Tuesday, January 31, 2012

One Decade Down

Zoe and Talia turn 10 today. I remember feeling, last year, that I needed to make every moment with them count, and since the year went fast, I guess I better get going. It seems so unreal that my little ladies can be 10. The girls asked me this morning if they would feel any different, and while I said probably not, I think it is because I can't really remember what turning 10 felt like. I remember turning 10, which at the time it was a big deal, but did I feel different? Really, I just don't know.

I don't have the right words to convey to the girls what I hope they gained from the first decade of their life, nor can I tell them what I'd like for them to garner in the decades to come. But I can say this: it has been a privilege and a joy to be blessed with two little, funny, beautiful, kind, generous, smart, lovable, identical yet not, girls like them. I would have never thought it possible to love anyone as much as I love them (and of course, their siblings), and I look so forward to the years we have ahead of us.

Happy Birthday, Zoe and Talia!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Homework

If you know anything about me, you know that I believe homework to be important. You probably also know that I don't think our kids get enough homework. While I do not think simple busy work is necessary, I do believe that practicing what you are learning is integral to actually succeeding. I certainly wouldn't watch someone tell me how to run 26.2 miles, and then think I could do it without practice. And, I wouldn't even try to play a piano concerto by only going to piano lessons once a week. In my mind, practicing what you are learning is tantamount to mastering the subject.

The teachers have said that with all of the things they do during the day, they don't feel that homework is important. The principal, who is in his second year at the school and is working hard to keep a standard of excellence for the school, has up until now, supported the teachers. However, Mr. C is open to comments and suggestions. Plus, he and I so far have a good rapport. It isn't odd for me to pop my head in and ask him a question from time to time, when I am in the building. Last week, I did just that.

First and foremost, Mr. C. acknowledged my homework concerns. I was coming off a volunteer stint with some 4th graders who, even now, do not know their multiplication facts. Because they don't know them, they are having trouble with division, and the introduction to algebra that Mrs. M is giving them. I could tell they were frustrated, and it frustrated me! Truth be told, the parents clearly aren't doing anything at home; how hard is it for the teacher to send a worksheet home? A bit of practice, and those tables will be memorized! Mr. C could appreciate where I was coming from.

He then mentioned that there are 2 sides to the homework issue. He figured, and he was right, that I already knew about the debate, so we didn't go into the pros and cons of homework. He isn't going to sway me, at least not in terms of my kids. Perhaps some kids don't need the practice, but mine do. Mr. C mentioned that I could request homework from the teachers, and that they should abide by my request. He applauded my efforts to get the best education for my kids. The conversation was short but useful to me.

But the debate topic got me thinking. Who funded the research that says that homework isn't useful? And who supports that thinking the most? I can appreciate it if educators themselves don't like giving homeowork. I am an educator myself. The more homework I give, the more work I have to do at home. However, even at the college level, most of my students benefit from repeated exposure, which they are getting by doing the assignments. So, while I admit that I haven't done my own research into the topic, I guess I very well should, just so that I am more informed.

I think I just gave myself some homework!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Feelin' The Love

I have had a headache for much of the past 4 days. I don't usually get headaches, unless I am dehydrated or hungry, neither of which applies in this case. I have had a sinus headache before, the type where you want to pound your head against the wall. But I don't have a cold, and my teeth and cheeks aren't hurting either. Perhaps it is the weather, or the fact that my hormones might be cycling differently these days. I don't have an answer, and I don't expect you to have one.

But on a day like this -- when my head hurts, the cats have already destroyed the basement again, and the rain is falling quickly -- I'd like to crawl back into bed and not come out. As I pulled out of the driveway to bring Melina to school, I had to stop myself from pulling back into the garage. The only thing that kept me going forward was the fact that I was expected to help with 4th grade this morning. If not for that, I would have called Melina's school, told them she wouldn't be coming, and we'd have snuggled up with some tea and books.

Lest you think this post will be nothing but one large complaint, the reason I started writing today was because, in the midst of all this yuck, I've been feeling the internet love. I don't get that many comments on my musings, but just enough to know that the people I know and love are out there and listening. And I appreciate every comment, even the snarky ones. So thanks for the love. On days like this, I could really use it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Torn

So. I have mentioned many a time that we have cats. Usually, when they do something wrong, I sit here before the computer, vent, and move on.

At this point, though, I am tired of my cats, and stand at a crossroad. I hate to say that I might slip with a lovely overdose of insulin, but as wicked as that sounds, I just might. These two critters, my once beloved Lucy and Ferdinand, are actually driving me bananas.

Here is the short list of their egregious (and repetitive) errors:
  1. Urinating on the basement carpet, and not in the litter box.
  2. Defecating on the basement carpet, and not in the litter box.
  3. Vomiting just about anywhere, and of course, not in the litter box.

