Thursday, November 08, 2007

National Novel Writing Month - Day 8 - Later

After two hours in front of my computer, I’ve written 726 words, planned my Thanksgiving menu, and decided what to cook next week. I’ve run out of writing steam. I know exactly what I want to write next, but...I just don’t seem to want to write it. Maybe it needs more time to simmer in my mind before I write it. Maybe I need to take a break. Maybe my writing muscles are just tired. Maybe I’ve gotten so used to writing in fits and starts that it’s hard to make use of those rare long stretches of time. Maybe I just need some good old fashioned discipline.
Probably it’s all of those things are more. I finally managed to squeak out 1,012 words in the end, in addition to employing the trick that has worked well for me in the past. I’ve found that ending a scene and beginning a new one before putting the story aside for the day builds momentum. I don’t have to sit and figure out how to get into the next scene or where to start. I’m already there, the conversation is already going so it’s easier to jump right in.
Ah, well. Time to be content with my 1,012 words and move on.

National Novel Writing Month - Day 8

It’s only Day 8 of NaNoWriMo, and I’m already making vows about next year. Next year, I’m going to plan ahead and a create plot outline and character sketches so my fingers don’t hang idly over my keyboard while I try to think of a name for my protagonist’s future brother-in-law. Next year, I’m going to cook ahead so my children aren’t groaning, “Not fish sticks again?” at dinner time. Next year I’m going to tackle Mt. Washmore before Halloween so I’ll have more time to write. Well, maybe not. Dirty laundry has a way of multiplying exponentially behind my back during every 24 hour period.
As for the writing, well, it’s pretty awful. I’m making an effort not to worry about that. Writing 50,000 words on a novel in 30 days is sort of like spinning a tangle rather than a skein of thread. At the end, you have some thread that you can wind into a skein and weave into something you can be proud of. And then you also have lots of tangled and frayed bits that are destined for the trash. So, here’s to tangling!
Today’s Goals:
Writing 2200 words
Spending at least 15 minutes cleaning out my fridge and freezer
Writing out bills, what fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Breaking News -- Now She's Painted Her Hair with Nail Polish

I'm sitting here in the dawn twilight about to untwist my daughter's hair before she goes to the hair salon for her new twist style. She has beautiful, long, coily hair that makes springy twists. No, she isn't the one with nail polish in her hair, though it was her polish that was used to do the deed. Of course, it was my four-year-old who gave herself tasteful magenta streaks that would the be envy of any teenager.
When I was talking to my cousin, she went online looking for a solution (what did we ever do before the Internet?) and found one within seconds. When I did my own search this morning to confirm my strategy, I found a page on I'll need to purchase a creme rinse conditioner before getting started, but I have a presentiment that I'll be spending some time dabbing the painted hair with nail polish remover, rinsing thoroughly with water, shampooing, then applying a creme rinse conditioner to close down the hair cuticle. Likely it will take a pair of shears to completely undo the damage, but I'll do my best. I can think of so many better ways to spend my time than painstakingly removing nail polish from my daughter's hair, but just think! Thanks to, I know how to do it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Painting the Dog with Yogurt

