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Robin's Mystery Blog





Updated: 2016-09-07T21:31:03.517-07:00

 



Nice to "meet" you

2012-11-13T22:31:20.302-08:00

I've had sick kids for nearly two weeks now. They've missed school, been to the doctor, received anti-biotics, passed germs back and forth to each other, and briefly to me. They've laid, miserable, on the sofa, and run through the house, too ill to let out but too well to lie down. They've played video games and had entire novels read to them, made cupcakes, and curled up in blankets. And watched lots and lots of one particular tween show that makes me think I should be the perky mom that makes the home fun all the time, but I'm too tired to even really feel guilty about that.Today was the day I thought they'd be on the mend, and maybe be back to school... at least one of them, but no. One of my favorite times of day is when I pick them up from school, when my mom friends all descend on the school at the same time, and we catch each other in the parking lot to ask how soccer games went or if they're volunteering for the class party and when we can we all have coffee again. It's when smiles are exchanged and hugs are given and waves are passed around and it's a great little boost. Add a latte, and I'm good till the the next day. I don't need a lot. But it's been two weeks since my last trip to the parking lot, and with my husband on the road, the familiar twitch I get when I've been isolated too long is setting in.And then I was given a gift. On a comment thread on Facebook about, of all things, internet stalking and the dangers of people we don't know being invited into our lives, I met a new friend. It's a small thing, I guess, a friend request on Facebook from someone you don't know, but she came with such a glowing letter of introduction, (yes, in the form of a Facebook comment), that I immediately scrolled through her Timeline. She loves words, and uses them like someone who loves them. And not in that way that people do that's both skillful, but stinging. She uses them kindly, but masterfully. I was impressed. And I felt connected. And tonight, as I tucked my kids into bed (for the fifteenth time because they can't stay there) by myself (because my husband travels as part of his job) and without a dog at my heels (because of some wrong turn the universe took that I can only attribute to a butterfly flapping it's wings in Tokyo at exactly the wrong time, because nothing else really explains my not having a dog)... I felt... not as alone. Because somewhere, in a city I've never visited, another mother, with three kids of her own, who loves words like I do, and with whom I felt some kind of kindred solidarity, was probably tucking her children in also. Probably not for the first time. Or maybe it just takes her one. I don't know. She maybe a far better bedtime enforcer than I am.What makes it even better, is that I met her through someone on Facebook that I'd met in the same way, by an introduction from a different friend. And I was just discussing with him how we need to a new way to define "meet" because although I'd never stood in a room with him, I'd certainly met him. And indeed, I'd met him, through another friend, who I (don't think) I've met in this outdated corporeal sense, but because he argued with me about the Lost finale on the thread of someone I actually did know, we became friends. (The Lost finale was amazing, by the way). I know the Internet can be seen as an open door in our homes that needs guarding. And at times, we need some sort of cyber pit bull (have I mentioned, yet, that I still don't have a real one?) sitting at attention, so danger doesn't walk through. At other times, maybe we need a nice, homey wreath hanging under the peep hole so that good people feel welcome. Because there are a lot of good people out there. And sometimes that's how we meet them. It's definitely how I hold close to friends who aren't near enough to see in the school parking lot, or meet for coffee. So tonight, the door's open, and I (and my cyber pit bull) would love to "see" you![...]



Perspective, hobbit style

2012-10-02T09:30:16.211-07:00

I've been reading chapter books to the kids every night. I try to pick books that my 4 year old boy, 7 year old girl, and 11 year old girl will all enjoy, but truthfully the 4 year old doesn't always make out so well. We've read through the Chronicles of Narnia, the first three Harry Potter books, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, and contemporary books by people I admire and people I know (which is so fun), like Jonathon Stroud's Heroes of the Valley (a book my 7 year old loved so much she named her sparkly red betta fish Sven - we won't discuss the tragedy of Sven's life span here), or The Incorrigibles of Ashton Place about three children who were raised by wolves and are now in the care of a very austere young governness. Just now, I've started The Hobbit. As I got started, I wondered if I remembered much of it, or if I was confusing it with Lord of the Rings that I'd read (and seen) many more times. As Bilbo was inundated with dwarvish guests and heading out on his adventure I thought maybe I was misremembering things. I thought for sure they were about to run into three trolls and have a fight of some kind, but I pictured it so differently than where the adventurers were now, I thought I must be mistaken. And then. Bam. Trolls. Out of nowhere, or so I thought. I looked back into my mind and realized, that I did remember Bilbo journeying out of the shire and into the path of three trolls around a campfire. But in my mind's eye they were journeying down hill, from left to right, and then found themselves in the trolls camp. But as I read the book many years later, they were going uphill, from right to left, and I drew the landscape differently, and so the trolls took me completely by surprise. I had similar experiences rereading the Chronicles of Narnia. I'd read them enough times to know I hadn't forgotten anything, but I realized that as I read them as a kid, I saw the pictures and felt the imagery so much more deeply, especially in the underground lair of the Green Lady. As an adult, I felt the character's conflicts and disputes and connected on an emotional level so that the scenery took a backseat to how they felt and treated one another. I've always been taught that what the reader brings to a story is so important, but I hadn't had the experience before of bringing different things to the same story, as the same person, but standing in a different place in life. Yesterday, I snapped a picture of my oldest daughter with my phone. She said, "Is that going on Facebook?" "Yes," I said. "Sitting in the car doing homework after a volleyball game while my sister does hula?" She said, quoting word for word the caption I was about to type. "Uh, yes," I said. "I know you," she said, smugly. And she does know me, quite well, probably better than she knows anyone else she's met in her 11 years. But my mother knows me also, quite well, possibly better than anyone, and so does my husband. And yet, they know me differently. And I imagined my daughter looking at me as someone might look up from the bottom of a hill to the top, because I'm older and taller and in her world more powerful than she is. And others must know me as though standing from a different place in the mountain. I thought it's a good thing to keep in mind with friends that I feel like I understand, because I only understand them in this moment in time, in this situation, looking at them from the side of the mountain where I stand, and bringing my own perspective. Their trolls might take me by surprise, or I might be expecting trolls and be taken by surprise to only find hobbits. And of course there's the writing... I feel like a really good children's book is a joy for children and parents alike. Some kids' movies try to do this with humor meant to fly over the kids' heads. But you can write in layers with imagery that captures the children's imagination and relationships that make adults think and ponder their own friendships and reactions. The words can make the children feel larger than life and they can pleas[...]



