musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the category “balancing”

1st day of school

Yesterday was the first day of Mr. Cynic’s Junior year and Captain Comic in seventh grade.

Mr. Cynic has been riding the bus to high school for the past couple of years, though we live .4 mile from the school. That’s closer than I lived to my high school, to which I walked – up hill both ways in the snow. Seriously, I did. It was hilly where I lived growing up in Connecticut. Not here though, and only the occasional appearance of snow.

But back to yesterday, Mr. Cynic and the first day of school. He had the same bus driver for his first two years of high school. She could probably drive her route with her eyes closed. She retired and there was a new bus driver, who drove rather like a lab mouse introduced to a new maze. She had no idea where she was going in the morning. And again in the afternoon. At every intersection she turned the wrong way, according to Mr. Cynic. When his bus was significantly late on the way home, I received a text message: going to be late. bus driver doesn’t know what she’s doing.


When he finally arrived home, he declared he was never taking the bus again. I smiled. The boy who eschews exercise will be getting some. Every day.

Captain Comic’s bus involved less drama but more nerves on my part. He has been riding the SPED bus since we moved here five years ago. He stands at the end of the driveway in full sight of his peers at the corner bus stop to get on a different bus. Last Halloween, I found out that they all knew him, but he didn’t really know them. As we walked around the neighborhood, the common cry was “I see him at the bus stop.” Last spring, his IEP team and I decided it was time he ride with his neurotypical peers. And when I had an IEP team meeting last week, they all told me, “Mom, you cannot walk him to the bus stop. You cannot ask his friends if it’s okay for him to sit with them. He needs to do this himself. He’s thirteen.”

And while my instincts know this is true for any other kid, I still want to protect him, manage his interactions. So I stood at the window with the camera and watched him. He did alright.

Which one is Captain Comic? Look at the socks.


I checked in via email with his case manager and he had a great first day, even with a homeroom teacher change. 
Mr. Cynic is excited to have friends in most of his classes, and is excited to be taking Music Theory with most of his band mates. Keep in mind, they have not rehearsed all together once as of yet, so band mates is still a relatively loose term.
In the meantime, Grandma took Toots with her to her morning pool exercises, and after three weeks without even cracking the manuscript with all the mayhem here, I had an excellent edit session at the local library. I dove into the creative river, doused myself and completely rewrote two chapters really well! The session exceeded my expectations, especially since I felt so lost as I opened the document.
Honey, post-surgery, went back to work yesterday, even though I felt it was too early, but I can’t keep him from work. It’s his thing. It’s hard to see that he loves it sometimes, but deep down, I think this is his creative drive, even when used for others’ purposes and under crushing deadlines. 
So we have returned to the usual mayhem, and having a routine for it that’s a little stiffer than summertime benefits us all, especially after this area has been hit by Mother Nature with smoke from the great Dismal Swamp fires for weeks now, and an earthquake and hurricane last week. The ten to fifteen inches of rain that came with Irene did not douse the swamp fires. Yesterday afternoon, we had a good bit of buckets full rain while Captain Comic was walking Lucy, and with them came Tornado Warnings. And still there is smoke in the air. But we go on, relatively unscathed, unlike many of my friends and family all over the East Coast and inland. Some are still waiting for power after the Hurricane while others in Texas droughts and fire fields, are now without well water. 
I feel very blessed that we are back to our normal. Almost – Toots starts preschool next week.

