Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Catching Up

This morning the rain has come. It is dark, dreary. A good day for books and tea--and blogging! Since it's been a while, let's catch up, shall we?

Back in January, it snowed. We built a snowman.


We have done much exploring.

 Visiting a Chinese Garden

 Hiking by the river

 Floating in the river on a hot summer day

 Wading in shallow streams

In February, C turned six. A few months later, D turned four. In June, C celebrated the end of her homeschool kindergarten year with a big recital for her ballet/tap class. I thought she might be nervous for the performance, timid onstage, but she was neither. Instead, she relished it; her dance moves were extremely animated, and she adored the applause. Afterward, she told me, "I watched my tap shoes get dimmer and dimmer [as the lights went down], and the audience was so loud, cheering for us."

We presented her with a bouquet of flowers after the performance. She said that was her very favorite part.

D, meanwhile, finished up his first year at our beloved co-op preschool. He watched in envy as the older children were given felt crowns and wooden swords upon graduating, already anticipating the day next spring when he will receive his.

In just over a month, C will head into first grade at our neighborhood school, and D will return to preschool. This will mark a huge change in our days. While I'm looking forward to having more time to work on the book, I know I'll miss having the kids around as much as we do now.

But, right now, summer is in full swing, despite the rain. And, for the next few weeks, we have all the time in the world to just enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Returning

Hello there!

As mentioned in my last post, I've been keeping my head down these past months. Writing a couple hours every single morning, chipping away at a novel that seemed like it would never be done.

Until it was.

The day before D's fourth birthday in early June, I worked on the final scene late into the night. At 2:30am, I wrote the last words. And then I slept.

It's a strange thing, finishing such an all-consuming project. On the one hand, it feels amazing to have created something out of thin air, to have taken my clumsy first draft and turned it into a story I'm proud of. But on the other, it feels weird, to have so much brain space suddenly free. No more plot knots to ponder on my walk to work, no more not-quite-right sentences to stew on. At least, not until I get the next round of feedback from my beta readers.

Once I complete my final edits, it's time for the next step: pursuing publication. To be honest, I'm nervous about what lies ahead, about nudging this little fledgling out into the world, and seeing what becomes of it. I hope, hope, hope that someone out there loves it and understands it and wants to help it become the best it can be.

But even if it never sees the light of day, writing this novel has changed me. For better or for worse, I uncovered a need to write, a hunger for it. Now, everything I see and hear and read and watch and live becomes potential inspiration for future stories. And that knowledge compels me to look more closely, pay attention more deeply--when I'm not lost in my own thoughts, that is.

During my absence from this space, I did manage to get out of my head enough to enjoy visiting wonderful places like these, all in the name of book research:


 


 

And now, the book is done. (Or at least done-ish.) I have returned, emerging bleary-eyed from my writing cave to find that it is summer. There are parks to explore, creeks to splash in, blueberries to pick. There are sunny mornings and bright-blue hydrangeas and tiny fruits growing on the grapevine we planted years ago. It's a good time to take a little break, to rejuvenate after two years of hard work on this project.

Because, soon, it will be time to start on the next one.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve Countdown

Farewell, 2013! The year for us included:

5 animal sightings

Our cat, Maui

 Boone-dog in the grass
 
  Luckily, this half-human, half-giant-salmon creature does not really exist


A goat! In a cape! 

 
Lady Bonita, who hung out in our neighborhood this fall while her owner (a quirky stonemason/superhero) worked on a house on our street
  
4 (hundred) cups of tea, approximately

And that's just my own tea consumption. 
If you figure in Brett's, this number would be much, MUCH higher. 

3 memorable vacations

Port Angeles in May

Olympia in June

Tahoe in August


2 magical birthdays

C turned five.

 D turned three.

And....

1 missing tooth!




Happy New Year, everyone!

