Thursday, May 15, 2014


Yesterday I uttered the words, "You are going to thank me for this someday" to my eight year old. I have officially become a curmudgeon.

Seriously though, I am hoping to teach the boy a little responsibility so that he can take the next necessary step toward adulthood. He is becoming increasingly independent, and while the thought of him not being my sweet baby boy and actually becoming a (gulp) grown man someday scares me gray, I know it is inevitable. And I need to do my best to facilitate the transition. Starting with school. He is generally pretty good about getting his daily homework done, but things start to get hairy when it comes to longer assignments. Each month the students are required to do a book report. Reading is not the issue, but choosing an appropriate book and finishing it with enough time to complete the report is. Last month he decided, with a week before the due date, that he would read a rather lengthy book for the report. Okay, I told him, then you need to set a reading schedule for yourself. Translation: Mom is going to nag you every day until you finish reading the book. He's also required to do outside reading for his enrichment class. The teacher assigns large chunks to read over a seven day period. The reading is challenging and not something you can complete the night before it is due. Especially not when that night is the busiest one of the week. Again, I helped him set up a reading schedule. And then I nagged. Believe me, I don't want to nag, but I worry that if I don't the work won't get done. Do I leave him to his own devices and let him experience the natural consequences of procrastination? I tell myself, yes, yes, he should learn the hard way. But then I give one more gentle reminder. Maybe two. Or three.

Then there's the homework folder. He has a daily behavior/assignment sheet that needs to be signed. On the back is a chart, and he is required to keep track of the minutes he reads each day (which must also be signed). He does his reading at night, which is fine, and then fills out the chart in the morning. Then I sign it and stick his homework folder into his backpack. Yesterday I asked him three times if he filled out his chart. He ignored me and was prepared to walk out the door with no homework folder (a relatively serious offense in the classroom). I reminded him, then told him it was the last time I was going to make sure he had his sheet signed and folder in backpack - that he needed to be more responsible. Gave him this whole speech (see opening quote) that probably sounded like the teacher in Peanuts . This morning, he remembered to fill out the sheet, but neglected to put the folder in his backpack. I cleared the counter and placed the folder in the dead middle. Impossible to miss. Asked, "You sure you have everything?" Kicked myself for being a softy.

In less than two months, second grade will be over. Each school year the work gets more difficult and I know he will be expected to read more, manage larger assignments, and study for tests. I want him to be successful, to be a good student, to be independent and responsible. But it's hard to know when to push and when to let go. When to allow the pain of forgetfulness, laziness, or plain 'ol something-else-was-more-interesting-ness to sink in. Hopefully we'll figure it all out and he really will thank me someday.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Setting It Aside

Last Friday I finished the first draft of my novel. It was a momentous occasion on several fronts. First of all, it is not very often that I actually finish something as evidenced by my half-completed cross-stitch projects and other adventures that I dive into but then quickly set aside. Secondly, and probably most important: I WROTE A BOOK. How many people out there say, "I think I'll write a book someday" or "I have this great idea for a book"? Hint: LOTS. I was one of them. Writing has always been a passion and while I never imagined I would have the attention span to complete an actual novel (see above) it was always in the back of my mind as something I wanted to accomplish. Several years ago when I was teaching seventh graders, the students had to create a timeline of their lives that extended into the future. My co-teacher and I each made our own timeline as well to serve as a model. "Wrote a Book" was on there (although I should have sold it and be touring morning talk shows by now) and it feels good to think that I have actually accomplished a life goal. No, it doesn't feel good. It feels AWESOME.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Several writing books instruct that upon completion of draft one, the author should set the story aside and let it stew for a while before beginning revisions. It makes sense in theory - that way when you approach draft two your mind is fresh and clear. That was totally my plan. But after two days I started re-reading. It wasn't as if I hadn't already done some major revisions thus far - the introductory chapters have been re-written several times - but it was the first time I would be reading the whole thing from start to finish. I couldn't help myself. I wanted to hear how everything flowed and do a quick proofread before sending it off to critique partners. When I finished reading, the cat nearly jumped out of her fur at my loud proclamation. "THE WORLD NEEDS THIS BOOK!"

After that first read-through, I am ready to follow directions and let my book rest for a week or two, maybe three and work on something else. Partly because I want to wait and see what my first round of readers think, but mostly because I want to revel in the glow of my current emotional state. I'm beginning to see why writing gurus recommend waiting. The feeling is hard to describe, but it is pretty darn incredible. As of this moment, I am the only person who has read my book, and I happen to think it is good. Really good. The fact that it all came out of my brain makes it even better. Maybe it is actually crap and I am being totally delusional. It may be my friends and family that burst my bubble, it may be the long string of rejection that are sure to pepper my future. My book could be downright terrible. (Hopefully it's not.) But I had an idea two years ago, then life got tired of me saying, "I'm writing a book" without actually writing it and yanked away my proverbial rug, forcing me to write it for real. I did. And I am going to enjoy this feeling of accomplishment for as long as I can.

Perhaps the same concept can apply to other things. How often do we beat ourselves up for bad things that have happened, mistakes made or friendships destroyed? When something good happens, when we do something right, something incredible, we should set it aside and dance around it. Blast the music. Toss confetti into the air. Celebrate it fully.

Please excuse me while I crank the stereo.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Adoption Connection

Last summer was my twentieth high school reunion. The husband and I had a surprisingly good time at the party on Saturday night reconnecting with a few old friends and chatting up people who I never would have remembered if it wasn't for their handy yearbook photo name tag. Sunday there was a family friendly picnic that I went to with the boys (hubby was working). I spent the afternoon talking with a classmate who was a casual acquaintance in high school. We had similar friends, but other than a handful of random cafeteria conversations we didn't have much history. Twenty years later we discovered a different bond. My classmate was planning to adopt, and she and her husband had recently started the grueling, often heart-wrenching process. Being a veteran myself I was happy to lend an ear and share advice. They were taking the domestic route, which is an entirely different set of experiences, but one that shares a few common threads with international adoption: the homestudy - which everyone must endure, and the wait. A few months for some, years for others. We were lucky that our wait for P one was only a year from our first meeting to when he came home (almost to the day). J took a bit longer because of changing regulations in Korea; around two years. I have friends who have waited much, much longer.

After the picnic, I connected with my classmate on Facebook (honestly, what DID we do before social media?) and checked in on her every once and a while. This past week I noticed that she and her husband were traveling and wondered if it was THE trip. Sure enough, just moments ago they posted a picture of their new baby girl. There have been a handful of other baby arrivals on Facebook in the past few months - all with their own stories of excitement. My old boss recently remarried and welcomed a new baby boy to her blended family. A former colleague had a baby after years of struggling with infertility. I am happy for both of them, and for all the new moms in my social media circles. The constant cycle of ultrasound pictures and hospital bed posts have stopped stinging as much as they used to. But as an adoptive mom, nothing warms my heart more than seeing someone become, as we call it in the adoption world, part of a forever family. To become a mom through a series of amazing circumstances that lead you to the little person who will be your child. Not someone you created and can immediately fall in love with because they are a small piece of you. Someone who you waited for, who grew in your heart instead of your body. That is an amazing thing to celebrate.

Cheers to my classmate and her new baby. And cheers to all those who have adopted or are waiting to adopt.