Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas through the Eyes of a Child

Three-year-olds don't have much (if any) memory of their previous Christmases, but they are capable of understanding much of what goes on, they get excited by all of the unusual activities, and their excitement is both infectious and heartening.  (They're also easily overwhelmed, but we take that in stride as best we can.)  For Christmas, I thought I'd share a few moments of Zaxxon enjoying the holiday, to remind myself to see Christmas through his eyes.

When I climbed up on the roof to put Christmas lights up (it's long been our tradition, except when I've been pregnant, for me to put them up and hubby to take them down) Zaxxon got really excited.  He started stringing pieces of yarn all over the bushes to "help" me decorate.  He also really wanted to get up on the roof.  Had it just been me, the answer would have been a non-negotiable NO, but hubby had a better feeling that he'd be able to keep him safe and under control, so I let hubby bring him up.  Can you say E-X-C-I-T-E-D?!!
I put up a few more lights on our bushes and trees, that same evening after dark.  Right after I started, a front blew in and it was quite cold and windy, but that didn't stop Zaxxon from running outside to see what I was doing and "help" some more--even without shoes on.  When you're three, excitement and novelty trump comfort--which is why we have parents to pull us back inside until we're properly clothed, I suppose.

When we announced we were going to put up our Christmas tree, Zaxxon got excited all over again.  "With presents under (it)?" he wanted to know.  Well, yes, later on, once we have presents to put under it.  There's a tree in our house.  How much more exciting can this time of year get?
He didn't have much patience for stringing garlands, but the way he bounced around the house after I called it quits belied how much fun he was having, regardless.
Seeing something awesome (probably a fire truck) at the holiday parade
Visiting Santa.  Santa's actually a little scary for this age group.  Zaxxon didn't want to sit on his lap, but he was willing to sit on mine--though first he wandered the room for a while, not wanting to get too close.  We had to remind him that Santa needed to know what to bring him on Christmas.
And what infant could resist the fuzzy pom pom on the end of Santa's hat?
Zaxxon had a wonderful time decorating the tree.  Even after we were finished (we did it in several installments) he kept telling us he wanted to decorate more.  It has proved quite a temptation though--there are only a few ornaments we permit him to play with, and he's had trouble keeping his hands off.
Getting to decorate the cookies he helped bake.  You're going to let me use frosting?!!!  YUM!!!
Christmas lights are very exciting to a three-year-old.  The whole night is lit up special. 
We spent one night just driving around, looking at everybody's lights.  We even stopped at a house near our old apartment, where they go completely nuts.

Even a chore like shoveling snow is fun when you're three.
As Christmas draws nearer, there's so much more anticipation.  There are presents under the tree now, which are not to be unwrapped until Christmas.  Zaxxon has been "playing" presents a lot, putting toys into an empty box or bag, closing it up, giving it to us and insisting we open it.  We've done a lot of baking, present wrapping, looking at lights, story reading, and finding an elf who migrates around our house each day.  We're eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa, and of the special day spent with those we love.  Santa comes tonight.  Tomorrow, we enjoy the chaos.  This will be the first Christmas Zaxxon is likely to remember long-term, and is Kal'El's first Christmas period.  We will have fun.  We will rejoice.  We will probably drive one another just a little bit nuts.  Life is good.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Revising Drudgery

I've been stuck in a bit of a rut these past few weeks when it comes to revising.  When I did the first read through of my novel, I printed it up so I could make notes in the margins and I read it out loud while nursing Kal'El.  That was a great way to get back into it after months of focusing on stories.  None of my first edits were permanent (which is good because I've rejected some of them) and it also gave me a great way to combine working on my novel with doing something else.

Then I began actual revisions...or at least entering in the ones I made on paper during my first reading.  I realized that I needed to work backwards because otherwise my page number references--and the entire landscape of the story--would change before I made it more than ten pages in, making it that much more difficult to find where I was supposed to be.  So that's what I've been doing lately:  entering revisions into my novel backwards.  And I'm bored.

