I Should Be…

 

I should be writing but…

I’m doing an emergency load of wash for Big Sis, who HAS to wear her green pair of pants today. I’m researching ideas for Little Guy, because he wants to ENTERTAIN everyone at the science fair this year. I’m helping hubby go door-to-door passing out flyers for the cub scout food drive because it was pouring too hard when he took the scouts out on Saturday.

I should be exercising but…

It’s raining…again. The treadmill sounds like it’s dying. I’m bored with my playlist. My workout clothes are now too small. My sneakers pinch my pinky toes.

I should be cooking better dinners but…

That huge bag of fish sticks is going to get freezer burned if I don’t use it up. The more effort I put in, the less everyone eats. My knives are dull, I can’t chop anything. I’ve gotten used to putting dinner on the table in less than fifteen minutes, thanks to Uncle Bens microwaveable rice. I hate cooking — I hate spending any amount of time in my kitchen. I hate my kitchen.

I should be doing laundry (the dishes, picking up) but…

There are only two more episodes of the latest Netflix addiction to watch. I’m drowning in my stack of TBR books – paperbacks and Kindle. It’s my turn on Words By Post (I play 12 games concurrently.) No one is home, it’s quiet and I don’t want to ruin the silence by running all sorts of chugging machines.

I should be promoting my books/brand but…

Does anyone really see it anyway? I feel like I’m pimping myself out – it’s way too uncomfortable. I’ve spent my life avoiding attention, so “Hey, look at me!” is not a concept I’m familiar with. I start helping other authors promote their books instead. I start one-clicking MORE books for my TBR pile while I’m on Amazon. I spend time talking to Disney and Tolkien fans, instead of potential readers, on Twitter.

I should be enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day but…

I’m herding Big Sis out of the steamy bathroom–where she’s spent the last 45 minutes using up my hot water. I’m listening to Little Guy’s latest “what if” story that involves dogs that can talk and walk on two legs, when he’s supposed to be sleeping. The dog waited until I sat down to tell me she really has to pee. When I got up to let the dog out, the cat stole my spot on the couch.

 

Sending Mixed Signals

Oh, my poor kids! Some days I feel like I should be putting aside money, not just for their college tuition, but also for the therapy they are going to need to make it in the world as fully-functioning adults. Yeah, I know… “Cut yourself some slack, Jenn. Every mom makes mistakes.” Anyone else do these?

Teach your child not to lie.     Then after a few missed nights of reading, you encourage them to “fudge” an entry or two on their reading log. “But Mama, that’s lying to the teacher!” She wants to see you did your best and you want to show her your best. So just write it down. Bad mom! Last Monday Little Guy brought home a poem and was told he wouldn’t get credit for learning it (thus moving on to the next poem with the rest of the class) unless he’d read it out loud to at least two family members per day. Those listeners were to sign the back of the poem and comment on his reading. I dug it out of a stack of papers today as I was getting his stuff ready for school. So, you guessed it, we “fudged” a weeks’ worth of entries. Bad mom!

Foster independence.     Suggest the kids make their own lunches. It’s good for them, right? But then you find them throwing nothing but granola bars and cookies (with the occasional piece of fruit) into their lunch bags. So you take the task back. They have more free time in the morning and you don’t have to police their actions, so there is more peace. Confession: the biggest reason I took back lunch-making was to be able to go through the pantry to toss in items that the kids refuse to finish. You know the snacks that have sat there for months, and are close to expiring, because something cooler came along? You won’t eat this at home? You’ll eat it at school. (Or, more likely the case, throw it out at school where I can’t see them do it.)

Limit their screen time.     Kids should play and spend time being kids. Get outside and run around in the fresh air. But then it’s winter in Seattle… rain. All.The.Time. They want to stay in and play on the Xbox, the computer, their tablet. They’re whining about how bored they are. But give them the Xbox, the computer or the tablet and the house goes silent. I can get some work done. No one is bugging me. It’s a terrible and beautiful thing, this peace that comes over the house. Hubby tries to reason that video games improve hand/eye coordination. But do they really???

Treat everyone equally.     I try to make sure that both kids have chores that they are capable of completing. I avoid separate bedtimes so that Little Guy doesn’t feel so…little. But here’s where it gets tough: sleepovers. She gets invited over to her best friends’ quite often. He has never been invited to a sleepover. She could have a friend come over and the girls have no problem keeping the level of crazy at a slow boil. He might be able to do that too. But I’m too scared to give him the opportunity. I think “two 8 year old boys running loose through my house” and gray hairs start pushing their way through my scalp. He says “it’s not fair!” and he’s RIGHT! So instead of allowing him to host a sleepover, I stop letting her host them. Selfish mom, much?

Too many sweets is bad for you.     Oh, but it’s okay for mommy to have her own “chocolate drawer” in the kitchen — that no one else is allowed to touch. And then the morning after allowing Little Guy to bid on (and win) not one but TWO cakes at the Cub Scout blue and gold banquet’s cake auction, offering to let them eat cake for breakfast. What kind of mom does this? A mom that has two huge freaking cakes that need to go… need to disappear… like, yesterday! Next year I’m just going to hand over my money to help the pack and not even bid on the cakes.

Parenting is tough. Get the kids through another day and we can call it a win. At least for now. Lecture them on the evils of alcohol and then sit down to enjoy a glass of wine. Hey, our parents sent us mixed signals of their own and we turned out okay. Sorta. How about you? Do you send your kids mixed signals? Are there any biggies I missed?

Odd Man Out

I did something this year that I have never done in my entire adult life. I took a vacation with my sisters – just my sisters. For five days, we cruised the Caribbean, skirting around Cuba as we explored Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Key West, FL. We group text all the time. We update each other with long emails sent while the kids are all at school. But this was new. Being alone together, talking, laughing and catching up… that was new for us. It was good for us.

