set up for our homeschool group at our university's special collections library. They have an extensive collection of Abraham Lincoln artifacts, including copies of the life models that Daniel Chester French molded as he was preparing to sculpt the Lincoln Memorial, and I'm really excited for all the kids to see them! Enchanted Learning is always a good place to start when you're looking for this type of topical overview, and we'll be using Abraham Lincoln: A Book for Fluent Readers, with more memory work drill on that information during our daily ten minutes of memory time in the car.

Although Matt will do one of his popular history lectures on the Gold Rush one evening this week (we'll have to abandon our usual evening pastime of following the adventures of Frodo, which we also make Matt read to us while we color or mess with each other's hair), much of this week's Gold Rush unit will be taught by other sources--Story of the World on Thursday, and the PBS website on this day. I haven't previewed these games from the American Experience website, but if the kids don't care for them, I do have other options with PBS Kids or BrainPop.

Alas, Will and I don't have fencing again until June, but we DO have our homeschool group's playgroup on this day--yay!

WEDNESDAY: Field trip day! I am VERY excited about heading back to the special collections library, where I used to work as a Reading Room attendant and handle all the lovely books, manuscripts, and artifacts, and afterwards, I have plenty of other adventures planned on the lovely, lightly-populated summer campus. Perhaps the library's puzzle collection will be open, and so we'll play with puzzles. Perhaps we'll bring leaf presses, sketchbooks, and portable watercolors, and go on a tree identification walk for Will's Girl Scout Cadette Trees badge. Perhaps we'll go bowling in the student union. Perhaps we'll visit the greenhouse. Perhaps we'll eat in a dormitory cafeteria, although the cheapskate in me tells me that that's unlikely. Perhaps we'll follow the campus' meandering creek from border to border, and the kids will play and stomp in the water while I read. Perhaps we'll visit the art museum, or I'll show them the racist mural in one classroom where I used to TA. It's pretty graphic, and basically what they spoof the entire time on Parks and Recreation.

THURSDAY: We had some great lessons on the chemistry and crystal formation of minerals, and on this day we'll move on to looking at the eight most common minerals. One of my reasons for doing this unit study is to help the kids get interested in getting their large rocks and minerals collection (ie. their giant, heavy box of random rocks) organized, so we'll also be dragging that beast of a box out and seeing if the kids have any of these most common minerals already. If so--organize and label them!

We've taken a break for a few weeks from our cooking curriculum, partly because I couldn't be bothered to mentor it and partly because the last two recipes haven't been great--in fact, the kids' attempt at quiche was given entirely to the chickens. To get back into the groove, I'm asking the kids to remake the macaroni and cheese, which was a big success, and then we may try the quiche again, or we may move ahead. Either way, I'll likely be curating the book's recipes a little more, and not just blithely assigning the next one as we go.

Story of the World v. 3, chapter 42 has an excellent summary of the Gold Rush, and so this will be the main information that we study. My activity book for that volume has reading comprehension questions that allow the kids to basically memorize all of the relevant information (I include them in our memory work time in the car), and the mapwork, which we'll also be doing on this day, provides good geographic context.

FRIDAY: I am liking NaNoWriMo's Young Writer's Workbook a lot more these days, primarily because it's grab-and-go and the children are finally getting into it. Yay! Election 2016 is also meant to be grab-and-go, but I can't stand not providing enrichment activities, so after their reading selection, which covers the kinds of stances and issues that presidential candidates take, I'll be having the kids research what issues are important to our three remaining presidential candidates and their stances on them. I'll also expect the kids to identify what issues are important to THEM, and their stances on them. I'm very interested to hear what they come up with!

