Category Archives: motherhood

Readers’ Favorite 5-star Review for Alice in Monologue Land

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Readers’ Favorite 5-star Review for Alice in Monologue Land

Below, find the amazing and wonderful review for Alice in Monologue Land http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Monologue-Land-Amy-Gettinger-ebook/dp/B00VVK8NFM that Readers’ Favorite said via email last summer that they had found no one to do. Guess this lovely lady did do a review in September, after all, and the email about it to me got lost in political spam. Well, I didn’t go hunting for Alice’s page on Readers’ Favorite until today, when I thought I’d bite the bullet and pay for a review. But to my surprise, here it is! A freebie! 5 Whole Stars!

FROM READERS’ FAVORITE

“Fun, fun, fun! That’s definitely how I would describe Alice in Monologue Land by author Amy Gettinger. following the story of Alice Chalmers, adjunct English professor, single mom, and basically all around stressed out woman. And when she’s ‘encouraged’ or, more aptly, ‘required’ to read a part in her campus’ upcoming “Venus Monologues,” things in her carefully orchestrated life start to fall apart. A coveted job opens up, but Alice is certain that the conservative selection committee would not appreciate her participation in the Venus Monologues. Her Dean pretty much forces her to continue with her participation though, and, resigned, she does so. It’s at practice for the monologues, that she meets the “Venus Warriors,” an interesting group of fearless college women who aren’t afraid to discuss or do just about anything. Throw in some special attention from not one, but three men interested in her and the fact that some of her female students have gone missing, and you’ve got yourself one heck of wild ride of a book.

I so enjoyed Alice in Monologue Land. This was an exceptional read and I read it from cover to cover in just a few days. Author Amy Gettinger has done a fantastic job in creating characters that are funny, intriguing and exciting, sometimes all at once. The story is truly laugh out loud funny at times, and in one scene I actually laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Alice in Monologue Land is a book that would be enjoyed by any reader who enjoys a book with a fun female lead, a book with a little mystery, a little suspense and a little romance all wrapped in one, or just a plain good book. I certainly hope that Amy Gettinger is working on her next novel in this same vein, because I, for one, will be eagerly waiting to read it!”

~ Tracy Slowiak for Readers’ Favorite

I am overjoyed! Thanks, Tracy, for reading and reviewing!!! Alice was meant for just your type of audience!

 

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The Coco’s Incident

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The halo of sweet golden curls surrounded the small, soft, alabaster face, but the wide blue eyes glinted with mischief and the toothy mouth had a maniacal grin. As he jumped up and down, laughing raucously, on the green vinyl booth seat in the local Coco’s Restaurant, Sarah wondered for the thousandth time from which side of the family these particularly vigorous genes had come. He was way more extroverted and confident than she, her engineer husband, and their other child put together. But this was the boy she had been assured was hers at the hospital nearly two years before.

“Sit down, Dougie,” she said, for the tenth time that morning. When would the food come? This was excruciating.

He sat, and she passed him another cracker, pushing wispy bangs off her forehead. The calm lasted for five seconds. Then he stood up on the booth seat again and clambered expertly up onto the back of it and sat down, short red corduroy legs dangling, face lit up and squealing with glee.

His four-year-old brother, Stevie, quietly stirred his water with his straw and made a mess with his cracker crumbs. Then he giggled, too.

Sarah was about to say something to Dougie when a waitress crossed the nearly-empty dining room, apron strings flying. “Excuse me, ma’am, but you need to keep him in his seat. He might fall.”

Sarah grimaced. “Sure.” Fuming, she got up to pull the toddler off the booth back and plop him on the booster seat. Again.

She was doing her best. She had always been the good child, had never challenged a rule in her life, yet this baby made her look irresponsible and lax as a parent. Dougie no longer fit into Coco’s wooden highchair, and nothing short of an elephant sitting on his chest would slow him down today. But wasn’t this supposed to be a family restaurant? Couldn’t she bring her older son here for a promised lunch out without being chastised by the crew fourteen times? And Whirlwind Dougie just had to come along.

