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To Write

Dear readers, I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.  Some of you are still reading this blog every day, despite the fact that I have not written a word on here in about two months. That is very kind of you.

However, please notice the qualifier I just used to describe my writing: on here.

The simple fact is that I have been writing.  I have finally bitten the bullet and committed myself to writing a novel.  As of today I’ve written 18 pages of a young adult fantasy novel.

This is something I’ve been thinking about, talking about, trying to start for years.  Truthfully I have started and stopped several other novel attempts before.  None ever seemed good enough to get beyond the first chapter, or at least, they never seemed good enough to me.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to go back to them and start anew.

For now though, I’m committed to writing this one novel.

It is consuming nearly all of my writing creativity and almost every free moment.  While 18 pages may not seem like much for about six weeks worth of writing, it turns out creative writing is incredibly difficult!  Who’d have thought it?

My goal is to finish by Little C’s 2nd birthday in April.  So that gives me about 3.5 months to finish roughly 110 pages.  That comes out to roughly 30 pages a month or 7-8 pages a week.  Yikes!  I may be setting myself up for failure, but if I don’t have a deadline I won’t feel the push to complete it.

Now before everyone freaks out (or actually before I do) the good news is the husband will be home for 4-6 weeks of compensation time sometime in the next three months.  Yes, you read that correctly.  My husband will actually be here, at home, non-stop, for weeks.

And while that will be wonderful for him to have all that free time, it will also be wonderful for me to have a couple of hours each day to do whatever the heck I want to do, like write.

And if you all are very nice to me I might share a chapter or two with you.  Maybe.

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As reported, my son has been driving me crazy and obviously needs some different kind of stimulation than what I have been providing.

I think the piles of books on the floor clearly make this point for me.

So…in order to maintain my sanity I’ve been doing some brainstorming, followed by research.  For several days I’ve been wracking my brain about what activities my boys likes best.  Frankly, I’ve been obsessing about every toy he’s ever played with for more than 5 minutes, every activity he’s ever willingly engaged in, every tiny hint he might be interested in something that stimulates his little mind.

And here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. The “rollercoaster” table.

good times

C played with a table/activity center similar to this at the bookstore, the doctor’s office, and, most recently, the children’s library.  It was this last incident (and yes, I said incident on purpose) that really hammered home for me how much C loves these darn things.

**Let me recount for you what happened: We went to the library in the hopes of seeing a puppet show, which later scared the crap out of C, but we had some time to kill before that happened.  I thought hanging out in the children’s department might be a good idea.  C could flip through the board books, maybe play with the other kids.  Instead, he saw the rollercoaster activity table and made a bee-line for it.  He spent about half an hour pushing the beads up and down the wires, apparently never tiring of the repetitive motions.  When I had to tear him away for the puppet show, he quite literally freaked out! Screaming at the top of his lungs, C threw himself around in my arms as I tried to leave the children’s department in a dignified manner.

My dignity may have remained in tact had we not returned there after fleeing the evil puppet show.  But brilliantly thinking that the rollercoaster would definitely cheer my son up, I failed to take into consideration how difficult it would be to pry him away from it a second time.  And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to wait until C tired of the table since he delivered a very large stinky diaper that need immediate attention.  I was forced to pull him away from the table and yet again, was subjected to piercing screams and full tantrum mode.  I think my dignity is still there on the floor of the children’s department, right next to the puddle of my hopes that C would spend many happy afternoons there.  Alas…**

Needless to say, it was pretty clear to me that C would love to have a table of his own.  So I got one.

No it’s not his birthday and Christmas is still months away.  Let’s just call it a birthday gift to myself.

2. The play kitchen.

A solution to cabinet emptying? we'll see.

My thoughts on this are that C really (I means REALLY) seems to enjoy emptying shelves and cabinets, so maybe he would like to do this in his own pretend kitchen (rather than in Mommy’s real one).

I’m thinking of getting this as C’s early Christmas present.  If this year is anything like last year, he’ll enjoy the paper and boxes more than the gifts.  Truthfully, he probably won’t even know it’s a special day other than the fact that there are a lot of boxes wrapped in paper he’s allowed to rip and shred to his heart’s delight.  So if he gets his play kitchen a little early, no one will know but us.  And I can trust you with this, right?

