Home Alone – Almost

 

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I like to think my writing group met today – even though the advance of Hurricane Sandy kept attendance down to two of us.  We even managed to speak of writing a little bit and even about the logistics of blogging.  In reality, our mini-meeting was just a little bit of a day with the girls, and it was just what this gal needed.

I’ve been part of a writing group for the last five or six months – Hubbard Hall, a local community theatre and arts center in Cambridge, NY.  Led by author Jon Katz, I initially came to the workshop with specific ideas about what I wanted to write and what I wanted to learn.  I hoped that the year-long experience would be my long-coveted MFA in writing.  It has turned out to be so much more than that for so many reasons, and today’s get together highlighted that once again.

From an educational standpoint, the Writer’s Project at Hubbard Hall has been an awakening for all of us.  No longer do I call myself a wannabe artist or writer.  I am now simply on a creative journey that will hopefully last a lifetime.  And, as I read the posts of my comrades, I see the same exuberant embrace of this ideal permeating our increasingly tight-knit group.

That small, eclectic group of writers is the other, completely unanticipated, aspect of this project.  Our first meeting was pleasant and friendly, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only attendee who worried that my work might not measure up.  In the course of the last few months, however, this creative collective has conjured its own special magic.  Wielding encouragement and hope, constructive critiques and glowing reviews, we banish anxiety and trepidation everyday online.  Today, two of our number sat at a kitchen table and compared notes and shared the histories of our creative lives,  and we banished it again.  

The rest of the group was sorely missed, and we’ll meet again another weekend with the entire crowd.  Assembling even the tiniest fraction of this group, however, was invaluable to me not only because it was a chance to talk about our work.  For me, it was the first grown-up, face-to-face social activity I’d had in over a week of chauffeuring children to doctor’s offices and pharmacies when I wasn’t working at or setting the kitchen table.  For me, the few stolen hours at that same table chatting and snacking with a new friend was just what the defense I needed against the dulling monotony that lurks at the corners of my very domestic life.  

Sympathy for the Mousers

The second day into what should have been a one-day event, I have excavated and mouse-proofed every square inch of our pantry (at least it better be mouse proof).  I’m not one to go off the deep end (at least not when it comes to cleaning), but nothing irks me more than discovering evidence that the furry little freeloaders have managed to elude the cats and pilfer my pantry.

So as I excavated, I implemented every non-electric mouse trap and deterrent I could think of, and I began to feel a little like the Coyote planning and baiting his traps.  At first I giggled and pushed aside any worry that I am that nutty or obsessive in my pursuit of this prey, but as Thing 1 threatened to get a court order to stop my pantry-cleaning dance and the Big Guy volunteered to ferry Thing 2 to his play date, I started to wonder, are all these canisters and traps and deterrents a sign that I’m getting a little too close to the edge?

Or are they just a recognition that once in a while we should tip our hats to the rusticators of rodentia, the bad ol’ putty-tats, and admit that mousing is harder than it looks?

Yay Homework

It’s Sunday, which means it’s homework day around our house.  Every Sunday night we make the same resolution that it will be done on Friday, and every Sunday night we’re standing over Thing 1 with a whip, making sure the forgotten paper or book gets done.  Not this Sunday, however.

It’s Thing 1’s turn to design for the time-honored Egg Drop project (in which each student designs a container that will safely carry an egg from the top of the school roof or bleachers to the ground below),   With hardly any egging on from us (sorry, couldn’t resist), my seventh grade sit-in enthusiast has been designing, and dropping and redesigning his entry.  The excitement on his face has is well-worth the cost of an egg (or two), and all weekend, I’ve been wondering why all homework can’t be like this.

I know some of it is to prepare them for the drudgery of independent learning in the “real” world called college.  But, today, watching him be a scientist makes me wonder if there is a way to breathe some new life in to other assignments so that they can be historians, or writers, or creators for a weekend.  And mostly so they can see on a daily basis what we mean when we say learning is exciting.

Keepin’ it in the Pantry

This is the part in the Little House books where the kids joyfully pick up their aprons or tools and join their parents in the business of maintaining the homestead.

At our house the scene is a little different.  Thing 1 and Thin 2 have managed to stretch out breakfast at least 30 minutes longer than normal, somehow using telekinesis to restart the TV in the process.  All this is to avoid the stack of twenty-first century chores awaiting them.  The way I have to badger them to get wood stacked and room cleaned, you’d think I was violating child labor laws.  But today, I’m willing to risk it.

For me, it’s pantry-cleaning day.  My annual attempt at organization just before the flurry of fall company and winter snows make a chaotic larder not just inconvenient but dangerous.  During our desperate days my well-packed pantry was security, but (with the exception of last winter) having stocked shelves can literally be a life saver in a Vermont winter when roads are treacherous or even blocked.

I usually enjoy this job for all it foretells – holiday dinners, hot chocolate and popcorn on snowy days – but something primal (or spiteful, your call) in me does not cotton well to the sounds of sloth in the background.  So I badger and they move – slowly – and I hope that one of my pantry excavations will yield a jar of Dr. Pioneer’s Elbow Grease for kids.

Superdude

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I don’t remember this phase as a child, but both my boys have gone (and are going) through extended periods of interest in superheroes.  Thing 1 was into Superman in pre-K and Kindergarten, and then, in First Grade, he became obsessed with Spiderman.  His TV-viewing was pretty controlled (much more than Thing 2’s is – by virtue of living with an older brother), so his interest in these characters was curious.

Some of it had to come from friends’ toys and costumes, but I still couldn’t figure out the attraction. Was it the superpowers?  The flying? The web spinning?  So one Halloween as we were putting together another superhero costume, I asked Thing 1, “Why do you like  Spiderman so much?”

He was silent for a minute and then said, very seriously, “Because he saves people.”

Now six years later, Thing2 is in his superhero phase (like many of his male classmates), and I hear him express some of the same admiration for a superhero’s altruistic motivation.  But, while Thing2 is always sincere in his desire to help or save people from the bad guys, I have started to believe his alter-ego is working unconciously to save something equally as important as well – his inner superhero.

Always a free-spirit who marches not to his own drummer, but leads his own rhythm section, Thing2 was content to wear his inherited Superman and Spiderman costumes in their original form for a few weeks.  But, as his inner monologue evolved, so did the costumes, and I now call the resident savior at Minister Hill ‘SuperDude’.

He still sports the red and blue web-enhanced spidey-suit, but has since acquired a cape and boots and sequined glove (courtesy of a female cousin who has outgrown her dress-ups).  Somedays the uniform includes green goggles, and recently a rainbow wig of tightly-coiled curls has crowned the ensemble.  And with each addition to his costume, SuperDude acquires not only a new superpower – just yesterday I learned he could save all the electricity in the world by turning off a light switch – but his bouncing gait gets more joyous, and his spirit seems to fly a little higher.

There’s a seriousness that seems to overtake a lot kids when they get to grade school.  The change in expectations between Kindergarten and First Grade seems to begin opening their eyes to the sad fact that their carefree existence is not endless.  But when I watch SuperDude skidding around the kitchen table, searching for a new component for his costume, I know he is working very hard to ensure that Thing 2 doesn’t lose the ability to fly and leap and soar – if not through the air, at least through his own life.