How I’ve Coped With Winter

Can you smell spring in the air the way I can? I’m not going to kid myself, I know we live in the great white north, and it’s unlikely that we’ll get rid of all the snow any time before May, but I’m clinging to the hope of warmer temperatures and the slow but inevitable return of green. Here’s how I’ve coped with winter.

Christmas was a manic episode. I even went out and got a job to fill my compulsive need to overspend and make Christmas a huge debacle for our family. We weren’t hosting this year, traveling somewhere warm wasn’t in the cards, and I needed to fill a big ‘ole hole of sadness. I filled it with so much junk the kids didn’t need, most of which sits largely untouched in their bedrooms. After gazing around numbly at the faces of the people I loved on Christmas day while we put forth our best effort to make merry, I realized that no about of tinsel or gaily wrapped junk could replace what our family has lost. One of the truest, most soul-satisfying moments of the season was volunteering as a family to sort food donations. Another was seeing the fort my daughter and her girlfriend built out of fallen branches in our forest. Big lessons learned.

This bitter cold months have been some of the darkest. I’m dealing with a depression the likes of which I’ve never known. The effects of this have pervaded every corner of my life, as depression will. I can’t watch the news right now, I can’t be around big crowds or lots of noise. I can’t be in busy places. My choice of treatment has been vitamins, an attempt to get a bit more exercise, and therapy instead of pharmaceuticals for now. I’ve been spotty with items one and two and dedicated to number three. I think if I can get all of those working in concert, I’ll be just fine. I know I’ll be fine. I’m feeling better each day, and can feel the gradual shift happening.

I miss my friends terribly, but I have isolated myself because it’s hard to see people and bring something positive to them when I am just not up for feeling light. It leaves me with little to talk about most of the time, and I feel like I have to step into a role just to function outside of the house.

This depression has made it hard to write here. I feel overly indulgent. Narcissistic. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to read my ramblings. I don’t know what to share. If you’re a reader, it would mean a great deal to hear from you with some suggestions about meaningful topics. I miss this place, this practice. I want to get active here because in the midst of this bleak winter some really great things have been happening and I want to share these things with you.

In November, I took on the National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) challenge. I failed at getting 40,000 words hammered out, but I carried on the writing momentum and I’m hard at work at a first draft of my first novel. Any of you writerly types will know how slow this process can be. Doubly so if you have children and other jobs. The novel is loosely based on my experiences in burlesque, and I’m having so much fun with it. The story centers around a cirque cabaret troupe which is actually a front for an elite team of female mercenaries. I met some very awesome women working in burlesque.

I need to carve out more time to write, and I continue to fantasize about stealing a weekend away here or there to bang out an entire draft in total seclusion. If you need an apartment sitter, I’m your girl. The plan is to get a polished draft, and then shop it around to agents before I decided to self-publish instead. Either way, I’m getting it out there. It would be ideal to have an agent to worry about all of the details on my behalf, but I’ve worn a lot of hats before, I can do it again.

Somehow I’ve made time again for reading, which is something that I missed more than I realized. Escaping into all of these stories has been a balm for the difficult material swirling around my head. Book recommendations are always welcome, and I’m trying to focus on Thrillers, Spy Novels, and Female Fiction these days because it feeds nicely into the work I’m creating.

As I’m typing, a tiny army of toddlers in tiny pink snow suits is ambling into the building. I’m at York University campus today, I guess this must be their daycare out for a walk. What joy I get from watching my own little toddler growing and taking on the world. He fills me with so much love, it can melt through even the bleakest moments. My girls are also growing so quickly, so gracefully most of the time. It’s been harder for them to understand what I’ve been going through, and I’m never sure how much to share with a child. I’ve been working on a letter for them, so they can have a little more perspective about what’s happening with me. I would hate for them to assume any responsibility for my state.

I stepped away from my brief job in the retail sector. Instead, I am commuting a couple of days a week into the city with Sarah, to make her drive more bearable. With another human in the car, she can take the HOV lane and shave significant time off her commute. I’m also working to help her grow her photography business, and I’m working at growing our other family business at tallearth.com with my decent grasp of social media. Most days feel like they are wrapped in a fog, but that fog seems to be thinning.

