A Laptop Naptime Mama

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Rude Awakening by Joanne Rendell

Our apartment doesn’t have any proper walls. Okay, okay, it does have four proper walls that encase it. Inside, however, the walls between the rooms are fake. Not only are they paper thin, but a foot below the ceiling they stop. Yes, our walls have gaping holes in them.

These “cut-outs,” as they are known in the trade, are the price we pay for living in a NY loft with one – admittedly very large – window. In order to get a little natural light into our cavernous back bedroom, the cut-outs are essential.

However, what they do for light, the cut-outs also do for sound. All those big holes mean that every breath, every sneeze, every dropped coffee cup (and the whispered “F**k” that follows), can be heard through the entire household. This, as you can imagine, is not ideal when you have a three-year old in the house. Especially when that three year old’s sleep is the lifeline of his laptop-naptime mama and her writing career.

I’ve learnt to live with the cut-outs, however. When Benny is napping (or sleeping late in the morning) and I am trying to write, I do everything to minimize noise traversing the cut-outs. The answer machine is set on low, the speakers on my laptop off, and the window closed so the wails of passing fire trucks are just a mute “wah-wahs.” Many a time, I have found myself making important phone calls sitting on the toilet (thankfully, our bathroom has proper walls) and, on one or two occasions, I have conducted meetings in the hallway outside the apartment.

But, something happened today which has made me realize that my noise reducing schemes might have been a little over-the-top. In fact, it revealed them to be completely bloody unnecessary.

The fire alarm went off at six o’clock this morning. Our apartment is in a student dorm so, as Brad and I woke up, squinting our groggy eyes under the alarm’s strobe light and holding our ears against the monotonous, deafening din, we assumed the alarm must have been set off by some partying freshmen. However, through the alarm’s wails, we heard the fire trucks arriving and realized the horrible truth: we were going to drag ourselves out of bed, clamber four flights downstairs, and go stand outside with three hundred pajama-ed students.

As we contemplated this and zipped around finding coats, shoes, hats, and mittens, we finally noticed that Benny – despite the howling alarm and strobing lights – hadn’t moved a muscle. He was deeply and soundly and peacefully asleep. It was only when I heaved him into my arms that his long eyelashes finally fluttered open and he said, confused by all the commotion, “What’sat?”

There was no fire, thankfully. And, in the end, lugging ourselves and a tired three year old outside wasn’t so bad. Benny got to see four truckloads of firefighters and, in the back of a warm minivan, we got to hang out with all the other people in the building who have kids.

And, let’s face it, I’m now a wiser laptop-naptime mama. From now on, when Benny’s sleeping, if I want to talk on the phone or listen to banging rap music or blend smoothies or shout “SH*T” when I accidentally delete an important sentence, I can go right ahead and do it.

For more of Joanne Rendell's mommy blogs - including "Fishing for Poo," "Should Mommy's Wear Thongs?" and "What's that dangly thing between his legs?" then Click Here to visit her at the popular website, Get Crafty. To return to the Role Mommy home page, Click Here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

YouTube, Herbal Tea, and a Whole Lot of Procrastination

A Laptop Naptime Mama by Joanne Rendell

11:30 am - I've done it.

I am now officially a "suck-it-up-and-pay-for-a-babystitter-and-take-my-laptop-to-a-coffee-shop” mama. With some writing deadlines looming, I decided that naptimes were just not enough anymore. Plus, trying to put Benny down for a nap three hours after he’d just got up – so I could finish a chapter or work on a book review – did seem a little cruel.

So far, my new mama-status is proving to be pretty damn fun. Just half an hour ago, I left Benny with lovely Emily the babysitter who not only wears the coolest vintage outfits, but who also brought along a “My Little Pony” special edition DVD boxset. Spying the shimmering rainbows and pale pink and green ponies on the cover, Benny took Emily’s hand and practically booted me out the door. Gone are the days when he would wail like an abandoned pup if I so much as disappeared behind a doorframe.

So now I’m happily ensconced at the coffee shop in a nearby bookstore. Okay, so I could have got here a little earlier but en route I had to swing through Brooklyn Industries (my favorite store) and paw over, try on, and contemplate buying a number of their new hoodies. I managed to drag myself away without opening my wallet, however, and now here I am, raring to go. My laptop is open and glowing, happy to be out of the house again. I’m stretching my back, limbering my fingers, and the sweet coffee shop aroma is firing my writing neurons. I have a delicious, Benny-free, two hours stretching before me.

Okay, so here I go….Oooh, wait a minute, here comes the waiter guy. And fancy that? He’s wearing the same “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” t-shirt which I just bought for Benny…

11.51 am – What a nice guy. Not only does he have that great t-shirt, he was also kind enough to explain all the different kinds of tea options on the menu and even brought me a taster of the Rooibos Lemon Chiffon tea. Of course, I didn’t like it and had to explain to him that, even though I like the sound of all these herbal teas with their pretty triple-barreled names, I’m just too British to actually like them. “Black tea with lots of caffeine and a dash of milk – it’s the only way,” I explained. This, of course, started a long discussion about my mother country and it turns out the waiter’s aunt lives in London and feels the exact same way about tea. “Herbal Schmerbal, she calls it,” he told me with a laugh.

But now my lovely waiter is off tending to someone else. So, after taking a long sip of my black tea, I place my fingertips on the keypad and…. Well, look at that?! I just caught a glimpse of a sign which says this coffee shop has WiFi. I didn’t know that. Okay, so I know the whole point of coming here was to have an intensive writing session where I couldn’t check my emails and watch ridiculous videos on YouTube whenever I get stuck on a word or a sentence. But, I suppose I could just see if the connection works….

12.34 pm – Hmmm. I didn’t mean to spend all that time online. But my friend sent me that interesting Salon article about Hillary Clinton and then I had to check a couple of my favorite blogs. Oh, and I just had to google that old school friend who I had a really weird dream about last night. I didn’t find her, but I did find this crazy site for people buying and selling horses. You should see the little videos they make to advertise their animals. Billowing manes, ponies in bows, cantoring in the sunset. It’s like horsie porn.

Enough, enough. I only have an hour left. I need to concentrate. And I really will concentrate just as soon as I get back from the bathroom…

1.10 pm – They must have done that on purpose. Placing the bathroom on the other side of the store, so you have to pass by every best seller table and interesting New York fiction stand, before you get there. I couldn’t help stopping and browsing. I mean, how often do I get to be in a bookstore without a three year old pleading for “The Little Engine that Could” at the top of his lungs? And, you know what? Perhaps I shouldn’t feel bad. Looking at new books is research, after all. Especially for a serious, dedicated writer like myself. You have to know what’s on the market, who’s publishing what, who thanking who in their acknowledgments. It’s a vital part of the job.

I’ve got twenty minutes left. If I get my head down, maybe I can churn out a couple of hundred words….ah, but is that my stomach grumbling?

1.30 pm. Time to go. I have written a grand total of 10 words. This means, at ten bucks an hour for 2.5 hours babysitting, I’ve paid $2.50 for each word I’ve written. Seems kind of pricey to me. I’m going to be penniless by the time I finish my 100,000 word novel.

Oh well, that toasted bagel with lashings of cream cheese tasted so good, perhaps it was all worth it. And next time, I promise I will be different. I will be writing powerhouse. Not a t-shirt, tea, or toasted bagel will distract me.


For more of Joanne Rendell's mommy blogs - including "Fishing for Poo," "Should Mommy's Wear Thongs?" and "What's that dangly thing between his legs?" then Click Here to visit her at the popular website, Get Crafty. To return to the Role Mommy home page, Click Here.