Deck the Halls with Easter Bunnies

Breaking News: THE EASTER BOX IS FINALLY BACK IN THE ATTIC.

I’m not a big decorator for the holidays, for two reasons: 1) I’m lazy, and 2) We have too much stuff.

Here’s how our decoration cycle for Christmas goes, in ten easy steps.

1. Find empty box or unobtrusive corner.

2. Clear surfaces (i.e. tables, shelves, television altar, piano(s), mantels, dressers, and possibly bathroom counters) of knick knacks & assorted piles of books, papers, and toys.

3. Pack knick knacks etc. into box or stack into the unobtrusive corner.

4. Dust surfaces.

5. Send Homes on spelunking expedition into garage or attic to retrieve Christmas decoration boxes.

6. Set out Christmas decorations (approximately 3.3 days before Christmas)

7. Approximately 2.65 months after Christmas, clear surfaces of decorations and locate empty boxes to pack them into. If necessary, purchase more plastic boxes and feel guilty for a little while.

8a. By this point, new knick knacks etc. have crowded onto surfaces, so

8b. don’t bother dusting, and

8c. leave other knick knacks etc. in box or unobtrusive corner.

9. Approximately 4.89 months after Christmas, send Homes on mission to return Christmas boxes to attic or garage.

10. Congratulate self on a job well done.

To My Graduating Students*

*and to my students who graduated last year – I’m sorry I didn’t think to do this for you then, so now everybody’s included in this commencement address.

First: I am so proud of you.

Second: I don’t know where this blog post is going, so just hang out for a couple of minutes. It might meander like our discussions on Of Mice and Men or The Cask of Amontillado.

Whether you go to a four-year college, a junior college, a technical school, or no school at all, you will be making choices every single day. Sometimes these choices won’t be important, like, “Do I ask the dude making my sandwich to put mayo on both sides, or just one?” or “Do I straighten my hair today or let it go curly?” or “Do I call my girlfriend now or wait until after I finish this episode of [whatever show is popular at the moment]?”

Sometimes the choices will be very important, like, “Do I blow off writing this paper and just copy it from the internet?” [If you were truly a student of mine, this answer would be, “No, I will write this paper and learn while I’m doing it!”] Other important choices might be, “Do I get into the car with this dude I just met at the club?” or “Do I sample the mystery substance everyone seems to be having so much fun with at the party, or do I amuse myself taking photos of them to post on Facebook later, and make sure none of them die from whatever side effects the mystery substance has?”

The point is: the future is filled with choices, and you are responsible for making the choices. It might be overwhelming, as it often was to me in college. The sheer mountain of choices scared the crap out of me. And sometimes you’re going to shine, and other times you’re going to fail. You will fail. It will happen. (I think J. K. Rowling covered this point in her address to Harvard graduates in 2008. Click here to read that.)

Failing can bring you to surprising new places. It can be an opportunity. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck, because it does. But take some responsibility for it. You get to make the choices, from here until forever.

I hope you choose:

  • to not get into the car with strange men
  • to make wise choices about sex
  • to pass on the drugs but still have fun with your friends
  • to work your asses off on school work. You’re choosing, paying to be in school now. No one’s making you. Work for your dreams.
  • to always be kind and gentle with every single person you meet. Even if they cut you off in traffic or steal your umbrella or cheat on you or sit on your iPhone and crush it into a million bits
  • to surround yourselves with people who make you smile
  • to remember your home. Your home. Full of people who care about you and are cheering for you. This is where you come from, and even if it might seem like a small nothing town after you’ve moved away to Way Cool City Full of Beautiful People, this is your home, and we love you
  • to write letters and postcards – not only emails and texts – to your friends and family
  • to reward yourself with a trip to the beach or a hike or somewhere outdoors when the daily grind gets to be too much
  • to vote for leaders you believe in
  • to form relationships  with surprising and interesting people
  • to put your money on what’s really important. Think about where you want your life to go; spend accordingly
  • to fall in love
  • to let people go when it is time (and to trust your instincts of when that time is right)
  • to avoid worrying about what other people might think of your path in life. It’s yours; own it and be happy. If you can’t be happy, change it by making new choices
  • to learn and practice the art of making conversation with adults. You are an adult now. Talk to your professors, your bosses, and other adults
  • to be the change you wish to see in the world (Mahatma Gandhi)

I love you all. If you think I’ve forgotten about you for one day since I quit teaching to raise Z, you’re wrong. I taught you English, but you taught me so much more. I delight in memories of being your teacher. I delight in the choices you make, especially when those choices are conscious, purposeful, and full of intent to make your lives, and the world, delightful, fanciful, creative, kind, gentle, and peaceful.

