The Continuing Adventures of B.T. Esq., Precocious Toddler

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you all on the neverending adventures of one B.T. Esq., Professional Precocious Toddler.  And so, once again, on the off-chance that the trials and triumphs of a toddler are of actual interest to you… well… you shall now be satisfied once again.

(Note: precociosity not necessarily included…)

I now give you to B.T., who shall recount his further adventures himself, in the first person.  From time to time, I shall step in to offer my own thoughts and insights in order that you, dear reader, may have the most rounded presentation of the facts as possible.

Let it not be said that the life of B.T. Esq. is not fraught with difficulties, challenges, and danger.  A young gentleman explorer’s life is not filled alone with fun and adventure.  Nay, but in his ongoing quest to encounter strange and exotic sites never before seen by the likes of man (leastwise, not seen by the likes of man-who-is-a-proper-height-of-just-less-than-three-feet; unlike those ungainly five- and six-footish giants said man may encounter in his travels through exotic lands), there are many pitfalls.  These strange lands are filled with many traps and snares: such devilish and conniving things as your own feet getting in front of you, or floorboards that are millimeters different in height, or immense, giantish tables whose tops come down to just the middle of your forehead so that you have to watch yourself lest you risk injuring yourself or, worse, getting a dreaded boo-boo.  Let me say, my good people: I have faced all these troubles, and more, exploring these strange lands. Continue reading

The Holidays, Family, Games, and Time Well-Spent

As pointed out last week, the Holidays are a terrible time for my productivity.  But they’re great for just about everything else that I value in my life.

I love my family, and I love just relaxing and spending time with them, and playing around.  In the grand order of how important things are to me, family-time ranks above writing-time.  And there was a lot of it to be had these holidays past.  Already, I miss it dearly.

In the few days leading up to Christmas I spent a lot of time just hanging out with family (plus one day laid up due to the aforementioned food poisoning).  I did quite a bit of reading (including two fascinating articles, one on Göbekli Tepe and one on the fight against increasing desertification, and both of which were great fodder for story ideas) as well as the first third of David B. Coe‘s The Children of Amarid.  There was also a lot of playing with my son B.T.

B.T. has increasingly become the source of my greatest joy in life.  His verve and energy and enthusiasm for just about everything is infectious.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the things that excite him.  Right now that’s trains, planes, and automobiles (in that order) especially, as well as a goodly number of animals, and of course whatever Mommy and Daddy happen to be doing.  He loves books and being read to. And he’s become a non-stop talker.  (Interestingly, as his vocabulary has exploded, the ability of Mommy & Daddy to understand him has decreased; this is due to his toddler-speak pronunciation.  He pronounced relatively few of the words he knows accurately.  The ones he uses most frequently we’ve learned what he means, but the new ones he adds each day continue to elude us, and by “us” I mostly mean “me”.)

Then came Christmas, and more time with the family. Continue reading

Mission Accomplished… Or Is It?

I tweeted this yesterday… but I thought I’d post a few more thoughts today.

I am now – officially – an MBA.  My master’s degree is done.  Like, really for real done.  Sure, class ended a few weeks ago, and I’ve been enjoying the generous expansion of my freer time in the evenings.  But now I have the paper that says it.  Now I have the stamp of approval.  Now I can truly say I’m done.

Well.  Not done, really, am I?  Because every milestone is just that: a measure of progress towards some greater destination.  They don’t call it “commencement” because it’s the end of something, now do they?  That would be more like a “concludement” or something. 

 That means, ideally, this is a time not merely of reflection but a time of anticipation, a time of looking forward, a time of planning.

For me, that will mean a lot of things. Continue reading

A Farewell, Hieing for New Opportunities

I’ve mentioned here before that I am near the end of my MBA.  In fact, my last class was last week, and all that remains now is to collect my sheepskin.

Getting an MBA was always about how best to provide for my family, how best to take my career in a direction that would allow me to be the best father I could be.

That means a lot of things, to me.  But one thing I have known it would mean, most probably, is a change in employment.

