4 days in Indiana

I took Cecily to visit Diane in Indianapolis this weekend. I met Diane at Hamline when we were both getting our MFA, and I kept her. She is one of my favorite people in the entire world, and our oldest kids are the same ages. (Maddie and Alice are five and Simon and Violet are three.) 

I haven’t visited Diane or Indiana in five years, so it was time. I brought Cecily with me because she’s still nursing, and also because I have separation anxiety (she’s only twelve months old!) and because she gives Zach the hardest time of all of the kids.

I’m so glad I brought her. It was the first real alone time we’ve had together, and it was wonderful. She was so good! And she’s so funny.


We arrived on Thursday, after a flight that really wasn’t so bad. Cecily slept for an hour of it, whine-cried for an hour of it, and poked the girl next to us, chanting “Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!” for about an hour and a half. 

Diane picked us up at the airport, and it was just so good to see her. Cecily and I shared the guest room, and though she’s never slept anywhere but her own crib or bassinet before, she did such a great job sleeping through the night each night we were there. She adjusted to the three hour time difference like a pro.


On Friday, we went to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum with the three kids. What an amazing place!


Cecily was pretty tuckered out by the end of it. 

On Friday night, after all of the girls were in bed, Diane and I walked around her neighborhood and watched the sunset and drank wine coolers. It was the best. (And look, I know we’re talking about my short and wonderful trip, and I know we’re looking at cute pictures, and I know that literally no one in the whole world cares about how many Fitbit steps I got, but honestly. I got hella Fitbit steps this weekend.)

On Saturday, we went to the zoo. It was such a great zoo, too. I petted a shark! We saw dolphins! Macaws spontaneously flew over our heads! 


Diane dropped Cecily and me off at Bub’s Burgers, where I met up with my inlaws. Cecily got to see Granny Jill again, and meet her Aunt Anni. I had a portobello sandwich that I’ve been thinking about ever since. It was marvelous.

When Diane picked us up after lunch, we went to this really sweet part of Zionsville that reminded me a lot of Amherst, MA. We went to Black Dog Books, which is a small bookstore with an extremely sweet mascot named Sophie. (She’s a black dog.) I bought too many books. But I’m glad I did! I found a Tasha Tudor book in the children’s section, and talked loudly enough about Tasha Tudor that the woman at the desk came over and brought me to a gorgeous book all about Tasha Tudor’s gardens in Vermont. She told me that she knows the man who wrote Tasha Tudor’s biography, and he gifted her some hollyhocks from Tasha Tudor’s farm, and those very hollyhocks are growing in front of the store. What! What an awesome thing! The woman behind the desk had also lived in Massachusetts. I love how small the world is, sometimes.

And I bought the book about Tasha Tudor’s gardens. As if you even had to wonder.

The last time we visited Diane, Maddie was only six months old. Diane and Andrew and their new baby Alice had just moved into their house, and they began this fantastic tradition of getting their guests to paint their hands or feet and stick them on a wall. I added Cecily’s footprint right next to Maddie’s on Saturday evening.


Cecily was wigglier than Maddie.

On our second evening wine cooler walk, we saw the cutest foal and its mother. The foal walked right up to us! I sent a picture to Zach so he’d show Maddie, and she was appropriately thrilled.


On Sunday morning, Diane showed me and Cecily around Broad Ripple, which was both hip and lovely. We walked on a trail, stopped for coffee, had Indian food for lunch, and drove around Diane’s alma mater, Butler. At the coffee shop, a very cute dog named Gabe befriended Cecily, and his owner asked about my books and wrote down my name and made me feel a little bit like Judy Garland in A Star is Born.


And then Cecily and I flew back home to the PNW.


I miss Diane and her family already, but I’m also so glad to see mine! Zach, Maddie, Simon, and the cats seemed pretty glad to see us, too. 

It was such a lovely, lovely trip.

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Simon

I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just begin with the fact that Simon was diagnosed with autism earlier in January. We knew for about a month before that to expect his diagnosis, so the “coming to terms with it” part is over. And I’m glad. That part sucked. It was a really hard December.

