Monday, January 31, 2011

Where is my mind?

Overall I consider myself thoughtful and aware of my surroundings. I notice things, dangers for the girls, or potentially hazardous situations. For example, as my girls race of down the sidewalk I constantly yell "watch for cars pulling out of driveways!"

Once in a while, however, it's like my brain shuts off and I do seriously reckless things as if I'm existing in a fog. Twice recently I've almost pulled out in front of cars in broad daylight, scaring the other driver half to death and needing to slam on my own brakes to keep from hitting the other car.

Today as Eloise and I were trying to cross a semi-busy two-lane road I watched carefully for cars coming from our right (I remember clearly seeing a teal car further down the road giving us enough time to cross if we hurried), but apparently not from the left. I grabbed Eloise's hand and took off in to the road and at that moment a motorcycle came so close to hitting us that I touched it with my left hand. The driver stopped and yelled at me-- I certainly deserved it, he thought he was going to hit a mother and her daughter. I probably took a few years off of his life.

I looked at him and simply said "sorry" and kept going. I couldn't believe what I had done and was in shock.

When things like that happen I stop and think, what is going on with me? Where is my head? How in the world would I have tried to pull out/cross that street without even looking? Or maybe it's possible I did look, but didn't REALLY look. I'm not sure. I replay it in my head and it's like a blank exists there.

I want to be more mindful, but here's the catch: so much of the time I AM. So how do I be mindful when, well, I'm not? It's scary to me to think I'm one blanked out moment from severely hurting myself, someone else, or my children.

I think some of it might just be from rushing too quickly. I rarely, rarely need to rush. Even today when we were rushing across the street it was to get to the bus stop-- where we sat for close to ten minutes waiting for the bus (better early than late, I say!). Usually as I'm performing a task there is easily three to five other things in my head or other places my attention is.

Now, where to begin . . .

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What a slippery slope

We have been plugging right along on home improvements recently. And by "we" I include our handyman in that, because he does the work and we cut the checks.

Today he painted our dining room a really lovely green shade. It's just perfect. I wouldn't have normally hired help to paint (I can do SOME things myself!) but the painting included getting to the upper corners of the walls with a stairwell to the basement underneath them. Yeah, I'll pay someone to get up on THAT ladder.

But you know what happens when you start sprucing things up? It makes everything else look that much more gross. Where does the sprucing up stop? If you paint the baseboards in one room, for instance, you really should paint the whole damn house. And what if the baseboards are icky and cheap and need to be replaced all together? Do you even spend time painting them or do you install new baseboards? And what about the trim around the doors? Or the doors themselves? Now they both look terrible against the beautiful new paint job of the dining room. You know what else looks terrible? Our dining room table. The overall color of the table (underneath the wayward sharpie marks, nail polish stains, worn out paint and gouges) clashes with the walls. But would we get a new table, only to have our children ruin that one, too? Or refinish a table that has a broken chair and is warped in the middle and not our style anyways? Oh, the dilemmas. (oh, and yes, I see the benefit of a table cloth, but that table is command central around here for just about everything, so a table cloth wouldn't really work with the art projects and what-not)

And I want to paint the kitchen walls because they are really dirty, but you know how gross the "white" cupboards would look then? At least right now the cupboards and the walls are the same level of filth. Do I spend time repainting cupboard doors that are tacky and cheap or get new cupboards? And if we get new cupboards, well, we should really replace the ridiculous counter tops (slate tiles that are impossible to clean that have cheap unfinished trim tacked up around the edges). Well, if we're painting the walls, replacing the cupboards and counter tops, then we should get a nicer sink with a faucet that doesn't leak. Oh! And we really need a pantry to contain the clutter mounded on every surface so that the work we put in to painting and replacing everything but the appliances can actually be enjoyed. Yes, we actually have half way decent appliances. Thank god for that.

You see where I'm going with this.

So my question to you is, where does it stop? At what point does the beautiful new spiffed up parts of the house intermingle peacefully with the gross, old, stained, chipped, sad parts? I really wish I knew.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So dang difficult

I am in serious over-drive on the stress from figuring out schooling options for the girls for next year. It is SO HARD to know what the right thing to do is and there are so many choices with varying degrees of pros and cons for each of them.

This year both girls are in private school. It's an amazing school, both girls are in amazing programs and we mostly love it. Well, we love everything but that gosh darn tuition bill that keeps sneaking up every month. We KNOW it's money well spent and that the girls are getting a great early education experience, but you know, still. I have other issues/praises over this school, but honestly when it gets right down the very basics, it always comes back to the money.

So the first choice is continuing on in private school next year.

The next choice is public school. I have my issues, in general, with the idea of public school. I don't have any SPECIFIC issues with any public schools. At one point Iris was all enrolled and ready to go to public school, until we up and moved clear to the other end of the city. There is an alternative elementary school very near our house that I have heard great things about, but I've never so much as stepped foot inside of it. I need to go on a tour. Again, a whole host of pros/cons that are all very different from those associated with private school.

