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October 2009

Poetry Saturday

A few days ago a friend told me she was watching PBS and "there was this GUY reading POETRY and it was about a LANYARD and I can't remember anything else about it, just that it was about a LANYARD and I knew you would LOVE IT."

I looked it up. And she was right, I do love it.

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.


Seven quick crazies

1. I busted my car in the most idiotic of ways today. Cake, beer and retail therapy have done nothing to assuage the feeling of Stoopid. I was backing into the garage, opened the door to line it up with the line we drew on the wall (so we know when to stop), but I wasn't going straight. And maybe a little too fast. And I drove my car door into the garage wall like a knife into butter. So, YEAH. It's not like I got in a wreck or anything, but I have to open the car door from THE INSIDE and the car door is BENT and UGLY there is the little issue of feeling like a TOTAL MORON. BAH.

2. The cake and beer happened at my third or fourth or fifth surprise 30th birthday party tonight. Everyone is copying Phillip Cheung! (Who actually copied it from ANOTHER friend of ours, but of course we don't mention that.) I had to talk my friend down a tiny bit from her Holy Crap, I'm Thirty ledge. "Thirty!" I said. "It's AWESOME!" Because it is. There is hotness and confidence and settledness and some of the best cake I've eaten in FOREVER. This cake smelled like those chocolate oranges you have to smash on something to break into slices? You know what I'm talking about? AND TASTED AS GOOD. I half-know the baker of this cake and I'm thinking I need to hurry up and full-know her. YUM.

3. My house is as clean as it was... BEFORE CHILDREN. My one-time housecleaner showed up this morning and by 1pm I was drifting off to sleep on my couch, surrounded by the soft, pleasant gleam of freshly scrubbed hardwoods and window sills. My bathroom? Sparkling. My kitchen? Spotless. Under the couches? Empty of toys. The carpet on the stairs that I thought was beyond all hope? NOT BAD! I'm not sure if this is really an okay thing to feel, but it was just such a RELIEF! It is totally utterly humiliating to me that cleaning one bathroom feels like such an overwhelming task (LET ALONE THREE BATHROOMS) (AND THEN THE REST OF THE HOUSE) and the fact that someone ELSE came over and cleaned EVERYTHING... I sort of thought I might die of happiness. Sure, Molly dropped rice all over the floor at dinner, but I am energized to maintain. I am also totally trying to figure out how to do this once a month. I feel guilty, but not THAT guilty.

4. I spent several hours last night trying to refine my NaNoWriMo ideas. I'm not sure that was a great plan, as I am now convinced this is an impossible task, that I will spend the entire month trying to figure out where and how to even start. I know that real writing is hard emotional work, but I'm now a little worried about the level of angst. I mean, I knew it would be high, but now I'm thinking it will be High. Like: HIGH. At times like these I like to remind myself of something my dad said when I was dealing with one of my first anxiety episodes: all creative people have something wrong with them. I'm paraphrasing there, but it's comforting somehow. Isn't it? It is to me.

5. My mother wrote me a check tonight. (Perhaps I am doing a bit of Etsy shopping for my mother.) She made it out to Maggie Maiden Name. I have been married for six-and-a-half years. I suppose she knew me longer as Maggie Maiden Name, but it's still kinda funny. Unless I can't cash it. That will just be annoying.

6. First the TiFaux was on the fritz, then we were missing some parts, then we were dealing with the cable company, then an Xbox showed up and Phillip has been mixing THAT into the set up. All that to say: I am missing my shows. Project Runway, Top Chef, Glee... we haven't seen ONE SINGLE EPISODE of The Office. I know. I KNOW! Thankfully Phillip knows how to (ahem) find my missing shows, and also we have Hulu and networks that agree to put their shows online. But to be honest (and I can't believe I'm saying this) I haven't really missed them. (You: SPEECHLESS!) I feel like my attention span is even SHORTER than usual right now, and I get up fifty times during a TV show to check my email or get something to eat or check on the kids or pick up the toys or go through that stack of Stuff To Do on my desk. Seriously. I'm afraid that one day I won't even want to WATCH TV and what a SAD and HORRIBLE day that will be. (I have, however, been plowing through every episode of Greek on Hulu. I LOVE THAT SHOW.)

