Monday, October 30, 2006

Stress And The Stay-At-Home Mom

Today is not a good day. I feel frayed and tattered, like one of those terry cloth rags I use to scrub the kitchen every night. I’ve got holes worn through my fabric, and lots of loose threads just waiting to unravel at the wrong moment. Then there’s what feels like a big knot of matted cat hair wrapped up inside me. Naturally, I’m also covered in spit up.

What was it Bilbo Baggins said? “I feel like butter scraped thin over too much toast?” That sounds about right this morning.

Between my parents’ visit and Michael’s business trip, I’m worn out. The house is a wreck, Sam and Cassie are all off-schedule and even worse, I got almost no work done during the last two weeks. If there’s any sure indicator of my mood, it’s the level of work I’ve accomplished. No work means no joy in my book. To top things off, money is a little tight right now, which bothers the hell out of me because I don’t contribute financially to the household - I just suck out more funds. I’m trying to remind myself that there was a time when I made 42 grand a year and paid half the bills, and yet I was miserable because to make that kind of money I had to put in 80 hours a week at a job I absolutely loathed. If I still had that job and that paycheck today, I’d probably still feel even worse than I do now because it would mean I’d be spending 80 odd hours a week slaving away for some idiot instead of spending time at home taking care of my kids. I try to remember that. I try to imagine feeling worse than I do right now.

Yet I still can’t shake that worn out dish rag feeling.

Self portrait, 30 October 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006


My week was a complete bust in terms of meaningful work, except for this one piece...

I am worn out from breast feeding, chasing a preschooler, doing Halloween decorations and otherwise struggling to survive on my own, but I feel like I accomplished something just because I got this one little drawing done. It’s funny. This is my entry for the Ben Caldwell Weekly Cartoon Challenge, and my cartoons look absolutely nothing like the other entries. Very different stylistically (all their stuff is way neato-keen airbrushed) and I think also in subject matter. It’s like watching an episode of Sesame Street and hearing someone sing “One of these things is not like the others...” I don’t care though. I like Claudia. She’s one gnarly chick, and she knows how to swing that shovel, so watch out.

PS - Yesterday was my day off, and once again, it was a disaster. I spent most of it at Sears Portrait Studio waiting to get Sam’s picture taken. The pictures came out beautifully, but by the time we walked out of there, she was in full crank-meister mode and very ticked off with me. I was hoping she’d at least let me enjoy a brief spell at Barnes & Noble’s, but then she grabbed my lunch (a very delicious Italian Strata) and threw it on the café floor, so that was that. At least she didn’t spill my coffee.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Phone Conversation With My Husband

The following is an actual telephone conversation I had with my husband last night...

Michael: Hey honey. How’s it going?

Me: It’s after 10 PM and the baby is still up.

Michael: Uh-oh.

Me: She’s in my lap nursing right now. I put her down at 8:30 but she woke up screaming a little while ago and wouldn’t go back to sleep. Oh well. I wanted to watch “Lost” anyway.

Michael: Poor sweetie. Sounds like you had a rough day.

Me: I guess. Sam only spent three hours in bed with me last night. I did manage to transfer her to the bassinet in our room around 5 AM so I could get a little sleep. Then we all woke up late. Cassie came running in at 7:30 and I let her climb into bed with us while I nursed Sam again. I got a few more minutes of sleep that way.

Michael: Uh-huh...

Me: Then we got up, had breakfast, and everybody took a bath. Cassie played in our tub while I washed Sam. Then I tried to put Sam down for her morning nap. She wouldn’t sleep though. Just kept screaming. But I left her there, because I needed a bath myself. I figure she did about forty-five minutes of screaming. Aren’t I evil?

Michael: Yep. So what else happened?

Me: Um, let’s see. Cassie insisted on helping me with my bath. She washed my hair and cleaned my ears, and then she tried to convince me she should shave my legs but fortunately I won that argument. Then when I got dressed, I got Sam out of her crib. Since she kept screaming any time I put her down, I ended up strapping her to me in the front pack. I must have carried her around for at least an hour while Cassie and I put up the Halloween decorations in the front yard. Cassie wanted me to put up the Christmas tree too, by the way.

Michael (laughing): Oh man! Is she still going on about the tree?

Me: Quit laughing. It took me half an hour to convince her that we weren’t putting up the tree, and she still keeps bringing it up.

Michael: I’m sorry. She saw a Christmas tree set up in Sears when we went shopping last time.

Me: Greeeaaaat. Anyway, I got Cass to forget about the tree by taking her to the pumpkin patch. Only problem is she wanted two pumpkins. One for her and one for Sam.

Michael: What’s wrong with that?

Me: Well, at first nothing, because I figured you’d be the one carving them at Patty’s pumpkin carving party Friday night. Then I remembered you’re not going to get back in time for the party, so now I’m stuck carving two big-ass pumpkins by myself with a couple of screaming kids hanging on to me.

Michael: (laughing hysterically): Oh no!

Me: I said quit laughing! When you get home, I think I’m going to shoot you.

Michael: I’m sorry, sweetie. So what else did you do today?

Me: After the pumpkin patch we had lunch and then I put both girls down for a nap. Sam kept fussing and rubbing her eyes. Cassie wanted a story, but Sam was so cranky I knew I wouldn’t be able to read and nurse at the same time, so I had to give Cass a rain check. She went off to bed and I finally got Sam down. She still screamed, but eventually she passed out. I got half an hour of sketching done before Cass woke up. Then I read her a story like I promised. And then Sam woke up so I had to nurse her. After that, we made some Halloween cookies.

Michael: Oh? That sounds like fun.

Me: Yeah, you weren’t there. It took us almost three hours to finish two cookies.

Michael: Why so long?

Me: Because I had to supervise a certain precocious little preschooler through the whole process, while wearing Sam in the front pack again. Cassie had to help break the eggs, mix the batter, roll out the dough and cut the cookies out. She insisted on decorating them too, but by the time the cookies were done baking, it was almost bedtime, so we only decorated two of them. One for her and one for me. I think we’ve still got about twenty cookies’ worth of dough left to cut out and bake.

Michael: Well, that’ll give you something to look forward to tomorrow night.

Me: Shut up. Anyway, I let Cassie eat her cookie in the tub while I gave Sam a bath and nursed her down for the night. Sam went down at 8:30 and Cassie was in bed by 9. Cass is still asleep but Sam won’t give up the ghost. She woke up screaming and kept at it until I came to get her, and then she spit up all over me.

Michael: Oh, that’s too bad.

Me: Yeah, well, that’s my day. What did you do today?

Michael: I repaired the Hubble telescope.

Me: ... I hate you.

