Fighting Entropy

There are a few things we can all agree on – religious and secular alike. One of them is that the universe will someday end. My Christian background says it will end in judgement, and suddenly. (Actually, Christianity is rather silent whether it’s the UNIVERSE or the WORLD that will end – the distinction was not a meaningful one at the times the books were written.) A science perspective says that unless we have a “big contraction” the likely end to the universe is the longest, slowest death imaginable. The heat death of the universe will take place when the entire cosmos is at exactly the same temperature. There is no longer enough difference in temperature to fling particles, inspire winds or burn in flames.

I often thing of that ultimate defeat of being on weekends like this. See, on rare occasions I spend my weekends fighting entropy. At heart, most of what we humans do is to expend the energy given to us by our sun to create order from disorder. Case in point: my breakfast of Cheerios this morning was (mostly) converted by me into energy. That energy went into turning my house from a pit of chaos and disorder into a pit of slightly less chaos and disorder. Meanwhile, as I unwound the dissolution of my homestead, my steady washer and drying (well, both of them actually) separated dirt from clothes, and then water from clothes, in order to create the state of “clean clothes”. Remarkable. Even though I know that my great enemy entropy, will ensure those self-same clothes will require this to happen not just once again, but over and over until the warp and the weft of that long-ago cotton bush push apart, lose their vibrant dyes and become thinned through friction and even that self-same washing.

Ah, entropy.

So what did I do this weekend to take the store of strength given to me and convert it to order?

Completed installation

Yesterday was Ikea day. For Christmas, Thane really wanted this huge glass display case with serious Nuka Cola overtones. I told him in October, as we were shopping for massive amounts of furniture for our attic, that maybe he could get that stuff for Christmas. I should’ve remember to whom I spoke. That child does not forget. So when his grandmother asked what he wanted for Christmas, the answer was money for Ikea furniture. The money came (coincidentally *just* enough for his longed for display cabinet). Then we had to actually go to Ikea. Originally I thought I’d buy a sleeper sofa from Ikea on the trip, but upon review of the offerings I was underwhelmed. I ended up buying a sofa from Wayfair online. We’ll see how it works. Anyway, without that massive piece of furniture I figured I could do the trip without the “taller than me” contingent, and Thane and I went alone.

We bought many things. There was a standing desk for the office, and a chair. There was his beloved display (intended to preserve his Legos from depredations). His brother had also gotten a rather nice treat earlier, so I got him an inexpensive desk and desk chair (for the building of the Legos to be preserved). I got a sitting/standing desk for our study. There were two chairs that needed acquiring. Plus the many jars of pickled herring my friends need for an upcoming party.

I came home a conquering hero. Assembling Ikea furniture is Thane’s great delight (seriously, if any of you local folks ever want to hire him, he’s excellent). So he put together his cabinet and I my standing desk while Adam made dinner. Then we had some quality family time fighting virtual entropy by farming the wilds of Stardew Valley together.

As the rain and night fell together, I ended up reading late in my beautiful bathtub, candlelight flickering at my feet. (“A href=””>Educated” by Tara Westover, which I thought might be familiar given my red neck upbringing, but instead showed just how cushy and civilized my young life was. I may have gone to a two room schoolhouse, but I went to school!)

Fighting imaginary entropy as a family

Today was a litany of small things. I updated my to do list. There was the partial planning of the summer vacation. (We have three possible itineraries: Greece, France or Norway. I was trying to flesh them out for decisioning.) I did dishes. I did laundry. (I haven’t told you all of the saga of the laundry room. Enough time might soon have passed for it to go from painful to funny.) I took the boys to get their hairs cut. I put paper in the new linen closet and filled it with linens and in the process created a ginormous pile of linens which are no longer needed. Thane I and spent hours in his room going through his clothes so he has enough room to put away the laundry he’s supposed to be doing himself, and cleaning out his closet. I made meals.

And here I am writing blog posts that will endure to the far reaches of time. Or, ya know, for a few years.

There’s no great accomplishment in all of this. Nothing I’ll remember in a few weeks, never mind a few years. Time with my sons, time in my home. A time with good, healthy food and bills that are paid. A time when my body was healthy, and strong enough to do whatever I want to do. A time when my friends live at a quick glance out my window, and I can always find company when I’m lonely. A time when my parents are doing interesting fun things, when my siblings are thriving. A time when one the soundtrack of Louis Armstrong (Grey) and Sarah McLachlan (Thane) wafts through the house, following the siren call of “OK Google”.

