Sunday, July 31, 2011

Super Sunday Check-In: I Think the Check-in Is Gonna Stay....

....but get a lot shorter, and have lots of links.

Hey supers!

1. I love you all. Yes, even you. You know who you are. Oh! And especially you.
2. I love checking in with everyone, but typing big check-ins like I've been doing feels stressful to me, so for now I'm going to be completely wishy-washy (love that oxymoron, right?) and post shorter check-ins here, with links to elsewhere.

Here's why: On my writing blog, no one wants to read about housecleaning (I don't even want to read about housecleaning, to be honest.) Over here, no one cares more than a flying fig about how many words I typed, or the special nuances of writing....*snore.* See how that happened? No good.

Welcome to Week 3 of my ongoing confessions of burnout. (I'll understand if you leave right now.)
I'm so burnt out with housekeeping and cooking that I'm pretty much ignoring it at this point, in favor of writing. Which, in a really non-significant way, has paid off. I've been so obsessed with my manuscript and all its related documents (query letters, synopses, blog posts, etc.) that I've decided, outside of any last-minute changes that leap off the computer screen and surprise me that I am....wait for it....

Ready To Query.

(That means "Look for an agent to attempt to sell my cute little collection of words to a Big Publisher.")
This is not as big of a deal as it seems. Finding an agent is like winning the lottery, and it's highly likely that I won't. But still....normal people win the lottery all the time, and I *think* my manuscript might be a tad bit above normal.

So, that's my check-in. My bathroom hasn't been cleaned in two weeks and the kids' hasn't been done in a good four days. There are crumbs everywhere and the carpet is scuzzy (for real.) I've made no strides toward getting ANYTHING ready for my trip to the Hillel Conference this week (OhmyGodIcannotwait), but, hey. I'm feeling good about my writing-for-fun project that somehow turned into a novel.


This coming week, I'm going to go to the Hillel Conference in Saint Louis and see some of my dearest friends from rabbinical school, and to collaborate and learn and get excited about this coming year at Hillel. It's going to rule. And I'm going to sleep 6 hours a night AND write two hours every day, because you know what?

I WON'T HAVE TO COOK ANY MEALS, WIPE ANY TUSHIES, OR SCRUB ANY FLOORS! From Tuesday night till Sunday morning!!!!

Oh, you guys, I seriously just started crying when I typed this.

What about you? How was this past week? What are your goals for the future week? Wanna meet me in St. Louis for a drink?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In: Frugal Fails and Out of the Revisions Cave

Before you read my incredibly self-indulgent check-in, visit my friends Shannon, whose house has been a-rockin' (not for the reason you think - I don't think) and Amanda (who hosted an incredible Shabbos dinner this week).

Hey, Supers.

First, I want to thank you for indulging me in my epic bloggy breakdown six days ago.

It's no secret that I'm not cut out for this stay-at-home Ima stuff. Top that off with how David works probably 18 hours a day (no exaggeration) and does about two percent of the housework (that includes preventing the children from killing each other,) and you can call me burned out.

I thought that writing this here frugal Ima blog starting about a year ago would make me feel like my stay-at-home-ness was worthwhile and fulfilling. It did for a little while, and didn't anymore. I never blog here anymore (in case you hadn't noticed) because I HATE everything to do with house and cooking, children and homemaking. Well, I don't hate it, I guess, I hate writing about it (but really I hate it a little too.)

 Some people would have started drinking or emotionally eating, but I started writing.  That's really my addiction right now. I wake up in the middle of the night to jot down or change, ignore my children, and type till my hands hurt to get just one more task done.

When I go back to work in about T-5 weeks (thank-HaShem-in-heaven-I-need-this-so-badly), I really hope the burnout evens itself out and I start blogging on our family blog and maybe here again. But right now, I just can't stand to spend one more minute thinking about house, kitchen, or children than I have to (yes, I am a horrible person.)

So, I'm thinking about moving the check-in to my writing blog, since this blog is otherwise dormant. Thoughts?

Anyway, this week's check-in. This past week I was in the revision cave, as my beta reader was finishing up reading and critiquing my 300-plus pages and I was frantically making changes and corrections according to her critiques. Whilst in the revision cave, I:

Freaked out and made David pick up Chipotle for dinner one night.
Freaked out and hired $90 worth of babysitters each week until September.

Both Frugal Fails. And I really don't care. Seriously, I will LOSE. MY. MIND if I don't start getting away from these children a few hours a week. It's the whining and the hitting, and the screaming, dear God, the screaming. And looking at cooking food or pots and pans has literally given me an anxiety attack at least twice this week. I really can't handle it anymore.

