Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing Challenge Response: College Edition

In celebration of the first day of classes, I am posting these responses to one of our recent writing challenges.  Please remember that these are unedited first responses - there is no time to go back and revise.

Writer 2 is our new college student, our very own Older Daughter.  If you would like to read more of her writing or keep up to date on what she's doing, read her blog!

1.  What happens when Oldest Daughter moves into college and discovers that her roommate is a ______? (Fill in the blank and answer question.)

Writer 1 wrote:
“Ahhh,” Maria sighed as she put her stuff on the floor. “That feels better.”  Maria was moving into college and would be seeing her roommate soon.  I hope that we get along,” Maria fretted. 

“I think we will,” said a voice from the doorway. 

“Natasha!  You’re here!”  Maria said joyfully, while secretly wondering if Natasha was a cereal killer.  (I mean what I say!) 

Natasha came in, set her stuff down, and began unpacking.  Maria noticed that a lot of spoons were in her luggage.  “What’s with the spoons?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant. 

“I’m notorious for losing them,” Natasha replied.  So Maria asked no more questions. 

Late that night Natasha got up, got a spoon, and walked over to Maria.  She raised the spoon high over her head, smiled, and plunged the spoon into Maria’s heart!  Or at least she tried to.  Instead, the spoon bent, and skittered out of Natasha’s hand.  Also, Maria woke up. “You are a cereal killer!” she cried. 

Natasha shook her head, and said, “No, I’m not,” but looked very uncomfortable. 

“You are,” Maria insisted.  “Why else would you stab me with a spoon?” 

Natasha sighed, then nodded. “Yes, I’m a cereal killer.  Happy now?”

* * * *

Writer 2 wrote:
Other parents call the school asking to remove their daughters from their roommates. They complain and make stereotypes and fail to justify their actions. I, a tolerant human being, will do no such thing. My daughter has the smartest person in school for a roommate.

We were moving her into her dorm room on the third floor, each of us lugging heavy boxes full of things that would mostly be forgotten in dusty corners during the coming year. My box was full of shoes and books, so I was having a particularly hard time carrying it up the stairs. My daughter ambled along in front of me with her instrument.

“Hi,” she said casually to someone I could not see. “Mom, this is my roommate, Cheryl.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I grunted, still unable to catch a glimpse of her face. I would have shaken her hand, but both of mine were wrapped around the cardboard box.  I set it down where my daughter pointed and turned with a big smile to face her roommate.

And screamed.

For standing – no, not standing, but really floating in a tank of green gel, or SOMETHING, was a disembodied brain.

“Hello,” said the brain (I’m not sure how). “Nice to meet you.” The accent sounded vaguely Chinese.

“Mom, don’t be rude,” my daughter commanded, rolling her eyes at me condescendingly as she went downstairs to fetch another piece of luggage.   My legs seemed to be glued to the floor.

“I hope she didn’t bring a lava lamp,” the brain said worriedly. “Oh well. Excuse me, I need to go get the rest of my stuff.” I stepped back as the tank slid in a wide arc towards the door.

“What happened?” I managed choke out to my daughter when she reappeared.


“To your roommate??”

“Uh… What do you mean?”

I blinked, dumbfounded. Unfortunately, I was prevented from finding out any more because “Cheryl” was right behind me. So I stumbled down to the car to recompose myself.   “Bob, have you seen our daughter’s roommate?” I asked my husband, who was sitting in the car, refusing to do any work.

“Yes, she was very polite,” he answered without hesitation. “Apparently she had the highest SAT scores in the entire state. She was accepted into Harvard, but they didn’t give her any aid.”

“But she’s….”

“She’s what?”

Maybe I had been hallucinating. So when we pulled out of the parking lot I resolved not to call the school. I look at it from the bright side. My daughter has the smartest roommate in the entire school.

* * * * 

Writer 3 wrote:
After the helpful frat boys had moved all of Maria’s boxes to her dorm room, Maria flopped on the bed, exhausted from the move.  Aside from Maria’s three boxes, the room appeared to be empty.  It was already 3 PM.  Where was her roommate, Maria wondered. 

As she hugged her parents one last time, and watched them as they walked off into the proverbial sunset, Maria had a feeling of foreboding.  She pushed the feeling aside, and got up to put the sheets on her bed. She considered the choices, and plopped the sheet on the other bed. 