To clarify, Michael is in Huntsville, Alabama, on a business trip for NASA. Yesterday he attended Space Camp at Marshall Space Flight Center. He didn’t really fix the Hubble telescope. It was just a simulation. A really cool simulation where he got to run around in a mock space suit, fly a fake space shuttle, pretend to go on an EVA, and walk through an exercise on repairing the Hubble telescope in outer space. All I can think of this is, ain’t it amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t have two kids hanging off of you 24/7?

Screw it. I’m going back to bed...


Here is my sole, non-child related accomplishment for yesterday. It’s the second draft of the cartoon I’ve been trying to get scanned in and uploaded to this blog. I’m thinking of calling this character Claudia L’Strange, Voo Doo Prom Queen. She really digs her date...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Blow-Off Week - Two Frustrated Artists And A Hungry Baby

Remember last time Michael took a business trip and left me home all alone with an infant and a preschooler? Remember our little discussion about Blow-Off Day? Well, how about today we talk about Blow-Off Week.

It had not been my intention to completely blow off work, exercise, play dates, house cleaning and all the rest of my daily grind this week, but due to circumstances way beyond my control, everything I had planned to do has gone right out the window. See, Michael left for Alabama on Monday. My parents, who spent a week riling up the grandkids, left yesterday. Sam developed a fever on Sunday and has done nothing but nurse since then, and Cassie has been her usual exuberant, tantrum-prone self. And me? I’m just plain wiped out.

Michael won’t be home until sometime Friday evening. In between now and then, I somehow have to keep Cassandra occupied and satisfy a ravenous baby. Both tasks are impossible. Attempting to accomplish some meaningful work at the same time is even more so. I had thought that I might catch a break last night. I nursed Sam early and then gave Cassie plenty of crayons, glitter pens and construction paper along with instructions to draw scary ghosts for our Halloween decorations. I figured a well-fed baby plus an occupied preschooler would equal free time for me. Naturally, that plan backfired.

Cassie, seated at table surrounded by a mountain of craft supplies: “Mommy, I can’t draw ghosts.”

Me, reaching for my drawing pad in hopes of doing some sketching: “Of course you can, sweetie. You drew lots of ghosts yesterday.”

Cassie: “No I didn’t. I can’t draw ghosts.”

Sam, lying on her full, distended belly on the play mat: “Waaaah!”

Me, pulling pencils, erasers, and a sharpener from my art box: “You’re not hungry Sam. Cassie, you drew ghosts for Grandmama just last night, remember?”

Cassie, pushing her construction paper away: “That was ghosts for Grandmama. I can’t draw ghosts now.”

Sam, rolling over onto her back and discovering she is now stuck there: “Waaaaaaaaaah! Waaaaah!”

Me, pushing the paper back toward Cassie: “Sam, you just ate. You’re FINE, trust me. Cassie, why not draw more ghosts for Grandmama and we’ll mail them to her?”

Cassie, dropping the paper on the floor: “I can’t. I need markers.”

Me, pencil in hand, ready to sketch: “I don’t know where your markers are right now, sweetie. Use the glitter pens I gave you. You like the glitter pens.”

Cassie, pushing the glitter pens away: “I want markers. Miss Erica let us play with markers in class today.”

Sam, scrunching up her face and turning beet red: “WAAAAAAAAAH! WAAAAAAH!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!”

The conversation halts as a gargantuan fart explodes from Sam’s dinky little butt. The resulting shockwaves are strong enough to knock me senseless while simultaneously launching Sam into the air. She lands in my lap and grabs at my left breast. I regain consciousness just in time to prevent her from gnawing a hole through my shirt to get at my nipple. I can barely fend her off long enough to get my shirt up and my nursing bra open.

Cassie, ignoring my current plight: “We have markers in the craft bin, Mommy. Can you go get them for me?”

Me, as Sam proceeds to latch on and Hoover all the milk from my body; the suction is so intense, it’s a wonder I don’t implode: “My hands are a little full right now, sweetie. Could you please just use the glitter pens?”

Cassie, rolling her eyes: “Mommy, I’m an artist! You just don’t understand.”

Me, wearily eyeing my drawing pad which will remain untouched for yet another evening: “Trust me, Cass. I understand far better than you think.”

So that’s how the week has gone so far, and how I expect it will continue to go. I have plans to write and draw, but realize that I’m probably going to have to chuck all of that at a moment’s notice. Oh well. It’s Blow-Off Week. I’ll just keep doing the best I can.


I still haven’t made it to the scanner yet to scan in my cartoon from this past weekend. However, I managed to get this done on the computer yesterday. It’s a portrait of Cassandra. I think it’s a rather stunning likeness.

Flash illustration of Cassandra Jane, 24 October 2006.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Living With A Sick Baby

Well, the grandparents have been here since Wednesday, and it’s been non-stop activity since they arrived. We’ve been shopping, sight-seeing, playing, arguing, cooking, eating, etc., etc. So that’s probably why I didn’t notice Sam had a fever until yesterday.

Now Sam is not one to make a fuss, not like her sister. Sam will cry a little, maybe whine, but not out-and-out howl like Cassandra does when she’s unhappy. And I expected to see a little whining and fussiness from my darling baby with all the commotion going on in the house. So this fever kind of slipped under the radar because Sam was doing exactly what I expected her to do. But the fussiness got a little worse than normal, so even though she didn’t feel warm to me, I decided to check her temperature last night and whoops! There it was, 102.5 degrees.

I gave her some infant’s Tylenol and a bath and then we both got into our jammies and I took Sam to bed with me. I went down with her at 7 PM, thinking once she fell asleep, I’d be able to get back up, tuck her into her bassinet and go watch some TV with my folks. Never happened. Sam latched onto me to nurse and didn’t break suction until sometime around midnight (that’s five hours, folks!). The she nursed again at 2 AM, 3 AM, 5 AM, and 6 AM. She was in her bassinet from 3 to 5 AM, so I managed to get two hours of sleep, but that’s been about it. I got up at 6:30 to help Michael with Cassie, and then I had a little breakfast with Sam still in my arms, trying to latch on through my pajama top. After that, I gave her another bath, put her in some clean jammies, and we both crawled back into bed so she could nurse some more and I could steal a few Z’s.

That’s about all the sleep I’ve had. Once Sam unlatched, I tried putting her back in her bassinet, but she woke up and started to cry. So I let her sit in her bouncy chair and watch while I took a bath. I was hoping she’d give me enough time to soak my spine until it no longer looked like a question mark (as a result of sleeping hunched around an infant all night), but she started fussing, so now I’m hunched over her again as I sit and type this blog entry.

Michael is off at work. Cassie is at preschool. Mom and Dad decided to head out for one last trip to Barnes and Nobles and I did my best not to cry as they went shopping without me (waaaaaaaaah!). I am at least dressed and clean and I even got my teeth brushed. Once I’m done with this blog entry, I’m considering doing some shopping online for a new set of nipples because Sam has worn out the pair I currently own.

