They are Both So Beautiful Girls

(from the very interesting blog, http://www.buckbokai.com)

I’m blogging infrequently not because I’m participating in NaNoWrMo (is that how you spell it?)–I’m not. I’m blogging less because right now, there are so many things competing for my two most marketable commodities, 1.time, and 2.the ability to have things not die on my watch.

Although my plants would argue about commodity #2, if they weren’t shriveled, blackened versions of their once plumply-chlorophylled selves that looked out eagerly from the shelves at Lowe’s at all the possibilities open to them. If they had known better, they would have screamed to be spared when I put them in my shopping cart beside Mbot and Gbot. For all I know, they were screaming, but their plantly pleas were overwhelmed by whatever bottish conversation/bickering was already occurring in the cart.

I plead guilty to the murder of two fine plants that had not wronged me in any way.

I am starting to feel like my writing is wizzling, too.

Yesterday when I might have been writing, I was installing pull-out bins in the kitchen cabinets so I can finally organize the kitchen and get all my paperwork off the counter. One can only ignore such an ungodly mess for so long (a year). My friend Solveig, visiting from Colorado, helped enormously by not only ripping out the original crappy shelving, but by playing a game with the bots called “Who can stay out of the kitchen the best?”

Tuesday, when I might have been writing, I was doing fifty-three administrative tasks related to my volunteer work as caregiver, teacher, peacekeeper, entertainer, home manager, laundress, sous chef, chef, dessert chef, server, busser (although the bots are junior bussers now), interior designer, social secretary, event organizer, correspondent, and chauffeur.

Then I was attempting to keep my children from ransacking the child-free home of the very nice child-free friends of Solveig’s, with whom we were watching the election returns. Or rather, Solveig and the very nice child-free friends were watching the election returns. I was watching to make sure the bots didn’t launch themselves through the very nice plate glass window as a result of jumping on the supersized beanbag chair. What? Huh? Who won? The candidate campaigning on the platform of subsidized childcare? What do you mean, there isn’t one???

Monday, as Solveig watched the bots at home, I was sitting in the Barnes and Noble, telling myself I should be writing. Instead I slouched in a stupor in the children’s book section, reading picture books. The kid’s book section–when I am there by myself–is one of my go-to recharging stations.

It is a challenge finding the necessary combination of time and energy to complete any task larger than emptying a loaded diaper or laundry basket. (And even then, the towels get left in the dryer overnight by mistake…when will I get around to hanging that clothes line in the garage? Oh right–right after I put up the shelving in the garage….)

It is not that I dislike any of the tasks I am called upon to complete. (Well, anyone interested in doing just dishes, laundry, mopping, sliding bin installation, and plant watering, please call, I am hiring.) It is simply that there is such a vast accumulation of tasks, that I find it difficult to complete them, and my writing projects, too.

Do I want to play with the bots? Yes. Do I want to cook a lovely dinner? Yes. Do I want to sew Junepbear a fluffy sweatsuit out of fabric Mbot picked out himself, because Junepbear sports more and more unfluffy spots these days? Yes. Do I want to paint a mural in the bots’ room? Sit in a quiet room by myself with books and a computer? Get on a bike and sweat for an hour? Start teaching at the college level again? Yes, yes, yes, yes. Do I want to clean the litter box? Actually, yes. But what do I need to do? For my family and for myself? The need to prioritize wisely–and reap contentedness from my choices–has never been so urgent.

I am working on solutions. One is as simple as leaving the YMCA and joining, for $11 more per month, a gym that has educational computer games in the childcare area, which is open all day, as opposed to the one at the Y which, as fun as Gbot finds it, is closed during the critical hours of one to three. If I took advantage of this service, I could get up to two hours per day to either write or ride, work or workout, while the bots are in good hands. It’s a start.

I am trying not to feel guilty about this decision, and to understand the roots of the guilt. Guilt rarely has roots in logic or rationality. I just started reading Pamela Druckerman’s bestselling mommy memoir, Bringing up Bebe, about the differences in American and French parenting–and so am trying to open myself up to “there are many ways to raise a child right,” and, “as long as I am worried I am not doing a good job, I am probably doing a good job,” and, “I need to be healthy and happy to help raise children who are healthy and happy.”

Finding myself with so many things I want and need to do, I feel a little like Mbot must have yesterday at snack time. On the drive home from school, I asked him who he’d had snack with–his friend Mbug? Obot? Hbug?

