Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poltergeists, bathtubs, and children. Oh my.

Many of you know that I have children.  Two children, to be exact.  Two boys, to be even more exact.

And although one is eight-and-a-half going on 30, the other is a mere 21 months old.

Over a span of 8.5 years of parenting, I experienced something for the first time last night.  Something no man, woman, or child should ever have to be witness to in their entire lives.  I don't even think I'd punish criminals this hard.

My 21-month-old son pooped in the bathtub.

Look.  I know a lot of you are thinking, "You are a mom.  You have the natural ability and instinct to deal with that type of stuff."  I'm here to tell you that is wrong.  My husband was a Master Plumber, and even he did not volunteer to clean up that nightmare.  He gagged and then ran out of the bathroom laughing, secretly high-fiving the 8 year old when I wasn't looking.

(I can't swear to that, I can only go off gut instinct.)

So I cleaned it.

The image is now stuck in my head for probably the rest of my life, and again I'm struck by how horribly-made children are, because the baby would've had no qualms about continuing his bath.  He was actually mad when I made him get out of the tub.

What world do these little Neandrathals come from again?  Please remind me.  Please tell me in what capacity is it ever acceptable to poop in the bath water and then continue to play in it?  I have to know this.  They seriously don't come equipped with any sort of "right and wrong" gauge.  At all.  How bizarre is that?  Even newborn puppies paddle their feet when you hold them over water, yet these--our children--the ones that are supposedly the highest on the food chain--they don't care about poop or germs or running out into oncoming traffic or anything.


I woke up this morning thinking about the little girl from the Poltergeist movies.  Apropos, considering it is Halloween, but what I thought of specifically was little Carol Anne, framed by the light of the television, turning around and letting us know, "They're heeeere," in that no question about it kind of tone.

But this morning, rather than poltergeists and spooks and ghouls, I was thinking about 300,000 writers counting down the hours until November 1st like some kind of spiritual awakening:  The remaining 24 hours until the start of National Novel Writing Month.

"They're heeere," and they're writing novels, dammit.

And this is my year, poop aside.

Today, I will brew pot after pot of delicious, steaming coffee.  I will "get organized."  I might "make an outline."  I might do a little pre-writing or something equally tasty.  I think I will Organize My Writing Area.   I will try to forget all about last night's bathtub episode, and how I gagged and cursed my family and The Gods, wondering how we ever evolved into human beings, and what it really means if we are still born so completely clueless about our own bodily functions.  And then I'll wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Until the clock strikes midnight.

And then, my friends, we write.

Until then, there's probably something somewhere that needs to be picked up or washed.  Cherstin, out.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


It might be time to take a break from Facebook.

I enjoy blogging.  I love the pace.  I type, you read.  You respond, I respond.  No pressure.  But Facebook?  Twitter?  All those hashtags?  Hashtags?  It's not even a real word.  Chrome has it underlined in red.

I'm tired of the political drama unfolding on Facebook.  I'm tired of online arguments which will never ever be resolved.  I'm tired of scrolling newsfeeds.  Newsfeeds.  There.  There's another word that's not really a word, underlined in red on Google Chrome.

Enough already, social media.  You're killing me.

I have a list of things I'd like to do around here tomorrow.  National Novel Writing Month begins in less than 100 hours.  My mini-panic attacks have started, not knowing if I'm going back to a previously rehearsed idea or if I'm starting new.

I care, but I don't care.  It's going to happen, either way.

For now, bed.  Cherstin, out.

(Cherstin.  There.  That's not even a real word, either.)

Refer a Friend - Fastweb

Refer a Friend - Fastweb

By clicking the link and registering online at Fastweb, you and I are both entered for a chance to win $500 in the Fastweb "Refer a Friend" drawing!  Fastweb is a must-use for anyone enrolled in college, or any high school senior considering college.  Scholarships, internships, grants, and loans are easy to find and applying is simple.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.  Don't let finances limit your education.  The money is there:  sometimes you just have to do the work and find it!

Friday, October 26, 2012

If there was a medal.

If they gave out a medal each year to the person who seamlessly patched drywall the worst, I would definitely be up for that medal.

