Thursday, February 28, 2008

What I Learned On My 39th Birthday

I learned that...

If you agree to let your five-year-old help you bake her birthday cake and yours, you will end up waiting until the last minute to do it because of scheduling conflicts.

If you wait until the last minute to bake the cakes, you will have to kill yourself to get them done in time for the party. And you will still have to let the five-year-old help.

If you agree to let your husband go to VIRTUS training at the church instead of staying home to help with the party, you're not going to have enough adults on hand to handle the upcoming disaster... er, party.

If you get the cakes backed, but then you leave the cake in the pan too long or too little, one layer will split right across the middle when you try to get it out. And your five-year-old will have a heart attack over this.

If you call often enough and frantically enough, and if you leave a really big note on the door, your husband will get home from VIRTUS training in time to fix that stupid cake.

If you look like you're still pulling your hair out, your best friend will come to the rescue by picking up the sodas, chips, and dips that you forgot to get for the party. Never underestimate the miracle of a best friend.

If you put all thirty-nine candles on your birthday cake and light them, you will set off the fire alarm.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Now We Are Thirty-Nine

The past two weeks have hit me like a steam roller. First, everyone had the stomach flu. Then Michael left town on business for a week -- more work at Johnson Space Center. Then we had Cassie's fifth birthday (the day Michael left) and of course I had to plan a party. I am one of those moms that refuses to do a huge party where Cassie can invite all of her little classmates from preschool. I don't have the time or energy to invest in that sort of 3-ring circus, and quite frankly, I hate those sorts of parties anyway. I don't know any of the other moms of Cassie's classmates. I live in an entirely different world from these people. I've been to a couple of the parties they've thrown for their kids and quite frankly, I've either felt like a complete outsider (a feeling I should be used to, but still don't enjoy) or else I feel overwhelmingly disgusted by the sheer excess of a party thrown for a four- or five-year-old that involves an inflatable moonwalk, an over-priced magician, some clown doing balloon animals, face painting, a five-tiered cake, pony rides, and a visit from Spiderman/Sponge Bob/Dora the Explorer. Cassie would love to have a party like that, but you know what? I can't afford it, time or money-wise, and I think that kind of excess for a kid's party is just a really bad idea. Birthday parties should be spent with family and close friends. They should be a celebration of life, not a gift grab. My girl got presents all week long anyway, and I swear her grandmother knows no limits on sending presents. On her birthday, Cassie received more Barbie dolls in one day than I ever owned in my entire life. Yep, she got five Barbies... IN JUST ONE DAY. A bit much, neh?

But we did have a party, and though it was a small affair, it was just big enough to nearly kill me. Since my birthday was Saturday, the same day as Cassie's party, I decided to do two cakes. Cassie wanted this princess cake from one of her kids' cook books, and I thought that would have been too small to feed all the guests (but in hindsight it probably would have been just right). So I decided to do a cake for me as well. The only problem was, I had almost no time to do it in. Cassie wanted to help make both cakes, and while I am not huge on over-indulgent parties, I am big on mommy-daughter bonding activities, and cooking is one of them. So I set up a schedule that a) allowed Cassie to participate in the making, baking, and decorating of both cakes, and b) nearly insured that we had no cakes at all in time for the party. See, she could only help me when she was awake, and given our hectic schedule the previous week (remember, Michael was away), my free time during her waking hours was just about nil. I actually got up at 5AM on Saturday morning, the day OF the party, to bake my own cake. Then Cassie got up around 7:30, and by 9:30 we were all dressed and ready to make her cake. Unfortunately, we needed to leave the house at 10:30 to meet people at the Virginia Living Museum for a pre-party play date, and one hour just ain't enough time to bake and frost a cake.

We did get the cake baked, but then when I tried to remove the layers from the pans before racing out the door to the museum, the bottom layer split, in half, horizontally. Imagine the swearing that accompanied that event. Then double it, because by that point, I was ready to tear out my hair and someone else's.

Fortunately, Michael was home by then, although he had to go to VIRTUS training for the Catholic church. Boy, was I swearing about that too. Of all the mornings to not be available to help, that was a baaaaaad one to pick. I let him know that later. What made it worse was the fact that he did not get home from his business trip until almost midnight the night before, so I only got to see him for five minutes the next morning before he headed out for the church. But he did get home before the party started and he did manage to fix and frost Cassie's birthday cake, and he ordered all the pizzas, so we did manage to pull off the party, and Cassie enjoyed it even if we didn't hire Ringling Brothers to provide the entertainment.

