I’m Going to Hollywood!

Last night, I turned off my alarm so I could catch a few extra Zs, so naturally, this morning, I woke up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 4:45.

What’s got me so excited I can’t sleep? Well, telling you requires spilling a secret. So are you ready?

*phew!* Here goes.

I have a secret life as a fantasy and science fiction author.

There. Now the secret is out. It’s why I’ve been neglecting my blog. Instead of writing blog posts, I’ve been writing stories, and I got the news in November that one of my stories is getting published!

I’m a real author now, y’all!

The Writers of the Future contest is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious writing contest for new authors of fantasy and science fiction. Every year they publish an anthology featuring the three winners from each quarter, and though my finalist story wasn’t one of the winners, they reached out to me in November and asked if they could publish it in the anthology anyway along with the winners.

Um… YES!

My story, “Obsidian Spire,” is the story of a young warrior who sets out on her first mission on her own. She has been sent by her father to quash rumors that a long dead wizard has returned to wreak havoc on the countryside, but when she grudgingly accepts a village boy as her guide, she discovers that there’s more to everything than meets the eye.

The anthology goes on sale next Monday, and you can pre-order your copy today from Amazon! There are TONS of great stories in there. Some science fiction, some fantasy, a little dash of horror… Whatever floats your boat, and all of these stories are from some incredible, brand new authors, at the very beginnings of our careers!

When Gwen’s husband is found murdered, she’s the only suspect. After all, they were the only two people on the moon. —Moonlight One

Flora’s father is a mech-soldier of the Slayer Class, but how much of him is really left inside the machine? —The Armor Embrace

When an alien with godly intelligence is discovered watching the earth, one man must try to learn if its motives are pure. —Envoy in the Ice

If you were stranded in an open boat and the only hope for rescue came from a ghost ship, would dare to ride? —The Devil’s Rescue

Some gifts come with heavy price tags, and the giver must rise to the occasion. —Tears for Shülna

What if an alien asks for your help with a question, and the answer affects the future of the whole human race? —The Drake Equation

Barlow has a talent for finding the dead. Or do they find him? —Acquisition

When Varga sets out to explore the ancient stronghold of a long-dead wizard, she discovers that the ruins aren’t as deserted as she thought. —Obsidian Spire

If only that reptile in the sewer were something as predictable as an alligator. —Gator

On a distant world among the cloud peaks, the light-hawks promise a rich reward for those daring enough to harvest one. —A Glowing Heart

In a world where memories can be stripped, Bill discovers that he has a family he has never known. —The Long Dizzy Down

Not all spirits have the best of intentions, and they must be dealt with. —The Woodcutters’ Deity

You can put an end to something wondrous, but only at a cost. —The Dragon Killer’s Daughter

In a life-or-death situation, sometimes you wish that you had a really powerful spell. But that begs the question—what is power? —Useless Magic

Some devils are as old as a dream, and more evil than men can imagine. —Adramelech

When the world needs saving, three children are called to the task. —The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove

Can an aging sorcerer find a way to track down his old nemesis with the small bit of magic he has left, or is he just fooling himself? —The Magnificent Bhajan

But it gets better! Not only is this a new author contest, it’s an illustrator contest, too! So each of our stories gets an gorgeous illustration by an up-and-coming artist! So it’s a book full of great stories and great art.

But it gets even better! (And this is why I’m up early bouncing around instead of sleeping in.) The contest organizers will fly all of us–authors and artists–out to Hollywood for an amazing week long writers workshop where we will get to learn from some of the most successful authors in the industry. I mean, even if you don’t read fantasy and science fiction, you will have heard of these people.

And at the end of the week, they have an incredible gala and awards ceremony with a red carpet, crazy fancy dresses (thank goodness for Rent the Runway*!–more on that later), amazing performances from EMCirque, and more. You guys. I’m going to have to get up onstage and give an acceptance speech! Aaaah!

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, tickets may still be available and they’re free, so all you have to do is RSVP (but you must RSVP)! Here is the event invitation. If you’re not in the LA area, but you still want to check it out, they will be live broadcasting online from www.writersofthefuture.com starting at 6:30 PM PST.

So now you understand why I’m so excited! Keep an eye on my Instagram feed for updates on all the fun!

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book. I’ve gotten to read all the stories ahead of time, and they’re all just fantastic.