I think this is partly because I've already made these revisions so I'm not actively doing as much, but mostly because of the reverse order.  I'm not getting a sense of the novel's plot as I spottily work through it in the wrong order, so I'm not even getting involved in my own story.  As a result, I've been highly distractable and have stopped several times to work on short stories for a few days.  I'm somewhat torn on whether I should be allowing myself to deviate.  On the one hand, stories almost always flow best from me when the ideas are fresh, and many ideas are fresh right now.   On the other, if I get too distracted from my novel, I may never finish it.

The good news is that I'm nearly done with my first pass edits.  Soon I will be able to make more macro edits, do more research and add in several details that I glossed over on the first draft, and go through it in the right order again.  Soon.  And I'm hoping that will hold my attention much more readily, because I don't want working on this novel to be a chore.

I want to enjoy my work, the way I sometimes usually do, because it's the best work in the world.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kid Crafts - Christmas again!

We continued with Christmas crafts this week, though they were mainly on the fly with little or no planning on my part.  I wanted to plan out crafts, but I just kept getting busy/distracted with other things.

The first thing I had him do was make a Santa hat.  I cut the paper to shape, drew a line where I wanted him to glue the cotton balls, and set him to work.  He did a great job of following my directions on this one.

He didn't know what he was making until we rolled it up after it had dried--and then he loved it.

We also made red and green playdough, to match the season.  He's getting better at helping over a hot stove.

Playing with the new dough.

He said he was making me.  Can't you see the resemblance?  (I have hair, at any rate)

I got this idea from my friend Sela.  Handprint reindeer.

Sela also gave me this idea:  a marshmallow snowman.

Zaxxon insists it's Frosty.  I thought we were done once it had three circles, but he wanted to continue for arms.

When I saw the idea on my friend's blog, I thought it would be a terrific way to get rid of stale marshmallows.  Zaxxon didn't seem to mind that they were stale.

He also helped me make gingerbread dough.  Flour everywhere, of course!

The next day he helped me bake the gingerbread, and some sugar cookies.

Though he was more interested in playing with the cookie cutters

He also decided he was going to wipe the table and wash some dishes.  Like I'm going to say No to that!  Even if I do have to do it over.

Tot School

Linking up at Tot School.  Who knows how crafty/willing to plan I'll be next week.  Stay tuned!

Friday, December 16, 2011

This is starting to feel like a Mommy Fail

I've come to realize that my satisfaction with parenting is directly related to how cooperative my children are at bedtime.  Or more specifically, Zaxxon.

A few months ago, I was thinking of writing a post about whether or not the second baby was easier.  Kal'El seemed to be.  In fact, he seemed a lot easier--and in some respects, he is.  He took to nursing much better than Zaxxon did, though I was experienced so that was probably at least half of the equation.

Experience certainly is a major variable in making the second baby seem easier.  I've already seen most of what babies can throw at us and know how to respond:  I recognize tired and hunger cues, I already know that neither he nor I will fall apart if we go out in public, and I remember the basics of infant development.

As I was putting all this together, I realized that there was another factor that was making Kal'El seem much easier to handle--Zaxxon had entered a very difficult stage, both developmentally and emotionally.  This made Kal'El seem that much easier by comparison, because there is little babies can do to misbehave or test boundaries.  Zaxxon seemed to wait until Kal'El had been around a few months before showing signs of jealously.  I think it took him that long to realize, on a gut level, that Kal'El wasn't a temporary state of affairs.  He was never terribly aggressive toward his brother, but he became very needy, always wanting me to focus my attention on HIM, and he also seemed to decide that cooperation with anything I asked was optional.

Bedtimes, in particular, became a huge struggle.  I tried numerous tactics but quickly found myself hating that time of day.  It didn't matter how good of a day we had, getting him into bed took forever and put both of us in a bad mood.  Every time I tried to shift away from negativity and find a fun way to get ready for bed or a more gentle way to keep him in bed, it ceased working for one reason or another after only a day or two.  Whoever said that children thrive on routine because they know what's coming knows nothing about my son--he operates best if I can come up with something creative and new every day.  And I really don't feel that creative (which is scary, coming from a writer.)