7. Jack is going to be a dinosaur for Halloween. Molly is going to be a ballerina. And Monday's post might consist solely of Halloween costume pictures because that is Day One of the aforementioned High Levels of Angst and I WILL BE BUSY.


The floors would be shinier if someone else cleaned them

...For a while I justified it to myself by saying, "Self? Your husband is going to GRAD SCHOOL. The potential number of ways to resent him is going to DOUBLE. Hiring a housecleaner would help SO MUCH with that." And sometimes I would say, "Self? You're going to be so busy with the KIDS! You need a housecleaner so you can be a BETTER MOM!" I was really really good at coming up with Ways to Rationalize Hiring Someone Else to Clean My Toilet.

Read more at Parenting.com


Sweetness

My Molly baby is the cuddliest creature on earth. YOU wouldn't know. She wants nothing to do with YOU. And I'm sorry for that, I really am. Especially when I have to get dinner ready or pay some bills or read a fascinating blog post - I'm VERY sorry she's not happy sitting with you. But if I'm anywhere near, she figures it out eventually and starts the "Eh! Eh! Eh!" which means, "Why isn't my MOMMY holding me? I want my MOMMY."

Molly loves me. She has yet to say her first word (although ALL NIGHT LONG Phillip was trying to get her to say "Dada" in front of me, because apparently she's said it when I'm not around to confuse her with "No, say Mama!") but I just know. She snuggles and gazes and puts her head on your shoulder and when you're done gobbling one cheek she'll offer the other. It's WONDERFUL. I didn't know babies DID that. And since she happens to be sleeping better at this exact point in time I want to freeze her As Is. No more growing and getting older for you, missy.

At our friend's house today Molly wouldn't let me out of her sight. So I held her and told myself I was making up for the lack of shredding lately, but then she started to get sweet. Turning her head to look up at me, sitting in my lap while we sang some songs, facing me and giving me a full baby hug. The squeezes and nuzzles and crinkly-eyed knowing smiles - those are for me.

I've never had a hug from Jack that I didn't beg and plead for. He loves me, I know because he's started saying it out of the blue. "I WUV Mommy," he informs the living room. That earns him at least four cookies.

Yes, sometimes I feel utterly swamped by the burden of disciplining that boy. And many's the evening Phillip returns to a sink full of dishes and no dinner, because Molly couldn't bear to be put down. My desk is a mess and I had a bad day and I'm so tired - BOTH of them are waking up at six. I shudder to think what the time change is going to do to our family this weekend.

But I also know that an unbearably early morning means Phillip will bring them both back to our bed, where we'll groggily slide them between us and attempt to get a few more minutes of sleep. Jack and Molly will sit there quietly, like they know it's very early and it's not quite time to get out of bed. They won't go back to sleep, but they'll respect the quiet and for a few minutes it's just the four of us breathing in and out.

And then Molly squawks and Phillip fumbles around for the remote on his side of the bed and seconds later that godawful purple dinosaur illuminates my bedroom. They're mesmerized and we're just thankful they're not bothering us. Usually Molly is next to Phillip and Jack is next to me. They're plugged up with their pacifiers and clutching their blankets. Molly will gurgle her appreciation. Jack will suddenly bend his head down to mine and grant me an unexpected sloppy toddler kiss. I'll catch his eye and for a split second I am living exactly in the present, savoring the two-and-a-half-year-old lines of his face, knowing one day I'll be ninety-four and telling the young mom driving me to church that it goes so fast, to hang on to every moment.


Projects! And gifts! And many, many parentheses!

So, I need a project. In all my fretting over what grad school was going to be like, I never fretted about being bored. (Which is the problem with fretting, anyway. Whatever you're fretting over is rarely what you SHOULD be fretting over, and even though I KNOW THIS, I fret anyway. AHEM.) It never occurred to me that I'd be wandering around wondering what to do with myself. I have my television, a giant stack of magazines, books, exercise and HELLO, I have THE INTERNET. And I even HAVE a project - about nine thousand things to learn to improve next year's Blathering website. (DORK!)