Most of the mothers she knew refused to trade babysitting with her because he was such a hellion. Her stomach hurt like it always did from being caught out by someone else’s rules, especially those unposted ones. If they didn’t want children on the booth tops, why wasn’t there a sign? He really wasn’t hurting anything. Besides, her little Sherpa Boy could scale almost anything without falling, and often did, to her utter amazement.

Dougie popped up from the booster seat and, hands held high, hopped down off the booth to the carpet. “Gup down!”

“Get back in your seat, Dougie!”

He did, but he “gupped down” again twice more.

“Dougie, stop!”

Ignoring her pleas, Dougie raced around the room on his chubby little toddler legs, then ran off into the next dining room, which was currently dark and unoccupied. Able to see him through the window between the rooms and exhausted by his presence, Sarah let him stay in there a few minutes.

She turned to Stevie. “How was pre-school today?”

“Fine. Where’s Dougie?” He craned his neck and looked up over the seat back through the windows. “What’s he doing?”

Sarah wished she didn’t need to answer that. Little breaks from Dougie were like roses in a ragweed field. She tried to enjoy them fully. The food was finally delivered to the table. Stevie started on his burger with zeal, and Sarah thanked the waitress, then went to the other room to get the wild child. She found him sitting under a corner booth table in the dark, playing with napkins and silverware that he had grabbed off of the already-set tables in the silent room.

Kneeling, she took these away. “Don’t you want to come and eat?”

“No!”

“It looks good. Grilled cheese just like you like it.”

“No!”

She stood up and started walking back to the table. “Okay. Then you won’t get any French fries.”

He zoomed back to the table, climbed up, and stood on the seat, vacuuming up fries.

“Sit down, Dougie.” Sarah started to eat, hoping for a respite long enough to finish their meal. Ten minutes. That was all she really needed. Just ten minutes.

But after a few bites, Dougie said, “Gimme some lettuce.”

“You don’t like it,” said Stevie.

“Mom, I want lettuce.” Dougie looked earnest.

“He’s right,” Sarah said. “You hate it.”

Dougie pestered her over and over until she gave him a leaf to keep the peace. He still had it in his mouth when he flew out of the seat again and rocketed around the slightly more populated restaurant one more time.

Sarah raced after him as fast as it was polite for a woman in a denim mom-dress and sensible shoes to go. She caught up with him in front of a lone older woman in a booth. He took this moment to spit out the wet green wad of lettuce with a gagging motion of the tongue in full view of the woman.

Both women stared down. Yes, just what Coco’s needed to welcome its guests. Kids barfing up wads of slimy green stuff, like gross little frogs, on the carpet by each table.

Sarah grabbed a napkin and picked it up, not daring to meet the woman’s eyes, while Dougie ran off chortling and scampered up into another empty booth, climbing up its back to stand there on the conquered summit, all joyful good humor. This time, a manager came over and told Sarah to keep him from climbing the booths because their insurance did not cover falls in the dining room.

Her stomach tightened and her face reddened. Time to go.

Waiting for their ticket and some take-home boxes back at their table, Sarah had great trouble keeping hold of little Houdini. Too bad spanking was so out of fashion, she thought. Screaming at him wouldn’t have kept him from misbehaving, but would have made her feel a lot better. But she’d been taught never, ever to attract attention to herself, so she just wailed inside as she dragged her charges up front to the long, empty bench for people waiting to be seated.

Sarah pointed at the bench. “You guys sit here for just a minute.” She turned to the cash register to pay the bill.

It only took a minute for a girl to package the to-go cherry pie order that Stevie wanted, just enough time for giggling to start behind her. She turned to see her little angels both dancing on the bench and laughing like hyenas. Turning back to the cashier and looking for her Visa card, she tried not to notice the rising noise level, tuning it out like she so often did at home.

“Uh, Ma’am, they’re not allowed to stand up there on the bench like that,” said the man behind the register. As if this were news. Could anyone stand on anything in this damned place?

“Sorry.” She cringed and ushered the boys back to her side. “Stay here for one minute,” she snapped.

