|Holiday Exchange Fest: Fic for: the Community
||[Friday 20th Dec, 2013 | 12:22 am]
Title Torchwood, Now with More Kittehs
Gen or Pairing(s) Mostly gen with some Jack/Ianto at the end.
Summary Ianto is missing, a kitten is found in the archives. Coincidence?
Word Count 2034
( TorchwoodCollapse )
|31 Day Blog Challenge - Day 24
||[Sunday 15th Dec, 2013 | 6:46 pm]
Favourite Childhood Book:
Matilda by Roald Dahl.
I also liked The Adventures of Tintin and Sweet Valley High series.
|49:2013 (Week of Dec 4 - 10, 2013)
||[Thursday 12th Dec, 2013 | 2:01 pm]
- Erika trying out her new purple chalkboard wall in our new home. She's 3-1/2 years old and she can write Erika, Mom, Dad, and Kade, without prompting. She knows all her letters, so if you help her spell it or sound it out, she can write most words.
- Friday was the office holiday potluck appetizer party. I brought two trays of mini mac-n-cheese bites and one tray was gone before I took off my jacket! The second tray was gone in minutes and I had so many requests for the recipe ;)
- Erika brought home a penguin.
- First considerable snow accumulation. Enough to make a snowball!
- Erika and I built a Duplo blocks princess castle. Erika said the princess and her parents dont need two beds, one was enough. Hahah! A cosleeping child...
|31 Day Blog Challenge - Day 23
||[Saturday 14th Dec, 2013 | 6:40 pm]
My dream job:
My dream job would be one where I get to travel to various countries and locations for cultural immersion and live there for a 1 - 3 years at a time. Maybe with some photography or writing involved. Photojournalist? Travel writer? But on a longer scale, not a 3-day whirlwind tour of a place. I want to live there, experience it, enjoy it...
I laugh while I write this, because that was my Dad's job as a diplomat. We'd live for 3 years at a time in different countries, and while I didn't appreciate it as much as a child growing up, having to move and transplant and learn a new language and culture and whole new way of thinking and interacting with people, I think it has truly made a me a better person.
|31 Day Blog Challenge - Day 22
||[Friday 13th Dec, 2013 | 6:14 pm]
Best Thing to Happen This Year:
Too easy for me, it took less than 1 millisecond to read the question and know the answer.
Finding a heartbeat on the ultrasound at 10 weeks (you normally get scanned sooner when you go through ART, but I'd been away all summer without medical insurance).
Keep in mind that I've been through multiple rounds of fertility treatments. I've had positive beta tests before. I've had false positives and then seen no sign of life. I've miscarried before.
One website states:
"Research has shown that if you see a heartbeat at 6 weeks of pregnancy, the chances of the pregnancy continuing are 78%.A heartbeat at 8 weeks increases the chance of a continuing pregnancy to 98% and at 10 weeks that goes up to 99.4%."
So that was easily the best thing to happen all year.
|31 Day Blog Challenge - Day 21
||[Thursday 12th Dec, 2013 | 6:13 pm]
My 10 Favourite Foods:
In no particular order,
- Satay (seasoned, skewered meat cooked over a coal fire, served with a peanut sauce, cucumbers, and cubed rice)
- Disco fries (French Fries with melted cheese on top, covered with gravy; a primary NJ diner food for stoned college kids)
- Ramen noodles
- McDonald's chicken nuggets
- Fried beehoon, Singapore-style (served with an over-easy egg, fish cake, and Chinese sausage)
- Spaghetti bolognese
- Nonya kuih (no words to describe this, Google Image this... to die for)
- Chinese Red (azuki) bean soup
- Black-peppercorn crusted filet mignon with mashed potatoes
- Strawberry shortcake
|Food and Music
||[Thursday 12th Dec, 2013 | 4:53 pm]
In the last 48 hours I've made and eaten:
1.) Delicious Quinoa
-boil it in broth and lemon juice
-while it cooks, cut up some good fresh tomatoes, add a bunch of frozen peas, slather that all in olive oil, salt and pepper
-optional black olives on the side or sliced in are nice
I'm the only person in this house who likes quinoa, so I got to eat it for dinner, breakfast and lunch.
2.) Kale, potato and sausage soup
This was inspired by my browsing many similar recipes. What I came up with involved onions and garlic cooking in butter and olive oil, then adding lots of diced potatoes and some salt, stirring often. Next a huge lot of ripped up kale - I really put a ton of it, it filled the stock pot before wilting down. I ended up adding about 12 cups of chicken broth, about 1/2 cup of cream, a couple of (drained) cans of chickpeas (although I pulverized half of one of the cans into a thickening liquid first), and frying sausage on the side and adding it in after I took Annie's bowl out. Really yummy and very filling, everybody loved it and got seconds except for Isaac.
3.) Brussels sprout and mushroom hash with fried eggs on top.
Recipe here. I will be making this again, possibly tomorrow morning. Grant, Ananda, Jake and I liked it a lot, and I'm used to doing some supplementary fried potatoes and/or scrambled eggs for people who aren't into my more adventurous brunch concoctions.
