Sunday, June 29, 2008

I Have a Cold

Saturday night found me curled up in bed with my laptop, reading an erotica e-book. It was research, I swear. No, really, it was. And here's how you know. My cold is stuck at that obnoxious nose-running-like-a-faucet stage, which prompted me, once all witnesses were safely asleep, to shove Kleenex up my nostrils. What's less sexy than that?!

I am so tired right now, but before I can post this and go to bed, apparently I need to reinstall Internet Explorer. I am seriously considering getting a Mac next time.

While I'm drifting hazily on exhaustion and thinking about technology and how much it can suck, I'll mention that it's absolutely not comfortable to curl up on my side in bed while reading my laptop's screen. And this is why I don't think that e-books - while they serve a valuable role in the market and can be quite convenient - are going to completely replace books anytime soon.

Sure, there are e-readers that are less cumbersome than laptops or PCs. But those are expensive little devices that require occasional recharging and internet connectivity. And they're a lot more costly to replace than a $6.99 paperback left in an airplane. They're also a little harder to share. So, sorry, I can't slip you the erotica e-book that I just finished, or at least not legally.

To recap, I'm tired and I have a cold. G'night.

Friday, June 27, 2008

'Tis the Never-Ending Season

Things younger than Republican Presidential candidate (oh, and did I forget to mention war hero?) John McCain

"Am I being 'age-ist'? Maybe. But maybe not. The world is a pretty complicated place right now and I’m thinking that it’s not such a great time to elect our oldest President ever. So sue me."

Back in 2000, I had some favorable impressions of John McCain. The whole "Straight Talk Express" approach was one I found refreshing. I got really really angry by what Bush's campaign did to McCain in South Carolina.

I got even angrier when McCain turned around, let Bush put an arm around his shoulders, and stood by that President for the next 8 years.

And now I know that he is willing to say and do just about anything to get elected. I have no idea what McCain really does stand for, let alone what he'd actually do while in office. I used to think he was a moderate, but after perusing his voting record I realize that was just more pretty packaging.

I'm rather left with the impression that he just wants to be President.


And that doesn't even touch on his anger management issues.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Emailing and Blogging

How many email accounts do you use? (Check out the handy poll to the right.)

I have 5 different email accounts that I use. These are all current accounts and none forwards to another; if I want to see what email has arrived at, say, the account I use for friends and family only, or the one I use for online ordering, etc. I have to log in and check that account individually.

In addition to all the other usernames, accounts, and passwords I have scattered about the various computers, subscriptions, and internets of the world, it's a bit much, really. But it can be so very helpful to see who's got what information about me and how they're using it.

I've not got much else to say tonight, because I want to go to bed and I've been busy elsewhere.

I'm a big believer in truth, especially in writing. As you're all aware, I share some pretty naked stuff here and, if you've read them, in my personal essays. I respond to real, soul-baring truth in others' writing and strive to achieve it in my own. And while I don't publish my home address at the top of each post, I don't really blog anonymously, either. Friends, church members, and my mother-in-law read my blog, amongst others.

So I've been experimenting with a little anonymous blog-like public writing elsewhere, and that's been a little fun.

Because while I'm comfortable standing naked before you, a gal's got to keep a few secrets, dontcha know. And in today's world, it's possible to keep secrets while sharing them openly. Brilliant! How perfect for the modern inhibited exhibitionist.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Don't Like Bugs

I loved almost everything about my first apartment after college. Before college and during school breaks, I lived in my parents' house. During college, I lived in the dorms. So in mid-May 1997, I moved into my first place, with one of my college roommates. (That part was a mistake, although a roommate was necessary.)

The one thing I didn't love about my new apartment - from the day we moved in - were the roaches. I'd never really encountered these before, but I definitely knew them when I saw them, and I complained to management repeatedly. And they sent over exterminators. Repeatedly. Eventually, the roaches were gone and indeed for the rest of the year I lived in that apartment, we'd find dead bugs on the windowsills and near our front door, but never in our apartment. Yikes.

Until, towards the end, we got moths. These were those little bitty moths that come home, sometimes, in larvae form, hidden in some sort of grain - like imported rice, for instance - from the grocery store. Nothing worked to get rid of these moths.

We moved.

Our new place was amazing. Because I'm comfortable repeating my mistakes, I had the same roommate for the first year I lived in what I called The Home of the Gods. Paul and another college friend lived right downstairs. There were no bugs.


