Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 Random Things

(This is a Facebook thing, and I don't do the Facebook social app things. But I like the people who tagged me, so here I am . . .)

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

  1. I have an addictive personality.
  2. I once called in sick to work because I wanted/needed to finish a book. (I was also sick, but that has never stopped me from going to work.) I did not allow myself to read unassigned fiction during the semester in college.
  3. I am, therefore, careful about things that are considered addictive.
  4. I am totally a snob. Just not about the usual things.
  5. I quit chewing my nails years ago, but now pick at my lip until it bleeds instead.
  6. I am a mess of conflicting desires and opinions.
  7. I want a huge, gorgeous house.
  8. But I think it's selfish and environmentally unsustainable to use more than one needs. Our house fits us fine. Sigh.
  9. I would love to spend a day a month at a nice spa, having pedicures and massages.
  10. But I would be horrified at such a wasteful expenditure of money, even if I could afford it.
  11. I whine about paying more than $15 for an item of clothing. (I shop rarely, and often at clearance sales.)
  12. But I know that to make clothes cheaply for people like me, the working conditions for some poor girl across the world are probably terrible.
  13. It can occasionally get a little depressing inside my head because of all this junk in there.
  14. But I'm really not a sad or depressed person! I make babies laugh! I cried on election night and watching the inauguration!
  15. I am still uncomfortable around adults with developmental disabilities and those who behave unpredictably. (I am working on this.)
  16. I want to be a writer.
  17. Really badly.
  18. I mean, I am a writer. And I have no need to be Dan Brown, but I do have a certain measure of success that I'd like to achieve in my dream career.
  19. I used to be skinny. (Like, couldn't donate blood because I didn't weigh 100 pounds skinny.)
  20. Now I'm not. By a long shot.
  21. I really enjoy sleep, but have a very hard time making myself go to sleep at night.
  22. My nightly oral care routine (read: brushing my teeth) is 5 different steps and takes nearly 10 minutes.
  23. I love coffee. But only with milk.
  24. I want to travel the world with my children. (But sometimes just taking them out to dinner is exhausting.)
  25. I am secretly very very lazy. I just hide this behind a screen of keeping very busy.

Which reminds me, I really need to go. I've got a couple of lessons to prepare for later this week, 3000 words of fiction to write, laundry to put away, a house to tidy, bathrooms to clean, a birthday present to wrap, several packages to mail, a book to finish, an over-full Google Reader, and hundreds of emails that need responses.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Birthday Castle

Last week, Ada turned two. Two! Already! She got a Mylar balloon to mark the big day. Naturally, she chose one with Dora the Explorer. I clipped it to her coat, since she was determined to have it with her at all times on her birthday (in fact, it's now a week later and she is still carrying it around the house). The balloon made her birthday obvious to everyone we encountered, and they each asked Ada how old she was. She'd look at the questioner somewhat slyly and say, "I three," then wait to see if they'd buy it. Too cute. She's since agreed to admit that she's just turned two.

Anyway, she wanted a cake - as well as presents, fireworks, and a party hat. I'll let you guess which one she didn't get. The cake should be a castle. Chocolate. And blue. With sprinkles. This presented a little challenge. My MIL gave me a great Bundt cake mold in the shape of a castle, and that's a lot of fun, but I felt like it would sort of be cheating. And I wouldn't use a kit, or anything inedible on the cake. That would be cheating, too.

So we made two 9" square cakes and some cupcakes, froze them, iced them in chocolate, froze them again, then iced them in vanilla icing tinted blue with food coloring. (There are ice cream cones on top of the cupcake turrets.) My first pass looked rather sophomoric and I was working on solutions for the rough edges when I decided that it should look sophomoric. It's a second birthday cake! So I tossed on some candy and left it at that. In the end, I'm happy with the way it turned out, and so was Ada!

Ada wanted to go to Chevy's for lunch (!) but she chose homemade mac & cheese for her birthday dinner:

The cake:

Ada did not want a princess ponytail for her party. She looked at me like I was nuts when I offered, and explained, "Party hat!" Of course! Fancy up-dos are incompatible with fashionable head gear.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Maybe I'll just close my eyes for a few minutes . . .

