Fear of the Week

Hey Friends,

Just wanted to give a quick update on my own private NaNoWriMo. I made the last goal so I’m at 20,000 words. The way I’ve been doing it is a hybrid method. That is, I’m not writing every day because that doesn’t work with my schedule. Instead, I’ve set aside a week where the writing is the number one priority and gotten 10K words. Then I had to stop and make up all the things I didn’t get done. Then I did another week of 10K words. I’m about to start on my third week.

One of the things that some of you might say is, “Lame. The whole point is to write every day until you get 50K. Taking breaks isn’t NaNoWriMo. You’re a cheater and I don’t care about you.”

Okay. That’s a little harsh, but fine and fair. And, this is my version. Whether or not I’m doing it wrong, I have learned that there is a specific fear associated with each week of writing.

Also, to come back to that whole “lame bit” here are some of the things I’ve done the past two weeks to make up, catch up, and try to triage to prepare for next week long sprint:

One Times: I finished my Christmas Letters. (Now are you getting how overwhelmed I am?)  My daughter Evelyn participated as a cancer survivor in the “Pantene Beautiful Lengths” experience by cutting the ponytails of students donating their hair to be made into free wigs for cancer patients. Dog had to go to vet to get nails clipped, and fresh orders of heartworm preventative and flea/tick meds. Lime disease is terrible in Maryland. Son had to go to orthodontist. He needs braces.  I went to Baltimore for critique group at the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Had several stories come in from The Potomac Review that I need to read and get responses back to editor. I called my senators about the cuts to the EPA.

Regular: Post office, bank, drycleaner, grocery store, laundry for six people, I wrote my bills, went through mail I hadn’t looked at in over a week, and then the sports. This is the overlapping of winter and spring sports. My son is regular basketball, all-star basketball, lacrosse. My oldest daughter finished her volunteer hours at the horse stable and then started Track and Field (which is EVERY DAY that I have to pick her up from school). My little ones finished science club but still have gymnastics. They also have birthday parties to attend on the weekends. I wasn’t teaching as many classes this week, but I had to finish the session with all the attending paperwork to be filed and moved around.

Now that I’ve been nice and defensive, let me throw away all the little sticky notes that I write my daily to-do lists on and tell you about FEAR.

The first week fear is: DO I HAVE A NOVEL IN ME? That is, you’ve thought of a premise, you’ve got a hook and a setting and some characters, but do you have enough for 85K words? You kinda know what’s going to happen, but what if it all happens too quickly and this is only a short story?

The only way to get through this fear is to try it. Take a deep breath and keep asking “what if.” What if my character wants A, but then B happens? What if my character chooses to do something stupid when someone else has A and doesn’t appreciate it? What if my character gets A, but realizes she wanted B?

The second week fear: THIS ISN’T INTERESTING. I’ve got too many characters, too many pets, the conflict isn’t threatening enough. All my sentences are subject-verb-direct object with no variety so that EVEN MY SENTENCES ARE BORING.

That’s okay. I’ve read NaNoWriMo pep talks. The authors all say the same thing. You can’t edit something that you haven’t gotten out of your head. You must get something onto the paper and then you can change it around. Also, this writing is so fresh that you are not a reliable indicator of whether there is an engrossing story. You’ll need beta readers and TIME.

As I’m getting ready for my third week (tomorrow is an elementary half-day so kids are getting home as I’m getting home from teaching yoga and my son has three basketball games Saturday because they are in a tournament and I teach Sunday School on Sunday morning, but after that. Monday, March 6th)…

I have another fear: THIS ISN’T WORTH IT  All those things I listed above that I had to get done so that I could write something that no one is ever going to want to read. My premise is stupid, my characters forgettable. I’m stressed and irritable because I have no time and it’s all going to be forgotten, recycled, a waste of paper.

Maybe I’ll have some insight after I make it through this writing week. But, this one seems to be the hardest to fight because I KNOW I’m out of balance. My day, each day, is scheduled down to ten minute intervals and that is not how I want to live. I’m nervous when practice schedules don’t come in ahead of time because I am constantly doing logistics. I’m short with the kids when they want to play instead of sticking to the schedule. I live in the minivan and dread dinner because I didn’t have time to make anything that they’ll all eat. The situation makes me very unhappy.

