Friday, February 26, 2010

InkMom Speweth Forth, Lightning Round

Okay, let's finish up these questions.

From Eowyn:

8. "Where is the most exotic place you've ever lived?"

You're not going to believe the answer. Considering, though, that I've lived in a small southern town for most of my life, the place that was the most different from what I was used to?

Drum roll, please.

Provo, Utah! I know. Not very exotic. I haven't really lived that many places: Winston-Salem, NC; here (which is the same town my family moved to when I was 5); Provo; Memphis; Johnson City, TN; Charlotte, NC; Spartanburg, SC. And that's it. But. I have traveled widely, so I don't feel quite so bumpkin-ish.

From Amber:

8. "Was your 4th planned or unplanned?"

Is there another category? Let's say our fourth child was . . . unprevented. How about that? After undergoing extraordinary measures to conceive our twins (for that story, see this post) and the shock of getting pregnant the old-fashioned way before the twins were a year old, we just decided to let nature take its course. If we ended up with another baby, great. If we didn't, that would be okay, too. (Although, now that we have little Miscellany, I can't imagine being without her.) Who knew the pendulum could swing so drastically from "absolutely infertile" to "whoa, you have a whole lot of little kids all at once"?

From Lisa:

10. "Have you ever had an online friend that turned out to be "not so cool" when you met in person?"

I'll let you know after CBC in May, okay? Because I have *gasp* never actually met one of my on-line friends in person. I know. Strange. I have met a few random strangers who recognized me from my blog -- those were surreal moments, let me tell you. But they were just that -- moments. So no time for chemistry or lack thereof to really kick in, and no reciprocal relationship. They were my readers, but I was not theirs.

From Emily (who is currently living in a 700 sq ft basement with 3 toddlers & infant twins):

11. "How would you handle living in a 600 square foot space full time?"

Oh, my goodness. 5 children in 700 square feet? Including twins? God bless you, woman. I'm impressed that you have the wherewithal to string together a coherent thought that doesn't include SOS!

Our first apartment, when we were still at BYU (25E 900N #1), had 12" of counter space and an Easy Bake Oven. The shower was so tiny that if you dropped the soap, you had to get out to pick it back up. Or else, you wedged yourself in so tightly that the fire department would need to use the jaws of life to extricate your embarrassed and naked body from the tiny tile cubicle. But I inhabited that space without any children or the accompanying accoutrements.

The worst parts about being confined to a hotel room in an urban space are, in order of impact: 1. Lack of familiar stuff: toys, blankets, snacks, etc. You can sort of alleviate this by bringing a truckload of gear, but not really. 2. Lack of ability to go outside. Parking lots aren't the greatest place for my kids to hang out, and running laps around the coffee table inside the room does bad things for everyone involved. 3. Lack of natural light. This one is mostly a problem for me. But still. Basement apartment, right, Emily?

So, how would I handle that all the time? A lot of outings. A LOT. And I would not keep anything that was not absolutely necessary, because lack of clutter goes a looooooong way to improve my outlook when I'm feeling bad about my space. And I would sleep train the heck out of my kids to take maximum advantage of child-free hours. The other thing? The most important thing? You can do anything as long as you know it's temporary.

From Andrea (who has been scarce in the blogosphere lately, and I miss her):

12. "Are you still doing your cleaning schedule that you posted long ago (I loved it and use it)?"

She is referring to this. And this explanation for its genesis. Yep, I'm still using them. Because they work! I periodically retool them, tweaking little things here and there, adjusting the frequency, whatever. But they're basically the same lists as the ones I published here last year.

Also from Andrea, these next five:

13. "What do you do with photos? (scrapbook/ albums etc.)"

Sad, this answer. Because what I intend to do is a far cry from what actually happens. I DO NOT scrapbook. I WILL NEVER scrapbook. Not even digitally. However. I like the idea of digitally produced photo albums without all the extra layout stuff. That's my intention -- yearly photo books, with copies printed for each kid, so they'll have a personal history of sorts to take with them when they no longer live in this house. For now, my photos enter the black hole that is my computer and never see the light of day again, unless I post them on this blog or my mother threatens to disown me if I don't e-mail some to her.

