Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013

NaNoWriMo has, at last, finished. I'm actually sorry to see it go. I was so much more excited for it this year than I have been in the past, for whatever reason. It's been a beautiful and frustrating month. I feel like the beauty mainly came from how involved I came in this months story. How much of myself I put into it. It was a lot more serious and heavy than any of my past endeavors, and that was both rewarding and difficult. It is also beautiful that I didn't put in a bunch of work only to not finish and feel like a failure, as I briefly have in other years when I did not finish. A completely arbitrary and self-obligated failure, of course, but isn't all failure that way really?

On the other hand, the frustration came mainly from the constant realization that I was carving time out of my already too cluttered life to write a book that not many people will read, that will likely never be really published and that, frankly, isn't all that good. My one great hope for my writing now is that it is the first steps towards becoming a really good writer down the road, and that maybe I'll catch onto an idea in one of these books that can be reworked enough as I develop more skill in the craft, to be something that is readable.

But there also lies the distinct possibility that I don't have what it takes to become a good writer. I haven't had the experience, both in writing and in life to pull out from inside of me the substance necessary to make a book meaningful and the experience necessary to separate good things that I write from bad things.

I am pleased that there are several good things in this book. I felt connected to main character in a substantial way, and the side characters of her family gained some richness. This book takes the form of a blog, although I don't think the voice that comes across from the narrator is really a blogger as much as a writer seeking feedback and community. I included, as a key part of the story, then, some comments from loyal readers of the blog, and it was in these comments that I felt the story really bogged down. The characters making the comments didn't ever really find their voice, mainly because I didn't develop enough of a backstory to them, I think, but also because I struggled to write convincingly from so many viewpoints constrained to such a small space as a comment section. They were very limited in what they could do or say as an inherent part of being only given a voice when they were directly commenting on what the main character wrote.

Fortunately, these comments could be changed, developed or dropped without affecting the story much, so if I wanted to go back and revise, I probably could.

I do feel proud that, while it might have seemed like a huge imposition to Cait, I got most of this writing done without taking too much time away from the family. There were several late nights, several very rushed cleanings of the house, poorly scheduled shopping trips and some sub-par dinner offerings, including our first ever ordering of Chinese food takeout. But overall, I was able to get most of the writing done in the times when the kids were at school, or while Atticus was at school and Lulah was napping. All of November saw Atticus in both his regular preschool as well as the phonology preschool that he goes to in sessions to help work on his speech.

Usually, I use this time for writing articles for the online advertising company that I work for and that is where most of the time tradeoff took place (also, blogging, which I didn't do at all, apparently). It's nice that I could put aside my job for a month to focus on what is, for now, a glorified hobby. Of course, the trade off for a really flexible job is that the job itself is pretty, how shall I put this, mind-numbing and poor-paying. Not that I'm not grateful. I'm glad that Cait is a stellar enough scholar that she is able to make (or be granted, I suppose) enough money for us to live on and we don't have to put the kids in even more daycare so that I could find a part-time job that would likely only pay for that extra daycare.

But this isn't about my working situation. This is about my book. I'm glad that it is done. I'm proud of what it is and the work I put into it and the things I learned along the way.

I'll be uploading it to my new writing website, that I'll be talking more about in the next few days, once I have it all cleaned up. Thanks for sticking with us.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Are we there yet?

And by there, I mean: the end of this semester.

For the past, oh, six weeks I have had some major school burnout. Which is unfortunate because it was only a few weeks into the semester when it began. Between my required "field seminar" class which sounds way cooler than it actually is (it does not involve anything having to do with being outdoors) and my skipping ahead a year in Arabic, it's been a pretty non-stop grind of reading, reading, reading in Political Sciencese and then some more reading in Arabic. The field seminar is about 1000 pages a week, plus I have a book (300 or so) pages for my other seminar and then 20 hours a week of Arabic. I've become quite adept at "enlightened skimming" --

