NaNoWriMo – Day 13-15

At the end of Day 12, I was halfway at 25,000. My goal for days 13-15 was to make 1,667 each day. I wanted to keep my lead. Sounds simple enough right?

Day 13 – Goal 1,667 (Cumulative 26,667)
I didn’t have a lot going on this day. I didn’t write at lunch, which I have been trying to do. But I got a few hundred words on the way to work, so at least I wasn’t looking at starting from scratch in the evening. Things at home were busy and difficult, but I struggled through getting to my goal just before midnight. Actual – 26,667

Day 14 – Goal 1,667 (28,333)
Wednesdays are my gymnastics day. Once again I didn’t do enough writing at work to have much of a lead going into the evening. I’m out of lunch writing practice and I need to do better. It was a slow start, but once I got going I wrote the last 400ish words very quickly. I finished up a bit late again, but not as late as Tuesday. In the end, I even had about a hundred extra words. Actual – 28,450

Day 15 – Goal 1,667 (30,000)
My pattern this year has been to get ahead, stay ahead for a few days and then have a really bad day with only a few hundred words that eats up my lead. I was determined to break the pattern. I didn’t succeed. I wrote a few hundred words on my way to work, and thought I would write more at lunch … but I forgot we had a retirement lunch for my old boss. Then when I got home I had to make food for the writing retreat and pack my bags. I just had too much to get done, and I wasn’t able to hit the keyboard again. I have had too many tiny word could days this year. Actual – 28,800

I really wanted to have 30,000 words before heading off on the writing retreat. I might still get it before leaving the city, but with the poor weather who knows how many words I’ll get tonight. I guess we’ll see in my next update how things went.

Do you have any big writing events planned this month? Is your family still feeling supportive of your writing efforts halfway through the month?

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NaNoWriMo – Day 10-12

At the end of Day 9, I had lost my lead but was still sitting at par. My goal for these three days was to get three days ahead. That means a double word day each day of the long weekend.

Day 10 – Goal 3,333 (Cumulative ~18,500)
This was the first day of a three day weekend. My goal for all three days was simple; get 3,333 each day. My husband took on a lot of the ‘extra’ stuff for me, and I was able to get a lot of writing time in. I got my first 2,000 words fairly quickly and easily, but then I hit a rough patch. It was a slog to get the next 1,000, but then I raced through the last 400 words. I finished the day with a little over my goal, putting me (once again) at one day ahead. Hopefully this time I will build on my lead instead of burning it up. Actual – 18,600

Day 11 – Goal 3,333 (~22,000)
A second double day felt like a tall order. Most years I have at least a few big word days (over 5,000). This year I seem to be getting a decent day of words followed shortly by a horrible day of words. I was determined to break the pattern. I had plans to go climbing in the afternoon, and I needed to get some laundry done, but the rest of the day was mine to write with. It was a slog, and I didn’t quite make it, but I wasn’t too far off. Actual – 21,100

Day 12 – Goal 3,900 (25,000)
I really wanted to be three days ahead by the end of the long weekend. Monday was a bit busier than I anticipated. My husband was at work and it was just my son and me at home. I broke the day into smaller goals. 500 words over breakfast, 1,000 before lunch, another 1,000 before dinner, and the rest after the kid was in bed. I came close on most of the goals and when I went to bed I had hit my goal for the end of the weekend. Actual – 25,000 halfway!

Are you starting to lag? or have you just hit your stride?

 

NaNoWriMo – Day 4-6

When last we left off I was about 1,000 words behind at the end of day 3. In short, things were not going well. I’m not worried yet though. Here is how days 4-6 played out.

Day 4 – Goal 5,000 words (cumulative 9,050)
Five thousand words might sound like a lot, but I always have at least a few 5,000 word days during Nano. I figured if I could get one in early, then I could get a good buffer of words going. I did have a good writing day, but I also had a lot of distractions. I managed to get 3,500 words and I was ahead at the end of the day by about 1,300. I went to bed feeling better about this whole NaNoWriMo thing. Actual – 7,600

Day 5 – Goal ~2,400 words (10,000)
If I hit 2,400 words, I would be one full day ahead. That would give me a lot more leeway going forward when bad days happen. On my way to work, I wrote a little over 250 words, and I was feeling good about the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I had another frustrating personal day on Monday and only wrote a total of 800 words. I was still at par with 8,400, but I certainly wasn’t ahead by as much as I would have liked. Actual – 8,400

Day 6 – Goal ~3,250 words (11,667)
My goal for the day was 3,250. I still haven’t given up on getting at least one day ahead. At a minimum, I vowed not to fall behind. I wrote a little bit at lunch getting around 400 words. After work, I had friends over for weight lifting (it was my night off, but I helped keep track of sets). Once they headed out I really got down to business. I finished the day with almost exactly 3,250 words. Finally, I made my word count for a day! Actual – 11,666

How is your NaNoWriMo going? Are you ahead or behind?

