So last week we had parent-teacher conferences. We go to our conferences with Will's teachers to find out how he's doing academically (just fine, thank you very much), and we go to our conferences with Jack's teachers to see how he's doing socially. The reports have often been mixed. From kindergarten through second grade, for instance, Jack had a reputation as a tattletale, which believe it or not, is not endearing. In third grade he was thought to be a bit rigid about rules.
But toward the end of third grade, he made a best friend, who remained his best friend in fifth and sixth grade, and Jack was happy and stopped narking out his peers all the time.
And then his best friend changed schools in sixth grade, and Jack has been in a bad mood ever since.
But in the last couple of weeks, we've started to see tiny changes in him at home. He's been consistently--well, cheerful would be too strong a word for it, so let's say not a total crank. He even makes occasional dinnertime conversation, and seems very interested when the Man and I discuss local and national politics.
According to Jack's advisor, Mrs. E., Jack's social life at school is improving, too. She says Jack was always with a group of kids on the seventh grade's recent trip to Washington, DC, and that he's talking more during the advisory period, where they discuss all sorts of middle school trauma, such as bullying and what to do when your best friend suddenly dumps you. She named names of kids that Jack's friends with. She said that there's more Jack love in the universe than we might imagine.
This, my friends, was a huge relief. For the last two years, all we've heard about is Jack eating by himself in a corner, nose in a book, pretending like the rest of the world didn't exist.
So you'd think with all that good news I'd go home and feel light as a feather. And I did feel pretty good, at least for awhile. But that night I started worrying about all the terrible things that could happen to my children--car crashes, refugee camps, starvation when all the oil runs out. I had a hard time sleeping, worrying about all this stuff.
Why all the anxiety, I wondered the next day. Why the big panic? It's all good. Jack's making a B+ in French, and he has friends. It's the best Jack news we've had since Kristof transferred.
And then it occurred to me that for the first time in two years I didn't have the usual Jack stuff to worry about, and so my brain--my fearful, anxious, primitive brain--had to find something else to latch onto. Something bigger to worry about. Something even worse than middle school. Which, if you think about it, pretty much leaves us with the Apocalypse.
(The pieced back of my Sawtooth Star quilt. Pictures of finished quilt soon, I hope--as soon as I finish it!)
When you're a nice, middle-aged lady such as myself, your sins tend not to be too flashy. No murder or adultery here, my dears. I mean, really, who has the time or the energy? Or a knife sharp enough to do the trick?
I do covet, it's true, and I can be quite envious at times, especially of people who are naturally slim. But my big sin has to be self-centeredness. While having children does cause me to be somewhat attentive to the needs of others on a regular basis, mostly when I plan my day, after I get past the have-to-do's, I go right to the what-I-want-to-do's. Sadly, caring for my neighbors is not always high on my list.
I've decided that this year for Lent I'm going to write a card or a letter every day, as a way of making space for people I'm not obligated by family ties to make space for. I know that it's more traditional to give up something for Lent, but I did some research, and all sorts of spiritual disciplines may practiced during the Lenten season, not just fasting. In fact, an emphasis on hospitality is one of those disciplines, so writing a card or a letter every day will be my practice of hospitality.
It will be interesting to see how this discipline feels, especially on those nights when I forget all about it until I'm just about to go to bed. I bet it will feel pretty irritating at times, and like a burden at others. But I hope it will change something inside me--or to put it as it's put in my mother's favorite grace, that it will make me more mindful of the ways and needs of others. We shall see.
Speaking of letters, are you familiar with the Letters of Note site? If not, you should definitely check it out, especially the letter I've linked to, which is one of the most remarkable letters I've ever read in my life.
And if you'd like me to send you a letter or a postcard this Lent, just let me know. I'll do it!
A few weeks ago, I received in a package--or, really, a tour bus--in the mail. When I opened it, three young scamps popped out, none other than Mole, Toad and Rat, AKA the Wind in the Willows gang. If you keep up with Pom Pom, you know she sent these rascals on a journey last fall, and now here they are.