Not much else going on. Michael leaves this afternoon for Huntsville, Alabama and my parents head out for Arkansas tomorrow morning. I’m going to be on my own with a sick baby and a cranky preschooler for the rest of the week. I am so screwed.


If you close your eyes and imagine very hard, I am sure you will see the lovely cartoon I worked on this weekend. It’s a redrawing of the last entry’s work, only done in pen and ink, instead of digital. It looks very cool, and someday I may actually be able to put Sam down long enough to scan it in and display it here on the blog. Won’t that be cool?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Invasion Of The Grandparents

My folks are here. I got a call from Mom on Sunday that they planned to show up this week. They left Arkansas on Tuesday and arrived yesterday. Dad got food poisoning from a roadside restaurant, but otherwise, they made it unscathed.

Of course, we all know what a visit from my parents means... SHOPPING! ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT NON-STOP SHOPPING! AND MY MOM IS BUYING!!!

She’ll buy stuff for Cassie. She’ll buy stuff for Sam. Most importantly, she’ll buy stuff for ME! It’s like Christmas arrived early, but without all the annoyance of tearing off the wrapping paper from the gifts. We already hit the most important store on our shopping list - Barnes and Nobles - for books and coffee. Aaaaaah, coffee. Yes, Mom loves Barnes and Noble’s almost as much as I do. Unfortunately, her “local” B&N is over three hours’ drive from the house. Of course Mom also claims the little mom and pop grocery store just thirty miles down the road is about a three-hour drive away, but that’s because in Arkansas everything is impossibly far away, including her grandkids.

Well, I can’t do nothing about the three-hour drives Mom has to suffer when she’s home, but I can help her shop while she’s hear. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go crash in bed now. I got another heavy day of shopping ahead of me tomorrow.


I’ve been playing around a bit more with Corel Photopaint, trying to get a better grasp on all the natural media settings. This image was done mostly with the watercolor brushes, felt tip pen brushes and a few oil brushes. The hands are terrible in this one, but I was more concerned with figuring out how to blend paint on a digital canvas than I was with drawing this time around.

Claudia, 19 October 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Work Report for 3rd Quarter, 2006

Well, it’s mid-October, which means it’s high time I sat down and reviewed my work accomplishments for the last quarter, rather than sit and bitch about how hard it is to be a mom like I usually do. I dug up the list of goals from the last quarter to see what I did and didn’t manage to do. Here it is:


  • Write new erotica story for ERWA Blasphemy week - finished 6 July, 2006. Story title - The Messenger.
  • Write three ITEM articles for ERWA, one per month - finished 28 September, 2006.
  • Write one flasher per week for ERWA - who was I kidding? I did manage to write four flashers, all of which were published at ERWA this past quarter.
  • Begin background work on novel - "The Mirrored Sun" - postponed. I had my hands full with the baby.
  • Begin background work on novel - "Lady Dragon." This has sort of mutated into a different project. I did end up writing a brief synopsis for a graphic novel/manga that I’d like to do, so the basic idea is written down and stored for later use. Completed 30 September 2006.
  • Submit at least one story for publication this quarter - completed 27 July 2006. I sent the story “Alienated” out to Circlet Press for consideration in one of their anthologies.


  • Finish commissioned book cover for Eternally Erotic books - completed 5 July 2006. If you’d like to see the book cover, click here. The image is fairly work-safe but the link will take you to Eternally Erotic, an erotica e-publisher, so don’t click on it if you’re at work, okay? By the way, the web graphics on Eternally Erotic were done by me too.
  • Create website graphic commissioned for Crimson Succubus website - completed 2 July 2006.
  • Finish Great Hall tutorial and use set in one final image - not finished.
  • Check out and see if I have anything to submit - I checked. Hopefully, sometime in the future I will have some toons to submit to them. In the meantime, I submitted one of my other toons to a competition at Go check it out and vote for me!

    Cynical Woman

  • Continue writing daily blog rant - I’ve written almost two hundred pages worth of material in this blog since the beginning of June.
  • Fix animated header for blog - completed 15 June, 2006.
  • Design creeper/t-shirt for Café Press shop - postponed.
  • Design coffee mug for Café Press shop - postponed.

    Pixel Arcana

  • Review books I use for tutorials and graphics education and make an store link for website site - not done.
  • Archive 2005 work files - not done due to problems with DVD recorder. Hopefully that’s been solved.
  • Set up DAZ affiliate on Pixel Arcana website - completed 30 July 2006.
  • Finish mermaid drawing - finished 24 August 2006. It looks gorgeous too!
  • Matte drawing and prep for Marscon art show - postponed.

    And that’s the whole list of what I had planned to do and what actually got done during the past quarter. Looking at the list, I think things look pretty good. I had 18 items on the list, of which I completed eleven, plus I resubmitted the novel to another e-publisher on top of all that. So I’m giving myself a big high-five for all my hard work. Later, I’ll discuss my goals for the current quarter and my new plan for world domination.


    Since it’s been a few days since my last post, I’m posting three small images today. These are some sketch ideas for an art nouveau style stain glass window that I was going to put in the bedroom sketch I’m working on. I wanted something with wings or angel imagery. The window is out of the sketch now, but I may use the ideas later for something else.

  • Sunday, October 15, 2006

    How To Sleep Late On Saturday

    Friday night, 9:00 PM - 11:00 PM - Stay up late to watch your favorite television show, because you almost never get to watch TV anymore unless it involves cheesy cartoon characters, fuzzy puppets, or a bunch of Australian guys singing about a rose-eating dinosaur.

    11:30 PM - Change into your jammies and slip into bed. Just as your head hits the pillow, your four-month-old baby will begin to sing. This is something new she’s started doing, a little bedtime serenade of cooing, yodeling and not-quite-howling that goes on for about twenty minutes. Lie awake and debate with yourself whether or not she’s actually fussing and needs your attention, or if she’s just screwing with your mind again.

    Midnight - Lie awake for the next hour, waiting for baby’s encore. Eventually doze off.

    1:00 AM - Wake up with a start, recalling that you forgot to turn off your radio alarm which is set to go off at the ungodly hour of 4:30 AM, your usual wake up time during the week. You certainly do not want to get up at 4:30 AM on a Saturday, so you crawl out of bed and stumble across the room to switch off the alarm. Curse as you trip over your husband’s shoes and ask yourself: why keep the alarm on the other side of the room? Answer: so you will be forced to get out of bed to turn it off at 4:30 AM, thus ensuring you will be up and wide awake in the morning. Spend the next half hour contemplating this cruel fact of your life before drifting off to sleep again.

