Blew the deadline, saved the story

Over the years people have asked if I could write more about the process of writing and publishing.

Nope. I can’t.

Because I can’t speak to The Process or pretend I know how it works for others, but I did agree to share more about my own. As with everything, I try to be real about things, including sharing those moments when the column is due the next morning and … nothing.

Which is what happened last week with my monthly Raising the Hardy Boys column. You’d think I’d have my back-up column ready after all these years, but no.

It’s not that I had nothing to write about because that’s not even a thing! But, the column I’d been working on just wasn’t coming together at all. I hope someday it will because there were some good parts, but mostly there were a lot of soapbox moments and trite tangents. So, I was back to nothing. On deadline. Literally nothing.

Some of the possibilities swirling around my head and heart were either too personal for publication, didn’t meet my criteria for honoring the boys’ privacy preferences or were too raw to write about well.

So, here’s me the night before it’s due:

Due yesterda

 

I posted this status update:

So this is happening ... it's not that I don't have anything to say, just that, you know family paper and all that. #process #writinglife #reportermama#writingiseasywaitwhat

And went to bed.

Yes. I did. I prayed about it, wrote in my journal for awhile and had faith that it would come by morning.

And … it did.

Almost on time

Right on time

New status update:

Last night I posted about the column that was due yesterday - and I had zero words and no idea how I was going to pull this one off. Nailed it: 6:59 a.m. 29.9 inches, 897 words that matter to me, and maybe to some of you. And that headline? One of my favorites. Can't wait to share it with you guys! Now off to the job that pays the bills because#writinglife #raisingthehardyboys#deadlinesgetitdone

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with the idea of what I wanted to write about and had some sweet material collected on my Facebook page from sharing little bits and pieces of conversations and moments observed, some of which I was able to weave into the words that I woke up with. 

One of the best moments was when it hit me how tired I was going to be at work, and I still didn’t have a headline, I just typed in “the gift of now” which wasn’t quite right and then that rush of THIS came as I retyped: “The present that lasts.”

And when you read the column you’ll see why that is exactly right. And that rush, the thrill of nailing it made up for the sleep I’d lost. That passion fueled what sleep could not. I did go to bed early the next night though, because, you know, I’m 40 now.

I can’t explain or describe how that all works, right? I can only share the experience and say that it does work. There’s an alchemy of inspiration, spirit, word nerdery and the discipline of showing up to do the work. Even at 3:30 a.m. Also, deadlines are their own kind of magic.

Elizabeth Gilbert opens her book Big Magic with this:  

Q: What is creativity?

A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.

Funny story, so I posted some progress updates for my friends and readers on good old Facebook and my editor waited until everything was turned in to remind me that it was actually due last week. I used to pride myself on not missing deadlines. Ever. Then I slowly changed that to having good, respectful communication with my editors about them. And now, apparently I am blowing them off completely. But this one is worth it, at least it was to me.

Soon I will write a column about how I got my act together, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself or anything.


So what if you don’t sew

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So what if you don't sew

But good for you if you do

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

NOV 4, 2014 | COMMUNITY

As I write this, mere days before the ghouls and goblins appear, many moms across America, and a few dads, are sewing Halloween costumes. And I have nothing but applause — even awe — for them.

I am, however, proud to have checked that off my list already. By which I mean, I grabbed two Skylander costumes at Target, right when they went on sale, and told the boys their costume would be a surprise this year.

Then I waited until it was basically too late to do anything about it and planned a big reveal. This elaborate plan included setting the Target bag on the table next to the toast and saying, “Surprise! Open your eyes!”

Costumes, check!

You see, while I would love to be a mom who sews costumes, or anything else, for that matter, I’m not.

I’m a mom who feeds my family fodder for funny stories about, say, the time I made matching pajamas for all four of us. The part about how I sewed the pants shut is particularly hilarious.

In my defense, the pattern I’d picked out for my first big sewing project read like a blueprint for an office building. But I was quite motivated by my husband’s doubt that I was going to pull off the pajama project.

“Plaid pajamas for you, my friend,” I promised him in response to all the teasing.

“We’re going to have matching pajamas?” he said, incredulous.

“Well, more like coordinating,” I clarified. “If I go through the trouble of making them, you’ll wear them, right?”

“Oh, honey, you bet,” he was barely able to contain his amusement.

