Sunday, January 31, 2010

Make Money Writing 101

It’s hard to gauge how well I am doing as a freelance writer. The thing is, I’m not a pushy person. It is not in my nature. I have a hard time “selling” myself. (Not because I don’t think I’m great- clearly I’m awesome- but because I’m petrified of “annoying people.” I am SHY, world. The world does not accommodate shy people, but that’s a topic for another blog post.)

Just the same, I’ve been freelancing now for almost a year and I’m generally pleased with how far I’ve come. I have enough regular clients that I don’t have to search out new work, unless I really want it. I have gained one excellent client through a referral and am really actually enjoying the research and writing (for the most part) I am assigned.

I’ve slowly upped my pay-rate and have turned down many, many potential clients whose pay-rates were too low (too low even for illegal immigrant laborers!) No, I will not write you a 500 word article for $1.00. One guy came back and said… okay, okay. $1.50. I took it. (No, not really.)

Several people have contacted me wondering how they might break into the freelance writing biz. It’s actually not that difficult. As with any home business, it just takes time to set up. For those looking into getting started, either as a career possibility or just for fun, here is Holly’s Make Money Writing 101 course for the interested.

First you have to KNOW what you want to write about. Being a housewife/mother with a degree in English, I felt like my potential writing topics were limited. However, there is a market out there for parenting/ family-life related articles. I’ve also found a niche in health-related and fitness topics, arts-and-crafts topics (which is kind of a stretch for me) and literary topics. (My favorite current job is writing short blurbs for the backs of classic books-on-tape.)

The good news: there is a market for nearly any kind of writer. The bad news is that it’s easy to get distracted and try and create too many “niches” for yourself. Freelance writers who specialize in a particular niche are more desirable than the jack-of-all-trades writer. Professional resume writers, academic writers, and lyricists who have experience and success in their fields can expect to be paid well. Figure out what you want to write about, find out where your market is, and take the time to get really good at what you do. It will take a good year to establish your “business” and longer to make decent money.

People will pay you for:
• Blog writing
• Magazine articles (print and online)
• Book reviews
• Newsletters
• Sales letters
• Song lyrics
• Press releases
• Web copy
• Brochures
• Manuals
• Resumes
• Greeting Cards
• Academic papers
• Ghostwriting
• Grants
• Scripts
• Fliers
• Technical writing
• Interviews
• Biographies

People will also pay you to proofread, edit, and will pay for consulting services.

If you are talented, dedicated, and headstrong, you can make money writing e-books, your own relevant blog (NOT A FAMILY LIFE, PERSONAL BLOG LIKE MINE!!!), or one of those antiquated dusty things with bindings that people used to peruse through before the internet. Regular books, I think they’re called.

E-books are taking off. Lots of non-fiction, informational books are being published as e-books and can be viewed on the computer or on ebook readers like the Kindle, the SONY Reader, or Apple’s brand new iPad.

Making a LIVING as a freelance writer requires intense marketing skills, which I greatly lack and hope to improve upon this coming year.

Where do you find your first writing gig? They don’t just fall on your lap, unfortunately. You have to be proactive.

I have found most all of my work online. Proactive people seek out jobs. They send query letters to various magazines or they send informational letters about themselves to local businesses advertising their services. A lot of writers find business by advertising themselves on Craig’s List. I have a “professional” website now that will probably never land me a new client, but it is useful: I use it as a reference when I apply for a job.

Here’s a list of online resources where you can find websites that pay, job markets, and writing contests and informational articles. This has been a work in progress and I may add more later.

Sites where you can bid on jobs: There are a number of sites where you can sign up as a freelancer (writing, graphic design, etc.) and bid on writing jobs. The lowest bid, of course, doesn’t necessarily win. Buyers look to get cheap, high-quality writing. You are competing against people from all over the globe, some perfectly happy to write for $2.00 an hour. However, sometimes, there’s a great job on these sites that pays well. It just takes time to sort through the slave-labor jobs.

You can join some of these sites for free while others require a monthly fee. The sites usually take a percentage of the buyer-provider transaction, something to take in mind when you are bidding! I found my first regular client on I’ve found that seems to have the best paying buyers.

