Thursday, May 27, 2010

First Grade Author Day

Just back from the First Grade Authors Party at Our Fine School. The desks were arranged in a square, and each author sat behind a display of his/her work from this past year. First grade authors seem especially fond of writing about Halloween, difficult younger siblings, and what their dads do on Saturdays. Abby's dad watches sports in his boxer shorts, in case you were wondering.

Will wrote primarily about our dog, Travis, and sports. He did not reveal any family secrets. He did reveal that he can't spell for beans. Neither of my children have really taken to spelling. They do fine on spelling tests, because they're good memorizers, but spelling in the wild? Forget it.

It is exhausting work, praising young authors. I--and all the other parents--went from desk to desk, reading such tomes as "The Day I Lost My Tooth and My Brother Flushed It Down the Toilet," and "What My Dad Does After Lunch," and asking thoughtful, serious questions. "Now, where did you come up with the idea to have the dog in your story eat ten socks?" "Because that's what happened. See on the next page how he's throwing up?" "Wow, that's an amazing drawing!" "Yeah, I draw throw-up really good."

Some of the kids were very eager to discuss their work. For others, you could tell this process was nothing short of painful. Frankly, thirty minutes of nonstop praise is probably too much for even the most narcissistic among us.

I will miss Will's first grade class. The kids really like each other, and the parents really like each other--there's a real sense of community when you go into the classroom. It's the first year I didn't spend every classroom function in the corner, trying to look incredibly interested in the poster about proper bathroom procedures (Wash your hands!).


Today is the last full day of school. After this, it's half days. Which is to say, I'm done making lunches until late August! Why is having to make school lunches the most oppressive chore known to womankind? Every mom I know feels this way. I always make the boys' lunches the night before, because I like things streamlined in the morning, and every night it's like this weight hanging over me: Oh, yeah, I've got to make lunch. Sigh.

Maybe it's because I never remember that I'm going to have to make lunch. It's a surprise to me almost every day. I've cooked and cleaned and written and walked the dog and folded the laundry, and I'm about ready to sit down and knit or work on a quilt or read, and then it hits me: I still have to make lunch.

But not for the next eleven weeks, I don't. Holiday! Hurray! I'm free!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer's Almost Here

I think I'm going to write shorter and more frequent posts. It's fun for me to go through old posts and see what was going on in, say, September 2007 or how I was feeling around Christmas 2008. But sometimes I feel daunted when I sit down to post--shouldn't I have something to say?

Here's what I have to say today: School is almost out. It really winds down Friday, when a long string of half days begins (plus a three-day weekend). What I love about summer: sleeping in, not having to run around all day driving kids to and from school. What drives me crazy about summer: never having a minute alone in the house. Oh, and heat and humidity and having to bare practically all at the swimming pool.

It seems strange to me that we're expected to put ourselves on display from June through August. I'm a fairly modest person--we do not have one of those naked households where everyone is very nonchalant about walking around without clothes--and it is almost impossible to feel modest in swimsuit. Or thin. Even thin people don't feel thin.

And then there are the saggy knees and the spider veins. Why must I share?

Of course, at the ripe old age of 46 minus five days, I'm aware that I'm largely invisible. It's one of the interesting, somewhat liberating, someone dismaying things about getting older. Unless you really work at it, and some women do, just not me, you're really not the center of much attention. And as someone who has never liked being looked at, I don't mind too terribly much. It's interesting to walk around a crowd feeling invisible. You don't worry so much about how you look, because no one really sees you.

I was brought up to be conscious of the world looking at me. I was brought up to believe that being pretty was important. I was also brought to believe that being smart and good were also important, I should say. But being pretty was definitely up there on the list of Important Things Girls Should Devote Themselves To.

It would be nice to let that go, at least a little bit.

And it would be nice to wear a swim suit that didn't expose the parts of me I spend the rest of the year strategically trying to minimize.

