Thursday, January 7, 2010


Becca, singing heartily during our New Years Eve dance-off
Non-Years Resolutions
January 1- January 7
January 1- Lay on couch for two full hour without getting up.
The kids are always begging me to lay still on the sofa, and watch a show with them. I haven't yet had the heart to explain that their movie time is my rush-to-get-everything-clean time. After all, when else is a mother supposed to gather the random toy tidbits from around the house, without having them spread right back into nether regions within moments of tidying? But, today, I gave in. I watched Jonas Brothers episode after Jonas Brothers episode, with a giggling, starry-eyed Rebecca at my side. (And, for good reason. That little Nick is adorable. Though, Alyssa seems to think Joe is the cutest because he's funny and "has straight hair.") It was a refreshing, entertaining, delectably snugglicious batch of hours and I daresay I may have talked the girls into watching another bundle of episodes the very next day. Ahhhhh. Why pick up the house when the kids are just going to make a mess of it anyhow? (wink.wink.)
January 2- Follow Your Free Whim
It was the middle of an afternoon, and John was leaving with the car when I blurted out, "Will you take us to the mall?" Why? I don't know. I didn't need anything at the mall. I didn't want to look for anything at the mall. It wasn't even inspired by a desire to get in touch with my former junior-high, banana-clip wearing self. But, to the mall I asked for, and to the mall I got. The kids and I roamed around, bought a cupcake, watched a movie. It was a fine free-spirit sort of a day, and I felt so accomplished at doing so little that I instantly deemed it the day's non-years resolution.
January 3- Treat friends to Dinner. Treat self to a good girlie chat.
Every Sunday, the kids beg for dinner guests. Being righteously pressured into it by Andrew, our resident dinner-guest-sheriff, we finally extended an invite to our favorite Wilcox family. After feasting on home-cooked Orange Chicken and Chinese Fried Rice, Jamica and I hid ourselves in a teensy closet (this is strangely truer than it ought be) and gabbed the night away. Good Food and Good Friends. Two ingredients which tend to lend significant savour to a Good Life.
January 4- Uphold My Civic Duty.
Summoned to jury duty today, went through a metal detector, stood in a slow-moving registration line, sat in a room with faceless strangers. It was a grim start, I will admit. The most I've ever heard about jury duty is a thick sigh and the joking nudge of an elbow from others lucky enough to avoid jury captivity. What I experienced was a profound patriotism and opportunity for life-changing civic service.
The jury commissioner began our session by reminding us that, while many in the crowd likely would have preferred being somewhere else, we were there to take part in an experience for which our forefathers worked, fought, and dedicated their lives. I was touched to consider it and felt a sort of sanctity come upon my thoughts. Within the hour, my name was read and I was called back and chosen to sit on a jury for a sexual assault case against a child. The case was intended to last three to four days. It only lasted two.
January 5- Develop a profound understanding of mercy and justice.
Sexual assault against a child. It sounds rather cut and dry. A 14-year-old child, inexperienced, incapable of making entirely rational decisions should never be taken advantage of by a 21-year-old adult, right? Yet, we jurors sat in that back room--twelve strangers who, over a two-day period, became strangely like friends--deliberating for four hours. We had to consider all the facts presented in the case. Yet, there was so much not presented in the case. The 14-year-old had been so decietful. How much of her testimony could we believe, count as true evidence. And, there was something about the 21-year-old. His demeanor in court wasn't quite right. Child-like, even baby-like at times. Hadn't some of us seen him sucking his thumb? And yet, nothing in the presented case offered us information about his mental state. The 14-year-old was a good student. Quiet and unconfident.
In the end, we found him guilty. Guilty on three separate charges.
The judge joined us in the jury room after. Told us what we couldn't know before deliberations. The 21-year-old did, indeed struggle with mental health. Though, he hadn't met all the requirements to plead legally incompetent for the trial, so into trial as a person presumed healthy he went. He'd loved that 14-year-old girl, and she him. He showered her with gifts. She'd told him she was 17 (and did, indeed, look old enough to pass for it.) Of course, the law doesn't allow a child lying to be taken into account on such a matter, leaving us no choice but to throw out what she 'said' and having to rely heavily on what he--as an adult-- knew to be correct or incorrect behavior. How can you judge what a man who sucks his thumb in court knows or doesn't know?
The judge told us the other thing we couldn't take into consideration for our deliberations. The charges, for which he was now guilty, held a mandatory 20 year prison sentence. He would now be branded with the same title as a 50-year-old who touched a 4-year-old.
I keep going back to it and back to it in my mind. Did we do the right thing? Yes. We twelve jurors deliberated endlessly over the tiniest words and phrases of the law and worked diligently to apply them to this case.
Did the right thing happen? I don't know. I don't think it did. It's left me feeling the significant sorrow of justice when applied by the unmerciful, unseeing hand of a cold law. Made me feel grateful all week for twelve strangers who left their daily routines and answered the call for jury duty. Twelve people who gathered warm bodies, experience, compassion, knowledge, and humanity around a laminate table to debate, debate, deliberate on the fate of one man. It's absolutely the most incredible thing to ponder upon.
Of course, it's not perfect. No, I can attest to that. Everytime my gut tightens when I think of our foreman's words, "Guilty. Guilty. Guilty" I feel how imperfect the system, the law is. But, even my sickening sadness from the seeming unfairness of this specific case is hushed when I think upon the magnificence of the entire process. The gathering of facts, the gathering of witnesses, the gathering of jury.
And, I feel honored to have been a part of it.
January 6- Do Laundry Until It's Done.
January 7-Ketchup.
The blogs have been abandoned over the holiday months of revelry and relaxation. Finally, they've each been updated, and are back on track. Feels so delightsomely nice to not have to play catch-up anymore.

