Accountability Tuesdays – Week 27

So here we are, on the first week of the second half of the year. It’s time for another accountability post, and I’ve got a confession to make.

That confession is: I have almost nothing to report.

I have done almost no writing, absolutely no editing, I’ve been eating terrible amounts of junky food, and the only exercise I’ve gotten is chasing the baby around. In fact, I’ve really got pretty much nothing of note to report.

Do you want to know why?

Because I’m home. I’m home for a while, with no threat of leaving again any time in the near future, and I’m enjoying it.

I know I can’t slack off forever, but I’ve been having a blast just being mommy and wife. You want to know what I’ve done this past week?

I arrived home on Wednesday and spent the rest of that day just rolling around with my daughter, enjoying the way she turns into a little barnacle when I come home.

On Friday my husband and I packed the baby into our car and we went shopping. We bought presents for my father and his mother (birthdays coming up), grabbed a stuffed Big Bird and Zoe for the baby (which she became extremely attached to), bought some games and fun stuff for ourselves, and picked up a couple of things that we can put away for the baby’s birthday or Christmas.

The next morning, on Saturday, we drove down home for the niece’s birthday party, where we ate barbecue, Ninja Turtle cupcakes, and ice cream cake while the kids had an absolute blast in the pool.

Sunday we took the baby to the parade for the Festival of the Strait (where she received a ton of candy), then I took her to the recreation grounds where she absolutely lost her mind in a giant Disney Princess bouncy castle with a huge slide inside, and in the evening we took her to the free concert after which she “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed and giggled like a maniac at the fireworks.

And yesterday we recovered by staying inside and relaxing.

Doesn’t that all sound awesome? Because it totally was. And during none of it did I worry about writing, editing, eating well, or exercising. Perhaps I should have…but I didn’t. So you’ll excuse me (I hope) when I tell you that I wrote a grand total of 1010 words in the past week, did not so much as glance at any editing, and probably gained a pound or two worth of ice cream cake.

Sorry, I was busy enjoying LIFE!

girlsswimming
Pictured: Life Being Enjoyed

With that said, I do know that I’ve got to get down to business at some point (even if I have a ton of other things coming up…wedding…visits…more festivals…), and with that in mind I have a few things to mention.

First of all, I’ve gone on a bit of a learning kick. I know that my zombie apocalypse story isn’t the “next great American novel”, and I know that I myself still have a ton to learn about being a good writer, so I’m taking it upon myself to start actually doing the research. I’ve purchased three books to start myself off with:
Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines
Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way
Stephen King’s On Writing

From Kristen I hope to learn how to build a viable author platform (which, a year ago, I didn’t even know was a thing). From Julia I hope to learn some tricks and exercises to make myself a better, more efficient writer. From Stephen…well, I just hope to learn something because I love his writing and in case you haven’t notice, he’s been a wee bit successful.

I’m halfway through Kristen’s book right now, and already learning a lot, so if anyone has any suggestions for some other craft books I might want to read after these three, please feel free to let me know!

The second thing I want to mention is a bit of a vanity thing…upon publishing yesterday’s post I noticed that today would mark my 300th post on this blog. It may not be one of those super-satisfying numbers like 1000, but this is a big deal to me. A few months ago I surpassed a year of doing this blog, and now I can officially say that I’ve written several hundred posts. How awesome is that? Maybe I have a little bit of persistence in me after all!

fireworks

And with that, I bid you adieu for the day. I have a lot of things to do, the least of which is definitely not jumping on my daughter’s bed and helping her cuddle all her Sesame Street characters. Ta!

A Childish Memory: Blessing or Curse?

I often say that when dealing with kids we should try very hard to remember what it was like to be one. I honestly believe that this is very good advice, but sometimes it can also be a bit of a curse.

When I was a little kid, I had a hard time sharing. Actually, I should reword that: I didn’t have a problem sharing when it came to other kids’ toys, but I was awful about it when it came to my own toys. The problem, I suspect, stemmed from when I was quite young and my cousin hid my Playskool flashlight while we were both staying at our grandmother’s house. When my parents came to pick me up it was still hidden and he insisted that he couldn’t remember where he’d put it. My grandmother did manage to find it before we left, but I was freaking out there for a few minutes because the thought of leaving a toy behind was absolutely unthinkable. It might seem like an innocuous event, but remember that small things can feel like a big, big deal to a kid. From that day forward I had formulated the belief that if I let other kids touch my toys they would hide them, steal them, or break them. Not a good attitude, but one I was powerless to expel from my head.

