This Blogging Thing

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Guess what?!

We are super close to my one year anniversary as a blogger. I’d like to thank The Academy, the search engines, my husband -but, really, all you people with eyes and fingers who help me believe that my writing’s worthwhile.

A year seems hardly that much older, yet I feel more comfortable about the whole blogging thing than when I first started.

I’m sure you know the questions I had when first starting: What if no one reads what I write? What if no one likes me? What am I going to write about every day? Will a talent agent ask me to publish right away, or do I have to wait a few months? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

So, yes, I have learned the answers to these questions. The short answer to all but the last is that people will read you if you read them, and no one on this ole internet thingie gets anywhere without a lot of work.

As part of being all experienced and whatnot, I decided to create a WordPress site solely on the topic of the book I hope to one day publish: I Didn’t Want to Be a Mother. This, right here, is a self-promoting blog post to get you to check it out sometime.

….I’d better go write some more entries over there.

Until then; thanks again, and keep reading!

Happy Mother’s Day

The sun isn’t very bright yet when she wakes to the sound of loud whispering, to the sight of a homemade paper card a few millimeters from her face. The smell is that of unsorted laundry, bedsheets a tad late for their cleaning, with an infusion of overdue diaper. She doesn’t seem able to lift her legs, or one arm. Even her lower extremities are pinned; the sleepy man to her side wakes enough to stretch and embrace what he can affectionately reach.

Using her free hand, she grasps at the card and pulls it to the range at which she can make out its contents. It’s too early, her brain complains, to decipher Cyrillic. She blinks and refocuses. Ah, she realizes, those were flowers -and probably people. Maybe letters.

Taking a guess, she attempts speech. “How nice, Sweetheart!” The artist frowns at the unusually croaky sounds. She clears her throat some, and tries again. “I see you drew me and you and flowers…” She relaxes as his scowl turns to smiles. Satisfied, he turns and falls off the bed, relieving one pinned leg.

The next boy thrusts his offering at equal facial distance to the first, then turns and frowns disinterestedly at the wall. This one is definitely English; it’s even partially typed. She sees he is clearly the most talkative child on paper, too, with so many one-word responses to this standard form his class was given. Age: 33, Hair: brown, Favorite food: food. She smiles, then looks more strained at the next two answers he’d supplied: She likes to … do dishes, She’s really good at … doing dishes. She tries to look grateful as he’s pretending not to watch but really is.

“Thanks, Honey,” she smiles and is not surprised as he shrugs and dodges her attempts to hug him. He, too, leaves the bed and another leg free.

She looks to her last child, on her other arm, and to her other half. Both smile up at her with similar expressions. Genetics will do that. “I love you, Mommy,” the wet diaper owner says sweetly. He cringes adorably as she awkwardly kisses his plump cheek.

Dad sighs and sits up. “Let’s go make Mommy breakfast,” he tells his youngest. He scoops her remaining impediment into the air playfully. He looks down at the bedheaded beauty who birthed them all.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he says, kisses her around their squirming child, and leaves.

Finally alone, she looks over her offspring’s offerings, and cries.

Coming of Age

My oldest son recently turned 12. I spent a few months days in denial, particularly since that means he will be a junior high student next year.

After the shock wore off, the full weight of responsibility hit me suddenly: I am mother to THE MOMENT.

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It’s A Day No Pigs Would Die, Catcher in the RyeFinding Neverland time of life. My son will be crossing the bridge of life into manhood, and I’m wholly unprepared. I’m not sure what to do first.

Child Protective Services might get called if we try a Native American Vision Quest, or Sateré Mawé bullet ant gloves.

I suppose I’d better just arrange for a good, old-fashioned death maze that leads to a formerly-trustworthy man possessed by a somewhat-immortal killer wizard.

Chamber of Secrets

After all, I want my son to be prepared for whatever challenges he might face in life.

Children’s Songs That Don’t Suck

Some people are irritated by very specific things: nails on chalkboards, a supervisor’s voice, forks on a ceramic plate, or animals chewing with their mouth open.

For me, it’s children singing.

Now, now, now -don’t get up in arms and start defending anyone. Don’t ask me whether I’m a good mother, cringing whenever my offspring try to carry a tune. That’s not it at all. My real hate is when children sing what they ought not to.

Don’t believe me? Go listen to that devil’s creation: Kid’s Bop. Oh, wait. It’s spelled “Kidz Bop.”

