In Which I Use a Lot of Capital Letters

June 10, 2010 @ 7:22 pm | Filed under:

Our Season of Becky is just beginning. Summertime kicks off with Jane’s birthday—she turned 15 on Monday, and a splendid day it was, even if something did go amiss with my frosting for the Rocky Road Sheet Cake. (Wasn’t enough to cover the cake. Mom, where’d I go wrong?) Scott took the day off work; Jane and I stole away to go shopping, just the two of us—quite a treat! And then came the fun of a visit from Scott’s brother John, who was in town for a convention. And later still, that delicious if unsightly cake. A good day.

Our various activities are winding down for the summer—just a few biggies left to go, most particularly our Shakespeare Club performance of scenes from the Scottish play. Next week will be full of rehearsals. Our group piano classes keep going year-round, but apart from those, our time will be pretty much uncommitted until Comic-Con.

And it’s funny: no sooner had I breathed my usual deep sigh of relief over the End of the Activities than I noticed a certain, erm, restlessness attacking the occupants of this little house in the afternoons. Suddenly, my mental declaration to Park Myself and Go Nowhere seemed a bit, well, mental—especially around 5pm when there are still two long hours to go before Scott gets home. By last week, the kids were starting to get under each other’s skin something fierce. So I’ve been scooping up the three youngest a few evenings a week and heading to the YMCA, where we have a family membership.

I was actually on the verge of canceling the membership—we got it when Rose was taking gymnastics, but around Easter she decided to take a break, and after we paid for May without going one single time the whole month, I figured it was time to bail. But fortunately (as it turns out), you have to actually go there in person to cancel, and I was too lazy to go. (Which is almost certainly their diabolical plan. The people who are not too lazy to go the Y to cancel a membership are probably the kind of people who go to the Y to use their membership. Either way, the membership doesn’t get canceled.)

So last week when the afternoon crazies hit my children, I suddenly remembered: oh RIGHT, we still have that Y membership, and there’s a really nice playroom there. So I took the littles to the playroom, where they are ecstatically happy playing with the nice college girls who work there, and the big kids got a much needed respite at home without small peoples clamoring for their attention and Wii remotes.

And there I was at the Y, with nothing to do. So I went into the gym and got on the treadmill (because why not), and then I found out there’s a free-for-members personal-exercise-program-planning thing, so I signed up for that (because why not), now I have this whole Official Exercise Plan mapped out, which is, if you know me, hilarious. The young personal trainer guy asked me what my “fitness goals” are, and I was like: Um, uh, well….I would like stronger arms. So I can open jars instead of having to wait for my husband to come home from work. So now I have a Fitness Goal of Getting Arm Muscles.

I am hoping to achieve this goal by August, when we will be going to a Big Family Gathering back East. You never know when you will need to impress the in-laws by opening jars.

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21 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. sarah says:

    You know I love reading about your book posts, but it’s the “day in the life” entries that are forever my favorites. How funny, too, that I declared today our unofficial first day of summer, up to the pool, picnic, activities FINALLY winding down.

  2. Pam says:

    Your fitness goal made me laugh out loud. I have noticed that finally have killer bicep muscles from schlepping around the three kids here — problem is they are covered by a layer of stubborn pregnancy fat. Ahh the irony.

  3. Sara says:

    I have to laugh because of your Random Capital Letters. My College Girl gave me grief for doing the same thing, but I found them Very Useful!

    Good luck with that workout plan!

  4. Kathryn says:

    Have you ever read H.E.Marshall’s Kings and Things? (simpler than Our Island Story, for younger children). Capital Letter Heaven.

  5. mamacrow says:

    thats a good workout goal!

    (15?! good grief)

  6. Ellie says:

    You’re so funny.

    (And, yes: me too on this being my favorite sort of post you write. You don’t do a whole lot of ‘family life’ posts anymore and I miss knowing about how your days and lives are going. All of which sounds dreadful!! Nosy and maybe creepy! *hides under a paper bag*).

    Fifteen? Bless my buttons. Well, Eli just turned 21. Fifteen sounds horribly long ago!

  7. Hannah says:

    Good to hear the blahs hit a house like yours from time to time as well! (Not that I’m HAPPY, just … reassured.) I agree with Ellie; I was just thinking the other day that I kind of miss hearing about your family and how you all function (or don’t) from day to day.

    SO with you on the opening-jars thing. Hey, it’s a concrete, attainable goal! Nothing to sneeze at!