My coping strategy for the next 6 months

2012-01-02T16:50:14.398-08:00

I live in Seattle and I make no secret that my most favorite time of year is September through December. The pressure of summer is off - no more moaning if it isn't sunny or warm enough to play in the sprinkler - no more pressure on the days the sun *does* come out to do something epic. Plus, I tend to get heat stroke really easily. Maybe it's to do with drinking too much coffee.But then September comes and the kids go back to school, and I *love* school - not just because I'm kicking the kids out of the house, but I just love helping with homework and seeing the other moms again and getting back into a routine. And the promise of the holidays loom. Yes, the days get shorter, and darker, and colder. It's Seattle. By November if you work in an office you feel like a mole because you leave in the dark and come home in the dark. But the dark is *perfect* for the holidays. You get to make fun, festive food like pumpkin pie and mulled cider and mashed potatoes and put meals in the crock pot. Christmas music starts up and people put out lights and you pray for snow - just a little. And everyone has this feeling of anticipation and hope. Also, the themes - you can decorate for each month - bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils in September, jack o' lanterns in October, wreathes made out of leaves in November and little pilgrims on your table, and then there's Christmas.But now, it's all done, and contrary to the song, Christmas is not in *mid-winter* it's at the very beginning of winter. We Seattlites have all of winter to go now - black as ever, with no twinkling lights, and more rain than snow... till June. But usually till July.This is my least favorite time of year and it goes on for six months. Or seven.I decided a huge part of it is that there aren't anymore themes. I mean, if you're looking at a drugstore calendar, they'll show snowflakes in January (but it probably won't snow) and heart's in February (I dislike Valentine's day) and then pastel eggs and Easter bunnies (and yes, I celebrate Easter. It's a very powerful holiday, but I really can't stand pastels or candy coated almonds) and then there's spring, which here just means more rain.But this is not a complaining post - I know, I had you fooled. This is the year I do something about it!I'm inventing my own themes. I don't have it all worked out yet, but one month will be Harry Potter month and one will be Narnia, and maybe in the spring (ick) we'll do a Secret Garden month. Doesn't that sound like more fun than Easter eggs and hearts? We'll make butter beer and Turkish delight and Yorkshire pudding (ok, I googled Yorkshire pudding and we may need something else for Secret Garden month). I figure there are all sorts of wreath possibilities, too. What do you think? Crazy? Or a lemons and lemonade sort of thing. Let me know if you have any great ideas for themes. I'm still working it out! I figure till the tree comes down (tonight, I swear!) I don't have to start in on January's theme...[...]



When dogs aren't garden gnomes, or humans for that matter

2011-11-30T18:33:13.494-08:00

I used to be the sort of person that loved a good fight, or crusade. If someone even hinted at maligning a friend of mine - I was there! If someone disagreed with me about an issue close to my heart, I pulled out my proverbial soap box and got down to business! I adored Julia Sugarbaker. I loved a good rant. (I still do, really. If you're ranting - link me!)

And then I grew up and realized that you change more hearts than minds, that it's better to come alongside someone than rail against them, that it's better to help people understand each other than staunchly defend. It's just more effective.

But sometimes people are wrong and sometimes they just don't get that they are wrong, and sometimes there are big repercussions from wrong beliefs and so, because I don't want to rant on Facebook, I'm just going to make my case here.

A friend of mine posted a link in favor of anti-tethering legislation. (Yes, we're talking about dogs). And a man commented underneath that what was better, to leave a dog outside with access to food and water and God's green earth, or stuck inside in a box no longer than his leash.