He was surprised the next morning when I hung the first pair from the doorknob. He was impressed the following morning when I finished the second pair. He looked mildly concerned the third morning, when I handed him his very own plaid pajamas.

It seems I may have been off a bit on the measurements. That evoked the response, “Honey, you made me culottes!”

That wasn’t on purpose, honest. I ended up using my seam ripper so much my 4-year-old began calling it “the mistake thing.”

The cheerful, Christmassy mantra that got me through the hours I spent with my seam ripper was: “I don’t care if I have to staple these (expletive). We are wearing these damn pajamas!”

The finished products reminded me of what one of my best friends calls “aggressively homemade.”

They weren’t very practical, because I wouldn’t let anyone eat or play in them, and no one actually slept in them. The pictures turned out pretty cute, though.

Another time, just as I was due to deliver Jake, I got it in my head I wanted to embroider Christmas stockings for all of us, including our dog. Never mind that I’d never done such a thing.

My husband encouraged me to consider glitter and glue instead of needle and thread, but his suggestion didn’t match the picture in my head.

The stockings turned out fine, except that I hated the “M” on Matt’s. I have put fixing it on my to do list the last five Decembers.

I should’ve fixed the sloppy “M” when I first discovered it. But with all the stuff that had to be done before the baby came, Matt said he’d rather live with the misaligned “M” than a stocking forevermore labeled “att.”

Given stories like that, no one at my house is sad or surprised that I don’t sew costumes. In fact, members of my family are relieved.

Plus, it leaves me free to consider doing other things, like making a Skylanders pinata for Sam’s birthday party.

Notice I said “consider.” I thought about it, then caught myself and came down firmly on the “no” side.

Besides, I already had my hands — and counters — full with the extravaganza I was planning for Sam’s seventh birthday on Oct. 7. I happen to think being born is kind of a big deal, so we are big on birthdays around here. And “golden” birthdays come around just once, so I was planning to make a fuss.

Here’s the catch:

Yes, my kids love it. But that’s not exactly why I do it. I actually do it because I love it. I truly do.

But sewing costumes? Not so much.

I have friends who are sewing finishing touches right this moment. They aren’t sewing their kids’ costumes to show me up, though. They are sewing them because they take joy in it, and that’s a critical distinction.

Too often, I think, we project our own insecurities on others. We assume their choices amount to a commentary on ours.

Trust me, they aren’t. And if you can embrace that message, you are welcome to send cash to compensate for the therapy expense I saved you.

Because Sam delights in all things holiday, he loved and truly appreciated every detail of his golden birthday, from the seven gold star balloons to the gold star sprinkles on his lunchtime grapes.

I know, I do go a little crazy sometimes. I’m not sure I should tell you, but I wrapped his lunch in gold paper to make it even more fun. Also, did you know they make golden Oreos for just such occasions?

My younger son, Jake, will be a little harder to impress on his golden birthday. He’ll be 14 then, and he already tends to keep his joy tucked inside.

I don’t think decorating his high school locker in gold foil will cut it. Luckily, I have a few years to reflect on potential alternatives.

In the meantime, I’m considering making a Christmas tree skirt this year. And maybe an advent calendar. Or not.

Coming up: Pictures of the aforementioned aggressively homemade Christmas Pajamas | What Matt actually said about the “M” | The Elf is (almost) in the House | Golden Birthdays, that’s a thing? | Publisher, check (For. Real!!!)

Here are the costumes from left to right:

Target, Target, Crafty Friend Melisa Daily, Crafty Friend Crystal Case.

Costumes

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Postcards from home

By NATHALIE HARDY | May, 2014

Published in the Yamhill Valley News-Register

I’m fielding a lot of questions these days about how things are going for my stay-at-home mom redux.

It’s a fair question. I usually come back with something flippant about missing bathroom doors that lock and luxuries like uninterrupted conversations and driving in the car with the radio turned up. Oh, and my co-workers, I miss them a lot. Not that my 4- and 6-year-olds aren’t super conversationalists, but it’s not quite the same.

So, truth be told, three weeks into this transition, I’m still figuring out the answer to how it’s going, except to say: We are still adjusting. Some things are awesome, but others, not so much.

Shortly after I left my job, I got a package in the mail with a coffee cup and a note from a friend saying she “missed my mug.”

My husband eyed the gift suspiciously. That’s because the mug was inscribed, “World’s Okayest Mom.”