It’s only 10:15 in the morning, and already my daughter has managed to eat a gingerbread cookie ornament left over from Christmas and paint the dog with her breakfast yogurt. I can already tell I’m going to have an exciting day.
Last night, my husband remarked on my daughter’s dinner time behavior. “Do you see this change?” he asked. She was squeezing the hamburger out of the bun and spreading rice and broccoli over the table. “Do you think it’s the ketchup?”
“It could be the ketchup,” I said. “It’s BHA, BHT, and TBHQ, the artificial flavors and colors, and the natural salycilates in the tomatoes. It’s probably the ketchup and mustard.”
He looked thoughtful. I felt the great looming task of preparing a menu, shopping list, and cooking plan. The helpful Feingold Program booklet says it isn’t that difficult to work the program, but they don’t know me. I have a child who can’t have milk, a husband who doesn’t eat meat except for fish, and a mental block against menu planning and cooking the size of Mount Rushmore.
You don’t have to change the way you cook in order to do the Feingold Program—as long as you’re used to cooking from scratch—but you do need to change the way you shop. It doesn’t suit me at all, but I’m used to flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to food shopping and feeding my family. Chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and black beans and rice are regulars on my dinner table, along with any number of “experiments” that don’t always turn out right since I’m forever cutting corners to avoid dairy products and chopping vegetables.
Working the Feingold Program will force me to get my act together with the cooking and shopping, something I’ve been studiously avoiding out of fear of being chained to the kitchen. I want my little girl to be successful in school and not wreak havoc at home, so I’m willing to give it a shot. The worst that can happen is that we eat really well and get organized with the cooking. Besides, Ghirardelli’s chocolate is on the Feingold food list.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Flexibility is so important to keeping it together and staying productive, sane, and content. I can plan and plan and plan, and then actually do and do and do, and sure enough in the middle of getting things done, something unexpected happens.
Yesterday I knew the weather was going to be squirrelly. I saw the prediction for one to two inches of snow, I knew that the last prediction for one to two inches turned into about three to four. So although I prepared for my meeting downtown I also prepared to cancel it. And cancel it I did, for the third time in a month. Yes, I was disappointed, but I was also a bit uncomfortable being at International Square when the schools might close early.
Being flexible, I chose to spend the morning at a nearby Starbucks instead of the one I’d found downtown. I sat with my hot chocolate, wrote a scene in my novel, did some planning to figure out how much I need to write a day to hit my (self-imposed) deadline. I was in the zone, deep down in my rabbit hole, about to switch gears and work on something else when my cell phone rang. I saw the exchange, knew it was probably one of the preschool teachers, and figured she was calling to let me know they were closing school early.
I answered the phone and got an unpleasant surprise. My daughter had a low-grade fever and was complaining of stomach pain. The teacher suggested it might be that nasty tummy bug going around and finished with, “She doesn’t look good.”
Two and a half years ago, I would have been convinced that the fates were against me and that I was perfectly justified in blowing off all my chores for pleasure since pleasure is fickle and fleeting. Yesterday, however, I was able to shift my emotional gear quickly and I jumped out of my rabbit hole of chocolate and writing and dashed off to CVS for some Gatorade before heading off to school.
Mercifully, Ana had not vomited, was not lying in a feverish heap on the sofa in the school clinic. After a brief chat with the teacher, I took my little girl in hand and walked her to the car, lecturing her on the perils of licking cars and floors and eating snow. I told her about Flick and how Schwartz had dared him to lick the flagpole. Licking stuff was bad for you, I explained. Flick got his tongue frozen stuck to the flagpole and ended up with a big boo-boo on his tongue. We went home, watched that scene from A Christmas Story, while Ana fed her lunch Cheerios to the dog. Clearly she was not well, but she was in decent spirits so I had a hope that I was not going to spend the next 24 hours mopping up vomit.
Somehow I got through the rest of the day, squeezing in teaching a piano lesson while Ana napped (a miracle!), and clearing off the driveway before dark settled. This morning, I was debating with myself whether I should send Ana to school if she looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, when the phone rang. It was Ana’s bus driver, politely informing me that preschool was closed because of the two-hour delay. What delay? I thought, while I mechanically thanked him for his news.
Of course, I should have seen in coming, the two-hour delay. But I figured if the snow ended by nightfall, the roads would be fine. Ah, well. Time to make another mental shift. I went into two-hour delay mode, minus the usual snow shoveling since I’d taken care of that the night before. And now I am ready for a day of writing, housework, and piano lessons. I only wish I knew what was for dinner.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It's Tough Being Sick