The third choice is homeschooling. I am 99% sure Iris(my six year old) will be home schooled next year, however there is a constant nagging voice that says "what if I screw her up royally?!?!" in the back of my head. Maybe formal schooling is the best choice for her?

I won't be homeschooling Eloise (my four year old) as well, however. Eloise will either attend 1/2 day public school or full day (4 days per week) private school. Eloise and Iris are very, very different kids personality wise. At least this coming school year, I want to spend more one-on-one time with Iris at home before adding Eloise's frantic energy in to the mix 24/7.

Of course, homeschooling. Yet another list of pros and cons.

I'm terrified I'm going to make the wrong choice for one or both of them. We are fortunate enough to have a whole plethora of choices available to us, but it's crippling me with doubt. I'm sitting at my desk looking over public and private school forms. Knowing I can send them in and still withdraw the girls later if need be. At some point I WILL have to decide, though. I keep telling myself "it's just one year, we can change again the following year if we need to" but I also don't want to put anyone on the roller coaster of school changes if we don't have to.

Here I thought that hardest schooling decision I would ever have to make was sending my first kid to Kindergarten. The rest would be easy after that. Um, no such luck.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011 reading goal

I know it's not too far in to the new year, but I've kicking all kinds of booty on my goal of reading 50 books in 2011. I've already finished seven books and am in the middle of two more.

I read somewhere recently about the average number of books Americans read in a year. Pretty sure that number was seven. Interesting, no? Before I became a writer I very rarely read, and if I did it was purely non-fiction. Starting my novel made me acutely aware that in order to be any sort of writer, I'd have to "turn in to" a reader. And turn in to a reader I have.

When I first started reading again I stuck to the same genre that I was writing in-- young adult. Young adult fiction is so much fun to read and I've had a blast over the past over almost year absorbing myself in it, but I wanted to branch out a little bit over the past few weeks.

This year I've read everything from my usual fluffy teen novel to an amazing autobiography to an adult fiction best-seller to, inexplicably, two novels about kidnapped women who gave birth in captivity (I swear I knew nothing about either of these books before I started them! But they were both good).

I've also jumped in to the wee bit scary territory of audio books. While perusing an agent's blog this week I discovered audible.com and decided to give it a try. It's a monthly service depending on what level you purchase, you get a certain amount of audio books every month. I downloaded the application for my android phone and have begun listening to How to be an American Housewife, mostly while exercising. A year ago you probably couldn't have paid me a million dollars to not only walk outside in crappy Seattle winter weather but to listen to an audio book at the same time-- BUT! Oh wow, it's really fun. How lovely to get lost in a story while walking. I've tried listening at bedtime but I quickly figured out that it's hard to follow the story when you start drifting off to sleep.

Anyways, if you're in to audio books, or just want to try it, check out that link.

If you want to see what I've been reading, check out THIS link!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Family Matters

I have gotten addicted to a new tv show on Netflix. Or I should specify, new *to me*. It's called Brothers and Sisters and it's about a family of five adult children and their mother and the crazy life they lead. Of course, it's tv, so everyone looks perfect and even the craziness is perfectly acted, but still, I love the show.


Last weekend as I laid in bed trying to recover from some random illness that completely knocked me out, I thought about how much I wish I had that family. No, not the perfect good looks or the insane plot twists, but the closeness. On the show this family all lives in LA. They all spend a lot of time with each other, having meals and holidays together, sharing in everything from the most mundane to every holiday to major milestones.


I want that. As my girls grow and become adults, I want us to still be closely intertwined in each other's lives. I don't want to miss a single milestone in my girls', or their children's lives. In my ideal world, we would live near each other. Near enough to enjoy weekly meals, if I could be so lucky.


This idea is all new to me. I didn't, and don't, have a family like this. Don't get me wrong, my family very much loves each other. We aren't estranged by any means, but we're not that close, either. We don't spend many holidays together-- in fact, this Christmas my brother's family, my sister's family, my parents and my own family were all in separate states. Our own states, where we each have made a home for ourselves. We call each other, we send presents, but that's about it. It's lovely, but it's not what I want for me and my own children. I want to be the matriarch of my family, to sit next to the giant Christmas tree and pass out gifts to the heaps of grandchildren my two daughters will no doubt bestow upon the world.


So, this is my wish for my own family. My wish for our future.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Maui? Wowie!

For the first time ever in my entire life I'm going on a real, live honest-to-goodness vacation. Well, not just ME. I should say, WE. We all are going. To Hawaii. To sun, sand and surf. The four of us and my mother, who is coming along as much for her own vacation as she is to lend an extra hand with the girls.

My mom decided that we both need to get ourselves "bikini ready" in time for the trip to Maui, which will be in May. I think she's right. It's a fun goal to get back on the exercise and weight-loss bandwagon that I fell off of a while back. I have decided to dub the trek towards a more svelte bod my "Maui? Wowie!" plan. Pretty snappy, huh?

