Motherhood’s New Clothes

Is there anything worse than the perfume-pushers at department stores who douse the unwary? Probably not, but I also don’t like fashion or makeup or shopping. My ovaries have even failed me in my laundry endeavors. In fact, it is entirely possible that I am not a woman at all, except for those three children who miraculously arrived to suckle at my bosom and sing Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam all day.

Most of the time when people talk about fashion, I think of the Emperor’s New Clothes fairytale. Or Thoreau, who advised: “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” This is when I’m not thinking about other intellectual things like what’s for dinner and what was on TV last night.

Fashion is a creative, subjective thing. One person’s [insert high-fashion label] is another person’s thrift shop bargain (unless by thrift you mean “vintage,” in which case they really ARE the same thing). Consider this ring featured in The New York Times.

The comments were the best thing about this column, proving again that the Internet really is like manna, a gift from Heaven that nourishes and allows the unempowered a format for correcting the hubris of salaried journalistas. Here are just a few:

is that my highschool ring? (Mary)

What a find! It must be really difficult to research and source these unique items, what with a Banana Republic on every other corner in NYC and most shopping malls around the country. Maybe you could do a piece on gum ball machine jewelry too. (Sar Casm)

That is one ugly ring — why not go to Salvation Army or Goodwill and pick up something for $1? (Casino Con)

Man, I love the internet. Only, let’s not diss Salvation Army, ok?

Speaking of fashion and motherhood, though, my good friend Andrea dropped out of high school to marry her high school sweetheart. (And no, she didn’t “have to”). She later took the GED and got a plaque from the state of Utah congratulating her on getting the high score that year. Then she became a pharamicist, and then later she said something profound about fashion and motherhood, which brought me a lot of vindicatory satisfaction at the time.

In her visits with new mothers at the hospital, Andrea said she could often tell which mothers were going to breastfeed by how they looked after the birth. Breastfeeding was less common in those mothers who fussed over their hair and clothes and makeup than those who looked like death warmed over. Since I looked like death not even warmed over after giving birth, I thought this sounded only fair. Who has time/energy/desire to primp with a bloodsucking eel attached 24/7?

Then Mrs. Fussypants had to go and give birth to her fifth boy child. And then she had to go and wear pearls. And earrings. And, is that mascara? And I KNOW she breastfeeds.

At least she did have to suffer the crime against humanity known as the hospital gown. Otherwise I’d have to hate her. As it is, I’m thinking I need to reconsider my principled stand against Beautified Mother Barbie. Now that Barbie breastfeeds, and all.

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p.s. Thanks to Fussy for allowing me to use her picture.

p.p.s. I didn’t ask Andrea’s permission before outing her as a smart high school dropout and probably misrepresenting her words egregiously. I hope she can forgive me.

Unexpected, and a call for Bloggy Opinions

Well-meaning friends and strangers have asked me why I blog. And I confess that sometimes I ask myself that very question. Also:

What on earth am I hoping to accomplish here? Or maybe that was what I wondered when I used licorice-bribery to get Susan on the potty this afternoon.

Various Reasons People have Suggested for Why a Female Mammal With Offspring Would Blog

Do I plan to become a real writer someday? (Do you plan to become more attractive someday?)

Do I just want to chronicle my family life? (Do you think scrapbooking would cure that?)

Do I hope to make money someday? (Do you want to hear about how much mother-work is worth?)

Do I think blogging will cure cancer in the near future? (Do you really think Ivana Trump’s fourth husband married her for love?)

So Why Blog?

Some days I think I will stop blogging, or stop viewing my blog as a letter to world. It can be very discouraging if you are not The Pioneer Woman getting 10,528 comments on your ode to John Denver and Zune (which didn’t discourage me from entering her Zune contest!). Or I can get discouraged because I don’t think I’ll ever write something as simply moving as Conversion Diary’s last post (via Rocks in My Dryer).

But every time I get especially down at the fact I have not brokered world peace yet, I get an email or a comment from a friend, family member, or stranger, and whatever sweet thing they say makes it all worthwhile. I think that this would happen even if I weren’t blogging — I think God expects us to minister to each other by encouraging and complimenting, but as writing becomes more and more something I want to be, nice things said about what I’ve written mean a lot.

Beyond Writing

Content comes first on a blog, but then you can consider design and marketing. I’d rather not discuss design, what with my complete lack of talent and patience with art and computers. Marketing is interesting, though, and not just because advertisers sell everything from cigarettes to hockey sticks with the same lie that both will make you more attractive to the opposite sex. If they’d only promise to make you more attractive, sympathetic, and obey-able to your children, I’d start smoking — herbal cigarettes, at least.

