Family Fridays: “What I Really Want For Christmas is…”

stock-photo-close-up-of-fresh-slices-of-red-watermelon-112684349   When you think you have them all figured out, kids can up and surprise you sometimes. Take Christmas. One of my favorite Christmas specials is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I love the Charlie Brown tree, especially when Charlie Brown says, “Aargh, I’ve killed it.” I love the kids dancing, especially the twins (this year Cupcake and Chunk danced like the twins in the video and I cracked up). The whole special is well, pretty special, the way it blends awareness of the commercial aspect of the holiday with the resonating delivery of the religious aspect of it as well.

As a mother, I always start worrying in October what my kids’ lists are going to resemble. Will it look more like our weekly grocery list with item after item after item? Will it be full of unrealistic expectations like a fleet of real airplanes and a yacht?

This year, I’ve received Christmas lists from three of my four children. Kath has asked for a WebKinz and a few surprises. Cupcake has the longest list, but it’s pretty reasonable. Haven’t received MJ’s list yet. Chunk is the one who was the inspiration for this post. Along with a dump truck and some chalk, he wants a watermelon and donuts from Santa. Especially the watermelon.

Chunk told me that he’s willing to share the watermelon. He gets the first piece. I get the second. His twin Cupcake gets the third piece. MJ, his brother, gets the fourth piece. His Daddy gets the fifth piece while his oldest sister Kath gets the sixth piece.

Chunk’s reminded me that sometimes the simplest things that we can share are the most special. It’s time together with the family this year that means so much. It’s sharing special gifts with those we love that can bring the best memories, ones we talk about years later.

When I was in eighth grade, my family didn’t have much money, but I wanted a record player stereo more than anything. I knew we didn’t have the money for it, but I dreamed of hours of listening to music on it. Early Christmas morning, my mom walked me into my grandfather’s bedroom and sitting there was the record player stereo. She worked overtime to make it happen. That memory returned to me as my kids surprised me by not asking for super expensive items. It turns out I was the one who expected and received something expensive and I projected myself onto my kids.

Christmas morning hasn’t come and gone yet so I don’t know if Santa will bring Chunk his watermelon yet, but I do have a feeling I’ll be eating watermelon on Christmas Day and loving it.

What’s the most unusual thing your child wants this Christmas? Let me know if it brings as much laughter to you as Chunk’s request for a watermelon.


“What am I reading” Wednesdays: Christie Ridgway’s Beach House Beginnings

ImageImageA couple of years ago, I remember saying that I would never want to read a book that wasn’t printed on paper. I was fiercely defiant in my determination not to purchase an e-reader. Why would I ever want an e-reader? I love books. I love the smell of the paper wafting toward my nose as I turn the pages one by one. I love the feel of flipping pages and the paper under my fingers. Then Amazon tempted me with an offer: I could access one free book a month. At the same time, my local library began e-checkouts with the book automatically returned at the end of the checkout resulting in no more late fines. I broke down and purchased an e-reader. To my surprise, I liked it. Consult Mikey from the gone-but-not-totally-forgotten Life breakfast cereal commercials. “She likes it.”

So now I’m always reading one printed book (because I still love reading an actual paper copy of a book) and one e-reader book (because I like my e-reader as well). Last week I shared that I was reading Jennifer McQuiston’s What Happens in Scotland. I’m still reading that. It’s the type of book that becomes more engrossing the more you read it. After I finish writing this blog and some online Christmas shopping, I’m going to read even more of it.

But I’m also reading Beach House Beginnings (Beach House No. 9) by Christie Ridgway. Ms. Ridgway was awesome enough to teach an online course last summer which was the first online course in which I ever participated. She was absolutely fabulous sharing her knowledge of the subject so I rushed out and bought this novella (which I am finally reading six months later).

One advantage of a printed version of a book is that you can flip to the back before you start reading it and refresh yourself about the plot of the book. With my Kindle, I often start a book without flipping to the back cover first.

One advantage of an e-reader is that you can take it anywhere. I was reading Beach House Beginnings while waiting for MJ’s choral performance to start. Parents were required to drop their children off at 5:45 and not leave until after the performance which didn’t start until a little after 7:15. There I was sitting in an elementary school cafeteria, really becoming enraptured in the romance novel when I noticed that the man behind me was looking a little too closely over my shoulder. I guess he was enjoying the book as well.

Beach House Beginnings revolves around Meg, a 29 year old heroine, who is returning to her family’s business of running beach houses to confront her demons over the loss of her first love who died while drowning. Peter’s cousin Caleb is staying in one of her family’s beach houses. (I hope I’m not giving any spoilers, I’m still pretty early in the book). So far, it’s been a fun read, easy to squeeze in while waiting for MJ and chauffeuring the rest of my brood around.