2018 Resolutions/Goals

More important, to me, than the resolutions, is the process of figuring out what I want to focus on for the year. I weed out the things I don’t care about and figure out the things that matter to me.

When I started thinking about my priorities for this year, I found myself drawn to the same things: Crafting, writing, organizing, and fitness. It’s nice that my focus is staying the same. I like that my priorities are shifting in the same range rather than changing wildly. This year I also want to focus a bit more on family and friends. I need to work a little harder at maintaining my relationships.

Crafting
I didn’t get as much quilting done as I wanted last year. This year I am going to try being much more specific in what I want to achieve.

  1. Quilt and bind my son’s bed quilt and my lap quilt
  2. Finish the quilt top for a family friend and for my Mom
  3. Finish at least three cross stitches (holiday DONE! and two family portraits)
  4. Bonus – Two more family cross stitches

Writing
Another area where I didn’t do as much as I wanted.

  1. Finish the rough draft of my MG SciFi
  2. Do basic edits to get a first draft of my MG SciFi
  3. Submit to Critique Group at least six times
  4. Finish a second draft that is ready for a final polish – MG SciFi

Organizing
I think part of why this goal is so hard is because I can’t figure out specifics. I’m going to try though.

  1. Continue to put as much out of the house as we bring in
  2. Sell or donate all unused items in the basement storage room
  3. Move out of season or out of size clothes to basement storage
  4. Deal with paper in the study
  5. Set up my desk in the study

Fitness
I’m still doing gymnastics, but I think the biggest things holding me back are my lack of strength and flexibility. Along with cardio I want to focus on those.

  1. Weight train twice a week
  2. Cardio twice a week
  3. Flexibility two to three times a week

Family

  1. Eat dinner as a family at least twice a week (working up to four times a week)
  2. Facetime with SIL’s family once a month
  3. Boardgames with S and C at least 10 times

That is a lot of goals! I’m feeling worn out just writing them all down. Many are very small though and won’t take much time. I need to remember to plan out what I want to accomplish each month to get things done over the next year.

What are you hoping to accomplish this year? Do you set resolutions?

Double Update Again – Day 6 & 7

Alright another double NaNoWriMo update today. I would have posted about day 6 yesterday, but I thought posting my next seven NaNo Daily Challenges was more important (and fun!). Today I’ll get to the word count updates.

Day 6:
Mondays have busy afternoons, but lazy early evenings. My son has a martial arts class, but my husband takes him. The time between school and martial arts is kind of tight, so I have to get dinner on the table earlier. But! Once he is fed and out the door, I have about an hour and 45 minutes to myself. During November, and I hope I keep this habit after, I write during this time. When he gets home it is a whirlwind bedtime followed by more writing.

My daily challenge was to use “yes, but” and “no, and”. I was introduced to this idea during the No Prep NaNo course I took with Mary Robinette Kowal. The idea intrigued me and I decided it would make a great daily challenge. It was a lot of fun, and it did give me a way to pile things on top of my character. In many cases it also helped me keep the story moving. Twice I found myself not using the technique and I went back and fixed it to my stories betterment. Final word count of the day was just over 2,500.

Day 7:
I didn’t get started on my writing until after 7:30p. With a daily goal of 2,500 this was later than I’d like. I got a workout in before picking up my son at school, and the time was well spent even if it meant getting a later start on writing. Sometimes in November I focus too much on writing and forget other things (like my fitness) matter. Glad I got the workout in.

My daily challenge was to show character emotion through action instead of labels. I’ve been working on this for a while, but the bigger problem I really face isn’t a labeling issue, but a poor description of emotions. Definitely something I need to continue to think about and work on. The first 1,800 words were a slog. It felt slow and cumbersome, but the last 700 flew by. I love when I hit my stride like that. Total at the end of the day was just over 18,000!

Are you on track for NaNo? What writing weaknesses are you working on?

Creating a Calm Zone

My son, like most kids I guess, sometimes needs a space to calm down. We live in a small, or so I’ve been told, house and we didn’t have a dedicated quiet space. About a week ago we decided what we needed was a calm zone. A simple, calm, uncluttered space, with quiet toys to be used only in that area.

