…And then, all of the sudden, they were done with kindergarten, and I was like WHOA. Where did the last 9 months go?
Thursday night I held a crying Claire as she sobbed and blew her nose on my shoulder, sad that she was going to miss her teacher. Nine months ago, I was doing the same, only she was sobbing that she didn’t want to go to school because “kindergarten is sooooooo long for mommies and daddies to come back” and she missed me too much.
Oh, how far we’ve come.
No one told me that the last day of school would be so emotional for me. Everyone conveniently saved that little tidbit for after I got home and was lamenting my graduated children. “Oh, I cry every year!” they said. “Unfortunately it doesn’t any get easier!” they said. “Thanks for the f—ing warning, friends!” I said.
I’ve been conflicted about my kids aging. When they were babies and toddlers, we naively wished their babyhoods away. “It’ll be so much easier when they’re 2, 3, 4…” we would say. Not that we didn’t relish those years and all of the sweetness that comes with it, but having two babies/toddlers/preschoolers is HARD. “At 3 we’ll be able to reason with them better,” or “at 4 they’ll be able to entertain themselves better,” and “at 5 they’ll be big kids…” Ah, first time parents-slash-idiots.
When we started kindergarten I feared that I was losing the child in my girls. I pictured them in school all day, studiously reading, writing, doing serious work. Throughout the year I was ecstatic to learn that they really were still maintaining a lot of their little kid-ness. Claire loved forcing boys to play her husband in the home station. They brought their favorite lovies to school and had a Teddy Bear Picnic. They made Native-American costumes out of paper sacks for Thanksgiving. They brought home drawing after drawing after OMG drawing of their friends.
This afternoon I rushed to meet them at the local park after a morning of grocery shopping and one last lunch with Christian before everyone came home and I was resigned to almost never leaving the house with 3 children. I showed up right as they were packing up to head back to the school. They were glad to see me, but disappointed that I hadn’t gotten there earlier. And I was too. In general, I wish I had given more of my time for class parties or lunches at their school. I did what I felt I could at the time, but I could have done more.
Next year I’ll know better. But next year won’t be kindergarten.
At home I tearfully read the teachers’ comments on their final report cards. I hugged the girls and told them how proud I was of them. We chatted excitedly about what we wanted to do this summer, like go swimming, invite school friends over to play, go swimming, eat ice cream, and go swimming. I’ve looked forward to having my girls home this summer.
And then five minutes later Zoe was screaming that her sisters wouldn’t share the bubble blower, Rachel was digging in the pantry for snack #5 in the past hour, and Claire was beckoning me to come wipe her butt.
This is what it’s all about, folks! Yay summer!
I stalk curly hair. Put me in a room with a bunch of women and I will analyze and obsess each of the curly girls, following them around, trying to resist the urge to touch of paw at their locks and asking them what they use (case in point, Francesca Serritella, who spoke at Erma). It’s only slightly creepy.
Curly hair is a blessing and a curse: a blessing because it’s full and bouncy and everyone seems to love it, and a curse because it’s fickle and can turn on a dime from luscious to major afro if there’s so much as a drop of moisture in the air.
But as a mom to three curly-headed girls, it’s important to me to teach them to love their hair the way it is, as opposed to trying to make it something it’s not. And that means I need to learn to love mine.
I’ve been through lots of hair phases.
Bangs (thankfully I have no photos of the “power bang” phase). Blonde. Straight. Curly.
For years I brushed, straightened, flat ironed, and basically cursed the unruly locks I had been born with. It kills me now to see my girls already wishing for the smooth, straight hair some of their classmates have.
When the twins were born, I had to abandon my straight hair for its more low maintenance curly cousin. Prior to having kids, my curly hair was my “weekend hair.” It was wild and unpredictable, and I had a love/hate relationship with it.
When Zoe was about 2, my curls decided to abandon me. I blamed an over processed highlight job that turned my full head of bouncy ringlets into a dried out mass of straw that bent any and every which way.
My hairdresser suggested that it was probably age, that our hair can continue changing up to 2 years after having a child. “How old is your youngest?” she asked the first time I went to see her.
