Sunday, December 28, 2014

Emotional Video Alert


Sometimes we take it all for granted.  We get tired, bored, frustrated, and it all just feels like too much.

Regardless of your political beliefs, I think this beautiful video clip of a son being reunited with his mother will bring a bittersweet smile to your face.  I know it helped me remember to feel a sense of gratitude for all the aspects of motherhood I often take for granted.


Click Here for the video clip.



Popular culture is intent on the belief that being actively grateful is a "key" to happiness, and I tend to agree.

What helps you feel grateful? 

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find more Frantic Mama:  FacebookTwitterInstagram, & Pinterest

Check out the humor anthology I contributed to, Clash of the Couples!



Monday, December 22, 2014

To Have a Girl

First, my sister had a boy.  Then I had a boy.  Next, my sister had a second boy.  Then I had a... girl.

I was used to boys.  I love boys.  They are awesome.  I thought it would be fun to have a daughter; I thought it would be fun to have a second boy.  Either sounded good to me.

We waited until delivery to find out if our baby was a boy or girl, but I was pretty sure for most of my pregnancy she was a girl.  Lo and behold, my husband got to announce "It's a girl!" on September 12th, 2012.

I was quite the tomboy as a little kid, so I didn't necessarily picture (or want) masses of pink princesses and Barbies (I'm hoping to prevent Barbie from entering our home, in fact) overtaking our home, but I pictured something a little different from what I got.



(See?  I'm not kidding.  That's me at age 5, circa 1986.  The sword?  The hat? The dirty, short sweatpants?)



For example, I thought having a girl would mean:

1.  Lack of Potty Humor.  Boys are known to find bathroom humor hilarious.  Well, so does my daughter.  I'm pretty sure her first real sentence was "I had a toot!" followed by belly laughter.

(Both of my kids think poop jokes are funny.  Some days, I don't really blame them.)



2.  Little Interest in Cars:  My son was obsessed with cars for a long time (and probably always will be).  We probably have over 300 cars.  I thought I would get to start watching a few other movies, like, say, The Little Mermaid or Frozen.  But guess what?  NEITHER of my kids will watch Frozen.  I am the last mother on the planet who hasn't seen it.


(Just some of my son's massive Disney car collection; now my daughter loves them too.)


3.  You know how all of us "boy moms" talk about how our sons never sit still?  We go on and on that they are extremely active, right?  I thought I might have a reprieve of sorts with a daughter-- I pictured her sitting in one spot for 10 glorious minutes, coloring or mashing up play-doh like other little girls I see, while I sipped a cup of coffee and chatted with another "girl mom."  Nope.  Not happening.  She has been up and moving as soon as she could crawl, and I have never once gotten to sit and have a complete conversation when at a playgroup with her.


Here's the thing.  If I could snap my fingers like Mary Poppins, I wouldn't change my spunky little daughter [though on second thought, I might change her ability to sit in one spot for longer than a gnat].  She is who she is, and I am ridiculously proud of her.

My mom and sister call her a pistol, and I completely understand what they mean.  She is a bold, adventurous little sprite who doesn't neatly fit into any stereotypes.  She is the most beautiful girl in the world to me, and she likes a tutu as much as other girls, but she is just as thrilled to stay in jammies all day.  She thinks babies are cute, but she also thinks Cars 2 is the best movie ever made; she adores Mater.  In a couple of years, I picture her sporting her brother's old jeans, swinging a fishing pole over her shoulder and announcing she's Gone Fishin'.

Plus, guess who laughed the hardest when she last announced her big toot?  Me.  So the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

*This post was inspired by my friend Jennifer Sando, who was hoping to "borrow a girl for a day," on her fantastic blog, The Intentional Mom.  I told her she is welcome to my daughter, but, as you can see, I'm not sure she would fit the bill.

Did you have preconceptions about gender before you had your own children?  What surprised you?  
~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find more frantic fun:  FacebookTwitterInstagram, & Pinterest


Need more laughs?  Check out the humor anthology I contributed to, Clash of the Couples!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Traditions

It's coming!  Christmas is almost here.

A few years ago, I don't think I would have believed you if you had told me that I would be as excited for Christmas as I currently am.  Now that I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old, I am as excited as they are-- maybe even more.


Disclaimer:  If you are the mother of a newborn, please do not feel the need to create a million new traditions or elaborate Christmastime cheer.  Surviving the holidays with a new baby and enjoying as much as you can is all you should expect from yourself.


Now that my kids are just a bit older, and I'm not as deliriously exhausted and overwhelmed as I was when they were infants, I find myself livening up the house with some Christmas spirit.  Nothing groundbreaking, mind you, but it's fun nonetheless.

Beyond the annual Christmas tree, lights, and stockings, here are a few of my favorite Frantic Mama family traditions:

1.  Christmas cookies:  Of course!   I like to make simple ones (store-bought mixes are far from forbidden in my home), and I give them as gifts to friends and neighbors.

2.  Elf on the Shelf.  I know the elf gets a pretty bad rap these days, and it's cool to belittle him.  However, this is the first year that he has, well, worked his magic on my son.  A little extra motivation-- and an extra pair of eyes-- watching my son be nice to his little sister is appreciated in my house.  I can use all the help I can get.  Plus, elves are cute.


This is our elf, perched atop a t.v. speaker so he can keep an eye on those below!


3.  The Festive Little Houses:  It seems like a chore to get these out of the basement every year, but I am always glad I do.  They aren't produced anymore, but my thoughtful husband found them on Ebay a couple of years ago because he knew how much I liked them.  I especially like the Old Curiosity Shoppe.





4.  Christmas Jammies:  I owe my sister for this inspiration.  I buy a new pair of pajamas for my kids to wear on Christmas Eve.  I don't like opening gifts on Christmas Eve, but giving my kids some cuddly jammies is an exception.