A Newbie’s Guide to Surviving a Conference

A few weeks ago, I traveled to a blogger conference as a part of my job. This was my first time attending a blogger conference, and it was incredible. It was tons of fun, a lot of hard work, and I learned so much. While I missed my family, I’m really glad I went.

This week, I’m off to WorldCon. This is not a part of my day job, but it’s kind of an open secret that I’m also an aspiring speculative fiction writer and so this is a more personal professional development opportunity for me.

I’m glad I went to the blogger conference first because there are some really basic things I learned there that you never really think about asking and folks don’t think about mentioning. So I’m going to share with you a few of the little things that made the light bulb over my head go off and made my time at the conference just a little bit easier.

A Newbie's Guide to Con Survival

Wear Clothes With Pockets

You’ll need a place to stash pens, phone, cards, and so on that you can just grab without having to dig. For guys this is easy. Your clothes always have functional pockets. For women this can be a little more challenging. At Type A West, I found myself digging around in my bag way too much. Yes, the pencil skirt was a professional and appropriate choice of attire, but without pockets, it made it difficult to whip out my phone to snap a quick photo or produce a business card in a non-awkward way.

On the second day, I thought I had pockets, but they were still sewn shut, so I had to spend a few minutes tugging at threads on my butt pocket. Kind of embarrassing. “No, I swear I’m not scratching my butt. I just need a place to stick my phone.”

So the lesson I learned was: Pockets. The more the better.

Bring Business Cards

When me boss asked if I had business cards, I had to scramble to get some. I had been so caught up in the preparation for the actual event that it hadn’t occurred to me to have any made.  I only had time to have them printed at a copy store, and they did the job, but looking back I wished I’d planned ahead and had some nice ones printed at MOO. This time, I’m ready with a gorgeous stack of cards to trade. (If you want 10% off your first Moo.com order, follow my affiliate link.)

People come to conferences to learn, but they also come to network, and for the first time in my professional life I found myself actually in a position where I needed to be able to trade business cards. So plan ahead and have your business cards ready to go.

 A Newbie's Guide to Con Survival

Bring a Fine Tip Permanent Marker

The worst thing about getting home with a stack of business cards is trying to remember who it was you got them from and what it is you chatted about. Lots of people are leaving white space on business cards to allow space for note taking. Jotting down notes helps me process information, and a few quick notes helps me remember just what we talked about.

I had a ballpoint pen to write with, but with the glossy finish of most business cards, it was practically useless. I would have given just about anything for a fine point permanent marker. So at WorldCon, I will be traveling with a pack of fine point Sharpies to make sure if I need make a note on someone’s card, I can.

 

Carry a Bottle of Water

Yes, I know. Water is heavy. It can be a pain in the neck to lug around, and sure there are usually water fountains around somewhere, but having a water bottle in hand (or in the shoulder bag at least), serves as a constant reminder to stay hydrated. Sure the desert air was a factor in my being constantly thirsty at the blogger conference, but talking dries you out like crazy. So at WorldCon, I’ll be sip-sip-sipping from my water bottle.

 

Talking to Strangers is Not So Scary

This was huge for me. I’m a pretty introverted person. Talking to people I know can be challenging. I am super awkward in person. But talking to strangers? I was terrified. But I learned that meeting strangers is actually kind of nerve-wracking for everyone, and remember what I said about networking? Everyone else is there to network and meet other folks, too.

Sitting down at a table to eat breakfast with a bunch of people I’d never met turned out to be… great! I met some fantastic people. It’s not nearly as scary as I thought to sit down next to someone, introduce myself, and say, “So, what do you write about?”

A Newbie's Guide to Con Survival

 

Here are a few more necessities I’m including in my con survival kit based on my blogger conference experience:

  • Lip balm – I’m so glad I’ve got the super slim Grateful Naturals lip balm to slip into my pocket!
  • Hand sanitizer – I’m not usually a hand sanitizer kind of person, but Con Crud (the cold you pick up by the end of a convention or conference) is a real thing and I want to avoid it.
  • Vitamin C – See above about Con Crud.
  • A portable device charger – My phone died on me the first day of the blogger conference, and luckily my boss had a charger. She won’t be there to bail me out at WorldCon, so I’m bringing my own.
  • A light jacket – Some rooms at the blog conference were hot, some were very cold. You never know what you’ll run into.
  • High protein snacks – I don’t want to miss a session or a panel, but I don’t want to get sick from lack of food!
  • Notebooks and pens – Of course!