  8. Melissa Wiley says:

    Oh Hannah, the blahs and crazies hit here on a regular (read: daily) basis. I don’t write about them much because that would be a bummer for my kids, who read this blog, and whose friends read this blog. 🙂 I could totally milk it for rich comedy, though…

    But it’s interesting to hear your comments, all of you. I don’t think I’d realized I wasn’t blogging about the day-to-day as much. (Actually when I pub’d this post last night, I thought “well that’ll put them all to sleep, oh well…”) I knew I had pulled back on *homeschooling* posts; made that choice deliberately because it was getting too complicated to explain how we’re unschoolISH yet CMy and kindasorta Latin-centered, yadda yadda yadda. And then sometimes I get self-conscious, because it seems everything simple takes so much explaining. If I write about what we’re doing (say, reading Plutarch together) then I wonder if people think, wait, I thought they were unschoolers, and then I start thinking, mid-post, how to explain that reading Plutarch together really does fit organically into our unschoolishness, and anyway that’s a word so hard to define, and who cares what we call ourselves, labels aren’t altogether useful anyhow, and besides we hardly ever DO call ourselves anything in particular, it’s just a thing that happens when I try to write about it, etc etc etc—so that the actual post, about the good time we had together, gets smudged up with explainifying, and then I’m annoyed with myself for not simply telling the story I wanted to remember.

    Blogging gets stranger as the children get older. Jane’s stories are her own, now, not mine—that’s how it seems to me. (Hi, sweetie.) Rose is quite private and wouldn’t like me telling too many of her stories. That leaves the little ones, and I run into a new set of questions where Wonderboy is concerned. There are SO MANY stories about him I would like to tell—and so many conversations to be had, you know? with other families of special-needs children? I have such an urge, myself, toward transparency, but I am never quite sure where the boundaries are where my children are concerned. If I blogged anonymously it would be different, I suppose. I have no idea, at this point, whether Wonderboy will read a blog like this with comprehension someday. I think so? Probably? But am not sure? And so I am hesitant to talk about his medical misadventures and delicious quirks, out of regard for his future privacy. But Lord how I yearn to. There are stories and stories there, my friends.

    I dive into book discussions because bookish things do occupy a good deal of my thinking time. Bees, milkweed, iPad lust. Bread. Things I can talk about without worrying about crossing privacy boundaries. (Even with books it’s hard, though! As I am so often lamenting. There’s like this author code. If I don’t like something, I hardly ever write about it—but I also don’t write about ALL the books I do like—time constraints, brain constraints—and THEN I worry that people (like the authors themselves) will read something negative into my silence when in fact I loved the book. (Case in point: Tanita Davis’s MARE’S WAR, a book I loved. My post about it has been sitting in drafts for MONTHS, because I haven’t been satisfied with my attempt to articulate what I loved about it. Kathy Erskine’s MOCKINGBIRD, ditto.)

    Blogging angst is a strange thing, isn’t it? Takes you in mental circles?

    Well, anyway, I just want to say I appreciate your appreciation for this post. Seriously. Scott laughs because every now and then I’ll say, “I just posted such a dud, I should take it down”—and that turns out to be the one everyone likes best. 🙂

    You guys are so nice!

  9. Shonda says:

    I loved this post and could relate to almost everything in it! We just finished our Shakespeare production of As You Like It and it was a huge success. Very draining, though and I didn’t even teach the class this year! We have one more book club for our Girl’s Classics and we’ll take a small break. Violin recital tomorrow. Winding up for summer fun, for sure!

  10. MelanieB says:

    I love the day in the life posts as well.

    You know that happens to me too. The posts I think are duds are the ones that get all the comments.

    And I know as the kids get older I will struggle much more with the privacy issues. I almost wish I blogged anonymously for that reason; but it’s too late to close that barn door now.

  11. Melissa Wiley says:

    Melanie, there was a good discussion in your comments on a related topic a while back, about blogging frankly about the rocky days. One of your commenters made me smile, because she made reference to “some bloggers” (not you) having to put disclaimers in their sidebar about how there are bad days/moments, too, not just the happy ones chronicled on the blog. I laughed because I definitely fit that description; in fact, I was the first person I know to include one! I didn’t have a disclaimer (or a need for one) when all my kids were little. There does seem to be a major transition in the life of a blogging mother when her kids hit a certain age. For me, a disclaimer was a necessary antidote to the many despondent emails I was getting from sweet moms who mistakenly assumed every minute around here was sunshine and roses. I certainly didn’t want to be giving anyone the wrong impression.

    Charlotte/Matilda had a good post on this topic recently, too. I liked her description of the blog as scrapbook/photo album—we all weed out the dud photos and put the best ones in the album.

