Friday, January 1, 2010

Home for the Holidays. Ugh!

I know what you're all thinking. I should have picked the topic of New Year's Resolutions for this week. And I would have, if I'd had half a working brain cell left when I sat down to think about my topic for this week. However, back in October when I was thinking about such things, we had already begun the annual "Ramping Up of the Children," better known as the holiday season.

The holidays start around the 1st of October in this house, with me asking the perennial question, "So, what do you want to be for Halloween this year?" Thus begins a Sisyphean struggle on my part to play full-time mom -- sewing costumes, decorating the house, roasting turkeys, and making home made presents -- whilst still keeping up with my almost-full-time workload as writer and artist. As much as I love this time of year, from October 1st through December 31st, I have also begun to dread it. There is just no way anyone who is not superhuman can keep up with everything that's going on.

Life was simpler before I was a parent. The holidays were a breeze back then. But I wasn't a writer back then either. Strangely enough, it was the act of becoming a mother that kick-started my desire to write. Once I had that first screaming, pooping, vomiting bundle of joy in my arms, I realized I had to do something creative with my life. Hell, I had to be something other than a mom or I'd go bat-shit crazy. During those first few months of non-stop diaper changing and breast-feeding, I discovered writing was the best way to relieve the mind-numbing tedium associated with new parenthood. And since I did all my writing while sitting in the glider nursing a squalling infant, it also helped me to ignore the pain of having my nipples chewed off.

As my children have grown, so has my writing career, and keeping up with both is a real balancing act even at the best of times. During the holidays, it's almost impossible to deal with it all. As of today, I've spent two weeks in very close proximity with my off-spring. We have been to parties, visited family, handed out gifts, decorated the house, broken several ornaments, made home-made pot holders and sock puppets, and endured lots of fights. I've managed to squeak in some work here and there, but for the most part I cleared my calendar for the days between Christmas Eve and New Years. Otherwise, I would have killed myself trying to work and be with the family.

As I write this, it's New Year's Eve day and we're approaching the second peak of the annual "Ramping Up of the Children" (the first being Christmas, obviously). The kids are about to embark upon a bacchanalian frenzy of drinking soda and gorging on popcorn whilst waiting for Ryan Seacrest (I miss Dick Clark!) to announce the descent of the world's most important disco ball ever. My kids know nothing of the true meaning of New Year's, just as they know nothing of the true meaning of "Not now, honey. Mommy's writing a story. Yes, of course it's about princesses and unicorns. No, you most certainly may not read it. Not until you're eighteen anyway." They don't know that New Year's means that soon, very soon, I will finally be free of the holiday season for another year. No more will I be besieged by party invitations and gift lists and school pageants. No more will I desperately scour cookbooks for holiday dinner recipes that both children can agree are not "icky" or "puke-worthy." I will not be standing on any more chairs, scraping cookie batter off my ceiling during the latest round of "Hey, you know what would be nice? Let's bake cookies for all our neighbors! Even that cranky old guy who lives down the street and threatens to kill any child who walks on his lawn. Because I said so, that's why!" And no more struggling to write steamy hot sex scenes while listening to the kids screech over who's turn it is to play with the new Tickle Me Elmo or Island Princess Barbie.. No, no more of any of that.

Come Monday, I will pack my little ones off to school and get back to my normal routine. There will finally be time for writing and cartooning and audio production and all the other things I've been jonesing to do the last two weeks. Once more will I pull out the spreadsheet with my carefully planned out schedule, and I will happily check off the little boxes as I go about my orderly day. From 8:30 AM until 3:30 PM, my time will be mine and I'll be diving into to my workload with a vengeance.

Until I realize that the house is too quiet because I'm sitting at my desk all alone. Then I'll bang my head against the monitor and wish that some tiny tot would come ask me for a cup of hot cocoa, if only to distract me from the mountains of work I now have to face.

Happy New Year's, folks. Enjoy the madness while you can.


And just because I can, here are a few of my New Year's Resolutions.

I resolve to...

Not eat anything larger than my head. Unless it's a vegetable, because vegetables are good for me.

Write a minimum of 200 words a day. And some of them might actually be real words!

