The Nursery that IS

Back before there were Schmidtlets, we used to refer to their room as the NTB: Nursery To Be. It was my favorite writing room — how can you beat whiteboard walls?

But they’re not my whiteboards anymore — and I’ve spent the past few weeks fussing over every other detail of the NTI. You’d be surprised that it’s possible to spend 12 hours researching knobs, but when you’re Bed RestLess, why not?

So, mayhaps finishing the twins room became a minor obsession. Thank God for the internet, which made assembling the room a snap… well, a snap for ME.

St. Matt and my in-laws had to do all of the hard labor I lay on the daybed and supervised – while my bed rest bodyguard went into stealth mode and scrutinized every move I made.

Without further ado, I present the Schmidtlets’ room!

But just because the room is ready, doesn’t mean the twins are.  Stay put, Schmidtlets!

An Infestation of Adorable

Casa Schmidt is being invaded! Thankfully it’s the cutest infestation that’s ever occurred. Baby things are slowly taking over: there’s a pack ‘n play box under the piano; a boppy blocking the bookshelf; two highchairs and two car seats stacked in our family room. And the NTB forget it, I won’t open the door for fear of tripping over the baskets of blankets, clothing and toys waiting to be organized.

Sometimes they arrive at a trickle: a box waiting on the porch when I get home from a puggle walk or a gift bag from a friend when we meet for lunch. Other times it’s a deluge, like this weekend when I went to MA for my first shower. A car packed to the brim with boxes and bags and a long drive home full of “Bruschi, that rattle is NOT for you. Leave it!

As the piles of baby stuff and my twin belly grow, the growth takes on new meaning: this is real. Soon the Schmidtlets will be sitting in those seats, wearing those clothes.

It occurs to me, this whole process of being spoiled rotten/stuff accumulation is a lot like planning a new book and getting to know the characters and the world.

Sometimes facts come slowly – they pop up by surprise – but instead of a FedEx man at the door, it’s a moment of Wow, my heroine’s hair is curly or my hero used to be studly jock, but he’s not anymore. I add these to my character profiles where facts accumulate in piles, while I try to figure out if they’re significant – and, yes, curly hair IS important in my WIP – or even if they’re true.

Knowledge also comes in a flash flood; I’ll wake up with a scene fully formed in my mind, or come back from a swim with a major plot point resolved.

In both instances, I’m forever changing my mind. Bumpo seat? Baby pod? Neither? I read reviews, ask advice from mothers and add and remove these items from my registry. With writing, there’s the same vacillation. The include and delete. Rewrites. The long e-mails to CP’s and bracketed comments of [cut this? Or amp up? Ahhh! Decide later!]

But neither process is overnight – and they aren’t to be rushed. I want those Schmidtlets to stay just where they are for a few months yet. They’re not ready and I’m not ready for them either. (Um, cribs… we need to get those).

My WIP’s not ready either. We’re still getting to know each other. The better I understand my characters, the more realistic they’ll be on paper. Real people are many-faceted, and the most realistic and resonant characters I’ve read have been equally complicated.

Getting to know them isn’t logical, sequential or predictable either. Just like with the baby presents, I can make a list of the things I need, or in writing’s case, need to know (appearance, history, motivations, desires), but it’s often the unexpected facts and gifts that are the most meaningful.

So my world is being invaded with swaddling blankets and itsy-bitsy onesies. With personality quirks and characters’ favorite expressions. My house is full and my mind is busy. I’m making sure my laptop isn’t buried beneath bassinets or baby slings and trying not to confuse plot post-its with thank you notes.

I know life’s about to get crazier, but when I look around at the Infestation of Adorable or stop and reflect upon my WIP, all I can do is smile and whisper a thank you that I’m blessed with such rewarding chaos.

Fearless but not ENDless

Technically the summer’s been over for a few weeks now; I just haven’t wanted to admit it. I ignored Labor Day. I overlooked the crisp apples at the local farmer’s market. I pressed past the aisles full of Halloween candy.

But on Saturday it was only in the 60′s. It’s hard to pretend it’s still summer while curled under a blanket wearing a fleece.

But how can it be over? (I say this despite having completed my 9th day of school).

LUCKY MIA‘s over too… at least this stage of it. And that’s a hard truth to accept. I still wake up with words on my fingertips and itch to insert self-indulgent chapters to the MS. I hear songs and add them to Mia’s soundtrack. I miss the story. I miss the characters. I spent more time with them than anyone else this summer.

And how can it be over? (I say this despite the kitchen dance party that commenced when I read The End for the final time).

I’ll give up summer. I’ll even accept that MIA doesn’t need an epilogue. But I’m not giving up my FEARLESS. The challenges I created and accepted this summer changed me. The never-back-down, what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen?, scared-is-not-an-acceptable-excuse attitude I adopted still doesn’t sit comfortably over my inclination to flee and retreat. But I don’t care. I owe myself more than that.