At first, I set them up in the guest house ... ... where they spent a great deal of their time watching TV with a duck. I kept telling them it was time for them to go, but they were far too caught up in the soap opera that is Downton Abbey Season 2.
"But Mags is waiting for you in Belfast," I told them. "She's starting to get impatient!"
Finally, tearing himself away from the trials of Lady Mary and Cousin Matthew, Mole looked at me and said, "Mags, you say? The one who never sent you bangers, even though you asked so nicely?"
"She said it was illegal to send them overseas," I explained. "Otherwise, I'm sure she would have."
"I bet she says it's illegal to send jars of cheese overseas, too," Mole said, sneering ever so slightly. When I nodded, he gave out a hoot. "Illegal to send a jar of cheese? What turnip truck did you fall off, my dear? Perfectly legal to send jarred cheese! I do it all the time!"
Curses! Foiled again! Oh, that little minsk, Mags! Pretending that customs agents won't allow her to send me a little of this:
Well, I had to get my hands on that cheese, and I came up with a diabolical scheme. I would hold the boys hostage until Mags sent me some.
This plan worked brilliantly--until bedtime, that is, when the Boys' full-throated singing kept the family up all night. Oh, you can lock the Willows Gang up, but you can't keep their spirits down.
And so I am forced to send them on their merry way. Mags, look for them next week, no doubt worse for the wear. I'm glad I had a chance to spend some time with them, and with their lovely story, The Wind in the Willows, which I'm so glad I gave a second chance.
I continue to enjoy good health, you'll be happy to hear. Will, on the other hand, upon learning that the University of Carolina had been defeated by Duke in basketball, developed a stomachache and couldn't be convinced to go to school. Both universities are near our home, and people in this area tend to love one and hate the other. Will, like his dad, is a Carolina man. Jack could not care less.
I did finally get Will to school, an hour late. It's hard to know what to do with a stomachache, unless the child is actually throwing up, in which case you send him to school as fast as you can. But Will was not throwing up or doing anything else icky. He was crying, though, and tears are tough. I let him go back to bed for an hour, and then sent him on his way, where I'm sure he was razzed mercilessly by his Duke-loving friends and took it like a man.
When I took this picture I didn't realize my laundry basket was in the frame. It sort of spoils the House Beautiful effect of my fancy new pillows, doesn't it? But maybe it makes you feel at home. Do you mind when you go into somebody else's house and it's messy?
Pilates with Sarah tomorrow! If you never hear from me again, that's why.
Vines. I'm in love with vines! This year has been the best year for vines on record.What is it about 2012 and vines? I just don't know.
Okay, I feel like I'm finally getting a foothold on 2012. January turned out to be kind of a wash. First there was this to do, and then there was that to do, and then Will got sick, and then I got sick, and last week, when I said I was better? It turned out I wasn't. I had a fever all week and had no energy at all.
But now, my dears, I am really and truly better. I have energy! I'm almost done with a new (small) quilt top, and I made two pillowcases that are just darling (pictures soon), and I've been to the gym twice this week.
I'm back, baby!
So, my friend Sarah has joined my gym, and now she's forcing me to go to classes with her (Just kidding, Sarah! I'm going of my own free will!). The thing is, Sarah is very young, and I am very old. When she hears that there's a class at the gym titled "Dance Fusion," she thinks, "Fun!" I think, "Oh, my poor knees!"
But she made me go, and you know what? It was fun! We did a lot of hip gyrating, that's for sure. Maybe next time I'll take a video and post it. I'm sure Sarah wouldn't mind. On Friday we're going to try Pilates, and maybe the cycling class afterwards. And then who knows what else Sarah will talk me into. Zumba, probably.
I would like to report that I have lost five pounds in 2012. I'm halfway to my 2012 goal, with almost eleven months left to go. I might actually pull this off ...
I think that's it for now. I'm feeling very sleepy after all that gyrating. Imagine!
I'm a writer and a stay-at-home mom who keeps meaning to mop the floors because I think it would make me happy if I did. I love books and music and writing, spend entirely too much time in the dentist's chair (I bet I have more crowns than you do), and used to think I was sort of bohemian, but now I wonder. No tattoos. Minivan. That story.