Monday, March 31, 2008

And The Winner Is . . .

Keribrary with her suggestion about a dye job! I've given up on an amusing anecdote as an opener. No matter what I do, this story seems to want to start with an argument, so it will. And the hair color conversation at the beginning, while appearing trivial, will introduce the story's most significant conflict and be the biggest (yet still subtle) clue to whodunit until the big reveal at the end.

Ecoeclipse gets the honorable mention for the eco-guests suggestion, two of whom are important characters in this scene and throughout the book.

As Keribrary's prize, she gets to have a possibly unflattering caricature of herself written into the novel! Keri, your choice: appearance, name, personality, or the whole package. Just let me know in comments.

Thank you to all who made suggestions, especially Keri!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

And This Year, I Was Sick and it Rained

"Spring Break" is one of those concepts that seemed foreign to me until fairly recently. As a kid, we didn't really travel much over spring break. Our big family vacations - and we took big family driving vacations every year - were usually in the summer and after Christmas.

Starting my sophomore year of high school, spring breaks were for researching colleges. This project also took up part of summer vacations and much of the floor of my bedroom. By the time I'd finally chosen a college and moved my Fisk guides to a communal bookshelf in the upstairs hallway, I had 3 huge black garbage bags of college brochures and mailings to, er, recycle. (I threw them away. While wearing my Earth Day t-shirt, probably.)

In college - oops! wrong choice despite all that research - after using my work study money (lifeguarding, baby! it sure beat food service) for textbooks and my phone bills, I usually went home for spring break. My parents sure as heck weren't going to give me money to go off on vacation with my friends, and they weren't too keen on me accepting gifts of large value (like trips) from friends or boyfriends, either.

So "spring break" was really a "break" for me, not so much fodder for future embarrassing anecdotes involving toplessness and beaches.

Except, sort of, my junior year. My boyfriend of nearly 3 years was going to Cancun with his family, where they had a very nice condo timeshare here. Inexplicably, my parents allowed me to go along. Perhaps because I was 21?

Anyway, it was an eye-opening experience for me. For one thing, the whole trip was very much a lap-of-luxury experience. Aside from the sumptuous accommodations, we sometimes had bars or restaurants all to ourselves, lots of personal attention from waitstaff, alcohol alcohol alcohol like I'd never seen it flow before, my boyfriend's family like I'd never seen them before, and never any obvious concern about what the cost of any of this might be (financial or otherwise).

In the end, this trip did help me decide what I did not want my future real life to be like, though I do still have a bit of a taste for luxury.

And a mere 8 months later, the string bikini I bought my first morning in Mexico, after realizing that my tank-style racing suits were just not going to cut it in Cancun, helped me attract the notice of my now-husband. So the moral is: spring break travel will have unforeseeable consequences for your future. Throw caution to the wind, judiciously.

St. Louis Blog Carnival #9: Spring Break Memories

Thursday, March 27, 2008


It's warm and rainy here today, unlike Easter when it was cool and blizzarding off and on. Weird weather. Paul looked up the record highs and lows for St. Louis on March 23rd and learned that the record low was -3 and the record high was 96 (degrees Fahrenheit). We were right about in the middle of that enormous range this year, but with an unusual sky assault featuring snow, rain, sleet, tiny balls of ice, and other anomalies.

We were greeters at church Easter morning, and, of course, we have pictures of the girls in the their finery both before church and hunting plastic eggs in the living room later in the day (thanks to Nana for the dresses):

We've been having some strong weather around here this spring, including lots of rain and resultant flooding. (Note to Lisa: the nearby flooding has been in Valley Park. Which is, you know, a VALLEY. Though we live quite nearby, we're on top of a large ridge, on high ground, and have had no trouble with excess water.) (Note to everyone else: Lisa likes to tease me about our neighborhood.)

We did, however, enjoy getting as close as possible to experience the unusual event. (Note: the levies held! This was a non-tragic flood event.) The building in the background being licked by flood waters in this photo of Ellie is the Kirkwood water department.

Finally: note update to contest below (last paragraph). People I know: you have been warned.

Play With Me?

Argh! The exposition fairy has dumped her whole bag of boring exposition dust all over my first 5 pages, and it's really hard to clean it all out.

Usually, I have lots of great first lines that go nowhere. Unusually, I currently find myself with a very good idea of where I'm going but am having trouble finding just the right way to start.