One day I noticed a bad smell in my kitchen. At the time, I was bored to tears with my job and had a boss who lived and worked in Philadelphia, as did her boss, so there was really no big rush for me to get to work in the mornings. So I went back to bed after Paul left for work, I'd take my shower and putter around the place in a state of undress (by this time, my roommate had given way to a much better roommate, who had in turn given way to Paul). I often delayed going to work by cleaning, especially the kitchen.

The kitchen was clean, yet it still stank. I took everything out of the pantry; no culprits there. Over the next few weeks, the stink got worse and worse. Then I started seeing fruit flies, lots of them. I do the grocery shopping and I don't like fruit, so we rarely had any. We didn't at that point. No fruit, nothing open and organic on the counters or in the pantry, yet still, the reek, and still the ever-increasing plague of gnats.

Then, one morning, I followed the stench - which was, by then, strong enough to make my eyes water (and we were eating out a lot) - to the empty drawer below the silverware drawer. Which, at some point, I'd apparently decided would make a great storage place for a bag of potatoes.

I could explain what I saw and smelled when I opened that drawer, but The Cranky Librarian has already done a wonderful job describing a similar scene. I'll leave you with the words maggots, mush, and ohmygod. I slammed the drawer shut and went to work.

Later that evening, Paul and I tackled it together, and when I say that we tackled it together, I mainly mean that I stood nearby offering a combination of moral support, unneeded advice, and a steady supply of cleaning products.

And the gnats went away, but we soon discovered a tiny, brown, vaguely ant-like bug in our pantry, floating in our cereal bowls, burrowing into our wooden pantry doorjamb. We took to storing food on the kitchen table or in the frig, all tightly sealed of course, but nothing worked and we could not get rid of those little bugs.

We moved.

Actually, we'd been married a few months at that point, and we bought our first house. We had a pest guy come check it out before we closed on the house, and that was helpful but he had a different idea of acceptable pest levels than I do

"You have baby brown recluse spiders living in that tree in the living room, but don't worry. There's some sort of bigger spider in there too that's eating them before they grow up."

Naturally, I had him treat the tree - which had come with the house and now I knew why - then made Paul chop it up and remove it to the curb, along with the drapes. We repainted and had the carpet steam cleaned. And now we have a fabulous pest guy - with whom I'm on a first name basis - come by regularly to make sure that we continue to have no problems.

And we haven't moved for 7 years.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rollin' Down the River

We don't live near the river, any river, so the current flooding isn't affecting us directly. But we do enjoy watching the high water, so we headed downtown last week before leaving for Chicago. We had a lovely drive over the Poplar Street Bridge, through East St. Louis, and back over the MLK bridge, past the new Lumière Place, through The Landing, and as close to The Arch as we could get via the roads (which wasn't very close). Of course, we forgot our camera.

As the river got closer to cresting here, we crossed the Mississippi again on Sunday afternoon. This time, I stuck my right arm out the window and took a few pictures:

Looking north, showing the east (Illinois) bank. Um, the water isn't supposed to come right up to the railroad tracks like that. And this is the Mighty Mississippi; it's deep and it's fast and it's huge.

Looking west at Missouri. Here's a shot of downtown St. Louis. There's supposed to be a road and a parking lot between those steps in front of the arch and the water.

Here are the road and parking lot.

The flood is very impressive here in the city, but it's not nearly as big as the great flood of 1993, which, incidentally, was when I moved to St. Louis. 15 years ago. Little wow.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wee Bonny Lassies at Play

We spent the weekend in Chicago (technically, Oak Brook) for the Illinois St. Andrews Society annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games.

It was a reunion, of sorts, for my whole family (my parents, my sisters, our husbands, and the three grandkids) on the anniversary of our trip to Scotland last summer.

Oak Brook is a lovely area, the Games were fun, and we had a wonderful time. It was great getting tipsy with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law in the hotel bar after the girls had gone to bed. It was great having the whole family together. (*more below)

Sleeping in a single hotel room is not great, though. Ada doesn't sleep as well as she does at home, and when she wakes I'm too quick to go get her - not allowing her as much time to soothe herself back to sleep as I would here - because I'm worried about her waking her sister and all the neighbors.

So the first night we got up at 2:30 (!!) and the second night at 4:30 (!) Both sucked, of course. I'm tired, and bedtime with Ellie was a bit rough tonight. But hopefully we'll be back on what passes for our regular schedule tomorrow.

(*this is below) It was especially great to see my niece, Arria, and to watch her interacting with my kids. Arria was born the day after Adelaide, so they'll always have that special bond. And, in surprising news (to all!) my sister is due again early next year, around the time that Arria and Adelaide turn 2.

