Still In Moderate Disbelief

One of Sparky’s friends came up to him the other day and said, “Hey, hasn’t your mum written books?”

To which Sparky said, “Yeah, I think she’s written two or three.” (Six, kid. Not counting the anthology. Please keep up. The shelf with all of them is right outside your bedroom door.)

So the kid searched, and came back with huge eyes. “Your mum is on Google! She’s everywhere!”

Nice thought, but no, I’m not. Not the way you make it sound, anyway. An author’s name will pull up links to their books being sold all over the place.

This fall, something totally different will come out with my name on it. While I’ve mainly worked in commercial publishing as writer, editor, and copyeditor, I’ve also worked in the video games industry a few times. Names in game credits are harder point at. But this fall, a project that intersects my two fields is launching.

Right now I’m just really tired, because of crazy deadlines and schedule. But each day when I open my Work folder of bookmarks and click on this particular link for research, I still get a little cooled-out shiver of Is this actually my life right now?

And that is good. As long as I’m still excited about what I’m doing, then I’m doing the right thing.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world this fall. It’s probably going to confuse the heck out of people who only know me from my titles about alternative spirituality. But I’m allowed to have different areas of interest, and to apply my professional skills to those different subjects. It’s part of what makes me an interesting person, right?

Sparky: Eleven Years Old!

We are into our second decade, people.

Eleven years ago, during a humid heatwave, we unexpectedly found ourselves with someone who wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another nine weeks. In those nine weeks, I had to correct the galleys of one book, deliver the first draft of another, unpack from the move, create a nursery, and perform in a rock concert. All that was rearranged, rescheduled, or cancelled (for me, anyway): the galleys were corrected in the hospital (yeah, I’m hardcore that way; HRH FedExed them to the publisher for me as soon as they were done), t! took my place onstage with Random Colour (I dictated basslines to him over the phone from my hospital bed), the delivery deadline for the first draft of the other book was moved (bless my editor at the time!), the nursery was hastily finished while Sparky was in the neonatal unit, and unpacking happened when it happened.












Eleven years ago he was born nine weeks early, and we’ve been trying to keep up with him ever since.

What is he into these days? Robotics, reading, Pokemon (some things don’t change), Portal, Animal Crossing

Lego is still huge, but instead of kits, he uses it to build original stuff from movies or games. He’s crazy good at looking at a piece and using it for something imaginative that it wasn’t designed for. He reads incessantly (no change there) but it’s even more fun to discuss storylines with him, or hand him a book I love and have him come back to enthuse about it. He loves to help people with video games, so my investment in my own secondhand 3DS and both a Pokemon and Animal Crossing game gives us even more stuff to share and talk about. (Did we both preorder a copy of Pokemon Sun and Moon? Yes, yes we did. He is so excited about doing this together.)

Sparky’s still really enjoying his weekly art classes, especially sculpture; I think he’s done two and a half years of it now. School is going well. He loves it, which is what’s most important for me. Decent grades are a bonus, but I’d rather lower grades and loving it than higher grades and being miserable. He’s excited to learn new things. He really has trouble thinking through the several steps required in complicated math problems, for which he now gets extra help at school through the resources program. (And just let me say that I wish they’d spend more time establishing a firm foundation in the basics rather than pushing ahead into stuff that I didn’t address till two grades later.) He started learning how to play the flute in music this year! And he registered to learn violin and try drums again this summer at camp.

And speaking of learning new things, he (finally) learned how to ride a bike this spring!

He’s in size 2 or 2.5 shoes, large youth shirts, and trousers are a shot in the dark because if it’s long enough, the waist is too big. (If we can find a tall/slim combo, he’s fine.) And after ten years, his hair is stubbornly trying to part on the other side. We’ve given in.

He’s still working on his self-confidence and allowing himself to feel fear of making mistakes and forging ahead anyway. That perfectionist streak undermines him a lot. We were so very proud of him for trying rock-climbing with a friend, even though he froze up halfway through and needed to leave to have some alone time.

He’s turning into a great person. He’s always been great, but the older he gets, the more I recognise the person he’s becoming is grounded, kooky, imaginative, inquisitive, supportive, and helpful. We’ve come pretty far in teaching him how to divert negative self-talk this year, which has been a rough ride. Do we still have to work to do on self-discipline, patience, self-esteem? Sure. But we all have to keep working on that; we’re all works in progress.

Kindergarten Prep

Today was our school’s Teddy Bear Picnic, the orientation session for soon-to-be kindergartners and their parents! Owlet is super excited; she was already excited going in, but when I picked her up from the kindergarten room afterward, she was even more excited, because: “Mummy, they have a dollhouse! And Lego! And we did ART!”

