Thursday, July 23, 2015

{phfr} California Summer Edition

As our time in California draws to a close I've been snapping even more pictures of some of our favorite places.  One is a school that has a great playground that is almost entirely enclosed, that we love to play at:

Maggie loves twirling around on the cement looking up at the birds in the sky above her and giggling. 

I try not to notice that they're giant turkey vultures circling overhead.  
Sadie wanted me to chase her all over the playground to get her picture (as in yelling "Get me!  Try to get a closer picture!" as she would sprint off).  I got this one:
Patch has been reminding me of how different a parent with my third two year old than I was with my first.  
And James sat up yesterday for about twenty seconds with the help of a basketball.  

Patch is obsessed with basketballs at the moment.  He probably says the word basketball fifty times before ten am.  

But he abandoned playing ball with me and went to the corner to count to play hide and seek (he hides and counts loudly... not quite getting the concept just yet). 

I put the ball down and suddenly disaster struck (from Patch's point of view):

"We aren't playing with it anymore!" was met with outrage. 

Maggie put the ball down and did a little victory dance around it.  You know, pretending to be a bird and all.  Patch was not having it.

Maggie, who is totally indulgent with both her brothers and gives them just about any toy they want, watched as he raced over and, after a pause to see why he was so upset, kept doing her little bird dance.
Disaster averted.
You'd think I would learn, right? 

Group pictures just don't work around here.

I might they might be good for a laugh... but getting a picture to send to Grandma and a copy for Nani to put on the wall here?  Just not happening. 

Because I can dress them up... but... they're still the same kids.

Earlier this week I saw a sign that said "Please pardon the mess the children are making memories." But the "are making memories" part was crossed out and instead it said "feral" and I was like "I NEED THAT SIGN!!! FOR MY HOUSE!!!! I NEED IT!!!" and of course I didn't get it but I will say that the quote popped into my head when we were trying to take these yesterday and no one was cooperating. 

Ah well.  The pictures still make me smile.  Because this is so them. 
For more {phfr} head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On Stepping Away from the Keyboard... Kind of.

When I look back over these last couple of month of blogging, this haven't gone exactly as planned.

I wasn't planning on taking a break from writing here at all.  In fact, I was planning on writing more.  I had all these ideas in my head. And I was finally going to finish that non-existent "About Me" section and update the Who's Who page. 

Things haven't quite worked out the way I was planning though and while I wasn't really planning on writing about this here yet, I've decided to share a little about why I've been absent here so much this summer. 

I've been writing, and reading, and then writing even more. 

I resolved that I was going to read fiction this summer, rather than just read books about how to do this or be that, which is a habit I've fallen into in the last five or so years, when it felt like every thing I did needed to have a purpose that was useful and working towards something, since there were only so many hours in the day. If I managed to squeeze in a few minutes of reading a book about how to be a super awesome wife or amazing homeschooling mom, well doing that felt useful, whereas settling in with one of the books from the complete collection of Alexander Dumas' works that Paul got me felt... lazy. 

There would be time for reading those later, I told myself.  But there never was.

I felt like I should be doing something else right at this moment, like folding laundry, or scrubbing a floor somewhere and oh my goodness, where is Maggie and how did she get into a container of Vaseline? 

Or I should be blogging.  I should definitely be blogging and not settling in to read until I finished that great post I've been brainstorming about 5 Things To Know When Your Child is Diagnosed with...

So reading fiction has been shoved to the back burner, and maybe sometimes it was pushed entirely out of my mind altogether as I started slogging through a book on home organization or how to can peaches, or amazing recipes for my dehydrator. 

Still, on our drive out to California I started this summer by zipping through Kristin Lavransdatter and then began reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

I still wasn't writing yet though.  I might open a word document, but I would end up filling a page with latest blog post. 

Maybe I should go back a little bit and explain my relationship with writing. 

I've been writing pretty much non-stop for as long as I can remember.  I was constantly working on a story since somewhere around second grade.  When I was twelve I typed up a giant novel that filled a huge three ring binder with neatly printed 12 font words.  It was massive.  I could type ten single spaced pages in a day.  My brain was overflowing with words.

The professor in the one elective writing course I took in college praised my work.  The psychologist who did my psych eval for the CIA told me that I needed to be a writer if the CIA didn't work out for me.

And I kept writing. 

I wrote a couple more novels, going over 100,000 words rapidly on the second, and stopping somewhere around 70,000 on the third. 

Then I read them and hated them and shoved them to the back of the closet. 

