Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

Hello, world!

Have I mentioned that one of the side effects of being cooped up watching reruns of Parks & Rec for months is an intense love of plaid? I’ve been obsessed with the comforting properties of plaid lately, so naturally I decided to crochet some. This latest blanket uses a new-to-me technique of surface slip stitches to create the plaid striping. (Photo: Shala Howell)

(OK. I know this isn’t really my first post, so I really shouldn’t use the traditional first post “Hello, world!” title. It’s just my first post in a while, and I thought a greeting of some sort was in order.)

What I’ve been doing instead of blogging

1. NaNoWriMo

I disappeared in part this past month because in November there’s this little thing called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where writers all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I don’t do it every year, but I’ve been struggling to get any writing done this year, and I thought an external deadline might be useful.

My goal was to edit 50,000 words worth of the next book in the Caterpickles Parenting Series, tentatively titled An English Major’s Guide to Raising a Critical Thinker. It’s been drafted for almost 3 years now. It’s even been through a professional editing cycle. I’ve been putting off doing the resulting revisions because I decided they could wait, while a couple years’ worth of other things could not.

I am pleased to announce that I did ok this year.

A message on a blue background that shows a badge of a flag perched on a mountain top. The words say: "You unlocked a badge: 'Achieved Your Goal for Your Writing Project' You earned this badge by achieving the goal you set for yourself! You've climbed this peak."
My fancy NaNoWriMo badge. (Photo: Shala Howell)

50,000 words down. Only 40,000 words to go and An English Major’s Guide to Raising a Critical Thinker will be ready for my editor (again).

2. Thanksgiving

We typically don’t travel at Thanksgiving, even in normal years. Our closest family members are 1700+ miles away. Even if we fly, we’ll be spending two out of our four vacation days traveling with 25 zillion of our closest friends and neighbors. I’m just not that fond of it.

My extended family is more generously spirited than I am when it comes to Thanksgiving travel, and most years some of them come visit us for a week instead. This year, though, we neither traveled nor had visitors.

We did have video and phone calls with various relatives all during the day and a video call scheduled for Thanksgiving dinner itself. But when it came to the food served at that dinner, we had no one to please but ourselves this year.

In an effort to keep things as normal as possible, I asked Michael and The Thirteen-Year-Old for a list of their essential Thanksgiving foods so that I could make sure those foods at least made it to the table. Michael cooked half the list, I baked the other half, and that, my friends, is how we ended up with a Thanksgiving dinner completely devoid of non-starchy vegetables.


I have suspected it for some time, but Thanksgiving really drove home how happy we would be as a family if carbs, meat, fruit, and a selection of carefully curated dairy products were all you needed for a balanced diet.

3. It’s starting to look a bit like Christmas

I am very slowly rolling out the Christmas decorations. So far, I’ve accomplished one light in the front yard (one of those projector things that makes the side of your house or a favorite tree sparkle — not this exact one but something similar), a playlist with assorted holiday songs to play in the background of whichever room we’re in, and stuffing our perpetual Advent calendar with chocolate and daily notes for Michael and The Thirteen-Year-Old.

At some point this week or maybe next, the three of us will decorate a Christmas tree, which our cat Canelo will spend the rest of the season working tirelessly to knock down. Eventually I might even get a wreath for the front door and hang the stockings.

All of the Christmas trees, wreaths, and ornate outdoor decorations that have been popping up on my Facebook feed all week are doing their best to make me feel behind. But their social conditioning messages are consistently and beautifully undercut by the maple tree in my front yard, which didn’t even realize that it’s fall until last week.

Maple tree with brilliant red leaves. Under it are bright green hostas. Behind it another tree with leaves that are still aggressively green. The maple tree is obviously an early mover, fall-wise.
The maple tree in our front yard. (Photo: Shala Howell)

If Mother Nature is so relaxed about the meaning of time this year, there’s no reason for me to get all worked up about it. The obvious fix here is simply to stop logging into Facebook.

What about you?

What have you been up to?

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