“Oh, by myself,” was the answer.

“Why, Potato Sweet?” I asked.

He shrugged, raising his hands in the air, both palms up. “Well, Mbug and Hbug are both so beautiful girls, I just can’t pick.”

Hiding my smile–he just turned four! It starts so early–I explained that he could sit with Mbug one day, and Hbug the next, and be friends with both.

There is not a lot of time for introspection these days, and so I will leave it at this: I may not be able to do everything on my list. But I need to be friends with my achievements, and friends with my expectations, too.

I think this means I need to stop buying house plants.

I Love You But do I Have to LOVE You Every Day?

In belated celebration of my one-year blogiversary, I’m reposting the post I posted exactly a year ago, 13 days after arriving in Bloggingshire. There’s no particular reason I chose today to celebrate being with WordPress for nearly the gestation period of a manatee, except that I’ve been meaning to look back, and I finally got the chance. So here we go:

*  *  *

Due to operator error, yesterday’s post was not published ’til this morning, marking my official Off Blogday debut since September 13. My sister (the one who has ten shelf-feet of National Geographic (as compared to Mom’s forty, see Saving the World, One Stick of Secret at a Time), suggested recently that I post once or twice a week. My friend Solveig suggested that a decade ago. Of course I ignored both of them.

I ignored them because I liked the idea of a daily meditation that results in a completed thing outside of myself, little and whole, like a nut.

I still do.

But I have a paying job (a manuscript to edit), and query letters to send, essays to complete, and Midgets who need me to be present outside my head.

Urging me to cut back on the blog, another friend, who wished to remain anonymous, cited a married couple who’d had sex for a hundred and one days straight. People get around the world on rafts in fewer days than that. Annie and Doug Brown did it, literally, so they could write a book about it, like a naked heterosexual version of Julie and Julia. “Can you imagine?” asked my nameless and knowledgeable friend. “I’m sure it got to, ‘Can’t I just enjoy thinking about it for a few days before I have to mount it?”” 

Apparently the book, Just Do It, published in 2008, has a happy ending. After their project, the couple reported that they touched more and felt more intimate. One could argue that soldiers in a foxhole evading flying mortars feel more intimate toward one another afterward, too.

Not that posting 400 words can be compared to either.

If blogging has made one thing abundantly clear to me, it’s how insulated and safe my middle-class American life is.

But back to the point: This post is my official notice that I may miss a post or two. Not that I don’t love to be with you, WordPress. But can’t I just think about you for a few days before…?

Have you had too much of a good thing lately?

Why Am I So Popular? Search Me.

(designagency.co.uk)

Yesterday afternoon I flopped nearly comatose onto the sofa to check my blog stats. (It  was the first day of school! I should have been relaxed! Wondering what to do with myself! There were complications.) I was shocked to find that nearly 1,000 people had visited the site since 2 p.m. I’m kind of a stealth blogger, and numbers like that just don’t appear on my stats page. Had I been Freshly Pressed? I doubted it. I didn’t think my last post on green poop would meet the approval of the WordPress staff, much less imPress them.

But still, my heart went pitter-patter as I eagerly looked for the details of my newfound popularity…to find that, within the course of just four hours, 855 searches had found me, most of them originating in the U.S., and 805 of them looking for “Una Navidad Sin Pluto.” (Click here to read the original and now highly popular post!)

Can anyone out there tell me why?

It’s true that I appear in the first “Una Navidad Sin Pluto” page on Google, and although I’m near the bottom, I’m the second site in English (which makes sense, because the gist of the post is that I don’t speak Spanish, and the big trouble that that got me into). It’s also true that I appear in the third line of images on Google Images, with the picture of the Mickey and Pluto-on-a-motorcycle blow-up lawn decoration.

For anyone who has never heard of Una Navidad Sin Pluto, it’s an old Disney cartoon available in several versions on YouTube (link from my previous post). In it, Pluto runs away from home, Mickey goes looking for him, and Santa helps reunite them. It’s a tear-jerker.

What spiked the sudden urgent need across the United States to find out about Mickey’s Christmas Without Pluto? Was it a glitch in one of those search robots? Was it part of a homework assignment at the University of Phoenix?

Whatever the cause, the results are anticlimactic. I have no new followers. No one commented on it. No one even “liked” it, for goodness sake.

They were probably too busy crying onto their keyboards about Pluto’s absence, or congratulating themselves for being better parents than I am.