It doesn’t take an FBLA alumna to realize that the marketing of your blog and the marketing that businesses hope to do on your blog are pretty significant. I think the BlogHer Adnetwork is pretty cool because they combine these two things: When I place BlogHer ads on my site, my post headlines get placed on other blogs. I don’t know what that means in terms of readership or money yet, because I’ve lost my BlogHer password. Probably a big check is in the mail.

Your Input Needed

Next week I’ll be participating in a panel at the Blogging for Business Conference in Salt Lake City. I tried to demur, but thanks to the generosity, gullibility, and/or desperation of the conference organizer, I will be on a panel with Laura Moncur to discuss “Pitching to Bloggers: What Works, What Doesn’t, and What Will Get You in Trouble.” The other speakers include such luminaries as Brian Critchfield, Charlie Craine, Christopher Barger, Cydni Tetro, Dave Bascom, Jake McKee, Jason Brown, Rand Bateman, and Tom Pick. I have no idea who any of these people are, nor indeed how brightly their lumen shines.

Basically, I am so flattered to have been asked to participate that I have turned in my picture and bio on time not yet begun to figure out how to make what I have done for the past ten years sound remotely business-ish. I do, luckily, have some experience with being pitched to by companies that sell everything from fabric wallpaper to parenting magazines. Most recently I was asked to review a new LDS movie. Dick has been wanting to see it, so I said, “sure,” although the last Mormon movie I tried to watch was a serious contender for the Worst Movie Ever title.

I do have definite ideas on how businesses should pitch to bloggers, and almost every pitch that I’ve received could have been more effective if the PR person were more familiar with blogging. The overall impression I get is that PR people don’t know whether to approach bloggers as 1) journalists interested in press releases, 2) businesses selling ad space, or 3) human lab rats.

If you have any thoughts on this, I hope you’ll share them with me. I’d ask for wardrobe and hair help, but it’s probably too late for that. It’s probably also too late to lose that 20 pounds.

Your Take on Bloggy Pitches

What mistakes do companies make when they pitch to you?

What would/do you like to see in a pitch?

What motivates you to review/recommend a product or run ads (free review products, money, free products for giveaways, money, etc)?

What’s the worst pitch you’ve ever received?

Thanks!

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Man Laundry

works-for-me wednesday logoLike the Man Cold, Man Laundry is similar to Woman Laundry, yet inexplicable in execution. Why can’t a man do laundry like a woman?

It’s not a matter of intelligence, of course. Dick went to graduate school at an Ivy League Institution, but really that is nothing compared to the fact that last night he cleaned up copious amounts of Sally’s spaghetti vomit. He even threw the bedding in the washing machine.

I know, I know: I should be happy that he knows where the washer and dryer are, and stop with the quibbling about how it gets done. So, I will restrict myself to giving one simple tip for Man Laundry. A tip that I know Dick is eager to learn.

Eager because he actually asked me today why I buy liquid detergent when it has such a serious design flaw. And he might have a point. Men often approach household matters from a fresh, innovative perspective.

The wisest thing my brother-in-law ever said was in defence of hanging the toilet paper the wrong way. “It’s harder for the kids to unroll it that way.” I ran some experiments to test this theory, and, much as it pains me, I have to say he’s right: It is harder for a malevolent 18-month old to waste an entire roll of toilet paper if it is not flapping on the top.

Man Laundry Tip

To avoid this:

And this:

Rinse the dispenser in the water as it fills the washer. To be more specific: 1) dump the detergent in the washer, 2) fill the dispenser with the water pouring in, 3) dump the dispenser (in the washer), and 4) repeat as necessary.

Dick says that he does rinse the cap once, and I conceded that it often takes seven or eight rinses. Whenever I stand at the washer and rinse the cap, I remember Mr. Raine’s chemistry class, and how he taught us that scientific principle where each time you do something like rinse a cap, you never get all of the detergent out. Instead, each time you get a certain percentage, and so you have to do it over and over to get that same percentage of whatever’s left. You’d think that since I remember this from high school that I’d remember what it was actually called and be able to describe it coherently, but then you’d remember that I have three kids and am lazy.

Anyway, Dick thinks the fact that you have to rinse the cap eight times means that it’s engineered wrong. All I know is that our water is so hard that powdered detergent often doesn’t dissolve, and since I am a granola-girl dropout, I don’t see homemade detergent in my near future. I did buy this liquid stuff at Costco, though, so all the free food samples surely cancel out the flagrant misuse of monetary resources.

Next time we’ll cover:

1) Hot water is for whites, only.

2) Building relationships with pre-wash treatments.

3) Sorting by color is not really optional, especially if #1 has not been mastered.

4) Not drying shrinkable, favorite pieces of clothing (especially if your wife is getting fatter anyway).

5) Removing crayons from pockets BEFORE placing in dryer (bonus points for not mentioning that your wife has done that one before).

