Saturday, January 5, 2013

Less Is More (and yes, you can rat me out)

So far, there is a beer hammer and a cookie scoop. And three books  (The Grays, by Whitley Streiber, Hotwire, by Alex Kava, and Black List, by Brad Thor).  The books are what will make this less painful.  I have a lot of books.  And a disproportionate number of them are not what I'd refer to as, well, "good".  They will be easy to toss.  It's the other stuff that is going to hurt a little bit.

One thing per day.   Out of the house.  Banished forever.  (So if you want any of the above, come on by.  It's all yours.  There is a bag on my front porch.  Help yourself.)    That is part one of my plan for 2013.  And that, I think, will actaully be the easier part of the plan.  It's the second half that is going to be hard.  Income and Expenses.  In and Out.  Acquire and Divest.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  

Yes, I am taking my time getting to the meat of this. Because once I say it, once it's written down, it's official.  And people will know.  And watch.  And rat me out.  And I'm counting on that.  (Because even though I told Scott, let's be honest here - I can get around that if I need to.)  So let's just do it.  I shall now make it official:

I will buy no durable goods for myself in 2013*

Yes, there is an asterisk.  Because sometimes, things happen.  Our fridge is acting up, and our dishwasher is THIS CLOSE to being kicked to the curb.  So if they go, I have to replace them.  And I am going skiing in February - the tickets have been purchased.   Appropriate clothing needs to be acquired.  You can't go down a Colorado ski slope in February wearing your warm and fuzzy jacket that gets you through the DC winter just fine.  I need a list of things that I know nothing about.  But I have been given a very specific list, from which I shall not veer.  Those items have been asterisked into the plan.   

And if something else comes up, it has to pass the test.  The test is Scott.  Not the real Scott  - because again, he is kind and wonderful and he loves me.  If I really want something, he won't make a big deal out of it.  I'm talking about the rarely seen ANGRY AND FED UP Scott.  The one who, after tripping over toys, knocking over stacks of books, stepping on Lego's, and then walking into a kitchen that looks like it just exploded, thus explodes himself, with something along the line of, "JESUS!  WHY DO WE HAVE SO MUCH CRAP?!"  

Yeah, that guy.  

Because *I* am why we have so much crap.  I love that crap.  I really do.

I love walking into a store and looking at all the cute little things that are lined up just so.  I love the potential of all the amazing tools in a kitchen store - just think of what I could cook if I had THAT.  I love the sexy potential of the perfect pair of shoes.  I love wandering through thrift stores, and finding the most amazing things, and even better, the mundane things that can be made into something amazing with just a little paint, a few stitches, and some elbow grease.  I love it all.   There is just so much potential there.

And that, my friends, is a problem.  Because I now have piles and piles of potential in my house.  I have projects I won't have time to do for years.  I have fabric that I've been saving for clothes I haven't quite yet designed, but once I get a little better with my sewing machine, I am TOTALLY going to do.  I have a plaster casting kit to make a mold of Josie's baby hand.  She's 6.  I finally did Ian's baby hand when he was, um, 4.  So, not babies.  But still little.  I still want to hold on to that, because one day I'm going to want to hold those sticky little hands and they won't be there anymore, they'll be grown up and not wanting to hold my hand (I can hear the disdain in their voice already - "you want to WHAT?  Um, no Mom.  sorry, that's just weird.")  But if I can make that cast, I'll have Josie's six year old hand and that will be almost as good.  Almost.  

So already, I'm feeling sad about letting go of something that I haven't even made.   Let's hope I can make that cast before I run out of things to put in the one-thing-out-per-day bag.  Because that is part of it.  I have all these things.  All these projects.  All this stuff.  And yeah, a lot of it is crap.  (See above note about the beer hammer.  And for those of you who got one for Christmas from me last year, I'm really sorry.  I didn't realize what a piece of crap it was until Scott tried to use it this week.  My bad.)  The junk should be easy to go.  

It's funny, when I started this project, all of 5 days ago, I thought the non-buying was going to be hard.  But, as I write this, I think it might be the easier part.  Because I am an all-or-nothing kind of gal.  Moderation is NOT my middle name.  (Yes, yes, this is not news to any of you, I know.)   I've never been one to have a little bit of anything.  It almost killed me to have a cocktail party and just invite a few friends.  I want ALL my friends there.  A tiny bite of the worlds best chocolate?  Pish.  I'd rather not have any of it at all than have just a taste.  

So for 2013 - no tastes for me. 

No books.  No clothes.  No fancy little kitchen doodads.

No Williams Sonoma (sigh).  No Ikea (moan).   No Target (whimper).  No HomeGoods (WAAAAHHHH!)  I will not need to even enter those stores this year (well, maybe Target for consumables, but definitely not the rest.)

Why?  It's simple.  I don't need anything.  If there is anything in the next year that I want to do, I am fairly certain, nay - nearly positive - that I have the tools to do it in my house already.  And probably enough for you to do whatever it is, too, should we decide to do a project together.  

I don't want to say that I have a problem, per se, because then that edges me into a group.  You know, THAT group.  [whispering]  Hoarders.  I don't think I'm quite there yet.  My stacks of newspapers generally get tossed out every week or so.  Although I will admit, the first and ONLY time I ever watched that show, when they were helping this woman get rid of things, I started shouting at the tv, "Not that!  That's still good!  Don't get rid of THAT!"

I find it best not to watch those kinds of shows.

So, yeah, here we go.  I'm five days in, and I've only purchased one thing:  the address book that I planned on buying weeks ago, that Scott knew about in advance, and that I took great care to pick out exactly the one I wanted and absolutely nothing else.  And it was, well, easier than I thought.  When i went in to B&N, I was pretty sure I was going to be torn.  I was going to want to wander down the aisles of discount novels (oh how I love thee, cheap fiction!), browse the magazines, maybe pick up a new CD.  But I didn't.  I found the address book section, looked at my options, found the one with the biggest spaces for writing (yup - one step away from Large Print), bought it and left.  It was fast.  It was easy.  And when Josie asked for a book, I said, "oh, sweetie, remember, we aren't buying anything."  And she said, "Oh, that's right."

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  It was that easy!    I can do this!  I can actually do this!

I can.

I have a confession to make.   A few days before the end of the year, I was finishing up a few last-minute gift shopping at HomeGoods.   That was when I decided to do this.  Because there was the most adorably aquamarine platter there.  And I NEEDED that platter.  Well, I needed A platter.  Okay, I needed a platter a few months ago, and I finally got a nice, elegant, functional forever, simple white platter.  A few months ago.  So, technically, no, I didn't need a platter any more.

But I really wanted THAT platter.  And while I was putting it in my cart, I thought about where I was going to put it, and realized I didn't have enough room in my kitchen to store a simple flat platter.  And my kitchen/diningroom area has plenty of storage.  For, you know, normal people.  And I thought, wow, that can't be good.  So I put the platter back.  (And I'm picturing it now, sitting on its ledge, so pretty, just waiting for me to come visit it again.  But no!  I won't!  That platter is dead to me!)

Sigh.  I left without the platter.  But I did get a cute new apron (dude, it was still 2012).  

And then I went home and told Scott about what the next year was going to be like.  You should have seen his eyes light up.  


I didn't think about the potential for THAT.  

