Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lunch Stories

This activity came to me when I noticed the art drawer was so stuffed with works of art that the drawer wasn't closing. The time had come again to sort through the creativity and do something with it. Usually I place it in a binder until the end of the school year, then I sort it all and make it into individual portfolios for each child. Instead, I thumbed through the sketch books and fly-away papers, and started to wonder what exactly these drawings and painting were all about.

I grabbed up a bunch of my son's drawings and brought them to the kids' lunch table one Saturday.
My Plan: They were going to tell the story behind the pictures.

I set the rules:
I will show you a picture, and you get to tell me the story inside it. 
We take turns.
Respect someone else's turn.
Your turn is as long as you want it to be.

Not your turn?
Stay seated and continue eating your lunch.
Listen to the story-teller, because when it is your turn, you will be adding onto the story, using the next picture as a guide.

I turned on my video app, gave a brief intro and cued my daughter to begin the first Lunch Story ever.

While the rule, stay seated and continue eating your lunch when not your turn, flew out the window, I couldn't be mad because they followed every other rule.

The jumping around, endless giggling, exaggerated volume, and saliva bursts were clearly indicators of engagement with the activity- what kind of a mom, teacher, writer, or human would I be to stifle that? There is no calming creativity like this once it is unleashed. So when the mac-n-cheese got cold and stuck to the sides of the bowl, all I could say was, "So what happened next?"

Thirty minutes later, Falling Bad Guys was born: an eight page story, written by two of my three kids, illustrated by my son.

The next day, I played the video back and typed up their story. I went out to the store and picked up a binder and sheet protectors. I slid the writing and illustrations into the book and presented it to the kids. They thought it was the coolest thing to see their work presented in a neat book like that. They proudly decorated the cover in sharpies, labeling it in bubble letters, "LUNCH STORIES".

The biggest obstacle in creating Lunch Stories was finding a way for my youngest child to participate. I tried to give her some video time during the first lunch story, but due to her young age and less developed speech, she was getting the short end of the stick. The following Saturday, I fixed this by using her paintings as illustrations during our Lunch Stories session. She was so happy to see her work included, and the abstract pictures really challenged her siblings to dig deep for a story.

Whether you are a writer with kids, or a stay-at -home-mom looking for a new activity, I highly recommend Lunch Stories. It is a way to not only strengthen your kids' literacy skills, but to strengthen your family's' bonds by creating together.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

CPR to a Blog

The day after I killed my blog, I decided to put organizing the kids' closet highest on the priority list. I figured it would be a good project that the kids and I could do together - they could play with toys that have been mashed to the back of the closet for a few months while I try to shake away the notion that I'll ever be  writer. I raced the kids up the stairs and tossed stuffed animals and mashed toys out of the closet. It was raining fun.

Its when I saw the closet floor, I took a break. I worked hard at accepting my decision just to focus on being a mom and nothing else. I thought it might make life a whole lot easier if I just stop wanting so damn much for myself. But every time I passed a post-it note, I wanted to jot down a haiku or story note. Instead, I made myself a very non-creative to-do list. But I was hardly accomplishing much of it.

I whipped out my trusty escape mechanism: the cell phone. Clicking on all the social media posts and message flags, I discovered that people care about the death of this blog. I read words of support for my decision and words of encouragement to continue to write. I was overwhelmed by the time people had taken to offer me a piece of their heart. So I started to cry.

Climbing stuffed animal mountains and knocking over toy bins, my son came to my rescue.

"Why are you crying?" he asked.

"Because I decided to stop writing my blog yesterday. I decided to stop writing much at all. But then I got messages from a lot of caring people about it. I want to write, but I have difficulty finding time to write. So I guess I'm confused."

He thought for a moment and said, "Why don't you write while I am in school?"

He is so sweet for trying to help, and I thank him for the suggestion, but the time he is in school, I am trying to get his sister to nap, fold some clothes, clean some house, and make some phone calls. But I see his point: just figure it out and do it, mom.

Then he said, "Wait- I want to get something for you."

He rumbled downstairs to the kitchen. There was rustling and banging. He returned minutes later, holding something behind his back.

He said, "I couldn't find any post-it notes, but here."

