Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve and a new baby!

Okay. So. We had a new baby on December 16th. He is tiny (under five pounds!) and dark-haired and cute as anything. This means, of course, that my blog went silent, and I haven't written much (read: anything) recently, and there have been many tantrums from a certain two-year-old who wasn't prepared at all for this intrusion, thank you very much. But things are normalizing, and I know from experience that I will someday get more sleep and everything will be a little less crazy. I would show you a picture or two, but that will have to wait until I find my phone, so in the meantime, here is a cute older baby laughing at tearing paper.

Someday my youngest son will laugh, too!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cats!

I shall post this video, instead of something more productive, because it is a celebration of surviving a dentist appointment! Also because wet cats are funny. You should've seen what our cat, Scout, did when she accidentally jumped into a full bathtub--she can leap really high, and my poor husband had a pretty scratched-up leg (he was in the aforementioned full bathtub, and it was our other cat, Ophelia, who chased her there). Anyway, happy wet cat watching!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Pictures

My four-year-old (who is less than a month shy of five!) drew some new pictures this week. He asked me to share. So here they are, in all their glory:

This one is titled "Lots of Lasers and Arrows"
...and this one is "ghhhhhhuuuu"
I think he misses the A-Z blogfest, when I posted pictures of monsters every day. I'll have to draw something some afternoon and post it because he is awesome. (Once my lap shrinks and he can fit on it again, which should be soon!)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My First Kickstarter

So I've never supported a Kickstarter project before (shameful!), but here's my first: To Be or Not To Be, by Ryan North. I've always liked Dinosaur Comics, because I think the writing is hilarious, and a choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet is just too awesome to pass up. Especially when proceeds go to cancer research. And...three great books for fifteen or twenty dollars? Sign me up!

Looky! Pictures by Kate Beaton! You can't buy this kind of coolness. Well, I guess technically you can, and that makes me happy!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Must...start...submitting...

Here is a secret: I don't like submitting my manuscript. I don't have a neat time of the day for it (I teach in the morning, watch two very cute children, write during nap time, and do chores-ish stuff after bedtime), which makes it like grading (no neat time for that, either), and I hate spending my writing time on queries. But this means that even though I love my second book I've only submitted it a little over a dozen places, and some of those places were referrals. So...I'd better get going! I DID suck it up and work on my query Saturday, and this means I will go and look up submission guidelines and get some queries out there. Right now. I'm going, I swear!

But I will leave you with this:


Yay for balloons!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Festival of Trees

I love the Festival of Trees. Every year the Utah one is right in Sandy, where we live. Every year we can see Santa and eat scones and look at lots and lots of shiny lights. And this year, since our tree (which has a base we've held together with twine for the past two Christmases) decided to topple, I can actually get ideas for (or possibly buy?) a new tree there. Yay!

Here's a video of the coolest tree I've ever seen there, possibly the coolest tree ever. Someday I will try glass blowing, but you should go to their website and watch the video of this tree's creation to see how awesome Holdman Studios is at creating art!


Monday, November 26, 2012

If I only had a brain...

This is about how I feel right now:


I am not sure if I have crazy non-matching subtitles going on, but I probably do. At least the scarecrow's always been the coolest of the Oz gang to me.*

*(After the witch. I love the Wicked Witch of the West. I had a green-faced witch for a birthday cake when I turned five, and it's still my favorite cake ever.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Stuffing and Trucks

Apparently the kitchen can be an exciting place for a four-year-old. Cornstarch's texture, separating egg whites and egg yolks, tearing up bread for stuffing...this is all very entertaining. Although we had to be construction vehicles the entire time, I'm happy to say that one of my sons can actually be helpful with cooking. The two-year-old has some skills (snitching, making very fast and happy messes), but he does not earn full-fledged construction vehicle status*.

From here, based on a search for one of my son's favorite TV shows when he was three--the Canadian-made Mighty Machines. I would've found talking trucks boring at the same age...I was more into witches and magic. Fortunately, trucks are a much easier thing to spot when you're, say, stuck in traffic.
 
* I get full status. My name is Katie. I can be a dump truck or a claw-stirrer truck**.

