Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Literary Mama Blog Book Tour

I'm pleased to be here at the final stop on Literary Mama's Blog Book Tour. I'm in good company today with Stacey Greenberg, editor and publisher of popular momzine Fertile Ground also blogging on the book. Check out her blog to read what she has to say about this great collection of mamacentric literature. You might also get a chuckle or flash a knowing grin after reading her entry from earlier this week.

Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined (Seal Press, 2005) is a book with a mission. Editors Andrea J. Buchanan and Amy Hudock set out to prove that women can be both procreative and creative- that it is possible to combine a maternal and a literary life.

The proof is in the pudding, er, pages. They serve up a rich and deeply satisfying helping of stories, essays and poems that will leave many maternally inclined readers hungry for Volume II.

As a regular visitor to the Literary Mama Web site I was pleased to find some of my favorites like Andi's "The Plant" and Nicole Cooley's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Being a Mother and a Poet" in a conveniently portable book. I also enjoyed some new essays like Lizbeth Finn Arnold's take on a visit to Walden Pond, "Out of the Woods". I even liked the poetry- something I never bother to read online.

But this book goes beyond enjoyable and pleasing. Literary Mama's mission is to showcase work that is "too long, too complex, too ambiguous, too deep, too raw…for other publications". In that vein the poem Miscarriage of an English Teacher by Megeen R. Mulholland or Heidi Raykeil's essay about the death of her infant son, Johnny. (Raykeil's lighter fare can be found in her "Naught Mommy" piece as well as her column at LM and in her new book by the same name.)

Sure, you can read all of this and more for free at the website, but buy the book. You can read it in the car, in bed, and dare we suggest you head to the bathroom for some defecontainment (time spent in the bathroom reading while feigning some sort of intestinal ailment so that your family will leave alone for a change).

Literary Mama makes a great Mother's Day gift, especially when accompanied by a few child-free hours to lounge around and read it in the location of your choice. In fact, to avoid any misunderstanding on your special day (the one where you get to host a brunch in your honor) I recommend you head to the bookstore today, purchase this book and have it gift-wrapped. Then bring it home and hand it to your partner with instructions to return the package to you on the appointed Sunday in May. Sure, this eliminates the element of surprise, but, trust me, that can be a good thing.

When the Student is Ready the Teacher will Appear


In my previous post I discussed how a story written and published by a free-spirited, childless friend raised my ire. Initially I was envious that he had time to make up fanciful stories while I was bogged done in the busyness of caring for two young boys. But just hours after reading his story, I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote my own.

Eventually I recognized that my childless friend has responsibilities and commitments like the rest of us. He writes and makes art because he wants to; he makes time for these things. I realized that nobody, certainly not DH, was going to sit me down with a crisp new journal or laptop computer and volunteer to watch the kids so I could write. If I wanted to pursue writing I would have to make it a priority. My writing time might consist of the 15 minutes between completing errands and preschool pickup or those quiet moments after everyone in the house has been tucked in for the night. But if I want to do it, it is up to me to make it happen.

It was such a thrill to see my first piece on line and then later get paid for some of my work. Just this week I have my debut in a glossy magazine. I'm delighted to be a part of the Literary Mama Blog Book Tour. Come back later to read my thought about this fabulous collection of stories, essays and poems.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Part III: The Land of Young Children

In preparation for my role in the Literary Mama Blog Book Tour I am recounting my history with Andi Buchanan one of the book's editors.

Around the time I'd decided to take my writing more seriously, I ran into an old friend. This friend was a guy and that alone made him a novelty in my world which was almost exclusively peopled with other stay-at-home moms and lots of young children. But even more exotic than simply being male, he was single, childless and an artist. What kind of life did he lead? I envisioned an idealized version- one in which he could do whatever he damn well pleased whenever the hell he felt like it. As for my life, well, I was busy with two spirited little boys and devoted most of my time and energy to family matters.

He told me about a children's book he'd put out, a book called Dancer. It's a fanciful story about a character that travels to magical lands and comes away with an understanding and acceptance of his true nature. It was cool and all, but after I read it, I felt very agitated.

How nice it must be to have time to hang out and making up fanciful stories. What a joy to have such a carefree life and spend your time making art and talking long walks, I thought. But some of us have young children that require dressing and feeding and butt-wiping and washing, not to mention constant supervision. Some of us don't have time to sit down and write silly stories.

But at 2:00 AM that morning I woke up, still agitated and started writing my own silly story. My story, "The Land of Young Children" was a direct response to his Dancer. In my fanciful story the main character visited magical lands like the Territory of Dirty Clothes and the Dark Place Under the Kitchen Table. I was thrilled when, just a few weeks later Andi posted it on her Phillymama site.