Content providers: There are a number of sites that pay for and then distribute content on the web. I’ve already written about my experience with The problem with these sites is that the quality of writing can be low because there are few to no editorial guidelines, and the pay is weak. However, a lot of people use the sites to network or just to write about something they actually care about. Here are the most common content sites: (Pays for academic papers.)

A lot of these sites are pay-per-click sites, meaning that you get paid according to how many people actually take a look, no matter how long, at your article. Some provide revenue-sharing, which means that you could make decent money on an article over a long period of time. Demand Studios pays a flat fee of $7.50 or $15.00 for an article and it also offers a revenue-sharing option. (For a content site, that’s not too bad, actually.)

Constant-Content has fairly stringent editorial guidelines and reviews each individual article. You can get paid up to $75.00 for selling full-rights to your article. I wrote a 600 word article on adult acne (something I happened to be researching for personal reasons at the time-sigh) and sold it within two days for $30.00. I’ve only bothered with Demand Studios, Constant-Content, and Textbroker. You have to really comb through Textbroker to find good-paying jobs. I like that I can make $30.00 in an hour at Demand Studios if I really put my mind to it. (Typing super fast helps.)

Making money on content sites requires some SEO (search engine optimization) skills, marketing knowledge, and choosing topics that sell. For instance, the #1 Examiner on is the Twilight Examiner. Twilight as in Edward and Bella. A parenting blog marketed to a local audience just wasn’t gonna make me a lot of money, even if I spent hours promoting it. However, these sites are great for someone who wants to write about something they care about while making some grocery money.

(Read this article for an interesting look at content-mill websites: “I Was Sucked into Content Mill Writing by Anonymous.”)

Writing Markets: There are a ton of free writing markets on the web. Good jobs get taken fast, so I subscribe to various ezines make sure I’m on top of the job market. Here's a small sample of the best markets out there:

Worldwide Freelance Writer: Sign up for their newsletter and receive an e-book with 25 writing markets that pay at least .25/word.
Writer Gazette: Krista Barrett’s freelance writing site is a Writer’s Digest top writing site. Krista is just a normal girl who shares a lot of information for free. Sign up for her weekly newsletter and check out her job board and contest listings. Their job site lists freelance opportunities and full-time job listings for writers/ journalists/ editors. It also has links that tell you how to pitch ideas to specific magazines like Self, Redbook, and Sports Illustrated.
Writer’s Market: 5.99/month will get you a listing to pretty much every writer’s market out there. Or buy the book; it comes out once a year. The “paid services” section online has hundreds of free listings of contests, conferences, and other useful stuff.

Fiction and poetry writers:

Duotrope’s Digest: Has over 2800 poetry and fiction markets.
Poets and Writers Magazine: Literary markets, contests, grants, job listings
Writer’s Digest: Writer’s markets, competitions, and tons of useful articles for writers.
Funds For Writers: Exactly what it sounds like.

Old fashioned methods are still really great ways to find freelance writing gigs. Again, it takes some persistence and personal drive.

• Cold call local businesses, organizations, educational institutions and see if they are in need of someone to write marketing materials/ brochures, etc.
• Check out the no-name pamphlets and/or magazines in your doctor’s office. Someone writes those inspirational stories of people who live with rheumatoid arthritis or those informational articles about what vitamins will make your hair look shiny.
• Contact your local newspaper with story ideas. (Small-town newspapers, too!) Write articles for local magazines; those free circulations you grab at the supermarket are always looking for quality freelancers.
• Know someone famous? Are you tenacious enough to try and get in contact with someone famous? Interviews are ALWAYS marketable. In fact, you can probably shop a good interview around and get a great price.
• I was audacious enough to contact a business owner and point out the many spelling and grammatical flaws in their promising website. I offered to revamp the whole thing. Surprisingly, he agreed! We are working out a contract.
• There’s a market out there for book reviewers. You can always get a free book in the deal, but if you are confident enough, you can get paid well to review an author’s book. Often, they require that you post a review on several different sites. Of course, it takes time to actually read the book. With the rise of e-books, more and more authors are desperate to find third-parties to market their material.