You see, not just anyone can give a gift like that. But it came from the right person. I love it because it reminds me that being a good mom is all relative, so to speak.

Bottom line, we are really doing just fine, even if the contents of my desk are still in the living room, and I haven’t even started any of the sewing projects I planned to do once I was back home.

First, there’s the fact that I don’t sew. Then there’s the troubling reality that I don’t have the time I thought I would.

In my head, I figured the boys were two years older than the last time I was home, so there wouldn’t be any diapers to wash, they would be able to get a drink of water for themselves and I wouldn’t have to watch them every single second to keep them from choking or sticking something into a socket.

Alas, it turns out they are also two years more clever. Though they prefer I don’t watch them so closely, I probably should.

Also, there’s a lot of blood that comes with doing tricks on bikes and playing with sticks. Yes, they can get their own water and snacks, but it’s amazing how messy independence can be.

But I hesitate to complain, because that would be like getting to go on vacation somewhere awesome, then complaining about the view from the room. Except not exactly.

This is more like a staycation, and it doesn’t feel very vacation-y — not between the whole not really sitting down much thing and the not having a moment to myself thing.

Also, being a stay-at-home mom is a total misnomer. You guys know that, right? There’s actually not a lot of staying home at all. But that’s a topic for another column.

Who referred to this as a vacation again? Oh, right. Me. My bad.

Shortly before I went on my final paid vacation as an employed person, I told my editor I would be willing to write a story from Palm Springs while I was visiting my parents there.

“Are you sure? I mean, it’s your vacation,” she said.

And then, as if I didn’t know better, I followed up by saying I would basically be on vacation once I was back home with the boys. It came out wrong, but still there it hung in the air, perhaps the dumbest thing I’ve ever said.

There was an awkward pause as we let that set in, followed by laughter. “I look forward to hearing more about that vacation,” she said.

Okay, so there’s not exactly an umbrella in my drink and no time for postcards, but I am mostly loving having more time with my little ninja wannabes. Plus, I do get to read for fun now. Actually, it’s really just paragraphs at a time while the boys set up a track and practice their tricks before asking me to “Watch, Mom! Watch! No, with your eyes!”

Fine, fine. I’ll watch. I am aware that their childhood has already been a blur, and if I blink, “Look at me, Mom!” will just be an echo in my memory.

In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend, I raise my mug to all the other “okay” moms out there, who are keeping things real by maintaining a sense of humor and remembering to count their blessings instead of their burdens.

Also, just as kind of a public service announcement, I would not recommend that awesome mug as a Mother’s Day gift from, say, husbands.

2014-04-16 12.01.38

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Let their gut be their guide

 Nathalie's Notes:  For the record, the school did notify parents, as required and somehow between the school, the backpack and home I missed this particular memo. I love Sam's school and think the world of his teacher so that was not the point of this story at all.  I've added some emphasis to highlight that in no way  did I intend for the takeaway to be that the school did anything wrong. 

By Nathalie Hardy |Apr 3, 2014 |News-Register

Last month, my son came home from school with a flier from Juliette’s House informing me he’d participated in the agency’s Safe Kids informational program, designed to teach children about abuse prevention.

I know this is a sensitive, difficult subject. But I believe it’s one we must talk about — out loud and often.

Though the school did sent notice to parents that this day was coming, I didn't see it.  So, through no fault of the school, I was a little surprised to be finding out after the fact that my kindergartner had been exposed to this information without me having a chance to prepare.  

Prepare who, my husband wondered when I told him how I felt.

Well, me, of course. Because truthfully, I was more comfortable talking to other people about the (insert the worst adjective ever here) reality of child abuse than I was imagining a day when my son would need to hear candidly that bad things not only happen, but they can happen to him.

I’ve lost sleep with worries of what could happen to him. But I didn’t want him losing any over it.

After looking over the program material, and giving it some thought, I understand now that the truth is, he will lose less sleep if he is confident he can handle situations as they present themselves. And frankly, I will too.

If you asked him what he should do in the event of a fire, he’d say, “stop, drop and roll” and “call 9-1-1.”

But if he was on the first floor when a fire broke out at home, he would tell you he’d get out of the house and head for a neighboring house. That’s because we have discussed a variety of what-if scenarios in a calm way, talking through different circumstances.

