To sleep, hopefully without many dreams

As I’ve mentioned before, I am one of the ultimate night owls. I don’t like to sleep at night. I find it physically and psychologically painful to sleep early. BUT . . . (you knew a but was coming, right?) . . . I am not getting enough done lately. Today was probably the first time in a week that I’ve actually cooked something for dinner, my reading is way behind, and let’s just not think too hard on the state of the laundry pile. It may be easier to just buy everyone new clothes.

So my big project for the next few weeks is to reset my sleep cycle and maybe, just maybe, get enough sleep at night that I’m not dragging all day. I just can’t function well on 4 or less hours of sleep.

This is especially important because I’ve got a lot of doctor’s appointments and such scheduled for early summer. We have 6 kids at home and they all need eye exams, dental checkups, annual physicals, and goodness knows what else along the way. The Ninja needs a tooth pulled, my oldest daughter the Bear needs her wisdom teeth extracted, and the baby is going to need ongoing eye exams to see if his crossed eyes and horrible vision are improving. And they all depend on ME getting it done. Heck, even the 27 year old had me drive him to get his wisdom teeth extracted. He’s still wondering if he really flirted with the dental technician. And only me and the dental technician know for sure! ;-)

Anyway, I need to get all this stuff done before the end of the summer. If you wait until August to try to get a kid a physical, forget it. So I need to get enough sleep that the idea of dragging the kids through town isn’t quite so appalling. It takes a lot of mental energy to take two hyperactive boys, one autistic young woman who is a runner, a grumbly teenager, and a baby anywhere. I took them shopping for their older sister’s birthday presents last weekend. Whew. It’s a wonder I am still sane.

Ish.

I just hope that more sleep doesn’t necessarily mean more dreams. My brain has been sending me nightmares lately, and I’m not enjoying them. Remember all that 70’s cultural nonsense about “dreaming in color” and lucid dreaming and all that? I remember overhearing stuff about it when I was a kid and wondering if it really was important if you dreamed in color. Because I don’t only dream in color, I dream in Technicolor with a virtual reality headset.

Yeah, my dreams are so realistic that I am continually waking up only to spend the rest of the day trying to convince myself that the dream wasn’t real. My husband has suffered through some bad days where I had dreamed he did something awful . . . and then was grumpy with him for the next few days. Sure, I knew logically that he hadn’t ACTUALLY pushed me off a cliff or kissed some other woman or left the baby in the car in the heat, but my emotional side of my brain was pretty resistant to the notion that I’d just dreamed it.

So I’m fairly tired of that kind of thing by now. While I’ve had some dreams turn into interesting story ideas, mostly they’re nightmares about losing my kids or being hunted by some monster. Heart-pounding waking-up-crying stuff. Tiresome. And my brain doesn’t CARE that I’m only falling asleep at 6am and can only hope for a couple hours of sleep at best, it’s determined to get its dreamtime in. Silly brain.

Anyway, that’s the goal. Sleep more. Dream less terrible things. Get everything on my mommy to-do list checked off.

Gosh, I am SO GOOD at making resolutions. Wish I could keep them more often. :)

School days

So, we’ve been ramping school back up over the past few weeks. We took December off, because of Advent and Christmas, and somehow things never really got back on track. Oh, sure, schoolwork got done, but never anything too strenuous or sustained. It was perfectly fine “unschooling” in that the kids learned a lot of stuff, but it wasn’t exactly the type of schooling I like to do. So, a reboot.

Now, most people are probably just winding school down because, you know, summer is a’comin’ in and they have all these great summery games planned. Which is great . . . if you don’t live in the Southwest. Since we, here at the cusp of the great Texican desert, live in a climate that punishes any sort of daytime exertions between the months of March and October, we tend to do a lot more homeschooling when the weather is brutally hot and we’re stuck indoors.

So we’re back to work in the Charlotte Mason style– lots of reading, lots of “telling back” what we just read, short lessons, and lots of time for nature study and exercise. The Tank just turned 6, so he’s officially doing schoolwork for the first time. Before this, it was a “take it or leave it” sort of unstructured thing– I’d toss him a worksheet or some scissors and glue and leave him to it. Now he’s working through the kindergarten stuff that’s left over from the Ninja’s kinder year. My basic goal is to get him through the kinder material by the time summer is over so that he can start doing some 1st grade stuff in the fall. But I’m flexible. We’ll go at his pace and see how it goes.

