Thursday, October 28, 2010

My daughter thinks Jesus is Soren Lorenson

Have you ever seen the adorable Disney cartoon Charlie and Lola? It's based on a series of equally adorable children's books by Lauren Child (who has authored several other fabulous-looking books; I cannot wait until Scout is old enough to start the Clarice Bean series). Well, in the book, I Am Too Absolutely Small for School, Child introduces us to Lola's imaginary friend, Soren Lorenson.

Soren Lorenson is Lola's invisible friend. Nobody knows what he looks like.

Lola and Soren Lorenson have adventures together.

Sometimes, Soren Lorenson can get Lola into trouble.

Scout is kind of in love with Charlie and Lola. She loves the books, the show, the toys, everything about them. I've always loved them, too. In fact, we first brought Snow is My Favorite and My Best and But Excuse Me That is My Book home from the library a few years ago because I thought they were so painfully cute. What quirky artwork! How fun to read in a British accent! I found them all the more adorable when I saw the show, and when I first saw Soren Lorenson, I was in LOVE. (Part of this may have stemmed from the fact that I thought his name was "So Unlonesome" because of the funny way that Lola enunciates it. What a perfect name for an imaginary friend, no? Apparently not because ... that's not his name.) Thus Charlie and Lola were born into our lives and over time have practically become members of our family. They are our go-to books at the library. We DVR their show, and unbeknownst to her, Scout is going to have a Very Charlie and Lola Christmas (complete with talking dolls and, hopefully, the entire box set of DVDs - or at least the so-cute-it-makes-me-itchy Christmas special).

Jesus has also been a big topic in our house lately, what with Scout being a big three-year-old now, who can actually sit still for long(ish) periods of time and who has a little personality and thoughts of her very own. She loves to go to Sunday school and read her little picture Bible. She even insisted I buy her some Jesus stickers at the Christian book store this summer (which we then used as potty prizes, meaning she got to stick one on her little potty every time she "went," which her father deemed "a misappropriation of the image of the Lord"). Scout loves to talk to Jesus (incidentally though, if you ask her to "pray," she will flat out refuse. Ask her to "talk to Jesus," though, and she is all about it). Half the time, her "prayers" are more like a grocery list of things she did that day, just in case He might have missed something or forgotten. Last night's dinner prayer, for instance, was, "Jesus, thanks for the grub [at her Nonna's prompting]. And thanks for soap. And for washing my hands before dinner. And ..." until someone prompted her, "What do you say when you're all done praying?"

"Oh," she said. "Thank you."

"No," I said. "The other one."

"Oh. Aaaaaaaaaaamen."

It was darling, really.

At night, now, instead of B or me praying for her, we let her do the talking with just a few prompts.

"Would you like to tell Jesus some things you are thankful for today?"

This usually results in a list of things, sometimes crazy, off-the-wall things, like "the number seven" or "pancakes" (even if we haven't eaten pancakes in days).

"Would you like to tell Jesus some of the bad things you did today and that you are sorry for doing them?"

This response usually features such classics as, "I pooped in my pants again," and "I got out of bed and made a mess during nap," followed by the cutest, "Sorry, Jesus," you have ever heard.

"Can you ask Jesus to help you to be a good girl tomorrow?"

She usually ends up saying, "You be a good girl tomorrow, Jesus?" but we all know what she means.

"Can you ask Him to help you grow up to love Him and follow Him?"

[Insert an adorably botched version of the above statement here.]

"Now what do you say when you're all done?"

"Amen, Jesus."

That's the basic format. A few nights ago, after her birthday party, she was listing AAAAAAALLL of the things she was thankful for (it was a long list; it had been a good day). Then we moved on to the, "things I could have done better today" segment. She started out with the staples, then she suddenly said, "And, Jesus, I like graham crackers." When I mentioned it later, her Nonna said, "She has got to be one of His favorites." (Sidenote: We know He doesn't play favorites. We've read the epistles.) She's just so random like that, and we all love her for it.

So there's the praying and the Bible reading and the Sunday school going, and now whenever she misbehaves we ask her how she thinks Jesus feels about her behavior, and she apologizes to Him for making Him sad. It's all very cute and (hopefully) laying the foundation for a real and lasting relationship with Him in the future.

As long as the whole So Unlonesome Soren Lorenson thing doesn't get in the way.

"Wait, what does this have to do with Soren Lorenson?" you ask (not unjustly. I feel like I'm all over the place this morning. Trying to write while two small people vie for your attention is no easy task).

See, Scout seems to think that Jesus is like Soren Lorenson. He is her imaginary friend. No one can see Him but her. Occasionally, she will point upwards and say, "Jesus is up there, Mommy. He is up in [the sky/the clouds/my ceiling/my ceiling fan/etc.]." A few moments ago, she was looking out the kitchen window, talking to Jesus, who was apparently in the driveway, telling Him how happy she was that she just had a birthday and how excited she is for His upcoming one (Sidenote: Her obsession with birthdays is really going to pay off this Christmas, I think, when we talk about how it's Jesus' birthday ... even though it's actually not, but whatever).

