Friday, June 29, 2007

Is that a goldfish in your pocket?

When I sat down at my desk a little while ago, I felt a strange wad of something in my pocket. It turned out to be three little goldfish crackers. I know that they must have belonged to one or both children because I do not eat the foul things. I cannot remember how or when I put them in my pocket! I have to assume that I did it last Friday since I haven't worn these jeans since then.

Anyway, this is a common occurrence. I often find my children's belongings in odd places with only the vaguest of memories of how they got there. The Playmobil pirate in my purse was probably confiscated at church. The lime green barrettes in my lunch bag? Probably shoved in there some morning when I didn't have quite enough time to fix Claire's hair. (By the way, Claire wears the plastic Goodie barrettes that I remember from my youth. I never wore them because my mother swore they wouldn't stay in my hair. I honestly believe she just didn't want to deal with finding a matching set on a busy morning - a stance which makes more sense every year. Nonetheless, seeing neon pink poodles in Claire's hair gives me indescribable joy.) One day, a glittery pencil with a shimmering translucent star-shaped eraser ended up on my desk at work. I can't even begin to guess how or why.

I love all these little surprises. They remind me of my kids when I'm not with them. They illustrate family life on a small scale - everyone's stuff just gets mixed in together sometimes. We all carry around each other's baggage. So when I'm looking for a mint in my bag and find a Hotwheel instead, I just smile, spin the wheels a bit, and send a little love to the owner.

Monday, June 25, 2007

City Kids

My husband was out of town this weekend. On Sunday morning, unable to face the inevitable chaos of both children at church, I took the kids to Suson Park instead. I was hoping that the combination of running, new experiences, and fresh air would wear them out. Then, I schemed, I could do housework on Sunday afternoon while Claire slept and Jake played quietly.

So off we went! We had a blast. We started by walking around the perimeter of two lakes. Well, they were very small lakes or very large ponds. Claire was not thrilled about the walking. She insisted that I carry her. When I protested that she was heavy, she refuted me. "No! I little! You big, I little!" We looked for fish, named various waterfowl, and met a very nice woman with a dog. Jake particularly enjoyed quacking at some ducks. The ducks didn't seem to enjoy that very much at all.

We played on the playground for a long while after that. Jake explored the entire playground while I pushed Claire and Girlbaby on the swings. Girlbaby is taking on an increasingly important role in our lives. She merits her own swing these days. I had a little trouble pushing a 30 pound toddler with one hand and a 10 ounce doll with the other. We're all lucky that Girlbaby's leg got caught in the swing, stopping her from flying into the dirt. That would have been the end of the day right there.

We wrapped up our trip by visiting the "farm." There were several kinds of animals, each with it's own pen/building setup. The children were captivated. We learned the names of all the horses, laughed at the silly goats, and examined the chickens. Several piglets were running around their outside pen. Claire and I stopped to look while Jake ran ahead to their little barn. Seconds later, he reappeared outside with a cartoonish look of astonishment. His eyes were round, his mouth even rounder, and his hair was standing up. Well, his hair habitually stands up but it served to underline his astonishment. "Mom! You've got to come in here! They have a giant pig!" It turns out that Jake thought the piglets were normal adult hogs.

I finally managed to drag Claire away from the floppy headed chicken and head home. As predicted, Claire took a three hour nap and Jake was tired enough to play quietly. I failed to predict how tired I would be, however, and wasn't able to get all of the housework finished. Oh well, fifty years from now, we'll remember the giant pig. I doubt we'll remember the dust bunnies under the beds.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

It's all in how you draw the window

I was popular in high school but I didn't know it. A few years after I had graduated, I ran into one of my former classmates. I knew the girl well enough to remember her name and say hi, but not well enough to consider her a friend. We chatted politely for a few minutes about weather and recent events. Then she shocked the shoes right off me. "You know," she said, "I used to be so jealous of you. You were always so popular." I blinked at her for a long minute. Popular? Did she say popular? Wait a minute here, she said I was popular? I, the outsider who never really felt accepted in that small town, was popular? I could not process the idea at the time. I just blinked at the poor girl, barely managing to stammer out a semblance of a goodbye.

