Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This Week in Menace

We’ve been re-crib training Ronnie the past week. She’s been refusing to go to bed at night. I’m not really sure what happened. Mr. b thinks our Thanksgiving travels “broke” her. I admit, the timing is suspect, but I don’t know that staying at her great-aunt’s house is the actual culprit. Still, it has sucked since we got back. First she would go to sleep quite quickly in one of our laps while we were watching TV, so it didn’t really strike us as any big deal. But then we realized we were totally getting played. Still, if you put her into her crib, she’d stiffen and stand up and start screaming. And that’s hardly fair to her brother who has to actually go to school and learn and stuff.

Back to crib-training methodology. Since late last week I’ve refused to bring Ronnie out of their bedroom, instead holding her while sitting on the edge of Brother’s bed. She’ll quiet down right away but then stiffen and stand and scream when I set her down again. Thankfully Kirk seems to be able to fall asleep during this circus. Some nights it has taken over an hour of letting her cry for five minutes, hold for five minutes, cry for five minutes, before she’ll fall asleep in my arms and I have to carefully lay her down lest she wake up and start the whole process over again. Sunday night it was taking so many trips into their room that I caved and brought her into the living room to sit with us. And she got all rowdy, having “won”. We ended up bringing her to bed with us and all had a fitful night’s sleep. I think she knows she lost the war though. Monday night she still fought but last night I only went in there once before she fell asleep. We’ll see if this keeps up or if it’s only a lull.

I’m not sure if this is a reversion signaling a new development or not. She gets into everything. Not just the usual menacing that we’ve been dealing with. We have child-proofed cabinets and drawers but Mr. b has resorted to taping the refrigerator closed. Otherwise she’s always in there, helping herself or bringing us sandwich meat or pickle jars, demanding that we get her some of whatever she’s carrying. He told me he just taped shut the craft drawer that contains the crayons as well. We hardly have any crayons left; she chews them all into nothing.

I think this new round of destruction actually coincides with her burgeoning language skills. My dear friends Hot Stuff and Keith Moon are adopting an adorable little man from China. He’s just a couple of weeks older than Veronica and I told them they should learn her vocabulary in Chinese so they have a starting point with communication. Of course he’ll have a toddler accent so maybe that won’t help anyways... Here’s Miss Ron-Ronica’s list of current words – keeping in mind that “current” means two weeks ago when I compiled this list. She’s already got new ones and keeps adding something nearly everyday. Context is clearly everything.

No – Nose
No – Snow
Dek – Yes
Bubba – Brother
Biss – Please
Bess – Mess
Bat – Bath
Poohn – Spoon
Sss – Juice
Oose – Shoes
Baby – Blankie
Nake – Snake
Ut – Hook
Buht – Book

Friday, December 03, 2010


My friend Peachy Keen discovered that Laurell K. Hamilton wrote a Star Trek novel! Naturally we were aghast and titillated, imagining vampire sex orgies on the Enterprise. Since she doesn’t have decent library access, I was tasked with tracking down a copy of Nightshade (Star Trek The Next Generation No 24).

Nightshade takes place largely on planet Oriana where Picard, Troi, and Worf make up the ambassadorial team sent to help end a 200 year civil war. The fighting has so thoroughly destroyed the planet the opposing forces are willing to meet for peace talks simply because their self-annihilation is imminent. Naturally Picard gets accused of murder and Worf has to take over as Federation Ambassador. The B story takes place on an alien vessel where the Enterprise has been called on a rescue mission. Geordi, Crusher, and Data are working to repair the damage and save the crew.

At first, I found myself paying far closer attention to the writing style than the story itself. I was fascinated with trying to get a glimpse of Anita Blake in the text of this book published in 1992, a full year before Guilty Pleasures came out. This novel switched perspective too many times for my taste. Certain of the characters were much weaker but thankfully Troi, Geordi, and Worf were written very well. Perhaps because they got the most “screentime”. Troi in particular was fully formed right from the start. Hamilton is always great at showing how being so short and small affect Anita’s view of the world and that came through for Deanna. I never particularly connected with that character on the show but here she seemed much more than a drinking game “I can sense his anger, Captain” joke. Hamilton also excels at describing what altered states look and feel like and how various powers affect the users and those around them. Again, this seemed perfectly suited to Troi and her Betazed empath abilities. I thoroughly enjoyed all the passages where she was sensing the emotions of those around her, whereas that shit bugged hard on the show. Unexpectedly, the ability to clearly show other mindsets worked well for Worf and Geordi as well. Worf’s Klingon-ness and Geordi’s VISOR sight were relevant in ways I would not have expected but they were absolutely perfect for the story.

I did find some of the Trekkie jargon to be jarring. It was as though Hamilton was given a dossier and checked off character and episode references as she worked them into the narrative. I suppose it might have been some sort of fan-service but knowing that this was an actual novel-for-hire project makes the check list scenario more likely. And the alien names were definitely unwieldy. I glossed over “Orianian” because it just never flowed off my mental tongue. Some of the alien character names too were just silly. But that’s a minor quibble. The biggest Trek issue I had was the heavy-handed moralizing and allegory. But again, that seemed to me like part of the assignment and not any kind of message from the author. And it certainly fits in with Star Trek’s MO from the very start.

There were some very gruesome moments and Hamilton’s panache for gore really served the story well. Without being explicit, she was able to imbue a sense of dread and horror into the places it was most needed.

Hamilton’s ability to write about how characters rely on each other without having to discuss it aloud was also a strength in this story. Because it was underscored throughout by Troi’s and Worf’s relationship. Since the book was published a full year before my beloved “Parallels” even aired, I have to wonder if that was her own decision or part of the franchise mandate to set up the shipping to come. I loved everything about their interactions with each other, their complete trust and reliance on each other, the care and affection they showed each other. Yes, a part of me would have loved to read Incubus Dreams-era Hamilton’s take on a raunchy Troi/Worf sex scene. But I know it was better this way.

Ultimately, Nightshade served to remind me of what Hamilton can do when she actually tries. Oh, the writing wasn’t perfect. She used some of the phrases that drive me nuts in the Anita Blake series (Riker relaxed a muscle he didn’t know he was tensing / Anita let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding) and as I mentioned above, the switching between perspectives was neither successful nor consistent. But it did make me put the new Blake novel Hit List on my library wait queue for when it’s published next year. It should be interesting to see if my opinion of that series changes for having read this foray into sci-fi.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Halloween 2010

It will come as no surprise that Kirk went as Indiana Jones for Halloween this year.
Indiana Jones

Continuing the apparent new tradition of father-son costumes, Mr. b was Henry Jones Senior.
Junior and Senior

They looked great!
Professors Jones

Ronnie was not happy about being a Sith baby, which is weird because she was loving the cloak as I was trying to put finishing touches on it earlier in the day. She'd try to grab it out of my hand and shout "Mine!"
The Phantom Menace

I went as a Doctor Who character, River Song, which of course no one recognized, as expected. It was fun playing with spongey rollers and ringlets in preparation.
spongey rollers

I think it turned out great!
River Song

Once again my sister and A2 and A3 joined us and we all had a great time trick-or-treating.
Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October is possibly the most successful book-to-screen adaptation I’ve ever witnessed, and it is precisely because of the myriad changes from the page that make it work so well.

Anybody that knows me knows I’m a big fan of reading books that I know have or will have movie versions made. I delight in anticipating the changes that will have to take place to move the action along, predicting which characters will be condensed or eliminated, guessing which sections of dialogue will be lifted wholly from the source. Usually I like to read the book first. Not because of some high-brow “the book is always better” attitude but just because I like playing the mental script-writing game so well. Sometimes it’s hard for me to concentrate on the page if I know the movie version particularly well, like when I read Auntie Mame, after having watched the movie probably at least 50 times from the point where I discovered it in junior high.

I think the first time I really relished the difference between the book and film was with Howard’s End. I saw the Merchant Ivory adaptation first and then read the EM Forster book. I was enchanted with how the story came alive in front of me on the page. Over the years I’ve sought out many kinds of adaptations, successful and wretched, and enjoyed comparing them to the source. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping an open mind when things are wildly changed for the screen. As disappointing as it was to not see the super soldier suits, Starship Troopers got the world right; the feel for the politics and the military was spot on. The only one in recent memory that was a complete and utter failure was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Which brings me back to Sean Connery. I think Marko Ramius is one of his best roles. It seems like he’s playing it over the top and yet there are moments where the character is just so real it’s palpable. His shock when he receives the morse code message – he quickly closes the periscope and you can see his thoughts flying through his head as he processes what he just read and how he will react. It’s spectacular. I also think that Alec Baldwin’s is the best of the movie Jack Ryans. He nails the out of his depth manner while still proving competent and capable.

There are certain character short cuts that the movie took for the two leads. I liked that Ryan was made into a Ramius expert. It worked better to have him be confident about the defection specifically because of his knowledge of the man. I also liked how we got to see Ramius’ amazing captaining skills, instead of just being told about them second-hand. It was very exciting to be onboard Red October, in the sea trench, evading their own navy’s torpedo.

