November Update

I am way way behind on blogging over here, and I won’t be able to update as often now that I’ve started TWO new blogs. One is Writerland, currently at Writerland.com, but still experiencing growing pains. The other doesn’t really exist except on my computer, so I’ll hold off on advertising it for now. I’ve been BUSY lately. I have been:

1. Blogging every weekday at Writerland.com
2. Reading three books: one novel, one vook and one blogging for Dummies book
3. Going to kid birthday parties (and shopping for presents for each) EVERY weekend
4. Running: I ran 3.6 miles three times this week and made it the third time without walking any of it! (It’s pretty hilly.) I want to do a half marathon in March, but won’t be disappointed if that doesn’t happen.
5. Querying agents. Several rejections. Four more have the full manuscript, and I need to get five more queries out this week (but first I have research to do)
6. Working on getting my MeghanWard.com website redesigned
7. Have been scanning photos for my new blog. It’s going to be modeling-/French-related – a supplement to my book
8. Spending time with Oona and Shea: taking a few pictures, updating the baby books, going to French playgroup and moms’ group and parks. Have been with both to Fairyland, the zoo, the botanical gardens in Tilden, the Bay Area Adventure Museum …
9. Cooking some (some weeks I cook a ton and others hardly at all)
10. Watching Mad Men (over now) and Dexter and The Office – I’m one episode behind on Dexter and The Office
11. Trying to remain sane.

About number 11—this weekend was tough. Last weekend I was out jogging and stumbled across this yard sale that had a “Free” sign on a bulletin board, and I thought, “I could use that bulletin board,” but upon closer inspection, I saw that there was a photo on the bulletin board for a children’s playset. Long story short, Martin spent this weekend dismantling the playset and lugging it to our house while I had to watch both kids by myself. Oona barely slept, and when she did for just 30 minutes and always when Shea was awake, so I never got a break. It was a bit hellish. By the end of the day yesterday I was racing out the door to tutor at the pub, where the first thing I did was down a cup of sake. Today was no better, although outings in the mornings and tutoring sessions at night did give me somewhat of a break. This morning we went to a birthday party at a bounce house place where they had these big inflatable slides and obstacle courses. Finally a bounce house that allows adults inside! It was really fun.

When I was about seven months pregnant, I talked to a woman at the park (I meet/talk to a lot of people at the park! This afternoon I talked to my neighbor’s friend about Berkeley schools, to some French guy about the French school, to some other guy about how to cook quinoa and about this parenting book he was reading …) about what it was like to have two kids who are pretty close together, like hers were. She told me, “Your life is going to be hard for a couple of years, and then it’ll get better.” It’s hard to define “hard.” It sounded scary when she said it, awful even. Part of me felt, “No, she’s wrong. It won’t be awful” and part of me felt, “OMG, what have I done?” So now that two and a half months have passed, I can say, yes, life right now is very hard. It’s not bad, though, not awful. Just hard. Hard meaning I have almost no time to myself except for the hours I am paying $17 to a babysitter. That adds up really quickly. $17 to go running. $17 to take a shower and make and eat lunch. Another $17 to go grocery shopping and run an errand or two. $17 to blog. $17 to check e-mail and read other blogs. The evenings are getting a little better now that Oona is awake more during the day and going to bed earlier at night, but my problem is that it’s often 9:30 or 10 before I get any time to myself and then I don’t want to go to sleep because I want to read or e-mail or blog and, before I know it, it’s midnight and then I’m up twice in the night, sometimes for 30-60 minutes, feeding Oona, and then I’m TIRED the next day. But to get to bed early and get a decent amount of sleep, I get NO time to myself.

What else is hard? Housework. It doesn’t end. I finally got ALMOST all of the laundry from Friday folded and put away today and then threw three more loads into the wash. There is a neverending pile of unfolded laundry on our couch! And dishes to wash, and toys to pick up, and … and … and …

But it’s fun, too. Oona’s a cutiepatootie. She smiles all the time, and does these little stomach crunches when you tickle her and has started cooing and making razz sounds. Shea is nonstop entertainment. He calls me “Meghan” now, which drives me nuts, but he’s hellbent on saying it, so I just have to let it go. He is saying little sentences, like “I have a book” and “Green ball go get it Papa up there. He speaks more in English than in French, but he understands both and can say most words in both (and in Spanish, but mostly around Dolores.) He mixes them up all the time, like he’ll say, “Dos chairs” or “Petit cow.” He loves cooking and has to drag a chair into the kitchen to help every time we start to make dinner. He likes to help clean, too. He still loves balls and this week is into juggling and diving from the coffee table onto the couch. He does random things, like today he put three balls on the sofa and covered them with a towel and said, “balles chaudes” (hot balls, he was warming them up), then he lifted the towel and said, “blow on it” (because they were hot, he had to blow on them to cool them down.) Like I said, nonstop entertainment!

