Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Peter

On the night of September 26, 1996, there was a lunar eclipse. I sat outside with my 40 week pregnant belly and wondered when this baby would appear. Melissa came 1 week early. Emily came 10 days late.

My midwife had assured me that this baby wasn't that big. He sure felt big. We didn't do ultrasounds or know the gender, because we were doing a home birth with a midwife.

I went to bed that night hoping it would be soon. I was getting tired of carrying this little one inside.

True to his compliant nature, Peter arrived the next afternoon at 1:01. He was 10 lb. 10 oz. Yes, you read that right. It is not a typo. He was a big baby after all. We joked that he was two months old at birth. Amazingly, I had no drugs and no tearing. He was a little hard to push out, but that was more because of his sort of sideways position than his size.

At any rate, he arrived on his due date, and made me really happy to have a boy. He was a pretty mellow baby, lovingly attended by his big sisters. Melissa especially like to be a little mommy and sing Peter to sleep. Emily became his best playmate as he grew.

On September 27, 2011, this baby turns 15. Whoa. He is now almost as tall as David, wears a size 11 shoe (still growing, it seems), and sings bass in choir.

It's kind of hard to describe my relationship to this really cool son of mine. When he was little, he loved to have me play with him. We did puzzles, played with his Barney figures, his Buzz Lightyear figures, and his dinosaurs. He liked to ride his tricycle around and around the block. He grew up with dogs and rats and hamsters and guinea pigs all around, and his special dog is Ginger, the one who showed up on our doorstep five years ago with Peter.

Peter was my cuddly boy. Even as old as 11 or 12, we would sit together before he went to bed. We'd talk, play games, read. I remember many a hilarious game of hangman. (Mary Poppins, Peter.)

Once Peter got "too old" for that, I felt a little lost. How does a mother connect with her adolescent son? But we soon found other things that connect us. We love to watch comedians together, and we have a few favorite TV shows, like our latest: "How I Met Your Mother." He's trying to bring me into his world by getting me into Dr. Who. Mmmm, not sure I'm quite there yet.

I love many things about my son. One is his sort of off-beat, weird sense of humor. Or the way he loves to tell me about whatever his passion of the moment is. As a little tyke, it was dinosaurs, then Pokemon, Digimon, Bakugan. Now it's Dr. Who, Munchkin, and computer coding. I often have no idea what he's saying to me, but I'm glad to hear his enthusiasm and joy over stuff. I also love that Peter loves music. It's almost a requirement in this house, but he has a genuine love of percussion. He has excellent musical skills, which I'm sure are partly genetic, but also hugely due to the constant stream of music happening in our house all the time. I am so glad at least one of my children is still in band and wants to do band in high school.

One of the most awesome things about Peter is that he is totally okay with himself, unafraid to be weird or geeky or even creepy. He likes "nerdy" things like chess, computers, band, scouts. He learned how to make creme brulee and homemade bagels. He took a gardening class and tells me what I should plant with what. A teenager with this kind of self-assuredness is a delight to be with.

Peter has the messiest room I've ever seen. His sisters will back me up on that statement. We call it the black hole. But he is happy with it for now, so we just shut the door and agree not to take it too seriously. Peter's personality is that of a leader, someone who likes to take charge, be on the top of the heap, and help others coming up behind him. He is smart like his sisters, outdoorsy like his parents, a pyromaniac like his dad, and sleeps and eats like any teenage boy.

I truly enjoy my son. Oh sure, he can be annoying at times. Like when he is "Mister Literal." That's when he takes everything you say literally. He has been known to write up contracts in order to make sure we all agree on something. He is also not so keen on doing chores or working on anything unless he wants to. He drinks far too much soda. But, you know, overall, the kid's okay. He is one of the good ones. Someone we can count on. Someone who works and plays and relaxes in equal measure. He's respectful when he should be and kind to others. In short, someone I like hanging out with. And he seems to like hanging out with me, too. I guess that says a lot more about our relationship than anything else I have written. So I'll stop there.

Happy Birthday to my favorite son, Peter Christian Jensen

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

In the past, I’ve sent out my “Christmas” letter at various times of the year. Since my birthday is upon us, (not looking for gifts or anything—wink, wink, nudge, nudge) I think now is a good time. Especially since much is going on in the ever changing world of the Jensens.

So…here’s what’s up with me. I mean, it is MY birthday, and my blog. I spent 1 ½ years getting certified to be a secondary English teacher, only to be looking during the worst recession in decades. Not to mention our loony state superintendent of schools has pushed through some disturbing legislation that makes our schools less effective, and in the process, eliminates quite a few teaching jobs. I’m sure I’ve posted about it before, so feel free to read those rants in other posts. I kept substitute teaching for a while, but it just wasn’t the same as having my own classroom.

So…I went back to my freelancing work, which has taken off quite a bit. Gee, maybe it has something to do with that recession? People not having enough money to hire someone full time, but just enough to hire freelancers? What do you know? I just might have found my niche. With the rise of self publishing (shhh, don’t tell anyone I said that word), more and more companies are sprouting up to help people publish their fiction (and non-fiction), and they hire me to edit for them. So I am basically doing all the fun parts of editorial without all the crappy meetings, financials, and corporate stuff I hated.

I did work for about six months at my favorite indie bookstore. (Shout-out to Rediscovered Books.) It was a supremely part-time gig, with the biggest benefit being the employee discount on books. Needless to say, not much of my paycheck stayed in my bank account. I liked it, liked the people, loved the customers—especially the Saturday morning folk who came down to the farmer’s market. But it was just not really helping me achieve what I wanted. (Except to own more books.)

