Like the title says, happy Ash Wednesday! It’s the beginning of my favorite, favorite time of the year. I love Lent, and always have, even when I used to try and give up chocolate as a kid every year and failed miserably. I love the fasting, the abstaining from meat on Fridays*, the Lenten sacrifice, the masses, the crafts (I remember doing the best projects as a kid in school), the period of reflection on your life leading up to Ash Wednesday, the warming up of the weather and the brightening of the days, and the spirit of community that develops. Really. In my experience, Lent is a time where Catholics, ex-Catholics, non-Catholics, agnostics, and atheists participate in this period of sacrifice/reflection/personal challenge.** They may not assign the same–or any–spiritual meaning to the 40 days, but they’re there with me, and it’s great.
Even Mikey and Nico are excited. This morning, as they inhaled cereal and periodically checked the window looking for their ride to school, they entered into a deep debate on the fish menu at McDonald’s. Nico is a devoted Filet o’ Fish fan (so am I), while Mikey took a liking to last year’s Fish McBites. Poor Mikey; I think he’s the only one on the planet who liked those things because they’re not on the menu this year. They spent the final moments of the morning planning their first McDonald’s run.
I have to admit, even I’m a bit excited. We can’t really eat fast food, let alone McDonald’s, because greasy junk food will make Nico throw up. I’m not kidding. He will throw it up if he has it too often or if he has too much. It’s one of the reasons we don’t eat out a lot, because even non fast food is full of fat, sugar, and salt. McDonald’s is especially bad for Nico. The last time we had it was in autumn, and the Mister was out of town for most of the month. I was frazzled, running straight from swim practice to choir practice and decided to drive through McDonald’s. Guess who spent choir practice on her hands and knees cleaning the mess on the church’s marble aisle while my good friend Soraya cleaned Nico up in the bathroom. He was fine, by the way. As soon as he throws up, it’s like nothing ever happened.
Nico hasn’t mentioned what he gave up for Lent, but Mikey and his best friend decided they aren’t going to fold paper airplanes. This is huge for them. They like paper airplanes so much that his best friend was one for Halloween! (Best costume ever, and my picture fails to capture its awesomeness.) “But mom, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to fold paper into other shapes. Let’s not get crazy.”
I’m going to resume my daily walks, eliminate coffee (yep, started that again), do some daily Bible reading, and try to recapture some of the peace I had at the beginning of 2014, before Buster got sick and I let people embroil me in their drama and disputes. I’ve lost 4 pounds since we got the news about Buster, so it’s safe to say I’m back to skipping meals and poor self care.
Which brings me to what I love most about Lent: there is always hope.
* Many people, including some Catholics, believe we are supposed to eat fish on Fridays. In fact, Catholics are supposed to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, but are allowed to eat fish. Abstention from meat on Fridays used to be year round, but this post explains why that is no longer the case in the U.S.
** Many of my friends are either not Catholic or ex-Catholic. I also have several atheist friends, one of whom I consider to be one of my best friends. Now that the boys attend a Catholic school, I have more friends who are Catholic, but for a long time it was me and a bunch of protestants who always managed to add the words “grace,” “blessed,” and “convicted” to every conversation. (Kidding! ish!) So when I say “in my experience,” I really mean in my limited experience. I’m not out there taking Lenten polls.
Buster is doing well. He’s still dying, but he’s comfortable. His appetite is greatly improved since starting the steroids, and he seems to have more energy. His bladder infection is still there, but we’re making do with more antibiotics. It’s a little tiring getting up with him to go to the bathroom, especially since it takes him about 20 minutes to urinate. Lots of stops and starts. I end up going to bed late to let him out one last time and the Mister gets up with him around 5:00am. He’s worth the interrupted sleep.
The boys are now both obsessed with Doctor Who. Nico has a collection of daleks, and they both have sonic screwdrivers. Last week it was “dress as your favorite book character” at school, and Mikey argued that since we have a Doctor Who character encyclopedia, technically Doctor Who is a book character. Flimsy logic, but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to put Nico in a tweed sport coat and bow tie. Mikey is the 10th doctor. We tried squeezing him into his Communion suit, but it was way too small. We were able to cobble together an outfit from what he had in the closet. That’s his Communion shirt and school tie!
Doctor Who has now become our family show. Before it was just me and the boys while the Mister found something else to do (work), but eventually he got sucked in like the rest of us. He was dutifully watching an episode with us, The Silence*, when all of a sudden he said, “You know, this show isn’t bad.”