What are some special things you like to do around the holidays?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find more frantic fun:  FacebookTwitterInstagram, & Pinterest
Need more laughs?  Check out the humor anthology I contributed to, Clash of the Couples!


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Catching up on our Dreams (What DOES happen to a Dream Deferred?)

Think back to when you were little.  You were hopefully told you could do anything.  You spun a globe and put your finger on a country, and thought, Yes! Madagascar really could be the place I end up living as a grown up! Why not?!  

One day, you learned about marine biologists-- that's what you would be!  Then you learned about baby doctors, and then that was the ticket!  Maybe you would draw illustrations for children's books.  Or, if you were like me, you would for sure write books.

Now look at your life today.  Not in a judgmental way.   Don't be hard on yourself.  Circumstances, maturity, finances, health... LIFE, plays into what our lives as grown-ups look like.

Did you become what you hoped?  Do you have a farm filled with shetland ponies?  Do you live in a tiny cottage in England?  Do you have a handsome husband and beautiful children?  Are you a dolphin trainer in Miami?

I remember when I was 20 years old, on my first date with my now-husband (an MBA student at the time) I told him my major, English Literature, and that I was especially interested in modern poetry; he asked, in all bemused seriousness: "So, you want to be...a poet?"  Even then, I thought his MBA-self was hilarious.  No, I didn't necessarily want to be a poet.  Not necessarily.  My realistic side wanted to teach others about the beauty of poetry (and perhaps write a bit on the side).


(My son and me; I didn't know what the ins-and-outs of motherhood would involve, 
but he is a dream-come-true nonetheless)


In many ways, I did get to do that.  I found a unique job teaching high school students with disabilities English literature and writing.  I did find ways to expose them to some of my favorites, and though challenging, I was happy I was doing something I had "planned" on.

When we were dating, I also told my husband of course I wanted kids.  I love kids!  I want a ton of kids!  And I meant it.

But here's the thing, and I can hardly believe my naiveté now:  I had no concept of what raising kids would MEAN in day-to-day life.  How does one teach English AND have a 1 year old?  The reality of it never crossed my mind.  I knew nothing of daycare or this newfangled "SAHM" term.  I babysat in middle school.  That was about it.  I think I must have pictured having kids in kindergarten and up, when they would be in school and I would be working somewhere.

Currently, I have a 2 year-old and a 4.5 year-old.  They have completely consumed my life for the past 5 years.  5 years that I had never pictured back in my dreaming days.  AND YET-- they are exactly what I wanted.  I wanted a career AND a husband AND children.  In some ways, my life looks different from what I expected (I am not living in a quaint cottage in rural England, writing novels while rehabilitating owls and lemurs (no matter that lemurs don't live in England)), and in others, it looks like what I hoped for.

While I am not currently teaching, I am really happy to write that I AM working on two of my dreams I had as a child.  Dreams that were nagging at me for years in the back of my head.  Things I couldn't really do when I was pregnant, or nursing a newborn while caring for a 2 year old, etc.

Something inside me, when my son was almost 2-- and caring for him was my main focus-- made me start the first dream:  Writing.  Even if only one or two people ever read my blog (and I'm astounded that more people do), at least I was putting words down, just like 7 year-old me, scribbling misspelled words into a diary, had hoped.



(Believe it or not, I'm still gobsmacked every single time someone publishes my work).


My second dream as a child was to have a horse.  I know, I know.  Every little girl wants a pony.  That's all fine and good.  However, I wasn't a girly girl.  I didn't just want one because they are pretty.  Also, I am not a billionaire with access to stables in my own yard.  I have just always, always loved them.

As a kid, I loved taking care of them, and I loved riding them.  One thing I am SO excited about is that I recently found an affordable stable that actually teaches old people like me :).  I'm not that old, but I'm also not 11 anymore.  If you have ever picked up something new as an adult, you know that it can be nerve-wracking and scary.  You don't want to look like a fool.  You don't want to look stupid.  BUT I also didn't want to regret not getting back in the saddle (catch that?).  Never doing it was scarier than anything else.

I had my first group lesson last week, and I was shocked when I heard myself tell the trainer it had been almost TWENTY YEARS since I had taken lessons.  I let this part of myself go for 20 YEARS!  I wasn't great at it, and I'm pretty sure the trainer thought I was a bit of a mess, but it made me feel so good that I had taken the first steps towards something I had always wanted.

Now I am doing something about it-- for my current self, for my childhood self, my future self, and hopefully for my daughter, as I would love to get her involved when she is older so we could ride together.

This dream-- and most others-- does not come without sacrifices, though, I want to add (and will delve into that in a later post).

What does happen to a dream deferred?

What dreams have you reached?  What have you given up on?  Is there any way you could go back to ones that you thought had passed you by?  How?  Volunteering at an animal shelter?  Dusting off your old pastels?  Saving up for a keyboard?  I encourage you to act in a small way on just one of those nagging 'what if' dreams that still haunt you.


*I'm dedicating this post to two supportive friends who are also working hard to make dreams come true:  Natalie of Beautiful Booze and Dakota of Dakota Midnyght.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

P.S.  I couldn't resist adding a little poetry to this post.  See below.

Harlem

BY LANGSTON HUGHES
What happens to a dream deferred?


      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?


      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.


      Or does it explode?


I'm honored to be included in this book:

Friday, December 5, 2014

If They Made a Reality Show About My Life...

If they made a reality show about my life, it would be called...

Frantic Mama?  Too obvious.  How about A Day in the Life of an Ordinary Mom?  Too boring.  Or maybe not.

