The Title Is Supposed to Go Here

And here I am supposed to write in a focused manner, since I am supposed to be aware of my audience.


It is April (obviously) (but also obviously, I am writing for myself today, so that my stream of consciousness requires definitions like *what today is*); it is mostly spring, after a winter so crazy that one of my babysitters will be in school this, her junior, year until June 22 or so.  It would have been later, but her spring break got cut short.  She doesn’t mind. Spring: I have had the lawn aerated and over-seeded with great hopes for grass in the spots where there is only dirt; since then, some of the grass that was already there is TALL.  There are patches of dirt or sand or mud and other patches of green prairie in my backyard.  A nice average is what I’m hoping for, not for its aesthetics, but (again with the hopes) for the keeping of the dirt and sand and mud OUTSIDE where it belongs.  I get that dogs and children get dirty outside, but (again!) I hope that this year they’ll have to work a little harder for it.

C is 18 months old.  He had his checkup today.  He’s fine.  His growth charts curve just as they’re supposed to, he loves pushing buttons like the up-down elevator buttons, he eats all kinds of foods like fruits and veggies and meat and whole milk, and he can point out the banana on the chair (as opposed to the Elmo car) when prompted.  I was surprised to be asked by the doctor about any potty training we’d attempted yet.  What??  Everything I’ve read has suggested that doctors recommend this at much closer to THREE.  Sigh.

I took Flat “Stanley” with us to Walter Reed.  It’s where the President goes to see the doctor, so I thought it’d be cool.

I am accomplishing what feels like very, very little while my husband works seven or eight time zones away.

As it is now obvious even to me, I am not particularly focused right now.  (Reference the quick changes in subject matters above.)  I did manage to get the taxes done.  I hope I did them right.  (So much hope!)  A couple of days ago, as I changed the sheets to C’s crib, I finally removed the motion sensor that’s been under his mattress since he came home from the hospital, though not plugged in for the last several months.  Every time I’ve changed his sheets, it’s been there.  It’s a rectangular spring-y thing of about 7 by 9 inches, sensitive enough to notice if the infant on the mattress above stops breathing.  We relied on it especially because C is a tummy sleeper.  When I picked it up to finally put it away in the closet of things-that-we-don’t-use-now-but-we-could-again, I discovered that I’d placed the thing upside down.  Like a microwave packet of rice or popcorn, it has written on it a message, “This side up.”  But it doesn’t say the opposite on the opposite side.  I wasn’t even sleep-deprived yet when I put that thing in there in 2012.  If I didn’t even *notice* directions to follow on this device then, how can I possibly think I’ve just filed our taxes correctly?

The End without Closure



What the…?

The snow post was supposed to have been published on Feb 17, but I looked, and it was still amongst my drafts.  Somehow one of my friends had seen it, but when I went to this, my own blog, it wasn’t there.  So I edited it to reflect the time passed and published it.  And now it shows itself as having been published on the 17th, not a mere 5 minutes ago. 

I apologize for clogging up my readers’ feeds and inboxes, if that is indeed happening. 

The world is full of things I do not control, even those things I label with my own name and for which I feel responsible.

Days-Old Snow

On Monday, the UPS distribution center near me had had a package of mine since Thursday.  As twelve inches of snow the night before, and then four more that day, had accumulated on my lawn and driveway and street and, really, anything that didn’t move, I completely understood that they would keep it safe for me.  Then the plows came, clearing not just the thoroughfares but even the side streets, even our street, an unexpected happiness according to the neighbors.  Yeehaw!  I expected every noise on Saturday to be the delivery truck.  When night fell I signed up for email alerts.  This didn’t keep me from stalking the website Sunday and Monday.  When I received the text stating “EXCEPTION” yet again, I found the number for customer service.  The woman on the other end was sweet and sympathetic, but couldn’t even recommend that I change delivery to pick-up, because she couldn’t guarantee it would be ready for me quickly even that way.  The only news I could get from her was that this distribution center would not be delivering my package that day, and had no defined future date for delivery.  Technically this wasn’t news, as the tracking information for this package already specified that it couldn’t specify an expected delivery date.  At this point even writing all of this down as background to my real point seems redundant.  The package had clothing in it, warm-ish clothing for me for what remains of this somewhat cold winter, but I certainly own enough warm layers to make it in comfort without those.  Still, I felt saddened to edge of actual tears.  And silly for feeling sad.  Over something fun but trivial.

Finally it occurred to me that I wasn’t really sad for a catalog order.  I was sad from the loneliness of missing my military husband, who has just begun a year-long tour in a faraway place.  He’s been gone for two weeks.  The initial shock of his leaving was brief, only a couple of days, but this after-shock was unexpected, and I was caught off guard, thinking, Stupid snow. Stupid UPS holding my stupid package hostage. I want my emotional control back, and you took it from me, you warehouse of friendly large brown trucks, you fiend!

