On the trivialities

Lately it seems like everything is a mess.  Cases in point:

  1. Groundhog eating my garden.  Trapped; transported; released five miles from home with great exuberance (let me tell you, two small boys and a pooping groundhog in one car does not for serenity make — and have you SMELLED those things?  The groundhogs, I mean?  Phew!).  Today: I see a new groundhog over at the neighbors.  He must be new, or he’d look more road-weary.
  2. Kitchen.  It’s a disaster, but mostly in small ways.  So we figure, hey, we’ll paint the cabinets.  But then: how do you paint cabinets when you have wee folk living in the house?  You don’t.  So maybe we can hire someone to do it.  But our awesome contractor feels compelled to point out the crappy state of our counters, and that we could replace them with a nicer laminate for cheap.  She’s right.  And then, of course, we have to consider the sink, because it’s dented and buckled and you don’t pass up a chance to replace that when you replace the counters.  But then, we love a farmer’s sink, and that seems hard to do with laminate…so…granite?  No no no no. How does it come to this?  How does it always come to this?  The sense that in trying to make some small improvement, you’re opening the doors to such an impressive range of expenses, missed opportunities, and regrets?
  3. Class I’m teaching.  I was recently called “archaic” for arguing that scholarly research and thesis-writing are best taught face-to-face rather than online.  Well, okay.  Archaic it is.  But as much as I love new technologies, they cannot solve everything and sometimes they make things worse by kidding us into believing they can.  More on that in an upcoming post on teaching and learning.
  4. The strawberry fiasco.  The ONGOING strawberry fiasco.  We love the strawberries and are thrilled that they are now coming on in such volume that they occasionally make it into the house.  However, apparently they should never be allowed in the house anyway.  They are simply too ripe and too luscious for small hands to manage, especially when those small hands are trying to simultaneously push a plastic “lawn mower” around the house AND consume a very large berry.  Looks like a crime scene around here.  The kind with a victim who died slowly and managed to tour much of the house in the process.

It’s not even worth cataloguing the array of lesser offenses (potty-related; 4-am-waking related; isolation-related).  But my feelings were summed up nicely when I tried to check out books at the library and the computer told me, as gently as possible, that I had unresolved issues.  And would I please see the librarian. Honey, I wanted to say, I may need more than a librarian.  A bartender, for instance.



On upcycling, or whathaveyou

I’m one of those people who has a hard time getting rid of things most of the time, because I’m inclined to imagine other uses for it.  T-shirts, for example, are CERTAIN to become t-shirt yarn and then fabulous folksy rugs, except that they are all different weights and textures and none of them is a color I’m crazy about.  But I have to store them for a couple of years before I can arrive at this conclusion and give them away.  It’s an imperfect system, but I really excel at it.

So imagine my husband’s surprise when he entered the kitchen yesterday afternoon to find me packing Bonne Maman jars into a big cardboard box.  It’s our preferred jam, and we eat a lot of jam, and when we realized a few years ago that the jars were useful for everything from packing kids’ lunches to serving gin and tonic, well, we kept a few.  Ah-hem.  They overflowed the glass-cabinet, and then we started storing them on the windowsill by the food-prep area, because it was so convenient for lunch-packing.  At first it was one row, then a second on top, and then a third, in a truly precarious and often artistic display.  A few weeks ago, our boys decided to stop eating our packed lunches on the two days a week they go to daycare, preferring to eat what everyone else eats (daycare makes fresh lunches for the kids every day).  And here we are with seven thousand jars and no concrete use for them.  But then I remembered some friends who may want to borrow them for glasses at their August wedding on the coast, and then I got to thinking about everything else you can do with them.  So here’s my list.  Pinterest style.  Be inspired.  Or entirely turned off this blog.  It’s up to you.