Well, if you're talking about humans, there's no question. OK, neither is good, but no human being wants to be confined. And this guy, well meaning as he is, wouldn't want a dog confined.

Except that dogs aren't humans. Dogs are den animals. And dogs do just fine in a crate (with a few exceptions). Dogs don't like to mess their dens so they don't potty in them, but a dog can wait 8 hours to go to the bathroom if they need to. Or longer. Because they aren't humans.

What dogs can't do is be chained outside for hours, days, months, years on end, with no interaction, with the sun beating down on them or the rain chilling them, with no den to go into. Their water dishes get overturned. Squirrels run by and all they can do is bark. People run by and they bark. People keep walking and they think the barking works so they bark longer and harder. They get left outside like a garden gnome, just there to decorate the lawn, and they go crazy, truly mentally ill. Then one of these dogs breaks it's tether and chomps on the first thing they see, because they're starving, or frantic, or just plain nuts at this point, and we put the dog to sleep. If it's a pit bull, which it probably is because they're the leading dog chosen for garden gnome status these days, we may even ban the breed and say it's inherently vicious.

So I don't like to point out that people are wrong anymore, I really don't. But if you don't sometimes point it out, then people can't adopt the cute little pit bull at the shelter because their home owners' insurance will drop them or their landlord won't allow it or their town has a breed ban. And then the cute pup gets euthanized for just having stubby legs and a fat head.

Because we didn't know tethering was a bad idea. (And yes, there are good ways to tether for short amount of times, but I'm talking about all day, every day, forever.)

So just this once, I'm pulling out my soap box. I promise to put it back under my bed after this blog post.

PS Janet Reid just posted about a great pup that needs a home if you're on the east coast!
http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2011/11/looking-for-canine-companion.html



So now it's Wednesday

2011-11-30T10:41:14.884-08:00

And Dear Hubby left for Georgia at four in the morning. He's probably still on a plane and can't get enough coffee.

The kids all seemed fine until last night. This morning, one was sick. The other wouldn't wake up for school. (I mean, she was breathing and conscious, just refusing to acknowledge morning. I may have played that card myself once or twice). And Mystery Man went non-verbal when he realized we were nearly out of chocolate milk. This would also be the morning I realized I had an entire manilla envelope full of construction paper I needed to cut out for a Kindergarten class project... today.

So... I made cinnamon rolls, let the kids sleep till 9:30, and got them to school by 10 - with the cutting project all done.

Just one more reason I'm not making mother of the year this year. Again. It's like Lauren Graham at the Emmy's. At least I'm in good company.

I'm pretty sure if I had a dog, he'd have licked the girls faces till they woke up, made me my coffee, and we'd have made it on time. Right?



Just another Monday

2011-11-21T22:07:00.451-08:00

You all know my husband travels for business, yes? Quite a bit, really. But today he didn't leave till the afternoon and he'll be back tomorrow. I should be able to handle this. And I would, except that the children have a built in sensor for when he's left. I don't know how they do this, but I do know if this could be harnessed somehow for national defense we could do away with the creepy airport scanners and probably most world wars.So.. what did the little darlings do, you ask? It started out small. An absolute refusal to go to hula by Mystery Man - my 3 year old. I couldn't really blame him. It's no fun to sit on the cold floor while your sister ami's around the island for half an hour and he got reprimanded for running last week. Him: I won't go to hula because I am afraid. Do you know what I am afraid of?Me: Um, the bathroom fan.Him: Nope, try again.Me: The teacher because she told you not to run?Him: Yes, and that is why I'm not going.Our hula teacher is a lovely and wonderful person but Mystery Man has trust issues. I bribed him with McDonalds and we made it, but not without lots of conversation and a brief stand off where he said he'd stay in the car where he'd be nice and safe.We return. It's pitch black and pouring and just warm enough that it's rain, but not snow, but no warmer. He's asleep. We race inside, arms full of food and sleeping three year old. Boop, my 6 year old tells me her ear still hurts. I look for medicine and ponder a trip to the pediatrician for an ear infection. No, it hurts around her earring. Oh. Ohhhhh. Crap.I look. I have to promise not to hurt her. The back is crooked and digging into her ear. I tell her I'll fix it. She panics. I give her a pencil to bite down on and tell her that's what soldiers did during World War One when you had to set their bones in the field. Yes, I'm not kidding. That's exactly what I told her. She bit down on the pencil. I touched her ear and she went flying. Great. I figured I'd get it when she was sleeping.Then I hear screaming. Blood is pouring down her cheek and across her chin. It's not good to run when people are holding your earring. I want to look at it.Boop: You told me the pencil would make it not hurt and now I am BLEEDING! I am not taking any more chances with this ear!Fortunately, her big sister saved the day and cleaned up the blood and got the Neosporin on. I need to reward her greatly. In large part because of what's coming next.We return to our McDonald's feast and Red, my 10 year old, is standing at the kitchen island eating. She's wearing a pair of jeans and a cropped sweatshirt that should sit right at her waist but sometimes rides up a little. It exposes a strip of skin right at Mystery Man's mouth level. This does not escape MM's notice. He takes a big gulp of soda, aims, shoots.He's rewarded with the biggest scream he's ever gotten out of Red. Of course, he repeats his win. I move to stop him, but have issues with, shall we say, misplaced laughter, and can't quite catch my breath. Red shoots daggers at me. I finally get MM to swallow his drink. I get them in bed. I read chapter two of Harry Potter. I tuck them in. I come downstairs and call my darling husband because I realize I missed his call. Me: Did you call? Sorry, I was putting the kids to bed.Him: Don't say sorry. You don't know why I called.Me: ...Him: Remember when I said I'd take the garbage to the curb before I left on the trip?Me: No. No no no no no. You know it's raining, pitch black, and the recycling has to go out too.Him: How about I make you a great dinner in a couple of days.Yes, he's cooking Thanksgiving. No, it doesn't count.I was nice about it. But if you know me at all you know I took the opportunity to point out that if I had my pit bull this wouldn't be an issue. A harness, a good rope, a few choice instructions, and there you go. Don't ruin my dream. It could happen.And the first thing I did when I got back was blog about it ex[...]



