Motherhood From the Frontline

This was my “rainy day” post from BethFishRead’s Bloggiesta mini-challenge… Enjoy 🙂

When it comes to children… especially when they’re your own and you can’t drive them out to the country and dump them because they know their addresses and how to get home… sometimes SANITY is a battle ground, and I feel like I’m battling them for it.  AND, I’m losing.

First off, the odds aren’t in my favor.  There are THREE of them and ONE of me.  Then you gotta add the 3 cats and the dog to that number, because they tease each other with the pets… “Look Maggie, your cat loves me more than you” wait for it “MOOOOOOOM!!!!  Maggie hit me!”  Well, the math adds up to 374 of them to the half-wit ME. 

Seriously, I used to have brains.  I did.  I once took the Mensa test and was well above the entry number.  My IQ, last I checked, is 168.  But see, that was before kids.  Nowadays, I’d be shocked if I could beat out a bunch of Broccoli in a game of Boggle.  My mom always said, “Insanity is hereditary… you get it from your kids!”  And the older they get, the more I realize she’s RIGHT.

I watched a program on PBS about negative emotions the other day… okay, I just watched a segment of the show while COPS was on commercial break, but still… and they said that negative emotions like stress and fear burn memories deeply into your psyche.  That’s why everyone remembers where they were on the morning of September 11, 2001, but few remember what they were doing on September 10th, the day before.  It is ALSO why my mom STILL remembers EVERYTHING I EVER did as a kid, and points out that “Paybacks are a BITCH!” whenever I’m word-vomitting what dastardly deeds the girls have been up to lately. 

Really, I began to understand what my actual role as a parent was when Sam and Gwen were about 7 and 8.  We had went to the mall and had stopped into the store where a friend worked.  Because I was engaged in adult conversation, and because I had taken longer than the generous minute and a half they allowed for such foolishness, the girls began to get antsy and started running around the store.  After a few loud rounds of “THWACK!  Mom!  She hit me!”, I made them sit in time out and confined each of them to their own tile square on the floor.  That I hadn’t set them far enough apart soon became evident when their arguing and tattling reached my ears.  And what were they fighting over now?  A piece of tracked in DIRT.  DIRT!  My darling dimpled dears were debating the ownership of a clod of DIRT!

So what role did I discover I was truly filling?

Wild animal handler.  I’m just here to make sure they don’t get loose and annoy the public.  I feed them, clean their cage and try to learn ’em some manners, but mostly, I’m crowd control.

OH, and I used to hear or read the statistics that some parents only spend about 3 minutes of quality time conversing with their children and I’d think “How horrible!  What terrible and selfish parents can’t make time for their kids?!”  THEN I got teenagers and NOW I think, “GOOD GAWD!  3 minutes?!  They deserve an award!  At least a medal for bravery!”

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The Inconvenient Adventures of Uncle Chestnut by Paul Nowak

Title:  The Inconvenient Adventures of Uncle Chestnut (Based on the Life and Works of G.K. Chesterton)

Author:  Paul Nowak

Paperback:  55 pages

ISBN:  0977223493

Miscellaneous:  This book is intended to be the first of a series on “Uncle Chestnut.”

Challenges:  2009 ARC Reading Challenge 

“You see, Jack, an adventure is only an inconvenience considered the right way, and an inconvenience is an adventure considered the wrong way,” said Uncle Chestnut.  “When someone complains about the inconveniences in their life – such as hats blowing away, or drawers getting stuck, or delays at the airport – they are missing the adventure in those experiences they cannot control.  The only thing we always can control is how we react.”

“In other words, we can choose to enjoy life, with all its adventures that take place beyond our control, or we can be miserable with all the inconveniences life hands us.  It’s up to you to choose.”

-page 9

Uncle Chestnut is a great storyteller, and he enjoys telling them as much as Jack enjoys listening to them.  He makes faces, uses voices and acts out parts of the tale he’s telling.  When I read this, my mind immediately went to my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Crawford (whose first name, coincidentally, was also Jack).  Mr. Crawford didn’t teach history to us, he performed it.  His face reflected the Pharaoh as he covered ancient Egypt.  I still remember when he was telling us about Israel’s crossing the Red Sea, and he was pretending to be one of the Egyptian cavalry soldiers pursuing them:  “Whoa, Nelly… you can’t drink that water!” was his command to his horse as “Nelly” was getting ready do sample the wall of water.  Mr. Crawford, like Uncle Chestnut, made the stories come alive.

The Inconvenient Adventures of Uncle Chestnut isn’t a story, specifically, but rather more anecdotal.  In the book Jack, the narrator, is remembering life with his eccentric writer-uncle.  It’s full of wisdom and good sense that’s definitely lacking today.  The author, Paul Nowak, was inspired by G.K. Chesterton, an early 20th century writer who inspired C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Mahatma Gandhi, just to name a few.  More recently, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have referenced, credited and even created characters based on Chesterton.

As I first started reading this, I thought it was written by the actual nephew, but I quickly realized that wasn’t possible.  Then I thought maybe Nowak was updating Jack’s diary, or that Jack would turn out to be C.S. Lewis.  It wasn’t until the American Idol reference that I finally understood that this book was really a work of fiction.  Yes, Nowak based Uncle Chestnut on Chesterton and used Chesterton’s work to be as true to him as possible, but it is fiction.  It’s such a surprising little book, not at all what I was expecting.  As it is the first in what the author intends to be a series, I really hope the next book isn’t far off, because I can’t wait for my new favorite uncle to visit some more.

Some little things about the book, though…  The only fault I could really find with it other than the few typos about which Nowak warned in the accompanying letter is this:  It is too short.  I had hardly settled in before it was over.  I’m not saying it to be funny, I really mean that the length of the book actually left a negative feeling.  You know, like when you go to the ice cream shop and order a large, thinking you are really going to get a treat, and they hand you a kiddie cone?  Ultimately, somewhere down the line, it might be a good idea to consolidate books into a 200-300 or so page book.  The other off thing I had to say about it is that it’s supposed to be kinda-sorta a kids book, but I’m not really sure it fits that.  Maybe, IDK… it’s a bit Winnie-the-Pooh like in style, which was actually a very surprising thing to have captivated my kids attention.  I haven’t read this book with them yet, so maybe they would really like it, but it just seems like something the kid inside the grown-up would like.

I really do hope The Inconvenient Adventures of Uncle Chestnutby Paul Nowak catches and takes off, it’s very much a needed book and voice of wisdom and reason that could tip the balance a little more toward sanity than it’s been leaning lately.  I know my copy isn’t leaving my library, so y’all will have to get your own 🙂  I know I will re-read this one.  5 out of 5 stars, in case you didn’t catch that I liked it. 😉

By the way, make sure to check out the book’s site at http://unclechestnut.com/ .  There you can learn more about the man who inspired this book, G.K. Chesterton, as well as search quotes and sign up for the Uncle Chestnut’s quote a day newsletter.