Category Archives: Family

Summer Writing…or Lack Thereof

Hello.  My name is Ashley O’Melia, and it has been at least three weeks since my last writing session.  You know why?  Summer break.  Oh, it isn’t a break for me, not by a long shot.  No, summer break means my kids are home all the time to ask for snacks, fight with each other, and basically keep me thoroughly distracted.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my kids and I love spending time with them.  Cereal in the living room while we have a My Little Pony marathon on a Wednesday morning?  Well, who could resist that?  Spontaneously deciding to bake chocolate chip cookies on a Thursday afternoon?  Heck yeah!  But all of this means that my writing schedule has been thoroughly, utterly blown off course.  And I NEED a schedule.

So after far too many days of floating along and promising myself I would do it tomorrow, I finally sat down at my computer this afternoon to write.  I edited the first chapter of my most recent novel.  I hated it.  I attempted to write a funny and poignant blog post.  It was humorless and pointless.  I did some freewriting.  I usually do this on my laptop because my brain can’t keep up with my typing speed.  I didn’t even save it.

So here’s to another writing session tomorrow (hopefully).  Here’s to finding the time to take for myself and write all the horrific drivel possible in the space of an hour, just to get it out of my system and dig back down to the good stuff.  Here’s to that moment when my brain says, “Oh, so THAT’S what you wanted me to do? Okay, cool.”  Here’s to recognizing and appreciating that moment when it happens, whether I’m at my desk, squashed under a pile of children on the couch, or hiding in the basement.  Here’s to summer writing.

Portrait of romantic young woman writing in a diary lying down over the grass. Relax outdoor time concept.

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Filed under Family, On Writing, Parenting

Why Smartphones and Tablets Aren’t as Antisocial as We Think (or at least they don’t have to be)

My daughters, whose birthdays are only a couple of days apart, both got tablets this year as their gift from us. I worried about this, as we stood in the desolation of a middle-of –the-week Best Buy. A blue shirt couldn’t be seen for miles in the sea of sober grey displays of electronics, so I had plenty of time to contemplate the decision.

Was the price right?

How were the reviews?

Are my kids ready for tablets of their own?

What will I do when they shut themselves in their room and never wish to snuggle with me again in preference for their new electronic lives?

But we bought them anyway. The girls were thrilled, of course. After putting every parental block imaginable in place, I waited for the mind-numbing solitude of personal electronic devices to take over my house. I waited for the realization that I hadn’t seen my kids all weekend because they had been blissfully enveloped in the world of My Talking Tom, Subway Surf, and Agent Alice.

I know what you’re thinking. Just tell them they have a certain amount of time on the tablet, and that’s that. Yes, I can do that. Yes, I will and I have done that with all sorts of electronic entertainment, such as their Nintendo DS’s and television. But that’s not my point. Have you seen those pictures of a couple out at a restaurant, each of them on their smart phones and not talking to each other? That’s the kind of lifestyle I fear for my children: one where they are so involved in their screen time that they forget about face time. The time limits I set are only going to apply while they’re under my roof, after all.

Here’s what really happened: Once I had their tablets all set up and ready to go for them, I found myself in the middle of the couch between two girls. They were each on their own tablet, but they were doing something unexpected: continuing to interact with each other and with me! They talked to each other about the games they were playing. My youngest had (with my permission) downloaded a coloring app and wanted me to play it with her. My oldest talked to me in detail about the mystery she was solving on Agent Alice, and asked me to help her find clues. In short, we were spending just as much quality time together as we ever have.

Tablets and smart phones don’t have to be as isolating as we often think. The incident with my daughters made me think about how my husband and I interact around personal devices. Imagine its Friday night. He’s on his iPad, and I’m (most likely) reading. Sounds like two boring parents who have nothing better to do and nothing to do with each other, right? Wrong. He’ll be watching YouTube and sharing his favorite videos with me, or shopping for campers on Craiglist and telling me about them. Even though I’ve been called ‘inaccessible’ while I’m reading before, he knows that he can stop me any time he wants to because I’m more than happy to step back out of the fictional world to spend some quality time with him.

In short, smart phones and tablets (and anything else) are what you make them out to be. You can use them to keep yourself separate from the world, or they can be a whole new conversation starter.

happy mother holding her child

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Snow Day…I Mean, Week

“Are you ready for the kids to go back to school?” the cashier asks me.  I know she’s just doing her job, making small talk, but as my three kids swarm around the cart, two of them arguing about god-knows-what-this-time, I reply “Yes!” with enough enthusiasm that it embarrasses me.

