30 March, 2012

Breaking Spring

Family On Friday!!!

'Tis the season to vacation...

Whether you're having a staycation or off to some exotic location, like orbiting the moon or something, taking the time midway through a serious holiday lull is key.

Depending on the age of your kids, plan some family time as well as some independent time. Your kids will be going to be having Spring Breaks long after they leave your house. Showing them good ways to have fun and allowing them to explore a little of their own will start them off with some good skills.

28 March, 2012

Trust Issues

Writers' Wednesday!!!!

Your readers/audience want to trust you. Very few would ever start your work looking for justification that they shouldn't read/watch you. If they didn't trust you, they would avoid you.

That trust is yours to lose.

Serial episodes of television shows broadcast before home recording was considered a possibility would often end on some bizarre cliffhanger. The next episode's opening scene showed a different cut of the same scene, completely changing the direction of the scene's impact.

Your readers/audience may forgive a few contrivances (don't abuse that). But, if you lie to them, and then retell the story to make it sound like it's their fault for not understanding earlier, they will abandon you.

Use genuine intrigue and double check to make sure new information builds on previous knowledge, even perhaps showing previous knowledge in a new light.

27 March, 2012

If You're Happy And You Know It

No word yet on the second tooth. If it's poking through, it's not by much. The bug is, however, working on a revitalized teething session.

In spite of the suspected waves of pain, she continues to take advantage of any opportunity to laugh and scream with delight. Even if doing so gets her excused from the dinner table.

Now that the bug is all of ten months old, she has added a new expression of happiness. The swinging-arm clap.

The milestones are mounting as she has also successfully pulled herself up to a standing position. The subsequent mouthful of paper gives wifey and grandma a new baby proofing challenge. The baby corale should arrive any day now.

23 March, 2012

Lift The Fallen

Family On Friday!!!

Just a quick post today.

When someone from your family does something bad, it doesn't mean you've failed. But, it could mean they need your help and support more than ever.

20 March, 2012

Feed Your Characters

Writers' Wednesday!!!

No internet until next week, so I'm posting through my phone. The good news is that means I'll be brief. The bad news is I'll be limited.

What your characters eat and how they eat says so much about who they are. Never take this for granted.

And be sure that they do eat. It always bugs me when characters seem to be in pursuits that last days and they never eat. I might be able to go about eight hours, but I hope I never have to find out.

Food is culture. And many cultures from around the world prepare food with the same basic idea, but wildly varied preparations. Exposing your characters to new foods could be quite fun.

Speaking of fun... enjoy the research!

19 March, 2012

Forward Progress

Tooth number two might show up soon, but the bug ain't waiting around. She and her big toes have figured out how to move forward.

Forward to the kitchen where the cats have squishy ookie food. Forward grandma's shelves of bric-a-brac. Forward to dark and dusty recesses previously unexplored by mankind.

Emergency trip for baby gates and creative uses for boxes from Diapers.com.

There is now a deliberate pause for happy dances when obstacles have been overcome. And a new kind of shriek for when the bug buts up against her new nemesis...

The baby gate.

It's a kind of "Mom! I'm right outside of the kitchen and there's this thing between me and under-oven treasure!" Not in a completely unhappy way, but certainly with an expectation that once the adults of the house see what they left sitting around they would move it.

At least there are still toys to examine and cats to chase.

16 March, 2012

And In This Corner... Part V

Family on Friday!!!

For the last several weeks we've discussed handling confrontations more constructively and generally about setting a good example for expressing anger without losing control.  Now let's finish this series with a big why.

Children who learn effective arguing techniques from their parents are less likely to respond to peer pressure.

One of the trickiest of life's lessons (I see many older adults that still haven't learned) is to say no to someone you care about.  Forget pushers and bullies.  Your child's greatest threat to doing something they don't want to comes from their friends, teachers, and older siblings.

