Month: July 2011

Counting and Inventory Ordering

A few years ago I wrote up a series of posts which walked through my process for preparing the mass mailing of new Schlock books. You can find the posts by clicking my “shipping” category or just clicking this text. I still run the shipping preparations in essentially the same manner, except that I now have an assistant who comes in and helps me with most of the steps. In fact I often refer to those posts to help me keep track of how everything is supposed to proceed. I’m currently inhabiting both the sorting and inventory preparation stages. This means that most of the sketched editions are sorted, but the orders without sketches are not. The books have not yet arrived, so we can not dive into doing the actual sketching. But there is inventory preparation which does not involve books.

In my years-ago post I didn’t mention this other inventory preparation, probably because books were the only merchandise we had at the time. Since then we’ve added magnets, stickers, prints, miniatures, and Writing Excuses CDs. We don’t have t-shirts this time, but other times we have. This means I have to comb through the ordering data and make sure that we have adequate quantities of all of these items for shipping day. This year we’re good on magnets, but the painted miniatures and stickers will need to be ordered. I have to do that asap so that we can get them back in less than two weeks. Merchandise is not the only inventory we need. Shipping supplies are required. This morning I calculated exactly how many of each type of box we will need to fill all the orders. The shipping day fails if we run out of boxes. Several times we’ve had to make an emergency run for additional strapping tape. Keeping track of all of it should feel overwhelming I suppose. It used to, but this is my 8th book shipping event. I’m no longer completely terrified that I’ll get everything wrong. Instead I’m just a little stressed that I might forget something which will be annoying to fix.

Summer Rain

I was supposed to be making dinner for the kids, instead I stood outside where the wind blew and the thunder rumbled. The air was still warm, making the first few raindrops a pleasant distraction. Summer storms were one of the things I loved about Utah when I was a childhood visitor. My native California failed to supply me with thunderstorms, but we’d usually get at least one when we visited in Utah. I still love the summer storms even though I’ve lived in Utah long enough that they could have become boring. When the rain starts to blow and the sky rumbles I want to be outside, or at least near a window. I want to participate in the weather event.
I ran on the track team the spring when I was sixteen. It was my friends rather than the sport itself which kept me coming back. One particularly sweltering day, clouds rolled across the California sky and the rain began to fall. It was a warm, steady rain. Like the children we still were, even though we spent most of our teenaged hours pretending to be adult, my friends and I did not flee the rain. We reveled in it. My track shoes were soaked by the puddle splashes. My hair swung in long wet ropes as I twirled and stared at the gray sky. There was no wind, no rolling thunder, just a sense that the rain had washed away all the worry about the track meet on Friday and the biology test next Tuesday. In the puddles and the rain I could splash and not worry. My mother did not scold me when my clothes dripped all over the inside of the car on the trip home. I think she understood.
Later that same year I visited in Utah for a church youth conference. Most of the conference was spent in casual clothes, playing games, attending sessions, getting to know new friends. One night was set aside for a spiritual service. We all dressed in Sunday best and gathered together. At the end of the meeting we emerged to discover that a storm had just passed over. The pavements were covered with fresh puddles and the last drops fell from the sky. Thunder rolled away from us in the distance, receding toward the mountains. I breathed deep the warm damp air. The meeting had affected me, the feel of the post-rain air affected me even more. Everything seemed possible, I had my whole future before me. Instead of walking sedately to our next destination, I kicked off my shoes and dashed. I zigged my path to make sure my feet landed squarely in some of the shallow puddles. I zagged so that my free hand could slap the water in the fountain. I twirled so my skirt swished around my legs. Only when I reached the building on the far side of the courtyard did I return the shoes to my feet and enter.
Twenty years later I stayed standing on my porch and delaying the preparation for dinner until the rain came down in earnest. These bigger drops were cooler than the first ones. I opened my door to go inside. It was the responsible thing to do. Then I heard the laughter of my two youngest children. They did not see me there in the door frame. They were too busy. The splashes from their feet blended with the millions of tiny splashes from each raindrop. Their hair was plastered to their heads and smiles were plastered to their faces. I watched them there and remembered what it was like to dance in the rain. The wind carried the smell of wet pavement and earth to me. Minutes drifted past as I watched. Then I went and placed a pair of towels by the front door, ready for small people when they were tired of being wet. They came in ten minutes after and rolled themselves into the towels. A pair of be-toweled figures dashed for the warmth of bath and shower. By the time they were changed the spaghetti was almost done. So was the rain. The storm passed us by and all was well.