(The package arrived, finally, after a week in limbo. My new pants are comfy.)

While I haven’t been writing…

Oh, dear. November 19. Today is January 20-somethingth. Two months of absence. (Absence, not absinthe. Really.)

I don’t think I can adequately or accurately sum up, at least in a realistic birds’-eye-view kind of way. But I can supply highlights that come to mind:

Thanksgiving at a friend’s house – where I gave thanks for good friends, adorable babies, my loving husband, and the part about not cleaning my own house for company.

My one-year-old’s first snowfall – he was impressed with the effect but not with the physical issues associated with being *in* the snow. C is most often found happy or serene; it is rare to find him irritatedly perplexed, but I think that describes the faces we caught of him standing reluctantly in the snow.

Christmas – two-days-each-way road trip again. C is less fond of his carseat than he used to be. Next time we are facing him forward so he can watch a movie on the car’s DVD player. Poor kid. Five-point-restraint for hours of wakefulness on end would drive (ha! punny) me bonkers, too.

More Christmas – a lovely family-centered gathering, twice over. C and the dogs both love being around so many people, and I love when Christmas is about people, not stuff. The stuff was pretty great, too, but it was definitely the people gathered that made it fun.

January – C is walking, sometimes trying to run – he’s just now 16 months – and he has more words seemingly snowballing into his vocabulary, both outgoing and incoming. I can ask if he wants breakfast and he responds by signing and saying, “eat, eat.” Yesterday he learned, with help up the tiny 4-step ladder only twice, to navigate a toddler-sized playscape with ladder, a “room” on top, and a slide back down, over and over again.

Slides are his very, very favorite. We have a similarly built playscape in our backyard built on a much larger scale, including a real, movable ladder for reaching the “treehouse” (it is not built in or even around a tree, merely near one, but that seems to be its name in the neighborhood) 6 feet up. I don’t know how big a child needs to be to manage such a thing, but I expect to find out in the spring. The room underneath has four walls with two windows and a doorway. Inside there’s enough room for chairs and a LOT of old leaves. I’m suddenly inspired to find battery-powered outdoor lighting for it, since it’s not completely sheltered from the wet in there. How magical, to have a lit-up room just your size in your backyard when you are still smaller than the family dogs.

There is more news that I’m not ready to write about yet. Thinking about magical childhood spaces makes me happy, so I will close here for now.

Spider Rant

originally titled, a Friday at school with kids who hate school, written in October 2008.  I was not in the best mental or spiritual state, camping in a new-to-me house in a new-to-me part of the country without my husband, dog, or worldly belongings, working at a school where I felt quite foreign.

Well, only some of them hate school. Some of them like it, maybe. And a few of them might hate everything because they’re in 8th grade and that’s just part of growing up, isn’t it? Hating everyone and everything for a while?

So, I have one kid, whose real name I will not use, “Joe,” who was almost a sweetheart of a boy at the very beginning of the year. He was shy, kind of, and even stayed after class once or twice at the very end of the day to ask a question or make an extra comment he must have thought I would enjoy. Then one day about 2 or 3 weeks in, he gets bit by a radioactive teenage spider and suddenly he is the most irritating un-funny class clown backtalker I may have ever met. What the…!? We have a chat outside and it gets better, which is to say that he doesn’t actually backtalk me and is content to be just irritating as the clown (the un-funny clown) for two days. But then the first spider’s brother bites him and the next day he is not only full of backtalk, but actually full of backtalk BODY language! An 8th grade boy in the first 4 weeks of school showing me his rear end in response to something I’ve said. Wow. So Joe “gets” to stay late after class (which is also after school) and while he remains seated at the back of the room and I remain seated 20 feet away at the front of the room, I ream him a new one reminding him of all the things he’s done that day and the days previous that are the opposite of acceptable. His bravado disappears and he looks and sounds genuinely scared (though not sorry), and in addition is afraid of missing his bus. (Ha! 8th grade wienie!)

Days pass… He is not allowed to get out of his seat for any reason. He is not to speak at all without express permission from me each time. This goes on for a couple of weeks; then one day he leaves class early without a pass or permission, and then (I love this part) comes back! Like he’d rather get written up by his teacher than by some other adult in the halls?? Get this — it was his 4th referral of the DAY. 3 bus referrals from the morning, and now this one. (Am guessing that each different kind of offense must be written up separately by a bus driver, even if they occur simultaneously. I didn’t get close enough to this just-add-spider-bite A-hole to read them.)

