Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Day of School, Redux

Thanks for all the nice comments on the lamp! If you want to do one yourself, follow this link to the tutorial I used.


Yesterday was the first day of school. I had big plans. I'd planned on hanging out in my empty house and listening to it echo. Planned on streaming Season 2 of thirtysomething through the Wii via Netflix and ironing fabric that's been stuffed in a bag since July. These were not particularly grand plans, I admit, but I was looking forward to them.

Oh, but the first day of school is never as it should be. Late August in North Carolina is rarely crisp and brisk and autumnal. The foliage is still lush and green. No red and orange leaves waft from the trees and lodge themselves in the happy children's hair as they walk the two blocks to school. No walking to school. No blocks. Happy children? Hmmm ... well, actually, I think the boys were happy. Sleep-deprived, but happy.

I got them to school safely, and then my car died. In my driveway, fortunately. And fortunately the Man was still home, and fortunately, it was just the battery, and fortunately there was a nice restaurant to have lunch at after we dropped off the minivan at the dealership.

So it was all good, but nothing like the first day of school I had in mind. So I'm declaring today the official first day of school. I've been to Target and the library, I've walked the dog, and in a minute I'm going to start streaming the second season of thirtysomething through the Wii via Netflix if I can figure out how.


As I could have predicted, Jack returned home yesterday energized by his first day, and Will came home drained. And as I could have predicted, Jack slept through his alarm this morning, and Will hopped right up. And as I could have predicted, once Jack got up he was cheerful and ready to go, and after consciousness fully set in Will was grumpy, especially when the Man made him change his clothes and put on underwear. He'll take the underwear off the minute he gets home. My boy, he likes to be free.

I don't know, is there a rule kids have to wear underwear to school?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Open House

(My weekend project: covering this lampshade with fab Kaffe Fassett fabric. Even the members of the Testosterone Club--i.e. everyone in my house except me, the lone female--like it.)

If there were ever a reason to home school, Back-to-School Open House would be it. I've done two today. The first one nearly did me in, and the second one about killed me.

First Open House: Our Fine Middle School. Jack went to his advisory, picked up his schedule, and then we hiked back and forth across campus to find all of his classes. Jack, being Jack, had to go to each class in order, so that we couldn't go to French, then Language Arts, even though they were right next to each other. No, we had to go to French, then Movement (what is Movement? Who knows?), which is twenty miles that way, then come back to Language Arts, twenty miles this way. Will and I finally gave up and told Jack to meet us in the library when he was done.

As we hiked and panted, many cheerful greetings were exchanged with the other families of Our Fine Middle School. Lots of oh yes, oh my, summer was wonderful, but it went by so fast! No one ever mentions those days in July you would have gladly traded your children for a pound of dried beans. No! We are happy happy good good!

(Would I prefer everyone walk around and tell the truth about their lives? Hmmm ... knowing how awful some people's truths are, I'm not sure I actually would. Food for thought.)

Aside from hiking forty miles in 96-degree heat, I enjoyed Our Fine Middle School's open house. We've known a lot of these families for six years now, and I only feel halfway awkward and shy around them. By graduation, I'll be a comfortable as an old hat. Sock. Shoe. Whatever.

Our Fine Lower School's open house is a piece of cake--the kids stay in the same classroom most of the day, so no twenty-mile hikes--except that I'd talked to so many people this morning (happy happy good good!) that I believe I was rather incoherent by this afternoon. I just sort of wandered like a cloud around the second grade pod and waved vaguely in one direction, then another. Will and his buddies all gathered together and started playing a game which involved stomping on each other's feet. Nobody stopped them. All the moms just shrugged, like, whatcha gonna do?

So school starts tomorrow. My children, those perverse creatures, have continued to be sweet and pleasant. They are mocking me, I believe. We can behave this way, they seem to be saying. We just choose not to.

Actually, I think they're just happy to be going back to school. And want to make sure I'll miss them. And I'm sure I will. Won't that be nice?

