Monday, September 22, 2008

Pie Making

she bends over the sink and
water trickles on fingers (cracked with use)
which curl around the flashing silver
handle of the knife
as she whittles away red
skin leaving
white flesh exposed to light

naked fruit rests in a white enamel
bowl by her elbow
each waiting to be sliced
and hollowed of its core

the mound has grown in the bowl
so tall she turns off the water
and begins to slice
water dries on her hands which stick
with the transparent blood
of apples

a crust drapes over the pie pan
and apples sliced and cored
tossed now with sugar and flour and
fall into the dish

her hands are floured
dusted white in cracks and nail beds
as she unrolls the top and crimps the edges

(her hands are washed and dried)
then she slides the pie into the oven

after she squints at the timer to set it
she presses clean hands to her back
and tries to straighten out the pain
into a thin manageable line

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Notice is served

You know how sometimes you get one of those reply emails when someone's out of the office for a vacation or business trip or something? I just want all my faithful readers to have advance notice that my blog may take one of those vacations for the ENTIRE month of November.
Why, you ask? Well, as you may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month. And a challenge has been issued to anyone who likes to write to produce a 50,000 word novel between midnight on Nov 1 and midnight on Nov 30.
I've decided to take up the challenge. I have a vague idea swimming around in my brain that might become my main plot, but aside from that, I've done no other thinking or writing related to this new novel. It's going to be completely cold turkey.
I'll try to post updates on my progress, and I challenge all of you to try it out too. What a relief December 1 will be for all of us, eh?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Killing the Zombie in Me

I was shopping around again on Curly Girl and I found this card that made me think. You can look at it here (I can't copy this one) but here's what it says: "The world is full of people who will go their whole lives and not actually live one day. She did not intend on being one of them."
Wow, I thought. I am one of THOSE people. I spend all my free time with my nose in a book. Yeah, it's what I like to do, but I'm not really living.
I was talking to C about it last night and he says he'd been thinking I've been a bit zombie-ish lately. Focused on day-to-day stuff, boring stuff like crumbs on the kitchen floor and ironing and junk like that. Who really cares about crumbs and wrinkles?
What would happen if I just let some of it go? And stopped reading so much? How would I spend my time? What would I do with myself?
I've got to admit, I'm a little afraid to let go. But very very curious.
What should I do first in my adventure of living?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another Curly Girl

It’s funny how I’ve lived my whole life with an unruly mop of curly hair and just accepted it, usually loved it, occasionally hated it—and now suddenly I’m seeing curly hair stuff everywhere. It started when I tried out a new salon (which I love, by the way—Salon Breathe, for anyone close to Jackson), and my new hairdresser raved about a product line called Deva Curls which (obviously) caters to people with curly hair. After I got home, I read up on the product and learned all sorts of crazy techniques for taming my hair into natural, obedient curls.

And then just a few days ago, a friend sent me some pictures from a fanciful fun calendar—and guess what the design company is called? Curly Girls Design. I checked out their website and found lots of products I WANT, ranging from cards to magnets to T-shirts. And even though I make my own cards now and can’t bring myself to BUY one, they are super cute. Maybe the calendar will satisfy my need for curly girl cute-ness.

So watch out, all you with the so-called normal follicles: curly girls are on the rise and we will soon take over the world. Once we get our curls under control.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My other creative side

When my backside hurts from too much time in contact with my favorite comfy chair, I know it's time to put down my book (the usual suspect) or notebook (alas, not the usual suspect of late) and get up and do something.

The fun kind of something, not the boring yucky kind like change a diaper or make dinner or fold laundry. No, I'm talking about projects. Making stuff.

When I was young, my mom decked my sister and me out in matching Easter outfits, she made jumpers and jumpsuits, pajamas and bonnets. We were as adorable as a Riccar sewing machine and a creative woman's mind can imagine. My mom experimented with other crafts as I grew up. She tried needlepoint and cross-stitch, candlewicking and crewel, macrame and rug hooking. Then she found her niche: crocheting. She tried to teach me many times, but I'm a lefty and she's not, so it never stuck.

