Saturday, August 29, 2009

There's a Story Behind Every Door

I walked to the Farmer's Market by myself this morning. Foggy, humid and quiet. The kids usually go with me. But after my daughter's first week at school, they both slept in.

I had a little quiet time all by myself. A nice experience while walking amongst the old houses of our centuries old little town. I couldn't help thinking about the history that has taken place here. And, in each house. Federal style homes from the late 1700's and early 1800's; many victorians dating from the mid 1880's; numerous buildings built around the early 1900's after the fire that took place in Warrenton. The picture is from a building down the street which we believe was a girl's school but after recent renovation, is now a retirement home.

The Black Horse Cavalry was in residence here during the Civil War and there were several battles that took place in and around Warrenton. One house in Old Town held troops for a bit.

I couldn't help thinking there were stories lurking everywhere. Literally. From past characters to the current residents. So many, one writer may not be able to get to all of them in his/her lifetime.

Maybe I don't need all the "idea books" I have purchased over the past few years. All I need is to go for a walk!

What stories are lurking around your neighborhood?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm Filled to the Brim

I'm officially addicted. To iced coffee. It started this summer and I'm afraid I may not be able to kick it until my old house gets so cold, I have to write wrapped in a blanket! Then I may begin brewing a hot pot midday.

It started early summer when I had a Starbucks frappucinno for the first time since I quit my real estate job to be a stay at home mom. They are not only full of calories and fat but cost around $4.00. I've always prefered to have 2 hot coffees that don't stress me out about packing on the lbs!

But, I'd had a really bad day and needed some caffeine so I headed for the drivethru at Starbucks. I would like to say that having a drivethru at something other than a McDonalds is definately a reason to move to the country. Especially when you have small kids you have to lug into every errand you run.

As I stared at my options, I considered a sweet latte. Caramel probably. Then I saw the chilled options and I was a gonner. I can't say why I became weak that day. Maybe it was because it was unusually warm or maybe I just really needed sugar combined with caffeine. And, I gave in.

A week or so later, I made my very pregnant sister swing into the new Starbucks in Front Royal. First, I never thought my old hometown would get any kind of coffee store. Now, I'm kind of sad it did. It's resting on old farmland. But, anyhoo, I got an iced caramel coffee. With whipped. And the syrup drizzled on the top. I gave her a taste. Now she is hooked too. UhOh.

Then I realized I had to make a change or else my swimsuits would no longer fit and noone would want to see me in them. So, I started using the old coffee in my pot leftover from the morning. Each day, when my kids were having their quiet time, i'd pour coffee over ice, add a shot of 2% milk and a little of my son's Hershey's syrup. Just a little. Yum.

Now, I'm alternating between syrup and International Coffees as my additive. It's not Starbucks but it's better than diet Pepsi for my midday kick except I'm now having 2. One on my way out the door in the morning and the other after lunch. When should I get worried? When I start having one at dinner? My sister gave me a Starbucks gift card for my birthday. Maybe now is the time to worry!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder

I am lucky enough to have just gotten back from two weeks of vacation. Over a week at a little beach in North Carolina called Sunset Beach and then a few days in Richmond, Virginia visiting my husband's brother and going to Busch Gardens with the kids. So much fun!

I was able to read several good books while watching my son chase the surf and my daughter dive into the waves. The beach is a yearly indicator of how they have grown. Each year, they become more independent in the water and therefore require less supervision giving my husband and I more time to read! Which we do perched only about a foot away from the edge!

I was and still am a big fan of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. I adore stories about friends and families that are both devoted and dysfunctional but do it with quite a bit of personality and pizzaz. Ms. Wells suffers from a very bad case of Lymes Disease. I respected her before I knew this but now even more as she has written another good story while she has been fighting this crippling sickness.

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is a beautifully written, good read. It is about one girl's journey to inner peace and love. The Ponders are not a dysfunctional family but are unique enough to be as interesting.

Calla Lily takes her lessons from her mother to find solice and comfort from her natural surroundings. The moon is a significant character and provides for spiritual guidance to the main character thoughout the story.

Ms. Wells has once again drawn interesting characters. This is a story I enjoyed and read quickly to cross the finish line. I did still have Calla Lily in my head for a few hours after finishing. She did not stay there like Vivi Walker did, holding up residence for days but I'm kind of thankful for that. I had other books to focus on as well. Later on those.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The School Bus Will Be Here Soon

We're back from a nice vacation and now it's back to school for my daughter. I'm so down about it, I have to really try to pick myself up. I'm focusing on the good things coming. Apples, Halloween and having a little time to myself. To write!

I thought I'd post an article I wrote before last summer for my local paper, The Fauquier Democrat. I don't think I'm up to writing a post about how much I will miss my little girl and the summer!

What I Learned in Kindergarten

Summer is almost here. I have looked forward to Summer 2008 since last Labor Day when my daughter headed to kindergarten. Through the winter, I enjoyed snow days and thoughts of summer break. Through the spring, I enjoyed the occasional vacation day and thoughts of summer break. I looked forward to having my daughter home with me all day to go to the park, the swimming pool or just for a picnic in the backyard.

