Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Girl Who is Always Crying in the Public Library (P.S. It's Me)

I don’t have an office. I have a desk in my bedroom, but is so piled with books, and bills, and garbage that I couldn’t possibly sit there and work. But, I might be persuaded to clean up the junk mail and old wireless box, and the 27 copies of my 40 page critical thesis, if it weren’t for Thing One and Thing Two popping in and out of the room at random. Actually, I could get a lot of work done sitting right here in this chair in my living room if the two of them were asleep or at school for more than 3 hours a day. Life being what it is, I have made the Seattle Public Library my preferred place for writing (I mean real writing, not this blogging business I do before I watch crime drama for the rest of the night). 
I tried writing at coffee shops. The “cool” independent places that have rustic, mismatched tables and chairs, play music that I would listen to on my iPod, and have blueberry muffins that I would drive out of my way for (Zoka), are usually already full of “cool” people. If I thought I could set up my office in one of the restrooms I might try to go there more often—for the muffins. But even if I did have a place to put my computer, their customer service emotes that dreary Seattle attitude that makes me want to make little nasal sniffs at my own jokes and roll my eyes at things. I’m pretty sure I do enough of that on my own. Damn good coffee, though.
I tried writing at Starbucks, which I somehow do not count as a coffee shop, and I don’t feel like I really have to explain why. They have amazing customer service, my coffee always tastes the same (I like consistency in these areas), and there is almost always a place to sit—at least at the ones I frequent out here in the middle of North Seattle. But, the music at Starbucks is BAD. That’s right, all caps BAD. Every once in a while they play a song I like, and then I immediately hate it because I am sitting at a table that is too small for my computer, I can hear the jolly baristas having a private party back behind the bar, and everything is so awful and loud and green.
So I write at the library now. Remember the library? The place where they rent books for free? There is nothing quite like surrounding yourself with unlimited resources at your disposal—oh wait, there is Google. But really, I like the library because it feels like the same place to work every day, but every day there is a different character to study.
For some reason I picked an old library in moderately sketchy part of town. Sometimes I will sit down and be bombarded by the sounds of people hacking and snorting. So many bodily functions can be heard at a place without a stereo.  Once I sat next to a man that was moaning and coughing, then he would get up and pace around the stacks, then sit back down and moan some more. I almost moved. Almost. Another time I saw a guy rolling his own cigarettes on the nice, flat, laminated surface of the public tables. People frequently get kicked out for being asleep. Sometimes I see mothers sitting in there so their babies can take a nap. Those are the people that make me sad, the women with small children who have nowhere else to go. I take my kids to the library all the time for the same reason, not to nap, but because we have nothing else to do.  At least at the end of our trip we have a place to take our books.
It is strange how, in a way, I feel like I am exactly like all these library characters. I’m that girl with the tweed coat who comes in with her red computer. The girl who sniffs a lot (because she has perpetual allergies/colds). I’m the girl who sits in the corner next to the round window so I can see what’s happening out on the street behind the giant rhododendrons. I’m the girl who is always writing things way too personal for the library—that girl who is always crying in public.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Naptime Horrorfest

