musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the category “home”

clean desk

When I finally felt better, and had the house to myself for Tuesday morning, I was going to write, but I did this instead:

There’s no before picture, I didn’t think about showing that to the world at large. I should try to describe the sea of papers and household effluvia from blocks and legos to totally random single playing card – queen of spades, I decided to keep her because of this. I figured I needed a reminder from time to time that I am one of those women.

Anyway, the mess was taller than the tape dispenser on one side and where the name book is standing up, it was about half way up the hard drive – a completely nonsensical pile that went all the way back to last spring, with a class autograph book from Captain Comic’s elementary school.  The pile buried the adding machine, half the lamp stand and ramped down toward the keyboard.  Things slipped off and into my mouse constantly. Yes, I keep my mouse on the left side. I am lefthanded. It works better this way.

See all that brown surface? Nonexistent.

So now I can spread out my manuscript critique copies to the right and work on them, I hope. Minus continual interruptions…

On another note – at the writing retreat, one friend and I decided to meet every Tuesday morning to write. I was in a brain fog, sick as I was when we discussed it, and forgot that this first Tuesday was out because she had another meeting. I think that’s how I managed to clean my desk instead, I had allotted the time to writing elsewhere.

So because I was home when I expected to be out, I didn’t quite know how to start here instead, then the mess just made me crazy. There was no where to put my stuff with all the kid crap and junkmail, etc all over.

I think that says a lot about how I am present in my life. Even when I say, “No more crap on my desk!” It happens anyway.

Even when I say, “No this is MY time!” I do for other anyway.

Cleaning my desk was a good reminder to take care of my own priority, too.

No wonder it has taken so long to write this dang book!

Merry Christmas to you all.
May it be spent in love.

later the same evening

Have I mentioned before that I had a brief stint as a professional baker?  After a couple of months trying to manage the biorhythm shift to go to sleep at four in the afternoon and wake up at half past midnight while mothering a kindergartener and a toddler with unknown as of yet form of autism, I realized I really couldn’t handle it.

But I did learn one very important thing while stirring batters and rolling doughs at a stupifying hour: baking is not for improvising.

I forget this now and then. Witness:

Many years ago I made great spiralled snickerdoodles one christmas because I followed a recipe. A friend emailed me a recipe for them last week and it gave me an idea.  Rather than print hers, I improvised with the usual Better Homes recipe for standard snickerdoodles, and put the cinnamon sugar mixture you’re supposed to roll little balls of dough in, along the top of the rolled out sheet of dough, then rolled it into a tube and refrigerated it, as I recalled doing previously.  They were huge and fell apart. Not very snickerdoodly, and while tasty, they just don’t measure up in presentation.

For years, my gingerbread men have been minis, about an inch and a half long. Great little mouth poppers, but I wanted real gingerbread men.  My hand cramps every year from cutting scads of guys out of dough with my crab claw tip of the fingers grip. Honey brought home a beautiful standard size copper cookie cutter yesterday.  I love him.  I love Toots, too.  She’s cute. She does some things on cue.
Unfortunately, as I bemoaned yesterday, I screwed up measuring as I doubled the recipe. Then I attempted to fix it in a rush, didn’t add enough corrective sugar and wound up with these puffy fall-apart-if-touched, pale for a spice cookie cuties.
Today, I have a holiday lunch with my writing group, during which I will hand back end chapters sections of two critiqued manuscripts that I stayed up way too late trying to focus on last night after the all day cookie (and laundry) extravaganza.  I was exhausted – concentration nearly nil.  But I enjoyed the stories.  They’re good.  I’ll let you know about them when they get published.
Anyway, after that, I will make the icing and bake the sugar cookies, the dough of which awaits in the fridge. It was the first dough made yesterday, and the last dough to go.  Thankfully, I did not improvise or mess it up to begin with.  Then I will ice them and the gingerbread men.  Maybe the icing will save the poor little guys. Save their arms and heads falling off as well as boost the sweet factor. 
My adult family members always complained my cookies were too sweet anyway.  Let’s see how they like these.
Perfection was always overrated in my book, anyway.


All the best things of life start with butter and sugar.

