Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bookish Thursday, Oryx and Crake

I stopped by the Portrait counter last night at Wal-mart to ask when our pictures would be ready for pick-up. She was just getting ready to call us! So we got to take our pictures home. They are so perfect and so precious. Ben had a great time for the whole photo shoot, smiling and laughing constantly. I feel very lucky. My boss's son only smiled for one picture this year.

I'm feeling kind of run down today, though I'm trying to snap out of it. I'm just glad it's almost the end of the week.

It's Bookish Thursday. Today I will expound on the book I'm currently listening to at home,
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

My history with this book is kind of painful. My ex-fiance had gotten me the book for Christmas a few years ago. I never got around to reading it, and when he dumped be (via voicemail), I through it out. Time and the love of a better man heals those kinds of wounds, though, and when I saw the title on the audiobook shelves at my local library, I picked it up.

It's a look into a plausible and horrific future, when science and technology have gone really badly and pretty much wiped out everybody on the planet. Snowman, the main character, is one of the anti-social survivors who apparently hid out while the population was expunged. The book skips back and forth from Snowman's present to his past, his troubled, chaotic youth which took place at some point in the early 21st century. He grew up in scientific, corporate compounds. His parents were scientists and researchers who worked on cutting edge technologies like genetic cloning, immortality, and innovative medicines.

The book chronicles Snowman's life as Jimmy, which was his name "before." Jimmy had a childhood friend named Glenn, who gave himself the moniker, Crake. This boy grew up to be a brilliant scientist who manipulated genes and characteristics with the greatest of ease. Jimmy stays in touch with Crake, even though he doesn't really understand all of what Crake is up to.

Atwood builds her story with layer upon layer of Jimmy's discoveries about the paths science and technology are taking. Jimmy's just trying to make a life for himself in this strange world, even though he's a word man, and not a math man. From conversations with people around him, readers are given bits of the pieces that make up the puzzle. Once completed, this puzzle will explain how Snowman became Snowman and how the world as he knew it ended so badly.

I'm not finished with it yet, and I'm enthralled. Jimmy and Snowman are sympathetic characters. Snowman is a man haunted by a past and encompassed by guilt and melancholy about how helpless he feels now and how he felt when everything was spiraling downward. Jimmy as a young man is a womanizer of a sort. He takes from women what he needs, and gives them what he needs to give them. He prefers the troubled women with tragic stories, because he seeks to soothe them. Eventually in every relationship, the woman usually realizes that Jimmy's not in it for the long haul, and it's true. Jimmy continues to be haunted by a young girl he saw in a disgusting online porno flick he saw as a teenager.

We learn that later in life, Jimmy finds this girl, who is named Oryx. This woman is an enigma to him. He's heard so many versions of what has happened in her life, he doesn't know what to believe. But he's in love with the ghost of her that has haunted him since his youth. When he finally finds her and lives with her, he's not too concerned with who she actually is, because he's created a meaning for her in his life already.

I'm only about halfway through. Some parts of the book feel like D&D (so says Chester), because it describes Snowman's foraging in a desolate wasteland that used to be the cities and communities that he lived in. That connotation would normally turn me off, but I trust Atwood to carry me through with her acerbic dry wit and extremely capable storytelling.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Prospective of Being Fat AND Pregnant

I'm bummed because I have to pull some overtime this week to make my deadlines. I resent any time away from Ben. I wuv the widdle guy.

Speaking of whom, he didn't even flinch when he got his flu shot this morning. I told him beforehand that it was okay to cry, that I wouldn't call him a wuss or a cry-baby.

Finally spoke to the daycare assistant manager today. I asked if there was any way we could get a discount for the second baby. She said she'll talk to the director. What sucks is that we're one of maybe five families there who actually pay out of pocket. Most of the families receive government assistance, and it makes me yearn for some of that myself. If we don't qualify for aid, why is it so hard to spend so much a month on child care?

Anyway. Life goes on. Right?

I'm trying to decrease my food intake a little. I know I eat too much, and it's tough to discipline myself to only eating about half of what I used to. I've been snacking on pretzels to try to stave off hunger. Smaller portions are nice, but I really like food. Large portions and poor choices are what got me to this weight though, and I hate the idea of being morbidly obese AND pregnant.

I know I'm not going to be able to lose enough any time soon to get me into a healthy weight range, but at least I'll have a plan and will keep myself from ballooning up even more when I'm further into my pregnancy. With Ben, I was so sick during the first trimester, I lost 12 pounds to put me at a low weight of 222. When he was born, I was 260. I lost most of it right away, and I was back to 225 within two months, but I gained most of it back after going back to work. Now I'm at 250.

It's sad. It took me longer to "show" with Ben because he had to poke out from the layers of fat first. By the time I was six months pregnant, though, I was getting huge. You could definitely tell I was pregnant. Before then, I was just a fluffy fat girl who looked pathetic in maternity clothes.

Hey, at least Lane Bryant is coming out with a maternity line in December.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ode to My Uni-Ball Red Pen

I feel like such a nerd. I'm a pen snob.

I'm a proofreader. I mark up pages all day long. Pens are important to me. (I even named my blog after them). It's the tool of my trade. I find that if I have a really fine point, my writing is smaller and neater, characteristics that everyone appreciates. Uni-ball came out with a pen that has a .38mm point. Our local office supply store only carries the red version of this pen in a back with a blue and two blacks. Not separately. So, my red pen ends up costing almost ten dollars. And Uni-ball doesn't make a refill. Darn it.

Last night I stopped by the store to pick up my red pen, since my one at work was dangerously low on ink. The store was all out. So I picked out some nice looking .7mm pens and called it a day. I've been writing with them all morning, and my work is sloppy. It's depressing.

I went online just now to look for a place that would sell my red pens, and I found a place... and they sell the red pens separately! I was so excited, I ordered eight. This is why I feel like a nerd. I'm really looking forward to a shipment of pens.

Me? Vain? Sure.

This morning has been hectic. My boss left for the day at eleven, and I had to finish up her last minute stuff. The designers sent out an SOS for help, so I was reassigned for the morning. I had been looking forward to working on my own stuff today so I could stay on schedule. Oh well.

Is it wrong that I'm already looking at maternity clothes? It was all I could do not to add summer maternity clothes to my Christmas list. What can I say? I'm excited, and I'm not foreseeing any fertility problems. After Chester and I got married, it only took us two cycles to become pregnant. I'm not counting on it happening that quickly, because so many details have to fall into place for conception to happen.

Here's my answers to the meme at Mom Writes and The Dana Files:

1. Flip to page 18, paragraph 4 - in the book closest to you right now, what does it say?
I'm surrounding by bookshelves at work, so I picked the first one I touched, The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood. "On these pilgrimages she collects relics: a flower from each site. Or a weed rather, because what she picks are common things--daisies, clovers, poppies. Sentimentalities of this kind seem reserved, in her, for people she does not know."