The one thing she’s not thrilled about is learning French. “I already KNOW language,” she said. You can’t really argue with that logic. Sparky had similar resistance, so I know it will all turn out fine. In fact, Sparky gave her a pep talk this morning about how awesome it is to learn a second language — except he did it in French. It made sense to him to do it that way, and it was a terrific gesture, but it was mostly lost on Owlet, who was annoyed that he wasn’t speaking to her in “language.” Although she has independently asked how to say certain things in French the past few days — hello, goodbye, my name is — so there is hope.

Digging Out

Look at that, it’s been two months since I posted an update on, well, anything. (ED: I have since noticed there was a draft of an April 12 post sitting in the drafts folder for over a month, so that’s been posted.) I promised myself I was going to at least post one round-up a week, and yeah, that’s really not happening. There’s a reason.

Remember back in late 2004/early 2005, when I was contracted to write my first two books, and the deadline for each was three months? Good times. (No, actually, they weren’t. For the first book, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, falling asleep at my computer, and I don’t remember much of that time because everything was either writing or sleeping. And for the second book, I corrected the page proofs in the hospital after he was born, then sent HRH to a FedEx outlet to courier them back. It certainly wasn’t boring.)

ANYWAY. I’ve done it again. Or rather, I’m doing it again. I love this project fiercely. I’m working with a company I’ve worked with a handful of times before, with a team who is phenomenal, on an intellectual property I enjoy. But wow, yes, again with the really super crazy deadline. I’m writing a book in about two and a half months. The publication schedule is insane — the target publication slot is November — and the IP team is already swamped with other projects. I have no idea how they do what they do without falling over dead. They’re superheroes.

My job is to read and absorb a truly terrifying amount of existing material, make sense of it, pull out the most important bits, and write about them. And history — so much history. I am not shy about saying that I’m really good at what I do. However, I do have an absorption threshold, and when I hit it, I can’t sort through all the information I have to condense and present it in an easily digestible manner. It’s like decision paralysis on several levels at once. And because I’m not fully fluent in the IP, having jumped on board only recently, I can’t easily pull out what’s actually important. Things that seem important to me aren’t necessary critical in the overall scheme of things; some stuff that doesn’t jump out at me is actually super important.

I’m learning. And it’s why the IP team reviews my stuff two chapters at a time to say, “Yes, no, we need to tweak this, drop this part, this bit needs a lot more exploration.”

So, that’s why I haven’t been around so much. All available writing energy is being used up elsewhere. The last part of the first draft is being handed in around June 1, so I may have more time then? But rewrites. So probably not.

Catching Up

[Good grief. This has been sitting in a drafts folder since April 12.]

I had a concert. It was brilliant. The Grieg piano concerto was fantastic, and the Schubert ninth symphony was better than I expected it to be. (It was also REALLY LOUD.) Right up to the week before the concert I was still thinking I should have dropped out at the beginning of this rehearsal session when I was having so much difficulty with the material; I’m glad I stuck with it. Next: my recital in June, and then the Canada Day concert.

Yesterday I had my second meeting with the team I’m working with on this project. It was just as excellent as the first one was. We reviewed the first two chapters I’d written, and the feedback was so positive. It’s really nice to be so comfortable. The packaging guy was in town for this one, and it was good to meet him too; he said a coupe of very complimentary things about how I was functioning in the meeting and how pleased he was that the team had coalesced so well. And he suggested that if I was interested, if there were any projects that came across his desk that he thought I’d be good for, that he could call me. (Yes! Yes, please do that!)

The team sent me home with swag for the family, too. It was heavy to haul home — there’s just over half an hour of walking involved in my commute to and from downtown for these in-person meetings — but everyone here was delighted. In theory the two huge hardcover books are for my reference use, but HRH buried himself in one right away because it was directly applicable to something he’s doing right now.

We outlined the fifth and sixth sections of the book, so now I have the second and third to cover and have these two on the horizon as well. I am hitting the right tone and level of detail they want, which is good to know; I wanted to have this review meeting of the first two chapters I finished rough drafts of before going into the next set, just in case I was really missing the point somehow.