The Ninja has been finishing up his second grade stuff, which didn’t progress as neatly as I would have liked this year. Since he’s wandered off the curriculum (we’re using Mater Amabilis’ 2nd grade equivalent) things got a little confused. We didn’t study the history that I had intended for us to study, we somehow just skipped most of the settling of the nation and went straight for the juicy wars and rebellions and drama. So we’re spending this week, in honor of Memorial Day, reading a bunch of stuff about the Revolutionary War. Hopefully, we’ll loop back to the Pilgrims and stuff, but it’s not a pressing issue. Obviously, a Catholic family isn’t going to be very gung-ho about studying Pilgrims.

It feels good to be back in the thick of things. It’s a bit difficult with the Adorable Baby being all adorable and needy and whatnot. He’s discovered a taste for crayons, of all things, and kindergarten work uses a LOT of crayons. So we’re constantly rescuing crayons, papers, counting bears, and anything else that he can possibly put in his mouth. He also likes to grab books and make a big show of turning pages. So I’m here, heart in mouth, sure he’s about to shred a page out of a library book . . . whew. I rescue a lot of books over the course of a day.

Probably the most difficult part of our schooling is the competition that ALWAYS comes into play between the boys. If the Tank is working on his phonics, the Ninja is mocking him for not being able to read. If the Ninja is taking forever to finish his math page, the Tank is mocking him for being slow slow SLOOOOOWWWWW. And then there are the fistfights, wrestling matches, refusals to listen to me because they have to HAVE TO get back at their brother for some awful thing he did, and general chaos that comes from having two very hyperactive little boys in the same house.

But, hey, it’s great. We’re studying birds right now, so we’re liable to pull the truck off the road whenever we spot something and spend time just . ..  watching the birds be birds. We’ve watched plovers and barn swallows, red-winged blackbirds and mockingbirds, and spotted several hawks. Grackles and sparrows without number, and more vultures than you can count (mostly at the zoo, where they’ve decided to roost year-round.) It’s fun and educational and I love it.

The intense unexpected rain we’ve had this year has put a temporary stop to our star-gazing– if it isn’t raining or cloudy (which it mostly has been), the mosquitoes are deadly and horrible. So bird-watching makes a less mosquitoey experience all-around.

I love my kids. And I love having them home, learning with me. I never have understood why people like sending their perfectly normal kids to school all day. Sure, my handicapped daughter’s school hours are a blessing . . . summers are awful when she can’t go to school. She loves that whole routine. But my “normal” kids? Man, they’re too fun to send away all day.

Here’s to a summer of learning, right?

Busy days and bad backs

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So, there’s the obligatory photo of my African violets. I couldn’t get a picture with the sink and surrounding walls, too, because the sink was full of dirty dishes and the walls are still painted an unappealing orange. But you get the idea– pretty flowers, blue curtains, blue pots. AND . . . (drumroll) . . . I finally sunk the money into new curtains for the living room!

Target had curtains on sale plus a Cartwheel discount of 20% off, which put them just barely within reach. So now I have pretty blue and white flowered curtains in my living room to replace the truly awful plain brown ones that I threw up in desperation one summer simply because they promised to block the sun. Those windows face southeast and get the brunt of the sun every day. I’ve been considering putting up some trellis and planting vines over them, but I’m wary of giving bugs yet another entry into the house. So, for now, we’re probably going to rig up some outdoor shades over the windows instead. Somehow. The inside looks nice, though.

Anyway, Friday was the baby’s birthday party so, naturally, I was busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. And I’m still busy today since my oldest daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. Time to go shopping again.

Have a good weekend!

Late, late, for a very important date (Quick Lit)

So, my friend Terry posted a quick review of the things she’s been reading lately, part of a blog roundup through Modern Mrs. Darcy. I figured I should do a fast update since Wednesday here was SO crazy and I missed posting entirely. My reading lately has been sporadic at best, but this is what I’ve been working through.

Spain Spain, A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali

Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali take a road trip through Spain with a couple of also-rans (who get short shrift throughout) but the food looks great and the gorgeous scenery makes one almost wish to have been there. Except for the part where one would probably have strangled Ms. Paltrow just around the part where she says . . . well, anything, really. The pictures are great, though.

serpents The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

Wow, this book has so much lazy worldbuilding in it that I’m having a hard time getting through it. I have enough complaints about this type of stuff to write an article– and probably will, instead of complaining here. But, yeah, amusing enough, if you can get past the sometimes half-hearted approach to actually thinking through the entire socio-political structure of a fantasy world. I mean, I’m reading it. I’m not entirely unhappy. I’m just not impressed.