He uncurled his fingers, and there, in his chapped, little hand lay a green crayon.

At that moment, I realized I was the only one responsible for the killing the writer in me.

That awesome green crayon breathed new life into my outlook pertaining to a career. Hell, pertaining to my life. Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted a career. I'm talking pre-school. I've never quite understood or accepted why I am not allowed to have one. I know, that sounds really fucked up, but it just feels true.  My son has given me hope, and breathed new life into my ability to succeed: just figure it out and do it, mom.

We got back to work on the closet, and before I knew it, an hour had passed.
Reaching burnout on sorting Barbies, doll clothes, cars, costumes, and the strangely-always-entertaining-McDonalds Happy Meal toys, I announced, "I'm going downstairs to make lunch."

"Yay!" burst from my son's gut.

Then, with his hands in his pockets, he shuffled over to me in the closet and asked, "So, are you still going to give up?"

"Give up what, E?"

"Your blog."

"No, E."

"Okay, good."

He reached out and touched my dragonfly pendant around my neck.

"Why does your dragonfly have red eyes?" he asked.

"It came that way."

It wasn't a very good answer and we both knew it.

"Well, that's what you have to write about - why your dragonfly has red eyes."

God, I love him.

At the end of this re-birthing experience, I understand that what I do with my life matters to my kids. They are watching. What I choose to do and not do effects them. My happiness matters to them.

I see now that if I gave up this blog for 4 years (when all the kids are in school), if I wait for a time to write that is more convenient, my readers would be missing all the nitty, gritty, little steps that got me to where I will be. These are the hard years, where all the dirt and grit takes place. If it weren't for these tough years, there would be no story. This present moment, no matter how slow, monotonous, or time consuming it is to a writing career, is golden. Without it, there is no success.

Is birth easy? No. It take nine months, and most of that is needing to move with endurance, whether you like it or not. Whether you think you can do it or not. Somehow you do it, and then you give birth, and that ain't easy either. And then you don't sleep for like five years. But the outcome? An indescribable phenomenon of pure insatiable infatuation and love. So, I will keep going. This moment is part of A Stay-At-Home-Mom's Journey to a Writing Career. I will keep writing.




Sunday, January 5, 2014

Death of a Blog

Monday: Here we are again - at the beginning of another year. I've been writing this blog since Christmas Eve, 2011, and I can't say I have really done anything utterly outstanding in that time. I don't like the word, can't, and I really detest making excuses for not being able to accomplish something. As I write this, my middle child requests playing cars with me - his favorite game and mine... what am I supposed to say: "No, I got my own stuff to do? Go away - Mommy needs to write?" Absolutely not. So I take a breath and say, "Sure, lets play."  I have to play, and right now. His little sister is due to wake up momentarily. If I don't, he will be pissed we never got to play together. Little sis is usually the lava monster. She comes in and tears all the cars off the highway... something my son isn't ready to deal with right now. He wants his mama, and God, I love him.  So I close the screen. Lets play cars.

Thursday: I'm back again. This time I am hiding out under the kitchen table, glass of Chardonnay by my side. I turned on the god-awful TV (as much as I hate it, I have yet to discover any other tool to keep young children occupied long enough to accomplish the dinner task. I know, I know - I can hear it now - all the good moms are saying, "Why don't you cook dinner WITH your children?" And to that I say, "Cuz I only got thirty minutes, lady"). I'm writing on a ripped out sheet of lined paper I found floating out of the kitchen cabinet. Itook it as a sign to continue writing this post. But I gotta put it down now because my littlest pumpkin rolled out of the patch. She sticks her hand  into her mouth - her sign requesting a cup of milk. I put my writing down and open the fridge. I see leftovers from Thanksgiving. It's my mom's version of the rosolje my old Estonian Meme used to make. I think of her and the four kids she had. I wonder what she wanted from her life. What was she good at? What did she want? Did she ever consider doing something other than be a mom and homemaker? Did anyone ever tell her she was allowed?