The world smells like Liquid Smoke. I got some on my hands tonight at Time for Dinner, and though I washed up right away, it seems to have penetrated my soul. Or at least my pores. And perhaps I rubbed my nose or brushed my hair back from my face at some point? At any rate, my "birthday cake" flavored milkshake tonight was a little unsettling. I felt like I was drinking it at a campfire. Or, worse, like it was spiked with meat.

We made it through a second snow day in a row, though I did cave and allow a video this morning so that I could take a shower, drink a cup of coffee, and read a couple of chapters of the book I want to return to the library tomorrow. Over the past month, I've read 3 George RR Martin novels and 3 Desden Files novels. Tomorrow I start a trilogy of thrillers that have nothing to do with fantasy - epic or urban. I am ready for a genre switch! (I also recently finished a Carson McCullers novel, but we don't need to talk about that. And some other books, too. But we're really getting far afield from my point, here.)

I got my word count in last night, but tonight's not looking so good. I've already convinced myself that I'll take my laptop and "write in bed," but that never goes well. I'm also convinced that I can do three things at once tomorrow morning, which is how I get into trouble, schedule-wise. I'm planning to drop off Ada at school (her first day in a new classroom!), register Ellie for Kindergarten, and find a quiet corner somewhere to write. One of these things is unlikely to happen.

I'm still loving the weather here. It's cold enough to preserve the snow, but not cold enough to hurt: highs around 20 with sun and little wind. Ada loved playing in the snow today. This afternoon, while I was shoveling, Ada worked alongside me with a little plastic trowel from the sand table. I scooped big shovelsful of snow off the driveway, and she followed along, scooping tiny chunks of snow back onto the pavement and saying, "I cleaning! I helping!" Ellie enjoyed playing at the sand table (?) and sitting on the sled asking to be pulled around the yard. Kids today. Life is easy! Back when I was a kid we had to haul our own sleds up hills. 5 miles long, they were! And when you got to the top, well, you'd just climb some more to get back home! (Because it was uphill both ways, of course.)

Then Paul came home and matched what I'd spent an hour doing in about 15 minutes. Whatever. Since it's likely to be my only shoveling experience of the winter, I didn't mind the work at all. Although I never realized just how long and wide our driveway really is.

Now give me 1000 words of page-turning, tension-building fiction in which nothing really happens. Then I'll let you go to bed!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Soft, White, Pillowy

School is canceled again for tomorrow, but at least it's a real snow day this time, complete with snow! This morning, I could still see the dead leaves through the 2-3 inch dusting on our front lawn, and it just felt silly to have school called off for something so . . . insignificant. (Note that I used to live on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, and lake effect snow is . . . beautiful, fun, and significant!) This evening, it started to snow for real, and everything outside is now magical. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's snow day even more than today's . . .

Except that Kindergarten registration is postponed again and that means that I don't get either of my two writing mornings this week, a week before I practice pitching Seek Ye First at a writer's conference. Gulp. (It's not ready, though it's not nearly as bad as my outdated sidebar would suggest.) Plus, the girls will be very disappointed when they realize that there's no MusikGarten this week.

But, hey, there's snow! It's amazing how that really does cheer me up. Our finances this month look . . . unpleasant due to heater repairs and my conference bills hitting during the same pay period. (We'll make it, no worries, but we're having to be more organized and disciplined than usual.) But I can't be pessimistic about it. I keep qualifying the bad money news and not understanding why Paul's crabby about it. "We had to juggle some things around, but we've dealt with it. Cheer up!" I told him. Apparently, snow isn't a magical cure-all for my Wyoming boy.

Anyway, today I stumbled upon a fun blog quiz thingie on someone else's blog while I was doing a little administrative work. What does your sleeping position say about you? (It's so true! I am a big, cranky, light-sleeping baby. Except when there's snow! Also note: comfort can be spelled S-N-O-W but also C-H-I-P-S-&-S-A-L-S-A.)

Your Sleeping Position Says You Need Comfort

You are secretly sensitive, but you often put up a front.

Shy and private, you yearn for security.

You take relationships slowly.

You need lots of reassurances before you can trust.

