musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “July, 2009”

Goodbye, Hello..

I’m going off-grid for a bit.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back to tell the tales.

In the meantime, take time to smell the roses.

Because they are stunning, layers of petals, layers of scent.

This too shall end…

I’m a Capricorn and I’m a parent. Capricorns are known for their penchant to give advice, and I have this penchant in spades. Being a parent, of course I give parenting advice all along, whether I really know what I’m talking about or not, but I’ve learned a few things over the years, including in the business of education pretty much since I left college. Kids are what I do. I even babysat from the time I was eleven years old. So if I know anything, it’s kids. Or to be more precise and professional about it, I know child development. As a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I know child development intimately, and what it looks like when it is skewed. Small advice on that, trust your instincts, mom. If you think something isn’t quite right, tell your pediatrician and don’t let him or her give you the “oh, it’ll all even out eventually” speech. Get to the specialists, get the testing. If your kid is ok, it’ll show. If not, early intervention is the key to your child’s success.

But that is a topic for another day.

Today’s spouting of advice is to let you know, whatever you are experiencing as a parent will end eventually. This phase of development will end, whether it is the constant demand of a newborn that exhausts you all hours of the day and night, the toddler exploration that drives every tiny piece of muck from the floor into her mouth or the destruction of your home environment in ways you never imagined possible, the I wants and whines of a preschooler to a preteen or the back talk and eye rolls of your pre-teen to teen.

The nursing that seems to suck the life out of you will end. The nursing that gives the special closeness you never dreamed possible will end.

The constant curiosity and amazement with everything around him will end. The nice spitty sucked fingers in the outlet guaranteed to give a charge will end.

The exuberant jumping on or off the sofa will end. The intense focus on dinosaurs, legos, drawing will end. Well, maybe not, you may have an artist, builder, archeologist or Olympian long jumper on your hands, but what an incredible place to start.

The eye rolls and flip flop of hormonal emotions, the sneaking and secrecy, intense friendships and heart pulled deeply in any direction away from you will end. So will the late night or car ride talks when you have your teen alone. Those times when you’ll get a glimpse of this young man or woman and who they’ll be, how they are likely to handle the world on their own, and whether or not you will think, alright, they’ll be okay, or have to let go even if you think they won’t be okay. Then hope they’ll at least be alright, eventually.

In every phase of childhood and parenthood, you and your child will rise to meet each other, negotiate the constantly shifting sands of your landscape together to rise into an adult. A day will come when the constant aggravation of his climbing the stairs when the gate is undone, or opening the kitchen drawers or inserting paper or bologna or puzzle pieces into the VCR, DVD, Wii slot will become family lore to share and look back on wistfully or in hysteria. Remember the time Junior jumped off the garage roof and broke one wrist and sprained the other? Yea, that was hysterical! And then he’d ride his bike around the neighborhood no handed, cast and splint up in surrender! Remember the time the police brought Junior home because he was riding his bike around town center at midnight? Yea, what was he, twelve? Yea, yea! Remember the time Suzy smeared poop all over her bedroom wall by her crib? Hahaha!

The seemingly impossible to survive times are survived, and eventually reflected upon or laughed about. But don’t forget to mark and hold the good moments, too. The intimate moments bed snuggling with the newborn, their sweet, warm, musky smell, their translucent skin and peaceful sleep. Don’t forget to hold the full–out preschooler laughs over farts at the dinner table, the spaghetti covered face, the midnight bad dream slip into your bed by the nine year old. The sofa snuggle and popcorn on movie night. The way the sunlight hits her hair in the off-shore beach breeze, the scent of salt and sunscreen on his skin, snow angels and snowball fights. The moment your teen looks at you in one of those deep conversations that appear to be on the surface, and says, only with his eyes, yea, I get it, even when the rest of his body language says otherwise.

Don’t forget the milestones and everything in between, because all of it will come back to mind, rise to the surface and you’ll wonder when that phase ended, when the sands shifted and created these new dunes in her life. The old dunes were so familiar.

This too shall end and you can hold it dear, or let it slip away. Let the tough stuff wear away with time. Keep it all close to your heart, because it’s not just your child’s life that is growing and changing. It’s yours.

Party in the flower garden without me

I’ve been neglecting the flower garden out front recently. Just purely being lazy and giving into the ‘don’t feel like it’ penchant.

They don’t seem to care. In fact, it’s looking rather like the teen house whose parents are out of town for the weekend. Let’s just work our way around from the exiting my front door.

Sure, the ground is scraggly and growing some grass and weeds, but this patch of petunias is quite the crowded dance floor. However, they have bullied out the pansies from the whole garden.

The zinnias are quite the giggle patch. Anyone out there old enough to remember the old PBS early seventies children’s shows, The Magic Garden? Maybe some of their love of nature and folksy guitar tunes was the start of my Nature Girl persona. I loved the giggle patch.

This handsome guy’s name is King’s Ransom. Fitting isn’t it? He smells great, too. I had to pick off a bunch of his Deadhead buddies, but you don’t want Deadheads party crashing, anyway. They’re such stoners, they always stay way past the fun.