Other interesting places to visit:

The Beginner’s Guide to Freelance Writing

6 Sites that Pay You for Writing Book Reviews

The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model

5 Tips for Marketing Your Freelance Writing Business

This past year, I have done a lot of technical writing, a lot of fitness writing, some reviews, a lot of website copy, and I just found out a short essay was accepted to be published in an anthology. I recently submitted a short story to a literary magazine. I hope to have time to write more fiction this year, but have also promised the official husband of Holly Goes Lightly that I will write my thesis proposal and get the damn thing done with. Argh. It just feels like such a waste of time and money… but I could use the actual degree.

This year, I would also like to try and submit to actual publications instead of doing so much ghostwriting. Again, this takes me being proactive, and that just seems so… exhausting. I am also trying to network with an online community of writers to garner support and to share ideas. Which brings me to to my question, dost thou haveth ideas to shareth?

To fellow writers: please use comments to suggest other great ways for freelancers to make money writing and to share your writing goals for the year. Holly especially needs marketing advice!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lord Beer Me Strength

I'm not a drinking person. And it's not because of religious reasons. It's because I am a recovering alcoholic.

No, I'm not a recovering alcoholic, but this is what I tell people when they pressure me to have a drink.

"Come on!" they say. "You're out, away from the kids! Just have a beer."

"No thanks," I say.

"Come on... loosen up! One drink won't hurt you!"

"No- I'm good with my Sprite."

"Let me get you something. A cocktail? An appletini, perhaps?"

"I really don't drink. I'm a recovering alcoholic."

And they shut up and leave me alone EVERY TIME.

I'm such a wuss. I hate the taste of alcohol. I don't care if it's a glass of expensive red wine or a screwdriver... it all tastes what I imagine the Ajax stored beneath my sink would taste like. Smiling while trying really really hard not to grimace as I sip a glass of wine is not my idea of a party. Plus, I don't do well when I am "affected." There is too much silliness and I flirt too much. This pisses off the official husband of Holly Goes Lightly.

But today- today I am contemplating making myself several margaritas after the kids fall asleep and getting good and silly because this has been the morning from down under. (The fiery place- not Australia.)

A couple of work projects have kept me from my housework the past week-and-a-half. The laundry has especially been neglected. I was seriously contemplating just throwing it all out and starting over again but have since reconsidered and am now in the process of washing my seventh load. Two more to go, I think. (There was bed-wetting last night... that hasn't helped things.)

This morning, I set the twins up at the table with crayons and some coloring books and sat myself down a room away to fold the laundry. All was calm. The twins jabbered away for a while. Then, I heard them get down from the table. They scurried up the stairs, quietly, which is always a bad sign. I got up to see what they were up to and found a mess of marker stains all over the table and other parts of the kitchen.

When the twins evacuated the kitchen, they left behind a blue trail:

Kitchen floor.

Stair railing.

One of several newly decorated walls.

I found them in the upstairs bathroom, where they had decided to clean themselves up. They had hauled their wipes to the sink and were busily ridding themselves of the blue on their faces and hands.

I almost blew a gasket, but took a deep breath and decided (instead of screaming at them) to grab the camera and see what they did next. I would not have been such a cool cucumber had the markers not been of the washable variety.

After they felt they were sufficiently clean, they went downstairs and began wiping down the mess. It was all very reminiscent of Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Two Bad Mice," which we had read the other day:

Later on, when I was putting clothes away upstairs (it's such a long process, the laundry), Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum took the handsoap off of the counter and put copious amounts of it in their hair. So I gave them a bath.

They'll probably need another one before the day is through.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

MLK and Avatards

Caleb commemorated Martin Luther King Day the other week by writing a short blurb about the civil rights leader. Here is his original blurb and my translation, edited for spelling but not content:

About Martin. Martin had a dream. He had a speech. He made black and white people get treated the same. Someone shot him.

And that’s a child’s ironic view of Dr. King’s life in a nutshell.


This past weekend, I read something… disturbing. This comes from the Daily News: Your New York:

“The most attractive part of the movie is the way it whisks you away to a new world, which is hard to do these days with so many media outlets competing for our attention,” says Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University. “It really is moviemaking at its best. For 2½ hours, audiences are transported to a strange, exciting place that does not exist around them.”

In fact, some “Avatar” fans, better known as “Avatards,” have become so immersed in the movie that they suffer from withdrawal when it ends.

