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Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way...turn.

BatI just opened my TypePad dashboard and I swear to God a cloud of bats flew out.  In fact, I'm being swarmed even as we speak, so if this post contains more than the usual ration of guano, that is the reason why.  Not because I'm out of practice blogging, or because I'm in a hurry, or because I'm the lone still point among a roiling crowd of toddlers clattering around in ski boots. More on that in a minute, if rabies doesn't claim me first.

Hello!  Hi!  It's been a while.  Here is what I have to report: Nothing out of the ordinary.  Business as usual. Walk in the park.  Bowl of cherries.  Piece of cake.  No, wait: cheese.  No!  Pie!

Huh, I guess I can do better than that, or at least longer.  To bring us up to date, more or less:

I took a picture on January 4 of our Advent activity calendar.  I'd painstakingly written up 24 beautiful handmade cards promising 24 thrilling holiday-themed activities, and tucked each one into its respective pocket.  I was going to do Christmas right, I resolved, even if it killed us all.  And it would have.  By day 4 neither kid was interested in Make a special ornament and give it to a friend! or Use a big chunk of your carefully hoarded cash to buy a gift for someone less fortunate, probably a stranger! or String popcorn and cranberries on...a string...so that you end up with a...string!  Full of...shit that has been strung!  Frankly, neither was I.  After my inexplicable fever of intensity abated, it was rather restorative to sit back, snooze through several repeated viewings of what Ben called The Grinch Who REALLY Hates Christmas — "Ben, why is every toy you own heaped at the playroom entrance?"  "I was being the Grinch."

Aaaand now we search for the cat to make sure no one made him wear antlers — and enjoy the blessed respite of happy mediocrity.  So half-assed was I, in fact, that I never posted that picture.  Just imagine it instead.  Long after Christmas, 3 slots empty, no one gave a good goddamn.  And, man, did it feel fantastic.

What also feels fantastic just now is that Ben is finally, finally making some tentative moves toward toilet-training.  He's to the point where he can perform, ahem, the urinary act unassisted, though he does so only on a whim; on occasion he's even managed -- oh, let's call it the laborious excretion of solid waste from his bowel -- where it is most desirably done.  Of course, he brings to this business an impeccable sense of timing.  He waits to ask for assistance until I'm in the middle of an uninterruptable task: applying a tourniquet to someone's severed limb, say, or just putting the last batch of ortolans in the deep-fryer riiiiight before we sit down to dinner.  But I am happy to jump when he says dump, and am feeling semi-sanguine that this will mostly be sorted by the time he attains his majority.

And Charlie.  God, y'all, Charlie.  Apropos of the toddlers in ski boots, Charlie is taking lessons.  There's an outfit not far from where I live where you can just...give them your child, and I'm pretty sure they give you back a three-time Olympic gold medalist.  (I admit I'm not entirely clear on this, as I did not read the fine print.  I was too busy calling our insurance company and making sure we're covered for Acts of Folly; i.e., me signing Charlie up for ski lessons.)


The thing is, he's not very good at all.  That's what I expected, since his coordination is rather poor and his joints are awesomely flexible.  (I mean "awesomely" in the formal sense: Jaw-dropping. Eye-widening.  Listen-for-the-ambulancing.  Let me put it this way: Have you ever seen a kid W-sit...on skis?)

But what I didn't expect is how it would move me to watch him.  See, he's not very good, and it's possible he knows that.  (It's also possible he doesn't.  When it comes to self-esteem, low is not our problem.)  And it's hard; I can tell just by watching, when I do.  (Right now I am tucked safely in the lodge -- safely meaning Charlie's safe from my help.  When I stand out there during lessons, it's nearly impossible to refrain from calling out my expert advice...I, who have never been on skis in my life and frankly never hope to.  Come to think of it, if I stay in here it's safer for me, too; I'm so awful that an exasperated instructor would be completely justified in zhhhzhing right on over and ski-poling me in the throat.)

It's heartening to watch him try.  To my great surprise, he's remained undaunted.  I mean, he falls simply standing still.  (That's my boy.)

But, y'all, he gets up and just keeps...okay, falling down, but also trying.  And improving incrementally.  Pico-incrementally, but it's something.  It's one of the first times he's shown real determination in the face of his own incompetence, and it knocks me out.

He knocks me out.  And I hope this all comes off more as celebrating him than mocking him, because I'm honestly not in a position to criticize.  You see, I have started doing...Zumba.

(Charlie's ski lesson is over.  I'll pick this up again tonight, which should give you ample time to see to the muscles you just ruptured laughing at the very idea of my uninhibited shimmy.)

I know, everyone else discovered and subsequently discarded Zumba three years ago, but I live in the second-least-likely place on Earth to embrace such an invention (the first, of course, being Brazil).  So this is newish here.  I've taken two classes now so I'm something of an expert, but the first time I went in I embarrassed myself mightily.  Everyone else knew exactly which suburban Mamita the lyrics were addressing; dutifully shook whatever it was they had been commanded to shake — I don't know what it was, as I don't speak Spiraling Butt-Tasselese; and knew the routines well enough to anticipate when and how to make their rodizio undulate credibly.

I, on the other hand?  Well, because I normally insist on being addressed as Dona in fitness classes, it might have seemed like I was ignoring Papi's gentle lyrical encouragement.  (I go to the gym to escape people calling me Mami and demanding that I do things.)  But I was honestly just befuddled by hypoxia; that same cardiovascular insufficiency made it impossible for me to squawk, "Zzzzuuuumbaaaah!" along with the class on cue. Frankly it was all I could do to gasp out where my survivors should look for my last will and testament.

And yet I'll go again.  It's hard; I look stupid; I like it.  Let's just say I feel a kinship with my awkward, determined son.

So that's some of what's new around here.  Thank you for being concerned about my long hiatus.  I feel pretty sheepish about it at the moment, considering that...nothing happened and everything's normal, which is to say mostly fine, except of course for the days when I stand in the shower crying, convinced that I'm failing at pretty much everything.  (Ben — even Ben!  He got in bed with me this morning, snuggled close, gazed up at me in presumed adoration, and then marveled, "There is a lot of fur inside your nose!"  Et tu, goddammit, et tu?)

But more about that later this week.  The inadequacy, not the nose fur.  I'm saving that for special.

(Personal to Julia, re: genealogical crazy: Do you think your sweet Willie knew my umpteen-times-great-grandpa?)