Writer’s Group

One of my favorite Z stories is how she asked me to play picnic with her one morning. She’d arranged all the plastic and wooden “food” on a blanket on the floor, and she’d enlisted a plastic Lego box for a little table. So I came in and sat down on the floor, thinking I was doing her a huge favor, taking time from cleaning to be a part of this picnic.

I said, “Okay, here I am! I’m ready for the picnic!”

She picked up a throw pillow, set it on her lap, and pretended to type. Then she said, “Just a minute, I have to do something on my computer.”

Color me sheepish.

Our "computers." They never get viruses or need updates. In fact, the green one still works after Z's diaper leaked on it, although it is a bit lumpy from the washing machine.

Another time, I was rushing to get a plate of vegetables together to bring to a potluck/schmooze for SCBWI. Z informed me that she was going to her own writer’s group, and she was bringing marshmallows.

And today, she asked me if I wanted to go to writer’s group with her. Of course I said yes. So I had to get in our “car” (the couch) and let her drive us there (after closing the car doors and buckling up our safety belts first). Then we got out. She gave me a throw pillow, and took one for herself, and we “typed.” I asked her what she was writing, and she said, “How are you, Boo BOO!” She asked me what I was writing, and I told her I was writing about Owly Fowly (Owly Fowly is a character we made up together, who features in many of our stories).

Then we got back into our car, buckled up and closed the doors, and Z drove us home.

Someday, maybe we’ll be in a real writer’s group together. But for now, this is real enough.

Quiet Time? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

There are, in the world, parents who probably consider us lucky that Z continued napping until she was nearly three.

I try to remember this when I’m tearing out my hair and sobbing on the phone to my mom.

“Quiet Time” sounds something like this. (Please note: Curly brackets {  } denote the ESM’s thoughts, those things she says inside her head that she will never say aloud. Well, no louder than a grumble.)

Ever-Suffering Mother: Okay, Z, you’ve had something to drink, you’ve used the potty, you had stories and songs. Now it’s Quiet Play Time and I’ll set the timer for an hour. You get to play in your room now. Loveyoubye. {Maybe I should try setting the timer for an hour and a half? Would she know? No, but I would know, and I’ve inherited just enough of my mother’s Catholic guilt….}

Z: Okay, Mommy.

pause.

Z: Mommy, I want to take a nap. Turn on my noise machine. Please.

ESM: [rolls eyes when Z turns around] Yeah, sure. A nap. Okay, I’m turning your noise machine on.

Z: [climbs in bed] I need blankets.

ESM: [gives her the frickin’ blankets]

Z: I need my friends.

ESM: Okay, I’m getting you two friends. Which ones do you want?

Z: Talula and Ladybug Girl Baby.

ESM: [searching entire house for Talula and Ladybug Girl Baby] You know what? After this I’m not getting you anything else. It’s Quiet Play Time {dammit}.

Approximately three minutes and twenty-eight seconds go by.

Z: Mamamamadaddydaddy!

ESM: {yeah right.}

Z: Mamamamadaddydaddy! I need blankets!

ESM: I gave you blankets.

Z: [using distressed, I-mean-business-you-better-give-me-what-I-want-or-you-will-never-get-a-second’s-peace voice] I need blaaaaankets!

ESM: [using I’m-giving-in-this-one-time-and-if-you-ask-me-for-one-more-stupid-thing-I-will-explode voice] Fine! Here are your blankets. Now it’s QUIET TIME SO BE QUIET!!!

I’ve given up trying to write in the afternoons.

41 days until preschool starts.

Reverse Placebo Band-Aid Drama

Z’s a happy child. She laughs, tells jokes, loves it when I hide behind a corner and scare the pants off her when she least expects it (this runs in my family).

She also tends toward the melodramatic (this also runs in my family. Fine. Just me. Shut up before I go cry myself to sleep).

Last week my mom was visiting (a.k.a. Free Babysitting While I Hide in my Bedroom with the Computer). Mom needed a band-aid, so I got her one, and I got one for Z as well. I remembered seeing this cute little girl in music class wearing band-aids all over her body – arms, legs, tummy, so I thought it would be fun for Z to have a band-aid and match her Gran. Boy, was I wrong.

I picked a spot on her hand for the band-aid, and maybe this was my mistake – the spot had a little tiny boo-boo. This boo-boo was probably 1/32 of an inch long, the teeniest scratch imaginable. But once the band-aid was in place, the boo-boo transmogrified into a Grievous Wound.