You might say that we should just train them to clean it all up, but that ain't happening. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired from cleaning up after these cats. I think they do these things to make me angry, or to tell me that they are angry.

Here is why I think they might be angry:
  1. One of them urinated outside the box and the urine ran in front of their food bowls. Therefore, to eat, they had to stand in a light coating of urine. Disgusting, right? I agree. But I can't check on their habitat 3 times a day just to make sure it is clean.
  2. There was poop in the litter box. Yep, there was. BUT THEY HAVE THREE (3) LITTER BOXES TO USE! If I found poop in one of my three toilets, I'd just use another one, wouldn't you? Or flush it, of course. Which makes me think we should get flushing litter boxes.
  3. The blue water bowl wasn't full. Can we say prima donna? Again, they have more than one water bowl to use.
Any suggestions from the cat lovers? I'll take any advice I can get. I am assuming that the cat haters I know would just fill that syringe a little fuller the next time we give Ferdinand the insulin.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Different Views

This was my conversation with Zoe last night.

Z: Mom, I think I might need deodorant for gym class days.
Me: You do? Why do you think that?
Z: Um, because I get all sweaty and then I stink.
Me: You do? How do you know?
Z: Well, I sniffed myself.
Me: Okay, well. Let me sniff.
Z: Okay. [Zoe lifts up her arm, and I sniff.]
Me: Yep, you do.
Z: [Smile]
Me: [Freak]

Neither Zoe nor Talia argued with me this morning when I asked them to take a quick shower before getting ready for school. In fact, they were more than willing. And when I gave them my deodorant (I later went to the store and got them each their own), a smile spread across each of their faces, an epic smile, as those two are wont to say.

This growing up thing? I am not ready for it, that is for sure. And those two? Well, I think they just might be.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Mornings

I used to like Monday mornings. Yes, my feelings went against the consensus, but I did. The kids would go off to school, and I could start on my week. The quarter I taught on Monday mornings was a bit difficult because I felt like I started the week running instead of walking. But aside from that, Monday and a new week were always somewhat exciting.

Until recently. Now, Monday mornings have become the bane of my existence. For a multitude of reasons (which might be discussed in another post), including the very loud snoring of my wonderful husband, I haven't been sleeping well. And then, Monday morning comes too soon.

The kids come down, a bit after I've literally stumbled out of bed, and the questions start. What is for breakfast? Have you seen my bag? Mom, are you coming for math centers today? What is evolution? How do our kidneys work and what do they do? And what about organ transplants? Seriously, all of those questions have been posed on a Monday morning.

I am thrilled that the kids are thinking, but the clanging of the voices is what gets to me sometimes. So right now, I am letting in all the silence that encompasses the 30 seconds it takes for Melina to drink her water. It has infused me, and reinvigorated me, and hopefully, it will make up for the fact that I will be working on 4.5 hours of sleep last night. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The List

Kelsey wanted to know if I was going to share what I actually did all day. While it doesn't make for the most interesting of reads, my list might actually make you feel better about yourself.

Please remember that I did not mention any bathroom time for myself. (And I must have forgotten about Shadow's bathroom time, as he appears nowhere on this list. I know he didn't hold it all day!) Also, you might say that I wrote some items down twice. But if I put away dishes from the drainer two times, at different times of the day, then those are completely separate instances. Therefore, put away dishes would be recorded twice. Furthermore, you might say, once you've read my list, that it was exhaustive. It was. When I made dinner, I broke the act of making dinner into the individual things I had to do. However, I thought that maybe the person that requested my list wanted me to account for every minute of the day. And so I did.