You know. The best times in the whole world. Take that, heat death of the universe. It’s not the end of the universe that counts. It’s the middle.

We cannot get out

Gee, what shall I talk about? Sports I care about are all in a hiatus. I haven’t taken any great hikes lately (for some reason) nor gone on any crazy road trips (for some reason). All I’ve done – in living memory it seems – has been to be at home.

Spotted on my walk to the post office today - Do you see the car?
Spotted on my walk to the post office today – Do you see the car?

I was not designed to stay at home, folks. I think we’re ALL happy that I’m a 21st century woman with major scope for my energy outside these four walls.

But home I’ve been, with my patient husband and two sons. For the first weekend snowstorm, we reveled in the low expectations of a “State of Emergency” blizzard. The second and third snowstorms were lost epic Minecraft marathons. By the time the fourth blizzard came, I needed a better plan. It was time… to improve.

I’m sure your home is perfect in every way – a flawless execution of your design vision, taste, and perfectly fitting antiques picked up on a whim at a charming roadside store on your last drive up the Maine seacoast. MY home is a 120 year old pink colonial whose last major design upgrade came in the ’70s, when the prior owner installed (bad) panelling and (ugly, non-matching) drop ceilings in every room. It’s the kind of house where when you peel up the beige carpet, you find gold sparkly linoleum. (True story.) Although Adam and I have put thousands of dollars into the house, almost all of it has gone into glamorous things like electrical upgrades, a new roof and blown in insulation. (We do know how to live the high life!) We still have the paneling, but at least it’s painted white now? And the drop ceilings? Well. You learn to live with things.

But some of the rooms don’t require a major capital investment to look massively better. They just require attention and work. You know, time. And focus. Those rarest of commodities. (It’s hard to have time and focus during a Minecraft marathon!)

The "before" - I swear I didn't make this look worse for comparison purposes. It really usually looked this way.
The “before” – I swear I didn’t make this look worse for comparison purposes. It really usually looked this way.

Saturday morning, I was barely recovered from my 16 straight hours of sleeping post GI bug. The flakes were scheduled to start their blizzarding in the afternoon, and I knew they’d lock us in place for several days. Everything that had previously been going on that weekend was cancelled. But in my convalescent state, I knew I had 4 or 5 hours in which to do whatever was going to be done outside the home for the weekend.

It was time for … IKEA.

Traffic was light. We got there fast. We checked the boys into Smaland, carefully checking the height. (I swear it was just yesterday I checked to see if they were BIG ENOUGH YET and now Grey is almost TOO BIG. WHAT?!) We had a list, and we got the end table. We checked out the shelving units extensively, cursing my somewhat cursory measurement that morning. “Well, I measured 55″ but I’m sure 57″ will be fine…” We finally both agreed that in our heart of hearts there was one unit we wanted. We wrote down the names and numbers, reclaimed our boys, ate Ikea meatballs, and threaded the Labrynth of Cheap Goods on our way out. (Grey was hilarious. He kept exclaiming how something was so cheap he could buy it. I mean, mom! I could buy that bowl! I could use my allowance and buy that bowl!)

Two able-bodied adults were able to wrangle the flat packs into the cart, then into the car. I tossed several packages of meatballs into the car and peeled out of the parking lot just as the first flakes few.

We managed to get the core put together and the room cleaned out before Adam turned a funny shade of green and disappeared. The next morning, while I was out shoveling for two hours he was putting the drawers together. And when I came back, we had an all new mud room. (*BING*)

The "After" - we do have drawers for that last spot, but that's where the outlet is! I didn't measure that part.
The “After” – we do have drawers for that last spot, but that’s where the outlet is! I didn’t measure that part.

But our frenzy of home improvement was not yet spent! On Monday, we each grimly took a small child into said small children’s bedrooms and asked them whether they actually wanted each and every genre of object in that room. (I mean, it turns out that 98% of my eldest son’s toys are Legos, but still). We wrested order out of the chaos that is the room of a 9 year old. We have piles of books and toys in the hallway, ready to go to new homes. There are actual open surfaces. Amazing.

There are still some things to be done (See also: massive pile of toys and books, realization that potatoes might do better in dark cupboard instead of on top of fridge). But overall our trapped tenure has at least been productive!

Grey's room cleaning was supervised by an authority figure. In a sunbeam.
Grey’s room cleaning was supervised by an authority figure. In a sunbeam.

Sick of this

On Thursday morning, I woke up to a kid who was super sick. He’d been throwing up all night, and had been too tired to even interrupt my sleep to inform me. (Considerate child!) I worked from home for the third day of the week to tend to him. It wasn’t too hard – he spent the entire day on the couch reading Harry Potter IV. But a day spent not in motion by a nine year old boy is a day he was really sick.

