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Archive for the ‘Kiddos’ Category

This past week something happened I never thought would.  I attended a rock show with my kids.  For most parents this might be where they talked about how they don’t understand their kids’ taste in music but they sucked it up to spend some quality time with their little people.  For me, it’s the exact opposite.  I cringe when I read shows are “under 21.”  This is my world.  Something for me.  I like living in my little box.  I never understood why parents took their children to shows.  Until I had to.

I spent weeks filling their ears with Fitz and the Tantrums while whispering subliminal messages about how much fun the concert was going to be.  (This might have been my attempt to convince myself.)  Each time Fitz played on the radio, I pointed to the electronic screen and stopped all conversation.  “That’s who were going to see at the concert,” I said.  “We get to hear this song live.  See how cool they are?  They’re on the radio.”  Most of the time I couldn’t even crack their imagination play in the back seat.

I worried.  What if they didn’t like it?  What if they taxed my gig?  Would I have the same amount of fun caring for two other people?  Could I still enjoy myself if I had to be a responsible parent?  Ugh, responsible parent.  Are those words even allowed at a rock show?

Bored kids

Uh oh, this isn’t starting out well.

This concert represented something bigger, as most things do.  A year ago, there’s no way I would’ve even have thought to take them.  They would’ve spent the night at my mother-in-law’s house and everyone would’ve been happy in their own worlds.  They could watch cartoons and eat ice cream with Grammy and I would wedge myself front and center at the stage.  It would’ve been perfect.  Or so I thought.

It’s been ten months since she died and I still can hardly think about it without tears coming to my eyes.  Death is one thing.  The simplest fact of life.  Suicide is completely different.  Even writing the words for other people to read has me second guessing myself.  I’ve gone back and erased it three times.  This is what the past year has been like.  I doubt.  I worry.  I wonder “what if.”

This concert was another shift in our new family relationship.  At first the kids looked bored even though I paid extra to get us in the secluded front lawn.  They groaned when I danced in my seat to the opening act.  My son refused to move to the front before Fitz and Tantrums took the stage.  My daughter wondered why I wanted to be so close.  Until the music started.

Fitz was the best concert to start them on.  The energy is incredible and they put on a damned good show.  Seriously, one of the best I’ve ever seen.  We jumped for 90 minutes.  Even my son danced, according to Hubs who hung with him a few rows back.  My daughter got a high five from Noelle during the show.   I explained the encore process over the loud cheers.  At the final chord, the band flooded my daughter with awesome gear.  (Note to rock parents: the kid scored a tambourine, a set list, and a pick.  She almost got the drumstick too, but a die hard fan interceded.)

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Don't worry, I'm still a hair disaster.  That hasn't changed.

Don’t worry, I’m still a hair disaster. That hasn’t changed.

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Still able to hang around the tour bus for photos even with the kids in tow.

The kids haven’t stopped talking about it.  They replay their favorite parts and named it “one of the best days eva!”  Daughter runs around the house shaking her tambourine like the musician showed her.  Son talks about how I didn’t embarrass him after all.  When Fitz flashes on the radio, they ask me to turn it up as loud as I will let it go.  They even asked when we’re going to our next show together.

This is one of those pleasant surprises that come with being “the new us.”  The benefit I sometimes forget when remembering all the good we’ve lost.  Because our “normal” changed, I had one of my best concerts with the people I love the most.  The kids figured out the mystery behind when Mommy goes to concerts and why it makes her so happy.  And I broke through one of my mental walls and shared with my children another side of me.

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The whole after-concert clan.

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Shut In

I didn’t leave my house this weekend.  Correction, I left once to go to Walmart to pick up some groceries for dinner.  I only got to their parking lot  because then I discovered I didn’t have my wallet.  Hubs had it and he was gone for the night.  I skulked back home and told the kiddos we had to make do.

I baked.  I baked a lot.  There were iced cookies, Pinterest cookies, homemade pretzels, homemade pizzas, and even some fun treats for the kids.  I also finished my WIP edit, researched potential agents to query, made a spreadsheet for the querying process, and tuned up the old query letter.  While in the background was the constant hum from the washing machine getting through the weekend’s normal chores.