I should mention that this was not the sister with whom I was getting tipsy at the bar.

And that I am not pregnant along with her this time.

Kissing cousins


More sisters

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Friday Photo Blogging

We've been at the pool every day this week so far. Ada has swimming lessons 4 mornings a week for 2 weeks, and we've made that into a whole morning's entertainment. Twice a week, Ellie is in summer school and I go river walking against the current in the lazy river after Ada's lesson, with the baby serving as extra resistance/arm toning. The other two mornings, Ellie waits nicely on the pool deck, then we break for snack, then all play together in the water for a while before heading home for lunch.

This morning, something unpleasant happened to me during the break portion of the morning swim session. An old man asked if my girls were my grandchildren. Seriously! Ellie is 4-1/2 and I am 33! I suppose that if I'd gotten pregnant at 14 and my fictional daughter had done the same, it would be possible. Hardly likely, but possible. Sheesh.

Moving away from that and back to the pretty pictures of young girls not aged beyond their years by motherhood.

Hats and rash guards (and, yes, that is a freakishly large pool bag)

Ada starts out shy of the water, but warms up after a while:

Stop. Shower Time!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mystery Writer?

It has been a long time since I've talked about my current novel. Let me assure you that's not because it's going so smoothly.

I know my characters well, and I like them. (Even the not-so-nice ones.) I know my plot, and I like it, too.

But I hate what I'm writing and how I'm writing it.

I don't know if this is "writer's block" because I have an outline and I can force myself to sit down and choke out the appropriate number of words to complete the scenes I anticipated writing with excitement when I plotted out the novel (which I didn't do in too much detail, because I wanted to leave open the possibility of surprise and excitement, even for me).

But I'm certainly stuck in the doldrums. I am bored to tears with what I'm writing, though I think the story and characters are viable. I wonder if a writer's workshop would help.

Which leads me to wonder more deeply: Can I write a mystery? Can I even write at all? Have I just been deluding myself? Perhaps I'll forever be an almost-writer: pretty good, not good enough.


When we got rid of our gargantuan coffee table and replaced it with . . . nothing (more room for children to play! less temptation to have snacks within arm's reach!) that left me with quite a bit of homeless stuff. Stuff like: notecards and stamps, pens and checkbooks, chapsticks and nail buffers. What to do?

I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a few decorative storage boxes to slide underneath an end table. I found some really cute ones, on sale, that look like an aged, rubbed dark brown leather/suede.

In fact, I think they're covered with real leather.

That maybe came from a dead skunk. Like, roadkill dead.

Because, in the olfactory quiet of my own home, these boxes stink. And they're getting worse with age (I've had them for a couple of months, now).

Have any of you ever run into a household item that reeks when it shouldn't and can't be submerged in hot, soapy water?

Do you have any advice for me?

We're reevaluating our budget right now, in light of our unexpected new car payment (gulp) so I'm thinking that "buy new boxes!" isn't going to be the solution.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What the Girls Are Saying

Ellie: That's cool.
Ada: Sure. (You'll have to imagine the accompanying emphatic head nod.)

When they say these things, I don't hear myself coming out of their mouths. It's later, when I use one of my most frequent stock responses (see above) that I hear myself echoing them, though I know it's technically the other way around.

This leads to me saying my own phrases slightly differently, as I inevitably mimic their unique inflections. It's a bit disconcerting and stereophonic, sort of a house of mirrors with simple words.

But even more often than they mimic me, each girl has a plaintive cry that she uses dozens of times a day and that is uniquely hers.

Ellie: Can't do it!
Ada: I stuck!

Both mean the same thing: Dearest mother, your immediate attention and assistance are requested here.

Ada's in the 1-year-old climbing monkey stage, which is fun to watch. And she still talks a lot. For example, she runs out to see me after her bath, dripping wet and trailing her towel behind her. "Bath!" she says. "Daddy! Splash! Ducky!" With few words, she's managed to paint a very clear picture of one of her day's most enjoyable interludes.

But her biggest developmental explosion right now is in fine motor. Ada drinks unassisted (and one-handed) from an open cup. A week ago, I couldn't hand her a bowl of crackers in the kitchen for her to carry to her little snack table or she'd tip the bowl and spill them all for Lizzi pug along her way. This week, it's no problem. And her stacking/nesting boxes are hugely fun right now. She stacks seven boxes on her own before the stack gets too high and it's more fun to knock them down than try to figure out a way to be taller and continue stacking.

