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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:
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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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Writing Goals for 2015

xmas walk
I am so excited for 2015, mostly because 2014 sucked – culminating in a broken wrist that had me out of commission for almost a month. Well, out of commission is relative. The truth is, I already had a week of vacation time planned for Christmas, so I was able to rest the hand and not type, but there were cookies to bake and ornaments to make. My whole family rented a house on the coast in Oregon so we could spend the week together – the photo above is from a walk we took on Christmas morning, during a break in the rain. It was so beautiful.

We didn’t do much for New Years Eve. I had to work, and it’s impossible to get a babysitter, so really, Christmas week was the big deal this year. I’m hoping it marks a turning point, away from the sucky suckness that was 2014 and into the wonderful world of 2015, gravid with potential.

I usually do resolutions, but this year I’m lowering expectations. I have only one goal for this year and it is to revive my writer’s notebook. I used to be so good about jotting down ideas and observations. Any line I stood in was an opportunity for a character study. I wrote about the way light hit different scenes and the nuances of unusual smells. Anything. It’s been years since I did this on a daily basis, and I truly believe it is critical for a writer. So that is my one resolution.

Of course, I also hope to finish “The Feathered Tale of Tallulah Jones” and finally start sending it off to agents. In my wildest dreams I also complete a rough draft of the new novel, the one I have all outlined. Then there’s the blog. All while working full time, raising two kids, and you know, spending the occasional bit of time with my guy.

As usual, I am overcommitting.

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Writing Through the Holidays

Every year the holidays seem to come faster. That is, the days zip past a little quicker, and it’s harder to find time for all the important things like building gingerbread houses, visiting Santa, and yes, continuing to work on the novel. The whole getting-up-at-5am thing is also a little harder, as I tend to drink more. For instance, we had our company holiday party last night. It was fun, and I overslept this morning.

I’m still managing to get up about 4 mornings a week, so I’m still drafting about 2,000 words a week. It’s progress, but it’s slow. I’m really looking forward to January when things calm down a bit. I’ve also set aside the first weekend on January to do another of my own little personal writing retreats. I’m booking a cheap hotel room for Friday and Saturday nights out in the desert. The last time I did this I was able to finish a draft, and since I’m pretty close to finishing the draft I’m working on now, I’m hoping I can use the time to do it again.

I am also saving up my days off just on the off chance that I am accepted to the Hedgebrook Residency program for 2014. We’re supposed to find out before the end of this month. If I’m going I will need two weeks vacation time. I only get the 25th off, and Christmas falls on a damn Wednesday, so it doesn’t feel like much of a holiday, but I don’t want to take any days off, because I might need them. I’m a little conflicted about it. I hope we find out soon – if I’m not going, I likely will take the 24th off, as I would really like to spend it with my kiddos.

Anyhow – that’s the haps. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from Hedgebrook.

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We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

It took me most of last week to recover from the fabulous ordeal of the Tough Mudder. I thought I was fine on Monday, but the tired just clung to me like a toddler that doesn’t want to take a bath. On Saturday night I bailed on Daniel (we had plans to go hear some music) and fell asleep at 8:30.

Of course, as soon as I started feeling well rested our girl got the stomach flu, so we were up all night holding her hair back, then Daniel got it too. Then we got a flat tire. Then the battery died on the other car. And all that seemed suddenly like small potatoes against the fact that my mother-in-law went in for emergency surgery tonight when her appendix threatened to burst and kill her. Sweet Jesus what will tomorrow bring?

I’m happy, no thrilled, to report that we just got the word that my mother-in-law is now out of surgery and is doing fine.

And as there is currently nobody vomiting in our house, I say things are looking up.

As for the writing, I am back at it, every morning, sticking to my 500 words per day. I’m still optimistic that I can finish the draft by the end of the year, and I’m very excited to say that a recent discovery has changed the entire up-at-5-am thing: my coffee machine has an automatic timer. Hazaaa! These mornings, when I stumble up the stairs, the coffee is already brewed. It is hot, and fresh, and so perfect that the thought of it actually helps motivate me out of bed.

Hey, in times like these you take pleasure in the little things.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is a better day. I know, at the very least, there will be coffee in the morning.

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Remote Working

One of the perks of my job is that I work remotely. I have often said how cool it is that I can take my work with me anywhere, but the truth is I never do. Because if I’m going somewhere it’s usually because I don’t want to be working. I’m am not the girl you see sitting by the pool with her laptop.

Except maybe, this week, I am.

My mom has a show opening at a gallery in the desert this Friday and I really want to go. The party starts at 6 and it’s a 3 hour drive (or 5 in traffic), so it would have meant leaving after lunch and using some vacation time, but instead I’m going to flex my remote-worker muscle.

Our thinking is that we will drive out early in the morning. We will leave at 6am, and by 9am I should be happily settled in to some public place with free wi-fi. Eventually I will be in our hotel room, or even (we’ll see) by the pool. Then, come the end of the day, I will put on my art-show-opening fancies and have a lovely night with my momma.

And then Saturday morning I plan to wake up early enough to work on my novel while I watch the sun come up over the desert. I’ve been dying for some desert time. It’s going to be a great (if short) trip.

Here is a sample of mom’s sculpture. You can see more of her work on her website. 

Laguna

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