3. The workbench.

To focus the banging on to hammers and nails

C seems to have a lot of frustration and aggression due to his inability to communicate and control his own environment (or at least that’s what the books say).  Unfortunately this means C has been throwing things and banging his little hands on whatever he’s near.  My thinking here is that maybe he can take some of his frustration out with the little toy hammer and the little toy “nails”.  If not, the whole thing only cost me about $10 and he has plenty of cousins who, I’m pretty sure, would be glad to take it off his hands.

We’ll see if these news toys help to take the edge off C’s terribleness (some time at the park and at the baby gym should help too).

The rollercoaster table arrived today and I don’t know who was more excited, me or C.  But I know this for certain, my boy happily played with it for about 20 minutes without a hint of frustration and I saw some of my happy baby boy peeking out from behind his “terrible” toddler faces.

Terrible Twos-ish

Let me begin by saying that in my attempts to do some quick research to support my personal info on the “terrible twos” that apparently the established medical community doesn’t like this term and considers this abhorrent toddler behavior to be…normal.

Little C has fully entered into his terrible twos at just 18 months.  Our average day now includes such behavior as pulling all the books from a particular shelve, throwing toys at the dogs, and perfecting the charming “screaming while running” tantrum.

Now I’m all for C exploring his universe and learning about things like gravity and force, but not at the expense of my sanity and the dogs’ well-being.  As to the running tantrum, it’s all I can do not to fall down laughing (C gets really mad and literally starts running as fast as he can until he can’t go any farther and then turns around and runs the other direction at full speed.  All the while he is screaming and crying.  It would be sad were it not for the fact that his little wobbly run is adorable and the behavior is just so bizarre.).

To make matters worse, I’m getting a tantrum nearly every time I tell him “no”.  Not fun.  If C isn’t allowed to do one of the three things he always wants to do (dig in the dirt, watch Sesame Street on the computer, or pull things off shelves/out of cabinets)  I am the immediate recipient of ear-piercing screams and foot stomping.

It makes me so glad that I decided to devote my life to raising him.

The few somewhat legitimate websites about the terrible twos really emphasized how important it was to remember that the toddler is not being willfully rebellious or defiant, but is frustrated with the lack of control over their own life and their inability to communicate.

So I try to remind myself the my son isn’t purposefully trying to drive me insane, take a few deep breaths, and chase after him.

Until he outgrows this stage (in what? two to three years?) I’m going to try to redirect some of his energies into something more productive.

As of today, I’ve ordered a “rollercoaster” table (you know the tables with long wires twisted into shapes and curves, loaded with beads?) and I’m looking into some MyGym classes.

Any other ideas? I’m all ears!  I’m looking for classes, outdoor activities and entertaining toys if anyone out there has some suggestions.

Family Time

My prodigal husband has returned, thus my absence from blogging.

For the first time since before my son was born, I have spent five consecutive nights just hanging out with my husband.  We talk, watch shows we like or catch up on movies we missed, and generally just wallow in our happy little family, who is usually in the bed with us.

It’s been an adjustment making room in my routines to include him.

Suddenly, it’s not entirely polite to blog while watching tv and eating popsicles in bed while he lays on the his side, trying to ask me questions.  And those piles of dishes that I always leave until the morning? Strangely, they’re in the way!  What?!?

On the upside I’m no longer the only one who has to get up at 5am to let the dogs out.  There is someone else in the house who can answer the phone while I’m up to my elbows in baby’s bath water.  It’s nice to have my burden lessened.

And the big upside/downside to having my hubby home again is that Little C is so excited to see his dad, any time he comes in the room (even if we just saw him two minutes ago), C simply cannot contain himself.  This makes bed time something more of a challenge than it already is.

C and I had fallen into a comfortable pattern: we take the bottle to the big bed and I set up a row of pillows on the empty husband side, while C lays there drinking his bottle, falling asleep to my soothing back strokes.  C no longer wants to be cuddled to sleep, and demands his own space.