Thank you for being who you are. Never stop.

Reverse Placebo Band-Aid Drama

Z’s a happy child. She laughs, tells jokes, loves it when I hide behind a corner and scare the pants off her when she least expects it (this runs in my family).

She also tends toward the melodramatic (this also runs in my family. Fine. Just me. Shut up before I go cry myself to sleep).

Last week my mom was visiting (a.k.a. Free Babysitting While I Hide in my Bedroom with the Computer). Mom needed a band-aid, so I got her one, and I got one for Z as well. I remembered seeing this cute little girl in music class wearing band-aids all over her body – arms, legs, tummy, so I thought it would be fun for Z to have a band-aid and match her Gran. Boy, was I wrong.

I picked a spot on her hand for the band-aid, and maybe this was my mistake – the spot had a little tiny boo-boo. This boo-boo was probably 1/32 of an inch long, the teeniest scratch imaginable. But once the band-aid was in place, the boo-boo transmogrified into a Grievous Wound.

She babied her hand for the entire day, cradling it in her other hand, wrapping it in blankets, asking for an ice pack. She ate exclusively with the other hand, prefering to rest the wounded hand in her lap during meals. At first it was cute. Then it sparked a few eye rolls. If it hadn’t been coupled with whining during dinner, I probably would have been fine. (But what’s a Grievous Wound if you can’t whine about it?)

Z: I don’t want Daddy to take my band-aid off at bathtime.

Husband: I have to take the band-aid off at bathtime, but it won’t hurt.

Ever-Suffering Mother: It’ll be fine, Z. There’s nothing wrong with you.

Z: [voice substantially higher in pitch] But I don’t want Daddy to take my band-aid off! It hurts it hurts!

[dialogue repeated enough times to make the most patient of mothers (I know I can’t even hope to fit into that category – I can’t even type it without feeling like a hypocrite) lose  her cool.]

ESM: If you whine about it again, I’ll take the band-aid off right now.

Z:

Alas, a few minutes later, my drama-queen-in-training could not help herself. She said something about the band-aid. Granted, she didn’t use a whiny voice, but I was done. Done with dinner, done with her drama, and done with that dumb band-aid.

I got up, grabbed her hand, and took the stupid thing off (the band-aid, not her hand). It was only hanging by one side, anyway (again, the band-aid, not her hand). And guess what: She. Was. Fine. A quick, whiny protest as I tossed the offending adhesive bandage into the garbage, and then she was back to eating her dinner.

With both hands, this time.

Parenting Soundtracks

Anita Renfroe had the right idea when she created “Momisms” and sang it to the tune of the William Tell Overture. The problem is her song condenses everything, so we can’t use it in place of real parenting. Which got me thinking: I could totally use a Parenting Soundtrack (patent pending) to get me through the days where it’s just me and Z. I’d be free to read another book, or think about the plot of my current manuscript. She’d be free to ignore me (which she often does anyway). We’d be happy as clams.

See how happy we are?

Here we have a demonstration of the Parenting Soundtrack “Fine Dining.” Other available soundtracks include:

  • Pleasant Potty Training: “Pee and poop go in the potty!”
  • The Great Outdoors: “Run as fast as you can! Burn off that energy before naptime!”
  • Beautiful Bedtime Routines: “You may choose two stories and two songs.”
  • Responsible Clean-up: featuring that all-time favorite “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere!”
  • Fantastic Freeplay: “Be gentle! It’s good to share.”
  • For Parents of Two or More: “I give up. The bigger one gets her way.”

As soon as she wakes up, I’m going to get started on recording. My studio? Wherever it is I find myself needing to remind my daughter of the rules. So I guess that’s the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, family room, the backyard, the car, the grocery store…

Restraint

From my diary:

Sometimes I am the picture of restraint.

Situation exaggerated to illustrate point.

Other times, not so much.

Situation exaggerated not so much.

That’s all! See you on Friday with NiFtY author Elaine Cantrell!

