Category Archives: parenting

From over here in the cheap seats

I am one of those crazy whackjobs who – when attending a conference – actually goes to sessions.

On Saturday, I went to a session called Where’s the Line of the Lie: Storytelling, Memoir, and Poetic License.  I went because I thought, “Hey!  What I write is memoir.  I tell stories.  This ought to be interesting.”  Well, it kinda was and it kinda wasn’t.  The panelists were good and funny and all of that, although it was weird that they chose Julie Marsh for the session, given that she kept saying she scrupulously avoids writing about the personal and sticks to the political or religion.  Don’t get me wrong, she was interesting, I’m just not sure why they chose someone who doesn’t write about her life for a memoir panel.

“Well, because she’s a popular blogger,” someone told me.

I heard a lot of this over the weekend – popular, A list, big… whatever the term, there was a line drawn between the famous bloggers and us unwashed masses.  It was like being in middle school all over again, except no one tried to cop a feel by brushing up against me in the hallway.  Mores the pity.

The conference did a nice job of creating space for a few smaller bloggers, but the first three sessions I attended were all paneled by Big Time Bloggers, despite the fact that they weren’t always the best choices.

Bear with me – there is a point here.

Then I went to a fantastic panel called “Little Fish in a Big Pond: Understanding, Accepting, and Loving Your Small Blog.”  I missed the first half hour because I was unconscious in my room, recovering from the hideous, hyena, fishwife of a woman, but when I arrived, the panel had already taken a turn.  People were eagerly sharing stories of how to improve blog stats by making people accidentally end up on your site or how to change your focus so more people will read you.

So, because I have a big fucking mouth, I stood up and said, “My blog is called Wheels on the Bus.  I get a lot of visits because of that title, but those people don’t stick around.  I’ve been blogging for three-and-a-half years, and I’m not a big blogger.  I could do giveaways and get sponsors and spend all day commenting on other people’s blogs so that they would come to my blog and maybe make myself bigger, but I’m not going to do that.  Yes, we’re little fish in the big pond of blogging, but blogging is a very little pond in a very big world.  I made a choice not to immerse my life so fully in it.  And sometimes it’s really hard for me because I’m a writer and I am not getting the response and there are times I am jealous of the bigger bloggers, but I’m not compromising my principles.”

OK, maybe I didn’t say it exactly like that.  But I basically said I am not going to try to sell people crap on my blog, even if it means I only have about twelve-and-a-half readers.

The next woman who stood up was awesome (if anyone knows who it was, please tell me).  What she said was that maybe some of us have small blogs because we’re busy throwing our kids birthday parties instead of staging birthday parties that we can blog about.  Whoever you are lady, you rock.

This was all in response to Nora, a panelist, who said, “Look, in this room, we all know who Dooce is.  She’s famous to us.  But we shouldn’t forget that there are millions of people who have no idea who the fuck she is.”  Maybe Nora didn’t say “fuck,” because she’s kinda classy, but I think everything sounds better with a “fuck” thrown in.

Nora also rocks.

I think blogging has changed an awful lot over the last few years.  Twitter and Facebook have taken over the conversations that used to be happening between all the small, personal blogs out there, and blogging has been commodified. Someone figured out how to make money out of it, and now the Big A List Popular bloggers are getting a lot of attention.  It started as a place for free exchange of ideas, and it ended up as a way to sell laundry detergent.

BUT, I think there is still space for us little people.  The ones who just want to use the internet for free speech, uncensored by the powers of the marketplace.  Blogging is not dead, but we are being made to think there is something horrible about being small.  I think maybe the awesome lady who commented about the birthday parties might have said that, too.

So, for all the little bloggers I found, I am going to do a little poll of my readers.  You may actually know who Dooce is, but I want to know if you know who The Bloggess is.  (This is not a diss on The Bloggess, who is eight kinds of cool mixed with mayo.)  Please, leave a comment on this post and answer the following two questions:

1)   Are you a part of the “blogging community”?  (In other words, do you read lots of blogs or blog yourself?  Or do you only read a couple of blogs?)

2)   Had you ever heard of The Bloggess prior to reading this post?