Finding a space was a bit of a challenge. Our dinning room and living room weren’t going to work, so we were left with finding space in my son’s bedroom. He has a half loft bed, and we thought about utilizing some of the space under it, but it is already used as a play space and is cluttered with toys even at the best of times. Then my husband had a great idea. The closet!

Our house is old enough that my son’s closet is only a half closet, the bottom half  is a wooden box hiding the fact that the space has been used to make head room for the stairs underneath. The good news is, that because of that box, his closet makes a great seat. I loved the idea, and set out to make it work. I had the space cleared out (and a big bag to go in the donations box) in one afternoon.

Then, I bought the supplies to make a seat cushion and a throw pillow. One night I put my sewing machine to good use and pillows! I’m pleased with the results since I’ve never made a seat cushion before, and I wasn’t starting with a straight forward rectangle. I made sure to include a zipper, so the cushion cover can be washed when needed. For the throw pillow I used a simple envelope cover pattern. My son chose the fabrics himself. The elephants are flannel because he liked how soft it was against his face, for the seat cushion I used a home decor fabric.

A simple calm zoneIn a little over a week we had a finished calm zone. The red suitcase is from IKEA, and it holds his calm zone toys. We picked quiet toys, books, a stuffed animal, and a notebook from his current toys. The bolster was a leftover from an old couch. I will probably recover it at some point.

The space is simple, but it works. He has added our battery powered camp lantern and enjoys reading in his calm zone before bed, or drawing in the afternoon if he just needs a break.

Do you have a calm (or chill) zone in your house? Where do you go when you need time to yourself?

Raising a Reader

My kid is at that age where he and his peers are learning to read. Most have moved into basic chapter books, some have moved into full chapter books. My kid is struggling through the books just before basic chapter books. In short he is a bit behind. We’ve put in the time, he has put in the work, but my son still doesn’t enjoy reading. Currently I have him reading the Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold. The best he can say about them is that he doesn’t hate them. I think he almost likes them, but he wishes he was reading something more like an early chapter book about detectives and super spies. He isn’t ready for those yet. I wish he was, but he isn’t.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about him not liking to read is that we have done all the ‘right’ things. We have done all the things the articles say to do if you want to ‘Raise a Reader’. We’ve always read him stories before bed and during the day. My husband and I read books both on our electronic devices and in paper copies. We keep magazines and books by our bed and at the end of his. My couch always has a small pile of books, and the dinning room table usually has to have a book or two removed before we can sit to eat. My kid can’t go to sleep without a bedtime story. He will even make up his own stories if someone else is willing to write them down for him.

We did all the ‘right’ things, but my kid isn’t a reader. He is an “I’ll only read if I absolutely can’t get out of it and you make me read” kind of reader. When other parents brag about ‘raising a reader’ I get a little jealous. They probably didn’t do anything more than I did. In many cases they have done much less! I’ve realized though that the problem isn’t that I did something wrong, it’s that I’m looking at it wrong. I can’t force my kid to love reading. I did all the right things, and while he isn’t a reader he is a lover of books, stories, and knowledge. Maybe it was the article title that was wrong. It shouldn’t be ‘How to raise a reader’, but ‘How to encourage your child to love books’.

My kid loves books. He will sit and listen to us read to him for longer than I am up to reading out loud. He thrives on new facts and knowledge from non-fiction books and magazines. He will retell the story of our latest spy novel over the dinner table. He looks through Dwell magazine and points out the things he likes and the things he doesn’t. We have given him a love of books and learning, and I’ve finally realized that is even more important than a love of reading.

Do you have any young readers in your life? What books did they enjoy when they weren’t quite ready for early chapter readers?

Photo Pocket Insert for my Fauxdori

Photo pocket insert for a fauxdori

I realized a few weeks ago that I don’t carry pictures of my kid with me. As a parent one of the questions people semi frequently ask is what does your kid look like now. Until last week the only picture I had of my son was from daycare … he hasn’t been in daycare for years. If I have my iPad with me I can show more recent pictures, but they are all silly shots. Things like him dressed up with a mask on, or of something he built covering half his blurry face.

These days it is rare for me to be out without my fauxdori, so I figured why not add pictures to it. I found these photo pockets at Michael’s and decided to use them to add a picture insert to my fauxdori. I used duck brand duct tape (I cut about 1/2 cm off the width), to attach two sheets together and ta-da I have a photo insert.

