Monday, February 28, 2011

Delicious Impermanence

So I'm feeling pretty good, people!

I'd been experiencing a bit of stress - nothing horrible or totally overwhelming - just really bad and almost overwhelming.  But, things are looking up, as things often do.  I just woke up one morning and went, "Wow.  Lots of things that have been hanging over me have passed...I can exhale...a little." 

Our family experienced a health crisis that turned out to be more of an inconvenience than a life-threatening emergency.  I'll take the inconvenience any old day - although I'm not the person with the health crisis so I can afford to be all positive and all.  Also?  Ellie's college auditions are OVER.  Woot! is not a big enough word, believe me.  All of the traveling, the pre-screening work of making DVD's and CD's.....and contest pre-screening work of making DVD's and CD's is over....and scholarship stuff is done...HOORAY.  Still have a little bit to do - but nothing like the crushing wave that was looming - we're just floating along in the wake, now.

Oh!  And I even re-wrote my beginning of my novel.  This is HUGE.  Because I had just been walking around with that for a really long time and now it is DONE and all I have to do is connect some dots, add in a subplot that I had originally wanted to include but had decided to abandon, but now that I'm all awesome with my new beginning I feel that I can go ahead and add in the subplot, as well.  (And thanks, Julie and Mark, for your kind and inspiring words!)

We got Napoleon (aka Sir Humpalot) neutered.  Jasper doesn't think it went well as Napoleon is still rather rambunctious and jumps on everyone, barks all night, basically acts the exact same.  Jasper expected a Totally New Dog from the procedure.  I was like, dude, he didn't have a frontal lobotomy, he just had his testicles removed.  A lobotomy, however, might be next.

So, what else?  Let's see....I'm enjoying knowing that things don't stay the same, right?  Since a few weeks ago I was overwhelmed by so many things, it is quite lovely to recognize how they've all moved along, now.  However, at the same time, I'm really having a hard time accepting certain aspects of impermanence while I simultaneously appreciate the hell out of it.  Look at me, Julie, talking about impermanence and sounding all Buddhist!

So my kid has gotten all Big Girl and will soon be leaving.  I remember when she was a baby, maybe 18 months old or so, and she and I were having a particularly lovely afternoon together (we didn't always have those, she was a little toot, believe me), and it occurred to me that that particular moment in my life was delicious.  I couldn't think of a better word.  I remember her little bald head, her adorable eyes, her little blue playsuit, the way she slapped my hands and slobbered on my shoulder and pulled my hair.  I kissed her, smelled her, tasted her....and I knew that the moment would be gone but that I would always remember it.  That Specific Moment.  It was delicious to every single one of my senses.  I have always pulled that memory out of storage when I needed to - during a bad day or whatever - and it never lost any of its sweetness.  But I never had another specific moment with Ellie that quite matched the intensity of that deliciousness - even though in 18 years we have amassed some seriously fun and delightful times - until now.  Right now, the delicious moments are rolling over me faster than I can taste them.  Every moment with her is like a dream where my brain says, "Ooh, this is a good one...we must file this one away so that it may be pulled out later and tasted all over again."  Later.  Like when she's gone.

Last week, she and I had enjoyed a particularly fun morning (at least I did, she's probably already forgotten about it).  I was being lazy, it was the one day of the week where I had nowhere I had to be, and Ellie came in saying that she felt uncharacteristically lazy, too.  So, we slacked together.  Ellie is not a slacker in any way, shape, or form.  And for someone who isn't very practiced, I must say she did a rather fine job.  I won't say what actual slacking activity we participated in because she actually said to me, "Oh my god, mom, don't tell anybody I did this with you."  But it was something Way Fun For Me that included something I really, really love and we had a little bit-o-bonding.  We laughed a lot.  Lately, we are just laughing all the time, it seems.  I'm going to miss that.  Ellie, herself, isn't a humongous laugher, but the rest of us are often laughing at her expense so you can see how her absence will put a damper on that.  She's a literal in...quite literal, as they say, and this has afforded us many opportunities to basically go all hysterical over Ellie's literal interpretations of Things Not To Be Taken Literally.  Between that and her brother's language disorders...yeah...lots of laughing. 

