Friday, May 29, 2009

Fiction Friday - The Subtle Knife and other... stuff

This post may be a bit disjointed. I've got four screaming little girls running amok in my house while I'm trying to write this. I'd wait for a more peaceful moment to write, but I've missed the last two weeks (or was it three) and I need to get this out.

So, last time I posted a Fiction Friday, I was reading Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife...

Sorry, I just had to sort out a fight between two of the girls. Pixie just spent 10 minutes in a corner shrieking because she can't play nice and prefers to hit instead. Joy. Anyway, she's taken care of and back to playing. Now where was I? Ah, Philip Pullman's The Subt--

What the hell was that noise? Did you just hear a loud bang coming from upstairs? No? Okay, I'm going to ignore it. This time. Anyway, The Subtle Knife. I really enjoyed this one, much like I enjoyed The Golden Compass. Again, Pullman doesn't condescend to his audience but shows the realities of what childhood, and the beginnings of adolescence, is like. The kids in this book are just as vicious as the adults; they only lack the subtlety that comes with age...

I'm sorry. Just had a lengthy discussion with the girls about what we had available to drink in the house, and the fact that NOBODY is going upstairs with a drink, especially if it's blueberry juice because I am not cleaning up those stains. And now the girls have discovered a whistle and a harmonic. Lovely. But to continue. The children in Subtle Knife are as vicious as the adults. The only thing that separates them is what drives them. While the main characters, Will and Lyra, are driven by the need to protect those they love, other children in the book are driven more by greed, revenge, hunger, and other basic needs. In that way I think they're more honest than the adults, who are driven by the need for power and whose goals are mandated by the sadistic rules and superstitions of the Authority, the religious entity that dominates the world Lyra comes from...

Do you know how many toys in this house make noise? Too many. And they're all going in the trash on Monday. ALL of them. And if certain little girls don't stop pushing and shoving and refusing to share, there's going to be a massacre in my living room very shortly. I'm just saying.

To continue, beyond the violence and savagery of the children and adults, there's also a great deal of heroism. Lee Scoresby, the aeronaut from the great country of Texas is particularly moving. His quest to find aid for Lyra, a girl he loves as much as he would his own child, leads him to a perilous fate. Serafina Pekkala, the witch, is also on a quest to aid Lyra, and her fate becomes just as much in doubt in the course of event...

I swear to god, I wish I had never bought that damned harmonica. Nor the whistle that is currently being blasted in my ear. Somebody's about to end up in the corner! And where is the heroic aeronaut to come take me away from all this? Huh?!

Whatever. Physics and religion are discussed side by side in The Subtle Knife. Many have accused Pullman of writing atheist propaganda. In truth, I don't think the books are atheist, so much as a criticism of how institutions and individuals pervert religious ideas to gain powe--

And I've just confiscated my third toy of the afternoon. Okay, you know what, let's get right down to brass tacks. Subtle Knife is a good book. I'm lucky to have read it. Quite frankly I'm lucky to have read anything. Do you know how hard it is for me to even get five minutes alone in the bathroom with a National Geographic? Do you?! And yet hear I am, surrounded by screaming little girls, trying to put together an intelligent review of a book I think people would actually enjoy, sans screaming little girls of course. The Subtle Knife. Do you know what I'd do if I had a Subtle Knife right now? There wouldn't be quite so many screaming little girls running around, I'll tell you that.

I'm done. I had also wanted to talk about The Daring Book For Girls, by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, but I can't think straight enough to do that right now. I swear, it's no wonder people drug their children with TV! It's the only way to get any peace and quiet around here! My kids are going to grow up to be illiterate savages because their mother couldn't handle the stress and the noise and she drugged them with crappy TV! That's what's going to happen to this family!

Great, now all the kids are screaming. I have to go. Next week I'll discuss The Daring Book For Girls... assuming any girls in this house survive that long.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Things I Suck At As A Mom

I really should be working right now, but the current free-for-all/play date going on upstairs has inspired me to write the following list of Things I Suck At As A Mom.

  1. Mommies groups. Never joined one that I really fit into. Mostly because I am a Freak Mama, and mundane mamas scare/irritate me.

  2. Chit-chat with non-Freak Mamas. Related to item #1. I have very little in common with most non-fandom or non-freak moms, so doing the whole polite talk thing is painfully awkward for me (as I'm sure it must be for them to talk to me).

  3. Play dates with children of non-Freak Mamas. I do not relate well to other people's kids at the best of times. Dealing with kids whom I am afraid will contaminate my kids with such anti-Freak ick like "Hannah Montana" or "Bratz" just drives me up the wall.