Any other ideas for Man Laundry Tips?

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Top 10 Reasons to Live in Utah

I recently moved back to Utah after nine years in some of the world’s great cities (NYC, Cairo, Tokyo, St. Petersburg — Florida). I miss public transportation, good bagels, and the beach. In a lot of ways, though, Utah more than holds it own, even when it’s colder than a witch’s mammary all winter. Spring is finally here, a weird, wet spring where one day is 90 degrees and the next there’s fog and new snow on the mountains.

ireland
Ireland

Yesterday we joined my family’s yearly Memorial Day camping pilgrimage. We used to go every year to the cemetery where Aunt Jodi and Uncle Kurt are buried. I’m sure my grandparents and Mom went today. We had insane temper-tantrum kids this morning; sometimes all you can do is strap them in their carseats and turn the radio up really loud. And think to yourself, as you pass the turnoff to the cemetery, that Aunt Jodi would understand, and we’ll try to make it next year.


Washington State

As we drove up the canyon, I kept nagging imploring Dick to look out the window. I pointed out the green fields, and those mountains that are brown ninety percent of the year. I love it when you can see seven different shades of green, from sage to myrtle. Dick said (smug, impatient voice) “I grew up in Washington State. This is nothing. This is crappy.” (I might be exaggerating a tiny bit). So, we are not in Ireland, or even Washington State, but right now, this is as beautiful as Utah ever gets. Enjoy it.


Utah

Top 10 Reasons to Live in Utah

10. Fry Sauce. I heard someone ask a new transplant if they’d gotten “used to” fry sauce yet. What? “Used to”? Fry sauce is to French Fries as hot fudge sauce is to vanilla ice cream. Start with ketchup or barbecue sauce, then throw in some mayo and maybe go wild with a drop or two of liquid smoke (only on the ketchup-based one, I’d think). Or I could send you Some Dude’s Fry Sauce.

9. Caffeine-free Mountain Dew (C-F MD). I was extolling the virtues of C-F MD to a new transplant (see above) and other Utahns chimed in to say, “What’s the point of that?” Which is a valid concern. Mountain Dew is glorious for its efficient caffeine-delivery system. Yet there are times (late at night, say), when a caffeine-free version is preferable. Oh, said my new friends, That’s what beer is for. But since A) beer is not an option for me and B) I don’t believe you get a sugar high from beer, I just don’t think it would be the same.

8. Dooce. Everyday trips to the grocery store for edamame are exponentially enlivened by the possibility of running into a mom who, though she acts as though having one kid is as hard as having a million, or, say, three, gets that letting your daughter watch Cinderella seven times in a row is completely healthy. (I have no idea what Edamame is).

7. Grandparental babysitters. So Dick and I can go enjoy nature.


Taken just last week 10 years ago.

6. Young-skewing population growth. I could probably have a playdate every single day for my girls, if I were so masochistically-inclined.

5. Utah Geek Bloggers group. There were probably geeks and/or bloggers in the other places we lived, but I didn’t meet them, and I doubt any of them could be any nicer than those we’ve met here. Laura Moncur is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, but that’s another story. I love talking with blogger people, even if they are “getting used” to fry sauce and think that beer could ever substitute for Mountain Dew.

4. Speaking of beer, Rootbeer on tap almost everywhere. If I ever won the lottery, I’d have a soda fountain installed in my family room with Coke — Mountain Dew — Cranberry Ginger Ale — Mug Rootbeer — Sprite (for the kids) — Caffeine-Free Mountain Dew — Apple Slice — Code Red Mountain Dew — Squirt. Not that I like carbonated beverages or anything. Do you know what a can of Coke can do to a rusty nail in four seconds?

3. Grandparents who like to babysit.

2. National Parks and Monuments. Sure, the Great Salt Lake may be pretty shallow, and salty, but Utah is gorgeous. I went on a week-long survival trip to Southern Utah as a senior in high school. I don’t know that it changed my life, but I’d spend time in Escalante National Monument any day.


Calf Creek

1. It’s where some of our dead are buried, even if our living childrens sometime prevent us from visiting them or otherwise living normal lives.


It’s fortunate that we have found something even better than seatbelts for containment.

I’ve linked this to We are THAT Family’s ‘Fro me to you. Thought my Snow White/Superman photo was humiliating enough to qualify!

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Proud to be

david cook american idolI am not ashamed to say that I cried tonight, and not because Sally and Susan refused to go to bed before American Idol was over.

Honestly, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that American Idol represents all that is good about America today. And I know, yadda, yadda, there’s a lot wrong with America. The streets are not paved with gold, or cheese, and I am not a gazilionaire, award-winning author.