So I'm having a little contest, if you're game. Winner gets to have a character named after her or him!

Chapter 1: I'm introducing all the main characters and setting the stage for the novel's developing conflict at a dinner party. So far, in addition to a lot of dialogue, there are long paragraphs about birding, open source software development, and a computer game that I've invented for the purposes of this novel. I have strategies for cleaning up the exposition, but would love to have a catchy way to begin, other than with the corny joke one of my characters has just made. Again. ("Red or white?" "Blue!" [holds up energy drink])

In the comments for this post, supply me with an opening gambit that I love (an idea, which I'll write into an opening line that fits with my narrator's voice) and you get to have a character named after you or your favorite pet. For people I know, winning will offer you the chance to have me remove the possibly offensive caricature of you from my novel. Deadline Sunday night. Hit me!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Writing Update

In case you have all been frustrated, not wanting to nag but really wondering how the novel is going, I'm finally ready to lay it all on the table.

I petered out on Seek Ye First shortly after starting it a few years ago because I was unhappy with the mystery and the pacing was all wrong. In short, it was a classic first attempt.

So I let it sit, and I worked on some short stories for a while, some essays, a chunk of a memoir, and another novel. By this time, I was ready to look at Seek Ye First again, this time with a bit more understanding of where I went wrong:
  1. I need to have a good sense of the real structure of a novel - a rough outline with the major mileposts spaced out for me - before I begin. Perhaps I'll get better with practice and eventually not need this crutch, but perhaps not. I like the idea of a set structure, and I think it helps keep the emphasis where I want it.
  2. I was writing the protagonist as a fantasy version of me - with my dream house in my dream neighborhood, for example - and that was getting in the way of her character development.
  3. And I was trying to squeeze too many political (actually, religious, in this case) opinions into the novel to make a point, which was really getting in the way of the story.
It was hard to let all that go, to throw away what I'd written, to completely rework the mystery itself, to create new characters, to drop the points I was trying to make. It took a lot longer than I'd expected to do character studies for each of my new characters, to develop a mystery that I'm happy with, and to outline the plot the way I want it.

But it feels a lot better to me now, and, after an evening at Borders hammering out the details of my outline, I'm finally done being paralyzed with fear and am ready to start writing tomorrow, three weeks later than I'd intended.

Hopefully, the writing will go smoothly now, with the amount of prep work I've done. We'll see tomorrow! For inspiration and influence, I'm reading Agatha Christie and Julie Kaewert.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Guy Not Taken

I haven't read Jennifer Weiner since Good in Bed. And, while I enjoyed the novel very much, I still haven't forgiven her for it. My lingering anger, plus the nastiness of the scene from In Her Shoes included at the back of my paperback copy of Good in Bed as a teaser for her second novel, put me off her work for a while.

Have you read Good in Bed? If you have, you probably remember that the main character is fat. I mean, really fat. Fat like she takes up more than her fair share of the seat on public transportation and people sneer at her. Fat like she goes to a physician for necessary medical weight loss assistance. Fat like people make comments, and she rarely gets dates, and when she does get a first via the internet, she never gets asked back for a second date.

The author goes on and on and on in this vein, and she does have some interesting things to say about being a fat young woman in America, taking care to show that it's not just how the character feels, but that her fatness is an objective state, noted by all. Then Weiner chickens out (because, like many of her characters, Cannie is loosely modeled on herself) and has the character tell us that that she's a size 14. 14! The size of the average American woman! So fat that everyone stares, that it's a given that she needs urgent medical help, that she oozes over onto neighboring bus seats. Whatever. I lost a lot of respect for Weiner over the weight thing, as she further reinforced harmful cultural weight attitudes.

(For the record, when I'm thin and fit enough to feel proud of my body, and a few people are quietly asking if I've been ill, or if I have an eating disorder, I am a size 10-12. That's what you get when have a 12-0-12 figure like mine; you'll never be a size 2. Currently, I am not thin and fit. I am wearing size 16 jeans, and I do not ooze anywhere, thankyouverymuch. I fit just fine in airplane seats and I am not in need of medical intervention, just a bit more exercise.)

I know that Weiner is a good writer and storyteller, but I just never got around to picking up another of her books (or seeing that movie with Cameron Diaz) until this weekend, when I gobbled up The Guy Not Taken, a collection of short stories by Weiner.

