An Exercise in Video Game Patience

As with most my generation, I grew up with gaming systems.  They came into maturity around the same time I did.  Growing up, my brother and I would spend countless hours trying to work through different levels of various games.  Even in college I had one semester where I spent more time playing Chrono Cross than on my school work. Sometimes my hubby and I will play video games together to unwind.

With that in mind it’s no surprise that my kids have loved video games from an early age.  I think it’s great, in moderation of course.  They get to do something they love, I get to work on my projects undisturbed.

LegoIndyThere’s only one downside – when older brother isn’t around to help figure out things that duty falls on me. My darling daughter loves Lego Harry Potter and Lego Indiana Jones.  In these games a series of puzzles need to be solved in a 3D environment to move to the next stage. Sometimes the puzzles are tricky, sometimes moving around the board is hard. Watching the process is enough to make any adult scream, “Give me the remote!”

When she gets stuck she wants me to tell her what to do, which is fine when I know what to do.  Most of the time I don’t.  I try to give her some directions but it always ends up sounding like this: “Go that way. . . No – the other way. . . No, where you were before, by that shiny thingy.  Now, be the bazooka guy and shoot it . . . The shiny thing, yea, shoot that.  . . . Ok, now pull the lever. . . That lever. . . The only lever on the screen. . .  Now you’re headed the wrong way, you have to go through the door. . . That door . . The red door in the middle of the screen, see it? . . . Ok, want me to get you through to the next level yet? . . . Please?”

Kids think different things are funny as well.  I watched my daughter throw her character off a cliff over and over all the while laughing and rolling on the floor at the goofy scream he made.  Each time the little Lego man dies he looses some of the coins he’s collected.   When you collect enough coins you earn a badge for that level, get enough badges and you unlock all sorts of goodies.  I have to bite my tongue to keep from stopping her from wrecking her chances of earning that badge. She doesn’t care; but after a lifetime of trying to avoid killing my little video people, I sure do.

Then, there’s the racing games.  I’ll admit, I’m pretty proud of my little speed demons, they are getting to the point where they can maneuver their cars better than I can.  In these games there is a clear winner and loser, and my kids hate to lose. When they get too frustrated they ask me to help them win.  I don’t mind, I like playing.  However, I’m no miracle worker.  I can’t pull out a win when there is only half of the last lap left and all the other video people have crossed the finish line. It’s impossible even for the Game Master. Losing their game makes me the bad guy, and I hate being the bad guy.

In the end, I love that my kids love video gaming as much as I did growing up. I hope they’re memories are as good as mine and when they have kids of their own they can enjoy gaming together as well.

 

Teaching Sewing to Kids

I’m a mom first, writer second.  I dream of being that kind of fabulous mom who comes up with all sorts of crazy and memorable activities for my kids.  Problem is, making up crazy and memorable activities takes lots of time and energy.  And, well, writing just takes lots of time.

Needless to say, when I find an activity to share with the kids I’m really excited.

Not too long ago I had this brilliant idea that I would start teaching my kids about how to use a sewing machine.  I learned how to sew when I was a kid and have been grateful for the skill all my life.  I had a simple project, a tote bag, and all the materials on hand. Showing my kids something new, where they actually make something useful, how cool is that?  Mom of the year, here I come!

Step one, cut out the pieces.  Simple enough, right?  I thought so.  All the pieces were squares and clearly marked.  I had looked forward to some quiet time while they sat and worked on this step.  However, Mr. T couldn’t manage to cut even close to the line and was zigging and zagging all over the place.  Miss K was determined to cut on the line but couldn’t get the scissors to work.  Baby D was determined to give the scissors a try and nearly cut big holes into sister’s project.  After a whole lot of whining, their’s not mine, I ended up cutting out the pieces while holding off baby and sending the other two off to play.  Now that we’ve started I’m committed to finishing, but I’m having a sinking feeling that I might need some chocolate before this is over.

The next step is to pin the pieces together.  The idea of sewing pins and kids is a bit dicey, especially with Baby D roving around stealing whatever he could get his hands on.  Miss K loved the idea of pinning so much she managed to get forty pins in the one foot section of cloth we were working on.  Mr. T, on the other hand, couldn’t get the hang of pushing the pin in then back up again. Since it’s a straight line it’s not a big deal for me, but for beginners those pins really help do keep everything organized.  Six demonstrations of how to pin later and no progress on his ability to do so, it’s time to move on.