Sometimes I worry that she will think she made Jesus up, that He is like "Eeny" (her imaginary "best cousin and also friend"). I don't know how to make her understand the bigness and realness that is God and Jesus and His plan for humanity. I worry that she's going to think He is this imaginary person she has conjured up or that we are going to create a "false god" and make her think He is a big guilt-monger by explaining to her that she hurts His feelings when she misbehaves. I hear these stories about people who were saved at the age of four and five, and I wonder, "How can I get my kid to that place? How can I get her to understand the concepts of personal responsibility and sin and redemption at so young an age?" How do I help her to understand that Jesus is not in her ceiling fan or some magical person in the sky that she has to spend half of her life apologizing to? What do I do to keep her from blaming Jesus for the things she does wrong (like when Soren Lorenson talks Lola into misbehaving)?

No, really. That's not rhetorical. How do I do these things? Anyone with older kids have any advice on how to take them from "Jesus lives in my ceiling" to "Jesus died for my sins?" I'd love to hear what others are doing/have done to move their tiny people toward a true relationship with Christ. I feel like this is one of those areas where it might be best to use the aid of a village to raise my child. Anyone with advice, please feel free to post a comment. Even if that "advice" is, "You worry too much. You should just relax and do another post about your eyebrows. I miss those."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tales from my Google search history

I search some random things on Google. Just this morning, I found myself typing, "Do caterpillars poop?" into my search bar. You see, I am antsy about this homeschool thing. I can't seem to stop myself, even though my kids are obviously too young for formal education (unless we lived in France or Japan, in which case, Scout would be right on target, starting preschool at age two). Anyway, because I am a giant nerd lifelong learner, when her Papa mentioned that he saw some monarch caterpillars in the cornfield yesterday and wondered if she might want him to bring one up to the house for her, I jumped at the nerdiness opportunity. We've been reading Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar a lot lately (thanks, Kristi!), and I knew that this would be a great way to tie science and reading together, to really make the story come alive for her. Papa was kind enough to bring up the caterpillar in a peanut butter jar, and B picked some milkweed for the caterpillar to eat and a long stick for the chrysalis to hang from. I remember doing all of this when I was in third or fourth grade. What I didn't remember, apparently, was the poop.

Oh, the poop.

So much poop.

At first, we marveled over the caterpillar. (We really ought to name him/her/it so that I can stop referring to it so formally all the time, or at least use a gendered pronoun. However, knowing Scout, she will want to name it "Caterpillar" or something similarly vague, in the same way that she has named her pink stuffed elephant "Pink Elephant" and her small stuffed monkey "Small Monkey." I blame Blue's Clues, with it's Green Puppy and Purple Kangaroo.) We were fascinated by how quickly it ate through the milkweed leaf, how much it ate in one go. It was all very thrilling ... for about 15 minutes. Then, Scout being two, and me being me, we got bored and wandered away for a couple of hours.

ETA: We have settled on a name. Scout has decided it is a boy caterpillar, and his name is Fish. I don't decide these things. I just report them.

The caterpillar's Fish's jar is right beside the table where I do my work. I looked over a little bit ago and was terribly confused by what I saw. There appeared to be little bits of stick in the bottom of the jar. "Now, how did a caterpillar manage to break off pieces of the stick?" I wondered. "It has no thumbs or limbs of any kind, really. It has been on the leaf this whole time and has not even ventured onto the stick" (so far as I knew because I wasn't really paying attention, if I must be honest). Upon closer inspection, I decided that the "bits of stick" really looked more like mouse droppings. In fact, I thought as I held the jar right up to my face, they looked exactly like mouse droppings. "How did mouse poop get in there?" I wondered. "Surely that can't be from that tiny caterpillar! Some of those are 1/4 his size! That would be like a human pooping something the size of his/her arm! Besides, do caterpillars even poop?"

At about this time, I decided I needed to call upon the Google to help solve the mystery. You know what I learned? I learned that caterpillars poop. They poop a lot. Some people on message boards were bemoaning their need to clean their caterpillars' jars every two hours. Welcome to the rest of my week. Good times to be had by all. I just hope this doesn't affect Scout's potty-training progress. "Why should I poop in the potty, Mommy? The caterpillar Fish doesn't poop in the potty!"

Anyway, after Googling "Do caterpillars poop?" and thinking, "Gosh, I Google some crazy things!" I decided to take a look through my search history to see some of the other random things we've been curious about in recent weeks. The following is a(n obviously non-comprehensive) list:

1. "Who's playing Reed on season 2 of The Fresh Beat Band?"
There are so many things that I didn't know I would ever want to know until I had children. In case you also were curious, it's this guy. I don't like him as much as the old Reed. The least they could have done was pick another Irishman. They might be kids, but they aren't dumb. They know that this is a completely different man. (Btw, If you had told me when I was a teenager that I would one day have a preference for one children's show actor over another, I would have laughed in your face.)

2. "What is a wench?"
Scout wanted a pirate birthday party. I wanted to make sure this term was not, in fact, synonymous with smelly pirate hooker before using it on her invitations. Turns out I was right - It just means girl pirate. Unfortunately, I still think the common misinterpretation/connotation makes it unsafe for a children's party.

3. "Are there fireflies in California?"
I don't remember the context for why I wanted to know this. I knew/know that some states have them and some don't. I guess I couldn't (still can't, actually) remember which ones are which. All I know is here in PA, we've got tons.