14. "What was your favorite place to vacation?"

I love to travel. LOVE it. But I have a few favorite places:
  • Rome -- it's magical. It's dirty, and gritty, but it's a city for lovers. I could live there.
  • Paris -- I could live there, too. Oh, the art! The food! I even love the people.
  • Interlachen, Switzerland and the little villages up above -- the most refreshing, incredibly relaxing time I have ever spent. Anywhere. My favorite place on this planet is Trummelbach Falls: 10 glacial-runoff waterfalls, 5 of them inside the mountain. I will write about this in greater detail in another post.
  • Smaller places: Orvieto, Italy; St. Malo, France; Wilmington, NC; Palisades Reservoir in Idaho; the lake where we take our kids every summer
  • My own mountains -- serenity, here. I love it. My heart lives here, and always will.
  • Cities -- New York, LA, Seattle, Atlanta, DC. Love the energy. Love the food and shopping. Love the music. Love the bigness, the diversity. Love how different they are from the world I inhabit on a daily basis.
  • Vacations fall into two categories for me: retreat and expansion. Sometimes I just want wilderness, a cabin in the woods, a house on the beach. Other times, I want to be enlarged and challenged by new places and experiences.
  • Any place where my kids can run around without restriction: beach, forest, field, desert, prairie.
  • Here's where we want to go: New Zealand. Alaska. Australia (CPod served his mission in Sydney). Prague. Jerusalem. Chicago (how have I missed Chicago?). Vancouver. Toronto. Scotland. Greece. Barcelona. That's just the tip of the iceberg. (Ooh! Iceland!)
15. "What age can you start learning a musical instrument? (piano/ violin)"

It's never too early to begin early rhythmic play with your kids. And sing with them from day one. It helps a lot to develop an ear. And I don't teach Suzuki, so I like to start kids when they have a firm grasp of letters. Music is one huge system of symbols, and when kids are learning to recognize letters, then associate a specific sound with it, it's really a great time to take it one more step and translate it onto the piano keyboard. I also think it's essential to start with piano, because even with other instruments, it is so much easier to grasp concepts of music theory if you learn them on a piano. And it's never too late to learn! If you want to start now, go for it! You may have to work a little harder at it than you would have as a child, but as an adult, you're much more likely to have the discipline to do the work. So do it!

16. "What's a date recommendation?"

My husband and I love good food. So a date will always involve eating something delicious. We also love to browse. Book stores are a big favorite. So go eat. Then go pick out things for each other to read at a big book store. Then get dessert. Boring, I know. But very satisfying for us.

17. "What's your favorite easy dinner recipe?" as well as from Lisa, "what is your favorite meal that you make?"

My favorites are constantly changing . . . but the one I always come back to is simple, down home food: pan fried boneless pork chops (thin ones), home made cornbread (note here that cornbread DOES NOT have sugar in it. That would be corn cake. Cornbread is savory and crumbly or it's not cornbread.), steamed cabbage with lots of salt and butter, and applesauce. For a food snob, this isn't really snobby, is it? But it's plain, simple, good food.

There are a few questions I have left unanswered. That's because they've inspired honest-to-goodness, full-length blog posts of their own: teaching kids about sex (KP, I'll be consulting you!); why the church grows so slowly in the south; book recommendations; my soapbox.

Thanks for the questions, readers. I have certainly enjoyed answering them!

post signature

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

InkMom Continues to Spill It, Part Two

Here we are again! So, last night, I covered a bit of personal history. Let's do some more of those questions tonight.

From Kim:

4. "You're a fabulous writer, so I guess what I want to know is if you have any writing projects on the go apart from what you share with us here."

