musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “August, 2009”

Shorts – the movie, not the apparel

Saturday was a strange one, which is to say, perfectly normal by my family’s standards. We were going to further celebrate S’s birthday with a trip to Water Country USA (which is pretty much right up the road from us and to which we have season passes thanks to our resident Grandma) But the weather looked really iffy, started to rain, so we decided on a detour attraction of going to see the movie Shorts instead.

About thirty minutes before the movie was to start, the sun, of course, came out. We got ready to leave at the last minute per the usual procrastinate and rush tactic. This time it was my fault for wanting to also see Ted Kennedy’s funeral before the movie while also finally folding this week’s laundry. S, in a frantic search for his flip-flops or sneakers, ran down the stairs, tripped over the safety gate, crashed into the opposite wall and hit his head in two places, top and back, on the front hall tile. Frankly, I would have liked to have seen how exactly he fell for those two bumps to swell…I was a curious cat long before I was concerned mother. I figured he was alive, his pupils were working properly and he was yelling, “I have incurred serious injury, here, people!” to beat the band about it, so he had to be fine.

We did make it to the movie during the final preview, without snacks, and with an icepack on top of S’s head.

So, the point of telling you all of this is I walked into Shorts thinking it was appropriate for his age group and directed by the Spy Kids guy. Even if Honey and I and possibly K didn’t enjoy it, at least S would and we would do so as a family. Well, I was pleasantly surprised by the cast which included William H. Macy, James Spader and John Cryer and even more surprised by the humor, charm and imagination of the movie. That’s saying a lot because our home movie night the night before was the Tim Burton movie of Neil Gaiman’s book, Coraline, and I’m not writing my review of that DVD, but of this movie instead, an enormous Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton fan.

It was really funny, fun and a great adventure told through the comic (as in superhero) eyes of the main character in flashbacks. As the boy tells his story, he says it naturally as in ‘hold on, forgot to tell you about…’ and then we get another Short, hence the name of the movie, which caused much consternation for my sons as we approached the theater.

K: “Why is it called Shorts?”

S: “Yeah! is it about a pair of shorts? Why would they make a movie about a pair of shorts?”

K: “No, it’s about a wishing rock, so it should be called Wishing Rock. I mean (looking at the marquis) District 9 is about a place called District 9, The Time Traveler’s Wife is about a time traveler’s wife, and Julie/Julia is about well, Julie and Julia.”

I love my kids.

I’ll tell you, we all laughed out loud in places, even the reluctant, “I’m not a Goth, Mom” slightly emo teen. It was an adventure, a romp, through a plastic covered anti-germ contamination house with giant man eating boogers, a parent turning into a terminator, another set of parents turning into the weirdest set of conjoined twins, and crocodile armies walking on two legs up the side of a castle that appeared out of thin air long with aliens and a never ending supply of chocolate bars where the most normal thing was a set of twins in a staring contest that lasts for days.

If you have kids, take them. Even my toddler enjoyed it, probably because of the super genius baby who can communicate telepathically and control things with her mind. Even if you don’t have kids, but you like to have fun, enjoy a good adventure, go see it. It’s good.

And of course, we returned home and relaxed just long enough to consider heading out to the neighborhood pool before the clouds rolled back over our heads…

I nearly forgot to mention that the theater clerk who sold us our tickets name was Marquis. I had to mention the irony of his name and his employ, to which he gave a big grin and laughed. Am I the only one who has made note of this to him?

Riddle of the week

Now let’s just hope I can come up with some more that entertain me as much as this one when it came to mind:

How many Roman Emperors does it take to change a lightbulb?

wait for it


Reading, the other love of my life. & 3 current reads

Here is my big fat opinion: writers write because they love to read. They write the books they want to read because they haven’t found them yet on the library or bookstore shelf. As a writer and someone who is absolutely in love with books, I find this whole new e-book phenomenon repulsive, an abomination. As much as I love trees and want the planet, myself, my children and grandchildren to breath for a good long while, I love the feel of a book in my hands, the scent of paper and ink, the feel and sound of the flip of the pages, the finality, the permanence, the thing of it, what makes a book a book, the words on the page, the pages themselves.

Mine is a love that knows no bounds. I will read anything, though I am partial to fiction, poetry, children’s literature, biographies, autobiographies and plays. I used to read the signs on the subway trains and busses of the Boston T. I read road signs, months old magazines in waiting rooms, even if they’re about fly fishing. I read cereal boxes, all six sides. If words in print lay within eysight, I read them.