You see, there has been a much larger winter storm around here than we normally get, and the kids have been out of school for an entire week.  It goes like this:

Monday:

It’s President’s Day, and the kids are out of school! Yay!  I still need to try to get some work done, but I’ll at least be able to snuggle with them on the couch while I write, and then take them out to play in the snow later.

Tuesday:

Neat, the kids have another day off! I will cherish this one just as much as I did yesterday!  After all, the school will surely not be closed for a third day in a row.  Who wants to play Life?  And build a snowman?

This is Mr. Fuzzy!  Yeah, we don't have the greatest snowman-building snow.

This is Mr. Fuzzy! Yeah, we don’t have the greatest snowman-building snow.

Wednesday:

Okay, I’ve seriously got to get some work done.  Working from home is awesome,  except that nobody seems to realize you actually have to work.  I’ve relented to far too much video game time already, and they are still bored.  I knew when I became a parent that it was my job to keep them clothed and fed, but why is it my job to keep them constantly entertained?  Somehow, they’ve decided it’s too cold to play in the snow all of a sudden.

We get the automated call that school is out again tomorrow.  I groan audibly, not even bothering to hide it from the kids.

Thursday:

As soon as breakfast is over, the girls are whining (again) about how bored they are.  I respond by shipping them off to their room.  I have a paper and a presentation to do that I’ve been trying to get done all week.  Fortunately, the girls share a room and LOVE to build forts.  I don’t care if they use every single blanket they own (which they do, and it’s a considerable amount) and build a castle out of it, as long as I get this done!  My stepson has never been under the illusion that I’m cool, so he’s perfectly content to spend some time alone in his room.  By 2 pm, both my paper and my presentation are completed.  We celebrate with a trip to the library.

“You probably have school tomorrow,” I tell the kids on the way home from the library.  “It’s already four and they haven’t said they’re closed yet.”  They whine and moan, but I’m not really sure how I feel.

At seven, my phone rings.  I hit the speaker button so the kids can hear the robot lady’s voice say, “There will be no school tomorrow.”  They jump of the couch, shouting and dancing.  I smile a little.

Friday:

I take the day off.  We spend the morning watching TV and playing board games.  When the girls leave to go to their dad’s for the weekend, the house feels so empty I don’t know what to do with myself.  I sprinkle some salt on the sidewalk and wish for more snow.

Not my car, but it may as well have been!

Not my car, but it may as well have been!

 

 

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If You’ve Ever Wondered Why I’m a Nervous Wreck…

Please note:  This was meant to be posted before Christmas.  I got pretty far behind with the kids bringing home stomach bugs, the passing of my dear Cutie Cupcake, and then of course preparing for Christmas.  It seems a bit less relevant now, but it would be a shame to waste it! 🙂

Wednesday, 6 a.m.  The dread sets in as soon as the alarm on my cell phone goes off.  It’s one of those ringtones that sounds pretty pleasant when you listen to it while you’re wide awake, but is horribly annoying when it actually wakes you up.  I usually wake myself up by thinking of all the things I need to do for the day.  It’s really not a good idea.  I know that I will need to walk two dogs (who can’t be walked simultaneously) and wake up three kids all pretty much at the same time.

As I pass by my son’s room, I see that there’s no light under his bedroom door.  No surprise.  His alarm is set to go off before mine does since he’s such a slow poke in the mornings, but as usual he has turned it off and gone back to sleep until I blaze into his room and roust him.  One of these days I’m going to get really mean and douse him with a bucket of water, but for the moment I’m still too nice.  One dog goes out, while the other whines that he wants his turn.  My eldest daughter is up and dressed, all on her own, but she’s whining (again) about how tired she is.  We are all tired, I tell her, but it never sinks in.  I start trying to wake up the youngest, who’s 5.  I can’t seem to get her trained to an alarm clock.  The hulking hunk of Hello Kitty colored plastic on the corner of her dresser can be blasting beeps that can be heard all over the house, but she will still be snoring peacefully.  I can come up to the side of her bed, however, and ask her quietly what she dreamed about, and she will be wide awake and chattering in a moment.

Her kindergarten class is making gingerbread houses this morning, and they asked for volunteers. When she presented the flyer to me last week and said, “Will you be there, Mommy?” well… How could I say no? It doesn’t matter that an elementary school is the worst nightmare of an antisocial germophobe; if big blue five-year-old eyes ask you to go, you go. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, even though one little boy insisted on eating ask if his decorations before they could make it onto his house, and one little girl insisted on licking each decoration.

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I realize when I get home that I had promised her a pretty dress to wear to her holiday recital tomorrow night, but I never went and bought one. I tear through the girls’ closet, feeling like the worst mother ever. I come up with a glitzy black number that her older sister wore three years ago, and hang it with shaking hands at the foot of her bed, simultaneously hoping it’s good enough and reminding myself that it must be good enough.