And here you have it:
  1. Get dressed.
  2. Make decaf coffee.
  3. Make Aaron's lunch, and get him breakfast.
  4. Make 1/2 of the girls' lunches.
  5. Make regular coffee.
  6. Put away pot from the night before.
  7. Put water on for pasta (2nd half of girls' lunches).
  8. Put away dishes.
  9. Eat breakfast.
  10. Read book for a couple of minutes while having coffee.
  11. Get Melina up, put her on the potty, get her dressed (I guess this is 3 in 1; I have a few of those).
  12. Wake the girls.
  13. Grab Aaron's clothes.
  14. Make breakfast for the girls.
  15. Give Ferdinand insulin.
  16. Put away lunch fixings and insulin.
  17. Pour in pasta, set timer.
  18. Put the mail out in the mailbox.
  19. Load the dishwasher with first half of breakfast dishes.
  20. Finish up lunches.
  21. Put away leftover pasta.
  22. Clear table, rinse dishes, load dishwasher with 2nd half of dishes, set dishwasher to go.
  23. Put Melina on the potty.
  24. Get my coat and go to the bus stop with the kids.
  25. Put uneaten English muffin in the fridge and get pasta for Melina's breakfast.
  26. Drink more decaf and read to Melina.
  27. Do Melina's hair and get cheese slices for her.
  28. Put Melina on the potty.
  29. Brush my teeth.
  30. Do the last of the breakfast dishes.
  31. Put kids' random shoes away, put Melina's socks and shoes on.
  32. Call Tara, get my shoes on.
  33. Help Melina brush her teeth.
  34. Get bag, purse, keys and get in the car to drop Melina off at school. Return.
  35. Turn on the computer.
  36. Walk to Tess's house, stay there for 40 minutes, come back.
  37. Put clothes away.
  38. Check email.
  39. Empty the dishwasher.
  40. Put random things away around the house.
  41. Write.
  42. Go to the library.
  43. Get Melina from school, put her on the potty and wash her hands.
  44. Start lunch for Melina.
  45. Get mail, hang up my coat.
  46. Settle Melina with lunch, and then make my own.
  47. Eat.
  48. Clean up dishes from lunch.
  49. Empty the sharps container (insulin needles).
  50. Sort through the recycling pile.
  51. Take Melina upstairs for nap.
  52. Collect upstairs garbage.
  53. Chop potatoes for dinner.
  54. Feed cats (dry food in the basement).
  55. Put dry dishes away that were in the drainer (from breakfast).
  56. Read.
  57. Check on potatoes, stir, season.
  58. Pull out recycling from my room.
  59. Start chocolate roses for book club.
  60. Pull out sausage to defrost.
  61. Get Melina up from nap and take to the potty.
  62. Finish up making chocolates.
  63. Change Melina into her standard uniform of halter dress, tights, and sparkly shoes.
  64. Let the kids in from school.
  65. Put away lunch boxes, wash up lunch box dishes.
  66. Get snack for the kids.
  67. Test Aaron on spelling and other homework.
  68. Give the girls math homework.
  69. Start pancake batter for dinner.
  70. Check girls' math.
  71. Make the pancakes, put in warm oven.
  72. Clean up pancake mess.
  73. Start sausage.
  74. Help Talia with piano.
  75. Check sausage, add water.
  76. Put Melina on the potty.
  77. Help Talia with piano again.
  78. Clean up back hallway.
  79. Fill lunch water bottles for the next day.
  80. Put more random things away.
  81. Load snack dishes into dishwasher.
  82. Wipe up spills at Melina's little kitchen.
  83. Pull out eggs from fridge.
  84. Put leftover dishes in drainer away.
  85. Make eggs, put into oven to warm.
  86. Help set the table.
  87. Eat dinner.
  88. Do dinner dishes (the kids cleared the table).
  89. Feed the dog and give him water.
  90. Make popcorn for after dinner snack for the kids.
  91. Refill our popcorn kernel container.
  92. Tie the other popcorn bag and put it away.
  93. Sign Aaron up for soccer.
  94. Blog.
  95. Fill Melina's water.
  96. Flush the toilet that someone forgot to flush.
  97. Get Melina ready for bed.
  98. Read Melina two stories and turn out the light.
  99. Give Ferdinand his evening dose of insulin.
  100. Clear the table of anything that got left out.
  101. Write.
  102. Shower and put pajamas on.
  103. Wipe counters, throw out trash.
  104. Brush teeth, get into bed, read.
  105. Turn out the light and go to sleep.

Monotonous. Mundane. Mine.

And it's all good.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Categories

In the Things I thought I'd Never Say category:
"Melina, you need to stop flinging your hair. If you can't stop, I'll cut it off." The flinging is the part that got to me. The action was sort of a combination of tossing and flicking, all of which just downright annoyed me.

In the Things I Thought I'd Never Hear category:
"You know, Mom, it is really hard to move walls." You think?

In the Things I Thought I'd Never See category:
Aaron, dressed as a sumo wrestler. He used a scarf to fashion a loincloth. I think it might be called a mawashi. Tim wouldn't let me take pictures.

Brief post today. I'm trying to make up for the last one!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In The News

The unfortunate death of a little girl at a school on January 3 made me realize that I never put my two cents out here on a book I recently read. If you want to read articles about the little girl, Ammaria Johnson, aged 7, you can find them anywhere on the web. I don't want to trivialize this little girl's life, or her death, but I also don't actually have the facts, so I hesitate to put anything here on the blog. I would like to say, though, that it seems as if her death could have been easily prevented.

Ammaria had food allergies, specifically, she died from a peanut allergy. According to some websites, a friend gave her a peanut on the playground, the school didn't have the correct medicine to deal with it, and she died. I don't mean to sound judgmental. I am not the authority on any allergy, but I feel as though there so many things wrong with that picture, I am not certain where to start.