I'll be taking a little break from blogging in the first part of 2014. I need to funnel all my writing time into finishing the novel I've been working on for the past year and a half, so that I can complete it by my self-imposed deadline of July 15. Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wheelbarrow of Treasures

This afternoon, C&D hunted for treasure while I raked the front yard. As I piled up leaves, I noticed that C had curated her findings rather artfully in their child-sized wheelbarrow.


Each of these items has a story behind it. Let's examine the collection more closely, shall we? 

  • Item 1: A rose picked from our garden (our rose bush, astoundingly, is in bloom despite the recent hard frosts). D told me that he wanted to give it to his preschool teacher... but it ended up part of the treasure collection instead.
  • Item 2: A tiny basket that I bought once at a craft store, because, apparently, I have a weakness for tiny baskets (and tiny shoes, but that's another story).
  • Item 3: A glow-in-the-dark butterfly that grows larger when it soaks in water. This was a trick-or-treat prize from the preschool's Halloween party. When D heard about its powers to expand, he asked me, "How big does it get? As big as a person?" Luckily for us, it did not grow to human size. 
  • Item 4: A lovely handmade hair clip, given to C by one of her aunties.
  • Items 5 and 7: The golden walnuts C found in her slippers on St. Nicholas day during the two years she was at preschool. 
  • Item 6: Bubbles, probably from a long-ago birthday party (there is very little "bubble juice" left in the container).
  • Item 8: A flower button, which escaped from a blanket C's auntie made but was rediscovered as a treasure due to its pretty pinkness.
  • Item 9: A pink bracelet from a birthday party C&D attended a few weekends ago. It was found during the course of a treasure hunt, so its inclusion here is self-evident.
  • Item 10: A fossilized piece of chalk, left outdoors to soak up water and mud, but happily rediscovered.
  • Item 11: A pinecone. We have a fairly extensive indoor pinecone collection, but judging by this one's dampness, it must have been a fresh outdoor acquisition.
  • Item 12: A leaf "shaped like a tulip" (according to C).
  • Item 13: A rock "shaped like an egg" (also according to C).
  • Item 14: A bubble wand (along with its blue canister, below the rose). This bubble contraption was a gift from the Easter bunny, which I had forgotten, until C reminded D of this important fact.
  • Item 15: A beautiful "sapphire" ring, also procured at the preschool Halloween event.
  • Item 16: A prism that once hung in our window, until its string broke. I'm not sure exactly where the children found it, but it is undoubtedly treasure-like.
  • Item 17: A necklace given to us by our neighbor. (He likes to occasionally bestow upon us random kid-friendly items that he receives from his donations to charity. It's very sweet).
  • Item 18: It may not look like much, but this half-popsicle stick is actually my favorite item in the collection. C's best friend gave this to her after one of their last playdates before she moved to Europe. It just makes my heart melt to know how precious this small thing is to C, not so much because of what it is, but what it represents: the memory of that wonderful afternoon spent playing with her dear friend.
  • Item 19: A key. I don't really know where it came from, but keys are always fun, especially when you're slightly obsessed with The Secret Garden.
  • Item 20: This is a drawer pull that C excavated it from a friend's backyard over the summer. This angle doesn't do it justice; it's really quite pretty, and makes a fabulous table for fairies.

So, there you have it: a wheelbarrow full of treasures, and stories, and memories. A beautiful collection.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Words of the Week, Volume 2

Last week, I posted some quotables from C. Today, it's D's turn!

Here he is, listening to his favorite song ("Maria," from The Sound of Music) with his "pastry lab" goggles on:
(Those are my old chemistry lab goggles. We eventually stopped correcting him, because "pastry lab" sounds so much nicer, don't you think? Mmm. Pastry lab. I want to go to there.)

Some recent quotes from our lovable little scamp:

"Daddy... I put peppa in yo eyes and yo nose and yo face and yo hair!"
(Said at the lunch table while holding up the pepper grinder.)

"The moon is ridiculous."
(Don't worry, he doesn't really mean that.)

"Scary-Looking Face is a boy."
(This is what he named his Halloween pumpkin. For the record, C named hers "Sweetie Pie," and it is a girl.)