The above does much to explain why I am currently reading the top three books on the side bar reading list. Go ahead, take a look. Here they are again:

Alison Weir, The Life of Elizabeth I
Norton Juster/Jules Feiffer, The Phantom Tollbooth
re-reading:John Elder Robison, Look Me In The Eye

Weir’s book has been on my bedside table since early in my bedrest pregnancy of C who is edging onto seventeen months old now. Somehow, I abandoned it, without really abandoning it entirely. We’ve even rearranged the room several times as well as emptied it out to be painted and rearranged it again, including switching out furniture, but through it all, Weir’s book remained firmly by my lamp, even when I bought a new one. I’ve always been fascinated by the original Queen Elizabeth’s story. Heck, it’s juicy even before she was born! I do like the way Weir tells the story, but sometimes I’d like a little more on some areas where it feels like a British presumption. I’ve been involved in history classes at many grade levels here in America, covering the time period, but sometimes I still feel like I need a little more background on the nobility – who they are and what part they play in the story, their motivations, etc. Also, sometimes she dates things without the year as she goes long into chapters of telling, and I forget, are we still in 1559? February what? When did she meet Dudley? How long has this issue of who to marry or not marry at all been going on now? Admittedly, some may be the two year gap on my part, but a little reminding clarifying details thrown in here and there can be very helpful.

I love Jules Feiffer’s illustrations. I’ve admired him since childhood, in comics as an adult, and his I Lost My Bear! is a fabulous picture book. His simple line drawings in Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth are spot on. His map is great for referencing the imaginary world where it seems all is wordplay come to life. S and I are reading it aloud together. S prefers factual reading or comics and he has a hard time with inferences, so the fact that there are such easy telling pictures really works for him to understand a lot of what otherwise goes over his head if I don’t stop, repeat, and laugh again, explaining why it’s so funny. He particularly loves the very short Officer Shrift. We’ve just past the chapter, Discord and Dynne, and to have an illustration of ‘that awful din’ lit S up. We’re still following Milo in his search and rescue of Rhyme and Reason. I’ve read the book previously, but it’s been a while, and I am thoroughly enjoying it besides how much fun it is to make S laugh outloud with it. Of course, it helps that Juster seems to have as much a love for words and their playful side as I do. Even my son K, when he read it was laughing out loud.

John Elder Robison’s book, Look Me In The Eye: My Life with Asperger’s is much more than a book about having Asperger’s Syndrome. It is one man’s journey through life in this world, where it is difficult for anyone to find their way. He is an astounding storyteller, which is all the more remarkable when you consider the usual view of people with Asperger’s is that they are emotionally void and unable to relate to others. The life he has led is vastly entertaining and traumatic and sad and beautiful and joyous and full of hope and ultimately full of faith in people and in himself. You feel by the end that his journey goes beyond Odysseus’ of Homer’s epic, The Odyssey. And he designed the cool guitar effects and more of the original showmen of Rock and Roll, KISS. I first read Robison’s book about two years ago, having no idea about it except that he was the author of Running with Scissors Augusten Borroughs’ brother. It blew my mind and gave me hope for my son. I am not recommending this book solely because I am a mother of an Aspergian, I am recommending it because it is damn good. It has been translated into dozens of languages and sold in as many countries as a long time NY Times Bestseller. This goes way beyond an inside look into Asperger’s. This is an excellent memoir in it’s own right. Go buy it now.

S’s Birthday

Why do I feel so much more like he’s growing too fast this year than previous ones?

Today my son S turns eleven, on my late grandfather’s birthday.

He’s such a big guy now, and he’s showing so much more understanding of empathy and his place in the world outside of the center of his. Most of these changes have happened in the past year.

For now, I am going to appreciate him for who he is, just the way he is today. Just the way he laughs and wants to make everyone else laugh; the way he looks off to the right before he’s about to say something truly philosophical and yet so simple, it’s mindblowing. Just the way he throws his arms around me, dives in and squeezes me in his own peculiar kind of hug which he gives and receives with his whole body and soul.

Happy birthday, Kiddo. I love you. Mom.