But Phillip goes to school at night, or he's doing homework downstairs, and I'm sitting on the couch not feeling my TV or my magazines or even (I'M SORRY!) the internet. I feel purposeless. Blah.

I started thinking about writing. I realized NaNoWriMo was around the corner. I thought, "Hmm?"

On Saturday I attended a Catherine of Siena Institute workshop called Called and Gifted. It was like career counseling for churchy people. What are we good at? What do we like to do? What things do we do that make us happy? Add up your scores and figure out what committee to join!

Okay, so not QUITE like that, although there was definitely some adding up of scores. No, most of it was sitting in these TERRIBLY uncomfortable metal chairs and listening - being taught, really - by the coolest priest I've ever had the pleasure to hear. And yes, I just used "coolest" and "priest" in the same sentence.

Dudes, this guy? Was like your favorite college campus minister (for those of us who HAD a favorite campus minister) in a Roman collar. This priest could hang with any of the [many, many] fabulous speakers I got to hear during my four years in Protestant youth culture; I'd even say he'd be near the top. He was probably in his mid-thirties and had the most worldly way of speaking... and I know that probably doesn't sound like a compliment to some of you, but BELIEVE ME. It was so refreshing. So appealing and CLEAR. Maybe I just haven't been around younger priests, but I WAS sitting behind two seminarians and even they, I think, were enthralled with (and possibly intimidated by) this guy. I'm awful at repeating other people's stories (I'm awful at MY OWN stories) so you'll just have to trust me that he was hilarious, but appropriately hilarious. Entertaining but with meaning. You know? It's not like you ever forgot he was a priest. And for a while I thought maybe he just appealed to my generation, but he made all 130 participants laugh in unison, and when I was leaving an old Filipino lady sidled over to me and said, "Usually I fall asleep, but not today!"

It was exciting and inspiring and such a blessing to hear him speak. And not just because the lady next to me referred to him as Father What A Waste. [The priest's gifts, as determined by a layperson in the second-to-last row: Leadership, Teaching, Evangelization, Using Snark in a Priestly Fashion.]

My "Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory" (SIGH) (I wish it wasn't so... BUSINESSY) (I mean, doesn't that name just BUG?) was, at first, not much of a surprise. I've taken enough personality tests (and lived enough LIFE) to know that I would get a running start, tackle The Gift Of Administration and kick all other would-be claimers as far away as possible. 

But Administration was only my second highest score. My first highest score was Writing.

I know, I know that sounds like I Am The Best Writer etc. though I should think it's obvious that's not the case. It's more like... the potential to USE writing to glorify God. At least, that's how I thought of it. And that's why it was a surprise to me, because I have never really used writing in that way. I write the occasional churchy post and sometimes I write something that elicits a thank you email or two, but mostly I write because IT JUST COMES OUT. (Side note: long time friend said something like, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I just don't think I could... WRITE that much about my LIFE." To which I said, "ARE YOU CALLING ME A NARCISSIST?" Sniff! No, I knew what she meant. She meant, although she might not have realized it herself, that she is not a writer.) [Her gifts as determined by her old friend: Administration, Knowledge, Teaching, Leadership, Picking Out Way Cool Glasses.] But anyway, I was never one of those earnest girls who journalled (I have many journals, but they are all about boys, none of whom are named Jesus) and have never entertained the thought of writing as a ministry. A blurb about St. Anthony for the bulletin on his feast day? A reflection on the Gospel reading for the top of the worship aid? NO THANKS.

The presenter said we have the gift if, when we use it, we are energized, we feel we've found our "place", we are fruitful and effective without struggle, we experience joyful satisfaction and we are in the minority (meaning, as a possible example, that I am alone among most of my real life friends in wanting to write about my life every single day on the internet.)

I was hemming and hawing about writing as a gift, a spiritual gift, when I heard the priest say something about experimenting. Trying it out. Seeing what happens. And NaNoWriMo popped into my head again.