Meanwhile I am of course in and out of the school doing my own personal cross-country errands. The most recent one, combined with a school-mandated workshop, took me away for 4 days of class in a row. Upon returning on Tuesday I read that this angel DROPPED TROU for the sub and his classmates last Friday. But this week wasn’t as terrible, and Joe in particular was calmer. While not angelic, his actions weren’t that of an un-funny clown, and I caught myself calling him “Sweetie” at the end of class, and on his way out for the weekend, he said, “I was good this week, wasn’t I,” and I smiled and reminded him that I had in fact just called him Sweetie, and he did the closest thing he could to a blushing aw-shucks as he walked through the door. Not a bad way to end the week.

Cheerios and Parenting

I have always figured, without judging, that the parents whose blogs I read who’ve written about Cheerios and other less identifiable crunchiness on their carpets were letting their kiddos snack on said carpets, as opposed to seated at the table.  Most of these bloggers have more than one kiddo and I am aware that WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOUR FAMILY IS THE THING TO DO.  I get that.  I let LittleBoy snack in the car now because (a) he’s able to hold on to a snack, more or less, and (b) more importantly, it’s my fault we’re out and about when I know he’ll be hungry.  I’m not using snacks to curb boredom or bribe him away from anything or to calm him like I do my neurotic Doberman.  I’m using them to feed him.  Plus, remember the no-judging WHATEVER WORKS shouting above. 

So this week I learned that those crunchy crumbs on the carpet do not have to be the result of snacks eaten in front of the TV or in the playroom or anywhere near the carpet.  Those Cheerios fall into the folds of clothing and get transported from the table. 

It is a losing battle against a crunchy floor.  This is the lesson of the week. 

Bathroom Meditation

Once upon a time, maybe a week ago, I had a bunch of stuff to do.  I was the one who decided it needed to be done, and much of it would be agreed upon as necessary by the rest of the world, I think.  I was preparing for guests.  There was some general cleaning and a mountain of clean laundry to move and a little painting to be done.  I have said before how much I like painting.  I find interior housepainting meditative; also, it provides immediate gratification, as one can see one’s good (or bad) work progress in real time.  There’s not a lot of waiting to find out if it has worked well, as there is in parenting, teaching, relationships, even prayer.  This was not painting necessary to the comfort of my guests, but it made me happy to get it done, as I had taken a door off its hinges quite a while before, in an experiment in better painting of the trim around a door.  (Result: the trim paints more easily and with less PITA factor, and it is lovely to paint a bathroom without the door closed, but there is still the PITA factor of the removal and then somewhat-more-difficult-on-one’s-own replacement of the door.  It’s a wash, really.)  Hanging the door WAS necessary for their comfort, so I wanted to finish up so as not to have an incomplete experiment on top of an incomplete project surrounding the door.  So I painted during the little one’s nap.  It worked out; he was still sleeping well last week.  (Enter new tooth, almost, this week: sleeping soundly, not so much.)  I did create further complications for myself, though…  The toilet in this bathroom is installed too closely to the wall to paint behind it with even a skinny roller, but I do have a brush and enough experience to paint enough wall to make it LOOK like the wall got painted before the toilet was there, rather than the other way around.  I did need to remove the lid to the tank for this.  I was working quickly, efficiently, I thought, so I didn’t put my roller down as I lifted the lid.  I should really pay more attention to what I’m doing when maneuvering unwieldy pieces of ceramic.  I broke the *!+$#@ lid.  Darnit.  Gah.  So I added to my to-do list: go to Home Depot for replacement toilet tank cover.  Small boy kept me company for this later.  It turns out that toilets come in M A N Y shapes and sizes, and my HD doesn’t stock tank covers by themselves.  They were happy to let me take home the cover to a broken sample, but it was too small.  I ended up Supergluing* the pieces back together.  This is not as pretty as replacing the lid, but far cheaper than replacing the whole toilet, or just the tank, let alone the PITA factor of shopping for a lid that will cost the same as a new tank anyway. (I learned this possibility thanks to the research a friend did for me when I mentioned on FaceBook that such lids are not sold at HD.  They are sold *online*, it turns out.)

The thing I took a while to realize, though, that makes this adventure in bathroom painting and porcelain that much more exciting, is that when I dropped the tank lid, I somehow also spilled a tray of paint.  When I saw the spill, I was, at first, surprised.  How and when had THAT happened, too?  …Oh, duh, I realized, it happened when I tried to catch the falling lid and knocked the tray off its heretofore safe perch on the lid of the toilet seat.  Even days later I am unsure how the paint landed on the left side of the toilet, while the tank lid and I were on the right.  This is where my dad would say they should have named me Grace.  I debated, after the paint had sat for five minutes already, whether it would be better to clean up the wet paint or to wait for it to dry and peel the whole puddle off at once.  In the end — more than half an hour later — I decided that my guests might arrive before the paint had time to dry, as it was a tall kind of puddle and our warm humid spell hadn’t cooled off yet.  So I got rags and cleaned up.  Latex paint is forgiving that way.

