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Writer at work

Writer at work - process

It’s about to get really random up in here. As part of Mission: Organize Everything which is key to finishing my books*, I’ve collected all the random pieces of paper, sticky notes, index cards, napkins, etc. with my notes, quotes and ideas that were spread throughout my house in piles, bins and drawers. Now, I am finally going to sort them and give them permanent homes.

I am betting a lot of these midnight musings and ideas that came at inconvenient times (that’s life, right?) are destined for the recycling bin. But some of them are going to find homes in scrapbooks, stories and posts.

This is a huge project for me and I can’t communicate to you the randomness of this collection without sharing a few off the top of the pile.

So here we have a list of questions I asked the pediatrician when one of my boys was a baby. I would like to have been the one mom on the planet that this doesn’t happen to but six years into it, my memories are mushy. Good thing I took notes. Too bad I didn’t date them all.

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  • Torn from a little notebook is this list of questions checked off as I asked the fabulous (and patient) Dr. K: Pinkish red diaper rash? Circ? hygiene/infection prevention | Umbilical cord | sleep in bed | diaper rash? Vaseline? | Hep B vaccine autism/vaccines/ … on second thought this has to be Sam. I didn’t worry as much about hygiene with Jake. True story. The umbilical cord freaked me out still though.

*Note to self: for the love of all that is Holy, date these scraps, your memory sucks.

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  • A sticky note: “Embrace the elephant in the room. Or, stab it with a fork. Turns out it was full of hot air. (Okay that doesn’t even make sense. I’m sure it felt brilliant in the moment.)
  • Another sticky note: That awkward moment when you realize you were trying to right something that wasn't wrong. (Yes! This. Except it’s not really a moment for me. More like, 15 years of my life.)

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  • On a note ripped out from the notes I took at a land use hearing I was covering for the paper: The irony of X. asking Y., who is deaf, if he is concerned about noise. X: Are you concerned about noise? Y: What?

(That’s the stuff I kept because I knew I had to work it into Coming Clean. I can’t make that stuff up.)

Sam arthur - notecard

  • On a 3x4 scrapbook card for reasons unclear to me, is a note loving my pressure cooker a.k.a. “crockpot on crack” which is followed by a grocery list in the margins of notes for a scene in Coming Clean where eleven-year-old Izzy is wondering where, exactly, is “out of wedlock.”

Even the grocery list is super random: gf noodles, almond butter, gummy vitamins, garbage bags, adobo, meatballs.

Ani sees Ginny and Nick, first meeting and is confused by it. Ginny said Eliza is late in life baby. Oh, I know about those, so was Isabella, my mom said.

I liked the idea of being a surprise. Or at least until I saw mom mime putting a gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger. Peals of laughter were punctuated by the clinking of glasses. I liked that mom had a friend but … they forgot I was there a lot. I listened for awhile as they talked about the baby Mia was having.
“Where is out of wedlock?” I asked. They just started at me so I assumed I should keep going. The cracks in their lips were stained purple. Their smiles did not look happy.

(So, to anyone still reading who cares about process, I added to this note because I can’t help myself. That seems to be how I’m writing this book. It comes in pieces and I weave them together. Hopefully into something coherent.)

Sam arthur

Thank you Marc Brown for teaching my kid how you draw your characters in your awesome Arthur series. The idea to use the Sharpie and write directly on my desk? That was totally inspired by Sam.

*I’ve been asked a few times why I keep saying “my books” when it’s probably a better idea to write one at a time – totally agree! But that’s just not how this is happening. More on this soon. It’s the writer’s version of carrying multiple babies … I did not plan it this way but am grateful for what’s working out!


Kindergarten, check

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And then a year happened.

At first I wanted to insist Sam cooperate with me to get “a better picture.”

But really, this is a perfect, accurate reflection of reality.  He was so not down with this clever idea of wearing the same outfit he wore on the first day. He did not care that it was trending all over Pinterest and Facebook. He just wanted to get out the door already. Also, the pants so did not fit. And he’d outgrown his new shoes by November.

Note to self for next year: do not blow school clothes budget so early.

In some ways that first day of school seems like such a long time ago, in other ways this year was a blink.

This has been such a huge year of change for our family and I’m so thankful to have some record of the little things marking our journey … personally and as a family.

Here is Sam back in September rocking his first day of school outfit, carefully selected and coordinated by himself.

And, there’s Jake not really sure what is going on but he’s got a backpack too, so it’s all good.

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I hope I never forget this moment:

Mama, I want to hold your hand for this part..

Especially because it may never happen again. Sam suddenly said “I want to hold your hand for this part” as we rounded the corner toward the main entrance to school. It did look bigger somehow. I tried to be cool. He needed me to be cool. But I wanted to be all THIS IS MY BABY!!! LOOK OUT FOR HIM, PEOPLE! Instead I said, “you’ve got this, bubba. I know you do.” But inside, you know… … this is my baby!!!

By June we were rolling like this:

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I’m in the way back trying to keep up. First they couldn’t ride bikes, like in January Jake couldn’t at all, and now I’m beating feet to keep up. Also, the outfits got a little more … casual. The coordination was more like this: pants, check. Shirt, check. Two matching shoes, check. Helmet, let’s go.

At the end of the year the kinders got to eat lunch in the cafeteria as practice for next year.

Sam came home after that and reported he was: “ready to be a real grader.”

Congratulations to my little grader. You’ve arrived.

Want to know what happened to Giraffe?

He went to Kindergarten almost every day tucked in Sam’s backpack.

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Until the very last week of school when, at the corner before school, Sam asked Jake to carry Giraffe back home so he could “hang with Zebes.” And there’s Jake no longer tentative … and more … like a boss.

