I wrote this entry on June 20, 2006, but did not post it until today. 

After a nice evening dinner and playtime in the park - spawned by yet another evening of a completely uninhabitable eating area at home - we returned home to prep the kids for bed and another day's cycle of painters-gone-wild self-inflicted eviction.  Riley was the first to bathe, and Abby whined insistantly (a habit that I am soon to break her of in likely unpleasant ways) that she wanted to spend a few minutes across the street with her friends. With Berta occupied, I was the only one "available" for the task, in spite of the growing mound of after-hours work that isn't being done due to - dare I mention it again? - the blasted painters. 

Too weary from the prospect of all impending things, I relented. We went outside where I dragged her bike across the street. She with her lopsided helmet rode the bike only the house breadth from driveway to driveway where the cross-street kids were hiding from a neighbor's watering hose before dismounting. 

I recalled standing on that pavement in my youth, the sidewalk of my neighbors, under the shade of the giant oak. It was there under that tree, where the roots of the oak had shifted the sidewalk tectonics, that my first girlfriend called me "OD" and I, her "TC"; we mutually recognized this idea. 

Not far from there, in the driveway, I threw the last of the water balloons I would ever throw in our neighborhood at the youngest daughter of that neighbor, who came out on her porch to scream at me for it like I was her own child, which I heard every night through the thin air over the street that separated our houses. 

We rode our bikes up that sidewalk and back relentlessly. We raced. I was fastest, naturally, as the "oldest". In grade, at least. And the summers and school evenings were unending with games and play of this sort until the year of my ninth grade school play, when I met Mimi Upright, who I fell for hopelessly in spite of being involved with the girl across the street. And that was the end of that. 

Abby dismounted her bike and went to play with the other kids. The hose was put away before she got there, and the kids were in the process of moving on. All of them at least one year older - and at least one made a point of that vocally to the adults present on the porch - they decided to make show of it by climbing over the brick partition from one porch to the porch of the half double on the other side. Abby was only briefly stymied, but wasn't tall enough to climb it, so she tottered around the outside of the porch with her helmet back to her bike to chase them down. 

As children are, they weren't forgiving. Either you come to play, or you don't. You're "Little Abby", since you're smaller than the Abby on their side of the street. Do they think you're weak because your dad follows you around to watch you outside? Or is it because your training wheels have yet to come off your bike? 

Will they care that you know how to swim better than they do? That you've learned passable ballet for your age and will soon learn karate? Will it matter that you've been places they will likely only see on holiday parades on TV? 

She may whine to get her way with her parents, but Abby is steadfastly creative when it comes to impressing other kids. Ditching her bike, she deftly snatched a lightning bug from the air. Chasing down her favorite (the most friendly) of the three neighbor kids, she showed her prize. 

Soon it was taken from her, and the child exclaimed, "Look what I caught!" We know better, though, don't we Abby? She thought briefly to protest, but there was no need, since Abby is the best kid with bugs I've ever seen. Nearly imperceptibly she had already caught another. And a third. And she knew she had no reason to complain because for her there was no effort.

The bugs were magic. She was magic. 

The others soon requested use of their back yards for bug hunting, since clearly there were no more bugs to be had in the front yard if they couldn't catch them. And with such permission granted, they headed into the back to begin their search. 

Abby rounded the corner to the fence, following them hesitantly. Then, quite unexpectedly, she freaked out, spasmodically flailing her arms and screaming, running back away from their gate to hide behind some cars that were parked in the driveway. 

I was very surprised, and I didn't know what was wrong. She screamed, "The dog will bite me!" Things became more clear. 

Abby has gained a deathly fear of dogs since the occasion when in the back yard of the neighbor, the little dog attacked her, biting her arm and leg. I suspect she still has nightmares about it, since the memory of it is so strong today. The dog didn't do much damage, but did draw blood on her arm. I had heard that the dog would be put down. I suppose not, because although the dog was not in the back yard, the parents on the porch chuckled upon reassuring her that the dog was inside. 

I have impolite words for some of my neighbors. Your children are unkind, impolite, abusive bastard offspring, and I have no doubt where they've learned it. You ask on the health of my mother, which seems kind, and then use my report of wellness as an excuse to openly gossip of her condition in front of me. You allow my daughter entry to your property, yet allow such a thing as a dog attack to come to pass while she's under your supervision. And you chuckle at the trauma it has caused her. These are only the latest in your continued offences to me, for which an apology would no longer suffice. 

