* Thanks everyone!

You guys aren't making this easy for me!

I appreciate your compliments and well-wishes, and I know I'm deviating from the plan already by posting this, but I wanted to make my gratitude more visible than a comment. You guys are wonderful.

Anonymous particularly moved me, because my hope all along was that I might reach out to another parent with similar struggles.

It's not easy for me to quit because I really love doing this. I'm constantly composing blog posts in my head. I have tons of stuff I want to write about! But time - that cursed, finite refugee - always escapes me. There have been many amusing, brilliant, and informative posts left unwritten because I never found the time. There were just as many tasks and activities neglected because I stole some time to blog instead.

I wavered the longest over whether I should just cut back on posting to maybe just a monthly update or something, but I finally talked myself out of it. I know myself too well, and as long as this site still has a pulse I will post compulsively, good intentions be damned. And I really do need to stop, because I'm drowning in thingstodo that just aren't getting done. I can't have it all, it seems. Because there's no money in blogging, ya know? And money is evil, but life's tough without it.

I once wrote (in a letter to a stranger) that if I'm ever rich, it will be time that is stuffed in my pockets and under my mattress. I dream of having whole hours, days even, to call my own. I marvel at how people can possibly suffer from boredom in a world spiralling through infinity. It's a fool's affliction, boredom.

Speaking of boredom, next week is TV Turnoff Week. Kill your TV. May it stay dead forever. It's the ruin of our culture. If there's one thing I hope to instill in my children, it's that television rots your soul. Please, turn it off. I'm begging you.

But I digress, as is my habit. I'm off to build my little internet empire. I'm not going to delete this blog, because it's eternally free. So you can visit anytime you like and wax nostalgic over young Hercules. And please do drop in on my flickr photostream, particularly my Rio set, for the latest snapshots.

Thanks for reading! I will miss you!

* Fond Farewell

After much resistance, indecision, and procrastination, I have finally decided that it is time for me to abandon this blog. As much as I enjoy sharing my tales of Hercules with my little audience, it's time for me to focus my energies elsewhere.

It's just that time is my most scarce resource, and I've been re-examining how I use my time lately and I've been forced to admit that blogging simply isn't a productive use of my precious time. Blogging is not the sort of writing that I aspire to produce. It doesn't propel me closer to any of my goals. It's a handy way to update my friends and family of Herc's latest antics, indeed, but it's making me lazy when it comes to making real live phone calls and that's no good.

I also realized that a large part of blogging involves participation in a community. Bloggers are expected to start dialogues and converse with other bloggers who share your interests. So blogging isn't just about writing blog posts - you also have to read other blogs and comment on other people's posts, and hopefully they will reciprocate. At least that's what you do if you want your audience to expand beyond your friends and family. That's the part I've had the hardest time with. For a while I struggled with my desire to feel included. I courted mommy bloggers, and then feminist bloggers, but I really didn't expand my audience much in either community. To be fair, my efforts weren't very diligent because DAMN there are a bazillion blogs out there and that's a lot of reading and commenting! Lately I've started to feel like I've become caught up in a juvenile popularity contest and that's not at all the sort of dynamic I want to waste my energy on. The idea of a blogging community sounds nice, but in MY reality it has seemed more like a big echo chamber and I'm basically uninspired by it. Which in no way is intended to diminish other bloggers out there. This is just my personal perception.

I want to spend more time getting involved locally in my community. I want a community that involves personal interaction, and it's something I seriously need to work at and not only is blogging not helping me to achieve that, it's actually impeding me. So bon voyage, blogosphere. I hardly knew ye!

I am, however, keeping my photoblog. That is quicker, simpler, and frankly more fun. I think it has a lot do with the fact that photography has become my substitute for writing. Writing is a solitary, reclusive activity and it's probably not something I'm going to be able to pursue seriously until Hercules is grown and my life has achieved the balance I strive for. Photography, however, is portable and even social. My camera goes with me everywhere, and it's just as fun snapping kid pics as shooting street photography or still lifes(lives?). I really hope to do more portraiture, which goes hand in hand with my desire to overcome my shy nature and connect with people I don't know. So yes, haphazardous stays. And my flickr photostream will surely feature all my favorite Hercules shots as well. Maybe someday the flickr fairy will buy me a pro account, even!

