Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Method Parenting

As an adult now with children in school, I thought I was equipped to handle homework and tests and all the things that I had once endured; but having never been someone who needed to be convinced to "Just do it."  I don't understand my children. Being a dutiful student, it never occurred to me to ask, "What's my motivation?" Stuff was assigned, you did it. Books were to be read so I read them. Papers were to be turned in so I wrote them.   But weeks of offerings of bribes of pools and ice cream and pizza went unaccepted, even cash rewards for completing everything before the last day drew no serious commitments.  Threats of major carnage and endless chores resulted in hasty retreats to the abandoned summer projects due the first week back, but only for fifteen or so minutes at a time.

So yesterday, after chasing my son away from the TV which I had turned off and unplugged and for which I had gutted the batteries and hidden the remote, (he was reassembling it for use and claiming it was for his younger sisters who were bored, but who were in actuality, busy playing with barbies), I felt as chained to the table as my kids did, unable to do anything but maintain a constant harpy like watch over these procrastinating progeny.   One was finishing math, a second a poster, a third her report and the forth, he had a book he'd not cracked that required questions for all 21 chapters to be answered in complete sentences. 

Hawking over the younger two, I let the older ones fend for themselves and this proved to be a critical error for one.  He promptly lost the book.  How one can lose a book in five minutes without leaving the room when the floor is clear, I don't know but he did.  We spent 30 minutes in a search only to discover it in the pantry where he'd gone to get a snack.  In my mind, we were still in mid celebration of finding the book as I began outlining a strategy, "You should read the questions first and then the chapters." I prattled while grabbing the goods from the pantry to start making dinner.  "Who are you talking to Mom?" my daughter asked as she tucked her report into a folder.  I looked up and saw my bookless son outside playing with the hose with his two toddler sisters.  

Tempted though I was to take the hose and spray him back into the house, I gave the "Get in here now look" which earned a sheepish smile and obedient dropping of the hose.  When he came in, I tried reasoning.  It's a desperate ploy seeing as these are children, but sometimes you get lucky.  "Let's pretend you don't read the book or answer the questions.  What happens tomorrow?"  I asked.  He looked at the floor.   Nothing is as interesting as kitchen tile when Mom is right.   "I need to dry off first, I'm all wet." he said softly.  Fearful he'd bolt again, I ran to the laundry room and fished out dry clothes and a towel.  "Here." I held the book and camped outside the bathroom while he changed. 

When he sat back down, nose in the pages, I mentally congratulated myself on my fine parenting skills except the hyper critical part mentioned that maybe I should have tried this lecture two weeks ago or three.  For a moment, I noticed that the eating area needed to be swept; they were right, the floor IS interesting and then the mom me countered, "Hey, I've been asking them.  I've brought the books and placed them in their laps on more than a few occasions. I've made extra trips to pick up the lost summer assignment sheets.  I even copied them to have a back up in case they lost the second slips." Feeling smug again about my moming, I shop vac'd the kitchen.

The hours ticked by and I served dinner.  The brief respite for repast ended and I put the book back in front of my son who had tried to put things off by engaging in virtuous actions.  "I'm doing the dishes for you Mom." Impressive....I'm Tempted....I hate doing dishes and there are an awful lot of dis....but no, No. Mom has to be Mom and you're the Mom so you can't blow this off anymore than he can I told myself "You can do them for me tomorrow when you don't have a whole book to read."

Having moved the littles to bed, I heard those magic words, "This is a pretty good book." with the tone of surprise voiced by countless children who have waited to the last minute before him.   I cleaned the kitchen, I sat down with my husband while he ate and visited about the day and then we watched a show.  We heard, "I finished."

Still, there were the 21 questions to answer, one for each chapter in sentence form.  An hour later, he'd written them and wanted me to proof read his work.  It was late.  I concede, I was in no mood to do any more parenting but grumbled I'd take a look.  He asked if I would type the responses since he knew there were spelling errors.  Somehow, stupidly, I agreed.  Why?  Because the mom in me wouldn't let go of the fact that if he did it, he'd be up another hour and that was too much.

Weary, I went to the computer and only then glanced at the assignment sheet.  Due Friday, September 3.  Huzzah!  No homework for me!  I left the papers by the computer for the next evening. When I told him the next day, he rolled his eyes, "I could have gone to bed and read it over the next two days." he groused but then asked, "Will you still type it for me?"  and for the first time, I'm thinking, "What's my motivation?"   Maybe I can get a week's worth of dishes out of the deal.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ten Things I Love about the Start of School

Tomorrow is their first day and I have their backpacks ready to go.  I have the promise of going to the pool dangling over their heads to convince them that we can still celebrate the last day of summer vacation if they finish all the projects they've put off without me nagging.  The Staples commercial showing parents gliding down the aisles to the tune of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," still puts me in stitches because there's an element of joy to this annual tradition.  So, sorry kids, here's my top ten reasons for loving the return of the school schedule.

10) Fights over anything can be solved with the simple question, "Have you done your homework yet?"

9) Bed time can be strictly enforced without any sense of guilt over depriving my children of time watching classic movies, playing card games or goofing off in general.

8) I can stop living in fear that someone will mention the word "Camping" after someone else says, "What should we do this weekend?"

7) Won't have to nag about summer projects.

6) Will no longer have to figure out how to tactfully suggest that the outfit chosen for the day is not quite weather appropriate (corduroy pants and a sweater), or doesn't go (lavender with polka-dots shirt and plaid green shorts). Uniforms are a great great thing.

5) I'm no longer the sole fall guy. Saying, "Would you do this/say this/act like this in front of....insert teacher's name?" carries weight.

4) Patrolling the house to do a morning clean up will not have to wait until after 10 am; as all the kids who might object to such an action will be already in school.

3) My dining room table will no longer be the great Lego housing spot, co-opted for a giant game of Risk or held frozen in the midst of a three day Magic tournament. We might be able to...I don't know, eat on it again.

2) Because free time becomes more rare, weekends will now include a weekend cookout and a Sunday Nerf football game.  No one is exempted.  (Except this year, I'm the ref).  It's fun because occasionally the grown ups win and trash talk is not only allowed, it's presumed. 

1) My default driving setting, (to go to Saint Martin's) if I'm not thinking about it, 90% of the time won't be wrong.

Have a great school year!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. Where'd my Extra Hands Go?

Today, my oldest two went to high school.  The freshman started Monday, the senior started today.  I drove them to the Metro and listening to them chat away, I was glad these two were such tight friends in addition to being brother and sister.  It's going to be a fun time for them both, coming to and from school, having someone other than Mom to talk to about what is going on, and I'm also grateful because it will make the commuting time they spend much less lonely.   That being said, my two babysitters just retired for the school year.  Waaaaah.  I got very spoiled this summer.  

