Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Give Elves a Chance

Dear People of the Internet,

Recently, I've witnessed something tragic. It's hate. Elf hate. Now, I'm not one to be divisive (as far as you know), but I would like to take a minute to gently persuade all of the Elf on the Shelf haters to calm your freaking shorts.

First, let me acknowledge that Christmas is often a season of stress for parents: more money to spend, more activities to facilitate, more obligatory time spent with people you may or may not like, more plastic crap that no one really needs flowing into your house... it's a yearly opportunity to balloon up five to eleven pounds on nothing more than sugar, flour, butter and some amazing food product referred to as 'sprinkles'. Christmas brings the added daily struggle of keeping your cat out of an awesome, sparkly climbing tree that you installed in the house and decorated with awesome, dangly, sparkly cat toys.

Christmas is a time when trying to keep the focus on a tiny baby born in a humble stable feels almost impossible, because when the first decorations are displayed in stores (as soon as Halloween is over), the 'Christmas Crack'* comes alive.
*For those of you who've yet to spring fruit from your loins, "Christmas Crack' is a behavior that manically excited children display when the season of magic begins, up until Christmas morning when the floor is littered with wrapping paper and legos and your entire month's salary.

I get it. I really do. Christmas, a season celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, often feels overindulgent, commercialized, overblown, and full of fallacy. Expectations on parents to facilitate that kind of high level magic trick can be not only exhausting, but also utterly ridiculous and unattainable. For this, I blame the Internet. And Pinterest. And Martha Stewart. And the election, of course.

That is exactly why our family is filled with gratitude for our Elf on the Shelf, Ellis. In the chaos of Christmas, Ellis has one job: to sit in the house as a reminder to contain the Christmas Crack and remember to embrace true Christmas Spirit. He sits in the tree and my kids are reminded that they need to practice patience and kindness when they disagree over a game of Pick Up Sticks. He sits on the bookshelf and my kids are reminded to help Dad the first time he asks. He sits on the garland and my kids are reminded to help mom clean the kitchen... and their bedroom... and the prolific amount of toothpaste from their bathroom sink. That's it! He helps! Unlike some peoples' elves, who choose naughty activities, our elf is a mere sitter. A steadfast introvert. He just quietly watches the kids from his position (which sometimes doesn't change when he spares himself a flight to the North Pole, which he does a few times a week). He's a second pair of eyes. And he keeps secrets for the kids, who talk to him and write him letters.



In essence, the arrival of our elf Ellis is truly one of the most exciting parts of Christmas for my kids. They look forward to his post-Thanksgiving flight to our house more than almost anything. He represents kindness, respect, hope, sharing, and the sweetest magic of Christmas. He's helping my kids verbalize their feelings and develop their writing skills. And best of all, he's helping me parent at a time of year when I could use an extra pair of eyes because I'm extra busy with an extra set of tasks. And he is doing all of it with his mere presence. I'm not expected to feed him or compliment him or understand his love language or deal with his passive aggressive BS or any of that relationship burden crap. That's more than I can say for most people.

So the next time you want to sit your angry self down at your computer and really sock it to someone, lay off the Elves, man. They're kind, easy keepers who help people like me and bring a little extra magic and wonderment to kids at Christmas. Yeah... you're right, that's really terrible. So terrible that we adopted another elf this year so that when my kids are grown, both boys could take one of their favorite parts of childhood with them and someday share it with their own families. The kids named him "Junier", as well as choosing the spelling. Shame on us! Down with elves! Down with Christmas! Down with children! Ba Humbug!



Get a grip, people of the Internet. Get off your stupid phones and computers and make some freaking cookies with your kids. Get your head our of your Scroogy behind and sing a flippin' Christmas carol. Stop your sanctimonious judgment and write a note to someone you appreciate. Recognize that hate is born of ignorance, because you clearly have never seen an adorable, innocent child's face light up at the discovery of their own family scout elf. And for the love of elves, stop demonizing other peoples' fun family traditions. Keep the disdain pointed where it belongs... at the clowns, man. At the clowns.















Monday, August 22, 2016

Back to School Adventures of the Work from Home/Stay at Home Mom

Today my kids went back to school. Third grade and Kindergarten, ages 9 and 6.  I've stayed at home with my boys since the beginning of time (theirs). In that time (mine), I've raised them to the best of my abilities. I've also worked as a freelance writer, illustrator and photographer- something I am quite proud of, yet a profession that is clearly unrecognized by the majority of my social circle. My first official day with no kids, today was the magical day I was apparently supposed to discover my true life calling (not that other silly "work" I've been doing).

"What are you going to DO with yourself with both boys in school?" was the most commonly asked question of the summer.

"Oh, I hope to finally get some uninterrupted work done!" I would cheerfully reply, but in my mind always answered, "I think now is the time to finally start my daytime stripping career," or "lay on the couch, watch soaps and eat my weight in Cheetos, wut?" or "fuck off, I do nothing."