Chat rooms and fan forums have been full of testimonials from those who say they felt depressed and even thought of suicide after seeing the film, due to a longing for the beauty of the fictional planet Pandora.

Now, I have yet to see this film. John and I opted to see Sherlock Holmes over Avatar this past weekend. And I could almost understand how someone could become depressed to the point of considering taking their own life after viewing, say The Road or The Lovely Bones or Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

Have you seen Avatar? And if so, have you since experienced depression and thoughts of suicide? If this be the case, I implore you to get help. Seriously. You need help. Or maybe a trip to the Adirondacks.


Friday, January 22, 2010


Last night, at around 9:00sh, Ben came downstairs to announce that Caleb was “having sad thoughts” again. This is the third such instance in just as many weeks. Caleb thinks of something that makes him cry and Ben comes down to tell us about it.

First,Caleb imagined he got lost somewhere and couldn’t find me. He sobbed as he said, “I looked and looked and I couldn’t find you anywhere.” I comforted him and gave him some helpful strategies should he ever get lost (go tell another mommy you are lost- find a policeman- stay in one spot until I find you) and assured him I would always find him. Then, we prayed and he was seemingly calmer and went to sleep within fifteen minutes.

On Tuesday, Caleb dropped his magic wand down my father’s heating vent. Yes, Caleb carries a magic wand around with him. Doesn’t your child? (It was a part of a magic trick birthday present package.) The heating vent became a source of great curiosity. Where did the vent go? Why couldn’t we get stuff out of the furnace? Is there really a fire down there? Naturally, that evening he sobbed as he thought about the ever-so likely scenario that he gets caught inside the vent. Apparently, in his mind, he called and called for me and I never showed up. So, we had a long conversation about heating duct systems. And about how superb my hearing is.

Last night, Caleb had bad thoughts about Ben being engulfed by lava. Because there are so many volcanoes around here that could erupt at any moment. John handled that one.

Though I was annoyed, as it was time to get my cuddle on and watch The Office with John, I’m a little embarrassed because I do the same thing. There has been many a night when I have let my mind get away from me, nights where I imagine horrible scenarios and end up crying myself to sleep. Occasionally John hears me and wakes up.

“What’s wrong?” he’ll ask.

“I was imagining that I had a horrible disease and only had a month to live and I was thinking about all the things I wanted to say to the kids. Look…” (I hold up my journal) “I started to write them down.” (Further sobbing.) “THEY NEED ME!”

John usually responds with something like, “For the love of God, woman,” and rolls over and goes back to sleep. Now, when Caleb thinks about the less likely event of a volcano erupting in Rochester and taking out Ben, he gets a nice little geography lesson and compassionate words. God help John if I ever DO get a horrible disease.

Lately, at night, I’ve been thinking about all of the things that need to get done and all of the things I want to get done. Then, I chastise myself for spending too much time doing frivolous things, like obsessively finishing my jigsaw puzzle, instead of actual work. Here I am again, procrastinating by writing this blog post instead of working.

When I started the blog, I didn’t know how often I’d post or what I wanted to do with it. I will have had this blog for a year in April, and I’m seriously contemplating ending it then. I know, I know, what will you do without my whining and complaining to read on a weekly basis? Still, blogging for a year seems like a cool thing to have done. It’s just something I’m thinking about. I’ve been encouraged to continue, but if I do, I will still face the same weird and often conflicting challenges every time I sit down to write something, like:

1) I have nothing of importance to say.
2) I have so much to say.
3) I don’t want to offend anyone. Then they might not like me. And that would be the worst.
4) How can I be honest without being overly-revealing, crude, or offensive?
5) My blog has no compass. Is it a mommy blog? Do I want it to be pigeonholed as a mommy blog?
6) Is my personal faith revealed enough in my writing?
7) Isn’t John Edwards the worst? I intensely dislike that man.
8) I don’t feel like promoting my blog anymore. I don’t even want to post it on Facebook. It makes me feel- self-promoting.
9) I spend way too much obsessing over my lousy blog design.
10) Why don’t more people leave comments? Should I ask more questions?