Please, even if you don’t usually comment, do so this time.  I really want to know.  And I really want the small bloggers who feel like they are in the shadow of bigger bloggers to know, too.

Notes from BlogHer

To the hideous hyena fishwife of a woman who stood in the hallway of the fourteenth floor of the Hilton at 5:08 this morning and banged on the wall shouting, “Shut the fuck up! People are trying to sleep!”

I have not been away from my kids for two years.  Lately, I get up every morning at 5 so I can write in peace on the dining room table.  Then, at 6:30, my husband and my daughter get up.  On alternate days, I run.  The other days, he goes to the gym.  I then spend my entire day in service to my children – wiping asses, cooking food, shuttling children between camp and friends houses and tae kwon do and the library.  I have Zachary read to me every day and do puzzles with Benjamin and let Lilah stick her head between my knees when I am on the toilet because she likes to watch the pee come out and then cheer for me.  When Ben’s tae kwon do master said he had to learn to count in Korean, I started teaching him to count in Korean, no easy feat given that I know no Korean and he just recently learned to count in English.

My kids are in bed by 8:30, and I try to be in bed by 9:00, but it never works because – even though my husband does the nighttime chores of garbage and wiping the counters and putting away the toy piecesparts – I usually have enough to do to keep me up so I don’t get to sleep till 9:30 or 10.

I do not watch TV.  I do not see friends.  I read two pages of a book a night because I have a fucking Ph.D. in literature and even if it takes me a year, I will read a book.

I came to BlogHer to see people and learn things, but mostly I came as an excuse to get the fuck away from my kids and my life for two days.  Two days when I could let loose, not be responsible to someone else, read eight pages of the book if I wanted to, talk to other adults, and sleep the fuck in.  Until 6:30 in the morning.  All I wanted?  Was to sleep in until 6:30 in the morning.

I am the people who were trying to sleep.

So, although I couldn’t go back to sleep, I hope you did.  Because today I am going to find out who you are.  Then, tonight, while you are asleep in your bed, I will scale the fourteen floors of the building, sneak into your room, stand over your bed, and count to ten in Korean at the top of my lungs.

Eleventh hour

So, for the time being, gay people can get married in California.  For the time being, they can’t get married here.  But we’ll be taking it up to higher courts, arguing it for years and years, fighting tooth and nail.

People, it’s a moronic thing to argue about.  If you fear the erosion of your definition of marriage, I understand your concern.  I really do.  I disagree, but I understand.  However, really, it that your biggest concern?

Seriously?

The earth spews oil into the ocean through a giant hole we made.  The polar icecaps are melting.  The air is rapidly becoming unbreathable.  Our boys’ junk is becoming less recognizable as male because of the chemicals from the plastic.  Our reproductive systems are in open rebellion, our children may all have to migrate to the center of the country because the oceans will rise so high, and there will be a major war over potable water in the not-to-distant future.

It is fucking bleak.  As Celeste said, we are in the eleventh hour.  And what are we arguing about?  Whether or not two men can get married.  I’ll admit I spend too much energy perseverating on stupid shit, but at least it’s my own stupid shit, not what’s happening in someone else’s house.

Why do you give a flying numchuck that someone else is getting married?  Let it go.  Spend the time and energy and money that you’re spending advocating anti-marriage laws instead advocating for environmental reform.  Fifty years from now, gay people are going to be allowed to be married no matter what you do.  But it won’t matter, because the earth will most likely be uninhabitable.

Confusing concept

“I’ll be going away for the weekend,” I told the boys.  “Zach, Ms. S will take you too and from camp on Friday.  Ben, Ms. L will bring you to camp on Friday morning, but then you’re going to Joe’s house for a playdate after camp.”  Zachary nodded.  Benjamin looked confused.  “Do you understand, babe?  Joe’s mom will pick you up from camp and bring you home for a playdate.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to a conference for the weekend,” I explained again.

Ben turned to me, sweet and troubled look on his face.  “But I love you.”

HOLY CRAP!

BlogHer is this weekend.  Given that I registered months ago and have a hotel room and even ordered business cards, I really shouldn’t be surprised.  But, shit, that really snuck up on me.