2. If you stretch out your left arm as far as possible, what are you touching?
A box of Kleenex, a cubicle wall.

3. What’s the last program you watched on TV?
Face Lift with Debbie Travis, on HGTV.</font>

4. Without looking, guess what time it is.
1:24pm. (it was 1:33pm)

5. Aside from the computer, what can you hear right now?
"Now these thoughts are never resting..." The clock radio on my desk.

6. When was the last time you were outside and what did you do?
About twenty minutes ago, I was outside, walking back from my car. I went out for lunch. I had an oven-roasted twister wrap from KFC with a milk.

7. What are you wearing?
Red v-neck tee, jeans, white socks, white adidas superstar mules.

8. Did you dream last night? If you did, what about?
I dreamt I had a huge fight with Chester. He wanted to leave me, and I spent the rest of the dream trying to convince him not to.

9. When was the last time you laughed?
I'm really tense today... I don't know. I guess this morning with Ben. He was making silly sounds in the car on the way to daycare.

10. What’s on the walls, in the room you’re in right now?
It's my cubicle. I have a phone list, a list of local charities and the items they need for Christmas, a bunch of Ben pictures, and a magnet that says, "Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, 'Grow, grow.'--The Talmud."

11. Have you seen anything strange lately?

One of the dads dropping off a child at daycare this morning had a really bad mullet. Slicked back sides and everything. I felt sorry for his daughter.

12. What do you think about this meme?
It's a wonderful way to spend a few minutes not working.

13. What’s the last film you saw?
I have a movie on every night when I go to sleep. Does that count? I have over 75 old classic movies on tape. Last night, it was Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. Other than that, it was White Christmas on Sunday.

14. If you became a multimillionaire, what would you do with the money?

Pay off our debt, quit my job to be a SAHM, buy a house, pay off my families' mortgages, buy a hybrid vehicle, give to well-deserving charities, save a chunk for our children's trust funds, and invest the rest in safe mutual funds.

15. Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
There's a lot about me that most people don't know. In college, I was "this close" to getting my nether region pierced. I was too scared of losing all sensation down there, though.

16. If you could change ONE THING in this world, without regarding politics or bad guilt, what would it be?
This one is tough. I would like all forms of bigotry to disappear. Is that political?

17. Do you like to dance?
Not seriously in front of a bunch of people, but I like doing a little jig along with the radio. Unless people are expecting goofy dancing, in which case, I'm your girl.

18. George Bush?
Seems like a nice guy.

19. What do you want your future children’s names to be, girl/boy?
A girl will be Somerset. A boy will be Spencer.

20. Would you ever consider living abroad?
Yes. But only the British Isles.

21. What do you want God to tell you, when you come to heaven?
Hey, I like what you did with all that crap I shoved at you in your early twenties.

22. Who should do this meme?
Anybody who would like to escape into vanity world for a little while.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Get Ready... Fingers Crossed

Chester and I have officially decided that I won't start taking my birth control pills again this next cycle. I'm all excited and aglow at the prospect of another baby, even though the thought scares me silly.

Morning Bliss

(Happy 50th post)

Something I've realized about myself over the years... I'm a morning person. Indeed, I'm especially a Monday morning person. I've never dragged though a morning, praying for a cup of coffee to magically appear before me and revitalize me. I tend to jump out of bed. And since I was pregnant with Ben, I don't even drink coffee on a regular basis.

Because I live with grace and dignity (ignore my dingy, ratty sleeping bra), I don't rub my morning happiness into the faces of anyone except my husband. Ben doesn't mind; he's a morning person too. Chester only minds when I sing.

If he happens to sleep in (if he's not up by 6:20, I wake him up), I get the joy of going in there and getting him up. "Ben, are you still asleep? It's morning!" He buries his head against his mattress and giggles. He'll blearily look up at me with a big grin on his face and then shove his face back down again. This goes on for a little while until he's managed to get into a sitting position. Then he waves his arms up and down until I pick him up. This routine is by far one of my favorite activities we do.

I get my love of mornings from my mother. It's my mother's "time" in the morning. She'd always wake up around 4 to pray and drink coffee, read her devotionals, etc. She'd have her own time to rev up for the day. I've tried to adopt the habit, but I can't manage to wake up before 5 on my own. Only a few mornings a month do I actually spend time alone. Ben usually wakes up soon after I do, regardless of the time.

When I do find myself alone in the mornings, I love it. And by the time the boys wake up, I'm enthusiastic and ready for the day.

I find Monday mornings refreshing because I get to slip right back into the old routines of a weekday. I like the busy work of getting Ben's food and bottles ready. I like making sure he has his bag packed perfectly. I thrive on repetition. And, I like seeing Ben's eyes light up when he sees his favorite daycare lady. And I especially like how he'll smile at me with a little twinkle in his eye... like he's already planning what mischief he'll get into during the day to come.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Crazy Dreams

There were so many different layers to this dream I had last night. I have no idea of the significance, if any, of the odd pieces.

The underlying quest was to pick up Ben from somewhere, but I didn't have a carseat.

At one point, I was boating on the lakes in Northern Wisconsin, and there were crocodiles and dolphins. I wasn't scared of them. Instead, I was trying to protect them from harassing children who kept wanting to pull them out of the lake and keep them as pets.

But, the rest of the dream follows a story line of sorts.

I needed to get a hold of Chester to bring around the car that has the carseat in it. I went into the daycare to use their phone. I sat down and decided that I needed to take off my shirt to make the call for some reason. Bra, too. I had a pillow against my chest, but it was apparent to everybody that I was topless. When I had finally finished a call, I had my mother (where did she come from?) stand in front of me while I pulled my shirt back on. The daycare director said that because I had my mom there, all was forgiven.

Where was Ben? I had left him in the back of a SUV with my dear friend Will. (I haven't seen Will in over three years, and I miss him terribly. When I moved away from Stevens Point, we lost contact for a little while, and he's a bit of a nomad. I google him monthly to see if he's popped up anywhere. I keep imaging that I'll run into him someplace, and we'll have a grand reunion.) The SUV was parked in front of a rec center. Eventually Will took Ben inside so he could watch the action. Ben slept through the whole thing.

I told Will I'd be right back to pick up Ben, but I had dinner with some parents from daycare instead. When I finally got there, it was around midnight. I clipped Ben's carseat onto a stroller, and started off jogging back home. We had to go through a bad part of town, and I was a little frightened. We jogged past several violent domestic disputes, and I was scared of getting caught in the crossfire (literally). We ducked through an alley that led behind an old pizza parlor. We had to run out under street lights to get past the parlor, but something was going on so we stayed in the shadows.

I overheard some teens arguing and talking about how they were going to get in trouble for coming home late. A couple of them went deeper into the pizza parlor (which became their boarding house), and I heard a woman yelling at a boy for coming home late. There was more shouting, and then the kid started shooting the mother. After a little bit, all was silent, and then the group of boys started darting across the lit street for the shadows on the other side.

I had to make it seem like I hadn't heard anything (because I didn't want to get clipped off for being a witness), so I backtracked through the alley, skipped over a couple of blocks, and then started off in the direction of home again.

Then I woke up.

Friday, November 24, 2006

After the Holiday

Our holiday was a success. The new baby is tiny and precious, and it's hard to remember that Ben was actually smaller than Gage. It's phenomenal.

