Improbability is in the Details

Abra Staffin-Wiebe's Journal

[sticky post]Where the Abra is at
Seems about the right time for another game of "Where's Abra?"

Physically, I've only got one more scheduled appearances in 2013 now that CONvergence and 4th Street are done. Next month, I'll be running a Minnspec meeting about the ins-and-outs of selling short stories. Details:

Online, I'm in a lot more places! Mostly these are all their own thing, but there is some information that I post to all of these, like my market list updates, new publications, and other major news (writing-related or not). - My website. Home base for my writing. 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 posts and the important life 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 market-related posts these days.

Google+ - Personal stuff, by and large. This is where I put most of my little updates about my life and my family.

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

Etc. - Pinterest, Flickr, and so on. These are other, more specialized social networks.

4th Street Fantasy
I had a 4th Street! There were panels! I listened to them, took notes on interesting bits, and worked on writing a story longhand in my notebook the rest of the time. I will talk about these things in a different post. I also went to the writer's workshop beforehand, though I was admonished a bit for going, because it's geared more for beginning and intermediate writers. I managed to share a couple of meals with people, but mostly ate with family/alone. Dietary restrictions are hard, and so are time restrictions, and it's really a pain in the stomach when they combine. No weather catastrophes struck this year, although we did all get little LED lights as our attendance gift.

I am no longer sure if writing a story longhand during convention panels is a good idea. Yes, I end up getting some writing done, which is yay! But I lose that "deluge of ideas colliding against each other and reforming" effect. It's the shower effect; good ideas happen in the shower because the mind's idle cycles are not actually idle. Hearing smart people talk about interesting things is kind of an idea shower, and not doing anything except listen (and take notes) frees up the processing cycles to come up with really interesting intersections and ideas. Writing uses those cycles. Maybe. It's a hypothesis. I might need to try a panel or two without and a panel or two with so that I can compare the quality of my notes/ideas. The amount of writing I get done longhand is relatively small. If I choose to write and lose the shower effect.

I was even on one of the panels, the one about sentences and grammatical structures. I managed to mostly avoid sounding like an idiot, although I did flub my introduction because there was banter! And I was flustered! I need to work on my panel persona, though. Turn the personality and the funny up a notch, as it were, and not just be "painfully earnest studious person," which is not really me either. It would be easier if I were standing on a stage instead of sitting behind a table. As is, I tend to tighten up, which is not so entertaining. I had a pretty dress, though! Cassius told me so, when I left the hotel room. I also did homework for the panel, in the form of reading Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style. It's pretty damn good, and I'll have to think about and work on its techniques for a while before I can integrate them fully. I think this was also the only panel where at the end, most of the panelists offered homework assignments, in the form of books they recommend reading.


I also had a six-month-old, a two-and-a-half-year-old, and a thirty-mumble-old in tow, so the amount I was able to do outside of panels was inevitably limited. On short breaks, I was running up to our hotel room to nurse the little girl. On long breaks, I was running up to our hotel room to nurse the little girl, give Phil a break, and try to figure out where I could safely eat food. Mostly Phil and I just ate together, either at a "safe" restaurant or from supplies we'd brought from home (baking a double batch of ginger cookies and taking them along was a great idea!). I could eat some of the food in the con-suite: pita chips, fresh fruit, eggs, that sort of thing. Cassius could (and would) eat some of it, too. One meal we managed to eat at the hotel restaurant with a bunch of my local writerfolk friends. Not recommended--it was overpriced and the food wasn't fantastic. Good company, though. Another meal I ate with friends and Seanan McGuire, who as it turns out knows Martha Hage from way back in the day, so Mars actually showed up at 4th Street for the first time, too. Double-take time! We chose to eat at the Irish pub while America was playing in the World Cup, so that was--a thing. There was loud chanting. Fish and chips was tasty, though!

That was one of the ways I could give Phil a break--take the energetic two-year-old downstairs to run around and burn off energy and maybe see if I could persuade him to eat something while we were at it. Although I couldn't eat the pizza welcome dinner, Cassius managed some of it. I also had success (for the first and possibly only time) walking the boundaries of the conference room with him and explaining that he had to stay inside them or we'd be going back to the hotel room. Another time, I wore Theia in the Moby wrap and took Cassius to the small upper plaza and let him run around while I sat and talked to people; it helped that there were also cards he could look at and play with, even if he was very insistent about the pictures on them being of lizards wearing hats in jars, instead of snakes. They were totally snakes. And after the conference, Cassius and I got to go swimming! He did pretty well with floating, once I got him in a life jacket with one of those foam noodles to hold on to. There was a slightly older little girl who became very upset when he talked about there being fish in the pool, because THERE WERE NO FISH AND EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW THAT. Kids are funny.

