Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Prepping for Preschool

So if you read this earlier September post, you know that our preschool situation blew up in our faces.  Long story short, the place we selected ultimately was not able to handle Zaxxon's food allergy needs because the program itself was not licensed or certified--even though they'd promised me months earlier that the could handle everything.  We'd thought that they would be able to get things sorted out, but they're not going to be able to do that until they get licensed, which could take months or a year.  Hubby and I were extremely pissed off about all this, but we pulled together, looked at other programs, and thanks to the flux of children that usually occurs at the beginning of the school year, we were able to find Zaxxon another position and he started this week.  (The new school IS properly licensed and certified, by the way.  Not making that mistake twice.)

The diaper really hit the fan regarding preschool back on September 10th, which was the day before Zaxxon was supposed to start school.  If you're at all familiar with this age group, you know that you can't just spring a big change on a little kid and expect them to be okay with it.  Zaxxon knew he was about to start preschool--I wasn't going to just drop him off on the first day, say "you're going to stay here for the morning, I'll see you in a few hours," and then leave.  That would be absurd.  Kids need help with transitions.  To that end, we did this craft to help him count down to the big event.

The countdown chain we made to prepare for our trip to Disney worked really well, so Zaxxon and I made another one for school.  The idea is we were making a visual calendar.  Zaxxon would tear off a link of the chain every day, and he could see the chain getting shorter, telling him how much time was left before school started.

Zaxxon is getting exceptionally talented at crafts.  He did a LOT of this one by himself.  He cut about two-thirds of the links by himself before he got tired of using the scissors

He even used my scissors for some of them--and did it so fast that he made me nervous, but he performed fine

He decorated a school bus to hang at the top of the chain.  He won't be riding a bus this year, but it's still a major symbol.

Lastly, we glued the chain together.  Zaxxon did not want to use a glue stick this time, but he tends to go overboard on white glue and I don't like letting him use it.  I found a good compromise online--I put white glue in a shot glass and gave him some q-tips.  He dipped the q-tips in the glue and used that to apply--and it kept the mess much more contained.  We'll definitely be using this tactic again!  He probably made about half of the chain by himself before he wanted me to take over.

I forgot to take a picture of this until the chain was nearly gone (we started almost a month before school was supposed to start.)

After all this, I was very unhappy about the prospect of telling my child that, after all his prep, he wasn't going to school after all.  Hubby and I eventually ended up babysitting the preschool for a week.  We took turns sitting in the hall outside the preschool room with Zaxxon's medication handy just in case so Zaxxon could go to school.  It wasn't a long-term solution, and as such only lasted that week before we learned that they wouldn't be able to get it together, but at least Zaxxon wasn't deprived of his carefully-planned first day.

The following week he simply didn't attend (and he was sick for half the week anyway) and by week three we had found our new program, so things worked out in the end.  He took to the transition to the new place better than I had expected.  We simply told him the old place didn't have a safe place to keep his allergy medicine, so we had to find a school that did have a safe place.  He wanted to see that safe place (and we showed him where they keep it) and he hasn't been at all concerned about the change otherwise.

Zaxxon's been doing really great at the new place, and we're happy with where we ended up.  It's one more day per week than we'd planned on (three instead of two) but he likes going there.  They have lots of TOYS for him to play with.  In fact, it's less structured than the other place--he's allowed to do whichever activity he wants and comes and goes as he pleases for a good portion of the day, whereas the other place told him "you need to be at this activity center now."  While he often needs direction, he'll probably flourish better when he gets to call more of the shots.  He acted up a bit more at home this week, but that's to be expected with a big transition.
Through all of this, I didn't even really get the chance to feel nostalgic about my baby starting school--I've been too preoccupied and distracted.  Hubby felt it a bit though.  On the first day at Zaxxon's old school, Hubby kept saying "He's not old enough for this, is he?"  And this is a big transition.  He's moving away from us.  But he's having a lot of fun doing it!
From his real first day of school
Tot School

Friday, September 14, 2012

I made it!

I got my pitch in on time, and I am in the GUTGAA Pitch Contest!

Deana Barnhart


Next week, my query will appear on either Deana Barnhart's blog or one of four others(Robin Weeks, Falling for Fiction, Emily R. King, or Jaye Robin Brown), along with 39 other queries (presumably of similar genres.)  Anonymous judges will pick their favorites, using the comments (I believe) to cast votes.  The top ten from each blog--so 50 pitches total--will be advanced to the Agent Round.  The pitches appear on Monday, and finalists are announced on Friday.

