Mr. Bennet is duly impressed, but wishes I would stop farting in bed

sally-and-mom1(Pre.S. 1 There’s a Thanksgiving Point giveaway at the end, so skip to that if you get bored.)

(Pre.S. 2 Mr. Bennet needs to come to terms with the fact that even celebrity mommy bloggers fart.)

Yesterday I took Sally and Susan to a mommy-blogger PR tour at Thanksgiving Point, and the full disclosure is that they spoiled us with yummy food, gorgeous flowers, awesome dinosaurs, and more delicious food, but if you’ve read this site for any length of time (and I like to think that you’ve been reading since before I started writing) you know that my love for Thanksgiving Point is deep and true, and not influenced by bribery or swag.

Of course, the downside of that is — what more can I say? I love Thanksgiving Point, and everyone should go. The End. (And in August they have the Two-Buck Tuesday so it’s a great time to check it out, though Sue is right, it is HOT, so go early or late and if you are sensitive to noise, I’d, uh, reconsider the Dinosaur Museum until all those awful kids are back in school.)susan

It was fun to be with just two of my people (my kids always seem easier one-on-one or when at least one of them is missing), but it was also great to talk with the other bloggers who happen to be mothers.

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I hate when people say this, because if I don’t get invited to some event where people meet awesome people and then write about it on their blog, I feel like I’m in seventh grade all over again (because I’m a secure adult), but I met a few fascinating women yesterday and at the risk of sounding like a prepubescent name-dropper, I am going to gush about them for a minute. (And if they were gracious enough to chat me up, then obviously they would LOVE you.)

susan-and-mommy

First, the PR lady for Thanksgiving Point turned out to be a friend from college (Courtney, remember Heather G. from the Ally? She is still so cute and funny). It was one of those awkward things where I remembered her more than she remembered me at first, but hey, I’m sure that had nothing to do with the 40 pounds I’ve gained and the way-flattering haircut. Right?

Then I met Sue, from Navel Gazing at its Finest, who has been one of my blogging heroes for lo these many years. She is … well, I just really like her, and I wish she’d blog more, and she’s a technical writer so I think she and Mr. Bennet should meet some time, and her kids are cute and normal. (I’m sure she’s relieved to hear that.)

I saw a bunch of the bloggers that I’ve been running into here and there: Evonne, Lauren, Joanie, April, Rachel, Allison’s husband (and her kids, including her oldest girl, who told my oldest girl several jokes that we have been hearing over and over ever since, thank you very much), and Kelcey.

Those ladies are all more professional than me, but one thing I have learned about blogging recently is that, while it is beyond wonderful to have readers who live in other hemispheres (and states), it is very valuable to make connections locally. And by “valuable” I don’t mean I’m planning to use them or “network” with them or whatnot, but just that if you are a new or intermediate blogger and want to {insert smarmy business phrase meaning “take it to the next level}, you could do a lot worse than to meet in person with the other bloggers in your area who have similar-ish blogs.

How do you get invited to these things or find out who the other bloggers are? I have a couple suggestions, but first, let me tell you about meeting Lisa yesterday.

Lisa is a smart, pretty, extroverted lady with a 2 1/2 week old baby and a little girl about Susan’s age there. She and I talked a bit throughout the day, over the rose bushes and while the kids rode the ponies (or maybe it was the erosion table and the butterfly garden, but in any case we talked). She told me about herself, including that this was her first-ever blogging event and that she doesn’t Twitter or read many other blogs. (She also graduated from BYU the same year I did and has three daughters, which is very enlightened.)

So I felt like quite the blogging-event veteran. At dinner she asked how I had met so many of the women and how I’d gotten into the loop of getting invited to some of these things, and I spent ten minutes of her life that she’ll never get back tracing my blogging-in-real-life roots to the first time I met Laura Moncur at a geek dinner almost two years ago.

(It is a pretty fancy story.)

She looked suitably impressed, and then I asked her how she’d gotten on the list for Thanksgiving Point, and she said that she goes on Good Things Utah every six weeks and I thought she meant she goes online and checks out what they’re up to or something. And then she had to explain that she actually goes on the TV show every six weeks to share her science/math/music/art/reading activities for parents to do with their kids.

