Friday, November 30, 2007

If I Can Make It Here...

(Okay, so the song doesn't quite work if you substitute in "Long Island" but work with me here.)

We're here. We had a direct flight but it left at 7:00 this morning so we got up at 5:00 and just rushed out the door, stopping to throw the van keys and a list of Acceptable Brands of Pizza for Cooper Girls at my mother. She's a saint, obviously, and I was forced to threaten one Jane Cooper with the loss of her Webkinz privileges for a MONTH if she isn't absolutely charming and cooperative. She loves her Mutti but if I'm around, she doesn't treat her very well. And as I told Janie, "that's my mommy and just like you wouldn't let anyone be mean to ME (right? RIGHT?), I can't let you be mean to HER." She seemed to understand I meant business.

I had to bring an extra suitcase this time, mostly because I had to bring so many winter clothes and they take up so much room (It's supposed to snow here on Sunday. The rental car came with a complementary ice scraper.) but also because I love our Realtor here and I had to bring her some Texas treasures. I brought her a copy of a magazine called Austin Monthly, and some salsa, and some Central Market tortillas (to die for) and a copy of my book. I figure she'll be the one that helps us find the setting for the NEXT book, right?

Anyway, the flight was pretty uneventful, except the cloud formations were so incredibly cool. You know how sometimes you can look out of the window of an airplane and see exactly how we're on a PLANET? Like you can see the atmosphere swirling around... Okay, well, maybe not. But look how cool:

I worked on my dad's sock. Still. More. Endlessly. I did turn the heel but given that it took me three tries to knit the heel flap, it was sort of anticlimactic. Anyway, here's the current condition after knitting on it for three hours straight.

The problem is that the needles are SO small and it's such a lot of stitches, you feel like you're knitting in place much of the time. But I am plugging away at it and do you know why?

Because I have THIS as my reward:


Wanna see it up closer?


(It's a Lorna's Laces but I don't have the band so I can't tell you what flavor it is.)

Anyway, Coop has gone off to his meetings and I would go out exploring but I'm still fighting a migraine. Which sort of put the kabash on me searching for local yarn stores out the best schools in the area. I've talked to our Realtor (have I mentioned that I love her?) (Have I mentioned that she has laryngitis? Because, I think I've said before that she's the fastest talking woman I've ever met and I would think laryngitis would really cramp her style, you know? But she's STILL funny and STILL just like a Roadrunner in her energy level.) and we narrowed down the list of houses we were going to see tomorrow, because she drove past all of them and could tell me which ones were on busy roads, etc.

Yesterday in the evening, Ana's school choir performed at the local Barnes and Noble as a part of our elementary school book fair. I was thinking about how much I love the things our school does --even the fund-raisers!--and how we've had a very fun adventure as a young family in our wonderful little community. I got sort of wistful. But you know what? I absolutely believe that we are making the best decision for our family to move here. And I think this next chapter is going to be the most interesting one yet.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Love (My Friend Paul) Thursday

My physical therapist is trying something new with my foot. After reconstructive foot surgery, all the bones and screws and artificial cartilage and all has healed nicely. But I have this one tendon that refuses to give up the fight and just be a good little tendon. So now I'm wearing this new-fangled little steroid patch thing. (I took a picture but you know what? It's so ugly that I can't bring myself to post it.)

I don't think the patch is working, though, because yesterday was one of the most painful days I've had with my foot since I got the cast off. As I was driving to the airport to pick up the Math Literate half of this marriage, I realized I was gritting my teeth because I was in real pain.

Bummer.

Anyway, add that in to the whole suckage of my week and THEN add THIS in: We are leaving for a trip house-hunting in New York tomorrow. Our flight is scheduled for 7:00 AM. In one of my classic blunders, I was also scheduled to do three presentations at my daughters' school on what it means to be a writer as part of this Career Day event from 8-11. I'd looked into changing my flight and it would have cost $200 and put me into JFK at rush hour. My husband? Not so happy at the idea.

I asked just about everyone I knew who could even hold a pencil and came up with no one. I was so stressed out over this, and the move and how Jane hasn't been very nice to my mother this visit and my foot and pretty soon, I was working on a really nice case of "oh, poor, poor, pitiful me." I was just about to turn on Hank Williams and put my head in the oven when...

last night, I got an e-mail telling me that I'd won a blogging award.

No, seriously.

Look:


I think I stopped smiling and issuing tiny squeaks of joy about 3:00AM.

And then, this morning, still buoyed, I decided to make a last ditch effort to find someone to take my place. So, I sent a note out to my Book Club and one of my fellow club-members loaned me her incredibly witty and multi-published author husband. He's showing up tomorrow to enlighten the fourth and fifth graders about what it means to be a writer, and since he's actually got a book DEAL and everything, he's really more qualified than I am.

I, however, have a fourth grader so I am qualified in my own way. And I've got a BLOG AWARD, in case I haven't mentioned it. Me. An award.

You can read the incredible review of that post on the Rising Blogger under the date of November 28, 2007. You might want to print it out and frame it... oh wait, that would be me.

Thank you, Lori. You redeemed my entire week.

I would have promised to be your slave for life but I already promised that to my friend Paul for agreeing to take my place at Career Day. I think I'm going to be a bit busy for a few decades...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Okay, So This Is Getting Old Now. Seriously.

I am not having a very glamorous week. I guess you've guessed that.

First, I went to yoga at a senior center near my mother's house and there were people in their seventies in better shape than I'm in.

Then, there is this sock I'm knitting for my dad and it's going, very, very badly. I've had to frog it back at least three times and it's knit on size 0 needles so that's a lot of knitting gone to waste. I like to knit and that's not a problem, but this one sock is taking me so long that I am afraid I won't get my other knitting done before the holidays. Not to mention that the yarn is kind of... not pretty.

Then, there was my exposure as a complete Math Illiterate on Monday night.

THEN, yesterday, the painter we are having spiff up our house to get it ready to sell? He, um... well, he fired me.

You know how I love to paint, right? I mean, I really do. It's like mowing the lawn to me--once it's done, you can look at your work and see that it's good work and then hopefully, you don't have to paint MORE. It's kind of meditative, you know?

So when the painter arrived at my house, I was... well, okay, I admit it, I was painting. It's my house! I'm allowed! And plus, it's not like I can hire him to paint everything that needs to be painted, you know? I mean, when we moved into this house, we got bids for painting the inside and the bids ranged from $9,000 to $14,000! And now we need some exterior work done, too. So, anyway, I was painting the entryway and the painter, whose name is Tony, knocked on the door. I answered, roller in hand.

He cocked his head at me and smiled a huge smile. "What are you doing?" Obviously he knew.

So, then I showed him some of the things that needed to be done --paint choices I'd made that now needed to be, um, well, neutralized. I showed him where I fell off the ladder and spilled paint on the hardwood floor. I showed him the bad trim work in the bathroom that needed to be replaced. I showed him where I had spot-painted in my bedroom but had used the wrong color of white and so now the bedroom walls were all, um, spotted. I showed him the outside of the house and then I showed him what I'd been painting --really just touching up -- the hallway going up the stairs. He said, "You should use a matte finish on this wall because that eggshell shows every imperfection in the wall in this light."

I thought I WAS using a matte finish.

Nope. But the FIRST time I painted it? I'd used a matte finish. So now the whole thing needed to be painted AGAIN. Because I'd bought the wrong dang paint.

And then I showed him the big spot at the top of the staircase that I couldn't reach, even with my long-handled roller. We'd lived for seven years with it painted in this two-tone color combination. And you know, after the whole ladder incident, I didn't really want to get the ladder out and try standing on it on the STAIRS, you know what I mean?

So, Tony took all this in and then he said, "You know? Maybe you should just retire from painting... I'm sure you've got other things that are more important. You take care of those and let someone else take care of the painting."

Dude, I know when I've been fired for incompetence. I also realize, now that I write all this down, that I deserved it.

