extra curricular, in pictures

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F’s been talking about soccer / dance / violin for ages now, but as I mentioned before, I underestimated her excitement about embarking on these new adventures. She walked right into her ballet class on Saturday morning and stood on the spot that was front and center. When the class lined up to do anything, she was first in line, immediately behind the instructor. For forty-five minutes she followed every single instruction, curved fingers and elbows, tapped (and didn’t tap) as instructed.

I haven’t seen as much of her violin work yet – in those early days they are learning how to hold a violin, the parts of the violin, and most importantly, how not to break it. So far it appears to still be intact, so that’s success. F’s anxious to move on to making some real music.

F has not been into soccer practice so much. I’ve heard she spends about as much time sulking on the sidelines, digging in the dirt. Practice is just an hour, once a week, but her days are long and she’s tired and hungry. Plus her dad is helping to coach, so there’s a formula for head butting right there. But the game? Oh, she loved her game. She still wakes up and talks about it with me. She loved playing goalie, throwing herself on the ball as it got near her. And she’s a talker -positioning herself perfectly for incoming balls - I’m open! I’m open! But what she really wants to do? Score.

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extra curricular

Even though there are so many ways for the teeniest little guys to participate in group activities, we never did any of those with the girls when they were small. No music groups, or tumbling classes, or toddler sports. They were in daycare all day, and they sang and played and walked around the neighborhood and went to concerts in the park, so their enrichment opportunities were wide and varied. Plus, we weren’t ready to commit to the afternoons and evenings and weekends that a lot of those activities require.

So we held off on everything until kindergarten for both girls, but now kindergarten, round two is here, and this is what our life looks like.

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This does not include girl scouts or sunday school or aerial arts or the wide variety of science, art, sport, music, computer sci, sewing, or drama camps going on in the summer months, plus the French, robotics, cooking, and rocket making after school clubs during the school year. It’s a constant balancing act of time and talent and determination, tempered with a fair amount of money sense and reality checks.

The photo above represents the current Big Four. Violin, soccer, swimming and dance. Violin is part of the school curriculum for the little one (hurray!), but now we’re trying to figure out how to continue private lessons on for the older one outside of school.

I don’t generally end a post with a comment prompt, but I’m truly curious about what your extra-c calendar looks like these days. We’ve coasted for the last six years with only one girl’s activities to manage; now we’ve got two, and if we thought the little one might not be quite as “engaged” as the older one for a few years… well, we hadn’t seen her play goalie or put on tap shoes or pick up the violin yet. Yowsers.

blog hop, on writing and the creative process

Brooke at by the brooke emailed me last week and asked if I would consider participating in a Blog Hop.

Quick backstory here: Brooke and I met because she discovered my blog through a write up on E’s nursery, realized I lived nearby, and then (nicely, and not at all creepily) stalked me online before making contact. In her initial email she told me that she connected with the way we were raising our girls, and she wondered if she might ask me some more questions – about daycares and schools and pediatricians. I often feel like I’m not always excelling at this monumental (and often trying) task of child-growing, and so when she reached out to me and asked – well, it was about the nicest compliment I’ve ever received. I’ve been trying my best to repay the favor ever since.

She told me the blog hop was about my writing process, but that I was free to expand a bit upon that and talk about my creative process in various things. Which was generous of her, because I feel a bit like I’m cutting into a line of real-deal writers. The kind of writers with PhD’s and professorships – the kind of writers that say “Hey, I think I’m going to sit down and write a novel this month.” And they do. I, on the other hand, say “Hey, I think I’m going to sit down and write a blog post tonight after the kids are in bed,” and then I fall asleep in the middle of a chapter in our latest Ramona read. And so I don’t.

But I agreed to do it because, why not? I like to run with a theme, and lately my only themes around here have been work / study / sleep. So here goes nothing.

What am I working on?

There are two ways I could answer this question. Reality. And the reality that exists only within my head.

Reality first. I’m working on work (a lot) and studying (a whole lot). I’m also minimally working at posting on this blog because I love it and I miss it when I’m away. Outside of that, for about another seven weeks, I’m not working on anything else. Last week I actually did a tremendous amount of writing at work, which is slightly out of the ordinary from the regular practice of architecture. I’ve been working on an in-depth analysis for the biology department of a local university, and the resulting document feels like a dissertation.