Saturday: Ok- back again. I'm sitting here in the waiting room at the dentist's office while my oldest sits in the patient's chair getting braces. This blog is pissing me off. Not because I don't believe I cannot create a writing career for myself, but because it has created a feeling of frustration and resentment in my heart that I cannot ignore any longer. My writing has not progressed, its two years later and I have nothing published, and most significant is that all these resentments and frustrations with my failures filter into my family life. I don't want those monsters alive, among my children, inside my home, inside my heart. Right now, I let it go. Good-bye frustration and resentment, blame and anger. You are not welcome.

Sunday: The kids are outside making snow forts. My youngest is taking a nap. I sneak away downstairs to the computer, This is my chance to write! The back door slams and I hear barreling down the stairs behind me. They want hot cocoa so I stop writing to go make them some. And as I'm doing so, I hear the goo-goo sounds of my youngest waking up from her nap. I put the cocoas in the microwave for two minutes, and run back down to the computer, hoping to complete a thought before it disappears forever, and my boy comes following right behind me, impatient that he has to wait two whole minutes for hot cocoa. I snap at him to keep his mouth shut. That his hot cocoa will be out in two minutes and for him to practice some self-control. I snap because I was interrupted again. Resentfulness surfaced again. I hate myself again for being so selfish and wanting something for me. But by wanting something for me, I push them away. And now I can't even remember what the hell I came running down the stairs to write about.

Being a mom means that some days you don't get to shower until 1 pm. It means sticking your fingers in your ears to tune out the screaming so you can remember what the hell you needed in the kitchen. It means waking up at midnight face down into the floor next to your little one's bed because she couldn't fall asleep without you there. It means setting up the humidifier at 2 am when someone has a coughing attack or getting the Tylenol when someone wakes up with agonizing growing pains in his legs. It means sifting through a lot of ignorant and judgmental people who don't understand children with special needs or developmental delays. It means trying desperately to understand them yourself. It means a lot of awkward situations in which a play date cannot transpire because the other party's parents are untrustworthy. It means coordinating a miracle schedule and putting on your chauffer hat to get all the kids to each library craft, birthday party, drama club, karate class, play date, and basketball game... and then pick them all up. It means doing it all with a smile because this crazily beautiful time with these little mini-me miracles doesn't last forever. I'm willing to let go of my dreams to just be with them. They are my every heart beat, my every breath. They are my whole heart, my whole life.

I just ran upstairs and passed out cookies to make the waa-waas stop for a few minutes.

These past two years, I have fought. I have fought for my writing, my fun, my excitement, my purpose. I have been fighting for something I love, but I'm fighting for it against the children I love more. So the blog gotta go. The idea that I will have a writing career any time soon gotta go. I'm interrupted by what sounds like thunder rolling above my head. It's my son, my love, and his hyperactivity releasing through his legs into the floorboards. I leave my writing again to see what activity I can get him engaged in so he doesn't tear the place apart. I visit the storm and my youngest starts to scream and cry. I don't know why, and because of her speech delays all she can do is writhe on the floor. I offer juice. She shakes no. I offer hugs. She rolls away. This is the last time I'm letting writing interrupt my family. Finally she calms herself enough to grab onto the pantry door and point inside. The same pantry door which magically birthed cookies just ten minutes ago. I say no, and she gets mad, but I cut her up some apples and pour a little juice. I stop my son from jumping off the sofa top by using the TV tool on the condition that he cleans up the legos all over the floor. This is the last time I'm using TV so I can go write.

While the kids may interrupt the writing, the writing also interrupts the kids. I don't want to say no to just one more story at bedtime anymore. I don't want to tell them to wait one minute- that i will look at their picture as soon as I'm done jotting something down. I don't want to put them on hold. I'll put the writing on hold. And if I'm really any good at it, I'll make it happen another day.

But then the thought crosses my mind, "Why did I start this blog in the first place?"

Here's why:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

This breakout into blogging is my Christmas gift to myself.

I am happily married, have three beautiful and energetic children, and I get to stay at home with them and watch them grow everyday. And I love it. However, there is a nagging piece of me that wakes up and goes to sleep consistently unfulfilled.

I invite you to stick with me on my journey toward creating a writing career for myself. Writing has been a love of mine ever since I got my first diary with the little lock on the side. Years later I see my own daughter bursting with writing talent. She inspires me and I want to teach her how to open doors for herself by opening my own. 