At last we sew!

Cutting and pinning will never measure up to the golden trophy of getting to use mom’s awesome sewing machine.  And boy, were they excited!  I sat Mr. T in my lap and showed him the pedal and the needle and how it moved up and down.  His job was to gently push the pedal while I guided the fabric through.  So, naturally, he jammed his foot down on the pedal as fast and hard as it would go.  He thought it was the funniest thing in the world.   Repeated encouragement to knock it off didn’t help and after a few minutes I had to ask him to go off and play or risk turning his bag into an mangled mess.

Miss K, on the other hand, demonstrated much more control and was thrilled to watch the different sides come together as she pushed the pedal.  By the way, guiding fabric with a gazillion needles in it and a kindergartner at the pedal is far more exciting than it sounds.

In the end, the project took much longer and much more patience than I had imagined. It’s going to be a long time and take a lot of convincing, and perhaps some more chocolate, before I teach another sewing lesson.  For now at least I can say that I’ve exposed them to some of the process of sewing and it will be more familiar – should there be a next time.

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Two tote bags, finished!

Blast from the Past – The First Writer Mom Comic

About two years ago, when my children did not outnumber my hands, I made an attempt at creating a series of comics.  The situation hasn’t changed much, now there is a different child on my lap trying to push buttons and the other two somewhere else in the house causing untold havoc.  On a unrelated note, school starts this week!  Happy Dance!

I might finish this manuscript yet!

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After precisely three minutes of working on the manuscript, writer mom is discovered.

 

Fiction Friday: The Man in the Cupboard, Pt. 3

We’re back to Fiction Friday here at the blog, and today is part three of the Man in the Cupboard serial fiction.  To start at the beginning, click here.  To see the last installment, click here.

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Over the last few weeks Kimberly found all sorts of things that tiny Mike had fixed. The squeaky ceiling fan in the family room now behaved properly instead of squeaking and swaying like an airplane propeller lodged in in her roof.  The chair at the kitchen table with the stunted leg had lost it’s wobble, and she couldn’t remember the last time the faulty light switch had shocked her when she didn’t flip it correctly.

Instead of a nuisance, Mike’s unannounced appearances in the kitchen had become a welcome surprise.  She enjoyed having someone to talk to and share her life with.  Although he wouldn’t say it, she thought Mike enjoyed it as well.

Today, she didn’t feel like doing the obligatory housework.  The dishes in the sink could stay there for a few more hours, no one would care.   Sun shone through the east windows making liquid puddles on the floor making it a perfect day to sink into the couch with a Coke and read one of those cheap harlequin romances she kept stuffed under the bed.

Just as she got snuggled into her favorite spot, the big armchair in the corner, a terrible screech and clatter bounced from the broom closet.  She jumped to her feet and opened the door to see what had happened.  There on the floor, completely tangled in what looked like spider’s web and dust lay Mike, looking a bit dazed.

“Blasted spiders won’t get the best of me,” he muttered under his breath as he struggled to sit upright.  The webs held him down.  The poor man looked as if he had had an unfortunate run in with a crazed knitter.  Tight bands of web circled his chest and another strand pulled across his face, flattening his nose to one side.  His legs were stuck bent, ankles hog tied behind him.  His arms looked no better, one was only free from the elbow down, the other stuck at an awkward angle against his chest.

Kimberly started the painstaking task of untangling Mike from the mess of string, being careful not to tie him into a worse knot.  “Are you alright, have you hurt yourself?”

“I’m fine, don’t you be troubled ’bout me.” He brushed her hands away. “No need for that, get my cane free and I’ll take care of the rest.”

She pulled the cane free of the sticky web and put it in his free hand.  He twisted it, and began tapping at the strands which loosened and fell free. Once he had dusted himself off, straightened his shirt and vest, and located his hat, he finally looked up at Kimberly.

“After an ordeal like that a man deserves a drink, don’t you think?”

“That depends. What happened?”

He sighed and leaned on one of the shoes that had fallen from the closet. “Been going on a couple o’ weeks.  ‘Dem spiders don’t forget anything, or forgive for that matter.  I shoulda never tried to move their egg sack in the first place.”