We are spending Thanksgiving at Martin’s mom’s and Christmas Eve, too. I have already bought some Christmas presents. Every year I decide I want it to be a minimalist Christmas without a lot of gifts, and every year I buy one more, one more and one more until there are quite a few. I’m sure this year will be the same. All I want for Christmas is nook, but it’s sold out until Jan. 4. I’ve never been one to get electronic devices when they first come out, but there have been so many times recently that I really wanted to look at a book NOW and wished I could just download it and not order it from the library and wait until it comes in, then go pick it up, or pay $15-$27 for it at the bookstore. I think the age of print books is rapidly coming to a close.

And just for fun, I started writing a sci-fi novel last night. It’s really just a FUN project and not meant to be my “next book” (I have other books I want to write to sell), and it feels good to write for fun again. I know nothing about sci-fi, but this is a book I’ve been thinking about for a while. What’s that expression? If you want something done, ask a really busy person? I get that. You get into such a crazy busy-all-the-time mode that you never have enough time to wind down. It’s just go go go go go all the time. Craziness. And now I have to go to bed because I have to go to court in the morning to get the money this scheister who sold us our hot tub owes us. It’s 10 o’clock, and I’m about to turn into a citrouille. (l learned the difference between a potiron and a citrouille – two French words for pumpkin – this Halloween!)

And that’s the update. Bonne nuit a tous!

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Writerland

Miss me? Although I’ll continue to blog here, I’m also blogging there, where you can get writing and editing advice, read the latest on the publishing industry, and learn how to market your work.

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Pirate Shea

Pirate Shea cropped

Gimme your treasure or I’ll sick my doggy on you!

Some funny Shea-isms. The other day in the car he kept pointing and saying, “fuck, fuck, fuck.” I knew that wasn’t what he was really saying, but it took me a while to realize he meant, “flag, flag.” Yesterday morning and this morning he woke up and called me from his bed (I was sound asleep down the hall, so he was calling for a few minutes): “Mama! Mama! Mama!” (pause) “Mom! Mom! Mom!” (pause) “Meghan! Meghan! Meghan!” Lately he says, “Okay” instead of “Yes” to everything, with a long, drawn-out “kay”: “okayyyyy.” Eg:

Shea: “Fuck, fuck!”

Me: “Flag?”

Shea:”Okayyyyyyy.”

This morning after being up for 10 minutes, he looked into the empty bouncy seat and said, “Where Baby Oona go? Where Baby Oona go?” He loves his little sister!

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50 Best Baby Products

Oona

 

For a while I’ve wanted to write a post about my favorite pregnancy and baby products. A quick list that I’ll continue to update as I think of more:

