“Oh, Momma Look!” Never Ends Well

At least, it never ends well for me.

So, when we were at Home Depot of all places, and that come out of my daughter’s mouth, I knew I was really in trouble.

What had caught her attention? An eleven foot dragon. Yeah, she’s totally my kid.

dragon1
This one.

I have to admit, she has good taste. But it looked HUGE in Home Depot. I couldn’t imagine how big it would be on our suburban front lawn.

Of course, she reminds me that we have no other decorations. Which, she’s not wrong. I don’t suppose the three little pumpkin walkway lights really count. I love watching the kids dress up at Halloween, but I hate anything macabre. You can keep your ghosts, skeletons and dead brides, thank you very much!

But she’s now at the age where she really wants to decorate for the holidays. Unlike my husband and I who were known to go without even a Christmas tree before we had kids.

I told her I’d think about it, hoping she’d forget. Of course she didn’t forget, and she reminded me about it for the next two weeks.

So, we went back to get the eleven foot dragon. When we got to Home Depot, the thing was sold out. Even the floor model was gone. This was back at the end of September, and I was shocked. A quick search with my phone showed no other Home Depots with guaranteed stock in the area. But I could still get it online.

online1
Thank goodness!

So, I assuage my daughter’s crushing disappointment that she isn’t getting it that day with the fact that it will arrive in three to five days and we probably wouldn’t have had time to put it up that weekend anyway. She trudges back to the car, but at least I got her out of the store without a scene. There’s more than one reason why I do so much shopping online!.

The dragon arrived, my husband put it up for her, and she is now totally excited. So excited, in fact, that when she and her sister saw the dragon deflated the next morning on the way to school, they both were super insistent that I needed to “fix” the dragon.

Raising a pair of dragon lovers. Couldn’t be more proud!

 

Do you decorate for Halloween? If so, do you go all out, or were you like us with our three little pumpkins? Any of your neighbors go all out? What’s the best or worst display you’ve seen?

Taking Time to Unplug

It’s Sunday night, and the family is getting ready to go back to our work schedule. I’m trying to get dinner ready while sneaking in a few more words, and DH and DD1 are trying to enjoy a game together.

Enter DD2.

She is angry and upset, crying for no apparent reason. We’re all testy with her. She cries harder.

One of our cats has had made a mess, and DH is irritated as he gets the vacuum to clean it up. Terror sparks in DD2’s eyes as she sees the dreaded vacuum. I put my iPad away, gather her up, and carry her to our bedroom.

Her tears instantly dry up as we lay on the bed together and play silly games of counting her toes, getting tickled (we took turns tickling each other), and just laying together with her head on my shoulder.

Her laughter and giggles made my night.

disconnect1
Or trying to understand and bond with a toddler?

Holding that in my heart, I cuddled with DD1 before work Monday morning. She is getting so big, but she still likes snuggles. For now. We talked a little, but she mostly just wanted to be held.

I’m starting to feel like the whole family is too busy, but not busy with the right things. Time goes by so fast now. I was looking at pictures of DD1 when she was just a few days old. Hard to believe that was almost six years ago. It seems like only last year we were bringing her home and learning what it was really like to have an infant in the house.

I need to slow down. Make connections. Build a relationship with my girls, and strengthen the one I have with DH.

Writing is a part of the equation. I really shouldn’t have been trying to sneak in words. But there’s more to it. I feel like my family has all become too reliant on technology for entertainment. We need to unplug.

disconnect2
Not this bad. Yet.

Bored? We turn on Netflix or Amazon, and we don’t even have to sit through commercials. Open the iPad or Kindle. Pull out your phone. A lot of this isn’t deeply entertaining, but the companies know how to lure us how. How to grab our attention and keep it. How many times has boredom had me checking my phone for a quick fix rather than getting up and actually doing something meaningful?

I got so consumed with these distractions that I got annoyed with my beautiful and amazing toddler rather than giving her the love and attention she both wants and needs.

