August 20, 2015


This morning, having just slid in to a delicious tubful of steaming water for a prolonged soak, I opened Guy Vanderhaege's The Last Crossing and read this:
A man notoriously close-mouthed, infamous for one-word answers, he is practising thinking in English. Resting his hand on the grip of the pistol jammed in his belt, he laboriously retrieves all the English names for the weapon. Revolver. Six-shooter. Side arm. Equalizer. Firearm. 45. Short gun. Hog-leg. Roscoe. Peacemaker. Colt. It is a difficult task to recall them all. English is a stubborn balky tongue.
Except when I read it, it was like this: (Christream of consciousness in yellow italics.

A man notoriously close-mouthed, infamous for one-word answers, he is practising thinking in English. hard to do...  I haven't tried to think en français in a long time... je n'essaie pas penser en Français pour... or is it depuis?... forget it.  My French is shit.  Resting his hand on the grip of the pistol jammed in his belt, he laboriously retrieves all the English names for the weapon.  Revolver.  Six-shooter. Glock.  Side arm.  Equalizer.  Gun.  Firearm.  45.  Derringer?  Short gun.  Hog-leg.  Roscoe.  Peacemaker.  Colt.  Bren 805. Ha hahaha.  Bazooka.  Wait, is a bazooka even a gun?  Didn't Ma Ingalls in Little House have a pearl-handled revolver?  I bet it was pretty...   
[then brain conjures up this image]:
I still haven't finished that paintball post and I began it last summer.  I need to do that... sooner rather than later..   It is a difficult task to recall them all.  English is a stubborn balky tongue.  It definitely was for the Japanese boys...

And just like that, SPLAT!, I found myself aching to get out of the tub so that I could go downstairs and write.  Damn you, Calliope.  Let me bathe in peace.

Beginning of blog proper

Last July, I found myself agreeing to play Paintball.   My son coaxed, begged, pleaded, cajoled, coerced and implored me to join him on the battlefield.  I will admit to being curious about Paintball, and as I fancy myself a bit of a markswoman, I thought that I would be the coolest / dumbest Mum ever and tag along.  PLUS there would be opportunities to shoot my husband AND my son in the ass.  At the same time.

While I was full of trepidation, I recalled giving birth to both of my brats naturally, without crying or screaming, and it seemed to me that paintball couldn't possibly be worse than pushing a 9-pounder out of one's vagina.  And so, I grabbed my riot gear and headed for Flagswipe.

I don't know what I was expecting, but I certainly didn't think that we would be playing in a Kabulesque landscape:

Not digging the dilapidated schoolbus or the creepy crosses...

I am afraid, very afraid...

Being the only woman on the playing field is a tough gig.  I felt like I had to put on a good show.  I wasn't going to let all that testosterone know that I was petrified, so I swaggered around, cocksure but crying on the inside.

After signing my waiver, putting on gloves, tying my shoelaces in DOUBLE KNOTS, getting acquainted with my gun, applying lipgloss (a girl's gotta look good on the battlefield), and slugging back a Redbull, I reluctantly donned my helmet.  

Here's yours truly, aka Athena, READY TO KICK some BOY and MAN-ASS:

And here's Company C making their best mean-faces:   



What a malicious-looking bunch we are, some more than others.  I had no idea what I was in for, NO IDEA at all.

Having been educated on paintball safety and etiquette and adequately nourished and hydrated, we were ready to rampage.

We filed onto the playing field, and waited for the horn to blow, and that's when we ran willy-nilly in all directions.  I avoided the boys and chased after the men - cuz they were men, duh! - and men know what war is about.  ;-)

My heart was thudding in my chest like a jackhammer, and I felt like I was running for my life.  I was a fatter, older, uglier version of Katniss in the Hunger Games.

Out of breath from sprinting, I cowered in an old shack trying not to shit my spandex.  I hid behind blockades and walls, and burned-out vehicles, anything really, and tried to avoid being hit.  I don't think that I shot many paintballs that first round.  I was too busy trying not to hyperventilate.

The paintballs fly by ridiculously quickly and they spatter wildly, or they PING! sharply as they explode on metal.  Have a listen to this (ten-second) video.  The second part of it is bang-on :-)

The game ended before I knew it, and I was surprised to learn that I had a) made it out ALIVE, b) was unscathed, and c) had dry drawers.