If I make it that far, my query will appear again, this time definitely on Deana Barnhart, and a group of agents will judge the queries.  There's no narrowing down, selecting of "winners," or actual judging.  The big prize is the possibility that an agent reading my query, if it makes it to finalist, could request to read the manuscript and potentially decide to represent me.  Wouldn't that be AWESOME??!!!!!

Stay tuned next Monday, when I will direct you to the blog that has my pitch.  I probably ought not to identify mine, as this is supposed to be anonymous, but there can't be harm in pointing you to the right blog, can there?  I don't know whether the judges will be at all swayed by general comments--they're supposed to pick their own favorites, after all.

My persistence paid off!  I missed the first window but thankfully there were two, and I spent some time trying to figure out exactly when it would open--basically whether my clock matched the destination one.  I'm glad to get a bit of good news, as the preschool saga (mentioned in my previous post) took a turn for the worse today, and stress is high.  But maybe I can make a sale soon.  Wouldn't that be nice?

How about you?  If you entered, did you make it?  Good luck to everyone!


Chaos.  That would be an accurate descriptor for my life right now.  Zaxxon started preschool this week, only things aren't going as planned.  Just over a month ago, I found out that the program we had chosen wasn't licensed, and also wasn't certified to administer emergency medication--which is a big deal since Zaxxon has food allergies.  I'd been told months previously (February, to be specific) that they could easily accommodate food allergies, that they'd done it before, that the director had food allergies herself, etc, etc.  It never occurred to me to ask whether they were actually certified to do it--and therefore legally allowed to (we've got some dumb laws in this country--oops, you're dying but I'm not legally allowed to help you because you might sue me and say I was assaulting you, even though I saved your life.  Sorry.)

This all came to light because the director of the preschool program took another job, so somebody else got shunted into the position temporarily.  The new guy realized things weren't being done according to state law, and was trying to align everything.

Okay, fine (after I calmed down from my mommy-sized tantrum.)  So could they get certified?  I got the impression that he'd been hoping I would just go away and stop making an abstract issue come to life in front of him.  But since I didn't, he agreed, after talking to his boss, that they'd get certified for emergency medication.  They assured me that they'd have it covered by the first day of school.

Good.  I took them at their word, and proceeded to help Zaxxon get prepared, on all levels, to start going somewhere else a few days per week.

Fast forward to this Monday, September 10th, the day before preschool was supposed to start (yes, for some reason our program started really late.)  I get a phone call from the interim director saying that the teachers had taken the medication class and passed it, but that there was a nurse inspection element of getting their program certified which they hadn't been able to get done because their entire program wasn't licensed, and the state wasn't going to do that for an unlicensed program--so they couldn't accept my child at preschool the next day.

Excuse me, what?

Cue mommy-sized tantrum that completely dwarfs the previous one. Probably dwarfs anything I've done before.  I am not a confrontational person.  I tend to withdraw into a shell when debates and arguments are going on, but I told this guy exactly how upset it made me to have him call THE DAY BEFORE school starts, after all other programs are already underway, and tell me that I can't bring my kid in.  Was he saying Zaxxon couldn't come at all, or that they'd get it taken care of eventually?  He hoped they'd get it taken care of, but he was having difficulty getting ahold of the right people with the state to find out exactly where they stand and how they can proceed.  When would he know something?  He said he'd call me the next day, but that Zaxxon couldn't start.

The colossal inappropriateness of that timing still galls me.

Hours later, after tears, talks, commiseration, and much emotional turmoil (and all without even telling Zaxxon that school was cancelled yet) Hubby had an idea:  would they let Zaxxon come to class if one of us stayed on the premises?  I got ahold of the director the next morning, with less than an hour to go, and he agreed that staying was a good solution for the time being.

So Zaxxon still got to go to his first day, and his first week.  In fact, he never knew why Mama was so upset.  Nor did he know that I (and the second time, Hubby) stayed at his school, because I didn't want him to think that there was anything to be scared of at school.

But now things are in perpetual limbo.  The director is obviously frustrated with trying to get this sorted out--he's not getting calls back from key people and is warning us that things probably won't happen at the speed anybody wants.  And speed is my biggest concern right now, now that they're cooperating.  This is not a long-term solution--we don't want to spend three hours a day, twice a week, puttering around outside Zaxxon's classroom, overhearing the preschool activities while writing or doing other projects.  Not for any real length of time.

I like the teacher, I like what I've overheard of the program, but the way it's being run is not helping us.  I've begun a little preliminary looking at other programs in the area--all of which have started, but which sometimes end up with vacancies during the normal flux at the beginning of the year.  One program, which comes highly recommended from several friends, has a lot of quirks about its own scheduling--although their licensing and certification is 100% in order.  I'm reminded of the phrase "beggars can't be choosers," but this will also be a big part of our year, and I want it to fit with our life.