In non-work news, I am finally going to get to Rhinebeck, which is an enormous fleece and fibre festival in mid-October. (The actual name of it is the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, but no one calls it that.) Ceri, Megan, and I and a bunch of my online mums group are going to meet there; we’re all renting a house for the weekend! (A few houses, actually; people kept saying they were going to go, too, and more houses had to be booked. It’s crazy, and so exciting.) It’s going to be a ridiculous amount of fun, and my phone already knows how to autocorrect Rhinebeck to RHINEBECK, all caps; that’s how exciting it is. For some reason I thought Rhinebeck was much further away. Google tells me it’s just about four hours. That’s not taking border-crossing times into account, but still — that’s closer than driving to visit my parents. And there’s a Rhinebeck thing; people knit sweaters to wear while there. So I am going to knit a sweater. An easy one, mind you, but a real sweater. Once this book is done, that is. I’ve already swatched two different yarns, even, and know which one I’ll be using.

Cello, work, yarn stuff. That’s a pretty decent summary of what’s been going on.

Owlet: 55 Months!

… or the March 4 post covering February 2016. I’m less than a week late! Woohoo!

The enthusiasm for Star Wars continues. One day I did her hair in the three bunches Rey has, and she was thrilled. Then she found a stick, and said, “Rey has a stick. I have a stick, too!”

I was excited to show the kids the new Finding Dory trailer, because Finding Nemo is one of our favourites, and we’re planning for Finding Dory to be the first film Owlet sees in the theatre this summer. She was so thrilled about the trailer and the plan that she started telling everyone at school that she had been to a movie theatre, and was going to go after school, and… right. This is an excellent example of the kind of magical thinking she engages in. Her educator usually checks with me at the end of the day to confirm various facts, because Owlet’s make-believes are so detailed and sincere that it’s hard to separate what’s imagined and what’s fact.

Also, she says “movie heater” instead of “movie theatre,” and while it is utterly adorable, we suggested we call it the “cinema” instead, which she readily accepted. It’s much easier for her to say.

The kids both saved up their money and they each bought a new playset for Disney Infinity this past month. Sparky bought the Rise Against the Empire set with Luke and Leia, and Owlet bought the Inside Out set with Joy and Anger. (I love that my kids are willing to buy toys that they intend to share and can both play with.) She was so excited to put her money in a little wallet, find the playset in the store, and carry the bag after buying it. This is the second thing she has bought with her own money (the first was a Periwinkle doll from the Disney Fairies line) and it’s been interesting talking to her about how to save money and consider what to spend it on. There have been serious discussions about how yes, she could take the money she currently has and buy X, but she was saving that money to buy Y, and if she spends what’s currently there then she has to start all over again if she still intends to purchase Y.

Her colouring majorly leveled up this past month — her colour choices, control over colouring specific small regions and staying inside lines has suddenly improved. Drawing has also leapt up a level; wow, her flowers and people! (I can’t find any of her recent people, unfortunately; I think she gave them all away.) More adding landscape and/or environment to the basic picture: those are fish all along the bottom of the water fairy’s picture on the left and bubbles around her, and flowers around the garden fairy on the right. She drew frames around them both.

This month’s music classes introduced the recorder, the clarinet, and the transverse flute.

And during the last one, the flute class, she actually paid attention. Sort of. At least she didn’t whine and try to climb all over me.

The children have a new musical obsession. Ceri bought me the Hamilton cast album, and that has mostly replaced Hunchback as what they ask to listen to in the car. Owlet says, “Can we listen to the one where they say, ‘What’s your name, man?’“) and wanders around the house chirping, “Alexander Hamilton… my name is Alexander Hamilton…” to herself.

I cut Owlet’s hair again a couple of weeks ago, and I cut off more than I intended. She likes wearing it loose and down, and it was getting in the way everywhere, so I told her she needed to start agreeing to having it pinned back or we could trim it. She immediately chose the cut. We discussed how much to trim; she wanted it shorter, just above her shoulders, but I wanted to be sure there was still enough length to do the Elsa braids she asks for periodically. So I put it in a ponytail and misjudged where to cut. Stupid rookie mistake. Anyway, it’s shoulder length, and the curls are already bouncier (although not as bouncy as they were when they were originally that length), and it’s exactly where she wanted it. I’d cut three inches off just before Christmas because the ends were getting scraggly; that was her first real haircut other than bangs. This was another two and a half inches gone. Eek. It just feels cumulatively drastic.

And then she didn’t want me to take a picture, or to go to school the next morning, because she was afraid people would laugh at her because we cut her hair. I can’t even. How can this start so young?

Storytime! Sparky has started to read the Geronimo Stilton and the Kingdom of Fantasy series to Owlet. It’s hard to get them both wanting to do it at the same time; Owlet often asks and Sparky says no because he’s not in the mood, but when it happens it’s terrific. (Psst, this is the new haircut, too.)