distracted and frustrated

This post is kind of a way for me to work out hitting a wall in my manuscript. All I want is to finish it. In my heart, I still love it. But after so many edits, this edit is really a bore to do. In my house, two kids are gone for a month, including the most distracting one. In and around my house is a lot of neglected house stuff, largely due to my trying to focus on the manuscript.
When I try to write at home, even if I have my mother-in-law take the three year old out of the house for a couple of hours, invariably I putz around finding other things to do until, lo and behold, they return, and I haven’t even pulled the critiqued manuscripts out of my tote bag.  Like the day last week, when Toots decided waking up throwing up was the way to go that day rather than out of the house with Grandma. I sank her into the couch with Netflix streaming kid videos, and the next thing I knew, I found myself hacking branches in the yard in 100 degree heat, because that apparently was immensely preferable to actually finishing my novel.
And I had a good session on it the day before when I did my usual Tuesday routine of packing everything up and taking it to the library to edit. Okay, so the next day, off to the library I went, and knocked through two chapters in a fairly painless edit session.
As I write this, I look back over this very morning, noting that, yes, I had an early doctor appointment, from which I left a bit upset, mostly just burnt out on doing the specialist shuffle, so I gave myself permission to see another human being, I mean tea chat with a friend, and then another friend who is back in town visiting from far far away showed up, and finally I trotted myself off to the library. I couldn’t settle in as the place was teaming with people, and then the summer camps came tromping through in droves, so I turned right around, having never even opened the laptop.
Home again, Toots was getting a dose of the one program I don’t let her watch, which frustrated me, because I thought I was pretty clear about that to Grandma, but I didn’t make a stink about it. (Do we really need one more show for her to request immediately and often?) I preferred to focus and to attempt to write during and after lunch, Toots’s nap time, and when Grandma typically goes upstairs for a reading rest of her own.
Well, then I started getting ideas. My, isn’t it a lovely day out there, not a hundred degrees, now that we had a good thunderstorm last night. I know! I’ll go out to the picnic table around the side of the house that has a little privacy and an outlet! I got all set up and touched my black keyboard in the sun – youch! like a stove burner that has been left on.
Trot everything – drink, lunch, boiling laptop back inside, two trips – turn on the a/c in the office, and try to “white noise out” that Toots is not interested in napping at that time. Stare at my laptop screen and start typing this instead.
So what is my problem? Why am I having such difficulty with starting a single editing session? Any session for that matter? The excitement is inside me to Git ‘er Done!  Yet instead, here I am devising ways to rearrange the office so that I can work better, more comfortably, get more organized, etc. Frankly, I have rearranged the place a dozen times, and nothing seems to work, and that box of papers that grows and shrinks but never disappears is still in more or less the same spot – not in the file cabinet – it has sat for the past five years since we moved it to Virginia from Massachusetts. Don’t ask me how many residences that thing has moved from or the decades involved, I implore you! It is my my little hoarder albatross. It’s a smallish box, I swear.
I have little over a week before I retrieve the boys and my mayhem returns to its full tilt, after a camping trip with all the kids.  I have about twelve, albeit, short chapters to go, a bunch of query letters to write and send, and a writing group twiddling their thumbs to see this last draft before I send it out.
Maybe just putting it down where I can see it: twelve chapters in about as many days, is what I needed to do. I sure hope so. Once I get started, I’m good for at least a chapter a session, so now, I just need to do it. Hello five a.m. for the next week?   Any suggestions would be appreciated. 

mountain adventure

I arrived home with West Virginia mountain soil ground into my skin, everything smelling slightly musky and very smokey from rain and campfire and feeling more alive than I’ve felt in a long time. Hot, sore, soaked, dirty, smelly and utterly alive.

Honey and I have this little thing. When we’re in sync about something, any little thing, we have kind of a slide-five, confirmation of everything right between us. We did that a lot more this trip than we have for a long time.

I had dreams, amazing dreams of people far away but near to my heart, as I slept with my head in a Civil War trench on a hilltop, in a damp tent, surrounded by RV city. One friend currently working, far from his family and friends, in Argentina. Others in a far off land…I think it’s called Wisconsin. 😉

This is who I am. I am of the land, mountains, rivers, sea and sky and night fires. This is where I am happiest, most content, completely myself.

And I haven’t been camping in over 20 years. Now, I know why I feel such discontent. It’s not the suburbs. It’s not my family circumstances, or other minute aggravations of the day in day out or the lack of writing time to myself.

It’s that I haven’t fed my soul the way it loves to be fed most in such a long long time. A lifetime. A roasted marshmallow soul under the moon and stars soul. A sun on my skin, rain on my hat, kid in a backpack on my back soul. A dog leash carabiner’ed to the backpack soul.

This is the seven year old Cathy, who when my family couldn’t call me in from dinner so easily, my mother sent my brothers out to look up the nearest tree for me.

But I seem to be starting at the end here, rather than the beginning. and this is probably going to be a very long blog with lots of pictures. So maybe I will leave the end here, at the beginning, and give you the beginning to the end tomorrow, and maybe the day after, and again, after that.

I am happy, my family is safe. I love my spouse, and my daughter camped for the first time. Her favorite part was ‘camping’. Parental translation: sleeping in the tent with Mommy and Daddy and Lucy.

