Today I completed my Master’s in Creative Writing: Fiction. It’s been a 26-month journey that I started when I had only one kid and no idea if there would be another. It was the weirdest kind of impulse buy, when your best friend tells you she’s starting an online Master’s program and you should do it too, so you look online and realize it starts in a week and you have to apply now if you’re going to do it, and so you just kind of…do it.

My first class was just a basic English studies class, where our textbook was about grammar and style, and I wrote my final paper on the works of Ira Levin. I took a Literary Theory class that I slogged through, where I had to reread Heart of Darkness (better than I remembered), among other things. I doubled up on several terms, taking two classes at a time: mashing up a Lit class where I had to write papers and an English class where I could write stories.

I took a class on Victorian Literature, which changed my entire perspective on how to write academic papers, thanks to an incredible professor who held us to super high standards and inspired me to try to impress her. That was an exhausting 10 weeks, but in the end I wrote a 15-page paper about Jekyll and Hyde and how it was a commentary by Robert Louis Stevenson on the Victorian perspective on motherhood.

I took a poetry class (where I felt like the only person in the class who had ever studied poetry before…), and I wrote some bad poems. Oh well. I lost a couple days of that class to being in the hospital for a few days when H was born, and honestly the last couple weeks were pretty phoned in, what with having a newborn.

I took a class on Contemporary Publishing, where I learned a lot about the modern world of publishing and all the options that are out there. In the class we created all the little things you need to query out your book to agents or publishers – hopefully setting me up for success in 2017.

For the last few months I’ve been working on my thesis: a collection of short stories taking place in the Bay Area. I would say it’s now 75% of the way ready to start sending out.

Today is the last day of the program, but I turned in my final (final for school, at least) thesis last Sunday. And I turned in my thesis reflection paper last Thursday. So today is officially the last day, but there was no big “Hit send – it’s done now” moment today.

Which is probably indicative of the entire process of writing. You write it, you send it in, and while you’re waiting to hear back, you reread it, and you change some more things. If the internet serves me right, it was Leonardo da Vinci who said “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

The only thing I would change is to replace the word “abandoned” with the word “released.”


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Susceptible Me

I was going to call this “The post I couldn’t write without crying and throwing up” but that felt way too alarmist.

What happened is, a couple weeks ago, my right eye was feeling really irritated. I took my contacts out but it was really still bugging me, like there was something in it. I asked Drew to look but he didn’t see anything. The next day, I wore my contacts but it bothered me off and on all day. By the end of the day I thought I should call the eye doctor.

WebMD told me I probably had a scratched cornea, which makes sense. B is into roughhousing, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he had hit me in the eye, and H is into naming body parts, and when she points to your eye, she like…REALLY points to your eye. So I wore my glasses to work, and I called the eye doctor to make an appointment for that afternoon.

Driving was rough. It was bright outside, and it felt like everything caused my eye to flood with tears. I tried to wear my sunglasses over my regular glasses. How do glasses-wearing people do this? I was getting really worried that something was wrong. I thought I might end up going blind. I can’t go blind. I wouldn’t be able to read. I know there’s Braille, but do you really think I could figure that out? I gave up on Duolingo Spanish after like a month, and I took that in college.

It was bugging me all day, and I knew the more I thought about it the worse I got. Just like the more I thought about having to go to an eye doctor and hold that eye open so they could look into it…just the thought of it now is making me teary. I think I have really sensitive eyes.

I made it through the day, and then drove up to the appointment. (Actually, I drove to Daly City, walked into the office, and the guy said, “Um, I think you’re supposed to be at the office in Burlingame.” Luckily I had time to get there. But wow.) I saw a new doctor (who I actually loved, and will keep as my regular doctor now) and she asked me to describe what was happening. When I told her, she said, “Is this like the last time you were in, when they pulled a wild eyelash?”

“What?” I said. I had zero recollection of this.

She showed me my chart. Hmm. Well, the last time I was in I was 9 months pregnant with H, so really, anything could have happened and I could have forgotten it.

She checked my eye. “Yup, two wild eyelashes.” She pulled them with tweezers under the microscope. Talk about nervewracking. Then she checked the other eye. “Nothing here, but this guy is growing that way…I can just pull it now so you’re not back in here in three months.” Yes please.

I felt almost immediately better. She gave me some eyedrops because my cornea looked a little irritated, but she seemed very unconcerned about it. She told me to not wear contacts for a week. (I lasted 24 hours.)