  4. Cooking dinner. Hubster used to do ALL the cooking, because I honestly never learned how. And since I get up at 5AM, my brain usually shuts down around 5PM, which is of course the magic hour at which dinner is expected to be prepared.

  5. Packing school lunches. I don't know why I suck at this one. I had to pack my own school lunch for years when I was in school. Somehow, I can't pull it off for the Princess. It may be that many times we don't have what I need on hand to make said lunch (because I also suck at grocery shopping, yet another task the Hubster does). It may be part of the whole "brain shuts down at 5PM" thing. I just can't say.

  6. Children's parties. I think kids' birthday parties should be small simple affairs. I don't like renting inflatable bouncy death traps, nor do I like hiring evil clowns/magicians/balloon animal artists. I prefer simple parties at home. However, right now my home has no downstairs bathroom, no patio furniture, no grill, and no linoleum in the foyer. Also no fence, so no way to coral screaming children. Makes it hard to host a simple barbeque in the backyard.

  7. House cleaning. I'm too damn busy being Freak Mama and doing my writing/graphic arts thing to get around to this one. And don't even ask about decorating the house. I decorate with dust bunnies, okay? That way all the rooms in the house match!

  8. Sleep-overs. I have not yet even attempted to have one at this house. I just can't stand other people's children long enough to force myself to suffer through one. I live in fear of the day I do have to do it.

This list probably doesn't even begin to cover the things I suck at as a mom, but right now I've got small screaming children in the house tearing things apart, so I have to go.

What do you suck at as a parent?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ballticon, I love you!

I just got back from Balticon 43 and damn I'm tired. Four straight days of fun, frolic, work, mind-bending conversation, fan-girl moments and sundry madness. Here are several of my favorite moments from the convention, in no particular order.

  1. Getting there. You people have no idea how much I love climbing into my old beater car and heading out of town. I used to do long drives like this all the time, pre-kids. Now these drives only happen a couple times a year. When I'm in my beater car, I can listen to my favorite music, drink a ton of coffee, and rant out loud with only other drivers to look at me like I'm crazy. I used to drive to the same area Balticon is in for Army Reserves drill, so I really miss this. Although admittedly, Balticon is a lot more fun than Army Reserves.

  2. Hugs. I got hugs from everyone - Paulette Jaxton, Elf, Mike Pederson, Doug from College (who I only got to see for 30 seconds, but man what a hug!), Cmaaaarrr, Sci Fi Laura, Steve Eley, Gutshot, Matt F'n Wallace, Christiana Ellis, Mae Breakall, Kim the Comic Book Goddess, Dee, Nobilis, Heather Welliver, Grail Wolf, Mistress Jett, Paul Fischer and Martha Holloway, MAinPA, Dan the Fan, Tee Morris, Podcasting's Rich Sigfrit, SVAllie, Brand, Vivid Muse, Chooch, Alessia Brio and Will Belegon, Jared Axelrod and J. R. Blackwell, George Hrab, and many, many others. I love getting hugs from friends, and when you only get to see folks face to face a couple times a year, these hugs are very important. Best group hug - Ms. Information, Nobilis and Phil Rossi. Best hug over all - Mur Lafferty. Her husband is a lucky man };)

  3. Info overload. I sat in on a ton of panels, everything from podcasting to geek family life to short fiction readings. My brain is so full of ideas and inspiration, it's leaking out my ears!

  4. Readings! The Friday evening short fiction slam rocked - Nathan Lowell had the best short story on religion I've heard in a long time. Phil Rossi read from Crescent, soon to be released in print. Steve Eley rocked with a little gem on computer viruses and daily life and Chris Lester had me jonesing for Metamor City. On Saturday (or was it Sunday?), I listened to George Hrab read from his essays, many of which you can hear on the Geologic Podcast. All I can say is, wow, that man knows how to capture real life and bring it into sharp, fascinating focus.

  5. The Sex With Aliens panel. Not a live demo, but a fascinating discussion. Bud Sparhawk had some intriguing things to say on the topic, and I walked away with more than a few story ideas.

  6. Social Media for writers panel. Tee Morris IS social media. He knows that topic inside and out, and gives the best advice on how to use social media without coming off like an ass. (He's also a wonderful writer. I love Billibub Baddings!)

  7. Hearing Phil Rossi confess that reading about other people's successes on Twitter makes him feel depressed and unsuccessful. It's an odd choice for a favorite moment, I know, but it was an honest moment (and startling to hear from someone I'm a fan of) and I know exactly what he means. It's nice to know I'm not the only writer who sits there wondering if they're being left in the dust.