Click here to read his story; scroll below to read mine.

The Land of Young Children
(followed by a never-before seen bonus book group discussion guide)

There once there lived a young woman known as Student. She sought to learn about life, the universe and everything. After she realized she could make her own way in the world, she packed and repacked her things as she trotted the globe in search of new adventures. At first she required a trunk and many suitcases to contain her life, but over time she learned to fit it neatly into one backpack.

“I am Traveler!” she announced. Traveler set out and experienced many wonderous things, enjoying the company of an ever-changing cast of companions. But eventually she found the Best One of All and settled into a new kind of life.

Years later her body thickened with child. Her belly danced of its own volition. It was her greatest adventure yet.

“I am Mommy!” she cried, entering a world of hugs and snuggles; tickles and giggles; small, naked bodies with shallow, sweet breath. It took time to acclimate to the unfamiliar terrain, but eventually she learned to navigate the Land of Young Children.

In this land she found a mysterious place where the sun never set on a mountain of dirty clothes generated by her small family.

“I am Laundress!” she shouted as she tossed in yet another load. She sorted and folded and matched up tiny pairs of socks. Although she did not iron, she pre-treated stains and followed care labels to the best of her ability. Laundress worked without fail to keep her family in clean clothes. Still the mountain grew and grew.

Seeking refuge from her toil, she left the Territory of Dirty Clothes, but the next task was even more onerous. Just as the sun never set on the mountain of laundry, it never shined on this strange site. She was in the Dark Place Under the Kitchen Table. The linoleum landscape was marred by congealed oatmeal, puddles of milk and crumbs of all shapes, sizes and colors.

“I am Maid!” she howled in anguish as she repeatedly swept and scrubbed the floor. Maid performed her duties often and with great heed, but she recalled from her days as Student that the universe moves unavoidably toward a state of disorder. There was no way to escape the laws of physics, but if she did not tend to the mess then surely some creepy-crawly insect would. So she dropped to her knees and labored for hours on end.

As she scrubbed away in the Dark Place she heard a cry that made her shudder. It was the call of a young child. She followed the foreboding sound to the Pale of the Potty.

“I am Wiper of Bottoms!” she wailed as she navigated yet another spot where the sun did not shine. She forced her way through unpleasant smells and indescribable sights. Wiper helped her children avoid rashes and develop a good sense of personal hygiene.

Then came the day she signed up for a karate class. She made her way to a dojo at the edge of the land. Her uniform, a soft cotton gi, was the first white item in her wardrobe in over five years. She trained and perspired without concern for the growing mountain of laundry. She eyed her clammy classmates relieved that she would not have to bathe their sweaty bodies at the end of the day.

“I am Kim Possible!” she proclaimed. “I can do anything!” She likened herself to the cute, powerful, midriff-baring cheerleader/crime-fighter her children watched on TV. Except that after two pregnancies she could not envision exposing her midriff. Kim Possible’s positive outlook displaced the gloominess of Laundress, Maid and Wiper.

After class she made her way to the border, the place of books and music, to read or write or talk with a friend. Kim Possible returned home by 10:00 because in the Land of Young Children the sons rose unpredictably-often before the sun itself. Once home she nestled next to the Best One of All and slept peacefully.

Just as birds began to chirp, a small body bolted across the hardwood floors and hoisted itself into bed, smothering her with hugs and kisses; awaiting snuggles and tickles. A soft, sweet voice demanded that she turn toward it-close enough so they breathed each other’s air.

“Mommy, your breath stinks!” the little one exclaimed. Thus began a new day in which Mommy was once again Student learning about life, the universe and everything.

Bonus Book Group Discussion Guide (feel free to leave your responses in the comment section of this blog):
1) What is your most memorable experience from your days as Student or Traveler?
2) What elements of this story give you hope that Traveler will re-emerge some day?
3) What is your favorite laundry tip?
4) How does your advanced degree help you as you clean house?
5) At what age should a child be responsible for wiping his or her own behind?

When she’s not caring for her boys or doing laundry Kim Moldofsky is a life/creativity coach for moms. She can be reached at mom@moldofsky.com.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Mother Shock

Part II
In preparation for my role in the Literary Mama Blog Book Tour I am recounting my history with one of the book's editors, Andi Buchanan.

In 2003, I was delighted to win a copy of Andi's new book, Mother Shock. (See the previous entry for more details and my embarrassing mama-moment that won a copy of her book.) Although my boys were 2 and 4 and I'd already passed thru the Mother Shock phase, I thoroughly enjoyed her book- it was like a conversation with a good friend. Her writing is thoughtful, honest, and quite often funny as well. Mother Shock has become one of my favorite gifts for new moms.

