Archive | Family

The End of Summer

I hate premature declarations. If I walk into a store the day after halloween and see Christmas decorations, I am likely to leave. Likewise, I hear people talk about the end of summer in July and can’t help but think “whaaaa?”

That said, for me, today does in fact mark the end of summer. For one thing, the kids start school on August 16th (?!?!) and for another, I have been highly remiss in getting any work done over the last two months.

In my defense, this was the first summer since becoming a parent nine years ago, that I wasn’t working for someone else. I have absolutely loved, and I do mean LOVED, the fact that I was able to travel with the kiddos, hang out at the house, visit the library a ton, bake cookies and generally enjoy hanging out with them. Not that I wasn’t working at all. I write every morning, and I do have a couple of low key clients, but I was able to take that work with me on our travels and get most of it done before the kids woke up each morning.

end of summer

Thankfully, I have found, over the past few days, that I am ready for the end of summer. I want to get back to work. I enjoy working with my clients. Also, I want to put more time into my blog. I have a bunch of ideas that have been percolating these past few months.

Turns out that a good vacation is good for my creative mind. Stay tuned to see what I come up with this fall.

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Powell’s Books (aka Heaven)

Powell's BooksWe just got back from our big family vacation for the year up in the northwest.

We visited my dad in Idaho, camped in eastern Washington, moved to the mountains for a couple days camping in the forest, then to Spokane to visit with friends, and finally, Portland to visit my sister and her family. The night we arrived, she arranged for a babysitter and we had a little double date in downtown Portland. It’s been years since we went out with our sweeties.

After dinner, my brother-in-law suggested we walk over to Powell’s Books. Of course I’ve heard of this books store, but when we finally arrived I had just one question: How have I never been here before?

Seriously. This place is amazing. It took me half an hour to get through the entry. Books, books, so many books! I’ve never seen anything like it. New books, used books, old books, new releases. At a certain point, I decided that the building might actually be enchanted because I couldn’t find an end. It just kept going and going.

Anyhow, in two fantastic weeks of friends and family, this was actually my favorite part, and while it’s good to be home, I’m a little sad that I can’t go back to Powell’s Books today.

If you’re a fan of books and ever have the chance, you really MUST check it out.

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Moving Day

Thursday was the big day. I can’t believe it finally came.

moving day

In honor of St. Patty’s Day, and because they’re just awesome like that, my sister-in-law and her husband brought over cinnamon rolls with green frosting, along with coffee, and we had a little moving day breakfast picnic on the dining room floor.

breakfast St. Patty's style

Then the movers arrived, and things got busy. We let the kids stay home from school, so they could see what was happening. It just felt too weird to leave the house to take them to school, then go pick them up and bring them home to another house.

This move has been one of serious mixed feelings. We loved that house. Our babies learned to walk there. We marked their growth on the wall in the garage, year by year. Here is a shot of the footprints we made by pressing Celeste’s baby feet into the wet cement of the garage over eight years ago.

footprint

We will miss Cicero Drive.

goodbye

I will post some pictures of the new place next week.

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For the Dads who Have to Leave

pool dad words

It is a messy world we live in. We fall in love, then out again. We find jobs and lose them. Sometimes things just don’t work out like we plan.

For me, things got messy when I was eight and my parents got divorced. For myriad reasons, my dad had to leave. My memory of this period is hazy, but I have pieced together a rough family history that includes him traveling all over the world as a helicopter pilot, stopping in from time to time.

As a kid, I would have told you that it was no big deal. That was how my parents framed it. They remained friends, albeit long-distance, and my mom provided a loving, reliable home for my sister and me. We never moved, not once. With the exception of my dad, my childhood was pretty normal, but I really did miss him. A lot.

A couple weeks back, I was talking with a friend whose ex just left the country for a job in New Zealand. They have a hilarious and sensitive eight-year-old daughter together. As my friend told me about this tough transition, I found myself struck by how familiar the situation was. It was as if I was talking to my mom, thirty years ago, and it gave me a whole new perspective on my childhood. Since then, I’ve thought a bit about I would say to my dad, if I could go back thirty years and give him some advice.

