Dear Babygirl 1 & 2

October 9, 2014

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Dear Babygirl 1,

You are more and more sweet to your little sister every day, and for that I am eternally thankful. You touch her hair and give her kisses and tell her it’s going to be okay when she cries. You ask where she is if we ever get in the car without her, and whenever she’s not in the same room with you in the house, you always assume that she’s sleeping.

You call her “Lellah.” Please call her that for the rest of her life, okay? If you start pronouncing her name correctly one of these days, I might cry. That is all.

Love,
Mama

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Dear Babygirl 2,

You are infatuated with your doggie. I’m calling her your doggie and not our doggie because, let’s admit it, she occupies the lowest rung on the totem pole these days and often, sadly, one we get annoyed to even have to claim as our own.

But having you around reminds us just how magical it can be to share a household with a loving canine.

You smile anytime you see her and watch her pace the house like you’re watching the final match of the US Open. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth with such focus, for as long as she’s within your field of vision. And if you get to actually touch her? Giggles for days.

(When you grow up, you can have her.)

Love the dog but love you more,
Mama

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Dear Babygirl 1 & 2,

Can you grow up faster? Tomorrow would be nice.

Love,
Mama

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Dear Babygirl 1 & 2,

Just kidding about that, by the way. Don’t grow up. Never. Ever ever ever!

If you do decide to, I guess that’s okay with me, just make sure you plan to attend college on our back patio. We’ll build one there. Just for you.

Love,
Mama

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Dear Babygirl 2,

You came home from your first day of preschool a few weeks ago, and out of all the things you said “Yup” to that we asked you directly – Did you sing songs? Did you make friends? Are your teachers nice? Did you play on the playground? Did you read books? – after a few hours, you finally volunteered your one and only tidbit: “I pwayed wif John.”

The following week I inquired with the teacher if there was a boy named John in your class. There was. He is, and I quote, “The cutest boy in the class!”

Of course he his.

Love,
Mama

 

 

 

 

 

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Guess who’s gonna launch a Kickstarter campaign to help get her children’s book off the ground?

I’ll give you three guesses. :)

I’ve never published a children’s book before. I know very little about Kickstarter other than some cool people have done some cool things with it. I’ve never created a video before that didn’t involve me simply sitting in front of a camera, pushing record, and talking in one big long take.

But I’m gonna do this thing anyway.

I have now used the word gonna twice in this post already. Maybe I should start over?

Ahem.

Hubs suggested a few months ago that I consider using Kickstarter to cover the funds to get my children’s book illustrated and published, and I promptly ignored him.

I wrote the book over a year ago, edited it several times, and hired a self publishing consultant that was amazing in teaching me all about ISBN’s (the “serial numbers” that all books are assigned) and self publishing websites and book sizes and fonts and color schemes, and a million other tiny details that are involved in publishing a book that I didn’t know and didn’t really care to become an expert on. Together we defined a ton of details about the book (paperback, 5″ by 8″, secondary colors, etc) and requested samples from half a dozen illustrators. I selected an illustrator and then…did nothing. I had done as much work as I could before having to really fork over the bulk of the cost in producing the book, and we were moving and remodeling and expecting our second child, and when is it ever really convenient to lay down several thousand dollars to illustrate and publish your little pet project of a book, you know? It’s not that we technically couldn’t afford it, I just couldn’t get myself to pull the trigger.

Anyway, in a (I’d like to think, rare) moment of complaining last month about never getting this book published, Hubs mentioned Kickstarter again and asked why I hadn’t really considered it. My answer was that…I didn’t have an answer.

Why hadn’t I really considered it?

So I was all, “Uhhh” and “Hmmm” and “Well, you see…” and he was all, “Yup, that’s what I thought, let’s do it.” and I was like, “Yeah, okay.”

And then there was this long pause. I looked at Hubs and he looked at me. And then I looked back at him and he looked back at me. And then I sighed and was all, “Okay, fine, I’ll say it: You were right. I should have considered Kickstarter when you first mentioned it ages ago. Happy?” And then he simply smiled and walked away.

I kinda like that guy.