So there are my thoughts. My dad has just called and informed me I should go take a walk because it is sunny. I think I will.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Desperate Housewives Shouldn't Listen to The Cure

"Show me how you do that trick-the one that makes me scream," she said. "The one that makes me laugh," she said and threw her arms around my neck. "Show me how you do it and I promise you, I promise that I'll run away with you... I'll run away with you."

The Man Who Named the Mountains

I asked two good friends to come to my house for an evening of sitting around the table drinking hot cocoa and working on a jigsaw puzzle. They both seemed delighted by the prospect.

(We are not lame. We are tired mommies, and the thought of just sitting peaceably, working on a puzzle seems… peaceful.)

Unfortunately, one of my friends came down with the stomach bug. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that while she was watching Ben on Friday (to give me a break from while I was otherwise preoccupied kneeling at the porcelain throne), Ben threw up grape juice all over her white rug. I mean, the stomach bug is everywhere right now. She could’ve gotten it somewhere else. Her husband might have brought it home, since he is also puking. Or her son. (I have massive guilt.)

So, Janet and I worked on my Carl Heilman puzzle; a gorgeous picture of the Adirondack peaks taken from Mt. Van Hoevenberg.

My goal is to climb the 46 peaks within the next ten years. Completing this puzzle is my backup plan.

The names of the mountains are written along the border of the puzzle.

“Nippletop Mountain?” guffawed Janet. And how often does an opportunity like this come along? I got to say the following:

“My great, great grandfather named that mountain.”

I am not putting you on. My grandfather’s grandfather was Orson Schofield Phelps, the legendary Adirondack guide who took many an explorer and hiker on wild adventures through the backwoods and up the high peaks. His nickname was “Old Mountain Phelps,” and legend depicts him as a primitive, rustic character. (That’s him to the right; he was a handsome devil.) Truthfully, Phelps exaggerated his backwoods personality to gain the attention of tourists. Tourists preferred a colorful, stereotypically provincial backwoods guide to the more polished and professional alternatives.

Phelps forged trails to the tops of Mt. Marcy, Hopkins Peak, and Giant Summit. He is credited for naming a number of the Adirondack high peaks, including: Haystack, Skylight, Basin, Saddleback, Sabale, Gothics, and Allen. Phelps Mountains is of course named for him.

As for Nippletop Mountain? A pragmatic man, Phelps said this about the controversial name: “Nippletop was named by its Creator; the name suggests itself at sight.”

Phelps was born in Vermont, but was enticed by the beauty of the Adirondack mountains when he accompanied his father to the Schroon Lake region (where my grandmother lives) as a child. He eventually settled, of course, in Keene Valley, amidst the mountains he so loved. His daughter, Avis, married Merton Roblee. Merton and Avis were the parents of my grandfather, Hilton Bishop Roblee (nicknamed Joe), who grew up in North Creek.

I tried to keep it from you but now you know- I am famous.

There will be no living with me now.

Here's great-great grandpa as depicted by American painter Winslow Homer.

The infamous Nippletop Mountain. Picture brazenly stolen from

Information about Orson Schofield Phelps was found from my copy of The High Peaks of Essex: The Adirondack Mountains of Orson Schofield Phelps, By Bill Healy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Caleb's Birthday

7 years ago today, at 9:11 pm, Caleb was born. When the nurse told me the time of his birth, I asked her to put 9:12 on the permanent record because I apparently had become superstitious of the numbers 9:11.

The birth was not unusual, though he was a large child entering the world at 9 lbs 8 oz. He had an extremely large head which tore me up pretty good and I had trouble walking for a good month. But that’s probably too much information.

Like all new mothers, I was stunned that they just let us walk out of the hospital with him, into freezing cold January weather. We lived in a crappy duplex. We had covered the windows with cellophane because they hadn’t been replaced since the house’s conception in the mid-seventies. Surely if the hospital had known this, they would have allowed us just to live there at the hospital, coddled by the nurses, snug in the overheated delivery room.

Caleb screamed through the first night at home. John and I took turns rocking him while the other feigned sleep. It was the first of many cold and lonely nights.

I did everything all wrong with Caleb. I spent most of my days holding him and staring at him and curled up sleeping next to him on the couch. Three times a day. I remember feeling like I could have slept for the rest of my life.

