This Mom business

So, I have a new pet peeve. And it’s something I have done myself (see blog title.) Yes, this focus on motherhood, how we define our entire selves through that one aspect of our lives. I am tired of the mommy ghetto. I am tired of being simultaneously typecast and dismissed by virtue of my fertility.

And, boy, is that ironic for someone who has seven kids.

Because, of course, motherhood informs every aspect of my life, my thinking, and my philosophy. Once you have that first infant in your trembling arms, you have a choice– do I step up to the plate and start playing the parenting game in earnest, or do I just shrug it off and go on as if nothing has changed? I have seen the same person make a different decision for different offspring or at a later date for one child, so it’s not a one time offer. But it’s a qualitatively different experience than staying childless. I am sorry, but obtaining a puppy does not work the same on the human psyche. I have obtained puppies and children and they’re vastly different. Trust me on this.

Motherhood is not always a transformative experience, but it should be. It can make you a better person, more concerned about the injustices of the world, more sympathetic to others. Or, you know, it can turn you into a teary nervous wreck obsessed with the bowel movements of a newborn. Sometimes both.

Sometimes, *ok, most times*, one’s childless friends and relatives don’t see the transformation in a positive light. All they see is that their once-freewheeling friend is suddenly boring and unduly interested in crock pot recipes. They don’t want to hear a play-by-play of your toddler’s toilet training, or anything else, really– what happened to adult conversation? They notice the huge increase in your environmental footprint due to all those plastic items that are now cluttering up your home, not to mention diapers and wipes and little squeeze pouches of applesauce. The finer points of how a parent’s perspective on politics, the environment, and the future all change are lost in the constant flood of cute baby pics on Instagram.

So, it’s easy to dismiss us. Moms are boring. Moms are lame. Our brains are eaten up with petty concerns. What style, panache, or intelligence we may have once had, well . . . we are moms. Everyone has one, goodness, and how uncool was she!

And we play into it, on mommy blogs and Facebook and Twitter. The Mommy Wars are so brutal these days that you can’t express an opinion on parenting  without being harassed and subject to the vicious judgements of other people *with or without children. So most moms either try to channel a sort of neutral Mary Poppinsesque cheerfulness or a droll sarcastic tone with an emphasis on the daily wine consumption that allows them to cope.

All of which misses the point I was aiming for– while being a mother has changed my perspective over the years, I am still a conscious, intelligent, and passionate person in my own right. It is undoubtedly easier for me to say that, as I never had a life as an adult without children. I never experienced the loss of some previous childfree life, lived for however many years or decades. I have had to just go on about the business of living while dragging along my little band of miscreants.

Anyway, I think it limits one when we make these blogs and whatnot with a focus on the motherhood aspect of our lives. Men, ehhhh. There’s not enough of a Daddy Blogger cohort to really make the same argument. In my experience, men have blogs and careers and lives and they can mention that they have kids, even write about their kids and parenting experiences, without being dismissed as “just another dad.” Sure, you’re not going to write many articles about it for GQ or Maxim or Esquire, but the guy bloggers I see can and do argue about pretty much any topic without pause. If a Mommy does that, well, her audience will just be baffled. Where’s the freezer recipes for yet another way to use chicken breasts? Where’s the lament about the laundry? Where’s the *kids*?

So, I guess I am a failure at Mommy Blogging, but I have been failing at that for 18 years so, whatever. I’m probably going to switch back to using my oldest blog name, Scattershot Thought, since that describes what I do better.

It’s just so stupid. I am a mother. I live for my children. But they’re not all of my life, especially not my inner life and thoughts. I don’t want to pretend that I am not a mother but I don’t want someone’s impression of me to be “ah, just another mom talking about diaper brands and minivans.” So, what’s the right thing to do? Either way, it’s not perfect. I am tired of describing myself first as a mother, but it remains the best thing in my life. But is that the first thing I am? Am I not, first and foremost, a human, a creature living in relation to the creator? (Another pitfall– mentioning religion.) So. Yes. Life’s just filled with strange compromises.