    I think at some point, early in blogging, there’s a fork in the road—are you going to ‘spill it all’? In which case, anonymity is probably the most charitable option. Or are you (generic you, not Melanie-you) 😉 seeing your blog as a chronicle of happy memories, funny stories, family lore to share openly with the world? The scrapbook to share with company, so to speak. My older kids really enjoy reading the archives here. That’s kind of my barometer. I don’t want to put together an album of photos that mortify them, you know? I wouldn’t have wanted my parents to do that to me…

    When I was blogging for ClubMom, we all had designated topic areas—mine were homeschooling and special-needs kids—and the woman whose topic was her teenagers resigned after a year or so, basically at the request of her kids. They didn’t like being blog fodder. She found she couldn’t tackle meaty teen-issue topics without breaching their privacy. It occurs to me now that all the special-needs moms (there were two or three of us) had quite young children. If I hadn’t quit over the Gardasil ads, I might have had to quit over the privacy question eventually. (Although ClubMom itself closed up shop about the same time I handed in my resignation.) I’ve lost track of whether those other moms are still blogging about their special-needs kids.

    I do read a moving and very honest blog about a 13 yr old boy with autism. I appreciate his mother’s candor, just as I admired Charlotte Moore’s honesty in her book about her two autistic sons, GEORGE AND SAM. I think these women are doing their sons and the world a great service in helping others understand what life is like for a person with severe autism, and for their families. Charlie, George, and Sam are not likely to ever be embarrassed by what their mothers have shared about them. Is that where the line is? Pioneer Woman writes about her mentally retarded (adult) brother with wonderful warmth, affection, and humor. As the mother of a child with mental retardation, I appreciate the way Ree lets her huge audience in on the joy Mike brings to her life, and to others. (Firemen everywhere!) My girls adore their funny, quirky, not-like-the-other-boys little brother. I could write loads and loads about that. The only thing that holds me back is the uncertainty about how the boy himself might feel, later in life, to have his antics chronicled in that manner. Ree’s brother is a grown man; she knows what he does and doesn’t mind. I don’t know, right now, what Wonderboy will or won’t mind when he’s an adult.

    I’ve wandered far afield here. There are so many aspects of the online privacy question to grapple with. Even the question of blog aliases for the children—in the age of Facebook, my use of aliases has begun to feel a bit silly. We’ve met dozens of online friends in real life and have had to do the whole blog name/real name translation thing, which gets to be comical.

  12. MelanieB says:

    You know I love your disclaimer and it sort of sits there in the back of my mind as I sift what to post and what not to. I actually go back and re-read it every so often just for a bit of inspiration. Oh there was a cute picture the other day of Sophie sitting on the toilet reading Popular Mechanics that I longed to blog; but I didn’t because I can hear her voice in a few more years: “Mom, I can’t believe you blogged that!” At some point I will probably feel the need to post one of my own. Especially as Bella gets closer to “school age”.

    That reminds me an interesting post for me would be your talking about what Rilla does during your unschooling days since she’s about the same age as Bella. I generally don’t worry about doing anything schooly with her but then every once in a while I start to second guess myself and wonder if maybe she needs just a tad more structure than I give her. The kind that having older siblings just naturally makes available. But that’s really getting far afield.

    I think because I started my blog just before I got married that I passed that fork before I’d really had time to ponder the repercussions of full disclosure. At times I’m even a little uncomfortable with my blog’s openness. Some days I have remorse and I worry about it coming back to haunt me. But Dom at least is on the same page as me so it isn’t a conflict between us. I think often dads are the more safety-conscious of us (I know Dom is) and are the ones to insist on anonymity. I think Margaret in Minnesota mentioned that recently when she revealed that her kids’ blog names are aliases.

    I do see my blog as a scrapbook, I loved that post of Charlotte’s too. Because there is no way I’ll ever finish a baby book for any of my kids, this is it. The collective memory for our family. But I’ve become much more aware of audience too and often find myself crafting my blog posts, even the cute kids stories ones, toward the non-family readers. As I notice that more and more it becomes harder to maintain the illusion that this is just my little private diary. But then there is that secondary scrapbook: those photos in iPhoto that will never see the blog or facebook but are just for us. At some point I’m going to have to come to terms with finding a way for the stories that aren’t kosher to share too. Do you write yours down somewhere else? And if so how do you manage the juggling act of recording things in multiple places? I don’t think I could ever handle two blogs. I would feel too pulled.