My guess is this is where the author says he or she had to dig deep and have confidence that the novel will help other people, that the story will connect and resonate with others.

I don’t know. We should have an answer by March 13th.

Love,

Sherri

 

Attempting to Critique Group My Teens

Happy Halloween!

Today means two things: 1) You should go and buy your copy of Pantheon Magazine, Hestia Issue right now so img_2942you can read some scary stories. My story “1416 DeForested Lane” is included and I’m honored to be in this issue.  Here’s the link: Amazon  And, if you enjoy it, please post a review. It helps the writers to get noticed by other readers and spreads the love.

AND…….

2) I now officially have two teenagers. Count them. One. Two. And they are nuts. Absolutely crazy, but they are also the same. And that took some getting used to. My daughter is in high school, but I didn’t realize it until August when I drove her to the sports tryouts and the parents lined up court side and then the coach came and ushered us all out and thanked us, very nicely, for coming, and said she’d see us when tryouts were over. Then she shut the door to the gym. That’s when I took a deep breath and looked around and realized that zooming toward me were driving lessons and formal dances and college and BIG decisions. Like, the kind of decisions that were going to affect my daughter’s LIFE. It seemed a good time to go and get myself a coffee. And maybe ice cream.

She went to Homecoming with friends. I thought I had until Junior year? Nope.

She went to Homecoming with friends. I thought I had until Junior year? Nope.

Today is my son’s birthday. Yup, he’s a Halloween baby.

img_2941

He turned thirteen. In some cultures he would be considered a man. I was telling my friend who also has a son about how I was having a conversation with my son, just talking about whatever, and he reached over and lifted me up. WHILE I WAS TALKING. He set me down like nothing had happened. My friend goes, “What? My son did that to me the other day, too.” So, maybe it’s a thing? Like, how adults are always like, “You’ve grown so much, you’ve gotten so big, blah blah.” Maybe teenagers are like, “I’m going to randomly pick you up and set you down again because now I can.” Maybe it was the trend that predated that throwing-a-bottle-in-the-air-and-landing-it-thing that is now happening EVERYWHERE.

Anyway, I’m no parenting expert, but I figured I’d take what I’ve learned in my writing critique group and see if there’s a parallel.

  1. In Critique Group it’s less about “fixing” someone’s writing than asking questions so they can see their way to the answer. Same with teens (although so much harder). I no longer get to be in control. I have to step back, offer guidance, and also listen while my child gets to a right answer. Sometimes it won’t be the answer I was thinking. Sometimes it will be worse because NO COMMON SENSE, but sometimes it will be BETTER and then I get to be proud.
  2. Have food. And beverages. In critique group we all stop and get our treats before we start working. With teens, this is beyond important. You will seriously not even believe how much my son eats. I double recipes for NORMAL around here. These articles are like “just double and put the extra in the freezer for a day when you’re rushed.” SHUT UP, non-teenager parent person. THERE ARE NO LEFTOVERS. And, if food is not available, there will be tantrums or tears or both. I promise.
  3. Realize that we will have off days. My critique partners and I have given apologies, accepted apologies, and are the stronger for it. This is how I need to be with my teens. My teens are hormonal. I don’t always communicate what’s in my head. There are going to be bruised feelings, but we will get through it with as much grace as we can.
  4. Commitment. Our critique group has met once a month for two years. We show up for our work and we show up for each other. Even when we know what we’ve submitted isn’t the best. Or it’s two pages instead of ten. We show up. That’s what family is. That’s what relationships are. That’s the work. I’m going to show up for my teens.

 

That’s all I’ve got for now. Except a HUGE shout out to middle school teachers. You guys are amaze-balls.

Love,

Sherri

 

Too much stimulation

Today is the first day of spring break and I’m already going nuts.

