This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Honest Christmas Update

I have been receiving Christmas letters since the weekend after Thanksgiving.  My friends are all overachievers.  Now, they aren't all pretentious -- no, really, they aren't.  Some of them are very down-to-Earth updates of the past year.  But there are those that make my cynical and jaded side snicker. 

You know the one's that I'm talking about because you all get them too.  Generally, they are from those people that you don't know all that well.  All of these letters have the typical holiday photo of the shiny, happy, family followed by a 2-3 page recap of the awesomeness that occurred in their lives over the past year.  Things like raises, promotions, championship games, and awards that they have all earned are highlighted with humbled gloating.  There is nothing wrong with a yearly update letter.  There is nothing wrong with being proud of your family's accomplishments.  There is nothing wrong with any of it. 

But it still hits me wrong every year.

When I see the letters like that I wonder how I am friends with these people and then I realize that I am not.  Not really.  My friends send the cards that are simply signed "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" and may or may not include brief update letters that may or may not include a picture.  These people are those faux friends that I never interact with beyond this yearly update or liking a post on Facebook.  I mean, they obviously don't read my blog or they'd know that such a letter sent to me sets them up to be blog fodder.

I want to see an HONEST Christmas letter.  One that includes the good with the bad.  One that is fun to read because I can relate to it.  So, I'm going to write my family's honest Christmas letter.  I won't send it out -- not because I am ashamed or because it isn't true, but if I publish it here everyone will have the option to read it anyway and I won't have to pay postage.

Greetings from the Caballero Clan! 
2012 is drawing to a close and I must say that I am glad to see it go.  This year has been extremely stressful and although it is ending on a relatively positive note, I am just thankful that it is ending. 

We started the year off with the threat of unemployment looming large on the horizon, but we were fortunate enough to find the husband another job in our hometown.  So naturally, we all got pneumonia while we were moving 750 miles across country.  Also, the short notice of the move meant that we spent the first 8 weeks living with our parents.  Talk about stress. We're in our house now and hopefully will close on it in the Spring provided there are no more surprises.
The oldest boy passed 4th grade.  This was a shock to us all considering that none of the tests were given on a Wii or a Nintendo DS.  Seriously, his video game addiction is troubling, but he does make decent grades.  Since starting 5th grade, he also seems to be discovering girls.  This is very good news because it is evidence that video games may not be the love of his life after all.  
Our oldest girl spent the first of the year recovering from knee surgery and following it up with a broken arm. Needless to say, our orthopedist had a very good year. Luckily, she hasn't injured herself anymore since then because one more "accident" would have likely resulted in a visit from CPS.
The youngest girl is making her mark on the world in kindergarten.  Her teacher agrees with us that she is very unique and very smart.  She seems to have great mathematical ability as she constantly answers math questions in class without even pausing to raise her hand.  However, she still hasn't mastered details like writing her name all on the same line (she often writes it vertically down the side of the page).  Luckily she is very cute.

As for our youngest, well, he's a liar.  He tells some great stories but not one of them is true.  He's also lazy and absolutely hates to go to preschool, but we make him go anyway in the hopes that he will get some preparation for kindergarten next year.  He is plenty capable, but has no motivation.  His teacher and I have tried all year to get him to write his name, but so far all he will write is a J.  He says that he doesn't need to write the rest because with the J we will know that it is his.  Sigh. 
All in all, this has been a stressful year (which is why there is no family photo) and we are looking forward to a better 2013.  We know that we are blessed and anymore details of our lives can be found on Ginger's blog.
 See?  Good and bad, all truth, and less than a page.  Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My 11 Year Old has a Girlfriend??!

I'm sick with an evil stomach virus.  My oldest girl is also sick with something that resembles the black plague.  So today we are watching Christmas specials by the fire and trying to one up one another with our illnesses -- she tells me that she can't breathe through her nose and I counter with I can't eat.  Through all of this bonding I have been trying to answer emails and take care of things like washing the germs out of our laundry. 

If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that my oldest son just had a birthday and when we asked him if he wanted to invite someone from school to celebrate with us, he chose A GIRL.  This was big news.  He is ELEVEN.  So when he told us this, it triggered the inquisition.  Who was she?  Is she just a friend who is a girl or was she a girlfriend?  You get the idea.  He said she was "sorta his girlfriend" and that she was really nice.  He didn't know her last name, but was able to get her phone number so that I could call her parents to invite her to come over.  It was an awkward phone call. 

When I called the mom of this mystery 11 year old, I was pretty cautious.  I had no idea who this woman was, what the family dynamic was, how they felt about this budding "relationship" etc.  I mean, we thought that the idea of an 11 year old "dating" was amusing, but we certainly weren't encouraging it.  After all, they are 11 years old.  We definitely don't want it going beyond the occasional note in class or a birthday invitation, but I had no idea what this woman was thinking.  A few minutes into the conversation, I learned that while I had just learned about their daughter this week, they had been hearing about my son for months.  I told her that I was hoping that their daughter could come to our house to celebrate with us and that they were welcome to join us as well.  I stressed that this was a very informal "party" and that most everything we did was laid back.  I was pleased to discover that both she and her husband were approaching this whole relationship thing with the same attitude that we were -- the crush is cute as long as that's all it is.  It was a relief to know that they weren't picking out china patterns or anything.

The day of the party, she and her family came to our house and spent the evening with us and the rest of our crazy extended family.  They were remarkably normal (by our standards) and they got along well with everyone there.  And the little girl gave my son a Barnes and Noble gift card which scored major points with me as I am always trying to get him to read more. 

Any fears I had about my son meddling in things like dating were squashed by the conversations overheard between him and his little sister.  We learned that he thinks that holding hands is "weird" and when she asked him if he had kissed her, he fake gagged.  I just hope that he can maintain that attitude for a few more years.  At least.  I want him to date eventually (as long as I can pre-approve any possible girlfriends and their families), but not until he is older. 

This experience has prompted a discussion about when our kids can "date" and what that involves.  I was thrilled to find that my husband and I are on the same page.  We have 2 boys and 2 girls.  It is important to both of us that the dating rules in this house be universal -- no difference between boys and girls.  So these are our basic rules:
1)  Group dates (as in going to the movies with a group of people where you happen to be in mutual "like" with another member of the group) will be allowed as young as 14 if and only if we are accquainted with all members of the party and we (or another parent that we know) drives you to and from the "date."

2)  Double dating (where you are allowed to go off with the person that you are in mutual "like" with provided that you are with another couple) will be allowed as young as 15, if and only if we are accquainted with both couples, and transportation is provided by us or another responsible adult.

3)  Individual, one-on-one dating will not be allowed until 16.  You will not be allowed to get into the car with anyone that we have not met.    
4)  You will not respond to honked horns from the edge of the driveway (nor will you ever honk your horn for your date).  Boys will introduce themselves to their date's parents, girls will introduce their dates to us.  More than one date with a girl requires that the boys bring the girl to meet us.  Prolonged relationships, boys or girls, will result in me contacting the parents of the date.  This is not to embarrass you, but to insure that we are all on the same page as far as the dating rules and expectations go.
 These rules are not just to protect my kids, but also to make certain that they date the kind of kids that would potentially make good life partners.  I know that they are going to hate these rules.  But I need them to understand the respect that is communicated to their dates when they are followed.  Anyone that they date will know that my kids have respect for them and that they demand repsect from them.  I do not expect them to marry the first person that they date, but they need to understand from the get-go that you DO marry who you date, so treat your dating life as an audition or interview.  If I give them the impression that dating doesn't matter, then they could end up very unhappy in life. 

And the one thing that I want for my kids above all else is for them to be happy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The brothers Grimm Method

If you are a mom, you know that one of the rare joys in life is getting to go to the bathroom by yourself without being interupted 50 times. Usually, the interuptions are annoyingly benign things like "Mom? What are you doing?" or "Mom? How much longer are you gonna be in there?" or "Mom? You're in the bathroom??!" -- like they can't believe that mom's need to pee. Depending on how long the bathroom business takes, a fight may break out requiring a trial to take place right outside the bathroom door that the kids expect you proceed over as they all try to tell their version of what happened so that you can deliver your verdict before you even flush. And every once in a while, something happens that requires you to rush or leave before you are finished. This was the case last night.

