Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Keeping Up with The Kidlets March 30, 2010

While riding in the car, we were listening to a CD my husband put together for Noah when he was yet in utero. The song Hoppipolla by Icelandic band Sigur Ros came on, and something magical came over my children. Little Noah’s eyes scrunched up in concentration and he bobbed his head to the melody, while Joseph looked dreamily out the window. At the end, he asked me to play it again, and when I did, he said so wistfully, “I could listen to this for one hundred miles…”

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Noah has a little white-washed and sage green rocking chair in his room that is a hand-me-down from his Aunt Shell. He pulled it toward his full-length mirror so he could watch himself rock back and forth, back and forth, each time with a bigger and bigger smile. He looked up at me very excitedly and announced, “Mom! I’m the King of Rock!”

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While we were playing with toys at Nana’s house, little Joseph passed some very audible wind, and rather than saying “excuse me,” broke out with: “Gooooooood morning, Modesto!”

Aside from being a quote from the movie Monsters vs. Aliens, it seemed an ironic and hilarious comment. I wonder what gave him the idea that gas and Modesto are a funny combo?

 

Fiction novel writing… begins with the first sentence, first word. March 25, 2010

After five years, I have finally decided to devote my time and attention to the fiction novel idea that has been rattling about in the back of mind. It isn’t the first idea I’ve carried about; I’ve wanted to write a novel since… well, like anyone destined to write, the desire to do begins when first mastering letters. I remember the brownish, lined paper of kindergarten and first grade. Our stories then were only one or two sentences, but we hung them on the frig, we made pictures to accompany them, and if we were lucky, our parents saved them for us to enjoy years later (thanks, mom.)

Over the years, I’ve tried many approaches to novel writing. The novel is an enormous undertaking and I can say from experience the very last thing you want to do is simply sit down and begin to write. A plan, a structured outline is absolutely a must. Over time, the acknowledgement of story structure, the elements of drama and a vision for pace and detail must all be explored and acknowledged. We have to know who our characters are and be honest with them, have them do only the things that are true to them.

So, now I have Dramatica, the most amazing teaching tool ever to be created in the guise of writing software. It is enormously helpful for planning a story and ensuring that storypoints will appear at the right time and place from the perspective of your characters and their activities. It has helped me define who my characters really are, and has helped me to create new ideas for conflict and resolution and has urged me to get to understand my main characters so intimately that I ultimately changed the gender of my protagonist and began the story the day after her mother’s funeral–the very same mother who was not too long ago an important player in my story. Dramatica has helped me to realize she did not have the voice I thought she would. It has helped me to funnel that character’s contribution to another who could better move the plot, alter the course of my characters’ goals and outcomes. Hey, it also helped me figure out where I was getting fantastical and dial it down a little.

At any rate, I’m embarking on Act I, Scene I, and it is a tough climb. I am besieged with doubt. I’m worrying too much about the value of my first scene–I know in the back of my mind it will be the benchmark for my story, the pages most often/likely read by prospective agents and publishers and I am obsessing over every last word and turn of phrase instead of flowing freely, getting these long-held ideas out and free to deliver the story they were meant to. I must cut myself slack–I absolutely know this is the initial draft, that in time I will be poring over it, updating, editing, gathering feedback and criticism and revising, so I need to just let go and have fun. Just in the moments I have written this post, there are already more than 500 words. It should not tax me an hour to create only 100 words in my novel! I’m aiming for about 2,850 words per chapter, and at this point I’ve got 1,176 and a nervous tummy.

To all writers and would-be novelists today, I offer unleashed creative freedom. I offer softness, uninhibited expression. I offer fun. I cannot give these unless I have them myself, so together we will write.

 

Odontophobia? New hope, new contest! March 15, 2010

First, my apologies to all the dentists out there. The fact is, I’m scared to death of each and every one of you and have used a variety of dodge-and-avoid tactics to duck out of appointments throughout my life. (Including an incident around age 12 or 13 when I talked my mom into dropping me off for my biannual cleaning, only to split through the back door and catch a bus going in the opposite direction.)

