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Friday, March 29, 2013

It’s How I Was Raised

The other day I was folding laundry and watching General Hospital (a guilty pleasure I allow myself a few times a month) when it hit me: I know what’s wrong with our society – we were all raised on soap operas!

What? Not you? Oh, come on, you didn’t rush home from school and sit down with your mom and watch One Life to Live followed by General Hospital followed by Oprah? You don’t know characters and plotlines of All My Children, Days of Our Lives, One Life to Live, General Hospital, and Guiding Light? How about Dallas? You don’t know who shot (or didn’t shoot) JR? Your eyes don’t well up when you think of Phillip and Beth? How about Frisco and Felicia?

Fine it’s just me then (even though I think you are about as deceptive as Lucy Coe Jones or Tina Lord Roberts or maybe Sami Brady!).

Everything I know in life, I learned from Soap Operas:

1. No death is final. 
If your husband dies, chances are that he will come back to life after you've fallen in love with the person who killed him. He will look like an entirely different person because he had to have extensive reconstructive surgery. He was gone for three years because had amnesia and was living a double life on some island. When you've left his killer to reunite with him, a daughter that he fathered in those years he was gone will appear as a voluptuous teenager bent on destroying your marriage and reuniting him with her mother but instead she’ll marry your son from a previous marriage which will very likely result in pregnancy.

2. One night stands always result in pregnancy. 
If there is someone you hate, you will be trapped somewhere with that person until you two sleep together. This one-time encounter will result in a pregnancy. Your best friend will be pregnant at the same time. You both will go into labor in a remote cabin somewhere but only one child will survive. This child will be switched at birth which will be discovered some months later.

3. Children raise themselves.
No matter how many children you have, you will never be responsible for their upbringing because this child will only be seen as an infant. A few years later, the child will return as a high school student dealing with some moral dilemma. You will then be able to demonstrate your great parental prowess by helping said child through the crisis. The crisis will probably somehow result in pregnancy, making you a grandparent at the age of 35.

4. Bad guys have a heart of gold.
Every town must contain a bad guy you love to hate or you hate to love. He will be a sexy stranger that sweeps you off your feet, professes his undying love to you and swears off his life of crime. Don’t stand too close to him, though, because very likely his arch-enemy will try to kill him but you’ll get in the cross fire.  

5. If multiple people are in the same location, a disaster will occur.
If you are on a train with many people you know the train is certain to derail. On a bus, it will drive off a cliff. In a car, it likely contains a bomb. If you are at a charity event, very likely all attendees will be held hostage. In a warehouse, clearly it will catch fire and explode. At dinner in the same restaurant, drive-by shooting.

I could go on but I think there is a General Hospital marathon on SoapNet I must DVR.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Wasn't Prepared For THIS!

I thought I was prepared for children, back when I was a stupid 27 year-old. I was a big sister, a babysitter; some of my friends had kids. I managed to squeak out a degree in Psychology with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. I read mommy-manuals. Besides, I liked kids. I understood kids. I knew they’d be messy. I knew they’d be loud. I knew they’d be unruly at times. But I knew how to handle it all, I was prepared.

Insert a big-fat mommy-guffaw here: HA!! Hahahaha!

This morning I awoke to my third consecutive morning of snotty, hacking kids which means following children around with tissues, hand sanitizer  and Lysol, trying to sound motherly and soothing while I have kid-snot on my hands and spittle on my face.

Ha! Snotty Lottie seemed like a joke! Joke's on me!
Why was I not prepared for this amount of bodily fluids? Where were the warnings on how to handle the volumes of bodily fluid I alone would be responsible for cleaning?

So here you are, mommies-to-be. Here you are, all those contemplating procreation. Here are the warnings you will not get anywhere else:

Become one with pee, because it will be everywhere.
You will hold your beautiful newborn daughter in your arms. Reveling in how angelic she is, your heart will expand in ways you never thought possible. You will start to feel warm all over. Oh, wait, it’s wet and warm. It’s pee! Because somehow those little infant diapers are unable able to hold your daughter’s pee! Every single time she pees she will very likely pee straight through the diaper! Every single time your sweet newborn son wakes wailing in the middle of the night (and it will be often), he will be wet. The little wisps of hair on his head will be matted down with piss. The tips of the booties that his feet are swimming in will be soaked with urine. His bassinet, soaked through the waterproof pads straight to the mattress.