“Hey!  That’s my bed!” said a tiny voice.  Maria’s heart skipped a beat. 

“Huh?  Who said that?!” 

“I did.  I’m your roommate.  My name is Aurelia Spice, and I’m from Madagascar.  I am so jealous that you had your parents to help you move in.  Your Dad makes a really loud noise when he blows his nose.  And the force of your Mom’s sneezes nearly knocked me over.”

During this speech, Maria followed the sound of the tiny voice, and finally found her college roommate.  Standing on the bed was a tiny cockroach, waving one leg in a friendly way.

A thousand thoughts rushed through Maria’s mind. “I’m in a reverse Kafka story.  I wish I had brought a magnifying glass.  Is my roommate going to eat my food?  Would she mind if I use all the closet space, since she’s not using any?”

Friday, August 26, 2011

Momentous Event

Yesterday my brain didn’t seem to work.  I couldn't do my work project, couldn't concentrate enough to read a book, couldn't get up the energy to make dinner.  I suspect it was a reaction to Wednesday’s momentous event.  No, not the earthquake – that was Tuesday, and besides, that was pretty much a non-event here. 

On Wednesday, for the first time, part of our Common Household moved out.  She moved to college, taking a part of our hearts with her.  My nephew and niece also start college this week.  I feel these three young people are shining stars in the universe, full of light and promise.  We are sad to have them leave home, but joyful that they have reached this stage of their lives.  

While I am recovering from this event, I leave you with these statements made by Oldest Daughter in the past, with the goal of perhaps shedding light on her upbringing and her deep-seated feelings about her parents.

Oldest Daughter at 4 years old
“When I get to be 7 years old and the same age as my older cousin, I can do anything I want.”

   * * *

“When I’m grown up, I don’t have to do anything you say, and when I’m 49 I can sleep outside and eat lollipops!”

7 years old
“Moms and Dads are for taking care of children and being nice and giving privileges and stuff.”

   * * *

“If I were President the first three things I would do is:  First I would get new parents.  Then I would make more medicine.  Then, anyone who litters gets thrown in jail.  And if you smoke for 2 weeks, I would throw you in jail.”

13 years old
“Mothers are like cats.  They have pointed ears and yellow eyes.”

   * * *

“Dad, you seriously need to spend some time stranded on a desert island.”

14 years old
On our hike in the local park:  “Mom and Dad want to go home, and they are the ruling power.” 

   * * *

Oldest Daughter was putting the wooden tongs in the dishwasher.  I said, “Won’t the dishwasher ruin the wooden handles?”  She said, “Well, they’re not my handles.”  Her Dad said, “Spoken like a true volunteer.”  She said, “I’m not a volunteer.”

   * * *

“Dad, you have a brain like a dolphin.”

   * * *

My husband tries to recite poetry: 
“O Captain, My Captain,
What happened to you?
Why are you lying there
In a big pile of goo?”
I responded, “It’s a good thing that you aren’t in charge of writing our national poetry.”
Oldest Daughter said,  “If Dad were in charge of our national poetry, our nation would be a lot more funny.”

16 years old
“Dad, you are 49 years old.  Keep your fingers away from jewelry!”

        * * *

During an Ice Storm
Dad:  "You could go out and shovel the walk."
Oldest Daughter:  "I can’t shovel the walk!  I’m baking a cake!"

   * * *

To whoever was in the room (including me):  “You all just need to be a little less stupid.”

17 years old
Oldest Daughter’s explanation of menopause to her brother:  “It’s when a girl becomes all crazy.  Like Mom gets crazy, only Mom is already crazy so it’s hard to tell.  And then they get all baggy and wrinkly.”

   * * *

I picked Oldest Daughter up at school. She said to me, “Greetings, O stolid-faced one.”

* * * * * * * * *

So, crazy and stolid-faced, but with a tear running down my cheek, I move into a new era.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Writing Challenges: Moving-to-College Edition

There’s way too much going on to write anything coherent. So I’ll just post these Writing Challenges that we worked on today.  Results later.  Feel free to post your own result in the comments.

1.  What happens when Oldest Daughter moves into college and discovers that her roommate is a ______? (Fill in the blank and answer question.)