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Then I made Mr. Bennet take another picture of us. Just in case. I mean, I fully expect to dine with Hugh Laurie and Ingrid Michaelson someday, but if not . . . I’ll always have Lisa Bergantz.

I only wish this was a staged photo

I only wish this was a staged photo

(If you have no idea where to find local bloggers of interest, get on Twitter, join the relevant Social Media Club chapter, search for blogs by place, and talk about your blog at every awkward check-out line opportunity — someone you meet is bound to know someone who knows some people.)

Then I talked to Cindi Braby and made funny (original) jokes about how similar her name is to Cindy Brady. (I also met Kalli, Camille, and wish I’d met everyone else, but hopefully next time!)

I can’t say enough about how gracious Thanksgiving Point was to us. I think I understand a little bit now why nutjob celebrities get that awful sense of entitlement. Because I’m feeling a little bit entitled too now. Why, when I asked Sally to set the table for breakfast and she jumped right up, I merely thought, “dang straight, girl.”

****

The Giveaway: Family four packs to each of Thanksgiving Points’ four venues (Gardens, Dinosaur Museum, Farm Country, Children’s Garden). To enter, simply leave a comment telling me which venue you’d like tickets to. You can get extra entries by doing any of those social media things (twittering this:”Thanksgiving Point Giveaway at http://seagullfountain.com” or facebooking it or blogging about it or writing it in the sky — just leave an extra comment for each extra entry). Contest ends August 5th. (This is open to anyone, but you or friends/family have to be in Utah at some point to use the tickets.)

I’m Nobody!

About a century ago (in mommy-years) I wrote my honors thesis at BYU on Emily Dickinson and how she was a Transcendental Trinitarian. (Oh, it was ground-breaking and all kinds of awesome).

Seriously, her poems are terse epics, and it’s been speculated that perhaps she would’ve made a fantastic blogger, what with the letter-writing and the staying in her house a lot.

What kind of blogger would she be, though? I’ve read a bunch of BlogHer recap posts about great times with friends online or already met, greedy swaghags, and men asking in elevators if it was a cosmetics convention. (I should possibly note here that if Chick-fil-A and/or Mountain Dew and/or Baked wanted to sponsor me to BlogHer 2010 in New York City next year I could probably donate some insulin to a diabetic toddler from Myanmar as a PR stunt for brand exposure humanitarian gesture, just to generate some general goodwill.)

But I don’t think Emily would’ve left Amherst for a conference, even if there was a chance of Crocs swag:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell!  they’d advertise — you know!

How dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a frog —
To tell one’s name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!

*from the Thomas H. Johnson edited Complete Poems

I’m not a follower, I just kind of really love her

So, a lot of stuff online, especially the marketing and many giveaways and the frequent popularity/value divide and the networking (sometimes) disguised as friendship, it all kind of makes me puke-y. But.

But. At the risk of sounding like a sheep, I would like to publicly declare that I love Stephanie Nielson. She doesn’t need my love in any way or know of it, but I love the blogging that she is doing, that she has been doing since she started blogging again after the accident. I read her and suddenly, what anybody says about me doesn’t matter. (Actually that’s a line from Some Kind of Wonderful, but you know what I mean.) I read her, and suddenly my kids smell better, my husband looks gleam-y eyed, and my doughy thighs that nevertheless function pretty darn well, even them I am quite grateful for.

I’ve been really emotional for the past couple months, and unfortunately it’s not because I’m pregnant, and I didn’t even know how badly I wanted to be pregnant again until the test this morning was negative. But my odd hormonal fluxes aside, read this post on Love and this Elephants and on Beauty and this one called A Mother, and then tell me you didn’t cry. A lot. In a good, cleansing-cathartic-reborn-renewed sort of way.

Stephanie is having a birthday this Saturday, and The Sweet Tooth Fairy down Provo-way is donating all proceeds from the sale of their vaNIElla cupcakes to the burn fund. I’m so cold and dead at heart that usually even fundraisers for good causes bring on a big Humbug, but I am going to be at the cupcake store buying cupcakes on Saturday. Tom and I have had these cupcakes, and though Tom says the frosting is almost too sweet (it isn’t), he really likes the cake part, which has an intriguing hint of nutmeg or cardamom (which I know aren’t that similar, it’s probably just nutmeg, but I have dreams that it could be cardamom).