Non Years Resolutions

There's too much to do. There just is.
Am I the only one getting that, or are you looking at your stack of notebooks and thinking
"There must be a reason I can't accomplish these deep-seated desires."
Well. I've figured out why all those whimiscal inspirations come into mind, then sit like a still life in pencil upon yellowing lined paper.
It's because there's too much to do. There just is.
Things like writing a book, and opening a shelter for orphans, and becoming generally superhuman tend to have to be put off when your children have neither a clean shirt or folded pair of pyjama pants.
There's too much to do. There just is.
Which is why, this year, I didn't set a single New Year's Resolution.
I tend to make themfar too hopeful. Too grand. Too magnificent or magnanimous.
And, when I find myself falling short year-after-year, it feels rather devastating.
Which is why, this year I am moving forward with a new chapter for Cheeky Notebooks.
Rather than digging through the past to plan my future,
I'm letting each day decide what it's resolution shall be.
Will three-hundred-and-sixty-five-days of teensy accomplishments add up to a better me.
Grief sakes. I hope so.
This will also be the place where memorable, random tidbits come up every so often.
And, who knows what else you may find here. Because, after all.
There's too much to do. There just is.
I suppose the least we can do is just start doing it all a little bit at a time. Eh?
Any New Years Resolutions for You?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Proof that we miss them more.

"Mom?! Hey, Mo-ooom?!"
Jacob was tripping over himself, backpack flying from one shoulder as he tried frantically to reach me afterschool.
"Hey buddy!" I greeted him as he arrived at my side.
"Mom?! Mom?!"
The last time I saw him this filled with this level of thrilled determination was when we'd been shopping in the bakery section of WalMart and he'd spotted a Scooby Doo cake.
"Yeah, bud? What's up?"
"Mom?! Where do Nathan and Bethany live?"
"Oh!" I responded with surprise. This was not the question I'd expected. It had been months since Nathan and Bethany had abandoned us in this God-forsaken city of snow, ice, and friendless Sunday dinners in search of something as incosequential as a job promotion (I balk.), "Well, they live in Las Vegas."
His shoulders relaxed, fell back. His face settled into a confident grin. He started nodding his head slowly, surely. "I knew it."
"Really?" I asked, "What made you think of where they live?"
Excited again, he explained: "Today, when I got to choose from the treasure box in class, there was this necklace and I just looked at it and you know what it said?!"
Las Vegas.

He wore it to bed that night.
And to school the next day.
And, for the next week.
It's now hanging at the foot of his bed, carefully strung over the bedpost.

Miss you. Love you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On keeping my vow to never touch a dead mouse.

This is KwanYong.

He's our foreign exchange student from Korea, and we all like him a lot.

Though, I didn't know how very much I appreciated the culture he brings into our house until today.

This morning, as the kids were getting ready to go outside I heard Becca scream, "There's a dead mouse!"

Sure enough, lying frozen on the ground was a dead-dead-dead mouse, eyes all open and beady. Ugh.

"Andrew!" I squealed to our oldest, "You have to handle this for me! I can't do mice. Please get a shovel and scoop it up." He promptly started searching for the needed item, when I saw KwanYong standing there silently.

"Kwan Yong!" I squealed, again, "YOU should be doing this. You're closer to being a grown man than anyone else in this garage."

"What-do-you-want-me-to-do?" he asked. I rolled my eyes back sarcastically, then ran inside to get a plastic bag. While frantically searching for the trash bag, commercial-grade Lysol, and an orange Toxic Waste clean-up suit, KwanYong came into the kitchen cool as a cucumber, opened a drawer, then walked back outside.