But! The end is in sight (snow! on the ground!) and I have about three more weeks until we board the plane(s) to Utah and spend three glorious weeks semi-relaxing but actually catching up on reading and working at my (maybe) new job (translating Arabic comics, but I'm not sure I will take the job yet). I like school because I'm a perfectionist (not necessarily a good thing, but that's another blogpost to come) and I love how my brain is expanding a thousand-fold in newly-acquired knowledge with every passing semester. Though at the same time, it can be debilitatingly frustrating because I expect myself to do as much work as my classmates and I have to remember that I have another full-time job at home they don't have (or two, technically). When I hated the first few months of grad school and upon reading Lean In, I told myself I would stick with it for 18 months until I decided whether or not to continue. I am nearing the end of that 18 months with next semester, and we'll see where we are at that point. But so far, not so terribly bad. I have an awesome advisor, a great fellowship (and one already waiting for me for next academic year), wonderful cohort friends, interesting and stimulating seminars, and a grant to go to Tunisia this summer. We love our community, our church, and our group of friends.

This brief update brought to you by: procrastination of finishing Varieties of Feminism: German Gender Politics in Global Perspective. See why I love grad school?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Atti and Lu

The kids are changing so rapidly and are at such fun (and obnoxious, at the same time) stages of life I feel a update post is in order!


This kid can be SO frustrating but so endearing all in the same couple of minutes. He says the funniest stuff, like how he suggested we give bad guys "swordses" so they stop shooting people with guns the other night. He loves, loves, loves both of his schools and he is learning so much at his phonology preschool. He utilizes his "techniques" for pronunciation on a regular basis in every day conversations. He has lots of friends and is excited when Camila and her mom/dad arrive at our house every morning to pick him up for school. The little boy he rides the bus with to phonology doesn't talk (maybe just in the bus, maybe at all?) but every day Atticus sits next to him and says "Hi Owen! How are you?" He is learning so much about being a kind and accepting human being and we wish he would put his newfound knowledge into practice more often at home, but we hear he is a sweet kid everywhere else. Our babysitter (she's new as of a few weeks ago, and so far, we LOVE her, her name is Rachel and she's volunteering for her Human Development major by coming over and watching our kids, how awesome is that!) said that she had never seen a big brother so responsive to a little sister's needs before and he played so nice with her the entire time. Now, that usually is not the case when we're around, but it's nice to know it's possible.

Atticus loves watching Mr. Rogers still, and recently re-discovered Super Why! and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. We love that he eschews anything remotely scary, mean or violent, and once we put on Phineas and Ferb (I was curious to watch it) and it only lasted about 4 minutes before he asked for a "show where the kids talk nice."

Dinner time is less of a battle these days, but he is still a picky eater though it's improving. He devoured chicken wings, mashed potatoes and green beans last night for dinner but won't touch most soups or casseroles (which Lulah loves). He is a dessert fiend and had tons of fun trick-or-treating this year and eating all of his candy, though he was nervous about eating too much so his "tummy didn't get sick" which he said over and over again.


She is becoming more independent, going to school all day like a champ, loving our babysitter, and having a grand old time in childcare at FUS. Her vocabulary is growing so much every day, she consistently says Mama, Dada, Aaaaaaa-tah, cat, bird, duck ("quack"), bike, bubble, all gone, milk and loves to say the names of kids in her class at school: Piper (pi-puh) Alli (a-ya) Sophie (so-fa) Oscar (ah-kah). Her affirmative answer ("jyeh") is probably next to "diggum" on cutest words our kids have used on a regular basis. She FINALLY became attached to a blankie several months ago and can't go night-night without it. She is still nursing, 5-6 times a day (mostly at night, hoooooray) but I can see an end in sight to my nursing days so it's not that big of a deal.

She is reaaaaaally sensitive sometimes, like when her diaper needs to be changed or when she is trying to arrange something just right or when she wants to lay down and sleep but she can't get her blankets just so. It can be annoying to try to read her and fix everything JUST SO because if not she has a break-down. She feels emotions strongly... high highs and low lows. She finally loves being read to (the Olivia board books are a huge hit these days) and watching Elmo (she says Elmo! Cookie!) and Day-day (which is what she calls Baby Signing Time) and sometimes in the right mood whatever Atticus is watching. She loves her mornings alone with dad when they go for long, cold runs and come home and take a long, hot bath followed by a nap.

She will pretty much eat whatever we give her as long as it's palatable. She loves soups and casseroles the most. She is a little bit of a bully sometimes and has started scratching and hitting (me, mostly) but she can also be crazy sweet and cuddly other times.


Yum, beet soup.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Happy birthday, Benedito!

