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Archive for July, 2009

thinky thots thursday

Better late than never, this week from the kids:

“PEOPLE. I have. it. under. CONTROL.”

“If I just had three arms, I could lift this table.”

“Mama! Help! I have fingersnails!”

“Oh, this bwoose? Well… I had a little bit of an askoodint.”

“Mama, are chill pills really cold?”

“I think what you need is a tall, tall, so tall cake. With cake. Right?”

And, my personal favorite: “Are we people?”

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Shriekeuse awoke Sunday morning earlier than Moses, shaking and muttering about paint coming alive, and when I worriedly poked her with my finger, sizzled audibly. By Monday she was still feverish and hallucinating so in to the doctor we went. Turns out she’s got some kind of infection and pending test results has been ordered on the kiddie version of bed rest.

Thus far she’s read all of the Magic Treehouse books, War and Peace, Ulysses, and the collected works of Proust, as well as written a comparative analysis of Ramona Quimby and Mrs. Dalloway, so we had to move on to tv and videos. She then exhausted PBS and our supply of Pixar DVDs and so, I’ve resorted to allowing viewings of that jaundiced, porous monstrosity who wears right-angled trousers and dwells in an underwater bromeliad. Talk about delirium: that show is whack.

So in addition to playing Juice Fairy and spooning pudding down her tender little throat, I’m still suffering a disturbing malaise of my own, the details of which I won’t go into save to say I’ve not spent this much time gazing at bathroom tiles since fifth grade when I spent every lunch recess for a year hiding in a toilet stall from the mean girl posse.

Anyway, while our daily routine involving things like actually leaving the house has been severely truncated the last two weeks, I have had an abundance of time in which to contemplate my workload – writing work, that is, not housework, though I’ve stewed over that, too – and create mad schemes to generate more. I sent a cheerily groveling note to an old colleague offering my services, four pitches to various magazines, three pitches to various online entities, one project estimate to a non-profit, grumbled about old/new media hypocrisy in my last post, and even read all the pissy, garment-rending Tweets of Drama from the BlogHerSphere, waiting for an opportunity to tweet a nugget of witty goodness that would on its merit alone catapult me to instant bloggy fame.

What do I have to show for my efforts? A date for a networking sort of coffee. So much for the mad scheming. Not to mention the income. The income needed for private school tuition this fall (I swear I will write that post soon, I really will). (And I should mention, it is not my intention that this blog earn money, but I do seekritly wish for stats that indicate more than a handful of people find my writing worth reading. It’s the emotional payment that counts, here. The egoBucks.)

So. What do you do when you feel at your lowest, like you’re trying and working just as hard as everyone else but the net effect is hamster wheelish in its utter circuitousness? Other than sink moodily into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, I mean. Pep talk, anyone?

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bold as brass

Last week the kerfuffle surrounding Momdot’s PR Blackout Challenge unfolded across the mommyblogger metaverse like so many pop-up tents in a hurricane. Calling on mom bloggers to resist “the allure of giveaways, reviews, and blog trips,” for one week in August, the challenge urged bloggers to return to “naked, raw” blog posts about family, work, and real life, instead of stress-inducing, deadline-driven product reviews.

Reactions ranged from (paraphrasing) “hey, wtf, I’m just providing a service to other parents by reviewing products” to “if bloggers are the new guard of media, they should learn some basic journalism ethics” to “what PR blackout? can’t you see I’m busy attending to the worst. diaper. malfunction. ever?!”

It could hardly have been a coincidence that the post provoking such a flurry of outrage and opinion preceded the BlogHer conference by a mere ten days. Being a stranger to the BlogHer circuit myself (I’ve never been to a conference or joined the web site or hosted ads on my site) I can’t say much about it other than this quote directly from the BlogHer site (bold text is mine):

“BlogHer ’09 will bring bloggers from every corner of the blogosphere together for hands-on learning, rich discussions, opportunities to meet with the brands that support them and plentiful networking opportunities.”

That seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? Reading some of the Tweets from BlogHer attendees preparing for the conference, one could make the inference that some were going purely for the free tote bags, booze and parties while others were going for the networking and new business opportunities and still others viewed the conference as the perfect venue for accomplishing both. But whatever the goals of the attendees, it couldn’t have been lost on the people behind Momdot that their controversial post would lob an accusatory grenade slap in the middle of the BlogHer continuum. One could even make the argument that such an action was a pretty spectacular PR stunt itself.

As someone who equates the birth of new media with the death of content, I’m happy enough for people to take a few minutes to think about what they’re posting and why they’re posting it. Many mom bloggers, myself included, are seeking community and commiseration as we navigate the myths and near-impossible standards of post-feminism parenting. After all, it’s not everyone who wants to listen to us complain about poop or the temporary loss of identity that comes with parenting small children. And if some of us choose to supplement our blogs and earn income by hosting ads or score free swag and help other parents find product-driven bliss by doing reviews and giveaways, well, who’s to judge, exactly?

