Editor’s Note: Ellen Seidman, from the Parents.com blog To the Max, sent this to us from her friend Jill at Scary Mommy.
This guest post is by the awesome Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy, one of the most popular mom blogs out there. That’s because Jill is extremely funny, extremely wise, extremely real and all about extreme honesty. Jill’s mom to Lily, 8; Ben, 6; and Evan, 4. Somehow she’s managed to write a book, Confessions Of A Scary Mommy. It’s out this week, and it’s every bit as relatable and delicious as her blog. I asked how she squeezed that in—who has time to write a book?! “I wrote a lot of it at 3:00 a.m.,” she explained. Ah. And now, her top 5 mom moments that drive ya nuts.
There is absolutely nothing in the world that compares to the love that I have for my children. It is consuming and overwhelming and simply the most powerful emotion I have ever felt in my life. It’s perfect.
So, how is it that these children whom I love more than anything in the world have a way of getting to me like nobody else ever has? The intensity of the annoyance and frustration I can feel for creatures I love so much never ceases to amaze me. Maybe it’s the balance of loving people so much — that the other emotions have to be equally as intense. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but it’s a good thing that I do love them so much, or I’d have a pretty tough time liking them. Especially at times like these…
1. When they fuss over bedtime. I just don’t get it — if someone were to give me a bath, put me in clean pajamas, read me a story and rub my back until I fell asleep, I would think I’d died and gone to heaven. Instead, my children insist on bargaining on the timing, refusing to brush their teeth and fighting over bedtime stories. It always ends up being the least pleasant way to end a long day.
2. When they act up during a work call. It’s hard being a work at home parent — hard for the mom to maintain a level of professionalism when she’s chewing leftover grilled cheese crusts for lunch and changing diapers in between assignments, and tough for the kids to understand that they need to respect a role other than mother. The toughest part by far is the work phone call. If I have an important call, I will set my children up with TV show or a computer game, a snack, and instructions not to interrupt me unless there is massive blood, broken bones or an intruder in the house. When the door bursts open because someone changed the channel or they ran out of popcorn, visions of throwing the TV on the floor and bolting off to an off-site office dance in my head.
3. When they whine. When my daughter was a newborn, she cried a lot. Like, constantly. I was convinced that the worst sound in the world to a mother was her darling offspring’s inconsolable cry. What on earth could compare to that? And, then she hit the whining phase and those tears suddenly became melodic.
4. When they wet the bed. I know, I know, it’s not their fault that their bodies aren’t yet wired to wake up in the middle of the night, but still, little pisses me off more than seeing a figure next to my bed at 3AM whimpering that he is soaking wet. The most infuriating part? It always, always, seems to happen on the very night when I have finally washed the sheets and freshly made the bed.
5. When they trash a clean playroom. It’s a rare occurrence when I actually get around to deep cleaning and organizing the playroom. Hours and hours of Lego sorting and Barbie organizing and putting every last toy in the proper box pays off, though, when I can step back and admire the beauty of everything being where it belongs. Sadly, it never lasts more than five minutes before one of my children will inevitably look for some minuscule item and dump out every last box in the process.
Like I said, it’s a good thing I love them so much. Remind me why I do, again?
Before March ends, make sure to encourage bring your little bookworm to the library since March is National Reading Month.
To help promote a love for reading, Cheerios is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its Spoonfuls of Stories program, which places one free book written by award-winning authors inside specially-marked cereal boxes. This year, six different books (with English and Spanish versions) will be distributed together:
Peeny Butter Fudge, by Toni and Slade Morrison and illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Mostly Monsterly, by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Scott Magoon
Noodle & Lou, by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Arthur Howard
If I Were a Jungle Animal, by Amanda Ellery and illustrated by Tom Ellery
Hello Baby, by Mem Fox and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Can I Just Take a Nap?, by Ron Rauss and illustrated by Rob Shepperson
Since 2002, Cheerios has distributed 60 million books in boxes and donated $3.8 million to First Book, a non-profit dedicated to improving literacy for low-include families by providing them their first new books. This year, Cheerios will be giving 50,000 children’s books and $300,000 to First Book.
You can also donate to First Book through your mobile phones by using short code 20222 and texting Books2Kids. By doing so, a $5 donation will be made that will provide two new books to a child in need. Standard messaging rates apply, and the donation amount will appear on your cell phone bill. Parents can also find other book-related events sponsored by Cheerios near you.
We are happy to announce the grand-prize winner of the contest:St. Aloysius on-the-Ohio Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio! For its outstanding achievement in getting students involved in reading, St. Aloysius will receive $5,000 to be used toward their school library.
St. Aloysius on-the-Ohio Elementary School is a small school situated along the scenic Ohio River valley in the historic Sayler Park Area of Cincinnati. The students enjoy a safe, nurturing environment that encourages mutual respect and self-discipline.
Both students and teachers enjoyed participating in the program. Third-grader Connor shared, “I read all the time and the contest made it even more fun,” while eighth-grader Savannah said, “Reading makes kids smarter and gives them time to be with their parents. Without the library, I don’t know what I would do.”
The school also has a proven track record of academic excellence for the past 137 years, and strong family values and family involvement is a key ingredient for its successes. “Our librarian encourages the students to develop a love of reading all types of books. The students love to compete against others and themselves. It is amazing to see what a small group of avid readers is able to achieve. The students love to say, ‘We are small but we are mighty.’ Winning is proof of that,” says Regina Hornback, a teacher at St. Aloysius.
Congratulations to the students and teachers at St. Aloysius on-the-Ohio Elementary School!