If you’re a dad who has to leave, consider this:

  1. You have to own that you are abandoning your kid. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but if you aren’t around (physically in the room with them) on a regular basis, that’s what is happening. This will make your kiddo sad, or angry, or both, and that sucks. Don’t try to pretend that she’s not sad, or try to make her feel good about this shitty situation. No puppies. Sit with her before you go and feel sad together. Let her see that you’re sad too. If she’s younger, help her put words to her feelings (sad, scared, upset) so she can better understand them. This will probably make you uncomfortable, but you’re the grown up. Deal with it.
  2. Call once a week, at the same time every week. Calling more often will be tough logistically on both ends, but less isn’t enough. Kids thrive on consistency, and you leaving will rip a hole in that, so a phone call every week is the least you can do. Don’t flake. Do whatever you have to do to not flake. This is something my dad got right, and though there were times that it felt like a chore, every Sunday evening at 6 (my time), it was a major bridge in our relationship. And this was 30 years ago when phones were harder to come by. You have no excuse.
  3. Don’t forget her birthday. Mark you calendar. In fact, mark it a month ahead of time. Buy something (anything – it doesn’t have to be expensive), wrap it nicely, and mail it with time to spare. If you are international, it will take longer to get a package to her, so plan ahead. Birthdays are a big deal to kids. This is one of those little things that will matter.
  4. Don’t drop in unannounced. If you don’t see her very often, it will be tempting to surprise your kiddo by stopping by or flying in without notice. Of course she wants to see you. Of course she will be excited. That’s not the point. This ties back to the whole consistency thing. Let your kid know exactly when she will see you again and then stick to it. When you are with her, make sure she knows when you’re leaving. Never sneak out when she’s sleeping. Teary goodbyes suck, but you’re the grown up. Deal with it.
  5. Have your kid visit. Notice I said visit. Seeing other parts of the world is a great opportunity, no question, but having two homes sucks. Having a group of school friends at mom’s house and a group of summer friends at dad’s house is not cool. I call this disjointed custody. If both parents live in the same city, joint custody makes sense, but if you live far enough away that your kid has to fly to see you, don’t make them uproot their lives to come stay with you for long periods of time (like whole summer vacations). It will fuck up their lives. They can visit for a week and you can be super fun dad, but then send them home to their regular lives.
  6. Pay your child support. Parenting is hard. Doing it alone makes it even harder. Don’t be a deadbeat dad.

I can’t promise that adhering to my list will work any magic, but I hope it can be of use to the dads out there, who, for whatever reason, have to go.

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Reading as a Parent

Girl Reading

My girl loves to read. Imagine my pride. I find her reading in bed late at night. I find her reading on the playground when I pick her up at school. She actually won a reading trophy at the beginning of the school year for reading half a million words over the summer, and she wasn’t even trying.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop bragging and get to the point. While I love how much she reads, I sometimes worry about what she reads.

Up until now she was into age appropriate books (see the cover the Goddess Girls series in the photo above – totally made for a third grader) and really stupidly popular books like Harry Potter. I never read past the first Harry Potter, but I saw the movies and talked with friends who read it and was comfortable that I knew what kind of story she was getting.

I always told myself that I would stay ahead of her reading. That is, I always figured I would read books before her to make sure that they were appropriate, but she just reads so much, I can’t keep up. Or, I guess I could, but then I wouldn’t have time to read the books I want to read (see my bookshelf in the column on the right there and you’ll get why our tastes don’t completely align just yet, oh, and while you’re at it, look me up on Goodreads, we can be buddies).

Anyhow, this all came to a head last night when my daughter decided to pick the first book in a 4-book series titled Uglies. It’s for grades 7 and up. She’s in third.

Here’s a snippet from the Amazon page:

Playing on every teen’s passionate desire to look as good as everybody else, Scott Westerfeld projects a future world in which a compulsory operation at sixteen wipes out physical differences and makes everyone pretty by conforming to an ideal standard of beauty. The “New Pretties” are then free to play and party, while the younger “Uglies” look on enviously and spend the time before their own transformations in plotting mischievous tricks against their elders.

Clearly, it’s about image. I assume it has a message about image being only skin deep, and doing a bit of homework, I got hints of Hunger Games in that it sounds like a rebellion is coming, but the theme definitely taps into some of my fears about raising a girl in Los Angeles, an insanely image-conscious place.

So I dropped what I was reading to read ahead of her. I got through about sixty pages last night. It’s a good read. I told her she could start it today after school, so I’m going to try to get a little more ahead of her, and then keep reading after she’s asleep, but this whole staying-ahead-of-her thing is proving to be so much more challenging than I thought it would be.