  8. The look Mur Lafferty gave Nathan Lowell when he talked about how he wrote his first book in ten days, but then things slowed down during edits and rewrites, which took him a couple of weeks. Another truly honest moment from someone who's work I admire.

  9. CmdLn trying to fix my watch. The man is a hacker-philospher extraordinaire. He's also a gentleman who did his very best to put a new battery in my fav watch. The attempt may have driven him mad, but I'm grateful he took pity on a gal who owns nine watches, none of which work. And his wife makes and wears the best dresses I've ever seen!

  10. Music! Three concerts this weekend - Phil Rossi, George Hrab, and Kim the Comic Book Goddess. Three very different styles, all very good. Phil Rossi and Evo Terra did a little booty shakin' during George Hrab's Ms. Information song. I had the best seat in the house for that performance. Too bad I didn't have any $20s };D

  11. Attaching names to faces. PG Holyfield, I'm glad I got to see your handsome mug too ;)

  12. People playing with my horns. You know you've established your image when people like to tweak your horns.

  13. Talking with Matt F'n Wallace at a party Sunday night. The man's a true gentleman and a great writer. He's also easy to talk to. Don't be intimidated by his size or greatness. He's someone you really ought to get to know.

  14. Dining and partying with friends. Nomming with Gutshot; dinner with Nobilis; lunch with Chooch, Viv, Jett, MA and Dan; breakfast with Cmaaaarrr, Sci Fi Laura, Matt F'n Wallace, Mur Lafferty, and Vintage Jim; stealing sips from Ms. Information's delightful Dirty Martini. Dinner with Nobilis was particularly nice, as I don't get enough chances to conspire with my partner in crime.

  15. Calls for Cthulhu, LIVE! Need I say more?

  16. Singularity, again. Earl Newton of Stranger Things has promised we will keep having the Singularity until we get flying cars... or a toaster that doesn't burn the toast. This is good, because I love seeing Stranger Things on the big screen like this!

  17. Personal Effects: Dark Arts. It just looks cool. And freaky. And... cool.

  18. Escape Pod, LIVE! Acted out by a fantastic cast. The line 'Brains for baby Jesus' will ring in my ears for a very long time.

  19. Aliens You Will Meet, LIVE! I'm glad George Hrab won the music contest. It should be a boost to his career ;)

  20. Viv and Chooch's Podio Books and Web Comics party. Those two really know how to host an event. Though seeing Tee Morris spanking himself while dressed as William Shakespeare has probably scarred me for life...

  21. Sharing a room with Nina Kimberly the Merciless, AKA Christiana Ellis. We really only chatted a couple of times, but she was very cool. And she did not even give me a funny look when she came in and caught me eating cereal and milk out of a bowl with no spoon.

  22. Paulette Jaxton. Hands down, coolest thing about Balticon was sharing a room with this lady. I only wish I could have spent more time with her. Paulette, you RAWK!

  23. Alessia Brio and Will Belegon. Two of the coolest people in erotica and e-publishing. Hot writers, caring people, amazing humanitarians. Do good while being bad. Read Coming Together!

  24. Sitting on a panel with author Scott Sigler and David Moldawer (editor at Penguin Books). They are very big names. I am very small. Yet I got to moderate on the subject of e-publishing for the small screen, and managed to not sound like an idiot. Almost makes me think I can run with the big dogs.

  25. Erotica readings. I got to do two this weekend, and the room was full both times. To all the people who came to listen, ask questions, and (absolutely astonishing) ask for my autograph, thank you, thank you, thank you. You made me feel very special.

  26. Babies. Certain people have some of the cutest babies (and there are two cuties in particular I love). You guys know you are! I'm jonesing now for a third bambino after seeing such cuddly cootness!

  27. Chatting about cartoons with Gutshot. A simple conversation about one of my favorite pastimes with someone who is obviously talented in that department. He also has the nicest collection of hats and a verra lovely kilt!

  28. Mae Breakall's t-shirt. Also Mistress Jett's modified tee. If you saw these shirts, you know what I mean. If you missed them, I pity you. They were hot!

  29. Coming home to a bit of blood and a minor crisis. Okay, another weird moment to put on the favorites list, but after four surreal days roaming a con on my own, coming home to see the Hubster soothing crying children and taking care of the mess made me feel oh-so-glad and extremely luck to be married to the most wonderful man in the world. Plus, the boo boo in question gave me extra reasons to cuddle with my youngest and listen to my oldest explain how she helped take care of her sister. The chatter and love of little girls, along with the calm confidence of the man of my dreams are a couple of things I really missed this weekend. Next year, I'm doing everything I can to get my whole family up to the con!

