Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dear Lull

Dear Lull,

No so much a calm and soothing send to sleep, but a temporary period of inactivity: you are what my head is currently muddling through--a pile of deep, plowed snow, taunting me yet keeping me barricaded.

So, I'm sitting here, feeling restless and out of sorts.  We had a snowstorm today, and school was dismissed early.  When snow begins to fall, it is beautiful for only a few moments, and then then reality sets in and one inevitably starts to think about the driving hassle, the road conditions, the traffic delays, and the danger of it all.  When the color of the bleak sky stares back at you in the same dreary hue as the snow blanketing the ground, the whole world just feels dull.  And lifeless.  And bleh.

Surely I'm not the only one whose mood is affected by Mother Nature's whim?!  January and February are no doubt my least favorite months of the year as far as temperature and season are involved.  There is a certain unyielding starkness that hollows out my core.  In the dead of winter, nothing in the great outdoors is lively, animated, or hopeful.  The shock of breathing in that dry, icy air chills the whole of my body, from nostrils to center. 

As such, I have been going through a sort of creativity lull.  I haven't had words to flood the screen here.  I haven't been participating in writing-prompts or photo challenges.  I have shockingly few pictures captured on my phone <gasp>.  I have felt so void of motivation these days that I don't even know how to get rolling again.  Inspiration has gone on vacation without me--probably to warmer corners of earth.  I feel every ounce of what imagination I had before drain out before me, and I'm left with a sudden need for order and structure. 

Since I started teaching Chinese School about a year ago, I have accumulated a lot of hands-on and crafty materials.  Each week, new things get added to my pile of teaching supplies.  In the corner of our formal dining room (which gets used maybe five times a year, if that), my boxes of "stuff" began to grow.  They started to take a life form of their own, creeping from one corner to another, sprouting like vines.  I knew I had to do something about this spontaneous generation of preschool materials, because I was seeing smaller and smaller visible areas on my dining room table and floor. 

And in the midst of this dreadful, bland season, so I did.  Dear Husband cleared an old kitchen metal rack from the basement and moved it into a walk-in closet outside the kiddos' bedrooms.  It fit perfectly in its space.  I sorted and organized all my schtuff by categories and into boxes: craft materials box, learning stations materials box, general supplies box, craft samples box, a books crate, and two large bags of stuffed animals.  And they all fit beautifully on my rack in the closet. 

I can actually find things now without having to unearth three overfilled boxes full of yarn, paper plates, paint, foam stickers, shakers, bells, pom poms, pipe cleaners, and clothe pins.  I can see what materials I have, need to purchase, and can use for future lessons.  Why on earth didn't I do this earlier?  Maybe it was because I was running amuck with too much inspiration and creativity to give any sort of thought to building a more resourceful space for my things and my mind.  But now that I have order and structure in this area of my life, I know good ideas will come.  I can see again: the possible activities to create with things I didn't think I had; I can plan again: the various topics to be covered aligned with their corresponding crafts and games.  The light just turned on, and I can see so much better now.

Consequently, I think I have just discovered an interesting relationship between my states of being creative and organized: they are inversely proportional to one another.  The more inspired I am with writing or other hobbies, the less I am inclined to take care of the orderly things in life.  But in the absence of inspiration, my mind seeks to see things in a more methodical, systematic way.  Perhaps it is this particular cycle of creativity and structure that keeps me in check so I won't fall into the deep end of either pool?

Seeing that there's going to be a few more weeks of this frigid, cold weather, I should really take advantage of being resourceful in purging and organizing the closets and cabinets in my home (it's been too long).  So much can be tossed and reorganized--I just need a kick in the rear to wake up and get the work done. 

But come spring, when my tulips erupt from the earth and rose bushes turn from their sorry-looking state (see picture above) into full, luscious blooms, my mind will probably get busy again, as will my snappy-click-y finger.

I keep telling myself, it's just a matter of time.  