My good little helper, Toots cracked the eggs vewy cawefuwy.

Toots: Can I have a big taste?
Mom: How about a little taste?
Toots: Okay, just a yiddo taste.

Sugar cookie dough, done and in fridge now.

 Time to start round two:  gingerbread cookies. See the spices in the foreground?

MMM…smellavision – spicy goodness.  But wait, it looks a bit too ….buttery!  I accidentally quadrupled the butter when I was doubling the recipe!  Or at least I think so.  I still have my doubts about this, but I ‘fixed’ it in a haphazard manner because I was so fed up with myself for messing up recipes lately, like the brownies I did similar to last week.

So now it sits in the fridge, looking more like dough than that batterish stuff there. I wait for them to be ready to roll out, cut and bake tonight.

Mr. Cynic wants to make snickerdoodles for his “Spontaneous Cultural Gathering” at school this week.  They’re not allowed to have parties. He likes making snickerdoodles. Maybe I’ll get him to double his and I’ll make the spiral wheels version of them to hand out around the neighborhood,etc  with the sugars and gingerbread men.  Now to go make the icing.  I bought some new Wilton red….I’m ready for anything.  Right after I switch a laundry load and eat some lunch.

weekword: christmas

Allie in Wonderland has chosen this week’s Weekword, the seasonally appropriate, Christmas. Please go to her blog to see the rest of the participants’ creative endeavors. She will post links to all on Friday.

I have to admit, it’s coming in like a fast moving train to a deer on the tracks for me this year. I’ve barely done anything for it preparationwise, shoppingwise, etc and frankly I don’t know how I will.

My parents are planning on visiting for Christmas, too.  It’s a long ride for them from Connecticut to my out of the way corner of Virginia.  We spent a handful of Christmases on the road to visit my Grandparents in Atlanta and Orlando when I was growing up – and every summer, too.  So I know they can handle the ride, but they are much older now than the 1970s and 80s when we did it together, and I worry. I don’t want them to wear themselves out.  However, they are also planning to travel to more than just us.  They are doing a timeshare tour through the South apparently. So why should I worry?  Clearly they are ready for an adventure.

Last week was Toots’s pageant for her preschool. They were too cute. While I am not the most singularly religious person around, I am rather spiritually oriented and the tale of the manger gets me every time. Toots is the littlest lamb front and center, with curls and polka dots hanging out of her costume. Please note, my washer was kaput for about a week, and the repair man came that afternoon or she would have been at least wearing pants that weren’t too short. The kids were all adorable singing their songs with hand gesture prompts from their teachers.

Tomorrow night is Mr. Cynic’s Jazz Choir Winter Concert at his high school along with the other choirs and bands. His choir also sang last Sunday at the above church, which isn’t ours. I made it to see them for their first service performance but then I was at ours teaching the youth group and singing at our ordination for the rest of the day and into the evening.  Toots’s performance was last Thursday night, so that means, right before Christmas, I haven’t made it to the two main rehearsals to learn the music my choir will be singing for the Christmas Eve service.  And that pretty much sums up the way this season has gone since Thanksgiving. Then throw in a nasty cold virus and laryngitis.

So today I am hoping the cards are ready to be picked up that I ordered yesterday, finally, eventhough we had our photo shoot on the same busy weekend described above. Then I have to figure out and shop for Christmas meals, presents for niece and nephews on my side, and great nephews on Honey’s side, address a lot of cards, figure out and bake a lot of cookies, still pull the tree and decor for the season out of the attic and well, maybe you saw yesterday’s list of lists to get the idea…

But I will bake cookies, by gum!  That’s what I do.  I will bake at least gingerbread men and sugar cookies, and I may spiral some snickerdoodles, and then Grandma will likely make her fudge and ‘annizette’. Maybe by the time my parents arrive, we will have finished rolling out the homemade lasgna and it will be in the oven baking while I sing on Christmas eve, then we’ll come home, eat and…..well, you get the idea.