Dinner was done, homework was finished, and the kids were distracted by a rare weekday occurance of desert. I figured it was the best chance I would have before bedtime to go to the bathroom by myself so I snuck upstairs and locked the bathroom door. As I was sitting there, I heard the back screen door open and close right beneath me. And then again. And then a third time. And I heard lots of screaming and laughing. Seriously, I'd been gone all of 42 seconds and they were running outside into the cold and dark for some reason that only they and God knew. I knew that they were in their pajamas and probably didn't have shoes on, but I also knew that the gates to the backyard were closed, so I decided to hurry up but not to worry too much.

About 14 seconds after hearing the laughing screams, something changed. The back door slammed again and I heard the ear piercing screams of my 6 year old from outside. I rushed. I ran downstairs to find that her older brother and sister had left her outside in the dark in 40 degree weather in her pajamas with no shoes and no jacket. She was standing there holding her stuffed cat and screaming. The door wasn't locked, but she was screaming and they weren't doing anything to help her. After I got her inside and calmed her down, I laid into the nearly 9 and 11 year olds. They weren't taking me seriously. I had to do something to get them to realize that this wasn't just about my 90 seconds of "me time" being interrupted.

So I employed a little technique that I like to call "The Brothers Grimm Method." This is where you take something real (or at least rumored to be real) and exaggerate it into something scary to teach a moral lesson to your kids. Civilazations have done this with their young for centuries, and while I didn't tell them that there was a werewolf or chupacabra or a Lady in White that would come and steal them from me, I used the modern day version of all those things -- CPS. I told them that if our neighbors heard a child screaming outside in the cold and in the dark, they could and probably should call Child Protective Services. I told them that IF Child Protective Services came to the house, that they could decide to take them away from me and their dad and make them go live with strangers and send me and their dad to jail. NOW they were listening. I went on to explain that they needed to take care of each other and that I expected them, as the oldest, to do better than leaving their little sister outside by herself in the dark like that. I also stressed that it was pretty pathetic that I couldn't have 5 minutes to go to the bathroom without them getting into trouble.

I may have misrepresented the CPS, but I don't really care. I got them to see my point and they felt bad about what had happened. They apologized to their sister (and she promptly forgave them like she always does) and I made everyone go to bed early.

After all, I STILL had to go to the bathroom!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Geez, I Just Need A Job

I have to go back to work. 

I have to, but I really don't want to, and logistically, I am not sure how I am going to. 

See, my husband has a good job with full benefits.  In this economy, that is nothing to sneeze at.  But at a recent benefits meeting regarding open enrollment, the employees were informed that due mostly to pending federal legislation (also known as "Obamacare") our benefits costs are increasing to the tune of nearly $200 a month.  So we will be bringing home nearly $200 a month less after January. 

We do better than most, but we are not rolling in the dough or anything.  We live debt free.  We are frugal.  We have to be -- we have 4 kids on one income.  Our grocery costs have increased nearly 43% over the last 4 years and the cost of gasoline has increased by nearly 75%.  All of this combines to make me going back to work a necessity.  However, I cannot afford childcare for 4 kids so I need to work a job with flexible part time hours.

This makes my job prospects basically zero.

If I could work full-time at a typical secretarial job, I could easily bring home close to $20,000 a year after taxes.  Of course, I'd have to pay out about $16,000 in childcare costs and I would spend nearly $1,500 a year more in gas, and I would most likely spend about $2,000 more per year on take out and convenience foods.  My net profit would be approximately $500 per year or less than $50 per month for working 40 hours a week.

So I am not looking for a full time position.  I am looking for a part time position that pays enough an hour to make it worth it and is flexible enough that I won't have to pay for childcare.  So far, I am having NO LUCK.  Not to mention that my resume is all over the place with big gaps in it every time I had a kid. I have worked a lot of different jobs starting when I was about 14.  Just since college I have been a leasing agent, an office administrator, an loan auditor, a customer service representative, an assistant property manager, a real estate assistant, a medical billing specialist, an office manager, an outside sales rep, and a professional photographer.  And I guess technically a writer since I started this blog (even though I don't make any money at it).  I was good at all of those jobs, but I cannot find a part time job that pays more than minimum wage and has flexible hours. It is a bit depressing. 

I have a college degree.  I am intelligent.  I am easy to work with.  I am a fast learner and as demonstrated by my past work history, I am good at many, many different things.  If I could just talk to prospective employers, This is what I would say:
I have many skills that would prove useful in any office environment.  I can type, file, organize, sell, promote, and create.  I am a valuable asset because I can do pretty much anything that you need for me to do and I'm an expert multi-tasker.  I get along with almost everyone and if I don't like someone I am great at pretending.  You need me.  And I need a job with flexibility.  Hiring me for a flexible, part time position works out well for both of us.  You don't have to pay for my benefits, you don't have to pay a full time salary, and my myriad skills mean that I can do more than one job so you can hire JUST me instead of 2 or 3 people.  I am NOT "career oriented" at this point, I am "let's pay for groceries oriented" so I will not be begging to be promoted to a more prestigious position.  If I get to that point, I will give ample notice so that you will have the opportunity to offer me a position before I leave for a career driven opportunity. 
 Unfortunately, it is not that easy.  It should be, but it's not.  I am trying to update my resume to reflect these very things, but it is seemingly impossible.  So if you know of anyone in Huntsville or Madison Alabama who could benefit from all this and a daily dose of sarcastic humor, let me know.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The 10 Basic Types Of PTA Members

This morning I cleaned out my purse.  I do not remember the last time that I cleaned out my purse, but among the lollipop wrappers, receipts, and random crumbs, I found some notes that I had made at a PTA meeting.  Theses weren't notes about the meeting, but they were notes about the people (mostly women) at the meeting. 

When I was in Texas, my first experience with the PTA was anything but positive.  The PTA there was made up of manipulative, power hungry women who believed that their elected positions somehow made them better than everyone else (FYI -- they weren't).  The main reason that those women were in their oh-so-powerful positions to decide things like what kind of cookie dough third graders would sell was because everyone else at that school was apathetic.  The PTA had devolved into a small circle of women who paraded around thinking that they were better than every one else while the rest of us rolled our eyes and let them have it.  Understanding my mindset about the PTA is important because it is with these attitudes that I went to the first PTA meeting at my kids' new school.

These notes I found were from the very first PTA meeting I ever attended at the new school.  I was beyond cynical about the prospects at the new school PTA meeting and it was with this jaded attitude that I made these notes.  I would like to point out ahead of time that this post is in no way indicative of the women at my kids' PTA now that I've gotten to know them.  I say this because this is the kind of post that normally garners a visceral response from at least one reader who thinks that they are my moral compass.  I know this is a snarky post that makes me seem like a first class snot (to avoid using a more colorful word), so you do not need to email me to let me know that I am "wrong" to be so judgemental.  The PTA at my kids school is awesome and I am proud to be a part of it -- I am in these stereotypes too.  They accomplish so much and it takes all of these people to do it.

Okay -- back story and disclaimer handled.

As I sat in the lunchroom for the PTA meeting as my nostrils were assaulted by the stale odor of fish sticks and bleach, I looked around at the women of this new PTA and I sized them all up.  I admit that it was judgemental and petty, but as they were going on and on about the 'minutes' from the last meeting of the previous school year and the budget (which was easily 4 times more than at our previous school), it kept me entertained.  It also occurred to me that after reading numerous other mommy blogs about their respective PTA's that these gross generalizations are prevalent everywhere across America. 

So I present the 10 most common types of PTA members:

The Cheerleader:
This is the woman who takes every cause on with religious fervor.  She assures everyone that "we can do this" because "we have the absolute bestest teachers, parents, and students of any school out there."  Her optimism and excitement makes it possible to envision her with pom-poms in each hand and a quarterback on her arm.  She may not understand the mechanics of what needs to be done, but she can cheer you on to victory as you do all the heavy lifting.  Her veneered permagrin is perfectly white and can blind you if you stare directly into it.