She babied her hand for the entire day, cradling it in her other hand, wrapping it in blankets, asking for an ice pack. She ate exclusively with the other hand, prefering to rest the wounded hand in her lap during meals. At first it was cute. Then it sparked a few eye rolls. If it hadn’t been coupled with whining during dinner, I probably would have been fine. (But what’s a Grievous Wound if you can’t whine about it?)

Z: I don’t want Daddy to take my band-aid off at bathtime.

Husband: I have to take the band-aid off at bathtime, but it won’t hurt.

Ever-Suffering Mother: It’ll be fine, Z. There’s nothing wrong with you.

Z: [voice substantially higher in pitch] But I don’t want Daddy to take my band-aid off! It hurts it hurts!

[dialogue repeated enough times to make the most patient of mothers (I know I can’t even hope to fit into that category – I can’t even type it without feeling like a hypocrite) lose  her cool.]

ESM: If you whine about it again, I’ll take the band-aid off right now.

Z:

Alas, a few minutes later, my drama-queen-in-training could not help herself. She said something about the band-aid. Granted, she didn’t use a whiny voice, but I was done. Done with dinner, done with her drama, and done with that dumb band-aid.

I got up, grabbed her hand, and took the stupid thing off (the band-aid, not her hand). It was only hanging by one side, anyway (again, the band-aid, not her hand). And guess what: She. Was. Fine. A quick, whiny protest as I tossed the offending adhesive bandage into the garbage, and then she was back to eating her dinner.

With both hands, this time.

The No-Nap Blues

The No-Nap Blues: I’m singin’ ’em.

Yesterday, I, the Ever-Suffering Mother, sat through an hour of listening to my child whine in the next room. “I don’t want to sleep. Let me up. Let me up!” (As if I were physically holding her down on the bed. However, if she’s going to continue believing herself stuck in bed, I’m not gonna enlighten her.)

Later in the afternoon, I spoke with one of the members of my Maternal Support Team (a.k.a. “Mom”).

Ever-Suffering Mother: Why didn’t she go to sleep? I think I don’t like her at all.

Maternal Support Team: (makes indistinct noises without committing the blasphemy of speaking against her granddaughter)

ESM: (wails) I just wish I knew what I did wrong!

MST: (finally kicking into supportive mode) You didn’t do a single thing wrong. Sometimes these things just happen.

ESM: No. Something went wrong. I did something different, and I will figure out what it was so it never happens again. (shakes fist at the other room where Z happily plays with her stuffed animal friends)

MST: Really, sometimes these things just happen, and you can’t control them–

ESM: Can so. I know I turned around three times in the kitchen before her naptime. That might have influenced it. Or her sound machine…maybe the volume got adjusted up or down after we brought it back from your house. Or I sang the second verse of her second lullaby in the wrong key. I will figure it out!

MST: (laughs)

By the time my Spousal Support Team (a.k.a. “Husband”) returned home from work, I was a total wreck. Still in my sweatpants, hair tied back in a nasty black scarf (the color of mourning), wondering if I’d ever have time to work on my manuscript again. Feeling a little sick from self-medicating with half a bag of Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate chips. (Oh wait, that’s every evening. Tears optional. Maybe change the color of the scarf.)

Really, though, what do stay-at-homies DO when their child stops taking naps? Do they have a second child to distract the first? Do they run away from home? What I’d like to do is institute a three-hour Solitude and Quiet Time. And, yeah, maybe run away for a couple of days.

Mommy Goes To Los Angeles

My first weekend away from home since Z’s birth deserves a tribute, and Z deserves a new book. So I made one for her. It cost no money and took approximately forty minutes to create. The illustrations especially are an indication of the book’s hasty publishing.

Z has been without her father for weeks at a time (usually for work), so she’s used to him being gone (although she never likes it). Because I’m always around, I thought a book might be a good way to explain what’s going on. I could just tell her, but that would be boring.

Plus, I love making books.

So here’s the text:

Mommy is going to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is a city in southern California. Auntie Dana lives there.

Mommy is going to visit Auntie Dana, and stay at Auntie Dana’s house.

Mommy and Auntie Dana will do fun things, like go out to dinner, go shopping, and tell stories.

While Mommy is in Los Angeles, Z will get to spend lots of time with Daddy!

Z and Daddy will eat together, play together, and do naptime and bedtime. Maybe they’ll read lots of stories, like this one.

Even though Mommy will have fun with Auntie Dana, she will miss Z and Daddy and Clark very much!

But remember, whenever Mommy goes away…

Mommy comes back!