And then I had Sadie.  And I started blogging. 

I've been blogging since Sadie was around six months olds now.  That's six and a half years.

In that time I've written nearly every day (up until very recently).  I've been fairly disciplined about my blogging, only because that pull to write was still there, and blogging has given me that Pour-My-Thoughts-Out-on-the-Page fix that I obviously need, since I've been doing it for the last 25 years. 

I still wasn't writing fiction though.  And it made me a little sad. 

I thought that all the ideas had dried up.  How was it that I'd ad 32 story lines written out when I was fourteen and I couldn't think of a single one now?  Was my mind just drying up with each passing year?  Where was that creativity? 

Last month I started forcing myself to sit down and write... not to blog... to write fiction. 

At first I was only managing five hundred words a day and it was hard.  It was work.  It wasn't pretty.  But I wanted to push through. 

About a week in I started to remember why I love writing.  After two weeks the ideas started to flow and suddenly I had story lines battling it out in my head, begging to be written. 

So now, every night once the kids are safely tucked into their beds and Maggie's attempts at disappearing into the forest are complete for the day, I sit down in a chair next to James and I write. 

For the last few weeks I've been logging 2000 words a day.  I'm excited about what I'm writing.  I don't know if it will ever see the light of day, but I do know that it makes me feel more like myself and while I want to keep blogging I also know that I need to keep writing. 

I'm hoping that after we go home, as the days develop a rhythm again, I'll get back into posting several times a week.  For now I want to make sure I post at least once a week (and maybe more, depending on when inspiration strikes). 

At the moment though, most of my words are going towards that fourth novel, which I'm hoping will actually be worth reading, unlike the previous three. 

I think that writing every day for the last six and a half years has been incredibly valuable and I'm hoping that before too long I'll have a rough draft to begin going over again.  But even if the end result never sees the light of day, which I honestly hope it does, I've realized that I need to keep writing and not just here on the blog about real life, but privately, in my notebook and on a word document, about all the worlds that I've built up in my mind that I really need to put down on paper.

Friday, July 17, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday: Bats, Graffiti and Running 5 Year Olds


This week, back in Michigan, Paul has been dealing with bat problems.

As in bats inside of our house.  

I didn't understand the magnitude of this at first.

You see growing up in California our cats occasionally brought bats in our house.  And we'd see bats diving for bugs in the backyard.  And my grandparents even had a bat house (like a bird house, but for bats) on a tree outside.

So when Paul told me that a bat got in our house I laughed and asked if he got it out and then was baffled when he said he called an exterminator. "For a little cute bat?" I may have said, picturing something like Stella Luna.

You see. growing up, those bats were teeny tiny.  I knew that there were bats that were larger, but I pictured them swooping down in rain forests in South America, not terrorizing homeowners in a city in Michigan.

And so, after a day of wondering why he didn't just shoo the thing out with a broom I asked exactly how big this thing was and he said about a foot and the picture in my head came crashing down.

Until I decided he was exaggerating.  There was just no way.  Sure bats get that big, but not in the US.  Twelve inches isn't a bat.  It's a small bird of prey.

So I settled in to do a little googling.  And after clicking on one website about the nine species of bats found in Michigan I made it through two entire paragraphs before I mostly had to stop reading because oh how wrong I was.

There were far too many bats over a foot across on that page and one that grows to fifteen inches.  I still shudder to think about it.

But not as much as I shuddered when Paul called and informed me that a bat got in the next night too.

The exterminator has now been out three times and they're working on bat proofing our house.

Because wow.

I do not want to see Maggie taking down a fifteen inch bat in our living room.


James needs to stop growing so fast.  

Today I had to drive into "the City" to get him a few new outfits because he's outgrown everything I brought with us.  

I knew we were coming out to California for two months.  He had been in six month clothes before we left and he'd just outgrown them and I'd pulled out all the nine-month clothes and packed the smaller clothes away.  

So I packed an assortment of nine month clothes and he outgrew him a couple weeks ago but I kept squeezing him into them and I got on twelve month outfit, but that looked too small by the second time he wore it and so today I purchased a few eighteen month outfits and look:

It's a tiny bit long in the arms and an even tinier bit too long in the legs, but it's perfect for him to wear right now.  And hopefully it that "tiny bit too long" will give him a little time to grow and last at least until we get back to Michigan (and hopefully longer).


I'm pretty sure it's because he's determined to keep up with his big brother in just about every way.  They're pretty inseparable these days:

I'm really liking the not-quite-two-years-apart age gap for these two.


