Sunday, November 1, 2015

Day 1 of NaNoWriMo

For the best 3 days, I've been nervous about this day. Not many can write a novel, let alone in 30 days.

I organized my story on a outline with ideas of initial incidents, complications, climax, and resolution for each planned chapter. I created short character sketches. I even set up the page header for the novel. On electronic paper, I was ready. But anticipation and doubt still made me worry. Can I do this?

Swallowing all that, I took my laptop into the bedroom, exhaled and began to write. I forced myself to not correct misspellings. Not to waste time over the perfect synonym. I can edit in December. For now, I had to just write.

50,000 words in 30 days! After the few hundred words, my confidence kicked in. The images that played in my head were appearing faster then I could type. My small interruptions of diaper changes and 3 year old curiosity didn't stop me. I paused to engage with my children without impatience. And when my lovely hubby took both put to the park, I enjoyed an hour of nonstop creativity. Hooray!

So far day one is a success. I have passed my daily goal of 1667 words. 1681, baby! And I might write more tonight. I figure it's best to pass my goal just in case I have days where I cannot write as much as I would like to.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween with the Kiddies

It's that time of year again. Most of the leaves have turned and are dancing in the wind. The cold chill in the air is sometimes accompanied by light to heavy rain. And women are storing away their razors and flaunting long shirts or pants. Fall is here and with it comes the holidays. :) First one up is Halloween, a treasured holiday for the kiddies. The weather makes going outside unpredictable, so here are a few things I am doing with my 3 year old to make the indoors more bearable as we celebrate Halloween.

Side note: As a teacher of young learners and teens, I have gotten into the habit of collecting supplies around the house that can be used in most activities and crafts. It helps feed the inner pack rat in me. (Well, honestly, my husband calls me a borderline hoarder. If it wasn't for him, I'd probably be one.

Sample conversation:

"Don't throw away that old toaster!"
"Why not? It doesn't work."
"So I could use it some day."
"I can fix it."
Pause. "I'm going outside to throw it in the bin. Do not follow me.")

Anyways, I start collecting in the beginning of October to anticipate crafts for Halloween. Mainly, things like toilet rolls, yarn/string, plastic bags,broken toys, and cereal boxes. Also there are loads of fun and time filling things to do that can be found on the internet:

Coloring pages: 


This year me and the kid are in the process of making decorations for the house. Now keep in mind she is 3 years old and we will not be keeping these decorations. Why not? Because a 3 year old made them. Lines will not be colored in. Things will not have the right color on them. Some may even be tri-colored with three of the worst colors to ever go together. Things will be cut crookedly. Monsters ears and accessories will be missing or half on. These decorations are not fabulous. Otherwise, I would be making money by selling them online and probably jailed for having a child sweat shop in my home.  (Well, maybe something to think about when she is older and more coordinated. Hey, don't judge, where else will she learn about work ethics!?!)

***Oh, and for the OCD people, you may not want to try this. In fact, you might want to look away.This is gonna kill you.***

The bats were made from cardboard. I drew them and my daughter did most of the coloring before we cut them out together. The ghosts were made of string and tissue with balls of tissue inside them. And the 3 year old drew on eyes. As you can see, one or two of them have had more than one sloppy dot eye drawn.


If you already have decorations (or you just don't want to do that), you can try this:

Monster Bash Bowling Pins 

A witch, gargoyle, mummy, Frankenstein's monster, bat, spider, pumpkin, ghost, werewolf, and devil.
(Missing two more. Stuck on ideas. Possibly will make a dragon and Bride of Frankenstein.)

These were created with toilet paper rolls, blank paper and a cereal box.

Once completed we will place them on the floor in a bowling pin formation. Then bowl with her small bouncy ball. Preparing for hours (or 10 minutes) of bending over, picking them up and placing them back in their right spots. Finally, a great way to sneak in my squat exercises!

No matter how much my thighs and buttocks strain in pain, my little ones smile and laughter usually remedies any discomforts.

Well...Each to Their Own

These activities may seem a bit much. Regardless, I like to keep busy and think of ways to keep my little ones from watching too much TV. No matter how much I could get done while they are glue to the tele. It's a very tempting activity but I always get a long, dramatic tantrum afterwards, and a less obedient child. Plus it is one of my bargaining chips. If I use it up too much, I have less to bribe her with.