Children singing off-key and innocently to pop songs would be my eternal torment. Actually -eternal torment would be facing a mundane chore like piles of laundry or dishes; and when I am literally folding the last sock or washing the last pan, something dumps another hour’s worth of work in front of me.

Wait a minute…

So, getting back to children doing terribly irritating things, I thought I’d save anyone else the trouble of torture by providing a list of songs geared toward young children that will not drive you completely batty (er… more completely batty).

1. Caspar Babypants
Did you ever listen to “Peaches,” “Lump,” or “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by The Presidents of the United States of America? If not, do yourself a solid and check them out. “Peaches,” alone is worth watching; I do so with my offspring frequently. Weird Al even parodied “Lump” with a song titled “Gump.”

That lead singer, whatshisname (Chris Ballew) went on to produce and sing a whole crapload of songs once he settled down and made mini hims. I like a lot of them; they’re cute, catchy, and have good lyrical and musical aspects.

2. Banaphone
This is an oldie but a goodie. I can’t allow the kiddos to replay this one as often as Babypants, but it’s still fun.

They also like the video, so win-win.

3. They Might Be Giants, for kids
TMBG has clever songs for all ages. The singer’s a bit nasally, but their lyrics are educational. Admittedly, we listen to much of the Apollo 18 soundtrack with our children as well; but those aren’t specifically for a younger audience (say, like when I mute that tiny cuss word at the start of “I Palindrome I”).

I respect a band that tries to keep things scientifically accurate. Like, releasing a new sun song when they felt the old one was misinforming.

4. Lots of classical pieces
My nerdy childhood was spent listening to the classical station on the radio and trying to be a snob of a higher degree. I listen to a wide variety of music now; and, by proximity, so do my children.

Still, music of this sort has the following advantages: clean, enlightening, traditional, timeless, and the YouTube videos don’t usually have some animated character dancing around and causing listeners to just stare at a screen.

5. Instrumental covers of awesome songs
Yes, the originals are better. For all the benefits I outlined above (like, no swearing or questionable video content), I will sometimes put these on to play while we’re cleaning the house.

And yes, these are not geared toward kids. It’s my list, though, so I make the rules.

6. Super Simple Songs
Now here’s a company who knows its audience. These are NOT songs to play if you don’t want small children staring at a screen, so maybe play it from computer speakers with the monitor turned off?

For a good half-hour or hour of needing to use the bathroom and text and adult, I am in favor of playing them as-is.

Super Simple Songs are almost annoying. I certainly wouldn’t pick them for an eternal playlist, but I will listen to quite a few without tearing my ears off my head.

7. Parry Gripp
If you have children, you have probably heard of “It’s Raining Tacos.” Don’t worry -I’m not going to suggest you listen to Parry Gripp all day long. I merely threw it on here because they’re fun, my spawn enjoy many of them, and I liked them back before they were annoying cool.

In fact, “Mr. Raisin Toast” was the first of theirs we listened to.

8. The Muppets
Again, these fall into the “watch it, too” category. But, you know -Sesame Street. Nostalgia. Subtle humor that doesn’t involve farting (always a plus when one has all boys, like me).

That’s about all I can remember for tonight. I’ll write another post about songs we all like (and are appropriate), in the mainstream music field. Besides those, do YOU have any to suggest? Don’t be shy; we’re always open to new songs and artists.

Food on Your Family

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There is a recall out for chopped Romaine lettuce.

Normally, I am unaffected by produce recalls because my lettuce was purchased thirty days ago and I am still telling myself that I’ll eat it. I can cut around all the brown spots, right? We’d hosted a family party Sunday, however, so I bought that huge package of Romaine hearts from Costco the day before.

As each heart was ripped out and discarded, I had the mental image of pulling cash from my wallet and throwing green bills away.

Which leads me to a common question I hear: how much does it cost to feed a family?

I have four boys. They’re young, and have always had modest appetites. My husband, who has never passed 150 lbs in his life, says he feels full after soup. Still, our food costs are going to be more than a young couple working full time or a small family of three.

Plus, kids grow. They eat more when they grow.

I lived with my younger brother when he was a teenager. I’m safely estimating that I’ll have that TIMES FOUR in a few, short years.

One perk to having children is that people will occasionally offer me free food. As in, Chelsea, I’m moving and am just throwing away all the food in my fridge. Do you want to come over and see if you can use any? Or, I’m going on a restrictive diet and left some pantry items on your porch. Give away what you don’t use.

