January 24, 2010

My First ConFusion




The costumes were so amazing. I've been to a lot of Halloween parties, but I don't think I've ever seen the quality and workmanship that went into the ones I saw at ConFusion 2010. I took a lot more pictures, but since Chrissy and I aren't in them, I don't feel quite right posting them.

There were zombies.

There were belly dancers.

There was a wizard and a princess.

There were several crew members from a steampunk airship. (By far my favorites.)

Then there was the rest of us. Those who wore their normal, everyday clothes made up the majority of the audience.

Of course, the costumes, while fun, weren't the reason Chrissy and I decided to attend the conference. The panels we attended covered topics in Fairytales in Modernity, comic books, art, history of costume design in the Victoriana and Burlesque, and author preparedness. The information and conversation in these sessions were informative and, for me at least, inspiring. I came away with a list of fairytales I've never read and the names a couple of authors/artists I'm interested in researching a bit more.

I also came home with three new books - two of which I got signed by the authors while I was there. (Thank you, Jim Hines & Catherynne Valente!)

Chrissy, on the other hand, spent her hard-earned cash on a beautiful phoenix necklace. I'd show you a picture of it, but it didn't occur to me to take one. Oops.

January 21, 2010

On Being a Mama

This blog post is coming to you late. I started it, I got distracted, but I have returned...

So..on to some actual content!

A friend of mine posted an entry about the pervasive tendency of many parent bloggers to bemoan the various hardships associated with parenting and how these kind of entries have negatively impacted her desire to ever have children.

I smiled when I read her post. Mostly because she's not wrong and I know I've posted more than my fair share of frustrations here. Blogs have become a great way for many mommy (and daddy) bloggers to share their parenting journey, be it annoying, horrific, tiring or trying. Because I read a lot of these types of blogs, I completely agree that most of them tend to focus on the less than idyllic situations. If their kids are babies, they talk about sleepless nights, bottle confusion, and diaper rash. If the kids are a preschoolers, you get to hear about the latest temper tantrum or perhaps how thoroughly mortified you can find yourself while out and about in public. Oh, the things those little munchkins say! Then there's the challenges of raising school-aged children who aren't exactly known for their superior decision-making skills.

Life is full of potential drama when you have children in the house!

However, in an effort to equal out the bad with the good, I thought I'd include a few bullet points on things that make being a mommy (or daddy) truly, completely, 100% amazing:

  • Sitting on the couch or in the recliner with a child snuggled close. This happens every night at my house and I love it.
  • Receiving a picture drawn just for me and seeing the look of pleasure in their eyes when I promise to hang it on the fridge or take it to work.
  • Hugs before school and hugs before bed.
  • Tucking in the boys because they want me to, even when they're perfectly capable of doing it themselves.
  • There's no sound like the sound of my boys' laughter. It's unique to them and has the most amazing ability to make me smile, even if I don't feel like I have anything to smile about.
  • Having a little helper who is willing to shadow me for hours just so he can hang out with me.
  • Listening to the boys sing in the back seat of the car. Too funny and too cute.
  • Finding hidden love notes in my computer desk (that happened last weekend).
  • Those moments when I realize their each others' best friend, even if they don't know it yet.
  • Watching them succeed on stage, on the court, on the field, on the baseball diamond, or on the mat. Proud sometimes seems too tame a word for how those moments make me feel, not because they're necessarily winning at the game, but because I know how hard they've worked to get to where they are.
  • Kisses.
  • Their smiles.
  • Watching them grown into kind and considerate young men (it's still a work-in-progress, but oh, the potential is there and every now and again I get see a glimpse of how truly amazing they will someday be!)

These aren't the only things that come to mind when I think of all the good things the boys have brought into our lives. I also think about how becoming a parent made me appreciate my parents more, how it made me want to be a better person, and how it redefined everything I thought I knew about life.