Kids are so easy to impress. She LOVES the book. She especially liked how I used her markers to make it.

Quick bit of blog business (three things):

1) No post on Monday. I have a great book to review for you (Plain Kate by Erin Bow) and I want to do it justice, not, like, write it while I’m in an airplane.

2) Starting in December we’re going down to two author interviews per month. I’ve been missing my free-for-all entries. Starting next Friday, interviews will be shorter.

3) I’m thinking of going down to two updates per week. I need to focus on my fiction, which was the whole reason for starting this blog-website. If the blog is taking over fiction time (or family time), that’s a problem.

Happy weekending, everyone!

That Niggling Question

There comes a time in every mother’s life when she asks herself: “Am I raising a sociopath?”

Oh, you mean you’ve never asked that question? Never? So your kid has never said, with a sweet smile on her face, “That baby is crying!” And she looks, well, happy about it, or proud or something. Like she orchestrated the other child’s tears. And the look of horror on your face.

It wouldn’t bother me if this had happened only once. But any time there is a child crying, or even whining, in the library, at Target, the grocery store, a birthday party, anywhere, she says this. All creepily. She looks a little like Jack Nicholson when she says it (Nicholson in The Shining, Batman, whatever). And I put on my sad face, and say, “Yes, the baby is very sad. Poor baby.”

And Z just stands there, smiling.

So here’s a list of criteria for antisocial personality disorder (also called sociopathy), researched on that paragon of scientific truthfulness, Wikipedia, and how Z fits the mold:

1. Persistent lying or stealing. Do you have to go potty? No. Are you sure? No. Do you have to go? No. SHE GOES. Then there’s: Hey, that’s my DS! Leave it alone! Come back here! SHE RUNS OFF WITH DS.

2. Apparent lack of remorse or empathy for others. See smiling while other children cry, above.

3. Cruelty to animals. All I can say is, Poor Clark. Her tail will never be the same.

4. Poor behavioral controls. We’re talking about a two-year-old, here.

5. A history of childhood conduct disorder. Already in the making.

6. Recurring difficulties with the law. Two words: time out.

7. Tendency to violate the boundaries and rights of others. Um, yup. Not only were my boundaries violated during the sixteen months of breastfeeding, but there’s the constant skirt-tugging. And the hug-attacks on her little friends that often leave them crying.

8. Substance abuse. Her addiction to goldfish crackers counts, I think.

9. Aggressive, often violent behavior. She bit me today. Then she said, “Biting Mommy.”

10. Inability to tolerate boredom. Wow. It’s like the people writing this list actually know my daughter. Were they here yesterday afternoon? [Checking home for hidden cameras right now.]

11. Disregard for safety. She runs everywhere without even looking at the ground. She almost fell into the fish pond at the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver. She ran around with a fork before dinner last night.

Well, there you have it. I am raising a sociopath.

But she’s so freakin’ cute. And she’s my sociopath. And I love her so.

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Pee

Fantasy: The Ever-Suffering Mother sits on the couch with her NEW, BEAUTIFUL, FANCIFIED laptop, typing away at her Great Work of Young Adult Literature, putting on the finishing touches for her PUBLISHER (this is a fantasy, after all. Indulge me). As she types, she listens to the sweetest sound in the world: “Mamam! I went poop in the potty! I’m going to clean everything up now, wash my hands, and give myself a sticker! Don’t worry about anything. It’s all taken care of!”

The Ever-Suffering Mother sighs contentedly, shifts slightly to accommodate Clarkie, who naps peacefully on the Ever-Suffering Mother’s feet, and calls back, “Nice job, Sweetie! When you’re done, come in here to give me a hug before you finish washing the dishes and mowing the lawn!”

Here is our potty-training lexicon:

  • Go, go, go, go, GO!
  • Poop and pee go in the potty.
  • Tell Mama when you have to go.
  • Big girl underwear!
  • Just like Mommy and Daddy.
  • You may have a sticker after you wash your hands.
  • Good job, Z!

Your potty is covered in stickers. You have pull-up diapers. You even have big-girl underpants with some obscure (to me) cartoon character on them.

You tell me (sometimes) (when it is convenient for putting off bedtime) when you have to go.

So what’s the next step? What’s the next thing for a (lazy, often-inconsistent) mom to do? Am I supposed to keep on keepin’ on? Because if that means “keep on cleaning up pee in Z’s favorite spots in the house,” I don’t know if I’m ready for the Great Potty Training Experience.

Or is that “experiment”?

Everything with you, my precious, willful, sparkling daughter, is an experiment.