The office is coming along great.  I mean, it's finished sans one piece of drywall, it has a floor, it has paint, it has doors, and it's starting to have decorations.  What it does not have, yet, is very much writing going on.  And by "very much," I mean "any."  That's okay though.  The countdown is on to National Novel Writing Month, which takes place rain or shine, with or without me, every November.

It's kind of a big deal.

So this November, like many Novembers past, I will begin to set my alarm clock for 5am, righteously waking to get a few hundred (a thousand?) words out before the sun and children wake up.  I'm excited.  Like, really excited this time around.

I'm still not sure if I'm sticking with the last novel idea or if I'm going with something new.  A nightmare at nap time yesterday gave me a new idea for a set of characters.  I'd tell you more, but I'm already pretty sure that someone stole the idea for Book of Eli from the inner depths of my mind, along with The Road and Cowboys and Aliens, so I don't tell anything anymore.

Let me just tangent off here for a second to talk about writing and telling.  And let me say a thousand times over, a million times over, don't do it.

Do not do it.

Have you ever watched a movie, only to realize it was drastically different from the preview?  Maybe it was better than you thought it would be based off the trailer, or maybe it was much, much worse.  Either way, please for the love of all things written, do not try to explain to someone what your book is about while you're in the process of writing it.  Write yourself an outline, if you want.  Write your own synopsis of how you think it's all going to play out.  But trust me when I say that there is no worse feeling than to spend twenty minutes trying to explain to your husband/wife/best friend what your book is about, only to have them left with a blank stare at the end of it.

And they'll try to be "helpful."  Oh God, will they try to be helpful.  They'll try to help you fill in plot holes.  They'll tell you that something should just be a little tiny bit different.  And it will completely ruin your mojo.  Seriously.  Dead in the water.  It has happened to me twice.  My husband means well, and it's my fault for not learning the first time.  He likes Adam Sandler movies, okay?  He is not the judge over what is good literature and what isn't.  I love him to death, but this year, my lips are sealed.

You want someone to be as excited as you are about what you're doing...and they will be.  AFTER you've finished.  You have to finish first.  Then, when someone asks you what your novel is about, hand them the draft.  Let them work through it, each and every word.  Don't try to summarize your work.  Fifty different people are going to give you fifty different synopses of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Things that are important to some people, therefore earning a spot in the synopsis, are not going to be as important to others.  Remember that.  It might be the most time-saving advice I've ever given.  I have two novels written in about 30,000 words, and once you get discouraged by the reaction of someone else--especially someone close to you--you aren't going to go back.

There.  Now that all of that garbage is out of the way, it's time to start getting organized around here.

Til next time,

Friday, October 19, 2012

Life-changers. Love 'em or hate 'em?

Another registration is upon us, this time for the upcoming Spring 2013 semester at school.

Should be sounding great, right?  Full of excitement?  Another semester down?  One step closer to that coveted Bachelors degree in Homeland Security?

Yeah, not so much.

Last Spring was a life-changer, too.  I decided at the 11th hour to drop the classes I'd paid for out of pocket because I thought teaching was proving to be "too much of a pain in the ass."  Not the teaching aspect itself, but getting my foot in the door in order to complete the required observations in order to enter the bachelors program.

For a field who claims they are jonesing for good teachers, trying to get in to observe a teacher in action is akin to finding a pink unicorn:  it just wasn't happening.  I told them my availability ("anytime!"), I filled out their required paperwork.  I've never had so much as a speeding ticket, plus I am already approved as a volunteer for the county school system, so where is the problem?  How hard should it be to go to a school, have someone at the front desk make a phone call to a random teacher ("hey, I have so and so here, can she observe your classroom for an hour?"), and buzz me in?

Not so much.  Instead, I felt like a leper.  Call this person.  Leave a voicemail.  Two weeks later, she calls back to leave me a voicemail.  In the meantime, I've already had two observations due.  The teacher or class I'd requested to observe (in one instance, I had to observe two hours of media lab), well that assignment was due last Friday, thanks for getting back to me.

So I changed majors.  I'd had enough of teaching, I said.  I'd had enough of jumping through hoops and the system working against me.  I'll use my prior military experience and go into Homeland Security.  I'll do something high-speed.  High-speed with high(er than a teacher) pay.  Yeah, that'll show 'em.

I'm 30 credits in, and I don't like it.