Maybe one of the nicest things about summer is watching my children in their swimsuits. They don't give one thought to how they look. They just play and enjoy the feel of the hot sun and the cool water.

It must be nice.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Some Thoughts on Cooking and Food

Tonight I made spinach and black bean quesadillas for dinner. I've made this recipe several times, and the results are good. At least, the Man and I like them, especially with fresh salsa. Jack? Not so much. Will? Don't ask. Still, I keep dreaming this is the kind of food my boys will take to: healthy, vegetarian, full of fiber and spinach goodness.

The thing is about these quesadillas, they're a pain in the tuckus to cook. Have you ever tried flipping two tortillas vaguely strung together by a little cheddar cheese and filled up with beans? Believe you me: the beans go flying. Not to mention that this is a supposedly low fat meal (I may tuck in slightly more cheese than the recipe calls for; sue me), so there's not a film of butter or oil on the pan making the tortillas easy to move around. No, it's cooking spray all the way.

So the frustrated flipping is overlaid in an aura of smoke from the tortilla bits burning on the pan. And it ends up taking a long time to cook the quesadillas because you can only do one at a time.

Tonight, as I was fixing them, I had this thought: Why do I cook stuff that's no fun to cook? Fortunately, spinach and black bean quesadillas are yummy (yes, Jack and Will, they are), so it's not like those awful meals that take forever to prepare and then sit there flabby and tasteless on your plate, and you feel so defeated you want to weep. But still, by the time dinner was over, I was tired and listless. Maybe I'd inhaled too much smoke from the pan, I don't know.

You know what I love to make? A Cobb Salad. You bake a few chicken breasts (and over the years I've learned how to do this so that the chicken breasts are nice and juicy, but still fully cooked), and the rest is pretty much just chopping. I like chopping. I pretend like I'm Julia Child and have a grand old time. I make a nice vinaigrette, feeling very urbane as I do, and voila! Dinner is served, and everyone loves it. Not a bit of smoke in my hair, either.

I don't have any big point to make here; I'm just pondering what the proper balance is between effort and end product. Really, what I'm pondering is why we don't order out more. Or why we don't embrace the raw food movement. No more cooking or baking! Just chopping! And chewing!

Somebody pass me a carrot.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Someone's Knocking at the Door

Okay, so just a few minutes ago the doorbell rang. I was upstairs, the boys were downstairs. I came downstairs and saw two young people on my porch holding clipboards.

I waved at them, said, "Not today," and waited for them to leave. The young man mouthed, "What?" I waved again, and walked down the hall to the kitchen. I waited a minute, then walked back to the door. They were gone.

Can I just say it goes against my good manners to behave in such a way? I am generally polite and friendly. I am even polite and friendly to phone solicitors--right before I hang up on them. I smiled at the young people on my porch with their clipboard, but I just didn't feel like talking to them. I contribute money to the charities I support, I write my representatives over the issues that concern me, I vote, and I not only buy gift wrap from the Our Fine School Fundraiser, if I'm feeling really generous, I buy a roll or two from my nieces' schools, too.

So, really, I had nothing to say to these two young folks except "No." And then again: "No." And after one more attempt, "No, really, I mean it, no thank you."

But it seems rude not to open the door. It goes against my sense of hospitality. And it was raining. Not that I was going to invite them in, but it does make one feel sorry for them, that whatever cause they're shilling for, they're forced to do it in bad weather.

But when I open the door, someone sticks a foot in. This has happened before. I have subscribed to more than one magazine I didn't really want. Bought nut-filled candy bars for a nut-free house.

So, really, what's a girl to do? Obviously I feel conflicted over this. To open the door or not?

Tell me, what do you do?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This Blessed Plot, This Earth, This Realm ...

The other day Pom Pom mentioned the book Lark Rise to Candleford on her blog, and the title alone made me want to read it. So I put it on hold at the library, and yesterday I picked it up. Now I am afraid to read it.