I’m so excited to learn and improve as a writer! This is going to be a fantastic few days!

 

A Newbie's Guide to Con Survival

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This is not a sponsored post. Any brands pictured are simply the ones I use in my every day life. I was not asked to write this post.

Cosleeping Adventures: How We Sidecarred Our Crib

How we converted a crib into a cosleeper and sidecarred it to our bed

Cosleeping has been a big part of our lives since the Grasshopper was a baby, and it seems especially relevant to me now that Cricket has declared her intent to sleep on her own like a big girl. So let’s rewind time a bit and I will show you how we sidecarred a crib so that Cricket could sleep safely with us.

Cricket Cosleeper sidecar crib
Keep in mind that Cricket is a toddler in this photo which is why you see her on her stomach with the stuffed animal and the blanket. Always follow safe sleep practices.

I’m sharing what worked for our family, but you may find something else works better for yours and that is okay. There are so many roads to wonderful parenting. If you do decide that cosleeping is right for you, please research carefully to ensure you are following the guidelines for safe cosleeping. This post is not a recommendation for one type of sleeping over the other and it is your responsibility to make sure that the choice you make is made with safety at the top of your mind.

After doing our research on the risks/benefits of cosleeping, we decided that sidecarring a crib was the right choice for our family. Sidecarring a crib simply means attaching a crib to the side of the bed. For us, this allowed me to sleep with Cricket without having her on the same sleeping surface as myself, which felt safer than having her on the bed with me.

We explored commercial cosleepers, and they all looked really nice, but they all seemed pretty small, and it felt like she would outgrow them quickly. In the end, we created our own cosleeper out of a cheap convertible crib that we purchased at a big box store, and it worked beautifully for us!

We assembled the crib as you would a toddler bed with one side off, but instead of placing the mattress on the lowest position as you would for a toddler, we placed it at the highest position.

SAMSUNG

The trouble is, we have a tall bed with a tall mattress, so it still wasn’t quite high enough.

Lucky me, a young person I know had recently gone to college and I remembered that she had purchased risers to help lift her bed up so she could store things underneath. With a set of risers and a thick layer of high density foam under the crib mattress, we were able to get it to the right level.

cosleeper sidecar crib high density foam

To keep things from wobbling or falling over, we used industrial strength bungee cords to attach her crib to our bed. These had to be tight (and I mean TIGHT) so that the crib would be stable.

cosleeper risers sidecar crib

Still, we needed to bridge the gap between our mattress and hers. Because it was only a space of a few inches, I shifted her mattress over the gap and placed a second piece of high density foam behind her mattress to tightly fill the space left between her mattress and the crib frame.

 

It’s important to note that we made sure any gaps were either securely covered or tightly filled. Babies are wiley and it’s easy for them to wiggle and get their heads stuck in things. There’s a reason why crib slats are required to be no more than a certain distance apart, and it’s important to always keep an eye out for gaps.

This method of cosleeping was really helpful for us. Having Cricket in bed with us without actually being in the bed helped me sleep more and helped ease those frequent nighttime breastfeeding sessions.

Again, keep in mind this is a toddler sleeping. Always follow the rules for safe infant sleep.
Again, keep in mind this is a toddler sleeping. Always follow the rules for safe infant sleep.

Teaching My Girls About Body Image

Swimsuit season is coming up, and I’ve been thinking a lot about body image.

Two kids later, my body doesn’t look like it did when I was in my early 20s. Deep inside I have a core belief that this is fine and that I love my body. I am happy about the way I look. I love my stretch marks, and when my kids poke my squishy belly, I’m happy to tell them that’s where they grew.

But…

But there’s this tiny voice in the back of my head complaining about the lack of thigh gap and that squishy belly and the stretch marks and everything else. I know and I believe in my heart of hearts that the voice is a liar. But it’s still a struggle.

I want my girls to not feel that struggle. I don’t want my girls to have to remind themselves that the voice lies. I want them to laugh at the voice. Or better yet, not even hear it.

So there are a few steps that I’m taking that I hope will help.

I make a point to look in the mirror and say that I like my body. “I love my tiger stripes! They remind me of when you were in my belly!” or “I like my legs. I felt so strong today when we went on that bike ride.” I want them to know that it’s okay to look in the mirror and like what they see, and I also want them to take pride in what their body can do. So I set the example.