I made a small appearance after all. I’m the shadowy wallflower lurking around the edges.

The grass, on the other hand is making a full invasion in their party crash. this zinnia snuck away from her usual rowdy gang to hang with some quieter petunias. And she’s being kissed by a bumble bee.

A lot more mingling going on here: Grass, a couple of petunia varieties, zinnias, and a mystery guest.
Another view.
The shady gang. I like them: the strong silent types. Who doesn’t love the bad boys in the corner looking all tough and cool? They have a little gaggle of clover girls hanging around their feet.

More party crashers. I spend a lot of time yanking out these little tufts of clover. Since I haven’t lately, they surprised me with these little yellow blooms. I’ve never seen this kind of clover before moving down to this climate. There’s the beginning of a birch tree in there, too. Lots of those suckers throughout the garden right now. If I leave them alone, I’ll have a whole birch forest right outside my front door.

And just who is this chick? I wish I knew. She brought a lot of friends just like her. I also wish my camera with macro was working. Sorry about the blur.

One Ringy-Dingy…

I think I’ve mentioned that my boys are away for the month of July, visiting their father who lives several states away. It’s good they get to spend time with him and their other half-sister and step-mother. It also makes for a lot of quiet around here, good or bad. I miss them, but hey, quiet is a rare commodity.

Those of you who have in any way experienced blended families or child of divorce, whether you or your children, can probably relate to the following telephone conversation:

“…Okay, K. Can I talk your brother now?”

“Yep, here he is – [not quite whispers or covers the phone] S, DON’T tell Mom about Dad mutter-mutter -“

“I love you, bye, K!”

“Hi Mom!”

“Hi S. Don’t tell Mom about Dad what, chuckle?”

“Ne-ne-never mind.”

“It’s okay, S, what can I do from here?”

“Uh, he’s playing [insert name of a violent probably M-rated video game here].”

“Don’t worry about it, kiddo. It’s okay.”

“Okay, bye, Mom.” And silence. Check the cellphone screen, yep, he hung up. Obviously he was paying more attention to his father’s shoot ’em up digital exploits.

I supposed on one level it’s good that K wants to protect his dad from his perception of my perception of something stinky in Denmark, but it does make me wonder what he thinks he’ll try to hide from me over the next few teen years….the little sneak. What he doesn’t realize is I was a bigger sneak.

200 Novels or thereabouts

After mentioning these on Monday, I figured I better put up the links:

There. Now you have an excellent reading list or two to choose from if you were at a loss as to what to read next.

Time for my confession. No I have not read them completely. I have easily read over eighty percent of each and that’s more by a long shot than my facebook friends, who are a largely intelligent, well-read and personally competitive lot. And I’ve read a lot more besides.

Now here’s my critique of the lists: very culturally self-referential, ie: lots of British books on the BBC, lots of American on the Time list, barely a side note of amazing Latin American, Asian, Australian, Native American, African, etc.

And who will put out the list of must read Poetry books? HHHMMMM? Or have I just made that my job? Quickly, a blogger can be seen ducking the oncoming task as if it were a bird of prey and she, a mouse in an open field.

As you make your reading way through those lists, may I also recommend a turn at this one:

I promise, you’ll be amazed.

Babette’s review

I hope the cat’s is the only critique that claims my manuscript makes a better bed than a read. Apparently she thinks the same of notes I’m currently working with, too.

Pride and my prejudice

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was in college – really the mid-late 80’s – I was one of those horrid people who knew everything about anything to do with books: a Lit Major. I recognize now, I was probably a big Pain in the Butt to people who were not avid readers, and to those who were, as I would argue critique til I won, or until one of us was blue in the face. I enthusiastically tried to convince non-readers of the joys of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I mean really, who doesn’t love a 19th century tome about someone who thinks he can get away with murder for the intellectual sport of it but suffers through psychological and moral self-torment until he is rescued by the love of the original hooker with a heart of gold? (double eye roll, from the then me to everyone else, and a bigger one from the now me to the twenty year old me)

How Pretentious. I’m glad that particular phase is over, but that in my life, I still am an avid reader and adore books of wide variety.

But back to the Dark Ages: I had taken every course in English Literature from Chaucer to the 18th century, everything in American 18th, 19th and 20th century, and everything in 19th century Russian literature, and a smattering of European modern and ancient authors. By the time I got to 19th century English literature, I was up to my eyeballs with the polite society of people holding teacups. And then I was required to read Jane Austen. I wearily opened Pride and Prejudice, and couldn’t make it to page 50 before throwing the book against the wall. My claim for many years was that if I had to read about another dang teacup I was going to start breaking things.

Well, here it is twenty odd years later, two movies, and who knows how many BBC productions of the book later. Many friends, who I consider to be intelligent, fun, and thoroughly modern women have insisted repeatedly what an excellent and favorite book it is of theirs. I absolutely must read it!