I had maybe a couple of half-hour segments in the evening to socialize solo, but I've basically forgotten how to do that. Socialize, that is. I listened to music. I chatted with friends. I played a smidgeon of Cards Against Humanity. I stilted! Gaea taught me how, using one-foot-high stilts and the assistance of Tim, who is large enough to possibly actually catch me if I fell. I did not fall. I only wobbled once. I was impressed by a) how weird it felt to be as tall as a professional male basketball player, and b) how tight those things have to be tied on.

. . . Somewhat more thinky panel notes to follow.

Theia at 7 Months
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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other (better!) things have happened since my last diary update, too.
* I had a 4th Street (Fantasy Convention), about which there will be another few posts.
* I finished a short story that became unusually long! "You May Also Like Gas Masks" is over 12,000 words. Yikes.
* I finally figured out the part that makes my next notebook story work. Turns out the problem wasn't the mystery or the A.I. part, it was that I needed to figure out the character's spine: grief.
* I emailed a pro-paying magazine editor to ask for a different, less rights-grabby contract--and got it. Like a pro, oh yeah.
* Cassius is having nightmares on a regular basis. I feel so bad for him. He's also become very focused on figuring out when things (people, monsters, cars, etc.) are "bad."
* Theia has mastered an army crawl that gets her across the room in much less time than you might think.
* Phil has finished selecting what he thinks is the best music of the year for a Ponies disc . . . or two.
* I've been experimenting with an easy, delicious microwave (vegan!) fudge recipe. I am happy to continue experiments, I just need an unlimited supply of coconut cream, cocoa, and powdered sugar.

Aswiebe's Market List Update 2014-06: Pay Raises!
Let Me Tell You a Story
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The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 7/15/2014.
Permanent link to this newsletter in the archives:

Editor's Note
The last two weeks, I've twice been able to go to a local coffee shop and write for a couple of hours. Given that I have two small children, that's pretty great. And both times, I've gotten at least four times as much written as during my usual (naptime) sessions! I am certainly going to be trying to do this more often.

If there's a lesson here, it might be that it's worth it to try writing at different times, in different places. Our lives change. Sometimes, the way that's best for us to work does too.

What I've been up to lately, writing-wise:
Coffee shops! Finishing things!

- Abra Staffin-Wiebe

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A Visit From Janine, and My Birthday!
(Somewhat belated. This whole weekly journaling thing is a bit of a challenge, even when it's only for 15 minutes.)

6/9/2014, Monday
It was good to have Phil home again that week. The previous week he was in California for work, running experiments, drinking far too much coffee, and getting far too little sleep. He came home on Saturday. The threat of thunderstorms (but not actual thunderstorms) delayed his flight an hour, but he still managed to get home before the kids went to sleep. While he was gone, life at home went on. There were the usual amounts of not-getting-enough-sleep and can't-get-writing/cleaning/stuff-done. Janine from Hawaii came back to the Twin Cities to visit with her beau, Louis, so I also actually! socialized! despite being solo with two children. We visited on Friday at the Walker Sculpture Garden (I have a picture to prove it), while Louis did yeoman's duty in keeping Cassius from sprinting *everywhere*, and on Saturday Doc was kind enough to ferry me and the kids to Katie & Adam's house for a more populous gathering. Theia was fairly well-behaved as long as I was holding her, Cassius had a ton of fun on the playset with Bella and Alex and Annika. This always makes me happy because I feel like he doesn't get to play with other kids often enough. I got to eat some delicious Cajun brats and various potato salads, and a majority of the skirt-wearing humans in attendance admired Janine's gorgeous golden magic skirt. This is how we learned that magic skirts made from vintage saris are a thing.