Unlike the Duggars, the Honey Boo Boo people, or the Duck Dynasty folks, there is nothing too unusual that sets my family apart from thousands of others around the country.  We don't have 19 kids and counting.  None of us are in pageants with Boo Boo in our nicknames.  Nor are we millionaires with long beards living in the country.  I don't mean this as a negative to my family-- or to the ones I'm mentioning-- it is just the truth.

My family is simply this: a two-parent household with two young children, trying to make it through each day with love and as much enjoyment as we can muster.

(See that photo?  Just a few extraordinary minutes of my ordinary life)


If there were to be a reality show featuring us, I suppose I could concoct all kinds of crazy staged scenarios to get the ratings up.  We live in a Look-at-Me culture, after all.  I'm sure my 4-year-old would have a blast spraying shaving cream around Target for an episode.  My 2-year-old would adore getting to run wild at an amusement park.  Both would get laughs and judgement from a t.v. audience.

But if there were a world where ratings didn't matter to networks, and people could just watch what they wanted, perhaps an ordinary life would be surprisingly interesting.

Think about TLC's show "Bringing Home Baby."  I haven't watched it in years, but I was glued to shows like it when I was pregnant with my first baby.  They document real-life families about to bring home a new baby.  There was usually nothing unusual about these mothers-- maybe that's why I was so drawn to them.  The families generously offered a glimpse into what was then unknown to me: life as a new mother.

My show wouldn't break new ground.  It wouldn't be very glamorous.  It wouldn't be salacious or juicy.  But maybe it would be simply nice.  Sometimes funny.  Other times sad.  Occasionally joyful. How life actually IS.

What would the name of your reality t.v. show be (not that you would ever do one, of course)?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

*This is a Finish the Sentence Friday Blog Hop Post!  See other participants here.

Find more frantic fun:  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & Pinterest
Need more laughs?  Check out the humor anthology I contributed to, Clash of the Couples!

This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday hosted by 
Kristi at Finding Ninee
Stephanie at Mommy, For Real

This week's co-hosts are:
Michelle at Crumpets and Bollocks

Monday, December 1, 2014

Not According to Plan

Sometimes as a mother, what you want most in the whole world is to get out of the house.  Anywhere.  For even just 30 minutes.  Of course, it is best if you get to exit ALONE, but that is much trickier to come by.

Yesterday was one of those times for me.  It was a balmy 34 degrees here, and I couldn't wander the house with the kids trailing me for one more minute.  It wasn't an option to leave by myself, so I exclaimed, with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, let's go on a walk!

Easy, right?  Just pop them in the double stroller.  Done.

NO!  I think I might have PTSD from the ins-and-outs of the whole ordeal.

My husband stayed inside with my son (because of all the kids in the world who would LOVE to be outside in the snow all day, mine is one who does not.  We live in Minnesota, by the way).

So it was my 2 year old daughter and me.

Let's do this, I thought.  We bundled up.

Putting on the following items took about 10 minutes:

snow pants
coats
hats
mittens
boots

Then I remembered I had to pee.  I hurried to the bathroom.  My daughter started fussing and taking her boots off.

WAIT!!!! I cried, sitting there willing the pee to hurry up.  We are still going out there!

She [kind of] let me put her boots back on, and muttering under my breath, I heaved her in the stroller, which was located behind my husband's car in our garage.  Once she was in there, I realized there was no room to push it outside.

I had to remove my daughter from the stroller and lift the entire bulky thing through the garage, cursing the inanimate object under my breath the whole time: why would this friggin' thing be behind the car anyway?!

We made it into the driveway.  I put my daughter back in, much to her dismay.  Clearly, by this time, she had forgotten that she initially wanted to join me on a walk.

We crossed the street to a beautiful trail near us.  I exhaled.  This still might turn out well.

My daughter started yelling "Out!  I want  out!"  Jesus.  Fine.

I got her out.

She started jumping over footprints in the snow.  She was having so much fun, and it was really cute, so I tried to enjoy the moment, even though it wasn't what I was originally expecting from our walk.  I love it when no one is crying in my world!  So rare, but so so priceless.  It must be savored.

Eventually, I tried to put her back in the stroller so we could go more than 5 feet an hour.  She was having none of it.  I gave in to her surprisingly formidable powers and let her loose [again].

We eventually wandered down by the tiny section of the lake that is still unfrozen.  She was eager to run onto the ice to holler, "Hi swans!"  I don't really blame her; they are amazingly beautiful.  However, it is my duty to keep her alive:  Cue me pulling her back while she tried with all her might to get onto the very thin ice to join the swans.

I'll just stop there.  The walk back home was much the same.  It was frustrating but hilarious and a little fun nonetheless.

And, oddly, the entire ordeal was totally worth it.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Like this post?  You might also enjoy one I wrote about attempting to get BOTH kids out of the house last winter:  Getting out of the House (with Kids).

Let's Connect:  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & Pinterest

Clash of the Couples is available now!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Home Inventions: Frantic Mama-style

Do you have inventions around your house that you created since having children?  A tool, you might call it, or a problem-solving gadget?

Here's ours.  We call it, simply, "The Tool:"





Yep.  That's it:  Wooden Train Tracks + Duct Tape = The Tool.

It measures about 4 feet long and is flat enough to fit in tight spots.

As with most inventions, The Tool was borne out of frustration with losing small, precious Hot Wheels and other sundries under our heavy coffee table and couch.  My son would be happily ensconced in a rapid-fire round of "sending," when one of his cars would get stuck under the table.  BHA!!!  Cue the frustrated yells and cries.

If I was right next to him (as I usually am), I would push the table aside so we could grab the car and resume playtime.  Even though I'm not too ancient, all that pushing and pulling was taking its toll on my back.  Same with my husband's.  My son certainly wasn't strong enough.  And so the glorious tool was created.

