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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hooter Hider Caped Crusader

It has been four months that I've been tackling two kids at the same time. Multitasking became a new normal. I have read a study somewhere that suggested multitasking is not truly possible, that it is just what our society likes to boast about, but our brain is only able to focus on one task at a time. My brain is not able to focus on anything at all. Sometimes I doubt it is still present, but that does not mean I can afford not to do five things at the same time. Even as I type this, I am making soothing sounds at Fiona, who is getting increasingly pissed at a parrot on her jumperoo, answering "yes, honey" every thirty seconds to Kai who keeps asking "did you see that, Mommy?" pointing to the TV screen with a dragon show on, and sipping iced coffee that is supposed to keep me awake.

If you have ever heard about mothers being compared to superheroes, I can confirm that the transformation has happened. I have, in fact, become a caped crusader. The cape is pink and you can purchase it for $25 - $35. It is also known as a nursing cover. I applaud women who breastfeed in public and don't give a damn. I, personally, prefer to hide myself and the baby, but I absolutely refuse to limit my public appearances on that account. 

The first time my caped crusader alter ego showed up, Fiona was maybe two months old. I was in a park I was not familiar with. It was a huge park and on a sunny Saturday afternoon it was crowded with people big and small. I found a bench, parked the stroller and told Kai that I have to feed Fiona and he can go play. He hesitated - he prefers my company when we are in a new environment. I settled down, pulled the nursing cover over squirming Fiona and started nursing. 

"Yes, Kai?"
"I need to go potty."

Have I mentioned he is three? Do you know what three year olds do? They wait until the very last second to tell you that they need to go to pee or poop and if they don't get to the potty within 30 seconds,  they pee their pants. At least mine does. I scanned the park. I found the bathrooms - on the other side. My diaper bag was clipped to the handle bar of the stroller and my wallet was buried somehwere in it. There was no way I would leave it behind. 

I got a good hold on Fiona trying to keep her in place (do you know what babies do when you take a nipple away from them just when they started eating? They show you the meaning of "wail of the banshee". At least mine does.) Then I started to run. Holding Fiona in one arm, pushing the stroller with the other, I was jogging across the park with my pink Hooter Hider flapping behind me, yelling: "Go, go, go!" at Kai. It paid off. We made it.

Today I took them to the Children's Museum. When the time came to feed Fiona, I asked Kai to go to the bathroom first. I knew better. I learn from my mistakes.

"I don't need to go."
"Honey, but..."
"OK, OK, OU KAY! Stop yelling. I just want to make sure you won't need to go while I am feeding your sister."

We walked to the outside area and I sat down on a bench. Kai is into dragons now, so we put dragon toys we collected in the museum on the table. He was wearing his Halloween dragon costume over his clothes. I settled down, pulled the nursing cover over squirming Fiona and started nursing. 

"Yes, Kai?"
"I need to go potty."

Oh for fuck's sake, are you fucking shitting me with this? No - I didn't say it. I just let it bounce helplessly around my head. Then I grabbed the diaper bag (the wallet!), got a good hold on Fiona (who is now 16 pounds) and ran with Kai to the bathroom, my pink Hooter Hider flapping behind me. I took off his dragon costume with one hand and pulled his pants down. I lifted him onto the toilet seat (he is now 40 pounds), while still trying to nurse the baby. He started peeing. Half of it splashed out and spilled on the floor. I did my best to clean it with one-ply toilet paper. I dressed him, washed his hands and got back to the bench. I practically collapsed on it, exhausted and sweaty, still cursing in my head. I took a deep breath and adjusted Fiona.

"Yes, Kai?"
"I need to go poop."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Accidental Writer

That's what I am - an accidental writer. 

"What do you do?" 
"I accidentally write."

I have always loved written words. Reading a well crafted sentence is intoxicating. Writing one is divine. But despite this lifelong romance, it was never a calling I could not resist, nor a spell I could not escape. My head was not filled with stories that begged to be written. I did not walk around with a notepad in my hand, ready to catch the ideas that fluttered around my brain. I didn't even keep a journal. 

I don't remember being encouraged to write when I was a child. I don't remember being discouraged, either. I think it just wasn't a big deal one way or another. When I  moved to the United States, I spoke English, but I didn't speak it very well. As the time progressed, my English began to improve and my Slovak began to decline. At one point I pretty much sucked in both. In a way I still do, but that's not what this post is about.

