cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
I try to take Sundays off of social media, but it has occurred to me that what I really mean by that is "fast" social media, the constant churn. So perhaps Sunday is the right day to take 5 minutes to type a longer post. And there is one such post that ought to be done!

Cassius recently turned 7. Seven!! How is this possible?!? He starts 2nd grade tomorrow, and he's very excited to go back and see his school friends again. He says that he's met the teacher one time before. He seemed comfortable with her at the school open house, so that's great. This year he is no longer in Early Childhood Special Education, so he won't be getting the same kind of assistance and interventions. Fingers crossed that everything goes well! He seems ready. His fine motor strength has improved a lot, and if he's still a little socially awkward, well, who among us isn't?

At age 7, Cassius is full of thoughts and full of chatter. He finds it exceptionally difficult to stop talking unless he's reading a book. His reading has really taken off in the last few months. He's reading chapter books on his own, and loving it. He particularly likes nonfiction, whether it's about dinosaurs or the pyramids or inventions or engineering.

When he grows up, he wants to be a scientist or an engineer or an architect. He thinks maybe a toy engineer, although recently he's also discussed game design as something he's interested in.

He is very happy that we have recently acquired a dog. A Dog Called Hawk is a one-year-old, 60 lb, black lab with all the energy and self-control of a puppy.

Cassius loves playing Pokemon, whether it's Pokemon Go (anybody want to be friends?) or the card game. He also likes reading all about the Pokemon. He has recently started watching Lolirock, which I can only describe as magical girl rock star anime. He really likes shows in that kind of genre. He's started tackling a half-size Rubik's cube. He really enjoys building Lego kits.

Cassius is very sensitive and concerned about other people's feelings. He has fears about losing his parents/family in a crowd, and about being left behind. He is 100% lawful-good. He is extremely concerned about following the rules and making sure others do the same. He does not like scary movies (unlike his younger sister) even if things turn out okay.

Challenges: when he gets upset, he tends to run away from us if we are out and about (like in a grocery store or at the mall), which isn't safe and which we are working on. He'll also sometimes just refuse to walk. Apparently nonviolence resistance techniques are genetic. Who knew? He and his sister love each other (they missed each other so much on the recent son-daddy trip to Wisconsin) very much, but they also tussle constantly and do things deliberately to tick each other off. But they hate being separated. Oof.

Brother and sister reunited
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
We have returned safely home from our trip to Wisconsin for the funeral of Phil's grandmother, Romayne. There was (just our) family cabin time and snow and more travel and funeral and funeral ham with cheesy potatoes and then the kids besieging their teenaged cousins and (extended) family stories and drinking and family gossip and very poor sleep (because my three-year-old has been waking--and staying--up at 3 AM, and also that hideabed was awful) and the most country kitsch motel I've ever seen, let alone stayed at.

Today there was a lot of driving home. The kids had predictable we-hate-traveling meltdowns and less-predictable we-hate-chicken-nuggets meltdowns. We made it home, hitting the beginning of rush hour traffic. Then I found and cleaned up all six places the cats had puked and pooped around the house, changed the cat litter, and wrangled the kids through dinner and homework and baths and bed.

And nobody killed anybody.

And I am all disoriented due to travel and missing work/school days and daylight savings time starting, so I thought today was Wednesday and I was going to save this to post in Small Victories Wednesday. It is Tuesday. I am still very proud of this victory, though, so. Posted.


Nov. 2nd, 2016 06:15 pm
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Hello there!
I'm Abra Staffin-Wiebe, a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I've had short stories appear at publications including, Escape Pod, and Odyssey Magazine. When not writing, I shoot photographs, collect folk tales, and wrangle two small children, three large cats, and one medium-sized mad scientist. You can find out more at my website:

Upcoming events and appearances

4th Street Fantasy Convention
St.Louis Park, MN, June 17-19, 2016

CONvergence Convention
Bloomington, MN, June 30 - July 3, 2016

Térata Extravanganza!
Big V's Saloon, St. Paul, MN, July 24, 2016
A delightful event filled with music, art, and dark fiction!

