Friday, November 28, 2008

Requiem for An Old Dog

"It was a hard Thanksgiving," said Jane yesterday morning, summing up the past few days.

And, yeah, it was.

It was a GOOD Thanksgiving, though, just hard.

For those of you new to the blog (Welcome! Now grab your Kleenex!), my ancient dog Sydney died on Wednesday. She'd been in failing health for a while after suffering a stroke in September of 2007. The we had this bizarre bee incident and we knew that she was in the final chapter of her life. In March, we moved her with us from Texas to New York and her heart began to fail her. My daughters have been trying to process the idea of her loss in their own unique ways. Syd was almost 16, and the loss was inevitable but that's a pretty hard lesson to internalize when you're eight or ten years old.

On Wednesday, I noticed that Sydney's belly was distended and she seemed uncomfortable so I called the vet for an appointment. I had found our vet after quite the search. I knew it would be impossible to find someone as wonderful as our mobile vet in Austin but I was unprepared for how much I would actually DISLIKE the first vet I visited with our cat Edward. (Note to vets everywhere--just don't even start with the product pushing because I can get THAT from a used car salesman--and he or she is probably a better actor.) So, I set about visiting local vets, basically conducting a series of interviews to find the vet who could help us if Sydney began to suffer.

And then, as luck (or fate) would have it, Sydney had one of those heart episodes right before I had to pick Jane up from school and I upset. (I'm not one of those people who is all dainty when crying--no single tear rolling down my alabaster cheek or anything like that for me. I look more like I've been in a terrible fist fight and I used my FACE as my primary defense.) (Dudes. It's BAD.) I told my friend Mary Anne about Syd as we stood there waiting for the kids to be let out. She said, "Who is your vet?" and I explained all the problems we've had finding a good vet and how we really wanted a mobile vet because we had four pets and one of them (who shall remain nameless but whose name starts with "SCOUT") is so incredibly car sick. "I should give you my husband's card," she said. "I'm not saying you should go to him but he's a vet and he makes house calls. You could just go TALK to him."

I loved her very casual promotion of her spouse and well, let's face it, I was ready to visit SATAN if he could help my old girl. So I made the appointment and went to meet Dr. Garretson, who turned out to be this very calm, lovely, gentle giant. He talked to me for maybe 20 minutes, completely unhurried. I explained my philosophy regarding Syd's care (Okay, I KNOW it's a lot of links to follow. I'm sorry --I think that's the last one.) and we talked about ways of keeping her comfortable in these last months. At no time did he make me feel like I was a LUNATIC for scheduling an appointment with a vet to which I didn't even bring my DOG. He never made me feel as though he thought perhaps I should be seeing another doctor entirely, if you know what I mean. In fact, his entire office staff seemed to think it was perfectly normal that I was interviewing the doctor to see if he was worthy of putting my dog to sleep.

So, on Wednesday, I arranged an appointment for 11:15. My mom (SO much to tell about my parents' visit!) and I ran some errands and then I brought her back to the house and loaded up Sydney and we drove to Dr. Garretson's office. As I was sitting in the waiting room, I started chatting maniacally with the other people waiting there. Syd was such a ambassador, you know, with her little stump of a tail. Everyone in the waiting room gave her a scratch on her head and seemed to love the stories I kept telling like a possessed person. Like the one about the time I took her to Ana's preschool for show-and-tell and when she realized that some of the children were afraid, she laid down as flat as she could make herself to the floor and let them crawl all over her. Or how when anyone ever went under water in the pool back in Austin, she would race around, barking madly. (It was so annoying, we always ended up putting her in the house.) (But sweet, you know.)

Anyway, then we went in to see the good doctor and he got down on the floor with her and felt the old girl's distended belly and immediately diagnosed her with pulmonary insufficiency and said, completely without drama or excitement but with gentle certainty, that it was time. We talked logistics and he kept handing me Kleenex--again, totally unhurried. I asked him if she was suffering and he looked right at me. "Yes, I believe she is."

And there it was, see. The decision was made. I called Coop and we talked through the options. I could have taken her home and had the doctor come by the house later but I honestly didn't see what was to be gained by the girls watching her die. Coop said he was leaving his office and would join me within 20 minutes. I called my parents to let them know what was going on and then, since Dr. Garretson's office only has the two exam rooms and I was crying all over one of them, I offered to sit out in the waiting room until Coop arrived. The doctor said, "No, we've got this other one we can use." (Love him.)