2.  Favorite Children's Books

Other than for learning to read, after 17 years, no one is more tired of Dr. Seus than me.  So here are the substituted books for when I get pre-readers and bed time story requests: Any of the Francis series, Bedtime, Bread and Jam or Bargains or Best Friends for Francis all by Hoban are funny and as timeless as George and Martha, those two awesome hippos who don't like split pea soup.  I'm also a great lover of Kevin Henkes and snatch up every new book he writes, with the full knowledge that I have at least two Lillys in my home.  I ususally introduce chapter books by reading aloud any three of the following: Black Beauty, Old Yeller, Little House in the Big Woods, Watership Down, A Little Princess, BFG, and of course, The Hobbit.  I have to stop myself or this will turn into just a giant list of books I've loved and love introducing to my children but you get the idea. 

Harry Potter, I've read aloud to one, the second grabbed it and read it on her own by herself, the third took longer to grapple with it the the fourth is more into spy stuff and the Percy Jackson series which I also love.  So far, it has guaranteed a love of reading in the top five and the sixth and seventh in the cue following suit. 

3. Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Yesterday, I had to go to the Open House Night at my daughter's high school.  It had been a hard long day with lots of stop and start errands and I wasn't in the right place for going out.  What I really wanted was to stay home.  To get myself straightened out, I prayed the rosary.  At the end, I realized I had two problems.  I was hungry with no easy to grab gestational diabetic good for you food available and I was late.  I issued a quick humours plea, "Saint Anthony, you'll have to find me a place to park and some food would be good too." I asked the blessed Mother to look after my baby and my children at home as I pulled onto the street to the Academy of the Holy Cross. 

There were cars lining the entire road.  I decided I'd pull all the way around, hoping someone had somewhere left and left enough space to allow a 12 passenger van to parallel park!  Then, the men managing the parking waved me up and gave me honestly, the most perfect spot ever. They had run out of space and were now allowing people to park on the curb for the drop off. I was five feet from the front doors.   Saint Anthony came through and I had to laugh.  But it wasn't finished.  I walked into the lobby and there in the main area was a table set with whole wheat grilled breads, cheese, raw vegetables and fresh cut fruit.  If I could have room service ordered safe foods to eat, the menu would have been this.  It was hard not to laugh out loud at the immediate perfection discovered. 

4.  Deals

Yesterday we had to get the Suburban serviced.  It has over 100,000 miles and so it needed some TLC.  When the mechanic called to tell me about how much the car's day at the spa would cost, he indicated we needed a fuel injection in addition to everything else, and that would cost 180 dollars.  Listening to the litany of things our old car needed, I did the logical thing, stall. 

"I'll have to talk with my husband." I said.  Then I did call my husband and we discussed the needed repairs.  "Bargain with him Sher." my husband counseled.  "You always know how to get a good deal."  he encouraged and reminded me that when we'd gone to get brakes done and he'd balked at the price for something, the mechanic had dropped the cost 10%.  How I'd bought two of our cars and done a good job.  I  called the local Jiffy lube and asked for the service cost of identical services that were considered preventative maintenance.   Calling back the place that had our car, I detailed what I wanted them to do.  "You don't want the fuel induction?" he asked.  "Well no, I can get it for 79 over at the Jiffy Lube." I explained.  "We'll do it for free."  he added quickly.  So moral of the story, do your homework, knowledge is power and don't be afraid to walk away.    

5. Today is the Day to Start the Big Push

It's a statement my dad would use whenever we kids faced a daunting task like exams, the start of school, auditions, a paper, whathaveyou.  Today, I'm taking on organizing and cleaning the basement.  If you don't hear from me come Sunday, send a search party. 

6. Dry Spell

Well, I've been writing and writing and submitting, but August is almost over and I've yet to score a publication, so the streak of 7 months straight is about to be broken.  I'll send another one out today, maybe we can squeak one in under the wire.  I hope so, but I also am oddly not anxious about this in the way that I know it would have torn me up only a few months ago.  Maybe I'm mellowing with middle age, maybe I've just got too much to stress about this, maybe I'm just learning that same lesson I'm trying to teach my children, that struggling is not the end of the world, that a bit of frustration in one's every day is good for the spirit, it teaches persistence, carefulness, thoughtfulness, grit and more.  Just the same, I'm hoping I don't have to be an example of determination in the face of persistent futility for too long. :)

7.  Why Sunday Posts have been Showing up on Monday or Saturday

Yes I know how to back or preschedule a post.  What I haven't become accustomed to is my new Sunday habit of fasting from the computer --so I'm not yet prepared for when it rolls around.  It was to help keep me from spending too much time sitting at my laptop.  But I'll try to make sure I have a fresh batch of Chocolate for Your Brain ready before I turn off the machine for 24 hours.  

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And the Worst Part is

...I can't even self medicate with chocolate for all of this trouble.

Two days ago, I received a food death sentence.  I have gestational diabetes and must forgo the pleasure of eating rice, cereal, pasta, potatoes, fried anything, syrups, fruit juices, not flavored with splenda jellies, baked goods and candy and probably ice cream from now until the due date in January.

"What can you eat?" one of my kids asked.  "Cheese and some vegetables and meat."  It sounded unappealing even saying it.  I have a call in for a dietitian, we'll eventually get to do some more than just that, but even so, the sugars will have to be tightly regulated for both the baby and my own health.

In addition to sticking myself four times per day to see how I'm doing, for the next 20 weeks I get to gain weight without having any fun getting there and I'll have to endure the high eating season of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Two days of almost no carbs and I'm already irritable.  Normally, I'm a bright side of life kind of gal and do acknowledge that the diabetic regimen usually means I finish a pregnancy healthier than when I started, but I've never had to face this long of a Lent during a time that isn't Lent.  So my spiritual discipline is a bit off because of the season. 

But, I'm dutiful so I went to the local pharmacy to get my testing materials.  The druggist rang them up.  I took them home.  It was then I discovered they'd ordered the wrong strips and lancets for my glucometer.  That evening after all kids were fed and ready for bed, I let my oldest two babysit while I scurried out to the store in hopes that this would be a quick exchange. 

After an hour, the frustrated man explained to me that while he could trade the strips, the store was out of that type of lancet and that I'd need to call my OBGYN to call his pharmacy so they could then phone another pharmacy to request the lancets so I could test my sugars.  "So I get to call her so she can call you so you can call them so I can get them so I can stick myself?" I asked. 


Taking my new supplies and stopping to buy a veggie roast beef six inch, it was time to go home and hope my sugars weren't too high from eating my dinner after 9.  Remember that stress spikes sugars too.  So all I have to do is live a carb and stress free life for the next four months.  