We met Renata and her kids in Atticus's ballet class and we have become fast friends with her family (which would be difficult not to do because she has the most amazing Brazilian openness and friendliness that is absolutely contagious). Tim recruited her to be his treasurer on the Assembly Board, and though we see each other occasionally, it is not nearly enough. So, we were thrilled to go hang out for a night with her and all her cool friends for her son's first birthday party. The food was yummy, there were crafts, playing on the playground, and lots of pictures.

And we took the nice camera, so prepare for picture onslaught:

Potato stamp t-shirts

Atticus and Camila

Chico and Asad don't look happy about being in the picture

I love that our friends are not only awesome, but from all over the world: in this picture alone, there are kids from (or have a parent from) India, Macedonia, France, Brazil, Mexico. So great.

Happy birthday, sweet boy!

Atop my mother's back

Sometimes I am afraid I'm turning into my mother....

Somewhere in Europe...

Somewhere else in Europe.
... and then I realize maybe it's not so bad after all.

Happy birthday, Mom!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Week of October 22nd

Last week:


Busy, busy day. First, Cait took the kids to the zoo for trick-or-treating which ended up being a disaster because it was a long bike ride and it was simply a bunch of long lines for a few pieces of candy. Later, we had a pumpkin-decorating party at Tallulah's school, where the kids had a blast carving pumpkins and playing outside on the playground. I really love her school. We got home in time to start some taco soup for dinner since our friends were coming over for dinner. They are probably our coolest friends ever... they moved from NYC where she was an theatre/operetta actress and he was a tech guy. They just bought a house with land for sheep and chickens. We can't wait to go out and visit their new homestead.

Atticus was a Chinese firefighting cowboy... he picked it out himself.

The pumpkin he carved


We cleaned up after having our friends, the Lonsdale's, over for dinner. They just moved here from the Big Apple. Krystal and I teach our Children's Religious Education class together. Their kids match up perfectly with ours in terms of temperament and personality, so we had a really good time. Unfortunately, Monday morning, when we were going to try to get out to help them move into their new home, fell apart, mainly because we left all of the cleanup from dinner the night before off until the morning.

After playing catchup for a few hours, Cait took off to school and I took the kids up to the community center. There is free play time there where they have lots of little cars and scooters for the kids to ride on. Usually, they are all about this, but today they played for 20 minutes while I did some work, and then they lost all interest. Luckily, a school group of older kids came in just about then to buddy up with the preschool kids that have their school in the community center and do some activities together. We were invited to join in, so the kids got to do some artwork, join in a sing-a-long to "Yellow Submarine" and play some games. We milked it for all it was worth because Atticus suffers from school withdrawals on Monday when he used to go to school but now doesn't. Maybe we'll write a post about how complicated his preschool schedule is, but it would be boring and complicated. Right now, he goes Tuesday-Friday afternoons to his phonology preschool and Tuesday and Thursday Morning to UHP, his regular preschool. After this six week period is over, he switches to everyday mornings at UHP. I guess that is it. Not so complicated actually.

The kids mostly missed lunch, so they came home hungry. We had an early dinner and left nothing for Mom. Sorry Mom. I tried to lay down with the kids and watch baseball, which sometimes works to get them to sleep and let me watch baseball, the only sport I really like watching anymore. It didn't work. So we went for a walk together and they fell asleep rather early, which was good, because they've been pushing their bedtimes back as Cait and I have both been sick.


Long school day for the kids. Cait hit the books all day. I worked in the morning and then ran errands in the afternoon. After that, I borrowed a Community Car Prius and went to pick up a twin bed for Atticus, that is our latest solution for getting him in a good sleeping situation. It took some work to break it down enough to get it in the Prius, but we got it. Came home to delicious stir-fry that I ate up before Cait got any. Sorry Cait. Cait and I assembled it. I had to run the gas card back up to the Community Car because I accidentally took it (you don't pay for gas in the car, but put it on their credit card, which I did, but then pocketed the card). I totally just could have waited until the next morning, when I was taking the car again, because it wasn't running out of gas anytime soon, but better safe than sorry, I suppose. Then, because he fell asleep on the way home from phonology school, Atticus stayed up really late. Oh well, hopefully the bed works better in the future.


