musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “January, 2010”

Life is good. Wear Boots.

RIP JD Salinger and Howard Zinn

“An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.”

– J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

Thank you for blowing my doors off their hinges when I was quite young.  May you have a quiet corner now where now one will come knocking on your Caulfield cabin for eternity.

And Howard Zinn, too.  Largely, in the political arena, if you hadn’t said it first, I likely would not be thinking it nearly so eloquently and succinctly.

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people,
can transform the world.

Seek and ye shall find.

For this post, I was drawing blanks.  Each thought I had shot forth from my brain like I was out clay pigeon shooting, and having terrible aim.  I yelled, “Pull!”  and fired, and two things would sail quickly through the air away from me, and somewhat toward each other, arch, miss completely, and drop dead to the ground.  The clay pigeons fell with a thud and a puff of dust. The bullets lay listless in the dirt. There was nothing left to salvage.  Figuratively speaking, of course.

Not that I have ever been clay pigeon shooting.  But I have watched it on tv.  That’s right.  That’s about as exciting as it gets around here.  I like watching Dog Shows, too.  Although, I have fired a gun and target shot at antique colored glass pharmaceutical bottles in the woods in Vermont.  Oh to be fourteen and that stupid again.  I should have kept them, they were very pretty, and sold them on ebay.  But there was no ebay back then, or the internet.  It was the dark ages, between Lynyrd Skynard and the B-52s, at a vinyl speed of 38rpms.

So, because it’s a half day of school, for the rest of the week – more on that later -a Certain Someone kept wandering over and asking if he could use the computer now to (this is where I tune him out because it’s something long and involved and involves giant monsters, most likely, or funny cats, and he’s told me the particulars or something like them so many times I feel like my face is melting off when he starts again, especially when I am trying to focus on something else, like say, my own imagination and what I want to write from it because, really, this is all about me you know).  So I asked him, “What should I blog about today?”

“Write a blog about how I was inspired by the nicknames you gave [Mr. Cynic] and me on how I’m making a video mini-series called ‘The Adventures of Mr. Cynic and Captain Comic’ to post on,”  responded Capt. Comic.

Only problem with this is he has not actually started filming because Mr. Cynic wants absolutely nothing to do with this.  His friends might see.   This is causing great consternation and Wars of Words that are particularly virulent around when I’m making dinner and everyone’s hungry and tired from a long day of school, toddlering, taekwando or bass lessons, etc.  There is much door slamming and stair stomping and MOOOO-oooooming involved, too.

Someday,the boy will be a filmic genius, I’m sure, but his brother will not be starring in the films as the villian.  That will have to remain true to life and in the house.  My house.  Probably in a couple of hours.  Yep.  I’m pretty certain of that.

So, on three days in a row of half-days:  can I just say that this is not how I wanted or expected to spend the remainder of my ‘free time’ *cough, sputter* before I go in for surgery on Monday. 

If it rains, I’m a goner for sure.


Anticipating Monday’s surgery, I’m alternately wishing this week over and that it stretches out endlessly.  Over, because I want to get back closer to my old physical fitness; endless, because, I don’t like the idea of anyone cutting me open and rummaging around inside.  Or pain.  Or recovery period of uselessness. Or Anesthesia.  I really don’t like the idea of anesthesia.

I really should start charts at home again for Captain Comic: a homework and homework check chart, a behavior chart, a step-by-step guide to keeping one’s room having a visible floor, a step-by-step guide to bathing thoroughly, a morning schedule, an afternoon schedule.

When I put it that way, I don’t want to do it, either.  I want to take him out for ice cream instead.

Come to think of it, I should probably chart myself.  I might be more inclined to accomplish more and in a neater environment.  But some of us work better with a little mess.  The key is keeping it little. Right now, my desk is swimming with papers, books, cameras and sundry other sundries.  And I would get a reward at the end of the week.  Maybe some really good chocolate.  Yes, that would be a good incentive.  If I don’t graze on it during the week…

My church is aware of my surgery and wants to sic people on me for a couple of weeks.  I suppose I put it out there, but I really don’t want random folks showing up.  I will feel like I need to host them, rather than they help me.   Besides, there’s the clutter.  It’s my clutter.  No one else needs to see that.