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Getting down to business

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You know what’s awesome about only having 39.8 pounds to lose? Finally being out of the 40s that’s what.

But what’s even more exciting is the reason I only got 5 hours of sleep last night: I finally got enough stuff sorted out to begin working on my book Raising the Hardy Boys so, so excited.

Many of you know, I’ve been planning this for awhile but it took some time to get all of my journals, blog entries and pictures together – still culling all of that but it’s all corralled in one place because I am now an organizing dynamo thank you Rachael with Neat Street Organizing.

Speaking of sorting out, as I begin to really picture what I want for this book to be I’m coming up with more questions than answers. That’s part of the process, I know but I am curious to get my reader-friends’ input on some of this stuff.

I’ll be asking most of my questions on my Facebook Page, I hope you’ll “like” me and chime in.

For now I’ve got this:

The basic premise of the project is putting together a collection of six years of my columns. But as I go through my blog and journals it’s shaping into something bigger than that.

Right now I’m wondering if as readers you would like to see the columns only as they were printed or with edits made to them? And, I’m also thinking of adding footnotes or “off the record” notations.

Thoughts?

Always grateful for your sharing your time with me on here,

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You say bored like it’s a bad thing

By NATHALIE HARDY | June, 2014

Published in the Yamhill-Valley News-Register

At the time of this writing, there are precisely 11 days until we experience our first summer vacation with a grade-schooler.

Sam is already counting down the days, not because he doesn’t like school, but because he can’t wait, and this is a direct quote, “to use my new skills to have a lemonade stand.”

He tells me, “There’s going to be a lot of math to count all my money. But first I need some money to buy supplies. Can I match socks or something for money?”

Of course, Sam isn’t the only one thinking about summer. I’ve noticed social media is all aflutter with posts like, “How to beat boredom with these easy, low-cost ideas,” which touts ideas that, in fact, don’t appear to be either easy or cheap.

You know what’s actually easy and cheap? The library. Local parks. The backyard. A picnic.

Kids don’t need gourmet sandwiches, right? Anyone who has ever prepared an elaborate spread only to be met with a tearful, “But I wanted peanut butter,” knows what I’m talking about.

You know what bugs me the moYou say bored like it’s a bad thingst about all this advice to help parents “beat boredom?”

First, I think it’s twisted to tell parents they need to find ways to fill all the moments of a day now unoccupied by school. That’s just crazy.

Second, I can assure you that my mom didn’t worry about this kind of thing. Not. Ever. This whole movement to keep kids occupied and engaged all the time seems to be a modern “problem,” and I’m not a fan.  

Third, it’s a lie. In truth, boredom is awesome.

There. I said it.

For those treating boredom as something to be cured, I beg to differ. Being bored is a luxury. Being bored is having long stretches of time with nothing to do but think, which leads to creativity.

Nobody in history has ever died of boredom.

Boredom leads to having ideas, both good and not so good ones. Boredom means time to try something new. Time to wonder. Time to stare out the window. Or, to count cracks in the ceiling, or blades of grass.

But to read some of these articles, you’d think parents everywhere should prepare to be doomed if they haven’t already scheduled every second of summer.

What am I going to do this summer? Um, laundry, maybe minus sorting socks. Supervising backyard play, from a distance. Like from inside the house, where I will be folding the aforementioned laundry. And going to the park. Also, the library. A lot. I’m also open to visiting most places with air-conditioning.

God help me, the boys seem to want to get into BMX biking, so I’m sure there will be a lot of that in my near future. Also, more stained laundry.

But other than that, we’re wide open. And that’s by choice, not chance.

I want my kids to have windows of unstructured time because you know what actually “cures” boredom? Imagination.

If well-meaning adults can stay out of the way long enough, without pressing play on a show or offering up a cure before the child has time to think up something on their own, the kids will be fine.

Obviously, I’m not advocating leaving kids to their own devices for hours on end. Some guidance and simple supplies are needed.

But kids can make a lot happen with a whisk and a bowl. Add water and it’s “Hello, happiness!”

The best antidote for boredom is a kids’ imagination. And like our muscles, imaginations must be used. They must be pushed to their limits to thrive, or they risk atrophy.

Far from being absent in the equation, I see parents as playing a key role in fostering these opportunities by offering suggestions, encouragement and, most importantly, the freedom for kids to exercise their imagination.

It’s true, I haven’t yet made it through a full summer with a school-aged child. So I may have a big, fat mea culpa for you at the end of the summer.

But right now, I’m thinking more like this: If I start getting bugged about small people being bored, I’ll have to start charging a nickel every time I hear it.

That could cut into some of that lemonade profit. Just sayin’.

Of course, looking forward to planned trips and spontaneous adventures is an awesome part of summer, too. But, I tend to have more fun being spontaneous when I, er, plan for it. 

So last night over dinner, we made a list of things everyone in the family would like to do this summer. There are a lot of repeats from last summer’s list: “county fair,” “Tunes on Tuesday” and “camping,” among others. But we also decided to check out each park in Newberg at least once this summer.

The list is long. We might not get to everything. But it’s fun having that posted where we can see the vision we created together.

I plan to master the grill, or at least stop setting food on fire. I also plan to join the kids in the library’s summer reading program. That might be wishful thinking, but that’s kind of the point.

Also on that list are “bike rides” and “play in the backyard a lot.” Just so you know, those came from the kids.

As we enter this season of squeezing lemons, stubbing toes, sunburning shoulders and stretching long days out before us, I want to remember it’s a short season in more ways than one. So, most importantly, I’m planning to soak up as much of it as I can.