Hey, guess what I did for the first time in years? I went to the theater! There are a heck of a lot of cranky anti-vaxxers whining in the comments of the Proctors Facebook page, but Cute W and I were super-glad about their proof-of-vaccination-and-masking-required policy. I wrote a review of Come From Away which you can see here. [oh, gosh: meant to link while that was still actually relevant; sorry!

We’ve spent a lot of time at home, though, and that means we’ve been doing puzzles! New Year’s Eve? Let’s do a puzzle!

At one point the four of us sat down to the living room coffee table, dumped out a box, and queued up a movie. The movie was Plan B and very early on, one of the characters was talking about the lame evening she had planned and how she was excited to “get my mitts on a ten thousand piece puzzle,” and we all looked up at each other and laughed. Like, yes, here we are, being comically lame.

I have told this story before, but I often think about how unbelievably bad at puzzles M used to be. As a preschooler, she could look at one of those puzzles that had a grand total of six pieces to slot in–a square, a circle, a triangle, a rectangle, an oval, and a star–and she’d just be utterly baffled. I would waver between wondering if she had a very specific learning disability or if she was just messing with me. Even years later, I would try to point out that with a 24-piece puzzle, it helps to start by connecting all of the edges, and I swear, the girl could not locate the flat-edged pieces to save her life.

These days, M has improved and has become the prime puzzling enthusiast in the family, but it’s still peculiar how different our approaches are. Really, it’s just Cute W against the rest of us. He refuses to look at the picture as a model–in his mind, that’s cheating–and he is deeply focused on the actual shape of the pieces. At one point he looked up from a two-thirds-done puzzle and reported to the rest of us that he’d sorted the remaining pieces into those with one little knob sticking out vs. two sticking-out parts vs. three sticking-out parts, and all of the rest of us looked at him, like, “What. . . ? How does that help us?” I don’t know. It helps him. Maybe it’s the same spatial awareness that makes him so good at directions when I am terrible at them.

Poor Cute W is also critiqued for other puzzling techniques: he would often find where a piece fit and set it down with two firm taps. Some adolescent girls I know considered his two-tap habit to be “a little aggressive.” I tried to defend them as “happy taps,” not competitive taps, but I believe the damage was done,. Since then, he has bowed to the pressure and learned to feel triumph with each newly-placed piece silently.

You may think that if there’s this much criticism and drama attached to puzzling, it would be better to set it aside, and I think I agree! Luckily, M, our main puzzling instigator, has gone back “home” to college.

Yep, now college is “home” for her. I believe that it’s entirely possible that she will never live in our house long-term again. She is loving college and was super-eager to get back (hooray for her), but she’s also working various plots and schemes to try to find someplace more interesting to spend her summer (good for her, but also, really? is she sure?). Who knows. I say this now, and for all I know, in five years I’ll be lamenting the fact that no one will move out. But I don’t think so. Gone are the days when J used to tell me she was going to live with us forever and always. To which I would reply, “You are always welcome, but also, I’m pretty sure that you’re going to change your mind.” Dang, that’s another puzzle: why do moms have to end up being right about almost everything all the time?

And here’s a ridiculous puzzle: what did I do on the internet to make anyone think that I am the target audience for someone who cares deeply enough about clothes to want someone to set up a special calendar for me?

Seriously, this is so dumb. You can find me, day in and day, out, wearing a t-shirt, sweater, and pair of jeans, and I am fine with that. Really, how cute does one need to be to go the grocery store, the post office, and the library? I feel like this ad simultaneously implies that I should be trying harder but also assumes that I care that the internet thinks that I should be trying harder.

It is funny, because the pandemic isolation has sort of wrought havoc with my fashion choices. On the one hand I have been devil-may-care enough to leave the house in workout leggings or, just yesterday, wearing a big wide headband to hide that my hair was somehow beyond just “unwashed.” On the other hand, I am painting my nails and piling on rings to keep those cute nails company. It’s an odd combination of slovenliness and meaningless sport-primping that I’m sure would not be recommended by a paid “de-frump” fashion consultant. What sort of frumpy mom topics was I Googling to deserve this sort of treatment? I don’t know, but it didn’t come from my daughters’ browsing histories, unlike that rash of “bras for small boobs” ads that infected my timeline recently.


  1. Aliza

    Cute W is right! Looking at the picture IS cheating. And I also do the extra tap when I place the piece. On the other hand, the shape thing is whack. My brother-in-law was of the same mind. He took all the pieces I’d sorted by color, rearranged them by shape, and told me that he’d just made it all easier!

  2. Claire

    I’d like to go to a movie too. I should have gone while the indoor mask mandate was still in place. My concern was people taking off their masks to eat while watching the movie. Maybe in the next couple of months if the positivity rate continues to trend down…

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