Category: family

Today’s Project: Family Keepsake Letterpress Drawer

When I was growing up, my mom bought an antique letterpress drawer one day. She used it to glue in keepsakes from across our family’s history. It still hangs on the wall in her house, and I always thought it was a really good idea. So back in around 2008, I bought one of my own at an auction. It was already equipped with a glass cover and hooks to hang it on the wall, so it was pretty much good to go right off the bat.

Since then, we’ve been buying small keepsakes from whatever trips we go on as a family. Souvenirs that would fit into one of the compartments in the drawer. We’ve got pins from Niagara Falls and Nauvoo and London, keychains from Paris and Hershey, a small stained glass owl from Krakow. That sort of thing. We’ve also held onto things that would fit from our family’s history. For example, a few of Ferris’s puppy teeth.

It’s worked out very well, with one serious flaw: any time you bumped the cabinet, all the pieces would fall out.

Now, this wasn’t a really big problem, because it’s on the wall, and so it generally didn’t get bumped. However, it was to the point where even opening it up to add something new risked having it all come Jenga-ing down on you, so we were stacking new things on top of the cabinet instead of putting them on display. (Not nearly as effective for the supposed purpose.) Plus, we had begun to run out of room for new items.

For two or three years, it’s been on my list to hot glue the items in place (something my mom did right away with hers). But it never really rose very high on the list, and so it didn’t get done. Tuesday, I fixed that. I took the drawer down, took out all the items, separated out the ones we couldn’t remember what they went with (there were a lot of “keepsake rocks” my kids had compiled over the years), and glued into place the rest.

It was fun going through all of them and remembering where we got them, and the finished product looks much, much better. Now I’m going through and making a guide for the display, so other people can easily see what we got where and when. (Nothing a few hours with Excel can’t solve!)

Anyway. I’ve always been pleased with it, and no more so than now that it’s all neat and orderly. It makes getting souvenirs both cheaper and easier, and we actually have a spot to put them all and remember them, rather than sticking something on a shelf somewhere and dusting it every week. If you’re looking for a way to keep your family’s memories in some sort of order, I heartily recommend this one.

Sorry about the glare, but you get the idea.

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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.

A Socially Distant Thanksgiving

There’s a string of articles appearing online right now, saying that if you’re going to get together with family for Thanksgiving, then you all need to start quarantining . . . yesterday. I’ll be honest: I don’t think getting together with family who don’t live in your actual house is a good idea at this point, period. Denisa and I had been thinking about going down to Pennsylvania like we usually do, but in the end after discussing it with family, we all decided it just wasn’t for the best.

But what if everyone who was coming agreed to quarantine first? I don’t think that’s realistic. Working in a library and talking with public library directors across the state, I just know full well how mask usage and social distancing is being handled by different people. I would not want to rely on someone else’s definition of what “quarantine” means when it comes to this.

Now, I realize that there are many of you out there who disagree with me on this. There’s also probably a number of you thinking about getting together “just with close family,” somehow thinking that limiting it that much will be enough. However, all the research I’ve looked into on the subject indicates getting together in small groups for hours in the same indoor location is exactly the sort of setting for prime COVID spread. Sure, it might seem at first glance that if it’s just you getting together, it’s no big deal, but if you expand that “just a couple very close family members getting together” to a national level, then it becomes much more concerning.

So what will we be doing? Making Thanksgiving dinner on our own this year. Yes, it won’t be nearly as much fun as all the other Thanksgivings we’ve done, but this is one time when missing out on some fun seems worth it, when the cost if we do it another way is potentially infecting and killing our loved ones. Things are looking good for getting a vaccine more widely available in the spring. At this point, it seems to me the main goal shifts to getting through the winter in as good of shape as possible.

Kind of a downer, but I think it’s necessary this time.

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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.

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.

When Do You Hit Peak Family?

Sort of an introspective post today. Tomas has a little over a year and a half left until he graduates and can go on a mission. I have a niece out on a mission now, and quite a few other nieces and nephews who are already out on their own. So it’s becoming increasingly clear that this family Denisa and I have spent sixteen years putting together is going to spend the next while getting scattered to who knows where.

