April Showers Bring May Smiles

Every year, the Girl Scout troops of Eastern Missouri head out into the neighborhoods for the largest service project of the year. The Grasshopper and I have participated twice now with her Daisy troop in the April Showers drive to collect toiletries and personal care items. The girls spend one day hanging bags on doors requesting items like toothbrushes, tampons, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, and deodorant. The next weekend, the girls return to collect the bags and bring the items to banks where they can be distributed to families in need.

You might wonder why this sort of collection is important. Did you know that food stamps and many other forms of assistance don’t cover basic items like toothpaste? Did you know that having a period without access to pads or tampons can force girls and young women to miss school and work?

From the GSEM website:

  • Among households in Missouri, 25.8% percent reported annual income under $25,000 household income.
  • Among families with children under age 18, 16.7% percent reported annual income less than $25,000.
  • In 2013, the percentage of children ages 5-17 living in families in poverty in Missouri was over 20%.
  • According to the Consumer Expenditure Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average family of four will spend about $144 per month on housekeeping and personal care items.
  • One in seven Americans rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families, a report from Feeding America, the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of food assistance to low-income Americans, finds.

These kinds of donations are critical in supporting our community and helping to lift people out of the cycle of poverty. Yesterday, the Grasshopper and her troop collected 1,682 personal care items. Last year, the troop collected 1,327 items. If you live in the area and forgot to put out your bag, it’s not too late.

Individuals, who did not receive a bag or are unavailable to donate during the Showering the Community program can drop off personal care items in the barrels located at any Schnucks location in Missouri from April 15-27 or nearest Dierbergs Markets from April 25 – May 9, 2015 .  They can also call 314.400.4601 or 1.800.727.4475, ext. 4601, to arrange a pickup.

 

I’m proud of our girls in Eastern Missouri. If you would like to help out others in your local community, please call your local food banks. They will almost always accept these kinds of donations, and you could make a huge impact on the lives of people in your community.

Before every troop meeting, our girls recite the Girl Scout Promise

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

and the Girl Scout Law

I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

This past week, they didn’t just say the words, they lived them.

 

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Things that don’t belong in noses…

This week my husband and I leveled up in parenting. Cricket snagged an apple from the fruit bowl Sunday night for a pre-dinner snack. I heard her give a little cough and glanced over to make sure she hadn’t started to choke. She stood there beside the table with her eyes wide and her arms stiff at her side.

“Honey, are you okay? Did you get some down the wrong pipe?”

“Is in my nose.”

“You got some apple up your nose?”

“No, da ticker.”

My brain kicked into overdrive for a few seconds trying to figure out what a ticker is.  “You’ve got a sticker in your nose? What sticker?”

“Da Apple ticker.”

“You rolled the apple sticker up and stuck it in your nose? Does it hurt?”

She nodded. I rubbed my face with my hands and tried not to panic. Visions of emergency room doctors with probes danced in my mind. I reminded myself that nose-stashing was bound to happen at some point. Thankfully, the sticker was shallow enough in her nasal cavity that I could see it with the flashlight.

Her dad trundled downstairs with the tweezers, and a moment later he had removed the offending label from her orifice. She grinned, did a little jig, and went back to eating her apple, leaving us to ponder what it is that makes a preschooler think that sticking and apple sticker up the nose would be a good idea.

Now according to the nifty book our pediatrician gave us when our first daughter was born, you’re not supposed to try to use tweezers to pull out objects from children’s noses. That can actually push the objects deeper. You’re supposed to have them gently blow it out.  But Cricket still doesn’t quite understand the difference between blowing and sniffing and the possibility that she would actually hork it back into the dark recesses of her sinuses were pretty high.  So we went with the tweezer route.

With a preschooler, there truly is never a dull moment.  They are just all id all the time with no reason whatsoever for most of the things they do.  It’s a wonder any of us make it past our 10th birthdays.  I hope this is the end of our nasal adventures, but I wonder what she has in store for us next.