I did have friends - good friends who saw me through some rough times. But we were all Army brats and all transplants into that small Missouri town. Our core group of 4 or 5 friends was tight but we all felt like outsiders. We banded together because we were aliens, not because we had any real affinity for one another. To think that anyone viewed us as the social center was a novel idea, if not downright laughable.

More recently, I have been reading along and participating in a discussion regarding cliques in online communities. These communities can be large and people often form small groups. Sometimes, members feel left out. These alienated members accuse the others of cliquishness. Sometimes that seems to be true. Other times, it seems to be solely the perception of the alienated member. (S)He doesn't fully participate and is upset when (s)he's not fully included.

The same thing is happening among the school mothers that I know. I see some women naturally gravitate toward one another. Perhaps they were friends before school started or perhaps their sons are friends with one another. Maybe they just plain like each other. But over the course of this first year, we seem to have organized ourselves into several fluid groups. As baseball season grinds to an end (and by the end, it is a grind), I've noticed that one woman seems frustrated by her perceived lack of inclusion in any of the circles.

I have just about decided that it's all in how you draw the window. Go grab your copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Go on! I'll wait for you. Doo de doo de doo. OK, got the book? Look near the end when Harold starts drawing windows. He's looking for home, right? He knows that home has a window, so he starts drawing windows and peeking inside of them. He draws a whole city of windows and is dismayed when he realized that none of them are his window. After a little more wandering, he draws another window. This time, he draws the window the right way. He's on the inside, looking at the moon through the window. And finally, he's found his way back into his bedroom.

Now, I know that people can be catty and mean and exclusive. Some people are that way all of the time. Most of us are that way some of the time. But I also am beginning to understand that much of inclusion really is dependent upon perception. It's all in how you draw the window.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It didn't seem like such a good idea

Claire's been helping me with dinner lately. Anytime she sees me standing at the counter, she starts shoving a chair across the room while hollering "I make dinnah! I make dinnah!" I obligingly shuffle over to make room for the chair. I chop, Claire puts the chopped goods into bowls. We talk about "sharp" and "hot." She sneaks bites. I pretend not to see that her cheeks are bulging with a quarter of a pound of chopped vegetables. She rearranges my silverware drawer, licking all the forks. I don't care.

Then this evening, I was making chicken and dumplings. I'd cooked the chicken and the stock last night, so was pulling chicken off bones while waiting for the stock to melt. "I do it! I make dinnah! I do the chick-kin!" I thought to myself that maybe letting Claire do the chick-kin wasn't such a good idea. Before I could come up with an alternate job, she had her hands in the pile of bones. She pulled out a leg and started peeling off hunks of meat. Figuring that what's done was done, I let her continue. I just kept a close eye for bones in the bowl and made sure she got the pieces with the big bones.

Wouldn't you know that I got a bone in my bowl - and it was from one of the bony pieces that I did. I do believe that Claire might be a chef savant!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Have some poetry with your coffee

Poetry, or lack of poetry in our current society, is an occasional soapbox of mine. Laura, who posted 13 poems the other week, and Katie, who requested readers' favorites, seem to be joining me. Terrific! There's room up here for all of us. I can't really choose a favorite poem, but I will cotton to preferring the modernists most of the time. ee cummings is a perennial favorite. Since I've posted one of his before, I offer instead the spare loveliness of William Carlos Williams.

This Is Just To Say
William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Thursday, June 14, 2007


It's time to get out the broom and attack the dust bunnies.