**This is how you get pies and appetizers and stuffing done with two children. Achievement unlocked!

Monday, November 19, 2012

I Love Pine Trees

Confession: I started sniffling during one of the Twilight movies. And it was because of this:

Washington state trees. From Snoqualmie pass (and here).
Trees and water. Nothing makes me feel more like going back to Seattle area. And, hey, if a random driving scene can make me tear up when My Dog Skip and suchlike pet movies don't, I'm not sure what that says about how much I love pines...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I-want-everything-titis

So. It's getting close to Christmas. Also close to the time my four-year-old turns five. And...well, he wants an entire toy store. We walk through any sort of toy section, and he makes sure he points out everything that would be exciting for him to buy. Do you know how much merchandise Star Wars and Angry Birds together produce? And Lego? Oh, and then there's dinosaurs, and My Little Ponies, and weaponry, and sports stuff...

I'm glad we don't have normal TV with commercials and everything, or I might go mad. Does anyone know a cure for a poor cute four-year-old suffering from I-want-everything-titis?

This is when he was three. He asked Santa for "a bucket of Stormtroopers" and that's it. I suspect the list will be a little longer this year!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Angry Birds + Star Wars = Happy Boys

Angry Birds Star Wars is a genius idea. It adds two things that little boys love and puts them in an awesome game together. And it is a fun game--it's the best of the flinging-birds-at-pigs genre so far, largely because I love shooting the Han Solo bird so much. And Darth Vader Pig is just so cute! Hooray for distractions (except that I really need to submit more books--but I will, after I launch this giant Chewbacca-bird...)!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ode to my new rubric

You are too simple
and not very good
but now I grade faster
than I should
and since I don't feel like grading at all
yay.

I never use straight-up rubrics for the main essays (I write comments on those), but I figure I can for the in-class midterm thingy. It should make me grade faster than 20 minutes or more per essay. Maybe I can get them done in less than an hour! I can dream...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tabitha




Disclaimer: this is a long blog essay-thing, but I told myself that I should use this space to write about what's important to me. My family is what is important to me right now. So I'm going to take a breath and post a first draft... 


              Now that I’m a parent, I know how much mothers can love their children. It’s different from any other love—self-sacrificing, challenging, hilarious, bigger than anything I’ve ever felt.
            So now I know: I can’t understand a mother’s grief when she loses her five-year-old. I can’t. I don’t know if I can handle it. Another teacher told me “You could. You’d keep on living.” But. I would want to curl up. I would want to hit and kick and drag my son back. I believe in an afterlife. But it wouldn’t heal.
            I couldn’t want to forget.

            This is what I wrote, on the night I first met my niece:
Tabitha was born Thursday, October 11, 2007.  I went with my sister and her husband to see her on Friday, October 12.  We started to look for John and Monica’s house at around 7:45 p.m., but we got lost several times (those roads in Orem are CURVY and hard to follow), so we went to Allison’s house for directions.  Allison drew a nice, clear map, even though she had two or three friends over for company, and I got to hold Bryndi, which is always fun (she’s getting big, and her hair is so dark and thick and curly!).  We finally arrived at John and Monica’s house at about 8:30 p.m. or so (it was right, not left, from the stop sign near Allison’s).  Monica was sitting on the couch, and John was on the rocking chair.  Tabitha nestled in Monica’s arms.  She looked so cute, with her full lips and her long fingers and toes still wrinkled from the wetness of the womb.  She could be a pianist, with fingers like that, and her toes could make her an excellent runner or ballerina (or something—I don’t really know what long toes would indicate, so I’m just making it up).  All of the other kids were in bed, so Kristie and I talked to Monica as I held Tabitha.  She seemed so tiny, so fragile, and she made little squeaky grunts as she moved.  I held her and rocked her until she started crying just a little—I’m not her mommy, after all—so I gave her back to Monica.  Kristie got to hold Tabitha as well, until she started hiccupping, which, understandably, made the baby a little upset.  Although she took her time coming out, Tabitha is a curious, adorable, happy-sweet addition to the world.
            I was pregnant at the time. About seven months pregnant, in fact—just like I am right now. Tabitha’s mom Monica is a super-doula-birth-teacher-reader-writer. Her dad, John, is my husband’s movie-political-savvy oldest brother. They’re two of the best parents I know. I wanted to be like them. I still do.