So, I sat on the floor with my Sydney and I talked to her and rubbed her head. I told her all the things she'd be able to do without that old body and how much she'd brought to my life. I...well, I thanked her for seeing me though some dark days in my life before I had Coop and my girls. She was very uncomfortable and had a hard time lying still but she ended up with her head on my leg and I got a nice long time to love on her.

Coop arrived and we went through all of the diagnoses and options and came to the same conclusion. It was just time. All along, my biggest fear was that I wouldn't KNOW when it was time and maybe we'd let it drag on too long and she would suffer needlessly. But it was pretty clear there, at the end.

The doctor gave Syd a sedative and she went to sleep--so to sleep that she was snoring and her tongue was hanging out of her mouth. Coop and I rubbed her and told her we loved her and the doctor gave her a little more anesthetic and she just...eased over into the next world. It was really peaceful.

We loaded her up and brought her home and then my dad and Coop dug a big hole in the back yard. We picked the girls up from school as normal and told them (heartbreaking) and then we had a very lovely ceremony in the backyard just as the sun was going down and we buried her. The girls were very sad and put lilies on her grave and then after a while, they asked if we could get a puppy. They weren't being callous-- I think they just wanted to know that the balance of our household would stay the same. (And by balance, I mean that my husband and I should remain utterly overwhelmed and outnumbered. We're down with that.)

So, my heart is really sore but I don't feel incapacitated, exactly. I just ...MISS her. Even though there wasn't much left of the funny, silly dog she was when she was younger, I miss her presence at my feet. But, you know, I'm comforted by knowing that we gave her such a good life and also by knowing she didn't suffer.
Rest in peace, Sydney. You were a great, great dog and one of the best friends I've ever had. I'll never forget you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sydney is at Peace

Sydney Cooper, Best Dog Ever, died today. She was almost sixteen.

She didn't suffer at the end and we are left with almost fifteen years of memories of a first-rate, great, happy, funny, smart dog.

I am comforted by knowing that she had a really terrific, long life and by my unwavering conviction that every day since her stroke (in September of 2007) was a GIFT to us.

I will miss her more than I can say.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Whoops, She Did It Again

Jane (8) wrote her letter to Santa today, which turned into QUITE the manifesto because she decided to include letters from our pets as well. (Click to enlarge and read or read my translation under each letter.)

Dear Santa, Thank you for the nice presents you gave me last year. I wanted to thank you for ALL the presents you gave me for whole 8 years before I tell you what I want for my 8th Christmas. I love everything you give me, for every Christmas. I am going to be honest now: I've been a little bit bad this year, especially to Ana. I apologise. I just forgot this time of year was coming. I really enjoy you coming every year. Not like last year, please don't come while my parents are up. I want it to be a surprise for THEM, too.
(I have no idea why she says that but with Jane, as she says, "I have a memory like a hawk.")


You are so jolly. Thank you for making this time of year extra special, special, special. Sincerely, yours truly, Jane Cooper.
PS: On my list all the pets will write what THEY want. Okay?
(Jane's list starts on the next page.)

This year I want...
1. The Unicorn Webkinz
2. The koala Webkinz
3. the Lil Kinz Poodle
Note: PS: Do they have a bear Webkinz? If so, that's number 4
5.(Warning: this one is pricey...) A Barbie Dream House
6. (So is this one:) A Polly Dream House
7. A Rock Collection box with bonus rock
8. The kangaroo Webkinz
9. A NEW lunch box
10. 96 Crayola Crayons
11. Are squeeze-a-burps real, like in Junie B Jones? If so, can I have one?

Thank you!!!!!

Thomas' list (Jane wrote this in Thomas' language but I'm translating.)
This year, I want 1. cat food, 2. Another kitty to play with 3. A cat nip mouse 4. (This is for Jane) A Barbie Stylin' Girl 5. For Ana to leave me alone 6. Jane only one pet me.(Why, no, my children don't compete about every single thing on this planet, why do you ask?)