Dougie didn’t miss a beat. As soon as her pen was on the credit card slip, he was giggling off toward the restroom, little legs flying and curls bobbing angelically.

Sarah had had enough. Purse and pen clutched in one hand, she launched herself away from the cashier’s desk. In a couple of long strides, she caught up with Dougie and grabbed his hand and swung him in a neat arc about a foot off the ground back to where she had been standing. She stuck him between her knees, put a vise grip on a little hand, and growled, “Stay!” then proceeded to finish her signature.

From a nearby table, an older male, witness to the one-armed maneuver, stood up and said loud enough for all to hear, “Hey, lady. Never, EVER treat a child like that!!”

Sarah wanted to drop through the floor and let it close unceremoniously over her head.

Another man standing on her other side, waiting in line to pay his bill, answered the first guy. “Hey. Can’t you see she’s only trying to control him?”

Send me to a very deep, dark cave. Alone, she thought, as all the customer and staff eyes settled on her and judged her mothering skills.

She grabbed the boxes and tried to make a quick escape before Dougie could cause any more embarrassment, but he chose this moment to melt onto the floor in Coco’s entryway, refusing to leave the scene of his crimes. Sarah pulled at his arm again, but he wouldn’t budge. She didn’t dare drag him off the floor by his arm with this tough audience. So in the end, she had to pick up the twenty-eight-pound blob and carry him out to the car, her back aching all the way. She’d need ibuprofen and heat for two days to undo the physical damage. The emotional scars could take years.

She lectured the boys all the way home, but the lecture just bounced off the golden curls and made Stevie get quiet.

Later, on the phone, her mother said, “Your brother was just like that. I couldn’t take him anywhere until he was six.”

“Oh, no. The genetic connection.” Sarah sighed. “Wait. Now I remember Dad yelling and swearing at John for something. I was about three. But that would have made him eight.”

“Well, you were never like John.”

“But eight? He’ll be like this until he’s eight?” Sarah’s head swam. She saw double. Hadn’t she always been the good one, the well-behaved, level-headed one, to avoid her father’s wrath? And now she had to raise her brother’s double. Lord have mercy.

“Well, maybe he’ll come out of it sooner. By seven or so. But I wouldn’t go back to Coco’s any time soon, dear.”

Vicks, the Wonder Drug

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My mother was a nurse from 1941 to 1948, which made her the family resource on all health advice for many years. But along with her medical advice came quite a bit of homespun “wisdom.” When I was little, unhardened Jello was her answer to most stomach ailments, and Mexsana powder was what she put on all scrapes. And the magical balm of the cold sufferer was Vicks Vaporub.

Rubbing Vicks on people’s chests was basic practice for novices. When I had a cough or sore throat or laryngitis, my mother would slather Vicks on my neck at night before bed and then take an old sock and wrap my neck in it and secure it with a safety pin. Often, she’d have me put some in my nostrils (not recommended on the jar) to clear my sinuses. And sometimes she’d make me take a dollop of Vicks and swallow it whole, as a chaser. That part was pretty gruesome, but the throat wrap practice stuck with me through adulthood, and I have to admit to owning an old gray sock that I keep with a safety pin in it just for that purpose. Which I used for The Cough From Hell just this week.

But as she got older, Mom also used Vicks for other things, like toenail fungus. She said her cronies all did it and it worked. Yeah, right, Mom. She also put it on her feet to stop a cough. Well, I figured this was just a bunch of octogenarian legend on the order of her other ideas that we should unplug all appliances when not in use and that one must shred every bit of correspondence with one’s address on it. But this week, The Cough From Hell just would not quit. Don’t worry. It’s not pneumonia. It’s a shallow cough fueled by a drip and perpetuated by the irritation it causes in the bronchi. Been there before. Seen the movie. Bought the T-shirt.  Especially in 1994 when I was nine months pregnant and past my due date. Which is another story.

Anyway, this week I was so busy coughing and napping from the coughing that I couldn’t get to the doctor for some Tessalon perles, those magic cough stoppers. (I don’t like codeine—it makes me queasy.) So last night, at 7:30, I was exhausted and had been coughing hard all day—day 15 of this cold. Enough already. In an effort to get a real rest, I took out the old jar of Vicks (really old—dated 2011) and tried it. Not being that flexible in the low back, I got a spatula and scooped out a dollop of Vicks and spread it on the bottom of each foot, just like cake icing.

And my cough STOPPED. Like magic. No irritation, no fuss, just calm. And I slept like a baby for eight hours, getting up once, just once, all night. No drama, no diaphragm spasms, no dreams. With my feet all toasty in their Vicks socks. Of course, I woke up at 3:30 for the day, but what a way to sleep! I may use this from now on for sleep, even when I don’t have a cough.

 

 

College Information Night

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“But I’ve got homework.”

And please God, you’ll have a life well past these days of hogging my computer and leaving half-full glasses of lemonade all over my countertop.

I park the car and drag the tall dark innocent into the sweltering high school building swarming with smooth-skinned teenagers, representing hundreds of prescriptions of Retin-A and doxycycline. We waltz past tables manned by suits and loaded down with pamphlets. Join the army? The marines? Sail the maritime academy? I’d like to see my lazy landlubber on board a vessel, expected to heave to.

His friend wanders by, a boy math wizard with a head of dark curls, zeroing in on the Princeton table. He never had time to come over and play with my kid in grammar school, and I’m sure he’ll have a bright and fully scheduled future in the Ivy League.

A hunch of skinny shoulders, a bewildered look, and a palms up on my kid. “Uh, where do I– I don’t know—” That same painful, almost tearful, look as the time he was five and had a choice of Seven-Up and Coke at a birthday party, but couldn’t choose one because he’d never tasted either. My fault.

I say, “Follow him,” meaning the math wizard, and get a teenage glare. Monkey see, monkey do isn’t working. Was I supposed to prep for this?

I spy Linda with her Randall. “Where are you guys looking?”

“Don’t you have the book?” she says, “The big, fat book of colleges? No? Me neither. I got this one.” She taps a small, chunky tome. I glance inside. Where is Rutgers? Rice? Renssalaer Polytechnic? How much does Harvey Mudd cost? Does Cal Poly take students with B’s on their transcripts? How about Dartmouth? Could Mr. Lemonade Glass survive in frigid New Hampshire? It nearly killed his father.

This kid, who ran off without a backwards glance on his first day of pre-school at twelve months, is now glued to my side in the eager, buzzing, hot crowd. He’s not interested in any name or concept shouted out on the Ivy League labels. He’s at sea without a paddle or a maritime degree, trying to envision himself freed from high school drudgery and off onto his own chosen path of study. Or trying not to. The kid who can create wizard warriors galore in online games can’t imagine his size thirteens parked anywhere but in our closet. Then neither can I. After all, the high school junior can’t drive yet. He’s got no idea of setting himself a bedtime, and must still be cued to get up barely in time to make it to school. He forgets to eat if you let him.

The place is emptying out now. We cruise the rows of tables and I gather a few pamphlets and hand them to the man-child, who follows as obediently as my sun hat. He’ll leave the papers in the car when we get home and head straight for the computer and its magical, musical multitude of bloody strategy games.

Finally, I give up and we go home, where the prerequisites are a username and password, and the only tuition is the quarter docked from your allowance for forgetting to wash the three half-full lemonade glasses on the countertop.

Coco’s Will Never Be The Same

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The Coco’s Incident

The halo of sweet golden curls surrounded the small, soft, alabaster face, but the wide blue eyes glinted with mischief and the toothy mouth had a maniacal grin. As he jumped up and down, laughing raucously, on the green vinyl booth seat in the local Coco’s Restaurant, Sarah wondered for the thousandth time from which side of the family these particularly vigorous genes had come. He was way more extroverted and confident than she, her engineer husband, and their other child were put together. But this was the boy she had been assured was hers at the hospital nearly two years before.

“Sit down, Dougie,” she said, for the tenth time that morning. When would the food come? This was excruciating.