I learned a lot on this cruise, like how those two can out drink me any day of the week. I learned we all had different experiences growing up that we had, for whatever reason, never shared with each other. I learned what it was like for each of them, caring for our mother as cancer slowly took over her body and mind (I was in my third trimester, and unable to travel to be there and help out.). I learned that even though we weren’t as close as sisters should be, the awkwardness of being trapped on a ship together never came to pass. Conversation came easily. Laughter, even easier. It was a really great time.

I learned something else though. I learned how similar my sisters are… and how different I was. Jill talked about work and life up at camp. All the people she meets and how she craves someone to talk to. Julie is a bank teller and likened the people she encountered on a daily basis as almost a second family. They needed that contact. It was second nature to start up a conversation with a stranger and come out with a new friend. On the cruise, we would be in an elevator with a group of strangers and one or both of them would reach out and connect with a fellow traveler. Without even thinking about it.

Then there is me. I work from home every day and rarely get out to talk with people – and I like that. Conversations make me nervous. Am I saying something stupid? Boring? Do I sound like I’m rambling? When can this be done, so I can go back home and be alone with my books. Hide on Facebook and talk to people from the safety of my computer. Call me an introvert. A slave to social anxiety. The complete opposite of my sisters. I tried to explain this to them, but they couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around it. Their need for social interaction was so great that they felt sorry for me, alone in my writing cave all day.

Low eighties and sunny every day — in January. Couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Another thing that was different was that, as we approached the end of our vacation, I was anxious to see my family again. I couldn’t wait to get back to my desk and submit my next manuscript. I looked forward to getting back to my routine. They would have gladly stayed on the ship and sailed off for a second voyage. And when we got home, they pined for the sunshine and warm weather. Like, really, really missed it. They both suffer from seasonal affective disorder. I live in Seattle, where it’s grey about 75% of the year… and yet it doesn’t seem to bother me like living through winter in New England affects them. Just another thing that sets us apart.

They said we needed to retake this one because I wasn’t making a silly face.

But I gave this some thought and realized that my sisters resemble our mother. She was the life of the party, loved having all the attention on her. She always had a joke ready that would have the whole room laughing. I, on the other hand, am just like my dad. He was so shy, he wouldn’t even answer the telephone if he were the only one home at the time. Parties and visits to out-of-town family were difficult for him. He had a handful of guys he could call friends. But they were good friends. But, hey, opposite attract. And if it weren’t for the wallflower meeting the social butterfly, my sisters and I wouldn’t be here. Variety is a good thing. If we were all alike, life would be extremely dull.

I miss my parents every single day. But I still have my sisters. And I so happy we finally took this trip and got to know each other as women, not just the door-slamming, tattling kids and bathroom-hogging teens we once were. Next year we are bringing our families along. Now THAT is going to get crazy. 😉

Motherhood: A Balancing Act

mom_hectic_morning_webThis gig is hard, man! The back to school routine of getting them up, washed, dressed, fed and out the door with their homework and lunches — sometimes we are right down to the wire. Okay, most times. Yesterday Little Guy had to buy lunch because he didn’t have time to make his own. Yeah, that’s another thing adding, rather than taking away stress to my morning. He wants to make his own lunch. Why it kills me to let go of control in this one little facet of school prep, I will never understand.

Then the other half of the school day. Getting them to do homework. Wheedling. Cajoling. Bribing. She insists on setting her own schedule. He can’t understand why I won’t let him read a comic book during reading time. The teachers want my signature on everything from school lunch menus to nightly homework assignments — just to prove that I’ve seen it. OMG! I’ve seen it, already! Don’t care. Stop giving ME homework. I put in my thirteen years.kids-fighting

It’s a wonder I don’t start drinking the minute we get home about 3:30, instead of waiting until the kids have gone to bed. Hey, chill out. I’m a one-glass-of-wine kind of girl. That’s all I need to find my happy place. Well, that and a good book. Or a good Netflix binge. Just some valuable, non-mom ‘me’ time to counteract the fighting, the arguing (I swear my oldest has a career in law ahead of her), the broken windows (tools, brooms… if it isn’t actually his, Little Guy will eventually break it). I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to wanting to run away every once in a while.

And because we need it, because we’ve earned it, sometimes we’re given that teeny little glimpse of mommy perfection. Just enough to keep us from completely losing our shit. I started to write ‘going bonkers’ and realized that just doesn’t say enough. Call a spade a spade, am I right?

After fighting with LG for days to read his just-right books, I offer him a deal. I’ll cut his reading time down to twenty minutes if he agrees to read the book he got out of the school library. The timer went off at twenty minutes and he asked (I kid you not!) to keep reading. And at 40 minutes he announced he’d finished the book. Cover to cover. That is my amazing second grader! I felt like the quarterback doing his dance after a fifty-yard touchdown. happy-dance

The night everyone raves over dinner, asks for seconds, cleans their own plate and doesn’t ask what’s for dessert. Walking in to find that Big Sis is voluntarily cleaning her bedroom. Not just shoving it under the bed but making piles to donate, recycle and toss. The love notes I find in the shower, when they’ve used up my supply of Aqua Notes I keep in there for when inspiration strikes. Random hugs, even when I’m not wearing a really fuzzy pair of pajamas. God, I live for those moments.