Suddenly, cheers erupt from the garage. "Yay! Hooray! Go KwanYong!"

It seems our Korean boarder had a real break through here in America, today. He became a true man. The kind that saves a garage full of screaming damsels from dragons, disease, and mice.


I always knew we'd experience life-changing moments of culture and friendship through this exchange student thing.
Thanks, KwanYong. Kamsahamnida.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

School Night: 11:26 p.m.

'Twas the night before Thursday
and all through the house,
every body was snoozing
'Cept this little mouse...

Happy Reading to All, And to All a Good Night.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Is on my plate
And I want it
Time to dishwash
Scrub the bits
That muck up
Heirloom china
Time to Rinse
White bubbles
That cleanse
And cause
And remind me
Where I came from
Where I am going.
Feeling like your plate is too full, too?
Oh, honey. I hear ya.
What's keeping you hopping these days?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Before I get to my notebooks, I've a stack of papers on which I've scribbled countless notes and trains of thought. This week, I'm substituing in kindergarten and teaching the kids how to make a bubble map, which is really just a simple way to teach them how to brainstorm. Looking at the scrawled writings upon these stacks of paper, I wonder if my own kindergarten teacher would be mightily unimpressed by my own lackey use of bubble mapping. Oh, woe.

There are a few notes of these notes which I can't for the life I me remember what I meant when I wrote them. But, most of my scrawled sentences and words bring back a flood of thoughts and ideas. The penciled bits and pieces on scraps of torn paper, grocery bags, napkins reinspire that original idea. The tilt of a phrase, or the way I drew arrows, or grouped a list take me back to the moment the idea came into mind in the middle of the grocery store, or as I walked to pick up kids from school, or at the end of the night just as I bed. That's so often when those pesky ideas crop up, isn't it?

So, somewhere in the middle of my super scribbly, non-bubble-mapped papers, I found this unopened, unsent envelope. It's also unstamped. Golly, I do that a lot. Write, seal, address, no stamp. Note to self--get some stamps.

Although, in this case, maybe it's a good thing. I can't for the life of me remember what I wrote. Not to mention what might make it good enough to query Writer's House, that holy edifice of New York writing agents. Good gravy, what was I thinking?!

Shall we open it?

Yes. Yes we shall.

Allright. There she is. A one page letter with a one word first sentence.

Those first sentences are such a doozy, aren't they? Everytime I send a query, I nearly pop an eye vessel trying to conjure that first sentence. It's just all too easy to imagine some gum-chewing intern glancing at that first sentence nonchalantly, and tossing it into the office incinerator.

Now, with retrospect on my side, I'm wondering if a one word first sentence is any good. I think not. At least, not the word "FRIDAY." Maybe if I'd thrown in a real clincher of a word. Like "Abominable." or "Byzantine." or "Floccinaucinhilipilification." That would have been so good.

So, with that first word out of the way, whatever was my point?

Oh, yes. The STOPWATCH book.
Oh. No. The STOPWATCH book.
With a pink flush settling into my cheeks, I shall share with you the hideous concept behind The Stopwatch Book. Or, save yourself and flee now while you still have your eyeballs sitting in front of your head, rather than rolling around in the back of your brain from the horror of this idea.
You still here?
Allright, then. Here we go.
A common string of found in all of my notebooks is this idea of time. Time baffles me. It make me horribly frustrated. It flies through my fingers, whips through my hair, taunts my children to join it upon wings and flies us all through minutes without asking my permission. And, I'm the MOM here. However did TIME get to NOT ask my permission?!
Anyhow. Years back I had this idea: Rather than bemoaning the end of a day, wondering where my time went, I was going to carry around a stopwatch and actually time myself and all of my activities for 365 days.
It lasted for all of fifteen minutes.
Somewhere between recording:
I lost track of time.
I suppose it was the reading that did it. No, not like we got lost in a really good book (though sometimes that happens). Books are nice and all, but sitting on the couch with four rounded children tucked in my arms made it difficult to record anything at all in the STOPWATCH notebook. Then, I think someone told a knock-knock joke, which led to maniacal laughter and another knock-knock joke. Before you knew it, we were sitting there on the red couch, entirely lost in each other. Snuggling and snorting and bowing our heads together with great, racking giggles.
And, the envelope with book query was lost in a paper pile somewhere as the stopwatch ticked on, unnoticed.
Now, It's Your Turn:
What is one of the the silliest submission ideas you've cooked up?
(You're secret is safe with me.)