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I’m a good sleeper and I value my bed time. But when I’m stressed or anxious, sleep’s the first thing to go. For a while, I was spontaneously waking every night at 3:13 a.m. After checking the clock, I’d lie there, listening to the dark – too lazy to read. Too lazy to do last night’s dishes. Too lazy to surf the internet. Too lazy to move.

I thought about the kids and the OINKdaddy. I mentally listed things I needed to do around the house and to the house, starting with cleaning the bathrooms and ending with getting the exterior re-sided. I made resolutions and remembered websites I’ve been meaning to visit. I composed pithy posts (which were forgotten by morning) and considered the deeper meaning of life. But mostly, I laid there and wished that I was sleeping.

Was there a root cause to my insomnia? Was I worried about the health and welfare of those nearest and dearest to me? Was I nervous about the half-marathon I was in training for? Was I freaked about testing for my black belt in Taekwondo? It could have been any of those things, but it wasn’t. It was this: I knew I needed to go back to work.

Change is good, or so they say. It’s the transition that sometimes rubs one raw. We’ll see. More on this later. For now, a promise, to you and to myself: I will keep writing.

I hope you’ll keep reading.

P.S. I’ve decided to keep my blog name. “DINKtales” just doesn’t resonate with me. Happy new year!

Last week, I went to the “Welcome to Kindergarten” meeting that our elementary school puts on for parents of incoming kindergartners. When the principal asked parents to raise their hands if they were sending a child to kindergarten for the first time, more than half the people in the room had air in their armpits. When he asked for a showing of second-time kindergarten parents, the rest of the room responded. My battle-scarred, oven-burned, cuticle-gnawed hand waved alone when the principal asked for third-timers. I felt like a grizzled veteran.

image from autoevolution.com

Five minutes into the presentation, a young woman slipped into my row with her small son. I smiled at her and nodded when she asked if the seats next to me were open. She sat down. Her son scampered away to play. I have a surprisingly high tolerance for children when a) I don’t know them, b) I have absolutely no responsibility for them, and c) they aren’t close to my person. So, when he started rolling his monster truck across the linoleum ten feet away from us, it didn’t bother me a bit. It bothered his mother.

When my kids do something in public that embarrasses or otherwise annoys me, they get the Mommy Glare. It’s a freeze-you-in-your-tracks look that can be thrown over great distances such as across a crowded cafeteria or it can be focused like a laser beam such as when employed in a restaurant or a church pew. My Mommy Glare is given with a furrowed brow, gritted teeth and cement-lips. It is normally followed by a just-wait-until-we-get-home speech. I won’t guess at its rate of effectiveness since I use it, regardless of its efficacy, 100% of the time.

The mom next to me fidgeted in her seat, sighing. Here it comes, I thought. Instead, she did something surprising: she leaned forward and smiled. She held this position until her child looked over at her. When he did, she wagged her finger at him while shaking her head and mouthing, “No, no, no.”

The little boy paused before he shrugged and resumed his monster truck rolling.

I stopped listening to the principal so that I could concentrate on watching this woman without appearing to watch her.

Where was her Mommy Glare? Why wasn’t she springing out of her seat? Which Mommy tactic would she pull from her toolbox?

Without taking her eyes from her son, she waited for him to look at her again. When he did, she smiled and crooked her finger at him. He picked up his truck and walked over to her slowly. She continued to smile benevolently. I waited for her to rip off her mask but the moment never came. When he reached her, she whispered in his ear and kissed the top of his head. He rolled his monster truck on the palm of his hand and leaned into her.

I tried not to gape.

I’ve thought about this mom many nights since. I wish I had her patience. I wish I was quicker to smile and less quick to scold. I wish it wouldn’t bother me when my crazy–as it inevitably does–shows.

When I first started blogging (lo, twenty-one moons ago!) I posted about how quickly women – and particularly moms – judge one another. What I didn’t mention is how harshly we judge ourselves.

We’re less than a week away from THE award show of the season, the 83rd Academy Awards. As a movie buff, I make an effort to watch every year. I get a kick out of the unscripted moments (Adrien Brody smooching on Halle Berry after winning best actor for The Pianist) and the acceptance speeches that come from the heart (last year, Kathryn Bigelow was poised and inspiring accepting her best director win). And of course, I enjoy watching all the beautiful people and criticizing their attire.

In the spirit of the award season, I’m honored and pleased to announce that OINKtales was named by Alison over at The Other Winnie Cooper as being an Awesome Blog and Darla of She’s a Maineiac as being a Stylish Blogger. Thank you both! OINKtales is grateful to accept your awards and wants to reward your kindness by reciprocating. You are both awesome and stylish bloggers too!

And while I am truly flattered to receive these awards, my cynical side is clamoring for satisfaction. I have to make the following observation: Blog awards are the new chain letters. Do you remember being a kid and getting that hand-written note from your cousin that promised if you mailed a sheet of stickers to some unknown person on a list and then copied the note exactly and forwarded it to twelve of your friends and family, you’d end up getting reams of stickers? Did you ever get any? Do you want to guess whether I did?