4. "How did Salvador Dali die?"
Again, I think this one was mere curiosity. I was watching something which made me think of something else, which reminded me of Little Ashes; one thing led to another, and the next thing you know, I wasn't sure whether he'd offed himself or died of cancer. (Neither, in case you were curious. It was heart failure. He was 84.)

5. "Are Sarah Paulson and Monica Potter related?"
This one is easy to remember (because it was two days ago). I was watching Parenthood (Hooray! It's Fall! New TV is back!) Tuesday night, and I thought they looked and sounded so much alike (and even had similar mannerisms). I determined that they must be related. As it turns out, they are not. However, I did learn this fascinating bit of trivia.

A look through your Google search history just might provide a creepy (albeit intriguing) cross-section of your daily life. What does your search history say about you?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sometimes, life is like Monopoly

I love board games. Some personal favorites include Trivial Pursuit (don't even try to beat me at the Disney version), Apples to Apples, and Risk (What can I say? I am a total nerd), but really, I love them all. Even Monopoly (or, as we liked to call it growing up, due to its length and repetition, Monotony). I'm a little rusty, but at one time, because I have played Monotony Monopoly so often over the years, you could show me the picture on a Chance or Community Chest card, and I could tell you what the card said and how much money I needed to spend/receive. A few examples:
Grand Opera Opening Night: Collect $50 from each player for seats

Receive for Services: $25

Get out of jail free

And a personal favorite...

Bank error in your favor: Collect $200

Why do I love that card so much? Something about the look on Uncle Pennybags' face has always made me smirk (sort of like the images on these warning signs), but that's not the only reason I like this card. I like this one in particular because recently, not due to a bank error, but due to my own negligence and general inability to do simple mathematics (let's just say that when depositing money into your account, it's best to add the numbers, not subtract them), I found myself with a very not-small sum of money that I hadn't realized I had. This makes me exceedingly grateful. This gratefulness (gratitude? I iz English majur. I iz smrt) has inspired me to compose a list of other things I am thankful for this week:

1. Pizza Pub pizza (which is just as delicious for breakfast and/or lunch as it is for dinner)

2. Jalapeno-infused queso dip

3. An upcoming girls' night

4. An impending haircut

5. Sam's Club

6. my mother-in-law (I should pause here to denote that this list is in no particular order and not in order of appreciation)

7. my husband (previous note applies)

8. Beth Moore (even if I do want to beat her up and steal her wardrobe every time I see one of her videos - Lord, help me. I think I might have struggles with envy.)

9. Coke Zero

10. yard sales and good friends who are willing to host/organize them so that I don't have to

This list is in no way comprehensive. I have much to be thankful for. Just thought I'd take a minute and give a shout-out to some of the things that are making me smile this week. What are you thankful for, readers?

Friday, August 6, 2010

I'm done making excuses

I'll just show up when I show up, okay? And we can just pretend that my six-month-long disappearances are normal or socially acceptable or at least expected, okay? Okay. Let's just admit that I'm busy, I'm lazy, and I'm terrible at time management. I can hope that one day those things magically resolve themselves (and that my eyebrows suddenly decide to read 1 Peter 3 and just SUBMIT already), but until then... you get what you get. And today, what you get is a list. (I'd claim that I am going to do this every Friday, but ... we just talked about that. I'm a liar. A lying, lazy liar who lazily lies.) So, because it is Friday and I am here and I don't really have anything better to do...

1. I recently (i.e., this morning) decided to cut out Julian's morning nursing session.

2. At the moment, he has decided that he no longer likes me.

3. Upon pumping (sorry male readers, if I have had any), I discovered that he apparently only gets 2 oz. in the mornings anyway, so I'm not sure why he cares so much. I put 6 oz. of beverage in his sippy. He's getting 3x the fluid, and he can drink it on the go!

4. He's happily chewing on his Papa's shoe now, so I guess he's over it.

5. I'd try to stop him, but I know it's useless. He cannot be stopped. He cannot be deterred. He cannot be dissuaded.

6. That boy loves shoes. (In a goat-like, I should be worried about tetanus sort of way, not a Manolo Blahnik, I should be worried about his teenage years sort of way.)

7. My daughter thinks that tortilla chips are an acceptable breakfast food.

8. I feel like a hypocrite telling her no when I just ate leftover garlic bread.

9. I told her no anyway.

10. She's having a banana instead.

11. I hate bananas.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Because apparently this is all I have to talk about...

I finally fixed my head. Now, instead of looking like this:

^ not really.

I look like this:

Sadly, the wearing of this hairstyle does not enable me to read minds or be more awesome.

Please denote the marked improvement.

Maybe now that I have resolved this issue, I will find something more interesting to blog about (conversely, one might argue that now that I have exhausted this avenue, I will cease to write altogether. I am hoping for the former and going to try and be proactive in coming up with new material to avoid the latter).

In other news, we leave for Virginia tomorrow. Of course, the dog ran away this afternoon, which is exceedingly complicating things, made even more frustrating because a dear friend from down there lost his wife last week to cancer (they're younger even than us, which makes it all the more freakish and wrong), and the memorial service is tomorrow evening at 7:30. If the stars align just so and the dog comes back, gets in and out of the groomer's early, and we can get on the road by 11, we just might make it in time. We covet your prayers that things will work out and we will be able to pay our respects and show some love to a good friend whom we haven't seen in months.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Remember when I was all, "I'm going to blog every day for a year because I am going to Finish Something"?

