Category: family

Happy Birthday, Denisa! We’ve Come a Long Way

What a difference a year makes. A year ago was the first day that I worked from home. The day before we’d announced my library would be closing to the public and to the university community. A year ago today was also Denisa’s birthday. The kids were also transitioning to a “short break” that was planned to be over at the end of April. The goal at the time, as I recall, was to do a deep clean of the school and then go back to normal.

In so many ways, the past year feels like a complete wash. I keep telling people that I have a hard time figuring out time when it comes to pre-COVID and COVID. Some days I marvel that it’s really only been a year since the shutdown started. Other days I marvel that it’s already been a year, if that makes sense. The past year feels both far too long and far too short at the same time.

When I took a bit of time to go back over the emails from back then and check on my schedule, it’s amazing how much has happened. How up in the air everything was back then. We’ve ironed out so many of the kinks in the ensuing year, clawing back some semblance of what life used to be like as we try to compromise with what it’s like now. My weekly Zoom presence is down to a mere 15-20 hours per week on average, so that’s something.

If you’d told me back then that we’d still be in the middle of all this a year late, there’s no way I would have believed you. (I mean, I bought tickets for a Thanksgiving trip, which got canceled along with everything else.) I also think I would have had a much, much harder time facing the year ahead. This is definitely one instance where not knowing how long it would last worked to my advantage, because I got to tackle problems as they came, instead of feeling overwhelmed right from the beginning.

What will things feel like a year from now? A decade? Will this year (or more?) of pandemic living all be one big blur? Will I look back with some sort of strange nostalgia for how it was? How simple everything became for a while? It’s easy to forget just how upsetting it all was while we were going through it, and in many ways, I think it’s easy to forget how upsetting it is now. We might have become numb to the experience of living this way, but I think once it’s truly over, it’ll be a huge relief. (Though I don’t think it’s going to be over in the blink of an eye. The shutdown happened all at once. The return will be a trickle over a long period of time. Something that’s already started.)

But this wasn’t supposed to be about the pandemic. It was supposed to be about Denisa’s birthday! Last year, it got lost in the shuffle of everything else that was going on. I’m afraid it’s largely getting lost in the shuffle this year as well. Small celebrations. No big parties. Family-centered. Still, it’s a reminder that (at least for now) we’ve made it through the pandemic quite well, all things considered. We’re all still healthy. We’re all still employed. The kids have been back in school in person part of the time since September. There are many, many people who have been really badly hit by the pandemic. We’ve had a couple of close calls, but we’re still pushing forward and hoping for the best.

It’s been a tough year. Lots of pressure beyond just the pandemic, and that’ll strain any number of relationships. I’m really grateful Denisa and I have come through it as well as we have. Has it all be sunshine and roses? Nope. But we’re still here for each other and supporting each other as best we can. I’m definitely hoping this coming year is a much brighter one than the one we just left. I’d say it wouldn’t be hard, but I still remember how much people complained about 2019, so . . .

In any case, happy birthday, Denisa!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Mid-Maine Youth Orchestra

Back in . . . September? October? I can no longer keep my dates straight. In any case, back in the fall, Tomas and Daniela decided that they’d like to try out of the Mid-Maine Youth Orchestra, on the off chance that the group would actually be able to do something this year. It’s a regional ensemble that Tomas had tried out for once before, but this time they had more time, and they figured they could put more work into the audition pieces.

After much practice and recording of their auditions, they were accepted into the group around December, as I recall. And in January, it was decided they could actually get the group together, though this year it would only be strings who could play. (Sorry, woodwinds.) Now, two months of weekly practices later, they’re set for their one performance, which will happen tonight at 7pm Eastern time on Facebook. (You can watch it here, if you’re so inclined.)

I’m glad they were able to do something, and I’m looking forward to watching and hearing how it all comes together. They had to follow COVID guidelines for Maine, which meant fewer than 50 people in the space at any one time, six feet apart, and lots of cleaning. But it’s been wonderful to have something approaching normalcy (and amazing to realize just how little it takes for that to qualify these days). I believe they’ve enjoyed it as well. At the very least, it’s given them something to do that’s not skiing, and it’s not like they can ski all day every day (no matter how much Denisa and they might wish that were otherwise.)

Anyway. Just thought I’d spread the word. Tune in with me tonight and watch for Tomas on violin and Daniela on cello. Great job, guys!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Latest Birthday Music Video: Pandemic Edition

I’ve traditionally made a music video for my mom each year for her birthday. (Though as I was looking back at this, it appears I took the last two years off. I blame being busy, but if I managed to do it this year in spite of the pandemic and everything else going on . . . it was probably more me being lazy? I don’t know. I can’t remember why we skipped a few years. EDIT: Wait! I remember. One year I worked on digitizing all the old home movies we had. That was the present. The other year might still be laziness, but I can’t prove or disprove that . . .)

In any case, it’s been fun to do these, and it’s even more fun to look back at all of them to see how they turned out. Watching the kids grow up over the years, seeing how the house has changed (and how I’ve changed)–definitely entertaining.

So before I show you this year’s pandemic version, here’s a walk down memory lane of the older ones:

Done back in 2013. Denisa was pregnant with MC.
2014’s video, starring MC!
For 2015, Denisa took the starring role.
Looks like we took 2016 off as well. In 2017, we recreated the opening of the Waltons, one of Mom’s favorite TV shows from back when.
A bonus video from 2017, done for my step mother before she passed away.
2018’s entry, featuring yours truly. How may people can say they know what a Sriracha Fluffernutter Sandwich tastes like?