Ellie's suddenly a big girl, and I totally didn't see that happening. She can go wash her hands by herself, and climb up into her own booster seat at dinner. Our conversations all have a heavy subtext involving control (more on discipline later) and she's spontaneously answering questions with complete sentences more than she ever has before.

I was so afraid of summer, thinking that I'd be so bored and we'd go stir crazy here. I still dislike late afternoons (after "nap" and before dinner) but that window is relatively short because no matter what we have for a snack as late as 4:00, they're both starving and whimpering for dinner by 6:00. We're going out to do interesting things in the mornings (swimming lessons, park, zoo, Magic House, shopping, library, and the museum of transportation, just in the last two weeks!) and I am absolutely, totally not bored.

Most of the time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Restaurant Review

I'm not an expert on Spanish food or tapas. I am, however, an expert on family dining. One parent hastily packing up food and waving for the check while another parent hurries misbehaving/sick/cranky/tired children out to the car. Both parents hastily shoveling comfort food into their mouths in the hopes of finishing soon after the children. Desperate parent distracting other diners with simulated gasps of horror while singing, "There's a spider on the floor, on the floor." Trust me, the terrible signing is better than terrible whining.

So even though my previous experiences with Spanish food have been . . . uninspiring so far, I was so excited to go to Modesto on the Hill on Saturday night that I prepared by eating a slice of pizza at 3:00 pm, just so that in case it sucked and no one else wanted dessert, at least I wouldn't starve.

I'd eaten at Modesto once before, you see. But it was for work and the paella dishes took forever (though perhaps that was just my perception of the passage of time) and I don't think I actually ever even saw a menu. Nor could I quite hear the server, way down at the end of the long table where I was seated, unfortunately far away from my boss.

This weekend's experience couldn't have been further from that one. First of all, I had quite a different frame of reference. THERE WERE NO CHILDREN. Not at my table, and not at any table near mine - though I was sitting near a pregnant woman, so you might quibble with my previous statement.

My kids are so fabulous. I love being a mom, and the girls have never been as much fun as they are right now.

But it's still fun to go out without them occasionally. To an adult place. Not that kind of adult place.

Our friends brought their two kids (almost 6 and almost 4) over to our house, and a fully grown up and dependable babysitter both families know and love came over to feed the kids pizza, put Ada to bed, and supervise the 3, 4, and 5 year-old. All that went great, and that's enough about that because this is about me!

I was out in our new grown-up car - at that time still without car seats - with other grown-ups, eating grown-up food and drinking grown-up drinks.

The food was almost indescribably delicious, especially the Aceitunas a la Sevillana, Dátiles Rellenos, and Queso de Cabra al Horno. The hands-down table favorite tapas dish was the Pinchos Morunos. OK, almost everything was perfectly fabulous. The only dishes I didn't love were the Bienmesabe (so environmentally evil and so fishy-tasting) and a rib dish whose name I don't remember.

And they made a delicious cappuccino, and everyone wanted dessert!

I think parents complain about being parents a lot and I've been trying to focus more on the positive. I chose to have a family, I wanted these children, and I love them with all of my heart. Sure, it's hard work sometimes. But it's much easier and better when I focus on the fun of it rather than thinking of my life as what happens after the babies go to sleep.

Still . . . going out with other adults and doing adult-type things - no, not those adult-type things. Though it might be fun to do those without one ear cocked for nearby children too -

I digress.

It's good to have some balance.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Photo Blogging

From our house to The Magic House:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Meet the Houdini Family

Pyzam Family Sticker Toy
Create your own family sticker graphic at

Also, check out my new Agents and Editors Blogroll down at the bottom of the sidebar. Woo-hoo, high praises for Google Blogger and Reader compatibility!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Although I might now be a spoiled rich girl, I have not forgotten my roots. (You do notice the tongue stuck firmly in my cheek, right? Whatever else I might do, I tend to take myself lightly.) Tonight I drove a hybrid car for the first time, and I enjoyed it very much.

The part where the engine stops (apparently) running when the car is stopped, however, kept freaking me out. I'm sure I'll get used to this, but my history with cars that die when they stop is not one that involves vehicles functioning well. I used to drive an old VW Rabbit that died whenever you hit the clutch unless you gave it a little gas simultaneously. This made approaching 4-way stops and driving in rush hour traffic especially challenging as I had to pretend that I had three feet. Ah, the good old days. When I leased my first new car, a standard, entry-level Saturn SC2, I thought I was living in the lap of luxury. And I was, for an editorial assistant with student loans and no independent wealth!