I’ll go in tonight, after they’re asleep. Slide the DS out from under its hiding place under his pillow, and the Kindle out from under hers. I will watch them at their most vulnerable. Eleven and seven and still clinging to a cherished stuffed animal as they snore softly and drool all over their pillows. I’ll take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. Before the crazy starts all over again the next morning. Eh, it may be a different crazy. After all, it’s a different day. And the good moments will be different too. A check and balance system that keeps me on my toes. Because some day I’ll be the grandma, and they’ll be coming to me for parenting advice. Oh yeah, you better believe I’m gonna drag out every embarrassing memory from their childhood I can possibly think of. That’s balance for ya!cutesleeper

Home Away From Home

PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7655151673We’re a Disney family. Fanatics. Junkies. Addicts. Hubby and I honeymooned at Walt Disney World. In fact, we bought ourselves the most generous (and yet practical) wedding gift ever – we bought in to the Disney Vacation Club. We wanted to give our children the same love of the magic and wonder that we feel whenever we visit the parks.

welcomehomeNow here’s the thing. We get people who ask us all the time, “You’re going to Disney World… again? Didn’t you just go last year?” Yes and yes. Sure, we switch it up a little. One year we surprised the kids with a Valentine’s trip to Disneyland. Twice now, we’ve vacationed at Aulani in Hawaii. And pre-kids, hubby and I stayed at Disneyland Paris, taking the train into the city each day. Talk about amazing!

wdwJust because we visit Disney World over and over doesn’t mean it’s the same experience every time. We try out different times of the year. We never do the parks in the same order. We always try to do at least one thing we’ve never done before. And there are things we could never anticipate, that make it that much more special.

One memorable year hubby and I visited the ER in Celebration, FL, Disney’s own town (and nearest hospital) when stubborn baby #1 gave us a scare in utero. Turns out I was severely dehydrated. Fast forward 18 months and the same baby is now an entertaining toddler, drawing a crowd at a jumping fountain in Animal Kingdom. She’s since grown quite shy, and hates it when we point out her “spot”, though the dancers at Raglan Road did manage to get her up on stage for a quick lesson in Irish step dancing.

Down for the count.  He held out much longer than expected.

Down for the count. He held out much longer than expected.

I remember every bench, ride and occasional restaurant where I held a napping child. I remember the scraped knee in front of the Great Movie Ride. I remember the Mickey topiary at the Wilderness Lodge that our oldest had to say goodbye to before we could depart. I remember getting the flu and hubby running to the park entrance for a wheelchair for me to get me back to Boardwalk. (Yeah, I yakked somewhere along the way.) I remember my first visit back after weigh loss surgery made it possible to walk through the ride turnstiles without getting stuck.

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We were taking a sit break in the Italy pavilion when I checked my email and learned that my publisher wanted to buy Wynter’s Journey. One year we celebrated hubby’s birthday by doing the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. How blown away was I when they handed the adults trick or treat bags too? And they gave out the GOOD stuff! Reeses, Milky Ways, M&M’s. We saw our first (and probably only) armadillo at Wilderness Lodge one year. So freaking cool! Seriously, every year brings an entirely unique experience.

sundaeThis year was a milestone for our youngest. He was tall enough to go on ALL the rides. He was brave enough to try out Space Mountain (hated it), Rockin’ Rollercoaster (loved it) and Kali River Rapids (went on once w/o us). We spent a down day at Typhoon Lagoon, a first for us as a family. OMG, the sand pail sundae! It’s early spring, so we spotted dozens of baby ducks. Oh, the feels! Youngest tried so hard to catch one of the speedy lizards that are so plentiful. And I cannot say enough about the Flower and Garden Festival.rollercoaster

Will we go next year? Well that’s a big “duh”! Because guess what? RWA Nationals is being held at the Swan and Dolphin. Score! Way to mix business with pleasure. (Can you say tax write-off?)

Are you a huge Disney fan? Do you go year after year? What do you tell folks when they ask why? And last of all – do you have any favorite vacation photos that you’d like to share in the comments? I LOVE seeing families enjoying Disney World as much as my family does.

Where Did My Day Go?

Otherwise known as, A Day in the Life of a Writer Mom:

coffee6 AM: Wake up and stumble out to the kitchen for that important first cup of coffee. No matter how quietly I slip down the hall, little ears are tuned to my whereabouts. There is no school today. But who cares? Let’s do this!

Could start my writing day now, if it weren’t for the fact that Kid #2 is playing laser tag with the dog…at my feet. Nope, not distracting at all.

paperwork9 AM: Sent Kid #1 in to clean and organize her room. Looks like a bomb went off in there. She’s 11, so she doesn’t need my help.

Could start my writing day at this point, but now I’m feeling guilty that the kiddo is cleaning/organizing when I have just as many of those type of projects to tackle. So I start on Mt. Paperwork in the dining room. Two trips to the recycle bin later and the kids are whining for lunch. Where did my morning go?

chuckecheeseOne PM: I promised the kids I’d take them to Chuck E Cheese after lunch. I am either a hell of a great mom, or a certified lunatic. Kinda leaning toward the second option.

Driving down the freeway, my brain starts editing my current WIP. With no possible way to write down these new ideas, I am chanting them out loud to keep from forgetting them. Kids are looking at me weird. What?

6 PM: We got home with enough time to throw a quick dinner together and rush off to basketball practice for Kid #2. Where did my afternoon go?

I’m trying to read a book on writing craft while keeping one eye on Kid #2, reminding him to guard his guy, listen to his coach, take his hands out of his shorts and quit goofing off. I think I read a paragraph.

7:30 PM: We’ve moved on to piano lessons for Kid #1, with a quick stop at the nearest Starbucks for a skinny latte for me and pastries for the kids. Because I can’t *not* get them something when we’re stopping there solely to keep ME awake. Besides, sugar before bed couldn’t possibly be a bad idea, right? Ha.

Moving back to the book I’m trying to absorb. Only now I’m reading while simultaneously being serenaded by piano from room 1, guitar from room 2 (Smoke on the Water, anyone?) and clarinet from room 3. I think my brain is going to explode.

falling asleep8:30 PM: Kids are in bed and I have moved on to a glass of wine to celebrate getting through a no-school day.

