Category Archives: kids

Camping in New England

Big Agnes Big House 6 Tent

The last few days, I’ve been away. I’ve been camping of all things. There’s a lot I want to unpack about that. Camping is not something I actively enjoy but it is something I will do if it means I get to see the ocean or go places that I love. It is one of the things my husband likes to do on purpose, just for camping. This year it was a bit different than it’s been in the past as there were more things to take into consideration, mostly my rheumatoid arthritis.

I struggle to get up off the floor so sleeping on the ground wasn’t really going to work for me which meant we had to get a cot. Getting a cot meant we needed a bigger tent. Thank goodness for REI’s garage sale! We got a great deal on the Big Agnes Big House 6 which fit the four of us with two cots (and two people over 6 foot tall) very comfortably. I slept in a sleeping bag, on a yoga mat, on a cot and when I had the right temperature bag, it wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t sleeping in my bed but it was definitely workable for a few nights.

The American side of Niagara Falls was interesting and beautiful and crowded. Our first campground was in New York. Mostly an RV park where people must come pretty regularly for the season. One RV was even getting a newspaper delivered if the post outside was any indication. It was really cute and well maintained though. After that, we headed off to Winter Island Park in Salem, Ma. If you’re reading this, I really need you to buy my books and have your friends do the same. I want to retire in Salem. Maybe open a bookstore or just write more books. I love it there. It feels like I could belong there. It’s marvelous up there. And I’ve never seen a more dog-friendly city in my life! There were bowls of water out on the sidewalks, every fourth person had a dog with them (and my oldest took pictures of ALL OF THEM).

Moray Eel at Boston Aquarium

We hopped down to Boston and did part of the Freedom Trail. I could not manage to do the whole thing. If you have mobility issues – do yourself a favor and get the trolley tour. Walking it is very hard and those cobbles are beautiful but hard on the feet and joints. We did the Aquarium first and then Faneuil Hall (both the market and the museum portion) before heading to the Old North Church. We finished off at the USS Constitution which was super neat. We had some great food – bacon wrapped scallops, fried calamari, crab cake BLTs (seriously!). We had some terrible coffee – instant Starbucks isn’t any better than regular Starbucks, somehow they make everything taste burnt to me! but the Alpine instant stuff from REI really wasn’t bad.

I bought less than I expected and certainly less of the sorts of things I expected. I did find a Funko Ludo and I love him so the marvelous husband bought him for me. And a silver raven skull necklace. I’m having a thing for corvids right now – especially ravens and crows. Perhaps I’m in transition, perhaps they’re being my muse. Whatever, it’s a thing in my life right now so it made it all the more special.

Winter island lighthouse

We also went through the House of Seven Gables. Let me tell you, there has never been a face so full of joy and wonder as my oldest son’s when they opened up that particular staircase. I live for moments like that. Oldest child had some preconceived notions of some things and was mostly using Fallout for his touchstone but it’s pretty interesting watching the kids learn stuff. The youngest child wasn’t really interested in that part but maybe someday he’ll figure it out. It’s not like he’s going to forget any time soon.

We drove through our old stomping grounds in part so the oldest boy could take a look at Wesleyan in Connecticut and in part because it’s quite the walk down memory lane for us. We even made it to our first apartment building. I definitely wouldn’t mind if the boy ended up in New England. It’d be a great excuse to visit.