This week, there are the things I like in the background for hours, at home, like:
-Turnabout Jazz Soul, like this particular "Godot - The Fragrance of Dark Coffee" track http://endlessvideo.com/watch?v=HMnrl0tmd3k
-my "Classical Christmas" Pandora station, and you can see and hear samples of thumbs-up'd tracks here, how awesome is that: http://www.pandora.com/station/163185568826481172
And then there are things I keep going and seeking out to hear individually, especially when I'm driving, like:
and of course
We're just coming out of a big Les Mis soundtrack phase, around here, although Annie is trying to drag it out (she's also the one who started it). Last night I kept hitting play on this:
|Ding dong ding dong Christmas bells are ringing...
||[Wednesday 11th Dec, 2013 | 10:13 pm]
Prettiest thing I've heard in a while:
I've started making my fruitcake. I'm trying to keep my list of people who get a mini loaf short. I'm going all out this year. I chopped up and am soaking all the fruit and nuts. I added apricots, currents, golden raisins, dried cherries, pecans, hazelnuts, and homemade candied citrus peels. Note: none of that weird fake fruit stuff. My mom told me to make sure the one I send to my grandpa isn't too boozy. She thought the one I made her last year was pretty strong...come on! I didn't even soak her's in brandy that much. I switched her's to vanilla syrup after the first day. I don't know if that's just her usual anti-alcohol thing, or if she knows better than I do what her dad likes. I guess I'll make two loaves without much brandy. One for her, and one for her dad.
I can't wait. I love fruitcake. Good fruitcake that is.
I spent way too much time today hanging out at the marina today after work. It's so quiet there, and the sun was setting beautifully. Here's a shot I took later on my way home through the train yard.
(click image to view a larger version in my 365project)
So pretty. Why is it always so much prettier when it's too damn cold to be outside?
||[Tuesday 10th Dec, 2013 | 7:09 pm]
There something about waking home from the grocery store on a week night that seems to push me to have some sort of spiritual experience. Maybe it's the dark sky mixed with the bright lights of the cars. Maybe it's the loud noises from the train yard below. Maybe it's because I've worked all day, and really need to eat some food. Whatever it is, I don't know, but I tend to get giddy and happy and feel a certain love for the world. A lady yelled at a car that was honking at her while she crossed the street when I was having my giddy spiritual experience, and I wanted to yell at her to not worry about the car, and that the world would be okay if she didn't go home mad at the driver. Forget about the car honking at you. Don't let it ruin your evening. But I was a good normal human being, and didn't say anything, and just crossed the street with a big grin on my face. Perhaps I need to eat dinner...
Pics or it didn't happen:
|31 Day Blog Challenge - Day 19
||[Tuesday 10th Dec, 2013 | 8:08 am]
What Do I Collect:
- Postcards. My father did this during his days of travel. He told me once that while he likes taking photographs, he also likes to collect postcards as it tells him what that region/area feels best represents them. How do they see themselves? What do they value? What makes them most proud?
- Sand. From beaches that I've visited.
- Shotglasses. Started in college but it's slowly waned. I'm not so dilligent anymore. None of us drink in our house.
- Movie stubs, Broadway playbills, various paper memorabilia. I scrapbook them into a large 11x13 book. I've kept stuff since 2000-ish.
- Photos. Lots and lots of photos.
|Things I Think About Lately.
||[Tuesday 10th Dec, 2013 | 2:09 am]
I really love the work and musings of many people who grew up steeped in rich, devout and/or orthodox religion... and then turned away from it. Anne Rice, Dan Savage, and Tori Amos are my most prominent and famous examples, but it's a LOT of people. It's sort of...my thing*. And what I see, over and over again, is that these people are often judged by their modern, secular, left wing followers for harkening back to their faithful childhoods or their old family traditions. The echoes and pangs of longing for deeper meaning and rituals that they still have, mixed in with the existentialism and the secular humanism they've embraced, just seem boring to the audiences they've attracted. Tiresome.
The audiences they've built by turning away don't want to hear about all the shit they turned away from.
But I do. I love it when they talk about it. I will never get tired of Anne Rice's never ending spiritual struggles and internal tug-o-war, because it calls to my own and does it in a deeply cathartic way. When Dan Savage talks about his seemingly pointless visits to his old church or the ache he's got, for his dead mother to be in Heaven, I am there, weeping, putting it on repeat. Tori's Christmas album made a lot of people just turn en masse and walk away, from her, for good. It gives me goosebumps, all fraught with myths and pagan origins and laced with theology like it is. I dig it back out every year. People called her a sellout for getting married, too, but I just wanted to hear what she had to say about it.
I think part of what makes each of these people (not just the three I'm actually describing but the others I'm thinking of, as well) as awesome as they are, as complex and appreciative of small things and as searching for MORE, as they are - is having been raised steeped in religion. I think there is real, quantifiable, scientifically provable value in being raised with religion and ritual. This, for what it's worth, is something I feel I lack as a person who finds consistency life's greatest challenge and routines to be the kiss of death.
I mean, we see the benefits of prayer, and faith, and habits, and church community - on happiness and on the immune system - but more than that I see that my own children have got better attention spans... They are able to sit still and be polite, and to just participate in adult situations, partially because of all those years in church. They have better, less gift-focused attitudes about Christmas and Easter than they might, because of the depth of what those days were presented as being about, and the multitude of ways we celebrated (special masses, special books and stories, special candles and decorations in our houses, all kinds of things).
Of course, being steeped in religion also makes you nuts, and drives you to art through frustration and angst, and the taboo of asking unavoidable questions vs the denial of avoiding them, and a vicious guilt/shame cycle. All that, I did manage to give myself in spades with just late adolescent and young adult devoutness.
Que sera sera, am I right?
I am eager to see the world move on from patriarchy, and from the violent and enraged reactions that variations on the gender binary get met with. I'm in love with the priorities that emerge, and the shifts in perspective that happen, for individuals and for society, when you lift the filter of Judeo-Christian values off of your eyes and look around with nothing but honesty and evidence to guide you through daily life and human interactions. I naturally gravitate towards very existential, black humor where nothing is sacred.