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Slackest Season

At the beginning of the summer, I came down hard on TV watching and video game playing. "If you think that's what you'll be doing all summer, think again," I told my children in June as they reached for the Wii remotes. "You will be romping in the sun, developing interesting new hobbies, and working to end world hunger. You will not be sitting slack-jawed in front of a screen."

And mostly they haven't been. In part, this is because they've lost impressive amounts of screen time this summer simply by making me miserable. There is a hard and fast rule in these parts: Do not make the mom miserable. Don't dish misery out if you can't take a double dose in return. Vengeance is Mom's, sayeth the Lord. Or something like that.

But here we are, in the final week of summer, and I have turned into Slackest Mom Alive. A little TV with your lunch? Why not? A little extra time in front a computer screen? Have at it!

It helps that the boys have been very sweet this week, even to each other. Sometimes I can't believe they haven't figured out that the nicer they are to each other, the slacker I get. Here's some candy, I say. Let's go to Target and buy some baseball cards. All they have to do is love each other. So simple, so impossible.


On Wednesday, I went to Charlotte to speak at a meeting of Scholastic Books sales people. Most of my speechifying was spent talking about how much I loved getting the Scholastic Book Club flyer in school and ordering tons of books, and how much time I've spent as an adult trying to track those books down. My parents, sad to say, did not hang on to my impressive collection of paperback titles that included That Darn Cat and Herbie the Love Bug and several biographies of The Fonz.

After my talk, I signed books (mine, that is), and almost everybody I talked to had sad tales of what their parents had thrown out the minute they left home for college. A lot of Mad Magazine collections hit the bins, is what I'm saying.


I will spend this weekend cleaning. Honest. I will. Start the new year off with a clean slate and a clean toilet, I always say.

Isn't that what you always say, too?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cancelled Plans

(My latest quilt, which I started before taking my quilt class, which is why it is decidedly off-kilter. But still cute, right?)

Some friends were supposed to come over for lunch today. These are newish friends of mine who are also newish friends of each other, and I was looking forward to hanging out with them. Unfortunately, children were struck by Strep (not my children, fortunately), and we've had to reschedule.

All this was known by late last night, after I'd done some prep work, but not everything. I had a lot of cleaning left this to do this morning that I didn't have to do after all, which in one way was a relief--two hours of cleaning avoided!--but also a disappointment. One of my favorite things about having company is getting to enjoy a clean house (and leftovers) afterward. It's a lot of work, but the pay-off is grand.

I will say I had a very nice menu planned: Chicken salad on croissants, pasta with pesto, fruit salad, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Now I have a lot of croissants crowding up my kitchen counter. If I gain five pounds by the end of the week, you know why.


Since lunch was canceled, we ended up going to buy Jack's books at Our Fine Middle School. Yep, you heard right: we have to buy Jack's books. That came as a total shock last year; this year, I was prepared for it. You can get a lot of the books used, but Jack always wants them new, so we struggle and dicker. He gets straight As, and you could make the argument that school books are like his sports equipment. You could also argue that come winter, he might like a winter coat, but we will have spent all our money on school books.

I had my first "foot in my mouth trying to make small talk" moment of the 2010-2011 school year. I ran into a very nice woman I know slightly and often make pleasant chit chat with. She was wearing a very cute skort from Land's End--I knew it was from Land's End because I had ordered one for myself last summer. When I got it, it was a little tight and a little short. I thought maybe I'd lose weight and it would look better, but I didn't lose weight, and there's no guarantee that I will ever lose weight (and I don't need a skort mocking me from my closet if I don't), so I put it in the bag of stuff to be given away.

When I saw Ann, I said, "I had that same skirt, but you look so much cuter in it than I ever did. I ended up giving mine to Good Will. You look great, though."

Ann just laughed and said, "Oh, you're sweet to say that," but as I walked away I wondered, did she think I was saying I thought she'd picked up my old skort at Good Will? Did she think I was some shrewish, passive-aggressive awful person insinuating she is the sort of person who looks great--in my hand-me-downs?

Amy assured me later in the afternoon that I was over-thinking things, but as one of my best friends, it's Amy's job to try to convince me I didn't just make a complete ninny out of myself.

