Funny, British Lit: Book Review
If this sounds like a novel you'd enjoy, you should also check out On the Verge, where a newlywed hits his head and his wife struggles to accept his personality changes. The Midwest Book Review calls On the Verge "highly recommended" and It's available on amazon for $2.99
A Good Cry
I can’t stand to hear my daughter cry. It was different when she was a baby because crying was her only form of communication. But as she transformed from a babbling infant to a talking toddler, she clung to crying as part of her repertoire and I grew less tolerant. If she protested one of my decisions for too long, I told her to go to her room and return when she was done crying. This seemed to help.
As her crying jags grew less frequent, they affected me even more. They made me realize how deeply she felt about things. Sometimes they made me question my own judgment. I hated myself for allowing her tears to weaken my resolve. If she were being punished for a poor choice, then cried, I reminded myself, “Lesson learned.” But it was still difficult for me.
Once she entered school, I wanted her to control her outbursts better. I didn’t want her to crumble into tears over hurt feelings and be teased by the other kids. If she started to cry at home over a minor disagreement, I’d tell her to pull herself together.
Just last week, her tutor told me that she had done well, but at one point, had disobeyed. When my daughter was instructed to write with a pencil, she kept writing with a marker. A permanent marker. The tutor told her it would soak through the paper, so my daughter continued writing. I nodded and walked my child out to the car.
My daughter smiled up at me, “Do I get a treat?” Often when she does well at tutoring, she gets a chocolate Frosty from the Wendy’s drive-thru.
“Not today,” I said. I lectured that she needed to show respect to the tutor and do as she says. This is when I got the explanation about how she was careful not to let the marker soak through the paper. I was torn, since most of the hour-long session had gone well. I drove past Wendy’s anyway. I didn’t want to reinforce her poor listening skills. And so she began to cry.
And cry. My shoulders clenched. My head throbbed. Fifteen minutes of sobs from the backseat felt like hours. I wondered if I’d made a mistake. I then worried if I caved, I’d teach her to cry even more. I considered telling her to pull herself together. But I decided to let her continue. Even when she ratcheted up the volume.
I turned on the radio to distract myself. Soon, the music soothed her, too, and she quieted. We were almost home when she said in a calm voice, “I have to tell you something weird, Mom.”
“What?” I asked, my body still tense.
“Crying made me feel better.”
I hadn’t expected that. All of those times I’d tried to stifle her tears, maybe I’d been denying her some kind of catharsis. Then I remembered an old “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode where Debra said sometimes she just needed a good cry. She’d put on the theme from Ice Castles and give in to her emotions.
“Isn’t that weird, Mom?” my daughter asked again. She seemed pleased with her discovery that tears can actually work like salve on a wound.
I don’t understand it, but what matters is that she does.
How about you? Do you believe in the healing power of tears?
If you're on the verge of tears, treat yourself to On the Verge, which tells of a single mom whose wonderful new husband hits his head and changes personalities. How long should she wait for her true love to return? What if he never does? Click here to learn more about On the Verge, which is "highly recommended" by the Midwest Book Review. (If nothing else, it'll distract you from your own problems). Please pass this along by clicking the buttons below. Thanks!
Yes, No, Maybe. . .
Is it more important to say “no” or “yes” when you’re a mom? I recently read a parenting book that suggested we should try to find a way to say "yes" more often. When a child asks to go to the zoo on Monday, instead of saying, "No," ideally the mom would say, “You may go on Saturday.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t work very well in my family. My young daughter would remain upset today, but remember my offer once Saturday arrived. I’ve learned this the hard way: avoid promising anything later because it’s too hard to predict the future. How can I guarantee a weekend zoo trip when someone could get sick or it might rain?
I think previous generations doled out a firm “no” easier than some of us today. In fact, a stranger walked up to me and my baby in the mall one time and offered an odd bit of advice (as people often do to new moms). The old woman said, “The most important thing you can do as a parent is to mean it when you say, ‘No.’” I smiled and nodded, wondering if this was a personal regret of hers or a general criticism of parents today. Naïvely, I assumed I’d have no problem giving my child boundaries and sticking to them.
But I admit, I have been guilty of saying “no” as a reflex then second-guessing myself. Kids ask so many questions, it can be overwhelming: “Can I have a play date?” “Can I have some ice cream?” “Can I watch TV?” They want things and we hold the power to grant their wishes. I hate it when I initially say "no", then reconsider and realize I can say "yes." Therefore, my favorite answer (and one I remember my own mother giving) is to say, “Let me think about it.” Magically, time gives me perspective and strengthens my resolve. Somehow stepping away from the topic also seems to help my daughter accept my answer. Or best of all, she actually forgets what she asked for.