Credit where credit is due: The Tool is the brainchild of FranticMamaHubby.  I may have laughed at the time of initial creation, but I think the fact it still exists-- and is useful-- 2 years later speaks for itself.

The Tool:  It reaches places you can't.  TM.  (Just kidding.).

What have you "invented" around the house?  Should we take them all to Shark Tank?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Let's Connect:  I'm on Facebook, Pinterest, & Twitter.

You can purchase Clash of the Couples on Amazon and Apple!  It makes a perfect holiday gift for anyone ever with a sense of humor.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Frantic Mama's 5 Friday Faves: Winter Edition

What's that?  Winter hasn't officially started yet?  Tell that to Minnesota.  Where we live, it's been winter since November 10th, when the first several inches of snow filled our yards, driveways, and streets.

Despite the cold, there are things I like about winter.  Here are five things to help you enjoy it too!

Here are five of my favorite things:

Tarte Cheek Stain.  Perfect to perk up a pale reflection this winter.  You just dab this sheer color on your cheekbones and rub it in with your fingers.  You look a million times better in seconds.  Expensive, but it lasts forever.  (Similar to Nars The Multiple, which I also love).



Clash of the Couples: A Humorous Collection of Completely Absurd Lovers' Squabbles and Relationship Spats (of course!):  I can't miss an opportunity to promote this book [and not just because I'm in it].  I think many of the essays in this anthology are laugh-out-loud funny, and everyone with a sense of humor should read it.  Especially those Smug Marrieds Bridget Jones was always talking about.






San Francisco Bay French Roast K-Cups:  This coffee (available to order online) will keep you warm and toasty.  My brother gave me a huge box of these for my birthday (he asked me what I wanted, and I said something along the lines of "one of the only things I really like is coffee.")  These are biodegradable (they come from San Francisco after all) and they are SO good.





Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game  This cute, well-made game is perfect for young kids just learning how board games work.  I actually enjoy playing it with my son (age 4), so it will come in handy for long hours spent indoors over the next few months.





90 Day Fiance on TLC:  You cannot understand the true meaning of 'guilty pleasure' until you watch this show. O.M.G. doesn't even cover it.  My husband (poor guy) and I cannot keep our mouths from dropping open every other minute while watching.  I tell everyone I see about it even though it makes me look pretty dumb.  The show is ridiculous yet endearing and completely addictive (perfect for winter nights!).




I want to hear from you!  What are you loving this winter?


~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Connect with Frantic Mama:  Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hooray for 4 Year Olds!

There's the God-forsaken, sleep-deprived newborn stage, followed by the blood-curdling teething stage, which leads to much-feared Terrible Twos, topped off with what is now often considered the hardest stage of all-- the Terrible Threes.  Dear Lord, we wonder at each age, when does it get easier?!

Many naysayers with older children love to answer a new mother's despairing when does it get easier pleas with a downtrodden, "it never gets easier.  Just different."  As a mother of a 4 year-old kid, I'm calling B.S. on that!

Of course it is never easy to have children.  Nothing totally awesome and worth it in life is easy.  Marriage.  Career.  Artistic endeavors.  Whatever you devote yourself to is going to be hard.  Being a mother is no different.  However, that doesn't mean things can't get just a teeny weeny bit more bearable easier.  While there is beauty and joy at each age-- no matter how challenging-- here are 5 reasons why four is a GREAT age.


1.  Cold Medicine.  You know how there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do for your 1 year-old's nasty green snot or your 2 year-old's hacking cough?  Sure, sure you can "buy a humidifier" and "use a nasal aspirator."  Oh, and have you heard?  "Honey is the best cure for a cough."  To heck with that!  None of it works.  But finally, at age 4, you can buy effective, legitimate cold medicine guilt-free because-- get ready-- it is for ages FOUR and up!




2.  Errands.  You know how getting babies and toddlers in the car to go on an errand can take longer than the errand itself?  How you are already in a sweat by the time you arrive at the big box store (to spend all of your money on diapers, baby food, and coffee)?  When your kid is four, it doesn't [always] suck anymore to get them ready!  They might even throw you a bone and put on their own shoes and socks, and get in their car seats by themselves.  Praise. The. Lord.


3.  Preschool.  It's so sad to say goodbye for 2.5 hours, three mornings a week.  NOT.  It's freaking awesome, and it's your right as a parent of a 4 year-old to give both of you the gift of preschool.


4.  Bathroom Time.  Potty training is pretty much wrapped up at 4.  Sure, treats and rewards are still bartered (let's own that one, folks), but now you can let the days of gigantic diaper bags and poop all over your hands slowly fade into the deep dark recesses of your consciousness.


5.  T.V.  There's a new kid in town I want you to meet, and his name is Nick Jr.  We've been warned to never show t.v. of any kind ever to kids under age 2 (God help us!), and your 3 year-old will only sit in the same spot for 30 seconds anyway.  But when they're 4?  Meet Nick Jr., featuring adorable shows your 4 year-old will actually sit and watch.  With Nick Jr. on your side, you, my friend, will occasionally be able to check your email in piece, fold the laundry, or....wait for it...take a shower without a baby screaming at you the entire time.

(Something tells me this image was created by a mom of a 4 year old.  Just look how happy they are!)


Conclusion:  Parenthood will never be a piece of cake, which is all well and good, but it really does get easier and more enjoyable-- not just "different."  So BOOYAH!  Bring it on, four!
.
~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find me on:  Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest

Did I mention that Clash of the Couples is available on Amazon, Apple, and more?  Get your copy today and get ready to laugh with 40+ brave, hilarious writers.





Thursday, November 13, 2014

Clash of the Couples Deal for November 13th!