I’m not really sure what came over me this weekend.  I knew I had to get some baking done for clients, but I didn’t need to take on extra projects.  I’ve been struggling to find topics for the blog.  I don’t take your readership for granted.  I’m a bit embarrassed I’m writing about doing laundry.  The real question to this post is what inspired it all?

This:

fall

This is the view from my back porch.  Yes, that’s my crappy fence you see.  Ignore that and look at those incredible trees.  It’s the most amazing thing.  Every year the Oregon Fall season surprises me with vibrant colors and this amazing Ombre effect.

Spring brings green buds and lovely growth.  Summer serenades with rustling leaves while we sit at the patio.  And Fall brings that amazing color reminding me soon the leaves will fall.  In Winter the trees will be bare and lonely.  For some this would seem like the saddest time, but the change brings a great reward.  It’s the only time in the year we have a spectacular view across the valley.  It’s something I treasure everyday up until those green flecks start to blossom with new leaves.

The scene reminded me of all the changes life constantly throws.  The past couple months have brought many changes to my family and we are still sorting out what kind of family we are now.  There are sad days where I mourn the things I miss about the past.  I see those days like a bare tree with nothing to offer except the reminder of what was lost.

But then I look harder.  I see past the branches to the beautiful view laid out before me.  It includes chasing a dream to become a traditionally published author, baking fun cookies to make others happy, and hanging out for an entire weekend listening to two kids laugh their heads off.  Why go anywhere else when I have everything right here?

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The Baker’s Family

It’s hard to be family to a baker.  Most people think it’s filled with cookies and cake to no end.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  It’s repetitious cycles of “don’t touch that” and “it’s not for you.”  I feel bad on days when the house smells like vanilla and the kids come in with visions of sugar cookies dancing in their heads only to be told it’s not for them.  They may get a sample here or a mis-shaped accident there.  But we both know it wasn’t for them.

The worst is on days like yesterday.  Days like when my son’s birthday is the next day and I still don’t have a cake made.  Tired from the two other jobs I had this week, I wish I could ask him to settle for whatever the restaurant carts out for birthdays.  A scoop of ice cream?  Maybe a sundae?  Heck, I would drop the seven dollars on whatever dessert he wants.  But I can’t ask him to do that.  He had one simple request and that was a triple chocolate cake for this tenth birthday.

I shouldn’t have waited so long.  My goal to finish a read through on my WIP cemented my ass to a chair for the entire weekend.  I ignored laundry, house cleaning, and all the other things I try to cram in on the days off from the 8-5 job.  This would’ve been prime baking time but the book needed tending after ignoring it for weeks.  His chipper little voice reminded me several times that he couldn’t wait for the chocolatey goodness.

I promised to get to it and filled the minutes with other things.  (Please note 4 hours of it was pure torture in taking his friends and him to the Family Fun Center).  They raced go carts, hit balls at the cages, and soaked each other on the bumper boats.  This didn’t leave much time for whipping up chocolate mousse, melting chocolate for ganache frosting or crumb coating.

So there I was at 9:30 at night with the middle layers completed on his birthday cake.  I rushed home after a long day at the 8-5 to rush on the frosting before heading out the door for his birthday dinner.  I warned him it wasn’t going to be my prettiest cake.  He responded with “It just has to taste good.  And I know if you’re making it, it will.”

All this was worth it when we lit ten candles and he had a chance to make a wish.  He only ate half a piece.  The three-quarters cake left will most likely go to my work so we don’t over sugar it throughout the week.  Now, even though I’m desperately tired, the house is a disaster and I have three other cakes to make this week, there was nothing sweeter than hearing my ten-year-old son say “Mom, this is exactly what I wanted.”

thomas

Happy Birthday to my T-Bear.

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Off The Grid

The family and I finally pulled the trigger on the goal we’ve had since the sun started to shine — GO CAMPING!  I’ll admit right from the beginning of this, I tried to get out of it once again.  With a busy work week and household chores piling up, I didn’t want to take the hours out of my life to “rough it.”  But my six-year-old daughter’s eyes welled with tears and she asked how I could cancel on her again.  Of course, I couldn’t.