Could I get started on my writing day now? Heck no! I am not a night owl. Nights are for winding down, and usually for falling asleep by 9:30 or ten o’clock. I’ve moved on to reading for pleasure. And I’ll probably fall asleep after a chapter or so. Where did my day go? zzz…

Mini Goals…or Don’t Quit Now

scaleHow are you all doing on your New Years’ resolutions? I’ve lost 4 1/2 pounds in three weeks. While I wish it was more, I’m doing everything right. Writing everything down that I eat. Sticking to 1200 calories per day. And I’ve started exercising at least five days per week.

disneyworldCould I maintain this the entire trip to that magic number on the scale that says I am officially where I want to be, weight-wise? Heck no! I can’t think of the long haul or I’ll get so discouraged I’ll completely bail. But can I do this for a few months? Say… until our trip to Disney World in April? Absolutely.

walkingdvdOne of the things I’m doing is a walking DVD that I ordered. Leslie Sansone’s Walking Off The Pounds. I enjoy my drags through the neighborhood with the dog (she sure keeps my heartrate up!) but the weather in Seattle rarely cooperates. So I figured I’d get this easy peasy workout DVD and feel like I’m getting my exercise in, while taking it easy. Wrong! This DVD kicks my butt! And it’s LONG. 45 minutes to do the entire three miles. The first time I did it, I was swearing at the screen, telling Leslie how mean she was. But I did it. Longest workout I’ve ever done. And it didn’t kill me. So I did it again. And again. It’s kind of addictive.

Some days I don’t feel like working out. It’s rainy outside and that just gives me a terrible case of the blahs. But I’ve found that if I get into my workout gear and lace up my sneakers, I WANT to keep going. I’m motivated. And thinking about those calories I’ll burn is pretty great too.

I’m also tracking steps and workouts with my Microsoft Band. This uploads automatically to My Fitness Pal, where I log all my food. Have I mentioned how much I love technology and how my gadgets talk to each other? Awesome!

So I’m plugging along. Losing slowly, but knowing that’s the smart way to do it. Picturing my end goal: the new shorts I’ll have to buy for Disney World, because my old ones will be too big. 😉 And knowing that I’ve gotten in shape for a vacation that is 99% walking around the theme parks.

Did you know walking just the perimeter of the Magic Kingdom is two miles?

Did you know walking just the perimeter of the Magic Kingdom is two miles?

Next up: The Can Do 5k at the end of April. I think I have both kids on board to run this one with me. Motivation=success 😀

What mini goals are you working on? Got any tips on keeping it successful?

Surviving the Holidays

christmas2

Ah, Christmas. That special time of year. Great food. Holiday traditions. Memory making. Spending time with family and loving every minute of it. But does it always turn out exactly the way we want it to? And do we REALLY enjoy all the time spent making sure that the rest of the family has a great Christmas?

Here’s my honest opinion on this holiday season:

cookiesI hate baking. But Christmas cookies (and fudge, and brownies, etc) are something the kids love to make and deliver to the neighbors and close friends. Maybe I’m getting OCD in my old age, but watching the kids make a huge mess on the kitchen table with flour, frosting and 50, 000 different types of sprinkles gives me hives. We’ll still do it, because they love it and I love them. But…Christmas stress.

alvinI used to have so much fun, the first couple of years, with Alvin, our Elf on the Shelf. But that sucker arrives the day after Thanksgiving and stays through Christmas Eve. That’s a whole lot of Alvin antics to plot out. And with the kids getting older, and not playing with toys much anymore, Alvin’s bag of tricks is sadly depleted. Little Guy is seven years old and still believes that Alvin is magical. So I struggle to come up with inventive ways to delight him each morning. And that leads to…Christmas stress.

stockingsWe needed new stockings this year because the names were becoming unreadable on our old ones. I found some at Target and bought each of us our own color. I figured if I ended up not having the nerve to attempt to glitter glue our names on them then at least we’d know whose was whose by color. I ended up attempting the names. They came out pretty good – until I realized I wrote Big Sis’ name on MY pink stocking. And then, while they were nowhere near dry, Little Guy managed to ruin every single one of them. My fault for leaving them on the kitchen table to dry. We have brand new stockings, less legible than the ones I threw away for that very reason. Next year I will pay big bucks to get some professionally personalized stockings. And save myself some huge…Christmas stress.

One day? How about a good FIVE weeks?

Now everyone is home from work and school for the next two weeks. I planned a mini-vaca for a few days after Christmas. But for now I’ve got to keep them all entertained, keep the house from getting trashed, keep the kids from killing each other and keep myself from hiding at the bottom of a bottle of wine until after the New Year. I hate Christmas stress!

Please tell me I’m not the only over-achieving, Martha Stewart screw-up. Anyone else have holiday horror stories they’d like to share? Bring me a Christmas giggle or two. I bet it bring everyone who reads this post just a little bit of Christmas cheer to know they are not in this alone.

It Must Be Monday – Summer Edition

mustbemonday4:58 AM: Amazon Fresh dropped off a grocery delivery on the front steps. It’s supposed to be “undisturbed”, but try telling that to our overprotective rescue pup. Does she wake the entire household with her barking? Nope, just me. It must be Monday.

“I can’t eat this cereal, it’s Daddy’s.” “I know it’s pink day at camp, but what if no one else is wearing hot pink, like me?” “Stop running around naked and put some clothes on.” “Did you know if you put tape on the dresser it will make it nice and shiny?” (Yep, tape all over the dresser.) It must be Monday.mbm

Two salami sandwiches, one with mayo and one with mustard. Can’t mix them up or no one will eat them. Meant to buy spill-proof water bottles over the weekend. Crap. Filling out camp paperwork at the last minute. It must be Monday.