Still haven't ordered your copy of the hilarious anthology Clash of the Couples?  You are in luck!  Today, and only today, November 13, 2014, the Kindle version is available on Amazon for 99 cents!
Check it out right here.

If you read it, please share your thoughts with me.  I'd love to hear about your favorite essay(s) (even if it isn't my own!).




Thank you for supporting Frantic Mama!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find me on Facebook and Pinterest.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Differences Between TV Moms and Real Moms

*This post was featured on Felicity Huffman's site, What the Flicka.  Check it out here!

Family shows abound across the networks.  Modern Family.  The Middle.  Parenthood.  The Goldbergs.  The Millers.

It's clear networks want these shows to be realistic, and they attempt to base the characters in a more entertaining version of reality.  But how real are these shows?  Let's take a look at the moms, in particular.  Many of them are funny, sure.  But realistic?  I'm not buying it.



                                                            (Image from WhattheFlicka.com)


The Differences Between T.V. Moms and The Rest of Us:

The HAIR.  Why must t.v. moms always have Perfect Hair?  For decades, even the women with young children (think back to the Claire Huxtable, or more recently Christina Applegate's character on the defunct Up All Night) donned perfect styles.  Now, Claire, on Modern Family, who might be the most relatable t.v. mom, flaunts freshly dyed curls, taunting us every Wednesday night.  Don't betray us like that, Claire!

Where is the baby?  On Modern Family, Gloria had a baby a couple of seasons ago.  Forhensio, I believe.  Where is he?  When the rest of us have newborns, they quickly become attached to our various body parts, and yet the newborns birthed on t.v. are rarely seen.  When they are finally presented, they are massive.  Little Forhensio will likely be a toddler in the next episode.

Absence of Dark Circles:  See above.  No newborn in sight.  No visible dark, puffy eyes.  Come on, make-up team, let's show the world what mothers really look like when there are young children in the house keeping us up all night.

The Perfect House.  Another burning question regularly occurs to me as I sprawl out on the couch at night, watching the television families:  do t.v. writers not understand that homes with kids DO NOT LOOK like that?  Do children not exist in Hollywood?  Where are the masses of plastic toys, piles of dirty laundry, and fluorescent orange Goldfish crumbs?

The Clothing:  At long last, the most pressing question of all:  Where are the yoga pants, t.v. moms?  Where. Are. They.

What other differences do you see on t.v. versus reality?

Julia Arnold @ Frantic Mama

P.S.  Clash of the Couples, a hilarious anthology I contributed to, is all about ridiculous couple fights, and it is officially AVAILABLE on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more.








Monday, November 3, 2014

Clash of the Couples is HERE!

As of today, November 3rd, 2014, the humor anthology, Clash of the Couples: A Humorous Collection of Completely Absurd Lovers' Squabbles and Relationship Spats, is available.  My essay, Don't Spill the Beer, Dear, which relives a completely absurd argument we had when my daughter was a newborn, is in there, as well as many other true stories by awesome writers that will make you laugh (and happy it wasn't your fight).


(The Modern-Day Adam & Eve cover.)


You can find Clash of the Couples on the following sites as an ebook and as a paperback:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Apple.

*Goodreads is an online community I recently joined.  The site is for anyone who loves to read.  You can follow your favorite authors, take part in Q&A with them, and track the books you have read and want to read.  You can now find me on there too (as Julia Arnold).




P.S.  I also have a piece about my son up on Mamalode starting today.  Check it out here if you have a minute!

Thank you to all of my readers for your support!  

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Connect with me:  Facebook, Pinterest, & Twitter.

Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Beginner Blogging Tips

I'm not a professional blogger.  I don't sell advertising space on my site [yet] or make money directly from my blog.  I decided early on, after some experimenting, that Frantic Mama would focus on the less glamorous side of Motherhood-- the beauty and the beast-- and not on earning potential.

I first started writing as a way to vent about the less-than-rosy side of Motherhood, and I never thought I would "make friends online," but I certainly have.  Which brings me to this paying-it-forward blog post.  You created a Blogger or Wordpress blog and may be wondering:  Where do I go from here?  How do I meet other bloggers?  How do I get readers?

Here are my top 10 Beginning Blogger Tips:


1.  Ask yourself what you are an "expert" in.  Decorating?  Makeup?  Organization?  Slow Cooker Recipes?  Of course, I'm far from a parenting expert, but it is currently my life's main focus:  doing the best I can as a mother of two young children, and as a wife of one great guy, while also taking care of myself and finding my own joy.  I think it is best to find a niche for your blog to keep it focused.*  This way, people quickly know what your blog is about, and readers can count on you to write about your specific topic.
*[There are exceptions.  One of my other hobbies is refinishing furniture, as this post shows.  I also experiment with other types of posts.  That said, about 90% of my blog is about motherhood].


2.  Reach out.  Join social media outlets so that you can make connections and people can actually find you in the abyss of Cyperspace.  Join Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +.  Create a Facebook page for your blog.


3.  Don't expect people to magically come to you.  Just like friendships in real life, you have to give a little to get a little.  Visit other like-minded blogs, add comments, like them on Facebook, follow them on Pinterest.  Don't think of other bloggers as competition, especially if you aren't trying to monetize your blog.  No one will read and comment on your posts if you aren't sharing the love.


4.  That leads me to my next tip: return the love.  If someone does take time to write a comment on your post, add you on Twitter, follow you on Pinterest-- and they aren't completely insane-looking-- follow them back.  This could be a future blogging friend for you!


5.  Carve out time.  Blogging is a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy.  Writing in general is my passion (reading is a close second).  Therefore, I use my rare free time to write.  If my husband is with the kids for a bit on the weekend, or I have an hour to myself after the kids go to bed, I guarantee that I'm using that time to write (or cut my toenails)-- not to scrub the kitchen floor, bake homemade cookies, clean up all the toys, talk on the phone, or whatever else people do when left to their own devices.