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

January 18, 2010

My Weekend







Two days in two separate gymnasiums. We packed snacks and brought the boys' DS games to help pass the hours. And I tried doing some homework; it didn't work out very well, but at least I tried.

This was the first time we've done back-to-back wrestling meets and I must admit I hope it's the last. While the boys did extremely well and I am very much the proud mama, I really do miss having at least one day to spend at home on the weekend. It would be nice to catch up on things that need to be done around the house or to do my homework without the constant distractions and interruptions a noisy, crowded gymnasium brings.

Of course, next weekend will be busy, too. Although the boys only have one meet, I plan on attending a writer/fan/geek conference on Saturday. Luckily, the boys will be wrestling close to home the next day. So close that I'll actually get to sleep in until eight or so.

January 15, 2010

The Difficult MC

I don't know what it is about her, but Moswen el-Brideah is a total pain in the backside. I know so many things about her. Key facts and minor details. I know her biggest secret and darkest fear. Yet, for some reason that completely escapes me, I can't connect to this MC of mine. I can't get inside her head and heart.

It's beyond annoying; it's catastrophic. (Allow me my melodrama, please!) Why?

Because I want to write this story. Desperately. I think I'm so ready to get it on the page and out of my head that my desire to write it is actually interfering with my ability to do so.

Does that even make sense? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure it's the truth.

I want to write this story.

I want it to be as amazing on the page as it is in my head.

I want to bleed the characters out onto the page, not just write them.

But Moswen is being difficult. She's standing mute in the corner, refusing to cooperate and it's making me crazy.

I'm hoping by publicly complaining (whining) about it, she'll stop holding the story hostage.

January 14, 2010

Going Places

Ken and I have been trying to figure out what to do and where to go on our family vacation this year. Up until yesterday we were thinking a camping trip close to home would be the most likely choice. Then my youngest asked me when we were going to take him to a museum to see some dinosaurs.

What a great idea!

I started thinking about nearby exhibits and then it dawned on me. We could take this year's vacation in Chicago. They have a natural history museum, a really nice one from what I've heard, and it's somewhere we've not been. At least, not as family. We could visit the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry. Visit Navy Pier. Walk down Michigan Avenue and do some window shopping.

I'm hoping we can make it happen because the more I think about it, the more certain I am the kids would really enjoy themselves. Especially if we could manage to book a hotel with a pool. And I'd love to see my boys' faces when they see their first true Chicago-style pizza.

Interstingly enough, this trip with the family would have been my first visit to downtown Chicago, too, if not for the surprising news I received at work today. It seems my boss has decided to send a coworker and me to the Educause conference that's being held in the Windy City this March.

Granted, it's going to be cold in March and we're going to be busy at the conference. So maybe, in more way than one, the trip with the family would be my first real taste of Chicago. Which is kind of cool.

The last little bit of coolness I have to mention is the fact that I'm also planning to attend a full day of panels at ConFusion with my baby sister. We've never been, but I've heard it's lots of fun. I'll have to let you know how it goes.

January 12, 2010

Just in Time for Back to School

Tonight my grad class meets for the first time. I'm sure I've probably mentioned it before, but just in case you missed it, it's a Lit Theory class. I can only imagine the amount of reading that will be required outside of the listed textbooks, of which there are seven. I'm sure in addition to a hefty anthology and a significantly slimmer theory textbook, there will also be journal articles or book excerpts. Not to mention these little lovelies:

King Lear (Shakespeare)
Complete Poems 1927 -1979 (Elizabeth Bishop)
Friend of My Youth (Alice Munro)
Aspern Papers (Henry James)
The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)

Because of the sheer amount of reading I expect to do for this class, I really wanted to get the last little bit of pleasure reading in that I could. Since I really hate holding onto books that I've borrowed from friends and family, I decided to select a book from somewhere other than my ever-expanding to-be-read shelves. This meant instead of reading Joely Sue Burkhart's Rose of Shanhasson, a book I won from a recent contest on her blog, I picked up The Time-Traveler's Wife.

