Why Parenting is Harder Now.


Seriously, I’m not whining (well, maybe I am, a little).

But I have facts to back up my case. For this, I will contrast early 80s parents with the parenting that occurs in 2010.

Exhibit One: The infant car seat with its “Budweiser” cover.

1970s: Everyone thinks this is funny, the picture of said infant is framed and hung on the wall, and everyone gets a good laugh.

2010: Picture is posted on Facebook and CPS is called.

Exhibit Two: Parents throw loud, drunken party.

1980s: Kids serve as bartenders, grabbing beers for anyone who asks. They may also learn how to make mai-tais, margaritas, and whisky-sours (though, I have been told, not very well, but the drinks were very strong and I don’t recall anyone caring). Everyone praises parents for having such nice children.

2010: Kids serve as bartenders, someone disapproves, and everyone gets arrested.

Exhibit Three: Parents want alone time, so they send the kids outside to play.

1980s: Kids go across the street, play in a creek infested with cotton mouths, and come back four hours later covered in mud, bug bites, and one has welts from being hit with pellets from her little brother’s slingshot (though why he has a sling shot eludes me). No one thinks a thing of it, though the sister does complain often and loudly about the lack of calamine lotion in the house and demands retribution for the incident with the sling shot.

2010: Kids go to a park, are reported to the police and CPS is called. At the very least, parents get a stern talking-to from police for allowing their children to go to the park unattended. Sling shot is confiscated as a deadly weapon.

Exhibit Four: Kid is weird.

1980s: Teachers say, “Yep, kid is weird, but smart and seems happy enough.” Weird kid hangs out with other weird kids, eventually gets married to a weird (w0)man and they have weird kids, thus perpetuating the weird cycle. But they pay taxes and are happy.

2010: Counselors and speech pathologists get involved, kid is enrolled in social skills groups, but now knows that how (s)he interacts with the world is all wrong and leaves with poor self-esteem. Now tries desperately–and expends an inordinate amount of effort–trying to fit in.

(** My professional advice, unless there is something seriously weird about the kid, leave him alone. For instance, the kid who barks in class and has no friends for a long period may need some help. The quirky, smart kid who has a couple of friends but is never going to win a popularity contest… Just let the kid be weird. Weird is not a disorder.**)

Things are different now. We have more to worry about: actual bullying, cyber-bullying, internet porn, stalkers on the internet, kidnappers, pedophiles, food borne pathogens. We’re inundated with information about what we should do to be good parents, what we shouldn’t be doing as good parents, and the hidden dangers lurking in our cupboards. We’re told that if we do too much for our kids, we’re over-protective helicopter parents (and our kids will suffer for it), but if we don’t do what others think is enough, we’re not making our kids a priority (and our kids will suffer for it).

I don’t know where the happy medium is… I kind of think that no matter what I do, whatever I do won’t be good enough. So I’ll do the best I can and hope they don’t turn out to be pole dancers or pirates.

MCC

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From Mad Cow to the Clap


For Christmas, Husband got me my very own giant microbes. For those of you who don’t follow my Facebook page, in honor of my blog on syphilis, I bought my father a giant syphilis microbe plush toy. It was awesome, though he didn’t know what to make of it (but Baby Brother laughed pretty hard). Well, Husband bought me my own variations, all with some sort of memory for me.

1. Syphilis (of course), to remind me of kindergarten. Because who doesn’t think of kindergarten when they think of syphilis?

2. Mad cow disease, in honor of my time in Germany. While I was on a train heading to Austria (I think; it might have been when we were leaving Austria to get to Paris),  I claimed to have mad cow disease to keep people out of our compartment (this was at the time of the outbreak of mad cow disease in Britain, where I had defiantly eaten hamburger every day. Ironic, now I’m allergic to beef). Each of us had something to drive others away: Jen had her rock hammer, Naomi had her stinky feet (which, incidentally, I don’t remember as being overly stinky. The stench doesn’t stand out in my head anyway, not like Clint’s cologne does), and I had mad cow disease… It basically consisted of me mooing loudly on the one occasion someone stuck his head in our room and practicing frothing at the mouth a lot. I probably looked like I had rabies, but hey, I was twenty-one. Everyone’s obnoxious at twenty-one. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

3. Staph, to remind me of last year’s illness and how, no matter how much I complain, this year actually is better.

4. And finally, he got me the clap, because… well… I think STDs are funny. I suppose that’s only true if you don’t have them, though…

Anyway, I hope you all had a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a joyous Kwanzaa, or a good solstice. I did.