  • If your link is over on the side there and you are letting your blog wither away, I'm going to be deleting it shortly. If you want it back, just let me know. And by the way? If your link is over there? I care about you and want to know how you're doing! You don't have to write a fancy blog entry or anything, but you could pick up the phone once in a while and call your mother. Er...I mean post a comment here or elsewhere to let me know that you're still kicking.
  • I don't know what I did, but the months are not in English anymore. Is this a personal issue or is everyone else seeing that too? Does anyone know how to fix it? If so, please fill me in and save me the bother of thinking. Thanks a bunch. (And wouldn't it be interesting if that suddenly happened in real life? Like one day you woke up and everyone was speaking Italian? And maybe there would be a little switch in your brain that you could choose which language you will be hearing today? Frankly, I'd choose something obscure today, some dead language that no one speaks. Then my blank look would be genuine lack of understanding instead of the confounding inability to actually listen carefully for more than two minutes.)
  • If your blog is NOT withering away and you think I ought to link to it, please let me know. I need more to read.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Daycare Pickup

MOM! Hi! Did you get my binoculars! Oh you have my binoculars. It was so AWESOME! I saw a new bald eagle. Well, it was at the bird show but it wasn't the other bald eagle that we saw the last time, it was a NEW bald eagle. Hey! They must be outside! And then the goat got me MOMMMMMYYY! right here on the knee! And he tried to eat my pants. I had to give I want a drink of water! my binoculars to Miss Michelle and then I ran out of the pen through the gate Drink of water! Drink of water! I run! because this little black goat was eating my shorts! No, Claire! I want to drink first! OK! Jacob get a drink first! I get a drink of water! Blissful silence for 30 seconds Hahahahaha! It went up my nose! Up the nose! Up the nose! We didn't get to feed the goats this time. We just went into the I ATE ALLLLLL THE COOOOOOOOKIES!! pen to pet them but they kept trying to eat my binoculars and my shorts. HEY! Is Rita in the car? All the cookies! I ate all the cookies! Cookies! Cookies! I like the cookies! I know we have to hurry! I know I have a baseball game! Wanna look at the picture! Wanna look at MY picture! She wants to look at her picture, Mom. HEY! What's a meercat anyway?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cookies, Goals, and Birthday Parties

First, a cookie for Carrie since she's a smarty-pants who figured out my fisherman crush. That picture made me laugh really, really hard. Second, Katie tagged me with a goal meme. Katie would do that because she's like all goal-oriented and productive. My goals tend to be smaller and simpler like:

  1. Feed children every day.
  2. Don't go batshit crazy until Friday.
  3. Wear clean clothes.
But because I like Katie and because I strive to be all goal-oriented and productive, I'm taking it seriously. I tend to live day-to-day and while that's terrific for survival (which really, is a lot to ask of parents with young children) it's not so terrific for long-term happiness. So, I offer ten goals both personal and professional for an unspecified period of time. Hey - I'm writing goals. The deadlines will come later. Perhaps I should make setting deadlines one of my goals.
  1. Start praying the Angelus morning, noon, and night.
  2. Reduce my cursing to the truly necessary instead of an unsightly (unhearingly?) habit.
  3. Figure out once and for all what I want to do with my life. Failing that, at least figure out what I want to do next.
  4. Write the story that's been rattling around in my head for too long.
  5. Reduce my television habit to include only shows that I really enjoy, instead of a long list of shows that are only okay. My time is worth more than only okay.
  6. Lose enough weight that the image in the mirror matches the image in my mind.
  7. Stop yelling.
  8. Become a sql badass.
  9. Personal thing between me and Nick that I'm not sharing.
  10. Throw a birthday party without a panic attack.
And that nicely brings me to the last topic of birthday parties. I am skilled with the segue, no? Jacob's sixth birthday is on Friday. His sixth birthday party is on Saturday. In years past, I have prepared for Jacob's birthday party by imagining ever larger social catastrophes which will scar Jacob for life. Those catastrophes have never happened. Instead, I am likely scarring Jacob for life by allowing myself to become so tightly coiled that the tiniest problem could launch me to Mars. He wasn't old enough to remember the Great Cupcake Tantrum of his first birthday party or the This Isn't Performance Art This Is Me Losing It Because the Cake Is Not Yet Iced event that started his second birthday party. He is old enough to remember me freaking out over RSVP's, super hero masks, and the fact that I couldn't remember Spiderman colors from last year's party. This year, there will be no freak outs. I will take deep cleansing breaths. I will make lists of what needs to be done, have Nick check them, and then complete those lists in a timely fashion. I will remember that this is a birthday party, no more and no less. And when I feel the panic coming on, I will sing the Spiderman theme song.
Spiderman, Spiderman, Does whatever a spider can Spins a web, any size, Catches thieves just like flies Look Out! Here comes the Spiderman. Is he strong? Listen bud, He's got radioactive blood. Can he swing from a thread Take a look overhead Hey, there There goes the Spiderman. In the chill of night At the scene of a crime Like a streak of light He arrives just in time. Spiderman, Spiderman Friendly neighborhood Spiderman Wealth and fame He's ignored Action is his reward. To him, life is a great big bang up Whenever there's a hang up You'll find the Spider man.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Human Dim Sum