If you only teach unquestioning obedience, you risk them agreeing to bad ideas, even if that means they're disobeying a previous instruction.  You're not there at that moment.  This robot you've raised is receiving a new set of instructions that will override yours.

Relish in your kids' expressions of their own will.  Help them learn that they will be listened to and taken seriously without resorting to violence, insults, screaming, and/or whining.  Even more importantly, they need to know that disagreeing with someone they care about will not end a friendship/relationship.

How spectacular would it be if your child's resolve and poise in an argument with their friend steers the friend away from making a potentially fatal decision?  I'm sure that friend's parents would appreciate it.

You'll have to pick your battles to lose.  If the youngun' asks politely to stay up an hour past his/her bedtime to finish a movie, relent before whining and throwing ensues (and don't negotiate with terrorists).  Chances are the kid won't last another hour.  Sometimes, edifying strong negotiation skills outweigh a strict adherence to house rules.

Letting your child win an argument/confrontation after both of you have been (mostly) calm and have had a chance to state your cases, boosts their confidence as well as helps them remain calm the next time.

I hope these discussions have helped lessen the anger you feel (and show) during familial bouts, showed you that having them is a functional and natural process, and explained that these times can wind up playing a pivotal role in your child's preparedness for the rest of the world.

14 March, 2012


Writers' Wednesday!!!

If you've ever written in earnest, you've reached a place where no word seems to fit and the thesaurus is no help.  A perfect time to invent a word.

Inventing words requires an above average understanding of how phonetics invoke emotional responses and often the use of a wide variety of prefixes and suffixes.

If I told you a puettrangilia is a type of flower, could you describe it?  It doesn't matter if everyone reaches the same description.  Chances are that the writer would mention its characteristic attributes.

David encountered a nevsist while crossing the park earlier today.  Is that a good or a bad thing?

How many different ways can you use conmotraflict in a sentence?

The key to communication is ensuring that the person receiving the communication understands what the sender means by the words s/he uses.  That's how malapropisms can go unnoticed and aposiopesis doesn't doom conversations to an endless waiting game.

Context and character reactions can go a long way in defining new words.  Maybe a new use for an old word is what you really need.  The process of inventing the perfect word can even help you decide which existing word fits best.

Lexigenesis also serves as a welcome and fun distraction to staring helplessly at the wall.

Now, inventing words and having them catch on... that's a different challenge entirely.

13 March, 2012

The Bug Goes To The Zoo

When one isn't quite nine months old, even a small zoo must feel like guided backpack tour through the world's jungles.  Small zoos are probably the way to go for ones so small.  Who wants to be thirty minutes from the parking lot when a macaw's accusatory squawking is ill received by a stroller's passenger?

The bug instigated her fair share of screeching.  Wifey and grandma took her from continent to continent and expanded her perception of what odd forms life can take.  Some odd forms seemed to require very loud and shrill communication.

The turkeys couldn't have agreed more.  A couple of them that approached the fence in search of handouts were offered ear-fulls instead.  Whether they intended to clarify their requests or polite fowl communication ensued, they returned each of the bug's sonic volleys with equal grace and aplomb.

Maybe there's something about the bug and turkeys.  Grandma was randomly visited by a turkey when the bug was born.  Perhaps she'll grow up to be the Turkey Non-Whisperer.

09 March, 2012

And In This Corner... Part IV

Family on Friday!!!

Sometimes being a parent means being a good actor(ess).  Not breaking character by falling over laughing when the little one trips and face plants into the dozen eggs they were carrying (unless you're making a video for a nationally broadcast television show, which, for some bizarre reason, makes it socially acceptable).  Not dancing around like a maniac in front of their friends when you learn they have been excelling in high school (betraying their apathetic domestic zombification).

And not raging in their face like carnage incarnate because you just can't sit through one more presentation of why a bunny, kitty, puppy, piggy, pony, piercing, tattoo, and/or motorcycle would be an essential part of their optimal development.