My spinach/artichoke dip was a hit. I served it with garlic toast. It was everybody's favorite guilty pleasure. I didn't really like it though. I made it with miracle whip instead of mayonnaise, and with the marinated artichokes, it was just too salty and tangy for me.

Ben slept the whole way down there and the whole way back. He was awake, active and curious for the whole time with the family. They loved his hair, "Wow. That's some static!" "No, it's like that normally. It's a cowlick."

My sister looks great for just having a baby on Sunday. Breastfeeding is going well, thank goodness. She doesn't know how long she'll breastfeed though. She was full-figured on top to begin with, and with the milk, she's now a 34 K. It's ridiculous. Before her next baby, she's going to actually have a breast reduction, something she's wanted since she was a teenager. She knows she probably won't be able to lactate after that, but she doesn't care. Good for her. She's going for the dream.

I'll be hanging out with Ben at home this morning. No daycare today, so Chester and I are each taking a half-day off. Should be fun. I hope to nap. :) Bad news is that I won't have a computer until the afternoon (unless I go into the basement, and that's just not something I want to do), and when I do get to work, I'll be super busy trying to fit a day's worth of work into one hour. Due to the holiday season, associates from the corporate side of the business (me) get signed up to go into the call center to answer phones and talk to customers. Everybody I work with hates this time of year, but I think it's fun. I like the customers. Anyway. I'll be doing that for a few hours this afternoon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Of Two Minds On This Important Event

I'm looking forward to the family dinner tomorrow because A. I get to meet my new little nephew Gage for the first time, B. I get to eat some yummy food, C. I get to show off my baby to the rest of the family, and D. I like my nieces and nephews and find them amusing.

I'm not looking forward to the family dinner tomorrow because A. My dad has a cold and can't come, B. Turkey makes me sleepy and I have to drive the 115 minutes home, and C. What if my new recipes suck mightily (Green Bean Casserole and Spinach/Artichoke Dip).

What Ben Is and Isn't Thankful For This Year

This morning while Ben and I pounced on the bed to wake up Chester, I started listing all of the things Ben will be thankful for tomorrow. I thought it might make a good post.

Ben is thankful for...
Sippy Cups
Sabina at daycare
Bob the rooster puppet
Books he can chew on
Push toys
Tickle Time
Fruit Puffs in the car

Ben is not thankful for...
Diaper changes
Mashed potatoes
Library books

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I almost feel like it's cheating to borrow someone else's meme, but Mary borrowed it from somebody else, so I guess it'll be okay. :)

The One Word Meme

Yourself: Drowsy
Your partner: Patient
Your hair: Poofy
Your Mother: Spectacular
Your Father: Stubborn
Your Favorite Item: Blanket
Your dream last night: Racy
Your Favorite Drink: Fanta
Your Dream Car: Prius
Your Dream Home: Cottage
The Room You Are In: Cubicle
Your Ex: Gone
Your fear: Abandonment
Where you Want to be in Ten Years? Here
Who you hung out with last night: Boys
What You're Not: Adventurous
Muffins: Tops
One of Your Wish List Items: Nap
Time: Morning
The Last Thing You Did: Commented
What You Are Wearing: T-Shirt
Your favorite weather: Cool
Your Favorite Book: Kundera
Last thing you ate: McGriddle
Your Life: Good
Your mood: Cloudy
Your Best Friends: Wry
What are you thinking about right now: Chocolate
Your car: Functional
What are you doing at the moment: "Working"
Your summer: Over
Relationship status: Married
What is on your TV: HGTV
What is the weather like: Chilly
When is the last time you laughed: 6am

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday Morning Ramblings

This afternoon is the Thanksgiving dinner lunch at Ben's daycare. Chester and I are going, and we'll enjoy having lunch with Ben and sitting on the itty bitty chairs while we eat small portions of mediocre, bland food. Its a daycare. It's not Martha Stewart's house.

I'm feeling kind of frisky today. Without thinking about it, I flirted with one of my male co-workers. I never do that. While I was walking down the hall to the breakroom to refill my water bottle, Henry was about eight steps behind me. "I'm following you," he said. "Are you enjoying yourself?" I asked. "Yes, thank you," he replied. Dangerous ground there. But of course, having your husband work in the same building with you provides certain unspoken boundaries. I would never consider having an adulterous relationship, but even if other people considered starting one with me, having Chester around every day creates a nice buffer zone.

This morning I woke up forty-five minutes early to start reading one of the books I borrowed from the library yesterday. As I was throwing on my nightie and robe, I walked into Ben's room to make sure the little rascal was covered and warm. He was sitting there, smiling his cute little head off. So we went and played on the living room floor instead of reading. He loves looking at his books, but he can't stand to watch other people read books that he's not allowed to taste and tear. It's an anti-literacy council right in our own house.

My sister called me last night to chat about the birth of Gage. It was no wonder she ended up with an emergency C-section. With every contraction, her blood pressure went sky high, and they were very worried about seizures and strokes. Nearer the end, Gage's heart was decelerating too. When they finally pulled him out, he had the cord wrapped around his neck twice.

Other than all that, nothing much is happening. The Packers lost big time yesterday, and there are a lot of cranky people at work.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

My New Nephew, Surprise C-Section

My sister Jo was blessed with a healthy 7lbs. 14oz., 20-inch long baby boy about an hour ago.

After more then twelve hours of labor (unmedicated), they did a C-section. Apparently Gage wasn't in the right position and couldn't get in the right position to come down through the birth canal.

Jo's in a lot of pain right now, and my mom is feeding her ice chips. She and her husband hadn't wanted anybody in the hospital with them, but my mom drove down to Oshkosh to be nearby. And Nana was called in about thirty minutes before the C-section. Life's a lot better and easier to handle when you have a loving mother nearby to soothe your brow and stroke your hand.

Jo wasn't able to have the pain relief during labor because she's always been very sensitive to medications. They were worried about a bad reaction to something at a very critical time. She's allergic to most pain meds, and I hope they're able to find something to help her heal from her surgery.

Ben's awake and clingy, so I better go. I just wanted to quickly blog the birth of my newest nephew, Gage Ryon.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ben's Birth Story

Ben's latest accomplishment is acquiring Hand-Foot-Mouth disease from the coxsackie virus. We went to Denny's for breakfast this morning, and on the way home, I noticed the blisters on his palms. Eeew. He's acting perfectly fine (other than a bout of cuddliness), so I'm not too worried. I had to call daycare and let them know, though.

The biggest event in my life right now is the impending birth of my sister's first baby, a son named Gage. She's being induced as we speak. Her due date was the day before Thanksgiving, but her protein levels are too high, and they're all worried about pre-eclampsia. So it seems like Gage will be born this weekend. We'll be going to Oshkosh tomorrow to see the new mother and child.