The way that I deal with things – with new information or big changes – is to read. So I read. I read some great books (Look Me in The Eye by John Elder Robison) and some truly wonderful blogs (Awenesty of Autism, Diary of a Mom). I watched some Ted Talks (Temple Grandin’s) and many informative YouTube videos (Nick Walker’s). If you have questions, like I did, Amythest’s series “Ask an Autistic” is a great place to start.

I can’t answer many questions. I can tell you that we’re doing everything that’s been recommended for Simon (we’re entering the busy world of multiple therapies + developmental preschool), and that he’s been making some phenomenal progress in OT (which he started in November) and speech therapy (which he started in January). I can tell you that he’s as amazing as ever, and that he’s brilliant with numbers, letters, and shapes. I can tell you that he is as sweet and happy as ever. There wasn’t a regression. There wasn’t anything like what I’d always thought would be a tell-tale sign of autism. (He has a million words. He has ALL of the words. He just struggles to communicate with them. But there has been progress, and there will be so much more progress.) I can tell you that he sings beautifully and his art is surprising and wonderful. I can tell you that he’s imaginative and funny (hilarious, actually), and that I don’t worry this month the way I did last month, and definitely not the way I worried two months ago.

I thought I’d never stop crying about this, but all of a sudden, I did stop. I started paying attention to the remarkable autistic people around us who are accomplishing amazing things, and who are living their best, happiest, brightest lives. Autism isn’t what I thought it was, and acceptance (and encouraging acceptance) takes up a lot of room in my heart right now.

I’m excited to see what’s ahead for Simon, and for all of us.

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I have a book deal!

A four-book chapter book series deal, to be precise! I have been playing dreamy Disney songs in my head on a loop over the last couple of months, ever since my agent first called with the offer from ABDO, and I am so excited to finally be able to shout it from the rooftop. Well, the blog top.

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The book series is about Winicker Wallace, a spunky eight-year-old girl whose family moves to Paris.

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The Winicker books will be illustrated. Illustrated! I get an illustrator! I told Zach that I am over the moon about that part, and that I can’t wait till they choose an illustrator, and that I imagine the author-illustrator relationship must be a very mystical, spiritual one. Zach said, “That’s so weird. I wouldn’t say that to the illustrator.” Fair point.

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While all of this feels like What?! Is this real life?? How is this happening? the truth is that it was years of work. And not giving up. Not giving up after thirty rejections, and not giving up after the thirty rejections after that. Over a year ago, while I was working on maybe the sixth full revision of Winicker, I messaged my thesis advisor from Hamline, Sheila O’Connor, and told her where I was with my book. She wrote back, “The people who make it are the people who stay in it. Never quit.” Sheila, you amazing advisor, you are so right. So I’m passing that piece of advice on to all of you, because it’s such good advice. Never quit. It sounds pretty basic, but let me tell you, when you have three tiny children and two-thirds of them are in diapers and all three of them cry because it’s bedtime and they hate, hate, hate bedtime – you sometimes think that quitting on your manuscript, even temporarily, is the way to go. But man, am I glad I didn’t.

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A Tough Morning

Maddie’s 4 is like anyone else’s 12. This has been one of those mornings. The arguing and talking back started before we’d even gotten out of bed. 

By the time I had a second coffee, I was exhausted. Arguing with my preschooler is the most exhausting thing.

So I started looking at photos of her from the last four years.


Boy, was she cute.



And boy, did I love her.


And you know what?


She still is.


And I still do. 

And I always will. 

These years are rough. But I think they can be rough and wonderful at the same time. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve cracked that code and am living my best mom life. Sometimes, like this morning, I don’t feel that way at all. 

I’ll keep working on it. And I’ll have another coffee or two.

