Friday, August 28, 2009

My Fiction Writing Career Part Deaux -- Or, why I stopped writing in the first place.

So, I'm trying my hand at fiction. Don't know what I'm doing, seeing as how I've never done this before, unless you count the short stories my friends and I wrote in seventh grade about the new boys we had crushes on, which I certainly do not.

Since I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to fiction, I thought I'd take a class. I went to a free class given by a self-published author at a nearby library. The author had written six or seven books that she had published herself. I was duly impressed. She gave us a formula for writing books. (I like knowing the rules, I just don't always choose to follow them.) She, being the Type-A teacherly person that she is, was emphatic that her method would work for everybody. It was kind of a mix of "outline, make notes and have all your stuff together at hand" and "put your butt in your seat and your fingers on your keyboard every day and write at least four pages a day and do not move from said chair until it is done." That's one way of doing it. Probably a fairly good way of doing it, too.

But silly Type-A people, don't you know that the rest of us live a life you could never imagine? We do not put our notes in one place -- we write one set in a steno pad that sits next to the stove, one on the back of an envelope we found in the car while stopped at a red light, and several in scattered notebooks around the house that may or may not still have our son's name on them. *Oh, you other Type-Messy people don't do this? That's just me? Oh, I can see*

Needless to say, my ways are not her ways. And yes, my ways cause me lots of stress, and it would certainly be better if I broke down and got my proverbial "stuff" together and got organized. Yes it would. It'd also be nice if my six-year-old could sprinkle herself with fairy dust and take off into the air and fly like she keeps wishing for, but that's not going to happen any time soon either.

So, back to the keeping notes in my 8-year-old's notebooks. I don't actually do that. I've taken notes in notebooks that were formerly his. Yes, technically they have his name on them, but that's just because when I bought his supplies last year I accidentally wrote his name on about eight notebooks and I think he only used four. And yes, one of these notebooks has about three pages of his scribbles in them, but the rest of the used pages have things like to-do lists for Girl Scouts and other stuff from my life. He has not used these in months, and I need them, so that means they no longer belong to him.

Now that that's clear, let me tell you about my wonder boy. He will be nine in October. He started third grade two weeks ago. He read the first two Harry Potter books over the summer. I don't know exactly what level he is reading on (I seem to be the only parent on the planet whose child's teacher last year did not tell her her child's reading level, or maybe she did and I lost it. That is a distinct possibility.) but I'm guessing it's slightly above third grade, probably around eighth.

Anywho, I was writing away on my just-another-coming-of-age-in-the-South story, trying to figure out how to e-mail it from the laptop since my e-mail is on the desktop, and my son comes up behind me. I did not realize he was looking, or I would have closed the file. This story has exactly two "bad" words in it, one is a place where every child knows the devil lives and the other is a bad word for a girl/woman that rhymes with witch. These are fairly run of the mill, nothing to get excited over kind of words if you are an adult reading fiction. An 8-year-old reading fiction is another story.

Him: Oooh, you said a bad word mom.
Me: What? What are you doing? Are you reading that? That is none of your business. And I didn't say the bad word, my character did.
Him: What?
Me: I'm writing a short story, and my character said it in the story, and it's not for you to read. It's for adults. Aren't you supposed to be doing your homework?
Him: But why does your story have bad words in it?
Me: It has exactly two bad words in it, and it is for adults, not kids, and it is none of your business really, and I don't appreciate you reading my things, and exactly why aren't you doing your homework right now?

*Playing the homework card really helps in these situations.*

Argh! This is why I have never kept a diary. This is why I have not written since seventh grade. Oh, if I'd kept writing bad fiction back then, maybe I'd know what I was doing by now, but my mother found my short stories back then. I was as innocent as they come in seventh grade, although I did know the basics about "The Birds and the Bees," but I made the mistake of wondering, WONDERING, about S*E*X and why people would want to do that and then was WONDERING about kissing and other silly, innocent seventh-grade-crush stuff and my mother FREAKED OUT! Now, I'm not saying as a mom that she wasn't entitled a freak out moment. I'm sure I will freak out about S*E*X with my children, and what they are thinking about and when, but it scarred me. Not about sex, about writing. I figured if anybody could read what I was MAKING UP and NOT REALLY THINKING ABOUT WANTING TO DO IN REAL LIFE, EWWW! and judge it, and I could GET IN TROUBLE FOR IT, then I really ought not be doing it. So that pretty much ended my interest in a career in fiction.

Fast forward 20 years, (okay 25 if I'm being honest) and it's happening again. A family member is reading my writing without my permission and making judgements and I hate it. It is more a feeling of my right not to be read until I am ready being violated than worrying about what he was thinking or reading. The story he was reading was about a sixth grader and, except for one minor part, I would have no problem with him reading it by himself. The other minor part I would let him read while I explained it, so he'd understand. And the bad words, although shocking to see in print, are nothing worse than what he has heard slip from my lips on more than one occasion. *I am not perfect! Quit judging me!*

Oh, and back to those notebooks. He found one of his, er my, notebooks that same day that had a few questions in it. I'm also working on another novel where the protagonist gets pregnant her senior year in college while living on her sorority's dorm floor. He did not read about this! I needed to research what would happen to her. So I wrote these questions to remind myself: "What happens if you get pregnant in a sorority? Do you get kicked out? Do you get kicked off the floor?"

Him: What did you write in my notebook? (a little shrill in tone)
Me: (To self, "$#@%, he's found the questions. Seriously, what is wrong with me!?! Why can't I put my crap back where it belongs. I am the world's worst mother!") What? Those are questions for a story I am writing. What are you doing looking in my notebook reading my things? (a little shrill myself)
Him: It's my notebook.
Me: That is not your notebook. It only has your name on it, because I messed up and wrote it on there last year.
Him: But look, I wrote on a couple of pages.
Me: You haven't used that in months, and I needed a notebook. It has lots of lists and notes and things I need in there and what are you doing reading that notebook when you should be doing your homework!?!