That compliment means a lot coming from a really fabulous writer like you. The short answer: No, but soon, I hope. The long answer:I have a lot of ideas, but I have not yet figured out how my writing style will translate into fiction, or if it even should. Essays that use a lot of big words? I'm good at that. Plot construction? I'm even okay with that. But I have some serious skill development to work on if I'm ever going to put something out there for serious consideration.

From Lara:

5. "What is your most embarrassing moment?"

Oh, the pain. I posted about this here about this time last year. Be forewarned -- this post involves nudity, and some of my husband's most embarrassing moments, too. His are way better than mine. Go, read, enjoy. 

From Eowyn:

6. "What was your favorite thing about optometry school?"

We've been outed! Now you know what my husband does for a living. (No sweat. I already feel pretty exposed because I have to use my real name at the CBC.) This is a good question, Eowyn. CPod attended school in Memphis, and I will forever associate our time in that city with our dear friends, Scott and Heather. Scott was the only other LDS guy in CPod's class, and when they began to study together, Heather and I became fast best friends. They were our family in Memphis, and we were theirs. Their kids were the first ones I ever loved, and I count my friendship with Heather as one of the greatest blessings of my life. Everyone should have a Heather, and the memories of the time we shared will always be inextricably tied to the city and the school.

I have other favorite parts about optometry school, too, but they only became my favorite in retrospect. Does that make sense? For example, we spent four years in Memphis really figuring out our relationship without the well-intended but meddling influence of loving family members. By the time we moved back to the Carolinas, where both sets of in-laws live, our habits and traditions were pretty firmly ingrained and our marriage was really, truly solid. I will always love Memphis for that.

I will also always love Memphis because that's where I learned to cultivate my solitude. CPod worked two (TWO!) jobs in addition to full-time school; I worked full-time, then came home to a 30-student piano studio. We were busy, and almost never in the same place at the same time. I spent a lot of time by myself, and I had to learn how to enjoy it. Now, solitude is something I crave -- no, NEED on occassion.

We worked so hard while CPod was in school. As a result of that hard work, we ended up with half the average in student loans. That early sacrifice paid off huge dividends when we finished paying CPod's student loans last year. This has been an important lesson for me -- I have seen firsthand how extreme sacrifice in the short-term can change our lives drastically for the better in the future. And that is probably WAAAAAAY more of an answer than you thought you would get, Eowyn!

So now, maybe you, like Andrea, are wondering this:

7. "Do you have any "free" time, and what do you do with it?"

Since I learned to cultivate my solitude in Memphis, obviously, I must fill that solitude with great and wonderful things, right?

I always say I don't have a lot of free time, but then I produce blog posts and comments on others' blogs. Which means I blog in my free time.

And then I recommend a book to someone. Lots of books. Which means I read in my free time. (Reading is actually like breathing for me: a necessary activity, absolutely essential for my mental stability and emotional well-being.) I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to learn new things, and when I am curious about a subject I devour everything I can find until the itch has been scratched, and then I move on to another topic. I read lots of fiction, but lots of other stuff, too. Constantly. While I'm drying my hair. While I'm nursing. While I'm waiting in the car pick up line at preschool. In the bathtub. On the toilet. Standing at the kitchen counter stirring a pot of soup. While eating breakfast. While watching my kids play outside.