So after our laughter-filled morning slacking during an unrevealed activity or lack of activity, Ellie was making a sandwich.  And I was watching her.  And I was thinking about how delicious the day was, how literally, beautifully, wonderfully delicious to every sense I have.  And without thinking, I blurted out, "Ellie, I'm going to miss you."  I try not to do this to her.  I want her to leave with joy in her heart and excitement in her soul.  So I really, really try not to get all weepy with the Abandonment Issue.

It was a moment.  My soul spoke without asking my permission.  "Ellie, I'm going to miss you," I said.  Because I am.

She turned to me, beautiful young woman on the verge of the rest of her life.  Her face exploded into a huge smile.  She said, "Really mom?  That is hilarious because just now....just right this minute...right when you said that?  I was thinking about how I can't wait to get out of here!  Isn't that FUNNY?"  Then she went back to making her sandwich, shoulders shaking with the hilarity of it all.

Okay, so sarcasm often isn't picked up by her radar, but a little irony?  Tickles the hell out of her.  As for my reaction?  It was just what I needed.  That right there is my kid doing her thing, being herself and nobody else, saying what's on her mind, and knowing full well that even though I'm going to miss her, I love her enough to want her to go....and Be.

She has a delicious life ahead of her, I've no doubt.  And I'm left with the lingering sweet memories of her childhood...memories she'll forget or never even registered....that I'll taste forever.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Readin' and Writin'

Have you noticed that some of the blogs on my blog roll are dedicated to writing? That’s because I like to write.

With the exception of this blog, which believe it or not, is NOT fiction, I haven’t published anything in a very long time. Non-fiction used to be my shtick. Particularly humorous or inspirational nonfiction. I’ve had stories, articles, and essays published in books, magazines, and newspapers. I wrote a weekly column for several years….and they even continued to put up with me when my weeklies slowly turned into whenever-I-felt-like-its…because people liked what I wrote. But then I got this strange compulsion to write fiction. Fiction! And this, my friends, has been my writing downfall.

Are you still considered published if you haven’t published anything in a very long time because you are totally obsessed with writing (and publishing) fiction and you can’t seem to write (much less publish) the fiction, so you are just left not writing or publishing anything at all?

My “writing” has turned into this blog and e-mails to other writers about their writing and how I’d like to write but can’t seem to because of reasons a, b, c, and d, a couple of which are probably psychological in nature, at least I’d like to think so because it sounds good. I can’t write because (like so many brilliant writers) I’m unbalanced, depressed, trying to kick a habit or two, quirky, sentimental, moody, bi-polar, hitting the bottle, snorting the coke, smoking too much weed, schizophrenic, BLOCKED, waiting for a muse, exorcising a demon….anything….take your pick….anything at all as long as it isn’t because I Suck At Writing.

I am not a great writer. I’m really not. I am a great reader, though.  I just finished Clown Girl by Monica Drake.  A good friend who always gives me great books gave it to me, so I knew it was going to be awesome.  Kristin Wiig (of SNL) just bought the movie rights to it, so of course, hers was the face I saw for Nita (aka Sniffles), the book's main character and narrator.  The voice of this narrating character is extremely strong and quirky, a fact I take pains to note, due to something I'll mention later.  I'm also on the fifth Outlander book of Diana Gabaldon's.  This is like reading 12 - 15 books of normal paperback length, believe me.  In this book I'm already on page 292 and still waiting for the major action to start.  I keep telling myself to hang in there, because in another 400 or so pages I know I won't want to put it down. Anyway, when I'm reading and not writing, I like to tell myself that I'm at least learning.  But learning what?  The entire time I read, I look for errors....fault....aha!! Another Adverb...a beginning without a hook...a saggy ending that's wrapped up too neatly or left open entirely.  It seems that I've read too many books on writing, sat through too many seminars, webinars, etc, to simply enjoy a good book.  I know too much about character arcs, plotting, The Hero's Journey (I effing HATE The Hero's Journey mumbo jumbo talk), conflict resolution, obstacles, points of view, data dumping, and acts I, II,and III.  It's a wonder I attempt a story at all!  Just reading with the sole intention of finding bad writing among successful writers is quite the job, believe me, and although it does make me feel better, in the long run, it takes a bit of the joy out of the whole reading business, you know?