It’s New Year Resolutions Time!

Happy New Year to all of you, my dear readers.

I ended last year doing big, scary things.  I started writing a book!  Okay, I finished writing one book and started writing another.  I say that is a big and scary thing because I’ve dreamed of becoming an author since I was a kid.  Books are magical for me, and the idea of creating my own worlds and sharing them with others has a dreamlike appeal.  Still, I haven’t written creatively since college, so starting up again seemed daunting.  And nothing is more frightening than chasing a dream you’ve held close to your heart.  I had to be willing to open myself up and become vulnerable and answer that most frightening of questions: What if I fail?

This November, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I discovered through the course of that that while failure is certainly a possibility, even, dare I say, an eventuality, the greater risk is never trying at all.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default. –J. K. Rowling

While the fiction I’m producing right now might not be great and certainly isn’t ready to be sent out anywhere, I’m practicing.  I’m chasing the moths out of my creaky, dusty brain.  I’m learning.  I’m creating.  I’m starting somewhere, and even though that first step can sometimes be the hardest, it is often the most important.

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2015 will continue to be a year of doing big, scary things.  I see it as a year of creativity, growth, and fun.  No, I’m not going to make any big resolutions to lose weight, get fit, or go to the gym.  But I have promised myself to try new things.  No big goals.  Just tiny, achievable things.

In addition to writing every, single day, and, as Natalie Goldberg suggests in Writing Down the Bones, filling a cheap spiral notebook every month, I want to read more, more, more.  I’ve subscribed to a number of fiction magazines.  I’d like to work on honing my short fiction skills over the next few years, and the best way to do that is to read, read, read and (of course) write.

If that doesn’t seem like enough reading, I’ve also decided that I would like to read some of those classics that I really ought to have read in college.  Heck, even with a degree in English, I managed to avoid many works that people consider classics today.  I will read one of these books each month.  That’s not too hard, is it?  Here is the list of those books in no particular order:

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Phillip K. Dick
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  • Cosmos – Carl Sagan
  • East of Eden – John Steinbeck
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
  • The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
  • The Name of the Rose – Umberto Ecco
  • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger

I plan to start with Catch-22.  I’ve already got it downloaded to my Kindle in fact, thanks to my local library’s amazing e-book lending abilities.  You can keep up with my progress over on goodreads.  Look for the goodreads widget over on the left-hand side of this page to keep track of my progress, and of course, I am sure I will include some of my thoughts here.

As a third and final project for the year, since three is a good, round number, I’ve decided to start sewing again.  I have always loved the ideas of costuming and cosplay.  And with my NaNoWriMo novel, which was a pseudo-steampunk piece, I found myself growing interested in Victorian clothing.  So, my plan, over the long term, is to build a Victorian dress from the skin out.  I’m going to go a piece at a time, starting with the chemise and drawers to refresh my sewing skills before moving on to the more daunting task of constructing a corset.  Once I have my underpinnings complete, I can move on and decide what kind of dress I want to create, whether that’s a true historical dress or more of a fun, fantasy, steampunk mishmash.  Tons of flexibility, no pressure, and I can quit any time, she said trying to keep her voice convincing.

So you can expect to see pictures of a very frustrated me, bent over a sewing machine, biting back curses.  But hey!  At least I won’t have to deal with zippers or button holes.  And if you’re lucky I may even post a few pictures of my in my underwear!  Which isn’t nearly as scandalous as it sounds since Victorian underwear covers you from shoulder to knee, but it sure was fun to write that!

So that’s my tri-fold plan for the new year.  Of course, I will continue all of the things that made 2014 great: gardening, cooking, and having an awesome time with my family.  But I’m excited about the new projects, and I’m looking forward to allowing myself to indulge in my creativity.

What are your plans for 2015?  Are you trying anything new this year?

 

 

*Amazon links are affiliate links.

Books in her Voice

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When the Grasshopper reads, I wonder what she hears.