Now, looking back over the actual questions and not the meaning they held for me, I could have handled this differently. There was no need to panic, because they really aren't that bad. I'm sure he was confused, but at least they didn't say what I was thinking, "What happens if you get pregnant in college by your jerk of a boyfriend you shouldn't have been in love with and who now won't marry you, and then you lose your housing and end up on your own and you are told by more than one friend to get an abortion, but you soldier on and decide to have it without the help of the 'father' and your 'friends' and you manage to somehow make a good life for yourself anyway?" No the questions, thankfully, did not say all that. They didn't even say you got pregnant when you were not married. I could have played them off, but instead I went for changing the subject and bringing up the unfinished homework, which is guaranteed to cause him to scramble since he is not one to sit down and dutifully do homework.

Yes one day, dear reader, I will get my proverbial crap together and keep my notes and computer files where they belong, and I will write a book that is well received by critics and the public alike, and then I will have to deal with my mother and my oldest child reading it and being upset that their daughter/mother writes about such things as, oh I don't know, life? But for now, I'm getting the Sharpie out and plastering my name across every notebook in the house and then hiding them in my room. Maybe that will serve as a deterrent.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wherein I open a can of worms

I have issues with the Girl Scouts. There, I've said it. Seeing as how I am a card-carrying member of the Girl Scouts -- a Daisy Leader no less -- I am sure they are going to knock on my door any minute and kick me out. I don't have issues with my local Girl Scout peeps -- I love them -- I just have issues with the national organziation. I'd probably be just fine and even forget they exist on a national level, if they didn't keep sending me these darn catalogs reminding me that I really don't like them very much. Argh!

A little background. I'm married to an Eagle Scout. My third grader is in his third year of Cub Scouts and my husband, the Eagle Scout, is his den leader. It would not be a stretch to say, "I love the Cub/Boy Scouts." I love that my son promises every week to do his duty to God and country and to help other people and to obey the law of the pack (follow directions from the leader and be a good Cub Scout). I love the values he's learning, and I love that he will get a pocketknife and learn how to use it safely this year. Seeing as how my brother got his first B.B. gun and a course in hunter safety at age 7, a pocketknife at 9 that comes with safety instructions is not cause for alarm for me.

Back to Girl Scouts (hereby known as G.S.) I thought long and hard about letting my daughter join G.S. I researched the organization, and frankly what I found I did not like. I knew they had kicked God out a while back. (He now has an * beside His name.) They bowed to secular pressure. I get it. They aren't the first organization, and sadly won't be the last, that goes along to get along. But it doesn't mean I have to like it.

Dropping their Christian Heritage is just one of the things I found about the national G.S. organization that I do not like. Since this post is about making hard decisions as a parent and not about politics, I will not get into all of the things I don't like. You can always Google it youself. Suffice it to say that as a whole, the national G.S. organization is very liberal, and I am not. In fact, I am pretty conservative.

So, here's the hard questions I faced, "Do I let my child be part of a group that doesn't share our family's values?" Or, "Do I disappoint my daughter and make her miss out on an opportunity to grow and learn with other girls her age." Yes, I realize there was another option. I could have started a "Christian-based" scouting group for my daughter and this would have solved my dilemma. There is a great one out there that is not yet in my community. To start the group here would have taken countless hours and support from a local church and many volunteers. I researched it and prayed about it and decided it just wasn't the time for me to do it. It would have taken time away from my family and away from any other volunteer activity I might want to do, and frankly, I didn't have the energy. But I do admit that every time I read about it, I wish my daughter was a part of it instead of G.S.

My mother had the same dilemma when I was growing up. She chose not to let me join Brownies, because she did not agree with the leader's morals and values. (This was before the organization as a whole became really liberal.) Lets just say the leader wasn't the type of woman my mother wanted me spending time with. I was a little bit upset with my mom because I was missing out, and I thought she was being judgemental -- she told me why I couldn't join. But I was also relieved. She wasn't like any of the other moms I knew and her brashness made me nervous. When I was older, my mom told me that she had tried to see if I could be in another troop, but there wasn't one. She decided that it was better for me to miss out on that opportunity than to let me be influenced by a woman who did not share her values. As a mom now, I really respect her decision.

But the situation with my daughter is a little different. She was desperate to be a scout. Remember the Eagle Scout dad and Cub Scout brother? So I really felt that it wouldn't be fair to keep her from being a scout. But obviously I was concerned about what she would be learning in scouts. So what's a mom to do? Why, volunteer to co-lead the group of course.

So now I'm the crazy mother of three co-leading 13 girls in a G.S. troop, and I really like it when I'm not worn out by it. I am not only shaping my daughter's values, I'm helping shape those of 12 other little girls and that's a responsibility I take seriously. And the good thing about G.S. in my small town is that the other leaders are awesome women who love the girls and whose values match my own. And when you lead a G.S. troop, you can kind of make it whatever you want. So right now, I'm taking what I think is good about G.S. and leaving the rest. My troop is made up of first graders, so as long as we have a snack and play a game, they are pretty happy. But we're also learning about virtues like honesty, kindness, helpfulness, being responsible for what we say and do, using resources wisely and being a sister to every Girl Scout, which is the really good part of Girl Scouts.

I'm pretty sure that other hard decisions I'll have to make for my children won't turn out with every body being happy, if tired, but this one did. So I'll chalk this up as a success and keep nurturing (and yes sheltering) my daughter as long as I can.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Suzie Q. Homemaker ain't got nothin' on me!

If you know me, or if you've read more than one entry of my blog, you probably know that Suzie Q. Homemaker I am not. In fact, I am not crazy about the title homemaker (you can read about that here), but not for any PC reason. It's because I feel like I am crappy at making a home and if that is my title, I am afraid I might be failing miserably. Cooking and cleaning just aren't my thing.