Pop, Gush, Hello Baby

My due date was Feb. 7, 2006. By Christmas, however, I was measuring at 38 weeks. The Friday after Christmas, my best friend Mary commented that I had "dropped." Chester and I had a long weekend due to the New Year, and on Monday, we went out for breakfast. That morning, I noticed a bit of what must have been my mucus plug on the toilet paper. I took a nap when we got home. Around 1, Chester crawled into bed with me and we watched tv. Around 2, Pop, Gush. I ran to the bathroom as my water broke. A deluge. 35 weeks.

Since I was so early, we had to go to the hospital right away, only six minutes away. I started contracting about ten minutes after getting there. The next two hours were a bit of a blur. I got into the cute gown. It was horrible back labor. I didn't really feel a break in the contractions. Luckily, the anesthesiologist only lived five minutes away, so once I asked for an epidural, he was there within thirty minutes.

It took about five pokes to get the epidural in place because where it seemed like the space should be wasn't there, but slightly to the left. After I was settled down with the epi, life was grand. I "labored" comfortably, receiving visitors, talking, laughing, rather woozy... feeling fine. Chester finished cross-stitching a "Hang in There" kitty picture he had been working on since September. As soon as the last stitch was in place, I was almost 10 cm. They gave me some pitocin because I was stuck with a bit of cervix left and wasn't progressing. That's when I got really uncomfortable. I was sitting up on the edge of the bed. I felt a lot of pressure. Very uncomfortable, like all the bones in my pelvic area were being compressed under a steamroller. The pitocin let me feel my contractions, and they weren't that fun at all.

I pushed for about forty-five minutes. Because I hadn't had a very long labor, none of the normal, cleansing things happened naturally. Besides the pain and discomfort, the only thing I was focusing on was how much I was pooping with each push. It was so damn embarrassing. My instinct was to grunt and holler, but my OB kept telling me to hush and to just breathe. I hated him so much for that.

I told him I couldn't push anymore. It was too difficult, and I wasn't making enough progress. So he stopped having me push for a few minutes. We just sat there and waited. It didn't take too long before I HAD to push. It became imperative in my body and mind that pushing was the only thing I could do to stop the pain.

Eventually, Ben was born. He was put on my belly while they cut the cord, and then they took him to weigh, measure and dry him off. I felt bad because instead of focusing on Ben, all I could think of immediately after he came out was that I was still in pain. They took Ben to the NICU for oxygen since he was technically a preemie, even though he weighed in at 6 lbs. 14 oz. He was born at 10:18 that evening. Jan. 2, 2006.

After the afterbirth came, the doc gave me three stitches since I had ripped while pushing. Then I had to wait for the epidural to wear off. It was midnight before Chester was allowed to wheel me down to the NICU to see Ben. He had an IV, but they let me hold him for a little bit, and I attempted to nurse him. He got one good suck before he fell back asleep.

Physically, it took a couple of days for me to stop feeling like my crotch had run into a brick wall at 80 mph. They gave me vicodin and ibuprofen alternately. Ben was out of the NICU by morning, and he stayed in my room. After we were discharged on Wednesday, he ended up having to be back in the NICU on Friday for a couple of nights, but that's another post.

Knowing what it was like now, I think that for the next baby, I'd like to try natural childbirth for a longer period of time. Pushing sucked, and I think that it might have been a bit easier if I had been acclimated to the pain a bit more. I'm such a wuss, though, and I don't think I'll ever tolerate pain well enough.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanksgiving Memories

My mom and I finally got around to confirming the Wausau-contingent of the family will indeed be going up to the homestead for Thanksgiving dinner. Now I'm in the mood to reminisce about my favorite Thanksgiving memories.

1. The Story Told Every Year. When my brother (who is now 36, I think) was a toddler, my mom had Thanksgiving dinner at her house for some extended family, like her siblings' families. That year, while the ladies were in the kitchen doing the final prep work on the meal, my dear brother climbed onto the dining room table, sat down amid the serving dishes that were already placed, and helped himself to a feast, with his bare hands of course. He was partaking in a fistful of coleslaw when my snobby aunt came in with the dinner rolls. She flipped out, being a germ-aphobe, but everybody else just laughed their heads off. The punch line is always "He really likes coleslaw."

2. Christmas ASAP. For years when I was living with my parents, it was tradition for me to start dragging up the Christmas decorations as soon as the table was cleared. My dad is allergic to needle-producing trees, so we always had an artificial one. I'd start hauling up the boughs and boxes of lights and ornaments all by myself. I think it started when I was eight. I'd start trying to move furniture around to make room for the tree, and then I'd unpack everything. I don't have any memories of anybody helping me with this, and we do have some funnily decorated trees in our photo album. I was anxious for the holiday to start.

3. How many can we seat on the new couch? Our family keeps growing, but my parents' house doesn't get any bigger. Two parents, four adult children with spouses, five grandchildren (plus one due any day now). The dining room table seats six. The breakfast bar seats two. And then we have two card tables in the living room for the rest. It gets pretty crazy. For some reason, the house doesn't feel cramped until we all try to get in the same area of the house to eat. There's three bedrooms, a full basement, and a big yard. We tend to spread out. Old-school Nintendo in the basement, movies in my parents' bedroom, snow fights (if there is any of the white stuff) outside. Inevitably, there are munchkins running around the house like syphilitic monkeys, running into people and causing mischief, but that's okay, as long as an uncle isn't trying to sleep in one of the bedrooms. It's a large, chaotic household for a few hours, and then everyone leaves to go back home.

4. The Cooking Of... Parker House rolls, apple pies, pumpkin pies, a turkey, a ham (for my brother-in-law who refuses to eat poultry), Secret Recipe Coleslaw (which is now just KFC coleslaw, out of the container and in a pretty serving dish), baked sweet potatoes, messy corn (creamed), fluffy fruit salad (the kind with marshmallows), mashed potatoes, more mashed potatoes (they're my favorite), homemade bread.

5. Butter, butter, who's got the butter? And last but not least... the necessity for two butter dishes on the dining room table. My dad insists on this. He always hates it when the butter dish is not right next to him, and he gets very bitter if, when he finally needs it, the darn butter is on the other end of the table.

Bell Ringing, Car Tunes, Silly Family

I was utterly selfish yesterday and took most of the day off. I was in bed by 10 am, and I didn't wake up again until 3 pm. It felt wonderful. I made up for my sinful ways by folding two loads of laundry and washing all of the dishes before the boys got home.

On Tuesday night after work, Chester, Ben and I went to ShopKo to look for snowpants and boots for the little guy. They, like Walmart, didn't have anything in his size, but Chester and I bought some new shoes for ourselves.

On the way in, I made Chester raid our coin bucket in the car so I'd have some money to give the Salvation Army bell ringer. My mom always gave, no matter how little money we had, even if all we had to spare was a nickle. Now as an adult, I can't go by a bell ringer without dropping something into his pail.

The bell ringer on Tuesday night was someone special. He was ringing his bell, but he was also dancing a bit and singing Christmas carols. I loved it.

Chester agreed with me that I'd make a great bell ringer too, since I have no qualms about singing Christmas songs and doing little jigs in front of strangers. I'm forever embarrassing him in stores by dancing and singing while I'm pushing the cart down the aisles. Lately, I can just say I'm entertaining The Boy, but I used to do it even without a baby in the audience. Why on earth to they play Muzak in the stores if they don't intend people to dance along?