So I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve been delaying progress on my children’s book for more than half a year for no real reason, and two weeks ago I finally decided to take Hubs’s idea seriously and kick things into high gear with Kickstarter. (Kick into gear with Kickstarter. Like what I did there?)

Last week I reached out to a local videographer to assist in the production of the video I will use for the campaign and did a bundle of research on how to (and how not to) use the Kickstarter platform.

A few days later I met with the video guy and we began planning my video.

This week I sent him the latest version of my book in text form, along with my draft of the script for the video. We’ll be recording soon!

I’ve never done any of this before, but we’re just gonna rip off that Band-Aid and go for it. So I guess this is just my little note to all 79 of you readers to say…thank you! I can’t wait to share this journey with you. I’m sure the road to a finished, published book will jostle us around a little bit, but it will be worth it in the end.

And, hopefully, this first project for my silly little children’s book will be the first of many. I have notebooks filled with ideas and outlines and text snippets of possible books. It’s about time I get a’workin’ on those. The first one will be the hardest, so it’s time to just do it already.

Stay tuned for more! And thank you thank you thank you for being here!

(Anyone have any Kickstarter tips? Experiences? Success stories? Horror stories?)

In book geekery,

AS

 

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I was reading a book intro the other today about webinars (one of the most powerful marketing tools ever), and it got me thinking about what knowledge I have. I was reading about Lewis Howes, specifically, and how he spent one year immersing himself into LinkedIn, became so knowledgeable about the platform that he became known as the LinkedIn King, and then went on to host free webinars where he taught people how to use it. At the end of the webinars he would pitch the audience a more in-depth, advanced course on the subject, and that’s how his business made money.

I read this and thought, how cool! How cool…for him. I don’t have any knowledge like that to teach someone. I’m not an expert on anything!

Then my next thought was, well that can’t be true, surely I have SOMEthing of value to offer people. And maybe even something of value that people would be willing to pay for.

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So I started brainstorming. I wrote down every tidbit of knowledge that I had. Most of them are nowhere near expert level, but if I was able to answer “probably” to the “Do I have more knowledge about this subject than the average person?” question, I included it in the list.

- how to build a network marketing business
- how NOT to build a network marketing business
- how to build a freelance writing career
- how to write every day
- how to be an efficient, fun, and productive mommy
- how to write a children’s book
- how to fit working out into your busy day with kids and work
- how to invest in real estate (for women)
- book recommendations: best books to read for mommies/entrepreneurs/etc, book reviews of recent bestsellers, what’s out there right now, etc

I just wrote this list out a couple days ago, so I have yet to make a plan of attack for how I’m going to make this happen, or if I even am, (I’ll work on it in my free time, ha!) but I did want to share it with you. I thought the exercise of writing out what knowledge I have that’s even just a smidge more than the average person was incredibly eye-opening. We don’t have to be smarter than the smartest experts in order to teach something! We simply have to possess a little knowledge, enough that someone else out there might be able to learn from. And then we have to be willing to go out there and teach it.

It’s a cool thought, right? This could lead in all sorts of interesting and profitable and exciting directions. Part-time teaching in school, volunteering to teach at places like libraries or homeless shelters or museums. Writing e-books or hosting online classes.

Think beyond an instructor standing in front of a room of students sitting at desks. Teaching happens in our homes, in our backyards, in our sporting events, in our communities. It can happen online, it can happen in books. It can happen with videos or words or pictures.

I bet if you break down most successful businesses, they all come back around to teaching someone something. Don’t you think?

What could you teach? Where do you think you could go with that knowledge?

Food for thought for your day!