I was happy that it was over, but I was still petrified.  I could feel adrenalin coursing through my body.  I hadn't been hit, but I was anticipating the pain and suffering that I would soon endure.  I wanted to get the first hit over with.  Would an exploding paintball feel like a bee sting?  A hard pinch?  A slap on bare skin?  The waiting was punishing.

The bush served as the setting for round two.  Lush and green and quiet, it might have been serene on another day.

We were divided into groups, our biceps wrapped in duct tape.  I preferred playing in the woods; I am a nature girl after all.  I felt much more at home in the trees than in dodgy shacks and rusted-out jeeps.


I had been hit!  I took it on the left shoulder, and I was surprised to find that the pain registered a mere 5 on a scale of 1 to 10:

What a show-off.  I am smiling here because (unbeknownst to me) I haven't felt real pain yet.

Things Begin to Turn Ugly, Including the Tone of This Post

Things began to sour at dusk.

One of the soccer hooligans had been hit point-blank in the belly and he wailed like a baby.  I went into Mum mode and gave him cookies and watermelon, and a bit of a hug.  Being hit at close range is very painful, and you are guaranteed to have some damage, i.e. a welt or a bloody bruise.  Because of this, you stay away from your enemies, and you respect the mercy rule.  (If you say Mercy, you won't get shot).

Paintball wounds:

I felt very sorry for this kid.  His bloody, lumpy bruise was angry red and enormous:

I was making out okay, injury-wise.  I had been hit a handful of times, but it didn't hurt too much.  A hot sting, some throbbing, a fade to dull pain.

During one of the last games of the evening, about five minutes in, I found myself in the unenviable position of being without ammo.

I adopted the "Mercy"pose, which looks like this:

I held my rifle above my head, and I walked off the field, confident that everyone knew that I was either injured or that I was out of ammunition.  This move is supposed to let you exit the field without incident.

I smiled as I passed my son, my French Student and one other miscreant - either my nephew or my son's bestie.  They were shooting away happily, and I felt like Mum of the year.  Who says that a Mum can't join her son on a battlefield?  As I strolled by, approximately forty feet away from the trio, one of them noticed me.  I watched as he said something to the others, swivelled the gun toward me and pointed it directly at me.  His comrades also turned toward me, and I felt a pang of anxiety.

Are they going to... - ????


They were and they did.

The three of them shot at me CLOSE-RANGE (a no-no), when I had no ammo and was walking in the Mercy position (another no-no).  I was forced to run like my ass was on fire, which it was.  The first few shots hit me in the side, the kidney and the hip and it hurt like CRAZY.  Then they hit me in the butt!  Many times.  Before I realized it, I heard myself scream, (not proud),  "You little motherfuckers!"

Believe me when I tell you that getting hit in the ass, at close range, is agonizing.  I had bruises for a month.  I could NOT believe the pain.  Worse than the physical pain though, was my disbelief that my son and his cronies had attacked me like that.  Was this some paintball rite of initiation?  I asked my husband and my friends about that, and they assured me that it was not.  And so let me present you with this.  


Snakes in the grass are what those two are.

When I told my son how disappointed I was, and how he would not be punished because no manner of punishment could measure up to my disappointment, I think he was shocked.  I know that he was contrite and ashamed, and I hope that after reading this, he will also know that I have forgiven him.

In fact, after that evening, I was so hurt, disappointed, and furious, that I didn't discuss it with him again.  It took me a year just to write this post, and as I finish it up, I see that I am still bent out of shape about it.  Please don't tell me to get over it.  I am getting over it by writing about it.

If anyone reading this post thinks, "serves her right for playing with them" or "what did she expect?", I will say to you, keep your sexist thoughts to yourselves.  I expected to play with my son and his friends, not even considering that they would turn on me like they did.  When I objected loudly, and called them out, I was made to feel that I couldn't take a joke.  Well let me tell you that I can take a joke, and this incident WAS NOT FUCKING FUNNY.

Okay, enough venom from me.

Because I Don't Want to End On A Sour Note...