So, I’m torn on the yes/no issue. The other day I told my seven-year-old to hang up her clean clothes. This is a task I usually do for her, but am trying to transition onto her shoulders. She asked if I would help. Because she has trouble squeezing the levers on the pants hangers, I decided that I would. She brought me the empty hangers, I placed the clothes on them and then she hung the outfits in the closet. In fact, she smiled as we worked together. Before I knew it, the laundry was put away. Afterwards, I felt good about the compromise.
Until my daughter said something that I couldn’t quite decide how to take. She said, “I love you, Mommy, because you always say yes.”
Does that mean I’m a good mom?
Hmmm. . . .Let me think about it and get back to you.
What do you think? Should parents try to find ways to say “yes” more often?
(If you enjoyed this post, you’d probably like A Mom’s Life: Warm Fuzzies, Food & Fun available at amazon.com. The paperback would make a great Mother's Day gift or present for a new mom.)
Getting a Clue. . .
I am not good at playing games. Years ago I won at bowling and was so ecstatic, I jumped for joy. When my future husband pointed out that I wasn’t a graceful winner, I apologized and explained that I’d never won before. Not bowling, not mini-golf, not anything. Growing up, it seemed my father always won the games we played. If it were just my older brother and I, I still couldn’t compete. I told my fiance that I had plenty of practice losing. “I’m a good loser,” I promised.
The other night, however, I wondered if this were true. My husband and I had bought the board game Clue for our seven year old daughter. In elementary school, I’d played it a couple times at a friend’s house and enjoyed it. After all, it had colorful characters like Mrs. Peacock and Professor Plum, miniature revolvers and candlesticks, and it offered the chance to play detective. I was excited that my daughter was finally old enough to play a game I’d truly enjoy. No more Candyland or Don’t Break the Ice for me.
She requested we play every night and more often than not, my husband set aside the papers he was grading and took his place around the table. It surprised us the first time our daughter solved the mystery. Then she won again. And when she didn’t win, my husband did.
Wait a minute.
I noticed a pattern developing. My husband won because of his exceptional deductive reasoning skills. My daughter won because she wasn’t afraid to guess and be wrong. But me—I waited to accuse a suspect until I was 100% sure. By that time, someone else would beat me to the punch.
Last night my daughter wanted to play again and I suggested we take a break. This game that I’d fantasized about as a child turned out to be yet another one in which I had no skill. Then my husband teased me, “Momma doesn’t want to play because she always loses.”
Here the Mommy Guilt kicked in. Everything I say and do is setting an example. How could I expect my little girl to smile and say, “Good game” after she lost when I didn’t?
So I took a deep breath and agreed to participate. Right away I could tell I was going to lose again. I rolled plenty of ones and twos. I got trapped in a room I didn’t want to be in. The fates conspired against me. Too soon my daughter bragged that she knew the weapon and the guilty party. All she had left was to figure out the location of the crime. My husband said he had it narrowed down to 25%. Ugh! I told them both to be quiet or people wouldn’t like playing with them. (And by “people” I mostly meant me.) My husband “Awwww” ed in my direction.
That’s when I realized that after plenty of experience, I hadn’t even mastered the art of losing gracefully.
Sensing that one of my opponents would soon win, I was frustrated that they seemed closer to a solution than I was. But I did have a pretty good guess. I decided to take a page from my daughter’s playbook. For the first time ever, I dared to make an accusation without 100% certainty.
Fate smiled upon me and I was right. I’d won! Finally I felt the rush of victory. I reminded myself not to smile too broadly. Good sportsmanship (and good role modeling) take effort.
What amazes me is how well my daughter handles it when she guesses the answer and is wrong. Patiently she waits for the game to end, giddy because we are doing something together as a family. She doesn’t let her mistake stop her from taking a chance the next time, either. Perhaps those who excel at games, like in life, are those willing to risk failure.
Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. What matters is that we had fun along the way--together.
Are you a good loser? I'd love to hear your comments!
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How often do both you and your guy LOVE a movie? I mean, he likes Die Hard and you like The Notebook. Someone is always compromising. Until now. Because The Music Never Stopped manages the challenging feat of reaching both sexes.
The main character, 35-year-old Gabriel, was inspired by a real amnesiac stuck in the 1960's due to a brain tumor. From there, the writer, Dr. Oliver Sacks ("Awakenings"), created an inspiring story about a conservative father who kicks his hippie son out of the house. For twenty years, they don't speak. . . until Gabriel is admitted to the hospital dazed and confused. Surgery saves his health, but the doctors are unable to undo the damage. Gabriel barely speaks and cannot remember what happened five minutes ago. Despite the heartbreak, his parents visit him daily.
Eventually they discover that music unlocks parts of Gabriel's memory. Like a light switch, a favorite Grateful Dead or Bob Dylan song allows Gabriel to engage in animated conversations. Unfortunately, the music threatens to reignite the old war between father and son. Is the music really helping this family heal or is it sometimes better to forget?