So, Dear Lull, I may have to treat you as a case of pseudo-hibernation.  I'll use this time to line my ducks in a row so that great things can follow when our world comes alive again.  Until then, I have a date with all the shelves behind doors inside my home--lucky me.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Dear Time Bottles

Dear Time Bottles,

As a child, I've often romanticized the thought of finding one of you--mysterious and alone--drifting onto a sandy shore.  I would have loved to find a message or an artifact to keep and to be able to imagine about the sender and his or her intent.  Alas, you only came to life in my fictional world of books and movies.

Now, I no longer wish for scribbles of a stranger inside a dirty bottle.  Instead, I long for life's Magical Moments to puff out from inside a bottle when I reach for one, as easily as reaching for my favorite bottle of nail lacquer.  I want the possibility of bottling up those special moments or things or feelings or sentiments for later use, cuz goodness knows we aren't able to hit "rewind" on Time's One-Way Street or conjure up certain emotions at the ring of a bell or blow of a whistle.  So here is my #TopTen list of Time Bottles I would like to make for later use or enjoyment:

10.  Cleaning Energy.  Remember that bottle of New Year Energy I made from my strange burst of cleaning frenzy from the second day of the new year?  Well, I seem to have misplaced it already.  I should have made 52 Cleaning Bottles and kept them in a well-lit, easy-to-find place.  (Although I think this fight is against my own lazy-ass subconscious here.)  #It'sOnlyFebruaryHelpMe

9.  Winter Snowflakes.  As I sit here in the gray bleakness of winter watching snow fall outside the window onto already dirtied snow, there is nothing I'd want more than the arrival of spring and warmer weather.  But I know that these beautiful snowflakes would always be welcomed inside a little bottle in the dead heat of summer.  How nice it would be to uncork a Snowflake Bottle and shake out a little sprinkle of snowflakes here and there in 90 degree weather?  It would be my own travel-air-conditioner!  I know... #TheGrassIsAlwaysGreener

8.  Summer Sand.  By the same token, some Summer Sand would be nice for about now.  I actually have such a Sand-and-Seashells Bottle from last summer's beach trip, but seeing it only makes me miss the sun, wind, and water even more.  I guess I'm a warm-weather person after all, so I should just stare at a bottle of sunscreen to deter my longing for the summer outdoors instead.  #Sand+Sunscreen=Yuck

7.  A Full Night's Sleep.  I must admit that I actually experience the wondrous feeling of good sleep nowadays, even if they are far and few between.  Those early years of child-rearing were particularly hard since the popular parenting term "sleeping through the night" was completely nonexistent in my life until recently.  Parents-to-be, take note: store more Sleep Bottles than you ever think you'll need.  Then double that--but you will still run out.  (I'm currently working on bottling cases for when the kiddos ask for late curfews in the years to come.)  #LearningFromMyMistake

6.  Kiddos Belly Laughs.  You know those baby laughs that tickle your heart by the earful?  The ones you can recreate by burying your nose in baby bellies and delivering the loudest of zerberts?  Those high-pitched, staccato hiccup-y laughs that you never tire of experiencing?  The ones you wonder if they'll ever run out of breath laughing so hard?  Well, I'm just at the cusp of losing this reality, right about now.  There is something about the gaining of age and the natural inhibition of continued belly laughs.  They still do come along every now and then, but not as often as parents would like.  How awesome would these Belly Laugh Bottles be, on a rainy day, a sick day, or a need-a-pick-me-up day?  #LaughterMakesTheWorldGoRound

5.  Closing the Back Cover of a Book.  This exquisite feeling of accomplishment melds beautifully with the act of savoring the elements of a book just after having seen "the entire picture"--especially when it was a really good read.  It's the moment when one can revel in casting actors for the characters, fully place oneself in a character's shoes, or simply chew over the words and quotes and feel of the book at last.  It's when one fully internalizes thoughts about the read introspectively, privately, and freely.  Finish-a-Book Bottles store a phenomenal sensation, and you know exactly what I'm talking about, baby!  #BittersweetButSatisfying

4.  Falling in Love.  The unexpected heart flutters.  The delicious anticipation of seeing that special someone.  The organic rush of powerful emotions blinding all else.  The uncontrollable blushing and downward turn of the eyes.  The splendid and electric feel of holding hands for the very first time.  The feeling of a good unknown.  The moment when you know it's right.  Yeah, that feeling I haven't had since I was eighteen.  I'm on the other side of it now--still happy--and in a very comfortable place.  It's one of my life experiences that I cherish and would love to feel again every once in a while.  Falling-in-Love Bottles would be my only chance of experiencing such an old feeling.  Or I have to wait a while and live it vicariously when the kiddos #FallTrulyMadlyDeeply.