At about four in the afternoon each day, the crying commenced. It sometimes did not stop until 2:00 am. He would stop crying for brief intervals if we put him in his swing and played the remix of Elvis’s "A Little Less Conversation," loudly.

I had anxiety about being a mother. I was terrified that if I took him Caleb out into the dark, cold, and dangerous world, he would be taken. I imagined scenarios such as the following: I walk along the trail next to Tonawanda Creek and a strange, deranged individual snatches my baby from the stroller and throws him into the water. I jump into the water and search and dive and swim but I can’t find him. This anxiety-ridden fantasy inevitably turns into a recurring nightmare that haunts my waking and sleeping hours.

Things, you will be glad to know, are better now. A lot changes in 7 years.

Caleb no longer cries for hours at a time. He no longer takes naps and can sleep independently at night.

He still enjoys Elvis. He still has an unusually large head.

I love all of my children equally, but Caleb… Caleb is an anomaly. We used to (okay... still) joke that Caleb is Gallant and Ben is Goofus. Caleb is polite and considerate and quite possibly the most selfless person I know.

(Ben’s okay, too. He’s just, um, he’s a greedy little booger, let me tell you what.)

Dinner tonight was typical. I served Caleb’s favorite food: salmon. He happily ate while everyone else screamed.

Everything we did this evening was set to the soundtrack of wailing and whimpering and whining. Caleb did not complain. He waited patiently all day until his father came home from work and then through dinner to open his gifts. Then, he allowed Daniel to open one and Ben to help him open the others.

Ben burst into tears when I told him the gifts were Caleb’s only.

Caleb does not enjoy seeing and hearing his siblings cry.

“We can share it, Ben! We can share!” Caleb assured Ben he could play with all of the new toys while he was at school tomorrow.

Tonight, before he descended into the basement to play his new Wii Batman game, Caleb said, “These are the best presents in the world. Thanks, mom.”

Caleb isn’t perfect. He wouldn’t eat his mashed potatoes tonight. Sometimes, he leaves the front door open behind him after he comes home from school. He occasionally misses the toilet and pees on the floor. He often changes his mind at the worst possible time.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I secretly wanted a girl. I imagined I was carrying a girl. I even bought a little girl outfit I ran across on the clearance rack. I was surprised when they pointed out the penis on the ultrasound, but ultimately, not disappointed.

It’s wonderful when the right people swagger, stumble, or fall into your life. At first, you may not realize they are the right people. They might have, say, colic, and initially be a pain in your butt (or in my case- hoo-hoo.) You might feel overwhelmed by their presence: they demand more from you than you ever thought you had to give. But you find these hidden reserves you didn’t know existed, and the giving begins to pay off. They start giving back. And before you know it, you don’t remember what it felt like before they came into your life, and the idea of ever being without them scares the living crap out of you. And this is the joy and the pain of loving someone. The pain is all that more compounded when that person is so easy to love.

And Caleb… he’s so easy to love.

Happy Birthday, my love.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

That Word

The boys played outside today in the snow and came back in with pink cheeks and cold noses and demanded hot cocoa. I refuse to go out into the snow until I get a decent pair of boots on account of my perpetually cold feet. The boys don’t understand this. They do not get why I do not also think that making snow angels and building forts and throwing snowballs is the cat’s behind.

Ahhh, children.

As they sipped their hot cocoa at the table, I was showing John a part of a movie I watched last night. The scene had kids in it, so I thought it was safe to watch when OUR kids were nearby. Unfortunately, I forgot about one particular conversation and before we could do anything about it, the male lead character was shouting expletives. He said something along the lines of “you mother effing b#@ch.” Twice, I think.

We quickly turned it off. John gave me his “intense look” and said I would have strongly chastised him if he had put such inappropriate material on the boob tube whilst the children were awake.

I pleaded ignorance. Erstwhile, we heard secretive whispering from the other room.

“What word?” said Ben.

“I’m not going to say it. It’s a very bad word,” Caleb said.

I called Caleb over.

I asked him what word he was talking about. He opened his eyes wide and shook his head. He is an incredibly decent individual and is polite and thoughtful and would NEVER say a bad word.

