Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fear This

I was writing a long post about how I have cleaned out the closets this week and I had not yet faced the facts about how boring it was when Miss Pink ran in complaining of itching on her arms and legs. She had an alarming-looking rash forming so I called the doctor's office and told them I think it's poison ivy since she noticed the itching after she came inside from recess. They confirmed that I need to give her Benadryl, use cortisone cream, etc. etc. I got her comfortable watching cartoons and then Mr. Blue woke up. He had a fever and threw up twice in the next hour.

Both of them fell asleep on my bed before dinnertime. Miss P woke up with a fever as well, which I think must be unrelated to the poison ivy, which means she has the same bug Mr. B has, unless she has Fifth Disease, but the treatment is the same--Benadryl blah blah blah --oh the running commentary a mother has in her head when her children have even the most minor of illnesses.

Now they are both awake but still feeling crummy and I am a little afraid of what the night will bring.

Edited to add: He has thrown up two more times. Yay. You know your life has irrevocably changed when your kid throws up all over you and you think, Good, at least I don't have to clean the couch.

She definitely got into poison ivy. When she asked me what poison ivy is, I said it was a plant with three leaves and she said, "Oh, so it was the green one in that tree by the playhouse [at her school]!" She is always picking flowers and leaves so I guess this had to happen.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Why I Am Sending A Movie Back to Netflix Unwatched

Normally I would not send the movie back unwatched. We paid for it, we should watch it! But we can't get another movie until we send this one (The Departed) back, and I just don't think we are going to watch a 2 hour and 31 minute movie. That would mean we would have to stay up past midnight (GASP!) No. Not worth it. If I'm going to watch a movie that long, it had better be the Lord of the Freaking Rings (the original working title, I hear). Sorry, Mr. Scorcese.

I think I am going to start ordering episodes of TV shows I am interested in but didn't get to watch, like Heroes and Psych.

Next in the queue: Looney Tunes Golden Collection, v. 2. You can't go wrong with Bugs Bunny.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

To Quit or Not to Quit, That Is the Question

The other day I said to myself: why not give up The Dream of writing fiction? Why do you want to do it anyway? (I was speaking to myself in a pretty mean tone of voice.)

Because I like to read good books, I said timidly, and I would like to give a good book to someone who would like to read it.

But you don’t love writing fiction enough to do it every day, Mean Me said. If you did nothing would stop you.

Sad Sack Me said: But I still want to. I do take a stab at it every few months. I write other stuff in the meantime, to keep my hand in. And when Mr. Blue’s in preschool…

There’ll be other excuses then. Besides, what great difference would another middlebrow novel make in the world? Not that I’m saying you should quit writing completely. You can keep the blog, and the lessons you write for the church (judging from what people tell you) help more people than a novel ever would. You’re just making yourself dissatisfied if you think success = publishing a book.

I don’t, Sad Sack Me protested. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be published. It was cool to get a story published in a Real Literary Journal (even if my pay was 1 copy of the magazine). But mainly I want to do this hard thing, to make up stories to get at a deeper truth about the most complicated of things: human beings. I’ve always wanted that, ever since I was a little girl. Why would God give me the ability to write (I know I have the ability, if I can shake off this crippling perfectionism) and the desire to write, if He didn’t want me to do it?

Mean Me sighed. Have it your way, she said.

(And then tonight I picked up the [recently deceased] author Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Circle of Quiet, in which she says that during her thirties, she couldn’t write until the children were asleep, and then she was so tired she would often fall asleep with her head on the typewriter. A decade during which she, a published novelist, sold nothing she wrote. So she decided to quit, and having made that decision, burst into tears. Then she realized that in the back of her mind she was thinking about how to write about failure. She opened the typewriter back up and said she was going to have to write whether she ever published anything again or not.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Adultery and Birthdays

The only reading material I had to take to the gym with me was The Scarlet Letter, which I somehow never read as a student or teacher, so I'm reading it now. Its fast pace really made the time whizz past, let me tell you. (sarcasm alert) I read two chapters and as a reward let myself read the new People magazine. Good thing I'm not actually an intellectual or I'd have to turn my card in, I guess.

I couldn't help thinking as I paged through looking at scantily clad actresses what the Puritans would have made of People. If committing adultery back then got you sent to jail and sentenced to wear a scarlet A (also narrowly escaping execution), look what it gets you these days: nobody thinks anything of it! In some ways, it's good that things have changed, but it looks like the moral pendulum really has swung too far in the other direction.