Well, it's that time of year, isn't it? The time of year when I must pledge to quit making small talk beyond, "Great to see you!" and "Love your hair!" I must stop trying to do something I am so perfectly incapable of--and that makes me so miserable afterward. Ann probably didn't take my comment the wrong way, but I still spent an hour worrying about it.

And so, my friends, I am taking the No Small Talk Pledge for the upcoming school year and social season. Anyone care to join me?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

13 Days

(mountain fern, mountain bug)

I have posted tiny little love notes to everyone who commented on my blog-o-versary. If you haven't had a chance to comment, but want to, please do. I will post a tiny little love note to you as well. It's not too late!

5:42 p.m. This is the lowest point in my day. That sounds dramatic. It's not low as in "Time to throw myself off a cliff now" low. Low energy low, is what we're talking about. "Need to eat dinner but the Man doesn't get home until 6:30" low. "I'd take a nap but I might not wake up until midnight" low.

I think I'm feeling particularly tired today because:

1. It is 100 degrees.

2. My children were pills at the pool. Will pestered Jack, and Jack kept storming over to me to complain in his best "My Life is an Opera of Wildly Dramatic Proportions and Now I Will Yell About My Misery in a Manner that will Make You Want to Strangle Me in Front of Ninety-Seven Witnesses" voice. Instant headache.

3. My friend Sarah gave me an Ikea catalog to look at. I immediately started hyperventilating. I have never gotten so excited looking at a catalog in my life. Affordable furniture! Maybe now I can actually have a grown-up bedroom! And Will can have drawers! And it's all so cute and funky! Really, I nearly passed out reading this thing.

4. It is 100 degrees.

I think that's all I have to say. Oh, did I mention there are 13 days left until school starts? I was at the pool today with my friends Amy and Tiffany, who home school, and I thought, "These are the great ones, the women of valor, the warriors of our tribe." Home school moms, I honor you! You are better women than I.

There, I've admitted it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

15 Days/Happy 3rd Blog-o-versary!

(I'm blogging on my porch! No hands!)

I just spent an hour weeding the garden. It's been so hot this summer that I'd sort of given up. When it's too hot to weed at 8 a.m., it's too hot to weed period. Why should the weeds be put out of their misery when the rest of us have to suffer through it? But fall is around the corner, and along with it opportunities for new gardens. So time to shed the old one of all its flotsam and jetsam.

The only problem with spending an hour weeding first thing in the morning is I am now officially too pooped to do anything else for the rest of the day. Maybe when I finish this glass of iced tea, I'll feel differently.


Saturday marked three years of blogging for me. I meant to post and make a big hoo-hah about it, but I was consumed by Will's room, the purging of it, the despair of it, the desperation, the hopelessness. We are getting Will some new furniture in hopes that it will turn him around. Repent, Will, repent! And put the dang Lego away before it sends someone to the emergency room.

Anyhoo. Three years. I looked back at some of my very early posts and realized that one of my very first commentors was Heather, over at Pneuma, and another one was Victoria, who at that time was posting at Dear Megan (I think; is that right?), and now is at One Sheep Town. I hadn't realized we went so far back. We were practically kids together.

It's funny, how some people stick with you, and some fall away. I've had the same experience as a blog reader, myself. There are a couple of blogs I followed religiously when I first started out, and then slowly stopped checking in. Sometimes when blogs get very popular, I get less interested in participating, maybe because it seems like there's less chance for a real friendship to bloom. I will say that my friend Ali over at Domesticali has gotten increasingly popular, with posts that garner upwards to 40 comments, but she still feels like a friend. Besides, her photography is so wonderful, I can't give it up.

I want to say thanks to all my dear blog friends, new and old--Tracy, Debbie, Dulce, Ali, GretchenJoanna, Jody, Victoria, Heather, Pom Pom, Sara, Angela, Danielle and Susan, and to my newest blog friends, Magsmcc and Wayside Wanderer. Your friendship makes me happy, and I often think of you when I'm wandering through this wide, green world.

If you're reading this and have never commented, leave me a comment to let me know you're here! I'm glad you are.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nineteen Days

(I'm going to take a photography class or at least read a book about it one of these days, I promise. Anyway, these are the blocks of the quilt I'm working on and have some hope of finishing before summer ends. Hmmm ...)

