So you think you can write

Next month I’m attending my first ever blogging/writing-related conference – the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Ohio. It’s an event for humor and human interest writers. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also a little unsure about the whole thing. There will be people at this event who get paid to write – for blogs, media, books. They are legit and profesh. I, on the other hand, have written more than 10 blog posts about a masked baby doll.

She's pretty much my third child at this point

She’s pretty much my third child at this point

A very large portion of my brain has been questioning this decision since the moment I registered. I think that’s why I’ve had a mild case of writing paralysis lately. I love to write and I love to laugh, but it’s hard to justify that as something worthy of a cross-country trip with travel expenses, not to mention 3+ days away from my family. Especially when I have never left my kids before and OMG I HAVE NEVER LEFT MY KIDS BEFORE.

But at this point I need to quit doubting myself and embrace reality because I bought a non-refundable plane ticket. Ain’t no stopping me now.

The main reason I’m going to the conference is to learn and be inspired. I tend to look at writing as my guilty pleasure. My secret pastime. My excuse to tell fart jokes on the internet.

But the truth is that I often enjoy writing silly stories more than I enjoyed my 13-year career. And I invested a lot of time, effort and energy in that career. So why not put a little effort into my writing? After all, maybe there’s a better way to tell a good fart joke?

Ok, so perhaps I’m a little confused about why exactly I’m going to this conference and what I will gain from it.

But I do know this – writing is and has always been a passion of mine, and I blog because it’s fun. Going to this conference feels indulgent and selfish and weird and exciting, but I’m not going to overthink it or beat myself up for being a small fish.

Instead I’m going to soak it all in, appreciate the opportunity to meet and learn from people with similar interests, savor the chance to get a full night of UNINTERRUPTED sleep, and enjoy meeting fellow bloggers in real life for the first time (including Leigh Ann, who convinced me to attend. If it sucks, it’s all her fault. I kid!).

And if I start to doubt my reasons for attending, I will remind myself that I do have at least one legitimate, non-Creepy Baby piece of writing to author.

A few months ago my mom mailed me an obituary she had cut out of the newspaper. It was for a woman named Margaret who passed away at the age of 92. I didn’t know Margaret and neither did my mother, but she sent it to me because she thought it was well-written and peppered with an appropriate touch of humor. She wanted me to see it for reference, to serve as an example of the tone and content she would like in her own obituary – which she has tasked me with writing.

To be clear – my mother is healthier than I am. She just has a deep appreciation for good writing, a morbid desire to plan ahead, and a disturbing fascination with tributes to dead strangers. I don’t foresee needing to pen her obituary anytime soon, but given how important it clearly is to her that I get it right when the time comes, I think it’s only prudent that I attend a workshop on ‘human interest’ writing.

So you see? I kind of owe it to my mother to attend so I don’t let her down. And because I couldn’t find a conference for obituary writers.

Pumpkin pushers

Pumpkins. What is their allure, anyway? I’m not referring to the pumpkin spice latte revolution, or the intoxicating effect of a pumpkin muffin, or blessed be, the coma-like bliss that follows a piece of pumpkin pie.

I’m talking about the pre-slaughtered pumpkin in its unedited form. The one we travel miles to procure at the nearest pumpkin sweatshop patch, where we fight the crowds to capture a single photograph of our precious children looking like Autumn Angels amidst a bunch of relatively tasteless vegetables (those delicious lattes and muffins AREN’T EVEN MADE FROM REAL PUMPKINS YOU KNOW).

And it works! Those photos never fail to please. Even the most rotten child would look like a saint sitting next to a pumpkin.

Look at this precious image:

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You would never know that my oldest daughter is actually in the midst of a Turd Ferguson-style temper tantrum and just told me I was the “worst mother ev-er.” All you see is tenderness, gentle souls, and pumpkins! Ahh pumpkins. Gourds of glee. It’s impossible to resist their enchanting ways.

Even Creepy Baby looks like an innocent cherub when flanked by pumpkins.

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I’m so pleased with this setup that I’m going to leave her on my doorstep like this until Christmas.

Sew what have you been up to?

HELP. My mother-in-law is coming to visit on Friday. It just occurred to me that I have not sewn anything – NOT. ONE. THING. – since my initial success with doll pants and a tiny toy bin. I can’t even remember how to thread my bobbin. (Is it just me, or do I sound kind of macho when I talk about my bobbin?)

At a minimum, I’ll dust off that $400 sewing machine she bought me so it doesn’t look quite so neglected. But I know she’ll want to see other signs of progress. I’m thinking I can throw a few fabric scraps on the floor, wear a measuring tape around my neck, and tell her I’m working on something “really big.”  I’ll also randomly measure everyone’s inseam because I specialize in awkward and overkill. Should be a great week.

That’s right, WEEK. Not a weekend. Not even a long weekend. No, no. We’re talking about an extended week here, people. The in-laws are flying right by the sacred one-week mark and staying two more days beyond that. Because why the hell not? So I’ve got 9 days of lies ahead of me. NINE DAYS.

I can’t really be held responsible for my actions during that amount of time. I can generally keep it together and make conversation for 4, 5, or even 6 days. But 9? What more is there to say? How many times can we talk about the garden or the weather? At some point we will HAVE to discuss my sewing.