Now, it’s here. My daughter is graduating from kindergarten, and all I now want is to go back to last Labor Day! I’m hard to please, huh? But, I can’t figure out how her first year passed so quickly? How did my first baby get to be a first grader!
I think back to the first day of school, snapping pictures as she headed down our brick walk to the school bus. Her green dress was a little too big and her new backpack drooped to her ankles.

I couldn’t get over it for weeks. I would walk with my son in the single stroller through Old Town feeling as if I was missing something important. Like an arm. Now, I don’t think I can get over the end of it! She has finally learned to tie her shoes. Who knew tying your shoes was so hard to teach? She has learned to read. That was certainly a momentous occasion.

She has gotten accustomed to doing homework first, and then playing. My husband and I got comfortable with her kindergarten teacher. We learned her school identity, bus and homeroom numbers. The cost of milk with and without lunch. Now she and I know which lunches she likes to buy, when to pack and that parents can actually eat with their kids.

She learned she loved the bus. I am glad my daughter is a fan of public transportation. But, I also found her brother and I can walk her to school on nice mornings. That’s a treasure. She has made a whole new set of friends and I have finally remembered all their names. I learned that even Kindergarteners want to go to the sock hop and if you don’t take them, they will be mad come Monday morning when their friends talk of nothing else. Apparently, there was not only disco music but dancing on the stage. I have been making up for that little oversight ever since.

I learned it’s best to find out the whole story to her school day by waiting until she is ready to talk. I was told green corduroy dresses with red appliqué ponies look dorky and to have a holiday outfit backup. “The big kids don’t dress like this, Mom. Ugh.”

Importantly, I found it necessary to ask everyday if underwear had been a consideration while dressing especially when wearing skirts.

I had to remember long vowels versus short ones. How to write correctly on lined paper and how to spell condensation. I remembered what a school cafeteria smells like, how to make a boat that will float and that kids celebrate the 100th day of school.

I have battled the inevitable introduction to things like Hannah Montana and High School Musical and come through without giving in. For now.

The desire to be independent has both grown and decreased. She insists on combing her own hair even though she may miss the bus, but somehow I am still needed to fetch a tissue, paper towel or help with a bathroom break.

She has learned how to get dressed, make her bed and brush her teeth each morning without forgetting to do one of them. This took all year. She has found she can indeed be patient with her little brother when she gets home from school. All he wants is to attack her as soon as she’s through the door. “Guess what I did today, Big Sis? And, play with me, please!”

All these experiences under her belt, I should be happy. But, I want to go back. Learn them all again. Enjoy them more. Slow down the days. This time, I will give her the space she needs to learn to tie her shoes. I found hovering doesn’t help. I will not expect Christmas break to be a real holiday vacation. It’s more like a long weekend with a lot of family trips involved to make it seem even shorter.

I couldn’t have enjoyed snow days anymore than I did because they really were the best. But, I wouldn’t want any more than we had less the school year grow even longer. Most importantly, I would not wish for summer break to come quickly.
I refuse to feel the need to have her in every possible activity during the break. I want a summer similar to my own. Long days at the pool, sleeping in the car on the ride home, and then shucking corn out back for dinner. Or going outside so early in the morning to swing that she still has on her pajamas. Mosquito bites and suntan lotion. The smell of your own backyard as a thunderstorm is looming and the feel of the grass as you lay and watch the clouds. Walking to the Warrenton Fourth of July parade while we mop our foreheads. Classic Americana. That’s what summer break is supposed to be.

My daughter will turn six this summer. My son will turn three. My husband and I each will get another year older. All this from Memorial to Labor Day. It’s a lot to accomplish.

I have learned my most important lesson this year in kindergarten. Stop wishing for the good times in the future and enjoy the good times at present. I’ll wait to introduce my daughter to Little Women for a few years and enjoy Judy Bloom with her instead. And, I’ll savor every day this summer break. At least the ones where no one is screaming, whining or complaining. Perhaps, when those inevitable moments come, I might actually be able to remember to take a deep breath, pour a nice healthy glass of wine and savor those moments too.

More than likely, nothing that civilized will happen. But, come next Labor Day, I’m sure I’ll be reminiscing and wishing for the good old days of Summer Break 2008. It will only be the good times I’ll miss. Whatever your situation, try to enjoy the heat, humidity and even the mosquitoes. I hope it’s a peaceful and relaxing one for us all!

I now commit myself to have an enjoyable Fall 2009. Here's to hoping for no fights while getting dressed for school, no mean girls in the 2nd grade and lots of fun!

I hope each of you with young kids has the same!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vacation with the Characters

My family and I are heading to the beach today. We'll be gone for about two weeks. It's usually a pretty sad time because my daughter will start school immediately when we get back. Our vacation is always planned for the end of the summer because we spend it at my in-laws beach house and it is rented much of the summer. Not being a beach fan (I know, I'm a freak), it's not my favorite time of the summer. But, I do enjoy being on vacation with my family and having my husband off work.