Here I sit in bed on my second sick day while the rest of the world is out getting some sun and air after being iced in for a week. My big accomplishment for Monday was finding the prescription I'd lost so I could cure whatever is ailing me. My big accomplishment for yesterday was getting the prescription filled and deciding to start taking the medicine.
When I get sick I have spend a lot of mental energy figuring out just how sick I am and how to divide my time between resting (healing) and doing something useful. I still feel sorry for myself when I have to do stuff for the kids, like picking them up from daycare--or worse, taking them to the doctor--when I'm sick, myself. I could feel grateful that I haven't been struck down so bad that I can't do stuff for the kids, but usually I go for the self-pity instead.
First I have to figure out how sick I am. I used to try to delegate this to someone else. I'd go around looking miserable, waiting for someone, preferably my boss, to say, "You look terrible. You should go right home and get in bed." Or I'd lie in bed and moan and groan, waiting for my husband to bend over me with a look of concern and say, "Are you okay? Do you need me to take care of the kids this morning and bring you some hot tea?"
This didn't usually work. At least not with my husband, whose usual response goes along the lines of, "Geez, what's wrong with you now?" in a digusted tone. Now I lie in bed and think and journal and listen to my body. I'll ask myself questions, wondering if I can get by with OTCs or if I need a prescription.
Then I'll get up and dressed and put on some make up so I don't look so much like the plague when I go out in search of medicine. If I'm sick enough, I'll end up spending more than half the day in the doctor's office and then at the pharmacy, so I only have an hour or two to rest before the evening drill begins.
On those bronchitis/sinus infection/strep days, when I'm out and about getting diagnosed and filling prescriptions, I wonder why I have to put out so much energy before I can tuck myself in bed with a good book. Whatever happened to the good old days, when, if you were sick enough to call the doctor, all you had to do was change the sheets and put on a nice nightgown and have him (or her) come to you, call in your prescription so it could be delivered by the same teenagers who deliver pizza?
And heaven help the mom who has the nerve to get sick! Do you think the kids are going to look concerned and say, "Mom's sick. Let's be quiet. Let's wash the dishes." Of course not! They're going to run around like maniacs because you're too tired to maintain any order, and then announce that they're hungry and ask when dinner is.
I haven't found it too helpful to waste a lot of time feeling sorry for myself when I'm under the weather, though. I figure if I'm sick then I can spend as much time as I can getting well, do what absolutely must get done, and leave the rest till I'm better. It's difficult. Some kind souls will be concerned about me, but the rest will just wonder why my work isn't getting done faster. It doesn't matter. I'm doing anyone any good running myself into the ground, so I might as well take as much time as I can for healing.

Monday, January 15, 2007

MRI at Children's Hospital

Ana's MRI went reasonably well on Friday. She was coughing in the night and awoke with a snotty nose, which triggered my thought of, "Great! Here we go again." Just when we're all recovered from the Christmas cold, here comes the one for January.
Coming down with a cold did not stop the MRI procedure, however. We arrived at Children's Hospital bright and early to find it bustling with activity as if it had been in business all night long. Which, of course, it had. It's a hospital. I may be an early riser most of the time, but I'm used to solitude and quiet at that time of day.
I made up my mind that if I had to be hospitalized, this was the place I'd want to be. The decor was bright and cheerful, with murals and paintings all along the walls. Leon managed to find his way around by noticing the different paintings we passed. "Yes, we're going the right way because I remember this painting," he'd murmur as I scanned the signs overhead to figure out where I was.
The staff were all morning people or otherwise revved up on caffeine. The lady at the desk cheerfully handed me a survey to fill out, "so you can tell them how crazy I am." I grinned and replied, "Not as crazy as I am right now." I'd been up since 5:30 with no food, no hot chocolate, no journaling to center my mind.
Ana was as good as gold--she's a morning person, too. We went back and got her gowned up while a young woman with long, wavy blonde hair who positively radiated warmth and friendliness took her vitals. Then we waited. We played with Happy Bear (a gift from G.G. Walker). Leon flew her in and out of our cubby while she shrieked with her arms and legs outstretched. There was much talk of the Bubblegum-Cherry guy, who finally arrived to pick up his form, then disappeared to prepare the going to sleep medicine. Ana had latched onto the bubblegum and cherry news instantly. The going to sleep medicine was going to smell like bubblegum or cherries or both.
It was a disappointment, however, since it came with a forbidding looking mask. Ana decided that they could keep their bubblegum, their cherries, and their ugly mask--she was ready to leave right then. It took a fair amount of cajoling to get her to keep the mask on long enough for the anesthesia to start flowing forth. The Bubblegum-Cherry guy, who looked as though he spent his evenings eating good food, drinking good wine, and reading books off the New York Times bestseller list, having had his fill of children all day, remarked that the sedative smelled more like Shrek mouthwash than bubblegum and cherries. But by then Ana's eyes had started to roll up into her head and it was time to collect Happy Bear and go find breakfast in the hospital cafeteria.
Why does all hospital food smell the same? It doesn't matter which hospital I visit, I breathe in the aroma of their food and I know I'm in a hospital--some hospital. Leon and I went to have breakfast. Desperately hungry and determined to get the few remaining breakfast items, we did not choose well. Hospital cafeterias also all seem to having an annoying set up that the staff are accustomed to but make visitors wander in a confused circle looking for forks. The food was excellent when I sat down to eat--I was ravenous--but once I had my fill the spell was broken and it became ordinary cafeteria food again.
By the time we finished and had found our way back to the MRI area, the presiding nurse was racing towards us with a relieved expression. Everything was over and had gone well, and Ana was sleeping in her curtained off cubby.
We set up camp beside her bed, prepared to read, sketch, or knit, but Ana was soon stirring. All went swimmingly after that. She ate her cherry popsicle, had her IV removed (which made the most alarming boo-boo), received her fairy princess outfit, and got dressed to go. She bounced out of the hospital, into the parking lot, and into the car, where she wilted on the way home.
It was as if someone had clicked her internal switch to "really sick" mode. Her breathing grew fast and shallow and she began to shiver and tremble violently and complain that she was cold. I felt her forehead, which didn't feel feverish, and covered her in a towel in case she barfed up the popsicle. She didn't improve when she got her home and settled in the guest room bed with "Go, Diego, Go!" on TV. We both dozed off, and when I opened my eyes I reached for her forehead. It was hot. I jumped up and took her temperature. I didn't get a really good reading, but evidently it didn't matter. 105.
I grabbed the phone, while Leon switched the setting from infant/toddler to child/adult. He got 103. The kind gentleman who answered the phone recommended Tylenol, if that didn't work call her pediatrician. We got the Tylenol down her and waited for an hour. It worked. Ana was no longer curled up in a shivering ball. She lay and watched Diego with interest, drank Gatorade, and eventually asked for the crackers we'd been offering. Her temp came down to below 100. The worst was over.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pets and Vets

