Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Computer problems

My laptop is having trouble. Big trouble.

It's too long and painful to go into detail, but here are some things I have learned from this experience:
  1. Never, ever, allow Windows to run automatic updates when a deadline is looming.
  2. Never, ever, touch a computer when Windows is updating, or even thinking of updating.
  3. Backup everything.

I'm posting from old reliable, sweating it out to see whether my laptop will be able to pull through. We're not out of the woods yet.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fruitful weekend

We had a pretty good weekend. All the kids had their first swimming lesson of the fall. It was Brian and Timmy's first lesson ever, and Abby's first in a year and a half. Everyone did pretty well -- Brian got very cold toward the end and got upset -- but other than that they were fine. Abby spent a fair amount of time afterwards telling me how she hated the pool, she didn't want to come back for another lesson, and besides, she already knew how to swim. Then she proceeded to tell the babysitter Saturday evening how much she loved it and can't wait to go back.

Abby also had her first CCD (religious education) class of the year. I mentioned to her this morning that it's a big year for her, since she'll be preparing for her first communion. She got all panicked and asked if she were going to have her first communion today. No, no, pumpkin, not until after Easter, in the spring.

Earl was out at a town event all afternoon. The kids were reasonably OK; Brian helped me cook and then he and Timmy played trains for a while. We all got excited when we saw that Veggie Tales was going to be on TV at 12:30, and then we were disappointed when an infomercial was on instead. This, despite the TV book and the cable guide listing Veggie Tales.

Things looked up for Brian when NASCAR came on. He's so into car racing these days -- of course from Cars, the movie. Abby and I worked on a craft together -- a "wish pillow" kit she got for her birthday. She did a great job, with some help from me. She did most of the stitching and all of the stuffing. It turned out pretty well.

Tomorrow we're back into another week. Hopefully it will be as smooth as last week.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Two items

I had a short religion story in the Patriot Ledger today, about St. Mary of the Hills School's 50th anniversary.

Just a Minute also ran this weekend. Watch your mouth, all you parents out there.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday night contentment

Apple crisp is the food of the gods.
Seafood chowder is right up there, too.
Clean sheets make going to bed even better.
Chatty children make me happy.
Clean floors do likewise.
Ditto for organized closets.

And now, it's off to bed in my clean sheets, where both McCain and Obama will be waiting for me. Should make for an interesting evening, since my personal financial adviser will be there, too.

(Oh, come on, now. I'm married to the guy.)

Confidential to Swinn: I rejected your comment by mistake. Sorry.

Cruising along

This has been a rather ordinary week. The kids went to school, Earl went to work, I taught all my lessons. I more or less kept up with all my Flylady stuff, so the laundry is done and the house is in good order. I've got ideas for next week's dinner menus and will cook ahead this weekend, for the nights I can't do it when I'm teaching next week. All is quiet and calm.

Perhaps it's this sense of order in the universe that made me override my resolve to say "no" as much as possible. Abby brought home a somewhat desperate note from school yesterday. Apparently, no one had signed up to be a room parent. I thought of Abby's poor teachers, with no one to help them. The class list that wouldn't get done! The field trips with no chaperones! The bulletin boards in need of snazzy educational displays! I couldn't stand by and let my daughter's second grade experience suffer because no one else wanted to help.

So, against my better judgment, I volunteered. And in the 12 hours since I did, I've received several emails about planning the first event for the second grade classes.

This is manageable, for now. So maybe I'd better do all my volunteering right away, before things get too crazy. But I've already told people I won't be setting foot near a bulletin board. I wouldn't want to inflict my utter lack of visual-spatial intelligence on anyone, let alone a classroom full of unsuspecting second-graders.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Apple-picking photos

Good intentions

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the end of a friendship, and how it was bothering me, months after the fact. Later that week, I got a call from the very friend (I called her A), and we had a nice discussion about what had happened, and it seemed like things were on the mend. I was so happy; it must have been a tough call to make, and it wasn't made any easier by the fact that I had to call her back because I was dealing with kid stuff when she called.

Anyway, we had a good conversation, and it ended with my thanking her and telling her I needed to process it for a little while. I've always been kind of quick to react, and I thought it might be best if I could give myself a little time to think about what to do next, even though I was very happy and would have liked to drive over to her house right then.

So I took a little while -- I don't remember how long; it could have been later that day or certainly within the next day or so. I sent her an email, asking if she'd like to meet for coffee this week. When I didn't hear, I wondered if perhaps she wasn't checking her email, so I left her a voice mail with the same message.

That was over a week ago, and there's been no response.

So my conclusions are: she's not checking her voice mail or her email; she was irreparably offended by my taking a little time to think; or she really isn't interested in patching things up.

Or maybe she just doesn't like coffee any more.