I didn’t think too much of it. It’s pretty frequent for the kids to bring stuff home that Adam and I have already had, and we don’t get it. Plus Grey has the super touchy stomach of doooooom, so something that made him barfy might barely affect me! I was glad to see he was well enough for school on Friday and headed into work feeling Just Fine (not even thinking about it, I was feeling so fine).

At noon, my lunch didn’t sit quite right.

At 3 I warned my meeting companion that I wasn’t feeling well, and she might not want to sit too close to me.

At 3:30 I had to leave a meeting, urgently.

Now, here’s the trick. I carpool. And my carpool buddy had a huge project due and was leaving on a week’s vacation. I know this wasn’t going to be a day we could leave at 3:30. So I gritted my teeth and endured. Your choices in these circumstances are rather limited. What should you do? That ride home was hair-raising. I was *SICK*. In fact, I think it was a very lucky thing I did have a carpool, as I was in absolutely no condition to drive myself home. I’m not quite sure what I would’ve done. My carpool partner gets a million kudos for getting me safely home. I struggled to even get out of my boots and into bed. I slept from then until this morning at 9 am – a full 16 hour snooze with brief breaks for water. (I had a massage scheduled. Cancelled! Argh.)

I was touched by the tenderness of the men in my life. Adam attended me with solicitous and loving care. Thane offered to let me sleep with Wolfie. Grey plied me with blankets, a stuffed creeper (“Which is worse? Throwing up, or being blown up?”) and two books. I was in good hands.

But now I’m all done! Feeling better! And watching my husband and youngest son with a gimlet eye.

All these pictures look the same
All these pictures look the same

Meanwhile, outside the house….

We actually went to Ikea today. You could argue it wasn’t a great idea. It probably wasn’t. But Einstein’s Workshop classes for today were cancelled (a bit preemptively – I think they could’ve done it). And I’d been wanting to go to Ikea for quite a while. For being under a blizzard warning, we had considerable company at Ikea. We got the stuff we wanted to redo our mudroom (might be my Thursday post) and made it back before anyone else got sick or the snow started getting heavy.

But now, it’s heavy snow. Tonight it will get heavier, and start blowing hard. Tomorrow – another day – it will be in the negative temperatures and low visibility and a foot or so of snow. Church is already cancelled. We’re trapped again. I have had three day weekends I’ve looked forward to more than this one. There isn’t even the feeling we’re almost done. There’s more arctic air in the forecast (the highest temperature in the next week is 7 days) and there may be another storm on the way midweek. Our backs are sore. Our roofs have ice dams. Our schools may have to run until July. We’ve done all the fun storm activities, and all that’s left is the drudgery. Hopefully we can find some fun and magic in this, our fourth blizzard… but I’m not so sure.

On the upside, it’s Valentine’s Day! I found the perfectest gift ever for my husband, a periodical of Medieval Warfare, assuming our mail ever gets delivered again. I was the recipient of a Kindle that does all the things I want my Kindle to do, like 3G and backlighting. Ahhhhhh…. I’ve been on his account on my Kindle, and it means I can’t sync to my other apps, so I decided to forge ahead and order on my own for this one. Very exciting. I gave the boys meaningful and heartfelt homemade cards. I’m so very lucky to have three such wonderful Valentines!

Hex heaven and hell

So, here’s a funny story I failed to share with you at the time. As you all know, bated-breath-daily-readers, my son began Kindergarten in our public school this year. What this really means is that we entered the Realm of the PTO Fundraiser. Now, I’m delighted by the Japanese drummers and such that the PTO helps pay for, so I cheerfully forked over my dues. Then there was the big Halloween fundraiser. Every family was expected to sell 12 cash raffle tickets at $5 a piece (or $25 for six). I toyed with offering to swap purchases with our similarly be-Kindergartenered neighbors. But when I jokingly mentioned this “great opportunity” to my mother-in-law, she actually professed a desire to part with money for these tickets and demanded I offer said opportunity to my parents as well. Bemused, I did. And thus I disposed of our 12 obliged tickets, end of story.

Or not. We left the Halloween party prior to the great unveiling of winners, but not being the optimistic sort thought nothing of it. Until the day my mother-in-law arrived home to find a $500 check. She was the grand prize winner!

