When Destructor Robots Nearly Derailed Valentine’s

Yes, I'm recycling an image I've already used because I love these: Valentines my great aunt sent me from the 1930s.

Yes, I’m recycling an image I’ve already used because I love these: Valentines my great aunt sent me from the 1930s.

Miles run today: 4.5

Valentines waiting to be addressed on our kitchen table: 30

Days until Valentine’s Day: 1

February 13, 2007, 8 p.m.

“Put on your shoes!” I yell, grabbing my keys and purse. I am on my way to the grocery store with my two children, ages 4 and 6.

My husband is out of town, it’s raining, and the kids are already in their pajamas.

“Don’t worry; no one will see you. Put on a coat, and we’ll pretend you’re wearing pants,” I tell my son, who is in kindergarten.

“But there are spaceships on them!” he yells.

“Sometimes people like to wear pants with spaceships on them,” I say, as we dash to the minivan, getting pelted with raindrops.

My daughter is sobbing, her tiny hands clenched into fists.

Five minutes earlier7:55 p.m.

“Hey, are you almost finished with those cards? It’s time for bed.” I walk into the dining room, where my daughter is addressing Valentine’s Day cards for her preschool friends. There is a list of 22 friends, and my daughter is using preternaturally gorgeous penmanship to write each child’s name on the Disney Princess-themed cards.

She reaches for another card, but her hand comes up with nothing.

She leans over the box and scrambles around inside.

Nothing. No more cards.

I tilt the box sideways. “So you must be finished, right? You had 30 cards, and you only have 22 classmates and two teachers.”

“Nooooo,” she says, pushing them all into a neat pile and pointing at her list with checkmarks next to most names. “I have five left to do.”

“Five? How is that possible?” I check the inside of the box again.

Her eyes focus on her lap. Silence.

“What happened?” I say, touching her shoulder.

“Well… I made some Valentines for my… my… my animals.” She looks up at me, and her face turns blotchy red, a sure sign of tears brewing.

“How many did you make for your stuffed animals?” I ask, sinking into a chair and cradling my head.

She starts to whimper. “Well, one for Bear Bear, one for Pinkie, and Bunny-Bunny-Love, and a few others, and I might have messed up on one or two…”

8:05 p.m.

A herd or flock or swarm of Valentine’s-loving locusts has ravaged the pink-and-red card display.

I am standing with two kids in pajamas and tennis shoes, one crying, one asking for chocolate, and the 20-something business-casual types who drop into the grocery store at 8 p.m. to grab sushi are eyeing our ragtag group with suspicion.

There are no more Disney Princess cards. No more mermaids or cute bunnies. What is left: destructor megatronic robots and manga-style girls with huge alien eyes and miniskirts with thigh-high socks.

“Mo-oooo-ooommmmy! There are no more caaaaaaards!”

We are causing A Scene.

I rummage through every single shelf until at the very back, I find some mangled Bob the Builder cards and emerge victorious.

“Yes! Can We Find It? Yes! We! Can!” I sing.

“Bob the Builder is for boys!” my daughter cries, but her sobs have switched back to quiet whimpers.

“But you have boys in your class who will love these!”

My son rolls his eyes. “Can we go home now?”

By 8:45 p.m., my daughter finishes addressing her cards. And the next day, some crazy mom brings in Ferrero Rocher candies for the kids. It will be the last decent candy any of them see for at least 10 years.

February 13, 20138 a.m.

My husband has helped my daughter craft her own Valentines out of a rabbit picture she drew. He printed them off for her and only needed to cut them… but the nice cutting thingie is at work.

“Um. No. They need to get cut this morning,” I say, hands on hips.

He looks at me as he turns away from some serious work thing. “I’m working.”

I give him The Look and try to transfer some of my Valentine’s Day horror flashbacks onto his consciousness. This has never worked, and I don’t know why I expect it to today.

But he cuts them. “Are you sure you need 30? Are there really 30 people in the class?”

“She needs 30. Trust me on this.” Tears, buddy. Tears. Mayhem. Destructor Robots.

I have been remiss in accepting a couple of blog awards. I wanted to say thank you so much for thinking of me and point out some great blogs you may or may not be visiting.

versatileblogger111

Thank you, Mike Lince, who blogs at Applecore. He and his wife have set a course to move to a different country every six months. They just finished in Panama, now they’re in Mexico, they plan to move to Scotland in July, and after that, Spain. He writes some wonderfully informative posts with great photographs.

I’d like to pass this award on to a few bloggers (please feel free to use or ignore as necessary):

Vanessa-Jane Chapman’s new(ish) blog, Sugarness, will make you want to lick  your screen. (If it’s dusty, like mine, fight the urge.) Yummy chocolate recipes will start piling up on your to-bake list. Thanks, Vanessa, I think.

OK. Don’t be mad, because this one is a bit self-centered… I wrote a post about being 10, and someone else I follow got inspired to write about being 10, and hers was… wow! So much more (as Subtle Kate would say) muchier. Check out this post by Desertrose. So good.

Also, many of you already follow her, but JM McDowell’s serial mystery about archaeologist Meghan Bode, Buried Deeds, is one you won’t want to miss each Tuesday. Don’t worry; she’s on the 11th installment, but she has the rest archived if you’ve missed them.