When I return, I will no doubt be in a bit of a depression. Vacation over, summer vacation over, daughter back in school and my tan will fade.

BUT, I have these great new characters to keep me busy. The family from the late 1950's. For a writer, I'm having a hard time explaining how much I enjoy the writing process during the creation of characters and story.

Last night as I did some nightly reading, Sarah Dessen's Dreamland, I had to keep hopping up to write a thought in my idea book. Finally, and yes I'm a little dense, I brought the book with me to the couch where I continued to scribble my revelations. The margarita helped, I'm sure. After so much packing, it was nice to relax.

The open space to create a brand new set of characters with quirks, issues and individual qualities that will interact with each other is well, just so much fun! I still stop sometimes and pinch myself knowing how lucky I am to be doing this.

So, the 7 hour drive will be spent thinking, scribbling and trying to do a little reading without getting nauseas.

Talk to all of you in a bit. And, here's to all of you having a productive two weeks!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Stinkerbutt (beware, this post is gaseous)

When my kids were babies, I would carry them around and sing to them. I have a horrible voice. Seriously. I knew very few songs, especially baby songs, so I would make up my own lyrics. Much more fun.

I also made up names for my kids. I do use some of the oldies but goodies. Darlin', Sweetheart, Sugar (pronounced shuugar). Now, when I was a little girl, we used the word stinker when we had a little gas. Being sweet southern little ladies, my sister and I would not use the word fart. I usually handled my gas in private. My sister was a different story. My mom also used to call people stinkers. In her book, if you were a stinker, you were interesting. It was high praise.

So, when I first had my daughter, Stinkerbutt became a Major original and often used in our household. "Hey, my little stinkerbutt, how did you sleep?" for instance. Or, "Don't be a stinkerbutt to your sister!". It is used as a term of endearment as well as to inform the child they are misbehaving. Somehow, my kids know how to determine my usage.

But, now my son is using the word in public. He has a very loud voice that carries. My very proper husband is appalled. He blames me of course eventhough he has used it as well. It is my fault. But, shouldn't I be able to make up words using gassy terms? And, shouldn't I be able to call my children by them? Do I always have to use the boring, sickly sweet terms like sweetheart? I mean, I don't cuss anymore (mostly). I can't even use the word jerk when someone cuts me off while driving. My son reprimands me. What am I left with except made up words that include bodily functions? I certainly don't want to be boring. That would be the highest crime!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Superior Scribbler Award

I received this award from one of my very favorite bloggers and fellow children's writer, Amy Tate. I am terribly fortunate to have received this and to have found a great blogger pal like Amy. It's unfortunate that I can't bestow the award to her myself.

I actually received it several weeks ago. But, being a novice blogger, I hadn't yet found others who hadn't received this award recently. So, I had to do a little hunting which was another perk because now I've found more blogs I love to read!

The Superior Scribbler Award:

1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy buds.
2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains The Award.
4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Here are 5 terrific bloggers (in no specific order):

1). Susan Counterfeit Farm Girl

2). N.A. Sharpe Realms of Thought

3). Corey Schwartz Thing 1 and Thing 2

4). Mama Grits ThirtySomethingLand

5). B.E. Sanderson Writing Spectacle II

Monday, August 3, 2009

Into the PTO Grind

I agreed to join the PTO last spring. After doing some volunteering here and there and a lot of popping popcorn for the kids' popcorn friday snacks, a couple of desperate pto'ers stuck my name in as secretary under the nomination.

When I first started at the elementary school, ahuhm, my daughter started at school, I avoided the PTO like the plague. I figured it was a group of moms with nothing better to do than to sit around and organize a bunch of fundraisers.

Well, they indeed do that. But, they have a lot of better or should I simply say other things to do. They are not a group of bored housewives needing fullfillment. And, being in the PTO is hardwork and I'm sure fullfilling at times. Like childrearing is fullfilling. You know the small glimpses of positivity that you get after weeks of fighting and arguing?

Throughout my daughter's second year at school in first grade, I realized there were only a few moms who do the heavy lifting. I also found they were terrific women. I appreciated them but I still didn't want to be one of them. Afterall, I need time to write. And, have coffee at Panera with my girlfriends.

But, they asked. And, I couldn't look any of them in the face and say "No, I'm sorry. You do soo much for my daughter's school but I don't have time to sit at the PTO meetings and take notes". Could you have done it?

Last night was our first meeting. Now, I love pen and paper. Well, pencil and paper. I enjoy writing on a yellow legal pad with a good pencil. Mirado Black Warrior's are my favorite and now an addiction thanks to my friend, Kat! They are smooth and erase beautifully. But after 2 1/2 hours of taking notes, I felt like a legal secretary. This is going to eat into my writing time and use up my good pencils. Not to mention all the other stuff I will end up volunteering for. It's a good thing those women are cool to hang out with!

Do you think there might be a story in all of this? I'm banking on it. I'm off to type up the minutes. See you in a few days!