Make sure to read our Tech Savvy Parents blog by Leticia Barr — she has some family- and budget-friendly ideas for celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday with fun online activities. March is also National Reading Month, so get your kids hooked on books with classic Seuss favorites such as The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and Horton Hears a Who! Or plan a trip to the colorful Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure in Universal Orlando — where favorite characters, scenes, and places from the books come to life.
Update: Play a matching game online, The Many Languages of Dr. Seuss, to see if you can match the English versions of his book titles with the translations in other languages. You may need to print the image out and use a pen or pencil to draw lines between the titles. After you’re done, find the answers at www.smartling.com/seuss.
What are your favorite Dr. Seuss books? Which ones do your kids love?
Over the weekend, I popped into a bookstore and spotted the familiar-looking “Goodnight, Moon” cover with its classic blue, green, and orange, colors…but on close inspection, I realized that it was a parody called, “Goodnight, iPad.”
Written by Ann Droyd, the book mimics the rhyming style of Margaret Wise’s book but focuses on a a family of floppy rabbits being driven a little crazy by modern technology. The hilarious book is a reminder to say goodnight to all our mobile devices and gadgets in the evening. (“In a bright buzzing room, in the glow of the moon–and iPhones and Androids and Blackberries too–it is time to say goodnight…”)
Along with her husband, Stan, who passed away in 2005, the husband-and-wife team collaborated on writing and illustrating simple and sweet stories, with good family values and strong morals, for preschoolers. Each book focused on a specific lesson, as experienced by human-like Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Brother Bear, and Sister Bear. Their first book, “The Big Honey Hunt,” was published in 1962 by Random House under the guidance of children’s book editor Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss), who encouraged them to rhyme each story’s text.
There are now over 300 titles in the Berenstain Bears series, published by HarperCollins, that have sold more than 260 million copies worldwide, in 23 different languages. In addition to books, the Berenstain Bears have been featured on TV cartoons and movies, toys, clothes, video games, and mobile apps. There is even a show touring around the country, The Berenstain Bears Live! in Family Matters the Musical.
I just read Dirt, a novel written by Susan Senator, that centers on the life of Emmy, a suburban mom whose oldest of three sons, Nick, has severe autism. Susan’s oldest son, Nat, also has autism, and she’s written two other nonfiction books: The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide and Making Peace With Autism. Dirt is poignant and leaves an impression. Although the story as a whole is about how parents Emmy and Eric, and younger brothers Henry and Dan, cope with Nick’s autism, I came away feeling that the book has something for everyone—whether you have a child with autism, or enjoy gardening. I spoke to Susan about her writing process, family, and future plans.
I’ve read your blog and your novel Dirt, and couldn’t help but notice a lot of similarities between both worlds. Was it hard to differentiate or separate fact from fiction?
It was not at all, because Dirt is not my life. Certain characters are based on family members (some heavily, like Nick), but they are still made-up people. Writing my memoir, Making Peace With Autism, on the other hand, was much harder because it was nonfiction and I had to remember details of events and conversations. With fiction you can just make it all up, as long as it feels real.
What sparked your interest in writing Dirt?
Dirt began as a book I called Suburban Blue, which was about one stay-at-home mom’s miserable existence in an upscale suburb, and her only escape is gardening. Eventually I became more interested in her sons, and then more and more I was giving them voices that were like my own sons’.
Has anyone from your family read the book? How did they feel about it?
My husband and my middle son Max (19) have read some of it. My husband loves it, and helped me with plot issues. Max told me that it helped him imagine how his older brother Nat (22) might think. Max has written a screenplay for the book trailer for YouTube! He is a film major at NYU.
Which character did you have the most fun creating? Who did you struggle with?
Nick and Dan were the most fun, because I could so easily feel them and imagine them. While they are not my sons Nat and Ben, they are similar to them. The ways they are different were so much fun to write that sometimes I laughed while I was typing.
I struggled the most with Emmy, because in earlier versions I had been told by readers that she was not that likable or that her motivations were mysterious. I worked hard to make her innermost thoughts more explicit, and to assume less about what the reader already understood. Because Emmy and I have many things in common, it was hard work making her thoughts and voice different from mine. I did not want to write about myself, and yet my main character has a lot of similarities to me, so I had to constantly and consciously choose carefully everything she said and thought and did. I had to keep hooking in to her the way I hooked into Nick and Dan, but it was more of an effort.
Was it difficult at times to write from the perspective of Nick?
It was easy, somehow, because I just tried to dive deep into my son Nat’s head, based on what I knew of his behavior, and also based on what other autistic people have told me about their perception processes. Nick is based partly on research, partly on observation, and partly on my own wishes. For instance, I wish my own son Nat had a passion for orange paint, so that we could do that together.
How is Nat doing?
Nat is wonderful. He just finished school and will be moving into a nearby house shared by roommates and a caregiver. Since finishing school, his language ability has suddenly blossomed. We don’t know why, but we are thrilled.
Emmy’s garden serves as her center of relaxation and reflection. Where do you unwind?
I unwind on my bike. I ride in all weather, all winter. The hard exercise helps me focus on nothing but movement. I also bellydance. I do have a garden, but it is a mess.
Any plans for a future book?
Definitely. I loved these characters and I miss them! I have a draft of a prequel, actually.
A prequel sounds great! How far back would you start?
The draft I have has Nick as 4 and Henry as 2. Dan’s not even born yet! Emmy is struggling with OCD, and they’ve only just bought their fixer-upper Victorian house.
What message are you hoping people will get from Dirt?
I think the message of the book is that families are really, really not perfect, and that happiness is not perfect; that love is messy and family life sometimes doesn’t make sense but that’s okay.