Monday, September 22, 2008


This last week or so has been very busy, writing-wise. I just sent Adventures in Foam Insulation to the client for his review. Hopefully I got all the details right. Add to that two columns and two features submitted last week, and I'm ready for a nice relaxing day of teaching tomorrow.

We spent the weekend in Canada, playing outside, picking apples, taking walks and toasting marshmallows. Earl and his dad took the kids fishing, which they loved (all of them.) It's always bittersweet, the last weekend in Canada of the year. I get all teary if I think of it too much, especially this year, with our dear friends and next-door-neighbors putting their house on the market. It won't be the same without them.

And now, your resident Foam Insulation expert is going to call it a day.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stream of consciousness

There's nothing like writing for broadening one's horizons. Most of the pieces I write fall into the categories of religion, parenting/family, volunteerism or the arts. But I am in the midst of an assignment where I need to dig deep and find a way to write compellingly about building materials, specifically insulation.

(Cue Henry Mancini's "Theme from The Pink Panther.")

And speaking of catchy tunes -- I was so proud of my student, M., yesterday. He, a middle schooler in Suzuki book 3, taught himself the entire first section of Joplin's "The Entertainer" -- the original composition, not an e-z piano arrangement. He did this in the last 3 weeks or so, and is all fired up to play it on my spring studio recital. I'm all for it. He's playing really well.

Amazing to think that M. was one of my first students, as a first-grader. Now his hands are bigger than mine, and he's teaching himself ragtime.

Must get sleep. Maybe I'll dream up my lead paragraph for Adventures in Foam Insulation.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Another wake, another funeral

Earl's Aunt Sandy died last week. She had been in poor health for the past several months, suffering from cancer and then several complications stemming from that. She was under hospice care for the past few weeks.

I wasn't close to Sandy, or Sam, as my mother-in-law called her. Earl hadn't been, either, in recent years, although I know the families were closer when Earl was a kid. Denise and DJ, Sandy's kids, are Earl's cousins, and they spent considerably more time together as children.

I imagine Sandy greeting her mother, who died last summer; her brother, Billy, who died several years ago; and her father, who died in 1993. I hope they all have a great time talking about the Red Sox from the best seats in the house.

Family column

Here's the link to my latest "Just a Minute" column, which ran in Saturday's Patriot Ledger.

A funny thing is starting to happen. Over the weekend, several people at church came up to me afterwards to ask if "Just a Minute" was my column, and to tell me how much they enjoyed it. The same thing happened at the Y this morning -- an older gentleman asked me if I wrote for the Ledger, and when I told him yes, he said he loves my column and that he never misses it!

This weekend was the eighth time (I think) the column ran, and all this attention made me wonder if there's something to the saying that most people have to see something seven times in order to remember it. In this case, it would be the photo at the top of the column. My mug is now seared into unsuspecting Ledger readers' brains.

Regardless of the reason, it was so nice to hear from people. Being read, and hearing about it, is the greatest thing!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

All three children are in bed, after a fairly smooth evening. Smooth, that is, until Abby started talking about the fact that today is a "holiday."

We've never told her about what happened on September 11, 2001, when she was but a month old. She's too young to understand, but who really understands it, anyway? Who can fathom that buildings that were standing aren't there any more? That people who walked the earth ceased to exist, in an instant, or an hour?

Abby started talking about a holiday and about a plane crash. I couldn't really understand from her how it was addressed in school, or what exactly was said. I asked her if she wanted to know more about it, and she said yes. So, in straightforward terms, I told her that planes crashed into buildings that day, and a lot of people died.

That unleashed a torrent of questions: What buildings? What planes? Was I on the plane? How did it happen? Was anyone we loved on the planes? Was there a fire? Did the fire department have to come? Why did the buildings fall down?

Then: Planes are terrible. I hate buildings. I'm never going into a building again. When I'm on a plane I'm going to take over the plane. I'm going to kill everyone on the plane. I feel like I'm going to die. I don't want to die until I'm a really, really old lady. Being alive is tough.

I thought I could gently explain what happened seven years ago today, but soon learned that there's no soft-pedaling that can take away the horror, even without mentioning the word terrorism.

I should have known better, should have remembered that Abby's ability to handle things emotionally lags far behind her intellectual curiosity. I should have known that showing her a photo of the World Trade Center towers wouldn't have helped her understand. Some things just aren't made better by being more concrete, even for a kid on the autism spectrum.

Just a few minutes ago, she called me up to her room: "Mommeeeee! Mommy! Come up here, quick!"

I went upstairs and sat on the edge of her bed.

"Was Grammie Moore on the plane?" she asked me.

"No, honey, we saw Grammie Moore a couple of weeks ago, remember?"

"Oh yes. Was I on the plane?" she continued, worried.

"No, honey. You were right here with Mommy and Daddy."

"Oh, good. I was just worried about that. I wish I didn't ask about the planes," she said.