“Uh, two,” I answered. Hm.
No curl product worked. Praying didn’t work. I washed, conditioned, rinsed, and then applied another smidge of conditioner in without rinsing just to give it a little moisture. Now instead of dried out non-curls, I had limp greasy mop of shame. I was in hair hell.
So I chopped it all off in hopes of getting rid of the badly bleached hairs. It took a few cuts, but finally all of the color was out. I loved the low maintenance short ‘do, but when it came down to it, it never really looked that great on me. I’ve always been a long hair girl, and I just didn’t look or feel like myself with a bob. Plus the shorter length did not coax my curls back like I had hoped.
When I started to let it grow out again, I was disappointed to find out although the bad highlight job was gone, my curls still weren’t returning. It looked like my hairdresser might have been right about this just being a natural change in my hair.
I needed to conquer these damn curls. If my daughters had any hope of loving their mops, I had to learn to love my own, and that meant I needed to figure out how to care for it, and show them in return.
Thus began the stalking of the curly girls.
An old high school friend swore by the Ouidad line, including getting a specialized cut at a Ouidad trained salon. A few months later, another curly friend piped up and suggested Ouidad. And another. They used the words “life changing.”
I looked up the products and almost hyperventilated at the cost, which honestly isn’t too terribly expensive, but when you’re used to paying $4 for crappy mousse, jumping up to a $23 bottle of gel is kind of anxiety inducing. Last summer, I took the plunge.
Know this: Having curly hair doesn’t necessarily mean I can just wash and go. It’s still a process, and there are entire YouTube channels dedicated to styling curly hair. Prepare to enter the rabbit hole. You’ve been warned.
Turns out it’s part process, part product (although I will always swear by the product). It took me months – MONTHS! – to figure out exactly what method worked for me to get my hair looking it’s best. I finally settled on the following:
1. Exit shower
2. Squeeze as much water as possible out of hair. Do NOT towel dry or even wrap up in a turban. Keep as wet as possible without dripping all over yourself.
3. Spray with Ouidad Botanical Boost
4. Comb with wide tooth comb (if necessary; I often just finger comb in the shower)
5. Apply Ouidad Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel. If you can get by with a nickel-sized drop per the instructions, then I bow to you. I have a lot of hair. I use about fifteen cents’ worth.
6. Rake, shake, and scrunch. As opposed to deliberately separating sections of hair as shown in the videos, I just rake my fingers through large sections of unseparated hair and shake gently. Then I spend several minutes scrunching and scrunching and scrunching and scrunching, careful to protect the locks that have banded together as curls.
Now for day 2, since you know we don’t get to shower every day, I have a few options:
2. Tame with Botanical Boost Spray (works short term, but not for the whole day)
3. Wet hair down and repeat above process
Now that I’m used to this process and it’s proven great results, I’ve fallen back in love with my curly hair. My curls have definitely changed. There are fewer ringlets and more loose curls and waves. But I no longer get anxious when styling it. It’s more predictable now; it cooperates more. I still stalk women with fabulous curls and ask them what they use. Because who knows? Maybe I’ll find another magic product.
Amazon links are affiliate links, but make sure to check the Ouidad site as well to compare prices. Amazon’s not always cheaper, and Ouidad often offers great specials, free shipping, and samples with purchases. I’ve also tried the Curl Quencher Moisturizing Shampoo, the moisturizing conditioner, and the leave-in conditioner, all with great results, but not enough to commit to full time use.
So now. Go forth and curl!
Happy Memorial Day! Hope you have a great day with family and friends in honor of those who have served.
Americans in Paris – Very interesting episode of This American Life featuring David Sedaris on living as an American in Paris.
Listen to Your Mother raised over $26k for our local causes! Here in Austin we raised over $800 for Hope Alliance Crisis Center.
Have you checked out my Reading tab yet? Keep up with what I’m reading and leave me suggestions!
I’m really bad at goals. I know that in order to really accomplish what I want, I need to set goals, and the best way to set goals is to write them down, and an even better way is to tell someone, so they can be all, “Hey, remember when you said you were going to write that essay/novel/luxury portapotty travel brochure and get it published? Yeah, how’s that going for ya?”
