Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Keeping my feet on the ground, but reaching for the stars...again

I used to have a pen pal when I was twelve. Actually I had TWO pen pals when I was 12; I made reference to one when I was writing a letter to the other (as in, "I got a letter from Ann, my other pen pal, last week...") and the one to whom I was writing a letter was furious that I would have another pen pal besides her. It was rough. She wrote me a nasty note about two timing her and I took it very personally.

But I digress. My point is that as much as I loved having pen pals (and I did love it, as is evidenced by the fact that I had more than one), I seem to remember almost every one of my letters beginning something like, "I'm sorry it's been so long since I wrote..." That's what I feel like I should do here with this post, since I haven't written since August. I am sorry because writing clears my head, and I'm always sorry when I don't do it more, and it's just another thing for me to add to my Guilt List when I tell myself I'm going to do it and I don't. I do have valid reasons for not writing, of course (I work 40 hours a week, I have two small kids, I'm trying to be a wife, etc.). But the truth is that I could be doing it, and I'm just not. More on that in days to come, I'm sure.

But I digress again.

Here I am. Today.

In more positive news, LOOK AT THIS!

I am selling some headbands there this holiday. They've been on display since the store opened at the end of November. Truth be told, I wish they were selling in a more wildly successful way, but I'll take what I can get right now. It's a start. And I need that right now.

I used to listen to Kasey Kasem's American Top 40 EVERY Sunday when I was growing up. His sign off was, "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars." That's what I'm doing. I'm not quitting my day job (yet). I'm not doing anything radical or rash. But I am reaching for the stars. And to keep the metaphor going, it feels good to stretch.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Kindergarten MuMu

I'm not even sure that's exactly the way you spell mumu (is there a correct spelling for such a word?), but that's the perfect description for the peasant dress I made Kate this afternoon:

I do not completely dislike it. I like the style of it; I just think that the fabric choice (although I like the fabric on the bolt) and the length makes it look dowdy, and with the flower appliques I so painstakingly sewed close to the bottom hem, I can't take it up without a lot of work. Since I've already invested over two hours in Simplicity Sewing for Dummies (yep) pattern #4206, I'm just going to leave this as it is. The pattern is technically not even for a dress, but rather for a shirt, and I just added a little length and flared it out a little to make a dress.

I have a stack of fabric waiting to be made into this kind of dress for her. Today at Mary Jo's, I got some clearanced Wizard of Oz fabric for $1.99 a yard, and some Project Runway Carnaby Street fabric for $3.99 a yard. That will all become this kind of dress...someday. Until it gets cold, she can wear them as is. In the winter, she can wear them as tunics with a turtleneck and leggings (which I am also in the process of making). In the meantime, she loves this, which I think my gramma used to refer to as a housedress. It's perfect for wearing at home, and today she even proudly wore it to the grocery store. She's strongly into an "I only want to wear dresses" phase, so this fits.

Next time I will:

1. make it shorter

2. sew on the applique after I make the whole dress, so I'm free to make alterations

3. remember that I need to cut one sleeve from the right side of the fabric and one from the wrong side of the fabric, so they line up on the arm (I did it correctly in this version, but I had to cut one extra sleeve because I messed up and cut two from the right side of the fabric).

I am proud of myself for seeing an entire project through, from beginning to end. I started cutting the fabric at around noon and didn't stop until I finished the whole dress, a little after 2:00. That's unusual, for me. Hurray for perseverance!

Kate loves it, and so does Murphy (pictures of him being held hostage not withstanding), so it's a success!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gramma Photo, Part II

The second - and only other - picture of my gramma.

I'll write more about it later, since Murphy just went outside to pee and ended up rolling up in another dog's poop in our own backyard. Nice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Photos of my Gramma!

Brenda came over last night and brought with her:

1. a wild 2-year-old in the midst of potty training, so she was running around my house sans underwear showing her butt (and more) to everyone here (by "her" I mean Vivian, my niece, not my sister, who has been potty trained for quite some time)


2. pictures of my Gramma!

Here is the first one:

I think I'll use this in my header somewhere.

Here's what I know about the picture:

Left to right, that's me, my sister Donna (now 36), my gramma (who was probably about 54 at the time), Brenda (now 35) is on her lap, and my cousin Roberta is at the end. My youngest cousin, Chad, was not there (maybe not born yet?). We're on the couch in the house on Dove Street in Dunkirk. I must be 4 years old in this picture, which makes it around 1975. That big picture above the couch is a LARGE, crushed-velvet picture of The Last Supper, which followed us from apartment to apartment for years (my mother asked me yesterday where that picture ended up; I don't know, but I think it's a good thing that no one knows). I remember the shoes I was wearing; they're dark blue canvas on the top. I also remember the orange barrettes in my hair.