There are many, many more things on my list of favs, but honestly, the whole damn weekend was just about one of the best things I've experienced in a long time. Many, many thanks to Paul Fischer for including me on the new media track this year, to Nobilis for recommending me, to Martha for trusting me to moderate her panel, and to everyone who smiled and put up with the annoying tag-along known better known as Helen E. H. Madden. And especially, always, thank you Michael. The Hubster let me run away to the circus for the weekend and did an outstanding job taking care of our children while I was wrong. I love you, stud!

Monday, May 25, 2009

After Balticon, I Came Home To Blood...

I had the absolute best time at Balticon this weekend. I will give you the details later. Probably tomorrowish later. But right now, I want to share what awaited me when I got home this evening. (Be warned, this is a little gross.)

First, there was this in the kitchen...

...apparently caused by this blunt object...

...which landed on this little tootsie...

Apparently Pixie went into the pantry while no one was looking and grabbed a can of ice tea which she immediately dropped on her foot, rim first. While she screamed bloody murder, Princess ran and found the Hubster, who then spent several minutes chasing after a shrieking Pixie, then calming and staunching the flow of blood. She ran pretty far, so there was blood all over the kitchen floor, the living room carpet, and the love seat, the stairs and the kids bathroom. Hubster was wet vaccuuming the carpet and love seat when I got home. Princess gave me all the gory details... several times in a row.

It doesn't look like any permanent damage was done. Pixie was running around on it only a short while later. But we'll probably spend tomorrow at the doctor's office and I have no idea when I'll be able to get a shoe on that foot.

But anyway, I'm glad to be home, bloody sweet home, and I owe the Hubster so frikkin' much for letting me take this weekend off that it's not eve funny. Hope everyone made it home safe from Balticon, and had slightly less bloody surprises waiting for them when they walked in the door.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Move It Mama Monday! Did I Make My Goal?


No, no, no, no. I did not make my Wii Fit goal. In fact, if you ask Wii Fit, I'm only a pound less than where I started from three months ago. I know that sounds terribly disappointing. However...

My bathroom scale says I'm about four pounds lighter. And my weight has been fluctuating between 146 and 148, rather than 149 and 152. And I've even gotten as low as 144.5 at one point. Plus my clothes fit better. For Mother's Day, I wore the slinky dress I made for my honeymoon almost 16 years ago, and it fit perfectly. And my knees are doing a lot better in karate class. I can now get through two hours of class without limping out of the dojo afterward.

So I'm going to say this was a success, even if I didn't lose the 11 pounds I set out to lose.

But I'm also going to say that there are areas I could stand to improve, and they're things Wii Fit doesn't monitor. Things like sleep, drinking water, and eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I know what it takes for me to really lose this weight. The biggest factor is the amount of sleep I get every night. I do best when I can climb into bed at 9PM. Then I have no problems getting up at 5AM the next morning to start my day and go on to accomplish everything on my to-do list. Also, if I can sleep straight from 9PM until 5AM, I don't end up craving sugary or salty foods all day long. However, if I don't rigorously enforce that early bed time, I'm pretty much screwed. I won't be able to get out of bed at 5 and I won't be able to take control of my day from the get go. I end up scrambling to get stuff accomplished, including exercise, and my eating habits go south fast.

When I'm tired, I have problems doing things I know I should do to lose weight, like drink lots of water and eat fresh fruits and veggies. Instead of water, I'll down cup after cup of hot tea or coffee with plenty of sugar in it. Instead of reaching for an apple or pear when I'm hungry, I'll dig out the chips. It's stupid, I know, especially since I know the fruit is better for me and I know I'm sabotaging myself when I go for the chips. But when I'm tired, I just don't have the will power to do what I should do. Or rather, I refuse to summon the will power to reach for the fruit instead. There's this little voice in my mind that tells me I'm tired and I've been working so hard, why not just relax a bit and reward myself with some comfort food. Again, really stupid, and I know it even as I do it, yet I do it anyway.

It hasn't helped that I tried going to bed early last week, but had insomnia just about every night. That really killed my fitness goals, and I couldn't do much but suffer through it. I've been plagued by insomnia off and on for as long as I can remember, and I really wish I could figure out a way to beat it. I don't drink any coffee or sodas after 2PM, so caffeine really shouldn't be the problem. I do tend to use the evening hours to catch up on work, so that's probably the culprit. I should stop working in the evenings and do some winding down instead, but if I cut out those work hours, I'm afraid I'll really get behind in work.

It may be that I need to look at my schedule again and try something new. I loved doing some exercise early in the morning before doing work, because I know that helps me lose weight, but I need the word hours desperately, especially if I'm going to eliminate those work hours from the evening. So my plan for this go around is to move the exercise to later in the day, probably mid morning after I've gotten some work done and gotten Pixie outside for some play time and gardening. We'll see if that helps.