The whole program seems geared on law enforcement.  90% of my peers in class are already in law enforcement.  Another 5% are taking the degree in order to enter the military.  Which leaves me with a guy who is partially disabled and taking classes so as not to go stir crazy at home, and a girl whose husband is in the Coast Guard and she wants to get a civilian job on base.

No shit.  Everyone else is a cop.

I think being a police officer is an incredibly noble idea.  That being said, however, I am 38 years old.  You do the math.  Those that joined the department right out of high school are getting ready to retire.  Who in the hell is going to accept me for the academy?  Being a police detective requires 2-5 years on patrol and I'm sorry but my days or nights of waking up and getting dressed to go chase bad guys on foot probably passed about 15 years ago.

I don't want to be a patrol officer.  I love those who are, I'm thankful for them every day, but imagine starting over at 38.  Not pretty.

Plus, the biggest secret?  I miss the idea of teaching.

Not only do I miss it, I ache about it.  When Richard and I went to Aidan's Open House for 3rd grade a few weeks ago, I sat in that well-lit, colorful classroom, I sat in that teeny tiny desk, and I realized I'd made a huge mistake.  My heart is in teaching.  It's what I was supposed to do.  It's what I am supposed to do.

So how do I get there?

Good question.

Florida has a certification program for people with a bachelors degree who want to teach--or at least they did when there was a teacher shortage a few years ago.  As for my county, a recent update to the website states that they are no longer participating and/or accepting teachers who simply have their certification:  they want teachers who have majored in education.

For me, this would mean starting over in the spring with the exact same schedule I had and dropped last spring.  It would mean not getting into the actual bachelors in Education program until next summer.  Then it would mean another two years of school in order to earn the degree.

As it stands, I'm down to one more year of my GI Bill.

What to do, what to do, what to do?  I'm stuck.  Today, I am making a phone call to a woman who used to run the Alternative Certification for Teacher program here in my county and see what she recommends.  I'm torn.  I'd love to hear from teachers or those in law enforcement regarding this situation to find out what you recommend.  What are the odds that, at 39 years old (once I have my degree), I will be able to find work in Homeland Security-slash-law enforcement?  What are the odds that I can become a teacher with a non-education major?  Registration for the spring semester is Monday, and I feel like there are two doors:  Will it be the Lady or the Tiger?


Stay tuned.    :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An Important Lesson in Parenting.

(It's rated PG-13 for language, but you should still read it.  It's the lesson that is important, not the words.)

The other day, Aidan and I were driving home from his elementary school.  He'd come home sick the afternoon I went to join him for lunch.

As we were driving over the bridge close to our house, he said something that nearly broke my heart.

(Remember, he is eight.  He is our future.)

"Mom?" he asked, softly.  "Is being a grown-up fun?"

I thought for a second about how best to word my answer as image after image popped into my head. Drinking at the club with a fake id.  Hangovers.  My first shitty apartment.  Roommates.  Choosing between having food for the week or cigarettes (and always choosing cigarettes).  Divorce.  Poopy diapers.  Paying bills.  Laundry.  Mowing the grass.

He went on.

"It just doesn't seem like very much fun.  All you do is homework and take care of kids."


Can you imagine?  Can you imagine how shitty that must feel, to not be able to wait to grow up, but then to suddenly think that being a grown-up sucks even more ass than being eight?  What am I teaching my child?

I start slowly.  "Yeah, buddy.  Being a grown-up is pretty fun.  I mean, you get to stay up as late as you want to and no one tells you to go to bed.  You get to get married and have kids, and kids are great fun even though they're a lot of work."  (I did not mention how they ruin your boobs and vagina and give you stretch marks:  I didn't want to scar the poor kid.)

I told him how, sometimes when everyone is asleep, I like to get up before the sun and make a pot of coffee and just sit in the quiet morning, and that I think that is fun.

I'm not sure if he understood everything I was saying, but I think I was convincing enough to tide him over for a while.

But it got me thinking:  Is being a grown-up fun?  What would you say?  When you look deep down where no one else can see, is it as fun as you thought it would be?