It's been quite the week.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Advanced Math

Dear Ms. Foster,

I am ashamed and humbled.

See, my husband is traveling.

He's at the largest conference that his new field of radiosomethingblahblah, MRI imaging has. It's in Chicago. He's there with some of the foremost minds of the world --people who developed the MRI technology and who wear suits to the office every day and make decisions that affect the lives of many employees and other people.

So, last night, when I called him because I could not help Ana with her math homework, I did not do so without really, really weighing the expense of marital capital against the expense of Ana getting frustrated and even more confused under MY tutelage. Because, honestly, all she wanted was to get her homework done so that she could play on Webkinz.com, which I know is probably some anti-education, satanic device that teachers loathe, but apparently, there is nothing more fun than having virtual pets for whom you must earn cash to furnish houses. (This despite the fact that we live in a house with four REAL pets and I can't even get any help letting them out. But I digress.)

Anyway, I called him. Because I am ALL ABOUT education and especially, math.

It sounded like he was at some sort of networking function but he walked outside and took down the notes:

**A basketball and two footballs cost $28. One football and two basketballs cost $32.

**Six disks cost $18

**One basketball, two pairs of soccer cleats, and one hockey stick cost $71. Two hockey sticks, one basketball, and one pair of soccer cleats cost $64.

**One baseball bat costs $7 more than one baseball. A combination of six baseballs and four bats costs $48.

What is the total cost of one pair of soccer cleats and one of every other item?


He was walking me through the algebra when I had another emergency (my head appeared to be exploding) and so decided to call me back.

Fifteen minutes later he called back for clarification on item three.

He had the entire brain trust of his new company working on our daughter's fifth grade math homework. [ Editor's Note: She's in fourth grade but takes advanced math.]

Yes, these esteemed and seasoned professionals had all walked outside of their important business thing to try to figure out what a basketball cost in this theoretical problem.

Thirty minutes later he called back. They had solved it. Over the speaker phone, he walked Ana through the algebra involved. "Ana," he said, "This is complicated but basically, what they are trying to teach you is a concept called substitution."

I nodded and tried to look wise and supportive.

He walked her through the steps to arrive at the answers to the first clue. We wrote down something that looked like this:

1b + 2f = $28
2b + 1f = $32
2(28 - 2f)1f = 32
56 - 4f + 1f = 32
-3f = 24
f = 8

Which, frankly, might as well have been Swahili to me.

But I tried to look wise and nodded my head several times so I wouldn't be completely busted by my child.

Then he said, "So, Barb, using that process, can you help Ana arrive at the other answers?"

I said, "Ye--s." by which I meant: "There is No. Way. In. Hell."

And then he gave me the answers which I dutifully noted on a piece of paper.

He said, "I love you. I'm sorry I am not there to help." and hung up.

I turned to Ana. "Did you understand what Daddy just said?" I asked, with desperate hope.

She said, "Um...no."

And there I was, see. Completely and totally exposed for the math illiterate I am.

I said, "Gosh, Ana, I am so sorry but I didn't understand either. I don't know. I must be very, very tired or maybe I was absent in HIGH SCHOOL when we covered this, because I got a little lost."

So, I gave her the answers and the equations I'd written down and now I will be resigning as my daughter's math homework helper. (And maybe her mother if you're going to ridicule me to the other moms.) However, I am ALL OVER the Spelling.

Sincerely,
Barbara Cooper
Math Illiterate


PS: Um, also? That whole arrange the toothpicks into four equal squares from five equal squares without moving more than two toothpicks and not creating any triangles? I didn't even ASK Coop about that. Sorry.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tagging Myself Again (for Tiffany)

Tiff thinks it's funny that I continually tag myself. Of course, what she thinks is FUNNY, some people might call PATHETIC but you do what you have to do to amuse yourself when your mom is visiting and making you throw stuff out. Bless her and pray for me.

My uncle once: had the hiccups for over a year.
Never in my life: dropped acid, committed murder, voted Republican
When I was five: I was more like Jane Cooper than I am today
High School was: nothing at all like the musical
I will never forget: New Years Eve 1999
I once met: Ann Richards when she was Governor of Texas and signed some anti-hunger legislation with which I was involved.
There’s this girl I know who: might be pretty darn cranky when she gets home today and finds a lot of her plastic junk missing from her newly decluttered room.
Once, at a bar: I got on the stage and tried to shinny up the pole. (It was THAT kind of a bar.)
By noon, I’m usually: wishing I had used my morning time more wisely
Last night: I dreamed that I could not curl my hair using a curling iron. This, despite the fact that I have very curly hair naturally in real life. I do not know what it means but I feel like if I could unlock the meaning, I would know the secret to life itself.
If I only had: more patience and less anxiety, I would feel better about my parenting.
Next time I go to church: it will probably be to teach the Girl Scouts more about knitting
Terry Schiavo: my idea of hell on Earth
What worries me most: that I am really messing up these perfect humans who were entrusted to my care and nurture
When I turn my head left, I see: the leaves covering the deck through a large French door.
When I turn my head right, I see: my kids' artwork from last year hanging on a string with clothespins.
What I miss most about the eighties: The uncrowded streets of Austin and my metabolism.
If I was a character in Shakespeare, I’d be: Kate, from The Taming of a Shrew
By this time next year: I hope I will be fitter and stronger, that my family will be happy and well-adjusted and that we will all be loving our life in the state of New York.
A better name for me would be: Well, just about anything, really. I've never really liked Barbara.
I have a hard time understanding: pedophilia, hate crimes, bigotry and mosquitoes
If I ever go back to school I’ll: probably not have any study skills this time, either.
You know I like you if: ask you over for dinner or a glass of wine.
If I ever won an award, the first person I’d thank would be: Well, it depends on what the award is for. But probably Coop.
Darwin, Mozart, Slim Pickens and Geraldine Ferraro: could throw a heck of a costume party
Take my advice, never: elope with someone when you're clinically depressed
My ideal breakfast is: Four shots of espresso with sugar and cream and bread, just plain fresh bread.
A song I love, but do not own is: Sam Cook, A Change Is Gonna Come
If you visit my hometown, I suggest: jumping into Barton Springs pool, especially if it's hot outside. Alternately, you could just eat breakfast at Las Manitas.
Tulips, character flaws, microchips and track stars: Things that don't mix well with drugs?
Why won’t people: just chill the hell out?
If you spend the night at my house: you may have a big fat orange kitty sleep with you unless you close your door.
I’d stop my wedding for: the ability to run long distances again
The world could do without: telemarketers and e-mail Spam
I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: Ewww. I can't think of many things that I would hate more than this. Maybe KILLING a cockroach? Oh, wait, I know! Eloping with someone when I am clinically depressed.
My favorite blonde is: Jane Cooper
Paper clips are more useful than: bending corners of a stack of paper to try to keep it together. (?)
If I do anything well, it’s: procrastinate
And by the way: I'm tagging the usual suspects with this, especially my NaBloPoMo friends...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hilarious (with Creative Spelling!)


Here's the letter from Jane I was telling you about yesterday. It says, "All I am triing to say is-- rite now I fell smoll and left out"

***********************
So, my favorite quote of our Thanksgiving trip to my Mom's was when she told me that she didn't read my blog because she "didn't want to wade through all the stuff about socks."

Not that I'm bitter.

Just because she frequently sends me notes saying that she never hears from me and wonders how the girls are doing.

Nope. Not bitter. Not me.


**********

In other hilarity:


My kids played school a lot while we were at my mom's. One day, they told me that I was part of their game. My last name was Darling and my daughter's name was Lea (played by Jane) and I also had a son named James. I said, "Who is playing James?"

"No one. He's imaginary."

Oh.

So then the teacher, who was named Ana Cooper for the purposes of this game, and who happened to be PLAYED by Ana Cooper, sent me several missives.