    I can see the dilemma with special needs as a distinct subset. (Speaking of which, can you point me to the mother of the 13 year old autistic boy? I’ve got a friend whose younger brother was just diagnosed with Aspergers and her mother is struggling with homeschooling issues.) I’ve loved Ree’s pieces about Mike; but I can see the line between writing about an adult and about one’s children. Perhaps that sort of writing is best done in book form as a memoir after the child is grown? That way you will have a clearer sense of what the boundaries are.

    I was just thinking about the Facebook/ blog aliases question the other day. I can match some of your kids real-life names to the blog names but I get muddled with the older girls. I tend to not worry so much about Facebook and privacy issues because I don’t put anything on FB that I wouldn’t put on my blog and that is much more public. But I know everyone has to find her own comfort level.

  13. Melissa Wiley says:

    Melanie asked: “At some point I’m going to have to come to terms with finding a way for the stories that aren’t kosher to share too. Do you write yours down somewhere else? And if so how do you manage the juggling act of recording things in multiple places? I don’t think I could ever handle two blogs. I would feel too pulled.”

    I’ve tried different things, and none of them have taken (permanently, I mean). When I first started blogging in Jan of 05 (Wonderboy was a year old, no Rilla, no Huck yet), I saw it mostly as a way to answer Little House-related questions, and to talk about the books & things we enjoyed. It quickly became more personal, because those things—my writing and our reading—are so intertwined with the rest of our family life. I’ve never been someone who keeps a private journal; for me writing is absolutely a public interaction. And yet I have a kind of constant narrative going in my head, way more than I ever could or would dare to put in print. It has always been that way, as long as I can remember: the things that happen to me turning themselves into narrative inside my head even as they are happening. When Jane was a baby, I had the hardest time coming OUT of my head to talk to her, even though SHE was the focus and subject of nearly every thought. It was so strange, wrenching really. I found a baby’s-here board on AOL where I could share some of the stories that occupied my thoughts, and after that it was better. I could pour out the anecdotes & observations, and then turn away from the computer to actually INTERACT with the child.

    But I digress. A month or two after I started Bonny Glen, I started a private blog as well—a real names, family & close friends only thing. But almost immediately I found myself widening the circle. And funny mishaps occurred. Like the time the girls had head lice, and I decided that was more appropriate fodder for the private blog. Too much comic potential not to share it SOMEWHERE, though! Well, a couple of years later, a head lice topic came up over at 4Real, and Elizabeth said “Oh Lissa has some great posts about that”—but then she went to look up the link and couldn’t find it, and she asked me if I’d taken down the post, and I said “oh that was on the private blog, remember?”—and she was mortified: “Oh no, I OUTED YOU!!!” but by then enough time had passed since the actual lice battle that I didn’t mind sharing, and I thought the whole thing was hilarious.

    After a while that blog fell dormant. Facebook makes it completely irrelevant now.

    I also have the “learning notes” blog, which is also currently dormant, and has been a place for sporadic bursts of posting since the get-go. Originally (again, within a couple of months of starting Bonny Glen), I saw it as a place to jot quick notes about what we were reading/doing/discussing each day, less polish, more homeschooly than this place which, at the time, I was thinking of as having a focus on my books, not my kids. Clearly *that* didn’t take.

  14. Ellie says:

    I love writing and I was thrilled when I discovered the blogging world! I never thought twice about whether or not I would join it. That said, I have always blogged anonymously. I have stalkers: two, real-life stalkers. They’ve been riding me for a long, long time now. They just don’t need to know I blog. They know enough already. And I … I need an outlet; I need to be able to breathe; I need a world of communication and friendship that they don’t know about. So, it’s a high-wire act. Well worth it, so far.

    Long may it last.

  15. Hannah says:

    I’m glad I came back to read this discussion because it echoes a struggle I’ve had for a while about blogging. Sometimes I wish my blog were “bigger,” when I have bouts of blogger jealousy and crave the comment-love some other bloggers get. But then I realize that the wider the audience, the more confined one is as far as what to share. OTOH, I frequently run into people whom I haven’t seen for a while who say, “Oh, I love your blog!” and I’m thinking, “HUH? Had no idea you were reading!” So the privacy issue is still there. Many times it’s actually the hard stuff (mostly with the kids) that I most WANT to write about — for release, for the possibility that someone will relate and sympathize, for the possibility that my experience could comfort someone else who feels down in the dumps about not having that glossy, perfect life we seem to see on blogs. But as you all have been saying (mostly Melissa and Melanie), as our kids grow, we run the risk of exposing their faults and flaws to an audience of unknown size. Exposing my own faults, no problem. Exposing my kids’ — that’s much trickier. How would they feel if they read it one day? So it feels like a fine line between presenting this rosy, unrealistic picture that taps into other moms’ insecurities and writing to encourage my own sense of gratitude for the roses amid the thorns (risking less of my kids’ dignity). Ach.
    Wish it were easier to keep two blogs — public and private! But who has time?! And I wish I’d thought to give my kids aliases back when only a few people were reading, but it’s too late now …