Now it’s time to go play with syphilis.

MCC

Waiting is the Hardest Part


Well, I’ve been asked for an update of what’s happening with the writing.

In short, nothing yet. But the process takes time–lots of time, and it’s only been a few weeks. I don’t expect to hear anything back for another couple of months, if then. Because being honest, while I know these things take time, I still don’t know how much. If I consider how long it takes to hear back the results of contests, I think it’s safe to say that three or four  months probably isn’t outside the range of normal. Some agents promise four weeks, others make no promises, and I’m pretty certain all bets are off at Christmas.

As for whether I’ve done anything else, the answer to that is… No.

I think the holidays are an insane time of year. I think that everyone–agents, writers, publishers, editors–have too much to do, and if I send my stuff off to them, I’m just setting myself up for the slush pile. So I’m going to wait before doing my cold queries until after the new year. I’m thinking late January or early February sounds good, because then they’ll have had time to go through all the email that piled up while they were on vacation. This is what I’ve told myself, anyway. It’s entirely possible that I’m just making excuses for why I need to wait “just a little longer” before sending my stuff out.

At this point, I don’t think I’ll be making any typos to my document. If I change anything, I’m just opening myself up to making more errors and typos, and not really changing the natural of my ms. I think, in this last round of edits, I fixed a couple of typos, and moved two sentences. That’s it. I think it’s as done as I can make it. And if I get some feedback on stuff I need to change, then I’ll change it, but up until then, I need to leave well enough alone.

So for now, I’m in a holding pattern.

MCC

Return of the Demon Child


Well, now that Explorer is up and running again, I can finally access the internet. So now I’m back.

And Demon Boy has returned.

At least he’s only doing this at home, and seems to be handling school pretty well. But the “Yes!”, “NO!”, “Yes!”, “No!” is about to make me insane.

He is Captain Contrary. Whatever I want him to do is the very thing he will decide somehow goes against his moral fiber. When I give him what he wants, he complains. When I deny him what he wants, he complains until I say, “Okay,” and then he decides he doesn’t want it. Stinker.

In our house, we judge tantrums by horror movie screams. Below, you will find the tantrum scale, from least dramatic to most.

1. Low level zombie attack

This entails a lot of moaning, whining, rolling around on the floor.

2. Full blown zombie attack

Louder moaning, not quite yelling, but annoying. Crying like your heart’s being torn out. Sometimes running away–this usually happens in stores. You know, those places where it’s absolutely NOT OKAY to run off.

3. The spring-loaded cat (or, “I’ve just been startled by a cat, but the axe murder is just around the corner”)

Crying, punctuated by an occasional (and unexpected) ear-piercing scream.

4. The Nancy Kerrigan (because really, wasn’t that a horror movie, in and of itself?)

Crying, yelling, lots of shouting “Why?” (or, in Chewey’s case, “NO!”). But, thankfully, no tire irons in sight.

5. “I am currently being killed by an axe murderer.”

I think this one pretty much explains itself.

I’m going over this because Chewey threw a level five fit in the middle of a certain hippy supermarket yesterday (my favorite kind). It was a doozy, apparently over nothing more than his father insisting that he wash his hands.

He started out at a low level zombie, rolling around on the floor of said market. Obnoxious. But seeing as how it has the vegan muffins I like (no, I’m not vegan, but having an allergy to eggs does preclude most baked goods unless I go to specialty stores, and I have yet to master egg-free baking), I wasn’t willing to simply leave.

So I continued to shop.

And we proceeded immediately to level 3, the spring-loaded cat.

By this time, we had had enough, so Husband decided to take Chewey outside to the car, and I would finish shopping with Sea Monkey.

Now, before I go on, I should probably make it very clear: when Chewey is acting up, Sea Monkey is an angel. When Chewey acts up, people actually buy Sea Monkey things, give her free stuff. I’m not joking. She walked out of said market with a flower, a juice box, two smiley face stickers, and a fruit roll-up. People stop us to give her things (we only accept stickers and flowers, unless it’s from someone working at the store). She once walked away from the Salvation Army bell ringer standing in front of Large Chain Store with his bell, despite my rather desperate attempts to give it back. When she’s being perfect and cute (in her little dress, with her waist-length almost-black hair done up in two french braids), she’s a force to be reckoned with.

I am grateful to my husband, because this is the child I kept. Husband walked out with a child who had rapidly progressed to level 5. I could hear him after he went outside.