Anyone who camps knows the first trip of the year is a disaster.  Only made worse when you feel completely unprepared even before you leave the driveway.  But we pushed on with our late start Friday night and made it to the campground with about an hour left of daylight to spare.  We have a pop up trailer, so we needed to work quickly to get everything up before darkness.  My first fear was the small green plants all around our campground.  I’ve heard about a million stories lately about the torment of poison oak.  Since I was raised in California, I have no idea what it looks like.  But I was convinced it surrounded the entire campsite.  My daughter, who was excited to be one with nature, started rubbing all over the trees and leaves.  Her smile beamed as I imagined her body welting up with a horrific itching rash.  I barked “Don’t touch that” every few minutes and hoped it wasn’t poison oak.  Hubs assured me it’s only nature and we needed to get going on setting up.

I decided some tunes in the warm night air would help me shed my city angst and start relaxing.   One problem.  The trailer battery was dead.  Panic!  Hubs started checking everything electrical and it was a no-go.  I looked down to my phone with only an eighth of a battery left and thought “this is the end of the world.”  Hubs dug through some supplies and found a battery-powered lantern which had enough juice to click on.  As the sky turned to a faded purple, we prepped for bed and I turned off my phone.

The next day the kids woke up ready for their camp breakfast.  I purchased a new coffee pot for the trip and pulled it out of the box only to realize the water in the trailer ran on electricity.  No electricity, no water.  (Are you sensing the zombies might be on their way?)  I pushed on with the head strong idea “There will be eggs for breakfast.”  This would’ve worked, well, if I had actually packed the eggs.  Twenty minutes later, $20 bucks dropped on a couple fishing lures at the general store, we sat in a small cafe ordering a very expensive camping breakfast.  As if on cue to accentuate the morning, my son spilled a cup of water across the table.

When we got back to the campground, I had a choice.  Enjoy the trip for what it was or keep telling myself how everything was not how I planned.  Hubs took the kids on the river to fish and I got a half hour on the WIP with a cup of warm coffee from the new pot.  When they got back, my daughter and I played a board game while my son read his latest book.  After lunch, the kids and I went on an amazing hike along the river and threw rocks into the water.  The only time I turned on my phone was to snap some shots of it all.

Fishing lesson

Boy finishing his latest Riordan book.

Yes, that’s Payday. A classic.

Our view on the hike

At the end of it all, everyone had a pretty good time.  We even made plans for next weekend to do it all again, only a little more prepared.  The lack of electricity and distractions helped us make the most of our day time and we went to sleep at a reasonable hour.  When I asked the kids why they like camping so much, their answer was simple, “because we get to spend time together.”  (Yes, that’s the sound of my heart swelling.)

There is something to be said for things not working out how you planned.  This is a good reminder when I’m working towards something so hard in my writing life.  I’ve spent so much time on it.  I don’t want anything to go wrong.  I want it so bad.  But nothing works that way in life.  That’s what makes it the interesting ride it is.  But when you get to spend time with some pretty cool peeps, read a great book, and see some beautiful scenery, it can’t be all that bad no matter how badly it’s off course of what was planned.

*Even though there were no zombies in this story, Hubs and I did discuss our plan if the outbreak occurred.  What else are you supposed to do when there’s no internet?

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It’s no surprise Valentine’s week involves a lot of treats, sweets, and baked goods.  Hallmark has been successful at infusing the day with the “if you don’t give something to someone else, you suck” attitude into a day where you should be only required to say “I love you.”  Ironically, I did minimal baking and felt hella guilty because of it.  But the one thing I did get to creating were owl cookies for my kids’ teachers.

I’d been pinning all sorts of owl projects to my Pinterest wall because of it being the mascot to Kiddos’ elementary school.  Yes, I’m one of those goober moms who tries to stick with the school spirit theme in my gifts to the administration.  The owls were from The Adventures of Sugarbelle and were the perfect choice with the heart-shaped faces.  Instead of pink and gray, I thought I was “oh so clever” by using the school colors of green, gold, and purple.  This is what it looked like when I was finished:

Aren't these owls filled with school spirit so freakin' cute?

