Saturday, November 28, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods They Go

We succeeded in finishing a puzzle over Thanksgiving weekend. Instead of choosing a 1000 piece one (sure to be demolished before completed), I selected a 250 piece one and MS helped. It was a lot of fun.

MS and YS left this afternoon for a two day visit with Grandma. Initially, this idea was a buffer in case I didn't make it to 50K words on my NaNoWriMo project. I thought they should postpone the trip, since Grandpa is in the hospital recovering from yet another surgery. But, Grandma said she was desperate to see them. So they packed up YS's new (garage sale find) Thomas luggage and headed to Grandma's house with Daddy.

Hopefully, I will get the house whipped into shape and decorated for the holidays while they are gone. They both wanted to help me put up the tree and decorations. I think I will do better without their endless, frantic energy!

I think the dog has been missing the little boys. After they had left, ES and I noticed that it was very quiet (of course, this is typical once MS and YS leave). ES asked where Harley was. We found him lying by the door to the garage, with his head propped up on the step. He hadn't moved since they walked out that door and left. He looked so sad and bereft. Those boys certainly do adore him, even if they drive me crazy by pestering him.

Friday, November 27, 2009

When Good Bibs Go Bad!

This is an old picture. I found it when we were searching through our flashdrives for pictures to put on MS's Shining Star collage for school.

When an "r" fades into an "l" it can be a bad thing!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feeling Like a Winner!

What a thrill to hit 50,074 words and see the fireworks and winner banner come up on my NaNoWriMo account! What a feeling! Of course, I have not yet reached the denouement (oh, I hear my freshman teacher rolling that word off her tongue - day-new-m-wah!) of my novel. The action is speeding to that point and I will continue to write. But, I'm very thankful to be able to take Thanksgiving off.

I'm not writing a single word tomorrow! I'm eating turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and pumpkin pie. I'm going to see if the 2 year old will allow me to resurrect our old tradition of doing a puzzle over Thanksgiving weekend (if he will keep his hands off the puzzle pieces).

Thanks to all those supporters out there who were cheering me on! It was amazing how motivating it was to leave behind the inner editor and merely focus on writing to get it all down. There was such freedom and excitement in the process. I never stopped to worry about how something would pan out because I reminded myself that I could always change it when I'm done with the first draft and rehash the whole thing. The deadline did wonders for me and really kept me writing when I might have just gone to bed and valued my sleep more than the words.

Now, I can't wait to finish the rough draft, polish it and send it out. What a wonderful feeling it will be if one day I can offer a copy as a give-away on my blog! I'm just one more step closer to that possibility! Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Review: The Aurora County All-Stars

I have always been a committed correspondent. I love to write letters - especially ones on paper with gel-tipped pens. As a teen, I was known to send out 25 page missives from time to time. I have fantastic memories of the blessings reaped because those friends were willing to correspond with me, willing to pick my brain and then have their brains picked back, so to speak.

Several years ago, I had a clear insight that the best way for me to break into the task of novel writing (since I had already started two or three novels, but couldn't seem to finish them for the life of me), was to follow a format which utilizes letters within the novel. For my research, I began to seek out as many books like that as possible. This is how I came to love the enchanting books of the Klise sisters and also how I found Deborah Wiles.

My first Deborah Wiles book was Love, Ruby Lavender. Oh, how I loved Ruby Lavender! It was a dear, sweet book and I couldn't wait for some opportunity to share it with a classroom full of students during read-aloud time. Alas, I don't think that opportunity ever availed itself.

Then, shortly after my youngest son was born, I listened to Each Little Bird That Sings, during our daily (and lengthy) feeding schedule. Once again, I was mesmerized by Wiles' ability to people a town with interesting characters and life-changing events. I can still remember the emotions being tugged by the words of that novel. The moment I finished it, I had to jot a quick note to teacher-friends, alerting them of another outstanding read-aloud book, especially for students encountering a death in the family.

Now, I have finished this third book (all of which are set in Aurora County, Mississippi) and am subconsciously sending impulsive mental messages to my two younger sons: grow more quickly because I want to read this book aloud to someone! Please!

Although I am not a huge baseball fan, this book was a delight to read. I loved the references to Walt Whitman's poetry, the tender portrayal of a boy missing his deceased mama, the pairing of an elderly man with a young boy (how I wish I could force my eldest son to read to an elderly gentleman like Mr. Norwood Rhinehart Beauregard Boyd!), the inclusion of Ruby and Comfort (characters from the previous books), and the particular voice this author always seems to nail.

In the acknowledgements, I learned that this novel came about as a result of an invitation to write a serial novel. Deborah Wiles studied the Victorian serial novel and patterned the story using those elements. Being a devoted Dickens fan earlier in my life, I can appreciate this! But, I appreciate it all the more because I am in the process of writing my own novel right now. I read with a mindful ear, listening for the cliff-hanger chapter endings and noticing the oaths of secrecy, moral dilemmas and matters of identity. It was no accident that I read this novel while working on my own. It was ... a necessity.