 

 

 

Young Komodo Dragon at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland

Coming home, we stopped at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland. It’s a really cute but very small zoo devoted to reptiles. They have two – TWO – young Komodo dragons which just so happen to be my husband’s favorite things ever. Pretty sure he feels about them the way I do about octopus and ravens. We had a good time until the birds (where my husband and oldest son proved that they might just be Disney Princesses). My youngest son is autistic and tends to be quite literal. People kept trying to hand him seed sticks to feed the birds and he’d get mad because he thought they were trying to feed him and he’s not a bird (he also doesn’t really like to touch animals that aren’t his critters so much). I’m used to explaining to him when he misunderstands. I’m used to explaining to other people when he misunderstands. I am not used to strange women grabbing me by the shoulders and explaining, very forcefully, that they understand. My brain completely blanked and all I could say was thank you. I appreciate the sentiment greatly (especially the day after) but really, I’m not a fan of people in my space bubble and I’m especially not happy when people are touching me. I don’t know how she wanted me to respond but I don’t think I did it right, I sort of fled. Ok, not sort of, I did flee. Youngest kid and I went out to the gift shop while the other two were playing with parakeets.

Winter Island Park

The most annoying part of the trip though is the fact that we did ALL that walking, none of the snacking, and I managed somehow to stay the exact same weight. That’s some real BS right there. Sure some of what we ate, especially on the way home, wasn’t maybe the best for weight loss but still, I really thought there’d be some drop. And I still have to do all the laundry.

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Filed under Anxiety, Autism, Fun, Interesting, kids, Life, marriage, Memories, Parenting, photography, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Mad Dash

Every year at the end of the year, I feel this crazy mad-dash urge to get stuff done before the kids are out of school. It’s a little less this year than it has been in the past because, honestly, my kids are a bigger help this year than they have been before. I would love summer if not for the constant bickering. Hopefully, oldest child will find a job and that’ll cut down on some of the bickering if only because they can’t bicker if they aren’t in the same room! There is zero chance of me getting the first draft done in three days (but it won’t be a whole lot longer as my zero was really fleshed out for me) so I’m not going to beat myself up over that. I am going to take a few hours and watch all the things I can’t watch when the kids are home. The oldest doesn’t like anything scary and the youngest is 11 so there are limits.

I don’t know that I have goals for the kids but I do want to take everything out of the little’s room and put it back together, weeding out the stuff that he has no use for and won’t do anything with. Some time this summer we’ll do a yard sale, whether it’s during the big one the neighborhood does or on our own, either way. We’ll spend some time in the woods a few times a week, get in the water as often as possible, and hopefully, enjoy the summer or at least not be miserable. It’d be hard to be worse than last summer so … yeah.

In not summer things: I’m struggling a little this weekend especially because my zero drafts always went direct to my dad for a plot check before I moved on to the next phase of my writing. Bear Ridge isn’t the first book without him as Demonborn was written when he was really too sick and I’d only given him a copy of it a few weeks before he died. So Bear Ridge is the second book I’ve written without him and I’m having a bit of a sulk about that. Honestly, he was really my only cheerleader and there’s just a big hole there now. I didn’t have anyone to celebrate over lunch or breakfast when I typed The End on the zero draft nor will I when I turn in the book. So I’m having a bit of a sulk about that too.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happiest of mother’s days to all the moms and mom figures. I hope you all had a really marvelous day and that you got to do exactly what you wanted to do!

The other day, I posted about the boy’s play… I got his permission to share!

The kid “learns” to dance.

The kid sings.

 

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So proud, I’m about to burst

I need to be a little bit braggy right now. My oldest kid has always been a ham, relishing in the spotlight (he is definitely his granddaddy’s grandson!). From the first moment that it was an option, he’s been on the stage. Right now, it’s high school productions but he is always amazing at it. I know, I’m his mom, I have to say that but really, it’s true. He gets a little annoyed sometimes about always being the comic relief type characters (Roger in Grease, LeFou in Beauty and the Beast, and now Willard in Footloose) but he keeps getting that role because he’s so damn good at it (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s willing to get pantsed or thrown across the stage or use a plunger like a microphone).

Last night was the opening night for Footloose. I was a little confused how they’d take that particular movie and make it a musical but it actually really works well – fun script! My kid had the entire theater in stitches especially when his character is trying (and failing spectacularly) to dance. It doesn’t hurt that he’s built like Jack Skellington, all limber and lanky which can either be an awkward jumble or a high kick to beat all high kicks. His physicality is just amazing and he’s downright fearless. I want to be more like him when I grow up.

