Site Under Construction

Remember that question I asked last week?

Well, it turns out that in order to implement it the way that I want to, I need to move my blog.

Construction sign.
Watch your step. Image credit: yupiramos

See, my blog very happily lives at WordPress dot com, and to do what I want to do vis-a-vis poetry and prose, I need to create a self-hosted site at WordPress dot org.

In non-technical terms, it’s like I’m renting right now, and while I have some freedom, there’s not too much I can do to my apartment. Moving to the dot org will be like buying a house. Except way less expensive (WAY less — right, Andy?). I’ll be able to paint the walls and add new rooms and decorate it however I like.

Now — and I’m sure someone can correct me here — for YOU, dear reader, it shouldn’t mean any change in your experience at all. When you navigate to redpenmamapgh.com, lo and behold, my site will still be there.

I think. Maybe you’ll get redirected. We’ll see.

I have been told that it’s time for me to “move away from the kiddie table.”

Challenge accepted, bitches.

The plan is to keep the majority of my categories (Parenting Is Hard, 2015: The Year of Commitment, RPM Rants, The Critic Thing, etc.) front and center on the site. The category Poetry will be visible on its own tab, as will the category Prose. I’m doing it that way for a lot of different reasons, not the least of which I’m sure my parents don’t want to read any of my erotic poetry. (Hi, Dad!)

My blog is my personal site. It’s not what I do for a living; it’s a hobby, a place to flex my writing muscles in ways I don’t get to at work. I like WordPress dot com because it’s easy and it gives me lots of options, but doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting.

I have a meeting Saturday with someone who knows how to do this (the aforementioned Andy), and he assures me (repeatedly) that it’s not difficult, and there are lots of advantages. I’m sure there are challenges too, and I won’t lie: I’m apprehensive about that.

Home ownership is not always everything it’s cracked up to be, as anyone who has had to pay for a new roof knows.

But I guess it’s time to put on my big girl pants and take the next step with my site. After nearly nine years, it might actually be overdue.

With any luck, I’ll be cutting the ribbon on a new Red Pen Mama on Monday.

Send good bloggy wishes my way!

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A Question for My Readers

Question Mark
Image source: quka

I have been toying with an idea for some time now, and I am curious what you think.

I would like to add two pages to my site, one for prose and one for poetry.

It’s been some time since I wrote poetry, but I could go through what I have written and post things. Maybe it will inspire me to write new stuff as well.

I am far less adept at prose (fiction / creative non-fiction) writing, but it’s a muscle I want to start flexing. I have a couple of pieces started, and having a place to put them may give me the impetus I need to finish them.

Admittedly, it’s something I want to do for myself. Marketing copy writing has been good to me (more or less; it helps pay the bills), but it doesn’t scratch a creative itch. And I’d be curious to know if you’d venture to read it.

On a related note, I signed up for another Emily Levenson project, #30daysofjournaling. You still have time to join if you like.

I started journaling in 6th grade as part of a class room project, and it’s something that solidified my love of writing and expressing myself through putting thoughts to paper. Who knows, some of my journal content may end up here.

Writing more is never a bad thing.

What do you think of the idea? If you read, please comment yay or nay. I am truly curious if it is something you would check out.

Love Letter

Dearest Daniel,

Our 14th wedding anniversary is here, and it finds us both a little beat up and stressed out. You are still gimping around from your second Tough Mudder, and I am not adjusting to the stresses of the new school year very well.

I haven’t even managed to buy you a card for today.

I recently contributed a guest post to a Pittsburgh blogger who wed last week. Remember when we were asking for my parents’ blessing, and my dad said, “Marriage isn’t 50-50; it’s 100-100”? And then asked if I was going to cook you meat?

Yeah, that’s what I wrote about over there.

And I just want you to know that I know you have been in 100 percent since… well, since we started dating, probably. And I cannot tell you how loved that makes me feel; how safe and secure. And I also want you to know how proud I am to be with you, to stand as your wife. I am proud of you, and of your continual hard work as a husband and father, as a therapist, as a Tough Mudder!