And yet the expanded story in the book works just as well. Clancy details how the intelligence is gathered and processed and analyzed and I got a real sense of the actual pace. We get to spend much more time in Ramius’ head and learn details about his past and his motivation for defecting that of necessity had to be put into shorthand for the movie. I loved the moving of all the chess pieces into place in the Atlantic – on both sides of the Cold War. It gave a very full picture of just how unusual the Soviet fleet deployment was, how the US and UK countered the movements, and how both sides used the interactions as a chance to mess with each other, coming up just this side of actually starting a firing war, while still showing off what they were capable of. There were so many small tales that all fit into the big picture. But you’d never be able to include that in a movie and it was smart to concatenate it. To eliminate the British carrier entirely. To eliminate the other US submarine entirely. To eliminate the other Soviet submarine entirely. And especially to change around Skip Tyler’s role so that it included the rescue sub.

The movie expanded on the story in as many wonderful ways as it streamlined it. I loved Sam Neill’s XO and his desire to live in Montana. That small bit of humanizing made his character so much more real than he had been in the book. The aforementioned time spent running the trench past Thor’s Twins. Giving Jonesy an ensign to teach and thereby download sonar exposition to the audience while still keeping things tense and exciting.

I find myself unable to pick which version I liked best, and I think that’s proof of a wonderful adaptation. The movie contained the essence of the story, with all the pacing necessary to an action movie, while the book was able to spend time on detail and still be an intense political thriller. I’ve found myself enthralled with the Ryanverse and intend to read more of Clancy’s books. I doubt any of the subsequent film versions will be as successful as this first one. I certainly don’t remember any of them being something I needed to see more than just the once.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010



One week ago today our lives changed. Mr. b and Veronica got in a car accident. He called me from the scene and I could tell from his voice that he was in shock. He claimed they were both fine but that he was sore. But “sore” can mean just about anything. I immediately left for the bus and met them at the hospital. It was the longest bus ride of my life. Just seeing them both made me feel so much better. I held onto Ronnie so tight. She had been such a good girl for her daddy, who was laid up on an ER triage bed, too sore to move around much. Drugs took the edge off and an x-ray showed he didn’t have internal injuries so we were sent home.

The bruises got worse. Ronnie had a fierce one on her shoulder that started to fade right away. But the two on her thighs deepened to a dark purple. I guess it’s proof that the carseat was installed correctly but it was still brutal to see on my sweet bundle. Mr. b’s bruises are still going strong. The one across his stomach from the lap belt was darkest at first, along with his side and upper thigh. But it’s the sash diagonally across his chest that has proven to be the most painful. He is still tender to the touch and his skin is a sickly green color where the seatbelt crossed his torso.

Life can change in an instant. Every time I hold Ronnie, I find myself thinking that it’s precious time that could have been taken from me. Even when she’s being brutal and hitting me in the head, pulling my hair, ripping my nose ring out, I’m just so glad to have her here. Yesterday was our 13th wedding anniversary and it took on increased importance to me because I nearly didn’t get to celebrate.

But the bureaucracy of life is already doing its damnedest to diminish the lucky and blessed feeling. We still don’t have a car. We have a loaner pick-up from my dad but it’s unwieldy and just a poor fit for us and our lifestyle. Our insurance will cover the medical bills and the car loan but then what? We won’t have a trade-in vehicle and we won’t have a down payment and we only have one full-time salary. I miss Walter. Ensign Walter Pontiac bravely gave his life to save my family. RIP.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I think we’ll settle into a new getting-ready-in-the-morning routine pretty quickly. So far it seems to be that I’ll get Ronnie out of bed and change her pants while Mr. b is making Kirk’s lunch. Ronnie wakes up as soon as I open the bedroom door but Kirk wants to lay in bed and pretend he can avoid getting up. At first I thought that I’d eat breakfast with them but my appetite has completely changed since having the second baby. I’ve been eating breakfast at work because I’m just not interested in food for an hour or so after I get up. That’s radically different from how I’ve been my entire life previously. Kirk so far doesn’t seem very hungry either but it’s hard to guess how much of that is just dragging his feet and how much is for real. Either way, he has to eat because I’m not sending my kid to school on an empty stomach.

I leave for my bus stop about 15 or 20 minutes before Kirk has to be at his so I’m not part of actually getting them out the door. But already I feel like I get to spend more time with my family. I have less of that sadness of not being able to see my kids, particularly Ronnie, as much as I’d like. I hadn’t realized that the pain in the ass of getting the kids up and off to daycare at least gave me a half hour with them I wasn’t getting with me sneaking off before anybody was even up for the day. Yeah, it’s not much but it’s something and I like getting to snuggle my sweet bundle for a minute before starting my day.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

First Day

I find myself grinning as I walk down the hall. My son is at kindergarten! I keep wondering what he’s doing right at this moment. Did he put his lunch bag into the basket and get a clothespin with his name on it clipped to the handle? I bet he totally forgot and left it in his backpack. But he’s got his lunch with so he’ll figure it out. Will they go down to the lunchroom to eat? I guess because some of the kids will buy hot lunch. Kirk’s got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, some carrots, a box of raisins, a granola bar, a cookie, and a juice box. Yes, that’s too much food for one kid. But it’s all stuff he likes and he can pick how many things he’s going to eat. Hopefully he understands he can just bring home the rest.

I’ve said hopefully he ______ a lot the past week.

The bus stop went well. We rushed out of the house, entire family heading the block and a half to his assigned corner. I wouldn’t say that Kirk was excited but he wasn’t terrified either. We’d been talking about school and busing for quite some time now so it’s not like it was a surprise. I guess I’d say he was resigned to his fate. And he was the first one on! Maybe he just wanted to get it over with? He took a seat nearly at the back of the bus and then waved to us out the window.

Then Mr. b and Ronnie and I raced home and hopped in the car. Mr. b drove like a bat outta hell, totally freaked that the bus was going to get to school before us. I think Kirk’s is the last stop on the route. We caught up with it no problem, and pulled into the school lot at the same time the bus was turning around to get into drop-off position. So we were able to watch Kirk actually get off the bus. I’m not sure what he thought when he saw us standing there. He walked inside on his own though and we hung back. Supposedly there were going to be PTO helpers holding balloons so the kids could get assistance finding their classrooms. Not a balloon in sight. We watched Kirk wander down the hall and then slowly went inside after him.

We caught up to Kirk when he happened to be almost to his classroom, still on his own. He said he remembered the directions the principal gave us at open house last week! And when we dropped off his remaining paperwork in the office, we discovered the balloon helpers were only at the front door for the parental drop-offs. That makes zero sense to me. We lurked about in the halls, waiting for the bell to ring. Kirk quietly sat in line outside his classroom door, along with all the other kids in his class. We peeked around the corner at him several times and he was stoic and slightly bored looking.

I put a note in his pocket with his bus number on it. Apparently the teachers take the kids down to their buses at the end of the day but still. He needs to remember which one is his and get on the right one. Mr. b and Ronnie will be there to meet him when he gets off. I can’t wait to get home and hear all about his day.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Recently I’ve found myself obsessed with learning about the Spanish exploration of America. As a holder of an Anthropology BA and former professional archaeologist, I like to think of myself as reasonably well rounded in my Western Hemisphere history. Obviously I know the broad strokes of the conquest of the Aztecs and the Incas and it’s really colored my impression of the Spanish. I hated them. For breaking so many truly amazing civilizations with their stupid Catholicism and never-ending quest for gold. Fuck the Spanish! You could get me to go off on the Spanish at the drop of a hat.

But as I’ve gotten older I’ve seen the other side of the argument. The one that remembers that to the Spanish of the time, the empires they destroyed were EVIL. It’s hard to think of another religion that indulged in as much institutionalized human sacrifice as the Aztecs. And the Mexica had themselves conquered the previous empire as had those that came before as had those that came before. It was not a long-lived regime. The Mayan empire was already in collapse long before Tenochtitlan was even built.

The start of my new conquistador fixation came from reading Tony Horwitz’s A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World. I’ve read all of his books and love how he mixes travelogue with historical information. In this one, he visits the sites of all the pre-Pilgrim explorations into America, starting with the Vikings in Newfoundland. It was reading the chapters on the various Spanish expeditions, such as De Soto in Georgia, that I learned about the Black Legend of the Spanish. The slanderous one that said that *all* the Spaniards did was torture and maim and rape and burn alive and enslave and desecrate. Oh sure, that happened. A lot. Especially in Peru. But that was more the minority than I had in my head. As I kept reading I found myself thoroughly engrossed by the chapters about the American Southwest. Specifically about Cabeza de Vaca and about Coronado. Horwitz had two books in the suggested reading that caught my eye, both called Cities of Gold.

Cabeza de Vaca was one of four ultimate survivors of a shipwreck on the Gulf coast of Florida in 1527. Originally a large number of the crew survived, made rafts, and made their way to Texas. There, separated from the others now lost at sea, their raft and one other shipwrecked again, on Galveston Island, where they were enslaved by the Indians. Cabeza de Vaca, Dorantes, his slave Esteban, and Castillo escaped, and then wandered their way back west and south to Spanish territories. Wandered for years. Upon their return, they were heralded not only for the extraordinary tale of their survival but also for bringing back news of an even greater empire to the north. This empire was what Coronado then attempted to locate and annex for the Kingdom of Spain.