So I decided to follow up on the school presentation with a little bit of the same. I gave him some scenarios and asked what he thought he could do to stay safe.

“If someone wants to give you a ride, would you get in?” He shook his head.

“But what if they’re super nice and offer you candy?”

“Well, no, I still wouldn’t, because it might have red dye in it.” Okay, that’s not quite what I expected.

“What if they tell you I’m hurt and you have to go with them?”

“Why would a stranger come for me?” Perfect!

“What if they had a Lego Ninjago set for you?”

Sam paused before answering, “Well, that’s a tough one, Mama. Because I am trying to add to my collection, you know.”

Clearly, some more discussion followed.

You never know what a kid is thinking until you have a conversation like this. So I would encourage anyone who has a kid they love to have a similar one, and sooner rather than later.

Eventually, as I danced around the main point, my husband blurted it out: “Look, buddy, there are some adults who hurt children. On purpose.”

It was heartbreaking to watch my 6-year-old process that reality. We sat at the table quietly as it sank in.

“So who are those people?”

“That’s the problem,” I said. “You can’t tell by looking. We have to use other clues to figure it out.”

Then we talked some about intuition and what it means to let your gut be your guide.

I think children come into the world with keen intuition, and that survival tool is actually scrubbed away over time by mostly well-meaning adults.

So by the time we are adults, many of us ignore little signs of danger, then big, waving red flags, until it’s too late. As a consequence, we get incidents like the one occurring on New Year’s Eve in Sheridan, where a 4-year-old was beaten nearly to death, allegedly by his mother’s boyfriend.

According to police reports, the boy started biting his nails and wetting his bed shortly after his mother moved in with her boyfriend — a police officer, no less. The mother told police bruises started showing up, as well, and her boyfriend refused to let her bathe the child. Her child.

Education and awareness are the key to abuse prevention. After all, you have to learn the signs of abuse before you can look for them and flag them.

Plenty of kids bite their nails and wet their beds for reasons having nothing to do with abuse. However, I’d bet my life the sudden onset of both in this boy’s live were signs he’d come under danger, long before the more obvious ones were missed or dismissed, whichever the case may be.

If that little boy could talk, what would he say? Would anyone listen?

I ask because in 2012, an estimated 686,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in this country, and 1,640 of them died from it, according to the National Children’s Alliance.

We need to be listening. We need to be talking about this, even when we’d prefer to pretend it can’t happen to the kids we love.

And one more thing, please. For the love of all that is holy, let’s stop silencing our children’s intuition in the name of good manners and convenience.

For the most part, I tend to let people be when they interact with my kids. I think it’s good for the boys to know the meaning of, “It takes all kinds.”

However, when someone uses shaming language on them, or uses language designed to override what I know to be my child’s intuition, I step in.

Yes, it can be awkward. But I don’t care, because I’m the mom.

Common interactions include others authoritatively instructing them to “be nice.” My kids don’t have to be nice. They have to be polite, but not necessarily nice. If they don’t trust someone, for whatever reason, I expect them to project that.

Also, I cringe at forced affection of the kind, “Give uncle so-and-so a hug.”

Early on in this kind of familiar social setting, we adults unintentionally start sending messages validating, or overriding, a child’s innate sense of safety.

The most obvious way I see it happening is the forced affection. My view is, if the kid’s not feeling it, don’t force it.

The other adult will either understand or be offended. Either way, it’s his or her problem. My job, as a parent, is to protect my kid’s right to set physical boundaries with people.

As most of us know, children are more likely to be abused by someone they know than a perfect stranger. They need to learn early and be reminded often that a parent will back them up, and it’s OK to say no.

I tend to use the, “OK, we’re leaving. Let’s give uncle so-and-so a hug or high-five.”

This gives the boys a choice and falls within my manners threshold.

I know this is going to freak some people out, so to be clear:

I’m not saying that if a child doesn’t feel like giving auntie a kiss there’s some sort of  problem afoot. It could just be that the child is in a bad mood.

Perhaps the kid is holding a grudge because of an earlier denied cookie. Who knows?

My point is simply that we don’t always have to know why a kid isn’t comfortable with something. We just have to let them learn to process those feelings without forcing them to accept ours.

A final word on the forced affection issue:

If you’ve ever been on the painfully awkward end of watching a parent try to force a child to hug you, it pretty much sucks. Could we just all agree not to do that anymore?

