Archive for July, 2006

I Am So Brilliant!

July 30, 2006 @ 7:56 pm | Filed under:

Which is why I have such good ideas. Such as my decision to take all the kids out for lunch during our open house today. A big fancy lunch. At (drumroll) McDonalds! (You are dazzled, are you not, by my originality.)

I live (for now) in a town so small (for now) it doesn’t have a McDonalds. You can drive twenty-some minutes one way or twenty-some minutes in the other direction to find the golden arches. But that was part of my Brilliant Plan. The open house coincided with Wonderboy’s naptime, so I figured I’d let him sleep in the car, we’d go through the drive-through, and he and the baby would both wind up with decent naps while the rest of chipped away at our good health with tasty fries.

And how beautifully the plan unfolded, at first. The boy fell asleep right away, the baby snoozed, and the girls and I sang bad camp songs. Before we knew it, there we were at french fry heaven. Except. There was a sign on the drive-through menu informing us that due to a busted water line, McDonalds had no water.

"Sorry, no soft drinks or coffee," the hand-scrawled message announced.

The kids aren’t allowed soda, and I don’t drink coffee, but still. There was no way I was going to buy food at a place where, hello, the employees couldn’t wash their hands.

Hey, look! Next door: Burger King. But the busted water line? It affected, apparently, the whole block. Burger King had a similar sign.

"Our water is out. No drinks! All food items still available."

Thanks, but no thanks. "Wendy’s?" I suggested. The girls agreed. We drove on, leaving the waterless block behind. Of course there was a Wendy’s not far away, because this is America. It was on the wrong side of the street, though, and in the midst of the maneuvering I had to do to get into the correct lane, Wonderboy awoke from his slumber. And, for no apparent reason, threw up. A lot. All over.

The girls were screaming, retching, holding their noses. Poor Wonderboy was shrieking at the top of his lungs, and who could blame him? That is one lousy way to wake up.

I turned down a side street and pulled into a deserted parking lot. The girls scrambled out onto the baking asphalt. Wonderboy continued to scream. I reached for the basket of spare wipes—and remembered I’d tucked those into Scott’s car just before he left for California. You know, in case he spilled something on the trip.

Hadn’t yet occurred to me to replace them.

There was a burp cloth in the diaper bag. I managed to get Wonderboy’s carseat unbuckled and stripped off his nasty clothing, then mopped him off as best I could. Which wasn’t very well. Mostly I just moved the sick from his body to mine. Because all he wanted was to hug me. Jane used to want the same thing, when chemo was making her throw up all the time. I’m pretty sure it’s a toddler instinct: I will feel much better the second you allow me to smear my vomit in your hair. You are awesome, Mommy. Mind if I throw up just a little more? There was a clean spot on your shirt.

By now, of course, the baby was awake. And unhappy. The girls were melting all over the parking lot, but they were none too eager to get back into the van. Also, they were all starving. Because of course we were now waaaay past lunchtime. And yet, somehow, no one felt much like eating. Go figure.

I got my poor little boy back into his still-pretty-icky-but-only-in-a-soaked-in-way seat and we made our pathetic way back home. "A day will come," I promised my girls, "when we’ll look back on this and laugh our heads off."

Rose was skeptical. "Why would we?"

"Because it will seem funny. I mean, it really IS funny, when you think about it. It just doesn’t FEEL funny now."

"It sure smells funny," said Bean.

"Why is it funny?" persisted Rose.

"I’ll have to explain it later," I said, finding it impossible to expound and hold my breath at the same time.

"I really really have to go to the bathroom," announced Beanie. "REALLY."

I really really want to be nursed, sobbed the baby.

I really really want you to turn back time and make this not have happened, moaned the boy.

I really really want a good shampoo,
crackled my hair.

Nope, not quite funny yet. Okay, maybe a little.

BlogHer in Spirit: Building Traffic

July 29, 2006 @ 7:53 am | Filed under:

In BlogHer in Spirit Topics for Friday, PHATMommy asks:

  • What service/software do you use to track your site’s traffic? What’s good (or bad) about it?
  • What’s been your most successful tool in generating more traffic to your blog?
  • What do you know about syndication and subscriptions? Share!

I use SiteMeter and MyBlogLog, which I wrote about not long ago. I check my SiteMeter page view numbers daily, but I find that the BlogLog information is the most useful: it shows me what links people have clicked on to come to my blog, what pages they’re visiting within my blog, and what outgoing links they’re clicking on. For example, after the Homeschooling Carnival I hosted at Lilting House last week, I could see that Janine Cate’s post on why some people are hostile to homeschooling  got the most out-clicks, with Karen Edmisten’s "A mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom" post coming in second.