I would love to be able to say that I am working on a literary masterpiece and I don’t care about any kind of commercial success because what kind of an artist would I be if I cared about any kind of commercial success and that I hope to be published by a very small literary press that only super smart and hip people know about….people who will love me and invite me to cocktail parties and buy my books and say that it’s a good thing I didn’t end up on Oprah’s book list because that would only serve to spoil my integrity and diminish my genius. I would LOVE that. But the truth is, I have two manuscripts in the works, and neither one is a literary masterpiece. I do think they can be commercially decent reads if I finish them and manage to worm my way in and out of the agent/editing/publishing maze.

The first one is a contemporary romance that begins with a severely hung-over community college English professor who’s desperately trying to grow up and get over her last failed romance (she should have known not to go out with anyone from the history department). After holding a brief and rather unsatisfying conversation with a pile of dirty clothes in the corner of her bedroom, and recovering from the shock of discovering her car isn’t sitting in its designated parking spot where it is definitely supposed to be sitting, she tries to sort out the events of the previous night’s celebration of her 30th birthday by looking through the pictures in her digital camera. And ooh-la-la (don’t worry – that phrase doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the book, I promise), thus starts the journey with the heavily tattooed and tongue-pierced Such a Bad Idea ex-rock star trying to make a comeback while struggling through life with something rather exotic called synthenesia, and a not so exotic overbearing sister.

I had considered this particular manuscript to have been at the end of the first draft stage until I learned that my beginning is a cliché’. A dime a dozen. Common as pig tracks. So now I’m left trying to totally re-work it and I’m not having any luck because my heart’s not in the rewrite. But you can’t have the beginning include such things as ahem…hangovers, back flashes, introspective ponderings, or apparently, early morning coffee. Any of these things, I was recently told, are bad in an opening scene. I have all of them.

I had signed up to attend a webinar on Beginnings that included the opportunity to submit the first 3 pages to an agent for feedback. Since I knew I had a Big Cliché’ resting on my hands with the contemporary romance (like a matzo ball resting on a soup spoon), I opted for sending in the first 3 pages of my unfinished Middle Grades fantasy manuscript instead, which had more of a beginning hook and included nobody who was hung-over, dreaming, remembering, sipping coffee, or being in any way introspective in the opening scene.

I won’t give you the whole 3 pages lest, God forbid, you steal them and write the next Hunger Games with it, but I will give you the first paragraph, and remember, this is for 7th-graders:

The Corpse Formerly Known as Kurt is totally freaking out. He’s freaking out so badly that he can’t even see me. I should be used to this where he’s concerned. After all, I’ve been his chemistry lab partner for the past three months and I’ve remained pretty much invisible the entire time. He only accepted me as his partner because I’m good in science and have SUCKER stamped on my forehead.

Now we’ll skip the saggy middle, which would surely be the 2nd page in a 3-page deal, and get right to the last line of the 3rd page.

“Hey Kurt, how’s it going?” I don’t mean this literally, of course. It’s more of a rhetorical question.

So, along with the saggy middle, the agent read those lines, and said, “You have a really unique narrative voice here- great work! It reads, to me, like a new and different take on the zombie novel and that's hard to find.”

This would have been excellent news if a) that was all she said and b) this was a zombie novel.

But she also said:

“In terms of critique- my biggest concern is that your voice might be a bit too hard for the reader to follow. It might be too quirky - more Tom Robbins than anything else.”

Okay, so my voice being hard to follow – that can’t be good. Too quirky? What can I say? My character is quirky. Really quirky. She’s a 15-year-old girl who collects souls, has a crush on a what she considers to be a horribly misunderstood teenage demon, and has the irritating habit of taking advantage of every opportunity that allows her to use the word befuddled in a sentence (she gives herself points for this and maintains a running tally). Also? I had to google Tom Robbins, which is embarrassing for me but must be just a tad awkward for Tom Robbins, as well.

“I hope this helps!”

Not really.

“It's a fantastic concept and it's almost there!”

Except that she thinks it’s a zombie book and it’s not.

“Work on making it relatable and it's really, really going to sparkle!”

That last line is sweet and meant to keep me from slitting my wrists. I did not slit my wrists, but I did quit writing for several weeks. I have very thin skin, which I imagine might make it easier to slit my wrists if it ever comes down to that. My skin is so thin, that next to writing, my other big activity is trying to get Everyone On The Planet to like me. The agent might like me if she knew me (who wouldn’t?) but she did not like my first 3 pages well enough to ask for more, which is what I had been hoping for.