The Nazi:
This woman has a clipboard surgically attached to her arm and can quote rule 15, article six of the PTA handbook verbatim without thinking.  She is quick to point out every violation in your classroom door decoration plan and has a stopwatch for making sure that the kids get enough free time at planned PTA sponsored events.  She can suck the fun right out of a room party by declaring that your planned party game is not on the school approved list of "fun things kids are allowed to do."  She and the Cheerleader are opposing forces and can cancel each other out if put on the same committee.

The PTA Barbie:
Usually a blonde size 2 in designer jeans, she really has no idea (nor does she care) what is going on.  She is here to show off her new Uggs and Coach purse and most likely will spend the entire meeting applying lip gloss.  She can't volunteer to help with anything because she has Pilate's and yoga class that take up most of her time.

The True Believer:
This is the mom that does a lot of work for the school with very little or no recognition.  She knows all of the teachers' names, where their classes are, and is the go-to-gal for....well, everything.  She is on every committee, takes pictures for the yearbook, organizes fundraisers, and makes copies (double sided and collated) for teachers that her kids have never even had.

Momma Warbucks:
This is the mom who thinks that everything can be solved with her checkbook and her available balance.  She doesn't understand why we, as parents, can't just all write a $200 check and avoid all of this time and energy spent fundraising. 

The Eye Roller:
This mom thinks all of this is stupid and unnecessary.  She is here because in her mind good moms join the PTA.  She is much more important than everyone else here since she is a doctor/lawyer/VP/etc.  She can't believe they are spending all of this time debating streamer colors and party themes.  She is looking up from her phone just long enough to roll her eyes at whatever mundane topic involving her kids is being discussed now.

Little Miss Connected:
This mom is the first one to raise her hand when anything is brought up about needing someone with connections to ANYTHING.  She loves to name drop and is certain to include how she knows everyone -- how they were in the same sorority, how their kids were on the same championship team, or how their husband's serve on the same board of directors, etc.

The Martha Stewart/Pinterest Mom:
God help you if you are on a committee with this woman.  She will have you at Michael's measuring the width of craft sticks and running to Hobby Lobby for metallic pom-poms to make "the cutest thing ever" that she pinned to her "Ideas For Kid's School Parties" board.  She can tell the difference between lime green and chartreuse at 50 paces and if you get the wrong one she'll send you back to the store to exchange it.  She'll have you at her house sharpening pool noodles into pencils to hang from the ceiling as you keep from complaining by popping her amazing petifores that she made from scratch like they were Tic-Tacs.

The Wrangler:
This mom has no idea what they are talking about. She brought her 4 kids to the meeting and has been trying to keep them wrangled to her general area while stopping them from arguing or licking the table or whatever whole time they've been talking. She sincerely wants to help with whatever the current event is and hopes that there is a handout so that she can email those in charge after her kids go to bed tonight and find out what is going on.  She will eventually get the info and do her part, but she could have skipped the meeting.  (This is probably MY stereotype, but when I wrote these notes, there was a woman with 5 kids who I was watching. With great sympathy.)

The Out Of Place Dad:
This poor man wants to be involved and is probably a single father since he's here without a wife and his daughter is quietly doing her homework beside him.  He sticks out like a sore thumb among all of these other women and he doesn't understand all of the female hierarchy in the room.  He looks around a little confused -- like he knows there is something going on that he doesn't get, but he has no idea what it is or if it involves him. 

As stereotypical as these classifications are, we need all of them. (Except maybe PTA Barbie...)  The well oiled mechanism that is my kid's PTA requires that each person, regardless of which stereotype they most fit, do their part.  The PTA president, who is not characterized here, has to deal with all of these different personalities and make things happen.  We shall call her "The Miracle Worker."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Random Post On A Sick Day

Yesterday, the youngest stayed home from preschool because he was coughing.  About halfway through the morning, he was laughing and running around and bouncing off the walls and there was not so much as a clearing of his throat.  It seems that years of watching his siblings fake sick to stay home for the day has taught him well.  He's at school today. 

However, his older brother is here.  Some sort of stomach bug (not quite as easily faked).  Bad news is I think I have a touch of it as well.  I must say that having the older boy here makes cleaning difficult in different ways than his little brother does -- the older boy doesn't want me to cuddle on the couch and watch Nick Jr. but he wants me to do stuff that I prefer to cleaning like watch Law & Order or Criminal Minds marathons because he has a similar taste in entertainment that I do. So we are slurping on ginger ale, and snacking on yogurt while we ignore the laundry that needs folding, the shelves that need dusting, the floor that needs sweeping, and the dishes that need washing and clear things off of the DVR together. 

As we were watching crime shows together this morning one of the detectives pointed out that the victim had obviously had company before they were killed because there were TWO glasses in the sink.  I reflected on the dishes in my own sink and it occurred to me that if we had a crime scene here the cops would walk in and say something like "Well quite obviously there were 26 killers.  Look at the glasses in the sink."

Fingerprints would also be very difficult to assess in our humble abode since nothing has been dusted in...well, awhile.  And trace evidence or DNA would be hard to sort out since its been about a week since I ran the vacuum or cleaned the bathrooms beyond a quick lick with a Clorox wipe and a spray of Lysol. 

I realize that cleaning would be a good idea, not just because it would make catching my potential murderer a lot easier for the CSI team but because a cleaner house is better for me and my family.  However, today, I really don't care.  I don't feel good and my kid doesn't feel good and we are going to pretend that the most important thing for us to do is to straighten up this DVR.

I don't know how things go downhill here so very fast.  As much as I try to stay on top of things like the laundry, the dishes, the dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms, it never lasts more than a day or two before I look around and everything is chaos again. It's like the dirt demons are plotting against me and keeping me from ever accomplishing getting the entire house clean at the same time.  (We also watched Supernatural today).

I am being a *little* productive....I continue to wash and dry clothes.  This, of course just adds to the hampers or clothes that I need to fold.  Now I think it is time for a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a nap.  That's about all of the productivity that I can handle today.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No More Politics

I was going to write today about my reaction to the election.  I was going to point out why I voted how I did, what I am worried about now, and comment on the implications that this election has made. 

But then I decided not to. 

It's over.  Not that we should be complacent for the next 4 years until there is another election cycle or anything, but seriously -- what is the point in moaning about how sad we are, or rehashing the issues that have already been decided?  Even if I could change everyone's mind in the country, what good would it do?  I am disappointed in the choice that was made because of the financial implications that this outcome will have on me and my little family, but we've survived worse and I actually support several of the social issues.  I will choose to cling to what is good and work to implement changes for what I disagree with. 

So that is the last you will hear on it from me.  Instead, today I will share an excerpt from my latest book idea. 

As you know if you have read my blog before, I had written about 8,000 words or so in a fiction/fantasy novel but then NBC aired Revolution and my novel became trash.  I've been searching for something new to write.  While I haven't come up with a new idea for a novel, I have been working on a little something as an exercise to get my creative juices flowing again.  In case you didn't know, I have a degree in English Literature.  I love literature...especially poetry.  It evokes all sort of romantic thoughts, feelings, and ideas.  Tennyson, Frost, Dickenson,Whitman, Whittier, etc -- they were all magicians with words and I can get lost in their little idyllic worlds as I read them.

As much as I enjoy these little escapes from reality into literature, I find it increasingly difficult to relate to some of my favorites, so I am rewriting them to be more relevant to my life now as a mom to 4 little minions.

I have chosen to share my version of Robert Frost's "Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening" which I have changed to "Walking Through The House On A Monday Morning."  I have also rewritten "The Lady of Shallot" to "The Lady Of Quite A Lot" and I am working on rewriting "The Raven" as "The Toddler," (you can probably hear part of that one...."quoth the toddler 'evermore'..."