So thanks to my faithful readers out there, you've all been wonderfully supportive of Hercules and I throughout our trials and tribulations. I really have enjoyed blogging, which is why it's taken me so long to make this decision. And I've truly enjoyed reading other blogs, too. I've learned a thing or two from other women out there and I hope they keep up the great work.

Hasta luego!

Renee May

* Brouhaha

Sorry about the disappearing act, it's just that work's been busy lately and blogging got put on the backburner. Hercules had an eventful week, too - two fights which ended with an in-school suspension yesterday.

Both fights started the same - it was bathroom time for the whole class and Herc's nemesis, we'll call him Perseus, thought it was top sport to leap out from behind the door just as Hercules was passing by and scare the crap out of him. Let it be known that young Hercules has no tolerance for such games and he promptly slapped/kicked (depending on which incident you're referring to) Perseus to show him just how he felt about it. Young Perseus, being of the same temperment, returned the gesture and before you could say "don't even think about it" it was an all-out brawl.

Apparently, Perseus thought the first fight was so much fun that he played the same trick two days later (they had a sub both days, incidentally, which was a key factor as well). Or maybe he thought that Hercules wouldn't be so rash the second time around and temper his reaction but he was badly mistaken. In fact, the second fight ended with the two of them trying to shove each other into one of the sinks.

Clearly our young warrior needs to get a sense of humor. The irony is, of course, that Hercules loves to scare the crap of passersby in much the same manner. This is not the only example of his hypocrisy. Just last weekend he was having a grand ol' time taunting his friends and stepbrothers with one of those dumb songs that involve marriage and baby carriages. But when the taunts were turned back on him, woe to the songsters! I spotted him just in time with a fistful of sticks and stones (ha!) ready to hurl at the offending parties. Good grief!

So we've been having a lot of discussions about better ways to handle these situations and I'm sure we're not done with it. Because Hercules has always been great at regurgitating the right answers, proper procedures, and other mantras of social norms. But in the heat of the moment all his well-rehearsed lines are abandoned in favor of action.

This week I've learned that meds are obviously not fool-proof. But that's okay, because I've always been relieved that the meds haven't deprogrammed Hercules and turned him into some unrecognizable robot child.

The other good news is that while emailing the principal and the vice principal concerning these incidents, they both were very kind and expressed a lot of appreciation for Hercules' progress overall, despite these minor setbacks. The principal in particular had a lot of nice things to say about him, and that's exactly what parents like me need to hear. Yes, your son had a hard day today but that doesn't make him a hopeless case or mean that he's destined for a life of crime. This may seem obvious to some people but anyone whose kid ever got pinned as a Problem Child knows exactly what I'm talking about, because some people really know how to make you feel like shit, when you're already feeling pretty damn shitty in the first place. So I'm thankful for even the smallest kindness at times like these.

And yeah, I know I'm supposed to write about my neighborhood some more and I will, but I still need to organize my thoughts on that one. And then find the time to write it all down - that's the catch, see. Maybe if Hercules can stay out of trouble for a few days, I'll have something for you next week.

Maybe;)

* My Neighborhood - Part 1

This is the first of many attempts on my part to flesh out my thoughts on my neighborhood and my place in it, and how to create a community that benefits everyone in it. Please feel free to point out my erroneous assumptions, biases, and character flaws.

I live in a low-income neighborhood. In this smallish college town, a low-income neighborhood is characterized by homes that are not owner-occupied but rentals, and furthermore are rented mostly to Section 8 tenants as opposed to college students. There are some other white people in my neighborhood (my next door neighbors are white) but none of them have children living at home. As far as I can tell, my children are the only white kids in the neighborhood. However, Hercules isn't exactly white, since he's half Hispanic (my stepkids are white as white can be), but since he's been raised around white people and pretty much removed from Hispanic culture (he's never seen his biological father), he's pretty white for a brown kid.