The girls have both been running a lot, which I'm totally encouraging.

The first time we took them out on the track Maggie ran three quarters of a mile before calling it a day.  

I think I need to find an easily accessible (fenced) track near our house when we get back to Michigan.


Patch still can't say his r's.  Or his g's.  So perhaps this hat that James loves was a poor choice.  

But with his fair complexion he really needed a hat.  And he looked so cute in it.  And the kids are a little frog crazy since they've been catching frogs on the porch all summer.  


So on the night of the first bat incident, Paul walked out of the house to go to the store and what did he see?


I mean, our car has been hit and had quite a bit of damage in parking lots since we've moved to Michigan but this takes the cake.  

We reported it.  And thankfully it washed off with a power washer:

But still. Somehow this is way more upsetting than the two foot dent in the back side panel above the tire, since you know it was intentional.  


Maggie's been determined to get out today.  She's already gotten through two sets of deadbolts twice.  She's stealthily moving furniture around to reach them and she knows how to work them all now.  

Reading the social stories about not going out of the house is doing nothing.  at all.  So it looks like I'll be on my toes today.  All day.  

The other day she hurdled a fence and Patch screamed:  "Maggie running!  Maggie running!" so at least just about everyone around here knows to spring into action when she makes an escape.  

And prayers are greatly appreciated.  Because she's fast.  And if you glance away for even ten seconds she's gone.  

For more Quick Takes head over to This Ain't the Lyceum.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Patch and the Mouse

I may have mentioned during our cross country drive, that Patch has developed an extreme fear of Mickey Mouse.

It happened when we were stopping for the night in Iowa, and we were trying to convince Patch and Maggie to stay in their beds, when they really just wanted to bounce off the walls even though it was way past bedtime.

The TV came on and there was a close up of Mickey Mouse saying hello and suddenly Patch ran from the room screaming.  He hid by the sink saying "mouse, mouse" and had to be coaxed to come back out (with the TV off).

I wasn't thrilled with his sudden fear of "the Mouse" mostly because I packed a modest amount of clothing for each child, and because of a super sale at a children's store a while back, and because Patch loved Mickey Mouse up until that moment (he fondly called him "Guy" before the incident in which he became "Mouse!"), roughly half of the shirts I'd brought for him had Mickey Mouse on them.

Over the last month, almost any time he's seen even a shadow of mouse ears (except on the shirts, which are thankfully somehow okay), he's turned and run from the room.

However in the last few days the Mouse phobia has taken a turn.  Patch has started bringing me anything that he might imagine is a phone and putting it in my hand.  Then he pushes it up to my ear and says "Mouse."

The following conversation, which he wants repeated exactly, has occurred dozens and dozens of times (I wish that was an exaggeration):

Patch: "Mouse."
Me:  "Hi Mouse.  It's Mommy.  You can't come to our house today.  At all.  Do you hear me Mouse?  You aren't allowed to come over."
Patch:  "Mouse.  Bye."
Me:  "Bye Mouse."
Patch:  "Daddy."
Me: "Hi Daddy, it me.  How are-"
Patch:  "Mouse."
Me:  "Um, Daddy I was calling to tell you that-"
Patch:  "Daddy.  Mouse.  Guy."
Me:  "I was calling to tell you that I told Mouse he can't come to our house even on the TV."
Patch:  "Bye."
Me:  "Okay, bye Daddy."

And then he smiles contently and laughs to himself and goes back to whatever he's doing.

Until tonight when he brought me my phone and demanded to see Mickey Mouse on it and then proceeded to sit down and watch an old episode of Mickey Mouse (the Three Muskateers one) on my phone.  I finally had to steal back my phone and insist that it was actually bedtime, since he very much seemed to be planning on watching the entire thing.

And now I'm hoping that this means that if he sees a picture of Mickey Mouse somewhere when we're out and about, he doesn't totally freak out...  because you never realize how often you see depictions of Mickey Mouse until you have a child who is terrified of him.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Popsicles, Tutus and Very Important Words

Today Maggie took my hand and led me into the kitchen.  She looked at me and signed "please," while saying the word in her sweet little voice and then said "tummy," which is her way of saying hungry. 

"What is it that you want?"  I asked.

"I want ah-eh-ell."  She said and pulled me over to the refrigerator, excitement clear on her face. 

This week she's said "I want bread.  More bread please." and "I want pizza.  More pizza please." but I had no idea what I want ah-eh-ell was supposed to mean. 