Kimberly sat on the nearby stair. “Why would you want to move an egg sack?”

“Thought it’d be funny.  Guess they don’t have that kind of sense of humor.  They’ve been after me ever since.”  He kicked at the loose pile of web.  “Today they finally got me.  Tied me up good they did, even made it so I couldn’t get my cane.  That’s how I ended up tripping in the closet, I was trying to grab it and lost my balance.”

“They weren’t planning on eating you, were they?”

“Naw, spiders don’t eat tinkers.  I suppose we don’t taste that good anyway.  They were just messing around.  We’re even now.  At least until I get the itch for mischief again.”

Kimberly rose and went to the kitchen and pulled out an amber colored bottle from a high cupboard.  “I suppose you can have a little something for your ordeal.”

Mike’s eyes went wide. “That’s not what I think it is, is it?”

“Only because you have proven your worth around the house. I expect this bottle to last you a very long time.”

He breathed in deep and a dopey smile crossed his face as if he had already imagined the joy he would find in drinking it. “Cross my heart, m’lady.”

Later that evening, after the kids were in bed and the house was quiet again, Kimberly swore she could hear Mike singing a bawdy ballad up in the rafters. She smiled and tipped an imaginary glass his way, “Cheers.”

 

For the next part, click here.

Everything I need to know about life I learned from Spongebob

spongebobBe happy about everything.

There is always a reason to laugh.

Find joy in everything you do.

You don’t have to have a lot of friends, just a best friend.

Be creative.

Always try new things.

Live life with a sense of wonder.

It’s okay to like your job.

Take pride in your home, even if it’s a pineapple.

Love your neighbors, no matter who they are.

There’s always time for jelly fishing.

It’s okay to cry.

Always assume the best about people.

Ignore the negative.

Driving is over rated.

There’s nothing wrong with doing your best work.

Keep it clean.

Seek out adventure.

It’s okay to be scared sometimes.

Be flexible.

Never hesitate to give a helping hand.

Appreciate music in all of its forms.

You don’t have to be smart to be happy.

Blowing bubbles is fun for all ages.

Visit your mother often.

Hygiene is important.

You don’t have to be rich to be happy.

What other people think about you doesn’t matter.

Plan your “Best Day Ever.”

Always show gratitude.

Having a goofy laugh isn’t a bad thing.

Every day is a beautiful day.

Being a Mom and a Writer

I’m a very creative person.  I’m so creative, I create people.  Three of them to be exact, and each enough different from the other that there is no user’s guide, no “What to Expect When…” book, that covers them all.

I’m not talking about fictional characters here, although I’ve created dozens of those as well.  I’m talking about walking, talking, screaming, whining, hugging, cuddly little kids.  They are the reason I get up in the morning, and the reason I’m so happy to get back into bed at night.  They fill my every waking hour with surprises, challenges, and messes.

                         My Groupies

I love my little monkeys, from their toothy smiles to their dirty feet.  Every minute of the day they are there, reminding me how needed I am in their world.

I remember when I came home with my first child.  Leaving the hospital, I had this weird paranoia that a nurse was going to stop us at any minute and tell us that we weren’t qualified to take a baby home with us.  And as first time parents, we probably weren’t.  Qualifications are measured in spit up stains, diaper changing speeds, and being able to find lost binkies in the dark.  No one comes with those skills built in, they are gained with experience.

Being a mom means finding solutions.  Everyday there are countless questions and problems to be solved.  What’s for lunch? Where are the keys? How do you remove crayon from tile? Where did the baby go?  It’s a relentless task that refuses to be put on hold, even for a potty break.

On the flip side, being a writer means long hours in thought finding the best way to present a scene, or construct an essay.  Many of these hours are spent in front of a screen typing in these fragile thoughts that are likely to shatter when disturbed.  Sometimes it takes a while of churning out text before we find what we really want to say.  The rest of those hours happen in our heads as we work on everything else from driving to sleeping.

Being a mom and a writer is an impossible situation.  Children, especially young children, require endless immediate intervention to keep them from harm’s way.  Writing while they are awake ends up being an exercise in frustration.  Writing while they are asleep is unpredictable.