You married an anxious lady, dude. And I appreciate it when you are patient with me; and I forgive you for being impatient with me too. I get it — I’m a little impatient with my hand-flappy self, too. I fluster easily, and I, much like at least one of our children, do not adjust to change very quickly.

However, since our first date, since before our first date, we have had the top three things that make our relationship work:

1. Humor
2. Kindness
3. Chemistry

You are patient and you are kind. You make me laugh every day. You make me feel loved and desired every day. I hope I do the same for you. I certainly think we do not disappoint each other when it comes to the third thing on that list.

I’m so glad I said, “Yes” and then, 14 years ago today, “I do.”

I love you, 100 percent, all in.
Your ever-loving,
Dawn

Back to School: The All About Me Edition

Three days into the new school year, and I already have a scheduling conflict. C’mon!

I will say that the girls have adjusted thus far very well to their new schools. Flora came home Monday and declared, “TODAY WAS PERFECT.”

Flora on her first day of school.
First day of fifth grade!

Of course, my cynical little brain voice said to itself, “Great. It’s all downhill from here.” But I smiled and gave her a hug, and said out loud and with sincerity, “I am so glad to hear that.”

Kate is having a bit of a rougher time. Her Monday orientation went well — I swear her homeroom teacher is all of 23 — and she was excited. She says her first day was fine, but then burst into tears because she forgot her lunch — I owe her teacher $3 — and she doesn’t like the little boy who sits next to her. She says he wouldn’t leave her alone, and said he was going to eat her brain. So. We will have to keep an eye on that.

Kate's first day of school, 2015.
Think positive! Kate on the first full day of third grade.

It’s quite an adjustment for Dan and me, too. Flora’s bus comes at 7. Which means I am hitting snooze at 5:30. In order to continue with my workout routine, I have to get up even earlier than I have been. Which means bed by 10 p.m. I am not good at early bedtime, but I am going to try harder. On the bright side, I am often at work before 8 a.m., and even an open office is pretty damn quiet at 8 a.m.

It also means that Dan is getting Kate and M out the door, which is a big change for him. We do get a lot ready at night — lunches packed, clothes laid out (I have to get into this habit myself), papers signed, book bags ready. Again, three days into the routine, and it’s been going pretty smoothly. Flora lets me walk her to the bus stop; she even holds my hand crossing the street.

One of these mornings I will stop getting choked up when the bus drives off. Right?

Michael has a whole new schedule this year, too. He’s only going to daycare on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. His pre-k class meets those days starting after Labor Day. Tuesdays he goes to Tadone’s and Thursday he stays home with me.

Thursday will be known as pajama and Minecraft day. Because mama’s gotta work.

Next up for me will be meeting new parents — again — and finding ways to get involved in the school — again. The mere thought makes me very, extremely tired. Plus: TWO schools! (Three if you count M’s.) I mean, how am I gonna do that? Plus soccer for Flora — community league, not through the school — and we have to find an activity for Kate.

I do have one completely positive thing to report. Okay, two.

First, the week before school started, I declared that Sunday through Thursday, all screens are going off at 8 p.m., and we have stuck with that. They don’t have to go straight to bed, but this starts the transition to bedtime. Screens off, snacks finished, everything prepped for the morning. Showers for everyone, M first because he’s the youngest.

And then — and this is BIG for me, HUGE — I get M in his pajamas, read him a book, play him a lullaby, kiss and hug him, AND LEAVE THE ROOM.

I stopped laying down with him while he was supposed to be falling asleep. We talked about it a couple of times — not at bedtime — and my focus has simply been that he is a big boy and old enough to fall asleep on his own. It hasn’t been a completely smooth transition. He still sometimes cries that he is scared. I gave him a radio, and we leave the door open to the hallway. I give extra hugs and kisses. But I am getting an entire hour back at night by not laying in bed with him waiting for him to fall asleep.

Again: so far, so good. Flora has been getting up on her own with an alarm — another HUGE change from last year. I wake Kate and M before I leave, try to get them moving. So far, I have managed one Pilates workout, and one workout with my trainer (Jillian Michaels), and we have been on time for the bus. Even though as of Wednesday they moved the pickup time up by 10 minutes.

Sure, no problem.