I'm also impossibly sad about the idea idea of a world where nothing is sacred. The jokes without the sanctity to make you gasp at them are just banal, just empty, just...not even funny anymore. I don't want to live in a world without monasteries, without altars to light candles on. It seems like too big a loss to bear, and I don't even know why.
It makes me very happy to know that a woman half a mile from my house is living in her saint-studded house with her seven children, and that they go to Mass and take communion every single morning. I don't want that life. For me or for my kids. But I'm glad she's living it, in a way that doesn't infringe on me. I'm not saying it makes sense. I'm telling the truth. I'm afraid of Anne Rice's son, and Dan Savage's son, and Tori Amos' daughter all growing up as people who don't really get what their parents were on about. All the while realizing it would be horribly wrong for any of them to impose things on their kids that tormented them, themselves, so intensely.
I'm glad there is a Buddhist temple and a Schoenstatt shrine within a few miles of me, filled 24/7 with monks and sisters respectively, despite it being 2013. I like knowing they're there, around the clock, studying old wisdom and leading chants and prayers. I like knowing they're open whenever I might want to stop by, as I ignore them completely.
*Incidentally, Anne Rice's assistant is a former monk turned heathen/heathen's assistant, because it's totally her THING, too. Becket seems really awesome.
||[Monday 9th Dec, 2013 | 7:42 pm]
The holidays have never been my strong point, and I tend to sort of absorb into myself to get through the month. The last few years have actually been mildly improved over previous ones. Okay, maybe significantly improved if I really think about it. There was once a time when the holiday season was so steeped in PTSD nonsense that I could even remember what had happened over those days by the time we were several weeks past it; regardless of whether or not the experiences were positive.
Still, the fact that I still feel myself getting anxious and weird once we hit December is like a permanent reminder that PTSD is stronger than any strength and distance I believe I may have gained over these years of adulthood.
I've spent the last few weeks busying myself, and the result is some sort of limbo between treading water above the seasonal blah and actual, legitimate functionality. There are definitely things to be pleased about, for instance: the threat of looming depression that has been hanging over me for a long while has lifted, and I feel that we've all adjusted to the horror story that was Curtis' shift into a higher position (without the extra pay…).
Routine is like my wonder drug, and once I've managed to set up some sort of routine to follow over the course of the day, everything else falls into place and things seem phenomenally easier.
It's also helped that I was finally able to see a new rheumatologist and my initial appointment was wonderful and included a trial of a new (additional) med for arthritis and inflammation and it's really helping to temper the overall 'background pain' to a reasonable level, which in turn makes me go through far less of my breakthrough meds and that also significantly lowers my stress levels overall.
The constant anxiety that accompanies the knowledge that you're running low on your breakthroughs, but in terrible pain, is really and truly a horrible thing to go through all the damn time. It is one of the worst and most pervasive problems when it comes to balancing treatment of pain. I've talked about this before, but probably not in this much detail, so for the uninitiated here's the low-down on this issue.
Once a flare-up starts to come on, I have two options:
(For this example I'm defining 'flare-up' as something beyond typical break-through pain; an episode of very severe pain that does not respond to rest, baths, etc; worsens considerably without effective treatment, and tends to go on for anywhere from many hours to even days).
Treat the flare-up with a maximum dose and repeat every 4 hours until it's gone (then add one additional, standard dose after it appears to be under control to assure it's actually gone. I have learned this final dose is super important, it's like putting the cork in the bottle… otherwise as soon as you start back to normal everything just flows right out again). Since I have no way of knowing if this flare-up will be the worst one ever, or just a 'typical" bad one, it's smarter to treat each as a worst case scenario rather than risk going too light on treatment and extending the whole experience. This option assures I use the minimum amount of medication, for the minimum amount of time, and generally blasts the flare-up out within a few doses. But, this also exhausts a huge amount of my break-through supply, even running it out completely, because during one fill period I'm only given enough to effectively treat 1-2 really bad flare-ups.
If I treat the pain like this I'll be largely functional during the course of it, and back to normal much faster, which means I'm better able to take care of my house and kids. It also dramatically reduces the risk of the flare-up yo-yo that happens when you don't get on that shit right away, and it gives me a safety net that generally extends the time between flare-ups as well as reduces the intensity of the next one when it comes.
But I am epicly, royally fucked if another flare-up or even just a bout of moderate pain hits me before my next fill… and not treating those creates a sort of perpetual pain loop in my body that can go on for days. This situation is a source of constant panic attacks, and I also feel guilty for taking that much medication in a 24 hour period even though I know I need it and this is what my doctor wants me to do.
Treat it half-assed and only take a half dose of meds. This does not give enough relief to blast out or stop the flare-up, which means it goes on, and on, and on… sometimes for up to a week. I am irritable, exhausted due to loss of sleep, and just functional enough to meet the basic needs of household and children but not functional enough to play with them, make dinners from scratch or go for walks (shopping, etc) without needing hours of rest time afterward.
However, I leave myself enough meds to continue the half-assed, barely functional treatment through to my next fill which alleviates the panic attacks and misplaced guilt, as well as the lingering fear that someone (anyone - doesn't actually matter who - in fact it's most often me) will think I take 'too much'. This also generally gives me juuuuust enough for an emergency maximum dose on the day of my fill to give me enough energy and relief to get down to my doctor's office. But it means my overall pain levels range from very uncomfortable to horrible for days and days on end.