For more information about the Safe Kids program, call Juliette’s House at 503-435-1550.

Contact Nathalie Hardy at nathalie@nathaliesnotes.com.

 

 

 


When living the dream is no longer reality

By Nathalie Hardy | March 14, 2014 | News-Register

It’s with mixed feelings I write this column, announcing another life change for the Hardy family. I’m throwing in the towel on this whole reporter-mama business.

Don’t get me wrong. Being a fulltime reporter on the county beat, while raising two youngsters, can be done. Just not by me.

My husband and I worked over our budget. Bottom line, it’s just not penciling out for me to keep working, whether I want to or not.

It’s no secret: Journalism is a field you enter because you love the work more than the money.

Plus, if you haven’t priced daycare lately, for two full-day kids, it rivals a mortgage payment.

Who can argue with that, though? If I can’t be with them during the day, I want the best in the business keeping my boys’ minds busy and hearts happy. We were lucky to have that with our providers, Creative Kidz.

Then there are associated costs that can’t be measured. For me, one of those was being out of alignment with my core values.

In addition to dreaming about being a reporter, I always pictured myself as the kind of mom who was home after school. I imagined being able to walk my kids home, stopping to point things out along the way as we debriefed about the day.

With my job, my boss is as flexible as possible. But that flexibility is a two-way street.

I am often up way too late, or way too early, juggling calls and interviews while packing sandwiches and throwing the boys treats’ down the stairs or over the backseat in the car to keep them quiet. And all for just one, more, minute!

After nearly two years of doing my best at both, it turns out I’m not doing either one well enough to meet my own standards. So it came time to make a choice.

Going over the budget made it an easier call. Still, it’s hard to realize what you thought you wanted maybe wasn’t the best fit in the end.

A friend recently expressed disappointment in my decision. Not everyone gets what they want, she pointed out. And feminists fought for us so we didn’t have to choose between career and family.

To her first point, I say: Life doesn’t always turn out the way you pictured it, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying to create the life you want. To the second, I say: Feminists fought for a woman’s right to chose, despite the consequences of disappointing someone.

And that’s what I am doing. I am choosing to come back home to be with my boys. I plan to meet my goal of being home with them as long as I can while meeting my goal of publishing a book or two.

I recognize the first will delay the latter, but recently I realized neither will happen as long as I keep trying to maintain balance at the expense of my health and sanity.

I found an exception to George Eliot’s saying, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

My boys are only going to be this age once. If I want to be a stay-at-home mom, writing in the margins, the time for that is now.

Life requires hard choices, and my decision to leave this post to be home with my boys was not made lightly.

Not quite two years ago, I embraced an opportunity to return to the newsroom, a place I loved, to work with people I adore in a job I’d dreamed of having since I was 10 years old.

Then came that awkward moment when my dream job morphed into more of a nightmare, as I tried to balance it with my new reality with two kids, no family nearby and a husband with an equally demanding but significantly higher paying job.

I reached my breaking point on a recent snow day, one of approximately five my kids figure to have in their lifetime. Some friends stopped by as I was trying to work on a breaking story with two cagey kids in the house.

Stories will always break on snow days. It’s the nature of the job.

As much as I wanted to be able to celebrate surprise snow days with my kids, I knew my boss also needed stories done well and on time.

I realized in that moment that I too often felt my biggest blessings were a burden. I had lost the little bit of balance I had left.

“But I always wanted to be a reporter,” I whined. I was crying, the kind where there’s snot and tears.

“So, you were literally living the dream, huh?” my friend said.

Well, when you put it like that, I guess I was. And it it was as clear as the ice on the eaves that my dreams had changed with the reality.

While I’ve loved most of my time back in the newsroom, I’m at peace with my decision.

I make no guarantees, though, that the aforementioned towels are going to be fluffed and folded once I resume my stay-at-home mom status. After all, I will have to leave some margins open for writing this column, which will continue running, in addition to keeping up on my long-neglected blog at www.nathaliesnotes.com and embarking on a book project.

Contact Nathalie Hardy at nathalie@nathaliesnotes.com.


Cupcake cluster

A day in the life of a Reporter Mama balancing  deadlines and cupcakes.

 

I’ve looked forward to being able to bring a birthday treat for Sam at school since he was a baby.

Of course, that was before I realized kindergarten classrooms had 26, plus kids in them and that food allergies and other challenges were so common.