Hedgehogs, who knew?

2011-10-28T09:44:15.953-07:00

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source
A friend of mine just posted on Facebook that she wants a hedgehog for Christmas. She's probably mostly joking, but of course I then had to google "buy a hedgehog" and find a hedgehog breeder near me so that I could taunt her with pictures of baby hedgehogs.

First of all, I didn't really know they could be pets. I thought they were like squirrels, but no, you can buy a hedgehog.

Some other fun things I learned:

1) You can free feed a hedgehog - meaning, just leave out a bowl of food, but you know your hedgehog (can we just call them H-hogs for short? Thanks) is getting a bit plump when they can't curl into a ball anymore. I think that's an excellent test for anyone.

2) They only do well if the temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees. Just like me. If it dips below 70, they will attempt to hibernate, and they don't do this very well. I don't know if that means they can't quite achieve hibernation and just get really sleepy, or if they achieve it *too* well and don't wake up.

3) Either way, the solution is a heating pad. Either put them on a human one, or buy a hedgehog shaped reptile one and put it in their cage. This is the first pet I've heard of where "heating pad" is part of their special needs.

4) No clumping litter. I'm not even gonna tell you where it gets stuck, but I will tell you this. If I ever get a hedgehog, I'm only getting a girl for this reason alone.

5)Hedgehogs are nocturnal. You can wake them up and play with them during the day, but don't try to change their schedule and make them a daytime pet. Again, we might be related. I've heard of werewolves, could I be a latent were-hedgehog? Every morning it occurs to me that I am not a daytime pet.



Right there in black and white

2011-10-18T08:59:20.797-07:00

Or maybe it's green and blue... anyway. I was doing some research for my work in progress and needed to look up some demographic data for a little town in California. While I was perusing this city data site, I noticed weather facts. Here are the facts for this little California town - these are graphs showing the number of sunny days compared with the national average - and the number of cloudy days. The details don't really matter - just take a look and get a feel for the shape of the graphs.
(image)
(image)
Ok, got it? Great.
It occurred to me to look up *my* city and see just how different it is. I live just outside of Seattle.
Here's my graphs:
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Just to be clear - that thick green line all by itself at the bottom? That's our average percentage of sunny days, compared with the US average....wayyyyy above it.
And on the cloudy graph - see that big purple mass that looks like it's going to swallow you up? That's the number of cloudy days and that little wisp of yellow at the top is the number of sunny days.

So enjoy your sun, all of you who don't live with me and the purple monster. ;) He and I have made peace - he tells me to fill up my coffee cup and go ahead, read the next chapter of The Night Circus - after all, it's cold out there!



More on pit bulls...

2011-10-09T18:39:48.661-07:00

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So yes, my new book has a pit bull in it. The research has come pretty naturally - I'm a pro with petfinder - but I keep finding dogs I want. Like this one.
She knows how to sit, shake, high five, and bark "I Love You!" It's not her fault she's a stray - her owner is in jail and she's got no home. I mean, I'm only human...
A friend of mine who works in a shelter kept posting about pit bulls on Facebook and I was like, yeah, yeah... aren't they kind of scary? Why are you so obsessed with pit bulls.
Then she posted a link to the American Temperament Testing Society's page.
They run thousands of dogs through a challenging temperament test every year. If a dog fails the test, it's because they showed unprovoked aggression, panic without recovery, or strong avoidance. It's a much more difficult test to pass than the Canine Good Citizenship test that so many dogs take to prove that they're reliable. Pit bulls passed at about 86% - so for every hundred dog about 14 didn't pass, and they tested around 700. Golden Retrievers passed at a rate of 84%.

And then *I* became obsessed with pit bulls. Why have they been so maligned? Why do people fear them? Why do we read about so many pit bull attacks. Why not Golden Retriever attacks? Or Schnauzer's that only passed at 66%.

