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.

The Love Shack

This post is long overdue. You see, friends, I have been working on a Secret Project of Joy (in addition to conspiring to send my daughter away to military camp, aka Preschool). My Secret Project of Joy is transforming our garage guest room, the “Love Shack” as we like to call it, into a place I can actually work.

The first step was covering up the orange paint.

I am anything but a designer. Like most people, I enjoy being surrounded by beauty. When I get tired of standing in front of the mirror, I am left to find beauty in my environment. Husband and I picked out this great tile to go in the Love Shack, a terra cotta with blue designs on it (click here to see it up close). (By the way, I don’t recommend this tile unless you enjoy scraping bar codes off the floor. Some genius decided to put the bar codes on the TOP of each tile. As we are a lazy/busy family, there are still tiles with bar codes on them. In fact, the only ones without bar codes are a gift of my mother’s hard work. Thanks, Mom.)

As I was saying…I tried to match the terra cotta tile. And do an accent wall. Thankfully, I can’t find any photos of the old Love Shack, because although people were nice enough about it, it was Ugly. A few months ago I went out there to write, and as I sat on the bed, looking around (not writing), I couldn’t help but notice the pleasing sandy color I’d chosen was orange. Orange!

So on Mother’s Day, I painted the heck out of those walls, to a nice soft Informal Ivory. Now it’s Very Boring, which is better than orange, and I can always kick up the color a bit with the trim. And paint some poems on the walls, maybe some birds and stars. It’s MY ROOM. Yeah, guests sometimes sleep in it, so I don’t want to put anything disturbing on the walls, like these prints we got to enjoy when staying in a hotel room in Nasca, Peru:

Sweet dreams!

Don't let the bed bugs (er, horses) bite!

We weren’t sure which one we liked more, but we think the execution scene really sets the mood for peaceful slumber.

It’s clean and cozy, there’s a full bathroom, and even better: I can get work done in there. I’ve got lots of plans for the room, and the only challenge to my writing will be that I need to sit still and write, not putter about fixing up the place. In the meantime, it’s  a workable writer’s studio. I like to call it my “sink paceuary” (taken from “peace sanctuary” when I was doing the Hypnobirthing CD – don’t laugh).

Finally moved my story board from the bedroom wall to the Love Shack.

“All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point — a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf so famously said. Actually, I’d forgotten about the money part until I looked it up, and I now wish I had left the quote to memory. Anyway. I at least have the room of my own. It’s enough.

ETA: I was inspired to write about the Love Shack after doing Erin Bow’s interview. Her fantastic digs (located in a pole dancing studio!) make the Love Shack look tame by comparison.

Portrait of the Toddler as a Young Artist

She’s not so much a “toddler” as a “careener,” but that’s a blog post for another day.

“One feather…two feathers…but he can’t fly,” she says as she deftly moves the dry erase marker across her white board. Our artist today is creating a penguin, which should be readily evident to all who view it.

Examine, if you will, the small aperture at the top of the head – the penguin’s beak. Also of note in this image is the artist’s careful handling of the marker. She clutches it in the form of such famous artists as Monsieur Pou Pou and Dame Underfungly.

In the image on the right, the artist has given the penguin so much more: an aura to symbolize the life of the penguin. The penguin’s very being is celebrated in this caul-esque addition. View below, the bottom point of the penguin, and we see another dark feature, twin to the beak rendered above. This, the artist informs me, is the penguin’s “egg.” As if I needed telling. “But you can’t see it,” she says. “Why not?” I inquire. “He’s sitting on it.” The beak on top, the egg on the bottom – the artist has expertly captured the very symbolism inherent in parent-child relationships: I exist to feed you.

Penguin Parent

Finally, in the image at left, we have the final masterpiece. This penguin encapsulates the very concept of penguin. It now enjoys legs, and some additional eggs.

The artist, while often finding inspiration in nature, works primarily indoors on days when the weather is unpleasant. Perhaps she finds this creative outlet as an escape to cabin fever, desiring to infuse her immediate surroundings with natural phenomena that encapsulate freedom and fun.

Her primary joy is in creating one small image on a blank space, and then slowly elaborating upon the image throughout the course of a morning. She often enlists the help of friends and family for filling in the more mundane aspects of her masterpieces. In the dramatic rendering below, “Cabin Below Full Moon,” the artist has expertly incorporated the more rudimentary drawings of family members into her vibrant and large-scale depiction of the natural, amorphic symphony of the night sky.

Cabins Below Full Moon

How fortunate we are to be privy to the magic of an artist’s work in progress! Now, I would like to open up my “museum,” if you will, to the Public. Do you have a favorite artist in your life? Is he or she creating awesome works of art that should be viewed by one and all? If you have my email address, go ahead and send me a jpeg file of your artist’s work. If you don’t have my email address, contact me through the tab at the top of my website. In two weeks, I will showcase the work of all our favorite artists. (No copyrighted images, please.)

Also, this Friday tune in to an interview with the talented Yvonne Prinz, author of The Vinyl Princess and All You Get is Me.

The Unthinkable

Three bits of randomness, and a challenge.

1. Yesterday, two wild turkeys wandered along the sidewalk past our house. Just out for a stroll in the fog. No big deal.

2. Today, I pretended fixing breakfast took a lot longer than it did, because I was reading.

Yeah, that sort of sneaky behavior only works on the shorter set. Anyone tall enough to see over the edge of the counter (and she’s just about there, believe me, I’m raising an Amazon’s child) wouldn’t be fooled. [Yeah, that’s my crowded counter and chipped butter dish. So what?]

3. And finally, today I made Mommy Surprise. I named it that; it’s really a modified “Fruit Crisp” recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (modified: tweaked because we didn’t have “rolled” oats, only other oaty stuff; no human needs 4 tablespoons of sugar in a fruit crisp, and I mean Z when I say no one; and I got tired of cutting up apples so added two cups of blueberries instead):

Surprise! Mommy really loves you!

