cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
For the last part of 2016, I was posting three good things daily on Facebook. It helped my mood, and it helped me notice good things despite stress and sickness. I wanted to keep doing something like this. The plan is to post 10 good things weekly on Monday. This one is a little late. Oops!

The kids went back to kindergarten and preschool on Tuesday! This was a surprise, because my calendar had contradictory information so I was braced for a whole 'nother week of them both being home all day long. Surprise!

1. Theia was happy to go to preschool. Hopefully this means the long break has allowed her to forget that she was not wanting to go for a while.

2. I got summoned for jury duty! This has never happened before. I'm excited.

3. Cardinals in winter. Worst camouflage. Best bird-watching. The certified urban wildlife habitat beside Cassius' school bus stop has three or four pairs of cardinals living in it or nearby, so I often see them flying across the street, perching on snow-covered branches, and otherwise being photogenic.

4. Phil got me a new battery for my laptop. He used some of his Amazon reward from work to help *me* do my work. :) Now I'll have more than 10 minutes of battery life again. Such luxury!

5. I got the My Little Ponies of the Apocalypse t-shirt that I ordered as my reward for hitting a weight loss benchmark (thanks, pneumonia!). The kids think the t-shirt is of pirate ponies.
Ponies of the Apocalypse

6. I finished the final draft of my high fantasy novella, "The Unkindness of Ravens," and submitted it to Tor.com. Yay! That is the most rewritten piece I've ever created. It's about 29,000 words long, and only about 10,000 of those words are from the story I started with when I decided to do this. And there I was, thinking that all I would need to do was change the beginning and ending a bit and add a few thousand words. Ha.

7. Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest contacted me out of the blue, to ask MinnSpec to spread the word about the 2017 Minnesota Writing Workshop. I enjoy reading his blog, so that was pretty cool! Also, for pity's sake people. Have a website, and put a contact form on it!

8. I went back to the gym for more than just the sauna! It's been a while because The Sickness meant I couldn't breathe well enough to exercise. Saturday I did a yoga class, and it felt great.

9. First sale of 2017--a reprint sale of an eco-horror short story to an upcoming anthology. Huzzah reprint sale!

10. I started Project: Clean All The Things. Picking up went on my Not-To-Do List while I was cramming to get "Unkindness" finished, so I promised I'd spend the first two weeks after finishing it using my regular writing time to CLEAN (and catch up on emails).
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

It feels like this week has been full of socializing, although that's partly because any week where I see friends more than once feels crazy-busy!

It also feels like this week has been horrible for productivity, and that is true for a couple of reasons. Primary among them is that I have been a bit stuck in the two novels that I'm writing in parallel. Not stuck as in I-don't-know-what-to-do-next, but stuck as in I-need-to-plot-the-next-bit (side project Codename Dragon Succubus) and I-need-to-do-lots-of-research-first-and-I-don't-wanna (main project Real Name Scorpion Dance). And I've been feeling somewhat stressed and responding to it in my usual unhelpful avoidance way. Grr.

Speaking of which, notice how I'm writing a journal entry now instead of writing? Sure, my goal is to write a journal entry every week and it's been over a month since my last one, but that doesn't mean it isn't avoidance. It just means I am super-well-supplied with other things to do. Like sort through the thousand-plus emails in my inbox, which is next on my avoidance plan for the day. Oops, sorry, this is my Mother's Day Away. Make that my "Relaxation Plan." There, that sounds better.

I've started using my gym membership to the YMCA, which is going pretty well. During the week, when Cassius is in preschool, timing doesn't work out so well for me being able to go and take a full class and use whatever's left of the 2 hours of free babysitting to write, so I usually just hit the machines for a while, shower, and then edit for a half-hour before I have to pick up the kids and get on a bus to take Cassius to preschool (his preschool is in the afternoon). I do like the working out part, though, even if I wish I could make my time usage there more efficient to take advantage.

Also, annoyingly, even though we won a month of "Whole Family" membership, that doesn't mean I can get the member rate for Cassius' swim lessons. You have to register about a month in advance for that, and you have to have the child be a full member both IN ADVANCE when you register, and AT the time of the lessons. Grr. Ripoff. Still getting him lessons, though. Just not sure if family membership is going to be worth anything more than my individual membership, because it doesn't really get us anything extra.

Our poor girl kitty is slowly improving. We found out a couple of months ago that she had kidney failure, which led to near-lethal high blood pressure, which led to lethargy, refusal to eat, and one of her eyes having blood vessels rupture inside of it. She already had cataracts and so was mostly blind, but with that, she became completely blind on that side. I don't know if her sight will come back (even slightly) once the blood has all left the eye. It was totally black, filled with blood. Now I can see the rim of her iris again and there's a pale pink cloud in the center of her eye where the blood is slowly being reabsorbed. Her blood pressure is under control with 2x daily medication. And apparently cats can live with kidney failure for several years, although it's best if they eat a special diet for animals with kidney failure, and she's picky.

Lots of fun with socializing lately.

A pack of Phil's female relatives came up from Wisconsin to visit. We drove through downtown looking at all the lights that turned purple in memory of Prince. We went bra shopping at the Mall of America (so much not fun, but necessary). We ate at IKEA and they went shopping while I lounged on a couch and fiddled with edits. We went to Surly Brewery, where they were sad that they could not purchase growlers and I learned why they have so many glasses from drinking establishments they've visited on "girls weekends." Then we went to Betty Danger's Country Club (by the owner of Psycho Suzi's), enjoyed the ferris wheel tremendously, ate the delicious foods, and utterly failed in our attempt to visit her other two establishments, partly because the designated driver doesn't parallel park ... and this is the city.