My birthday was on Tuesday. It is possible that I was determined come hell or high water to have a birthday party this year. Possible. Seeing as it was on a weekday at short notice, not everybody was able to come, but it turned out pretty well. I did consider scheduling it for the Sunday following, but that did not seem much better. We went to one of the picnic areas at Minnehaha Falls. Sadly, the wading pool and playground were closed in the area we'd chosen, but there was still plenty of space for the kids to run--and run--and run--and we were able to score an "open" pavilion to set up inside. I had balloons, because as Cassius knows, birthday parties mean balloons! One was a regular "Happy Birthday" balloon. One was a giant red race car. We grilled various vegetable kabobs (note: Kalamata olives are a hit), hamburgers, and hot dogs. I had a steak, because it was my birthday. I had also made a brownie cake with raspberry syrup. This was the first time I'd made that recipe, and--well, let's just say it wasn't ready for public consumption. Possibly because substituting vegan margarine for butter is not always as simple as it sounds, and can definitely affect baking times. That cake was as hard as a rock and about as impossible to extract with a plastic knife. We had one knife--my steak knife--and with that, some center pieces were extracted. For the rest of the week, I chiseled out bits of brownie brittle. Electra also brought an angel food cake that I could eat! For several days afterwards, angel food cake with strawberries and whipped coconut cream was my breakfast. :)

(I have pictures to prove this happened, too. Maybe I should actually add pictures to this post. Eventually.)

[Resuming writing this post 6/14. Dear lord, I have not much time to spend on these posts!]

The rest of the week was pretty rough, as I recall. Phil had to work an evening shift, he had phone meetings, he had a concert. In short, I was parent-in-charge for the rest of the week.

I think that was about it. Can't recall. Didn't write this in time to actually remember!

Writing Sex and Erotica
Some notes from the MinnSpec meeting, "Writing Sex and Erotica."

Think about what effect you're going for before you write. Porn v. erotica v. erotic romance v. sex scene in something else. For porn, a lot of it is using keywords that create a stimulus response for those who are used to that input.

Sexual tension is a very important part--the tension caused by unsuccessful/almost moments helps readers get invested.

Sex can be the action of the story, or the goal, or the conflict.

There is 1) the sex that happens, and 2) the sex that is happening in a person's head. Is the act an act, or is it an act *and* a commitment of some type?

Writing markets change really fast. Don't bother buying a book about it. Try the Erotic Readers and Writers Association (ERA).

Check Circlet Press guidelines for things they've really seen too often!

For long-form erotica, write it and try to self-publish, but don't put too much skin on the cover or Amazon will hide it.

The temptation is to do something "really different," but this leads to really alien and/or squickworthy. Try to keep relatable to at least some portion of your audience.

See Scarleteen website as a good example of what works in sex.

"Elements of Arousal" [edit to fix title] is a great resource, if you can get ahold of a copy of this out-of-print book. Also recommended, "How To Write and Sell Erotica," by M. Christian.

Note that many people are using "open" pseudonyms, just so that you can tell which genre a particular book they're writing is.

"She's a real person, I mean she's a real female person, but she's a real person!"

Consider mouthfeel (speaking) versus mindfeel (reading in your head) when you're writing, in order to get the effect you want. Consider what words you use. You may want to avoid using words that are also common cursewords, either because of personal comfort or saleability.

Be aware of what people have associated with written sex scenes, so you know what you do and do not want! I.e., "Oh, god!" is a bit cliche.

Make sure vocabulary is consistent with the character.

If you're writing a disabled character, don't pick the obvious disability all the time.

If the phrase is "how do you people do X," and that's your starting point, you haven't done your research yet.

And as always, read a lot, especially things that are outside your comfort zone or things that are recommended but not popular.

Allromanceebooks is a good place to distribute through.

For selling short stories yourself, it might be of advantage to package as 3+ stories. Otherwise people will expect it to be free. Also keep covers reasonably discreet if selling on Amazon, to keep from getting delisted.

My Dad's Wedding
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.
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Daily Routine with a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old
11 PM, previous night. - Attempt to go to sleep. Phil decides to sleep in the attic because he fears waking Theia. Theia wakes up as I'm going to bed, so I nurse her and put her back to sleep. Succeed in going to bed around 11:30.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helped Cassius do two puzzles.

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

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

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

Washed face, brushed teeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I update this day-to-date.

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

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

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

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

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

5:20 PM - Time to nurse Theia.

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

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

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

Kids and Writing and Life
5/26/2014, Monday, Memorial Day

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

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

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

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

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

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