I think it's a family thing. My brother does it too, his wife reports. And he's a curmudgeonly, gruff, bear of a man.

Along the same lines, but a little more private, my sister and I had a game we called "Car Tunes." We lived together for about a year in college, and when we'd drive up north to see our parents or when we'd just be going to the grocery store, we'd turn on the radio and sing along. But we wouldn't necessarily try to make it sound good. We'd sing at the top of our lungs or in goofy voices with odd inflections. It was a riot. We'd always end up giggling.

Chester and I have made sure that we have a silly family, too. We're always acting goofy, talking in silly voices, making silly faces at each other. I hope frivolity comes as easily to Ben and his (maybe) future siblings as it does with me and my siblings. It really adds a wonderful dimension to life, because it means we can almost always entertain ourselves in public. As long as there's a song playing on the speakers or in our head, we'll have something to keep us occupied.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bleeding Diaper Rash, Woe is Ben

Today's off to a slow, dreary start.

Ben's poor widdle butt has a bleeding diaper rash. We changed his diaper when we put him in jammies last night, and we checked for wetness and odor before we put him in his crib for the night. He seemed fine. But he kept waking up screaming. At first I thought it was night terror, because he was inconsolable. That didn't seem to be it, though.

It was a rough night for everybody in the house. This morning, I changed Ben's diaper while being serenaded with his screeches and pleading sobs. His skin was dark red, and it wasn't until I was wiping off the poo that he really started screaming hard. As I wiped, his skin bled. I felt so bad. I tried to clean him as best as I could, as gently as possible, but I knew that I had to get all the poop off of his skin. I let him air dry for a while until I was sure his skin was dry and the blood stopped oozing.

Then Triple Paste, our household's chosen "cure" for diaper rash. After he was diapered again, we went and cuddled on the living room couch for half an hour. All he wanted to do was lay against me and watch cartoons with his butt in the air. An hour later when we were getting him ready for daycare, his rash seemed a little bit better. There were only a couple bleeding spots.

Poor widdle guy. I know it happens sometimes, and it's just a part of having a baby, but geez, it's hard to listen to his pain.

If it's not all better by tonight, we'll be soaking his butt in some oatmeal and baking soda water.

I'm have the beginnings of a chest cold. I can't breathe very deeply, so I'm out of breath all the time. I have the urge to cough, but haven't the strength to actually do it. Very uncomfortable. Chester is trying to convince me to just take the day off and go home and sleep. I might.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Baby Shower Word Scramble Game

Yesterday my boss let me peek at the word scramble she put together for today's baby shower that I won't be able to attend because I'll be getting photo-tortured. * We have two ladies in our department who are going to be dropping their bundles of joy before the new year. *

I finished her list in thirty seconds, so she asked me to suggest some more, more difficult words. So I did. And she didn't put all of mine into the game because mine were too difficult. I was kind of depressed, but I understood. We have very intelligent coworkers, but most of them are not quite so good with the words. :)

astber mppu
dogtiognh onmo

I like word puzzles, especially tough ones, so I tried to make them difficult by choosing words with common letters in them. A word like "milk" will be hard to scramble and not immediately look like it's just misspelled. Apparently, though, this is supposed to be a quick, light-hearted game, and mine took some thought and careful consideration.

Geez. It's not like the ladies at the shower will be drunk or anything. We're not allowed to spike the punch when we're at work.

Family Portrait Day

Today's the big day. Picture day.

Reasons why I don't like having my picture taken:
1. It always startles me with how overweight I look in pictures. I don't feel that fat, but the extra 100 pounds on my short frame really show in photos. Oddly, I feel skinnier than I actually am. Usually it's the other way around.
2. I have bad skin. My first pimple appeared when I was nine, and I've had a constant breakout since then. Makeup evens out my skin tone a bit, but it doesn't perfect it. Anyway. My face is always bumpy and inflamed, and it never looks anything close to flawless in pictures. You'd think I would grow out of acne, but it hasn't happened, and since my acne isn't hormone-dependent, it's unlikely to go away any time soon.
3. My mom always said that even plain girls are pretty when they smile. That's all well and good, but when I smile, I get an automatic double chin and my eyes go all squinty behind my glasses. So I end up going for a half smile, smirk kind of thing.
4. I'm a perfectionist, and pictures never turn out perfectly, and that bothers me. I'm quite handy with Photoshop, and any personal pictures I have of myself I get to monkey around with them and take out some blemishes or unflattering bits. With a cheap, discount place like Walmart, you get what you pay for. They don't do any touch-ups at all. And that's depressing.

But hey. Oh well. This is just to document what my family is like at this point in our lives. Ben will have his trademark two-inch spike on the top of his head (because try as we might, it will not flatten), and Chester will have his scruffy-looking beard which doesn't look that bad, but since it's only three weeks old, still looks odd to me.

And me? I'll just be Mamma and Wife. In my cherry lipstick and bright red, completely wonderful new blouse. Chester loves me just the way I am, and Ben couldn't imagine me any other way. I think Ben's adorable all the time, and I don't really have a preference for how Chester looks, as long as he doesn't have nose hairs sticking out or something.

Ideally, we'll have a kind of candid portrait taken where Chester and I are looking at Ben doing something cute and we'll be laughing. I'm not a fan of the posed portrait. We have a really great photographer in town who would do a perfect portrait, but we don't have hundreds of dollars to spend. Only about thirty. So Walmart Portrait Studio will have to do. And I'll try to inspire the picture-taking lady to be creative.

Chester and I had pictures taken last December when I was large with child. We had some cute pictures done, like one where Chester is touching my huge belly and resting his head on it with this dreamy sort of smile on his face. I didn't mind pictures then... I looked overweight, of course, but my cute, huge pregnant belly was the star of the picture and I knew that would be the focus.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Having a Second Baby, Internal Argument

Yesterday afternoon I spent a lot of time online trying to figure out the arguments for and against having another child. Yes, I'm obsessing about this. I think it's a perfectly reasonable thing to obsess about. Other mommies in Ben's play group are talking about second children, or are already pregnant.

I'm having such misgivings about it, though. I'm worried about the cost, yes, but mostly because it'll change a lot of things. We won't be able to fit two car seats in our car, at least not the same infant seat we had for Ben. We had to put that one in the middle because the handle had to be down, and we couldn't fit it behind either of the seats. So unless we can find a magical car seat that can go behind one of the passenger seats, we'd have to get a new car. That presents a problem. Our budget is incredibly tight as it is, and we don't have a car payment currently, since Chester's car is paid off. I know it's one of the issues that we could work around, but it's still there.

Ben's daycare costs don't decrease until he's two. At even then, I don't think it's a significant decrease. Currently, 40% of my take-home pay goes to daycare. It doesn't make sense for me to be working if we have two kids in daycare.

I love babies so much, but I know that no matter how many of my own I have, that feeling is never going to go away. Growing up, I always thought I wanted five kids. Five was the magic number. Chester and I talked about two births, and then adopting the rest.