Submit It Now! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Short Stories
Teaching 2-day workshop at The Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis
August 6th AND August 13th
Openings are limited. Register now!

MidAmeriCon II (AKA WorldCon 74)
Kansas City, MO, August 17-21, 2016

Other Places Online

Note: I don't usually post the same thing in multiple places, except for my market list updates, new publications, and other major news (writing-related or not). - The best place to find things I've written.

Livejournal - Here! I don't post as often on Livejournal as I used to, but I tend to keep my longer daily life posts and the important updates over here, along with the occasional photo or recipe post.

Facebook - Short updates about my life, bemused writing-related comments, as well as random links I enjoy or find useful. You know. I use it like most people do.

Twitter - Mostly SF/F and writing-related posts these days.

Goodreads - Strictly business. This is my author account on Goodreads, not the personal one that I deluge with my to-reads.

I also occasionally post on Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, and Ello.

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)
Oof. Just checked the internets and learned there was a mass shooting (disgruntled employee version) in/near my Kansas hometown. The main shooting was in nearby Hesston, my mother's hometown, but it sounds like someone was shot in Newton, where my dad still lives.
I'm lousy at making phone calls and writing letters to people I care about, because I'm always busy and I think there will be more time later. That ain't always the case. Talk to your loved ones, people.
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)

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)
A Circus of Brass and Bone has launched! It's now available for purchase in trade paperback (on Amazon) and in ebook format at major online retailers.

If you would enjoy escaping into a post-apocalyptic steampunk novel about a circus traveling through the collapse of civilization, you can find the purchase links below.

A Circus of Brass and Bone

It's the end of civilization, but the show must go on.

The Loyale Traveling Circus and Menagerie is in turmoil. During their ocean voyage from British India to Boston, someone murdered their ringmaster. The killer must be one of their own. Unfortunately, that is the least of their problems.

While they were at sea, an aetheric calamity sent a wave of death rolling across the world. In post-Civil War America, a third of the population died outright, and many of the survivors suffer strange nervous symptoms that are steadily increasing in severity. Basic technology is also rendered dangerously unstable by the disaster. The circus members find themselves traveling through the collapse of civilization. In such desperate times, what use is a circus?

If they can defend themselves against the starving populace, if they can outwit and outperform the political factions that have seized power, if they can fight off the ravening monstrosities born of the aether storm ... they just might find the answer.

Amazon | Google Play | Smashwords | B&N | Apple | and many others

Trade paperback: $13.99, Ebook: $3.99

If you're still undecided, try reading the free novelette, A Stranger Comes to Town: A Circus of Brass and Bone Adventure! (Also included in A Circus of Brass and Bone.)

stranger sm 200

A Stranger Comes to Town

An aetheric chain-reaction sends a wave of death rolling around the world, warping living beings and aether-based technology alike. In one afternoon, trains go from being the power that pushed civilization out to the frontier, to being very expensive sheds of scrap metal, filled with rotting produce and dying cattle. Cities go hungry.

The farmers are in hardly better shape than their former customers in the city. Some trees bear withered fruit, while gobbets of exploded fruit flesh drape the limbs of others. One wheat stalk might be strong and firm, but its neighbor disintegrates to dust at a touch. Harvesting crops takes more work, but yields less food. People try not to starve, using a variety of tactics.

The Loyale traveling circus survives the aether storm mostly unscathed and decides to continue touring despite the difficulties. When the circus comes to Seppanen Town, all seems well until a ragged fugitive plunges into their camp and begs for sanctuary.

Smashwords | Google Play | B&N | and many others

(Currently $.99 on Amazon, will be free once price-matching catches up.)

And don't forget--there's nothing wrong with hoarding books!


cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
I'd planned on writing a 6-month update for Theia, but instead it is apparently going to be a 7-month update! The delay in writing about her is related to her existence, too.