It's been a fun journey. I'm almost done with this book. But it's really only used such a small part of all that I've learned. Fortunately, I have a blog. :)



Back for your enjoyment: Dog of the day

2011-10-07T12:24:32.896-07:00

Do you any of you long time readers remember when I had my "Boxer of the Day" feature? I used to work above a pet store, and I walked by that pet store every day on the way to Starbucks. Let's be real, I walked to Starbucks more than once a day. And I had to walk past that pet store to get there and back - so I saw the pups sometimes 4 or 6 times a day. One day, the inevitable happened, I fell in love. I called her Hepburn, even though I never got to take her home. She was a little fawn colored Boxer with a black mask. Since I couldn't have her, I did what any other person dealing with unrequited love would do - I became just a wee bit obsessed. I put up a picture of a new Boxer every day on my blog. I still don't have a Boxer. I had another baby instead and I'm still not in a "let's go get a puppy" time of life. But that's good, because I've moved on from Boxer's had have a new dog... love. Let's not use the word obsession, shall we? And since this ties in to the new book I've almost finished, I'm sharing my obsession love with all of you! This is Auggie. He's available for adoption in Seattle. If you adopt him, tell me - I want to pet him! He's a blue brindle with super soft fur and smile lines. He's also a pit bull. More on that later... I promise!



Steampunk week and other things

2011-10-05T11:53:52.100-07:00

It's steampunk week at Tor! They have a book sweepstakes going on right now and all kinds of posts on Steampunk. I'm reminded when I see things like this that I write and enjoy a particular facet of steampunk - I like mine Victorian and mechanical and pretty clean. That's part of why I'm rewriting the current book to be middle grade - it just fits my style better. Having a middle grader at home for market testing helps, too. :) I also wanted to pass on a writing book recommendation: Katherine Patterson's The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children. Despite carefully avoiding The Bridge to Terebithia as a child (I thought it would be too sad - but I really should have taken the chance since it's a beautiful book. I think my past self could have handled it.) This is a collection of talks she's given at various conferences. The most meaningful to me is on a child's sense of wonder and how important books are to that and how that element is so crucial to good writing for children. She uses language extremely well, and they're both delightful to read and helpful. Even when you're reading them on a treadmill like I've been doing. If they can take my mind off the fact that I'm exercising, which is not one of my favorite activities, they're pretty good. :)



The problem with not posting...

2011-10-03T12:56:06.261-07:00

for a bit is then you think you need a big "back to the blog" post and then it's not good enough and then you wait longer to come up with a better post, creating a bigger time lapse, so then you need an even BETTER post... you see the problem.

So let's just all pretend there *wasn't* a big long break and this doesn't have to be a stellar post? Thank you.

Alright then...new things:

1) On writing - the steampunk book is being revised right now. I decided it wanted to be a book for middle graders, and it's taken some time to rework it. It's kind of like knitting a pair of gloves with yarn that wants to be a stuffed mouse. It's just hard on you, the yarn, and the gloves. Better to start over. I'm almost done with the revisions, but just as I was finishing up...

2) I had a new idea that I couldn't let go of. So I've been writing furiously all summer and now... is it fall? Sheesh. So, that's where some of my blogging time went. The new book is about something near and dear to my heart and you can bet they'll be posts about it coming up. Here's a hint, "woof".

3) The blog is remaining steampunky because I have more steampunky goodness coming your way and that's another project that's been taking up my time. No, I didn't mod my laptop into a wonder of brass and wood. This is something more easily shareable. I'll link to it when it's all ready to go!

Ok, so thanks for pretending with me that the whole long summer hasn't gone by without talking. We're here now, that's what's important. Right? Thanks!



The plague - at least my plague

2011-03-30T22:19:24.015-07:00

I have the flu. It might be the plague, but we'll just call it the flu. By plague I mean evil virus that takes over your lungs and entire upper-respiratory system and bends it to its will. Not the other kind of plague.

This is of course the week that anyone who might remotely want to help me with this is out of town including my husband. OK, so it's only a couple of days that overlap while they're all gone. But it feels more dramatic to say a week.

Here are the things that go on when you're a mom and the plague comes to town:

1) Your 3 year old hears you cough and says "Mommy, I want to save you!" Then gives you a hug.

2) But, after coming out of the bathroom you find that the same delightful three year old has been eating brown sugar out of the pantry with a spoon... and trailing it across the kitchen floor.

3) Not to be outdone, the Boop, the five year old, was clearly "cooking" in the kitchen while I was on the sofa. I mean, I could see into the kitchen and she looked fine, but I couldn't see past her shoulders. I thought she was having a nice snack at the table (banana and crackers). What I found when I dragged myself over there was that she'd sliced the banana in 10 fifty cent sized pieces, left the peel all over the table, and combined brown sugar with something liquid in two bowls and was preparing to add raisins to it when I intercepted her. I need to buy more brown sugar. And mop the floor.

4) As a side note, cough syrup should work, not just taste bad.

5) Your 5 year old declares that her Barbies all have fevers and upon inspection you find them laid out in the bathroom on a towel with "cold compresses" (her words) of wet toilet paper all over them. They looked like soggy, Barbie mummies. And if you think the wet toilet paper stayed in the bathroom and didn't require a much more extensive clean up, you've forgotten already that I have a three year old.