Now, that side of the bed is occupied!   If his dad happens to be in the bed, C would like to roll around, being silly, flopping first on daddy, then on mommy, then on Penny at the foot of the bed.  C finds this hilarious, while the rest of us silently bite back our frustration.

The solution: daddy stays away while I put C to bed by myself, in the big bed and then transfer him to the crib.

Ok, I know that’s not an actual solution, at least not in the long-term.

We’re thinking, it might be time for C to have a big boy bed of his own.  He’ll have plenty of space.  It’ll be easier for us to put him to bed since we’ll actually be on the same level (and since C hates the crib with a fiery passion).  We’ll install a bed rail, of course.  And though C is only turning 18 months, he is literally the size of a 2-3 year old, so the crib is getting tighter and a child’s bed is legitimately his size.

As with all plans like this, I’m somewhat nervous, because it seems like it would be such a good idea.  Whenever I have these “great ideas to make my life easier” moments, they really don’t go according to plan.

We’ll let you know how it goes.  Maybe I’ll get lucky.

Baby Vacay (part 2)

Despite the many trials of taking a child on vacation, I did, in fact, have a good time.

Once C adjusted to the time change, and I adapted to living out of one room, we began to find a rhythm to our days.

1. We figured out a solution to the eating situation, which largely meant me anticipating C’s needs and feeding him before the hungry whining started.  It also meant that we could never eat alone.  By the time I was finished feeding C, he was more than ready to get up and go, leaving my stomach empty and rumbling.  Having my family entertain C in shifts actually allowed me to finish a meal! Miracle! I don’t even get to do that at home (for example, I ate half of my spaghetti dinner out of the pot while putting things away after C was done).

2. Nap time=mommy time. C getting up every day between 4:30 and 7:30 meant he was ready for a nap no later than 11.  And for whatever karmic reason, each nap was two hours! I finished 4 books and 4 magazines in ten days.  No dishes, no laundry, no beds to make. Amen!

3. The pool was awesome! We visited the pool everyday after 3pm.  Why after 3, you ask? Well, I am lily white, my son is slightly less blindingly white, and the sun is both hot and strong in Hawaii.  Going in the late afternoon minimized the time we spent in the sun at its worst.  Also, for some reason, most tourists liked to be out at the pool in the middle of the day, sweating their behinds off (I don’t get it!).  So the pool was much less crowded and lounge chairs, in the shade no less, were available.

I would spend half an hour to forty-five minutes playing with C in the wonderful water and sand, until a family member would relieve me  so I could read, doze and enjoy a cocktail.  It was heavenly.

4. The iPad wasn’t actually created by Apple and Steve Jobs. It was made by God as compensation for challenging children.  Trust me on this.  Buy one and you’ll see that it is literally heaven sent. We would not have survived dinners out or long afternoons hiding from the heat without the innovations of the iPad.  we just had to prop it up on the table and C could watch his favorite movies anywhere we went.  Crisis averted!

(on a side note: I could happily go the next five years without seeing “Milo and Otis” again.  As charming as Dudley Moore’s narration is, one can only watch a dog and cat suffer obvious animal cruelty as they “frolick” through their adventure.)

Now that we’re back, life may be a little easier but it’s missing those few moments of blissful relaxation one can only find in Hawaii.

Baby Vacay

It’s been roughly a week since I got back from vacation, and yes, it took me all week to get back on track.  By that I mean I literally finished the last load of laundry earlier this evening.  I don’t know if I have ever had that much dirty laundry at once….ever.  I hope not to repeat it any time soon.

Aside from the mountains of dirty clothes my son and I created while on vacation, we also had an excellent time.  Well…mostly excellent.

Nobody warned me how much work it was to take a child on vacation.

Every child rearing book, every mommy website touted the pleasures of family vacations:

How great it is to get away with your kids! How much they’ll enjoy the adventure! How you’ll treasure every new experience together! Yay! Memories!

(And, oh wait, you’ll need to bring a mountain of stuff with you…..and buy a mountain of stuff once you arrive….and the baby may not be too happy about a new environment/time zone/schedule. But aside from all that, it will be totally awesome.)

