How NOT to respond to comments ***Updated***

I’ve been reading Jonathan Fields | Awake at the Wheel for a couple of months now. He’s a pretty interesting guy for a pro-blogger type. My favorite post of his so far was about taking his kid to the hospital and living in the moment, because it transcended the cliche, which, really, is what all good writing aspires to.

He’s got an interesting post today called: Should Your 14 Year Old Be On Facebook, to which I left a way-insightful comment, and I got this email reply:

Just a quick note to thank you for leaving your first comment on my blog, Jonathan Fields | Awake At The Wheel.

Feel free to stop back anytime, e-mail me any questions and, if you’ve enjoyed the blog, why not subscribe for free updates? Here’s the link:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/JonathanFields

Have a great day!

Jonathan

How sweet. He responded. So quickly. And, come to think of it, I do have a few questions for the veteran blogger, so I drafted an email response. I asked if he knew what percent of people subscribe after getting one of these comment-follow-up emails, and if he really “follows” all the people he follows on Twitter.

I suspect there must be a secret super-blogger Twitter filter for sifting out the feeds you actually want to pay attention to (while appearing as if you are gracious enough to follow everyone who follows you).

In my email, I was torn between my readerly-disdain for automated replies to comments, and my bloggerly-interest in GETTING! NEW! READERS! THE EASY WAY!

The only other blogger I’ve gotten an automated comment-response email from was Jordan @ MommaBlogga, and she just had a baby, so I didn’t harass her about it. Plus she has explained tricky WordPress thingies to me, so I love her, even though she sent me an automated response after we totally email-bonded over the tricky WordPress thingies (not to mention my participation in her group writing project, but, really, I still love her).

I hesitated before sending my email to Jonathan (can I call you Jonathan?), worrying that I sounded too snarky, and — What if his email wasn’t automated? What if he really does follow my twittering? What if he’s deeply offended by my not feeling his sincerity about wanting to be my friend and get emails from me?

Well, I got both the answer to some of my questions and absolution for my snarkiness, in under a minute:

Internet Smarm = We’re agin’ it!

***Updated*** Holy Real-Time Internet Non-Smarminess: THE Jonathan Fields just responded to my email, NOT AUTOMATED, and can I just say that I am his loyal follower for EVER now.

WFMW: Real Tips! Microwaves, Snopes, and Diet Coke Bombs!

I hesitated to post this tip, because I am probably the last person on earth to know about it. But I finally tried this method of cleaning my microwave, and IT WORKS! (Thanks Mom; it wasn’t that I didn’t believe you. It just sounded too easy).

If your microwave looks like, say, this:

[Oh, I give up. Dirty stuff just doesn’t look as dirty in pictures as it does in real life. I wonder if this is sort of like a dirty-anorexic-distortion, where instead of looking fatter that your really are, things look cleaner/dirtier than they really are.]

Anyway, to clean even gunky dried-on spaghetti sauce, exploded black bean soup, and splattered sweet potatoes, simply place a glass container full of water in the microwave and turn it on High for about 5 minutes. Then wipe off the soggy ickies, and, voila:

In other news, Danielle sent me a video about a bioluminescent Mountain Dew experiment. Boy! Was it exciting, and Mountain Dew by itself is practically glow-in-the-dark, so I assembled the necessary ingredients:

I had to try it for myself even after Dick looked it up on Snopes.com and found that it was a false urban legend. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly, I guess, though seriously disappointingly), Snopes was right; it doesn’t work. (I’m glad I’m not as cynical as Dick; I’m sure he misses a lot of fun anticipation that way.)

But never fear, I know a fun soda pop trick that does work! The Diet Coke and Mentos Bomb is fabulous, and would make a great Last-Hurrah-of-Summer family activity.


Diet Coke and Mentos on the 4th of July from jane on Vimeo

Look at that! Actual tips for Works-for-me Wednesday:

1) Clean your microwave with boiling water.

2) Snopes.com debunks too-good-to-be-true tricks.

3) Diet Coke and Mentos make for FUN TIMES.

You can thank me later.

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How are Mommy Bloggers like a Gang of Crack Cocaine Dealers?

In the gilded ghetto of purpose-driven motherhood, the A-list Mommy Blogger is a glamour job like no other. Mommy Blogging is the ultimate think/work-at-home-while-the-kids-THRIVE endeavor. It glorifies motherhood even as it thrillingly confesses how mindlessly stultifying it can be. And children are the ultimate source of tragic/comic/heart-warming narratives.

While mommy blogging is not dangerous in the same way that crack cocaine dealing is, or even illegal, it is an illogical, unrewarding thing for otherwise-reasonable women to engage in in the hope of making it big. Just like crack cocaine dealing.

Consider:

“The problem with crack dealing is the same as in every other glamour profession: a lot of people are competing for a very few prizes.” (Sure, some women earn a bunch, but a million more would like to).