However, I must have been bitten by the Suzie Homemaker bug this week, because last night I bit the bullet and cooked an actual meal from scratch *I can hear your oohs and ahhs from here* much to my children's chagrin. There was broccoli involved. My kids think there should never be broccoli involved in dinner, and they weep and wail and gnash their teeth accordingly when there is. Even this could not put me off my Suzie Q. Homemaker kick this week. This morning after the older two went out the door on their merry way to the bus stop, I browned up a pot roast -- using an apron and everything -- and threw it in the crock pot to cook. Nothing makes me feel more like Suzie Q. Homemaker than cooking while wearing an apron, except maybe sewing.

When it comes to sewing, I am a total throw back. Suzie Q. Homemaker's sewing skills ain't got nothin' on me. My mother is still confused by this turn of events. I am the girl who swore off HomeEc class, because by golly I was going to be a successful business woman, and I didn't need to learn "stupid, old-fashioned stuff" like cooking and sewing to do that. Seeing as how my mother barely made it through HomeEc herself, I don't think she batted an eye over my protest. Fast forward more years than I care to count, and here I am a bonafide sewing addict.

For every special occasion my children partake in, a special outfit must be made. First day of first grade? Let mommy make you a skirt with an attached apron out of Dick and Jane and coordinating polka dot fabric. Birthday girl turning three? Let me make a jumper with an appliqued giraffe holding three balloons for our zoo party theme. Earned a co-lead role in the first grade play? Let mommy make you and your co-lead matching shark costumes. Yes, I may be up until 2 a.m. the night before putting in buttonholes and finishing up hems, and I may look like a glassy-eyed loon taking their pictures at the event, but by golly my kids look good in their custom outfits! Dear readers, I have one thing to say for myself, "Hi, my name is Lori, and I'm a sewing addict."

One mom I know says she thinks that stay-at-home moms who sew for their kids do so for one main reason, recognition. I'm inclined to agree. When strangers come up to you at Disney World and ask you where on earth you got the precious Minnie Mouse t-shirt dress with the embroidered Minnie Mouse head on it, you can smile demurely and say, "Oh, you mean my daughters' dresses? Well, actually I made those." To which said stranger will ooh and ahh and tell you how talented you are. Or her husband will ask your husband in the men's room, no less, "Where did you get your daughter's dress? My wife would love one of those for our daughter." And your husband will smile and proudly say, "My wife makes them," and then he'll tell you that next time you should make up a bunch to bring to Disney to sell and thus pay for the trip. To which you will reply, "Uh, no thanks. I'm pretty sure you go to Disney jail if I you do that."

It's sad, but true, that when you put your heart and soul, as well as every moment of your day, into raising your kids, and you don't get a yearly review or end up with a glowing article about your mothering skills in the paper, all you want is a little recognition. For me, that recognition comes from sewing. (And now from writing again thanks to you, my dear readers, who comment on my blog!) Of course compliments on what nice manners your children have are even nicer than those on your sewing skills, but really, how often does that happen?

So yes, I do love the recognition I get from sewing, but I'm pretty sure that it runs deeper than that. There is something soothing about taking a piece of fabric, a pattern and an idea, and making it into something my daughters can wear. (I would make things for my 8-year-old son, but he isn't that interested in the things I make anymore. Can't say I blame him. I don't make graphic tees and cargo shorts.) Sewing is a creative process that has tangible, wearable results.

My love of sewing also comes from the relationships it has brought me. I love to sew in a group, and I love to talk sewing. I love to look at fabric and discuss patterns and bounce ideas off a friend. I love to get e-mails from Amy saying, "How cute is this!?!" and "We need to make that!" It's creativity with a little help from your friends, which might be the very best kind.

The height of this creativity amongst friends comes at my semi-annual (sometimes quarterlyish) sewing weekend. I, and several of my sewing friends, head out of town to a beautiful retreat that one of the friend's father-in-law owns. And we sew. For two and a half days and we LOVE it! Okay, so we've sort of incorporated a movie/wine drinking portion into Friday night, which means I don't sew once the wine flows, because my personal motto is "Just Say No to Drinking and Sewing." I have a hard enough time making my seams straight without the influence of alcohol.

But after Friday night, it is down to business for all of us. There are Easter outfits, a ball gown (Now that was an interesting weekend. Missy's husband will never give her that much lead time on a black-tie event again!), back-to-school, and Christmas items being made. The projects are as varied as the women making them. If I'm lucky I can embroider some items for a friend, while she puts some buttonholes in one of my garments. I hate buttonholes. Or, I can get their advice on what to do with a yard of funky fabric I picked up for a song. I can borrow patterns, suggest ideas on what they are making, and laugh and stay up far too late in the night trying to get one more ruffle on one more pant leg.

It is good times indeed, and I will relish these weekends while they last. I am sure our days of sewing for our children are numbered. One day far too soon they will look at us and say "I don't want to wear that," and we will have to face the fact that they are too old to wear what we make them. But for now, we sew on. And maybe after the children's garments are done, we'll take up home dec sewing. Or maybe start a movie/wine drinking club. I won't worry about that now. I don't have time. I need to get my fabric and patterns ready for the weekend. Can't wait to see you Friday, girls!

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Dizzy Confused State of Mind

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines vertigo as: a.) a sensation of motion in which the individual or the individual's surroundings seem to whirl dizzily b.) a dizzy confused state of mind. I define mild vertigo as that feeling you get when you've had one too many cocktails and you need just a teensy bit of help walking straight.

You don't even want to hear about moderate to severe vertigo. Let's just say it resembles the feeling you might get after drinking all night at a band party in college (not that I would know, I'm just speculating here). Or it could also be described as that feeling you get after riding one of those cups and saucers rides at Disney, or one of those rides at the fair that uses centrifugal force to keep you slammed back against the back of the ride so you don't go flying off into space. Anyway you slice it, it is NOT GOOD.

However, vertigo doesn't just come after drinking one too many cocktails with the girls and having an overall good time, or after making a very poor decision to climb up on that ride at the fair. No, for me vertigo comes with sinus problems, or after a week or two of not getting enough sleep, or when I move my head a certain way, or do something stupid like get on a kiddy ride at the fair, or just whenever the heck it wants to show up and leave me feeling slightly drunk (without the benefit of cocktails) and just a tad bit cranky for three to four days, before it decides to slink off and invade some other poor unsuspecting soul's brain.