One of my most favorite things about being a stay at home kind of mom is, of course, naptime. I don’t think any mother of two enthusiastic little bundles of tantrums and neediness doesn’t appreciate locking the babes up for an hour or two of peace and quiet. And let’s not pretend like the kids don’t need it, no matter how much they may protest. Naptime at my house has turned into a kind of ritual, one where I make myself a lunch of whatever in the whole world I feel like—sometimes it’s nachos, sometimes I eat four cupcakes, every once in a while I have a ham sandwich, depends on the day. After lunch is assembled I watch free horror movies On Demand. That’s what I do, almost every day, eat crap and watch horror movies.
Since my husband started working at Canlis, he works later than he used to. I think I finally let my secret out because for the past three days I just turned on whatever I wanted and he was forced to participate in naptime horrorfest. I can’t help it. The movies aren’t supposed to be good, and I’ve always been attracted to that thriller/apocalyptic nonsense (which is why I can’t even begin to discuss 2012 with anyone, ever). My horror repertoire is so extensive these days that I play the guess the ending game, which I know annoys everyone in the world, but I it makes me feel like I have a special talent because 95% of the time I am spot on. What is funny about my husband showing up for the naptime horror, is that he always has to leave right before the end. When he comes home at midnight I sometimes give him the elongated, drawn out, and mind numbing synopsis of the last 10 minutes of the movie. I try to make it go at actual pace, so this usually takes me ten minutes. I’m certain he is listening the whole time, riveted. (I am happy he humors me on all these fronts).
Today we watched an exciting apocalyptic slasher film called Tooth and Nail, staring Rider Strong (yes, the friend from Boy Meets World, and yes, he does look exactly the same age as he did then) and a bunch of other people I recognized, but whose names were not on the On Demand info button. I wasn’t paying really close attention because I was filling out my daughter’s registration for kindergarten, but it was very similar to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, last people left on Earth eating each other sort of thing. That was not the interesting part, the part that got me was that this cast of weirdos was nearly identical to a movie I watched on Monday called Borderland, a film I chose because I recognized not only Rider Strong’s name, but who doesn’t know Sean Astin? He plays a psychotic American in Mexico following a cannibalistic cult—supposedly based on true events. . . It was like having a week long party with all the same people. In between these two surprisingly OK films, I chose an eerie British thriller called Creep, staring Franka Potente, one of my favorite Deutsch actresses. This one had the potential to be really scary, except nothing is really scary at naptime because it’s one in the afternoon.
I have no idea what I’ll feel like watching tomorrow. The On Demand descriptions of each film make them all sound ridiculous. Like some 14-year-old wrote a tiny report about the film and they cut out the best paragraph for the synopsis. Usually there isn’t much accuracy, but lean towards humorous so I keep on reading them. I won’t lie, I have turned off more movies than I have finished. The fact that I just had three days in a row of moderately watchable horror was very satisfying. If there are any suggestions from anyone, I will pretty much watch anything.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Weirder Looking the Kid, the More I Love the Picture

I started volunteering at this amazing organization called 826 Seattle. 826 is an organization started out in California as a place for kids to go and get help with writing, or free tutoring with anything. It is supported by a store out front called Greenwood Space Travel Supply, a place to purchase books, space guns, bottled elements, and Cat in a Can. Monday through Thursday they host field trips where classes come in and get to explore the writing process and leave with a fully published book, complete with binding and author head shot on the back. It is amazing to watch a room full of 2nd graders understand and elaborate on characters, setting, plot. You can actually see the little cogs in their brains starting to slowly turn, threading together these fresh little ideas—almost always about a talking animal.
At some point in the field trip the kids must raise their hands, speak their idea for the title, and then vote. Majority wins, of course. Today there was one remarkable little kid who wanted his idea to win so badly, his hand was in the air pulsating with excitement. He had the story all planned out around this one sentence . . . but did it win? No. Today’s title was: The Worm Who Doesn’t Have a Name. Just one step off from, The Worm Who Never Had a Name, which is to me the better title, but not such luck. That kid had it right, the worm whose parents never gave him a name was a little better than the worm who just forgot, at least I think. In a room full of kids who wear their personalities dangling off of their bedazzled Jansport backpacks, it’s hard to be the kid with a different opinion.
My job in this whole process is to help make the actual, physical book. Lots of copying, collating, and fastback binding in a short period of time. But, my most favorite part of the morning is right when the bus pulls up and the kids come through the door into this amazing loft space filled with books and weird stuff like replicas of imaginary galaxies. I get to take each kid’s picture. It’s always very confusing because they never listen to directions and they don’t quite understand why I’m taking their picture, but that’s what makes me love it. Sometimes a kid will strike a pose, something off hand and unexpectedly writerly; a hand under the chin, head cocked to the side. Something you can find on the back of 4 out of 10 books at Barnes and Noble. Sometimes I ask the boys if they want to have their hat on, or their hood, depending. They almost always misunderstand what I mean and take it off. They don’t realize that I don’t actually care if they wear their hat. This is the part when I realize that I am old enough to be their parent, and they view me as such.
I take all these pictures, load them into iPhoto, then print them on a sticker that will adorn the About the Author page on the back of their book. I’ll be the first to say, the weirder looking the kid, the more I love the picture. At the end of the field trip each kid picks out their picture page in a line up just before we bind it into a book with their story, not one kid ever looks at the picture and thinks they look bad. This is what I love about second graders. This, and the fact that most of them don’t brush their hair.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bon Jovi and Bouncy Houses

