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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Linus, circa 2012

Last year I bought the Charlie Brown Nativity on post-holiday clearance to add it to my Nativity collection. Since we took it out of the box the other day, Robbie has played with it quite a bit.

At first, I got all warm and fuzzy, watching him spend so much time with it, recalling Linus's monologue about the true meaning of Christmas:

As Robbie was playing with the figures, I noticed he'd dropped Linus's staff. I handed it to him, telling him not to lose it, that a shepherd needs his staff.
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A few minutes later I heard him say in a very gruff voice,

"Listen! I've got a staff & I'm not afraid to use it."

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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Laundry Manifesto

Dear Kids:

I know that I have admitted in the past that I kind of enjoy doing laundry. I wasn't lying. I like watching my DVR'd shows while folding laundry in the family room. However, there are some aspects of the task of laundry that I do not enjoy. For that reason, I feel compelled to write and share this "Laundry Manifesto."
  1. I will wash, dry and fold your laundry. I will not, however, put it away. That is your responsibility.
  2. Socks will not be matched or folded. Instead, they will be immediately placed in the sock basket. Please don't ask me for socks. Get thee to the basket and find some for yourself.
  3. Clean and folded laundry will be placed in neat piles on the couch. If you wish to sit on the couch, you must first carry the piles to their appropriate locations. The floor is not an appropriate location. Neither is the bottom of the stairs. Nor is under your rear end on the couch.
  4. Hell hath no fury like a woman whose laundry piles have been shoved, smashed or unfolded instead of carried upstairs. Put the laundry away or wrestle somewhere else.
  5. Once clean laundry is moved from the couch, it should be put away. Pants and shirts with buttons should be hung in your closet. Hollering that you can't find "x" item, only for me to enter your room and find it on the floor will not be dealt with kindly.
  6. I am your mother. I gave birth to you and know you probably better than anyone else does. That does not mean I always know which t-shirts are yours. If you discover one of your siblings' clothing in your pile, do not throw it in the dirty clothes. Carry it to their rooms. Even better, be daring and put it away for them.
  7. I encourage you to check your pockets before putting clothes in the laundry. Any money left in said pockets becomes the property of the laundress. 
  8. If you need something specific to be cleaned and ready for tomorrow, 11pm is not an okay time to let me know that. 
  9. You are welcome to use the washer and dryer. If you don't know how, ask. If you choose to do a load of laundry yourself, do the environmentally responsible thing and please make sure it's a load. Two t-shirts do not constitute a load.
  10. You know that fury I mentioned in #3? Multiply it by 10 if you put clean items in the dirty clothes. Multiply by 20 if the clean clothes are still folded. 
  11. Clean clothes that are found in the dirty laundry will be immediately selected for donation to the Goodwill. 
 If we all follow these simple rules (note: they are not suggestions), we'll get along just fine.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A dog & a smile & a grateful heart

Sometimes I forget to be thankful for the simple things.

I was reminded of that the other day when I was downtown and found Max the bulldog. I'd seen him on TV before, but never in person. I watched him for several minutes, smiling the whole time.

So today, I'm thankful for people and things (and dogs) that bring a smile to my face.

Thanks for the reminder -- and the smile -- Max.

Wishing all my readers a Thanksgiving full of smiles.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Call 'em, text 'em, Facebook 'em, TELL 'EM (Giveaway)

Sometimes when my head hits the pillow at night, I think about if I talked to my kids that day. I'm sure I told them stuff -- hang your coat up, do your homework, no more videogames, brush your teeth. But did I really talk to them?

Did I take the time to ask about the doodles on Annie's hands and listen to the tales of friendship attached? Did I check in with Charlie and ask about how things are going with the lunch table crew? Did I tell Robbie how proud I am that he is taking such an interest in doing well in school?

I think we all have days like that. We all have people in our lives who need to hear something from us. Last month, I was invited to a Hallmark Moments & Milestones event in Indianapolis. They think telling people what they need to hear is so important, they've created a whole campaign around it. (OK, so they kind of have a vested interest in the idea, but they happen to be right.)

In true Hallmark fashion, they took this room full of bloggers and started by pulling on our heartstrings with this video, created with snippets and photos from our blogs. (My contribution is Amy M.)