Despite the fact that every school day I’m dragging kids out of bed, threatening everything that can be threatened if they miss the bus, today they are up. One child has gotten into the cookies and is eating them as she reads in bed. (a no-no in our house. CRUMBS, PEOPLE). The radio is blaring from a bedroom with no one in it. The twins are on my bed, jumping on me because they want their iPads. One twin is okay with waiting until later in the day, but the other has a meltdown complete with kicking legs and screaming and I look at the clock and just wonder why. The puppy wags his tail. He’s ready for his morning walk.

The computer is on downstairs and I yell, “No technology until after breakfast, please.” The answer: “We’re reading on the computer.”

Breakfast. Somehow I started the tradition of every snow day and first day of any break we have blueberry pancakes, and eggs or sausage or something else that requires actual cooking. So, I could bust these out by myself pretty quickly, but no. Supposed to be a teachable moment so I let her do the measuring and the stirring and I bite my lip when there is mix all over the counter and floor and she over-stirred the blueberries so that the mix is purple and little deflated blueberry balloon skins are all that’s left.

The oldest girl comes down and flops on the couch, turning on tv. And, now I’m annoyed because I can’t leave the kitchen, but I can’t seem to win against technology. And, I want my kids to go outside and like build a tree fort or something, but without my needing to supervise and without them using their father’s tools and messing anything up. Can’t they learn a foreign language or how to type? But, that would require my finding the program on the computer. And so I don’t say anything except to call the youngest when it’s time to flip the pancakes.

The laundry is going today too because, despite being spring break, there are buckets of dirty clothes. And I ask, is everything REALLY dirty? Even this shirt that I see is still folded? Did you really wear it? Yes, Mom. Three cherubic smiles. (The boy is still in bed. I don’t ask if his clothes are dirty. They are.)

And I start the dishwasher too, but have to stack the breakfast dishes in the sink, syrupy and sticky because there is too much. Too much of everything.

I dump the egg shells in the flower pots outside, tiny bit of composting, and later I see the puppy eating them. Mental note: Take the dog for another walk because who knows what that will do to his tummy.

My agent has sent me notes about the synopsis I need to get done. The kids want to know if they can watch a movie. I suggest they ride bikes. They want to know if they can play DS. I tell them they need to take the puppy for another walk. He’s going nuts because he normally has daily playdates with our neighbor’s dogs. They are all besties. The three of them run and jump over each other and do ridiculous acrobatics and then puppy comes back in and sleeps. But, the humans are on vacation and I texted the dogsitter to find out when the dogs would come outside, but don’t have a time yet.

This is him watching for his friends.

Gabe looking for Gracie

And then the doorbell rings and I realize I’m still in my pjs and my older daughter brings in a package from Fed ex or whatever. I go upstairs to get dressed. And I’m trying to decide if I can make it to critique group tonight. I haven’t been in so long, but I haven’t worked on the story I wanted to work on and I have something else, but it’s handwritten and I’d have to type it up. On the other hand, the babysitter is arranged and I don’t want to cancel on her and my husband won’t be home until late anyway and the coach is picking up the boy for lacrosse practice…and I’m thinking all these things when I hear a man’s voice. In my house.

And one of my kids wanders into my bathroom where I’m half-dressed and I say, “Is there someone here?” Which is stupid, BECAUSE I CAN HEAR THAT SOMEONE IS HERE. And the kid says, “Yeah. The bug guy is spraying.”

Which I kind of hate anyway because I don’t like chemicals all around, and I hate strangers showing up at my door. Especially when I’m not dressed. I throw on the rest of my clothes and hurry outside, but the bug guy is gone. So, the one place we need sprayed is the door in the basement because we get these huge black spiders that lurk in doorways and the bug guy didn’t spray the one spot we needed. And I’m pissed and rushed and the kids tell me that they are done playing Polly Pockets and want to know if it’s time for lunch.

And I tell them no and run to the internet to type these words so I can get my head on straight and figure out what is going on. Not just with the day because nothing really terrible has happened, but I’m frazzled and feel karate chopped.

And, here it is. Too much stimulation. I’m an introvert. I like calm and even silence. I like to drift in my thoughts thinking of story lines or images. And now I feel defensive, attacked. Crazy to make all these demands STOP.