1. The Snack Trap – an essential for toddlers. They can hold it themselves without spilling snacks everywhere.
2. A DustBuster – an essential for parents cleaning up Os off the floor.
3. Snacks – organic Os, raisins, Cheddar Bunnies, cheese sticks (cheaper if you chop them yourself), grapes, blueberries, strawberries, flax seed crackers …
4. The auto swaddle – comes with legs or without. I’m a big swaddler.
5. The light switch dimmer
6. iPod with dock to move lullabies from room to room
7. small table and chairs for toddlers – they love seats their size
8. Bibs that tie or snap instead of Velcro because they quickly learn to tear them off
9. Born Free bottles and sippy cups
10. The Papasan swing – don’t know how we’d live without it
11. The Baby Einstein play mat
12. The BOB – the best stroller for jogging
13. My Breast Friend – so much better than the Boppy
14. Pumping bras – why didn’t I use the the first time around! Hands free!
15. Socks that stay on – they kick most off so fast!
16. Side snap T-shirts – so many babies hate having things pulled over their heads
17. The O-ball in every size – a toy little babies can get a grip on!
18. The Winkel – great for the same reason as the O-ball
19. Manhattan Toy Squish rattle
20. The Haba caterpillar rattle
21. Pacifier webbing things to hook it to the carseat strap
22. A mirror for behind the carseat so you can see what your baby is up to
23. The Manhattan Toy mobile – doesn’t make noise, but they love to look at it
24. Fuzzi Bunz – the best cloth diapers!
25. Oxobrite – the best for “bleaching” cloth diapers and baby cloths covered in spit up
26. Robeez for the baby just beginning to walk
27. See Kai Run (for looks, not durability), Livie and Luca, Pediped (Flex) and Keen shoes for toddlers
28. Carter’s baby clothes (especially the PJs)
29. Safety gate with cat door – keeps the baby out of the cat food!
30. All Melissa & Doug, Haba and Plan wooden toys
31. Spill-proof bubbles, so they blow bubbles them themselves
32. Kleen Kanteen sippy water bottles
33. Every ball they make
34. Nesting and stacking blocks
35. Walkers for babies just starting to walk
36. A baby and stroller for the toddler if you’re expecting a second
37. Small nail clippers without the plastic safety thing make it easier to cut nails
38. The NoseFrida for boogers. I haven’t used mine yet, but have heard it’s great
39. All the Putamayo children’s CDs: French Playground, African Playground, etc.
40. Music Together music classes
41. Petite Baleen swim classes (in the SF Bay Area)
42. Glider rocker
43. The vibrating bouncy chair – I love the Kick n Play
44. The bathtub with the hammock – Fisher Price
45. “Loveys” – stuffed animals with flat bodies to sleep with
46. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
47. The Happiest Baby on the Block
48. Books: Goodnight Gorilla, all the Eric Carle books, Goodnight Moon, The Paper Bag Princess, Baby Dance the Polka …
49. The musical toothbrush for the toddler who hates brushing his teeth
50. Jacques the Peacock toy rattle
51. Baby Einstein exersaucer
52. Diaper Dekkor or Diaper Champ diaper pail
53. Sophie rubber giraffe teether
54. Mini food processor for making baby food
55. Super Sheet Saver for the toddler who soaks the bed at night
56. Natursetten natural pacifier

I’ll add more as I think of them!

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Writing Update

I’ve done very little writing since Oona was born, but I’m still sending my book out to agents. It’s been rejected by about five (I’ve lost track), and three more have it right now. I took the time to read through it again and decide if I should revise further (in which case I’d hire an editor to help me) or just keep sending it out, and this is what I realized:

A few small edits were needed throughout, like an added sentence here or there
A section in the first chapter feels too rushed/summarized
The first 100 pages aren’t as good as the rest, and slow the book down a bit (and perhaps lose the interest of agents before they get past them?)

So I marked it up and made some of those revisions, and then started to chop the first 100 pages to really delete some chapters. Then I had doubts about deleting those chapters and decided I’d rather have an editor tell me to delete them than for an agent/editor to never have the chance to see them at all. So I left them alone. And I fiddled with the first chapter, then put it back the way it was. Then I read a “How I Got My Agent” post on the Guide to Literary Agents blog and felt so much better about my book. The woman submitted her manuscript, worked on it for another year, submitted again, edited more, submitted again, was still rejected, and on and on until she got offers from two agents, and chose one. Somehow I had it in my head that if the first five agents rejected me, the book just wasn’t good enough and needed more revision, even though I’ve heard a hundred stories about people getting rejected 50+ times before finding an agent. It made me think that I need to put my energy into finding an agent instead of revising my book (although I do still want to make some more small edits.) I haven’t gotten far in creating a list of people to query, but I did query three more, and two requested to see it. So I just need to continue on down that path. My “goal” is to find an agent by the end of the year, but I have so little control over that outcome. A better goal would be to name a number of agents that I’ll query by the end of October, or mid-November. A start would be to create that list.

I’m anxious to get started on my next book, and I feel like I would have made much more progress by now if I a) weren’t still focused on getting an agent for my first book and b) didn’t have a screaming newborn. I guess once I go back to work in a month, that will be my priority. Right now my priority is getting some sleep and remaining sane while caring for a toddler and a newborn (and Martin is going out of town for three days on Monday! Lord help me!)

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to read a little here and there (not as much a I’d like). Just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I liked it. I don’t know if it’s my favorite book, but I did like it. I would have enjoyed more time with Kakuro and less time reading the musings of Mme. Michel and Paloma, but it was entertaining. I haven’t decided which book to read next. I have several on my nightstand, and none of them appeal to me right now. One I DO want to read after reading Elegance, is Anna Karenina. If only I had a Nook, I could download it right now! I think I want a Nook for Christmas.

Signing off to do some chores (THEY NEVER END), and to try to read myself to sleep.

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The month in review

I can’t believe it’s been a month and a half since I’ve blogged about my life! Oona is already seven weeks! There is just so little time for anything. I’d be asleep right now if I could fall asleep, but I fell asleep and was awakened by a screaming baby enough times in the past hour that now that everyone is asleep (Martin included), and it’s only 8 p.m., I can’t fall asleep at all. A chance to catch up on some blogging, among other things on my list (TOO many other things on my list.) Thank you to my friend Elaine for bringing dinner tonight so at least I don’t have to worry about that!