My Beta Reader and Dear Friend sent in her 3 pages and received similar feedback also intended to let her down gently. My Beta Reader and Dear Friend, however, sulked for about a half hour and then frantically began writing a bigger, better novel. She decided to get a bit of help at the beginning (a good idea) and sent out for some from a couple of editors who claim to assist with early plot development, etc. She immediately heard back from the first one that the entire concept needed to be scrapped. Then she heard from the second one that she had a hit on her hands – great job – really good! So there you go. Writing fiction is a roller coaster ride full of subjective climbs, opinionated drops, and willy-nilly loop-de-loops.

All I know is, maybe I’m not the best, but I read a lot and therefore I can proclaim myself to not be the worst, either. There are a lot of authors out there that um…..well……..somehow got published even though they well, aren’t that great. A lot. You know it’s true – you’ve tried to read their books, haven’t you?

So how do I say this delicately….Where are their agents? Where are the agents to the multitudes of mediocre writers? I want one. They’re out there. Obviously. I just need our paths to cross.

If you are an agent representing any one of the Not Too Bad But Not Really All That Great authors who love cliché’s and whose books are overflowing with unnecessary adverbs and hungover, quirky characters with overbearing narrative voices…well, the way I see it is that one more can’t hurt you. Drop me a line. We’ll talk. Then maybe I can cross this frustrating fiction writing thing off my list and move on to something more, it turns out that productivity doesn't seem to suit me.  I'm thinking of productive things I could be doing and frankly, most of them are turning me off.  So maybe I'll just keep puttering along, drowning out the reasonable and irritating editor's voice in my head (I do have one, you know...she's smug and generally disagreeable) with an overabundance of exclamation points!! and cleverly, cutely, and not-so-sparingly placed adverbs.

Back to work....It was a dark and stormy, make that....It was a darkly storming evening, and Jane was already drunk.  She was going to have one massive hangover in the morning; one which she would surely and sadly and shakily suffer while sipping coffee and deeply reflecting on her past..... 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

There Is A Perfect Title For This But I Can't Use It

So now that my tracker tells me that a good many people are getting to this blog due to my being listed as a source for Attachment Parenting information on some kind of health care site...I'm feeling a bit labeled and pigeonholed and like I should have some sort of posting standard to live up to - interesting and informative posts about how we parent, how we educate, and whether or not you can feed sardines to your babies.  But I just can't be any kind of standard for anybody.  And believe me, you don't want me to be.  That would be what we like to call "setting the bar pretty dang low, folks."

So - I am relieving myself of the pressure to inform you - it isn't my fault if you came here expecting to see a certain something and you're seeing something else, instead.  I'm just here to anonymously go blabbedy blab blab blab about whatever the heck happens to come out when I channel Erma Bombeck (I wish) or just unleash the floodgates of my subconsciousness or consciousness or the bottomless pit of angst and anxiety that, as a parent, I am required to carry around.  So are you ready?  We're starting off with Valentine's Day.

Jeff cooked the family a turkey dinner.  But first he had to kill the turkey.  Seriously.  We had four turkeys running around here for the past 6 months (now we have only 3) wreaking havoc and unceremoniously pooping on Everything and let me tell you, these bad boys can make some medium-to-large-dog-sized poop.  They also make a lot of noise....of the high-pitched gobble gobble gobble variety.

They are free range and they roost on the roof of the garage at night - sitting up there, outlined by the moon like some kind of feathery gargoyles.  On the occasions where the temps have dropped into the 20's, Jeff and the boys have had to climb on the roof (fun if it's icy) to chase them around, catch them, and toss them down to waiting hands to be carried into the warm hen house with the smarter variety of fowl, the chickens.  And let me tell you, when you reach the evolutionary low point of being dumber than a chicken, it is time to be eaten.

I still feel badly about it, though.  I've never been much for killing - even bugs and such.  Kind of turns my stomach.  But I refuse to be one of those people who is clueless as to where her food comes from or harbors some kind of illusion that there are happy places somewhere where animals are raised in blissful environments right up until the time they are painlessly and humanely killed and sanitarily packaged for my convenience.

I can honestly say that our turkey really was strutting around here happy as a peacock right up until the moment he was humanely slaughtered.  Ugh. That sounds like an oxymoron.  And I seriously doubt that he now appreciates the fact that I was relatively nice to him and concerned about his comfort before having him murdered.