I read this and feel like a total failure. I still want to write, but it is not the right time. Big excuse? God, I hope not. I hate excuses. I hate laziness and I hate can't. In a panicked state, I ask myself  "What do I do? Give up? If I give up, I teach my kids to give up their dreams. But if I pursue my dreams, I throw away a peaceful, loving home life. I interrupt my life as a mom. That's something I value more than any career. So I curse a little and have a glass of wine. The TV is working and everyone is happy. I cling to the magic of the New Year. I will not give up. While chasing contest deadlines and blasting out panicked revisions for the next writers meet-up currently has no place in my life, I will create a different way. I will combine the two worlds. 

This year, 2014, I am a mom. A mom happy to just be a mom with a writing hobby. When I force the term "career" into my life, a downward spiral of depression follows because I set myself up for goals I simply cannot reach... at this time. Stress ensues. Guilt emerges. 

I am fortunate enough to have children who take as much joy as I do from reading, writing, drawing, acting, singing, dancing, moving, creating. This year, I embrace all our talents. My oldest daughter and I will continue to write Kiaju together. She is talented. Her writing is the most ear catching I have ever heard. It causes pause. And I'm not just saying that because she is my daughter. At eleven years old, I have gotten more valuable critique from her than any seasoned writer from a group. She attains an easy A+ in Literacy every semester. I gotta plug her now - look for author Kira Fleischer in the book stores in like ten years. I know she will make it before I ever do. But I digress. My son and I have begun Dinosaur Scary. My son, my detailed artist. Destined for NYU. I cannot wait to see what my youngest has in store for the reader. Her expression currently comes from dance and movement. My energies are with them this year. They are my greatest gift and I take joy in being their guide. And if the whole writing career thing doesn't pan out for me, who cares. I know I am doing what I need to do for them. That gives me more fulfillment than any sort of paycheck, career, or fame ever could.

BUT! in the event that a career might transpire, I will meet back here in 2018. By then, all the kids are in school and I got an hour or two to kill. See you then. Happy New Year. 

Namaste,

Kris

lipstickdragonfly@gmail.com


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Marketing: I did some!

This blog is turning more into the journey of a stay-at-home-mom, as opposed to the journey of a stay-at-home-mom creating  a writing career. 

And I thought I was becoming ok with that. At least for the years my kids are kids. So I began to drift away from writing every day, reassuring myself that one day there will be time... you know -  that some day that never arrives.

The thing that bothers me is I don't want my kids to see me never have fulfilled my dreams. I want them to see me continue on toward my goal, even if it means little steps at a time. Why? Because if they see its possible for me, they will know its possible for them. So I I decided to continue with my writing. I got creative and bought a few hundred business cards for ten bucks off Visaprint www.vistaprint.com/.

See?


My oldest daughter thought it was so cool that she handed them out to her teachers at school who are also moms. These things are pretty basic - my name, my email, and my blogs. It's something that helps me market who I am and how I serve.

But now that I got these things, that means I have to talk to people- unless I just want to be a weirdo handing  out pink squares. This is more difficult than you might imagine. Having been a SAHM for a few years now, my verbal skills aren't what they once were. Neither is my self-confidence. On top of that, I really am not naturally the most social human ever.

So while I am still perfecting a spiel, I stuffed a stack of business cards in the diaper bag and took the kids on a trip to the town book store, River Road Books http://www.riverroadbooks.net/. The book store is on the same parallel as Disney World in my family, so the magic of the kids section instantly drew them towards the back of the store. I let them rummage and read while I debated over what I might say to persuade the owner of the store to accept my cards at her front counter space. When the kids vivaciously announced their book selections (Diary of a Whimpy Kid - Cabin Fever, and Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow) it was time to ante up at the register. Now or never, right? I prefer now, so I went ahead,

"I'm a blogger. Would you mind if I left my blog contact info at the counter?"

Pause.

"We have a small amount of space, but I'll take some."

I thanked her with a giant smile, handed over a stack of cards, and then my kids knocked over a bin of pumpkin teddy bears. Somehow we recovered, and as we muddled our way back onto the sidewalk, my oldest daughter turned to me and said, "Woo-hoo, Mom- I'm so proud of you!"