If you don’t live in driving distance of the Provo, you can order cupcakes online, AND, you can enter to win a dozen cupcakes over at my friend Vanessa’s I Never Grew Up blog.

Amen.

When a tantrum (sadly) won’t do

designbyalma

I’ve been working with a (talented, patient, spectacular) designer on my new blog header. Alma is worth every penny she charges, but I was lucky enough to promise Dick’s firstborn child (and some ad space on his blog) for most of the cost.

But poor Dick. He has been my whipping boy for blog-and-all-purpose technical help for a long time. I have gladly turned in my Independent Woman card in exchange for a man who will set up our computers, deal with the “router” and negotiate with those pesky pixels.

Interacting with a professional (almost-stranger), therefore, has been a real eye-opener for me. It has taught me a lot about design principles and styles and how to articulate what appeals to me visually, but most of all, it’s made me reflect on how different it is to deal with someone to whom you cannot offer exotic connubial favors in one breath and berate hysterically for “not getting it” the next. VERY disconcerting. (Also, I’m sorry, Dick. I’ll try to treat you like the professional you are in future.)

I am so pleased with how the banner turned out. My new name, Seagull Fountain, is a reference to the rural town we live in, and also to everyday life in America, sort of a Lake Wobegon thing and a Jane of Green Gables Seagull Fountain thing. (I know, I know L. M. Montgomery was Canadian. I’ve named two of my daughters after her, after all. Just work with me here.)

I tried to buy the domain Groundhog Day when I was ready for a change from What About Mom? I do love Bill Murray, but also, isn’t almost every day of our lives like Groundhog Day? Isn’t every day exactly the same, in the ways that really matter? Don’t we see the same people (or the same sorts of people)? Don’t we make choices about how to act or react, how to focus our energies and our times and our talents? Not on the big days that we give birth or do something heroic that saves a life or the day we discover Duncan Hines bulk brownie mix at the WalMart. But the other days. The going-to-work and taking-care-of-the-kid days are all the same.

I want to change myself, improve gradually, just as Bill Murray does in Groundhog Day, without needing the slap in the face of a cosmic wakeup call.

Anyway, Seagull Fountain is a small town, my blog is a small blog. My life is a small life, and I love every bit of it. Somedays I wish I could do something bigger, make a larger impact somewhere, do something about the women and girls in Africa who suffer so incomprehensibly. I hope to someday. For now I am called to spend most of my time and energy and care and thought on the four people I live with, and see every day. People who don’t change much from day to day, small challenges and triumphs that vary little but are no less amazing when viewed with love and humility.

Geez.  Getting a bit maudlin in here.

Where was I? Oh. The blog and related identity crises/name changes. I enjoy blogging because it adds to my life, especially to my relationship with Dick. He makes me feel that I, and my hopes/dreams/outlandish ideas are important, and interesting. This is all very self-centered and me-ish, but isn’t feeling important, and interesting, and necessary, just about the best thing a life-partner can give you?

Last night I was on a panel about Women in Social Media at the Social Media Club of Salt Lake City. It was fun, not least because I got a babysitter for the kids.

dick-and-jane-at-mannheim-event

Wow, my teeth are pretty white! And my neck, is, uh, pretty fleshy!

Dick said he was worried about me as the introductions were made and as the first three panelists gave their spiels. Each of them had such impressive resumes and honors, he said. What would I say? (Thanks, Dick {shrugs wryly}). Luckily I blog, and attend events and twitter and meet new people and talk blogging because I enjoy it. I am blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) to not have much of an agenda when it comes to these things. I mostly find it all horribly intriguing and fun. And Dick does too, so then we have even more to talk about on date night.

(And I recently read Penelope Trunk’s great post about introducing yourself by telling stories, so my slim resume wasn’t too much of a handicap.)

Of course, the best part of blogging, no matter what your name or schtick is, is meeting people around the world. Like Kirsty from Australia. You can get a sense of who she is and why I think she’s fabulous (and revel in that accent!) by listening to Dick’s podcast with her.

