Friday, October 30, 2015

Art, Parenting, and Donkeys

I was given the task of trying to find a picture that would serve as an author's photo a few weeks back.  I dug through our photo archives and could not find one picture of just me where I did not look like a hot mess.  Tons of pictures where I was breastfeeding, carrying a child, or taking silly selfies with a child appeared.  However, none that fit what I needed was available, so D and I started on the journey of trying to take a picture of me that would work.

The task of trying to get an author’s pic was harder than anything I’ve maybe ever done as an adult. That's only a slight exaggeration.

My dear husband tried to help, but he seems to believe that all pictures should be taken in abundantly bright light two inches from a person’s face.  God love him, but he just does not understand that not all of us still look like we’re 18, our face as smooth as a baby’s butt on the day it was born.  He tried for a couple of days to be my photographer, but all we ended up with were pictures where my wrinkles looked like they had multiplied, my teeth looked larger than normal, and my body was contorted into unnatural poses while I tried to look natural.

So my author pic ended up being a selfie taken at the Heritage Farmstead Museum the day before I needed to submit an article.  In the picture I’m trying to come off easy breezy.  I was also trying to come off less toothy, but I don’t think that’s possible.  I just smile with my whole mouth; it’s the only way I know how. 

The sun was low in the east so I shot towards the west hiding from the sun but using just enough of its rays to make sure the picture wasn’t just a picture of dark.  That’s the kind of lighting a woman of a certain age who spent her youth in the sun needs. 

The picture turned out okay.  I almost dislocated my shoulder trying to make it not look like a selfie because the other option was asking D to take it which I knew would end with, “let’s face you more in the sun”, “pull your hair out of your face so I can see all of you”, “I need to be a foot closer so this picture can be used to examine your pores.”  No.

I got this:

It’s been said that a picture’s worth a thousand words. It’s also been said we put all our good stuff out there in pictures all across the internet and leave the real junk hidden.  Here’s the real junk behind this picture:

To my left, Wren was trying to walk on old time stilts that were too big for her tiny body.  The picture was taken right about the time she bit it in the dirt.  Through the side of my mouth I said, “You’re tough.  Way to shake it off,” as she was still attempting to make it back on her feet.  

Past Wren, Asher was conducting a one person potato sack race and was devastated to find out the bottom had blown out of the sack, so when she jumped, it was just jumping up and down like normal, no potato sack goodness.  She was beyond pissed and tangled up in a potato sack, adding insult to injury.

D was chasing Eowyn who decided it would be a good idea to run back over to the huge hogs and taunt them from outside their fence squeaking, “oink, oink” while blowing bacon breath all over them.  She’s honestly just lucky to be alive.  The girl has guts and not a lot of fear of anything she should actually be scared of, which is not the most awesome combination at the age of two. 

Sammy was screaming for D to come back and help him walk on the stilts so he could tell Wren, “look, I walked” rubbing it in that she ate dirt.  Wren tends to make everything a competition, so any chance Sammy gets to one up, he totally takes.  Can’t honestly say I blame him.

And directly to my front, Remus and Romulus, the supposed country’s largest donkeys (read: well hung) were gearing up for what I can only assume was going to be really aggressive donkey sex.  The foreplay stage we were seeing and hearing at the moment the picture was taken was horrifying.  I’m smiling through it, easy breezy.  No donkey sex here!

This is the intersection of art and life if taking a selfie for a writing project is art and trying to usher your children away from viewing donkey porn is life. 

Check out the essay that inspired this picture in the first place on Mommikin here.  

P.S.  Dear my photographer sister Amy, 

Please come see me.  Bring your camera.  It is obvious I need help.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Seek and Find

This morning I started a super covert game of hide and seek with the kids.  I hid, didn’t tell them, and managed to rest unnoticed for almost 20 full minutes.  Princes Sofia and Jake and the Neverland Pirates babysat. 

I’m burnt out on all the needing right now, but I’m mom so there’s really no way around it.  This week the needs have felt super big and my inability to fulfill them all left me facing today with dread.  I love the rain and imagined today being a make-a-fort-and-read day, but even that couldn’t satisfy the masses all at once.  And getting everyone out of the house would ensure wet socks, and heaven forbid any child in my house should ever have to stand around in wet socks for 2.6 seconds.  Oh the humanity!