These are excellent stories for kids ages 8 and up. The characters are compelling and they grapple with serious issues. Moreover, the books incorporate great life lessons. In fact, to this day, I use a phrase from Each Little Bird That Sings, whenever my children request something. I often reply with, "I live to serve." Of course, sometimes a hint of sarcasm can be detected, but it is a great life lesson nonetheless! You may also want to visit the website for Deborah Wiles, where you can link to her blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Lord's Prayer, with a little extra

Only a boy could manage to add a burp while saying the Lord's prayer. Still, it was exciting to see MS's enthusiasm as he explained that he had learned a new prayer at school.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Strange Things in the Neighborhood: Part II

Any ideas what this is? ES and I thought it was a catapult. When we pointed it out to hubby, it didn't have the stone blocks on it and he thought it was supposed to be a teeter-totter of some sort. What's your guess?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why I'm Glad I'm Not a Mouse Mama

Yesterday, around 5 or 5:30 in the evening, our Mrs. Mouse went into labor again. It is a fascinating process watching her pull the babies out and then meticulously clean them and eat the afterbirth (this already makes me repulsed).

Then, last night, as I was trying to concentrate on writing my daily 2000 words for my novel, I was continually interrupted by the squeaks and squeals of the Mama Mouse. No she wasn't birthing any more (she had another 10 - thankfully, we had taken 5 of the previous babies back to the pet shop, to become snake food, on Saturday night). She was adamantly trying to fend off Mr. Mouse, who wouldn't let up on her and pursued her relentlessly for about an hour and a half. Methinks we will be watching this process again and again. That is, until we get rid of Mr. Mouse (my suggestion after the first brood, but I think hubby wants to let him stay until after the new year).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kudos to this Exemplary Teacher

This teacher, Mr. Stroup, profiled in an AOL article deserves special kudos. What an outstanding teacher! What a kind soul to take such an enduring and intimate interest in his students.

One of my favorite things about my job back at Littlejohn Elementary in DeKalb, IL, was the opportunity to write to some of the students I encountered during my days. They had a wonderful program called Wee Deliver and I enjoyed sending and receiving letters. I recently found a letter in my photos/memorabilia box downstairs. It was from my son and sent with Wee Deliver during his second grade year. It was spare and perfunctory. Next, I opened the next letter and it all came back to me. He never wrote back when I sent him a letter, so I finally bribed him. I offered him a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese's if he would write back. Hee-hee.

When I moved away from DeKalb, I continued to keep in contact with a few students. I sent a birthday card to J., the student I had served for three years as an aide, for a few years. Then, when she reached her teen years, I thought she probably didn't want to receive a card from me. I skipped her 13th birthday. This past year, I was in DeKalb and stopped by to see her. She actually mentioned the birthday cards and wondered why I hadn't sent one last year. I will try to resume that practice.

I am presently in a 6-week Bible study, using Dr. Leslie Parrott's book, You Matter More Than You Think. Her goal is to remind us of our areas of passion and to encourage us to continue to make a difference in the lives around us.

I want to say a special thank you to Mr. Stroup (who just happens to be from my present neck of the woods), for reminding me of the little ways we make a difference in the lives around us.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Halfway There and Full Steam Ahead

I don't know if many of you have been watching my stats cited above the NaNoWriMo widget on the left. I try to update it every night.

I am thrilled to report that last night, I made it halfway to my goal of writing 50 thousand words of my novel. This whole process has been such a rush for me. Despite nights where I feel like going to bed early, instead of attempting to flesh out another 2,000 words, I have been really energized by the NaNoWriMo method of novel writing.

I show up every night and watch my brain unfold more pieces of the puzzle. Since I am writing a mystery, I was aware of certain elements from the beginning (elements I haven't shared with anyone, because I can't wait for everyone to be able to read it for themselves, unspoiled). What has blown me away is how often I sit down to write, unsure what I should do with a passage of time or a nagging plot problem and then the muse billows down into my ear and I think, "Wow, that is perfect. This will add even more suspense!"

There is something magical in pushing yourself to keep up with the pack (especially, Cardiogirl, who is already at 39K!), to abandon your inner editor, to reach for more words and worry less about pieces which can be trimmed or cut or recrafted later in the game. I think I'm going to be sad when November comes to an end. Sad, and very tired! But then, I'm tired all the time anyway. In the meantime, this is one fun puzzle to put together, with a deadline.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

For Sale: Used Kids

Let's see. Here's $24. I'd like one 2 year old girl baby and a bag of 2T clothes for her, please. Do try to leave the bag open a bit for the little girl to breathe. Thank you.

