Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The End of the Internet

Little A. truly earned his white belt in tae kwon do today. He worked hard, waited patiently, did as his instructors asked, got nervous and broke that board anyway. I could not be more proud of him.

And, after we went over his new TKD book and read about how he’s supposed to behave at home, he answered, “Yes, ma’am” or “yes, Mommy” to EVERYTHING I asked him. I am truly in awe of the miracle of martial arts. It works, people.

In honor of Little A.’s big accomplishment, I’m posting about another of the things I love about him.

With Little A., I’m a good mom for having my cell phone at the ready while I eat lunch with him. I literally cannot answer all his questions. So recent searches on my phone include “do gas giants have north and south poles” and “can tarantulas kill humans” and “do tumbleweeds have roots” and “image t-rex making bed.”

Okay, so that last one was just for fun. But he loved it.

Today, the scene began as I was still preparing food. So picture me microwaving, cutting off crusts, slicing apples, and generally staying busy during all this—unable to reach my phone full of facts.

“What animals have the best sense of smell, Mommy?”
(Frantically recalling recent conversations) “Umm, vultures, sharks, hyenas, dogs…”
“And t-rexes!”
“Okay, yep. I just didn’t list them because they’re extinct.”
“But they had to smell to find food.”
“Yep, all those animals do.”
“Vultures don’t need to catch food—they eat dead things.”
“True, but they have to smell them from far away to find them.”
“Can vultures smell dead things here from Africa?”
“Not quite that far.”
“Do vultures live in the desert?”
(Dredging up memories of vulture-in-desert photos) “Yes, they live just about everywhere.”
At this point, I babble on about what it means to adapt to different environments.
“Oh. So, can vultures adapt to anything?”
“Almost anything.”
At this point we somehow moved from the various permutations of growing fur to…
“Can mommy dogs only have puppies if they have a daddy dog friend or can they do it themselves?”

Yeah, um, son? I don’t care what I can Google on my phone, we’re not discussing either canine intercourse or parthenogenesis right now.

There is a limit to what the internet can do for you. We have reached the end of the internet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Worst (ish) of the Best

This little blog is about to reach 3,000 hits, so I thought I’d post a tribute to the man who makes it all possible, Big A. Without him, none of this could happen. I love writing. I love that you all read it. I love that he supports me in that. All you need is love.

And to emulate Ben Affleck, I’m going to keep it negative. I hope you caught that—I mean the sarcasm DRIPPING from that comment. Holy crow. If my husband said that to me in front of millions of people, I’d melt. I melt enough when he says nice stuff at home. And he does. He’s a good guy. That’s why I can rag on him here!

Without further ado…

The Worst (In a Trivial Sense) Ten Things My Husband Says:

10. (Comes home from work; sits on sofa.) Would you mind doing that? I’m just beat.
9. (In a restaurant, kids begging for fruit punch AND ice cream as well as chicken fingers and fries.) Why not?
8. Can we skip picking up the toys on his floor tonight?
7. (I’m working; he’s napping. The kids go Poltergeist; I rush in.) Sorry—I didn’t hear them.
6. (I find an eighth-inch crust of food in the pans in the drain.) But I washed that!
5. (Five minutes after I put the kids into bed and mention that it’s been a hell of a day.) You just need to have a little patience with them, you know?
4. (Christmas, birthday, mother’s day) I thought of the best gift to give you, but I just couldn’t find it.
3. (Holding large, irregular, unclosed box of his junk.) Where do you think I can put this?
2. I have never been this sick in my life. You have no idea how this feels. (Clearly, whatever I’m getting over is a different bug.)
1. (He vanishes after dinner, then returns twenty minutes later.) Oh. You did the dishes? I was going to do that.

Thank you all for reading!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Punch List for My House

As an architect’s wife, I’m professionally jealous of my husband.

When he’s wrapping the construction phase of a project, he gets to tour the nearly-complete building and make a “punch list.” That means he goes through each room and makes a list of things that need to be fixed, cleaned, finished, or otherwise taken care of. Then the contractor and subcontractors do all the items on the list.

I want to make a punch list.

I want to walk through my yard and my house pointing out all the things that need to be dealt with, then walk away, leaving the experts do their jobs.

They could prune the bougainvillea, weed, pressure wash the drive, get rid of the wasp’s nests, clean the pool cage screen, cut back the porter weed, haul away the non-native plants—

Folks, we haven’t gotten inside yet.

What about the garage? Wall mounts for the bikes, more shelves, repaint the floor…

Drippy faucet in the laundry room, “self-stripping wallpaper” in the great room, trim that needs painting—heck, let’s paint the whole interior!