6.  Add your blog to Bloglovin.  This is my favorite way to keep track of blogs I read and to forge and maintain connections.


7.  Include images.  I was so clueless when I first started blogging that I didn't even know how to add an image to my post!  There have been cases where well-meaning bloggers get into trouble using copyrighted images, so I urge you to add your own photos or find free images online.



8.  We are getting a bit more advanced here, but try a Blog Hop.  These are link-ups where you add your blog to a list of other blog links, and then visit and comment on other the blogs.  Again, you need to do your part by sharing the love, but you might just gain some new followers this way.


9.  Respond to comments.  I use Disqus comments on my blog (more advanced, so find a tech blog with further instructions).  It should go without saying, but if someone writes a comment on your blog, respond to it!


10.  Last, after you have been blogging for a few months, join a blog directory in your niche.  You can find Frantic Mama on the TopMommyBlogs site because it connects to my target audience.  If you are a style blog or a design blog, search for communities in those categories.  BlogHer is another valuable site, as it encompasses countless blog topics and encourages conversation.

I hope this is helpful to any new bloggers reading; I did not know any of these tips when I first started blogging.  Making blogging friends, or creating a tribe, is the number one way to feel supported and encouraged in the vast, sometimes murky waters of the Internet world.

Seasoned Bloggers:  What am I leaving out?  Anyone else have advice for new bloggers?  

New Bloggers:  What has challenged or stumped you about blogging so far?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.  (See what I mean? I'm on lots of social media programs to connect with my readers!)
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, is AVAILABLE!  You can like the Facebook page here for funny previews!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let's Go to the Movies! [Really, let's GO!]

When was the last time you were alone?  As in, alone alone.  Not just by yourself in the house when one kid was napping and the other was at school.  Or the times your husband has watched the kids so you could run to Target solo (wah hoo!).  I'm talking about the last time you had zero kid responsibilities for more than one or two hours.

Can't remember the last time?  You're not alone.  So many mothers-- including me-- rarely have the chance to be alone for a significant portion of time.  Yes, a few moms may go on an annual girls weekend or an anniversary getaway, and that is wonderful, but I venture to guess that for many of us, such trips are rare for various reasons-- lack of funds, too much guilt or anxiety, the absence of trustworthy childcare, overwhelming work.  The list goes on.

While I wasn't able to take an entire weekend off from reality, I recently made the radical decision to GO TO A MOVIE.  No Redbox.  No Netflix.  I wanted to go to an actual theater during the day (full disclosure: going at night when the kids are asleep would defeat the purpose).



I have only been to a movie once since my son was born [4.5 years ago!].  Other than that, it has been a good 5 years.  This isn't to say I don't get out.  I do.  Date nights are a priority, with permanent marker on the calendar, and we have a great time together.  But because we don't have tons of dates, we don't use precious babysitter time to silently sit in a movie theater.  We would rather go out to eat, talk, laugh, and enjoy each other's company.  Most of my alone time without my husband involves writing, which I love, but it still makes my brain work.  A movie sounded like a true mini-escape.

My decision was made.  I checked online for the movie I wanted to see, and I put it on the calendar. Meaning This Is Happening.  I told my husband to put it on his calendar too, and he was happy to. I'm fortunate that he is so supportive.  I realize not everyone may have that.

Now get this: I asked seven mom friends to join me.  All of whom I know could use a break.  Guess how many said yes?  ZERO.  Every single one had something else on their calendar that day.  (Before you go thinking I must be the local pariah, I swear I'm not.  At least, I don't think I am...).  In fact, I think their unavailability speaks to the issue at heart here-- how full all of our days are as mothers of young children.

Rather than slink into my shell, cancel my plans, and boo hoo that no one wanted to join me, I figured, well, it's on the calendar.  I'm going!

I was excited all week for my little escape.  This enthusiasm helped me get through the week in a more positive way too; I expended more energy with my kids (and enjoyed it more) knowing that I would have a significant break.

Now to the Movies...

I was surprised at how many people were in the lobby, just milling around like it was nothing special, when to me, it felt momentous!  Who are these people?  Who does this regularly?  I kept thinking.

Boy have things changed.  First, let me warn you: there is no matinee price anymore.  It cost $8.50 for a single ticket at 1:50 in the afternoon!  Still, I reasoned, it's less than I would spend wandering shops or even taking the kids to McDonald's.  So, um, a real steal in that way, right?

Guess what else-- the huge packages of candy aren't behind a glass case anymore.  You pick it and bring it up to the counter!

It gets even better: They have TEA now!

I decided why not? and grabbed an overpriced bag of Reeses Pieces and ordered a Tazo tea.

I found the right room, slunk into a hermit-ish high-up aisle seat, and I was in heaven.

The movie was beyond fantastic (Gone Girl, in case anyone is wondering) and I enjoyed every. single. second. of the movie itself and of the experience just sitting somewhere, resting.  With no chores to do during commercial breaks, and no kids walking in the door any second demanding to be fed.

When the show was over, I felt excited to go home and rejoin family life.  I felt refreshed instead of drained.

I give it-- all of it-- Two Thumbs Up.

When was the last time you took more than an hour for yourself to do something totally un-kid and un-work related?  Ever?  Or do you manage it regularly?  

Final Note:  If you never do anything for yourself, and you are able to swing it, I hope this post encourages you to do so.  You deserve it.

*Want to read more about Frantic Mama's views on Mommy Guilt and Alone Time?
Here are 3 related posts:  The Pull of Motherhood10 Ridiculous Ways Moms Spend Alone Time, and Interesting Phenomenon: I Miss My Kids.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Connect with Frantic Mama on Facebook and Twitter!