The kids did really enjoy our craft time last week, so on this day they'll be helping me review another craft book. None of us have ever crafted with paracord before, and I'm looking forward to it. Will is looking forward to a ping-pong event at the public library. Has she ever played ping-pong before? I have no idea. Maybe it's a latent skill!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY/MONDAY: We may try to reprise our failed camping trip, but I'm a little leery of the Memorial Day weekend crowds, so we also may not. Maybe there will be a good movie at the drive-in, or maybe Matt and I will go see Captain America in an indoor theater. Maybe we'll get my giant metal magnet memo board up (this last weekend, we cleaned out the garage and mowed the lawn instead).

Or maybe I'll do what I did this last weekend, which is read, eat delicious things cooked on sticks over our backyard campfire, and putter in the garden.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Yet Another Day at the Children's Museum

I know that by now you must be bored of me posting about our visits to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis--oh, gee, another photo of the water clock! Hey, there they are goofing around in Dinosphere again!

Well, if you think that, then I fooled you, because I did NOT take a photo of the water clock this time! Instead, here we are goofing around in Dinosphere!
We were playing a game entitled Carry On a Casual Conversation While Gesturing with a T-Rex Tooth. It's a super fun game!
Our Leonardo, the Mummified Dinosaur is famous. Remember we even got asked about him after we played Stump the Docent at the Field Museum?

They're pretending to be T-rexes. I mean, obviously.
We have a lot of favorites in the permanent collection--here is where I *should* be showing you a photo of the water clock!--
Seriously, how many hundred times has this one compared her hand, ever growing, but still ever too small, to this polar bear print?
 --but we always check in with the traveling exhibits, too:
I have long complained about the museum's penchant for booking branded exhibits, but I have to admit that this Hot Wheels exhibit did include a lot of good information about how cars work.
We are doing our best Despotic Monarch faces in the Pirates and Princesses exhibit.
I think my face is really good!
 I think that everyone's favorite exhibit, however, is the Wonders of the World playground just outside the museum:
It's not a playground of THE Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, because that's just focused on the Mediterranean area, did you know? Leaves out loads of glorious stuff.
Like the Taj Mahal!
And the Great Wall of China!
Not even the Sphinx is on that list, because it hadn't been rediscovered at the time.

Part of the reason why we were there was to formalize our volunteer plans, so when July comes around, alas, you'll be seeing even more of the Children's Museum from us, as we devote a couple of Friday afternoons a month to cleaning and preparing fossils down in the Paleo Lab.

I have mentioned before that we're the coolest, right?!?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Homeschool Geometry: Zome Tool Stellations

Y'all probably know by now that I think it's VERY important that math be hands-on, manipulative-heavy. And yet, if you've got kids the ages that I do (10 and 11, how the time flies!), y'all probably also know by now that a kid doesn't have to get very old at all before the hands-on component in any store-bought math curriculum seriously tapers off.

I mean, sure, when they're studying division of single digits, a curriculum might show you how to model that with Cuisenaire rods, but those rods are nowhere to be seen when it's teaching long division--and yet you CAN model long division with Cuisenaire rods and Base Ten blocks! Sure, a math curriculum will put in some simple models of multiplying fractions, but for the kids to really understand the concept beyond the basics I had to make my own fraction models in Adobe InDesign.

A kid of these ages shouldn't be expected to apply her understanding of a simple model to a sophisticated calculation, not when it's so possible to also model those sophisticated calculations until she truly, deeply understands.

And oh, my gosh, I am on a tangent!

*steps down off of soapbox*

ANYWAY... tl;dr: I include a hands-on math work into every school week. Last week, as a corollary to Syd's Math Mammoth lesson on identifying and measuring angles (and as a secret build-up to this week's project on building crystal models by hand, mwa-ha-ha!), the kids and I explored stellations, which is the process of extending the line segments that make up a polygon. What you come up with looks like a star!

I could tell right away that this was a useful activity, because the kids at first had trouble understanding what it meant to "extend the lines." They wanted to put posts in however they wanted to, which is fine if they wanted to explore, but I told them that those weren't stellations, and guided them until they understood the concept.

For this particular activity, we worked on building regular 2D shapes to stellate, and we figured out several!