Scout's One Item List: I want TENNIS BALLS! Edward's list: 1. Markers 2. A kitty house/gym 3. To have my very own bed 4. A pet door 5. A jingly rolling ball 6. A new food bowl 7. A litter box

(For those of you new to the blog, we have an ancient dog named Sydney for whom we are basically running a hospice care house.) Sydney's List: This year, please give me
1. A quiet peaceful home
2. to live longer
3. love
4. a walking stick
5. no more heart attacks !!!!
6. No cold baths
7. Peace in this house
8. A frame that says, "Bless this House"
9. An iron bead dog that looks like me!
10. Peace on Earth when I'm gone

Thank you,

Yeah, I know. Made me cry, too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday is for Fun

I can't resist posting these photos, even though I know my husband is going to be crabby at having a post devoted solely to pictures of him.

I can't help it. It's either that or launch into a rant about how ridiculous medical insurance is and how it's ruining medicine in this country. I went to pick up some medication for my daughter, Jane. It's an antibiotic cream that comes in 5 oz and 15 oz tubes. So naturally, my insurance covers the (non-existent) 10 oz tube. To get the 15 oz tube, which was the only size carried by the pharmacy, it would have been $115. Luckily, this is not an emergency and we can wait until Monday, when I will go back to the pharmacy to purchase TWO 5 oz tubes, which the pharmacy had to order, and when my co-pay will be $20. It's INSANE to think that there are people all over the country who don't have the option of waiting and who will be forking over the money they would ordinarily be using for FOOD to subsidize the stupidity of the medical insurance system.


Sorry. That just slipped right out.

Here, look at this photo. It's what I saw this morning as I was getting my coffee.

I laughed out loud. Which was good because then I had to take Ana to the doctor where we discovered that she most likely has another collar bone fracture--this time on the left side. You will recall that she broke her RIGHT clavicle in January. You might also remember that I didn't, um, respond that well when she went back to school. Right now, I feel like an idiot because she's been complaining about her shoulder for almost a week and I just now finally took her in.

Here, look at Coop reading the paper after Scout has fetched it.

Last night, I made the decision that I can no longer drive at night until my funky eye-spot heals. I've just had too many near misses to risk it further, especially after my daughter Ana and I saw a grim reminder yesterday of how dangerous it is to drive here, even with normal vision. We came around the corner one street over from our house and saw this SUV lying on its side, the windows broken and a lot of children's paraphernalia strewn all about. We quickly said prayers that no one was hurt in the accident because, dudes, it looked really bad. So, I decided to do the mature thing and not put anyone at risk. It's sort of an issue now that it gets dark at 4:30, but hey, these are things you have to do with you're eighty years old. Oh, right, OR when you're 43 and falling apart.

Look at the cute husband:

I'm glad it's Friday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Just So WRONG

So, we have this dog named Scout.

Scout is super focused. And he has an enormous desire to please. He's a good runner and a pretty good watch dog, although we suspect this is really because he is scared to death of everything. He's high strung and jumpy --the other day, a leaf fell from one of the trees in the backyard and landed on his back.

He jumped about five feet sideways and UP.

Because that leaf?

Oh. So. Scary.

He's pretty cute. And eager. And enthusiastic. And loud. And clumsy. And happyhappyhappy.

What Scout is NOT, however, is SMART.

This is something of a limitation in our household. It's pretty annoying to walk out the front door and hear him start barking at you while you're locking it because you've been out of the house ten seconds and he's already forgotten that it's you. Plus, he's ALWAYS under foot and then he gets so incredibly insulted if you accidentally step on him. He's unbelievably vocal in his enthusiasm for anyone coming down the stairs--which upsets those people who might be, um, SLEEPING --but if you come down in the pitch dark to get water, that is very. Very. Scary.

We humans tend not to tease Scout overly much because of the Nervous Bladder issue. But the other animals in our house?

Dudes, it is Open Season.

Take, for example, Scout's bed.
It's an oversized comforter that I once paid a gazillion dollars for only to find that it's so big and heavy, I can't wash it in even the most oversized washer. After we'd grabbed it and used it a few times to cover one of the cars during hail storms, I bowed to the inevitable. When we moved, I threw it in a corner and it became Scout's bed.

Oh, my, how he loves his bed. It's his "safe place" when things (like falling leaves) get really scary. When he's in trouble or really tired from a long run with my husband, the dog races to his bed and plops down on it. Once, my husband (beloved by Scout above all other mortals) laid down with Scout on the bed. You've never seen a dog get more anxious and stressed out.

It was, frankly, pretty hilarious.