Drink less coffee. I will accomplish this by finally having that caffeine IV implanted into my arm.

Exercise more... freedom of speech that is.

Break any resolutions that I see fit. What, you expect me to be responsible all year long?


  1. Helen,

    Happy New Year to you and your family. I'm so glad your family kick-started you to becoming a writer.

    And good luck with those resolutions. It's 10:30 in the morning here and I've already broken three of mine.



  2. LOL...I'm also looking forward to having 8 uninterrupted hours again...wait, that won't happen until the spouse returns to work. Let me ammend that; I'm looking forward to the CHILDREN being gone again for several hours so I can write:) I'll still have to put up with the spouse being home and listening to him gripe. Hmmm...maybe I oughta make a sign which says 'No Whining Zone' within earshot of my computer? Hehehehe....

    Happy New Year!

  3. Ashley,

    Resolutions were made to be broken! Although I'm not sure I want to break that one about not eating anything larger than my head...

    I'm glad my kids kick-started my writing career too, although many years from now when they're old enough to understand what it is I write, they'll probably respond to this knowledge by putting their hands over their ears and singing, "Lalalalala! I cannot hear you! I do not want to know! Lalalalala!"

    Happy New Year!

  4. Molly,

    All I can think of right now is how I'm going to get the house cleaned up after everyone returns to their regularly scheduled programming. It's not as bad as it could be, but any extra mess is a big deal considering how hard it is for me to find time to clean. OK, it's not hard to find time to clean; cleaning is just not as high on the priority list as writing or exercise.

    Eh, I'll figure it out. As friends tell me, no one ever died wishing they'd spent more time cleaning the house. Except the person who got crushed to death by that mountain of garbage they never bothered to take out.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Hi Helen! Happy new decade - hope its better than the last one.

    I love that Bradburyish expression "The World's Most Important Disco Ball Ever". That would make a really good story title, a phrase to conjure with.

    What are we going to do when our kids are old enough to read what we write??


  6. I am going to drink more ice water, and less of every other beverage. Should make me feel better.


  7. Write a minimum of 200 words a day. And some of them might actually be real words!

    LOL! That's my favorite 2010 resolution of all that I've seen so far.

  8. Garce,

    I'm going to sit and laugh when my kids are finally old enough to read what I've written. I can only imagine the expressions on their faces. It should be hysterical.

    As for the next decade, I can only assume it will be interesting. So far, life has not been dull ;)

  9. Secretia,

    Definitely drink more water. Preferably in tea, coffee, and other beverages. Oh wait, you said ice water? I guess you're going for the pure stuff. Pity!

    In all seriousness, I need to drink more water as well. I'm starting to turn into prune woman, and not because I spend too much time in the tub!

    Happy New Year!

  10. Jeremy,

    So far today, I've managed to write two short short stories, thus completing my word count for the day. I suppose one of my other resolutions should be to get into as much trouble as possible every day, because by writing the aforementioned stories, I think I may have accomplished that too.

    Happy New Year!

  11. Wow Helen, good on ya for your stories already today! I'm stuck in blog hell with my two WIPs staring at me from the menu line.

    Now for the ramping down of kids, mine enjoyed the party favors and "kids' champagne" last night, but have pronounced New Year's a "boring" holiday this morning.

    Love your resolutions, I resolve to make some resolutions...really soon.

  12. Devon,

    I managed to crank out those stories only because I ended up spending quality time with a pen and notebook on my inlaws' couch earlier this week. It really helps sometimes to step away from the computer.

    My kids had one more day of ramping up. Now I'm hoping I can talk them down in time for school in a couple days. I would not want to be a teacher on Monday, I can tell you that!

    Hope you had a happy New Year!

  13. Ah, Helen!

    Maybe you should leave the cookie dough on the ceiling. Might be a new decorating fad.

    Seriously, I think you've got your priorities right. Clearing the writing schedule during this time is the only sane way to go. Meanwhile, your kids will have great memories of their childhood holidays.

    I remember when you used to post your writing goals to the ERWA Writers list every quarter. I was awed then, and I'm still amazed at what you manage to accomplish.

    Holiday hugs,


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