As I parked at home, I hoped that the kids had been nice for Drew, because if he’d been having a hellish evening, there was no way I could announce it was just my eyelashes being erratic. I’d have to say I had some kind of medical condition. Luckily, everything was fine. He kindly didn’t laugh at me.

This whole situation made me realize how susceptible I am…the mere suggestion that something was wrong with my eye made me shut down. Suddenly I could think of nothing else. I thought for sure it was seeping blood. Or was infected with mites. Or had fallen out. I know it’s all in my head, but it’s crazy how just because you know that, doesn’t mean you can do anything to change it.

A similar thing happened at work this week. I was exhausted, hadn’t eaten anything nutritious all day, and around 11am a slight headache turned into a splitting headache. I took tylenol but it was becoming all I could think about, and then there was nothing I could do. It expanded into nausea, which I knew was also psychosomatic, but I actually had to throw up in order to convince my stomach the problem was taken care of, and then I had to just get my mind off the headache to make it go away.

Eyeballs and headaches and nausea, oh my.

And in writing about all three of these things, I find myself feeling vaguely queasy and itchy-eyed. Susceptibility is a killer. I’d better not ever volunteer to be hypnotized.

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Kids Say

My children have been saying some pretty awesome things lately, and I’m assuming that you want to hear about them.

First of all, there’s this little “survey” going around on Facebook, and you’re supposed to ask your kid all this stuff about himself, and then write down his answers. In the past when I’ve tried to do this, B has answered a couple questions, then just started saying “I don’t know,” then gotten annoyed with me and left. But this weekend, we were sitting in a drive through, and I just started asking him, and he just…kept answering!

What’s your name? B
How old are you? 4
When is your birthday? I don’t know, I had a birthday, my 4th one.
How old is daddy? 41
How old is mommy? 32
What’s your favorite color? Blue
What’s your favorite food? Orange. Apricot.
Who’s your best friend? Ummmm…YOU are my best friend!
What’s your favorite movie? Aladdin
What’s your favorite song? The one we were singing…”Lava”
Where is the place that you need to go? Wednesday
What’s your favorite animal? Ummmm…a pony.
What are you scared of? Darth Vader.
What makes you happy? Daddy!

So cute, right?

He also has this obsession with villains in movies, so we’ve been talking a lot about “good guys” versus “bad guys,” and now he knows that bad guys are bad because they’re the ones that want all the power. I think that’s a pretty fair statement to make, and I’m comfortable with him saying that.

On the other hand, he said the other day, “Remember when Micah was going around punching everyone in the face?” And we said, Um, no. And he said, “Micah was punching everyone in the face, but you can’t do that.” And Drew said, Did you say, Micah, don’t do that! And he said, “No Daddy…because I was doing a puzzle.” So we have to talk some more about being an #upstander.

On science:
“Daddy…why does food turn into poop?”

He also is READING, like, actually recognizing some words and sounding out other words, and it’s CRAZY, and he sits on the couch and reads books out loud, and it’s SO WEIRD. And also, in the last like two weeks, he’s suddenly amazing at puzzles. Like, in the past, I’ve never seen him complete a puzzle by himself, but apparently he’s been practicing at school and at his grandparents’  house, because now he’s a whiz at puzzles. I love it.

Meanwhile, here’s what Baby H says:

Also, she nods her head yes when she means yes. B never did that…he shook his head for yes and no for the longest time. It’s so weird to have a conversation with her, like, “Do you want strawberries?” No. “Do you want oranges then?” Yes. “Do you want toast?” Yes. Wow.

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Children of Technology, or, Do You Have A Flag?

Drew and I have been arguing about whether or not I’m a millennial – he says I am based on year of birth; I say I’m not based on attitude.

One thing’s for sure though: our children are from a vastly different generation than we are.

I know this, because tonight I watched my nearly-14-month-old operate a game on the iPad where she drops numbers and letters into the correct spaces to make a simple addition sequence or spell a word. And I was like, but you’re a baby, how can you do that?

Further proof came tonight, when my 4-year-old, who had my phone to watch the Pixar short Lava, came into the bedroom grinning. I saw enough of the screen to see the opening castle and then the Steamboat Willie clip that begins Disney movies. I asked him what he was watching and he said Zootopia. Drew said, “Did you download Zootopia?” No I didn’t. “Did he just buy Zootopia on your phone?” I mean, I hope not.