Stellation of a Triangle

Stellation of a Square

Almost a Stellation of a Pentagon!

You can tell that we didn't get this stellation quite right (and I think that *I* was the one in charge of the pentagon--oops!) because the lines extending from the pentagon are crooked. If you do it correctly, you'll see that this is the most iconic star, the one that you can learn how to draw without picking up your pencil. If you put a circle around a correctly-drawn pentagon stellation, you've got a pentagram.

Stellation of a Hexagon

Will immediately noticed that this stellation makes a Star of David, so yay for our World War 2 studies! We had a brief discussion of why two of our first four stellations might have been taken by religious groups as their icons, and that's how my kids now know what Satanism is...

We have had these Zometools for YEARS, by the way, and this exact exploration is the absolute first time that the kids have gotten really into them, wanting to play with them and build beyond just our guided activity. But on this occasion, both kids got really into making these "pincushions" of various sizes:

Zometools are so sophisticated, though, that the kids will be able to use them for the rest of their academic careers--through grad school and into professorship, if they so desire! They're also somewhat multi-disciplinary, in that this week, we just started using them in science, as well, to model crystal structures. In fact, I got myself so enmeshed in a complicated crystal structure that the entire family has been having to help me figure out how to keep it going, with all its crazy-ass interwoven struts and mysteriously enlarging pentagons--I started out with a two-dimensional kite!

That crazy structure is still in progress. I'll show it to you another time, if it doesn't break my brain.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: Fingerprint Princesses and Fairies

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Just don't be surprised if I say something insane or you turn around and I've shaved my head or I disappear for a week because I've spontaneously bought a plane ticket to London so that I can sit out on the lawn of the British National Gallery all night and cry. I am still taking consecutive breaths. I am still functioning.

ANYWAY, remember that I told you last week that I was going to spike the latter half of our school week with some lighter, craftier projects to give us more brain breaks from all of our hard-core academics? That worked a dream. Just popping a nifty little craft book into the work plans seemed to refresh everyone, and it served as such a change of pace that everyone seemed to enjoy it, even my usually craft-adverse Will.

As a crafty invitation, I set out Fingerprint Princesses and Fairies (which I'm almost positive that I got free from a marketer, but I can't find the email for nothing--oh, well!) and our collection of ink pads, my favorite being this fingerprint stamp palette thingy. Here's what the kids did with it all:
I really like this concept of doodling all the little details onto the fingerprints. Both kids got REALLY into this, and added loads of details.
It was a little challenging to keep the stamp pads clean, so finally I busted out the wet wipes that I keep in my backpack, to help them clean their fingers between each color.
Normally Will moans about her lack of artistic skills, but she was happy as a clam copying pictures from this book. I think the fingerprint + doodling technique was a sneakily accessible way to get her creating.
Syd was more into the actual princesses and fairies, but there were plenty of other fantasy figures for the kids to create.
This is my favorite of their creations. Look how cutely Syd drew the dog's muzzle!
Every weekend, now, Matt has also been giving the kids an art lesson, often from something that I've incorporated into our school plans (this weekend, he helped them draw the animals for their animal poster projects--Syd the harp seal, and Will the majestic tuna), and I can very much tell how those skills and that confidence are bleeding into their everyday activities. Will is much happier to sit down for a bit and draw, I think because she now has some of that structure that she likes for *how* to draw, and Syd's drawings always seem to contain details that I can't believe that she noticed, or techniques that I can't believe that she can do. She, in particular, is VERY observant...

Gotta watch what you do and say around that kid!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Okay, I am going to talk about it. My brilliant plan of not talking about it AT ALL in order to pretend that it didn't happen is a complete failure, and if nothing else, I feel like I have to explain why I am in general not okay or sane or any state of being approaching okay or sane for the foreseeable future.