Best present ever.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Too much to bear

Today, I edited and uploaded a last-minute order for a client.  Then I went and had a massage with a friend.  And then we went to lunch, where we complained briefly about how they screwed up our order in so many ways, but in the end, made it very right. From there, I ran home, picked up my kids, grabbed what I needed and and hosted a really fun little party in my tiny office building.  It should have been a wonderful day.


 Someone went into a school and killed so many children.  And adults, too, but it's the children we'll remember.  Children who were the ages of our babies, or the ages we remember.  And it's in a town not very far from where my friend lives, my friend with a baby the age of the children who died, so it could have been her baby.  Or a town like mine.  Or a school like ours.  And I can't think about that.  I just can't.  

Because the thought that someone could come into such a safe place and destroy their lives, destroy OUR lives, is just... inconceivable.  It's real.  It happened.  But I just can't think about it.  Because if I think about it too much, I will go crawl into bed with my children and never let them go.   I won't let them leave the house, or leave the yard, or leave the neighborhood.  I will let the fear of loss of the most precious things in my life stop me from letting them HAVE a life.  Even now, just writing this, I want to go curl up with them and hold them tight.  I don't want to ever let them go.

And I'm scared.   Because we react.  We all will want to hold our children close and protect them.  We know that yes, it could happen to us, because it happened to THEM, and they are just like us, they ARE us.  What makes us so special that it won't happen to us, too?

 It could.  It really could.  And the thought of that possibility, to really think of it, with MY children... it makes my bones chill and my skin blanch and I want to dive for cover and stay there.  Forever.

 And as much as that scares me, what lurks in the back of my mind is, "how will we react?"  Will we let our fear drive us?  Or will we say, "This is rare.  This shouldn't happen, and it did, but will we let this fear determine our lives?  Or will we live - and encourage our children to live - through the fear, through the danger.  Will we tell them that yes, this was horrible, it was oh so horrible, but that you can't let this determine your choices?  That you have to take risks, you have to let people in, you have to live as if you will survive your adventures, because if you don't, you won't have adventures.  You won't have risks that you survive.  You will have a safe corner of a room that nobody comes into.  You can't be afraid.  You can't spend your days worrying that something bad might happen, just because it could.  Because every day that you do is a day that you've lost.  It's a day of your life that you've given to the monster known as Fear.  Fear can rule your life.  Fear can ruin your life.  Not as much as the person with the gun ruined lives this morning, I'm not diminishing that at all.  But that person, that PERSON, used fear, fed on fear, manipulated fear, to ruin lives.  

I feel sick when I think about what those families are going through.  I feel it for a moment, and then I have to stop feeling it, because it is just so much.  It is too much.  I can't think about it.  I can't feel it.  I can't let that thought, that feeling, take over my mind and heart.  I can't give that killer any more power over us.  

I don't know how to end this.  I started this with the plan to write about how I went through an ordinary day and something tragic happened in the middle.  And I did.  I worked.  I had a massage.  And I hosted a party.  And a horrible, unbelievably horrible, tragedy happened. 

 And it's almost too much to bear.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Great Expectations

My first comment, when it was over, was, "I SO want a glass of wine right now."

Except, really,  I didn't.  But I needed to say something, and it needed to be amusing.  Or distracting.  Or SOMETHING.  Anything but how I felt, which was discouraged.  And disappointed.  And tired. Wine is for celebrating.  For spending time with friends, and relaxing, and enjoying.  And by making my attorney smile a little bit at that, it made the moment a little bit better.

I expected to win this battle.  I thought, how could I NOT win?  It's so clear that they were wrong and we were right, and in a fair and just world, everyone would see that and make it all better.  It's ironic that I forgot the one thing I've tried so hard to teach my children:  it's not really a fair world.    Most things, if given enough time, work out.  Well, everything works out eventually... just not always the way you want.

The judge was great.  I really liked her.  If we were at a cocktail party, I would be hanging around her, wanting to be friends.  If she were on the PTA, I'd want her to be in charge.  She was smart, and fair, and had a great sense of humor.    And she did everything she could to be fair to both sides.  And though we lost one of our arguments, she gave us a bone and made it possible to keep fighting.

My attorney put the kibbosh on social media.  He advised strongly (accent was his) against me talking about anything.  So I'm not really talking about the case, beyond what I've just said.  This isn't really about that, anyway.

Losing, though.  I can talk about losing.  Because I didn't expect to lose.  I expected to be victorious!  By noon, I had hoped, so I could then hop in my van and drive to the beach for the weekend and hang out with my girlfriends and walk in the surf and read a book and ride my bike and shop at the outlet mall on the way back and have a lovely weekend.  It was a reasonable expectation.

But by noon, we realized we weren't going anywhere.  Not for a long while.  We got bumped to the end of the docket.   Which, really, was a blessing in disguise.  The early part of the day was spent watching the short cases  - the ones where they just needed a signature, or to agree on a new date for something.  The five minute cases.  They were pretty boring, really.  I had brought a book for that part.

We were supposed to be a 20 minute case.  I love how everything was structured by time management. The 30 minute cases came after us.  Well, before and after.   We were continued.  The 30 minute cases were fascinating.  There was a financial dispute - a man lost his house.  Then a mentally ill woman wanting a new guardian appointed.  There were broken bones involved.  And then a child-custody case, that was really about how the relationship between the husband and wife had deteriorated.  Suggestions of infidelity, tales of people smacking each other in the head with bottles (the mother in law!),  hints of lesbianism (accent mine, because it was said in the same way we used to whisper "cancer" 30 years ago... horrible, can't do anything about it, let's not say it out loud and maybe it won't be real).  And since this was all said by one side trying to increase time with the children, one might expect them to say horrible things that aren't real.  It was sad, really.  And the judge, who (did I mention I loved her?) said, basically, well, tough toodles, but you haven't shown me how this is any better for your children, and they are the ones we're talking about, so no, we're not changing it.  Good for her.

Watching these people, my problems seemed so much smaller.  So it was a blessing that I got to sit through that before our case came back up.  It helps to be a little more grounded in reality when you need to go fight the good fight.  And it helps when you lose.  Because you can say, "Well, at least my marriage is good."  and "I still have a house!"  and "I'm capable of caring for myself and don't need a guardian ad litum to protect me."  Comparison, it is said, is the thief of joy.  But sometimes, it provides the comfort of perspective.

So I went home.  It was 3pm.  My plans for hitting the road, avoiding the traffic, cruisin' down the highway with the windows open and the music cranked up, those plans took a little detour.  Scott asked me if I had seen the email traffic that day about our fight with the county school transportation department.  Yes, another fight.  Long story short:  we lost our bus stop, we want it back, and we've been fighting for it.  Our arguments have been reasonable, rational, and make perfectly good sense.  Which is why it is mind-boggling that we are losing this fight, too.

I hadn't seen them, because you're not allowed to have a cell-phone in court.  (Yes, that did almost kill me, thanks for asking.)  My phone had been exiled to a little locker across the plaza all day.  By the time I had freed it, I just didn't have the mental energy to check email and voicemail.  So the first email I saw was from a neighbor saying, basically, "Yay!  We have a new stop on our side of the park!  We won!"  And I thought, finally, some good news.  Small victories really do feel as good as the big ones.  And then I scrolled down, and saw the email denying my request.  Apparently, the first email, the new stop, was a mistake.  We didn't win.  Defeat, snatched from the jaws of victory, in the space of about 2 minutes.