WHY NOT?

So I'm gonna. I'm not going to try writing something churchy, or something that *I* think would glorify God, I'm just going to write. If it's a gift then it can't help but glorify him anyway. I'm not entirely sure how teenage romance (I KNOW, HOW EMBARRASSING, you should see my father slinking away, hiding his face in shame, all "Why can't she just pound out a good sci-fi novel? If she'd only just READ the books I keep RECOMMENDING, she'd SEE THE SCI-FI LIGHT!") will glorify The Almighty, but that's all I've got right now. Unless you want to read about a SAHM with a husband in school and two kids fighting over their respective pumpkins OH WAIT. You're already reading that.

I am under NO impression that I am going to actually WRITE A FREAKING NOVEL. I am doing this to 1) attempt to get in the habit of writing (NOT FOR THE BLOG) every day and 2) stomp my inner editor to a bloody pulp. I swear, I have been writing the first 10 pages of a novel for A YEAR. I really love what my yay-you've-joined-NaNoWriMo email said: ...your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. And oh yeah, 3) experiment with this gift idea.

And while I'm not sure how much I will be writing here (my guess: probably just as much, if not more, hello procrastination!), I hope to have your support. I told some friends last night I was going to do this (that's another thing the email recommends, because potential humiliation is a great motivator) and they were super supportive and way more excited than I expected them to be. But they are also not writers. They don't have blogs. They don't spend free time dreaming up characters. They don't have file folders full of unfinished drafts and 10 page starts. I do. I bet some of you do too. And I am going to need you to dry my tears and mix me drinks. Deal?

My Spiritual Gifts Inventory didn't exactly help me figure out what to do at CHURCH, however. It did give me some language to describe my sometimes still-conflicted thoughts about the Non-Denominational College Fellowship (the institution valued some gifts over others! or maybe they wanted everyone to have the same kind of gifts! or that these were the best gifts! why else would they threaten hellfire when I didn't want to invite my Goth neighbor to the barbecue!] [well, not HELLFIRE] [you know what I'm talking about!]) I still don't know about NOW, though. No magic answer! Boo! Although, and this is true, I did have a flash forward of myself chairing the Yearly Ginormous Fundraiser Organizational Committee meeting at the Catholic school and my next thought was REALLY, GOD? THAT'S WHAT'S IN STORE FOR ME? BECAUSE I QUIT.

[My gifts, as determined by The Inventory: Writing, Administration, Intercessory Prayer, Hospitality. Not Discernment of Spirits, which, if you must know, was a MAJOR BUMMER.] [And also, I forgot, The Gift Of Parenthetical Statements.]


In which hitting 'Publish' is pointless

I feel sick. I will tell you why.

Breakfast: one granola bar and one hard boiled egg.

Lunch: one chocolate doughnut and a handful of Halloween candy.

Sometime after lunch, when I realized I had eaten a doughnut and Halloween candy for lunch: one "healthy" yogurt.

Dinner: cookie dough. And one or two cookies.

After the volleyball game: giant club sandwich, fries and one-third of a dessert called 'Chocolate Overload'.

It's now 10:28 which is late for the Cheung Household, but not so much for the newer Grad School version. I should pick up all the toys and head upstairs to bed, but I have about 4000 things I want to write about - no, seriously, I pretty much spent my entire weekend writing blog posts in my head - so HERE I AM. Sitting here. Wondering where those 4000 blog posts went. 

I went to this amazing - AMAAAAAZING - workshop at church this weekend. REALLY. "Amazing" and "church workshop" don't always go together (rather infrequently in my universe) but it was so helpful and so much fun. I KNOW! Would you believe that the things I learned and understood at the church workshop are the reason I'm going to stock up the liquor cabinet and DO this NaNoWriMo craziness? OH YES. And I have every intention of telling you ALL ABOUT IT (you: "DYING" WITH "ANTICIPATION") but I am too fuzzy for that right now.

I am also wondering if any of you have, or have playdates with, toddlers with Down Syndrome. That's another post about which I'm feeling sort of fuzzy.