Only nine months to go!

How is back to school treating you?

Listen to Your Mother: Mother of the Year

Header Image by Ashley Mikula Photography

It’s a common social media meme.

“Forgot it was picture day today. My child’s in his uniform with unwashed hair. Mother of the year!”

“Daughter on museum field trip clomping around in her winter boots. How do other parents know to pack a change of shoes? Mother of the Year.”

“Letting the 3yo run around our backyard in his gutchies. I’m either the best mom or the worst mom ever. #MOTY”

We all have these ‘mother of the year’ moments, times when we’re too tired to fight the fight, times when we feel we’re letting our children down — or scarring them for life.

Like that time my then 5-year-old called 9-1-1 on me for being a mean mommy.

Let me set the scene. It is a weekday evening. I work outside the home full-time, and I have three children at home, so weekday evenings are not my favorite. It’s all a big sprint toward bedtime as far as I’m concerned. At this time, my children are 7, 5, and 1.

Dinner that night is leftovers, my favorite dinner of the week. The 1-year-old is already strapped in his high chair. I keep asking the 5-year-old what she wants for dinner, and she keeps arguing with me about I don’t even remember what. (The 7-year-old is conspicuously absent from this story.)

My middle child continues to get increasingly agitated. I think it’s because I won’t cook her a grilled cheese sandwich. “Look, kiddo,” I say, “it’s leftover night. Pick something and I’ll warm it up.”

This is unacceptable.

“I’m going to call the police,” she informs me angrily.

“For what?” I scoff.

I’m going to call and tell them you are being a mean mommy.”

“Kate, I am not being mean to you. Just because I’m not cooking something new, that’s not being a mean mommy.”

Kate stomps out of the room, and stomps right back in brandishing the cordless phone.

“I’m calling!”

* exhale noisily * “Whatever.” I don’t want to deal with this nonsense.

“What’s the number again? 1-9-1? 1-1-9?”

She doesn’t even know the number!

“Kate, you can’t call the police on me.”

“I can! You’re a mean mommy!”

“Please, sit down! What do you want for dinner?”

“No! I don’t want to eat. I’m calling the police!”

“Kate, you can’t call 9-1-1!”

She looks me triumphantly in the face. *beep – beep beep*

++

Mother of the Year awards actually do exist. For example, the Albany Tulip Festival is giving out its 16th annual award this year. They are “looking for moms who have proven a commitment to their family and their community.” Unless they consider Twitter and Facebook communities, I am not eligible for this award. American Mothers gives out a national Mother of the Year award, plus an award for each state. Maybe I should ask to be nominated.

I would like to think that my children would nominate me for Mother of the Year. I’m their only mother, so I have that going for me. And some days, they think I’m a great mom. I bake cookies, I play board games, I read with them. When I get to say yes to my now 4-year-old son, he throws his little arms around my neck and declares, “You are the best mommy in the world.”

And in that moment, I am. I am the best mother EVER.

++

Although I had promptly grabbed the phone away from Kate and hung it up, a police officer did come to the house. 9-1-1 protocol is to respond to every 9-1-1 call. A very surprised Kate assured him that everything was fine. “She called you,” I explained to the amused cop, “because I was being a mean mommy.” The officer regarded my daughter with a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t know,” he said. “Santa may need to hear about this.”

Later, as I was trying to explain the gravity of the situation, Kate became very distraught. “But I didn’t even talk to anyone!” she said.

“That number is for serious emergencies,” I explained. “The people on the other end of the phone didn’t know why the call was cut off.

“A bad person could’ve grabbed it and hung it up. Or if there was a fire, it could’ve been cut off. They had to send someone to make sure we were safe.” Poor Kate broke into sobs. As far as I was concerned, her punishment was those tears.

++

If, by some wild chance, I did win a Mother of the Year award, I would stand at that podium in my off-the-rack Target dress, and I would start by thanking God. Then I would thank my husband Dan, without whom none of this would be possible. And I would thank Gabriel, Flora, Kate, and Michael, all of whom made me the mother I am today: The Mother of the Year.

++

LTYM cake
Cake!