A part of me wants to give away all of the electronics, but that’s just not reasonable.

Still, I need to find a way to unplug and disconnect more, help my family unplug more, so that we can really connect. So that we spend more time counting toes and less time staring at screens. I just don’t know how.

 

How about you? Ever tried to unplug? What did you do? How did it work? Ever try to unplug your whole family? What did you do? How did it work?

What to Do When Faced with Night Terrors

Per Kid’s Health, our pediatrician, and a child psychologist, “A night terror is a sleep disruption that seems similar to a nightmare, but with a far more dramatic presentation. Though night terrors can be alarming for parents who witness them, they’re not usually cause for concern or a sign of a deeper medical issue.

Night terrors happen during deep non-REM sleep. Unlike nightmares (which occur during REM sleep), a night terror is not technically a dream, but more like a sudden reaction of fear that happens during the transition from one sleep phase to another.”

 

nightterrors
A much cuter version of what we’re facing.

Night terrors are caused by the over-arousal of the central nervous system, but science doesn’t know why.  The best hypothesis is that this area of the brain is still maturing, especially as the night terrors seem to fade as a child ages.

Doctors think it may be hereditary as most kids that have this condition have a family member who experienced them or who was prone to sleepwalking (which is apparently similar in nature to night terrors).

*Glares at DH*

Guessing it’s hereditary as the other things, like taking a new medication or sleeping away from home, don’t play into it.

Night terrors are rare – happening in only 3-6% of kids. Lucky us.

Our daughter has them regularly. Almost every night. We’ve talked to the doctor and a child psychologist. There is very little we can do.

Our pediatrician has told us the best way to combat them is to make sure she has a solid bedtime routine and is getting enough sleep. Of course, the child suffering from night terrors would love to stay up until 10pm  then sleep until 9am. It’s too bad our life doesn’t permit her the schedule she wants as I have to be to work at 8am.

bedtime
Actual footage of me at bedtime.

So, we do our best. Every night is a challenge, as she hates going to bed and usually wants me to be next to her when she falls asleep. I know, Ferber Method, etc. etc.  But I’m not sure I buy into the Ferber Method (also known as the cry-it-out method).

If my toddler is scared and alone, crying for me, I need to go to her. I need to hold and console her. Especially as I am there when she cries out at night. I’ve heard her fear.

Seriously. Until you’ve heard your toddler scream in terror in the night, begging some invisible something to “STOP”, it’s hard to understand. The night terrors are awful, and she is hard to wake up from them even if we want to wake her. She’s not in REM, so she doesn’t awaken easily. And when we do wake her, she’s shaking but doesn’t remember what happened.

Maybe I’m spoiling her, or maybe I’m showing her when she needs me, I’ll be there for her. Even if I didn’t hold and comfort her, I wouldn’t be able to sleep hearing her cries anyway. Better to follow  heart and gut on this.

gut

But it does explain why I’m not sleeping. Why I’m a little crabbier. And why I’m burning out.

At this point, I have no idea how to make it better. I’m rolling with the phrase I heard somewhere about raising kids, “This, too, shall pass.”

I hope it does. She deserves a good night’s sleep, and so do I.

 

How about you? Anyone in your family ever have night terrors? How did you deal with them? Did they ever go away? If so, when did they go away?

Special Flower or Weed?

I have repeatedly heard children called flowers. Each one unique and special.

Whoever coined this phrase either never had kids or is a grandparent who has forgotten what having small children is like.

flower

My toddler is not a flower. She’s a weed.

Oh sure, she looks cute with her little pigtails when she smiles up at you. Her giggles of delight could make angels sing. But two seconds later, she’ll have found a crayon in her sister’s room and be coloring all over your walls while you’re making dinner, totally ignoring the toys you gave her to entertain her.

I had always thought coloring on walls was an exaggeration. I never did it as a kid, and neither did my sister. My oldest daughter never did it. My youngest? Not once, but twice so far.