Oh wait, we still have to put up the lights on the house and japanese maple, too. And I forgot to mention what this season does for Captain Comic’s anticipation anxiety…The other night I caught him in a lie and used Santa even though I know he knows now.  His response was “That darned Santa’s got me every which way I turn.”

list it tues: list of lists & a book review

I am so far behind this season, I can’t see straight – note item 2’s missing s.

But I ate up a book in about three days. It’s been a long while since I’ve done that, but I felt crappy with a cold, and about the best I could do was lie around and read.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I still have mixed feelings after finishing this book. I know I am coming to this party late, to review a best seller. But I think I needed the time it took me to approach The Help. I am a great lover of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Any other book that wants to cover racial issues in the South before 1970 is treading really difficult waters, especially in an attempt to personalize issues of segregation and racial relations after Harper Lee’s seminal work.
I must admit I like the book better after reading Stockett’s closing words about growing up in a similar situation to what she illustrates. The relationships between black maids and their white family employers are revealed through the narratives of two black maids and one white daughter who is seeming to finally come of age after college, and back in the home and town of her childhood. Skeeter is the one who turns Jackson’s well-established order inside out, but she can’t do so without Aibileen and Minny.
A lot of my difficulty came from the colloquial nature of the narrations, something I usually enjoy. When the book opens with a black voice written by a white author though, I cannot help but feel a bit suspicious that things will turn out too close to say, Song of the South. But throughout the book, I think Stockett shows an awareness of wanting to avoid that as well as a conscience about how difficult the waters are to tread.
But here’s what I like about the book.  She treads very cautiously through these stormy waters.  She has to, and that is what was made clear to me in her afterwords.  This book was her way of understanding and apologizing to the maid who brought her up, who died when Stockett was just sixteen, and who was clearly a strong mother figure to her. Because of her experience growing up in Jackson, she really is able to write the affection Skeeter has for her lost maid, and the affection Aibileen has for the baby girl in her care.
The characters are lively, if a bit stereotypical to begin with, but I think Stockett grows as a writer through the book in her ability to understand what life must have been like for these women. The primary point Stockett makes is about the delicate line that had to be walked through dangerous times in about the most dangerous place, Jackson Mississippi leading up to Martin Luther King’s March in DC and the assassination of Pres. Kennedy. Thankfully those incidents are far in the background of the story.
I do recommend it, it is a quick read, even at 451 pages. It was a great escape while I wasn’t feeling well, even if it wasn’t a comfortable one. But that’s just the kind of book that I really enjoy.  I don’t like easy reads nearly as much.  I want a book to stay with me.  I think this one will.
Addendum again: in my rush to get something up earlier today, I once again forgot to point the way to more listers who participate.  Please click on the green List it Tuesday square in my side margin to see them starting in artsyville! Oh and while you’re there, do wish aimee a very happy 40th birthday!!!

nano nano – not so much

Every little bit helps, right?

I got about 50 more words in this am.  Not really sure where to go plotwise, then remembered today is a full one.   I need to write my critiques for two manuscripts before writing group meets tomorrow morning, grocery shop, and then some, and…….

I am taking Mr. Cynic to DMV for his Learner’s Permit. 

Lordy, help us all.

Then I tutor, and pick up some giveaway items that are no longer useful to a friend, but will be useful to Toots.

and I have to prep Captain Comic for some district testing.  He just loves that.  *eye roll*

So Nanowrimo is a bit of a bust today.  but I am doing what I can. I added 50 words, which is more than nothing, right?

Addendum: slowly my word count is creeping up, as i am startingto have ideas now that i say i’m going to focus on something else…

this week random

The quilt is sitting on a folding table in the living room awaiting a fabric hoop.  It has been patiently waiting there since Sunday evening.  Although I drew in the design yesterday.

School Starts September 7th around here.  I have three orientations/open houses to attend – high school, middle school and preschool – this week. I have already attended a  Booster Club meeting for Mr. Cynic’s jazz choir.   Toots will start preschool in October when she ‘ages into’ the 2.5 year old program.  Thankfully, they are holding a spot for her.

The edits are once again in a holding pattern, because my kids are bouncing off the walls and I am obsessed with a quilt.

Captain Comic is a spinning top of transitioning to middle school anticipation/ anxiety. A case of sick tummies has been making its way through the family in an unpleasant way, too.