Again, this is a little thing.  I have my health.  My home.  My family.   And this is when I have to stop myself, because this is so clearly a first-world problem.  We are fighting for a bus stop to get to a fantastic school that is a mile and a half away.  I recognize that I am spoiled, horribly spoiled, with where we live and what we have.  If you feel tempted to point that out to me, you don't have to.  I already know.

But damn it, I really wanted that bus stop.  

At this point, I quit thinking about the beach.  I start thinking about sitting on my patio.  It's a glorious day.  So I go sit outside.  I put my feet up, and return my mom's call.  I tell her everything that happened that day.  It's a long conversation, because I can't just summarize with her.  She needs the details, she's my mom.  I need to tell her the details.  Because then I don't have to tell my brother, or my aunts and uncles and cousins.  She'll take care of that for me.  And I'm so glad, because by the time we're done, I'm done.  I don't want to talk to anyone else.  I don't want to talk about the case.  I don't want to talk about the bus stop.  I don't want to talk.  Period.  I want to sit in the shade and drink my tea (yes, tea.  I know you expected wine, because it's ME, but again, wine is for celebrating.  Tea is the consolation prize.)

Oh crap.  I'm supposed to be at the beach.  I was supposed to be on the road by then.  And I just can't.  I can't do it.  When I feel like this, I don't want people.  I want my cabin in the woods, off the grid.  (My fantasy cabin has untraceable internet, no bugs, and good indoor plumbing... and is still off the grid.  It's a fantasy cabin.  I get that.)  I want to go inside myself.  And the friends I'm supposed to be spending the weekend with, well, this would not work.  I'm sorry, ladies.  I know I was supposed to be there with you, and before this, I really wanted to go.  But I just can't right now.  And this is not the first time that I have done this to you.  I'm really sorry.  Please don't expect me to be this loser every year.  I swear, next year, I am THERE.

So I watched Aliens with Scott and Ian and we ate too much ice cream.  I played on the computer and was horribly unproductive.  And when I went to bed, I slept for 11 hours.

Which, it turns out, was a very good thing.   I expected to feel better when I woke up, and I did.  Finally, something that goes the way you hope.  (Of course, I also expected to wake up several hours earlier than I did, but nobody complained, so I'm good.)   I went to the nature center, where there was a native plant sale going on.  I bought some plants I'm pretty sure are doomed to an untimely death.  I bought another button bush, which has these wicked cool balls on them, and this time, I swear, I will take care of it and nurture it, and it will grow and be happy.  Because I killed the last one.  Sorry, Rachel from the Nature Center.  I feel like I let you down.  I will not kill this one.

I think about everything on my list.  You know the list, it's that REALLY BIG one, that starts with "proof with these clients", to "sort Ian's clothes", "call lawyer", and somehow ends with, "gut the garden and start over completely."   I try to edit down  the list, but it grows as I write it.  In my mind, everything on that list is a reasonable thing to do.  And of course, I want to start with, "gut the garden and start over."  But I don't.  Instead, I start with, "buy plants".  Because when all I want to do is be inside myself, playing in the dirt feels good.   I know it will feel good later, when I start digging.   I get everything I expect from that.  I get dirty.  I get tired.  My kids come out and help by not helping at all.  I kill things.  I grow things.  Sometimes we eat them.   Sometimes, I just finish by being tired and dirty. It is everything I hope for.

So tomorrow, I dig.  And Monday, I will cross, "Call lawyer" off my list.

And I expect that I will feel a little bit sad about that.

And then I'll feel better.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dear Selena Gomez...

Dear Selena,

I am writing on behalf of my daughter, Josie, who would like very much to attend a performance of yours.  She is madly in love with you, and has been for nearly a year.  While that may not seem like a long time to you, Josie is only six, and a year represents a significant portion of her lifetime.

When I say that she is in love with you, I am not exaggerating.  She has all your CDs, even that first one that was, well, not your best work.  (The latest, though... pretty good!  None of us complain about having to hear it in the van, even the third or fourth time in a row.)   When her friends come over, she makes them all watch your videos on the computer.  I tried to explain to her that not everyone wants to watch videos and sing along to them for the ENTIRE playdate, and she looked at my as if I had just informed her that puppies come from stars and rainbows taste like fish.

We look at your website and follow your twitter feed.  Or rather, she will regularly, if I can figure out how to use twitter.  She has her own feed - RandomJosie, which we never update.  Sorry about that.

She has your poster in her bedroom, and she is now making her own posters.  There are several of them in our house, taped to walls, the refrigerator, pieces of furniture.  All of them at about 3 1/2 feet off the ground (eye-level for the six year old groupie set).  They are all some variation of this:

I particularly like that you are both wearing crowns.  In Josie's world, you are both pop princesses.

I know that you will eventually go on tour again, but I urge you to do it soon.  Because you are the kind of pop princess I can totally get behind, as a mother.  You haven't gone Britney (crazy) or Miley (slutty), and I was thrilled to read that you had turned down the lead in the movie, 50 Shades of Bad Writing.  Good girl!  I know I can say without hesitation that your mother is very proud of  you for that.

I'm sure this seems a bit excessive, a mother begging you to go on tour for her six year old.  But it's not.  Not really.  Because I know exactly how she feels.  I know the depth of her adoration.  How do I know?  Because when I was very young, I was going to marry Barbra Streisand's son so she could be my mother in law.  Because I loved her THAT MUCH.  I knew all her songs.  I LIVED Funny Girl.  I have "Sadie Sadie Married Lady" running through my head, even as I type.

I would have given anything A N Y T H I N G  to have gone to a Barbra Streisand concert.  But alas, it was so far out of my reach as to be just a fantasy.  One that I indulged by copying all the Streisand albums from the library (onto a cassette, so I could pause it and write down the lyrics, so I could sing the songs better), seeing all her movies, and having brief crushes on Omar Sharif, Ryan O'Neal, and Robert Redford (but mostly Ryan O'Neal).

Just this past weekend, we went to see the Sound Of Music Singalong, and I sang, "The hills are alive... and it's pretty frightening", just as she did, in her live at Central Park concert.  The music of your first love stays with you forever.   You are her first love.  You were her first "grown up" CD.    My first grown-up song was the 45 of Devil Woman, when I was maybe 9?  I don't know how old I was, but I can still remember playing it on the boombox on the dining room table.

Memories of music have staying power and you will always be a part of her life.  It sounds silly when I say it, I know.  She's only six.  She's got a crush on a popstar.  How serious can it be?  It's serious.  You will always be one of her favorite memories of her childhood.  And I can't think of any better present I could give this child of mine than to take her to see you.

She asks me weekly to check your website and see when you are going on tour.  I do it, because I don't want to miss it.    I want her to see you, and more importantly, I want her to see you as you are NOW.  Before you've grown up too much.  While you still have the fresh-faced Disney Princess look going.  While you are still young and sweet and innocent enough that we can go to the concert and enjoy your music and your dancing and not have to worry about the show being too mature (see above notes about Miley and Britney).  While you are still both what she wants to be when she grows up and what your mother wants you to stay, despite your growing up.  Because Josie wants to be you when she grows up.   And I am totally okay with that.

Because even at 45, I still want to be Barbra.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween Arlington Forest!

Dear neighborhood,

I love you. I just wanted you to know that. I love your children, who come bouncing from house to house, as high as a 10 year old can get on sugar. I love the ones who are nervous, the ones who are brave; The ones who, in some minds are too old to be doing this, but are trying to hold on to the joys of childhood for one more year. Rock on, 12 year olds, my candy basket welcomes you.