We're off to a roaring start.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Three Year Old Thinking

I took my daughter to the bathroom this morning.  We have been working on potty training, meaning I keep taking her and she keeps looking at me like "Okay if that's what you want to do." 

Today, I started our routine and after I sat her down, she looked at me for a moment and said, "I need you to leave Mom." 

"Oh!" I could barely stop beaming at the idea, "You mean you want me to go so you can have privacy?" I asked.

"No." She looked puzzled as that thought had not occurred to her, "I need you to go get my chocolate."

That's MY girl.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Momma Yoda's Pregnancy and Birthing Tips

When you sit in an OBGYN office as often as I have, you run into rookies who have understandably romantic notions of pregnancy and birth, you've also heard every crazy birthing idea ever conceived.  As a Jedi Master of Gestation, I offer these  some tidbits of wisdom garnered from 10 years worth of time in the waiting room of Dagobah. 

10) Gentlemen, husbands please, unless you are volunteering to go through a root canal minus the Novocaine, do not presume to tell your pregnant wife that she really ought to try for a purely natural birth if she does not herself actually want it.  Women, you were born in a world of technologies and wonderful medicines, take advantage of your blessings. Like I told Padme, they don't give out extra prizes for biting the bullet, only the actual babies delivered.

9) Yoda Mom says, "Fine Breathing is, epidural better." 

8) La Leche women will leave your room much sooner if you just nod your head and bleat after them, "Breast is best." Alternatively, have your husband do his best wookie imitation; it Will scare them off.

7) "Glu"cola is aptly named.  But it still tastes better than most food served in any of the films.

6) No matter what the fashion magazines for expecting women say, Yellow is never a good color after the fourth month.  The styling young Jedi wears clothes that will not recall the form of big bird. 

5) Something at some point, will not go as planned.  You will feel like a rookie quarterback after the first sack in the first game of the National Football League season; this will be your wake up call to the roles of Mother and Father. You will never forget this first hit, though more will most assuredly come.  Welcome to the NFL. 

Sorry, broke the form for a moment, what I meant to say is, "You have taken your first step into a much larger world."

4) After birth, on the third day, male or female, you will feel crummy.  Quoting Han Solo, "I feel terrible."

3) As much as you may cry the first time you catch yourself in a maternity swim suit, I promise you it feels beyond fabulous to get in the water.  My own inner critic still tells me, "You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought."

2) For me, as reliable as an Ultrasound was my emotion-meter.  If I had energy and could handle anything, it was a boy.  If I cried at the schmaltz of a McDonald's or Maxwell House coffee commercial, I knew for certain, it was a girl.  "Search your feelings.  You know it to be true."

1) I don't care how ethically pure it may be, the idea of eating the placenta is beyond gross.  I mean, and what would you serve it with anyway?  Even the Mitichlorians draw the line somewhere and I concur with their wisdom.  There are many fine things to eat in this world.  The temporary liver type organ used to sustain your baby for 9 months, is not one of them. 

Mother Yoda's Ten lessons garnered from 17 years of Potty Training will be revealed at some point when I discover actually how to encourage a bull headed two or three year old to consent to such indelicate matters without offering a dog, pony, SUV and a year's worth of M& M's and swimming lessons.   Then we'll move onto discussing surviving adolescence and eventually, paying for college.  Say you're not scared?  "You will be.  You Will be."

Monday, August 23, 2010


This morning, my oldest daughter started high school.  We took a picture and I looked at her, so brimming with confidence, enthusiasm, eagerness. I hope her face is the same when she comes home today.

She's been my right arm this summer, babysitting as needed, running into the store with a 20 for milk, bread and diapers, writing out the "To Do" list and occasionally putting in notes like, "It's summer secretary appreciation day, take Bonnie to Borders."  or "Milk Shakes."  I'm an easy boss and these hints always work.

As she enters into an unknown world I have to pause and hope that the next four years won't be as painful as I recall, and yet at the same time, I know that long pounding helped form strength.  I also know because I've watched my son mature from hard knocks more than hard assignments; and while I would have spared him much of the grief he has endured, I also know those experiences made him who he is today. 

I used to teach adolescents in high school and loved that odd mixture of immaturity, inexperience, fledgling adulthood type thinking.  So seeing my daughter flit between reading and drawing Manga comics and writing a critique of "Rebecca" made sense to me; as did her bright yellow pikachu lunch box and somber navy back pack.  She was trying both worlds out because as a 14 year old, you can. Watching a teen mature over the years is a bit like watching the tide come in on the beach as you build a castle.  The first time the waves reach your feet, it catches you by surprise.  But it's not unpleasant and so you get used to it.  Then suddenly, it surges well past your construction and while you knew this was coming, it still seems to have come too quickly.

She left this morning a note on the table for me with my list of things to do and she even remembered two things I'd forgotten.  I felt the saltwater run just past my ankle. So this afternoon, we're going out for milk shakes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fast, Pray, Serve

When I first picked up "Eat Pray Love" and read the beginning, the catty part of me sat there thinking, "What does this woman have to be miserable about?" Her husband loves her, she has a career that allows her to fly to exotic locals and will pay for her to spend a year navel gazing. Nice work if you can get it. She just didn't want to be tied down anymore at 34, but this is a real life and real lives are often very messy. I kept plodding forward. However, after reading the whole thing, I exercise my option not to see the movie.

Rather like the first leg of her journey in Italy, the nutritional content of this book is the equivalent of a large fragrant excellent Naples' pizza. It's tasty. It goes down sooooooo easy, but a steady diet is not good for you. To make sure I was being fair, I did a little substitute test. How would I feel about the spiritual advice or musings of a male author who decided after ten years of marriage, "No dear, I don't want to be married anymore, it's too much for me. Now I'm off to eat fried chicken and drink beer for four months, followed by sleeping and reading philosophical junk until I find myself, at which point, I'll finish finding balance in my life swimming in the Caribbean and taking up with some hottie there who thinks the sun rises and sets on me." Momentarily, I toyed with penning a satire, "Drink, Sleep, Sex," the story of a man's creating himself as an island on an island. Bleah.

But the book and the movie are the current stuff of feminine culture; a chick flick which explores the world of a woman exploring herself through the world. Because this is a story based on real life, it remains problematic both to dismiss as mere Hollywood whimsy (because it isn't just that), or to attack it for it's flaws as a theological journey. It's one soul's journey that from a Catholic perspective, went awol; a pilgrim's distress, lacking GPS, thinking it is making progress.

The main character crafts over the course of a year, a god that demands nothing but that she smile with her liver or smile at her lover, depending upon the day. Such counsel is a far cry from "Take up your cross and follow me," but it was never intended as Catholic theology, and thus should not be treated with such high comparisons. Thinking and embracing the concept of "God is in me AS ME." is not the same thing as accepting the reality that "We are created in God's image."