I feel bad posting this non-post of a post, but I REALLY need to go to bed. And you know how I don't like to leave you empty-feed readered. That's no fun. Although whose reader is ever really EMPTY - mine is only empty when I take pity on myself and hit 'MARK ALL AS READ". Because DUDE. 597 unread posts? I cannot deal with 597 unread posts, no matter how pretty I think you are. But anyway. Where was I? Oh right: POSTING EVEN THOUGH I HAVE NOTHING TO REPORT. You shouldn't be TOO unfamiliar with that theme. I should probably make it into a CATEGORY.


The zillionth edition of seven quick takes

1. I feel awful that I didn't credit the nuns on yesterday's post, or even SAY WHO THEY ARE. They are a community of nuns living at the Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey.

2. When I first became a stay-at-home mom I had no idea what I was supposed to be proud of, or even that there was anything TO be proud of. I was well aware that I was working hard, but other than the syrupy platitudes about a mother's work being the hardest and most meaningful there is, I didn't feel like an especially worthy employee. ANYONE can change a diaper. Read more at Parenting.com.

3. I am thinking very very hard about participating in National Novel Writing Month. Is anyone else going to do this? Thinking about it?

4. BECAUSE I find myself alone a lot. I honestly don't know if that's really TRUE, but it SEEMS like it. For example: last night after the kids went to bed, Phillip did another hour or so of work in the office. And I... didn't know what to do with myself. A more productive woman would be folding laundry and mopping floors, but I ate. I ATE. I am not a Depressed Eater or Sad Eater but I am VERY MUCH a Bored Eater. And this isn't good. I need stuff to do, and not just chores but downtime "fun" alone stuff. I have a library book, which will help if it's any good, and today I downloaded a computer game. I KNOW. But! Nancy Drew needs me to help solve her haunted boarding school mystery! But I am also thinking: writing! HMM! Think of all the angst it could provide for the ole blawg!

5. Writing for Style Lush is hard for the following reasons: 1) Online window shopping is super time consuming 2) constant self-doubt re: barely existent personal style 3) window shopping is never as much fun as ACTUAL shopping 4) all the other writers seem to pull Fun! Awesome! Pretty! things out of thin air and I am much more like, "Well, uh, hmm, let's go troll Etsy! Something is sure to pop out!" Which is only to say that it's a super fun site and you should totally go read everything except, you know, MY posts. 

6. I dug out my Grown Up Talking Voice and got my kids a swine flu vaccination appointment. For, like, three weeks from now, but they have one. I did heaps of research on this topic (and by "research" I mean "reading what all of YOU said about it") and decided it was the Responsible Thing To Do. So yesterday, when I checked the doctor's website to see if they had the SEASONAL flu vaccine (nope) (still haven't done that one!) (oops!) I noticed that it was the first day they had the SWINE FLU vaccine. And people, calling the pediatrician on Swine Flu Day is like trying to call the radio station to win tickets for The Most Famous Band In The Universe. OMG. I couldn't even get THROUGH for 20 minutes and then when I DID it was another 20 minutes on hold. The poor woman answering the phone, I felt so bad for her. But yay me for calling, right? I thought about waiting a few hours but you KNOW I wouldn't have landed an appointment till JANUARY. So. Now I only have to figure out the seasonal flu! Progress! 

7. Not only have I started shopping for Christmas presents, I've started BUYING THEM. This is so unlike me. I'm always looking at stuff, but I'm so indecisive I don't buy anything until the last minute. But this year? Maybe I just subconsciously understand that my sister's wedding is going to be all anyone is thinking about come December and I better be PREPARED. I can't find my credit card though. Do you have it? I have this very uneasy feeling that I left it at my second Red Robin visit on Sunday. And YES, I know that is SEVERAL DAYS AGO, sometimes I can be a little SPACEY okay? Either way: DRAT.

more quick takes here


But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world

So, remember when I was all: must have something that can only be found in a monastery in Dubuque, Iowa?