Now that I’m a parent, surprisingly, I find this attitude is still very much prevalent in the back of my mind. Recently we had our niece stay over for a night, and the two girls had a blast together, but every so often our niece would start playing with (what was evidently) the wrong thing, and my daughter would have a mini-breakdown. The first time it was her My Little Ponies. She had five of them lined up on the table in front of her when Niece ran over and took one to put in the farmhouse play set. Daughter looked like she was going to have the tantrum of a lifetime, complete with big, sooky, quivering lip. She couldn’t have looked any more upset if Niece had tossed the toy in a bonfire while laughing maniacally.

So here’s where “parent” brain began to have a vicious duel-to-the-death with “I totally remember exactly what it felt like to be in that position” brain. Of course I had to tell Daughter that she had to share, and that it was going to be fine, that she could have her pony back when Niece was done with it. But in my mind, while looking into those tear-filled little eyes, I was positively screaming bloody murder. Niece did absolutely nothing wrong (Daughter wasn’t even really playing with the pony at the time…it just happened to be physically in front of her), but my natural instinct was to tell Niece that the pony belonged to Daughter and to give it back right now.

This, my friends, is the curse of remembering (truly remembering) what it felt like to be a kid. Every time I try to teach my daughter a life lesson I get vivid flashes of memories from my own parents trying to do the same thing. The result is that I recall how frustrating it was to go through that as a child, as well as experiencing how frustrating it is from the adult’s point-of-view right this minute. It’s really just a vicious cycle of never-ending frustration.

Here’s another example to prove this wasn’t an isolated incident: food. I can remember, quite clearly in fact, my mother demanding that I eat my carrots when I was little. I hated carrots, and I couldn’t understand what was so damn important about my consuming them, especially when my father would side with me by saying things like, “There’s no point in trying to force it down her throat if she doesn’t like it.” Nowadays, here I am dealing with a picky eater who doesn’t even want to try things, and while I know that she has to have variety and that she can’t just get out of supper every night by saying she doesn’t like it, I keep flashing back to those feelings of, “Why would you force me to eat something I hate?!

I still believe that remembering what it’s like to be a kid is a good thing, but having too vivid a memory can definitely interrupt parental instinct a bit, and this is something I have a lot of trouble with. I’m working through it one instance at a time (while grinding my teeth down to little nubs), but it’s harder than it sounds.

Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid? Do you think that this makes it easier or harder to deal with children now that you’re grown? Do you ever have to restrain yourself from having childish outbursts because of how you acted as a kid? Please share!

The Most Vicious of Vicious Cycles

I have a confession to make.

I decided to take a day off from blogging today so that I could try and get some cleaning done. Our house is in a bit of a shambles, you see, and I hadn’t vacuumed since Niece was here on the weekend, and the cat’s puked in the basement again, so I thought since I had no blog posts planned in advance that I would take the day off and focus on the homestead instead.

And now I’m here telling you about it because I needed to get this out:

Cleaning sucks. It’s the most futile task known to adulthood, especially to an adult who has a toddler and two particularly idiotic cats. The second I clean up the cat puke, one of them decides to “go” outside their litter box. I vacuum my daughter’s bedroom and two minutes later she crumbles a cookie all over her floor. I throw in a load of laundry, and god help me, the stuff still waiting to go in the wash seems to multiply exponentially. For the love of puppies, I can literally see a new coat of dust appearing before I’m even finished wiping away the old dust.

And here’s the thing…even if I’m diligent, even if I forsake spare time, writing time, and playing with my daughter, and I work my ass off to get the house sparkling…by the time I get from one end of the house to the other, the first end has gotten dirty again. Between baby messes, evil cats, and no end of hair and fur on everything, there is just no way to get ahead. And that’s not even taking into account all the organizing and purging that needs to be done.

So with that said, I implore my fellow bloggers, writers, and the random other people reading this post:
How the hell do you do it? Help! HELP! I’m losing my freakin’ mind!!!!

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 23

Would you look at that? Spring actually exists in Nova Scotia! I was really starting to wonder, but Mother Nature has proven my suspicions wrong again, and in one day she managed to sunburn me. You’re a horrible witch, Mother Nature. That’s why I hide inside like a vampire.