ETA: I want to emphatically and enthusiastically encourage you all to view ALL the Pittsburgh videos, starting with the first. Watch the show all the way through. Heck, watch other cities’ shows!

Each story stands on its own. But together, they are amplified. You will go on a journey through motherhood, highs and lows, tears and laughter. Participating was an honor and a joy. Getting to see it again, and read the recaps, has been so much fun.

If you do take the time to watch them all, and/or another city, tell me your favorite!

Project: Food Budget, Week 2

Project: Food Budget

Farmers Market = $35
Target = $69.20
Cash Market = $18.09

Total = $122.29
Under budget by about $50

Cash Market is my Aldi’s stand-in this weekend, and as you can see I was way under budget there. I only picked up what I needed for Thursday night’s dinner.

At the farmers market, I bought strawberries, broccoli, spring mix lettuce, 2 pounds of gnocchi, meatballs, and breakfast pastries.

At Target, I didn’t just get my meatless stuff, I also did some shopping for staples. So while I was a touch over budget for my original goal, since I didn’t make a big Aldi’s trip, it more than comes in under budget.

Note: I waffled on buying eggs at the farmers market. They go for about $3 to $3.5 a dozen there, depending on which vendor you choose. Next time, I will buy them there, because they are a whole dollar to dollar fifty more at Target.

Since I’m posting on Tuesdays, my menu is going to run Wednesday to Wednesday. Here’s what I made/am making. (I’m already a week behind!)

Wednesday: brinner. Pancakes and eggs for the children, and a salsa/egg/cheese/guacamole burrito for me; Dan had pancakes and a ham/egg/cheese omelet.
Thursday: burgers and veggies burgers, salad, baby carrots, and tater tots.
Friday: Flora, M, and I ate at the end-of-the-year soccer party. Pizza, chips, cheese puff balls, watermelon.
Saturday: Another dinner “out”. We went to a graduation party, and ate there.
Sunday: sesame noodles with stir fry chicken and stir fry tofu.
Monday: gnocchi and meat- and “meat” balls. I recently discovered my children like gnocchi — nay, *love* gnocchi, and I have leapt at the chance to serve it. I made a salad as well.
Tuesday: Tacos!
Wednesday: Leftovers. We gotta clean out the refrigerator before we hit the road.

The strawberries have been doled out accordingly. Half were Sunday night’s dessert, and the other half were frozen for smoothies.

We are heading to Chicago on Thursday, next week’s P:FB post will talk more about meal plans. We will probably shop and picnic some of the time in Chicago, but we’ve also got some restaurants picked out to visit.

Let’s see how everyone else did!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Rainaldi.org
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
facepalmmama
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller

12 Things to Keep the Children Busy This Summer (Around the House and Yard)

I have the distinct impression that my children think they are going to vegetate and stare at screens for most of the summer. While I am sure they are looking forward to great swaths of unstructured time — and I will let them have such — they are also going to have Stuff to Do.

Last day of school outfits
Enjoy your last day, sweeties! Mama’s got plans for you!

I am sure they will not believe me, but: children do better with structure. It doesn’t need to be rigid. I’m not going to punish them if they decide they don’t want to build with Legos. But I also can’t have them 1) whinging about being bored; 2) asking to go a lot of places that cost money; 3) bugging me for ideas every five minutes while I am working at home; 4) asking to watch a show, go on my computer, or play Minecraft every five minutes.

1. Chores. Every day, they will have to make their beds, clear and rinse dishes, put clean dishes away, and pick a chore from the chore jars. (Water plants, sweep kitchen floor, etc.) I need to remake the chores to put in these babies, but I’m perfectly happy to do that. Somehow or another, all the popsicle sticks I had got used for other arts and crafts projects.

chore jars
Pick one!

2. Math. Flora struggled with math and science this year, and I wasn’t around to help much. Her teacher and I never managed to meet, either. Kate started the year in tutoring for math, and “graduated” out of the program this spring. We are very proud of her, and yes, she is getting a little reward.

I received an offer for this site from Amazon, and signed up the girls. They are *horrified* that I did such a thing. But doing well on these lessons (I am not sure if they are daily or not) will ensure continued access to computer and Minecraft time.