Dulce has asked how long our summer vacation is (or, as she put it, being British, our holidays). The short answer is: too long. The precise answer: eleven weeks. Another answer is: all we need of Hell.

When formal education became mandatory in the States, in the late 1800s, we were still an agrarian nation, and a long summer break was necessary because a child's labor was needed on the farm. Nowadays most American children don't labor in the summer. They stew. Or they go to camp. Or watch too much TV and spend hours on the DS. And/Or drive their caregivers to distraction.

It's a stupid system. Some break is needed, of course. Six weeks sounds about right to me, maybe seven, just so everyone is chomping at the bit for school to start again.

Anyway, I'm thinking that if I get rich, I'm going to buy a farm and turn my children into farmers. I've found 13 acres and a falling down farm house up in Hurdle Mills for $125,000. We wouldn't move there, just head up on summer mornings to tend the alfafa or turnip greens or what have you. There's a pond on the property. I thinking about getting my friends to pay me to take their children, too. I'd make a mint.


I have finally, finally, FINALLY finished the first draft of a book I've been working on since spring. It is possible that it's insanely bad. I think it's good, but sometimes I'm wrong. It's very easy to be blind to the flaws in your own work (and sometimes easy to be blind to its beauties).

Of course, as soon as I finished I got a tremendous headache, and I still don't feel so hot. This always happens to me when I make big plans that will come into play as soon as I finish something else. My big plans of making quilts and putting my house in order and some paint on the walls and generally making my life wonderful and perfect have gotten me through many months of writing. Now that I'm done I feel blah. I think it's my body's way of telling me to take a holiday. Stew. Play on the DS and drive my caregivers crazy.

I'll give it a shot.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Twenty-One Days

(This picture doesn't have anything to do with the following post, but I like a colorful blog, don't you?)

School starts three weeks from today.

Further proof that God is good.

I have an older friend, in her mid-seventies, who raised three children. She claims that at the beginning of every summer she went to the doctor and updated her Valium prescription. This is how she survived the months from June to September.

If medication stronger than Ibuprofin didn't send me into a deep slumber, a prescription for sedatives would be quite the summertime temptation.

All my conversations with other parents the last month have primarily concerned the wonders of year-round schooling. Even Amy, who homeschools. We all wonder if our friend, Danielle, is privately gloating. Her kids are in year-round school. She's been a free woman (other than the lunch-making, the car-pooling, the dragging unwilling children out of bed thing) since July 18th.

It's not the lack of freedom that concerns me, actually. When my children are being cheerful and lovely, it's a pleasure to have them around. They amuse themselves, read, talk on the phone with friends. They say funny things and ask interesting questions. When I take the dog on a walk, they want to go with me and chat about the wonders of our neighborhood.

The problem is, they've been cranky since July 5th. They've broken out in fist fights in the aisles of Target. They've sulked about being taken on nature hikes ("It's too hot!" "I'm tired!), bickered about who gets to use the Scooby-Doo towel, and generally made life miserable for everyone in a five-mile radius.

Summer vacation is a nice idea in theory, but it doesn't work all that well in practice. Maybe for three weeks. It really goes downhill after July 4th. The kids miss their routine. Even with daily trips to the pool and an expanded chore list, there's not enough for them to do. It is the curse of the non-farming middle class. Where is the meaningful work for kids?

Lately, the Man and I have taken to torturing the kids with back-to-school talk. They make faces, act like they can't stand the thought. But I remember back in the day, how right around the beginning of August, I started looking forward to the first day of school. It was the true beginning of the new year, a chance to start over, an opportunity to invest in that most wonderful of investments--new school supplies. I loved arranging them just-so on the floor of my bedroom.

Was my mother's step a little lighter, too? Her countenance more cheerful? Did she take frequent breaks from washing dishes or making the beds to rub her hands with glee? Being a child, I was too self-centered to notice. But now, a mother myself, I'm pretty sure I know the answer.

Twenty-one days. The only question is, will I survive them?