            Tabitha always adored Elmo. So one of her hospital stays, around when she was two, I went with her Aunt Melody and we bought her a giant Elmo balloon. We brought it to the hospital, and talked to her a little, but she hardly looked at us. She kept staring at Elmo, totally in love.

            Tabitha comes from a large and joyful immediate family. John and Monica support Ethan (a brilliant scientist, now in college), Natalie (what an actress!, now in high school), Evan (athlete and general football-lover, now in elementary school), Colin (reader and asker of questions, also in elementary school), Jaxon (great hider and playmate, elementary again), Mariah (the best hugger ever, elementary a final time), and three wonderful foster children (including a baby). Taleah, who had type one Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) that exactly matched Tabitha’s, died two days before her fourth birthday in 2005. All of them sat with Tabitha in her hot air balloon-painted room. And talked with her, and read with her, and watched Johnny and the Sprites with her...

          Taleah fell in love with Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz, where a beautiful girl goes on an adventure in a colorful, magical place. Tabitha fell in love with Alice and her Wonderland—another story of a curious girl and the crazy magic she discovered. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they both adored fantasy, strong heroines, and an escape from our world. Here neither one of them could walk, and they had to fight to breathe. They had to deal with pain. But they always, always fought to stay.
            Because here there is also love.

            Tabitha taught me that it’s good to be stubborn. It’s okay not to accept things like they are. It’s okay that I’m furious at SMA, that I feel like it’s ugly and unfair and the disease is no decent reason for a child living to two days before her fourth birthday, or a handful of days after she turned five. That isn’t long enough, and I’m stubborn enough to believe in those willing to fight for a cure.
            I’m glad Monica and John are fighters. And I will always be dazzled by Tabitha’s fierce tenacity.

            There are lots of stories about  Tabitha that aren’t mine to share, like the way she made her wish to visit Alice at Disneyworld and refused to open her eyes for the princesses when she saw Alice wasn’t with them, or the contrary nature that made her stop playing some chimes by her bed until her mom told her “Fine. Be quiet!” and then she started playing again. But there was the moment when, as a new, exhausted mother, I showed up at Monica’s house with a one-month-old son so I could learn how to use a baby sling.
            I don’t remember the demonstration all that well, although I can use the sling now, so it must have been good. What I do remember is Tabitha’s smile. I looked down at her, cooing on a blanket, and she gave me the biggest smile, complete with dimples. And I couldn’t stop staring. My son didn’t smile yet—babies don’t until they’re about three months old—and so all I’d seen for weeks were serious staring expressions or (too often!) angry open-mouthed screams. I felt so thankful to Tabitha in that instant, not just because she showed me that my son would grow in a month or two and become capable of expressing actual happiness, but also because she was so giving. She smiled at me, and she kept smiling at me, and I needed a baby smile then more than I ever will again.
I went home, son and sling tucked together in the backseat of our car, and I remember: because of Tabitha, I finally felt like I could handle being a mom.

            A lot of things have seemed unimportant recently. Normally I adore my job, but it’s hard to teach. It’s hard to write. When Tabitha was admitted to Primary Children’s Medical Center for pneumonia, I felt like she would be safe. Taleah and Tabitha always fought their way out of the hospital. Taleah died suddenly at home. So when we visited on Sunday night, I thought she would be going home soon. And then there were tests, and electrolytes out of balance, and everything got worrisome until Thursday. On Thursday I couldn’t write fiction very well, because Tabitha’s heart rate soared and she’d been readmitted to the PICU, and so instead I wrote this:
            Thursday, October 25, 2012
Tabitha is at Primary Children’s. She may die.
I don’t want her to die.
We went to visit her on Sunday. My oldest son brought his angry birds to show her, and we colored her a picture of the Cheshire Cat to hang on her wall. She couldn’t seem to open her eyes very well. I assumed she was sleepy, and sick, with the IV hooked into her hand and her purple-red fingernails. We sang her Happy Birthday, even though her birthday was weeks ago. We never got to sing to her at a family dinner because she wasn’t feeling good, but she’s five now, less than three months older than our oldest, and I wanted our sons to sing. To know she’s their cousin, and she’s five, which is a big milestone for any child.
I need to write. I don’t know if I have any words. I need to grade, but I’m not sure I can focus. Then there’s Halloween flyers for the neighborhood party tomorrow, and we need to buy cat food…but all I can think about is Tabitha, so sleepy she can hardly open her eyes, and I hope there’s a miracle and her heart starts beating right and Monica and John can take her home…
            That night we visited again. They thought she’d been stabilized. That’s all I wanted. And I’m an optimist.
            When we ate at the hospital Thursday night, I really thought she’d be okay.
 

