Monday, September 15, 2008

A Weekend with SuperMom

I was SuperMom this past weekend. I think I have gotten too old and fat for my Spandex supersuit.

Friday, I took DD15 to cash her paycheck and buy dye to make the ends of her hair bright pink. Then we grocery shopped at Aldi, the grocery liquidator, and the farmer's market. Put away a lot of groceries. Made sure laundry and dishes were caught up. Made curried ham and lentil soup. Baked a loaf of bread that didn't turn out right, for unknown reasons. Cleaned the kitchen.

All because we were leaving DH and DD11 for an overnight trip to Baltimore. DD15 is an elected social-action chair of a 65-church regional youth steering committee - they plan four weekend youth conferences each year, with themes ranging from social justice, to leadership, to worship. The group has monthly meetings all over the mid-Atlantic, so we drive somewhere once a month. I can't stop being conscious of the price of gas, but DD15 pays for it. The deal we made is that I would do the driving and help with chaperoning, if she pays for gas and food out of her barista income. My criminal background check just came through, so now I will be an overnight chaperon. It really is a great leadership development opportunity for her, and we are getting tour a lot of beautiful old (and new) churches, where a group of 18 teens and 5 or 6 adults sleep on the sofas and floors. I also try to explore markets, food co-ops, and ethnic food stores when we travel.

Saturday, I drove her and another youth group member to Baltimore, about 2 hours away. We left early, so we could see something of the city. We parked on a little residential street near Inner Harbor. We could see dragon boat races in the harbor. The kids dragged me up all the steps at Federal Hill Park and down the steep grass on the other side. As I was trudging up the million steps, a woman going down whispered, "One step at a time, hon." That gives me a clue to how bad I must have looked, huffing, red-faced, with my knee audibly popping. I made the kids stop halfway down the other side to identify plantain, dandelion, and purslane - and tell the kids they could be eaten- bahahaha!

But it brought us to the American Visionary Art Museum. Visionary art is produced by people who have no art education - we call it "Outsider Art" at our community art center. The admission was discounted ($5) because they were between main exhibits, but the remaining galleries are very interesting.

There is a scale model of an ocean liner, made of toothpicks. My favorite was a huge multi-panel painting made up of zillions of detailed tiny people: "On an outer wall is a seven-panel trompe l'oeil mural by James Franklin Snodgrass imagining the population of the world materializing into a subtle image of a fertile reclining mother figure--an altogether different, more organic vision of Babel." Snodgrass was a 50's TV game show fraud whistleblower featured in the film Quiz Show. Many of the biographies of these artists talk about mental illness and reclusive behavior, and on the third floor is a whole exhibit devoted to OCD: Obsessive-Compulsive Delight. A gift shop on the first floor is stuffed with weird little objects, ephemera, books and cards. Everything from art books to vintage needle holders to tiny plastic dogs.

The outside of the building is as interesting as the inside. I love mosaic work, and the building is literally covered with it. There is garden full of native plants behind one of the buildings. The entrance fountain has water shooting out of faces carved in native rock.

The garden is a lush, wild mass of native plants and grasses. Wonderful to find tucked into a sheltered city nook. Like suddenly stepping into different world.

There is this fabulous structure in the middle of it all:

Across from it is a covered arcade lined with more mosaic panels.

We started to get hungry, and I wanted to find the Lexington Market, which is advertised at having been in operation since 1782. We didn't have good directions, but we managed to find it after a few loops.

I was disappointed. The market does have a lot of seafood and meat vendors, but few real produce vendors. Prices seem high; a smoked ham shank that costs $1.99/lb in my home market was $2.99 in Baltimore. Most of the produce is non-local fruit, cut-up and sold ready-to-eat. Most of the stands sell sandwiches, assorted ethnic food, and bottled beverages. It's more of a giant urban food court of prepared food. Not much of an emphasis on local food, at least not visible to me. Perhaps locals know what food is really local. I had some "Texas BBQ" that was really just sliced beef in a too-sweet gravy, with soggy macaroni in cheese sauce. The kids had sushi. We bought some fruit and baked goods to take to the meeting for later snacking. It just seems wrong, for the region to be at the height of the harvest season, with no sign of it in the city market - no corn, no tomatoes, no peaches, no green beans.