And, I’m tired of feeling guilty. Like every break or holiday from school is supposed to be an opportunity for Pinterest. Why do I have to defend my need and my desire to work on my dream (the synopsis for my novel and a story for tonight’s meeting)? But, I do. My kids work me constantly. The boy literally spent thirty minutes last night quizzing me on his favorite things to show that I don’t spend enough time with him.

Example:

Him: You don’t even know my favorite color.

Me: Orange.

Him: MY OTHER FAVORITE COLOR.

Me: Dark Blue.

Him: (huffy breath) Well, you don’t even know my favorite….

The girls are manipulative.

Me: Go play something real with your Monster High girls or your shopkins. Make up a story and act it out with the characters.

Them: Why DON’T you WANT to play WITH us?

Me: I do. But I have to work.

Them: So you don’t love us. We understand. (Slumped shoulders and eyes that slide away)

Me: We just made breakfast together.

Twin 1: No, you just did that with Twin 2.

Me: Okay, you can help me make lunch.

Twin 1: You always want me to work!

 

And now it’s lunch time. Hope you’re enjoying your spring break!

Sherri

Still Revising — a conversation

Hello, Friends.

I’m still revising. The good news is that I’m in the final act. Here’s my favorite sentence:

If Scott was right that energy paths ran across the lithosphere of the earth connecting land forms and significant natural monuments, and Emesh was right that the earth was overflowing with antediluvian energy activated by Shamash’s dying body, and The Weatherman was right that energy was the key to understanding the post-firestorm changes, then…Rachel’s mind stopped here. She didn’t know exactly what it meant, except that this LaPorte place was something like a nuclear reactor.

It gets readers all on track for Act 3 when everything both falls apart and pulls together, based on the clues and action in the preceding acts. No pressure.

Here’s my bad news. IT’S HARD. You want everything to SHINE and MAKE SENSE and just because a scene is fun or develops character, it doesn’t get to stay. It has to WORK. And sometimes that’s hard to decide.

I agonized over a chapter (chapter 30) this weekend, used my agent’s feedback, talked to everyone I encountered about it. Then, I send my revision off to my critique group. We meet this Friday to discuss and exchange notes.

This morning I realized that I can cut the scene. Just cut it out. Skip the agony. Boil the scene down to the three things I need to keep and move that to a different chapter. But, I’m scared. I’m over-thinking. WHAT IF THAT WAS THE CHAPTER WITH ALL THE BRILLIANT WRITING THAT READERS WERE GOING TO UNDERLINE ON THEIR KINDLES?

(It isn’t)

WHAT IF THIS IS WHERE READERS FALL IN LOVE WITH MY PROTAGONIST?

(If they haven’t by chapter 30 then you have a problem that revising chapter 30 isn’t going to fix)

BUT THIS IS THE CHAPTER WITH A HISPANIC CHARACTER WHO SPEAKS SPANISH AND I CONSULTED BOTH MY HUSBAND AND GOOGLE TRANSLATE TO MAKE SURE I GOT IT RIGHT. I NEED TO BE DIVERSE.

(There are many languages used in this world. Many languages that have been used. Many that will be. Are you going to have each one represented in this particular novel? You might want to check both the word count and your readers’ patience if this is your project. Instead, maybe concentrate on the story?)

BUT NOW I HAVE TO WRITE THAT CHAPTER, AND THE BEGINNING OF THE NEXT, ALL OVER AGAIN.

(Yeah, that’s called revising.)

Next month when I post, I hope to tell you that I’m finished revisions and have sent to my agent….then I get to attack my next novel that is almost there. It just needs some….wait for it…revisions.

Love,

Sherri

Fostering Gabe

So, let me acknowledge that it’s crazy. That my life with four kids and a husband who travels for work is full. Let me add in that I recently, after years of work, signed on with an amazing literary agent for my novels and there is a lot of revision in my future. I volunteer at church and at the elementary school. I’m FULL.

Gabe's glamour shot. He's 11 weeks and 11 pounds.

