Monthly Archives: November 2011

Grammar Gal, too

First, I must be upfront. In this post, I’m stepping away from my traditional Mommy Tales to indulge another passion: writing and editing.

Next, I must confess my love for Grammar Girl and her aptly-chosen name, which I obviously can’t get out of my head while attempting a suitable title for this post. My apologies, with utmost respect.

But there is more than one “grammar person” out there, of that I am certain (excluding/including my own mother, to whom I owe so much). Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many writing blogs I keep getting sucked into each time I try to write. I have no idea how, but I stumbled upon this article the other day about a fellow grammarian’s secret desire and I wanted to shout, “Yes! Someone else!”

You see, you have no idea that I copy edit every. thing. I. read. everything I read.

Menus. Novels. Signs. Instructions. Newspaper articles. Magazine advertisements.

When I speak, I make mistakes. (I’ve even developed a stutter when I’m nervous, where did that come from?) When I write, I split infinitives. I change my tenses. I even (gasp!) end my sentences with a preposition, on occasion. (Which is more accepted than I once believed, I’m learning. But I will ALWAYS physically cringe anytime I hear, “Where’s the car at?” Argh.) I use the first-person voice when I blog, way. too. much.

But I really pride myself on finding typos. I admit, I have submitted comments on websites so the author can correct spelling errors (OK just once did I have that much nerve, but it was a professional article misspelling Procter & Gamble — any true Cincinnatian would have done the same).

I corrected the handout I received at a training session the other day, when someone typed, “Sunday, December 10” followed immediately by, “Sunday, December 11” — only one of those dates can be Sunday, right? Literally, scratched out the first “Sunday” and scribbled next to it “Saturday” for no one’s benefit but my own.

Also recently, I rewrote one of those dastardly facebook trends, correcting all the typos I could find before re-posting to my profile (which I “never” do, except in regards to my esteemed, late father). Speaking of … is “re-post” the correct spelling? Or is “repost” the preferred/accepted spelling now? Anyone?

(Actually, don’t even get me started on spelling and facebook. I still don’t know how I stop myself — especially those first couple months — from correcting grammar and/or spelling errors. I guess I realize on some level it would be just plain rude. Still I disappoint myself by allowing our unique English language to be manipulated like that. Just as I cringe — a little bit — each time I witness my very own thumbs texting “r u ok” instead of spelling out the words and ending my sentence with the correct punctuation. I hate to think of all the variations of our language that will take place in the next 20, 50, 100 years, all in the name of speed.)

The fact is, in a former life (to which I will affectionately refer as “BC: Before Children” — my tribute to you, Dad) I was paid (very little) to have a red pen in hand. I was paid to tighten content, correct grammar and circle misspellings. And I loved it.

I also learned the hard way — from our adviser, who read our college paper AFTER it was published each week, and pointed out any errors in reporting or editing. “Buses are not kisses, Kara,” he once wrote in red scrawl, for the whole staff to see. I remember that sting each time I pass a billboard on I-74 for a restaurant that advertises parking for “busses”. (And my poor husband probably hears about it each time, too. But our children will know!)

Garner vs. garnish. Ouch, that was an embarrassing lesson, also.

There were more. There are more. It’s tough to catch them all. That’s why magazines and papers have editors. That’s why “they” say to write one day, and edit the next. I hope someday to again be in a position where the focus is on tightening my own content, and correcting my grammar or misspellings. I hope to one day be in a position to help others, too.

Red pen-wielder or no, if you enjoyed the linked article above, then you might also like another gem I found when I was googling the correct spelling of misspelling, just to be sure.

Because I’m not perfect. But I do try.

I promise: I won’t judge you for your grammar, if you won’t judge me for my instinctual red pen quick-draw.

How many stuffed animals does one family need?

In a mega-frenzy of cleaning last week, I attempted to straighten up the “Stuffed Animal Corner” in the baby’s room.

Yes, my in-laws were coming for the weekend.
No, they didn’t say anything about the Stuffed Animal Corner.
Yes, the pyramid of animals in the corner has survived intact for almost six days.
Yes, this is quite amazing!

Which leads me to the following conclusion: maybe I don’t need to put a toy hammock on our Christmas list. Instead, maybe I need to start sneaking the plush lions and tigers and teddy bears out of the house, one by one, until we have a more manageable number of stuffed animals. Say, 20.

In the past, we have tried to reduce our stuffing. But either through nostalgia tempered with guilt (Aawwwwwww, this was her first bison…) or poor tactics (toddler witnessing the event, Yikes!) I haven’t been able to pull it off just yet.

In fact, when I was dusting off the wagon for trick-or-treating last night, I found a bag in the garage I had completely forgotten. It contained about a half dozen random stuffed animals we had previously removed from the playroom and girls’ rooms. I smirked to myself as I remembered stealthily retrieving “just a few” of the animals from the nearly full bag, until only the ones that had no emotional significance to either me or my children remained.

Yes, my name is Mama, and when it comes to repeated failed efforts to de-clutter our stuffed animals, I am the problem.

But I HAVE been able to slow the influx of our plushy doll and animal kingdom.

When well-intentioned friends and family travel to exotic locales, and consequently would like to bring us knick-knacks and soft toys from these incredible destinations, I request children’s books instead.

(Sidebar: we appreciate any time anyone thinks of us when you are away from home. But books are better than “dust-collectors” (as my aunt would say) or stuffed toys, of which we have too many!)

In fact, books are the perfect souvenir. The child receives a book they would not otherwise be exposed to — for example, Don’t Call Me Pig! A Javelina Story (Arizona), or Maddy: the Alaskan Moose (Alaska) or Deep in the Swamp (Louisiana).

A book (or two, or three) is the perfect size to fit in your suitcase. A book brings joy and with it, a love of learning new information about an otherwise unknown locale, to its recipient. (Seriously, javelinas? I learned so much.) And a book belongs on a bookshelf — so mama knows precisely where to put it.

If you’re looking for gift ideas for little ones (my apologies, but it is almost that season) bring them a book from a region to which you’ve traveled (or lived, if you’re traveling to bring the gift).

And now, if you’ll excuse me … I must go rearrange my kids’ plush toys … in alphabetical order.

PS — this post is incomplete without the teeny-tiniest of disclaimers. A certain retailer has nailed the market by selling a stuffed animal to ACCOMPANY the book, and donating the money to kids’ education. In my opinion, this is nothing short of awesome, and I completely support it. Personally, I will never get rid of our Lorax, our Cat (whom we gave a Cupcake), etc. (the stuffed animals, or the books).

PPS — For the record, we already have the On the Night You Were Born Tillman book (two copies, actually — one upstairs, one downstairs) but no polar bears. The book is outstanding. We don’t have any of her other books. Now if only said retailer also could provide a storage system for both!