If you don't get enough sleep, you are: Cranky and a big baby

It's hard to sleep next to you because: You are a light sleeper

Monday, January 26, 2009

Snow and Garlic

. . . and school's already been canceled for tomorrow so Kindergarten registration is postponed. Sigh.

I am thrilled that we're finally having a bit of winter weather, though! And the girls will get to play in the snow tomorrow! Last year, Ada was just a toddler and couldn't handle walking in the snow very well. This year, she'll LOVE it.

Thinking of Ada, she and I popped by the grocery after leaving Ellie at preschool. We're St. Louis natives, now, so of course we had to go out for bread and milk at the first hint of a winter storm. (A friend says, "bread, milk, eggs - why does everyone here make french toast when it snows?") A strolling cafe worker ambushed us with an offer of freshly baked veggie breakfast pizza. We accepted and enjoyed, not realizing that it was a big, nasty booby trap. Ada's last bite contained an entire clove of garlic, and for the rest of the day, she reeked. I could barely stand to nurse her.

Yes, nurse her. She's made it very clear that she's uninterested in weaning. We're still in discussions about the issue. I really want it to be a child-led development. But I also want to finish up this nursing thing before she goes off to college.

I'm leaving her overnight for the first time in a couple of weeks, to go to a weekend writer's conference (gulp). Maybe that will do the trick. But I doubt it. My little strong-willed-child has nothing wrong with her memory!

How To Register Your Child for Kindergarten

  1. Receive a letter listing the required documents for registration (four times)
  2. Attend an informational meeting (twice)
  3. Ask questions of teachers, therapists, special school district representatives, and therapists (as often as necessary)
  4. Receive additional copies of the required documents letter (nine more times)
  5. Stop procrastinating and begin compiling necessary documents
  6. Receive a few more copies of that dag-blasted letter
  7. Go to district website for more information
  8. Curse the organization of the site
  9. Realize that it lists a few forms not included on the damn required documents letter (lead level test? official letter from opthalmologist?)
  10. Freak out a little
  11. Get over it
  12. Compile all documents, write check, store everything neatly in a file folder
  13. Try to stop hyper-ventilating about having a SCHOOL-AGED CHILD next year!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Friday Photo Blogging, January

A favorite (and annoying) pastime: filling Ada's crib with all of her toys.

Also note Ellie's posture. She can walk the big balance beam at gymnastics with no supports now (no hand holding, and not looking down at her own feet). That's pretty cool, but check out this swayed back. She looks like she's about to bust an Olympian's finishing pose. Maybe rhythmic gymnastics, given her penchant for props like scarves and beads.

And who says Leapster (hand-held gaming device) is a one person activity?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Now You're Getting Warmer

As with our air conditioner in August, we had a little warning with our heater in January, at least in retrospect. Optimism is such a tempting drug that it rarely allows me to heed warnings ahead of time. When the heat conked out a few times but turned back on easily when Paul flipped the unit off then back on again, we didn't worry too much about it. There was always some other excuse we could make fit: the way the filter was installed, the winter/summer moisture setting, the gas company coming out to test our lines, etc.

But it wasn't any of those things; it was a little teeny wire sensor dealie on the heater itself. And the unit is only 10 years old and in good shape, far from needing to be replaced. There was just this one little malfunctioning part. That turned out to be very expensive to replace. $600 of expensive, during the coldest snap of the winter so far. Waiting was not an option, going without heat was not an option. Still, I called Paul who Googled up a storm to determine that we weren't being robbed blind. We weren't. But even if we were, I probably would have written the check just for some heat. By the time the repair guys got to our house, it was about 50 degrees inside, even with a roaring fire in the fireplace and sunlight streaming through the windows, and 11 degrees outside, with nightfall coming.

We have a very large fireplace. You could maybe roast a small pig in there with no problem. But the flue design seems a little faulty. Although we recently had the chimney professionally cleaned (it was in great shape, apparently) and do know how to work the flue, for some reason more smoke and cold air seem to blow in than out when we have a fire. Alas.