I love that most of them say trick or treat, and thank you. And the ones who don't aren't being rude, they're just usually 3 years old and still fascinated by the concept of candy, and a little afraid of the scary pumpkins. I love that the adults are wise adults, and while they go out with the younger children, they let the older ones run in bands, fearless in the night. I love that the older children ARE fearless... because they know that even though bad things do happen in the world, they are still young enough to have faith in the security of home and family and neighborhood.

Neighborhood. That's the key, really. We've got a good bunch of folks here. We've got families from all across the globe - some have been in the area for generations, some are still learning the language. I love that my kids are relatively colorblind. I know that won't last forever, but for now, it's working. I love that we have block parties. I love that the elementary school has a Halloween parade where the children - all the children - march through the neighborhood and to the senior center. That parents line the streets to watch, and the residents of the senior center welcome the children with oohs and aahs about their costumes, and the children are so excited to show themselves off.

I know that there are some bad people in the neighborhood - there are bad people everywhere. But I also know that the neighbors have eyes and that my children are known. And that if something happens, someone will say something. So I feel safe letting my child run with the other kids. I feel especially safe on Halloween, when there are parents everywhere. And I love that this night, that is supposed to be the scariest night of the year, is actually the safest night of the year. We send our children out with tales of axe murderers, of zombies and vampires. And they feel so brave, walking through the night, approaching strange houses and asking for treats. And that bit of bravery, their badge of courage is shown in the bag of candy. "Look how many houses I went to!" translated to "Look how many strangers I talked to!" A sentence that elicits fear in the mother, but pride in the child.

And I am proud. I'm proud of my child for overcoming her fear of strangers; of my neighbors - strangers to someone else's child - for being kind and welcoming; of the children who come fearlessly to my door, knowing that their parents raised them to not be afraid of everything in the dark; and most of all, of my neighborhood - the families that surround me with goodwill. The families I entrust my children to, however briefly.

So in your honor, dear neighborhood, I will not be checking the candy sacks. I will not be looking for poisoned apples and razorblades. I know that the urban myths are just one more thing designed to instill fear, and how there has never actually been a case of either razorblades or poison in an apple (outside of Snow White, that is). And I trust you.

Next year, let's hand out popcorn balls and toffee apples, and treats we've made from scratch. Let's show the world that even if they are afraid, we are not. Because we know that most of the fear in the world is manufactured, not based on reality. That we live in a safe word - safer than we have ever been. And our children are, for the most part, very safe. And the things we fear are not the things that endanger us (otherwise, we'd all be wearing costumes of cholesterol and high blood pressure, and drivers falling asleep at the wheel. And how do you even make a costume of heart disease, cancers and stroke, which account for 57% of all deaths in america?)

Our fears are unfounded, our children are safe. Our neighbors are good.

Our neighbors are very good.

And our candy is delicious.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Struggling to not be me

My life used to be quiet. REALLY quiet. Cats and NPR kind of quiet. (Well, except for the Karaoke part.) Now, it's not so much. You know - the kid thing. Two kids. Dog. Cat. White picket fence and all that. And it really IS all that. It does live up to the hype. I love everything about it. So the noise thing? I've adjusted. It's been totally worth it. (At least a good 90-95% of the time.)

But the kid thing? I'm still trying to adjust. Not to having them, of course. That part, I've got down pat. I've got my own, I borrow my friends', I work with them. The kid thing is great. Even the loudness. Especially the loudness. The adjusting part is to not being ME around them. Or rather, to not being the 'first reaction' me.

Because right now, there are about 10 kids in my backyard (I'm estimating). Only one of them is mine. They are all loud and rambunctious and doing all the things that kids are supposed to do: They are kicking balls as hard as they can across the yard (and I only had to tell them once to please stop kicking them into the window, so bonus!) They are swinging swords (okay, fine, light sabers) at each other. They are whacking things with plastic bats. (Only once did I have to tell them to please quit hitting my metal planter with the big wooden stick.) They are attempting to break into the house to fill Super Soakers (and it will be a failed attempt, because once I found the first random kid wandering out of the kitchen, I locked the doors) They are raiding my garden and throwing the last of my tomatoes at each other. They are climbing on things the wrong way, and landing on each other, and someone, I just know it, is going to get hurt.

And this is where I have to stop myself from trying to stop them. My first reaction is to say, "stop that! Its dangerous! You could hurt someone, or break something," But I don't say that. I don't let my fear of something stop them.

Because this is what they should be doing. They should be yelling and running and climbing and falling and throwing and almost getting hurt, and maybe actually getting hurt, and getting over it, so they can get up and do it again.

And I get to watch and listen to it all, because my office faces the yard. I wanted to be able to keep an eye on the kids while they play but still be able to work. And this seemed like such a great idea. But now I hear them all the time. And see them. Ian just came out from behind the shed, carrying a cardboard container of what I hope is only dirt. Julia is climbing up the slide, backwards, in bare feet, and someone climbs over her to go down the slide. One boy is standing on a swing, holding on to it with one hand and trying to climb up the frame. Ian is now, I think, planting something. I have no idea. I'm trying really hard to not open the window and ask what they are doing. I think of the physics concept - that the act of observing something changes it. And I don't want to change a thing.

So as I sit in my office and hear random shouts of cherry bombs (cherry bombs!? What do they know about cherry bombs?), I close my curtains. Because somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember not being observed by grownups when I played. I remember being kicked out of the house and being told to go play somewhere, anywhere. I remember going into the woods in the morning and coming back before dark. I remember wandering around construction sites, the smell of clay permanently embedded in my mind. I remember climbing the pine trees behind my house. They were sturdy at the bottom, but as you got to the top, they were thin and would sway in the wind. I would get scared when I looked down, but I loved the view, and loved the smell of the pine, and hated the sticky residue on my hands. But the residue was my proof that I did it, so I loved it, too.

I remember going down to the creek, and climbing on the rocks, and reading the graffiti left by previous generations. And I remember almost getting hurt. And definitely being scared of things (the big kids, the dark, the unidentified noises, the mysterious makers of the randomly discovered forts). I remember the excitement of coming home at night, having survived another day of being a kid.

It's hard to survive something when your mom is standing over your shoulder, protecting you from the little bumps and bruises that may come your way, or when she's watching out the window, telling everyone to play nice and be fair.

I do want him to be careful. And I want him to play fair. But I really want to just be a voice in the back of his head, telling him to think about what he's going to do, but then after thinking about it, to DO it. Because I REALLY want him to climb the tree. I want him to scrape his knee on the rocks when nobody is around to help him, and feel the pain of picking the little rocks out, and know the relief that he gave himself from doing it. Because the next time, it might not be gravel in his knee. It might be a broken arm, or a broken heart. But he will know he can do it, that he can get through the fear and the pain. That he can survive taking chances. That he can survive being a kid.

This is a lot to think about, when I'm also thinking, dude, you guys are so loud, and man, you are totally going to break that! And do you know how long it took me to GROW those tomatoes? I have to stop that voice. So I close the curtain. The real one. The mental one. I go get more coffee, and I wonder, briefly, what my other kid is doing upstairs, because she's being awfully quiet. And quiet, NPR and cats notwithstanding, isn't always a good thing. And then I tell her to go play outside.

Monday, July 5, 2010

You won't remember this...