Some of these things are as simple as clicking on the print icon. You can even let your little ones collect them from the printer themselves and start coloring. All without leaving your computer. I've done that many times. Color time for 3 year old means computer time for me. Yeah!

Halloween in Spain

In Antelope, Ca., houses in my old neighborhood are usually decorated with scary creatures, haunted houses pop up and dressed up people of all ages are wandering around the streets for a free snack (okay, candy. But those parents are only agreeing to this so they could get candy too. There is no way that 5 year old can carry (let only eat) that full pillow case of sweets.) I miss the sounds of laughter and 'Trick-or-Treat'. My mom playing the Sci-Fi / AMC channel's Horror marathon. Ahhhhh, and the free candy.

In Lugo, they don't go trick or treating. Schools have parties and kids go around with parents to cafes and bars dressed up in Halloween costumes. They are mainly dressed as witches because witches are seen as creatures of good luck. The young adults (and some not admitting to themselves that they aren't young anymore) are dressed in barley covered outfits. Regardless of how cold the night is because they have their gin and tonics to keep them warm! Sorry, just a bit spiteful and in mourning of my LBK (life before kids).

Anyway, I'm not sure about Halloween here, in JaƩn. I'm dressing both the three year old and the baby this year. Not sure in what yet. That's my personal Halloween project! Yeah!

Last year, we walked around, then had Halloween cartoon day with candy.This year will probably be the same. We'll see how it goes.

What are some of your Halloween traditions? How do you decorate for it? And what are some things you do with the young ones to celebrate this freaky, fun holiday?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

(Nearly) Gone In 3-Day Holiday Weekend

Sigh of relief. 3 days of rest.Time to kick off your slippers, have fun, and R-E-L-A-X! Wrong. So wrong that you can't even see the "r" in right. A 3-day holiday weekend for your kids and your working spouse is different from the homemaker's weekend. Your duties as homemaker may be less but your working spouse and kids will remind you that you are not on vacation.

It sounds completely unfair. You have the children, the cleaning, and other responsibilities all week long. Weekends are only different because you have another adult around to talk to. This isn't enough! Fellow homemakers raise up your fist and protest: "What do we want? A Day OFF! When do we want it? Right friggin' NOW!" Okay now that we got that out of our system, let's rewind. How do we get a day(s) off without having a heated argument or sounding like a nag? Keep in mind this is the working spouse's time off, as well. They want to relax too. So how do we make everyone happy during 3-day and normal weekend breaks? (Well, short of shipping the kids off to their grandparents.) For the times where grandparent escape is an impossibility (or you actually want to have your kids around for the weekend), let's keep some things in mind when trying to enjoy time off.

There's No Such Thing As A Day Off
Whether you have a career or not, life after kids rarely involves breaks. As soon as that little one comes into the world, they need someone to take care of them until they're legally able to leave your house. Even then you'll probably still be taking care of them. Get this in the head of both you and your working spouse. No one has the weekend to relax fully.  Babies and children don't care that you had a heavy workload this week or that someone at work made it harder to do your job or that you have been running around all week and just need a rest. Instead, you might want to start thinking of work as a partial vacation from your kids. This might help soften the blow of your life without days off.

All Hands On Deck
So since we now understand that no one with children can have a decent day off. Let's look at what this means. This does not mean that someone gets to drink beer and watch football all day while the other occupies the little ones for hours. This does not give anyone a free pass to zone out on their cell phones or laptops while their children are trying to have a unintelligible conversation with you. And, no, you can't hide in a different room all day and ignore the frustrated screams of the other adult in the house who can't deal with being around kids anymore.

Everyone has to chip in. This can be done in a number of ways: (a) Tag Team= Don't start having a WWF match in your living room. Let's not be tempted to "Powerdrive" or "Leg Drop" your kid! There are other ways to get your frustrations out. No, I mean take shifts with your kids. Let one adult go relax somewhere else in the house or outside somewhere while the other looks after the kids. Take an hour, but no more than two, before coming back to let your spouse have their break. (b) Family outing= get out and go for a hike or to the park or take a day trip somewhere in the car. A change of scenery can get kids to behave a little better for a little longer than being stuck in the house. They will go stir crazy and someone always gets annoyed, and later, hurt. I'll leave you to guess who gets what. (c) Schedule play dates with other adults= Having coffee or a BBQ with other child sufferers can lessen the load of watching your kids because others are their to look after them.So you can have a few drinks if you want, can finish a sentence, and other children can occupy your children. Win-win! (Going to a kid's birthday party can have the same effect. I'm looking forward to spring. Lots of kids were born in this season.)