He can do the real drama too – he was Poe in an Evening With Poe, doing The Raven and absolutely floored me (and a lot of other people). I can’t wait to see what this kid is doing ten years from now. The best way I can explain him is he’s like Danny Kaye and Jeff Goldblum in one body and it really seems like he was just born knowing how to fall in the craziest way possible. At least now, he doesn’t hurt himself when he does it.

If my husband gets a good clip of tomorrow night’s performance, maybe I can talk the kid into letting me share it because he really is crazy awesome. I know I wasn’t the only one laughing so hard I was nearly in tears.

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Teachers Matter

I live in a state that is currently in the middle of a teacher walkout. I have been incredibly fortunate to have had some wonderful teachers in my life and I believe they can make all the difference. These are the people who shape the leadership for generations. These are the people who help teach our kids to think, to act, to understand our history, our system. They teach our kids how to work together – something a whole lot of adults could stand to learn. They make learning exciting so they want to continue to learn for the rest of their lives. Or at least, the good ones do. Yes, as in every profession, there are the occasional people who are not as involved, not as excited but truly, teachers don’t make enough for people you don’t love the profession to do it.

Many years ago, I had a particular teacher who just made everything work. At the time I was in a special program so it wasn’t really run like your standard classes. I was in fourth grade, not dealing with the best situation at home, and Mrs. VanWert was the best thing I could ever have asked for that year. We did a project on Mesopotamia that year and part of it was giving a report in front of the class – this project was all the subjects in one – history, art, English, science. Maybe not math but I could have forgotten something. I was partnered with a girl named Sandy and we kicked butt to win the special cassette single of Walk Like An Egyptian (man, now I feel old). We built a sarcophagus out of cardboard, offering jars and totem statues from clay and paint, and instead of doing a report, we wrote a script… two hapless archaeologists one of whom, me, fell into the sarcophagus and totally freaked out at the skeleton inside. I really loved that school, that class. It gave me something to look forward to, when I wasn’t tumbling headlong into my books or fighting evil wizards with my weird white staff (not really a stick but the guts out of a drapery rod that I found on the beach).

In high school (six years and 3000 miles later), I learned that not all teachers are there to be supportive or kind but they can still be motivators. I might not have worked so hard at my writing if Mr. Nick hadn’t pretty well told me I would never succeed. Of course, he didn’t think very much of me to begin with but there’s no accounting for taste, is there? It was a good lesson to learn and one that thankfully would never be repeated even though that year was the last year I cared one whit about school (not any teacher’s fault but the loss of my mom, my depression, and the beginning of a pretty steep spiral that would end a few years later with severe panic attacks and not leaving my house for a year except with my husband).

Teachers matter. Even the bad ones. We should treat them better and pay them what they’re worth. They should make enough to entice more people to the profession. They shouldn’t be paying out of pocket for classroom supplies. They should be supported and celebrated not having to walk in the cold and the rain just to be treated OK, not even adequately, just OK. One of my teacher friends seems to be feeling a bit guilty and selfish for being out on the line and not in the classroom and that’s just not right. It’s not selfish to want to be able to at least survive on your salary after all those years preparing for your career. You shouldn’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.

In a completely unrelated bit – I’m catching up on Star Wars Rebels and a thing happened and I made a sound and maybe got a little weepy and my Alfred pup got up in my face with his silly grin, trying to lick my face and stop that. Silly, adorable punk. If you’re a Star Wars fan, Rebels is worth watching. The series format gives you a lot of room for mythology, story, and character growth. Plus, Jedi wolves. Seriously, amazing Jedi wolves.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Blessed Everything! I really do adore this time of year. Love it. This year has been more difficult than most for me but that doesn’t change my love for it. Besides, only the best part of it remains – all that squealy, happiness, the giddy laughter of children who discover wishes fulfilled that they didn’t even think to make yet.