I wanted this:

Maryconsolingeve 

A nun drew this for her order's Christmas card a few years ago, and I think I first saw it when I followed a link from Jennifer's site to a Catholic news blog. I think. I can't really remember, it was a long time ago, but that sounds right. I saved the image and hunted unsuccessfully for a copy online. Another Jennifer finally prodded me to just email the nuns (duh) and that's when I found out I could only buy the print in person. In a monastery. In Dubuque, Iowa.

Miraculously (and I mean that) Sarah offered to run my errand for me while road tripping through the Midwest. In the meantime I started up a wonderful correspondence with a warm and friendly Sister Carol at the abbey, dorkily introducing her to mommyblogs and organizing a late night drop off/pick up/money in sealed envelope scheme. A few weeks later a package of cards showed up in my mailbox. 

A few real life people asked me what I was so desperate to buy from a monastery in Dubuque, Iowa and when I told them they were like, "OH. Right. Well then." So I'm afraid I might be disappointing you too, but there is something about this picture that I love, something hopeful and wonderful and I had to have my own copy.

There's a lot I could say (and have tried to say, you should see my drafts folder) about this picture, but it doesn't come out in quite the right way. It's one of those times when I realize I am not the writer I would like to be. 

It doesn't say a thousand words so much as, "But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Which is one of my favorite verses (and, to be honest, one of the very few verses I actually REMEMBER). But what I most love about it is its female perspective. It's one woman lifting up another, one who is bound to guilt and shame and fear. 

The text inside the card reads:

My mother, my daughter, life-giving, Eve,
Do not be ashamed, do not grieve,
The former things have passed away,
Our God has brought us to a New Day.
See, I am with Child,
Through whom all will be reconciled.
Oh Eve! My sister, my friend,
We will rejoice together
Forever,
Life without end.

Obedient, faithful, strong Mary. Her foot on the serpent, her face compassionate. Thank God. Doesn't it make you feel that way? Thank God

I've given up on being articulate before I write about faith. Well, let's say I WANT to give up on being articulate. And being right, knowing what I'm talking about, giving accurate descriptions, knowing more verses, knowing more history, having an Effect, growing a thicker skin, all that stuff. I want to write about it more, and if I wait until I am and have all those things, I'll never write anything.


Policies

Potty usage has increased to about once a day, or once every other day. By which I mean, once a day or once every other day Jack responds positively to my suggestion that we try using the potty, and then he uses it. All other suggestions are met with, "No! Want new dipah!" I have gone back and forth on this - do I buy licensed character underwear? Talk up the potty treats? Let him go naked? Force him to sit on the potty every half hour and endure the inevitable meltdowns during the following half hours? When I'm done thinking about it I decide that I have enough going on in my life currently, that we've got an entire year before I hypothetically send him to preschool and it is okay to opt out of this particular battle. Phillip has also been instructed not to push the potty issue. It is now The Policy in the Cheung Household: using the potty is not a fight worth picking. 

Other policies include, but are in no way limited to:

No more force feeding the boy. Not that we were ever able to successfully force feed him (AND WE TRIED), but you know what I'm talking about. The nightly dinnertime drama of figuring out how to coerce Jack into eating three bites of dinner. I hated every minute of it, while also hating the fact that he WASN'T EATING and that one day we were walking to the front door and ran into the next door neighbor who said, "Oh, it looks like Jack lost weight!" YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO SAY THINGS LIKE THAT! Weeks of paranoia, heated conversations and fatigued surrenders later, we've decided it's not worth it. If he doesn't want to eat, we let him get down. Sure, we might make him sit at the table a few more minutes because everyone ELSE is eating dinner and that is what we DO, but again: not a fight worth picking. At dinnertime I make sure to give him something I know he likes, and if he doesn't eat it, he doesn't eat it. Sometimes, depending on the situation and the time, we let him graze. We almost always let him sit at the table again if it's not too late and he acts like he might want to choke down another forkful. I'm not sure if he's eating more (although, quite honestly, I THINK HE IS) but the best part is that we are no longer mad at Jack and mad at each other during dinner. WIN. 

