Monday, April 30, 2007


My mother has a story that she likes to tell about me - a story that illustrates the challenges that she faced with me. Once, for some transgression long forgotten, my mother sent me to my room. I responded, "Fine! I like my room!" She upped the ante by stating that I couldn't play with any toys. "Fine! I'll read a book!" Mom, hanging on to the very end of her rope, screeched back that I was to sit in the middle of my bed and do absolutely nothing. I clenched my teeth and hissed at her, "Fine. I'll just sit on my bed and think. It will be fun." There are other stories about me: The Great Hot Dog War, The Cold Water Dish Discussion that Never Ever Ever Ended, The PSAT Screamfest. But the Sit and Think story is generally the first one offered as an explanation of just what it was like to parent a kid like me. Now, I'm lucky enough to have a kid like me. My mother must have said, "I pray that you have a kid just like you!" enough times that God granted her wish, if only to stop the incessant bleating of her prayer. Of course, Jacob isn't just exactly like me. He's an individual all unto himself. But he is enough like me that I feel both blessed and challenged. A few years with Jake under my belt has given me a complete understanding of why my mother tells that story. Once, a preschool teacher said of Jacob, "He'll either be a leader or a ring-leader." That is the most accurate description of Jake that I have ever heard or given. He is charismatic, he is charming, he is cocky and cunning. He has POTENTIAL written in ten story tall upper case neon letters with a flashing red border. He also has the propensity for skating along the edge of acceptable behavior. As a parent, I watch him grow with an uncomfortable mix of emotions ranging from unadulterated hope to ohmygoodnesswhatthefuckamIgoingtodowithim all at one time. And while I understand Jake, having the benefit of my own experience as a spirited person, I still have no idea what to do sometimes. I understand what he's doing. I understand why he is doing it. And I have a disconcerting lack of ability to actually change anything or put him on a safer path. Tomorrow, Nick and I have a meeting with Jake's teacher and the school counselor. They have "concerns" according to the note. I have been twisting and turning over this meeting for over a week now. I'm sure that it will be the first of many such meetings over the course of Jacob's academic career. My fear is that Jake will be labeled and stereotyped, pigeoned firmly into the problem hole and never permitted to escape the assumptions that follow. My hope is that these women see a gifted child who is a little bit immature and that maybe, just maybe, they have a better idea about how to help him grow up to be a leader instead of a ring-leader.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

13 things you should tell me

Hey there, everybody! If you are reading this, I want to hear from you. To make it easy, I'm going to give you a list of 13 questions. And you don't even have to answer every single one! And (this is the best part!) you get to GIVE ME ADVICE! Now pick your jaw up off the floor and start commenting.

  1. Do you know me already?
  2. If not, how did you find me?
  3. Do you knit?
  4. If not, would you like to?
  5. Is "wheretofor" a stupid word?
  6. What book do you think I should read?
  7. What movie do you think I should see?
  8. What song do you think I should hear?
  9. What topic should I blog about?
  10. Are you a baseball fan?
  11. If so, what's your team?
  12. Do you practice Tai Chi?
  13. Do you have any workout DVDs that you recommend for this lazy mama?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Plaaaaaaaaay Ball!

Hurrah! Today is Jake's first baseball game of the season. I'm so excited that I can hardly stand it. I will strap two camp chairs, an assortment of snacks, 10 water bottles, and a variety of toddler entertainment devices onto my back. Then I will slowly hike to the correct field, stopping along the way to chat with other parents and perhaps help to catch a runaway child. I will pry Claire off the slide so that the big kids can play. I will swat away approximately 500 bugs. I will apply sunscreen to children and self and nag my husband to do the same. He won't, and then I'll tell him "You'll be sorry tomorrow!" After setting up camp on the side of the field, I will walk all the way back over to the line of port-a-johns because Jake will have neglected to use the bathroom before we left the house in spite of numerous reminders, then sprint back to the field while trying to fasten his belt because his team is taking the field. All of the hoopla buys me a first class seat to watch the simple joy of boys playing ball. It's a bargain, if you ask me. I know there is a lot of noise about little league parents sometimes. Sometimes parents go a little crazy and bad things happen. I've seen a few parents like that in our league too. Fortunately, I think those parents are few and far between. The majority of the parents are really just there to support their kids and enjoy the show. It's not about living through our children, or even reliving our own childhoods. It's about watching our kids live their own childhoods and create their own memories. Jacob doesn't just take the field, he socializes his way around it. He chats with the coaches in between batters. He chats with the runners on the bases. He plans with his teammates, "I'll get the ball if it comes on this side of that grass clump. You get it on the other side." And the whole time, he has a huge grin on his face. He is completely in his element. It is a joy for me to watch the easy way he has with the other children. After the game, Jake recounts the entire game for us. According to him, they always win. He smiles and chatters about how he slid home (he always slides home whether it is necessary or not), how Ben is a slugger, how funny it was when two fielders ran into each other (it happens at least twice per game). He rattles on while I pack up our miscellany, all the way to the car, and all the way home. He always ends the conversation with a question. "When is the next game?" I will answer, "Not soon enough, kiddo. Not soon enough."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ordering Cacophony