I was one of the lucky ones; My teeth were naturally straight, with nary a cavity. While my brother was pinned down for countless painful drillings and fillings, I white-knuckled through my cleanings and x-rays and somehow managed to remain cavity-free. When I was nineteen, living on my own (with full dental insurance), a dentist declared that all four wisdom teeth should come out because they were poised to push my perfect teeth forward, ruining my smile. Horrified at the thought of four extractions under anesthetic, I declined and–over the last two decades–my teeth have been pushed, have overlapped somewhat across the bottom, and I’ve developed all manner of cavities. What the?!

At this point, my teeth have lost their once-lovely alignment, I have a stain in one that seems to be part of the tooth (needs to be drilled and replaced with a veneer), I need two implants for baby teeth that never fell out and grew back (can you imagine?!) and my teeth just aren’t as white as they once were, thanks to age, coffee and red wine. Sheesh! And let’s not forget those wisdom teeth. Every dentist who’s since taken an x-ray tells me they need to come out. Yeah, I got that, thanks.

We’re talking about thousands of dollars, numerous hours in the dental chair in great discomfort, anesthetic, and medicated downtime during recovery. Let me share an even guiltier secret: because of all this, I’ve been regrettably irresponsible about my children’s dental appointments. (There is no way somebody is going to strap my beautiful babies onto a chair and drill into their heart-melting smiles!)

My guilt has brought me to two recent happy discoveries! I just learned about Waterlase Dentistry, which uses laser energy and a gentle spray of water to perform a wide range of dental procedures– without the heat, vibration, pressure or the noise associated with the dental drill. In fact, Waterlase makes dental work so much faster that the dentist can do more, cutting down on having to return for additional appointments. (I’ll believe it when I try it, but at least I have a glimmer of hope!)

Secondly, Dear Doctor magazine is holding a life-changing contest for smile makeovers. Last year’s winner received a multi-procedure overhaul to his mouth and now sports a perfect, long-lasting smile.  This year, Dear Doctor has increased the number of winners, so chances of being selected are even better!

These give me no excuse but to take responsibility for my dental health.

Dr. Mario Vilardi (president and publisher of Dear Doctor magazine) has appeared on Good Morning America Health, talking about thumb sucking and oral health and pregnancy and oral health.

 

Car trouble? I should listen to my 5-year-old. March 2, 2010

Late as usual, I was hustling the kids into the car to go to church last Sunday. When I opened the passenger door for my five-year-old Joseph, it scraped right into the curb. Funny, it hadn’t been tight like that the evening before, had it? I didn’t give it another moment of thought. I strapped him in, placed my two-year-old in his car seat and off we went.

As we were driving up the I-5, Joseph said, “Mommy, please stop driving so bumpy.” I smiled and brushed it off: “oh, it’s just the surface of the road.”

Only a little further up the freeway, a helicopter suddenly swept down from the sky. It sounded like it was hovering only 10 or 20 feet overhead. I jerked my head this way and that trying to spot it, while every other car on the road immediately swerved away from me. This must be what criminals in televised car chases feel like. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? 

The car began to slow dramatically. My son calmly remarked, “I think we’re out of gas.” No, the indicator read that we were not–and we’ve never run out of gas before, so how did he connect our sudden drop in speed with an empty gas tank? Easy: he’s smarter than I.

Finally, I realized the rear passenger tire had blown out.  It was likely flat before we left the house, causing the door to scrape the curb, and then the bumpy ride. Sigh. I was able to wheel the car to a nearby gas station, and–considering how helpless I apparently am when faced with a vehicle malfunction–was absolutely grateful to have my husband show up and install the spare.

“We should teach you how to do this,” he said. True, yet I’m most disturbed by how I’d ignored countless clues leading up to the event; my attention to detail has left the building. My toddler Noah is amazingly observant. He will remind me if I’ve forgotten my purse or sunglasses; he will tell me where I can find abandoned sippy cups before I start the dishwasher, or advise me to take off my wedding ring before getting in the shower, as is my usual practice.

Maybe I should put him in charge of checking the tire pressure?