I don’t talk about weight or weight loss around them. The only time we talk about weight is in terms of them growing. “Look how much you grew!” And realistically, that doesn’t come up except at the doctor’s office or in the locker room of the gym after swim lessons and they beg to step on it because it’s neat and they want to see if they’ve grown. Now, admittedly, I am trying to trim up my figure a bit, but when I talk about that, I talk about it in terms of Mommy wanting to get stronger so I can keep up with them on their bikes and scooters.

With food, we talk about putting healthy food into our bodies, not restricting calories.

I never, ever criticize my body in front of them. I don’t want them to think it’s okay to talk to themselves like that.

I don’t know if this will help them, but I hope it will. I hope I’m inoculating them early against what they will see in magazines. I want my girls to grow up loving themselves just as much as I love them.

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Silly Mirror self image confindence

Keeping Kids Safe from Accidental Poisonings

March 20-26, 2016 is National Poison Prevention Week, and since I’m big on safety, especially the safety of our little ones, I’d like to take this post to talk about some simple things we can do in our homes to keep our families safe. I’m not talking about this to scare anyone. Fear doesn’t solve problems. But education does, and the more we know, the better we can be about keeping our kiddos safe.

Kids get in to everything. You turn your head for a second or dare to take the time for a shower and you come back to find markers decorating the walls, pudding on the couch, and the contents of the dirty clothes hamper strewn up and down the stairs. That stuff is pretty irritating, but not deadly. However, if the kids get under the kitchen sink and start playing in the cleaning products, the situation can go from a minor (okay pudding on the couch is major) irritation to a life and death situation. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has provided the below infographic to help families understand why this is such an important topic.

2016 Children Act Fast So Do Poisons Infographic

 

In our home, we’ve taken a few simple steps to prevent poisonings, and I hope these ideas will help you stay safe in your own homes.

1. We don’t use child locks on cabinets.

A child lock on a cabinet is like waving a big purple sign that says, “There’s fun stuff in here! Come check it out!” I’ve yet to find the child lock that my children can’t defeat. And, ultimately, it’s in their nature to explore. So we stopped fighting the fight. Instead of locking the cabinets, we just make sure everything in the low, child-height cabinets is safe. Which leads me to…

2. We don’t store cleaning products under the sinks.

Growing up, that’s where the cleaning products belonged. Bathroom products went under the bathroom sinks and kitchen and other household cleaners went under the kitchen sink. It makes sense. It’s convenient. But it’s also easy for toddlers to get in to. What kid doesn’t enjoy exploring the inside of cabinets? It’s like they’re wired to do this.

We decided to stop fighting the fight to keep the kids out of there. Instead of storing cleaning and other hazardous products under the sinks at kid level, we store our cleaning supplies up high on the top of closet shelves. I bought a couple of inexpensive cleaning caddies and made cleaning kits (one for upstairs, one for downstairs) with everything I need in them: toilet cleaner, surface cleaner, glass cleaner, etc. When it’s time for me to clean, I pull the kit down and carry it with me wherever I need to go. When I’m finished cleaning, I put the kit back up on the top shelf of the hall closet.

We use the area under the sink to store washcloths, cleaning rags, toilet paper, and other non-harmful things. Refolding the washcloths after a kiddo plays with them is annoying, but it would be a lot worse if they played with cleaning chemicals. And yes, vinegar and lemon oil counts as chemicals.

3. We are aware that just because a product is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.

I use a lot of home-made, natural cleaning products. Or at least I used to before my busy life caught up with me and I had to prioritize what I make and what I buy. Still, it’s important to remember that even the most natural product can be dangerous if a child ingests it. Essential oils? Top shelf. Homemade shower spray? Top shelf. Natural, castile soap? Top shelf.

There are plenty of things in nature that will kill you. Don’t let an “All Natural” label lull you into complacency.

4. We keep medicines up high.

Before kids, we kept medicines in the bottom cabinet of the bathroom. Once the kids were born, I bought a cheap plastic storage bin and put the medicines in the hall closet right next to the cleaning supplies. It’s out of sight, out of mind, and most importantly out of reach. We also talk to the kids each time we give them medicine and remind them that medicine can help you feel better if you take it in the right way at the right time with Mommy and Daddy’s help. But at the wrong time it can make you sick.