I don't doubt that there are women who will find this idea of a god that demands nothing of the soul, attractive --they may not have the resources to engage in a 12 month hiatus from reality, but I can see the spiritual danger of exchanging a God who requires we sublimate and sacrifice and love first, for one that demands nothing but that we be satisfied in our belly today.  The idea of finding God via appetite, via your wants is an inverse of what Catholicism demands; that we learn to see Christ in disguise, in others and then, to wash their feet, to feed the hungry, to offer one's self up.

At the end, I felt sad for Liz, her ex-husband and for those who view her experience as emancipating rather than simply well written transcontinental indulgence. The desire to be closer to God is at the core of any sincere faith.  That sincere desire makes her story meaningful. The struggle not to be distracted or discouraged or misled is the story of every saint. Absent God's mercy, the rest of us are often revealed in our daily struggles to be flailing and always threatening to become epic tragedies as a result of our blindness, pride and unwillingness to be pushed beyond our own perceived capacity to love.  For those us still on this journey, the how of becoming intimately in love with God,  is more apt to be uncovered via a tried and true method of fasting, prayer, service. The journey probably won’t sell many books or become a blockbuster movie, but it will lead to more lasting joy and permanent peace than any bowl of pasta, chanted mantra or Brazilian lover could ever bring.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Small Success Thursday

This week was full; twenty-seven items on the "To Do" list every day kind of full.  As such, I've instigated a new sanity rule, no lists of things to do over 20 for any given day.  That being said, these were my successes for this week at doing the right thing.

1) I read "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.  It was a fast read and I loved it and I'm very grateful to my friend Karen for giving it to me.

2) We went school shopping.  I'm still in recovery.

3) My oldest daughter started high school.

4) The Fall Festival plans are starting to come together.  One month to go.

5) After listening to my lecture about how bad habits form when we fail to establish good ones and that the hardest thing to overcome is inertia, two of my children picked up their instruments for the first time in two months.  Of course, it meant I had to exercise.  I hate it when the advice I give is then demanded of me, or rather, I don't hate it but wish sometimes I could get a pass with these guys --not a chance.   So yes, I did my 20 push ups and 20 sit ups today. 

6)  Got to the dentist.  Not a whoopie kind of thing but it was actually an appointment for me. 

7) Wrote a piece, worked on Helen, am trying to fast from the computer except for emails and writing --not because I don't want to be informed but because it's more important I be involved.  I know I've been using this machine as a shield against being more active, so I had to put the machine away.  And yes, my kids are helping with this matter.   They're very good at nagging.  I wonder where they learned it? 

Got a success, a struggle, a triumph over minutia?  Go share it over at Family and Faith Live!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Every year I begin a crusade. I believe children should be shod when they go outside. Shoeless Joe Jackson and his fellow barefoot comrades view the coming of crocuses and planting of gardens as a sign to lose any footwear they may have consented to wear during the winter months. As a result, I have been known to begin loading the car an hour prior to an appointment only to be sabotaged by a single shoe.

If the people who determined when to show clemency about being late for appointments, witnessed my struggle to get all of them into the car, only to spend a frantic 30 minutes tearing apart couches and beds to locate a single pair of not necessarily matching but left and right shoes, only to then bargain with the shoe gods and being willing to accept even just two shoes the same size that are for the same foot, they’d just give me a standing appointment…when you show, it’s your time.

I have also in sheer desperation, given my eldest daughter a twenty and told her to go into the Walmart and come back out with one size fits all slippers for whoever it is that is missing footwear.

So you’ld think I’d be gung ho about being barefoot but having had small children for the past 16 years, I’ve also taken out my fair share of splinters. The most memorable one I helped remove from my three year old son during the course of a family party. He’d been playing on the wooden deck on our house and got a huge one in his left foot. He was in tears. We were hosting the party but spent the bulk of the next hour soaking, working with tweezers, but nothing was working and he was in hysterics.

My brother tried to calm him down by explaining the situation. My son was having none of it.

“If you don’t let us remove the splinter, it will continue to hurt.”

“If you don’t let us remove the splinter, it could even become infected.”

“If you don’t let us remove it, the infection could be serious.”

“So your parents who love you want to remove the splinter so you won’t get sick or be in pain or die.”
“I DON’T… WANT… TO LIVE!” he gasped, holding and hiding his foot from my tweezers.

I voted for more soaking at this point.

Over the years, I’ve learned tricks like having the kids close their eyes while I remove the foreign objects from their toes and that handing them an ice cream while watching television is also a good anesthesia. I’ve also given up explaining why splinters need to come out entirely.

But I’ve also come up with a solution for splinters and summer and shoes. You don’t have to wear shoes if you can’t find them, but then you must wear socks.

Thick socks.
Thick Soccer up past your knees socks.

They don’t have to match.

One morning of enduring those heat insulators on one’s feet and we’ll have no problems from June until September with locating footwear.

Now, if only I could devise a similar solution for winter.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

So You Want to Write a Book

This came out of a discussion in my writer's group. 

Step 1. To Outline or Not outline. Some writers go with inspiration, others as the cliche goes, perspiration. Seeing as I have a book which I tried write when the muse inspired without a blueprint, and now have 1/3 good, 1/3 mush and 1/3 not written (the middle) (UGH, sigh): I humbly suggest you must make an outline. It's a scaffolding to guide you on your total vision. It will change but it will give you a structure. Sweat generates more words than the writing fairy even if she does club you over the head at 4 in the morning on more than a few occasions.

Step 2. Set a writing goal per week --like running a marathon, writing a book requires daily word output training and a lot of it will be junk. 500 to 1000 words per day, or 5K a week or 10 if you are ambitious and have more time to devote to this.

Step 3. Read books of the genre you are interested in, but for structure and technique. It's like watching films to see how a director tells a story and the telling techniques used to make the mood.  You will notice Point of View, verbal tics of the writer if they are prolific, and how seamlessly or not, the writer sets the stage.Know your genre --how big first time books are (pages, word count), who the giants are in that field and what your hook that makes your book special and different, is.

Step 4. BIC BIC BIC BIC BIC BIC (For non writers, Bottom in chair) you can't write a book just thinking about it, you have to sit down and write even when it's boring, just like exercising when you are tired, it's hot and you don't feel like it and maybe you'll run two miles tomorrow extra.  No, write the 1000 words today and lo, you'll write more than that and it won't have been so bad.  No roll over word counts though, write new words tomorrow, and keep a notepad with a pen near you at all times because good stuff will tumble in your brain at the oddest moments. Then write down the stuff you wrote in the pad in your book. (I have scraps everywhere I can't throw away because I haven't added them).