However, I also have a terrifying fear of becoming tolerant to my meds and requiring more, and taking doses every day does nothing to alleviate that fear… so the longer that goes on, and the worse the pain gets, the worse THAT anxiety becomes.
The "right answer" seems clear but pill/pain politics complicates everything to a point where there really isn't a clear path… and more often than not it ends up being "safest" overall to chose option two even though it's a horrible choice, because you end up not going through your meds as fast and that takes priority over everything else, including your functionality and happiness.
This is what goes through your head constantly. 24 hours a day. Even if you're not experiencing a flare-up and are doing relatively okay, this is still going through your head, because you have to constantly think about the pain vs. treatment vs. what people think vs. anxiety vs. your ever-changing limitations. I've become so obsessive over it that I regularly count my pills. I count them and then I do the math and decide how many I could reasonably take in a day for the rest of the fill time - if I needed to take them daily - and not run out. I do this every day regardless of whether or not I even need a dose that day, or even for days in a row, because it makes me feel slightly better about the whole thing if I have some sort of plan for how to make myself mildly functional in case of emergency.
All of this is also why wonderful things like The Spoon Theory are required reading when supporting, living with (or being) someone who is affected by chronic pain or illness. How many spoons I have left for the day also impact my need/want to treat my pain effectively. More spoons means I might be able to get away with less, less spoons means it's practically a death sentence to not take the maximum dose.
So, back my original point…
The weight of all that crap has been lessoned somewhat due to the new rheumatologist, who is amazeballs, especially by comparison to the previous one who saw me once a year for 3 minutes and the only advice he ever gave was, "get off your meds". Super helpful, bro - how much are you getting paid for these consults?
New Rheumatologist Lady is young, which is immediately a bonus, because the young doctors tend to spend more time actually paying attention to patients and are more likely to know about (or be open to) more modern treatments and have superior medical knowledge. Yes, this is a generalization and no, I don't care because in my experience it has been true literally 100% of the time. I find the old doctors are often big fuddy-duddies and are impossible to reason with. It always puts me at ease to see a young doctor, and she did not disappoint. She spent over an hour with me just getting my pain history, asking actually relevant questions, doing a full body exam and taking notes. I was her last appointment for the day and she went so far overtime that when I left her office the cleaning lady was the only person in the building!
She wants to schedule me for an MRI on my lower spine and lumbar area to check for inflammation so we can try to confirm the AS diagnosis, and she gave me the maximum dose of an anti-inflammatory I've tried previously with mild-to-moderate success. Turns out the increase to maximum dose really makes a big difference, because it's taken my day-to-day background pain from a 5-6 down to a 2-3 and has lengthened the time between my flare-ups as well as reduced the severity of them when they hit.
So I'd definitely call that a win.
I see her again in four months at which point she wants to go over a barrage of tests (blood, etc) to see where my body stands and how much, if any, things have changed since the last time I got a whole set back in 2009 or something. I got all the way home from the visit before I realized she forgot to give me the lab requisitions. But my experience with her was friendly and relaxed enough that I won't feel like a dick when I call and ask her to redo them.
I'm feeling very positive about her and am hoping to actually start down a path of disease management over pain management. I've spent years considering the effects and realities of the 'next step' of drugs for my disease (which involves regular injections, lots more risks and possible side effects, and an expense of about 40k a year that I have just recently learned I may actually qualify to get completely covered) and I've deteriorated enough over the last year that I think the absolute terror of biologics is now outweighed by my desire to, you know, be a person.
Without Curtis here, I am doing the job of two people 90% of the time and it's really taken a toll on me physically. As I said, getting into a daily routine has helped significantly with management of the mental side: I feel much less like a chicken with its head cut off and more like a slightly frazzled mother who can usually get shit done.
I drive him to work on our morning commute to the kids schools, and on a 'day shift' I do not see him again until the kids are in bed. On a 'night shift' he's with me for about 3 hours after the kids are at school and can get a few household chores done, and then I don't see him until midnight. The first weekend day is spent alternating sleep, because we're both so exhausted, and the second weekend day is spent catching up on all of that week's housework that I either can't do or can't do on my own (this is generally the big stuff like multiple loads of laundry all at once, or vacuuming the entire house rather than just a single room).
And we get all that wonderfulness with almost no additional pay! Hooray.
When people act like it must be super awesome having someone who is in a management position, and assume we're just livin' it up, I have to laugh because… no. Just no. We still exist many thousands under the poverty line for a family, and as a bonus I'm effectively a work widow. Aside, I'm not sure what planet other people are from where chefs make a million dollars a year but it certainly isn't this one. Unless you're Gordon Ramsay you're not exactly swimming in disposable income.
I complain and moan but it's getting better, and it's not all bad. Curtis loves his job even though it's exhausting and the staff parties are pretty awesome. This year we got a chocolate fountain. I'm not even kidding: a legitimate chocolate fountain. I was so on that.
Though I have since learned that in order to keep the chocolate flowing and prevent it from drying or gunking up the tubes, you have to have a significant amount of oil to the melted cocoa. Yum.
The kids first report cards came back earlier this month. Xan's was fantastic all around on academics, and we've been told over and over how well he's excellent in math and how amazing his reading is; with him it's just a matter of focusing on a task long enough to complete it without getting distracted by his attempts to complete a stand-up comedy routine.
