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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kiddie Crafts - V is for Valentines and VOLCANOES!

Zaxxon and I spent several days before Valentine's day making cards for our family.

I discovered, upon heading downstairs to gather supplies, that I was out of green construction paper, so I wound up using my cardstock for these.  That made for more expensive cards, but on the other hand, I've done precious little scrapbooking since Zaxxon's birth, so the paper was just sitting around anyway.  (He was having a pajama day, in case you couldn't tell.)

The Valentines were heart-shaped frogs.  I got the idea from the February issue of Parents magazine, and thought they would make a fun activity.

He managed to cut several eyes out by himself, and I tried to put one of "his" eyes on each card.

The frogs got increasingly Picassoesque as we went along--some have legs for tongues and tongues for legs, others have one eye facing forward and one backwards, or the eyes are in odd places.  That's part of the fun of crafting with children!

I took advantage of Valentine's Day to formally introduce the letter "V" to Zaxxon.  Here he's coloring the "V" words.

We had only a few minutes on this day, and my intention had been for him to quickly scribble on the pictures as usual, and then we would paste them together another day.  Well, Zaxxon surprised me by attempting to actually color the pictures this day, instead of just scribbling on the whole page and calling it done like he usually does.  He even wanted different colors for each picture.  So how was I supposed to say "no" to that?  Suffice it to say, naptime got delayed.

Pasting the "V" pictures to the "V" page

Zaxxon helped me make chocolate dipped strawberries on Valentine's day itself

It's very hard to keep one's fingers out of the chocolate.  He did a great job

Of course, we had to continue "V" into Volcano!

Here we're making salt dough

Shaping the volcano.

Painting the volcano

Erupting the volcano!  In my memory, all I ever did to erupt a volcano at home was mix baking soda and colored vinegar.  However, when looking up salt dough recipes online, nearly all resources said to place a large bottle in the middle--20oz up to 2 litre--and then fill it most of the way with warm water and dish soap first.  Then they said to add the baking soda to the water mixture, and then add the vinegar last. 
Supposedly, the released carbon dioxide would make the dish soap fizz up, creating a better eruption.  We attempted this, however I was not impressed.  I don't think the eruption was at all superior, and the narrow-necked water bottle inside just made it harder for a little kid to get everything in.  And made things get clogged inside.  Don't get me wrong, Zaxxon LOVED this activity and wanted to do it daily.  We had to show both sets of grandparents how it was done, and he cried when I said I would be throwing it away soon.  Still, when we make future volcanoes I will simply use a baby food jar for the reservoir and stick to just baking soda and vinegar.

Tot School

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

When in Doubt, Make it Up

There are times when I have to prod myself to use my imagination a little more.  I can have a story full of wildly fantastic or futuristic things, but for some reason my mind gets caught up on little details that I'm trying to make realistic (usually realistic to now.)  Then I can get bogged down in research for that one little thing because it needs to be accurate.  And then I'll get reluctant because there's just so much to learn.

My novel has several of these little details in it.  I've recently had to shake myself more frequently than usual to remind myself that I'm writing fictionScience fiction at that.  If I don't understand how the rocket engines for a space ship work or how best to blow them up, I need to just make it up.  The particulars of how aren't terribly important to the plot, and few people other than engineers will even blink at it.  Time to throw out some convincing gobbledegook or make up a piece of junk technology and move on.  Which is exactly what I did.  And now that I'm exercising this tactic a little more frequently, perhaps I can employ it in the next WIP without the drama beforehand.

What about you?  What seemingly obvious things do you sometimes need to remind yourself to do in your writing?

(Don't ask why I used italics so much in this post.  It just seemed to fit my mood today.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I'm feeling the pressure begin to build.  For years, I've wanted to make money off of my writing, but now I feel as if I should be in a hurry to do so.  This is a very slow industry so I know that it won't happen quickly, even if I step up my production, but I can't help it.  You see, yesterday we got word that my husband's business is getting rid of 60% of the work force--and hubby will be getting the axe.