decluttering 200 Tips for De-Cluttering

Oh my gosh, this book is a monster. It must weigh five pounds. I haven’t been able to figure out yet if it’s supposed to actually have tips in it or if some publisher just went wildly off-base in the photography department, slapped a huge pile of photos together, and called it a home organization book. I suspect the latter. Really *neat* photos, some of them, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re looking for meaningful ways to part with Aunt Alice’s crockery collection without dying of guilt, this is not the book for you.

flehs Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg

More people should read Carol Berg’s fantasy. Yes, yes, it has a lot of the same pitfalls as most fantasy and there’s a lot of angst, but she’s a good writer  and her characters actually have reason to be angsty beyond the usual Bildungsroman tropes. The art on this book is terrible but I really enjoyed it. Plus, it’s cheap. What more reason do you need to read it?

Another post tomorrow, one hopes. Yesterday was a dreary sort of day with too much chaos to even think. Miss Autism discovered how to open windows to escape the house, since we’d locked the doors. So we’re back on lockdown, alarms all on, cameras, locks, you name it. This is getting really old and it sort of makes one wish to just curl up in bed with a heating pad and ignore the dreary day. Today, of course, all that rain combined with 85 degree heat to make it unbearable outside, so we’re all hiding and drinking soda pop and ignoring the swampy outdoors. The mosquitoes don’t bear thinking about, either.

In other words, we’re livin’ in de Nile. In more ways than one! Gah, it’s a swamp out there. I expect crocodiles have taken up in the lettuce patch.

Back to my books in the nice air conditioning.

Good things

RIMG0555So today has been pretty crappy . . . I’m trying to focus on a few good things to take me out of the negative redirect loop that my brain is playing and escape into something approximating a good mood. This little glittery thing, for example, is the silver charm bracelet that my oldest daughter gave me for Mother’s Day. Nice, yeah? It has a bunny on it, and bunnies are awesome. Well, at least I think so.

Anyway, I didn’t actually get my African violet in March. I never seemed to get to the store with the appropriate amount of energy and/or cash in hand. Last week, however, I was able to get over to Lowes with enough cash to buy three different African violets in different colors and petal types. Then I scored three pretty blue pots at the Dollar Tree that match my kitchen curtains. So my kitchen window is now pretty and cheerful. The paint still needs to be freshened up (hence no pictures) but it’s nice.

Things are not all bad . . . it’s just that my autistic daughter’s behavior has worsened dramatically this spring. Trying to be cheerful in the face of it is difficult. I can’t just escape from the reality, not when the reality is that we may have to look into very dramatic solutions to her problems. It would be nice to look at paint chips and ignore the fact that, before we paint, we have to do extensive repairs to the wallboard and plasterwork because she’s intentionally damaged them. It’s fun to pick out paint colors, really, but not so much to have to replace half a dozen corners have that been torn out and patch fist-sized holes.

But this was about good things . . . so what else is good? Hmm. The baby turns one this week. That’s amazing. He’s so adorable and fun that it’s really made me feel like I’m not a total failure at this mom thing. He talks! Actual words stringing together in actual baby sentences! It’s been 21 years since I had a 1 year old who could actually talk. In between, I had an autistic daughter and 3 boys with speech delays. To hear a baby talking is just freaking wonderful. I mean, except when he’s demanding his own way yet again. He’s got the terrible two thing already looming . . . gonna be super spoiled.

The garden is already producing food, so that’s great. We’ve got lettuce, cucumbers, more chard than anyone could eat, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and turnips. The beans will be coming on soon. Fresh lettuce tastes really good, so much better than ye olde iceberg. It’s been an exceptionally rainy and cool spring, so our garden actually is growing like they do in those cooler and rainier states. After ten years of soul-destroying drought, we can use the break from desertification. Maybe we’ll actually get some production from those more delicate varieties that usually wither and die by June.

Anyway, that’s it for good things tonight. I think a hot bath and a good book are in order. Or maybe a good tv show . . . we’re only two weeks behind on Game of Thrones right now. We might actually catch up this week, as my older daughter has a couple of days off work. It’s hard to find time to watch Westerosi violence and nudity with little kids running around. We have to sneak it in when they’re not looking.

To a better week, right? Salut.

 

 

Stormy Weather

. . . don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky….

Oh, yeah, because we’re under a “significant weather advisory.”

So, no big update today. Going to shut the computer down and hope the power stays on long enough to finish cooking the bbq chicken in the oven.

Chickening Out

Some of the condemned.