And here at last we come to 2021. I wanted to make it pandemic themed, to reflect what the past year has been like. There were a lot of different ideas, and we managed to do a riff on many of them. I’m really happy with the final product, and this time Daniela got to take the lead!

Who knows what we’ll come up with next . . .

Happy birthday, Mom!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Happy Birthday, Daniela!

Can you believe it? She’s thirteen today. I had to double check with her when she woke up, because I could have sworn she was just barely turning eight. However, she confirmed it: we now have a second teenager in our house.

What will we be doing to celebrate? Strangely enough, our lives are pretty busy at the moment. You’d think with the pandemic still raging that we’d be holed up at home more than we are, but Tomas and Daniela and MC are all doing nordic skiing (cross country), which involves a ton of practices and races. There are two races this evening, and Denisa wants to get some downhill skiing in as well. (Yes, it was -7 F when we woke up this morning, but I think there are some definite advantages to living in a place where there’s plenty to do outside in the winter. True, I suppose if it were more like 60 degrees, then we could just have outdoor parties, but whatever. I like snow, and I love that my kids still have some school sports going on.)

So they’ve got all that going, but later this evening we should all be back together for some good old fashioned cake. Yay for cake.

These days, Daniela is getting more and more into the trappings of teendom. She’s on her iPad a fair bit, chatting with her friends. She loves Taylor Swift songs and decided to listen to every single Swift recording, just so she could be up to date on all of them. She loves movies, and is a big fan of older classics like His Girl Friday or The Philadelphia Story. She’s Ferris’s favorite human, and she loves to draw, typically using the iPad and Apple pencil. She’s getting very talented at the cello and practices often without prompting, and she’s branching out into cooking as well.

It’s fun watching her try out all these different things, and while I do miss the girl who was absolutely obsessed with all things Lord of the Rings, it’s great to see her growing into her own personality. Maybe she’ll even come on Facebook one of these days. Who knows?

In any case, if you see her today, wish her a big happy birthday. It’s tough to be a middle schooler during a pandemic, so we all need all the cheerfulness we can get. I love you Daniela!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Spending Time with the Kids

I believe one of the best ways you can show someone you care about them is by spending time with them doing things they’d like to do. And on that theory, I’ve had a goal to spend time with each of my kids doing activities of their choosing.

This is a great goal on the surface for a number of obvious reasons, but I’ve found it’s also a very difficult goal to actually keep going. For one thing, I have three children and only one me. It’s true that Denisa also spends time with the kids doing a variety of things (skiing, taking them to practices, etc.), but for this goal, I really wanted it to be me spending personal time with them. In my head, this would be something I did every day, even though I recognize that getting this done every day is just not going to realistically happen. Take yesterday: I was out the door at 7:20, and when I came home at 4:20, the kids were all gone skiing with Denisa. I had a Stake Presidency meeting at 5:30 that ran straight into a Stake Council meeting at 7:00, and I wasn’t done until 8:45. The kids didn’t get back from skiing and youth activities until 8:00 or so, which means that I saw them all for a grand total of about 15 minutes the entire day.

But I still keep the goal at a “daily” level because I know from experience how goals tend to go for me. Look at it this way: by having the goal as a daily goal, if I miss once or twice, I still do things with my kids multiple times a week. If, on the other hand, I make it a “once a week” goal, and I miss once or twice, then suddenly I’m down to only having done something with them a couple of times that month. This is definitely one area where I feel it’s better to set an unattainable goal and still constantly strive to achieve it.

(Side note: I suppose I could add a “Spend time with Denisa” goal, but she and I spend time together every day out of sheer habit at this point. It’s very rare that we don’t both sit down to talk or watch a TV episode or part of a movie each night. It’s just the unspoken rule of how our house runs. So I suppose I have an unwritten goal to make sure that never changes, but in practice, it’s not a goal I feel like I have to expend any energy toward reaching. Spending time with the kids, on the other hand, seems to be trickier for me. Too many moving parts to keep track of, I suppose, so I need to have that goal there to remind me.)

In practice, what does this look like? It varies for each kid. MC is on a big Minecraft kick right now, so I sit down and play Minecraft with her for a half hour or so each day. More, if I have time. We happily go about digging for diamonds or building rooms in our survival mode world. (No monsters on as of yet, because MC isn’t a fan of blowing up by Creepers.) Tomas and I play a variety of games. Often it’s Magic, though recently we’ve been playing a lot of Gloomhaven. He’s much busier than MC, however, so I typically only get to play with him twice a week, give or take. On the other hand, it’s usually for a couple of hours at a stretch, so maybe that offsets it some.

For Daniela, it’s been trickier finding something for us to do together. We’ve done some drawing activities, and we’ve read books together, but it’s been hard to find something that’s easily replicable. Playing Minecraft is something I can do without really having to think too much, so I can do it even after a long day at work. Reading out loud, drawing, and the like are more mentally challenging for me, and so I’ve found we start off strong and then end up slipping off into doing nothing again. Our new goal at the moment is to watch all of X-Files together. I’ve wanted to revisit the series for quite some time, so we’ll see if that works well. (DC is getting busier, so this might be difficult.)

Anyway. This isn’t really intended as a bragging post. I’m far from perfect when it comes to this. But I share it more as a way to show something I’d like to do so that when my kids are grown, I can look back and remember the times we spent together and know that I put in a good effort to make time for them. Having a close family is something I’ve always enjoyed, and this is one way I’m trying to reach that bigger goal.

What do you do to find time for your family?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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