3.  Pregnancy.  I truly have bipolar views about this particular event(s) in my life.  Being pregnant is one of the most beautiful processes I have personally experienced.  To carry another life that you helped create--and feel its movement inside you--is an incredible journey, a tremendous blessing, and a terror in disguise.  Beyond the beautiful and amazing, it also does unimaginable things to your body: the pains, the discomforts, the associated medical conditions, the intrusions--not to mention the sacrifices.  That's why Pregnancy Bottles would be so awesome.  Get a little whiff when one feels all motherly and reproductive, and shove it all back in the bottle once the going gets tough.  But the sentiment of being pregnant is so special that I consider it a gift to feel--nowadays--#QuickeningInMyDreams.

2.  Writing Mojo.  Peaks and valleys--we all go through them.  Many lows don't bother me too much, but right now, if I have no writing mojo, my skirt is all in a bundle, I'm discombobutlated, whomperjawed, and just totally out of sorts.  I will mope for days.  I'm not very pleasant to be around--just ask Dear Husband.  He will definitely attest to my "unaffected" status.  A basement full of these Writing Mojo Bottles would surely be the Best. Gift. Ever.  #EveryWriter'sDream

1.  Acts of Kindness.  I'd like to think that we are all giving people in our own ways.  The gift of kindness is something we strive to teach our children, bestow on others, and keep the production flowing smoothly.  But in case of an assembly line jam, wouldn't it be nice to have an endless count of Kindness Bottles for everyone to use?  Because in giving to others, we give to ourselves.  Even a tiny act of kindness can be monumental to another.  It invariably makes the world a better place.  #TheGiftThatKeepsOnGiving

And there you have it, Dear Time Bottles.  These are my Bottles that are meaningful for me in my life.  I think I'll go on my merry way now dreaming about the production of these.  If people are still finding messages in bottles, surely a few of these will turn up for me, no?

What are some of your Time Bottles?


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dear Love-Is-Blind

Dear Love-Is-Blind,

You are a popular saying to describe boundless love--the kind that neither reason or logic can sway, but is always guided by feel instead of sight.  While this kind of love can be dreamy and romantic for young lovers, it can be a calamitous curse for old married couples.  Ahem.

Being that I am no longer young nor dreamy, I am fully aware that I belong in the practical and pragmatic "old married couple" group.  Which makes me feel rather sorry for Dear Husband, who must be so blinded by love that he still tolerates me and all my shenanigans.  There are many, and so I bring you my #TopTen list of things DH must endure--courtesy of moi. 

10.  Who stays mad after waking from a dream wherein DH did something ostensibly offensive?  I do.  Imagine his surprise waking up to an angry wife because of something he didn't actually do!  #ButTheDreamWasSoReal

9.  Who can go on and on spewing out Word Diarrhea about everything and anything under the sun because there is a pair of ears that has no choice but to will listen?  I can.  Imagine DH bracing himself for this sort of verbal abuse; I wouldn't be surprised if he practices selective hearing during these bouts of one-way conversations.  #WereYouListeningToMe

8.  Who can do no wrong in her children's eyes while they usually turn a deaf ear to their daddy?  I can.  Imagine him being treated like chopped liver by his little Pot O' Vinegar club members, while they only come to him to ask for toys, to blame for something they won't blame their mommy, and to make demands of various kinds.  #NoIDidNotBrainwashThem

7.  Who speaks in absolute terms (the "you always" and "I never"s), whether they are statements, questions, or <gasp> rhetorical questions?  I do.  Imagine his resignation at my verbiage of 100% certainty.  #BecauseIAmAlwaysRight

6.  Who has perfected her passive-aggressive demands to textbook-worthy examples ("I'm thirsty!" instead of "Can you please get me a drink?"; "I'm cold!" instead of "Can you please get me a sweater?")?  I have.  Imagine his eye-roll reluctant acceptance of my innocent exclamations.  #DontWannaSoundTooDemanding