To understand (or not. Whichever is okay), you should probably recall the best friend that I've mentioned off and on throughout the years. I met him at university, on the second floor balcony of the university library, the one that belongs to the special collections department, where we both had student jobs. The photocopier lived on that balcony, and I don't remember what I was copying, but I do remember that Mac was photocopying something from the Speaker Jim Wright Collection, which was his department, and before we left the balcony that day, our photocopies in hand, not only had we been chastised by one of our bosses for talking so loudly that the research librarian on the floor below had complained about us, but I had scored invitations to both come check out the Jim Wright gavel collection in the basement vault sometime, and to drive to Dallas together sometime to buy blue hair dye.

This was, obviously, a time when blue hair dye was SO cool that you could only get it in the coolest part of Dallas. You couldn't get it at all in Ft. Worth. Also, online shopping hadn't been invented yet.

That was also obviously the very moment that Mac and I began to fit each other into all the big and little spaces in our lives. He did take me to see the gavel collection (and you should go check it out, too, whenever you're in Ft. Worth--it's CRAZY). We did drive together to Dallas, and I did dye my hair. We studied together and read together and listened to a lot of music while smoking a lot of pot together. He taught me some Russian, primarily "please," "thank you," and "Get into the kitchen!", and gave me a cassette tape of probably the worst female punk band ever, and then was kind of appalled when I fell in love with it and insisted on playing it over and over again all. The. Time (I'm listening to them right now and I stand by my assertion--they're freaking amazing). I took him to visit my family, they fed him biscuits, and he liked it so much that from then on he continually threatened to go visit them without me. We thought each other's friends were okay, sure, and they all thought that we were okay, but for my friends, he was the weird guy that I was always hanging out with when I wasn't with them, and for his friends, I was the weird chick with whom he did the same. Our truest friends didn't even try to figure it out.

College is like that, though, you know? You meet people whom you never even knew existed before, and through them, you learn parts of yourself that you never knew existed before, either. Mac had probably never before seen a brilliant, literate redneck chick with zero social skills and more sense of adventure than sense before, and I sure as hell had never seen a brilliant, literate burnout Kentucky guy who knew exactly who he was, accepted everyone else exactly the way that they were, had that same sense of adventure, just about as little sense, and also a pretty big helping of troublemaking before, either. We were made to be friends.

Mac, though, was in a completely different category from everyone, even from Matt, for whom my love is as deep and boundless as the ocean and all that, but who has never known a time in our relationship in which there isn't a Mac on the couch of my college apartment every single second, or on the phone with me so that I'm not helping put the babies to bed, or coming by the house every few months and sweeping me off to eat Ethiopian food, or getting me and the kids press passes to the Creation Museum and we all think it's going to suck but instead it's AWESOME, or calling every few weeks and letting me tell him all my random gossip and calling all the right people really, really terrible names. Around the time of our wedding, I even had the suspicion that my Pappa, who was hard of hearing, and who would sometimes see me come to visit for the weekend with Matt, and sometimes with Mac, and who saw them both come for my wedding, and both put on tuxedos (Matt as my groom, and Mac as my Man of Honor), wasn't quite sure exactly which boy I'd be marrying until he saw which one I gave the ring to.

There's simply not a category for the way that I feel about Mac. Platonic life partner? Possibly, but we didn't exactly spend our lives together. Best friends? Definitely at times, but not always. It's easier just to say that, since the day that I met him, he's always been my favorite person. He gets me. He accepts me. He makes me tell him the stuff that I don't want to tell anyone, and then he tells me that stuff is okay.

He is THE truest friend, and he's always been that way with everyone, kind and thoughtful and generous to a fault, in the way that you can never fully reciprocate, because you just aren't that kind and thoughtful and generous. He NEVER misses a birthday, and always calls, even though everyone else in the world hates talking on the phone. He wrote letters for probably a decade after everyone else in the world started texting instead, and still sends postcards when he travels. When Willow was born--and she's named after him, by the way--his baby gift to her was a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. When he called me a year ago and I told him that I couldn't talk because I'd had my wisdom teeth out and I was in a lot of pain but the pain meds made me dizzy, four days later I received a mysterious package in the mail with a fake return address and chock-full of marijuana edibles.