It won’t stop at potty training, either, just so you are aware. Your son will RARELY make the toilet even if you have him sit, his little KINDERGARTEN voice will come from the bathroom, “Mom, I accidentally peed on my pants again!” as the bus pulls up in front of the house. And girls! It is actually possible for a girl to miss. No lie. You’ll sit there in front of your little 2 or 3 year old excited for her as she pee-pees in the potty and it’ll shoot out and hit you in the face. WHAT?

Oh, there is an end in sight. My doctor told us that boys can stop wetting the bed at 8, even as old as 12!

So, you've got a handle on pee. You tell yourself that pee really isn't all that bad, it’s supposedly sterile anyways…. But be prepared for poo:

You will see, analyze, and discuss poo more than you ever imagined.
Do you remember having real discussions with your spouse? How you discussed the universe and your place in it? You discussed the meaning of life and religion. You discussed politics. Well, no more. Now you will discuss poop. From the very first black-tar meconium poop that you have to scrap off your infant’s tiny tushie to the green and mustardy breast-milk poo. You’ll hold the poo up to your computer screen and compare it. You’ll sniff it. Discussing the smell, “It’s kinda sweet, isn't it?”

You’ll be amazed at how sometimes the poo manages to blast right out, missing the diaper and heading straight for the baby’s back. You will name the poo-types, laying claim to them – “This one is a rock, I’ll take this one.” Or “Oh, this one is a blow-out, you handle it.”

You’ll change your baby’s diaper, prepared for the pee to shoot out because you've already made one with the pee, when your baby makes a cute little bunched up face and a big fat fart-poo will shoot right out at you.

Again, it will only get worse with potty-training. You’ll be getting your little three year old daughter ready for bed, pull down her pants and out will roll a big fat turd. And she’ll just smile at you. Your three year old son will hold his poop for a week rather than poo on the potty but one day while he is in the bathtub it’ll slip out in a fury. And continue slipping as you lift him out. Plop onto the floor before your foot has time to react and squish, you've stepped in human feces.

But it won’t stop there, you’ll sort your 8 year-old's laundry and put your hands in something and throw up a little in your mouth because you know no matter how many times you wash and sanitize your hand the rest of the day it will still smell like shit!

Speaking of throwing up in your mouth, those with a weak-stomach need not apply to this job of parenthood because, you guessed it:

Get used to vomit!
You’re slightly prepared for spit-up – you were given all those spit rags and bibs at your shower, even that cute little pink bib that says “Spit Happens.” Where’s the mommy version? The one that covers your shoulders arms and back – because that’s what you will very likely need! Spit happens alright and rarely does it happen on the cute embroidered spit-up rag. It happens down your back, in your hair, or straight over everything onto a pile on your floor. Sweet.

You’ll get used to the spit-up; regardless, it’ll stop at about the age of one. But one day while your child is just a toddler you will be awakened in the middle of the night and find her covered in an implausible amount of thick, chunky, vomit – in her hair, in between her fingers, down her jammies, puddled in her crib, and oozing out the slats onto the carpet. She’ll be utterly distraught at what just happened to her, you’ll want to scoop her up and comfort her but you have absolutely no idea where to begin. As the stomach bug goes racing through every member of the household you will find yourself hunched over the toilet wishing for the days when all you had to clean up was some projectile milk spit up.

Should I stop there? Or should I relay some more snot-stories? I haven’t even touched on pet messes! How about you? You got some good turd-tales? Any vomit sonnets? Any poo-parables?

I suppose it doesn't really matter, my warnings, because I know the truth: You, expectant parent, will not believe me. You will think me silly. You will think I am exaggerating. You will think that it will never happen to you. You will think that you are prepared. Furthermore, I will soon forget myself. One day my daughter, with her belly bulging, will look to me for advice. I will tell her about the wonders of holding her newborn infant in her arms. The milk-drunk face with tiny drops of spit on his lips, falling asleep in her arms still making sucking noises. I won’t talk of projectile vomit or poopy blow-outs. Even if I did, she will look up at me with those same big innocent brown eyes she had as a toddler and say, “Not my baby.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I Am Inspired

There is nothing more exhilarating for a writer than felling inspired. When words and ideas flow from you. When you type away with energy for hours without wanting to stop. It is fun! It is exciting! THIS is why I feel like I can and will succeed in this thing I am trying to do!