6) You move from the sofa to the kitchen and your five year old shouts, "You're moving! Are you healed? Are you all better! Look, you stood up!"

7) Also, I had a weird desire to do all the laundry in the house. I think this comes from a case of cabin fever. I'm very susceptible to cabin fever and all the hallucinations that come with it. Now I'm faced with a pile of clean laundry that I think might win in a battle. It looks like a 50's horror slime monster, only clean clothes, not slime.

Signing off now. The monster, the zombie, and the red bird (all names given and enforced by the three year old for himself, Boop, and his big sister) are getting ready for bed. Yes, it's only 7:30, why do you ask?



When fiction, baby goat sweaters, and chatty Fed Ex guys collide

2011-03-23T23:07:33.666-07:00

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I promised my friend that I would knit sweaters for his baby goats. His goat was pregnant, but I had no idea what the gestational period was for a goat. I figured I had time, though, because as I remembered, pregnancy basically lasts forever.

Except when you're a goat. I'd just proudly completed one sweater, when I woke up to photos of the brand new baby goats on Facebook Monday morning... so I cast on and knit like the wind! The baby goats will be cold! I must discharge my duty! My needles were flying! I knit standing up, while making lunch, through hula class. I wisely chose not to knit while driving. And then I finished with sore fingers and a big sigh of relief just in time to mail the sweaters off that same day. We went straight from hula where I'd had to weave in ends with my bare hands because I forgot my needle and Boop was still swishing her hips next to me and eyeing the candy counter while I eyed the Ground Delivery truck getting ready to leave in the parking lot. I plopped the sweaters on the counter and looked for help.

Which I got from a very chatty Fed Ex guy. The goat sweaters were quirky enough. I figured that would buy me enough small talk to get the package on the truck and race home to make dinner.

But no, we got to chatting about how he plays online games with his kids, and I mentioned that I did, too, all the while filling out address forms and declining insurance (the money's in the fingers!). He asked which games I played. I rattled them off. (Driving Kids anyone? MMPORGs for the 3 year old set are all the rage, especially when narrated by robots with indiscernible accents.) He knew them all. Wow, he'd never met anyone who gamed with their kids like he did. So to lend a little credibility, I mentioned that I'd worked testing video games for a while. Wouldn't want him to think I was telling tales. That job was for about 9 months about 7 years ago, and I used a lot of the experience in the YA noir book that an agent is reading *right now*.

So, he said he play tested games for EA and rattled off all the titles he worked on - where did I work? What titles did I work on?

Now in my defense, I had been knitting frantically all day, and Boop was twirling closer and closer to the Red Vines, but I tell you the only things that came to mind was the name of the company my main character worked for and all the fictional games he'd tested. Not a single real title could I recall. I nearly blurted out "The Virtz" which I'd subbed in for The Sims, but had never actually tested. Five more came to mind, all fictional. I managed to describe the company, but the only name I could think of was Playbox Labs. And we all know there's no such thing as a Playbox, folks.

I'm sure there's a moral here. Maybe - always find out the gestational period of a goat.



Things said by Mystery Man this morning

2011-03-21T08:35:43.241-07:00

On walking into the bathroom...
"Oh my, there's Daddy Giant's tooth brush"

On watching me walk into the bedroom to get his jeans
"Oh my, it very dark in here. You ok? It really very dark and scary"

On realizing Boop was home with Daddy as we drove to school
"Oh, we missing a zombie!"

On watching Red walk off to school,
"There goes the Red Bird! I tell her watch out for cars. Now, let's go get a hot cocoa."

On coming home and seeing his Red Robin balloon
"Oh, there my balloon. It wake up and ready to play."

As you can see, he's fond of exclamations, a slight British speak that I can't explain, and has renamed everyone in the house. DH and I are both Giants. Boop is Zombie (not a name she loves, by the way) and Red is "the red bird." Pretty sure that's because she sleeps in the highest bunk, or "her nest" that he has to "climb the tree" to get into.



Japan

2011-03-12T23:47:30.883-08:00

I know you all know what's going on. Images are everywhere. These are two that I wanted to share.

If you go here you can see before and after shots from Google Earth of some of the major areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami. It's an incredible use of technology to give you a sense of the destruction.

And this from The Weekly Magazine A very scared giant panda, grabbing hold of a policeman.

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I've been able to check on my friends there to make sure they are alright. Facebook and forums are such a blessing in that way. I hope your friends are alright, too.



Monday, my nemesis

2011-03-09T13:10:20.444-08:00

Monday was such a Monday I couldn't write about it till Tuesday. And now look, it's Wednesday and it's just now posting. That's what Monday does sometimes.

Have I mentioned that my ipod is missing? It is. Because I'm a softie and let my 3 year old play Angry Birds. The really sad thing about this last disappearance is that it was only found for a few minutes. Boop had taken it to bed and fallen asleep with it and it wedged inbetween her mattress and the bed slats. But I kinda knew that, and I wasn't too worried. So she found it, and I was happy and then Mystery Man took it and went behind the sofa and now I can't find it. And yes, I've looked behind the sofa.