Two final notes: first, I'm still waiting to see what Wii Fit says I weigh after I get through my current menstrual cycle. Remember, I'm carrying around a lot of excess tissue held over from the previous cycle, and I'm wondering if that's causing me to hold onto a little extra weight as well. Second, I'm waiting for the new EA Sports Active game for Wii Fit to come out. I pre-ordered a copy and am anxious to see how it works. I love the current Wii Fit, but would like to have something to add to my repertoire of fitness tools. Variety never hurts when it comes to losing weight!

Next week's Move It Mama Monday will probably be late. I'll be up in Maryland for Balticon all through Memorial Day weekend and won't get home until late Monday, so look for an update on Tuesday instead. I could write the post in advance, but I'd like to give myself a week to see if I can convince Wii Fit I weigh a little less. So until then, have fun and keep moving!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

We Said What?

A random list of things said and/or overheard in la Casa de Madden today....

"Bad pony! Da pony spank me so I spank da pony!" ~ Pixie, while playing with My Pretty Pony

"Did the pony spank you or did you make the pony spank you?" ~ Helen, who can't believe she just said that

"Did Buddha die in Jamestown?" ~ Princess, in a conversation exploring religion and history

"Dere are volcanoes on da lunar surface!" ~ Pixie (after listening to a little too much Jimmy Buffet)

"But if I give the bank all my money, I'll never get it back!" ~ Princess, commenting on the current state of the economy and her allowance

Yeah, just another day of fun here at la Casa de Madden.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Move It Mama Monday! Crunched For Time

Greetings and salutions on this fine Monday morn--!

Eh, who am I kidding? I'm dead on my feet today. But hopefully you're doing better.

I'm going up on my first three months with the Wii Fit. This week is the last week for me to meet my goal, although I'm not going to make it. I had set a goal of losing 11 lbs in three months. I'm 6 lbs short of that goal. But I'm not upset about that, especially considering how high my weight shot up last week (water weight really sucks, but it can be gotten rid of, thankfully!).

While I won't manage to meet my goal, I did lose and manage to keep off 5 lbs, which I haven't been able to do before. My scale these days more often reads 146 than 151, and that's a huge difference for me. My jeans fit much better (hurray!). But better than that, I've noticed a huge improvement in my knees. I have lousy knees, ruined by sparring injuries and hormones from two pregnancies. They'd gotten really bad this past year, but after working on Wii Fit for a few weeks, I started noticing a significant difference in my ability to hold the more demanding stances. I can get lower and hold those stances longer, and that makes me really happy.

Still, I'd like to eventually lose those last 6 lbs., and I've been thinking about what it will take to make that happen. Do I need to exercise more? I'd love to, but my schedule is pretty full, and I'm already having a hard time fitting everything in each day. So I started playing around with my daily schedule to see if I could squeeze in an extra half hour of Wii Fit each day. I got up most mornings at 5 AM last week to do 45 minutes of Wii Fit, and then scheduled some sort of fitness activity later in the day like swimming or karate. I definitely got results. Unfortunately, I normally get up at 5AM to work on my writing and podcast, and I couldn't figure out how to fit in the work time I needed now that I'd given up an hour or so each morning to do the extra Wii Fit.

Bottom line, the schedule change helped me shed that water weight plus another pound or so, but it ruined my work schedule, and I can't have that. So I'm trying a different schedule this week. I realized one of the reasons the Wii Fit early in the morning worked so well is that I was getting my cardio exercise in first thing in the morning.

Cardio in the AM has always helped me maintain my weight, so this is something I want to continue. However, I don't have to do 45 minutes of Wii Fit to get those results (and keep in mind that 45 minutes on the Wii Fit translates to at least an hour of actual time). What I do need to do is about 20 minutes of cardio, either using the Wii Fit or the new monster elliptical machine the Hubster bought. Then I could do my body test, an extra 5 minutes or so, and move on to writing for the morning. Then later in the day, after the Pixie and I have had some time to play outside and garden, I can come back in and spend another 20-25 minutes doing the strength, yoga or balance games on the Wii Fit. Or I can head out to the Y for a swim or the dojo for an hour of karate class.

I'm hoping this compromise works and gives me the time to both workout and work. I'll let you know next week how it goes.

Meanwhile, I'm doing okay. I spent some time working on Operation Kill A Lot Of Plants this past week. I've filled a total of 23 pots with soil and seedlings. Yeah, I'm nuts. But remember, this is Operation Kill A LOT Of Plants, so we're good so far. I also have some plants that have survived previous gardening attempts, so right now my deck is pretty full. I still have some sunflowers and marigolds to plant. They'll go in one last big pot later this week.