Aw hell. I don't know. For now, I'll just keep taking my birth control pills. Maybe I'll feel differently in six months or so. Of course, being Cheryl, I will probably start worrying about this decision in another couple weeks when I would start another round of birth control.

Should Ben have a little brother or a little sister? A little Spencer or Somerset? Would I find room in my life for another baby? Would I ever sleep again?

The Blessings of Nana

On Sunday afternoon just before two, Ben, Chester and I braved the Wisconsin November and ran some errands. First on the list was a haircut for Ben, then shopping for nice shirts to wear for our Christmas pictures.

I found the most flattering shirt I have ever had on my body. It took a lot of willpower not to buy more than one.

When we got home, we were talking about breaking down and ordering Applebees so we could have a nice steak dinner. I went to call from Chester's phone, and we realized it was dead (no battery charge). I went into the kitchen to find something for Ben's dinner, and when I opened up the fridge, I found two uncooked steaks, a bag of romaine lettuce, a box of butter, and a jug of my favorite orange juice. On the counter was a bag of red juicy grapes and four baking potatoes.

I yelled for Chris to call Nana, because it could only be my mother who would do such a thing. (And, really, she's the only other person with a key to our apartment).

Turns out that Nana had been trying to get in touch with us all day, but because our phone was dead, she was leaving messages that we didn't know we had. She figured she'd take the chance and drove an hour and fifteen minutes on the chance that we'd be home. She arrived at two in the afternoon, just minutes after we left. Just missed us.

It was sad that we didn't get to see her, but we did enjoy the dinner very much. After a week of living in our own personal Beanery, it was nice to have a normal meal that cost more than two bucks a person.

My mother is such a blessing. I hope she comes down again soon so she can see the Benjamin. Maybe we'll even know she's coming ahead of time so we can vacuum. :)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cleaning out the Cupboard

I had a lovely weekend at home with my boys.

Saturday, while Chester went to work to do a big messy server project, Ben napped, and I sat on the couch feeling guilty for not tackling some project or another. I knew that if Chester had just sat on his lazy butt all afternoon, I would have been resentful. So I dragged myself into the kitchen.

Our food cabinet has not really been organized since we moved in and shoved things onto the shelves. Well, since the discovery of squirmy little bugs in the Wondra flour on Wednesday, I have been revolted at the sight of the disorder and the thought of lurking pests.

So I cleaned it out. Everything that was just in a cardboard box (like pasta and pancake mix) or a paper bag (like flour) went into the trash. I was plagued with thoughts of being wasteful, but I knew that I would be buying plastic containers to hold everything that I buy now. That won't help the Wondra flour... I was just too lazy to turn the little top to close the holes. But still. Every little bit of change matters. All in all, our cupboard is not exactly bare, but there's definitely room for us to buy more food.

Last night while we were cooking a lovely dinner (more on that later today), Chester and I cleaned out the freezer of all the stuff we knew we'd never eat, had horrible frostbite, or had been in there more than a year. Like our food cupboard, our freezer is also quite bare now. :)

It feels remarkably good to have small areas of our lives in order.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Toy Bonding, Anything-Goes Attitude

This morning when I kneeled on the back seat to unlatch Ben from the car seat and carry him into daycare, I tried taking away a toy from him. He actually yelled, "Hey!," and pulled his hand back. My ten-month-old boy. So he took it into the building. I managed to get him to switch hands as I took off his jacket, but it was a bit of a struggle.

This red and blue rattle is one of our many "car toys," or toys we don't really care about and leave in the car for The Boy's amusement. I think we picked it out of the dollar bin by the checkout at Walmart. He's never really cared that much for it in the past, but today, it was his favorite.

I've been trying to get Ben to develop an attachment to a toy, a blanket or a stuffed animal since he was born. Stuff animals didn't work until he was around seven months old. Before then, he was scared of them and would cry if we wiggled one in front of his face. As for toys, eh. The only thing we have that comes remotely close to a favorite toy (for more than five sessions) is a soft little soccer ball (another Walmart bin toy). And that's only because he likes to suck on the tag.

Over the past few months he seems to really enjoy chewing on his burp rags, which are really just thin cloth diapers that have been laundered into softness. He likes to wave them around and rub them on floors, furniture, our faces... anything he wants to pretend to clean.

I guess I was looking at this whole thing from the perspective of "He needs some item that will calm him down and soothe him if he's upset." I figured if he had a favorite item, I could use it as leverage to get him to behave, like offering it to him as a bribe to be quiet in a restaraunt.

The good news is, pretty much anything works since he doesn't have a favorite. If he's tired and cranky, I can give him any "luv" (a blanket or burp towel) to put against his cheek, and he'll hold onto it for dear life as he settles to sleep. If he's bored, pretty much any toy will do. Spoons are good, but he tends to use them as drum sticks, and he doesn't enjoy the sound of a spoon hitting my purse or a pile of napkins. The hard tabletop gives so much more pleasure. :)

Ben's also never really been that whiny about needing mommy or daddy. Anyone will do. He has a few favorite ladies at daycare, but for the most part, he'll cuddle and play with anyone. He's never cried when we leave him there. I keep waiting for the Mommy or Daddy phase to start. But he's so easy going and well-mannered, he doesn't seem to care. We know he loves us most of all, and he's always really happy to see us, but there's not the urgency I see in other babies.

So here's my quandry. Is his happy-go-lucky personality healthy? And what the heck am I complaining about? That my baby doesn't fit some textbook's definition of a needy, whiny baby? Oh shucks.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bookish Thursday, Lilian Jackson Braun

For Bookish Thursday, I'm going to exposite the wonders of another light-reading author I love, Lilian Jackson Braun. She's the prolific writer of the Cat Who... books.

I came across her the same way I came across Dick Francis, in the audiobook section of a library. Since then, I've read or heard more than two dozen of her pleasant stories of Qwilleran, Koko and Yum Yum.

First of all, I love cats. Maybe not as much as I did before I had Ben (now they just seem needy, dirty and smell), but I still love them. I've had cats since I was eight. Adira, my oldest cat at 8.5 years old, is a darling orange short-hair tabby who has stuck by me through the insanity of the last 8.5 years of my life. Her cohort, Maisie, an all-white short-hair with one blue eye and one hazel eye, isn't nearly as emotionally connected, but still amusing. It's an obvious leap, then, to think that I might enjoy a good cat story.

And wouldn't you know it, I do. And the Cat Who books are my favorite blending of the cat and mystery genre.

While the cats are delightful and intriguing to read about, it's really Qwilleran who stole my heart. 1. He was a journalist in the big cities Down Below, and I majored in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism. 2. He has a gruff, dry, sarcastic sense of humor not unlike my own. 3. He's a charitable soul who enjoys helping deserving people. 4. He knows the craziest, most amazing people. I think that if I were living in Moose County, I would be harboring a secret crush on Mr. Q. His millions of dollars in the bank doesn't diminish him in my eyes either.