Me too, I thought. "It's OK, honey," I soothed. "You're here with us and we're all safe, together."

"That's good," she said. "I feel better now."

I wonder what she'll dream about tonight. Will she see planes bursting into flames? Buildings falling down? How will her mind come to grips with this new knowledge of hers, and file it away?

We said a prayer before I went back downstairs: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. May angels watch me through the night, until I wake in the morning light. Amen.

"There," I said to her. "Your guardian angels will watch over you while you sleep, and keep you safe."

"And God," she added. "They're the good ones."

Time Warp

For a long time, I've been looking forward to the day when all three children would be in school. My head swam with delirious visions of all I could accomplish without any little ones underfoot. I'd be so prolific. I'd resurrect my passion for cooking; my house would never be so tidy and clean. I'd be a regular at the gym again. Maybe I'd even get to go out for coffee or some solo shopping once in a while.

I'm happy to say that all of that is happening, but not all at the same time. The writing is coming along; I've done some cooking, the house is in order. I've zipped into Kohl's by myself, and yesterday I met someone for an article interview over coffee (two birds with one stone.) And yet, I've felt disappointed; paralyzed, almost. I've got the most freedom I've had since before Abby was born, but when Earl asked me this morning what I was going to do today, I had a hard time figuring it out.

The simple fact is that two hours (more or less) by myself is not enough time to do all of that. So I can either wish for the time when they're all in school all day, or lower my expectations.

Live in the present; lower your expectations. Same old recipe for contentment.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Still looking up

Glory be and hallelujah, Timmy finally gave up and is taking a nap, during a thunderstorm, no less. He really still needs one, at least most days, and just hasn't been settling down. His first dance class today must have done him in, as he only protested mildly before packing off to bed with Teddy.

Brian was upset again before school, and it wasn't even about his new afternoon program, which doesn't meet today, anyway. He's in the same morning classroom as last year, but with a different teacher and therefore a different routine, and I think that's what is upsetting him so much. I asked him if he thought a picture schedule would help, and he said yes, so I asked for one. Hopefully his teacher will have one ready for tomorrow and that will help things go a little more smoothly. Maybe I can get a copy of it for home, too, and talk him through it if he needs that.

Abby had a violin lesson yesterday, and she played so well! I'm very proud of her. After a bit of a rough time over the summer when she seemed like she didn't really want to play, she's into it again, and eager to practice in the morning, and to work hard during her practice. She's starting to sound really good, and I think she's really identifying with being a violinist, too. After months of pre-Twinkle activities, she's finally been assigned the first Twinkle variation (Mississippi Hot Dog, or taka taka stop stop). Her intonation is mostly very good, as is her tone. Hooray!

Earl and I had a date...this morning! We went out for breakfast after the kids were in school and it was great. When we go out to dinner, it costs at least $50 in babysitting before we even order an appetizer, but while the kids are in school, no such additional expense. We might just have to switch our date nights to date mornings. Whatever works!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Manic Monday

It was a busy day, but a good one. For starters, I'm much more on an even keel today. I got some babysitting bites from a Craigslist ad, and completed a real estate marketing piece (!) for a local magazine. Also went to the gym for the first time in weeks; got groceries; accomplished all school drop-offs and pick-ups singlehandedly (5 in all) and still had time to make faces behind a home improvement guy's back as he sat at our dining room table.

I didn't like this guy in the least. We need new siding on our house, and his "associate" interrupted one of my piano lessons last week because he was cruising the neighborhood and noticed we had old siding (and that's putting it mildly. I think the siding on our house dates from at least the Civil War, if not the Bronze Age.) I told him to come back Saturday, which he did, and Earl told him to come back today. He sent this other guy who smelled like at least 63 years of stale cigarette smoke; couldn't produce a business card, brochure, or siding sample; did not offer his name, nor that of the "company"; claimed he didn't need to take any measurements in order to come up with an estimate; and actually said to Earl, "What can I do to gain your business TODAY?" This, after we had repeatedly told the other guy (who referred to me as "the missus") that we were only looking for a quote and were not ready to have the work done yet.

So I did what any mature, responsible homeowner would do. I rolled my eyes practically out of my head and kept myself busy in other areas of the house until creepy smoky guy slithered out the front door. He won't be touching the venerable old siding on any house of mine.

In other news, poor Brian was beside himself this morning, facing his first day of his lunch/afternoon preschool program at a different preschool than his morning program. Tears, clinging; he was just a mess. Of course he did fine, and on the way home he told me his new preschool was really fun. He also told me he fed his broccoli to the guinea pig. I'm sure he'll want more in his lunch on Wednesday.

And we had an unexpected and welcome dinner guest: our dear friend Arnold, the kids' Pepe. We roasted a chicken and made brownie sundaes, laughed and talked and caught up. It was great to see him.