So Monday, I decided I *would* find my ipod! I looked everywhere (and by the way, let's just get it out there that this is not a story that ends with me finding my ipod). I had dust in my hair from sticking my head in places where heads and dust cloths hadn't been stuck in a loooong time. While I did this, I couldn't help but notice the heating vent... with all the playing cards stuck down there.

In the back, far recesses of my mind I've long been afraid that my ipod slid down a heating vent. Now I don't really think it would fit, but I haven't been able to test this theory, so I pulled the vent off, and pried all the cards from between the little slats. Then I looked down the shaft. Hmphf. More cards. And who knows what else. I don't like sticking my hand down a long tube that goes under the house that I can't see the end of. I start to think about long skinny things with big jaws that might bite my fingers off. Probably this isn't a fear grounded in reality, but if we *did* have one of those nasty serpants from Harry Potter, this is where it would live. So I can't help but sort of scrunch my eyes closed as I stick my hand down the hole. And then...

GAH!!! Something bit my hand! I pull it out and it's bleeding. And I'm still reeling from the fact that I'm RIGHT! Something DOES live under the house when I realize it's one of the rusty screws sticking out of the tube that I ripped my hand on while I was closing my eyes. Whoops. This means I call the regular doctor about a tetanus shot instead of some kind of magical creature containment unit. Which is good, because this is the phone number I know.

And there was no ipod down the tube. So I go wash my wound out, only to knock over a jar of coins. Into the sink. And I clean them up with gritted teeth while Boop runs all over looking for just the right band aid and I wait for a call back about this whole tetanus shot thing. And then the groceries get here. And I have to clean out the fridge, which leads to lots of leftovers sitting next to my sink that I put off sending down the garbage disposal till midnight. At which point, I realize where those missing coins ended up.

So the night ends as it began, with my sticking my hand down another long dark tube, fishing out things that are not my ipod and hoping not to get bit.

Fortunately, I've got 5 more days till Monday and I meet again. I'm preparing with more coffee next time.



Catching up

2011-03-03T15:50:34.889-08:00

I know I've been a little quieter here lately. I'm querying for the steampunk book right now, and still getting requests for the book I wrote before that (remember when the blog was all blue and mysterious...) so there's been lots of agent research and revising going on here. Querying is always a little bit nervewracking. It's so hard not to check my gmail address all day long. There may not be a message now, but... how 'bout NOW! *shakes head at self* Sometimes I long for the good ol' days of mailboxes when there could only be news once a day. But, I mean, not really. It's not like I'm giving up email anytime soon.

And, the last time I checked email "just one more time" I found out I won a copy of Veronica Roth's Divergent. FUN!!! I won in a Goodreads contest, so of course I'll be posting about the book over there after I get it and I promise to link you. If you haven't heard of this one, you should go check out Veronica's blog and here's the Goodreads link
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Finally, I'll leave you with another photo clue about the new novel I'm working on.

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Detours

2011-02-20T16:14:01.895-08:00

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In high school, there was this song we all knew the words to. It wasn't by Paula Abdul or U2, although we knew those too, this was by a guy named Scott Wesley Brown and it was called Please Don't Send Me to Africa. We all knew this song because it was catchy and clever and we were all pretty terrified that God would send us to Africa. We knew about missionaries going all sorts of places. We didn't have blogs then (can you imagine?) or cell phones really or email. But we had slide shows set to music and missionaries in town for Sunday night service and they asked for us to help out with their ministry.

Gladly, I thought, gladly, just don't send me.

I haven't thought about that song in probably 10 years. I haven't heard it for at least 15. But when I clicked on this blog, the lyrics rushed into my head.

"Please don't send me to Africa, I don't think I've got what it takes."

This is a blog by a girl who went to Africa, and not kicking and screaming or biting her nails, or escaping a problem. She just wanted to go, and she adopted a bunch of children, and she cares for hundreds more. When I read the first entry, I thought she went maybe ten years ago. She talks about her children the same way I talk about mine. She has a mother's heart. I thought she was at least my age or older and had done this for a while. She has 13 kids, after all, and the oldest is a teenager.

And maybe that's why I connected so much with her at first. That pull of a mother's heart is universal.

Then I read on. She wasn't 35. She wasn't 25. She was 22 - is 22. And she went to Uganda first at 17, then she came back to the States for a semester of college, and it just wasn't for her. She went back to Uganda at 18 years old, and started caring for the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick.

And then it was really her mother I was feeling for. Because, the only thing that I think would be harder than being sent to Africa, would be my daughter being sent to Africa.

She's just finished writing a book, and I hope it comes out soon, but for now her blog's the best "book" I've read in a long time. I just wanted to pass it on to you, and encourage you to read about the day she said goodbye to her beautiful boyfriend, or the day she she cut jiggers out of a little boy's foot, or dewormed a 10 pound girl that was 9 months old who eventually became her youngest daughter.