I had no time to write yesterday because I was out celebrating the birthday of my friend Pia Johns. I must say we had a raucous good time singing karaoke at a Japanese style bar on Capitol Hill called Rock Box.  I may or may not remember correctly, but I believe some of our repertoire included Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show, Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi, Poison by Bell Biv Devoe, and at some point someone was singing a song from the Little Mermaid. The amazing thing about the karaoke box is that everyone can participate and sing as much as you want. But, I did learn a few valuable and humbling lessons last night: First, I’m not very good at karaoke. Second, martinis will make you feel like you are good at karaoke. Third, it is better to be funny and entertaining than to be the girl who just wants everyone to hear her sing. To sum that all up, becoming a karaoke superstar has now been wiped off the imaginary white board where I keep a list of my hopes and dreams. I will need to replace that one with something soon because that was way up there on the top of my list. . .
It goes without saying that I spent this entire day in my most comfortable and unattractive sweat pants.  I miraculously managed to save up enough energy to take both kids to the “FUN ZONE” at Arena Sports. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, it is a giant room filled with the most enormous bouncy houses I have ever seen. There are maybe seven or eight castle-like toys blown up, complete with slides and a gauntlet of squishy things to run around in. The best part is that grownups get in for free with their kids. I’m not sure who has more fun. I went down one of the giant slides about 10 times. My son actually told me it was time to go.  
The ironic thing about these adventures to the Fun Zone is that Arena Sports is an indoor soccer club, the bouncy houses is just an exciting bonus. I got the family membership to Arena Sports in hopes that someday I would have enough time to join the Old Lady League for beginners and get to finally play a sport for the first time in my entire life. But, time being what it is, I don’t have any for that right now. But, as a parent who wants her kids to do all the cool exciting things they can when time and money align, I enrolled both Thing One and Thing Two in Lil’ Kickers soccer classes. Thing One didn’t have any other kids enrolled in her class, which didn’t really bother her that much, but when she found out she didn’t get a new jersey with a different number on it every single class she said forget it. Thing Two never stayed in the arena for more than a 5 minute temper tantrum, so we’ll have to try soccer again later. For one week they were both very excited to wear their jerseys. That was by far the best part of soccer so far. Too bad they didn’t make it long enough to get cleats and shin guards. For now we will keep our expensive membership to the Fun Zone because that is totally worth it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Marbles and Mashed Bananas

Ever since Thing One was old enough to sit through a book we have been reading Fancy Nancy.  Fancy Nancy is a precocious little girl who likes to use very big words (which she then explains like so), she has a penchant for decorating anything with glitter, ribbons, lace, ruffles, etc.  And she has a disappointingly plain and boring mother—who happens to look just like me in the illustration. In the past three years Fancy Nancy has gotten a posh puppy, discovered bugs, taught us about constellations, taken us to the art museum, and now, this week, she has shown us how to open our very own Oh La La Beauty Spa.
This book came with recipes for a “Fantastique Face Mask” and a “Sea Salt Foot Soak.” Simple things that my five year old daughter has been dying to try. Tonight I came home from work and said yes to a pamper party. We laid out a towel and procured our tools: the giant silver bowl that, I won’t lie, is sometimes used for barf, towels, washcloths, lotion. I even bought a cucumber for the eyes, and marbles to massage our feet in the foot soak.
My little lady was more interested in sticking her feet in the bowl full of water and marbles than anything else, but things got kind of exciting when we moved on to the “Fantastique Face Mask,” wich is a fancy way of saying mashed banana and honey. As it turns out, bananas get sort of liquidy when they are mashed too much. The concoction looked and felt a little bit like something an elephant might sneeze up. Thing One was in hysterics as I glopped it all over her nose. I told her it was ok to eat it, too, but bananas and honey apparently isn’t as appetizing when they are smeared all over your cheeks. . . But that was her turn.
When it was my turn I there were banana chunks immediately running down the side of my neck. Giant squishy blobs slowly making their way into my ear canal. And then she tells me, “Ok, mom. Now you leave the face mask on for ten minutes.” I managed to negotiate my way down to two. Although I now have enough honey in my hair to sweeten five cups of tea, it was totally worth it. My face really is smooth as silk just like Fancy Nancy promised. Oh yes, she painted my toenails. The tiny puddles of pink polish will be dry in about two days.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hot Frogs and Sci-Fi