I didn’t get all the things done I wanted to and that’s ok. I can try again next year. Hopefully, by then, I’ll have my immune system under control and not find myself laid up for 1/3 of my decorating time. I did get two things made. They aren’t great, certainly not worthy of pictures, but at least they’re finished and really, the shiny blue ditto pillow isn’t awful but I did have a fabric related stitchery issue and Oogie Boogie looks too happy but that’s also ok.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. I’m not going to be online today – I’m going to be having fun with my kids and my family. I’ll be missing some people who should be here also but I’m doing my best to not be maudlin. I’ll be back later in the week with all the end of year stuff, goals and things of that nature.

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It’s Coming!

This is one of my favorite ornaments. I used to keep it on my desk all year long – now I have the scene ornament from Wrath of Khan there and Spock is back on my tree.

I’m not as laid up as I was but I’m still taking it a little easy because as awesome as the cortisone shot makes my knee feel, I don’t want to do more damage just because it’s feeling SO much better. Plus it’s Thursday which is now my headachy tired day. At least we can get both of them out of the way together and maybe have fun with the rest of Christmas break.

Christmas is one of my favorite things – most of my favorite memories are of either Christmas or Halloween and in both cases, it’s due either to my mom or my kids. With today being Yule, the holiday season is fresh in my thoughts and, given this year, I’m extra reflective.

When I was little, Christmas was all about the magic. When my kids were little, Christmas was all about the magic. There were a few dark Christmases for me there, between the loss of my mom and the birth of my first kid that I honestly don’t remember much about except how I was probably in trouble for something as that seemed to be my usual then. I don’t think about that time in my life very much.

One of the best parts of having children has been passing along the things my mom used to do for me to make everything magic. I don’t know that I’ve been successful but I hope so. The presents are great fun – I love to find the perfect thing for someone – that thing I know will make them squeal. I may never find that thing for my youngest kid but he always seems happy at the end of the day. I know I’ll never find that thing for some people who just can’t be that happy. And some people I struggle with because I can find them neat stuff that they’ll really enjoy but I can’t ever match the thing I gave them that was the Most Absolutely Perfect Thing. This year, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the oldest kid squealing, the husband picked out his squeal and is already squealy(lol), and I may have even managed the brother (and I cannot wait because he’s never squealy). And three times I’ve found The Perfect Thing for one of my parents which only serves to make me sad.

My love language is generally presents or food or a combination thereof. I cannot express my love for you better than my pecan pie or homemade marshmallows. I enjoy it even more when the presents are things I have made specifically for the people involved. This year, I didn’t manage to get much made. Ok, nothing so far but I have two things I’m hoping to get finished in the next 48 hours. Neither are squeal-worthy I don’t think but both will be enjoyed thoroughly.

My favorite presents from my childhood weren’t always the squeal-inducing ones though. Some took time and loss to appreciate in full. I think my absolute favorite is a necklace my mom designed for me with my very favorite stone (which very few people know of, let alone make jewelry out of) – it will likely always be my favorite. I don’t know that I squealed but I definitely gasped. I squealed at my computer and my motorcycle jacket. I loved my black velvet peasant skirt (enough that I still wear it 24 years later). I squealed at my telephone (the kind you could see through) and my ice skates. I cherish my handmade Little House on the Prairie dollhouse. My dad wasn’t really a part of my Christmas memories until I had kids of my own – mostly because he gave my mom everything she wanted in their divorce and that included ALL Christmases. He did a damn fine job as an adult though – one year it was a painting that reminded him of my mom, another it was my countertop dishwasher that saved me years of frustration.

I really hope that someday my kids can look back on their Christmases past with as much fondness as I do.