5. We involve the kids in cleaning.

There’s this magic age where kids like to help clean! Take advantage of that while you can! Little ones want to help. They want to participate in the household chores. Cleaning is a perfect time to talk to them about poison safety. We talk about how to use the counter spray safely while I spray and the Cricket wipes. We talk about why something that gets rid of dirt can help keep our house healthy, but that it would make our bodies sick if we ate it. For us, including the kids and demystifying those bottles we keep in the top of the closet has helped manage their curiosity in safe ways.

There are lots of other ways to help prevent poisonings around the house. Here’s another infographic from The American Association of Poison Control Centers get you thinking about different poisons in your house and how to keep your families safe:

2016 Is Your Home Poison Safe Infographic

 

If you ever find yourself in a situation (and who hasn’t) where your little one has ingested something they shouldn’t, don’t hesitate to call the 800 number. They can take calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Poison Control is there for a reason. Here’s that number in case the infographic doesn’t load for you.

Poison Help Line: 1-800-222-1222

 

Do you have any steps you’ve taken to keep your families safe from accidental poisonings? Please share them so that we can all be a little safer!

 

 

Graphics provided by AAPCC  in their National Poison Prevention Week media toolkit.

 

#NPPW16 #preventpoison

2016: A Year of Kindness

When 2016 rolled around, I decided deep in my heart that I wanted to make kindness a central priority in my life. There’s been so much cruelty and pain in the news, that I want to do my best in my own little way by making the world a better place. Even if I’m only able to do small things, sometimes those can make a difference, right? I hope so.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. – Leo Buscaglia

I’ve been having to explain a lot of troubling things to my children. We see the heartbreaking news of the refugees from Syria who are fleeing for their lives and politicians here who say loudly that they are not worthy of our help and compassion. We see presidential candidates talking about building walls and shutting people out because of the way they worship or who they love. We see armed men breaking in and taking over public property waving guns and then bulldozing over archaeological sites and damaging fragile habitats. We’ve seen young people gunned down because of the color of their skin.

What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind. – Cleveland Amory

It’s been a lot to take in. And it’s hard explaining all of this to the girls. They have friends who are many different faiths and we are lucky enough that they go to a diverse school and preschool. For the Grasshopper especially, it’s hard for her to understand the cruelty directed at her friends. Quite honestly, I can’t understand it either, and I don’t know how to explain it other than to say that some people have ideas that we know to be very, very wrong.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. – Desmond Tutu

How do we solve all of this? I don’t know. Obviously, there aren’t any easy answers.

I think, in part, the solution lies within each of us. I think each of us, in our own small ways, can make a difference. I think it starts with realizing and admitting when you’ve done something wrong and apologizing for it. I think it starts with a word of support when you see a parent stuck in a tough situation with a tantrum-y kid. It means standing up and speaking out with compassion if you see someone mistreating another person because of the color of their skin or their faith or who they love. It’s taking the time to ask someone how their day was and really listen to them.

Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.
― Kahlil Gibran

Either way, I think it all of this has to add up somehow. We can do better than this. We have to choose to be the change we want to see. We have to choose to live with kindness.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. – Margaret Mead

This is why, in 2016, I’m choosing kindness as my word to live by.

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“Bless Your Heart”

Okay y’all, I’m going to get a little southern here for a minute. I was raised in Central Texas (which totally counts as the South), and growing up I used to hear my grandmother bless people all the time.

“Bless your heart.”

“Well, bless your soul.”

And she always meant it with all of her heart.

This is why I was surprised to learn as an adult that there is a “southern” thing wherein people apparently bless other people but really mean, “What a dumbass.” Or “I hate you.”

Guys, please. This isn’t a Southern Thing. This is a mean thing. I’m sure there are some passive aggressive people from the south out there, but I’d hate for anyone to walk away with the impression that Southern women are, as a whole, mean people who just fake being friendly until they can turn around and talk about you behind your back. Meanness is something that happens everywhere. It’s not a “Southern Thing.” I think those folks that bless people’s hearts in a sarcastic way would find ways to be nasty no matter where they are from.