One of the reasons I love these books so much is the location in which the majority of the action takes place. Pickax is the melding of Minocqua (where I went to high school in the Northwoods of Wisconsin) with its tourist-trap popularity and the UP of Northern Michigan with its backwoods-common-folks-practical sensibilities (where my parents grew up). I recognize exaggerated caricatures of some of the people my parents have talked about all of my life. But mostly, I recognize the slow pace, the familiarity with your neighbors, and the simple pleasures of ultra-small town life.

Braun's books are my favorite escapist literature.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ad Design, Ben's Teething, Sister's Womb

Short post today since I leave work in twenty minutes.

Work was out of the ordinary today. My boss's boss, who knows I have a penchant for Photoshop and graphic design, pulled me out of the department today to create a mockup of an ad to submit to one of our biggest vendors. She said that she couldn't ask anyone in Design to take on any more work without risking losing her life, so I was her alternate choice. She told me the concept, I created it. Someone tweaked the concept, I tweaked the ad. Finally, the concept they came up with was something very Photoshop-intensive, so I got to play on one of the graphic computers for a couple of hours. I finished, presented the mockup. She walked it around to her boss, that boss walked it to his boss, and it was approved.

Turns out they're going to send my mockup to the vendor as the final product. I was shocked. I figured I was just throwing something together for an internal presentation. If I knew that it'd be going to an external partner, I probably would have 1. freaked out a bit, 2. spent more time on the details, 3. refused. At least it's not going to be the final, polished ad for publication. Our external partner is going to recreate the ad from my mockup.

Anyway. Pat on the back for me. I have little to no formal Photoshop training. It's just been something I've played with for years.

Ben is still on his hunger strike. He'll snap out of it eventually. Until then, he gets to just have bottles and whatever solid food he'll allow (which is nothing). Last night, we offered him some of his favorites. We put them on his tray, and he started to cry. He'd play with his spoon, but never touched the food. When we tried to feed him, he'd put both hands over his mouth and scream. The teeth are almost through. Maybe a week to go. The second top one popped through overnight. Just two other ones just below the surface, and then we can forget about this teething crap for a while.

Today, I'm anti-having-a-second-child. It's odd. I never thought I'd question my desire to have a big family. Ben is so wonderful, and I enjoy him so much, today I feel like he's enough, that our family could be complete just as it is. We'll see how I feel about this next week.

My sister is 38 weeks pregnant now. Any day! I'm so excited for her. She must be so miserable, though. I never got that pregnant. Ben rushed out at 35 weeks. Soon, my dear sister, soon. Hopefully, for her sake, my little family will be taking a trip to Oshkosh to see her and the new baby this weekend.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Moody Marriage Woes

My husband and I are sneaking off in a little while to go vote.

Something's a little off between us. I wish I could figure out what it is. We've never really analyzed our marriage dynamic, we just live it and let it evolve. Since we didn't really date before getting married (thank you eharmony), living together and being married has been an adventure in relationships.

I met Chester on eharmony in September of 2004. He was from Tucson, a computer geek of the highest order. We could read each other's minds even during our first phone conversation. We "clicked." I did a background check, learned about his parents, his past, his issues. He learned about mine. I knew I was going to marry him. I flew out to Tucson a month later. He flew out to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving to meet my family. Then we enjoyed a long-distance, over-the-phone relationship until March, when I flew back out to Tucson to help him pack up his stuff and move to Wisconsin. We had a little engagement/pre-marriage party in Tucson. Got married during a freak blizzard in Santa Fe. Honeymooned a little bit at bed and breakfasts between Arizona and Wisconsin. Had another party for my family here in WI.

So started our life together. It only took us a month and a half to get pregnant. 35 weeks later, Ben arrived and enriched our lives to no end.

I love my husband dearly. He and I co-exist together very well. We share a lot of laughs and love.

But sometimes, of course, I wish I could take a break from being married. It's so difficult to share a living space with someone.

Dammit, I'm moody. I don't always know "what's wrong." I've been tense about the whole getting pregnant again thing. Ben hasn't been sleeping through the night lately because he's teething. My boss at work just miscarried. We're broke, and since I'm the one who pays the bills, it's my fault. It's Chester's turn to do the dishes and he's been working at them a little bit every night, but now the dishes at the bottom of the sink are fetid and really stinky and that pisses me off to no end. Our mattress is really uncomfortable, but we can't afford a new one until spring. Because we're broke, I wasn't able to send my nephew a birthday card with money in it (like I normally do), and he's 13 years old now, and that's big deal.

None of my problems are serious, and I really try to not let them affect my daily life and my relationships. I know that Chester has his own issues right now that make him curmudgeonly as well. Put the two of us in the same small apartment with a whiny boy who's on a hunger strike because of his teeth, and you get things being a little "off." Life's not flowing smoothly.

I'm sure it'll even out soon.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Poopy Diapers, Cooking on a Budget

I feel a little bit guilty about not blogging all weekend. What can I say? After a week of being glued to my computer at work, having a whole weekend to play with a 10-month-old boy named Ben, a 26-year-old husband named Chester, and a house to tidy up, laundry to fold, dishes to wash, etc... I'd rather do a crossword puzzle (or 20) than log on for some blogging and Addiction Solitaire.

The weekend was good. We went to a thrift store on Saturday to buy Ben a push toy. Something he can push around and walk behind. For good measure, we also got him a little plastic dump truck. Then we played with him and encouraged him to walk all day Sunday. He's really doing a great job with that pushing thing. It's easier when he doesn't have pants on.. because he's short, and as he walks, he'll step on the cuffs of his pants and start to either trip on them or pull his pants down around his ankles. We've tried just rolling them up, but it never seems to help that much.

He wasn't eating a lot of solid foods over the weekend (we did have Pizza Hut on Friday night, and he ate a whole piece all by himself). His mouth is really hurting him. He has three teeth coming in at one time on top. He'd eat his yogurt for breakfast, but only pick at his pasta for lunch and dinner. Day care called this morning and said he's been pooping all morning, and the last couple ones have been full of mucus. He's been drinking a lot of formula and water, so I'm not worried about dehydration yet. I do have a call into the nurses line to run it by them, though. Update: it's nothing to worry about unless there's blood in the stool or he's dehydrated.

Ben's acting just fine though. Playing with wild abandon. Gotta love that about babies.

My mom and dad stopped by last night to deliver a Christmas present from my brother's family in Green Bay. They also brought McDonald's. But mostly they came to see The Boy. Nana and Papa hadn't seen the new crawl yet, and they certainly hadn't seen him walk behind his push toy. Ben tasted a french fry for the first time. He munched on it for a while and seemed to enjoy it.

Life's pretty good. Benji is delightful, Husband is affectionate. We managed to spend way too much from our last paychecks, though, and needed an emergency loan from my mom. I hate it when that happens. I over-enthusiastically paid bills, it seems. Anyway. Now we're on a thirty dollar budget for food this week. We're mostly going to make do with what we have, and experiment with some new recipes. Tonight before bed I'm making a meatloaf that's made with baked beans and beef. On Wednesday, I'm making a baked beans and beef casserole that has biscuits on top. Thursday, we'll make a chicken, cheesy pasta bake. Then on Friday, I'm making a tuna noodle casserole with cream of mushroom soup. On Saturday, I'll make a big batch of spaghetti, and that'll get us through the weekend.