This is the first (verbatim):

Dear Mr./Mrs. Darling,

Your daughters behavior has been exceptionally wonderful! She was the only one who behaved the entire day. She is now teacher's pet. Lea is a wonderful child. I am lucky to have her in my class this year.

Sincerely,
Ana Cooper (signature)
A-N-A C-O-O-P-E-R (printed name)
Teacher

PS: James Darling behaves horribly. I will not go into details.

A short while later, I received the following note:

Dear Mr./Mrs. Darling,

James has been a terror all day! He threw rocks at Lea and myself. He is very rude. In class, when we say the Pledge of Aligence (I could never spell that!) He burped it!

Lea is an angel. She is very shy around other students and I think James might be a part. He scares her all day.

Please speak to both.

Respectfully yours,
Ana Cooper
A-N-A C-O-O-P-E-R
Teacher


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Oh, Just Ignore This

What is it that is so exhausting about family?

I mean, not just MY family, although we are plenty freaking exhausting. But what is it about extended family? I'm so tired.

We left my Mom's this morning, thinking that we were soooo smart for not waiting until tomorrow to travel when everyone else would be traveling. (Of course, my HUSBAND is traveling tomorrow for business so we might not have missed that bullet so much. Especially since the traffic was horrific today, after all.)

My kids were really very good natured about the trip back home until the last hour, it seems. Or maybe it's just that right about then, I realized how intolerant of childhood noise I am. Seriously, everyone else in the world seems able to tolerate the whistling/humming/shrieking/creative and loud dialogue better than I can. It makes me feel even more doomed as a parent.

And also? Ana totally gets how to get under my skin. No one would think she does it consciously but if I snap at her for whistling, she starts humming. If I say, "Ana, hum something ELSE." she starts doing some kind of percussive mouth thing. Or maybe, if I'm really lucky, she starts whistling again. And she gives me this sort of fake innocent smile thing.

I know y'all are thinking I need stronger medication.

I probably do.

I'll be back tomorrow with all kinds of commentary on life and having at least read my normal blog roll so I can comment on all that. I just feel way behind and overwhelmed and, as Jane wrote in a note to us this weekend, "I just have to say that I feel very small and sad and left out." (If I could find it, I would give you her original spelling, which is hilarious.)

Anyway, you know, my MOM is here so the fun should be really...um...fun.

Happy post-Black Friday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Yoga

I have so much to tell my blog but I've been struggling to find some uninterrupted time to sit and write. It's very difficult to sit and blog in the middle of a group of people, I've discovered. Even the nicest group. Which is why my last two blog entries have sounded like I wrote them underwater. (Sorry.) I didn't want to just take a break from posting because of NaBloPoMo (which I do realize is sort of a dumb reason to post drivel), but I hadn't anticipated the effect my entire family has upon my ability to sustain a coherent thought long enough to write it down. (Well, that and the amount of wine that's been flowing.) It would be interesting to test this group for ADHD --and I include myself in the number to be tested. I mean, all of the digressions to which I succumb on a normal day can't just be a coincidence, right? Because honestly, my entire family TALKS in digressions.

I went to yoga class with my mom today. Just me and ten senior citizens at the Senior Center. Dudes, my mom is a total bad ass at this stuff! Seriously. The instructor was this tiny, beautiful Indian woman, reportedly the same age as my mother and about six zillion times more flexible than I am. She kept saying, "Reel-ex." The class was an hour and a half long and she played these CDs of chants that were oddly peaceful and lovely. It was like listening to someone meditate, if you can sort of imagine that. I did pretty well at it (the instructor even said I was "very flexible.") (I tried to not hear her mentally adding "for a fat girl" onto the end of the compliment, because I am trying to speak more gently and kindly to myself these days.) Anyway, I felt so... centered and "reel-exed" at the end of it that I came back to the house and told my husband that as soon as I get back home, I'm going to sign up for a class. Probably NOT at the local Senior Center, although it was sort of fun to be the youngest member of the class.

Okay, so we're taking the kids to see "A Christmas Carol" tonight and then we leave for home tomorrow. My mom is going to drive back to Austin with us and help me take a crack at the initial decluttering of my house. Pray for me, and Coop's collection of concert t-shirts dating back to his teenage years.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
— G.K. Chesterton

That may be some cheesy Real Simple Thought of the Day but you know what? I totally agree with it.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I mean, it's all about food and family and NOT about gifts or shopping --what's not to love? This year I didn't cook anything because I was busy having a nervous breakdown about showing our house, etc., and because we've travelled to my mother's house so I can help with the cooking here. I was in charge of the turkey. I kept setting the timer so I would baste it every 30 minutes.

Except one of those time, I turned the whole oven off instead of the timer.

Whoopsie.

Luckily, my brother had brought a turkey to deep fry and because he is smart (and handsome!) there was no question of him taking himself out of the gene pool, ala the Darwin awards, know what I'm sayin'? Because HIS turkey came out perfect.

Just don't ask about mine. But when you remember it, remember it fondly. Like this:
Those are the grandchildren. I have two, and each of my siblings has one and my brother has a stepchild.

It was So. Good. to see my family. My niece and nephews. My kids through their eyes.

More about all this tomorrow. No really.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh, look! Dignity---Um, Not.

So, after one hellacious day of travel with children (which, I understand, some people refer to as vacation) I have very little left to give to you.

Well, okay. There is THIS:

That, my friends, is what happens when I try to crochet anything. It's the first (and last) scarf I ever crocheted.

For my mother.

Who laughed until tears came down her face and then...

Kept it for at least thirty years.

Yea, me. So, anyway, now you know why I am a SOCK knitter.

****** (denotes changing of subject)



So, my husband brought home this game called MILKO from a vendor of his called Milkshake Media. It's hilarious. It's like Bingo but with um, holiday happenings that make you cringe and laugh at the same time.

******

Happy thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Definition of Insanity

I'm sure we've all heard the quote, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results." (This quote is attributed to both Ben Franklin AND Albert Einstein. It was probably really spoken by some poor harried mother after she found the stack of clean clothes she'd asked her child to put away stuffed in the bottom of said child's closet and realized that she'd asked the same thing, with the same exact freaking results, just one too many times. And she went to fetch her flamethrower.) (Er, um, hypothetically speaking. Really. Because I don't OWN a flamethrower.)

(But if I could return to my ORIGINAL digression, I'd just like to point out that just about every wise thing that's ever been quoted by anyone, with the possible exception of that Steinem quote that "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," can be attributed to either Ben Franklin or Albert Einstein.)

(Although when I was just making sure that Gloria Steinem really said that fish/bicycle quote, I found a letter that she wrote to Time magazine, "In your note on my new and happy marital partnership with David Bale, you credit me with the witticism 'A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.' In fact, Irina Dunn, a distinguished Australian educator, journalist and politician, coined the phrase back in 1970 when she was a student at the University of Sydney. She paraphrased the philosopher who said, "Man needs God like fish needs a bicycle." Dunn deserves credit for creating such a popular and durable spoof of the old idea that women need men more than vice versa." --Gloria Steinem

(And then I also found a website where people were debating what U2 meant when THEY coined that phrase, which made me want to writhe around on the floor and perhaps stab myself in the forearm with a fork.)

(I hope you all are keeping track of the sheer brilliance of my digressions in this post. Because, honestly? I don't think I can hit these heights again without spraining something.)

At. Any. Rate.

SOMEONE once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Which is why I am embarking on a new weight loss plan and doing everything exactly the opposite of how I've done things in the past. I'm NOT joining Weight Watchers! I'm NOT waiting until after the holidays! I AM going to write down every single thing I eat AND start taking a yoga class, if my physical therapist clears me for it. And also? I'm going to blog about it on THIS site: Fight the Fluffy and I invite you all to come read and throw things at me if I wuss out.

Contest News:

I am still mulling over the entries for my new tag line. So far, I think my favorite lines are:

Mother. Writer. Lunatic.

Mother. Writer. Keeper of Little Things.

Mother. Writer. Keeper of the Chocolate.

and

Mother. Writer. Herder of Cats.

