Friday, July 25, 2014

Don't Rush Me

      “Let’s go!”  “Get in the car.”  “Get out of the car.”  “Hurry up!”  I could record these phrases and play them on an endless loop almost daily.  I have a toddler whom I have affectionately nicknamed Molasses Man.  When planning departure time, I would be remiss if I didn't add in at least ten minutes for him to get from the family room to his car seat, (a space of approximately 30 feet.)  He is distracted by any and every little thing. 
        Over the past year I found myself biting my lip in frustration in attempts to get him where we need to be.  Why can’t he move faster?  Why doesn't he understand the urgency?  Why is looking at an ant so important at 7:15 in the morning when I have a staff meeting at 7:45?  Another phrase I frequent: “I know you don’t understand time, but we have to go.  Now.”
        This week, I got it.  Three and a half years is not a long time to be on this earth.  It is not long enough to accumulate a vast knowledge base or wide range of experiences.  At 3 ½, so much is new and exciting – and none of it involves the clock.
        I’m pretty sure I had this revelation two years ago, when my oldest was 3, but, if you are a parent of more than one child, you bury some things deep away in the parenting file of your brain.
        But I am learning a valuable lesson, too.  Maybe I should be taking more time to notice the little things.  Maybe I don’t need to be in such a rush to get from point A to point B.  Maybe there’s a lot I am missing out on.  

So, when we are supposed to be going to the grocery store and we decide to look at the ducks…

or we are supposed to be going home and we want to check out a 
cool fish fountain…

or we are supposed to be leaving to pick up your brother from camp and you want to see how high you can spray the hose…

I should give you those few minutes to experience and explore.  And I should take a few minutes to enjoy it as well.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Setting and Resetting Goals

An important goal I set for this time at home was to put more effort into my writing.  If I was going to take it to the next level, I would need to dedicate more time to it.  The hour before everyone gets up in the morning wasn’t cutting it.  Most mornings, after getting coffee, shaking my head awake, a “quick” check-in with Facebook and Twitter, I had whittled my window down to 20 to 30 minutes.  No career writer can produce a great work in 30 minutes or less.  I am not Domino’s!
At my June critique group, I brought chapter one of my newest work in progress – a middle grade chapter book about a 5th grade boy who has math anxiety.  While I shared, the pages vibrated in my hand as I read and my voice changed with each character’s string of dialogue.  I was excited.  I could feel this story bubbling inside me.  I described it like trying on hats.  I had once complete middle grade novel, one quarter of a young adult, and now this one.  The first two were just OK but they weren’t the right fit.  I still wanted to work on them… someday… so I carefully tucked them away onto my thumb drive for later. 
But this story was just right!  The agent I met with in May said, “You’re a teacher, you must have some funny stories to tell.  Everyone loves a funny middle grade character.”  I had that! I spent the next two weeks building characters and settings, jotting down plot ideas and funny anecdotes from classes past. 
Then summer started and my writing stopped.  The alarm was no longer set, the rush to squeeze in writing time was gone, but so was my motivation.  This is OK, I need a vacation.  September brought me a little momentum – I should be working on something by now!  I’ll research!  I read about math anxiety, I watched wrestling videos – just waiting for that spark to get more words on the page. 
Then November came - National Novel Writing Month!  I headed to to check it out.  It was a free way to finish my novel with guidance and support along the way.  Hooray!  This was just the push I needed.  Then I saw the word count was 50,000 words!  I panicked.  The goal for my book was 30,000.  How the heck was I going to write 20,000 extra words?!  Luckily, @NaNoWriMo and @NaNoWriMoSprints had suggestions and prompts. Phew!  I could build backstory!  I could work on the second book!  I could do this!
When I wasn’t writing, all I did was think about my characters and their stories.  Then, I’d sit down and only 1,000 or so words would make it to the page.  To get to 50K by November 30th, the average per day should be 1667.  As week one ended, I set myself a new goal: write everyday and hit 30K.  There were many moments when I felt disappointed about lowering this number.  However, I had a goal and I was writing every day.  I was happy.
I finished with 34,109 words.  For NaNo, I was considered a loser.  I consider it a win! 
I love new challenges and setting goals.  I also think it is OK to change those goals so that you are able to feel successful in the end. 
Healthy challenges are fun, keep you motivated and with social media support, a way to connect with other people.  My new challenge starts today.  It is a 50 day challenge.  You choose your own goals.  Mine are: write, meditate and exercise every day. 
Check out the following links to join!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Laughing at Myself
     Tell me I’m not the only one!  I do some pretty silly stuff but rather than learn from it and move on, I keep doing it.  Most likely, it’s because these things are not harmful to anyone or me.  A few of them make other people a wee bit crazy though – maybe that’s why I continue!  ;)  Read on and see for yourself.  Hope I bring a smile (or two) to your face. :D

·          Wait until I hear the low fuel light “ding” until I consider getting gas
(It’s a first warning.  I know I have time.  And isn’t that what the “E” is for?) 