            Tabitha died on October 27th. On Thursday, I put my right palm on her casket. My sons have pink handprints on there—hot pink, not pastel, because Tabitha hated pastel pink. She wore an Alice dress under the rainbows on the lid, and siblings and cousins sprinkled her with glow-in-the-dark stars.
           
We went to a tea party in her honor on Saturday. It was happy and heartbreaking, and she would have loved it. Especially the Cheshire cat cupcakes. And the sparkles. And the doves.




Monday, October 29, 2012

Robot Unicorn Attack

Grading...dishes...tired...hm. Must fulfill duties to blog. Here, play this game!

Play it here

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkins

I want to paint Angry Bird pumpkins this year--I'm much better at painting than carving, and I've got a lot of extra acrylic paint from my murals and other projects! Here is a picture from be different act normal:

I love the shape of the yellow one in particular, and I think the use of the stems is clever! If only I can light something on top of the bomb one (it is the best).

Monday, October 22, 2012

SMA is the worst.



SMA, or Spinal Muscular Atrophy, is one of my least favorite things in this world. I love my niece Taleah and my niece Tabitha, and both of them have to suffer because of a genetic condition they can't control. SMA is the number one genetic killer of children under the age of two. I had never heard of SMA until I met my future-husband and his family, and now I wish it really didn't exist. It does, though. I wish it didn't, but it does.

I once went to a doctor to get the genetic test and see if I am a carrier for SMA. He'd never heard of the disease (he signed the forms anyway, side note, and I'm not a carrier). Anyway, if doctors don't always know about SMA, I figure that lots of other people don't, either. And if more people learn about it--and maybe, just maybe, if enough people care they can donate and help little children to walk and run and live a normal life.

Little Tabitha is in the hospital. I pray she will get better soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

E-book Reader

After my son got sick, and then took amoxicillin to get better, and then reacted to the medication with a leopard-spot swelling of hives, I have started to consider buying an e-reader. I need books, especially when I am in front of the TV all day watching Elmo, who is a fine furry monster in his own way but doesn't interest me like, say, Tiffany Aching. And maybe (this is justifying the purchase) I could use it to respond to student scholarship essays. Oh! And also critique partners (I have critique partners with books that are very hard for me to leave on the computer screen because I want to read them all the way through really really fast now!). I could help them!

Okay. See, now that you know all the reasons I need one, do you have any suggestions? Kindle Fire? Nook to support Barnes and Noble? A tablet like the Nexus? I would love to hear anything about any one of them--especially from a reader/writer's point of view!

(Now Cookie Monster is a Muppet who is interesting. I have to admit that I look up from even a Terry Pratchett book (usually) when that big blue glutton comes on screen!)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Favorite Parts of Today

Lava ash bread for lunch (okay, it was monkey bread, but we changed it).

Two-year-old dumping peanuts on the floor while a visitor talks about how fun it is to have kids. Then he goes and dumps out the goldfish crackers.

To the zoo! With cousins!

Dinner at Chiles. I had never been there before. No sons or nieces escaped. Hooray!

This is a baby snow leopard who is pouncing on a seal. According to my four-year-old, who is always right about what creature/superhero/thing he currently is.

Cutest nieces! Our two-year-old was running with Dad, but he was there, too. And Aunt Allison, who took better pictures. And Uncle Richard, too!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Favorites

I have a hard time picking favorites. At the beginning of the year, I tell my students they can ask me anything, and I always get questions like What's your favorite book? Your favorite song? Your favorite mythological creature? There's other questions as well, but those ones make me think. And what I've decided is: it depends.