Here's what actually went down:

I got up early and made the boys breakfast while they put on the clothes I set out for them the night before. I talked with them about their upcoming big day as my husband and I packed their lunches and provided them with kind and encouraging words. We walked them to the bus and waved goodbye as my six year old son's bus riding dreams came to fruition- three years of bus envy is a lot of stored up desire! We watched the bus drive away, Brock went to work and it was my turn to finally DO something with myself after nine years! Praise Jeebus. The day had arrived! The pressure was ON!

So I watered all my shriveled, neglected flowers and drug hoses around my crunchy, neglected lawn.

Then I went inside and started to clean my crusty, neglected house, for the children had gone feral over the summer and I couldn't keep up. Plus, we live inside with three cats and a crazy old dog that refuses to be groomed. It's a dream.

Then I ate lunch three times, because I realized I haven't finished a meal in nine years and I was freaking starving.

Then I spent approximately five hours cleaning my house, scrubbing all of the things. I cleaned until I could walk on the floors without cringing. I cleaned until I could see a reflection in the mirror that didn't look like like bacon grease smeared with dog hair. I cleaned until the pee smell was gone (mostly). I cleaned until I could lean on a countertop without feeling the need to scrape myself off with a brillo pad. I cleaned until I was clammy and sore and hungry.

Then I wondered how my kids were doing and I ate some more of my feelings.

As I did the cleaning that barely scraped the surface of the things needing to be cleaned in my dusty little farm house surrounded by dirt filled horse pens and weed-strewn gravel pits, I talked on the phone with three of my best friends; one in Sweden, one in New Mexico, and one in New Jersey. Then I realized that most of my favorite people no longer live near me and I finished off a block of two month old port wine cheese from a discount store. I have no regrets.

Then I drug more hoses around my yard and hung up laundry on the line and cleaned rotten hay from the sides of the horse pen and picked an apple off the apple tree and ate that, too.

Then I cleaned some, but not all, of the windows.

Then I went to the mailbox, opened the mail and felt depressed, as usual. I miss the days that I looked forward to mail.

Then I saw the school bus pull up and I greeted my smiling, exuberant children at the door. I talked with them, asked them about their day, their classroom, their teachers, their new friends and so on.

Then I walked behind them and cleaned the giant mess they made as they tracked mud across my steam mopped floor and proudly pulled all the contents from their backpacks and redecorated every surface of the house with giant art projects and paperwork and blind enthusiasm.

Then I made them snacks and sent them outside to bounce off some manic energy on the trampoline.

Then I made dinner from the dregs of the pantry; a little something I called "Enchilada Quinoa Surprise."

Then Brock came home. We said grace and ate and talked some more.

Then I went to bed at 7:30 (the kids' back to school target toothbrushing time) because I was exhausted and my hip that had blown out four days ago was hurting because I forgot to sit down all day and I didn't want to be awake anymore because we were running out of wine.

So, now the nine year old mystery has been solved! Everyone knows what I did when I finally got to experience both kids in school all day! Not my "work", as some "friends" refer to what I do, but I sure seemed to get a helluva lot done, including gaining two pounds in a six hour period. Slay. Whatever will I do tomorrow? Another school day, another sahm mystery.

Momma Out.





Saturday, May 14, 2016

Witty, Relevant, and Wearable: T-Shirt Creature

Earlier this week I sat down with an exclusive Q and A with the Creature of T-Shirt Creature. In a Baba WaWa-esque interview, we delved into the world of inspired creativity, past and present lingo, altruism, and, of course, t-shirts. We laughed, we bonded, and we left full of witty quotes to throw at our friends during our next bowling night.

If you ever find yourself lacking relevance or sass, consider purchasing a t-shirt from The T-Shirt Creature; it is the fairy Godmother of popularity. One t-shirt can heal all your emotional wounds!*

*The T-Shirt Creature is not actually responsible for healing your emotional baggage.






Me: Thanks for taking time out of your busy life to sit down with me.

T-Shirt Creature: The pleasure is mine. Happy Mother's Day! What did your kids give you for Mother's Day?

Me: Thank you!They gave me some homemade cards, and the gift that keeps on giving: a sore throat, chest congestion, a low grade fever and a cough.

T-Shirt Creature: *scoots chair back a foot*

Me: So... why T-Shirts? Why now?

T-Shirt Creature: The Creature love to live 'in the moment' as much as it loves t-shirts. The Creature is self-described as "pretty t-shirty." Its shirts are meant to bring like minded people together. Staring at chests is a great ice breaker.

Me: Whaaaa?

T-Shirt Creature: Because you will be wearing a conversation starter in the form of a funny statement on the front of your shirt! What did you think was meant?

Me: Um... Er... Moving on... Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind your shirts.

T-Shirt Creature: The Creature loves entertaining quips that are very 'in the moment.' Most retailers are not able to capture the most current Zeitgeists and offer them so quickly to the people of Earth. The Creature has built its company around fast turn-around time with free shipping

Me: Free shipping, huh? I love free stuff.

T-Shirt Creature: Yes. The Creature's high-quality shirts all come with free shipping within the lower 48 states. 

Me: How are you capturing your 'in the moment' statements?

T-Shirt Creature: The Creature puts itself out there. It dances. It socializes. It joins every dating website possible and interacts with the peoples. It listens. It immerses itself in a variety of cultures and socio-economic groups so that it can really understand different people. Essentially, it drinks a lot outside of its home.

Me: Wow. That sounds like a full-time job! And I thought I had accomplished something when I finished watching every season of Gilmore girls. Are all of your t-shirt quotes 'in the moment'?

T-Shirt Creature: Most of them are current and even ahead of trend. Yet, The Creature does appreciate some vintage sayings, such as the 80's and early 90's classic "Be Kind.... Rewind", which is on one of its personal favorite shirts. It also think that catch phrases and popular words are often in fashion on a two or three-decade loop.

Me: Elaborate, please.

T-Shirt Creature: Certain words like 'radical' and 'awesome' are perfect examples of expressions that have come in an out of popularity throughout the years, sort of like platform shoes... or Hillary Clinton, 

Me: Truth. What else inspires you? Are there other ways you have access to such current adages?

T-Shirt Creature: The Creature is a strong believer in giving back. It likes helping people, which is why it has an option for customers to enter their own sayings for consideration. If their entry is accepted into its collection, those winners are rewarded with a $5 bonus, which they can claim or donate to one of six selected charities. It's winning for everyone!

Me: That's radical. You're an awesome creature. I see you used my "Namaste, Motherf*ckers" slogan. I'd like my $5 to go to Save the Children.

T-Shirt Creature: Got it. The Creature believes it is not only important to run a good business, but also to be a good steward of the community. It also likes to reward people for having a sense of humor. The world needs more humor.

Me: Agreed. What else should the good people of the Internet know about The T-Shirt Creature and your shirts?

T-Shirt Creature: The standard shirts offered are American-made Gildan, or folks can upgrade to American Apparel. The Creature personally has many shirts from both its suppliers in its own collection and has worn and washed them for many years. Both brands have proven to be great shirts. 

Me: Can people order custom made shirts for family reunions or recreational groups from the T-Shirt Creature?

T-Shirt Creature: Absolutely. The Creature is all about creativity and custom design. It allows about a 2-week turnaround for those orders.

Me: Where does one wear your shirts?

T-Shirt Creature: To the park, to the bank, under your work suit, to bed, to coming out parties, to your mother-in-law's house, in da club, to the beach, in your car, on the bus, on the couch, on a first/last date, while making friends, to a BBQ, with or without pants. Essentially, anywhere.

Me: How does one best accessorize your t-shirts?

T-Shirt Creature: The Creature likes to accessorize with a great attitude and a smile (complete with good oral hygiene.) 

Me: Thank you and Namaste, Creature. I'll see you on Tinder. Or Grinder?  No, I won't. More likely I'll see you at the grocery store. I'll be the one in the "stop whining and plot revenge" shirt.



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Soon

About a year ago I read online that a blogger was looking for an illustrator for her children's book. I happened to know her. Well, I "knew" her in the online sense. It was the beautiful Jessica Watson from Four Plus an Angel and I Just Want to Pee Alone. We're totally facebook friends and co-authors and stuff. I was excited!

I eloquently commented, "Hi. I illustrate."

The match was made. She obviously couldn't resist my charm.

Jessica told me the subject of her book: a preemie's journey into life in the form of a bedtime story. Subject matter that is common, yet highly unwritten about in a children's book format. I was intrigued, to say the least.

Jessica sent me the text of her book titled Soon. The moment I read it, I was absolutely blown away. Every so often we have the pleasure of encountering words that affect us so deeply. Words that give us chills. Words that matter in this world. That is what Jessica had written. I knew that this book needed special attention because it was going to be important to so many people. The pressure was on to bring her beautiful story to life in pictures.

She and I worked together discussing the overall 'feel' of the story and decided upon simple watercolors with a slightly dreamy quality. Now, a year after that fateful facebook thread, I feel like we achieved or goal. We are both very excited for the public to get to take this book into their homes and hearts.

The book, Soon, is now available for purchase on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format. If you have a preemie in your life, you will adore this book. If you know of someone who has a preemie, this book is the perfect gift for them. We encourage you to read, share and love this story!

xxoo,
Johi



"What happens when a baby is born weeks or months before their due date? "Soon" takes the reader on a hopeful journey, honoring the fighting spirit of a preemie along the way. When you have a preemie there has never before been a sweet book to read to your children about the story of their early birth and homecoming. "Soon" fills this void by telling the story of a premature baby from birth to NICU to childhood in words a child can understand. Beautiful, realistic illustrations give a glimpse into the NICU world without overwhelming young children with too many tubes and wires. Families will treasure time spent turning the pages of "Soon" together and smiling with pride at how far they have come."