Sunday, May 30, 2010

When Serentiy Prayers Won't Work

How do you admit you have a problem? Face it head on? Let it fester for a while? Wait until your family stages an intervention? For me, I think it's a combination of all three. There's no substance abuse here, no illegal drugs, no behavior that is non-conducive to a productive life . . . but there might be a problem. Let me back-track about three weeks.

Jordan and Shelby finished their first year at Temple on the 12th (quite well, I might add). They came home to a messy house as I finished up with a student teacher a few days prior, was back in full teacher mode, and settling into a precarious balance of extra duties. Translation: cleaning was the last thing on my mind and I really didn't care. I'd had about six hours sleep over the course of two days and woken up thinking every morning for a week. Things at work had been reeling in my brain for days on end, and I could have cared less about what the dining room, living room, my room, and bathroom looked like. The Girls, on the other hand, did . . . and I totally get that. Truly, I do. But for me, cleaning would most likely wait until the first day of summer break.

I do this every summer, literally, spending days pulling everything out and doing a thorough purge of crap. Stuff I bought at Target on clearance - gone. Stuff I "rescued" from Mom's house - gone. Stuff I have been saving for another use - gone. Get the picture? Erika can tell you . . . I might not surface for a week depending on the mood, but the house gets clean. This year, I decided differently because the Girls were expressing their frustration with the clutter. Jordan even asked how, if she and Shelby were so tidy, I could live with all the mess on the dining room table. Truth be told, I really don't like it, but I've gotten used to it. And, I knew that once I got started, the yarn and knitting crap would take a full day to sort out properly.

Yesterday was that day. Dave and I went to Target and bought some lovely clear storage containers. I opened up a notebook, carefully inscribing "Projects" on one page and then skipping about 30 pages and writing "Yarn" on another. At 10 AM, I pulled out the first of many bags next to the couch to begin a slow descent into my own personal hell. You don't have to knit to understand this . . . you just need one hobby or craft or passion or collection. By the time Shelby woke up, the couch was covered with bags of yarn, projects half begun and discarded, various needles and books and shit that I long forgot I had. "Hey! You're cleaning the dining room," she said. When I pointed out that this was from next to the couch, her look changed. I don't think it was sympathy but more of concern.

By the time I finished pulling stuff out from bags, from cabinets, from under the table, from a beautiful stand that Dave bought me years ago when this obsession was manageable, I had no clue what to do next. Start by putting sweater-quantity yarn into a bin: check. Hang your head in shame over the ten sweater-quantity yarn selections you just put in that bin: check. Wonder if it's too early to start drinking: check. Think about running away: check. Motioning at the couch and the dining room table, I told Dave that I had no clue what to do next. "Well, you have to do something because it can't stay like that," he said.

About seven hours later, I finally admitted that I was, in fact, as done as I was going to be. Honestly, I accomplished a lot but nothing at the same time. Sure, I had the yarn all nicely organized and cataloged and tucked away . . . but the five sets of vocabulary essays and five sets of punctuation quizzes were still sitting in my school bag, my summer clothes still sat in Space Bags upstairs in the hall.

But damn if I don't have the nicest, most organized yarn in the county. I even saved a spot for the yarn I need for a new sweater.


Friday, May 28, 2010

"It's Friday & I'm in Love" Poker Face All Glee'd up

I missed it.
But Becky shared it.
And I'm in love.

"It's Friday & I'm in Love" Starbucks Ice Tea cups.

I have lots of favorites. So many that I forget to share. I figured that I'd use Fridays to pass these along.

It's no secret that Starbucks is one of my all-time favorites (all-times: My camera, Dyson, Bare Minerals, Ingenue tea pot). If you tell me that they dye sawdust to match the coffee grounds & then mix them into every pound, I'd say, "Genius!" When I was pregnant with Becket, the logo alone sent me drifting towards Happiness. When I walk past a location & I smell the Pumpkin Spice syrup, I know it's fall. I look up & sure enough the leaves are orange, brown & crispy. Via? Via-rrific!  Starbucks just makes me happy.

A couple years ago, I saw a McDonald's vs. Starbucks challenge on CNN. Apparently, McDonald's coffee won hands down. I think the clown rigged the challenge because there's no way it's better than Starbucks. McDonald's coffee taste like burnt Styrofoam and it's hot as hell! Remember the woman that sued for hot coffee? I don't blame her! If I spill a Tall Starbucks on my Girlie Goods, they'd be numb. If I spill a small McDonald's on my Girlie Goods, the GYNO at the ER would have to ask, "Are you done with kids? Cause you are."