I assured him he would not get in trouble. I just wanted to know what the word was so I could explain it to him, if necessary.

“You know. What that guy said in that movie.”

“You can tell me. What did he say?”

“You know. The word after he said funking.” Funking?

I probed him further. John sighed, exasperated.

“He means b#@ch, Holly.”

Caleb’s eyes widened and he nodded. Caleb already knows this particular word, thanks to said father’s verbal outbursts during sporting broadcasts. (I don’t think it’s nice to call Tom Brady a little b#@ch, either.) We all agreed it was not a good word to say and that the character on the movie should not have said it. We also all agreed that Ben did not need to know that word at this particular juncture. Caleb went back to drinking his cocoa.

“For the love of God, Holly. It’s like you were trying to get him to say the f-word,” said John.

I wasn’t trying to get him to say it. I just wanted to know if he knew that what he heard was the end-all, be-all swear, as well as the most versatile and grammatically interesting curse word that was ever invented.

Fortunately, he was so focused on the sudden sound of the bad word he DID know that it didn’t occur to him that it was preceded by a very subversive, well, gerund in this case.

Innocence preserved just a little longer.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Prayers for Heather

One day, while I was randomnly clicking on other "mother of twins" sites, I ran across Heather's site, It's Twinsanity!

Heather is the mother of not one, but two sets of IDENTICAL twins. Somewhere on her site she tells the odds of that occurring.

She also has two other children-six total.

Heather is also an army wife. Her husband was recently deployed into Iraq and will be there for the next year. (Her youngest boys are just 16 months old!)

She is having a tough time. She is in a new house and has some support, but really needs more. Turns out her husband's job is not what they initially thought it would be, and she is consumed with worry. Their communication is sparse.

The kids have been sick since Christmas and Heather is not getting any sleep.

I don't even know her, yet my heart aches for her today. The only thing I can think of to do is to request prayers on her behalf. Would you take a moment and offer up a prayer for Heather and her family? Please pray:

- That her kids would get and stay well!
- For the safety of her husband, Jason.
- That she would find a supportive church ASAP.
- For peace of mind in this tremendously difficult time.

If you do this, I promise that for the next year I WILL NOT WHINE about my own husband's traveling schedule. Unless it's a Monday.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Law of Twins

I have decided that this is the year I stop using the television as a babysitter.

It just made it so much easier to get stuff done. I could clean the upstairs bathrooms without Ella trying to “help” i.e. “throw stuff in the toilet.” I could pay bills online without Ella attempting to slide head-first down the laundry chute. (There have been very few instances in life that have incited panic the way that witnessing Ella’s tiny butt and dangling legs slowly disappear into the entrance of the laundry chute did.) I could talk on the phone without worrying that Daniel would pull a chair across the kitchen and get into my stash of m&ms and eat them and then smear his chocolate-covered paws all over the sofa.

The greatest calamities, however, happen when they work together. I’ll address this in a moment.

I have profound guilt about using the television as a babysitter. I don’t know how much television other parents allow their children to watch, because it is a “taboo” subject, like confessing your actual weight and telling what you really think of Oprah.

The television fails as a babysitter on many levels. I have just read an article entitled “What to Consider When Looking for a Great Babysitter.” First, they ask you to consider the babysitter’s age. My television is but a year old. No sane person would leave their children in the care of a one-year old.

My television cannot drive, cannot dial 911, just sits like a lump when the kids are sleeping, shows pictures of snacks but doesn’t actually provide them for the children, shows pictures of clean dishes but won’t clean the ones in my sink, occasionally talks about inappropriate subject matters, and refuses to divulge its gender.

On the other hand, it is funny, it says nice things, and it can be educational. If you consider Dora the Explorer educational.

Yesterday, I dropped Ben off at school and came home. I left the television off all morning. At one point, I went upstairs to check my e-mail. In my absence, the twins took a box of raisins off of the counter, threw them all over the carpeted dining room, and then stomped on them with relish. They did this quietly with exceptional speed and great purpose. This is the law of twins: all twins convene in the womb and strategize complex plans of destruction they will later refer to in order to wreak havoc in their new habitat. They probably do this out of revenge: they are royally pissed they had to share a uterus for such a long period of time. Daniel has already said,

“It’s SO UNFAIR!!!! Caleb and Ben never had to share a uterus!”