5.  Who demands wishes her spouse to be psychic and able to read her mind?  (Wait, you've never heard of such a thing?  <Wheeze>.)  I do.  Imagine him racking his brains to come up with the correct answer so that he can stand for a treat.  Oh, sorry; I jest.  #DingDingDingRightAnswer

4.  Who never cooks spicy foods, ever, when her spouse is quite fond of it?  That would be I.  Imagine him taking out his pitiful little jar of spicy chili sauce to add to his foods, all by his own lonesome self.  #UmYourHotSauceIsExpired

3.  Who can scare the living daylights out of the driver--from the passenger seat--because she has driving anxieties (even when she's not driving)?  I can.  Imagine his cringe at deafening screams--so loud they can cause traffic accidents themselves--because, well, I'm a freak.  #BackseatDriverInThePassengerSeat

2.  Who apparently likes to ask her spouse trick questions?  (When I asked DH if he could possibly help me think of items for this very list, he answered, "There aren't ANY!" without missing half a beat.  He claims that he wasn't married yesterday.)  Apparently, I.  Imagine his defensive guard countering my innocent inquiry.  #JustWondering

Last, but not least...

1.  Who is put to complete shame when it comes to orderliness?  I am.  Our his and her closets would reveal our polar opposite tolerances for clutter: his is of showroom caliber, while mine should have a closed-door policy at all times.  Imagine his inaudible sighs when he actually goes into my closet to hang up pieces of clothing from the floor for me because he cannot stand seeing them all strewn about #HangsHeadInShame

As if you cannot tell already, DH is a saint.

So, Dear Love-Is-Blind, you must be a true saying if DH has lasted this long with me and my torturous tendencies.  Or perhaps I have managed to reduced DH's eyesight to near blindness with my tomfoolery over the years.  Or perhaps having the right chemistry allowed us to shape tolerance into compromise on our little life stage called Marriage.  Whatever the case it may be, I am blessed to have someone who loves me in spite of me.  And despite my craziness.  So it would only be appropriate, today, to give a shoutout to my brave and chivalrous DH who has had the patience to keep me around. 

Cuz he's too blind to show me the way out. 

Happy Valentine's Day, Honey!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dear Pot O' Vinegar

Dear Pot O' Vinegar,

While I've always known you as an expression in the Chinese language, I've just come to realize that your literal translation into English makes no sense.  Because I find that very interesting, I'd like to tell the story of my little Pot O' Vinegar.  Perhaps by the end of my story, it will be very apparent what you mean.

You see, I have a Pot O' Vinegar.

Every time I sit down on the sofa next to Dear Husband, my little Pot O' Vinegar immediately runs across the room and inserts himself between the two of us.  Then he proceeds to shower me with hugs while turning his backside to DH and pushing him as far away from me as possible with his rear end.

Every time I give DH a big hug within sight of my Pot O' Vinegar, we get a swarm of little bees two little peeps rushing to us screaming, "GROUP HUG!" because he has managed to train his big sister in this endeavor.  And then, there's the four of us, huddled in the middle of the room, like the petals of a rose bud pressed tightly together.  It's a strange sight, but a very common one at our home.

Yes, you guessed it.  My little Pot O' Vinegar is none other than my One and Only Dear Son.  He came into the world attached to me, and even though his daddy severed his umbilical cord that connected us, that connection still exists figuratively and implicitly.  It is without a doubt that I am the Apple of my DS' eyes, the North Star of his sky, and the Love of his so-far life.  And make no mistake that to him, DH is merely chopped liver.  (Poor Daddy.)

It's a good thing that DH doesn't take it personally, because he is a wonderful husband/dad with a big, loving heart understands the different roles that parents play in a young child's life.  DH and DS have a great bond over fun things like playing, buying toys, and the technological pleasures in life.  But when it comes to all the other important aspects of life, DS comes to me.  I am the boo-boo kisser, the feel-good hugger, the rule-maker, the advice-giver.  The same words coming out of DH's mouth won't matter to DS, but words from my mouth are Indelible Ink.  I don't know how DH manages to overlook that in-your-face distinction on DS' part, because I know I would feel hurt if I were he.  You see, until Dear Daughter was three-years-old, she preferred Daddy over me.  Whenever I hugged DH, she would push me away and take him for her own.  Yeah, that was pretty rough for me, as a mommy and an estrogen-driven person.  But once she went to preschool, somehow both Daddy and Mommy became equally loved.  Phew!