That's all I got.

Ironically, I think this photo was originally in my album. My mom took it from me, and my sister Brenda (the fat baby in the photo above) had the foresight to take it before she left for college. I know that some people would consider that to be stealing, but in this case it goes to show you that there is no black or white, only shades of gray. Had she not taken this photo with her, it would have ended up lost, or my father would have destroyed it, or a cat would have peed on it, and a piece of my history would have been lost. I guess the moral of that story is that sometimes, theft is a good thing.

I haven't seen even a photo of my gramma in a long time. I wonder, now, what kind of person she was in that photo. Was she like me t all? What was her personality like then, as an adult? Was she an alcoholic, even then? (I think so). I'm going to look at it more to see what I can come up with.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Life Is Good

I have recently stumbled across the vast, talented community of women who generously share their talents and trade secrets over the Internet via their blogs. These women (I have not yet come across any male-authored blogs of this sort) tirelessly take photos, post tutorials, and offer encouragement for any number of projects one might be looking to complete (or, as is often the case with me, to start and leave, forlornly, somewhere in the dining room for several months, uncompleted. But that's another post). My latest find, and my favorite so far, is the blog Made. I was looking for instructions for how to make a child's dress out of a man's dress shirt for Kate, and this blog had that...and so much more. Dana, Made's mom, is creative and friendly and generous with her time and has so many projects I want to try that I'm worried I will begin neglecting my family in my pursuit of reconstructive sewing. Many of her projects are creative journeys of the recycled/reconstructed kind, which is even better than having to buy new fabric and such, since it's cheap and good for the planet.

So speaking of cheap, I do not like buying pajamas for Kate. If I don't really like spending money on clothes she wears on the outside of the house, where people can "ooh" and "aah" over her, imagine how much I dislike spending money on clothes she will only wear to bed. I get most of her pajamas from yard sales or consignment sales; lately, she's started wearing little-girl camisoles (more like t-shirts) and elasticized shorts to bed, because I found them at Walmart and they're comfortable and cheap. But when Kevin went through his dresser and came up with a whole pile of t-shirts for me to give to Goodwill, I couldn't bear to do it. T-shirts can be made into almost anything. Plus, one of them was a Life is Good t-shirt, which I'm pretty sure I bought for him just last Christmas but he said "fits weird." Life is Good t-shirts aren't cheap, and if I paid $20+ for the shirt, I'm going to get more wear out of it than six of seven months. I got to cut it up! They're heavy, quality cotton with cute graphics and they even have that small area of striped "lining" around the back of the neck. So I made Kate...

A t-shirt nightgown!

I am not organized enough to think about taking pictures while I'm doing something, step by step. I usually don't even remember to take before and after shots of the garment I'm altering, and that's definitely true in this case. But if you can picture a standard man's t-shirt, XL, that's what this was. And in a nutshell:

1. I traced one of her old jumper dresses onto the shirt (using a Sharpie) and left about 1/2" for seam allowances on each side.

2. I cut it out.

3. I sewed it up, wrong sides together, and turned it right side out. I didn't finish the seams.

4. I zig-zagged around the neck and arm holes, but this step is not really necessary, since jersey material will not ravel, as it just rolls up, so the seams don't have to be finished. But I like the look of it.

And that's it!

I big shout out to Kate, who seriously got about 10 mosquito bites while she stood outside on the deck so I could get photos of this last night right before it started to rain. She's a trooper. She said she even wants to wear it as a dress, not just as a nightgown, which I think is a cute idea. Plus, it's summer, so why does it matter?

And now we're all happy. What's more comfortable to sleep in than a worn t-shirt? Plus, it was almost free, it was easy to make, and it is cute. I have 6 or 7 more t-shirts in the dining room right now, waiting for my scissors. Let the refashioning continue!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vacation Is Done

Of course, my husband is here to remind me that my vacation is not done, since I don't return to school until August 17th and I still have few weeks left of vacation. But our family vacation is over. I plan to write about it in the next couple days. In the meantime, I'm going to post a picture I took of Joseph on the boardwalk on the Jersey Shore:

My father-in-law once said that Joseph could test the patience of Jesus Christ himself. I don't remember why he said it or what the circumstances were at the time, but he didn't mean it in a nasty way, and besides, he's right. Even so, that picture is all Joseph in that it epitomizes how I love him even on days like today - especially days like today - when he's a real pisser who challenges every word that comes out of everyone's mouth and won't sit still long enough to slip on a flip flop.