Tempest on the other hand, had a horrible report card. She's gotten into this stage of life where she's enjoying the first inklings of rebellion, and part of that is doing shit all at school. This is irritating because she's brilliant (and really, this isn't just a mom thing: her IQ was tested and she's above the 95th percentile - I have it in writing), so I know she's just being lazy. The last few times she's brought homework home, she threw a fit when I asked her to double check her work and ensure it was correct because, as she put it, "everyone gets questions wrong so I don't have to make sure they're right". OMGARGH.
I talked with her at length about staying interested and finding ways to challenge yourself and all that, and she begrudgingly agreed that maybe she could try a little bit harder to actually do her work because she'd slacked off enough that even her reading mark was like… two. And she reads at a high school level.
She suggested that it would help her improve and keep interest if she could do some work at home, and Xan was all over this idea like white on rice so we set up accounts at [ Khan Learning Academy ] and had the kids start on that. They've been doing it for about a week and a half to two weeks now and have had awesome success… though I have no idea how to navigate that site well enough to figure out how to set up custom cirriculums, which is extremely frustrating. I'm also going to set them up on [ code.org ] to start them on early computer programming. Because that's an incredibly useful thing to learn overall, plus it's good for improving reading, math and a host of other things.
One thing that really pisses me off about Tempest's report card that has nothing to do with her academics is how she's being graded, year after year, for her social skills and other things that have absolutely nothing to do with schoolwork… and everything to do with having autism. She is literally having her grades brought down for being autistic.
Like, on this report card she had a terrible grade on her "oral reading" and the notation there was that her speech patterns were "quiet, uneven and halting" (ie. very typical autistic spectrum speech). THIS IS NOT SOMETHING SHE CAN CHANGE. She has been through speech and occupational therapy, she has had IEPs and school counseling and all that shit year after year that she has qualified for it and they have even worked with her specifically on these issues. While she gained a slight bit of control, we all agreed that this isn't something she's likely to "get over" simply by trying harder and in no way does it actually affect her studies, academics or ability to complete her work… and with that in mind she was released from the OTs and did not qualify for an IEP this year for the first time ever.
And yet no matter how much time I spend educating teachers, talking to counselors and all that shit it NEVER CHANGES and she still gets horrible grades on her social skills. The years before she was graded on how "well" she spoke to peers, how verbal she was in group and whether or not she made consistent eye contact. And now this year it's her patterns of speech. This kind of shit makes me so mad. It's so completely fucking unnecessary and has NOTHING to do with her ability to do her work. NOTHING to do with how well she can complete projects. It's not even remotely relevant to class work other than the part of the week where they go around the room and each kid reads aloud from a book for 3 minutes, once each. That's literally the only time it's relevant and that is really fucking reaching. Is it necessary to fail her on an entire section of her report card because she's not able to replicate neurotypical speech patterns? Awesome.
Aside from that bullshit…
This year is the first year in Tempest's schooling that she's been offered music classes, which has been immensely exciting for her. She applied for a violin or viola, because Curtis played viola through his teenage years (he also applied for violin, but was rejected for it because his hands were too large, so they gave him a viola to play instead). We got the notice back the following week that Tempest had been accepted for a viola, and I filled out the payment and rental information and sent it in. After that was a month long set of clusterfuck after clusterfuck that ended up with her missing over 15 classes that they wanted to make me pay for because no one on their end could locate the viola they'd put aside for her.
She didn't end up getting her instrument until the end of November's first week, and that was literally four days and one music lesson away from their first concert. ARGH.
I made Tempest practice like crazy every day, for at least 45 minutes - broken up into two sections - in order for her to at least basically recognize the songs. Turns out sitting in on the lessons, even with nothing to do, was enough for her because she picked it up alarmingly fast and was on par with the skills of per learned peers within those four days and played perfectly fine during the concert.
Secretly I absolutely loathe the sound of 'I have yet learned how to play violin' violin, because it sounds like a screaming cat, but she's improved so much and so quickly that it honestly didn't phase me at all. By this point in the year she's gone well past that screechy, pitchy phase of learning and her practice sessions are surprisingly smooth. She shuts herself up in her room so Z doesn't try and attack her bow while she's playing, but I can easily hear her over the living room and it's become rather soothing.
Though Zephyra tends to camp outside her door and whine, poking fingers under the door, for at least half the time she's up there. She so, so desperately wants to play too.
Curtis was working on the night of her first concert, and we were late to the venue due to Zephyra's antics so we ended up arriving with only 10 minutes to spare. And that ten minutes was entirely taken up by trying to find a fucking parking spot.
The event took place in a high school I'd never seen or visited before, so it was confusing as all hell. By the time I got into the auditorium and looked around, everyone was in position and they were just about to start. I looked around and saw an absolute mess of tightly-packed chairs and no aisles to move about in. I had the baby on my back, which was killing me, but it was easier than trying to make her follow me around when she's being so extremely two years old.
I approached one of the teachers, or someone in charge, and asked them if they had any disability priority seating. She looked lost and offered me another one of those supremely low benches that fucked me up so bad some years ago. I politely declined and let her know that it was too low to get up and down from. She shrugged, started to mumble something, then literally walked away while talking to me to avoid having to actually move a chair or something… I had no idea how to react to that.
A few parents saw/heard this and by the time I'd managed to get through one row, three separate parents got up and brought me their chairs. That was very touching, and I was so grateful for the gesture - because holy shit I am so done with administrators not giving two shits about parents and family with disabilities and how incredibly hard it is to attend or watch concerts or other events like able-bodied people.
Xan was immediately bored to death, and I told him that his job here was to politely and quietly watch - he didn't have to enjoy it. So he sat with his head against the back of the chair for the entire concert. It was barley acceptable as polite but at least he was quiet about his distaste.