I tend to set very vague ambitions for myself. Recent goals have included ambiguous items like “journal more” [and right under that: "buy journal"], “submit some stuff to some places,” and “write something worth reading.” I need help.
My friend Kristin is the goal master. She was all, “I’m going to write and publish a children’s book!” And she did. Then she was all, “I’m going to make up a position for myself with this company and get them to hire me!” And she did. And then she was all, “I’m going to win BlogHer Voices of the Year!” And she effing did it.
And the her minions (well, really just her minion) (okay, it’s me) were all, “How did you do that? How did you just summon these wonderful things to come upon your inbox?”
And she said, “I set a goal, I wrote that shit down, and I worked my ass off at the shit until I got it.”
She doesn’t really talk like that, with all the swear words, if you were wondering. But she’s Sicilian, so that’s how she sounds in my head.
And then she continued, “That’s what I did after my divorce. I wrote down every single quality that I wanted in a man, and not long after that I met my current husband. And he meets every single one of those qualities.”
And I was all, “WHOA.” Woman is a hardcore go-getter.
So then I decided maybe I should set more specific goals. Instead of “journal kinda vaguely, maybe every few days or so,” I should make a pact to write a little something every day, whether it’s in my journal or on my blog or incoherent ramblings on the wall in crayon.
Maybe instead of “submit some stuff to some places” I should make a list of the online or print magazines in which I want my writing to appear and work on the appropriate content for those publications.
And just maybe instead of “write something worth reading” I should treat this like a damn job and work at it, brainstorm, and be consistent, instead of waiting for the genius idea or the perfect opportunity to fall in my lap.
Being a writer is hard.
Buried deep in a swag bag I got from a recent event, I found a plain black journal. I’ve been “meaning to” get a new journal for weeks, but I have the short term memory of a gnat, so you can guess how that’s gone. In the shower: “Ooooh! I’ll go get a journal today!” At Target: “Ooooh, look at those crazy socks! Damn you, Dollar Spot!”
It’s just what I need: paper with lines. I can pretend it doesn’t have Tommy Hilfiger embossed on the front. Like he designs journals now. Please. It’s a carbon copy of the last journal I used that had DELL imprinted on it.
On the first page I wrote down some specific and definitive goals that won’t give me any wiggle room, and I plan on sharing them with a couple of someones with whom I have a little accountability circle. That way one of those someones can say, “Did you write the thing for the thing?” Or something.
I know. I blurred it out. Because putting them up here would be like telling you all my wish that I made when I blew a dandelion, which I don’t do because I am a grown up.* Plus my handwriting is atrocious.
*I totally still do that.
Goal setting – yay or nay? What are yours?
I’ve been writing about Christian a lot lately. It’s not intentional. It’s just that he’s so much more interesting than the kids. I mean, at 6, 6, and 4, they are pretty much parenting themselves these days.
A while back I talked about the importance of communication and compromise: communicating your needs, because despite all the newfangled technology, no one has invented a mind reading device, and compromising on something so that neither or you murders the other in their sleep because you can’t read each other’s minds. Cycle, thy name is vicious.
But unfortunately, no matter how many times you “communicate” something, it just doesn’t sink in.
The day was Thursday. The topic? An upcoming soccer game.
Him: “What time is the game on Saturday?
Me: “It’s at 9:45, but….”
Now rest assured, I kept talking. But the ears were apparently done listening. Because then this was Friday.
Him: “What time is the game again?”
Me: “9:45. BUT WE HAVE PICTURES AT NINE, so we have to be there….” …and then he got distracted by a child or a protein smoothie or something and rest just faded into oblivion.
Mmmhmmmm. You see where I’m going with this. I have ceased to become effective in my communication.
Now Christian often gets irritated with me because I have inherited my mom’s affinity for drawing out a story. You’d never know that by reading my 1000+ word posts here. Whatever, I AM A STORYTELLER. But apparently he thinks that I say in 25 words what I could really say in 5. Preferably 4. And with hand signals, but that’s another story for another day.