For Mother's Day, the Hubster took me to Barnes & Noble, where I picked two blank journals, one for me and one for Princess. I told her we would keep journals this summer of our gardening and other activities. We also got a simple weather science kit for Princess and set that up yesterday. She spent the afternoon taking little notes about the weather and then drew our deck with all the plants on it. I'll have to scan in her drawings later this week, but for now, here are some picks of the garden so far.

We've got lots of herbs on the back deck...

Plus tomatoes and corn and peppers...

Did I mention we had lots of herbs on the back deck?

Okay, that's it for this week. Pixie's starting to climb all over me, so you know what that means.

Mama's got to move it!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Things I While Cleaniing Pixie's Room

If you were following me on Twitter today, you might have noticed the list of things I posted as I shoveled out Pixie's room this afternoon. For a two-year-old, that kid owns a lot of crap. It's not my fault, I swear. I don't buy that much stuff for her or her sister. But my mother on the other hand... Grandmama is not happy that she lives so far away from the grandkids, and she compensates by sending them loads of packages full of toys and clothing, and she even sends the prizes she gets from kids' meals at the fast food joints she eats at (not kidding on this one; we currently have more Rally's toys than an actually Rally's restaurant has at any give time).

With the changing of the seasons, I had to clear out the old winter clothes from Pixie's closet and put in the stuff we saved from Princess' wardrobe. That's a huge headache for me. I know it saves a ton of money, but I have having to sort and store all that clothing. We simply don't have enough boxes for it all. And remember, my mom buys these kids clothing in BULK! We used to get a package a week, filled with little dresses and outfits, until I made her cut back.

Anyway, I decided to spend today cleaning out both kids' closets, only I got into Pixie's room and realized I also needed to sort through her toys and clean up a few messes, so I ended up only doing her room. And while I was cleaning and swapping out clothes, I found a few interesting things, like...

An old maternity top of mine. It's a lime green t-shirt from Old Navy. I owned several of them when I was pregnant with Pixie, and thought I had gotten rid of all but one, that one being the one I was wearing on the day I went into labor. I kept that one for sentimental reasons. Now that we're contemplating child #3, I wish I had kept them all.

The knitted yellow hat Pixie got at the hospital when she was born. It was the first article of clothing that kid ever wore, and it suited her. She had a touch of jaundice and was about as yellow as the hat. We had to lay her naked little butt on a blanket and scoot her from one sunny spot to another around the house for the first week she was home. She didn't like that, and she announced her displeasure with a lot of explosive, projectile poops.

Several small brushes and combs for baby hair. Neither of my girls had hair when they were born, so these have never really been used.

One pair of nursing pads. I used to own a ton of those things too, and will need to stock up for child #3. God I hated wearing those things, and I hated wearing nursing bras, but now I want all that stuff back!

My breast feeding log for Princess. I put Pixie's in the cedar chest in my bedroom. I didn't realize the notebook I'd used to record all of Princess' feedings was still in the dresser in the nursery. Now that really brings back some memories -- late nights, trying to stay awake, swollen boobs, falling asleep in the glider, twelve feedings or more a day, a lot of those feedings spent scribbling madly in a notebook or typing stories on a computer. And yes, I'll do it again gladly with child #3.

A dozen flannel baby blankets. Word of warning to new and expectant mom -- you cannot have enough flannel blankets. Between leaky diapers, spit up, and other mishaps, new babies go through about five a day. You will do laundry constantly! I never gave away any of the flannel blankies I got during Princess' first months, and I'm very glad I still have them. However, I did give away...

Cloth diapers used as burp clothes. That was stupid. The only thing we went through faster than the blankets was the burp clothes. I can still recall how they smelled, that slightly sour odor of spit up and the slightly sweet odor of fresh breast milk. I over-expressed with both kids, and stopped more than a few spray-a-thons by slapping a burp cloth over the offending boobie.

In the toy department, I found some interesting odds and ends. Namely, I discovered that Pixie and Princess own enough Barbies and Little People to repopulate the entire world should the Apocalypse ever occur and we are all wiped out. Please for love of God, if you have any intentions of giving my children a gift, do NOT give them Barbies, Barbie clothing, or any Little People. We're full up.

In the Barbie basket, I did find a couple of badly tattooed dolls. Pixie loves to color on her dolls with magic marker, and unfortunately, even the washable stuff is permanent on Barbie dolls. She also got into her sister's Style and Curl Barbie head, and did a real number on that...