I don’t know if it’s because I’m still waiting for some feedback on my manuscript, or because of the weather and time of year, or because I recently completed my first larger scale writing project since my thesis in college about 20 years ago, but for a couple months now, I have felt completely uninspired to write.

In the past, when I have felt this uninspired, I generally have felt depressed or frustrated by the absolute emptiness of my head. This time around I just feel pooped which can be attributed to the lack of sleep with a toddler who still wakes three times a night at least. The other feeling I have is vaguely satisfied, generally upbeat. Now, again, I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the manuscript or just maturity level over aged forty.

It’s summer and all the kids are as around as a teen can be when all his friends are back from their extended vacations that did not coincide with his visit to his father the previous month. S is always around, hovering upstairs drawing and reading or tapping me on the shoulder and Momming me repeatedly; and of course, Baby C is generally underfoot, when she’s not on top of something like Honey’s closed laptop on his desk. So, for me to sit in front of the computer is generally a continuously interrupted thing to do times three. During the school year, I generally have the mornings to myself, with my mother-in-law out doing her exercise thing (which is better than I can say for myself in that arena), and of course, C is still with me constantly.

I think some of this lack of inspiration is just the simple down time from writing something that was a huge deal for me to finish, so to speak. A first draft is a first draft, after all, and I am very aware that what I wrote is not a completed novel. But I wrote the story from beginning to end over one hundred pages. To me, that’s a big deal, not the page number, but the story arc, the things that the main character, who felt like one of my own kids, underwent and his growth and transformation.

I think this month especially has been one of considerable downtime, maybe a fallow field. Usually, when I lived in New England, anyway, the inspiration really starts popping like corn as soon as the first hint of autumn is in the air. So I wonder if some of this is just the dog days of a hot, humid August for me.

S’s eleventh birthday is on the 26th. This and K’s advancement to high school and C’s toddlerdom have really had me considering the constant mutability of time. It seems not so long ago that my boys were C’s age, reaching those initial milestones. Time is simultaneously standing still and speeding by for me. I am constantly considering what is important to pay attention to in the long run, as my children are representing three distinct developmental stages.

I am also in the process of applying for positions outside of my home after a considerable amount of time in which I focused on my kids, my recovery after bedrest pregnancy and my manuscript. In some ways it was a necessary luxury, as Kelly mentioned in comments on Brittany’s recent post at Creative Construction ,that must end. I took offense to the term luxury when Kelly used it, but I can see now is that it is a luxury to be able to be home, to be available to see the magic daily that is the kids growing and changing before my very eyes. Maybe some of the lack of inspiration can be attributed to refocusing on the outside world after being very insular for a long time.

While I have been very philosophically minded, I have not felt the urgency to write that has largely defined my life. This is the first time that to be so uninspired feels like a good thing.

Ho hum

What can I say?

I’m not bored, there’s plenty that has been going on but I can’t seem to raise the gumption to talk about any of it. I guess I’m still in August mode, as I’ve mentioned, a very laid back state of mind, while I remain in denial that the starting gates of school are about to fly open. Maybe a list is in order as I’m not feeling very verbose. Speaking of lists, I better find the school supply lists….

1. Big thunder storm this weekend, very shortlived, but power went out briefly and I drove through a flash flood.

2. I drove through the flash flood because I had to take my eldest, K, to his friend’s dad’s house so they could then drive to Virginia Beach to see the Creed concert.

3. Very relieved that storm ended by the time I pulled back into my driveway, way too much bridge between here and VA Beach to trust my kid to someone else’s driving through the flash flood.

4. Saturday, we took care of a lot of chores around the house. Very satisfying, but I hate doing chores on the weekend. I’d rather focus on family fun and relaxing, and take care of chores during the week – which I am avoiding now…

5. Baby C is starting to expand her vocabulary: baby, pizza, pie, hi and bye used appropriately, signing and saying ‘mo peez’ for more please, and much more. she toddles around the house doing vocal exercises a la my old chorus/choir experiences: may me ma mo moo, bay be ba bo boo, day de da do doo. I love it. Honey loves it, and so does Grandma. I really love how whenver we answer a phone, she says, ‘ullO?