2.  Our freshman college student wakes up to find that she is back in 7th grade.  Describe what happens next.

3. Pick a your favorite college student.  The college student receives a care package.  Tell who sent the care package, what is in it, and what the college student does with the care package.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to Tell You are Turning 50

You know you’re turning 50 years old when...

... you are thrilled to find cheap reading glasses in the proper magnification... because you are tired of forgetting where in the house you left your 1.75x reading glasses, but you really don’t want to have to go up from 1.75x to 2.00x on your birthday.

... you are okay with the fact that the new reading glasses are called “Sensibles.”

... you are ecstatic to find that someone manufactures reading-sunglasses.    

... you are happy to give your daughter the car keys so she can go buy her own boxes for her college move-in day.

... you are pleased to receive an overnight package on your birthday, even when the package contains the papers that will enable you to manage your aging relative’s finances. 

... the two previous items signal your true entry into the Sandwich Generation.

... thinking about the Sandwich Generation makes you think of Oreos, not turkey & swiss on wheat.

... you are fine with spending your birthday evening at the marching band Parent’s Night.

.. the one thing you really want to do on your birthday is take a nap.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Leftovers Skirmish

We went out to dinner with friends Sunday night.  We had a great time visiting and laughing and discussing important things, such as amusement parks, camping, teachers, stinkbugs and wasps.  After the meal, we had leftovers, and therefore the prospect of another delicious meal the following day.

But in the Common Household, you have to hire an armed guard to protect your restaurant leftovers, or they will be devoured by the locust-like inhabitants of the house.  The labor market for armed guards is kind of sparse, so instead I rely on threatening messages.

This time I wrote the first threatening thing that came to my mind on the outside of the carry-out bag.  For extra security, I STAPLED IT SHUT, put it in the fridge, and went to bed, with visions of Kung Pao chicken dancing in my head.

 "Stinkbug breeding colony.  DO NOT TOUCH"

The next morning my son was making his lunch for band camp while I was having my breakfast.  He said, “Mom, have you seen what’s in the refrigerator?” 

I said, “Is there something in there I need to see?”  I was thinking that probably the pickle jar spilled again, this time in the refrigerator.

He said, “You had better look in there.”  When my son, a man of few words, says something more than once, it means it’s important, just like in the Bible when God tells Joshua to “Be strong and courageous” not once, not twice, but three times.

Thinking of what could be the worst possible thing to find in the refrigerator, I said, “Oh, no.  I hope it’s not a dead animal.” Then remembering that I did have some raw chicken in the fridge to cook tonight for dinner, I amended my statement.  “I hope it’s not a dead animal that’s not supposed to be in the refrigerator.”  I want to say right here that despite my less-than-stellar housework skills, I have NEVER had any unexpected dead animals in my refrigerator.  Occasionally there have been furry things growing in the hummus container, but that’s living, not dead.

My son said nothing further.  My curiosity got the better of me, so I said, “What IS it in the fridge?” 

He said, “You have to look.”  He might as well have said, “Be strong and courageous!” 

Suddenly I remembered my leftovers, and I said, “Is it my stinkbug experiment?” 

He said, “Yes.  WHY is that IN there?” 

Later, when Youngest Daughter was getting her breakfast, I came in the kitchen and she asked, “What is a stinkbug breeding colony doing in the refrigerator?”  Thinking fast, trying to decide how much of the truth to tell, I decided to say, “Well, it’s a scientific experiment.”  I checked that my experiment was untouched – yep, still stapled shut.

The only child who did not publicly react to the possibility of stinkbugs in the fridge was Oldest Daughter, who was out babysitting that morning.  I picked her up shortly before noon and we went home.  I worked for half-an-hour and then came in the kitchen for my delicious lunch of leftovers.  Gasp! The bag was UNSTAPLED! 

Fearing the worst, I lifted the take-out boxes from the bag.  It seems that the food was not to the liking of Oldest Daughter, because it all seemed to still be there.  So my experiment was successful!  I now know who I need to protect my leftovers from.  But I think I will need an armed guard next time. 

At your abode, do you need to hire an armed guard to protect leftovers?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dining with the Queen

Tonight at dinner I continued my hapless attempts to teach my children some table manners.  (For some previous attempts, see here and here.)