Happier times:  

Athena, Nathanimal, Richard, and Louis - our French student.  We are filthy, stinky and rainsoaked

The earth littered with exploded paintballs:  
A note on the Plantain at the top of this shot.  You can eat it in salads, or if you are suffering from a bug bite, you can masticate a leaf or two and spit it out directly onto the affected area and massage it in.  I have it on good authority that this provides instant re-leaf.  
 No one opted for the grenades, thank goodness.   We all had gloves (I used my gardening gloves from Costco), and they're necessary.  Getting hit on the hand stings like a bee-yotch.  I think I started off with the bare minimum of paintballs in my hopper, and I didn't require a refill the entire evening.  In fact, people helped themselves to my paintballs!  I took more of a "sit and back and wait for the best opportunity to hit that son of a gun" approach, I suppose.  I think I'd make a good sniper.  

The soccer hooligans checking out the landscape, planning their coup

Closeup of the mesh fence, designed so that stray paintballs can't exit the field
Gun and CO2 tank storage
A  closeup of the mud, post-rain.  It made for messy warfare
In the pavilion, getting ready to rumble 

You are probably wondering whether I will dare to play Paintball again.  The answer is yes.  Yes, I will.

Except next time, I will trust no one.

Face your life
Its pain
Its pleasure, 
Leave no path untaken.

                                                                                                           Neil Gaiman

Optional musical pairing:  The Ides of March by Iron Maiden

Addendum - Sunday, August 23rd

Someone delivered a copy of London Community News to me today, and either the deliveryperson or another individual strategically placed a poppy directly on top of the rolled-up paper, so that when I opened the mailbox, I couldn't miss it:

The poppy made me think.  Had the poppy deliverer read this post?  Did they want me to read the LCN?  (I did).  Had they read the current poem on the poetree? (Billy Collins' Another Reason Why I Don'T Keep A Gun In The House).  

Perhaps the delivery person was trying to draw my attention to this article in the paper:  Archery Tag.  It's like paintball, but it doesn't hurt and there are NO BRUISES.  A facility is opening in London in the fall.  Sign me up, Glen Gorman, sign me up!

I also like this article:  Kindness Meters.  I hope Lincoln McCardle makes it work.  

For the record, I proudly wear a poppy in October and November, although I should probably wear it year-round.  I am very thankful for all of the men, women and children who fought for my freedom.  

August 07, 2015


It is not unknown for me to suffer heart palpitations after opening my credit card bill, but March's statement elicited a near-coronary:

Page after page of charges from Google, more specifically, BACKFLIPSTUDIO and MOBIGAME.  What the fudge* was going on?  Had some astronaut* stolen my credit card information again?  
(* see endnotes) 

The charges ranged from a low of $4.97 to a high of $24.97; frequently, there were four or five transactions the same day.  I tallied them up on my trusty calculator.

805 fudging* dollars??????

I was afraid that I might go postal, using the CZ 805 Bren, natch. ;-)

Let's just revisit that staggering number again -

805 fudging* dollars

Seeing red here...

805 FUDGING* DOLLARS!!!!!!!!

I was pretty certain I knew who was responsible, but I needed confirmation so I googled "Backflip".

Gotcha, Nath!

I had spawned a kid criminal.  What's that saying about the apple not falling far from the tree? 

Nathanimal, that little astronaut*, had been using again.  Let me rephrase.  Nathanimal, that asinine astronaut*, had been using his father's credit card for a virtual spending spree.

Why, you wonder, was he using his father's card? 


In fact, - if you're reading this, dear husband, I am not sorry for what I am about to say, and you've already heard it anyway - I believe I busted several veins in my forehead in 2013 when the dynamic duo engaged in their first online debacle.

But now, I seethed as only a true DRAGON LADY could, aggravated by my child, irritated by my husband and peeved by the inane Jabba and Oscar mashup in the centre of the Dragonvale logo:

I was feeling like I was about to go Jabba on Nath.

You wouldn't even believe what just happened while I was writing this.  The child came into my office and asked me to google Blue Spawn Godslayer.  


I had no words.  I stared him down using my best mean face - take that, sucka! -

and he backed away, hangdog look on his face.    