Anyway, the repair was quickly and easily accomplished and we had heat to ride out the rest of last week's cold snap. This week, it's supposed to get up into the 50's. Ah, winter in St. Louis. (On the plus side, the girls and I went with friends to the zoo on Monday and despite it being a holiday we had the place almost to ourselves because of temperatures in the 20's.) Now if only we could put aside both the warmth and ice for a while and have a couple of nice good snows! I miss snow. And money. But let's focus on the snow, shall we?

Just Chatting

"What did you do in school today, Ellie?" I asked last Thursday, as I do over lunch every weekday. But this time, she answered me. Really answered me.

"Hockey," she said. Her teachers had taught her about the game of hockey, and she played it with one of her aides and a couple of her friends, each of whom she named for me.

Hockey! We don't ever watch sports on TV here, and Paul and I haven't played hockey for years. This was a completely foreign concept that she learned about at school and successfully communicated to me!

Tonight, as we snuggled together on her pillow at bedtime, Ellie started talking about the book we'd just finished reading (Love Is a Handful of Honey). Then she made a very natural segue.

"Carl is my best friend," she said. "And Callahan. Callahan's sick."

"Was Callahan at school today?" I asked, to make sure I was understanding.

"No. Sick. And Umar sick, too."

Carl, Callahan, and Umar are all boys in Ellie's class.

Alleluia! My child is an amazement, a delight to me, and increasingly impressive at conveying her thoughts, the more abstract thoughts we've long known she has, but had such a hard time interpreting. These are the kinds of things I talked to my mom about when I was five: I learned this at school, these kids are my friends, this is who was out sick today. I've long suspected that she had all this going on inside her head, but it's far better to hear Ellie's own words from from her own mouth.

This morning started rough, but my day ended great.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Day

Stabilize the economy
(which really means to create huge, perpetually growing, unpoppable bubbles)
End the war in Iraq
Fix Afghanistan
Tread lightly - but firmly - with Iran
End the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Keep tabs on North Korea
Africa. (War. famine. disease.)
Create a new health care system
Solve the mysterious equation of our educational system
And don't forget to reverse global climate change.

Then we can move on to Week 2.

Welcome, Mr. President, and good luck!

Friday, January 16, 2009

An Uneven Dozen

Twelve years ago today, Paul and I had our first date. I don't have a good picture of us in those first weeks, but here we are after a couple of months:
(As you can see, we were very tall and skinny then)

And, a little later that first year:
(Note that these aren't the best photographs, just some of the earliest I have of the two of us together)

Wow. Paul has poofy hair. I, of course, look exactly the same (cough).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Follow the Leader

Ada turns two in a little over a week, and she's well aware of it. She's been full-on two for quite some time, in every sense but weight and chronology. Pre-academics aside, she speaks in full sentences. She's a sponge with a chatty older sister and mommy with healthy reading habits.

Yesterday, Ada had her informal 24-month developmental screening with our Parents as Teachers Parent Educator. After Ada scored 60 out of 60 in every category, the Parent Educator said, "I see no cause for concern." She's somewhat lacking in sense of humor, perhaps. Or maybe it's just insufficient enthusiasm for my child. (Who's seeking impartial professionalism here? Not I, Super Fly!) In her defense, however, she did suggest that we check out some book about parenting a strong-willed child. And that really does describe my Adelaide.

She is an opinionated little girl. She knows exactly what she wants to wear and when she wants to wear it. She knows which toys/stuffed sheep/blankets she needs to be carrying at any given time. She knows what video she simply must watch on Friday night. (I know, I know, I am a lousy mother.) Try to impose your own will on this child at your peril; I've done just that and experienced temper tantrums lasting a full hour.

But she finally, finally, finally is willing to (occasionally) separate from her mother! Ada has always been a fantastic sleeper, bless her heart. But she's been a bit . . . clingy when she's awake. That's a massive understatement, by the way.

In September, she started a Kids Day Out program 2 mornings a week. The first two weeks were difficult, but since then she's been increasingly excited to go. She loves her teachers, her classes, the whole structure and routine of the gig. She gets frustrated on the days when we take Ellie to school and she doesn't get to go herself. She's even attempted to blend into Ellie's classroom at drop-off, perhaps with the hope that no one will notice the interloper. She might have a shot, actually. She's a bit taller than the little person in Ellie's class, and she'd probably keep up academically too. There'd be a bit of a problem with sitting still, though.