I'll get back to you with the winner later this week. Feel free to weigh in with your opinions, though, because, honestly, this week, those hilarious comments kept me going.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hungover, Horrified and Humbled

Our prospective Realtor came today to look at the house to tell us what she thought we should ask for it. I loved her. So I did NOT hurl on her shoes.

We went to dinner at some friends' house last night and I felt the need to drink all of the wine in the world. Haven't done THAT in a while and now I remember why it's such a bad, bad idea. My hair hurt this morning.

The thing that's so sad is that it doesn't take that much wine to make me (and my hair) feel terrible the next day. I really hate this getting old thing.

Anyway, the Realtor came and we walked all over our incredibly cluttered house. She was hilarious and managed to tell me that my house was cluttered and that we really need to do some work on our front entry and power wash the outside of the house and mortar the cracks that have appeared because the house has settled, etc., all without hurting my feelings. I mean, I KNEW a lot of those things anyway and it's her JOB to tell me those things without hurting my feelings but I appreciate that she did it so well, especially given my --ahem-- fragile state. She didn't even seem to mind Scout.

And then we had the impromptu showing of the house to the people who called us as soon as they heard we were moving. I'm thinking they were simply stunned by the sheer amount of crap we have everywhere --I know *I* am. But they were so nice and he even played ball with Scout, which, just so you know, always involves picking up a saliva-soaked tennis ball. He was not even grossed out about it, but he did laugh when I told him I felt like I should offer him my shirt to wipe his hands on.

So, they were very nice and maybe they will buy my house and then I won't have to do everything in the world to it before we leave.

This process is so weird, though, because it gives you an entirely new perspective on the place where you live. Like, there are all these things that I just don't even see anymore--like the shutters with those godawful hearts cut into them that STILL need replacing. And that the front porch needs painting and why have we lived so long with that popcorn ceiling everywhere? And why do have three different shades of white paint in the kitchen? And that I haven't noticed the squeaky floorboards upstairs in five or six years... It's just the strangest thing.

My husband feels exactly the same way. He was helping carry some stuff to the garage this weekend and he said, "Man, this place is kind of a dump." I guess maybe we just don't have the objective eyes to see all the scars we've inflicted on this house until we start thinking about other people living here and we start looking at this house like we're looking at new houses in New York. Because everywhere we look is our life, you know? I don't see the scuffed paint or the fraying carpet because I see the shadows of my kids growing taller and the hours we've spent playing dominoes on that carpet and peek-a-boo over that peeling banister.

Nevertheless, if you're looking for me the rest of the afternoon, I'll be painting. Some other family deserves a clean slate to make their own memories.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shunday

Is been a vewy busy day here today. Firs, breakfass at the IHOP, whish I no like so much but my girlz love. Then teashing the Girls Scouts to knit, wish made one liddle girl cwy because thas the kind of teacher I are.

I forgot to eat lunch. This happen me sometimes.

But is Happy! Hour! I so HAPPY! I had a rum and coke on an empty stommick and now I so FUNNY. SO FUNNY. Laugh, darnit. Laugh until you nap!

Tomorrow ish a vewy biggish day here...

Okay, sorry. I have to stop writing drunk now because I'm starting to feel like Junie B. Jones. I AM a tad tipsy and very vewy tired. Those Girls Scouts--man, what a tough crowd.

I honestly did make a little girl cry today in knitting class. Like, repeatedly. I hope it's just that she was getting sick. I mean... I don't hope she's getting sick but I also would prefer her complete frustration and sobbing meltdown to be blamed on something besides my ineptitude as a teacher.

Having said that, I also must admit that I suck as a teacher. At least, of knitting. Some things, um, like how to lose one's temper at the drop of a hat or how to bury one's desk in paper, I can teach with very little effort. You might call me a natural. But when I'm teaching something that requires technical...um...well, teaching-- those things I pretty much teach by saying things like, "So, you, um, do THIS and then you do... THIS. You use THIS pointy thing to do this sort of curly thingy and then you pull the whatsit back into the deal."

I don't know, I wore my new "knitterly" earrings and everything. But it DOES occur to me that maybe I should have just had a big drink before I started class. I would probably have been more coherent.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ohm... Ohm (Freakin' GROCERY STORE)

So, if I were the manager of the only grocery store that is remotely convenient to my neighborhood, do you know what I think would be a really, totally EXCELLENT idea? I think it would be a great friggin' idea to REARRANGE THE WHOLE STORE RIGHT BEFORE THANKSGIVING!! Think of all the potential humor there as you watch these harried parents, most of whom have their children with them because they are complete masochists really like to spend quality time in a grocery store with the little darlings on the Saturday before Thanksgiving! Can't you just hear the glee?

"Oh, and you know what would be EVEN FUNNIER? Let's NOT change the signs THAT TELL SHOPPERS WHAT'S ON ANY GIVEN AISLE!! BWAHAHAHA --Suck-kers! Look at that woman on aisle eleven looking for coffee filters because the sign says that she can find coffee on that aisle. See her taking the seventeen cans of Shrek (3!) soup out of her cart after her seven-year-old puts them in. Oh, now, they're wrestling over that box of Lucky Charms! What does the mother mean they're not nutritious? I thought they were made with whole grains? Oh, look, the little girl is calling her mother a tyrant and running away with her chocolate glazed donut! Oh my gosh! That's just so incredibly funny! I'm CRYING over here! I'm crying louder than the seven-year-old and that's saying something!"

(Yeah, me, too, Buster. And, not to worry you or anything, but there is a special hell set aside for people like you, even if you are a figment of my imagination.)

It's not even Thanksgiving yet and I think I may just be up to HERE with the holidays.

Honestly? I think the Cosmos has a score to settle with me. Because you know how we're having an impromptu showing of our house on Monday --way, WAY before the house is remotely ready to be shown? Well, um, today my husband is out of town! Of COURSE he is! And, oh, guess what? My clothes dryer just went out! Well, not the WHOLE clothes dryer, just you know, the part that DRIES the clothes. The heating element part. And it just happened to go out on the day when my housekeeper is here doing the laundry and changing all the sheets everywhere AND my husband (whose part of our marriage vows included the phrase "For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, forsaking all others and attending to all malfunctioning household appliances before Barb goes SMACK OUT OF HER MIND.") is OUT OF TOWN. Did I already mention that? Because I think I blacked out there for a moment.

So, I did what I always do when things break and I kept trying to get it to work. Like, well, about six hundred million times. See, it kept teasing me by actually working for a minute or two, which led me to believe that the whole heating element wasn't out but just maybe some PART of the mechanism that tells it when to turn on, like a thermostat or something like that. But I couldn't find anything about how to go about fixing that without ordering parts and all, and so I did what I do when I give up all hope: I went to Target.

Because, you know, I hadn't had enough of the whole shopping before the Thanksgiving break vibe to last me for an entire year.

There were about a billion people at Target and I was the only one there over twelve who had her own actual hair color. I am not usually so observant about other people but dude, there seems to be a new trend of, um, well, using the head as a an ACCESSORY. It was very curious and vaguely upsetting, frankly, because I can barely match my shirt to my pants, much less my HAIR to my SOCKS. I fear this trend will be another one of those things that separates the Cluelessly Accessorized from the Fashionistas. (Well, that and the whole wearing Wet Clothes, vs. Dry Ones issue, not that I'm bitter. But see what I mean? There's definitely something sinister about our appliances.)

But anyway, the other thing I noticed is that people have simply lost the awareness that they are not the only people in the world shopping on Saturday (before Thanksgiving, have I mentioned that?) I've noticed this trend with people driving lately, too, like when someone slows down to two miles per hour to check a street sign or answer a phone call, totally oblivious that there are other people following behind them who are trying to get to the library before it closes. Is it just me? Because I overheard some snippets of conversation that were a bit unsettling. (I wanted to do what my friend Lisa wants to do when she hears some baby screaming for long stretches inside Target. She always says she wants to walk up to the mom and ask her to quiet the baby down. "Because you're ruining my Target vibe.")

