Sunday, July 26, 2009

write now

I realize that I haven't talked about much in my life lately other than the kids and their shenanigans. This is a main purpose of the blog, of course, but I used to give a little more context of life outside of the mom part of me.

Part of that is that I started writing about writing in a super secret friend-locked lj so I can whine wallow in self-pity post excerpts of my works-in-progress for my four or five friends. It seems like novel-writing is something I'm insistent on doing, despite any logic or reason, and starting this blog was largely responsible for my return to regular, productive writing.

Since starting the blog, I've become a part of an amazing online writing community (many of whom are also blogging here), and I've also finished two novels and drafted 43k words on novel number 4! This current WIP--a young adult contemporary fantasy book that combines Shakespeare's Twelfth Night with A Wrinkle in Time and talking seagulls--has been a particularly enjoyable romp to draft after the more serious journey toward completion (or what can ever serve as completion, with a piece of writing...*polishes, polishes, polishes*)of TDBB, novel number three.

But the fact is, novel three is complete, and even though I periodically hate it in that "How could I ever have thought myself a writer!" kind of way, I really feel that this book is the strongest thing I've written. The periodic hatred crops up, I think, because the book inside my head, the book of my ambitions, is never exactly what emerges. But sometimes what emerges is actually more beautiful, in its own way. Whatever may be the case, the time has almost come to start querying this one. Which I have started doing--cautiously, selectively--even though I swore I was going to wait until closer to fall...or for the economy to pick up...or for the right stars to align...

It's just that doing this is really scary. And it makes for a lot of doubt. And dread. And hope.

But mostly doubt.

So I'm cautiously, selectively beginning. Researching agents. Getting critiques on my query letter. Writing a synopsis. Thinking about how to answer difficult questions about the book. Searching for books that have a similar style, a similar feel, a similar marketing plan.

And for now, I'm hoping to finish up this first draft of the new book before going back to work in an un-counted number of days. So there's my writing update, and now for a while anyway, it will probably be back to kid antics and parentingfail.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Three Funnies, or Three for the Baby Book

A big part of why I started keeping this blog was so that I could capture some of these fleeting moments, allowing me to go back and look at them years later and remember the joys and tribulations of this period of my life--things I won't remember because honestly I'm pretty much exhausted all the time and anyway, I can't really remember yesterday.

Except that's a lie; all three of these events happened yesterday, but I actually TOOK NOTES in my little notebook so that I would remember to write about them.

I spent the majority of the day hanging out with Monkey, since Jabber spent the day with Dad. Monkey and I had our last swimming sessions, and he really wiggles like a little minnow. Afterward, since we didn't have to pick up Jabber right away from daycare, we went to a nearby coffee shop for some lunch. He's a fun lunch date because he talks to everyone he isn't giving the stinkeye stare to.

Aside: Monkey divides the whole world into two groups: people you talk to and people you glare at. It doesn't really seem to have any rhyme or reason. My sister-in-law: total stinkeye stare. One of the news anchors David works with? Also a stinkeye. Swimming teachers? (to keep this slightly on topic) Stinkeyes one and all.

Random guy in line at the coffee shop? Monkey decides to call him Daddy. "DADDY! THERE'S MY DADDY!" he yells, so that everyone in the coffee shop can hear. The guy looks nothing like David. It is confusing.

It is all resolved, but not until everyone in the vicinity is paying attention. All of the people in the coffee shop are people you talk to, I guess.

Later, after a non-existant nap. Elissa at the edge of collapse. Monkey insistently repeats the same, unintelligible phrase, over and over.


I am clueless. He stomps over to the stereo and pushes the button to open it, growling in frustration and cranky fatigue. "POPPONDAWAH!" He points at a CD that has a bunch of kids' songs on it. I push play.

The first song is "100 Bottles of POP ON THE WALL." Gotcha.

And last night, Jabber and I are bonding over some Ramona the Pest. I ask him if he would like to be Ramona's friend. He gives me this incredulous look. "But, MOM," he says. "Why would I want a friction friendship?"

What? Well, nobody wants friction in their friendships, really. "But what do you mean?" I say.

"A friction for a friend! Ramona Quimby is...friction." He starts to look uncertain.

"OH! FICTION!" Haha, yes. "Good job on the genre," I say.

"Lasagna?" he says.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

books and books and books

Jabber has started a LibraryThing account, and he is going to be rating and reviewing all of the books that we read together as our bedtime stories (he says he will rate and review his favorites of the picture books, but mostly only chapter books). It's funny because so far he has rated them all with five stars. I think he's just so enthralled with stories, they are just the most wonderful thing for him. We've read a lot of great books in the last year or so, and right now we are reading Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary. Even Monkey comes running up happily when it's time for "More 'Mona, Mama!"