Dave had a biking pub crawl birthday party where he asked the guests to be made up as "subtle" clowns. I was able to make it to the Eastlake portion of the night. Our whole family went to the Sabathani Prince block party earlier in the afternoon, where we mostly watched the kids go down bouncy house slides and bounce around in the bouncy maze. Total madhouse. Cassius also asked for a snowplow balloon animal, which was a real challenge for the balloon clown. I asked for a snake with pop eyes, which I gave to the birthday boy later. Also managed to get face paint done for the clown birthday party at the prince block party. Multitasking!

The rest of the week(ish) in brief:

May in Minneapolis means the May Day Parade. Thanks to Drew's friend Anna for letting us join the house-and-lawn party that she throws during the parade. I took many pictures.

Cassius brought home baby chicks from preschool, and we successfully kept the cats from eating them during their overnight visit. Cassius is good and gentle with chicks. Theia not so much.

Cassius lost Theia and I in the library, freaked out, and ran out of the building, only to be caught a block later. So scary. Spouse yelled at me a lot. Full story from Fb: We were at the library in Uptown. I took Theia into the bathroom to change her, and when I came back out, Cassius was GONE. Not in the kids' play area, not among the book shelves, not in the sitting area. Turns out, he didn't hear me tell him where we were going, freaked out when he didn't see us, and RAN OUT OF THE LIBRARY (after us, he thought). Thank God for the concerned stranger who came back to find me, the ones who pointed which direction he'd gone, and the ones who stopped him and helped. He made it about a block away, in the direction of his preschool (also in Uptown). Most of us have that "I lost my parents" (in the grocery store, etc.) memory. I think this is going to be the one that sticks for him.

CenterPoint repair guy actually had the part required to make our dishwasher mostly functional again. Amazing.

Thursday, I made it to Electra's graduating senior art reception, admired the art (hers was sealife-themed), and took lots of pictures that I now need to edit and watermark. Then we went to the Riverview Cafe and chatted over yummy brownies.

Friday, I went to my old friend Jason's birthday party, tasted kava for the first time, and saw it prepared ... burlesque-style. More pictures were taken. The stuff looks like off-colored, watery milk, smells like dirt with an acrid undertone, and tastes like nothing much although the aftertaste is pretty awful. The first effect is a tingling tongue. The effect it had on me seemed to be a sharpening and clarity of sight and sensation. No idea if that's how most people feel, as I had to leave then. Silly buses and their schedules.

Saturday, I was peopled out. Morning, went to the gym. Took a weightlifting/body pump group class. Afternoon, went to coffee shop, plotted/adjusted the plot for the rest of the side project (Dragon Succubus), and wrote some. Spent the night fighting with trying to figure out watermarks and custom brushes and why it wasn't working damn it. Figured it out, eventually, but still need to manage batch watermarks for things I don't edit before uploading (like May Day photos).

Today is Mother's Day. I slept in a lot. Made myself French toast. Left to go to a coffee shop until dinner, which is where I currently am. Cassius being in two preschool classes meant I got two Mother's Day presents from him! I got a shiny bead-and-button bracelet that has a whole lot of gold buttons and some red and green flower beads, and a bar of soap that he felted with sheep's wool during their field trip to Gale Woods (which he loved--he says he likes spinach now).

Oh, and also the car died in the middle of the highway and Phil had to get it fixed. So that happened.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Things that go together: stomach flu and bathrooms. Things that don't work so well: stomach flu and non-functional bathrooms. This Tuesday I got sick with the horrible stomach flu that the kids had last week. It was ... horrible. I started feeling sick while I was getting Cassius to his Uptown preschool for a special morning field trip. The plan was to stay in Uptown so I could pick him up after his field trip ended, get him lunch, and then bring him back an hour and a half later for his regular preschool to start. We stuck to the plan, but by the end I was entirely miserable and also grateful for the cleanliness of the public library bathroom and the bathroom at Potbelly. :(

I started feeling actually health several days later, on Friday. In the mean time, Phil stayed home to help when he could and went to work when he couldn't, the kids watched way too many episodes, and the plumber and contractor came and went.

Our bathroom still isn't fixed, but by Friday our shower at least had walls again, even if it has no fixtures. On Monday they'll come and put those in. However, we could use our bathtub again this weekend, thank goodness, at least for bucket baths. You know it's bad when you're really grateful for a bucket bath.

I'm also grateful for good friends who live nearby and let me use their shower! So grateful. Thursday night, Electra let our whole family go over to her house and I got to wash my hair (and the rest of me, but the hair was the worst because I really can't do anything about that in a sink) and bathe the children and she fed Phil (and Theia) spaghetti, which I know he was really grateful for because we went over around 8, right after he got home from work and before he had a chance to eat a proper dinner.

What else this week? Friday Theia and I went to the library storytime and she saw a little girl that she usually plays with at the coffee shop nearby. Friends! Saturday Phil started getting sick, but he seems to have the congestion-and-coughing version without any of the digestive problems. Theia has been accepted to preschool for three mornings a week beginning in September. I will be alone in the house. This is shocking. Cassius has Scottie Bear home from preschool, so he gets to take the bear everywhere and then we write a story in a notebook about what we did while Scottie Bear was here. I learned that Cassius likes my chili, as long as I put it in a chapati for him. We're trying to get Theia to start potty-training, but even having her sit on the potty for two minutes is a challenge. This has become more urgent lately since she's started taking off her own dirty diapers (including the poopy ones). Danger Danger.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Two big changes and one irritating mistake. Okay, the changes aren't THAT big. Practically speaking, they're quite small on a lifetime scale. But big on a weekly scale!