For example, I heard this man, walking straight down the middle of the main aisle at Target, talking on the cell phone and using his full cell yell volume to inquire of his conversational partner, "So, do you WANT to get pregnant?"

And I just seriously hoped that the woman he was talking to wasn't INSIDE THE STORE SOMEWHERE. (Given how things were going, she was probably over in the hair dye section.) Because I think that's taking the Target Vibe a lee-tle too far, you know what I mean?

Just get a room, buddy. There are those of us who are barely hanging on over here, and we're damp and unhappy and confused.

And it's not even Thanksgiving yet.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quick Post and New Earrings

This doesn't count toward NaBloPoMo because I've already posted today but I forgot to remind everyone about the contest ending tonight. So far, I haven't heard a truly great replacement tag line, although a few of them made me laugh out loud. (IntheTrenches suggested "Keeper of the Lead-Infested Toys.") So, please put your thinking caps on because I need help! And we all know the world revolves around me me me me.

On a totally different subject, hokgardner and I went and checked out a new Austin yarn store today. It's called "The Knitting Nest" and it was very cool and not quite as overwhelming as some jam-packed yarn stores are. I got out of there with only one skein--so proud of myself. (And honestly, I NEEDED it because Jane actually ASKED me to knit her some new socks and she wants pink ones and I didn't have any pink yarn.) But, true confession time, I did buy some earrings. Look:

(And just be very glad I didn't upload the picture where you could see all the way up my nose --this taking pictures of oneself is a dangerous thing.) Anyway, I bought the last pair at the store but they are handcrafted in Roswell, Georgia by whoever it is who makes Sassafras Creations. They are very reasonably priced and would make a nice trinket for the Obsessed Knitter in your life. (In my case, that would be me.) I'm not affiliated in any way with Sassafras but I just liked the earrings and thought you'd want to know. I'm so giving that way.

Tagging Myself Again

(Okay, I'm thrilled to announce that for the past three days, Bloggger has logged me on automatically on this computer. I think it speaks to the size of my world that this makes me really happy.)

(Yo, it's not every writer who can START a blog post with a digression. I'm telling you people, you're in the presence of Digression Greatness here.)

So, I was surfing around (Oh, the insomnia. How productive I would be if I could not sleep at night and then not be a complete ZOMBIE during the day. That's the big catch of this insomnia deal--the resulting Zombitude.) and I found this meme and well, I liked it. So, even though I wasn't tagged, I am once again tagging myself. (Which probably isn't even legal in most states so keep it kind of quiet.)

1. What were you afraid of as a child? For a long while, like a year, I was afraid of some random shooter dude looking in my window and seeing my bed across from it and shooting me. I honestly was. I had this incredibly huge and hideous stuffed purple elephant and I would try to hide behind it so the gunman couldn't see me. Why I didn't just move my bed, I'll never know.

Also, snakes.

2. When have you been most courageous? Well, there's that whole having children thing. I think it takes great courage to tap into the requisite vulnerability that it takes to be a good parent. It's like having pets, right? You KNOW that your heart will be broken at some point. Loving anything that deeply is a set up. But if you didn't love that deeply, you would miss half of the joy and growth that comes with having kids, too. So, it's worth it. But it takes courage to do it right --you gotta go into it 100%. No holding anything back in case they hurt you--because they WILL hurt you and being hurt is part of your job.

Okay, wait, I just depressed the heck out of myself. I guess it's too late to change my mind?

3. What sound most disturbs you? Oh, I have this whole list of sounds I hate. The recorder, Jane's screaming and Ana's whistling. Also, I'm about sick of the squirrels chattering at me every time I walk out of my house. But all day today, I've been threatening to shoot Scout if he barks one more time. His bark is the single most obnoxious, horrible, piercing sound in the entire Universe. And sometimes, if you're really lucky and you're bending over to tie your shoes, he'll get so excited that he will bark that bark right in your ear. I'm telling you, if we didn't have so much money already invested in him and, um, if we owned a gun, and if I believed in killing animals just because they're incurably stupid, AND if I ever wanted to be the kind of person who got rid of family members because they were inconvenient, I'd SHOOT him.

Perhaps I'm a little on edge.

4. What is the greatest amount of physical pain you’ve been in? This is a hard question for me because I have a really high tolerance for pain. My mom has it, too, and I think Jane has it, as well. I know everyone says that but in my case, well... for example, when my doctor performed my foot surgery, he said that it looked like my foot had sustained several fractures and, um, I never noticed.

The most painful things I can remember are (in order) 1. when my OB broke my water with a hook thingy that looked like the hook thingy we use to open our chimney flue and suddenly I went from sporadic contractions to one continuous, endless contraction. My husband says it was like watching someone you love get run over by a steam roller. 2) The colposcopy I had where my OB/GYN (same doctor) snipped living tissue off of my cervix to biopsy. It came back cancerous, so it needed to be done, but I told the doctor I was NEVER having that procedure again without at least a fifth of Scotch. And I don't even DRINK Scotch. ("This will hurt about as much as a menstrual cramp" my a**.) and 3) When I slammed my hand in the door of our Explorer and broke my index finger in two places. Although this is a distant third and I'm just throwing it in here because I like to have three things.

5. What’s your biggest fear for your children? (or children in general if you don’t have some of your own.) I fear that my children will make the same mistakes I have made--especially the ones where I gave away essential parts of myself like party favors to boys who didn't deserve to even be invited to the party. I hope their self-esteem will come from inside of them, and not from the valuation other people place on them.

I pray that my children will never be physically nor sexually abused, that they will never know hunger or the pain of chronic disease and that they will themselves become parents some day so that they may understand the unfathomable love I have for them.

6. What is the hardest physical challenge you’ve achieved? Well, getting pregnant, I guess. I also ran a 10K, maybe that? Maybe it's the recovery from this foot surgery, which is apparently endless and zaps my morale.

7. Which do you prefer: Mountains or oceans/big water? Oceans. The ocean matches whatever inner rhythm it is that makes me peaceful. It gives me far-seeing eyes. I have NEVER had insomnia at the beach.

8. What is the one thing you do for yourself that helps you keep everything together? Writing. It's the thread that has tied all of the stages of my life together. When I can write about it, I can process it.

9. Ever had a close relative or friend with cancer? Yes, lots.

10. What are the things your friends count on you for? I've been thinking and thinking about this and you know, I don't think there is one thing anyone counts on me for. Maybe to always be able to offer a glass of wine. Honestly, I have no idea. (Friends? Speak up if you're out there.)

11. What is the best part of being in a committed relationship? Waking up every morning next to the man I love most in this world and wondering what adventure will greet us today. Having someone who knows me so well I don't always have to explain myself. Sharing the joys and hardships of parenting. And, um, well...the naked thing.

12. What is the hardest part of being in a committed relationship? Sticking it out when all of my instincts tell me to leave the party before I'm asked to leave. And also, trusting that my partner is in it for the long haul and isn't going to leave me because I've gained some weight or have to do five months on bed rest or wrecked his car or whatever. (The car's fine, honey, I was just using it as an example.)

13. Summer or Winter? Why? Well, in Texas, I like the Winters because the summers are so long and so freaking hot. We'll see if that changes in New York when the winters are so long.

14. Have you ever been in a school-yard fight? Why and what happened? Yes. In fifth grade, Sharon Compton challenged me to a fist fight. She hated me and I was so dweeby and awful, I'm sure she thought she would win. But I was tall and I had brothers and I punched her right in the nose and she crumpled to the ground. I didn't know what to do next so I SAT on her. Nice. I should be living that down, oh, never.