I shouldn’t think out loud. That seems to be the only real takeaway from this. Hah.





Title: what, I have to title this random update?

So, I have been neglecting the blog. Not exactly unusual for a blog. I had good intentions. The switch from using a computer to using a smartphone, however, has been terrible for almost every activity that I used to enjoy. I just can’t do much on a phone.

My current ambitious plan is to get a new computer, with which (one hopes) I could do all those things that I planned to do originally. I don’t even want anything fancy, just something that will run a few open browser tabs and a word processing program. Oh, and Spotify. I am dying from a lack of music in the house. Headphones do not cut it. I am one of those people who has to have the bass speaker make the glass in the windows rattle.

So, yes. I am alive. And, oddly enough, hopeful. I am still learning about life. I am 42 and I probably should feel like I have it all figured out, but every day seems to have a lesson in it for me. They have been hard lessons this year. I was hoping that this year would be easy, but, yeah, that didn’t happen. Oh well.

So, any votes for what I should blog about?

Advent means preparing. .

And I am sadly still unprepared. Oh, spiritually, we aren’t doing badly– I made it to Reconciliation with the boys, we have been praying our special Advent prayers around the wreath each night, and even on days when homeschooling is a sad little afffair, we have been reading our chapters in their religion texts. It’s not perfect but it is progressing.

Commercially, I am a total loser. Only a single DVD and a lone cd are stashed in my closet. With seven offspring expecting presents, this could get a little messy.

I have been battling an extra dose of pain every day since the week before Thanksgiving, which cut my maternal effectiveness in half. Right now, we are hoping it is just reactive arthritis from some stray virus. The other options are icky– rheumatoid arthritis or lupus or something in that mode. Still waiting on lab results.

I’m hopeful, though. I’m better. I managed to hoist my giant cast iron Dutch oven into the oven today, full to the brim with pork and beans and other bits that will, please, form a tasty feijoada in a couple hours. I couldn’t heft the turkey on turkey day, so it is an improvement.

So, anyway, I am pushing the boys to get caught up with their schoolwork. At this stage, that means that I am reading aloud for hours but the results are pleasing so far. Their handwriting is a horror story but intelligent, interesting, analytical thought is peeking out here and there.

I am starting to press the 8 year old Ninja to write his responses more, but it’s a struggle with his joint laxity. I’m going to buy some various pencil grips on Amazon and see if those help. It’s no fun to be your own occupational therapist but the only other option is dealing with the school district. After fighting with this particular bunch for the past nine years, you can guess how appealing that sounds.

Ok, someone has to cook the rice to go with my authentic peasant version of feijoada. It’s totally authentic in that I threw in whatever pork products I could find with some black beans and hoped for the best, as generations of peasant cooks have done. I will update again soon. Honestly. I got a new phone but only installed the app today. My actual computer is now in our schoolroom and lost to me. I should have seen that coming . . ..

Winding up the year

So, the Catholic year begins with Advent, which is fast approaching.

I’m not ready for it. I’m not ready for anything. I’ve spent the past month just trying to stay alive, pretty much literally. I’ve been fighting off so many infections that I’m just barely hanging in there most days. My anemia is still pretty bad. So, all the wondrous things I had planned for the year are still just dreams and wishes instead of accomplished facts.

I guess staying alive is more important than staying up with your weight loss goals or your Goodreads goals or your blogging or NanoWriMo or your exercises or your home decor. It’s just that, when the surviving bit is over with, you’re still stuck with all the unrealized hopes and dreams. I’m 27 books from making my Goodreads goal, for example, and with only 6 weeks left in the year, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that I’m not going to finish it in time. Bummer.

But, hey, I’m still upright! This is a good thing. If I manage to send Christmas cards or catch up on my voicemail or finally return that last library book that’s a month overdue, I’ll be doing quite well.

Ohhhh what a month

So, yeah, no posts so far this month. I can tell you why in one word: chaos.