When I read, I used to hear the words in my head as if I was speaking with the voices of the characters, as if they were telling the story to me in my own voice.  I would carefully pronounce strange names in my mind and almost whisper the dialogue.  By middle school, I lost that.  Too many books, too fast, and my reading pace increased from a clip to a run.  Now, I don’t hear voices at all when I read.  A cousin of mine in Japan talked about reading Kanji, how it is like an instant data dump of information into your mind.  For me, so is reading English.  I don’t have time to hear the words or the voices.  The book simply connects with my brain and we sync our data.  I like the intimacy of this.  The words disappear and instead of letters and punctuation, I see colors and hills and people living their lives.  I step into an alternate reality like Neil Stephenson’s Metaverse.

Still, looking over at my daughter reading, her lips whispering the words, I wonder.  Does she hear the words in her head yet?  Do the characters speak to her in her own voice?

 

Maturity is Like a Gate

This morning, while waiting for the bus, the Grasshopper looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I think our family would be better if we were only three.”

I knew she was talking about Cricket who is three and going through a tough time.  Last night, while my older daughter and I were trying to read before bed, an activity that is sacred to us, my little one shouted, shrieked, asked questions, blew raspberries, and generally did everything she could to interrupt reading time.  It was frustrating for all of us, most of all for the Grasshopper who felt the deep unfairness of the situation.  Why couldn’t she just have a few peaceful minutes of reading time with her mama?

This morning, though, my heart broke when I heard her words.  I wanted to put the words back in her mouth, to tell her to never say such a mean thing.  Instead, I took a deep breath and gave thanks for her trust in me.  How hard it must have been for her to entrust that dark secret to me?  I hugged her and struggled with a way to explain things to her.

This is what I told her:

Sometimes your brain has ideas on things that might be interesting to do or say.  But, you know, it’s not always a good idea to do or say those things.  Sometimes you look back after you make a choice and think, “I wish I had not done that.”  It’s like there is a gate in there, right?  That gate lets you make a choice to let some stuff out and keep some stuff in.

Three-year-olds don’t have a gate at all.  They just let everything out, whether or not it is the right thing to do at the time.  In a lot of ways, they can’t help it.  We help them build their gate by teaching them when their behavior is appropriate and when it is not.  Just like when we helped you build your gate.

You’ve got a pretty good gate right now, don’t you think?  It helps you to behave in appropriate ways and make the right choices about what you say and do.  Sure, sometimes stuff slips through even when you’re trying to hold it closed.  Like yesterday when you did the crazy dance before bed and got in trouble for being too loud at bedtime, remember?  And I will let you in on a secret.  Adults have gates, too.  Sometimes my gate lets the wrong thing out and I make choices that I shouldn’t make.  We own our gates, and we need to keep a careful eye on when we open them to let things out and when we close them.

We will keep helping your sister build her gate, and I promise things will get better.

 

kindness

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month

It’s time to come clean and confess.

I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life. I spent my childhood adulthood devouring book after book after book. I dreamed up worlds and characters and stories and conflict. In college, I took a few creative writing classes, but I told myself that I wouldn’t be able to make it, so I focused on technical writing. My passion for reading dissipated in the face of book assignments for classes. As an adult, I discovered that, while I could write a damn fine user manual, the process was bone achingly dull.

Still, writing books was in the back of my head, and my husband would remind me sometimes when we were both feeling glum. “Hey, hurry up and write that book, so we can buy a house by the beach.”  No amount of explaining to him has convinced him that this is not how writing works, but that’s another story.

A few years ago, I noticed something popping into my blog and facebook feeds. What is this NaNoWriMo thing? National Novel Writing Month? It annoyed me. Here were people doing what I had longed to do. I felt a twinge of resentment. I told myself that things had changed and my priorities had shifted and that I was okay with that. I made excuses about why this thing with the annoying name that got stuck in my head was definitely not for me.

