Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Buddha Goes to School

Last week I forgot that I was a Buddhist.

Instead of being an impassioned, detached observer, I lost my head and thought I could control things. All I had to do was post lists of rules, yell a lot, and keep my nagging at a constant and steady rate.

Have you ever lived with a twelve-year-old boy? I know many of you reading this have, and so you have felt my pain. Try getting a twelve-year-old out of bed in the morning, especially one who spent the summer sleeping until noon. Try getting him fed, clothed and into the car by 7:40. Try making him floss his teeth.

Oh, Lord, try making that child floss his teeth.

Well, I tried. I nagged. I lost it. And then I gave up. Here's what I have had to tell myself: I can't make Jack happy. I can't make him organized. I can make him turn off his lights at night, but I can't actually make him fall asleep.

What I can do is make him suffer. Er, I mean make him suffer the consequences of his own actions. If he oversleeps, he gets to school late. If he doesn't do his homework, he'll get bad grades. If he gets bad grades, his computer will be taken away from him until his grades come up.

My problem is that I'm afraid. I'm afraid my very bright twelve-year-old son will end up living in a basement apartment with stained wall-to-wall carpet, surviving on bowls of dry cornflakes. The only light will be from the glow of his computer, where he spends all his waking hours playing World of Warcraft. He never bathes, and his breath is so toxic moths who get too close flutter to their deaths.

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I really fear this.

Still, what I know for sure is that nagging doesn't really work in the long run, and yelling doesn't do a thing but make everybody upset. I yelled at Jack on Monday, and it ruined the rest of the day for both of us. So no more yelling, no more nagging.

That's why, when Jack was doing his French homework in the car this morning, even though he'd told me last night he'd finished all of his homework, I didn't say a word. Didn't mention that children who want to go to Harvard (which is where Jack says he wants to go) tend to get their homework on time and do the extra credit. I didn't take away his computer time or threaten to throw his iPod out the window.

I just drove calmly on and, loving mother that I am, hoped he wouldn't finish it in time.

Let his French teacher nag him. Me, I'm done with all that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Report No. 6: Back to School

Frankly, we are all worn out.

In a blink of an eye we went from being the laziest people on the face of the planet to being A Family on the Go. Yesterday was Open House at Our Fine Schools, and I managed to get through both sessions without saying anything too outrageously stupid. In fact, I'm proud to report that I only said moderately stupid things all day. It helped that during Our Fine Middle School's open house I hid in the library with my friend the middle school librarian the whole time.

I'd planned to spend this morning writing, and I did write some, but mostly I felt sleepy. I yawned a lot. I kept waiting to be interrupted. It was very quiet.

After lunch I drank a cup of coffee and sat down to a good writing session. I was writing up a storm. I was getting 'er done, son. And then, suddenly, WHAM! A bomb exploded. A helicopter landed on our roof. An army kicked down the backdoor.

Whenever this sort of thing happens to me, my first response is to, well, panic. So that's what I did, but quietly, and with great dignity. Then I walked around for a few minutes trying to figure out why my house was shaking. Finally, I got my act together, grabbed the dog and the phone and headed outside.

The thought crossed my mind that we'd had an earthquake, but this is North Carolina and we don't have earthquakes here. After I'd walked around the yard and ascertained that there was no S.W.A.T. team on my roof, I went back inside and sat around feeling freaked out. What on earth had just happened?

A few minutes later, Sarah called. "Did you just have an earthquake over there?" she asked. As it happened, she'd had an earthquake at her house, too. I felt hugely relieved. All of Durham was having an earthquake--it wasn't just me having my own private earthquake!

Turns out the whole eastern seaboard had had an earthquake. You may have read about it in the paper. If you live in California, you've probably spent most of the day rolling your eyes. Don't get snarky with me, you California people! Let's just see you drive in snow! (Okay, I can't really drive in snow, either, but still; snarky people just peeve me.)

So that was the first day of school. Both of the boys seemed to have had a good day. They both had homework, which is how I like it. Will fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, which is how I like it even more. Neither of them felt the earthquake. Sensitive little fellers.

That's it for me. I guess this is my last summer report. I thought it was funny that nobody commented on my last post that they were ready for fall, too (Tracy was too polite to point that she lives in Australia, where it's no where near close to fall). This morning when I took Travis for his walk, it was cool, almost crisp. I'm readier than ever. Bring it on.

I hope it stays summer (or winter) where you are for as long as you want it to.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Report No. 5

(My newest quilt, Shoo Fly Pie. Photo credit: The Man)

School starts up in less than a week. Following our grand and very slack household tradition, I'm granting pert near all requests that come my way right now. A little extra computer time? Sure. A fifth bowl of Shredded Mini-Wheats? Go for it! Just one more episode of "Scooby Doo"? Why not?

Yep, that's right, it's Slacker Week in Slackerville.

It's quite delicious, this habit of letting loose the reins the week before school starts. Nice to forgo negotiations, ignore the time, say "yes" for once.

Even nicer knowing that next week, the whip comes down. (Please imagine right now, if you will, a middle-aged woman dressed as a dastardly villain of yore--yes, I'm wearing a top hat and spats--rubbing her hands together and muttering, "Heh, heh, heh!"). Up and at 'em, boys! Do your homework, boys! Of course you can't have extra computer time! It's 7:30; go to bed!