The search engine information is always amusing. Recently someone found my site after a search for "homeschooling your obnoxious fifteen-year-old son." I fear this person did not find much practical advice on that topic here, as my only son is two years old. I hope useful advice turned up somewhere else.

Lately I’m getting a lot of hits from people Googling "homeschool planners," "planners for moms," and other variations. When I started my planner series I had no idea it would generate so much interest; I was really just indulging myself in a favorite obsession topic. Lilting House also gets a steady trickle of traffic from people Googling "speech banana." Here at Bonny Glen, it’s Little House-related searches that pop up most often, along with a fair number of searches for my name. Variations on "homeschoolers and socialization" are also common. Also, I am apparently the top hit for "gatto bondage education chained."

I’m afraid I was no help to the person looking for "pictures of a broken toe." And I would really love to know what the person who Googled "painting mossy moot fox" was looking for.

(A caveat about MyBlogLog: they have added a new "communities" feature which automatically subscribes you to communities for other BlogLog subscriber blogs you link to.)

As for traffic generation, participating in and hosting blog carnivals always brings a lot of new readers to the site, and it appears that many of them stick around afterward.

My favorite source of blogging advice is ProBlogger, which I read on Bloglines.

Overall, though, I don’t worry a lot about how much traffic I’m getting. My primary topics (home education, children’s literature, parenting) are niche topics that don’t draw the same numbers as, say, politics. And that’s fine. The main reason I began this blog was because I was getting a lot of mail from people asking similar questions, and as my time was limited I figured it made sense to have one central place where I could store the answers instead of rewriting them every time. I love getting that kind of mail and didn’t want to disappoint anyone with rushed answers lacking in substance. Now I can say, "Here’s a link to a post I wrote on that subject"—and since the post probably links to several other blogs, the questioner gets the benefit of input from people wiser than I.

Then I discovered an unexpected and delightful advantage of blogging. I have never been a journaler (I so dislike writing by hand, and journaling on the computer just never worked for me), but I have often regretted not writing down the funny or endearing things Jane and Rose said when they were younger, or recording all our little family adventures. Bonny Glen became a place for me to do that. And what I have found, to my surprise, was that blogging makes me a better mother. I’m more conscious and appreciative of those sweet or funny moments with the kids; I’m taking better note of the small beats of connection between us. I don’t want to be a hypocrite or present an inaccurate picture of who we are (that’s why I’m quick to point out my failings in the cooking and laundry departments), so I find that blogging makes me work harder to maintain my ideals. I would never want one of my children to read a post here and think, "That doesn’t sound like us." So this blog makes me work at keeping the atmosphere of this home as joyful as the moments I’ve shared here.

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Month of Motivation: the Wrap-Up

July 29, 2006 @ 6:16 am | Filed under:

Over at Big Slice of Life, Jenny reached the end of her Month of Motivation with many successes to show for her efforts.  Here in the House, well…you know what happened to my great closet-cleanout plan. I did do a lot of decluttering, but I had to put more focus on keeping the place clean and ready for showings than on purging clutter. The Big Purge will come later, after we sell the house.

But I did get rid of about eighteen big bags of Stuff. By get rid of I mean actually moved off the premises, either to the thrift shop or the dump. Not just to the basement or garage, which in times past has been my preferred method of dealing with the Stuff I don’t feel like dealing with.

But enough about me. How about you? Did you stick with your plan? Are you Clutter Free or Significantly Less Cluttered?

Taking Care of Blogness

July 28, 2006 @ 11:59 am | Filed under: , ,

I’m here, I really am. Just: five kids, one me, and of course if something’s gotta give, it’s going to be Mr. iMac. (Fred, I call him. Ole Fred, actually, in honor of my former professor and favorite living writer.)

(And yes, Down to the Bonny Glen was dedicated to the author, not the computer. I didn’t even have this computer when I wrote this book. I think that one was named Harvey. After the rabbit.)

Anyway, right now, at this moment, both my little ones are asleep and the three older girls are occupied. In descending order: Where the Red Fern Grows; a giant dirt hill and the little boy across the street; Zoombinis. Now, I am aware that my calling attention to this fact (that none of my children need me at this moment) all but guarantees someone is about to—

UNBELIEVABLE. I am not making this up: at the very second I was typing that, the door opened and one of the children DID need me. Well, sort of. She needed to tell me that she’d come home for her jaguar. Because, you know, what good is a giant dirt hill and the little boy across the street if you’re  short one jaguar? Priorities, you know.