There was excitement and cooing over the cuteness of the finished design.  I got my daughter’s sign off she thought it was cute enough for her best teacher ever and the teacher’s aide they call “Grandma.”  She even asked for an extra to go to another one of her favorite people, the librarian.  (This makes my heart swell and melt at the same time.)

Then I took a second look at the cookies and I could no longer find the face of an owl.  All I could see was Day of the Dead cookies with colorful skeleton faces.  Now look again:

Who's celebrating Day of the Dead in February?

Same picture, but a totally different way of looking at it.  Panic set in about the school administration wanting to know why I’m sending skeleton heads as signs of love and appreciation.  I wasn’t sure if it would give the same sentiment of “Thank you for inspiring my children” as a friendly owl head might.  So I spent the next hours asking people what they thought it looked like.  There was a Facebook post to see if anyone else saw the same thing I did.  Poor Hubs had to answer the question about ten times over.

This happens to fall at the same time as I’m editing my work in progress.  I have super notes from my crit partner pointing out things I never thought of during those first couple drafts.  It’s so funny to see things I never even imagined before and now they are so obvious.  It’s one more confirmation I’m on a good path of growth in my writing life.

While the cookie was received, liked, and hopefully consumed, the WIP is still in process.  Soon I’ll have another set of notes and see even more details I hadn’t before.  When it’s finally done, I’ll have confidence in a piece I love and can’t wait to share.

Having a second or third pair of eyes is a benefit in any creative process.  They can point out what’s lacking or support what’s right.  After critique partners and beta readers, I won’t have to worry about the insecurity of asking a million scattered people for their opinion.  Most will see what I want them to, but maybe a handful will see the unintended symbol of death.  And that’s okay.  That’s the awesome thing about creativity.  Everyone gets out of it what they want.

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Pulling Teeth

“I want to pull out all my teeth,” said my six year old daughter.

We have a bedtime ritual of laying together for fifteen uninterrupted minutes after a hectic day.  The conversation usually includes strange questions about death, the updates about how many girls are in her first grade class, or singing made up songs with strange rhymes.  This was the first of some kind of weird bodily harm.

“Why do you want to do that?” I said.

“Because everyone else is losing all their baby teeth and I’m the only one left.”

“I’m sure there are others in your class who haven’t.”

“Marissa is the only other one and now she has a wiggly tooth.  Right here.”  Her finger crammed into her small mouth to point out the area of wiggle.  She pushed against hers and it’s solid as a rock.

“Don’t worry, it will happen.”

“I don’t like to be behind everyone else.”

“It’s not a race.”  This statement is a regular feature in my daughter’s life who is as competitive as her mother and has the same lack of patience.

“The dentist told Daddy last time that I’m behind and it’s going to be a long time.  I wish all the teeth in my mouth were gone.”

This statement is most ironic since I just finished paying a very large bill to have a slew of cavities filled.  There are hundreds of dollars stuffed into the crevices of her teeth which would have fallen out if we hadn’t done something.  This doesn’t even include all the additional mouth care purchased to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“You would look pretty funny with no teeth.  If you rush it by pulling them out before they’re ready, the adult ones won’t come in and you’ll be toothless for a long time.  You wouldn’t be able to chomp on carrots, nuts, or anything else hard.”

“That’s okay.  I like mashed potatoes,” she said quite content to a life of spuds.  I kissed her on the head, asked her stay my little girl a little longer, and not do anything reckless to knock out all her teeth.

Her story reminded me of my own impatience nagging the back of my mind with wanting to rush through the big edit on my current work in progress.  I listened to all the writerly advice and have given some time after finishing before diving back into the edit.  I mentally warn myself to take the time to reading and re-read before making any changes or sending to my shiny new critique partners.  My mantra “it’s going to take time” is a daily reminder no good will come if I rush it.  If I make a rash decision to start querying before the manuscript has matured, I’ll only end up looking foolish like a little girl with no teeth in her mouth.