My only experience with allergies has been through a friend of mine. Her daughter has a severe peanut allergy, among other allergies, and through this friend and her daughter, I have learned so much about food allergies. What they are, how severe they can be, or how mild they also can be. How to try to avoid exposure, and how to educate yourself, your family, your friends. When I read about the death of Ammaria, my skin wanted to crawl. A couple of questions popped up in my head, and I just couldn't get them out.
  1. Did the family tell the school about her allergy? If not, the family was negligent.
  2. If Ammaria had a documented case of peanut allergy, why didn't the school have an Epipen or Benadryl on hand? Again, negligence, this time on the part of the school and the parents. Where was her advocate?
  3. More importantly, why wasn't Ammaria just wearing an Epipen? I realize that money could be an issue here, and with #2, which could get me started on healthcare in America. I won't start, for the sake of brevity.
  4. Did Ammaria just make a mistake, a quick bad call in judgment, by taking something she knew was bad for her, or was there malicious intent on the part of the kid who gave her the peanut? Was it disguised somehow? This, perhaps, we'll never know.
I know that my friend, and her daughter, have tried for years to avoid the above situation. The few times that this dear girl has had some issues with allergies, my family has been involved. Therefore, I have tried to become hyper vigilant when it comes to reading nutrition labels, handling food, washing hands, and offering food to people. Her mother has worked with our school district and the elementary school to make sure that the necessary information and medication are available for her daughter. Our school has peanut free rooms, a peanut free table at lunch, and a decent communication system for making people aware of food allergies. The daughter wears a fanny pack (complete with Epipen), everyday, so that if by some chance she encounters an allergen, she is able to do something about it. More importantly, the mom has drilled into her child's head, that she is never to accept food from anyone, even a trusted teacher (and especially not another student). She just can't do that, or an allergic reaction can result. And if that can happen, then so can death.

While I don't know for certain, I am guessing that Ammaria's death might be a case where an accident happened. Ammaria might have been out on the playground, having a great time playing in the sun with good friends, and just didn't think about what she was about to do. At that young age, circumstances will arise all the time where "not thinking" is bound to happen.

Aside from her death, I find it so sad that there wasn't a system in place to cancel out her mistake. I don't know why there wasn't medication in the front office. As I said above, I know Epipens are expensive, but Benadryl is not, and administration of Benadryl, even if you can get just a minute bit into the child, can buy you some time. Ammaria's death hopefully will make every school district out there evaluate their allergy policies. Are the policies currently in place enough to prevent another death? And are the teachers and staff educated in how to deal with an allergic reaction? I would hope so.

So, amongst all the news about Ammaria Johnson, it reminded me of Sandra Beasley's, Don't Kill The Birthday Girl: Tales From An Allergic Life. This book was an eye opening read for me, in many ways, and a title I would suggest anyone with allergies, or in contact with someone with allergies, should read.

As the title implies, Sandra Beasley writes about her life growing up with allergies. She is a young (early 30s) woman who has many diagnosed allergies: beef, shellfish, soy, pinenuts, mango, mustard, dairy and egg, to name a few. She is, surprisingly, not allergic to peanuts. However, she grew up in a time when food allergies were just starting to rear their ugly heads a bit more. She grew up in a time when restaurants didn't realize that you can't just pull the mango out of an already prepared fruit salad and hand it to the person that requested a fruit salad, no mango.

Beasley's background is in writing, although the jacket tells that she is a poet, and her book reads easily. It wasn't too sciency, too preachy, or too scary, all of which could have happened in the wrong hands. She relays memories using vivid descriptions, and really emphasizes all of the situations that we -- as people without allergies -- take for granted.

Some of the things she and others like her need to worry about, but I have never even thought of? The presence of wheat in Play-Doh (although I have noticed the warning on the package), snack chips with whey (dairy) in them, and the presence of egg derivatives in baked goods. Beasley talks a lot about her luck over the years, considering that nutrition labels weren't mandatory until 1990, and allergy warnings weren't yet on the radar screen.

Reading her book made me really think that it was amazing that some people, especially those with severe allergies, have managed to survive into adulthood. It was apparent that Sandra Beasley's parents were devoted to helping their child live. They quizzed restaurants and made sure to bring snacks to other people's houses. Her parents made her so aware that she was different, and that she needed to be extra careful. You never know when casein is hidden in something now, do you?

Therefore, I was continually amazed at Beasley's lackadaisical and sometimes brazen attitude toward her allergy. This was especially apparent in her teen and college years. I guess this should not surprise me, as kids that age think they are invincible. But Beasley had to be tired of dealing with the reaction process. So why, why, would you purposefully eat french fries off of a plate that also held a hamburger? Remember, she is allergic to beef! She knowingly did this! And so, for the next 24 hours, she sat in a Benadryl induced haze until it was over.