So I’ll continue to read one book on my Kindle while reading a paper copy of a book as well. What about you? Do you have a preference about an e-reader or a paper book? Do you read in both formats? If so, do you read one book at a time or one book on each format at a time?

Writing Tuesday: Write-at-home mom

Writing. It’s a job that can consume many of your waking thoughts as you sift through characters, research questions, plotting, and editing in the confines of your mind. For some writers, it’s a job that fortunately has yielded monetary renumeration. For others of us, we’re still waiting for the call that our book will be published (for those writers going the traditional publishing route). 

I’m in the latter category. I wrote my first book five years ago, then took a maternity leave when I found out I was pregnant with twins. My joke is that my maternity leave ended in August of 2012 when I returned to writing, making a serious effort to learn this amazing craft, more intricate than I ever imagined. I’ve joined a national group, dedicated to helping writers of my genre. I’ve joined a local group, also dedicated to helping writers learn their craft and ways to either go through the traditional publishing route or the self-publication indie route. I’ve written, rewritten and edited one complete manuscript and am now almost finished with my second. I’m trying to learn more about ways to improve my writing: tighter pacing, no head hopping, deeper POV, stronger GMCs. 

So far I haven’t earned a penny, but I’m loving every minute (well, almost every minute-it hurt to cut my best line out of my first book because the whole conversation and scene was deleted). So why this post, you might ask. You have a clear goal: to become a better writer who hopes to one day become published. You have a clear motivation: to get your book published. That leaves my conflict. With my oldest two kids, I was your typical stay-at-home mom. I went to every class outing possible, I kept the house clutter at a relative minimum and we spent weekends together as a family, especially if my wonderful hubby wasn’t at work. When Cupcake and Chunk entered dayschool, I made the decision that my maternity leave was over. Writing wasn’t something I could ignore. It’s an integral part of me that needs to be expressed. I love writing and it’s part of me. But that realization came at a price. I’m no longer able to go to every class outing. I’m telling people no, people who don’t always understand that since I’ve never received a paycheck for this that I need to commit time to this. I’m going to libraries on weekends to write because trying to write at my house is like pulling teeth with each of my four kids barging into my room/office to discuss a pressingly urgent topic (like the injustice of one of their siblings getting the last cookie when they wanted it). My oldest two had mommy at home for their first years. Cupcake and Chunk hug Mommy goodbye before she goes off to write. 

I’m hoping they all understand someday that I didn’t go out and party, but that I’m taking this write-at-home job of mine seriously and that I’m giving it my all. 

So what about you? If you’re a mom, do you work at an office or are you a stay-at-home mom? If you write, how do you balance writing with your personal life? I’d love to hear from you.

Wacky Weekend: It’s a Wonderful Life

beautiful_christmas_tree_3_hd_pictures_170699Growing up, I always imagined of the elegant Christmas tree that would stand majestically in my living room. It would have matching ornaments and maybe red bows. The real and not artificial tree would create a lovely ambience, down to the wonderful pine smell that would enhance my sophisticated living room.

Fast forward to my life now. My family, all six of us, decorated our Christmas tree this week. Taking four children to pick out a Christmas tree is a tradition with us, but one that might be wearing on their nerves. They wanted the first tree that we held upright. Wonderful hubby and I made them look at four before we all agreed on one. We brought it home and decorated it that night. Before I married my wonderful hubby, I worried about how I would ever have enough decorations to fill a tree. Now we have two boxes full of decorations either made by one of the four children or purchased on our summer trips. To say our tree is eclectic is an understatement. There’s an ornament with Santa in a bathing suit (that got the biggest chuckle from Cupcake when she saw it) next to ornaments handed down from my husband’s great aunt. There  are handprint pillows next to Scooby-Doo ornaments. 

It’s a long way from the elegant tree I envisioned I would have. I think of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life when he gets a chance to see what his life had been like if he’d never been born. Instead I think about my life if I’d never met my wonderful hubby. I’ll take the eclectic tree with the myriad of mismatched ornaments, each with a memory behind it, rather than the imagined elegant tree of my youth. He’s worth it.

How is your life different from how you envisioned it as a teenager? I hope that you’re like me and real life is a whole lot better.

Family Friday: Wide Age Gap Kids

1336055815v0RGG0In my neck of the woods, there is a farm less than two miles down the road that offers u-pick blueberries and u-pick pumpkins. In late spring, there are u-pick strawberry farms relatively nearby. In the fall, several orchards feature u-pick apple days.