They're good, and they deal heavily with two main themes: divorce and the difficulties of being a mother to a very young child.

Weiner describes The Mother's Hour as being "as close to a horror story as I'll ever come," a good description of one of the scariest stories I've read in a long time. It's well-written and, like many of the stories, touches on some important issues, in this case ageism and, especially, classism. And motherhood and divorce.

This line, in particular, really resonated with me: She had, she realized, gotten out of the habit of loving him during the first few years of their daughter's life, when every minute of every day was a struggle, and while she'd learned to get along with him, she'd never learned to love him again.

Paul and I have spent a lot of time and money on therapy and on making sure that this doesn't happen with us, but I understand the sentiment oh so very well. It's so easy to focus on just getting through the days, just waiting for bedtime, for a little peace and quiet, for a moment to ourselves, for an end to the battles over diapers and potties and vegetables and indoor voices.

People always say, "It goes by so fast." And we hear, "Just hold on, it will pass." But what they're also really saying is, "Live in these moments. Try to enjoy them, feel them, experience them, share them, don't just endure them. Don't just look ahead to the next thing."

This is it. This is life. And there's no use waiting for it to get better: make a life of this collection of experiences you're living, no matter how difficult it seems. (Although, sometimes, I really do look forward to being able to tell the kids that I'm running out to Borders; please call me on my mobile if anything comes up and they need me.)

Even If You're a Plumber

Because I watched Season 4 of Project Runway, I now know that low-rise pants are on their way out, and I say: Thank God! It's about time!

Ellie feels the same way. She's beginning to develop definite preferences for things, which I love, and one of them is for her shirts to meet her pants. As she's a bit long-waisted, and styles being what they are, this has become an area of concern. She doesn't want an exposed midriff, and she doesn't want to feel like her pants are in danger of falling off.

Ellie will tug up on a pair of low-rise bikini underpants sent by her Nana and say, with great frustration, "It's not working!"

I think that pretty much nails it, right there.

I have a couple of very lovely friends who regularly expose their very lovely bottoms, but I don't think that seeing anyone's butt crack while they're sitting down in a pair of jeans is very lovely. (I include my own backside in this same prohibition, though I know I've been guilty of flashing my underpants upon occasion; it's simply very hard to find an entire wardrobe of shirts that are long enough paired with pants that stay high enough.)

I've long offered Ellie choices between acceptable alternatives, and it warms my heart to see her developing true preferences. She's never been a kid who cares if I put her milk in the blue cup or the yellow one, but lately, she really would prefer to be the green Hungry, Hungry Hippo. And she currently loves Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia above all other books (courtesy of our local library).

Most fun of all, Ellie now has two dolls with names. You might recall that many of Ellie's dolls have consistent names like, "Baby," and "Dolly." A few months ago, she inherited my first Cabbage Patch Doll, who is a little black boy named Edgar. She loves Edgar and calls him by his given name. Paul recently noticed that another of Ellie's dolls has a particularly distinctive name. She's an inexpensive little doll (plastic head, hands, and feet, soft body, about 6 inches tall) found near Ellie's stuffed stocking at my parents' house on Christmas morning, and her name is Nellie. Ellie hasn't been watching Little House on the Prairie, and while Paul and I know a couple of adult women named Nell, we don't believe that Ellie has ever met either of them. Somehow, however, she has decided that "Nellie" is a wonderful name for her new little doll, and she's perfectly right. It's a lovely name.

My girl has all-around good taste. Have I mentioned that she is completely uninterested in the Disney Princess hysteria? Bless her heart.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Author: Promote Thyself

Much is made of the need for authors to do self-promotion, and it's all true.

I worked in educational publishing for 10 years, which has some significant differences from trade publishing (although the publisher for which I worked, like many educational publishers, does publish some trade products and expects trade sales on many of its titles). From my perspective in both editorial and marketing at an educational publisher, author self-promotion can be a wonderful boost for sales. And publishers just simply don't/can't do all the promotion for a book. There are places that the author is better equipped to reach, either by merit of being the author or by simply not being a large multi-national corporation (or small, over-worked publicity department, or whatever). Author self promotion is even more important for trade titles, I believe, than educational ones.