Thank god for magic erasers.

mrclean

You can get them here. In bulk. Highly recommended if you have a weed in the house.

I was also spoiled by my first child when it came to potty training. I read the books on how to potty train a child, and DH and I applied them. They worked! We had a total of two accidents, and DD1 was potty trained.

After a solid week of intense training, DD2 was no closer to be trained than when we started. We showed her the books and what she was supposed to do. She just grinned at us. Or stomped her foot and shouted, “No!”

I’m telling you, weed. A spiny one at that.

thistle

Oh sure, some of these stubborn traits will serve her well later in life. I can see her stubbornness propelling her to CEO of her own company. I will probably be less worried about her succumbing to peer pressure as a teen as she isn’t a “pleaser”.

But right now, I need to be able to make dinner without my house getting trashed.

They don’t make playpens she can’t climb out of, so we must now jealousy guard all writing utensils.

toddler6
Okay, not legal playpens.

I should’ve bought stock in Pampers with how long she’s been in them. Okay, that’s not entirely true. She gets pampers at night because I don’t want to be woken up to do laundry when there’s a leak. During the day, she gets whatever generic brand Target carries.

Yeah, I’m mean. But that’s the way I roll these days. Maybe if she’s a little uncomfortable once in a while, she’ll be more apt to learn. Gotta make it her idea . . .

 

How about you? Any guidance for someone living with a weed instead of a flower? Tricks to help them morph into a flower? Or perhaps just some potty training advice when you’re trying to train a weed?

Hulless Barley

What is Hulless Barley, you might ask?

Here’s a pretty good look at it:. Not pearlized barley, mind you, though this is what most of us think of when I say barley. Hulless is quite different from its processed cousin, both in taste, texture, and fiber content.

I came across hulless barley back when we were really trying to add more whole grains into our diet. I really like it. To me, it tastes faintly sweet and nutty. I can take or leave rice, but I actually will eat hulless barley without butter or other toppings.

But then, our local grocery store stopped carrying. Yes, I could drive across town and get it from the organic store, but let me tell you about shopping with a toddler and preschooler in tow.

parenting11

So, yes, we make one trip to one grocery store per week. My husband and I make the grocery list together, and one of us goes on a mission to acquire the groceries while the other stays home with the kids. It’s sort of like a mini-mission impossible: get out of the house without either child noticing and going into a fit of tears because mommy or daddy is leaving.

Of course, if you ask them if they want to go to the store, the answer is always no. If you take them anyway, there is a price to pay, and I’d rather them cry at home than at the store.

Anyway, we gave up on the hulless barley and moved on to other grains.

Then, my love of Amazon reminded me I could check there.

Lo and behold, while Amazon didn’t sell it, one of their third party vendors did. On prime, no less, and their with shipping included was less than what I’d been paying at my local grocery store. You know I hit that Buy button.

So, we made it with stir fry the other night. Yes, that’s right, barley instead of rice. Delicious. And really good for you. Then, I had it the next day in my lunch. But, I’d forgotten what eating such a high fiber food when you aren’t used to it does to you.

moderation

Moderation. I won’t forget again.

 

How about you? Any whole grains you like? Perhaps something new and amazing, or something you’d like to warn the rest of us about?

The Lunch Lady is a Chemical Engineer

No, I’m not joking. The lunch lady at my daughter’s school is, indeed, a chemical engineer.

ChemE1

I was shocked. Chemical engineering is hard. Damn hard. She graduated from a good school. Had a terrific job at a Fortune 100 company. Then, she and her husband (who is also an engineer) decided to have kids. She went back to work after their first child was born, but she didn’t go back after their second child and has no intention of returning to her old job.

Why?

She can’t work and do all of the things she needs to do with kids. That includes finding care for them during the multitude of school holidays and over the summer, getting them to and from school (school by us starts after most people have to be at work, and gets out long before most people are home), and getting them to the myriad of activities that require a day time chauffeur.

chemE2

My first thought was what a waste of human capital.