Theia is currently a fairly healthy baby. Parapertussis is only making her cough a little bit. Her "eczema" has stayed gone since we stopped treating her with an anti-fungal and switched baby soap and laundry detergent. She hasn't had any soy/dairy problems since Mother's Day, so if all stays clear until August, I'll actually get to eat a bit of dairy and see if she's okay with it! One month to Caesar salad, baby! Ooo, or maybe a donut. Or just a block of cheddar cheese. Or mac 'n cheese! Or--okay, some planning still needs to be done. Do you know, it's almost two years since I've been an omnivore? I really miss it.

Her 6-month doctor's visit went well. She is a remarkably tall baby, very strong, with a great reach (that allowed her to snag the doctor's big hoop earrings). She got her shots. She also got complimented on how much she likes being on her tummy and how well-shaped her head is. At six months, she weighed 17 lbs., 10 oz. (74th percentile) and was 2 ft., 4.35 in. tall (99th percentile), for a BMI of 15.4 (15th percentile). So it would be nice if she were fatter, but at least she's staying on her growth curve, and her development is at a normal pace. Unfortunately, her doctor is switching to working in the hospital, so we've got to switch doctors on her. We had this problem with Cassius, too.


She is quite tall, as you can see from those stats. At six months, we moved her into the 18 month clothing size. She isn't chubby like many babies are, so I fear that she's inherited the Staffin super-skinny-until-30 body type. That always leads to lots of fun conversations with pediatricians. She has also inherited Phil's blue eyes. I can only hope she got his fighter pilot eyesight, too. Her hair is blonde and very fine. The poor thing got my hairline. Her tramp-stamp birthmark hasn't faded yet. Aside from that, she's still young enough that it's hard to guess what she'll look like when she grows up, but she and Cassius are *very* clearly brother and sister.

The kids get along really well, although sometimes Cassius wants to roughhouse with her, and she really isn't old enough yet. There's lots of, "Giving her a hug is great, but crawling on top of her or rolling her over is not. No, not even if you're being a snake." Lots of hugs, lots of ugga-muggas, lots of holding hands, lots of playing with baby toys together, lots of trying to push her in her swing. On her side, there's lots of squealing happily at him, waving her hands toward him, crawling after him, and grabbing big fistfuls of his hair. Earlier today Cassius crawled on the floor ahead of Theia so she could chase him, and then they had a crawling "race" side-by-side along the floor. The cuteness, it is ridiculous.


She is army-crawling very well, although she has yet to lift her tummy off the floor. Cassius never did, so she may not. Who knows? I'm really happy we bought a playmat for her to roll around on and practice her sitting up and rolling over and crawling on *without* banging her head repeatedly against our hardwood floor. Things learned as a second-time-around parent! Other developments . . . She is very good at grabbing things with her hands and passing things from hand to hand. She has mastered sitting, though she preferentially rolls onto her tummy and lounges that way. Or crawls. She recently started babbling syllables. Phil was over the moon the day that she decided the best thing to say, all day long, was "Da-da!" That may be her first word, though I don't know if it counts if she's not actually speaking yet. I think she's going to be a thumb-sucker, although she prefers her toes when she can get them.

Her favorite activities include crawling all over the living room, hugging and nomming on cats, bouncing in the johnny-jump-up, grabbing her brother's hair, grabbing people as they walk past the johnny-jump-up, and being cuddled.

She's showing interest in food, so we'll start that soon. She's tasted some brownie with raspberry sauce, some orange juice, and some cherries.


A normal day has her waking up around 6-7 AM, taking a morning nap from 9 AM - 11 AM, an afternoon nap from 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM, and going to sleep for the night at about 9 PM. She's sleeping through the night almost every night right now. No teeth yet, so I'm sure that'll change once she starts teething. She nurses about every hour and a half. After nursing, I try to keep her upright for a few minutes in the bug exersaucer or the johnny-jump-up. When she's no longer interested in standing, she gets to lay in the kitchen swing or crawl around the living room, depending on what she tolerates and where I'm trying to do household chores.