I was out on my own tonight, in the new car, because it was Greater St. Louis Sisters in Crime "Get Your (Right) Gun" night at Top Gun Shooting Range in Imperial, Missouri.

I had a great time and learned a lot (though a nice chunk of the material was familiar to me thanks to Lori L. Lake's guest blogging at The Graveyard Shift) but I'll include just the personal injury report for now.

By the end of my time at the range, I was flinching badly with each shot. The instructor assumed it was because of the recoil, and that was partly true. (I'd moved up from a .22 semi-automatic pistol to the same model 9mm that the St. Louis County Police carry.) But mostly it was because the casings kept attacking me.

Several of them landed on my head or on my arm. One somehow got behind both my glasses and safety glasses, and others must have have hit my forehead, because it's streaked with soot. My (formerly favorite) white shirt is a bit charred in front. And, worst of all, two fresh casings went straight down my neckline, burning my chest! I have a couple of painful little blisters to show for this, though they just look like blemishes from afar. The weird thing is that I chose the shirt because it does NOT have a stretched out neckline and fits up above the collarbone, as I prefer. My shooting partner wasn't having the same problem, but the instructor said that the issue was with the gun, not with my stance.

Anyway, it was a GREAT program and I had a wonderful time, malicious casings notwithstanding. And then I got to drive home in the fabulous "new" car, which is especially great because we haven't had to start paying for it yet (with the exception of the check that passed from Geico to the dealership via our checking account).

It wasn't just the shiny hybrid car in the parking lot that probably stood out at the range. I wore khakis and black Danskos, carried a canvas bag that says, "Fall Into A Good Book!" and walked in carrying a latte from Starbucks. (Ah, latte. Is there any more wonderful food on this earth? I think it's better than pizza.) And so we end with a reprisal of the spoiled rich girl image.

The big surprise, of course, was that none of these things really stood out, at all. Because, though we on the left love stereotypes at least as much as our friends on the right, gun lovers don't fit into neatly categorized little boxes, either. And there was a clearly marked recycling box right behind the firing stalls for empty ammo boxes.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Well, New to Us

Cool-cool-car, meet the new-new-car!

As we spent hours today on the car issue, I started keeping a mental list of how car accidents are inconvenient.
  1. Bodily and emotional injury
  2. Time and anxiety of dealing with police, police reports, and insurance companies
  3. Inconvenience of dealing with lack of vehicle and rental car companies
  4. Car shopping
  5. Car buying
  6. Registering the new vehicle

I haven't been to the DMV yet, but each of the others has taken - literally - hours.

For example, the insurance company was only responsible for 5 days of rental car use after handing over the check for the totalled Passatt. Today was the last day for the rental car, and today we bought the new car. Great timing! But. The rental car place was near Paul's work, not near our home. And we couldn't get there before closing time, because we were busy buying the new car. So we had to drive nearly 20 miles round trip to drop off the rental car after dinner. Except. There was no after-hours drop-box, the keys have to be returned before 9:00 am, and both Paul and I have 8:00 am appointments elsewhere. So we drove to another Enterprise location. Again, no drop box. We quickly realized that the company has changed their policy and removed the boxes. Still, we drove to yet a third location, this one near Paul's am off-site meeting, so that we could leave the car tonight and he can drop off keys in the morning.

Total time spent? Nearly 2 hours on driving around alone. We won't get into the gas that cost. Oh, cost.

Cost is another huge inconvenience of having a car accident. Cost of gas for car shopping (and rental car returning), of car buying and tax-paying and registering, of meals eaten out while car shopping and buying, of new extended warantees and service plans, of interest rates and finance charges.

All when we were quite happy with our other car. That Passatt was still all shiny sliver and black inside. The leather looked just like it did when it was new. Ah, well.

We like the New New Car an awful lot, and the mileage is suburb - better than expected. (Also, unlike the VW, it doesn't drink premium.) Plus it's got some extra fancy features like the 6-cylinder engine, the wood-grain detailing, and the navigational system.

This is the third car Paul (as the unfortunate driver each time, though we do share driving time) has totaled in the last 8 years (though only one was his fault, and that one involved ice). Here's hoping for a prolonged hiatus from this sort of inconvenience.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


In interesting fiction, characters usually have schedules that would wear a normal person right out. I mean, "and then I went home and laid on the couch for two hours before pouring myself a bowl of cereal and attacking my laundry" isn't exactly page-turning excitement, flat prose aside. Since I'm about to detail my entire weekend for you, it's a good thing that this one was paced more like commercial fiction than like, say, my idea of a good time.