I'll all over the place lately and my thinking is very disorganized. This happens to me every once in a while and quite honestly, it freaks me out. I like order and routine. I like thoughts to follow one another in a reasonable manner. I like connections. Instead, what I've got is cacophony. Ants! Work! Knitting! Gray! Baptism! Books! Whining! Ants again! Fat! Behavior issues! New words! Snuffles! Blech. My general reaction to cacophony is to pick out one or two strands of sound that might become a melody. I follow one instrument for a few bars, then try to listen for a repetition or expansion of that. So that's my strategy for dealing with the current mish mash. I'm concentrating on my weight loss/fitness goals and on knitting some socks. The rest of it, I'm ignoring more or less. I am beginning to wonder if I'm going about this the wrong way. Maybe I should just embrace the noise for what it is. Maybe I should see if that leads me someplace new. I think perhaps my mind, that pesky little organ, has realized that the current order fails to account for all data and is looking for a new theory of everything. Perhaps that explains why I start thinking about what happened at Virginia Tech and inexplicably end up patterning lace socks with a subtext of database organization. So, for today anyway, I'm just going to let my mind go instead of standing by with a whip to keep everything moving in the same direction. We'll see what happens. By the way, the ants are back. They found a new hole. Since Nick was out of town, I became emotionally invested in the ant war. They are going DOWN. Also, potty training 101 did not happen this weekend. Plans were made, socializing happened, and there were no hours on end in the house to spend on the toilet. I'm rescheduling for Memorial Day weekend, pending toddler interest.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The post in which you discover that I am truly capable of evil things

Remember the ants? Take how much they annoy me and multiply that by 1876. That will give you an approximate value of how much Nick hates them. They're making a renewed attack via the ceiling in the back room (it's a sun room of sorts). They are coming in through the roof, down through the dropped ceiling, and crawling around on a shelf a bit. Nick caught them before they left the shelf. He's been checking the ant status on the shelf about every two hours and giving me updates. So, I went to the library and got a book for Jacob called The Life and Times of the Ant. The book is very pro-ant. It discusses in detail how smart ants are, how social they are, and has vivid diagrams of all the parts that make Nick shudder. So last night, I read part of the book aloud to Jacob while Nick was within hearing. We read the parts about mandibles and antennae. We read the parts about pheromones and vibrations. We read the parts about all the eyes, both simple and compound. We got about halfway through the book. Jacob told Nick, "Ants are really neat! They're our friends!" Nick might never forgive me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Take a deep breath and go!

It's time, I think, to potty train Claire. She takes off her diaper by herself when she wants a fresh one. She tells us when she's pooping - just in case we missed the obvious red faced grunts and the squat. She completely strips and announces, "I go potty TOO!" anytime that anyone of us makes a toilet related comment. The only thing that's stopping me is that she's never actually gotten any urine in the pot, accidentally or otherwise. I freely confess that I loathe potty training. In many ways, diapers are easier. There are no cheers, no m&ms, no long minutes of sitting in the bathroom chatting happily while nothing happens. Diapers are quick, easy, and not too messy. Going on the potty is excruciatingly slow and very, very messy. Who wants to clean a plastic chamber pot umpteen times per day? Especially with an independent toddler who screams "MY DO IT MYSELF!" at every opportunity? Playing tug of war with a pot full of crap is not my idea of a fun time. And then there is the reading about the potty. "Joshua sat and sat and sat and sat and sat.." Mommy yawned and yawned and yawned and yawned. And then Mommy realized that reading a hand-me-down potty book written for boys is probably not the best choice for girls who have different parts. It's enough that I'm having to deal with constant potty talk. I don't need for Claire to be pawing herself looking for non-existent bits and pieces. Still, I think the time is right. Claire's interested. Nick and Jake will be out of town this weekend. The opportunity could not be more clear! I will buy the right book, some thick cotton panties, and a pound of m&ms. Well, maybe two pounds of m&ms. What else am I going to do while sitting in the bathroom all weekend?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