I've often wondered when it is, exactly, that we stop having fun.  At what age do we stop getting excited about bubblegum-flavored toothpaste?  Why doesn't our cough medicine taste like blue raspberry?  When did I stop drinking Slush Puppies?  (Great Port Charlotte reference there, and the old Convenience Food Store.)  At what age do we stop popping wheelies on our bikes?  When do we quit cutting through people's lawns in order to get to the basketball hoops a little quicker?  When do we stop getting Happy Meals, and why aren't there little surprises in our combo meals?  Something age-appropriate, like condoms or Chapstick?  Or a new pair of shoelaces?  Wouldn't it be great to order lunch and find a surprise inside?

We tell our kids to go play outside.  Go ride your bike.  Go get some fresh air.  Run around in the yard.  But we don't do the same.  If, to them, we equate those things as being "fun," why don't we do them when no one is looking?  When is the last time you made a mudpie when the kids were at school?  When is the last time you climbed a tree...just because?  Remember how awesome it used to be to color in a new coloring book?  When was the last time you bought yourself a coloring book and horded it for yourself?  Remember those "paint by numbers" things?  I used to think I was goddamned Picasso, painting horses and dogs and kittens like no one's business.  I thought they were absolutely effing brilliant when I was finished.  But I haven't done one in probably 30 years.  Why not?

Tonight, I challenge you as I challenge myself:  Do something fun tomorrow.  Do something you used to love, and do it when no one is looking.  Don't play Hot Wheels with your kids or your grandkids:  play by yourself.  Give it a try.  Go to 7-11 and buy a Slurpee.  Bonus points if you ride your bike up there.  Make something out of Play-Doh.  Maybe when we learn to have fun again, being a good role model for fun will come easy.

What are you going to do?  Whatever it is, do it with your tongue sticking just a bit out, concentration meter amped up to 12.  Do it with verve.  Remember what having fun was all about, and then share it with us for inspiration.  Remind yourself, and remind others, to have fun.  Pack a note in your spouse's lunchbox.  Make them smile.  Spread the fun.   :-)


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Opposites attract.

It's a few minutes after 8pm and my husband has the remote control.  I hear Adam Sandler.

There are some things I will never understand about my husband, but I sure do love him.

Anyway, in an attempt to wash off the germs, I took a shower a while ago.  When I came out of the bathroom, my husband was on my phone talking to a stranger.  It turns out that said "stranger" was answering my Craigslist ad for french doors.  Yay!  $80, solid wood.  Unless a beaver has been after them, consider them sold, which means the office is on its way to "becoming."

Could I actually have an office before National Novel Writing Month?  Anything is possible.  My vote would be yes, I'll have the "shape" of an office, but it probably won't have baseboards or paint, and I am a-okay with that.

My husband tends to go all out, and his enthusiasm is contagious.  I'm more of a planner:  even though the office is technically for me, I initially tried putting it off until after the holidays.  I've got so much going on--what with finally getting around to finishing the floors I started three years ago and all--but his persistence paid off.  When he uses words like "weekend project," I'll admit:  I get a little turned on.

I'm pretty sure I used the words "weekend project" to describe the floors, too, but that's another story.

Back to the whole "opposites" thing, when said husband was on said phone following my shower, I had no idea to whom he was speaking so when he said, "Text some pictures to this phone; I'm up near Bradenton every day and can come take a look," I mouthed to him with a big smile, "A puppy?!!"  I just love to see his face when I bring anything up about adopting a second dog.  I'd probably do it and regret it in a second.  Him?  Well, let's just say he's not the "dog lover" he told me he was the night we met.

It sure did make me like him, though.

We had a big old talk about parenting tonight, which I love.  Family time is the bees' knees, and when Aidan gets really involved in the conversation, it really makes my heart smile.  We were talking about how people tend to parent the same way they were brought up.  He sometimes finds Richard's parenting a little harsh, but it was just Aidan and I for so long--five years--that he got pretty used to my laid-back style.  Being from Alabama, Richard is a bit more "yes Sir, no Sir" than I am.  We often have to remind Richard to stop and smell the roses, if you catch my drift, but he's a terrific daddy.  The best.    :-)

The debate is tonight.  Speaking of opposites, one of us might be sleeping on the couch.

Good thing Richard can sleep anywhere.   ;-)


There's a new Sheriff in town.

There's a new Sheriff in town, and his name is "Hand Sanitizer."