One of the most obvious vehicles for author self promotion is a website. As a reader, I often prefer sites that are created and maintained by the authors themselves (or whomever they contract to do so) rather than those created by publishers, as long as the sites are current. Publisher owned sites are often focused on the newest releases and usually only mention the titles still in print and published by their own houses. They rarely contain updated information about where the author lives and what s/he is working on currently. (I'm not some crazed stalker, I'm talking about dust jacket style information.)

Some examples:

I read Laurell K. Hamilton's novels. Check out her own website and her publisher website. In my opinion, her website does what it needs to do: it's current and contains relevant information about her books and personal appearances. That said, while I doubt that it hurts her sales any, this simply doesn't look very professional. The Random House website looks much more professional, but it contains far less information, is updated less frequently, and only lists titles published with that publisher. In this case, I'll take substance over style, but not without making a few quips (those bats!).

I also read Patricia Cornwell. Her personal site is about as professional and slick as they come, yet I don't really like it. It's too focused on her newest release, and doesn't neatly catalog the author's whole body of work, delineating the various series and non-fiction titles. (Cornwell's publisher directs people to her site from theirs.)

Good author website: Sue Monk Kidd
Site that would be good, if only it weren't missing its content: Audrey Niffenegger
Brandon Sanderson obviously has a great site, but it's a bit too busy for my taste.

I love Julie Kaewert's Booklovers Mysteries. Love them! But it's very hard to find current information about the author or anything she's written since publishing the 6th novel in the series several years ago. Is she retired? Dead? I also enjoy reading Dorothy Cannell. Thank heavens for Wikipedia and someone else gathering available information into one place! Author websites should be the authoritative place for finding out what an author has written, what she's working on next, how to contact her with requests for appearances, etc.

What Dog Breed Are You?

I found this one way too much fun. Via Rob.

What dog breed are you? I'm a Border Collie! Find out at

Border Collie
The Achiever

You've heard about this "second-place ribbon" thing, but really don’t ever plan on getting one. Not a chance. Highly competitive, you keep one eye on the Best in Show prize and one on the rest of the pack, making sure you're always at least one paw ahead. You love your family and enjoy the company you keep, but you'd trade all of them in a heartbeat for a corner office and some meaty stock options. When you're not licking your professional coat, naked skydiving and triathlons keep you entertained. You idolize the top dog and will do so until you sniff out a way to take over the company and do a little "restructuring."

How do they know me so well? My only criticism: that shaggy collie coat! No, thank you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

In Sickness and in Health

They don't put that part in the vows just as filler. The sickness part is hard work! After 4 days of being mostly home-bound rather than being on an expected vacation, Paul and I are wiped out and a little snappish.

In addition to the expected miseries of being sick, there are additional miseries having to do with things around the house not stopping or slowing down for us. Like the fact that both girls have been healthy.

Never fear, though, Ada's got a touch of a cold now too. So maybe she'll be sick and cranky and need Mama a lot for the next few nights, just as I'm hoping to be able to start sleeping again.

Have I mentioned that this week is spring break for Ellie all week?

I wonder if maybe somebody will admit me to the hospital for the tail end of this cold? I really really could use the rest/break/vacation!

And my new book? For which I have readers waiting for a draft? Not making much progress, unless you count half-waking feverish panic dreams.

Back to the marriage for a moment, Paul and I have recently discovered HBO's new series In Treatment for free via Amazon Unbox. We are loving it. Loving it! Sometime in the middle of week 1, Paul turned to me and asked me to call our therapist (from whom we have been on hiatus since November) and set up another appointment. Apparently, we have work yet to do. That's true. But right now? Ugh, just getting showered and into clean clothes is a big day's work for me right now. Did I mention that I have a cold and I missed my vacation?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is It Hot In Here or Is It Just Half of Me?

Now that we're officially not going to Wyoming this weekend (sigh) I'll admit that I really am sick. The fever, the runny nose, the constant coughing, the general malaise. Ugh. Didn't I just get over this? Moan.

Paul and I are sniffling and one-upping each other's misery, while the girls are happy and energetic as ever, albeit with the occasional runny nose. I'm trying to convince Paul to actually take a - gasp! - sick day from work tomorrow. He agrees to stay home, but is leaning toward calling it a "vacation day." A fever does not a vacation make, dear.