3. Drawing “camp.” The people at DIY.org clearly recognize that children like to spend time on the computer, and have curated a whole lot of “camps” to help it be productive time. They ran special offers on Facebook. I saw the offer for $10 month-long make-a-drawing-a-day camp, and promptly signed Flora up. She’s going to love it.

4. Make play dough/Play with play dough. I learned to make play dough this past year for one of Kate’s school projects, and this is going to be something we do. Make a bunch of colors; play with them; store them; make more when it runs out. Cream of tartar is a major ingredient — play dough, meringue, and snickerdoodles all call for it.

5. Baking/cooking. When they are done making play dough, they can bake us up some snickerdoodles! Other things they can make: s’mores dip; chocolate chip cookies bars; brownies. We can probably start working some dinner stuff into the rotation.

6. Books. Each day they will need to do 30 to 60 minutes of silent reading. Obviously, this will be hard for M, but I figure Kate can read with him, or the nanny will.

7. Activity. Head outside for *at least* 30 to 60 minutes. I am hoping that they will get into a game or other activity, and lose track of time enough that this goes on longer than a half hour. Bike riding needs to be an option — which means I have to get my butt to a thrift store to get bikes for Kate and M. I’m saving that for after Chicago.

8. Build something. Use Legos. Or blocks. Or cardboard boxes and glue. Heck build forts for silent reading time! Another 30-minute activity.

9. Draw or paint something. Pretty straight forward. *Note to self*: buy some acrylic paint for the girls. They want to start customizing their LPS and MLP.

10. Play in the sprinkler.

11. Do a science experiment — make goo; make invisible ink; etc. Flora has a couple of good books of experiments. I’m sure there are scads of websites out there too. (If you have a favorite, leave it in the comments.)

12. Write a letter or card. I’ll put it in the mail!

Obviously, they don’t have to plow through a dozen activities every day. I’ll draw up a calendar and a schedule. Once they are done with the day’s activities, screen time is open. I am also considering raiding a dollar store for little rewards that they can earn.

The other thing I will need them to do will be to pick activities and experiments they want to do, and make sure they are supplied.

How are you keeping the children busy this summer?

Project: Food Budget: Getting Started (Again)

Project: Food Budget

Wow!
A lot has changed since the first time I did this project, which comes again courtesy of Emily Levenson.

First of all, of course, all the children are older! Flora is now a lanky 10-year-old who likes nothing more than drawing and reading. Kate is an energetic 8-year-old who wants to play Minecraft all day, narrating every move. And little M isn’t so little anymore; he’s an active, curious chatty 4-year-old, who wants to be outside pretty much all the time.

Dan is still my loving man, but even he’s made some major changes in the past four years that effect the food budget.

Secondly, the way we shop has changed radically. Market District/Giant Eagle is no longer my grocery store(s) of choice. We only head to Costco once every two months or so — I think this is due to the fact that I don’t have a baby in diapers any longer, thank heavens.

Thirdly, and sadly, we no longer belong to a CSA. This was the most difficult decision to make, and it does not reflect my feelings for Kretschmann’s Farm (whose quality organic produce remains most excellent) or my feelings about CSAs in general (they are a fantastic idea). But our food budget has changed considerably, and, frankly, we were not using all the produce we were getting. Despite my best intentions, a lot of produce was still going to waste.

Flora is still mostly vegetarian, but Kate and Michael are definitely omnivores. Dan, of course, is still an omnivore as well; but since the last time I did this project, he has joined a gym, started drinking protein shakes and smoothies, and has lost 40 pounds — and he’s still working to lose more fat and gain more muscle. I’m so proud of him, and I’m working hard to make sure he stays fit and motivated.

My own eating habits haven’t changed very much, but my shopping and cooking habits have changed.

Let’s start with *where*. I no longer shop primarily at the Big Bird. I discovered Aldi not too long ago, and that is where I shop for most of our staples. The quality is good; the prices are low; and it’s a fast trip. My only criticism is that they don’t stock much in the way of vegetarian goods — I would even be happy with tofu! — so I often have to make another stop.