That didn't happen. For those of you who know me, I am certain that my failure came as no surprise whatsoever. For those of you who don't, here is a list of things I have been doing lately instead of blogging:

- running out of money and moving in with my in-laws.

- occasionally showering.

- watching American Idol.

- realizing American Idol is complete crap.

- giving up on watching American Idol (but still checking Vote for the Worst to make sure Tim Urban is progressing nicely.

The judges have stopped giving Tim real criticism
because they know they are no match for his
legions of fans with questionable taste.

- discovering hilarious new blogs.

- not getting a haircut (or waxing my eyebrows).

The neighbors are officially alarmed by my appearance.
This is saying something, considering the neighbors are my grandparents.

- drinking entirely too much coffee.

- going back to grad school.

- submitting half-finished assignments with this disclaimer: "I could and should have done significantly better on this assignment. I underestimated the amount of work that would be required and overestimated my capabilities, and I am sure I will pay for it with my grade."

- hoping that disclaimer buys me an extra letter-grade for honesty.

- doubting that it will.

- dropping about 20 pounds.

- perpetually alternating between feeding my seven-month-old son and rushing my potty-training daughter to the bathroom.

- having chronic headaches, chest pain, and nausea because I have terrible posture and am avoiding going to the chiropractor because they are evil and want to make me a paraplegic.

So, as you can see, I have a few things going on, which have made blogging infinitely more difficult than I thought it would be. If I had any dedication whatsoever, I would have found a way to fit in more writing around the full-time job, husband, two small children, packing, moving, unpacking, homework, and other daily responsibilities.

Maybe I should have given up bathing altogether instead of just scaling back.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 16. I Have So Many Other Things I Should Be Doing Right Now

Namely, I ought to be reading/critiquing a particularly heinous dissertation and explaining to the author that phrases like "in spite of" and "however" should be used to express opposition, and saying, "Despite [a thing having nothing but negative outcomes], many people believe [that thing is ineffectual and bad]," just makes her look stupid. Alas... To escape the overwhelming tediousness that has become my job, I have opted to take a break, stretch my mind muscles, so to speak, and hopefully refresh them to be prepared for further reading and tutoring. Wahoo.

Here wo go. Today's assignment should be quick and easy enough. Write as if you were talking to a childhood friend and complete a series of prompts:

1. Do you remember the time we tried taking your dad's Percocet on the school bus, and then I, because I weighed about 100 pounds less than your dad, could barely speak or walk and got totally busted? We were so stupid. Why I thought I was so cool is beyond me. I could barely function - where was the excitement in that? Why would I have thought that slurred speech and a more or less complete loss of motor skills were things to be desired? I seriously could have died. What on Earth were we thinking? Better yet, why on Earth, after finding out what we had done, did my parents continue to let me hang out with you and even do so the very next day? Not that I'm upset that we continued to hang out; you were my bestie, my BFF. It's just that to the best of my recollection, I wasn't even grounded! At the time, I'm sure I thought I was awesome for 1) having the "guts" (read: ignorance) to take the pills in the first place, 2) not dying, and 3) not even getting grounded out of the bargain. Perhaps they were so grateful to have me alive and well, and they knew that I felt bad enough about it, that they figured the "bad trip," so to speak, was punishment enough in itself.

2. Do you remember the time we called Bender on B-94's Friday night dance party and actually got played over the radio? We thought we were awesome. Little did we know that hundreds of random callers are played requesting songs on hundreds of radio stations around the country every single day. In that moment, we were special. We were famous. We were important, even though we were only 14 and stuck at your parents' place with nothing but your dad's kickin' stereo system and $15 to order a pizza (from Rocky's, no less). I can't remember what was said, exactly, but I seem to recall that we offended Bender, perhaps telling him that he was mean or a jerk or something to that effect, and we thought it mattered to him, and we thought we were so clever. Ah, to be 14 and giggly and to think that your opinion is the crux of the world... the epitome of youth.

3. Do you remember the time we asked your mom if she would buy a rental property and allow us to move into it and live on our own senior year for our senior projects? Oy vey. Can you imagine if she had gone along with it? First of all, we would have killed one another. If there is one thing I have learned from the mistakes of those I know, it is that living with your best friend is sure to kill your friendship. Your roommate can become your BFF, but your BFF should never be your roommate. Being forced to share such close quarters, split chores and bills ... I have yet to see it pan out for a single person I know. Not only would we have stopped being besties, but we also would have starved to death and had to call CYS on ourselves. I bet we would have been able to count on one hand the number of times we would have done dishes in a given month, the number of loads of laundry we would have done in two. I shudder at the thought of what a sty that place would have been. I'm so glad your mom talked us out of that and allowed us to enjoy one more year of youth. After living on our own as adults for the last eight years, I'm sure we're both glad for that last year of unemployment, of free room and board, of gas money and date nights, and new shoes whenever we wanted them.