Some of the condemned.

So, one of my bright ideas for financing my chicken hobby was to buy a big box of chicks, raise them to larger sizes, and then sell them for a slightly higher price than I paid for them. This is what a lot of chicken hobbyists do, simply because we’re addicted to peeping baby chicks and we CAN’T STOP.

Ahem.

Anyway, it’s worked out okay so far, except that suddenly the chicks that I haven’t yet sold are practically the size of full-grown hens and my coop/portable run is made to house about a dozen hens comfortably. But right now I have 20 chickens. You can see the difficulty. We move the “tractor,” as the portable coops are known, and after two days they’ve already eaten the grass down to the dirt. It’s not supposed to work that way. It’s supposed to be “move the tractor every three days, in a pattern that maximizes health of chickens AND grass.” It ain’t workin’ like that.

So I need to sell some chickens. Right now, I have five of them on Craigslist. Since we’re dealing with chickens, I probably don’t have to worry that someone will try to rob me or kill me for the merchandise, as seems to be a horrible trend in the Craigslist used-car market. But, still, it’s a sort of difficult business transaction. People want to come and inspect the chickens first. Well, as you guys know, my house is already like Fort Knox. The idea of opening the locks and letting strangers just wander through is not an appealing one– Miss Autism doesn’t like visitors and she may just decide to trot off and disappear if we leave anything unlocked. So, no, that’s not going to happen.

I think people suspect me of shady chicken dealing, since I don’t let them come visit the coop. I try to be above-board and tell them anything they want to know about the chickens. I just don’t want to have to invite folks in. The chickens are perfectly healthy and fine, if a little overcrowded. The two older hens boss the younger ones around, but they learned fast to get the heck out of the way of those old biddies. Everything will work just like I planned . . . once I sell those extra 8 chickens.

So I have to do the back-and-forth emails and phone calls and arrange transport and do all those kinds of things that are difficult to do when wrangling 6 kids as well as 20 chickens. I haven’t been having good luck on the phone lately anyway– my cell phone service is spotty at best. Literally “at best.” Ordinarily, I have to have absolute quiet to hear anything on the other end of the line, and my signal tends to drop off unexpectedly. We’re having a land line re-installed, but it didn’t come in time to save me from the absolutely terrible reception I’ve had all week and the miserable time I’ve had trying to make calls.

But anyway, the chicken business is like any business– filled with its own hassles and demands and risks and terrors. Trying to make a few dollars selling hens has made me think again about that novel I have shoved in the closet. I chickened out when I wrote it and falsified the setting. It was supposed to be an alternate history, but I decided that it wouldn’t sell and made it a fantastical setting.

That, my friends, was a mistake. It’s nagging at me, the inconsistencies and problems. Yes, a fantasy alternate history is weird but there have been some that DO sell. Mine may not, but that’s not the worry. I just want it to be *right* . . . I want the setting to be realistic, not some fantasy knockoff. The writing business is worse than the chicken business in that, in chickens, you’re dealing with a separate creature. They may be good chickens or bad chickens, healthy or wormy, well-bred or mutts, but they’re just chickens. With books, you’re presenting something that, to nearly everyone, will represent YOU. Your mind, your heart, your morals, and your sensibilities.

So sometimes you chicken out and make the wrong choice. You don’t want people to think badly of you, whether it’s as a writer or a chicken dealer.

But I’m tired of taking the chicken-out option when it comes to that novel. Maybe not today, but soon, I’m going to go back and fix all those problems. Maybe it will sell, maybe it won’t, but it will be MY vision, not a half-hearted compromise.

Better fix that phone in case an editor calls, eh? ;-)

The Key to a Good Day

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Yeah, this pic was taken while a child screamed in my ear that his brother had “messed up” his teeth. The kid who I just spent $850 on at the dentist. So, blurry, yes.

In my experience, the key to having a good day is NOT to lose your car keys.

I had plans. Oh, yes, I had plans. I was going to go get paint chips for the kitchen remodel. I was going to pick up the baby’s glasses from the optometrist. I was going to virtuously take back library books Before They Were Due!

Instead, I dug through all the hidden crevices in the house, searching for my keys while every member of my family swore they had never seen, touched, smelled, heard, or even once thought about my keys.

This would be a lot less of a tragedy if we lived in a nice normal house. But we don’t. We live in a house where the back door is locked all the time. The front door is locked all the time. The pantry is locked all the time. The door the the garage is locked all the time. The knives and SPICES are locked in a tool chest to keep them safe. The medications, another tool chest.

