Friday, December 28, 2007

i'm sorry, did I forget your birthday?

I love the days after Christmas.  They feel like Christmas morning over and over again because you get to wake up to your new stuff and play with it (or read it or wear it or hang it on the wall . . .)  School age children everywhere will go to school next week with crackly new jeans and shirts with the store creases still in them and new toys hidden in their pockets.  That first day after vacation we'll probably have to remove Drew from his Bengals football uniform with a crowbar.  (Why the Bengals?  I don't know).

There's a creative video on You Tube in which Jesus throws himself a birthday party and no one shows up.  It's very cheesy.  And yet, at the end, when he sat dejectedly against the bounce house all by himself, I felt sad. 

Just think, if we believe in him, and that he was actually the real gift that day - then these years since then are the ultimate "days after".  Every morning we wake up is another day to feel so relieved he came.  Just try the video.   And in light of all the present-opening glee, just try not to feel sheepish.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

How to find the magic 101

One of the "Santa" gifts for John Michael came by UPS just in time.

As I picked up a package of Pampers on Friday - and as we all know, the cost of diapers is one of the leading motivating factors for potty-training these days - a complete stranger handed me a dollar-fifty-off coupon for them.

I made a gift for someone that turned out just as I wanted it to.

It's a Wonderful Life. Every year.

There is snow here! Just enough to embody the song, not enough to be dangerous.

Two words. School. Vacation.

The feeling I get when Jake feeds a coin into the Salvation Army bucket.

Popsicle-stick ornaments.

Christmas movies on television every night, at least one card in the mail every day, neighbors bringing cookies and fudge, and every check-out person in every store or restaurant who dares to say Merry Christmas.

Michael W. Smith christmas CD - any of the three. (This guy gets Christmas like nobody's business.)

One husband, three sons, one drafty but loveable sort of house - magic, magic, magic.

I love this time of year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

with their faces in the foreground

Today I knelt in front of the high chair and looked at our Christmas tree as it appeared just beyond the top of Jake's head while he was eating. I liked the view. Because first I saw his big eyes and blond curls and then the Christmas lights that framed them.

When I was pregnant with my eldest I noticed my senses were heightened. I hadn't read that part of the book yet to know that was scientific. I only knew that the world looked and felt and smelled and sounded - richer, now that I knew I would be guiding a new little soul through it.

I like to take pictures of the boys on the little step that leads from our dining room to our glorified back porch. In each of the pictures I can vaguely see our house stretched out behind them. In these photos I no longer notice the nails that stick up too far out of the hardwood floor, or the finger smudges on what should be crisp gray paint or the part of the living room that has to be hidden by a rug because we've torn up the hearth and not replaced it with new flooring. The whole thing is completely transformed and glorified as it fades into simply the background for their childhood.

I like the perspective my children have given me on the world. It's not that I see it through their eyes. But I see it better now that they are in it. I think about the way it appears around them, and I like the view just beyond their heads.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tag, You're It

Today's Tag from the Good Girls is - What do you like and dislike about yourself, so - after sorting through the numerous options . . .
This is Chicken Joe from Surf's Up. I adored this character. I loved how completey unfazed he was by absolutely everything. Native islanders throw him in a pot of boiling water, and he thinks he's being treated to a soak in a jakuzzi. They add vegetables. He thinks he's been handed some dinner. They do the chicken soup dance around him. He says, "Cool. Dinner and a show." The whole movie of Surf's Up is about how deeply the penguin cares about himself and his surfing dream and his ultimate life-affirming destiny. Chicken Joe is the lovely, humorous antithesis to such self-absorbed introspection. And it's not like he's actually indifferent to life. He really does love to surf. But when it comes time for the big competition, he's like, "Dude, I don't even know where my board is - I gotta go find it. "
So what I dislike most about myself is how little I resemble Chicken Joe. I'm way too introspective (i.e., self-absorbed) about life and my place in it. Almost nothing rolls off my back, and if you throw me in a pot of boiling water and add some vegetables, I will cry and fuss and scream and later ask everyone I know why this might have happened, what I could have done differently, and whether or not they think I would have at least tasted good.
What I like about myself is, I can learn. I think it's one of the best qualities of being a human at all. I dislike the emotions and self-absorption of how deeply I take things in. But I like that I do take them in and try to learn from them and hopefully sometimes do. If I hurt your feelings - even if you don't tell me so, I will probably realize it later and not do it (at least in that same way) ever again. If I speak too loudly or too quickly or too much, I usually recognize it and deal with myself.
So, as seems to be the theme for the day, my like and dislike are kind of different sides of the exact same thing. That's how strengths and weaknesses go, I've been told.
Oh and dude, spoiler ahead if you haven't seen it, but Chicken Joe totally wins the surfing competition. And I totally took that in.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