Let’s see here:

  1. Sitters for Friday – check
  2. Carpools to drop the boys at camp – check
  3. Legs waxed – check
  4. Ticket – check

Now I just need to pack, look at the agenda, enter all the cell numbers I’ve gathered into my phone, type out instructions for the babysitters, figure out where the hell I put my business cards, schedule Zach’s birthday outing, and finish revisions on the book.  By Thursday night.  Because I head into the city early Friday morning.  Which reminds me: I need to look at the bus schedule and figure out which subway to take to get to the Hilton.

What I haven’t done and most likely just won’t do is make plans with people.  I’m supposed to do that, right? Like make dinner plans and shit.  But I haven’t.  Because I haven’t really looked at the times of all the events.  And I’m not sure what to wear to the parties.  Is the Gala the LBD event?  Or is the next night?  To which can I wear jeans and a sassy top?  Not that I’m all that sassy these days.

No, really, I’m asking.

If you’re going to BlogHer, please email me with your cell number, OK?  And I’ll send you mine, in case you’re making dinner plans.

And this is what I look like:

If you see me wandering around the lobby of the Hilton, looking as though I’m not quite sure what to do with myself without at least one child tugging at my arm, please say “hi.”

I do plan to go running early Saturday morning, should anyone wish to join me.

Hangin’ tough, stayin’ hungry

He knew it cold.  He knew it backwards, forwards, and inside out.  He even knew a couple words of it in Korean.

I pulled the master aside to talk to him privately, asking one of the instructors to translate.

“Benjamin is a good boy.  A good, good boy.  He tries hard, and he really wants to please you.  And he is smart.  But he is slower than other children when you ask him a question.  It takes longer for it to go in and for him to answer.”  The master, who had understood up till this point, turned to the instructor whose English is far better.  I waited as he translated.  Then I went on.

“He has worked hard to know ‘The Easy Way is No Way.’  But if you ask him with another child, he won’t be able to answer as fast as the other kids.  He will get frustrated and give up.”  By this point, I was starting to tear up.  “Please, please, test him alone.  I just want him to understand that he is as smart as his brother is.”

The master nodded and said something slowly in Korean.  The instructor translated.  “He understands and agrees with you.  But sometimes he thinks it’s good for children to learn from their mistakes.”

“But it wasn’t his mistake!  He knew it.  It was his brother’s mistake.”

The master nodded again and replied to me himself.  “Don’t worry.  We’ll take care of it.”

The instructor gave Ben a practice run during the lesson.  Then, when the lesson was over, they sent him out to me.  He began to whimper.  “What’s wrong?” asked the master.

“I want a tiger patch,” Ben said.

The master, clearly having forgotten to test him, called him back in.  Fabulous.  Get him upset, then test him.  He began strong, but as the questions went on, his voice got softer and softer.  He had just been asked these questions so many times – at home, last lesson, during this lesson – and still no one had given him a tiger patch.  Why should he trust that he wouldn’t be sent out of this lesson empty-handed, too?

He is slower to process questions than his peers.  We’ve suspected this for a long time.  He is not just one of those people who thinks things through first.  In fact, he tends to do and think at exactly the same time. When in a group, he is fully a part of the conversation, unless it is a Socratic question/answer situation.  Then, he takes so long to process the question that the lesson has moved on without him and he gives up.

But he didn’t give up this time.  And now he has a tiger patch.

What a wonderful world

About a mile and a half from our house is a small lake.  This whole area is punctuated by lakes, some of them large and majestic, others considerably more modest.  This particular specimen is not much to write home about – more like a glorified pond.  One side is bordered by a busy road, another by wooded land, and the last two sides are fringed with slightly ramshackle houses on a more or less forgotten dirt road.  It’s not the kind of place you really think about visiting.

Except.

There, in the middle of this silly little swampy puddle, is a very small island of branches and grasses.  And there, on this very small island live two swans.

They come every year to build their nest.  They spend the summer paddling around that miserable excuse for a lake, raising their babies and enjoying themselves tremendously.  They don’t care that the porch is falling down on the white house across the way.  To these stunning white birds, this lake is the perfect place to call home.

That’s really all we can ask for in life.