Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Recap of My Brain

It's Tuesday at exactly 7:57 pm, and I am unreasonably tired. I usually don't feel like this until, oh - at least 8:14.
So here's what I'm doing.
On the ipod, I'm alternating between Switchfoot, Natasha Bedingfield, and Avalon's album of hymn remixes...and I'm listening obsessively to the podcasts from the Kindlings Muse, hosted by Dick Staub...
In addition to the usual Gilmore Girls and 24, I'm tivo-ing Gray's Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters, Veronica Mars, and Heroes. One day I will catch up.
I just finished reading A Song I Knew By Heart, by Bret Lott. His writing is breathtaking - it is literally so beautiful that it makes me cry. So I'm now reading Jewel, another of his novels. I'm working my way through Isaiah, as well, which is a book so threaded with rich language that it takes a while to soak it in. Nothing will ever be so amazing as the language of the King James Bible.
I'm working on several different writing projects - my novel, as always, and a short story for Faith in Fiction and Relief Journal's Daily Sacrament contest...both groups are in my links and worth taking a look at if you have interest in faith and the arts.
What else? Chocolate cake baking, finger painting, tower building, and in about two seconds - bath giving.
Goodnight, Moon.
(Yeah. Right. Like that's actually happening in the next four hours. I guess it's the hope that counts.)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Breath of Fresh Internet

I discovered some new websites that have already put some new spunk into my at home with the boys existence...they're so fun and informative that I have to share them. People, this first one is to me what Noggin is to Sean. The magazine and community for the new urban parent - www.babble.com. This has tons of links to entertaining blogs, cute baby stores, and good info, too - plus columns on everything from traveling with babies on band tours to breast feeding. This site makes me feel almost normal.
The second is www.kidscraftweekly.com... a crafty mom posts fun and, most importantly, easy crafts for young kids. These actually include pictures of her own kids making the project, which makes it much easier to accomplish. I'm telling you - I've made a list of craft supplies and am now salivating for pipe cleaners, glitter, and cardboard tubes.
And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go craft it up with toddlers.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Worth Much More than One Thousand

So Carrie got married on December 16th.

The entire weekend was a blast- we girls went out to dinner on the Thursday before (that's the picture above - she's in the center, as you can tell from the bride sash, and I'm next to her on the right) and we were all treated to an amazing dinner post-rehearsal on Friday night. As far as wedding weekends go - it was pretty perfect. Especially since the weekend coincided with my anniversary, which meant Neil and I had a kid-free stay in a pretty hotel in Wilmington to celebrate having made it through year number four. This year will be five, people - half a decade. Wow.
Anyway, Carrie looked like a princess and the wedding was gorgeous - all candle-lit and classically romantic. I was looking through some of the pictures she emailed me this week and decided to show off my best friend...here they are- the newly hitched Carrie and Josh.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Why Toddlers Cooperating Can Be Dangerous

Another kitchen disaster.
I was in our office/guest room/biggest tv in the world room this morning, working on the web-site for our business and chatting a bit with Carrie. This was post-breakfast, early morning playtime for the boys, which is usually a peaceful time. At last check, they were content with their puzzles in the middle of the living room and I had heard no alarming sounds...
And then.
Christian ran into the room with wide eyes and puckered lips - holding his hands out in front of him. Hands that were totally purple.
Two words. Grape. Jelly.
I washed his hands and sat him in his room while the bath water was running, as he was somehow sticky all over.
And I followed the trail of purple hand prints on the wall all the way to the small foyer, where I followed the purple foot prints to the kitchen where I discovered the squeezable grape jelly opened and spilled in a giant puddle of ooze.
Sean was still innocently playing in the living room, but I can only assume that he was employing his favorite new hobby - taking things out of the fridge - and had given the jelly to his brother. Who actually got the entire cap off of the bottle? No idea.
Apparently everything - and I mean everything - in my house needs child proof caps.
I mopped and re-mopped and mopped again. And still we have the stickiness.
What do I do? Keep my eyes on them EVERY second of EVERY hour of EVERY day?
Install booby traps in front of key areas?
Hire SuperNanny?
Demolish the house when they turn five and start all over?
Toddlerhood. The best reality show that isn't on television.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

To Defer the Implosion of the Earth

So as Sean has grown and acquired the ability to speak, he has developed some very particular habits. He passionately demands that these demands are met - and if not, he acts like I've grown five heads and told him that Blue is out of clues. I'm not sure how normal it is for a three year old to be so picky about things - but his father is sort of the same way, so maybe it's hereditary. I thought I'd let you into the world of keeping Sean un-hysterical...