I’ve previously read a couple of books by Douglas Preston but they were both fiction. Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest was non-fiction. Preston moved to New Mexico from the east coast, got interested in the Spanish explanation, and in the late 1980s, decided to go check it out for himself. So the author and his weirdo artist buddy actually retraced a section of Coronado’s route, from the Mexico/Arizona border to Pecos, on horseback. Very intrepid. He gave lots of great historical information – cowboy, Spanish, and Native – in between the amazing tale of his adventure. I actually would have liked to learn more about the Spanish themselves but the book was truly fascinating and it was great getting such a grab bag of historical anecdotes related to each point along the trail. Preston has a very engaging voice and struck just the right tone when bringing up sensitive issues, with land use or Indians or whatever.

The fabled Seven Cities of Gold turned out to be Zuni Pueblo, then called Cíbola. Vázquez de Coronado had been following a route scouted for him the year before, 1539, by a Franciscan friar from Nice, Fray Marcos de Niza. Marcos didn’t actually make it all the way to Cíbola. And he himself had been following behind none other than Cabeza de Vaca’s fellow survivor, the black Moor Esteban. Esteban was killed and Marcos turned around within sight of the pueblo to report back that it existed and was just as awesome as described by Indians. Ever since, there’s been non-stop controversy. The lush route Marcos described was not what Coronado’s army encountered. And the city was hardly the rich capital he had been promised. Coronado had invested much of his personal wealth, not to mention all of his political clout, in this mission and wasn’t about to go back to Mexico City empty handed. He continued his expedition all the way into Kansas, still chasing after a prize worth the effort of his army’s travels.

Currently I’m reading Cities of Gold: A Novel of the Ancient and Modern Southwest by William K. Hartmann. As the subtitle implies, it’s fiction and Hartmann switches between a modern narrator and historical narrative. The first person narrator in 1998 is telling the story about his own past as an urban planner in Tucson in the late 1980s. He’s caught up in the mystery of attempting to unravel the motivation behind Fray Marcos’ supposed deception in his reports back to New Spain about the Seven Cities of Cíbola. The historical chapters follow Marcos on his mission to both scout a route to the fabled Cities as well as report back to the viceroy on the location of the west coast. The author is obviously sympathetic to the Franciscan, finding his reputation as a liar and fraud undeserving. Thankfully it doesn’t come across as heavy handed by using the device of having the narrator believe that Marcos was wronged. And it’s definitely an engaging tale. I am very curious to see how the ultimate descriptive discrepancy is explained away in the end. Hartmann has quoted a lot of primary sources from the 1500s and onward the narrative which help to accentuate the changing opinions of scholars from many eras. I do find it a bit jarring each time the perspective switches and yet I am engaged with both the modern and ancient stories.

Unfortunately, Esteban himself never wrote down any account of his travels. He was killed before Marcos managed to catch up to him on their scouting trip so yet another mystery remains unsolved regarding just exactly what happened. I find it poetic irony that the first “European” to explore into the future US was an African slave. Esteban was said to be quite the dandy and was definitely a hit with the ladies. He had been the main translator for Cabeza de Vaca’s group. They survived their wanderings by becoming, essentially, rock stars. They were considered great healers and developed a literal following. Hundreds of people roamed with them as they made their way across the continent. The four survivors became quite sympathetic to the Indians’ way of life and were horrified when their followers were captured as they entered Spanish territory. Cabeza de Vaca wrote a detailed account of their experience which I intend to read as I continue my exploration of Spanish exploration.

The other one I would like to read was written by Pedro de Castaneda. He was one of the soldiers in Coronado’s army and wrote an account of the exploration after the fact. It came to be considered a key anthropological record of the native peoples they encountered. Castaneda went beyond just a sympathy to the Indians and instead developed what is now called cultural relativity when describing differences of customs and practices. His is often the only record of Pre-Colombian life as many of the tribes and cities and villages were wiped out thanks to the germs that came along with the Spaniards. When later settlement took place en masse, there were vast empty spaces where there once lived flourishing peoples.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Biking Battles

No, do. Or do not. There is no try.

Unless you’re a five year old, then there is most certainly try. Kirk was grounded all weekend. Grounded from television and movies, grounded from video games, grounded from Star Wars. And he lost his blankie. His infraction? Refusal to try.

We bought Kirk a new big boy bike with training wheels for his 5th birthday. He was so excited about it; he rode it all over the store as we secretly picked out other presents and passed them back and forth behind his back. We brought it home and he rode it all over the neighborhood with his daddy and around the block on a walk with his mama and sister. And then he stopped. For some reason he got scared of it and we can’t figure it out. “I don’t know how.” So we told him he had to ride it every single night so he could learn and practice. But even then he’d freak out. “I can’t.” Both of us lost our tempers on several occasions.

I decided to try getting him used to the bike slowly. We explored how it rocks between the training wheels and how that lessens when he sits on it and his weight lowers them. We explored how the front and back brakes grab the front and back wheels. We explored how far you can turn the handle bars to the right and the left and how it will make the bike tip over if you go too far. We even explored standing on the front pegs while I anchored the bike. Kirk will sit on it and cheerfully put his feet on the pedals. But actually pedal the bike? “I can’t.” And then he said, “I quit.”

Mr. b realized that there must be something else going on and did a little bit of online child psychology research. Apparently there are several reasons why a child might refuse to try and the one that seems to make the most sense with Kirk is perfectionism. He’s good at riding his trike. He’s not an expert at riding his bike and doesn’t know all the ins and outs of it yet. So we put too much pressure on him and made it worse, which just sucks and makes us both feel horrible. But we also can’t let him win and had to figure out a way for him to earn back his privileges without making him ride the damn bike. So he had to try new food.

Trying new foods has always been a battle with Kirk. ALWAYS. It’s ridiculous how often we fight over him eating, or rather not eating. But this time it’s like he knew that this was the best compromise for all parties. Sunday supper, he ate a half a hamburger for the first time ever and had an entire ear of corn. And got his blankie and TV and video games and Star Wars back.

Now, thinking back on it, we’ve had this same issue with bikes before. When Kirk switched from the little sit-down scooter thingie to the Thomas big wheel, he was extremely reticent to learn how to pedal. I remember being so frustrated as he scooted with his feet instead of pedaling. And then when he switched from the big wheel to the tricycle it was the same thing. He was so good at the low to the ground pedaling and suddenly being upright on a trike was a major change. He liked the concept of the trike but was hesitant and rarely used it. Which drove me nuts. So I guess this isn’t new behavior. I just need to remember it for when the time comes to take the training wheels off. Hooboy that’s going to be tough.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Melancholy Musings

Sometime around 15 years ago my dad had a tumor removed. It had been growing inside his sinus cavity and was the size of a grapefruit. It was benign. But it was so weird and fucked up that the surgeon requested to have students and other staff witness the operation and went on to write a paper about it. I’m sure the tumor itself resides in a jar somewhere.

On Friday I noticed a strange solid lump under my nostril, deep within my lip tissue. Naturally I immediately went to the paranoid place and thought of my dad’s tumor. Yesterday the doctor assured me it was either another staph outbreak or, more likely, a zit or cold sore type thing that is simply too deep to actually erupt. That would certainly explain the swollen feeling. He called it a furuncle, wrote me up a prescription, and I at least psychologically feel better.

Over the weekend I found myself thinking about my own untimely demise. After the sudden death of a coworker this year I find myself less and less afraid of death itself, which has always been too horrifying for me to even contemplate. It still quickens my pulse to think about too realistically but I’ve come to realize that I won’t actually care when it happens. It’ll be those that are left behind that matter. And that’s made me worry about being remembered by my children.

Luke Skywalker asks Princess Leia if she remembers her mother. She claims that yes, she does. Now obviously, if she means Padme, this is a bunch of bullshit. I can retcon/fanwank it that hey, she’s probably teaming with the Force, too, and so maybe she actually does have a vague recollection of that one image of her mother’s face, minutes after being born. But that’s seems like crossing into Dune territory and Leia is no Alia. It’s far more likely that Leia is talking about her adopted mother, Bail Organa’s wife, who apparently must have died when Leia was still quite young. Now the fact that Luke knows he’s adopted and Leia seems to be unaware is a separate issue that I’ve also spent far too much time pondering.

Kirk is five. He remembers things that I don’t remember. He brings up incidents in his past that once he’s jogged my memory I can recall but I never would have given them a second thought if he hadn’t called attention to them. What about Veronica? She’s 16 months. Even if she was teaming with the Force, would she remember more than a vague impression?

Ronnie and I have been missing each other a lot lately. We somehow came to the mutual realization that we really don’t spend all that much time together. I get home from work, we have dinner, we go for a walk or play outside, then it’s bath, jammies, bottle, bed. I see her only for a couple of hours every day. That’s not enough time and yet I don’t know how to make it more. We’ve spent some long weekends together recently and that’s helped. But I still long for her and she still immediately defers to me once I come home, no matter how much she loves spending the day with her daddy. What would happen to her if she grew up without a mother?