On tomorrow's agenda: find some way to work off at least a few bites of brownie sundae.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Greetings from Funkytown

I've resolved the childcare issues as best I can, and only have one afternoon left to schedule. It's not a must-have; it would just make our lives easier. I still need someone to call upon so Earl and I can have some couple time every other week or so, but I'll find someone when I find someone. I can't stress about it any more.

But stressed or no, I'm still in a funk.

I tried to de-funkify myself by taking the kids to the park. It's a beautiful, sunny, dry day here -- the very antithesis of yesterday -- and getting outside did the kids and I some good, and let Earl have a little time to work on some projects. One nice thing about having the house more or less under control (thank you, Flylady!) is that I can take the kids out on a Sunday afternoon without neglecting anything else I "should" be doing (oh, there's writing, but there's always writing.)

I'll just offer the same advice to myself as I offer to friends when they're lost in Funkytown: this too shall pass; you'll feel better soon. Do something nice for yourself.

I think I'll play the piano. Classical, not funk.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tropical Depression

After what seems like weeks of sunny, dry weather, we're back in the tropics, and I'm stuck in the doldrums. I've been pretty productive today, cooking a few things for the week ahead, doing laundry (as always), organizing a kitchen drawer and even shop-vacuuming the dryer where the lint filter goes. Dinner is in the crock-pot and the kids are playing nicely downstairs.

I'm still grumpy.

I think it's partly due to the transition of back-to-school and back-to-teaching. I'm still trying to work out child care, which is always very stressful. This child care is only for while I'm teaching, not even any time for Earl and I to go out. First things first.

I've also been bothered by the end of a friendship, which was another babysitting relationship. The funny thing is, the end came several months ago, with an email saying that while this person (let's call her former friend A) liked me and the kids, apparently Earl had offended her so deeply that she had to sever ties.

I don't know what it was that she and Earl were discussing. I've asked Earl and he told me he couldn't think of what could have been so hurtful to her.

I replied to her email at the time, saying I understood, and wishing her peace. So why is it bothering me now?

I think it's because I see another person I once thought of as a friend, who is good friends with former friend A, more or less regularly now that school is back in session. I really have nothing against former friend B (or A, for that matter) but it does feel kind of awkward, knowing that A, at least, can't stand my husband. Regardless of what B thinks of him (or me) there's guilt by association there -- if A doesn't want anything to do with my family, then B probably doesn't, either. Which makes crossing paths in the schoolyard kind of uncomfortable, for me, at least.

Maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe I'm really just wishing I could call on former friend A for babysitting, given my child care issues.

I wish I could just take the shop-vac and suck it all up. Like I did with that stray pair of Abby's undies on the basement floor today (whoops.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Morning sweetness

Brian just came to me to say good morning. His hair was all tousled -- sticking up like crazy, really -- and it smelled fresh and clean from his shower last night. He climbed onto my lap and I asked him if he were still tired, and he told me, "No, I'm just cuddling you." He's gone downstairs to cuddle Earl now.

Timmy the human alarm clock is still sleeping. He refused to take a nap yesterday. I think he needs a little more Mommy-and-Brian face time, being in his own preschool class all morning.

Abby is walking around upstairs, probably saying good morning to Splash (her fish), reading a Junie B. Jones book, or looking at birthday cards.

The morning didn't start as serenely; I couldn't find my glasses. Lost glasses are a big problem for me; my vision is so bad the doctors don't even tell me what the numbers are. After searching for 15 minutes (I knew I had them last night) I finally found them inside the top drawer of my dresser, which made me wonder whether I'm really losing my marbles. That's not where I keep them, ever.

All things considered, I'd rather lose my marbles than my glasses, because if I go too long without being able to see, I'll go crazy eventually, anyway.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


That was the sound of time flying by. It seems like we were just in Canada, but since that trip, Abby has started school; we've gone to Rochester, Pennsylvania, Rochester again and back home; both boys have started preschool and I've begun my fall teaching schedule. It's all gone fast, but it's all good.

As Indigo Montoya would say, let me explain. No, is too much. Let me sum up:
  • Abby's in second grade. She was a bit anxious at first but seems to be doing fine.
  • Our Rochester/Pennsylvania trip was for two separate family reunions...both for my family, which has two factions that aren't speaking to one another, alas. Fortunately, we got to visit with both factions (but I didn't try to broker a peace agreement.)
  • Brian and Timmy are in preschool every morning for 2 1/2 hours. The freedom! That time goes quickly, and I'm still figuring out how to make the best use of it. Oh, and the boys are doing very well, too, says the devoted mother.
  • I've seen about 2/3 of my students this week. Note to self: next year, start teaching the week after Labor Day.

C'est tout!

Latest column

My latest family column, Just a Minute, ran in last weekend's Patriot Ledger.