Tempest was unimpressed when I took out the camera.
Zephyra was NOT having the carrier while I was sitting, so I had to risk letting her down or else be that guy in the audience with a screaming toddler. I had put my donated chair down just at the edge of a row of seats that had a 6-foot open space between them where some kids were seated on the floor, so there were a few other kids for Z to interact with. I was so worried she'd bolt, but she surprised me by finding a little girl (that looked a bit like Tempest from behind, except with blonde hair) and plunking down next to her.
She inched her way in as close as she could to this girl, who was rather put off by the whole thing, and ended up getting up to complain to her mother that she was being touched by a strange baby. I sort of heard her mother answer that at least the baby is not crying and seriously it's just a baby, I think you'll survive, and the girl begrudgingly came back to her seat. Though within moments she was loving on Z just as much as she was being loved on, and the two cuddled and sang their way through the entire performance.
Every time a song ended and applause rang out, Z would clap loudly, pose and look back at me. She was very excited that so many people had recognized her talent.
The event was a lot shorter than I'd anticipated, and when it was done we filed back out again and I pulled the kids aside for an attempt at a photo.
First of Tempest:
… in the outfit she picked out entirely on her own, accessories included. The skirt is actually one of mine. It doesn't quite fit her, hence the belt, but she made it work.
And then of all three:
I enjoy this one because Tempest and Xan look rather dashing and Z looks like she crawled out from under a bridge.
In other firsts, this year has also been the first year of the fake tree… because we are not permitted to have live (or half-dead, as it were) trees in the complex. We went out and got a white one so it would look interesting, though Curtis absolutely insisted that we try to find a bright Barbie pink one - [ which, yes, actually exist ] - and was legitimately disappointed that Wal*Mart did not have one in stock.
We brought it home and Curtis put it together while dinner was in the oven, and we spent the next few hours decorating it. One of things about moving house is that you cycle through all the old boxes you've had sitting in storage or stuffed under stairs for years, so you rediscover all this cool stuff you forgot you had sitting around. One of those things are these absolutely ancient holiday decorations that belonged to my grandmother. We usually put up the ones she made out of embroidery and cotton that are shaped like all sorts of storybook characters, but these ones are these incredibly delicate little foil-type balls in all manner of iridescent colours. They really are gorgeous to look at, but oh so fragile.
The tree looks gorgeous all done up with them…
… but the baby immediately shattered five of them in the ensuing days, so we had to move them all up to the higher branches.
The kids were very proud of themselves after decorating the tree, and requested a photo be taken of them in front of it.
(That Santa hat came in a jar Tempest won at her school's holiday festival thing, and it has been literally loved to death. There isn't a single seam on it that hasn't been ripped open).
After taking that photo I decided to try and do a proper holiday one, since I didn't do one last year. The next night I set up the lighting rig and reflectors, got the kids all dressed up and looking nice (though Tempest insisted on wearing the hat). Z was, as usual, impossible. I had to bribe her with a candy cane before she'd sit, and so had to completely give up the fantasy of getting her to smile. Tempest and Xan were a complete breeze through the whole thing.
I heart it.
Xan's disposition was improved by the fact that I asked him to be my 'light model' while I tested various settings on the monolight. I told him I just needed him to stand there in front of the tree, and he didn't have to smile or anything because how he looked didn't matter as long as he was facing me.
His eyes got all big, "You mean I can do anything I want? For the photos? ANYTHING?! I don't even have to stand still!?"
"As long as you're facing me, yes. I'll let you know when I'm done".
So he got all his crazy out beforehand.
I am supposed to be knitting a number of Yule gifts this year but that is going more slowly than I anticipated. All Xan has asked for from me is a knitted creeper (from Minecraft). He told me that he actually needs two: one to "show off" at school and another to sleep with at night, but, "one doll can probably do the job of both", he says.
I'm trying to finish a pair of gloves for Tempest right now and every afternoon Xan comes home and asks me if I've started on his creeper doll yet. Even if I had I'm not supposed to tell you, this is not how this works, Xan!
I did manage to finish a doll for one of his friends that I'm immensely proud of. I found this incredible pattern online (for free!) for a crochet doll with completely posable joints. Like, completely. Even the head! A friend of mine on Facebook was making her daughter a set of the "Equestria Girls" MLP dolls using this pattern and posted her in-progress photos; then passed on the links to me when I was desperate to be hooked up with that shit.
The finished doll:
I took a few images of her "naked" to show how posable she was. And I don't just mean you can move the limbs, I mean it's actually literally posable: the limbs stay where you put them 100% of the time!
Seriously is that not an adorable pattern? It's available on the "By Hook, By Hand" site and is called the [ "Bleuette" doll ]. The pattern is full of colour photographs that show you exactly how to attach the limbs so that they'll all be posable. It's totally awesome. If this doll pattern isn't your style, I also found [ this ] awesome tutorial from the 'Idiots Guide' series on creating posable limbs. That one gives you enough info to easily modify it to fit pretty much any pattern you want; dolls, creatures, or whatever. Here's [ one more ] explaining how to use 'bear joints' for crocheted work, and an alternative using regular buttons.
The dress I made using the top part of the [ "mock smock" bodice ] pattern, available on the same site and made specifically to fit the Bleu doll. It is easily the most weirdly complicated crochet I have ever done, but the result is really nice.
My finished dress also used a tiny bit of pink embroidery thread to go over the smocked areas, but they're already stuck together so this isn't a true "smocking" job. The dress pattern asks that you sew on a fabric skirt, but I suck at sewing so I did one using crochet instead and just fucked around with double and treble crochets until it looked nice.