I grew up surrounded by Southerners. East Texas Southerners. My maternal aunts could put more syllables into a word than you would believe. My mother can, too, but she’s pretty good at keeping a lid on it. What she’s not good at keeping a lid on is being friendly to folks. Everywhere. No matter who they are. This Christmas, we were standing in line to get tacos in a gas station (because this is Texas and that’s where you get good tacos), and my mom turned around and struck up a conversation with a couple of construction workers behind us. She chatted with them about their day and the delicious tacos we were all about to eat, and then she stuck out her hand and introduced herself to them, shook hands and learned their names. I guarantee you that if she sees them again she will remember them by name and ask after their children. Probably by name. Because she is kind and genuine and really cares about those two guys and how they are doing.

Now that’s a Southern thing.

But it’s not only a Southern thing. Just like mean folks live everywhere, so do kind people.

So if you ever hear me say, “Oh, bless your heart.” It doesn’t mean I hate you or think you’re stupid. It means I love you and I wish you happiness.

This year is just getting started. Let’s all work together to spread a little kindness.

Things I am (NOT) Tired of Seeing on Facebook

Have you guys seen those lists floating around listing all the things someone you don’t know is tired of seeing you post on facebook? Things like food photos, selfies, pictures of your kids, updates on your love life, commentary about the weather, cute animal videos, and on and on and on?

Listen, I don’t know who this person is, but let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt that they had a bad day, send them an oatmeal-raisin cookie (great for constipation!), and pack them off to bed.

I don’t like these lists because there’s always a thing or two on them that I feel guilty about. And because I can be an anxious person, I end up worrying that I am making my friends hate me because I post stupid stuff. But then, after a day or two, I come back and start scrolling through my feed, and I realize that my friends are all posting pictures of food, selfies, pictures of kids, updates on their love lives, commentary about the weather (sometimes with cool pictures!), cute animal videos, political commentary, and so forth. And I love seeing it!

I love seeing what my friends eat because it gives me new ideas when I’m stuck in a dinner rut.

I love all of the selfies because I love seeing the new haircuts, the new lipsticks and eyeliners, the cool hats, and the smiles of people who feel good about themselves. As long as they are being safe. Practice safe selfie-ing y’all! Although, is there some kind of trick to getting decent looking selfies? Mine always look really weird. Can somebody clue me in? Because apparently I’m too old to be able to do this well.

I love seeing pictures of everyone’s kids, even when it makes me realized that my friend’s newborn baby is going into kindergarten and I’m officially an Oldie McOldperson.

I love hearing about my friends’ love lives. I love celebrating with them when they’ve found the one, and I’m grateful for the chance to offer hugs and sympathy when things don’t work out.

I love weather posts because I have friends from all over the world, and it’s kind of crazy to see folks chillaxin’ (shush, that’s totally a word) on beaches when I’m in wool socks and long underwear. And the snow photos and storm photos are, let’s face it, just plain cool!

Do I actually need to tell you why I love cute animal videos?

I love seeing my friends happy. And when they’re not, I appreciate the opportunity to hug them and send them love. Post what makes you happy, and don’t listen to cranky people who want to pretend to be the facebook police.

And on that note, here’s an adorable picture of our dog playing in the sprinkler.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Resolutions: A 2015 Retrospective

Last year I made several New Year’s resolutions. Some turned out the way I expected. Some didn’t.

I did not read everything from that “books I should have read in college but didn’t” list. In fact, the only thing I did manage to read from the list was Slaughterhouse Five. Okay, so I started Catch-22, but I didn’t finish it. But, and this is a big but, I read a ton last year. In April alone, I read 19 books as a part of a mid-grade reading project I assigned to myself. That’s pretty good, I think. What I discovered about myself is that I want to be able to enjoy reading. With two little ones, a job, a house to manage, and everything else, my reading time is a precious escape. I want to be able to enjoy what I’m reading. Part way through my April Mid-Grade Challenge, I made a new resolution: If reading a book becomes a chore, cast it aside. There’s no point in taking up my valuable (to me) reading time torturing myself with something I don’t enjoy. So, even though I didn’t read everything (or anything) from that list of books I posted last year, I feel like this resolution was a success in its own way.

Another resolution I made last year was to start sewing again. Specifically, I intended to begin sewing a Victorian dress starting with the underthings and working out. Well, I got the chemise (basically a nightgown looking thing that goes under a corset) completed! And it is very pretty. I still need to finish the drawers, but there is a buttonhole involved and button holes make me nervous. Also, I’ve been too frightened to start the corset because corsets are less of a sewing project and more of an engineering project. That said, I’m still reading about corset construction and fit, so I haven’t cast this one aside. I’ve just put it on pause, that’s all.

