Emma and Charlie's hip hop dance class at the Y tonight inspired me to post this hilarious backyardigans video for your viewing pleasure. : )
Monday, January 28, 2008
My dream is to own a house and to have a garden and a kitchen with a window where I can look at my garden and think about what I want to cook based on what's growing. My dream is also to have a yard with a swing set and slide for the kids and the kind of weather that enables me to say to them, "go outside and play" and it won't require me zipping them into puffy suits for 20 minutes beforehand. But, if I had these things would I truly be happy? I don't know. Probably not. I'm sure I would be annoyed about something. I'm sure the roof would leak or the floors would creak or I would have mean neighbors. And then there would be the stupid itch again.
I think the only way for me to ever get rid of the itch once and for all is if I live in the present. Signing up for preschool eight months in advance does not make that easy. I don't know how it is where you're from, but people around here are already signing their three-year olds up for summer camps. Living in the present is not something we do as moms. As soon as we find out we're pregnant we calculate our due date. We imagine the what the weather will be like in our ninth month of pregnancy. We imagine how the baby's name will look in calligraphy on their wedding invitation (okay maybe that's just me). You fantasize about the baby being born because you think that once that happens, that will be like the end of something, because then you can finally sleep on your tummy and get some real rest. Then the baby is here and you start counting down until he/she is old enough to sleep through the night, or at least old enough to sleep in a bed and not on top of you while you sit stiffly nursing in a chair all night. If you're like me, you start planning first birthday party themes when the baby is six months old because that's when life will really be fun. And it goes on and on....when will they be old enough for soccer? Is it too early for ballet yet? When will they learn how to jump into a pool and swim by themselves already? And meanwhile, the days are piling up (kind of like a stack of papers on the breakfast bar) and you will look up from your Summer Camp research on the Internet at some point and wonder where your child's babyhood went. And all those years you spent dreaming about one day being a mother and a wife when you were six and twelve and nineteen? Well, they're actually here and all you can think about is six months from now....or one year from now...or fourteen years from now.
So today is Monday, January 28th, 2008 and here is what I'm going to do today. I'm going to go to the grocery store for milk and ingredients for dinner tonight. I'm going to have a conference with Emma's preschool teacher. I'm going to cook dinner, try to have everyone sit down at the same time to eat dinner and then we'll give the kids their bath, read them books and put them to bed. In between those small, but important events, I'm going to enjoy my children. I'm going to see them with the eyes of the person who dreamed of having them for all those years. I'm going to remind myself that this is the only January 28th, 2008 they're ever going to have, that I'm ever going to have, so I'm going to make it count.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Lately I have really been struggling with Emma. She has these really annoying opinions..about everything. She is going through a phase where she only wants to wear dresses, which is just fine I guess, but she doesn't always want to wear tights with said dresses and don't even think about trying to convince her that it would be a good idea to wear a shirt underneath a sleeveless jumper. What are you, insane? The struggles begin when she wakes up and pretty much don't end until bedtime. Here are the things we argue about:
1. Brushing her hair (specifically we argue about when, where and how to accomplish this task)
2. Brushing her teeth (this requires a special cup and sink very nearby to spit into. If the sink is not close enough then she will spit wherever she happens to be standing and this will require a change of clothes and a fresh discussion about how one can't wear a sleeveless dress with bare legs in 20-degree weather).
3. Whose turn it is to use the computer (mine or hers)
4. What to eat for breakfast
5. What to eat for lunch
6. What to eat for snack
7. How to pass the hours we are stuck at home during Charlie's nap (which leads to a debate about why you can't play computer games for 2 hours straight...why can't you do this again?)
8. What to eat for dinner
9. Why she can't have more ice cream for dessert
10. Why she can't have more bubbles in her tub
11. Why she can't wear "Olivia's nightgown" (her cousin's hand-me-down nightgown is her absolute favorite and all she wants to sleep in lately), which is currently in the dirty clothes.
12. Why she can't read three books before bedtime. (We have a 2-book limit at our house. I think if we had a 3-book limit then we would be arguing about why we can't read 4 books.)
13. How to properly adjust her covers for bedtime
And just when you think you're done for the day and you're closing the door to the kids' bedroom and tempted to high-five your husband because it is finally all over for the day, she is popping her head out of the door and asking you to re-adjust her covers, please, and do it the right way this time.
Am I a terrible mother for being frustrated with this situation? I know that I need to be more patient, more understanding of her needs, more selfless, and less forceful when it comes to pushing my own agenda. I need to be proud that she has a will of her own. But I also worry that she is taking over this household, that she is becoming Queen Emma and we must bow down to her or suffer her wrath. I don't really want to live like that. I want to be Queen Mommy and have everyone bow down to me or suffer my wrath. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?