At one point, she talks about her experience at a post graduation party for college (p.44):
...my drunken housemates decided to turn beer pong into "White Russian pong," sending a spray of milk and Kahlua into the air every time someone plunked a Ping-Pong ball into a Solo cup. I didn't object. I stood by, cheering for a team, not touching anything, hoping for the best.

That description floored me! Hoping for the best? She ended up, after an hour, having to get her boyfriend to take her to the ER, where she sat around the lobby, waiting for the Benadryl to work. Her memories of instances like that, actually made me angry. She was so cavalier about this allergy, and yet she got so mad at other people when they didn't take her allergies seriously. How can you ask someone else to take your allergy seriously when it seems that you don't yourself?

This isn't a science based writing, and Beasley didn't mean for it to be. But I almost put the book down early on, for I wasn't sure how accurate the writing was going to be. In my opinion and because of my training, when one cites a study within the text, one then provides the exact research article's tidbits, preferably in a footnote, or with a works cited page at the end. Beasley did not do this. I paged through to the back, looking for a works cited page so that I could find the name of the study to which she referred. It wasn't there. I found my answer in her acknowledgments, where she lists the journals she drew upon for the articles and abstracts. It seemed legit, so I went back to reading.

I am glad I did finish the book. As scary as it was, I would encourage young kids to read it when they are older, so that they can appreciate all the things that could happen, and to see how lucky one person turned out to be. I'd encourage libraries to stock it, including high school libraries. Perhaps her book can help further educate the lay people on the truths and the myths of allergies, and how one person struggles, for life. Her story could have turned out completely different. It is unfortunate that Ammaria's story did not.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

And What Do You Do All Day?

A person I know recently asked me to write down what I do in a day. I chuckled a little at the request. I figured that I wouldn't have the time to write down each and every thing I did, but I would put forth the best effort.

I decided to skip any details like personal bathroom time, but I figured that I'd put everything else on there. I won't bore you with the details of my day today, but I am already at 93 items on the list (94, now that I am blogging). And this was a day that I didn't run, teach, volunteer, or do any cleaning (including vacuuming).

When I look at the list, it really is ridiculous, but I am certain that most everyone's list would look that way. We all do a ton of things throughout the day, many of them, activities of which we aren't even aware.

Try it sometime, to make a list, and you will surprise yourself with all the things of which you are capable. Looking at it just might tire you out, too!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Speechless

Two things caused me to be speechless today, which is rare.

Item #1: Tim brought home this article. It made my jaw drop. You don't have to agree with me, and since I am speechless, I'm not going to say anything else. Yet.

Item #2: When we left our beloved home state in 2003, we had to leave one of our favorite restaurants. I am not going to divulge the name, but it was a Mexican restaurant, not a chain, that just served good food. To this day, I can't quite replicate the refried beans or enchilada sauce, and Tim misses the really hot salsa.

I emailed the company a couple of days ago, just to see if they could let me in on a couple of the ingredients of their sauce. I knew that they wouldn't share the complete recipe, but I hoped for the name of even one spice that might make their enchilada sauce so mouthwatering good. Imagine my surprise when I received this email this evening (some items have been changed to protect the innocent):
Thank you so much for your interest in our restaurant. I am very flattered that you miss us and would write to us like this. Unfortunately I do not have any plans to expand to southern Ohio at the moment.

As far as recipes go I can't share all of our secrets. I can tell you that the red enchilada sauce recipe was taught to me by my father, the former owner of the A Chophouse in B. He published a couple of cook books that contain similar recipes.

This part is a long shot since southern Ohio is a big place. My brother just moved to C. I have a good friend in D. At the end of February I am planning to visit them both. If you live anywhere in between those two places I would actually get a kick out of making the second longest distance delivery in our history. Just a thought since I'll be bringing both of them some anyways.

Thank you again. Please feel free to contact us anytime.

I wrote a nice email in reply, explaining that we were, thankfully, right in between points C and D, but what I really wanted to say was just "Yes please!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

English Muffins

We've been buying a lot of English Muffins around here lately. We used to get them only when company came over, as a somewhat fancier alternative to cereal, oatmeal, or toast, but then found out that Melina and Zoe really like them. Zoe tends to be more particular in her liking of this bread; she prefers the original kind, although it doesn't matter which brand. Melina will eat any of them: original, multigrain, wheat, you name it. Melina is not picky when it comes to her love of bread.

I finally got the idea to check my bread recipe book for a recipe to make English Muffins. And there it was! Now, I have had my bread machine for about 15 years, and I have had this particular recipe book for at least half that long. Furthermore, I actually do use my bread machine on a somewhat regular basis. But, I had never ventured into the world of homemade English muffins.