Then pregnancy and motherhood happened, and you all know how that went, and suddenly I needed to do something else than just keep the house clean and the kid alive. It was shortly after Kai was born that I started blogging. And then one day editor e-mailed me to let me know they were featuring my piece. And then another one. And then another one. And then editor e-mailed me to tell me they were using my piece in their e-book. And then another one. Now, mind you, I have never submitted anything to be published. Remember, I have not considered myself to be a writer. I am not even a native speaker. But these things kept happening. 

Last week I attended the Central Coast Writers Conference. It was my second year participating. I knew many more people this year than I did the last, and I loved it (both the conference and the fact I knew people). To get the most out of the conference, I submitted ten pages from this blog for a critique. I was hoping to get a feedback on how to turn Cheers to the Second Time into a book. Once I submitted, I was encouraged to enter the Lilian Dean Writing Competition, category "Query Letter".

I had never written a query letter before. I had no idea what it should look like. I spent 30 minutes one morning browsing the Internet, looking at the samples, then typed it while breastfeeding Fiona, had it proofed by my husband for typos, and sent it off.

Imagine the shock when I was announced the winner. I was stunned. I had to go up to the podium and read it to a room full of people. As I was walking up there, I was wondering if I would be able to pronounce all the words in my query letter properly, and if people would understand my accent, especially since I knew my voice was going to be shaking. 

As a winner, I can submit 10 pages of my manuscript to the literary agent from Foreword Literary agency. I have spent every evening since then rewriting this blog into a book. It's turning out to be much more difficult than I expected. "It's all written already," I thought. "I just have to do a bit of editing." I am not going to bore you with details, but I quickly came to realize that blog and book are two different things.

But I am working on it and I don't intend to stop until it's finished. Cheers to the Second Time may never be published as a book. I am OK with that. I will do my best to give it the shot it deserves. I will keep on writing, because I like to think that I can take a hint, and the events of the past three years seem to be hinting that I just need to keep on writing. Cheers to that.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Now What?

I have come to face an interesting problem - this baby is so good that I have nothing to write about. With my pregnancy there was always some kind of a challenge present and I could conquer it with humor, despair, complaints, or I could just fail at conquering it. Either way it made for easy writing. 

My first baby left me exhausted, confused and temporarily defeated, which got my creative juices flowing faster than the breast milk at let-down. I am not sure who cares to read about a baby that sleeps through the night, eats properly, grows well, poops once or twice a week and spends most of the day smiling at you. I know it doesn't make me thrilled to write about it. It makes me thrilled, make no mistake about it, but there ain't a novel in it. 

Because she sleeps so well, she is usually very hungry in the morning, and I like to feed her as often as possible throughout the day to make sure that she gets proper nutrition. My biggest problem thus far is that I have to sit on a couch all day long. Truly dramatic, eh?

The older sibling doesn't help much either. He is a typical tantrum throwing, kisses blowing three year old, but he has adjusted to the life with the baby very well. He has not attempted to place a pillow over her head or to push her down the cliff in her stroller. He fights for our attention, but he doesn't supply me with any quality horror story material. He terrorizes our cats vigilantly enough to look for a story in there, but after sharing with public that I shave them, who am I to judge?

I do find it frightful that no errands get run and no housework gets completed, because I am pinned down by a 13-pound baby, and have no other choice but to read books and surf the net, but I can't figure out how to make others understand the dread of it, especially when events like floods in Colorado or killings in Syria take place at the same time.

For the sake of my own comfort I hope my life will continue to be as uneventful as it is. I hope my kids will continue to be healthy and happy and my friends and family will continue to thrive. The new challenge will be making this blog thrive as well.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Second Child Syndrome

No babies were harmed in this photoshoot

I have heard plenty about the second child syndrome. I have never doubted its validity. It was enough to go to the playground with Kai and watch. There was I, following one step behind him, my arms stretched out in a catch position, climbing up the playground structures and fitting through impossibly small openings and tunnels just to make sure he won't fall or bonk his head. There were the parents of multiple kids, casually standing on the side, chatting away merrily while their offsprings collected bruises, scars and bloody knees.