Oona is fussier than she was those first blissful three weeks, and life is harder. She no longer sleeps all day, and when she’s awake she’s either nursing or crying. Only if I’m talking to her with her on my lap is she content, or sometimes for a few minutes in the bouncy seat or on the play mat, but she doesn’t just sit in a seat and look around without crying. These are the weeks that make you wonder how you’re going to make it to three months, when babies tend to get easier.

My sister was here this past week. She came out to help with Oona and although she was a tremendous help and I got a ton of things done that I wouldn’t have otherwise, I still feel very very tired – mostly because I used my free time to work instead of sleep while she was here. But we had fun. We went to the river for the weekend and saw paragliders at the beach. (I did that back in India, and it was terrifying stepping off a cliff for the first time, but so much fun once I was flying.) We walked in the redwoods and skipped rocks in the creek and ate good food and lounged in the hot tub – all the best things to be had at the river (I love it so much up there, and it’s such a refreshing change from Berkeley.) When we returned, one night we went out to dinner for Martin’s mom’s birthday, and another Martin and I went out on a much-needed date to the renovated Hotsy Totsy (I love the Hotsy Totsy!) and saw The Informant. Another day, my sister and I trekked to the European Bookstore in the city to buy Shea more French books, and then had lunch at a playground by the harbor in the Embarcadero. The weather was perfect. What a great day. Wednesday, my sister and Martin’s mom spent the day pulling weeds in our garden while the nanny watched the kids, and I edited and paid bills – how wonderful to have all that help! I got some editing done, balanced accounts, put decals up on Oona’s wall, started a photo album for Shea (finally!), learned to cook a pork roast, and even went to the gym! I got more exercise this past week than I have in months.

Now that she’s gone, there are dishes to do and laundry to be put away, and I don’t have the energy to get up off the couch. I wish I could extend this little moment of peace long enough to get the house cleaned up, work on the photo album, upload photos, blog, Twitter, run, work on my book, do some more editing and prepare for tutoring an SAT test tomorrow … but all I want to do is sleep.

I haven’t had time to process how I “feel” about having two kids. I love both of them to death and have a great time with both of them. Shea is at the cutest age and is talking like crazy (He repeats everything we say and remembers a good deal of it.) Oona is tiny and cute, and I appreciate that small baby stage more now that I’ve seen how fast they grow up. I thought I’d be ready to return to the Grotto after two months this time (I took three months off after Shea was born), but that’s just a week away and I’m not at all ready to go back. I feel like I just got out of the hospital, it’s gone so fast!

I think the biggest thing that’s suffered is the time I spend with Martin. We so rarely are both free and awake at the same time. One of us is always catching up on sleep, trying to calm Oona or feeding and changing Shea. And the laundry. Don’t get me started on the laundry! It’s neverending with two kids in diapers. NEVERENDING. But I’m enjoying my time with the kids, and we’ve done a lot of fun things, like:

French playgroup every week
Fairyland (fun!)
Ardenwood pumpkin patch and farm (fun!)
Aratas Pumpkin farm (really fun!) – haunted house, hayride, petting zoo, mini train, AWESOME haystack labyrinthe, pumpkin patch, etc. My only complaint: a little pricey.

Tomorrow we go to a costume birthday party, and next weekend we have the Piedmont Avenue Halloween Parade and pumpkin patch, trick-or-treating on our street, a Halloween party at our friends’ house, and a BBQ on Sunday. BUSY!

Now if I could just get a little more sleep …

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Hello Kind World

A classmate from my MFA program died from cancer last week, and I just found out tonight. I didn’t know her. I heard her name many times and I saw her read once, but I never took any classes with her, and never met her. Still, I am sad that she left a husband and two little boys behind. She was only 47. And I am touched by this excerpt of blog post she wrote last year, titled, “Hello Kind World”:

So please, friend, bless what you have and let go of fear for the future. Today is the only day you have got. You are breathing. Enjoy your breath. You are alive. Enjoy your life. You have a daughter and parents. Love them. Bless everybody who comes across your path. And the work? Whatever. Bless your work, too. Bless your town, your bills, your possessions. You are lucky to be here for all of it. If some of it gets taken away, well fine, something else will take its place. You are an amazing confluence of billions of variables and nobody else is having your life right this minute.

Enjoy! And don’t worry about hope. Just breathe and appreciate your breath. Everything arises from that.

RIP Leila Abu-Saba

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