4. Do you remember the time we joined the pool for a summer? We got that family pass for your brother, you, and me, and we went almost every day. Your mom would come home on her lunch break, take us to the pool on her way back to the office, and come back for us at five when she got off work. We'd spend all day tanning, swimming, reading magazines, playing the color game and other dunking games, talking about which boys were the cutest. Remember how cool we felt when we got the coveted gazebo spot? Right there at the head of the pool, able to look down on everyone else and feel like we were the cool kids, whatever that meant. When you're in junior high, there are no cool kids. Everyone is awkward and toothy and acne-ridden and has a terribly unflattering hair cut. Except for junior high kids today. I've worked with some junior high youth groups, and let me tell you, those girls are intimidatingly cool. They dress like models, have professional highlights (remember Sun-In and mixing lemon and tea in spray bottles to try and make our own "natural" blonde streaks?), have cell phones with unlimited texting ... but they still have acne, and they still feel awkward, and they still get tongue-tied around boys. Where we had Hanson, they have the Jonas Brothers. Where we had Now and Then, they have The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same... and no matter what changes, I will always be grateful for that period of time where you were my bestie. LYLAS, Mic.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 15. Clearly, I Kind of Suck at This

Well, so much for B.E.D.F.A.Y. (Blog Every Day For A Year). That's already over and done and out the window. Not saying I quit and will now stop even trying to blog for the remaining days of the year, just saying I have clearly already fallen short of the goal. I could make excuses (I was out of town on business, my kids were sick, I was sick, wild llamas ate my homework, etc.), but that's all they would be: excuses. The fact is that sometimes life gets in the way, and you just have to make do with what you can and try your best and not beat yourself up about the little things (and let's face it: failing to blog for nine days is a little thing in the grand scheme of things. If given the choice between blogging and getting paid to do my real job so that my family can eat or taking my kid to the doctor to avoid serious respiratory infection, call me undedicated, but I know which side of the line I'm coming down on). I can be honest. Things happened that made blogging less than easy. It would have meant some late nights or some early mornings or both. I hit a wall with the characters/story line I was developing but really wanted to work with it instead of doing another exercise, so I just stopped writing altogether. The point is, I'm back now, and the only thing we can do from this point is get back in the saddle and keep writing. (NOTE: Writing from the saddle is less than effective and will most likely lead to illegible chicken scratch.) Head down and power through and whatnot. I have decided to take the advice of Bonnie Neubauer, who wrote the exercise book, and go back to the exercises to help me with the piece I have been developing. However, I am sort of cheating (some might say). I've deliberately skipped around the book a bit until I found an exercise that I think will help me to carry on a new section of the story. I like to think of this less as cheating and more as using the book the way it was designed (there are no rules in it that I have to do each exercise sequentially; in fact, Neubauer recommends jumping around if you feel so inclined, which I do). In the meantime, here are some snapshots of things that have been happening in my personal life lately (since that's also sort of what a blog is for):

Item #1.My hair (and eyebrows) are officially out of control. If Joe Jonas and Jasper Hale had a lovechild, its head would look like mine.

Family and friends are seriously considering an intervention.

Item #2. I am looking forward to Clash of the Titans more than I looked forward to Christmas. Brendan and I watched the 1981 version last night, and it only fueled my frenzy. I love the original because of the bad effects and its MST3K potential. I hope that the remake will have all of the same plot holes and inconsistencies but that it overcompensates with effects that "bottle my mind." I am counting on you, Louis Leterrier. Make up for the hot mess that was Transporter 2. Do not let me down.

Item #3. I love few things more than people who over-confidently misuse colloquialisms in public forums. Case in point: I saw someone tweet a celebrity last week, proclaiming his music to be "mind-bottling." A huge part of me hopes that there is an inside joke there and that the poor girl who wrote the post realized her mistake and made it on purpose. The rest of me has just been having a ball using the incorrect phrase as often as possible (see above paragraph). I've even got Brendan doing it now.

Item #4. This one is more of a question than an order of business. Why, God, why, on American Idol, do they let the good people sing for about two lines but let the truly terrible people sing for a full minute or more? I love the crap auditions as much as the next mocker in the peanut gallery, but sometimes, I am beyond thankful for my DVR and the ability to skip over the 20-second, off-key wails that some of these people belt out.

U like mah hairs? I can haz goldun tickit?

Okay. Time to get back to work. I've got writing and "real work" to do and little time in which to do it. I'll be back tomorrow for more B.E.D.F.A.Y.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 6. On the Road Again

I'm back in Lynchburg this week for work. Seven hours in the car went by a lot faster than I thought they would. We had some good times and hit some rough patches (We wanted Taco Bell for lunch and discussed getting off at a certain exit because we couldn't remember if the KFC on the sign was actually a Taco Bell/KFC. As we passed the exit, Brendan pointed out that it was one. The next exit, the same thing happened. A few exits later, there was another KFC, which I was almost certain was not also a Taco Bell. As we passed the exit, Brendan said, "You just passed another one." I asked, "Are you serious?" Brendan: "No! Hahahahahahaha!" Me, irate with hunger and having-to-pee-ness: "That's not funny!" Brendan then decided it would be a good time to tickle my knee ... as a semi was passing. Me: "Stop it before you kill us all, dangit! What IS it about the car that makes you so frigging obnoxious?!?!"). All in all, though, a good trip.