I've been diagnosed with sinus issues. I've been diagnosed with Benign Positional Vertigo. I've even been diagnosed with Meniere's Disease (which I am pretty sure that I do not have, seeing as how I do not have horrible, debilitating, life-altering vertigo that some people have, God bless them.) So basically, they don't know why I have vertigo, nor do they know how to stop it. It's not a huge deal, since I only get it a few times a year. But while it's here rolling around in my brain, I feel icky and out of sorts, like I'm going to fall down every time I bend down to tie somebody's shoe. I hate icky and out of sorts.

The doctor who diagnosed me with Meniere's said that I should go on a low-salt diet, because Meniere's (which I'm convinced I do not have) may or may not be caused by excess fluid in the inner ear somewhere and going on a low-salt diet may or may not help it. Okay? When I told the doctor that a low-salt diet sounded like a lot of work for something that may or may not help. He said it wasn't hard at all and that I would probably lose 10 pounds and love it, and he just knew that I wouldn't want to take a water pill every day (all said while he was walking out the door of the exam room).

Well, lets just refer to him as Dr. Lying McLiar and go to his house and see what his salt intake is, because I guarantee you it is four times what he told me I should consume. Anyone ever tried low-salt ketchup? It's disgusting. And how would he know whether or not I want to take medicine without actually asking me? And couldn't I just take the water pill when I feel the vertigo coming on? As far as the comment about my weight goes, bite me! My completely average weight for my height is none of his Ear, Nose and Throat business.

Did I mention there really is no good medicine for vertigo? There is an anti-dizzy medicine which I think is basically Benadryl, and the only way it works is to knock you flat on your back asleep, so you don't feel the dizzy. Exactly how am I supposed to take care of three kids when I am prostrate in the bed? The other option is the "water pill" which Dr. Lying McLiar thinks I don't want to take, and I'm not convinced would work anyway. (Don't worry. If I want to take the water pill, I can certainly get it. I know of a Dr. Feelgood that would prescribe it and also any other drug I might think I need. Scary! But that is a post for a day called "Never" because I really do not want to get sued.)

I am currently having a bought of vertigo, and I'm a little Cranky McCranky myself. But I'm guessing you already knew that by now, right? Grrrr!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Captain Trash Strikes Again

There is a superhero that lives at my house. No, he is not able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or bend steel with his bare hands. His singular ability is to throw things away. He is, dun, dun, dun ... Captain Trash.

Jeff earned this moniker at some point when Whitson was in Kindergarten. I would go through our son's school folder and admire his daily work. Later that night when he would want to show his daddy his handy work, but he wouldn't be able to find it. "Where could it be?" he wondered. Oh no. He left it on the counter, so that must mean that Captain Trash had been there. Captain Trash tends to strike around 5:30 at our house. After the blur of kids coming to hug daddy and then running of from whence they came, Captain Trash sneaks into the pantry to eat a handful of Doritos and then throws away everything on the counter but the large pile of mail (the one thing I would like to see gone) away. Gone for good.

I think he gave himself the name after the kids started protesting. The kids would come crying to me wondering where their drawings of mermaid princesses and flying spacemen had gone, and I would send them straight to their father. He would admit, unashamedly, that he had thrown it all away. There were tears. There were protests. All to no avail. Now when the kids ask me, I turn it around and ask them who they think threw it away. They mutter a little disgustedly under their breath, "Captain Trash."

Dear reader, in case you've never been to my house, let me tell you my not-so-secret secret. My house is a cluttered mess. I am the "Queen of Clutter." It is my ministry. I make others feel better about their homes. There are probably 500 sheets of paper sitting atop my desk (as well as some yarn, lip balm, pictures, a book and a camera) as I type this. I am not known for my cleaning prowess or organizational skills. Having a cluttered house bothers me, but obviously not enough for me to have done anything about it. My husband, on the other hand, hates it. He would love to have an organized house and he does little things, like throw papers away, to make a dent in the clutter. I understand this. I can't say as I blame him, but sometimes it is quite annoying.

For instance, the kids will pull out an assignment to show to him and he will look at it, smile and throw it into the trash can while they are still standing there with proud little smiles on their face. I thought everyone knew that you had to wait until they were out of the room and then hide that crap in the trash can underneath the coffee filter. I do not need to keep every sheet they bring home from school. I keep the art projects and toss the rest -- but not in front of them! Have I mentioned that my husband has many, many strong suits? Sadly, tact is not among them. He sees no problem with throwing things away in front of the person who created it, including me. (He also sees no problem with stopping me in the middle of a story that I am feverishly telling him to ask me a completely non-related question, but alas that is a topic for another day.)

But it's not just the kids who suffer. He has no problem with throwing my things away. Important things. Things like Sunday School lessons. This, of course, is partially my fault. If I would find a place to put important things and then actually put them there, this would not be a problem. However, we've been married for 13 years, and I have been leaving important papers lying around (where I know they are) the whole time we've been married. We are still having a "debate" over whose fault it is that the S.S. lessons were thrown away. I brought the lessons home from church in Langley's church bag. I knew where they were, so I didn't remove them. I figured they were safe from Capt. Trash in there. But on the following Friday, I needed said bag for another reason. I was in a super hurry, so I took out all of the papers put them on the spot in my kitchen where my purse lives. (Okay, so it's on the ground in a corner, but that is where my purse lives, as well as other important things that I take in and out of the house every day. It's lived their for seven years and he knows it. Don't Judge Me!)

When I got home, I plopped my purse down on top of them, knowing where they were and planning to look at them later. The next day when we were getting ready to study the Sunday School lessons, I go over to where I keep my purse and lo and behold, they are gone. To the dump. Apparently while Captain Trash was rounding up all the trash in the house, he walked by my purse, saw the offending papers, put them into the kitchen trash without looking at them, and then took them off to the dump.