We found the church, which is a wonderful historic building, celebrating 200 years since the birth of Enoch Pratt, who built the church social hall out of bricks recycled from houses torn down to build the Pratt Free Library. I loved the architecture in Baltimore. I should have taken more photos. Every block has some ridiculously wonderful church or monument or a row of little old houses. Lots of little urban garden patches.

The youth meeting went from 6pm to about 11:30pm, followed by some youth social time. I read the last few chapters of my book club book, and went to sleep about 1am on a sofa. I set my cell phone to wake me at 6am. I wandered through the still-dark church, checking sleeping bodies until I found my daughter. She found the boy that was driving back with us. We gathered our stuff and were on the road by 6:30. The drive up Route I-83 was smooth and pretty. As the sun came up, there was light fog rising from the trees along the highway. We were all still quite groggy and silent - a relief after a day of constant teen chatter.

My goal on Sunday was to get to my own church by 8:45am to attend a book discussion group, and I made it. We were talking about Riding the Bus with My Sister (2002), a true story about a woman who explores her relationship with her mentally handicapped sister. I was particularly interested because the sisters are my age, and scenes from their lives echoes the clothing and popular culture of my life, set in my city. The author lightly disguises the locations and identities, but we recognized the descriptions. The handicapped sister still lives here and still rides the buses.

But the book club was just the start of my day! The club broke up it time for us to go to the annual RE breakfast, where you sign your kids up for the year. (RE stands for Religious Education, what we call Sunday School.) DD15 helped set up the breakfast, and I was starving. They had an assortment of bagels and spreads, several kinds of yogurt, and lots of fruit, nuts, and granola to make yogurt parfaits. I love that kind of breakfast.

One of the nice things about living in the city, is that we are only a few minutes from most of the stuff we do. So, I raced off to swing past our house and pick up DD11, so she could go to RE. We have a new DRE (Director of Religious Education), and had hoped to meet her, but she is still finishing up at her last job.

I tried to stay awake during the sermon, I really did. Not too successful, on only 5 hours of sleep, but I don't think I actually snored. When the service was over, we left to make a mad dash through the Sunday grower's market. I got 2 pecks of #2 peaches, a peck of #2 tomatoes, a large head of cauliflower, some sage, and a quart of plums.

Then we jumped back into the car to pick up DH and go to DD11's first soccer game of the season. She had gone to church in her uniform, and we got to the field by 12:30 for the 1pm game. It had gotten hot. I found out later it hit 90, and the heat index was 105. We made sure the players got hydrated. Most of us start our kids hydrating in advance the night before a game.

DD11's team tied 2-2, a good first game for us. They lost a lot last year. Our urban recreation league usually plays suburban teams with better equipment, soccer camps, and teams that also play together in school leagues. Our city teams tend to have lots of new first-time players every year, so we build a new team every season. We make sure all the girls play, and everyone plays hard. We all felt good about the game - players, parents, coaches. One first-year Soccer Mom was a blast to watch, as she leapt in and out of her chair whenever the ball got near her daughter, a first-time goalie.

We left the game and took DD15 to work - she had to work from 3 to 8. I think she had only an hour of sleep Saturday night. Oh, to be young again. I napped while she was gone, and woke up to realize I had a bad suburn. During the game, I just wasn't thinking about the blasting sun and not having sunscreen on my face and neck. I burned my collarbones in a boat-neck t-shirt. I slept with a damp cloth cooling my chest Sunday night.

I don't know - maybe other families are that active every weekend. But I felt like I did a week's worth of activities in 2 days. DD15 said she was proud of me for "not freaking out." I was tired, but didn't lose my temper, even when a 16-year-old boy was back-seat-driving at me. And I did everything I set out to do, in my madly over-scheduled weekend.

Now I have all week to recover in the kitchen and the garden. Because next weekend, DH and I drive to Washington DC to attend his aunt's 50th birthday party. We get to stay in a hotel, just us grown-ups! Whoo-hoo!


d.a. said...

Holy cow, that's a heckofalotta work for one little weekend! Go, you!

Verde said...

I'm exhausted just reading about your weekend. I don't think I would have survived!