But the time had come to have him murdered.  It really had.  Love had been in the air amongst the turkeys and it was causing some awkward moments among Ellie's piano students.  Ellie's piano kids are forced to come through our back door because we have an electric fence up around the front yard (welcome to guantanimo!) because the dogs have trampled the yard again and I'm trying to keep them off of it so yeah....Company and Piano Students tromp around to the back door where they quietly knock and then patiently wait until someone happens to walk past the door and see them standing there. 

Lately, we can tell when the piano students arrive because the turkeys tend to get all excited about Company and they run up to the Company and startle the Company and then the Company begins to run and the turkeys are all like, "Holy shit! Something's chasing us!" and then they also hysterically begin to run, thereby creating the illusion that they are chasing the Company with intent to murder and maim or at the very least, peck some eyes out.  This makes the Company scream, and the turkeys begin gobbling while they run, which the Company misinterprets as some kind of Turkey War Cry and so they begin to scream louder and run faster and this further alarms the already alarmed turkeys so they begin half-flying and screeching which sends the Company into quite the frantic fit.  Really.  You should come visit. 

So this traumatic conglomeration lands itself at the back door where it all settles down because there's nowhere left to run and then the "please let us in" begins on the part of both the Company and the turkeys.  The turkeys freaking love to look in our back door, the other side of which they are convinced contains more turkeys, because they are very enamoured of their own reflections.  But lately, love has been in the air for the turkeys, so they have begun umm...courting.  Often they do this while waiting with Company at our back door.

So picture this:  Little piano students standing at the back door holding their music while patiently waiting for someone, anyone at all, to walk past the door and notice them.  Turkeys are in the background, furiously courting.  Now add one more thing to the scene.  Two more things, actually.  Ranger and Napoleon, also known as Sir Humpalot.  Napoleon is awaiting a trip to the vet.  But in the meantime, he has fallen in love with Ranger, our Entirely Too Submissive Favorite Dog.  Ranger is currently spending most of his time hiding from or trying to get away from Sir Humpalot, which is perfectly understandable under the circumstances.  So when Company or Piano Students come and begin the Great Turkey Run, he joins in with the hopes of making a mad dash in through the back door to get away from Napoleon.  But while he and the turkeys and the piano students wait at the back door, well, they have some time on their hands, see?

So Ellie recently told me, "We have to kill those turkeys and get Napoleon fixed.  They're traumatizing my students.  It's like Fornication Farm around here."  (This would have made a cool blog post title - but can you imagine the types of people the Google Gods would send my way?)

One male turkey down (called a tom) and one to go.   And Napoleon has an Appointment.  Fornication Farm should settle down here pretty quickly....although the bull seems to have been getting frisky in the fields, at least he isn't doing it at my back door. 

We spent V-Day at a friend's house where our Odyssey of the Mind teams met (an elementary team and a high school team) for a combined party and work session.  I haven't mentioned Odyssey of the Mind very much, lately.  Usually this time of year I am just going all bonkers with it.  But this year I'm merely co-coaching and woot!  Not a lot of pressure.  My co-coach is probably reading this right now and hating me....

In addition to listening to our little guys finish up their script (I had to type it for them and they are hilarious), we also watched them work on their Rube Goldberg machine. Our Odyssey teams have done really well with these contraptions in the past, and this year is no exception.  And the high school team is also doing an amazing job, although they are doing the Classics problem this technical things like Rube Goldberg machines or sit-n-spin cars....the Classics problem is a much tougher problem to compete in because more teams take it on, and also a lot of them are very artistic and dramatic and stupendous and yeah...just tough competition compared to the more technical categories.  But truthfully, I'm not up to another trip to the World Tournament this year - I'm just not.  So it is all good and the kids are having a great time, which is all that matters.

My friend over at Shaggy Boys recently posted something about her son's soccer team winning the state championship, and how they are a team of homeschooled kids competing against mostly smallish private schools....and the differences she's noticed about the teams as far as how the homeschoolers relate to their siblings and families compared with the school kids.  I must say, yesterday as I sat in my friend's living room watching a large group of kids ranging in age from 5 to 16, play together....I was reminded of how lucky we are that we homeschool.  Seriously, the 16-year-olds were quite happy to chase around the little kids, and they were gracious in allowing the pre-teens in on their games and discussions.  Nobody was telling them to do this, or trying to facilitate it in any way - this is simply the way their lives work - people of all ages living and playing and working together.  Which is pretty much the way it works in the Real World.  When you get a job they don't have a special room for the 30-year-olds to sit in their cubicles, do they?  There isn't a floor on the building for the 40-year-olds....your boss might be younger or older than you....your generations might be different...your knowledge affected by your life's experiences up to that point....all different....all fitting together like pieces of a puzzle to create a big picture.