Of course it isn’t! How can you not like a show with quotes like these?
*Blink remains my favorite episode of all time. So freaky, so creative, so good.
I didn’t realize until after I was almost done decorating the library for Easter that it isn’t until the 3rd week of April this year. That’s okay! This gives me more time before I have to think about decorating summer, which I swear won’t be much since we’ll only have 6 weeks left of school. I stuck to the 99¢ Only Store except for a few items. The flowers are recycled from the fall, this time with tulle ribbon. I tried to get ribbon I could use for Valentines, Easter, and summer. I don’t love the color, but it’s hardly worth throwing my hands up in the air over a funky looking fuscia. The Stations of the Cross cards are from The Bookworm. I printed them on photo paper and glued them to clothespins so they would stand upright. If you decide to do the same craft and use photo paper, go easy on the glue because it soaked through to the image and caused some color bleeding. The “He Is Risen” print is a free download from Heidi Stock. I put it in a frame I bought for the Valentine print I made. The frame is a $6 clearance item from Michael’s. I think the original print inside was of a bowl of fruit or an innocuous bouquet of flowers. Each season I try to find or create a print I can fit in the frame. Super easy, super cheap, and the kids look forward to seeing what I put in next.
I also have hanging from the ceiling paper lanterns, signs, and honeycomb balls of various sizes. It’s…ridiculous. Garish. Phenomenally twee. The kids loves it.
I’m surprised by how much the kids like the decorations. Not all of them–some really don’t care and some are horrified. I had one 7th grade boy almost recoil in terror when he saw the library decorated for Valentine’s.
“Oh, God,” he said, wincing and shaking his head. “This looks so…so…foo-foo romantic.” The girls defended me.
“Whatever. It looks awesome. You’re just a guy and have no appreciation for pretty things.”
“Well, yeah. That’s what I just said.”
“Okay, what you just said makes no sense.”
“None of this makes sense!”
Others like to ask me where I bought this or that. The assumption, oddly enough, is that I make everything. I’m flattered, but I have no idea how they can think I know how to mold plastic into bees and butterflies that glow technicolor at the flip of a small switch.
Mikey and Nico noticed how differently I decorate the library and our home. They wanted to know why I didn’t put up holiday decorations at home. Sigh. I went back to the 99 Cent Store and bought some garlands. They love it; they think the eggs look like Minecraft swords or axes, but cut out.?.to be honest, I have no idea what else they said. I heard “Minecraft” and it’s like the hand of God reached inside my brain and pressed Ctrl-Alt-delete.
Ash Wednesday is this week, and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to sacrifice for Lent. I thought of doing an internet fast, but I’m blogging so little as it is that I’m afraid I’ll have trouble coming back if I stop. It’s a similar problem I’m having right now resuming my daily walking. I seem to have fallen into an every other day habit. I don’t like it. I asked the boys what they planned on giving up for Lent, and Nico said, “Definitely not chocolate or video games. I’d like to give up showers.”
“Try again,” I said.
“I’m giving up farting,” Mikey said.
Nico snapped his head in Mikey’s direction, his eyes wide with shock and the Legos in his hands forgotten. “Dude,” he said. “You’ll never make it.”
It took a letter from the principal and some serious selling on my part to get an educator card from Barnes & Noble. I think the fact I’m in there so much helped my case. I was there to buy a book for a student. One book. I left with more than one book, as you can see.
This week I experienced what I think will be one of the top 10 moments of my life. Those of you who know me in real life have already heard this story (several times) so now is the time for you to check twitter or Facebook. The rest of you: prepare for gushing.
There are several students who aren’t strong readers for various reasons. Some hide it, some don’t. One 7th grader told me at the beginning of the year that he didn’t like books or reading, so there was no point in him checking out a book. Bless his little heart; he had no idea who he was up against.
I may be a naive optimist, but I truly believe there is a book for every kid. I also believe that the job of an elementary school librarian/media specialist (even a volunteer like me) is to find that book, and I’m not going to find it shelving books or sitting behind a desk stamping cards. It’s taken me months, but I’ve learned the likes and dislikes of most of the kids in 1st through 7th grade by talking to them about anything and everything. I have a pretty good idea of their hobbies, what they watch on TV, and their favorite subjects. I know who most of the girls have a crush on and which boys are utterly, totally clueless when it comes to girls. <----Most of them.