When giving him anything, be it goldfish or pizza or whatever - he wants five. Five. No more, no less.

If he needs a paper towel, it must be torn cleanly from the roll. If it rips at all, it's declared "broken" and immediately is discarded by his disgusted self into the trash can.

When getting out of the bath, he must stand on the toilet as he is dried off. And as we leave the bathroom, with the towel around him and in my arms, we have to stop and look in the mirror.

After teeth are brushed, they MUST be called 'shiny'.

Ketchup must be served with any and all meat. It's more important than the actual meat itself.

If given a sippy cup, it must be placed on the dresser next to his castle. Otherwise, it will not be consumed.

The face will be kept clean at all times. If he thinks I have food on my face, he will point it out and tell me to get a napkin.

The world will NOT keep spinning if he gets any plate but the yellow one. With the proper spoon and fork, of course.

All toast and sandwiches are required to be made into "Triangles, please Mommy!!! Please!!! Triangles!!!!"

These are the biggest issues, but there are many things that he wants done in a certain way throughout the day. And certain things he won't have anything to do with - moving rides, the mechanical Chuckee Cheese creatures, puppets, people holding him in the air like an airplane - I'm wondering if he'll grow out of this or if he's just a definite type A personality. We'll see. Until then I'll just keep trying to help him keep his world in order.

Thursday Thirteen - random facts about me

Thirteen Things about Christie

1. One of my biggest flaws is procrastination.

2. I love chocolate covered strawberries. So. Much.

3. The last song I downloaded was Rainy Days and Mondays by the Carpenters.

4. The last show I watched on TV was Veronica Mars on Tuesday night.

5. I'm currently (re)reading an anthology of short stories from Iowa's Writing Workshop.

6. I wish it would snow a couple of feet, so that my kids could experience snowmen.

7. Since becoming a work-at-home mom, I have definitely solidified my addiction to a daily cup of coffee.

8. I have also solidified my addiction to using the Spray Anywhere by Clorox. It makes me feel like germs have limited chance of survival in my house.

9. I don't mind washing/drying clothes...or folding...it's getting them actually put away that drives me nuts.

10. I have terrible luck with pets - every pet I have ever had has tragically died...so there's a stray cat that has been living on my porch for months and months. I feed her, pet her, but I refuse to get attached. I call her Cat. I figure there are worse things than being neutrally named after the kitty in an Audrey Hepburn movie. Such as death, which I just feel sure would follow any sign on my part that I like her. So Cat she is and Cat she will remain. Besides, I once tried to tell Sean that her name was Scarlett O'Hara (because of her green eyes), he angrily corrected me. "No! That's Cat!" Why argue?

11. I like playing with Christian's trains probably just as much as he does.

12. I am a loyal Carolina Tarheel gal. We have an awesome team this year and I'm saying it right here, right now - we're headed for the championship.

13. I took piano lessons for years and years...I'm not that great, but I hope to teach the boys to play. Until next Thursday...

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. http://joelysueburkhart.com/blog/

2. http://www.patentprincess.com/

3. http://almostsomewhatpositive.blogspot.com/

4. http://www.tiggerprr.com/

5. http://jadesymb.livejournal.com/

6. http://its-a-raggedy-life.blogspot.com/


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Simile and Metaphor

A new story began twirling in my head yesterday...so my mind is in the land of Other. I jotted a few paragraphs down last night, but nothing substantial. I'm a bit frustrated, trying to figure out where these characters want to go, what they want to say. I'm sure we've all heard that the creative process is like giving birth; it is.
Typically, the process - at least for me - starts months before the story actually begins to take shape on paper. A certain quality of character might slide through my thoughts; a name, a career, a dream. I'll hear a song that sticks with me, a certain place may occupy a few minutes of my thinking time. A vague idea of plot may begin to simmer...but it takes a while for all of it to germinate, to come together in an "Oh! That's the story!" kind of revelation. It reminds me of those months before the first ultra sound....you know something's in there, but it doesn't hit you that the something is an actual baby until they rub you with cold gel and show you the inside of your uterus.
So now is the growing stage - the second trimester, if you'll stick with me on the comparison. The story fleshes out; you learn more about the characters, about their voices. You find out if it's a boy or a girl, so to speak. You have to keep motivation up; take those vitamins and keep the pen moving.
Once you hit that third trimester, you're ready to see that baby; you're ready to have the last line written. It still takes patience - patience to wait and make sure that you've made it all the best it can be. (You've got to get the nursery decorated and the pediatrician listed on the hospital forms.) And in those last moments - the whole labor process - you have to push yourself to get it all out; to make sure that every word is there that needs to be there. Finishing is sometimes the hardest part.
In real life, there is a baby at this point that takes supervision and gentle care. Yep. The edits are upon us. Some distance between writing the last line and going back over the draft is essential; time brings objectivity and clarity on what you really need and what you don't. I do not, however, recommend this time apart if you actually are dealing with an infant. :)
Anyway, all this is to remind myself and anyone out there trying to birth something new - it's difficult, it's tiring, and it's frustrating - but at the end, there's a brand new shiny creation. So keep at it. It's worth it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In Time For the Oscars