On Saturday night, as I shivered in my fleece and sipped spiced cider, I took a deep breath and erased MIA from the whiteboard walls of the NTB.

Staring at the blank walls was scary. How to fill them? What to fill them with? Would I love the new project as much as MIA? Where to even begin?

I studied them all night, finally falling asleep beneath walls that mocked me with their emptiness.

And I woke with new, nervous words on my fingertips. My first marker strokes were tentative, made of shaky letters and timid bullet points.

But it’s a whiteboard, mistake and changes wipe away with the swipe of a dusting cloth.

By mid-afternoon the wall looked like this.

And that fear and doubt? Replaced by hope and inspiration.

Who’s up for FEARLESS FALL?

Fearless but not ENDless

Technically the summer’s been over for a few weeks now; I just haven’t wanted to admit it. I ignored Labor Day. I overlooked the crisp apples at the local farmer’s market. I pressed past the aisles full of Halloween candy.

But on Saturday it was only in the 60′s. It’s hard to pretend it’s still summer while curled under a blanket wearing a fleece.

But how can it be over? (I say this despite having completed my 9th day of school).

LUCKY MIA‘s over too… at least this stage of it. And that’s a hard truth to accept. I still wake up with words on my fingertips and itch to insert self-indulgent chapters to the MS. I hear songs and add them to Mia’s soundtrack. I miss the story. I miss the characters. I spent more time with them than anyone else this summer.

And how can it be over? (I say this despite the kitchen dance party that commenced when I read The End for the final time).

I’ll give up summer. I’ll even accept that MIA doesn’t need an epilogue. But I’m not giving up my FEARLESS. The challenges I created and accepted this summer changed me. The never-back-down, what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen?, scared-is-not-an-acceptable-excuse attitude I adopted still doesn’t sit comfortably over my inclination to flee and retreat. But I don’t care. I owe myself more than that.

On Saturday night, as I shivered in my fleece and sipped spiced cider, I took a deep breath and erased MIA from the whiteboard walls of the NTB.


Staring at the blank walls was scary. How to fill them? What to fill them with? Would I love the new project as much as MIA? Where to even begin?

I studied them all night, finally falling asleep beneath walls that mocked me with their emptiness.

And I woke with new, nervous words on my fingertips. My first marker strokes were tentative, made of shaky letters and timid bullet points.

But it’s a whiteboard, mistake and changes wipe away with the swipe of a dusting cloth.

By mid-afternoon the wall looked like this.

And that fear and doubt? Replaced by hope and inspiration.

Who’s up for FEARLESS FALL?

Why I Cried in my Classroom Today

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

I was talking to another teacher yesterday and he was telling me he’s ready to come back to school. “I hate the end of things – whether it’s the school year or the summer – I get impatient to start what’s next .”

I hate the end of things too, but for an entirely different reason. I hate endings.

  • I always hesitate before turning the last page of a truly great book – because I’m reluctant to say good-bye to the characters.
  • I’ve never seen the final episode for Full House, Wonder Years, Dawson’s Creek, or Gilmore Girls because if the screenwriters choose to NOT give the characters a happily ever after, I didn’t want to see it. I’d prefer the unknown to a resolution that would haunt me.
  • The end of the school year makes me cry – those kiddos will go on to great adventures, but I won’t be in their day-to-day lives to see their triumphs.
But there’s something particularly awful about the end of summer, because not only does it mark a new beginning, but it requires classroom set-up as well. I am not a visual-spatial person. The idea of setting up a single room so that it’s functional for 28 people is beyond my scope. So each year I stand in the chaos of desks and boxes, folders and textbooks and I cry. Every year.

But why? I’m not a crier and even though I never believe it in-that-moment, I know it will all get finished and organized – or at least shoved away somewhere.

So why tears?

It’s because of the NEW. I’m not crying for loose-leaf paper or post-it notes. Not even for that last desk that won’t fit anywhere or the spelling book that’s gone missing over the summer.

I’m crying because I’m worried about the NEW. My tears say: Hey New Kiddos I Don’t Know Yet, I want this classroom to be perfect for YOU and I hope you like it and I hope you like me.


I know by late September I’ll be able to tell any of these kiddos to find a spot for the index cards or a better way to store the extra copies of Time For Kids. They’ll be telling me where they want to sit and how to rearrange the desks.

… but that first day, when we don’t know each other yet, I want to offer them perfection.

I feel the same way about writing. I’ve been dreading and procrastinating about my next writing project. LUCKY MIA’S still on the walls of the NTB – even though I haven’t needed those notes in months. I just can’t bring myself to erase them yet.