Step 5. Write and write and keep going. Join a group of writers for encouragement (like a group of trainees for a marathon) or do the National Novel Writing Month (November and they have a great website) or a writer's forum (like this one) for support. Most books are between 50,000 and 85,000 words.  Most writers start to lose their wind after the first 15,000 or first three chapters.  This is why an outline helps get you through the bumpy parts of the writing marathon.

Step 6.  Find a person you trust both for writing style and advice and have them beta read a bit of what you are writing with three questions in mind: Did you want to keep reading? Did you know or not know what came next? Did you like the character or like not liking them? Be willing to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite and Edit. Edit. Edit. Let a friend, spouse read --allow them to provide commentary and listen. You don't have to revise everything, it's your book but feedback does matter so grow a thick skin.  Editors will tell you later and being used to hearing what you need to improve will allow you a better relationship with said gatekeepers of the publishing world when that magical day arrives.

Step 7. Repeat step 3 and step 4 and step 5 and step 6. Do not give up. Make a poster, backdrop, screen saver of your one day best seller to remind you of your goal.  Decorate it with the things you will be able to manage once Oprah restarts her book club just to plug your work: A beach house, college educations, no more laundry, whatever motivates you. 

Step 8.  You've finished writing the book.  Now what?  Read aloud.  Edit.  Spell Check and reread again. Repeat.  Lather, Rinse, consider going outside for some sun.

Step 9. Start shopping the agents to see who shops your genre --see what they've sold before, double check them with useful sites like Preditors and editors and Writers Beware, you don't want your baby being co-opted by an unscrupulous beast because you got over eager and jumped in after all that work without looking.

Step 10. Thank helpful friends and people generously with your success by sharing your experience and expert (if you get this far, you're an expert) advice and by financing their lifestyles in a way they are not at the moment accustomed to once you hit the big time and make more money than J.K. Rowling.

I am now going to go pound away at my middle of my book. Yes, I've started redoing all the steps I tried to skip.  And crafting that middle without the prior structure?  It's about as hard as pilates after having had a baby, but for the brain. Good luck and I look forward to reading your great American novel one day.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1.  Lightning, Thunder and Water Oh My!

This week, we awoke to 90 strikes of lightning. Naturally the power went out.  Later in the day, it rained four inches in the course of an hour, causing the window outside the basement bedroom to fill up with water.  It seeped through the window and proceeded to drench everything.  I have to praise my children for rallying in a crisis. 

My teen waded into waste deep water and began bailing.  His brother waited to drag the bin of water out into the yard so it wouldn't drain back into the well of the window.  Two of my daughters began ferrying towels to blot up the mess and piled stuffed animals not soaked on a bed.  When the daughter whose stuff had been ruined sobbed that she didn't want to live in the basement anymore, her younger sister softly and immediately offered, "She can have my room." 

2.  Eat Pray Love

I read this during my vacation because it's been on the best seller list for three years and so I finally got around to it.  My first thoughts are reading this book felt similar to eating the most decadent pizza available in Naples.  It is oozing with cheesy tastiness but absolutely unhealthy if you make a habit of it.  While Elizabeth may be an engaging writer and I did enjoy her words and word play, the quest to repair one's self from one's own deliberate self destruction via a year long vacation from being obligated to anyone but one's self through Italy, India and Indonesia; eventually wearied.  You can only live on that kind of stuff for so long, and then it fails to satisfy.  The whole spiritual quest is a transcontinental indulgence.

3. New Things

My laptop got a virus this week, hence the light blogging.  It was an old machine and so when I found the repair would cost only 50 less than a replacement, guess what happened.  So I'm cruising on my slick new blue Inspiron Dell and it's like having a rent a car, it doesn't yet feel like home to write.

4. Anniversary

This week, we subjected our children to viewing our wedding mass.  It's a yearly experience for my husband and me and a tad bittersweet as the number of deceased on the video continues to grow and they all look so beautiful and vibrant and alive; it's a reminder to savor each moment, even when things are absolutely not how we would plan or want.  I love seeing all these people with smiles recorded in perpetuity. 

5. Fall Carnival

Yes, I'm at it again, planning the Fall Festival for our school.  I'm asking for prayers to make this happen and to help get the people we need to make this a community building event.  In this day and age, with so many stressed about money and jobs, we need a bit of sweetness and light so I'm hoping people will be willing to give a bit of their time to make this a fun day for all.  I've got a month and six days to pull it all together. 

6. Permanent Optimist

When we were faced with the momentary mess of the basement, my son would occasionally cry out because it was icky and gross and cold hard work.  I had purchased two t-bones for the anniversary feast which we didn't get to eat on the 11th, so to coax him through the hard points, I offered him my steak.  This was a good bribe.

I remarked, "It was a good thing we didn't have this to eat yesterday." my son who was receiving the t-bone winced.  "Mom. Do you always have an optimist perspective? Do you always have to look for the bright side?" 

"Pretty much yes." I answered.   Just after dinner, power went out again and the whole house was pitch black. 

The two oldest daughters would have to sleep upstairs with their other sisters because of the mess. I turned to my oldest son and said, "It's a good thing they aren't sleeping downstairs tonight." 

"Why?" he asked. 
 "Because the little girls would be scared about the darkness if they weren't there."  That optimism, it's in my blood.  I just can't help it.  

7.  Missing Tomatoes

This year, we're still waiting for big red ones.  I am going to take a trip to the local orchard because Summer demands an olive oil basalmic vinegar garlic tomato salad. My father-in-law taught me how to make this salad back when we first moved to Maryland and it has been a staple of my summer diet ever since.  Given the fact that I did not pass my glucola test (I have to take the three hour version), I'm going to eat this BEFORE I take the long test in case it gets placed on the prohibited food list. 

You can do 7 Quick Takes Too over at Betty Beguiles who is subbing for Conversion Diary this week!  I'm altering between Quick takes and Small Success so as to keep up the writing without having to struggle to produce two set pieces that are essentially lists in the same week.

The Perfection Found in My Chaos

First, to those visiting from Creative Minority Report, Welcome to my blog!

“You have how many?” I had seven in the store. “Nine.” The clerk began showing us off to her fellow workers as if they had not heard and could not see the stroller and two toddlers led by two olders and one boy who was trying desperately to figure out how not to be associated with us while his brother posed and preened in the three way mirror.

