Monday, April 29, 2013

Family Adventure Day

Yesterday was beautiful, sunny and high 60's, so we decided it was the perfect day for a drive out to the seashore. We have lived here for more than a decade now and still had not ever been to Plum Island, even though we've been to Newburyport several times, so it seemed like a well-overdue outing. The girls were so excited to run on the beach that they could barely stand the hour's drive out there and practically dragged us through the parking lot and over the dunes.

It was a bit chilly and very windy out on the sand, but the sun was warm and bright and there's something nice about saltwater air and the sound of waves crashing. Maggie said, "Oh, thank you for bringing us here! It will be a great story for my Sharing Time next week at school!"

The girls immediately kicked off their shoes and began frolicking.

I have to admit that I find the ocean a bit scary and foreign. I guess I'm still just a land-locked tallgrass prairie girl at heart.  We live less than ten miles from the shore - there are usually seagulls hanging out in our Target parking lot and sometimes you get a whiff of salty air on windy days - but I almost never think about the beach. I have absolutely no desire to actually get in the water and still have never been all the way in wearing a bathing suit! The water is freezing and full of scary, scaly critters with teeth. Plus it's enormous. Scary massive. Unfathomable depths of water full of kraken. I'll stay on the sand getting burnt, thank you. Hopefully with an ice cream cone to self-medicate.

My girls, on the other hand, are New Englanders and beach bums down to their little sandy toes. Maggie especially can not be corralled once her feet hit the boardwalk. Despite several reminders that it is still Spring and not Summer, that the water would be extremely cold, and that we did not bring bathing suits, Maggie insisted on wading in the waves. She immediately began pushing farther and farther from the shoreline as we called her back in and warned her not to get her skirt and sleeves wet.

Less than ten minutes after we pulled into the beach parking lot, Maggie was in over her knees when a biggish wave swept in and pulled her off her feet into the water. Mike nearly ran into the ocean in his sneakers, phone and camera in his pockets, as she struggled to her feet, but she staggered out of the water in her soggy sweater just as he reached the end of the sand.

Dude, it's COLD out here in April when you're soaked in frigid seawater with no change of clothes!

We put the girls in the car to warm up while we debated whether to just go home (two hours of driving for ten minutes of fun and ten minutes of horror!) or to find someplace to buy Maggie a dry outfit. Problem was, Newburyport is picturesque and quaint but doesn't have anywhere to shop for practical items like children's underpants. I quickly found a consignment store downtown on my iPhone internet connection (yay, Technology!) where I was able to snag a Ralph Lauren polo knit dress, some pj shorts, and a pair of tights for $20. (Yay, Resourcefulness and Cash Money Problem Solving!)

Maggie said, "I don't think I'm going to want to tell my class about this part of the story."

Maggie also wore my fleece the rest of the afternoon, so I was cold. Oh, the sacrifices mothers must make for their wayward daughters! But we pressed on...

We headed back out to Plum Island to see the southern portion of the island, which is a national wildlife refuge and a state park. We couldn't access most of the beaches along the length of the island because the piping plover birds were mating (that was a fun conversation with the girls!), but we were able to get out of the car at Sandy Point State Park at the furthest end of the island.

The girls waded in the tide pools, climbed the rocks, and collected shells. Mike and I admired the frothing waves, tried to stay warm, and herded Maggie away from the surf and any deep puddles.

I'm not wearing any underwear!

Basking in her Good Child status, as smug second-borns are wont to do


Puddle Jumping

Shell Hunting

Rinsing off and organizing their collection

When we finally got too cold to stand it anymore and had enough shells to feel like we accomplished something but not so many that we would look conspicuous leaving the Wildlife Refuge, we piled back into the car and headed for the mainland. Maggie requested calamari for dinner (I'm serious.) so we sort of stumbled on The Clam Box in Ipswich, which is a Massachusetts landmark. The line was relatively reasonable, so we feasted on fried fries and fried onion rings and fried clams and fried squid, with a side of ketchup for color. Kate ordered chicken fingers (sigh) while Maggie pulled the legs off her calamari and ate them one by one, gleefully and deviously singing, "I'm eating fried baby squids!!"

Watch out, you Kraken! Maggie Jane is coming for you this summer, and she ain't scared a nuthin'.