Which is the point of having kids. I get it. I’m not living with my parents anymore, after all. Denisa’s not even in the same country as her family. You have kids and do your best to give them a good childhood and a good base to launch themselves off into whatever it is they want to do. But it’s still definitely bittersweet. This pandemic time has been a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, and I think we’ve at least used it well for that purpose.

But it all has been reflecting back on when I was growing up, and what time of my life I’d consider “peak family,” meaning the gang was all assembled, and things were clipping along at full speed, without any slowing down for the upcoming departures ahead.

At first, I would think peak family is reached right before the oldest child heads off to college or out of the house or wherever. After all, that’s the point in time when everyone is as mature as they’re going to get when they’re all under one roof. But the more I think back on my time growing up, the more I’m not sure that’s right. Kids don’t leave the house all at once. They become increasingly independent, so that they’re out of the house on their own more and more as the years go by. School activities. Jobs. Hanging out with friends. Until this pandemic hit, Tomas was out and about as much as Denisa or I was. Maybe more. Daniela was also getting a pretty full schedule, between sports and music and time with her friends.

So is the peak earlier than that? Maybe it’s when everyone’s still mostly one unit, doing everything together at all times? In that case, it would probably come when the oldest child’s in middle school or junior high. Still too young to be left alone for long swathes of time. Especially not when there are very young children at home to be watched. Sure, they might go out to a birthday party now and then, but for the most part, it’s all for one and one for all.

But that doesn’t really feel entirely right, either. Part of the real joy of being a parent (for me) has come from watching my kids grow up. Getting glimpses of who they’re going to be when they’re adults. Younger kids have their own personalities, no doubt, but they’re also really dependent on what you want and like. Case in point: Tuesday night we let Tomas and Daniela choose what they wanted to do. Tomas played some computer games with his friends, but Daniela decided she wanted to watch a movie. “An old movie. Something really good, like His Girl Friday.” She’s really developing into a movie buff on her own. We watched “Bringing Up Baby,” and she thought it was fantastic. Because it is. Seriously.

So can you really feel like your family is at its peak when the kids are still dominated by the parents?

The more I think about the question, the more convinced I am that “peak family” is an illusion. A family is always in flux, and trying to hold on to any part of it and think of it as “Well, this is it. This is the peak, and it’s all downhill from here” isn’t just depressing. It’s wrong. But you feel like it’s right, because as a kid, your family can feel like it’s a constant. Like it’s always been there and always will be there, and so when it starts changing, that can be kind of disturbing. But as a parent, you know that it’s always been changing. First it was just Denisa and me. Then we added Tomas four years later, than Daniela four years after that and MC five years after that. Heck, even adding Ferris to the mix has been a change for our family.

And has the family I grew up with even reached its peak yet? That’s so hard to define. We’ve lost members along the way. Uncles. Step mothers. Grandparents. But we’ve also added members through marriages and births. I’m not as close to all of them as I have been in the past, but when we get together, there’s still that real bond, and social media, for all its flaws, does a pretty good job keeping us all connected.

I suppose, in the end, a family is very much like the seasons. There are definite stages to it, though there will be cold days in summer and warm days in winter, and the boundaries between those stages can really be muddled. So maybe you can have “peak autumn” and “peak spring,” but there will be other peaks in between and afterward. If you get too tied up in trying to identify which stage you’re in at any one time and worrying about it going away, then you miss out on actually enjoying where you are in the moment.

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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.

Pumpkins with Puppies

Pumpkin carving has always been a big thing at our house. The kids love to do it, and it’s been a fun tradition. Even in the middle of all the crazy going on, we’ve been trying to stick to what traditions we can. Trick or Treating is sadly out this year, as are Halloween parties for the most part. But pumpkins? We could do pumpkins. (We did Halloween sugar cookies over the weekend, which are also always popular.)

Some years we’ve all worked on really elaborate pumpkins. I know there have been times when the kids spent a whole ton of time picking out their designs and figuring out how they were going to do them. This year . . . was not like those years. For as much time as you’d think we all have, staying home as much as we do, the actual amount of time we have seems to be much, much less. I know that I feel fairly overwhelmed at the moment, probably because of all the time I ended up feeling existential dread. (Maybe if I booked myself some time to do that each day, I could stay on top of everything else?)