Anyway, about ten years ago, I inherited the old Riccar when dad got her a new sewing machine. And since then, I've made all sorts of great things: doll clothes, baby blankets, clothes for Lauren, a handful of bathrobes, piles of curtains and duvet covers, even a few ties once for Clint. Oh, and Halloween costumes. But lately, I've discovered two new loves: purses and skirts. And the beauty of it is this: if I have enough leftover fabric after making a skirt, voila! a matching handbag.

Mom came down last night to spend the night and coach me on my newest bag, a new pattern using somewhat tricksy hardware. We spent the whole rainy day on it, and it's finally done. What do you think? Are the ladies cute? Wanna guess which one I am? No, don't guess. I guess I don't want to know.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Into the Swing Again

I had always thought of myself as a morning person. Until I became a teacher. Then I had to start getting up at an ungodly hour, an hour when only the streetlights are shining, an hour when even the sun is still sleeping. Maybe other working folks get up at (drumroll, please) FIVE FORTY AM, and maybe teachers are not the only ones to suffer with this horrid wake up call, but I still grumble every morning when the alarm jars me out of warm peaceful slumber.
Once I get up and stumble into the shower (have you discovered showering in the dark? It's a great way to wake up slowly) and finally get dressed, I am resigned to my state of wakefulness. And by the time breakfast has settled in my stomach, I am excited about my job. I do love it, I just don't like getting up before the sun does.
And then this year we tried out something new. Jared had been going to Mrs. Childs' house every day, a wonderful woman who sends her kids to the school where Clint teaches and our children are students. She loved him, I think, as much as one of her own children, and he loved going there. But because of money (evil, evil money), we decided to send him to the child care program at Trinity.
Yesterday was his FIRST good day at child care. Up till yesterday, he cried like crazy when Clint dropped him off, and his teachers reported that he was "sad" most of the day. But yesterday, their report was glowing, and today was even better. Clint said they greeted him with hugs and smiles this morning, probably relieved that they might not have to put up with a crying kid any more. Clint picked him up today, and found he'd had another happy day.
So Clint said, "Jared, did you have a good day at child care?"
"Yes. I did." Jared said. (He's pretty literate, we think.)
And Clint said, "So Jared, you like child care now, right?"
Jared thought for a minute. "No. I don't," he said. "I don't like it."
Hmm. Guess we're still working on that one. At least he's over the crying and clinging phase.
And we've decided not to ease into fall sports for Lauren and Jonah. It's much more fun to jump in with both feet. So they've got games or practice 3 or 4 days a week, (thankfully) on the same days, and we're running back and forth for that.
And that's about it. Bed time's approaching and the kids are currently engaged in a three-way "wrestling match" (read: Jonah's mad because Jared keeps touching his Legos and Lauren's exploiting his anger while trying to look like she's innocently playing with Jared, who doesn't have a clue what's going on but thinks wrestling is fun).
Probably better break it up.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Next to Godliness

