These Small Hours

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.

–Rob Thomas, "These Small Hours"

The five-year-old curled up in her bed, her hair still a little damp from her shower a few minutes before, her mind racing through her options for the best way to delay bedtime.

"What if there's a fire? I don't like to jump out of windows," she told me.

"If there's a fire, I'll come for you," I said.

"But what if I get lost in the deep, deep forest?" she asked.

"You won't ever be in the deep, deep forest," I told her. She shot me a look that made it clear this answer was far too practical to satisfy her need for drama.

I amended my response. "If you get lost in the deep, deep forest, I'll come and find you," I said, and she nodded, satisfied. Her heavy eyelids started to droop. The 11-year-old wandered in, carrying his guitar.

"Could I play her a lullaby?" he asked quietly. I nodded, and he sat down and strummed "Jesus Loves Me" while his little sister held tightly to my hand.

Then the 8-year-old wandered in, playing his drum, because we all know that "Jesus Loves Me" is much more effective as a lullaby with a loud and driving drum beat.

The 12-year-old heard the ruckus and popped in, playing along on his harmonica. This would've been significantly more impressive if he actually knew how to play a harmonica. His playing messed up the 11-year-old, who stopped right at the "little ones to Him belong part" to whack his brother. The five-year-old was so excited by this exchange that she jumped to her feet and began to sing/shriek along while jumping up and down on her bed. The two big boys stopped their fighting, suddenly distracted by the fact that "Jesus" sounds a lot like "Cheez-Its".

The five-year-old continued to jump. The 8-year-old continued to pound. The older ones continued to shriek their hymn to the little orange crackers.

I laughed, and I wondered exactly where I lost my sweet moment.

I laughed harder, and I realized I didn't lose it at all.

Works For Me: Medicine Spoons

The regular hostess of WFMW, Kristen from We Are THAT Family, is (as we speak!) en route to Kenya with Compassion International. Don’t miss her trip updates at her blog–I know she’s about to experience some powerful things.

This week and next, I’ll be temporarily hosting Works-For-Me Wednesday–let’s see if I remember how to drive this bus!

My tip is a quick one. Not too long ago, I was scrounging around for a measuring spoon. In this house, the measuring spoons all mysteriously migrate to the bathtub or the sandbox, so I couldn’t find one. Instead, I grabbed one of these dealies out of the drawer:

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Thanks to the revolving door of ear infections in this family, we have just a few (dozen) of these spoons. You know what? It turns out they measure spices/oil/etc much better than traditional measuring spoons, because the overflow doesn’t come spilling over the sides, as in a spoon.

(In fact, the last time my mother-in-law was in town, she saw me doing this in my kitchen and said, “You should post that on the Wednesday thing on your blog.” So hi, Gego–this one’s for you!)

Have a WFMW tip you’d like to share? Please enter your link below (if you’re a newbie, you can read the WFMW guidelines here). Please note that this list will be closed to new links after a few days, to ward off spammers.

http://www.mcklinky.com/linky_include_basic.asp?id=19379

All About the Book (Links Fixed Now–Sorry!)

SO. The book is here. (Stay tuned to the end for a chance to win a free copy.)

Bookimage If you’re new here, here’s the scoop: In early July I contracted with Wiley to write TypePad For Dummies. I have years of experience with TypePad (and, come to think of it, years of experience being a dummy), so it was a great fit. The absolute icing on the cake was getting to co-author the book with my dear friend (and mucho accomplished technical writer) Melanie.

Fast forward roughly seven months (and more nights of carryout than any family could possibly be expected to endure), and Melanie and I are standing in my kitchen, jaws on the floor, a real-live book with our real-live names in our real-live hands. It was a big day.

During the process, we didn’t blog many particulars about the book (mostly because we were so tied up in the crazy demands of meeting deadlines). If particulars are the type of thing that float your boat, here (finally!) is a more detailed run-down of what you can expect to find in TypePad For Dummies:

  • For true beginners, our first chapter explains some basic blogging concepts and technologies (including RSS feeds, SEO, and hosting), quickly getting you up to speed so you can follow along with the rest of the book.
  • An in-depth look at what TypePad is and where it came from, with a comprehensive list of features (pros and cons) that set TypePad apart from other blogging platforms. We explain the different pricing levels and tell you how you can decide which one works for you, and we walk you through the sign-up process.
  • We take you item-by-item through the TypePad dashboard (you TypePad users know that it’s changed significantly over the last few months, and we document the very latest changes at the time of publication). We explain how to manage your account and tell you where to go for help (hint: you don’t have to go far. TypePad is known for its stellar customer service, and we tell you how to get the most out of it.)
  • We tell you how to set up your blog and write a post, explaining the ins and outs of every element of your Compose Editor. We show you how to format text, insert files (video, photos, etc.), maximize your use of categories, use trackbacks, and more. We even discuss how to handle writers’ block–we’ve all been there.
  • All of Chapter 7 is devoted to the topic of comments–how to format them, how to get more, and how to not let them stress you out.
  • Two whole chapters in the book are devoted entirely to blog design,
    from the basics (how to use standard themes) to the much more advanced
    (how to tweak your own CSS for a custom look).