6. She also meows just like the cat and climbs the furniture like her, too, with a big grin, because she knows she’s not supposed to climb up and stand on Daddy’s computer, but that’s what she likes to do. Oy, I’m in trouble with this one, huh? (she’s doing it right now, and oh my, that grin is cute, if it weren’t so evil)

7. S is turning eleven on Wednesday. Where did the time go? Just last week it seems he was climbing the furniture and meowing like the cats with a big evil grin. Come to think of it so did K, who is now 14. Wow, I’m really in trouble, aren’t I? I’ve a lifetime of trouble with these three.

8. They’re not so bad. For the most part. But now C is standing on the computer doing a dance and laughing after I pulled her off several times since writing #6.

9. See, lots to do, so much that I can’t even make this list to number 10.

10. But I will anyway, because I wanted to mention that we hung out at the neighborhood pool on Sunday until the mini-thunderstorm, that S still thinks was just a truck so the lifeguards could blow the whistle and have the pool all to themselves. We took the younger two out for dinner which is always an adventure, but at least K was spending the night at his friend’s house who just got back from spending most of August in Australia, the lucky dog. Besides, I can write #10, because C has left the room and I can hear her doing vocal exercises two rooms away, but wait they just ended, so does the list because she’s probably on the diningroom table by now….

August Dog Days

Nature is slow, but sure; she works no faster than need be; she is the tortoise that wins the race by her perseverance. -Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)
I lived in Thoreau Country for a handful of years, a mere ride down Route 2 to Walden Pond. In college, I took way too many classes about or around the Transcendentalists, too, so I’m pretty well steeped in the guy. Never mind that for over ten years I was an active member of the UU church in Harvard Square where he stood at the pulpit and gave his famous speeches along with that other nature guy of the area, Emerson.

What most people don’t realize when they think of him sitting out in his cabin by the pond, is that he actually lived at his mother’s house and scammed sustenance and cleanliness from her and his friends. He only visited the cabin for short jaunts. Think of it as his vacation home.

That’s not what I wanted to write about, but a little background never hurts, especially if it dispels a myth of his living there and makes us realize he was a little closer to and dependent upon town just like the rest of us suburbanites.

What I want to talk about is the fact that it’s August here in Southeastern Virginia, which is rather like August anywhere on the North American Continent, except possibly a bit more hot and humid, therefore even more languid.

Languid has always been a favorite word of mine. I think it sounds exactly as it is. It’s Oscar Wilde on laudinum, it’s a model in repose, a heavy blanket of velvety robe, and a dog day of August.

Most of my blogs lately have been short and rather on the slow side – taking a moment to peek at a butterfly or take in the scenery. The bulk of the summer harvest is past and Fall has yet to arrive. School is around the corner, and no kid I know wants to do more than sit around and be bored, even if they are complaining about it. I think that’s why August exists. Nature tells us to slow down, take in the view, before we start hustling for the Autumn Harvest, start school, start revving up retail for the Holiday season that seems to start earlier and end later every Winter.

August is a wait time, a time to muse, a respite from the rest of the year. February is a lot like August for the fallow months, an emptying of the mind, a lessening of activity. But August is hot, humid and languid about it whereas February is bundled up in woolies in front of a fireplace, huddled inside. August is as naked as you can and still be decent if you’re in public, when the air itself feels like clothing. February is curled up in a ball, everything tucked in. August, even in the air conditioning, is:


As a poet, the underlying theme of my life is to be present in it – to measure the moments by living within them rather than racing past in a constant pursuit of, well, to live in a different moment. That seems to be a pitfall of most of Western society at this point, don’t you think? Isn’t that the message of every Oprah show, self-help book, morning news segment, etc?

So, enjoy the moments below and hold your own within you as you live them.

As my son S said the other day, “Errrrg! I just get so frustrated when the future keeps becoming the present and then the past so fast!”

Golden Quiet

Some days I just have a mouthful of nothin’. Better to leave it that way, so enjoy a little more of Mr. Swallowtail. Or a beach view if you prefer.

Jennings Beach, Fairfield, CT Aug ’09

Aaahhh…beautiful butterfly

Outside my front door and along my driveway is a very weed-filled, overgrown plot of flowers, but in the past week, I have spotted all five types of swallowtails in it. I only know there are five because I looked it up in my trusty Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars. Here are shots from Sunday of a stunning Tiger Swallowtail.

So while the garden itself is something to behold of an entirely different variety, some beauty can still be found within it. Ok, time to head out there with the big tools and a sturdy pair of gardening gloves. Enjoy Mr. Swallowtail while I’m gone.

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