However, I noticed some of those markings are a little too well made, and I suspect Princess may have helped out with this makeover. I don't care though. This damned thing has been a thorn in my side since the day we got it, and I've been looking for an excuse to toss it. I keep finding all the little rhinestones and barrettes all over the house, and honestly, a six-year-old does not need to apply makeup to anything. Nor can she really style the hair. Except for the marker makeover, this thing has mostly sat on the floor and collected dust. So today it was, "Hasta la vista, you painted tart!"

Speaking of tarts, I also found this in Pixie's room...

Poor Steve. That dress really doesn't fit him. But at least he has pants. None of Pixie's other male dolls are that lucky. Most have a shirt, but no drawers, and some only get a pair of high heels.

Once I got past the toys, I was able to start moving boxes of clothing off the spare bed we keep in Pixie's room. That's when I discovered Pixie's latest adventures in art...

Yeah, it's marker. I spent so much time doing everything else today that I did not have time to scrub it yet, so I don't know if it's permanent or not. But I'm thinking either way, it's time to take away the markers from Pixie again.

At last I got to the closet, where I pulled out a ton of old winter clothing, all of it 2T. In addition to her sister's hand-me-downs, Pixie also got new clothing from Grandmama, so I had to do a culling of the clothes. Anything with a stain went, as well as anything I recalled Pixie would never wear. She's big on comfort, so if she wouldn't wear it, I doubt the next child will either. Then I got rid of a few things that were just ugly. Yeah, I'm picky, but with so many clothes to store, I needed to be. I got everything down to just three boxes, one of which was nothing but frilly little dresses Pixie will never wear again. I remember those dresses. Her sister wore them too. They were a big part of Princess' wardrobe when I was pregnant with her sister. I'm sad to see them go.

There were new dresses to put in though, lots of pretty, colorful summer dresses, enough to keep Pixie happy no matter how many times a day she tries to change clothes. As I put those in the closet, I cleared out some tchotchkies that were lying around on the top shelf -- wall plaques with Sweet Memories sayings and stuff like that. I know they were gifts and keepsakes, but I don't hang on to stuff like that, and never did put any of that stuff up in either child's room. So those went in the give-away bag. May they find a good home! Then I found the stuff I would keep no matter what -- the christening dresses my mom made for each girl; the matching blankets she crocheted for their baptisms; a doll with a crocheted witch's costume, also made by my mom; my old doll house, given to me by my grandmother when I was about Princess' age; a Gimbel's box full of Louis Marx Wild Animal toys, again a gift to me from my grandmother when I was very small. Those things stayed. Then while I was finishing putting stuff away, I found one last treasure.

A set of hospital bracelets. Two were mine. One was labeled, "Madden, BG... 2003."

Pixie turns three in a few more weeks. I looked at that tiny little bracelet, remembered how small she used to be, and I cried.

Made it damned hard to finish cleaning up, I tell you.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Move It Mama Monday! - Fat and Dizzy

Wii Fit says I'm fat. My gynecologist says I've got an inner ear infection.

And yes, those two statements are actually related! I know, the latter statements sounds a little weird. "Uh, did you say your gynecologist said you had an ear infection?" And I know what you're thinking. "That's a strange place to keep your ears, Helen..." And just so you know, my good friend Nobilis of the Nobilis Erotica Podcast already beat you to that joke. But it's true.

You see, the past two weeks I've had a slew of female troubles (and if that sort of things grosses you out, you can stop reading here, although it won't be that gross so why not read on and quit being a big baby, okay?). For starters, my last period was five days late. Considering my plumbing works like clockwork (yeah, I'm mixing my metaphors here), five days is an awful lot of being late. However, I took three home pregnancy tests and they all came out negative, and then I went to the doctor's office and they did a pregnancy test on me and that came out negative too.

Then my period finally started. But it was really light. And it only lasted four days. And I was having Braxton Hicks contractions. Lots of Braxton Hicks contractions. And then the dizziness started and I couldn't pry myself out of bed or off the couch for anything. And did I mention my weight suddenly shot up about five pounds?

So I took another pregnancy test, because I swear it felt like I was pregnant. But that came out negative too, and so did another one at the gynecologist's office. And then when I told my doc about all the symptoms and the dizziness, he decided to take a look at my ears, and he saw...

Both eardrums packed with fluid!

That explained the dizziness right there. Apparently the pollen count has been rather high in our area, and I had an allergic reaction of sorts that involved fluid in my ears rather than snot leaking out my nose.