Now, tell me you aren't reaching for the Kleenex right now. 

Then we each wrote our "Tell Them" thought on a piece of paper to share with the room. Here is mine, inspired by the whining and scowling that comes with getting into the driver's seat to drive to three different schools, play rehearsal, basketball practice, Cub Scouts...


Once we all dried our eyes from that little share-fest, we got to hear from two Hallmark writers and an ornament designer. Seriously, me getting to get a little peek inside the inner workings of the brain of a Hallmark writer is like Charlie having a chance to learn shooting technique from Michael Jordan.

After hearing about the ornament design process, I will admit to feeling more than a little bit guilty that I'm not a mom who buys her kids a new Hallmark Christmas ornament each year. Hey, those things are pricey. However, I will say that learning all the steps involved in the process -- did you know they make and dress with real fabric 7 models of each little figure, I can appreciate the cost a little more.

This ornament was carved in clay first, then molded in plastic, then produced in pewter.


Maybe I'll start buying one family ornament each year. 

PhotobucketEven though it was mid-October, we enjoyed frosted Christmas sugar cookies on custom-designed paper plates. If my mother-in-law were still alive, this is so something she would buy. Well, she would ask me to buy them because she would never be able to figure out how to order online.

This cutie on my plate is the daughter of one of the bloggers who was there. So I was very careful not to smear frosting on the plate, so I could wipe the crumbs off and let the mama take the plate home. Oh yes, I did. If it was my kid's face on a paper plate, I would have collected every plate in the room. Your kid's face on a paper plate? That tells them "You're special."

(Want to order plates like these? Or personalized Christmas cards? Use the code BLOG30 at and enjoy 30% off your order!)

And then, there was the swag. Oh yes, the swag!

There were Thanksgiving greeting cards, interactive story books, ornaments, recordable books, and my favorite, the Text Bands.

PhotobucketText Bands are wrist-watch like devices that allow kids to type a message (up to 10 characters) into their band. Think of it as "Tell Them, the digital version." The message scrolls across the face of the band -- URCOOL or BSTFRIEND or LUVMOM. Then when the kid bumps knuckles, high five or shake hands with another band-wearer, the messages swap. Up to 24 messages can be saved on the band. Click the picture to the right for a demo.

The Text Bands are meant for kids, but I could see a few uses for husbands and wives -- TONIGHT?...

Anyway...moving along...

The Giveaway
I think the Text Bands are so cool that when Hallmark offered me the chance to do a giveaway of one of their products on my blog, I picked Text Bands. Lucky you!

So here's the deal. This contest is open from now until midnight on Saturday, November 17. I'm using one of those fancy RaffleCopter widgets to collect entries. The winner will be drawn on Saturday morning and your set of 2 Text Bands will be sent to you directly from my new friends at Hallmark.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Whatever it is, don't wait. Do it now.

I don't often mix my professional blogging world with my personal, but I'm making an exception in this case. I've received positive feedback from people I respect for a recent post on All Things Aging that I thought it was worth sharing here, too.

Read it. And more importantly, do it. Whatever it is, don't wait. Do it now.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

It's good to try new things

In our house, Annie is the theater kid; Charlie is the sports kid; and Robbie is the quirky kid. 

I know it's probably bad to think of them in such narrow boxes, but that's what their interests and personalities lend themselves to, so that's how it's evolved.

Except that once in a while, someone surprises us. That was exactly the case when Robbie asked a few weeks ago if he could play basketball. This is the kid who has played on two soccer teams, once when he was 5 and once when he was 8. During both seasons, the fastest he ever ran was to the sideline for the post-game snacks. 

Even so, when he asked if he could play basketball, I jumped on it and signed him up for a great learning league at a nearby church.

On Wednesday of this week, I told him that his first practice was today. He said ok, but not with a lot of excitement. Yesterday, I reminded him that basketball practice was this morning. 

"Oh Mom, I changed my mind. I don't want to play basketball."

Too bad. I'd already paid for the (extremely reasonable) league fee. 

This morning as we stepped outside to get in the car for practice, he took a look at the rain and said, "Hmm...I guess basketball is cancelled." Though to his credit, he took it in stride when I assured him that the court is inside and they could play rain or shine. 