He sat, and she passed him another cracker, pushing wispy bangs off her forehead. The calm lasted for five seconds. Then he stood up on the booth seat again and clambered expertly up onto the back of it and sat down, short red corduroy legs dangling, face lit up and squealing with glee. His four-year-old brother, Stevie, quietly stirred his water with his straw and made a mess with his cracker crumbs. Then he giggled too.

Sarah was about to say something to Dougie when a waitress crossed the nearly-empty dining room, apron strings flying. “Excuse me, ma’am, but you need to keep him in his seat. He might fall.”

“Sure.” Sarah grimaced, and got up fuming to pull the toddler off the booth back and plop him on the booster seat.

She was doing her best. She had always been the good child, had never challenged a rule in her life, yet this baby made her look irresponsible and lax. Dougie no longer fit into Coco’s wooden highchair, and nothing short of an elephant sitting on his chest would slow him down today. But wasn’t this supposed to be a family restaurant? Couldn’t she bring her older son here for a promised lunch out without being chastised by the crew fourteen times? And Whirlwind Dougie just had to come along. Most of the mothers she knew refused to trade babysitting with her because he was such a hellion. Her stomach hurt like it always did when she had been caught out by someone else’s rules, especially those unposted ones. If they didn’t want children on the booth tops, why wasn’t there a sign? He really wasn’t hurting anything.  Besides, her little Sherpa Boy could scale almost anything without falling, and often did, to her amazement.

Dougie popped up from the booster seat and, hands held high, hopped down off the booth to the carpet, proclaiming, “Gup down!”

“Get back in your seat, Dougie!”

He did, but he “gupped down” again twice more.

“Dougie, stop!”

Ignoring her pleas, Dougie raced around the room on his chubby little toddler legs, then ran off into the next dining room, which was currently dark and unoccupied. Able to see him through the window between the rooms and exhausted by his presence, Sarah let him stay in there a few minutes. She turned to Stevie and asked, “How was pre-school today?”

“Fine. Where’s Dougie?” He craned his neck and looked up over the seat back through the windows. “What’s he doing?”

Sarah wished she didn’t need to answer that. Little breaks from Dougie were like roses in a field of ragweed. The food was finally delivered to the table. Stevie started on his burger with zeal, and Sarah thanked the waitress, then got up to get the wild child. She found him sitting under a corner booth table in the dark, playing with napkins and silverware that he had grabbed off of the already-set tables in the silent room. Kneeling, she took these away.

“Don’t you want to come and eat?”

“No!”

“It looks good. Grilled cheese just like you like it.”

“No!”

She stood up and started walking back to the table. “Okay. Then you won’t get any fries.”

He zoomed back to the table, climbed up, and vacuumed up fries.

Sarah relaxed now, and started to eat, hoping for a respite long enough to finish their meal. Ten minutes. That was all she really needed. Just ten.

But after a few bites, Dougie said, “Gimme some lettuce.”

“You don’t like it,” said Stevie.

“Mom, I want lettuce.” Dougie looked earnest.

“He’s right,” Sarah said. “You hate it.”

Dougie pestered her over and over until she gave him some to keep the peace. He still had it in his mouth when he flew out of the seat again and rocketed around the restaurant one more time. More people had recently been seated.

Sarah raced after him as fast as it was polite for a 38-year-old woman in a denim mom-dress and sensible shoes to go. She caught up with him in front of a lone older woman in a booth. He took this moment to spit out the wet green wad of lettuce with a gagging motion of the tongue in full view of the woman.

Both women stared down. Yes, just what Coco’s needed to welcome its guests. A wad of slimy green stuff, like a little frog, on the carpet by each table.

Sarah grabbed a napkin and picked it up, not daring to meet the woman’s eyes, while Dougie ran off chortling and scampered up into another empty booth, climbing up its back to stand there on the conquered summit, all glee and good humor. This time, a manager came over and told Sarah to keep him from climbing the booths because their insurance did not cover falls in the dining room.

Her stomach tightened and her face reddened. It was time to go.