When I write, I let it all spill out and edit later, taking out the parts that are redundant or unnecessary. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible IRL (that’s In Real Life to you non internetty folks). If it was, hundreds of people would have been spared a lot of my awkwardness.
So I say what I need to say, and he either tunes me out when I get past his 4 word attention span maximum, or he turns around and replies, “You know, you could have just said ________,” thus in the process of lecturing me, forgetting what it was I actually said in the first place.
That brings us back to Saturday. He got up with the kids at their usual ass-crack of dawn, and I lolled in bed for a bit. When I finally woke up, he was just then making breakfast. It was 8:17.
Me, trying to hide the panicky anxiety in my voice: “Hey, good morning! Um, we have to get ready for soccer. Like now.”
Him, crafting the world’s most elaborate breakfast, naturally, because we have to be somewhere: “But the game’s not until 9:45, right?” Seriously, what kind of weirdo makes eggs and bacon and sausage AND pancakes? The kind who doesn’t realize that we have to leave for the soccer field in 22 minutes.
Me, acting calm, cool, and collected, LIKE ALWAYS: “Riiiiight, but remember? [slightly high pitch] We have pictures at 9? [little bit higher] So we need to be there by 8:45? [getting squeaky] To fill out picture forms and stuff?… [now only dogs can hear me]
So you see, it doesn’t really matter how much I brag, er, talk about communication or getting to sleep in on the weekends. Because that is only one mere success in a countless number of communication failures, even if they’re not so much “communication failures” as they are “I just stopped listening to you because I got bored even though you were sharing really important and fascinating information.” It kinda reminds me of that time he was telling me something about his job, but I can’t really remember what.
I must have stopped listening because that crap is BORING.
1. What are you working on?
Right now I am in full on Listen to Your Mother mode, and that doesn’t leave much time for writing. I’m lucky I got this post done, but hey, anything for procrastination, amirite?
After our shows, I’m hoping to get back into writing more stories and essays, and I’m planning on making good on my resolution to actually submit to more online and traditional publications so tens of people can read my stuff. You know, just in time for summer, when the kids are all home.
Yeah. That sounds like a good plan.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
This is a really tough question, because my genre is huge. What is my genre? I have no idea. But those of us who have no idea take up a large portion of the internet.
How am I different? Obviously, I am me. I have my own voice. I’ve been told by some that I write just like I talk, only without that awkward thing I tend to do with my mouth, where words are spilling out faster than I can say them and my lips are unsuccessfully trying to hold them back.
I feel like I’m getting off course here.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Because no one else has written it yet? Damn these are hard questions.
For my blog, I write what I feel like writing. I’ve waxed and waned between writing frequent journal-like updates (I have neither the time nor the energy for that) and well-polished essays (I have neither the time nor the energy for THAT). Now I just say whatever and I put it up there, however infrequently. Some for posterity, some for laughs, and some because I think there’s actually a decent message there. My main goal in writing is to tell a story and to entertain.
After attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, I really started to rethink my writing and what I put on my blog. It encouraged me to save more of the good stuff for myself. My goal now is to really work on those pieces, hone my craft, and put them out there, hopefully for someone else to publish.
4. How does my writing process work?
I am a serial procrastinator. I know how good it feels to get something done early, on the rare occasion I actually get something done early, but I’ll never learn. This is one of the reasons I fear for my freelance career.
Writing for myself is completely different. I’m more relaxed. There’s not so much pressure. I may sit down with a beer or a glass of wine to open up my brain, allow the words to flow from my fingers to the keyboard, and help me resist the urge to self edit along the way.
1 drink: I am the best writer in the world! I am a comedic genius!
2 drinks: Why is typing so hard?
3 drinks: sdmne3htslkS,MNoy4uoegesoijgro480w9q2aekfLSK.
That’s a faceplant on the keyboard.
The process is that I have no real process. I don’t write daily. I write more than I would like for others and not enough for myself. Whenever a friend says they are going through writing struggles or unsure if they should publish something, I say, “Journal it! Get it out!” But guess what? I DON’T EVEN OWN A JOURNAL. Seriously.