I did grow in my sewing confidence enough to bite off the truly terrifying task of sewing Halloween costumes for both of my children. And they turned out pretty well! I had to remember all of my middle school 4H sewing skills, but the costumes turned out great! Scary zippers and all! And I can still topstitch like a boss! So, I’m going to call this resolution a win as well. I thought I’d be farther along with my Victorian dress, but I didn’t specify a timeline back in January, so I’m okay with where I ended up. And I can say that honestly and without feeling like I’m settling or making excuses.

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A mouse and Marshal from Paw Patrol!

 

Probably the most important resolution I made last year had to do with writing, and apparently, I didn’t post about it which is weird because I was sure that I did! What I was sure that I had told you was this: I wanted to concentrate on short stories. My goal was to produce three finished short story drafts and start trying to sell them. By “sell them” I don’t mean post them on Amazon for folks to read, so you won’t be able to find any of my work anywhere to read yourself right now. When I talk about selling them, I mean sending them to the editors of the short fiction magazines I listed in my resolutions post (among others) to see if they are interested in publishing them in their magazines.

And you know what? I did it! In fact, I produced four pieces of short fiction that I’ve been shopping around! I’ve racked up around nearly 20 rejections, which is hard, but expected. It’s important to note that my goal was not to get three short stories published, but to get them polished and sent out. This was a goal about improving my writing and conquering the fear of rejection. I’ve got plenty of time, and a year later I still get up every morning at five and write. Even on vacation.

So, when I look back at the resolutions I made in January, I would call 2015 a success, even if I wasn’t successful in quite the way I thought I would be.

Did you make any resolutions for 2015? How did you do in keeping them?

I’m Ready, Mama – Independent Sleep

Cricket and I have co-slept from the beginning, and I’ve heard it all.

“You’ll never get her out of your bed.”

“You have to teach her to self-soothe.”

“She’s never going to sleep on her own.”

Yes, Cricket is four. She sleeps in a double bed in her room, and I sleep with her. I’ve heard all of the co-sleeping criticisms multiple times. I’ve been told over and over that I’ve ruined her ability to sleep.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t. And I can say that, not with a defensive glare, but with a serene smile, because here’s the truth, the honest truth:

Sleep is a developmental milestone. When a child is ready to fall asleep on their own, they will.

Sure, the AP books all say this, but it’s hard to believe when what seems like the entire world tries to convince you that sleep training is a necessity.

But it’s not just the books that say they will sleep on their own when they are ready. I’ve seen it with my own eyes with both children.

I nursed both of my babies to sleep every single night from the time they were born. Then, one day, at around 18 months, nursing stopped helping them fall asleep. They still nursed before bed, but it didn’t put them to sleep. After a strange and confusing week, both of my girls learned to nurse, lay down beside Mama, and fall asleep. On their own. There was never a need to teach self-soothing, whatever that is supposed to mean. No need to “train” them to sleep. They were ready. They knew sleep time was a time of comfort and peace, so they were able to lay down knowing they were safe and comforted.

But wait, some folks might say. You’re still sleeping in bed with them! How’s that going to work out?

With the Grasshopper, I got Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I never got the chance to find out whether she would be able to learn to sleep on her own because the sickness took away my night time parenting abilities. With Cricket, though, we’ve been able to go at her pace, and while I sometimes doubted, my trust in her ability to know when she was ready has paid off.

A few weeks ago, we were in the car coming home from the grocery store (because all big conversations seem to happen in the car), and Cricket announced that she wanted to fall asleep like a big girl. It was completely out of the blue. We were listening to the Frozen soundtrack and she just piped up with, “Mama, I’m ready to go to sleep like a big girl now.”

And she was. She likes patterns, so we do a pattern. Every other night, I tuck her in, kiss her head, and say goodnight. And that’s it. No training. No tears. She just closes her eyes and goes to sleep. She knows that if she needs me, I will come to her immediately, so she feels safe trusting that Mama will be right there.

To all the tired mamas out there, keep the faith. Trust your kids. They will get there. It’s hard sometimes, I know. Cricket used to wake hourly in the night some times. But it’s not a forever thing. It will pass. Cuddle those babies. It’s what they need.

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