  16. Jeanne says:

    Great discussion here. I’m always glad when these issues come up. I have one article on line that is “Learning from a Difficult Child,” on the Family and Home Network website. I cannot tell you the number of people who have written to me because they are grateful for the ideas and resources in that article, but I recently asked to have the name of the child changed in the text. Who really wants to google himself and find that he’s “the difficult child,” and in a very public way?

    But I don’t quite have the heart to take the article down, either, despite the fact that anyone who knows us would, of course, know which family member is involved. Including him. But when I was going through having such a hard toddler and preschooler, I know that *I* was desperate for this kind of story, laced with information and hard honesty.

    These kinds of issues became a prohibitive barrier for me when I tried to blog a few years back. It helps me to hear how other people think about them. Maybe I will try again. Been thinking about it.

    With a disclaimer. Do you have that copyrighted, Lissa? My funny little brain for words knows, without looking, that the header for yours is “A Word About How I Blog.” I’ve run it over and over in my mind.

  17. spence says:

    I often find that a frosting shortage can sometimes (always) be the result of too much taste testing during the creation phase. See also: why does my tummy hurt when the first batch of cookies isn’t even out of the oven yet?

  18. Fanny Harville says:

    Much as I enjoy reading everything else you write about on your blog (I’ve been reading for 9 months or so, and lots in archives), I am especially hungry for the homeschool stuff. Being unschool-ISH, I absolutely understand the paralysis of the label problem (is what we are doing violating “the rules” of this or that homeschool method?), but I also really love reading about what you and your kids are studying. It’s inspiring, and doesn’t need complicated explanations or disclaimers! For example, I loved reading the “connections” posts. With a son who loves Betsy-Tacy and the Odyssey, I suspect our homeschool path may end up looking a bit like yours. So, I’d be an avid reader of any “here’s what we’re studying now” posts that you might feel like writing in the future! Thanks for your blog.

  19. Melissa Wiley says:

    Jeanne, great case in point. (Your difficult-child article.) You know I wish you WOULD blog again. You have such a wise & reasonable head. I’d like to see your insights shared with a wide audience…

    Ron, the frosting. Your theory is excellent and, given my tendencies, sound—but in this case, nope, I didn’t sneak so much as a fingertip’s worth. It’s a kind of fudge-like frosting that you start in a saucepan (the butter and cocoa) before adding the milk and powdered sugar. It’s possible the powdered sugar was the problem—I made it in my Vitamix. From table sugar. This is my favorite party trick, lately. But maybe it’s a different consistency, or maybe (very likely) I didn’t add enough, since in the bag it’s measured by weight but in the Vitamix I’m measuring by volume. Come to think of it, I didn’t use quite all the milk the recipe called for. So duh, that was the problem. I am the most brilliant cook.


    Hannah, please don’t ever let my blog persuade you we have a glossy, perfect life. Folks who know us in real life would be doubled over laughing at that notion. We are a noisy, ragtag bunch, and my backyard is probably the screechiest in the neighborhood. Wonderboy is distressed (she understates) by Things Out of Order or Done Differently. Rose is allergic to Doing Things the Way One Expects them to Be Done. You see the rich potential for conflict.

    We have too many books, and rapidly deteriorating furniture, and a dearth of square footage, and we’ve made a succession of career moves trending ever farther from financial solvency. 😉 And I am always the mother who shows up with a package of supermarket baked goods when everyone else brought homemade treats to the party. 🙂

    In the middle of writing this comment, I was called away to assist with a poop-in-the-bathtub incident. How’s that for keepin’ in real? 🙂 🙂 🙂

  20. Melissa Wiley says:

    Fanny, those connections posts are my favorites too—to write and to read! I do miss them when I get out of the habit of doing them. Thanks for the nudge to get back in the habit.

  21. Jeanne says:

    I recently found a GREAT answer to the packaged cookies amidst homemade baked goods. A pineapple. Yes, grabbing a whole pineapple from the grocery store and stashing a knife (really, really well) to cut it with has actually been seen as a GOOD thing rather than a slacker thing at homeschool gatherings. (“Oh, you are really prepared!” Um, no.) Since I no longer have any children under age 6, I even remember to bring a cutting board, but you would get serious bonus points for that, Lissa.