One of Sam’s best buddies has celiacs so I purposely bought gluten-free mini-cupcakes from my friend’s gluten-free bakery (everyone should have a friend with a bakery!)

The teacher and I exchanged a few, brief emails making sure it was okay to drop them off and hide them in the back.

Like Santa, Mr. Teacher said.

Well, more like a ninja.

Except, even ninjas get derailed.

We got to the office to check in because with new security procedures (thank you psychopaths of America) the days of just dropping off a box of cupcakes are long gone.

I was already in the computer system. Oh, but not the right one. Also the office staff was busy. (Been there, get it. But perhaps I could leave the box here, no? Okay, I’ll wait. And wait. And wait. No problem, just on deadline and still have to get Jake to preschool.)

So we get to the class, drop the cupcakes off – literally – twice, on the ground, they were a little disheveled but still cupcakes delivered, check.

As we left the classroom, Mr. Teacher was leading the adorable ducklings down the hall – what is that little girl doing? Oh, barfing. Cool. Also, gross. I got the nearest bucket for her to barf in and held her until she was done. Because I’m a mom, and maybe because that used to be my job and I kinda miss the little ones.

Um, a little help here? Jake looked on wide-eyed. A teacher assistant brought towels and helped get the little girl to the office.

In all of that I forgot to tell the teacher the cupcakes were gluten free.

When it came time to pass them around he erred on the side of caution.

Well, damn. That didn’t go as planned.

In our debrief, he suggested I employ a ninja trick he is fond of: sticky notes to communicate in case of derailment.

Ah, sticky notes! How quaint. And brilliant. Note to self: use them.

We really like Mr. Teacher. Also, I think it is ridiculous that the classroom has so many kids he’s one stuck zipper away from chaos.

Meanwhile … I dropped Jake off, opened my fermented chia drink and it exploded. Again. Only, not with a boom and tiny shards of glass this time but more like a 7th grade science experiment with a silent, never-ending fizzing fountain of slime. Red, chia seed slime coating me and my car.

So I took a bath in sanitizer changed quickly. And wiped up some of the aforementioned nastiness.

Then I found out there was an election story I wasn’t expecting that morning. Squeezed in a quick interview.

Then I filed two stories unrelated to that one.

Another interview, then wrote the candidate brief.

Then I found out I had another one breaking on my beat at the same time I had to go to a meeting.

Wrote that story during and right after the meeting

Got home much later than planned to put together DIY mini pizzas for the birthday boy (even though we had the big party yesterday I felt like I needed to do something fun for his actual day). Then he opened a couple of small gifts and we were off to bed with some very active ninjas.

Made a work call while they got a little of that out of their system. Fretted about the call even though I promised I wouldn’t.

Read a Froggy book and answered a bunch of random questions and then - Finally, I fell asleep snuggling my birthday boy, his giraffe, his book and a sword, natch.

Next year, I’m thinking tattoos or pencils or anything else non-food related.

You’re welcome, teachers and parents of kiddos with food challenges.


Summer fun and other news


 image

*Image credit: Carta Bella Paper

Summer starts today ... it's hard to tell with the freakishly fall-like weather we're having here in this corner of Oregon, no complaints just an observation.

It's hard for me to believe it's been a year since I returned to work full time as a reporter after five years home of being home with the boys.

I will always wish I'd had a little longer home with Jake but when that wave of guilt looms over me I dodge its crash by remembering how nice it is to pay the mortgage, among a host of other positives of being back in the newsroom.

So far, I've been able to do the things that matter most to me as far as what being a mom means to me (the snuggles, the surprises and the simplest of delights) but as summer was approaching I felt an ache as I realized it seemed everyone else people on Facebook were making plans for summer vacation, but for us it's just ... business as usual.

keep calm summer

* Credit: pinned from BellePins

After momentarily going down the mental path of feeling sorry for myself and longing for a life that no longer exists, I realized working doesn't have to mean we can't have plenty of summer fun around here.

I just need to be intentional about it, and as crazy as it might sound, the best way for me to ensure we have plenty of old-fashioned spontanous summer fun is to ...er... plan for it.

So, I am ... with our own summer manifesto project ala one of my favorite inspirations Ali Edwards.