Between childcare, housekeeping, bookkeeping, and spousal relationship maintenance, there is not a lot of time for anything else. But here's what I do when I can, in no particular order:
  • Quilting -- the combination of lovely fabrics with a creative medium that requires you to use math on a regular basis is a sublime marriage of the most active parts of my brain. I adore beautiful things. I love a good puzzle. A good quilt is both.
  • Driving around to look at property -- this is something my husband and I have always done together, since we were dating. Strange, I know. We take pictures of houses we love. We walk around on vacant land, scoping out hypothetical site prep requirements and where we would put a house if the land belonged to us. Now, our kids go with us, and while they hate it, they're strapped into the car seats and we have a captive audience.
  • Outside stuff -- hiking, camping, boating. This doesn't happen as much as it used to. Read about a great backpacking trip here. We live in paradise. Seriously. When the weather is warm, we spend every spare moment in the national forest nearby, playing in the water, hiking, picnicking, just breathing the clean air and reveling in our mountain home. At least one of my children turns into a different kid when we go up in the forest. In a totally good way.
  • Traveling -- another one that doesn't happen the way it used to. One of the good things that came out of seven years of infertility is a well-used passport. Eventually, our kids will be partakers of that adventurous spirit that I was so glad to recognize in my husband when we met, and I itch to just grab them and go -- to fabulous, eye-opening, lovely and different locations all over the world. One day!
  • Household stuff -- cooking and growing. Oh, how I love food! (You can read more about my foodiness here, and a little bit more here.) And I love to get my hands down in the dirt, too. I'm hoping my kids will catch on to that one this summer. We'll see.
  • Shopping -- I love a good deal, don't get me wrong, but a good fit? I've been known to spend too much. And I am not ashamed. 
  • Just hanging out -- I love good conversation wherever I can get it: playing games with friends and family, chatting into the wee hours of the morning with my fabulous girlfriends (love you all!), or just every day with my husband. Hanging out with CPod is, in fact my most favorite one of all. I love to be with people I love, people who stimulate my mind, people who help me to see things from a different perspective, people who make me laugh, and CPod does all of those things for me. And, my friends, all of that is waiting for me as soon as I unplug myself from the computer.
 More questions to be answered -- same time tomorrow night!

post signature

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

InkMom Spills Everything, Part One

My dear readers -- thank you for fueling my ego by asking genuine questions about my life. I've since questioned the wisdom of being so blatantly narcissistic . . . but why fight against my true nature? We have already established that I was first in line when they handed out self-esteem (and then I went to the back of the line for a second helping) and this little jaunt into my brain will not disappoint, I promise. Let's dive right in, shall we?

I'll begin at the beginning, with Kristina P.'s question:

1. "What did you want to be when you grew up?"

Good one, KP. I was pretty sure I remembered what I wanted to be when I was little, but I dug out my old journal for corroboration. Can we just say that the only constant through the years with me has been melodrama? Seriously. Direct quote: "I dream of one day becoming a concert pianist, but I doubt it will come true. I am afraid that by the time I am old enough to become any type of concert musician, the world will be too far gone in wars and all that, that people won't appreciate music and art and beautiful things like I do anymore."

It's true. I had no friends.

But for real. I wanted to be a concert pianist. Until, oh, about eighth grade when I played in a REALLY BIG and important competition. I was a wreck for weeks before -- trouble eating, no sleeping. I read the DH Lawrence story, "The Rocking-Horse Winner" and felt just like that kid -- absolutely desperate to get the right answers. I still have nightmares about that day in the little room at Wake Forest University -- me, the judges, and about 40 other spectators. In my nightmare, I crumble slowly, forgetting music that was so ingrained in me that to this very day, 20 years later, I can still play those three pieces. I stood up from the piano, nearly in tears, and knew with absolute certainty that I would never, ever, ever be able to do that again. (For you piano aficionados: Mozart, Sonata in a, K. 310: Allegro maestoso; Schubert, Impromptu No. 2 in E-flat, Op. 90; Debussy, Jardins sous la pluie from Estampes.)

I came home from the competition and half-heartedly continued my piano lessons while throwing myself into the study of my secondary instrument: viola. And I never looked back.

There were brief times during my education when I entertained the possibility of doing something non-musical with my life. I seriously considered going to medical school to become a forensic pathologist -- this was before CSI (no lie here: I wanted to be a doctor without having to deal with any living people) -- and even went so far as to shadow a few pathologists in high school and take all the science prerequisites. I also thought about joining the family business and going to pharmacy school, and spent about 15 minutes thinking about law school and politics, but my heart was never in any of it. I just wanted to play. Lucky for me, it's what I still get to do.

This brings me to Lara's question:

2. "Why did you choose the viola?"