The biggest thing in my life lately has been my inability to shower or bathe at home. Our shower went from decrepit but sorta functional to entirely non-functional. It no longer has hot water, and using the shower is also bad because the walls aren't as waterproof as you would want shower walls to be. We figured this out when Phil looked up at the ceiling of the kitchen and saw that there was water damage. :(

My solution for this has been to take advantage of all the gym trials available that include childcare (and one that didn't, even though its website said it did). This way, I can take the kids, get a workout, write for a bit while the kids stay in childcare, and then wash my hair (the big problem with normal bucket-bath solutions) and the children. It's been fun. I don't have disposable income on a monthly basis, so I won't be able to permanently join a gym-with-childcare and do the short workout, longer writing game plan that some other writer parents and members of gyms-with-childcare have. Sadface. But I've learned that I like group classes and weight machines, and I really like being able to work out again.

Monday the plumber comes and starts the process of retiling the shower alcove, replacing the fixtures, and installing a new toilet while he's at it. I'm very happy about this. I'm just sad that we didn't have the budget to have them also tear up the wood floor and put in tile while we're at it. Alas. Wood floors look great and wear well in many rooms, but bathrooms aren't one of them.

Other things that happened this week(ish), briefly:
1. Tried writing with The Most Dangerous Writing App (change #2), liked it, and beat my weekly word quota for the first time in a long time;
2. Went to preschool auction, got one month's gym membership cheap(!), and collected lots of compliments on my candid portraits of the kids;
3. And, finally, messed up communicating with Cassius' school bus about me taking him to school instead (after gym time in Uptown), leading to confusion all around and a cranky school bus chaperon. Oops.
4. Wait, that's not the end after all! Last Sunday, the children became miserably sick, complete with 105 degree fevers (Cassius) and vomiting (Theia). That was no good. The combination of vomit and nonfunctional shower was particularly unfortunate. I forgot about that earlier, even though the kids are still coughing and congested. They're no longer feverish and they seem to be back to normal energy levels, though, so no more sick days watching videos for them!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Since we didn't get this out by Christmas ... or New Years ... I suppose this qualifies as a Valentine's Day Letter? Happy Valentine's Day! Hug the ones you love.




Unlike the unusually warm first part of winter, our year has been blessedly ordinary, with no calamities or commotions (knock on wood). Cassius began preschool this year. Theia started talking up a storm and developing one heck of a personality. Phil's work went crazy. All of these changes are the kind that occur as time goes on. We even managed to find a little time to have our first real family vacation (not work-related, not visiting extended family) in November.

For the last few months, Phil has been working more than ever, as his company starts using a new machine to make new products. They've had all the problems and late hours that one would expect from any start-up project. Phil's been working 14- to 16-hour days on a regular basis, which means that I've been doing a lot of single-parenting. Originally, this was supposed to be done by end of the year, but since things haven't been going well, it looks like it will continue on into the new year. Oh, goodie.

Cassius has started preschool. He absolutely loves it, although he is more interested in the toys than in the other kids. We've also learned that he has a fine motor skills delay that makes drawing and writing more difficult for him, and a social/emotional development delay. He'll be getting assistance with that beginning this year.

Although Abra's had the usual two-small-children difficulties with finding time to work on her own projects, she's sold a few short stories this year and there are other developments on the horizon. Most recently, "In Their Image" is up as a podcast AND as text over at Escape Pod! Warning: contains religious philosophy. And fluffy pink murderbear aliens!

Overall, next year looks like it will be a good one, as various work projects come to fruition, the kids grow more independent, and more adventures are planned.

Phil & Abra

& Cassius & Theia

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
The last two weeks have been kind of rough for me, because Phil hasn't been able to provide much parenting assistance. First he was gone on business for a week, and then he got a rather horrible case of The Sick that has pretty much knocked out his ability to contribute at home. Despite this, it's been an interesting couple of weeks with lots of new experiences.

Read more... )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

Fifteen minutes to describe what's been going on in my life since my last journal entry of 11/9/2014, more than three months ago.


Is too much. I will sum up.


Phil had his first work trip to California of the year, so I had a week of single-parenting it. Mostly everything went okay. On the last day of his trip, I even managed to wrangle two small children onto the bus to the Midtown Global Market DMV to renew my instructional driver's permit! It was an epic trip. First the DMV (and I highly, highly recommend this location--5 PM on a Friday afternoon and the wait was only about 10 minutes!). Then we watched adorable kids doing traditional Chinese dancing, including the Lion Dance, to celebrate the Chinese New Year in MGM's main area. Cassius got to "feed the lion" by holding out a red envelope with a dollar in it. He liked this idea a lot. Holy Land for a dinner that was only a moderate success, since I ordered poorly and spent too much for food that the kids didn't eat (the leftovers were delicious, though, and Holy Land's fries have officially replaced those of McDonald's in my affections, something I thought would never happen). After a half-hour in the extremely popular play area, I hauled the kids out under protest. We swung by Chicago-Lake Liquor (since I had a valid ID again) and back to the bus stop, where there were a variety of future Jerry Springer contestants waiting for the bus. Fortunately it was all talk and I didn't have to explain anything to Phil about why our offspring were traumatized.


I finished the-story-that-took-forever-to-finish! I got through all the finicky changes and details and whatnot for A Circus of Brass and Bone. So pleased that I got that wrapped. There are still three tiny typos that I have to wait for a long enough sales lull to fix. I'm not sure if it'll pick up any momentum beyond the initial friends-and-family sales, but I don't have a marketing budget to throw at it, so I'll just have to wait and see. I'm taking one day every week to work on PR stuff. It is like pulling teeth to get reviews, though, even (especially!) customer reviews on Amazon etc. Gah. The marketing hat is uncomfortable on my head, but I'm doing my due diligence. I owe it to the story. I feel like there are a lot of people who would get something good out of the story, but who will never even know it exists. Sadface.