I’ve been keeping this blog since I found out I was pregnant with Kirk, nearly 6 years ago now. In some ways I consider it a text for his future, a record of his early years that’s almost certainly filled with too much information. I don’t think the same can be said for his sister. I write less and less often of late and though I try to give equal time to both kids, there’s just no way to include as much detail about Ronnie because she’s younger and she’s not an only child. She has to deal with being the second kid in so many ways. I haven’t written word one in her baby book. We haven’t gotten portraits of her to send to all her extended family. She has virtually no toys of her own, playing instead with cars and action figures that her brother already acquired. I know she’ll never know any different and so won’t have an issue with that. I know she’ll come into her own with language development and we will get her separate things as she gets older. But will she have a record of what her mama thought? I hope so. I hope she’ll be able to ask me directly. If not, I hope she’ll have as many years of blog entries as her brother. And yet I feel like I’m just about ready to retire this whole blog endeavor. What comes next?

Friday, June 25, 2010


Despite the ongoing video gaming in our house (Mr. b and his son purchased Crystal Skull yesterday; then again I may or may not have downloaded the free Batman demo the night before), Ronnie is more and more interested in books. And not just to destroy them. I’ve already removed all the books with actual paper pages from their bedroom because I was sick of the carnage. I need to go through the drawers of board books and see what’s salvageable and come up with some kind of a creative art project to use the rest. At any rate, she’ll toddle up to me with a book in her hand and demand that it be read to her. She’s getting better about actually listening, too, and not just trying to turn pages at her own incredibly fast and completely random pace. She seems to have a few favorites picked out, though that might be just because they’re the least damaged…

One of Kirk’s favorite activities (besides playing Lego video games, yes) is to listen to stories of his parents’ childhoods. He truly revels in the tales of us getting hurt, getting into trouble, or just having something interesting happen. Obviously Mr. b is a better storyteller than I am and he also has a way better and more clear memory than I do. So the bulk of the narration ends up being about growing up in SoDak. Kirk will appropriate anything from any of our stories into his own stories about himself. My dad was telling him about a taco eating contest with my uncles before I was born and soon Kirk had a story about a taco eating contest with his best friend E. The trouble with all the story telling is that now nothing can be just a short little anecdote anymore. If I have a quick snippet about something I wanted to share at the dinner table Kirk’s response is, “Tell the rest.” If Mr. b is filling me in on something I missed Kirk’s response is, “Tell the rest.” No matter how mundane and pointless: “Tell the rest.” “There is no rest.” “Tell the rest.” “The end.” “Tell the rest.”

I’ve been reading a lot of short story collections again the past two years (seriously, it’s not all video games, that’s a new development). It’s because I was being a completist about both the Sookie Stackhouse and the Dresden Files series. I had forgotten just how much I enjoy a well crafted short story. But it can be incredibly tricky to achieve the right balance when you’re writing for a series of novels. You have to give just enough background knowledge so that a reader understands the world you’ve already built but not so much that it overwhelms the story you’re trying to write and yet not so little that you’re making assumptions the reader is coming in already knowing everything. Because of that I found that I generally preferred the stories written by authors that were either telling a one-off tale or using tertiary or unique characters set in the world of their main series characters. The absolute best were the straight mystery authors cajoled into contributing to a supernatural collection; they always ended up with a delicious Twilight Zone vibe. I’ve dipped my toe into a lot of supernatural, fantasy, and mystery series now by sampling so many different authors in so many different anthologies. I actually have a couple of full blown series that I think I’d like to check out. But for now, my self-imposed vampire hiatus continues. Nothing new until I take a nice long cleansing break, even if that means I’m missing out on something.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Addendum 2b

When I was a kid and I played dress up it was only for that particular session of playtime. The outfits or costume pieces would go on for the game or the play we were putting on or whatever and that was it. I was never the little girl wearing a tutu out to the store or a tiara to piano lessons. And maybe being in dance and having actual sequined costumes that were more dazzling than anything out of a dress up box helped me to avoid doing that.

Kirk, however, likes to dress like a favorite character All. The. Time. To the point where he actually gets mad if his ability to dress that way is somehow impeded by little things like being in the laundry. Obviously the current favorite character is Indiana Jones. He’s got two main outfits that he switches between: short sleeves and short pants for Young Indy
Young Indy

And long sleeves and long pants for Teacher Indy.

But thankfully he doesn’t have to wear the entire get-up every moment of every day. He mixes up the elements and includes other favorite pieces like his vest
brown shirt

Or one of his ties.
silly outfits

I was thinking about this and realized it’s hardly a phase. Oh, the choice of Henry Jones Jr. might be a phase but not dressing up like a particular character. He was David Tennant’s Doctor from Doctor Who and ran around in a suit jacket and button down shirt, carrying a sonic screw driver everywhere he went. He was Ringo Starr and wore garish rings and carried drum sticks. He was Dave Gahan and wore a black cowboy hat like in Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” video. It does seem that as he gets older he demands more completion to his outfits as each one is more involved and has more required pieces than the previous one.

But I’ve also noticed that Kirk doesn’t try to wear actual literal costumes. Even when he was into Superman he wouldn’t try to wear either his be-caped pajamas or his Halloween costume outside the house. He would put on a sport coat and tie and be Clark Kent instead. When he was into Buzz Lightyear he would ask to wear the Halloween costume as pajamas but again, wasn’t trying to wear it outside of the house. I’m not sure what that means but I think it’s a good thing. Even though Kirk has a very healthy imagination and is constantly exercising his creativity, he’s got a handle on reality and knows what will fly in public. Right?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Addendum 2a

We are collectively obsessed with these Lego video games. Memorial Day weekend we finished the Indiana Jones one. And by “finished” I don’t just mean 100% completion. No. Apparently the game stops calculating your points at the four billion mark. Good to know. So while we’re waiting for the Crystal Skull game to come down in price, we bought the discounted complete Star Wars. All six movies, together at last. And it’s awesome. Favorite level so far: Mos Espa Pod Race. Kicked Sebulba’s ass.

Kirk is starting to think of other things in terms of video games. It’s not just typical little kid playing outside stuff. Like when we’re on a walk and he’s pretending to be Indy and he jumps across a sidewalk crack and talks about the level that he’s playing. No. He’s been telling me about other video games that he’s going to play. Like the Annie video game where you get to play Sandy the dog to stop the naughty kids or the boss battle where Punjab fights Rooster. Or like the Great Mouse Detective video game where you get to pick up the gun that the bad guys drop and then you can carry it until you run out of bullets.

It’s fascinating watching both kids become so used to video games so quickly. I guess it’s like how easily we all played Atari games (or Commodore 64 or Texas Instruments or Apple II) and transitioned into Nintendo (or Sega or…) without batting an eye. Mr. b cut the cord off a useless old PS1 controller and now Bundle can “play”. She totally holds it facing the TV and tries to push buttons and make it do stuff. But she did that with remote controls, too, and I can remember Kirk doing the same thing with remotes. We have a baby LeapFrog that Kirk never played with that I want to hook up and see if Ronnie likes. She’s got more experience with this type of thing so I think it will make sense to her in a way her brother just never grasped at that age.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Addendum 1

Since Ronnie has been fully weaned we’ve also been trying to slowly switch her over to sippy cups. We’re not going particularly fast on that front. She is drinking juice out of a sippy cup and that’s progress. But we haven’t regularly changed any of her milk bottles to sippies. She typically has three regular bottles of milk – in the morning, before nap, before bed – and then however many others throughout the day. We need to start giving her those irregularly scheduled ones in cups. I’ve tried giving her milk with a straw in a restaurant but she just makes a mess. She enjoys drinking water with a straw though.

The only thing about the sippy cups is that she’s rather violent with them. I don’t let her wander the house with her bottle, though she can hold it herself in her carseat or in my lap, but I’ll let her walk around with her juice cup. And she swings it viciously. She’s really strong. Three Saturdays ago, Ronnie was sitting on my lap, drinking from her sippy cup. She then, with no warning, backhanded it into my face. Into my eye socket. This picture does no justice to how bad it looked or how much it hurt.

black eye

I still have a very faint spot of red where the blood pooled under my eye but it’s only visible if you’re looking for it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Bums & Whores

Like most kids in the US, I read Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men in high school. They were fine. I mean yeah, they were obviously Good Books, deserving of the awards and lauds, but they didn’t really grab me. I remember learning in college about how the Beat Poets collectively adored John Steinbeck and I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t see an obvious disconnect so I chalked it up to a generational thing, a different era.

This weekend I finished reading Cannery Row. I loved it. When I saw we had a Steinbeck on deck for book club this year I wasn’t particularly enthused. But this book was amazing. I finally understand the Beat love. This book made me want to go back and reread Big Sur. It made me want to go and pull the more obscure authors that I never got around to reading in college. I have a Brautigan title on extended loan from a friend I plan to dig up presently. And more than that, I intend to read everything else by Steinbeck set in Monterey.

This book was hyper real. The imagery was such a beautiful ode to the mundane, like calling mess left in a frying pan “fried egg lace”. The characters were fleshed out in a way you just don’t get anymore, and yet it felt brilliantly modern while obviously set in the past. I got a better feel for life in the 30s than anything I’ve ever seen or read previously. There was a simple plot about throwing a party for a central character and yet there would be frequent interludes focusing on a different person never heard from again. And instead of being jarring and taking me out of the moment, it only made the story richer, building the world and turning the inhabitants from sketches to living, breathing, heavily drinking kooks, lay-abouts, madams, shop owners, and friends that genuinely cared for each other.