I've been nominated! Ok, not for the Oscars, but I'm thrilled and honored just the same. One of my short stories, There Was Gethsemane, has been nominated to be included in the Infuze Magazine Best of 2006 anthology. This is the first time I've ever been included in something like this, and I'm excited about it. A reader's poll actually decides which stories will be published, so it's not a done deal...but I'm happy to be a contender. At the risk of self-promotion (the writer's dirty work), I'll link you guys to the story and to the poll. While you're there, I definitely recomend checking out Infuze's entire site. They do an incredible job of bringing art, media, and faith together in one spot. It is one of the best on-line magazines out there. So to Infuze - thank you!

To Read There Was Gethsemane:


To Vote: http://www.infuzemag.com/staff/robin/2007/01/best_of_2006_sh.html

Monday, January 22, 2007

Late Night Television

Christian woke up at three in the morning on Sunday...he was happy and alert and ready to play. I sure wasn't. To keep myself awake while he rolled his cars around, I turned on the tv - it was already on Sprout, which is a PBS channel for kids. These two shows - Teletubbies and Boohbah - were playing over and over. Apparently, these are the late night shows for tots.
Frightening. How could these creatures not terrify children? They don't even speak - they just bob around squeaking. It's PBS After Dark and it's the stuff of toddler nightmares.
Or, um, maybe just mine.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Team Aniston

I listened to a podcast from the Kindlings Muse today that grabbed my attention. They were discussing the Middle East, trying to ascertain if peace in that region is really feasible. Appropriately, the issue of oil was brought to the forefront of the discussion.
It was generally agreed upon that oil is one of the largest reasons peace cannot be attained; the entire globe grasps for that commodity which the Middle East lands contain. It's a pretty well known fact that the earth will eventually run out of oil. Whether it's one hundred years or a thousand, it'll eventually happen. So we should, as responsible stewards of the earth, do our best to avoid wasting it.
As they talked, I realized that I don't really have that much knowledge about the oil issue -
And the next comment was about how our society highlights celebrities and sports more than it does global issues such as oil conservation. In fact, our entire pop culture serves as a distraction from the important problems.
I can only speak for myself, but I have to agree. For instance, I was pretty upset with Brad Pitt when he broke things off with Jennifer, and I followed that story and the follow-up faithfully - but can I carry on an intelligent conversation about the issues of this war we're in? Not if the conversation goes beyond the surface level of fact. And honestly, it's just easier to watch E! than it is to take in the news...because the news of the world - the news of our community - is pretty frightening at times.
I don't know. I guess I don't want to have my head stuck in the sand...even if it is more comfortable.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Accidental Show-Stopper

I know that it's way past the Christmas season, but I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't share this little story...
Our church kids put on a huge production every year at Christmas. Before they begin their play, we moms walk in with the two and under kids during the reading of the Christmas story.
This year, our instructions were to walk in and sit on the stage steps, as the 3 and 4 year olds were marching in to sing a few songs. We were to sit and watch their performance...so we were all a little nervous before walking into the sanctuary. Those of us who have particularly lively children (I am definitely in this group), were sure that our kids would scream/try to run to the drum sets/loudly speak baby-gibberish/cry/run onto the stage to play with the props/run to their grandparents in the front rows.
Turned out that we should have actually been concerned about parental behavior.
The mom that was walking in front of me had her son, who is maybe one and a half, in her arms. We were settling down on the steps and the next thing I know, her kid is tumbling through the air - down the steps and falling face first onto the floor.
Yeah. She dropped him.
He kind of just laid there - no crying - and he was just fine. She picked him up and he calmly sat back down on her lap -
and then the snickering began.
When it's inappropriate to laugh? That's when it's most impossible to keep it in. There I am, sitting in front of about 500 people, trying so so hard to not completely crack up (using Christian's head as a cover, of course)- and I was doing okay. Until the Christmas story suddenly paused and I looked up to see that all three of our pastors, including the one trying to narrate the story, had their heads bent down and their shoulders were shaking in silent laughter.
And it was back to staring at Christian's scalp...