Anyway, we have a fairly nice Braun ear thermometer, purchased after Paul and I found ourselves consistently unable to get a reasonable reading for our daughters (read: anything above 96 degrees) using the classic digital armpit model.

But it doesn't seem all that consistent to me. Or, maybe it is and I'm just inconsistent. But if I really want sympathy, I'll take my temperature in my left ear, which is usually about a degree higher than my right ear.

Ellie's temps are often different enough that I take both and use the higher one when calling the doctor's office, though I never remember whether it's the same ear that's higher. (I chalk this up to her extraordinarily small ear canals, which are still - at age 4 - smaller than Ada's were as a newborn.) Ada's temps were normal today, each ear measuring within a couple of tenths of the other. Paul claims that his measurements are usually similarly consistent.

So, is it just me, or is this a common problem with ear thermometers?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Irritating Tickle

I'm a little bummed and frustrated. Our new minivan - known as the Cool-Cool-Car or the Cah-Cah-Coo depending on which child you ask - turns 1 this month. It has almost 16,000 miles already, and we'd planned to push that up to 18,000 easy by the end of the month with a trip out to Wyoming to see Paul's parents this weekend.

We've only made the drive once before, last April when Paul was between jobs, but it went well so we thought we'd make it an annual event and Paul's parents' spring break seemed like an ideal time.

I like Paul's parents, I like travel, and I like Wyoming. And while a 19-hour (one way! without significant stopping!) trip is grueling, especially all in one shot with two little kids, I'm excited by the challenge.

So I've been psyched about this vacation for a long time. But now Paul's feeling a bit off, and not that excited about going, and there's snow in the forecast along our route, and . . .


No vacation for me.

(I continue to deny the slight tickle in my own throat and possible tiny little low-grade fever.)

When Paul takes a shift at the wheel, I get great writing time in. If the girls aren't sleeping, they're probably happily watching videos, and Paul is likely to be tuned into an unabridged audiobook on his iPod. A cushion on my lap to prop up my laptop, writing notebook open on the console beside me, feet up on the dash, I can write for hours. Blessed, uninterrupted hours with very few distractions. (Have you ever driven across Nebraska? Trust me about the distractions.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oh, She's Smart

Ellie is going though a resistance phase. She's pushing limits and pushing our buttons. Masterfully.

I get that it's an assertion of control. That's obvious from her constant rejoinder, "Mommy, whateryoudoingnow? Daddy, whateryoudoingnow?" as we try to transition her from one activity to the next, even if we've previously laid out the plan. This one is easy, we just go through the order of events again, helping her feel like she knows what's coming and has some control over it.

We also give her unstructured time for free play, regular choose-between-two-acceptable-options choices, warnings in advance of transitions, and, you know, love and hugs.

She's such a great kid: so thoughtful, so polite, so funny and sweet. If Ellie met you once, months ago, chances are very good that when she sees you next, she'll remember your name and the name of your child (even if that child is not currently with you, in which case she'll ask after him).

But at home . . .

"NOOOOOO!" Sadly, there's no way for me to demonstrate her demon-child voice in writing.

She knows exactly where to push and when, to get a response. Like resisting sleep at night (especially hot-button issue for Paul) and fooling around in the bathroom (especially hot-button issue for me). The last few nights, she has discovered a new one that really gets us both. To set the scene, let me start by explaining that Ellie sleeps in a pull-up, which she hates but is not physically ready to give up.

Ellie walks out of her bedroom at some point, naked from the waist down and saying, "I go potty!" as she heads for the bathroom. Soon thereafter, a puddle of urine is found in the middle of the bed, often soaking through the sheets, blankets, extra pad, and into the waterproof mattress cover. Pajama pants and DRY pull-up are right next to the bed, carefully discarded in advance of the scene.

Let me stress that this is purely behavioral, not accidental, physical, and not a waking dream of some sort.


Spring Forward

As a teenager and young adult, I preferred "Fall Back." Who wouldn't? An hour more sleep!

As a parent of young children, I've been extolling the virtues of "Spring Forward" for the same reason. Picture this: it's Sunday night, and the clock on the DVD player says midnight. "Time for bed!" you think to yourself. But your body feels like it's only 11:00, so you're really going to bed a bit earlier than usual. Then, on Monday morning, your children awake at what feels like their usual time to them, but is 7:00 according to the clock beside the bed! Bonanza! You feel like you've won twice, and you really are probably getting about a hour more sleep than normal.

