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What’s the point? November 9, 2012

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 1:05 am
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I don’t think she has very much fun, and what’s the point in being that clean if it means you never get to have any fun? (from Ellray Jakes is NOT a chicken! by Sally Warner)

I have always said the best way to get my house clean is to invite people over. If I know someone is coming, historically, I clean in a frenzy and make it perfect because I want people to believe I am some sort of superior housekeeper and that it always looks like this. And, for a long time, I went around feeling somewhat inadequate in the housekeeping department because every house I went to was spotless and I believed these houses remained in a permanent state of cleanliness that I had been woefully unable to achieve in my own. Not so, reader. Not so.

About a year ago, a friend invited my son and me to her house for a play date and when we got there I was struck by how messy her house was. I don’t mean that to sound rude. When I say it was messy, I mean that there were scattered toys, junk mail was on the table in a careless heap, dishes were in and around the sink, and I could tell the counter top had not been freshly wiped. When I say it was messy, I mean that it was exactly like my  house most of the time. It was normal. It was just their home the way they actually live in it. I couldn’t fathom the kind of confidence she must have had, to be able to invite people over in such a relaxed way, with no fresh smell of Lemon Clorox greeting friends at the door. When I got home I just felt so blessedly normal.

So I don’t clean my house for play dates anymore either. And, as a result, I have people over a lot more. Which means I have more fun. I no longer see the state of my home as a barrier to hospitality. You know what? We have a messy desk. There is pureed pumpkin stuck to the kitchen floor. There are whisker hairs on the bathroom sink and I can see a sock peeking out from under a toy peeking out from under the couch. It is what it is and what it is, is normal. I bet you have a junk mail pile too. So why stuff it in a drawer or cabinet before I come over? So I will think you are the type of magical person who has no paper pile? I am not relaxed around those magical people. I am relaxed around people who make me feel normal.

I worked a charity tour of homes once when I was in high school and the house I was helping give tours in was one of those that you can very briefly describe and everyone in town knows which house it is. (Oh, the big stone house on Bennett that always has a limo out front? I know that house!) It literally had an elevator in it. And one of the bedrooms had leopard print carpet. One of the bathrooms had a mural of the home owner painted on the tile. One of the bedrooms had a ceiling raised several feet to accommodate a piece of furniture. Anyway. It was that kind of house. Just before the tour, the home owner (as gorgeous and strange as her house) showed me around and gave me the spiel. When we entered one of the bathrooms, she said, “Ooops! I forgot to move these!” and hid the toothbrushes in a cabinet. I thought that was so funny–to hide your toothbrushes–to make it look like a house in a magazine spread that no one really lives in. And the truth is, I have tried and tried to imagine someone relaxing there and I can’t. It’s just too perfect.

Do I want to create an environment that people want to tour and photograph or one where people want to live and breathe and have a good time? Well, I might put the gnarly, twisted toothpaste tube in the bathroom cabinet, but our toothbrushes are out for the world to see.

 

 

You do or you don’t April 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 8:59 am
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“You either get hit by lightning, or you don’t,” whispered Hobson.

“If you can’t start a fire, you could freeze to death,” added Scooter. “If you do start a fire, you could burn to death.”

(from Alvin Ho: Allergic To Camping, Hiking, And Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look)

I am exactly the kind of person to worry about every possibility. If my husband stays up too late working, I worry that he’ll be an unsafe driver the next morning on the way to work and I’ll be left alone to raise our babies. If he doesn’t stay up late to finish a proposal in time for a deadline, I worry that he’ll somehow lose his job and we’ll end up penniless on welfare. If my left foot swells more than my right, I worry that I could have some sort of life-threatening blood clot in my leg. But if I go to the hospital in the evening to check on this, I worry that I will pay an extreme amount of money just to find out that it’s nothing. I have always been this way. I’ve actually gotten so much better.

But it’s helpful at times to laugh out loud at someone like Alvin Ho, someone like me. Because, really, there isn’t any sense in worrying everything to death. I can’t believe how much research went into our selection of car seat when I was pregnant with Benjamin. It seemed like the world’s most important dilemma–to make sure he had the seat that would keep him safe. But what keeps him safe from a tornado, a fire, a freak fall, an illness? At some point you have to let go. I can’t protect myself, my husband, and my children from every scenario. Why waste the days we have on worry? You either get struck by lightning or you don’t.

 

So lucky September 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 4:59 pm
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“You’re a fortunate guy. And you ought to be shouting, “How lucky am I!” (from Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss)

A week or so ago, Benjamin and I were headed home and I remember being in something of a hurry, though I can’t now remember why. We had to cross the train tracks and just as we approached them, the barriers came down indicating that a train was on its way. I rolled my eyes and craned my neck, trying to see how long this inconvenient train was going to be. Just as I was wondering why a train always seems to come just when I’m in a rush, the offending locomotive came blasting down the tracks in front of us, whistle blowing loudly. And that’s when the two-year-old boy in my back seat exclaimed, “Whoa! A train! We’re so lucky!!!”

