Category: family

Proud Parent of an Award Winning Poet

Sometimes I’m amazed at what my children are up to. And (believe it or not) sometimes that’s not all my fault. They don’t always inform me of everything that’s going on. Last week, DC came home to report that she’d won second place in a poetry contest. I hadn’t even realized she’d entered a poetry contest, and at first I figured it was just something her class had done.

Denisa and I asked more questions, and it turns out this was a bigger thing than we’d realized. It was a contest put on by the Literacy Volunteers of Franklin and Somerset Counties, along with the Farmington Public Library. There were age groups (0-10, 11-17, 18-25, 26+), and DC had won second place in the 11-17 category. There was going to be a public reading of the winning entries, and she’d also scored a $15 prize for her efforts.

(She’d submitted three. The one that won was her least favorite one, and she was very surprised it had been the one the judge liked the most. A good reminder that it’s always a good idea to do everything you can when entering a contest, and to remember you’re often not the best judge of your own work.)

Her fifth grade teacher had been the one to encourage her students to enter, promising to take them out for dinner if any of them won. She followed through on that promise, taking our entire family and the family of the second place winner in the 0-10 category out to eat, a remarkably generous gesture on her behalf. DC was very excited.

The reading itself was lovely, and it was great to see DC get that sort of recognition. It turns out she’d won for a haiku. I’d never even known she was composing poetry before this, and I was impressed with the haiku she’d come up with. I share it now with her permission:

The leaves turn yellow

In the near standing hot sun

Burning fast, gone quick.

Great job, DC! I thought she did a super job capturing a concrete image, and I was impressed by her word choice and use of the form to convey it. It’s lovely to see her develop and flourish as an artist and musician and student. If you see her, congratulate her.

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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.

One-on-One Time with My Kids

I’m setting a new goal. One that I should have been setting a long time ago, but sometimes you need perspective before you see what you need to be doing.

The past while, my video game time has been steadily increasing. I’d justify it to myself by reminding myself that the rest of my goals and chores each day were already done, so why did it matter if I took some time to destress by playing video games for an hour or two (or three)?

But as I looked at my family, it was becoming clear to me that this “destress” time was having a lot of side-effects I didn’t want. I’d come home and play on my own. Tomas would be off playing something on his own. MC was watching something on her own, and DC was watching something else. Denisa would be working, because it was the end of the semester, so you’d have all of us at home, but we were all in different rooms doing different things.

Not a fan.

Of course, I’m also not a fan of being grumpy, and I recognize that a bit of destressing can really help me be more pleasant to be around. My solution? I’ve decided to cap the amount of time I can spend playing video games each day, and I’ve started up a goal to spend more one-on-one time with my kids each day.

I’ve always done a pretty good job connecting with Tomas. He likes to play Magic. I like to play Magic. Problem solved. But I can’t just spend all my time with him. DC and MC deserve some time and attention as well. So yesterday I started reading Fellowship of the Ring with DC, and I’ve been trying to do things with MC that she likes to do. (Her current favorite activities are making crafts and watching Spirit on Netflix. But she really just loves it when people spend time around her and talk to her. It’s not rocket science.)

I’m not sure yet if I can make it a “one on one time every day” sort of a goal, or if it’s “at least some one on one time with a child every day” goal instead. I tend to think I’m busy enough that it will often have to be the latter, but I’m going to shoot for the former whenever I can. Spending time doing an active activity all together counts for something as well. Watching TV day after day? Not as much. Playing a board game as a group? Sure, why not?

Because Tomas is just home for another three years, folks. And he’s followed by DC a few years later, and MC a few years after that. The video games aren’t going anywhere . . .

Here’s hoping the new goal sticks. It’s always a bit of a balancing act to see how I can fit new goals into my schedule and life, but this one’s important enough that I’ll prioritize it over other goals if need be.

Wish me luck.