However, before I could write this post two months ago, something clicked for Zaxxon.  I don't know what it was, but I was grateful for it.  Getting him to his bed still took a fair effort, but once he was there, he would stay put.  He would still often come out for one trip to the bathroom, but there was no more coming out every two minutes with a fresh request or simply to try and interact with us a little more.  No more of my trying to decide how many times to silently lead him back to his bed before taking toys from him as an incentive to stay put (and deciding whether I should break the silence to warn him before I did.)  No more feeling the I-just-want-five-minutes-without-worrying-about-you rage building up every evening.  It was heaven.

Unfortunately, it didn't last.  For the last three nights, he's begun to push his boundaries at bedtime again.  He's even shown signs that he'll make a good lawyer because he's looking for loopholes.  I tell him that if he comes out again he'll lose most of his stuffed animals, so he doesn't come out or open his door.  What he does do is knock (and then bang) on his door, trying to get me to open it for him.  When I finally get fed up, worried that he's going to wake his brother, I amend the rule to say that if he's out of bed or making noise, he'll lose animals.  He breaks the rule, and I take half his zoo away.  Then he asks me to tuck him in (again) and I'm so frustrated with him that I just flip the covers over him.  And then I feel bad.

I hate hating bedtime.  I want to cherish all these stages of my children's lives.  Zaxxon's at a very fun (if high-maintenance) age, and I want to enjoy it.  But my sanity as a parent necessitates having time to myself, and if my last interaction with him every evening is filled with frustration or anger, that mars my whole experience--and probably his.

I know I need to just take a deep breath and work through this.  Children are ever-changing, and sooner or later Kal'El will become independent enough to become difficult as well--and I'm sure he'll throw me curveballs that Zaxxon never thought of.  I'm just sad (and frustrated) that a behavior we thought was gone is returning with a vengeance.  Since it's been a few months since we've had to do anything, I need to make sure Zaxxon knows the rules before the lights are out and then stick to them without letting myself get worked up.  And I need to make sure that anger doesn't interfere with displays of affection (like tucking him in.)  I am the adult here, after all.

But sometimes, being the adult is hard.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This is how Zaxxon sees the world

As I was getting ready to make play dough the other day, Zaxxon started playing with the camera.  I was amused by many of his shots, and thought I'd share.
(I think I was wearing this same shirt the last time I let him take pictures)
(I like the way he captured the sky and trees on this one)
Kind of puts life in a different perspective, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Mythbusters Investigate Santa

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I will again share our Mythbusters Spoof, where the Mythbusters take on their most challenging myth yet:  Santa Claus!

Also, my blog friend Charlie Holmberg posted this one on her blog, and I just had to share.
Vader, Did You Know?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kid Crafts - Christmas!

Our first order of business with Christmas crafts was to make things to put on the tree.  We made a garland by stringing Cheerios and fruit rings on some yarn.  Zaxxon was more interested in eating than working, so at regular intervals I told him he had to string a dozen pieces before he could snack anymore, and I did the bulk of it--but that's okay because it was a fun activity to do together (I just wonder whether the garland will survive, untasted, until Christmas.)

We also worked on a paper chain garland.  I had him thread each piece of paper through the previous link, I applied glue, and then I told him to make the two edges of the paper kiss each other (this is how my mom taught him to help fold towels.)  He did, complete with kissing noises.  :)  He lost patience with this one pretty quick, so we'll come back to it a few different days in order to make the chain long enough to reach around the tree.

We did more cereal garlands to even out the look of the tree.  Once again I had to put limits on how much he could eat before he had to help me again, but we both had fun.  I'm thinking I might let him fill his cereal bowl from the garlands after Christmas is over.  Maybe.  It depends on how icky I think the cereal looks by then.  As long as it doesn't get wet, gnawed on, or dusty, it'll probably be okay.

Snowy sensory bin!!!