Oh how I love Jeff Scher. I just discovered him, purely by accident.

Technically, I'm working right now, as I avoid cleaning the cat box and the basement and the kitchen, and avoid going outside to work in the garden because it is literally a hundred degrees out, and since I just got back from taking my children bowling, I'm also avoiding them, but really, it's totally for their own safety at this point, so yes, I'm working.

And by work, I mean, Hmmmm.... what's happening on today? And then follow some story to another story to another story about summer (ugh, which feels like it's just rubbing itself in my face at this point, but I digress) which leads me to a story about an artist named Jeff Scher, and the next thing you know, I'm on his website, and oh, you have got to go there, too.

He creates these amazing little films. I bounced around his site a bit, looking at this and that...and then I saw "You Won't Remember This"... about a baby. His baby. And you may already know this, but I kind of have a thing about babies. And it made me want to go hug and kiss mine and pick flowers with them and maybe even take them back to the bowling alley some day.

Well, maybe.

So what are you still doing here?? Go! You have a film to see!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

new site followup

quick update - the site is done, I sent an email to the company for it to go live, but they haven't done it yet. Keep checking back - it should be up any hour (day?)


news news shoes shoes shoes

What's new? The website! Whoo hoo! I finally updated it! There are actual pictures, and slideshows, and text that isn't out of date! (For at least a week, that is.)

I know I'm excited.

It's not that I hate working on the website. I think it's kind of fun, actually. But it's fun in the way that working on my garden is fun. There are moments I want to throw in the trowel because it isn't anything like I imagined it would be (few things are, though). And then there are moments when I IM everyone I know to say, "Dude! You have to see this!! What do you think?" Because I am nothing if not needy for very instant feedback. (Yes, I did just write "very instant" - it's faster than simply "instant".... the world has gotten faster, and "simply instant" is sometimes still too slow. I am not ashamed to admit that I stand at the microwave and whine. But when you need to reheat your coffee, and you just put in more cold milk, it takes f o r e v e r. Seriously.)

But I digress.

Which is actually part of the reason the site takes so long to get updated. I have a tendency to digress in my life. Work on the website... look for good images to put on the slideshow that nobody has seen, get caught up in retouching a file that you want to use, next thing you know I'm rewriting a marketing piece to use that image, then I have to send it to Steff for her opinion (she rocks the printing world), and once I'm on with Steff, well, that day is shot. Because now Steff is in ROME. So to make up for the lack of hanging out in person-time, we now hang out online. We're totally unproductive. And as a side note, I recently discovered that it's totally possible to shoe-shop online in two different countries at the same time.

So now I have way too many shoes (how many different pairs of black strappy sandals do you need? I'm up to six, I think, but they are all different, and all totally cute.), and I think I can completely blame Steff for this. You see, Steff and I wear almost the same size in shoes, but slightly different. A 9 always fits one of us, depending on the shape. If I get a pair and they don't fit, I am sure they will fit her. So I have been putting together a box of random things to send to her. It started out as just cookies and a book, but let's just say, in the traditional Washington style: "Cookies were eaten." And the box was too big for just a book. So what the heck, let's throw in that pair of shoes that didn't fit but were oh so cute. And one pair became two, and now I don't even try on the shoes when I'm shopping at Marshall's and I have Josie with me, because in the back of my head I have this little voice that says, "oh, it's okay, if they don't fit, you can put them in Steff's box." And dude, they have some way cute shoes at Marshall's. And sometimes I'd get them just because I'd think, oh, this is going to be so funny when she opens THIS pair of shoes. (Yes, I am now actually buying shoes with the hope that they don't fit so I can have an excuse to send them to Italy.) There are other things in the box besides shoes, I swear. But not many.

So last week, Steff's husband Dave was in town, and offered to take back with him "The Box". Until I told him what was in it. And then he said something about how he only brought one extra suitcase, and maybe mailing it WAS a good idea after all. But I think it was because he didn't want to go through security and have to explain why, in his suitcase with his military uniform, there was also a pair of black leather 6 inch dominatrix heels.

It was an impulse buy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dear Martha Sotelo,

Hi Martha - can I call you that? Or maybe Marti? I feel like we should be on a first-name basis, since you are apparently living in my house. It's funny, I haven't seen you, but it's been rather messy around here, and it's entirely possible I've confused you with a pile of newspapers. I really hope I don't turn into one of those old women who can only get from one room to the next by following the path between the stacks of newspapers. Although, of course, that will never happen, because I have WAY more magazines than newspapers, and as you know, magazines are glossy and rather slippery and piles of them would topple over and kill me long before I get a chance to grow old.

But that is a problem for the future, and my problem for the present is where are you?? And WHO are you? I feel this is a fair question to ask, since you are now receiving mail at my house. At first I thought it was just a piece that was placed in my box by accident. That has happened before, and it's always fun to see what the neighbors are buying. (I have to admit, though, none of my neighbors mail is as interesting as my friends' neighbors' mail... she accidentally received an 'adult device' and opened it before she realized it wasn't actually addressed to her, and then had to solve the problem of how to return it to the neighbors without a) being seen and b) having them know that not only does SHE know about their, um, proclivities, pretty much everyone she ever met now knows). I'm a little jealous, really. Marti, you don't happen to subscribe to have any outstanding catalog orders that I should be looking for, do you? Perhaps something, oh, laptop-y? Or Pottery-Barny? Nothing has shown up yet. I swear, NOTHING has.

Well, except for your 15% off Holiday Shopping Pass to Doodlehoppers 4 Kids, which is also one of MY favorite toy stores. It's a wonderful place to shop, don't you think? I always get sucked in when I'm there, and I claim I'm buying all the Hello Kitty toys for my daughter, but I really do love Chococat. It may be why all of my cats are black - they remind me of Chococat. Did you know that black cats are actually the LEAST favorite color of cats? I find that appalling. And I have white furniture. If anyone should hate black cats, it should be me. But I don't. I think they are kind of cute. And they don't show as much dirt as you'd think (although really, if that were my basis for selecting a pet, I would TOTALLY get a calico cat).

So if you shop at Doodlehoppers, then I can only assume that you also have small children. Are they living with you? Are they living HERE? I haven't seen them at all! There are frequently many small loud children running through my house at any given time, and I have a hard time keeping track of all of them. One of two of them could very easily be yours. I hope you don't mind that I've left the Cheetos and Little Debbie Christmas Cakes out on the counter tonight. If your kids come home with a sugar buzz, I take full responsibility. Normally I try to not have Cheetos and Little Debbies in the house, especially since I spent a ridiculous amount of money to lose weight this year, but the Cheetos are for guests, and the Little Debbies are a bribe for my toddler so she'll go to school and not complain. I'm so sick of the whining. I imagine you must be, too, since you're living here. It's probably why I haven't seen you - you've been avoiding the noise. I don't blame you, no ma'am, I don't blame you at all.

Here are a couple interesting death facts, since we were in fact, talking about death by magazine stack - did you know that Bosnia (yes BOSNIA) has a higher life-expectancy than the US? I find that amazing. I am assuming that they are removing from the statistical analysis death-by-genocide. But, you never know. My other favorite death fact: You have a higher chance of dying from an asteroid impact than from dying in a tsunami. I am not making this up. Somewhere in this post is a link to those statistics. Since we know that lots and lots of people have, in fact, died in tsunamis (tsunamai?) in recent years, I can only assume that the movie Armageddon was actually a documentary. Which is kind of disappointing, since it was a pretty bad one at that.