We're staying with some good friends down here. It's so weird; we used to see these guys every week, and now we only see them a few times a year. Funny how things change (or in this case stay more or less the same in reverse. We used to see them all the time and family twice a year; now it's flopped). Looking forward to a two-hour delay tomorrow (even though everyone else gets the whole day off - with any luck they will have closed the University too). In the meantime, I've got to feed a little boy and get some shut eye in the event that the delay stands and I do have to go in to work tomorrow morning. Still playing with the characters. Not sure where to take them from where they are. Will keep you posted.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 5. Shape Up and Ship Out

Today's mission is going to be totally lost on those of you who can't see the actual book I've been using. There's a blank in the shape of a sailboat. My goal was to write until the whole thing was filled in. As is often the case because of my freakishly large handwriting, I ran out of space in record time (and in mid-sentence) and was glad for the unlimited space that enables me to carry on here. Bonnie Neubauer, the author of the book I've been using, warned me that at some point I would probably latch onto one of the ideas that flowed out of a prompt and would want to run with it instead of carrying on with daily 10-minute exercises. I don't know if it was the power of suggestion or the natural progression of things, but I think that time has already come. I may take a break from the prompts for a while and work with this, but know that if I do, I will continue to blog/write daily because ultimately, that was the goal (sort of like Maureen Johnson's BEDA - Blog Every Day April - except instead of being 30 days long, it's going to hopefully be 365).

At first, I had every intention of posting a short story tonight, but it has gotten longer and more complex as I have played with it, developing a subplot and back story, and because it is far from finished or polished, and I actually have some attachment to the piece, I'm not quite ready to show it to the world just yet. It has no title; I have no idea how it's going to end; I haven't had a chance to do any fact-checks or background research to make sure it's accurate; I just know that I am kind of a little bit in love with the characters I just created, and I don't really want to go shoving them prematurely out into the wide open meadow that is the interwebs, like Bambi's mom on the first day of doe. I want to let them grow, mature, and develop naturally; I want to work out the kinks and turn this into something I can be truly proud of before setting it loose for your critique and/or enjoyment. For now, all I can tell you is this: I thought I was writing a brief, cheesy, Harlequin romance scene, and it has blossomed into something far sweeter and more romantic than some smutty Danielle Steele rip-off. So, I'm logging off for now, but not quitting writing. I'll keep you posted as things progress.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 4. Terrifically, Terribly, Two

Today's mission is another easy one for me in particular. Fill out a survey of biographic/demographic information and write as a two-year-old. Seeing as I have one of those, I imagine getting inside the head of one shouldn't be too difficult.

Being Two is Terrible

Here I am, stuck in my crib, listening to everyone else have fun. Hey look! There was a coloring book under my blanket! Now if I can just grab those crayons right there on the floor... reach far... reach far... nope. Can't get them. What if I try yelling? "Mommy! Moooooommmyyyyyyyyy!" Hmph. Of course. The old standby: "It's bedtime; go to sleep." I don't understand. If it's bedtime, why is there so much noise out there? I can hear Mommy and Daddy and Aunt Wendy and Uncle Joe talking and laughing. They're playing with bells and balloons; I just know it. What else could that "pop" have been, or those clinking, clanking noises? They are having a party, and I want to go too. Mommy makes a big deal whenever I pee in the potty; maybe if I tell her I need to go, she'll let me get up and see what's going on. "Moooommmy! Mommy, I have to go potty!!!" Yup. That did it. Here she comes, practically running. Oh! I see the hall light come on... she's there in the doorway! "Hi, Mommy! I have to go potty." Yep. She's buying it. Jeez, lady! Be careful! I know you love it when I pee in the potty but if you pick me up like a sack of potatoes at lightning speed, I'm bound to go in the diaper instead! Now she's going to be annoyed because she'll think I was lying. Okay - I sort of was, but I could have gone in the potty until now. Now she probably won't take me downstairs, and I'll just get a spanking and sent back to bed instead of getting to go to the party. *Sigh* I never get to do any of the fun stuff. Being two stinks.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 3. Far, Far, Favre

Today's mission: Think of someone who annoys the living crap out of you and send them anywhere in the world. Easiest mission ever. Because I can't think of anyone who drives me as crazy as Brett Favre (or Brent Farve as we affectionately call him in this house), and where better to send Brett "I used to like Green" Fav-rey than to play for the team with the worst record in the NFL for the past two years, the team with no hope of going to the Superbowl, possibly ever, Detroit?

Dear Brent...

The post card arrived today. Seems that Favre is enjoying Detroit, oddly enough. He's delusional as always, claiming he loves a good challenge and is looking forward to going fourteen and two with an undefeated in-division record. That way he can spite both teams that "ousted" him. Because he's still so young and spry and has so much left to give to a team that it's just ridiculous that they might want to finally play one of the second string guys they've been benching for six years. A-hole. He says he's confident that he can finally take the Lions to their first Superbowl in franchise history. He's thinking of buying a Chevy, he has tickets for Alice Cooper's farewell tour next month, he's rented Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2. He says he's really enjoying participating in all of the local culture, really drinking it all in. You wanna participate in the culture, old man? Why don't you go join a break-dancing competition? What's that? You might break a hip? And Jim Schwartz, acutely aware of that fact, has restricted you from participating in two-a-days, taking the stairs, and carrying Deanna's purse? You should have jumped the shark, buddy. You should have taken your thirteen and three '07 season with Green Bay, packed it up, saved yourself a ton of embarrassment (the entire Jets debacle and the painful humiliation that was the '09 NFC Championship), and retired like the broken down old queen that you are.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 2. You Say You Want a Resolution

"So this is the New Year,
and I have no resolutions,
for self-assigned penance,
for problems with easy solutions."
-Death Cab for Cutie, "The New Year"

Today's writing prompt concerns New Year's resolutions. Easy enough. Ready, set, go.

