Home.

This afternoon The Schmidtlets scampered around the backyard while St.Matt worked on their sandbox, the puggles napped in the shade of a maple tree, and I picked blueberries.
I dropped handfuls of them into their little sand pails. They washed them in their octopus sprinkler between trips down their slide and visits to watch Dada shovel. The Pip Squeak helpfully pointed out the worms wriggling in freshly turned dirt while The Wild Imp stole berries from his bucket.
Afterward we traded swimsuits and work gloves for shorts and sneakers, plopped them in their stroller, and ran to our favorite ice cream shop. We traded bites on the walk home and I kissed their sticky cheeks before plopping them in the bath.
The past month has been chaotic: I was up in NYC for BEA and Teen Author Carnival, then down in the Carolinas for vacation and visiting old friends. They were wonderful experiences and adventures, but…
Today it was good to feel HOME. 
Even though not a single blueberry made it into the house and I didn’t take a single photograph, it was the perfect afternoon. Not extraordinary. Probably not a day that I’ll remember in a decade, a year, maybe even a month – but perfect nonetheless. Full of those simple moments that are saturated with comfort and contentment.
I wish you all such days.

Do not pass Go. Report directly to BED

 My last day of school was Friday. I’ve spent the past seven weeks very conflicted about today – the battle of exhaustion versus my desire to teach. I wasn’t surprised to discover that I woke up this morning feeling a little lost soul-ish.
I spent the morning as a flitterbug –  popping from one task to the next without accomplishing much of anything. Any progress I might have made was hindered by Biscotti. She’s been a wee bit overprotective as of late; she will not let the Twin Belly out of her sight. Today she added a new trick:  doing her dangdest to herd me back to bed.
I should’ve listened.
This afternoon we had our first NONstress test. They hooked up monitors to capture the babies’ heartbeats and a third monitor to my uterus.  In typical Bean Sprout fashion, he showed off for the doctors by doing all sorts of barrel rolls and squirm-worm maneuvers. And in typical Twin Belly fashion, my uterus reacted to his movements by having what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions.
They weren’t. Apparently they’re the real deal.  And regular.
The doctor took one look at my printout and announced: Bed Rest.
St. Matt and I exchanged a look that said everything: But wait! We’re not ready yet. It’s my first day off work. You said I’d have some time to run errands and take it easy. I was going to make cookies tonight. We were going to walk the dogs. I have plans tomorrow. We have plans this weekend. We’re NOT Ready.
Out loud we said, “Okay, what do we need to know?” because none of that matters. And we’ll do just about anything to make sure these two little boys stay put and stay safe for as many weeks as possible.
So now I sit. And wait. Thursday AM’s our next NST and I’m hoping for better results.
In the meantime, Biscotti, bodyguard puggle extraordinaire, is thrilled that I’m taking her advice and lying down. If a puggle could gloat, that’s what she’d be doing, from her supervisory post at the foot of my bed.

Puppy Penalty: An Excess of Adorable

My Super Bowl pick from yesterday: Anyone but Peyton Manning could win.

I’m sure he’s a very nice man, but I don’t like him. At all. My dislike of him is rabid in a way I normally reserve for the Yankees. That commercial where he dons a wig and refers to himself in third person as “6’1″, laser, rocket arm”… *gags*

So, on a year where Peyton was playing and my own dearest Tom wasn’t, I was okay with anyone but Indy winning. *

On years like this one – years where my own red, white, and blue boys aren’t on the field, I tend to sulk and pout. My interest in the pigskin championship wanes to the commercials between the plays and finding ways to get annoyed at the announcers.

Enter THE PUPPY BOWL.

To the Animal Planet employee who decided America would be interested in watching hours of puppies frolicking in a green pen with football shaped toys, I salute you.

I watched the whole thing yesterday. Twice. Apparently it isn’t possible to overdose on adorable.

The Puppy Bowl is also an excellent place to find additions for your List-Of-Future-Dog-Names. What do you mean you don’t have a List-Of-Future-Dog-Names? Start one right now. Add Garbanzo, Tater Tot, and Yums.

I want a puppy with each of these names. Actually, I want those puppies! This is the dangerous part of Puppy Bowl. By the time the half-time kittens come on, I’m convinced I need to adopt the entire starting line-up.

Who can really resist a face like these?

Well, besides curmudgeon-y St. Matt who says “Two puggles is more than enough.”

Come on! The non-Peyton team won. Doesn’t that mean I deserve a victory-pup?

All photos are courtesy of Animal Planet’s website, and, if you missed it or need a puppy fix, here are some highlights of the “game”: http://animal.discovery.com/videos/puppy-bowl-vi/

*See, I’m showing restraint by not mentioning my compounded dislike of Indy because of Adam Vinitari. I also didn’t mention the Oreo commercials.

