Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sneaky Kids

String Bean has always been a sneaky one, able to get out of bed during nap time, open her door, scale the child-gate across her door, and get into all sorts of trouble upstairs, without making a sound to alert us. But lately, Peanut has been discovering her sneaky side, too. She’s realized that when she’s home with me and String Bean is at school, she can go through all of String Bean’s beloved possessions without fear of repercussions, as long as she remembers where everything belongs.

The other day I was putting laundry away, and I found Peanut in String Bean’s room, and while I wasn’t going to scold her for playing with the princess dolls she’s forbidden from touching, the first thing she said was “I’ll put it all back before we go get her!” She was very proud of herself. I figured it’s a good life skill, respecting her sister’s possessions enough to leave them exactly as she found them, and even good that she doesn’t take her big sister’s endless rules too seriously.

Then yesterday, Peanut told me that a boy at school had thrown rocks at her, been caught by the teacher, had gotten in trouble, and that later she’d thrown rocks at him. When I told her I didn’t think that was very nice, she said: “But the teacher didn’t see me do it!” So maybe she’s taking the wrong lesson away here, that it’s okay to break rules as long as you don’t get caught. So I gave her a mini-lecture on it being important to obey rules even when no one’s watching you. She said she understood, and promised no more rock-throwing, but that didn’t stop her from heading straight to String Bean’s room the next time she was home alone with me.

The funny thing is, when String Bean got home that day, she marched right up to her room and said she needed to put everything back where it belongs, because Peanut always puts her stuff in the wrong place. So, big sister sneaky-pants herself knew, all along, that Peanut was in there messing around whenever she had the chance. And she’s never scolded Peanut once for it. So, I’ve learned two new things this week. That Peanut is just as sneaky as her big sister, and that String Bean isn’t quite as intolerant of her little sister as I’d thought.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


One of the many things having kids has done for me is made me appear less shy. I’m still shy by nature: still comfortable playing wall flower, still more follower than leader, still feel no need to be the center of attention, ever. But in a group of people, if any of those people has kids, I have a common thread with them. I’m not so shy about launching into a conversation with someone I’ve never met before if I have an opening topic, a clear opinion on the subject matter, a strong desire to hear stories about their experiences.

This weekend I had two children’s birthday parties: one for a classmate of Peanut’s, one for a classmate of String Bean’s. At the first party, I knew the birthday girl’s mother on a very limited basis, and virtually no one else. But I ended up sitting at a table with two other women and having a lively discussion about all kinds of interesting things: the differences between American and Brazilian childrearing, private versus group swim lessons, miscarriages, travel with toddlers, IVF, picky eaters. The time passed quickly and I never once felt like the old wallflower, on the fringe of a party, not knowing how to jump in and join the fray.

At the second party I knew two of the moms well, but ended up chatting with the parents I’d never met before for most of the time. Not only am I less shy around other parents, but I find myself wanting to meet new personalities, hear new stories, learn of different experiences. Whether it’s from finally living this writer’s life where every new person I meet is one more potential character and every story I hear is another possible plot line, or just that as I’ve grown up I’ve forgotten some of those fears that used to make me shy away from new people, I’m enjoying this less-shy version of myself, and the new people that come along with it.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

I've been sick all week, thanks to those germ-incubators also known as preschoolers, and am still not feeling well, but String Bean has certainly done her part to make me feel special all week. She's very excited about this whole concept of celebrating moms for a day, and while I've always known that that kid adores me to a ridiculous degree, I think this week has taken it to a new level. I've been hugged, kissed, and told "I love you" repeatedly these past few days. She's left me sweet little love-notes everywhere: on my laptop, on the kitchen table, on my dresser. She's just beginning to write, so they're a little cryptic, with "love," "to," "Mom," and "from," written in random places, plus her name and sometimes mine, but I get the point. I am loved. Very, very loved. It's taken five years to get here, to this place of boundless appreciation. Five years of battling wills and tantrums and foot-stomping growls when she doesn't get her way. Despite how attached she is to me, or maybe because of how attached she is to me, I get all of String Bean's emotions thrown at me all day long, unfiltered. For her first six weeks of life that meant screaming every time I tried to put her down, and since then it's been a steady stream of highs and lows. But this week, and especially today, it's meant lots of tight hugs and rapid-fire kisses and praise for being "the best mommy." Today, it definitely feel like it's all been worth it. Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Query Process

Novel number two just went out to its first agent. The submission process, a one-sided affair where you bombard literary agents with your work and get back no response at all most of the time, or form-letter rejections if you hear back at all, is the kind of thing you need a thick skin for. To keep putting your heart out there to be judged, and getting rejection after rejection, and never give up, is a serious challenge. I’ve been down this road before, many times actually, and I’ve always quit when it got too depressing. This time, I’m resolving not to quit. With my two novels circulating the globe, visiting the in-boxes of agent after agent, I resolve to keep them afloat and in circulation until I’ve run out of agents to query.

It’s one of those life lessons that children teach you: never giving up. Anyone who’s ever tried to talk a three-year-old out of something knows what I’m talking about. Peanut can be relentless in her stubborn nature. If she wants to watch Snow White, and you want to do absolutely anything other than watch Snow White, I can tell you now, after eight hours of killing yourself distracting her with every toy, craft, and show in the house, you’re going to find yourself watching Snow White. String Bean has the exact same never-stop-asking streak, and uses it just as effectively. She’s less about needing a movie fix and more about needing objects, but her fixation on the object she’s chosen to need at any particular time is staggering. I think she asked for Bendaroos every single day for six months before her grandma broke down and bought them for her.

If I can send my book out to a different agent every day for six months, I’m sure I could find one that was a good fit. I hope my demanding little munchkins can help me stay focused on my mission, reminding me that persistence, more often than not, does eventually pay off.