To my youngest daughter I say, “Please pass the salt.”

With her fork in her hand, she grabs the salt shaker with that same hand and passes it to me, managing to avoid stabbing me with the fork.

I channel the persona of Miss Manners and say calmly, “If you are dining with the queen and someone asks you to pass the salt, you should put down your fork before you pick up the salt.  And you should pass the salt and pepper together.”

In response, Youngest Daughter snidely remarks, “Why would anyone want to dine with the queen?”

Trying to impress my daughter with the importance of royalty, I say, “If you are invited to dine with the queen, you don’t turn down the invitation.”

Youngest Daughter:  “But I haven’t been invited to dine with the queen.”

Oldest Daughter adds helpfully, “It’s just a hypothetical situation.”

Son contributes this philosophical conundrum:  “Can you even imagine a world without hypothetical situations?”

Oldest Daughter: “Good one!”

Youngest Daughter:  “We don’t even have a queen in this country!”

I sigh.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

One Simple Step

How to Do Away with Your Mother in One Simple Step

From the top, the stairwell looks like this:

It looks like fine territory for a middle-aged woman to go blithely skipping down in order to retrieve her laundry.  After all, she’s been down these steps many times, without any mishap. 

When your mother arrives home from running errands, and finds you playing blithely on the Wii, and asks you blithely, “Did anyone call?” and you blithely say, “Yes, Mrs X called,” then your mother will not suspect anything.  She will be in a state of blitheness.

When you see your mother starting down the basement stairs, don’t say anything.  Just continue playing on the Wii, so that she assumes all is normal.

All the while, secretly, you are waiting for her to get to the penultimate step.   You have strategically neglected to tell her that the step is actually like this:

Wait to hear your mother exclaim, “Aaaaah! I nearly broke my ankle!  How did I do that?”  There will only be a few moments before she exclaims again, “The step has collapsed!  I could have broken my neck!”  She thinks somberly of her aunt, who is currently languishing with a broken foot.

When your mother makes it back up the basement stairs and looks at you accusingly, THEN is when you say, “Oh, yeah, the basement step broke.”  Then go back to playing the Wii.  Be sure to play blithely.  When your mother asks you to explain HOW the basement step was broken, give only the sparest of details, such as, “I stepped on it, and it broke.” 

* * * * *

This event occurred this morning in the Common Household.  I am fine, but feel I have had a Close Call.  We are looking for a carpenter or magician to build or conjure up some new basement steps.  The first time this happened, to the bottom-most step, my husband cleverly repaired it.  But now the steps are shot.  The silver lining to this cloud is that I never wasted any time cleaning this stairwell.    

If you come to visit, take notice.  You have been warned.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Growing Up

Here are the books I grabbed at the library to read in the next few weeks.

But here are the books I am actually reading now.

I do not want to read these books.  But it looks like I have to, as part of growing up. 

I’m not preparing to be a caregiver for my parents.   Long ago they made their move to the Old Folks Home.  They have given their three children many gifts, and this gift of arranging for adequate care in their old age is perhaps the biggest gift of all.  

Instead I am reading in preparation for taking over my aunt’s financial affairs.  For some reason the extended family thinks I am a wizard at handling bank accounts, bills, and the like.  While it is true that I never met a spreadsheet I didn’t like, I think this is an unfair characterization. In our family, my husband and I split the duties – I usually spend the money, and he usually makes the income and pays the bills.

Based on my reading of about 35 pages so far, here is my conclusion:  Getting old? Get a lawyer.  Practically every other sentence says, “Consult an attorney.”  This is for people who haven’t committed a crime.  It seems it is impossible to age properly without legal action.  And I thought aging was just going to be about fending off hot flashes.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am glad we have lawyers to protect us from people with Nefarious Purposes.  I just think that it would be simpler if we lived in the world of “The Invention of Lying” movie, where it was simply impossible to tell a lie, unless you are Ricky Gervais.  I could just call up the bank and say, “My aunt trusts me completely to handle all of her finances.”  And the bank would say okay, and that would be that.

But as it turns out, there is not yet a New Heaven and a New Earth, God’s justice does not yet roll down like rivers, and the world is not like that.  So, for the Common Household Mom, it’s Welcome to the Grownup World.  I wish it was just a visit, but I think I’ll be staying here for a while.