Gabe’s glamour shot. He’s 11 weeks and 11 pounds.

But, I wanted a puppy. Well, a dog. But we got a puppy and now I can’t imagine not wanting a puppy. For about two years now I’ve had this hankering for a canine companion. Every time I brought it up with my husband he would, in a very rational and analytical way, point out that we’ve just gotten to the point where our kids are all in school, they can all read, swim, bicycle. We still have to watch them…but we don’t have to hover anymore. We can go places on the weekends. Everything he said made sense and I would fold away my dog dream. A few days later it would unfold itself and I would want again. I looked at pictures on the internet and read their stories.

I filled out an application at a local rescue, was approved, and picked out the bundle of sweetness that I wanted. I e-mailed my husband every step of the way…because he was in Singapore for business. By the time he came home, she was adopted. I was heartbroken. I’d already pictured us romping through the fields together. She was beautiful and I wish the little pup well with whatever family adopted her. But, now I was on a mission.

My husband asked if my wanting a dog was code for wanting a baby. No. NO. I want a snuggley pet. I grew up with dogs. I like them walking around the house doing their thing. I like when dogs are happy to see you when you walk in the door. I like when they put their paw on your leg and give you THAT look. I wanted my own dog.

Oldest with Gabe. She waited 8 years for a dog in this house.

Oldest with Gabe. She waited 8 years for a dog in this house.

My kids wanted a dog. The oldest girl has been asking for a dog since she was 5. She’s now 13. The twins race up to strangers and ask if they can pet the dogs at all the soccer practices. My boy dreams of a dog like a Jack London book. Them against the world (and all his sisters).

My husband agreed we could compromise. We’d foster. I filled out an application with Big Fluffy Dogs. I’d come across the organization while looking at pictures of Great Pyrs. In the novel I’m about to revise, one of the characters is a white half-wolf (Dido) and I wanted to see photos.

I got an e-mail Thursday afternoon and the phone call Thursday night — there was an 11-week old puppy who needed a foster home. Of course Mike was in New York. I tried to call him. Got voicemail. Had to make a decision. I said yes. My coordinator is Nan. She’s tricky — she LISTENED during the interview and then picked a pup that EXACTLY matched our family needs. She was the first to mention the term “foster fail.” That’s when you realize your heart is not going to let your puppy go. Then, to discuss transport, I spoke to Cookie. I’ve never met Cookie, but I already like someone who would choose this name. I picture a woman wearing a nurse’s coat with chocolate chip cookies with arms and legs and big smiley faces. In the background of her phone I could hear her dogs (she had a puppy that was very happy she was home) and in the background of my phone my twins girls, wrapped in towels and dripping water, were repeatedly asking, “Is that the dog lady?”

Transport. The dogs are sent out from Tennessee and then stop at certain pre-planned sites. For me, in northeast Maryland, I had two options. Both were 2 hours away. I was worried about how to fit in 4 hours of driving on Saturday. The twins had soccer from 9-10:30, we had a neighborhood party at 2:30, my older daughter’s soccer at 4:30, and my son’s travel football game at 8. I can’t remember if Cookie laughed, but she did tell me that the pick up wasn’t going to interfere…..I was to pick up GABE at 2 AM in the empty parking lot of a Toys’R’us.

An emergency trip to Petsmart on Friday after school. I kinda wish I had a picture. The five of us, 4 kids and me, testing out the squeaky toys, voting on the dog bowl, discussing the merits of any and all puppy accessories. One of the twins tried out the cushion for the crate to make sure it was soft enough. Friday night Mike arrives home and sees the dog food dish, the food, the crate. “Is there something you need to tell me, Sherri?”

A few hours later, at 11:45 PM, my oldest daughter and I head out, armed with blankets and water and a dish, etc. Big Fluffy Dogs gives all the information and tells what to do and I read the instructions like a million times. I drank some tea, but my daughter was supposed to talk to me on the drive, keep me awake. Yeah right. She was asleep, sprawled on the backseat snoring, before we turned out of our development.