Without my keys, in other words, I am S.O.L.

I hunted everywhere, didn’t get anything done besides hunting and baby care and then re-cleaning the places where I’d dumped everything out in a panic. And it turned out that my keys were out in the backyard, perched inside a cupholder on the treadmill. Because of course they were. It’s the one place I would probably never have looked. I certainly looked every other darn place in the house.

But, the day is done. I made it to the grocery store. I dyed my hair. Even if everything didn’t get done, I still managed to keep the kids alive and fed and reasonably happy.

And those library books are due tomorrow, anyway.

Progress. Okay, of a sort.

Gives the place an air of festivity, no?

Gives the place an air of festivity, no?

Yep, I finally found a couple spare hours to make a new header image, delete some old content, and get things going on the update to this blog!

Okay, maybe I should have slept instead, judging by the schedule for tomorrow, but I’m sure my two loyal readers are happy, anyway. Hi guys!

The cake, of course, was from the Tank’s 6th birthday party. Apparently, having an older sister who decorates cakes for a living means you can ask for ANYTHING on your cake. So he asked for a tortoise wearing a top hat and a moustache. He also wanted a monocle, but you can’t have everything, even in fluffy icing.

Some resolutions:

I’m going to be more positive. (REALLY.)

I’m going to be honest. (I always have been, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?)

I’m going to post more pictures. (easier now that I have my new camera)

I’m going to post more often. (Absolutely. Because it’s any excuse not to work on the next novel, right?)

Oh, yeah, and I’ll start posting word counts once I finish the outlining and start writing.

Wish me luck (and hang around.)

Puddles

Well, I step away from science fiction and fantasy fandom for a year while I have a baby and come back to a disaster.

I’m not going to rehash the mess, since I’m a latecomer and I’m just piecing it together for myself. But somebody’s pissed the rug, so to speak, and made things awful for everyone.

I won’t say I didn’t see Big Nasty Things coming, since I’ve said it publicly before and publicly lamented the state of the genre. I didn’t see THIS particular mess coming, but it’s hardly surprising that it happened. The genre is one of those squishy places where people who are NOT necessarily like-minded come to meet in the middle, and squishy places like that have bad footing. You say the wrong thing to the wrong person and suddenly it’s a free-for-all in the mud puddles.

It doesn’t usually happen, though, because skiffy people are usually fairly tolerant of people whose belief systems are different than theirs. I mean, I’m a conservative Catholic mother of seven . . . and some of my best friends in that world are pagans, Wiccans, atheists, gays of one sex or another, and geeky men who have opinions that are like acetone– spend too long around them and you can feel the paint peeling on the walls from the force of their beliefs.

And I got along pretty darn well with them all for years. Some of my happier memories of internet chat involve a bunch of science fiction writers and fans just shooting the shit in an IRC client on Thursday nights.

But things have gotten uglier, in the world and in the genre. Things in publishing have taken a weird turn since those long-ago chats. Fantasy went from swords-and-sorcery cornball (which we roundly decried) to hard-bitten epics (which grew to monumental proportions thanks to GRRM, but nobody really has done anything comparable in sales yet) to . . . a whole freakin lot of fantasy novels that are barely-disguised erotica. I mean, seriously, it’s awful these days. 90% of the stuff published in fantasy seems to be vampire/werewolf/wizard porn. I dunno what happened.

I mean, I know what happened. We all chased the sales. That’s what writers mostly do– we write what sells. And that leads me even deeper down the rabbit hole of should-I-shouldn’t-I start writing again.

I’ve already started playing with ideas in my head. I have two main characters who, I believe, I could write about with passion and honesty and a ruthless sort of love. I even have a title which I think is pretty great and a basic conceit that could play out in a series of books without being too tired and lame.

Because, let’s be honest here, writers write. And as much as I hate the things that have happened to science fiction and fantasy, I’m still a fan and I’m still a writer. Not a successful one, no, but I’ve gone through a lot of things that most people don’t ever have to deal with. If GRRM has ever changed a diaper, I would be shocked. My daughter will be 20 soon and she’s still in diapers. It’s a whole different type of life.

And I miss writing. Not the grind so much as the way it feels when it’s going well and you’re in the groove and the characters take life and do things you don’t expect them to.

So, yeah, going to write.

Whether or not it will be fantasy is an entirely different question. I tend to think “yes” because I’m not ceding my interest in the genre to ANY side. I’m my own side, so to speak, the side of the independent reader and writer who just watches it all go down . . . and gets back to work.