    4:00 AM - Wake up to the sound of your baby crying. She’s not quite in full-blown screaming mad mode, but she will be if someone doesn’t hustle his or her ass out of bed to take care of her. Decide it’s his ass that needs to do the hustling this time and jab your husband in the ribs several times while muttering, “The baby’s crying... get up... baby’s crying... GET UP!” Husband eventually rouses and gets the baby. Meanwhile, your three-year-old has also woken up. She starts up her own scream-fest, and since your husband now has his hands full with a howling infant, you become the parent who must deal with this pre-dawn crisis. Stumble into the three-year-old’s room. Listen to her hysterically describe the monster that woke her up by vomiting all over her bed. Sit on the mattress and discover as you land on something squishy that yes indeed, one of the cats has puked up a hairball all over the sheets. Curse at the cats. Then discover that your daughter has wet the bed. No, not just wet it; flooded it, in spite of the fact that you allowed her no fluids after 7:00 PM last night (my god, is it tomorrow already?!). Pull the three-year-old out of bed and change her pajamas. Strip wet sheets and blankets off the bed and remake it. Soothe still howling three-year-old and convince her that she really does need to sleep in her own bed because you just know that your darling infant daughter is waiting to be nursed and you are way too tired to do it while sitting in the glider. Return to bed and discover that yes, you were right, and take whimpering infant from husband as you crawl back into bed. Doze off while the baby latches on and sucks the life out of your right breast.

    4:30 AM - Wake up as the baby unlatches and drifts off to sleep. Swear at your silent radio alarm clock as you trudge back into the nursery and put baby to bed in her own crib. Trudge back to your own bed and crawl under the covers. Swear again as your three-year-old wakes up screaming again and comes running into your room. Swear even louder as she knees you in the gut while climbing over you to get into your bed. Resignedly scoot over to balance precariously on the very edge of your bed so your daughter can have plenty of room to sleep between you and your still snoozing husband. Fight the urge to throttle her when she complains that you’re still hogging the bed and she needs more room. Fall asleep wondering if you’ll wake up before or after you roll out of bed to crash land on the floor.

    5:00 AM to 7:00 AM - Sleep fitfully, waking up repeatedly to catch yourself as you fall out of bed. In between times, answer questions in your sleep as your daughter interrogates you about her upcoming trip to Disney World.

    7:00 AM - Wake up again as the baby begins to howl. Reach over your peacefully sleeping three-year-old to smack your husband in the head. Order him to go take care of the baby. Doze off. Wake up a few minutes later to see husband attempting to hand you the baby to nurse. Realize in horror that baby has blown out her diaper and has stinky, runny poop going all the way up the back of her pajamas. Explain to husband that he will clean up the baby if he values his life. Answer three-year-old’s questions about what she’s getting for Christmas this year. When husband returns, explain to him that the bed is getting way too crowded and he needs to take the three-year-old downstairs and fix her breakfast. Doze off as husband and three-year-old exit the room and let the baby proceed to suck the life out of your left breast.

    7:30 AM - Baby unlatches and rolls onto her back, drooling breast milk from the corner of her tiny mouth. Sesame Street plays at full blast on the TV downstairs. Realize that 7:30 AM is actually three hours later than when you normally get up (remember that 4:30 AM alarm?), so technically, you have slept late and now it’s time to get up. Enjoy your day! And for extra fun, repeat the whole process for Sunday morning.


    And just to illustrate my point, here’s about how I feel after two days of “sleeping late.”

    Self-portrait of a very tired mother, 15 October 2006

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    It’s Gotta Be Friday The 13th

    It’s not even five frikkin’ thirty in the morning and both kids already up. I had to change the sheets on both their beds and now Sam wants to nurse. These kids are supposed to be asleep so I can get some work done right now, ya know?

    What? What’s that you say? When do I sleep? Are you kidding me?

    I don’t even have any artwork to show you, because it’s too frikkin’ early in the morning and I haven’t had a chance to get to the office and scan it in. This is just ticking me off, folks.

    P.S. - I'm looking at switching over to Blogger Beta in the next week or so. I have no idea how badly that might screw things up, but from what I understand, once I switch, I've switched for good. So keep your fingers crossed and pray I don't accidentally flush the whole blog right down the toilet, okay?

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Why Does Mommy Have To Be The Bad Guy?

    Well, so much for freakish tales of our trip to Washington, D. C. I went there expecting horrific adventures that would curl your hair and I got nothing but a weekend of spit up and sleepless nights curled around the baby. Not much different from being home. Figures.

    However, I do not approach my blog empty-handed today. There have been recent developments in the Madden household sure to make you laugh, even as they make me wince. I’m talking about Cassandra’s continuing fascination with Disney princesses. She grows more and more obsessed by the hour. While watching cartoons with me on Friday afternoon, she saw an ad for the new Light-Up Little Mermaid doll and promptly declared, “Mommy, I need that doll.”

    “No, honey. You don’t need that doll,” I explained. “You want that doll.”

    “Uh-huh,” she said, bobbing her head in complete agreement. “I need that doll.”

    What she also needs, she told me later that night, is the poofy white wedding gown Ariel wears when she marries her darling prince. Here’s how that discussion went.

    Cassie: “Mommy, I NEED Ariel’s white dress!”

    Me: “You mean the big poofy froo-froo gown she wears at the end of the movie?”

    Cassie: “Yeah, that one. I need a dress just like that.”

    Me, pointing to my wedding portrait above the fireplace: “Just like the one Mommy’s wearing in that picture up there, with the nine foot train and floor length veil?”

    Cassie, nodding emphatically: “Yeah! That’s it!”

    Me: “And do you need a big party to go with that dress, honey, complete with a rented ballroom, two hundred guests, a sit down dinner, mediocre disc jockey, and a seven-tiered cake?”

    Cassie, dancing with excitement: “Uh-huh! Uh-huh!”

    Me: “And an open bar where a bunch of disgruntled bridesmaids wearing ugly teal dresses complain about the huge butt bows you stuck them with?”

    Cassie, doing her best Tom Cruise imitation on the couch: “Yeah! That’s it Mommy!”

    Me, going in for the kill: “And do you need ice sculptures to go with all that?”

    Cassie, eyes growing big as dinner plates: “Ice sculptures, Mommy?”

    Me: “That’s right, baby doll. Ice sculptures of you and your prince.”


    Me, pointing to her father: “Then you need to talk to that man right over there, because he’s paying for it.”

    Of course, the upshot of my little bit of fun is that I screwed myself because Michael now claims he can no longer afford to buy me anything as he is too busy saving up for Cassie’s future wedding.

    But back to the subject at hand. Cassie continues to immerse herself in the imaginary world of Ariel and friends. She’s seen the movie enough times now that she can act out entire scenes. Sometimes she’ll do the scene on her own, but most often she likes to assign various roles to others while she plays Ariel. Michael is usually Eric, the prince. Sam gets to be Flounder, Ariel’s little fish friend. And as for me, her beloved mother? Why I get to be Ursula, the bloated sea hag from the Black Lagoon.