Christmanticipation in September

I love this time of year. I love the leaves and the weather and the lattes (pumpkin spice), and I love the very long countdown to Christmas. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having gleeful awareness that The Big Day is only three months away. I don’t think there is anything wrong with making lists. (1: Buy the new She & Him Christmas album the literal second it comes out. October 28th. You’re welcome. 2: Burn another copy of the first She & Him Christmas album, because two of the songs sound kind of skippy from previous years’ overplaying.) 


I get kind of bummed when friends gnash their teeth over stores advertising Christmas layaway this early. No one is being forcefed gingerbread, guys. No one is sneaking candy canes under anyone’s pillow. Christmas doesn’t take anything away from Halloween (which I love) or Thanksgiving (which I extra love). The anticipation of winter holidays is just a part of why this pumpkin season is so great.


Let’s not begrudge anyone’s countdown to Hallmark’s two months of nonstop Christmas movies.


Let’s not raise eyebrows at those who are already adding peppermint Torani to their coffee.


Facebook and Tweet in heavenly peace, guys. 

A tale of babies, books, and blogging breaks

Hello there! It’s been about a year since I’ve blogged. So much has happened! So many cool things! I’ll do my best to break it down.

I had a baby!


Her name is Cecily, and she’s two and a half months old.

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She’s my third. “Boy, you’ve got your hands full!” says every stranger at Target. (It’s true, though. I do have my hands full.)

My book! Remember Winicker, the chapter book I’d been sending to agents? Well, she found representation about two weeks after Cecily was born! My agent is awesome Cindy Uh at Thompson Literary Agency.

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I’ve been revising a book, keeping three small children alive, and preparing myself for the madness of the coming school year. (Regular preschool moms are probably looking forward to the break. This cooperative preschool mom is wondering how she’s going to survive the year of working in both Simon’s Toddlers class and in Maddie’s PreK class. While wearing a baby.)

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Anyway, I missed you, blog. I did. I missed you. I hope you missed me, too.

Here’s a cute picture of my kids.

It’s Fall! (Almost.)

And you know what that means. So much pumpkin food! And so many fall crafts! We had a fall wreath crafting session at the Sosbys about a month ago, and now my wreath is hanging on our front door.

  
(Michael’s is where it’s at for wreath supplies.)

I found a leaf template at www.bystephanielynn.com, printed out several sheets on card stock, and had the kids color, paint, and draw on them.

  
  
Then I spent fourteen million years cutting out all of the leaves. I hole punched them and strung them along some orange and white baker’s twine we found at the dollar spot at Target. (I live for the dollar spot at Target.) 

   
 
Boom. Fall garland. (You’ll notice I’ve been too lazy to erase Maddie’s first day of preschool sign from the chalkboard on the mantel. She started school last Tuesday, and I’m dropping her off and leaving for the first time ever this Tuesday, and I’m very weepy about it. I’m sure I’ll do a blog post about that at some point.) 

  
Speaking of the dollar spot – we found these cute window gels there, too. Notice the cat in my backyard. She’s not our cat, but I give her treats sometimes, and I call her Snuggle Bunchkin. She makes Beezus needlessly anxious. (She does have a house. It’s right behind our house. But she’s an adventurer, and you can’t keep Snuggle Bunchkin from adventuring.) 

We bought multiple packs of those window gels, and while my adorable children snoozed on the couch Thursday after our Target trip, I decorated their bedroom window.

  
When Maddie woke up, I told her to check out her bedroom window. I went upstairs five minutes later, and she had ripped apart nearly every window gel and thrown them on the floor. 

What the f***? 

(Look, I really watch my language on the reg. I live with two kids under four. However, it’s my blog, and I can asterisk swear if I want to.) Why would you do something like that? She claimed she was feeding the ducks. Preschoolers. That’s why. Preschoolers are chock full o’ nuts. 

We’ve been doing a lot of drawing and painting with autumn colors this week.

   
 
I’m really getting excited about the improvement in Maddie’s drawing skills! She drew a family portrait (above – it’s the one with the four circles that kind of have faces and limbs). Simon likes experimenting with color and smearing techniques. 

And that’s what we’ve been up to. C’mon, fall!