Apparently, we weren't the only ones who noticed.

Edward, who is the most mischievous cat who has ever owned me, has begun this elaborate Scout Tease. We keep telling him that it's SO not cool to pick on the slow kid but he just cannot resist. Every time Coop walks by and sees him curled up on Scout's bed, he laughs. And then he says, "That's just so wrong."

Recently, Edward has begun to make his move when Scout is still ON his bed.

Scout is so completely kerflummoxed that the other pets just had to get into the act.

Here is Scout, curled up at Coop's feet, basking in just being near the Keeper of the Tennis Balls.

"Hey, wait a minute! Who's that invading my space here?"

"Oh, it's Thomas (thebigfatcat). Thomas, the Shameless Snuggler. Thomas the big SUCK-UP."

"Okay, okay, maybe I can at least find a nice towel to lay on."
"Et tu, Sydney?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008



I am SO proud of myself.

So. Proud.

But I will wait to tell you about it until the end of this post because it's a knitting thing and you non-knitters can just stop reading when it gets to the knitting part.

Okay, then?

Last Thursday, I got to teach a writing workshop. You can just imagine how excited I was. I couldn't sleep the night before (which had SOMETHING to do with my husband snoring but for the purposes of this story, we'll just attribute it to nerves, shall we?) and I got up early to review my notes. I left way early and stopped and got some refreshments for the class.

Because, y'all.

Second graders are a tough crowd.

I THINK it went okay. Because Jane said, "This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for YOU. Best Mom EVER."

Which made me catch my breath.

And then on Friday, she handed me an entire envelope filled with thank you notes (illustrated!) from the class. (Click on the pictures if you want to enlarge and read.)

I am such a sucker for that.

My favorite (other than Jane's letter) is the letter by the little boy who signed,"Fondly."

So, then we had this great weekend. For one thing, my friend-for-life Lin was in town and she made some space to see me, despite that fact that she had six million friends and family to visit. She stopped by on Friday night and then picked me up at 8:30 on Saturday morning because I was going to accompany her on a personal errand that involved...well...waxing her eyebrows.

I took my knitting, thinking I'd just be waiting around for her.

But I ended up getting my eyebrows done, too! For the first time ever. The woman did this thing called "threading" which I'm sure y'all have known about forever but was entirely new to me. I've never had my eyebrows "done" before.

It hurts like hell, frankly.

But every time I pass a mirror now, I'm sort of...well, enthralled. I look so...

Well, I'd show you except that, true to form, I developed some sort of allergy to the wax the woman used and I have this... leprosy across my forehead. Because no good deed of high maintenance in my life goes unpunished, you know.

(I have ridiculously sensitive skin but only SOMETIMES. The last time something like this happened, my husband and I were still dating and we were about to go on a ski trip to meet this friend of his and his girlfriend-du-jour. This guy... he was just like CATNIP to women and he seemed to lack any sort of conscience that might make him, well, monogamous. So, I (even though I'd never met him) wanted to show him that sometimes the NICE GUYS got the hot babes (which, if you squint, could have been me.) For months, I worked out like...a woman possessed. Seriously, I was SOLID MUSCLE. I had WASHBOARD abs before I left on that trip. And also? Right as I was on my way to the airport, I went into a day spa and had my (non-existent) mustache waxed.

Only, the Allergy of the Damned reared its head and I spent the entire vacation with washboard abs and a red clown mustache.

Very classy. I'm sure he was very impressed.

But I digress.)

(Well, okay, as long as I am digressing, here's what my refined eyebrows look like.
Well, kind of--it's ridiculously hard to try to take pictures of your own eyebrows. Most of the shots I took ended up looking like this:)

(Why, yes, that was two digressions in a row, including TWO pictures. Because I am a digression ARTIST. Other people can only aspire to that sort of digression level.) (Not to mention the ability to raise only one perfectly plucked and waxed eyebrow at a time. I know. I know. I'm GIFTED.)

Anyway, Lin brought me home just in time to greet my house cleaners.

Dudes, have I mentioned how much I love the house cleaners? Are you sure?

Because this time, they cleaned out my fireplace. Without me even asking.

I'm telling you, they know what is needed to take over the world. They took apart the toaster oven and cleaned the glass on it --it hasn't looked this good since I took it out of the box. I bow before them.

