musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “June, 2009”

Spontaneity junkie

When I head out to the garden patches to water in the mornings, my fifteen month old daughter usually stays on or close to the little deck off the house while I drag the hose around yard and arc a spray at the veggies and flowers. She has a very observe first, leap in later once I’ve figured this whole scenario out personality. Her little arched brows and big brown unblinking eyes take it all in, two-fingers firmly in mouth, and sucked on even harder when she’s really considering something of importance. I swear she’s taking notes when I hear the squidgy little rhythm from her.

Lately however, she has been branching out. She follows me as I drag the hose around the yard. Slowly over the course of the past week, she has been encroaching closer into the mouth of the hose’s domain, until yesterday when she toddled right past me and reached up into the stream grinning and giggling giddily.

She is born in the heart of Aries, and several analyses I’ve read pretty much label her a spontaneity junkie. I’m beginning to believe it. She is a thrill seeker, loving to be tossed into the air, swung upside down, and apparently now, doused with a million sparkles of watery jet stream…

Just don’t approach her too quickly when you see us. And please don’t repeat the constantly said “those two fingers sure must taste good!” either, and expect to walk away unscathed, well verbally anyway. I’ve heard it too much for a lifetime already, thank you very much.

Ugh – on a stick

I just spent all morning and some of last night working on a post for the blog that when i went to copy and paste from my Word doc, disappeared completely. this is just an example of the weirdness that happens when i am around computers, or pretty much anything that uses an electro-magnetic field. I was able to go back and find an earlier version of the document that contained approximately half of the unduplicatable post which was about the writing process in progress, as it unfolded. so following is what is still available of all the work i put into the piece . Please note that while I am completely and utterly miffed about all the work lost, i am please that i seem to have the basis of a story including background notes on all characters involved for a future short story, that i hope to keep the engine running on this week and finish a draft of. also please note that Laura is already not Laura but Deirdre, called Dee. and the girl’s name is Dahlia.

What’s in a name

When I write fiction, most of the fun I have is in naming characters. Many times, the story unfolds from the name. Enough time has passed, while I wait for readers to get back to me with their critical thoughts of my children’s novel manuscript, I feel names and characters growing in the back of my mind and wanting to push through to the front and onto paper. I also have a big baby names book which I use in referencing names to be sure I have the right character in the name’s origins and meanings as I want to convey in the character. Names are funny things though, and while a name has a particular etymological meaning, it also has a cultural and personal meaning. An Elizabeth is a ‘gift from God” a Betty, nickname derived from Elizabeth, however is a friendly outgoing older woman, grandma or not. Elizabeth is old fashioned, Libby is sweet, or a can of vegetables. Beth is straightforward or a KISS ballad, Liz is forthcoming, Eliza, artistic, Lizzie might be spastic, or at least energetic and makes me think of the old band, Thin Lizzy. Elizabeth can be dignified or snotty or shy, depending upon associations the public has or personally people I’ve known. Growing up when I did, there were many, and typically they weren’t all alike. But Elizabeth is a special kind of name, so prevalent and so many derivations and nicknames that it becomes very individual depending upon the person bearing it.. So, to start this blog, Elizabeth may not be the best example.

Let’s start from another angle. I have my big fat baby name book out. I have an idea: a boy, a girl, a young woman, an old man and a room. The room is in the grandfather’s house and contains a tatty old sofa, dim amber light emanates from a dark lampshade. There’s a dark window, so it’s night. Otherwise, I have to come up with names to fill in who they are, why they are sitting there and what is the crux of the situation, the story comes from there. but first I need names.

Let’s start with the boy. I flip open my big fat book to the back half, where the boys’ names are, and land in E. I don’t feel Edward, first E name that pops to mind when I notice I’m in E. I look down, peruse a little, nothing makes me pause until I hit Etienne. French name for Stephen which means ‘crowned’. This to me gives a sense of privilege, and maybe a bit of a delicate nature for being privileged, sheltered, and he’s probably blond. Well that doesn’t really fit with the tatty old sofa of the grandfather. What’s the least Etienne name I can think of off the top of my head? Walter comes to mind. Look it up: two origins: from German it means ‘army ruler, general’; from English it means ‘woodsman’ – both very strong meanings a general, a man wielding an axe, but Walter has a cultural connotation probably largely from the Walter Mitty character from James Thurber’s story of the imaginative but put-upon unsuccessful guy. Walter has a bit of a comical appeal, but a bit of sadness attached to it. Maybe the kid is named after his grandfather, as it’s a traditional, older name. You don’t hear Walter in kids much these days when so many Aidens, Michaels, Ethans abound. Although Michael is a perennial much like Elizabeth. But I’m getting offtrack.