What more could Starbucks do to impress me?  Let me share. It's something I can't believe I've lived my summers without. I've seen the ice tea tumblers for the past couple of summers. I really don't need one more reusable cups.  Honestly.  But my mom is obsessed with this style of cup. They have half a dozen because they don't sweat. When they travel, they seek out this type of tumbler.  Since Ma knows best, I decided to pick up the small one. I had them fill it with an ice tea. Screwed on the lid & went to the grocery. I left the cup in my hotbox of a car & did my shopping. An hour later & my ice tea was still freezing! Best part? No dripping. No embarrassing "Looks like I pee'd my pants" stain. Just glorious ice-cold tea. I'm pretty sure that my A/C in the car is breaking down, so I might need the big tumbler after all.

p.s. Jill these would be perfect in your house.  But since you're my Big Sister, you probably already know this & have 8 of them.  And if you do, shame on you for not using your Big Sister role properly!

p.s. again!  Have a nice holiday weekend!  Ours is shaping up to be a good one filled with lots of friends.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sweeter Than Candy On A Stick

Seventh grade was probably the most challenging year for me as a student. Our dad worked for a company that made tractor trailer and school buses. It was in the process of shutting down the plant in the city where we lived, and we didn't know if he would have a job in the new plant. Needless to say, for about six months, we lived with the "unknown" . . . not a happy few months. During that time, I realized that boys were treated differently from the girls (truly, it had been unknown to me up until that year), that I wasn't that good at math, and that I probably would never be an athlete. Needless to say, Dad was offered a position at the new plant, he commuted for a few months, and then we sold our home and moved to Ohio. I was more than happy to put seventh grade behind me forever.

Fast forward about 20 years . . . I'm an adult, I'm a certified teacher, and I'm offered my first contract: teaching seventh grade English. Turns out I couldn't escape that scourge after all. The only thing that changed? I kind of like it now. I love that my kids come up with something new every day. I love that they are in abject misery because they can't go to the bathroom right that minute and then are in rapture the next when we do something interesting. I love seeing the "look" when they get something. I love the stories. I love them.

Tonight, I am doing something I never thought I would be doing in a million years: singing on stage with a bunch of junior high students in front of their friends and families. For some reason, our choir director asked the students to see if they could convince female teachers to sing "Lollipop" (the Chordettes version, not L'il Wayne's opus). Two of my girls from the literary magazine that I run asked if I would join in. For these two, I can refuse nothing. One of them has such a bubbly personality that you can't help but smile and laugh out loud. She wants to be a middle school teacher and will be damn good at it. She has one story after the other, yet I really fear for her. She is in seventh grade, and I never want her to get to the point where she feels like it is all too much for her: the drama with friends, boys acting like boys, school work piling up, life in general.

The other one? She isn't a typical eighth grader. She's a little too streetwise. She's seen too much at 14. She's taken on too much responsibility. She calls me Cherry Blossom because of my water bottle. And yet, she's after school every Tuesday, working on her creative writing and being brutally honest with the papers in front of her. Three weeks ago, she showed up in my first period class with blurry, blood shot eyes. I took her in the hall and listened as she sobbed and poured her heart out. For a change, I was at a loss for words.

She lost a brother in the earthquake in Haiti. Her grandfather was immigrating any day from Haiti, only he died of a heart attack. An older sister was missing in NewYork. And the petty little day-to-day bullshit stuff that adults learn to deal with? Well, it had taken their toll on an already fragile little girl. So, I let her cry. I listened. I offered advice. I walked with her to see another teacher she trusted. We let her cry. And we listened. And we offered advice.

I'd like to say it made a difference and for all I know, it did. But tonight . . . tonight, I swallow my pride and will be singing, "Lollipop" on a hot stage in an auditorium full of god-knows-who . . . all for two little girls - because they really are girls after all -  who make my world brighter. I'll sing off key and snap my fingers in all the wrong places. Because my girls asked me to.

Jill, who promises to take some relevant photos this weekend . . . but this one was the only one from school

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This is Why I Never Carry Cash

I'm a mean Mom.   For months, I've been denying the boys a visit to the McDonald's with a playground.  Yes, they'd like to watch "Phines & Ferb" all day, but we limit.  It actually could be done.  I'm starting to think that "P & F" is the adult version of "Law & Order".  Some channel is currently playing a marathon for no good reason.  Yesterday, Coop actually told me I was mean because I said he could not have a cookie before dinner.  Becks will learn very soon that the train is always broken at the zoo.  And both the boys are pretty angry with us cause we don't allow them to take toys to bed any longer.

On Sunday, I tried to fix my image.  We went to dinner to our favorite Mexican restaurant.  We were greeted by a smiling photo of the Balloon Man.  Shit.  I forgot that Sundays are his day to entertain & blow happiness all over the place (get your mind out of the gutter).  Usually we don't have cash & since our boys are rather shy, we can politely wave him off.  But Mark had cash & I thought, "I can be a nice mom."  He came around & tried really hard to engage the boys.  They weren't having it.  Becks look downright pissed that his quesadilla might get cold.  I thanked him & felt relived that I dodge a bullet.  Until Cooper really wanted a dinosaur.  Since Mark had cash for tipping & Cooper got pretty excited to see a dinosaur in latex form (Be honest.  Who wouldn't?), they tracked Balloon Man down.  Becks got a bird.  And Cooper got a Dino.  Balloon Man got three dollars.