Um. My journaling time is up, but other stuff happened too! Working on getting Cassius into preschool, working on getting Cassius potty-trained (related), readjusting to having any free time, horrified by the state of my house, intimidated by the state of my short story editing backlog, looking forward to the next project but wanting a clearer deck before I start it but also wanting to get to it before I lose my enthusiasm, and a whole bunch of developmental advances by Theia, who is now getting the hang of walking and talking and acting almost like a toddler instead of a baby! Sniff.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
The last couple of weeks have been very busy with All The Things, especially last week. In my writing log, I wrote down the following:

Recorded "Breath Stirs In the Husk" for Pseudopod
Recorded “Drowning in Sky” for PodCastle
Did audio editing on PodCastle and Pseudopod readings and sent them off
Writer’s networking tea at Patisserie 46
MinnSpec writers group in Uptown
Updated market spreadsheet, wrote newsletter, and mailed it off
Researched self-pub cover art necessities
Wrote cover art contract
Met with cover artist
Processed “Diplomatic Relations” acceptance
Processed “Charity From a Thief” rejection
Processed writing expenses

In addition to this, we !!finally!! took care of the second mortgage balloon payment, a financial burden that has been becoming increasingly worrisome over the course of the last six months as we went back and forth with our mortgage banker about how we could refinance it. The short answer is that we couldn't, but he was too inexperienced to know that and too incompetent to find that out in a reasonable time-frame or even to return our phone calls EVER. Of course, back when we bought our house, we were assured that we could simply extend the term of our second mortgage without any problems. Now, that program has long since been discontinued. He eventually offered us a personal loan, but that has terms similar to a credit card, so, um, no. Instead we took out a loan against Phil's 401K. Not ideal, but at least we're paying the interest to ourselves. It also means that our 2nd mortgage will be paid off in 5 years instead of 10+ . . . because our monthly payment is going to be a couple of hundred dollars higher. Ouch. But still. Done! One thing to cross off the Worry List.

Speaking of the Worry List, Phil finally put lead encapsulation paint on the back staircase, which is a huge relief to me. Whew. Still not done fixing all the less-urgent lead stuff, but we're getting there.

So, lots of stress (and stress relief) this week, and lots of me trying to scrape out time to get things done. Not helping is that Theia has been waking up lots in the night again. Maybe teething? She's also been batting at her ears when she's sleepy, which makes me worry about ear infections, but Phil thinks it's because sometimes there's referred pain from teething. Basically, we don't know. It is worrisome. Also does not help with the exhaustion and having lots of stuff to get done.

Now that the mortgage's handled, our next big family project is figuring out preschool. Minneapolis folks, does anyone have recommendations or dis-recommendations for preschools in the Uptown/Downtown/S. Mpls area? We're hardly going to buy a second car just to ferry the small one to preschool, so it needs to be busable for us.

Sigh. Here's a picture of a water lily, for serenity.


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P.S. Oh, and I bollixed up my left knee badly enough that it's been hurting constantly for the last few days. I'll try taking it easy for a week and see if it gets better on its own. If it's still this bad in two weeks, a doctor visit is probably in order, and who knows what else. I do not need this.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

Daily life: When I can get Theia to sleep for a morning nap, first I put in a half-hour with a library exercise DVD, and then I take Cassius outside to play while she sleeps. Sometimes this is less than half an hour. Sometimes this is an hour and a half. Sometimes he wants back inside (like today). During this time, I try catching up on my emails and working on writing-related-but-not-actual-writing things. Today he stole my bike helmet and insisted on wearing it while he sat on his toy motorcycle and scooted it around the yard and pushed the buttons to make it honk and comment on the weather and turning directions. We've never discussed helmets. Yay, ambient safety knowledge?

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Other things: ran errands with 2 kids in tow on public transit; started a new writing schedule; finished the Circus of Brass and Bone rewrite portion; watched Theia cruise around everywhere; wrestled with church chores and not being a joiner and baby nap schedules; and went to Como Zoo en familie.

Help, I've fallen into a book series and I can't get out! Wait. I don't actually want to get out. I'm actually really enjoying Michelle West's House War series. There's a bit of awkwardness in the middle when she tells us readers that this series is built around another series--with different main characters--and that the main character in this series is a minor character in that series, but that series is where the events are happening during a gap in this series. Complicated. She does put a nice synopsis up on her website, though, and so I stuck with the House War series and ignored the other series. Worked for me. Fish out of water / building a new life under new circumstances stories are a huge, major weakness of mine, so I'm pretty delighted by this one. The story goes from a struggle to survive because of poverty to a struggle to survive because of wars for power among gods and men. There are . . . some things that might require content warnings, but they're pretty well signaled in advance so you can decide for yourself.



I successfully went to the grocery store and then to the new Walker library in Uptown (past $15/hour* fast food wage protesters). This involved taking a toddler, a baby, a stroller, a mobi wrap, a backpack full of groceries and books, and an overflow grocery bag of diapers on and off the bus. Hence my sense of accomplishment!

Writing during naptime at home is not being very useful for me. Partly because when I don't know when or if I'll get writing time, I get cross and fretful. Partly because even when the kids are sleeping, part of my attention is on them instead of on my writing. Partly because their sleep schedules do not always align and I may get practically no time to write. So! This week I started trying to get two hours on Wednesday and three hours on the weekend designated as go-to-the-library-and-write time. Or the coffee shop, depending. Phil is somewhat cranky about this, but he is
any time I leave the house alone.<

As a result, the rewrite portion of the new ending of Circus of Brass and Bone is FINISHED!!!!!! Raaaaaa . . . the crowd goes wild. Now I just need to write the all-new stuff. No worries, it's all outlined, and it should go smoothly. A couple more weeks and I think I'll be for-reals done! SO HAPPY.