Oh, crap. We’re supposed to make treats for the Girl Scout holiday party.

I pause here for The Middle. This is the one pleasure I allow myself that I actually DON’T feel guilty for. Two reruns are aired back-to-back at lunchtime, and I bask in the glory of their dysfunction daily.

When the kids get home from school, the evening chaos begins.  Trying to orchestrate three children in their homework and their chores while also finding time to make dinner is simply not a calm process.  We try to squeeze in some down time on the couch somewhere among baths, packing backpacks for the next day, deciding who’s eating school lunch and who finds school spaghetti deplorable. Oh, yes, and baking cakes for Girl Scouts.

At some point I collapse into bed and fall asleep while visions of undone chores dance in my head.

Thursday, 6 a.m.

For the first part of the day, suffice it to say we can just repeat the first couple of paragraphs for Wednesday.

After a few cups of coffee, I’ve cranked out the rest of my paper.  I click save just in time for my husband to remind me we need to go to town and run some errands.  This pretty much means the rest of my day is shot, because by the time we get back home it will be almost time for the kids to get home.  Did you know that around 3:30 every vehicle that comes down our road sounds like a school bus?  True story.

Fortunately, there’s no homework today so we can get straight to icing the cakes we baked for Girl Scouts.  The girls each want to do it themselves, independent little things that they are, and I eventually let go of my OCD and just let them have at it.  Sure, you can put sprinkles on it.  Dump the whole darn container on there for all I care, as long as they’re done and I can shove them back in the fridge.

It’s time to get ready for Claire’s holiday concert.  I always make a much bigger deal out of these things than need be.  Always.  I get on my best sweater, actually bother with putting on makeup between shouting at the kids to stop fighting already, and try to explain to Violet why camouflage snow boots might not be the nicest attire for her little sister’s concert.  I get Claire into her sparkly black dress (which she was thrilled with…phew!) and the black tights I’d grabbed at Walmart when we ran errands.  Then I have to remind her incessantly that no, you simply cannot carry around our giant furball of a cat while you’re wearing black.  Several lint roller sessions later, we’re finally ready to go.

You know how on Black Friday you see lines of people waiting to get into stores?  That’s what our elementary school looks like at 6 p.m. the night of a concert.  The smart ones get their early to grab their seats so they don’t have to be standing at the back of the gym like they did last year.  We get a decent spot on the bleachers near the stage, but once the kindergarteners file onto the stage, I can just barely see my daughter over the top of a poorly placed microphone stand.  Next year we’re leaving 45 minutes early instead of 30.

Back at home, the kids undressed and coerced into bed, I fall asleep on the couch watching my favorite show and wake up with an undeniable craving for chocolate chip cookie dough.  After arguing with myself about it for awhile, I haul my pajama-clad self into the kitchen and start baking.  Fast forward half an hour and I’ve eaten enough cookie dough to satisfy my craving and make me feel incredibly guilty.  I leave the mixing bowl in the sink to soak overnight.  I’m ready to curl up in bed and read until I fall asleep with a book on my face.  It’s been a long day, just like all the other ones.  As I settle back into my  pillow, I realize my son doesn’t have any clean pants for school tomorrow.  Sigh.

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Filed under Family, Holidays, Parenting, Uncategorized

Making a Snow Decision

So, it’s been snowing here. That means curling up in front of the fireplace, drinking hot cocoa out of mismatched mugs, and coloring pictures of Elsa and Anna all day, right? Nope. It means white-hot raging Facebook debates about whether or not the kids should be going to school tomorrow. It would make an excellent drinking game, really. Just take a shot every time someone says ‘snow’ or ‘school closing.’ You’ll be drunk before you know it. This fluffy stuff on the ground also triggers several bread buying debates on social media, and you can see my opinion on that here.

There are two schools of thoughts in this debate:

#1 – There is not that much darn snow on the ground. The roads are a little wet and there’s a dusting of snow in the grass. Get over it. The kids should be in school, and we shouldn’t waste snow days on this.

I have to agree with this. It’s really not that bad out. And since I work from home, I need the kids to go to school so I can get my work done. Otherwise I’ll be curled up in front of the fireplace, drinking hot cocoa out of mismatched mugs, and coloring pictures of Elsa and Anna all day.

#2 – The wet roads will freeze overnight. The curvy country roads aren’t safe. We should be more concerned about the safety of our children than anything else. The people who want to send their children to school just want a free break from their children.