Whatever you choose to do make sure both you and your spouse allow each other a break without nagging or complaints. A simple "It's Your Turn", or for the more juvenile, "Tag Your It, Neener-neener."

Sleeping In is More Like Rest Your Eyes for A Little Longer Than Usual
Again parenthood excludes you from the basic joys, like sleeping in. Things you took for granted in your life before children stage. A short pause for a sigh of nostalgia. And back to the present. We all know that young kids do not need an alarm clock. They don't even need the sun to tell them to get up. Half of them beat the sun and wake you up to tell you about it. The more you try not to fight this fact the better your life will be.

There are a few tricks I have used to prolong the total waking up early on a weekend nuisance. 1st- one adult takes the ring leader who started this wake up early revolt and place them somewhere in front of a low sounding television. Now the low volume is important because it will keep the others sleeping for a little while longer and you can doze back without the loud sounds of cartoon characters smashing into things. 2nd- When the baby starts stirring, place he/she in between you and your hubby. You will not be in a deep sleep but you can rest your eyes for another 15 to 30 more minutes. If you're really lucky, you'll get an hour. Fingers crossed. 3rd- 20 minutes to an hour after the ring leader has woken up, the others will start getting up. Let them come to you. Maybe bring them in the bed with you for a lazy tickle monster attack or a kissey assault. This maneuver will help buy another 5 to 10 minutes before the real work begins.

The Control Freak Must Die!
Workaholics if you want to survive this 3-day and/or a normal weekend, kill the control freak in you. This red monster does no one any favors. It will stress you out and make others fear your presence. When you see the counter not being wiped down before your spouse starts preparing lunch, let it go. When the laundry needs folding and you are busy in your break time or feeding the baby or whatever and you notice your spouse isn't doing a damn thing, just breath out "Woooosaaaahhhh!" Remember you can't and shouldn't do everything, especially on the weekends or holidays. Some things will get done by the other adult. It may not be your way or at the time you need it to be. But it will get done. Find peace with that and relax.

If the control freak tries to resurrect itself, leave the room. Don't look at the disaster that is about to unfold. When you have settled the beast, come back and say what needs to be done or suggest a better way of doing something. Do all this without anger, attitude, and/or frustration. You may need to collect yourself for a few hours so this talk can wait for later that day or maybe even the next day. Yeah just tell them tomorrow. You should be calm by then.

If your last weekend or 3-day weekend, didn't go as relaxing as planned, try these techniques next time. They may help. The important thing to remember is that both you and your working spouse need to communicate and help each other out during this kid zone time. Also enjoy each other with your children. Family time can be fun, just kill off any control issues and let the flow begin!

What do you do to enjoy your weekends? What usually doesn't work? And what sometimes works? What are some good family outings to do? 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Workaholic Turned 1st Time Homemaker

Piles of laundry to place in a tiny European washing machine. A conveyor belt of bottle washing and changing diapers. Nightly toy retrieval and shower time battles. Daily dressing tackles, dish-washing, cooking and cleaning. FACEBOOK, the mailman, and the grocery clerk are your only chances for adult conversation, besides your husband. A routine life for a homemaker. Yes, you can plan your own schedule. Yes, you get bonding time with your little ones. Yes, you can marvel in the security that your children are in safe hands. (Well, until they totally piss you off.) Yes, you are saving on money that would be solely earned to finance a stranger to raise your kids. But for a workaholic, not having the work you spend your whole life doing, or a paycheck to reflect that hard work, can make YOU LOSE YOUR MIND!