Enough waxing rhapsodic about my son. I have a kitchen to paint. And I imagine there will be much more Joseph love on this blog in the future, anyway.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ice Is Nice

I do not have a big sweet tooth. I don't normally have dessert; it's not a health-related thing, it's just that I don't normally have a taste for it, especially after I've had a full meal. But this place has changed the way I feel about sugar.

They recently built one in the same small shopping center that is home to Trader Joe's. That means I have reason to drive there quite frequently. And it is...yummy. They have about 20 different kinds of Italian Ice on tap all the time, which sometimes makes it difficult to choose. Plus, the last time I was there, I discovered their Gelati. No, not gelatto, Gelati. It's a layer of their custard ice cream (which is the smoothest and creamiest custard I've ever had, a layer of Italian Ice in the middle, and topped with another dallop of custard. It's heavenly. And it has put an end to the ever-present dilemma I face every time we go to other ice cream places: If I get ice cream, then a few bites into it I wish I had ordered something less rich and sweet because I want something more refreshing, and if I order something non-ice cream based then everyone else's ice cream starts to look really good and I regret my choice. But the Gelati is the best of both worlds.

When Kevin gets home from work in about 20 minutes, we're going to Rita's. What a start to the holiday weekend.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

White-Lie Wednesday

My Gramma Said: Liberally slathering baby oil onto your skin will prevent sunburn.

Yep, she really said that. Even back in 1976, the logic was clearly flawed: if you rubbed butter onto a turkey before roasting to make its skin brown and crispy, why would using a similar kind of greasy product on human skin have the opposite effect? Still, before we would head off to Community Park, we would basically hose off in baby oil. And Off insect repellent. Between the skin cancer I am sure to develop as the result of basting my skin in petroleum and the unknown other cancers I am sure to develop as the result of showering in toxic chemicals just to avoid a mosquito bite, I can't imagine this was the wisest course of action for a 5-year-old.

I know that many people did things like this back in the day, before the dangers of the sun and the lack of ozone and DEET were well-known among pedestrian summer lovers. gramma said she was a nurse. A genuine, certified R.N., to be exact. Never mind that in the entire time I knew her, she never worked in a hospital. Never worked at all, in fact. I heard volumes about her stint owning a John Deere dealership, about how she owned the Hotel restaurant/bar in Brocton (a story for another day) and about a host of other jobs she supposedly held. But I never heard a peep about her professional career as a nurse. At the time it didn't seem at all odd to me; she told us she had been a nurse, and she was the central figure in my life, and I trusted her implicitly, and that was that. Come to think of it, I don't remember when she actually told us she was a nurse. It was just a given, and we understood it to be the truth, forever.

Brenda and I have discussed this at length and can arrive at no solid conclusion. Was she ever a nurse? If not, why lie? If so, why wasn't she working as a nurse? Was there a big cover up of some sort? Regardless, the bigger question remains:

Why did a woman who said she was a Registered Nurse tell us to bake our bodies in baby oil? I think it was the poor man's sunscreen. Baby oil costs less than $2 a bottle and lasts forever. I have a bottle in my medicine cabinet right now that has been there for years; I don't even remember where I got it. Sunscreen, on the other hand, is way more expensive. And did they even have sunscreen in 1976? I don't know. My gramma probably thought she was doing something good for our skin by having us put something on it, rather than send us out into the open air with bare skin. She was trying. The R.N. thing...I have way fewer pat answers for that.

Some people lie awake at night wondering if Oswald acted alone on the grassy knoll. But I wonder about my gramma's supposed medical career. And I wonder why the facts are so skewed, and why I didn't think to question any of them until after I graduated from college, and what else was an exaggeration of the facts or a blatant fabrication of reality?

I bet I have enough for an amazing number of White-Lie Wednesday entries. I don't have deeply repressed memories of horrific events, but I do sometimes remember things that have remained dormant for years and years. The oddly-shaped mole on my shoulder reminded me of the baby oil thing. It sounds Freudian - I'm questioning my upbringing because of the shape of a mole - but there's a lot to think about.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This sign was displayed in my favorite coffee shop recently:
Kate was pretty excited when she saw it: "We really get a free puppy?" Joseph was more concerned: "What does it mean we'll get shot?" I was just amused by the whole thing. And hats off to the coffee shop for having the audacity to display the sign. It's not a trendy, snarky, cold place run by indifferent coffee snobs. It's a comfortable place with big armchairs and BOOKS and board games, and the staff is always friendly.