Waiting for their ticket and some take-home boxes back at their table, Sarah had great trouble keeping hold of little Houdini. Too bad spanking was so out of fashion, she thought. Screaming at him wouldn’t have kept him from misbehaving, but would have made her feel a lot better. Too bad it would make her look even worse.

The cash register was directly across from a long, empty bench for people waiting to be seated. Sarah pointed at the bench. “You guys sit here for just a minute. I’ll be back.” And she went to pay the bill.

But while she waited a minute for the cherry pie to go that Stevie wanted, giggling started behind her. She turned to see her little angels were now both standing on the bench, laughing loudly. Facing the cashier and looking for her Visa card, she tried not to notice the rising noise level, tuning it out like she did so often at home.

“Uh, Ma’am, they’re not allowed to stand up there on the bench like that,” said the man behind the register. As if this were news. Could anyone stand on anything in this damned place?

“Sorry.” She cringed and ushered the boys back to her side. “Stay here for one minute,” she ordered them.

Dougie didn’t miss a beat. As soon as her pen was on the credit card slip, he was giggling off toward the restroom, little legs flying and curls bobbing angelically.

Sarah had had enough. Purse and pen clutched in one hand, she launched herself away from the cashier’s desk. In a couple of long strides, she caught up with Dougie and grabbed his hand and swung him in a neat arc about a foot off the ground back to where she had been standing. She stuck him between her knees, put a vise grip on a little hand, and growled, “Stay!” then proceeded to finish her signature.

From a nearby table, an older male, witness to the one-armed maneuver, stood up and said loud enough for all to hear, “Hey, lady. Never, EVER treat a child like that!!”

Sarah wanted to drop through the floor and let it close unceremoniously over her head.

Another man standing on her other side, waiting in line to pay his bill, said, “Hey. Can’t you see she’s only trying to control him?”

A very deep, dark cave, alone, she thought, as many customer and staff eyes settled on her and judged her mothering skills.

She grabbed the boxes and tried to make a quick escape before Dougie could cause any more embarrassment, but he now melted onto the floor in Coco’s entryway, refusing to leave the scene of his crimes. Sarah pulled at his arm again, but didn’t dare pull him off the floor by it with this tough audience. So in the end, she had to pick up the 28-pound blob and carry him out to the car, her back aching all the way. She’d need ibuprofen and heat for a two days to undo the physical damage. The emotional scars could take years.

She lectured the boys all the way home, but the lecture just bounced off the golden curls and made Stevie get quiet.

Later, on the phone, her mother said, “Your brother was just like that. I couldn’t take him anywhere until he was six.”

“Oh, no. The genetic connection.” Sarah sighed. “Wait. Now I remember Dad yelling and swearing at John for something. I was about three. But that would have made him eight.”

“Well you were never like John.”

“But eight? He’ll be like this until he’s eight?” Sarah’s head swam. She had always been the good one, to avoid her father’s wrath. And now she had to raise her brother’s double.

“Well, maybe he’ll come out of it sooner. By seven or so. But I wouldn’t go back to Coco’s any time soon, dear.”

Fired by the Peanut Gallery

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I sit in the garden, sweaty from a late morning walk, feet up on the chaise, ice pack on the bum knee. The hummingbirds come to the bright red feeder and buzz around and flit, then finally push their needle beaks through the yellow holes and sip. They wouldn’t drink any of our inferior red feeder liquid a few months ago when the flowers were thicker around. Now they arrive in twos, showing off red throats and adding the flitter of their wings to that of the fake butterfly hanging from the patio cover and the real butterflies over by the orange tree.

And I admit that I’m sad about the boy. He’s moving across town to go to college. Four miles away, but it seems like light years. He won’t be here in the morning making coffee or the afternoon baking a pizza. He won’t come in and pet the dogs just because. He won’t help water the garden two days late or slam his door when we ask him for help with laundry. His resistance to all things helpful will no longer have to be surmounted to get a thing done here. His shy smile will not be the rare thing sometimes earned. But maybe like the hummingbirds, he’ll realize after a while that our red feeder liquid, while not the most intoxicating, is not that bad, and he’ll come home and be recalcitrant again. Just for us.