Another good one! And it comes with a lengthy explanation. The orchestra world is full of jokes about one instrument or another, but none are more maligned than the viola. (How do you tell when a violist is playing out of tune? The bow is moving.)(Just for you, Lara: Why was the soprano standing in the rain? Because she couldn't find the key and didn't know when to come in.) Apparently, violinists who can't hack it switch instruments and suddenly their superior violin training makes them the top of the heap in the viola section.

In my experience I have not found this to be true. In fact, in both of my current orchestras, the viola sections are the strongest of the strings but that's beside the point. I was NEVER a violinist. I wear this badge with great pride. I am a viola purist, and a rarity in my field.

I chose the instrument for one reason, and one reason only: at the strings meeting in fourth grade where we signed up to start in the fall, the piece the teacher played to demonstrate the viola was the theme to Star Wars. I went to the meeting sure I was going to play the cello. I actually signed up for the cello, rented the instrument and everything. But I could not get that Star Wars theme out of my head, and finally, a few days before school started, I called the teacher and switched over.

I LOVED it. From the very first day. And, especially based on my ill-fated experience at the piano competition, it was a fantastic musical choice for me, because there have been a grand total of, like, six concerti ever composed for the viola. And I'm really just fine with that because what I love more than anything else is the orchestral ensemble experience. So that's what I do. And when I don't have little kids running around any more, I'll probably go back to teaching violin and viola lessons (the technique is truly just about the same, so I can play a violin if, I don't know, held at gunpoint).

I've about reached my word limit for the night, but I'll end with DeNae's thought-provoking question:

3. "If you weren't a violist, what would you do with all the anchovies? Please answer in complete sentences, and include at least one reference to Hairspray."

Well, DeNae, I had a hard time deciding if you were referring to the anchovy arthroplasty procedures I will undoubtedly need on my thumbs after years and years of viola playing, or the viola part of Daniel Catan's opera, Salsipuedes, A Tale of Love, War and Anchovies. But because I know you, like good old Edna Turnblad for her beloved Tracy, only have my best interests at heart, I am absolutely certain that you are concerned about my joints. And you're probably right. If I weren't a violist, I wouldn't actually need any anchovies. But aren't we glad such technically advanced procedures are available, and that I will be able to preserve the opposability of my thumbs after all? (HA!)

More questions answered tomorrow . . . I promise I'll get more than three done!

post signature

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Why don't you just TELL me . . ."

We spent last weekend in Atlanta, where CPod attended a conference and I wrangled kids in the ice and snow. A good time was had by all, even though I never again want to spend more time than is absolutely necessary confined to a 600 square foot hotel room with three little boys and a baby. Really.

We attended church with CPod's sister, where her new baby was blessed, surrounded by family. After church, I was talking with my sister-in-law. We were discussing all of the many women we know who have delivered babies early in the past few months. Of course, I told her of my good friend who nearly delivered her fourth boy at 32 weeks, but, thankfully, the crisis was averted and now she's confined to a space significantly smaller than my aforementioned hotel room: her bed.

Here's the thing: I've never met this friend. I only know her through her blog. But. I know her. I prayed for her. I wonder how she's doing every day. She is my friend, and if one day, we should have the opportunity to meet in person, I think it will feel more like a reunion.

It would seem lately, to the casual observer, that I have a cadre of very accomplished and interesting imaginary friends: I speak freely of my friend the opera singer; I quote one friend who said, regarding a gathering of boys, "as bodies multiply, brains divide"; I talk about Canadian friends who have ungodly amounts of snow; I pass on book, music and movie recommendations from blog friends as though we attend book club together on a regular basis; I reference my friend the social worker who has such a great perspective on teaching kids about sex; I speak proudly of my friend who has done such amazing work to protect her (and our) children from smut in the media; I read books you've written and love to be able to say I know the author when I pass it on to another friend. I tout your accomplishments as though they were my own and find new reasons to seek out your association every time I read. You, my friends, are incredibly awesome! Collectively, we span a vast spectrum of qualities and perspectives and I am continually enriched by your shared experiences. Through this unique medium, I feel understood.