OK. She’s gone again, wild beast in hand. What I should do now is typereallyfast and finish this post before someone needs (a) feeding, (b) hugging, or (c) wiping. So let me think. What was I going to write about today. Well, first, there was this: I have a brief sequel to my post about the funny things you hear in the background when you talk to Alice on the phone. (Such as: "Mommy, may I please jump on the bed?" Her children may be hard on the mattress springs, but they are so POLITE!) I took my gang to the pool this morning and I snuck in a phone call to Alice while the big girls were splashing and hollering "She splashed me!" in indignant tones swimming.

Alice: So when you come visit what we’ll do is—

Me (interrupting): No, no, DON’T THROW THE STRING CHEESE IN THE POOL! Oh, shoot.

(Question: would you let your two-year-old eat a stick of string cheese that had been fished out of the neighborhood pool? I mean, what’s a little chlorine marinade, right?)

Next. Lots of interesting reading elsewhere in the ‘sphere today. Spunky has three or four posts I’d like to sink my teeth into, as soon as I have a bit of a lull around here (a less tenuous lull than this one, I mean).

(For example, during that paragraph the Zoombinis had a heated argument with the upstairs computer, also known as Marge the Barely-Functioning Laptop, requiring intervention from local peacekeeping agencies.)

(Operation Reconciliation: a success. Marge has somewhat grudgingly permitted the ‘Binis access to her territory. She is temperamental, though, and their position is precarious in the extreme.)

(Personally I think she is just sulking because she heard me say it was a shame I wouldn’t be able to live-blog our cross-country trip, whenever that actually happens, because Marge doesn’t have Wi-Fi capability. She takes these things very personally.)

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on at Liz’s place today, too, such as this post on how people get started reading the classics. (I’d like to respond to this topic, too, at some point, but today is all about the meta-blogging, not the actual Blogging of Intelligent Stuff.) She also links to the list of 100 Cool Teachers in Literature list being compiled by the teachers at A Year of Reading, which will make a great companion to the fascinating lists of Cool Boys and Cool Girls in Children’s Lit that Jen Robinson has assembled. Up next, Cool Mothers? Seems like someone had a list like that going not long ago. High on my list: Marmee (obviously—and Mrs. Jo, too; she grew up rather nicely), Anne Blythe (but of course), Mrs. Austin, and the light-footed, lighthearted Mrs. Ray, mother of Betsy. But tops on my list has to be Susan Sowerby from The Secret Garden. Smart, down-to-earth, cheerful, observant, plain-spoken, unflappable, and a good cook to boot.

The Coolest Dad in Fiction has got to be Atticus, right?

(I’m having deja vu. Surely we have discussed this before.)

Moving on: Spunky mentions this too but I first read it on Bloglines, ’cause I’m a PHATMommy subscriber. Shannon reminds us that this weekend is the big BlogHer conference in San Jose where hundreds (thousands?) of female bloggers are getting together for panel discussions, networking, and cocktails. Lots of cocktails. Shannon has posted some BlogHer-in-Spirit discussion questions for those of us who are not at the convention in body. I hope to tackle them myself later on, but right now I can hear that Marge is being inhospitable to the Zoombinis again, and I think my own little Zoom-Beanie is in need of a Cool Mom in body, not just in spirit.

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Actually, It’s the Cauliflower You Have to Watch Out For, the Way They’re Always Darting into the Road

July 27, 2006 @ 9:04 am | Filed under: , ,

It was excruciatingly hard for all of us to say goodbye to Scott when he left for the new job in California, but the pain of separation was soothed somewhat by the utter fabulousness of cellular telephone technology. And the internet. During Scott’s trip, we talked to him, oh, probably fifteen times a day. He’d call and say, "Tell the girls to Google ‘Tucumcari Mountain‘ " or whatever sight he was seeing at that very moment. All of us felt better, knowing we could be so together even when we were so very far apart.

(Check out this amazing photo of Tucumcari Mountain, NM. [Scroll to the right.] That was his view for some 25 minutes.)

As he went, the kids and I plotted his course at MapQuest. There’s a feature there that lets you add pins to your map as you go. Virtual pin-sticking: a big hit with these children.

I live-blogged his trip on our private family site, so the whole extended clan got to share the fun. Especially when he got stopped by the border patrol as he entered California. Hey everyone! Big German shepherds sniffing my car! Next stop: Felicity, CA, where the road signs say, "Drive Carefully, Broccoli Crossing."