The woman helping us buy uniforms for the school year told my oldest daughter, “Your mother is a saint. You do know that right?” I caught her eyes. She was barely concealing her urge to roll them. This particular teen has a steel trap mind and as she said when she was five, “I never forget anything.” Then and now when I’m reminded of this fact, a deep chill runs up my spine and I know if I ever need to go to confession and am struggling with making a proper assessment of my failings, she can provide an annotated list for my convenience. Even though these words were meant as a compliment, they irk. First, if a case were ever to be opened on my behalf for canonization, the first ones to testify against it would be my children.

Second, I know that motherhood is hard whether you have one or nine. It’s 24-7, it’s without end and there are times when the tasks involved grind you to exhaustion and beyond. I know many mothers I wish I could emulate more; my own for example –she plans. I follow up understanding how much easier whatever it is I am doing would have been if I’d only planned. My mother-in-law is another shining star. She is thorough and thoughtful. I’m fitfully creative and live perpetually with the hope that the thought counts enough even if the birthday card is three days…alright…weeks…late getting into the mail.

I know moms who are so present to their children, I’m envious. I try doing it and both the kids and I get bored of each other or one group of kids wants me to be a judge and another, the designated monster or a third, the set home base. I’m an accessory to their play and a refuge, not a colleague or collaborator. I also know moms of one and two with ample dollops of charity for others to spare; charity I think of only after witnessing them. And I know mothers of six that I watch with awe who arrive on time and well dressed and combed and think, one day, I hope I can be that together and know that my current course and speed aren’t going in that direction no matter how much I flail.

But the polished present planning playing careful mother I’m not is not because of the how many I have. It never was the number that has prevented me from being a planner or thorough and thoughtful or charitable or present, for the number has continued changing, but the constant in the equation has been me. Instead, they’ve got this dreamy fitful enthusiastic and sometimes together mom who spends too much time on my computer, doesn’t write things down and when she does, she doesn’t check her calendar. I know because when we got back to the car and loaded everyone in, I asked my daughter, “Do comments like that bother you?” and she shook her head no and said, “Don’t worry Mom. I know you’re no saint.” And rattled off examples of my many failings, all 100% accurate.

She patted my shoulder but somehow that didn’t make me feel better. When you get a reminder of your sins, it’s a cue to at least make sure you aren’t stagnating spiritually so I talked to one of my go to priests about the trials of trying to raise 9 without discouraging any of them from practicing their faith throughout adulthood because of the obvious work load involved.

He told me to pray and remember “You know, some days, just staying sane is sufficient.” I told him I thought that was setting the bar a bit low.

But today, my four year old is dancing on a chair in her swim suit. No one told her we were going swimming, she just felt it might happen and because her mother is an impulsive person, it might. The three year old comes into the room. “Do you want to potty train today?” I ask. “No, I need to color.” And she marches to the table to demand paper for her latest magnum opus. My eight year old comes down to explain she stayed up reading and writing and illustrating a book and my eleven year old triumphantly explains how he beat his dad and older brother last night in an epic hour long magic game.
These whimsies won’t get them scholarships and aren’t brag worthy to strangers in the way that “we just got back from the semi-finals in 10U baseball” or she’s performing at the Kennedy Center in the junior orchestra or he’s spending the summer studying immersion Sanskrit, but I wouldn’t change or trade those for this blessed abundant and lavish creative chaos I’ve both promoted and created. They’re my triumphs of ordinary time. And while this work won’t generate a tv spot where one of mine flashes a victorious smile and says, “Thanks Mom.” I can look at them in the midst of their clutter, crayons and music dance and song and feel my heart burst as I whisper a prayer to hold onto this moment and say, “Thanks God for these kids.” And mean it with all my heart.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

We Interrupt This Regular Blog to Bring You a Vacation Moment....

First, a disclaimer:  I am not a "spa" type person.

I get twitchy during the occasional manicure.  My legs start bouncing if after 35 minutes, the sytlist is still messing with my hair.   I think a lot of the emulsifying, purifying, hydrating, vitamin enriching theraputetic gobbilty gook that is offered at resorts and the like, are over-priced over-hyped hokum that wastes what could have otherwise been in the hands of a professional chef or even a rank amature, good food.   "Honey cucumber facial, blueberry seaweed body raps, rice and salt rubs, chocolate mud bath..." the lists of options for putting edibles anywhere and everywhere but your mouth are as endless as the inventory of a Whole Foods warehouse.     

So when my husband signed me up for a Tri-fecta spa day while on our vacation, while moved by the lavish and sweet gesture, I secretly viewed the whole idea with suspicion.  I told myself, just order a hair cut and a pedicure and manicure and get them all done at once.  

The spa however, while hailed as one of "The Places" in Maine, did not offer hair cuts, only hair nourishment (whatever that was).  So I settled on a facial for novelty's sake, a pedicure and a shoulder and neck rub.  The woman wrote down my selections and said, "Fine, here is your robe and here is the changing room.  Lock your clothes and things in this locker and come to the waiting room." 

I have to get undressed?  Really?  Frankly, it took all my mental control not to bolt that instant.  My brain raced for an alternative: I'd jog for the hour and a half before my husband came back.  Yeah!  Then I'd have the glow of having worked out and he'd mistake it for a facial.

There were three problems with this plan: 1) my inability to in all likelyhood jog for more than ten minutes; 2) the unmistakable smell of me if I did manage to run all that time and 3) the fact that my beloved had just shelled out 100 bucks to be romantic to his spouse of 20 years.   Not wanting to be a sissy,  I told myself, you've had nine kids, you're raising nine kids and pregnant with the tenth, you can handle this now stop being such a baby and get in the robe! 

The lounge was full of adults of all ages. No one made eye contact and everyone was silent. All were painfully aware that each of us was only wearing a borrowed robe. Most were trying desperately to appear diffident or overly interested in the fire, the ocean view or the new age art on the wall, and everyone jumped a bit whenever one of the clinicians would come out dressed smartly in all black and call out someone's name.   "Hi, I'm Julie.  How are you today?" as if each of us was dying to make our next new bestest friend while clad only in a loaned terry cloth.

When it was my turn, the woman asked me, "Do you have any conditional issues?"  "What does that mean?" I asked.  She rattled off broken bones, recent injuries, diseases, pregnancy.

"I'm three months pregnant." I explained.
"Oh.  Then you can't do the massage or the pedicure."
"What? Why not?"  I asked.  I'd had pedicures before; why was this suddenly verboten?

"Well, there are certain places on the foot we don't touch for fear of stimulating labor."
"I'm three months."
"Well, we like to be safe."

"I've had nine.  If foot rubs could have induced labor, believe me women would be lining up the manicurists at the hospital rather than taking on those petocin drips." 

She gave me a reproachful look.  "Most hospitals don't appreciate the healing and helpful powers of touch." 