So, then my husband and my older daughter Ana (10.75) made chili, which was pretty darn messy but I didn't care, do you know why? Because the house cleaners are coming again this very next Saturday before my mom and dad arrive. Yeehaw! Go on, have a CATFISH FRY.

SO loving my life.
Okay, begin knitting part:

I don't know if I'm allowed to mention this in my blog because I keep forgetting to ask but my husband's brother and his wife had their first child last week. She is beyond adorable and gave me an excuse to buy this book: (Could the picture on the front possibly BE cuter? I could not resist.)
and then knit a baby hat.

This hat:

Which turned out pretty well but I wasn't happy with the seam.

So, guess what I did? I cast on and knit the same hat IN THE ROUND. On double-pointed needles. I LOVE IT.

AND I knitted it in one day. AND, I only said the F-word once when all of the stitches dropped off of my stupid metal DPNs. (I didn't have the size I needed in bamboo needles.) SO, I will be sending two hats off today to the lovely Hallie Belle and may she wear them in good health should the weather in LA ever actually get cold enough to need them.

End Knitting Part


In other news: we had snow flurries this morning. You can sort of see them in this picture:
Jane bounded out of bed to see them and then turned to me. "Mom, it's like God gave us a PRESENT."

Well, I know *I* got one.

I should knit her a hat.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Portrait of the Artist With A Head Cold

(I don't actually HAVE a head cold but there are certain phrases that make me laugh. You know, inexplicably. And for some reason, "head cold" is one of them, at least in this context.)

(I know: therapy.)

(So, alrighty then.)

I've, um, been getting in touch with the (really, incredibly, super) untrained artist within.

See, I've been wanting to make some art pieces for my house for a long time. But I got busy and then I got (shhh) depressed and then I started kind of fermenting ideas. (Which doesn't mean I drank a lot of wine.) (Well, it doesn't JUST mean that.)

One idea I had was to do something with my yarn bands, which are the pieces of paper that come around skeins of yarn. I've been saving them for a long time. First I started pasting one in a book with a little review of the yarn. But I think we should face it: I've pretty much never met a yarn I didn't like, except for some of that awful acrylic fun fur stuff. Still, I knew I wanted to do SOMETHING with the yarn bands because some of them are really beautiful--almost works of art in themselves.

Anyway, initially, I thought about wallpapering my office with them. But I didn't have enough (must knit faster) so I ended up adhering them to a canvas. (As always, you can click to enlarge the photos, just in case you want to have your own up close and personal art experience.)

I really like the way it turned out, although I'm going to add a glaze over the top. (Another word that makes me laugh: decoupage.) (I know, I know: therapy.)

So, THEN, I decided to try my hand at a painting for my foyer. I knew what I wanted but hadn't really seen a source for such a thing. So I waited for the perfect gloomy day when I felt both confident and all deep and artist-like (oh, just hush) and I, um, painted it myself.

I feel like an artist--I really do. I got paint on my pants and everything.

So, then I did some long-wished-for-by-my-husband paintings for above our bed. If you look closely, there is a subtle "X" and "O" for, well, love and kissing and stuff. (I'm in a red phase--especially now that tomato season is over.)

Is that just way too corny? Sydney says she's worried.

(I know, I know: therapy.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Manic Mania

So, my parents are coming to visit.

A week from this coming Sunday.

And, y'all, I am completely deranged.

No, seriously, I don't know what is wrong with me. I feel this need to have everything in the house ready for their arrival RIGHT THIS MINUTE. I am racing around, moving furniture and cleaning under stuff and trying to finish my art projects--all at the same time. I just swept out the garage. It's crazy.

Even for ME, it's crazy.

I think I'm just so excited to see them. I miss having my mom close by, you know, for one thing. But also, there's so much to see and do up here in New York and I want them to feel comfortable so that they'll want to come BACK as soon as possible. My mom has had some health issues with her back and I'm trying to make sure she won't have to climb stairs while she's here... there's a lot to do.

And apparently, I plan to do it in the next hour.

Even though they won't get here until a week from Sunday.

Because I am crazy.

This is usually the point where my husband gently points out that it won't do anyone any good if I overdo it on my gimpy foot and end up not being able to walk while they are here. To which I normally make some sort of growling reference to the MAN ALWAYS TRYING TO KEEP ME DOWN which hurts my husband's feelings and boom, we're crabby with each other and oh, look, I just had a fight with my husband and he's not even here! I am seriously very efficient, no?