What should I do? Give in? Let her have her way? Or should I be Mean Mommy all the time and show her who's boss? Right now I'm probably doing some sort of combo of the two of these and so the poor kids don't ever know who they're dealing with. I hate being Mean Mommy, but sometimes I actually convince myself that Mean Mommy is not just being mean for being mean's sake, but is actually teaching everyone a lesson here, so you can either do what I say or park that bottom in time out. This is a page from the you-better-stop-crying-or-I'll-give-you-something-to-cry-about school of parenting. Is that really the solution here? I hate Mean Mommy and I think everyone else does too.
So what's a Mommy to do? What is the answer? Anyone have any ideas?
I feel terrible writing about my best girlfriend Emma this way, but I need some answers. I'm sure if she had a blog of her own (which, I guess it's just a matter of time until that happens) she would have plenty of things to say about me and my less-than-stellar parenting moments. We don't need to talk about those right now though. We're talking about Emma and how to fix her and this giant personality of hers. This is the same personality that draws people to her like magnets. I am always amazed at the effect Emma has on other kids. They think she is the coolest. She can walk into any room, no matter if it's the child care place at the gym, her Sunday School class at church or the DMV, and the room adjusts to fit her. It's like the energy in the room rearranges itself to accommodate this dynamic little 3-foot-tall person that just walked in and claimed the space as her own. Mean Mommy's got nothing on that.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
First off, my friend Pam, author of the fabulous book Ethan Suspended will be doing her first podcast on February 7 at 3 p.m. EST!!!! The theme of the podcast is "Funny, that book doesn't look Jewish" and it will be Pam's first of what I'm sure will be a long writing career filled with podcasts. I am so thrilled for her and totally nervous to call in and chat with my friend the famous author. I'm afraid I will just end up giggling the entire time until the host hangs up on me. Yay, Pam!!! You can go here to find out more about the podcast and you can go here to find out more about Pam. If you have a young adult person in your life or if you still consider yourself a young adult person, be sure and check out Ethan Suspended. It is really a great coming of age story about a middle-schooler who moves from his Baltimore suburb to his grandparents' neighborhood in Washington, D.C. He is faced with the challenge of being the only Caucasian kid in the whole school while also wondering if his parents' separation is leading to divorce. There are jazz-oboe lessons, a stolen kiss in the Martin Luther King library and all kinds of poignant moments that make you love Ethan. You will turn the pages quickly in order to find out what happens to such an endearing narrator. Check it out! You won't be sorry!
Next up, my friend Robin has written an awesome review of the book I'm currently loving and highlighting up like crazy because it has so much great advice about simplifying your life and making time for a deeper connection with God. The book is called Breathe and the cover alone will make you want to relax, pour yourself a cup of tea and take a little time to reflect. If you are all about making 2008 great then take a deep breath and read this book. Look over to the right at the blue column for Robin's review. I am so excited to have Robin as Mommy Town's first ever guest blogger. Yay, Robin! Thank you for doing my work for me!!
Next, I have to tell everyone about my new discovery http://www.itrain.com/. It is like having your own little personal trainer in your ipod. If you have hit a workout plateau or you are simply looking for some motivation to start working out, check out itrain. You can download all kinds of workouts--everything from ballet to running on the treadmill. The itrain trainers will guide you through your workout and keep encouraging you to push yourself harder. I have yet to make it through the 90 minute treadmill circuit circus thingy that I downloaded because somebody (Charlie) kept needing things in the kids' gym at the Y the other day. But Brandon somehow did not hear the loud pages asking us to report to the kids' gym on the Y loudspeaker and was able to make it through the whole 90 minutes. And today he has the sore legs to prove it. But he claims it was the best workout ever and something he never could've made himself do without the celebrity trainer in his ear. Check it out and you too could have sore legs!
Lastly, I was wondering if anyone would be interested in an online book club? We could all read the same book and discuss (thought I'd explain that for you just in case you just landed on this planet and had never heard of a book club). Anyone have an idea for a book? Leave it in the comments below!
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Perspective: The Invisible Woman
It started to happen gradually. One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand, and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, “Who is that with you, young fella?”
“Nobody,” he shrugged.
Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, “Oh my goodness, nobody?”
I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family—like “Turn the TV down, please” - and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, “Would someone turn the TV down?” Nothing.
Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party. We’d been there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, “I’m ready to go when you are.” He just kept right on talking.
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.
Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?
Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, “What time is it?” I’m a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?” I’m a car to order, “Right around 5:30, please.”
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude—but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.
She’s going¸ she’s going¸ she’s gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, “I brought you this.”