Summer has officially arrived. Arrived isn't exactly the right word. It's more like summer slunk in the back door like an uninvited guest. You were having a perfectly wonderful time with Spring when you realize that the ambiance has changed. Then you see Summer lurking over by the punch bowl. Before you even have a chance to say goodbye, Spring is out the front door. The party is over and everyone is milling about, listless and unhappy. In St. Louis, the heat doesn't bake or scorch. It steams. The air is so thick that it provides resistance as you walk. If you squint your eyes just right, you can see people pushing the air around as they move through it. The humidity rankings get more and more ridiculous. "Be careful out there, folks! The heat index is 105 with 96% humidity!" 96% humidity?! Isn't that technically underwater? Sweating offers no relief. The sweat cannot evaporate since the air is already over-saturated. Instead, you just add layers of uncomfortable slickness to your skin as the day passes. By the time the sun sets, you feel like human dim sum ever so gently steamed in your own juices. From the safe vantage point of an air-conditioned home, the world looks verdant and inviting. Then you step outside. Everything green smells like cabbage. Even in the middle of the night, the lawn smells overcooked. Even in the middle of the night, the air wraps itself around you like a shroud. Welcome to summer. I'm locking myself inside until fall.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sailing in the Ditch

I enjoy watching Deadliest Catch, probably more than I should admit. I even have a little crush on one of the sailors (anyone who guesses correctly will get a cookie). I like it because it's just life. Nobody gets voted off, nobody wins a million dollars, nobody comes in last place. It's just life, writ large and small, on a boat very far away from me. In some ways, that life is familiar. The sailors are stuck with their crew. If they get angry with one another, they have to work it out while working on the deck. They don't have time for disagreement, but they can make time for fun. And when the sea gets rough, they have to look out for one another be they brothers or strangers. This season, one boat has been spending a lot of camera-time "sailing in the ditch." According to dashing Captain Andy (not my crush, sorry), sailing in the ditch is a dangerous proposition. Waves come crashing over the unprotected sides of the boat instead of being absorbed by the strong bow. The captain sounds an alarm when he sees a wave coming. All the deckhands grab onto whatever support they can find, duck their heads, and wait for the water. I hold my breath every time I see it. The problem, evidently, is that the string of crab pots were laid before the storm hit. Then, if the captain and crew want to earn any money, they have to take the risk of sailing in the ditch to collect the pots. Right now, I feel like I'm sailing in the ditch. It's been a long, rough week and the waves just keep coming. Jacob is having a really hard time. Work at the office is not going smoothly. I'm not sleeping well. I'm having ear issues again. Claire is tantruming at the drop of a hat. I know that most of these problems are small. Most of these problems will go away soon. But for now, I just keep picking up the pots, grabbing support wherever I can, and enduring. I'll get the bow turned safely into the waves here soon, I think.