Let’s go teach something,

AS

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When I was 12(ish) years old, I started babysitting for the kids in my neighborhood. I would always pack a small backpack full of a couple toys and some crayons and activities, and when I would arrive I would let the kids pick something out to keep. I also used to tidy up the main floor of the house, if I was still sitting after the kids went to bed. My tidying methods, which I still use today and that drive my husband crazy, don’t necessarily involve putting away or organizing, simply putting like things into piles so that the visual clutter is reduced. Looking back, I’m sure this drove the parents whose kids I was sitting for completely crazy. One time I let in another neighborhood kid that I wasn’t in charge of watching into the house, he tromped mud and tar all over the carpet, and I couldn’t get the stains out for the life of me. There were cartoon-looking footprints everywhere. I told the kids not to say anything when their parents got home, in hopes that I could run away before they saw it, but they told them anyway. During the two minute chaperoned walk home all I could think of was what I was going to tell my parents when the mom of the kids I was sitting for yelled at me, never called me again, didn’t pay me, etc. She paid me anyway (8 whole bucks!) and was incredibly kind about the situation. I think I told my parents a few years later. By the way, almost 20 years later, that mom is now a grandmother and has gifted me some of the most thoughtful gifts when my children were born.

When I was 14 I got my first real job at a high-end party supply store. I could only work on Saturdays, and most weekends I had to attend concerts for a jazz band that I was a part of in middle school. #geek The store had so many things that weren’t directly labeled with price tags (individual sheets of paper, balloons, etc) that I felt like I could never do anything without help. Also, I’m pretty sure I hung up on 89% of all the customers who called while I was working, as the phone was really complicated and I was expected to answer it but never taught how to use it. They had chocolate covered Little Debbie delicious something-or-others in the break room. I had to wear “fancy” clothes, and I barely had any, so dressing for each shift was a huge pain in my tomboy a$$. I remember my shoes always hurting my feet. After a few months of barely being scheduled and turning down half of the days I actually was scheduled because of the concerts, the manager told me she was just going to stop scheduling me all together. I walked out, realized I was essentially fired, and burst into tears. I didn’t care about losing the job – I never liked it – but the fact that I was fired from something (aka. I failed!) completely humiliated me.

When I was 16 I started working at a dry cleaners. I rocked at that job. Everything was stored in a computer, my brain meshed well with computers, and I prided myself on finding the shirts that were “lost” that were really filed under the last name Baxton instead of Paxton. Troubleshooting was my thang. I helped the customers drop-off and pick-up, sorted the clothes, entered the orders into the computer, helped close, and had a blast with the handful of other teenagers who also worked there. There was a local bakery in the same strip mall, and we would often walk over to pick up the $1 day old panini loaves and down them by the chunkful. A classmate who worked there introduced me to salt and vinegar chips, one of my loves to this day. We would eat them until the insides of our cheeks were sore. There was an older gentleman that worked there who had such bad breath, we called him Hal, as in halitosis. He had no idea what it meant, and thought it was cute that all the “kids” had a special name for him. I have no idea what his real name was. There was one customer whose face looked so much like a cartoon character (long shape, huge curved nose, wide eyes) that we would see him coming and immediately play the “not it” game. Whichever one of us was still in the front of the store last, had to help him. He was always very nice, but we were afraid that our fits of giggles wouldn’t go over well with him, so we ran to the back to hide and muffle them with our hands. I thought it was super fancy when some customers would request their dress shirts to be folded and boxed instead of hung up. I imagined them going on fancy trips and packing those perfectly pressed and folded shirts into steamer trunks and hotel dressers. My parents still get their dry cleaning done at that location.

The first summer home from college I worked at the daycare incorporated into the local school district. I sat around all summer with elementary-aged kids, playing with them on the playground, playing card games like 3-to-13 and gin rummy with them, and microwaving industrial-sized cookie sheets of french toast sticks (eww) for their breakfasts. Those were the days I always dreaded having clean-up duty. Maple syrup is a bitch to get off of lunchroom tables. There was one girl there who was one year older than I was, married, and with two kids. I did the “age comparison” thing all summer long, and it freaked me out to think about all of the “old person” things she had already done at my age. There were two rowdy but fun ten year-old boys at the daycare all summer whose parents were both divorced, and halfway through the summer we found out that the mom of one and the dad of the other were dating. I thought that was so scandalous.