10 mo., 1 wk. Theia is cruising! She's been pulling herself up to a stand on--well,
everything--for a week or so, and now she's taking little steps between things, while holding on. So cute! I remember being terrified when C did this, because he frequently fell and always hit the floor head-first. So far, Theia does really well at a) landing in a sitting position, or b) catching herself on her arms. So much less terrifying! (knock on wood).


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The zoo was full of adorable baby animals, too! (Two of which were mine.)

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cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
I am not a big fan of the heat, as the latest 85+ degree Minnesota "heat wave" shows. Tooo hot.

Cassius' 3-year doctor appointment was this week. He's exactly 1 meter tall and weighs just under 30 lbs. This puts him in the bottom 1% for BMI, which makes us very concerned parents. Not much we can do that we aren't already, though. It's just--I desperately want to fatten him up. The doc also recommended getting him assessed for verbal problems (enunciation, basically--his vocabulary is fine) and for pronation in his feet. No shots this year! Still waiting to hear back about test results. In general, however, it was a cranky-making doctor's visit.

Oh, and I got back the results from the parapertussis test: negative. So no, I no longer have an active infection, but I'm still coughing and dealing with symptoms, and I may continue to do so for another two months. Grr.

Here, have a random water droplet photo. Waterfowl feathers are neat.
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I got to game again! It's been so long, I had to hunt around to find my dice. But I found them. Except for my D4s, which Phil had stolen. And I got to go out for a few hours and play a Deadlands one-shot. It was a lot of fun, although my character was a mad scientist with an impulse control problem that made it difficult for me not to "accidentally" kill all the other party members. Le sigh. And I had to leave a bit early, because I'd been there from 1:30 PM to 6:00 PM, and I really couldn't stay away from Theia any longer.

We got important house stuff worked on! My plan was to paint the back hallway, which is lead paint that has chipped slightly and is generally in need of remediation paint before I will feel comfortable with my kids walking on the stairs in that area again. I got as far as cleaning everything for the painting, and then while I was out at a movie with Electra, Phil taped up all the things that needed taping and got 3/4s of the first coat done. So awesome! He also said that painting there was basically hot-boxing yourself.I'm not allowed to do it, because I'm still breast-feeding and so what I get, the baby gets. Progress is great. Progress made by not-me while I was out seeing a movie? Even better!

Good read: The Girl With All the Gifts.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
As I am writing this, it's very weird to realize that today is only Friday. 4th of July, yes, but Friday! I've been existing in the weirdly timeless dimension of sick for the last week. Phil has been home for much of it, which hasn't helped (with the disorientation--it's helped a *lot* with keeping the household running!). Last week, both kids got sick with congestion, coughing, and fevers. Last week Friday, I started to feel sick. Over the weekend, I got all the congestion, coughing, and fever. I was so wobbly and lightheaded that I put Phil in charge of carrying the baby up and down the stairs and even--when I felt particularly bad--of moving her from the playmat to my arms to nurse.

Theia's church dedication was on Sunday, so Phil took her to church and I stayed home sick with Cassius. This was probably a very good thing, as it turned out, since Cassius and I were the most sick and probably most contagious at this point. She looked adorable in her little satiny white dress with red flowers; that's all I know.

My fever went away on Monday, but Phil still stayed home to help and because I'd made a doctor's appointment for Cassius. You see, even before this latest bout of sickness, he had a minor but persistent cough that wouldn't go away. He'd had it for three weeks, which seemed a bit long. We talked to the nurse practitioner. They took swabs for various tests. They used the water pic to clean earwax out of his ears so they could make sure he didn't have an ear infection (since he'd complained of ear pain the previous day). She said that perhaps he had seasonal allergies, we should try medication for that and see if it cleared things up.

Tuesday, Phil went back to work. I managed okay with the kids, but I was exhausted and so slept as long as the kids did during naptime, which was a really long time that day (we were all sick). That's how I came to miss the nurse practitioner's urgent attempt to call me with Cassius' test results. He tested positive for parapertussis, which is like whooping cough junior. It's less likely to kill you or cause severe complications. It's also not vaccinated against (see: less likely to kill you). So I called the triage nurse on the night shift, and she referred me to the doctor on call, and the doctor sent in a prescription for antibiotics for both kids and told me to get the adults in the family to a doctor so that we could get treated too. So that's what we did the next day.

We are all highly contagious until we've taken five days of antibiotics. So certain things had to happen--or not happen. Phil called in sick to work through next Monday. We're avoiding social events. We had to cancel our annual 4th of July party for the first time in, um, well, since before we were married. Phil was very sad. I'm pretty glad that I wasn't planning on going to CONvergence, anyway. Parapertussis would be a nasty addition to the con-crud mix that usually brews at these large events.

So instead of a 4th of July party, we had a back yard picnic (Cassius corrected Phil when he called it a party). Just family, hanging out in the back yard for most of the day. Everybody came indoors for naptime, though. Cassius ran around in his red-and-blue plaid shorts and his caped Superman shirt, eating all the raspberries, swinging in the hammock, and generally having a great time. Phil grilled and posted links and analysis of his favorite heavy metal music of the year (his "ponies"). Theia crawled off the blanket we put her on a lot and generally required a whole lot of attention, but she appeared to be enjoying herself just fine. I ate and lounged in the hammock with Theia and watched House on my tablet and generally was kept rather busy by my offspring.