There is another boy of mixed race that used to come around fairly often. His mom is white and his father is black, but the father is in jail in another state(for pointing a gun at his mother's head - an announcement that created an awkward silence in our house). She's single but she has a black boyfriend. I met her at a school function and we talked for a while about the neighborhood and certain kids. That was last year sometime. Since then, I've had some problems with her son and he doesn't come around much anymore. But he's also much older than Hercules and I prefer that he spends time with kids closer to his age, in hopes that they might be less likely to pressure him into activities I don't approve of. I haven't approached that boy's mother regarding any of the problems I've had with him, just because I know she has her hands full already (she also has a 2-year old boy) and she gets a lot of bad reports from school. I know just what that's like and it really doesn't help to have one more person come around to tell you how rude and disrespectful your child is, can't you do something with that boy?

Drugs are also prevalent in my neighborhood. Not so much on my block, but the next block over has a lot of visible dealers that hang around. One man approached me in a car one day and offered me some ice. Hercules was standing right behind me. He was middle-aged and driving a nice car (which means: newer and nicer than mine) with a rosary hanging from the mirror. I was so shocked I didn't even know what to say.

My neighborhood is about one mile from downtown and just a few blocks away from at least two public housing projects, as well as the interstate - prime real estate for poor folks like me. We bought our house in 2004, and it's the first home I ever owned. I work near downtown on campus, and it was very important to me to be able to walk to work every day. That way I don't have to pay for parking ($18/mo they would take out of my paycheck) or gas, so it saves me money, it's good for the environment, provides daily exercise and lots of photo opportunities. It's not much of a house but the price was right. I'm afraid it was a short-sighted purchase, though, because we're already busting at the seams. Three bedrooms and 6 kids makes things pretty cozy. And I'll never buy another house without a basement. But I digress . . .

Both the houses on either side of me are owner occupied, as is the one across the street. The rest are mostly rentals. My neighbors to the west are an older white couple. They're sweet but a bit eccentric. At least, that's my judgment based on the three wooden crosses lit with track lighting in the front yard. But I'll give her credit - she's been very kind and generous to our family, having given us some furniture and a couple of really cool vintage bicycles. However, she's also the person most likely to call the cops on someone in the neighborhood and she has been known to alienate some people because of it. I've also learned that she and her husband are both very involved in various volunteer efforts to help the poor. They have a strong service ethic and I respect that aspect of their religion very much.

My other next door neighbor is a black lesbian single mother of two teenage kids, a girl and a boy. I believe her son just started college recently and is a very successful football player. She and my other next door neighbor are friends. She interests me quite a bit, but she's not very approachable. I've been told by a couple of people that she takes a long time to warm up to people, so I've tried not to take her cold shoulder personally or force myself on her. But judging by her bumper stickers, she and I have common political beliefs and I hope to get to know her better. I sometimes wonder if maybe she's like me in that she really doesn't know how to approach people she doesn't know, so she waits for people to come to her. I'm very much that way, and if she is too then we, or at least I, may have to work at it if we're going to become friends. This is an area I'd like to work on in myself. It is probably my biggest handicap when it comes to becoming involved in the local community and my neighborhood in particular.

The couple across the street from us who also own their home are black, but their children are all grown. They have at least one daughter with children who visits frequently. Their grandchildren are there often on weekends and Hercules has tried several times to befriend them, but he's been discouraged. This doesn't bother me because I think I understand their reasons (though I am assuming a lot). For one, their kids are younger and smaller than Hercules and they obviously prefer that their kids remain in their yard (which is fenced in), a policy I'm very sympathetic to. And since the kids don't leave the yard, Hercules would have to play with them over there, and they don't seem too keen on that idea, either, and frankly I can't blame them. I suspect that many of my neighbors are more than a little wary of my wild pack of unruly boys. I know for a fact that the white lady next door is because she often tells me how she's never been around boy children before and although their antics shock and terrify her, she's being educated. It took her a long time to get used to the fact that Hercules' favorite spot is high up in the tree out front. She's convinced he's going to meet his death on the sidewalk below.

So that's a pretty basic overview of my neighborhood. Next time I'll talk more about the kids that come around, and some that I don't want to come around, and my interactions with them. Stay tuned.

* Updates

I've just updated my two posts that I provide in the sidebar as the About this Blog and About Me and Hercules links. It needed to be done to reflect current events in our life.

* Nana and Papa have arrived!