Thank you to Kate at 4am Writer for the Blog of the Year Award for 2012. She is humble, kind, a generous blogger and friend to writers everywhere. I can’t wait to read her novel(s) when she’s ready to share them with the world.

I guess it’s a little late to be passing this one on… but I’ll share a few blogs that I’ve enjoyed over the past year so you can start enjoying them, too.

If you haven’t read one of Gabriela Blandy’s posts at A Sense of a Journey, you’ve been missing out. Fan.Tas.Tic. What a great writer! And if you want a title for your posts that draws people in, call up Gabriela. The woman can do no wrong.

You dig? I can’t stop looking at the photos of Florida at SmallHouseBigGarden. Gorgeous photos, she knows all the Latin names and growth habits of every blooming thing south of the Mason-Dixon line. Especially if you’re sitting inside on a drizzly rainy day like today, those photos will transport you somewhere warm. Divine.

I can relate to this fellow mom on the other side of the Atlantic. She turned 40 last year like I did, writes about shoes and lipstick and music and pyromaniacs and politicians and Cadbury’s. Yum. Check out TurningTwiceTwenty to read her latest musings.

And thanks for the awards!

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Happy Blogiversary to Me!

You might have heard me mention the boots my BFF bought me for a penny. Ask and ye shall receive: here they are!

You might have heard me mention the boots my BFF bought me for a penny. You wanted a photo. Ask and ye shall receive: here they are!

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Passwords computer programs expect us to remember:59

Chapters my writing group has critiqued in my novel: 19

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Shoot. Someone’s already done that.

Anyway, happy blogiversary to me! It’s been one year since I started posting at Writing by the Numbers, and I really appreciate everyone who has climbed aboard for the ride. Thank you for reading!

I never thought I would blog or share so many details about my life or get to know so many virtual people.

This year, I have blogged about:

how to make the best chocolate chip cookies,

how lightning struck our TV,

how my son was starting middle school,

how my daughter persuaded me to wear dresses,

how I surprised my mom when I was 5,

how I touched a strange woman’s bathing suit,

how I got all ninja on an imagined carjacker,

how ennui and pee go together,

how we should write real letters more often,

how the world could end, and

how I managed to lock myself both out of and into a variety of places.

I also turned 40, wrote a draft of a novel, started looking for a full-time job and ran many, many miles. (I should have kept a better account of that.)

I have enjoyed getting to know those of you whose blogs I visit regularly, and I appreciate the comments and support you have shown to my blog. If there is something you would like for me to write about more (or less), feel free to drop me a line.

And if you are reading this, give yourself a pat on the back. You are an awesome individual.

Manners Maketh Me Happy

A reward for allergy sufferers... truth and beauty.

Times I have mistakenly prompted an adult to say “thank you” (after years of reminding my children): 2

Times I have watched children order their parents to do things for them: 1,746

Times “being real” is used as an excuse for not being polite: 7,954

I had a really cute professor of Psychology when I was in college. The class was “Personality,” and we did things like analyze our dreams and watch “Harold and Maude” and read The Tao of Pooh. Truly, heading to class each Tuesday and Thursday was an absolute dream. There were office hours with girls (even a few guys!) lining the hallways, waiting to talk to this guru, a true Cult of Personality.

Cool Professor Dude said one thing that stuck with me: “Being nice is highly over-rated.”

Word. As a college student, I thought that truer words had never been spoken.

Now that I’m old, I heartily disagree.

I get what he was saying. I do. But I think we’re at a point where being nice is highly under-rated.

Last week, I called our homeowners’ insurance office; we had to re-do our policy, and we had a few questions. I left a message.

Later that day, the phone rang, and I could see it was the insurance office calling.

“Hello?”

[Butt-dialing-style background noise. Two women discussing something. Rustling.]

“Hello?”

[More background stuff. Candy eating? Nail filing? Talk of what’s for dinner?]

“Heeeeelllllooo?”

Pause. “Ma’am? You’re just going to have to hold on for a minute.”

Huh?

Let me remind you: she called me. I can’t believe it took me that long to hang up, but I was in shock, like when someone says something mean and you think of a great come-back late at night after everyone’s asleep.

She did not call back until three days later.

I usually try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what’s going on in peoples’ lives? When they cut me off in traffic, I reason that their grandmother might have just died. Or if a clerk is rude at the store, perhaps the person in his line five minutes earlier ranted at him, leaving him rattled and touchy.

But I also find that “being real” has taken the place of good manners. Reality TV and “getting in touch with our true selves” trump good manners, and I have to say that I miss the “pleases” and “thank yous,” the being stoic when life hands you lemons or deals you a bum set of cards.

We went to see Hunger Games in the theater yesterday. I loved reading the trilogy; I loved the writing. I love how Effie Trinkett’s PR/Capitol Mouthpiece character is such a great foil for Katniss. And obviously, manners rank low on the totem pole as you are considering your possible demise. But as a commentary on where manners fit in in our society, Effie scolds Katniss after Katniss may have ticked off some sponsor-types at the Games: “Manners! Manners!” she reminds Katniss.

Ridiculous, we’re supposed to think. In the case of The Hunger Games, perhaps manners are ridiculous. Truth and honor and courage… all noble things. But in our non-Hunger Games world, I’d love it if people could add in a little kindness… and some pleases and thank yous.

One thing my old professor might be discouraged to discover: the proof is in the pudding. He was a really nice guy.