On top of all this, in a feat of rare and remarkable clumsiness, I managed to trip over a stool and fall in such a way as to sprain my ankle and bruise my knees badly, right on top of the scar tissue from my knee surgeries. Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch. Moving my ankle hurts. Going up and down stairs hurts. I am extra sad that I can't take ibuprofen because all the brands have lactose and Theia's allergic to it.

Other (better!) things have happened since my last diary update, too.
* I had a 4th Street (Fantasy Convention), about which there will be another few posts.
* I finished a short story that became unusually long! "You May Also Like Gas Masks" is over 12,000 words. Yikes.
* I finally figured out the part that makes my next notebook story work. Turns out the problem wasn't the mystery or the A.I. part, it was that I needed to figure out the character's spine: grief.
* I emailed a pro-paying magazine editor to ask for a different, less rights-grabby contract--and got it. Like a pro, oh yeah.
* Cassius is having nightmares on a regular basis. I feel so bad for him. He's also become very focused on figuring out when things (people, monsters, cars, etc.) are "bad."
* Theia has mastered an army crawl that gets her across the room in much less time than you might think.
* Phil has finished selecting what he thinks is the best music of the year for a Ponies disc . . . or two.
* I've been experimenting with an easy, delicious microwave (vegan!) fudge recipe. I am happy to continue experiments, I just need an unlimited supply of coconut cream, cocoa, and powdered sugar.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
The Saturday before Easter, my father married Elena, a long-time family friend. We left Wednesday afternoon, took two days to drive down to Kansas, and drove home in one shot on Easter Sunday.
Read more... )
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11 PM, previous night. - Attempt to go to sleep. Phil decides to sleep in the attic because he fears waking Theia. Theia wakes up as I'm going to bed, so I nurse her and put her back to sleep. Succeed in going to bed around 11:30.

3:45 AM, previous night - Theia wakes up again. Nurse her back to sleep, no rocking required. Currently reading Pandora's Star on my Nook while nursing. Good stuff. Amazing how he writes so densely and yet manages a pace that pulls the reader along.

7:40 AM - Wake up, this time for good. Nurse Theia, but don't change her because all diapers are downstairs. Put her back in the cradle. Go downstairs.

Take Fu Manchu's steroid and antibiotic and attempt to get him to eat them in cream cheese. Attempt fails because he only wants to lick the cream cheese. Use more forceful methods. Success!

Procure diapers for Theia and dig out clothes for myself to wear from the clean laundry. Shower. Dress. Retrieve Theia from crade, change diaper, and put her in the bouncy seat in my study. Have ten minutes to answer a couple of emails and write a paragraph on "You May Also Like Gas Masks" before it's time to wake Cassius up. Take Theia downstairs and put her in playard.

9:00 AM - Wake Cassius up. He mumbles something about buying new houses. He is excited that the new truck he found in his closet (which we've been trying to keep him out of) has had a bath and he wants to go find it first thing. Instead, I get him out of his pajamas and diaper.

The diaper is dry, so I whisk him downstairs onto the potty. He gets to watch a few clips and then an episode of Thomas the Train. Pee happens, and it's all actually in the potty. Hurray!

Meanwhile, I browse emails and Facebook. I goop Theia up, covering all her limbs with lanolin as part of my latest attempt to defeat the eczema, if that's even what it is. Our regular doctor is out of town for the next two days, so I can't get a second opinion, but I'm not going to put the harsh steroid stuff on my 5-month-old without one. Put Theia back in the playard.

Dress Cassius. Warm up pancakes with maple syrup. Feel very grateful to husband for making large quantities of pancakes on Sunday. Get Cassius started on eating breakfast. He still needs me to cut his pancakes into smaller pieces, but he eats those pieces with a fork by himself.

Take potty's pee container upstairs to clean it out. Bring it back down, along with sleep fleece for Theia for later.

Join Cassius and start to eat my own pancakes. Hear suspicious butt noises coming from playard but decide to ignore them because damn it, I'm eating.

Cassius declares himself done after 3/4 of a pancake. I tell him he gets to watch his "reward" episode now, and it's special because he gets to hold Mama's tablet and watch it there. He chooses vintage Sesame Street. I go back to my pancakes.

Finish eating, go to get Theia. Wow. She pooped through everything. Clean her up, change her diaper, put her in a new one-piece, put her in her sleep fleece. Nurse her. She does not fall asleep.

Carry her upstairs, swaddle myself and her in the mobi wrap, and bounce-rock her to sleep while I sit on an exercise ball in front of my desk and watch the new "Elementary" episode. I *knew* they were going to do something interesting with Sherlock's brother!

10:30 AM - Put Theia down for her morning nap. Type up "day in the life" so far. Man, a lot has already happened.

Sesame Street ends, Cassius has a meltdown, and he needs his diaper changed.

11:03 AM - Beginning of designated morning "Theia's napping, attempt to work out" half-hour. Harley's 5-Factor Workout, one of the library's exercise DVDs.

11:15 AM - Theia wakes up. Fortunately, today's workout is all done laying down, so it's easy to modify into Mommy and Me exercises. Tummy time on Mama's chest while I'm doing flies, airplane on Mama's knees while I'm doing crunch-curls.

Start a load of special Theia laundry, which right now means warm water and extra rinses and no soap. All part of the attempt to clear up her skin rashes.

Read Cassius and Theia a story. Cassius demanded to "hold a baby," so I settled Theia into his arms and read another one while he happily muttered, "A baby, a baby, a baby, ugga-mugga."

Put Cassius' shoe back on. He goes back to play on the porch. Change Theia's diaper. Put away legos.