My husband just left me here with two martini glasses full of what I have just now decided to call a Hot Frog. It is not hot, and only slightly green. It’s really just a bartender’s margarita, up. Not too fancy, unless you consider hand juicing 20 limes “fancy.” I didn’t do it, I was the recipient. Now he is off to the Galactic show at the Showbox, and I am going to sit here and finish off this Hot Frog, followed by the second one.
I will also watch the newest episode of Fringe, because I am a real sci-fi enthusiast. I made a special appearance at the opening night Gala of the Battlestar Galactica exhibition at Seattle’s Sci-fi Museum. It’s always so exciting to get a little star struck by hardcore fans in their flight suit replicas. Fringe is just as cool, but it’s like watching a horror movie with a soap opera plot. And Fox just renewed the next season, so I will have more exciting escapades with people encased in Amber, corpse reanimation, time travel, hopping between universes, and once in a while, old fashioned tv make outs.
That’s it. It’s Friday and the fact that I have posted something everyday for 5 days has to be an accomplishment of some sort. That, and I printed out my book today and had the guy at Kinko’s put an actual binding on it. That made me feel fairly grown up today. To celebrate: the Hot Frog.   

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Little Mouth Full of Bejewels

There are several things: 1.) I woke up with a cold in my nose. 2.) I have accidentally created a Bejeweled addiction for my mother. 3.) Maybe there’s no three.
That’s just the thing, for the 12th time this year my face is so swollen in the sinuses it’s like I inhaled an entire hay bale and I can’t quite sneeze it all out. I could make myself some tea, and with each steamy sip my nose will get closer to the cup until I remind myself that I can’t breathe in tea. I am one of those people who just generally has issues when it comes to breathing through my nose, so when a cold hits I walk around making annoying snorting noises similar to a horse, but not unlike a pug dog. I send my kids on secret missions to the bathroom to get me more tissue. It is a special kind of torture, this having a cold, one that I can only appease by going to visit my mother.
She makes me tea. The kids get to run wild in the fenced backyard. Yes, it was raining, but they didn’t seem to mind as they picked up pieces of gravel from one end and carried them one at a time across the yard, narrating as they went. “More rocks!” “Running!” and that was as good as Thursday afternoon gets.
Meanwhile, I snuggle on Mom’s couch with my tiny iPhone and play Bejeweled because I am an addict. In my own defense, I only downloaded the game because one of my best friends works for Pop Cap Games and I try to support the company by downloading all their games. Plants Vs. Zombies is one of my favorites, but I solved that one. I was a late comer to the Bejeweled scene, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t teach me that practice makes perfect. The more hours I spend on the Blitz game the better I get, and isn’t that a nice feeling when you’re kids want you to feed them or play with them and all you can do is say, “Give me just one more minute.” Because that’s how long one game is, a minute. 30 minutes later I get up and get them a cracker. Thing Two, the baby, sees the game pop up and he proclaims, in all caps, “BEJEWELED THWEE!” he sounds like he has a little mouth full of bejewels, but I get it.
So, tonight the kids are outside in the rain, impressed by the giant drips off the gutters and getting soaked, moving the gravel around, and there is my mom playing Bejeweled on her iPad and me on my iPhone. We are chatting about our scores. We are actually discussing the fact that we can’t manage to stop playing even though it is that repetitive, mind-numbing jewel moving game with nothing but a high score. The most addicting game I have ever played.
And now I am home, wishing I had taken those squandered minutes playing Bejeweled and gone to the store for some cold medicine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mental Eye Roll Through Hipster Horn-Rims