(The rough draft of a Dresden Plate block I'm working on for a Sampler quilt.
Photo Credit: The Man)

We had a nice trip to Kentucky last week to visit my parents. It was my father's 75th birthday, and the whole family gathered to celebrate. Right as dinner was about to be served on Saturday night, a huge storm whipped through, knocking out the power all over town. The Man and my brother had to go back to our hotel in the dark (with a flashlight, natch) and gather everyone's things to bring back to Grammy and Pop's.

The cousins were ecstatic. Family sleepover! I myself slept on a loveseat, perhaps somewhat less ecstatically. Fortunately, it was a cool night with a nice breeze. In the morning, the Man and Pop rode over to a McDonald's that had power and brought home coffee and Egg McMuffins, which are, if you were wondering, sort of gross. My dad kept apologizing for the power going out, and everyone kept assuring him we didn't actually blame him.

On the ride home, we got chased by a tornado and then landed in a traffic jam caused by a seven-car pile-up. The Man was valiant, the children were troopers, and I was resolute: I will never leave home again.


(Still Life with Sock and Melons. Photo Credit: Yours truly)

I've been knitting a lot, which is what I do when I'm ready for fall. I am ready for fall. Are you ready for fall?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blog-a-versary #4 (Two Days Late)

"He had never felt that ministry--or God--was about making things happy. He'd long felt that the heart of ministry--and the heart of God--is about making things beautiful, even when they can't be happy."

~~ from Living Without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence by Samuel Wells and Marcia A. Owen

I just started reading Living Without Enemies last night. Its authors are people I know--Sam Wells is the Dean of Duke Chapel, where I attend church, and Marcia Owen is the director of The Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, a group that seeks to end violence in our community. Once, a few years ago, I stood on a street corner downtown with Marcia and another woman, praying for peace in our city. It was one of the strangest things I've ever done, but I was glad I did it.

The funny thing is, when you do something like pray on the corner of a busy intersection or fix lunch in a soup kitchen, you feel good, but not the way people think you do. You don't feel good because you think you're this great, altruistic human being. Your feelings aren't about yourself at all. You feel good because for thirty minutes or an hour, you lived your life in the kingdom of God, right here on this earth, and you were actually paying enough attention to realize it.


I continue to feel unconcerned for my children's happiness. This came in handy today when I dropped Jack off at the chapel so he could put in a day's work with his youth group, a day which began at the St. Joseph's community garden downtown, followed by lunch--prepared by the youth--with the homeless gentleman who congregate there, and then more community service this afternoon. Tomorrow, more of the same, all of it in blistering hot weather.

The worst part of it all? I wouldn't let him take a book.

And while I don't care in the least whether or not he's happy today, deep down in my heart, I hope he is.

ETA: Just picked Jack up from St. Joseph's. He was hot, sweaty and complaining mightily about having spent the morning gardening in the heat. And he spent the whole trip home chatting away about the day's activities. In short, I think he had a great time.


As of today, I've been blogging for four years and two days. I am ever thankful and grateful for the community I've found myself a part of and the friendships I've made. Whenever I get cranky about the role of technology in our lives, I remember that the all-consuming Internet has brought into my life all sorts of wonderful people I'd probably not cross paths with in the regular course of events, and in that way modern technology has been a blessing to me. As have you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Report No. 5

This summer is the summer that I've found the secret to surviving the summer: Don't go to the pool. Counter-intuitive, I know, but it works for me. Let's look at why the pool may not be my natural habitat: I hate direct sunlight, I hate sunscreen, I hate chlorinated water, and I don't much care to swim.

I'd managed to stay out of pools for the twenty years between high school and Jack's third birthday, and I felt no loss. But when you stay home with small children, the pool is the only way you survive the hot months, and so off to the pool we went every day from the end of May until the start of September.

But now my children are no longer small. Jack's interest in the pool is waning, and Will's is entirely dependent on whether or not his friend Gavin will be there. Often Will ends up going with Gavin's family (thank you, Sarah!), leaving me to enjoy the long afternoons at home quilting, reading, canning, and--ever so rarely--cleaning.

Turns out, summer's not so bad when you don't spend everyday standing in the middle of a throng of splashing, screaming children who are all surreptitiously peeing in the water to their hearts' content. Huh. Who would've thunk it?


Really, it's been a nice summer. I've enjoyed the garden, enjoyed watching the hummingbirds and butterflies that are drawn to the flowers, enjoyed canning and freezing the tomatoes and the beans. I've had fun blueberry picking and attending fiddle conventions. The beach trip was marvelous. Lots of things to feast on this summer, visually, gastronomically ... lots of good sights, good smells, good eats.

But you know what? I'm about ready for it to end. School starts in three weeks, and while the boys have been phenomenally not-all-that-irritating this summer, I am ready to miss them again. Ready to feel nostalgic for their presence, sad in their absence.

In short, though I will miss the quiet, no-rush mornings, the aimless afternoons and evenings fragrant with honeysuckle, I am ready to have the house to myself.

Really, it comes down to that.