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... )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Skipped a week! That week that I skipped? I went to the Minneapolis May Day Parade for the first time EVAR! And it was awesome. Cassius liked it, and Theia managed napping and nursing during the loudest, sunniest parts. I took many gorgeous photos. Seasonal things keep the world turning and the sun rising and setting, right?

This week? Is lots, I will sum up. Medical issues. Tea and kid-wrangling with friends back from the Peace Corps. Story publications and submissions ticking along nicely, writing less so. Vegan mac 'n cheese really just doesn't work, but I keep trying. Devoured the most recent three books in the Chronicles of Elantra in one gulp. Beautiful, refreshing bike ride along Minnehaha as part of MinnSpec writers group meeting. Homemade rye bread surprisingly tasty. Mother's Day--hey, I'm one of those! And now I have a new stepmother, and the kids have a new stepgrandmother (or would that be grandstepmother?), so there's that too.

This week--well, this week there has been a lot of dealing with stressful but not life-threatening medical stuff.

About two weeks ago, Fu Manchu got a shot of antibiotics and a cone of shame (Cassius: "Fu Manchu party hat!") to keep him from worrying at a skin irritation that had become a sore on his tummy. It was getting better. Then he figured out how to lick it *while wearing the cone*, and also how to use the cone to scrape at it to relieve itchiness. This made it get dramatically worse again. And we don't really have an extra $100 lying around for yet another vet visit this month. Managed to talk the vet into prescribing an antibiotic and a steroid magic healing pill for Fu Manchu, without another vet visit. Pills are cheap. We're gonna need a bigger cone, though!

We've been dealing with a new, unpleasant skin condition on Theia since a couple of days before we left for my dad's wedding, almost a month ago. It's as if her body thinks that once we get one medical condition cleared up (her blocked tear duct), it's time to add another one. Initially, it was diagnosed as ringworm--we had it looked at while we were out of town. We treated it as such for a couple of weeks, but although the distinct markings on the first couple of spots faded, new red splotches showed up all over her body. Took her to our regular clinic (but not, alas, our regular doctor*) and the doctor thought it looked like eczema but wrote us a prescription for a treatment that would cover both ringworm and eczema. Got prescription filled. Read prescription information. Saw "not recommended for under 17 years of age." Looked on internet and saw not recommended because it may cause growth problems. Said, "What the fuck? Not okay for my 5-month-old, and why didn't the doctor mention this when I asked him about potential side effects?" Planning on calling clinic on Monday and asking for second opinion from our regular doctor. In the meantime, busy being horrified and helpless in the face of red spots. We are (desperate and) hopeful that switching laundry detergent and going back to the Johnson&Johnson Naturals baby wash that we were using up until shortly before this developed will clear it up. Maybe she's just having a bad reaction to Aveeno? That would be much more manageable than steroid cream regimens and a potentially stigmatizing medical condition.

* I do not like the doctor we saw. I specifically scheduled an appointment with "the resident" because it was Not That Doctor. When he showed up in the clinic room I was like, "What the hell? I made an appointment with Not You." This doctor is the same one who didn't know to tell me that I should avoid dairy AND soy to see if that was causing Theia's bloody stools. And who at this visit was confused and dismissive about why non-cow dairy might also be an issue (it usually is, for a protein intolerance). I think this doctor is not very well-informed. This may also explain why he's always available for last-minute appointments.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
When one's spouse is essentially absent for three days in a row, and one has two very small mess-creators, it's a lot more difficult to get that post-vacation decompression/unpacking/cleaning done. Yeah. A LOT. By which I mean, it's still not all done. All our laundry tubs are overflowing with freshly washed but not yet folded laundry. I finally got around to unpacking my backpack only because I needed to pack it again with writing supplies for my coffee shop work-date. I'm still not sure how the dirty dishes managed to multiply so fast.