Fiona will be 7 weeks on Thursday and this is what I have to say - she is a second child. Here are some examples:

- Baby #1: I did not let anyone hold baby #1 until he was about 9 months old. At that point he would freak out if the person holding him was not me, so I kept holding him until about two years of age.
- Baby #2: We went to a birthday party yesterday. Other than a quick feed, I did not even know where my kids were. The older one played on his own and the younger one was in a loving embrace of somebody else than me. Paaarty!

- Baby #1: Before taking a shower, I would write up a manual on how to soothe him (complete with pictures and demonstrations) and suggest solutions to a number of unpredictable situations (alien attack and zombie apocalypse included). OK, maybe I didn't, but I really wanted to.
- Baby #2: Me, to our house guest this morning: "I am going to jump in the shower. If she starts crying, just ignore her. I will be done in 10 minutes, she can survive that." If I rushed with the shower it was not because of the potential discomfort to the baby, but rather the potential discomfort to our guest, in case the baby would, indeed, start crying.

- Baby #1: "Oh, he pooped, we have to pull over and change his diaper. I don't care that we are in a dodgy part of Los Angeles, he needs a clean diaper NOW!" 
- Baby #2: Me, loading groceries in the car: "Honey, I think she pooped." Peter: "Do you want to change her now?" Me: "Nah, let's go home. I'll change her then."

When Kai spat up he would get a new, clean, dry shirt immediately. When Fiona spits out, I just turn her towards the sun, so it dries quicker. While Kai's cries made me jump and drop everything the very second they departed his lips, Fiona's are merely a mild inconvenience that has to be tolerated until I finish folding the laundry.

Maybe she gets less attention because she is such an easy baby. Or maybe she is an easy baby because she gets less attention. I can't tell. But she is definitely, unmistakeably baby #2.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dreadful Internet (or Follow Up On Vagina Snot)

I went back and forth on writing this blog post forever. With forever I mean at least two months. I could not decide what the best course of action should be. I am still not convinced the road I chose is the right one, but here it is - I have decided to share this story with you, because as mortifying as it is, it is also hilarious and I can't keep a hilarious story from you, can I?

On May 1st, I wrote a post titled "Vagina Snot Or I Am Too Sexy For This Pregnancy". I expected it was going to create a bit of a stir. I was hoping for some laughs, but mainly, as with every post on this blog, I wanted to shed some light on those aspects of pregnancy you don't read about in pregnancy magazines.

The blog post became a popular one. At first I just chuckled. Then I became a little curious. It's one of those things - you write something you think is Pulitzer worthy and no one cares. You throw something together before going to bed and it's a hit. I am not saying it wasn't good, I just didn't think it was that good.

Then I started noticing pattern in the search term that led people to my blog. It was "sexy vagina". Now, I am the last person to judge anyone...but "sexy vagina"? Somebody actually thinks a vagina can be sexy? Not only thinks it, but searches for it on internet? And not only somebody, but a whole lot of people all over the world, including those who can't spell it properly, but still give it their best shot? 

After seeing this over and over in my stats, I finally mustered the courage to google the term myself, to see how far in google results I stood. I have a couple of blog posts that rank #3 in google search results - one is From Couch Potato to Half Marathon Runner...And Back and the other is When To Announce Your Pregnancy. I was dreading seeing a link to my blog on the first page when entering sexy vagina (I am not sure how to get around "entering sexy vagina" without giggling. Giggling, googling, all the same). But it wasn't on the first page. It was not on the second page, or the third or fourth and then I figured something was off, because surely people won't go through 10 (or 100) pages to get to my blog. I could not understand it. I told Peter about it. And then he spoke the words...

"Have you tried images?" 


I typed the words. I hit image search. And there I was. My photo in the middle of...well, you know...vaginas. Sexy ones, supposedly, even though I truly couldn't tell. I was mortified. Absolutely, completely mortified. I am not exactly uptight or prudent. I come from place where you can go to sauna without a swim suit and both men and women attend at the same time. Still, this was way beyond my comfort zone. 

First I took the photo that was included in the post down. Then I changed the name of the blog post. Eventually, I vanished from the company of sexy vaginas. Then I thought about the whole thing again...and again...and then I decided that the photo was quite important for the post and the name change didn't do much anyways, and today I changed it back to the original. Internet is a crazy place. I know that. I always knew it. If you share your thoughts (and photos) with the world, it can come back and bite you in the ass (ehm...vagina?) but I don't want to censor myself because of it. The whole point of starting this blog was to be honest. So there you go. Sexy vagina.