I also wanted to mention that my husband's 39th birthday is Sunday (the real 39, not the 39 that people stay at when they don't want to move out of their 30s). I had a great idea, I thought, to have a surprise birthday party for him, because he wouldn't be expecting it for the 39th, he'd think it would be next year. But first I had to wait for school to start, because I'm doing well to plan the DAY ahead when both kids are hanging on to my legs making unreasonable demands like, I don't know, food and stuff. And then I forgot about it because woo-hoo, SCHOOL has started! And now his birthday is here and I didn't plan a party. I truly suck at planning things.

However, I will make it up to him by taking him shopping* tomorrow (just the two of us while the kids are having fun with friends) and making a bread pudding for dessert Sunday (my brother is cooking; I would cook but not after a full day shopping and church on Sunday--who do you think I am, Superwoman?)

So even though he doesn't read this blog, happy birthday, Justin!

*He is excited about this. He likes to shop. Yes, I am married to the perfect man. No, you cannot have him. (I just have to remember we are shopping for HIM, not me.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Things I Am Loving Right Now

1. Lean Cuisine paninis. The best healthy frozen food item ever. I realize this is not saying much (Lean Pocket, anyone?) but seriously, these are good.

2. Working out. I met with a trainer last week and developed an exercise plan that involves strength training, aerobic exercise, and Pilates. The best thing about it is that with something different to do every day, I don’t get bored (something that has always been a problem with my attempts in the past.)

3. Miss Pink’s preschool teacher and the entire Pre-K experience. Miss P loves school so much, and that makes me happy.

4. Fiber One Oats and Chocolate bars. Yummy! I don’t even eat one every day, but when I need chocolate, these are a good fix. They have a few more calories than the 100-cal. granola bars, but are more filling (due to the extra fiber) and more chocolatey.

5. Mr. Blue’s skyrocketing language ability. He’s a pretty quiet guy around other people, but at home, he’s talking enough so that we can have a conversation of sorts (usually involves a dog, ball, or balloon). The teething pain has also stopped, so that means we are down to 264 fits a day, now mostly when I help him fasten his own car seat or take the house keys away from him (because a guy just wants to put the key in and out, in and out, while the door stands wide open, and why can’t his mom understand that?)

6. Miss Pink has entered a wonderful, cheerful, helpful stage and I am pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming.

7. The weather. 72 degrees right now. Enough said.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Literary Meme

Here's a review I wrote. I've been waiting to link to it and to post the rest of the meme it came from. I've included the books they came from in case you don't feel like racking your brain or Googling the names. :-)

1. If you could host a party with seven literary characters , who would they be and why?
Elizabeth Bennet Darcy and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice); Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing); Odysseus (The Odyssey); Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (mystery series by Dorothy Sayers); Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables).

2. Who is your literary role model?
Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)

3. Which literary house would you most like to live in?
Pemberley (P & P) because I love old English manor houses.

4. Which literary couple would you most like for parents? Ideally I would choose Atticus and Marmee (Little Women). But if they have to be married to each other, then Charles and Caroline Ingalls (the Little House books).

5. Pick three literary characters you would most like to have as siblings.
Whew, tough one. I eventually settled on Jane Bennet (P & P) as the perfect sympathetic older sister, Harry Potter (duh, like you don't know what book) as the caring, chivalrous brother; and Lucy Pevensie (Chronicles of Narnia) as the spunky younger sister.

6. Who is your favorite literary villain?
Xenia from Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride. The way Atwood tells the story, we're never entirely sure what motivates her malicious acts (sort of like Iago in Othello). If other people are happy, Xenia wants to steal something from them.

7.Name a character that most people dislike, but that you do not. Why do you like them?
I don't know what other people like, but: the father in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. He lies to his autistic son (and does something worse but I won't reveal it because that would be a spoiler). However, he had a lot of frustration and no help from his wife. He feels a lot of remorse.

8. What major character deserves a book all to themselves?
Jane Fairfax (Emma.) It's so clear Emma underestimates her out of jealousy. Joan Aiken wrote one but I heard it wasn't good.

9. Which character do you identify with most in literature?
Anne Shirley. Aside: I have been told that I look like the actress who played her in the movie. Before we got married, my mom advised my husband to watch the movie for keys to my character.