I round out my Aldi’s trip by grocery shopping at Target. They carry a lot of vegetarian options; their prices are still lower than GE’s; I also pick up toiletries and the like; and I have a Target debit card, which gets me 5% off the total bill. I’ve also been trying to use the Target app Cartwheel to save more as well — it’s akin to clipping coupons, without the actual clipping.

I plan to make the Sewickley farmers market part of my monthly shopping as well. This is where I will get most of my produce while I can. By only buying what I know we will use over the course of a week, I will waste a lot less. Plus, I won’t end up with stuff like fennel, which I don’t like and don’t use, or tons of herbs that I usually manage to dry but never store.

My estimated budget on a weekly basis will be:

Aldi trip: $80-$100
Target: $50
Farmers Market: $25-$40

I cook at home A LOT. Through doing Project: Food Budget in 2011 I learned the value of menu planning. I have a go-to list of meals that come together very quickly during the week. The girls are starting to help me meal plan, which is fantastic. We almost never eat out anymore. And I don’t use as many meat substitutes as I used to. With Kate and Michael eating beef, chicken, and fish, I usually prepare beans or tofu for Flora and me. We still have the occasional meal with Morning Star nuggets or Boca burgers, but not nearly as often as we used to.

Oh, another improvement (IMO, anyway): I am baking a whole lot more. Like, almost weekly, if not twice a week. My family is very happy with this improvement, although Dan wants me to find a hiding place for the baked goods. He has terrible discipline when it comes to sweets. 🙂

Here are the other bloggers participating on this round. Can’t wait to see how everyone does!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Rainaldi.org
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
facepalmmama
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller

How has your food budget changed in the past four years?

“Is It Hard to Be a Mom?”

This is the question Flora asked me yesterday as she set the table.

“Is it hard to be a mom?” I repeated.

“Yeah.”

I sighed. I hadn’t had the best day. I was noticeably weary when I picked my children up from Dan’s office. Kate had commented on it. “You sound tired,” she said. “I feel tired,” I answered.

“It’s not hard to be a mom,” I said to Flora. “It was harder when you were babies.” I decided to leave it at that.

“Oh, good,” she said. “I think I want to have two children.”

I could’ve said so much more.

Is it hard to me a mom?

It’s not hard to be a mom. It’s a delight to be a mom! If all I had to do was mother, I’d be golden.

F and K goofing
What could possibly be hard about being a mom to these two goofballs?

It is hard to be a mom, and be a cook, maid, chauffeur, and disciplinarian. That’s pretty tricky.

It’s hard to be a mom, and work 40 hours outside the home at a job that is unpleasant (at best) and occasionally makes you cry.

It’s hard to be a mom, and still prioritize your marriage in the right way. Being a good wife isn’t about the ’50’s model of a good housewife, but my marriage still has to come first. Part of being a good parent *is* being a good spouse and partner. But sometimes, that’s hard to remember. Sometimes you want to take out your frustrations on the person you’ve joined your life to instead of solving problems with him or her.

Dan and M in hammock
Why are you laying down?

It’s hard to be a mom and be a volunteer at school, show up for the activities, cheer from the sidelines, sit through the beginning band concert. It’s hard to be a school mom and fill out the approximately 4,632 forms and turn them in on time. It’s hard to be a mom when you worry if you can re-enroll your children in the school they have come to love and you realize you may need to explore a different option.

It’s hard to be a mom and pay all the bills in an organized fashion.

Mom pen
Because I’m looking for this pen half the time.

It’s hard to be a mom and be patient enough to ask the children again to do the thing you have asked them to do three, five, ten times already. It’s hard to be a mom and repeat the same thing on different days.

It’s hard to be a mom and teach the children to do chores.

it’s hard to be a mom and cobble together dinner every single night. Sometimes you just want to go out for pizza, you know?

It’s hard to be a mom and sweep the kitchen floor at 10 p.m. at night.

It’s hard to be a mom and try to figure out how to launch the next phase of your career, figure out when you are going to write and what, tack hours onto an already too full week so you can move on and earn a little extra scratch.