Once at the church, things started looking up. He found that a handful of his friends from school were there to play in the league as well. While the kids went through first day evaluation drills so teams could be assigned, I took my place in an adjoining room for the parents meeting. During the meeting, Mike texted to ask how he was doing. He wasn't the only one who was wondering. I was anxious for the meeting to get over so I could peek in and see if Robbie was having a good time. 

Meeting adjourned and I headed for the gym. I was happy to catch a little bit of this action:

Just after I stopped recording, Robbie leaned toward the sideline and yelled over to me "Mom, this is fun!"

I texted the video clip to Mike who texted back, "Wow. He's waaaaaaaaaay better than I thought!"

The next drill kind of put "waaaaaaaaay better" into perspective.

No worries. It's a learning league.

When practice was over and we were headed to the car, my sweaty-headed little quirky kid who isn't my sports kid said, "This was the most fun I've had ever. I've never felt more alive!"

It was a reminder to me that it's good to try new things, to step out of our narrow buckets once in a while. And in that spirit, tomorrow I'm taking Charlie painting.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Writing is hard.

I fancy myself a writer. Not just a blogger, but a writer. Writing in general has always come pretty easily to me. I've kind of got a knack for it.

I have a few book ideas rattling around in my head, ideas that have been there for a while and have no real timeline for getting out. I'm sure that doesn't really qualify me as a writer, but that's what I call myself nonetheless.

I have a friend who is a REAL writer. She's in a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. She actively writes every day. She submits stories to publications and has been published. So when she encouraged me to register for a community fiction writing workshop at my alma mater, I thought this was my chance to finally unleash the real writer in me.

The instructor of the class is Dan Barden, a really real writer whose book, The Next Right Thing, I'd read last summer. I was happily anxious for the class to get started.

The first night of class was great. Dan asked us to tell something that would make someone want to turn the page. And he didn't take whatever you said first. He pushed us to refine what we'd said. To dig deeper. Except when I put out my "juicy" item -- the fact that I'd Googled every person in the class before the first session -- he took it, said something about that making me "weird," but that it also made him want to know more. I had pleased the teacher. I was on my way.

Then Dan gave us the only homework we'd have every week for 12 weeks.

Write. By hand. For 30 minutes every day.

I imagined I'd have my first novel finished, at least in some draft form, by the end of the 12-week class.  That first week, I wrote for 30 minutes five of the seven days. Some of what I wrote was rambling about what I should write. Some of it was the beginning of a story that I thought had some legs.

The next week, I wrote for 30 minutes three of the seven days. The following weeks have been the same or less. And do you know why?


The initial idea isn't too tough. I've got about three stories begun now. But getting beyond the first few pages is hard. Character development is hard. Knowing enough about the circumstances of the times, the history, the environment, is hard.

This class has given me a whole new respect for authors I've read. It's made me want to read more so I can write better. 

It was my turn to have my story, what little of it I've finished, critiqued this week. The feedback was constructive. My classmates thought it was funny. That the pacing and the voice were good.

Dan wasn't so convinced. He thought the voice was inauthentic. He felt that story as I'd submitted was still too conceptual, that I need to bring it "down to the dirt." He was right. What I'd turned in was my second draft, but it was hastily written. I knew where the holes were and just skipped by them in order to get something on the paper.

Writing is hard.

After class this week, I gathered all the feedback I'd received and brought it home to read it. A few people thought the storyline was something they'd read before, from a book I've never read. Several had underlined sentences that had made them laugh. And Dan had typed a page of response.

It began with the good stuff. That my writing is lively and funny. That I have an eye for detail. Then it was the stuff I needed to hear. And finally, suggestions for revisions, for how I might make the story better.

It's a daunting task. My first reaction was to scrap the piece and look for the next good idea. But I'm pushing myself to accept Dan's challenge, to re-write and keep on writing this story I've started. I don't know if I have that kind of perseverance and drive, but I'm going to try.

Who knows if at the end of the 12 weeks I'll have a story worthy of submitting anywhere. Or if I'll have the beginnings of something that might someday be a real book. But I know for sure that come December when this class is over, I will have learned at least one thing.

Writing is hard.