After Tim picked up some malt vinegar that was called for in the recipe, I decided to give these little morsels a shot. I loaded up the bread machine last night, and waited for the dough to be done. I then put the dough in the refrigerator overnight.

When I woke up at 5:30 am, I thought it would be a good thing to get out of bed. After all, I had muffins to make! That is when I read the rest of the recipe, and gasped. No, I hadn't missed anything, other than the fact that you do not bake the muffins, but cook them! Get out! Indeed, after rolling the dough in a ball, rolling the ball in cornmeal, and flattening out each "patty," you cook them, in a skillet, with the lid on. About 15 minutes after I put the first batch in, I had 3 round, fluffy, fantastic looking English muffins.

The ones I made opened easily with a fork and toasted up just fine. They are missing the famous "nooks and crannies" of the Thomas' brand, but if you aren't picky, then I guess you won't miss them. They also seemed a little doughy to me, but I think if I make thinner patties next time, it will all work out.

Melina ate one of the muffins with her usual zeal, which of course, was no surprise. The real test was Zoe. She said they were simply "okay." She just might have to live with life being "okay" considering the cost of making these muffins was much lower than buying them.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Calling All Aspiring Writers!

This past Sunday, thanks to my good friend, Kelsey, I attended a free seminar on writing for young adults. I love to write, as many of you know, and I have a book in the works. Okay, it is really just a story at this point, and I probably will never try to have the book published. But I thought my kids would enjoy reading something like a fictionalized account of events that happened prior to their birth. I hope to have the story done in a couple of years (!) because of the limited amount of spare time that I have. I know that most of you reading this can relate.

Anyway, we went to this seminar, and the two writers there had plenty of good tips for writing. The more I thought about their tips, I realized that what they said applies to any genre of writing, whether you want to try your hand at horror, romance, realistic fiction, or fantasy. So, I am including the tips here. I am not recognizing the writers by name so that we can all keep some anonymity here. Plus, while I doubt that these ladies have copyrighted these tips, I don't want to cause any problems. These have been paraphrased, by me, by the way.

I can't remember how many actual tips they were supposed to give, but I ended up with 11. So here we go!

  1. Read widely in whatever genre of writing you are planning on working in.
  2. Think about the story you plan on writing as an exercise in research, and analyze everything! Ask lots of questions when you read, and ask yourself what is the author doing well, and what are they not doing well.
  3. Start your story out with something of impact, and have a goal for the protagonist in mind.
  4. Try to be around people similar to the audience for which you are writing. If you are writing for the young adults, then hang out where they will be found, i.e. the mall. This will help especially when you try to write dialogue.
  5. Going with #4, make the story important and relevant to today's audience.
  6. Don't water anything down or dumb it down if you are writing for young adults. This is true also if you plan on writing for kids. In short, the perspective must be authentic, which goes for any genre and age range.
  7. A high stakes issue is very important to making a good story. The character should have to work through problems without having anyone else come in and fix everything.
  8. The characters should be proactive.
  9. Don't follow trends, unless you have something absolutely fresh to add to the story.
  10. Don't be preachy.
  11. Write what you love!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Topsy-Turvy

When we bought our house, we had only 2 children and 2 cats. We also didn't own much, so we had quite a bit of space. Too much in fact. One of Tim's friends from work used to call our house austere, which was his somewhat nice way of calling it empty. Two more kids and a dog later, and the house is full. Somewhat too full, if you ask me.

So, Tim and I have been hauling things out of here: paper to be shredded, paper to be recycled, and anything that is useful that can be donated, all in an attempt to limit what we have. I certainly don't need all the books that we have, and I am certain that someone else can make good use of them. Same goes for Tim's trophies, apparently, and the oh-so-lovely ceramics that live in the basement, although I don't know from where they came.

In all the hubbub of tossing items, I started to get itchy. And I don't mean from the dust in the boxes. I mean that I needed to make some other changes in the household, so that it might actually run a bit smoother. So I moved things. I've always wanted a study and we had one, when we first moved here. Then Aaron came along. We also had a guest room, but that evaporated upon Melina's arrival. The guest room is a pipe dream, but I looked around and thought, we have enough space here to do something! I just needed to figure out what is was.

So, the dining room is no longer the dining room. I moved the thinking chair and ottoman in there, along with an old table and a bookshelf. Along with the chalkboard on the wall, it now makes for a great study area. The kids love it, and so far, so do I.

And where is the dining room, then? I moved that over to one half of the living room. We never needed a 25 X 13 living room. All that space did was collect more and more kid stuff. Now, half is for dining and Melina pretty much appropriated the other half. That is okay with me. When I am ready to put more adult furniture in there, I will likely just consider only half of the room when I am shopping. We'll see.