But then I was curious about the BSG (sounds like a new offering from Roald Dahl, but it's not).  What the eff is it?  I googled "Blue Spawn Godslayer", and was directed to the D & D website, where I read this excerpt from the Monster Manual:

An enormous blue-scaled creature lumbers into view bearing a huge sword and bearing a dragon skull as a shield. Its head looks something like that of a blue dragon, and as it gnashes its teeth and bangs its sword against its shield, electricity sparks from its mouth and weapon.  
Bluespawn Godslayer CR 10
Usually LE Huge monstrous humanoid (dragonblood)
Init -2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +2, Spot +3
Languages Draconic

AC 23, touch 6, flat-footed 23
(-2 size, -2 Dex, +2 shield, +15 natural)
hp 138 (12 HD); DR 10/chaotic
Immune electricity, paralysis, sleepSR 20
Fort +11, Ref +6, Will +8

Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee +2 bastard sword +23/+18/+13 (3d8+12/17-20 plus 2d6 electricity) and
bite +15 (2d6+5 plus 2d6 electricity)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Base Atk +12; Grp +30
Atk Options Awesome Blow, Improved Bull Rush, Power Attack, dragon slayer, outsider slayer

Abilities Str 30, Dex 6, Con 25, Int 8, Wis 11, Cha 10
Feats Awesome Blow, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Critical (bastard sword), Power Attack, Weapon Focus (bastard sword)

Bluespawn godslayers live for one purpose: to slay Tiamat's enemies. They delight in combat and take pride in their expertise with weapons. Godslayers guard the lairs of blue dragons and seek out and slaughter good dragons.

Oh of course.  How could I be so stupid?  The BSG is an enormous, blue-scaled, dragon-slaying beast.  The child has no shame.   I am laughing at the BSG's bastard sword though.  I've gotta get myself one of those, stat.

Let me get back to my post proper.

When my darling, dragon-obsessed boy arrived home from school that day, and I presented him with the pernicious credit card statement, Nathoon-baboon suffered a complete and utter breakdown:  "DAD'S GONNA KILL ME!  DAD'S GONNA KILL ME!  DAD'S GONNA KILL ME!,"  this litany of anxiety accompanied by hysterical bawling and sputtering.  

I am not going to lie.  I enjoyed this little scene.  :-)

Payback's hell, kid.  

Nath wasn't the only one who was up shingle* creek.  My husband was the enabler; he might as well have given Nath his very own Mastercard.  I showed my brilliant husband the credit card bill (while smiling a bit of a smug smile).  My husband might have looked a bit like this:  

(That still is from a Twisted Sister video, in case you were wondering).

I will not tell you about the caterwauling, cursing, and begging and pleading that transpired.  I will also not tell you about the ensuing battle between: 

1)  my husband and I versus Nathaniel (What the hell were you thinking?  Don't lie to me!  You knew EXACTLY what you were doing!) 

2)  me versus my husband (Are you retarded?  Who gives an eleven-year-old a credit card?)

3) me versus my husband and my child (You're both morons!)

To make a long, heinous story short, I grounded the kid criminal from screens for two months, and withdrew all the money from his bank account.  

Because Nath was vid-addled, he suffered from withdrawal symptoms.  This meant that I also suffered mightily.  There may have been some rocking in the fetal position from both of us.   

Here are Nathaniel's five stages of (not being allowed to play video games) grief, à la Elisabeth Kubler Ross:  

1)  DENIAL - laughing interspersed with wailing.  Hahahahaahahh!!   I don't need Mindcraft. Hahahahah.  I don't care.   Waaaaaaaaaahhh!  Two months? waaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Are you crazy?

2)  ANGER  - You are so mean!  You never let me have any fun!  I am not talking to you anymore!

3)  BARGAINING - If I clean my room, Mumma will let me back on!  

4)  DEPRESSION - There was a lot of laying around on the couch and floor.  I'm bored, Mumma.  What should I do, Mumma?  He also buried his face in pillows and moaned pathetically.  

5)  ACCEPTANCE - Two months isn't forever**.  I don't even like videogames**.  **TOTAL LIE.  He never actually said this.  

He knew better than to bitch about boredom after I snapped at him twice - he was already up shingle's creek and didn't need to dig his paddle in further - but he definitely tried my patience (and I have very little to begin with).  What was I going to do with this kid?

On the first p.d. day after the Dragonvale incident, I signed Nath up for a babysitting course.  I didn't want to deal with him, and I was still pissed.  At $50 for the course, which included pizza lunch and freedom from the hell of entertaining children for 7 hours, it was a no-brainer.  Nath returned from his course, certificate in hand, ready to conquer the child-minding world.