 

Born that way September 14, 2011

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 8:22 am
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My mom is da mom. She never had another life, like my dad, who was probably secretly a gung fu action hero spymaster assassin before he was a dad. She was always a mom—she was practically born that way—but that’s okay. (from Alvin-Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and other Scary Things by Lenore Look)

First of all, if you want a good laugh, you should pick up one of Lenore Look’s Alvin-Ho books next time you visit the library. They are truly hilarious and I’ve heard from my teacher friends that the kids really like them too.

I thought of this quote on Monday morning at our first MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting of the year. We had our steering team indroduce themselves and share just a couple of things about themselves. I thought it was funny that not one person shared what she has her degree in or what she used to do before she was a mom. Each woman spoke about her children, her husband, her role in MOPS. One, a beautiful woman who I know to have an Ivy League education and a master’s degree told about her husband and two children and then said, “That’s pretty much my life.” Some people might find that sad, but I thought of little scared, second-grader Alvin-Ho and how it was a comfort to him to think his mom “never had another life.” He goes on to say, “She is really super-duper. She is not afraid of heights.” And he tells how his mom climbed a tree in no time flat to rescue him from the evil grip of the tree. I love that he just assumes she was practically born a mom. She may not have been a spy-master assassin, but she’s so good at being a mom, he can’t imagine her ever having done anything else. She’s mastered it in a way that must of taken her whole life.

 

A remarkable resemblance August 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 9:59 pm
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Mrs. Weasley was marching across the yard, scattering chickens, and for a short, plump, kind-faced woman, it was remarkable how much she looked like a saber-toothed tiger. (from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling)

 There must be some recessive gene that is somehow triggered by the behavior of your children that makes you uncannily like your parents. Because today, and I don’t know how it happened, I counted to three to make my child obey. I doubt this counting tactic needs explaining–I think we all remember our parents employing the method. But I thought they had something in mind, some consequence if you got to three. When I did it, I had nothing in mind. It just flew out of my mouth in the same tone and with the same seriousness behind the eyes in which both of my parents were experts. I said, “One….” and thought, Oh my gosh, he has no idea that something is supposed to happen when I get to three! What do I do?”

Then, for some unknown reason, I said, “Two….”

And. It. Worked.

No one could be more astonished than I was when he hastily obeyed. I still don’t really know what I would have done after “three,” other than physically remove him from under the computer. (That was the problem, by the way. He was trying to play with the power strip under the computer desk.) But I’m not totally convinced it was the counting that did it. I think it was the look.

Like a saber-toothed tiger.

 

A little girl August 2, 2011

Laura knew then that she was not a little girl any more. Now she was alone; she must take care of herself. When you must do that, then you do it and you are grown up. (from By The Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

I just had one of those pretty humbling moments where I am forced to question my own grown-up status. Both my two-year-old son and my one-year-old nephew are snoozing gently when the smoke detector in the hall directly between their rooms starts angrily beeping every ten minutes to warn me that the batteries are dying. That’s when I realize I have never, in seven years that I’ve lived here, touched that smoke detector. I realize I have no idea how the thing works or how to shut it off if it really gets going. The beeping speeds to every five minutes, then even less frequently than that. I am terrified this will wake the children on a day when I desperately need them to finish their naps. The door to my room, where my nephew sleeps, is wide open and feet from the offending contraption (the air conditioner does not work in that room and it is roughly 105 degrees today in West Texas–the door must stay open!). As I look at this device from the kitchen chair I am standing on, I can hardly believe I am 28 years old, married, with a toddler, the coordinator of a Mothers of Preschoolers group and I have never touched a smoke detector in life. My parents changed it at their house. Then I got married and my husband tests and changes it. I figured out how to remove the battery because, after all, it isn’t complicated and I’m a reasonably intelligent woman. But I am afraid to put the new battery in because I don’t know if there is some sort of resetting I’m supposed to do and if it might result in more beeping. Truly the beeping is very loud. So if the hallway spontaneously combusts into flames, I’ll just have to rely on my own nose to detect the danger until the children wake up and have their diapers changed and their snacks.

This reminds me, painfully, of the time in high school when I told my dad my car was out of gas and he simply handed me a twenty. “Um, dad, I don’t even know how to pump gas,” I said. I was secretly hoping he would continue to do this for me until I got married and then I would have a husband to do it, the way my grandmother lived her entire life without every pumping a tank of gas. She had a master’s degree and worked as a school principal, but never once pumped a tank of gas. Incredible. Enviable. But even she changed out the batteries of her smoke detectors regularly! My dad did, by the way, take me to the gas station that day and force me to fill my own tank. Then he showed me how to check the oil in my car and informed me that I was to do this at least once a month. How did such an obviously conscientious father fail to make me take care of the hallway smoke detector?

Oh, well. I guess I’ll confess this remaining vestige of helpless child mentality to my husband tonight (you know, after I speak to a group of peers on the subject of couponing and budgeting as if I am a competent and reliable source) and ask him to show me exactly how the device works and how to reset it. Like a grown-up.