On some days, when I'm feeling reflective and quiet, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is my favorite book. On some days (like today) when I'm trying to distract a four-year-old with a broken candy bar (gasp!), my new favorite might be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is an entirely different kind of story. On different occasions, I might feel like listening to Florence and the Machine, or the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, or (occasionally) the first CD I ever discovered on my own (Jagged Little Pill, during middle school, in case you wanted the complete record). Favorites are hard to pick! Even favorite colors depend on context, it seems (for the four-year-old? flaming red. for my writing room? green is supposed to be soothing...).

Yeah. If it's a favorite, I answer based off of mood.

And my favorite mythological creature? Dragon.

For now.


* If you watch this, you will get an old song stuck in your head. Plus thunder! You have been warned.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Phew!

Today my two-year-old ate food. He didn't have to sit on my lap every hour he was awake, and he didn't melt into a puddle of "moooooommmmyyyy" sobs every time I had to stand up and, say, get him a Popsicle. And he didn't feel hot, and he even smiled and laughed some! Turns out he had a double ear infection, and since we got him on antibiotics on Thursday he's finally, on Monday, returning to his normal happy-learning-to-talk two-year-old self. Phew! If there's one thing that gets in the way of writing (and grading, and eating, and sleeping...), it's a very sick child.

I'm so glad he's feeling better!

He's giggling upstairs with big brother right now. Occasionally I hear my husband yell "Hey!," which is ominous, but it's worth several rolls of toilet paper (or whatever they're getting into) to hear him happy again!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Poor, sick toddler

I want to call him a baby, but he's not anymore. Regardless, the boy is sick. His nose is so stuffy that whenever he tries to say "Hi, Mommy!" it comes out as "I, Mubby," and he's constantly wiping his upper lip with his hand. He won't drink medicine unless it's mixed with water on a spoon (for some reason), and I just wish I could give him a hug that would destroy all the germs inside his two-year-old body.

At least he's got "Melmo" and Sesame Street, or he'd be a constant puddle of misery. Poor little guy!



Monday, October 1, 2012

Goodreads

I like Goodreads. I've meant to keep a journal of books I read for the longest time, but I usually don't get beyond a page or so before I misplace the notebook, or start using it for to-do lists, or find four-year-old watercolor renditions of volcano lava chasing wolves on top of my notes. So Goodreads lets me keep track of what I've read, and roughly how well I like it. This is good. As a reader, I give three stars to books that I finished but don't want to reread, four stars to books I really liked, and five stars to books that I loved to the point of needing to own them forever.

There are two star and one star books. Hopefully I put them down before I finished them. If I didn't, I would feel annoyed with myself.

Anyway, all of this is my confused way of saying: as a reader, I like Goodreads.

But as a writer, it's sort of scary.

You get to see who loved what you wrote and who didn't, and no matter how awesome your book is, some people won't like it. Many of the negative reviews will have valid points. Some won't. Its all part of being brave and publishing, though, and I'm so, so grateful for the authors who publish. Because reading is my favorite! And I've only read super-good books recently, so I am happy with the reading world.

I'm glad I blogged today. I almost forgot to renew my library books! I shall go and do that now...


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Grading Season

I've caught the first essays of the autumn! They are tricksy little beasts, and shall keep me busy. In the meantime, here is an interesting video on how Angry Birds actually went to space. I love how creativity and science overlap! Also, space! I love space...


Monday, September 24, 2012

Books I'm reading

I just finished this book:


And I enjoyed it. It was more exciting than I expected, and creepy, and I loved the photos. So did my two-year-old--he flipped through it for a good fifteen minutes today.

Now I'm on another peculiar book, one that I've already mentioned I'm excited about:



And I'm loving this one, too! It is also creepy, with black feathers on the first page of each chapter, and my four-year-old listened to the whole prologue without any pictures, and he keeps asking about the "shiny gear bird." I think he wants one for a pet. Oh! And the details so far--twigs for hair, black-eyed creatures that see too much, candy-coated names for sinister faerie politicians--it's so much fun! In fact, I want to go back to reading now, if you don't mind. Have a happy Monday!