·         Forget when to cook shrimp with the shell on and when to take it off
(Is it really that important?  Doesn’t the shell hold in the moisture?)

·         Stay up too late reading.
(This can’t be so bad. I’m reading! And the more you read the smarter you get!)

·         Hit the snooze bar.  Once, twice, sometimes three times.
(I hate that annoying beep, but I love another 7 minutes of sleep!)

·         Get twisted up when putting on a front-close bra.
(Some days I don’t realize I did it for a few hours!)

·         Wake up two hours before I need to leave the house only to make the last ten minutes a mad dash in order not to be late.
(I did this even before I had the boys!)

·         Mix up baking soda and baking powder
(Why are so many baking ingredients white?)

·          Put ketchup on my macaroni and cheese – even the fancy lobster kind
(Of course my favorite is my mom’s!)

·         Mix up left and right and east and west when giving directions to others
(Be very glad GPS was invented if I have given you directions!)

·         Can’t do math in my head
(Especially subtraction with regrouping and don’t dare ask me about percent!)

     All of these things make me laugh.  All of these things make me – ME!  I hope you are able to take time each day and smile and laugh – especially at yourself!  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Let Me Entertain You

Alex has become quite the entertainer and attention seeker.  As a result, the most popular phrases in my house lately are, “Look at me!” and “Watch this!”  Only he says “wook” and “dis.”  It was bound to happen; he needed a way to be recognized apart from Andrew.  Of course, this has now added a whole new layer of competition to their relationship.  They each strive to become faster, louder and funnier.  
When these moments happen, a good parent stops what they are doing, feigns interest in said activity, smiles politely and makes a comment:  “Good job!”  “Wow!”  “How cool!”  A better parent looks up from whatever they are doing, is genuinely interested in the twirling jump or fire fighter rescue and asks engaging questions:  “Can you twirl in the other direction?”  “Did everyone get out safely?”
I have done both.  And I’m sure, you have too.  It’s OK.  These “Look at me!” moments can get a bit overwhelming.  Our children don’t understand we have other things that we need to get done around the house.  I haven’t yet tried to explain to Jim that I couldn’t get the laundry done because I was watching the boys’ tricks all day.  Maybe I should try it.  But somehow, “Look at me! I’m making dinner!  I’m mopping the floor!  I’m scrubbing the toilet!”  don’t sound as appealing.
What I wonder, then, is when do we lose this fearless “Look at me” attitude.  Sure, there are actors, performers and professional athletes who love the limelight, but the majority of us regular folks would rather go unnoticed.  Why is that?  Fear?  Lack of confidence?  Modesty? 
It’s too bad.  Each of us has some hidden talent, some special ability that deserves sharing. So try it!  Even if it’s only among your immediate family and closest family. Tell someone, “Look at me!”  Make them notice how important and talented you are.   

And then you can go back to scrubbing the toilets.  J

Friday, July 12, 2013

Toddler Translations

When your child is an infant, you eagerly await for him/her to make a noise that you can connect to a word.  You hover over them cooing and chatting away in attempts they will mimic you.  You make videos, call family and (nowadays) post these “conversations” on Facebook.  Eventually the babbling emerges into more recognizable words – or so you think. Many of our children say “Dada” first.  I’ve been told it’s easier to say than “Mama.”  Nice!  In our house, Andrew called us both Dada for a bit.  Even when I would respond with Mama to help reinforce my name, he would just laugh and say Dada again – little stinker!
          As words become phrases and phrases become sentences, certain mispronunciations occur.  I find these to be quite cute and waver between correcting them or letting them be.  Many times when I parrot back with the correct way, Andrew will still respond back his way.  It’s just how he hears it.  So sometimes we just use that variation.  We just have to be careful not to use it in public! J
          Here are some of my favorite Andrew-isms:
Note – nope
Amn’t – am not
Frope – throat
Un- um
Excabert – expert
Excabator – excavator
Vermote – remote
To confinamy and beyond – infinity
That was the best pizza I never had – instead of “ever” had
Freef – third  (he says three as “free”)

          In the past two months, Alex’s language has exploded!  He is stringing words together at lightning speed.  He’s not into the beginning “s” sound on many words which provides many Alex-isms.
Boopbrush – toothbrush
Fruitbus – school bus
Yes are – Yes it is/ Yes I am
No are – No it isn’t/ No I’m not
Fippery – slippery
Peabutter – peanut butter
Nake – snake
Pider – spider (not sure what he has against the letter “s”)
Tar – star
Cared- scared
Funder - thunder