What sucks most is that we should have known better. We were just so excited to get so much more of a paycheck for Chester (since he started his new position)... that we forgot that we still need to be careful about budgeting. It's not like we went wild and bought lots of extra stuff last week. Oh well. We'll be more careful next pay period.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

10 Things Every Child Should Experience

Ten Things From My Childhood That All Children Should Experience

1. Alone time. I didn't have any siblings close to my age, so I was on my own for entertainment a lot. I've been having internal conversations in my head for a long time. If I was upset or mad or anxious about something, I'd talk to myself about it silently. Difficult conversations with my mother. Arguments with friends. It made me develop a knack for expressing myself verbally. Wouldn't you know it? I majored in communications in college.

2. Inexpensive or common object toys. I grew up po' until I was about eleven. All of my toys were hand-me-downs, except a Cabbage Patch doll that I cherished. Instead of the fancy stuff, I'd play with kitchen utensils and turn them into houses and furniture and people and trees and cars and ... you get my drift. Especially fun was my parents' chess game. Those little figures became my classroom, where the Queen was the teacher, my church, where my Queen was the minister, and my restaurant (guess who was the chef?).

3. Fresh air. We went to my grandmother's farm every other weekend in the UP of Michigan, about 2-4 hours away (depending on where we lived). I spent a lot of time playing in the yard, out in the fields, collecting wildflowers, chasing cows, laying on the ground and watching clouds. Priceless.

4. Travel. My father had to go on frequent business trips to look at floors. All over the country. My dad, my mom, my sister and I would pile into the big old van and set off down the highway at o'dark thirty. I saw a lot of America that way, even if a lot of it was rest areas and anything I could glimpse from the interstate. I loved it. When I was 13 (and we had more money) my mom and I went to Europe for a few weeks to visit my brother who was stationed there. That was also a very special experience that I'll never forget.

5. Book freedom. I was always a nerdy kid. Voracious reading runs in my family. I was never content to just read what my classmates were reading. I read through all the Baby Sitters Club books in six months. My mom let me pick out books of hers to read. So, when I was ten, I read Rosamunde Pilcher's The Shell Seekers. When I was nine, I started Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series. I loved Christian historical romances. It made me a rather dreamy pre-pubescent girl, but looking back I feel proud that I had other interests besides Nancy Drew and Little House on the Prairie (read all of those too anyway).

6. Art dabbling. I was home-schooled for four years in grade school. My mom would come up with different activities and classes to supplement what I could have been doing in school. One winter, I took a beginner's watercolor class with a bunch of adults at the YWCA. Another spring, I took a calligraphy class. Later on, I'd go through tons of art supplies, experimenting with different mediums. I started writing poetry, and coloring and drawing and painting seemed to be an extension of that. I loved doing landscapes and practicing shadows and perspective. By the time I got to high school and could take an actual art class with peers, I was pretty good at lots of different art areas. I had the freedom as a child to play with art and take it wherever I wanted to.

7. Milk a cow. Here in Central Wisconsin, we're in farm country. Lots and lots of cows. As far as the eye can see. We like cheese. As a child, I had a friend whose family still ran a farm. I loved to go over there on the weekends and help. I learned how to milk a cow by hand when I was seven. By 8, I could work those funky milking machine cups. It's a badge of pride for me.

8. Feeding the ducks. At least once a summer, my mom would take me to the park with a bag of stale bread. We'd feed the duckies along the shore. I loved it. So peaceful and fun. Such entertaining little critters. I did it by myself a few times in college as well.

9. Plant a garden. When I was seven, we moved to a farmhouse just outside of town. It was a huge yard with a huge area in the backyard to plant a garden. I loved planning out the garden with my mother and choosing seed packets at the hardware store. I loved the flowers of course, but vegetables were my favorite. I thought it was the neatest thing to turn a little seed into a carrot.

10. Love a pet. I had kitties when we lived in that farmhouse. Since my dad was allergic, they were outside cats who were based out of a shed attached to our garage. I loved naming them, petting them, cuddling them, playing with them. I also learned about what it was like to lose something you love, and about the practicalities that come with death.

Bookish Thursday, Dick Francis

For Bookish Thursday, I've decided to write a little ode to Dick Francis, the author of books that I read in private, but never in public. I have very literary-minded friends, and if it isn't on a classics list, it just isn't good reading.

Maybe it's because I'm in love with the romanticism of the English countryside (I have also read Rosamunde Pilcher books since I was a kid). I have been reading Dick Francis books privately for a few years now. I think I caught onto him when I started a voracious cross-stitching habit. I started borrowing books on tape from a local library. One of the times, I picked up a Dick Francis book, and I've been hooked ever since.

In reality, the books have many of the same themes. The main character will inevitably be in a world of hurt, experiencing pain that makes my skin crawl just hearing about. He will be an outsider in society, an introvert who socializes on a limited basis and has enough going on inside his head to entertain himself. And of course, there'll be something about British horse racing. Sometimes, there'll be a hint of romance, but nothing incredibly sexual, more like the deep stirrings of an intimate bond.

I own about 12 of his novels, and I continue to look for more audio books to borrow. For some reason, I still haven't heard them all, or if I have, I don't mind re-hearing them. It's mystery fluff, but entertaining fluff. There's always a character I'll learn to love and appreciate, and always a moral lesson about doing what's right, even when it's not very convenient.

Collecting Dick Francis paperbacks is just like how I collect Rosamunde Pilcher paperbacks. Someday I'll have a terrific guest bedroom with bookshelves. I'll fill these shelves with my favorite vacation books. Stories that don't take long to read, but are a good, satisfying ride.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Change, Grief, Life

I'm not a fan of change. And Lady Smo losing her baby yesterday will instigate a change. From now on, her dear dead baby will be part of the conversation. I'll finally have had a friend who has had to grieve a loss. I'm not used to it.

I'm young (25), and still a baby. My generation hasn't experienced a lot of trauma yet, for the most part. Our parents usually won't have died yet. This new topic of "Loss" is new to me.

I've tried to wrap myself in the old, time-honored traditions. I've sent her flowers, written her a note, and made her a casserole. I've let her know she's loved.

Now I'll wait for her cues as to what she needs, how she will process this event, this change. Her boss is trying to convince her to take the rest of the week off. I hope she does, if she needs to. Dealing with the physical aftereffects of a miscarriage would be traumatic... but it'd be horrendous to have to deal with that at work. As for the emotional and spiritual aspects, I shudder at the thought.

I clung to Chester last night. We talked for a while about whether or not I should start taking my birth control pills again this cycle. Strangely, it felt more appropriate to let fate take control and forego the protection. Life is so precious, so fleeting. We're willing and ready for another baby, and if we would be blessed with one again, we'd rejoice. It seems odd to me. I thought I'd be freaking out at the prospect of getting pregnant again considering Lady Smo's last pregnancy. Instead of resolving to save myself from that chance, I felt the urge to join with my husband and create and celebrate life.

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