He was sitting on the couch actually watching Zootopia on my phone, still inexplicably, when I came out and sat down and said, “How did you find that?” And he looked at me and said, “Through Netflix.” Of course! He would recognize the Netflix app, and it would have come up as “Popular on Netflix.” Holy cow.

I am simultaneously afraid of and thrilled by this weird understanding he has of recent technology. He also wrote me this note on my phone:


Oh good. He discovered emojis. And now my entire “Recently used” emoji section is full of flags. =) He also somehow started an email to the Netflix support team, where he was practicing typing his name…he got pretty close!

To counteract this abundance of screen time, tonight I took Baby H to put pjs on her, while Drew took B into the bathroom to get ready for bed, and H was pretty upset about it, pointing and saying “Ba! Ba!” over and over again. Finally I realized what she wanted, and I told her, “No, they’re not taking a bath, they’re just getting ready for bed.” She was cool after that. She is so communicative, man. It blows my mind.

They both do!


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About a week ago, I was taking an afternoon walk break (large circle around the parking lot), and I thought I felt something on me. I stopped abruptly and frantically brushed at it, but I didn’t see or feel anything. Once I got back inside the building, I felt it again, and I grabbed at what I was suddenly sure was a deadly spider (obviously)…but it was nothing. I thought, I hoped, it might have been the hood drawstring from my sweatshirt or something.

About 20 minutes later, I was at my desk, and I casually reached up a tickle on my neck, and when I pulled my hand away…there was a ladybug in it. Startling but not particularly alarming, I put my hand down on my desk and the ladybug tumbled off. She righted herself, and then before I could do anything else, she flew up to the ceiling and into the fluorescent light fixture. I figured that was probably, unfortunately, the end of The Ladybug Who Traveled Indoors.

Just now, a week later, I was walking back from the copy room, and I saw a ladybug crawling on the dark striped industrial carpet. Her little staggering motions looked like she was saying, “Where am I? Why is there no food here? Who are these monsters who live without greenery?” She crawled gratefully onto my hand, and I carried her outside, where she eagerly resumed her leaf life.

Never give up, my friends.


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Here’s what I’m reading for Halloween

This year, I’ve got three very exciting new books on my Halloween reading list. (Alas, I cut Stephen King from the list because I just didn’t think I could make it through. But maybe in November I’ll revisit him! I’ve been thinking about The Stand a lot because B likes to spell things, so whenever he says “M-O-O-N moon” it makes me think of Tom Cullen.)

Anyway. This year I’m reading:


Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle was on my self-created reading list for the class I’m currently taking, which is Thesis Writing Part 1. This is the final week of that class so I guess I should hurry up and get through it. I love Shirley Jackson and although I’m having kind of a hard time getting myself into this book, I think that has more to do with reading in brief increments. I think if I was able to sit down for a longer period of time, I would get sucked in.

I heard a lot of intriguing things about David Mitchell’s Slade House, and I’m eager to see how it unfolds. When I started the Read Harder challenge at the beginning of the year, I put this down to fulfill the “Horror book” category, and I’ve been deliberating putting off reading it so that I could read it for Halloween. Such planning ahead. Much wow.

Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree has never been on my radar until I posted a picture of Drew, B, and me in front of a lit-up orange tree at Disneyland, and my friend Michelle started talking about it, referring to it as the Halloween tree. I looked it up, and it’s a tribute to Ray Bradbury, who worked with Disney on multiple projects, and obviously loved Halloween. If I’d looked more closely at the actual tree when we were there, maybe I would have noticed the plaque dedicating it to Bradbury. I like the fortuitous connection here, and I’m excited to have a legit Halloween book on the list this year, and (not gonna lie) I like that it’s only 160 pages.

In fact, these three books together comprise only 530 pages, and I’m trying to be realistic this year.

That’s what I’m reading to get in the Halloween spirit. What about you?

For previous years’ reading lists, see: 2014, 2013, 2012.

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B’s first trip to Disneyland

I have to start by saying: We did it.

(I have to follow up by warning you – this is a long post and is probably more for us to look back on and remember.)

img_0175B turned 4 last week, and we surprised him with a trip to Disneyland…which honestly, before last Thursday, I don’t even think he knew existed.

We left on Friday in a rental car (after some issues with a potential slow leak in the first car’s tire) (but the second car was better anyway) and made pretty good time until we got to LA. At which point we ran into rush hour. We battled our way through it and got to our hotel around 7:30. (For the record, B did amazingly well in the car, even though it was 8 hours altogether. He was patient and calm, alerted us when he needed a bathroom, read books, sang songs, told us stories, and asked a couple times, “Can I make a loud noise?” at which point we would say yes, go ahead, get your louds out, and he would shout for 10 seconds.)