The litmus test of whether you are being angry or acting angry is your level of control.  For the record, hitting, throwing, screaming, slamming, and/or squeezing would count as being angry - loss of control.  The best actors(esses) out there can use subtle facial expressions, a stern tone of voice, deliberate wording, and fierce eye contact to let everyone know that the tiger is gnawing at the lock - but is controlled.

You may want to go berserk.  And very likely on someone else's kid.  Or some kid's parent.  Don't.  When you lose control of your anger, you lose control of the whole situation.  Remember, the anger you're feeling and the decisions you have made (even if they're wrong) all come from love.

Perhaps that old china cabinet was sitting around, waiting for an excuse to be thrown out.  That doesn't mean you should shrug it off when it breaks.  No hockey in the house means no hockey in the house.  Act angry.  Next time, it might be that custom-made hutch you haven't even half-paid for.

Hold back your real anger and just act out enough anger to get the message across.  Your kids learn by valuable example of how you conduct yourself with your extreme emotions.  Speaking of learning, next week I'll try to wrap the series up with why it's important to have arguments and confrontations with your kids.

07 March, 2012

Turn That Clown Upside Down

Writers' Wednesday!!!

There are many ways to prevent characters reading flat and predictable.  A quick fix is to give them more than one function from the start.

The love interest or femme fatale can serve as the comic relief.  The expository characters (both know-it-alls and newbies) can be saboteurs.

And just because one character typically runs point as your go-to girl/guy, that doesn't mean you can't trade duties a few times.  Let another character steal their thunder.  Their reaction could be interesting.

Try it out.  I'm sure you'll see your story improve along with your characters.

06 March, 2012

Running The Laugh Track

My favorite message of the movie Monsters, Inc. is the part about the power of a child's laughter being able to energize whole city blocks.  If that were true, the bug is currently supplying the state of California with an abundance of free, renewable energy.

Scarcely a phone call goes by without her full-on belly laughs filling up the background.  I swear I can feel the electricity all the way over here on the other side of the country.

She laughs at a lot.  From her holding up a WubbaNub to the light, to rolling around on the bed.

She's also talking more, and with inflection.  With only one tooth, that must be quite a sight, too.  Apparently, she can also tell when conversation at the dinner table isn't focusing on her.  So, she pulls focus with her banshee calls.

Is there such a thing as a baby laughing too much?  Is it, like, a symptom...  of something?  I prefer to think of it as a frequent reminder to focus on the joyful moments of life and get all you can out of them.

02 March, 2012

And In This Corner... Part III

Family on Friday!!!

Last week we continued discussing resolving confrontation within the family by underlining the importance of not escalating a bad situation by losing control of your anger.

Let's get the cliches out of the way:  You can't fight fire with fire.  You don't want to pour gasoline on the fire.  You shouldn't fan the flames.  You wouldn't want to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.  And so on and so forth.

How about this?  Don't piss on the fire that's cooking your food.

When a member of your family is obviously upset (even lashing out at you) and you have already acknowledged their feelings, apologized for you part in their pain, and reminded them that your position comes from your love for them, the next big step is to carefully consider what they want.

S/he may have a point.  You could very well be wrong.  (And just because you're wrong, doesn't mean they're right.)  As long as you haven't brought down the thunder with ultimatums, decrees, and gavel smacks, you still have a chance at incorporating what your family member wants without looking like a flopping fool.

A few suggestions for finding out their true wishes:  Ask them to calmly explain why they feel their position is superior.  Ask them if something else had upset them.  Ask them for their input to a compromise.

It's important to note that if you are going compromise or even agree that your family member's idea is better, that you only do so after they have calmed down.  This minimizes the chance of justifying their angry outbursts.

There is still a good chance that they are way off base and will have to obey your law to the letter.  If you checked your anger, allowed them to express themselves, and at least made a demonstration of considering that eating ice cream in bed might be an acceptable alternative to putting away their things, you've at least simmered the confrontation down significantly.

Some confrontations reach an impasse.  Can you act angry without being angry, even if you are angry?  We'll see next week.