Despite her happiness with her "school" experience, today was the first day that Ada has not wanted to leave with me afterward. I opened the classroom door this morning and was met by an overwhelming barrage of motion and noise. A herd of tiny people ran, yelling their heads off, directly at me. I froze, and they soon reversed course.

The room is set up like a U, with the door to the hallway near the top of one arm and the door to the interior bathroom/changing area at the top of the other arm. Soon the motion resolved itself into pattern. The children were touching the bathroom door, taking a deep breath, then running full steam for the hallway door, hollering all the way, where they're repeat the process. Deep breath, run and yell, touch door.

One of the teachers had stepped out for a moment to pick up her own child from another classroom, and she returned as I stood, ignored and befuddled after an initial and exuberant greeting from my usually eager-to-leave child, holding a tiny backpack and fuzzy scarf.

"It looks like they're playing a game of follow-the-leader."

It did, indeed, though I hadn't noticed it before. And guess who was the leader? Once I was really paying attention to the group dynamics, I saw my little brown-haired pixie leading three blond children on a mad adventure. Deep breath, run and yell, touch door, repeat. True leadership.

Where on earth does she get it?

Notes for posterity: Ada knows her numbers (though not always in order), letters, phonics, colors, and shapes. It's unreal and a little silly, sort of like a party game. When she says "trampoline," it sounds like "jumping beans," which I love. And when Ellie says, "banana," it sounds like "boiana," which I also love. Today we unsuccessfully practiced playing hide and seek for ages. They are a delight!

Unrelated note. Why is it that air conditioners never fail in 75 degree weather in October? And heaters tend to conk out in the middle of the night on the coldest day of the season? Not that that's happening right now to us or anything. (Note: we just replaced our A/C in August.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Kids with Down syndrome have to work hard for everything. With low muscle tone, every physical action - from sitting to walking to climbing onto the toilet - is harder work. And simple responses to questions (let alone learning and complex decision making) are a lot more challenging with what William C. Mobley, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine calls brain damage.

(That guy is doing some fascinating - and controversial - research, by the way. I've mentioned it before and I'm sure that I'll post on it again some time.)

We're not the sort of parents who over-schedule our children. We don't believe that they have to be in the "best" preschools now to get into the "best" colleges later. We don't start our kids in sports as toddlers in the hope that they'll make the best club teams as tweens. Still. Ellie has so much potential. She's insightful enough to realize it and be hurt when she's being treated differently. She's smart enough and sensitive enough to be frustrated when she doesn't quite manage to accomplish what she's set out to do, whether it's communicating something verbally or physically keeping up with her classmates.

So she works hard. We all work hard. On the part of Ellie's parents (and teachers and therapists) the hard part is remembering to make all the activities fun. Games. She learns better when she's enjoying herself than when she's being "tested." We're not big on drills. And whether she supplies the answer to the questions or we do, she's still hearing them and learning the material. She's a smart, hard-working kid. And we do an awful lot of laughing and praising.

Monday, January 12, 2009


A few months ago I posted a less-than-raving review about Amigo's Cantina in Kirkwood. We decided to give it another shot this weekend, and I'm glad that we did.

It was crowded and really noisy, but it was Saturday night. And the decor was still neat. The salsa was hot enough to make Ellie cry (like her mama, she scoops rather than delicately dipping) but a little queso dip solved that problem. And I loved the salsa, so I have no complaint. The food was still good, and there were cheese enchiladas on the menu, though the evening's special was seafood enchiladas. There was an interesting variety of dishes, and I remembered to stay away from the tortilla soup, which I seem to remember from our first trip as a thin chicken broth. (Note: while they have high chairs, there were no booster seats.)

Our server was great this trip, and I know that it was really the service that killed the deal for us last time. On the other hand, when we made other staff aware of the problem we were having last time (no one came to see us for an HOUR despite our best efforts to find our our server and wave him down) they just sent our original server back over, which managed to get us the bill but really didn't solve the problem (or my parched throat).