We won't be in trouble for a little while.  Between severance and savings, we'll be able to do all right, especially if we cut back on things.  But hubby's feeling a lot of pressure as he's been the sole breadwinner since Zaxxon's birth.  He didn't even like the job, but it was a "golden handcuffs" sort of situation--toxic environment, good pay, excellent benefits.  I'm feeling the pressure too.  I may need to rejoin the workforce, but I'm not really sure doing what.  However, childcare is expensive, so even if we're looking at a two income family again, the one who makes less will still have to make more than daycare expenses or it won't be worth it--not to mention that I don't want to send my babies to daycare.  It would be best if hubby or I could sell a piece of writing for a large chunk of money to get us by for a little while--but again, this industry is slow, the competition fierce, and the odds are low that a first sale would garner a large chunk of money.

The motivation I'm feeling isn't all bad.  If I can produce writing faster because of it, that's all to the good, even if it doesn't garner fast returns.  But right now none of us knows what the future is going to hold.  I may be on this blog more, or less, or I may continue it with scarcely another mention of this misfortune.  I don't know.  What I do know is that this feeling sucks.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kiddie Crafts - Jack and the Beanstalk

We continued with our fairy tale theme by next introducing Jack and the Beanstalk.  Once again we used several book versions, the Fairie Tale Theatre movie, and crafts.  Zaxxon now likes to stomp around saying Fee Fi Fo Fum!

On day one, we made a beanstalk in our hallway

The next day we added to--and finished--the mural.  We started by tracing Zaxxon on a big piece of paper to make a giant.

Coloring the giant.  He also wanted to make it anatomically correct.  I informed him that he couldn't see his own parts under his clothes, and the giant was wearing clothes too.  Ah, kids.

Next we laced the golden harp.  He even laced them in the right order (with a bit of prompting.)

After that we cut out the magic beans.  (Yes, we should've done them before the beanstalk.  Oh well.)

You can see the two he cut out aren't as close to the lines, but look how good of a job he did!

We then made a bag of gold.  I was amazed at how many mural elements he wanted to make.  This one I put together on the fly, since I'd had no plans to make a money bag.

We also made a hen by tracing his hand, and cut out golden eggs for it, but I didn't get any pictures of that.  Then we made Jack, so he could be climbing the beanstalk.  Zaxxon drew this one all by himself.  (Apparently Jack is a robot.)

Then we made the giant's castle.  I love how he's looking at the picture to see what his drawing is missing.

Lastly, Zaxxon traced the name "Jack."

And then we put everything on the wall.  Whew!  What a day!  I was truly amazed at how much he wanted to do in one day (I'd figured the mural would have been a several-day project.)

I formally introduced the letter "J" after Jack and the Beanstalk.  This time I turned all the pictures upside down after they were cut out and challenged him to find them.

We only did one other "J" craft, a jellyfish.  First we put paint and star confetti in a clear sandwich bag, sealed it up, and smushed it together.

Then we added streamers to the bottom for tentacles.

Ta da!  Jellyfish.  He wanted to play with it, but after he started getting rough I called an end to that.  The paint probably won't dry inside the sealed bag, and I DON'T want paint all over the house.

We made baked applesauce for the heck of it, because we found a recipe in his Highlights High Five magazine.  This was the first time we used his new "safe" knife (my mother-in-law got it for him, it's very similar to a pumpkin carving knife.)

He's a good kitchen helper, although he usually wants to work three times as fast as I do.  And taste everything.  We had to wash his hands three times in order to get through this.

In typical Zaxxon fashion, he said he liked it after the first taste, but a few bites later said he didn't.  Oh well, more for me!  It was quite scrumptious.  And I saved his in case he has a change of heart later.

Tot School

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Revising with comments

The revisions of my novel are progressing, albeit progressing slowly.  I'm discovering that the often-very-short writing time I have each day makes novel revisions difficult.  With such a big piece of work, there's more story to get back in the mode of, and just reminding myself of the atmosphere surrounding a necessary change can take up nearly all of my time.  I finished with all of the edits I can make in a short, jump-in jump-out fashion, and that left me wondering what to do next.

Finally, I decided that the only way I was going to maintain the thread of the story for the remaining revisions was to go through the novel from beginning to end again.  In order to keep track of what needs to be done as I go, I utilized the Comments feature in Word, converting my to-do list into comments placed approximately where they will need to go.  Now I can (hopefully) make one big sweep and fix nearly everything as I go.  If there's anything I think I'll need to do later, I'll be sure to leave a comment again so I can find it easily.