I love my kids. They are smart and witty and wonderful and genuinely two of my favorite people in the world. But if I were in a coffee store sans my own children, it would be a rare day indeed; I certainly wouldn't want my one hour of precious peace and quiet mucked up by other people's unruly children running around and screaming, parents sitting idly by, while I was reading. Or sipping coffee. Or staring into space doing nothing.

So...parents, take responsibility for your kids.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's Summertime, and the Livin' is Easy

It is June 27, and I have the entire summer out in front of me. Were I someone else, I would be jealous of me. I return to school on August 17th, and students arrive on August 25th. I have not one single obligation in front of me, not even any plans (with the exception of our trip up north in a couple of weeks; since this is a Happy Blog Entry, that topic is neither here nor there). If I did not have kids, I could literally do nothing - NOTHING - for the next several weeks, and no one would know. I could sleep or leave the county or crawl into a hole, and I would miss nothing. However, being that I am not the governor of South Carolina, I won't be doing that. Still, my plans are light. For example, this afternoon, my plans consist of:

1. buying my GPS, which I have researched

2. getting some Italian ice at Rita's

3. if I am motivated, sewing Kate another sundress with the fabric that just arrived in the mail today

Yes, my life is good today. All that I have is all that I need.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I was in my 20s before I understood who Billie Jean was and what her song meant

One of my best friends is a Michael Jackson fan. Has been forever. I remember vegging on his couch in December of 1993, watching Michael Jackson's press conference addressing the then-current charges pending against him. D.J. never wavered in his support of Michael Jackson, never took the easy road and went along with all of the jokes that were flying at the time, never stopped liking his music and doing one of the best moonwalk impersonations I've ever seen. When news started coming out yesterday afternoon regarding Michael Jackson' emergency/coma/death (depending on your news source of choice, and exactly when you were being updated), the very first person I thought of was D.J. It takes guts to stand your ground when everyone around you is making jokes and derogatory comments. I admire that.

I am not a non-fan of Michael Jackson, nor would I call myself a fan. I don't know what to make of the charges against him before - I know he was cleared, but that doesn't make things clear, really. Perhaps he was just a lonely man who really never did grow up and was genuinely just happy to be around kids. Perhaps there was more to it. I don't know. But I, like everyone else in my generation, can mark specific milestones in my life by remembering what Michael Jackson songs were popular at the time:

1. 1983 - my best friend, Lori, was the only person I knew who had MTV (she was also the only person I knew at the time who had a VCR and/or a microwave oven, thus lending credence to my belief that her family was rich. They were not). We watched the video for Beat It repeatedly. It was magical.

2. 1991 - I lived in an apartment by myself during part of college. I loved it. Black and White was popular at the time, and MTV played it all the time. Yes, I had MTV myself by that point. I was definitely movin' on up in the world. I remember being in my living room, reading by the light of the little white lights I had strung around the walls, being very content with the little life I had built for myself.

3. April, 2004 - Thriller was featured in the movie 13 Going on 30, when everyone at the stuffy party knows all of the line-dancing moves to the song and they stage an impromptu dance along. Jennifer Garner is an under-rated actress, and the movie also featured Mark Ruffalo, who is many things, all of them good. More importantly, it was one of the first times after the birth of my daughter, almost six months before this, that I went out without my kids and husband. Brenda and I went to see it while Kevin stayed home with Joseph and Kate. I was nervous and, of course, I had an amazing time.

It's hard not to be affected at all by the death of someone who has provided some of the soundtrack for your life.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's My Perogative (Gonna Do What I Wanna Do)

I cannot get my blog to look exactly the way I want it. I keep fiddling with it. Are the colors right? Are the fonts the way I want them? Too big? Too small? I think right now, for today, it's the way I want it. I look out the flowers on the background - too cutesy, the more I looked at them - and am not using my signature. I still like the header a lot: no-nonsense, kind of rough around the edges. Like my gramma.

I feel shallow, worrying to much about the look of my blog, but really, if the look of it is keeping me from wanting to visit it and therefore write - which is exactly what was happening - then I need to change it. I imagine I'll keep changing it as the mood strikes me. But today, it's fine. Which is what I need to remember in regard to many things. Not just my blog. Everything is fine, today.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A bird horror of a different sort, and some nice bird stuff, too

Jackson, Kate's first bird, died over Spring Break this year. I remember the day vividly: it was a Thursday, around 4:30, and I was in the kitchen cutting vegetables. Kate came downstairs, all excited, and said, "Mom! Jackson is taking a nap on the floor of his cage, and he's reading the papers you put in the bottom of it!"