I'm sure you're wondering, why was I have anxiety about Balloon Man.  He's only spreading joy.  He's telling jokes albeit horrible ones.  He's twisting & knotting balloons into works of art.  What could Balloon Man do to irritate me?  Allow me to explain.  I have a problem where I anticipate the worst.  Mark's been yelling at me for years over this trait.  I've gotten better, but sometimes I can't shake it.  Especially with little things.  I no longer worry about the big things I can't control.  But the little things, hell yes, I think the worst.  For example, Person ABC is going to say some snarky when I talk about our weekend.  They never do.  Customer XYZ is going to be late & cancel on me.  It's never the ones I fear will.  I spend too much time in my head discussing outcomes that never happen.  But I was hoping I'd be wrong about our Balloon Man experience.  I wasn't.

I knew that once the Dino & Bird were twisted & presented that they would no longer be their original forms.  They'd morph into fighting machines.  And they did.  Dino became a sword & the Bird became a cannonball.  Four seconds later, Dino was jabbing Becks in the chest & Bird was dive bombing the leftover rice.  Kids aren't great with their control, so that Dino / Bird were now slashing all over a 3 booth radius.  Our kids are usually really good at restaurants.   By that I mean they sit & don't scream at every visit.  I don't care how wonderful your children are.  Throw long wobbly balloons into their chubby little hands & you created chaos.  Thank you, Balloon Man for a fabulous ending to our dinner.

Want to know where those balloons are now?  Slowly dying in our front room.  They have that balloon crust that withering balloons get.  The saggy skin of a once plump & promising play toy.  I would say that a really true Mean Mom would have popped those "weapons" the second the kids fell asleep.  See?  I'm getting better.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lists, Or How I Suck At Following Them

Every year, about this time, I get this itch to make lists. Part of me thinks that it has something to do with being a teacher and that never ending quest to learn. But truly, it stems from the fact that summer is about 18 short work days away, and I am a person who craves structure. Seriously . . . who makes "to do" lists for the summer? Umm, me. Summer should be a time of relaxing on the beach, basking in the sunlight, and recharging for the autumn. One problem . . . I burn quite easily. So I make lists instead.

Three-quarters of the time, my lists look like this:
  1. Read insert 25 titles of books here.
  2. Finish knitting insert all of my knitting projects here.
  3. Make a quilt, bag, dress, whatever-strikes-my-fancy.
  4. Learn how to take photographs like my sister (because I am a shitty, shitty photographer).
  5. Exercise (seriously, this makes it on the list every single year).
  6. Read some books for school.
  7. Be a better cook
    The list could go on and on and on. Rarely, if ever, do I cross off a single thing because while I crave structure, I also fall into routines too easily, routines like this:
    1. Make two cups of coffee.
    2. Watch Morning Joe.
    3. Watch People's Court.
    4. Watch Judge Judy.
    5. Watch some other horrible reality television program with a judge.
    6. Watch more television.
    7. Attempt to make dinner.
    So, the only list I plan on making this summer is limited to one thing: don't watch television during the day . . . except for Morning Joe (I kind of have a crush on Joe Scarborough . . . if anyone knows him, please pass the word).


    Saturday, May 22, 2010


    I'm a talker. My parents are talkers. My siblings are talkers & I'm going to assume that my grandparents were talkers. Because this kind of skill isn't cultivated. Classes help, but a talker is born that way. It is a God given talent.

    Please don't get lost in the wording. "Talent" & "skill" aren't always positive words. I'd give examples but I'd hate to offend someone right away. You see I always say too much. I'm loud. I monopolize the conversation. I ramble. I ramble so much I get lost in my point. I'm passionate. And with passion, there's always someone that is as passionate about the other side. Therefore, I usually piss that side off. I tell strangers in Target about my poo issues. I hold up lines at Starbucks because the barista has a nice watch. Talking isn't always a good thing. I'm constantly talking & working with myself about the bad issues that come with being a talker. But in the end, it's what I do.

    My older sister likes to talk & write too. And what are two gals suppose to do with all those words? Blog them. We don't believe our words are important for others to read. We don't think we're so funny that others will surely die from laughter. We just need an outlet. Some people listen or make music. Some people get lost in mountains of books. Some people crawl into a closet & do a ton of drugs. But we're talkers, so we talk. Maybe our families will get a break from our mindless ramblings. Don't hold your breath, families.

    I will add a few disclaimers. We're a filthy bunch. We cuss too much. I promise I want say, "Shit" in every post. But I won't apologize when I do. We're crude & have never not discussed poo or vomit. Me a little more often because I have two small boys. And it has been a long time since I was thrown-up on, so I feel one coming. I'm not good with my grammar, but Jill is. So if that's your thing, anticipate her posts & fear mine (please fill in my occasional missing word).

    But really we love stuff. We love our families. We love talking about our families. We love photographing our families. We also love to hate our families. Don't feel bad for them because they feel the same way. Trust me. We love sharing our frustrations & successes with our knitting projects. We sew, but rip more than we finish. We love to cook, read, & dance to crappy pop music. One of us loves tattoos, one of us loves to be a chicken, & one of us loves the show "Cops".

    Bear with us as we put this place in order.