“When there are a lot of people willing and able to do a job, that job generally doesn’t pay well.” (Mommy Blogging pays roughly .0032 cents an hour, and that’s not including the time spent dealing with those “episodes” that become charming “anecdotes”). (105)

How can Mommy Blogging have so much in common with standing on a corner all day catering to addled codependents who demand something as brain-enhancing as SpongeBog Squarepants crack cocaine?

It turns out that the worlds of crack dealing and Mommy Blogging are both governed by tournament-type rules.

Rules of the Glamour Job Tournament

1- “You must start out at the bottom to have a shot at the top.”

2- “You must be willing to work long and hard at substandard wages.”

3- “In order to advance in the tournament you must prove yourself not merely above average but spectacular.”

4- “And finally, once you come to the sad realization that you will never make it to the top, you will quit the tournament.” (106)

Blogging in general (personal blogging in specific, and Mommy Blogging in more specific) has so little space at the top of the pyramid of success that even those who have enough success or get enough comments feel terribly insecure about it. Where enough equals any more success or comments than Jane gets.

Which is why I am going to stop blogging. Just kidding. Of course I’m not in blogging for the fame or the fortune. Like you, I do it for the friendships and the writing.

And because I don’t know any crack cocaine gangs that are hiring.

What, you don’t think that blogging is anything like dealing crack? Maybe Jane was smoking a bit too much of her own product? Or maybe she should just stop reading Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.

Okay, I’ll stop. Since I finished this spectacular book yesterday, anyway. I’m going to keep reading the Freakonomics blog, though, because I LOVE it.

The authors (of both book and blog) are curious, smart, creative, and they apply their curiosity and reasoning powers to a dizzying array of topics. From the link between legalized abortion and reduced crime to the incentives of cheating, daycare pickup fines, and real estate commissions, to exploring the (non)benefits of obsessive parenting, Steve D. Levitt (the economist) and Stephen J. Dubner (the journalist) are, basically, wonderfully thought-provoking.

Even if they did convince me that blogging (standing on a virtual corner shouting LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME) is about as smart as selling crack.

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Your kisses don’t make it better anymore; only a bandaid makes it all better.

Usually I like to think that I’m exaggerating when I talk about a fault of mine. No one could be THAT bad a mom or a wife or a school chauffeur-er, but lately I’ve realized that I really am THAT bad, and I can no longer point out that things COULD BE WORSE by pretending that I feel bad that I’m much worse than I really know I am not.

Last week, when school had been in session for approximately ten seconds, the Parents or Guardian of Sally got a very formal letter from the school expressing concern over her numerous tardies and absences. Two weeks of school and she’s already missed too much = A new personal best at Chez Dick and Jane!!

But really, even though Sally is well above-average, a little part of me still worries that if she doesn’t get in the habit of going to school now, she might want to stay home and talk to me when she is thirteen, and then she’ll never have the character-building experience of being asked to return her half of a BE FRI – ST ENDS necklace.

Which is why I thought it would be good for my girls to play with their Princess-Barbie-loving cousins yesterday. That and the fact that Dick had a late meeting and my sister has a backyard, and a fence, and a lock on the sliding glass door to the backyard.

Since Marcy is just getting used to her new apres-marriage house, we slept over. There’s nothing like extra junk and people sleeping in your basement to make a house feel like home. After we got the kids down, I helped Marcy christen the new house with a ritual viewing of the Keira Knightley/Matthew MacFadyen Pride and Prejudice. It was late; mostly we just fast-forwarded to our favorite Lady Catherine lines like “If I had ever learned, I should have a been a great proficient.”

This morning Sally was thirty minutes late to school, which I didn’t think was too bad, considering we had to drive 49 minutes from the wild bachelorette house to get there. And I even made her a sandwich for lunch, though I had to use ranch dressing with the turkey, because Marcy had no idea where her mayonnaise was.

So basically I was feeling pretty swell today, confident in my good mothering skills. I read a bunch of books to Susan and Spot before naptime, including Fanny’s Dream, which proves that even the most excellent of books become slightly less compelling after being forced to nod and smile encouragingly about the “a hat” and the “a dog” on every single page.

A few minutes after Spot fell asleep, I got a call from my mom. Sally’s school had called her, because I forgot to pick up Sally, and I didn’t answer my phone when they tried to call me. The phone that I WAS answering, obviously, otherwise how would I be talking to my mom about the fact that I was thirty minutes late for early-release Friday?

Dick pretended he wasn’t disappointed that I had once again forsaken my oldest daughter for the fleeting pleasures of the internet. He even tried to cheer me up by saying he figured the 30 minutes late for drop-off and 30 minutes late for pick-up should cancel each other out. Good point. Oh, public school. How fickle you are! You’re upset when she’s not there and then upset when she is. Make up your mind, already.

You know what they say: raising children is all about being consistent.

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Stephenie Meyer, have you been talking to J.J. Abrams?

