Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Antics

Today is Halloween night.  The kids are in bed after a hard night of begging for candy.  We left a bowl of candy on our doorstep for honest children so that both Adam and I could trick-or-treat with the kids.   We spent the better part of an hour barking at Batman to wait for his sister, and trying to help a kitty cat climb stairs while dragging a heavy bag of candy (which she refused to let us carry).

Of course tonight was only the finale of a much anticipated Halloween season.  We've been frequenting the Halloween section at the library all year long (despite my persistent suggestion that we try reading non-seasonal books). At the beginning of the month I took a special trip to the dollar store so the kids could help me pick out decorations.  William and Jadzia helped me put skulls, spiderwebs, pumpkins and gravestones up in the front yard.

Last week we attended the Early Years Center fall fair.  The kids dressed up in costumes and played, danced, ate snacks and did crafts in a loud over-crowded hall. A lot of their friends were there and we discovered that one of William's friends had the same costume as he did (not that a Batman outfit purchased at Walmart is all that original). The event culminated in a parade through the offices of the building where they got a few candies.

On Thursday we went to the mall's "safe trick-or-treat", though I'm not sure what's safe about a thousand toddlers roaming free in a mall that's more crowded than Christmas.  Every year I swear I won't go to the mall trick-or-treat next year but the next year rolls around and I forget my resolve.  The kids didn't even get a good haul this year.  We did get a cute flip book of them bouncing around in their costumes (though we had to wait an hour for it). Actually my favourite part was watching William hold hands with his girl friends. Batman is happiest with a mermaid on one arm and a fairy on the other.

Yesterday we went to a nearby orchard to pick a pumpkin from the field.  We chose two reasonably orange gourds.  The kids drew pictures on construction paper and Adam did his best carving to their specifications. I think they turned out pretty well.

And now it's over.  Tomorrow I must take down the decorations (putting up cobwebs is like toilet-papering your own house). I wonder how much candy I can steal from the kids' haul without them noticing...

Friday, October 28, 2011

High School with Brent Spiner

Last night I dreamt that I was in high school.  I was in a classroom trying to get to a computer and two boys were blocking my way and being bullies.  I looked over at Brent Spiner, who was the teacher, and said "Sir, can you help me?"  He just looked away.  So I dealt with the boys myself using some wicked Judo flips. Brent threatened me with detention, but I told him there was no way I would go.  "I used to be a big fan of yours, Mr. Spiner," I said. "But I guess I'm not anymore."

I then attempted to do some equations on the computer but Brent Spiner kept childishly turning off the monitor on me.  I stormed out of the class.  Looking at me watch, I noted that it was 7 pm.  I gather Brent Spiner had been running an after school algebra club rather than a regular class. I think that my storming out was a victory for him, because he didn't want me in the club (maybe because I'm a girl, I don't know).

I was telling my friend about the dream (while still dreaming) and she said "Oh no, that wasn't a dream, he's really a teacher here."  I tried to find my locker, but couldn't find any that were the right colour.  I walked down the hall, thinking maybe I was on the wrong floor.  I eventually figured out that I was on the right floor, but someone had painted all the lockers orange as a prank.  I found my locker pretty quickly after that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Aquatic children

I should have posted this on Sunday but I was too busy getting my creepy dead body on a beach story ready for the campaign challenge deadline. So without further delay, I must tell you how amazing my children were at swimming lessons.

I knew William would be great.  He's a fish.  He goes underwater.  He's fearless.  When I told him I had signed him up for swimming lessons he said "But I already know how to swim."

Jadzia was another story.  She always holds tight to me in a white knuckle death grip whenever we're in the water. When I took her to the pool with a friend of mine a few weeks ago, she stayed on the edge of the pool playing with the water toys.  She became frightened when the drain made a funny noise. My friend agreed she might not be ready.

On Sunday, when we tried to get her to shower before leaving the change room, she backed away in fear.  Of course, the first thing the instructor did was lead the kids to the shower.  It's all over, thought I, she won't do it.  Instead, she ran under the spray without a care in the world.