But at least I figured out the green poop.

Food for Thought

(image via thehamiltonian.net)

Aren’t lives apples and stories oranges? What really goes on when you try to change one into the other?

– Joan Wickersham, “The Suicide Index”

I love these words, and I think a lot about their truth in relation to blogging. What is said, what is left unsaid; what is picked up and woven into a narrative; what is discarded because either it does not lend itself to brief essay form, or is too complicated, or too disturbing, or doesn’t fit the blog’s tone, or requires too much analysis?

I had come to think of lives as grapes, stories as wine, and blogs as grape juice. But the apples and oranges cliche–which is so unexpected in this context as to rise above cliche-dom–may be a truer description of the relation of the two. Food for thought.

Invisible Boundaries All Around

And so it seems the structure of a WordPress blog is much more rigid than I had imagined, and one cannot just post daily on every page. That’s what other blogs are for.

So I started another blog. It’s called Quobots.com. In spite of the fact that I’ve already received some fabulous submissions, it’s not up and running yet because I spent my day in other ways.

This morning, I took the Bots  to a “playmate” (playdate) at Vbot’s house. She’s in our Music Together class, just turned two, and Mbot asked to have her for a sleepover, but I said, Let’s start with a playdate, shall we?

Vbot, so far, is an only child, and I was overwhelmed  by the order that rules her toys. She is bright, vivacious, and fun. Yet the Play Doh colors in her Play Doh hamburger making kit were not mixed. Her very cool mini-kitchen was not only stocked with fluff-balls in the mini-blender and an ice cream scoop in the Dreyer’s box in the freezer, but a few sealed mini-jars of stuff that Vbot has never attempted to open: She plays with them as they were meant to be played with.

I, on the other hand, live in a land of discoverments. Each boundary is pushed and breached as though it was invisible. I started imagining living in a world in which lids were left on jars and walls were left unclimbed, but was knocked out of my fantasy by the need to unmix the green, the brown, and the magenta Play Doh that Mbot had taken it upon himself to blend.

As soon as he can type, I will have Mbot make me a blog in which I can have lots and lots of posts on every page. I will transcend the invisible boundaries of the blogdom and mix green, brown, and magenta until it’s the most gorgeous hamburger anyone ever saw.

Until then, quotes from bots will have to wait until quobots.com is online.

Note: Play Doh hamburger making kit: fabulous.

I Cheerfully Accept the Versatile Blogger Award as My Airspace Fills with Flying Dinosaurs

Six months into my blog-o-rama, I received this Versatile Blogger Award. Woohoo! Thanks for the nomination, iGameMom!

There are 3 rules for accepting this award:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post: iGameMom

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

  • I am 5’10”.
  • I am 44.
  • My Bots are 3 3/4 and 2 1/2 (except for Husbot, who just turned 49, the dog, 12, and the antique cat, 16). The math shows that I’m tired.
  • Last week, while driving the Bots in my parents’ car on vacation in Idaho, I got pulled over for going my age in a 35-mph zone. We got off with a friendly warning and two golden Junior Sheriff stickers, which blew any chance I had of keeping my speeding a secret from Nanny and Poppy.
  • Conversation in my house at this moment: Mbot: “Mom, I’m saying ‘asparagus,’ and my brother is laughing.’ His brother is standing in his crib giggling and banging his head against the wall. It is Quiet Time here like ketchup is a vegetable. Mbot now has tossed Baxter, his stuffed moose, over the back of the sofa. “I can’t say ‘asparagus’ now cuz I lost my moose.’ In the background, “The Flower Duet” from Leo Delibes’ opera Lakme gives the false impression that there are people in the room who are calm.
  • I love discovering new blogs–there are so many fascinating and funny ones–but seriously, who has time to read them, especially new Mombots out there? I am flabbergasted and flattered that my readers are….reading.
  • Every time we drive anywhere now, Gbot says, “Mommy, you are dwiving toooo faaassst!” I would like to think this is the fault of the friendly if overzealous policewoman we met on Thursday, but maybe it is not.