If you have kids, you've experienced this. You're in a store and your spouse is safe at home doing something constructive. For some crazy reason, you've volunteered to take one or more of the kids with you. You think it's going to be a quick trip, just in and out. You just have to get one thing.
It seems like a simple plan, slightly selfless on your account, since you're the one with the kid(s).
That's when the chaos starts. At first, the baby is just whining a little in the cart. Maybe he's hungry. Then the two older kids decide to do some creative play in the aisle next to you while you're looking at _________ (the one little thing you came to the store to get). When reading "creative play", the intended subtext you should infer is "boisterous shouting with potential for destruction of store property." You know, the usual.
How often does this happen? All the time. Everyone with kids has experienced it more often than they'd like. And what should be a simple trip into the store turns into a recurring nightmare that leaves your curly hair in a frizz and adds stress cracks to your bottom back molar. The one that probably needs a root canal anyway. Oh, did I mention that the baby who had just been whining a little has now erupted into full blown shrieks?
And why do the other people in the store feel they have any right to look down their noses at you, to think critical thoughts of you? Are they forgetting that their children did the same thing, that they were probably even more screechy and more destructive with their creative play?
So here's what I propose: get your ammunition ready now. You know it is inevitable that too soon you will forget about this horrific experience and you will once again volunteer to take the kids for a quick trip to the store. And they will do what is (really) inevitable. And someone will assume a pained expression and perhaps complain to store personnel. WHEN THAT MOMENT COMES, you must know what you will say so that you can stop said hypothetical hypocrite dead in her tracks (it's always a woman, right?).
Will you assume an outrageous accent and describe your child's upcoming beating in lurid detail? Will you look frantically around and pretend the kids aren't yours, that someone else has left screaming children right next to you in the aisle? Will you prepare a clever pithy remark that will put said complainer in her place? What will you do?
Preparedness is next to cleanliness and Godliness, I'm pretty sure. So good luck, and let me know if you come up with any great ideas.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mouth of an Angel

It is both odd and amazing to watch a child learn language. When Jared was just turning one, he was enthralled by animals and mimicked us as we told him the sounds animals make. It wasn’t long before his repertoire of animal sounds was pretty extensive.
Then he started adding words and stringing those words into sentences. Now, at the age of two, our little copy cat has a pretty impressive vocabulary. He’s called Clint “little buddy” a couple times, he tells me to “wait a minute” or “just a little while” when I tell him to hurry up, and he strokes my leg sometimes when I’ve just rolled out of bed and says “Mama’s pretty/handsome/beautiful” (that’s my favorite—and proof that love is blind). We know where these phrases come from. Maybe Clint and I don’t realize how often we say them, but we know through his voice that we must have said them often enough that they made an impression on him.
But lately he’s picked up two new words that he uses with an alarming accuracy, and we didn’t know (for sure) where he got them at first. For such an angelic little guy, our baby has begun to use “kill” and “die” a little too often. He throws Elmo off the couch and crows “I kill Elmo!” He pushes his wooden train off the track and says “It’s dead” under his breath.
Where did he come up with these words? Is it as natural for a boy to be obsessed with killing and death as it is for him to play with Matchbox cars? As natural as it is for a girl to like to twirl in front of a mirror? Or did some insidious outside element introduce these two words into our baby’s vocabulary?
Clint and I have spent the last week scratching our heads and fretting that maybe our youngest was cut out for a life of serial crime, watching in helpless fascination as Jared systematically killed his toys again and again. And then we saw it: Jonah, Jared’s 10 year old brother, standing almost out of sight, bent over his cupped hand, laughing so hard in silent glee that his muscles were rigid.
Insidious outside element, huh. We needed to look no further than the evil force under our very roof: the older brother who delights in corrupting the innocent mouth of his sibling. So now we’re not sure how much relief to feel. On one hand, Jared has probably (thus far) escaped the threat of years in prison. But on the other hand, Jonah probably has a bunch more tricks up his sleeve, many more ideas for ways to twist his younger brother into something not quite angelic any more. And we always thought Jonah was such a GOOD kid. Apparently, he’s only as good as the next opportunity for mischief.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Video Dilemma

You know how sometimes you go into the video store and nothing on the new release shelves looks good? Maybe you’ve already seen everything or maybe you’re just in a funk and nothing is appealing. Maybe the new releases all just seem too shallow, too violent, too horrific, too something-that-isn’t-right.
Maybe you leave then, empty handed, resigned to reruns or a night spent surfing the net.