There you have it. I’m not going to give any false pretense that this was actually helpful to anyone. But I’m sure that the majority of writers can relate.
I need a standing desk.
For an update on my back, I bit the bullet and got a lumbar epidural earlier this month. It wasn’t really how I wanted to treat my condition, as I knew it wast really going to solve the entire problem. But I was dying to have a little bit of my life back. Being in constant pain has thrown a veil over everything in these past few months, and I needed it lifted. And although the timing was unintentional, it was perfect – I never would have survived plane rides and entire days sitting at Erma had I not gotten the shot.
When I was in the worst pain, I avoided chairs at all costs. A mere ten minutes of sitting, and I had to mentally prepare myself to stand up, knowing I was about to endure excruciating pain. I avoided work (more than usual), stood up to eat my meals (more than usual), and made really elaborate dinners (definitely more than usual).
Unfortunately for my back, my job involves lots and lots of sitting, writing all the things and sending all the emails. Fortunately for me, I can pretty much get up whenever I want to stretch. Or check the fridge. Or take the dog out. Or go check my hair in the mirror. [Insert procrastination method of choice here]
The shot has been a godsend, but I’m not completely pain free. I still feel a little twinge when I get up in the morning or if I’ve been sitting too long. I excused myself from some sessions at Erma or even from dinner to walk around and stretch my back out after a long day of sitting. But still, it was a thousand times better than pre-shot pain. And now I’m being super diligent about my physical therapy, because I’m absolutely terrified that the pain will come back full force. And no one wants to see a grown woman cry.
So at physical therapy the other day, I noticed that my therapist uses a standing desk. It’s a mobile version on casters, kind of like a hospital tray. And I was like “I NEED ONE OF THOSE.” Only maybe less hospitaly.
Apparently standing desks are kind of a thing? Apparently it’s come to light that sitting for hours on end is bad for us? I wasn’t aware. I’ve been too busy raising children and never sitting for the past 6 years to brush up on the latest ergonomic fads. But now I want all the standing desks.
Tip: if you’re looking to get into the non-boring standing desk Etsy business, you can apparently make a fortune. You’re welcome.
Reclaimed wood? Iron legs? Adjustable? Yes, yes, and yes. $1300? NOPE.
Oooh modern, and with drawers. Yellow clock not included. I asked.
I really like this simple little desk. Surely I can MAKE THIS MYSELF for less than $478. Then again, if you saw my “home list” you’d try to convince me that $478 was well worth the effort I would NOT have to put forth.
What about you? Do you sit or stand?
Last week Rachel and Claire each published a book in their kindergarten class. Claire wrote and illustrated a mini-memoir about visiting the Great Wolf Lodge last year, while Rachel wrote about how Mommy comes to wake her up in the morning. I was able to see their process from first draft to final, and now I had little writers who were so proud of their work. God bless those teachers who patiently help them revise and edit those stories from we wit to grt wf ldje it was fun we wit swmmg to something slightly less headache inducing.
I just returned from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, a conference centered around humor writing, publishing, and honoring the late great Erma herself. It was, in a word, remarkable. There’s nothing like being surround by something you are passionate about to get you inspired and totally pumped for your next project. And really, where else are you going to be stuffed in a room with a hundred or so other people who all say things like OMG I LOOOOOVE thesaurus.com!
Here are reasons YOU should attend the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop.
You will learn that it’s okay to own it
Admit you’re a writer, and people ask when you’re going to write the next Great American Novel. But admit you’re a humor writer, and people look at you expectantly, like okay, so BE FUNNY. Which is why I tend not to declare those types of goods on my writerly customs form. It’s just too much pressure.
But truth be told, I to like to make people laugh, or at the least, I like to make myself laugh. If I scroll through my blog, I find more funny than I do not, and I know that’s my true voice. So here I go. I’m declaring it. I am a humor writer. Ish. But seriously, I’m not a performing monkey, so stop waiting for me to be funny.
Your voice/story/idea/passion is valid
How many people have said Well I kinda wanted to write a book about ______, but that’s all been done before. Well, sure it has. By someone else. But not by YOU.