Okay, enough foolishness, let’s get down to it:

Health and Body Image Goal

As per tradition, I’ve been eating pretty poorly while I’ve been home, thought it’s been less because of the abundance of awesome food and more because I’ve been extremely busy. Cleaning and cooking are one thing, but having our niece over for a night…those 36 hours may have taken a year off my life. o.O

That said, I’m not feeling too shabby. I gave myself almost a full week off to let my legs heal (running in cheap, Walmart sneakers is not advisable…I ended up with major shin splints and a very achy knee), and then I went out running with my new Saucony sneakers. I know nothing about running shoes, but I thought I’d give these a shot since they were rated well and happened to be on sale, and I’m pretty happy. They give me a little bounce and definitely cushion the impact of hitting the ground. I think I will do well with these.

As an additional note, I hopped on the scale yesterday to see if maybe I was lucky enough to finally drop a pound or two, and found that I’d dropped almost five! Huzzah! A specific amount of weight loss is not my primary goal, but I definitely have some to lose, so it’s good that it’s going. Sometime soon I’ll track down a measuring tape and see what my measurements are looking like as well. I’d like to lose some belly fat, as I’m constantly reading about the dangers of it.

Editing Goal

This is a bit of an odd week that I’m not sure how to report. You see, I technically have been doing some editing…just not on what I’m supposed to be working on. It’s going to take me a while to finish editing Nowhere to Hide, and it occurred to me that the less I have to think about, the easier it will be to find the time and energy to work on it. So I’ve set it aside (for a very short time, I swear) in order to instead edit a short supernatural romance I’ve had done for a while. I know I can whip through this one pretty quickly (I’m already finished two of the ten chapters), and when it’s done I can submit it to the publishers I have in mind and then not worry about it for a while. So, I guess you can say I’ve made progress in that sense, right? 🙂

1,000,000 Word Goal

While focusing on everything else, the actual writing tends to slow down, but I’m happy to report that I managed to squeak out 6867 words over the past week, amongst a number of different things. Currently my yearly total sits at about 125k, which is nowhere where I wanted it to be, but still very good for me. In the coming weeks (particularly if I get laid off soon, which is very likely) I plan to delve into a few books on writing that I hope will help my productivity, amongst other areas. In particular I think I’d like to try out The Artist’s Way. I’m a bit put off by the word “spiritual” in the sub-title, because that word always makes me think of religion, but fellow blogger thelivingnotebook has been talking about the book lately and he makes it sound very interesting, so I’ll give it a shot. 🙂

Now, unfortunately, I have to pull myself out of my cave so I can walk my daughter to playgroup. And you can be damn sure I’ll be covered in sunscreen this time.

WANA!

This past weekend we had our niece come up to our house for a sleepover. Between having two rugrats under 4 years old in the house for about 36 hours, plus the fact that I haven’t had a lot of time this week to plan blog posts ahead of time, I have nothing mind-blowing for you today.

But since I hate missing a day, I decided to do a quick post about WANA.

What is WANA? WANA came about because of Kristen Lamb, who wrote a book for writers called “We Are Not Alone“. (WANA, get it?) The book is about the community aspect of being a writer, building an author platform, using social media to your advantage, and so on.

From Kristen’s book came an online community, WANA International. Amongst other things the website hosts a place where writers can gather and have serious (or not so serious) discussions with each other, look for help, and just build a circle of friends and confidants. Plus, there are constantly online courses and webcasts going on by experienced authors who want to help out those of us who still don’t know what we’re doing.

If you’re a writer who needs the soft, snugly, warm feeling that comes only from having like-minded people around you, it would be worth your while to check out the book and the site. Go! Go now!

Things I Know About Kids – Learning

First, I feel I should point out that I have done no real research on the topic of learning capabilities in small children, nor have I read any research done by others. What I know I’ve learned from my own daughter, and to a lesser extent my niece and the children we see at playgroup.

With that aside, what I know is that we as a society have a bad habit of underestimating small children. We follow guidelines that tell us what skills our kids should know and by when, we buy age-specific toys based on assessments made by the companies who designed them, and we get upset if our kids haven’t learned a specific skill by a specific time, even if they’ve become quite advanced in a different skill in the meantime.

In other words, we group all children together, expecting them to learn and grow at the same rate, and limiting them by focusing on only the skills we’re told they should have by now. I personally think this is very silly because, while you shouldn’t push your children to “learn learn learn learn learn!!!” you should always encourage them to go further and further.