A week ago, we were out in Kansas for my widowed father's wedding. That is a post I need to make separately, because of all the little details I want to remember. And I have a ton of photos. We got back late Sunday night. Phil took Monday off as well, and on Tuesday he worked from home. Monday, we went to the Minnesota Zoo and had a pretty great "still on vacation" day. We brought our own ham bagel sandwiches, since I really couldn't purchase any food there and avoid dairy and soy. I still tried, since I had a blood sugar crash, but I ended up with a bag of chips and an apple and grateful for them.

Can you tell they're related?

Read more... )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Theia Arline Staffin Wiebe joined our family on Monday, November 25th, at 9:43 PM, ten days later than her estimated arrival time, after about 17 hours of mostly induced labor. She weighed in at 8 lb. 10 oz, was 20.75" long, scored a 9 on her Apgar. and caused rapturous cooing in the nurses, who proclaimed her to have "the perfect baby look." (And in case you were wondering, we're pronouncing her name "thay-uh.")

The long version )

In truth, Theia didn't look much like what I expect from a newborn--which is a purplish, squish-faced, goblin-looking creature. She had a lovely round skull and a normal babyface. She was rosy-cheeked and pink all over, except for some purple in her fingers and toes. She was remarkably alert and capable of lifting and turning her head a few minutes after she was born. Unlike most babies, she was born blonde; it'll be interesting to see if that sticks around or falls out like (darker) baby hair usually does. Unusually for a post-due date baby, she was also born with lanugo, a light, downy, almost-invisible coating of fur, er, I mean hair. Some waxy vernix lingered in various crevices, too. She has the steel gray/blue eyes of a newborn, about the same shade as Cassius' were, so I'm guessing she'll probably end up brown-eyed, too. She has inherited Phil's cleft chin, his ridiculous monkeytoes, and perhaps his pianist hands. She has a (possibly temporary) storkbite birthmark at the base of her back. That's right--she was born with a tramp stamp.


We waited a couple of hours in the recovery room while sensation slowly returned to my southward parts. During this time, Theia displayed excellent nursing instincts. We got some food, too--three cheers for Pizza Luce delivery! Then we moved to the resting room and eventually managed to get certain amounts of sleep, setting my cellphone alarm to go off every three hours to wake Theia up to nurse. Our doctor would have let us go the next day, but the pediatrician wanted us to stick around until Wednesday morning to make sure that Theia wouldn't come down with anything. This made my doctor snort, since she'd given me five doses of penicillin during labor (I was group-B strep positive). We did fine, we waited around, and everything was good.

I know I shouldn't be surprised by how different two newborns can be, but I am. Cassius wouldn't nurse for the first several days, and even then it was difficult; Theia latched on right after birth and has been feeding like a champ ever since. Swaddling was the best way to get Cassius calmed down and sleeping; Theia doesn't tolerate having her arms at her sides. Cassius was a projectile vomiter; so far Theia limits herself to ladylike hiccups. Cassius couldn't move his head for what seemed like a very long time; we already have to take extra precautions because Theia can lift her head and move her body surprisingly (hazardously!) well.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (editing iffy)
This was the year that 4th Street Fantasy became the premier dark fantasy convention in the Midwest. ...That would be because all the lights went out, and power wasn't restored at the hotel for a couple (?) of days. The summer solstice storm of 2013 hit the Twin Cities area hard, leaving 500,000 households without power, uprooting trees, flooding streets, and creating sinkholes that looked like Godzilla had been stomping around Robbinsdale.

I was at dinner at Super Moon Buffet* with a group of friends from 4th Street when the heavens opened. Between the torrential downpour and the near-tornado-strength wind, it became a question of how to get to the car, and who was going to get in it, and if it was safe even to drive back. You see, half of our party had chosen to walk to the restaurant! I dashed out to the car with the driver and settled in. Driver went back. I was just wondering what the other people were delaying for (and deciding that I wasn't going anywhere unless the car started to float away) when the restaurant lost power. In the end, we were able to get everyone out safely in a couple of car trips. When we got back to the hotel, we learned that it, too, had lost power. They had some emergency lights, and that was it. I was happy that I'd just downloaded a flashlight app on my new cellphone, especially after the emergency lights in the bathroom ran out of power.