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! IT SLICES AND DICES!

(Not really.)

But the book does go on to address dozens of other TypePad-related issues, including TypeLists (one of my personal favorites of all of TypePad’s features), photo albums, social media, blog monetization, importing/exporting, domain mapping, stat counters, and blog etiquette. In one of my favorite chapters of the book, we highlight ten highly-accomplished TypePad bloggers, hearing directly from them about their best blogging strategies (seriously, don’t miss that chapter!)

This is all still just a sampling. Melanie and I worked so hard to give a thorough and detailed explanation of TypePad’s service, going step-by-step, and keeping the technical jargon to a minimum. The book is chock-full of clear, step-by-step tutorials, the kind Melanie’s famous for. We’re really proud of how it turned out.

How about a giveaway? Courtesy of the kind of folks at TypePad, I’m giving away a FREE YEAR OF TYPEPAD (roughly a $145 value) and several copies of the book. To enter (I promise, it’s easy) just click over here to my giveaway blog. 

For those of you who have already ordered copies, and for the countless readers who dropped notes of encouragement during the daunting writing process, thank you for your encouragement! A very special thanks to the bloggers we featured in the book–there’s some good stuff there:

Allsorts
Career Hub
Eat Local Challenge
Economist’s View
Finslippy
Hey There’s a Dead Guy In the Living Room (how much do you love that title?)
Money Saving Mom
Raisin Toast
Smart Dog
HELLO My Name Is Heather
Pensieve
Build a Better Blog

To the folks at Six Apart (TypePad’s parent company) who have offered support and encouragement–our hearty thanks to you as well.

Remember: comments left at this post cannot count as a contest entry–you must visit my giveaway blog to be counted (sorry for the extra click–advertising regulations, etc etc…)!

A.M.

5:07   The five-year-old climbs into my bed, wraps every one of her limbs around every one of my limbs, and kicks off all the covers.

5:08   I pull the covers back up.

5:11   She kicks them back down.

5:11   I pull them back up, and in a spirit of tenderness (or maybe it was grouchiness, I can't really remember) I suggest she stop it RIGHT NOW.

6:30   The alarm goes off–NPR, on my clock radio. Waking up to NPR basically causes me to move from nighttime sleep straight into a good nap. Probably not a good plan, now that I think of it.

6:41   I get out of bed, stepping on at least four chunks of dried plaster en route to the shower.

6:42   Shower time.

7:15   I head downstairs to find that my 12-year-old son is dressed, fed, clean, and cheerful, and he's sitting at the table reading.  I scratch my head.

7:16   I let out the dog and pour a Diet Coke (for me, not the dog).

7:25   The five-year-old sleepily wanders in. The 12-year-old immediately hops up and offers to fix breakfast for her. I walk over to him, embrace him with both arms, and I gently ask him if aliens invaded his body overnight.

7:32   In wet hair and a bathrobe, I drive my son to the bus stop, while remembering all the times I swore I'd never drive my kids to the bus stop in wet hair and a bathrobe. 

7:34   He makes me belly laugh, no small feat before 9 a.m. I love that boy.

7:40   Back home to find Hubs eating breakfast with our five-year-old daughter, the only member of this family who is chatty and energetic in the morning.  She is debating, aloud, the merits of pigtails versus ponytails.

7:45   Wake up the other boys and fix them breakfast. Think to myself that I don't know who invented Pancakes On a Stick, but I'd like to shake his hand.

7:51   Kiss Hubs goodbye.

7:56   The five-year-old shrieks in horror at a fly that is buzzing around our kitchen table, and she runs to get the water squirt bottle in self defense.

8:03   The eleven-year-old got a new haircut the night before, so I help him figure out the best way to fix it.

8:04   It evolves into a discussion about hair product and proper blow-drying technique.

8:07   It evolves further into a talk about some of the changes your body goes through during puberty.

8:08   I realize I might need some more caffeine.

8:11   The five-year-old has now coated every surface in my kitchen with water, while singing "I'm In the Lord's Army".

8:17   Attack the eight-year-old with a ferocious hug, because when his face is still sleep-puffy, he looks just like my baby, and a hug attack is the only logical response.

8:29   Out the door with the boys and a still-pajama'd girl.

8:38   Pull up to the school. "I-love-you-Be-good-Did-you-get-your-lunch-money?-Don't-forget-to-turn-in-that-yellow-permission-slip-Where's-your-coat?-I'll-see-you-after-school-May-the-Lord-bless-you-and-keep-you-may-He-make-His-face-to-shine-upon-you…."