Does anyone else have this problem? I want to encourage her to read, and I’m not afraid of adult topics, I just don’t want her in over her head without having anyone to talk to about what she’s reading. Maybe there are book clubs she could join?

If anyone has any thoughts on this one, I would sure appreciate some input.

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We Got The House!

Daniel was asleep when I got home last night. I snuck into bed and curled up beside him. At about 1 in the morning he rolled over and asked me what I was doing on March 4th. I think I groaned something like “shut up,” because really, 1 in the morning is not the time for calendar talk. But when he asked again, and I pushed back “why?” he told me that March 4th is the day we take possession of our new house.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep after that. I’m so excited! Part of me can’t believe it’s really happening, and I guess, too, I shouldn’t get all worked up until escrow closes. We still have inspections to do, and I suppose anything could happen, but as of this morning, we got the house!

Here it is:
4420

Isn’t it just the picture of suburban bliss? I never thought that would be something I would be so excited about, but the kids have changed me. If it were just me and Daniel, we would probably stay in Silver Lake forever, but I just love the idea of walking the kids to school, having a big yard, and getting a dog. I am so excited.

And doesn’t it just figure that Daniel’s new freelance gig starts just weeks before the move? It’s going to be a hectic spring with lots of changes, and I will continue to get up every morning at 5am to write through it all.

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Fingers Crossed

I should be writing. But I can’t get my mind off the fact that we made an offer on a house and the owners are making their decision today. We find out tomorrow if we got it or not. I’m excited to distraction. It is a perfect house for us.

Ever since we found out our second-born was to be a boy we’ve been thinking about having another bedroom. For some reason I was just convinced we would have two girls, and they would share the room. But they need their own space. That probably would have been true for two girls, too. Oh well. Longterm planning has never been my strong suit.

We love our house, particularly the view, and the neighbors (so awesome), so for a while we thought we would remodel. But we live on a steep hill, with no easy access to the back of the house, which makes remodeling crazy expensive. I mean, crazy stupid expensive. So we went house hunting. But we couldn’t find anything we loved so we went back to the architects and tried another version of the remodel. Still expensive. We have been flopping back and forth between ideas for possibly remodeling and house hunting for five effing years now.

But on Tuesday we found it. The perfect house. If we get it, I’ll tell you all about it, but for right now, I’ll just share a picture of our view.

Cicero view

If we’re ready to give this up, you know the new house is pretty amazing.
Fingers crossed.

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DIY Coin Banks for the Kids

I don’t usually post DIY stuff, but I just have to share this one because I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.

See, we’ve been trying to teach the kids about money. They get $1.50 a week for their chores. Fifty cents goes into savings, fifty cents goes into a charity fund, and they get to spend fifty cents however they want. The trouble is, having three banks is awkward. It takes up too much room on their shelves. We tried just putting envelopes in one of the banks, but that was weird too.

So I got to thinking, we need smaller banks that don’t take up too much space on their bookshelves. Here’s what I came up with:

Mason Jar Bank

I wanted the kids to be able to drop the coins into each jar easily, prevent the coins from spilling when the jars are inevitably knocked over, and be able to remove the top when it came time to use the money inside. Here’s how I did it.

step by step DIY coin bank

First, I found a few mason jars. We have a couple dozen mason jars kicking around because frankly, I find them tremendously useful for all kinds of things (remind me to tell you how they make dinner at a halloween party super easy).

Second, I found an old scrap of leather. I’m not sure why I had this lying around. I tend to hang onto things like that. I have a whole drawer full of crafty bits. I used the original top of the mason jar to trace circles on the leather then cut out the pieces.

Third, I folded the leather circle in half to cut a slit in it about the size of a quarter.

Fourth, I used my handy hot glue gun to glue the leather circle into the screw top of the mason jar.

Last, I used some contact paper to make little notes for the front saying which jar is for what.

Ta-da!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

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Back From Portland, Writing Again

I don’t know who I was kidding, thinking I would have time to blog on the day before my sister’s wedding. There were nails to be painted, napkins to be folded, family to be picked up from the airport and so, so much more. We were busy well into the night, and then, because I am a saint and offered to watch my sister’s kiddos the night before the wedding, I was up at 5am with the baby. But I regret nothing! (This seems to be evolving into a catch phrase for me.)