So. In the interest of friendship, I'm going to have a selfish moment here -- as if my blog posts don't spew forth enough too-personal information to satisfy your insatiable appetites. I know tons about you all. And I'm assuming you would LOVE to know tons more about me. (Sarcasm drips here, no?) So, since every one else seems to be doing it (even telepathically), I'm jumping on the bandwagon. I'm last, probably. Which means maybe I will be answering questions a la DeNae. But still. In the inimitable words of Kramer doing MoviePhone, "Why don't you just TELL me the name of the movie you have selected?" I'm all ears -- and I promise to answer EVERY SINGLE QUESTION.

post signature

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Delusions of Grandeur

Last night as CPod and I went to bed, I briefly stepped into the little boys' bathroom to tidy up. The toilet, of course, needed flushing, but other than that it really wasn't too bad. CPod cleans the toilets in our house. Thank goodness. Usually, five minutes after he finishes scrubbing, some little person takes it upon himself to turn it back into the truckstop toilet we all know it deserves to be. We spend a lot of time and effort remediating their aiming skills. And it seems to be working.

So I said to CPod, "Hey, your terlet in there is still pretty clean!" And then I started laughing because that was funny, right? (Intentionally mispronounced word, in case you were wondering.) CPod just glanced up from his Backpacker magazine and smirked at me through stylish wire-rimmed glasses. (Somehow, the smirk stings more when he just looks so good doing it, right?)

"You really crack yourself up, don't you?" he said. No laughing. Not funny.

Yes, apparently, I do. I spend waaaaay too much time laughing at my own jokes, fantasizing about being on Glee as I vocalize in the car, and wondering why they don't have more short, tree-trunk legged, curvy, busty supermodels. I suffer from a different kind of delusion: when I look in the mirror, what I see is much thinner than reality, with hair worthy of a Suave commercial, a sharp wit funny enough for Night at the Improv, and book ideas the big publishing houses would fight over could they just see into my brilliant mind.

And then I realized that I am just like those people on American Idol. You know the ones. Even the most tone deaf AI viewers can recognize a talent blackhole when they see it. Don't we all just shake our heads and wonder how on earth no one has told them that they can't sing?

I am always amazed at their confidence -- one girl's utter conviction that no matter how much Simon Cowell knows about the music business, he must be wrong about her. "Those judges don't know nothin'!" she screams at the camera as she angrily makes her way out of the venue. No, of course not. Their extensive experience and proven track record of choosing and grooming multi-platinum artists pale in comparison to your one semester of high school show choir and a lifetime of shower singing. How could belting it out in the opera house-like acoustics of your bathroom not prepare you to be the next American Idol? Honestly, I'm amazed you don't have a record deal already.

Is it a worse friend/sister/mother/significant other who fosters this delusion, or pops the bubble? I'm still not sure. But really. A little bit of, "Honey, why don't you try something else?" goes a long way.

When I was eight years old, I filled pages of my journal with a looooong list of my possible future careers. This list was, of course, based on some serious soul searching and a realistic inventory of my strengths and weaknesses. Well, not weaknesses, because, of course, I wasn't aware I had any at the ripe old age of 8. American Idol wasn't around then, but, rest assured, had such a phenomenon existed, there would have been an entry on my list of "What I Have to Offer the World" going something like this: "48. American Idol pop star, because I have a GREAT voice and I don't really get nervous in front of people, and because I have such an amazing sense of fashion and could totally set the trend for modesty." This from the girl who regularly wore red tights with turquoise shorts. Turquoise corduroy shorts. (There is photographic evidence. Wince.)

Part of me has to admire the . . . chutzpah of those American Idol contestants. It takes guts to believe in yourself way more than reality should permit. After all, if YOU don't believe in you, no one will. But, seriously. At some point, we all have to take the gauze off the camera lens and see things as they really are. Except not me. Because I AM the next American Idol . . . Mother Teresa . . . Albert Einstein . . . Jane Austen . . . Margaret Thatcher . . .

post signature