Write the Rainbow…

I have a tendency to develop little routines. You could call them traditions – St. Matt calls them obsessions. But they’re just little habits that help me get stuff done.

For instance, I’ve listened to DMB’s “Dancing Nancies” on the first day of school for the past 13 years (since my sophomore year in HS). Before I serve in tennis, I have to bounce a few times in place – not the ball, mind you, I bounce me. Every night before I go to bed I have to check that the closet door is shut so I don’t get sucked into another dimension, Poltergeist-style.

Completely normal little routines.

With writing I have many of these. My latest one is Revision-Skittles. I’m not sure when it switched from being that’s-fun to that’s-necessary, but at some point between January and now I started the habit of allowing myself one Skittles Core per page revised.

Skittles really are the perfect candy for revision –besides being made of rainbows, creativity and inspiration – they’re small. Individually they don’t pack much of a calorie wallop, and if I ate enough to have a detrimental affect on my sugar-level, my worry was overshadowed by the thrill of knowing I’d had an excellent revision day. Plus, Revision-Skittle sugar-high carried me through a couple of extended elliptical hours.

Somewhere along the line Bruschi became a Revision-Skittle addict too, and now he will gladly curl up next to me during late-night revision sessions and wait semi-patiently for his loyalty to be rewarded with a circular piece of sugary goodness. And if I’m taking too long with any individual page, he’ll let me know this with a wet nose to my calf or an impatient paw on my arm.

Last week I finished up my second pass on my WIP (currently titled TBALMCSAP, but I seriously need to come up with something better soon). In a minor revision-miracle, not quite as impressive as Chanukah’s 8-days of light, my last bag of Skittles lasted to the final page of TBALMCSAP. I ate the last one as I pressed *SEND* on the e-mail to my first reader & did a happy dance. Tra-la-la!

After church today we stopped at Wegmans to do our weekly shopping. I smiled through the Wonka-esque candy aisle and skipped over to the shelf where Revision-Skittles wait for happy lil’ people like me.

It was empty.

Panic didn’t set in immediately, but it didn’t take longer than 5 minutes either. There are many other revision passes that will need to be made on TBALMCSAP! What about the WIP I began outlining last night. I WILL need to revise again. Soon. The rainbowful flavors began to fade from my memory, my head began to spin…

Before we were even home from Wegmans I was Googling the number for other supermarkets and calling out the digits to an indulgent St. Matt.

As I whimpered, “What if they’ve stopped making them?” He patted my leg and tapped the numbers on his keypad.

“Hello, I was wondering if you had Revision-Skittles in stock?”

Panic = Gone!
Laughter = Extreme!

As I giggled and tee-hee’d St. Matt shot me you’re-in-trouble-looks, corrected himself and managed to ascertain that Giant did stock Skittles Cores but only in large bags. “Oh, that won’t be a problem. Thanks so much.”

So now I’m stocked up. I’m good to go. And someone just sent me something awesome to revise… I don’t know who’s more excited, me or Bruschi!

#Coffeefail

There are a few things I can depend upon in this world. The emphasis here is in things, not people. There are lots of people I can depend upon. This blog is about things. Well, about one thing in particular.

Coffee.

But lately I’ve experienced a new and rather scary phenomenon: #coffeefail. It has happened three times. **

Coffeefail –1: The time last week where I nearly feel asleep during the five minute drive home from the coffee shop. I should have been in caffeinated bliss, but I was uber-dozy and St. Matt had to poke me to get me out of the car.

Coffeefail –2: The day a few weeks back when it became all too apparent why I don’t make the coffee in our household. While driving home after work, I’d decided a post-school pot would be necessary if I wanted to stay awake until St. Matt arrived home around 7. How tricky could it possibly be? I’d seen St. Matt do it enough times.

After I opened the package with a little too much anticipation – creating coffee-confetti that Puggle #2 was more than happy to start licking up – I figured I’d make up for the missing grounds by adding hot cocoa powder.

Apparently this is a no-no. And apparently I’m the only one in the world who didn’t know this. If you were also excluded from this crucial piece of information, learn from my mistake. Don’t do it. Ever.

Coffeefail – 3: This morning I stumbled downstairs around six. I was in bleary post-roadtrip disorientation. I should know my childhood home with my eyes closed, but my mom keeps moving stuff. And buying new stuff.

Like a new coffeemaker.

It’s pretty. Red. Metal. Shiny. It has lots of buttons and display screens. I was flummoxed. St. Matt was baffled. There are multiple filters & compartments – where does the coffee go? How do I make it come out? Crisis.