8:39   Sit and breathe, and listen to my daughter sing a song she is making up about a fairy named Crystal Rainbow who wanted to be on American Idol but then a big fly came up and ate her.

8:40   Realize that I am profoundly blessed. Sleepy, but blessed.

Mark Your Calendars For February 27th!

One month following the 7.1 earthquake that struck Haiti, an all-star cast of musicians is gathering for Help Haiti Live, a two-city ticketed concert event taking place on February 27th, 2010 to benefit Compassion International’s Haiti disaster relief fund.

Don't live in LA or Nashville? Watch the concerts for free (streaming live) on the 27th at Help Haiti Live website. Go ahead and bring your wallet, though–at the website you'll be given a chance to donate to Compassion's work in Haiti. If you've not already done so, this will be the perfect opportunity.

One hundred percent of on-line donations through HelpHaitiLive.com will go to Compassion International’s Haiti disaster relief fund. One hundred percent of net proceeds from ticket sales will go to the same place.

Some of the artists participating in this concert include Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, and two of my personal favorites: Dave Barnes (*squeal*), and Alison Krauss and Union Station (*double squeal*). This will be a spectacular night of music for a great cause–I'll be watching live. Join me!

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=9307574&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Help Haiti February 27th – HelpHaitiLive.com from Compassion International on Vimeo.

Romance

It's Valentine's Day. This afternoon Hubs and I climbed the stairs, closed our bedroom door and…

…finished scraping the popcorn off our master bathroom ceiling.

Who needs roses when you can have soggy chunks of plaster in your hair?

We're generally not impulsive remodelers–when we've tackled projects in the past, we've usually thought them through very carefully, with a budget and a plan in place. Early last week we began to wonder how hard it would be to strip our old wallpaper, which led to a wondering about how much bathtub refinishing costs, which led to a wondering about whether we could remove a doorway. Ten days later, my bathroom looks like this:

100_4980

So, it would appear we're remodeling the bathroom.

I am learning many things in this little adventure, chief among them that plumbers are expensive, sledgehammers are surprisingly therapeutic, and wallpaper glue is forever. And I am reminded, with much thankfulness, that I'd rather spend an afternoon inhaling sheetrock dust with him than sitting at a candlelit table with anybody else. Come to think of it, maybe we should've written that into our wedding vows.

Happy Valentine's Day, Hubs. Thanks for the drywall and the babies and the sanity and for looking so dang good in a tool belt.

These Are the Things That Keep Me Up At Night

I am bizarrely fascinated by pronunciation.

(Let us pause to absorb the geekiness of that previous sentence. Carry on.)

Sometimes the differences are endearing.  I love to hear my dear British friend Yvonne say "garage" to rhyme with "carriage". I think it's adorable that my dad puts another "L" in "alleluia" (he says "alleluLia"). It's great fun that Hubs and I have bickered for 15 years over the right way to say "thorough" (he says "THUR-oh", I say "THUR-uh") and "roof" (his rhymes with "aloof", mine rhymes with "hoof").

But I don't always find it entertaining; sometimes I climb up on my pronunciation high horse. I visibly wince when someone pronounces "realtor" as "REAL-it-or". (Side note: This weekend I spoke to a real estate agent, of all people, who didn't say it the right way. I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to shout, "RESPECT YOURSELF, MAN!")  My Republican heart cracked a little every time Dubya said "NOOK-yuh-lur". And back in my office days I had a boss who insisted on saying "fLustrated" instead of "fRustrated", and I may or may not have made faces behind his back.

Since I am entirely inconsistent in my pronunciation moral authority, I don't feel qualified to make a stand on the following issue: the "r" in February. I've always said "FEB-yoo-ary"; in fact, I have a vague memory
of being taught in elementary school that the "r" is supposed
to remain silent. More and more, though, I seem to be encountering people who say "FEB-roo-ary". (And it's not pretty.  I think "FEB-roo-ary" sounds a little like the speaker
just had some painful dental work done, but she still has Novacaine and Valium in her system.)

This site says you should include the "r", this one says you can keep it silent. I hope those r-sayers are wrong, because I think I'm too forgetful and stubborn to make the switch.

How do you say it?
http://www.blogpoll.com/poll/view_Poll.php?type=java&poll_id=179891Free Blog Poll

Cheeky.

Hanging in my laundry room, next to the door that is the traffic center of the universe our house, there hangs a white board for writing notes to each other.

Adam–take lunch money.

Change oil.

Sometimes entire conversations take place.

Hubs u r hot. I like u.

(Babe, so r u.)

(Mom and dad u r gross.)