Today, I am taking all the kids out to buy sneakers, socks and underwear for the boys.  I am setting my goals small and late.  I’ll go out for school supplies later in the week – if Hurricane Earl doesn’t stop by for a visit. In that event, I will go during Labor Day weekend.  I take Mr. Cynic for a haircut on Friday.  He is currently resembling my older brother circa 1978 with the curl of bangs across his forehead and wings flipping away at his temples.  Captain Comic had his cut last week.  I never would have survived both in the same week.

I know.  I am nuts – school supply shopping on Labor Day weekend. My life is mayhem, and I like it that way.  At least the mayhem is somewhat manageable these days, and when it isn’t, I throw my hands up, I yell,  and I laugh myself silly.

idea becomes reality

Honey and I ran some errands together over the weekend, sans kiddos.  For one of them, I dragged him into the fabric store.  He has a pretty good design aesthetic, and helped me to decided to use a different purple for the quilt than the one that initially inspired it.  This one with butterflies and flowers goes nicely with the yellow dragonflies and is a much more toddler rainbow appropriate than the luscious purple with coppery dots. 
I may have to go back and buy that one for myself for a tank dress, if I feel particularly capable and ambitious after this quilting episode. 
The pink is an alternate, too.  And I decided to go with the deeper medium watery blue instead of the sky blue, which leaned toward a lavendar in its batik.
Overall the materials are better suited for Toots, without getting too kitchy and teddy bear oriented, like many quilts do.  I’m not so big on the baby themes approach. 
Today, amidst laundry and sundries, and likely during her nap, I will start cutting, and possibly piecing and pinning. 
If I break it down into steps, I will less likely neglect my family – as I often do under the pretext of working on my novel.  So the quilt won’t be finished in 48 hours, but my children will be fed, and still know they have a mother. 

tired and travel photo

I am exhausted. I think I crashed long after our whirlwind trip.  I haven’t been able to muster musings of the trip, though it was jampacked with visits with friends and family, a foot led wander of my favorite city, Boston.
Here is an iconic tourist shot of Copley Square: Trinity Church reflected in the Hancock Tower.  I even captured a Duck Tour in it.  Toots was enthralled with the fountain and chasing pigeons as the adults who walked around with her wanted to collapse in the grass and shade, which we did, taking turns keeping her out of the fountain and off of Boylston Street.
The above photo is one I never would have been caught dead taking when I lived there.  Although, secretly, even then, I loved the juxtaposition of the old gothic revival stone church reflected in the modern blue glass and steel structure.  The difference now, is that I can’t just walk into Copley any old time I want and see the changing light of day and season.  That’s why I took the photo, because I always did love this particular aspect of Boston, the blend of the classic and modern architecture.  The Victorian flavor of remembrance of things past while looking to the future that is still very much a part of the general character of the city and its populace.  Boston is simultaneously, continuously Colonial through Current, old ships and new museums.
Since I’ve been back, I have not gone to bed at a decent hour, and not for any good reason. I have been doing heavy gardening and yardwork manual labor, which has been very satisfying, but exhausting, especially in the heat.  I have tried doing things useful and fun with the kids, but not too far reaching.  Before the trip, we had visitors, while wonderful to see, little Baby G did not sleep much during the night, and Little M was a nearly 4 year old ball of energy.  During the trip, Honey and I definitely ran ourselves down, and exhausted Toots, too, by packing too much into too little time.  We tried to not be too ambitious, but, honestly, the trip itself was darned ambitious. The day we left our friends’ place in Cambridge for Connecticut, and picking up the boys, poor Toots was wailing protest over everything, very uncharacteristic behavior for her. 
I am past wailing protest tired at this point.  Now I just want to curl up with a good book and escape the world a bit.  I am absolutely grateful to have the boys back home and am enjoying them, but after the current load of laundry finishes, and after doing quite a bit more weeding out back by the broccoli and pepper plants before it gets too hot and muggy, I may just curl up with the book I am currently reading, and disappear into its Belizean rain forest.  It’s time for the vacation from the vacation.

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