(You can click on the image to enlarge it. Found this enticing ad in the paper a few weeks ago. Too bad my plate is already full.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

From Zero to a Baker's Dozen Pets in One Month

Prior to MS's birthday, at the end of September, we had no pets to speak of (long sigh, remembering how peaceful that was - ah, who am I foolin'? it wasn't even peaceful without pets). MS has been begging and begging for some pet. I thought they were going for a rabbit, but they came home with two mice. They asked for two females but received a couple. It wasn't long before the Mrs. Mouse was very plump.

Then along came these:

Now they are almost fully weaned and we are hoping to take the ten babies back to the pet store before Mrs. Mouse bursts forth with another litter (she is due any day, I'd say).

Then, of course, there's Harley. We have already been threatening to get rid of him because the two little boys tease and provoke him mercilessly. MS loves to lift Harley's front paws and make him dance. Only problem ... he thinks the dog won't mind dancing like that for minutes instead of seconds. YS drapes his entire body over the dog, whenever he finds him lying on the floor or couch. I think he believes he could ride him like a horse, if only Mom wouldn't flip out about it so much.

The boys are very much in love with this dog. Mom and Dad ... not so much.

We should have gotten a few ZhuZhu pets. It would have required less money, less work, and less patience.

Still, I can't complain about even the most minimal steps in responsibility which my boys are taking. YS loves to fill the dog's food bowl (he scoops a cup from the bag and dumps it in the food bowl - no more food in the water bowl, thank goodness). This afternoon, when I was putting YS down for a nap, MS took it upon himself to attach the dog's leash and take him out to go potty. He even wiped the dog's paws off with the towel when they came back in. ES often offers to spray the dog with a deodorizing spray and brush out his coat in the mornings.

And speaking of deodorizing ... YS decided to try my deodorant this morning. He came to me and said, "Mommy, I need to brush my teeth cuz' I ATE that stuff that goes under your arms." Yippee-skippee! Life with a two year old. I called Poison control and they said the worst that could happen is vomiting. We managed to get through it without that.

Lord, watch over the brood of 17 that are in my care. And, please, give me an extra dose of patience. Remember, Lord, I'm an OLD mommy, in my mid-forties!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Boys Do Love Halloween

I refuse to put up any Halloween decorations (o.k., I will put a Halloween tablecloth on the table), but every year, Hubby obliges MS by putting up a gazillion decorations. And every year, MS clamors for more decorations. Yikes. This boy has a passion for Halloween. Not sure why.

The novel is coming along nicely. I hit 15K words last night. What an inspiration this Nanowrimo event is! Now I'm off to strive for 17K.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Pumpkin Patch

Back in mid-October, MS's preschool class took a field trip to a local pumpkin patch. YS and I were fortunate enough to join them for the fun. It included the standard fare: hay-ride out to the pumpkin patch, selecting individual pumpkins (pie pumpkins - now we'll see if I can scrape up time to learn how to use them for pie), a treat of cookies and yummy apple cider, and a perilous journey through the gift shop with two curious, greedy preschool boys.

These are the boys' two favorite friends. MS invited Evan (orange hood) and Andrea (pink hat) to his birthday party and YS has been obsessed with Andrea ever since. During the hay-ride, YS kept moving to sit closer to Andrea. She wanted to sit near her little girlfriend, Daelynn. Determined to get his way, he climbed over Andrea and plopped himself between Andrea and Daelynn. Daelynn dissolved into tears and Andrea tried to scoot as far away from YS as she could get. Yep, at age 2, he's already chasing the girls and making them cry.

Yesterday, MS was all bent out of shape because I brought YS along to pick him up from school. On Mondays and Fridays, when hubby is off work, I can leave YS home. MS felt that YS was stealing all his friends on the playground. You certainly don't have to teach a young child jealousy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Thousand Words

During the month of November, while I am slaving away on my novel, I am hoping that a few pictures will be able to stand in my stead. So for today, I give you a few photos of my trick-or-treating urchins on All Hallow's Eve:

Because we have such large costume boxes, we didn't know until they walked out the door what they would be wearing. I wasn't thrilled that they chose sinister costumes, but I couldn't talk them into donning super hero garb this time. They had fun, and that makes me happy.

My pastor's wife, Leti, told of how she wrapped up in a blanket and sat on her porch with a pig mask on to pass out treats. Some people commented that she was a "pig in a blanket." Others believed she was posing as the "swine flu." Ha!

I started my Nanowrimo challenge (a 50K word novel) at midnight on November 1st. I have been trying to figure out how to add the widget their website provides for showing your current word count, but haven't the time or patience to master it. At this point, I am up to over 3,000 words. Only 47,000 to go, to be declared a winner. I don't think they'll accept 50 pictures.