13 crafty projects for this year

  1. Socks for my MIL - one almost finished! I had to rip aout and restart. Bummer.
  2. Socks for my mother - yarn bought, pattern being contemplated
  3. Curtains for my kitchen and backroom - fabric has been sitting in the basement for three years
  4. Quilt for my daughter - about 1/3rd of the way finished
  5. Bulletin board for my kitchen wall - in the planning stages
  6. Ipod sock for Heatherly - a nice quick project that will be fun
  7. Socks for me - I deserve a treat
  8. Chinese brocade evening bag - I bought the fabric on a whim
  9. Shopping bag knit from plastic shopping bags - quick, fun, and if I like it then I might make a bunch for Christmas presents
  10. A tree skirt - I've been dealing with a cheap crappy small one for too long.
  11. New window treatment for the living room - I hate those vertical blinds and don't know how to clean them.
  12. Sweater for my daughter - hopefully I'll finish it before she outgrows it! Oh well, I can always give it to a friend.
  13. A hat for Jake for next winter - he's outgrown the last one.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The ants go marching

As surely as spring follows winter, as the sun rises in the east, as water finds the lowest level, the ants come marching into the house. It's an inevitable rite of spring. Year One The ants came in the back. Nick didn't get mad, he got even. He googled "ant destruction" and printed out a ream of instructions for getting rid of the ants. Scientist that he is, he organized experiments to evaluate the effectiveness of each technique. After an horrific three week battle, the ants were driven back with vinegar, yeast, and caulk. Year Two The ants made a surprise attack into the front door. They found the crumbs in the big blue chair, left by sloppy snackers. Nick came home from work to find the chair crawling with ants. He vacuumed them up and went to get the vinegar. Then, and the horror of the memory is almost too much to bear, the ants started crawling out of the vacuum. Nick screamed and put the vacuum out onto the front stoop. Lesson learned - we use the shop vac now and then immediately take it out back to be rinsed. The ants were once again driven back with vinegar, yeast, and caulk. Year Three Nick made a pre-emptive attack. He put out the yeast and splashed the vinegar out the back and front doors. The ants outsmarted him and came in the side door, where they found nirvana, aka the kitchen trash can. While battling the little beasts on that front, Nick was distracted from noticing that a separate contingent had come in the back. The grey Berber hides them well and we nearly lost the house to them. Eventually, Nick prevailed but the cost was steep and paid in sanity. Year Four Last week, they tried hiding in the Berber again. Nick drove them back ruthlessly and with amazing alacrity. We even got a little cocky about it. And then this morning, they were in the kitchen. Jacob found one by the trash can. He has been listening a little too closely to his mama (who can endure most, but not all bugs), and he refused to squish it. He picked it up and carried it outside. We ate our breakfast in mild tension, wondering where and when the next ant would be found. Then! Five ants! In formation! In! The! Middle! Of! The! Kitchen! They have paratroopers! It's the only possible explanation. Jake ran screaming into the bedroom with Claire shadowing him. "Ants! Dad, wake up! We have ants! We have ants! I'm going to scoop them up and put them outside!" Nick's eyes popped open, the whites showing all around in terror. I rounded up the children and managed to get them in the car. Nick, awake and angry, set to the ants. I don't know the outcome yet, but I suspect it was bloody. Or perhaps vinegary. Listen up ants, you might as well find some other house to invade. I know our kitchen floor is full of goodies. I know that the trashcan holds rotting food beyond your wildest imagination. But we are bigger than you, we are stronger than you, and I do believe that we might just be smarter than you. Watch your step, because I'm not watching mine! Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Hiding eggs and finding people