Sunday night wasn't bad, but, sadly, last night didn't work quite the way I had hoped. Ellie's been in a fighting bedtime phase for a several weeks, which is frustrating and tiring. Then, for some reason, Ada woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to nurse for a long time. Soon after that Ellie got up for the day at some ridiculous hour, like 4:30 or something like that. At that point, things are all a bit fuzzy in my head, and Paul's too. At one point, he found her curled up in bed with us . . . wearing nothing on her bottom half. That could have been bad, but she was wide awake so we were safe. Predictably, by time to leave for school this morning, Ellie was a weepy, tired mess.

Here's hoping that tonight is better! Also, Paul's head is full of pressure and he's running a fever this morning. (Of course, he's at work.) There's a chance all this could throw a major wrench into our plans to take a pleasure drive of more than 2000 miles later this week.

Monday, March 10, 2008

To-Do List

I've been meaning to mention this since, like, November or something (oops). But now that there's no doubt I've missed all the big gift-giving holidays, I'll finally plug a fun book that published late last year and included a little bit of me.

Are you familiar with the To-Do List Blog? Well, the creator, Sasha Cagen, decided to turn the blog into a book (To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soulmate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us) and wanted submissions. I emailed Sasha with an off-the-cuff, funny (if I do say so myself) anecdote about, well, myself. And, hey, presto, she wanted more.

So I sent the 6-page table that I'd created for our 2005 trip to Disney World (not to be confused with the streamlined 2006 version or the we-took-a-year-off 2007 version).

And she asked some questions and I answered them and ta-da! See me in Chapter 8 of the book . . . which just happens to be entitled "Obsessive-Compulsive." Hmm, is it that obvious?

I have a few paragraphs of introduction, then one page of my chart. Sadly, due to Disney copyright issues, you can't see all the amazing formatting I did, which included downloading various appropriate Disney fonts and clip art images to decorate the pages. You'll just have to take my word for how awesome and useful this document was, slipped into waterproof sleeves and tied to our stroller.

We had all of our travel information, meal reservation information, times for the relevant parades and shows, park hours, must-see attractions, etc. all laid out at a glance for a relaxed, stress-free, customized vacation.

If I do say so myself.

Anyway, I got a copy of the book for being a contributor, and I ordered myself another one because I didn't know I was getting a free copy. I've decided to keep them both, because the book really is a lot of fun to read. Aren't you dying to know what's included in the "Sex" chapter?

Verdict: fun book, highly recommended. If I do say so. Myself.

Fiction writing update: research and plotting taking much longer than expected for Seek Ye First. Hopefully I'll be able to start writing on Monday or Tuesday, and go straight through. I've never done so much prep work or lined up so many ducks in advance before, so hopefully that will be a good thing once the words start flowing.

Nonfiction writing update: two personal essays accidentally published in really good books within the last year, both related to blogging: To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soulmate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us (Sasha Cagen, Simon & Schuster) and Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives (Kathryn Lynard Soper, Woodbine House).
Hmm. Perhaps I'd have some success at actually seeking out work too, instead of basically just waiting for it to fall into my lap. Nah.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Splendadly Uncomfortable

No, my spell-checker is not broken. Alternative title: If My Husband Had Gotten My Ice Cream Order Right, Ada's Birth Story Might Have Been Very Different. But that's kind of long and cumbersome.

See, I've had some experience with no-sugar-added milkshakes with Splenda. This experience led me to believe that one such dessert might be of assistance to me in kick-starting labor when Ada was nearly two weeks over-due and my doctor had scheduled me for an induction.

I fully agreed with the necessity of getting her out into the world, but would have preferred avoiding Pitocin, so I tried several DIY methods to start labor, to no avail.

One night, after a dinner of very spicy Mexican food, I sent Paul out to get me an ice cream milkshake, made with Splenda. He brought back back a different flavor of ice cream, in, if I recall correctly, concrete form. There was still Splenda, but it had no effect on me. Nor has any other serving of Splenda since. My body has become accustomed to it! I thought.

Slightly tired of sugar-free tapioca (Lent is almost over, right?) I asked Paul to bring me home a no-sugar-added milkshake after Ellie's gymnastics class tonight. He did so, and it was delicious.