I was busy, alright? I had one kid. Then another. I was writing a blog. I was reaching out and helping other people. I was doing a service. And darnit, I had a full time job, okay? Didn’t I have enough on my plate already? I didn’t have time for anything else. So I ignored it. Except when I rolled my eyes when I saw that silly word pop up in one of my feeds.

Then I met a friend who reminded me how much fun it is to read. I started picking up books at the library. She showed me how to check out e-books from our local library. My imagination started working again.

A few months later, I joined the Writing 101 program that wordpress put on with the idea of helping me get a jump start. At first, I was turned off by the assignments. This felt a little more like creative writing than blog writing. Who wants to read that?  But I had signed up for it, so I went ahead and gave the assignments a try.

I discovered that I had forgotten how much fun it is to just… write!  And read!  I found other bloggers who were having just as much fun as I was!

Then I remembered that NaNoWriMo thing, and the book that had been pouting around in my brain since college gave its bedroom door a good hard kick.

So I’m hear to announce that this year, I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo.  In the month of November, you won’t see many post from me.  I will be working furiously on my book.  I will be trying to get down 50,000 words in 30 days.  I keep telling myself over and over that that’s just 1667 words per day, the equivalent of just 2 and a little more blog posts.  That’s not so bad, right?  Will I create a polished novel at the end?  No.  The goal is just to write a first draft.  Get it out.  Get it on paper.

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So that is my goal.  I’m telling you all here, right now, so that I can hold myself accountable. Sometimes I need a kick in the pants and a deadline hanging over my neck, so that is what this post is.

Is anyone else doing NaNo this year?  What got you started?

 

 

Featured image courtesy of the NaNoWriMo website

Coming Back to a Blog

I don’t normally follow craft or fashion blogs, but something about Wanna Be Sewing Something caught my eye.  I read Najah’s post, How to Return to Blogging with a Vengeance, several times before commenting.  It seems that, like me, she had a long hiatus from blogging due to a new family addition, and like me, she’s working to get back into it.

Her post got me thinking about how radically different our lives become when our little ones are born.  How suddenly things we once cared so much about and spent so much time on slip away.  And, you know, that’s okay.  There’s something powerful in babies and children that reset your life perspective forever.

And that growth isn’t a single moment, either.  Both of my girls help me to grow and change each day.  Priorities shift and change.  What was once important becomes less so.  And yet, as I grow and change as a mother, I still maintain the core of who I am.  Writing is still a passion for me (rusty though I am) just like sewing is still a passion for Najah.

I am eager to continue reading Najah’s blog and fantasizing about what I might like to sew.  She seems like the kind of person with whom you just want to sit down and have a cup of tea and a good chat.  Her fashion sense has incredible flair.  And I can’t wait to see what comes from her next as she, like me, rediscovers blogging.

Toddlers and Tonsillectomies and Things to be Thankful For

Cricket had her tonsils out a few weeks ago. It was a stressful time for our family and things have been pretty crazy.

Thankfully, the surgery went well and she has bounced back quickly. Too quickly! Keeping a toddler quiet for two weeks has been difficult. We’ve played lots of games, colored lots of pictures, and watched way too many cartoons.

During this recovery period, I’ve discovered that I have lots to be thankful for. Our overnight hospital stay really drove that home.

At the start of our stay, I felt sorry for myself and for Cricket. How awful it was that my baby was having surgery. How hard for her and for us. I will admit that I spent a few hours wallowing a bit.

But the reality is this: Time in a Children’s Hospital puts things into perspective pretty quickly.

While Cricket slept, and I was alone with my thoughts, I thought about how lucky we were.  A deep feeling of gratitude quickly overcame the self-pity I felt.

I’m thankful for so many things.

I’m thankful for a stellar medical team who took wonderful care of Cricket during her surgery and hospital stay.