The next summer I couldn’t find a part time job to save my life, so I spent the first three weeks of summer vacation sitting on the couch in the house I was sub-leasing in Iowa City, eating Chex Mix, applying one or two places, and telling myself I was sooo busy. I finally did get a job in the accounts receivables department of the university. The building was one of those government-looking buildings that was several stories tall but oddly had no windows, just brick all the way up. I worked with a gal who found it fascinating how quickly I learned how to file things and update her very basic Excel spreadsheets. She had photos on the wall of a baby, and all summer I assumed it was hers until one day she mentioned a granddaughter. We had celebrated her 39th birthday in the office just one week earlier. A 39 year-old grandma! I thought that was scandalous too. I told the manager who hired me that I would *totally* continue working past the summer, when I knew full well that I didn’t plan to. I kept the job a few weeks into the fall semester, then quit.

The next summer I had an internship in the technology department of a construction management company. I worked with two other young guys and the three of us made up the entire IT department, if I remember correctly. The employees would bring us their broken computers, we would push two buttons, get it working again, and giggle when they would walk away in amazement. We also regularly set-up new computers for all of the employees, and I helped create a system for recording all of the settings and software installs that we would define on every new machine. I had to log a timesheet every week and remember being amazed, while also feeling bad, that I had logged a couple hours over 40 one week and they paid me time and a half of my hourly rate for that smidge of extra time. One guy I worked with had a last name of Snow. I thought that was cool. An older gentleman we worked with had a wife and daughter that he openly complained about all the time. I thought that was so not cool. One of the guys in the department was engaged and I remember thinking how nice he was for making wedding-plan related phone calls on his lunch break. He would have sticky notes on his desk like “Call DJ” and “Ask cake lady about the flowers.” That guy turned out to be the brother in law of someone I later worked with at an entirely different company in an entirely different city five years later. I still see the construction signs from this firm around the midwest and smile. They offered me a full-time position after the internship was over, I told them I would let them know as the semester progressed, and eventually turned them down when I received an offer for the company I worked for in Kansas City. Having that position to fall back on, though, did allow me to be pickier with my interviewing my senior year in college. And by pickier I really mean lazier.

Before the end of the fall semester of my senior year, I received a formal job offer from the company in Kansas City. I accepted without even thinking about googling job negotitation strategies. The lady who called said that I would receive some paperwork soon, and that I should sign and return it. The door bell to my apartment rang not even five minutes later. I thought she was magic. Overnight delivery apparently wasn’t something I was very knowledgeable about at that point. I called everyone I knew from the bedroom in my apartment and no one answered. Not my mom, not my dad, not my sister, not any of my currently MIA roommates. The carpet in my room was blue, and I laid on my bed and stared down at the company paperwork that was laying on top of it until one of my roommates finally arrived home and I was able to share the good news with someone in person. I did less studying and more partying the spring semester than I ever had before. I showed up to a final or a midterm, I don’t remember, of one class I needed to graduate and a good friend was sitting there, waiting to take the test. “I didn’t know you were in this class!” I exclaimed without thinking. “Ann, you’ve skipped every session, how would you know I was in this class?” Ha. Touche. I got an A in that class thanks to notes from my then-boyfriend’s fraternity on past classes and a professor that was keen on repeating the exact same lectures and exams.

I started my corporate job in July of 2003, just two months after I graduated college, and was there until January 2010 when I ditched the cubicle in order to work from home doing the small businesses that I had been doing on the side for several years. While there, I worked in customer service support and troubleshooting – a job that was not what I was originally offered, but I didn’t have a choice in the matter – followed by several years in engineering working on software design and requirements. The software design role had me doing a lot more writing than I ever expected. And we all know where that led…

This morning, as I was pouring cereal into a bowl for one daughter and holding the other as she spit up on the floor, I had a random thought: who says normal lives aren’t interesting? I’ve often read about the lives of others – in books, in magazines, in my Facebook feed – and thought, “Sheesh, my life is so boring compared to theirs!”

But then you start typing a few things out, remembering fascinating details, and your life doesn’t seem as ho hum as you thought.

If you’re still with me, that was just 2000+ words to say: You’re an interesting person with all sorts of weird and wacky and wonderful experiences! Even if you think you’re not.

Hugs to that,

AS

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June is behind us. July is here. It’s halftime! A few fun and silly thoughts on the second half of the year as we huddle in the locker room:

A bad habit I’m going to break: watching television during the final hour of my day instead of reading. Also: leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight. Ugh.