It also made me cold, so I had a cup of powdered cappuccino sweetened with Splenda to warm back up.

And I've spent the last couple of hours glad that I don't have anywhere else I need to be.

It would be an interesting experiment to try to determine whether it's the milkshake form that causes the reaction, or whether it was the two different servings of Splenda tonight. (Can it be possible that I've never done that before?) But I think I'll save that experiment until next time I'm trying to kick start labor, or maybe just really need to get out of jury duty. Just kidding. I don't mind doing my civic duty.

Gotta go.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

CNN Should Hire Me

I wouldn't keep saying, "McCain, Obama, and Hillary,"
and nor would I mistranslate "mano y mano" (hand-to-hand) as "mano y womano" when talking about Obama and Clinton.

Conservatives and pundits keep saying that the Republicans are in a better place than the Democrats since they have a nominee while their rivals are still duking it out.

I think there's another way to look at this.

1) The Democrats are going to be making a lot more headlines, and in this country it seems that any publicity really is good publicity.

2) Look at the endorsements McCain got today. Are these really helpful?

3) McCain has to defend himself against attacks from two opponents, while preparing attacks against two opponents. I'm sure he'd run a different campaign if he could target just one of them.

4) Neither Clinton nor Obama wants to be seen as being the bad guy beating up on the other Democrat, so they're both likely to focus a fair amount of heat on McCain to prove that they've got what it takes to go up against the Republican rival. (And as Bush's heir apparent, supporting most of his policies, there's plenty to go after.)

On a related note, McCain's big strength is with moderates, and there's some concern that he'll pull moderate Democrats, or those uncomfortable with Clinton or Obama. I think he'll lose those moderate votes in the search for stronger evangelical support if he chooses Huckabee to round out the ticket, as seems likely.

Can you tell? I'm feeling a little interested in politics again. I'm betting there will be a couple of TVs and a couple of big parties over here again this fall!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Snowed In

Our subdivision is at the top of a hill, and, in the middle of the neighborhood, our house is at one of the highest places within the subdivision. As I am not a runner, and our ranch-style house is not a big lightening magnet, the only time I take notice of of this is when St. Louis gets its periodic big floods: whew, glad we don't have to worry about that!

That is, until it took Paul nearly 2 hours to get home from work today after leaving his office shortly before noon. His commute is usually no more than 20 minutes, and today he spent the last hour of his white-knuckled drive within a mile of our house, trying to find a way up the hill. Aha! A snowplow, finally! (The snow was deeper than the Passatt, which did make driving difficult.) Alas. Cars stuck on the hill, forcing him to turn around again.

Eventually, he did make it to our subdivision, to our street, but from the bottom. He walked a couple hundred feet to change his clothes, don some gloves, and pick up a shovel. Whereupon he shoveled his way two houses up the street, then up our driveway. (His office never did officially close for the day.)

The girls and I stayed snug and warm inside all day until after nap time, when we all trooped outside to experience the deep, heavy snow with sled, angels, and a large snowman as the snow was beginning to taper off.

When the sleet first turned to snow this morning, I pulled down the crock pot and started browning stew meat, so we had a warm cozy dinner - along with Paul's homemade biscuits - after playing outside this afternoon.

Also, I managed to keep my personal goal of not losing my temper with the girls at all today, despite staying up late last night and running around the bed in a sleepy panic to answer the 5:45 am phone call alerting us that school was canceled. Tonight, I'm keeping the handset on my side of the bed, just in case.

For cuteness sake, here's a picture of the girls in their matching outfits after church on Sunday. I mention that they're matching because it's not immediately obvious given Ada's much darker shirt. Witness the bottle of water that they're sharing, and Ada's habit of purposefully spilling water all over herself while drinking, and saying, "Mess! Mess!" and there you have it.


Whenever members of our church have babies, a woman named Sharon calls to set up a good time to visit. She arrives bearing a dinner and a baby blanket, as well as coos and praises for baby and parents. It's a lovely gesture.

The blankets are all the same: pastel fleece with knotted edges. Ellie's is pink, and unusually large. ("A special blanket for a very special baby!" Sharon said.) Ada's is yellow and about 18 inches by 12, which is the perfect size for a snuggley to be carried around the house without dragging on the floor and tripping toddler feet.