What if I don’t love my next project as much as I love this book? What if the characters don’t resonate as loudly or keep me up at night with fierce wonderings? My outdated MIA-notes are a literary security blanket, they’re a reflection of my endings issues. I don’t want to let go.

But it’s FEARLESS Summer, so I will. I spent yesterday afternoon making notes on potential next projects. I’ve got five vying for my attention, clamoring to be noticed. I used my big teacher paper and markers – I’m not ready to commit one to the whiteboard walls yet – and gave each story the chance to say “Pick me!” And they ALL did.


So, baby steps. I’ve got them on paper… I’ve hung the paper on the wall in the NTB.

Someday soon I’ll be reaching for erasers – both in the classroom and the NTB – and in both instances I’ll learn, as I always do, that while new may be scary… it’s also so exhilarating too.

Hijacking the NTB

We had an addition put on our house this fall. They took the roof off our Victorian and turned our not-quite-walk-up attic into a third floor master suite. We did some rearranging of the second floor bedrooms during the process too. My one request during the whole ordeal (okay, I had more than one request, but the one thing I was truly adamant about) was that I get built-in bookshelves and a writing space.

 
Up until that point I wrote in our living room which, since there are people and puggles ‘living’ in it, is not a convenient place to write. I would also occasionally take Huey-the-Laptop and write in the dining room, or if it was nice out, write on the patio. Since most of my writing time occurs while other living things are sleeping, the living room was not the worst place to write – but it’s far from ideal.

So, bookshelves and a writing area. St. Matt agreed. The floor plans cooperated too; the front of the new bedroom has a dormer that’s 10 feet wide by 5 feet deep. It’s all windows and has an amazing view. If the blueprints were treasure maps (which St. Matt told me repeatedly they were not, despite all the X’s and dotted lines) then this would be the area pirates would be fighting over. St. Matt gave it to me. I set to work designing my desk – six feet long with room for a window seat on the end. He said sure. I added drawers and bins to my drawings. He said sure. I asked if we could make the surface out of one of the antique doors that had been removed during the process. He said sure. I asked if he was capable of building all this. He said sure. I got excited.

The contractors left and we moved into the addition on 12/23. St. Matt has been busy. I still have no desk. My bookshelves are framed and exciting, but the shelves aren’t in yet. (This has not, however, stopped me from piling books in them and having endless conversations about which books I’m going to select to come upstairs).

Have I been nag-y, pest-y, or whiney about this? Nope. I know, shocking isn’t it? Before you decide I’m lying, here’s why.

I have hijacked the room-that-will-be-a-nursery-if-we-ever-have-kids. Since that’s a long title, I’m just going to call it Nursery-to-be or NTB. Why this room? Because I had a brilliant idea while painting it post-construction.

Like most of my brilliant ideas, this one has an aspect of fortuitous accident. We were in Lowe’s (Home Depot?) AGAIN and St. Matt was doing something boring. So I did what I always do when I’m bored in a hardware store: go visit the paint guys. And that day someone was asking the paint guy about blackboard paint. I decided to eavesdrop. Having purchased his blackboard paint, the other customer left and I chimed in: “That’s pretty cool. If I didn’t hate blackboards with an unnatural degree of loathing, I’d get that.”

Paint Guy: “You hate blackboards?”
Me: “Yup, and I’m a teacher, go figure.”
PG: “So what do you use in your classroom?”
Me: “I have blackboards, I just won’t use them. I have the kiddos write the date and we stick stuff to them with magnets. I also have a Smartboard.”
PG: “Do you hate whiteboards too?”
Me: “Nope. Those I like.”
PG: “Well, they make Expo whiteboard paint too, you know.”
Me: mouth open.

We left with four containers of it.

St. Matt: What are you going to do with that?
Me: Paint, duh.
St. Matt: What are you going to paint?
Me: Don’t worry, I have a plan. (It should be pointed out these are the same words I used to reassure St.Matt when I dropped tweezers in the toilet, when I also did NOT actually have a plan. I wonder if he realizes when I say: Don’t worry, I have a plan, he should actually immediately become very, very worried).

Back to the NTB… In typical my typical insomnia productiveness, I painted it while St. Matt slept. Boy was he surprised in the morning! It has light green walls, a mini-mural in the closet, a blue clouded ceiling, and yes: the clouds climb down off the ceiling and become white boards on the walls. This is my childhood dream come true: walls I can write on without getting sent to the naughty chair.

These walls are where I storyboarded TBALMCSAP and this is now where I like to write, curled up on the bed in the NTB and facing my color-coded-by-character walls of awesomeness.
If we ever have a reason to use the NTB as an actual nursery, I’m in big trouble. Maybe we could put the not-yet-an-issue-baby in another bedroom. Or maybe, just maybe, St. Matt could finish my writing desk…

… And the still-in-the-distant-future-baby could sleep under that while I continue to hijack its room.

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