Friday mornings do not have to be Fun! Family! Fridays! That's what I was originally hoping for, but it's unrealistic. Friday mornings might be the only time either of us has the energy to tackle various household projects or run unpleasant errands. What we ARE doing is doing those things together. The weather is getting nasty so it's not like we can run out to the park for an hour on Friday mornings, and most indoor things cost money. We don't want to spend money. So errands and housework it is, but if we're together and the kids are with us, it's still a Family Friday, right. Lame, but as good as it gets right now. 

Don't obsess over the scale. (This one's just for me!) After all my whining and moping about MAINTAINING my weight and how do I MAINTAIN and WAH this maintaining thing is SO HARD, POOR ME, it turns out it's not that hard after all. I mean, it's hard in that I am still totally conscious of everything I put in my mouth and everything bit of energy I expend, it's just that for some unknown reason I don't... CARE. As much. Anymore. I stopped counting points. I stopped avoiding bread. I try to buy and eat good-for-me food and I try not to eat too MUCH of it (at this point, I think this is The Key), but I, uh, ate at Red Robin twice on Sunday. TWIIIIICE. And I totally ate french fries with ranch dressing BOTH TIMES. I get down on myself, but then I eat better the next day and sometimes I go for a run and it turns out I'm keeping my weight within a one to two pound range. Which is FINE BY ME. Would I like to be skinny? Would I like to know what size four is like? Would I like to be the same size as my sisters for JUST ONE DAY? Sure would! But right now? I would very much like to finish off the bag of bittersweet Ghiradelli chips my husband bought last night, on a specific Bring Your Wife Some Chocolate Run. I figure as long as I don't feed my Crappy Weather and Children Who Won't Go To Sleep Sadnesses with constant shovels of fatty and carby food, I'm good. RIGHT? 

We shall continue in pursuit of Sharing A Bedroom. Today, I am half proud half embarrassed to say, was the first day... in the history of Jack and Molly, I SWEAR, that I didn't have to march into their bedroom and turn into Krazy Shrieky Head-Might-Spin-Around Mommy because they were jumping up and down in their cribs instead of taking a nap. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MADE TODAY DIFFERENT. I've been taking a harder tack with the perpetrators in the last day or two and possibly it's making a difference. But it could be that they were just more TIRED than usual. WHO KNOWS. But I am not giving up on this. It is utterly totally profoundly ridiculous to continue thinking, the way Phillip and I have been, that the only way out of this sleep mess is to buy a house with more bedrooms. RIDICULOUS! Would it be easier? UNDOUBTEDLY. But what we have is good, better than what a lot of people have, and it can work. Today has given me hope. 

Chocolate and flowers erase coming home late, long work days and too much alone time. Well, they erase a big chunk, at least. Says the girl who is currently munching on chocolate chips and admiring the giant vase of roses on her desk. SEE BOYS? A simple "I miss you" works, but tangible visible reminders make it last a little longer. 

What are YOUR current Policies?


Didn't I paint something recently?

This is going to be embarrassing.

BEFORE:

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Poor lighting. Weird window. A folded-up treadmill masquerading as a Giant Twelve-Ton Black Thing. And yes, that is a DEAD PLANT on the top of the bookshelf. NICE.

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View from the desk. That's the space under the stairs (Phillip installed that clothes rack to store winter coats, ingenious, but also not that helpful? Don't tell him I said that.) Anyway, the space under the stairs doesn't look too stuffed, does it? That's because everything that SHOULD be under the stairs is in a pile in the middle of the room. I hate that filing cabinet. I also hate the shoe rack next to it. And on top of the filing cabinet is an enormous printer and a picture frame I gave Phillip (so he could have pictures of his kids at work) two Valentine's Days ago. It's been there probably as long as the dead plant. 

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Man at Work. Also, this was after we'd been picking things up and filling bags for Goodwill. The day before you couldn't SEE the floor. 

So! 

We moved everything out (or gave it away). This was not all that great for people coming OVER to my house, as they had to navigate an obstacle course just to get to the stairs (and we make people take their shoes off, because we are mean) and they had to avoid things like Teetering Towers of Programming Manuals and Dusty Heaps Of Cables and DEAD PLANTS!