15. Why blog? You know, I can never figure out why this blogging thing is SO FUN. I really hope it's not a narcissistic sort of thing. I think maybe it's about connection with other people who share my...not to insult you but... strange bent and sense of humor. I like challenging myself to write things more succinctly or to mention naughty subjects, but without naming them. I love that this is the best sort of scrapbook--I get to punctuate it with pictures but mostly it's about narrative. Is it narcissistic? Well, don't tell me if it is. I just love it. I really love the people I've met and I live for my comments. It's the best part of writing my column (So, the thing is)too, but with the blog, it's every single day instead of monthly and it's a different audience.

Okay, it's probably just a narcissistic thing.

16. Did you learn about sex, and/or sex safety from your parents? BWAHAHAHAHA! You kill me! I mean, if you count that my mother bought me a book after I came home in fifth grade (after having seen The Film) totally freaking appalled about the idea of hitting puberty and all that it entailed. (I mean, WTF? I have an older sister--do ya think maybe she could have clued me in? She was extraordinarily helpful later on though, so maybe she was already gone from home at this time. At any rate, it came as a shock.) I got to skim that book and then it disappeared never to be seen again. I wish I'd read it closer because I still have some questions...

17. How do you plan to talk to your kids about sex and/or sex safety? I plan to sit each of them down (years apart so I can stop twitching after each one) and answer all of their questions. And with Ana, I'm going to do it very soon because she's asked a question or two but usually when Jane was right there and I couldn't answer her fully. (I have nothing against Jane knowing but I know her and she will tell all of her classmates and then I'll be the school pariah. Maybe I ought to tell her before we move so she can shock all the kids in her class HERE and then be over it by the time she meets her new friends.) At any rate, I resolve to be as open as I possibly can about everything. And I vow to use the correct body part names because I haven't ever talked down to my children and I'm not going to start now.

Probably no books unless they just ask for them.

18. What are you most thankful for this year? This is a great question because I'm at this time in my life where I feel like every day I offer up a gratitude prayer. I am so blessed --in every way possible (except for maybe Scout) and I honestly KNOW it. You know how sometimes you don't appreciate something until it's gone and it's too late? Well, I seem to have the opposite of that these days. I am so blessed to live this life and have this family and these friends and this blog and my camera and time to write and Edward, the fuzzy orange tabby. I don't have any car trouble and my health is mostly good and I get hugs and kisses daily from every one of my roommates.

I swear, I want to get down on my knees every single day and give thanks for it all. (I give y'all permission to remind me of this mercilessly when I start whining about all the stress I'm under.)

Okay, I'm tagging Rockstories (although she may want to answer this on one of her other blogs) and the Bloghore and suburbancorrespondent and MadMad and Mrs. Q. And hokgardner and Liz in Ink and DK. It's a good pre-Thanksgiving exercise ---no, seriously. You might even thank me!

There are other people I'd like to tag but I feel sort of shy about so if you read this and you want to play along, send me a note so I can read it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Memories Do Not Convey

So, yesterday, the word spread about our impending move to Long Island and last night, I got a call from a woman who is searching for a house in our neighborhood. She and her family have been renting and waiting for something suitable to open up. Apparently, this tiny pocket of the country hasn't heard of the housing recession because things are booming here. The last few houses on our street never even hit the market before they sold.

Which is very good news.

Except, you know, it means that other people will be coming in to look at MY house. And at some point, other people will be moving INTO my house.

And I think I'd like to go to bed now and wake up in about six months, already settled into our new house in New York. (And, heck, as long as I'm asking for things, I'd like to be 30 pounds thinner and more mature. Less wrinkled and shy. Taller. More athletic.)

It's just that now I keep going through the house and seeing it through other people's eyes and I realize how much work we have to do on it to make it a generic house again and not OUR house. There was all that unfortunate experimentation with color on the walls that I have to rectify. And then there's the modification to the cabinet in the laundry room so that we could put the litter box somewhere hidden so that Sydney would stop snacking from it. (I know, it's so disgusting I can't bear to think about it.)

Then, there is THIS little modification, which my husband built between his recording studio and our spare room so that he could use our spare room as a recording room for drums, since the studio is too small.

And what about these? This was our project in summer of 2006. The girls and I made all of these. I can't take them, right? But how can I leave them?

I'm sure I can't leave this --and yet, how do we take it with us?

I realize how much of our living has been done here and how that's all tied up in how I see this house. Look, that's where Jane took her first steps and look over there, that's where Ana sat at breakfast with her bike helmet on, pretending it was a space helmet. Here's where we finger painted and took baths in the bucket. That's where Jane burst into her first deep belly laugh. Over there is where Ana was sitting when she fixed my computer. That's where the Christmas tree goes and that's where we hang our stockings. Here's where we keep all the medicines we tried and couldn't get the kids to take. There's where my husband grilled steaks almost every single Sunday night. That's where I dropped that bottle of expensive wine and it shattered.

Here's where I was standing when I realized how blessed I am to have this family and to be in love with my husband and to be able to lead this life, surrounded by these kids and animals and friends and neighbors and all of this laughter. All of this joy.

Everywhere I look, I see our life. And I can tell you this, you can buy this house. I hope you love it every bit as much as we have--I hope there's some residue of laughter and joy that rubs off on you.

But I'm taking the memories with me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Meditation Conversation

Yesterday was fairly stressful because I sent out that column about our decision to move to Long Island and I heard back from a LOT of my friends, all of whom were just really shocked and many of whom said such wonderful things about our presence in their lives...which naturally, made me feel guilty for leaving and disappointing them and then I started to question our decision and subsequently didn't sleep very well. This morning, my coffee seems to have gone undiluted directly into my veins so I'm a little jittery and my hands are shaking. After the usual morning battle to get everyone dressed and fed and in pigtails, I headed up to the school where I read for nearly two hours to the First Graders and talked with them about the concept of bravery. ("Can anyone tell me the definition of 'bravery'?" "Um, like when you do something that makes you brave?") Then I went to my physical therapy appointment at 11:15, only the appointment was scheduled for 10:30 so I had to reschedule for tomorrow, which is a big bummer because it means I have to reschedule the lunch I had planned with my friend.

I came home and threw in a load of laundry and watered the plants outside, because it's --HELLO-- going to be 91 degrees here today. And then I found an ancient Lean Cuisine in the freezer and nuked it and sat down to eat it, by now in a thoroughly dark mood.

But, see, I have been re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat. Pray. Love." and in it she talks a great deal about meditation and the serenity one can achieve, even in moments of great stress and upheaval, through its practice.

I decided to try it. Because, you know, my kids really pick up on my stress level and react accordingly, which is to say that as soon as they figure out I'm about to have a nervous breakdown, they pull out their recorders and give an impromptu concert until I start ripping my eyebrows out.

So, I found a cool spot on the floor and sat down, cross-legged and closed my eyes.

"Clear your mind."

"This is me, clearing my mind, which always makes me think of one of the Etch-A-Sketch things... wait, come back."

"Clear your mind."

"I'm focusing on the darkness, the stillness... except for..is that SCOUT barking? Because I am going to KILL him! Oh, no, that's not Scout, that's some random other barking dog, not even related to me. Thank God there are dogs in this neighborhood who bark, too. I wonder how our new neighbors are going to like Scout. In fact, I wonder how we're going to get Scout to New York. Maybe Coop can fly..."

"Okay, wait. Back to darkness. Stillness. I'm relaxing my shoulders. Maybe I should get a massage. Because I have the gift certificate and you know I won't be able to use that once we move. Of course, I've had it for four or five years now--I wonder if it has an expiration date? Man, THAT would make me really mad. I mean, Coop paid good money for that thing. I should go over there and demand my massage and tell them that we'll never again..."

"Wait. Stop borrowing trouble and focus on the stillness. The quiet of your mind. The relaxing..."

"I'm thirsty."

"SHHH!"

"Well, I can't help it! I AM. It must have been that frozen dinner. Gak. That was terrible. And I bet it was like a whole day's worth of sodium and it was like eating a salty tennis ball...all that salt. Like the ocean, really. Which is very WET AND salty. I'd hate to be one of those people floating in the baking sun on a raft for days waiting to be rescued. I mean, I guess you'd have to drink that salt water, right? But I guess it would be relaxing to lie there and listen to the slap, slap of the water and that gentle...rocking... motion. Slap, slap..."