10. If you could go into a novel, which one would it be and why?
Definitely not anything scary or depressing. And I'd be a social upstart in a Jane Austen novel. Let's say Little Women. I'd have a great time with Jo.

11. Name 3-7 books that you rarely see on others' book lists that are high on your own. I answered this in the review. These are books that I never hear other people mention, that I reread every so often and recommend to others. (Obviously, Austen is a favorite, but lots of people love her; ditto Flannery O'Connor and Alice Munro.) For nonfiction, it would be The New Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman.

12. What is your least favorite of the books that are considered "classics?"
A tie between Paradise Lost and Moby Dick, both of which I refuse to read.

I've learned something about my long-term literary taste. It is classic and comforting, without a lot of bleak postmodern posturing, and includes a substantial dash of wit. Books that make me laugh mean a lot to me. Something to think about as I write my own stuff.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Don't Make Me Go Back, Please!

In our Sunday school class, the assistant pastor's lessons on “chazown”—the Hebrew word for “vision” or “dream”—have made me think about my plans for the future. How am I making my life count?

“Without a vision, the people perish.” If not in literal death, then their happiness dies. They are miserable.

Last Sunday’s lesson, and accompanying video, was on chazown in the workplace. Now as a SAHM, one might think I could tune out when anyone talks about the workplace. But I do have a workplace. The home is my workplace, and running it for my family’s benefit is my job.

Not to mention that I do want to do “work” as more commonly defined when the children are older. However, I’ve realized that I don’t want to teach school again. When the video showed people spray-painting things like “I hate my job” and “Hopeless,” I thought about how hard it was to teach and the visceral emotion I experienced was: I don’t want to go back.

For a few years, I’ve said when asked that I’d teach if it became an economic necessity. Right now, my salary would be offset by the cost of two kids in daycare, so it doesn’t make financial sense for me to work (or to go back to grad school). And since I never reached the point at which teaching becomes an intellectual joy, I have never craved going back. But today I took it a step further: I don’t want to go back at all. And so I won’t plan on it. (Never say never, but I’m thinking only if Justin couldn’t work ever again—or if he died, God forbid—and I couldn’t find any other kind of job.)

I like to teach, but only when my students want to learn. We all know that teachers in today’s schools have to be really dedicated because of all the obstacles to learning that their students face. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not that dedicated. And so I shouldn’t be teaching. Because kids deserve teachers who want to be there—I certainly hope my kids’ teachers have a more positive attitude toward teaching than I do. I highly respect the teachers who have chosen to stay in a system that is often frustrating and ineffectual. As for me, I can’t do it. I could handle being paid so little if I had respect from the students and, more importantly, the parents; or I could handle the disrespect if I were taking home a better paycheck. The schools just aren’t where I need to be right now.

Where do I need to be? For me, the answer is: at home with my kids. (Please note: I am speaking only for myself here, not saying that every mother needs to be home full-time with her children.) One fabulous teacher I worked with had stayed home for five years with her twin sons, then returned to teaching once they entered kindergarten. Three years later, she tendered her resignation, saying some words I have never forgotten: “I’m just tired of using up all my patience with my students and having none left for my kids.”

This spoke to me, because I know how horrible a mother I’d be if I were teaching all day. You talk about crabby—I’d be snapping everyone’s head off. How stressed I’d be having to fit in everything I didn’t have time to do while I was at work. How much grading and planning I’d have to do in my off-hours, taking time away from my family. It would be awful.

I’m not saying that anyone except me would be this way while teaching. Most teachers I know have been teaching for several years before they have kids, and having tried-and-true lesson plans makes a huge difference in the amount of time you put in. I’d be starting from scratch again, which would be very stressful for me.

Some moms who work hate their jobs, and I feel for them. I hope they can find something they like better. Everyone needs a purposeful activity that they love doing, that makes them feel fully alive. I know it’s important that I be here for my kids, and I’m glad I’ve chosen to do that, but I’m not the kind of person who can make motherhood a full-time job for the next twenty years (it will always be part of my chazown, and I think that’s true of every mother I know, whether she works outside the home or not). When my kids are in school, I do want to find something meaningful to occupy my time, whether it’s a traditional job, a work-from-home job, or just doing a lot more writing that no one pays me for at first, but I practice enough that I do get some things published (and paid for). Whatever happens, I’m planning to hone my skills and keep my eyes open for opportunities when they come along. If I know anything, it’s that we all have a purpose uniquely suited to our gifts and abilities.

