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Saturday, June 26, 2010

An Exaltation of Larks

Once, during my undergraduate study when I was an English major working on my bachelor's degree, one of my professors introduced the concept of collective nouns for animals through James Lipton's book, An Exaltation of Larks. It's something that has stuck with me ever since.

A collective noun is the term used to describe a "group" of something. There are the common ones that we hear all the time like "a herd of cattle" or "a flock of geese," but there are some collective terms that are downright beautiful, and others that are just plain weird. Some examples you might not have heard of - including the title of this post- are:
  • Shrewdness of apes
  • Chain of boblolinks (what the heck is a bobolink?!)
  • Wake of buzzards (seems fitting
  • Kindle of kittens
  • Scold of jays (is that why they seem like they're always yelling at each other?
  • Smack of jellyfish
  • Leep of leopards
  • Watch of nightingales
  • Bevy of otter
  • Bouquet of pheasants (sounds lovely!)
  • Passel of possum
  • Storytelling of ravens
  • Harem of Seals (those crazy seals!)
  • Knot of toads

There are many, many more collectives that can be found here. I have a couple less eloquent terms I'd like to add to the list:

  • Tumbleweed of doghair
  • Mountain of laundry
  • Stack of dirty dishes
  • Eternity of homework
  • Rotation of bills
  • Foot of weeds

Obviously, I could think of tons more. The English language can be so much fun, don't you agree?

This blog entry brought to you by the murder of crows outside my window every morning starting at 4am. They make my mornings sound like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Full Circle

Right now my sisters and I are experiencing one of the great ironies of life: when the child becomes the caretaker of the elderly parent. With my mother in her present condition and residing at the Highland Nursing Home in Massena, a situation I experienced last weekend particularly drove this point home.

Last Saturday, I was able to take my mother out to the mall for the first time since she had fallen and broken her hip the night before Mother's Day. She was absolutely thrilled to be there to see all her "friends," and the ones she ran into were equally happy to see her looking so healthy and well. If I haven't mentioned it before, for a long time now, but particularly in the seven years since my father's death, my mother has compulsively bought cheap stuff (some [like me] would call it "junk") with every trip to the mall. Over the years, this stuff has piled up on every surface in the house, and made for a very cluttered and dangerous living situation. In fact, she bought and wore such crappy jewelry all the time that my sister had to take her to the doctor last year for a very bad rash on her face and neck.

Well, as I pushed her in her wheelchair around the mall she insisted that we go into all her favorite haunts to check out the clearance rack. It was at this time that I found myself saying, "We're not going to buy anything today, we're just out for a nice walk around the mall." BOY, did she get mad. It definitely reminded of when I took the kids to the mall when they were younger and had to spend the entire car ride on the way there setting expectations: "We're not going to buy anything today, we're just going to look around." Somehow, the meltdown was rarely averted. It was a very weird feeling.

All these changes, milestones on the journey that comes with having an aging parent.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Long-Awaited-Much-Anticipated Freshman Dance

Last weekend Annalisse went to the freshman dance with 18 of her closet friends. Unfortunately, she did not have a date with an actual boy, but that's really a blessing in disguise because, as much as she likes to "talk the talk," she's not ready to "walk the walk" and is very hesitant about boys (Whew! I can relax a little longer on that one!). Anyway, between having her braces off and a new hair-do (combined with a new dress, new jewelry, and new shoes), she was all gussied up and off to a friends house by 5:30pm for group pictures. All the girls looked so nice! The best thing was they had a lot of fun at the dance itself - not always the case as sometimes the prep is funner than the actual event. I'm sure talk will now turn to next year's 10th grade dance, during which the kids will kick it up a notch with gowns, tuxedos and limo rentals. As Nonnie used to say, oh mamma mia!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Four Updates in One, All the While Counting My Blessings

I've been trying to get to updating the blog but the last couple of weeks have been kind of like a runaway train for us. So here are a bunch of unrelated updates all in one!