Maybe so but I still thought she was way way way overdoing it.  I mean, I'd had foot rubs.  My husband specializes in them in the third trimester.  Not once have we not needed that stupid IV drip to deliver one of our children.  Realizing having an arguement with the woman who is supposed to pamper you would probably be a bad starting point and that this discussion would be breeching possible theological grounds for her if I mocked it too much, I asked, "Where is the spot that brings on labor?"  She motioned her hand in a cupped position and stroked the bottom of my foot.  I promise I didn't but man was I tempted to yell "OW OW OW OW OWWWW!"  Instead, I said, "I'll remember that for my husband come January." with a smile. 

"Now, since we can't do what you requested, how about a pregnancy massage?  It's only 50 minutes and it will cost less than what your husband signed you up for." 

Pregnancy massage?  I thought okay....and immediately began hoping it didn't involve rubbing my belly.   But only 50 minutes?  Sign me up.

"Fine, first I need to get you the pregnancy pillows."  This seemed a bit much.  I mean, I'm only three months.   She came back with a special hollowed spa black foam shapes.  One was for my face so I could lay on my stomach; there was also a molded pillow for my chest and two curved ones that would lift the belly and support the hips and two for my knees.  She placed them on the bed and put a sheet over it.  "Get inbetween the sheets while I'm out."

Now again, I felt like bolting.  This was just to wierd and too intimate but I quickly scuttled into the bed and positioned myself on the pillows.  My neck was a bit extended.  The first sign that spa-itis has set in, you begin expecting only to be comfortable.  She came in and asked how I felt.  I mentioned my neck, feeling a bit silly.  She adjusted it.  "Perfect." I said as I settled into the warm and now amazingly comfortable bed and began spa type thinking, "9 times and I've been doing this all wrong.  You know Sher, being hardy is way overrated.  Why couldn't you ever be just a bit more high maintenance?  I mean man this is nice.  I like these.  I wonder if we could buy these.  These are good, even it this is the last pregnancy, these are really really good."

Then she said, "Whoops, you're pregnant so we have to turn off the heat from the bed." 

"But I like heat..." I wimpered as she flicked the switch.  I wanted to say, no whine, "Turn the heat back on." but I knew she wouldn't for the same reason I wasn't getting a pedicure and I also was mildly annoyed and amused by my own petty demand.  The second sign I was beginning to get into the spa type experience.

New age bird song music began being piped in the room and my brain hit the spa brakes. 

"Don't you ever have a day when the spa music gets to be a bit dull and ever want to shake things up by putting on acid rock?" I asked.  She said, straight faced, "No, then I just ask to do any pounding massages that get requested."  I wondered what massage therapists do to unwind at the end of a given day but given that she hadn't laughed at anything I'd said up to now, I decided not to pry.

She started rubbing and I flinched but she didn't.  She started asking me about my kids as a means of distracting me and it worked.  After ten minutes of banter, I stopped talking because the rub was having it's intended effect.  The lazy thought "After the beast has been tranquilized, she'll be tagged and released back into the wild for future monitoring."  skirted across my brain as I drifted off.

Thirty minutes later, only at her request, I flipped over.  It took a tremendous act of will.

When the whole thing finally ended, I felt as if I'd been asleep for hours.  She handed me a glass of ice water and told me it was important to hydrate a lot after a massage.  I was too dopey to ask why even though I couldn't figure out how lying innert for an hour would deplete one of water.   I did manage a groggy and grateful "Thank you." and felt the abrupt return to reality when she said, "Get out of the bed and back in your robe so you can get dressed."   I had to move?   How much for another hour part of my brain wondered. Could I come back tomorrow or would that be too much?

Getting dressed, I felt floaty, as if I wasn't exactly of this earth.  I also felt rarified, in that I noticed everything.  The air in the hallway was colder than that of the room where I'd been massaged and that bothered me.  The bathroom where I changed was luxurious and the act of washing one's hands felt somehow transformed into both a pampering act and forced labor because I had to do it.  I noticed the paint on the walls, the details of the carpet, the ambient noise of the hotel.  It felt as if everything else and everyone else was moving at 78 rpms while I was blissfully trodding along at 33 and almost irritated at the demand I speed back up. 

I got back to our room and my husband smiled at me, "How was your time at the spa?"  he asked.  "Man, the rich live in a much rarer air than the rest of us.  I'm not sure I'd be tolerable if I could have that sort of luxury more often. It's like I can feel everything and so I'm hyper aware of even the mildest discomfort."

"Poor baby." he laughed.  "Guess we should go cheer you up with some lobster for lunch."
"Yes.  That would be perfect!"

Still not a spa person but I've got to say, having a 20th anniversary rocks!

Happy Anniversary My Love!  You are Magnificent and I am a very blessed woman to be married to you!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Biting Humor

My youngest son has decided the easiest way to create a good impression is with his teeth.  It's a problem in part because we never know when this cute almost 2 year old wannabe member of Team Edward will strike. 

Now I used to teach biters and have been trained on how to get someone to release; you push back into the bite so that the head of the biter is pushed back and that causes him to open his mouth a bit more and thus the arm, hand or what have you that is being bitten, can escape.   However, even I remain fearful of using this technique since pushing back into my son's mouth might strain his neck. Down Syndrome children can sustain injury from a blow to the head that results in paralysis; the neck moves too far back.

Thus my children and I remain at least at present, the human version of teething rings whenever his need to nosh strikes.  

It's not that we don't shout "OW" or "No." or cuff his nose when he starts clamping down or put him in time out; it's that he views the whole thing as one big game.   He shakes his head no back at us with a big happy smile even as we place him in the playpen.  We cuff his nose and his eyes twinkle as he reaches out to repeat the gesture back.  We say "OW, that hurt!" and he claps and laughs.  So either he's the smallest sadist in the world or he just doesn't yet get what we are trying to convey.  

Part of the problem is my son loves stuffed animals; specifically one unimaginatively named Monkey,  stuffed monkey.  When Monkey is in his crib, Monkey gets kissed, hugged and his ears get bitten multiple times.  Monkey does not mind this and Paul showers Monkey with biting love.

However the rest of his family and the general population at large do not share Monkey's stuffed ears or capacity to tolerate however many tons of metric pressure one two year old with abnormally sharp cuspids, bicuspids, incisors and molars can bring to bear in a death grip.

So we now have taken extraordinary measures to keep our youngest out of biting range except in controlled environments.  Jean jackets work almost as well as chain mail; so do layered preppy look sweaters except when he goes for the arm.  For the men and boys and those who hate either of these two looks in the family, holding Paul facing away is an effective alternative, though that is much harder on the back; and the umbroller has become the vehicle of choice out in public.   I rejected the idea of a muzzle and/or retainer to keep his jaws under wraps.  