Eventually, I got home and discovered that we had also lost power--and many large tree branches, but nothing that caused significant damage. It was actually really nice. Phil and I had a relaxing evening chatting by candlelight while music played on the laptop that still had battery power.


The next morning, I got to see all the damage while I was riding back to the hotel. We got to play a game of bush-branch-tree, identifying what that ground-level foliage was by the side of the road. The answer was often tree. It took a couple of weeks after the storm before the giant tree that was blocking a road north of our house got moved. As of today, a month after the storm, there are still piles of fallen branches pushed to the curb and waiting for the city to collect them. They claim they'll get here eventually.

In many ways, the power outage was good for 4th Street Fantasy. It made the convention memorable, promoted camaraderie, and didn't (quite) persist for an intolerable length of time. People staying in the hotel who remember glacial showers and critical coffee shortages may disagree.


In addition to the lack of power, there were a couple of other differences this year.

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May. 22nd, 2013 03:16 pm
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Announcement! Phil and I are expecting our next child this November!

We've been not-not-telling people for a few weeks, but between an emergency room visit and puking in the in-laws' bathroom while lead renovation was going on at our house, this pregnancy was pretty much impossible to keep secret from the start. I'm now at the beginning of the second trimester, and I've been entirely wretched for the last couple of months. I'm only now starting to feel like I can do anything other than cling to the couch in the desperate hope that if I hold perfectly still, I won't puke.

We don't know the gender yet, but I do have an interesting Science! Fact! about this little one. Remember how I had an ectopic pregnancy and lost one of my fallopian tubes? Right. Guess which side the egg for this pregnancy came from? That's right. The one that's not hooked up to anything. Apparently, fallopian tubes can move a little; they have long, moving tendrils that entice the egg into the tube. My tendrils were extra enticing. That or the egg quantum tunneled. You know. One or the other.

Creepy skullbaby ultrasounds can be seen here:
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)

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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It's so hard to believe he's already one year old! Forget that--it's so hard to believe it's been a year since he was born! Parents always say that kids grow up so fast, but that's not all. Everything goes faster, as if the mere act of having a baby accelerates the world's rotational velocity.

I have a big long post planned about all the things he's up to and getting into, but that may or may not ever happen. Time's short, you know.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Cassius at 6 months.

6 mo., 0 d. Hard to believe it's already been half a year since I had the baby! Time flies when your baby's keeping you busy. I'm amazed by how much and how fast he changes (and I'm not talking about his clothes and diapers, though that's also impressive). And I'm amazed by how much I love having a baby, especially given how uninteresting I found other people's babies. To quote parents throughout time: "It's worth it." Not in some distant, nebulous will-it-all-be-worth-it-in-the-end way, but in the right here, right now sense. It's a job that I really love, that I'm happy to wake up to every morning. In some ways it's more demanding than anything I've ever done before; in other ways, it's the easiest thing I've ever done. Even if he grows up to be a distant adult or a troublemaking teen, the rewards of the right-now are worth the work of the right-now. One of the lessons of parenthood is to live in the present moment--while, of course, making sure you have everything ready for whatever the next moment may demand.


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Nov. 8th, 2011 03:44 pm
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My mother died on Halloween.

She survived about 15 months after being diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer. I don't say she struggled or battled or fought--she didn't like using violent imagery to describe it. She endured it with remarkable grace, and it seemed to leave her outwardly untouched for a very long time, even as it spread through her body. Up until the very end, she would run--and then walk--along the Sand Creek bike path, taking photographs that will be displayed in a gallery exhibit later this year.

She died because breathing became just too difficult. When my aunt, a nurse, told my mother that she thought my mother would probably die that night, my mother's response was to give her two thumbs up. She was ready to go. And when she stopped breathing, she smiled before she died.

Her last coherent words were to my dad: "I love you."