I’m thankful for my family who came to be with us during the surgery. I’m thankful for my Mother-in-Law who stepped into my shoes at home and cared for my family and home while I focused on Cricket.  And my Father-in-Law who played with the Grasshopper and helped her to feel special while her sister was getting so much attention.  And my mom who was willing to drop everything to come help, but equally willing to let my Mother-in-Law step in to help, too.

I’m thankful for a circle of friends who shared with me their experiences, checked on us, and kept back the things they knew would frighten me.

I’m thankful that I have a job that allowed me to be with her the entire time.

Most of all, I am thankful that we all came home together, healthier than we started.

Surgery on my Baby

On Monday, my little Cricket is having her tonsils and adenoids out.  I know it needs to be done, but it sure isn’t easy.

Before this year, I thought that tonsillectomies were for older kids who had strep throat a lot.  I wasn’t really aware of any of my peers having it done, so I never knew much about it.  As it turns out, there can be a variety of reasons for removing tonsils and adenoids, with infections being only one of those reasons.

Since she was born, Cricket has always been a stuffy kid.  When she was a newborn, I called her my little bulldog because she would snort and snuffle and grunt and snore just like an English bulldog.

This January, the snoring became much worse.  It stopped being cute and quirky and started disrupting both of our sleep.  I felt silly calling the doctor to complain about it.  I mean, can you really take your kid in to the doctor for snoring?

Yes.  You can and you should.

As it turns out, she has sleep apnea.  As she sleeps, her muscles relax, allowing her very swollen tonsils to come together and block her airway.  She will snore for a period of time before the airway closes complete, jolting her awake.  I spend my nights adjusting her body, lifting her head to make sure her neck is extended and the airway is as wide as possible, pulling her shoulders back to open her chest, and repositioning her arms so they don’t dig into her neck.

Neither of us are getting much sleep, and I have this constant fear that I will sleep through an obstructive episode and she will just die from positional asphyxiation.  At this time, we cannot allow her to fall asleep in her carseat because her head slumps forward and she cannot get oxygen.  Her ribcage caves in as she struggles for air.  It is frightening.

The image above shows her sleeping in her stroller which is not an option now because of how restricted her airway is.

I know that this must be done, but still I am frightened.  I would appreciate any prayers and loving thoughts that you might have for her and her doctors.

If any of you have ever done this before, I sure would love tips for the healing period.  Is there anything you wish someone would have told you going into this?

Facebook Return

It’s been the entire month of June since I’ve been on Facebook. The break has been good in some ways and not so good in other ways.

Being away from Facebook has given me much more time to dive into some of my real passions and hobbies. I’ve been having more fun cooking, which has been both beneficial and not so beneficial if my last post on bread failures has an indication.

I’ve enjoyed more focused time with my kiddos, which is irreplaceable. Having Facebook looming in the background had been a distraction for some time and it has been good to be rid of it.

Being off Facebook has been difficult in some ways, though. I’ve found myself more isolated from my real life friends. Much of our social planning took place on Facebook, and I found it difficult to connect and plan outings and playdates.

With all of that, I will be going back to Facebook, albeit in a more limited way. I briefly loaded the app on my iPad and removed myself from most of the groups I had found my way into. I trimmed my group list down from almost 40 to around 5.

I left groups that I didn’t post in frequently and groups that tended to invite drama. While I dislike drama, I found myself drawn to watch dramatic activities take place, and I certainly don’t need to waste time and energy on that.

I’ve been working on trimming my friend list pretty heavily. That I am finding quite difficult. It feels almost mean to remove someone from my friend list. I find myself worrying that their feelings will be hurt. But the people I am removing are those that I just don’t interact with at all. Or people that I can’t quite remember where I know them from. Or people that tend to bring drama. Still it feels mean. I don’t like doing it. But I feel it’s important to do.

I’m not sure when I will be really back from Facebook. The only thing I’ve done so far was to comment in my World of Warcraft guild group. For whatever reason, I’m not eager to start posting status updates. Reentry into Facebook will be an interesting experience, and I hope I can maintain some of the distance I have created for myself.

Time will tell.