Yes, I understand that technically they were on the floor, but they were underneath, and obviously WITH, my purse. This was not my fault. But he was ticked -- at me! It was as if I had picked up the S.S. lessons and tossed them in the trash. "They were in a pile" he said, "on the floor!" "They were with my purse!" I said. Maybe to him they looked like trash, but to me they were one with my purse, which is the most important thing I own and he knows it!

Oh, aren't we a pair? Opposites most certainly attract. I'm convinced that God loves me enough to have sent my wonderful husband to me, so that I would be happy and not end up living in squalor. However, it can be maddening. Since I am also the kind of girl who writes things like important phone numbers that can never be found again on backs of envelopes, these things are routinely thrown away as well. I find his throwing out paper as maddening as he finds me piling it up. So I guess we're even. So, why bring the whole Captain Trash thing up tonight? Because he struck again.

I have a friend who needs #6 plastic to make shrinky dinks. Apparently you don't have to buy the expensive stuff, you can make your own. Who knew? Anyway, I was keeping some blueberry containers for her. They were in the fridge with a few berries left. Afraid that Captain Trash would get to them first, I cleaned them out, put them in a plastic bag and put them on top of my purse so I would remember to take them to her. I didn't see her at Open House, so I brought them back in the house and put them on top of my purse again. I specifically tied them up in a Kroger plastic bag to keep Captain Trash from seeing them. I almost put a note on them saying, "Hands Off Captain Trash," but alas, I could not find the "sticky" tape that my children thieved from my desk. When I couldn't find the containers this evening, I hoped for the best.

Me: Honey, you didn't happen to see some blueberry containers that I washed and dried and put in a plastic bag did you?"

Captain Trash: Yep, their gone. I threw them away.

That's when I started to get irritated at being married to a super hero. We never argue over normal things like in-laws, money or how to raise the kids. We argue over the dirty house, our busy schedules and Captain Trash throwing things away that do not belong to him.

Me: WHAT!?! I was saving those which is why I specifically tied them up in a bag where you couldn't see them and put them on top of MY PURSE.

Captain Trash: Well, their gone now.

Me: But I was saving those for someone. Why would you throw them away. They were in a bag. ON MY PURSE!

CT: Looked like trash to me. If it looks like trash, I'm going to throw it away.

And it went on like that for a few more minutes until our three-year-old told us to "stop fighting and be nice." Properly chagrined, I came downstairs to write. I fuss. I fume. I get over it. And Captain Trash lives to fight paper another day. He never apologizes by the way. Captain Trash is, after all, a super hero who is obviously saving us all from death by paper. Who knew living with a super hero could be such a pain in the arse!

*Update, Captain Trash went diving in the kitchen trash and found the containers, so my friend will get her plastic after all. He did ask, however, why she needed my trash. Does that matter? I was saving it! It was tied up in a bag NEXT TO MY PURSE! I am, however, pacified. Captain Trash is not evil, just misguided. And yes, you don't need to remind me that if I just got my self together, this would not be a problem. Why are you perfect people reading my blog anyway?

*Update #2, Captain Trash read and approved this blog entry. He also laughed so hard he had tears coming out of his eyes, so all is good. It did, however, spur him on to tackle the pile of mail. I will now hear questions about what we need to keep for the next hour. Careful what you wish for!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yes, no, maybe? What day is it?

What do parenting books, classes and seminars teach above all else? Consistency. Why then, dear reader, if I know the answer to all of my parenting problems, why for the love of my children can't I be consistent?

I don't think I am the only parent on the planet with this issue. In fact I know I'm not. I live with a parent who seems to have the same issue. So my poor children have something all the books, classes and seminars say is completely detrimental to their health and well-being, inconsistent parents. *Sorry honey, not trying to throw you under the bus or anything, I'm just saying...*

My latest inconsistency occurred over the last two mornings. Mrs. B, my son's third grade teacher, requests the kids bring a "healthy" snack every day. Since it is listed on their homework assignment, my son is being vigilant about it. Now the problem comes in when his idea of "healthy" and my idea of "healthy" collide. I, for one, consider fruit snacks to be little gummy piles of sugar dressed up in the shape of a fruit. He, on the other hand, considers them to be fruit. It says so right there on the pouch, "fruit snacks." So, there was an incident yesterday morning over our differing views of "healthy." Thirty seconds before heading out for the bus, he was lobbying for fruit snacks. I said "it's an apple or nothing buddy," and he begrudgingly put it in his bag and stomped off to the bus without a backwards look.

*Now, I hear you all talking amongst yourselves. Why does she buy fruit snacks if she thinks they are pseudo candy, and why does she wait until thirty seconds before the bus comes to discuss healthy snack options? Well, all I can say is that you perfect parents don't need to be reading my blog, so there!*

Back to the snack, this morning we dealt with it about 3 minutes before the bus came. *See, I'm making progress.* I asked if he had eaten his apple at school yesterday, and he assured me he had. Then I ran through options in my head. I didn't want to force the apple issue two days in a row, because I thought that would be cruel. And I couldn't deal with Mrs. B getting to know the real me this early in the year by seeing him eat a peanut butter sandwich on a hot dog bun, because I am out of real bread. So what did I do? Why, I let him take the fruit snacks of course. Mother of the year I am not.

Just to explain myself, I was thinking, 'Okay, he ate the apple like I asked him to yesterday, so I will let him have a semi-candy snack today. Besides, the teacher can't complain, right? It says "fruit snacks" right there on the package, doesn't it?' I don't think letting him have a pouch of fruit snacks one day a week is an awful thing to do, especially since he ate his apple yesterday. He assures me that half his class last year brought Oreos for their "healthy" snack, and he was the only poor sucker with an apple. It wouldn't surprise me to learn this was at least half true. But, in his mind today I am sure he was thinking, 'My mom is crazy. Some days fruit snacks are bad and some days they are good. What the heck? I better just grab them and run before she changes her mind.' I didn't exactly give him my reasons for letting him have the fruit snacks today versus yesterday. They had a bus to catch, remember?