“I have a tummy ache.” Why? “Because I swallowed the toothpaste.” You know better than to swallow toothpaste. “I know, but it tasted so good!” It must be Monday.mbm2

Why is there a slimy, gelatinous substance on the Lego I just found on my bedroom floor? And why am I touching it? I don’t want to know. Can I rewind the clock and do that last five minutes over differently? It must be Monday.

No clean shorts means creating a pair of cutoffs from a pair of holey jeans. Now youngest wants his shirt to match. Can I just cut the bottom off? No. Just a trim? No. It must be Monday.mbm3

Trying to talk the natural curlyhead into brushing her hair into some semblance of order. “It’s fine.” No, it’s actually kind of scary. “You’re so bossy.” It’s my job. It must be Monday.

“Can you help me put this bandaid on?” Why? You have no cut. “I know. But if I put it on, then if I run into something, it will already be protected.” It must be Monday.mondaycat

I need a laugh folks. Tell me your It Must Be Monday horror stories. Let’s help each other through another Monday.

Unplugging & Reconnecting

WP_20150704_001Our 4th of July routine usually involves staking out a spot on the parade route a day or so early, then lighting off fireworks and sparklers once it gets dark. But this year people started putting their chairs out along the town’s main street on June 26th. Seriously. Am I the only one who finds that obnoxious? It used to be the night before. And then it was the entire day before. But now… Nope. I’ll pass, thanks.

WP_20150704_003This year we decided to do something different. We packed a backpack with water and snacks, headed out the door bright and early and spent the day exploring Mt. Rainier. You guys — THIS is how you spend the 4th. The views are phenomenal. The crowds were minimal (compared to what we would have encountered at the parade). The air was fresh and clean. And the temperature was blessedly cooler than the heat wave we were going through in Seattle.

WP_20150704_013I was so excited to take pictures and hopefully find a little inspiration for my next series, set in the Pacific Northwest. But the best photo ops happen when you are unprepared, as I discovered when a deer came out to stand in front of our car less than five minutes from the park entrance. It was like she was saying “Welcome to the mountain, DeCuir family. Enjoy your visit.” By the time I was through gawking, hubby had honked his horn to get her to move along and I couldn’t scramble to grab my phone to take a picture fast enough.

WP_20150704_064Oh yeah, did I mention that my phone became a camera only, that day? There was no cell service up there, no wifi to tap into. I thought I’d get the shakes. I was taking some fantastic pictures, but I couldn’t upload them to Facebook. I had no access to my email or texting. I had no choice but to live in the moment. And I’m so glad I did.

We took the easy trails. The kids ran on ahead, searching for cougars and black bears. Hubby used the gnarled walking stick he bought a couple of years ago for hikes that we’d promised we would take but never did. Everyone had a favorite wildflower out of the varieties that grew so prolifically. We realized that we could take the exact same route at different times of the year and have an entirely different experience, depending on the season.

By the time we piled into the car at the end of the day, we were all covered head to toe in dust and dirt. We were exhausted and achy. But we were smiling and talking and, most importantly, happy. I thought the kids would grab their DS games and lose themselves in technology, once we got on the road. But they didn’t even touch them. We talked the whole ride home, about the day we’d had, the things we’d seen, the things we didn’t get to see but would like to go back for, the things we’d like to do over the rest of the summer…

It wasn’t the way we usually spend the 4th of July. It was better. We made memories that I hope the kids will be able to share with their own children some day.

What did you do for the 4th? Are you hardcore traditional, or do you like to mix it up? We need some ideas for next year. 😀

Blogger’s note: I uploaded a TON of pictures to wordpress. Either half of them came out sideways (and refused to let me turn them) or they were too big to insert in my post. Sigh. Apparently they are just not meant to be shared with the world. lol If you’d like to see more, I’ve added some to a Pinterest folder: https://www.pinterest.com/mzdecuir/research-photos/

Counting Down To Summer Vacation-Can We Stop The Clock?

Help Button“Mommy, how many days until we get out of school for the summer?”

Pshhh, ages and ages. I check the calendar. Less than six weeks. Okay, don’t panic. Don’t let them see you’re scared. Where the heck did the time go? It seems like just yesterday I was doing the ‘back-to-school’ dance all through my blissfully empty house.

Back in September I had just submitted a book proposal to my publisher. I had a clear cut schedule of the days I would write, my day to volunteer in the kids’ classrooms and a day to run errands. I had everything neatly written in a calendar. I had a system. I had a plan.But once the kids get out of school for the summer, my plan gets turned on its ear and I need to push myself that much harder to get my word count in each day.summermeme

Now don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my kids. I’m a little obsessive about getting out of the house with them and making memories that they’ll be able to share with their own children some day. My own mother suffered from agoraphobia while I was growing up. This meant that she preferred to remain in the safety and comfort of her own home. It meant my sisters and I had to look for things to occupy us within our neighborhood. We couldn’t afford summer camps. One week out of the summer, our friends’ mom would drive us each morning to bible camp. So when my kids start to utter a whiny “I’m bored”, I probably take it a little too personally.