Attempted to play piano with Cassius. Idea of making hands into "monster claws" to play was a success, but then he yelled at me to, "Stop music!" while he played with his trains in the play room. Practiced a little more, then left when Theia needed to be moved from the floor mat to the changing table because of suspicious butt noises. Cassius started to fake-cry and insist on, "More piano!" as soon as I left.Time elapsed on piano playing attempt: 5 minutes? Maybe 10?

Helped Cassius do two puzzles.

Nursed Theia. Cassius played with his trucks on the front porch.

Put Theia back in playard. Lunchtime.Cassius wanted "ham and mustards" but instead we had noodles with buttery mushroom sauce. There was a handwashing tantrum. He declared himself done by spitting out a bite of food significantly before I was done, and then there was much tugging on my arm and demands for Thomas or help or getting up or potty or the porch.

12:50 PM - I finish eating. Cassius wants to sit on the potty with a timer to earn "Thomas a Train!" After a few minutes of this, he starts melting down. Theia also starts melting down, because she needs yet another diaper change and is sick of being in the playard. In the middle of this, a friend calls to figure out plans for tonight, which might have to be canceled due to a bad stomach. She offers to let me call back at a better time. I tell her it is entirely likely there won't be one. I change Theia's diaper and put her in the Bug exersaucer, get Cassius back into his diaper and pants, and arrange to call friend later to see if she feels better. Finish getting Cassius into clothes and let him go out to play with his trucks on the front porch. There is much muttering about the mailman who has not yet showed up. I clean up from lunch, put away the left out puzzles, and put in the next load of laundry.

Washed face, brushed teeth.

Came back downstairs to find that I needed to change Cassius' foul poopy diaper. Changed diaper. He insisted on sitting on the potty next, so I set the timer and after he sat there long enough (while playing with Theia who was still in the bug), he got to watch a bit of The Little Engine Who Could. Combed and braided hair for the first time today. Put away scattered children's books. Ensconced Theia on the couch, well-cushioned to keep her from rolling or falling, and typed up some more of this epic account of my day. Tried not to laugh at the glowing magic mushrooms in The Little Engine Who Could. Realize that I changed tenses at some point, but am really not going to go back and fix it.

1:45 PM - Cassius has had 15 minutes of The Little Engine, and it's almost naptime. Back into diaper and pants. Theia goes back in playard. I ask Cassius what he wants for his snack before naptime. "Cookie!" "There are no cookies." "I have a cookie in my pocket!" "You do not have a cookie in your pocket. There are no cookies." Pause. "Graham cracker!"

Make snack of graham cracker with butter and cinnamon and sugar. He eats it and wants more. I say it's naptime. He starts to melt down. Theia starts to melt down. There is a whole lot of screaming going on during this, the second simultaneous meltdown of the day.

Wash Cassius' hands and face, put him in his pajamas, tuck him in to bed, refuse to read him a story because Theia's screaming. He wants the lantern. I pick it up and give it a little shake to get it locked in the upright position. Instead the bottom falls out, batteries fly everywhere, and Cassius is scared into crying hysterically. I fix the lantern and put it by his bed. He calms down. I bring his cuddle-puppy back to his room when I get Theia and take her upstairs.

"Nap with Theia! Put her right here!" He pats the bed beside him. I do, for a minute, and they cuddle, and it is ridiculously cute. Nobody is screaming.

I nurse Theia. She falls asleep. I put her to bed. I go downstairs and make tea and a snack. I come upstairs and eat my snack.

Less than half an hour after I laid her down (and before I have finished my snack), Theia wakes back up--wait for it--screaming bloody murder. She condescends to nurse, but it takes a very long time to rock her back to sleep.

I update this day-to-date.

3:44 PM - Victory condition! Both children sleeping! Time to write! YAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!

Waste five minutes on the internet, then process emails, do freewriting, ponder--but do not actually start--writing.

4:10 PM - She's awake again. NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Not interested n nursing. Rejected my attempts to rock her to sleep. As soon as I stopped trying to put her to sleep, she was all smiles and cooing.

Took her downstairs. Put her in the bug. Pumped milk so that she'd have fresh while I was gone in case plans to go out worked after all. Midway through pumping, she started to fill her diaper, so I had to do an emergency interrupt and get her to the changing table in case of blowouts. Resumed pumping. Phone rang: husband calling to see if I was going out tonight. Explained that I wouldn't know that until 5. Finished pumping. Changed diaper. Took Theia back upstairs and put her in bouncy seat in my office. Called friend: outing is a go! Called husband: yes, you have to watch both kids all by yourself!

5:12 PM - Time to try writing with Theia in the bouncy seat!

5:20 PM - Time to nurse Theia.

5:30 PM - Cassius wakes up. Take Theia downstairs and put her in the playard. Get Cassius (dry diaper!) out of his diaper and pajamas, carry him downstairs, and install on the potty while watching "The Little Engine . . .". Go back upstairs to print feeding tracking sheets and get other nursing supplies. Finish writing a paragraph of "You May Also Like Gas Masks."

Settle Theia on the couch, get laptop, and update this.