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So far behind

I know there are things I usually have done by now that I am nowhere near finished with. It’s driving me a little bit nuts. The weather is being a bit weird and my body is feeling it in very weird and new to me ways. I did figure out what to make the kids this year but they’re the only ones getting mama-made presents. I just don’t have it in me this year to do more and that’s okay. Hopefully, I can still manage a straight (ish) line with my sewing machine lol. I won’t post anything about it until after Christmas as the youngest child lurks here quite often.

I’m working on the yearly wrap up and next year’s goals and stuff and there’s not a lot of good in this year and I will be so glad to see it go. Last years goals didn’t even come close to being met. There was a lot that was out of my control but I really could have done better. 2018 has no choice but to be better than 2017. Except, I’ve said that every year for a few years and each year has shown me how much worse it can get so maybe this year I’ll say something different come New Year’s.

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Just a smattering of days

That’s all I have left of quiet until August. I become accustomed to being by myself for the majority of days during the school year. I come to enjoy it – the freedom to get stuff done without the constant Mama Mama Mama. I adore my kids and, even better, I do actually like them. I’m just never really ready for the end of school. Tuesday shall be watch all the scary movies day because one child is too young and the other is too squicked out by scary.

We’ll have fun this summer. We’ll play in the pool, hatch and catch a ton of Pokemon, hopefully, try new foods, and (for me) lose some more weight. We’ll make things and build things and learn things. We’ll have a grand old time together – we very nearly always do. They already know I’ll be working – both with the freelance and with my books – so I’m not so worried about that. I’ll get stuff done but I am going to miss the quiet and the freedom I have during the school year.

I say quiet but I don’t actually mean quiet as there is always noise in my house as I cannot abide silence. But it’s noise that doesn’t require any action on my part – no responses required at all in fact – so it feels like quiet anyway.

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Busy Girl

Today was IEP day for my youngest kidlet. It went well, as it usually does, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a twist of nerves and flooded with research in the days leading up to it. There’s a lot going on with him and, even though he is getting better at speaking neurotypical, he’s not there just yet. There are still things he needs a little bit of help with. I’m fortunate to be in a district willing to work with me, even when my ideas maybe aren’t the most orthodox ones. I know a lot of other parents have had problems working within the system, even specifically this system, and I am so grateful that I have had such a comparatively easy road for both kids.

I’ve also been helping my stepmom go through my dad’s things. Some things hit me harder than others. I was doing pretty well with the whole thing until I started looking through his slides. He was a phenomenal photographer who had such an amazing artistic eye for framing and focus. I may be looking into what it will take to do something interesting with some of those – maybe pairing his art with mine. I wish I’d seen some of these images before – I’d have suggested this project directly to him. But it’s a long way off and there’s a lot I’ve got to do before I can do a project like what I’m thinking about.

There’s one image in particular that I’m just struck by. We were in Spokane, WA then, I think I might be four in the picture. I’m wearing a bright red winter coat and it is the only real color in the image. I’m feeding the ducks and swans in Riverfront Park with the pavilion and the clocktower in the background. There is no one else in the picture. Not the old lady with the bag of breadcrumbs. Not a single soul on the grass on the other side of the river. No one on the bridge. I cannot remember a time when there weren’t people milling about everywhere there. It was always one of our favorite places to go on his weekends, puttering around with those birds. Oh, how I loved those swans. It’s a striking image and I really want to do something interesting with it. But I suppose I need to get a print first as it is only a slide.

I’m not getting a lot of usable writing done – it’s all a little too maudlin right now – so I’m doing more editing. I’m polishing up a few things to get ready to send out. I think being in this weird zone is actually making the editing easier because I’m not being drawn to five or six other projects I want to write also.

Dad’s Nikon is a lot different than my Pentax but I think I’m going to dust them off, load them up, and teach the kids how to take proper pictures this summer. If I knew how to do developing, I might just do the whole shebang but I’ll settle for lighting, color, and composition matched with shutter speed, exposure lengths, and that sort of thing. I think it’ll be a nice thing to be able to pass that along. Plus, we’ll maybe figure out if the cameras have any appreciable difference in quality.

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