For those of you out there who may not know me well, or at all, I suppose I should give a minute amount of background information as to why this blog is what it is—or will be.
About 5 years ago Thing One was born. She was a beautiful, pudgy faced delight of a baby who kept me occupied all the time doing very important things, like baking, taking walks, visiting other people who oogled over “the baby.” And then Baby became mobile. I started watching Sesame Street again, drawing pictures of animals out of crayon, all with the exact same body but different ears, this distinguished cat from dog, different nose for the pig, etc. I learned to count to 100 all over again. Then one day I realized that staying at home with my daughter, although a gift considering how hard my husband worked to make it possible, was not the most intellectually stimulating thing I could do with the end of my 20’s. So I found a graduate program that accepted me that was what they call “low residency” for us mom’s who don’t have the daycare funds or the nearby grandparents to go to a class every day. Pretty soon I was immersed in writing, working on my MFA with an emphasis in creative nonfiction.
Who knew there was such a genre? A genre completely defined by what it is not. When looking for a book of essays at Barnes and Noble, I bravely questioned the customer service as to where I could find the nonfiction. He gave me what I took to be a mental eye roll through his hipster horn-rims, and said, “Anywhere in the store but the fiction section.” And he wasn’t kidding, and neither was I, so the whole situation was not funny at all. Turns out they actually have a section for essays; it’s located on one bottom shelf below literary theory, below mythology, and next to Westerns.
I have maneuvered my way through all that genre blah blah, and come to realize that the record of the present is really what creative nonfiction is about. Some people call it memoir, it’s blogging, it’s a little bit journalism. But really, creative nonfiction is just telling the truth in a literary way. Starting this blog is a by-product of fitting that creative nonfiction into my daily “art” regiment. But sometimes I still draw animals with crayons. . .
Immediately after entering into the graduate program I was surprised to find someone tagging along—Thing Two, the next edition to the family. Someone told me that pregnancy cultivates creativity, and perhaps that’s true only in the sense that after a baby is born you spend the next two years trying to sleep standing up. It’s been a fairly long path through the masters program, but in about one month I will have finished my collection of essays, been married for 5.5 years, had two kids, and managed to start working again to afford this amazing art filled life I lead. It’s almost all working out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Here's the Weird Thing

It was yesterday that I sorted through the blog designs, chose this lovely background with a comfortably old chair, comfortably obsolete television, and almost completely indecipherable box on the wall that I know from old black and white TV to be a "telephone." A rotary one, at that. And what scenes are those hanging on my wall? The Dutch countryside? Girl with the Pearl Earring? This is my new blog. This is where I live now in the intangible world of electronic connections. My words come out in Times New Roman, 12 pt. I am not too good for all caps, if the situation deems appropriate. And I have comitted myself to at least one post a day, if you can imagine the horror of that. Not that anyone will read them all. But today, day two in this strange new world, I've got nothing, except for these, which I don't actually want to write about for more than a second.

My list of topics for today:

1.)Sports jersey's: a historical account of how I always wanted one with a hypothetical nickname stamped on the back, but never wanted to actually play a sport.

2.)Bejeweled and my sick addiction to this mindless puzzler that is starting to warp my children into taking matters into their own hands, i.e. climbing on chairs and helping themselves to cereal, snacks, and whatever else is within climbing distance from a chair pushed wherever it can possibly be moved in the time it takes me to put down my game.

3.)Looking at 400 different houses on Craig's list and finally finding one that has a slice of a chance at being acceptable, although currently filled with a vast jungle of tropical house plants and a roof that may or may not be thatched.

4.)Overhearing a technical conversation by two moderately nerdy writers about their Macbooks. 10 minutes of hardware jargon before it came out that one of them was actually working on a book with said computer. The topic may have included something about my inability to relate to dudes when their talking about cars/computers/sports, although I sometimes try.

5.)The constantly grating concept that children's television keeps perptuating mixtures of anthropomorphized animals and regular domesticated "pets." I'm sure this argument is classic, and nothing I can say will make any difference in why Goofey is a dog and Pluto is a dog, but there are other things. Bubble Guppies is an example: Mermaids who swim underwater, but build houses with pools in the back yard. . . for swimming. . . underwater underwater. Children's television is psychedelically confusing.