Last year I spent a lot of time tweaking and scheduling so that I had camps lined up for both littles–at exactly the same time. Makes sense, right? I actually got a decent amount of writing in that summer. This year I went with a different approach. I consulted the kids and let them choose the summer camps they wanted to attend, not giving a flip whose landed on what week. So, while most weeks are filled with some sort of camp (mostly of the three hour variety), only one week has them going at the same time. Which means that I’ll drop one child off for a fun day or afternoon filled with activities, socialization and some sort of take home craft to display, and one child will remain with me…bored.kidsbeingbored

Which brings me back to the ‘pushing myself’ bit. And the obsessive mom trying to make sure her kids are having fun. I wish I could say that I am flexible enough to write whenever. Midnight, and the rest of the house is asleep? No problem! But my creative brain turns on about six AM and turns off about…aw heck, five PM. So yeah, I’ll be the dork mom on the playground, sitting at the picnic table with my laptop, hoping that if my child falls off the equipment, they can drag themselves over and somehow pull me out of my scene in order to let me know we need to pack up and head to the emergency room. I’ll get hateful looks from the involved moms who remembered to pack snacks, apply sunscreen and actually chat among themselves. But the alternative is forcing my kid to find something to do at home, which gives me mommy-guilt hives that I refuse to deal with. It’s a trade off.

Will I do this every single weekday during the summer months? Heck no! They’re only young once. Just as I get obsessed about needing to fulfill my word count, I also dig in my heels and find excuses not to write. If the weather is gorgeous, I’ll pack ’em up and head to the beach. Maybe take a ferry ride across the sound. Ice cream is always a great way to make summer memories, especially if we’ve had to drive a bit to get to someplace we’ve never tried before. The zoo is always a favorite destination. All work and no play makes a dull mom. And I may come out of it with another book, but I’ll have lost the memories my kids spent making with everyone else. It’s all about striking a balance. I’m trying to let the kiddos take the reins this year and hoping that we all get what we want out of this summer vacation. And trying not to panic.

I need to embrace this quote, this summer.

I need to embrace this quote, this summer.

 

A Writer Mom’s Special Day

momsdayI was told to bring a book to bed last night, to read in the morning. I was not allowed to get up until I was served breakfast in bed. Now given that the kids know chocolate is my favorite food in the world, I was a little nervous about what to expect on my breakfast tray this morning. However, the actual menu was a lot tamer than the one I had imagined. Toast, marionberry jam and strawberries. And they figured out how to use my Keurig machine! I wish I’d had a camera to capture their expressions as they carried it in. They were so proud! I’m choosing to ignore that they put four packets of sweetener in, when I use half of one. I carried on like it was the best coffee I’d ever had. Because seeing those little faces grinning so big, it WAS the best coffee I’d ever experienced.

Nope. This was not their actual creation. ;)

Nope. This was not their actual creation. 😉

Little Guy couldn’t wait until Mother’s Day to give me my gift. At school they’d made seed paper hearts that could be planted in the soil and would grow all sorts of wildflowers. He also couldn’t wait for ME to plant my own seeds. He did it for himself yesterday, when I wasn’t looking. And then set up his own fairy garden–right.on.top. Sigh. Gotta love his enthusiasm.

Hubby thinks my restaurant choice for Mother’s Day was a bit odd. But hey, he’s a last-minute-reservations kind of guy and he was shocked that no one else had made reservations yet for this place. It’s an Irish pub in downtown Seattle, very close to Pike’s Place Market. The best part? It’s supposedly haunted! How cool is that? We’ve never been. I’m dying (is that an insensitive choice of words?) to check it out. Spirits, you’ve got a believer in your midst, come out, come out, wherever you are!

Doesn't look so scary, huh?

Doesn’t look so scary, huh?

So while today promises to be chaotic and full of adventure, I treated myself to a blissfully quiet lunch at a garden cafe yesterday, followed by a stroll through the local nursery. I snagged a Star Blooming Jasmine and a dwarf raspberry bush for my ever-growing collection of plants that may or may not live to see this time next year. And while I spent some quality time by myself (not writing!), Hubby took the kids to the mall – a place he avoids like the plague – because Big Sis told him exactly what I wanted for Mother’s Day and was able to guide him to just the right stores. God bless this 10 year old – she KNOWS how to shop! Even hubby was impressed.

Did I mention the weather was absolutely perfect?

Did I mention the weather was absolutely perfect?

All you moms out there… birth moms, adoptive moms, grandmoms, fur baby moms, moms of the heart and dads filling in as moms AND dads… all of you, enjoy your special day. Heck, enjoy every day with your loved ones. Make memories and show them all how much you love them. And now I’m weepy…again. I’m a walking Hallmark commercial today. And I’m off to have cuppa number two (with a bit less sweetener).

Throwback Thursday – Big Sis Edition

I bought a journal a couple of weeks ago that you’re supposed to take turns filling out with your daughter. It’s an amazing way to open up, to share thoughts and feelings without any of the awkwardness. Yesterday I was filling out the page on “firsts”. So since today is already a dedicated theme day on most social media sites, I thought I’d use this blog post to reminisce about my baby girl.

I highly recommend this journal to mothers of daughters.

I highly recommend this journal to mothers of daughters.

So where to start down memory lane? Have I ever mentioned she was a preemie? Five weeks early, anxious to get a jump start on Christmas, was our only guess. And she was such a little scrapper that she only spent four hours in the NICU. I’m here. I’m ready. Now take me home.

She was so tiny I dressed her in a costume from Build-a-Bear Workshop.

She was so tiny I dressed her in a costume from Build-a-Bear Workshop.

In looking through photos, I realize I have a lot more memories I want to share than I really have room to blather on about. Not sure what blog layout protocol is, but I’m going to use the photo captions to tell the story. My blog – my style. ;P Here we go:

Ever the resourceful child, she turned the back of a chair into an art easel.

Ever the resourceful child, she turned the back of a chair into an art easel.

Last formal portrait before her brother was born? I was terrible at having those done.

Last formal portrait before her brother was born? I was terrible at having those done.

Dance class. One of many extracurriculars that didn't stick.

Dance class. One of many extracurriculars that didn’t stick.