It almost makes up for how much I spend otherwise. Actually -no, no it doesn’t.

Whenever I think I’ve got it bad, however, I think of larger families. We’ve hosted my husband’s sister’s family of eight children a handful of times. Don’t worry -we’ve returned the favor. But adding six people to ten is easier: just kill two chickens instead of the one and throw a bit more flour into the roll dough.

I may go into Costco to buy bread and come out with a new set of tires, but my weekly trips and expenses for food are about equal to my sister-in-law’s daily ones.

One of my favorite films to watch growing up was Yours, Mine, and Ours, with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. Although it has many pertinent scenes, every time our relatives come stay I replay the grocery store part in my mind. In the film, the poor cashier enters the products manually. Tub after tub of oatmeal follows bags and bags of Wonder bread, AND they have two more shopping carts to go after all that. The cashier totals it all up; they spent $126.63 (the equivalent of $920.87, using online inflation calculators).

The North family really could have used a Costco.

We took our ten house guests to the world’s largest Costco last time they were here. My husband was at work, so we may have resembled members of a certain lifestyle involving two wives. Each adult manned a shopping cart and helped herd the dozen children roaming around us.

It was somewhat exciting to purchase 36 hot dogs, multiple loaves of bread, 5 lbs of cheese, and enormous bags of chips -and know that we would eat it all within the week. We filled the carts with food and diapers, plus children in time-out.

I felt overwhelmed projecting how much regular grocery bills must cost. And, as with any large organization (recalls aside), their family has waste. have waste, and feel that I do fairly well planning out meals and reusing leftovers.

I find myself mentally calculating what the cheapest take-out meals are (Chinese food, pizza, or chicken “on the bird” from Costco), least-expensive home meals are (bean soup, grilled cheese and tomato soup, pancakes), or how often we can visit relatives at mealtimes.

I mean, when the boys do hit puberty, I’m going to be in trouble. Donations? GoFundMe, maybe? Actually, taking a full-time job might be the best option.

I wonder if Costco is hiring.

 

Easter Hunt

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The scratched wood floor finally looked clear, though that status didn’t extend to its edges. A bit of green poked from a nook. Pink showed from an under-couch cranny. A wrapper crinkled from directly beneath her slipper.

Ann sighed, and stooped to free the purple foil from her sole. It stuck a bit stubbornly, finally releasing itself with a parting gift of caramel. At this moment, she felt a small tug at her left pant leg. She looked down at a three-year-old-grin looking up.

“Can I eat this?” A chocolate-mouthed creature asked. It proffered an unwrapped egg in its brown-tipped fingers.

Ann thought it might be her youngest child, and addressed it accordingly. “Sure, Jane,” she tiredly answered. Jane, as she proved to be, smiled the beatific smile of the sugar saturated young, shoved the chocolate into her mouth, and ran off. Ann cringed, hoping Jane would not feel inclined to touch or kiss anything. Realization hit; pants examined. She sighed, telling herself the brown barely showed against the natural, washed-out black of the yoga pants. If anything, it matched a few other spots.

She kneeled to extract the pink object under the couch. It made a light rattling sound. Sitting widened thighs against middle-aged cankles, she carefully opened the plastic egg. Broken bits of candy shell rained a light powder upon her lap. Two half-clad Hershey’s eggs rolled inside the plastic halves within her grip.

“Those are mine!” Will said, suddenly at her side. Ann hadn’t heard him approach; had, in fact, been calling the boy for the last half hour to come clean up his mess or she was going to throw it away. As always, she was amazed at how quickly the children could move when given their definition of “proper motivation.”

Will stuck out a hand to accept the shells’ inner contents. His mother obliged. He closed his fist; she winced. Leaving her with a parting scowl of entitlement, he ran off after his sister. Into thin air, she couldn’t help thinking. Distractedly, she looked down. She brushed at the dust, which removed the larger bits.

Thinking she ought to take advantage of her current position, Ann ducked to search the remainder of The Land Beneath the Furniture. She carefully ran a hand along the floor, internally recoiling at the questionable feel to unseen objects her fingers brushed against. Bravely, she pulled a few into light. Two broken Hot Wheels cars, hair elastics, Lego bricks, stale bread crust, a doll head, and half a plastic Easter egg tumbled out with an escort of crumbs and dust. She looked at the mess, extracted the half shell, and pushed the rest back out of sight. They’d know where to find Barbie’s head if they thought to ask for it.