My biggest disappointment over all this is the fact that all I can remember of the weekend is all the swearing and shouting I was doing, and the momentous struggle I felt like I was going through to make things happen. The same damned thing happened over Christmas -- illness, business trips, too much work, not enough sleep -- and the holidays were gone like that. I didn't get to enjoy Christmas, and to be honest, I didn't get to enjoy my birthday either. I had a brief period where I got to enjoy Cassie's birthday, but that was only after all the screaming and ranting were over and we were in the middle of the party. The whole mother-daughter bonding while baking thing just added to the stress, so I didn't even enjoy that like I thought I should have.

So what to do? Obviously, things are out of control here at la casa de Madden. I've got too much work, not enough time, not enough sleep, and Michael will be heading out on even more business trips in the upcoming months. It's killing me, and I need to find a way to slow things down. But it's going to take some effort.
The first step will be to clear some of this work off my desk. I'm proofing one book, writing another, putting together three art commissions, putting together articles for ERWA and doing the podcast. Plus I need to work on promoting my writing, and I've got EPIC VA events to coordinate. That's a lot of work. I need to winnow it down, and then I need to not take on anything else for a while.

I wonder if it will ever really slow down though. I've already been approached to do some artwork for a major website, and I've got some conventions coming up that I'll be participating in. And I don't want to turn away paying work or promotion opportunities. I'm going to have to make a decision soon on how to handle all this. Cassie is going to be home this summer before starting kindergarten, and I don't want the entire summer to steam roll over us the way our birthdays did.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Just When I Thought It Was Safe - Blergh!

After Sam and I had our bouts with the stomach flu, Michael came home early on Friday and announced he was setting up office in the bathroom. I thought he was just joking. I mean, I knew he meant **he** now had the stomach flu, and therefore would be spending a lot of time in the bathroom, but I didn't realize he was actually going to be **working** in there at the same time.

The man actually took a phone in there and his laptop, set them on the edge of the tub, and listened in on a teleconference while he puked his guts up in the toilet. Of course, he kept the phone on mute except for when he needed to answer a question, but my god. Working AND puking at the same time? I was so sick on Valentine's Day I couldn't roll over in bed without puking, so I put Sam (my work) in her crib for two hours just so she would stop climbing on me and I wouldn't end up puking on her. She cried the whole time, but hey, she didn't need **my** lunch all in **her** hair. And I didn't get out of bed until late the next morning. But Michael was actually doing this teleconference, answering questions and everything. That's commitment for you. Commitment to an asylum!

Cassie came down with the stomach flu the next day, just as Michael was recovering. Actually, she ran into our bedroom at 3AM saying, "Mommy, my tummy hurts! Blergh!" I got her to a bathroom just in time. She spent the rest of the night vomiting and tossing and turning. I had to put her in our room on an air mattress and keep a bucket on hand. Every fifteen minutes, I had to hold it for her so she could heave into it. She seemed much better later that day, and waaaaaaay better on Sunday (yesterday). So much better that Michael fed her a cheese sandwich and grapes and all sorts of goodies.

All of which she promptly projectile vomited across the dining room at dinner last night.

I swear, it looked like someone turned on a fire hose inside that kid. She covered the entire table. We had to take everything off and wash it. Michael made the mistake of thinking the silverware in the dishwasher was actually clean and put it back in the silverware drawer, only to find out that no, that was stuff I had just taken off the table and it had some puke on it. So we had to wash ALL the silverware. And we had to throw out everyone's dinner. Not that it was the greatest dinner I've ever made (new recipe didn't quite work out as I had hoped) but we've all been sick so we're all starving right now. Ah, throwing out the egg rolls was the worst part. I didn't even get to finish mine.

So now Cassie is in bed again today, on a very strict, very simple diet. Her 5th birthday is tomorrow, and I do not want her to get sick again. I've got party planning and shopping to do and Michael leaves town tomorrow, so her being sick another day would a) be a sucky way to celebrate her birthday, and b) really screw up the party preparation. Plus it would kill yet another work day for me, and I've lost a week already to this damned flu.

Here's hoping everyone keeps their dinner down tonight, because last night was the scariest vomit I've ever seen and I don't want to see it again anytime soon!


Friday, February 15, 2008

I Love Socks!

In the course of revamping my wardrobe, I have developed a thing for socks. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I never had cool socks growing up. Yes, I know, I was badly deprived as a child. So anyway, I found a couple of websites that sell really cool socks, including Sock Dreams and The Joy Of Socks. So far, I've got sushi socks, cappuccino socks, mermaid socks, dragon socks, koi fish socks, red and white stripy socks, and a pair of really neat red knee highs with a skull and cross bones print that almost looks like an argyle pattern.

I also got some very nice sneakers from Onmyodo Online. White creeper style with a Japanese rising sun and pink cherry blossom stitched onto them. Too cool!

Yeah, I know. Aren't there more important things I should be talking about, besides my footwear?

Well, I am on a quest for new undies...

