Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ah, Lent

I love Lent. It's my favorite time of the Christian calendar. Lent has it all: Sacrifice, sorrow, spiritual journeying and the anticipation of great joy. It takes place during a time of year when absolutely nothing is going on, so you can pay attention. I've tried doing Advent devotional readings, but quickly fall behind--who has time at Christmas to actually have a faith life? But Lenten readings? Piece of cake.

I don't want to knock Christmas--it's the best secular holiday of the year. I would love if it were a religious holiday, too. Who knows, maybe someday someone will make it one.

You know what I've never understood? Why there aren't bells and fireworks and general rejoicings in the street when the clock strikes midnight on Easter Day. I'd like to start a movement where Easter Eve is more like New Year's Eve, minus the debauchery.

In any event, Lent. Inspired by a comment Angela made over on Tina's blog, part of my Lenten practice this year will be doing a kindness every day for the next 40 (well, 39 now) days--write letters, knit socks, make phone calls to far away friends, bake cookies for the soup kitchen, etc. This is good for me, because I'm very selfish, yet spend a lot of time feeling guilty for not giving more of my time to others (money is easier, but, sadly, my friends don't take checks).

As for the fasting part of Lent, I'm going to try to not eat any processed/junk foods. I tend to eat pretty healthy stuff in general, but have on occasion been known to eat several boxes of Wheat Thins in one sitting. Also: it's surprising when you decide to cut out processed foods, you discover you eat more of them than you think. I'm sad to be giving up my wonderful soy breakfast sausages, but out the window they go. Also, my Lender's whole wheat mini-bagels and the flat bread from Harris Teeter that I so enjoy. I will be doing a lot of baking this Lent, both for the homeless and myself.

I would like to be able to announce that for the next month or so, I'll be filling this space with profound spiritual insights, but between you and me, that probably won't happen.

Take last night. Before I went to church, I'd been planning on blogging upon my return, to share with you some important Lenten lessons. However, right before I left, Jack and I quarreled over whether or not I should have let him play Super Paper Mario until he'd reached a place in the game where he could save his progress (which is always twenty minutes after he's said, "I'm just about to get a place where I can save") instead of telling him if he didn't get off that very second, he would never play Mario again. I left the house feeling cranky and not at all spiritual.

When I returned home from the service, marked as Christ's own, the first thing Will said, "I bet you think the house smells funny now. That's because I threw up." Yep, all over his room. And he continued throwing up until about 3 a.m., poor thing.

So I guess the only Lenten insight I have to offer so far is: When you come back from church, hug the child you were highly irritated with only an hour before, because you are Christ's own and so is your Wii-obsessed son. And when your other child spends the night throwing up ... well, hmmm. I'll get back to you on that one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Week, New Computer, New Workout (Oh, My!)

I walk a lot. I love to walk. Unfortunately, I walk so slowly most fitness experts would not consider what I do when I move one foot in front of the other as walking, per se. Call it "moseying along," if you will, or "Not quite sitting on the couch watching TV."

So I'm trying to pump it up a little bit by trying some aerobic workouts in my own home. I now have a Step Aerobics DVD, which I like quite a bit, and the other day the mail brought a lovely little number entitled something along the lines of "Dance Away the Pounds While Appearing to be Soliciting Gentlemen on a Street Corner."

I mean, the hip rolls you're instructed to do! The saucy catwalk--"Put some attitude in it, girls!"--the bumps, the grinds. I was a little chagrined to be doing it in front of the dog. Clearly, this is a DVD that will have to be hidden from the boys.

Was it fun? Yes, it was fun. Could I do half of the dance moves? No way, and not out of modesty, either. Just sheer lack of coordination, I'm afraid. Will I do it again? Sure, but only with the curtains drawn. Yikes!

I'm writing this on my new lap top. It's a MacBook of all things. My mother is so excited--she's a Mac gal from way back. She and Jack are now on the phone for hours a day, configuring. I have no idea what they're talking about. Really, a Mac is wasted on me, but Jack, being the techno geek that he is (yesterday he took MacBook for Dummies to read during the slow parts of church), is thrilled, and I now have a new tool with which to make him mind me. Want to use the MacBook? Go fold the laundry. Believe me, it works.

I haven't finished painting the trim in the upstairs hallway. I keep hoping that if I don't get around to it, my husband will. I could just ask him to, and he would, but then I'll lose all my painting cred.

The dog is being suspiciously quiet all the sudden. Must run!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More Paint

(Guess what? It's hard to take a picture of a hallway, especially a long, dark hallway. Nonetheless, I wanted to share with you the peachy goodness of our newly painted upstairs. I believe before we're done the whole house will be painted orange. Funny, that wasn't the plan.)