But! Vastly improved experience this time, and I'm always glad to see a small local business thriving . . . especially in downtown Kirkwood. I get regular emails with the unofficial minutes of the Kirkwood City Council Meetings, as well as notes from other committee meetings including Property and Zoning. The poor guy who owns Amigos has been jumping through hoops to get approval for having dining on an outside patio. The meeting minutes are so funny to read, I've interested two completely uninvolved parties in the ongoing saga. Recently, the cantina owner had to agree that the ambient music he'd play on the proposed patio would be soft enough that it couldn't be heard half a block away . . . at the train station. Hah! If you've ever hung around the train station in downtown Kirkwood, you know that a little mood music is not the cause of any noise pollution.

Anyway, our two dining experiences at Amigos cancel each other out. We'll eat there again, because it's convenient and pretty good, but it's not going to become my new favorite Mexican hang-out. Oh, Ramon Gallardo, how I miss your stand-alone restaurants. Despite having some of the worst service in the bi-state area, we regularly ate at Ramon's Salsa by the West Olive 16, just for the salsa and the fact that it was all we had left after Casa Gallardo Grill at the Galleria and Ramon's Jalapeno in Clayton closed down. (More than once we had to drop a few bucks on the table for our drinks and leave without even ordering or being able to track down our server, in order to make it to our movie on time. Casa Grill, on the other hand, was so fabulous that we had them cater our wedding!) Now, not even El Torito is planning a move to town. Alas.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Magic House

The new expansion is open, and we're loving it! (Along with the rest of the county, if not the country, it seems.)

Ellie missed the beginning of the adventure because we were at a doctor appointment, but Ada had a wonderful time with her cousin.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

One at a Time

I mentioned a few of the books I read over Christmas break, but not all of them. One book I've been particularly enjoying, and thus sipping oh-so-slowly so as to savor the experience, is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Now, I can easily imagine reading and enjoying Lamott's grocery lists, so of course her book on writing is of great interest to me. I didn't know that she'd written such a book, until a friend recommended it - a friend who has never mentioned to me that she's a writer. In the interest of preserving her privacy, then, I'll just assume that she too would happily read Anne Lamott's shopping list, and that's how she came to read her book on writing. And I'll keep assuming that until she decides to come out of the closet!

This book is beautifully written and serves as an example of the craft I am working so hard to learn, in addition to being chock full of terrific bits of wisdom and a great deal of humor.

I wrote at Kaldi's again this morning, for the first time since two weeks before Christmas. It felt so good to be back into it, I was actually grateful that their WiFi was malfunctioning. I only got about a thousand words down, but I'm pleased with the words and the scene I wrote. I'm pleased with the way the book is coming together. I'm pleased to be writing on this novel again, and am bolstered by confidence from Lamott's book.

The most valuable thing the book has given me so far is a restored sense of confidence. I am a writer. I might still be learning the craft, I might still be producing decent short stories and amateur novels that I'm not ready to show anyone yet, but I'm still a writer. I've written (almost) three novels, and that's a lot! Many people - like me, for years - talk about wanting to write a book "when they have the time." I made the time, while being a full-time caregiver for two very young children. That's an accomplishment indeed! And I am proud of it.

But best of all are sections like those on Page 22, "We all often feel like we are pulling teeth," and "The right words and sentences just do not come pouring out like ticker tape most of the time." She goes on, later, "For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous." I hear so much from other writers about their characters' voices in their heads, about how writing is always so much fun, after a while I got to wondering if I was doing something wrong, or if, worst of all, perhaps I just wasn't meant to be a writer. Perhaps I was meant to be a reader.

I am a reader. But I'm a writer too. I love writing, and I write something nearly every day, even if it's not always fiction. I have hard places. I have doubts. And they're normal! They don't mean that I can't write. They don't even mean that my current book sucks.

The Monday Mentor on my Sisters in Crime discussion list this week was Elizabeth Lyon and she said that right where I have been - around two-thirds through a novel - is where a lot of writers hit the wall. Ah hah! Again, I am in good company. Fortunately, today's writing pushed me past that point and I think I'm ready to, well . . . not coast, but at least make steady forward progress without yanking out my hair.