To continue going, to plug along when not inspired, takes discipline. I am not the most disciplined of people out there. Not at all. But I am going to try. I really truly do not want to have over 365 excuses for why I failed at this. I want to see something I start to the end, a published piece.  

Back in 2010 I started a novel and got about 100 pages in then it just sat there. After attending the Philadelphia Writers' Conference last year, I committed to writing short stories. I've written almost 6 and have another half-dozen few line ideas to follow up on. But they too just sit there. I know why. I am not happy with the voice, with the way they sound. I am trying too hard to write in a style that isn't congruent with my own voice.

Over the last few weeks I had an idea of reworking my novel idea with a new voice -- one more like my own. And I am inspired! Yay! While working everything out -- my outlines, my characters, my timeline, a few scenes - I have been jumping up and down excited. Yesterday I was shaking as I typed. Now that feels good!

So, blog readers (you know who you are: my mom, my sisters, a few my friends), I am letting you know that I am working on a novel. I am excited. I know this won't last long. I know I will have bad days. I know I'll have tons of excuses. But maybe if YOU know I am working on it, if I don't do it in secret (like the last one) then I'll prevail...

So, what's my excuse today? I was inspired, my kitchen counter - not so much:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I’ve Been In Survivor-Mode

I've been stuck in survivor mode without even realizing it. We've been plugging along, surviving the days. We've been just fine. When you are just fine, it’s hard to identify that you’re also not great.

Then the other day I had one of those moments when I felt like an utter failure. This is not how it was supposed to be like, I thought. I was not supposed to be this kind of parent. I felt like I had given up and given in. I felt like I was walking through a perpetual cycle of lunchables, happy meals, electronics, and screaming in the most fish-wifiest voice, “IF YOU DON’T STOP FIGHTING YOU ARE ALL GOING TO YOUR ROOM!” And them screaming back, “YOU HATE US!” I felt my heart breaking and my children are still little. What is it going to be like in ten years? I felt like lost my daughter to some mommy-hating teenager and she’s only 8. I felt like I’d lost my vegetable eating children somewhere in the McDonald’s play area.

Then something happened right around dinner time, the witching hour. Nobody was pulling on me. Nobody was whining for snack food. Nobody was begging to play Wii. The boys were playing with actual toys and imagination. My daughter was up in her room taking her punishment. I called the children to dinner. They sat down to plates of Black bean taquitos, mini chicken and bean tamalitos, Edamame, and oranges. Nobody whined. My daughter sat there popping Edamame with vigor that is usually only reserved for Sun Chips. My son tried four then politely concluded that they taste like a cross between eggs and green beans, so he’ll pass. My three year old ate numerous. They divided the seconds of black bean taquitos amongst themselves without incident. They finished their milk with minimal coaxing. They showered and got ready for bed as instructed. My daughter discussed how she was going to handle Day 2 and Day 3 of her punishment without any you-are-the-worst mom in the world angst.

Whew. We did more than just survive the day - there may have even been some good lessons learned there! I know it’s not the end. I know that we have to keep actively trying, not just putting out fires and surviving. I know that we need to work on a better positive reinforcement plan. I know that punishing my children for bad behavior isn't the only answer. I know they won’t always eat their vegetables but I don't have to give in. I have to actively raise my kids to be healthy adults with good character not just survive their childhood until they grow to be semi-competent grown-ups with high cholesterol.

Heading off to Daddy/Daughter Dance:
She didn't want to go, she didn't want to wear a dress. But she went and made some good memories 
It doesn't hurt to try. Isn't that what we tell our kids? The worst thing that is going to happen is it doesn't work but you won’t be any worse off. Sometimes you make a plan to nip a behavior in the bud with a severe grounding and you think it isn't going to work, but it does. Sometimes you put a strange vegetable in front of your children and they eat it! Just never give up on yourself or your children. Maybe you’ll find you’re not such an utter failure after all.

Maybe one day I’ll extend that just try attitude to my writing life. Stay tuned!