What is right with AmericaN IDOL

Friendship: Though they might never have met in real life (I picture David A ordering a sarsaparilla at David C’s place of work), David C and David A seem to genuinely like each other.

Facing up to Mistakes: When Simon apologized to David C tonight, my heart overflowethed: Simon, God loves you very much, and he is SO proud of you tonight.

Good Sportsmanship: I might not have appreciated rocker-chick Amanda Overmyer’s style, but at least she never skulked around with a tire iron.

Democratic, Free Elections: With a simple nominating system that takes a mere 19 weeks rather than seventeen years, and a vote-counting method that rewards enthusiasm and participation, there’s no need for the Supreme Court to step in. Amendment #28?

Element of Surprise: Fireworks on the 4th of July, A 4th Indiana Jones movie, children being solidly potty-trained by age 4: These things are all quintessentially American, but not necessarily surprising. David Cook winning by 12 million votes after auditioning by accident, never playing it safe, getting trashed by judges and almost shown up in the final contest: Surprising.

Youth! Energy! Hard Work! (Truth! Beauty! Love! Freedom!). Amen.

—-

P.S. My dad was embarrassed to tell me that he wanted to watch the show last night (I hope they caught tonight’s, because most of it was fantastic). He said he’d even told his parents about it. My grandparents are lovely, conservative, white-bread, middle-Americans (in a good way) who still watch Lawrence Welk on public television. And I have to say that I think American Idol, as a variety-talent-feel-good show is the Lawrence Welk of the 21st century. Also in a good way.

P.P.S. American Idol bringing out that crazy Renaldo guy singing “You are My Brother” was The.Most.Awesome.Thing.Ever. God bless America!

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Music soothes the savage

Things were tense tonight. Tense and torn. We are positively torn between David A. and David C. I told Dick this morning that I planned to vote for Cook because his accidental rise to fame is so appealing. If you believe that whole thing about him only auditioning by chance while supporting his brother, you gotta admit that America in the 21st century is a dang fine place to live. Dick said maybe I could wait and see how they performed tonight. BUT — that’s hardly the point.

Watching American Idol has brought us much closer as a family. And our musical know-how? Off the charts. But tonight Sally (7) and Susan (3 1/2) nearly came to blows. Sally says she’ll throw up if David Archuleta loses and if he wins, she’ll “scream so loud in the house” (it’s hard for me to tell which of those outcomes she thinks is better). Susan, getting a little tired towards the end, was livid. It was pretty heartbreaking to see our poor Cook falter a bit in critique.

Embarrassing as it is to have embraced American Idol so unreservedly, I have to say that music is what’s working for me lately. Dick and I didn’t have a song ten years ago. In fact, whenever we played newlywed-type games (not often, thank goodness), we made a point of proclaiming our songlessness. Suddenly, though, we are enjoying similar songs. Dick says my taste has improved, but I think it’s his that has improved, dramatically. He has always liked Bjork, after all.

Also singing my song are my iPod, iTunes and the new iLive docking station boombox I got for Mother’s Day from my favorite father-in-law (thanks Grampa!!). The only speakers in our house for years have been our wimpy computer speakers, and since I also love live radio, the iLive is awesome! I found it for $58 at Overstock.com (hope you didn’t pay more than that, Grampa).

The whole iOrganism could seem almost incestuous and repulsive if you didn’t consider that it’s Apple’s response to the evil Microsoft Empire. And frankly, once you invest in the iPod (or have a generous family member; thanks, Grampa! Again!) and iLive, the ability to buy one track at a time on iTunes is nothing short of nirvana. And for iTunes, gift cards can show up in your stocking; thanks Liz and Sean! Basically, the iWorld is an opportunity for people to give you stuff, again and again.

So, we’re downloading American Idol songs on iTunes (Carly Smithson’s I Drove All Night & Blackbird, Brooke White’s I Am, I Said, David Archuleta’s Imagine, David Cook’s All I Really Need is You, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Innocent & I’m Alive). From that list, it’s clear I should be texting like mad for David Cook. But Dick and I agreed to not vote. His votes and my votes would just cancel each other out, right?

As for our song? Lazy Eye was the first song I downloaded that Dick wanted for himself. We’re also playing the Estonian Kerli (who’s all international, eh?). Coldplay’s new Viva la Vida is awesome. But my favorite new artist is Ingrid Michaelson. Talk about an organic rise to fame. If you buy that whole thing about how she was just putting her stuff up on YouTube until the Grey’s Anatomy people discovered her. I love The Way I Am, Breakable, Die Alone, Far Away, and Starting Now.

Susan, who will do the motions to Once There was a Snowman, but will not sing the words to save her life, knows the chorus to Keep Breathing. And will sing it. I know, it’s an easy chorus. But still.


Susan’s Keep Breathing from jane on Vimeo.

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