Did you know that in most documentary films, there will be a random dog wandering through across the screen at some point? I watch a lot of documentary stuff (well, I used to, before I had children and hosted random mystery roommates), and that was one of the things I would do to amuse myself when we were at the slow part of the film. Because let's be honest, there's always a slow part. I love documentary film, but there is almost always at least one scene that makes me long for an exploding asteroid. Who knew I was just watching the wrong documentary?!

So, Martha, back to you. Did you honestly think I wouldn't find out you were living here? It's not as if you pick up after yourself. Clearly, you're the one responsible for all the dirty dishes left in the sink at night, and for the clothes that never get picked up. (You really must stop trying on my things and throwing them across the chair - I'm getting rather tired of it.) And the next time you leave toothpaste on the sink, would it really kill you to wipe it off? I mean, come on, you're at the sink already. The water is already running.

And tell your kids to please quit leaving dirty fingerprints on my mirrors. And if you're going to let them wear my chapstick, could you please, PLEASE, tell them to not kiss the television screen??

Okay, Martha, I need to go clean up one of your messes. Apparently, when you had dinner earlier, you didn't tell your children to not eat under the table, and now there is a crumbly pile of cornbread. You know, I was saving that for dinner tomorrow. Thief.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I love six month babies!

This one, oh my, sweet enough I could dip her in my coffee!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gobble Gobble! Thanksgiving Ramblings...

I asked him, "Hey Ian! It's Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?" (Yes, I was shouting, because I am at my computer on one side of the room, and he's at the other end, playing something called, "War Machines", which I should probably tell him to not play, but at the time, he's happy, quiet, and he's not shouting, "Die punk!" So we're good, right? Right! So, yes, I shouted across the room.

He walks over to me, reciting, "I'm thankful for all of my friends and all of my family... and that means you, too!" It sounded a little rehearsed, like they'd been discussing it in school this week. And I'm okay with that. If the schools are teaching my kids to be grateful they have friends and family, dude, I'm all over that. Yay for school!

I can't ask Josie yet, because it's 8:55 am, and she's still upstairs asleep. (Which leads me right into what *I* am thankful for at the moment!) But I'm pretty sure she'd say, "princesses... and kittens.... and princesses... and pink princesses...." because that is her answer to almost any question you could ask her. "Hey Jos, what did you dream about last night?" "Hey, Jos, what do you want for Christmas?" "Hey, Jos, what are you going to be when you grow up?" Yep, still in that stage.

And I can't ask Scott, because he isn't here at the moment. He is on his way to see his mother. He's stopping at the grocery store for her, and then he's going to see his father, who is in the hospital recovering from some nasty bit of this or that. They live about an hour and a half away from here, so he'll probably be gone most of the day, and that's okay with me. I love that his family is important to him. It's at the top of my "what am I thankful for" list.

Family is such a weird thing. I mean, really. We love them. We hate them. We want to be just like them when we grow up, and we want to be NOTHING like them when we grow up. They drive us absolutely bonkers. Some of them are people we would NEVER choose to be in the same room with if there weren't some sort of pie and a turkey involved. And yet, when we're together, it's all good. It's warm and fuzzy. Because it's family!

The Thanksgiving mornings I remember: It was cold and gray outside, but the house is warm and toasty (and bathed in a soft golden light, although that could be residual memory of the 70's gold rug we had). It smells like sage and turkey (we ate "dinner" at 1pm so mom started cooking EARLY). The Macy's parade was on tv, and sometimes we watched, sometimes it was just on. We would stay in our pajamas until noon, because we could. I honestly don't know what my brother would do, but I would read, or work on my dollhouse (I was constantly remodeling) or watch tv all day. Sometimes we had family living with us, sometimes we didn't. But either way. It was good. Memories are like that. No matter what they were really like, we tend to only remember the best parts.

I really should be cooking the turkey now. It's in the fridge. I think I was supposed to brine it. I forgot. Well, I didn't actually forget, I would just remember at inopportune times. (Like now.) I'm not in a rush. We've got all day.

Josie is awake now. She and Ian have discovered the parade. They're eating popcorn and sharing a leftover McFlurry (don't judge me) and are actually watching it. "Pikachu, Ian! And Spiderman!" They love it! Excellent. Life is good. I'm happy.

Scott should be at his mom's by now. She's been alone in the house (well, if you can ever truly be "alone" when you have four cats) for about a week now. She loves that house. We love the house. It's full of history, both personal and national. I know that one day my kids will grow up and Scott will be away and I'll be alone in my house. There are days when that happens now, but at night, the kids are back and there are the usual noises. It's eerily quiet when they are having sleepovers elsewhere. The house feels so big then. I wonder if the house feels too big to his mother when his father is away? I wonder if she ever gets creeped out by going to the basement to do the laundry? (I know I would, but I always get creeped out by old basements. It's just one of my things.) Or is she like me, where she waits until the day he's coming home and then cleans the house in a flurry? I don't imagine her being that way. With Scott's mom, things get done. She's good that way. So is my mom. They do what needs to be done, and don't waste any time. (wistfully writes the procrastinator.)

Parade update:
"It's the battery rabbit, Josie!!"
"Rabbits don't have glasses.... hahahahahahahahah!"

Here is a little parable about cell-phones. Be careful, because someday, your pants might call your mother. And it will happen at, oh, inopportune times. Like, say, when you're discussing them. (Ack!) You won't know about it right away. You'll be talking about something else - like how crazy it is that we still can't seem to wrap ourselves around dollar coins, and would it really kill our country to finally go metric? And then you'll be talking about this house you're going to buy. And how excited your parents are for you. You'll talk about how they are all getting older, and who will come to live with you first. You'll talk about how when you are remodeling the house you just bought, it's important to have a bedroom on the main floor, because even if nobody comes to live with you, someday YOU will be older, and less mobile, and will need fewer stairs. And somewhere in there, you'll work in a conversation about something totally unrelated on where you want to travel next, Rome, or Africa (who would have guessed Seattle would have won?), and how England would be cool because we could see Hadrian's Wall, which would be so much easier to hike than the wall in China. And all the while, your mom is listening.

Parade update:
"Look at that big yellow bird, Ian! And Elmo!"

A few days later, you're talking to your mom, and she says, "Oh my god, you two have the most boring conversations. I almost fell asleep listening to you." Um, what? Oh no, what did we talk about? Her! Them! I ask if we said anything I should be apologizing for, and thank goodness she said no. And she was glad to hear that we weren't going to kick her to the curb when she got old. Haha. I'll even make sure your socks match, I tell her, If you play your cards right.

It was never a question to me IF she'd come live with us someday. It's always been a matter of when. We always had family living with us when I was growing up. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. I loved it when they were there. It was like having a big sister or brother. One who let you borrow their clothes and their 8-track tapes, and read their comic books, but who never teased you. And I loved having my grandparents there. I just loved it.

I miss them, my grandparents. I think about them a lot on days like today. In a little while, everyone would start showing up. Nanny should be sitting at the kitchen table while mom and my aunts fuss around the stove and talk about who did what, and can you pass that? Papa and Daddy and the uncles in the living room, watching football and telling the kids to settle down, can't you see we're watching the game? My cousins were much younger than me (oddly not so much younger now that we're all over 30), so they would be playing with my brother, and I would be off doing my own thing. I used to threaten my mother with the possibility that I'd be volunteering at a homeless shelter the next year, and she'd say, Oh no, you won't. You'll be right here where you belong. And we'd argue over why I could or couldn't do that or something else. Because by then I was 15 or 19 or 23 and I was old enough to make my own decisions. I was going to travel the world, I was going to save the world, I was going to do Big Things. And I could volunteer at a shelter on Thanksgiving if I wanted to! Except I never did. Because my mom wanted me to be home.