I stared at it with my best puppy-dog-lip-quivering face – hoping it would take pity and magically begin brewing. It’s pretty fancy, I thought it might have a sensor that detected critical-caffeine-deprivation. Instead it just blinked from three different LED lights.

St. Matt must have sensed how close I was to haphazardly pressing buttons and pouring grounds in all orifices. “Back away, Tiffany. We’ll ask your parents.”

I sat on the floor until they woke up. Saved!

But, wait. They don’t know how to use it either! They don’t drink coffee. Mom bought it for our visit, but couldn’t remember where she put the directions. And she thought it might need filters, but she’d forgotten to buy any.

I might have been quietly rocking and moaning by this point. Puggle #2 might have come to sit in my lap to offer puppy kisses.

I turned to Twitter for solace while St. Matt and Dad hunted down the directions and determined filters were needed. Dad fiddled with buttons and programmed the clock. St. Matt grabbed car keys and pulled me off the floor.

“Let’s go get filters.”

“Coffee FIRST.”

So Dunkin Donuts for coffee, then Stop ‘n Shop for filters, then home for more coffee. Crisis averted.

I still, however, do not understand the logic of a coffee maker that’s smarter than its owners. Why would the designers needlessly complicate something users will be handling before they are properly caffeinated?

Coffee makers need exactly one button. I can read: Coffee, Go!, or Don’t-worry-buddy-caffeine’s-on-it’s-way. Even better, coffee makers should have a sensor: when eyelids part, percolating commences.

That would be #coffeewin

**I realize examples two and three are not actually the fault of coffee, but they still resulted in my failing to maintain the appropriate level of caffeine in my bloodstream, so I include them in #coffeefail.

Dust of 100 Dogs & Heat of 1000 Blushes

I wanted to be a vet for a whole week when I was little. This career path followed right after my I’m-going-to-be-an-astronaut phase, which was curtailed after I tried to dress my infant brother in my Astronaut Cabbage Patch’s outfit: helmet and all.

The vet phase was also short lived. Lasting exactly as long as it took for me to discover that vets don’t just play with puppies all day: they also have to treat sick dogs, put dogs to sleep, and deal with blood. Also, my mother pointed out to me, vets don’t just treat dogs. They treat all sorts of animals. Including snakes.

I decided I wanted to be a Sea World trainer instead. It’s a good thing I changed my mind about this too, because that career path would ultimately not have worked out for me; as evidenced by the fact I hyperventilated at 19 while at Stingray City in the Caymen Islands.

I’ve outgrown my eight-year-old career indecision, but I haven’t outgrown my phobias about blood or snakes. I also haven’t outgrown my sensitivity to all-sad-dog-things. Twenty years later, Stonefox still makes me teary. Winning the race was NOT worth it!

So I was a big wimp – a bigger drama queen – and made a fuss about reading Dust of 100 Dogs. I bought it, I looked at it, I built all sorts of scary theories in my head….
And then I finally read it.

That’s when I realized: I’M AN IDIOT. The book is not about a pirate who kills 100 dogs. (Yes, that is one of the plotlines I invented).

A.S.King’s book is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a beautiful mix of historical, with current, with fantastic. I loved the structure of the book – the past, the present, the dog training facts – each facet worked together to tell a story that transcended the parts. (And I’ll freely admit that for each Dog Fact, I did a mental inventory of the puggles. They pass.)

Sidenote: the characters’ names are awesome too! Saffron and Emer have made their way onto the list of potential names for the distant-future-residents of the NTB.

Sure there were intense scenes – but I handled them. Part of me thinks I should get a merit badge for bravery, but a bigger part feels ridiculous for being such a wuss. Imagine what I’d have missed out on if I had talked myself out of reading this. It’s like brussels sprouts – how long did I resist those? Now I love them!

I was so inspired by my outstanding bravery and King’s equally outstanding prose, that today at the bookstore I picked up another book with a scary cover: Bliss by Lauren Myracle.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll start talking myself into reading it.

Dust of 100 D*gs… I am a wimp of epic proportions

I have real avoidance issues with A.S. King’s Dust of 100 Dogs. I kept hearing the best things about the book, the buzz on the Internet is unbelievable, but still I hedged. And I know why I am dodging.

1) The title scares me. My first word was ‘dog.’ Actually, that’s a total lie. I don’t know what my first word was (makes a mental note to check), but I do love dogs. And I have issues with dog books. I have never seen or read Old Yeller. This is FORBIDDEN. So emphasized was it’s forbiddeness that even at 28, I still will not break this rule. There’s a good reason it’s forbidden: after I read Where the Red Fern Grows, I didn’t want to go to school for days because I was scared to let my dog out of my sight. I also got in BIG trouble for throwing a fit during 5th grade read aloud when Marty feeds the chocolate-covered graham crackers to Shiloh. Marty may not have known that chocolate was toxic for dogs, but I did – and I made my point that Marty need to find a vet NOW very loudly and clearly. Louder and clearer than the teacher – who promptly asked me to leave the room until I could be a good listener. Do not even ask me how I dealt with Marley and Me. Seeing the movie was not even an option. I need to take a break and go hug Biscotti and Bruschi after even thinking about it. A book that implies 100 dogs have died in its title – I am wary.