I am excited by what I'm doing, again. And it feels good, even if it is also hard work sometimes.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


We have a galley-style kitchen. I keep reminding myself that there are positive aspects to this situation. For example, there's less to clean. And I can reach nearly everything I need without moving. And I get to guiltlessly turn over management of my kitchen to my MIL when she visits; the two of us don't really fit in there at the same time, so . . .

But there are still a couple of sticking points. Like, for example, storage. (Don't get us started on the arrangement of the cupboards, which Paul unilaterally reorganized 2 years ago. I can access all of the canned goods now, but pots and pans are completely beyond my reach. Who needs those, right? We can just cook in the cans!) But it's not just that. Other dangers lurk, as well.

Our kitchen serves as a pass-though between the family room and the dining/living rooms. The foyer serves the same purpose at the other side of the house, but sometimes I don't want to walk way over there or step barefoot on cold bricks, so I cut through the kitchen.

I was trying to do so last night, shortly before bed. Paul was standing at the kitchen sink, complaining about sour milk or yogurt he'd discovered in a hidden sippy cup somewhere. I walked up to him from the family room, holding my computer out in front of me, headed for my desk/power cord in the living/dining room.

Proper ettiquette at this point is for Paul to turn sideways so that I can slide past him. Oddly, he didn't.

Then the reek hit me. "Man, that's disgusting! It smells like vomit. I think I might vomit!" I was distracted at this point by the terrible smell, but I still
wanted to get past him so that I could set down my computer. Even a laptop gets heavy when held out in front of me for a few minutes. I gestured with it to indicate that I wanted to move forward, then I thought of something else.

"Oh, crap. I forgot to make something for my circle meeting tomorrow morning, and I'm supposed to bring the snack." I scanned the kitchen counters, hoping, I suppose, to discover a fresh loaf of pumpkin bread just randomly lying around. Then I moved on to wondering how many Christmas cookies we have left. (Answer: not many.)

"Why don't you bake that bread pudding from Time for Dinner?" Paul suggested helpfully, still standing broadside and blocking the path through the kitchen. I was almost on him by now, but he still wasn't getting the hint. Weird.

"That's a fantastic idea. I just need to set this - "

My computer waving had proven ineffective so I moved to a more direct confrontation. As I spoke, I stepped firmly forward, confident that my husband would turn aside, laptop still held out in front of me.

I was immediately in terrible, horrible, sharp, excruciating pain, hopping and falling and stumbling forward. But at least I made it to the dining room without destroying my laptop.

I'd stepped directly into the open door to the dishwasher, which Paul was apparently loading with nasty sippy cups. Explaining why he wasn't moving out of my way. We were on opposite sides of the machine and he had no idea that I couldn't see the open door through my computer. When it's open the door to the dishwasher lies across most of the kitchen floor, almost meeting the drawers opposite.

I'd somehow managed to slam into the metal obstacle with both of my shins, scraping them both most unpleasantly. I was a huge baby about it, but the pain was terrible.

I'm not a big cry-er, and I did go ahead and plug in my computer, then bring up the raw, frozen bread pudding from the freezer in the basement so that it could thaw on the counter overnight. But then I went straight to bed and lay there whimpering until Paul came in with ice packs. Then I moved on to whining.

Perhaps we do need a bigger kitchen.

Anyway, the girls had trouble sleeping last night and slept in (until 7:30!) this morning. And Paul set his alarm clock for PM rather than AM. So we ended up running around like mad people this morning. (In my case, it was hobbling around like an irritable mad person.) And I didn't have time to bake the bread pudding (which I made in somebody else's kitchen) after all. I just stopped at Bread Co. for bagels.

So, for our purposes, maybe our kitchen isn't too small after all.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Shh! I'm reading!

I might be playing, but I'm always reading, and this vacation has been no exception.

(In fact, last summer my mother-in-law gave me a great coffee mug that says, "Shhh! I'm reading." I think it's hilarious to walk around saying that to people while I'm carrying my mug. Paul et al seem to think it's actually rather annoying. Alas.)

Anyway, I've been reading so much that I don't even remember everything I've read. I know that I started with some light holiday fare: Joan Dideon's memoir about her husband's death, The Year of Magical Thinking. It was good. The first anniversary of a friend's husband's murder is coming up. I'm thinking that passing my copy along to her would either be a thoughtful guesture or a terrible thing to do. Hmm.