This movie made my husband and I laugh out loud and ache deep inside. When it was over, I regretted the fact that I could've missed seeing it. As far as I'm concerned, this movie was a million times better than "Awakenings" for which the writer is better known. If you missed this 2011 Sundance Film Festival pick, I highly recommend you check out The Music Never Stopped now.
How long would you wait for someone you love to return to their former self? If you'd like another story about how a head injury challenges and inspires a family, read "On the Verge" for $2.99 on Amazon.
Momma Murphy's Law
I should’ve known something would go wrong. Early in the morning I had to drop my cat off at the vet’s office for her first teeth cleaning and get home in time to catch the school bus. When my alarm buzzed, I walked into my seven-year-old’s room to discover she was already dressed. Excellent! That left plenty of time for her to eat breakfast. No problem.
Now I had a cushion in case I had to chase my cat around the house like last time. I could even grab something for myself to eat and in my wildest dreams, drink a cup of coffee. As I wrangled my cat into the carrier, I kept worrying that something would go wrong. That’s because pets and kids are unpredictable. That’s because whenever I think we have plenty of time, something always happens.
That day’s “something” was my daughter spilling V-8 juice all over the floor, a white dish towel and of course, on her pink tights. Somehow I remained calm as I used about fifty paper towels to tackle the mess. My daughter, who was succumbing to a cold, did not remain calm. She was wearing a pink shirt, pink skirt and pink tights. In her mind, only pink tights would do. I told her to wear white ones. She went to her room and came back mumbling that her shirt didn’t have any white on it. Because there wasn’t white on her outfit, she didn’t want white tights. Again, as I mopped up red puddles, I explained that white is a neutral and matches everything. (I’d love to see Stacy & Clinton take on a sleepy seven-year-old on What Not to Wear!)
To move things along, I helped my daughter pull on her tights. She whined that they didn’t fit. (They’re brand new, size 7-10). I explained how tights are probably called tights because they feel tight. She didn’t laugh. Then I thought if anyone should be upset, it’s me. I just had to clean tomato juice splattered all over my kitchen and I’m not sure the stain will come out of the tea towel my grandmother embroidered with a kitten and the word “Monday.”
Was there any doubt in your mind that this was a Monday? As I drove through the morning darkness, listening to the radio dj predict snow, I couldn’t help feeling a bit of déjà vu. It seems whenever we’re relaxed, running ahead of schedule, a spill or a rip or some other minor catastrophe puts the rush back into our routine. Have you noticed that once you have kids, if anything can go wrong, it will? Unless of course, you’re expecting it.
According to Wikipedia, Murphy’s Law dates back to 1877. I say it’s been around longer than that—ever since the first woman gave birth.
If you’re a busy woman, having a Murphy's Law kind of day, treat yourself to the novella, Made for Two. It’s a “sweet read with depth” for 99¢.
One night when I was still naïve enough to think raising kids was a pretty straight-forward endeavor, I saw a young family at Wal-Mart. Two toddlers climbed all over the cart, whining and crying. I looked at my watch. 10 p.m. “Why aren’t those kids in bed?” I whispered to my husband.
That’s how I was for many years—a childless parenting expert. Everyone who knew about my Franklin calendar priority lists and my desperate need to keep my desk clean, must’ve secretly laughed when I announced I was having a baby. They probably thought,“She’ll never finish another to-do list again.” They were right.
Motherhood threw me off-balance. I tried to figure out my infant daughter’s schedule by writing every feeding and nap down. I needed some kind of predictability, but there wasn’t any clear pattern. As soon as I thought I’d figured her out, she’d change. My biggest fear was that we’d be out in public, she’d start bawling and everyone’s eyes would be on me. No one wants to hear a baby cry, I reasoned, and it was my job as her mother to make sure she didn’t disturb others.
Well, baby’s first Christmas arrived. Cry, cry, cry. Everybody tried rocking her—me, her dad, grandma, great-grandma , etc. I was mortified. She was ruining everyone’s holiday dinner. She wasn’t hungry, tired or lonely—just miserable. Nothing we did helped. Finally, we put her down in a quiet bedroom and gave up.
A little while later, we found out why she had been inconsolable. She’d eaten prunes for the first time and it upset her insides. One very messy diaper change later and my baby’s smile returned. (There should be a warning label on prune baby food containers!)
Seven years later, I still think about that family at Wal-Mart. Perhaps they’d run out of children’s Tylenol and one of the kids was sick. Or maybe they just hadn’t figured the whole parenting thing out quite yet. Either way, I try not to judge any more. I want to tell all of the new moms out there to stop worrying about what everybody else thinks. The ones who give you disapproving looks probably don’t know any better. The rest of us see your two year old having a meltdown and remember when we were in your shoes. How there’s no reasoning, no placating kids sometimes. Sometimes you just have to wait them out. And sometimes they just need to go poo.
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