I used the ideas from the Bleu pattern to do her face. I've never done a face this way before, and after this I don't think I'll never do any other face ever again! The tip about using red crayon, rubbed in with a licked thumb, to create a blushed cheek is totally brilliant and creates a wonderfully cute effect.
Also? THIS HAIR!
I used [ this tutorial ] for the hair, which I got after asking another Ravelry user how she did her doll's amazing hair. Once again, I will never do doll wigs another way ever again because how friggin' awesome is that hair? It's thick and secure enough that you can brush it with a wide-toothed comb and even pull it up into ponytails or braids or whatever and there are no bald or thinning spots. It took forever and was kind of a pain in the ass but it's so, so worth it.
This is the hardest I've ever worked on a crochet doll, but it's also by far the nicest one I've done and I'm so thrilled with it that I plan on making more for the kids and for friends' birthdays.
Quotes of the Day:
This one made it to my blog's Facebook, so if you're a follower there you may have seen it already.
Tempest: "Let's play house!"
Xan: "You can't play house inside a house."
Me: "Playing house means someone plays the mom, someone else plays dad, and someone plays the baby."
Tempest: "Zephyra can play the baby."
Me: "Who's the mom?"
Tempest: "We have no parents."
Me: "Then who pays the bills in your house?"
Xan: "It's an abandoned house."
Me: "That sounds dangerous. Who cooks your food?"
Tempest: "We make our own food."
Me: "How do you buy the ingredients?"
Tempest: "We steal them."
Me: "What?! You run a terrible house! How would you steal?!"
Xan holds out one of the handles from the blinds. "We have a sword."
Me: "You're terrible at playing house."
Tempest: "You can do anything with your imagination."
Xan: "...And a sword."
A few weeks ago Z had the worst (and most bizarre) case of yeast rash I'd ever encountered. It came on almost immediately following TWO standard disposables on her bum the days before, which were used during a laundry mix-up that left us with no diapers for about 4 hours during an extremely poopy time. So, while we were doing the hard-core stripping washes on the cloth stash we got a tiny pack of 7th Generation (no bleach, no latex, no dyes, etc etc) to use on her.
During a walk around the village with Xan, one of the 7th Gen's fell out of the stroller and onto the wet ground. As I picked it up, Xan commented that I'd have to throw it in the wash when I got home.
"It's a disposable diaper hon, it doesn't go in the wash."
"You don't wash those? Why?"
"They're made to be thrown away after they've been dirtied."
"What? Every single one of them?"
"Yes, that's why they're called 'disposable diapers'."
"The whole pack, though? Every diaper in THE WHOLE PACK gets thrown away? Not washed?"
"But... why? Why would you buy a whole pack of diapers just to use once and throw away?!"
"Most people do. Very very few people use cloth diapers like we do."
"BUT WHY? It would cost so much money and it's such a waste of that money!! It's like, 'oh no my baby peed let me just throw my money in the trash!'."
This one was overheard at the table while I was doing dishes.
Xan: "Zephyra is just like a smoker."
Xan: "She's smelly, she's cranky all the time, and she always has something in her mouth. The only difference is she's not yellow."
Tempest: "Well, she'll grow out of it."
Xan: "That's true. She'll stop being stinky eventually... but the smokers will stink and stink until they die."
Links of the Day:
Pro Infirmis: Because who is perfect? - "Disabled mannequins will be eliciting astonished looks from passers-by on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse today. Between the perfect mannequins, there will be figures with scoliosis or brittle bone disease modelling the latest fashions. One will have shortened limbs; the other a malformed spine. The campaign has been devised for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by Pro Infirmis, an organization for the disabled. Entitled "Because who is perfect? Get closer.", it is designed to provoke reflection on the acceptance of people with disabilities."
10 things wrong with anti-bed-sharing campaigns - Birth Without Fear blog posts a fantastic, well-sourced and non-judgey take-down of the baseless anti-cosleeping rhetoric.
America's poor are its most generous givers - Something that poor people won't find surprising at all…
No one brings you dinner when your daughter is an addict - A thought-provoking piece about the lack of social support families receive when someone is suffering from a mental illness, or anything even remotely 'taboo'.
Shakespeare, the original pronunciation - This is an absolutely fascinating video. A professor of linguistics and his son have managed to accurately recreate the "OG" accent of early English, the accent that Shakespeare himself spoke and intended his plays to be performed in... and they began coaching actors at the Globe Theatre reconstruction how to perform in that accent. And suddenly puns, and jokes and rhymes just popped off the pages and the plays and sonnets had entirely new depths.
Dear people who do not have a child with disabilities - This may be something I've shared before, but I re-stumbled over it the other day and wanted to share it again. This should be required reading for anyone who has family, or friends, who are parents of a child with special needs. Choice quote: "We aren’t different, we parents of special needs kids. I promise I’m just like you. I kick ass at some parts of parenting, and I’m lousy at other parts, and I’m very ordinary at most of it. You’d be horrified if you heard a group of parents of kids with issues like Carter’s talking amongst ourselves; we use gallows humour and and talk in ways we know would alienate you, and we are very un-angel-like. We are deeply angry sometimes. Wounded. Broken.