Occasionally I use the space to write a pithy little quote I've found, one that will, I'm sure, plant gentle seeds of truth and wisdom in the hearts of my children and grow forever and ever, amen. (Do not disdain the use of pithy little quotes as an important
parenting tool. After all, not a single one of us ever jumped off a
cliff when our friend did, nor did we count our chickens before they
were hatched, so there you go.)

I posted this one a few days ago:

 100_4965

The twelve-year-old, (he of the endless eating of protein), had a response:

 100_4966

(Yes, it's changing the subject and it's cheeky, but a boy can get away with a lot when he has the good sense to employ parallel sentence structure.)

Kind Of Like the Griswolds, Except With Snow

There's plenty that's unpleasant about being a grown up. Income taxes and colonoscopies come to mind.

But adulthood has its benefits, too. Chief among them being no more recess and PE. I spent the first 17 years of my life trying to figure out creative ways to avoid showing my peers that I have the coordination of a drunk hippo on stilts. If it involves climbing, I will fall. If it involves water, I will sink. If it involves a ball, I will not only miss it, but I will position myself perfectly so that it smacks me in the forehead.

It's okay. I know this about myself. I faked it when I had to as a kid–just ask my dad about the Great Basketball Experiment of 1983. I still run into doorways and trip over grocery carts more than the average bear, but as a grown up, I've managed to tuck away my former humiliation quite neatly, thanks.

Until my athletic husband decided to plan a ski trip for the holidays. He's been talking about it for years–he loved to ski in college, and he had such a nice vision of our entire family shooshing happily down the slopes, eyes bright and faces flushed with joy. My vision of a ski trip involves ambulances, but I decided to be a good sport. 

We left Christmas morning, in the aftermath of a blizzard (the universe was trying to give me a hint). We made it safely to a small resort about an hour from Denver, checked in, unpacked, and began organizing a dizzying assortment of ski gear and supplies. (Including, by the way, the stuff you smear inside your goggles to keep them from fogging–it's called, to the  great joy of my sons, Cat Crap.)

The next morning, after my breakfast of oatmeal sprinkled with Aleve, we dropped off our happy, agile children at the kids' ski school. Hubs shooshed and I lumbered out to the place where our class would begin.  

A friendly older man with silver hair shooshed up and introduced himself as our instructor. He lined up our class and asked us to introduce ourselves by explaining what kind of athletic experience we have.

(Great.)

When it was my turn, I mumbled a response that had something to do with stairs and laundry baskets.

(Somebody get me out of here, please.)

When the introductions of all my fellow (athletic) classmates were over, the instructor went on to explain that he's a retired high school principal, so if we don't do what he says, we're going to detention.

(No, I'm serious, somebody get me out of here right now.)

He began by explaining the basics, and he said the key not to falling is knowing how to turn.

(Really? Because I think the key to not falling is staying in the lodge, but what do I know?)

It's simple, he said, just lean here and push there and tilt this but don't tilt that and keep your chin up and put your arms out there and then lean here again. 

Alrighty.

We got started on a hill with the incline of a pimple. Our whole class gently coasted where they were supposed to coast. Well, almost the whole class. I made my first run down the pimple, and I stayed vertical for a solid seven seconds. Aaaaand then I fell. So I tried a second time. Aaaaand then I fell. Same with efforts number three and four. And five and six.

Fighting back tears of utter humiliation, I kept at it. The instructor explained that I probably wasn't cut out for this particular turning technique, so he was just going to advance me on to the next one, because he just knew it was perfect for me.

(Oh, don't you try your high-school-principal-self-esteem-inducing mind games with me, fella.)

Not surprisingly, the new and improved trick didn't work for me. The only stopping/turning technique that did work was the one I believe they call Hurling Your Body To The Ground. After two hours of falling every time I tried, I stopped to catch my breath at the bottom of the pimple. I thought about giving up. I looked over to where the kids were in ski school, and I could see my children actually beginning to shoosh with confidence and grace. I was so proud of them, and I thought some very lofty thoughts about perseverance and humility. I climbed back up for one last try.

Aaaaand then I fell–spectacularly, this time, with a flying ski pole involved. I muttered something under my breath that may or may not have been worse than "Cat Crap".

I told the instructor that some people just weren't meant to ski, and his mouth said "No, you can do it, just keep trying," but his eyes said, "Yes ma'am, you're more sit-by-the-fireplace material."

So I headed inside and I did sit by the fireplace, all week long. I had a giant stack of books and a huge bag of crochet supplies. I was a happy pack mule for the endless pile of ski gear (Colorado families, how do you do that all winter long?). I baked cookies and made cheese dip, and we played games and watched movies by the fireplace all evening, every night. It was our best vacation ever, in fact–I don't know when we've laughed together so much. 

The moral of the story? If at first you don't succeed, be sure you've packed a good book and some comfortable shoes, and once you've worked through your adolescent insecurities it'll all work out beautifully in the end.

Especially if there's cheese dip.

The end.