So the boy’s name is Walter, and now apparently, so is the grandfather, but we’ll call him Walt, he’s a good old guy, probably fought in World War II or Korea. If that’s the case, then I don’t think our young Walter is very young, as more likely his grandfather would have fought in Vietnam, but then, I’m back to Walter is an older name than that generation, so Walter is a later in life grandson to Walt, born to a youngest child of his, later in her life. Aha. Now we have the youngish woman, Walt’s daughter, or daughter-in-law. HHmmm. Ok not there yet. Sorry about al the background, but this is really how I go about knowing what’s happening with this particularly set of characters. Okay, I’m starting to see, a single scene situation developing here, not really a novel, probably a short story, could be a play. Leaning toward short story. Are they gathered in grief? Okay, back to the names, that’ll give me a little more to go on. So the woman, well she’s a bit younger than I am, and maybe Walter is about my son K’s age, or a little younger. Okay he’s 12. Closer to my son S’s age. That seems to fit. So if she’s a little younger than me, but her father, okay, it’s developiong, that she is Walt’s daughter, not daughter-in-law, then she wouldn’t likely be one of the overly popular names of my generation like mine, Cathy/Kathy, Debbie, Suzy, Laurie, there was a fixation on cutifying names when I was coming up, but wait, I think she could be a Laura. Ok, consult book:

and after posting it then going through a final read through, i realized i had a lot of other editing in there than what you see above. like connotations of Eliza Doolittle ffrom My fair Lady…

I went out to the garden and what did I see…

Little tomatoes turning bright red

bigger tomatoes growing so big.

Loads of green bean blossoms
transforming to beans,

and one yellow squash peeking out from beneath.

The hibiscus I thought to be dead
has awakened to raise her beautiful head.

My rhymes may be juvie,
but my heart skips a beat.
I can’t wait to taste
all the homegrown treats.

My camera is wonky,
my mother-in-law’s ok.
Wish one wasn’t broken,
and the other had macro.
If either one worked well
these pics would be boffo.

Father’s Day

Our Father’s Day started with breakfast in bed for Honey. He stayed upstairs cuddling and playing with Baby C in bed while I got to making eggs and waffles and coffee. The boys and I brought up breakfast and wished him Happy Father’s Day, opening cards and all.

We took a while to get the day going for fun, but finally we drove up to Water Country even though it was starting to look like the thunderstorm threat would come true. This was the first time we’d all gone up, and of the three adults in the car, we all assumed someone else knew the way, and no one printed online directions. Thankfully, we had a general idea where it was, but we still drove around in circles all swearing at each other for a good bit while the boys got mad in the back of the van, S holding Honey ‘personally responsible’ if we never arrived, and C was fighting her car seat nap. Needless to say, the ride up was not fun. It would have been helpful if the road signs were as clear for that tourist trap as they were for the ones neighboring it, Busch Gardens and the Historic Triangle of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, and Yorktown Victory Center.

Anyway, we had fun. Water play is always good on a hot summer day. A small tip: if you’re in close enough vicinity that you think you’d like to go to Busch and Water Country more than once over the season, go ahead and get the season pass combo for both. It doesn’t cost much more than a day pass and gives you endless fun for the whole summer through Halloween. It was clear at the end of our visit that we wanted to come back. Three o’clock in the afternoon is definitely too late to arrive and enjoy more than three rides without pressure to do more.

There is a longstanding tradition in my family anyway, that Dad grills on Father’s Day. I have no idea if this was an established tradition in my husband’s family, but I put him up to it, anyway. He likes grilling and it’s fast for when you come home around seven thirty with everyone hungry and tired. Thankfully I had planned it ahead of time, and had in-season asparagus that I packed in foil with lemon juice, butter and dill to throw on with the veggie burgers and hot dogs. This is one area we differ. I have been vegetarian my whole adult life. My husband loves his hamburgers and hot dogs. Never the twain shall meet.