Friday past was my last day at my previous employer.  Yesterday was the first day with a new employer, and a new post-MBA career.   It was difficult to make this decision.  On one hand I knew I needed to make a career transition in order better to provide for my family – both now and in the future.  On the other, I was working with a great team of folks – including a boss who’d lent me his own copy of The Silmarillion to read.  (I didn’t quite finish it before I had to give it back on Friday.)  It’s difficult to part ways with a team where you feel welcomed – especially when your boss is a fantasy reader and you happen to be a fantasy reader and writer yourself. 

But my family comes first.  And so I made the best decision I could.

I’m very excited for the new career prospects ahead of me.  It should allow me to take the skills I’ve developed – both those in my career and some of those in my MBA – and apply them in a new and interesting way.  I’m really looking forward to the new opportunity.  It’s really going to be a fun job.  And while I try not to disclose too much about the companies I work for, I can tell you this: there is a non-zero chance that you – yes you – will enjoy the benefits of my handiwork in the coming year, based on this new job.  That’s what’s really exciting about it: clear and direct results that I can trace directly to what I do.

Of course, that does mean there’s going to be a bit of a transition period for me.  So I won’t be able to say for sure whether I can settle on a regular blogging schedule until I have a better feel for the work-load and balance with this new direction of my career.  That’s just a potential caveat to you regular and regular-ish readers.  (No, the blog isn’t going away, that’s not what the “Farewell” in the title refers to.)

So, it’s an exciting time for me.  I’m really looking forward to where things go from here.

Whatever happens next, though, one thing is for sure: I’ll still be writing.

The Further Adventures of a Precocious Toddler

I realized I haven’t talked much, lately, about the family, or on what B.T.’s been up to, recently.  On the off-chance that the trials and triumphs of a toddler are of actual interest to you… well… you shall now be satisfied.

(Note: precociosity not necessarily included…)

B.T. has been progressing solidly on all developmental fronts, despite the natural anxieties of his first-time parents. Continue reading

Rocks in a Jar

I haven’t talked much about writing, lately.  Nor have I said much of anything that touches on the primary theme of this blog: balancing a busy life of work, school, family, and church to find and make time for writing.

I’ve been thinking about that theme lately.  It’s one of the reasons I started this blog.  I was about a year and a half into 3-year MBA program, and I hadn’t done any writing except for reports and term papers.  And even before I started on my MBA, I hadn’t done any creative writing since the disaster a little over a year earlier.  But the itch had returned with a vengeance.  I felt the need to be writing creatively again.

And so, the idea for this blog was born Continue reading

Snow Days

It’s been quite the time here in Casa Chez Watkins these past few days.  Sunday night we got hit with as wintery a storm as our part of the world has ever been hit with for at least as long as I’ve lived here.  We accumulated between 5 and 6 inches of snow during the storm, along with a fine layer of ice over the top of it all.  When we awoke Monday morning, the world was blanketed in white – and there was no way I was going to make the drive the work safely.  So, I didn’t.

Neither did the rest of the city, for the most part.  Nor, for that matter, did they on Tuesday.  The entire city has been locked in ice, the roads impassable – a rarity in this part of the world.

Being at home these past few days with the family has been terrific.  I love spending time with my family.  B.T. has been an absolute joy – scooting about on the floor, pulling himself up on one thing or another whenever your back is turned, babbling and laughing all the time.  He wasn’t absolutely thrilled about the snow… curious, perhaps, is more the right word.  But I think he’s loved having both his parents home all the time.  He’s certainly pulled out all the stops to put on a wonderful show for us.

Though I’ve spent some time working from home as much as I can, Dear Wife and I took part of the day off during the snow days to go sledding.  The local dog park had some wonderful hills for just such a task, and filled the bill nicely.  I haven’t been sledding since childhood, so it was a lot of fun to get out there on the snow-covered hill – even if what we used was a folded-up cardboard box covered in a trash bag (hey, it never snows this much around here, so there’s sure no room in our little house for a gets-used-once-in-a-decade honest sled).  It was also little B.T.’s first time sledding – but again, he mostly displayed a peculiar curiosity more than joy.