It’s not like I’m a Hoarder, but we all in this house have stuff. And there are six of us.  That’s a lot of stuff. Plus the dog and cat.

Also re: people from church, I know they mean well, but does EVERYONE have to know and ask me about it?  Really?  Do I have to tell this uncomfortable thing over and over again, to, in some cases, folks I hardly know?  I know, I’m blogging about it, but that’s different.  I don’t have to look you in the eye.  I don’t have to see that mixed look of concern and nosiness. I don’t want to go into the gorey details, it’s just something that needs to be done.  Really, my life will be better for it, after the recovery. Yuck – the recovery.

Sorry this isn’t a more uplifting post.  I really am not obsessing, just having these thoughts float through my mind, amidst the mayhem.  I think, considering my mayhem, they are normal thoughts at this time.

To end on a good note: after the storms on Monday morning, the day brightened up and into the sixties.  I got outside.  Toots came with, but fell in the pooling mud around the deck.  Grandma took her in and changed her clothes, while I did a couple of gardening things and branch clearings.  It felt good.  Some sun, some honest work with the earth, but not too much, as my back said, ok, that’s enough for now.  For once, I listened.

on lipstick

Before my mother would ever leave the house, she had to put on her lipstick or she felt naked.  It was a deep red when I was very young, but as the 1970s and 80s progressed, she tended toward earth tones.  And she still prefers an earth toned lipstick to this day.  She still won’t leave the house without it.

I rarely in my forty-four years of existence wear lipstick.  More often in the last couple of years than ever before, as my lips are drained of their former natural pinkish hue, most likely due to sheer exhaustion, and sleep and vitamin deficiency. I was always more of a lip balm kind of a girl, if anything. There was a huuuuge Carmex phase, but I’m over that now, by about a decade and a half.  I loved Burt’s Bees lip balms, but developed allergies in my late thirties, and can no longer wear Burt’s Bees and expect to breathe because of the coconut and almond oils in them.

These days, I have a couple of berryish, slightly more than skintone shades with names like ‘shy’ and ‘tenderheart’ tubes in my purse for the color/dryness emergency.  Still, rarely do I actually use the stuff.

Enter my daughter.  She started raiding my purse for the sheer fun of dumping contents quite some time ago, but now she goes in for specifics:

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I will say it again.
I’m in trouble when she’s a teen, aren’t I?
photo note:  the orange hue around her mouth is not because she is diseased or due to my terrible photog abilities.  she recently had been gnawing on a carrot.

Weekend Excerpts

After dressing her, I say to Toots, “C’mon, let’s go find your shoes.”
Toots bends over at the top of the stairs and calls out, “Shooo-oooes!  Where are yoooooou?” repeatedly. 
Honey says, “They won’t come running without your feet in them.”

On the way home from church, I ask Mr. Cynic, who has an eye appointment coming up, if he’d like to go for a funkier, more rockinroller frame than his current basic rectangular wire-rim. He answers, “Yea, um we were talking about that today and decided that they’re a lot dryer and pretty dull than ….”

What?  OH! He thought I was asking about his classes in the youth group because I’m one of the ‘teachers’ and a lesson plan was lying on his lap for the ride home.

Captain Comic has taken to walking around giggling and giggling harder as he goes.   He’s been watching funny cat videos on youtube. They replay behind his eyes when he’s away from the computer.  All he has to do is think ‘funny cat video’ and he’s off watching repeats and giggling himself silly. 

I hope this is limited to home.  They might just decide to commit him if he does this at school. 