In the past I would have felt like my little hiding game was a parent fail, but I’m past that.  My kids are seeing the non-Pinterest life, the messy, the adults who don’t actually have super powers and are living in the moment they find themselves, conjuring up every ounce of strength to just not lose their crap when someone asks for cheese 14 times in a row.  They are living through relationships where conflict and big feelings are a real thing, as is everyone wanting to handle their feelings differently (Wren cries when happy, sad, awake, asleep.  I cry when I’m bleeding profusely.  This has been an issue for us as I think she is a drama queen and she is convinced I am a droid.). 

Early on in parenting, I thought no conflict was the goal.  Now I realize that would equal zero real life prep.  Handling conflict correctly, walking through the crazy together?  Apologizing when we don’t handle conflict correctly and we’re all a little fed up with the crazy?  Those are real life skills, and we’re doing them every day in this house. 

So I only hide from those responsibilities on occasion, and I got busted when Asher walked into the room and started searching.  I unintentionally made eye contact and then she laid on top of me like my side job is being a mattress.  I crawled out from under the covers and marched back into the needing, some run-of-the-mill and some that seems over my head.

The rain is still falling but I anticipate we will have to venture out this weekend, extra socks packed just in case.  Tonight the plan is to have a mani/pedi plus reading night with the big kids crashing in our bed past bed time hours.  I’m looking forward to it, and I’m also selfishly coming to terms with the idea that part of my alone time will be usurped by overly tired children stealing my pillow.  It’s a mix. 

Until things let up, we’ll just be together waiting out the storm.

Friday, October 16, 2015

How to Help a Celiac Sister Out

It’s baby season.  I have many pregnant friends, friends who are trying to get pregnant, friends who are ready to adopt.  It’s the season where I need to stay away from small ones because I held an infant at a birthday party a few weeks ago and I literally felt my ovaries lock and load.  I passed that baby off like a hot potato because we have enough crazy rolling through this joint right now. 

I remember when Wren and Sam were born and we were put on the Care Calendar.  It’s this awesome tool that allows people to sign up to bring you food while you are recovering from having a person exit your body.  I have much love for the Care Calendar. 

Sidenote: For all of you who have ever wondered if you are helping to fulfill your God-given duty by signing up to bring someone a casserole, you are.  My Nanny was up here when Sam was hospitalized for pneumonia, which happened 10 days after he was born, and she couldn’t drive in the city.  She had a few groceries at the house but was busy burning every possible germ to its death, so when people just kept showing up on our porch every other day with food, she felt like manna was falling from the sky, though it was actually being delivered by angels on earth who kept her fed while she scrubbed baseboards with bleach.  So, thank you.  I probably never sent thank you cards because one of my kids almost died and the other had a nervous breakdown that led to Celiac.  Plus, I forget to do stuff on a good day. 

Anyway, people with food allergies usually don’t end up on the Care Calendar because they ask not to be placed there.  That was true for us after Wren and D were diagnosed with Celiac.  The idea of having people cook us food that was cross-contaminated, to have them spend all that time and money and then us not be able to eat it, that just seemed awful.  We did have people ask what they could do for us when the twins were born, but I suck at asking for help even when people directly say, “We’d like to help you.  How can we?”  It’s a gift.

Baby season got me thinking, and two years later I came up with a few ways to help out someone with food allergies if they are in a Care Calendar season of life, whether it’s a new baby or surgery.  We are not in that phase of life because I put that baby at the birthday party down fast enough, but I finally had some ideas and decided to share.

Gift Cards to places with food like Whole Foods or Sprouts
They are not impersonal.  They are versatile.  They buy food.  One of my fellow twin mamas showed up at our house when the twins were just born with a gift card and onesies.  It was a win. 

Be a part of the prep team
Before Asher and Eowyn were born, I waddled around the kitchen cooking and freezing meals so we’d be good to go when they arrived.  If you know someone who has food allergies, you might recommend this and then offer to come help them cook.  They can tell you safe ingredients to bring and you can help them shove everything in the freezer when it’s over.