Then we painted. Martha Stewart's Gray Pearl. I like it. It also doesn't look like we painted, until you notice the white trim (or the poor edging job. Have I mentioned I hate painting? Possibly because I SUCK AT IT?) 

Then I started trolling Craigslist for The Perfect Filing Cabinet Replacement. I've yet to find it. But also, I want to move, and I don't want to find The Perfect Filing Cabinet Replacement just to put it back on Craigslist in six months. It's not like the furniture we already have is falling apart. It's just ugly. But whatever. It's not MY office. 

I also spend an embarrassingly long time in Jo Ann Fabric trying to locate The Perfect Curtain Fabric. I wanted to hang a curtain via tension rod to hide the space under the stairs. I ended up buying the floral fabric that caught my eye the moment I walked into the store, only because, and I swear this is true, everything else was horrible. I almost bought little kid material in a Going To School theme, because if I couldn't make a PRETTY curtain maybe I could make a CLEVER curtain. I knew Phillip would hate it. He does. But ask me if I care enough to try and find another piece of material. GO AHEAD. 

Then we went to Ikea and nixed every possible wall shelf, although we did come home with a plant. We ended up buying silver brackets to replace the black brackets on the shelves we already had. Then I dragged a chair into the kitchen so I could reach the three jam jars that have been sitting in the cabinet above the fridge for YEARS. They are now storing multiple USB drives, a couple of mini flashlights and a handful of twist ties- all the things that NEED A PLACE and previously drove me crazy because THEY DIDN'T HAVE A PLACE. 

I also framed a glued-together-puzzle that's been propped up in my closet for, uh, YEARS. Again with the years. My parents gave me this puzzle for Christmas my senior year of high school. I went to London over New Year's and when I came home my puzzle was FINISHED. Perhaps I was a tiny bit IRKED. But I love this puzzle - it's a drawing of... ants? playing pianos? in a square like St. Mark's in Venice? I TOOK A PICTURE. I love it and I never knew what to do with it. Now it is in the office. 

I also did my very best to print out two family photos, but our printer is on the fritz and I didn't get those pictures up for the Big Reveal. I hope you will give me a pass, especially once you see that there is no longer a DEAD PLANT. 

And so. AFTER:

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The plant! Is alive! 

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The shelves used to be a little off center. I like them much better this way. Possibly because I am unabashedly anal-retentive. And that picture frame on the floor will be hung shelf-level once I print the right picture. 

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The curtain. Sigh. I'm afraid of what you think. But I really like it. The background color is about the same gray as the walls, it's not FLOWERY flowery because it's more DRAWINGS of flowers than ACTUAL flowers, and this room needed a little color. But I can see how you'd get "Tablecloth" or "Grandma's Muumuu". Still looks better than a view of poorly stacked boxes. And the printer cable is messily strung along the floor. Only so much I can do re: cable-happy husband, people. Also: I organized the shoes. We'll see how long that lasts.

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My puzzle hanging above the treadmill. We used to have a shelf there so I could watch Hulu while I ran, but I've since decided that I much prefer listening to music. I still like having something to look at, though. 

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See? Ants! Playing pianos! In the square! 

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I still hate this bookshelf. And nearly everything on it. For example! The odd blob in the middle of the second shelf is a jade ox. And that is why it lives in the office. Also! Are you reading this, Janet? That Scruples box right there is TOTALLY YOURS. Sorry! The little knight on a horse on top of the bookshelf is Phillip's souvenir from one of my many trips to Europe without him. I found it in a German toy store. I had some kind of "knight in shining armor!" metaphor in mind when I gave it to him, which he thought was stupid and cheesy, which it WAS, but that does not mean he's allowed to get rid of his green wooden knight on the wooden horse. EVER. Oh, and I want to buy a super colorful big ole calendar to put on that wall. Because then I can look at My Life while running - nothing to take your mind off physical strain like Planning!

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The Dwight Schrute bobblehead says, "They did their best" but gives the camera one raised eyebrow.