I had no idea this book was part of a loose series. A collection of titles with cross over characters, all in the same universe. It’s what Christopher Moore does and I love that. So much of my experience reading Cannery Row was a sequence of revelations. Doc invented beer milkshakes! I guess that means the creators of “Red Dwarf” must be fans. Hazel intentionally lost a fight just to see how it felt. I guess Chuck Palahniuk must be a fan. And then I found out that my father-in-law is a huge fan and that Mr. b himself loves the 1982 movie version. Yep, it’s been added to my Netflix queue.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fun for the Whole Family

Kirk is thoroughly obsessed with Indiana Jones. He’s seen all four movies. He has a couple of Lego sets and has fished out pieces and people from unrelated sets to fill gaps in his play time requirements. He has a cheap cowboy set that came with a cloth whip that he hauls around. He’s been freaking out about it being too hot to wear long sleeves and long pants because Indy does not wear short pants and short sleeves. His father came home from his trip to LA this weekend bearing a brown felt fedora for Young Indy to wear, even if he has to acquiesce to t-shirts and shorts. And we downloaded both of the Lego Indiana Jones free game demos on our new PS3.

Mr. b found a copy of the first Lego Indy video game on sale so he picked that up a couple of weeks ago. Has it really only been a couple of weeks? I feel like we’ve had it forever. That game is awesome. Seriously. Kirk never really got into the LeapFrog and other educational baby game systems. He would enjoy watching his father occasionally play Galaga or Destroy All Humans but that’s about it. We’re not really a gaming family. The new PS3 is for media first and foremost. So getting this game was something really just for Kirk’s enjoyment. He’s learned how to use the controller and really does a pretty good job navigating the screens and can do quite a bit before asking for help. He also remembers the pathways through the levels incredibly clearly.

What I didn’t expect is that the rest of us would become so enamored with the game as well! It started out simply enough. Mr. b needed help finding his way through a new level. I found a fabulous guide online and walked him through it. Then Kirk wanted to play the same level but his father wasn’t home so I took over the main driving duties whenever he needed help. Ronnie gets so excited when she hears the start-up music and squeals in delight when she sees the disc case. She stands in front of the tv and chatters at the little Lego dudes as they smash stuff. So gradually we’ve fallen into a routine where Kirk picks the level and starts it out. Depending on which parent is at home or available, we’ll help him and eventually he’ll get bored or it will be too complicated and we’ll finish it off. And now that we have the guide to follow we’re being totally completist about collecting all the various items to unlock characters and bonus levels. And last night I found myself playing it when both the kids were in bed and Mr. b was at band practice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bye Bye Boobie

I guess Ronnie is officially weaned. I didn’t really notice it happening, which is probably a good thing. I didn’t need to make some big pronouncement or anything. At some point last week, not even sure which day, she had her last nigh-nigh boobie.

It’s not like she was even actively nursing. But for the last month or six weeks she’d have her bedtime bottle and then still fall asleep on the boob. It was just easier that way. And if she woke up in the middle of the night I was still bringing her into bed with me. I started to give her a bottle in the middle of the night and put her back into her crib. I mean, her father had always been doing that if he was the one the get up with her but I was the slacker hold out.

During the day Mr. b had started laying Miss Ronica down in her crib for naps before she was even fully asleep. This was radical news to me. We never were able to quite crib train her the way we did with Kirk. We couldn’t let her just “cry it out” with him in the room with her! It wouldn’t be fair to disturb his sleeping. Hence the nursing her to sleep and putting her away already passed out. But if she was able to fall asleep on her own for naptime then that meant I needed to jump on her new skill set and let her fall asleep on her own for bedtime.

It didn’t work every time but for the past couple of weeks I’ve been able to put the Bundle to bed with her still awake. She might fuss a little bit but she’d rustle about and then be asleep by the time her brother and I tiptoed in a half hour or hour later for his bedtime. But the nights it didn’t work, it really didn’t work and I would give up and stick a boob in her mouth. I noticed the last few times that nursing her felt weird. Like, physically it didn’t feel the same. Probably because there really isn’t anything in there for her to actually eat anymore! There was a great line in Kim by Rudyard Kipling. The old high caste widow was convinced that mothers shouldn’t be allowed to raise children, only grandmothers, because mothers are too close to the pain of childbirth and the pleasure of nursing. That really resonated with me. The pleasure of nursing. It really was a pleasure. I’m so glad I had the chance to experience that fully. But it was time to end it.

So now I have to really start watching what I eat. It would be bad to unconsciously keep ingesting nursing calories when I clearly no longer need them.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Can Help

My mom was first diagnosed with MS in 1986. I was 11. I grew up knowing that at any time, with no waning whatsoever, she could suddenly be struck blind or become paralyze and *this time*, it might be permanent. So far, she’s one of the lucky ones. She hasn’t had an exacerbation in many years. Her medication keeps things under control and she rarely needs to use a cane to walk, though she wears an ankle brace every day. Research into the disease has come a long way. But there’s still no cure and there’s still much that isn’t understood. You can help. Please donate to the MS Society to support me in the walk this coming Sunday. I truly appreciate any help you feel willing to give.

Please consider a pledge to create a world free of multiple sclerosis and support me during Walk MS: Cambridge Walk 2010. MS stops people from moving. The National MS Society exists to make sure it doesn’t. Please help by making a donation — large or small — to move closer to a cure for MS. You can also join me on the day of the event. Become a participant and side by side we will move together to raise funds that make a difference.
Whatever you can give will help. I greatly appreciate your support and will keep you posted on my progress. Imagine a world free of multiple sclerosis. We’re almost there.

Click here to visit my personal page and make a secure, online donation.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bring out cher dead!

I really thought that when I stopped pumping at work that my reading habit would go down. But I seem to be ahead of my pace for even last year’s record haul. I just started title #33 this morning, which is exactly half of my total last year. And, true to form, I totally fell down on book reviews, last discussing a single volume over twenty titles ago.

My book club selection for this month was Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I haven’t read anything of hers before but I have read nearly all of her husband’s books – my favorite travel writer Tony Horwitz. I hadn’t put together that she was *that* Geraldine until I read the dedication at the start of her book! I really enjoyed her writing style and I think I’ll read more of her books.

This book was historical fiction dealing with the imagined events in a real village in England, Eyam, that really did close its own borders in 1665-1666 to try to contain an outbreak of the Plague. The story follows a young woman, Anna, as she grows as a result of this crucible of change. I found it fabulous. Oh, I couldn’t take it out of the house to read in public until I was well over halfway through because I knew I would be bawling. But it was wonderful.

The book club ladies universally enjoyed the book as well except for the last chapter and the epilogue. I found the location of the epilogue to be unsurprising, knowing the background of the author. There was one element that was perhaps a bit deus ex machina, but not so much that it took me out of the story. In fact, there was a nice bit of symmetry with the protagonist’s ending as compared to Anna’s beginning. The last chapter didn’t bother me either. I was expecting the pat happy ending we seemed to be getting – and I would have been very fine with that! – so I was completely blindsided by the turn things took. In a good way. It perhaps retroactively altered my opinion of another character but not so much that I was disgusted by wasted time or anything of the sort.

The other complaint I’ve read is that the book is anachronistic. I actually found it to be extremely well researched and accurate. At least according to my memory of my college course on women’s life in Medieval Europe! Anna had some very modern ideas and thoughts and yet to me they seemed to follow naturally based on her experiences and observations. This was, after all, a time of great changes in philosophy and politics. Nature gained popularity over Fate as Science started to gain over Religion. I found it to be a very thoughtful way to explore that paradigm shift in a manner that made such a heady topic accessible to the average reader.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hear Me Moan

Extreme TMI and Whining Warning: Continue Reading At Your Own Peril

This has been a very bad week for belsum’s nethers. It started off with just a bump. I found a bump on my delicate girl parts last week. Figured it was just a zit. Last weekend was the big Ronnie’s Naming Ceremony weekend with my in-laws flying up from Texas and lots of evening fires in our backyard with family and good friends. So I figured if the bump wasn’t gone by Monday, I’d go have it checked out just to be sure. Got the results yesterday from the culture they took: staph. Great. But it so far doesn’t seem to be as virulent as the staph infections Mr. b was dealing with in succession a few years ago. They just prescribed me a topical ointment to apply to the affected area. So far so good.

Monday evening I started feeling all rumbly in my tumbly. Lord knows I ate like a madwoman during all the festivities of the weekend so I didn’t give it much thought. I slept fitfully when I went to bed and then woke up about 1:30 am and spent the next two hours in the bathroom. And then made return trips at far too frequent intervals. Obviously frequent wiping, causing chafing and chapping, is just the thing to help prevent the spread of a staph infection! Oh wait, no it’s not. I was completely wrecked all day Tuesday and still extremely weak Wednesday. Started to come out of it Thursday but still tired. And yeah, when you’re averaging 900 calories on top of violently excreting every shred of food from your bowels, that’s gonna take its toll.