Clash of the Couples, a hilarious anthology I contributed to, is now available!  Find it at a bookstore [i.e. Amazon] near you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mandatory 10 Step New Parent Training Course

*This post is also on What the Flicka.  Check it out, here!
*It is also on the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop website!

This Just In:  A Mandatory 10 Step Training Course has been implemented for all soon-to-be parents.  If you skillfully and successfully endure the various challenges involved, while being tethered to a lifelike, hungry doll that cries often, you will be prepared for bringing home a newborn.  If you fail, good luck to you.




Expectations:

1.  Sleep Deprivation:  All participants will experience a level of sleep deprivation the likes of which they have never known before.  You will occasionally be allowed 40 minutes of sleep at one time, but you will be quickly roused by the wails of your lifelike doll.

2.  Women:  Overnight, your breasts will enlarge to twice their size and become sore and hard as rocks.  They will leak throughout the day and night.  There is nothing you can do to prevent this.

3.  Men: You are not allowed to enjoy said enlargement.  Not only has the sleep deprivation taken its toll on you and your spouse, but one of you is always tethered to the crying, hungry doll.  You will have to wait [at least] 6 weeks to express prolonged physical affection.

4.  Entertainment:  On a beautiful Saturday evening, you will be forced to walk by several of your favorite bars and restaurants.  You will be hungry, tired, and in need of a strong drink, but in order to successfully complete this task, you must keep walking, with the doll strapped to your chest.  You will go directly to Babies R' Us and deposit your entire month's paycheck there.

5.  Diet:  You are allowed to eat only the following items:  granola bars, frozen pizza, crackers, and brown casseroles brought to you by elderly neighbors.  All food will need to be consumed standing up, hunched over the kitchen counter, as fast as you can, while enduring shrieking cries from your practice doll who is waiting to be fed again.  Bonus points will be awarded for participants who hold the doll in one hand and eat with the other.

6.  Bathing:  Neither adult participant is permitted more than one shower for the duration of the training course.  During this shower, the doll will remain in the bathroom with you and begin crying as soon as the water starts.  To complete this task, you need to bathe as fast as you can to get out and comfort the doll; this means no shaving, no deep conditioning, and for heaven's sake no shower gel.

7.  Attire:  Keep the clothes you are currently wearing as clean as possible because you will not be provided with fresh, new clothing at any time.  You will need at least 10 outfits for your practice doll, however, as it will expel simulated poop and spit up on its clothing like clockwork at every single feeding.

8.  Toileting:  Every time a female participant sneezes, she will pee a little.  Depending on the neediness of your practice doll and your tolerance for screeching wails, going to the bathroom may or may not be your only alone time in any given day.

9.  Grooming:  All participants will quickly notice more gray hair sprouting from their heads.  You are permitted to use tweezers on these new strands, but you will likely be too depleted (see #1 and #5) to use them.  No haircuts, no make-up, and certainly no toenail trimming will be tolerated during the training course.

10.  Escape Route:  There will be times when you want to run away with your hands in the air, laughing like a lunatic, or hide in a dark closet tucked into a fetal position, but remember this:  there is no turning back.  Despite the practice doll's powerful life-sucking abilities, you will come to love it more than you thought possible, and you might even get used to having spit-up on all of your clothing.

We wish you the best of luck.

Sincerely,
Parents Everywhere

Julia @ Frantic Mama

Psssst!  Clash of the Couples, a HILARIOUS book I contributed to, is available now on Amazon, and more!

Find Frantic Mama on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Frantic Mama's 5 Friday Faves: Fall Edition

There is so much to love about fall.  The crisp air.  All things pumpkin.  School starting (praise the Lord!).  New boots.

I'm bringing back my 5 Faves today.  Welcome to my 5 Friday Faves: Fall Edition.


1.  Glittery Wire Pumpkins

Have you seen these decorative, lighted wire pumpkins?  They are so beautiful (the computer image from Pier One doesn't do it justice).  They are available at Target, Pier One, and Grandin Road.  The lights in them glow at night, and they shimmer during the day, adding a touch of seasonal whimsy to your front stoop.





2.  Pinterest Inspiration

I've been cruising the Pinterest boards recently, and the inspiration for fall decorating has me motivated.  For the first time, I've made an effort to add some fall decor in and outside out home.  I started with a pretty wreath, and then I added the aforementioned pumpkin.  Sure, it isn't "things" that make us happy, but I definitely feel happy when I see such fall finery gracing my front stoop.   Pinterest is full of clever, pretty fall inspiration.  (You can find me on there:  www.Pinterest.com/FranticMama).






3.  Austenland

I haven't read the book, but the movie is perfect for anyone who loves a good dose of nerd humor with their romance.  The movie features a quirky Keri Russel, the girl from Felicity, as she vacations at a Jane Austen-themed resort.  FranticMamaHubby was a good sport and watched the whole movie with me, but it is definitely geared toward the ladies, especially my fellow English Lit majors.




4.  Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Now this is a tasty, easy fall dish.  The gnocchi makes a delicious side dish, or it can be a nice vegetarian main dish if you add some veggies into the pan.


5.  Pumpkin Ale.  Hmmm...  I'm noticing a trend here:  almost all of my Faves lists include some variety of alcohol.  Well, no need to break with tradition now.  I may not go for the insanely popular Pumpkin Latte (too sweet! weird to drink pumpkin pie!), but a not-too-sweet pumpkin ale tastes like fall without being cloying.  Sam Adams and Blue Moon offer seasonal pumpkin options; I like both.



What am I missing?  What do you love about fall or hope to add to your home/closet/pantry this season?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
You can Like Frantic Mama on Facebook!
Find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out November 3rd, on Amazon, Apple, and more.  You can like the Facebook page here for updates and funny previews!