"How do you say 'Toot McAllister' in French?"
(Hmm. "Le Toot McAllister"? With an exaggerated French accent?)

And, finally, a joke:

Q: Why did the ladder fly over the land?
A: Because it was looking for a beach to lay on! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Words of the Week, Volume 1

This week, I've been listening to the often-whimsical, occasionally nonsensical statements my daughter makes. Here are a few of the many gems.... 




"Look at me! I'm like a little bishop!" 
(Said while moving diagonally across the parquet floors. Brett has been teaching her chess--she seems to enjoy the game, mostly because of its long list of rules. She likes rules.)


"Seven-year-olds get iPhones." 
(Oh? This was news to me.)

"If spiders ate flowers, they'd have to be, like, a tarantula eating a forget-me-not." 
(Hmm, I suppose that size differential is just about right.)

And, finally....

"Only [the] French can see invisible things." 
(???)


Stay tuned next week for some wise words from my son, who also has his fair share of bon mots.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Our Summer Travels

One long-ago Christmas, I received a travel journal as a gift; from then on, I dutifully documented all our family vacations. A Traveler's Diary, it was called. I can state this with certainty, because I still have it on my bookshelf. It is filled with four years worth of trips, most of them to California. Looking back on these journals now, I find it interesting that I so often dwelled on objective facts, cataloging in detail every location we visited (and I mean every location. Case in point: "We cross the street to go to Albertson's. We buy a Pepsi, a Sprite, Mentos and a pack of Trident... the total came to $3.37") and every meal we ate ("We head back for a gigantic lunch of turkey sandwiches, potato salad, chips, cantaloupe, grapes, figs, soda, and pineapple upside-down cake"). One extreme example of my borderline-obsessive documenting occurred during a long road trip, where I filled pages--pages--with frequent updates of miles traveled, exterior temperature, and compass bearings. Lest you think I am exaggerating, I offer proof:



I don't know why my teenage self thought that I might one day want to remember those things, but, in this particular case, I imagine it had more to do with my backseat boredom.

When reading these journals now, the details I treasure the most aren't the objective reports of what we did, but the occasional snatches of conversation that were recorded, the descriptions of places we stayed, the little moments that capture my relationship with my sisters, and my cousins, and that say so much about the person I was then.

So, this will not be a long post chronicling the many wonderful places and lovely people we visited on our summer vacation. Instead, here are a few snapshots of the moments that I most want to remember.


We rode a train through an old mining town. It began to rain on the way back to the station, and D huddled on my lap as I curved my body around his, trying to keep him warm as the fat, cold raindrops splashed down.

The rain became a spectacular thunderstorm. We took shelter in a quiet cathedral.


And, later, in a candy shoppe.



That evening, between storms, we roasted marshmallows and enjoyed s'mores on my mother's back patio.


During this vacation, I was privileged to meet my two baby nieces, to hold them and dance with them and look into their beautiful eyes. They are both as sweet as jellybeans.


Entire days were spent swimming, with occasional poolside snack breaks.



We also spent a lot of time driving; C and D decided that the windmill-dotted golden hills of central California looked a lot like the prairie of Prax.

In Berkeley, we visited dear friends, we ate cinnamon rolls and fresh grapes, we picked Meyer lemons, we walked to the park to play in the sun.



But before all that, we visited this beautiful mountain lake, a place I went every summer during my childhood. It was strange and wonderful to come back, this time, as the grown-ups.




The lake water is always clear and bracingly cold, even at the height of summer. I swam out and floated on my back, looking up at the pines, the pines that infuse the air with their sweet, clean scent.


I floated for a while, my ears in the water, numbness slowly seeping into my fingers and toes. I enjoyed the quiet, allowed the flood of nostalgia. All I could hear was a quiet thudding, and for a moment I thought perhaps I was listening to the heartbeat of the lake, or of the earth itself.

But, of course, it was only my own.