Friday was a day of exciting storms, followed by dinner with a friend and his new girlfriend. They stayed late, which was fun, except . . . well, I was starting to feel a little off.

Immediately after they left I realized that I was unpleasantly ill, presumably with whatever felled Paul last weekend. The problem with that was that I was planning to leave the house around 6:30 on Saturday morning to drive down to Cape Girardeau for the Heartland Writers' Guild Conference. After setting out some things for our neighborhood yard sale.

Paul woke me at 6:15, whereupon I nursed Ada and went straight back to sleep. In the house with my family. It was restless sleep. Paul took a couple of the yard sale things down, and left them out with honor-system envelopes. After listening to Ada crying for a while - she was upset that she wasn't getting her morning nap - I gave up on my own sleep goal and snuggled Ada into her crib.

While she napped, Ellie and Paul went to go get a babysitter while I readied a few things around the house, tried to rest some more, then showered and got dressed when Ellie and Paul left for gymnastics and the sitter was having trouble keeping Ada happy. My precious younger child knew that I was in the house, and naturally wanted my attention.

So I plopped into our rental Hyundai and headed for the conference. By myself. The car was full of old Starbucks detritus, but sadly bereft of fuel, as I noticed as I headed south of I-55 with the dashboard's orange warning light staring at me accusatorily. I pulled off at Festus/Crystal City, and learned that the whole community was completely out of power. Next services, 13 miles. Gulp. Fortunately, the under-powered Elantra sipped fuel slowly enough to coast into the gas station under its own power, though the driving experience didn't impress me enough to want to petition Enterprise to let us purchase the car rather than returning it on Monday.

I still felt like crap, but I really enjoyed the conference and am very glad I went. The Guild includes some really friendly people and I got a lot out of all three "workshops" I attended (really speaker sessions with Q&A at the end). A couple of the authors were painfully bitter, but I learned from them, too. Overall, a very positive experience despite my ailment and the fact that the sole women's restroom on our floor was out of commission all afternoon.

The trip back was uneventful, including my next stop in Festus/Crystal City for some desperately needed Sarahlynn-fuel. Sadly, despite a complete lack of obvious storm damage under the day's bright blue skies, power was still out and no caffeine was to be had.

I made it home safely and got Ada to bed before collapsing on the couch to car shop online for a few hours before stumbling to my own pillow.

On Sunday morning, Paul was very solicitous, taking the girls to get Starbucks while I slept in a little. I was feeling much, much better, but appreciated the slow start to my day, especially knowing what was coming.

Mid-morning, we all loaded into the van and went to Forest Park for the Down Syndrome Association's annual Buddy Walk fundraiser, where Ellie enjoyed a bouncy house and 2-story inflatable slide (though she burned her face on the hot vinyl) and both girls played in the Discovery Toys booth. They were ready for solid naps when we got home, since 90-plus degree heat doesn't agree with any of us.

After naps, we headed the opposite direction, out to Wentzville for The Greater St. Louis Renaissance Faire, which Paul really wanted to attend. No, no, I enjoy it also. And the girls had a good time, too. Their big favorite was the petting zoo (goats! llamas! a bunny! a donkey! dogs! ducks!) and Ellie had fun on her "warhorse" pony ride. Paul delights in bad pirate humor and bawdy singalongs.

By closing time, when we piled back into the van, we were all overheated and exhausted again. it was really really hot in St. Louis today. By 6:30, on the way home, the temperature had dropped down to 90 again.

Dinner, baths, Ada to bed . . . I passed out for a while, waking up to watch Law and Order CI with Paul and write this. Soon, I hope to head to bed for an uninterrupted stretch. Best laid plans and all that.

Interspersed throughout all this, of course, was car shopping and car talking. The rental goes back tomorrow, and we're still chasing our tails. Paul's planning to go in a little late tomorrow so that we can take a candidate car to our mechanic bright and early. Here's hoping we have a little more debt soon. And maybe a pre-loved hybrid Accord.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Suspense Night

Tonight I attended a really cool event at the county library headquarters.

Although the reading/signing/socializing was at the library, the event was sponsored by Borders and Starbucks. That meant that Borders had a table in the back, selling books by the authors on the panel, and Borders supplied complimentary treats and coffee afterwards. How cool is that?