So obviously consistency is one of those things I struggle with. I try, I really do, but sometimes it's just not easy to be consistent. In fact, I think it's one of the hardest things you can do as a parent. I've thought about praying for it, but I think it would be a little like praying for patience. Don't pray for it unless you want God to give you a reason to have to be consistent over and over again with your children, and frankly I don't know if I could handle that right now. So instead, I pray that God will help me show them love, mercy and grace, which seems to work better for me.

And God gave me a big opportunity to show him all three on Sunday night. My 8-year-old laid-back son threw a flat-out-throw-down-on-the-floor-crying-kicking hissy fit. I hadn't seen one of those out of him in years. He was overtired, overwhelmed and OVER IT! He was supposed to help do a "five minute tidy," but he decided to drag around and let his sisters do the heavy lifting. His discipline was to be sent to bed 30 minutes early. It was a teaching moment. If you don't do your chores at night, you don't get to play. You go straight to bed. Well, that's when the fireworks began. Now normally throwing a fit because you have just received some discipline would result in punishment. I try to discipline (teach), instead of punishing, but as with everything else, I'm not always consistent. As sometimes there is certainly a need for punishment. Anyway, I directed him to his bathroom to brush his teeth and then straight to his bed. By the time we got upstairs he was hysterical and promising to do better and begging for a second chance.

I left his room to give him some space and when he calmed down to a sort of hiccuppy snivel, I went back in. That's when I decided a new approach was necessary. I knew punishment at this point would be inappropriate. I sat on his bed, held him in my arms (not an easy chore when he is only five or six inches shorter than me) and prayed over him. I used to do this almost every night when he was little, but it's been a while. I asked God to give him comfort and to help him calm down. Then I asked God to help him obey his parents, so he would live a good, long life. (The first commandment with a promise. Gotta love that!) He calmed down while I prayed and then he went to bed peacefully and agreed he would do better the next time he was asked to help around the house.

So, I was inconsistent. I completely let him out of his chores and chose to give him a little mercy and grace. It had been a really long weekend that we had overbooked for our kids, and he was just done. I knew he didn't need my usual reaction. I knew that would just escalate things to an even bigger blowout. So, I gave him what I thought he needed. Should I react that way every time he refused to do chores? Absolutely not. He'd take advantage of it in a heartbeat. But does being inconsistent that one time make me a good parent? I don't know. I do know that in this case I did the best possible thing for him and consistent or not, that makes me feel good.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Long hair? Short hair? It's a hairy question.

I have what most people would consider "good hair." Not to brag or anything, but it's always been sort of my trademark. After a few unfortunate years in elementary school that included Dorothy Hamill cuts and later Toni Girl home perms which made me resemble a dirty blond Annie, my hair finally came into its own in middle and high school.

Growing up in East Tennessee, big hair was all the rage and I had it, in spades. By my junior year, my hair was set in a spiral perm and reached down to the middle of my back and up several inches off my head. It was very "big" hair. Don't believe me? Check out the pictures a friend from high school just posted today on my Facebook page. *I told you so.*

I kept my long, curly hair into college, but by the time my junior year rolled around, I needed a change -- both literally and figuratively. I started by straightening my hair and getting bangs, but it just looked stringy. So, I decided I needed to cut it, really cut it, but my boyfriend of three years forbade me to cut it. So, I cut the hair, cut out the boyfriend, and felt freer than I had in years. Cutting my hair was cathartic. Short hair was my symbol of freedom and independence. I started out with a slightly-shorter-than-shoulder-length bob and didn't stop until it was above my ears a few months later. I felt a little like Sampson in reverse. My hair, which had had always been my source of power, was gone, but I felt more powerful than ever before.

It's not surprising that it was in this phase that I met my husband. At that point my was cut in a stacked bob an inch or two above my chin. It was shorter than it had been since I was in the first grade. The girl he met was not the girl I had been for several years. I was then, and am still, grateful that he fell in love with me when I had very short hair. He didn't know about my long, beautiful locks; he just knew about me.

Fast forward 15 years and three kids later, and I still have pretty good hair. It has gotten wavier with each child, and if I let it dry on its own, I resemble the lead singer of an 80s hair band, but it fixes up nice. My dilemma now is different. I kept my hair just at or above my collar for a good 10 or 12 years after Jeff and I met. It wasn't fussy, and it was just a little sassy -- kind of like me. But for the last few years, I've been letting it grow out. It now resides below my collar bone, which is "long" for me.

What started as a necessity after having a third child, has become a way of life. With an infant and two small children, I couldn't get to the salon very often, so I let it grow. It's now at a length where I can pull it back in a pony tail when I don't have time to fix it. I also don't have to wash it every day like I do when I have short hair, so that's also plus. Sounds perfect, right? Well, sort of.

The problem is I can't decide what is me anymore. Is this long, wavy hair that takes an inordinate amount of time to blow out when I do wash it "who I am," or is my short sassy hair "who I am"? Also, and this might be the bigger question, is there a deadline for long hair? More than one friend has told me that you can't have long hair after a certain age. But they, of course, don't know what that age is, so they are holding on tight to their long hair for as long as they can. So is that what I am doing? Holding on to longer hair to try to hold on to my youth? Or maybe with my longer hair I'm just making a desperate attempt to look like every sexy actress I see on TV. Doesn't long hair equal sexy hair? It's all so, existential. And it makes me tired just thinking about it.

My husband is no help. He says it doesn't matter to him how I wear my hair, and he thinks it looks fine short or long. I realize, from experience, that is an excellent answer from an excellent man, but I could use a little help over here. I don't know what I want, so couldn't he just tell me what he wants and I'll go with that?

Maybe I'm just tired of all the decisions I have to make in my life, and I'd like someone to make this one for me. Obviously he can't tell me how to wear my hair to make me feel like me, only I can do that. But for some unknown reason, I am incapable of doing that at the moment. So, my hair's long and getting longer (and bigger) by default. I guess like in so many other areas of my life, no decision has become my decision. So maybe my long hair is making me feel like me and maybe that's the problem. Maybe it's time for me to take my power back. I guess I'll just have to see.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year -- Or not

It's back to school time, which usually finds me and my husband gleefully singing, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" to our 8-year-old's supreme annoyance. He gets insulted; we stifle our giggles. And when that glorious second day of school arrives and they head out to the bus stop, I suppress the urge to throw open the back door and in my best Mel Gibson voice yell, "FREEDOM!"