And the best part of the punch list is that someone DOES the tasks! I imagine myself giving a punch list to anyone around here—like, say, my kids—and I laugh and laugh and laugh. Can you picture them doing something I tell them to do? If I tell them to put their shoes on to go get ice cream, they won’t do it.

One of my favorite books describes these punch list items as N.U.T.s—Nagging Unfinished Tasks. Right now I’m going N.U.T.s. Anybody want to punch me?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Which Mom Should I Be?

If parenting were high school, I’d be stuck in the same rut: I’d be the Good Student Mom. I do my work, mostly well and on time, I do lots of resume-building activities, I try to be nice to everyone—generally have full, “good” days. Not the class/PTA president, but an all-around solid student and volunteer.

I’m not sure how I ended up there. Perhaps I’ve never really thought much about what I want. I’ve always done what I felt like I should do. In high school, college, and into my twenties, I didn’t mind that. I had p-lent-y of leisure time for things I liked. And my thirties were all about kids. (‘My thirties were’—wow! I’m forty.) I’ve wanted to have children as long as I can remember, so the joyful work of their years of total dependence drowned out any thoughts about my life.

The nature of things demands that children become more independent all the time. And ours are, slowly but surely. As they get older, I can’t seem to get excited about what I should do—even if I can do it well, like a “good” girl does. 

An otherwise uninspiring therapist once told me that I should disconnect “can” from “should.” Just because I can go full speed eighteen hours a day parenting, working, and volunteering, doesn’t mean I should. Obviously, I never got to the session about what I want, because there’s the rub.

Life keeps showing me that time is our most precious commodity. So I am choosing to figure out what I want to spend that time on. I’m letting my mind off the leash; I’m starting to dream. What do I want to do with that irreplaceable time?

I want to be Poet Mom. I want to do odd projects, like school plays or fantastic decorations for a special event, not run committees or meetings. Meetings are my kryptonite. I can organize anything pretty well, but I don’t want to. I want to read storybooks in dramatic voices to skeptical children and make them laugh. I want to keep my house neat just because I enjoy the way it looks.

I want to bake outrageously delicate recipes—especially with my little chefs—and sew fantastic things—especially costumes for my kids. I want to go to coffee shops and beaches. I want to read books that dazzle me and make me think and laugh and cry. I want to run and kickbox and then wear hippie skirts so no one expects me to be able to lift a whole bag of dog food. I want to work with authors, spending time really absorbing their books and their voices, and helping them grow.

I want to cook elaborate meals with my husband while we laugh and listen to music. I want to have long summer dinners with friends—the dinners where the adults laugh and talk and the kids play in the pool, only coming out to grab some food. I want to go camping with my family, and sailing. I want to go on more bike rides with them. I want to go to movies and plays and concerts every once in a while. I want to do home improvement with my family.

I want my job to be what I love best—living life fully, truly being with my kids, my husband, my family, and my friends, observing the little pieces that make up the glorious whole, attempting to capture that in those miraculous black marks on crisp paper, those itty bitty word seeds that, if viable, blossom into near-recreations in the mind.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Clean for a Reason

Never, ever, ever clean anything without a darn good reason. Why not?

If you do, life will give you a darn good reason to clean it. Here’s how it goes.

You say, “Hey, my little cherub hasn’t wet the bed in two weeks. I should wash the sheets.”

You wash the sheets.

That same night, the little cherub will most definitely wet the bed.

I’ve learned this the hard way in almost every aspect of homemaking and child-rearing. If I clean the tub, the little guy has a digging day at school and gets black with dirt up to his elbows. Did you know that dirt actually does leave a ring around the tub? Little black spots on the walls, too, if someone splashes.

If I mop the white tile floor in our front hall, it rains. (The white tile came with the house. We’re not masochists.) Do you have any idea how many footprints four people and a dog can leave on white tile in ten minutes?

If I vacuum and dust for no reason, a week later--just enough time for a little dust to settle--we’re having guests. If I make a really good list for the grocery store and get everything on it, the next day we’ll run out of something essential. I could go on and on and on.

So I’ve learned—I wait until I have to clean something before I do. The odds get much better that way. Also, if you clean while the kids are sleeping, things will stay clean for, like, ten whole hours! I’m more of a keep-it-clean-so-you-don’t-need-to-clean-it person anyway. (See? I’m not OCD, just lazy. ) It’s amazing how well those work together.

And I confess. One of my luxuries is to change the sheets and clean the master bath when my husband goes out of town for business. Then I have a few days of clean all to myself! Well, guess what happened after I put on new sheets last night?

Yep, I found little A. standing by the bed at three in the morning. “A spider jumped off the wall, crawled over my hand and my face, and tried to get out the shutters!”

Awww. You can sleep here, sweetie.

Yep. He slept soundly. Wet morning.