Ellie has no current interest in her blanket, so I made an emergency substitution once when Ada's yellow blanket was in the laundry basket. Ada is a child who loves to hold a lovey - or two or three - whenever possible, though she will (usually) happily accept substitutions. Dolls, toys, stuffed animals, blankets, books, small bottles of lotion, all have taken their turns.

Right. So imagine my surprise when one day last week I picked up Ada from her crib after her nap only to find her lunging back down toward her mattress, crying like she was physically attached to it and I was ripping her away.

"What's the matter, sweetie, do you want your doll?" I handed it to her and she cuddled it tightly but continued to reach for something in the bed, saying her word for blanket when pressed.

"Oh, you want your blanket. Here it is, honey." I handed her the yellow blanket, both because it is hers and because of its aforementioned perfect size for hauling around the house.

No, no, no, this would not do at all. "Pink!" she said, reaching for Ellie's blanket. And so you have it. I have a 13-month-old who can label similar items by color, and Ellie's short one baby blanket.

For her part, Ellie is doing some amazing things as well. She still doesn't usually answer general questions, like, "What did you do in school today?" But a more specific question, like, "What did you play with in the sensory table at school today?" got the appropriate answer, "Dinosaur bones!" rather than the usual reenactment of a scene from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Generally, she's just looking and acting very grown-up lately. I can really see the little girl she's becoming, with occasional glimpses of the teenage she will be someday (so help me, God).

As always, it continues to be a constant struggle to remember not to talk down to my children, subconsciously assuming that they can only comprehend as well as they can speak. Knowing that this is not so is much harder than acting on it at all times.

Fortunately, Ellie's on the case, helping me out with daily reminders by way of perfect mimicry.

"Good job, Mommy," she says, clapping for me when I successfully complete a trip to the toilet, or, "Good singing," when I burst out with one of her favorite songs. My current favorite is, "Try again!" when I've done something she really likes and would like to repeat, like one verse of Ring-Around-The-Rosie (which, despite popular belief, is not about the plague) or an especially funny dance move/silly face/tickle attack.

They're perfectly wonderful, perfectly adorable, perfectly delightful. Why, then, do I have such a hard time going to bed at a reasonable hour, so as to better have the patience to enjoy them the next day?

Monday, March 03, 2008

StL Bloggers Carnivals #8 and #9

I Do Love To Host . . .

StL Bloggers Carnival #8

St. Louis is such an old city, and so Catholic, I was sure that there had to be lots of old ghost stories and interesting quirks about the place. I'm not necessarily talking about Cities of the Underworld, but I was thinking, maybe, those tunnels under the park.

Or, at least, the story of Lemp Mansion or that time time the devil came to St. Louis.

So, as host of the February StlBloggers Carnival, I issued this challenge: I want to learn more about my adopted home town. I've lived in St. Louis since 1993, but I still don't know very many of its unique urban legends. Growing up, all the kids in the towns where I lived knew where an unlikely grisly murder had taken place, the source of paranormal events, that one railroad bridge where everything looks exactly the same to either side, and so forth. St. Louis must have *lots* of stories like these!

Perhaps, however, we all live in a land of brand-spanking-new strip malls, and no interesting bits of unique St. Louis quirk remain.

Except, of course, for the one that John at TransylvanianDutch tells us about in The Book House: Say Hello to Valerie.

So I'll try again with March!

StL Bloggers Carnival #9

The Carnival Rules:

Interested STL Bloggers should write a new post on the stated theme by the specified deadline. They should then email the host at the provided email address with the following information:

1) Name of Blogger
2) Permalink URL of blog post
3) Title of Blog Post
4) URL of Blog
5) Title of Blog
6) Would you be interested in volunteering to be the next host? Yes/No
6a) If Yes – what would your theme be?

The host will then take all the submissions that meet the simple requirements of addressing the specified theme, and having been posted between the announcement and the deadline – and link to them from one post, with some annotative comments for each. This post shall be posted at, and if the host wishes, at their own blog. Participants should expect a delay of a few days between the deadline and this post.

The host will also choose the next host from the volunteers in any fashion they desire.

STLBloggers Blog Carnival #9
Host: Sarahlynn from Yeah, but Houdini Didn't Have These Hips
Contact: ms_sarahlynn [at] yahoo [dot] com
Deadline: March 31st at midnight. Email should be dated in the month of March
Theme: Spring Break Memories