So…I have been focusing my efforts more on writing my own fictional works (in addition to the afore-mentioned works of others). I have one novel completed, one just about done, two more in the writing phase, and several others in various stages of planning and pre-writing. The one I’m about to finish will be going out on submissions this fall, so wish me luck. As part of my writing life, I am an assistant regional advisor for my region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. That role got me on a cruise to the Bahamas (it was a working trip, I promise) and to LA for the 40th anniversary conference. I also spent a week in Salt Lake City in an intensive class with Ann Cannon and a group of incredible writers. I keep learning amazing new things at every turn.

Music is still very important to me. I play my flute anytime someone asks. I play in my recorder group. Right now I am learning alto recorder, which is in a different key than the soprano/tenor voices, so it is a challenge. I am planning to start up bag pipe lessons this fall. Just had
an urge to try it. And I am in the handbell choir and the orchestra at our church.

In other news, I am still on my weight loss journey. Year one produced a 30 pound loss. Year two has been sort of a stall. I haven’t gained any weight, but I haven’t lost any either. However, I must be getting firmer or toner or something, because I keep buying smaller clothes. And I’m in no rush. I am a firm believer that the slow weight loss will be a long-term weight loss. I know my body. It does not respond to much of anything in a fast way. I say it is like a glacier. Change happens VERY slowly. So, I am being a lot more active, eating a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables, and thoroughly enjoying my food. Odd, isn’t it? Food is my friend, not my enemy. I can enjoy it all I want and still lose weight.

Life in our home has changed quite a bit, now that both Melissa and Emily have moved out. Melissa moved out about a year ago, and is living in her own apartment. Emily moved out not long after, and is sharing an apartment with her boyfriend, Isaac, and another friend of theirs. And she recently got an adorable kitten named Luna. (After the Harry Potter character.)

So our house is quieter, cleaner, and less crowded. Fortunately, both girls are still in Boise, so we see them often. Peter still is at home for at least a few more years. He took over the girls’ room with his drum set.

David is busy, busy, busy at work. His associate moved to another company, so his work load is heftier. Hopefully he will get another one soon. David won an award this year from the Idaho Bar for service to the bar. You can ask him about it if you want more details. Apparently it had something to do with lending codes. Fascinating, right? The nice part of that was going with him to Sun Valley to receive the award. He is loving his role as a Boy Scout leader, going camping every month, backpacking, and watching Peter become a leader in the troop. David also ushers at church, which I think is just a gig to get out of listening to the sermon. (But hey, I do orchestra to get out of singing the hymns, so I guess we’re even.)

Melissa is a senior at Boise State, majoring in history with a minor in political science and a potential second minor in art history. She plans to go to grad school in history, although the details of that are still up in the air. She still has three semesters to go, even though she's officially a senior. She's taken a lot of classes, but still has some requirements to meet her major. She is also a voracious author, having written five or six completed novels. And a singer.

Emily graduated from high school in 2010, took a year off after taking something like 10 AP classes her last two years and feeling slightly burned out. She was planning on going to New Mexico Tech, but she has a boyfriend here who is awesome and would certainly move there with her if she asked. But she decided to stay here and go to Boise State. Partly because of the guy, but mostly (so she says) because she wanted to also do some languages that NMT does not offer. So she is majoring in physics, minoring in engineering, and taking Chinese. Her plans are to go on for a doctorate in astrophysics. She hopes to be an astronaut if they still have astronauts by the time she gets to that point. She is also working on her pilot's license and will solo soon. She, too, is an author with several novels under her belt. As well as a composer and pianist.

Peter is a freshman in high school. He is a drummer in band, loves Boy Scouts--will be Life this year--and is taking driver's ed. Yikes. He is also into chess, tennis, and possibly golf. He thinks right now he'd like to go into some form of engineering. He loves computers and reads coding manuals for fun?! He is pretty much your typical 15 year old boy--likes fire and exploding things, doesn't talk much unless he gets excited about something, ignores most of what I say, and eats primarily sugar and grease.

Our old dog Frodo is really showing his age, which we estimate to be around 13 years, give or take. But with the wonder of drugs, we keep him going. He doesn’t chase squirrels anymore nor can he withstand long walks. But he sure acts spry when food is involved. The “puppies”—Ginger and Dodger—are five now, but crazy and frenetic as ever. Also very cuddly, so they snuggle with me a lot. There are no rodents as pets in the house at the moment, and I don’t anticipate any. Melissa loves Emily’s cat and plans to move into an apartment that allows pets next year so she can get a kitten or puppy. Our pets are a big part of our family, and incredibly, they are less messy than the humans.

So as I enter the final year of my fourth decade, how I do I see the world? Myself? Do we really need to ask these questions? As many people do as they get older, I see that things I once felt were of vital importance really aren’t so important. I care less and less what other people think of me or my kids, what my credit score is, how messy my house is, or whether I’m doing a good job as a parent. I care more and more about enjoying my life, being helpful and compassionate to others, making the world somehow better for my having been here, and continually challenging myself as a writer, musician, and person. I won’t apologize for the amount (or quality of) television I watch, having a cookie when I want one, or routinely forgetting things. I look forward to spending the second half of my life with David, being silly old people together (our fantasy is to live in an assisted living center growing medical marijuana—JK), and making our grandchildren laugh at our antics. I will keep you posted.