And that’s when it happened. I suppose it was bound to happen one day.

My husband, the cop, got stopped by a woman who thought Chewey was being kidnapped (I suppose it doesn’t help that he was screaming, “No, Mommy! No! Don’t take me!”).

My husband handled this with more grace than I would have thought, and certainly more than I would have. I probably would have given her a dirty look and walked away. But when the woman asked,

“Excuse me, is this your son?”

Husband responded: “Would I be tolerating this if he wasn’t?”

God bless him. After a minimal exchange, he even showed her a picture of Chewey on his phone at a football game, and everyone went away happy-ish.

And Husband thought this incident was funny, and it is. But it’s embarrassing too, because I used to be one of those “When I have kids, my children will never behave like that” judgmental types.

That was before I had kids, of course. Now, every time I see a kid acting up, I look over at that poor parent and just want to give them a hug. Because I know what it’s like to do the walk of shame out of a store, abandoning groceries, plants, clothes, whatever. I know the looks that other people give you, the “Why can’t you just control your child, you wretched parent?” stares that follow you as you hang your head and walk out of the store.

I never thought that person would be me. I knew all sort of tricks. I can make a room full of preschoolers with autism behave. I have behavior charts, consequence maps, reward systems with a treasure box. I’ve written social stories.  I did all of this with Sea Monkey, and now I’m doing it with Chewey. And I guess I thought that, because I was an easy child (too shy to throw tantrums in public, that’s for sure), at least one of my kids would turn out the same way.

No such luck. I’ve done the walk of shame with Sea Monkey, and now we get to do it with Chewey. And to all of the judgmental people out there, who look at me like I’m the WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD while I walk out of the store with a screaming three year old tucked under my arm, just wait. You’ll be right here with me soon enough. And if you’re lucky enough to have a kid who never makes a fuss in public, well, bully for you. Not everyone is so lucky, and not everyone with a bratty kid is a bad parent.

Over time, I’ve come to realize that sometimes, the best parents have the toughest kids, through no fault of their own. Some days, when I’m tired and cranky and have a tantruming child–but I can’t leave because I really-really-really need toilet paper–it’s all I can do to keep it together long enough to get to my car without bursting into tears. I’m just doing the best I can, but I’m not perfect.

And neither are you.

MCC

Writing demons


You may have noticed I haven’t blogged in a while. I think it’s been just over a week now, and I had very good intentions to keep up with the blog, writing in it at least three time a week, if not every day.

Alas, I have met the writing demons.

Between the kids and work–and work’s been a nightmare–I’m finding it increasing difficult to write a coherent sentence, so I took a couple of days off. Didn’t write a thing. Watched a movie, watched some TV, caught up on laundry.

For the last 14 months, I have written something every day. Every. Single. Day. No exceptions. I think that’s how I managed to work full time and finish two manuscripts (both within the first ten months), and nearly finish a third in that time. I”m really only about 10-20,000 words away from finishing number three. And I’m about 30,000 words into book 2’s sequel.

But I’m finding it hard to finish… well, anything. Suddenly, after my brief time off, the writing demons have reared their ugly heads and I can’t seem to finish Book 3, and since I’ve gotten a partial request on it, I need to. I shouldn’t be working on anything else. I need to focus.

But I can’t. I don’t think I can scrap 70,000 words… The thing is almost done, and it really is a pretty decent piece of work. I just have to connect my two halves, and I even know what happens. I’ve written four or five 1,o00 word scenes, and yet, I can’t seem to connect them. So I tink with what I’ve already written on my second manuscript (but the first one I’m submitting), and rewrite the first three chapters of this manuscript. And I write random scenes that I may wind up scrapping because I just can’t figure out a way to fit them in.

I don’t know if what I’m experiencing is really writer’s block, or if it’s a milder version of it. I can still write, I still have ideas floating around in my head, but… I’m worried I won’t be able to finish this book. And it really is good. I like my characters, I like the plot, I have a great villain… I even like my characters together. But all of a sudden, I’m having trouble connecting with them, which I find terribly annoying.

So I thought I would go ahead and write my synopsis. And, like its predecessor, it is delightfully craptastic, and I can’t seem to finish that either. But my query letter is pretty freaking fantastic, if I do say so myself.

I wish I knew what was wrong with me. But then, I ran into issues writing this time last year, so maybe the problem is December, and not writer’s block.

MCC

Writing Update


Well, I finally did it.