Of course, Honey and I rounded out the night watching the latest episode of True Blood, juicy as ever, but we actually turned in shortly after. Thankfully, Baby C slept in her crib until the approach of five in the morning. So we all got a relatively decent night’s sleep for a change. All in all, Sunday was a relaxing and fun day.

S, the comic phenom

During lunch the other day, as I fed C in the kitchen and ate leftovers at the counter, S inquired from the dining room where he was reading one of many Calvin & Hobbes compendiums,

“Mom, how come real life doesn’t have outlines?”

This is the punchline all on its own, but I answered him, “It does. They’re just not as thick, so you can only see them depending upon the light.”

I must add he has an amazing talent for writing and drawing comics himself.

Three Years and counting

Honey and I have now been married for three years.

They’ve been a pretty crazy three years, too. We packed up and moved within three days of the wedding, dragging the van behind the moving truck, where we sat, with wonky a/c and my cat between us in her carrier on the bench seat of the rent-a-truck in school-just-let-out traffic, half-way down the East Coast.

But getting back to the wedding: we pretty much did it all ourselves on the cheap and we considered that the boys were also getting married with us. We stood on grass, overlooking Long Island Sound in West Haven, CT, and said our vows in front of mostly family, and in that, mostly his, and a few select friends. A lovely, low key dusk wedding, in which K gave me away and S was the ring bearer. He took his job very seriously which made everyone giggle. He practiced the proper wedding walk, and when it came down to it, he did it precisely and determinedly. K forgot to say his line to give me away and I had to elbow him and tell him that was his cue. Then he said, “What?” More giggles. I was so concerned about how S would pull off his part, I never had K practice his line. I think I told him what to say like twice before the wedding.

We had a low key reception, both my parents gave toasts. My friend Joe, Honey’s friend Mike and cousin Arnie gave toasts, and we ate. Whole families were invited since the boys were a big part of it all, so many of Honey’s little cousins and my niece and nephews and our friends who have kids’ kids were all there. The caterer sent triple the food we ordered, charged us less than the original quote, and the cake was pretty and delicious.

The boys have grown so much, and the time hardly seems to have passed. Yet we have a beautiful toddler together now, too. Is this the perspective that marrying at forty gives? The rest of life speeds by so fast, in the blink of an eye, it’s suddenly three very full years later. And though we bicker, we also still laugh and cuddle, pinch or slap each other’s heinies in the kitchen, and generally embarrass the kids with our affection. Sometimes we seem to speak two completely separate languages, and other times we say exactly the same thing at the same time, and always give a sliding five when we do.

Honey, I love you. Happy Anniversary. I’m glad we’re in this together.

photo: Joe Gallo

Sisyphus ain’t got nothing on me.

Saturday, I discovered it is possible to drown in a mountain – a mountain of laundry.

I usually do four-six loads on Mondays, then another two-three on Thursdays, but I’ve been getting a little lazy and my back has been bugging me from weeding the garden so I put it off this week and suffered near suffocation in the mountain ranges of dirty in the garage then clean in the family room, furniture buried in unfolded and folded stacks by family member. And the sheets. That’s right, the entire household of anything fabric related was run through the wringer – which thankfully is a bit more modern than that. If I had to do laundry through a washboard and wringer or beat it on rocks, I would definitely have opted for moving even farther south than I have and done away with clothes altogether. I would have found my own private island in the middle of the South Pacific and sailed my family off to be raised to run around in loin clothes. No, leaves would be even better, so easy to recycle. Hmm, disposable clothes, must run patent that!

In general, I really hate leaving any housework at all for the weekends, preferring to keep the weekends as open range for garden and yard tending – deluxe variety, or just family together time and maybe the rare date with Honey. It’s summer, the beach is a necessity for me, if I haven’t already mentioned, which I’m sure I have. I find nothing more relaxing and satisfying than to let the boys loose to the water and sand, sit back and make sure the riptide doesn’t take them out to sea or too far up the beach, and let the ocean breeze wash over me…

Okay I’m fantasizing again, because instead of spending Saturday washing my cares away on my own private island or with the sand at the shore, I started the day scrubbing down the neglected bathroom I share with three increasingly large males, and one baby girl and her baby tub, etc. Then I moved onto the laundry from h-e-double-hockey-sticks.