Which is fun ... and funny since I'm like eight weeks into Project Life and this is like the 25th week of the year? You'll be relieved to know getting current on Project Life is on the list in addition to other realistic things like "climb a mountain" by Jake and "do the Lego challenge" by Sam.

We're still tweaking our list but I'll share it soon and hope to hear a few of your summer bucket list ideas, too!

In the meantime, I'm happy that

CZ_SchoolsOut
{You can get this free download from Cathy Zielske's website, because she's just awesome like that}.

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Oh, and in other awesomeness ...  I'm stoked to share that I am actually teaching a class in the same place as the aforementioned creative superstars ... you guys know my journaling class is live now on Big Picture Classes, right?

I figured as much since there are likely very few people who didn't hear my whoop of delight when I watched one of my life-long dreams manifest before my very eyes.

In case you happened to miss it, here's the scoop: for ten bucks you can sign up to take my journaling class "The Art of Self Preservation." And, if you want to be supportive but aren't sure you want to take the class yet, click here and listen to the audio introduction. 

I'd love to hear what you think!

xo

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Nathalie’s Notes on “kid food”

As the calendar turned to the end of the month I realized my Raising the Hardy Boys column was due again and that means I’m really late in posting February’s column about my beef with the entire notion of “kid food.”

Some call it a soap box, I call it a passion.

I will preface this by saying I have totally handed a few french fries over the backseat, back when we used to eat in the car, but for the most part I really do try to live by these principles, at least when it comes to the boys.

Me? I’m a total hypocrite and am actually dealing with that this year. No, really Smile 

So, here are my thoughts on kid food:

http://www.newsregister.com/reprint-kid-food

And, I just couldn’t resist sharing this image that I saw on Kimberly Snyder’s blog shortly after my column ran.

Poop and Pee

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Overheard by Reporter Mama

Reporter Mama Observation: This work thing is time consuming!

But, I’ve been writing draft posts … not to mention the collection in my head so hopefully one of these days I’ll get caught up on them.

In the meantime, here are a few overheards from last week and a link to my most recent column “Meaningful action starts with silence” chronicling my reaction to the rash of tragic shootings.

Ironically, this column with the word “silence” in the title brought a lot of emails in response, and I’m thankful for all of them because it’s always nice to know when your words resonate with others.

Overheard in the newsroom:

Context: Reporter on the phone.

Quote:

“So, you’re saying I misquoted you but you haven’t read the story?”

- Name withheld to protect the innocent

Overheard on the beat:

Context: I’m paraphrasing but this was said during a meeting addressing a man who appears to one of Yamhill County’s own hoarders. In reference to all the junk on his property the man said:

Quote:

 “It might look like junk but really it’s camouflage.”

- Name withheld because I kind of felt bad for the guy.

But, I can’t wait to tell Matt all the crap on our front porch is … camouflage. That’s totally going in the book.

Overheard in the minivan:

“I wish we could take a boom truck to heaven and make sure Lucy is still alive there. And pet her. I still love her.”

- Sam

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Intersection

Meeting Baby Alex … too late.

Note: This is not my son, but it could’ve been.

Monday was one of those perfect fall days.

I'd stopped on my way home to catch a candid picture of one of the candidate's I'm covering putting up campaign signs. I was close to home when my husband called. There was an accident ... he started to tell me a baby got hit in front of our house ... it's pretty bad. But at the same time just before I rounded the corner to my house I saw the flash of a police car.

I heard the drum that beats inside to say something’s not right. I came onto my street and saw my house surrounded by police cars, caution tape and chaos. My husband was in the front yard – distraught.

He'd just told me a baby. Not Sam, not Jake. A baby. But time lapsed and all the information didn't click in my mind as I hurried into the madness. Could it be my boys?

I couldn’t get my car any farther down the street.

“You can’t go down there.” One of the world’s hall monitors informed me.

“I have to.” I shouted, trying to remember how to park my car.

what is happening? I ran.

I heard wailing coming from the left. I ran faster.

A toddler. Hit by a car.

Simultaneously I saw for sure that it wasn’t one of my kids because the toy-car wagon in the grilll of a Ford sedan didn’t belong to my boys.

It was Alex’s, next door.

Alex, a little boy who just barely got to the world before getting taken out on a random October afternoon. He just celebrated his 1st birthday September 22.

I never met him. But will keep a candle lit for him in my heart for the rest of my days. Because to me, the moment of relief I felt that my boys were okay, meant that someone else’s baby wasn’t.