The men doing the transport were there, the whole process was only a few minutes. I made sure to drive my minivan up to the transport van in a very clandestine manner so that the drivers windows faces each other. I learned that from THE WIRE. “You Sherri?”  “Yeah. You got GABE?” “Yeah.” “Come around to the back of the van.” “Alright, I will.”

No, that wasn’t how it went, but I was so sleep-fogged that I can’t remember the exact dialogue. I do remember commenting on how awake the men seemed and they advised energy drinks and heavy metal music. My daughter woke up. We cuddled little Gabe, she took him, and we headed home.

In the morning, the other three kids couldn’t believe it was real. WE HAD A PUPPY. Look at my son’s face.

We're really doing this? Does Dad know?

We’re really doing this? Does Dad know?

Gabe is hilarious, and he’s definitely family friendly. He’s been inside, outside, slept in a hammock, gone to the park (not a dog park because he doesn’t have his last shots), watched his first soccer practice from the warmth of the car, and tested out everyone’s bed. He does have a crate that he uses during the night and when I go to work.

twins

But, everyone is still so excited, that we have to use a timer at bedtime. He sleeps with each child for 12 minutes and then I have to move him to the next child for snuggles.

I’m not sure how fostering works out — we’re still getting into the routine — but I can’t STAND the thought that this little guy might have been in a shelter, one among many, kept in a crate because there aren’t enough resources to care for all the animals.

HURRAY FOR FOSTERS!

I’ve got to go. Lots to do today.

Love,

Sherri

It’s Not You. It’s Them (Sherri version)

It’s a little awkward, being funny at the end of class when you are supposed to be in savasana, but yesterday I read this to my yoga classes from Glennon’s Momastery rant.

Here’s my version.

Children #3 and #4 were shocked at the bus stop on Tuesday. A little neighbor girl told them, confirmed by the girl’s mother, that when I said they could “skip school” on Monday, it was a joke. Everyone was off for Labor Day. Child #3 gave me big eyes and said she was disappointed in me. Child #4 ran down the driveway and sat down in the backyard, demanding a new day off from school.

I tried to reason with her. Reminding her that on Monday Daddy hadn’t been at work, we’d seen school friends at the pool, and she’d even invited the neighbor girl over to play. I thought she’d figured it out. Child #3 wasn’t budging on the fact that she’d been robbed of a day off school. I thought about suggesting this Monday, when schools are closed again, but wisely refrained. The bus came up the street. Bodily threats were involved. Got her on the bus.

Child #3 stared at me from the bus window and shook her head with disapproval.

The older kids aren’t easier, though.

My daughter, Child #1, got her very first check in the mail for doing a job at our church. She was so excited. Until I took it away. She’d moved chairs — setting up for service and then restacking — and maybe broken a sweat. However, this summer she also lost 2 library books. We searched everywhere. Haven’t seen them in weeks. I had to pay for them yesterday. And the price?  Well, she got back $1 from her first paycheck. She’s angry at me.

Not to be left out, Child #2 felt betrayed when I wouldn’t help him steal a book from Child #1’s room. Here’s the thing. Not only do we go to the library every 3 weeks, not only do each of the children check out books from their school library, but our house has books in every room. We love books. But, Child #1 decided to read the Artemis Fowl series. Each of the books was on her bookshelf. Suddenly, Child #2 wanted to read the series, but he’s read several times before, so he read more quickly. Despite promising that he wouldn’t hound her the day before, by Tuesday he was ready for the second book and she was in the middle. He worked out a complicated scheme of my calling Child #1 out of her room, him sneaking in, taking the book, sticking it inside another book, and retreating to a different part of the house to read it. Then, sneaking it back into her room before he left for football practice.

“No,” I said. But I did check out books 2 and 3 from the library (where I went to pay for the lost books) and brought them home the next day. They were unacceptable because they had different cover art and he wanted me to switch library book 2 for our copy book 2. If I could just call Child #1 out of her room then he would….

IT’S NOT ME, IT’S THEM. They are strange, whirling planets of selfish desire and unreasonable requests. Constant requests. You get through one and there’s another waiting behind it.

Glennon says to wait it out. I’ve got nothing better to advise.