This was Chimp. Her first best friend. Came with girl clothes that she quickly ditched because SHE was really a HE.

This was Chimp. Her first best friend. Came with girl clothes that she quickly ditched because SHE was really a HE.

One of the only girls in her pre-K class, she insisted on being a bride for Halloween. She had the boys fighting over her that year.

One of the only girls in her pre-K class, she insisted on being a bride for Halloween. She had the boys fighting over her that year.

Ah, the graffiti artist stage. Her furniture, her clothes... I do NOT miss this stage. ;)

Ah, the graffiti artist stage. Her furniture, her clothes… I do NOT miss this stage. 😉

1st day of kindergarten. My brave little baby was growing up.

1st day of kindergarten. My brave little baby was growing up.

One and only basketball season. Spent most of her time on the court hugging her teammates.

One and only basketball season. Spent most of her time on the court hugging her teammates.

Dressing up for the renaissance faire. One of the things I miss most about her growing up is no more dress up time.

Dressing up for the renaissance faire. One of the things I miss most about her growing up is no more dress up time.

Crazy cat ladies have to start somewhere, right? She loves ours and they love her right back.

Crazy cat ladies have to start somewhere, right? She loves ours and they love her right back.

 

The Second Child Syndrome

Big Sis and Little Guy

Big Sis and Little Guy

I was weeding out paperwork over the recycle bin the other day (read: tossing kindergarten homework) when I realized something. I’d put together a box – a big put-together-style box from Staples of adorable artwork and first writing projects, etc from Big Sis. Starting in preschool and going through first grade (because, truly, after that it’s just not quite as cute anymore).  But I had never done the same thing for Little Guy.

Yep... facepalm moment.

Yep… facepalm moment.

The only thing that is saving me in this situation is the fact that I am slightly behind on the paperwork weeding. The stuff I was doing before? That was just to clear off the kitchen table. But the desk, the filing cabinet, the microwave cart? Well, let’s just say I hope to have a boxful for him once I get all that sorted through.

But this leads me to examine what other things I’ve slacked on with the youngest that I went all out on with the oldest. She got Mommy and Me classes. He did not. She got story times at Barnes & Noble. He got… a couple of them. She got trips to the toy store and the bookstore to buy awesome new things to play with. He got…to play with the hand-me-down toys and listen to the chewed-on, colored-over picture books.

I kept a journal with each of them, including milestones from their first three years. (Though his is decidedly thinner.) And I did manage to take as many (if not more) photos of him as I did with her. Though that could be because I’m obsessed with documenting the cute moments and camera phone technology is a lot better now. 😉 But I swear we only dig out the digital camera for our one family vacation per year and Christmas morning. So, thank God for those cameras in our phones!

When Big Sis was a baby, it was just the two of us all day. I saw everything. I marveled at all the changes, all the milestones. Do you know who caught Little Guy rolling over for the first time? Big Sis. She had to tell me after the fact. I missed it.

Double facepalm moment.

Double facepalm moment.

Life goes fast. They come home so tiny and helpless and then the next thing you know, they are tugging their hand out of yours and telling you not to embarrass them in public. (Sorry, kiddo – I’m your mom – it’s my job.) I think a portion of today is going to be spent weeding through paperwork to get to the cute stuff. I need a reminder of my Little Guy when he wasn’t quite such a pro at reading and writing. When he couldn’t count to one hundred backwards or list dozens of random facts about the presidents. I need to make sure I’ve got plenty of memory-joggers to keep me company when my Little Guy is all grown up with little guys and gals of his own.

Geez, even this photo is several months outdated. I tell ya, I'm slacking!

Geez, even this photo is several months outdated. I tell ya, I’m slacking!

Bucket List #1 – Travel Adventures

It’s that time of year. Winter still covering most of the country in white, while here in the Pacific Northwest it’s just a tad too chilly to do yard work or enjoy the outdoors. So naturally, my thoughts turn to vacations. Preferably somewhere sunny and warm.  We’re heading to Hawaii next month, but until then…

MY BUCKET LIST – TRAVEL VERSION

1. Ireland – any place at all in Ireland. Seriously. Any.ireland

2. Santorini – Greece is overall awesome but if I had to choose a Greek island to visit, it would be the gorgeous island of Santorinisantorini

3. New Zealand – home of all things Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. If money were no object (which I suppose applies to EACH of these destinations) then I would take every movie location tour offered. Even the ones by helicopter (though I might need to be heavily medicated). And I want to stay in a hobbit hole. Well, I want to move in, but that’s beside the point.hobbit

4. Egypt – okay, so now is probably not the best time to be visiting the great pyramids, the Sphinx and so forth. But someday? When the political unrest dies down and tourists are free to explore an ancient civilization without fearing for their lives? Then I want to go.

5. Scotland – particularly Edinburgh. The castles. The ghosts. The history. The burr. Reow! Talk to me, locals. Read the back of the cereal box to me. Love that accent!edinburgh-scotland-travel-guide

6. Paris – technically, I could cross this off my bucket list, as hubby and I went, early on in our marriage. But I want to see Paris through my children’s eyes. And for that reason, it stays on the list.

Honorable mentions: I could go on and on about places I’d like to see (if money were no object). But here are just a few more. Victoria AND Vancour, BC, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Montana, Texas (just not in the summer), New Orleans (Cafe Du Monde!), Philadelphia, Salem, MA, Rio, Alaska. And I reserve the right to add more every day. 🙂

If money were no object, where would you go? What MUST you see before you leave this Earth?

Taking Back My House

NOT a photo of our toy situation - just one I found online. ;)

             NOT a photo of our toy situation – just one I found online. 😉

Anyone want a HUGE toy kitchen? Or the boxful of plastic food and utensils that goes with it? Because I’ve got one to give away. That and a whole lot more. Duplos and Matchbox cars. Little People and Lincoln Logs. Race tracks and dinosaurs. My kiddos are growing up, and while part of me is sad to see this stuff go, a bigger part of me is doing the happy dance.