Anyway, I hope that this will provide a giggle and a welcomed distraction from your election hangover.  I don't know what I will do with these once I finish them, but perhaps a publisher would be willing to put out a little book of "Literary Classics Rewritten For Mothers."  Enjoy.
Walking Through The House On A Monday Morning
Who made this mess?  I think I know
They’re safely off at school now though
They thought that if they left this here
That I would put it where it goes.
My little dog must think it queer
To see me rushing far and near
Never stopping to take a break
Wiping every smudge and smear.
The laundry pile requires a rake
The bathroom floor looks like a lake
It makes me want to stop and weep
If not for the time that it would take
The hours rush by, they do not creep
I have to straighten, dust and sweep
And there’s laundry to fold before I sleep
And there’s laundry to fold before I sleep.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Please Grow Up Before You Vote

If you follow me on Facebook, (and you should, I post much more there and most of it is hilarious), then you know that I have been refraining from posting about the election or the candidates.  Quite frankly, this election is making me sick.  I know who I am voting for and I know why I am voting that way because I have researched the candidates outside of the mainstream media.  The blind acceptance of any political party or candidate based on what they say or what Fox news or MSNBC says about them is a foolish way to make a choice.  However, relying on what you friends or favorite pages post on Facebook is equally as irresponsible.  Yet many people are doing one or both of these things.

I know that many of you are very passionate about politics -- that is fine.  I also know that many of you are passionate about your chosen candidate -- also fine.  I have seen many "passionate" political posts in recent weeks that are full of misrepresentation, misinformation, and can best be described as inflammatory.  They are meant to anger people.  The people posting them are friends (some closer than others), and they post things without vetting them because they think that they are funny or because they have a knee-jerk reaction to hit "share" because the messages are so outrageous and they believe they will somehow hurt the opposition. I am not passionate about politics.  I actually loathe politics.  But I am passionate about America, and this election is ripping our country apart.

I have my own opinions about the candidates and their respective stands on the issues.  But the last thing that you need is another political opinion.  This post is not about my opinion on the candidates or on the issues. 

This post is more of a bipartisan reprimand.  If you see yourself in anything here, then yeah, I am talking to you.

I want you to quit relying on what you see on Facebook or mainstream media to sway your political opinion.  You are adults.  Don't let your friend's interpretation of whatever facts they think they know decide your vote.  Do your own research.  Use that research to find out which candidate best fits your ideas (or is least offensive) about what is best for this country. 

I want you to quit bashing the other side and acting like your candidate is some sort of Messiah.  These are both men who believe that their way is the best way.  They are human and therefore flawed regardless of what their campaigns may tell you.  Their supporters are as varied as America itself and there will be good and bad people among them.

I want you to quit talking about riots if Obama doesn't win or how you are moving to a different country if Romney doesn't win.  Frankly, both of those things are unlikely.   You will not find a better country to live in than America regardless of who the president is and what good would a riot do?  Do you think that it will make the winner say "Oh, my bad.  The other guy can be president."  All you will do is succeed in destroying property, harming others, and getting yourself arrested or worse.  I do not think that anyone truly believes that leaving the country is a viable option or that rioting would accomplish anything.  The people who say those types of things are showing their immaturity and/or their lack of understanding of how the world works.  (And frankly, it scares me that they are allowed to vote).

I want you to act like the adults that you must be in order to vote and not like a bunch of toddlers who are gonna stamp their feet and pout if they don't get their way.  Regardless of who wins this election, we will all have to deal with the results and we will have to live with each other.  Throwing a temper tantrum, belittling your friends (or in some cases family) that disagree with you, making threats about what you will do if your candidate loses -- they are all immature responses. 

In short, I want you to grow up and then vote.

There is so much information on both candidates out there -- not all of it accurate and a great deal of it purposefully inaccurate and meant to mislead. If you are a voter, then it is your responsibility to research candidates. You should start on their own websites and then seek independent sources to verify, explain, and comment on what they believe (or claim to believe) is the best plan for our country. Nikki, over at Mom's Who Drink And Swear wrote THIS BLOG this morning while I was writing mine. (Fair warning, Nikki's vocabulary is a "bit" more colorful than mine.) It is a very good commentary on Bronco and Mittens and what this election is doing to our country. People are trying to boil these 2 candidates down to a soundbite and that is just not possible. We live in a complicated world. There are so many issues at play in this election that it is impossible to compare the candidates as Nikki so aptly put it as "Romney wants to take money from poor kids and Obama wants to kill babies." But frankly, that is what the candidates and their supporters are trying to do.

There are a lot of people screaming for change in the way the election process is handled -- abolish the 2 party system, let the popular vote negate the electoral college, make elected officials accountable for their campaign promises, etc.  All excellent ideas.  However, the time to scream for changes like this is NOT in the 6 months before the election.  The way government works means that such changes will take years to bring about.  So if you really want these things changed, start working on them now before the next election in 2016.  Right now focus on what you can do with your vote in this election.

There is a page that I follow on Facebook called "I'm Just Heavily Medicated."  I do not know if her recent posts are supposed to pertain to this election or not, but I am going to close with a small sampling of her recent meme-quotes.  Take from them what you will, but I found campaign correlation with each and every one of them:

"We all see the world differently, based on our experiences in life.  Someone else may not see things the same way, and that's okay, because we don't have to agree."

"People won't always see things as you do; let it go.  You won't always see things as others do; let it go."

"Don't be pretentious.  Nobody is perfect and nothing is more annoying than someone who acts like they are."

"Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you."

"Friendship isn't only about saying the right thing, sometimes it's knowing when to say nothing."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Teach Your Children Well

This morning I sent my oldest off on his first overnight field trip.  I did so with much angst and trepidation because my son has a bully and that bully is going on this trip.  They are in the same field group and bunking in the same cabin.  My husband and I called the school and expressed our concerns, and while they tried to assure us that they will keep a close eye on the situation....still.  It's my kid. 

This kid has singled out my son to verbally bully, most likely because he's the new kid.  His favorite insult is to call my son, whose name is William, "Richard"-- despite being corrected repeatedly.  Now, in case you are not up on modern, vulgar insults, calling someone "Richard" is a sort of PC way to call them a certain male body part.  This kid is probably the only one in the 5th grade who knows exactly what that means, (except my son, who I explained it to....that was an awkward conversation).  He spits out the name Richard at my son and then laughs at his own inside joke.  The other kids in the class, not being in on the joke, would call my son Richard because they thought that was his name.  When I heard about this, I wanted very badly to march up to the school and give this kid a verbal smack down.  When I was younger, I could deliver an insult fast enough to make a bully's head spin.  I chewed kids like this up and spit them out.  But, I figured that it would be of no help to my kid's playground cred if his momma fought his battles for him.  We chose the high road and told him to ignore it, thinking that it would eventually stop since he was getting a reaction. 

But when the list of cabin and group assignments came home, my son was disappointed to see this kid on his list, and we found out that now, in the 10th week of school, this was still going on.  We called the principle and had a conference expressing our concerns.  She assured us that she would put this behavior on everyone's radar, and that it would not be a problem on the trip.

Bullies piss me off.  This was my family's first brush with a bully, but I have many friends who deal with them on a regular basis.

About 2 years ago, I made a conscious effort to eliminate the word "retard" from my vernacular.  I had used it, not in a cruel way, to address my friends when they did something that was stupid.  A great blogger friend of mine, Jen over at Down Wit Dat, had written a piece that I don't really remember much about except that it was about ending the "R Word."  See, Jen is the proud mother of twins -- one who has Down's Syndrome, one that does not, and both perfect.  I put myself in her shoes: hearing the R-word thrown around, as a joke mostly, and knowing that until relatively recently, "Retarded" was an acceptable medical term for anyone who had a developmental problem of any kind.  People like her son.  People who could be insulted, hurt, or otherwise adversely effected by what I now see as a derogatory term.


Less advanced, esp. mentally, than is usual for one's age.
backward - delayed
 And I was making light of it.  I realized how, as a mother, I would feel if someone called my kid retarded.  I imagined how I would feel if my child had some type of delay, or impairment, and they were labeled as a retard.  I realized that it would both hurt and piss me off, so I fought the habit and eventually beat it. 