Being a mom is easier now, now that they are 10 and 8 and 4, and *can* do chores even though they don’t want to, and they can have conversations even though they still goof off at the dinner table, now that they can entertain themselves even if that’s a little more screen time than you originally hoped to expose them to.

I usually like being a mom now. I usually like the mom I am now.

But, yeah, it’s still a little hard being a mom when I mostly want to polish my toenails and sit on the couch reading a book.

It is hard to be a mom (or dad)?

Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh Knocks It Out of the Park

Ladies in Red: Britt, Jen, me (duh), and Tina
Ladies in Red: Britt, Jen, me (duh), and Tina

I have had some good nights, and some good weekends, and some truly amazing — amazing — blessings in my life.

Aside from my wedding day, and each of the times I delivered a child (in the words of one of the directors, Stephanie Jankowski), “out of my vagina — Like. A. Boss” — Listen to Your Mother tops them all.

It was, hands down, one of the most amazing things I have ever had the privilege to do.

Amanda Mushro (the other director), Stephanie, and producer Jennifer Hicks, did an incredible job, and maybe got a teensy bit lucky, putting this show together. The stories on the stage that night fit together like it was planned before auditions, with 13 women all telling about their experience of motherhood. All different and yet all with a kernel in the middle that was the same. The kernel of motherhood.

++

Amanda in peach, Jen in red, Stephanie (on the floor in yellow)... and cast member Ilene.
Amanda in peach, Jen in red, Stephanie (on the floor in yellow)… and cast member Ilene.

We thanked our directors and producer A LOT in the weeks leading to the show, in emails, on Facebook, in person, at each reading. And each time they told US: This show is you. You make this. Your story. We are the privileged ones.

And they are right. I believed them. But we cast were right too. We could not have done it without each other. We needed them to bring this show to Pittsburgh, and they needed us to do this show in Pittsburgh.

No, thank you!
No, thank you!

++

If you didn’t get to see the show, in about a month or so, I’ll be bugging you to go and watch the videos on YouTube — and don’t just watch mine. Watch them all.

I posted on FB here, and borrowed from cast member Britt Reints who summed up each story succinctly. I’m quite flattered that her daughter liked my story enough to call it her favorite. At the cast party, I know I heard the most about Mother Hen and Unplanned Parenthood. Erika Fricke was missed at the cast party, I’ll tell you that! I had to let people know about the outcome of her story.

I understand. After the first read through, I walked up to Erika and said, “WELL?”

Watch the video. You’ll see.

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While I was nervous in the days leading up to the show, especially once I got Kate’s communion party out of the way and had to focus on the next thing, I felt like I was handling everything okay. As the show got closer, I just took each day hour by hour. Friday, that probably became every half hour by half hour.

And I was mostly fine until Stephanie got up to read her piece — during the actual show. I had eaten a little something so I wouldn’t have a sugar crash, and I was drinking water, but not too much because I didn’t want to have to urgently pee in the middle of the show. But Stephanie was sitting back down, and I realized I felt a lightheaded, and had a bit of a headache. “Oh no,” I thought. “What is happening?”

And then I realized I was holding my breath.

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I’ll tell you as much as all of us women made the show — and we all did, we all NAILED our pieces — the energy from the audience gave us the impetus to read like we had never read before. As soon as Natalie delivered her first laugh line, and the audience responded, I thought, “WE HAVE THEM.” That audience was ours. They listened to us! They responded to us! I heard gasps of fear, groans of pain, sniffling of tears.

And laughter. Oh, the laughter.

Because that’s motherhood, isn’t it? Fear and pain and tears — and joy and love and laughs.

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And you know what I am most excited about? It’s going to happen again. I got a text yesterday from a friend who said, “I have an idea for an LTYM essay.” I responded, “WRITE IT DOWN.” Jen, Amanda, and Stephanie have started something great, something that Pittsburgh will love and embrace and be good at, and I can’t wait until next year.

If you have a story about motherhood — and who doesn’t — think about sharing it. You don’t have to be a mother. You don’t even have to be a woman. Tell a story. Be authentic.

Thanks to everyone who supports this show, from Pittsburgh and beyond.

See you next year.

Flowers from my parents. Thanks, guys!
Flowers from my parents. Thanks, guys!