Love,

Sherri

 

Last Day of School

Today is the last day of school. It was a long year — made longer by the 11 snow days that my county used. I’d like to think that Monday will automatically slow down, that we will ease into summer, but I have a Memorial Service and summer camp for the younger ones and the next session of barbell and yoga starts with a donation class raising money for at-risk youth in Baltimore. So, I’ll keep you posted when my family and I do slow down.

Last month — May — kicks my butt every year. (Picture below) You’ll notice the photo is somewhat blurry. That’s because May ZOOMS. Every day, no hyperbole, has at least three things happening. And that’s just what is scheduled. The lacrosse games and practices, the field trips to zoos and historic cities and estuaries and class picnics at school because the weather is finally cooperating. Planting the garden and the gymnastics so the girls will stop climbing the outside of my stairs…it goes on.

Family bulletin board for scheduled events.

Family bulletin board for scheduled events.

So, please forgive me for not writing.

But, today is the last day of school. For the past week the children have been bringing home artwork and thick science notebooks full of big science-y words and diagrams of ladybugs growing from larvae and pottery that has been glazed and painted and math workbooks with numerical scribbling, and certificates. All kinds of certificates, especially for my 5th grader. And I felt such pride in my children and warmth for their teachers. I wanted to hug everyone and scream, “WE MADE IT.”

And then these things happened to make me question the reality of whether we’d made it or not.

First, my son. He’s ‘graduating’ from 5th grade, this past year having been preparation for middle school. Yet, FAILED at picnicking. I invited him to a picnic. General schedule was followed in that people arrived, set food on one table, dessert on another, drinks in a cooler. All routine. After about 20 minutes of socializing there is a congregation. Sometimes a speech. In this case a prayer. Lines form and go down the table, plates are filled. I helped the two younger children, checked that my son had a plate (he did), asked if he needed anything (he rolled his eyes), I sat with two younger children and some moms.

Two hours later, thunder begins. Adult scuttle around packing up the food and folding the chairs. My son, as I’m carrying our Tupperware in one hand and our chairs in the other, says, “But I didn’t get any dessert.”

So I stop the woman (I didn’t know her name) who’d brought the best dessert. Strawberries with the tops cut off, stuffed with cream and topped with a fresh blueberry.  I stop this woman and ask if, please, my son could have some of her dessert. My two youngest have also run over to the dessert table and fetched the only thing left: oatmeal cookies, to offer to my son. To both, my son mutters, “Never mind” and stalks away.

In the car my son, who is supposed to have been maturing this past year, screams: THE PARTY DIDN’T EVEN FEED ME.

Me: But you had a plate.

Him: Only chips.

Me: Why?

Him: Because I didn’t want to wait in line.

Me: Why didn’t you go back later?

Him: I did. Everyone was cleaning up.

Me: That was 2 hours later.

Him: I don’t know that. I don’t have a watch.

So, there you go. The party is somehow an entity that puts people in high chairs and spoon feeds them, I guess. But, that’s nothing compared to what the laundry basket can do….

My daughter is finishing 7th grade. A young adult now. Handles herself in school, rides horses, responsible. And when she came home from her riding lesson, she joined the younger kids and me in the playroom where we were painting. Not long after, she realizes that she got paint all over the leg of her riding pants.

Me: Hurry, wash them off before it stains.

Her: Okay.

She gets up and disappears. About ten minutes later she comes back wearing different clothes.

Me: Did the paint come out?

Her: (quizzical look) How should I know?

Me: What do you mean?

Her: What do you mean?

Me: Where are the pants?

Her: I quick took them off and put them in the laundry bin, like you said.

Me: What do you think happens after you put them in the bin? That they are automatically clean? That you put them in and they come back out folded?

Her: You don’t have to be mean.

The riding pants were indeed in the laundry bin, spreading paint onto someone else’s white sock. I showed her the stain spray, ran the load. The riding pants were saved. So was the sock

My children have had an important year. They’ve learned many things. There is, apparently, still much to be learned.

I wish you (and your children) the best this summer!

Love,

Sherri