Prepare to be impressed: I microwaved it. Really, I’m not that afraid of the oven, but (sappy voice here) I wanted it to be ready before Z’s nap. She doesn’t know I’m calling it Mommy Surprise because it’s “Surprise! Mommy can actually make stuff in the kitchen! And she put her book down long enough to do it!”

Okay, here’s the real post, now that that other stuff is out of the way.

The challenge: Severely limit the amount of time I spend using the internet

The reason: Other than the fact my eyeballs hurt…my husband (sort of) jokingly said that I love my laptop more than I love him. Youch! Which got me thinking, am I online too much? Could I be the half-step between a regular person, and a person with the Feed? (That’s an M. T. Anderson Feed reference, there, and if you haven’t read that creepy-sad book, I suggest you do.)

The limits:

  • I will allow myself three sessions to read and respond to emails next week. No session may exceed an hour. I’d give up email entirely, except I have promises to critique writing and post writing for critique for one of my writers groups. And a week’s worth of Freecycle posts would probably get my email account shut down.
  • If I can keep each of those email sessions to half an hour, I get a prize. Now accepting ideas what that prize can be.
  • I will not post anything on my blog, nor will I check the stats, nor will I fiddle with any of the widgets or anything blog related.
  • I will also not – gasp! – read the blogs of anyone else. (Will WordPress, my blog host, even allow me to post a blog like this? If I don’t participate in the blog world, their site traffic will be decreased dramatically.)
  • No Facebook or Twitter, which, as fun as they are, won’t be such a hard loss.

The benefits: I calculate there will be many. I’m looking forward to some chunks of time being freed up for work on my manuscript, for one thing (no internet does not mean no laptop). Maybe Husband and I will watch a show together, or play a round of Killer Bunnies, or even, I don’t know, talk. The house might be a little cleaner. Z might remember what her mother looks like without depending on the clicking sounds coming from the little black box to recognize me. My time on the computer will be devoted to working on my manuscript, which will feel refreshing and invigorating and will give me that extra inspirational push I need to get through revising this pesky fight scene. I’ll also lose ten pounds and develop magical beauty skills, influence people, make friends, and convince Husband it is him I love, not this (beautiful, fabulous, convenient, perfect) laptop.

The question: Has anyone else tried this before? How did it work out? If there’s something else I need to consider, let me know soon, because it’s Internet Black Out starting at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

The other question: The world won’t stop, will it?

Q: So How’s that Chore Schedule Working Out For Ya, Superstar?

A: Ugh.

Two weeks ago I wrote this post, about how I’m trying to be a better stay-at-homie by keeping my house at the lowest possible order of functional cleanliness. It’s sort of a deal I made with myself. If I can do a set of chores on a regular basis, maybe I won’t need to feel so guilty about working on my manuscript or writing inane blog posts. As an added bonus, maybe some modicum of respectability vis-a-vis the floors, furniture, and bathrooms could keep me from wanting to jab my eyes out every time I look around.

Those things are true. But they only work if I do my chores.

IF.

And things keep getting in my way.

1. Outside Appearances: We can go a long time without doing anything, and then WHAM. Every morning and afternoon has something going on. There’s the Parents & Tots class at the preschool, there’s Music Together class. Play dates. Necessary trips to the library so Z can get new books. (Okay, fine, because Mommy has a passel o’ new YA books waiting for her on the hold shelf. But let’s allow Z to think this is about her.) We’re going going going and it’s all I can do to catch my breath, much less open the closet to see if we still have a vacuum cleaner.

2. The Grandma: It would sound bad if I left it like that. So allow me to explain, please. When Grandma comes to visit, The Ever-Suffering Mother (moi) gets to hide in her bedroom with her laptop and write in the mornings. It is GLORIOUS. I get so much work done. But not chore-schedule kind of work. More like, manuscript revising, manuscript critiquing for other people, other business for writers groups, and those all-important Facebook status updates. And blog posts. The free babysitting is for the morning, when everyone is at her happiest. But the mornings are when I usually do my chore schedule chores. Do I become flexible and do my chores in the afternoon? No. I become slothful and lazy and don’t do my chores and I don’t look back. Much.

3. Ennui: Sometimes I don’t feel like it. Usually Wednesday-Whatever-Day gives me a chance to catch up if ennui hits on a different day. But sometimes it doesn’t help at all.

4. The Library: This was partially covered in “Outside Appearances” above. But “The Library” also includes those YA books I borrow. You see, I don’t just like to bring them back and forth between the library and my (messy) house. I also like to read them. This takes time. Sometimes it takes…chore time.

5. The Kid: She wants to play “cave,” which is my new favorite game where we sit on the couch under a blanket. Sometimes we pretend to sleep in the cave (and one of us is doing more pretending than the other). Usually we pretend to feed passing animals who visit our cave. Either way I’m a) on the couch and b) under a blanket and c) do you really think I’m going to get off my butt and fold laundry when I can be doing a) and b)?

So if you come over (and please only do this if you actually have met me in person and I have given you the okay), and my house is making you think “how do they live like pig people?” – just remember, it isn’t my fault. I have 1 through 5 above, all conspiring against me.

Oh, and 6. The Cat: This is a rare shot of her up and moving around. Usually she’s resting peacefully…on my lap…while I read one of those books I mentioned…and it would be too cruel to dislodge her from her favorite napping spot.

Restraint

From my diary:

Sometimes I am the picture of restraint.

Situation exaggerated to illustrate point.

Other times, not so much.

Situation exaggerated not so much.

That’s all! See you on Friday with NiFtY author Elaine Cantrell!