Creating a Chalk Festival

A few months ago I heard about a chalk festival in Salt Lake City. It was a big public event where folks were invited to create chalk art on the various pavements of downtown. I loved the idea of it, but attending simply didn’t fit into my schedule. Rather than live with regret, I determined that one day this summer I would buy a bunch of chalk and declare my very own chalk festival for the kids. I mentioned this plan to my next door neighbor (a good idea since children with chalk are not particularly discriminating about whose pavement upon which they draw) and she loved the idea too. We decided to host the event jointly and spread the word among neighbors and friends. Fitting it right at the end of the Fourth of July celebrations, when everyone was feeling festive, seemed like an excellent choice.

Really, this is all you need for a chalk festival. Chalk and pavement are mandatory. The cup of water is optional, but very useful for blending colors. I just ran to Walmart that morning and grabbed half a dozen boxes of chalk. I tried to find boxes that had a variety of colors, particularly bright colors. I made sure that there were duplicates. I figured it was better to have 5 each of 10 colors than to have 50 colors with all the kids fighting over the one color that everyone decided they couldn’t live without.

When the appointed hour arrived, I dumped all the chalk out of the boxes so they were loose for kids to grab. At first we attempted to partition one square per person, but that quickly became unnecessary. Everyone was having too much fun to argue and it was more fun to let the drawings flow around each other organically. We kept acquiring people as neighbors came by invitation or just wandered by.

The artwork came in all varieties and each had its own beauty.

One of the truly wonderful things about chalk art is that it is all-ages friendly. The smallest people could participate just as easily as the older ones.

I loved hearing the chatter as kids excitedly proclaimed about their dragon, or flower, or princess, or design. The adults chatted as well. The activity sparked conversations and gave all of us an excuse to be outdoors. It helped that the weather cooperated by cooling down with an overcast sky. The air temperature was perfect and the sidewalks were pleasantly warm without being too hot. We planned it in the evening on purpose to help make that possible.

Howard came out and joined the fun. At first he said he would only observe since he’d been drawing stuff all day, but finally sketched out a Schlock when the neighbors claimed the festival couldn’t be complete without it.

The cups of water were for painting on the chalk after it was drawn on the pavement or for dipping the chalk before drawing to help it spread more evenly. We used our fingers to wet the chalk and blend it. Next time I’ll find some sturdy craft paintbrushes to use as well.

Blending the colors with water created some fun results.

After and hour or so, most of the kids had moved on to playing tag and we broke out the ice cream bars. This gave everyone snacks as the surveyed the completed artwork. Being the Fourth of July, we finished off with some fireworks in the street. The evening ended when the gray clouds burst open and began to rain. By morning the chalk drawings were gone. This was fine, it cleared the pavement for another round of artwork on a different day. Chalk art is never meant to be permanent, which is why it is a wonderful medium for those who think they aren’t artistic to learn that they can be. Most of the adults started out by saying that they weren’t good at drawing, but every single one who picked up chalk drew something worth admiring.

We’ll be doing this again sometime. It was too fun to be a singular event.

Give a Girl a Shovel

Last Friday I took Gleek with me to Home Depot where we discovered that she is attracted to all manner of tools. She particularly loved the gardening aisle and was of the opinion that we should buy half of the tools found there. Since I am also attracted to gardening tools, keeping things to a minimum was a battle. Gleek came home with a spade. It is a half-sized shovel perfect for a petite 10 year old to stick in the ground and stomp deeper. She demonstrated this capability in my lawn. Then I made up some brand new rules about what the spade is allowed to do and where. Gleek tried digging in the overgrown garden bed, but it was hard work because the ground was all dry. Then the fireworks began and the shovel languished.