    I don’t know why, but whenever Cassie decides I must act out a movie with her, I always play the role of the villain. If we’re doing Beauty and the Beast, I have to be Gaston, the big baboon disguised as a virile hunter. If we’re doing Pocahontas, I have to play ugly old Governor Radcliffe (even though I do not have a mustache!). If the movie is Cinderella, I have to play both step sisters and the wicked step mother, plus the stinking cat too on certain days. It’s like my daughter thinks I’m evil, and I don’t know why.

    Quit laughing. I can hear you.

    I tried to convince Cassie to let me be someone cool, like Sebastian, the singing crab. I even put on my best Jamaican accent and did the whole song and dance routine for “Under The Sea.” No dice. “You be URSULA!” she insisted.

    So I’m stuck playing Ursula, she of the skanky bleached hair with the multitudes of blubbery black tentacles trailing from her tookus. One day I hope my daughter will look back and realize what a hero her mother truly was, to spend all day staying at home, taking care of her, changing her diapers and wiping her stinky little behind. I hope she’ll realize that I was a good sport, a mom who was willing to play an oozing scumbag squid woman just so her little girl could act out her fantasies of being an over-hyped, over-marketed, and over-rated mermaid. I hope she’ll appreciate all that I’ve sacrificed for her (namely my dignity). Until that day arrives, I’ll just keep hauling my ugly squid-butt after her, playing up the villain to the best of my abilities. Feh! I hate being typecast.


    For today’s artwork, I’m revisiting a sketch I did earlier last month. I really liked the figure, so I’ve gone back and added some background this time. I still haven’t worked out all the details. That window on the right side bothers me. I think I may take it out and replace it with a balcony instead. I’m going to keep playing with it until I get it right, then put it on my to-do list for digital painting. I’ve been reading a great book on digital painting for manga, so I’m hoping to put into practice all the techniques I’ve read about when I finally get to sit down with this image.

    The Beautiful Bed - pencil sketch, 11 October 2006

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    To My In-Laws' House We Go...

    In theory, we are headed out to see my in-laws today. I say in theory because Sam has been running a slight fever the past two days and the weather outside is lousy for travel (3 inches of rain at least since dawn yesterday). I’m a little leery of travel when there are sick kids and bad weather involved. But if Sam’s temperature drops and the skies clear up, well then it’s over river and through the woods to my in-laws we will go!

    Ah, a trip to my in-laws. What a wonderful time we’ll have. If you hear sarcasm in that last line, take it with a grain of salt. The fact is I enjoy visiting my in-laws just like I enjoy visiting my own parents. Or rather I would enjoy visiting both my in-laws and parents if they didn’t live in the foreign countries of Washington, D.C. and Arkansas, respectively.

    Now before you start howling about how geographically ignorant I must be to call D.C. and Arkansas foreign countries, let me just say this. They may not be foreign countries to you, but they sure as hell are to me. See, I grew up in York County, Virginia. Back in the mid-seventies when my dad transferred to Fort Eustis, York County was a very odd place to be. It had farms, but it wasn’t exactly rural. It had highways and shopping centers, but definitely not enough to make it a city. We had enough people to make a town, but no Main Street and everybody was so spread out we really didn’t know each other like the good folks in Andy Griffith’s Mayberry did. Was it a suburb maybe? No, there weren’t enough people to call it that either back then. It was just York County... small, quiet, sleepy little York County, part of the great historic triangle area of the Virginia Peninsula, along with Jamestown and Williamsburg (and if you folks don’t know why these three places are historic, then you’ve got some serious catching up to do on Colonial American history).

    Anyway, way back in the mid-seventies, I lived in the boondocks, for lack of a better word, and over the last thirty years (my god, has it been that long?) this little boondocks has exploded into a happening population center. We’re still not a city - too spread out and no skyscrapers to speak of - but we have become one hell of a sprawling metropolis with shopping malls and Panera Bread cafes and the occasional military base shoved in just for laughs (at last count, we had five military installations within spitting distance of my house). So I guess you could say that I am a lifelong resident of the land of Suburban Sprawl, a relatively pleasant if mind-numbing place that thinks it is immune to the sorts of problems you’d find in places like Washington, D.C. and Arkansas - poverty, homelessness, drugs, gangs, etc. (Although we do happen to have those problems in spades around here, but we like to blame that on the neighboring cities, I think.)

    Nope, we’re not at all like those weird foreigners in Arkansas and D.C. I remember the day I found out my father was going to move my mother out to Arkansas. She was not exactly... how shall I say it? Excited to go? Or rather, she was very excited, but it was more over her plans of how she was going to kill my father and then chop up his body into little pieces and throw it into the canal behind our house so that Dad could sleep with the fishes, because he sure as hell wasn’t sleeping with her anymore (and people wonder where I get my homicidal urges from).

    Having visited the place many times before with my dad (he claims he was raised there), Mom knew Arkansas was a foreign country; a barren, uncivilized place that lacked such social necessities as Starbucks coffee, Barnes and Nobles bookstores, gargantuan outlet malls and multiplex theaters. Arkansas is mostly chicken farms and rice paddies from what I’ve seen, with the most serious sign of civilization being its crystal meth industry. The natives there seem to thrive on folk art and country western music, but since neither Mom nor I were raised on that sort of stuff, it all seems really weird and foreign and it just makes us homesick. I do try to keep an open mind about the place whenever I visit my folks, but that’s so hard to do when I realize that the two major topics of conversation down there are a) when is the Rapture coming, and b) how much weight people plan to loose by the time the Rapture arrives. Apparently, it’s better to be thin when God comes to take you away. Excess weight must make bodily assumption harder to do.

    At the extreme end of the spectrum of foreigness is Washington, D.C. The D.C. I think stands for “Damned City” which is short for “City Of The Damned,” because you know that with that many politicians crammed into such a small area, that whole place is most certainly going to Hell (and unfortunately taking the rest of us with it). D.C. is home to such weirdness as public transportation (something unheard of in York County) and homeless people. I swear to you, I’ve lived in York County 30 years and never have I seen a homeless person on these streets. Probably because they’d get run down by our local lunatic NASCAR wannabes if they stood on the side of the road with a cardboard sign that read, “Homeless. Please help.”

    Every time I go to D.C., I feel like I’ve landed on the Planet-Formerly-Known-As-Pluto during its annual Freak Festival. While visiting our nation’s capitol (see, I’m not that geographically ignorant), I have seen a full grown woman scream at a park full of people while stripping off all her clothing in broad daylight. I have been accosted by winos who reeked equally of alcohol and piss, and could not decide if they were bums or politicians or both. I have watched one of my brothers-in-law’s ex-girlfriends sing karaoke. I have never fully recovered from any of these experiences.