Today I'm off to take the dog to the vet, likely to be an all morning task. I'll allow myself the flexibility to stay with her or leave her. Sitting in the doctor's office is one of those time-sucking experiences that make me feel the minutes crashing all around me, breaking apart, and evaporating uselessly. Sitting with Sammy at the vet is little better. Unlike the groomers, I feel compelled to stay with her since she gets so skittish and frightened. I have more sympathy for a dog at the vet than a dog at the groomers. I figure it isn't my problem that dogs hate baths so much.
But what to do about the time spent there? Aha! I could do some nagging paperwork related to pet care while I wait. If I'm going to spend my time taking care of the dog, I might as well get as much out of it as I can.
As I sit here and write, I can hear Sammy doing her morning shake, tags jingling. She'll get restless soon and I'll want to let her out for the day.
Ana has her MRI scheduled for Friday--general anesthesia required. I don't like general anesthesia. If it were me who needed some procedure, I'd consider acupuncture. As it's Ana, I don't have that particular choice. I wonder if I could ask for alternative ways to quiet her for the procedure. Every time I mention it to her she asks if it's going to hurt. Perhaps the "going to sleep medicine" is best.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Small Mysteries

Today I plan to bake bread all by myself. I'm intimidated because bread baking is one of those tasks that once you start you have to finish, and it takes hours, even if part of it is waiting for the dough to rise. But perhaps it can be relaxing, creative, and rewarding, and nicely dovetailed with any enjoyable task I can think of. All I can do is jump in.
In my quest to begin the Feingold program, I had a nice little chat with the pharmacist yesterday. I figure there's no point in putting any effort into starting the program if the meds are full of artificial colors and flavors. The pharmacist was pleasant and helpful enough, (God, I miss my dad.) and the next step is call the physician for samples of the adult formularies. Plus a mortar and pestle to crush the half pills to dilute them in pear juice or milk.
This Feingold business is worth a shot, but I have a funny feeling that Ana is exposed to something at daycare that she doesn't come in contact with often at home. The daycare is a wonderful place, but I just would like to figure out what it is that sets her off. Yesterday evening, Leon commented that she was positively vibrating with excess energy. Something she comes in contact with is firing up those ants in her pants. Maybe it's worth keeping a journal of her behavior before beginning the program as well as during. Again, all I can do is give it a shot.