So that’s it, basically. Love what you do and do what you love, or something.

And if you’d like to display one of my gorgeous new buttons, please do.

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<a href=”http://www.seagullfountain.com/”><img src=”http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3554/3553932419_855a875c90_o.png”></a&gt;

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<a href=”http://www.seagullfountain.com/”><img src=”http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3643/3553926315_96e7db3616_o.png”></a&gt;

The Blog Formerly Known as What About Mom?

Is now Seagull Fountain. I’ll probably expound on that later, but just wanted to give you a heads up if you’re wondering why you suddenly see something called “Seagull Fountain” in your reader. I’m working on a new banner, which is to say that Dick is working on something and also I’m counting my pennies to see if I can induce Alma to do me up something like Petit Elefant‘s header for the low, low price of ALL MY LOVE.

Thanks for reading!

Blogging For Church Ladies

I gave a short spiel on blogging (for family history) to the Church Ladies on Wednesday night. Here are my notes, since I couldn’t use paper for a handout about internet stuff. If anyone has other tips or thoughts, please share. I wanted to balance practical ideas with motivation, maybe emphasizing the motivation side, because I think everyone should blog, and I’ll tell you why.

(Note: whenever you see blue words on this blog, you can click on them to go to an example or reference for whatever is being discussed.)

Blogging for Church Ladies

Why should I blog?

1. To record what happens around and within you. Of course you can keep a journal, but blogging helps by providing incentives (commiseration, support) and accountability (it’s public, so it’s obvious if you’re not posting). Getting feedback on your activities and thoughts can help you be more reflective about what you do and what you think, what you believe, and why. An Ensign article called Hidden Benefits of Keeping a History (Thanks, Laura) encourages us to record both our successes and failures, and our feelings about them.

One thing I like to do when I’ve wiped soggy cheerios off the kitchen floor seven times in one morning is to pull up my post about Spot’s Elbow Dance. She isn’t always that cute, but knowing that she was, once, unbearably cute, makes me a little more resigned to following her around with a soapy washcloth. Reading other blogs about the naughtiness and cuteness that go hand in hand with children lets me know I’m not alone as a mother.

2. To share the gospel. Two words: Big Love. If we want the world to understand us for who we really are and what we actually believe, we have to witness what that is. Elder Ballard gave a commencement speech at BYU-Hawaii that was later an Ensign article called Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet, and it is a most splendid call to action.

Now, one of my favorite blogs, Conversion Diary, is written by a Catholic who used to be an Atheist, and I’ve made several awesome (blog) friends who are not Mormons. I’m not writing my blog to try and convert them. I admire and respect the faith and devotion they live. But I do want to state, in my own words, what it is that I believe.

Elder Ballard says:

May I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration. . . . you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true. . . .

[Church members] have recorded and posted their testimonies of the Restoration, the teachings of the Book of Mormon, and other gospel subjects on popular video-sharing sites. You too can tell your story . . .  Talk honestly and sincerely about the impact the gospel has had in your life, about how it has helped you overcome weaknesses or challenges and helped define your values. The audience . . . may often be small, but the cumulative effect of thousands of such stories can be great. The combined effort is certainly worth the outcome if but a few are influenced by your words of faith and love of God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

I don’t talk Mormon stuff every day. Sometimes I go weeks without mentioning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but in every post, I try to show that my family and I are pretty normal, pretty friendly: people you wouldn’t mind living next door to, even if we don’t bring a bottle of wine as a housewarming gift.

3. To make friends, fellowship sisters, stay connected to family. The other week I wrote a post about the difficulties of making friends in new places. I was shocked at how many other women are also lonely. Any time I am feeling sorry for myself that no one reaches out to me, I’ll read the comments on that post and remember my resolve to be the one reaching out.

How do I blog?

1. Choose a platform. The easiest way to get started is Blogger. There’s also Typepad (great customer service for $5/month) or WordPress. You can also host your own website, of course, and if you’re interested in that I’d be happy to have you talk to my husband. If you can do email, you can start a blog in Blogger. Try searching on Blogging Basics 101 for further help (or call me! I love talking blogging, if you can believe it). (If you don’t have my number, email me at whataboutmom@gmail.com).