A few weeks ago, I had a late night phone call from a friend who's child has a physical abnormality.  She was born with Spina Bifida -- but it was a closed neural defect.  It does not effect her child's mental capacity (this child is BRILLIANT), and it has not had an adverse effect on her outlook on life.  She is beautiful, smart, funny, and especially POSITIVE.  What a testament to the parents -- a child, who has every reason to be pissed at everything and everyone, has decided instead to be a positive force in the world.  She raises money for research, she speaks openly about her condition to educate others, and she "owns it" -- it does NOT own her.  But she is approaching adolescence.  And while those kids who started elementary school with her years ago "get" her and understand her, upper classes are larger.  New kids are coming in who don't know her or her story.  This kid welcomes questions.  She will gladly explain her condition to anyone who wants to know about it.  Unfortunately, that isn't what happened to her on the bus the day of my friend's call. 

A kid who does not know her, asked her what was wrong with her back.  When she told her that she was born with Spina Bifida, the kid told her "I don't care.  It's weird."  Until that moment, no one had ever blatantly pointed out that her condition made her "weird."  Now, this may seem like a minor thing, but it isn't.  As my friend, her mother, was sobbing on the phone, all I could think was that I wanted to slap someone (and not the kid). 

Kids are kids --they blurt crap out without thinking.  (My own daughter once asked a black waiter at IHOP if he was chocolate and if she could lick him. You can read that here:"I Love You -- Chocolate Is My Favorite!")  When it is innocent, it can be funny, I'll admit it. But when you are talking about a middle school age kid, then calling someone "weird" or "strange" or "retarded" is not an innocent slip.  It isn't because they don't have a filter.  It is because you have missed an opportunity as a parent to impress upon them the importance of being kind to others.

That may seem harsh, but where else would a teenager (or pre-teen) get the idea that it is okay to single out another kid for their differences?  To wrinkle their nose and say it's weird?  You cannot tell me that it is from TV or movies, because as a society we have gotten so completely politically correct and bully-conscious that any kid behaving in such a way on a television show these days would be the object of a moral lesson.  Some say they get it from other kids.  Well, what a way to pass the buck.  As a parent, you are responsible for your kid's actions and you should know who they are hanging out with.  Regardless of what their friends do, your kids are still responsible for their own actions and it is our responsibility as parents to make sure that they know that.

Now, kids will tease each other -- that will always happen.  That is why we were very careful about naming our kids -- we didn't want a "Smelly Shelley" or a "Silly Billy" or much worse.  But I am not talking about the silly name calling you might hear on the elementary school playground.  I am talking about what happens when we as parents do not address those names our kids laugh at when they are 4, or 5, or 6 years old.  My kids tease each other all of the time.  They gang up against each other, they call each other names and they love each other.  But when we witness these little spats between them, my husband and I are quick to point out that things are different with your siblings in your house than they are with your friends or your classmates at school.  If we ever heard them being like that with other kids, they know that there would be a problem. 

One reason that bullying happens is because we are not candid with our kids about disabilities and birth defects.  If you do not educate yourself about these things and then educate your kids about them, then they will make light of what they do not understand.  Or they will go all "Lord of The Flies" and attack what they do not understand.  This is true not just of visible disabilities, but of the not-so-obvious one's as well.  Things like autism, aspergers, and developmental delays are not as obvious and are much more common. 

I am a firm believer in being honest with my kids.  I have talked to them about bullying (and what will happen to them if I find out they are guilty of bullying anyone).  We need to make our kids understand what disabilities are and how they affect the people and families effected by them.  We cannot do that if we do not know ourselves, so research it, educate yourself, ask questions, and if your kids ask you a question about something that you don't know about, find out together.  It is important that you understand so that they will understand and learn empathy. 

Kids need to learn to celebrate differences and they cannot do that unless we as adults show them how.  My youngest daughter, as I have talked about before here, is different.  She views the world through a very unique perspective.  While I worry about how she will fit into the world, I celebrate the fact that she doesn't.  I do not worry about her as much as I worry about how the world will treat her.  I want her to learn how to function in the world without loosing her own whimsy. 

I think that most parents want their kids to be the ones who are accepting.  We want our kids to be the good kids.  No one says "Yay!  My kid is the jerk of the class!  Everyone fears him!"  But it is our job to make sure that they aren't.  We have to teach them NOT to be.  So teach your children well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meet The New Me

**As I sat down to write today, I just sort of let my mind wander. I wanted to let all of you know that I was doing great, just really busy. As I wrote realized that what I was saying may not mean that much to you guys, but it helped me sort through some stuff which is sort of what I usually do. This is not a funny post. It’s not a statement post on a socially relevant subject. It is more about me, so it might be pretty boring. I just wanted everyone to know that I am fully aware of this. This is one of those posts that I wrote mostly for my own benefit.

As you guys know, I consider myself a writer. However, I have been too busy to write lately. I have started three separate blog posts on varying subjects that I was unable to complete in one sitting, and when I go back and read what I have written, I find myself confused as to where in the heck I was going with them. There are snippets of good writing in there, but they ramble. A lot. And if *I* have trouble following them, then I am certain that you guys would be lost. I usually write sort of stream of conscious style – as if I were orally telling a story – and much like when your train of thought gets interrupted when you are speaking and you struggle to remember what you were saying, when I go back to an uncompleted post I struggle to remember what the heck I was trying to say. So I will most likely abandon those posts and start over later.

Today, I need to be cleaning the bathrooms. And folding laundry. And mopping the floor. And running the vacuum, and doing a thousand other things that I am avoiding doing because I NEED to write. Even if I end up not writing anything worth sharing, it is essential to my mental health that I just write. Most likely, I will finish a brief post here just to let you know that I am still alive and then I will brainstorm fiction ideas since the book I was writing was pretty much covered in the first three episodes of NBC’s new show “Revolution”

Ever since we moved back to Alabama, I find that I barely have time to write. My days are filled with field trips, PTA activities, family outings, entertaining friends, cooking, cleaning, and enjoying life with my family. I have LIVED more in the past 4 months of being here than I did in the 4 years that I was miserable in Texas. I am so very HAPPY here. The contrast shows in everything from how I interact with people to how I cook and clean to how I spend my free time. I do not think that I truly realized how very unhappy I was until I wasn’t unhappy anymore. I find it hard to complain about much of anything and although I am still my sarcastic, cynical self, just not a lot has happened to really aggravate me. In Texas, EVERYTHING aggravated me. Maybe less aggravates me because I am generally happier, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that the people here are more “normal” to me. Or maybe it’s because my husband, who was working 25+ days a month now works 16 days a month and so I don’t feel like I am doing everything by myself.

My kids have noticed the differences as well.  They have enjoyed sitting down to dinner with both of their parents at least several times a week.  They have enjoyed going places as a family.  They have NOT enjoyed the fact that I no longer ignore their messes or that the layout of this house means that I see their bedrooms several times a day so they never get out of control.  But surprisingly, they don't complain more than they used to.  They are all so thrilled to finally have their own rooms that they are starting to take some pride in keeping them clean.  I guess when they cannot blame each other, the alternative is to take credit for their rooms and how they keep them.

Since we’ve been back here, where I consider “home,” we’ve had family dinners, we’ve had friends over almost every weekend, we’ve attended at least 3 different festivals, had at least one date a month, and we’ve cut the amount of TV we watch by more than half. None of these things were conscious decisions. We did not sit down and make a plan to do more stuff or to be happier or to live more. But because we are finally WHERE we want to be, we are becoming WHO we really are. Friends who have known me for a while have noticed. They say that I am a completely different person. If that is true, I hope that my loyal readers, those who have listened to me complain for the past three years will stick around.

Don't worry, I am still a coffee swiggin', sarcasm lovin', loud and opinionated person.  But I guess because I am so much happier with who I am, most things don't bother me as much as they used to.  I still drink my Route 44 Cokes from Sonic, I still love my Rolos, I still dislike laundry, dusting, dishes, and all of that other domestic engineering, but because there is a real possibility that my mom, or my mother-in-law, or any number of lifelong friends could stop by on any given day, I keep the house from getting out of control.  Of course,  All of that means that I have less time to write, and less to write about, but that's okay.  I will aim for quality over quantity (not counting this post, obviously).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Waiting For Change

Tuesday, I started writing a post about parental responsibility.  It is going to be a great post when I finish it, but as usually happens with me, life interrupted and now I have a different story to tell first.