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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 Boy and His Cellphone

For the past five years or more, Tomas has wanted a cellphone. Denisa and I have fought against this constant desire, shoulder to shoulder, like a couple of Gandalfs standing off against the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. (And if you think I’m a huge geek to use that reference, consider this: I didn’t even have to look up how to spell it the right way. Mic. Drop.)

There have been many reasons to avoid getting our son a phone. The expense. The constant distraction. The potential for cyber-bullying. The inability for young people to make good choices when they have a video camera everywhere they go. And we’d trot those reasons out year after year whenever the request would come up again.

Until his fifteenth birthday.

What made us change our mind? What flaming whip snaked up from out of the darkness to coil around our ankles and send us tumbling into the unknown abyss below? (Too much?)

A school trip.

When Tomas headed off on his Fiddlers trip to Boston for almost a week, we decided we wanted to have a way to contact him easily. So we sent him with Denisa’s phone. And that worked for the most part (even though, perhaps, he wasn’t quite as communicative as we’d imagined he might be), but it had the surprising consequence of Denisa not being able to have her phone for almost a week. And despite occasional claims to the contrary, it turns out Denisa actually uses her phone quite regularly throughout the day.

So that really wasn’t an option going forward.

At the same time Tomas proved on that trip that he was capable of looking after the phone. And we looked at our finances and decided perhaps we did have the money to afford getting him a line of his own. (Family plans that reduce the per month rate certainly help. And so he’s now the proud owner of an iPhone 6S. (Which you can get for $5/month with a 24 month commitment.) We naturally cautioned him about all the myriad ways he might lose his phone privileges, all of which he readily agreed to.

And just like that, the battle was over.

Until DC looked at us and asked when she could get a phone. Thankfully, now we have the Power of Precent on our side. Nothing says “justice” like kids recognizing that “if I had to wait for it, you do too.” Tomas was 15 before he got a phone. When DC is 15, he’ll be off on his mission, and we can divert those phone payments to the next kid.

But I’ll worry about that somewhere down the road . . .

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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.

More Thoughts on Marriage

If you haven’t already seen on Facebook, today Denisa and I celebrate 18 years of marriage. I’ve written on this topic before (probably every year since I’ve been blogging, I imagine, but I don’t have time to go looking for the posts), but I had some thoughts on it this year that I thought I’d jot down. They might overlap what I’ve said before, or they might not. (The advantage of not going to look to see what I’ve already said . . . )

To me, a marriage is a living thing. It can grow and flourish, and it can die, and it can do pretty much everything in between. It changes the people who are in it in ways that are unavoidable. I find myself unable to really give any opinion on anyone’s marriage but mine. There’s the front you present to the world, and there’s what happens when you’re at home. Even in a good marriage, those two fronts will be different, I think. Maybe not drastically different, but different nonetheless, in much the same way as any family relationship has multiple layers.

But that’s the thing with a marriage. You take a person who’s not your family at all, and you make that person the closest family member you will ever have, potentially. (It depends on how close you let that person become, I suppose.) In every other family relationship (barring step-families, which are a beast by themselves), you grow into the connections. Families understand the dynamics they operate by, because they’ve all been operating by them for as long as that family existed.

Not with a spouse. The two of you come from entirely different backgrounds, no matter how much you might think you don’t. The unspoken assumptions your family took for granted are completely different from her unspoken assumptions, but there’s no way of really knowing or communicating what those assumptions are, because they’re just a part of what you’ve always assumed is The Way Things Are. It would be like having a conversation about what air tastes like. However, as you live your lives together, those assumptions worm their way to the surface, like hidden boulders in a garden. You have to navigate around their appearance one way or another if you want anything to grow.

Denisa has definitely seen me at my best and my worst over the years, and I can say the same for her. The fact that we’re still close and still together says as much about each other as it does about us individually. When you can look at a person and know their strengths and flaws and love them not in spite of them but because of them, that’s a good sign that things are in a healthy spot.