Getting to know the kids has made everything easier. When a second grader turned in a Puppy Place book, I put it to the side for J. in 1st grade because he loves dogs. E. is in The Nutcracker every year, so I put Portraits to the side when I found it one day while dusting the shelves. If you casually mention someone’s crush really liked a book, that book is as good as checked out.
It took me months of failed attempts, unread books, and casual conversations to figure out this boy liked goofy, funny plots in books and movies. Slowly, I started finding books and putting them to the side for him. Three weeks ago, a parent donated a box of books, all of them awesome. James Patterson’s Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life was in the pile. I immediately put it to the side for him and that week convinced him to give it a try. He did, grudgingly. The next week he came into library and asked to check the book out again because he wasn’t finished. I may have started clapping and squealing. He may have rolled his eyes and turned red. And smiled.
The week after that, he walked in and told me he finished the book, and that it was the first book he has ever read that wasn’t part of an assignment. I’m not sure how true that is because I think he’s read the Wimpy Kid series, but that’s what he claimed and even so it doesn’t really matter because I was so happy and so proud of him that I immediately started squealing and clapping (again) and ran over to him and gave him a huge side-hug, breaking my own (the school’s, really) “no hugging the older boys” rule. He turned a million shades of red, but it was a happy red, and I wish you could have seen the look of pride on his face. He glowed. He even let me take his picture, and he hates taking pictures. I told him every five minutes that I was so, so, so incredibly proud of him; that I knew he could do it; that he has always been a great reader and just needed to find his book; that he would always remember that book; and did he realize what an amazing thing he did? I was so flooded with emotion that I almost started crying. I, the woman who never cries, got stingy eyes over a 7th grade boy reading a book. I blame Buster and my 40s.
I showed him the small pile of funny books I found (how I wish I had an electronic catalog I could search!) and he checked out a book just like that.
At the end of class, as they were all walking out, I pulled him aside and held him at arm’s length by both shoulders. He stood there looking down at me–yes, I was wearing heels–with his books held out in front of him, already turning red, already smiling. “You understand how proud I am of you, right? And how wonderful I think you are, no matter what you do or don’t read, right?”
“Yes, Mrs. Kendall.” Eye roll. Shoulder shrug. Foot scuff. Blush. Smile.
“Good,” I said. “See you next week.”
I can’t remember in which of my 192 The William Morris Project posts it was that I spoke of creating a plant shelf on this wall in the dining room, but the above image is what I had in mind, only with a dark wood finish shelf to sort-of match the dining room table. I haven’t had luck finding a dark bookshelf I like, but I this shelf from IKEA has my attention. It’s made of steel, so any water and soil catastrophes could be easily cleaned up. It’s simple and unassuming, so the plants could be the stars. The price is certainly nice. I don’t love that it’s white or from IKEA–I don’t want my house to be an IKEA showroom! But, it’s possible that a shelf that blends into the wall color is the way to go. Plus, when I go back to a white slipcover when the summer comes, it will look nice and airy. I admit I might be selling myself.
Speaking of plants, most of you on Facebook and Twitter already know I did a post for Wayfair on hanging plants, but for those who don’t, here’s a link to that post. Fun news: I’m going to be blogging about plants for Wayfair from here on out. YAY!!! I shouldn’t have said anything because it’s not set in stone. I mean, I love plants. That’s hardly a surprise. Robin Thicke getting a divorce is more shocking. But maybe the rest of the world isn’t ready to geek out on plants, and my posts could get poor traffic. Then I’ll get kicked to the curb and replaced with someone who blogs about something the rest of the world finds interesting. I guess the better way to put it is that I might be totally blogging about plants at Wayfair.
In documentary news, I decided that we should discuss Generation Like on March 12th, which is a Wednesday. That should give people plenty of time to watch the documentary.
I was coming up for a title for this post and decided on Plants and Documentaries because that’s what I wrote about. Then I thought, “Hey, wouldn’t that be funny if someone actually did a documentary on plants?”
Wait a minute. Where there’s a geek, there’s a way. Sure enough:
And for anyone looking for an actual TV series about plants, well, it’s Christmas in February for you. (Me.)
image sources: here and here, though the awesome plant shelf is from Swedish company Hasselfors Gardens. (These are probably old products shots I found.) Of course I can’t find anything similar in the states.