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My options this morning were: 1) Go to the gym; 2) Stack firewood; 3) Clean house; 4) Have second cup of coffee while surfing the net. Guess which one I picked?

It’s day seven of the school year and the first morning I am alone. I spent the other six mornings in a whirlwind of friends and exercise and field trips (yes, they’ve already begun!), giddy and grateful that my three children were all off at school. Reveling in the long-awaited free mommy minutes, I was unprepared for the melancholy that sneaked up on me and which, even now, bleeds my joy. Adding generous helpings of spare time to my already full plate of responsibilities has been like Christmas dinner: fun to anticipate and delectable to the very last bite before the bloating begins and I realize with uncomfortable certainty that I’ve overindulged.

Our summer was of beaches and books, swimming and hiking, camps and playdates. Every moment that I was in motion, I dreamed of resting and yet, when I rested, I planned activities to keep us all in motion. In what seemed like the span between heartbeats, summer was over.

On his first day of Kindergarten, Small thumped down the stairs, more excited than nervous. He ignored the outfit I had laid out for him in favor of a generic football jersey and shorts. I said nothing, being thankful he was not wearing his favorite shirt: a navy button-down with thermal shirt-sleeves and a numbered patch on the chest. I call it the Shawshank shirt because it reminds me of prison garb. I hope it isn’t prophetic.

The house buzzed with energy emanating from the kids and surprisingly, from me. Putting out their breakfast, reminding them to wear their sneakers and not flip-flops, I fiercely told myself not to cry. I hate it when I cry. Not that there’s anything wrong with crying – it just doesn’t work for me. It probably has something to do with a repressed childhood memory but who knows? I haven’t had enough therapy to remember it.

Large went first, needing to take the early bus for middle schoolers. He burst through the storm door, cramming the last bit of an english muffin in his mouth. “HafagreatfirsdayinKinnergarden!” he called to Small over his shoulder. An hour later, the rest of us walked to the bus stop. Without looking at me, the OINKdaddy nudged my arm. I followed his gaze. Unprompted, Medium had put a reassuring hand on Small’s shoulder while we waited. This small kindness threatened the dam holding back my tears.

When I opened my eyes, the bus was roaring toward us. Brakes screeching, the yellow child compactor stopped. Small hefted his too-large backpack on his shoulders and trotted toward it without a backwards glance. The bus driver thoughtfully asked him to turn around at the top of the stairs so I could take his picture and – just like that – they were gone. My babies were gone.

I am so proud of my children. They are confident and independent and funny and loving and while they drive me to the edge of distraction (and over), more often than not, they amaze and delight me. I have been truly blessed to have had these two years at home with them. I’m not sure what the future will bring but I’m terribly glad that with this blog, I’ve kept a record of some of the special and some of the ordinary moments in our lives. Someday, I hope that Small, Medium and Large will read these words and be reminded just how much I love them.

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…

There are so many things I ought to be doing now, but instead of tackling any of those MUST-DOs, I am sitting at the computer, writing, which is a decided NICE-TO-DO. Writing eases my mind; it puts order to the chaos. When I am stressed or even just busy, I make lists. I feel a ridiculously deep sense of satisfaction when I cross items off a list. Done. Done. Finis.

I am trying to get Large to embrace list-making as a way to manage his anxieties but so far, it’s not working.

He’s ten and a half years old. He is a smart, funny, socially-aware kid. He loves to read, tell stories (replete with sound-effects!), sing, dance, and do anything technology related. He is also a tougher critic of himself than anyone ever could be, including me. And I’m no picnic.

Every mother wants success and happiness for her child. But what I’ve come to realize is something I’ve known all along: Wanting isn’t enough. We can’t just want for our children to grow up and become confident, well-adjusted, compassionate adults. We have to actively help them get there. It’s what we do, as mothers – as parents – that counts, if not now, then later on.