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It was such a good time. My sis looked stunning, and she and her hubby were so happy.  I’m so grateful to all the friends and family who came together to make it a grand affair. Thank you all!

And now I’m back. It’s Monday. I woke at 5am to try to get back to my regular schedule – it’s always really difficult after a break, but I am wrapping up a final polish on the short I’ve been working on – the twenty or so pages I cut from my last draft of the novel. It still needs an ending, but it’s close. I’m hoping to wrap that up today and send it off to the writing group for a fine tooth comb review.

Then it’s back to the novel. I don’t know if I’ve shared where I’m at with it. After getting feedback on the last draft I’ve decided to add about 100 pages to the beginning, so I’m working on an outline of those new pages. And by “working on” I mean I’ve been doing anything but for the last two months. It’s time to get serious. The good news is that the pages I have won’t need to change much. We’ll see. I’m feeling a little daunted, and a lot tired, but this is what separates the real artists from the amateurs, right? Hanging in there for one more pass, because it’s not done and I know it, even though I’m totally sick of it and really, more than anything, just want to declare it done and move one.

Lastly, before I say goodbye, I promised an update on how things are going with my effort to ditch the laptop and go all iPad, all the time. After about a month, I have to say the jury is still out.

Pros:

  • Portability
  • Speed (this baby is way faster than my ancient laptop)
  • Cost (the $90 I dropped on the keyboard is way cheaper than a new MacBook)

Cons:

  •  I’m still getting used to the tiny keyboard (though it’s getting easier and easier, I don’t feel relaxed using it yet).
  • Compatibility (I still haven’t figure out how to easily share things I write in Pages or Google Docs – at least for things like submissions to journals, where they need a pdf of the doc).
  • Ease of navigation, both in any given document (anything over 20 pages is a pain to navigate) and also between apps. I’m the kind of person who keeps a lot of windows open for research while I’m writing. With the iPad I have to close out of an app to open another, and there is a lag time.

So I don’t know. This little experiment may yet flop. I may be forced to bite the bullet and buy a new laptop. But I’m not giving up yet. It may just take a little more time to get used to a new way of operating.

Well see…

 

 

 

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Wrapping Things Up

full moon
This should prove to be an interesting week.

My company (for five more days) takes today off, so I don’t have to work, making my last week with the company a short one, and frankly, I’m totally fine with that. I’m working to transfer all my files to a new (to me) computer, so that I can return this lap top to my employer, along with my backup drive and my phone. So there’s a lot of logistics to deal with.

But not today. Usually, when the kids have a day off, we’ll do something fun as a family, but Daniel has to work, so we went ahead and signed the kids up for a gymnastics camp. It’s the first time they’ve ever done anything like this together. Due to the 3.5 years between them, he usually isn’t old enough for things she wants to do, so it’s kind of an exciting milestone. Even more exciting (for me) is that I convinced Daniel to take the morning off and lay around in bed with me. It was awesome. Just like when we were first dating. We even watched a movie and ate popcorn in bed (among other things I won’t be discussing here).

I plan to spend the rest of the day working on my fiction. The challenge I set for myself a few weeks ago (to get up every morning, six mornings a week, for four weeks) is going really well. I haven’t missed a day. This is the final week. The coolest part is, when I set that goal, I had no idea I would be accepting a new job, and that the end of this week would also mark the end of my work with my current employer. So assuming I can keep it up for another 5 days – I get my reward next Monday. I’m going to a spa near our house because it’s lovely, and has a sauna and nice spaces to lay around. I will get a massage, but I’m also going to lounge for a bit on either side of the massage, really embrace that fact that I hit my goal, and have a little time to spare for a change.

Writing 500 words a morning, even during all the chaos that has been going on, has been really good for me. The new project is up to about 13,000 words. However, starting next week, I’m going back to the other novel for a bit. While I have two weeks between jobs, I really want to make some progress and see if I can’t get a new draft ready for a read. So it’s back to “The Feathered Tale of Tallulah Jones.” I’m a little daunted to get back to it, but I also see these coming two weeks as a great opportunity to pretend I’m a full-time fiction writer. Not on retreat, not carving out some time, but actually writing for three or four hours a day, working around all the other things that still have to get done.

I suspect I’m going to love it.

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