The thing is, you know how life moves on and you lose touch with your dearest friends because you just don't make the time to call and write and think of them? So that happened to me, and I didn't call and write and make enough time for him. I didn't think about him enough, and appreciate him enough. That never happened to him, though. He calls and writes and makes time for everyone. He has hundreds of friends, all over the world, and they all love him as much as I do, because he's just that great.

So what I haven't told you is that he's been battling brain tumors off and on for the past twelve years--I can tell you exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing every single time he called me to tell me that he had a new one, or that one was growing again. And what I have to tell you is that he died this week. His latest brain tumor was bad, but he didn't tell me that it was going to kill him. Instead, he told me that he was "optimistic," which I know now I should have taken as the code word for bad, and I should have bought a fucking plane ticket as soon as I got off the phone with him, but I believed him, because Pappa JUST died on New Year's Eve, and nobody else that I love is going to die this year, because I'm already grieving and sad and insane and that would just be too much. So instead of going to fucking see my fucking favorite person on the planet like anyone else would have done, I instead called him every week and texted him every now and then, sent him a care package with cookies and pictures drawn by the kids and a Golden Girls activity book, didn't think anything of it when I called for a couple of weeks straight and only got his voicemail, because chemo and radiation are hard, yo, and he probably didn't feel like talking, and I left cheerful voicemails with all the good gossip, and then he died.

All the grief things? I'm doing all the grief things, in all the wrong order, and all messed up. I'm mad and I'm in denial and there are a million things that I think that I should have done differently and I'm so, so sad and I try to distract myself by holding a Girl Scout meeting, or having a campfire with friends, or going to a movie, or working in my garden, thinking that I can have a break from feeling all the terrible feelings but I literally cannot have a break from this. It's just so pointless, and so stupid, and so not fair. Why couldn't Donald Trump have the brain tumors? I hate Donald Trump, and it would be awesome if he'd died instead. Or that guy who shot Trayvon Martin, and now is trying to, like, ebay the murder weapon. He's the one who needs to die from a brain tumor, not Mac. There is just nothing stupider, more wrong, or more fucked up than Mac, who had just absolutely the best brain, dying from a brain tumor. That's what I keep surprising myself with, every single second. I have a second where I'm thinking about pizza or something, or petting the cat, and then all of a sudden I'm like, "Mac died," and even though I just thought that a second ago, it's still a painful surprise when I think it again, every single time.

So, yeah. That's what's been going on with me. I'm grieving. Again. Still. I'm functioning, managing to continue to take consecutive breaths most of the time, haven't thrown anything, almost cut all my hair off but didn't do it (I still might...). Trying to over-schedule my life to stay busy and distracted didn't work with Pappa, and in fact I'm pretty sure that's why I got the flu so bad, so next week I'm going to do my utmost to chill, do some stuff that I like. This, you should know, is practically antithetical to my nature, but it was something that Mac could always, always get me to do--why study when you could instead drive to Dallas for Ethiopian food and a gender-swapped production of Hair? Why go to that meeting when you could instead get high, eat iced animal cookies, and listen to the Pixies? Why go to work when you could instead bum around Europe for a month?

So I'll try it for Mac. I'll make a vegan peanut butter icebox pie, because he loved those. I'll take the kids to the Children's Museum one day, and I told them that while we were in Indy I'd buy them some dry ice, because why not? I'll watch some really bad movies, and some really good music videos. I'll take the kids to get ice cream as a good surprise, because Mac loved ice cream, too--well, I mean, who doesn't? And don't judge me if while I'm doing all of that, I'm secretly pretending that Mac is around, and it's just been a while since we've talked. Because while I'm hopefully going to be better at grieving this time around, I still haven't figured out how to be okay with the thought that my favorite person on the planet is no longer on this planet with me.


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