Tuesday my youngest goes to preschool, and after I picked him up we came home and I got him a snack of yogurt and pretzels while I went all ADD on the house while making my lunch -- started unloading the dishwasher because I needed a plate for my sandwich, then stopped halfway through to get the clothes out of the dryer and put the wet clothes in from the washer, went to throw away the lint from the dryer and grabbed some chips from the pantry, went upstairs to get some more laundry and remembered I was still hungry, went back to the kitchen to make my sandwich only to start unloading the dishwasher again -- you get the idea.  My youngest was sitting at the table eating his snack as I was running around all crazy, when all of a sudden he started coughing and gagging.  I knew that he was "okay" because he was coughing, crying, and breathing, but I still went into mom-panic-mode and scooped him up and slapped his back, and made him drink all in an attempt to wash down the pretzel stuck in his throat.  He was scared and he said that it was still in his throat, I assumed that the pretzel had scratched his throat and just kept making him drink. 

I finally got him calmed down, and my sandwich abandoned, I was cuddling with him on the couch.  I asked him if he was okay as I stroked his hair and kissed his forehead and he looked at me and said:
"Swallowing that penny was scary."
Well of course I FREAKED OUT because I thought that he had been choking on a pretzel.   I probably could have gotten it out when he first started choking and gagging, but silly me, I wrongfully assumed that he was choking on the food that I gave him to eat and not some random object he'd found on the table.  I thought that at 4, we were past the point of putting money in our mouths. 

So I called the doctor, who sent us for X-rays to confirm that it was a penny, that it wasn't lodged anywhere, and to determine best course of action based on that information.  The penny was there, and thanks in large part to my pushing fluids after it first happened, it was in his stomach.  We were told to go home and wait and watch for it to pass.  Call if there was any pain or vomiting, or if there was no sign of the penny by Friday.  In case you've never had the pleasure of dealing with a swallowed foreign object, that meant that I got to catch and go through poop until I found a penny.  My life is so glamorous.

Tuesday -- No poop.
Wednesday -- No poop.
Thursday -- Still no poop, so I called the doctor who asked if this was "normal" for him (and I honestly don't know.  I mean, I haven't closely monitored his poop since he's been out of diapers).  In any case, they instructed us to give a laxative and extended the timeline to Saturday.

Finally, this morning, we had a little poop, but no penny.  Conversations with my little piggy bank revealed that swallowing the penny had hurt so much that he was now deathly afraid to poop because he thought it would hurt again.  We had tried in vane to dispel this fear, but the 4 year old was having none of it, until he finally pooped today.  Now he believes us that it isn't going to hurt, but still no penny.

So the downstairs toilet remains wrapped in Saran Wrap to catch the elusive penny and unavailable to everyone but him, and my box of latex gloves is on the counter.  And I will spend my day trying to catch up on housework and asking the 4 year old every 30 minutes or so if he needs to poop so that I can play with it until I find the penny. 


Just waiting for change.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

From 'ARRRRR!' to 'Awwwww'

I wish that I had some profound post in store for you tonight, but I don't.  What I do have is an awesome little story about something I witnessed today.

Today is "Talk Like A Pirate Day" and to celebrate the occasion Krispy Kreme Doughnuts was giving away a single free doughnut to anyone who came in and spoke like a pirate, and a free dozen doughnuts if you donned a full pirate costume.  Fearing that my town's single Krispy Kreme would become a complete madhouse after all the public schools got out, I headed over with the youngest right after preschool.  He wanted to dress up, but I explained that buying a $15-20 pirate costume (or more) in order to get a "free" $6.99 box of doughnuts did not make sense.  Knowing that I could only get a free doughnut for me and him, I planned to go ahead and buy a dozen (which is why Krispy Kreme does such a promotion).  So after we got there and got our free doughnut and paid for our other doughnuts, we sat down to eat them (partly because the youngest was getting an extra doughnut and partly because you simply do not take a 4 year old to Krispy Kreme for a free doughnut and then tell him it's for later). 

We watched as the people would come in to get their free doughnuts.  There were lots people dressed normally but speaking pirate to get their free doughnut, quite a few families with little kids in various costumes, and a few adults in full on costume.  I sat and watched as the workers judged whether or not the costumes were "complete."  They turned down a man who had tied a bandanna on his head, an eye patch, and a plastic hook in his hand because it wasn't a "full" costume, and after several full costumes did walk in, I agreed with them.  I was enjoying the people watching. 

But there were 2 that really caught my attention. 

The first, had the entire store doubled over in laughter.  At first glance, these two women were nothing spectacular -- one in costume and one in plain clothes.  Then, as they got closer to the front of the line, I realized that it wasn't just a pirate costume.  It was a guy, dressed like a girl pirate.  After some debate, the workers gave him TWO dozen doughnuts. 

The second, was more of a "I see what you did there" moment.  There is a military base in town so it was not unusual to see a group of 4 servicemen come into Krispy Kreme.  There was one guy though who was wearing black fatigue pants instead of the urban camos of the others.  When they showed up, it was basically me and my youngest in the store with all of the workers.   They all walked in and up to the counter and one of his buddy's spoke spoke to the cashier.  This is basically what transpired:
Buddy:  "Don't freak out, okay?"
Krispy Kreme Lady #1:  "What? Why would I freak out?"
Black Fatigue Guy: (Yells something, full of anger, in another language and slams his hands on the counter)

His buddies all laugh and my youngest jumps and then asks me what's wrong with that man
Krispy Kreme Lady #1: "What was THAT?!"
Black Fatigue Guy:  "Somali"
Krispy Kreme Lady #1: "Somawho??"
Buddy: "See, he's a linguist specialist.  He speaks Somali and other languages.  So he's a 'Somalian Pirate.'  So he's in costume, and he spoke like a 'pirate.' Can he have his free dozen?"
Krispy Kreme Lady #1:  "Uh-huh....hang on a minute."
Although in poor taste, I snorted.  The ladies behind the counter conferred with one another.  Finally, one of them came to the counter.  She was an older woman.  I think she worked at this Krispy Kreme back in 1979 when my kindergarten class came on a field trip to watch them make the doughnuts.  She had a look on her face that said this poor soldier was about to face a lecture the likes of which they don't allow in the army because they consider it too extreme.  One of the other ladies looked at me and my son watching all of this unfold and she winked.
Krispy Kreme Lady #2: "Son, are you from around here?"
Black Fatigue Guy: "No ma'am, upstate New York, ma'am."
Krispy Kreme Lady #2: "You married?"
Black Fatigue Guy:  "No ma'am."
Krispy Kreme Lady #2:  "You ever wanna get married?"
Black Fatigue Guy:  "Yes ma'am."
Krispy Kreme Lady #2:  "I'm gonna give you a piece of advice: Don't you ever -- I mean never, ever, in a million years -- talk to a woman the way you just talked to us.  Especially not a woman down here.  Do you understand what I'm saying to you son?"
Black Fatigue Guy: (a little sheepishly) "Yes ma'am."
Krispy Kreme Lady #2:  "Cause boy, you in The South. (nods of ascension from the other ladies behind her and a few 'uh-huhs' and 'you know that's right' as well)  Women down here don't care what language you speak.  You talk at them like that, and they'll knock you into the middle of next week and not be sorry about it, you hear me?  I'm gonna give you all a free dozen doughnuts -- not because you so smart comin' in here tryin' to work the system -- but because you boys are soldiers and one dozen doughnuts is not enough for 4 soldiers and I'm afraid your buddies here might try the same trick."
He thanked her, apologized and told her that speaking Somali isn't a skill he gets to use much in his current assignment.  She told him that her grandson was in the Marines and he could eat a dozen doughnuts in about 5 minutes.  You could tell that she was thinking of her grandson as she looked at those boys and it made her proud and sad and happy all at once.  Growing up in a military town, it is a look I have seen many times.  In the end, she hugged all four of them and told them to be safe. 

And they totally made my day by hugging her back twice as hard.