I don't have words to express the rancor that boils within me. 

C'mon Abby, it's time to go home. You need a bath for camp tomorrow. 

She begins to protest her need to go inside while I drag her bike back across the street, but she spies another firefly and captures it. She runs toward the front door where she sees Berta holding Riley, still wet and wrapped in a towel. 

"Riley, look what I have for you!"

There is nothing useful about remembering what happened on 9/11, so I won't do it.  My refusal to participate is not a denial of the event, or a political statement, or a kind of commentary on the worth of the people whose lives were affected by the events of that day. I simply don't need a day like this to remember that I'm American, especially one that commemorates the successful killing of thousands of Americans by people who do not share my beliefs.  Similarly, I do not need a special month to remember black history, or a ribbon to remember AIDS, or a green shirt to remember a saint who brought Christianity to Ireland. What beliefs I hold dear, I hold in my heart, not on a bumper-sticker that says "never forget".  I do not see purpose in the nation remembering this day. Sure it affects everyone, but it's unlikely that you even knew one of the people who were killed. If you did, are you remembering their lives, or are you remembering how they were killed? Can we please divorce the meaning of the lives of those people who were lost from the actual action that caused that loss of life?  We need to move on. We need to stop commemorating this attack every year. We need to let those families that were affected get on with their changed lives. We need to get on with our own changed lives and become accustomed to our sad, new "normal". And I certainly have no need to celebrate that.

Waking up is often terrible for me. I'm not sure why our mattress is doing this to me, but I occasionally wake up with really crisp back pain, and headaches that last all day.  I'm sure that whatever causes these things is something that happens while I'm sleeping. Whether the headaches are related to the mattress I can't say for sure, but I know that the back pain is.  Recently, Berta and I went shopping for a new mattress. Partially because of these issues, and partially because of our house planning. Our new bedroom is much too small for our Queen-sized bed (yeah, but if you saw it, you'd think it was a twin compared to the room size), and we needed a guest bed anyway. To this end, we visited the Sleep Number store in the Exton Mall and chose some beds that we could blow up. 
There are a variety of bed models, and what you choose dictates the lengths to which they will attempt to deliver comfort. For example, the model 3000 doesn't come with anything but the basic mattress. There is no fluffy cover, there is no squishy foam stuff, there is no base padding - it has none of this extra technical stuff. The model 9000 has it all - temperfoam topper, squishy padding, dual-chambered reversable pads, bottom padding, you name it.  We settled on a model 7000, which has a nice foam top and bottom padding, but it's one big piece of foam, unlike the 9000's separate left/right chambers for a dual-sided foam/temper-material. The model 7000 also has a remote for the pump.  These Sleep Number beds, if you're not familiar, are filled with air. There is basically an inflatable raft inside the bed that is surrounded by firm foam that gives the mattress sides rigidity. The inflatable part has chambers that help equalize support, and a nozzle that hooks to a pump via some plastic tubing. The "Sleep Number" refers to the level of air pressure used to provide support in the mattress. According to the testing at the store (in which you lay down on a bed with sensors that detect heat disbursement) I'm a 35 and Berta is a 30.  The beds are completely user-assembled, or you can pay someone to do it for you. They ship the beds to your house via UPS in a set of several boxes, the number of which depends on how big the bed is, what model it is, and what accessories you choose.  For example, we also got a couple of mattresses for the kids (tempted by the sales guy with the magic words "they will sleep later on the weekends" and a good sale price) that are just model 3000, the whole of which came in a single box per mattress.  The mattresses arrived yesterday, and after dinner we assembled two of the three mattresses.  We put together Abby's first, and there was some confusion over the construction. The boxes we received included a solid plastic platform on which the bed was to sit. There were two twin-sized platforms, and although we didn't specifically remember ordering platforms for the kids' beds (since they already have twin-sized frames) we figured that's what they were for. We were a bit unhappy when the platform didn't fit inside the frame, but it turns out we were just being stupid.  Our bed, the king-sized, uses two twin frames as a base. Since we couldn't use our existing queen frame, we needed all of the new twin-frame parts (which came in three separate boxes) for the king-sized bed. Our confusion was abated, but we became less enthusiastic about assembling the second twin frame after the first one, which was rough work. We had to use a rubber mallet to pound in the slats.  Assembing the bed itself wasn't so bad. You put the mattress "wrapper" on the frame or platform where you're building it, and unzip the top to remove it. Put the pastic corner pieces into the corners. Insert the ends of the long, firm, foam side-pieces into the corners to create a solid-ish frame inside the wrapper. Unroll the inflatable part into the middle with the hose ports near the opening in the mattress bottom. Connect the pump's hoses to the ports and plug it in, then pump up the mattress until it's mattress-like. Zip the top back on to finish up.  Our king size bed required a bit more preparation, since we needed to assemble the base first, including twelve separate feet, which we had the impression would be wood, but weren't even wood-looking plastic. Then there was a foam pad that went under the two separate inflation areas, and after the top was zipped back on, we had to stuff a thick foam layer into another zippered compartment on the top of the mattress.  In all it wasn't bad, but the parts were heavy, and by the time we finished assembling the two beds, we were ready to put them to use.  Of course, Abby, who has been sleeping in a separate bed in Riley's room since we moved in, poked her head into our room after we had tucked her in, saying, "I'm not really comfortable on my bed." Of course, she wanted to sleep on the new mattress which was in her room. And so Berta moved her. And then, as expected, Riley complained that Abby wasn't in the room with him, and so he moved into her bed, too.  Berta pulled out the old mattress from under Abby's new one and made it available in case he fell off (read: "in case Abby pushed him off in her sleep"). And, as expected once again, we heard several cries of, "Abby, move over," in the middle of the night, then crying. And so the sleeping arrangement I originally envisioned when I saw the boxes in the garage was realized - Abby in her new bed, and Berta, Riley, and me in our new bed.  In spite of the extra occupant in the bed, I woke up this morning feeling a bit different than usual. Not the usual sore/stiffness that I usually have, but just a strange awkward feeling that I think might be what morning is really supposed to feel like when you get out of bed. How pleasant.