(Crazy on legs.)

The thing that's truly hilarious about all of this is that it's not like my parents are even coming to see ME. When I was talking to my mom yesterday, she said, "I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to hugging and holding those girls."


"And...YOU, of course."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wow, the Day of Fall Happens Here, Too

I've written before about the Day of Fall that we had when we lived in Texas. (Basically, the Day of Fall in Austin is the one day when all of the leaves (which had turned brown in July due to lack of water and an abundance of foliage-searing heat) suddenly fell from the trees, as if the leaves suddenly got the memo stating that it was time to change seasons. It's pretty much the only fall we got there and if you happened to be out of town, you missed an entire season. Bummer, that.) And I've written before about how enamored I am of the fall season up here in the Northeast, now that I've experienced the fancy dress ball that constitutes the turning of the leaves up here.

Since they seemed so vastly different in their approaches to fall, I didn't expect the two parts of the country to have much in common season-wise, especially when I've always said that Austin has two seasons: Hotter than Hell and Road Construction. Imagine my surprise to find that New York has a Day of Fall, too. (I think maybe it means the END of fall up here, though, and isn't so much an entire season in one day.)

My backyard on November 1
Sunday, November 9:

And today:

Maybe there is a SEASON called fall, (which in New York has this glorious turning of colors and in Texas is really just an excuse to watch college football) and then there is the ACT of Fall. And the ACT of Fall is universal. No matter what part of the country you live in, the leaves are going to all fall off of the trees all of a sudden, leaving the trees looking oddly naked and vulnerable.

I feel a little wistful about the onset of winter, actually. All summer, we've been surrounded by all of this green --this lush foliage. We've enjoyed our garden so much. We watched Jane's tiny sunflower seeds turn into enormous sunflowers. We ate cucumbers and tomatoes and bell peppers fresh from our own yard --I'd never experienced that before. And then fall arrived, bringing a feast of colors and new bounty from the land as we went pumpkin and apple picking.

Now, everything is dying back. The sun sets at 4:30 and I feel this primal urge to make soup. I'm putting the tomato cages in the shed and thinking about laying in more firewood. (And wishing I was a faster knitter. Dudes, we are really going to NEED mittens, hats and sweaters up here--and soon!) Suddenly, books like Little House in the Big Woods become guides for preparing for the long winter--you know, when we'll have to hike five miles through waist-deep snow to our nearest neighbor and tap the trees to make our own syrup...

It's interesting that there are these necessary losses that come with each shift of season but that it's all just part of the rhythm of the earth. Somehow, living in Austin, it was easy for me lose touch with the natural progression of the cycles of death and rebirth--and that each season contains its own beauty and blessings.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


So, um, I have a confession.

It's painful to admit this.

As many things as I have admitted on this blog, as often as I have told the unvarnished truth about my ridiculous escapades, as willing as I've been to expose my faults for your entertainment...well, THIS is worse.

This will out me as a REAL Dork of Epic Proportions. I'm even hiding it on a Saturday because my readership is lowest then. (I'm a dork AND a coward.)

Okay, are you ready?

(I feel very silly.)

(This is so embarrassing.)

My daughters, Ana (10.5) and Jane (8) are in particularly good phases right now and I cannot get enough of them.

Seriously, I'm just crazy about them. I miss them when they go to SCHOOL. I don't know what is wrong with me but I keep wanting them to get little stomach aches so they can stay home with me. It's just... it's not natural. Yesterday they were on the computer (they like to both go to Club Penguin on separate computers and then find each other and play) and I was kind of disappointed that they didn't want to play with ME.

I know, I know. SO not the Cool Mom Thing. Shouldn't I be complaining about how they never eat anything I cook and/or the mess they leave in their rooms? I KNOW!

It's just that they're so funny and creative and independent now. Ana, it turns out, has a really wonderful sense of humor and she cracks JOKES. She's doing really well in school and she's very disciplined about her schoolwork and she's made friends with this really nice, creative, smart girl. They are a delight to have around.