A good habit I’m going to continue: daily networking.

A new skill I’d like to learn: furniture refinishing.

A person I hope to be more like: my Grandma – she reads every day habitually and eats real food. She also naps every afternoon. *swoon*

A good deed I’m going to do: commit to regular volunteering again

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A place I’d like to visit: South Carolina.

A book I’d like to read: Gone with the Wind (I KNOW).

A letter I’m going to write: thoughts for my Dad on his retirement.

A new food I’d like to try: tea – I want to venture beyond restaurant-grade iced with lemon.

I’m going to do better at: consistency – with everything.

A crazy goal I’m going to go after: editing the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2012. (Shaking in my boots.)

Your turn! What silly habit will you break? Where do you want to visit? What skill will you learn?

This is gonna be fun.

Hugs,
AS

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Last week the girls and I went to Costco.

Wasn’t that a great story? Ha! You’re welcome.

Ahem.

After we sort of not really ignored the deliciousness in the front aisles like the chocolatey granola bars and the sea salt pita chips and those dark chocolate covered acai berries that taste like heaven, and after we successfully made it through the side aisles full of the vats of olive oil and ketchup and the freezer section (organic frozen beef burritos! Amen.) and swung past the meat section and ohh’d and ahh’d over the six pound packages of blueberry muffins that are the size of my head in the bakery, we threw away our now empty sample cups of white cheddar cheese popcorn and headed up the main aisle towards the check-out.

And then we saw it: the book section.

Why do I *always* forget about the lovely book section at Costco? It’s like a pleasant little surprise icing upon the confetti cake that is a trip to Costco.

So I did what any good book geek would do: I ignored my whining children, whipped out my phone, and took photos.

Walk with me!

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How cute is this collection of most (all?) of Roald Dahl’s work? I owned a few of these as a kid, but what a fun gift. I kind of want to read them all again. I love how this set is filled with the super popular Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory titles, along with lesser known reads like The Twits and Fantastic Mr Fox. Seeing this made me smile.

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Ohh, Jeannette Wells has another book out! Who else read one of her first and most popular books (and also a memoir), The Glass Castle? I still think about that book years later. (Lard sandwiches! Omg.) Her second book, Half Broke Horses, has been on my list for ages, and now this one is too.

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Man. I’m going to have to read this fluff, simply because I now know it exists. Does anyone else have this internal requirement that they have to read all titles from an author, especially all titles related to the same central character, simply because they read one of them? Ugh. I gobbled up the Bridget Jones books in college, and now it appears like I’ll have to put a beach vacation on the calendar just so I won’t feel guilty spending a few hours with this one. #problemsofanuptightreader

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Been on my list forEVER. Makes me sad in a weird way when book covers are changed to their move tie-in versions. I love Young Adult lit. That is all.

Oh wait! I follow John Green on Instagram, and his excitement and amazement a few weeks ago when the movie was premiering was, for the lack of a better word, adorable. It was so cool to follow.

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Robert Galbraith, the pen name of JK Rowling from Harry Pottery fame, has received pretty good reviews for this book. It’s the beginning of a series featuring this book’s central character, Cormoran Strike. My mom really, really liked this book, and her copy *may* have just appeared on my doorstep a couple weeks ago. When mom sends you a book without asking, well, there’s no stronger recommendation than that! Also, how amazing is that moment when you realize that someone sent you a package in the mail? Another also, my oldest punkin now shouts “PWESENT!” every time I walk into the front door carrying a box of some kind. Love how sister gets excited about deliveries, even if they are just an enormous box of size 5 Pampers or the canine’s flea and tick medication.

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I feel like I’ve seen this book everywhere lately. Why have I seen this book everywhere lately? Is it a bestseller? Has it been featured in newsletters or magazines or something? I’m not sure what it is, but I feel like it has to be good.

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This is exactly the type of book that Hubz finds fascinating, and he read this one last year. If I remember correctly, he said it dragged on a bit, but overall was really interesting. The kind of book that makes you go wooaaahhh.