We finished On the Banks of Plum Creek and began By the Shores of Silver Lake. It was hard for Owlet to wrap her head around the idea that four or five years had passed, Mary had gone blind in the interim, and there was a new baby. (More than that actually happened during that gap; the Ingalls family moved a couple of times, and there was a son born who died at the age of nine months.) We tried starting Anne of Green Gables, but it’s a bit wordy for her, so we switched to Winnie-the-Pooh.

Owlet’s educator told me something a couple of weeks ago that I have to share. The kids are all currently into pretending people are in trouble and swooping in to save them. The gym set is the safe zone, and the mats under it are the water they’re in, or the quicksand, or whatever. Well, one of the kids found Owlet on the gym set and said, “You can’t be here, no one saved you!”

“I rescued myself,” Owlet said. (I can just imagine the unimpressed look she gave the kid over the top of her glasses as she said it, too.)

Owlet: 54 Months!

.. also known as the February 4 post covering January 2016.

Owlet’s current passion is Star Wars. It’s all Star Wars, all the time over here. Which is fine with the rest of us, to be honest. She’s excited by anything Star Wars, but especially BB-8 and Rey. (Has she seen the latest film? No. Doesn’t matter.)

As you may notice, her colouring has leveled up; she’s really focusing on more precision. Colouring Rey alone wasn’t enough here; she drew a BB-8 in the upper left, embellished and expanded on the line-art house for Rey, added a sunburst thing behind her head, and a landscape. (And then she put some Disney Fairies stickers on it, because who doesn’t like fairies, right?)

She’s a fan of R2 but to a lesser degree than BB-8, calls Threepio “Key-Threepio,” and is enthusiastic about Rey’s friends Finn and Poe Dameron. Lots of what she knows about Star Wars comes from playing Disney Infinity with Sparky. They have watched some SW: Rebels in French on weekend TV, so she thinks Sabine is awesome as well, and is an enormous Ahsoka fan. Sparky gave her one of his Jedi starfighter toys plus his Ahsoka figure, and she was thrilled. They play Star Wars together a lot.

Her daycare was closed for a week at the beginning of February, and because it was deadline time for not one but two projects I was handling, she had a couple of days at another home daycare run by someone who trained at our regular daycare. I told her we’d pack a lunch for her to take, which necessitated a lunch box, and she asked for one with BB-8 on it. Well, the lunch box manufacturers haven’t stepped up their game and started producing Star Wars: The Force Awakens gear yet, so I searched everywhere and eventually found this tin box at Michael’s for her. She was super excited, both about the lunchbox idea (we’ve told her she’ll use one in kindergarten, so this was an early treat), and also because, well, Rey and BB-8 are both on her lunch box, how cool is that?

There’s been an increasing amount of acting out at daycare and her new music class: no focus, whining, pouting when she doesn’t get to do what she wants right away. I realize that sounds minor, and kind of to be expected with kids in general, but it unusual for her, and it’s frustrating.

Speaking of music class, this past month she was introduced to the violin, where the only successful thing she did was tuck it under her arm in rest position:

… because of course she knows how to play a violin, right?

She missed the class where they met the viola, but the next one was the double bass, which she didn’t like; she kept crawling into my lap and hiding her face in my shoulder, saying that it sounded angry.

Favourites music-wise these days, she is all about the studio cast recording of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is an excellent reworking and expansion of the songs and score from the Disney film (and story, thankfully; the production team accurately called it “a Victor Hugo adaption with the score of Disney’s Hunchback“), but I am getting very tired of it, because it’s all the kids ask to listen to in the car. I am all for introducing new musicals to my children, but I have a saturation point.

They did a unit on arctic animals this past month at daycare. Here’s some art, which she further embellished when we brought them home. There’s a bonus whale with a googly eye in the polar bear one, and a puffin egg in the arctic fox one. (Apparently puffin eggs are bright red. Keeps them from getting lost in the snow, I guess?)

We finished reading Little House on the Prairie and are now reading On the Banks of Plum Creek, which she calls “Mary and Laura in the Deep Deep Deep Underground House” (which makes it sound more like a bunker than a sort of basic hobbit hole). We just read about the grasshopper disaster and it took her a bit to fully understand what losing the entire crop of wheat meant for the family. Mary and Laura have also just started school at this point of the book, and she was quite interested in that, and the interaction between the different children there.

On the way to and from daycare each day, we pass where she’ll be going to school this fall. “There’s my kindergarten!” she says each time. And since the name of the school above the front door also has the school board symbol, when she saw that symbol on Sparky’s most recent report card, she said, “That’s from my kindergarten!” Not yet, child. Let’s not rush report cards for you just yet.