Jane hit a new level when she turned eight. I didn't see it coming but she left the last vestiges of her babyhood behind. She did not, however, leave behind her impish grin, nor her obsession with writing. She has a children's book manuscript finished and is working on the illustrations. She would like me to go get her a publisher, post haste. (I really wish I knew how to do that but my own work seems to be languishing here on my hard drive while I work up my nerve... JANE has no such shyness about HER work. When I explained to her that I had SELF-published MY book, she said that didn't sound like a good idea to her. "I really would like for this to be in every bookstore across the country, Mom." Oh. Well, okay, then.)

So, okay, I've outed myself. I can't help it: I'm enchanted by my own children.

Clearly, there is something very wrong with me.

(PS: I know that simply by giving voice to how wonderful I think they are, they will turn around and act like little demons to bring the forces of nature back in balance. I'm prepared for that. Theoretically.) (I'm hiding my car keys, just in case.)

On the NaNoWriMo front, the winner of my contest is Ann in NJ who said, "She looked at her empty hands, the grey walls of the room, the white sheets. There was nothing here, nothing of color or character or beauty." which really got me thinking and writing. Ann, I can't remember if you have my book already or not. E-mail me and let me know if it's a book or yarn you'd like. And thank you.

The rest of the responses were dark, grim, bloody and laugh-out-loud funny. I thank you all so much. I don't know what I'd do without you, but my life wouldn't be near as fun. Special mention to Sherry Sea from Austin who said, "She put the hands back in the drawer and delighted in the air now flowing over her green tendrils. No more masks! Today, the humans would find out what she really thought of their puny civilization." which totally cracked me up.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

It's Not Going Well, Part 2

So, after yesterday's post about my non-novel, today dawned bringing rain and a low-grade migraine. It's impossible to be inspired with a migraine --for me, anyway --so I settled in to do a little knitting.

Only, um, it appears that my novel isn't the only thing that's not going so well.

You know how I'm knitting a sweater (my first!) for my older daughter, Ana? I have the front and back finished and now I am working on the sleeves.

I have been working on them for at least, what? Twenty years now? Thirty? And this is all I have to show for my efforts.

Granted, I had to rip out the one sleeve I'd (mostly) done because I was doing the increases wrong. Then, Miraculous Laurie, aided and abetted by my knitting group, convinced me that I should really knit both sleeves at the same time because that way, even if they aren't exactly correct, they'll be exactly the SAME. This, apparently, is pretty important when knitting for a symmetrical person --and Ana is nothing if not symmetrical. Only, um, after knitting on these sleeves for most of my freaking LIFE, I just counted and I have a different number of stitches on them. Naturally, I threw them into my knitting bag in disgust. They better get their act together while they're in there or Ana is going to get one funky looking vest.

Meanwhile, I needed a small, cute project to give me a sense of satisfaction and get me out of my sulk. Luckily for me, my friend hokgardner gave birth to a tiny little girl and you know how baby knits are so easy and quick? I thought I'd so these adorable Elfin Slippers that I found on my friend Kim's blog.

The pattern turned out to be a lot trickier than I thought it would be. And my first slipper turned out so hideous that it looks like something used in Japan to start babies on the foot-binding path of torture.

So, then I thought, well, I'll just knit a little baby blanket. I scored some gorgeous machine-washable Noro yarn at my yarn store's Election Day Sale (love my LYS, love it) and the woman helping me gave me a really simple pattern to knit.

Except that IT looks like something one of the cats yakked up. Seriously, I've seen better looking FUR BALLS.

I don't know. Maybe I should just give up and buy the baby something. Because she could be in COLLEGE by the time I get something knitted to anyone's satisfacation.

Espcially if I have to start those sleeves over again.

Look at Edward, next to me here on the couch. Doesn't he look like he's totally stressed by my lack of production?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Not Going Well

Almost every year since 2003, come November, I have written a book. Well, okay, I have attempted to write a book. So far, I've never actually COMPLETED a book during November, but I usually attempt one. (Except the year I was working when the thought was even too insane for ME.)

For me, as a writer, NaNoWriMo is simply the single best writing exercise I've ever done. It's better than the Morning Pages in The Artist's Way. It's better than banging my head against a brick wall or imagining myself on Oprah. It's just...some kind of magic.

I'm a sloowww writer. Blogging has helped with this because it's such an immediate medium. But the best thing of all for this is NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo demands that I banish the highly critical editor who sits on my shoulder and pronounces my sentence structure dumber than a first grader's and my ideas banal and announces with great certainty that my Mother Would Not Approve.