. . . and after that, I didn't get time to write up things for the rest of the evening UNTIL NOW. Which is a couple of weeks later. The usual routine involves me putting Cassius to bed at 9 P.M., using the lure of a Boy in the Cave story to get him to cooperate (Super-cute when small child says, "I copper-ate." So hard to pronounce!). Then I bathe Theia and goop her with lanolin to pacify the eczema, take her upstairs, nurse her, and lay her down to sleep usually around tenish. I seem to remember that on this particular day that I was documenting, she woke up again around 4 AM and wouldn't go to sleep for a good hour. I think this was one of the days where the next morning involved Theia still sleeping in her cradle in our room, me crashing on the couch downstairs, and Cassius watching whatever the heck he wanted as long as he let me nap for an hour.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
5/26/2014, Monday, Memorial Day

Theia appears to be settling into a new sleep pattern, one where she goes to sleep after 11 PM, wakes up at or before 6 AM, and then doesn't go back to sleep until 8 AM (at which point Cassius is usually awake, so I do not get to nap with her). This is a little hard on me. For instance, yesterday she went to sleep around midnight, and this morning she was awake at 5 AM. And then would not sleep again. My current morning routine, then, is to nurse her, grab a cup of (non-caf) tea and a piece of fruit, plop her in the bouncy seat in my study, and try to get anything done while she's in there. When she starts to fuss again, I try to nurse her to sleep. If Cassius is not yet awake, I try to sleep too. When Cassius wakes up, it's time for normal breakfast and the day really begins. On weekends this is a bit better because Phil takes the morning shift after 8 AM, but during the week, the second day in a row of less than 6 hours of sleep is Not Good. I don't care what Phil's coworker says, functioning on 5-6 hours of sleep is not a good idea for *this* person.

Only one pill left for Fu Manchu, and then hopefully we'll be done with his mysterious skin rash. Dear Lord, please let us be done. Phil refuses to pill the cat because he claims that something about testosterone makes Fu Manchu react extra badly. To be fair, he appears to be correct.

Cassius' speech is getting very good. At this point, probably 90% of what he says is understandable. I will miss his, "Oh, yles!" exclamations when he starts just saying, "Yes." And his, "Maybe NOT!" is hilarious. I do kind of wish he'd waited a while longer before he started complaining, "Not fair!" Phil blames himself for that one. Cassius is also fully into imaginative play, both for himself and for his toys. Train engines, fire fighters, and going to the library for books feature prominently. Phil has had a talk with him about the importance of *not* saying that there is a fire in his bedroom.

This was a good week for writing, if only because on Sunday I got to go to a coffee shop and write for about three hours while Phil kept watch over the sleeping children. In that time, I got more written than I have on any other day so far this year. And I enjoyed visiting the new neighborhood coffee shop, Five Watts Coffee. I hope they'll stick around. It's a pleasant space, easy to get to, and they do interesting experiments with their coffee drinks.

I am very close to writing the last scene of "You May Also Like Gas Masks," which makes me happy because then I can tackle the Big Difficult Thing, and finishing *that* is going to be a big huge happy-making relief. The Big Difficult Thing is writing/rewriting the dramatic ending of the first book of Circus of Brass and Bone. Where it should have been in the beginning. As I would have known if I paid attention to my writing instead of to my outline, instead of writing an extra 40+ thousand words! All part of my quest to "finish it properly" before I resumed posting episodes after the life-sucks hiatus. (Yes, I will keep kicking myself for that one for a while.)
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Once again, I have failed to take any new photos except of the small one. I need to work on that!

IMG_0660

Helping, whether that help is wanted or not!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Happy things:
1. Because of Pride, the pastor read a 500-year-old prayer of blessing written by Menno Simons for the marginalized and the persecuted, and
2. For the first time ever, Cassius actually stayed in the nursery without either parent for a while and *didn't* have an atomic-level meltdown that led to the staff coming to bring us back. There was some fussing, but he was happily playing when we picked him up.

Tangentially, if I'm ever on a panel about religious schisms, I'll just introduce myself as "a member of a Protestant, Anabaptist, Mennonite, GLBTQ-affirming church...so I know all about schism." I have no plans to be on such a panel, but.

(x-posted from Fb because it actually seemed to have a little substance)
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Humans are primates, you say?

2013_01_10_7115

I suppose there's a good reason his latest nickname is Monkey.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
That right there? Yeah, that sums up parenthood pretty well.

2012_10_27_5998
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
x-posted, since it grew into a real entry

1 yr., 2 mo. So many (mostly cute) things he's started doing recently! When our cat yowls his, "I'm all aloooone!" yowl, the baby answers! Every time!

(kitchen) "Mrrooooowwwwrrr!"
(dining room) "Ah, ah!"
(kitchen) "Mrrroooow!"
(dining room) "Ah!"

The baby has started singing. There is a noticeable tune (if no words yet). Sometimes he just sings to himself as he cruises around the room. The other day he started "singing along" with a techno TV commercial. Hopefully he has not inherited my tone-deafness. I can't tell.

All the drawers are belong to baby! This is a bit of a pickle. He opens everything! We'd removed all the dangerous stuff from our coffee table drawers, but now he's getting into everything in the pantry, too--you know, where we store lightbulbs and batteries and tape and cord and...all sorts of things I'd rather he not get his hands on! And the drawers are flush to the cabinet, which makes unobtrusive childproofing latches so not happening.

Baby wants to feed us too! Because that's just what you do, right? You pick up food and put it in other people's mouths? That's what he always sees the grownups doing....

He pushes everything around. Chairs, his toys, the playard, his cats.... He's pretty strong.

Next doctor's appointment is in two weeks, and I am biting my fingernails in anticipation. I am not at all good at waiting to find things out (like blood lead levels).
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
2012_09_25_5326

Yes, we're even mopping the walls!

I have posted snippets about this on Facebook, and I am planning on one big, giant post here with all the information (once I have all the information!). But after our baby boy was diagnosed with lead poisoning, ridiculous amounts of cleaning are part of our daily life. Lots and lots of cleaning, trying to avoid the "poisoned" areas of our house, and soon--lots and lots of painting. That's all manageable. Replacing the windows will be a bigger problem. But for now--cleaning!

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June 2017

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