While I'd like to bask in this sweet, syrupy joy of overwhelming love from DS, I know the right thing to do is to gently teach him that it is okay to see Daddy as someone who also comforts and someone who also knows what's best and what's right.  And whether it's just a matter of time or developmental maturation, DS has come a long way in this regard.  Suffice it to say, DH often reminisces how it didn't matter to DS whether or not Daddy existed in his first year of life.  And now, we are definitely seeing the balance tip over from that vastly unequal height toward the middle, albeit that it is still a work in progress.  

Alas, it doesn't stop me from being mean teasing my little Pot O' Vinegar from time to time...

On a few occasions, I have waited until DS is in the shower to pull DH into the bathroom where, through the glass shower door, DS can see us in a full embrace.  The poor little guy.  He gets totally undone and shrieks on the top of his lungs to show his angst because he cannot join us for a group hug.

I.  Am.  So.  Mean.

The other day, I blew an air kiss to DH.  Muah.  He quickly returned one back.  Muah.  My Eager Beaver Pot O' Vinegar immediately launched his Only-For-Mommy Kiss into the air towards me.  Muah.  It was too funny not to turn this into a Tornado of Air Kisses wherein DS gets upset that I don't return his.  I blew another kiss to DH.  Muah.  He caught onto my devious plot right away.  Muah back.  DS flung his kiss to me faster than lightning.  A few rounds of this into "fast motion" sent me into hysterical laughter.  I ended up finally returning his air kiss and having to comfort DS because he was so out of sorts.  I had to explain that we were not laughing at him, but that we were laughing because he was too darned cute.

He didn't get it.

But in all seriousness, I did have conversations with him about the significance of a family that outwardly shows affection to one another.  I explained that children are usually happy to see their parents hug each other because the hugs show their love for one another.  I said that parents loving each other does not result in less love for their children, as he might think.  DS mostly seemed to understand the implications of our talk, but was not fully convinced yet, until I added a fact that spoke his language:

Me: Do you understand why it's a good thing for Mommy and Daddy to hug each other now?
DS (reluctantly): Yes.
Me: But do you know what else?
DS (still skeptical): What?
Me: I hug you a lot more than I hug Daddy!
DS (eyes light up): Really?
Me: Of course!  I hug and kiss you all the time!
DS (smiles with satisfaction): You really hug me more than you hug Daddy?
Me: Yes!
DS (fist pumps): YES!

So, Dear Pot O' Vinegar, in Chinese, you are 醋罈子, and I'm sure you've fully come across in meaning in my story.  Honestly, it's so endearing to have a child react that strongly to my every word, move, and thought.  And even DD--being older and wiser--finds DS' "green with envy" behavior extremely comical.  I know that as his mommy I must soak all this in now, as I would only be lucky enough to get a fraction of this sourness when he is older. 

But I can hope to look forward to a nicely aged balsamic vinegar in my Pot O' Vinegar--some years way down the line. 


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dear Head-Palm

Dear Head-Palm,

You seem to be my most used gesture of expression lately.  So much so that you'd think my palm's best buddy is my forehead.

Busy seems like the Word of the Year for me.  The New Year started off with relay illnesses in my family, followed by my emotionally-draning week-long jury duty and subsequent weeks of back-to-back subbing gigs.  Then this week arrived.  It's not over yet and I'm already exhausted and down with yet another cold. 

Two days ago, Dear Daughter had four events, all in a day, on top of school, and on a week day/night: early morning orchestra practice, after school spirit squad cheering for a home basketball game, violin lesson, and a district-wide orchestra concert at night.  Violin lesson got the boot for the first time this school year.  After I subbed for a full school day, I took Dear Son to his violin lesson while Dear Husband transported DD from cheering to concert.  After dinner, we got home that night just before 10 PM.  Yesterday, Dear Son had a school field trip downtown after AM kindergarten that lasted from noon until 6 PM.  I chaperoned after I subbed in the morning, while DH drove DD to her violin repertoire class.  After dinner, we got home at 8 PM. 