The readings were great; I got to listen to 3 authors I'd never heard of before, all of whom were fantastic. Megan Abbott, in particular, is someone I'd never pick up off a bookstore shelf - early-to-mid 20th Century mob/noir not really being my thing - but WOW. Her prose sings and she's obviously worth reading, no matter what she's writing.

Scott Phillips was a fascinating mix of disgusting, very smart, and funny, a combination I found very appealing.

Susan McBride was who I went to see, and she delivered all I'd hoped (and more). Plus, I got to talk to her husband, who's an old friend of mine, or at least someone I played hockey with a long time ago. (I'm awkward in social situations - and OK with that, generally).

Paul Harris did a very good job hosting. Ridley Pearson and Michael Kahn didn't attend (bummer, since I really wanted to hear both of them).

Reed Coleman initially tried to talk over Susan too much, but she held her own and he turned out to be a really great guy. Also, the most useful advice of the evening came from him.

In response to several people asking the usual questions like, "where do you get your inspiration?" and, "What it you tell the story and it's only 120 pages?" he said: New writers tend to fall in love with what they write. More experienced writers learn to fall in love with the writing itself.

Beautiful advice. (And very true for me as a beginning writer.)

The answer to the first question, by the way, was consistent across all the panelists and true of me as well: writers are often people who aren't fully in the moment; they are sitting on their own shoulders, observing every situation they're in. Everything is inspiration; the magic part is in the writing.

Wii Update

Those of you who read Yeah, But Houdini Didn't Have These Hips via feed might be confused tonight. I've been scanning my "edit posts" page and finding some old "drafts" I thought I'd published months ago. For example, you might have just seen a post come through about Ada learning to walk, which seems so long ago to me that it must have been in a different lifetime, or at least a different year.

Now my younger daughter tells me, "I want down! I walk!" more often than she says, "Up up up!" like she did so often only a few months ago. Ah, Ada. Wasn't I just worried that she'd never be able to separate from me?

Anyway, this post is about my Nintendo Wii, which I confess to not having played in many months. Like, maybe since January or so. I still think it's a great platform, and if I had, say, no children, I'd probably play it more. And if I had a large, uncarpeted or thinner-carpeted area in front of the TV, I'd definitely want WiiFit.

The rest of this post was written on my birthday last September (Paul gave me my present a couple of weeks early).

So far, my favorite game on the Nintendo Wii is Super Paper Mario because, perhaps, I'm about 10 years old when it comes to my gaming preferences. I loved the editorial comment made by one of the Sammer Guys about how brightly colorful games are childish and "next generation" games must be monochromatic. One of my favorite things about this game in particular - and Nintendo in general over other gaming platforms - is the brightly colored palette. The "mature" color scheme of the new Zelda is keeping me from wanting to even begin.

But my favorite things to do with the Wii are playing the with Miis (I've designed my whole family, and will post them here if I can figure out how to do that) and watching other people play Wii Sports. Witness:

This fall I've hosted a couple of Girls Wii Nights, and while we talk much more than we play, they are still fun. I am unashamed at being a nonserious gamer. I always have been, even when I played Quake 2 and Duke Nukem 3D with my guy friends in college.

One of the weirdest things about the Wii is the creepy blue light summons. Even when the unit is off, it flashes a cool blue light to draw your attention if it has something it deems important enough to trouble you for. Kind of . . . intrusive, actually.

2008 me again. I remember being so excited about my Wii, but like it's a story I heard from someone else. That was even longer ago than Ada wanting to be carried rather than running and falling constantly. This is the best argument I have for blogging. How else could I so easily record all this stuff in a way that's easy to tag and search? With my new swiss cheese memory, tagging and searching are just about the only way I "remember" anything.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Saint Louis Patina

A few months ago, I asked local bloggers for St. Louis urban legends and interesting factoids. I didn't learn too much then, but have recently stumbled upon a very cool blog devoted to all kinds of interesting St. Louis architectural lessons.

Paul and I enjoy driving around, just seeing where stuff goes. It's a little less mysterious now, with the GPS, but it can still be very fun. Tonight we discovered a long series of off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods only a couple of miles from our house whose existence we had never suspected.

While we were driving around back there we found a road called "Lemp" and some buildings and houses that looked really old (mixed in with newer, obviously expensive houses, because this is Kirkwood, after all).

When I got home, Google helped me find a lot of interesting information about the Lemp family's Kirkwood-area "rural escapes" from the early 20th century. Locals will know all about the Lemp family, with their downtown mansion connected to their brewery by tunnels and caves, as well as their curses and ghosts.