The struggle of creating and maintaining a relationship within the complexities of time-travel makes for an interesting subject. Add to that the dichotomy between predetermination and free-will and you have a constant source of potential conflict. For while it seemed the traveler was unable to prevent tragedies from occurring, he was certainly able to influence far-future events. After all, without his sojourns into the past, his wife may never have waited for him, might never have sought him out, or stuck with him through the fear and uncertainty of where and when he was.

Of course, as a genre reader of science fiction and fantasy, I did have a couple of questions circling at the edge of consciousnesses as I read this. Where is the press in all this? The scientists? How is he able to flit to and fro without society at large looking at him like a circus freak? I know it wouldn't have served the story - I get that - but these are some of the things that I continuously found myself wondering throughout the story, especially as his secret was revealed to more and more people. (These thoughts of mine do not reflect well on my view of society at large because I'm pretty sure he would have been turned into a lab rat or close to it..)

My odd little tangent aside, I must admit I very much enjoyed the book. The author's voice was a pleasure to read, which can be just as influential as characterization and plot structuring. In fact, I'm already looking forward to tracking down a copy of Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry. (I've been assured that I won't be disappointed, so that's just added incentive!)

Of course, there's no hurry because I'm pretty sure the next four months or so will be filled with assigned readings and little else.

January 11, 2010

A Silver & a Bronze



The boys did so good on their first day of the season. The little guy brought home a silver (2nd place) and the oldest got a bronze (3rd place). They both had two pins, too!

January 6, 2010

Resolution #2

Remember how I said I really only have two resolutions this year? Finishing the rough draft of the current WIP and losing some weight. Well, I really am working on both of those things, but for tonight I feel like writing about resolution #2.

Outside of pregnancy, I'm the heaviest I've ever been. Not an easy thing to admit, not even to myself. Between moon-faced pictures and an uncomfortable wardrobe, though, there's really no denying it. It's time to make some changes in my life and take a serious look at my food choices, all of which were terrible.

With a new year ahead of me, I decided this time there's no trying; this time I'm doing it. I'm going to make some significant changes and stick to them. Of course, I know how hard dieting is because, believe me, this isn't the first time I've attempted to shed a few pounds. I also am fully aware of how difficult it is to get rid of old habits and create new ones.

This isn't going to be easy.

But it doesn't have to be painful. I can't expect to drop the weight overnight or even in the first few months. It took a long time for me to get to where I am today and my metabolism is acting its age, the bitch. This means it's going to take a long time for me to get where I want to be.

So, after hearing a few rave reviews about incorporating raw foods into your diet, I decided to look into it for myself. For the most part, I like what I see. Here's how I plan on starting:
  • Buy Complete Idiots Guide to Eating Raw & The Raw Food Detox Diet (information and recipes!)
  • Bookmark sites like this, this, and this.
  • Introduce more salads and fruits into my diet. The fruits should help with the cravings for sugary sweetness.
  • Cut out processed food, including prepackaged lunches and junk food of every variety.
  • Figure out what grocery items I can't live without. Cacao may be the most expensive item I'm considering tracking down because I can have desserts as long as they're made from raw ingredients! That being said, I'm not going to purchase it until I've made up my mind on the likelihood of this diet sticking around for longer than a month or two.
  • Remind myself that this isn't a diet. I'm changing my eating habits to include more healthy choices.
What I'm not planning on doing right away is giving up my diet pop or cheese. Seriously. I can't. I might not ever be able to. I mean, seriously, life without pop or cheese? It would be sad. Very, very sad.

Also, milk. Not sure I can completely give up milk, either. I justify this (during my first week of attempting to go raw) by rationalizing that I hardly ever drink milk anyhow.

I realize this may sound crazy and extreme, totally off the deep end, but I'm really hoping it works. I'm hoping it not only works, but that I enjoy the variety of foods I'm going to be sampling.