Her "last words" (not her actual last words, but the ones that she wanted to make sure she said) to me were, "I love you, I trust you, I believe in you," and, "You'll make a good mother. You just need to relax."

In the week between when we visited my parents to celebrate their 33 1/3 wedding anniversary (and my mother's life), and when we drove down for her funeral, the leaves of the tree in their backyard changed from green to gold...and fell. They coated the backyard like a gold carpet.

She died on Halloween.

Kansas is deep in a drought, but the day we traveled down for her funeral, the skies wept.

These all seem appropriate, somehow significant.

I'll think of her when I see trains, and I'll look for train graffiti that she would have liked. I'll think of her when I see tombstones, remembering when I was a little girl and she'd take me to cemeteries to do gravestone rubbings. I'll think of her when I see a tandem bike. I'll think of her whenever I hear somebody playing the autoharp, or singing Home on the Range, Red River Valley, Morning Has Broken, or I'll Fly Away. I'll think of her on Halloween. I'll think of her often, for all sorts of reasons.

I wrote the following about her when I was in high school. I have a lot more to say about her, to remember, to write down to tell her grandchild/children when they are old enough to understand, but right now it's all in fragments that float through my mind.


tall, spiring stalks bloom
red, yellow, white, pink, and off-white
with yellow streaks,
balanced in a clay pot,
her birthday gift, beside the
bright red, lime green, and purple toys
she bought in an Indian train station
from a man who carried them in a flat woven basket
on top of his head,
birds and wind-up carousels in front of
the tall brass-colored lamp with
a short, disproportional shade that tilted a little
until she figured out how to fix it,
casting diffused light onto the bold,
anti-racism poster with colored masks that
she got free
and then paid for it to be put
into a fine-grained wood frame,
stained, polished, and varnished, hanging
above the autoharp she learned to play
in Africa,
strumming metallic strings, and now making
mellow-toned background music
while she squints at her music book
in the dim light
beside the glorious shoots of flowers
that spring from a clay pot
in midwinter.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)

Cassius at 2 months

He's grown really well. He's in the 90th percentile for height (about 24.5"), weight (13 lbs), and head size. He's almost too long to lay width-wise in the playard, and he's pretty much outgrown the <3 month onesies. The receiving blankets are too small for him now, as are a couple of hats and the tiny baby socks that never stayed on anyway. I've started packing away newborn things that he's outgrown. Shocking!

He survived his first cold and didn't run a fever, unlike his father. He even found the snot-sucker bulb amusing instead of terrifying.

We had a terrifying scare when Phil slipped at the bottom of the stairs and dropped the baby about 3 feet. Cassius hit his temple somehow (Phil says he landed mostly on his back), and was scraped and bruised. One trip to the emergency room and one CT scan later, and the doctor told us he looked like everything was fine.

A few days ago he had his 2 month checkup and was given the looks good--along with a barrage of vaccinations and a dose of baby Tylenol. He was a little feverish for the next couple of days, but baby acetaminophen kept the temperature down and hopefully helped with the muscle discomfort from getting injected.

Even if he did hate the flavor. I don't blame him. Artificial fruit flavors are pretty nasty, and babies have no reason to like them--no positive associations with the fruit. Artificial breastmilk flavor would probably work better. I had to do the stealth administration of painkiller by dropping it in while he was engaged in actual nursing. Droppering it in while allowing him to suck on a finger wasn't going to do it. That's the usual method by which we give him his vitamins, and he really hates them too--enough to launch him into vomiting and screaming fits if I don't administer it when he's a) really hungry, and b) somewhat groggy from sleeping. Well, he really hates the multivitamin. He's okay with the extra Vitamin D.

Developmentally, he's about where he ought to be, I think. He recently discovered his hands. There has been less random flailing and a lot more sucking on his fists and batting at the dangly toys on his bouncy seat and his mobile. He smiles in response to all kinds of things, and he makes it very clear that he likes us and when we play with him or talk to him. He "talks" with little gurgles and coos in the appropriate conversational intervals. When I sit him up to burp, he mostly supports his own head, but he certainly doesn't have head control yet. He has enough that I can hold him upright against my chest, at a slight incline, and not worry too much about his head flopping around, but he still needs support.