This is the first sensory bin I've made since Easter.  Wow, 8 months ago.  I strongly disliked the Easter one--the grass wasn't as fun to play with as I'd hoped, and it all stuck together, coming out in one giant clump which then shed all over the floor.  And the other objects would immediately sink below the grass, making removing it necessary to find the rest of the items.  Not good.  I guess I've just been too lazy/preoccupied to put together another one until now.
This is fake snow we got from Denver's Holiday Food and Gift Festival.  You put a teaspoon of the powder into a container, add approx. 2 ounces of water, and watch it grow.  Unlike most sensory bins, I gave this one to him empty and we filled it together, one little cupful at a time.
I think I'll try to hide some winter/Christmas knicknacks in there after a few days, to change it up a little.  I'll be playing with him a lot with this one--I love running my fingers through this stuff.  The only difficult thing about this bin is that the snow can make a huge mess fast.
I've told him I'm going to be extremely strict about the "it must stay in the bin" rule.  He tested me after about 20 minutes of playing with it, and away it went.  And he screamed for a bit.  I'm hoping he'll learn not to press this boundary much, because the bin is just too much fun.

We made the chain garland longer on Friday, so it stretches around the tree.  That's it for our crafts this week.  I'm hoping to do more of our usual sort of crafts, though still Christmas themed, over the next two weeks.

Tot School

I'm sure Tot School has tons of holiday themed crafts this week!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Plight of a Stranger

A few weeks back I saw a blog on my mom's computer.  She told me the author was adopting a baby and hadn't posted in a week, so Mom assumed the baby had arrived.  Being that babies are in the forefront of my mind these days (go figure) and that the site came with my mom's recommendation, I copied down the address to look up later.

The bustle of Thanksgiving got in my way, so I didn't check again until the weekend after Thanksgiving.  And when I did, it broke my heart.

The author and her husband had arranged to adopt a baby girl at birth, but the day after she was born a father came out of the woodwork, wanting to claim custody.  They had the baby for eight days before the DNA test came back confirming the relation, so they had to surrender the baby.  There are a lot of details in the post that I won't relate here, but suffice it to say that it made me cry.

A lot.

My initial reaction was to think how cruel it was for the father to let a couple get emotionally involved with his daughter--letting them believe that she would be their daughter and loving her already--only to take her away.  It would have been far gentler and much less of a loss if he'd declared his intentions before the baby's arrival.  Before they had a chance to hold her in their arms and fall in love with her.  Perhaps it's just the fact that I have a baby right now, but I hurt for them.

When I summarized this for my husband he, being a father himself and liking to think well of fathers, pointed out that hopefully this means the baby will be in a loving home.  After all, if he didn't want a baby, what better way to be absolved of all responsibility--no one would ever come after him for child support or anything else.  So hopefully that means that the baby will at least be wanted and loved.

The more I think about it, the more I also realize that the guy might not have intended to hurt anybody.  I'm aware of the emotional involvement of adopting from the various parenting resources I've consulted in the past three years--but if he'd never put any thought into adoption he might not have any idea of how much of an emotional roller coaster it can be for hopeful parents.  He might not have been callous at all--just oblivious.  We can hope, and hope that he's being a good father.

All this introspection isn't necessarily worthy of a blog post by me, but the thing is, I haven't been able to get this out of my head.  We hear bad news all the time in our society--it's on the news every day.  We note some things more than others, but since we get so inundated with it, and since there's so much of it, we tend to dismiss bad news as our minds move on to other things.  But this woman's plight has been in the forefront of my mind for almost two weeks now.

Could it just be that having my own children (and a vivid imagination) makes this speak more truly to me?  This isn't the first time the story of a newborn baby has gripped me.  The Safe Haven laws, in particular, grip my mind and my imagination.

*As a side note, in case saying this does someone a service someday, the Safe Haven laws make it legal to give up a newborn infant anonymously and without fear of prosecution provided the infant is unharmed and given to the proper authorities.  Laws vary in the maximum age of the child and suitable locations, but hospitals are pretty much standard--and every state has a Safe Haven law.*

Or is there another reason I can't get this failed adoption out of my mind?  Is it the impact of how beautifully she wrote her sad story?  (It is beautiful and full of grace rather than anger.)  Is there some other connection the universe has in store for me, that I have yet to realize?  Perhaps it's all three, but whatever it is, my mind has worried at it to nearly the point of obsession.

The only thing I can sanely do when something like this grips my mind is focus the energy into my writing.  This, combined with a few other elements that have been floating around in my head for months, may be the ingredients necessary to save a story I wrote several months ago but set aside because it was a great premise with no real plot.  I've worked on it for a few days, anyway, and it already feels more promising than it did before.  I also began one other story inspired by this, but it may never see the light of day or even get finished, depending on whether I can develop it into something more than raw feelings.

