Standards and the Forces of Chaos

I was going to title this post “Standards and the Forces of Evil”, but that seemed a little harsh on my one year old.

As you, gentle readers, may have noticed, I often write about abandoning my attempts to keep my house looking like June Cleaver lives here in order to stay sane. Actually, that’s a gross exaggeration. My house has never approached within hailing distance of Mrs. Cleaver’s level of tidiness. So let me rephrase: I often abandon my attempts to impose some form of order and tidiness on the chaos.

B and I keep the house clean(ish) but only sometimes tidy(ish), and I was feeling kind of bad about that yesterday. I work from home and it is easier to work in a clean, orderly space. My space is not orderly. And I was feeling inadequate about that. It was bugging me. Thoughts like, God, what is wrong with you that you can’t keep the house a little tidier!? were running through my head. So I sat and looked (in a despairing way) at the chaos. And I noticed something. We live in a relatively small apartment. Not tiny, but we don’t have storage space beyond a few closets; and there are the two energetic and determined forces of chaos with whom B and I share this space.

Captain Chaos. What chance do we have against such a fiend?

Captain Chaos. What chance do we have against such a fiend?

While it is true that B and I are responsible for the untidy pile of mail taking up one end of the dining room table and the pile of boots and snow pants by the door (but come on. It’s winter), it is also true that B and I are NOT responsible for the following:

1) The paper recycling taken out of the bin and scattered around the living room

2) The boots and shoes taken (one by one, and never in pairs) to different areas of the house and carefully deposited behind furniture.

3) Books pulled with joy and abandon off of shelves.

4) Clean clothes pulled with joy and abandon out of dresser drawers.

5) Pots, pans, steamer baskets, sifters, and spatulas liberated from the kitchen and strewn about in a decorative manner throughout the apartment.

6) Dirty laundry liberated from the clothes hamper and strewn about ditto.

7) Dirt scooped out of the window sill planter and scattered about artistically.

8) Various (non-essential) parts of the printer dismantled and hidden under other things.

9) Magnetic letters and matchbox cars carefully wedged into the printer (presumably to make up for the parts that were confiscated).

10) Pieces of furniture (where do they get the strength, the little toads?) moved around the house.

And I started to feel a whole lot better. Because even if we work with the toads on cleaning up after they’re done with toys, there is just no way we are going to be able to keep ahead of a determined one year old who is being taught everything his three year old brother knows. In fact, it is extremely telling that one of the Captain’s first words is “crash”.

So I may as well embrace it; and by embrace it I mean go get a band-aid for the puncture wound on my foot from a lego flower. And while we’re embracing it, let’s be honest: I’d rather be a not-crazy mother and writer than be resentful of my kids and my job because I’m too busy picking up trains, Legos, and vegetable steamer baskets to do any writing or toad-enjoying.

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B has a cold (it’s not a man-cold, although at first I was suspicious). The toads (especially the smaller toad) have it too. The first thing that drops by the wayside when disaster strikes is my work. I called Mustang to vent about this because B does everything he can to be present and helpful so it’s not his fault this happens and therefore I can’t blame him. Then I realized I was interrupting my mom at work.



Side note: you know what cheers up a house full of cold sufferers and people taking care of said germ-incubators? Homemade chicken soup with yellow, orange, and red carrots instead of just orange. High-five.

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Sheer Genius

I’m in a self-congratulatory mood (which usually means something terrible is about to befall me, probably in the form of bodily fluids from one or both of my children), but until my pride causeth my fall, I will shareth: I am a genius.

I have a job in which is it considered research to:

1) Watch Gone With the Wind.

2) Read Little Women, Jo’s Boys, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom Under the Lilacs, Jack and Jill, and any other books by Louisa May Alcott you care to mention.

3) Read and watch Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey.

Jealous? You should be. Now I need to go clean up the sticky pool of liquid on the kitchen floor from an indeterminate source.

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Living in the Moment

Sorry the blog has been abandoned like a couch with bed bugs (i.e.: abandoned, ignored, pretend you don’t know it, just keep walking). It’s because I had been trying to balance too many things and nothing was getting done as it ought to be. So I sat back and thought (ha. who am I kidding? I thought while doing laundry, cleaning spit up, potty training, writing, revising, picking up from school, grocery shopping, menu planning, etc etc. But not sitting.). I figured out the things that had to stay (writing book 2, promoting book 1, parenting, being a good spouse, taking care of my health) and the things that could fall away (dusting, folding laundry, and sadly, blogging).

Just for a while. Just so I could be more present for the kidlets. I noticed that all of the things I had to get done were creeping into the time when I was supposed to be parenting and making me annoyed with my wee fiends. And not because what they were doing was annoying (although it certainly was on occasion), but because I kept feeling like I ought to be watching them AND. Being with them AND writing a book. Playing with them AND doing research for the next book. Paying attention to them AND promoting my first book on social media. And all those ANDs added up to me resenting my work, resenting my kids, and resenting myself for not magically being able to bend the space-time continuum (Hermione Granger, where are you with your time turner when I needed you??).

Parenting two toddlers (especially if they’re of the imaginative, high-energy variety), is exhausting and I only find it enjoyable when I can just let almost everything else go and exist in the moment. Sure I can still turn the laundry over or plan dinner, but I can’t be outlining a book at the same time as I pretend that a golden dragon (a nice dragon) is breathing fire at just the right temperature to warm me up but not so hot as to burn me while building a tunnel for a bear who is best friends with a train. What can I say? I’m limited like that.