But if you come to us and say, hey, I’m in trouble, I have a kid with problems and I think I belong in your club, we will gather you into our circle so fast you won’t quite know what hit you. We will listen to you cry and we won’t tell you to stop. We won’t tell you to be strong because we know you are being exactly as strong as you can be. We know that your need is deep and that you can’t handle this, even as you are in the midst of handling it."
||[Monday 9th Dec, 2013 | 1:18 pm]
I've had a kind of "what is my life" morning. It's featured calling what will hopefully be my new rheumatologist a half dozen times before I could get through, scheduling their soonest appointment (mid January - this is actually the first group I started calling a week ago, but I assumed I'd be able to find someone else to see me sooner...no such luck, so mid January it is). And calling and then emailing the Disability Services guy I've been meeting with, at school. And wincing and grimacing my way through my stool sample kit instructions *dies*
Mostly I've been like, ok, here, double dose of b-12, prescription folic acid, second cup of coffee...I'll start...having...energy...any..........second........... This has involved much forgetting what I was doing and sitting back down at the computer, trying to keep my eyes open. Attempting all the while to force myself out the door to go do 30 minutes of cardio that might perk me up, and/or get started on formulating my answers for the final I have tomorrow (she gave us 5 essay questions, and 3 will actually be on the exam).
I feel entirely too confused and startled by the requests and interjections of Jake and Elise, but also grateful for them because, you know - they're awesome. And otherwise, today, I feel as though I'd just refresh facebook and tumblr with a furrowed brow every few minutes until it was time to make dinner. Even if I don't feel like getting up to see how cute Tom looks under the Christmas tree or coming to check out the stuffed animal classroom they've set up, it ends up being (mostly!) worth it. Soon we'll be sewing poor battered Beary up again and putting yarn loops through the million gingerbread cookies to hang on the tree, and it's them dragging me along and asking to open the doors since the weather is nice and the fact that I'll be carting people all over for activities in a few hours that are probably keeping me from turning into some sort of drooling lump. I have to squint and concentrate and explain why it's important to water the Christmas tree, and how the wooden bench will warp if we keep it outside, and show them what guava fruit actually looks like since the paste is in everything down here. They really are so awesome, so curious and questioning and aware, all five of them.
This morning I stumbled out of my room to wake Isaac up for school, and he was sitting at the dining table in his school uniform, with his backpack on and his packed lunch next to his chair, reading on Jake's Nook. I was like, "Wow. Good morning." He smiled and said it back in a distracted way, obviously absorbed. On the way to school he told me Jake had read this same book, and told him he should read it, and then went on about how he's not so sure books are actually always longer than their movie versions anymore because of some comparison he did with Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Vaguely related: There are a lot of things I don't like about his school, like the standard overbearing focus on the FCAT and the gross Common Core emphasis. But something I love is that his class last year and his class this year have read novels as a class that Isaac really loved and talked about often, and they did a lot of projects around the books. His favorites have probably been Because of Winn Dixie and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
He's going to be in 4 different parts of their holiday show, this year - dancing with the cheerleaders, playing the recorder, singing with his class, and something else he refuses to tell me because it's a surprise. And, I learned my lesson last year about ordering tickets early, so I won't have to stand around outside dealing with scalper auctioneering and then get in late (that actually happened!).
Yesterday afternoon, I went and picked up Ananda from a friend's house - she'd went with three people, Saturday night, to see Catching Fire and then sleep over. She was going on and on about everything they'd talked about the night before, like North Korea, the possibility of Amazon shipping packages via drones, Kanye West's hilarious narcissism, how to put together Les Mis cosplays, and the music one of them is writing. Her friends are so fucking priceless.
I just love giving them (all 5 of them) space, and then seeing what they do with it. Elise is always taking this little notebook and a pencil up into the mango tree to "write down observations."
Anyway, back to my muddled morning - I also have Kristin texting me and a date to schedule with Nancy, so those are good things, even if good through a sort of haze. Ugh.
Here's hoping crafty time and more hours lift me up a little, sometimes it's like that and I just have a hard time getting going. Otherwise, well, here's hoping the nap I succumb to works.
|48:2013 (Week of November 27 - December 3, 2013)
||[Sunday 8th Dec, 2013 | 10:21 pm]
- Thursday was Thanksgiving at Oma's. My childhood friend Jun Min drove from Michigan to visit for a 3D/2N stopover.
- Friday we headed to NYC to have fun. Took care of some passport stuff for Jun Min, Erika was nonplussed by American Girl store, had nice lunch with Ah Yi, Ross, Jun, Brian, Erika, and I. Then Brian and I scoped out restaurants in Greenwich Village for when I take my Sophomore students to Blue Man Group in January. Erika stayed with her aunt to play.
- Saturday hung out at house, played some more. Ah Yi came home with us on Fri night.
- Sunday Ross came to visit, went to playground. See photos.
|47: 2013 (Week of November 20 - 26, 2013)
||[Sunday 1st Dec, 2013 | 10:10 pm]
- Have you seen a toddler girl with so many shoes? she has hiking boots, three pairs of mary janes, rain boots, slip-ons, sneakers, and that doesn't even include her summer flip-flops and sandals.
- Ultrasound II. Baby #2 looks great and developing well. 24 weeks along.
- Funtime with Daddy.
|Why I don't stay inside...
||[Sunday 8th Dec, 2013 | 6:37 pm]
Claire and I had to go downtown to buy her some new shoes today. After some boring shoe shopping we stopped by Three Girls to say hi to the folks, and then were lucky enough to see the most amazing sunset.
Here was our first sight of it from over the Market:
The Olympic Mountains with an iconic Washington State ferry floating by:
An orange West Seattle:
And of course here was Rainier to the left. Too bad all the glory over the stadium didn't help the Seahawks win tonight.
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