I’m dreaming of my family in our own modest home somewhere in the country. We are yearning for that independence again, and working hard at lining up our ducks so they march in that direction. I’m longing to get this book out of my head, and into the hands of readers. I’m fantasizing about our other businesses growing so we can live with more joy and freedom. I’m trying to carve out joy wherever I can in the ‘right here and now’.

Tell me how you’re coping with the winter? You’re all so wonderfully clever, I’m sure you can inspire us with a few new tricks to help with the next couple of months of slush and snow. Send me news of your lives. Tell me what the winter has taught you.

Great Homeschool Resources

homeschool resources

The Internet is the homeschoolers best friend. In our journey in homeschooling I’ve come across several resources that have been a life-saver to us in our classroom. One of my favourite homeschool resources is one that I’m also starting to use in my blogging practice as well. Grammarly is one of the best online editing tools I’ve encountered, and I wanted to share this awesome tool with you. Today, we have a guest post from Grammarly’s own Nikolas Baron, outlining the top 5 ways internet resources can benefit your eager students, whether you are homeschooling or helping with home work.

1. Grammar check programs

Teaching grammar can be difficult, but help is at hand! There are websites available that provide more than the standard, unreliable spell check and autocorrect already installed on your computer. Grammarly is one such service, giving users all the benefits of a virtual online English tutor. Copy and paste your text directly into a box on the site, and the program will run an impressively thorough check, finding problems that Microsoft Word would miss. It highlights errors, but instead of automatically correcting them, it first explains why the highlighted section might be incorrect – a big help for students and teachers alike, as it gives writers the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. The program then offers suggestions and alternatives, so that the student can choose the best possible option based on what they have learned. It’s a useful online support system for anyone needing help with written work.

2. Writing Prompts

Many kids struggle with ideas when it comes to writing creatively. That’s where writing prompt sites are invaluable! They are available for all age groups and ability levels: just do a quick search online, and you’ll find one that’s right for your child. These sites come in many different formats. Some provide sentences starters, some suggest titles and topics, and some give a list of words, characters, or events to include in your story. Others simply provide a series of pictures, giving kids the chance to ‘find’ stories hidden within them. Depending on the site, your child may be able to create their very own story books and print them out or email them to friends and relatives.

3. Blogs

Encourage reluctant writers to start their very own blogs. It’s amazing what the thought of an online audience can do for motivation levels! WordPress is a popular choice among bloggers, and it’s free to sign up. Blogging is a simple way to publish your writing online. How about starting a family blog, where each member of the family can contribute their thoughts and stories? Or let your children have their own individual blogs, where you and other relatives can read what they write and encourage them by leaving comments. Don’t worry about safety – it’s possible for parents to moderate the blog, check what kids are writing about before posts go live, and manually approve comments before children are able to read them.

4. Printables

Many educational sites store vast selections of worksheets–often free–to help children practice writing. These range from basic letter formation (tracing and guided writing) to grammar-based exercises and essay questions. Print out as many as you like and give your kids plenty of practice at writing by hand in addition to all the typing they’re doing!

5. Graphic organizers

These useful online tools are great for kids who struggle with gathering all their ideas together, grouping them into paragraphs, and writing a story or essay that flows naturally. Graphic organizers provide a simple way for students to enter all the information they’re planning to use and plan a well-structured piece of writing. These are just a few examples–there are more online writing tools available than would be possible to list in a short post like this. Mix up your approach, take advantage of what’s available, and make writing a fun, interesting activity for kids of all ages!

 

Nikolas Baron discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

 

Juggling Babies

Noah isn't so sure about his Easter chocolate

Noah isn’t so sure about his Easter chocolate

Holy god you guys! All I want to do is write, and write, and share interesting content with you. I want to give you tidbits from our life, share my heart and soul, and learn you about interesting new ideas and products. I want to do so many things, BUT WHERE THE HELL DO I FIND THE TIME? Spreading myself between blogs, homeschool, and family life is like juggling babies!