I’m worried that in a moment of desperation, I’ll break down and show her Creepy Baby. “Hey, look what I made! It’s a ski mask that I cut out of a sock and put on a doll and then I take pictures of it and write about it on the internet and I need therapy.”

Poor Baby

My best friend meets my worst enemy

She’ll probably try to have me committed. Rightfully so. Rightfully sew.

Creepy Baby tries to be a trendsetter

Have you seen the babymugging meme? Ilana at the blog Mommy Shorts (who is incidentally one of my fave people to follow on Instagram) thought of it and it totally took off. Tons of people have now snapped pics of babies looking like they are in coffee mugs, posted them to Facebook or Instagram using the #babymugging hashtag, and it’s super fun and cute. It was even featured on the Today Show and Huffington Post. So clever!

I attempted to take one of my own kid.

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But she was kind of squirmy and hard to capture. Boy, it would be a lot easier if I could actually stick her inside the coffee mug, I thought. AhahahaWAIT.

And then it came to me. Like a beacon in the fog.

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I shall call it – #babymuggermugging. Talk about meta.

I don’t know about you guys, but I was thinking maybe I should make a #babymuggering hashtag for anyone who wants to create their own Creepy Baby.

“No, Amy,” said the Internet in collective unison, “We do not agree.”

It’s like a play on words, but a play on a hashtag. You know, because Creepy Baby already looks like a mugger thanks to her ski mask. So you don’t have to do the coffee mug part. Just the doll. With a mask. Because then you have a babymugger.

“Ohmygod, Amy. If you have to explain it that much, it is not funny. Nor is it a meme.”

All you have to do is cut eye holes in an old sock, stick it on a doll of your choosing, take a photo of it in a humorous or menacing position, and share the creepy joy!

“You really need to let the Creepy Baby thing go before you lose your remaining 3 readers.”

Don’t worry. I’m not expecting an overnight sensation. I’ll drag this one out for a while – maybe Halloween? – so you have plenty of time to perfect your ski mask.

“You are the worst blogger ever.”

In case you need inspiration, below are some of my favorite Creepy Baby photos as a reminder. You can post your photos with the #babymuggering hashtag on my Facebook page or Instagram. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

“We all stopped reading three paragraphs ago.”

Creepy Baby collage

#babymuggering – it’s the next big Internet sensation!

“No. It’s not.”

When you need a change of scenery

Last week we went to Texas. It was a nice break from our norm. We swam in an outdoor pool in 90 degree weather. My children will never know this experience where they live.

We saw scorpions. In the house. No thank you.

Oh – and I got the worst sleep of my life since the newborn days. Holy mother why do I bother trying to travel with children before they are old enough to hold their own in a big bed? My neck is still kinked from rocking a 25 lb+ child to sleep 3-4 times/night. Les Miserables.

On the upside I took a cool lizard photo to add to my ever-growing collection of critter pics.

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Hey National Geographic – call me maybe.

While it was nice to get away for a few days, I have an itch for a bigger travel experience. Sometimes I dream about packing up my family and moving to a foreign country to live for a while. I want my kids to experience a different culture. I want to look back and feel like we had a few solid adventures together as a family. I want an excuse to wear espadrilles.

But before I can entertain the idea any further, I am overwhelmed by how daunting the reality of that dream seems to be. We’d have to sell our house! Quit work! Find new work! And what about schools?

Nevermind. We’ll just stay put.

So I was fascinated when my friend, Erika, recently did this exact thing – but on a more flexible, short-term basis.

She was seeking a change of climate and perspective, and wanted to expose her kids to a new language and culture out of their comfort zones. She also wanted to start traveling with them at a young age so it wouldn’t seem so daunting later. Smart!

So she packed up her bags and her kids and headed to Big Corn Island off the east coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean to live for three months.

She’s there now, and I have been living vicariously through her amazing photos.

How did she do it? What are the costs?

She rents a house for $400/month. She pays a whopping $16/month for her kids to attend a private Baptist school. And they can take a taxi almost anywhere on the island for $1.

I don’t know why, but it never crossed my mind that you could do something like this without having to completely upend your life back home. She didn’t even have to leave her job – she is working remotely from there. Granted, she always works from home so that was probably easier to negotiate than most jobs, but hey – you never know if your boss will let you fly the coop for a bit if you don’t ask.

I just think the whole thing sounds dreamy, and I totally admire that she had the gumption to do it. Not to mention, what an enriching and educational experience for her kids.

She did mention that there is no hot water, she hand washes clothes in a bin in the backyard, and the language barrier can be bumpy to navigate at times.

But honestly – I rarely shower, I wear the same clothes every day, and the majority of my conversations are with a 16-month-old child who speaks gibberish. I have never been more well-suited for such an adventure.

Just in case I never get enough of my own gumption to travel beyond exotic Texas, my friend was kind enough to let me share her story and photos here. I was inspired and intrigued by the idea, and thought maybe someone else will be too. Plus I just love travel stories and photos – and her photos are gorgeous. If you ever need a photographer in the Montana area, check her out.

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Whoa whoa whoa. Let’s steer clear of the lizard pictures, ok, pal? I think we know who owns that territory.

While the sunshine and ocean pics are lovely, hands down the best photo she has taken is the one she posted on my Facebook page with the caption “Creepy Baby sighting in Nicaragua!”

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Holy hell if ever there were a baby in need of a ski mask, it’s that one. I’ll get right on it.