Hurray! My mom and stepdad have left FL for good and they'll be staying with us until they find a house and a job and all that good stuff. Hercules is ecstatic to have his Papa around, to be sure. And I'm pretty psyched myself, because you don't really appreciate the value of family until you're a parent and 1200 miles away from your family support network. When I was single and childless, I didn't think twice about moving across the country and seeing my family (maybe) once a year. But after Hercules came along, that changed dramatically. Grandparents rock!

Not to mention the fact that I wouldn't be where I am today without their support. Nana and Papa took me in when I was pregnant, and Hercules was born in the middle of their living room. We lived there for the first two years of his life, until I was ready to go back to college and finish my degree. Thanks to Nana, Hercules wasn't in daycare until then, either, which is a luxury few single moms can relate to. Bless them both.

These are things I think about when I consider the topic of reproductive choice. Some people applaud my decision to keep my baby. Some members of my mother's family criticized her for taking me in, claiming I should have been left to deal with the consequences on my own, since I couldn't keep my legs shut. How's that for pro-life?

But my mom, bless her, has been down that road. She was a pregnant unwed mother once, and her family ostracized her. They forced her to give up the baby for adoption against her will. And after the baby was born and she returned home, no one ever spoke of it. Not a word. I can only imagine how she suffered then.

And I know that if my family had turned their backs on me, or if I didn't have a family to take me in when I was pregnant, I would not have kept my baby. I don't like abortion (does anyone?), but that wouldn't have stopped me from having one in my situation.

Normally I don't like to raise this topic around my family, because I know how they feel and they know how I feel and we agree to disagree, out of mutual respect and love for each other. I gave up trying to change their minds when my idealism still had the sheen of youth on it. But lately this issue has risen to the forefront in national politics and frankly the whole situation is depressing. I understand why people don't like abortion, I do. What I can't understand is how those people can deny the fact the making abortion illegal doesn't end abortion. It never did. It only takes away safe abortions. Women will still have abortions, but they will risk their lives to do so. That doesn't have to happen.

*Sigh* I'm having a hard time containing my diatribes lately. I've just about convinced myself to start a new blog. I find myself self-censoring too much because I know my family reads this and I don't want to alienate them. And yet I can't pretend that these things don't matter to me. This is who I am. Thankfully, I know they'll love me no matter what. But I have this terrible aversion to hurting people's feelings, which makes me a very poor radical mama. Actually, I wouldn't mind hurting most any conservatives' feelings, except when those people happen to be people I know and love and care about very much. So there it is.

I started this post with the intention of welcoming my mom and stepdad to my home, and somehow derailed onto abortion. That's what happens when I don't find time to blog enough. Multiple topics get thrown together in messy non sequitors. So, in order to be consistently erratic and nonsensical, here's a photo of Hercules getting in touch with his manhood this weekend, which I found rather endearing. He was so earnest!

Mechanic

* Scattered thoughts

It's been a busy week! Hercules has been on his best behavior at school lately. He had a field trip on Wednesday and returned with all-5's on his PRIDE report once again. This is a major testament to the wonders of medication. Just a few months ago I was required to accompany him on any field trips or he wasn't allowed to participate. Now he is not only allowed to go unchaperoned, he is earning rave reviews for behavior! GO HERCULES!

However, I do want to make one thing clear - although Hercules needed medication to achieve this, I don't think the medication deserves all the credit for this breakthrough. Because what the medication is showing everyone is that Hercules is and has always been a wonderful, sweet, enjoyable and loveable little boy. It's just that now he's able to suppress his most base impulses and let his best efforts shine forth. I always knew he had it in him, I just didn't know how to help him. I can't stop raving about how ecstatic I am now that we have found that help.

Yesterday, however, I kept Hercules home from school because he'd been up the night before puking his guts out, poor kid. What a mess. Ugh. That was NOT fun. So we both took the day off and Herc slept until 7:30. I'm pretty sure that's a record for him! I decided to skip his meds that day, since I wasn't sure he'd be able to keep anything down (which turned out to be good thinking) and besides, Hercules has always been very docile, cuddly, and subdued when he's sick. There's really no need for the meds, so we skipped it. And the day went very well. He was still throwing up that morning, but after that his food stayed down and he gained momentum throughout the day.