I have to agree with this stance as well. I do put the safety of my children above all else, and I would much rather they be home safe than stuck on a bus somewhere. It’s funny, though, because I lived in Colorado for the first twelve years of my life. We had to go to school when it snowed or else we would never have any school at all. When we moved to Illinois, we laughed at the school cancellations that blared across the news the moment a flake hit the ground. In Colorado, we almost always went to school, and it was fine.

Except that time when it wasn’t. The snow had been falling heavily and the high winds were drifting it across the road. None of this was unusual, but the bus was having trouble plowing through it all that day. As we approached the house of a kid whose name I can’t remember, he said, “We’re going to get stuck at my house.” His place was nestled between two hills, and the wind had filled that little valley with enough snow to build an army of yetis. His prediction had been correct. The entire busload of kids piled off into his house. I remember the long line of kids waiting to use the phone to call their parents and let them know where we were. The weather was so bad that the majority of us had to spend the night, and extra food was brought in on horseback. The news team made it to the house shortly before my dad was able to pick us and the neighbor girl up in a borrowed truck, and we were on TV that night throwing snow balls at each other.

So what’s the point? Well, we were okay, so it all ended up fine. But my mother was terrified. I was a bit miserable sleeping on a stranger’s living room floor. I remember it well enough that I can even describe the shirt I was wearing that day (red, with a black horse’s head, and its mane was made of Christmas lights. Hey, it was the 90’s.) It’s a nice conversation starter, but maybe it is better to be safe than sorry. For the moment, it looks like I’ll be loading the kids up on the big yellow bus in the morning. But I just might have some cocoa for them.

IMG_9368 copy

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Mom’s the Rotten Egg

“Last one in is a rotten egg!” one of my kids screams as they all scramble into the backseat of the Subaru.  Then the debate begins on which one is truly the rotten egg.  Is it the last one physically in the car?  Or the last one to get buckled?  I settle the debate: “Mom’s the rotten egg.”

“No! You can’t be the rotten egg!  I love you!”  My littlest one can be sweet to a fault.

But, being Mom, I really am the rotten egg.  I’m first one up in the morning, but I’m the last one to bed.  I’m the last one to sit down at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table.  I’m the last one to be ready to go when we’re on our way out the door because I’ve been busy getting everyone else ready.

I’m okay with being the rotten egg though.  Parenting is tiresome, frustrating, and sometimes even confusing, but I can’t imagine not doing it.  So when the kids are racing across the yard, I’ll gladly stand back and be the rotten egg.

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Why I Still Shop at Hobby Lobby

Don’t get yourself all up in arms over birth control rights just due to the title of this post.  I’m not here to talk about whether employers should have control over their employees’ reproductive rights (they shouldn’t) or if people should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies (they should).  I’m not here to spark a debate about what your religious beliefs are (your business, not mine) or what my religious beliefs are (my business, not yours).  I’m here to talk about how to get craft supplies when you are in desperate need of crafting therapy.

Okay, that’s a bit of a joke, but still kind of true.  (Truth makes it funny, though.  Right?  Right?  *crickets chirping*)

Here’s the deal:  When I’m not writing, or cleaning, or taking care of the kids, or studying, or catching a little bit of shuteye, I like to craft.  Sometimes that involves scrapbooking, or cross-stitching, or sewing.  Most recently, my favorite thing to play with is polymer clay.

Carrot Cake from Athena's Dream.  www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

Carrot Cake from Athena’s Dream. http://www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

As I stepped through Hobby Lobby’s doors last night, I remembered the snort of derision someone gave me in a recent conversation when I had mentioned I had been in that much-debated store.  I know that the flames have died down a bit, but it is obviously still a relevant issue for people.  But here’s why I still shop there:  They are a local store.  That’s it.  There’s the magic for me, right there.  I could get clay on Amazon or Etsy, but if I shop at Hobby Lobby I know I’m supporting other local people.  Despite what their corporate office has had to say about healthcare, Hobby Lobby still provides me with the instant gratification of a hunk of clay in my hands and the knowledge that I’ve supported a local store.  Sure, there are Hobby Lobby stores across America, so you can’t technically call it a local business, but there are local people that work there.  That’s the part I care about.

I think we let the media get us so riled up about one little corner of the picture that we forget to see the rest of it.

So yes, I will continue to shop at Hobby Lobby.  And I will enjoy it.  And I will make cute crafty things when I get home.

Happy Pumpkin Pie Earrings from Athena's Dream.  www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

Happy Pumpkin Pie Earrings from Athena’s Dream. http://www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

You can find more of my craftiness at my Facebook page for Athena’s Dream Jewelry and Crafts.

 

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