I’ve been sick– over and over– basically since my Viking went to band camp in August. This week, I’ve really got it bad– a new respiratory virus on top of a chronic cough left over from the last one. Soooo . .. my lungs are full of gunk and my sinuses are plugged with gunk and there’s entirely too much gunk to go around.

Add to that the Quest to Get Miss Autism’s Teeth Fixed and you have a recipe for disaster. In order to have her teeth fixed, she had to have a power of attorney given to me and my husband. The surgery center didn’t want to proceed without one. In order to get a power of attorney, you have to get a notary to sign off on it. In order to get a notary to sign something in Texas, you have to have an official state id card or a driver’s license. In order to have one of those, you have to have a bunch of paperwork to prove who you are, then go to the driver’s license bureau that’s on the north end of town.

So, after the initial trip to the dentist, I had to find all those papers (which meant I had to gut our entire filing system and go through months of old paperwork.) Then I had to take Miss Autism out of school and to the DMV. Except we were missing proof of residency papers. Oops. Didn’t mention THOSE on the webpage where it listed the papers you needed. So, another day (since that day wore me out as it was), then another trip to take her out of school and down to the DMV and waiting for that. Then we had to take her to the doctor for a physical to make sure she was healthy enough for the anesthesia while waiting for the DMV to send her new id card.

Finally, they sent that, so I had to take her and all the little boys to the notary, which was a long process in itself. Then after that was done and the papers in hand, I had to force her through the “no eating or drinking after midnight” thing, then take her to the surgery center, then get through the whole mountain of paperwork for that, then endure the waiting and the recovery process. Miss Autism was terribly nervous and didn’t want to cooperate, but she did go along with it despite her misgivings. She was REALLY good for the IV placement and once that was in, we were gold.

Recovery was rough– she ate 3 popsicles and drank 2 12oz cans of Dr Pepper– mostly because she was VERY VERY upset about how many of her teeth had to be capped with stainless steel crowns. Since she is a tooth-grinder with a long history of eating wood and metal and hard plastic, she’s done a number on her teeth. But, after a couple bad days of acting out, she’s settled down and seems to have gotten over the initial shock. It has to help that her teeth are fixed and won’t be giving her any more pain.

But, after all that, this cold has just set me back badly. We struggled along with school last week in a lame way– not much got done by the Ninja, but he did manage his math and religion, and nothing got done by the Tank since he was sick all darn week. This week has been a total wash so far. I may have been able to get something done but the school sent Miss Autism home with “pinkeye” that absolutely is fiction. Once we had to go pick her up and then deal with her frustrated “I want to be at school” behaviors all day, homeschooling was not going to happen. I’m hoping to be actually less sick tomorrow so we can at least do the important stuff– math, phonics, religion, maybe a little history. Maybe I won’t be hacking up a lung for hours on end, who knows.

The weather hasn’t broken yet– these are supposed to be our big rain months but it’s dry as a bone and still in the mid-90s during the day. I just want this crap to be OVER with. I want to be well and I want the weather to be cooler and I want to be able to do the things I want to do with the boys– hiking and picnics and zoo trips and nature study.

I’ve managed to get a few things done despite everything– the Bear’s bedroom renovation is essentially done, all I need to do is sort her little knicknacks and move the storage boxes out of her corner, maybe find a cute picture to hang on her wall in one or two blank spots. Other than that, though, it’s finished– the closet painted and decorated, the linens all changed out, new rugs put in, all the junk sorted. The house is mostly decorated for Halloween. A lot of our books have been packed away, so the house looks less cluttered. It’s getting better. I’m just not where I want to be yet . . . Christmas is so close and the house is still icky. I need to paint a lot of stuff and clean a lot more. So much work . . ..

Well, I’m going to concentrate on getting well. Once I do that, the sky is the limit.

What I’m Doing Besides Slowly Dying

Well, we’re all dying, aren’t we?

Rather melodramatic, I know. It has been that kind of week. The kind of week where death seems to loom over everything and peers over your shoulder to remind you that, hey, by the way, you’re going to die. Any day now. Well, sometime, anyway, and it is inevitable and, how about lunch?