You could make the duck tape narrower, but I wanted it to wrap around one my notebooks instead of using it as stand alone insert. I think having it wrap around one of my notebooks also takes pressure off the duct tape, so it should last longer. The duct tape needs to be wide enough to wrap around the spine of the notebook because the plastic of the photo insert is too thick to curve. I also made sure to pinch the duct tape together in each of the little cut outs for the binder rings the insert is intended for to help keep everything in place.

I’ve been using the photo insert for about a week, and I’m really happy with it. I now have pictures of my family, most recent obstacle style race, my nieces and nephews, and some motivational sayings. Each large pocket is 3×4 inches, so you can get two from a single 4×6. The smaller pockets are 2×2, so you can get six from a 4×6 print. It cost me less than a dollar to print the pictures I needed. Can’t complain about that.

Do you ever print pictures anymore? What is your favourite Fauxdoti insert?

Teaching my Reluctant Reader

Popsicle stick word gameMy son is a reluctant reader. I actually feel like this term isn’t quite right. He is more like a “violently against anything that remotely resembles reading, ESPECIALLY if it has to be done out loud” reader. On a bad day I can spend 2.5 hours getting him to do ten minutes of reading. (these days we are down to 15 minutes of complaining before 15 minutes of work)

His reluctance for reading is particularly hard since we are a family of readers, and we did all the ‘right’ things. My husband and I read both electronic and paper books. We are both big fans of (over) researching new hobbies and skills both online and in library books. When my son was little we went to the library weekly (now it is every two weeks). We have always read him stories before bed. We read to him in the middle of the day when he has had too much TV, but we need to have a calm break. We have succeeded in giving him a love of books … as long as someone else is reading them to him.

Last summer I put in a lot of time teaching my son to read. He made great progress, but he was still behind. Over the course of the school year he made slow gains, but he never caught up. He is still about half a grade level behind. So we are back at our reading lessons this summer.

This year we are focusing on fluency more than getting to a higher reading level. So we are working on sight words, letter recognition, and of course just plain old reading practice. Here are a few things that are making our reading work a little less onerous this year:

  1. Fiddlesticks – He actually LIKES playing this game. We use about 35 words at a time from the dolch list and four red tipped sticks. We usually play for between 2-5 minutes. I write the words on with a black coloured pencil not a marker.
  2. Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold – These are slightly below my sons reading level. They are perfect for fluency practice and read alone practice. Plus he doesn’t hate them (this is HIGH praise for a book he can read himself).
  3. The Alphabet – we have been practicing his printing (when we can since his dominant hand is currently in a sling). Before we start we always sing the alphabet while looking at our alphabet chart. I think part of his struggle to read is a lack of confidence about the alphabet.
  4. b d mouth formation – my son has a really hard time with b and d. He is fine with p now, and doesn’t struggle with n and m, but b d has been a real struggle. Teaching him about the mouth formation has not completely solved the problem, but when he is willing to use the trick he hasn’t gotten it wrong.

What early readers did/do your kids like? Do you have any other word games that might be a big hit?

Planning Ahead

I’m a planner and an organizer. I like to be prepared, and I like to think ahead. Of course I often don’t have time to plan ahead on everything, and sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out. Maybe a better statement is that I try to plan ahead.

As I have begun completing my first quilts, I’ve been looking ahead to new ones. Currently I have two quilts that need to be moved through the next stage. The first is the Mystery Quilt that needs to be quilted and bound so it is ready before the baby it is intended for is here. The second is my son’s bed quilt that needs to be pieced into the completed top.

My lap quilt top is finished, but until I have time and space to quilt it, it will stay as is. What this all means is that very soon I’ll have space in my quilting to start a new quilt top. Making the blocks and putting them into a finished top is my favourite part of quilting. The quilt tops I’d love to make at some point are:

  1. Pow Wow type quilt for my Mother. She likes the look, and I like that it has a flying geese type piece that would be new to me.
  2. Carpenter’s Wheel big block quilt. I really want to try Y-seams. This one won’t come until after the first though.
  3. A Moonlight Starts quilt. This would be made as an upgrade to the lap quilt I made for my husband. I’ll probably end up making this one sometime after the pow-wow and before the Carpenter’s Wheel. He really wants a quilt made entirely by me.
  4. A wrapped in Red quilt. I wouldn’t do this with Christmas fabrics. It would probably be red and white though. Since this one would be for my bed and much bigger than anything else I’ve made. I would make the top, but I’ll pay someone to do the quilting on it. Who knows when I will get around to this one!

Most likely the lap quilt for mom will be the first I make. It will be fun to pick the fabrics with her, and then make the top. The quilting on it will be a little ways down the road, but she is always very understanding of how long projects take me.

Do you plan a few quilts in advance? What projects are you working on right now?