“Can you see the real me, doctor, doctor?”

Honey and Toots at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers

I obviously need to do this more. The boys are coming next month.  Life is good, go for hike. Roast a marshmallow over an open fire, under the moon.

best laid plans…

Mr. Cynic is sleeping at his friend MD’s house and I need to pick him up at 11. Then his friend TB  is coming over to form a new band. Grandma is taking Toots to Busch Gardens with her sister’s family. So Captain Comic and I are on our own for a smidge here. I was hoping to have a little writing time, and talked to him about not interrupting, but it doesn’t look that way, since his latest inquiry is:

Captain Comic: Mom, I’m taking a few of these poppits outside to pop on the deck (last box of those white throw down spark things from our bbq)
Mom: Okay.
Capt. Comic: (pop pop pop, reenters the office): Mom, can these be flammable?
Mom: Yes, they are made of gunpowder and spark.
Capt. Comic: So, like, if I tossed one in gasoline…..
Grandma & Mom: YES! of course if you throw them in GASOLINE!

So I guess I will not be writing today after all.


back in the saddle

Last week was a bust for editing. The boys were home all week for the first time since April break, it rained or threatened to do so quite a bit, and I had too many doctor appointments. So I just left my edit bag leaning against the bookcase, and didn’t grouse about losing writing time.

Yesterday, I sent Toots along with Grandma for her morning workout. Toots likes the play room at the YMCA. I think she needs more peer time than she gets around here. I left the boys to their own devices and told Mr. Cynic to keep Captain Comic out of trouble by playing cards or something and then taking him to the neighborhood pool. It’s a really rather nice possibility now that Mr. Cynic is a pretty responsible teen.

I went to the library and, admittedly, it was hard for me to get started on the manuscript, as it had been about two weeks since I last worked on it. I was also at quite an emotional chapter for my main character, one in which he reacts uncharacteristically angry over something unrelated to the bullying that is pressuring him. I still feel like protecting him like he’s one of my actual children. The difficult parts of the book for him are particularly difficult for me to watch him go through for the umpteenth time, as I write it, hopefully a little better with each edit. But when I got down to business, it seemed to flow really well and the minor changes moved quickly. I added a little more internal feelings without being too expository. That is one of my main issues with the last draft. I missed the mark on conveying what he was going through via the context of the scene itself, or my writing of his emotions was overwrought for a twelve year old boy – one extreme or the other.

July is around the corner, and so is the boys’ summer travels to their father for a month. I am hoping to work more consistently, once again, on the the manuscript and finish it before they come home. I hope to get it to my writing group for a last hurrah critique, then out to children’s agents and publishers.

What’s that old adage about best laid plans?   I really hope that July is a quiet month. I really want to finish and send it out. I’ve been working on this far too long already. I practically could have grown the main character from birth in the time I’ve worked on this ten days of his life.

balance points

This week, between the kids’ first week home from school and a gazillion doctor appointments – no worries, just getting updates on old stuff – I have not written or edited, seen only a couple of friends for thirty minutes, and the continuing hovering forecast of rain and wearing a boot have prevented trips to the neighborhood pool. We’re all a bit stir crazy, one week into summer. And Grandma caught a bad cold and has been off of her usual exercise routine, too.

I think this week was an exercise in finding a routine amidst overall changes.

I have not watered the garden consistently, because it seems the rain will really pour, then not much happens. Then I think the rain will come overnight, and it really doesn’t. And it’s tougher to drag the hose around the yard with this dang boot.

Captain Comic wants to learn poker, badly, and I want to teach him. Poker was a big influence in my family life when I was a kid, I love playing cards, especially with my dad.We sure had some good Gin tournaments, mano a daughtero. But I know I need a good visual aid for Captain Comic to see all the levels of win, etc. Somehow I need the time and focus to teach him the multi-step processes of poker, when he is compromised in multi-step processing. It will take more than one session, that is for certain. Much frustration will have to be abated, on both parts.

Honey and I had a late night date at a combo pub cinema place last night for our fifth anniversary. We arrived a bit early for the showing of Bridesmaids, and sat at the bar. While we waited, I learned the difference between us and how that difference is a good thing. We were quiet for a moment, so I asked, “What would you like to see in the next five years?

