Last night T2 and I went to a Paint and sip event at the Roundhouse Bakery and Café in Cambridge, New York.
I’ve kind of shied away from these events which, to me, seem to be more an excuse to drink wine then to paint, but the picture advertising last nights endeavor was different from so many had seen before, So I signed the two of us up.
I don’t dislike gatherings, but on personality tests, I generally score in the extreme introverted category. It took me 20 minutes to get comfortable enough to say hello to the teacher who seemed very nice and knowledgeable.
T2 who has a strong creative bent is, by contrast, a confirmed social butterfly. He took two minutes to get settled, get his paint and get talking to a couple that we had met through our favorite diner in Manchester, Vermont.
In the beginning I was mainly focused on trying to copy the painting, listening to instructions, and getting to know the new medium. The husband in the couple sitting across the table from us, however, was just as extroverted as T2, and the two of them kept the wife and me giggling as we all painted (Don’t worry T2 was drinking orange soda).
T2 was focused on his painting. He loves to draw, and when he got home he started copying the painting here just meet a few minutes earlier to see how he could improve it. In the hours at the café, however, art for him and for the other people at our table was seemingly as much a social experience as it was an academic one.
They had come with one expectation—to have fun, and we all did, and all remarking that next time the Big Guy must go along. The funny thing was that as I watched T2 redraw his composition on the first piece of notebook paper he could find when we got home, I realized that the fun was every bit as valuable to his education as if the painting and sipping had happened at the finest art school. The fun, after all, was what got him doing art and kept him working at it right up until bedtime.
Thing1 was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder almost 2 years ago now. We knew the diagnosis would come with big changes to his life, and this winter we really got to understand what it means to live with and care for someone with a chronic illness.
We were still somewhat prepared for it.
What we weren’t prepared for was going through very similar routine with Thing2. After several months of ER visits and tests and flu‘s, we now find ourselves between a number of diagnoses, including a possible tickborne illness.
Thing2 has found himself and completely unfamiliar territory. My superhero whose used to jumping over tall rock piles in a single bound it’s only found himself with barely enough energy to walk from chair to bedroom.
Except during the worst of the pain, however, he still my superhero. I still see his enigmatic little smile, and he still finds ways to experiment, even if it’s only with making movies with special on the iPad (full disclosure: I could not do it) or testing theories about how your atoms are not really touching your brother that he heard on Cosmos (science hurts sometimes).
I would donate an organ if I could make him better tomorrow, by doing so, but, as Thing1 has Learned over last year, what doesn’t kill you doesn’t just make you stronger, it also makes you smarter.
For some reason I can’t quite remember, I found an hour or two to myself on Christmas Eve of all days. Presents were wrapped, someone else was responsible for Christmas Eve dinner, the table was set, and the Sunday New York Times was sitting on the end table waiting to be read. it turned out, that that Sunday Times contained a little lump of coal in the form of an article about the advent of sensitivity readers at publishing houses. I shouldn’t be surprised that there are 1 million ways to offend potential readers or that publishers might want to keep one or two of those readers, but I was suddenly very grateful for all the classic works of literature that, having survived government censors, had the good sense to be written before sensitivity readers existed.
Then I thought about my own kids’ book (and future book ideas) and all the ways it might possibly offend people.
The pictures are black-and-white and red all over, so some people might get offended by the predominance of red or the fact that the starring role in the book is played by kid with really bad hair. Or some sensitivity reader might worry that I’m insinuating that mom is with bad hair can’t get their kids to clean their rooms.
But as I thought about the ending of my little book about a kid who has his own idea about the definition of a clean room, I realized the people with whom I’m really gonna be in dutch are the millions of moms who are also trying to get their kids to clean their rooms. OK, so maybe I’ll only be in dutch with the moms who still have kids under 12. And I can whittle down that number to the number of moms who read my blog who haven’t figured out the magic formula for getting their kids under the age of 12 to clean their room. So that’s like, five or ten moms at least.
I don’t want to scare you because the book does have a happy ending, if you’re the kid with the messy room, and I do want to go on record that I am not endorsing the non-cleaning of rooms. I do find myself in the controversial situation of being willing to support a flexible definition of the term “clean room“.
This last week, was winter break and, after ordering Thing2 to clean his room two days in a row before he was allowed to invite friends over for “get together’s“ (formerly known as “play-dates” which, out of sensitivity to our resident tween, has been dropped from the approved household lexicon), I realize I’ve been a bit insensitive to him on this sensitive and highly controversial subject.
Thing2, now getting better at making the room look clean (at least to the casual observer), will stuff a few things end of the bed where they were less likely to show and spend the rest of his energy putting away all the shards of paper from his last homemade light saber, organizing his props for his next special effects project, and finding a place for all the disassembled electronics he rescues from the trash.
When he’s done, the room still looks like hazardous waste site, but in all fairness, the madness is the result of a creative but methodical and investigative spirit. What looks like a shambles to me is for him a laboratory of life.
I’m a huge believer in encouraging the creative spark in everyone, especially in my offspring. That laboratory is why he comes to me at the end of the day to show me the special effects space movie he’s just made or the book he’s just “published”. So even though even a domestic anti-goddesses such as myself sometimes has to draw a line between the dirty socks on the floor to establish benchmarks for distinguishing the a laboratory from a trashcan with a bunkbed in it, the laboratory is part of what makes Thing2 grow.
It’s also why, at the end of a book about a little boy who has his own idea about how to clean room, I decided to let that idea win out.
One of the facts of country life is that other critters live in the woods with your pets. Snoop, our fat black feline god of pleasure found out in August that fishers weren’t as easy to escape as bears, and we saw him no more.
We all mourned him – especially Thing2 who spends more time on the floor with the animals than anyone else in the family.
The house mice tried to feign sympathy, but there was no mourning period in the nooks and crannies behind the walls. We knew we needed a new mouser.
Thing1’s girlfriend’s (yes you read that right) family owns a few barn cats who, in addition to being excellent mousers were prolific breeders this summer. So a few Saturday ago after I got off work, we decided to see if any of the kittens could be coaxed into the slothful life of a housecat.
We had two semi-willing takers (bribed with a bit of catnip) and named them Lady Jane (because she was so grey and seemingly dainty) and Gentleman Jim who seems more like Jim-Bob now.
We got them home and Jim-Bob promptly swatted Katy-the-Wondering-Dog’s nose, confirming her opinion that cats are freaking crazy and making us wonder if a barn cat could be happy as a housecat.
It took them less than an hour to convert.
Jim-Bob unlocked the age-old wisdom of cats that tells them that humans are bad hunters but excellent servants and sampled every lap and couch. Jane — not sure if she or Katy would be the bigger wimp — held back a bit, waiting until bedtime to snuggle up with the human of her choice (Thing2 in this case).
There’s something magical about an animal that can live in the wild but still prefers to occupy the laps of very unmagical humans. I don’t know if it was magic or just the vibration from the purring, but it didn’t take us more than an hour to realize how much we had missed having cats, even if only for a month or two.
Like most families in the US with a high school senior in the house, we’ve acquired an impressive stack of college brochures over the last few months since Thing1 took his SAT’s.
T1 is very methodical in his evaluations of potential schools, but when we opened a flyer from the University of Chicago, Thing2 introduced a foolproof criterium for putting a school in the ‘must apply’ pile.
As it happens, the library at U Chicago looks strikingly like the dining hall at Hogwarts when photographed in bad light. Recognizing that life is full of difficult decisions, Thing1 is still reading the fine print and trying to figure out if it goes on the ‘more research’ pile.
Thing2 is trying to decide if he wants the school put him in Slitherin or Gryffindor.