I never thought I'd have to be the parent to fight for my child's rights and safety at school.  I thought that was done already, and that I'd covered my bases months ago by selecting a preschool that had the right policies in place.  Silly me.  Naive me, really.  I didn't know specifically what I should be asking for.  I guess as parents, we walk the path we have to walk when it's necessary.

In addition to all of this, regular life goes on, and if I want to participate in the GUTGAA pitch contest, I've got less than 12 hours to polish my pitch.  And by polish, I mean write the dang thing.  It's halfway written in my head, but for some reason I've been dragging my heels on this pitch for years.  That's part of why I joined GUTGAA, to force myself to pick up those feet.  And now I'll have to deprive myself of sleep to do it.  Ah, life.  (You'll notice I'm blogging instead of pitching.)  Wish me luck.
See?  Would you want to disappoint this child on his first day of school?  He'd been counting down to it for a month!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


So I was lurking in the blogosphere this week and encountered several writer friends participating in GUTGAA.  GUTGAA is "Gearing Up to Get an Agent," a blog hop and pitch contest with the chance of landing, or at least getting read by, one or more agents.  First I thought "sounds like fun, it's too bad my novel is nowhere near ready."  And then I remembered that I have a completed middle grade Christmas book and pitching it just keeps getting pushed behind other projects.  It's the perfect match:  even if I get no interest, this will at least push me to get everything ready so I can start querying on my own!
Deana Barnhart

The blog hosting GUTGAA is Deana Barnhart, and you can sign up here if you'd like.
The first event is a Meet and Greet, so here are my answers:

-Where do you write?
At my desk in the basement office

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
A Silhouette Cameo paper cutting machine I purchased months ago but still haven't used, which hasn't managed to muscle its way into a more contained niche of my desk yet, because a lot of my husband's stuff is still behind it

-Favorite time to write?
While the boys are napping (or at least are obeying the rules and staying in their rooms)

-Drink of choice while writing?
I seldom keep something at my desk, I just get water every time I get up.  Unless I'm tired, then I get a chai

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Silence.  I sometimes have trouble concentrating if I even have a song stuck in my head.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
The novel I'm editing now was the only thing I've ever written inspired by one of my dreams.  I was pretty enthused and couldn't stop talking about the dream for weeks.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?
Just write.  Momentum has a lot of power, on many levels.  Don't spend an hour researching one detail that might get cut in the first round of edits.  Details can be hammered out later, just clear your space and your mind and write.  There will always be chores, jobs, children, etc and you simply have to make time around them.

My first published story appears in the anthology "Doomology:  The Dawning of Disasters" from the Library of Science Fiction and Fantasy Press.  I live in Colorado with my husband and two young sons, and write whenever I can get the boys down for simultaneous naps.  I also recently started developing a mobile app, because life just isn't busy enough.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

August Stat Check

During the month of August, I wrote/edited on all 31 days
I spent a lot of time figuring out details, things that needed to change, and reorganizing my novel.  Then I blasted through the first five chapters again at a pace of one chapter every 1 1/2 to 2 days.  It was nice that very little work needed to be done to them since they were previously cleaned up.  Once I catch up to chapter 14, which is where I paused to incorporate research, it'll go back to a slower pace again.  But it still feels good to move so fast.
I made 10 submissions
I received 6 rejections
I took between 0 and 23 days to get a story back out after a rejection (yes, some of them took quite a while.  But once I got back into my groove I made it within a week.  And once I was really on my game, it took me 0-1 days)
I have 12 stories in slush pile circulation
I made 3 blog posts
I took no days off

Blogging is really starting to fall by the wayside.  There just isn't enough time in the day, especially while trying to sort through hundreds of vacation photos on top of everything else.  I'm still reading blogs, but seldom commenting anymore either.  I'm not really sure what the future of my blogging is going to be.  I do enjoy it so I don't see it going away, but at this point I will probably admit that it's going to be less frequent, so I don't feel so annoyed with myself when I don't have time to do it.

When it comes to my writing, I'm satisfied with my progress.  I'd love it to move faster, but that's the story of everything in life, and I don't have the time to make it go faster.  It's not going too slow, at least, so I can feel real progress being made.  That's one nice thing about working on a novel--I can see page counts and word counts and watch myself move from chapter to chapter, so it's easy to see myself moving through.

And that's all for now, because after a day of grandparents and the Taste of Colorado, I'm pooped.  G'night.