So, finally, I did. And it just so happens that my son about to enter high school has to read it for his Advanced English course this summer. Well, for his sake, I’m glad I did, so I can help him through the dense turn of the 19th century language of it. I’ve been rather steeped in the contemporary middle reader genre of late. P&P is a long way from Hoot. Heading back to that stuff after so long a break from it really took me forever to read. I mean, my eyeballs didn’t bleed or anything, but it just seemed I couldn’t get through more than a few pages at a time. Of course, I also had multiple distractions, as I started it after school let out for the boys, and of course I’m in constant toddler attendance.

I swore I would finally finish Pride and Prejudice, and I did. I slogged my way through it and can now add it to my list of ‘have reads’, which, I’ve found out recently is a rather long list compared to most people I know, so should be very proud of myself or admit what a geek I really am. It’s still a toss up, guess I’ll make that decision conversation by conversation. There is a BBC list floating around on the web of should have read classics, and I may have actually completed it and then some now. There is a similar Time magazine list, which I’ve also nearly completely, if not by now. Few books make it to both aside from Pride and Prejudice. But back to said book.

As much as the actual physical reading of it gave me some pains, I really did ultimately enjoy it. Not that Jane Austen needs any help from my review, as it is required reading in both high school and colleges now. And she’s dead anyway and would not benefit from the book sales.

The characters are lively. Elizabeth and Darcy are well-suited to each other as they are, in fact, seemingly so unwell-suited. Each’s strength to each’s weakness is a good counterbalance. They each need a good challenge, and get it in each other. The rest of the cast is really entertaining and thoroughly real in their riduculousness. The plot regularly thickens. While so much seems stuck in the time, it is a thoroughly timeless and modern tale. Every romantic comedy in the theater takes its core cue from good ol’ -2oo year old to be accurate – P&P. Here’s a partial character list: sassy lead female, reluctant lead male, the ridiculous and greedy mother, the chuckling father who’d rather be done with all this nonsense for all five of his daughters so he can be left to his library, his hunting and fishing. The silly sisters, best friends, the nemesises, et al.

So, if you have so far managed to avoid it, I highly recommend it. That is no feint praise. And honestly, nary is a teacup in sight.

I’m in trouble now

Baby C has been the easiest baby I’ve not only had, but known, and I’ve known a lot of babies.

I’ve been very grateful for this, especially in light of being an older mom with her.

Until now.

She has discovered tantrums.

Yep, there she goes again. Bye.


Short story,

short story,







This is the problem with not having any deadlines.

On writing ordinary

Back when I was a post-collegiate bohemian youth, I bopped around Boston, notebook in hand or messenger bag, writing down snippets of conversations from the street, cafe or T, sights, smells, incidents and other observations, quotes from favorite artists, poets, authors, musicians, you name it. If the light bulb dinged over my head, pen was in hand, scribbling away.

If I tried to do that now, everything I’d jot would be so ordinary, so mundane, so housefrau. I guess in a way, that is what I do with this blog. I try to find the amazing in the small facets in my life as a mother, a writer barely hanging on, while raising teen angst, asperger preteen and toddler girl, gardening, and trying to keep a lively conversation going while I am alone in my thoughts.

Yesterday, I found the last vestiges of my gladioli lying on the ground. Imagine if your very existence really weighed you down like the gladiolus? Sometimes, I feel like I’m stuck home without a purpose or a friend, staring at the same old same old, day in and day out. So I clipped the blooms of the gladioli, and stuck them in a vase while I thought how surprising that the stamens are lavender in each variety. Lavender, not orange or yellow like you find and expect in most other flowers, but something totally surprising when I got up close and really observed them. The white variety has a slight blush in the flute of the bloom, the frilled pink, a ray of yellow, the peach blossom, deep burnt orange heart, yellow ray that deepens to the peach of the petals. And they all have those lavender stamens.

I realized as I was picking them that if I’d dig in a little deeper to replant the bulbs, maybe they won’t fall over next year. When I dig in deeper in my own life, I feel more stable and connected, too.

I thought about how if I really took a moment to observe, I would find the beauty and the depth in the ordinary. The variety in the simple, and how much I was missing, by closing my eyes, my mind, my heart to what is right in front of me.

So here’s a little of my extraordinary ordinary:

Lucy has just caught a scent and is contemplating whether she should go dig up that mole or will she get in trouble because I’m sitting right there. Trust me, she is trying very hard to not acknowledge that I’m watching.

Baby C is running at me, about to fall over, carrying the world in her hands. I don’t think I’ve ever viewed Antartica from quite this close projectile perspective. A moment later, that ball saved C from smashing her face into the arm of the beach chair where I sat. Another eye or tooth saved from permanent damage due to the whims of a toddler. I now know what that prehistoric meteor must have seen as it hurdled through space to obliterate the dinosaurs. Minus the backyard and toddler.

Update: a handful of hours after setting up this post, C did receive a black eye – the first shiner of her little life. She’s okay, a tough girl. After all, she does have two very big brothers.

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