Then I moved on to some of the rest of my "most pressing" to-be-read pile. (This is a stack that now sits beside my beside table and is of a height with it. The stack doesn't include my "eventually" to-be-read shelf on the bookshelf at the foot of the bed.) Next up were the first two books of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. 2000 pages of George R. R. Martin and I blew right through it. I was hooked, engrossed, obsessed . . . and complaining loudly all the way. Martin breaks all the rules. My favorite point of view character? Dead with no warning! Another favorite character? Permanently and seriously maimed. One thing's sure, going into any scene, you can never be confident that anyone will come out alive. It definitely added tension, even as it made me miserable. Still, I kept asking, "why?" as I read. Does the world really need yet another epic fantasy set in a pre-industrial society where rigid gender roles, sexism, chivalry, and feudalism are de rigueur? There's a lot of creativity in the story and storytelling. (Not to mention quite a bit of surprising crudity.) I just wonder why it's so common to tell these epic fantasy stories while relying on a tired old framework.

Righto. Anyway, I ended my low-key vacation with the first of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novels. How have I never read these before?!! So, that was fun. (Lilsis, this one's coming your way whenever I haul myself to the post office.)

Next up: The Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers, a book club selection. Life is still good!

Long Night's Rejuvenation

It appears that I decided to take a holiday break from blogging! (And I do mean a holiday break, as it was both Christmas and New Year's for me, and particularly the week in between the two.) The unplanned break was not a bad thing, though. In fact, it's been rather nice.

Our relationship enrichment class just wrapped up a unit on "After the Honeymoon is Over." About a month ago, we had a homework assignment to focus on our friendships with our partners. I created little worksheets that we each tried to fill out for our spouses. Paul and I went out to dinner to discuss ours. One of the questions was about current hobbies, both what we enjoy doing and what we wish we had more time to do. (The idea was that by touching base periodically we can keep up with our partner's changing interests and possibly even take an interest in some of the same things.)

Perhaps it sounds silly to some of you mature adults out there, but one thing Paul mentioned missing was playing video games. We really enjoyed this pastime in college and beyond. Actually, for me, the fun lasted right up until I got pregnant with Ellie. Paul continued playing even a bit beyond that.

We enjoy our Wii Fit, and playing occasional group/party games like Wii Fit Balance Games, Wii Sports, Wii Play, and Wii Tetris (hilarious on the balance board). But neither of us has gotten into a good, long, adventure-style game on the Nintendo or computer for years. So we've been playing Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for a couple of weeks, and it's been great fun! One of us watches, offering advice or reading from an online game guide, as the other plays.

We haven't been blogging or spending time online. We haven't been watching TV. We haven't been exercising or dieting. After the girls go to bed we get something yummy to eat and sit down to play games until I fall asleep! I can't even describe how relaxing and fun this has been. I can't explain why we're having such a good time together. (Although one of us tends to get a little crabby when she's playing a tricky part. And one of us tends to be a little irritable as the reader/helper from time to time because he doesn't have any control.) We're staying up late, so it's not like we're actually catching up on sleep. Yet, somehow, we're starting the new year feeling rested, rejuvenated, and happy. Hallelujah!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

And a Happy New Year!

Ada was really into Christmas this year. She loved opening the presents (note that the children have denuded the bottom half of the tree of its ornaments).

And playing with what was inside the packages. (Doesn't it look like they're sharing nicely?)

But she also loved the real Christmas stuff. Here's her wonder at watching the family Christmas service at church, featuring the kids' choir and middle school bell ringers.

And, to her delight, a few days later, we got to do it all over again! (Paul's family came to St. Louis for Christmas, which was wonderful. Then we went to visit my parents for a reprise.) This time, she spent most of the day as a monarch (as opposed to Monarch, get it?) butterfly.

Ellie . . . was a little overwhelmed with the experience. She'd rather have sat and played in a quiet room by herself. Which isn't to say that she didn't have fun, when we let her take things at her own pace, letting her play quietly near us, and maybe taking her a present to open in a quiet room every now and then.

All in all, it was a very merry Christmas!