I really thought that was the end of it. But instead…my period has come back. For the first time since I got knocked up with Ronnie I’m menstruating. I spotted a little bit when I went on the nursing pill. And there was the lochia flow after giving birth. But those don’t count. This is actual monthly visitor action. It started out spotty on Monday but was really dark. Like my body was cleaning everything out after not being used for a long time. Which, come to think of it, was probably exactly what was happening. But by yesterday the flow became normal. Everything else? Is so not what I’m used to. Granted I’m out of practice. But I never had bloating this bad. I never had PMS this harsh. I was never ready to call it a sick day just for my stupid period before. And I’m just ridiculous amounts of uncomfortable. Food makes me ill. I’m scared to frickin’ fart. Nothing I’ve tried has brought me any relief. This had better just be part of the system overload of all this happening at once. As my friend put it, a bug sneaking in while PMS had my shields down. I just don’t know how I’m going to adapt if this will be my new monthly reality. Oh, I know there are plenty of women out there that are used to big-time horrible symptoms. But I never used to be one of them. Then again, I do remember a slight worsening after I had Kirk. That’s when the day of icky poo as a late PMS indicator started happening. Well great. So I guess this is the thanks I get for having another baby. It’s like it’s exponentially getting more extreme. Blerg.

Monday, April 12, 2010


When Kirk was a baby he got a lot of blankets. Hospital blankets, receiving blankets, homemade blankets, store-bought blankets, flannel, fleece, jersey, cotton, quilted, doubled, lined, trimmed, he must have had at least a dozen. When he was about a year old he picked out a favorite. It was a cream colored blanket with a satin back, satin border, and deeply plush front. There was a satin panel on the front in the center of the plush with an embroidered Winnie the Pooh. He carried it around everywhere. It was about that time that he stopped going to Auntie Daycare and started going to K’s house. So we went to the store and bought a duplicate of that blankie. It seemed smart to have a second one to leave at K’s house rather than cart the same one back and forth every day, risking leaving it there overnight or, gods forbid, over the weekend.

Then Kirk’s cousin visited. He declared that Kirk’s official blankie of choice was instead a blue one, matching the color of his own Uh-Oh (a cotton Sleep-Sack) that he carried around everywhere. This blankie was similar in style to the cream colored Pooh one, satin backing and trim with a velveteen plush front, but without the center embroidery. And this one was a shower gift with no receipt so we had no way of knowing where it came from in order to purchase a duplicate.

Flash forward to today. Ronnie has just three blankies, one fleece and two handmade and flannel. That’s plenty and lord knows we don’t have space to store any others. She’s also recently chosen her official favorite. The same cream Pooh blanket of her brother’s! She can’t tell a difference between the two so far – one is noticeably more worn than the other – but she carries one or the other around often. When she gets tired she’ll lay her head down on it in the middle of the floor. She cuddles with it while fighting sleep in my lap at night. She’s starting to hold onto it when she stands up in her crib, crying to be picked up.

Mr. b wants to get her her own blanket. I’m worried if he buys something similar she might not like it as well. But is it bad for your child’s lovey object to be essentially a hand-me-down? Kirk wants to “dial” it (don’t try to tell him it’s actually “dye” because he ain’t buying that line) purple. I’m totally down with purchasing some Rit and coloring it lavender so it’s “new” to Ronnie. But is it bad to not get one of her own? To let her carry around her brother’s cast-off?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Noise Makers

Ronnie’s been a complete pain in the ass the last couple weeks. She’s super hard to put to bed at night. She wakes up the second you lay her in her crib and stares up at you in dismay and then starts to wah. She’s been clingy and whiny for her father during the day. When I get home from work she demands my attention non-stop. I spend more time sitting on the floor than on the furniture. She doesn’t necessarily even need me to pay attention to her, just be down there so that she can throw herself at me in-between menacing. She rips toys off the white shelf in the corner and flings them everywhere. She pulls books out of the tv consol drawer and destroys them. She climbs up on the couch and throws all the pillows off. She tears great hunks of fur off the cats. She is a total menace.

But she’s also frickin’ smart and has been cataloguing everything in that little developing brain of hers. She points and says, “This” nearly constantly. Half the time I don’t know which this she even means. I’ve taken to keeping a running commentary while I’m holding her so that whichever this she’s interested in will hopefully be covered. I remember Kirk asking, “What’s that” while pointing so I guess it’s a pretty common phase for babies to go through.

Ronnie’s got another noise that she makes when she’s not asking, “This.” I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s like a Spanish rolled r but it’s a th sound instead. It’s pretty hard to duplicate. I don’t know of any language that actually uses that phoneme. It took me a while to realize which sound was being trilled. I experimented with tongue placement at the back of teeth, top of palate, and front of palate before I figured it out. It doesn’t sound quite the same way when I do it as when she does but I think it’s because I have more and larger teeth. Hers sounds more like the brrrrr you make when you make the motor boat noise with your lips – only no vocalization, air flow only. Kirk had a repeat noise, too, but his was definitely a vocalization. I guess I’d transliterate it as “nngink!” and he repeated it frequently enough that we still remember it. Interesting that both of their noises incorporated sounds not found in English.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Obligatory Shakespeare "Rose" Quote

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about names as I’ve been getting everything in order for Ronnie’s upcoming naming ceremony. Specifically, how pet names and nicknames change. I find it amusing that the diminutive form of Kirk’s name, Kirkie, is actually longer. And yet it’s obviously the little kid version. Going with Ronnie for Veronica is more of a true nickname than an actual diminutive but we could have chosen V or Vera or Nic or any of a good half dozen other possibilities. We always knew that Ronnie would be the one we’d use.

But what about Bundle? I find that I’ve been using it less and less in public. I used to refer to her as Bundle almost exclusively and now I rarely even use it at home as a title. I’ll ask her “How’s my sweet bundle” but that’s not the same. Kirk still calls his sister Bundle and I’ve noticed that grandparents and family friends do as well. But none of them ever called Kirk Peepers Pie. And for the first…year or so of his life he was nearly exclusively Peepers Pie to both Mr. b and I. But did we call him that outside of the home? I guess we must not have. We used “Pie” as shorthand for babies his same age and knew if one said, “I saw a pie at the store” that it meant there was a baby the same current size as our little Pie Man. I still sometimes call Kirk Kirkie Pie but it’s definitely less common. When did it stop? I know I call him Buddy or Honey or Sweetheart more frequently than Pie now.

Hunny is Mr. b though. I mentally see and hear the difference in how I use that particular pet name.

There’s a lot of power in names. I like the old traditions of having a temporary name and then a young child earning their name once they got older. Partly that was to deal with high infant mortality rates. But there’s something compelling about the idea that a child has lived long enough to earn their place in the universe. To be recognized as an independent being and not just a baby attached to her mother. I think that’s why I waited until both my children were a year old to have their namings take place. Sure, they already had those names on their birth certificates but the ceremony is a chance to present them to the community of human beings they live amongst. To share their existence with the rest of us and acknowledge that someday they’ll be out there with their place confirmed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's next? Trees?

Ronnie is climbing the furniture. Literally. It happened quite suddenly to my mind. I was home sick last Tuesday and not being particularly observant of either of the kids and I realized that she was hauling herself up onto the couch. She seems to do better in the corner of the sectional, probably because she can get a better grip having an angle instead of a straight line. She has been quicker and quicker and has been trying – so far unsuccessfully – to climb the ottoman as well.

Last Monday was her One Year Well Baby (90% height! 85% weight!) and Doc B warned us she would be a climber if she was as much of a menace as we were describing. I just didn’t expect his prediction to come true the very next day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


We all have summer birthdays so it was weird trying to prep for an indoor party. Moving the ottoman to the side opened things up nicely.
mmm keys

Ronnie menaced plenty while we were trying to get organized.
walking away

I think we put out a pretty decent spread of food!
the spread

Mr. b picked out a separate slice of cake for Ronnie to menace. I was surprised that he got chocolate since he hates messes!
Daddy hates messes

This mess was a doozy.

We had to strip her bare and give her a bath in the middle of everything in order to clean her up!
party bath

She wore her third outfit for the day to open presents. She got tons of cute clothes and some really great toys.

She was definitely overwhelmed by it all.
so much to take in

Friday, March 05, 2010

Two by Two

My appetite has been reduced greatly in the last week or two. I think I’m on the last leg of the weaning process. Ronnie has been more and more frustrated with the lack of milk when she does nurse and I usually end up giving her a bottle even if I do put her at the boob first. I’m basically down to three times a day: when I get home from work, before bed, and in the middle of the night. And all of those are hit or miss now. Just holding her and carrying her around when I get home seems to be enough mama attention. She’s starting to fall asleep sitting in my lap before bed on more than just the rare occasion. And she usually just wants to be held in the middle of the night, not really wanting anything to actually drink.

So now I have to figure out if I should switch my pills to the regular hormones or stay on the “nursing pill” for one more month as a buffer period. I’m leaning towards the latter, just so there’s a little more time for us to gradually get used to it. Veronica has her 1 year well baby visit on Monday so I need to decide before then and make sure I get a prescription.

I also need to remember that I don’t need as many calories as I’ve been ingesting. I don’t think I’m going to have the problem I had with my failed attempts nursing Kirk where I gained weight because of how much I was eating. I’m actually physically getting full but still ordering/taking proportions for nursing calories. I can think of at least three instances in the last four or so days where I had just plain too much food in front of me. Even a month ago I wouldn’t have hesitated to eat it all. Which means now I need to get back to an exercise regimen.