We checked in to the hotel, got B a “We’re celebrating!” button at the front desk, and found out that we were eligible for Magic Morning at 7am at Disneyland the next day.

We were staying at Paradise Pier, a Disney resort right next to California Adventure. When we got to our room we realized we could actually see the whole park, including World of Color, which played at 9:00 and 10:30, or something like that. (We could also see one end of the fireworks.) And our TV had a channel that played the audio for both shows! Disney is amazing.

B would not go to sleep, despite being clearly exhausted, so we had to turn all the lights off and also go to sleep around 10pm. Just as I would start to drift off, he would go, “…Mommy?” and then tell me some random fact that he could have saved for the morning. I thought he had finally gone to sleep when World of Color started again, and he whispered, “Mommy, I heared something,” which I thought was so cute. (Also he called it World of Best Colors.)

My alarm went off at 6, but we intended it to be a suggestion – we didn’t want to overly plan or try to cram everything in. We left the hotel around 7:15, walked over to the park, and were in Tomorrowland by 7:30. I thought that Magic Morning was just Main Street, but they opened Tomorrowland including all the rides…so we started with Space Mountain. Plus, it’s Halloween so it’s Ghost Galaxy, which is kind of scarier, because it’s all these creepy ghosts rushing you with arms outstretched…but B did great. He took it so in stride. Like, we started him off on SPACE MOUNTAIN GHOST GALAXY, and he was just like, Cool. What’s next? We did Astro Blasters, Star Tours, and that Orbital thing (rocket Dumbo) and it was like 8am.

We wandered to Fantasyland and started doing dark rides – he loved the carousel, and it was actually really cool because we both got to go on horses with him. Usually at the zoo and stuff we cheap out and just buy him a ticket, but this time we could all be riders! He tried to pull the sword from the stone (no luck), and we made the rounds of the dark rides…which are mostly stories he’s not super familiar with, so those rides must be weird for him.

We walked through Sleeping Beauty’s castle (stairs! and Maleficent! he loved it), and then went to Frontierland, where we found a bathroom and made him drink some water. It was already getting hot and I was having visions of Survivor contestants passing out on day 3 from dehydration. (Actually, while they were in the bathroom, I went to find water, and I walked into a dry goods store where three employees were leaning against a counter and talking about how they couldn’t believe people paid so much for water when you could get it for free, and I walked up behind them and said, “Speaking of which, where can I buy some water?” and the male employee just like facepalmed while the others pointed me toward a store that sold bottled water. Haha)

We did Pirates of the Caribbean and fastpassed Haunted Mansion…and I’m literally already forgetting what we did next. I think we went to Splash Mountain? I know we did Tarzan’s Treehouse (twice) and got some lunch. But I can’t even remember the order of events anymore.

At some point, we thought we should go back to the hotel because we both really, truly believed that B was going to take a nap. He looked so exhausted. We decided to take the monorail to Downtown Disney, and on the way to the station Drew grabbed fastpasses for Star Tours. I mean, it’s totally up his alley – he somehow knows some things about Star Wars, like who Yoda is, and he loved the flying through space stuff. He totally wore the glasses without any protest, which amazed me. (Oh, also on the way to the monorail, I hit 10,000 steps on my fitbit, haha)

At the hotel, of course he didn’t nap at all, no matter how much we all laid in a dark, cool room together. So after an hour or so, we gave up, collected our stuff, and walked back to the park. We did Star Tours and Astro Blasters again, and then went to do Alice and the Teacups and the other Fantasyland stuff we’d missed earlier. While we were walking toward Small World, B wanted us to take a detour to go past a water fountain, and while he was getting water, I saw a little kiosk with no line, where they sold ears and did the name embroidery. So I got those, and then we were standing right near where the parade was about to start, so we managed to get 2nd row viewing for the parade, without having to wait a long time or plan ahead. (Yay!)

B actually watched the parade too, while wearing his Mickey ears. I mean, he was so tired, and Drew was holding him the whole time, but he watched the parade and waved at Mickey, and seemed to enjoy it. He also got a little rest (being held), I guess. Then we went to Small World, and afterwards wandered into Toontown, which I knew nothing about. I have never gone in there. We got a Mickey ice cream bar (I couldn’t believe he ate the whole thing) and then the sugar rush seemed to invigorate him, so we went to do the Gadget Go-Go Coaster, which he loved, and then we were right by Mickey’s house and the Disneyland app said the wait was 30 minutes, so we went in there.