BURNOUT. What you don't want to happen to your cheery housewife. (that's a good tagline for a spa or something, huh?)

See why I think I should let this blog go? See???

Anyway, now that I'm out of the revision cave and in Official Second Draft Land (hopefully to be followed sometime this fall by Querying Adventurescape), I hope to be a little less obsessive about my writing, and actually start getting things in order for my return to Real Work.

For example, here is my professional wardrobe:

I should probably go through that and see what, if anything, still fits me, and then HANG IT UP IN THE CLOSET like a civilized person.

Oh, wait. That's still self-indulgent. Oh, well.

Supers, what's on the agenda for the week? What do you hope to accomplish, and what's going to slide to let you do it?

(Also, should I quit this blog?)

You're doing an awesome, awesome job. Keep on keepin on.

Monday, July 18, 2011

SuperIma MONDAY check-in (oy): How Does Anyone Do This?

This week, unfortunately, I'm sharing the Check-In of Despair. For motivation and inspiration to be a *healthy* human being, run over to Shannon and Amanda's blogs. They both checked in on time, and seem to be doing okay. *sigh.*

I think I have finally reached my breaking point. I am overwhelmed. SO overwhelmed. And all I do is watch the kids, keep the house, and work a little bit. But the "work" isn't work, per se, because I'm not getting paid for it. So it's a hobby, I guess.

My kids are miserable. And it's not because I don't do stuff with them. Last week we did some activity every day. We went to the farm, and the water fountains, and the North Market. We went for walks around the block. We fingerpainted. We played in the pool in the backyard.

Still, they are bored as all get out and acting up. Asher is throwing temper tantrums and hitting everyone. Rami follows me around like a lost puppy, saying the same thing over and over again until I repeat what he's saying. (This morning the phrase was "What's my butt doing?" Charming.) Nesyah is throwing a tantrum over E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G, often slamming herself into furniture, the wall, or the floor and injuring herself in the process. Asher and Rami are *constantly* crying and whining about something. No one says "please" or "thank you." Every mealtime and bedtime is an all-out battle to get the kids to stay at the table or in their beds without screaming or pounding on something, or injuring one another.

This morning,  by 9:00, I:
Worked out and showered.
Did a half hour's work on a book I'm critiquing (not that strenuous, this lady is ready to publish I think)
Made breakfast, lunch, and dinner for everyone.
Did a load of laundry
Mixed, kneaded, and baked a batch of challah
Unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen
Fed the children and got them dressed.

But I still have to:
Find two different doctors (we're new to the area) and make  appointments for everyone
Print and fill out forms for the kids' s "school"
Find a dentist and make appointments for everyone
Prepare for a work meeting I have today during naptime
Arrange for sitters for a work conference I'm going to in a few weeks
Fold and put away three loads of laundry
Clean the bathroom
Clean the lower level for work meeting during naptime
Do *something* to entertain the children
Feed the kids lunch and get them down for a nap.

All before 1:30. Oh. And I HATE all of those jobs.

The kids have been up for three and a half hours. They are nearing the end of their second viewing of "Madagascar." If I ask them to play on their own, you guys, the screaming and the hitting and the whining is INCREDIBLE.  I cannot deal with it.

I would send the boys to day camp, but they won't take children as young as Nesi, so it doesn't help much anyway.  And that's money that we can't just throw around.

So, I ask again - HOW DOES ANYONE DO THIS??????

Yeah. I'm nearing the end of my rope with this whole stay-at-home-mother business. Can't do it. Just can't. Can. Not.

But that's not the reason I didn't post yesterday. I didn't post because I went to see the Harry Potter movie, and I wept, and when I got home I was so emotionally spent that I couldn't function. I did not expect that reaction. (Hm, do you think something else is going on?)

Anyhoo. It's been a rough week.  ( Excuse me, I have to go stop Asher from smothering Nesi with a blanket. Seriously.)

Supers, I submit to you this week. Nothing else can slide. There is trash and crumbs strewn across the dining room table and the living room. I have no idea which of the laundry the kids have pulled out of baskets and strewn across the floor is clean and which is dirty. The kids have watched a lot of TV. I sleep about 5 hours a night. Our meals are as simple as they come. I feel like I am drowning.

Hmmm. Maybe some commiseration would do the trick? Leave it in the comments, please. Thanks. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-in: Brush with Celebrity Edition

Happy New Week, everyone! It's gonna be a good one, I can feel it. Before you read my post, run on over to regular checker-inners Amanda  (who has a challah blog, did you know?) and Shannon who is BACK TO WORK!!! *cue angels singing.*

So you know how I have a little writer's blog that I hardly ever post to because I'm so obsessed with, ya know, writing?