I am so tired of being sick.  The excitement of the Puffs Plus with Vicks has worn off.  I'm no longer looking for a reason to blow my nose, thanks anyway.  Instead, I'd be happy with just one day of feeling like my old self.  I long for the days when I'd look outside at the bright sunshine and actually have a desire to be outside working, getting dirty, doing something.  I think I've spend the tail end of the summer inside, cursing the heat, feeling just under the weather enough to not want to have fun.

And now, here we are, two days away from my 20-year high school reunion.

I've been trying the apple cider vinegar trick.  I started taking some vitamin C.  Nothing.

We knew putting Caleb in daycare was going to inevitably lead to some runny noses and coughs; we did not realize it was going to wipe out our family tree as it spread like wildfire through the house.  Much like the game "Operator," each version of the bug we get back is a little bit different than the last, and wipes us out all over again.

We figured Caleb might show some wear and tear; we never thought about the rest of us.

Considering Caleb still kisses with an open mouth, it's time we start taking some preventative measures around here to wipe out colds and germs before they stick.

I bought a Shark Steam Mop yesterday from Lowe's, and went to town steaming and sanitizing the floors.  Today, the word of the day is going to be "Lysol."  Barring any unforeseen chemical reactions, the word for this afternoon might be "bleach."  I just don't know what else to do.

I curled up on the couch last night, Nook in one hand, two bags of throat lozenges ("with vitamin C added!") in the other.  Before I even got to the couch, I stated I was heading into the bedroom to grab a sweatshirt.

(Reminder:  We live in Florida.)

I couldn't find a sweatshirt, but came back out decked in my old Army sweats (the PT uniform before they got so high-speed) and a 20-pound Victoria's Secret terrycloth bathrobe that could warm a polar bear.  I slept in the whole get-up, too, underneath a lightweight blanket plus a down comforter.

I woke up this morning around 4am, parched.  My head felt like it was lodged in the crack of someone's couch being squeezed by fat people from all angles.  I willed my husband to wake up by staring at his side of the bed.  "Please wake up," I thought to him.  "I need some Gatorade."

He either didn't hear me or chose to ignore my telepathic plea for liquid, and I think it was the latter.  He's relatively sneaky like that, plus I went to bed on a bad note after making some kind of crack about him not hearing Caleb cough on the monitor.  I think I said, "Can you turn the tv down so you can hear Caleb when he coughs?" and then I went on to add, "He is your child too, you know."  Meaning, hey, I'm burning up over here on the couch, feeling like I'm about to enter Dante's ninth level of hell, ... could you maybe get up and tend to the baby when he cries?

Like that.

Now you know why I think he was faking at 4am.

How do you deal with cold and flu season?  What's in your arsenal?  Opening up the house?  Fresh air?  Lots of orange juice?  Extra rest?  I know we can't be the only household passing the germs, so how do you keep your family feeling good after the back-to-school germs start their endless trek?

Monday, October 1, 2012

... and the crowd goes wild!

I'm thinking about downloading an app that makes the sounds of people cheering.  Bonus points if an announcer comes on and says, "...and the crowd goes wild!"

Wouldn't that be great?

I think I hit snooze somewhere in the area of 14 times this morning.  The baby was up last night, coughing like mad, "...and the crowd goes wild!"

Oops.  Timing is everything.

The baby was up last night, intermittently, periodically, and mostly.  Take your pick, because I can't remember.  I do remember exiting the bedroom, narrowly avoiding the Halloween balloon that kept blowing itself in front of our door for some reason.

I'd take the balloon by the string and throw it toward the dining room, ("...and the crowd goes wild!") but each time I'd return after getting Caleb situated, there was the balloon again.  I kept thinking, "This thing has to GO (emphasis on "go" as that's when I'd bat it away).  It's going to scare the hell out of Richard when he opens the door in the morning."

But then the next person to open the door would be me again, and it would start all over again.

At 6:40-something-that-felt-too-early, I finally sat up and turned off the alarm clock.  It would've been nice to have some background cheering.  I would've clasped my hands together and shook them a few times over each shoulder, like winners sometimes do.

"...and the crowd goes wild!"

I was ecstatic to see that my husband took out the recycling this morning.  I would've used that app on him, had I had it.  Or how about the blog where I finished my semester and nothing happened?  Again, perfect opportunity.

Doubting your parenting skills?  Fixed your dishwasher?  Painted your walls?  Fantasy football team kicked ass and took names?

There's an app for that.

Til next time, "...and the crowd goes wild!"