This year all six of us went blueberry picking. That’s right: six of us. You’d be surprised at how many looks I get when I tell people I have four children. I get the “what a big family” look, the “you’re ruining the environment” look, the “Oh, poor you” look and so on. That’s nothing compared to the looks that I get when I tell people I have twins. In addition to looks, I hear so many comments: “Lucky it’s you and not me,” “I’d never have the patience to handle twins,” “My cousin’s best friend’s veterinarian’s second cousin twice removed has twins.”

My wonderful hubby gets a lot of looks when he tells people the ages of our four children. Kath is 15. MJ is 10. Cupcake and Chunk are 4. Most people ask him if he’s divorced and has started a second family with his second wife (kid you not, real story).

Sometimes it’s hard to find places to take all of our kids for a day of family enjoyment away from the house. Blueberry picking is a fun activity that all ages can enjoy. Recently we went to Tennessee to visit Dollywood. We were rained out. I took Kath, Cupcake and Chunk to a nearby children’s museum while my wonderful hubby took MJ to a science museum as he’s outgrown most of the activities at the children’s museum (Kath was stuck in a quandary but chose the children’s museum over the science museum).

The important thing is that each of them feels loved and part of the family. They may not get to choose what family they have, but they have unique personalities that bring something different to the table.

If you have children, do you have one or more than one? How close in age are they? What have been your favorite looks from strangers regarding your family?

“What are you reading” Wednesdays

ImageI’ll let you in on a not-so-big secret: I love books. There are books in practically every room of my house. Even the bathrooms in my house have some type of reading material. While I’m not a hoarder, there are books in my bedroom, books in my basement and books in my foyer. This is a house where there are bookshelves in most of the rooms. 

From the time they were little, I’ve tried to read to each of my four kids. When my eldest was an only child, we would go to the library. There were times we were there for hours as I read the stack she collected before we took them home to read them again. When MJ was little and Kath was in school, we’d go to the library and he would pick out one book which I would have to read over and over again. Now MJ and Kath are in school and there are two new little ones: Cupcake and Chunk who are now four. I love reading them the same books that I read Kath and MJ. I still love Hairy MacLary from Donaldson’s Dairy, Henry and Mudge, Dr. Seuss, Poppleton, and way more. 

Even though I love to read to them, I also love stealing away with a book of my own to read. This afternoon, I found some time to pick up the book I’m reading now: What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston. I’m around page one hundred and it’s starting to get really good. I especially love reading about Patrick’s three legged dog, Gemmy. It’s the story of a man and woman who wake up one morning to find they are married to each other, but neither can remember all of the events that led up to their marriage the night before. Now the heroine has run out of the room while the hero believes she stole all of his money. I’m enjoying it and looking forward to reading more of it when the kids are asleep and I’m not writing. I absolutely recommend it (even though I’m not even a third of the way done with it).

What book are you reading right now? 

P.S. Stay tuned to my blog as I talk about different things on different days. Mondays are devoted to something about writing, Wednesdays to what I’m reading or watching, Fridays to family and weekends are a mixed bag of all of the above.

Writing Monday: Favorite Places to Write

ImageOne of my favorite TV shows of all time is Ellery Queen. This one season show aired in the mid-1970s and centered around a mystery writer who solved mysteries. (Yes, this preceded Murder, She Wrote.) Last night I was watching one of the episodes on my laptop that featured Ellery working furiously to finish a book before a deadline. He only had a couple of days to finish forty pages and he had hurt his finger which was wrapped up and unable to be used to write or type. (One other aside: the show is set in 1947 before word processors and computers.) With a busted finger, he hired a secretary, one Miss Margie Coopersmith with a “C,” to write down his dictation. At eleven thirty at night, Miss Coopersmith asked Ellery if he would like to continue writing at the automat. Ellery looked at her as if she were crazy. “Writing? At the automat? It’s too noisy.” He told her he wouldn’t be able to get any work done in the noisy confines of the automat, instead preferring the interior confines of his New York City apartment.

This morning I was writing at Panera Bread since my two youngest are still at home with me and my husband didn’t have to go to leave for work until noon. Being a write-at-home mom is great because I set my own hours and work as often as I can. One problem, however, is that my children think my office, which is in my bedroom, has a rotating door which can be opened whenever they want. As a result, I tend to write elsewhere if they are at home: libraries, restaurants, anywhere where I can sit and write in relative peace and quiet.

The good thing about writing at someplace other than my house is that it gives me a couple of minutes beforehand to think about my writing for the day: where I’m at in my outline, dialogue, setting, POV, and so on. The bad thing is that it eats up time as I travel to different places. 

The important thing is that I’m trying to work on consistency: writing almost every day, writing deliberately and writing for the character’s story to get onto the written page.

Where do you like to write?