That is the way the world works - and so it always amazes me when people ask me if I'm concerned that by homeschooling, I'm not preparing my kids for the Real World.  School doesn't simulate a real world by a long shot - and thank goodness for that.

Oh! Look what happened!  I did a homeschooling blog post after all. I wish I could some kind of quirky ending where I tie the homeschooling philosphy in with the turkey sex, but I'm just not feeling it....hmm...nope, still got nothin'. So - we'll just end.  Like just totally end.  As in I'll stop typing and it will all be over.  Without any cutesy wrap-up or thoughtful anything.  Just. Stop. Typing.  Like an awkward goodbye....awkard....goodbye.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stellar Parenting Going on Over Here

My kids are pantless.  Well, only two of them.  But it's 25 degrees outside, and I strongly feel that they should be wearing pants.  "But mom!  We don't have any!"  Ugh.  That's right. It's time for a Stellar Parenting Post.

Technically, I'm only responsible for one of the pantless kids' pantless predicament.  Technically, Jules (who is 13 and thankfully wearing pants) is supposed to wash the clothing of Jasper (who is not wearing pants).  But Jules tends to wash clothes very rarely, a result of the fact that he changes clothes very rarely (I know - more stellar parenting on my part!) and so Jasper runs out of clothes all the time.

Officially, I am responsible for Camille's laundry.  Officially, I have not been home very much.  Officially, I have done laundry, and it has ended up in baskets, on the folding counter, in piles on beds and couches, and unfortunately, occasionally right back in the laundry after ending up on the floor from a basket, counter, bed, or couch, and then being made into a nest by the dog.  So officially, Camille might actually have clean pants.  Somewhere.

I am feeling less than stellar about this.  I am feeling less than stellar about a lot of things.  My house is a mess.  And last night, after returning home from a full day in the city that involved jazz, piano, and ballet classes for Not Me....I discovered a pile of dishes and was told, "Hey Mom.  The sink won't drain."  Again.

This is a bummer.  I've had a busy week and it is not even officially half over.  My busy week included taking my dad in for surgery, only to discover, as I waited in the crowded waiting room, that I wasn't feeling too good.  After he was in recovery, I left him in my sister's care and headed home, where I made it as far as the parking lot of a Hyatt Regency Hotel before pulling over to puke.  Since I was in my dad's car, I actually vacated the vehicle to do so - seeing as how his car, unlike my own, had never been puked in and I didn't want to be the one to christen it.  I couldn't believe it was happening to me.  Believe me, folks, it has been a very long time since I've puked in a parking lot....last time was a Stray Cats concert, if I am correct, and it was in the early '80's.  I tried to be delicate and ladylike and discreet, but all I could think of was the tourists looking out their windows and seeing my unpleasant, "Welcome to San Antonio, Folks!"   I made it almost all the way home before I realized I had my dad's stuff with me, and he was spending the night in the hospital.  I had to turn around and drive all the way back to the hospital before I could finally head home to deposit myself in my bed, at which point, the laundry had sex and multiplied by the thousands and the plumbing went on strike. 

Luckily, my 24-hour bug didn't even last the full 24 - although I did milk a couple of extra hours out of it (don't tell anybody). 

Anyway, I am feeling less than stellar about the pantless kids, because they don't have any clean pants and because, in general, they aren't getting as much attention as I feel they should.  My homeschool group that I don't really have time to participate in had a query about unit studies posted to it's discussion board.  Unit studies! I thought.  I freaking love unit studies.  Let's see....Joel did a unit study on Native Americans, Ellie did a Unit Study based on Laura Ingalls, Ellie did a Unit Study based on Harry Potter, Joel and Ellie did a Unit Study on Czech History, there was Ellie's study on Presidential Elections....there was.....ABSOLUTELY NO UNIT STUDY BUSINESS GOING ON WITH THE OTHER THREE KIDS. 