She is smart and well-educated. She was doing some cool work on batteries I barely understand, and there is so much more she could have contributed.

But an antiquated education system designed during an era when women didn’t work outside of the house has created a paradigm where a chemical engineer puts aside four years of grueling college work and another six years of industry experience to serve lunches and chauffeur kids around.

Think about that for a moment. Doesn’t it feel like such a waste?

Yet, I am starting to understand as I struggle to find .

Our VP of HR hires a nanny during the summer even though her kids are all in elementary school. As she said, it was the only way to get them to all of the soccer camps, ballet camps, and various other summer activities that suburban children are expected to attend or risk “falling behind”.

Yeah, already worried about falling behind in elementary school. Because if all the other kids are in soccer camp and yours isn’t…  You get the idea.

I have no idea what a good solution to this is. I like to delude myself and think that there are people out there working on it, but I fear there aren’t.

ChemE3

That for some reason we’re content with this waste of human potential. I’m not even sure why we’re okay with it, just that we seem to be.

Maybe I’m just more aware of it as out little ones become school-age. I’m already seeing the issues as we have to cart DD1 to dance class, tumbling, or swim lessons. I recently received the school schedule, and counted 21 days off that the kids have that do not correspond to a normal work schedule. So, yeah, gotta find some kind of care for those 21 days.

I wish there was a magical place I could drop my kids off in the morning, pick them up there in the afternoon, on every day I have to work. They would be educated, get the activities that they need, and the socialization. This magical place sends me a monthly bill, and all is well.

I suppose we all have our dreams.

 

If you have kids, how do you handle all of the activities, especially if they are during work hours? Any kid chauffeur services I’m not aware of?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This e-mail and any attachments are confidential and protected by law, and any unauthorized use is strictly prohibited.

8 Things I've Learned About Being a Writer

The one thing about us writers is, well, we write. I’ve been writing on-and-off since I was twelve, but I’ve been known to put it down altogether for long stretches.

Perhaps you’ve even put it aside from time to time, too.

For me, the longest I stopped writing was when we decided to start a family. There was an amazing amount to do to get our lives ready and *so* much to read.

Why don’t babies actually follow what’s in the books?!?  Do you know how many times I showed my infant what the “experts” had written as she continued to never sleep unless she was being held?

parent-meme4

Even with all this preparation, we were totally unprepared for the realities of being parents.

I fell into the routine many new mothers do and spent very little time on myself. If I wasn’t at work, I was with our little one.

After my second daughter was born, I watched a lot of TED talks. They were interesting, and they didn’t mess with my new-mom emotions. This one by Larry Smith , convinced me to start writing again. I literally got an old notebook that afternoon and started jotting down ideas.

I attempted to write that story. I mapped it all out, complete with plot and character outlines, applied bottom to chair, and churned out 50k words in five months.

Then shelved it.

The characters weren’t working. The plot was there but forced, even though I’d diligently followed my outlines.

a9ed842f739e930dc8e9340bafbbaeaf77994c50c74fc6a86b046b54cb9b2c59
Except, you know, when they don’t.

I tried revising it, but my hero would’ve rolled his eyes at me if he could. It wasn’t his story. I’d been so busy sticking to my plot-points and outlines that I hadn’t listened to the characters.

I gave up and started a new novel. I plotted nothing. I let the story unfold as I wrote it. I completed the first 50k draft in three months. It was a rough first draft. Very, very rough. But it worked, and I loved the characters. I wanted to see them get together.

I still remember the climactic ending coming to me as I was driving to work after dropping the kids off at daycare, and I had to pull the car over and write it down before I forgot it. That’s when I knew the story was really working.