I knew right away, obviously, what was going on. I sighed, put down the knife, and walked upstairs. There was no getting around it. He was dead, clearly. I looked at Kate, who was jumping on her bed, oblivious to the death in the cage only a few feet from her, and I said, quietly, "Jackson died, Kate. I'm so sorry. He's dead."

She looked shocked for a minute, then her face cracked and then, without any hint of melodrama, she started sobbing, "BUT I GAVE MY WHOLE HEART TO THAT BIRD!" Which she did. I really liked Jackson, too. He was one of the friendliest birds I'd ever seen. He was not people-shy at all. He sat on people's heads, perched on their hands, and walked around the floor when we let him. His favorite thing to do was perch on Kevin's foot and nibble on his sock. It was easy to grow attached to him, since he was so cuddly (for a bird, I mean). I was definitely a little sad myself.

Kevin came home from work, we spent several hours consoling Kate, and the very next day she and I went out to PetSmart and purchased Rose, the only parakeet left in the whole store. Rose is a dud of a bird who hates people and flies frantically to the other side of the cage if a human finger even comes near him - yes, Rose is a guy - so he's no Jackson, for sure. He will probably live for the next 25 years, just because I don't give a hoot about him and he will stay alive just out of spite so we have to clean out his cage once a week. But Kate loves him. And this? Kate loves to make her dad and brother happy).

So you can imagine my glee when I discovered I was recently featured in an Etsy treasury regarding bird-themed items:

That is my little bird pillow there in the lower left-hand corner. I made it because I liked the little bird I drew, and I saw a cardinal that morning with Joseph, and we do seem to be connected to birds here. I am honored to be in that Treasury. Etsy could not have known that Jackson died. And I do love that pillow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Case of the Disappearing Gramma

So I thought it would be neat to put a picture of my actual gramma on my blog, given that it's named after her. I thought it would be great to have her up there in my header, sort of looking down on my writing sternly, like a guide from well beyond the grave (she's been dead for 25 years...the word "blog" would have sounded ridiculous to her, and she would have had no patience for it, since it would have sounded vulgar, like "fart"). Anyhoo, I even knew how I was going to do it and change the header up a little and everything. I figured out how to work the scanner, and I, in all of my technical widardry, was going to scan her right into the banner. I eagerly went to my closet, got out my old photo albums, and even remembered one specific picture of her that I thought would look absolutely fabulous in my blog. So I opened up the albums, and...


By that, I mean there was not a single picture of my gramma anywhere in any of my photo albums. I looked fantically through all of them, wondering for a minute or two if she had even existed or if I had imagined her Winston-smoking self and made up an entire person that lived only in my own head, like Russell Crowe's character in A Beautiful Mind. Then I remembered...

Many years ago - I can't even recall exactly when - my mother requested (no, demanded, at the time) that I let her "borrow" my photo albums so that she could make copies of pictures in there, since they were technically her pictures and she had a right to them (and if that sounds like something a 7-year-old would say, then I wrote it so that it sounds exactly like I meant it to). So she took my albums for a while, and I remember being upset when she returned them to me that she kept all of the originals and instead gave me the blurry, low-quality copies she had made. It never occured to me to take an inventory of the pictures in there or to make sure that they were returned. But now that I finally (years later - forgive me, Gramma) realized that every picture of my Gramma has been removed from my albums, and remembering that at the time she borrowed them my mom was going through one of her (many) "your father can do no wrong and I will absolutely follow through with every ridiculous thing he tells me to do" phases, it becomes increasingly clear that my mother took every picture of my gramma. Every. Single. One.

I have already arranged for my sister to scan her pictures of Gramma and e-mail them to me, so I can use them. In the meantime, I have that piece of clip art up there. That woman looks nothing like my gramma, who did not have a bun or even white hair. In fact, she looks a little more cheerful than I remember my gramma looking. But she looks like she means business, so she'll do, for now. And she will be a reminder, for now, of my gramma.

That's all I got.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I am excited about my new blog look, which is from Erin at Designer Blogs. I've been trying to think of ways to inspire myself to write, and I may have stumbled across just the thing. She installed it last night, and this morning when I woke up, I couldn't wait to look at it. Maybe, at heart, I'm just a girl who wants things to look pretty. Regardless, I love it. I might find a picture of my gramma so I can scan it and ask her to add it to the header. But right now, I've loving it. I need coffee right now, but later I'm going to write more.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Coughing and sneezing and sleeping, oh my!

Nothing like a few illnesses - strep, to be exact - and food poisoning and seasonal allergies (first timer, here!) to interrupt the flow I had of writing every day on my blog. No swine flu, no major problems, just my normal hypochondriac self refusing to go to the doctor until my scorching throat made it necessary to go to the CVS Minute Clinic (I love that place...the genius who came up with the idea should be promoted to The Head of Everything at CVS).