In college, I did do a lingerie chain (new, not used!) and it was moderately successful (I got a whopping three pairs of undies this way) and within the last couple of years, I bought into the Facebook chain where you announce random facts about yourself (being petrified by the idea that vampires might actually exist is my #25). But overall, I have broken more chains than I have extended them, for which I understand that I have been penalized a lifetime of bad luck.

Be that as it may, I’ve decided not to break this chain. Mostly because I respect both Alison and Darla immensely and who am I kidding? No matter how you look at it, these awards are compliments. (Would you be surprised if I told you that I have a hard time accepting compliments?)

So here we go: The requirements for accepting these awards are to link back to the awarders, list seven things about yourself, and then pass the award on to other worthy bloggers. I’m supposed to list fifteen but I don’t follow directions well.

Seven Things You Don’t Know About Me:

I don’t like to talk about myself. So ironic, since I can blog about intimate things in my life (tampons of preference, hello?) but when I am in a group – and sometimes even one-on-one – I tend to downplay my accomplishments and make light of things that are important to me. Any couch psychologists out there?

I think kids are disgusting. But they’re like pets. When they’re yours, you love them even when they’re disgusting.

Every day, I consider going back to my old job. Or trying to. It’s not like they’re saving one for me (wouldn’t that be nice?).

Every day, I daydream about winning the lottery. Although I’d take less than a million, it’d be hard to accomplish the basics with less than that. Lest you think I am greedy, consider that I have three children to put through college and probably, grad school.

I am an escapist reader and my favorite genre is young adult fiction a la The Hunger Games, The Golden Compass, and anything with Potter in the title.

I have two belly buttons. At least, it looks like I do. This is what comes of keeping one’s belly button ring in when one was hugely pregnant. Not. Pretty.

And though this last bit I suspect you already know, I’m including it anyway, if only to end this list: My family means everything to me.

Now, to my list of awesome/stylish blogs. I personally know some of these people, some I met (or am just stalking) in the blogosphere. I recommend you check them all out:

Other Awesome/Stylish Blogs:

OINKdaddy. My better, happier half’s observations on our life.

Push the Envelope. Watch it Bend. A brand-new running/fitness blog authored by my uber-fit brother-in-law (an OINK to follow on this one).

She Rides, I Pay. For funny, horsey folks.

My Topography. Beautiful. Lyrical. Words and pictures.

Saying YES 2 boys and Life. Humorous, homesteading, homeschooling mom.

The Ramblings. Prolific blogger whose hilarious descriptions strike a chord with many.

Scary Mommy. Blogging maven who has never heard of me but who is laugh out loud funny and who has her own scary mommy society (it has an eight-week waiting list!).

Theta Mom. Another blogger who has never heard of me but who, like Scary Mommy, started her own blogging community and is highly supportive of other bloggers.

And of course, the aforementioned She’s a Maineiac, a new blogging friend who writes about the loopy world of a desperate Maine housewife, and The Other Winnie Cooper, one of my BFF’s who considered participating in the underwear chain and who is now the larger-than-life voice of a 12 pound shih-tzu.

Happy linking everyone! Now, to find my Roberto Cavalli knock-off for the red carpet…

I fully admit it: I’m still in shock. Yesterday, WordPress editors featured OINKtales on their “Freshly Pressed” page. Traffic to OINKtales jumped exponentially and 41 people (and counting!) have commented on “Playing the Name Game.” In the fast-moving world of the internet, people don’t get fifteen minutes of fame. They get fifteen seconds. But these feel like my fifteen seconds and truly, I am enjoying every one of them!

Thank you, Readers, near and far! Thank you for reading, liking, commenting, laughing and sharing. I love to write. And though I write because I want to, for my family and for myself, it is thoroughly rewarding to believe that there other people not affiliated to me by bond or blood who are amused by my words. One of the wonderful things about being a blogger is making connections with people I might not have connected with otherwise.

And finally (although this is beginning to sound like an acceptance speech – t’is the season, after all), thank you, WordPress! Thank you for spotlighting your bloggers on your “Freshly Pressed” page; it’s an honor and a privilege.

Visit OINKtales often. Better yet, become a subscriber. I can’t promise you’ll be entertained, but I’ll do my level best. 😉

Out of sheer laziness or extreme procrastination (you take your pick), I have updated the “Oldies but Goodies” page of OINKtales. It is here that I provide links to my favorite posts from the past.

Whether you’ve just started OINKing with me, or you’d like a trip down memory lane, I invite you to review some of my best and worst moments.

Thanks for reading, following, tweeting, linking and commenting. I appreciate every ounce of your support!

And now, on to my New Year’s resolutions: Writing more, Posting more, Living more. May 2011 be a banner year for us all.

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