Speaking of Captain Comic, Friday night was spent in the ER with him over what I thought was an infected broken pencil tip in his palm, but it turned out to be a wart.  It is now known as The Hundred Dollar Wart.  I am really beginning to dislike this insurance phone triage.  They insist I take my kids to the ER over every little thing rather than go to an urgent care place for half the co-pay.  The nurse was certain by what I told her that he needed IV antibiotics. 

Saturday, we took Captain Comic and Toots to Deer Park for the first time.  Toots was a hoot on the slides and kept running around saying, “Look, Mommy! I running! I running!  I running!” 

Captain Comic made a good go of playing with some other kids there.  I asked the dad if he was being alright when I noticed the kids were looking at him a little funny and I was a bit away from what was happening.  By the time I approached, Capt. Comic had moved along, and I mentioned I just wanted to check in because he’s a little different.  The dad was great and said, “hey, aren’t we all a little different?”

Thanks Man at Deer Park with the fun crew of kids.  Sometimes I need to be reminded.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds…

It started with an ominous few
They scouted,
they looked around suspiciously
Then they were joined by a second wave,
coming in so fast and furious,
wave after wave,
I couldn’t catch them all
Dropping from trees,
onto fence, fluttering to the ground
And just as I was beginning to flashback in fear
to a certain Hitchock movie
They up, up and awayed.
Stunning really.

Toots and character flaw.


I absolutely love language development. Toots is now stringing words together and is almost more thrilled by it than I am.  Honey, Grandma and I are just giggling in amazement at everything that comes out of her mouth lately. Some recent examples:

We had turned the lights out in the office/playroom/guestroom the other night.  Toots runs  in a step or two because she still wants to play with her interlocking building toys and screeches to a halt-shiver-spin and hightails it out of there with a big grin on her face: 

“Whooooaaaaa! It dahk in dere!”

“Mommy, you too funny!”

Big huuuuuug, Mommy!

“Daddy, I wuvey you-you!”

“Gam-ma, you wead book!”

Just a sampling, because I know this isn’t nearly as exciting to read as it is for me to hear. She talks a lot about herself, too, and is too cute saying her name like Elmo says his in every sentence.

character flaw

In my first middle reader manuscript, I have a character I love who shows up near the beginning, is integral to a couple of things in the story and for the main character, but who drops out of sight about halfway through.  He had a purpose as a confessor for the main character, but that ended up being served later in the story by another character altogether, who made better sense for the role in the way the story developed.

I had this thought previous to my writing retreat,  even had advice from my old writer friends back in Boston to get rid of the early guy, but I loved him way too much.  While at the retreat, I figured out how to combine the two characters, but I wasn’t ready to let the early character go.  I think I am today.  Barring any appointments Grandma may have this afternoon, I may need to steal hubby’s laptop and head out to a cafe to do the dirty deed of killing off my character.  It’ll be like a death to me, even though I am really just taking parts of him that advance the story and giving them to the later character. And of course I will have to change how that works, too. 

Sometimes, I really do just want this finished already.  But the process is what is fun, right?  Even when it can be agonizing.

As for leaving the house to write, I think I really have to start doing that now. Toots won’t nap until the afternoon, and by then, Grandma is home from her morning routine and Mr. Cynic arrives off the bus not long after lunch because his high school starts ridiculously early. And then comes Captain Comic about 90 minutes later. Even when they are not directly interrupting me, which is usually the case, just the presence of so many people who may likely interact with me is too distracting for me to concentrate on real writing.

And then there’s the whole guilt factor of having constantly divided attention between mothering and creativity.  I really should be paying attention to my kids more directly.  I really can’t focus on the writing when family is around. Might as well define the borders better physically.  Now that’s a step in the right direction for me.  What took so long for that to sink in and come up with a solution?

Captain Comic

When Captain Comic arrives home from school each day, the conversation goes thusly:

Mom: Hey kiddo, how was school today?
Captain Comic: 18.5.