Okay, so Jules hasn't fared too terribly.  He participated in Readers Theater (I have pictures to prove it!) and he's done some....other stuff....that will come to me later....I'm sure.   But Camille and Jasper?  Not so much.  I am
a) Tired and occasionally puking
b) Busy with the original unit studies pupils, one of whom is attempting to do high school level work (real work) for the first time in his life, and the other of whom is busy getting into college (and yes! she's getting scholarships!). 

So, to recap, no clean unit studies....dirty dishes.  Is that all the stellar parenting going on?  Nope.  Not by a long shot.  It also seems that my morals are sinking.  That's right.  Totally sinking.

Last weekend we faced the Texas Arctic Blast!! (that's what the news programs call it - every single time it happens....I love it) to head to the University of North Texas for Ellie's audition to the Music School. We had only Ellie and Camille with us (Camille likes to tell people she has separation anxiety, and Camille is 9, by the way) but the boys were home with a babysitter.  Joel found this to be completely humiliating, but the last time I left them alone, he broke his brother's hand. 

Anyway, everyone kept telling us they would surely cancel the auditions due to the Texas Arctic Blast!! but they didn't, because they had over 300 kids flying in from every continent, many of whom surely found the Texas Arctic Blast!! to be monumentally unimpressive and underwhelming.  But no matter how whimpy the Texas Arctic Blast!! was compared to other parts of the nation's regular winter weather, the truth is that Texas is completely unprepared to handle such weather, and so, we tend to shut her down, folks.  Roads close, schools close, businesses close....the last thing you want is a herd-o-Texans trying to drive on icy streets....'taint a pretty sight.  But we did it, because the auditions were not cancelled. 

UNT is a 7-hour drive for us (Texas is a big place) under the best of circumstances.  It is a longer drive under worse.  But we made it there in one piece, seeing very little death and destruction along the way.  Seeing none, in fact.  Most Texans were shivering inside their homes in their shorts and flip-flops while watching the Texas Arctic Blast!! 24-hour news coverage on their televisions. 

But I was talking about slipping morals, wasn't I? I'm sure it happened somewhere about the time we quit going to church....but seriously....that is just a coincidence.  But the bottom line is, a person can only stand so many hours of Raffi or Barney in the car.  Now Ellie and Joel, Unit Study Children Extraordinaire, never heard a dang thing but Barney or Raffi in the car.  They had delicate virginal ears and I felt dedicated to protecting them.  Until I couldn't take it anymore.  And that happened around the birth of the third kid.

So off we go to UNT, braving the blast and listening to all sorts of Non-Child-Friendly music.  The Pixies, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Jane's Addiction and more....while Camille bounced her sad little head except for when she complained, "No!  Not John Frusciante!!  Please!!"  Okay, Ellie also complained, "This music is lame and OLD!!"  That's right....she's the kid who mostly listens to the music of Dead People....and I'm not talking about dead because they OD'ed on recreational drugs....I'm talking dead because nobody lives to be 300 or 400 years old kind of dead.  Sheesh - she doesn't even see the humor in it.

Where was I?  Oh yeah...., my standards dropped so low that, by the end of the trip, we were only skipping songs that had the F-Word or the M-F-Word.  And occasionally, we wouldn't skip soon enough, and Ellie would say, "Stellar Parenting...."  And then there is what is now known as the Famous Nimrod's Son line (the Pixies) although technically, that one happened a couple of years ago....

Me:  Jeff, is the next song okay?  Any profanity?

Jeff:  Nah, it's okay.

Me:  You're not really a lyric guy, you sure?

Jeff:  Yeah...

The Pixies: He is the son of a mother-(fill in the blank)

Jeff:  Oops.

Me:  That's a profound statement when you think about it....

Ellie:  Stellar Parenting

Little People:  Can we stop for candy?

Parents:  Sure!! You can have anything you want! Just name it! (because maybe that would help???)

Ahhh...the memories....Ellie pleasantly recalled how she and Joel were so protected but that by the time Jules came along, his favorite toddler song had the lines, "Skeeter and the Monkey Man were hard up for cash, up all night selling cocaine and hash...."  God he loved that song.  And here we had little Camille in the backseat on the way to UNT dodging F-bombs for 7 hours. We really shouldn't reproduce anymore.


We can only assume, that if the current trajectory holds up, Jasper will be sitting in front of the television in a couple of years, consuming a six-pack while a cigarette smolders in the ashtray and Cheaters plays on TV. 

