Tag Archives: Parenting

Middle-grade fiction? I’ve got that!

Excited to have finished Little Bird in time for this spirited little person's first birthday!

Nice to have finished Little Bird in time for this spirited little person’s first birthday!

Excited to share the completion of my first middle-grade fiction manuscript, Little Bird & the Graveyard (23,000 words). While everything is a work-in-progress, from the title to the pitch below, it is exciting to be on the road to publication, (traditional or otherwise). I get a lot of questions about what my story is about– below is a peek:

Eleven-year-old Indie has a lot of questions. Not only is she on a mission to find a ghost in the graveyard across the street from her house so she can ask what happens after we die, but she also wants to know why her mom left her and her brother with their dad a few months earlier. She figures if she understands why her mom is gone, then maybe she can stop feeling so upset.

To find answers, Indie will have to be brave. She needs to befriend the family of caretakers who live at the graveyard, which means coming face-to-face with the old man who hates her dog and dealing with a boy who is a year older and clearly does not want her around. Her quest will also push her to snoop through the creepy apartment downstairs and visit the graveyard with her brother at night. While none of these adventures will keep Indie out of trouble, they will lead to life-changing revelations, including the realization a ghost has something to do with her mom’s absence.

***

I was inspired to write middle-grade fiction while working as a classroom teacher with fourth and fifth grade students. During our read alouds, I noticed certain themes resonated more than others, like growing up in dysfunctional families and chasing ghosts. While on maternity leave, I began writing Little Bird and finished in time to dedicate the book to my daughter for her first birthday. Indie embodies the independent spirit I hope to instill in my children and students alike. And, of course, I am also hopeful she will reappear in many more books to come!

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Update: Oh hi, it’s me!

Still here! Just a little preoccupied with the creature in my arms.

Still here! Just a little preoccupied with the creature in my arms. This is the only recent picture I have with me actually in it– but pretty fitting since I took it last night while I typed one handed. Learning to get a lot done with a little extra creativity.

As I sat down to start writing today, I remembered I had some comments over on Leap of Mama to check out. Then I wandered back over to this blog and realized, wow, it has been more than a month since my last entry. That made me a little sad. This blog used to be my baby. Then I had a baby and, well, she took over that spot and my writing had to become a lot more prioritized, (as in, somehow, this blog fell to the bottom of the list).

I hope you stick around despite the neglect. I plan to triumphantly return one day and hopefully soon! The non-mom part of me is still alive and kicking, if just for a couple hours here and there throughout the day. Most of my writing attention has been going to middle grade fiction, a novel about an 11 year-old girl in search of answers about why her mom left and what it means to be alive, all within the kid-favorite context of living across the street from a graveyard.

I am having a blast writing it, started the last week when E was in my belly and picked it back up a few months ago. I’m 15,000+ words deep, which for middle grade fiction means I’m about halfway through a book, exciting stuff. I look forward to sharing more as I finish up in the next few months. My goal is done with my first draft by E’s first birthday; the best present I can think of for her, even if she has to wait ten more years to appreciate it, (which is great, because that gives me plenty of time to polish it up and slap a real cover on it!).

Anyway, just wanted to stop by, say hi, and tell you I’m still around, writing. I miss the community that was beginning to emerge on this blog. Now it’s a little like an abandoned garden plot, but I know there are more good things to come, just hope you are still around to say hi too! If you really miss me, (which how could you not?), you should stop by my other blog, Leap of Mama. I make a more frequent appearance in those parts.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

And, oh yeah, let me know how you’re doing– what projects are you working on? What’s new in your life? Would love to hear, whether it’s a comment or email!

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What I didn’t expect about the first month of parenthood

7AM again and the nightshift is just ending. I have been awake nearly as much as I have been asleep, but I don’t mind, this is my favorite part of our routine. Instead of lying in the basinet, she is next to me, our last attempt at sleep before morning is officially here and she refuses to lie in bed. Her eyes are open and staring at me, her warm breath on my cheek, our faces just inches from one another. The sweet smell of baby fills my being. She is happy, I am happy, it is one of those moments where nothing else matters.

In the last weeks of pregnancy people constantly told me, “Enjoy being pregnant, your life will never be the same.” As silly as it sounds now, those words filled me with trepidation. I was overjoyed to become a mom, but suddenly I found myself clinging to the life my husband and I shared alone. What I did not realize is I would never want my life to be the same.

In the last four weeks I have discovered many other things I did not expect about becoming a parent, some trivial, some life-changing:

1. The body changes during birth and recovery are more manageable than they sound. All the tongue-in-cheek blog posts, while honest and enlightening, made the transformation seem like the world’s worst torture. While it has definitely not been a day at the beach, all of the (sometimes intense) physical discomforts have been overshadowed by the excitement of being a new parent. In other words, ladies, don’t worry about all the gruesome side effects, you won’t mind nearly as much as you thought you would.

2. Hormones. I did not expect to cry as much as I have in the last few weeks. I cry when I’m happy, sad, scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, watching a movie, watching a sitcom… I will probably cry at some point while writing this post.

3. No matter how much thought goes into each parenting decision, someone will think you are wrong. Sleeping arrangements, breast feeding, supplementation, you name it, someone out there will have a very different opinion and not be shy about vocalizing it. This has been one of the hardest lessons of new parenthood. I did not expect to care what others think. I am only now, after a month, beginning to emerge from the anxiety of not pleasing everyone.