Honey: What do you mean? I can’t see into the future.
Me: What would you like to see. What do you want in life?
Honey: I don’t know, I’m pretty good. A hot meal, a warm bed, a chance to relaxed a little more.
Me: Really? That’s kind of nice.

See, I am always looking around the bend, aiming for something, having big dreams, wanting something, looking for the next adventure. In his way, Honey is content to just be.

At times, this can be a source of frustration for both of us, but I think, at other times, it works to both of our advantages that we come at the world and each other from different angles. I get him off of his butt for an adventure. While it may take a little initial effort, he always seems to appreciate it after the first push. Conversely, he gets me to stay in the moment and just chill and realize that not everything needs to be done right now, not everything needs to be planned or in constant motion. A little stillness is a good thing.

So we find our balance.

I need to find a way to fit writing into the week while the boys are home. I think I will manage that a little better next week, when I don’t have so many appointments. Also, Grandma seems to be feeling a little better today and will likely get back to her morning exercises routine, away from the mayhem of home. I know how important her exercise routine is for her. She’s better about keeping one than I am.

I have written a summer daily schedule and hung it up for Captain Comic to have a reference as to what this hour of the day is for. Poor guy kept floating around not knowing what to do with himself, leaving a wake of difficult relationships, snack scraps and random detritus until I did.

Toots needs a little more interaction than I’ve been giving her this week, while I’ve focused on my medical stuff and whatnot. There’s been a bit too much PBS and Netflix children’s program selections going on.  I think if the forecast perks up to the sunny side, we’ll get to the pool more next week. This will be good for the Capt., too.

Mr. Cynic has been a big help this week, and found ways to hang with his friends and girlfriend. He’s getting more and more independent, even if he is still hesitant on the learning to drive sessions.

And, even after all these years, Honey and I continue to learn each other, and how to negotiate what it is that simultaneously drew us to each other, and what drives us most crazy on a daily basis.

Ain’t love grand?

It’s summer. I think by now, all schools across the country are out for the season, the days are long on light and open hours. Don’t forget to enjoy them for what they are, a chance to relax a little more…and maybe have a good adventure,or two.

anatomy of ankleland

Some of you may recall this story from about a year ago:

You can click the picture for a link if you haven’t heard the tale, but about a year ago, I hurt my ankle pretty badly. I haven’t really recovered. In fact, from favoring the initial ligature/tendon injury which was never properly diagnosed, I developed tarsal tunnel syndrome.
TarsalTunnel
Click pic to read about it.

Then from not dealing with the tarsal tunnel syndrome, I developed tendonitis on the posterior blah blah, a tendon sheathe along a muscle that runs from the knee down behind the calf muscle, close to the tibia. I lost track when the doctor was talking yesterday as he gave me a cortisone injection for tarsal tunnel syndrome. I left the doctor’s office and drove in circles (yes folks, it is my driving ankle) to find the place where I was supposed to pick up a boot to wear for the next month, and found it just time for it to be closed, thanks to it’s lack of signage. By the time I got home, my foot was on fire up to my knee, and felt dead and asleep, like it was trying to wake up, but never did except partially sometime around five o’clock this morning. Needless to say, it was a sleepless night.  Before I went to bed, I asked a medical friend if my foot/ankle/leg should still feel like this several hours after injection, and she replied that it sounds like I had a classic steroid flare. Yay me and my weird anatomy.

So this morning, I got to drive all the way back across Newport News to find this boot place again and now my fashion statement is this:

May I pass this lesson onto you?

Listen to your body when it is giving you clear signals to see a doctor and take care of yourself, for goodness sake, because if you don’t put yourself high ‘on the list’, this is the sort of thing that can happen to you.

Ironically, in the waiting room, my reading was Hot (Sweaty) Mamas, by Kara Douglas Thom and Laurie Lethert Kocanda, an enthusiastic book about making personal fitness a priority in your hectic life as a mother.

I neglected to mention previously that this book was a win from Kate Hopper’s blog, Mother Words:Mothers Who Write. I am incredibly grateful, Kate, thank you. Once I can get back on both feet, I am so on this!

In fact, even before I am back on both feet, I am starting a belly dancing class next Monday. 🙂

dog day

Does it get any better than this?