Packaged Food
Know your allergy person very well on this one, or ask a load of questions.  Most Celiacs have multiple food allergies, but there are brands like Enjoy Life that make yummy treats that don’t contain any of the top eight allergens.  A box of Enjoy Life snickerdoodles still in the package and not touched by anyone else would be a safe treat for most Celiacs.  

Hit up the Bakery
Unrefined Bakery carries gluten-free baked goods and 98% of their food is dairy free.  A gift card or a dozen cupcakes from there would make a person with Celiac fat and happy.  Make sure not to open them in a place where flour or other forms of gluten could get to them.  Unrefined is a dedicated gluten-free facility, and the owners both have Celiac.  They take the allergy thing pretty seriously. 

Here’s a tip for Halloween: see about getting involved in the Teal Pumpkin Project.  We are always out and about on Halloween so we haven’t been able to do this yet, but it looks great.  My kids have requested this year that they trade in all their candy for apple pie.  Easy enough, except I've never made an apple pie.  Could be an interesting year.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pro NaNo

I read an article recently from someone who said all that was to be accomplished by participating in National Novel Writing Month(NaNo) was writing a crappy novel.  I totally agree, but not in the way that the author meant for me to.  If you write a novel in 30 days with NaNo WriMo you will have a sucky novel that you would be humiliated for people to read. 

It’s called a first draft. 

Jacques Barzun says to “let the first sentence be as stupid as it wishes.”  I’d go further and say let it all be stupid because the first draft is not the end of it.  That’s exactly what NaNo lets you do.  One horrible sentence at a time you put words to page and at the end you have something that either is a first draft of a novel or could someday be a complete first draft of a novel. 

What you do next is revise it. 

NaNo helped me immensely in the getting-down-to-business department after years of not writing in a disciplined, consistent way.  During the month of NaNo last November and the NaNo camp I did in July, I completed more of my novel than I have during all the days in between.  I am going to participate in NaNo again this November in the hope that by December 1st I will have one big, messy story ready to be revised. 

Here’s what I recommend: participate in NaNo and have a plan for when it’s over.  If you are like me, this will be when the rubber refuses to hit the road any longer and the short break you’re taking from your novel after so much focused attention will end up being months.  Here’s my post-NaNo plan:

Figure out why NaNo works for me and keep doing it after November 30th.

D did not love NaNo when he participated, probably because he didn’t really need it.  He works on projects until they are complete, daily trudging along whether he is in the mood or not.  He’s a real live grown person. 

NaNo works for me, but I can easily fall off the wagon when it’s over.  I want to figure out the magic this time around.  Am I just a sprinter and not a marathoner?  Do I need to set a word count for myself every single day?  Is watching that little arrow on the website go up each day really the carrot I’m chasing?  When I figure it out, I will trap myself into recreating the magic.

Think past the last word.

One of the things I’m most excited about when I think of finishing the novel is revising.  I know, revising is hard and exhausting, but the book is written.  I can make it better instead of create it from scratch.  Right now, that seems like less work.  I may disagree when I get started.  I’m also ready to have friends help me revise.  I am blessed enough to have people in my life who truly cheer each other on and get excited for milestones in the lives of those they love.  Having those individuals help me make this book better sounds great!  When it gets tough, I focus on what happens when it’s finished (and maybe on having revision parties that involve finger food desserts, coffee and Scrabble.  Maybe I’m just looking for a way to make revising a novel a slumber party.  Hard to tell.)

 Keep reading awesome books.

All the time.  Never stop reading.  If you want to know about the current books I can’t get off my mind they would be:

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Girl at War by Sara Novic
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

If these authors hadn’t finished these books, that would have been a tragedy.  That alone keeps me writing, not because I expect to pop out a masterpiece but because I think finishing is a victory in itself, especially in a world that rewards instant everything and has an attention span of 2.4 seconds.
If you decide to NaNo, friend me and we can offer encouragement (and sometimes maybe yell at me if you suspect I’m eating chocolate in lieu of writing).

Regardless of what anyone says, I think NaNo is a great tool for hesitant project finishers like me.  I am a procrastinator for life, friends.  I’ll write all about that tomorrow. J