2. Stay safe. Don’t make it easy for the crazies to find you or your family in real life. You can make your blog private, but I would still be careful (and that would sort of counteract Elder Ballard’s plea). Don’t use your last names or your address or ward name or school name, or the birthdays of your kids, and if you do post photographs, don’t post naked shots of the kids in the tub, or shots that include the license plate on your minivan. Don’t mention a family trip or your husband’s business trip until after it’s over. Pretend, with every post, that you’ll be reading it to the person it’s about in front of the entire world.

3. It’s just another way to communicate. Blogging shouldn’t, of course, replace our everyday interactions with each other, but it is a great new way to communicate. Sometimes people are mean on the internet, or petty. And it can be intimidating to put yourself out there like that. But the benefits — of coming to know yourself and the world better, and of discovering people around the world and across Utah lake — have been, in my experience, life-changing.

Only now we call it navel gazing

Turns out posting about not having friends is a good way to make friends, and also that as soon as your social calendar starts to fill up, your church calendar gets busy too. So I haven’t been online much, or writing. I know you’ll be shocked when I tell you that I haven’t had time to miss the part of my surfing that was aimless: I’ve been too busy snuggling with Spot, nagging Dick to come and play with us, and listening to Sally read to Susan (is there anything sweeter?).

But I do miss the linky interwebby awesomeness (to quote BooMama) and writing is like any exercise — stop for any length of time and you can’t think of a single reason why you should risk muscle strain while getting all sweaty and out of breath.

Why is it easier to be either completely plugged-in or totally disconnected?

This afternoon, after being “on” all morning at church, I got to hide myself away in my room while the kids napped, lazing around next to Dick’s warm body, and reading a book cover to cover.

That the book was an enjoyable half-historical romance with some deeper themes by Barbara Michaels (Elizabeth Peters) was almost incidental. I found myself thinking that jail time or physical incapacitation of some non-contagious sort wouldn’t really be very bad if I had an unlimited supply of escapist fiction.

Patriot’s Dream was published the year before I was born, but I laughed (OL) at what could have been Barbara Michael’s ahead-of-her-time indictment of blogging:

“. . . I don’t approve of this self-pitying verbal diarrhea known as catharsis; but there are times when people have to spit out what’s bugging them, get it out of their system.” (p. 296)

Last week I read a really unfortunate thread on a Mormon group blog about the relative scope and merits of mommy blogging.

Sometimes I wish my blog were more about writing, or cultural statements, rather than mommy moments. Or that I at least had a profound commentary to offer about the mommy moments: universal truths gleaned or profound insights gained from the daily struggle against temper and tantrums and teenagers-to-be.

But I don’t, and whenever I’m moved enough by something other than cute buns and chubby knees to write outside my self-circumscribed sphere, it’s usually because something is bugging me so much I simply have to get it out.

I’m pretty sure that’s no way to launch a writing career.

Why is it easier to be either completely happy with the life that is and the duties of the day or totally dissatisfied and convinced that ambition is the answer?

This week I’m talking about blogging at a church lady night on family history. Dick and I were talking about it as we drove home from a family dinner. He was pointing out all the different things blogging is and does for me. I got a little frustrated, because I’d told him the spiel was supposed to be about blogging for family history. Period.

And I did tell him that, this morning, as I answered the questions for Sally’s spotlight, I looked back through a month’s worth of posts, trying to come up with a “short, funny story” about Sally. I finally wrote about the time that we took Sally to the zoo in Cairo and paid the zookeepers (it was their idea) to let the giraffe eat food off Sally’s head.

This was the first time I ever remember looking at old posts on my blog and being happy with what I saw. I am relieved to say I’m proud of what has come from my fingers. I own it, and for now I’m not ashamed that my life and concerns are rather narrow.

That life and those concerns are much different than I had envisioned, and, yet, that doesn’t make them wrong (duh). I’ve mostly stopped apologizing to others for not being smart or coordinated enough to do it all (whatever it “all” is). Now I just need to stop apologizing to my eighteen year-old self. What did she know anyway?

Jane

(If you have any thoughts on blogging for family history purposes, I’d appreciate hearing them before Wednesday night.)