4. Nothing in my life has been as animalistic as having a child. From the intensity of birth to the insane feeding schedules and even more insane sleeping routines, I have never felt so connected to my physical self. Even more shocking is the intensity behind my need to protect my child. When the dogs move too quickly in her vicinity, an instinctual ability to destroy any threat rises inside me. This power, while somewhat superhuman, is so primal it scares me.

5. Sleep is relative. When I heard friends talk about how they were still getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night with a new baby but that  the sleep was broken up, I thought, alright, no biggie, I already wake up 5 times a night to pee while pregnant. What I did not expect was how difficult it would be to feed a restless baby for hours on end in the middle of the night then go back to sleep for an hour and a half and wake up to do it all over again two or three more times. But, here is the magic. Somehow, by 10-11AM, I feel human again because those sleep chunks really do add up. I am both exhausted and rested beyond what I expected.

6. Yoga has made my postpartum life better. I am not supposed to exercise for another couple weeks. I thought I would ignore this advice, but the truth is, my body is not ready to move more than required. However, yoga has taught me to find peace in even the smallest moments. I slip into meditation while I nurse. I let go of every muscle in my body for savasana when I lie down in bed. I breathe deeply while she screams. It all helps.

7. Discomfort over others holding my baby. I thought I would have no problem passing the baby around. Instead, I find myself waiting for people to ask to hold her and then insisting they wash their hands and grilling them about their recent health histories. Then, when they are holding the baby, I watch where they put their hands, cringing if they touch their eyes or scratch their face, uncomfortable if they touch their lips to her, or worse yet, stick their finger in her mouth…

8. Extreme pleasure over others holding my baby. Yes, I know what I just described above, but there is also a true joy in watching the people I love pour their love into her, kisses and all. At family dinners, she is adored, half a dozen faces surrounding her in those rare newborn eyes-open moments. My heart is warm in knowing how many people she has brought happiness. I knew others were excited, but I did not know how happy a new baby could make an entire clan of people. So, I guess I am just going to have to be a little less neurotic about sharing germs.

Above all, I did not expect becoming a parent to happen as naturally as it has. I had so many concerns before we decided to have a baby. I worried about finances and other life goals. I was concerned I would stop writing or waste all the time I spent setting up my classroom and establishing myself as a teacher. What I did not expect is that none of this really mattered. It could all be figured out with time and the things I thought were most important really pale in comparison to the intense emotions of parenthood. I would not trade what we have now for anything.

Pretty cool.

One month!

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Cultivating Mindfulness in How we React to Others

This afternoon I attended the most beautiful class on mindfulness in dealing with children. The main focus was remembering to take a moment (or two or three…) to breathe and disconnect from our own emotional triggers before responding to challenging situations. The key words there are react and respond. When we respond, we no longer let the situation control us. I definitely needed a refresher on this lesson.

Sometimes when I feel students are not listening to me, I become frustrated, angry even. I tense up and regain control through dominance instead of quiet patience. As I reflected on why I become so upset, I realized I react based on my own hunger for respect. Growing up as a small, quiet girl, people constantly underestimated me, a reality that carried over to the beginning of my teaching career as feedback often included my quiet nature.

By taking a moment to breathe and be mindful of my reaction/response, I give myself the chance to determine the best course of action for my students, instead of the emotionally obvious one. I have grown in my ability to respond with calm resolve over the past year, but those stressful moments are still there, lurking at the end of a long day. As I prepare to return to the classroom, I am mindful of how I will stop, breathe, and disconnect from emotional triggers before I respond.

I don’t expect you to answer, because these are personal questions, but maybe you could benefit from similar reflection: When do you react with emotion instead of responding in the best interest of both yourself and others? Why do these moments draw such a reaction out of you?

Just ordered this book recommended during class today-- anyone want to join me for an August book club reading?

Just ordered this book recommended during class today– anyone want to join me for an August reading?

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Don’t Have Children.

That’s what a woman at Costco said to me today. It was one of those lines that stick with you for the rest of the afternoon. Not because I plan to listen to her. Heck, I surround myself with 30 kids five days a week. I like them.

But, I also wonder how it will be different when they are my own. Right now I know 15 pregnant women. Of course, Facebook helps increase this total, but at least 6 of them I see regularly. Babies are everywhere I look. I guess that’s what happens when you’re almost 30. Eventually it will be my turn too, life willing.

This particular woman had two little ones under the age of 3. One in her cart, the other in grandma’s. “Please don’t touch the flowers, please don’t touch the flowers, STOP IT!!!” She lost her cool. As she shouted at the youngest, I realized what I must sound like when I lose my self-control at work. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I get really frustrated too. She turned to me, after aisles and aisles of keeping the same pace, and told me not to have children.

I felt for this poor woman. I could tell she was tightly wound and looking for perfection. A lot like me some of the time. I knew exactly what she felt like without even being a mom. I could imagine all the pressure. I could feel her stress in trying to maintain control. I could even see the exhaustion on her face.

I suppose in the beginning most parents have moments where they might say something similar to a perfect stranger, I just like to think I never will. I guess I have to actually have kids first to figure that out. Until then, I’m going to keep working on remaining calm in my classroom. I’m grateful to that woman for the reminder of what it looks like from the outside. I hope she finds some calm this weekend too.

Proof I'm not always rainbows and gingerbread houses either... But, at least I have a sense of humor about it!

Proof I’m not always rainbows and gingerbread houses either… At least I have a sense of humor about it.

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