I’ll give you an example. My daughter has a wooden alphabet puzzle. The back of the puzzle board states that the puzzle is for ages 3 and up. At the time we purchased the puzzle I thought that “ages 3 and up” couldn’t possibly refer to any kind of safety issue because the puzzle pieces are quite large, and a quick examination showed that there is no way the pegs could possibly become disconnected. When the safety check was all clear we gave our daughter the puzzle to play with…at the time she was just under a year old. Yes, we gave our one year old a toy that someone, somewhere, decided was meant for three year olds and up. We weren’t pushing the learning toy on her, and we certainly didn’t expect giving it to her to make her a genius or anything; we just figured it was a good, educational toy that she’d enjoy playing with. But here’s the thing…she caught on pretty fast. It only took her a few weeks to be able to locate where the pieces went, and by the time she was just under a year and a half old we had her telling us what all the letters were as she was doing the puzzle. It didn’t take long after that for her to understand that letters naturally went in a particular order, and if I wrote down letters she’d tell me which ones came next.

There were other factors that contributed to her success, of course… For one thing we took the time to sit with her and tell her what all the letters were. For another she also regularly watched a Sesame Street special that teaches kids the alphabet. But the point of the story is that if we had set the puzzle aside, assuming that she wouldn’t be able to understand it until she was at least three years old, she might not have caught on to the alphabet so soon. If we took it upon ourselves to assume that the Sesame Street special was too advanced for her, she wouldn’t be THIS close to being able to sing the whole alphabet song at less than two and a half years old (imagine me holding my fingers a few millimeters apart).

Again, I’m not saying my kid is a genius, but I can absolutely say with certainty that she has advanced faster than expected because we don’t hold back teaching her new things just because she’s still young. We make sure her toys are safe, and if we buy her something meant for older kids (Ninja Turtles action figures and My Little Pony sets come to mind) we make sure to remove any small pieces she might decide to swallow for fun. Once those two things have been accomplished, we let her play with what she’s interested in, and we encourage her to learn new things. In fact, she and her soon-to-be-four-year-old cousin can work my Samsung Galaxy Tab2 better than some adults I know.

Kids are sponges, they really are. We regularly take this into consideration when taking care not to transfer bad habits, but we rarely think about it when considering teaching and learning practices. Encourage your kid to learn, and (as long as safety permits) let them decide what toys and programs are appropriate for their age group. They’ll thank you for it later.

New Job, New Time Management Issues

My husband’s uncle asked me a question today. An innocent question: “How’s the book going?” The answer was not quite as innocent: “Not as good after going out West!”

I haven’t written a thing since the week before my flight to Alberta. At first it was because I (obviously) had more important things on my mind, like figuring out how meals work on the camp, and becoming acquainted with my many new coworkers. As the days went on, writing continued to go by the wayside because I was adjusting to a new job that involves a hell of a lot of walking, climbing stairs and ladders, and hanging out in stifling heat while wearing flame-retardant, long-sleeved coveralls. In other words, I was tired. By the time the last few days of my two-week rotation began to wear down, I continued to fail to write because of good old fashioned laziness. Even after returning home, I got no writing done over the past five days because I’ve been too busy enjoying my daughter and filling other obligations (i.e. my niece’s birthday party…enjoy being 3, cutie!), and no one can possibly blame me for that.

Reincorporating writing into my schedule is one of the things that I’m going to have to work on with this new job, but other than a few minor complaints (I never did get the internet working in my room) the entire ‘Out West’ experience has gone much better than I expected. I don’t mind the camp at all, the work is easy and laid-back, safety is actually number one for a change, my coworkers are all good guys, and there is no way anyone could possibly complain about the money. All in all, I have to say that I am honestly enjoying the job. Yes, of course, being away from the baby for two weeks at a time is less than fun, but look at it this way: how many people get 14 days out of every 28 off? 14 days that I can spend doing whatever I want, which in this case is enjoying my adorable daughter? Not to mention, this job is so stress-free that my days off (so far) are being spent in a great mood, actually enjoying myself, rather than coming home from work every day cranky and tired and inadvertently taking my mood out on my daughter and husband.

Everyone is different of course, and I’ve only had one rotation so far so I can’t definitively judge, but it’s looking good so far. I really think this job might be the start of something good. If nothing else, it will allow us to ditch some debt that we’ll be ridiculously happy to see the backside of…we’re coming for you, student loans!

Now if I could just squeeze the writing in there somewhere as well, I’d be doing great.