Being a parent is often mind-numbing. The stalling. The bickering. The whining. The slammed doors and the I-hate-yous. I am far from being a perfect mother (or wife, but that’s another post) and I am embarrassed to admit how frequently I delve into my fiction cocoon or retreat onto the internet rather than engage, comment and interact with my offspring. Even so, I hold fast to the belief that good parenting is a cumulative process. Consider the little things parents do every day, even when our patience is spread as thin as peanut butter on a piece of Weight-Watchers’ toast. The gentle reminders. The sit-and-do-your-homework speeches. The pep-talks. The these-are-the-consequences dictums. The smiles and hugs and cuddles. The I’m sorrys. The I’m proud of yous.

God, I hope I’m right.

Liam, every one of us learned to walk one step at a time. The luckiest of us had someone’s hand to hold onto. Your family loves you! Don’t ever forget it.

I took the kids with me to the grocery store today, not by choice but by necessity. If I had attempted to serve them what was left in the cupboard—namely artichoke hearts and black olives—they might have tried to bury me in the backyard. Winter break is interminable.

Before we went, I tried to prepare myself and them. I carefully wrote out a shopping list (by aisle, no less), made sure their little stomachs were full (we went directly after lunch), and spoke with each of them about the difference between “helpful” and “unhelpful” behavior (Putting items Mommy hands you into the cart = Helpful. Attempting to lie down on the bottom rack of the cart = Unhelpful.).

Not that any of this ultimately mattered.

Kid Dialogue:

“I’m hungry!”

“EEEK!”

“But he scared me!”

“I want this!”

“But I WANT THIS!”

“OW! Mom! Liam just ran over my leg!”

“Can we have gummies?”

“But everybody else has these in their lunch!”

“How come YOU always get to pick out what WE eat?”

“Ewww!”

“NO!”

“Stop it!”

“He’s doing it again!”

“I wanna see the lobsters.”

“But I’m still looking at the lobsters!”

**Sob**

“Ooops!”

“Mom! Look what he did!”

**Sob**

“THEN can I have a muffin?”

“How come HE always gets what he wants?”

“I hafta go to the bathroom.”

“We need gum!”

“More gum!”

“Oh, no! I dropped my quarter!”

“Mommy, you gotta go back!”

Mom Dialogue:

“But you just ate!”

“Please, put that back.”

“Stop sniffing the rotisserie chicken. Remember last time?”

“No.”

“Where did Henry go?”

“Say ‘excuse me’.”

“I’m sorry. Excuse us.”

“Try harder not to run into people.”

“Get back in the cart.”

“Don’t hang on the side of the cart.”

“Be careful of the eggs!”

“No.”

“Get back in the cart.”

“Just put it back.”

“No.”

“No!”

“NO!”

“Get out of the cart.”

“Please, guys, we’re almost done. Keep it together.”

I am sure I had more than a glint of crazy in my eyes by the time we reached the cashier.

And that was before I noticed there was no bagger.

Would I like wine with my whine? Why thank you, I would.

P.S. This is one of the funniest commercials out there, thanks to my friend, K, for sharing it:

Dear Reader:

Everybody’s doing it, so why shouldn’t I?

Here are some of my favorite oinks from the last seven months (can you believe it’s been seven months?!). Maybe you’ve read them before. But, maybe not. I encourage you to read them. Again, if necessary. You’ll enjoy. I promise.

In closing, THANK YOU for coming on this ride with me. Keep the laughs going and the comments flowing. My best to you and yours for a happy and healthy 2010!

Peace and love,
Mary

Anatomy 101
Posted May 30, 2009
A short discussion about the birds and the bees.

Farewell Pepe Le Pew
Posted August 15, 2009
Standing trial after running over a small woodland creature.

The Secret of the Pork
Posted October 13, 2009
Why Small doesn’t know where bacon comes from.

Daddy Does
Posted October 30, 2009
Appreciation for my husband’s way of doing things.

H1N1 Hysteria
Posted November 16, 2009
Hell hath no fury like a surprised five-year-old.

Come Fly With Me
Posted September 22, 2009
My personal favorite.

Want more?  Check out my Oldies But Goodies page.  Then come back tomorrow night for an all new oink!

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