In the meantime, I'm going to think some more about my goals for making our home the best place it can be for our family.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Back to School

Today was Miss Pink’s first day of school. She was very happy about it, although she let me know last night that she was “going to be a little nervous at first.” I assured her that nervousness was perfectly normal, but that I was sure she’d soon be having so much fun that she forgot to be nervous.

Of course, that’s exactly what happened. She’s in the Ponies class—it’s one of the three-day pre-K classes—and because of My Little Pony, finding out she’s in that class made her say, “My dream came true!” I like her teacher a lot; I think she’s really good with young children. This morning Miss Tammy had a stuffed animal at every child’s place to be their buddy for the day. Play-Dough was set out, and (wise woman!) all the girls had either purple or pink.

With a teacher who understands little kids that well, I feel Miss P will do just fine. She’s a sweet child who, although socially uninhibited, loves to follow directions and help any way she can. (This has just started kicking in during the last three months, if any despairing mothers of three-year-olds and early-fours are reading. We’ve had our struggles—just not so much at school!) She loves to learn, and although I can’t guarantee that all her classroom experiences will be as much fun as preschool, I hope she continues to love learning for the rest of her life.

She’s certainly taught me a lot. I had no idea I would learn so much from my children. And she is my firstborn: my first teacher in the mother-child dance. I know I’ve often failed her, but every time she forgives me. She teaches me about innocence, finding beauty and excitement in the mundane, creativity, curiosity, and so much more. It’s a school I’m thankful I’m allowed to attend.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

100 Things About Me

Since no one answered my question about the new Bond, I'm just going to pretend it was rhetorical--or, better yet, unanswerable.

Here's a meme no one tagged me for, but I wanted to see if I could come up with 100 moderately interesting things about me, because whenever I try to think of anything on the spur of the moment, I seem to myself to be the least interesting person who ever lived. I know this cannot be the case since people do not run screaming from me, hiding themselves from the Worst Bore Ever. It turns out that like most of us, I like to talk about myself. Who knew!

Anyway, enjoy (or not, as the case may be...)