I knew last week at school would be jam packed, and it was, so I'm trying not to be too hard on myself. I've been getting lots of rest, like they (as in everyone) say, so I'm feeling fine. And since my blog is set to private right now and no one can see it but me at this point...don't worry about me, me, and thank you for your kind words about me. No comments necessary, since I know who you are.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bugs Rule

My Gramma said that bugs won't hurt you. Turns out, of course, that she was right.

For the fourth summer in a row, bugs look to be the
Best Free Entertainment Money Can't Buy at our house. It's a wonderful thing. Bugs are totally free, they're plentiful, they don't require batteries, they teach lots of things beyond what they appear to be (building communities, the cycle of life, caring for living creatures), and they're disposable, since at night we release them back into nature to they can go find their families (at first, Joseph didn't want to let them go; when I asked him how he'd feel if a giant hand from the sky plucked him out of his back yard and put him in a glass jar and wouldn't let him come back to his family, he relented). They don't clutter up my living room, they're not made of caustic, China-imported materials, and my kids love 'em. It doesn't get any better than that.

We are all about bugs here. I was worried that Joseph might outgrow his fascination with bugs this year as he's become more interested (OK, obsessed) with basketball, but he's still an amazingly enthusiastic collector of bugs. He and Kate spend hours hunting for bugs, making homes for them, talking about them. When they see a bug they don't recognize, they run into the house and look it up in the giant book about bugs that Kate got for Christmas a couple years ago (this, I must admit, makes me a Super Proud Mom. My 5- and 6-year-old are doing independent research - in books, no less. I know plenty of high-school students who would balk at this very notion). We color and draw pictures of bugs. We go the library and get out books about bugs. We look up information on the Internet. Last year, they even went to Bug Camp - a weeklong daycamp at one of the city parks here. It was a huge hit. If we can spare the cash, they'll go again this year.

Their utter lack of squeamishness about them amazes me. I'm not all girly and yippie about bugs, but neither am I an entymologist. Kate will, without thought, pick up any insect she sees and plop it into her bug house. Once, the mom of some kids with whom they used to spend a bit of time told me that she actively encourages her kids to be afraid of bugs, because she hates them herself. I was annoyed because it seems ridiculous to me that you'd pass on your irrational fears to your kids just because; also, I didn't want my kids to start fearing insects because they saw her kids fearing them. Luckily, that didn't happen.

Right now it's the beginning of caterpillar season. They're spending a great deal of time every evening collecting wooly caterpillars. Joseph is waiting for Kate to return from her friend Livia's house right now because Kate is The Best Caterpillar Hunter, according to him. I told him he should tell her that, because it would mean a lot to her to hear praise like that from her brother. I'm skeptical that he'll admit it to her, but he surprises me very often, so we'll see. In a few weeks, we'll move to ladybug collecting. It's all seasonal. Kate's school would be proud.
(I just want to point out here that I got a lot of dog poop on my shoe getting this picture of one of the first caterpillars we saw this year. I was squatting down to get a close up and, after warning Joseph to step around the dog poop, I stepped right in it. I'd like to give a big Thank You shout out to our neighbors for regularly letting your bighuge dogs wander the street by themselves so that they can take bighuge squats in other people's yards. How awesome is it that my kids get to play in a yard that may or may not have residue left by other people's dogs? How extra-awesome is it that this residue may get tracked through my house when my kids come inside? Thank you, thank you, thank you).

Long live the bugs! Not in my house, obvsiously, and nothing with stingers or poison, please, but all others are welcome here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Envy Me, If You Must

I only have a few minutes to write before we pick up Mr. J. from school. But I just wanted to post that, here on a sunny Friday afternoon as I sit and type and watch from the deck as Kate takes pictures of rocks and inchworms and trees, that I have the two most beautiful kids in the world:

Let the envying commence.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I am a good mom...really

So given that I have the week off, I decided to spend it volunteering as much as I can in the kids' schools. I feel badly that it's April and I haven't done much to support the schools; I've been to Joseph's awards ceremonies and concerts and volunteered to help out however I can - from home, of course, since I'm no longer home during the day. This week was/is going to be my opportunity to be a star volunteer.

I planned to have lunch with Kate today, before I did Reading Buddies for her class. Being the great mom that I am, I knew she had lunch at 12:20. She was very worried that I wouldn't be there on time, even though I can't recall an occasion when I've ever been late for something - EVER - in my life. I assured her I'd be on time. Kevin assured her that, given the kind of person I am, I'd be early, even. So confident was I in my ability to arrive on time, I didn't even pack her a lunch to take with her, since I knew I'd be meeting her and I'd arrive with lunch for both of us. No need for bagged lunches. No sweat.