After we tallied all the points and deductions in the car on the way home, our final assessment was that it was a successful Fowler Family Adventure Day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Katie Sez...

... Mom, what do lions eat?

Me: Lions eat raw meat. They're carnivores.

... Oh, yeah! I remember from that one show we watched: lions eat other animals because they're creditors.


Steve Martin has made a banjo record with Edie Brickell (who is married to Paul Simon, dontcha know). Sounds pretty good, I like it!

They will be performing tonight on Letterman, if you want to check it out.

How do we get back to normal?

I haven't posted anything in a week because the last one was a doozy. The girls were both on spring break, all four of us came down with a killer head cold, and bombs went off at the Boston Marathon prompting a day-long manhunt which shut down our city.

I have dreaded returning here, feeling that I couldn't go on writing about our day-to-day without even a single nod to current events, but I just don't want to process it at that level. I have lots of thoughts and feelings about it all, but too much has already been said about it in the media and I despise the way people wallow in the drama and tumult of these kinds of events. I'll just never be the type of person who wants to get weepy and attend candle-light vigils for people I never even knew. I am human, so of course it touched me, but thankfully, truthfully, in reality, it didn't actually touch me or my family at all. I mostly just want to feel gratitude for that.

So now we are struggling to get back into the swing of our school drop-off-and-pick-up, show-and-tell-on-Tuesday and homework-due-on-Thursday schedule. Although we feel better during the day, we all do a lot of coughing in the night, and both the girls are extra tired and cranky having to get up on time in the morning and be busy all day. But it feels good to have a routine again, and they are happy to be back with all their friends on the playground.

We're doing math worksheets and laundry. We're making tacos and painting the closet doors. We're writing checks for the last month of preschool tuition and closing costs on the mortgage refi. We're playing My Little Pony. We're running errands and getting groceries. We're going to our dentist appointments. We're drinking coffee and reading books. The same old-same old never looked so good.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Osage Ballerina Maria Tallchief Dies

AP via NPR

I saw the news on Twitter yesterday that Maria Tallchief had died last Thursday. Tallchief was the first Native American prima ballerina of any major ballet company in the world, at a time when few Americans of any race could compete with Russian dancers. She married choreographer George Ballanchine and danced for his New York City Ballet, where he created most of her signature roles just for her.

Tall Chief was born in the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s at the peak of the Osage tribe's wealth from oil production on their reservation, not far from the town where I spent my middle-school years. We learned about her and the other "Five Moons" dancers in school as I was growing up. The Five Moons were five famous Indian ballerinas who were all born in Oklahoma and went on to dance for world class companies.

Maria's sister Marjorie Tallchief danced for the Paris Opera. Yvonne Chouteau, a Shawnee-Cherokee from Vinita, OK, danced for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and founded the Oklahoma City Ballet. Rosella Hightower, a Choctaw from Durwood, OK, also danced for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and was the director of several French city ballet companies, including the Ballet de l'Opera National de Paris. Moscelyne Larkin, born in Miami, OK, of Peoria and Shawnee heritage, danced for the original Ballet Russe and founded the Tulsa Ballet Theatre. They are depicted in a mural by Mike Larsen, who is of Chickasaw descent, at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building entitled Flight of Spirit. All five danced together in 1967 in a performance of Louis Ballard's (also an Oklahoman, of Quapaw and Cherokee heritage) The Four Moons ballet, which honors them.

Flight of Spirit

Yvonne Chouteau was once quoted in an interview, "The Indian people are very artistic as a whole. We are also very non-verbal, and so I think dance is a perfect expression of the Indian soul."

Moscelyne Larkin, Marjorie Tallchief, Maria Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Yvonne Chouteau with Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating in 1997.

Marjorie Tallchief and Yvonne Chouteau are now the only surviving members of the Five Moons. They are a national treasure and part of the beauty of my home state's history and culture. Rest in peace, Maria Tallchief.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Saturday in the City

Last Saturday, Cousin Elizabeth, Auntie Amy, and Grandpa joined us for a little trip to the bustling metropolis. We took the girls to Quincy Market to have lunch at Durgin Park and then walked over to the Boston Common to run amok. It was unfortunately probably the last really cold day of the season, but children apparently can't feel cold, so they didn't care. They had big fun and cried when it was time to go home. Come back to Boston when the weather warms up, Little E!