Parade update:
"I want to play my Wii games!!!"
"No, sweetie, the parade is still on. It's what we do on Thanksgiving."

And eventually we'd all come together. There was never enough room at the table for everyone to sit there, so Nanny would sit there, and one or two others, and the rest of the family would be spread out around the living room, finding a seat where ever they could. We'd take a plate over to Papa, who was in his Chair. The table would be covered with food - so much food. Turkey, of course, and mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes and raisins under a blanket of marshmallows. Stuffing in the bird and stuffing from the oven. Corn, and green beans and lima beans. Cornbread and biscuits and gravy. Pumpkin and pecan (that's PEEcan, not peCAHN) pies. We would have these huge, heavy plates balanced on our knees, and a glass of sweet tea, because there was always sweet tea, and we would eat and exclaim how good it was, and could you pass the butter, and oh, did you try the pie?

We didn't pause to say grace, because the gratitude was implied. We knew how much we had. We knew how lucky we were to have it. Eventually the noise of the meal would quiet, and we would settle down and get to the business of eating, until we put down our plates and leaned back, full and happy and drowsy.

My uncle would pick up a guitar then, and start playing. Always the same songs...Fly Away (it was Nanny's favorite), The Sweetest Gift (who can resist a song about prison on Thanksgiving?), The Boxer. A lot of Johnny Cash. We would sing along to the ones we knew. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I realized that almost all the songs Davy played were hymns. To me, they were just 'family music'. Davy spent some time living on the mountain, as they called it. My grandparents had a small farm in NC, and he lived there by himself one summer, teaching himself to play guitar, and no doubt acquainting himself with the cousins with the still. So it would stand to reason that he would be learning the music that was in the house - a hymnal and my grandmother's music books for the electric organ. And Johnny Cash, of course.

Parade update:
The Big Apple Circus is onscreen, Josie is standing as close to the tv as possible and lining her princesses up in front to watch. "Ian, look at that big elephant! He has a ear."

After we ate, and after we sang, and after we ate some more, and after we cleaned up, and after we called the relatives who couldn't be there to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, and after we made our plans for Christmas and drew names for the Secret Santa Exchange (at which we failed miserably - annually) the children were gathered and coats were put on. Hugs and kisses and goodbyes and promises to see each other sooner next time.

We are always sincere - we do want to see each other soon. Because even when we drive each other crazy, even if we sometimes can't stand to be in the same room together, even then... we're family. We've got our own kind of crazy. Our people know all about our crazy, and they love us anyway. In spite of it. Because of it. Because it's family and it's what you do.

Parade Update:
Andrea Bocelli is singing. Josie is crying now that she wants to play the Wii princess game and she has an ouchie on her foot because Ian hit her head. (I saw the whole thing - he refused to change the parade to the Wii... she's a little dramatic.) The tv people mention that Santa will be here soon - I forgot that Santa ended the parade! I run in, "Josie! Ian! Santa will be in the parade!" "But I want to play my Wii game!!!" "Look Josie! Kermit is in the parade! Kermit is real!" (That was from Ian, not me.)

Yep, we've got our own kind of crazy. It's the kind you visit and the kind that lives with you. It's the kind that fights and the kind that sings. It's the kind that comes together when it matters.

And it's what I'm thankful for.

Final parade update: Santa is on. He's lip-synching. They kids don't notice. "It's the real Santa! Not just the guy in the suit!" I love how excited they are about Santa. I can't believe we actually watched the whole parade. I don't know that I ever have before. Ian put on the princess Wii game, and they are playing together and not fighting. I'm off to the kitchen to make too much food, Scott will come home, we will eat and make phone calls and eventually someone has to walk the dog.

It's a good day.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, October 12, 2009

oh ye of little faith...

Make that ye's... Yee's? (what IS the plural of ye?) Nevermind.... we can just go with Doubting Thomas', or Naysayers... go ahead and pick your pleasure. It's all the same really. You didn't think we could do it. And I wasn't sure we'd make it. But we did! Mostly, anyway. :)

This was a long weekend. Ian left school early on Wednesday for a dentist appointment, and then there were two days of parent-teacher conferences before the three-day weekend. So, yes, that adds up to 5 1/2 days off. And we had nothing big planned as distractions, just mostly work and working on the house. That is a LONG time. And my kids are at the age where they fight over EVERYTHING, especially what tv show they are going to watch. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Ian: Josie, wouldn't you like to watch Spongebob?
Josie: Yes! But I'm watching Max and Ruby.
Ian: Okay, let's put on Spongebob!
Ian: MOM!!!! JOSIEBLAHBLAHBLAH!!!! ZEKESTOPIT!!! (our kitten, Zeke, likes to attack Ian at the slightest provocation. It crops up into almost every conversation.)

And so it goes.

So Friday, while we were having dinner, it happened. I'm not sure exactly why, or how. It just did. Perhaps I had just noticed how nicely everyone was eating, and mostly the same things (as opposed to the typical dinner that has added servings of cheese sticks and applesauce for the kids). Perhaps I was thinking that we were going to all be home for several days together, and wouldn't it be lovely if we did things together, like the families in the magazines? Maybe we could bake bread. or do a puzzle. I had a lot of things to do on the house. All of those things, I'm sure, were floating around in my head. And then I said it.

Me: Hey guys, I wanted to tell you about this weekend. We are going to have a no-screen weekend! It's going to be great! No tv, no computers, just doing fun stuff!

Scott looked at me funny, and only later did I realize he was thinking about the Redskins. But he didn't say a word, the sweetie pie.

Ian: So can we play games?? I have a bunch of games we can play!
Me: Sure!
Ian: Cool! Wait a minute, you said I could watch tv after dinner.
Me: Um, yeah, but just one hour, and then it's bedtime.
Ian: Okay. Cool!
Josie: I want a cheese stick!
Scott: You all got that, right? No tv at all, no computers?
Ian: Yes already! Geesh.

I posted it on Facebook (yes, I began my no-screen weekend by posting it online - the irony of which was posted out to me by several people.) and everyone seemed, well, less-than-confident that we could pull it off. So I turned off the computer. (I hadn't done that since the last electrical storm - it felt very strange to do it without the threat of lightning frying my electronics.)

We woke up Saturday with no ipod music playing, no alarms (accidentally - I left my cellphone in my purse), and no fighting from downstairs. Very few sounds at all, actually. The kids got something to eat and then were playing. Josie played in her room, then in the basement. Ian played outside, then read. We did our regular routine, but without the breaks of sitting in front of the tv or the computer.

Ian asked several times if he could watch something, but once we reminded him, he was fine. Josie was a little more persistant. She didn't quite seem to grasp that "no tv" meant, gasp, "NO tv". She tried arguing for different shows.
"I need to watch Maisy!"
"No, you don't."
"But Max and Ruby? Pleasssseeeeee?"
"No." "Spongebob? My brother likes Spongebob!"
"The princess movie on the ipod? That's not tv." (good argument for a 3 1/2 year old, but still,) "No."
Eventually she would storm off. (I hid the remote, and none of us know how to change channels without it. So that's about all she could do.)