By writing this, I am officially procrastinating. I'm back from Home Depot with some more paint supplies, and any second now I'm going to finish up the trim in the hallway. I just have to remind myself how absolutely fabulous it will look when I'm done. Worth the pain and the paint in my hair.

Will, it turns out, has Strep. The fast culture at the doc's office said negative, the culture that was sent to the lab said think again. My husband probably has Strep, too. So far, Jack and I seem to be fighting it off, though my throat keeps tickling. It doesn't seem to understand that I refuse to get sick. I'm done with sick.

It's a teacher's workday, so the boys are home from school (Will would be home from school either way). Outside, the rain is cold and the skies are dreary. I can already feel a nap coming on. I better get painting.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Paint, The Plague, and Paid Help

(Socks I'm making for six-year-old Grace. The yarn is Panda Silk--52% bamboo, 43% superwash merino; 5% silk. It feels divine.)

I spent the weekend painting the upstairs hallway Salmonberry. Where do they get these names? Salmonberry is essentially a yellowy peach. The walls were formerly Dishwater Gray, so Salmonberry is a huge improvement, believe me.

I am not a natural born painter. In fact, I don't much like painting, but I love the results, so I paint. In the process I drive my husband nuts. My husband is a neat, efficient painter who takes approximately three years to prep a room for painting, making a slow job of it indeed. I'm very good about taping woodwork and putting down plastic, but I don't go in for fancy stuff. And when I'm done painting the brushes are grubby with paint, and my husband is aghast. We have decided to invest in our own personal paint brushes, and he will keep his under lock and key from now on. Apparently, I muck up a brush.

So why didn't DH step in and take over, like every cell in his body was begging him to do? Because he was sick--and you know he must be really sick, because it takes an Act of Congress for him to admit he feels the slightest bit unwell. Will is also sick, and Jack was trying as hard as he could to be sick. It's The Fever. Friday night, Will's fever spiked to 104. I took him to Urgent Care, but it wasn't Strep and it wasn't the Flu, it's just the Bug That Is Going Around.

Will revived enough on Saturday to join Jack in a money-making scheme. My husband, who is a genius, said they could do chores for extra spending money--if they worked together. So together they did the laundry--three loads!--and folded it (not like you or I would fold it, but who am I to judge?), cleaned their rooms, cleaned my study, and swept and straightened the back porch.

I don't think they realize what a huge mistake it was to take on the laundry and do a competent job. I may never do laundry again. I can't tell you what an amazing thing it was to start the day out with three baskets filled with dirty clothes and to end the day with clean clothes "folded" and put away in the drawers, and not having to lift a finger to make it happen. Wonder of wonders.

So, now it's Monday. The hallway is painted but for the trim. I did some of the trim, but decided I don't like the color. It's a little too close to the Salmonberry, and a creamy white would look better. I'm hoping my husband will take over the trim job. Fingers crossed.

Will is still sick, though cheerful enough. Jack wanted to be sick (he did have a slight fever yesterday--99.9), but his temperature is normal, so I punted him off to school. My husband is probably still sick, but he's now pretending that he feels pretty okay. He doesn't, but it goes against his personal code to stay in bed for more than 48 hours.

I, amazingly, am not sick. I keep waiting and waiting, and it still might hit, but for now I am well. Talk about wonders of wonders!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

House Party

The writing is going well. The house is falling apart.

This happens every time I'm at work on a book. And it's not like it happens over time--it happens all at once. It's like the house has been holding back all the dust bunnies and cob webs and finger prints and mildew until the day I sit down to four to sixth month's worth of writing. It sees me at the computer and sends out the secret signal: Muck it up now!

Then the dust bunnies roll down the hallway past my study like tumbleweed, the mildew stretches out its tentacles along the bathroom tiles, and the dirty laundry throws a party on my bedroom floor (I believe it's actually breeding down there, underwear begetting more underwear and sweat socks begetting more sweat socks and so on).

It's like a game the house plays with me called How Long Can She Stand It? And, quite frankly, I can stand it a good, long time. I'm not the wimp the house thinks I am. I don't crumble like a cookie at the first whiff of a bathroom that's walked too long on the wild side. You would be astonished at how long I can put up with a house gone to seed (my mother, on the other hand, would not).

The problem is, I do hate a dirty house. And so I suffer for my art. I suffer icky bathtubs and grubby refrigerators. I suffer the 347 sheets of paper Will brings home from kindergarten every week and scatters all over the house like windborne seeds. I suffer sports equipment left in the middle of the house's most traveled pathways, and I suffer the bruised shins that are the result of tripping over the errant soccer balls and footballs and hockey sticks. I suffer and I suffer, but I do not clean until I Absolutely Cannot Bear It Anymore.

It's the price I pay for my art. What price do you pay for yours?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Southern Fried Japanese Hot Lunch

Yesterday I started on the first draft of a new book. Vacation is over. I am a working girl once again. I hope to do a good job keeping up here, but if my posts seem brief and a little fragmented, it's not because I don't care.

