Modifications

One day this week, I went to the basement to take care of the cat boxes. I had an empty plastic bag in my hand; it was rustling and I was doing my normal “sing my way through the house” thing. It was pretty obvious that I was coming, so I am not sure why I surprised W when I entered the basement hangout. But I did.

“Oh, hey there,” he said, a tone of I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t be in his voice. He had quickly put his hands in his lap, removing them from the counter where he was working, and I sensed he was trying to hide something.

I glanced at the computer screen. It appeared that the computer was off, but since I had been singing, I decided to ask, “Are you talking to someone?” He often comes to the basement to FaceTime with his father or his cousin.

“No.”

“What’re you doing?”

“Nothing,” he replied, still watching me with an overly guilty look on his face. He did not resume whatever activity he was involved in before my arrival to the room. I studied him for a long moment, but I couldn’t figure out what he was up to, so I went about my business scooping the litter box. But then, something bright yellow caught my eye. His nerf gun sat on the counter in front of him, in the beginning stages of dissection. With all of the projects, pieces of projects, and electronic components on the counter, I almost missed it.

“Got a project going there?”

“Oh,” he said, looking down like this was the first he’d heard of it. “Yeah…. I’m trying to automate my nerf gun. And make it faster.” He grinned.

“Hmm,” I replied, my tone remaining matter-of-fact. I have learned over the years to maintain neutrality whenever possible. In the back of my mind, I always keep a thought of the Radioactive Boy Scout and the ways in which projects can get out of hand, just as a reality check. Really though, it’s a nerf gun. “Do you think you can do it?”

“Yeah.” He paused. “It does say here, ‘do not modify darts or dart blaster.’ But… you know.”

Yes, I do know. If you are a boy who likes to figure out how things work, if something can be taken apart, if there is even the possibility that it can be modified (and improved)… well, why not?

Carry on, then.

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Temptation

“I think I’m going to have a few peanut butter eggs,” C announced as he finished his dinner and pushed his chair away from the table. I had picked up a bag of chocolate covered peanut butter eggs from the clearance bin on a quick trip through the grocery store in the days after Easter. It was a temptation my sugar-addict couldn’t resist.

A few peanut butter eggs,” I repeated. “Exactly how many is ‘a few’?” He smiled in response, but made no reference to an exact number. Earlier, when I arrived home from work, I had noticed several wrappers from this very same treat in the trash. So I asked, “Didn’t you already have some when you got home from school?”

He raised one eyebrow, a talent he learned at a young age from his grandmother. “M-a-y-be…” he drew out the word, so as to throw in some uncertainty. It wasn’t working because… well, I had seen the wrappers in the trash.

“I think you’ve had enough,” I told him. I used to say, I think you’ve had enough sugar for one day, but that was when he was waist high and zipped around the house like a bouncy ball if he even so much as smelled sugar.

He feigned a look of shock. “Enough? There is never enough.” He shook his head as he made his way to the pantry cabinet. He reached in and took an egg. He held it up to his cheek, and he raised his eyebrows – Please?

And then his face shifted as it took on a hint of mischief. His expression mimicked one I’d first seen when he was a mere toddler. That day, I had given him some food in a glass bowl with the statement, “Be careful. This is a big boy bowl.” He had watched my face, calculating my response, as he pushed the bowl off his high chair tray onto the ceramic tile. This time, the consequence was minimal as he playfully ripped open the wrapper of the peanut butter egg. A satisfied look overtook his face as if to say, Now what are you going to do? I laughed.

In the end, he ate the candy egg. But just one. Our “argument” was all in fun, and was well worth it to see that mischievous expression again—the one that so easily transported me right back to his (much) younger days when he was still a toddler in the high chair.

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Snacks

The idea of a snack in my house has been evolving lately. It used to be that the kids would ask for a snack, and they wanted some crackers. I would put some crackers in one of our little plastic bowls with a handle, and they would sit quietly in front of their latest art project or a favorite tv program and eat the crackers. As the kids grew, they began to add a little protein to their snacks—yogurt, string cheese, peanut butter. For the most part, my children have been pretty good about eating healthy snacks.

Fast forward to the teen years. Well… to today. I had just arrived home from work and was preparing to make dinner. Mondays involve lots of evening activities, so dinner is quick. I opened the fridge and started to pull out the leftovers to go with the pasta that was happily boiling away in a pot on the stove. I found a great variety of leftovers: a bowl of baked ziti, some deviled eggs, a chunk of meatloaf. I studied the meatloaf as I removed it from the fridge. Huh… I would have sworn the piece was (quite a bit) bigger, but I have moments in which my memory is not what it used to be. But then a thought crossed my mind.

“C, did you have some meatloaf after school?” I questioned. Total stab in the dark here.

He looked up from his iPad, staring at me blankly for a long moment. “I might have.” He turned back to his iPad, no further explanation. Really, none needed.

“Protein,” W said walking by me through the kitchen. “Growing boys need protein.”

Yep. Meatloaf has now become an acceptable snack. Along with spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan, a ham and cheese sandwich (with some pepperoni thrown on for good measure), half a dozen eggs­­—you get the picture.

I’m going to need a third job….

Crying

The other day, my cats were bad. VERY bad. In the midst of a scuttle, they tipped over a kitchen chair, the chair fell into my oven, and the exterior glass of the door shattered. Glass skittered from one end of my tiny kitchen to the other, littering the entire floor. It was a mess. And it was not funny. At all.