It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”
In the days ahead I would read—no, devour—the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
· No one can say who built the great cathedrals—we have no record of their names.
· These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
· They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
· The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.”
And the workman replied, “Because God sees.”
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.”
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, “My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.” That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, “You’re gonna love it there.”
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
If you don't already know what a haiku is or maybe you just need a refresher course, go here to learn the rules. Basically, a haiku is a poem written in three lines. The first line must be 5 syllables, the second line is 7 syllables and the third line is 5 syllables.
Get ready. Here are my attempts at haiku:
Sodor's an island
Thomas, Percy, and Gordon
Who's driving these trains?
This weekend's big goal
Charlie in Cars underpants
Why, Polly Pocket,
Are your clothes so difficult
But you're so easy*
Wow, I am so not a poet. I am giving up now. For some real haiku go here.
*last line written by Brandon
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Right now I have the clogged-ear/chlorine eye thing going on that I typically associate with summer and being ten years old. That's because I went SWIMMING today!!!!!! By MYSELF!!!!!! I can't even believe it! Did I mention the Y has an indoor swimming pool? Other people were there swimming with their kids, which I fully intend to do one of these days, but for today it was absolutely luscious (is that too strong a word?) to go swimming by myself. I dropped the kids off at the FREE childcare that the Y provides and they were like, See you later, Mommy. Don't let the gym door hit you on your way out. They were pretty psyched to jump to their little hearts' content on the moon bounce and maybe hang out at the coloring table a little later. I headed straight for the lady's locker room where I shed my giant puffy winter coat with the fake fur trim and slipped into my bathing suit. That is a strange feeling, going from a winter coat to a bathing suit. I felt very self-conscious walking from the ladies' locker room to the pool. I am pretty used to wearing the puffy coat everywhere, it seems. I slid into the lap lane labeled "slow" and started swimming. At first my swimming was a little awkward and I had to remember how to pace myself and get into a rhythm with my breathing. Once I got going it was the best feeling. I felt lighter than air. That's the thing about water, I guess. Your usual self is completely irrelevant in water. I forgot how my body feels moving through water, how it feels to use my arms and legs to push water out of the way and propel myself forward. I haven't swum in years, at least not for any significant chunk of time and certainly not by myself. I guess I haven't really gone swimming since I've had kids. Since having kids, my time in the water has been spent holding onto a flotation device with a child in it, or dangling my toes in the baby pool, chatting with other mothers while we watch our children toddle around in inches of water.
There is something incredibly isolated about swimming. Maybe it's because your head is underwater a significant portion of the time and so the sounds you hear are blurred beyond recognition. I can remember playing a game when I was little where a friend and I would take huge breaths, sink to the bottom of the pool and then sing songs to each other and see if the other person could recognize what we were singing. The songs always came out muffled and strange, like a whale was singing them backwards. Today, hearing my own breath and my own struggle for breath underwater was so strange. It reminded me that I am still me. That there is still a "me" apart from my children, that I am still an individual moving through the world like moving through water.
When I went to pick up the kids at the kids' gym I felt guilty for having such a good time without them. I knew my wet hair would be a dead give-away to Emma. She looked at me skeptically and said, "Where were you, Mommy?" And I told her I had been swimming and I looked down and waited for the indignation and the anger at being left out of such a fun activity. Instead, she looked at me and said, "in a pool?" She seemed interested, but not jealous. She was much more anxious to show me a picture of Cinderella and Prince Charming that she had colored. "I want to stay," she said. "I need to finish my picture." And with that she left me standing there outside the kids' gym, with my wet hair and my puffy coat, all alone.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Okay...I told myself I would work on my novel until Project Runway starts, so I better get to it. Have you seen Project Runway? A reality show about sewing...does it get any better?
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Here's the first one...my father-in-law has just started his own fabulous and creative blog called haiku2u2. He has promised to write a new haiku everyday for the next year! Be sure and check it out and give him lots of comments--even better if your comments are in haiku form, please.
Here's another website I stumbled across that I thought was great... www.modernmom.com. Maybe I'm like the last person (mom person) on the planet to know about this? I don't know. But it basically sums up all the things I, a modern mom, want/need to know about. Are pretzels a healthy snack? Do I need to wear bronzer and blush? Is that lady from Scrubs pregnant? And the mommywood page on the site now makes it unnecessary for me to buy US magazine anymore. Well, maybe I won't go that far, but it did confirm that the Nicole Kidman pregnancy rumors are true and that Brittney is in fact totally crazy. I may still need more in-depth US coverage on those stories, but I can wait until my next major grocery shopping trip to find out more (somehow I don't feel as guilty buying US magazine if I'm already spending more than, say, $120 at the grocery store. It's this kind of spending logic that I know just kills my husband.)