My mother and I hid eggs for the children yesterday. My father passed on the opportunity and did the dishes instead. My sister hadn't arrived yet, and our husbands were both absent (mine from illness, hers at work). So, in typical fashion, my mother and I were left to the preparations. Also in typical fashion, we were pleased to do it. We headed outside with a bowl rounded over with plastic eggs. There were four large eggs containing windup toys, four more large eggs containing premium candy, and then multitudes of smaller eggs stuffed with jelly beans and chocolate. It was a good-sized haul for four children. Mom held the bowl and fretted. She pondered how to hide the large eggs so that each of her grandchildren would find one. She worried about whether they would swap if one grandchild were to accidentally find too many special eggs. She carefully picked eggs from the bowl and hid them for the individual children: One in the high bird feeder for 11 year old Hunter; one on the ladder for 5 year old Jake; one in the flowerpot for timid 2 year old Elizabeth; a green one in the daffodils for sharp-eyed 2 year old Claire. I, on the other hand, took an armful of eggs and started chucking them around the yard. Some landed in the grass, easy to find for the girls. Some landed in the shrubbery and flowers, hard to find for the boys. An hour or so later, the kids hit the yard. Claire ripped past everyone with her "bakset" and found the most eggs. The boys took care of their sisters, finding eggs for them and crying out out, "Over here! See the pink one?" Each boy found the egg carefully placed for them by Grandma, and each of them delighted in the finding. Elizabeth hung back and watched the hoopla with wide eyes and a big smile. Claire gave Elizabeth a few eggs from her own basket. Mom ran around checking baskets for equality. I realized that I didn't know where all the eggs were hidden, and so had to comb the yard myself to make sure that none were missed. The experience is a nice summary of us. My mother always worries that someone will feel left out or unloved. I tend to dive in and then deal with the consequences later. Dad's busy taking care of the unseen details. My sister comes in late and with gusto, preferring to be the guest at every party. Our children are carving their own roles in the family, as caregivers and cooperators.

Friday, April 6, 2007

I would have killed Him.

It is Good Friday. I do not usually talk in very personal terms about my spirituality, although I have been trying to on this blog occasionally. For whatever reason, I am compelled to discuss it today. It is hard for me because a good many people that I respect very, very much are not Christian. I do not want to open myself up to their disdain. Also, a good many people that I respect very, very much are Christian. I do not wish to open myself up to their disdain either. Nonetheless, it is Good Friday. That's the day when we put are cards on the table, spiritually speaking. So, the truth. I would have killed Him. Or at the very least, I wouldn't have tried to defend Him. The thought inevitably occurs to me during the passion on Palm Sunday. How could it not? I'm in the pew, crying out "Crucify Him!" with the rest of the congregation. That, I think, is the whole point of the passion. We are the mob. We are the people who upon hearing the Word, chose a thief instead. When I put myself on the street that day, when I consider who I am and where my weakness lies, I know that I would have been shouting too. Some years, some years when I am feeling either very virtuous or very delusional, I think that maybe I wouldn't shout out. But how good is thinking that I might have just kept my mouth shut? I would still be complicit, although less involved in the process. This sort of quiet complicity is evident in my daily life. I don't actively hurt people. I don't personally kill people. Instead, I stay home and keep my mouth shut. I don't shout out. On Good Friday, I feel the weight of my inaction. This year, too, I know the truth. And then on Easter, I'll pick myself up and try again. Maybe next year will be the year that I can say "I would not have killed Him."

Thursday, April 5, 2007

13 things I like about my body

As promised! I just know that everyone has been waiting on pins and needles for this.

  1. My eyes. Trite, I know, but mine are pretty.
  2. My earlobes. They are unattached but not too floppy.
  3. My arms. While flabbier than they used to be, they are still relatively small compared to other women of my size. They aren't T. Rex small, though, so just get that image right out of your pretty little head.
  4. My hair is really shiny.
  5. I don't have a lot of extraneous hair. This is a blessing because I am a lazy shaver.
  6. My wide hips. Seriously. I'm shaped like a woman and I like it.
  7. My posterior. Thank goodness I don't have that flat white woman bottom that torments so many of the women in my family.
  8. My moles - with the exception of the ones in my armpit. They make the vast white expanse of my skin so much more interesting.
  9. My hairline. It's silly, but I'm really glad that I don't have a bunch of hair growing down the back of my neck, because that would mean more maintenance. And we've pretty much already established that maintenance is not my strong suit.
  10. My legs. They are strong.
  11. My nose. Not too big, not too small, not too perfect.
  12. My teeth are nice and straight, without benefit of braces, even if they are yellow.
  13. I have a nice Cupid's bow on my upper lip.
I challenge each and every woman who reads this (all eight of you), to stand in front of a mirror and find 13 things you like about your body. Women are beautiful and we deserve to feel beautiful sometimes.