One of the children suggested making him walk everywhere possible in hopes that by wearing him out, he won't have the energy to take a bite out of us.    The problem with that solution is two-fold: 1) It reduces the speed at which we move to .0001 miles per hour and allows for other children to thus get into mischief and 2) the internal mental discipline required of the adults moving the party along that pace is as demanding as the physical conditioning needed to run a 10 K in whatever a decent time for a 10 K would be.  

The only real solution to this lies with our young son and the every day maturation process that is taking place.  We'll keep saying no, putting him in the pen and cuffing his nose until he gets it.  In the meantime, if our family portrait this year shows everyone in life preserver vests, I hope you'll understand.

Small Success Thursday

It's Thursday!  It's time to review the week and shout out a little.  So this is this week's small success report:

1) I got six kids hair cuts and four kids school shoes. 

2)  I survived getting six kids hair cuts and four kids school shoes.

3) I read a book (all but the last 50 pages but I'm almost done and it's because I've taken time to read each day). 

4) The writing block seems to have lifted.  (Yeah. Happy dance. It's a little thing but it's my little thing). 

5) We went to the pool twice this week. 

6) We will be going on vacation; the kids to Camp Grandmother and us for three days to celebrate our 20th anniversary. 

7) I was asked to be a guest blogger at a site I enjoy.

Have a success?  Share it over at Family and Faith Live!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Meme

I was never good at tag as a kid.  I never caught anyone.   So if I got tagged, the game was essentially over.   However, in blog tags, I'd never yet been tagged so today, I'm happy to say, "I'm it!" 

The Ironic Catholic tagged me at her post today. 

My five favorite devotions are: 

1) Saint Bridgette's devotion --fifteen Our Fathers and fifteen Hail Mary's, every day for a year.  It is for all the souls in purgatory but it is also my daily reminder to pray and because it is daily, I do find myself doing it during laundry or dishes or taking out the garbage.  It means that any activity I do can become mindful and for that, I am very grateful.

2) Saint Louis de Montfort's Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary:  This has been an ongoing pleasure and challenge for the past (it's hard to believe it has been this long), seven years.   When we have the days where we're doing the litany and the rosary and still have to keep up with Saint Bridgette's, you sometimes feel like you are marathon praying and in truth, you are. 

3) The Divine Mercy devotion:  This was something I said while sitting at the hospital with Paul; it gave me great comfort.  I use it when I'm stressed out; when the Holy Spirit wants me to focus on mercy because I am becoming to harsh or too hard or too sad. 

4) The Rosary:  The rosary always surprises me with how much I love it.  Mary's devotion is my go to when I can't figure out anything to do prayer.  She provides me with my everyone needs to be quiet because everyone is fighting and I want to hit the reset button prayer. Mary also stands ready when I this more often prayer.

can't sleep, I can't cope, or even worse, I don't want to cope prayer.   She is always my why don't I pray
5)  Adoration:  I have loved it whenever I have gone; I have felt pierced and fed whenever I have gone.  Like the rosary, I know it is always there and always possible.  (There's a perpetual adoration chapel just a mile and a half from me).  Yet like the rosary, I do not avail myself of its riches as often as I could or should.  You have to know there are no coincidences with God and the fact that I was thinking only yesterday of how I should go and today, I get a reminder via a blog meme, that this is something I will have to simply schedule and go do. 

Now I get to tag five other bloggers to consider how the devotions they cherish feed them and invite them to share. 
My Wonderful Life
Cheeky Pink Girl
Adrienne's Corner
Violin Mama
Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering

And I realize what a relief it was to never catch anyone because I now sit here thinking of all the other bloggers I could have tagged but didn't.   Ah well.  In the meantime, tag! You're it!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tattle Free Zone

Last week at breakfast, my daughter began tattling to me about her brother who also happened to be sitting across from me.  Naturally, her brother reciprocated.  "She's putting on too much butter."  "He poured chocolate syrup in his milk." "She took an extra piece of toast.  You're only supposed to have two."  "He's telling on me." "She kicked her foot under the table." "He made a mean look." No one actually waited for me to respond.  I thought I'd nipped it in the bud with a classic Mom glare over my cheerios but no, as soon as breakfast was over it started up again.  

"Mommmmmm, I wanted to play the Wii and he took the remote."
"Mommmmmm, she wants to play the Wii and we're supposed to do our math before we have screen time."  
"Mommmmmm, he's trying to pretend he's the parent."
"Mommmmmm, tell her I'm right."

Now I hate tattling.  It's tiresome.  But it's a fine line parents have to tread because kids are your first best early warning system (see last week's post on skateboarding) of seriously dangerous epic experiments that might be happening outside of your knowledge. 

So I appreciate having a mole network amongst the kids to keep tabs on what everyone is doing.  However, I got tired of being used as the nuclear threat in the perpetual sibling cold war.You know the drill.  Not so innocent random sibling comes to the room and says with breathless excitement and no small dash of drama, "Mommmmmmmm!"  There's an important element of syntax here.  The word Mom has been transformed into a two sylable phrase with two stresses, not to be confused with MoM! MOM! or MaOMMM, all of which indicate something far more expensive and/or dire. Once they have caught my eye, the tattle begins. 

It doesn't matter what the tattle actually is about, the tone is always the same.  "There's a disobedient child. Sic em!"  and I'm supposed to pounce like a rabid dog while they sit back smugly and enjoy the show while quoting lines from Ricardo Montalban in Startrek II about revenge.

If the child tattling is older, the approach is a slight bit more smooth.   I am suddenly the Judge. "Your honor, this miscreant was caught red handed by me engaging in behavior deemed improper by me. What say you? Be sure it's a nasty long sentencing."  Mind you, if I have any words for the prosecutor about his or her conduct in the proceedings, that is soundly ignored.  

So I banned tattling for the day unless it was on yourself.   For at least the first six hours, the kids struggled as good lawyers will, to discern a way to get around the ban.  One of them finally opted for the everyone loses approach.  "We were all downstairs watching TV even though you said we should do our reading first."  "No tattlesnakes.  Are you tattling?"  "Yes, but on myself too."  "So I should take away the TV from everyone for the rest of the day?" I asked.  "Well no but..." Suddenly, the apocalyptic approach to winning the sibling war took on a new seriousness.  I thought I'd made a breakthrough until her brother came up and said, "Mommmm, she broke the rule about tattling by tattling on us."  

That evening I racked my brain.  I needed a solution that hit them where they lived.  I couldn't take another day of being Judge Mom.  Then it came to me;  if they want me as a court, we'll have court fees.   I posted a sign next to the coin jar in the kitchen.  Tattles: 25 cents each.  With luck, the fines will make the habit price out of range in a day or two.    In the meantime tattlesnakes, "Don't tread on me." 

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