I was in the kitchen when it happened. Had I been just a foot or two closer, I could have intercepted the chair. Instead, I watched the shattered glass cascade to the floor in disbelief. It was Friday, and I would clearly be living with an oven missing its front for a few days, at the very least. After calling to order a replacement part, I posted a picture on Facebook because really, who would think cats could do such a thing?

It wasn’t long before the four-year-old neighbor girl came to my door, sent by her parents, who were in the yard nearby. “I came to see if you’re okay,” she said in her little voice, a shy smile on her face.

“I am,” I assured her. “Do you wanna come in and see what my cats did?” She nodded. “I have to pick you up because there’s glass all over my floor.” I opened the door and lifted her into my arms. I gingerly tiptoed through the broken glass so she could see over the kitchen table.

Her eyes grew large as she stared at the mess, contemplating how cats could do such a horrible thing. Finally, she turned to me and studied my face. “Why are you not crying?” she asked, unable to contain her child curiosity.

Hmm. To tell you the truth, crying had occurred to me only as a briefly passing emotion. Until she suggested it. And once she had suggested it, I found it to be quite a valid suggestion. Perhaps as adults, we don’t allow ourselves to cry nearly as much as we should. After all, if I had cried in this situation, she certainly wouldn’t have questioned it. So crying was now a thought that was floating around in my head.

But there was another thought that was more urgent, tugging on a tiny corner of my brain, threatening to tear a hole unless I faced it, head on. My cats had made a huge mess of my kitchen and caused destruction that I would not have believed possible had I not been standing three feet away when it happened. I was home only because it was a holiday on my work calendar. My children were still at school.

Had I not been home that day, I would have walked in to this mess. (No one would have cleaned it up, but that’s a story for another day). I would have seen the glass scattered from wall to wall. I would have noticed the gaping hole on the front of my oven. And I would have blamed the boys.

When you have two nearly grown boys who feel the need to constantly slam each other around, why would you believe such destruction was the result of a tussle between two ten pound cats? The boys would have argued with me, explained that they had found this mess, that something must have happened while they were at school. I would not have given them the benefit of the doubt. After all, who would believe such a thing?

And so I have this newfound awareness that perhaps I am too quick to judge. I am too quick to point fingers. I am not open-minded enough to listen to slightly far-fetched stories. Perhaps every situation demands that I listen, that I understand, and that I give others the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps there are circumstances that I might not be willing to consider before jumping to conclusions.

So the question remains: why am I not crying? I’m not sure, but now that I have processed all that came of this incident, maybe I will. And I will definitely leave that option open for the next time….

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Liebster Award

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At the end of last week, Susan, at The Best Things in Life nominated me for a Liebster Award. I was thrilled, but before I accepted, I felt like I should achieve some crazy blogging milestone. So maybe I did not achieve a “crazy milestone,” but I posted my 50th post!

In the blogging world, 50 posts is not much—a drop in the perpetual post-bucket. However, for me, it feels pretty big. I put off blogging for a very long time because I was afraid that I would not be able to keep it up. I was afraid my hectic life would get in the way, and my blog would fall by the wayside with only 10 or 15 posts. While my posting has slowed down a bit since my spring teaching picked up at the beginning of February, I have still kept at it. I will get back to posting more regularly.

I took a look at the “Official Rules” for the Liebster Award —which seem to be ever changing and marginally “un”official. (The Liebster Award: The Official Rules). In looking at the rules, I realized that I had a little flexibility. And to me, flexibility means room to color outside the lines, something my creative self adores! But I will try to stay within the bounds of the rules as much as possible.

First of all, many thanks to Susan at The Best Things in Life for finding my blog in this jungle we call the Internet, and then nominating me for this award. Sometimes, finding the good stuff feels like magic, but other times, it seems like pure, dumb luck. As a blogger, I have to get better at the magic aspect of it.

Next, I will answer Susan’s questions:

  1. What state or country do you live in? The U.S.—New Hampshire.
  2. What is the best thing about where you live? Eventually, it stops snowing and spring arrives.
  3. What is your passion? Helping writers to develop their craft. Raising caring, happy children.
  4. How do you relax? Relax? Am I allowed to do that?
  5. Vanilla or chocolate? Um… is coffee an option?
  6. Favorite vacation spot? We have the most wonderful camp that we go to. It’s not really a “vacation spot” per se, but my children and I—and now some of our extended family and wonderful friends—have created some amazing memories there. Because it was the first “vacation spot” I was able to take my children to, it has become a very special place to us.
  7. Favorite band? Too many to mention—lots of bands and lots of solo artists.
  8. Why do you blog? I blog because I find it relaxing. I think that even though I am a little crazy creative and unique, there is much of who I am (to my kids, friends, students, co-workers, pets, etc.) that is part of the universal experience of humanity.
  9. What was the last book you read? I read a lot of YA literature. I just finished Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for a class I’m teaching.
  10. Weirdest thing you have ever eaten? Lamb’s brain. Served on the half-skull.

And now that I have answered these questions, I will nominate six bloggers—who may, or may not, choose to accept the Liebster award—and pose some questions for them to answer:

EpicGran

Renaissance Musings

Hypedad

Scribbles and Crumbs

Motherhood and all the rest

Bari Nan Cohen

Here are my questions:

  1. Where do you live?
  2. If I were a tourist in your area, what should I absolutely not miss?
  3. How long have you been blogging?
  4. Is there anything you have found surprising or unexpected about blogging?
  5. What are your blogging goals?
  6. In one sentence, tell me about your writing process.
  7. What is the most interesting place you have ever visited?
  8. What is your favorite book/series?
  9. Do you have any pets, and what types?
  10. What is your favorite book?
  11. What is your favorite movie?

I look forward to reading your responses!