Why, you ask? Because for the last eight years, the entire downstairs of this new-to-us house belonged to the kids. It was great knowing they had a dedicated play space. But now that Big Sis is more interested in computers, music and taking quizzes in girly magazines and Little Guy has to be dragged off the Xbox in order to go to school in the morning, I’m starting to get ideas. Big ideas. Not just purging the playroom of unused toys, but repurposing the room into a place hubby and I might actually get to use.

He wants a dedicated desk where he can set up multiple computers. Done. I want a corner for a piece of exercise equipment. I even have the exact one in mind: A Bowflex Treadclimber.bowflex-treadclimber-tc20-2

A reading nook would be amazing. While there isn’t any money in the budget for a window seat (because how cool would THAT be?), I’m thinking we can spring for an extra-wide comfy chair with ottoman. I’d suggest a recliner, but then how much reading would get done and how much napping? Let’s be realistic.readingchair

And once the room is set up the way we (the adults of the household) like it, the last touch? Finally hanging the Lord of the Rings movie posters on the wall. Can you believe these have sat on the floor in a corner for almost nine years? They need some decent new frames, but the posters are still in great shape.lord of the rings trilogy

Thanks, kiddos, for sharing your space with us old fogies. And I insist we dedicate the very center of the room to Family Game Night. We’ll turn off the gadgets we normally can’t live without and spend some quality time together, laughing and goofing off. Just because we outgrow toys, doesn’t mean we’re ever too old to play. family-board-game-celebrate-parents-day

Just A Regular Morning (This Is Normal, Right?)

You ever get the feeling you are living in a sitcom? You start to wonder where the cameras are hidden because, seriously, this is too crazy to be real life, right? Yeah, that was me this morning.

It started with me swiping a frosted brownie bite for breakfast and stuffing the whole thing in my mouth before the kids could see and demand their fair share. What they don’t know won’t kill ’em. Then coffee…blessed coffee and catching up on email. Holy crap! Little Guy’s teacher sent an email reminding us about early dismissal on Thu. and Fri. When was that decided? Did anyone else know? Thank God I actually read the dang thing. My kids would be the only ones hanging out waiting for the ‘no show’ parent. Good grief!overwhelmed

Let the dog out 15 minutes after she came in the last time. Does she need to pee? No, there are just some insanely awesome smells to investigate on the porch. Kids think if they don’t announce their presence, they can sneak out to the living room and get in a few minutes of video games. Busted! Could Little Guy please go wake up Daddy. Sure. Next thing I know, he’s flipped on the overhead light and screamed at the top of his lungs. What? You asked me to wake him up. Oy!th (1)

Big Sis heads to the bathroom at 7:15 to shower and get ready. 8 AM Little Guy is banging on the door, waiting to brush his teeth. 45 minutes? Really? And she’s only ten years old! What is life going to be like when she’s a teenager? OMG!

Putting lunches together for the kids. I notice the yogurt I just bought yesterday for Little Guy’s lunch expired on Jan. 31st. I throw an extra ice pack in the lunch box and tell myself he’s got a strong stomach. Mother of the year, folks! There is no room on the kitchen counter to maneuver because the dirty dishes still haven’t been loaded into the dishwasher. Big Sis, where are you? I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Sure you will.funny-mom-pic3

I have five minutes before everyone goes out the door for the day. Socks, shoes, coats. What am I doing? Forging a reading list for the month of January for Little Guy’s teacher. Total BS. Do I bother switching out pens to make it look like I was writing everything down the whole month? No time. Make stuff up. I call myself a writer and yet I can barely find time to read to my kindergartner. His sister read to him out of a couple of manga books. That counts, right? Write it down.

They’ve left for school/work. The house is quiet. The dog needs to go out and sniff again. I need another cup of coffee — and maybe another brownie bite. Is it Friday yet?mom1

A Writer Mom’s Best Friend

A weekly staple -- at least.

A weekly staple — at least.

I hate to cook. Always have. I am an expert on shortcut meals. Uncle Ben’s microwaveable rice? Been using it since it came out on the market. So you know what is awesome that I just haven’t made better use of until recently? My crock pot.

French toast in the crock pot. Holy yum!

French toast in the crock pot. Holy yum!

Yes, I am home all day writing. Yes, with a little forethought I’d have time to plan out and execute nutritious, nourishing meals for my family. But I am not a ‘follow the recipe’ kind of person. If it’s not easy, I don’t do it. Period.

So imagine my delight when I discover that a few ingredients thrown into a crock pot on simmer all day can result in food my family will actually eat? And I didn’t have to slave over it all day. My handy dandy little crock pot did it for me.

In the hopes that I’m not the only mom out there who is allergic to her kitchen, I am posting a few of our family favs.

The French toast recipe from the picture posted above is here: http://todayscreativeblog.net/crockpot-french-toast/

Shredded chicken for tacos

Shredded chicken for tacos

Another favorite we like to make for Taco Tuesdays is here:

http://www.twohealthykitchens.com/2014/01/08/3-ingredient-crock-pot-chicken-tacos/

I’ve done potato dishes, pork tenderloin, sliced apples (okay, that one took a lot of prep time on my part), Korean BBQ Beef, Coke and soy sauce drumsticks, lots of fun things. And the smells wafting through the house while it’s cooking? Bonus! People walk in and think I’m the real deal. Ha! I’ve fooled them. 🙂

What are your favorite crock pot recipes? Am I missing something really delicious? Let me know in the comments.

Happy lazy cooking!