Our new blog is exciting, and fun, and the focus is sharper. It’s easier to come up with material for a parenting blog, because the inspiration seems to be everywhere, but here is where my heart lies. Here where I first started dreaming, here where I first imagined the family I would one day thrive in. Here is where I can relax, but right now I feel like the well is a little dry.

I’m missing this place of my universe, and all of the fun new tricks I learned working on the new blog are begging to be applied here. I need to find some kind of time management key to the universe. I can’t freaking wait until Tim Ferris has kids, so he can tell me what the hell to do.

Meanwhile, know that I love you, and I miss you. If you want to be a big help, please send me some topics you want me to write about. Or ask me for some advice, preferably not on multi-tasking.

Kisses on your nose,

Mommy

Identity Crisis

Photo by Gordon Hawkins

Photo by Gordon Hawkins

I’ve been blogging for six years. SIX YEARS! I can’t believe how far I’ve come from when I first started writing here. When I began blogging, I was newly single after a tumultuous four-year relationship hot on the heels after separating from my ex-husband.  I was just about to max out a credit card on a trip to Paris, all by myself. I can see you rolling your eyes and shaking your head – you’re right, things were messy. So messy, but I was so filled with hope.

Now I’m a mom, a partner in a rather unconventional relationship (new readers, see this post!), an artist and entrepreneur, and more of a grown up than I’ve ever been. I’ve found so many of the things I was craving back when I began writing here, and I’ve found them in my own way, on my own terms.

Adventures in Schnooville (the name of my former blog) was a name I came up with because a work colleague and friend had nick-named me ‘Schnoo’. It’s a very silly name for a blog, but it suited my purposes – I wanted to remain under the radar, and I mostly wanted my mom to have some peace of mind while I explored Paris without much of a safety net. I never could have imagined then that over 50,000 visitors would land here and read my reflections.

Over the years I’ve had so many touching emails from people encouraging me to write, and thanking me for helping them feel a little less alone out there. What a gift that has been, to know my sometimes narcissistic indulgences are actually serving to help in a way that touches me so deeply in my soul.

Today, Schnooville goes pro!

I’ve had other blogs. I’ve written as my stage persona La Minouche for the theatre company Les Coquettes. I’ve written as a modern-day answer to Dr. Ruth as a girl-next-door sex and relationship advice blogger, I’ve even published some fiction out there on the Internets. Schnooville has always felt like my most authentic voice, and has always been the place where inspiration comes easiest to me, but the name of this blog is hopeless for branding, useless for marketing. It’s cute, but I just don’t feel like its time has passed. After today, I’ll be posting at my new site, where I’ve migrated this entire blog – Playboy Mommy.

When I began to realize that motherhood was an experience that I was actually going to be blessed with, there were definitely people who were shocked/surprised/afraid of the idea of me as a mom, based largely on what my world looks like from an outside perspective, and based on their own ideas of what motherhood should look like. It seemed that wanting a family of my own to nurture and love was incongruous with my lifestyle. This was the age-old Madonna/Magdalene paradigm coming to life, and that’s a seesaw I’ve always strived to straddle firmly in the middle. Ahem.

‘Playboy Mommy’ has such delicious, fun connotations, doesn’t it? I think of a free-spirited nurturer who can sip a martini while whipping up a prize-winning batch of brownies. Playboy Mommy sounds like the kind of mom who has made some very interesting, very colorful friends along the way who can certainly help in a pinch. I relate on so many levels to the character this conjures. When I discovered the domain name was available, I took it as a sign.

I’m so excited about developing this blog. Here are a few tips for how you, wonderful readers, can help take this little corner of the Internet universe to the next level. I wouldn’t be here without you, and I’m grateful for you each and every time I post.

  1. Subscribe to this blog, either by email or RSS feed so you can read posts as they happen!
  2. Follow me on Twitter @Playboy_Mommy
  3. Like my new Facebook page here and share it on your timeline so your friends can enjoy.
  4. Be sure to write your comments here in the blog if you want to comment on a post, rather than on Facebook. Blogs are more successful if you can build a community of readers who engage.
  5. I’ve started an advice section! Help me populate it by emailing me at askmommy@playboymommy.com. I promise to protect your anonymity.

Tell me what you’d like to see more of here at Playboy Mommy!