First, let me be clear, I DID have a lovely time.  It was just the first few days that were pretty rough.

We had a tough time adjusting to the time change, initially.  C’s “at-home” wake up time is usually around 7:30 am, which is totally acceptable.  However, Hawaii is three hours behind us, so 7:30 became 4:30.  As in 4:30 in the morning!! As in two whole hours before the sun gets up! Not my favorite time of day.  But really, whose favorite time of day is it?

This horrendous wake up time thus negatively affected our entire day.  It made dinner nearly impossible, as C was so exhausted by 6 pm that he was ready to go to bed without eating.  Each day I struggled to keep him awake longer and longer so that we might actually enjoy dinner with the family (i.e. one of the best parts of vacation).  I was able to accomplish this for the last three nights, or, as I like to think of it, just in time to completely get off our “at-home” schedule.  But at least I accomplished my goal.  That’s something right?

Aside from the schedule issues, adjusting to eating at a restaurant for every meal or snacking on ready-to-serve foods from the mini-fridge in the room was a challenge as well.  C didn’t like most of the items on the kids’ menu at the hotel and was only amenable to two of the grocery store snacks I got him.  After two days of struggling to get him to adhere to the healthy meals plan we have at home, I gave in and let C eat french fries at every meal (aside from breakfast), along with a regular rotation of chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and sandwiches.  When he wouldn’t eat those, I fed him frozen yogurt mixed with fruit, or not, whichever he would get down.

Essentially, I decided my little man and I would indulge for the duration of our stay in paradise.  C can always use an extra pound, since he is only in the 25th percentile for weight, and me, well, I need to get back on Weight Watchers after my birthday next week anyways (so what’s 3 extra pounds to me?).

Mother of the year award heading my way anytime soon?  Probably not.

Oh well.  I think I’ll live.

(And to illustrate my point of schedule issues, C just woke up.  Baby Vacay Part 2 tomorrow…or maybe Monday…we’ll see…I’m definitely not super mom over here).

Grief

I’ve debated writing this post for the last few days.  I’ve always been a believer in weathering stormy times with the help of just a few friends or family members, rather than waving the flag of grief and sorrow for everyone to see.  Whether this is a healthy belief or not, I can’t say.

But today, I ask not for your sympathy, but for your ear.  I write this post, not as much for myself, as for all of us who grieve and have grieved.  It was too important not to write.

My step-grandfather passed away over the weekend, after a long and painful decline in his health.  But today is not to eulogize him.  Today is to feel the pain before putting it aside.  Today is allowing the grief of his death to wash over me, wallowing in the sorrow of his absence, before rising tomorrow and moving forward.

As I said, his health had been in decline for some time, and theoretically I was prepared for his eminent passing.    Yet, as I heard the words, telling me what I had anticipated for so long, a wave of pain crashed over me.

The reality of his absence in my life yawned into a void within my chest.  Tears sprang to my eyes, choking my voice, shaking my hands as they clutched the phone.

For some minutes, I didn’t move, I couldn’t move.  The pain rolled in me, like a ball bouncing, bruising each place it landed on.  I tried to shake it off, offering myself the words of consolation I’ve said so many times to others: He’s in a better place. He’s with God now.  His suffering his finally over. And though those words bring me consolation now, for those first few hours they did nothing to ease the pain.  I simply had to ride it out.

But as you no doubt know, the pain slowly eases, as a breeze slowly takes the edge off a sweltering day, not all at once, not even enough to remove all traces of heat, but just enough to let you sleep.

Now though, days later, with his death rationalized and my faithful consolations repeated, my grief occasionally catches me off guard.  It will sneak up on me as I try to get through my mundane day.

Suddenly it will be there, springing upon me, with tears and breath catching in my chest.

As I wash the conditioner from my hair.

As I change the sheets on the bed.

As I fold my son’s socks.

As I shelve books.

As I say his name.

As I breath in and as I breath out.

I know from past grief, the pain will dissipate from every minute, to every hour, to every day, to every so often, eventually to almost never.

I also know that though time erases pain, it does nothing to erase love.

And for that, at least, I am thankful.