For fellow 1st time homemakers, such as myself, or for homemakers who are starting to burn out, I have a list of guidelines to help numb the loss of your old work-is-my-life to embracing your new you-have-to-take-care-of-everybody life aka being a stay-at-home daddy/mommy:

1. Wash Yourself! You may not need to get up to head into early morning traffic, sardine your way into a crowded elevator, then speak to a boss and/or clients. You may not even leave the house all day. So what!?! Well, bums don't wash their ass. Couch potatoes, stoners and drug addicts don´t. Depressed and suicidal people don't scrub themselves either. Are you one or more of those people? Do you want to be? No. Then wash your ass! Daily! Believe me keeping up with your daily hygiene will keep you in a positive state of mind. Also it will make your body ready for whatever is to come.

2. Have a Flexible Routine. Now with children, esp. small ones, any plans you make will ALWAYS, ALWAYS be derailed somehow. Lunch may be an hour late or early because of your child(ren). The laundry didn't get done that day. The house is a mess. Dinner unexpectedly turned into take out pizza. These hiccups will happen. The key is to be okay with it and having a daily goal or two.

                    Here is my flexible routine:
    • 7:50am: wake up 3 yr. old and get her ready for school (I live in Spain so thankfully public school starts at age 3. Can I get an AMEN!:))
    • 8:45amish: Daddy and 3 yr. old are off to school
    • 8:45 amish -9:30 am: breakfast for the baby and I. Quick shower (Sometimes shower has to wait til hubby returns from gym or work)
    • 9:30 - 11 amish: anything that can't be done when 3 yr old is at home, this is the time to do it. (That can be writing, working on webpages, deep cleaning, running errands, reading, social networking, looking for work, or just 'me' time. Taking into consideration that the baby will need to be frequently attended to during this sacred time.)
    • 11amish: snack time for baby and me (It's important to take a break from whatever you are doing. It helps recharge your batteries.)
    • Around 12:30pmish: start cooking lunch. I give myself an hour or more to make lunch because I know there will always be something to distract me, either the baby or my husband. (Also here in Spain, lunch is a bigger meal than dinner. So when you may be doing sandwiches and chips for lunch, I´m cooking a protein with two sides dish. More dishes to use and clean! Brilliant!)
    • 2pm: 3yr old returns and the battle of "Eat Your Lunch" begins
    • 3pmish: Hubby off to work and I  do a 20-minute walk with baby in carrier and 3 yr. old in a stroller. (The best and fastest way to get them to nap.)
    • An hour to an hour and a half of silence!!!!!! (Time for me or projects!)
    • After Nap Snack time for me, 3 yr. old and baby
    • An hour of TV time so I can surface clean the house and/or complete the laundry.
    • 7pmish: out of the house for playground time.
    • 8pmish: cook light dinner aka American version of lunch
    • 9pmish: feed baby while watching last kid show before night time routine and sometimes it gives me time to participate in social media, practice Spanish, write, or whatever
    • 9:30 to 10pm: bedtime routine and daddy's finally home.(Hooray!) I hand over the majority of the bedtime duties and retire to the patio for some fresh air and a (much needed) glass of wine.
    • An hour of Daddy and Mommy time, usually watching a TV show or part of a movie. Then off to bed to do it all over again.
Some days barely any of these get done or they are all out of order. But I feel like I have purpose in the day and know what needs to get done.It keep this workaholic on track.

3. Put the Wine Down! When that dinner glass of wine turns out to be the 3rd or 5th glass of the day, you may need to pump your breaks. Day drinking can be lots of fun----when you aren't taking care of minors by yourself! Drinking to numb yourself into this new and sometimes unwanted occupation can stir up feelings of depression, worthlessness, and/or deep irritation. 

When you were employed, I hope you weren't drinking on the job. If you were, remember how irritable you got when the small hang over started and you had more work to get done. Remember, your thoughts and actions were not on point. Also things would bother you more that made you react in a more negative way than when you were dead sober. This, too, would happen drinking at home with your kids.

4. Find a Hobby or Side Job to Do from Home. Not all of us are freaking Donna Reed or Peggy Bundy. We don't make our homes spotless or let it go to pigsty hell. Homemaking is not limited to cleaning, washing, and taking care of kids. If you enjoy doing something, do it now. If you can find a way to make it lucrative, even better. We live in the golden age of  the INTERNET. You can work, sell, and socialize at a few strokes of  the PC keys. Do your research and find something for you. 

I manage a teaching resource site, do online ESL teaching, and this blog. Nothing is helping pay for that dream vacation or that fancy night out but I am enjoying the process of keeping busy with things I am interested in. Find your interest and go for it. What have you always wanted to do but never had the time? Make time now. 