I sent off my partial manuscript to an agent, along with the synopsis that was discussed in an earlier post.

I was going to talk about my feelings in this regard, but then I realized… I don’t have any. Zip, zero, nadda.

A part of me thinks I must be stressed, because I’m listening to angry German punk, and I typically don’t break out the Nine Inch Nails or the German punk unless I’m angry or bitter or stressed. Another part of me is so certain of rejection (because everyone gets rejected in the beginning in this business) that maybe I’m simply anticipating that and so there’s nothing to get overly worried about? Maybe I’m experiencing the feeling of “nothing ventured, nothing gained?” I mean, if I never send it off and never risk getting rejected, I’ll never get published, right? 

And maybe I’m just experiencing the relief of having done it. My partial is off, and an agent may or may not read it. Said agent was very nice, by the way. When I met with her, I found her to be direct but not cruel or self-absorbed… She knew we were all nervous and was nice about it. So if I’m rejected it’s not because she’s a bitch or can’t recognize talent… It’s because either a) what I wrote isn’t for her, or b) what I wrote isn’t up to snuff. I’d like to think that I wrote a good book, and I’d like to think that she will like it, but… Well, even Grisham and J.K. Rowling got rejected. Being rejected puts me in some pretty esteemed company.

Granted, when I get the reply, whether yay or nay, let’s face it: Husband will have to read the email. If it’s a no, and there are comments, he’ll have to read those too, and then tell me about them. Me and my diva-like tendencies. I have a hard time reading the comments when I finaled in a contest, even. I always do, all of them, even the ones where I know it’s going to hurt… I just always make Husband read them first. He’s good at that.

Maybe I’ll be nervous in a few months, when I’ll start thinking that I “should have gotten a response by now.” Yes, I know agents are super busy people, but I’ll start to worry that my masterpiece is sitting in someone’s spam folder, or is out in the ether, or that it accidentally got deleted. I will come up with all sorts of reasons why I should contact the agent in question and ask, but even I know it’s bad form to do that. Of course she got it. My brain knows that, but, like many writers, the neuroses run strong in me, and I’ll start coming up with all sorts of reasons why she didn’t get it, and then I’ll waste precious time worrying about it, when there’s nothing that I can or should do about it.

I should start writing articles about language development for parenting magazines. At least then, I know what I’m talking about. But the query letter and synopsis stuff? Yeah, I don’t have the foggiest notion what I’m doing. I just wrote a book. I have done research on the internet and read three different books, and each thing I read said something different about how to format the synopsis, query letter, etc. I just don’t know what to believe, so I went with the one I thought sounded best. It could be bunk and the poor agent will say,

“Oh, the poor dear just doesn’t have a clue.” (Which, actually, is true)

MCC

Ah, ‘Tis the Season…


The next person who tells me, “I live my life by Christian principles” or some other nonsense is going to get punched in the face (not literally, but I’m sure I’ll think of something witty and pithy to say).

This is not a diatribe against Christians, not in the least. Some of my best friends are devoutly Mormon, Catholic, etc. No, this is a diatribe against people who feel the need to tell me about what good Christians they are. And I’ve found that those who feel the need to tell me about their good Christian values are either trying to sell me something, get me to vote for them, or have done something truly mean-spirited and want me to go away happy.

It’s as if, by claiming to be a good Christian, it somehow makes what they did OK. As if they don’t have to own their words because they’re a “good Christian” and would never do anything hurtful. Why can’t said good Christians, instead of trying to justify their good intent–or lack of ill intent–with their faith, simply say “I’m sorry” and actually mean it?

My truly devout friends, the ones I know for certain try to live a Christian life, don’t seem to feel this same driving desire to espouse their beliefs as a means to get out of trouble or sell me something. I don’t mind hearing about religion–I actually enjoy discussing it. I think church and religion play an important part in many people’s lives. For those actually striving to live a life based on (insert religion here) principles, they don’t tell me how they try to do it, they just do it.

So, if you’re trying to live a good life, just do that. Try. And when you fail, don’t talk about the life you’re trying to lead, just freaking apologize so we can all move on. And if you don’t want to apologize, then don’t. Own who are you. Seriously. As Martin Luther said, if you’re going to sin, sin boldly. I always liked that quote.

Because when you tell me you’re a good Christian, and then you turn around and say something truly hateful in the next breath, I don’t believe anything you say. But I do hate you a little bit more.

It’s people like you who give all Christians a bad name.

MCC