A couple weeks ago I read the BEST book I've read since the Hunger Games Trilogy, and that's saying A LOT.


 I mean, seriously, this book tore my heart out, made me smile, and left me thinking about it for DAYS.  Now, I don't know about you, but when I luuuurve a book I get kind of a celebrity crush on the author. Now, some authors are kind of stand-offish, internet wise. If you go to their website you see a professional headshot of them, a bio, and some information about their books, and that's pretty much it.

But Elana Johnson? She blogs all the time, and posts all kinds of ra-ra-you-can-do-it writing advice, and responds to questions in her discussion forums, and cheers on her fellow authors when their books debut.  The other day I commented on one of her posts encouraging all the writers in the trenches.

Then, yesterday, there was an email in my inbox from "Elana Johnson." I kid you not, I almost lost my breakfast I was so excited. She left a comment on my blog! MY. BLOG.

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*jaw drops to floor*

I would be keeping something from you if I didn't tell you I hyperventilated, then cried a little, then sighed and smiled a lot.

This is just one reason I say all the time - "God loves the internet." Because God knows, I needed that yesterday.

So, goals:  This past week I did NOT meet my goal of writing 1600 words a day on my new project. I know, shocker. That was kind of an insane goal, especially when you have two people reading your first draft and giving you excellent feedback and suggestions. I ended up changing a LOT of stuff on the first draft, and working on it a lot of hours, including a THREE HOUR BLOCK that David gave me yesterday morning (love you, honey.) So, I got some pretty serious revision done, plus shaved off almost 1500 words. Even though that wasn't my original goal, I'm calling last week a win.

Also we hosted a fabulous Shabbat dinner and no one complained about the food, and I got a bunch of work done for my real job which starts in September, and no one called CPS on me all week. (In all seriousness, I didn't ignore my kids that much, and they had a zoo trip and two trips to play in the water fountains, so don't worry.) So that's a win too.

This week I'm going to get back to basics and put the timer on myself. It helps me to stay focused and gives me the amazing ability to say "what I've done all week." I'm giving a solid half hour or a broken full hour to critiquing my friend Gina's project every day. That's enough time to re-read and give comments on one chapter, so hopefully she'll have seven more critiqued chapters by this time next week from me (hi, Gina!) I'm going to spend another hour each day on my own writing stuff, either generating new words or fixing ones I've already written, but NOT wasting time on reading writing blogs, as fun as it is.

What about you, supers? How was last week? What's this week shaping up to look like?
You are doing a GREAT job. Yes, you. Way to go.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-in: Birthday Weekend Extravaganza

Happy New Week, Supers! (Or as we Jews say, Shavua Tov.)

Before you read my check-in, go visit regular checker-inners Amanda, who has a BIG announcement for everyone (no, she's not pregnant, stop asking her okay?) and Shannon, who has a new nephew! Also please welcome to the blogosphere my friend Elle at her new blog about her year studying to be a rabbi in Israel, and her sister Yaffa's blog I Put Birds on Things, a tribute to Elle's year abroad. (This meidele is only 13 but she is SO funny and her writing is so good. I hope my kids are that close someday.) Okay. Here we go.

Wow. It's hot in my kitchen. We're expecting a table full of guests for next Shabbos, so I've already started the baking. I was inspired by Deb over at Smitten Kitchen (I know, what's new, right?) and made these incredible homemade oreos for Asher's birthday:

What can I say? I'm a sucker for custom colors in cookies. In anything, really. Anyway, these things were so cute and awesome that I decided to bake up a big pareve batch of 'em for Shabbos. So they're rotating in and out of the oven, along with a couple of batches of challah, and I'm schvitzing up a storm. But hey, better now than Friday, and also I have my netbook and occasionally stopping to type, so I'm happy as a clam (could be.)

Also? I finished the first draft of my little writing for fun project, which I think I am now finally brave enough to refer to as "my novel."  Huh. That makes my stomach flip. I bought myself a url to celebrate. Wheee!

That is to say, it's been a good week. I got SO much done for myself, I can hardly believe it. I even had time to read my friend Gina's work-in-progress (btw you are going to swoon when this baby gets published and hits the shelves, it's incredible.)