Lucy has just dug up another mole. She is excited at a job well done in her mind, while the yard has yet another hole in it. But the sun is shining and something good has been scented. She has taken over my chaisse once again.
I took this the other day. Today, I have been all over the yard, digging up dead boxwood root balls, transplanting peonies to where they will bloom, reorganizing the shed, weeding, watering and trimming dead branches. Guess what I meant to do?  That’s right, none of the above. I went out to weed whack the driveway edges and hedge trim the boxwoods in front of the big window. I still intend to make the driveway job happen today, because the whacker and extension cord are waiting for me there, but I’m hoping the forecast rain holds off tomorrow, so that I may trim to where the window is visible again then. I don’t think I can do all of it today. This is me trying to listen to my back. I’m still a little late, but I may actually not put the darn thing completely out.

drastic measures

There comes a time in every mother’s life when she has gone beyond anger and desperation.

There comes a time when reason alone must rule.

I went into the boys’ room this morning in order to collect a bit of inevitable laundry. It turned into an exercise of futility with significant use of my old rock climbing skills.

I blew several fuses, veins, etc. And then reason took over. I wrote this to post on their door.

Boys,
You are not to go anywhere or do anything that you enjoy until you work together to get this room CLEAN and KEEP IT THAT WAY. What is going on in here regarding clutter goes beyond health code violations.
You are to put your mattress pads and sheets on your beds properly and you are to keep them that way, pillowcases, included.
You are to have nothing on your floor.
You are to vacuum and dust. Clothes go properly in their drawers and closet.
You are NOT to castigate, insult, or blame each other for any of it, because you are both responsible for the horrendousness from one end of the room to the other. If I hear yelling or arguing, you will both lose something of value to you. I know where you live in your likes and dislikes and will use this knowledge accordingly.
Papers you want to save go in a drawer of the file cabinet. Choose a drawer and put a sticker with your name on it, try to keep the papers standing up, like in folders.
Your bed shelves are to be cleaned out, and trash thrown out outside.
You are to keep this note on your door until such time as you can show me you can each and together keep your room orderly and clean.
If you rip it off, you will lose screen time for a week. And I will print another and post it again.
I love you and am not going to yell about this. It is a fact of life that you are responsible for your personal hygiene.
So be it.
Mom

There is something much more scary to them when I don’t yell. I am not even going to say a word. That should chill them to their very bones.

When they come home from school and take care of walking the dog and mowing the lawn, they are not to be seen or heard, but for the shuffling sounds of cleaning, until such a time as I can see the floor, made beds and clothes and crap all put away. The end. 

oh yea, writing

Yesterday, Tuesday, is my usual writing day. Toots goes to preschool, I go to my writing group twice per month or the library on other Tuesdays. Grandma picks Toots up from preschool, so that I can go into the afternoon to have a good run of editing before the boys start coming home from school.  I thought I could edit at home yesterday, between a bunch of phone calls and sundry things. Of course, I couldn’t focus on the manuscript to even take my edit copies out of their bag, let alone open the document. 

I decided earlier in the week that I would write on Wednesday, but yet again, I can’t get out of the house to do so as Toots is home, and Grandma will be in and out because of appointments. Usually I can grab a Wednesday morning of child care from her, because Wednesdays are the day she typically stays home. 
I had a great breakthrough in the edits last week, and writing became fun again. It hasn’t been fun for this whole ‘final draft’ process. I still love my story and characters and everything, but I am very ready to jump back into my imagination and start something new, so I am not very pleased about going over the material I’ve been working on for eons yet again. But last week, my muse blessed me, and I loved it. 
I am hoping I will manage to at least do some more typing into the new document between laundry loads  (I’ve been bad this week re: laundry, and the boys have been begging for socks, underwear and jeans for a few nights now, even though there are three clean, unfolded baskets in my room from the past couple of weeks) while Toots is watching various selections from Netflix streaming. “Mommy, I want Yeyyow Kipper!” “Mommy I want Yeyyow Byues Cues!”
But even as I am typing this somewhat of a get it out of my system post, I have miss squirmy worm wiggling on my lap trying desperately, and cutely, to get my attention, and I am thinking that I need to switch laundry loads, and I still need to fold those three old baskets upstairs, and the rain just stopped and I should go at least start some seedlings in a pot until I can can have Honey’s help to move that raised bed to the sunny side of the yard, and this is why I leave the house to write. 
Ugh. But I am determined to take those critiqued copies out of my bag. After all, I cleaned off my desk yesterday, and now they’ll fit. 🙂

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