Usually, that is.

This year it's different. In mid-July the week before our vacation, I was desperate for school to start. Even on vacation with three kids I was ready for school to start back. Then we got home and they went to my in-laws for five days and came home and all the sudden my feelings changed. Suddenly I wasn't ready for school to start. There was so much I wanted to do this summer that we didn't do. It suddenly felt like summer wasn't long enough.

For a mother who is known for her lack of sentimentality, I am not sure what is wrong with me. School started yesterday and I am a sniveling mess! I don't know if it is that my oldest is in third grade now, which all of you parents of older elementary students know is a "whole other ballgame." Or if it's that my sweet middle child who still says things like "lickted" instead of "licked" and "crash can" instead of "trash can" is starting first grade, and I know by the end of the year those sweet, sweet words will be gone forever. Or if it's that my just-turned-three-year-old daughter looks at least four and some of my favorite styles are starting to look too babyish on her. Or if, and this is probably the case, it's the unfortunate case that back-to-school collided with hormones for me this week and it has sent me into an emotional tailspin.

Laugh at me if you must, but it is as if I just woke up and realized they are growing up and I am missing it. I am so busy carting children from one activity to another, fixing *somewhat* healthy things for them to eat, throwing them into the bath, and then washing grass-stained clothing, that I am missing their childhood, because I have children! My not-yet-nine-year-old son is only about six inches shorter than I am. Time is not long that I will be taller than all of my children. My six-year-old daughter is becoming this beautiful, social creature who lives a life completely outside of mine during the day and then doesn't really share it all with me when she gets home. And my three-year-old has started saying just this week, mind you, "duh, mom." Don't worry, dear reader, I'm putting Miss Sassafras's attitude on ice, but the point is she is no longer giving me three-year-old attitude; she's trying to give me "big kid" attitude. It's all very disconcerting.

As a mother I am very aware that my ultimate goal is to work myself out of a job. In 18 years, I can only hope that I am not needed for all the things I am now. I want my children to be independent and capable enough to do their own laundry and cook their own *healthy* meals, and go to class on their own and do their homework on their own, and even make money on their own (at least on a part-time basis) and yes, live on their own. But it's all going by so fast. I heard a dad on the radio just yesterday say, "How can the days take so long and the years go by so fast?" I don't know! I just hope (and pray) that I am getting in all the important things -- not just more trips to the zoo or "summer learning," but love and laughter and family and Godly teaching and all those things that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Okay, I know I'm a sniveling wreck -- who is now openly crying as I write this -- but it will pass and I will forget to think about it. Instead, I will think of laundry and cheer practice and football games and homework and school forms. But the next time I have a really long day, I'll try to think of how fast the years go by and hold my children close to me and drink them in, if only for a few moments.

*Now go snivel amongst yourselves.*

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where to next?

Now that mommycation is coming to an end and we've already been on a family vacation, I'm ready for my favorite vacation of all -- the couple vacation. I love to go on vacation with just me and my hubby. Granted, it doesn't happen very often, but it's been four years since we went somewhere nice -- an Alaskan cruise -- and we are ready to go again. We love our children dearly, but we also love each other and like to spend time together with just the two of us. I personally believe one of the best gifts you can give your child is a strong relationship with their father (or mother if you happen to be a father reading this blog). And where better to make your relationship stronger than on a fabulous vacation!

I was talking to an older woman I know at a meeting the other night. She became a mother later in life (at least later than the majority of us do) and her only child is getting ready to head off to college. I asked how she was feeling about him leaving in a few weeks, and she said she and her husband were thinking of moving to the college town for the next four years to be with their son. Dear reader, I am ashamed to say I have an extremely poor poker face. I'm sure the shock and awe of her statement registered on my face. I practically shouted "Oh no, you don't want to do that do you?" and then realizing that might sound rude, I mumbled something about college being a time for children to spread their wings and find their place in the world, or something else straight out of a Hallmark card.

But then she something even more shocking than her previous statement. She said that her son wanted them to move and that since his birth they had never been anywhere without him. *What!?! Come again? What was that last thing you just said? I'm sorry it sounded like you said YOU HAD NEVER BEEN ANYWHERE IN 18 YEARS WITHOUT YOUR SON. I'm sure that's not what you said, right? Because that would be just crazy, right? Because I know that if I had never been anywhere with my husband alone in 18 years I would be certifiable. You're kidding, right? You're just trying to make me feel bad, aren't you? You big kidder you. Right? No? Okay.*

I admit I am often struck dumb -- not mute, just dumb -- when others' life choices are so completely different than mine. Instead of saying something noncommittal or smiling and taking a swig of my iced tea, I instead say something that could be considered offensive. In my defense, I don't think it is a judgement on my part, I just think it's that I can't wrap my brain around certain things. So, I begin to ask questions. Lots of questions. Questions that I am sure imply that I think the person is crazy. I don't necessarily think they are crazy, I just can't understand why on earth they would make that choice. Alright, now it's sounding more and more like I'm being judgemental. I can live with that, because some choices are just crazy , and I shouldn't be expected to act like they aren't, right? Okay, I know I should reserve judgement and learn to keep my opinions to myself, but it's been 36 years and there is no sign of that particular personality trait letting up.

So I say to her, "Really? Never? You've never gone anywhere without him." And she said, "No, it was just too much fun to have him with us, so we never wanted to go anywhere without him." Well, that's kind of nice. I guess. Totally unrealistic in my house, but sweet nonetheless, right? Okay, maybe not. Is he going to be able to function on his own in college? Does he know how to make his own decisions? Is he going to move in with you when he gets married and just bring his wife and family on in? At this point my mind is just reeling!

I'm reminded of another woman who I overheard talking with my friend. When my friend asked her to a movie the following week, she said she probably wouldn't be able to go because, "my family kind of breathes in and out together." I'm pretty sure my eyes bugged out of my head, and I immediately felt short of breath.