Although it is impossible, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  If I didn’t have my kids I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  They have taught me confidence, humility, and grace. At the same time, being a writer brings an added dimension to my life.  It’s a challenge and a reward.  One day I would love my kiddos to hold up a favorite book and be able to say, “Hey, my Mom wrote this!”

Friday Fiction: The Man in the Cupboard

Welcome back to Fiction Friday where every other week I experiment with different genres.  Today’s story might become a serial depending on how it’s received.  Enjoy!

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After the whirlwind of breakfast and getting the kids off to school, the kitchen was a disaster and thankfully quiet.  Kimberly had set about the task of shoving dirty dishes into the already full dishwasher when she heard a pinging sound coming from the pantry.  She ignored it at first, but when the sound didn’t just go away she felt she had to investigate.

As she came closer to the pantry door the sound became clearer, the same sound as when metal hits glass, a kind of metallic ping.  Ping, ping, ping.  What on earth could make that noise?  She opened the door a crack and the ping stopped.  She opened it wider.  There to her surprise was a tiny man standing next to her jar of peanuts wielding a cane. He stood no taller than her hand and wore a dingy yellow shirt and green vest over a pair of worn grey slacks.

“Fer heaven’s sake, why’d ya change your brand?” he asked and gave the lid on the bottle another whack with the cane. “This lid’s all but impossible to get off.”

Kimberly slammed the door shut with a shriek and reached for a knife from the block.  There was a tiny man in her pantry raiding her peanuts.  She racked her brain trying to remember if there was anything about strange occurrences reported by previous owners in the real estate paperwork.  There were disclosures about lead, asbestos, and rats; why not tiny men?

When she had worked up enough nerve to open the pantry again she found the little man leaning against the box of Cheerios sitting with his legs dangling off the shelf. He held one toasted O, which to him was the size of a donut.

“Oh, hi again. Sorry about before, didn’t mean to give you a fright. No one told me a ginger girl had moved in.”  He said with a smile, pointing at Kimberly’s red curls.

“Who are you, and why are you in my pantry?” Kimberly asked, fighting down the tremble that threatened to leak into her voice. She adjusted her grip on the knife, keeping it out of sight.

“Well, I would have been in the liquor cupboard, but it seems all the whiskey is gone.  You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?” He waved his cane at her as if accusing her for it’s absence. “Can’t have a shindig without a bit of whiskey now can we?”

“Whiskey? . . . Shindig?” Kimberly sputtered. ” I don’t know what you are talking about.  You didn’t answer my question.  Who are you, and why are you here?”

“My apologies Miss, where are my manners?” He stood, brushing the crumbs from his pants as he did and held out his tiny hand. “Mike Finnegan, at your service.”

Kimberly took his hand between two fingers and gave it a shake, unsure whether she was dreaming or had hit her head.

Mike cleared his throat. “And who might you be Miss?”

“Kimberly Pike,” she answered.  Dozens of questions filled her mind and she struggled to catch a hold of one that didn’t make her sound insane.  It was harder than she thought.

Using his cane, Mike lowered himself to the lower shelf and began inspecting the goods there. “Ye must have a speck of the old Irish in ye.  Old lady who lived here before couldn’t see me, one before that couldn’t neither. They both had the decency of always having a flask of whiskey on hand, so it worked out just fine.  You however are different.  Irish blood in ye, and nothing for a poor fella to drink.”

“If I get you your whiskey will you go away?”

“No, why would I? I live here, have a right nice home up in the attic.”

Kimberly shook her head and set the small knife down on the counter. “What about the others, can they see you?”

He climbed on top of a bag of rice and sat down again. “Doubt it, not a ginger in the lot.”

“Listen, Mike is it? This is all a little bit much for me right now.  Tell you what.  I’m going to close this door and leave for a while and when I come back all of this will be back to normal.  I think I’m just under a lot of stress right now.  I mean listen to me, I’m talking to a little man in my pantry.  Okay?”

He tipped his hat at her. “Whatever makes you happy Miss.”

Kimberly shut the door, got a soda from the fridge, and a candy bar from her secret stash.   She hoped a few hours running errands away from the house would be enough to calm her nerves, but as she pulled the car into the street she had the sinking feeling that this was far from over.

 

To read part 2, click here!