Those Sweet Kisses

I was in the middle of finishing up some research on the internet this afternoon when Christian woke up from his nap. He was in a good mood, so I sat him in the middle of the living room with his trains and track, which fascinate the boy to no end. I jotted down my final notes in the office without hearing a peep from him, so I figured he was busy with Thomas and company.
And then I went to check on him.
He was sitting in the middle of the foyer on the hardwood with the happiest expression…and my plastic sugar bowl overturned on the floor. He was playing in the pile of sugar, licking his hands and going “mmmm”. He was completely encrusted in sugar and completely ecstatic over his new discovery - sugar is a great toy and tasty.
We headed to the bath.
Of course, this probably would have seemed a lot funnier to me if he hadn’t done the exact same thing yesterday with my French Vanilla Creamer.
I guess he wanted to enforce the lesson I should have learned yesterday - put the coffee accessories back in the cabinet post-coffee!


And it’s just what a Sunday should be, clear and fresh, unclouded and easily paced. Sunday is technically the beginning of the new week, but I feel like it is an unnumbered day - hours when the world sort of exhales all the pressures of the week.
My goals for the day are somewhat domestic - we’re having a business reception here at home tomorrow night, so I have cleaning and baking to do. I’m not excited about the cleaning, but I actually enjoy the baking part. It’s a surprise, this interest in cooking. There’s something innately satisfying about taking separate, uncommon ingredients and putting them together to make some food that nourishes or just simply satisfies the taste buds. It’s also a good feeling to call my mom or my grandmother for a recipe - in some small way, making the banana pudding for my boys in the exact same way my Nanny makes it feels like passing down a part of my heritage. Sometimes, a recipe can be much more than just a recipe. It is a rush of security to make something the way my mother makes and it her mother makes it and so on…
Anyway, I am doing the stay-at-home-mom thing. My desk job sort of fazed out with a decrease of business. If someone had said to me when I was in high school that I’d be a stay at home mom of two by the age of twenty-three, I would have laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more. But this is my path, at least for now. Even though things aren’t as I would have predicted, I am still writing and now that I have an internet connection again, I’m able to keep up with the world. I’m not saying that I don’t get stir crazy sometimes - every now and then, as I fill up sippy cups, I’m tempted to hurl them through the kitchen window. I have to keep perspective - that, really, Sean and Christian are the greatest adventure I’ll ever have, no matter what else I manage to achieve in this lifetime. They are my greatest creative achievements. I guess I’m thinking about all of this because with every new year - heck, with every new month - it hits me that the years are quickly passing. And ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this terror of never doing anything that matters, never contributing to this world.
It’s sort of like plot - a story can be character driven or action driven…I want my life to be character driven. I want to choose my life - what I do, what I make of it, the people in it. If I need an official New Year’s Resolution, I guess that’s it - to consciously choose my path this year. I don’t want to be a floater. I want to offer something to the world - whatever else I come up with, I know that I can (hopefully) raise two boys into men that are compassionate and actively working to do something for their own generation.
And this is a good segue into mentioning a blog, written by someone I know is definitely doing a good job of the whole choosing your path thing…Betsy is a TV editor living in NYC, and you can read her witty observations of life here - http://www.humaninspired.blogspot.com/. Check it out - for the way she sees the world and for the way she lives her life, I whole-heartedly admire her, and I know you will too.
So I’m off to the grocery store…and after all of these meaningful things I’ve been pondering, we all know that I’m determined to get back and done with the baking in time to watch 24 and Brothers and Sisters! Such is the American psyche.

From Whence It Came...

The title of this blog comes from an essay by Frederick Buechner entitled “Faith and Fiction.” It’s whittled out of this paragraph, which easily captures the essence of why I write -
“Is that why we write, year after year, people like me - to keep our courage up? Are novels like mine a kind of whistling in the dark? I think so. To whistle in the dark is more than just to try to convince yourself that dark is not all there is. It’s also to remind yourself that dark is not all there is, or the end of all there is, because even in the dark there is hope. Even in the dark you have the power to whistle. And sometimes that seems more than just your own power because it’s powerful enough to hold the dark back a little. The tunes you whistle in the dark are the images you make of that hope, that power.”