I am not an idiot?

Last night, I had plans with Michele. (I'd link to her blog but she doesn't have one. You need to rectify that, Michele.) She lives a few hours away but was going to be in town on an errand. So we made dinner plans. I was excited, people. Michele is awesome and fun. And dinner out in the middle of the week? Pure hedonism! We were to meet at 6:15. 3:45 - Mapquest directions. Read them over, thinking "Uh huh uh huh uh huh .9 miles. Got it. I can do that because I am not an idiot." 3:50 - Receive call from Nick. He's running late, Jake's baseball practice has been canceled. We decide that I will pick up Jake go home where we will wait for Nick. 5:15 - Nick arrives home. We decide that Claire will stay home since she's on a nap strike. She's as cranky as a bear woken in January. Jake will come with me. 5:35 - Jake and I leave. 6:00 - I'm almost there (or so I think). I get gas since we've got time to kill. 6:08 - Hm. It's not here where I expect it to be. That's OK! I can find it! I'm not an idiot! 6:12 - Hm. It's not this way either. Oh, I know! It's actually on this other road. I must have been confused. 6:18 - Hm. It's not here either. Maybe the other way. 6:25 -&*$&%&* 6:30 - Uh-oh. How did I get on this highway? OK, no problem. We're only 15 minutes late. We can find it! I'm not an idiot! 6:35 - "Yes, Jake, that's the airport. Yes, it does appear that I'm driving in circles." 6:40 - We stop at a liquor store and look up the address. It was on the first road, but miles away from where we were. I am not an idiot - Mapquest was wrong. 6:45 - Back on track. 6:55 - $%&*^& We should have found it by now! 7:00 - We give up and hit the McDonald's drive through. I return home with my tail tucked firmly between my legs. 7:25 - Arrive home, look up Michele's number. Call and apologize. And SHE apologized to ME! She apologized to me because I am an idiot. Now that, my friends, is a nice person.

Monday, April 2, 2007

A First Easter

Last year, around this time, Nick and Jacob watched a National Geographic special about Good Friday in the Philippines. A Filipino man was willingly crucified in a re-enactment, although he did not die. The show left deep marks on Jacob. Nick, a non-Catholic and non-practicing Christian, was at a loss to explain. He managed a "that man believes that being crucified will bring him closer to God." He deeply regrets watching the show with Jake - Nick just did not realize how much Jacob would be affected. Jake had nightmares for a few weeks, and has talked about it on and off for the past year. I think Nick had nightmares too when he realized what had happened. But we talked about it and talked about it and talked about it, and I think that Jacob has as thorough an understanding as any five year old can. And this lent, Jacob has been making big strides in his faith. Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Jake was excited about the palms and the procession. He understood about Jesus riding into Jerusalem and relished the procession. I half-think he was expecting a donkey to ride by! Once we were settled inside, I sent Jake off to the Children's Liturgy and listened to the passion myself. A little while later, Jacob came back with a construction paper palm leaf. He had drawn on it. I bent over to look at it closely. "That's Jesus with the cross. And see? I drew this other path. He's going to go the wrong way and then he won't die on the cross." The kind lady behind us gasped a little bit. I might have as well. But then it was time for the Lord's Prayer and we moved on. So, in many ways, this is Jacob's first Easter. I'm trying very hard to explain the resurrection as thoroughly as the crucifixion. It is hard. The sad truth is that suffering is easier to understand than salvation But I will persevere. I will find a way. If my boy is going to understand sacrifice, he's going to understand love too.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

How to make a boy happy

Step 1: Go to turtle park and climb on turtles. Suggest that he kick off his shoes and climb barefoot. Step 2: Surprise him with a trip to Pizza Hut, where he can redeem a gift certificate he earned by reading. Step 3: Get thoroughly soaked in a rainstorm on the way back to the car. Step 4: Reminisce about the time you got wet all the way down to your underwear (make sure to say "underwear" in a scandalous tone. Step 5: Enjoy the giggling.