So tonight's chapter was about mud. And trouble. And Jabber could hardly stand to listen, though he begged me not to stop.

Ramona got shiny, new red rubber boots and found herself unable to resist a construction site filled with gooey-wet mud. Jabber was on the edge of his seat, even flipping over and over on the bed listening to me, covering his ears and his eyes and his mouth. “I can’t look! I can’t listen!” he shouted.

“What are you expecting to happen?” I asked him.

He shrieked as loudly as he could. “SHE’S GOING TO GET STUCK IN THE MUD!”

We tentatively read on, and then sure enough! Ramona got stuck in the mud. Jabber shook his head and groaned. He wondered aloud, with his hands clasped all earnest and worried-like, "Will she get in big trouble? Is Miss Binney going to be mad at her? Will the construction guys come along and RUN RIGHT OVER HER?"

His relief, at the end, when Ramona and her boots are safe, and she hollers to Henry Huggins that she's going to marry him (with her pink worm engagement ring), was palpable. He sagged against me, sighing in happiness. He really likes Ramona, but she’s way spunkier than he is, so she makes all these choices that really worry him.

Reading aloud with Jabberwock is my favorite thing to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

the serious business of learning

Jabber got an activity book about dinosaurs from the dollar bin at Target, and tonight he worked on a couple pages. He designed his own dino, and we talked about why we don’t know what color dinos are. This led us to have a pretty good discussion about rotting, about what is organic material and what happens to it when it decomposes. The whole discussion came into play a while later when we were hauling the compost bucket to the hardware store. We opened the compost bucket and experienced rotting with all our senses. Talk about hands-on science.

We've been pretending that we're at school lately, having "lessons" in each subject, since Jabber is pretty hesitant about the whole idea of going to school. He thinks (probably correctly) that he will have a hard time sitting still and paying attention. I worry that his perfectionism will make him anxious and unable to move forward on things, so we're working on having a "practice sheet" to make him feel like the stakes aren't quite as high the first time around (he gets sort of a little bit terrified at the thought of messing up a workbook page or a drawing or what have you...), and having a place to practice helps out a lot. Good thing to know, to be able to mention to his teacher.

We also got a little dry-erase board from the dollar bin at Target that has handwriting lines on it. You know, with the red line on the bottom, and dotted lines in the middle, and a blue line at the top? Jabber LOVES it. We're working pretty hard on learning the right way to form his lowercase letters and how to keep them in the lines. He loves it because he knows if he screws up, he can just wipe it off easily and start over. Then, once he has mastered it on the white board, he has no problem writing it on his real page.

Tonight we had "Phys Ed Class" by going for a walk/gallop/sashay with the compost bucket down past the road construction to the bin behind the hardware store. On the way back, Jabber spontaneously pulled all of his limbs and brain into concert and LEARNED TO SKIP. It was terrific, and we skipped hand-in-hand until he said, "Mom. I'm out with my breath!" But he was so happy and felt so important and grown up to have finally found his body coordinated enough to do what his brain was telling him to do. A very big day around here, indeed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guest Blogger: Jabberwock Talks...

This is Jabber, your guest blogger for the day, and he is going to talk to you about building a robot. Here, in case you are interested, is a photo series he worked on yesterday. More of his work should be showing up over the course of the summer.

This is my robot, and this is the first robot I've ever made. I don't know how to make any more robots, so this will be the last one I ever make, too.

Here are the steps to making my robot. First, I got a blue lunch bag. Also some construction paper. Mine was already cut up into pieces. Next, I got some glue and scissors from a grown-up. Last I glued pieces from my jet onto the lunch bag. I drew pictures of different things like the Statue of Liberty and towers and in the back I drawed buttons on it.

The coolest part was where I got to fold up the robot arms.

I think my robot is pretty cool. That's all that I think about my robot.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

old news, mom...

So Jabber and I were hanging out during Monkey's naptime reading our new books, and we were enjoying a little Ramona the Pest, which was one of his read-aloud picks this time around. I admit to gently encouraging the book, as it's about Ramona at age five, going to kindergarten for the first time, and Jabber is getting increasingly curious and apprehensive about kindergarten, which is to be expected.

So we're reading about Ramona's first day, and I'm explaining things like what it means to sit "for the present" and what "the dawnzer lee light" might be so the two of us can kind of giggle at Ramona and her silly naivete...

...and we get to the part where Ramona sees this boy, Davy, and instantly she decides that she would like to kiss him. I can't remember exactly how our conversation started, but essentially Jabber confessed to kissing Cute Girl from Daycare.

"Oh, did you kiss her on the cheek?" I asked.