Now, long time readers of the blog will know that one of my mother-in-law’s favorite hobbies is home renovation. Namely: our home. It started with painting the basement floor the week we moved in. Then we had Thane’s prenatal bedroom renovation (she painted), our bedroom repainting (while I was gone one day), the kitchen repainting, the hallway repainting (she’s a genius with paint), the entry-way transformation early one post-Piemas morning, and the infamous “I’m sure the tile under the carpet is in fine shape” bathroom renovation just this September. All this she has accomplished despite living 1000 miles away and weighing 90 pounds wet. (To be fair, my parents helped demo Thane’s room and repainted the living room 3 years ago this week. But they don’t daydream about our attic the same way Laureen does.) And I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two more minor renovations she instigated or executed. So she decided what she wanted to do with her money was to “update” something in our house – generously leaving the choice of what up to me.

"Before" picture... from before we painted the living room
"Before" picture... from before we painted the living room

Watching how hard it was to use the XBox Kinect in our smallish living room as currently configured, I finally decided it was time to pull the trigger and get rid of the ancient CRT media center we had gotten for free because they didn’t want to move it when we moved into our last rented house. So Thursday was planned as a trip to IKEA.

Both boys are now old enough to go to “Smaland” – which was great. It gave us just enough time to scope out the available options, attempt to decide if glass shelves were advantageous or disadvantageous, and put together A Plan. We blessed our larger vehicle with the roof-rack as we vibrated home up I93. Then we had dinner with friends, put the kids to bed, and sat down with massive amounts of cardboard, Swedish instructions, hex wrenches and the Mythbusters. Half an hour past midnight, the pieces were all assembled, but we were too tired to put them in place. So this afternoon, we attached, wired, organized and otherwise prepared for our new configuration.

I confess I’m pleased as punch about just how nice it looks. Here it is in daylight:

Daylight demonstration
Daylight demonstration

I just took this one, so the light’s different but you can see more:

I can hardly express how much BIGGER the room seems!
I can hardly express how much BIGGER the room seems!

And as a bonus, here’s my husband hard at work:

He actually has a hex bit for his drill
He actually has a hex bit for his drill

On my own, pretending he’s beside me

So I have a secret for you. I actually really love my husband. Shhh… I know it’s not kosher to be madly in love with the father of my sons, but there you have it. The truth is out.

This morning I woke up without complaint at 7. (This is how you know it’s really love.) I got myself and my boys ready to go. We drove to the airport, where I spent half an hour saying goodbye to my husband. From the drama, you’d think he was being deployed to Iraq and I wouldn’t see him for another year and he stood a good chance of being killed. In reality, his company runs a big conference every year and every salaried employee is expected to be present and help out. My highly trained, brilliant engineer of a husband is spending 7 days in Nashville doing coat-check. I haven’t decided whether this is a brilliant team building technique, a misguided attempt at cost savings (sorry, engineer salary + travel expenses = much cheaper to hire a local), or some combination thereof.

Regardless, he is gone until Friday and I am missing him sorely already. Let me say first that I really, really don’t know how single parents do it. I don’t have to show up to work. (Actually I had this giddy moment of freedom when I realized that I could be gone as long and as far as the contents of my diaper bag could get me. For a split second I tried to figure out how far I could get and come back. Then I remembered I didn’t have my cell charger….) I don’t have huge monetary constraints. (Hello takeout!) Heck, Grey’s daycare will take him as a drop in which is very likely what I’ll do once the week returns. But man, it’s hard to wrangle two kids by myself. Walking somewhere and not carrying anything or anyone is a huge luxury. You should’ve seen me wrestling it all at IKEA. I couldn’t buy the tasty carbonated beverages due to a tragic lack of hands. The meatballs were purchased with a VISA and at the cost of future feeling in my right thumb. And Grey and Thane were actually being really, really good!

When I was doing my anticipatory dreading of this, I worried about how I would handle the boys when they’re doing their tandem weeping/screaming routine. Granted, entertaining and tending to my sons is definitely a challenge. But I think the hard part will be the loneliness. I was already feeling pretty lonely, spending my days in the company of two people younger than most of my jeans and Spongebob Squarepants. But at least my husband would come home at night and I would deluge him with all the thoughts that had piled up in my head during the day. But I don’t actually have to talk to another adult in person until my brother arrives sometime on the Thursday/Friday border. Of course I will. Tomorrow is church. Monday a friend is going with me to the Museum of Science with the boys. I’m quite sure other things will appear on my schedule.

But mostly, I miss my husband. I really like him. I like doing things with him. My sons are also his sons, and I can lean on him as much as is needed to do those things which need doing.

May my husband return to me soon.

My handsome husband
My handsome husband