The reality that exists in my head: Ahhhh, this is so much more fun. I’m working on a lot. If you’ve been here awhile, then you know this already, but the title of this blog has two meanings. It’s quite literal in its reference to the third story of our old house, as we have written quite a bit over the years about the full gut renovation of our 130 year old house. And it’s also quite literal in its reference to the residents of the third story of our house – I write a lot about what my girls do, up there in their attic bedrooms and beyond. But beyond just the reporting of those aspects of our lives, this blog really references the things that I have floating about in my own head, my own “attic”. My mind rarely stops, and I’ve found over the years that offloading some of the jumble upstairs into this place helps me. Even if it results in a blog that’s about a jumble of things.

So what I’m working on in my head:

My holiday card idea. Next week’s dinner menu. Future blog posts. Teaching myself to sew again. Our new kitchen, garden room addition and landscape plan! (This is going in fast forward mode as soon as my tests are complete.) And there’s also my secret children’s book idea (story and illustrations) that I’ve been working on in my head for at least ten years.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Since most of my writing these days is on this blog, I guess I’ll talk about blogs in general. I sometimes think of this blog as an online journal, but I do work at writing in a manner that is a little more polished than just a stream of random thoughts and ideas. I’m particular about spelling and grammar and editing, but that certainly doesn’t mean I’m perfect at it. My dad used to proofread all my papers when I was in school because he’s very good at it. I continued sending him copies of all my papers when I went away to college and graduate school. I know it’s just a little blog, but if I had the option to have one extra set of eyes to review my work, I would. Not to clean up content necessarily, but just because I’m one of those people that can get distracted by grammatical errors and lose the point of the piece as a result.

I write for myself, but I love the interactions through comments. I read them all, and frequently respond. My audience is me, but once I hit ‘publish’ a little bit of that changes, and I’m okay with that. I have zero interest in blogging as a career, or blogging for companies or corporations. My favorite comment to receive on a written assignment for school was “I like your voice. I appreciate your voice.” I like my writing voice, as amateur and unpolished as it might be, and I work hard to keep it my own. I do value the connections I’ve made through my blog, and I’m encouraged and grateful for those other independent voices out there.

Why do I create what I do?

I create because I really have no choice. I cannot stop the ideas in my head; the light in the attic never turns off. I constantly have to work at tempering my expectations because I simply can’t tackle them all. I’ve learned that I have to really limit my exposure to all of the visual media out there because it’s overwhelming. I fell like I generate enough visual media in my own head that needs moderating and filtering. If I had to name one skill or talent that I most appreciate, it would be my ability to look at a something (a piece of paper, an event, a problem, a story) and know exactly what I can do with it. Free time is my biggest challenge – but I’m sometimes amazed at what I can accomplish between 10pm and midnight.

How does my writing process work?

I never just sit down and start writing. I mull things over in my head, composing them in complete sentences and paragraphs. When no one is around (like in the car or the shower) I say those sentences out loud. Then I write. I used to be an avid note maker, and I absolutely adored the formal process of making a writing outline. Whenever I had flexibility within my college and graduate school schedules, I filled those classes with comparative literature and writing courses. If I had had more time and more money, I would have happily stretched out my studies a little longer to take more classes like those. I’m good with structure.

Since my free time and free space are so limited, I’ve adapted this by compiling the notes and the outlines in my head. I have a clear structure in mind when I start, and the words come out quickly. I’m a fast reader, and a faster writer. I used to write more at night, but for the most part I’ve stopped that. My evenings are for family, and also for sleep. If I start writing at night, I keep writing, and before I know it it’s ridiculously late. Now I write in the morning, in a smaller chunk of time. I work well with deadlines, especially self-imposed ones. Occasionally I’ll finish a post, but I’m afraid to hit ‘publish’. I’ll let it sit, I’ll think about it on my way into work, I’ll grab a cup of coffee, reread it one last time and let it go.

When my girls were little and were frustrated, they’d often act out in physical ways. We would remind them gently to “Use their words.”  I still think that’s the most valuable lesson I can teach them, and I try to model it myself each day. Quite simply, I adore words.

…..

Even though I had to think a minute about whether or not I wanted to participate in this little question and answer exercise, I did not have to think very long about the person I would tag next. I’m passing the baton to one of my favorite blog voices, Lauren of CrumbBums. I’m pretty sure she first posted a comment on a Bumbershoot post of mine, and not too long after that we both found ourselves recovering from difficult surgeries at the same time. We encouraged each other daily across the blog lines, and now we maintain our own friendship by frequenting the exact same places in this city without actually ever meeting up in person.

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She writes about music and fashion and living simply and richly. She loves good food and good gardens and good playgrounds. She adores her friends and her neighborhood and her husband and her three adorable (mostly shoeless) boys. Her writing feels like a brief moment of meditation in my busy day; I like her words.