    My darling husband Michael claims that D.C. is not really a freak show, and that the crazies we run into every time we visit are the exception rather than the norm. Apparently they sense my unease at being a stranger in a strange land, and thus feel compelled to come out to greet me and make me feel welcome. Either that or else we keep showing up during campaign season, when all the politicos are out whoring themselves in the name of patriotism and freedom.

    Oh well. Strangeness abounds wherever I go, so maybe it is just me. In any event, I must draw this all to a close. Sam has stopped fussing and her temperature is back to normal. The rain has died off and I think we will be able to drive, rather than sail, to D.C. Wish me luck this weekend. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of interesting stories to tell when I get back.


    Here’s an old drawing I’ve done, just some random weirdness to add to the blog. I figure, it’s October. Why not?

    Roland, 7 October 2006

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    The Little Mermaid and The Not-So-Little Mermaid: A Cautionary Tale

    A few folks have mentioned that I didn’t make many posts last week. Sorry. I spent most of my computer time searching for a new web hosting service. I finally found one I liked, and now I’m looking forward to a redesign of my computer graphics site. All this digital painting is really getting my creative juices going, and I’m eager to put together a new site with a new portfolio some time the beginning of next year. Meanwhile, I owe you folks for the missing posts from last week, so here’s an extra long one to keep you happy.

    Boy, are things hoppin’ at our place! We got a package in the mail today. Seems that Michael pre-ordered the latest release of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” for Cassandra’s viewing entertainment. I’m thinking the only Disney Princesses we don’t have now are Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Don’t think we’ll be getting those any time soon, either, as they’re probably locked in the vault until the next time Disney decides to haul them out and stick it to all us parents of precocious preschool wanna-be-princess girls.

    Getting Little Mermaid isn’t so bad though. This is one of the better Disney Princess movies in my opinion, if only for the Jamaican crab singing his heart out about how wonderful life is beneath the deep blue sea. Granted, Ariel is yet another one of those girls who has to have her prince and does all sorts of stupid stuff to get him. She gives up her voice, gives up her legs, and (in the original story) gives up her life for the man of her dreams. Heck, if I’d been the Little Mermaid, I wouldn’t have been giving up anything for a guy. I would have just pointed to that kickin’ little fish tail and said, “Come get some sushi, big boy!” and then we’d be having some fun. But that version of the movie would have been rated NC-17 and Disney never would have made it.

    So I’m not the Little Mermaid. Instead, I have become the Not-So-Little Mermaid. What’s happened is my knees are getting worse instead of better, much to my dismay and my physical therapist’s. She’s ordered me to stop all the strengthening exercises until we can get a pair of customized braces. Meanwhile, the cracking and popping noises I keep hearing as I go up and down the steps are getting really bad. Even the neighbors are complaining about the noise now. It’s very loud and it creeps them out.

    In addition to no strengthening exercises for my knees, I must also take it easy in karate class (like I was doing much of anything anyway with my broken toe). And since walking is getting to be a pain too, I’ve got to watch out for that as well. In fact, my physical therapist would even make me give up going up and down the steps at home if it weren’t for the fact that the fridge is downstairs and all the working toilets are upstairs (Michael is remodelling the downstairs bathroom - it will be finished some time before we die). Gotta eat, gotta pee, so I gotta take the steps. But while the amount of stair climbing I do during the day is enough to make my knees ache, it isn’t enough to keep me from going crazy from lack of physical activity. Thus I have decided to take up swimming.

    I do not have a fish tail (so no sushi for you, big boy!). I have long red hair, but being four months post-partum, it’s a mess because all the hairs that grew like crazy while I was pregnant have now decided to fall out en mass (it’s so bad, I keep leaving a big scary hair monster in the drain whenever I shower, and I swear Sam is going to strangle herself on one of my loose hairs one day). Also, I do not have a nifty clam shell bra, but I’m not going to complain about that, since it doesn’t look like it would be very practical or comfortable for a nursing mom.

    Nope, I got none of the things Ariel has. What I do have is access to a 50 yard lap pool courtesy of the YMCA and my physical therapist’s approval to go swimming as it is the exercise that will do the least amount of damage to my knees. Now I do know how to swim. When I was maybe six, my grandma’s next door neighbor, whom we called Aunt Terry, would let us come over to her house and swim whenever we were in town. I think she’s the one who taught me the side stroke and the breast stroke. I also recall taking a few Y swim classes when I was about ten, so I can tread water and float on my back and do stuff like that.

    Then there’s my Army swim training. Do you know what the Army calls swim training? They call it drown-proofing. Want to know how it’s done? You show up at an Olympic style pool dressed in full field uniform, right down to your combat boots. The first thing you have to do is swim a complete lap in the pool with all your clothes on, and your boots as well. It’s very, very hard. But it’s actually quite easy compared to the next thing you have to do, which is to climb up to the high diving board with a fake M-16 rifle in your hands and let some jerk who outranks you put a blindfold on you when you reach the top (no, I am not making this up). Once the jerk is sure you can’t see, he proceeds to guide you down to the end of the diving board (still not making this up). As you’re inching your way along, the jerk says all sorts of helpful stuff like, “Take another step forward... and another... and another... Whoops!” At which point you start screaming because you just walked off the end of the high dive while blindfolded and dressed in full field gear and combat boots, all the while carrying a fake M-16 (again, I am really, truly not making this up). You are supposed to hit the water feet first with the dummy rifle held high above your head so it doesn’t get wet. This is impossible of course, because if you step off the high diving board fully dressed and carrying a big-ass fake rifle, you are more than heavy enough to hit the bottom of the pool which is twenty feet deep, and then bounce back out and land right back on the high dive where the jerk is just waiting to push you off again (okay, I made some of that last bit up, but it’s mostly true). If you manage to get out of the pool with your rifle and all your gear and your boots still on, and don’t swallow half the pool water while doing it, you are considered drown-proofed.

    I completed my drown-proofing in the spring of 1990, just in time to attend Camp All American at Fort Brag, NC. Now let’s get one thing straight. I sucked at ROTC. Really. I was one of the worst cadets ever to wear the yellow and black patch of that proud bastion of military academics. The only reason I even made it to commissioning day was my good grades. I was a lousy cadet, couldn’t tell my ass from a hole in the ground when it came to the military, but I had a 3.4 average and I graduated with honors so they figured I'd survive being an officer somehow. Good grades were no help though when it came to Camp All American. I barely made it through by the skin of my teeth. My failures that summer were so numerous even I can’t remember them all. But I do remember my crowning moment of ignominy, one that probably anyone who was there to witness it also still remembers to this day. It was the “Forty-Foot Rope Drop.”