We got a lot done. I got more work done on the house and garden than I had in a month of Sunday's. It was great! When I was installing the shelves, the boards were too long, but only by about 1/2 inch. So I got out the circular saw that a friend lent me but that I've been too chicken to try and use (hey, you could lose a finger on that thing!), and cut my boards. I was so proud of myself! They fit! I hung shelves. I put doors on cabinets. We rearranged furniture. And this was just on Saturday. It was great. I basically wandered around the house looking for things to attack with the drill and hammer. I loved it.

By Sunday, though, it was really starting to get to the kids. Ian was done with what he was terming "the experiment". (I had told him that I wanted to see if they got along better with no screentime, and Boy Howdy, did they. They played with each other, nicely! They would disappear into the Basement Of Lost Toys for hours. It was wonderful.)

But eventually (and by "eventually" I mean, "almost immediately") even the best of kids want their routine. Ian told me that his friend came over but went home because our house was boring. Then he refused to come outside, and just sat in my office. I could see him through the window while Scott and I were outside building a raised garden bed from leftover patio stones. I mostly directed, from the swingset where Josie and I were swinging. (Why aren't grownups supposed to swing, anyway? I LOVE swinging. I hate pushing, but man, I still love being on the swings.) We would ask Ian to come out, to play with us, to help with the garden, to play with the dog, but, no, no, no, he just didn't want to. He was having a horrible weekend and we ruined all his fun by not letting him have any screentime, which is the MOST fun in the world and he was done, just DONE with this experiment. So there!

Enh. Whatever. I had a swing and a garden bed that was practically building itself, just waiting for me to take credit for it. ("Why, yes, it IS a lovely garden! We worked so hard putting it together! Oh, sure, Scott helped some." Yes, I would totally do that.)

When we were done in the back, we wandered around to the front, and puttered around a bit there. I'm planning on turning much of my lawn into gardens, and we needed to sit on the patio chairs and talk about it for a bit, while Josie ran around barefoot in the yard, picking dandelions. It was really nice, actually.

The door opened and Ian walked down the steps, carrying his little orange suitcase stuffed full of stuffed animals and clothes.
"You going somewhere?" I asked.
"I'm leaving! I left you a note in your office and you can read it if you care about where I'm going to be!"
"That's MY SUITCASE!!!!" (Josie, of course)
"Is this about the 'no screentime' thing?" asked Scott.
"Yes! You ruined my fun and you're ruining my life and I'm going to find a new family where they let me watch tv when I want!"
"Okay, well, see ya!" I said. This wasn't the first time he threatened to run away. But my usual response had been to tell him how terribly lonely that we'd be without him and that I would miss him so much and blah blah blah. But seriously. Over tv? And we were having such a lovely time.
He took a deep breath. "Goodbye!!" And he walked down the front steps slowly. He looked back a couple times. By the time he was to the driveway, Josie had burst into tears.
"I want my brother to live at our house!!"
"I know, sweetie, I do, too. Maybe if you went to tell him that..."
Ian was halfway past the neighbor's house.
Josie started down the steps. (Scott and I were still sitting quite comfortably in our chairs - no need to get up for this drama.)
I looked over at Ian. He has stopped. He turned and looked at us, then he started sobbing. He ran back.
"I can't believe I lost my mind! I can't believe I was going to lose my family!" He flew into Scott's arms, and Scott began consoling him.
"It's okay, you came back, that's all that matters."
Josie had come back up the stairs. She picked up Ian's suitcase. "Here you go, Ian!"
I was so relieved. I was worried we were going to have to tail him around the block until he came back.

"Can I watch tv now?" Ian looked so hopeful.
"Dude! No! We're NOT WATCHING TV tonight!" Geesh. Ya gotta give him credit for trying.

The rest of the evening was actually fairly uneventful. The kids went to bed. I cleaned and sorted and kept on with my manic frenzy to 'accomplish things'. And eventually, the experiment ended.

This morning, I woke up to the sounds of Nickelodeon.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Normal is good.

There has been much coughing and sleeping and fever in our house over the last week or so. A lot of sleeping. Because to get through the coughing and fever, it's pretty important that you sleep. For me, that's all I can do when I'm sick. I take to my bed like a southern belle with the vapors. I want nothing other than that sweet space between Nyquil and coma. I love that space. Not all the time, of course. I'm no junkie. Well, not since I cut back on caffeine (whimper) but I'm not, I swear.

But sleep. Sleep is good.

Unfortunately, trying to sleep with kids in the house, not so easy. My job for the past couple days, therefore, has been to stay OUT of the house. Because while *I* have had my flu shot, my kids haven't yet. And while they were sick and sniffly and coughing, they weren't feverish or achy. And that was a stage I had hoped to avoid. Which meant we had to avoid Scott, who was smacked upside down by some annoying little flu bug. So Scott was layed (laid? I never get that right) up in bed. He needed sleep. I knew he needed sleep. How did I know? Because my guy, who works until the job is done, no matter how long it takes, actually came home early and went to bed. Voluntarily. And stayed there for so many hours that they turned into days.

And so he slept. And I was out all day with two kids. Easy-peasy, right? Well, sure, except that those were the days that the skies opened up and spit on us. (Thanks a lot, Mother Nature. Right back atcha. ) No computer, other than my ipod and cell phone (hello twitter updates!) No work, because two kids are... um... well... let's just say I was a little tired at the end of the day. (Okay, fine, I passed out in my kids bed every night at 8pm. There, are you happy?) I got nothing done but keeping the kids alive and keeping my Sweet Baboo asleep in a different room. For days. I'm pretty sure that they skipped baths two nights in a row, but nobody actually complained. And now that we have a dog, we can blame a lot on the wet dog smell. (yay!)

And yesterday, the sun was shining, and my sweetie pie got up. He wasn't completely well, but he was definitely better. So laden with bottles of Robitussin, aspirin, and that nasty pink stuff you take to settle your stomach (I swear, I just totally blanked on the name - I have been losing random nouns from my memory for years), he went to work. And stayed all day. And ate dinner. And is officially on the mend.

Which means that today, my life got a little bit closer to normal.

Normal is good. Normal is underrated. I like normal. I like everyone feeling relatively healthy. I like knowing that people are leaving and returning at about the same time every day. I like knowing that if I put on Max & Ruby, I can set off fireworks, and Josie won't notice. (which is how I've managed to babble on for so long - we're on the second episode already! whoo hoo!) Who am I kidding? I love normal. Normal means that Scott goes to work and the kids go to school and playdates and I go to work, and then we come home and we fuss over the homework, and play, and eat dinner, and fuss over baths and bedtime, and struggle briefly with the 'family bed' concept that we should really put an end to, but it's never worth the fight THAT night, we'll save it for the weekend, except that weekend never actually gets there (maybe this weekend?) but eventually we all fall asleep. Maybe not where we planned to be, but all sleeping somewhere. Sometimes spread out in several rooms, sometimes like a big pile of puppies, all on one bed. And in those in between moments when we wake in the middle of the night, when a small sleepy body has snuggled into yours, and you reach out and hold a hand, or press your face into their hair and inhale deeply, these moments, this sleep... this is the sweet stuff of life. This is normal. This is all I want.

[Oh, and since this is technically a work blog, here's some recent pics!)