I wasn't sure Tim would like it, and I actually haven't asked him if he does. I am the one home most often, and if I am happy living this way, then he will likely be happy, too. If it doesn't work out, then we can always go back to the way it was.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

(Half) A Day In The Disastrous Life Of A Three Year Old

If Melina could blog, this would describe her morning:

6:45 am.
I woke up this morning with the sniffles. Mommy still came into my room full of smiles, so I guess the day might be all right. But I asked if I could have some chocolate, and she said no. No?!? Something about it being 7 o'clock in the morning. Well, I can't tell time, so what does it matter?

6:49 am.
Mommy carried me downstairs so that we could finish up getting lunches ready for the kids. Today, it will be just the two of us. I already miss the girls and Aaron. I like having them home, and it is too bad that vacation is over. But you know what? I will ask for chocolate. That will make me feel better. Oh, I already did that.

7:15 am.
I just had to go potty, and mommy's hands were freezing! Her fingertips on my body were like little icicles, and I didn't like it. Just like I don't like it when the dog's tail gets me, or when he slobbers on me. I don't like having a wet face. Unless I am crying. My tears and/or mucus are fine. Right about this time, Mommy told me that she was going to get ready to go running. Again? Why does she need to go again? She just went running on Monday morning. I will miss her. AND I need her. Right now. I guess I have to stay with Daddy. Maybe he'll give me chocolate.

7:48 am.
Mommy walked me to the bus stop so that I could stay with Daddy and the kids while she goes running. There she goes. Sniffle. "Have a good run, Mommy! I will miss you!" What will we do when we go back inside? Maybe Daddy has a plan. I know, I can pretend I am the baby, or that Daddy is Enrico. He could read me Snow White! I can be the princess. Ahhhh! Shadow, please leave me alone! No more slobbers!

8:20 am.
Mommy is home! What a feeling. Now, I can get in my halter dress, white tights, sparkly shoes and earrings. Yippee! And so I ask Mommy if I can do that. What?!? It all needs to be washed? What a disaster! I love that dress and the tights and the shoes and the earrings. The earrings are the best. Why can't I have the dress?!? I stomp my foot a little, but that doesn't fly with Mommy. Uh-oh. I guess I can't really ask for chocolate now, can I?

9:30 am.
Mommy showered, I had a nice breakfast (I love strawberries!) and we are on the way to the veterinarian's office. Ferdinand needs more special food. I don't like his food. It looks icky. Mommy says it is really cold out, so I had to wear my heavy coat. But I don't like it. The coat is too hot, and my hair gets all spiky when I wear it. Apparently, Mommy isn't going to budge on this one, either. So I am sitting here in the car with manatee strapped to my chest, just enjoying the music. I could get used to a life of being carted around! "Hey mom, when we get there, will you carry me?" I shout out. "Sure honey," she says.

At the vet, we see a very cute doggy. I pet her, and she licks my face. Her slobbers are okay. Then, we headed to get Stella a birthday gift. I see everything I want: a Hello Kitty watch, a pink bag, a Belle storybook, a Dora pinata, and more. Yep, mom said no to it all. She kept repeating that I just got a new pair of clip-on earrings yesterday. True, but irrelevant, if you ask me.

We picked up Stella's gift, and when we got in line to pay, I saw it. A rack of exquisite chocolate, all wrapped in lovely paper, just waiting for someone like us. My mouth starts to water, and Mom says the magic words. "You can pick one out, honey, but you will have to wait until after lunch to eat it, and you will only get a small piece." Pick your battles, right? I see a small victory in this one!

12 pm. The water is boiling and the noodles just went in. Mommy found my pink cup. I love this pink cup! Brooke gave it to me, and I love eating my macaroni and cheese in it. Oops! I just dropped it. Huh, what is that? Uh-oh. I think it might have broken. I showed it to mom. Oh, no. It is broken! I can't eat my mac and cheese in it? Really? I start to cry and my lower lip trembles, and I am so mad. Mad, mad, mad. What do I do now? Mommy said I can still use the cup over at my little kitchen, but it won't be the same. Thanks for the hug, though, Mommy.

12:15 pm.
Macaroni and cheese, strawberries, chocolate, and Scooby-Doo! What more do I need?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Timelines And Other Stuff

Is anyone else a little bothered by these new Facebook timelines?

I haven't set one up. It all seems like a bit too information can be gleaned from them. I am sure it is just another way of looking at all of the information FB already has on you, but it just looks suspect to me. Am I wrong? One of you that have already established one -- would you like to fill me in on it?

***
Inspired by Kelsey, we made peanut butter blossoms with sunflower butter instead of peanut butter. We did that last week. I finally told the kids today that I switched ingredients. They all agreed that they could taste something different (or so they say) but that they were still yummy. They are right!