Most of the time I can see a little to the left and a little to the right of my own path, maybe I nod at some side roads that I don't intend to take. And then sometimes I get to see a path so different it feels like another planet, and I just wanted to share her story. I hope you love it as much as I do.

PS Thanks to my friend that just returned from Egypt for sharing this blog with me. :)



Gatsby

2011-02-18T13:18:30.385-08:00

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Some things make me stop what I'm doing and blog immediately! Or Facebook, tweet, what have you. This is one of those things.

First, a pop quiz. What is my favorite book? I think I already gave you a hint.

Yes, Gatsby. Gatsby and the green light and the doomed love and the flappers and all that.

Now, click here, if you love him, too. :)



Vintage Dresses and Naked Bakers

2011-02-07T21:42:39.912-08:00

I just wanted to alert you all to one of my new favorite blogs, Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing. She's working her way through Vogue's Book for Better Sewing (hence the name of her blog) and she has all kinds of beautiful photos of dresses like this
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It's enough to make me want to sew. And I haven't sewn anything but a button since 8th grade when I made a gym bag that fell apart and a mallard that bore questionable resemblance to water fowl. But somehow Gertie makes me think I can do it. We'll see. ;)

So, while I'm querying my steampunk book, I'm working on a new one, and I think I mentioned that it's snowy. It also involves baking... many hundreds of years ago, and I thought I'd leave you with this little factoid from my research.

In Paris of 1521, as punishment for some baking related faux pax, the authorities made three men run the streets of Paris naked and with shaved heads. They had to carry lit candles and cry out "Mercy from God, the Virgin Mary, and the King for the wrong we have done in baking." A mob applauded the whole way.

Fortunately, it makes my own little baking issues pale in comparison. ;)



Steampunk games

2011-02-01T21:03:10.983-08:00

For the last year or so, whenever I go to the app store on my ipod, I check for "steampunk". At first, there was just an app here and there, maybe a story collection or something, but lately there have been more and more. The same goes for knitting patterns on Ravelry, but that's for another post. ;) I thought I'd share a few of my favorite games:

1. Cogs
How beautiful is this picture? Cogs has lots of fun puzzle games - interlocking gears and pipes full of steam - stuff like that.
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2. Atlantis Sky Patrol by Big Fish
I've always loved Big Fish and their Diner Dashing and such. This is a beautiful art deco kind of steampunk in a marble shooter. But they've added lots of fun elements like bonus rounds and upgrading your ship and doomsday devices. Who doesn't love a good doomsday device? (And kinda off topic, but are you all noticing how steampunky Fringe is becoming? Love!)

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3. Grimm -
This one is a little, well, grim. I've talked about the different flavors of steampunk before, my favorite is the very Victorian optimistic sort of steampunk - the "Hey, we all have jet packs, and of course the automaton does the laundry" kind of thing. :) There's also the art deco industrial type, this borders on diesel punk, as often things aren't purely steam powered. And I do love deco, but I like to keep my steampunk pure. And then there's the kind of goth steampunk, with lots of skulls and an emphasis on the dark side of the moon. That would be this game. Really not my favorite form of the genre, but I like physics based games where you get to tilt the ipod all around and work out that acceleromater. ;)

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Enjoy your gaming!!



Playlist

2011-01-21T16:24:09.462-08:00

Hey all, just wanted to stop by and post my mini-playlist for Johnny Steam. Hoping this embedding works.



These are songs that got me in the spirit of the book, and that I played if I needed to get back into Johnny's world. As you can see, he struggles a little bit... ;)



Why hello, January!

2011-01-12T00:28:42.882-08:00

Well that was a longer blog break than I intended. Thanks to all who stuck with me!
Santa was very good to me and brought me a skeletized, steampunky watch and a huge framed map of Victorian London. My family knows the way to my heart, for sure. :)

It's snowing here in Seattle - has been for hours and I think it's snowing in most of the rest of America, too. I took my three year old Mystery Man out for a walk and he laughed at the snowflakes and brushed snow off Christmas lights--then we ran inside when he heard a train whistle. Trains are miles away from us, but it was a still, winter's night and it carried, I guess, all the way from the beach. Mystery Man is obsessed with trains, but scared to death of train whistles. I think sometimes it's fun to love something and be a little bit afraid of it.

I'm just starting to set my steampunk book loose into the wild, now. And I'm a little bit afraid of that, too. But it's also a lot of fun. And tonight is the perfect night to make notes on my new, wintry work in progress.

Enjoy the snow, everybody!

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(the picture is from a favorite blog of mine, Vintage Seattle)



Merry Christmas Eve!

2010-12-24T09:43:49.652-08:00

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We're off to the Christmas Eve service tonight to hear our Dickens Carolers and then spend some time with family. The kids are rearranging all the presents under the tree and counting down till Christmas morning.

I hope you are having a lovely day, whether you're wrapping presents, finishing up work, last minute shopping, or visiting the pyramids in Giza like a friend of mine.

Merry Christmas!