Finally I pulled open the refrigerator door and asked her to show me what she was talking about.  She grabbed my hand and took it and put it on the handle to the freezer and then waited patiently while I opened it. 

Once the door swung open she grabbed my hand again and pulled it down to the bottom of the freezer where the popsicles stay.  "Ah-eh-ell!  Ah-eh-ell!" was "Popsicle!  Popsicle!" 

A few moments later she was outside with Sadie and Patch enjoying their popsicles in the hot summer sun. 

Slowly but surely the words have begun to arrive in greater numbers, starting just before her fifth birthday.  More and more often she can tell me that she's upset because she wants bread or peanut butter or milk instead of water. 

I've also learned that whatever I say I cannot call a skirt a skirt. 

All skirts are tutus. 

All of them. 

She is very into pointing to things, over and over again, and having me label them.  If I get the label right she grins.  If I get the answer wrong she's devastated. 

And the most wrong of the wrong answers is to say skirt instead of tutu when she points to a skirt. 

At least I've figured it out.  And most of the time I can even remember exactly what I'm supposed to say. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Maggie's Big Day

Last night we started singing a little song to Maggie about how she wouldn't be four in the morning, she'd be five.  Her eyes danced and she laughed as we sang, and she even ran over to dance with Patch and Sadie around the kitchen. 
After we went to bed my dad asked if I thought she'd remember it was her birthday first thing in the morning. 
At 5:20 am this morning it was pretty clear that she did:

She raced downstairs and opened her presents:


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 5th Birthday to Maggie

 Five years ago today we met our tiny firecracker, our Fourth of July baby. 

And I know it sounds cliché but I really cannot believe how the last five years have flown by.  I feel like she was three... yesterday.

So here are a few of my favorite pictures of our Maggie Rose.  We are so blessed to have her in our lives:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

{phfr}: A Trip to the Zoo and Ocean

Yesterday we took a two hour drive out to the coast, to get away from the super high temperatures that were expected (it was still above 100 as we were driving back... after 7 pm).  We planned a trip to the local zoo and a walk down to the beach so that James could see the ocean for the first time (and Patch could see the Pacific Ocean for the first time). 

And here are some of my favorite pictures we snapped along the way:


Sadie had a blast in the little splash area at the park:


This little room in the barnyard area was definitely a highlight.  There was a statue of a goat that you could pretend to milk, a horse to ride and a tractor to sit on:

Then the girls pretended to be spiders on a giant web (which was right up Maggie's alley):

And then it was on to the petting zoo, which was, without a doubt, the highlight of the trip:

Maggie was shy standing next to the sheep until she saw Sadie pet her.  And then Grumpa had to stop her from trying to climb on for a ride:

The under water tunnel was another wonderful moment.  I think Mae would have stayed there for ever if she'd had the chance.


I thought that this series of pictures was hilarious.  James obviously felt like such a big boy, sitting in the stroller.  I kept having to push him back, because he kept leaning forward to look at the wheels and getting stuck, but otherwise it was going really well.

When we got inside the zoo he decided he wanted to hold Patch's hand.  Patch let him... but apparently when he saw me snapping pictures he had to give me a grumpy frown:


After a couple stops at stores it was time for a trip to the beach.

I'll admit, I was a little nervous.  I knew Maggie would want to go in.  We were only going to get our feet wet, but we put a life jacket on her just in case, since she's so strong and so determined.

I was also nervous because I don't really trust the beaches on this part of the coast, with their treacherous undertows and sleeper waves (so I knew we'd all have to be super vigilant).

Still after researching family friendly beaches we headed to one that's known for having less of an undertow.  And when we got there Maggie was super excited.  She raced towards the water with Nani and Sadie, while Patch made his way down to the water more slowly with Grumpa:

It was a workout keeping Maggie from throwing herself into the waves.

Patch was content to stop where the sand was wet, far beyond where the waves were reaching at that moment:

Maggie plunged into the ankle deep water without pausing to take of her tights, which is notable because normally she is meticulous about keeping her tights dry and screams if they get a drop of water on them.  She spent a lot of time trying to go all the way in.

Once I was thoroughly exhausted we headed back to the car... which brought on a meltdown of epic proportions that I'd like never to repeat again.  Let's just say that the hundred plus yards to the car couldn't have possibly felt any longer than it was with a mermaid determined to get back to the ocean to swim away.

Once we got to the car things calmed down and we made our way home after twelve hours of fun.  And today our mermaid is back in her pool.

For more {phfr} head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter.