Self-Publishing – 5 Questions To Start

It’s not what it used to be.

Self-Publishing – 5 Questions To Start.

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Adventures in Parenting – Home Alone

Being By Yourself

home aloneHey, this is not an easy skill to learn. There are many adults who haven’t mastered it. But The-Oldest is taking this one on. He’s been booted out of daycare for the crime of being too old. Not that he’s upset by the eviction – in fact, it’s the exact opposite. He’s super excited to prove that he can be alone.

I think if it’s terrifying for anyone, it’s for the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, aka his mom. It means he’s growing up, it means he’s alone with all sorts of knives, boiling pots of water, and strangers at the door, and it’s a harbinger of the very sad day when he gives his mom a hug and goes off to college or the school for professional Pokémon players.

IMG_4811So we prepare him as best we can. We enroll him in a course called, Kids In Control aka Home Alone. I imagine an instructor that teaches them all about how to electrify a doorknob or how to hang paint cans so they can bang villains on the head. These are things I don’t want him learning as I have an aversion to being electrocuted (and being hit in the head with a paint can, for that matter.)

But the course is really about what to do when certain things happen. What to do when someone comes to the door and wants in. What to do when you cut yourself making a wiener and peanut butter sandwich. What to do in case of a fire. Or an earthquake.

zombie guideThere is nothing, however, about what to do in case of the zombie apocalypse or an invasion by spider-like aliens with creepy tentacles.

I guess some things will still be left up to me.

FYI, there is a book. And a movie.

He’s also tasked with taking a baby-sitting course. It’s pretty much the same thing with a bit more CPR, what to do when a child chokes on a McToy and how to talk to the younger kids so they will listen.

Another FYI, there is no right way to do the latter, I personally believe it to be the holy grail of parenting.

The-Youngest is super excited that his older brother is taking the baby-sitting course. In his mind, his older brother could look after him, which means he could play ALL day and ignore anything his older brother says.

We have to tell him there is no way the oldest will be looking after the youngest on a regular basis. It’s not fair to the oldest and despite that the youngest swears on all his lego that he’ll listen to his older brother, he won’t and will likely try to see if he can make a crossbow with poisoned bolts and shoot it at the kid who points at him all the time.

So the oldest marches off to the classes like a POW in a Bridge Over the River Kwai.

IMG_4810There, judging by the notebook he’s given, he doodles a lot. About Terraria terrors and Minecraft monsters. When he brings home his book, some of the questions in it unanswered, the cover looking like a tattoo artist had made it his canvas for fantasy games, the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and I began to doubt that he was learning anything.

So we remind him of what’s going to happen if he doesn’t pass. It’s the ‘stakes’ in a novel. It’s what happens if he fails. If he fails, he won’t be able to be alone, won’t be able to be the master of his days, we’ll find a daycare that takes older boys and send him there. Without his DS and with a list books he has to copy out word for word. Like Hamlet. Or something by Dickens.

The next week, he’s on task, and the week after that, and, by the answers he gives, he’s actually learning something. Over that time, we even get him to help when anything goes wrong.

“Hey, the youngest has a nosebleed! Come quick!” He tells us not to put the youngest’s head back, but have him lean forward, pinch it shut and get a Kleenex. If it doesn’t get better soon, we’re to call 911.

When I cut my hand while slicing tomatoes (and, I mean, who doesn’t), I call for him and he binds it up like I’m spurting blood from an artery.

He’s so good that I want to manufacture accidents, but the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world won’t let me hit myself with a hammer or set a fire to the neighbours hotrod. However, it’s clear that if I did either of those things, the-Oldest would be able to handle it.

Just in case, though, I give him the SAS handbook on survival. It tells you how to skin a rabbit. This may be important in any number of situations, not the least of which is I forgot to get supper. “Go next door, boy and get me that girl’s pet rabbit.”

IMG_2504Finally the day arrives for him to be alone. To be fair, with all the house showings I’ve had, I had to be over at his place, so he’s not alone, but I hide far away and let him be him. When lunch time comes, I show him how to make the world’s best sandwich. Before his mom and younger brother come home, we make tacos.

He watches TV, plays his games, puts the dishes away as part of our campaign to do good things every day and he looks after the dog when I have to jet back home for a bit.

In short, he kicks ass. He’s clearly capable of being on his own.

We’re  proud of him.

The only challenge is, much to his surprise, boredom.

Being alone means, well, he’s alone. No one to talk to, no one to fight a boss with, no one to tell that he just watched the greatest video on the top 10 Shedonisms.

And perhaps that’s the biggest lesson to learn.

How to be by yourself.

 

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Adventures in Parenting – Swimming Lessons

Pool Party

spong bobA week has passed. It’s time to see if the boys can swim, if they’ve passed their tests. The youngest, as always, is pretty sure he passed, but he’s also pretty sure he should be teaching swimming to the other kids. The oldest is confident, but not cocky. He knows that he wants to get out of the kiddie pool and get out fast.

We sit with the other parents, one reading beside a mountain of towels. In front of us is a pool of cute.  Who knew there was such a thing, but they’ve built the kiddie pool to look a bit like a beach. One end is basically 4” of water that slopes to a terrifying 4’ of water at the far end. Closest to us is an adorable little girl trying to climb on a soft swimming board. It’s like trying to climb onto a wet sandwich and float away on it. I would find it amazingly frustrating, but she’s giggling and having a great time.

Farther away, a huge man with the most intricate tree tattoo on his back I’ve ever seen is holding his tiny daughter like someone holding an apple for all to see. He kneels, dips his little girl in the water, just the toes, then her legs. She doesn’t cry. Maybe it’s like a big bath to her. Then her dad submerges her up to her neck. She giggles and slaps the water. I wonder when we learn to be afraid of water. I had a huge problem when I first tried to swim. Little, wee kidlings unable to walk, don’t seem to have that.

But we’re not here for cute. We’re here to watch the boys.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and I are super happy to see that the youngest has come so far! He no longer dog-paddles his way to the bottom on the pool and half-drowns himself. He can now paddle like a poodle. Sure there’s a lot of splashing, but he’s staying afloat. Same when he goes onto his back. He forms his mouth like a great funnel and there’s a vague look of panic on his face, but, again, he doesn’t sink.

And he’s proud of himself. You can see that. He’s proud to show us what he can do. Sadly, he also proud to show us how well he splashes the other kids and nearly kicks a little kid in the face while using his legs and holding on the edge. But it’s clear he’s made progress.

The oldest is on a mission. You can see it in his face. He WILL pass and he WILL NOT be stuck in a pool with half a dozen 5-6 year old girls who giggle too much, who cry at odd times and who seem to love to splash more than swim.

He means business.

And it shows. He looks good with his strokes, swimming not quite straight, but with confidence. He’s learned to put his head down, swim a few feet, pop his head to the side to gulp in a breath while continuing swimming.

Likewise, he’s confident on his back. There’s no panic on his face. He glides along like an otter that likes to splash a lot.

The instructor basically ignores him. The oldest’s clearly better than the level that he’s at, but rules are rules and he needs to pass this level to move on. And move on he does. I think he’s proud of what he’s accomplished, too, even if the look he gives us is more, Ha, THERE! DONE DAT!

In the end, they both move on.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and I are proud of them. The youngest goes to celebrate on the slide, and yes, he slides face first, on his stomach, with his arms at his side. Cuz that’s how he rolls. The oldest goes to sit in the hot pool with the other adults and think deep thoughts.

We read the report cards then sign them up for their next lessons.

swim medalThey didn’t win any gold medals in swimming (yet), but they’re learning a vital skill. Everyone needs to learn to swim. It’s part of growing up.

I’m happy to have been a very small part of that.

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What Makes a Writer a Writer?

Yes, there is an answer.

via What Makes a Writer a Writer?.

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Adventures in Parenting – Swimming Lessons

Sink or Swim

Literally.

After the pool experience in San Diego, where the youngest claimed he could swim and basically dog paddled his way to the bottom of the pool, it was clear that proper training would be required. So we booked lessons for both boys at the local pool. The WGRC.

walnut grove poolThe Walnut Grove Recreation Center is a model of recreation centers. It has a pool, a weight room, a sauna, a ping-pong table in the middle of a staircase landing, a full basketball court where sweaty teenagers push each other around, a library (with actual people in it reading actual books) and a huge staff information area where there’s a sign that says, please check in, but where the staff seem to largely ignore you in favour of talking to each other about the latest, omg catz video on youtube.

But the pool is a thing of beauty. Or should I say, ‘pools’. There’s huge hot tub pool where sweaty parents and bored kids hang out. There is a gigantic kiddie’s pool where any struggling 7 year old can stand up, get splashed by water buckets overhead or paddle around in what looks like a nerf canoe. And there’s a gigantic, dare I say, Olympic-sized pool where the more dedicated swimmers swim. A diving platform towers above the large pool, a rope swing hangs about 10 feet from one side of it, and above everything, twisting, winding, swooping ever downward, the most awesome waterslide of all time, (according to the youngest), a full 300 feet of slippery, slidiness.

IMG_4777[1]

From the Red Cross Guide

But we’re not here for fun. The boys are here to learn.

Seems the oldest never got past his level 3 swimming course. Not that he can’t swim, but the red cross –  being an institution of order – requires that someone finish lvl 3 before they move on to lvl 4. The oldest is not pleased.

Not pleased at all.

Because… well, let me put it this way…

There will be a time in his life that when he’s given the chance to hang out with a group of younger women, he’ll jump at it. Hell, he’ll pray for it. But at his age, 11, girls are still kinda icky and, worse, he’s been assigned to a group that has 5 younger girls. I’m not talking like 10 year olds. I’m talking 5-7 year olds.

He towers above them, his arms crossed over his chest, glowering as they giggle and splash and flail around. If there was a look that said, one day, I’m gonna get you for this, mommy, he had that look in the pool. Poor guy. But it’s the price of not completing something, of getting distracted and not finishing. So, he learns with the little kids.