          As times goes by, I am getting better with these toddler translations.  I also find it helpful information to pass on to family members and babysitters.  If you’ve ever been involved with a toddler, who is trying to tell you something over and over again, and you are getting the words wrong, EEESH!  It’s frustrating for both you and the toddler!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Move On

          The first weekend of May I attended the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Springfield, CT.  It was, in one word, amazing!  But, I want to talk about the low point, or shall I say, turning point for me.
          I have spent much of the past three years working on a young adult chapter book.  Last fall I completed the rough draft - about 120 pages.  During January and February, I combed though it adding more depth and detail to my characters and scenes.  Then, in March, I attended the Whispering Pines.  I took part in a YA critique group; afterwards I decided my characters would be better suited in the middle grade category.  So, I printed out the entire 143 pages, pulled up my sleeves and grabbed a pen and proceeded to cut and slash my way through the manuscript changing and tweaking.  Yes, I thought, this was going to be great!
          Then, about two weeks later, something strange happened.  Maybe it was the change in temperature, maybe the pollen began tickling my brain but I decided that this was not the book for me.  I didn’t have the energy to put anymore into it.  I needed to write something else.  I had to, heavy sigh, begin the process again!   
          But I was OK with that.  I’ll go to the conference, get a ton of new inspiration and become a writing machine!  Oh, wait, I have that critique on Saturday.  A moment of dread hit me. Just a moment, though.  Then I realized, if she did not like, no worries, I wasn’t working on it anymore.  Then, I thought, what if she liked it?  Well, I’d just have to cross that bridge when I got there…
          She didn’t like it.  She gave me a very straightforward, a bit rough critique.  ‘I want to hear more about the main character, don’t include dream sequences, they’re cliché.’  I explained to her where I was with the book.  ‘Great.  You’ve proved you can write a book, now move on.  This is not the book for you.  Use this character in another book.’  We went on to have a constructive conversation about what was selling, what kids want to read, and a variety of story ideas.  I left satisfied.  I had received confirmation.  This was not the book for me. 
          There’s just one problem now.  What is the book for me?  Advice from published authors says, ‘Don’t write for trends. Write the book you want to write.’  I certainly have a lot of ideas.  Therefore I’ve been dabbling.  When an idea comes to me, I jot it down.  I might spend a few days on it, but then something else creeps in.  I haven’t written one draft and I’m not worried.  I’m still writing, and that is most important.  I am moving on.
          Moving on from something I worked so hard (and long) on is frustrating, maddening, scary, and a huge hit to my ego.  I feel so much lighter and free to write what I want now!  Moving on brings new opportunities that may have been missed.  So, my advice to you, try it!  You never know!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Mess Test

            I’m sure you've seen the e-cards that say, and I paraphrase, ‘I’d rather have a happy home and healthy kids than a clean house.’  I should have that inscribed on a prominent wall in my home.  To be honest, I wasn't the world’s best house keeper before I had the boys.  I’d wait to dust until I saw it, dishes routinely stayed in the strainer rather than be dried and put away, clothes, even though I folded them, spent quality time in the hamper, rather than in the dresser drawers. 
            Enter one, then two toddlers, and, vóila!  Hurricane House!  Let me give you a little taste – an evening that I have fondly dubbed “The Mess Test.”  I was home alone with the boys and we were having dinner at the kitchen table:
            5:30 – Alex’s cup falls to the floor and milk leaks out
            5:45 – Alex manages to get more rice on himself and the floor than in his mouth
            6:00 – Andrew decides to stand up with his cup (with no lid) and drops it on the floor
            7:00 – The boys run out of paper and decide to decorate the kitchen floor
            7:15 – The boys realize the joys of drawing on each other’s back
            We generally follow the if you made the mess, you clean the mess, philosophy in our house, therefore, they each took a turn “helping” with each mess.  I use this term “help” loosely here.  I don’t know if you've ever had a toddler try to “help” you clean, if not, you might want to rethink it.  It’s a simple equation really: toddler + helping to clean mess = more mess for Mommy to clean.
            When I sat down that night, with a glass of wine in front of the fire (yes, really), I asked myself, Was tonight some kind of test to see how many messes I could tolerate?  Then I shook my head and smiled.  I realized how lucky I was to have these little messes.  We cook dinner at home six nights a week and eat together as a family.  The dishes remind me of this special nightly ritual.  The boys are extremely curious and active, it’s only naturally that things will get bumped, spilled and sometimes dented or cracked.  We are very fortunate to have a beautiful home that needs dusting and a plethora of clothing that needs washing.
            So I accept the challenge of the mess test!  I know there will be moments I will grumble or grip at the task laid before me, but in the end, I will raise my glass and say, “Cheers!” to my happy, healthy and lived in home.