It was in the womb that Daniel and Ella became an excellent team, like Bonnie and Clyde, Frank and Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or Bush and Cheney.

This morning, Ella threw up lots and lots of raisins that appear, in their regurgitated state, more like small purple grapes.

This is what I get for being well-intentioned. It appears that even an extremely poor babysitter is better than none at all.

Since Ella is feeling under-the-weather, she watched television most of this morning. So, tomorrow, it’s back to square one. The boob tube will go off and I will keep a closer eye on them. Maybe I’ll add a little “structure” to our morning. Maybe some finger painting or book reading or pranking daddy’s cell phone. That’s always a good time.

Summer cannot come fast enough.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Late December back in 2009...

In the final hours of the year 2009, an amazing thing happened.

I sent out my very first text message. And it was to, of all people, Joseph Hamm.

Last night, my husband and I hosted our group’s tenth annual New Year’s Eve party. Friends from college who hail from far-away places like Charlottesville, VA and Pittsburgh came just to sit on my new furniture.

We ate copious amounts of food, drank an assortment of liquid beverages (some more than others), bemoaned the fact that I did not receive the Wii American Idol Karaoke Revolution for my birthday, ate more food, and most importantly, played the Hitler game.

The Hitler game is not as subversive or as provocative as it sounds. (Usually.) It is a variation of “The Name Game.” A category is selected by a moderator (category example: “The Next President of the United States), and everyone writes down their selection for said category on a piece of paper. Here is a sample of the different people our friends selected as contenders for the next president of the United States: Harry Potter, Dick Clark, Gary Coleman, John Jennings, William Shatner, and Hitler. Inevitably, someone writes in Hitler. This is why it’s called the Hitler game. Brilliant, right?

The moderator reads off the names and then everyone takes a turn guessing who wrote what. If someone guessed, for instance, that I selected Dick Clark to be the next president, I would be out. No one wants to get out. Getting out is for losers.

You should probably try this game at your next gathering. All you need is paper and writing utensils and friends you know well who have terrific senses of humor. Friends who don’t think “Skinless Frank” is a great name for a newborn baby probably won’t like this game.

We did watch Dick Clark countdown to midnight. He, um, missed a number. Luckily, he caught it in time, or else the entire year would have been off by a second. What disarray there might have been…

The first New Year’s Eve party took place in Maryland eleven years ago. I was newly married and absolutely terrified that come midnight on the first day of the year 2000, we were all going to be nuked. I was one of those people who fretted and worried about a Y2K apocalypse but did nothing about it; we did not horde water or seek out shelters to go to in case of a zombie attack after radiation poisoning “changed” people.

What an anti-climactic New Year’s Eve that was.

2010 is going to be great. The 525,600 minutes of 2009 weren’t bad- they could’ve been better. Things I could have done without include: having to leave our church, the dissension and subsequent dismissal of my gallbladder, and that one moment of weakness when I agreed we would get a puppy this upcoming summer.

Good things about 2009… We have a roof over our head, John has a job, the kids have yet to get swine flu, I started my own freelance writing business, Caleb learned to read. (We forget what a big deal that is! Caleb is a reader! Now, when I spell things out to John, I have to either a) spell super fast or b) spell in Russian.)

This year, John’s best friend and our fellow “Hitler game” compatriot, Grant, kicked cancer’s ass.

2009 was an important year.

A personal resolution: This year, I resolve to lose the weight I gained back after my recent loss of the weight I gained during the pregnancy of my twins. This time, I’m going to actually keep the weight off and maintain a healthy lifestyle that incorporates some type of green living or something like that. Starting… Monday. Monday sounds good. Monday is the day one starts things. Until then, I have cookies and peanut brittle to devour, Christmas decorations to take down, and Dexter to watch. (I really could do without seeing so much of John Lithgow’s derriere this season.) I RESOLVE NOT TO LOOK AT JOHN LITHGOW’S DERRIERE THIS COMING YEAR! I will close my eyes when it comes on the screen.

Happy New Year friends, family, fellow bloggers, forest animals, mothers of multiples, speech therapists, and citizens of Middle-earth.

Dick Clark for President 2012.