Anyway, that's my Krispie Kreme Pirate Day story.  If y'all hurry, you might be able to make it over there and speak like a pirate to get your free doughnut before they turn out the "Hot Now" sign.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

JJ Abrams, You're Killing Me

There were so many things I was supposed to do today.  I was going to wash the sheets on all of the beds, sweep and mop the downstairs and vacuum the den.  I blew it all off and went to Target for 3 hours instead and its all JJ Abrams's fault.

Sometime around March, ( least I think it was around March.  I mean, I know that The Walking dead had just ended it's season, so I believe that it was March....) my husband, friends, and I were sitting around discussing doomsday scenarios.  We had just watched The Walking Dead season finale, I had read and been to see The Hunger Games, and I had recently been watching a lot of "Doomsday Preppers" -- so I seemed very knowledgeable in this discussion.  We were discussing all of the things that would or could happen if there was doomsday scenario -- loss of power, loss of jobs, the rise of the criminal element, and the loss of the general societal structure that we, as Americans, have become to believe is expected. 

Then my friend said "Yeah, but that wouldn't happen, the government or someone would step in before things got that bad."  Well, that got ME thinking -- what if they couldn't?  What if they wouldn't?

And a story began to form in my head about a family fighting to protect themselves and their neighbors and what might have happened to make such "protections" necessary.

That same week, I began writing.  I was writing a story about the end of the world as we know it.  Kind of a hybrid of the TNT series Falling Skies, The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead and my own ideas.  It took place years after the fall of civilization in the U.S.  There were no longer any utilities -- no power, no water, no internet.  Stores were empty having been looted at the beginning of the end.  Each family had to learn how to make do or do without -- growing their own food, gathering their own supplies, and securing their own safety.  It was told from the point of view of a young girl -- the oldest in her family -- who had been forced to grow up too soon and who survived along with her family, a few close friends, and neighbors in a distant suburb of a metropolitan area.  It was about how the government had been unable or unwilling to stop the events that led to the situation where everyone was now responsible for their own survival.  There were militia that tried to enforce a sort of faux government, numerous gangs of bandits, and a big part of survivng was knowing who to trust and who to fight.

I would have late night sessions where I'd write for hours -- trying to get the dialogue write (my biggest weakness is writing believable dialogue).  I had to stop to referee fights, fold laundry, make dinner, act as chauffeur to my kids, clean up messes, enforce bedtime, and do all of those things that I normally write about here.  I was proud of myself for daring to tackle the task -- writing a novel is hard work and a daunting task that is much different from blogging.  It is also much harder than the 10-15 children's books that I have written (and haven't been able to get published).  It was always in the back of my mind that I hadn't been able to get those stories published so why was I wasting my time on another work of fiction?  But the story was there.  It was in my head and my characters seemed to do stuff whether I wanted them to or not.  I had the main writing on my computer, but I also had notes in my iPhone and on random scraps of paper (even napkins) for when an idea about something that my characters might say, do, or encounter, came to me. (Incidentally, if you can avoid it, don't move cross country while you are working on a novel.  Keeping up with all of the random scraps of paper long enough to transfer them into something electronic just adds to your stress.) 

This story I was writing was aimed toward the teen audience -- I was hoping to send it to publishers and capitalize on some of that Hunger Games success.  It had an underlying warning message that becoming too dependant on anything was dangerous, and that we should appreciate modern conveniences but also learn to survive without them. 

It was an AWESOME story.

I had a little less than 8,000 uneditted words written. 

Then last night, I saw JJ Abrams's new series Revolution on NBC.

I loved it. 

And I wanted to die.


I sat aghast and in awe -- both at the realization that playing out on screen was basically my story (or parts of it anyway) and that it was done better.  (Obviously, JJ Abrams has no problem writing believable dialogue.)  It was like what I had envisioned my story to be after I had finished it, edited it, and gotten professional help with it. 

It was very surreal.

As amazingly awesome as it is that JJ Abrams and I think alike, now all of this progress that I had made on my very first novel was a waste of time.  My slim chances o getting published just fell below zero because it is a story that has already been told now.   My husband, who knew of the work I had done and who wanted to be supportive, suggested that I just "rework it" into something that wasn't the same.  While I appreciated the sentiment, he isn't a writer.  You can't just "rework" it.  It isn't that easy.  Basically the same premise and characters, MY story was now Mr. Abrams's story.  And he told it in HD.  Sigh.

So JJ Abrams, if you (or any of your representatives or staff) are reading this -- you rock.  You have the best ideas.  And I am totally stoked that we had the same idea, because it is a total boost to my confidence that I could have almost the exact same idea as you.  But Revolution was a brutal reminder that there is very little left that is original.  I'll just continue to watch your shows and movies, read, and wait for the next stroke of genius to occur.  Next time, I hope that I can beat you to the punch.  (I would also like to point out that if I had your resources, I TOTALLY could have finished this book and had it published in at least 5 languages before Revolution premiered, but I had to write while being mom to 4 kids, moving cross country, and battling a serious addiction to procrastination).

I originally wrote this to Joss Whedon who had nothing to do with Revolution.  It was Mr. Abrams (along with Eric Kripke) who had this great idea (another couple of geniuses whom I admire).  As one of my Facebook followers pointed out, when we see strong female characters in this genre, we automatically think of Joss Whedon, so that shall be my defense.  So, sorry Mr. Whedon, you are still awesome, but aparently its JJ Abrams and Eric Kripke who ruined my day. (I ruined my geek cred all by myself though....)

So if you wanna know what my book COULD have been, watch Revolution on NBC, Mondays at 9pm Central.
(And I totally stole this picture from NBC -- I hope they don't sue me.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Explaining Death To My Kids Reminded Me About Life

Death is hard.  It is even harder when you have to explain it to your children and answer their questions about it. 

This past week, my great aunt passed away.  Now, I don't know if it's a Southern thing, but I have found that many people seem to be surprised that my family had a close relationship with my great aunt.  We have close relationships with a LOT of our extended family -- aunts, uncles, cousins, 2nd and 3rd cousins, great aunts and uncles, -- literally everyone.  We have big families, and we know them and love them and are involved in each other's lives.  So when my great aunt passed, we were sad and we made time to travel to her hometown a few hours south for the funeral.  This was the first funeral for my 2 youngest and I wanted them to be as prepared as possible since death is a difficult concept for adults in many cases and they are only 4 and 5.  Also, they have yet to develop that voice in their heads that tells them "Hey, you shouldn't say that out loud because it could offend someone" so I wanted to try to get a little ahead of their possible reactions to hopefully keep them from embarrassing themselves (but mostly me).  The night before the funeral, I sat down with the 2 of them to discuss what would happen the next day and to answer any questions that they might have.  This is that conversation to the best of my recollection:
So you guys know that Aunt Martha died and that we are going to go to her funeral tomorrow, right?


Do you know what a funeral is?

Okay, well I thought I'd talk to you guys about it a little bit so that you'd know what to expect and so that I could answer any questions that you might have, okay?

(Nods of assent from both)

When someone dies, the people that loved them come together to talk about them and their life and to comfort one another because they are sad that they are gone.  It will be at a funeral home, which is a place especially made for funerals.  Aunt Martha's body will be there, and we will be able to see her.  She will be in a coffin which is a box that they will bury her in. 

In the GROUND? 

Yes, they will bury her in the ground after the funeral.  The funeral will be sort of like church -- we will be quiet, listen to people talk about Aunt Martha and about death, and there will be prayers and maybe singing.  It is important that we sit quietly during this part, okay?


When the funeral is over, we'll get in the car and drive to the cemetery.

Like the graveyard?


Will there be ghosts there?


What about zombies? Will there be zombies there?

No, there will not be zombies there.  When we get to the graveside, there will be a few more words spoken, probably a prayer, and then we will leave before they bury her, okay?  Do you guys have any questions?
At this point, I was sort of patting myself on the back.  I thought I had done a pretty good job preparing them without going into unnecessary details that would only confuse them.  I was expecting them to have a few general questions, but nothing major.

Can we watch?

Watch what? 
Watch them bury her. 

It's not proper to do that. 

Because it's just not. 
Where will they bury her?

In the cemetery.

But where?

In the ground.

But where in the ground?

Well, in her hometown.