This New Year, I Resolve to Make No Resolutions

New Year's resolutions make me nervous. So much pressure. So many expectations. So many chances to fail miserably. I don't ever seem to succeed at a single one. When you start in January, you're always excited and chomping at the bit, being extra-diligent, making sure you're doing every single asinine thing on your list: exercising, reading more, eating healthier, spending more time with your family, spending less money. By Groundhog Day, you're lucky if you're even sporadically doing even one of the stupid things from your list. All they do is breed guilt and/or self-deception. You fail, and to avoid feeling bad, you tell yourself, "Being healthy is really overrated. Ulcerative colitis won't be so bad. I don't think I really need that much fiber anyway, and besides, I look like a total dork in bike shorts. No need to subject a whole gym full of people to that sight..." The list goes on and on, excuse after excuse, and you feel a little guilty until the Superbowl, but by the time Valentine's Day rolls around, you forget all about your shallow resolutions until December when you take inventory of your life for the year and feel like crap for not achieving any of your goals, so you ultimately make (and subsequently break) the same one the following year. What's the point?

In actuality, I did make resolutions this year. Loads of them. Eating healthier. More family time. Working out at least twice a week. Date night at least once a month. So much money in savings, so much debt paid off. Writing a personal, handwritten note to at least one person each week... I have already failed at most of them. I'm going running as soon as B gets home this afternoon. Maybe if I say it in a public forum I'll be more apt to do it. Maybe forcing myself to be disciplined in writing will help me to cultivate discipline in other areas of my life. A girl can dream, can't she?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 1. The Official Beginning

We're going to let yesterday's lapse slide because it was the first day, and at least I wrote an introduction. Besides that, by the time I finished my "real" work and had time to write something, it was 1:30 in the morning, which was technically not the same day anymore anyway, and with a newborn and an active two-year-old (everyone I know says that - "active toddler" - I ask you, is there any other kind?)... okay. I'm just making excuses and will shut up now. Here we go.

Today, we have a book review portion as well as original writing. While rocking Julian to sleep over the weekend, I read him Ayn Rand's Anthem (because every four-month-old is interested in opportunism and dystopian societies).

Book: Anthem by Ayn Rand

General thoughts: Excellent book. With my Libertarian affiliation (let the hostages go, put down the Constitution, and back away, Mr. Obama), I can't help but love Ayn Rand, even if she was a little crazy. Statistically speaking, I probably just alienated about 4/5 of my readership. Let's try to look past political leanings and all remain friends, eh? Moving on...
I loved the exploits of Equality 7-2521, even if the "allegory" was less-than-subtle (so much so that I question the use of the word allegory). It was fantastically creepy in a "my life is slowly deteriorating into The Giver" kind of way. I tend to read Rand and think, "If she wasn't a vehement atheist, I'd swear she was a prophetess." I don't think we're anywhere close to a society without I, without ego, but some of the content hit really close to home, especially the parts where Equality 7-2521 is chastised for being better than the other kids in school. "It is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them" (p. 21) really sounds to me like the basic premise of No Child Left Behind. Aim for status quo, not excellence.

Favorite part: I have to say, I love the part where Liberty 5-3000 is trying to explain to Equality 7-2521 that she loves him. "'We love you.' But then they frowned and shook their head and looked at us helplessly. 'No,' they whispered,'that is not what we wished to say. [...] We are one ... alone ... and only ... and we love you who are one ... alone ... and only'" (pp. 86-87) The profound difficulty she struggled through to express herself made her statement so much more romantic. It melted my heart on the spot. Still kind of brings tears to my eyes.

Criticism: The allegory was so obvious it could barely be called allegory. Basically, this is Atlas Shrugged for Dummies. In Atlas, she showed you where the world is headed. In Anthem, she sort of pummels you in the head with it, but not unpleasantly.

Long story short: It's something like 85 pages long. Can you really regret reading something so short? Even people who disagree with her viewpoint can at least appreciate the language itself. It's fascinating to see things from the perspective of someone who doesn't even realize (at first) that he is an individual.

On to the "fun" stuff! Unless you're me and more used to expository writing than fiction... still, pressing on!