And people wonder why I’m gloomy.

So anyway, I’ve been watching a good series on Netflix, “The Detectives”, which is a documentary about the Manchester police unit that investigates sex crimes. It’s a 3 part series and was, I thought, quite good. You’ll definitely want to give the main “villian” of the piece a good smack upside the head, at the least, but the cops are very sympathetic and seem to take their jobs very seriously. I enjoyed it, although “rape investigations and trials” doesn’t seem like a very enjoyable topic, now that I think about it. But the series is good. I love documentaries . . . it’s just SO hard to find good ones.

I tried to read several books this week. When I was at the library last, I picked up some random Big Fat Fantasy books that had all the markings of good possibilities– expensive-looking covers, nice paper, lots of cheerful blurbs on the back cover. In reality, the books were pretty awful. As much as I hate to demean the work of another writer, seriously, they were bad. And I opened up my email this evening and what do I see but . . . advertisements for those books in big animated gifs on the side of my writing-industry newsletters. If you love great fantasy, you may want to skip “The Grace of Kings” and “A Crown for Cold Silver.” The first one is better than the second– “A Crown for Cold Silver” was, in a word, crap. The Ken Liu book just committed every sin known to Big Fat Fantasy and speculative fiction in general. Ken, if you’re listening anywhere, you DO NOT have to give us the entire backstory of each character when they’re introduced. A little slow reveal of their character through, you know, actions, conversations, actual characterization . . . that’s perfectly fine, really. Infodumps are not fun, even if you’re trying to sell us on how amazing your main characters are.

Anyway, they were both better than the Debbie Macomber book I tried, ill-advisedly, to read. SO SO bad. Not even bad in a good way, but just bad. It read like an outline that someone forgot to flesh out.

All of which reminds me that I need to start writing soon. I know, I know, it’s a lazy thing to say “soon”– writers write and I should have my butt in a chair, right? I’m still trying to figure out this whole “homeschool two hyperactive boys while chasing around a precocious 16 month old who has discovered how to climb EVERYTHING” gig. When you add all the other responsibilities, I just start to fall apart. At the end of the day, all I have left is enough energy to sink into a hot bath with a book or curl up on a chair and try to watch some Netflix.

I think the changes I’ve been making will make things easier, though. I bought a skein of para-cord and we’ve roped it around the dining room table and chairs to keep the Amazing Climbing Baby from climbing up and dancing on the table (literally.) The new baby gate for the bottom of the stairs is due to arrive today. I’m moving down a selection of baby toys and adding more pillows in the hopes that he’ll be more comfortable and happy and maybe give us more peace and quiet while we try to get through the work. But it all comes down to time management. I need to re-fix my sleep schedule again. It’s almost 1am here and I am still awake . . . obviously, something is amiss again.

I’m supposed to be doing a 100 days to better health challenge. Mostly it just makes me feel guilty as I swig down another Coke. But eating well requires time, too– planning and shopping and cooking. I went to the Evil Empire of Walmart yesterday and bought exactly enough food to make tacos and spaghetti and called it good. The day before, we had Dominos pizza. So eating well hasn’t exactly been happening.

I’m trying. I’ve been renovating my oldest daughter’s bedroom, which has taken up tons of energy and time, too. But every renovation project moves us closer to living in a nice place and in a nice way. We moved the computer downstairs and that’s helped, too– got the kids out of the game room, anyway, and stopped the competition for who could play the sound louder, the tv or the computer. It feels a lot cozier downstairs because people are actually staying down there now instead of running upstairs immediately. It’s nice.

Somewhere in there, I have to find time to write. But I dunno when. Miss Autism has dental surgery next week and a doctor’s appointment this week, I need to go to Austin for a shopping trip, I need to do a million different things. Sometime, I need to do something for ME . . . but us mommies aren’t too good at that, you know. Occupational hazard, I think.

Wish me luck, yeah?

Game night is back

Ohh, boy, that was a lot of work.

My eyes probably look like this after squinting at miniatures all week.