If there’s one thing that was repeated by several faculty members, it’s that your perspective is what will make your project unique. Author Kelsey Timmerman suggested we to find the thing that we are perfectly suited to write about. Writer and humor columnist Gina Barreca urged us to tell our stories the way we alone can. Humor author Dan Zevin encouraged everyone to be true to your point of view. Your unique perspective is what makes something funny.
Basically, who cares if someone has written a book about whatever it is you want to write a book about? YOU haven’t written it yet.
Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies
You’ll find idols, new and old
Two days before the conference I decided it would be a good idea to actually look at the sessions and figure out where I wanted to go, and that’s when I noticed that one of my favorite humor authors was leading a session. I’d chatted with Dan Zevin on twitter briefly after I read his book last year, so I was stunned awkward when he recognized my name and declared us “old friends.”
As for new author crushes, I loved listening to Lisa Scottoline and her daughter Francesca Serritella speak about writing humor and working as a mother/daughter team. I’m now putting my three girls through rigorous training to see who can come out on top as my new sidekick.
You will be among your people
I have friends and loved ones in from many different fields, and I adore them all, but there’s truly nothing like being around my people.
Okay, maybe I wasn’t exactly comfortable until the second day and the third drink, but you know what I mean. Writers at every turn, fabulous speakers who were truly experts in their field and masters of their craft, and of course, hilarious to boot. And lots and lots of friends, old and new. There’s nothing like exchanging business cards with someone and then saying OMG I KNOW YOU! Instant friends.
(Almost) Everyone is awkward
I can be outgoing and open and funny online. That’s truly a part of my personality. But meet me in person for the first time and be prepared to be underwhelmed by my less than sparkling personality. I’m all Hey! You’re ________! It’s so great to meet you in person finally! And then… Now what? Am I supposed to keep talking? What do I say? Why are there no words coming out of my mouth? Why am I sweating?
And (almost) everyone felt the same way. I think.
The downsides? Well, you’ll eat a lot of conference food, so pack some protein bars in your bag for those days when you just can’t with the chicken salad and ambiguous rice mound. And when you crack a joke in the airport on your way home, you’ll realize that no one at this airport thinks you are funny. They’re all boring duds.
And that’s when you’ll start counting the days until Erma 2016.
A couple of weeks ago I spent an entire Saturday and the following Monday and Tuesday evenings sitting in a chair, my coffee cup and bags of Hot Tamales within arm’s reach, listening to stories. We were auditioning potential cast members for Listen to Your Mother: Austin.
There were beautiful stories, hilarious stories, heartfelt stories, and feel good stories. OMG THE STORIES. Austin has some wicked talent.
I anticipated that producing this show would be a challenge. I didn’t know anything about putting a show together, other than what little I took from being in the cast in 2012. The fun part is listening to the essays. How I love listening to the essays. But then there’s the work – the expenses, the marketing, the spreadsheets, OH THE SPREADSHEETS. Little did I know that I would tap back into my left-brain, giving the tired hamster a little exercise on his rusty old wheel. It’s been a while, dude.
My team and I are constantly switching hats, from mom to producer, to director, to printer to accountant to circus clown (usually me). We shift our meetings around child care and school schedules, and then we jet off to start the pick up process. Kristin left auditions early one day to care for her sick little boy. We hold Google hangouts with Tinkerbell running in the background. We stop most work activities in the afternoon hours, so as to devote that time to snacks and homework and playing, and then once the kids are rendered unconscious (like asleep, not like we knocked them out. Maybe.), we start the frenzy of emails back and forth again.
Slowly but surely, it’s coming together. We’re mothering this little show, giving it love, building it up the way we want it, and even comparing it to others, then finding out that, much like your real babies, you can’t compare your show-baby to any other show-babies. Because this show-baby is OUR show-baby, and it will be the best show-baby we can make it.
The 2014 production of Listen to Your Mother Austin takes place on Thursday, May 8 at 7 pm and Saturday, May 10 at 3 pm. Tickets to our show-baby can be found on Eventbrite, and you can find the 2014 cast list on our LTYM Austin site. Can’t wait to see you there.