In the ground, next to her husband, in the cemetery, in her hometown.   
(Shocked) You mean they killed her husband too??!!  
NO!  He died before you were born -- he's been buried a long time. 
Like with the dinosaurs?

 So maybe I gave myself a little too much credit.  Or maybe I gave THEM too much credit.  But in any event, I had talked to them about what to expect and I felt a little better about everything.  After a little bit more discussion about death and how Aunt Martha had lived a long time and that she had died because she was old, etc. we went to bed so that we could head out the next morning.

When we got to my aunt's house the day of the funeral, my fears about the 5 year old's lack of a verbal filter were renewed.
Who lives here?

This is Aunt Martha's house.  
But she died. 
Yes, but this is her house. 
She died because she got really, really old, right? 
Just like you will die someday when you get really old, right mom? 

(Okay, thanks for that brutal reminder about my mortality). 
So we got dressed and went to the funeral home.  All of our family was there (including the 11 grand kids from our side of the family) and the kids seemed to be taking everything in and not freaking out at all.  I did have to stop all of the kids from running and laughing through the funeral home during the visitation -- they were playing some version of hide-n-go-seek.  I sent them outside, problem solved. 

The funeral home that hosted my family is very nice and the set up is good because it is adjacent to the cemetery.  When the funeral was over, we only had to drive through the parking lot and into the pretty large cemetery.  As we were winding through the graveyard, the 4 year old looked out the window at the headstones, puzzled:
Wait....are all of those rocks DEAD PEOPLE?!

(the 5 yr. old) Yep!  All them flowers too!

Sooooo.....will Aunt Martha grow into a rock?  Or a flower?

(the 5 yr. old) No!  They don't plant you.  They put you in the ground and then they put the rocks and flowers on top of you.

So you can't get out and be a zombie?

(the 5 yr. old) Yeah.

 I didn't try to correct any of this.  I was just thankful that this discussion had happened in the car.

In the end, the service was beautiful, my aunt was laid to rest with respect, and my kids made it through their first funeral with no emotional scarring and no embarrassing comments in front of other people.  Funerals are hard matter how old you are, and I am proud of my kids for the way that they behaved.  They may have had an inappropriate comment or conversation, but they lightened my mood with them.  Their curiosity and precociousness throughout the day were a welcomed reminder that life goes on and that we should always ask questions, be silly, and LIVE while we can, the best that we can.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wait....You Mean I'm not as Important As I Thought?

My day has been.....well, weird.

My great aunt passed away on Tuesday night and I have been getting ready to make the 2 1/2 hour drive with the kids tomorrow for her funeral.  Although I am saddened by her passing, she was nearly 85 years old, she had lived a long and wonderful life, and in her own words, she'd "been ready to go for a long time."  I have been a little stressed about the funeral as it will be a first for my 2 youngest, and there will be awkward questions and most likely inappropriate ones.  I'm hoping that they use their inside voices. 

Hmmmm....according to your label, you contain "Miscellaneous Crap."
Having just moved and still battling the cardboard box takeover, I am busy trying to locate things that we will need for the funeral like the oldest boy's dress shoes.  I KNOW he has some, because I bought them for graduation this past Spring, but we just cannot locate them.  We also cannot find any of his jackets, but luckily he hasn't needed them yet.  I am hoping that the shoes are at one of the 3 houses that we were floating in between before we found ours, and NOT with the jackets.  There is also a box somewhere with the girls tights in it....  
Okay.  It's lost then.

In addition to the obvious clothing issues for a woman who wears nothing but T-shirts and yoga pants and her 4 kids who mostly exist in jeans, there was the notifying of the school of the upcoming absences and getting the car ready for the 5 hour round trip drive which included getting the oil changed as well as saying prayers of longevity over the brakes and tires that need to be replaced, (but there just isn't time).  So even if that was all I had to deal with over the past couple of days, it would have been enough. 

But it wasn't.

This morning, I had a meeting at the school about the decorations for the 5th and 6th grade social next month.  Through a strange twist, I am on the decorations committee, the food committee, the set-up committee, and I am down to be a chaperon and event photographer.  Well, the demons of tardiness were upon me this morning from the moment my feet hit the floor.  Kids didn't want to get up, they couldn't find their shoes, the hairbrush is missing, this one left his lunchbox at school (again), and it was all I could do to get them out the door in time to meet the bus.  Then I made coffee, spilled some sugar on the floor, cleaned it up and looked up and it was nearly 7:45.  Crap.  So I rush upstairs to get the youngest up because he is supposed to be at school at 8:30 and my meeting is at 9:00.  I get his clothes laid out for him, thrust an Eggo into his hand and tell him to get dressed and eat while I make myself presentable.  Anytime that I have to wear clothes with actual buttons and zippers, it takes me longer than my usual 7 minutes to get ready because it most likely means that there is makeup involved.  By the time I got everything done to make myself look like an adult, it was 8:30, and we were late.  After a brief argument about putting on the seat belt all by himself, we were on our way.  After dropping him off at preschool, I was all set to make the meeting just in time when a tractor pulled out in front of me.  (Yes, an actual tractor).  I made it to the school 10 minutes late.  I went to the meeting and while we were discussing decorating ideas, my phone was blowing up with email notifications.  One of the ladies asked me if I needed to check it because she thought it might be work related. (I neglected to tell her that I do not work outside the home because she seemed like the type who was a little "judgey" of someone who is "just a stay-at-home-mom").  I had no idea what was going on, but since there was a family funeral tomorrow, I thought it might have been condolences or something.

I was wrong.

Understatement of the year....
After the meeting, I pulled out my phone to find over 250 emails.  I was floored.  I opened the email app and almost immediately saw that they were 99% new comments on my blog and I got super excited thinking that one of my posts had gone viral.  I started speculating about which one it could be while I began opening the messages.  My excitement quickly turned to bitter disappointment.  They were all, every last one of them, SPAM.  Some payday loan company had commented on every.  Single.  Post that I have ever done.  Well, crap.  When I got home, I pulled out the laptop to begin the deletion process both in my email and on my blog, and I discovered a couple of legitimate emails mixed in with the blog notifications.  There were the usual requests for reviews or to plug someone else's blog on mine or on my Facebook page, but I also had an email from one of the fabulous bloggers that I had met in Chicago last January at the Kenmore Blogger's Summit.  I thought "Yay!  I love this lady!  Maybe she has some new blogging opportunity that she want to tell me about!"  Well, I was half right.  She was asking me if I was going to the Kenmore thing next month. 

I got very excited.  I began weeding through those spam emails faster and faster looking for my invite.  Soon though, it became apparent that there was no invite for me.  I checked my junk mail and went back through the trash folder just to make sure, but nope.  I had not been invited.  So with a pang of jealousy, I emailed my friend and let her know that apparently I wasn't coming this time.  To her credit, she seemed as bummed as I was and told me that I should email them and see if there had been a mistake.  That seemed a little needy (although I wished that all of the returning bloggers had sent an email and said "Hey, what about superrpsychomom?" since that is my Twitter handle).  I felt like I was in middle school all over again where every minor snub makes you feel as if the whole school has somehow blacklisted you and you'll never be invited to anything ever again.

(sniff, sniff)

I AM sending an email off to the organizers to let them know that if any of their first round picks are unavailable that I would LOVE to come, but I am not expecting much.  I tried to be very nonchalant about the whole thing:
 "Hey, I heard from one of my bloggidty buddies that you're doing another Summit.  That's cool.  Well, hey, if you have any trouble rounding up enough participants, I guess I could come again.  I had a pretty good time last January and all.  Just let me know if you need me." 

That's the gist of what I sent, but in my head I was actually more like this:
I think I probably looked a lot like this too....

I think that I may not have been exactly what they thought I was when they invited me last year....
I'm pathetic, I know.

So there you have it -- two major blows to my ego in one day.  First I thought that I had finally won the internet, and then I thought that I was going to get another fabulous blogging experience via Kenmore only to be let down.  I guess I am not quite as important as I thought and I may forever be the runner up on the internet.  Oh well, on to other, more pressing where in the heck are that boy's shoes??!

Yes.  Yes it does.