Nothing. Or, not much. Today. Soon there should be plenty of things on TV with which I can empty my brain. But what will the fall TV season offer me? Let's take a look at some of the returning shows that I will be watching this year once again...  Gilmore Girls - The first couple of seasons had good rapport between the Girls, and the middle entries played on breaking that, and the most recent seasons were enjoyable if a bit less whimsical. I'm sticking with it because I like the dialogue, but I hear that the original creators are not going to be with the show this season, so I wonder if that witty banter will continue. Remember what happened to West Wing when Aaron Sorkin left.  Veronica Mars - The first season kicked butt. I think I expected too much greatness form the second season, but I still wasn't disappointed with it. Third season should see Veronica attending college in Neptune, which will hopefully bring a bit of new blood into the mix and make the big mystery more mysterious.  House - I didn't watch this show when it was on TV. But I downloaded an episode or two, got addicted, and then downloaded both seasons to watch non-stop to the end. The first two episodes of the fall season have already aired, and they keep the same attitude as the first two seasons. House, incidentally, is one of the few shows on TV made up of self-contained episodes that doesn't suck.

Lost - Why I will continue to watch this show is beyond me. They will never leave the island, and any pretense that they would is just silly. And since the whole show is pretense for getting off the island, the whole show is silly. And yet, that statue has only four toes. This may be my last season of this show.  Bones - I like this show, but it was on at a strange time last season during which I couldn't watch it. I like the play between the characters, and that's why I was a bit disappointed to see that they switched out characters for the head museum person. I liked that guy, and I don't like this new girl. And I think that's a bit of what they're going for, but I don't know - I just don't like her.  Grey's Anatomy - This soap opera hospital comedy drama is this close to getting the axe, but the weird medical stuff they concoct every episode is worth the price of admission. Plus there's a good bit of banter and (I shouldn't admit that) Izzy is hot.  And that's all for the returning shows. It's a pretty sad turnout, really. I thought I watched more than that. But then, there are the new shows...  Heroes - No, it's not a show about 9/11 firefighters. People start to wake up with super powers right out of a graphic novel. Sounds cool to me.  Jericho - Inhabitants of this small town are cut off from the world after a nuclear accident. This sounds like something right out of my nightmares. I'm sure I'll be sleeping well after watching.  Justice - I've enjoyed the first two episodes of this face-paced legal drama. The high-profile lawyers defend clients from murders (at least so far) that they didn't commit. At the end of the episodes, you get to see what actually happened, which usually could have gone either way.  And that's all for the new shows that interest me. Maybe a couple of those will be good. Otherwise, I'm cutting back on the whole TV thing.