what i did on my snowy vacation

We're on our second snow day around here, although - what with working from home and all - I don't really get those.

We went to McDonald's for lunch because I wanted to mark the day somehow as truly out of the ordinary. But it's not like we can't go to McDonald's for lunch on a Saturday, so I'm not sure I accomplished my goal.

I'm big on commemorating things. I wanted it sealed in their little minds that today was special. They should have been sitting at a desk somewhere doing math facts or getting in the lunch line in an order based on which meal they chose for the day (I learned this one only recently) or practicing for the Christmas play. But instead they're at home playing darts and Nintendo, wearing ridiculous clothing for winter months (Drew would still be in only his underwear if I hadn't intervened), watching Shrek, and consuming miniature popsicles between every meal. Being a grownup, as I have described in detail, rocks. But snow days are one of those gifts that make it really cool to be a kid. I could explain this to them, how my work day didn't change even the teensiest bit by the fact that our entire world (within a several-mile radius anyway) is covered by ice. But I hate to depress them. And besides, their blissful ignorance that having to be told to put clothes on top of the underwear is purely a childhood delight (I hope!) is part of the wonder of being a kid at all.

But in honor of the snow day I'll share a couple things I have learned lately from their school work: Did you know that "learningly" and "helpingly" are qualities to look for in a friend? And in answer to why a certain American legend was called Johnny Appleseed or The Tree Planter, my eldest answered matter-of-factly, "Because they didn't want to call him John Chapman." (At least he knew the last name, that's more than I could have sworn to). And finally - Drew thinks John is really cool. If you don't believe me, check his seat work, his art work, his vocabulary sentences, and his stories from home that he apparently shares with his teacher each day. That melts my mother heart so much - I almost wish I'd let him stay in his underwear.

Monday, December 10, 2007

two minutes

Sisters are happy things. These are my nieces, but there's a picture in our family history of my older sister and I looking kind of like this, only Felicity is pouting BIG time, and there's a couch cushion pulled out behind her from where I have just discovered her Easter candy stash.

When we were in college Sarah Dunn came up with this great concept about Two Minutes. She was talking about the way it feels when someone is right in your face telling you that you messed up in some way or failed to do something you should have, etc. (Telling you in love of course). And then you want so badly to say, "Fine. Now go away - not forever, but for at least Two Minutes. I need two minutes to stop being mad about this, to stop wanting to defend myself and actually deal with it. So go away, please, and give me my two minutes."

I was thinking about that the other day when I was thinking about my blog. My readers might get the wrong impression of me, I was thinking. Because I tend to be poetic and have a beautiful perspective on this messy thing called life. This my friends, is the beauty of writing. Not that I don't have a great perspective on life. It's just that - I don't always have it right in the moment. I need my two minutes. Two minutes to rethink my initial tendencies. Two minutes to turn the traumas into humor and come up with one very big poetic But. (i.e., but I had cancer once, and this little trial doesn't matter as much as it used to). Two minutes to ask myself, "What would Felicity do?"

And that's how writing and Sarah Dunn and Two Minutes all ties in to sisters. Because so much of what I've decided about life is because I think it's what Felicity might decide if it were her.

My other sister tried out for American Idol this summer. She got past the first horrible round in which they narrowed over eight thousand people down to about 150, by our estimate. I was so proud about that I could hardly stand it. She let us tag along to the second round and I was so excited by the mere experience of being that close to television-making, it was all I could do not to go up to one of the red t-shirted people and beg them to give me a job.