A whole bunch of things you can do with Bonne Maman jam jars:

  1. Drink out of them (preferably clear, icy drinks with lemon twists or olives).
  2. Store smoothies in them (remove cap; drink).
  3. Put frozen veg or fruit in them to thaw for kid-sized snacks at home or on the go.
  4. Pack lunches in them (pesto-pasta in one; cut-up chicken in another; peas in another).
  5. Use as votive-holders with glass beads, pebbles, or sand in the bottom.
  6. Use for terrarium: add moss, sticks, wee ferns.  Occasional plastic animals may find their way in as well.
  7. Use for aquarium: add rocks, water, and a small plastic sea-turtle.
  8. Catch spiders or fireflies or other cool creatures.  Examine at leisure and then release.
  9. Fill partway with soapy water and use as receptacle for Japanese Beetles, Tomato Hornworms, or other interesting-to-look-at but utterly unwanted garden guests.
  10. Use for vases, especially for simple, short, matching arrangements of daisies, for example.
  11. Use as centerpieces filled with small fruits.
  12. Fill partway with glass beads and water; rest an avocado seed halfway in the water.  Wait a few months and it’ll sprout.
  13. Use to organize office supplies; craft materials; small children’s toys; crayons; hair clips; coins.
  14. Wire them around the edges and hang them as vases or candle-holders.
  15. Use to store dried herbs or other non-perishable household items.
  16. Use to freeze pesto, if you make it in large batches; one jar, 2/3 full, is just right for our standard box of pasta.
  17. Use to freeze breastmilk.  I kid you not.  Those Medela bottles are pricey and this works just as well.
  18. Use in place of Tupperware for storing leftovers, making more room in your fridge.
  19. Make a sewing kit for a gift or for your own house.
  20. Make cocoa-mix gifts.  Or small Halloween candy jars.  Or layered soup mixes.

Or, as my husband points out, you could conceivably just recycle them.  If you were cold of heart and dead of spirit.

On the challenge of being yourself

If you’ve never watched the movie “Center Stage,” you should.  It’s cheesy and beautiful and uplifting and all the right people get what they deserve.  It’s a dance movie that functions perfectly as a metaphor for life: dance the dance you have inside you, with all the effort and discipline you can muster.  And recognize when you’re trying to dance a dance that’s not your own.  And of course, roses and standing ovations follow immediately when you have the wisdom to be yourself.

But here’s where I’d add a few things: it’s not just about wisdom.  It’s just as much about opportunity, and foresight, and connections, and plain old good luck.  It’s about having sufficient freedom from constraints that you can actually DO the kinds of movement your own self demands.  And for most of us, absent full-time child-care and a perennially healthy bank balance, we just don’t get that freedom.  So what do we do?

I hate that all the best answers seem to revolve around “patience” and “self-love” and being “mindful.”  We need an Action Plan.  A Career-Planning Mom action figure.  She’d be a myth, like all the other super-heroes, but she’d have her s*#t together.  Perhaps I need a costume.

On survival, of a sort

I’ve been tired a lot today, and I was trying to decide why.  Was it:

a) the three days I’ve been solo-parenting two sick kids?

b) the inordinate amounts of prep I’m trying to squeeze in for this new course I’m teaching?

c) the fact that I, too, am probably coming down with this obnoxious cold?

d) my anxiety about my elder son’s imminent surgery finally coming home to roost?

or e) the fact that Len is back in the state and therefore my systemic adrenaline levels are dropping as I anticipate succor and rest?

Yeah, all of the above.  Nothing dramatic here, just ordinary life, but boy can it wail on you when it wants to.

Today featured some fabulous new snot-stains on the couch; a respectable number of poops in the potty, much admired by all and handled by none; an over-the-shoulder broccoli-tossing event at dinner; two miserable, overtired boys who refused to sit in the tub and were instead rinsed as they stood sobbing, huddled together.  There was one hearty shove onto the tiled floor; one mighty swat to the face (resulting in glasses needing repair before future wearing); a wide range of kicking-type strategies implemented with varying degrees of subtlety.  There was a whole lot of nursing; some experimentation with cheap plastic lacrosse sets; one illicit sprint across a newly-refinished deck.  There were many conversations with a contractor: why does yellow, even a yellow I love, make me feel oppressed in my kitchen?  It’s like forced cheerfulness.  Screw that.  There was one conversation with a pre-school teacher: it’s not just at home that E sets EVERY ANIMAL IN

Animals on the move.  As usual.

Animals on the move. As usual.

THE ROOM in a massive herd, facing the same direction, like some kind of exodus.  We all chuckle and reflect upon the fine line between obsessive tendency and full-blown neurosis.  There was one article proposal accepted; one complex childcare-during-brother’s-surgery strategy worked out; many bills paid.  Non-stop nose-wiping.  It was, in short, a day.

And how was yours?