Sometimes I feel just like a gerbil, running around and around on his wheel! Do you guys ever feel that way? You do, right? Our society is so "busy," but none of us are ever really doing anything. My roommate's always like, "I'm so busy this week! Work is just crazy, man! It's just crazy!" but then he spends, like, 17 hours a day on Twitter. Clearly you're not busy enough, Drew; you just posted a series of six tweets critiquing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's performance as Riddick... even though Vin Diesel played the part and all seventeen people who saw that movie thought it sucked balls. I wouldn't call that "busy." Now get off the couch, put on some pants, and wash the dishes. During one of my 36 trips to facebook on my office computer, I complained in my status that I'm swamped with paperwork... that is ultimately meaningless and will be shredded in July to make room for more meaningless paperwork that will be shredded in October. It's a never-ending cycle. We're all just little gerbils running around in our plastic ball thingies... Better a gerbil than a hamster, I suppose. Did you know that hamsters and gerbils are totally different? A lot of people think they're more or less the same, but they're actually quite different. My sister had a hamster. It was fat and disgusting and smelly, like our Grandpa Lou (he had a sensitive digestive tract and suffered from terrible flatulence - the hamster, I mean). Seriously, though, it's amazing how

Oh forget it; I'll never be any good at stand up. That's not even funny; it's complete nonsense. No one wants to hear about hamster farts at the Yukkity-Yuk. I'm going to be booed off the stage and have to stay at this dead-end telemarketing job until I die. I wonder if Drew made enough ramen for both of us...

Okay. That was crap... but you have to start somewhere, and apparently, that's where I am starting. I have a hard time just coming up with a plot off the top of my head, so expect more character sketches like this until I figure out how to properly utilize Freitag's Triangle on the fly. At least I wrote SOMETHING. See you guys tomorrow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Consistent Blogging: Ur Doin' It Wrong.

I like to say that in a perfect world, I would quit my job and be a professional blogger. I don't know what the pay scale is (but I strongly suspect it's pro bono work). I don't know if anyone would actually read what I wrote. I do know that I love pop culture and in real life, I have a habit of talking incessantly about People Magazine and Twilight and VH1's "I Love the..." series and what new movies look awesome and what new movies look crap and who's dating who... but does the world really need another one of those blogs? I submit that it does not. Especially because I already read about three of them, and I would mostly just be copying what they said with less amusing verbiage. I could write about my job, but no one would read it, not even my mom, because frankly, while I enjoy my job, most people would find it incredibly tedious and boring. Who cares about comma splices and APA formatting as much as I do? A friend of mine said, "You could totally be a professional blogger. All you need to do is get a copy of 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' by Julia Child ..." but we all know that's already been done. The truth is, I want to be a writer, but I often feel like I have nothing of worth to say. I worry about incriminating people if I tell some of the funny stories about things that happen in my life. I worry about upsetting people who might read what I would write about them and be offended, even though I might mean well. So, like a deer in the headlights, I freeze up. And I end up going through phases of six weeks or four months or over a year where I don't write at all because I don't think I'm funny enough or I don't have the time or I don't know what people will think.

That ends now.

I'm not Julie Whats-her-face. I'm not going to master French cooking. Heck, I'm still struggling through learning the art of cooking things that can't be boiled in a bag or microwaved. A lot of nights, I'll admit it, we have toaster waffles and fried eggs for dinner because I don't have the foresight or culinary skills to fix much else on a whim. We eat tacos a lot. I might make meatloaf or salmon if I'm feeling particularly spunky. Tonight's menu consists of chipotle-rubbed chicken and roasted potatoes, and I feel like there ought to be some special occasion that calls for something so "fancy." Long story short, I won't bore you with tale after tale of me breaking down in tears over fallen souffle's and demolishing our already-strapped budget with foreign ingredients and setting our kitchen on fire twice a week. What I will bore you with are tales about how hard coming up with a denouement can be and what a challenge finding time to write is when you have a full time job, two kids, and laundry mountain.

Some people might not consider Maureen Johnson a wise woman because she loves to be silly, but the fact of the matter is, underneath all of her crazy exterior, she gives a lot of great advice, and these are some of the most important things I have learned from her:

1. If you want to be a writer, you need to read as much as you can.
2. If you really want to be a writer, you need to write, even when you don't feel like it, even when you "don't have the time," even when you think you have nothing to say.
3. When you first start to write, it will be crap. Only a real writer will keep wading through the crap until things get good.

Thus, I am starting a bit of "Julie and Julia"-style quest of my own. I have been wanting for some time to keep a book journal. You know, where you write down the title of the book you just finished and you write your general thoughts on it. I've really wanted to do it for ridiculous reasons (mainly, that I was a grade grubber in high school and college, and I want to see how many books I can and/or do read in one year just to be pleased with myself at how big the number is - and try to make it higher with every subsequent year). The other thing I have been wanting to do for some time is creative writing. I got a book for my birthday back in 2006, I think, called "The Write-Brain Workbook." The whole thing is filled with creative writing exercises, and the point of it is to create a habit of leisure writing (if they have leisure reading, why not leisure writing too?) by writing a short piece based on a prompt every single day for one year.

Here is my plan:

1. To read as much as I can and fill you all (haha - "you all," she said, as if anyone, even her mother, were reading this) in on what each book is like.
2. To finish one creative writing prompt every day for a year.

Why? Because I feel like I don't make any time for me to do the things I really want to do. Because I watch too much tv and would rather feed my brain than kill it with more mindless crap. Because (okay, maybe in at least one small way I am like Julie Whats-her-face - not remembering her last name is going to drive me nuts... *goes to Google* .... *comes back* ... Powell. Julie Powell. I feel better now) I rarely if ever finish anything, and I am tired of that feeling and of people asking my why I don't write anymore. So, here we go. Later today (because I really need to be doing work right now), I will post on the book I most recently finished, and I will add some sort of narrative. I know all none of you are waiting with bated breath.