But in order to get the rags, I had to leave the bathroom — the well-ventilated bathroom, the one whose door was still off its hinges, leaning on the guest bedroom wall.  Using my feet, of course, to walk from the bathroom through the guest room and living room to get to the stairs to get to the linen closet where I keep my stash of rags, I foolishly, unknowingly tracked beige paint from the beige bathroom floor onto the gray carpet.  (Go, go, go Gra-ace, go Gra-ace, go Gra-ace!)  At this point I was grateful to realize what I’d done before the next day, and was able to clean that up, too.

The next painting project will probably be another bathroom.  I look forward to reporting on my new mistakes in that one.

*Capitalized here because I used the Superglue brand itself. I let the glue cure with gravity’s help overnight.  So far, so good for its advertised strength!  Props to the Superglue people.

Dali’s calendar

As a teacher on indefinite maternity leave, I feel like I am on a perpetual summer vacation.  This was solidified, probably, because I did work to the end of a school year while pregnant with C.  Since he was due in September, I just didn’t go back to work; and since I hadn’t had a contract the year previous, but was subbing for other women on maternity leave, that wasn’t hard at all.  Now, though, as it approaches Halloween (and Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, New Year’s, MLK Day…) the weather surprises me at least three times a week.  Last year at this time I was too sleep-deprived to realize what a surreal experience it is to celebrate these holidays in summertime in the Northern Hemisphere.  Now I am oh-so-happily restored to a regular sleep schedule, and really it’s ironic that better sleep gets me surreality.  Additionally, I lived in Austin for 12 years and Florida for three.  I can’t help but think of flip-flops as my go-to shoes.  I wear them with my long pants and sweatshirt while dressing my son in socks and shoes and puffy vest, and go for groceries or take a dog for a walk.  I am present enough to remember not to try to bathe the dogs outside, thank goodness.  A shivering dog is a sad, sad thing.  But this morning I checked the weather and Halloween is expected to have a high of 70 and low of — 61 degrees?!?  I am doomed to forget to decorate for the winter holidays. 

Procrastinating Owl Puts Something Off, Misses Self-Imposed Deadline

or, Nothing New in That Headline

So I am writing a new piece inspired by events from yesterday afternoon, but it isn’t finished. As an experienced procrastinator, I feel I can authoritatively say that my own deadlines are the ones I’m most likely to miss. Deadlines for others I may meet closely, but somehow external pressure is different from the internal, and so my own stuff waits longest.

In the interim, I will observe things relevant to my heart.
1. C’s first definite word, discovered late last week, after asking for one by reaching for it over and over while out to lunch with his parents, is apple. He likes to eat them out of hand. At not yet 13 months.
2. The second word, discovered yesterday in the stroller while keeping me company walking Z, is bump, as in, There’s going to be a bump as we navigate this curb, sweetie. Bumps are a lot of fun.
3. C is coordinated enough now to remove the Trader Joe’s recycling bag from on top of the trash can in the kitchen, to then empty it and play with the toys I’ve put in there, like an empty oatmeal box. He used to do this when the bag was on the floor, so I started moving it to the can when he was roaming the kitchen. This is no longer a solution.

National Geographic

How I will remember parts of our recent travels:

1. In Louisiana, the bug splat mess got so dense on the windshield that it was hard to see out, and using the windshield wipers and fluid made it worse — but then the rain was violent enough to clean it all in seconds.

2. The stretch of road going west toward Houston is normally the least attractive, longest interstate highway I’ve ever driven. I was surprised to learn that it is far less boring and that the drive itself feels shorter when I can’t see it in the dark.  This lesson was brought to us by the grace of extra travel time required with a baby.  Small blessings, eh?

3. My own mental map of the US was tested as we drove northeast through Tennessee, and I noticed how beautiful it was, but how surprisingly flat.  After a couple of hours we passed the Welcome to Tennessee sign.  That particular beauty had belonged to Arkansas.

4. Kudzu is real and exists much further north than I would have suspected.

5. Tennessee is also gorgeous, has hills and mountains just like it is supposed to, and also at least one working mine visible from the interstate.  Modern mines resemble the ones in movies about the Old West only in that both involve holes in the semi-vertical ground.  The mine I saw looked industrial with all the white structures in front of it.

6. The Cracker Barrel crowd is universally friendly and happy to admire a delicious baby, but exceptionally so in Tennessee.  Strangers there were as sweet as honey.

7. Driving southeast through the US in September elongates the summer, but the return drive northeast in October accelerates autumn.