I’ve managed to write three more full novels in the year-and-a-half since, in addition to my full-time day-job, blogging, and two small children. Here’s what’s worked for me:

 

  1. Write Every Day – I’d originally thought the more I wrote, the more burned out I’d get. Not true. It’s amazing how creativity inspires more creativity. Writing is a skill, just like anything else. The more you do it, the better you’ll be. Sure, I can still get on a bike and pedal it, but teaching my oldest child to ride a bike made me realize that the elliptical machine does not keep you in shape for bike riding.

 

  1. Carve out Writing Time and Defend It (Even from Yourself) – My spouse has been amazingly supportive of me getting back into writing, and he’s agreed to be the primary parent for an hour each night after the kids are supposed to be in bed (yeah, you other parents out there know that’s a big “supposed to”). But if I spend that hour surfing the net, I’m stealing the time from my writing as surely as my daughter is stealing my patience when she comes out for her third cup of water.

aw

  1. Keep a Notebook – my mind does amazing things while I’m walking, driving, or when I first get up in the morning. But those thoughts will dissipate like fog in the noon sun the moment I get back inside, the engine turns off, or I swing my legs out of bed. I need a notebook to write these amazing bits of creativity down. My phone works well for this, too.

 

  1. Perfection Is the Enemy – get that rough draft down on paper. If you want to make changes, make a note of it and keep going. You can polish a rough draft. There’s nothing you can do with a blank page. Finish the story. Crappy is still done and gives you a place to start rewriting.

 

  1. Give Yourself a Couple of Months Before You Edit – This is one of the biggest things I learned with my first completed story. I was too close to the characters, the plot, and even the writing itself. I spent a lot of time “editing” that was really just patting myself on the back for what I’d written. When I went back and looked at it two months later, I had a much clearer view of what needed help.

 

  1. Find a Good Beta Reader – a good beta reader is worth their weight in Starbucks. They’ll help you see plot holes, character issues, and other things you’re too invested in your book to see. If you’ve got a good beta reader, of course you’re going to follow their advice even if it means a painful rewrite.

beta-reader

  1. Read, but Read Critically – Lots of writing advice says you have to read a lot to be a good writer. I think this is over-simplified. Reading is helpful only if you take the time to figure out why one author engages you but another doesn’t. Why do you like a character, hate them, or think they’re too stupid to breathe? Why are you on the edge of your seat reading this thriller but not that one?

 

  1. Take What Works for You and Toss out the Rest. Writing is a creative endeavor. What inspires my muse may drive yours away. Some writers swear by an outline, whereas it brings out my type A personality.

 

 

How about you? Any good writing tips you’d like to share? Anything that’s worked for you? Anything that hasn’t?

 

Suburban Horror (Off-Topic)

As I was folding clothes, my oldest child points out the patio window.

“Momma, what’s that?”

Understand that this is the child that will point out sticks, ants, leaves, flowers, whatever to get me to stop what I’m doing. Once she has my attention, she’ll use it as a segue into me not doing whatever chore I need to get done and playing with her.

Crafty kid.

And it works.

So well, in fact, that I have three weeks worth of laundry to get through and a desperate need to get it done as my sock drawer is awfully low.

But I go over anyway, and I have to swallow back the nausea.  There, on my back patio, are squirrel bits. Some paws (yes, paws *shudder*), a couple tufts of fur . . . I couldn’t look any more as I was reminded of this garish scene in an early Laurie Hamilton book.

“So mommy, what it is?” asks my daughter, her nose pressed against the glass.

And like any good parent, I lie. “Looks like some bird was cleaning out their nest. Kind of like you need to clean your room. Oh, and take your pants I folded with you.”

After a bit more dialogue, she concedes and goes to put her pants away while I scurry off to get DH.

DH agrees. Yup. Squirrel paws. And … other… bits. He thinks it’s related to the hawk nest we saw in our backyard.

I live in suburbia. Not the city, okay, but not the country. I should not have squirrel . . . parts . . . on my back patio. And no, it doesn’t matter that I kill characters in my stories from time to time. Sometimes violently.

That’s different. Totally.

 

red-shouldered-hawk-1243387_640
He just looks innocent.