Monthly Archives: February 2012

Basil in the backseat

When my oldest daughter was a baby I worked for a local non profit organization that built school gardens and taught kids about the (literal) roots of their food.  We had an opportunity to get free flowers and herbs, but the pickup was on a weekend, and since my staff was composed entirely of AmeriCorps VISTAS who were already overworked and underpaid, I decided to just go get the plants myself, with the baby. How hard could it be?

I had hoped it would be sort of a small affair, leave the baby in the car, toss a couple pots in the back, say a gracious thank you and be on my way. It was not a small affair. Potted plants filled a medium-sized parking lot. A swarm of volunteers from organizations all over town waited for the go ahead to begin loading flats and carts. Dorothy showed no interest in staying her seat and drooling on the mirrors in Hello Bee, Hello Me.

The woman coordinating the event arrived in a beautifully restored 1940s era pickup. She and her children were wearing white button down shirts and over-sized sunglasses. I held Dorothy on my hip. We both looked grungy. As the event got underway, I struggled to carry the plants and the baby but managed to fill the back of my car. There were still rows and rows of beautiful basil plants left, basil I could imagine nestled under the tomatoes in the raised beds at my school gardens. I buckled Dorothy in and started piling basil in around her. I was sweaty, hair in my eyes, Dorothy was beginning to fuss, but I didn’t want to leave without saying thank you. The kind, lovely, stylish organizer was as gracious as one would expect, and in fact offers to help. Her white shirt is still spotless, though I know she’s been carrying plants. “Oh, let me just help you get those to your car and I’ll peek at the baby,” and before I can stop her, she’s swinging open the door to my backseat and peering in through the giant sunglasses. Dorothy is screaming, snot and soil crusted across her face, a basil plant in each angry fist and another hanging out of her mouth. There are no words for this moment. I shut the door, said thanks again, drove away. What can I say? My life is not styled. My shirts are not spotless. My house is too small.  But the basil grew beautifully all summer.

This is Not a Lifestyle Blog

I just read a fantastic article from Bitch Magazine’s newest edition, “Better Homes and Bloggers,” and it deeply resonated and spoke to me to the darkest depths of my blogging soul. Freelancing mama Holly Hilgenberg (great name) writes:

Both the appeal and the unease of lifestyle blogs are centered on the fact that, unlike more traditional forms of media like magazines, television, and movies, blogs are supposed to be real… This tension between authenticity and aspiration may be at the heart of why lifestyle blogs don’t just inspire readers, they also tend to bum them out… As one reader, Claudette, recounts: “I see her fucking noodle soup. And I feel like I should do that. And I don’t feel good. I feel like I should be perfect.” Claudette, who follows many style blogs, particularly those that reflect her own modernist sensibility and obsession with fashion and design, isn’t unhappy with her own life. But, she says, “I look around my house and I like the things I own…but it can never be good enough.”

I know Mama Nervosa is merely a week old, but this is not my first trip around the blogging block. This is my fifth or sixth attempt to create a blog with more than 4 readers (Hi, Mom!) despite the fact that for all of those blogs, I followed THE NUMBER ONE RULE OF BLOGGING SUCCESS which is DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE: that is, find a niche and aggressively pursue it. I tried a budgeting blog (HA!); a mommy blog (fun for me, boring for everyone else); a hilarious TV blog (dang it, you have to actually watch a lot of TV to do that, preferably shows that are currently running and not outdated dregs on Netflix streaming); and even an aquarium enthusiast blog (it died when my fish did).

I sometimes worry that Mama Nervosa won’t be read because it is non-niche. We’ve written about screaming toddlers, grandmothers and peonies, and birth and car purchasing. OK; all of those topics have a thread of motherhood woven through them, but we promise to branch out into topics as diverse as our past lives as hippie fangirls, smokers, baristas, and teachers; crazy road trips with drug dealers and Frisbee throwers; quitting graduate school and near-death experiences; anti-hipster rants and commentaries on teen magazines from the early 90s. (So, far, though, we think the real NUMBER ONE RULE OF BLOGGING SUCCESS is USE FACEBOOK. It seems to be working.)

But the big premise behind all of this, the one thing we agreed upon when we hastily formed a blogging alliance via email after a transformative writing workshop, was that MN had to be about “messy life.” Continue reading

Pregnant in Winter

Today, my first turns four.

It’s been a mild winter in Iowa, with temps near or above freezing, and not much snow. Folks aren’t enjoying this: seems like everyone’s afraid that this will mean a scorching summer or a corn apocalpyse. But I’ve been loving it; every day I don’t have to wrestle my kids into their coats or worry about my husband driving home at the end of the day is a good one in my book. And, every day I look outside and see clear sidewalks, I say a thank you on behalf of all the enormously pregnant women making their way through the world in winter. Every day they don’t have to strain to pull on their winter boots, shuffle through a slick parking lot, or obsess about how they’d survive and where they’d pee if they became snowbound in the car is a gift.

My daughters were born in January and February, so I’ve lived this life. In fact, my pregnancy with Robin coincided with one of Iowa’s worst winters. February 2008 saw 15 inches of snow, the 3rd snowiest February in over a hundred years; and temps were among the top 25 most frigid winters in the state’s history. I am a petite woman, so 30 lbs of fluid, belly, and baby had nowhere to go but out. The result was alarming lopsidedness: my tummy had its own gravitational pull and I’m probably responsible for some kind of lunar shift that led to all that damn snow. I fell three times late in my pregnancy, and it wasn’t so much the falling that was painful as the muscle strains I got as I used every muscle in my body to try and NOT fall.

Blizzard in Eastern Iowa, 1/29/2008

Continue reading

Learning to stake a claim


Snapshots from my day:

“We don’t pretend to breastfeed our sisters.”

“It’s okay, honey, everybody pukes sometimes.”

“Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to facilitating a discussion about that documentary about cosmetic surgery for vaginas.”

Did I mention the teething baby, the new furnace, the trying to scrounge up some pennies for the preschool change war, the search for Fancy Nancy’s lost underpants, and the mountain of essays about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn waiting to be graded? Continue reading

Long time listener, first time caller.

Hoping my voice comes through the wires. Is this thing on?

Teething Two-Year Olds/ Thank you, pink goo.

Teething is considered a baby thing. And it is a baby thing. Most kids get most of their teeth by their second birthday, and most kids get that first little chomper before they can crawl. I know this because I lived it: my oldest daughter got her first tooth at 6 months old, followed by months of whining, drooling, and nipple nibbling. But she was basically ready to dig into the chips and salsa by 18 months and that was that.

My youngest daughter, Holly, just turned 2 years old. And she has (drum roll) eight teeth. Really, check it out:

Toothless Wonder

(She’s wearing my husband’s glasses, by the way. And yes, I had noticed that she is extremely cute.) Continue reading

The Test Begins Now

I thought there was a virtue in always being cool.