    The forty-foot rope drop was the last event in an obstacle course that was specifically designed to kill, er, I mean weed out, weaklings, wimps, and misfits like yours truly. There was the ankle-breaking tire jump course, the virtually impossible vertical wall climb, the rope swing across the mud pits of despair, and the low crawl through a cess pool that to this day still makes me puke when I think about it. At the end of it all was the rope drop - a single strand of rope suspended by two telephone poles forty feet over a swift running stream. In the center of the rope hung a plaque bearing the Army Ranger tab. The goal was to climb up one of the poles, shimmy hand over hand along the rope to the plaque, touch the plaque, and then hang from the rope by your hands. Once in that position, cadets were supposed to let go of the rope, cross their arms over their chests, and drop cleanly into the stream rushing by below. Whatever happened, we were all told to make sure we were looking up when we hit the water, because otherwise, we ran the risk of getting a bloody nose or lip if we hit with our faces pointing down.

    I was very tired when I got to the Forty-Foot Rope Drop. I almost didn’t make it up the pole, even with the help of all the hand and foot holds. Getting onto the rope was a feat that almost got me killed, and shimmying out to the plaque was an act of physical comedy that not even Charlie Chaplin could match. What really made the Forty-Foot Rope Drop special, though, was that I had to get permission to do each step from the colonel who oversaw the event. It went something like this.

    Colonel: Well, cadet, you look like you’ve had an invigorating day, courtesy of the U. S. Army! Are you ready to tackle my rope drop event?

    Me (gasping for breath so badly that I sound like I’m having an asthma attack): Huhn... huhn... huhn...

    Colonel: I can’t hear you, cadet!


    Colonel: Okay, so...?


    Colonel: Go get her, cadet! Move, move!

    An hour passes.

    Colonel: Gol’ dang it, cadet, have you reached the top of that pole yet?

    Me (from very, very high up): YES SIR!

    Colonel: Well?


    Colonel: Go for it, cadet! Move! Move!

    Another hour passes.

    Me: SIR?

    Colonel: Zzzzzzzz... huh?! What? Where? Oh, it’s you, cadet. Are you there yet? Did you touch my Ranger tab?

    Me: YES SIR!

    Colonel: All right, now we’re getting’ somewhere. So what’s next, cadet?


    Colonel: Hang, cadet! Hang!

    (Let us pause for a brief explanation on the term “hanging.” At this point, I was supposed to slide off the rope so that one leg was dangling free. I was then supposed to execute a pull-up while carefully slipping the other leg off the rope, and end up hanging by my hands from the rope, ready to drop into the stream below. The pull-up was supposed to prevent me from swinging so hard that I got yanked off the rope by my own body weight. Keep in mind that I sucked at physical fitness in those days, and have never, ever in my life managed to do a pull-up).

    Twenty minutes later...

    Me: Um, sir? Request permission to drop?

    Colonel: Now cadet, you still got one foot hanging on that rope. You need to do a full pull-up while slipping that foot off the rope, okay? Then you can ask permission to drop.

    Me (struggling to keep hold of the rope): Um, sir? I really think you need to let me drop.

    Colonel: No cadet. That would be cheating. You got to hang first. Hang! Got it?

    Me (desperately trying to do a pull up with arms made out of limp spaghetti): I really, really think we should just skip the hanging part, sir. Please?

    Colonel (throwing his hat on the ground in frustration): Gol’ dang it, cadet! I told you to hang!

    Me (as my foot suddenly slips off the rope while I am NOT doing a pull up): AAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE- WHAM!

    When I finally came up for air, another cadet told me what happened. My foot slipped off the rope, causing my entire body to swing so wildly that I did a complete 360 in mid-air, followed by a half twist that put my body in horizontal position, parallel to stream below. I plummeted like a rock, arms and legs spread eagle. Now this all happened very fast, but I do remember thinking as I fell, “Make sure you look up... Make sure you look up!” Well, I was looking up all right. I hit the water flat on my back, making a splash big enough to soak the colonel who was standing on the far bank.

    The colonel was still wringing out his hat when I crawled out of the stream. “Cadet,” he said. “That was pitiful. Do you see that sergeant major over there?” I did. It was the sergeant major from my school, as it turned out. “He’s the one what put together this rope drop,” the colonel went on. “That means this is his rope drop, and his stream that you hit so hard. I want you to go over to that sergeant major and apologize for bruising his water.”

    So I straggled over to my sergeant major and said in a really squeaking voice, “I’m sorry I bruised your water, Sergeant Major Jeeter!” And Sergeant Major Jeeter just sort of rolled his eyes and shook his head, and maybe he prayed a bit too, but I was still kind of dazed from hitting the water so hard, so I’m not sure. He might have been cussing me out for all I know.

    But that’s Army swim training for you. The good news is, it didn’t kill me, so I guess it just made me stronger. The even better news is that sixteen years later there is no Forty-Foot Rope Drop at the YMCA where I go swimming now. There’s just a bunch of seniors doing water aerobics as I doggy paddle back and forth in the pool, and none of them seem to mind if I bruise the water when I jump in.


    Here’s the artwork for today. I’ve been working on this sketch on and off over the past week. Drawing the initial figure happened in one session, but now I’m stuck doing research for the details - the costume, the jaguar, the background (which you don’t see yet because it hasn’t been drawn). This one’s going to take a little while, but I don’t mind. I’m almost past the drawing stage with it and I plan to do it up as another digital painting. One of the two books I picked up on Friday was about digital manga, and I’m looking forward to using this sketch as an experiment for all the new techniques I’m reading about.

    Pencil sketch, Temple Of The Jaguar (WIP) - 4 October 2006

    Welcome To The Sex O’clock News

    Is it just me, or has the evening news just become too obscene to watch? I studied broadcasting in college, and I remember way back when there was a brouhaha roiling over the new standards to move TV shows with certain content (i.e. sex and violence) to after prime time, when the kiddies would be in bed. Not a bad idea, in my opinion. I write erotica, but I am going to be one of the first to tell you that there is a time and a place for everything, and young children do not need to watch shows that features stories about pedophiles and execution style murders.

    Which is exactly what’s been on the news in the last few days.

    I am so sickened by what happened at the Amish school in Pennsylvania. A man armed with three guns came into the school and took it hostage. He sent out the boys, the teachers and some pregnant women, then lined up the young girl students and shot them in the back of the head before killing himself. Five of those girls are dead. Why would anyone do such a thing? These were Amish children, for crying out loud! I doubt they’d ever hurt so much as a fly. So why, why, why did this lunatic have to kill them in cold blood?

    The other story in the news that’s making me sick right now is the one on Congressional Representative Mark Foley. That’s right, the Congressional Rep for the state of Florida, a man who gets paid by your tax dollars, has been sending sexually explicit text messages to underage students working as pages on Capitol Hill. How disgusting is that? Makes what Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky did look pretty tame by comparison. Of course, the news is all over this too. They’re howling about how the Republicans may lose the House because of the disgust the public feels over this scandal. Forget the public’s disgust over the way the current Republican administration has conducted business in general during the last few years. We all know nobody’s been paying attention to stupid things like unemployment, education reform, jobs lost overseas, etc. We only care about gay marriage, flag burning, and all the sex and violence the news can cram down our throats.