Monday, October 6, 2014

10 [Ridiculous] Ways Moms Spend Alone Time

*This piece was recently featured on Scary Mommy, re-titled as 10 Pathetic Ways Moms Spend Alone Time.  You can check it out here.


Your spouse took the kids out of the house for an hour, and you find yourself inside, alone.  With no children needing you.  What's a mom to do?

Mothers learn quickly how precious alone time is.  Then, inexplicably, when blessed with such a gift, it can be difficult to decide on the perfect way to spend it.  Chores?  Rest?  Exercise?  Bathe?

Here is what I envision Moms Think and Do When They Have the House to Themselves for an Hour:

1.  Sheepishly call out "Bye!" to your kids and husband as they get in the car.  Feel a little guilty, then shut the door.  Start feeling better.  Take a deep breath.  What to do? you wonder, looking around the house, noticing toys scattered on the floor, breakfast dishes out, laundry to be washed.

2.  Shower?  No, you can't waste alone time on that!  Nap?  You can't sleep through this time either!
Laundry, you decide:  I'll throw in a wash, and then I'll sit down and check my e-mail.

3.  But first, you decide to pee alone.  With the door open.

4.  You start the laundry and notice the threadbare gym clothes you are currently wearing.  You consider putting in an exercise DVD or going for a run but decide you can't possibly waste this precious hour on exercise.

5.  Your stomach grumbles, so you go to kitchen and stare at the open fridge.  I need a quick piece of leftover birthday cake to enjoy with my cold coffee, you decide.

6.  Decide that now you'll take a quick look at your computer to check e-mail and pay bills.  Sit down and open laptop.

...25 minutes later... Argh! I just wasted 25 minutes scrolling through Facebook and looking at recipes I'll never make on Pinterest.

7.  You find yourself aimlessly wandering the house only to end up in the bathroom, plucking stray gray hairs from your roots.

8.  You call your mom to tell her you have the house to yourself but quickly realize time is ticking away while you talk on the phone.  Your heart thumps.

9.  Hurry, you think, I must do something productive.  You frantically eye the crumbs covering your sticky kitchen counter top, and you spray it down.  You begin feeling productive again.

10.  Looking at clock, you ask yourself, I deserve some rest, don't I?  so you grab an unread magazine that arrived in the mail three months ago, and sit down on couch.  Exhale.  Open magazine.

...2 minutes later... Door opens.  "Mom, we're home!"  

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
Let's Connect:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out November 3rd, on Amazon, Apple, and more.  You can like the Facebook page here for updates and funny previews!





Saturday, October 4, 2014

I'm on Scary Mommy!


Hello Everyone!

I'm excited to announce that a humor piece I wrote is on the uber-popular website, Scary Mommy, starting today, October 4.  I would love it if you checked it out (click here).  I know most of us are busy changing diapers, cleaning crusty yogurt off the floor, and slurping down cold coffee, but if you do have time, please comment, share it, like it, pin it...you know the drill.  Being featured on Scary Mommy is a great way for writers to help establish themselves in the vast Mommy-Writer World and I can always use reader support.



So what's my piece about?  Picture this, moms everywhere:  You have an hour to yourself, in your own home.  No kids.  No husband.  No one but you to take care of for 60 glorious minutes!  What will you do?  According to my list, not as much as you may think :).  I hope you enjoy it and can relate to it.

Thank you to all of my loyal (and newer!) readers for your support.  Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but how does the old saying go?  If you don't do it, who will?  Or something like that.


~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find more Frantic Mama:  Facebook, Mamalode, and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out soon:  November 3rd.  You can like the Facebook page here for updates and funny previews!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Importance of a Neighborhood Environment


Welcome to my "Finish the Sentence Friday Post."  I'm linking up with some of my favorite bloggers this week (Hosts: Kristi Campbell of Finding Ninee and Allison Carter of Go Dansker Mom).  The Topic:  Neighbors.

***

We moved into our current neighborhood exactly three years ago.  It was life-changing.  That is not an overstatement.

Before moving to our current home, we lived in our cool city condo.  It was a great place to live before we had a child.  My husband and I walked to restaurants and bars [a lot].  It was a short drive to my work, which was lovely.  My circle of friends-- all without kids-- lived nearby.  It was the perfect 20-something place.

Then we had our son.  Instantly, I discovered just how isolating a busy city apartment could be.  There were people all over the place, but suddenly, once home with my baby all day, I had never felt more alone.  What on earth was I supposed to do all day?  All my friends were at work.  My husband was at work.  As much as I loved our location, I knew no one nearby with little babies.  It no longer felt like the right neighborhood for our family.



Fast forward to today:  I now stay home with two little kids, and I am so grateful for our new neighborhood, primarily because of the mothers I have met here.  My mother or sister do not live nearby, so I have had to create my own little network of support here.  There is an immense relief in knowing that the friend down the street could come by for lunch when my husband is traveling and I'm feeling vulnerable, or another friend could meet up for an impromptu playdate when one of us justneedtogetoutofthehouse!

I will always have warm memories of our fun little place in the city.  In some ways, I am a total city girl; I occasionally miss being able to walk to the nearest cafe or the new clothing shop.  Some days, cruising around the 'burbs with my SUV just seems so dime-a-dozen.  However, I try to remember that most of the fun memories of our condo were formed during our pre-baby days, when we were newlyweds with only each other to care for.  In this chapter of my life, I'm enjoying building long lasting relationships with the other young families who live near us.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
Pssst!  I'll be on Scary Mommy starting today!  Check me out over there if you have a chance.

Find more Frantic Mama:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram, and on Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out November 3rd.  You can like the Facebook page here for sneak peeks!