And that's it.

Addendum to the Dog House Dilemma

Just for the record, I totally came through on that dog house agenda. Complete with kibbles and little stickers of dogs, and cats. (I hear from the bedroom right now that said kibbles have been spilled all over the floor). Ahh, me.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Face It To The Rear

So, perhaps it is two blog posts in one day, but I have to make note: WHAT IS A MOM BLOG?! And is that what I am doing? Or perhaps I just outed myself as a bad parent by admitting I ignore my kids and hit up McDonald’s twice in one week. . .
That said, I’ll continue in that thread with a note I heard from NPR today: Pediatricians and policy makers have agreed that children should stay rear facing in their cars eats until they are two years old. For anyone who reads this and doesn’t quite understand, that means that around age 7 months, if you have an especially rowdy and long baby boy, he will start to cry and whine about wanting things like cookies, crackers, drinks, taking special care to drop any toy or food that you have given him after two seconds, only to repeat this process all the way home from wherever you go. Not only does your baby constantly tell you they hate sitting in the seat, you begin to notice that their legs are increasingly crammed between the seat and the already milk stained upholstery of the Subaru.
Thing Two hasn’t sat rear facing in his car seat since that 7 month marker. That was the same time that his legs pushed against the back of the car seat so tightly that would strain to straighten out his pudgy legs, giving him one more thing to complain about in the back seat. The idea that a two year old would sit rear facing in a five point harness is mostly absurd. Not because safety isn’t a concern, but sanity is also one of my top priorities. Back seat bitching from the babies is enough to drive a person into an accident anyway.
The statistic NPR stated this morning was, “The pediatricians note that auto accidents are the leading cause of death for kids older than 4, causing more than 5,000 deaths in children and young people under the age of 21 each year.” That is an interesting statistic. I wonder how many of those “children” are under the age of two. I wonder how many of those young people are over the age of 16. I’m not trying to argue with a person who wants her kid to sit backward until he’s 21, but I can’t do it. I’m not saying that it isn’t safer, because it makes sense. Perhaps car makers should take this into account and just make all the back seats facing the other direction. Humans would eventually evolve through all their carsickness, and in the meantime Dramamine could become as common a household drug as Tylenol. And, to be clear, I didn’t breast feed my kids either and they are perfectly healthy and intelligent, now I’ll just cross my fingers that they don’t die in their car seats, along with all the million other things that might kill them every day for the rest of their lives.

Thing One is almost 5, Thing Two is almost 2. I am informed that it is 5 o'clock and that our next activity will be to make a dog house for Molly, the stuffed dog that I refuse to go out to the car to retrieve. It feels a little late for construction this afternoon, amidst the play date, preschool, the lunch trip to McDonalds (yes, two days in a row). If I could only find a shoe box, but I haven't bought shoes for so long I can't remember what a shoebox looks like. The last pair of shoes I purchased were 5 inch black patent leather heels. I wear them sometimes around the house since I mostly don't go anywhere, and a walk any farther than to my car causes bleeding sores on the sides of my ankles.

I'm sure that a shoebox would make an excellent dog house, but it doesn't matter. I would spend half an hour cutting the lid, forming and gluing pieces of cardboard to fashion a roof, cut out squares for the door, windows. Maybe I would even dig around in the depths of my junk piles for a scrap of old t-shirt or an old dish rag and we would make some curtains for the dog house. Molly the dog may prefer a dog house with a pillow for a bed, and a new dog dish. I scour the house for things to use: cotton balls for stuffing, the lid from a milk jug to fill with "kibble" (Koala Crisp). I would put the fnishing touches on this complex compilation of garbage I turned into something, then, five minutes later, Thing One will take the box and toss it aside for whatever. It could be anything at this point because there is a show on about a talking submarine and somewhere in the house she found a balloon.

But this is all theoretical because I don't feel like making a dog house today. I ignored their tiny pleading just long enough to type this out and ponder the greatest mystery of life: What to make for dinner?