***
School starts back tomorrow for everyone except me! My plans for this quarter, as I take a hiatus from teaching, include more of the usual, plus some. Need a decoder for that? I thought so. I plan on doing the following:
  • Volunteer at library and math time for the 4th graders, and math and science time for the 1st graders.
  • Make it to a PTO meeting (Kelsey, you better hold me to this one!).
  • Think about being a substitute teacher.
  • Organize the basement.
  • Run farther.
  • Write more.
  • Find new recipes to try out each week.
Most importantly, I am going to try to find out what I want to do for the rest of my life. Good luck with that, I know.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Kicked To The Curb

I woke up this morning to a dusting of snow. Since Tim had the day off, I figured I'd still get my short Monday run accomplished. The snow didn't look like it would be too much of a bother. And luckily, it wasn't.

I decided to go with a usual short route, since the snow was flying into my face and visibility wasn't the greatest. I couldn't even see the houses I was running by; it was that kind of snow. As I ran by some of the larger houses that come up quickly past the bridge, I noticed something looming on the side of the road. I don't run with contacts in, so at first it wasn't clear what was on the curb. But as I got closer, I knew what it was.

It was a tree. A Christmas tree. A once-decorated, no-longer-needed, Christmas tree. A little farther up, there was another one, and as I kept going, I saw a few more. It made sense. In our area, the garbage collectors will come and get your tree, for free, provided you have put it to the curb. But this is only the 2nd day of January! We are only 1 week and then some past Christmas! Seeing the trees on the side of the street made my heart ache.

Crazy, I know, to feel for these used Christmas trees, but each year, it is the same thing. I wonder about the stories that the trees can tell. I'd like to know what type of families they had. Did they get decorated with fancy ornaments and garland, or did they have mostly homemade items on their arms? Was there a star on the top, or an angel, or nothing at all? Did these trees get to see the joy and happiness in the eyes of children, or were they in a house full of adults? And was it all happiness that they witnessed? I would guess probably not. I imagine these trees once at the tree farm, just waiting to be picked. They stood up straight, fluffed their branches, and just hoped against hope that someone said, "Yep! That's the one!" If the trees knew that they'd be put at the curb so soon, would they do it again?

Crazier still, I also personify these Christmas trees, already long forgotten, though they've only been outside for just a day. They've performed their duty, they are no longer needed, they are thrust into the cold. Essentially, their time is up. I get emotional and shed a tear for these trees, probably because I think of people. What happens when people get old and their time is up? What do we do with them? Yep, we kick them to the curb. I'd like to think that I won't do that, nor will it happen to me. But only time will tell.

In all, I saw about a half dozen of these Christmas trees that have been kicked to the curb. If I could collect them all, I would. But I wouldn't be able to get all of the trees around here. And I wouldn't have room for all of them either. The best place for them now really is with the garbage collectors, who I hope will get them chipped into mulch in order to extend their lives.

If you bought a real tree this year and are feeling the love (or feeling guilty after reading this) feel free to use your tree a little differently. Several places online suggest using your tree as a winter shelter for small birds and animals. Just place your used tree in your backyard, and look at it go. You can chop it up in the spring and use the wood. Just don't call me to help. After having a tree with us that long, I'd probably cry even harder knowing I had to say goodbye.

By the way, we have an artificial tree.


***
Update.

After I posted this gem, I suspected that I might get a couple of comments from those environmentally friendly people that I know and love. I was tempted to go back, juggle the wording, and include a sentence or two that indicated that, although we own an artificial tree, we know it isn't the most environmentally friendly thing to do. If it were all about being more earth-friendly in our house, we'd have canned the cats and dog long ago so that we could put up a real Christmas tree and then use the tree later for mulch. Or better yet, we'd use some sort of plant or small tree that could live year round in our house. But being environmentally PC wasn't the point of my foray today. That can be the subject for another day.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Changes

I am not one for New Year's Resolutions, but something has to change.

Last night I once again skipped any New Year's festivities. Instead, I was snuggled up with Aaron and turned off the light at 9:07 pm.

It could have been that I managed to get in my long run that morning (I always get pretty tired by the end of the day if that happens). It could have been that we babysat for some friends, so we had 3 extra kids (ages 3, 7, and 8) at our house from 1 until 8:30 pm. It could have been that a week with all the kids home had just tuckered me out.

Whatever the case, I need to change it. The girls wanted to try to stay up until midnight this year, and I have no idea if Tim allowed them to do so. But part of the fun for the kids is knowing that your parents are allowing you to do something they don't normally allow you to do. And at this point, still, they enjoy spending time with us. How much longer is that going to last, I ask you? So, 365 days from now (it is a leap year, after all) even if we all end up snoring on the couch amidst the trappings of our home party, I already have plans.

Somebody will just need to remind me.