Between the time I entered the contest and the time I received the book I'd completed my first piece: The Land of Young Children. I submitted it to Andi and she liked it enough to post on her site, www.phillymama.com.

Stop back here tomorrow to read the story and the story behind the story.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Aspiring Writer

In a few days I'm going to be part of the Literary Mama Blog Book Tour. Co-editor Andrea Buchanan rightly figures that many moms are unlikely to make it to the bookstore at 7:30 on a cold winter night for a reading, but these same moms might be surfing the net once the kiddos are in bed and will happily read about her book and maybe even go buy it at their convenience. I think it's a great idea and not just because I got a free copy of the book to review.

As I was preparing for the book review I got to thinking about the path my writing has taken and the role that important role Andi has played in it. This is an especially fun time for me to look back on my journey as I just had my first piece published in a glossy magazine.

In 2003, I decided to take my writing-which mostly consisted of sparse journaling-more seriously. This meant that I would record my ideas in a notebook or on my computer on a regular basis and also create some finished pieces that I would then (gulp) try to get published.

I had some long-term thoughts about a book, but my more immediate goal was to have an essay in Brain, Child magazine. Even that seemed a bit ambitious for someone whose had never been published, so I looked through my back issues to investigate the publishing credits of their contributors. Andi's website, phillymama.com, received a few mentions and when I checked it out I was impressed by its content. Plus, Andi was holding a contest! In honor of Mother's Day she was giving away a free copy of her new book, Mother Shock. Contestants were asked to write about an embarrassing mama moment and site visitors would vote on their favorite. The mama with the most votes would win.

Well, it wasn't the most democratic e-voting process as there was no limit to the number of votes a person could make. But I have some pride. I only voted for myself once---a day. I also urged all my friends to vote. We're from Chicago, the town that invented the idea of voting early and often. Needless to say, I won!

Here's my winning entry:

One morning I put my two boys, ages 1 and 3, in the car after a trip to Target to get a pick up an antibiotic for an ear infection. The little one was playing with my keys. He chomped on my keyless entry remote and locked the doors. I took away the keys clicking the remote once to unlock my door, and then tossed the set in the front seat. I shut my baby’s door and went around to the other side to strap in my big boy. To my shock his door was locked!

Panicked, I turned to a family friend that I had just passed on my way through the parking lot. I told her I needed to make a call because I locked my children in the car. We debated whether I should call 911 or my husband who worked nearby. It was a cool spring morning so we decided to call my husband, who immediately dashed off to rescue us.

I went back to my little captives. D’oh! I realized that my big boy, Smartypants, was not yet strapped in. I coached him to climb to the front seat and unlock the doors freeing everyone. Hurray for my little hero! I immediately called my husband’s office, but he was already long gone.

The boys and I strolled around the parking lot for about 15 minutes waving happily at my confused husband upon his arrival. He was very calm and cool about the whole ordeal.

Hours later as I reflect on the morning’s events, I realized that not only was my big boy unstrapped, but that the driver’s door was unlocked throughout the entire episode!

Shortly after this incident we both got cell phones.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Super Taster

You've heard of the band They Might be Giants?

On their children's CD NO they have a song about John Lee, super taster, a real-life superhero. A man who can't drink coffee or beer for their bitter tastes, but loves sweet treats like ice cream and pie. "John Lee, super taster, tastes more than you do. Everything has a flavor, some flavors are too much."

I instantly recognized myself in the song. I am a super taster. As such, I'm very sensitive to strong, bitter tastes and even the slightest hit of hot spices can set me off.

Granted, I come from a home in which the most exotic spice to grace our food was sea salt. When I was in college and overheard some in the dorm café ask for pepper I was stunned. I always thought pepper was on the table just to keep salt company. In my 18 years, I'd never actually seen anyone use it.

So ultimately, my sensitivity to spices is an unfortunate combination of nature and nurture. Unfortunate because DH loves spicy food. On our second date he took me for some exotic, cuisine. It was hot and spicy and I couldn't handle it after about two bites. DH was incredibly disappointed in my lack of fortitude; I didn't sleep with him that night either. Frankly, I'm not sure why he even asked me out again.

The other day our family had a lovely trip to Devon Avenue and stopped to eat at Indian Garden. The lunch buffet was about $9 per adult and kids ate free-what a deal! And while the smells were enticing and the food was tasty, I just couldn't hack it. I mostly stuck with the nan (bread) and water.