Coming upon Bundle’s one year birthday has also made me realize that I think I am happy with “just” two kids. Sure, three seems “right”. But there were also so many problems with three. It was always two against one. Times where all three of us were happy together were so rare that I can’t come up with more than one or two specific examples. Even now there’s always one of us as the odd man out. I want Kirk and Ronnie to enjoy spending time together. I don’t want sibling politics to be involved anymore than simple older brother versus little sister. I want them to have closeness because they have each other. And frankly, the idea of being pregnant again sounds terrible to me. I really, really, really don’t want to do that again.

Monday, March 01, 2010

C is for Cooperation

Kirk spent nearly all of Saturday in time out. He had a dentist appointment Saturday morning and wanted his daddy to take him. Fine by me, I got to sleep in longer and not get dressed. But while I was chilling with Ronnie, they got home much earlier than I expected. Kirk was so naughty and uncooperative that ultimately the hygienist was unable to do anything. Mr. b was pissed and frog-marched the man into his bedroom for an all-day grounding.

Now, we happened to be quite busy that afternoon so Kirk got let out for stuff like going to book club with Mama, but he knew he was in Big Trouble. We decided that this behavior needs to be treated as a symptom of him getting away with baby stuff that we just haven’t bothered to fight yet. So since he is now big enough to have appointments – doctor, optometrist, dentist – he has to act like he’s a Big Boy. And Big Boys don’t use sippy cups. Yep, we finally got rid of the damn sippies.

Kirk was pretty distraught when he heard the announcement his precious sippy cups were going away. He tried arguing but knew he wasn’t going to get away with jack shit this time round. In fact, by the time lunch was over he had turned it around and was excited to participate in the tossing of the hateful plastic bastards into the recycling bin. And he’s been proudly requesting his drinks “in a Big Boy Cup” all weekend, as though he had any other choice.

One nice side-effect of this all was good behavior in church yesterday. He sat quietly until the children were dismissed, and drew and didn’t make noise or screw around, even as his best friend was decidedly not behaving himself sitting next to him on the pew. And during the social hour after service, his Sunday school teacher came up to me and told me about how well behaved Kirk was and what a great sense of humor he has. The lesson she was teaching? Cooperation. HA!!

I’m not sure how long we can milk this. Kirk knows his blue blankie is the next on the line. For now though, I’m enjoying having so much space in the cupboard, now that the sippies are gone!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

So Five Minutes Ago

I’ve decided that I need to take a break from vampire serieses. I’ve been reading through so many of them my brain can’t really process it anymore. First I’ll finish out the series that I’m on. And there are a couple of due-to-be-published titles coming out this year I’ll read. But then that’s it.

Since I’ve read so many of these damn things I’ve inevitably started comparing them all. I think everyone in the world knows about my disdain for Twilight, despite my initial love and addiction. I found that the Sookie Stackhouse series, while enjoyable, wasn’t as good as the television series based upon it. By the end I was reading them more to expand my understanding of True Blood than anything. Anita Blake I initially started reading after stumbling across this webcomic. That sounded too hilarious and titillating to pass up! I haven’t quite finished that series yet but so far it’s the one I like best. Even with all the sex. Or not just because of all the sex?

If these serieses were schools, then Twilight is Junior High, Sookie is High School, and Anita is College.

Anita Blake’s an urban fantasy series. It’s set in St. Louis. Unlike the True Blood-verse, where vamps have just made themselves known, in this universe vamps (and shifters and witches and whatnot) have always been known. Vampires recently were made legal in the US and there’s a big Church of Eternal Life as well as all kinds of strips clubs and other businesses. Anita is a licensed vampire executioner and works with the police department and FBI on all sorts of freaky supernatural monster crime. She’s totally badass. She’s also a zombie animator, a natural talent she’s had since she was little. She works at a business specifically to raise zombies, so lawyers can double check wills or loved ones can say good bye or whatever else may be required.

Awesomely, nearly every title in the series is also the name of a place of business that Anita visits during the course of that book’s case, which makes it a nice shorthand to remember what exactly happened. I can never remember which book is which out of the Sookie Stackhouse titles. This series has a bad rap but I think that’s a little bit unfair. Anita’s powers develop very naturally as a result of the events of each book, her interactions with the bad guys or supes, and are fully explained within the confines of the world that has been built. It just plain makes sense. And besides the preternatural stuff, there’s just so much heart-pounding action!

But nevermind the guns and the gore and the terror. Nearly everyone focuses on the sex so I thought I’d make a little guide. Books 1 through 5, Guilty Pleasures through Bloody Bones, are nearly completely chaste. Book 6, The Killing Dance, has one single sex scene. Book 7, Burnt Offerings, is back to being sex-free. Though Anita is no longer celibate, we just don’t read it on the page. Book 8, Blue Moon, again has one single sex scene. Book 9, Obsidian Butterfly? That’s right, nada. So far, no reason to get bent out of shape. And that’s over half of the currently published titles! Books 10 and 11, Narcissus in Chains and Cerulean Sins, both have a handful of sex scenes. Maybe 3 or 4 each. But again, nothing that I found excessive and certainly nothing outside of the norm established for the characters involved. Then we have book 12, Incubus Dreams. Hooboy. I completely lost track. This one definitely fits the “all sex and no plot” profile. It was kind of a mess. But then along comes book 13, Micah, and it dials everything back down. There’s only one single sex scene and more than that, it’s a return to the “simpler” bad guys of the earlier books, instead of a demi-god or a lunatic shapeshifter. Books 14 and 15, Danse Macabre and The Harlequin, seem to have found their way back to the handful of scenes level, though the former also included group sex instead of just one-on-one. And that’s as far as I’ve read.

I think the reason the dirty stuff doesn’t bother me is that while it may be complicated to explain, the series is truly about Anita’s relationships with her men. There is a lot of introspection and self-analysis going on that fits with all the characters developing in a believable manner. I don’t know that I’d recommend them for everyone I know but I definitely think they’re better than those dismissing the series as smut and nothing else.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Flotsam and Jetsam

Kirk’s taken to making proclamations of “I’m gonna buy you something” to both me and his father. The items he’s going to purchase vary from the simple to the extravagant. It’s very sweet. He totally doesn’t understand money yet. Heh.

Veronica has all but broken the television remote. Every time it’s left in her reach she has chewed it to the point where the buttons simply don’t work anymore. One evening earlier this week she managed to chew it into a feedback loop of scanning for channels!

Kirk is becoming quite the master builder. He loves regular sized Legos the most, though he’ll also use Duplos or bristle blocks or anything else handy. He has created everything from pirate ships to Lightning McQueen to the Incredible Hulk. It’s fabulous to watch his creativity in such a concrete manner.

Ronnie still won’t take steps unless you trick her. If her destination is at standing height then she might step once or twice but usually she’ll just speed-crawl over. The strange thing, however, is that she is now nearly perfectly balanced (relative to a baby learning to walk) and will spend most of her time standing once she’s reached her new location.

I’ve been going through my wardrobe and culling items. I discovered I had a box of goal weight clothes I set aside before Kirk was born. Some of them fit! Our scale has been broken since the clogged toilet disaster so that was an exciting discovery. I’ve also stopped wearing nursing bras exclusively. Boy, I need new bras.

In the ongoing attempt to make sure Kirk has good manners, I’ve been trying to impress upon him the difference between an empty “I’m sorry” to get out of trouble and a truly meaningful apology. I haven’t decided yet if we’re making any progress.

On the topic of manners, what about chivalry? I’m not sure at what point, or even if, I should start with the holding the door for a lady, letting a lady go first, that sort of thing. Respect Your Elders probably needs to come next anyway. We’re still working on Wait Your Turn If Someone Else Is Speaking.

Bundle takes showers with me now. I gave up even trying to keep her out. She loves hanging out and splashing when her brother or her dad is in the bathtub and if I’m in the shower she will lean over the edge to try to play with the water spray. She is just about tall enough to climb in. Rather than fight it, I now let her hang out below me, cheerfully splashing shampoo bubbles and sliding around in the tub.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunday Social

I’ve been feeling very disconnected lately. At the same time, I’ve been going through a self-analytical phase triggered by required career development exercises. On top of this has been all the family drama swirling about for several months. In the midst of it I realized that I need to start going to church.

Now, to those that know me that probably sounds radical. I am an avowed critic of organized religion. I do not believe in Christian dogma. I formally and officially quit the church in 9th grade after getting confirmed just to please my mother. However, there were good elements to churchgoing and that’s what I want to pursue. I need a sense of community. I need a support network. All my closest relationships are online, even with friends that are physically living in town. I go from work to home and don’t see anyone but co-workers and my kids because of the split-shifting Mr. b and I are doing right now. And that’s fine and it’s temporary, but I do need to retain my sanity during this phase of our lives.

I also want Kirk to grow up with the fun of youth group and having “church friends” distinct from “school friends”. He’s getting old enough to Ask Questions and while we can provide plenty of answers, I also want him to have a framework to find his own answers. I want him to gain the tools to live an ethical life and be intellectually curious and open to change and differences.