Where do all these clothes come from? It’s summer in Virginia, not winter in Massachusetts. We’re not wearing layers against the weather, mostly we’re not even wearing full-length pants! Honestly, if laundry for a family of five (mil does her own and frankly this week, quite a bit of the baby’s) is always like this, I’ll be waving from below the pile for the next umpteen years…

Stop by sometime and dig me out to take me out for cosmos…

Up, up and away…

I went in with my formulaic doubts, but loved every minute of Up.

It has a great love story, a huge sense of adventure, really neat characters, and fun little details my toddler girl laughed at.

My teen boy can be quoted saying “Doug was awesome!”

My 10 year old was enraptured. Asked his favorite thing about Up, his answer was “The irreverent humor throughout! Hehehe!”

I haven’t cried that much in a movie since well, it’s been a little while, and I am hormonal while nursing toddler and perimenopausal. It was tear-jerky in several different ways, but I didn’t feel conned into the tear-jerkiness. Granted, conning me in tear–jerk is easy, but did not apply here. I laughed out loud throughout, too.

I’ll tell you, I want to blow up a million balloons, attach them to my house and go on a grand adventure to South America.

And yes, Doug was awesome.

The soundtrack was excellent, too. The CGI rain was extremely realistic and other aspects of the CGI were wonderfully full of character. I was mesmerized by the details they managed to make so realistic. That’s right, no matter how much I can be transported in a movie, there is always that Art of Film student viewer watching from a different part of my brain. Excellent story, too. Love the kid’s crisis of faith moment. Well done, Disney-Pixar. And the opening short is cute, too.

I will add that on the ride home my teen said he was surprised that a G movie would be that brutal. I had to think about that until I asked what he meant. “All the blood in that scene where he hit the guy with the cane.” I pointed out that Fredrickson’s reaction after the incident was full of remorse and fear that he had hurt the guy unduly, therefore giving a good lesson in keeping control of your reactions. K thought there was a lot of blood in the scene. I didn’t think it was much at all. However, keep in mind that I have worked a lot of playground duty and am highly aware of just how much a minor head wound can bleed. In the movie, by comparison, not much blood at all.

Words with K

As a writer, I am fascinated with the way words play in the mouth, their timbre and color, the way they change the air and mood of a room quickly, just by being spoken. Some of it is the meaning behind them, some of it is just the pure sound.

Take words with the letter K, especially in combination with L or short I, or hallelujah when you put them all together, tickle, pickle, oo da ickle snookums, even nickel. Comedians know this to be true. Minus slapstick, the next thing to make people laugh is language, especially words with K.

Alas, there were copyright restrictions on an astounding dialogue on exactly this topic between George Burns and Walter Matthau that prevented my sharing it with you via video. Instead I will recommend one of the funniest comedies ever to hit the screen. Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, 1975.

It’s worth renting, but I would go so far as to purchase for my permanent collection. In fact, I’m off to do so! It really tickles the funnybone. (so I’m not a comedian, but I can try!)

If only the camera weren’t on the fritz

Yesterday, S came in from his last day of school and announced, “Finally! It’s summer! I finally get some peace and quiet to myself!” After a little time up in his room listening to music and who knows what else he was up to, he came back down and was ready to join the rest of us.

If only the camera weren’t on the fritz, I would have some really great shots of S, C, and the dog, Lucy playing together in the backyard. The photos would be full of color even though the past two days were relatively overcast. Blue jeans, red shirt, yellow shirt, green grass, black dog, long legs, cutoff shorts, bare feet, big smiles, white ball, graying brown fence.

Then I realized this was the perfect moment to just sit back in the beach chair, grass between my toes, and enjoy my son and daughter playing together with the dog. I so rarely do that. Sit back, not interfere, let S interact with someone else without directing him how to interact.

Then S plunked C on the trampoline. And then S got on the trampoline himself and started to bounce. And then I watched C’s head ping forward and back in a toddler whiplash, and I couldn’t say be careful enough. She really didn’t care, the harder he bounced her the more she laughed. So I kept reining it in, and S kept listening really well and playing with his sister and making her laugh.

Then S wanted to swing, and C toddled over to swing with him. We put her in the baby swing, buckled her in. S got in the swing to the left, I got in the swing to right, and all three of us reached for the sky. Lucy climbed up the steps to the landing of the playset, covered in wisteria, and kept watch over the fence while we swung, pink tongue panting as she panned her view across the neighborhood. C started to suck her fingers and look ready for a nap. Back inside, she fell asleep easily after a great playful afternoon with the breeze blowing her curls around.

What a beautiful day.

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