"!"

"Oh, wow. Okay that may just be a little TOO much relaxation! Dang, now I have a crick in my neck. And ick, was I DROOLING?"

"Okay, time to get serious about this meditation thing. Relax, think stillness, clear your mind."

"Um."

"RELAX. THINK STILLNESS. CLEAR YOUR MIND."

"But..."

"RELAX! THINK STILLNESS!! CLEAR YOUR MIND!"

"You don't have to scream. I'm TRYING."

"RELAX. THINK STILLNESS. CLEAR YOUR MIND."

"BUT I'M STILL THIRSTY!"

"Would you stop whining? Are you trying to de-stress or what?? Now RELAX. THINK STILLNESS. CLEAR YOUR FREAKING MIND!"

"You are not the boss of me. I bet if I were riding my bike on the trainer I could get a drink. And some exercise. Instead of sitting here thinking about how I left the sprinkler on all this time."

"All righty then. Game over."

"Yup."

"It's weird, I don't feel a bit refreshed or de-stressed."

"Maybe I should try Yoga."

Monday, November 12, 2007

So, the thing is... Moving Right Along

I sent a new column out to notify my other readers that we're moving. Click here to read it: So, The Thing Is...Moving Right Along

I don't know. It's beginning to feel awfully official! Send wine!

Announcing a Contest!

Well, you know--in that Barb Cooper loosey-goosey kind of way.

For years now, I've used THIS as my signature line:

Barb Cooper
Mother. Writer. Keeper of the Fingerpaints
http://www.sothethingis.com
barb@sothethingis.com

Now blogging with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm at: http://sothethingisblog.blogspot.com/

Well, okay, the part about blogging is really pretty new, since I've only really been blogging since April. But anyway, I've been the Keeper of the Fingerpaints for years and years.

The problem is that, well, my kids don't really finger paint anymore. I've tried a few other tags, like "Keeper of the Permanent Markers" but this is actually inaccurate since my HUSBAND is the keeper of the permanent markers--although my friend Lisa used to randomly give me permanent markers in great groovy colors and I loved them. Mostly they reside in my husband's office now.

I thought about "Keeper of the Tape," which is a nod to a column I wrote called "Tape and Gratitude" but if you didn't KNOW that I'd written that column, it wouldn't make sense.

"Keeper of the Car Keys" makes the kids sound too old, even though we all know as far as Jane is concerned, we are keeping the car keys and keeping them up high.

So, I don't know. I'm in the market for a new tag line, since I'm pretty sure the finger paints won't be making the move with us to Long Island. I thought you guys would have some great ideas, because your ideas are often much better than mine just in general.

For prizes, I was thinking about giving away a couple of copies of my book, "The Mermaid's Purse" if you don't already have it. If you DO have it and you're a knitter, I could give you some skeins from my yarn stash. If you're NOT a knitter and you already have my book, I could give you Scout! (Okay, just kidding.) No, if you're not a knitter and you already have my book, I'll send you some other books from writers I like. Maybe I'll throw in some permanent markers.

Let's say we leave the contest open until Friday at midnight and then, if anyone actually responds, I'll announce the winner on Monday. Does that sound like fun?

I'm new to this whole contest thing so I feel like I should issue some sort of disclaimer, like "Void Where Prohibited By Law" or something. Or maybe the prizes are too lame? I don't know. All I know is that I have a dilemma and I'm putting my best people on it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

This is how we do November in Austin...

We've had this wonderful weekend. My brother-in-law and his wife were visiting and there were dinner parties and loads of swimming and wine and happiness... and the weather was in the eighties.

November in Austin, Texas. Good thing we're moving to Long Island because I don't know how much of this bliss we could stand.

The ever-popular Dunk The Daddy move...
Sisters


Brothers



Even Sydney got into the spirit...



How blessed we are, this happy circus.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Maybe We Should Cancel Christmas This Year

Man, there is nothing like an impending move to really make you take a good hard look at your house. And your six million tons of STUFF.

Okay, maybe that's just MY house.

After my foot surgery, I watched a TON of HGTV and I always loved this show called Mission Organization --have you see it? Here's a typical episode synopsis:

Clutter to Cozy

Meet Jane Harris, an office manager, and Richard Zackon, a small business consultant. They relocated to their small city apartment four-and-a-half years ago, yet they still have moving boxes sitting out. In fact, their home is so messy that they are too embarrassed to have friends visit. Desperate to transform their clutter-filled home into a cozy and romantic resting spot, this couple turns to expert organizer Lynda Foxman for help.


That's really typical of the shows I saw. There would always be these people --these poor pathetic, compulsive accumulators -- who would hire a professional organizer to come in and help with their huge amounts of clutter.

I was fascinated that people could let whole rooms --whole FLOORS of their houses --become so out of control. It's kind of like a car wreck --hard to look away. And some of those people clearly needed professional help--and not just from an organizer, if you know what I mean.

Dudes.

Maybe, just maybe, I shouldn't have been feeling so smug.

(This ALWAYS happens to me! I NEVER get to feel smug and holier than thou for longer than about five minutes. It's like some sort of Instant Karma Backlash at work or something. As soon as I start feeling all cocky and "look how I'm laughing at those poor pathetic losers" I get completely whupped upside the head (Texas phrase) by the reality that if THOSE people are pathetic losers, I'm a pathetic VARSITY loser. But I digress.)

This is my Craft Room:

Oh, and it gets even more shameful.

This is my craft room AFTER I've spent a good three hours going through stuff and organizing and throwing stuff out. I was way too ashamed to take a picture of the way it looked before I got in there.

In my defense, a lot some of the stuff everywhere isn't even mine. It's Ana's.

This is what Ana's room looks like, even after she's moved the overflow to my craft room.

You know, my mother is totally not sentimental about STUFF. She got rid of her wedding dress because she didn't want to move it overseas. She doesn't keep magazines or other random paper clutter. Her photos go in albums and she doesn't save things like postcards or other correspondence. She's a knitter who has NO STASH. (Have you ever heard of such a thing? Seriously, she buys wool as she goes for particular projects and once the project is finished, only then will she dispose of the leftover wool and go buy more for a new project.) You can open any drawer in her house and find it organized and sparse.

Basically, she's greatly superior to me in two ways--one, she has the discipline not to buy MORE of something just because she likes it. And she also has the discipline to throw stuff out when she's done with it.

Not only do I buy my girls little crap in totally excessive amounts (Hello, Iron Bead Things), but I also am not vicious enough to just start throwing stuff out. Because I look at the horrible clay turtle that Ana made when she was three and I think... 'well, maybe we should keep that.' Even though she's made equally horrible clay figurines each year SINCE the age of three. And I look at the entire huge box of notebooks that I've taken out of her room and that I should just donate to some notebook-less household and then I feel so guilty for the fact that we have everything in excess. I mean, whose fault is THAT? Whose fault is it really that our house has five bedrooms--and every single one of them is packed to the freaking gills with useless crap? We have so much stuff accumulated, we don't even know what we HAVE.

And if we DID know what all we had, I wouldn't know where to put it.

It's clear I'm going to need some professional help if we're ever going to declutter and move this house.

Um, Mom?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Do Things Like This Happen to Anyone Else?

I know I am strange.

But, um, I think we have appliances in this house that are out to get me. No, seriously.

It's not just the Polaris, otherwise known as the pool sweeper. Our Polaris has some sort of sixth sense --well, I'm not really sure if Polarises have senses, exactly, but this one has some extra little radar that lets it know when I'm standing outside and not wearing waterproof shoes. I could be standing on the screened-in porch, and the dang thing manages to spray me with water. This is not just MY persecution complex--honestly! Other people have remarked on it as well. In fact, it's become such an accepted thing that now when one of us returns from doing something in the yard or some sort of pool maintenance and we're soaking wet? Someone will say, "I guess the Polaris won again, huh?"