He is a mostly happy baby. He starts fussing when he wants to eat, and that can escalate faster than I can get settled with him. He also fusses about wet diapers. He may fuss if he gets overtired. And he sometimes fusses just because. A couple of days ago he would not stop crying and nothing worked to soothe him, but that was a first. Usually feeding or bouncing or rocking will do it. He eats, he poops, he plays, he eats, he sleeps, and sometimes he vomits up the entire contents of his stomach.


In a strange way, I have more "free" time now than ever before. When I'm feeding him, it's time to read on my Nook or perhaps watch stuff through Netflix. When I am soothing him to sleep by bounce-rocking him on the bouncy ball, it's time to read the internets...or ebooks on Calibre. It's very relaxing. Playing with or cuddling him is happy-making, as well as necessary to keep him from fussing.

I'm doing well. Every day, I definitely eat, shower, wear clean clothes, get enough sleep (one way or the other), keep up with the internets, read fiction, and get a little something done around the house. I usually cook dinner. I frequently get a few sentences of writing done. I've lost all of the 45 pounds I gained while pregnant. I'm far from back in shape (for one thing, that will require rebuilding my abdominal muscles--for another, I was at a high weight point from previous medical problems when I got pregnant), but I can at least fit into my two largest pairs of jeans. Yay, non-maternity clothes!

I'm generally relaxed and happy and very much in love with my baby. Life is good, as long as I remember to just go with the flow (of milk, other bodily fluids, etc.). Just go with the flow, search for the pattern that emerges instead of trying to force one, and always prepare one step ahead.

When he's awake and not eating, we play. He can go in the little swing and we play the laundry game. The laundry game involves exciting narration and description, dancing laundry, peek-a-boo, exploring different textures, tickling laundry monsters, and eventually laundry folding. Or he sits in his boppy pillow on the couch and gurgles and coos and smiles while we play with his hands and feet or play the blanket game. The blanket game is when we play peek-a-boo by tossing a light baby blanket over his face and pulling it off, then tucking it under his chin and letting him kick it all the way off. While chortling. There's also tummy time, on the couch or on Mama or Daddy's chest. He doesn't lift his head up yet (well, he did once), but he'll wiggle his arms and legs and he seems comforted by the cuddling. The item he likes most right now is his bouncy seat.

Daily routine:
* We stop going back to bed sometime between 10 AM and noon. I either skip breakfast or eat at the waking around 6 AM.
* After feeding and changing, I carry his bouncy seat up into the bathroom, and sit him in it while I shower, get dressed, and prepare for the day.
* Then we go downstairs and settle on the couch. I take care of my hair and generally try to do something on my computer until he demands to be fed again, which is usually a 15-minutes-later thing.
* I eat lunch, settling him into the big swing near the dinner table. He doesn't like the big swing so much, so I have to eat fast. Mr. Wiggly the caterpillar helps keep him distracted.
* While he's awake, we play, or I try to clean or do computer stuff in between distracting him.
* His next nap is around 2 PM, he goes down for his afternoon nap, for between one and three hours. This is when I do my work-from-home projects or (theoretically--I've been working a lot instead) write.
* More playing/cleaning/cooking.
* Then Phil gets home and he mostly takes over baby duty, playing with the baby between feedings.
* Sometime between 10 PM and midnight, Cassius gets tired enough to go to sleep. Then we go to bed.
* He may have a long sleep, four to five hours. After that, he only goes an hour and a half to three hours between feedings (or, forty minutes to two hours twenty minutes of sleep). It takes about forty minutes to change, feed, change, and soothe him back to sleep. Time between feedings is counted from the beginning of each feeding. And this continues until sometime after 10 AM.

And of course there are the tiny little baby posts from the last month (which I am regularly updating on G+). Oh, and more pictures!
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Abra Staffin-Wiebe

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