Old-school journalists, that’s who. Shilling for swag is a big no-no, and for good reason. Kickbacks can unduly skew a review towards the positive, which is dishonest and unfair to unsuspecting readers. Yet: traditional media, with all its ethical high ground, is still essentially under the dictatorship of the free market. Stories at reputable newspapers, magazines and television are accepted or rejected or modified all the time out of deference to advertisers – or the readership likely to attract advertisers. It’s a diffuse correlation and a complex equation, sure, but while the Old Guard is up in arms about ethics, and rightly so to a degree, they should also remember who butters their bread, and indulge the newbies a few missteps.

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thinky thots thursday

This week from the kids:

“That’s not a rocket. It’s a pointy mushroom.”

“Hey, did I have breakfast a few years ago?”

“Watch out for that dinosaur. He will try to friend you. But then? He’ll bite your hands off.”

“The sound comes from the sounder.”

“You can be my crew, Mama, ok?”

“I. Am. A. Robot. I. Going. A. Poop. On. You. Danger. Warning. Poop.”

“North is up. How are you supposed to go up? Fly?”

“This is how you put on underweer. First the penis, then the legs….ow!”

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Nothing sends me into an apoplectic fit quite like the atonal strains of “it’s not faaaiiirrr” or worse yet, “I’m booorrrrrred.” My long-suffering daughter, she of more books than shelf space, five friends in a 2-block radius, three different summer camps plus swimming, and an overflowing cupboard of art supplies, yes that long-suffering daughter, she doth complaineth way too fucking much.

The problem is not, as you might believe, that I’m driven off the cliffs of distraction by her whiny laments: no – well yes but that’s beside the point – no, the problem is that I don’t know how to respond in that graceful, oh-hurrah-a-teachable-moment way this situation seems to call for. I should know that summer days are long and dull, and only things like sprinklers and popsicles and county fairs and endless maternal attention have enough gravity to pull one up and out of juvenile ennui. I should be able to gaily wave egg cartons, pipe cleaners and poster paint with gentle witticisms about thankfulness and intellectual wealth. And yet.

Much of my parenting requirements involve empathy, and usually I’m pretty decent at it. This, however, requires an empathy I simply don’t have. Oh, you’re bored? Well! Why don’t you catch up on the laundry, or clean the bathroom, or cook a gourmet, vegetarian, gluten-free, toddler-friendly meal, or write 2 articles and 3 pitches, or fix that thingy in the car that needs fixing? And oh? It’s not fair that your brother got to go to the park this morning while you were at gymnastics camp? Well! Let’s cancel all your not-inexpensive activities for the summer so you won’t miss anything exciting here at home!

No, rummaging around in my empathy compartment only comes up with biting sarcasm and seething resentment. Which does not exactly encourage the wonder and innocence of childhood.

Prostrating myself on the therapeutic sofa for a moment, I vaguely recall parenting magazine stories that cheerfully advise “getting down on her level” and “taking a few minutes to do a craft project or read a story together” and oh-ho let’s not forget “use a reflective statement such as I hear that you are bored, what can we do to channel your energy? to validate and redirect her feeeeelings.”

Well bollocks, my inner martyred narcissist hisses, she should just quietly entertain herself so I can do the nine gumptillion important grown-up things that need immediate doing! Oh for a few rows of peas to hoe or a basket of mending. If we lived in pioneer days you can bet she wouldn’t be complaining of boredom – she’d be thrilled to have even five minutes to play with a balloon made of pig intestine.

But alas, we live in these modern times, with WebKinz and Polly Pockets and more than a hundred Boxcar Children books to blitz through, not to mention – gasp! – the strictly ornamental tv cable snaking innocuously out of our living room wall.

It occurs to me, writing this, that the problem is not one of nothing to do. It is one of nothing useful to do. What is more validating than being a contributor, a cog in the great wheel, a sort of familial proletariat? My daughter will be the first to tell you the answer is certainly not some whacko communistic ideal. Her ideal is the archetypal ideal, involving chaise longues, bon-bons, and some sort of intravenous, streaming Pixar setup. Somewhere between the two lies peace.

Maybe I can get her to draw us a damn map.

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thinky thots thursday

Out of the mouths of those wee chubby-cheeked creatures known as children:

“I’m ready for my appletizer now.”

“My tummy hurts. It hurts because there’s a baby inside.”

“I need some money… I know – I can sell rubber bands!”

“Mama. You can’t just give me ONE. You have to give me ALL. To make sense.”

“Do I live in the sky?”

“Grownups need wine. And kids need fruit. That’s how it is. I KNOW.”

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thinky thots thursday

This week from the kids:

“Oh! Say hi to my peenie!”

“I going to be the boy mermaid. The bad boy mermaid.”

“Oh cool, Mama, look! Your hair is turning white!”

“I’M NOT YELLING! I CAN’T HEAR YOU BECAUSE – what? Oh.”

“What’s that fruit? Is that a plump? I love the plumps! Can I has it?”

“But I’m only a little bit naked.”

“Watch me! I’m doing the fashion dance!”

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