So this Sunday we went to service at the local Unitarian Universalist society. And it was great. It’s so refreshing to listen to a minister talk about the Bible, MLK Jr, Greek philosophy, Buddhism, and pan-theistic deities, all while making actually funny pop song lyric references. My friend morrigan grew up in this church so of course I was there for lock-ins and stuff but I never actually went to services. Kirk had his naming ceremony at this church but I never actually went to services. Then I discovered that K had started going. Somehow knowing that someone else was going to be there was just the little push I needed.

The look on Kirk’s face when he saw his best friend in the universe at the church Sunday morning was better than priceless. Now I just need to remember that going is part of our new routine each weekend. I’m in the midst of planning out Ronnie’s naming so that will help. And I know that my blue funk won’t last. The world isn’t actually taking me for granted, though it feels that way these days. There’s a lot of potential for change happening in my life right now and once directions are decided, I suspect a feeling of calm will return. Until then, I look forward to another thought provoking Sunday morning.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Three is the new Two?

Last night Mr. b and I talked about vasectomies. He’s apparently been doing some research about them and is not at all encouraged by what he’s read. He doesn’t want one. And honestly, that’s fine. I don’t mind taking the pill. I’ve been on it for nearly 20 years now. I take iron pills every day anyway so it’s not really any big deal to take two pills at night instead of just one. I told him that if we just keep going like we have been, there’s always a chance of an Oops, though we never had so much as a scare before I was off the pill. But more than that, I warned him that I might want to have another kid at some point in the next 7 or so years.

I’m the oldest of three kids so there’s always going to be something in the back of my head that tells me that’s the “right” number of kids to have. When Ronnie was first born I felt very strongly that I was going to want another one. I’m not sure why but now, not nearly as much. Yet it’s not faded completely so I can’t discount the notion that the nagging could resurface someday. Mr. b was quite appalled by the possibility and just went with the idea that he’ll “say no” and that is that. I don’t know that it would be so simple.

Alongside the experience of being one of three is a more primal, genetic, animal, base desire to propagate the species, ensure the continuation of my line, immortality through my progeny. There’s a collective memory of high infant mortality and the need for more hands to help sustain the subsistence. Is that a real issue? We’re probably not going to actually have an apocalypse in my lifetime, much to Mr. b’s despair. And possibly my time in the field – where I excavated infant remains that were in the trash midden, treated with the respect of being put in a nice jar at least – colors my impression of it more than someone that has only academic knowledge of the changes modern health technology has wrought. I feel quite strongly Kirk would not have survived even a century ago. So all of this adds up to something inside me akin to the Royal saying of “an heir and a spare”.

I don’t know how I would go on if I lost one of my kids. But I especially don’t know how I would go on if I lost both of my kids. So having another one I guess would be insurance of a sick sort. But even understanding my psyche in all of this, do I really want to go through it all again? The pregnancy and the birth and the sleepless nights. I don’t know. But I’m not ready to give up the option.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Almost 11 Months

It felt kind of strange to get on the bus this morning and not be carrying my pump. I’ve become so accustomed to having two things with me in the seat; it felt so roomy without it! So far I’m feeling OK. Not too full or too achy, though obviously a little of each. However, I’m sure I’m going to put Veronica straight to the boob the second I get home and get my coat off. I picked Friday to be my first day without pumping knowing the weekend would be right there in case it sucks. But I really don’t want to have to spend money on more milk storage bags and honestly, I don’t think pumping is worth the trouble anymore.

So now that Ronica is on the homestretch of weaning – whether she knows it or not is a different matter – I’m looking forward to seeing how this affects our sleeping patterns. She continues to be extremely difficult to get to bed at night, requiring multiple tries to get her to stay asleep. She continues to wake up between 2am and 4am and sometimes even earlier. (She often wakes up the second her father gets home from school or band practice or work, like she can sense his presence.) I have noticed that she’s less demanding of food when she wakes up and is more interested in being held. But since I’m so used to sleep nursing, I still just give her a boob so I can lay back down. And she still doesn’t really know how to fuss herself to sleep since we don’t leave her in her crib to cry and disturb her brother. I’m hoping that’ll work itself out as she gets older but it’s definitely something I’m wary of.

I think we’ll probably try to find a free or cheap toddler bed before jumping straight to bunk beds for the two of them. My guess is that once she can climb out of bed herself she’ll end up climbing in with her brother, again just needing the comfort of someone next to her in the middle of the night.

Ronnie is still not quite walking. Rather, she can walk and has taken a few steps, but she chooses not to. She is so incredibly fast at crawling that it would be inconvenient to walk instead. She does let go and free stand more and more often so I’m sure she’ll start doing more than just moving between the couch and ottoman before long. She’s learning to get down from the couch feet first and that’s a skill she’ll need for getting out of her bed and invading her brother’s.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Good science fiction should be thought provoking. You should be presented with ideas that make you really consider the way the world around you works currently. Allegory isn’t necessary but is often useful to use as a prism, to focus on something you might not have noticed around you. Too often today we think science fiction means robots and space and aliens and rockets. Instead, I hold to the old Scientific Romance definition, where you expound and expand upon a technological breakthrough and explore what that would mean for society.

Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham was one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in a long time. It took a long, hard look at the ramifications of extreme longevity. Robert A. Heinlein touched on some of those ideas in his Lazarus Long books but Lazarus is primarily an action figure so the same depths are not achieved. I enjoyed the thought experiment of how people really would react when offered the chance to double or treble their lifespan.

There was a feminist aspect to the book, too, which I found fascinating because of several inherent disparities. First of all, it was published in 1960. So even though the female protagonist was rather radical and wanted women to break free of their domestic routines if only they had enough time to live up to their potentials, it was all cast with the pall of the woman being a mere appendage to a man, whether her father or her husband. Like watching original series Star Trek now and being appalled at the sexism while trying to remember that it was actually ground breaking at the time. Another disparity was the fact that the author is a man. I often found myself wondering if he was poking fun or being serious about all the second-gen suffragetting about the place. I have to believe that he thought he was serious. However, I was reminded that in his The Day of the Triffids, which I read six years ago, the independent female character by the end was just happy to have a man. Maybe the fact that it was published almost a decade earlier made the difference? Or maybe Wyndam truly believes that even if a woman is smart and strong she still is “just” a woman. But I’m not offended by that possibility and instead relished the chance to really examine the current state of my gender in society at large.

The narrative started a little slowly but it continued to build and the last forty or fifty pages were definitely exciting. The climax had me tearing up with hope for humanity and righteous pride in womankind. And the twist in the dénouement I didn’t see coming until it was right on top of me.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Back Pack & Baby Toy

I had a burst of creative energy a few weekends ago and put it to good use. Mr. b had a pair of old khakis with the knees torn out that I hemmed into shorts for him. But what to do with the legs? I am too much of a fabric hoarder to just toss them into the rag pile. Instead, I made Kirk a back pack! I had a lot of fun thinking it through. Putting in a circular bottom seemed obvious but coming up with the fold-over button front took me a while.

I think I set the straps a bit too wide but Kirk doesn't seem to mind and I suppose he'll grow into them this way.

There was still a bit of fabric left after that so I decided to make Bundle a chew toy. I deliberated for a while on its shape and size and finally decided to go with a triangular block because it seemed like the easiest for her to grab onto. I added the buttons for her to pick at, hold onto, and crew on. It's "educational" because I did 1, 2, 3 on each side! She loves it and it's always covered with slobber now. Especially on the 2 side. Not sure if it's the red, the style of buttons, or coincedence...

Friday, January 29, 2010


A son is a son till he takes him a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.
~Irish Saying

I find myself thinking of this old adage whenever I deal with my brother. He has become the embodiment of the Old Testament directive to “cleave unto” your wife, to the exclusion of your birth family. And when I remember how close we used to be, and how unbearably awful things are now, it makes me worry about what the future may hold for Kirk. I don’t want to loose him just because he’s married.

It’s strange because I used to worry about ending up having the same kind of relationship Mr. b has with his mother. They love each other and get along with each other and get drunk with each other and are close emotionally, if not geographically. But they also have a time limit and with snip and snipe at each other if the visit is too long. Kirk and I definitely fit that pattern. We can already push each other’s buttons and already need to take breaks from each other and already just get annoyed with each other. But we also aren’t completely dismissive of each other’s thoughts and feelings.

Maybe it’s my lifelong fight against conformity that’s making the latest round of bullshit with my brother hurt so much? I truly don’t know when he became so judgmental. It’s frustrating to see someone’s previously open mind close so completely. I don’t think Kirk is capable of that kind of lack of empathy but I wouldn’t have guessed it of my brother either.

Here’s the thing. I think my kids are happy and well adjusted and I take joy in the little things in life. I let the annoyances roll off me more often than not because I’m too lazy to waste energy on them. I live in the present because I can’t change the past. I like to have fun. I used to have, hooboy, a different kind of fun before kids but that was before kids. Yet I’m not going to just close the book on fun simply because of being a parent. I make sure my children are healthy and safe and I include them in as many activities as I can because I want them to know what’s out there and I don’t want to shelter them unnecessarily. I do not believe that is irresponsible. I do not believe that makes me a bad parent. I do not believe that my doing things differently from how someone else might is cause for disgust and revulsion. And I do not want to be around someone that I know is going to watch and analyze and judge my every move.