But he’s had joy enough the rest of our time together.  He’s positively ecstatic to have his mommy and daddy home with him all day each day.  He’s had a ball scooting around on his toosh, grabbing on to chairs and other things to pull himself up to standing.  I knew he liked to stand and pretend he knows how to walk (he can’t, but that doesn’t stop him).  And I knew he liked to scoot around.  But I had no idea he could get himself into so much trouble, as soon as you turn your back.

By Wednesday, I believed I needed to brave the still-icy roads to try and reach the office of my employer… but after a half-hour on the road, having slipped and slid all over the road, having gotten caught on the ice and I was far less than halfway to my destination, I grew concerned for my safety.  Once, while stuck on the ice, I even needed to get pushed up the hill to find solid asphalt by the good Samaritan in the car behind me.  As I got out to push, I lost the hand-knit cap Dear Wife had knit for me a couple years past, which put me in a foul mood.  I soon gave up on my quest to get to work, and returned home again, having determined the roads still to be impassable.

Which is all a very long way of saying I’ve been home, I’ve been connected, but spending time with my family, and trying to work remotely, has sort of taken precedent over blogging these past few days.

So… how has your week been?

Update:  The sad part of the story – the missing hat – has happily been resolved!  Dear Wife found it in the driveway, in the snow, right next to where my car is normally parked.  I had apparently dropped it there while scraping ice off.  And, since the hat is a light-gray in color, it blended in well with the snow and gray concrete.  It’s still in perfect condition, none the worse for wear.  Huzzah!

17 Days and Counting

I have a special treat for you all today, a guest post!  I’ve mentioned her here before, but the illustrious Dear Wife would like to address your attention today.  So, without further ado, I’ll turn you over to her:

It’s less than three weeks until Christmas, which means that I’m scrambling to write a Christmas letter and print cards for our friends and family.  This year, I plan to print our photo cards at www.shutterfly.com.  We used Shutterfly to print BT’s birth announcements earlier this year and they turned out wonderful!  We recently had some amazing family photos taken by a friend and I can’t wait to show off BTs cuteness and our growing little family in our Christmas cards from Shutterfly.
 
I love Shutterfly’s Christmas photo card (http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery/christmas-photo-cards) and other holiday photo card (http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery) designs for this year.  Also, now that I have oodles of cute baby pictures, I’m considering using Shutterfly to create a calendar (http://www.shutterfly.com/calendars) with some of my favorite photos.  I’m also eying some of the other photo gifts contemplating which I like most.
 
Back to our Christmas card – each year we’ve been married I’ve written a letter updating family and friends on the big happenings in our family during the year and mailed off the letter, a photo card, and brief personal notes to our friends and family.  It’s also a nice way to briefly document our year and I’ve been saving a letter and photocard each year and plan to put them in a scrapbook.  It will be nice to be able to flip through to see how our family has changed. 

Giving Thanks

For those of you in the U.S., you will most probably be spending the day with your families celebrating our annual commencement of the college football bowl season.  I, myself, have no interest in football, but I will be with my family today observing a holiday which, in the U.S., happens bizarrely to coincide with the aforementioned football-related event.  I speak, of course, of Thanksgiving.  To which, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

I won’t regale you here with tales of dread winters, Pilgrims, and Wampanoags, nor of Turkeys Past.  But, as is somewhat traditional, I shall endeavor to list the things for which I am grateful this year:

  1. My Dear Wife and my wonderful son, B.T.  I don’t always express my appreciation as fully as I should.  But you should know that I love you both.
  2. The opportunity to live in a  free and democratic nation.  It’s not perfect (this nation), by any means, but it has a lot going for it.  But I am so very glad to live in a place and time when I am relatively free to pursue my own destiny and make the most of my life.
  3. Education.  I’m in school, getting ever-so-closer to my graduation day when I earn my Sheepskin Second Class (i.e. the MBA).  And I am so ready to be done.  But I am so very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn more and advance myself.
  4. Good food, good friends, good family.  Though not in that order.  I love my family, and am grateful to be able to spend this holiday with them.  Not just my Dear Wife and son, but my parents and siblings and nieces and nephews as well (my wife says they are called “nildren”).  What’s more, I’m very lucky to be able to say that through my wife I am now connected to another wonderful family who I am likewise always happy to visit or have over to visit.  On this Thanksgiving day, I am thankful for all of them.
  5. My Home.  It’s small – some might say cozy.  But it’s very nice.  It was precisely what Dear Wife and I needed at the time.  And I am grateful each day to go home to it, and to those who dwell there with me.
  6. The opportunity and the will to write.  Writing time is scarce these days, but it will not long be so.  I’ve always loved writing stories, since the earliest days of my childhood.  I still love it, and frankly can’t go long without taking the chance to sit and write.  And I’m always glad that this is a part of who I am.  I’d rather be a writer than any other kind of crazy.
  7. Applebutter.
  8. Chocolate.
  9. Excellent books and other forms of entertainment in the various Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Speculative genres.  I don’t have much time to enjoy it all, right now.  But things will ease up soon, and I shall enjoy it all with much gusto when things do.
  10. All of you.  I’m grateful for you, the readers of my blog.  Someday, I hope to be published.  When that day comes, I hope you’ll all stick with me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Applebutter!

A few weeks ago, Dear Wife, B.T., Shasta and I took part in an annual Watkins-family tradition.  We hopped in our car and drove about two hours outside of town into the foothills of the Appalachians, to apple country.  Dear Wife and I have been apple picking every year together since before we were married, and we enjoy it a lot.  About a week after we went apple picking, I started work on another Watkins-family tradition. Using an old “family recipe” passed down to me by me cobbling together different pieces from other recipes found on the internet and then adding in my own concoction of spices, I spent a good chunk of the following Saturday, and most of Saturday Night, making applebutter.

Applebutter (or two words, “Apple Butter“, if you prefer, but I like it as one word), for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure, is a bit like an extra-thick, sweet, dark, spicy applesauce. It can be used as a spread in the same way as jam or jelly or preserves. When I was growing up, I always preferred applebutter over jam or jelly to go on my peanut-butter sandwiches. Or to go on fresh, hot toast. Or just about anything really. Applebutter is just great stuff.  (I highly recommend you try some.)

But I started to notice, a few years ago, that it was getting harder and harder to find applebutter on grocery store shelves. And often, when you could find it, it wasn’t very good quality applebutter. I had learned somewhere along the way that I sometimes like to cook – especially when I’m cooking for a non-singular number of eaters (which is to say, for more than just myself; it’s too boring to cook for just myself)… so I decided to start making my own applebutter!

I didn’t know much about it, at the time, so I looked up some recipes and got some good ideas. This gave me the place to start.  I needed a recipe that I could safely prepare and store in jars for the coming wintry months, and I needed to know a little about “home canning”.  But there was something missing from those recipes. So I added a little additional flavor to my “secret” recipe.

But deciding to make applebutter is not for the faint-hearted.  It can take hours to do the necessary slow cooking that reduces and caramelizes what starts, essentially, as applesauce into that thick, dark, rich goodness.  Frankly, it’s just not something you’re bound to do unless you were already an applebutter addict, like me. 

Genuine, Homemade Watkins Applebutter

Genuine, Homemade Watkins Applebutter

This is the third year I’ve made applebutter, now. I missed last year because I was too busy with school, but Dear Wife and I missed the applebutter so much we decided I’d just have to find the time to make it this year.  And I made an extra big batch, to make sure it would last through the year. It took all day, about 30 apples, 18 jars of various sizes, and Dear Wife’s new Canning pot and tools, but I’ve tasted it, and the results were worth it! Here’s a glamour shot of the finished product, with a few of the apples we picked (whose cousins ended up in the pot).