And here's the punch line for today. Besides the fact that I really like sisters. Reality TV gets pretty mocked, I know. And in some circles American Idol might as well be called "Let's all break the second commandment." But for me, it's a very happy, very moving memory in my role as proud and adoring sister. And, frankly, I wish I knew more people who had tried it. I wish I knew more people who had tried out for reality television than I know of people with cancer. That's what two minutes has given me on that topic.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

today's movie from the cabinet

I feel this movie should be required viewing for every 12-year-old girl. It's my favorite story - girl slowly realizes she's becoming a pill. Or that some part of her character has been ill-formed or that her "personality" isn't the charming, delightful, giving personality she had imagined it to be and instead she is completely self-absorbed which she finds is now slipping dangerously close to unkind. Or as the director of the movie says on the Extras (I love DVD extras), "You climb the ladder of success, only to realize you're on the wrong ladder."

Remember as a child when it feels like nothing changes ever? No one is aging - the grown-ups will always be grown-ups, the kids always kids. The good things will always be there just as they are. And the stupid, annoying things will never change either. Well, despite my sometimes dramatic hold on the here and now, I have actually come to love change. Despite my typical lost-ness through my teen years as I tried to discover who I was, I did, however, think that I was someone and that her character and personality were pretty set - once I found her. It was wonderful to discover in retrospect that even I can change. When I learn something unpleasant about myself, like my tendency to be late, my ridiculous over-generalizations of people when I am describing them, my less than excellent parenting - all those things - once I figure them out, I can do something about it and (sometimes years) later look back and say, "Look at that, I'm changing."

This movie perfectly captures that feeling. I've just discovered I'm not such a good person, but perhaps I can change that. It has a very cool scene with a closet and a wall of shoes. The Thriller scene is one of those great movie moments where you remember what there is to love in humanity. And it ends as happy as any movie has ever ended in all of movie-dom. And back to my original point, if 12-year-old girls would watch it and really trully get it, high school could be so much better for them. Because maybe then they won't start climbing the wrong ladder.

Monday, December 3, 2007

happy shoes

Today, the Good Girls want to know: What are my favorite shoes? So I'm taking a break from my normal pensive, have-I-stumbled-onto-the-meaning-of-life-yet, sort of posts to join in and tell them.

First, you have to realize, I am a horrible shopper. I rarely end up liking my clothes after the first wearing. You'd think after so many times, I would figure out what I am doing wrong and stop doing it. But, no. I heard a friend say once, "If I could afford to dress like I want to, people would be very impressed." That's sort of how I feel. In my head, I have great taste. In reality, not so much. The only exception is shoes. Felicity once described me in an essay as the girl who can pull off the shoes that she only wishes she could. Isn't that a lovely compliment? I had a pair of gigantic burgundy platform sandals at the time, and she said I looked great in them - like a Barbie doll I think she said (or was it that they would have looked like cheap Barbie doll shoes if she wore them? I can't remember, but it was a compliment to me anyway). Michael hated those shoes. I don't normally like to wear something my husband (self-proclaimed epitomizing of the song "Simple Man" by Leonard Skinnard) wouldn't like - no matter how cool it is, but I draw the exception with shoes because it's all I've got, Man. At least I'm good at that. Mostly because cheap can still look trendy. I always get asked things like, "Are those comfortable? (i.e., "Those can't possibly be comfortable"), and I always answer with, "I don't understand the question", or "Is that some kind of prerequisite for footwear?" or sometimes, "No. Not even a little bit." But I love them!

I haven't really indulged this gift in a while. One of the pairs that always leads to the above question is now missing part of the sole, and I do actually get a back ache when I stand in them too long. I was completely panicked about this because I thought my happy shoe days were over and that I had finally gotten too old for it, but Felic pointed out the sole problem, and all was once again right with the world.

Because it's been a while, these sandals are the only ones in my closet that come close to reflecting my relationship with interesting shoes. They're pretty old, but I still love strapping them on. I always feel cuter once I do, and actually, yea - they're almost comfortable.