I left here at 10:30, lunch in hand. Tuna salad, crackers, cantaloupe, granola bars, soymilk...I was set. Not only was I meeting my child for lunch, I packed a healthy lunch, to boot.

I met Kevin at around 11:10 to make the big Key Hand-Off (who knew that new keys to electronic-entry minivans cost $135 to replace after they fell into the garbage can that resides right below the key rack?), and I went to the Re-Store store across the street from where he works. I had plenty of time. I browsed, I picked up some stuff, and I stood in line...only to get out of line once I realized that it was 11:50, and I didn't want to risk being late for lunch. I left with 30 minutes to spare, proud of my ability to think ahead and be early. I got to Kate's school at 12:05.


Lunch is at 11:50. By the time I got there to comfort my hungry, sobbing child in the office, there was about 15 minutes left to eat. After I got through reassuring her that her parents had not abandoned her and trying to convince her that I was a good person, we had about 10 minutes left.

I performed my duty as a Reading Buddy, guiltily thinking about my screw-up. After I was done, I collected my Mother of the Year award and I signed Kate out of school at 2:15. We went back to the Re-Store store and had coffee and pecan pie and a coconut cupcake with a red jellybean. Nothing assuages mommy guilt like sugar, you know. It was just the girls.

I think she forgave me. I'm having a more difficult time forgiving myself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Peace of Yarn

Until about three weeks ago, there was a yarn shop near me with that name: The Peace of Yarn. Even the first time I heard it, I thought it was an absolutely perfect name for a yarn store. I didn't go there often because it was in Matthews, which is not a convenient drive, and my kids were younger and prone to running wildly through retail establishments, and also because it was a yarn store, meaning specialty yarn, meaning specialty price tags of sometimes $20+ for one ball of yarn (it is sometimes difficult to be both a penny-pincher and a lover of nice things...the penny pincher part of me usually wins these battles). But I love the name and the idea behind it: The Peace of Yarn. I'm also currently reading Friday Night Knitting Club, which has renewed my love affair with fibers and the joy they represent.

My mother used to crochet. I remember a chevron, zigzag-style throw that was on the back of our couch forever, stripes of white and rusty orange. It was very small - probably less than 3' by 2' - because I'm sure she was just using up yarn that someone had given to her from a project long-ago. Even now, though, I find it difficult to believe that my mother had the dexterity and the thought processes necessary to crochet. It's not incredibly difficult - die hard knitters, in fact, often scoff at how easy it is - but there is counting involved, and often it's difficult to gauge exactly where to insert the hook, especially at the beginning of a new project before the pattern has revealed itself. But somehow she did it. For Christmas last year, I sent her a box that contained several balls of yarn and a set of new hooks and a pattern book. I haven't asked her if she's made anything yet. I've seen how her hands shake sometimes and how she gets confused, and I don't want to make her feel bad if she hasn't made anything.

I crocheted a little bit about 10 years ago when I made my mother-in-law and my sister blankets; my sister sleeps with hers every night, and I don't know where my mother-in-law has the one I made for her. I started again about three years ago when I decided I wanted to make my daughter a hat and didn't want to pay $30 for one off of eBay. She must have 10 hats by now, plus some stuffed animals and even a blanket or two. I love the feel of the yarn in my fingers (organic cotton being the best in that regard; I love it for a lot of reasons, and it's definitely my yarn of choice). I love the idea that by just hooking and looping one strand of yarn in a certain way, I can create a real thing, something someone can use or wear.

What I love most of all, though, is that it is impossible - literally impossible - for anyone, including a master multi-tasker like myself, to do anything else while crocheting. This includes worrying and obsessing, which I've been doing quite a bit lately, so as my husband said, crocheting is a perfect thing for me to pick up again right now. There's so much counting and patterning and concentration involved that you can't think of anything else while you're doing it. For something that's relatively easy to master, it's also relatively consuming. The rhythm is hypnotic, the counting is relaxing, and even when I do it just for 10 minutes here and there, I always walk away feeling more relaxed then when I started. It's like I lose myself for a period of time, almost like sleeping, and when I'm done, things are just a little better.