January 5, 2010

New Beginnings

While the school year may be half over, for us there will be new beginnings. Ken and I met with the oldest boy's principal this morning to discuss his 504 Plan. Although the plan has been in place since late 2008, we've been very hesitant to put it into action because we really do want the boy to take responsibility for his own actions. However, there are times when ideals pale in the face of reality.

Just before the holiday break we received the boy's progress report card. While most of the grades were reasonable (there was even an A in Geography!), his Language Arts grade was, well, dismal. As reading and writing have always been one of his major obstacles, we're accustomed to mediocre grades, so when I say dismal you must understand that I mean "failing".

I immediately sent an e-mail to teacher. While I was disappointed that she didn't think to try to contact us prior to the progress report card coming home, I really didn't (and still don't) blame her for his predicament. That being said, I'm also not willing to just stand aside and watch my child fall even further behind his classmates. In my mind - and Ken's - that meant it was time to discuss the implementation of the 504 Plan we had signed in May of 2008. This plan outlines accommodations the school is willing to provide in order to help the boy succeed despite his unique challenges.

The principal seemed very intent on making sure the boy's teachers were made aware of those items we felt were most beneficial, most of which were requests to keep us informed of his progress. To let us know when a problem develops. To e-mail us his assignments, to let us know when they notice him struggling. The principal was also willing to add something new to the list: a textbook for home.

I was very happy with the results of our meeting.

While I'm not foolish enough to believe that all our troubles are over, I'm feeling a lot better about the boy's chances of learning the material being presented to him. Not because I expect him to suddenly "get it", but because I know that's not going to be the case. I think he might do better because, now that we know what's happening at school, we can help reinforce what the teachers are working on in the classroom. Repetition helps. But, more importantly, with this particular child alternative explanations can help even more.

Getting him through marking period is our immediate goal. Getting him through the Sixth Grade is just a step or two behind that. But, really, what we'd like to see happen is seeing him finally catch up to his peers. Getting back test results that don't show any significant gap between where he's at and where he should be.

It's a struggle having a kid with these types of issues. It's a struggle for everyone involved, but especially for him. Hopefully by monitoring his assignments now, he'll someday be able to leave these growing pains behind.

January 3, 2010

Four Hours

I'm usually in bed by eleven when I have to work the next morning. Sometimes even earlier. Tonight, though, I'm pretty sure I'll have to force myself to go to bed "on time". A week's worth of late nights and leisurely mornings makes for a rough transition into the working world again. So, as I sit here propped up against the headboard of my bed, the puppy sleeping beside me, I figure I'll be lucky to fall asleep before eleven.

This leaves me with a little more than four hours of vacation left.

I plan on making the most of the time. The boys are popping popcorn and putting in one of the movies their Aunt Ronnie gave them for Christmas. We're going to snuggle on the couch under the blanket my mother-in-law made for me and watch a bunch of crazy hamsters try to save the world. At least, that's my understanding of G-Force.

After that it'll be bedtime for bonzos. Not sure if the hubby will want to watch football or if there'll be something we can watch together. Either option will be fine with me because I've just started reading The Time Traveler's Wife, which I find very engaging so far.

Oh, I think I just heard the last kernel pop. Time to go spend a few hours with my boys, all three of them!

January 1, 2010

Plans for 2010

My goals for the next year are pretty simple.
  • Complete the rough draft of Between the Heavens and Earth
  • Lose weight
Accomplishing those two things will require some dedication and discipline, neither of which come easily to me. I am the queen of excuses and my will power, that inborn ability to resist all things sugary and sweet, is notoriously weak. However, since my waist isn't going to magically shrink no matter how much I'd like it to, I need to figure out a way to appease my taste buds while changing my eating habits.

Not that I think the second goal will be any easier to achieve. I'm going to have to take a good, hard look at my excuses for not writing and an even harder look at why I'm allowing them to cripple my dreams and aspirations.