2) The cover also scares me. I don’t do scary things. Coraline was the limit to my scariness tolerance – and even then I had to hold a sixth grader’s hand. The cover of the book is visually stunning, but it also makes me want to turn on all the lights in my house and hold St. Matt’s hand.

But I’m working on my wimpiness. Really I am. And I was sick of feeling like the kid at the party who doesn’t know the gossip because everyone else had read it and I hadn’t. So, really it all came down to peer pressure.

On Valentine’s day while I was at the local independent bookstore picking out great books, I took a deep super-brave breath and had them order me a copy of Dust of 100 Dogs.

It came. I picked it up. I stared at if for a few days. I opened it. I read the first page.

And the first paragraph included an eyeball being popped out and rolled in sand. I don’t do blood. Not even a little. Not even papercuts.

I needed to take a break after this scene.

I’m thinking I might be ready to try again. Might take some courage pills tonight and give it a go.

Or maybe I should wait ‘til daylight…

The Distraction-Fairy has moved in…

The writing forces are against me today. It’s like distraction-faries have taken residence in my house. Not only are there the typical distractions (among them, this blog and twitter), but there’s beautiful weather and a house that’s demanding to be cleaned before my in-laws arrive for dinner tonight.
Also, there are the distractions of my choosing; my own personal kryptonites. I should know better than expose myself.

It all starts with Twilight. This time the DVD, not the book, although the book has been guilty of many hours of distracting me from my WIP. I forbade myself from going to the midnight release party – and before you get impressed, I only did so because the versions that came out yesterday had TWO disks, while Target boasted that theirs had THREE. Three’s bigger than two and even though I don’t know what’s on the third disk – I needed that version.

Target opens at eight. I decided to play it safe at get there at seven. St. Matt agreed to join me and even made the coffee. We grabbed books to read during the wait and left the house at 6:45.
When we pulled into Target at 6:53, we were the only ones there. Sure there were a couple cars parked in the lot, but they were empty, some even frosted over. St. Matt emitted an awkward cough that might have been a suppressed laugh, but since he’d gotten up at six on a Saturday to make me happy, we’ll give him the benefit of doubt.

We pulled out our books and settled in to wait, because any minute now the horde of teenage girls would be arriving and I wasn’t going to lose my copy of the DVD due to a momentary lapse of concentration.

St. Matt had brought a book called Predictably Irrational. He says it’s about business, but it sounds like it might be about me; I’m too scared to look.

I’d brought Alyson Noel’s Evermore. I tucked my feet up on the car seat, angled the heat vents, sipped my coffee and began…

Forty-eight minutes later the next car arrived. It was an employee.

About eight til eight a few more cars trickled in and St. Matt said we should go wait by the door. I grumbled. He had to convince me to leave the car and go get the DVD; the DVD I’d made him sacrifice a sleep-in Saturday to come get. Afterward I stayed in the car and read while he ran other errands.

When we arrived home he asked, “What are you going to do first, finish the book or watch the movie?”

Neither,” I huffed indignantly. “I’m just going to change and then I’m going to go get some writing done.”

“Okay.” He nodded, but I’m pretty sure there was an amused glimmer in his saintly eyes.
I’m positive there was one when he found me sitting on the bedroom floor two hours later, turning pages.

“Good book?”
“I’m almost done – and then I’m going to write.” I would’ve been embarrassed by my complete lack of reading-restraint, but that would’ve required me to turn my attention way from the story, which wasn’t going to happen.

I think he said something after that, but I was listening to Ever and Damen and didn’t hear him.
Now I’m finished Evermore and I can’t regret the lost writing hours because the book was that good.

“Movie time?” St. Matt asked when I finally came downstairs, still half-changed: pajamas on the bottom but wearing the sweater from this morning. Oops.

“No. I’m not going to watch the movie yet. I’m not going to immediately call the bookstore and pre-order the sequel either.” In a show of remarkable self-control, I resisted the urge to stick out my tongue as well.

I was really going to write next. Really. But then the puggles were lounging in my writing seat. By the time I’d managed to scoot them so I could perch on a corner of the chair, I’d succumbed to mentally crafting this blog.

What could I do but write it down? But now, now I’m going to work on my WIP.
Or I could go watch call the bookstore. Or watch the movie. I never did figure out what was on that third disk…

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