Yea Verily, I Have Been Puked Upon

Sam came down with the stomach flu on Tuesday. I had no idea she was sick until we pulled into the preschool parking lot to pick up Cassie. Before I could get her out of the car seat, Sam started vomiting. That kid ate a lot of grapes for lunch.

So Sam puked all over the car seat and herself. Took me fifteen minutes to clean her up enough to go into the preschool and get Cassie. Thankfully, I had a change of clothes and a lot of wipes in the diaper bag. When we got home, she puked again, right outside the front door. She got herself, the sidewalk, and me. I kept dancing around as she puked going, "Not on mommy's suede shoes, please!" After that, it was puke off and on all evening. I spent most of the evening on the couch wearing a bath towel so Sam could lean over and puke on me as needed. Once we got past the first three pukes, she quit bringing up sour milk and grapes and just brought up a lot of spit and bile. Poor kid.

Sam is mostly recovered today, except for the occasional messy diaper (yick!). But wouldn't you know it, I spent most of yesterday in bed with... you guessed it, the stomach flu. The first signs hit me around 5AM when I got up to do some work on the podcast. Then I had some more tummy rumblings around 8AM. Decided to forgo the exercise and went shopping instead for Valentine's Day gifts. By noon, I was home puking in the bucket. So much for Valentine's Day.

I swear that's like the fourth holiday in a row that I've spend sick in bed. I hope I don't come down with anything really nasty for my birthday next week.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Childhood Milestones

As of this date, Cassie can:

Tie her shoes.
Read simple words.
Swim half the length of the YMCA pool.

As of this date, Sam can:

Rip the cover off one of my favorite books.
Poop on the carpet.

Which child do you think is most like Michael? Which child do you think is most like me?

Don't tell me your answers. I know where you live.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

You Beast!

There's domestic trouble in the Madden household. Sam got into her sister's Disney Princess Barbie dolls with disturbing results. I found Belle and Prince Eric in the master bathroom together, naked. I was wondering who kept humming "Be My Guest." The Beast is going to be so pissed off when he finds out about this.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Freaky Fruits and Swimming Suits!

Ha ha! Look at that title. I'm a poet and I didn't even know it!

Ah hmm. Seriously though, we've had an interesting week. Michael left Tuesday for a training course in Houston, abandoning-- er, I mean leaving me with the kids. My knee is doing much better, so I was mostly able to keep up, but after a week on my own with those demon spawn, I am wiped out.

First thing we did after Michael left was hit the grocery store. Michael does all the grocery shopping, so I always use his trips as an excuse to buy the stuff **I** want. I didn't get much, just some fruit and side dishes that I knew he'd never in a million years pick up (curried veggies, anyone?). Cassie saw a star fruit in the produce section and immediately decided she had to have one. It just looked so freaky, but not nearly as freaky as the horned melon. If you've never seen either of these fruits, the star fruit looks like a banana sort of thingie with a star cross-section (in other words, if you slice it into pieces, you get lots of star shaped slices), while the horned melon looks like something Jacques Cousteau picked up off the bottom of a coral reef. It's a sort of neon orange see-slug thing. Or maybe it's a sea cucumber. Or are sea cucumbers actually a sort of sea slug? Who knows? It was orange, spiny, oblong and freaky and Cassie had to have it, and since **I've** never had one either, we got it.

I served the star fruit that night. It tasted... odd. Not really sweet, and not really tart. Sort of like weak kiwi flavored gelatin. The star fruit is yellow on the outside and yellowish on the inside. Cassie spent all of dinner telling me how much she just **loved** star fruit after only taking one bite of it. And that was the only bite she took. I had to finish the rest of the damned thing off. Blech.

The horned melon was very different though. It was freaky inside and out. On the inside, it's neon yellow-green, with sections like a pomegranate. Little round fleshy pods wrapped around a tiny seed. It tasted pretty good, definitely more like kiwi, but with a big juicy squish every time I bit into it. Both Cassie and Sam ate a couple of piece once they got over the color.

Ah, color. I never get enough of it in my life, and here's where we now talk about swimming suits. Since screwing up my knee the other week, I've gone back to swimming. In fact, I've decided just to forget about running and swim as much as I can. I'll be in the pool four days a week it looks like, but until yesterday, I only had one swim suit. So I ordered two more from I went with their grab bag option. Grab bag swim suits are $26 a piece instead of the usual $40. The only catch is THEY get to pick the color. You pick the size and the style, but THEY pick the color. The grab bag suits are all the colors that didn't sell the previous year, and now that I've got my two new suits, I can kind of see why. One of those suits isn't bad - it's a hot fluorescent pink and orange print that sort of looks like a 1960's acid trip. But the other suit... oh man, the other suit is a reversible suit. One side is Grape Ape purple and the other side is **lime green**. Both colors are eye-blinding.

But hey, for $26, it's not a bad suit.