I took the kids to the dentist in the morning in the Community Car Prius (I love that car) where Atticus had an appointment. As opposed to his appointment 6 months or so ago, Atticus did great. Tallulah was actually a lot more scared, because she had been to the dentist a few weeks before and didn't enjoy it, although she had been cooperative. But once she realized that she wasn't going to have to do anything, she was fine. We really like Dr. Amy, our dentist, and all the nurses are really nice. The appointments are short, because they see a lot of people, but I'm fine getting out of there quick. All the teeth are good, by the way.

Then we dropped Atticus off at school and then Tallulah and I went home. I left her sleeping with a neighbor while I returned the car. When I picked her up, she was awake, so short nap. We went back home and laid down together for a while in bed. I'm not sure if she fell back asleep, but I did.

Atticus came home, and we all hung out on what turned into a rainy day. The kids engaged themselves in some of their favorite activities: pull everything out of the wallet and brush teeth. Because Atticus got a new thing of toothpaste, we let him put on his own toothpaste from the old tube, as long as he promised to spit it out. This kept them occupied for a surprisingly long time.

We had stuffed acorn squash for dinner, and then put the kids to bed. Then Cait and I had a nice in home date night. We watched an Austin City Limits episode with the Lumineers and a Frontline about the legal process of a prominent rape case in Pakistan, which was summarily depressing. But at least we were together in our newly child-free bed.



Like all holidays seem to be, this day was a combination of nostalgic satisfaction mixed with a little bit of anti-climax.

The kids both had full days of school, and they both reported having a lot of fun Halloween activities. Both of the kids wore paired down versions of the Halloween costumes. I spent the day writing articles, in preparation for NaNoWriMo, when, I imagine, I will be writing less articles, although I have hopes of my enthusiasm for writing a novel translating into enthusiasm for being awesome at the rest of my life. Cait spent the day at school.

Atticus came home, a little grumpy after falling asleep in the BadgerBus that takes him to and from Phonology school. We played for a while, then I coaxed him into the stroller to walk up in the rain to get Lulah from school. We came home and I started dinner, beef stew, which is apparently a Carroll family Halloween tradition. It took longer than I thought, so we were a bit rushed eating and getting out the door, but once we made it outside, we had a blast.

We trick-or-treated along the road leading up to where we collect our CSA. Both the kids had a lot of fun. It was probably a little long for Lulah and a little short for Atticus, but both seemed satisfied when it was done. Atticus wore Lulah's cat costume, because she doesn't seem to have a lot of enthusiasm for it, which is understandable. She had a great time going with brother to collect candy. Because we were later than most other people on a street that, because its an older, fairly wealthy, neighborhood, probably didn't see a lot of treaters, most of the people were generous with candy. Lulah was fastidious in making sure she only got one piece of candy, but brother seemed confused when people weren't excited for him to reach in and grab three or four.

We made it all the way to the CSA drop off point, and by that time, Lulah was cold and hungry enough to need to go home. We took baths, ate some food, and then Atticus dropped off to sleep watching the Lumineers PBS concert that Cait and I watched the night before. Lulah just suckled.


The first day of NaNoWriMo. I got up early and got some written throughout the day. I got ahead of my needed total, which is nice, without pushing anything else off. My freelance writing job has really sped up my typing speed and helped me to find quick bursts of time to crank out a couple hundred words. Although I didn't get out shopping to get something for dinner, so we had leftovers and a salad.


A family day at home. Cait took Atticus to pick up some clothes for the kids off Craigslist while Lulah napped. And then we met up at FUS where the sermon was about the history of our local congregation, which was really interesting.

The kids were beasts to get to sleep tonight, but we got them still pretty early and we were able to watch some documentaries while I canoed.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


A few weeks ago, my friend Angela invited a group of us to come join her at the UW Arboretum, a vast nature preserve full of amazing trails and trees and natural parks. I have, surprisingly, never been mostly because it is five miles away at the top of a really steep hill. But I ventured out with Tallulah and after a brief stop at the library we made it. Pulling the Chariot makes hill-climbing ten times more difficult but I felt pretty awesome when we got there. We had a really fun time, and a lovely bike ride back. The weather was perfect, unseasonably warm for the time of year, but sunny and lovely.

Hello, Thomas!

Grumpy Silas.

It was SO difficult to get a decent picture of her.