More walking. More swimming (as soon as I can get new goggles and a new suit to replace my old, worn out ones) and more eating healthy. Nothing too different than what I already do, so hopefully it won't be too difficult to stick with!

I'm half considering trying another cleanse to jump-start things. We'll see. Cleanses are pretty rough, but, well, they work. In the back of my mind I think quite a bit about doing another modified elimination diet while I wait to hear about the results of a soon-to-be-done test for celiacs.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sisters

Iris and Eloise, my six and four year old daughters, always seem to ebb and flow through that dance of, well, sisterhood. Fighting and playing, loving on each other and spitting fire at each other. Lately, though, it feels like they are really getting along remarkably well. I am constantly overhearing their elaborate imaginative play worlds that they have concocted. One of my favorite things to overhear is when one will tell the other what to say next, something like "say "wow, that dress looks nice on her!" and then the other will say it, word for word. The girls will do this equally throughout play. First one then the other dictating how things will go.


The pictures in this post, while adorable, have little to do with the text.



I especially love watching them play with their dolls, namely their Polly Pockets. They set up little scenarios for their Pollys to exist in and will play for hours, if they are able. I can't put my head in the space to play like that these days, but I do remember the days of holding up both ends of doll conversation for countless afternoons as a little girl.


Eloise and Iris with their Great-Grandmother over Christmas break.



I always say, or at least, think to myself, that the best thing I ever did for my girls is give each of them a sister. And it's so true.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Moving right along

It was always my intention to document the transformation of our little first house, from something that pretty much was okay to live in to something that was pretty darned fantastic. Of course, never once did I pick up a camera to get a "before" shot of any of the work. Some of the things we've done (and by "we've done" I mean paid someone to do for us) have been pretty massive--like demolish and rebuild the entire finished basement. Some things have seemed really minor, like hanging drapes or removing crappy lighting fixtures. I will always kick myself.

The basement, which was considered finished when we bought the house, was completely unusable. Within two months of moving in it had been totally gutted, new walls put up, new wiring, all of that jazz. But of course, our crappy ass builders didn't really finish basement ("that wasn't the contract we signed with you!" they insisted) and there was no trim, no flooring, no nothing. Just walls, doors, outlets, windows. Nothing to make it look nice. We finally have started putting the finishing touches on the rooms, however. The trim went up last week as well as the closet organizers. It's looking soooo purdy. There is one little wall I want to demo in the master bedroom and rebuild differently, so after that we'll put the flooring in and the baseboards and be all done! It's cool to watch it come together.

We have an amazing handy man. As my husband and I are really not that handy, have little interest in learning how to be handy, nor have tools with which to exert any handiness, the handy man is like a fifth member of our family. He's been working his ass off for us. Next up is new lighting fixtures in our dining room/open stairwell, a paint job in the dining room and kitchen and putting up some shelves and a hand rail in our stairwell. To be fair, I do know how to paint. I am only hiring him to paint because of the open stairwell and, well, I A) don't own a ladder (did I mention I wasn't handy?) and B) it's pretty freaking high up to paint the top of the walls in the stairwell.

So, there is all of that. And then last spring we did the deck. And added garden beds to the side yard and other relatively minor yard improvements. There is still a great deal more on the list, like pour an actual driveway instead of continuing to use it as a mud pit, remove one of our plum trees, re-do the bathroom, put new cupboards in the kitchen and add a pantry. Oh, you know, my ideal wish list would add a second story to our house, a second bathroom . . . but if I'm being honest, those things won't happen. We will buy our second house before the girls are old enough to start fighting over our single bathroom.

I had serious, practically crippling buyer's remorse when we moved in to this house. Some days I definitely still lament our hasty purchase, but these days it's more about it draining our finances and not as much about the house itself. I'm learning to like this house. It's taken me a long time, but I am finally getting there. As luck will likely have it, we'll be ready to move just as soon as all of the improvements are done!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Resolutions?

2010 was a good year. No-- a GREAT year. A really great year. So onward and upward to 2011!

I try to make reasonable resolutions many years. Of course, now that I'm writing this post, I can't remember too many of them from years past!

This year? At first I thought I should I should finish my novel. Then I thought about all of the reasons it's took a bit of a backseat to everything else lately . . . and realized I should fix all of that first.

Then! I thought I should make the goal to read a certain amount of books this year. If I'm not writing furiously, I should be reading furiously. So how many books is a decent goal? How about 50? That's about four per month.

My first book of the year I'll list as Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I started it in 2010, but finished it in 2011, so I'll call that good. I gave it 4/5. A bit long, but Franzen is a great writer, so it was mostly quite interesting. And a happy ending, to boot!

If you want to follow what I'm reading, feel free to check out my Goodreads site, and heck, while you're there, add me as a friend!