I've said it before, and I will say it again, "I love my children!" I would take a bullet for my children or jump in front of a speeding car for them. But for the love of all that is good in this world, I need a break from them to be by myself. And, I need a break from them to be with my husband. Both of these women were much older than I was when they had children. Maybe I would feel differently if I'd had this grand life before having kids. I don't know. But I do know that I am a much better mother when I am away from my children for a few days and I'm allowed to miss them. And I do know I am a much better wife when I am allowed to enjoy my husband's company for a few days without little people interrupting. Where do I think we'll go? Who knows. I've been begging to go to Charleston and/or Savannah for the past 13years since we got married, but it's never happened. And frankly, I don't expect it to any time soon. At this point I would settle for a B&B on Monteagle. I'm sure we'll only be able to sneak away for a few days, but wherever we go, it will be wonderful.

But right now, I'm going to go meet my kids. They've been gone for four days and I'm so ready to see them I'm going to meet my husband on his way home with them at Khol's to go shoe shopping. And to fully understand that statement, you'll have to read my last post.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New colors

Got tired of the tan/brown and decided to go with pink. I love pink! But if you hate it and won't ever read me again because of it, let me know. We can compromise. In fact, I'm thinking of moving over to WordPress and maybe getting a specially-designed fancy blog, but I'll be sure to let you know. Thank you -- all 10 of you -- for reading my blog!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mommycation, here I come!

Well, I've finally gotten over the family vacation we took last week. I'm not sure if it's the shlepping three kids and all their flotsam and jetsum to the pool and beach, or if it's the shlepping three kids to a zoo when it's 95 degrees with 99 percent humidity, or maybe it's the shlepping three kids to a kid's museum and then chasing them around for five hours, or if I'm really honest it might be the staying up until 2 am to finish one of five novels I read during the week, but whatever it is, vacations WEAR ME OUT!!!

I've been back since Saturday night, and I'm just now getting over exhausted. I went to church Sunday and felt like a zombie. And then for reasons only known to the good Lord himself, I tried to take three children to buy school supplies and shop for back-to-school shoes. I'm pretty sure I should be committed to the closest looney bin with a spot available for a "masochistic mother." We made it through Walgreens without much incident -- that is if you don't consider me yelling at my children at least 14 different times, "Put the toys down and stop throwing things! Mommy is trying to shop for school supplies!" an incident.

Have I mentioned that sometimes I don't like myself very much when I'm in public with my children. Sometimes I think I sound stark-raving mad. I'm sure every person in the store thinks I am "mean mommy," and I don't blame them. I feel like "mean mommy." But alas, that is a post for a different day.

Because I was not done with the pain and punishment to myself, I decided to jet on over to the mall to shop for shoes. Here's just a little background info to show you, dear reader, the lunacy of this particular decision. For reasons unbeknownst to me, my children lose their minds upon entering a shoe store. The girls run to their section and proceed to try on red, glittery Dorothy shoes, jelly shoes, high heel shoes or (fill in the blank with inappropriate 6 and 3-year-old footwear that I am no going to buy), while my son proceeds to hide and proclaim, "I don't need shoes. The shoes I have are fine," even though his big toe is literally sticking out of the side of his blown-out Croc. At first I try to find shoes for them to try on that won't lead to a fight. Then I just try to get them to actually try them on, and finally after many minutes have gone by and the staff has asked me more than once if everything is okay, I end up cramming their feet back into the shoes they wore into the store, jerking up their little hands, and hauling them out the door all the while internally proclaiming, "I will never do this again." Shoe shopping is so bad that even my sainted mother-in-law was overcome by it last year when three adults tried to help three children find shoes. It is a job that no adult in my family wants to tackle without backup.

But for some reason I thought this time would be different. I had a coupon, by golly, and I was going to use it. Dear reader, after hearing about past excursions to the shoe store with three children, it should come as no surprise that this one went poorly. Let's just say no shoes were purchased and when we got home around two that afternoon, I was ready for a pitcher of margaritas! Now don't get all concerned and call DCS, I said I wanted to throw back some margaritas. I didn't say I actually did. There is far too much alcoholism in my family for me to drink when I feel stressed. That's what chocolate is for!

Needless to say, I did nothing on Tuesday except take the kids to football and cheer practice. Oh, I haven't mentioned that our 8-year-old son will be playing football this year and our 6-year-old daughter will be cheering for him? Well, I'm sure you'll be hearing about that very soon when the season gets up and running.

But Wednesday, glorious Wednesday, finally rolled around and I scrambled to get three children out the door to *cue the Hallelujah chorus* Nena & Papa's House. God bless my in-laws! They usually take my children for several days each summer and give me a mommycation. For the stay-at-home moms out there reading this, you understand that when you stay at home with your kids and then you go on vacation with your kids it is not a vacation, it is, as on of my friends calls it, "a change of location." And therefore it is usually harder to deal with your kids, because you do not have all of the things you usually use to distract them at home. So, I'm of the firm belief that the only vacation I get is when my children are gone and I am home -- or I'm sipping tropical drinks poolside -- a girl can dream, right?

*If you are a "working mom" and you agree with my views about kids and vacation, I'm fine with that. We can go somewhere and sip little tropical drinks together poolside while our in-laws or husbands take care of the kids. I'm not exclusionary.*

So, my mommycation has begun, and since I am so late writing this, it is almost over! I have basically done nothing, except of course shopped for school supplies and a few back-to-school clothes. In fact, today starts our tax-free holiday in Tennessee, so I'm going out for more clothes. I have felt a little twinge of guilt for not having done much of anything but shopping and relaxing and reading blogs and Facebooking, but with the way my fall is shaping up already, I figure I need some calm around here before the storm.

Maybe I'll clean out the kids closets like I hope to do. Maybe I'll get some sewing done for my daughters' first-day-of-school outfits. Or maybe, I'll just sit on my fanny and do nothing. It'm MY vacation after all, and I can do what I want. Right? Right!