Just listen to this jacket flap copy: In the 1880s the countryside was on the brink of unalterable change, and the march of progress would soon wipe away the unique idiosyncrasies of a centuries-old way of life. But Flora Thompson was born in time to capture it forever, with her unforgettable gallery of characters--Old Sally, Miss Lane the Postmistress, Sir Timothy, Miss Macey and the rest--and her unsentimental but deeply affectionate account of the humble details of the life she knew.

I think the only way for me to read this book is to stop every five minutes and chant They didn't have antibiotics at least twenty times. Otherwise, I fear I will emerge from the book into the 21st century and be sad for the way things are, the pollution, and the children writing terrible things about each other on their Facebook pages, and the movies that pass themselves off for entertainment, but are so deeply vile I can't believe people aren't outraged by them.

The copy of Lark Rise to Candleford I've checked out is the illustrated edition, and there are many beautiful pictures of the countryside, the flora and the fauna, the children on their way to school. When I look at them I must remind myself: It rains a lot in England. The weather is often dreary and miserable. You think you would be happy there, but you wouldn't. Plus, back in the day, they didn't have antibiotics.

And of course the England of Lark Rise to Candleford--and the England of one of my favorite films, A Room with a View--no longer exists. But I want it to exist, the same way I want a world without Judd Apatow movies (which are very funny, but so spiritually empty I want to jump off the roof after watching them) and children making one another commit suicide with their online smear campaigns.

But we do have penicillin--and that ain't nothing.

So will I read Lark Rise to Candleford? How can I resist? Though I might get my own copy to read at the beach in June, where I will be surrounded by so much insistent beauty that I will be able to bear the beauty of the 19th century English countryside and those children with their rosy little cheeks.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Mess #1

We've gotten to the point in the school year where I no longer care all that much about combing the boys' hair in the morning. Jack, whose hair is thick and heavy, usually can get by with a gentle hair patting to smooth everything down, except on those mornings after he's had a shower. Then water must be applied. Will, whose hair is fine and light, is another story. It's amazing to me, his hair configurations. What does this child do while he's sleeping to cause such follicular combustions?

The last week or so, if Will's hair isn't too wildly out of whack, I let him walk out the door with various strands sticking out here and there. I've noticed at drop-off I'm not the only mom at Our Fine School who's given up the ghost. It's a regular parade of kids having bad hair days.

It goes without saying that I stopped combing my own hair sometime around February.

Mess #2

So I casually mention to the Man the other day that I might have accidentally torn a teeny tiny little rip in the wallpaper in the living room, oh, two or three weeks a go, and if we ever decide to sell the house we'll have to do something about it. The Man massaged his temples the way he does when a tension headache is in the making, and gently, through clenched teeth, asked me to show him where.

Thus began the Great Wallpaper Peel of 2010.

So, we have an L-shaped living room/dining room area that's not humongous, but it's a nice sized space. The wallpaper, applied by the previous owners, is tasteful but bland--a mottled cream with gold and brown squiggles. It's the sort of wallpaper you can live with while simultaneously hating it with every fiber of your being.

The bad news here is also the good news: it comes off easily. As I found out removing a bit of tape from it a few weeks ago, and as the Man found out Sunday as he began, with reckless abandon, stripping it off the walls. Once he realized it would be an easy job, he took to it with gusto.

Not satisfied to stop with the living room, he soon ventured into the front hall, with its dark blue paper that sucks every drop of light from the foyer and stairway. Turns out that comes off pretty easily too!

So now much of the first floor of my house is littered in wallpaper scraps, and the walls are standing around naked and self-conscious. I'm happy for the wallpaper to come down, but a little scared that the Man will run out of steam before the priming and painting begins.

Messes I Don't Have the Energy to Think about Right Now:

1. Will's room
2. My study (which has become a repository for all the upstairs recycling and the stuff that gets carried upstairs from the living room and family room, but doesn't quite make it to its proper place)
3. Will's room
4. The bathtub in the master bathroom
5. Will's room
6. The mudroom
7. Will's room

Did I mention Will's room?