3. Pass this award along to 15 other bloggers.

I am working on this one. It is a fun project, but also a big challenge, since it’s all I can do to find time to actually write my posts. I just visited The Good Greatsby (the daddy blogger of 230,187 hits), and he is seriously hilarious, but when I read that he’s at his computer sixteen hours a day, his bona-fide-ness as a daddy blogger kind of lost its bonafidity. At the computer sixteen hours a day? If I blew myself up for the Jihad, that’s where I would go instead of to the place with the seventy-two virgins. I’m overstating my point, of course, because the weeBots are my path to immortality and joy, but good god, is a one-hour quiet time without two potty emergencies, three unauthorized naked-butt incidents, four projectile-bombing of brothers with Magna-tiles, five crib escapes, six sofa mutinies, and an owie too much to ask?*

*The numbers in this account have been D’Agata-ed.**

**Dag-at-‘uhd (verb): from the noun “D’Agata,” the surname of editor and lyric essayist John D’Agata, whose tenuous grip on reality, ethics, and math has enjoyed much recent publicity.

And so I will nominate fellow Versatile Bloggers as I discover them; it’s my hope to add to the list weekly. I am happily able to name four today, while, now, a giant Tyrannasaurus Rex is flying through the airspace in my living room. If I stop to think of more, someone might get hurt.

Vivid Living “Life in full bloom, thorns and all”…Nancy Sharp’s articulate insights are always inspiring, often awe-inspiring.

Braided Brook Russ Beck and Dylan Klempner edit this wonderful site that features personal essays from a variety of talented authors. Submissions accepted.

The Middlest Sister Nicole Belanger Smeltzer has probably been nominated many times over for her fabulous cut-and-paste comics. She’s been Freshly Pressed (which doesn’t always mean greatness, but she is all the good things we imagine when we think of FP). I see she now has a contract with a literary agent, too–hooray!

Simplicity Mom Stephanie Green is one of those people who seem to defy the laws of time, space, and economics. She moms, wifes, gardens, sews, cooks, cans, disciplines, diets, reads, socializes (and must sleep somewhere in there), and writes about it. Now that I’ve thought about all that, I have to go take a nap. Apparently I am the only one in this household who needs one.

Welcome to Superhero Underpants, the Blog Formerly Known as five to six.

Superhero underpants are always at the ready. Plus, they look great with boots.

For those of you who tune in regularly, you no doubt noticed that the name of this blog has changed.

But the blog itself has not.

My original intention of writing from five to six o’clock each morning, setting down a concrete meditation before the ruckus rose around me, was a really great goal. I loved the idea. But then the ruckus started rising at 5:30.

And as the days became weeks and then months, I regularly managed to 1. fail at the a.m. meditation thing and 2. write about superhero underpants.

Superhero underpants speak to me. Although I don’t wear them myself, I spend a lot of time with them, and not always under the most favorable circumstances.

Even Gbot, who is not yet fully potty trained, senses the power in them. I think everyone could benefit from something that makes them feel braver, stronger, taller, and more batlike or spidery than they are. There’s a special kind of confidence that comes from knowing that Batman’s got your backside.

And then there’s this angle: if motherhood were a piece of clothing, it wouldn’t be a Chanel gown or even a pair of stretchy jeans. It would superhero underpants: working behind the scenes, 24/7, supporting and protecting, vanquishing messes small and large.

In addition, there’s that pesky compulsion of mine to save things (see “Saving the World, One Stick of Secret at a Time.”) There’s that part of me that thinks I can save the day by writing it down and, literally, saving the day. Not as impressive as sending Mongul back into outer space, but hey, that’s already been done, right?

Who’s got your backside….And how do you save the day?

I Love You But Do I Have to LOVE You Every Day?

Due to operator error, yesterday’s post was not published ’til this morning, marking my official Off Blogday debut since September 13. My sister (the one who has ten shelf-feet of National Geographic (as compared to Mom’s forty, see Saving the World, One Stick of Secret at a Time), suggested recently that I post once or twice a week. My friend Solveig suggested that a decade ago. Of course I ignored both of them.

I ignored them because I liked the idea of a daily meditation that results in a completed thing outside of myself, little and whole, like a nut.

I still do.

But I have a paying job (a manuscript to edit), and query letters to send, essays to complete, and Midgets who need me to be present outside my head.

Urging me to cut back on the blog, another friend, who wished to remain anonymous, cited a married couple who’d had sex for a hundred and one days straight. People get around the world on rafts in fewer days than that. Annie and Doug Brown did it, literally, so they could write a book about it, like a naked heterosexual version of Julie and Julia. “Can you imagine?” asked my nameless and knowledgeable friend. “I’m sure it got to, ‘Can’t I just enjoy thinking about it for a few days before I have to mount it?”” 