But the estates overlooking the Meramec were news to me: Cragwold and Alswel.

The drive was fun, the girls were great, and the internet research was engaging. But the crown jewel of my sleuthfest was this site: Saint Louis Patina, which is exactly what I was looking for back in February.

I will be back, and often!

Newsflash: It's All Mom's Fault!

What a shocker! A study in contrast:

1) The June issue of Parents magazine is all about dads, and how dads are the new moms, etc. (The New Face of Fatherhood, June 2008) Did you know that many parents will now look at both schedules to determine who can more easily stay home with a sick child? And that dads now spend an average of 6.5 hours/week with their children? While that's far fewer hours than moms spend, it's way up from 2.6 hours 30 years ago. So, yay! All in all, despite the sobering statistics buried on page 2, it's a very positive article. It made me optimistic about the future of co-parenting.

2) Mom's behavior impacts father's child rearing: study. Oh, where to begin?

a) "How much a father is involved in the daily care of his children is largely up to his wife." Yes! You read that right. It's her responsibility, and, presumably, her fault if he's uninvolved.

b) "Mothers can be very encouraging to fathers and open the gate to their involvement in child care, or be very critical and close the gate." Sure, encouragement always helps. But, hello, mothers don't own children. They don't control access unless they're granted that power. And is anyone else picturing the opening and closing of child safety gates, here?

c) "The researchers found that fathers were more involved in caring for their babies on a day-to-day basis when they received active encouragement from their wife or partner."

Look, here's the thing. Fathers need to be partners in parenting. They need to step up and take equal responsibility, not waiting for praise and encouragement ("Good boy! Way to go! Keep it up!") and not being put off by active discouragement ("Honey, I'll do it so that she doesn't cry . . . "). Fathers need to step up and say, "Hey, I'd like to change this diaper/provide this bottle/take the kids to the zoo by myself today."

Moms need to allow this to happen, of course. But the responsibility for men being active fathers falls on fathers, not on mothers.

The infantilization of men (and the making of mothers into mothers to the whole family, including fathers) is insulting to men and unfair to both men and women.


We're all adults here. We don't need permission to spend quality time with our children (barring a court directive to do so, of course). We need to step up and make it happen, clearly communicating our desires and intentions all the while.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Successful Venture

Paul was sick this weekend, so he stayed home while I took the girls to Indianapolis for a wedding. A trip! Of over 400 miles! Alone with a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old! (My parents and youngest sister were waiting at the hotel to help care for the girls during the weekend, but I did the drive and the overnight portions alone, so let's not rain on my parade, eh?)

Other people do this all the time, of course, but it was a first for me and I'm (clearly) inordinately proud of myself. Some secrets to my success:
  1. Be uncomfortable with public bathrooms. This will train your 4-year-old to want to avoid trips to the bathroom with you if possible. (I offer roadside stops with the portable potty seat as an alternative when emergencies arise.) It turns out that Ellie can easily last 5 hours in the car with no stops.
  2. Have flexible children. My two spend so much time squirming around, legs over head, etc. that there's no worry about deep vein thrombosis from sitting too long.
  3. Keep snacks and drinks handy, and children within reaching distance, if possible. (But out of reaching distance of each other, to limit fighting.)
  4. Have a vehicle with easily accessible DVD system installed. Today, the girls watched Monsters, Inc., Toy Story, and part of The Lion King. They also listened to their beloved Ralph, played with dolls and MagnaDoodles, and took brief naps.
  5. Offer occasional stops at parks to play, but try to schedule these immediately prior to aforementioned brief naps so that you don't have to follow through on the offers right away, ticking away a few more precious miles before being forced to pull off the interstate.

But, seriously, how's a single parent supposed to do it, otherwise? At what age is is acceptable to leave children alone in a car, however briefly? (Let's assume the car's running, unlocked, with A/C on.) Until that point, do you wake up both kids and drag them into a public bathroom whenever you need a pit stop? The horrors. Fortunately, Ellie inherited her super bladder from me, so despite all my coffee and milkshake consumption, I did just fine for 4+ hours myself. This time.

When I'm driving I don't like to stop very often. I learned this from my dad, but also from my daughters. Now that we have a DVD player, Ellie loves long car trips (her movie watching at home is limited and only on weekends or when I deem her sufficiently sick). But Ada? She's one and loves to RUN and PLAY. Sitting all day is not her cup of tea, though she's willing to do it when necessary. But putting her back into the car after a stop? The horrors. How can a small child make her body as stiff as a plank? This must be one of life's little mysteries.