Okay, I'm off to search for pants.  Because really, it's the least I can do.
Sardine Mama (aka Mother of the Year)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Everyone Loves an Expert

My Pussycat Parenting post got a lot of hits.  Well, a lot of hits for me, anyway.  A good 40% of the people were still googling whether or not they should feed sardines to their babies - a few were looking for that awesome photo of Anthony Kiedis kissing Eddie Vedder (I've posted it twice now)....and ding ding ding!  Someone probably just landed HERE because I mentioned posting it twice now and they are thus very confused and wondering how they got here.  Also? For the rest of you?  YES you can feed sardines to your babies if you are hell-bent on doing so.  They're a good source of Vitamin E.  But you shouldn't feed your babies anything solid before 6 months of my opinion.  If you want to hear more of my opinions on the matter of babies and sardines you can go here, where I took a ridiculous amount of time a couple of years ago to address this topic due to the sheer volume of requests about the matter....and yes, I'm amazed that I did it.

But at least a couple of people ended up reading about Pussycat Parenting intentionally - yay!  I even had people end up here through a link that turned up on the Huffington Post and some medical education site.  So now I feel all official-like.  I feel like An Expert.  I hate experts.  Truly.  Unless I find one who agrees with me about Things.  Doesn't happen all that often.

So in my official role as Expert I've decided to write a book.  That's right.  Along with the rest of the world, I'm going to try and ride Tiger Mom's coattails.  In fact, I bet there are already versions of Pussycat Parenting hitting the bookshelves right now.  You should not buy them.  You should wait for mine.  Mine will arrive just shortly after everyone stops caring and Tiger Mom becomes Tiger Who. Because that's how I roll....right behind the wave or slightly next to it.  But I have an angle because I am a Pussycat Mom who ended up with a Tiger Cub.  Unschooled, unruled, and unrestricted....she turned out quite nicely Asian on the Inside anyway. What does this prove?  Nothing really.  It's probably just a coincidence or a freak circumstance but as an expert, I conclude that it also has something to do with the fact that good parenting boils down to love and attention - whether you choose to do it like a tiger or a pussycat doesn't really matter. 

My Tiger Cub and I recently had an argument in the car...she apparently doesn't care that I am now an Expert.  I was driving her to her Music Theory test at a local university like all of the other Tiger Moms....and telling her how I'm going to write a book (she remained completely unimpressed by this revelation of parenting fact, she had the gall to raise one eyebrow).  I told her that when I appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show she can also appear on the Ellen Show and play the piano.  "In fact," I told her, "I shall insist that you also appear on the Ellen Show." 

"I'm not playing the piano on the Ellen Show," she said.

"What?" I screamed.  "That's my angle.  You're my angle!  I'll talk about how rocking awesome my parenting style is and then you'll play something fast and impressive and everyone will freak out and agree that I must have a rocking awesome parenting style."

"I'm not playing the piano on the Ellen Show," she said again.

"Yes, you are!"

"No, I'm not!"

"You WILL play on the Ellen Show if I tell you to play on the Ellen Show."

That's right.  We had a freaking argument over whether or not Ellie will participate in my fame by making me look good on the Ellen Show.  It ended with me saying something like, "We both know I'm not really going to appear on the freaking Ellen Show!  So can't you just SAY you'll play on the Ellen Show?  You know, just SAY it?  It's not like it's going to happen....."


Do you see how I've already been corrupted by my fame and glory?  Do you see how the Huffington Post and it's stupid little blue link to Sardines in a Can has dragged me down into the depths of despair?  Do you see how close I came to screaming, "You will play on the &*&%ing  Ellen Show BECAUSE I SAID SO, Missy!!!"  I've never wanted to call anyone Missy, before.  But I so wanted to say Missy while hissing out spittle like Mommy Dearest.

I know.  I'm still shaking over here.  I was that close.  The next thing you know I'll be contemplating a naughty mat and timer. 

**If you'd like to book me for an event for my pre-release tour, just contact my agent.  If you'd like to be my agent, leave me comment.

Also?  Here is my kid playing something else.  Wouldn't she look good on the Ellen Show?

Etude in G-Sharp Minor, Op. 25, No. 6 - Chopin / Ellen Pavliska from Ellen Pavliska on Vimeo.

Sardine Mama (who shall hence forth be known famously as the Pussycat Mom)