"Are you okay?" My friend asked midway through the meal, "your face is all red."

"You should feel her nose. It gets really cold when she eats spicy food," volunteered DH as he closed in to touch it.

"And when our mom eats spicy food her nose sweats," the boys giddily announced to the entire restaurant.

No one said being a superhero was easy.

Look for my essay "Super Taster" (musings on coffee and kids music) in the VOICE section of the March issue of North Shore Magazine.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Guest Blogger: Eleonora di Liscia

We were taking about friends last night, Mr. Smartypants and I. He gets along well with his peers and is included in playground games and whatnot, but he so longs for a best friend. I have to admit I was a bit saddened the couple of times I've shown up for lunchroom duty only to find him eating alone. I made the mistake of mentioning this to my mother, who practically broke down in tears when I told her. Not wanting to turn my (my mother's?) issues into my child's issue, I checked in with him and his teachers and the general consensus was that he didn’t seem too bothered about dining solo. In other words, don't meddle.

But we all want friends… don’t we? My friend Eleonora di Liscio shares a story of bravery and friendship below. It's a nice piece to share with your young ones. (And then come back here and leave a comment to share their thoughts!)


By Eleonora di Liscia

The Brave Girl did NOT chase a lion away from camp, thereby saving everyone inside from becoming lion lunch.

The Brave Girl did NOT pull a family's pet rabbit out of a burning house.

The Brave Girl did NOT climb a mountain.

And she didn't fly a rocket ship to the moon.

The Brave Girl did NOT lead a team of scientists on an expedition to Antarctica.

Nor did she travel under the sea inside a giant bubble to study Anglerfish.

The Brave Girl did NOT walk a tightrope at the circus.

So what, might you ask, did the Brave Girl do?

When the neighborhood children wrestled me to the ground on the crosswalk, pulled my hair and stole my shoe, the Brave Girl handed me back my shoe.

When I sat alone in the lunchroom cafeteria while carrots sailed over my head, the Brave Girl asked if she could join me.

When the kids at school threw wet mud at me, the Brave Girl handed me a towel.

When every girl in class except me was invited to Jessica Lee's house to play marbles, the Brave Girl came to my house and she brought an extra big bag of marbles with my favorite shade of turquoise.

But the bravest thing the Brave Girl did is when no one else would be one, the Brave Girl was my friend.

Eleonora di Liscia is the mother of a 10 year old daughter, Bridget. When not writing and parenting, she is a real estate and estate planning attorney. I feel compelled to add that she's also a magical baker and has written some wickedly funny satires about community happenings.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bah Lovebug

I am happy to introduce to you HCD's first-ever guest blogger. And, surprise- our blogger is a man! Welcome Prescott Carlson, co-creator and editor of The Imperfect Parent. If you're looking for advice on a sticky parenting issue, well, keep searching, but if you're looking for some comic relief or honest toy reviews head on over.

In addition to his own witty take on parenting, the site has funny pieces from popular writers such as
Stacey Greenberg, the creator of the zine Fertile Ground: For People who Dig Parenting. On Feb. 28 Stacey and I will be participating in the Literary Mama Blog Book Tour-check back for details.

Heeeeere's Prescott!

Bah, Lovebug

I'll admit it -- I'm an absolute Scrooge when it comes to Valentine's Day.

Actually, any of the "forced-celebration-for-no-reason" holidays -- New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, et al, have absolutely no appeal to me. But for some reason Valentine's Day grates the most on my nerves out of the whole bunch.

I'm sure it has to do with the fact that I've been married for ten years. To me, Valentine's Day is for newly minted couples and young lovers -- those that need to confirm their adoration and passion through baubles, flowers, and expensive dinners. After a decade of waking up next to the same person, you start to discover a different level of affirmations -- a pleasant surprise here, an unspoken thought conveyed through a mere knowing look there. Gestures not as flamboyant as dropping $500 at Charlie Trotter's, but I would argue infinitely more meaningful.

Which is why we will probably spend tonight eating sloppy joes with the kids and snuggling on the couch watching "American Idol". (Before you pity my poor wife, you'll be happy to know that there may be such a thing as soul mates. I am in a relationship where both of us have forgotten our anniversary several times -- "Honey, what's the date today? July 12th? Oops, we did it again..." -- and she holds a similar disdain for Cupid and his Hallmark minions.)

So ladies, my plea to you on this day of the patron saint of lovers, if you've found yourself married to a man who gets up with the kids and keeps them quiet so you can sleep until noon, presents you with flowers upon returning from a trip to the grocery store, instinctively orders your favorite when bringing home Chinese take-out -- in other words, all the stuff needed to maintain a happy, harmonious household -- cut him some slack if a 2 dozen rose bouquet doesn't show up on your doorstep.