"No, on the lips," he said, and his little mouth tweaked up at the corners like he wanted to smile but wasn't quite sure if that was cool or not. "I mean, Cute Girl's the one who said to kiss her on the lips."

We read a little more Ramona, and then the following exchange:

Me: So you kissed CuteGirl? Why?
Jabber: She told me to.
Me: So she told you to kiss her, and you just did?
Jabber: Seemed fun. She's the one who said it was to be on the lips.
Me: *cannot speak because she's holding back a laugh*
Jabber: I mean, half the time she doesn't even like me, Mom. But when she tells me to kiss her, I just do it.

I'm doing laundry now, so I have to go. Gotta fold all those little tiny kindergarten uniforms I just washed. Maybe I should check the pockets for condoms? Yikes. :P

Friday, July 10, 2009

This moment of momfail...

I have become a nagger. A ranter. A yeller. A font of negativity.

I have become that woman who rattles about the house flinging toys irritably in the direction of toyboxes while muttering things at a variety of volume levels--most of them sarcastic and an embarrassingly large number of them including the words "ungrateful" and "bend over backwards for you."

I have become a person who delivers long, angry monologues to a two-year-old. Who very obviously has no idea what I'm talking about anymore and clearly cannot remember the incident I'm ranting about.

I have become a mother who is out of patience, out of hope, out of tricks. Out of control.

This isn't meant to be a sad post, a poor-me post, really. I haven't ever really felt like being a mom is a competition. I'm not really interested in what my friends and neighbors think of me as a mom, as long as they keep it to themselves. I'm just interested in finding a way to actually enjoy being around my kids more often, to feel competent in my own right at being a parent. To feel like my kids are presentable--no, not in their appearance (so what if there's old oatmeal in Monkey's hair and Jabber has a snotty nose?), but in the more important things. Are they well-behaved in public? (No.) Do they have good manners? (No.) Are they, in general, kind to each other and other children? (No.) Do they listen to me when I try to keep them safe? (No.)

I know things aren't as bad as they seem. I know there are phases and extenuating circumstances. I know there are people raising twice as many, three times as many kids as me who are probably way more stressed out than I. I know I could definitely be screwing them up worse than I am.

But it's still no good. I feel like every moment I am with them (when they are awake) turns into a screaming match or a power struggle or a complete breakdown of everything good. I feel like I can't take them anywhere by myself, which makes me feel completely helpless and trapped here. When I do take them places--places I think will be a fun outing for us as a family--it ends up being a miserable disaster because they won't listen and be good and be safe, and then we get back to the nagging, the ranting, the yelling, the spouting of negativity. I don't know what to do.

So I'll just wait. And hope that eventually this too will pass. (And whine, I guess...)

Okay. Sometimes they're cute; I'll admit it. So here are two cute things they said lately to lighten this horribly negative and hopeless confessional of a post that I should really just delete.

One, I was talking to Monkey and used the word "frankly"--not exactly in most two-year-olds' vocabularies, I admit, but whatever, I'm not so good at speaking simply. So I said something like, "Well, frankly, I'm a bit surprised you managed to find that permanent marker and destroy yet another item that is precious to me in the four minutes it took me to shower." And he, indignant as only a toddler can be, stomped his tiny foot and said, "My name isn't FRANK! It's MONKEY!"

And two, (this one had David and I giggling for a while) Jabber was bouncing around the house, bored and determined that he should be watching television or something else we had forbidden at the moment, and he said, "There's nothing to do in this whole and tired house!" Well! I'd be tired too if I were almost a hundred years old and had to contain two fiery little boys, too!

I mean, I'm only 33, and they exhaust the hell out of me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

up to our ears in hats...

We have a lot of hats.

Hats are awesome...they keep the sun off, they keep my ears warm, they keep the world from seeing that I still haven't washed my hair today. (Sadly, they cannot hide the fact that I'm not yet wearing actual pants...)

They also sort of drive me nuts, in that cluttery, never-to-be-found-in-the-same-place kind of way. Most mornings this school year, there's a distinct possibility of me actually getting to school on time, if only I had been able to locate all of the proper hats at the proper time. Our hat collection is impressive. Our organizational system for the hats is not.

In fact, it may be slightly telling to reveal that after that photo, I shoved the majority of those hats back on a shelf sandwiched in between a stray mukluk and a basket full of old batteries and pens that don't work.

I could have a hat storage area, maybe, like a hall closet or a mudroom. Except we don't have either of those, so the hats just sort of flutter down off of heads somewhere in the vicinity of the front door and then filter from there out into the home--landing on various hooks, chair backs, radiators, shelves, floors, and sometimes even toyboxes.

Truthfully, I'm sort of scared to store them too close to each other. What if they multiply?