100 Things About Me

1. I’m short—only 5’2”.
2. When I was younger, I always wanted to be 5’6”.
3. Now the only time I care is when I have to get the stepstool out to reach the top cabinets.
4. I majored in psychology.
5. I thought I was going to become a counselor, but I didn’t.
6. Because I realized I take other people’s problems too much to heart.
7. I realized this when I had a volunteer job at a crisis hotline.
8. I became a teacher, and I didn’t love that as much as I thought I would.
9. Mainly because I hadn’t had any therapy then, and I thought everyone had to like me and I had to be the BEST TEACHER EVER who changes student’s lives like in sappy movies.
10. I think I would be a much better teacher if I went back to it now.
11. But I’d rather not. In fact, I’d much rather not.
12. I have two halves of two different master’s degrees (education and humanities).
13. At this point I do not have plans to finish either one.
14. Let’s talk about something else. (I have a short conversational attention span.)
15. I don’t find a massage particularly relaxing. I don’t hate them, it’s just not a real treat for me.
16. If I let them, my eyebrows would take over the top third of my face.
17. Once I was not a jewelry person (I only wear a watch, and my wedding and engagement rings.)
18. I’m starting to get over that. I have my eye on a certain necklace I want, probably for Christmas.
19. I am going to ask my parents for an iPod for Christmas.
20. To use while working out, since going to the gym has somehow taken over my life.
21. Yes, my parents still give me Christmas gifts (although less now that they have grandchildren, and that’s how it should be.)
22. Autumn is my favorite season.
23. Unfortunately, I live in Texas, where autumn lasts about 2.7 minutes in October.
24. I love coffee ice cream, coffee candy, Frappuccinos—basically any sweet coffee-flavored thing, but I don’t drink coffee.
25. Because I always burn my tongue when I drink hot drinks.
26. I do not have a compulsion to redecorate my house often—maybe once every five years I want to do something major like repaint or buy a piece of furniture.
27. But I leave it alone—even the knick-knacks and decorative items—in between. Because I still like the way it looks.
28. My closet, on the other hand, gets cleaned out ruthlessly every season.
29. And then I get more clothes! Yay!
30. I like to cook.
31. I browse web sites and cookbooks for fun.
32. I do NOT like to clean up the kitchen after I’ve cooked.
33. I’m a recovering perfectionist.
34. Which explains how my house looks the way it does.
35. If I had to choose only one store to shop in ever again, it would be Target.
36. I know, how original of me.
37. If I could only shop in one clothing store and money was not an issue, it would be Nordstrom. 38. Money will always be an issue. Oh well.
39. I have had one pedicure in my whole life.
40. I am going to have another one as soon as I can.
41. Pretty toes made more of a difference in my mood than I would have thought possible.
42. A manicure, on the other hand, is a very bad idea.
43. Partly because I bite my nails.
44. Partly because I’m always scraping dried food off the kitchen floor with my fingernails.
45. That was a lovely image, wasn’t it? You’re welcome.
46. I often give advice to people who are singing lovelorn songs on the radio. (“You just need to dump him already!”) I know this is irrational, but it just seems wrong to let them wallow in their ignorance without at least saying something.
47. This must be left over from my desire to counsel people (see #5).
48. And the radio can’t argue back, after all.
49. One of my greatest regrets is that I did not study abroad.
50. I did get to visit London when I was in college.
51. Oddly, it felt familiar, like I had once lived there.
52. That’s probably because I’ve read many books set in London.
53. I really, really want to go back, and to other places in Europe.
54. My family came over from Ireland, so I especially want to go there.
55. I would never in a million years go skydiving or bungee jumping.
56. I don’t particularly fear heights, just falling (I can’t explain it, but they are not necessarily the same thing).
57. Some of my worst nightmares have involved falling.
58. Someday I want a library in my house full of books and a perfect writing space.
59. My beverage of choice is Coke.
60. But I’m trying to be healthier, so I’m limiting myself to one a week.
61. But I’m still drinking diet drinks, because I need the caffeine.
62. I’m a terrible liar.
63. I am most comfortable “one on one” or in small groups of people.
64. But I have no problem speaking in front of a crowd.
65. Even without preparation.
66. Because when I was young my dad would put me and my brother up on the hearth and give us a topic and have us talk about it for a few minutes. If we didn’t know what we were talking about, we just had to act like we did and keep talking.
67. This stood me in good stead in graduate school, which is full of people trying to out-BS each other.
68. I failed the driver’s test on my sixteenth birthday. For parallel parking improperly—something the driver’s ed teacher was too impatient to teach me.
69. That birthday sucked as a result. (I should’ve gone the next day or something.)
70. To this day, I will drive around the block rather than parallel park.
71. I’ve had several “incidents” while parking, including hitting stationary vehicles and a light pole at Target, and scraping the side mirror against our garage.
72. When I was in college I drove into a mailbox.
73. Then a few months later I backed into a different mailbox.
74. It’s a wonder I don’t have a phobia of mailboxes.
75. Except for parking, I’m not that bad of a driver, but if given the opportunity to ride and not drive, I will always accept.
76. My favorite fast food place is Chick Fil A.
77. Parties make me nervous.
78. My first memory is of lying in my crib looking at my stuffed dog. (That means I was about 18 months old, my son’s age now. I wonder what he will remember from now, if anything.)
79. I feel like we need a dog at some point for the kids, but I am personally ambivalent.
80. I only had one dog growing up and it wasn’t the best experience (poor Max).
81. I’m a “mid-morning” person—my ideal time of day is 10 am-1 pm.
82. My favorite color is green.
83. Because it makes my eyes look greener.
84. My eyes are my favorite facial feature.
85. Taken together, my first and middle names mean “little truthful one.”
86. Given #1 and #62, I guess that’s accurate.
87. I don’t set an alarm because the baby wakes me up around 7 am every day.
88. My favorite music is big band/swing.
89. I like other types of music, but I can’t deny that I gravitate to the old stuff.
90. I love to watch musicals in the theater, but not movie musicals.
91. I was born in the town my husband grew up in.
92. My favorite chocolate bar is a Toblerone.
93. I don’t like dark chocolate. I’ve tried, since it’s better for you, but I just don’t like it.
94. My favorite cartoon character is Bugs Bunny.
95. If I could change one thing about my personality, I would become more assertive.
96. I don’t much like breakfast except on Saturdays.
97. I suffered post-partum depression after my son was born.
98. I went on an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication, and went back to therapy until it was pretty clear it was all chemical, and the meds were working.
99. Thank God the meds work. I plan to stay on them AT LEAST until the children are in school.
100. Life is good. Hard sometimes, but still good.