His first gig was that weekend.  He looked after a neighbour's two sons during daylight hours.  He was elated.  He had cash in his hand, he had something to do, and he was away from Dragonlady's talons and piercing cry.  He was hired to babysit several times that week, and then he found other activities to occupy his time, like Magic The Gathering:

Magic - a complex card game with many rules- is Nathanimal's new obsession.  He is constantly sorting his cards, assembling new decks and dreaming of Friday night, which is when he spends his babysitting coin at Magic tournaments.  I am thrilled with this pursuit.  It gets my boy out of the house and interacting with actual human beings - let's hear it for eye contact! - and the game is an intellectually invigorating pursuit.  

When Nathaniel wasn't playing Magic, he was reading.  The library became special again.  Nathaniel read at an early age, and read voraciously.  Once he was exposed to the world of online games, his interest in books waned.  I was dismayed.  When the screens were no longer available to him, !kapow!, just like that, he picked up books again.  I cheered long and loudly.

Besides the rejuvenated interest in Magic and reading, there was something even better that I noticed.  The boy actually exited the house - he's going outside? - to shoot hoops and kick the soccer ball around.  

Physical activity? YES!  

Very sadly, this is something that is missing from the majority of eleven-year-old boys' daily regimens unless they are in organized sports, and it is definitely to their detriment.  

I am not pro-fat, so my kids are enrolled in soccer in the summer, and soccer and skiing in the winter.  We also keep fit by swimming, cycling, walking the dogs, running, jumping on the trampo, and cleaning our own home (gasp!).  I could devote an entire blog entry on why it's vital for kids to have chores and participate in home cleaning, gardening and cooking but I'll write that another day.  

While the renewed interest in athletics made me turn cartwheels, the best thing that happened, post-apocalypse, is that my child is a kinder, more peaceful human being to me, to others and to himself.  We chat more, we play more board games like we used to, and we certainly have a better connection.  Win-win.  

Prior to the blackout, Nathaniel was pure evil whenever he played vid, which was most of his waking hours.  He would shoot me a look of pure hatred if I dared to interrupt his precious screen time, and I thought that maybe if I increased his time (yes, bad Mum of the year here), he might be more inclined to listen to me.  How dumb is that?  BIG FAT HA!  This increase just made him pissier, and it made our problem even worse.  

When Nathaniel wasn't doing homework, eating, sleeping,  or shitting (Damn.  I failed at not swearing.  I can't do it.  Those asterisks * at the beginning of the post denote my attempt to clean up my potty mouth by using euphemisms).    

As I was saying, when Nathaniel wasn't doing homework, eating, sleeping, or shitting, he would slink into the basement to play horrifically violent games (that he was introduced to at a friend's house - sounding completely judgmental and bitchy here, but so what).  I was horrified when I saw him playing this:

I am the first person to rail against conservative, lemming-like Old Boy traditions, and the burbs and Stepford, but even I couldn't bear to see Nath as a first person shooter* mowing down women and children, in addition to his camouflage-clad opponents.  It smacked of Columbine.  

(from Wikipedia:  *First-person shooter (FPS) is a video game genre centered on gun and projectile weapon-based combat through a first-person perspective; that is, the player experiences the action through the eyes of the protagonist).  

I was furious with myself.  How had I let my child become a snarky, vitriolic reprobate?  I removed the game system and all of the violent games from the basement.  Problem solved.  Of course, Nathaniel is still exposed to such games when he visits some of his friends.  I am not sure how to navigate this stormy sea.  I think that some of my friends and acquaintances have given up on their children, recognizing technology's steadfast grip and feeling powerless to try to change that, but I refuse to give up on my son.  I will set limits, and I will stick to them even if it makes me a killjoy.  He'll thank me in the long run.  Who am I kidding?  No he won't.

Nathaniel, thank you for being a kid criminal and a vid addict.  Thank you for spending all that cash on that stupid Dragonvale game.  Thank you for using your Dad's card (we got it all the $ back, by the way, but Nathaniel doesn't know that ;-)  

It was the best thing that could have happened to our family.  

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go play Candy Crush.  

Optional music pairing  Twisted Sister's We're Not Gonna Take It

* in an effort to clean up my potty mouth, I have decided to censor my filthy tongue.  Henceforth, fuck, shit and ass shall be referred to as fudge, shingles and astronaut.