Here's another website I like to check out while my kids are torturing chickens on the balcony (see yesterday's blog for more on that)...http://www.literarymama.com It's chock-full of personal essays, book reviews, and literary stuff of the mama persuasion.
Just a click away from literarymama.com is www.babble.com. The article Game Over: I hate playing with my kids caught my eye and the rest of the column lived up to the great title. Lots of fun stuff to explore on this site. It almost makes you feel sort of hip for having kids (almost).
And lastly, I always make time to check out Catherine Newman's blog. She is such a hero of mine. I'm still trying to muster up enough courage to comment on her blog. I actually get butterflies just thinking about it. Anyway, she writes about being a mom to two kids and she does a way better job of it than I do (both the mom part and the writing part). You should read her stuff. You won't be disappointed.
I know there's more stuff, but it will have to wait until another day. This mama is tired.
Monday, January 7, 2008
But I'm back! I'm trying not to let the inertia of the two-week hiatus hold me back! I'm all about new beginnings, fresh starts, new year's resolutions. 2008 is gonna be great! Say it with me! 2008 is gonna be great! 2008 is gonna be great! Okay, I know that's totally dorky. We can stop now.
So, here is my first of many resolutions:
Finally finish my novel. I have been trying to write this blog entry for about 2 hours now and this is how far I've made it. A novel seems more than a little daunting. But I have a good start...six chapters. I have a plan for what I want to happen, characters, plot, the works. I just need the time to sit down without Emma making me color a picture or Charlie crying about his train tracks being disconnected. Kids and their needs...they can really get in the way of the novel writing. One of my favorite Anne Lamott quotes goes something like this, "Before I had a child I couldn't write if there were dirty dishes in the sink. Now, I could write if there's a corpse in the sink." Okay...I just googled Anne Lamott, corpse, sink and got the real quote. Here it is: "I used to not be able to work if there were dishes in the sink. Then I had a child and now I can work if there is a corpse in the sink. Because you’re always on borrowed time. None of your favorite writers, let alone your own personal self, sits down in the morning and just feels great about the work ahead of them. No one sits down and feels like a million dollars. People sit down and go into either fugue states or into this highly aerobicized sort of up-down thing. During the O.J. [Simpson] trial all hell broke loose ‘cause I work downstairs in this office; some people might call it a garage. And the TV is upstairs and so I’d sit down, get up, sit down, get up, sit down, get up, say my little prayer. I’d pray, Please, God, help me get out of the way so I can write what wants to be written. And then I’d sit down and I would do a little bribe and I would say, ‘If you stay here for half an hour and you write that one tiny little moment where the uncle sees the shores of Inverness, California for the first time in his life then we will get up and watch a little O.J.’”
At the risk of turning this blog into an Anne Lamott fan site, here's another quote of hers that I just stumbled across and it is exactly what I needed to hear right now..."Maybe you really don’t want to write, maybe you want to read, but if you do want to write, life is going by very quickly and if you’re not careful you’re going to be 80 years old and have spent your life wishing that you’d gotten your work done. I think it’s good to consider where you’re going to be at 80. I believe at 80 we’re not going to wish we spent more time cleaning our houses. I believe at 80 we’re not going to wish we’d stayed out of warm tropical water more often ‘cause our thighs were not firm. Really no one cares if you get your writing done, it’s of no cosmic importance that you do. All I know that if it’s in you you’re going to get sick if you don’t let it out. And it’s your memories and your dreams and your versions of things and these characters who’ve selected you to be their typist. You’re their own Rosemary Woods. If you don’t have the luxury of writing 8 to 5, give up the 10 o’clock news. The 10 o’clock news only serves to ruin the next day’s newspaper. And to tell you about fires in areas you never go to, so what’s the point? So you have an hour then, if you can budget the hour from 10 to 11, give up this one thing. It’s like God will meet you half way and be like, ‘Okay, cookie, let’s go.’”
Thank you, Anne Lamott. You always know just what to say to make me feel better. Maybe you are not a writer and have no desire to write. I think you could just as easily take the above quote, scratch out "write" and fill it in with whatever you're burning up to do. I think I'm going to print out "Okay, cookie, let's go" in really big, cute letters and put it up above my computer.
I don't have a corpse in the sink, but I do have this going on on my deck/balcony at the moment.
And I'm still writing, despite the fact that a stuffed chicken is being tortured a few feet away. With focus and determination like this I may just finish my novel after all.
I have more resolutions...really original things like "eat better" and "exercise more." What are your resolutions? What will you do instead of watching the 10 o'clock news? Please share...I will think of you when I turn off the TV, head upstairs to write and say to myself, "okay, cookie, let's go!"