(Breaking Dawn and Fringe SPOILER ALERT)

Dear Stephenie,

Did you catch the second episode of the new (almost-as-good-as Alias, probably-like-X-Files) show on Fox, Fringe? I know you’re sad, sad, sad right now about the internet-leaking of Midnight Sun, and probably you have better things to do than watch House and Fringe on Tuesday nights. Like write. Or play with your three sons or talk to your husband. But some of us don’t (or, we do, but, our husbands have Scouts on Tuesdays anyway, and the kids are asleep/snacking/screaming in their rooms, and writing isn’t getting us anywhere that it’s taking you).

So there I was, watching my new show Fringe, and I have to tell you that Bella’s pregnancy and delivery in Breaking Dawn was my favorite part of that book. I loved how Re-gag-me was a vampiric parasite, much like all babies, who leach the calcium from their mother’s bones and who, if you’re Rh-negative and have a husband who’s Rh-positive, all of your kids will be A-positive and you have to get two extra shots and even more blood drawn so your body won’t turn on them. Which, if you think about it and you think that vampirism is like a virus or blood disease, really makes sense.

Photo from Fox.com. You can watch full episodes at hulu.com or Fox.com.

Anyway, the good people writing Fringe totally stole your idea of the baby who develops, in utero and out, much faster than normal. Of course, they followed the logical conclusion that aging and death would also come prematurely, whereas you came up with some ducks machine about development stopping at a very auspicious time, say, right when Re-gag-me would be a perfect age for the imprinting/newly-vampirphiliac Jacob.

I think Pacey would make a good Jacob, actually, which is another sign that you’ve been talking to J.J. Abrams lately. Or maybe you need a good copyright attorney.

Yours,

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Once upon a time (or, Susan’s book pick: Fanny’s Dream by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner)

Sometimes I fantasize about organizing a “too much stuff” intervention for my parents. I try to tell them, nicely, that we have libraries, Blockbuster, and WalMart for a reason: so we don’t have to stockpile every last ding-dang thing in our own homes.

But ever since Sally learned how to read, it’s been kind of nice that they have too many old hardback copies of Nancy Drew, The Secret Garden, and Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint. Susan and Spot love Grandma’s picture books. Like toys, someone else’s books are always much more exciting that your own.

A couple months ago, Susan set down Grandma’s copy of Rapunzel long enough to discover Fanny’s Dream, an enchanting pseudo-Cinderella-type fairy tale. Fanny’s fairy godmother doesn’t arrive in time to send Fanny to the ball. Instead, her good friend Heber comes calling and offers her “one hundred and sixty acres, a little log cabin, and dreams of my own . . . and good food and great company.”

Fanny accepts, though she warns him that she doesn’t do windows. So Heber and Fanny settle down to a mundane life of farming, parenting, and laughing.

Here’s my favorite part (and a good candidate for fridge lamination):

As for Heber, he figured that it hadn’t been easy for Fanny to give up her dreams, so he made it a point to wait on her at least once a day, as if she were a princess, and every so often he wiped the grime off the windows.

When Fanny’s fairy godmother finally shows up, after three kids and a house fire and pig slopping, butter churning, and outhouse pranks played on Heber, Fanny has to decide whether she wants her current life or her dream life. I don’t want to give away the plot, but let’s just say I haven’t finished reading it yet without crying.

Last time I read it to the girls, I noticed an inscription on the title page: To Mom and Dad, love Jane and Dick, Christmas 1998. That was just six months after Dick and I were married. And I think I gave it to my mom because I know she gave up a lot of her dreams when she got married at 17, had me at almost-19, and then mothered continues to mother the five of us and grandmother the kids that we have added.

I guess it’s okay to hang on to some books forever.

Obviously, Fanny’s Dream Works for me!

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We who are your mothers and wives salute you!

On Friday Dick had to attend his first (and hopefully last) Boy Scout Jamboral. Since the Boy Scouts have even more regulations and permits than merit badges, Dick and his boys were going to catch a ride with someone authorized to transport scouts, but the plan was for me to drop them off at the church rendezvous point.

That afternoon I picked Dick up from work and drove to the boys’ apartment. I suggested he call to make sure the boys were ready to go, but Dick will sometimes do anything to avoid talking to people on the phone. After we’d waited a few more minutes and I nagged a bit more, he went in search of the boys (because that’s easier than actually making a phone call).

The boys weren’t ready. They weren’t packed, they hadn’t sewn on their patches. And they hadn’t made their tinfoil dinners yet. Dick was pretty ticked. Can you believe those boys hadn’t SEWN ON THEIR PATCHES or MADE THEIR TINFOIL DINNERS? I wondered if their mom was able to help, and Dick said their mom doesn’t know how to sew, and anyway, the boys SHOULD TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEMSELVES.

So I reminded Dick that I had:

A) procured his shirt,

B) shopped for and assembled his tinfoil dinner,

C) bought the boys’ shirts and patches that were not sewn,

D) reminded Dick to get his sleeping bag and tent from my parents’ house,

E) reminded the boys the previous day that they should make tinfoil dinners and sewn on patches,

F) picked Dick up from work, and

G) washed and folded his clothes that he wanted to take.

You’re so right, Dick. Boys should learn to do things for themselves.

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