Clint and I hit on the solution to this problem a few years ago when just such a catastrophe nearly happened. Picture this: we’re walking through our favorite video store (appropriately named The Video Store (which has since closed (which makes us really sad ‘cause it was less than ¼ of a mile from home))). We were looking for a family movie to watch, a difficult task because most family movies are an exercise in eye-rolling for adults. I love my kids, but I don’t like to sit through a ridiculous movie. And Lauren was already at such an age that she found such movies childish.
After a shared look of desperation, Clint veered into a totally new direction: the OTHER shelves. You know, the ones in the middle of the video store. I had always walked right past those guys, all forty-seven of them, figuring they held only musty dusty oldies. Nothing I hadn’t already seen. He walked right through the alphabetized stacks to the “I” section, where my eyes and his lit on the same film at the same time. It was brilliant. We were almost gleeful as we assured Lauren and Jonah that this “old” movie was actually good. Lauren was skeptical but Jonah bought it.
Took it home and popped it into the DVD player. Soon the living room was filled with the soundtrack of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Our kids LOVED it! And so did we. It was fun for Clint and me to see a movie we’d enjoyed many years before and find it still pretty exciting. It was fun to watch our kids’ faces as Indy handled every obstacle with a grin and a grunt. Since then, we’ve often ventured away from the new release shelves to find old movies that we remembered enjoying in the past.

Here’s a selection of some of the highlights:
The Princess Bride
Strange Brew
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

And, uh, low lights:
The original Superman movies (a little cheesy)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (the woman is SO ANNOYING!!)
Ghostbusters (did they swear that much when we were kids?)

What do you think? Any others we should try?

Monday, September 1, 2008

School Dreams

In the weeks before my first day of high school, my dreams were plagued by horrors beyond imagining. I woke filled with dread from dreams about walking into school without my pants, without my shirt or shoes, without any clothes at all; dreams about walking around with my skirt tucked into my undies, trailed by people who pointed at me and laughed maniacally and I couldn’t figure out why; dreams that I got lost in the labyrinthine dark hallways of my new school; dreams that I couldn’t find my locker, or worse, that I couldn’t work the padlock on it. By the time school started, I was a bundle of nerves, almost too worried by the residual anxiety of weeks of haunted nights to preen in my cute plum and mustard plaid skirt and plum mock turtleneck with gold buttons up the back.
Those of you who are familiar with St. Matthew Lutheran High School are probably laughing hysterically now because you know in what ignorance my nightmares were founded. There was no chance I’d get lost: there were only four classrooms and really no hallways at all. There was no chance I would be unable to find my locker: there were only 96 of them, and each student got three. (Yeah, that's right: about 30 students total.) And no need to worry about padlock combinations: we didn’t have them. Apparently, nobody steals in a Lutheran school.
The saddest part of it all is that I had spent 180 days each year, preschool through eighth grade, just a parking lot away from the high school that had caused such trepidation. If only I had ventured inside that low brown building, I would have laid most of my fears to rest (except for the skirt in the undies trick, always a possibility for a girl as graceful as I). But here’s what I did learn: I have a very healthy fear of the unknown, really more like dread, and this dread often seeps into my nighttime subconscious.
So it’s no wonder that every year around August 15, for six years now, I start having the dreams. I have conducted a very scientific poll of two other teachers, and both of them claim to have similar dreams. I dream that I am stuck in a classroom with out of control students and my voice has shrunk to a whisper. I dream that they are jumping from one desk to another and swinging off the fluorescent lights. I dream that my phone won’t stop ringing, but I’m too afraid to pick it up because the noise level in the room is embarrassing. I dream that my students are throwing paper wads at me and it looks like snow, but it’s not pretty.
School starts tomorrow, and the dreams began a few weeks ago. They have been better this year than previous years, which may mean that I’m not as nervous about the first day of school as I was in previous years. Or maybe I’m just sleeping so soundly that the dreams aren’t sticking in my conscious memory. Whatever the case, the dreams have never come true. My dreaming mind is much more pessimistic than reality, and while I’m not excited about waking up before dawn tomorrow--and for 179 school days after that, I am excited about meeting my students and trying out some new ideas for writing and analyzing literature.
Here’s to a great school year! And no more bad school dreams.