This week on the docket: Turns out I'm so in love with the characters and my story that even two days without them is too many. They're speaking to me, y'all. Because I know my characters by now and I have a basic story line for it, I've rationalized that I should TOTALLY write the sequel, and yes you writer types, I know that makes me an idiot, but please believe me when I say this. It really and truly is just for fun. Like, 99% of it, anyway. 

To that end, I've decided to jump on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon for July and August. In case you don't feel like clicking over, it's a bunch of insane people who try to write a novel in just one month. The goal is 50,000 words and that works out to about 1700 words a day (I AM INSANE.) But seriously, I think I can do it.

So, for the rest of the summer, before I kick back into rabbi-ing, I'm going to keep giving myself the daily gift of 1.5 hours worth of naptime to work on this stuff. The kids "rest" for 2 hours a day, so that only leaves half an hour every day dedicated to intense housework/cooking/what have you but so far no child has gone neglected according to this plan.  Yes, I cook and clean while they're awake. Yes, they are sometimes bored to tears (you should see the staring at the ceiling that goes on around here.) But I took them to the Zoo THREE TIMES this week, so they're not doing too badly.

What about you, sweet supers? How was your week? How is this coming week going to be? What are you going to do to make it happen?

You're doing an INCREDIBLE job. Also, you look fabulous, even with the humidity. Great job.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

If You Want Something Done, You've Got to Do It Yourself (Or: Replacing Heads on Family Photos)

So you know how you work hard all day long to support/love/keep up after your family? And you how you love them SO much? And then it's Mother's Day, or your birthday, or whatever, and someone asks you what you want? And instead of saying "An iPad 2" or "A freaking day to myself," i.e. the selfish things you want, you say, "Oh, I just want a family picture because I LOVE AND CHERISH YOU ALL SO MUCH." And you think that you're being an awesome Ima or Abba, because really, that's a trifling, sentimental thing,  hardly anything to ask, right?


You will hire a photographer* or go to the studio and one or more of your punk kids will decide that even though they've seen their front porch ten thousand times, today, right here and right now, during this very expensive photo session, that they MUST peer at it broodingly. And another is just going to have to glare at you, sorry Ima, there is no other option.

 I'm sorry, Ima, I absolutely cannot look into the camera right now. You see, doing so would kill me. You don't want me dead, do you? (Well, Rami, after this, maybe I do.)

Okay, so this will be fun. Because I am going to show you how to literally wipe the smirk/scowl/glare off of your precious babies' faces**. Then you can pretend that your kids are sweet and compliant, and not a collection of temperamental delinquents only you and your partner know them to be.

Ahem. Let's get started.

Find two photos that you like elements of (I've been known to do it with three or even four photos, this is just the intro.)
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(Does it ever disturb you to see how weird you look when you laugh? Ugh.)

Figure out which photo has MORE THINGS you like, and use the "move" tool (it looks like a hand) in the upper left corner to drag it on top of the photo that has the smiles you're going to plaster on the punk kids' faces. The replacement smiles go on the bottom, because you're going to erase the scowls away.
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(Is this making sense? I really hope it is.)

Go over to the layers panel in the bottom right hand corner, and lower the opacity of the top layer to about 50%.
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Now, you're going to need to do some alignment work. Decide on the first head you're going to erase, and then figure out what is closest to it/running into it. Then use the move tool (the arrow with the cross of arrows next to it, the very top left in the tools menu on the lefthand side of your screen) to line up the two layers so that those overlap. You may need to blow up or shrink the top layer  and rotate it to achieve this.
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(You can see that I had to enlarge the top layer a bit.)

Okay, stay with me. We're almost ready to erase, and it's SO satisfying.  Bring that top layer back to 100%.
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Choose the eraser tool and start erasing.
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Easy does it.
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Only erase enough to make the image look seamless. In this one, it was only Rami's head and hair - I could keep his shoulders the same. If you erase too much in one pass, you could end up giving someone else two heads or something.
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I also ended up replacing Nesi's scowl with a slightly less scowly face.
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Okay. Are you happy?  Save your picture as a PDF (in case you see you've made a mistake.) Then, so you can print this picture and all your neighbors and loved ones will think your kids are perfect, go on up to the "Layer" menu and click "Flatten Image."

Fullscreen capture 722011 51910 AM copy

You're done! Congratulations! You got what you wanted, even if you did have to artificially manipulate it yourself. Print that sucker on canvas and call it a job well done.

*We are so, so lucky to have a friend who is also an incredible photographer who did these images for us gratis. Thanks Amy, we love you! Check her out at Amy Ann Photography.

** I'm using Photoshop Elements 8, but any software with photo layering capabilities should do the trick. I think Gimp has it, and it's a free download. Google it.
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