And for you guys who don't do these things and have a partner that looks forward to Valentine's Day just so you'll do something damn romantic for a change, step up to the plate, will ya? It will take a lot of pressure off of the rest of us.

Prescott Carlson is the co-creator and editor of The Imperfect Parent. His name has appeared on the cover of The New Yorker, Harper's and Parenting magazine.
Right there on the subscription label.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Keeping Warm on Valentine's Day

How are couples keeping warm this Valentine's Day?

Well, according to a slick mailer and product sample I received from the folks who make K-Y Gel, couples across the country will be staying warm--and steaming up the windows with the help of K-Y Warming Ultra-gel.

Wait, did I say I received this? It came to my house, but in the name of one of my sisters-in-law.

This is not the first time K-Y has tried to ease itself into new markets. Read an old salon.com article on the topic here.

On a related note, I have a mom-friend who swears, that the Sybaris, one of those upscale "love hotels" that rents rooms in 4-hour blocks of time, has done wonders for her marriage. She raves about it so much that when we received a postcard from the establishment that would save 20% the "afternoon rate" I had almost dropped my reservations about making a reservation. But then I turned the postcard over…and saw that it was addressed to my 65 year-old neighbors! (Hey, that's my second sexagenarian joke this year.)

I once heard that private investigators stake out the parking lot of the Sybaris because it's a fertile ground for people having affairs. So when I saw this headline at Yahoo this morning, I thought it tied my blog entry together nicely.

I'd better get going. A few minutes ago I was asking DH what happened to our special little sample item, but he might have had the idea that I wanted to do more than just blog about it....

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

New Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Blogorrhea

I noticed this word today at chronicbabe and surfed around until I found a few reasonable definitions:

An unusually high volume of output of article on a blog.
Meaningless ranting and raving on a blog.
Excessive writing about the tedious events of one's life on one's blog.

DH suggests cleaning the house as a cure for blogorrhea, but that sounds more like a cause to me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Here's Something Different

Now here's the kind of chick stuff one would expect to see on a blog called hormone-colored days…tampon bowling! Check it out- if you get over a certain score you can win an I-Pod.

I thought I posted this rather discretely, but in the couple of nights since I put it up Mr. Smartypants has been begging, "Mom, will you please let me play tampon bowling now?"

I just hope he's not mentioning this at school.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Happy Birthday Rachel

My friend Rachel just turned 40. Her plan to take her many friends to the Baja Peninsula to celebrate never came to fruition—something about really liking us, but not wanting to go into debt for us. Instead, she had one heck of a party at her house last night.

I think it's great the way many of my friends (did I mention they are a bit older than me?) are embracing 40. 40 is the new 30, right? Or did the Baby Boomers decide that 60 is the new 30? Either way, it seems there are likely to be many productive years ahead.

As optimistic as our crowd is, Rachel's party had one rather foreboding moment: her cake was carefully topped with the requisite forty candles and after they were all lit, they set off the smoke alarm!

(Note: Rachel gave me permission to share this story; be assured that she's laughing with us.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Welcome Babes and D-CUPSS!

Welcome to all the babes who are stopping by after reading my essay, Waking to my Grandmother's Hands, over at http://www.chronicbabe.com/. Chronicbabe is an upbeat and inspiring website for young women with chronic illness. Not that I'm so young anymore. In fact, a co-worker recently referred to me (my witticisms actually) as "too cute." I told my 25 year-old co-worked that cute is for women under 30 and over 70. What do you think?

As for the D-CUPSS, these are the Downtown Citizens United to Procure Starbucks in Skokie, a group of ample-breasted women who'd like to see a thriving coffee shop in our "revitalizing" downtown area. Actually we're not all large-chested. Okay, there's not even an official group, just a bunch of people yapping about wanting a coffee shop.

Downtown Skokie has hosted a few indie coffee shops in the past, but in my experience they were often lacking in some combination of service, quality, consistency or cleanliness. I think the Starbucks at the Skokie Swift Station provides all of these things (plus insurance benefits for part-time workers—something that is often too expensive for indies to provide). Why not try to get one in the downtown area? What is this rumor of the area being demographically undesirable?

I am also a fan of the Skokie Swift Starbucks because they are hosting the first-ever Hormone-Colored Days Happening (and possibly the first official meeting of D-CUPSS). Please join me and some other local writers/bloggers for an afternoon of culture, coffee and fun!

Sunday, March 5
Skokie Swift Starbucks