NaNoWriMo EMBRACES the banality! It's all about quantity and not quality! I am spewing forth just execrably bad prose and you know what? That's the POINT. Yea for really crappy writing! The first year I undertook NaNo, I included recipes and song lyrics in my book --it was baaaad. It was REALLY bad. But it grew into a project that is still alive for me --my novel continually in progress called "Making Roux." I haven't touched it in a year and one thought is just to keep working on it, which is against the rules of Nano but since I'm probably not going to write an entire book anyway, I could mold the system to serve my own purposes, right? Only... well, part of the magic is starting some brand new thing and doing it incredibly badly... I'm not sure I can do that now that I'm all invested in my Roux characters and what I think is the actual plot...

But, see, THIS year, I probably have the best shot I've ever had at actually FINISHING a book in November because I don't have a social life up here in New York (yet) AND my kids aren't really signed up for tons of activities (yet).

Only, I got NOTHIN'.

NOTHIN', I tell ya.

Except these first sentences: "It occurred to her that she had spent much of her life looking for ways to keep her hands occupied. She stared at them now, wondering."

I've been staring at them (the sentences, not the hands) for four days now. And... well, nothing.

So, I'm announcing a contest. I'll send a book and or yarn (or something knitted OUT of yarn, although that might take a bit longer) to anyone who can get me on the Writeteous path. Write the next sentence or write a completely different sentence or throw me an idea... Because, last I looked? I was about 6,700 words behind. I need HELP!

(DK and Ei, I know I still owe y'all socks from the last time I did a contest. I promise they are coming. I had some issues...)

PS: I'm not officially doing the blog version of NaNoWriMo because it doesn't give me the same creative charge. And besides, I think my readers will start unsubscribing if I blog every single day. How much vicarious angst can a person take?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Party Time

On Saturday, we finally had Jane's eighth birthday party. She turned eight on October 11th, but this was the first Saturday that worked for her party. (Except for the Saturday I went to RHINEBECK and well, this was the first Saturday that worked for her party, if you know what I mean.)

Jane was a lee-tle excited. As in, she got up, put on a dress and party shoes and started asking, "WHEN IS MY PARTY??" until, I swear, I was willing to let her start the party before any guests had even arrived. "Here's the cake. I'm taking a nap." (Just kidding.)

So, early on, it was time for one of my favorite Cooper traditions. Coop gave Jane roses --because he wanted to be the first man to bring her flowers. (He did this for Ana, too, after my good friend Linda gave us the idea.) (It's a relatively new family tradition.) (And, um, it may have occurred on Saturday just after I'd been to the grocery store.) (But it's the memory he's making for the girls that counts.) (So, hush.)

I had made the cake (see part one and part two for the recipe and The Secret) the night before, but I still had to frost it. Jane wanted a Webkinz-themed party so here is my version of a Webkinz cake:

And then, deep sigh of sheer bliss, the house cleaners arrived. You know how I couldn't really define how I felt after our house in Austin finally sold and closed? Well, I was a little sad. But, dudes, the first call I made was to our incredible house cleaners and you can bet your sweet bippy that I put them on the payroll! YEEHAW! I can't afford to have them come every week but they are SO coming every two weeks. And I? Well, I think we can safely say that I am over my Selling Austin House Mope. (I love the house cleaners. I want to wear T-shirts proclaiming my love for them. I might have to bake them a cake. Seriously.)

They left three hours later. (Three. Hours. And you could have performed surgery on any surface of my house.) (Have I mentioned how I love them? You sure? I'm thinking about writing a poem.) I had just enough time to shower and change before the guests began arriving.

It was a smaller turn-out than expected, which was a little disappointing. I'm used to giving huge free-for-all kinds of parties. Luckily, I had hired my babysitter, who I found when she was a Counselor in Training at the kids' summer camp and she was ALL OVER keeping the kids moving, even when they went through my planned activities in record time. Jane opened her presents and one of the little girls said, "Oh, FINALLY!" because in New York, kids don't really open the presents at the party, even though the kids really like to see what the birthday kid got.

Then each girl received a goody bag: and the party was over.

I think at the NEXT party, we'll have a little better turn out because each goody-bag contained some chocolate and a Lil Kinz. (Dudes, I have to establish my reputation SOMEHOW!) The girls left saying, "This is the best party ever!"

I loved hearing that but you know what? I'm just getting started. Look out, New York!