Durgin Park, a Boston tradition since 1827

Eating butter! So silly.

Watching the shoppers in Quincy Market

Boston Common

Tadpole Playground next to the Frog Pond

Foofa and Maggie

No, it's Elizabeth!

The Carousel was up and running already!

Kate's horse was named Menunia. (Minoonya?) Maggie's cat was named Kitty.

It was a fun day out with their best little buddy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Katie Sez...

(As we pull into a parking space outside the bank, preparing to go in, which we almost never do in these days of ATMs and online banking...)

... are we going in to rob it?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013



Queens of the Stone Age's new album, ...Like Clockwork, comes out June 4th. You can hear the studio version of "My God is the Sun" if you follow that link, too.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Katie Sez...

... Did you do knitting karate when you were younger?

Me: Knitting karate?! Uh, no. What is that?

Kate: It's where you knit something *mimes knitting* and then you fight someone *karate moves*.

Me: Where did you hear about that?

Kate: On the Littlest Petshop cartoon.

Me: I think that was just supposed to be a joke. It's not a real thing.

Kate: Seriously?! *disappointed face*

Me: Sorry. Did you want to us to sign you up for knitting karate classes?

Kate: (embarrassed) No.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Notes from the Nightstand: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

I'm a fan of Sherman Alexie. I've written on this blog about his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and about Smoke Signals, the movie that is based on the short stories in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. He's an amazing writer and an important voice in American literature and culture. He has things to say that someone really needed to come along and say. He has important stories to tell about all of us.

Having seen Smoke Signals a couple of times and having read other work by Alexie (he publishes short fiction in the Stranger), I wasn't completely bowled over when I read this book. It felt like well-trodden ground, although I was interested to see how he put the stories together on paper rather than on screen. It's much more chopped up and jumpy than the film, of course, because there needed to be a full-length, linear narrative for a movie to make sense. The short stories contain the same characters and some scenes, but it's less concise. Given that this book was Alexie's first, I think a lot of forgiveness is in order.

One of my favorite stories was "Because My Father Always Says He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at Woodstock." I loved the idea that Victor's father was a huge Jimi Hendrix fan because Jimi's warped, rock 'n roll version of the national anthem spoke to him as an outsider American.

"After all the shit I'd been through," my father said, "I figured Jimi must have known I was there in the crowd to play something like that. It was exactly how I felt."

The story, like most of the stories in the book, focuses on the father-son relationship, particularly when the father leaves.

On a reservation, Indian men who abandon their children are treated worse than white fathers who do the same thing. It's because white men have been doing that forever and Indian men have just learned how. That's how assimilation can work.

And yet the father and son connect through music and the stories they tell about it and the memories that are tied to it, as so many people do.

Those were the kinds of conversations that Jimi Hendrix forced us to have. I guess every song has a special meaning for someone somewhere. Elvis Presley is still showing up in 7-11 stores across the country, even though he's been dead for years, so I figure music just might be the most important thing there is. Music turned my father into a reservation philosopher. Music had powerful medicine.

As a whole, it's not a perfect book. There are noticeably weak parts jammed in between the jewels. But, if you're curious about Alexie's point of view and his style, then it's worth reading. If you haven't read anything else by him before and are looking for a place to start, it's worth reading (although I still would probably start with True Diary unless you just hate YA). Some people also just can't get into magical realism as a genre, although a lot of the stories are just really real realism, and poignantly so. If you are curious about what real Indians are like in modern day life, Sherman Alexie is the man to see. He doesn't pull any punches, fistfighting in heaven or down here in America.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Pics

I promised to post some photos of the girls in their Easter dresses (that's a story for another post!), but there were so many it was hard to choose just a few for the blog. I'll put the rest up at Snapfish, if you just can't get enough!

Jane's amazing princess castle cake for Elizabeth's third birthday! Maggie helped put the marshmallows on.

Dying Eggs

Waiting patiently for the perfect shade

Saturday night we had a fire in the fireplace. The girls wanted to sit right up close and be cozy.

Looking fancy

These are their "We're finished having our picture taken" faces.

Sunglasses were a must, according to Kate and Elizabeth.

Yep, there was still snow on the ground in NH! Good thing the eggs were bright colors.

Maggie in the woods, her natural habitat.

Sorting her treats, of course!