However, there’s no goofing around on his part. None. There is no way in hell that he wants to stay in that group. He has to prove to the instructor that he can swim 5 meters, float a bit, go under water without panicking and perform some sort of backstoke I don’t quite recognize.

He’s motivated. He’s driven. He wants to be out of that group. Like Sting out of the Police.

The youngest, too, is on a mission. He has to learn to swim or he won’t be swimming. Saying “I can swim,” is, much to his surprise, not enough.

The bonus is that he’s fearless in water. Like I noted when we went in the hotel pool, that is both a good thing and a bad thing. Like having no fear of hairy, venomous spiders. Less screaming and flailing around when you see one and more, you know, death for trying to play with it.

So the youngest is going to try hard. Like his life depends on it. And, it kinda does. But he’s got some challenges a well. There are other kids in his group that’ll be fun to play with. There’s all kinds of cool things to do in the water rather than swim. And, towering above him, a slide that has to be tried, then tried again, face first, then tried, again, face first on his stomach, then face first, on his stomach, with his hands behind his back…

You can see the look in his eyes as he stares up at it, his instructor beginning to explain something super important.

The course takes a week.

They both have a week to pass.

But I have to wonder…Will their willpower to succeed overcome the obstacles?

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And the Band Played Ball of Confusion

And the Band Played Ball of Confusion

Ok, so just because school is out doesn’t mean that there aren’t stories still to be told. This one was from early June. 

bunniesGoing to a school band concert is like drowning in bunnies or being beaten with butterfly wings. It’s super cute and super painful.

At least at the grade 6/7 level.

However, I think there is a correlation between the competence and cuteness factors. The cuter it is, like say watching kindergarten kids perform a play dressed up as trees, faeries and dancing moons, the more likely it is to be a mess.

Maybe that’s part of what makes it so cute. It’s why we go.

I mean who goes to see the Vancouver philharmonic or Guns and Roses because they’re cute?  (though I did see Paul Simon and he was kinda cute.) No, we go cuz they’re professionals and are extremely competent.

Not so much for a school band concert. A French horn could randomly pipe in with no warning. Someone could drop the cymbals, (someone always seems to drop the cymbals).  A violinist could sneeze. A flutist could be staring up at the ceiling, thinking deep thoughts about what they’re going to have for supper and completely forget to play for a whole song.

Yup, I’ve seen all those things.

Oh sure, some of the kids even know when they’ve buggered up something. They roll their eyes at themselves as they squeak out a banshee-like sound on their cello. They look horrified when they blow the wrong note out of their trumpet. Their earnest, little faces strain as they try to follow the conductor while the tuba guy beside them booms out his tune.

But it’s all very cute.

So let me tell you about the last concert of the year.

It all starts at the start, which is, perhaps, where most things start. They shuffle in pretty much all looking like they’d rather be taking a math quiz. The parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts, friends and fellow classmates are all seated, quietly waiting for the concert to begin – ok, sometimes not so quietly, (and I’m not talking about the kindergarten kids making fart noises.)

IMG_4439Then the conductor, the teacher, comes to stand in front of them. A hundred iphones and video recorders are turned on and pointed in his direction. He explains what they’re about to play which is awesome because once they start, it can sometimes be hard to tell.

The kids behind him shift nervously in their seats. Only one kid looks confident and I’m pretty sure he’s got gas or something. I’m there to cheer on the oldest boy in my new family who’s playing a trumpet in the back row, sitting beside a girl who, I’m pretty sure, has a crush on him. He has the thousand yard stare of a war-scarred vet about to go into one last battle. Then he sees me and waves.

I wave my iphone back at him.

Then the conductor raises his baton and they begin.

I brace myself for a horrific cacophony of sound. When I went to my first concert at the beginning of the year, it was so painful as to actually be painful. But hey, the kids were just starting out – many trying their instruments for the first time – so painful was kind of expected.

But much to my surprise, this time they mostly hit their notes, and their timing is more or less spot on.

I’m not a music guy so I have no idea how hard this really is, but having heard the first attempts earlier in the year, it’s gotta be dead hard.

IMG_0020 (9)I mean, hey, I sat a few feet from him while he practiced and practiced and practiced.  After a while, I have to confess, I kind of mostly drowned it out. For my sanity. But when I did listen, I could tell he was getting better. Bit by bit.

However, sitting in the gym at the last concert, I am stunned at how far everyone has come in under a year. Really stunned.

They’re not bad at all.

And you can see their confidence build as they progress into the concert. No one has poked anyone in the eye with a violin bow. No one has decided it was more important to tie a shoe than play a note. No one looks on the verge of tears.

They play their hearts out. It’s not perfect. But it’s a perfect balance between cute and competence. At the end, you could see on their faces how proud they were at what they’d done.

applaudsThe audience applauds thunderously. Mozart rolls over in his grave. I give the oldest the thumbs up.

It is the perfect balance of cute and competent.

And a perfect reward to a year of listening to the oldest practice his trumpet three feet from my ears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shake It, Baby, Shake It

A way to look at shaking up a character in any story

Shake It, Baby, Shake It.

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