Yesterday evening the weather was perfect. Howard meandered outside. Kiki and Gleek joined him. I declared outside time and chased a pair of boys away from their electronic devices. We all wandered and sat in the yard. Occasionally one of us would undertake a task such as re-hanging the swings so that they could be used. Gleek carried her spade, hopeful that something would need dug up. I pointed her at the weedy and pollen-covered sandbox. She carefully scraped all the pollen and grass off the top. Then she dug the inside edges so the sand was piled in the middle. When I pointed out that the grass was starting to grow over the wooden edges, she took her shovel and dug the grass all around the outside edges. Weeding in sand was satisfying because she could shake the plants and all the sand would fall out leaving a detailed root system to be examined. She did a great job. If she keeps this up, I’ll take her to Home Depot and buy her even more tools.

Rescuing My Yard

I don’t need a weed eater for my yard. I need a scythe. I don’t have a scythe, unfortunately, so I am making the best of the tools I have to rescue our yard from four years of neglect. One of the tools that I have this year is minions. Two Saturdays in a row I have rousted them out of bed in the cool of morning and made them do yard work. They were not pleased, but they did good work. I love that they are old enough to get the work done while they grumble about it. With five of us working the yard recovery progress is easily measurable. I enjoy walking out on to the back deck now. I’ve spent three years avoiding my deck because it was surrounded by things to do.

Usually when I get bitten by the gardening bug it is in spring. I get enthusiastic, do some weeding, plant some flowers, and then run out of steam by July. In July and August the grass and weeds take over. September finds me back out doors making a few feeble attempts to beat back the grass. October gets cold and everything goes dormant for the winter. This year feels different. I’m starting in July and I’m thinking long-term. My goal is to prepare the yard and the flower beds so that September can be full of planting. I’m turning some former gardening spaces back into lawn. I may even get the deck and playset stained. If I can accomplish all of that I will have proved to myself that I can maintain what we’ve got. Then maybe I can get a gazebo for my wisteria vines to climb on.

Buying Rakes

“Want to come shopping with me?” I asked.

Gleek scowled. “Where are you going?” She’d just been tangled in an argument with her brothers and was not feeling charitable with anyone. The argument had erupted just as I was gathering my wallet and keys to head out the door. Leaving three happily playing children is one thing, leaving three shouting children is completely different. I’d paused my departure to resolve the conflict first. The removal of Gleek seemed like the best solution to allow everyone to cool down. Also I’d been feeling that Gleek needed some one-on-one time.

“I’m going to go buy rakes.” I filled my voice with campy enthusiasm.

Gleek looked at me with a disbelieving deadpan face. “Rakes?”

“Yes, rakes.” I grinned even wider.

“Why are we buying rakes?” Her level stare slipped and showed a tinge of curiosity.

“We need to rake the grass clippings off the lawn. Also, rakes are cool.” I did my best Doctor Who impression as I mimed straightening a bow tie. “Rakes are cool, just like bow ties are cool.”

Gleek has watched quite a lot of Doctor Who. She did a marvelous eye roll which at once conveyed: I get it Mom, but its not funny. You are just weird in a mom way. Except that the corners of her mouth quirked up just a bit, altering the effect of the eye roll.

“That was an awesome eye roll.” I said to Gleek. Then I turned to Howard who happened to be standing nearby. “Where did she learn eye rolling like that?”

“It comes in the tween kit.” Howard answered.

“If I went shopping with you, could we buy cookies?” Gleek asked.

“I think that could be arranged.” I answered.

Thus Gleek and I embarked upon a rake and cookie buying adventure. We came home with two leaf rakes, a garden rake, a hummingbird feeder, a small spade, cookies, and gum. All the non-rake purchases were a direct result of Gleek’s excellent wheedling and rationalization skills. I didn’t mind though, because we also brought home two smiling faces.