I hadn't touched my computer in almost 48 hours.  Am I setting the scene for excuses?  Well, let's rewind a little bit.

On Monday, as I watched DS walk down the driveway to the bus, I had the nagging feeling that I had forgotten to pack something in his backpack.  Sure enough, later that night, I realized that I had forgotten to turn in his field trip form (indicating child/chaperone attendance) so I had to email his teacher at about midnight.  I had also forgotten to return DS' Book Bag Books that are due every Monday.  And I hadn't turned in his monthly calendar homework since we just received the one for February, and I found December and January in his work pile. 

Uh-oh.  Three strikes on a Monday to start off the week.

I finally sat down and took inventory to see the big picture and to see what else I've missed. 

  • Homework.  So there's DS' monthly calendar homework due at the end of each month (we're two months behind).  Then there's his weekly homework packet due every Monday (so far so good on that one, miraculously).  And DD's daily homework on top of her weekly Social Studies or Science homework due every Wednesday (a couple misses here and there on those).  And both kiddos' Chinese homework due every Sunday (kind of can't goof that one up since I teach at the school, ahem).  
  • School Returns.  Next we have DS' Book Bag Books that are returned every Monday (red alert sounded off for the first time this week).  Plus DD's class newsletters that must be signed on Mondays and turned in on Tuesdays (couple of misses there; sometimes I sign it and put it in the "stay home" pile because my brain does not work before coffee, much).  The kiddos have school library books that are due every Tuesday--thank goodness they are on the same day (a couple of late returns there, but the school library is very forgiving--whew).
  • Library Books/Clubs (times two kiddos).  Then there are library books due at our local area library whenever and all the time because we go there far too often and borrow way too many books.  Let's just say the amount of late fees I pay to that library is a shameful pity.  This library also hosts Kids Reading Clubs, where parents log the books children read during a certain time period for games and prizes (we've yet to miss a deadline, but that's because I am the kiddos are motivated by the promise of rewards.) 
  • Miscellaneous (times two kiddos).  Of course, we have the occasional field trip permission slips and their option/choices of various trip aspects; sporadic fundraiser forms to fill out and return by so-and-so date; sometimes special school event participation form; or an intermittent "attach a check" for such-and-such fee form.  These are the forms that warrant a special drive to school on my part if I forget (which I've done).  Sigh.   
  • Reading Logs (times two kiddos). And, finally, the school has kicked off its annual Family Reading Program, where each child reads a certain number of minutes per day (depending on grade level), and logs the daily minutes read on a weekly sheet to be turned in of course on a new day on Thursdays.  (I'm two for two so far on that one; two down, two more to go.)  I have to be responsible enough so my kiddos can receive their weekly rewards, yo.

I feel like I am reminded everyday that I am getting closer and closer to being on the other side of The Hill.  I have become so forgetful that it actually worries me what might happen to my brain in a decade.  This morning I finished putting on my makeup just to realize that I had forgotten to put on foundation. 

Now that's a first. 

Of course, I had to remedy my forgetfulness.  Prior to this, I had one alarm on my phone for School Library Books Due on Tuesdays.  Yesterday, I put everything on my alarm and added loud audible ringtones.  Which means now I have an alarm every morning from Sunday to Thursday just for school-related reminders.  Overkill?  Well, I don't want to forget anything anymore.  I don't want to let Busy become an excuse and get in the way of doing my job as a parent.  I want to get it right. 

At least most of the time.  

So, Dear Head-Palm, am I glad that Parental Report Cards don't actually physically exist.  Because if they did, I would be receiving barely passing grades this term and reap the wrath of my kiddos.  Ah, the irony of that!  And I'm only touching on school-related forgetfulness in this post...  I haven't even begun to mention all the other idiotic foolish dodo-bird sorts of things I have forgotten to do.  Speaking of which, have I fed Tucker today?  Yesterday?  Lately?