I never expected, when checking out this blog, that I would spend so much time and energy focused on the plight of a stranger--but it spoke to me, and perhaps it will speak to others, the more it is shared.

Posie Gets Cozy

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Merry Early Christmas to Me

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I'd like my work to be more portable.  My laptop's battery isn't worth much--not to mention the hooks holding it on broke so it slips off easily--so it's basically a desktop computer these days.  That's fine most of the time (even though the basement is freezing,) but there are plenty of times that I wish I could bring word processors with me on the go.

Tablets are all the rage these days, but I know I'll never be a tablet person.  You can't type anywhere near fast enough on those things even if you could manage to hit the right part of the screen every time, and the keyboards you can hook into them aren't very good, in my opinion.  Yes, tablets will never be the tool of choice for writers--at least not without DRASTIC improvements to design.  That doesn't stop me from having a tablet, but only because my father has decided that they are his new hobby--he buys them broken, voids their warranties by taking them apart and moving parts from one to the next, and puts together a smaller number of working ones.  Mine is one of his refurbishments.

I've been liking the idea of netbooks, though.  I particularly like how small and light they are--perfect for taking with me while the boys go to storytime or lessons or something.  I can sit and work while they have fun, and my computer won't weigh me down at all--not at 2.7 pounds!

Hubby liked this idea too, so we've been researching them.  After we decided on ones we liked, we kept an eye out for sales.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, since I don't like crowds, lines, or shopping) the Black Friday deals were all for models that didn't perform as well as we'd like.  We did find one on sale, though, and so we decided to get them now.  Our original plan had been to ask for gift cards for Christmas so we could buy our new toys, but now we'll need that in cash, to reimburse ourselves.

We didn't wait until Christmas to open them and start playing (can you blame us?) but we did open the boxes in front of the Christmas tree!

Monday, December 5, 2011

All He Wants for Christmas are his Two Front Teeth

My baby is unhappy.  My baby is in pain.  A few nights ago he only slept for about 90 minutes before waking up and screaming.  I'm not talking his normal "feed me" cry--he was shrieking fit to wake the dead.  I hadn't even made it to bed yet, although I'd been headed in that direction.  When I picked him up, he subsided to a pathetic-sounding whimper, obviously uncomfortable.
I tried to give him my fingers to chew on, but he didn't like that idea.  I offered a teether from the fridge, but he wanted none of that.  He wanted nothing to do with just rocking and lullabies either.  Eventually I fed him again, even though it was less than three hours since he'd last eaten.  That calmed him, although after every few sucks he would stop and whimper, so I knew it must hurt him just to suck.  Poor little guy.

He fell asleep nursing, so I tried to transfer him back to his crib.  Unfortunately, I still hadn't made it into my own bed before he was shrieking again.  I couldn't give him any tylenol because I'd given it to him right before bed and four hours hadn't passed yet--and drug overdoses are something you don't want to mess with in infants.  I couldn't pack him into his carseat and drive him around the block a few times because the temperature was in the teens and the roads were treacherous.  At that point I decided just to bring him into bed with me, which I haven't done in a few months.

But even that didn't help as much as I'd hoped.  I started out with us both on our sides, his back to my tummy, trying to cuddle him like a teddy bear.  He shrieked and wiggled.  I offered him a pacifier.  He screamed and arched his back.  I tried to latch him again (against my better judgment because I don't want him to associate food with comfort, but I was getting desperate) but he still wiggled and cried.  Hubby's only thought, apart from the options I'd already exhausted, was the old-wives rum-on-the-gums trick, but I wasn't comfortable with that one (see the above overdoses comment.)  Finally I just cuddled him, stroked his hair, and sang him lullabies.  He shrieked his way through the first, got a little quieter during the second, and finally fell into an exhausted sleep by the end of the third.

I hate to see my little guy in so much pain, especially when even my cuddles aren't enough comfort.  Fortunately, subsequent nights haven't been as bad, though the teeth have yet to emerge.  Kal'El may want his two (or four) front teeth for Christmas but for my part, if he doesn't get them sooner, I may not make it.