Scrub Free or Die!

I don’t know what moron installed our shower. This is a good thing, because if I knew who that person was, I would make that person scrub the shower.

I actually don’t mind cleaning the bathrooms. It isn’t a chore I embrace, naturally, but I’d rather scrub the shower once a week than wash the dishes every damn day. (Fine, I’ll confess. I don’t scrub the shower once a week. We’re lucky if I do it every other week. But it’s only because the dishes will not go away!)

But this shower? This shower is stupid.

Now, I normally would not have such crude graphics, but at least this beats photographs of the real thing (ewww). Plus, our computer crashed (every precious word I ever typed on it was backed up, so no worries other than the $300 bill for fixing it). I’m at this moment using an ancient lap top that doesn’t have an SD drive ?! and don’t have a scanner hooked up to it either. So bear with me.

The Stupid Shower Viewed From the Side

This little dip between the shower floor and the drain reminds me of a moat dividing a castle from surrounding lands. But because the water just sits there, we end up with lots of yuckiness:

Nasty soap scum in stupid shower

Like a moat, there could be dragons in it. (Wait, do moats have dragons? Or monsters? Or something else entirely?)

Monster living in shower moat

So periodically (not once a week, mind you) I have to go into the bathroom armed with a rag, scrub brush, and Scrub Free, which is the cleaner that came with the house, and smells sort of like a combination of car exhaust and moat-dwelling dragon farts.

And when I’m done scrubbing, the shower looks pretty much the same.

Also, our house seems to be collapsing around our heads, and we’re feeling very discouraged. I would catalog our recent misfortunes, but I’ve used up my hourly allotment of complaints. Until next time.

Oh, and I actually am kinda proud of my Paint graphics. They’re not up to  Hyperbole & a Half standards, but I like them so be gentle.

The Challenge of Turning 30

The clock is ticking and I’ve got six months left of my twenties. I want to do them right.

The thing is, I feel like a kid most of the time. There’re all kinds of things I don’t know how to do or even handle, and so like the bibliophile I am I turned to a book. I (rather smugly) gave this one to Husband when he turned 30:

30 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do Before Turning 30, by Siobhan Adcock.

Here they are (lifted from the back of the book) (with slight commentary as embellishment where necessary):

  1. wrap a present
  2. start a successful fire in a fireplace, at a campsite, and in a barbecue
  3. finish a piece of furniture
  4. get a raise (whahahaha!)
  5. order wine at a restaurant without getting stiffed
  6. parallel park in three breathtakingly beautiful movements
  7. dance a “slow dance” without looking like an idiot
  8. use a full place setting properly, including chopsticks and Asian soup spoons
  9. clean your place in under 45 minutes, when friends, relatives, or prospective lovers (hahahaha) are coming by unexpectedly, and soon
  10. hold your liquor
  11. cure a hangover
  12. do the Heimlich maneuver
  13. use a compass
  14. change a flat
  15. jump-start a car
  16. open a champagne bottle
  17. send a drink to someone’s table
  18. cook one “signature meal” (I’m shuddering in fear at this one)
  19. whistle with your fingers
  20. take good pictures
  21. fold a fitted sheet (those damn things are so annoying!)
  22. remove common stains
  23. sew a button
  24. carve turkey, lasagna, and birthday cake
  25. hold a baby (hahaha!)
  26. change a diaper (if only I didn’t know how to do this)
  27. keep a plant alive for more than a year
  28. make dogs and cats love you
  29. help someone out of a car
  30. write superior thank-you notes

The rules for my challenge are simple. I have until my thirtieth birthday. I’ll write here about my successes and failures. I’ll try not to burn down any cities (#1–whoops, Dana pointed out this should be #2, not #1), bite off my fingers (#19), or make everyone else’s pets move to my house (#28). As much as possible, I’ll stick to my regular blog posting schedule, but if I have Breaking News, things might get switched up a bit. Breaking News will not include items I feel I already have proficiency in (such as keep a plant alive for more than a year, hold a baby, change a diaper, and a couple of others).

Wanna join me? No age requirements. You can be 30, close to 30, or nowhere near 30 (on either side of the number).

In totally unrelated self-promotion, come by on Friday for an interview with Vintage Veronica author Erica S. Perl, and my first ever Giveaway Awesomeness.