I'm going to carry my yarn with me everywhere for a while. Today in carpool, tomorrow when I run never know when a few extra minutes will pop up, and since I'm used to having a book with me, anyway, this is not much different. I'm finding my inner peace with yarn right now. I expect that we'll have a linen closet full of washcloths and my daughter's hat collection will be growing rapidly over the next several weeks, but it's all good. Mama needs some relaxation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The silence is coming from inside the house

Today is the first day in about...6 1/2 years, I guess, that I have the house totally to myself, and I do not feel obligated to do anything, and no one is asking me to do anything, and I don't feel guilty. The kids are at school and my vacation has just started. Thus, the empty house.

I don't even have any worries hanging over me at the moment. I could even take a nap, I guess, were it not for the fact that I have to leave in a little over an hour to pick up the kiddos from school. It's been a quiet day, nothing special. I picked up some clearance Easter stuff at Target, made a couple of phone calls to clear up some pesky administrative things (i.e. money-related stuff), cleaned up Kate's room, put some stuff into storage, and completed a couple of pieces of business online. It's nice to not feel over-worked and stressed.

I am reading this book right now. I picked it up yesterday at Barnes & Noble during our annual "It's Easter and why isn't anything open and what are we going to do now?" journey in the car. Unlike some slef-help books I've picked up briefly and then tossed aside in disgust, this one has practical steps for finding peace. I've not yet put most of them into practice, of course, but it's a step. And I like looking by the side of my bed and having it next to me. It feels good. The copy I have is hardcover with a smooth dust jacket and it's a small book. It's nice to hold.

I'm going to enjoy some solitude right now, in fact. I can't promise that I've found the key to inner simplicity yet, but I have to believe that if I'm going to find it at all, the place to start is in a quiet house at 1:20 in the afternoon on a Monday when I have no obligations. I'm ready to discover it NOW, but I'm betting that impatience and inner simplicity don't go hand-in-hand, so I'll have to wait a bit, I'm sure. Maybe this really is one of those times when the joy is not in the destination, but in the journey. I don't know that I've ever actually had that be the case in my life, but as my gramma always said, there's a first time for everything. Let the journey begin.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gardening Without Guilt

I say "without guilt" because, for the first time I can remember, I have not committed to planting anything, anywhere, for any reason. Kate and Kevin have made the garden their own personal project; Kevin became fascinated with the Topsy-Turvy tomato planters when he saw them on TV, and Kate works in the garden a lot at school, so it worked out well. So far they've planted several different types of annuals, several different herbs, and even the biodegradable soap container (which contained baby's breath seeds, according to the package) that we got from Target yesterday. Kevin did a lot of research on the Internet and made a raised bed, since we mostly have red clay in the ground around our house. He broke it up into twelve 1'x1' sections.

It looks great, and they put a lot of time into it. My contribution thus far has been to make the marker in the upper right-hand corner for the baby's breath:

I have to admit, I feel really good about letting go of the idea of gardening. Every year before this, I would spend money on seeds and soil and plants, and every year my enthusiasm for it would wane and I would end up letting it all wither and die (all the while feelings guilty, of course). But now I can partake of the bounty of the garden without worrying about letting anyone down. It is not my garden. I just take the pictures of it.

I am totally fine with not having any responsibilities with the garden. A recovering control freak has no business working in a garden, anyway; so few things can be controlled with nature that it's sure to end badly.

This is a good day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A New Day, A New Blog, A New Woobie

In keeping with my time-honored tradition of putting things off, thinking about them, and re-tooling them until a great deal of time has passed before things come to fruition, this is my first post in my new blog. I've spent much time wondering what my first post will address: career crisis? family? I think I've realized that the more time I spend thinking about writing, the less likely I am to actually write, which has long been one of my troubles. My first post, after all, does not have to be momentous and incredibly important; as I often tell my students, "Just write. It doesn't matter what you say. Just write." And so here I am.

Yesterday at Ikea, Kate picked up a navy blue fleece blanket and immediately made it her own. She curled up in the shopping cart and used it as a pillow. Much to my surprise, she began calling it her "new woobie." This means, I'm thinking, that she's considering replacing her old, tired, tattered, stinky (despite her father's constant washing of it...which is what I'm thinking has contributed to the "tattered" adjective) woobie that she's had since shortly after her birth.

Her woobie is one of the last remnants of her babyhood and, like mothers everywhere, I am sad to let go of that last thread. She is still very much a baby - she's small and innocent and loves to cuddle - but she's 5. Or, as she began informing me a couple weeks ago, she's 5 1/2. She still loves that woobie, so I know it's not going anywhere soon, but the fact that she's considering retiring it makes me a little sad. But proud.

And if she can give up that woobie, then I can give up habits that have served me poorly (unlike the woobie, which has done nothing but provide warmth and comfort when needed).

Today is a new day. And this is my first post. Nothing big and fancy. But it's a start.