I’ve done crisis counseling. I know what that’s called, I know it’s not rational: survivor’s guilt.

None of that helps when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night thinking of the baby, his sister, his brother, his father … his mother a few houses down. His grandmother, his grandfather, his babysitter … all people I only knew in passing … but now I hear them cry in my sleep. And I wake up with my own pillow wet from my own tears.

They each have their own stories … the stories that don’t get into the news because they’re happening at the same time as the news is developing and they’re happening in hearts and heads … not headlines.

There’s the story of his sister. I can’t tell you her story, because I don’t know it. But I can tell you where my life intersected with hers, on the corner of X Street and Y Avenue.

A beautiful young girl, 14, sitting in the street, wearing one black Ked and hitting the pavement over and over and over again. Screaming for her brother to wake up. Screaming at the man who hit him. Screaming for time to come back. Screaming. Her grandmother never let go of her … shaking and bearing witness to the grief around her, holding her own inside.

The next day I came over to the house I saw her, in a dark room sitting by his crib, she was still saying his name, clinging to the crib, Wake up, Alex. Wake up.

Then there is his brother. A handsome 17-year old who said he waited his whole life to have a brother. They were just about to share a room together – he planned to paint the Lighting McQueen lightening bolt in their room. Maybe he still will, he says, but he can’t think about that now.

I met him at the same intersection as his sister, but hours later. The scene was silent now. The only evidence of the afternoon’s tragedy and chaos was the little red toy car still in the car’s grill … the street still taped off, the wailing echoing in the minds of neighbors but save the sound of detectives talking in low voices it was quiet now. 

No one came to pick him up from practice. He learned something was wrong, but not what exactly. He ran all the way home. He was nearly there when he saw the tape, like I did. Saw the wagon, like I did.

But there was no relief for him because it was his baby brother. I told him what I knew. I held him, this boy I’d never met, this boy who just learned his brother was in a horrible accident and fighting for his life in a city an hour away. A boy who was alone to process all of that.

So I hovered around his house, in case he came out. He did. We talked a bit, I introduced him to another neighbor, the one who’d given his little brother CPR, somehow information was helping, at least it gave him something to process, perhaps.

If he needed anything I told him to come over. At 8 p.m. he came to the door. My heart lifting, I thought he was coming to tell me good news. Instead, he just wanted to let me know his brother didn’t make it. But he was braver than me and used all of the words: my little brother … died.

And he had to go talk to his little sister, who’d come from a friend’s house. I came home with him, not because there was anything I could do to help but because I could be there, to hold them, to let him grieve without having to be the adult in the room for his sister … and that’s all I did. Held them until he was ready for me to go. I haven’t seen him since but I think about him every day.

I do see the grandfather every day as he comes out to check on the flowers, tidy up the memorial site, bring fresh water, straighten what the wind has bent.

I talk to him a little bit as I come to tie the balloons back up in the battle against gravity, the rain has come to put the candles out, the chalk messages are wiped away, the markings in the street are fading … but the memories, the sounds, the moments of that Monday afternoon no one can take back.

Those stay. Those stay forever. The impact permanent. And that’s just for me. So I literally can’t draw a full breath when I put myself in any one of their shoes. The best I can do is what I told the little boy’s mama: though I never knew him, I will never forget your son.

Alex’s story hit home for most everyone in my home. Matt has his own story, one he’ll most likely keep to himself. But he’s not sleeping well either. He heard the impact. He called 9-1-1 knowing what happened before he saw what happened.

Sam, well, how do you tell a five-year-old this story? We’re working through it. Sometimes he understands, sometimes he doesn’t Same as me. He says he dreams of Baby Alex. And in his dreams, they are playing Legos, and running, lots of running Sam says.

But I did not cover this story. I was a part of this story. Their stories are now a part of me.

I share them with you as a reminder to always, but always, remember this moment matters.

 

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p.s. some of you are asking for more information about the accident itself as well as what possessed me to tell my son about it. This photo is taken in front of my house, does that help answer that?

And the other questions are really good ones too and I’ll come back with the answers I have as soon as I can.

And some have also wondered - yes we have a collection envelope for them and you can message me for more information if you would like to contribute something to this family ... I understand things are tight and there are a lot of things vying for our attention and resources, if you feel moved to share a few dollars, let me know.

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