How are we celebrating 18 years together? I’m taking Tomas and DC to go see Avengers: End Game. How can I get away with doing this? Because Denisa and I understand each other pretty completely, for one thing, so I’m not really worried she’s got this hidden agenda of Things My Husband Must Do to Prove He Still Loves Me, and (probably more importantly) I show her I still love her by doing all the little things that make a marriage work. By managing finances. By picking DC up from school today. By heading home to discuss how we want to landscape the front yard.

Also by going out on a date with her tomorrow, because I’m not a complete imbecile.

As I said before, marriage changes both of you. Life changes both of you. When I look back at who we were 18 years ago, I’m not entirely sure how well we would get along with that couple if we headed out on a double date with them tonight. We were much more conservative then. Much younger and confident we knew what was right and what wasn’t. That’s okay. I didn’t get in this game to never change. I’d like to think we’ve improved each other over the years, not by force or by persuasion (most of the time), but just by constant example. Marriage changes are more like erosion than earthquakes. Earthquake changes break you apart, after all. Erosion molds you over time.

Marriage is one of the scariest jumps into the unknown I can think of, and it only gets more frightening when you realize all the implications that initial jump entailed. Thank goodness I didn’t, since I was already scared enough of marriage as it was. But it’s still hands down the best decision I ever made. I can’t believe it’s been 18 years already.

Happy anniversary, 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.

Level Fifteen Father

It’s Tomas’s birthday today. The big 1-5. And I’ve written plenty of things about him over the years. He’s at the point now where I think I won’t write so much about him, simply because he’s got friends and acquaintances who might read those things, and I tend to try to avoid writing about specific people without their permission. (It’s easier to write in generalities, but it’s hard for me to protect the identity of the person in question when it comes to writing about my children.)

However, one thing that I’ve been thinking about a fair bit today is the fact that the birthday of your oldest child is also the also the anniversary of the day you became a parent. And as I posted a while back, I like to think of anniversary points as “level up” spots instead of “one year older” points in my life. Because who doesn’t want to level up? And that’s pretty much what getting older is. Gaining experience over time.

So that means I’m now a level fifteen parent, which feels about right to me. This is not my first rodeo by any stretch, and

Is there a difference between a level fifteen father and a level fifteen mother? In my family there certainly is. To keep the RPG theme going, it’s mainly because Denisa and I have specialized in different things as we’ve leveled up over the years. She’s devoted a lot of ability points to “home management,” “nurturing,” and (most recently) “car transportation.” I’ve dumped my ability points into “chore coordination,” “consequence enforcement” and “finance management.” I don’t believe those specializations are assigned based on gender, but they’re definitely specializations parents need to worry about, regardless of how they divvy them out. And there have been occasions when we’ve had to swap duties over the years, so I’m probably around a level 2 nurturer and a level 1 car transporter, but specialization definitely helps in the long run.

As a level fifteen parent, there are still areas that I have no experience with at all. Tomas often ends up bearing the brunt of that. When DC and MC reach middle school, for example, they’ll benefit from having parents who already have experience navigating through at least some of the pitfalls that might crop up there. Though as with any campaign, each one ends up differently, and it’s not like we’ll be prepared for all possibilities.

It’s for those new challenges that I turn to more advanced level parents than I. Thankfully, I’ve got friends who are level 25 and higher, and family who are level 45 right on up to over level 60. True, sometimes the higher level parents aren’t quite as able to deal with the same problems of lower level parents, just because it’s been so long since they had to handle level 15 problems, and some of those level 15 problems have changed in the intervening 45 years since they were a level 15.

When I think back on the person I was fifteen years ago and everything that person has gone through since, it’s remarkable. You don’t get a crash course as a parent, which is too bad, since there’s so many different aspects of parenting you end up just fumbling through as best as you can.

Anyway. Not much more profound to offer you today. Just that thought, and the chance to wish Tomas another happy birthday.

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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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