As my daughter pointed out, this is made more difficult by seeing the toothless smiles of those around us.  It’s not that we’re jealous of them (okay, maybe a little jealous but still happy).  But we get fidgety about when it will be our turn.  She and I both understand others reaching their goals has no bearing on whether we do or not, but it’s a reminder of the possibility.  And hearing about the excitement of putting the envelope under your pillow to wait for a quarter to magically appear or the announcement of signing with an agent only makes it more torturous to have to wait.

I’ll try to be the adult here and remind both of us “it’s not a race.”  I know if we continue forward with what we’ve been doing, inevitably it will happen.  She will grow up, lose her baby teeth and be less of my little girl every day.  I will type on the computer, write stories, keep learning, and hope to have an agent announcement of my own one day.  It will be interesting to see who out of the two of us will reach her goal first.  And let us all hope I reach my goal before my daughter reaches a ripe old age where she has to be concerned about keeping the permanent ones.

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There was an immediate request for paper to be folded into the shape of a small, green wise man the moment my son picked up the book Origami Yoda.  It continued in an incessant whine with each chapter, but I held off with the promise I would create it when he finished the book.  Although I didn’t hold out until the very end, he happily finished the book and I folded paper.

As always, I’m amazed with how you can learn to do anything from the internet.  It’s where I started my cookie creating, learned how to fix my washing machine, and most recently learned how to fold Origami Yoda.  Not that the instructions in the back of the book didn’t give step by step instructions, because it did.  But the act of watching the video made it much easier to understand the concept and what each fold should look like.  But afterwards, Yoda wasn’t enough.

The first Yoda and Darth Paper met a sad fate when they were left in someone’s pocket when his pants went through the washing machine.  Their demise was confirmed when two balled up wads of paper got pulled from the pocket.  Tears were shed, a funeral was requested, and the only way to move past the loss was the promise of Mom heading to the craft store for actual origami paper.

What I didn’t know when I paid a large amount for small squares of paper was there would be endless requests for more creatures when I returned home.  After Yoda was revitalized, a “ninja star” was requested.  So I loaded up the internet and thought I could whip out a ninja star in about five minutes.  Thirty minutes later and my blood boiling, I was ready to chuck the whole thing in the garbage. But, I couldn’t give up because we used the only piece of gold paper in the package of one hundred.   Boy stared with wide eyes and checked in every two minutes to see if I was done yet.  The clock ticking in my ear only added to the frustration.

I watched the video time and time again, but couldn’t figure out how two separate pieces went together to form a star.  I tried another video, this one in Spanish, but still no success.  At my wits end, with a clump of hair in my hand from tearing it off my head, I limped together the two pieces and called it quits.  Boy was happy.  He said it looked great.  But I knew it wasn’t the real deal.

Hubs strolled out of the bedroom to see what we’re doing (and what I’d been cursing about.) 

“Oh, a ninja star.  I loved those when I was a kid.  Made them all the time,” he said.  Daughter pushed Hubs back into the bedroom to make another out of plain old printer paper.  In less than three minutes, she triumphantly danced out with a well-constructed ninja star flying out of her hand and attempting to decapitate her brother.

I should have drawn on the lessons writing has taught me when I knew I was in trouble with the star.  Self-instruction and determination only get you so far at times.  There are circumstances which call for a fresh eye and leaning on the support of a community to get to the best product before self-loathing takes over and puts doubt in your mind.   This reminder came at a good time.  The next couple months are going to be important in my novel’s life when I move from finishing a draft to refining it with critiques.  If I let fear of inferiority drive my decisions, I won’t push myself to make something better.  To think I can do that alone is arrogant.  Admitting it sooner will save heartache, frustration, and rejection later.

I haven’t yet asked Hubs to show me how the two pieces fit together.  Instead, I’ve bestowed him the title of “Ninja Star Master” and send the children to him with their multiple requests.  (There has to be some repercussions for letting me hang out there while he sat in the other room hoarding all the knowledge.)  But one day I’ll ask, I’ll learn, and I too will become a Ninja Star Master.

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