We had an unexpected guest for dinner last night, too. Some new kids have moved into the neighborhood, two boy cousins age 8 and 5 and they've been coming around quite a bit. They're polite and cooperative and I enjoy them a lot. Last night the younger one, D, knocked on our door and told me no one was home at his house and asked if he could come in. I questioned him a little, trying to figure out the situation. Apparently he had been at the Optimist Club around the corner and when he returned, his house was locked and no one was there. So I wrote a note with our address on it, letting his mom know where he was when she got home, and had him stick to his front door (or whichever door they use to get in the house). He spent the rest of the evening with us and seemed to enjoy the chili quite a bit (I didn't tell him it had tofu in it;).

He joined Rio and I for storytime (we just started Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and then it was bedtime for Rio. Once I got Rio tucked in, I had D check if his mom was home yet. He looked down the street and saw her car in the driveway and went home happy.

I wonder if she saw my note? I wish she would have come to get him when she got home, but she didn't. These things trouble me. I've been struggling a lot lately with the dynamics in my neighborhood and it's forcing me to take a hard look at my feelings on race and class and socioeconomics and the like. Mostly I want to DO something but I have no idea where to begin. My attempts at befriending certain moms have failed, and I can't help but wonder if they reject me because I'm white? Because they don't perceive me as a peer? Which is not to say that they perceive me as "above" them or "below" them, but just different and so perhaps they don't feel like we can relate to each other. I have to admit I have the same doubts, but I want to try. But when I am rejected, I wonder if I'm offending them by even trying?

I hate not doing something because I'm afraid of offending someone, when my intentions are good. I really want to bridge this divide.

Meanwhile, I just keep on doing what I do - welcoming their kids into my house as much as possible. Since we keep early hours during the week, they don't come around much on school nights. But on weekends when Pa's kids are with us, it's not unusual for us to have 10 or 11 kids at our house, especially when the weather's nice. As my next door neighbor says, they swarm to my house like bees to a honeypot!

I really want to flesh out more of my thoughts on my neighborhood, but I really haven't had the time to do so and I'm not sure I'm going to find it anytime soon. I've also been seriously considering retiring this blog and starting a new one. I feel confined to mommy topics by this one, and there's a lot more I'd like to write about. There's always lots of things I WANT to write about, but never enough time. Which makes me think that starting a new blog is a very unrealistic idea. We'll see. My indecision will likely stall me for a few more weeks, if not longer:) Stay tuned!

* Our leprechaun is famous!

He's in the newspaper!

* Hooray for Hercules!

He passed his belt test in Tae Kwon Do yesterday with flying colors! So he has now officially earned his yellow belt. That means he's moved up two belt ranks in exactly one year. I think that's great progress!

Belt testing is always an interesting experience. Hercules was well-prepared but visibly nervous that morning. But he did great when his turn came around. His instructors praised his pattern and that gave him a real boost. At the end when it was time for breaking (as in the breaking of wood), that's when Hercules really had his chance to shine. Even though they never actually practice breaking in his class (because the younger kids aren't required to pass this part of the test), everyone gets a chance to try it during the test. Everyone ahead of Hercules had a hard time with their break, and a couple of kids weren't able to do it. Keep in mind that they were older but also of a higher belt rank, so the kick they were expected to use for their break was a difficult one. Anyway, when it came around to Hercules' turn, he got up to do a sidekick. As he was setting up his position for the kick, the instructor came around from the judges' table and asked Herc to face the class so they could all see his form - which was perfect. Then the instructor said, "Watch, he'll get it on the first try." And SNAP! He did!

I tried to get a photo but Hercules was too fast and it was all over before I could even click the shutter.

He also made me very proud during the step-sparring portion of the test. For this part, two students face off for a specific series of kicks and punches which are supposed to demonstrate form and control - no contact or force. Hercules had practiced this a lot in class and did a great job. In class his sparring partner is a girl that's older and taller than he is, but during the test he was paired with some younger and smaller boys that had the same belt rank. They're also in a different class for younger kids (Herc's old class) and I don't think they had practiced as much. So when they messed up, Hercules would very patiently correct their form or show them the proper sequence. I found that very endearing:)

Congratulations to Hercules the Yellow Belt!