In any case, the plan was to just do something simple. Classic jack-o-lanterns, right? Done in an hour of family togetherness. That seemed very straightforward on paper, but we hadn’t taken into account the newest member of our family.

The moment we cut into the first pumpkin and Ferris caught a sniff of the seeds and guts inside, he went into what can only be described as pumpkin mania. He simply had to eat that pumpkin. It became his whole reason for existence. At first we just tried to hold him back with a leash, but he was barking, lunging, desperate for just a taste. We took him into a different room and closed the door. We took him outside. We took him upstairs.

He. Was. Crazy.

Typically, his memory for something is about five seconds, so those seeds must’ve smelled really strong, because it didn’t matter where we took him, he still wanted to go back there. Now. Finally I googled the question to see if we could just him go wild. Sadly, Dr. Google said pumpkin innards don’t do wonders for puppies, so that was a no go.

Family togetherness isn’t quite the same when you’ve got to tag team a raging puppy, but we still made do. In the end, the pumpkins got carved, and we let Ferris lick the floor to clean up after the mess. He found that a fair compromise. Still, I’m hoping that next year he’ll have learned a bit more self control. If he hasn’t, I think we’re going to have to carve the pumpkins in another county or something.

Anyone else have any pumpkin-obsessed pooches?

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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.

Staycation Report: A Resounding Success (with one foreseeable drawback)

The staycation I wrote about Friday ended yesterday evening at 6pm. As I said then, the main goal of the weekend was to make it feel different than just a normal weekend at home. We weren’t going anywhere, and we didn’t really have anything spectacular planned. How could we make a break feel like a real break? I’ve been through enough three day weekends to know how much they often start off with promise, only to end up as just another weekend, that maybe was slightly longer, but didn’t feel that much different.

Overall, it was mission successful. What did we get done over the weekend? Well, not really anything, from a “things we needed to do” perspective, but from a fun perspective?

  • We got food from three different restaurants (Orange Cat Cafe, Basil’s, and House of Pizza)
  • We played four board games as a family (Kingdomino, Ticket to Ride, Dixit, and Carcassone)
  • We watched four movies (My Octopus Teacher, Knight’s Tale, O Brother Where Art Thou, and That Darn Cat)
  • We played a variety of video games together (Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart, Final Fantasy VI)
  • I finished 1.5 books (Wintersteel and half of The Testaments)
  • We went on two “shopping sprees,” that ended up being . . . mixed. The grocery store spree was much more popular. Kids loved being able to get anything they wanted to eat. The Walmart run? Much less successful, though I found that really encouraging, actually. No one really wanted to get things just to “get things.” So yay for that.
  • We hiked the local ski mountain (Titcomb), with Ferris in tow.
  • We had a BYU football party. (Thank goodness we won!)

Maybe all of that doesn’t sound like too much when I rattle it off like that. I mean, we had three days to do it, but really, I was impressed by the different the lack of devices made for the weekend. We spent a whole lot more time together as a family, with everyone there fully present and involved. And I felt like I had a ton of time as well.

I definitely felt the absence of my phone, as I expected I would. There were many many times that I found myself just sitting there instead of checking the news or Reddit or my email. But instead of those times feeling like empty downtimes, I was spending the time doing other things: talking to my kids, for one thing. Go figure.

Now, there was one bad side effect of all of this. When I plugged back in yesterday evening, I had around 100 emails waiting for me, and that was after I’d already been going through checking emails once at night and in the morning, deleting any fluff, just to make sure no emergencies came up. Yet another reminder that yes, I get a lot of emails. So I went from feeling super relaxed and content with my weekend to feeling fairly stressed by everything I had to do to catch up.

Ideally there’d be some way to reach a middle ground in all of that. Maybe what I need to do is get up in the morning each day and not just check emails and delete the fluff, but answer the ones that need immediate attention. I don’t know. I do know I want to avoid that avalanche feeling I got when I checked back in . . .

But overall, the weekend was a success, and I want to see what I can about replicating it more in my everyday life. Maybe I’ll put my phone away when I get home, or after a certain time. Maybe we’ll talk about it as a family and see what approach would work best for us. In the end, it was just three days, but because of those simple base rules, it felt much, much longer than that.

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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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