My eyes probably look like this after squinting at miniatures all week.

I had to delay the start of game nights due to this horrible cold that has had me coughing for three weeks now, but we finally had our inaugural game night of Season 2: Only The Good Die Young.

To get there required hours upon hours of prep work on my part. First I had to find a suitable storyline and get that modified to work with 5e. Then I had to do remodels and paint jobs on the miniatures– a LOT of work went into that. The minis didn’t come out too badly considering it was my first time painting minis, ever, but hours. Hours and hours. Layers and layers of paint. Correcting mistakes. Trying to mix paints. yeowch

Anyway, after that was done, I had to make up character sheets. My printer died, however, so I ended up writing out character sheets on 4×6 index cards, in multicolored Sharpie. Ten character sheets, by hand? A real pain in the arm. Most of the info came with the auto-calculations that the page made (thanks to Dungeon Master Assistance for the great sheets. Wish my printer had just allowed me to print them!) Some of the stuff, though, had to be added in by hand, with me poring over the Player’s Guide for the stats on weapons and weights and weird little things like that. So that took a few hours.

Then there was all the map drawing. We’re adventuring into the Undermountain, and even the entry level is huge. Couldn’t draw it precisely to scale, since my map is only 32×46, but I got it pretty close. The Adorable Baby wanted to help and screamed bloody murder whenever we forced him to stop drawing all over my map in purple, but after another hour or two of baby-wrangling, the map was finally done.

And after all that, there was the music to select (thanks to Tabletop Audio for the atmospheric music and backgrounds.) The house to straighten up. My daughter decorated a cookie cake for us with a lovely beholder. Okay, it was scary looking, but cool. That’s it, up above.

And, last but CERTAINLY not least, I had to get into suitable clothes and makeup for dungeonmastering. I can’t cheerfully kill people without my eyeliner and mascara and perfume. It just gets me in the mood.

And the game went pretty well. A few disruptions from the Tank, who really didn’t want to play this season but DID require more snacks than were provided. The storyline included the characters being “roofied” and kidnapped, so there was some grumbling, in character and out, about the hijacking. They did well, though. They played in character much better than last season, anyway, even if they didn’t notice my nice little touches (like the goblin that escaped them later ending up as a snack for a daunting otyugh. Luckily, they were smart enough to turn around and run when they saw the otyugh.

I’m encouraged. But super tired. It’s a lot of prep work to run a good campaign and the players basically never see it. Which isn’t the point– you want them to have fun, not feel guilty. But, boy, sometimes I wish I could have gotten them into an easier hobby! But nothing’s quite as fun as improv theater at home with random dice to make things interesting.

Everybody wants a water buffalo

Some are fast and some are slow.

Yeah, my brain is not functional today. Call it a couple hours spent in the dentist’s office with Miss Autism and the Adorable Baby. I didn’t have anyone to help me tag-team them, so they tag-teamed me instead.

Something about books, hmm.

Did I mention that the baby likes “Pat the Bunny”?

Yeah, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction.

I’m starting to wonder why I waste my time reading solid 2 and 3 star books when there are so many 5 star books out there that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

This is an important question.

What I’m Watching, early September

Okay, going to be totally honest here. So far, in September, I have watched several episodes of “Octonauts”, “Sophia the First”, and “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West.”

Yeahhhh, that wasn’t what I planned on watching, either.

I began watching an interesting documentary about the fashion industry and the evils it’s guilty of (which are numerous) but one of the main people they were interviewing was TERRIBLE in front of a camera. I’m sure it wasn’t her fault, bless her, but it was horribly distracting to watch her blink and grimace and look away from the camera and twitch. So I only made it about halfway through– but it’s worth the watch, just for the knowledge of how “fast fashion” is ruining our economies and our environment. It’s called “The True Cost.”

Other than that, I have watched nothing. It’s pretty depressing.

But, I have hope. I really want to finish watching the Top 100 movies and this is MY YEAR to do it, darn it. I just have to rope someone into watching them with me. Netflix only has a couple of them on, but I am resourceful. I’m sure I can find them all with a little luck and some Youtube.