    Don’t get me wrong. These two stories should be in the news. There are horrible things happening in the world, and we need to know what’s going on. Being aware of the violence and crimes happening around us is the first step toward putting an end to such horrors. I want to know if an elected official is sexually harassing young children. I want to know that there are crazies out there, armed to the teeth and just waiting to barge into our local schools and start shooting. Forewarned is forearmed, people, and I can not defend against that which I don’t know about.

    No, my problem is with the way the news handles these things. The evening news is going to beat these stories to death, probably do several specials on them, then hype them, package them, pimp them and whore them, all in the name of earning ratings. Just like they did with John Mark What’s-his-face, who claimed to have killed Jon Benet Ramsey. My poor husband was on a business trip in Colorado the week that story broke, and he was so sick of hearing about the story everywhere he turned, he wouldn’t even turn on the TV when he came home. Now he won’t turn it on for fear of what our kids might see. The girls are not allowed to watch the evening news. For the past two years, Michael’s been recording it on the downstairs computer and watching it after the kids are in bed. He used to do this because it was convenient, but now he’s doing it because he doesn’t want Cassandra to see the news. She’s smart, too smart, and I can guarantee you she’s pick up the word ‘pedophile’ in a heartbeat. Then, of course, we’d have to explain it to her, above and beyond the conversations we’ve already had about good touching and bad touching. I’m not sure I’m ready for any more conversations like that.

    But that’s all that’s going to be on the news for the next several days, if not weeks. And that’s what kills me. Other issues, issues that are just as important, are going to get short shift in the media feeding frenzy. Remember how I said we can only deal with a problem if we know about it? Well, a lot of problems are going to go undealt with because the news is going to be too busy hyping Congressional pedophiles and Amish school shootings to pay attention to anything else. And that, folks, is a real crime, because that’s when the news stops being the news and becomes instead the worst, most pornographic form of entertainment know to mankind.

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    My Crash And Burn Weekend

    Ugh. It’s Monday. After a very long and exhausting weekend. Ugh.

    Whatever happened to my weekends? They used to be something I looked forward to. Time off from my sucky day job, a respite from the hells of mundania that I used to face everyday. Weekends were times when I stayed up late, slept late, and spent time having fun with my friends. No longer. These days, weekends are hell holes where I run around like a chicken with my head chopped off trying to keep up with my husband and two kids. I hate it.

    This weekend was particularly bad. Friday was the last Friday of the month, which means it was also my “Day Off.” Ha! That was a joke. I keep forgetting that I don’t get days off anymore. I was under this delusion that because Cassie would be in preschool all day, I’d be able to go out and enjoy myself with only little Sam in tow. Sweet little Sam. Laid back little Sam. Mommy’s precious-angel-who-never-makes-a-peep-and-never-fusses little Sam.

    What a load of BS.

    We started our “day off” at the YMCA, where I did my usual physical therapy appointment, followed by a swim in the pool. Sam stayed in the Y nursery. The attendants there love Sam. She never cries, just smiles, giggles and waves her fat little hands at them. She was a perfect, jolly baby all morning, they told me. Then I came by to pick her up and all that stopped. Sam started fussing the moment we left the building. I kept hoping she’d calm down. I had things to do that day, and places to shop - Borders, Barnes and Nobles, Hot Topic, Michael’s Art and Crafts. I had coupons for every place but Hot Topic burning a hole in my pocket. I was gonna buy lots of stuff, but still save big with those coupons. I had dreams of sitting in one bookstore after another, sipping frou-frou coffee and flipping through manga and art books. It was going to be a heavenly day... but Sam wouldn’t stop fussing.

    The fussing turned to wailing the moment we hit our first stop, Borders. I did my best to soothe her, holding her in my arms while I pushed the (useless) stroller one-handed around the store. Sam would quiet down for a bit then howl every time I tried to put her back in the stroller. After half an hour of this, it was clear even to me that there was no point in putting her back in the stroller. That was okay, though. I could hold my little darling and still shop. Then the spit up started.

    At home, Sam is known as the Queen of Spit Up, and for a very good reason. Some people who have visited lately think we’ve repainted our walls and re-carpeted the entire house in a faintly cheese-tinted white. Not so. That’s all the handiwork (or should I say vomit-work) of little Samantha Ann. She doesn’t do projectile vomiting, yet, but that hasn't stopped her from coating the house with half-digested milk.

    She proceeded to do the same to Borders. At first, I was able to contain her little eruptions to the burp cloth. Then my nice, navy blue shirt took a few hits. Then my jeans. When I heard the first splat hit the carpet in front of the computer graphics books, I knew it was time to give it up. So I grabbed the only two books I’d had a chance to look through and made my way to the cash register. I used my Borders coupons, and then sadly put away the Barnes and Nobles coupons as I headed out of the store, without even a small cup of joe as a consolation prize for my aborted trip.

    The rest of the weekend went pretty much the same. We went to the Virginia State Fair, where I divided my time between breastfeeding Sam and containing her spit ups while Michael took Cassie from one ride to the next. I did get to see some very funky looking birds on display courtesy of the Virginia Pigeon and Dove Association. One bird I swear looked exactly like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Other than that... well, I did get to experience the full wrath of Cassie’s tempter tantrum when she dropped her milkshake. Does that count as entertainment?

    After an exhausting Saturday, I looked forward to a calm, quiet Sunday at home. The “at home” part was about all I got. Due to lack of planning and coordination, I spent most of the day running around trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing as Michael zipped in and out of the house with one child or another in tow. He had a plan, but hadn’t managed to share it with me, so I didn’t know whether he was coming or going and when I was supposed to be on call for Mommy duty or when he was giving me a break. So I got nothing done on Sunday.

    But now it’s Monday. Cassie is at preschool. Michael is at work. Sam continues to spit up, but she’s doing it in the comfort of home. Meantime, I’m trying to get around to my next writing project. The novel, complete with the final version of the dreaded synopsis, went out the door Thursday to a publisher. I had hoped to celebrate this event last Friday, but oh well. Maybe my next day off will go a little better.


    Here’s the little bit of artwork I managed to get done this weekend, sort of a gothic creepy chick. It might be a zombie. I'm not sure. It's unfinished. The colored spots in the top are the palette I picked out for the image (no, I'm not real sure about that violet color either). I’m still experimenting with the settings for paintbrushes in Corel Photopaint, trying to create a better blending brush. It’s going to take some time. I’ll work on this one off and one until it’s finished, in between other projects.

    Hmmm... kinda looks like me after this past weekend.