Baker Blog Updates Lag, But For Good (German) Reasons

With Belinda visiting (which was AWESOME), we were a little out of our routine, doing something to keep busy just about every weeknight while the kids were at crew practice, and running around every weekend, trying to get the most out of her visit with us. It's been a great 2 1/2 weeks with Belinda, who left bright and early (5:30am) on Wednesday morning, as the group headed to Washington DC and New York City for a few days before flying back to Germany tomorrow evening. Maybe the greatest part about Belinda's visit was spending time with the other Fairport families as we got to know each other better. It was a great experience all around, and the best part is Cam leaves to spend time with Belinda and her family three weeks from today.

14 Going on 21

The other big news for today is that Annalisse got her braces off. Such anticipation for this day!! I reminded her she was equally (or maybe just a little less) excited to get them on in December 2008. She waited for this day to also get her hair cut, something she had not done since probably last summer. I guess you could say she wanted the full makeover effect as she "gets all purdy" for the 9th grade dance tomorrow night. (I know what you're wondering...) No, she doesn't have a date, she's going with friends, the lineup of which seems to change daily. She bought herself a cute dress at Forever 21 (it was quite a bargain, I might add, at $25), and I sprung for new sandals and a strapless bra (MOM! DID YOU HAVE TO TELL THEM THAT PART?!), so pictures will follow tomorrow once the whole look is put together. (Where does the time go? Yesterday, American Girl dolls, today, strapless push-up bras...)

Fairport Crew Wraps Up a Mediocre (But Well-Intentioned) Spring Season

Another significant thing that has occurred is that the spring season of crew is finally (mostly) done!! Last weekend's Pittsford Regatta was the last one for this season, and with disappointing results overall. Cam's boat made it to the semi-finals and lost to Pittsford (who generally killed in every race) by barely a nose. It was an exciting and heartbreaking race. Annalisse didn't even make into the semi-finals of that race, so she'll need to be content with the gold medal she and her team won in Saratoga. The kids have one last race, through the Village of Fairport tomorrow morning in front of hundreds (thousands, actually) of spectators at Fairport's Canal Days festival. Then, they are really looking forward to a well-deserved break, having spent four nights a week and every Saturday either at crew practice or at a regatta. At this point I expect they'll both rejoin for the Fall season, but we're really not talking about it as THEY ARE ALL CREWED-OUT.

I Guess We Can't Phone Home Anymore

Lastly, an update about my Mother's progress. In a nutshell, it's not great. She left the rehab center in Ogdensburg where she was undergoing intensive physical therapy as a result of her Mother's Day hip surgery, for the Highland Nursing Home in Massena. My sisters and I decided this was the best course of action for her since her recovery had been pretty slow and we noticed she was really starting to get forgetful and confused.

Over many years, but especially since my father had passed away in 2003, my Mother had accumulated a lot of "stuff," and was really heading toward a life of tunneling, if not hoarding. Her home is filled with what can only be called junk, and tons of plastic bags filled with stuff she has bought on clearance at the mall. This is certainly not somewhere she can be safe, especially since she's having trouble getting around and would most likely not be able to make her own meals. For some time we've worried that she's not eating well, and it's anyone's guess if she's taking her medication in correct doses or in the right time intervals.

One of the weirdest, most disconcerting things about my mother having to go to the nursing home is the dismantling of our family home. My sisters and I decided that Carol, my middle sister, would move into Mom's place since it's bigger than her house, and that she would rent her place. When the time comes, we'll sell her place and she can continue to live in the old house. It will be nice that it's still in the family, and recently my parent's phone disconnected. It's a very strange thing to think I'll never call the number (315) 769-7800 again, a phone number I've called all my life. Life just keeps marching on, whether or not we're ready for it to.

All in all, though, I feel blessed by a great family and wonderful friends, marked by a little sadness every now and then.