I’ll find the list of the ones I still need to see . . . hmm . . . hold on . . .

Here it is, the top 100 movies from the AFI that I have not yet seen (or saw so long ago that they don’t count. Like when I was 6 or something.)

On the Waterfront

It’s a Wonderful Life

2001: A Space Oddessy

The Maltese Falcon

Raging Bull

Dr. Strangelove

Bonnie & Clyde

Mr. Smith goes to Washington

Annie Hall

Midnight Cowboy

Doctor Zhivago-

King Kong (1933)

The Birth of a Nation

A Clockwork Orange

Taxi Driver

The Philadelphia Story

All Quiet on the Western Front



The Manchurian Candidate

An American in Paris


The French Connection

Wuthering Heights (1939)

The Gold Rush


Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)


A Place in the sun


Sullivan’s Travels

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

All the President’s Men

A Night at the Opera

12 Angry Men

Swing Time

Sophie’s Choice

Blade Runner

Lots of stuff there that’s supposed to be really good. So I need to get cracking. 🙂

So, life.

The thing about social media that really keeps me from “succeeding” at it (besides my naturally dour temperament) is that I am generally only interested in blogging and Facebook and Twitter and such when I am NOT writing or creating any unique fiction in my head.

So, when my brain finally kicks into creative mode and story ideas start seeping out of my dreams and onto a page, my blogging gets shot all to hell. I unfriend or block a lot of people on Facebook. And Twitter, hah, that useless orgy of “pay attention to me! I am clever! Look, I can make a saucy tweet!” . . . I just drop that like a hot potato.

Which is good news for my creative mind– it frees me from worrying about creating new content for my blog, from keeping up with whatever memes are making the rounds, and from wasting time trying to “keep up” with social media, something I highly doubt is possible without a cadre of personal assistants, anyway. The creative mind really doesn’t function on a social level– it’s as one-track-mind as a coonhound on a scent. All it can think about is chasing the trail of the tale, so to speak.

I’ve been reading a book this week about how the mind functions (it’s called “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload”) and I’ve taken a few hints out of it– I’ve started organizing my thoughts on index cards, started making an effort to put things in the exact same place every time (like my perpetually lost keys), and generally have been trying to be more mindful of what I ask of my poor overloaded brain cells. I’ve decided NOT to give up on blogging, mostly because I hate having yet another failed blog drifting around on the archived vaults of some huge server somewhere. And also because I like to have a sort of record around, documenting how things were going at a certain point in time.

Connecting, socializing, the neverending tail-chasing of trying to get more likes and friends and followers and schmoozing and getting other authors to link to you to create “synergy” and “buzz” . .  well, not so much. Not at all, really. I have given up on that aspect of my writing life. If I write something and it sells to a publisher and I absolutely must do those things, I will force myself to. In the meantime, I’ll link to what I like and to whom I please, without worrying about the possibility that it may or may not increase my “buzz.”

Okay, so what does this all mean? It means I’ll be organizing my posts by days– Mondays will be “What I’m watching”, Wednesdays will be “What I’m reading”, and Fridays will be “Adventures in Homeschooling and Gaming.” That makes it simpler on me and also keeps up with the general “goal” of the blog.

I can tell you right now that this week’s adventures in homeschooling will be a big fat nothing, as I have a dreadful cold and can barely breathe. Our D&D game was supposed to start this week but a dungeonmaster SHOULD be able to speak and I can barely croak out a word or two right now, so that’s going to have to be cancelled. The kids are basically running around like little savages, playing Minecraft and drinking soda pop because I am way too breathless and exhausted to chase them.

But, life goes on. Maybe now it will go on with a little more organization. Which should free me to do what I really want to be doing, which is working on the short story that’s cluttering my imagination and then moving on to the novel that is waiting to be unfurled. . . . I love it when my mind actually WORKS for once and doesn’t just leave me adrift without ideas. Have to make hay while the sun shines, as they say.