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You know the whole must-read-all-books-from-an-author problem I mentioned? Yeah. Nicholas Sparks falls into that category. And I’m not even sure why, as none of his books involve repeat characters. I did read his memoir, Three Weeks With My Brother, last year, which I really enjoyed, so perhaps that’s why I now feel like I have to read every one of his titles. I read about his life (heartbreaking at points) and I read about his writing and what launched his career (utterly fascinating and encouraging). I’m personally vested! Ha. Plus, I argue that there isn’t any better beach reading than Sparks, and not in the so-fluffy-it’s-dumb way, but in a lovely-enjoyable-relatable-characters-and-easy-to-read kind of way.

20140623-155247.jpgAllegient is the third book in the Divergent series (Divergent was first, then Insurgent was second). I really enjoyed Divergent; it was creative and fast-paced and interesting, and something I took down in just a couple of days. The series is similar to Hunger Games – female heroine, distopian future, upheaval, etc. I have to admit that I took this photo before I read books two and three, and now that I’m writing this I have read books two and three. Looking back on the series as a whole, it gets an Ehh rating from me. The first book was fantastic and the other two felt like they were forced a little bit. Also, it made my head spin with the casual mentions of character after character after character that had no development but that I was supposed to remember the names of. Nothing drives me more crazy than being two hundred pages into a book and still not remembering who Joe is or why Sylvia is important.

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Does this mean there is going to be another Bourne movie? Yessssss.

 

Thanks for taking this walk with me, friends! I survived that jaunt into the Costco book section without adding a single title to my shelf, although I did have to pry open the 2 lb. box of Frosted Mini Wheats before we even made it to the check-out…

Hugs,

AS

 

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Dear Babygirlsssss

June 12, 2014

Dear girlies,

Girls. Girls. Plural! That still boggles my mind.

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There are two of you. Big sister and Little sister. How did I ever get so lucky? And whose adorable kids are these because surely they can’t be mine…right?

Right? Hello?

Wait, what? I gave birth to both of you? NO WAY.

I’m sure every parent, especially the newer parents of younger children, looks at their kids from time to time and think, “I can’t believe that child is mine!” It’s such a surreal experience.

All our lives we dreamt of having children; what it would feel like to find out we’re pregnant, what it would be like to carry, deliver, and nurture a baby, how fun it would be to wrap toys from Santa for Christmas and teach you how to ride a bike and sit for hours on the end of the bleachers cheering you on with the rest of the team. We dreamt what it would be like to watch you walk across the stage and accept your diploma, help you rent the U-haul for your first apartment, and dance with you at your wedding.

And then, seemingly overnight, especially in hindsight, you are there. Here. And we’re living in it.

I heard someone the other day refer to their life with tiny children as “life in the trenches.” It’s a crazy time. Tiny babies, tiny kids, and all of the messiness and beautiful chaos that having young children implies.

Sometimes, when standing deep within the trench, covered in mud and cowering from incoming bombshells, I forget that you weren’t always mine. I forget about those dreams we used to have of a house full of little feet and lots of giggles. I am now in that house. And there are little feet and lots of giggles, but they are interspersed with the tantrums and the food battles and the epic messes and the sore back and the snotty noses.

But then there are moments of clarity. Moments where, for whatever reason, life slows for a second and I’m handed that one thing that so many people wish they had: perspective.

I take a breath for a second and rise up into the air, looking at both of you, looking at all of us, from above, and I gasp. You are mine. You are both mine. You are ours! How is that possible? Is it really true?

Surely you’re just someone else’s kids that I’m just getting to borrow for a while…right?

I mean, I know I carried you and birthed you and snuggled you, but…did I really? The trenches sometimes blur the memories, but that makes the fact that those dreams are now a reality even better. It’s dreamlike, having you two as my children.

You are mine! I can’t believe it. The dreams came true. Those dreams are now our life. And it ROCKS.

(Except for the poop part. That part does not rock. My god, the poop involved in parenting young children.)

You are mine! I can’t believe it. The dreams came true…except they didn’t. Because you are better. Both of you. Our girls.

I could never have dreamed.

All my love,
Mama

For more in the Dear Babygirl series: Letters to my Daughter

 

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