Apparently the book, Just Do It, published in 2008, has a happy ending. After their project, the couple reported that they touched more and felt more intimate. One could argue that soldiers in a foxhole evading flying mortars feel more intimate toward one another afterward, too.

Not that posting 400 words can be compared to either.

If blogging has made one thing abundantly clear to me, it’s how insulated and safe my middle-class American life is.

But back to the point: This post is my official notice that I may miss a post or two. Not that I don’t love to be with you, WordPress. But can’t I just think about you for a few days before…?

Have you had too much of a good thing lately?

Thirty-One Day Update: Bug Team Loses, Our Team Gains

In celebration of one month (and a day) of blogging, I thought I’d find other things that were a month old, thinking that healthy comparisons would kind of show me if my progress was Outstanding, Satisfactory, on In Need of Improvement (see Mountain Day, Here I Come!)

So here we go:

Buy Now! Pretty cute, but bad taste in backgrounds. http://www.cleveland.ebayclassifieds.com

This is a four week-old Satin Peruvian guinea pig. The last guinea pig I held wet himself on my favorite red and white checked pants in 1975. Guinea pigs are sedentary to a fault and have kind of coarse hair that is not gratifying to caress, so I moved on.

Here is the next thing I found:

Ham and cheese sandwich photographed by Charmaine Frost. http://www.Barcroftmedia.com

A ham and cheese sandwich left in the fridge for four weeks. In this case, on purpose, by Connecticut photographer Charmaine Frost for the sole purpose of capturing its decay on memory chip. It is part of a series called The Beauty of Mould, and, as long as you don’t have to smell it, there is a certain beauty. It resembles an exotic foreign landscape photographed from above and, indeed, it is.

I looked up mealworms, but they are still at a very unphotogenic larval stage at four weeks.

The only aardvark I found was 6 1/2 weeks old, so it’ll have to wait.

I could not find a baby narwhal.

Comparisons can be counterproductive anyway. The measure of quality is subjective in things that aren’t, say, airplane engine parts. The measure of value, which is different, is even more subjective, as anyone who bought a house in 2006 is well aware. It’s determined by others. My little “stats” bar, (to which I shook a debilitating addiction a week ago), tells me if I’m doing anyone besides myself any good.

The numbers are promising.

Thank you, readers, for that. Glad to have you here.

Today Mbot ran in his first 3-year-old relay race at a toddler party. He was on the Bug Team. On the drive there, I was trying to explain what a “team” was. “It’s when you run and then pass the beanbag to another kid, and he runs and passes it to the next kid, and you all try to win together!”

No one at the toddler party can figure out who won, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t the Bug Team, because Gbot, who had somehow been made anchor, mutinied in favor of the swing set.

A writer is useless without readers, and so we are a team. According to my little stats bar,  we are doing better than the Bug team. But who’s making comparisons?

And what do people who are fond of guinea pigs see in them, anyway?

Collection Day

Collection Box in Antique Cherry finish, $280 (www.religioussupply.com)

As I was climbing out of the car after dropping the Midgets at Grandma’s for one hour while I rushed home to gather pizza ingredients to cook over at Gram’s because the chicken I’d taken out of the fridge to roast had already flown to Stinkyland, the phone rang. Husbot, from the road. All I wanted to do was go inside and not hear any voices for sixty minutes except the ones inside my head. (The good ones.)

I answered. Husbot was driving and he was in a chatty mood. He’d taken the dogs to the vet. My old ornery mixed-breed, June, had her teeth cleaned, he reported. His perfectly behaved middle-aged hunting dog “was collected,” he went on. It took me a moment to realize that he meant Striker had donated his sperm to the doggie donor bank. Striker is a nice dog, and I was happy for him that he’d had a few nice moments there. I tried to picture the procedure. Did they put him in a room with a few issues of FIDO Friendly and a fake leg?

I said it’s a good thing the vet didn’t mix it up, clean Striker’s young teeth and freeze June’s ovaries for future generations. But I admit, what I really wanted to do was say good-bye. I’ll call you later

I love my husband dearly. But I love my silence too. And these days, it’s rarer than a vial full of dog sperm. So here’s another reason why I continue to blog:

It doesn’t involve talking, or listening, or moderating an argument. It is a respite from interaction, sound, and motion. It is everything my life is not.

Did you get enough silence today?

And did you know there was a travel magazine for dogs?