Ann kneel-crawled over to the green egg in the corner of the room. She picked it up; opened it over the hardwood. Some loose change was exposed. It looked to total 57 cents. She considered keeping it -payment for a morning’s maid-work. She knew, however, that this was the very 57 cents her eldest had collared Will over just an hour prior.

“Mary!” Ann called, from her sit-squat on the floor.

“Whaa-aaat?” a pre-teen answered. The response seemed to come from Ann’s bathroom, upstairs.

Two reasons now presented themselves for bringing her daughter hither: the money, and removal from whatever of Ann’s makeup Mary was surely testing upon her face. “I found your money!” Ann shouted.

A pause, then, “Okay!” Overheard; a drawer closed, an item dropped and was scraped against the floor as it was retrieved, a drawer opened and closed again, and footsteps exited across hard tiles. Soon, Ann’s keen ears heard Mary’s soft footsteps majestically skipping down the stairs.

A deeper-lipped twelve-year-old than Ann was accustomed to seeing sauntered casually into the room. Mary also seemed to have tried some blue eyeshadow and pink blush. The results were somewhat frightening, but Ann pretended as much ignorance as her daughter. She held the egg and its change out, waiting for Mary’s deliberately slow walk to bring her close enough to accept the offering.

Mary finally reached her mother, took the egg, and studied her face for reaction. Little sleep and years of practice with Will’s antics had trained Ann well. She simply nodded, then intentionally exaggerated her attempts to rise from the floor in order to give Mary time to exit.

Sure enough, Ann got to her feet just as Mary was walking out the arched doorway of the family room. Ann sighed, but proudly noted the progress she’d made with the room. It had taken the better part of two hours, but the dusty floor was finally clear of all the leftovers of the morning’s hunt and after-party.

She walked over to the garbage and threw away the wrapper, half shell, and some more pants dust. “Mo-o-o-o-o-o-om!” Jane sang loudly, entering the room as she did.

“Yes, Jane?” Ann asked.

“I just lo-o-ove Easter egg hunts!” Jane sighed, grabbing both her mother’s legs and swinging a bit. She paused, and looked thoughtful. “Do you, Mommy?”

Ann looked down at her still-filthy angel. She could still feel the bits of under-couch detritus on her fingertips, the sensation of a coin-filled egg upon her palm, and could see her oldest’s smeary-lipped expression of nonchalance. Ann glanced at the pile of discarded plastic egg shells she’d gathered in the hours of cleaning. Finally, she looked back to her innocent child’s face.

“Of course I do,” she answered, smiling in return.

My Mama Said

Stress

My mama didn’t say there’d be days like today.

She didn’t say I’d wake completely wasted from staying up writing for a job I took because I have no job skills and only the lingering hope that everyday writing will somehow help and the paycheck is something whereas writing what I feel is nothing.

And the children, the children are yelling and picking and putting each other down like mean little parrots of their emotionally-drained parent who stayed up writing and let them watch a movie as a treat and to distract them from herself.

But watching a movie wasn’t a Fun Mom thing after all because now my child with some behavior diagnosis or another is telling me exactly what he thinks and his disrespectful behavior is the sort that would have gotten knuckles slapped or backsides switched a hundred years ago but instead I’m supposed to hug him and reassure him that his erroneous feelings are valid and I love him no matter what.

I don’t remember my mama telling me there’d be days where I didn’t love my children, no matter what because they’re impertinent and rude whilst telling me that I am the rude one while I’m washing their clothes and making their food and cleaning their residual dirt from all the floors.

No, she didn’t tell me about how many floors were in a house and how many clothing items four small boys can manage to dirty per hour or how many times they’ll throw an empty cup in the sink till only the backup ones are clean and those free-from-restaurant sorts are what visiting guests drink from.

But, really, I’m sure my mama did not anticipate driving to preschool in sock feet, gym clothes that never saw exercise today, and hair that keeps falling out when a light zephyr passes through the air or when a child dislodges several in a rough sign of affection that was probably more of an attempt to show how upset he was over yet another Rude Mom gesture.

Perhaps she knew about the hopelessness, about the parroting, about the ramshackle hairstyle. Maybe she was watching us mirror her sadness and repeat her empty, futile anger as we did whatever we wanted. Did we hear her crying as we knocked incessantly at the locked door?

Honestly, I’m not sure what my mama said because I didn’t always listen.

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