 

Thank goodness November 28, 2010

Filed under: Picture Books — Kristi @ 8:38 pm
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Thank goodness for all of the things you are not!

Thank goodness you’re not something someone forgot,

and left all alone in some punkerish place

like a rusty tin coat hanger hanging in space. (from Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss)

This is my belated Thanksgiving post. I didn’t want you to think I ignored Thanksgiving–I love Thanksgiving and would never ignore it. I was just enjoying the day itself so much that I didn’t turn on the computer to post a quote. This year it seems like I keep hearing about people who are, in the words of Dr. Seuss, “so much-much, so muchly much-much more unlucky” than me. It has come home to me just how many things I have to be thankful for. I am grateful for the reminders.

This morning, I had an incredibly embarrassing moment in church when my child ran from me across the back of the sanctuary, down an aisle, and straight to the front where the preacher was preaching. We don’t have carpet in our church, so the whole time I was chasing him I was painfully aware of the sound of my high-heeled shoes click-click-clicking and echoing around the room. I was also painfully aware of the giggling congregation as my husband intercepted the runaway on the other side of the front row. But, as I was carrying him out the back door and trying to walk on the tip toes of high heels to minimize the sound, I just kept thinking that I’d rather be in this situation than a lot of others. I’d rather be chasing my healthy, rambunctious boy through a church in front of everybody than holding his hand in a hospital room or watching our house burn down, to name just a few I’ve heard this week.

 

A very scary place November 26, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 9:10 pm
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The mall is a very scary place.

You know you’re in a mall when there’s no sun and no moon and no sky, but everything’s still brightly lit all the time. (from Alvin Ho: Allergic To Birthday Parties, Science Projects, And Other Man-Made Catastrophes by Lenore Look)

I’ve been saving this quote for Black Friday. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday–I’ll be sure to post an extra quote over the weekend to make up for not posting on the holiday. I had a lovely time with my family and getting online never entered my mind yesterday. This morning, my mom and I got up dark and early to shop the sales. It was fun, successful, and a little scary at points. I haven’t done Black Friday in three years so it was fun to go with mom again. We were pretty relaxed, got the things that were on our list, drank some hot chocolate, sat for an inordinately long time in the Sharper Image shiatsu massage chair at BedBath&Beyond, and then headed home to pick up my toddler and decorate mom’s house for Christmas. Most of the other shoppers I saw today were just as relaxed as we were, just enjoying the day. Some weren’t. That’s when I remembered Alvin Ho and his feelings about shopping malls and inwardly chuckled.

And now I’m going to bed–last time I ran this long on this little sleep was when Benjamin was under two-months-old I’m sure. Goodnight.

 

Secret Code November 23, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 11:20 pm
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“It’s a secret code,” said Calvin. “Girls are not like boys. If a boy wants to kill you, he says, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ If a girl wants to kill you, she says, ‘We need to talk.’ That’s the code.” (from Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-Made Catastrophes by Lenore Look)

 

Getting published is like chasing goats… November 9, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books,Classics — Kristi @ 11:11 pm
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She would not even face the thought that presently she would have to go out in front of everybody and dance; even thinking of it made her inside feel as though she had swallowed an ice too quickly. (from Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield)

I have avoided “going out in front of everybody and dancing” pretty much all my life. And I don’t just mean actual dancing, although I have been known to excuse myself from that plenty of times as well. I mean just performing in general, putting myself out there for any and all to see, drawing attention to myself in any way. The feeling of swallowing ice too quickly captures the cold fear in a way that makes me feel it just to read it. What a great phrase!

I am learning, through writers’ conferences, books, blogs, etc. that becoming a published author requires a good deal of putting oneself out there. Oh, my. A few years ago, an elementary school I worked for put on a stunt to encourage reading among the children. The children read books and then take short tests over the content (to prove they’ve read them) and get points awarded per book read. At the end of the school year there is some type of award for the child with the most points, the top reader. This particular year, the faculty calculated the points and narrowed the results down to the top ten readers in the school. The top ten were then brought out in front of the whole school and released into a pen full of baby goats. The children chased down the goats as the crowd cheered and when they caught one, took a ribbon off of its neck with an envelope revealing their prize amount. I have never been more baffled.

I just kept thinking, as a person who surely would have been in the top ten readers of my own elementary school as a child, I would have rather died than chase down a goat in front of the whole school! But it seems that getting published is a lot like that: an introverted reader type is required to chase down a goat and wrestle a ribbon off of its neck. The envelope she wrestles off the goat may contain a rejection letter. Then she must chase down the next goat in the pen and so on until finally her hard work is rewarded. There is a certain degree of self-promotion involved in the process that is extremely unsettling to me.

All of this to say, next Monday I will put myself out there in a big way by inviting about fifty teachers to read three of my picture book manuscripts and critique them. Even thinking of it makes my inside feel as though I have swallowed ice too quickly. It is almost as horrifying as dancing in public, or chasing a goat in front of five hundred peers. Almost. Think of me, and maybe offer me a hot chocolate if you see me that day.