Recently, our coffee maker developed a short in its on/off switch. Despite the fact that it's one of those programmable ones that tells the time, has an automatic shut-off (always a good idea when dealing with the absent-minded Coopers) etc., we were down to plugging it in when we wanted it on and unplugging it when we wanted it off. Finally, I just gave it away to Goodwill and got out the old one, from which I had upgraded, or so I thought.

But I wasn't even talking about that. THIS is truly kind of spooky.

My husband bought a new five-disc DVD/CD player earlier this year and it's, well... it's ALIVE.

No, seriously!

It can turn itself on! And if you're watching a movie, sometimes it will stop and go into something called "party mode." I don't know what that means but don't you think that's ominous? I mean, especially since it will happen even on a school night when there are no parties happening?

One night, as I was doing my usual insomnia rounds, I heard this very scary bump, bump, bump coming from the living room. Given that our best form of defense is Scout, who frequently sleeps deeply if he's had enough exercise, I approached the living room with an umbrella held at "ready."

But no, it was just the DVD player trying to open against a closed cabinet door.

I'm just not sure if this means that we've got ghosts with serious night time entertainment needs, or whether our house is so boring, even the appliances are trying to stir up some excitement.
You know what would be hilarious? I should take the DVD player out by the pool and plug it in. Maybe set up some kind of time lapse photography (since I sat in front of the dang thing with a video camera periodically all day trying to capture its weird power on tape so that you could see I wasn't making it up.) Dudes, it would be the battle of the possesed appliances--only one can survive!

I'm betting on the Polaris. My shoes are STILL wet.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

At Least SOMEONE'S Kids Are Listening

It's Love Thursday and I just got, like this HUGE pep rally from the Universe. And I say this with the full knowledge of how behind I am in laundry.

First of all, last night, my husband came home with these:

This wasn't TECHNICALLY on Love Thursday but I didn't really see the significance of them until today, so that counts, right?

These flowers did not mean capitulation, nor an apology. (Because if they did, you KNOW I'd have been all, "Wait, excuse me? Would you repeat that? You're WHAT? Here, say it into this recorder so that I can play it in the future when you are being a butthead. Wait, one more time, a little more slowly and distinctly now.")

(So, sue me. It's not like the opportunity comes along near as often as my spouse has the opportunity to hear me say I'm sorry.)

Anyway, they were a present from a man who is big enough and secure enough in our marriage that he can really vehemently disagree with me about something and still love me. And move on. These are, "We agree to disagree and now let's move on" flowers.

I love my husband.

So, THEN, I finished the socks I'd been working on. See?
It's so hard to take decent photos of socks on your own feet so I got a little crazy trying to do something artistic. To wit: Heels Socks From Below
and this one:
Still Sock With Fruit

But then the best thing of all happened:

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I volunteer in my first-grader's class, doing a writer's workshop. I know you're wondering what that entails because I know, *I* had no idea when the teacher approached me to ask if I'd do it. In fact, it's been a little loose--I think we've adjusted the structure to what seems to resonate with the kids. The kids in the class are divided into groups and they rotate through different language arts stations--spelling, journal-time, review with their teacher and then the time they just call Mrs. Cooper Time.

The first couple of weeks, I helped them write letters home about their families. (My favorite quote from this was the little girl who said, "My mom is very nice. She likes to work on the computer and do cleaning." Of course she does.) After that, I started reading to the kids (I am a first rate reader aloud. No, really, even my kids will say so. Sometimes I don't even have to beg!) and then discussing word choices and how writers can paint pictures with their words. For the past week, I have been exposing them to poetry, and how poets explore meter and rhythm and how the word choices can make the reader FEEL something. I told them about free verse. (First I asked them to tell me what they thought that meant. One little boy said, "Like, when you go backwards?")

So, today, as I was talking to my last group, the teacher interrupted me (she has never done this, in all the time I've known her) and said she thought that one of her students wanted to share something with me. She was pretty excited.

So, this one little boy, Daniel, read me a poem he'd written as part of his journal. Here it is:

Green leaves tingling
Leaves growing up to the sky
Cooked into a chef's salad
Served to table five


He's SIX years old! He told me that initially he had written "table three" but then he wanted to repeat the long "i" sound instead.

DUDE!

I was so stunned and amazed and awed. I mean, honestly, most of the time, I'm just talking and trying to create excitement about reading and words but in the back of my mind, there's always this slight fear that I might be sounding like the parents in the Peanuts cartoons: "Wah wah, wah, wah, wah."

Honestly, I was so moved that I seriously considered going back to school and getting my teaching certificate and spending the rest of my years molding budding minds like this... until I remembered that this was just the caffeine talking. (Whew!)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Game Over

Coop and I didn't exactly make up, but we've agreed to disagree. Which is sort of a bummer because making up would be nice right about now if it included some kissing. Actually, you know, I'm not sure we even really AGREED to disagree--maybe we just sort of wore each other down to the point where we're too tired to continue. This trying to make big life-changing decisions? It's freaking exhausting.

I had lunch today with hokgardner, from the comments. It's an interesting thing because I had met her before, several years ago and she's been a reader of my humor/parenting column, So, the thing is... for a long time. But it's through this blogging thing --and knitting--that we've become real friends. I think maybe that might be the key to why blogging is so wonderful for people who are shy, like hokgardner and me. Blogging allows you a window into each others' day-to-day lives in a way not unlike real in-life friends get when they pop into each others' houses. It's also a way of hedging my bets, I guess, because I put myself out there, totally exposed, and if someone still wants to meet up with me, I know there's a good chance that she's not going to run screaming away in rejection when I show up with food on my shirt and carrying my knitting.

She brought her youngest, a little boy named Campbell, who was just... unbelievably adorable. He's got that wobbly, new walking and that blinding baby smile. Once, he came around a corner and stretched up his arms, beaming and laughing at me. I think he meant to aim for hokgardner but he missed. Still, I'll take it. He saw a guy dressed in work clothes going into a restaurant at a distance and I could see him start to beam and get all hopeful. I remembered how when Coop and I were still dating, we would meet for lunch and he would be in full business suit and tie and small children would just automatically stretch their arms up to him and say, "Daddy?" And how his face would open up as he bent down to say hello.

I don't know. Maybe I should try that.

"Coopy?"

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hey Edward! Really Bad Timing, Dude!

My stress level is a tad high at the moment.

My husband and I have this sort of stiffish, not really speaking thing going (I know what y'all said about forgiving and forgetting and being the big one (for which I forgive you, really) and all about marital points and all that. But to quote MadMad: We are a match made in strong-willed hell and Dudes, he was way, way wrong. Plus he said some mean things that hurt my tiny feelings. PLUS, okay, maybe I'm a little slow but I am still not even sure what the hell happened.), we MIGHT be moving, I have (here's a shocker) houseguests coming on Friday, I'm still gimpy and fat from my foot surgery, I'm knitting mismatched socks AND if this whole moving thing happens, I have to figure out how to transition my kids into a new school district (after I've identified which one would suit their smart mouths educational needs best), find a house, sell THIS house and pack up all of this plastic crap our worldly goods, including SCOUT The Car-Sick Wonder and get all of us to New York in one piece. And before that all happens, there's Thanksgiving and Christmas and my ten year wedding anniversary to plan for.

So, a few things going on.

If I sit still, I can feel my pulse pounding in my ears.

So you can imagine that as I was sitting here, working away in the silence of my empty house, it came as something of a shock when Edward (seen here looking totally innocent, the big faker)
accidentally managed to step on both the "on" button AND some incredibly loud chord on THIS:.

I wish I could report to you that I didn't almost simultaneously come out of my freaking skin, have complete freaking heart failure, AND almost do a freaking little piddle, but I freaking cannot.

Yep, stress level running a little high. Nobody do anything like THIS to me, okay?