As for the contractions, the doc did a quick ultrasound on me and confirmed that not only was I soooooo not pregnant (I really was worried about an ectopic pregnancy at that point), but that I also had no fibroid tumors in my uterus. What I did have was one hell of a thick lining of blood and tissue in there, some of which should have shed during my last, late period, but didn't. No, it had just stayed there, building up until it looked like my uterus was packed solid with tissue and blood, all of it now just waiting for my next menstrual cycle to start so I can bleed like Noah's Biblical flood while I lay on the couch clutching my heating pad, popping half a dozen Advil and just basically dying of cramps.

Did I say this post wasn't going to be gross? Sorry...

So anyway, all of this has led me to two conclusions. The first is that the new plants I've potted know all about Operation Kill A Lot Of Plants, and they're going on the offense, clogging my ears with pollen until I'm too dizzy to garden/kill a lot of plants. The second conclusion is that Wii Fit don't know Jack about female trouble, because if it did it wouldn't tell me I'm fat when instead I'm actually just carrying around a ton of extra unshedded uterus lining and stocking up on water weight because we all know you can't have female troubles without adding a ton of water weight to your girlish figure. And Wii Fit also wouldn't be giving me crap about missing days because I was too damned dizzy and bloated to get on the machine and work out!

To combat my problems, I sent the Hubster out to get me some Clariten D to unclog my ears. I'm also drinking lots of water to help flush out all the water weight and stave off any ultra-nasty PMS symptoms I fear may be headed my way. And I've tweaked my schedule to give me a little more exercise time as well because if I can get my weight down even a little, that will also help alleviate some of the PMS symptoms which I know are going to be bad.

So that's it for Move It Mama Monday. I'm fat and I'm dizzy and now I have to cope with those conditions and get my assets back on the balance board before I turn into Moby Dick. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Fiction Friday - The Subtle Knife

After my disappointment with Butlerian Jihad, I decided I really had to go with a sure thing this week. So I picked up Philip Pullman's "The Subtle Knife," and I have not been disappointed at all. I love reading books with depth and layers. I love complicated yet realistic characters, and Pullman's characters definitely fit the bill. When I read "The Golden Compass," I was startled by how well Pullman managed to capture the true nature of childhood. Kids are not simple, happy creatures, but vicious and cunning little savages. Really! Pullman talked about how the children of Oxford college would form tribes and go to war with each other. This is something I recall doing as a child, and it's both delightful and frightening to see that particular aspect of my young life captured on the page.

The Subtle Knife keeps up in the same vein, following the adventures of Lyra Silvertongue and a new friend, Will. While the entire "His Dark Materials" series is billed as children's books, I have to wonder what age ranged the publisher (Yearling) is thinking of. The main characters are children, but the contents of the book are far from childish. The first three chapters include a boy taking care of his schizophrenic mother, a violent death, a torture scene, and a nightmare about a decapitated head. Not suitable fare for my six-year old, I think. She'd probably have nightmares. In fact, it's all scary enough to keep me on the edge of my seat, but I love it and I'll be happy to hand over my copies to Princess when she reaches ten and see how she enjoys them. At six though, she's still a little too young.

If you haven't read The Golden Compass yet, or any of the other books in the series, I should mention that the books are set in an alternate Earth, mainly in England and parts of northern Europe. In this alternate world, airships are the main form of mass transportation, and the lights are anabaric, not electric (though apparently that's the same thing). It's a sort of steam punk world ruled by the Church, a frighteningly totalitarian institution bent on discovering the nature of the human soul and controlling the exercise of free will. This is an exageration of the churches in our real world (though Pullman doesn't have to exagerate much, in my opinion) and the things those churches have done in the name of God. There's a great deal of theology packed into this adventure story, which is probably why I'm enjoying it so much. As a Buddhist, I look at Catholic and Christian churches from an outsider's point of view, and I have no problems dissecting these institutions to see what they've done right and what they've done wrong. I am normally inclined to question what people do in the name of God, and I'm happy to read a book that does the same thing.

Many people have criticized Pullman's books as being anti-Christian. I would say the books are more anti-Church. Again, it's that look at what people do in the name of God, not was God is doing, that's the focus of the story. People may claim they act in God's name, but I think they often do what they want and just use God as an excuse. Many of the characters in Pullman's book are motivated by nefarious goals and quite frequently justify what they do by saying their actions are in compliance with God's will. These people make for some very intense and chilling villains.

Aside from the theology, there's quite a bit of adventure and fantasy to enjoy. There are witches and talking polar bears, and of course the daemons, which are the embodiment of people's souls in Lyra's world. The plot has plenty of twists and turns, the dialogue is believable, and the world building is excellent. I'm about a quarter of the way through the book at this point, and as much as I'm enjoying it, I'll probably have it finished by the end of next week. I'll give a final report then. For right now, I'm giving the book two thumbs up!