5. If You Have a Hobby or Side Job, Set a Time to Do It When You Can Do It. Don't try to write or work when the children who can walk and talk are around. They will constantly interrupt you with: questions, broken stuff, dirty stuff, 'I want a snack' stuff, 'play with me' stuff, 'Linus touched my things', etc. This will drive you crazy and make your work take longer. It's not worth the stress. You'll be upset because you can't get the simplest things done and they will reap from your anger. 

Try to pick a time when your children are fully distracted or napping or snacking. Give them a "fun" project to do that barely needs your supervision or help. Let them watch their favorite TV show. Or wait for a time when you know they are the most docile and quiet. For me, its when my eldest wakes up or is snacking. You could even start playing with them in their room then slowly sneak out. It buys me a good half hour most times.

Worse comes to worse, wait to do any work after they have gone to bed. Either way make time. 

If you are going to disregard my advice, don't get your panties in a bunch when you are constanty interrupted. Calmly deal with the distraction and come back when you can. Don't bite their heads off when your kid(s) need or want your attention. They are only little. They don't understand that you are not interested or excited by coloring or playing with My Little Pony or moving miniature cars around while making 'vroom, vroom' noises. They don't understand deadlines. They don't even know what the time is.

6. Enjoy Your Child(ren). For some, a year or two of this transition period is the only time you will really spend with them. And if homemaking is your life occupation, soon your children will be involved with school, extracurricular activities and friends. Cherish the time! Talk and laugh with them. Watch their favorite shows with them. Color. Get down on the floor with your child and make those damn 'vroom, vroom' noises. That will be your paycheck: the joy of being their parent. Now I'm not saying you have to do it all day, but when the opportunity arises, don't brush them off. Interact!

7. Get Out of the House. Even for a short errand, getting out of the house can help the depression feeling go away. Spending too much time in one place can make you bored and weary. A change of scenery can rejuvenate you.

8. Don't Let the TV Be the Babysitter. I know it sounds like some hippy crap. But it is true. Kids misbehave more when they have been vegging out in front of the television. They are acting out from boredom and in attention. Limit their TV intake and you will limit the zombie type disobedience.

Also do you want your kids learning some of the stereotypes, rude behavior, unhealthy lifestyles, and greed that TVland broadcasts for entertainment? You're at home so teach them your values and perspectives of the world. (Unless your a bigot, then keep your mouth shut.) Okay, now I earned my hippy badge.
9. Walk Away. The strain of taking care of small children as well as every day life challenges can make even the most holiest of people break. If you don't want to catch a case, before that breaking point, wake away. Your child could be screaming bloody murder. It doesn't matter. Walk away. When you have cooled off, come back to solve the matter. The guilt of harming your child will overpower any rage you may have felt. Don't let it get to that point.

10. Learn Your Child(ren)'s Cries. New mothers usually run to their darlings every time they cry. Not only is this exhausting, it can give someone a 'cry wolf' complex. Also if you know the degree of alert that your child is signaling, you can gauge how much they need you and sometimes even what they need. It's the difference between completing a task and never able to do anything(even pee!).

Think of it as the terrorists alert codes: 

  • Code Green means they are unsettled and may even soothe themselves. 
  • Code Yellow is a warning that soon they might have a full on fit if you don't make a quick appearance. They may need a burp, companionship, or aren't happy in that position, etc. Either way, you have some time before you need to act.
  • Code Orange  is a right fit mode. It means they are hungry or need help with something right at that moment.
  • Code Red signals that the shit has hit the fan and something dangerous has just happened.

 Learn what cry goes with what code to save your sanity, if nothing else.


Homemaking is a new experience for me. I have always worked and let that work consume my life. With my first child, my husband was the homemaker for two years. I remember hearing about his woes every day when I returned from a long day of teaching. And I always thought what is the big deal. Now I know.

What do you do when you aren't use to sitting still? How do you survive without set duties from an authority? Without deadlines set by others? Without adult contact? What do you do when you aren't Mary Poppins, Donna Reed, or Peggy Bundy? YOU FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES and DON'T LOSE YOUR MIND!

What flexible routine do you try to do as a homemaker? Are there any guidelines you follow to keep your sanity?