The teachers and special ed assistants that chaperone him throughout the day keep a chart that goes to a total of 20 points.  They make checkmarks in boxes for when he does well over the course of the day. When he’s inattentive or distracting (basically) the corresponding box is left blank.  At the end of the day, they tally the boxes.  Comments as to what his day was like are peppered throughout the chart.  It works for him, especially when home is on board with the process and has conseqences for falling below a certain level.  Right now, that means if he drops below 18, no down time videogame play when he arrives home.  This can be unfortunate on the days when he is having difficulty, as that down time really helps him center. 

Of course, another aspect of asperger’s we are working on with him is interacting and carrying on conversations appropriately.  The fact that his answer for how his day was is a number tends to limit the opportunity for an appropriate ‘circle of conversation’.  That is Speech Pathology jingo.  It means, someone makes an opening statement, the responder responds appropriately, and then back to the opener.  When he answers a number when someone asks how are you more often than anything, it makes it difficult for him to carry that conversation skill elsewhere.  When he meets someone new, or we meet up with friends, etc, and they ask how he is, he doesn’t have the ‘tools’ readily available beyond a reluctantly grunted “fine” at best, because every day he comes home from school and says, “19” to mean he had a good day.

Yesterday opened with the above conversation after school.  Then, per usual, I directed him to wash his hands, then, yes, he can play videogames.

He started playing a Spiderman game, and I saw he was in free play mode, or more appropriately, I asked because I couldn’t tell free play from story mode if you held a gun to my head. 

My brain started clicking away, he’s not playing for points, he seems pretty open at the moment, let’s try this from a different angle.

Mom: Kiddo?
Capt. Comic: What?
Mom: Can we have a conversation while you play?
Capt. Comic: U-Uh-(setting himself up to listen) Sure.
Mom: Can you tell me how your day was without a number?
Capt. Comic: grrrrrr
Mom: Well, what happened that it wasn’t 20?
Capt. Comic:  – Language Arts was hard today.
Mom: (now we’re getting somewhere!) Was it hard to pay attention?
Capt. Comic: No.  My brain was moving too fast again.
Mom: Can you tell me what it was moving too fast for?
Capt. C: We were supposed to write a paragraph on what period in History we wanted to live in and I couldn’t write down everything in my head.
Mom: (clearly identifying with him at this point regarding when I am feeling inspired and can’t get it down the way it is occurring in my head)  That must have been frustrating for you.
Capt. C: (sounding relieved that someone gets him)Yes it was!
Mom:  What period in History did you write about?
Capt. Comic: The 1960s.
Mom: (ok, I start to get excited that this might have something to do with Martin Luther King Day and Civil Rights, or Anything else about the amazingly turbulent decade of change and then I remember who I am asking)  What about the sixties did you want to write about?
Capt. Comic: I want to live in the 1960s because that was the decade Toho Studios made the most Godzilla movies. They made a movie year after year from 1962, through 1969, minus 1963, of course….(more information than I can process about Godzilla movies anymore) and it would be neat to watch TV in black and white and to dial a rotary phone.  Mom?  How does a rotary phone work?

I’ll stop relaying the conversation here except to say I told him how I used to know who Gaga (my mother, his grandmother, and yes she is) was calling by the pattern of clicks she dialed. He was very excited by this.

Ahhh… progress…the bottom line is we had an extended, appropriate conversation filled with multiple ‘circles of conversation’.  He only began to ‘download’ information near the end, and he stopped himself.  If you’re ever in a conversation with someone and they begin to tell you more than you ever considered knowing about a given topic, you can assume they have the aspergian trait of gathering knowledge about a topic they are obsessed with and wanting to share that information as soon as they have what they perceive to be a willing ear.  Because it is exciting for them, of course it is exciting for everyone else.
Captain Comic’s main area of interest (there are others but this is the biggie) is Godzilla movies. 

Anyway, that conversation was a lovely moment with my son.  They are few and far between, except for his bowl me over hugs. Although, those moments and conversations are increasing.

We also managed to continue that conversation into another about how he feels about transitioning to middle school next year.

Wow.  That was big.

sometimes nothing is better than a mouthful of words

Duck, NC 1.8.2010

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