You walk through Mickey’s whole house, and then out into his backyard, and then into his movie barn, where they’re showing clips of old Mickey cartoons…they were showing Through the Mirror, and I noticed earlier they were playing music from the Pied Piper short, I think. It was cool that there was old stuff there that we recognized…although they must know these things are on Netflix and get watched, so I guess it’s not unbelievable. Then (after less than 30 minutes) we got taken in to meet Mickey! And it was so awesome.

First of all, let me say all the Disney staff members are amazing. The photographer and his assistant (?) didn’t make anyone feel rushed through the process. And they were so sweet and welcoming. And the assistant took my phone and got pictures on my phone of B and of all of us with Mickey, in addition to the professional photos.

Second, the Disneyland app was totally worth it, for wait times and for reserving a place for dinner…but mostly for the photos. Every photographer that takes your picture, you have them scan a QR code on the app, and then all the pictures go there. Plus you can enter the codes from your ride pictures. Then at the end of the day, you pay a flat fee to download everything. So I paid one fee for 5 pictures with Mickey, ride pictures from Splash Mountain and Space Mountain, plus pictures of strangers from each of those rides, from when I entered our codes wrong and added the wrong photos to our collection.

B went right to Mickey and hugged him, and we got the cutest picture of the two of them, that I never EVER expected us to get. It totally made me melt.

After that, we walked back through the Small World toy store, to pick out some stuff for Baby H. (Another shoutout for Disney: if you’re staying at a Disney hotel, they will take anything you buy throughout the day and send it back to your hotel for you. An amazing service. I’m super grateful for that.) It was starting to get dark, so we went back to see what the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad line was like, and then waited for that one. It was a 25-minute wait, and felt like it…and I have to say, that was probably the longest we waited for anything all day. And we only did a couple fastpasses. We had good luck with lines. And I think it only felt so long because it was the end of the day.

When we got on Big Thunder Mountain, B told Drew that “you have to put your hands up, like this!” and threw his hands in the air. It was so cute.

After the ride, we headed to dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. BUT FIRST, we were walking through Frontierland and B asked, “Can I have one last churro please?” so yeah, of course you can, putting our daily churro total at 5 and his personal churro total at 3. Then we were walking past the Dole Whips and the line was short and it had been so long all day, so I jumped in line for a Dole Whip, which we all ate standing on Main Street. Then we finally went to dinner (after churros and Dole Whip).

Goofy’s Kitchen is character dining, so B got to meet Chip and Dale, and Pluto. (He passed on Goofy, actually.) The staff brought him a birthday cupcake and sang to him (the first of I think 6 birthday cupcakes/songs we heard before we left). He also got a Happy Birthday button. Also, all the characters were dancing to Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah at one point, and people were waving their napkins like rally rags, and B totally did it, which was so adorable. He loved it. Then he started getting silly, like he took off his shoes and socks, and he put mustard on his watermelon, and he was just getting giggly…because it was almost 9pm and he had basically survived all day on churros and excitement, I guess.

We stopped at a gift store in the hotel, because we wanted to get him a sweatshirt, and we also got him this light up Buzz Lightyear, which he played with on the entire walk back to our hotel, and it was SO CUTE HE WAS SO HAPPY YOU GUYS.

We watched World of Color again, and this time he was really into it, like he dragged the chair over to watch out the window. It was really cute, because he’d been kind of in and out the night before. Then fireworks, then we went to bed (again we all had to go to get him to settle down).

This morning he got a wake up call (we were already up) from Mickey, which was really sweet. We packed up and got out of there. We made great time all the way back.

He did such a great job. We went into this knowing that he could melt down, he could get tired, we were just going to be chill and relaxed and not have expectations. But he stayed with us for the whole time. There was one meltdown post-Toontown, when he was tired and hungry and it was getting close to his normal bedtime (and he now says it happened because “I didn’t know what I wanted,” which is very wise). He was sweet and nice, and every time we took a picture of or with him, he looked nicely at the camera and smiled and said cheese. He stayed with us, he held hands, he said please and thank you. He was WONDERFUL.

If this is four, sign me up.

What a fantastic little boy. He’s so great. I’m really glad we were able to do this with him…and with just him. He’s adjusted really well to having a little sister, so I’m glad we could reward him for that by giving him a really special, big boy trip. And now he knows what Disneyland is, and he’s already asking to go back!



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