This big process ought to start tomorrow, unless I feel the need to tackle part of my monthly story goal first.  I wish I could say it will happen fast, but I know it won't.  I imagine I may get only get through one or two pages on some of the slower days.  But if I manage to fix everything as I go through, it'll be ready for critiques from others by the time I'm done.

How about you?  I've never edited a novel before--how do you usually tackle taking on such a large piece of work?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

We got walloped!

12 1/2 inches when I went out to shovel on Friday.

18 inches by Saturday morning.

You know, when it's this heavy, it ought to be good packing snow by default.  It really should.  Yesterday it didn't pack at all.  Today after the sun came out, it did a little, but not really enough.  At least it was still fun to play in, and today was warmer than yesterday, so Zaxxon lasted longer.

However, it was so deep that simply shoveling a path through it made for fun houses and channels.  I spent a while trying to build a "house," and hubby trumped me simply by digging a path to the composter.

Kiddie Crafts - The Three Little Pigs

A few months ago, I decided I wanted to start introducing Zaxxon to classic fairy tales.  We'd only read a few, but since they're so central to our society's background I wanted him to be familiar with them.  Hubby helped this endeavor along by giving me the complete set of Fairie Tale Theatre videos for Christmas.  Inspired by this gift, I checked out a copy of The Three Little Pigs from the library, found another version of the story in an anthology we have, and scoured the internet for crafts ideas.

Man, there are some good crafts out there.  I intend to keep doing fairy tales, if only for the ease of the projects.  Lots of homeschool websites have whole units based around them, so there was much less prep work for me, and a wealth of activities to choose from.

Zaxxon also really seemed to enjoy the story, though the wolf worried him.  We played three little pigs A. LOT.  You could really see and hear him working something out in his head.  For now, Big Bad Wolves have supplanted lions as his fear of choice (he used to randomly run into the room calling "a lion's coming!" and we would all have to cower and hide.  Now it's "Big Bad Wolf coming!")

Zaxxon also showed a nice moment of fraternity.  I asked him if Kal'El were to have his house blown down by the big bad wolf, would he allow Kal'El to come hide in his house.  He said yes, and then immediately had to go find his brother and help him escape from the house of sticks (his crib) in order to take refuge in the house of bricks (a big cardboard box they've been playing with for months.)

I was actually surprised by some of the versions of the story.  What I remember is the first two pigs being foolish in their choice of building materials but always escaping to the third pigs house, where they defeat the wolf together.  Many versions have the first two pigs being eaten, and then the wolf tries to trick the third pig into leaving his house a few times before climbing down the chimney.  Funny how many variations there are.

This was a matching game I found online.  There are three pigs on the paper, and cards with the three houses.  You're supposed to match the house to the pig.  Zaxxon had no trouble with this--he was done before I'd even found the glue.

I cut out all the pieces necessary to make three pigs out of paper.  After the matching game I pulled them out, but after attaching the heads Zaxxon insisted he wanted to do this craft with Dada.

So we had to wait until evening to put the pigs together.

The next day we went outside to scavenge for materials to build pig houses with.  Straw (dead grass raked up from the lawn,)

sticks (random twigs from the yard,)

and bricks.  These weren't in the yard, I cut popsicle sticks into small pieces and colored them red the night before.  I put the glue in straight lines, but he lined the bricks up all on his own.

Lastly, we made a wolf out of a paper towel tube.  This is another one I just printed from online.  I love it when crafts are that easy to prepare!

My grandmother's birthday was coming up, so I had Zaxxon make her a card.  I wrote "Nana" on the paper, and he managed to trace it!

Continuing from the pig theme, I formally introduced the letter "P."  Coloring the "P" pictures with the new markers he got for Christmas

Cutting them out.  He's getting a lot better at scissors.  I gave him a strip of pictures and asked him to cut between the pictures, and he did a really good job.  He even held the scissors the right way.

Making a pillow.  This is another one we started during the day, but he insisted he wanted to finish with Dada.

Stuffing the pillow

More "P" crafts, making a pirate

We also made a catapult (for the pirate to fire)

We made one more "P" craft--a penguin with Zaxxon's hands for the wings.  We recently set up stools at our breakfast bar, which we've never done before.  Zaxxon loves eating up here, and wanted to do his crafts up here too.

Tot School