And wonder of wonders: when I abandoned my attempts at multi-tasking my kids were suddenly so much more enjoyable. Exhausting, and relentless, and inventive, and hilarious, and usually one step ahead of me, but enjoyable nonetheless. Now that they are over their bewildering variety of holiday ailments I actually have a few hours a day to devote to work. I still do things like cook and fold laundry when I’m watching the toads (that’s a term of affection, I swear), but I try to avoid work. Work deserves its own space, and so does parenting (chores be damned. And by “be damned”, I mean be done as they can be, within the spaces created by my kids getting old enough to play on their own a little. I was never going to win any housekeeping awards anyway).

All this is to say: I’m back! As much as I can be without driving myself and my children over the brink into madness. It feels good.

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Cosmic Balance: Parenting Edition

Dear Children o’ Mine:

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, (all the best stories start that way), there was a girl.  Let’s call her K.  K had a little brother.  Let’s call him Junior.  These two children were about as good as children generally are.  They lived with their parents on the Last Frontier.  Their mother (let’s call her Mustang), was working from home one day and had a big deadline.  Mustang loved her children and was a great mother, an inspiration to many.  But that day Mustang made an error.  She told K and Junior that she needed one hour.  Just one hour.  One tiny hour to finish a big project for her work.

K and Junior listened solemnly.  They understood what Mustang needed.  She needed one hour.  One tiny hour to finish a big project and meet her deadline.  So what did they do?  They left the room.  Just as Mustang had requested.

Then they had a noisy, drawn-out, horrible fight.  Right outside the door to the room where Mustang was trying to use her one tiny hour to finish her work.  They fought as only siblings whose parent is desperate for peace can fight.  Mustang tore her hair and rent her clothes.  K and Junior did not care.

But like all good stories, this one shows how the universe has a way of coming back to bite you on the ass.

K now has two children.  Let’s call them Little Lord Fauntleroy and Captain Jack.  K has a big project she’s trying to finish.  It’s a book.  She needed LLF and the Captain to give her just a little wee tiny bit of time.  LLF and the Captain are about as good as children generally are.  So when K tried to get that little, tiny, wee piece of work done today, what did they do?

LLF excavated (extensively. thoroughly.) the mint on the windowsill (being about as neat as any two year-old would be), and the Captain threw up all over K (being about as neat as any baby would be).

This children, is called “cosmic balance”.

love, Mummy

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Balancing Act

I just received word from Goodreads that I am now counted as an official author. Which is thrilling. Run, don’t walk, over and mark Braving the Brontes, (Carly Keene: Literary Detective #1) as “to-read”! I’ll wait while you do that. Excellent work.

Carly Keene's cover art

Carly Keene’s cover art

But setting up a Goodreads page, and a Facebook page (CarlyKeeneBook) for the series, and a twitter account, and a Gobblydigook account (okay, I made that one up), takes time. A useful social media presence requires the exact opposite kind of attention and focus that writing does.  (So do children, but I’ve already talked about that, and I’m sure I will again).

For me, my best writing is done in periods of quiet without outside distractions (thus the number of posts here ranting about my children and their disinterest in my writing schedule). It takes concentration whether that means four hours of writing in one go or a long walk thinking through a plot problem followed by half an hour to get it nailed down on paper. Social media is the opposite of contemplative, creative time for me. Again, I don’t pretend to speak for everyone, but I am definitely not alone on this one. Kristin Cashore put it very well in this post. I don’t have the problem she has of too many fans, but the sentiment is one with which I identify strongly.

On the other hand, I want people to read my book. I’m really proud of it. I think it’s great. I’m already getting ready to write the next one. And if I refuse to be on social media, how will people know about Carly Keene? They won’t. So right now, while I’m still an unknown author, the best thing I can do is try to balance the two types of attention needed: the intense, dead-to-anything-else focus for writing and the fractured, frequent attention to various social media platforms to promote the book.  Carly Keene is good enough that she deserves all the attention I can drum up for her, and if you want to help, mark it as “to-read” on Goodreads and then once you read it write reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Luckily B and I have gotten back into running now that we have a double jogging stroller, and for me exercise helps mediate how stressful I find social media.

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Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

LLF likes to think up myriad excuses to get out of bed. He knows they have to be legit enough that we’ll do something about them rather than scoffing and sending him to the rightabout. Usually they involve inventive reasons behind a missing diaper, but after being sternly admonished on the topic he needed to find something new.

Never at a loss for long, not two minutes had passed before he reappeared. Sobbing.

LLF: Oh no! (Sob) eeyore-nays toooo long! (Sob)
Me: Eeyore? What? Why are you out of bed??
LLF: Nip-nip! (Sob)
Me: Why are you holding out your hands like you’re ready for a manicure?
LLF: EEYORENAILS!! (Sob) Too long!!
Me: You want me to cut your fingernails?
LLF: Yep. (Sob, still holding hands out like he’s at the spa)
Me: The same fingernails that earlier today you claimed were, and I quote, “Too ‘cary” to trim?
LLF: Yep. (Sob) Eeyore-nails too long!
Me: Points for creativity, but get back in bed you little so-and-so.

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