Speaking of caring, everyone's praying for our friends in Victoria, Australia, right? I haven't heard the latest on the wildfires and hope they're finally dying down. It's very scary stuff, and nervous-making to boot.


Hot Lunch update: The children were absolutely adorable in their little kimonos fashioned out of men's white button down shirts and cinched with scarves and ties. Lunch was served on a low table festooned with tissue paper cherry blossoms. One of the moms brought chopsticks with little plastic thingys holding them together, making it easier for your average six-year-old to actually get the food into his or her mouth, and Will actually used them, proving once and for all that his problem is with food itself and not the utensils.

Wendy ordered the food from the nearby Japanese restaurant and brought it in. Here's what you'd expect: white rice, spring rolls. Here's what I found ethnically suspicious: California rolls. Do they really eat California rolls in Japan?

And here's what I found downright hilarious: fried chicken fingers, fried squash and fried onion rings. Since when is Bubba from Kyoto? I could have gone to my mother-in-laws house and had all this and sweet tea, to boot.

The good news is, the kids loved it (of course they did--they eat chicken nuggets at every meal, so they were right at home with this menu). Will only ate the rice, but, hey, it's food, and that counts for something.

I think this was my last hot lunch of the year. Now all I have to do is drive on a couple of field trips and do a couple of classroom reading sessions and I'm done til Fall '09. Beauty.


Off to write. Wish me luck.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Report

(Pictured: Will's Orange Room)

When you look at this photograph, please keep Jack's observation in mind: "Mom, did you notice how there's an orange glow in the hallway outside of Will's room now?" Yes, yes I did.


The Japanese Hot Lunch is today. I look forward to reporting on it later. I can only imagine what it will be like serving twenty kindergarteners California Rolls and counting how many of them a) immediately unpack the rolls and shove avocado up their noses; b) break into wild sobs and have to be taken to the nurse's office; or c) stare straight ahead and pretend they live in a plastic bubble where nothing will ever hurt them again.


Twenty kindergarteners wielding chopsticks. Think about that and keep me in your prayers.


Please note in the above picture that Will has already taped posters to his wall. I love how little kids tape stuff. Will pulls off foot-long strips of tape and maybe a quarter-inch of it actually makes it onto the thing he's taping. He's got no game when it comes to tape.


The new thing about Jack's room is his bookcase. I bought it at Lowes and chose to assemble it myself. It only took me a week after purchase to psyche myself up enough to do the actual job (a record for me), and the result is a very handsome bookcase indeed.

Here's the funny thing: Despite the fact that Jack is a mess, that it would never occur to him to pick up after himself, put his clothes in the hamper, or inspect under his bed every six months to see what's growing there, the first thing he did after the new bookcase was installed next to his bed was request a coaster for it. He doesn't want his nightly glass of ice water to leave a water mark on the finish.

It slays me that he cares. It slays me that it actually occurred to him that the finish needs protecting. It slays me that every night at bedtime he brings up his glass of ice water and puts it carefully on the coaster on the book case.

It almost makes up for the fact that he never puts his dirty clothes in the hamper.


Monday, February 2, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

(Will's room--the before picture. Pictures of Will's now insanely but beautifully orange room to come.)

I'm sick. Will's sick. Jack is sick. My husband is sick, but he won't admit it, because he never admits that he's sick. I think that I've mentioned before that a couple of years ago he ended up in the hospital because of his stubborn refusal to admit that from time to time he doesn't feel so hot.

So no one went to the mountains. And I had to watch the Super Bowl. The good news: My husband painted Will's room, which means that I didn't have to. I was ready to do it--not only had I bought the paint and brushes and drop cloths, I'd also purchased plastic coveralls, plastic gloves and plastic shoe covers. I really am too messy to be allowed near paint (I told this to my friend Louise, who actually said, "Really? You don't seem like the messy type to me"--and this while she was riding in my car! Look around you, woman! Lovely person, that Louise, but her powers of observation are not too keen).

But with the family grounded at home, my husband offered to help paint Will's room. We started out together, him sanding and scraping and spackling, me standing around in my plastic white coveralls looking like an Oompa Loompa. But after a bit I started feeling whoozy (at first I thought it was the fumes from my plastic white coveralls, but it turned out to be the bug Jack's been carrying around since Wednesday) and retired to my bed, much to my husband's relief. He is a kind man, but you could tell it was killing him to have me anywhere near a paint can. Really, I'm a disgrace.

So Will's room is painted a robust orange, and I will post a picture when we get the furniture moved back in. Orange is what Will wanted, and it's beautiful, but potentially it will make us all insane. It's very bright. Very bright. Insanely bright. But quite cheerful, so there you have it.

Okay, feeling a bit whoozy again. Must lie down. Have a lovely day!