They saw me act, take the risk, and succeed. I'm on the right path.




Monday, August 26, 2013

Poetry Lick

Upside down clouds hang bloated from space
Light crackles like split webs separating a dry heel
Mouthfuls of birdsong inflate tree branch greens
A hangnail brightens in the sky and casts into more of a thumb
Day expanding

Sunday, July 14, 2013

11:04 pm

Its 11:04 pm. I have always thought it is stupid to note the time in a piece of writing unless it has great significance to the story. Like if giraffes made sound and shrank every night at 11:04 pm - that would be cool. Or if 11:04 pm turned out to be code for Emergency - your wine glass is empty, then yes - total page turner.

11:04 pm's significance tonight is that its quiet enough for me to have an uninterrupted thought. An uninterrupted thought I can translate into words and express in writing... without someone spilling juice, banging v bbhjmjmhbvbcml b on my laptop, or demanding help opening the syrup.

It's a flip cap.

These summer days are filled with go, go, go - swimming, sunscreen, playground, and bbq's, not to mention math skill maintenance, letter/number recognition, diapers, squeezing in time for the baby to nap, and summer reading! It's overwhelming for mom to manage alone - at least for this one. And when you got more than one student to prep, entertain, watch on the playground, and ultimately listen to, love and care for, well, I don't know about you, but I feel like a paper snowflake with one too many scissor snips.

There is little to no time for mom to catch her breath. I wake up to the "I wants" and I crash completely after tucking in my last pumpkin. So tonight, I'll forfeit some sleep to catch my breath.

11:04 pm takes me outside on the deck. The moon is a rip in the sky. Like God's hangnail caught on his big, black, magic curtain and tore open a little piece of heaven. The rips floats down, and now I'm thinking who's gonna see the rip next? Some random Chin-man walking his dog? Do China-men have dogs? Do China-men EAT dogs? Does everyone in China own wide-brimmed hats? Is someone going to send me hate mail because I mentioned China?

11:04 pm. Thoughts uninterrupted. Starting to breathe again. Glory be.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Procrastination

Procrastination. It's that stupid little voice that makes life so much easier for the moment and so much harder to reach ant type of goal.

"I gotta stay up tonight and work on my manuscript." says Bob at noon with a half pot of coffee brimming in his veins.

A the moment, working on that manuscript is conceivable because Bob feels like Superman.
At the moment, working on the manuscript is convenient because the time to act is LATER.
But when nine pm rolls around, Bob's Rihanna-esque tune turns to a dull cicada hum.

"Jeez. I'm tired. I don't wanna. I have work tomorrow. I need my sleep."

And every other lame excuse in the book.

Procrastination lead me to writing this blog post. I SHOULD be working on my manuscript. I SHOULD be clarifying the law of the land in 2051 and justifying the existence of a magical pocket of Earth in a world where pollution has pretty much destroyed everything else. But that's hard. That's requiring more thought-time than typing-time.

In my search for clarifications and justifications, my eyes started to glaze. Then the little squiggly red-underlined words on the computer screen became interesting. Typing is more fun than thinking, so corrected the misspellings and rephrased sentences. Then I click-a-di-clacked from my word document over to blogger.com and brainstormed blog ideas under my post-list. My excuse? Hey, I'm still writing, aren't I? I'm being productive. It's not like I'm lazy-daisying it and sleeping in an extra hour. Right? Right?

Wrong.  In my ADHD state of rampid creation and topic jumping, I realized I was not moving forward in my writing, I was just breeding fluffy bunnies because it's a whole lot easier than taming a monster.

We live in a world where we are always on the go. When it is time to slow down and focus, it becomes uncomfortable, and so we turn to something else that gets us moving again - something that gets us feeling better about ourselves. After all, who wants to feel like they can't do something? We need to remember that motion does not always create productivity. After all, what goes up, must come down. Maybe, by stopping and thinking, we could figure out a way to keep it up.

Alright, I'm going to go back to discomfort now. I'm facing it head on. If nothing gets typed in the next forty minutes, so be it, but at the very least, I intend to think.