Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blank Slate

When we moved, we sold our black leather IKEA couch which had been with us for 10 years. We really want to get new living room furniture. While we save up for what we want, we've been making do with our cloth KLIPPAN sofa, which (as you can guess with a name like that) is also from IKEA.

Besides the price, the best thing about the sofa would be the dozens of different available covers you can switch out whenever you get bored. Or when you have two messy boys and have sold your boy-dirt repelling leather couch. The bad part is that each cover costs $50. When we got the sofa about five years ago, we bought a bright red cover. Since then, I always check the AS-IS bins to see if there's a cover. I've scored twice, finding covers marked down to the bargain price of $1.99. Yes please! One of the spares is black, and the other is a fluffy cream color, made of fabric you would normally make a teddy bear out of, or use for the trim on Santa's suit. It was so ridiculous that I just had to buy it. Seriously... a couch you can snuggle with! Who wouldn't like that? At least temporarily while you're washing the more respectable covers? I've had it for about three years, but in all that time I've never once used it.

Today it is pouring rain. It's dark and dreary, and when I stepped into the garage to fetch umbrellas for the kids, I saw the bag marked "Cream Couch Cover." It just seemed like the perfect day to try it out. I brought it in and stripped off the black cover, quickly replacing it with the fuzzy cream one. The kids came downstairs ready to go to school, saw the fuzziness, and climbed onto the couch. They rubbed their faces into it and proclaimed their affection for it.

Nathan: Our couch is white!
Ben: And fuzzy!
Nathan: I love it! Let's keep it!
Ben: I want to just lay here forever!
Nathan: Mom, will this couch stay white now?
Me: Well, not with you two messy boys around. I predict parts of it will change color about the time you get home from school and put your feet on it.

I'll enjoy the fuzzy, creamy, snugly feeling while I can. At least until the black cover gets laundered!

Stomp your feet

My oft-repeated refrain to my children: Have you ever gotten anything you wanted by yelling at me about it?

The consistent answer from the children: No.

But it never stops them from trying.

One day it will stop, right?

(Please say yes).


Friday, October 15, 2010

Nihongo

Whoa, time is flying. We have so many things going on that there's no time to write about them. But I feel the need to take a moment and reflect on my little back-to-school experience of taking four units of Japanese at the local community college (Nihongo = Japanese Language). I think this is the most amazing thing I could possibly be doing right now. It is nothing like the rest of my life. Much of life involves simply doing the same things over and over. Take making dinner for instance. You choose the recipe, shop for the groceries, do the prep work, pop it in the oven, set the table, and then everyone sits down to eat and the meal is history. And unless it gives you a stomach ache, there's nothing tangible to hang onto proving you did all that work. And the very next day you have to get up and do the same thing. No matter how hard you work on tonight's dinner, you'll still have to make another one tomorrow.

Even career related things fall into a pattern and become repetitive. We own our own company, and therefore have a lot of freedom to move ahead and do whatever we can dream up. But I still have to send invoices each week. And cut checks and pay the payroll taxes, over and over again. And then a project ends and we have to hit the pavement to find a new one, exactly the same as before (although thankfully every project is different, which is always exciting).

As a parent, I know many of the things I do with/for my kids will have long lasting benefits that will flower and bear fruit, but so many of those things won't be seen for years to come (heck, I'm 30-something and I'm still trying to make good on some of the lessons my parents taught me as a kid!). It's a long uphill struggle, with almost no instant gratification. The immediate return on many investments with my kids is a lot of moaning and complaining (but Mom, I don't want to learn how to fold my clothes... why would I ever need to know how to do that? Why do I need to learn how to cook… I can just go to a restaurant if I'm hungry).

I'm excited by the fact that a few things we've been hammering into them since birth are finally starting to pay off. Yet they are a long way off from being independent, productive members of society. Even if we do our job to the best of our ability and teach them everything we can and give them every opportunity at our disposal, there is still no guarantee that our kids will reach their potential or go on to do great things with their lives. It can be a depressing thought when you are doing all those thankless jobs that any parent does throughout the day. Sometimes it would be so lovely to get some positive feedback beyond giving myself a pat on the back as I get into bed at night because no one did serious bodily harm to anyone else, no fires were set, and no property was damaged beyond what can be repaired.

So here's the thing with my Japanese class, and why it could not have come at a better time: the harder I work and the more I study, the better grade I get. And that grade is mine. I get to keep it forever. I don't have to start all over again the next day. I get feedback in the form of quizzes and tests that have big fat red A's on them. I can see major improvement every time the teacher speaks to me in Japanese and I not only understand, but can reply back to her. I can see my kids stop complaining about their homework, because Mom is sitting right next them, doing hers without complaint and with great enthusiasm. I get hugs and cheers from my family when I pull out a returned assignment that the teacher graffitied with praise. I cannot say enough great things about this experience and how it's given me something that brings a smile to my face the minute I wake up (and as I'm the polar-opposite of a morning person, that's saying a lot).

I will say this - the baby and preschool years are brutal. They are physically taxing, emotionally draining, and are all done in a sleep deprived state. From the act of giving birth though the day when the kids can finally take showers and wash their own hair, you are on duty 24/7. You don't even get bathroom breaks without an audience or just that tiny bit of extra time needed to shave both legs on the same day. There is not much space in the day for doing anything like taking on learning a foreign language. Not many available brain cells, either. So although I'm beyond thrilled at being able to dive into this with reckless abandon right now and lap up all the success I can handle, I don't think doing this two or three years ago would have provoked the same positive response. It might have become a chore, rather than the delicious pleasure it is right now. Joy abounds.

And now I have to get back to studying! These verbs aren't going to conjugate themselves!