Of course, it helped that William was in the same class.  Jadzia looked a little terrified she was asked to grab onto the teacher's arms and swim, but since big brother was doing it, she didn't protest.  By the end she was enjoying herself immensely, splashing, laughing, making Mickey Mouse ears, and behaving less timidly than some of the older children.

And William, as always, is a fish.

I am so proud of both of them.

BTW: There were also scuba divers in the pool that day. (You can see them in the background of the first picture). We were watching them while we waited for the kid's lessons to start.  William says that after he learns to swim, then he can learn to scuba dive.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Something a little different.

Here's a story I wrote for Rach's third campaign challenge (I'm #112). Excuse the profanity, this character is hardened by the horrors he's seen.

Invasive Species
The first breath of sunlight shines over the water. Already I’m sweating like a gorilla in a polyester suit. The sand permeates my socks and shoes, makes a gritty paste between my toes. What a waste of time. This fucker drowned, I guarantee it, knew it before I saw the body. Those CSI-type shows make like it’s a big mystery, but when a body washes up on shore, ninety-nine percent of the time it’s drowning. People just don’t respect the ocean the way they should.

I stand with my back to the cadaver. Being downwind doesn’t help, but I’m used to this shit. Some rookie talking through a handkerchief tries to give me a report.

I can’t hear a goddamn thing this kid is saying. I’d ask him to lower the hankie but he’d probably puke.

I yawn; a mistake. My saliva tastes of fish guts and rotted flesh.

The rook is done talking, so I crouch to get a better look at the bloated carcass. Orange and blue Bermuda shorts cling to its legs like a bad joke.  A ripple moves across the dead man’s gut, a pet for the medical examiner.

The corpse’s eyes snap open.

I’m losing it.  I’ve been around death too long and I’m losing my fucking mind.  This happens to other poor saps, but not to me, please God, not to me.  I stare into that dead face as a raspy murmur escapes its lips.  “Synbatec,” it says. “Tacise de mer wastopaneer.”

The rookie trips over himself in his hurry to back away. Thank God he heard it too.

“Wastopaneeeeer!” screams the corpse. The rook vomits into the water.

My gaze falls back on the dead man’s bloated abdomen and again I catch sight of that ripple.  This is way above my pay grade.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I've found my new Monday Night Activity.


I discovered a five-dollar drop-in improv class at the Staircase Theatre in Hamilton.  Yesterday I was browsing online, looking for classes that I might want to ask for for my birthday.  That's when I saw the drop-in boot camp.  Monday night, I read, (Hey, it's Monday today).  Five dollars (Hey, I have five dollars in my wallet right now!) I've always wanted to take an improv class (by "always" I mean that I once thought about it for five seconds).  I mentioned the class to my friend Columbia and she enthusiastically agreed to come with me.

Holy Spock, we had so much fun!

There were twelve people in the class (I know because the teacher, Devlin, counted us).  There was an equal mix of men and women and I was neither the oldest nor the youngest, in fact I was right in the middle (I know because we lined up by age at one point.)

My favourite game (I won't bore you by describing the whole class) was "Emotional Symphony".  Four people on stage were each given a word and an emotion. They would then have to say the word in the emotion they were given whenever the conductor pointed to them.  The conductor could raise her arm to make the person emote more, or lower it to make them emote less.  Conducting is WAY more fun than it should have been.  SUCH POWER!

The sketches were my other favourite.  I got to throw a temper tantrum, sing a song, scream at the top of my lungs and pretend to have an orgasm.  I was often paired with Columbia, which is great because we work well together. At one point we were doing a sketch exercise with two guys.  The floor was divided into three sections, each with a designated emotion: depression, lust, and hate. The teacher had to stop the scene; the boys had forgotten to emote hate, because they were too busy watching Columbia and I in the lust section.  Hilarious!

There were two classes and we had so much fun we stayed for the second one too. I don't know if I've found a new career as a sketch comic, but it is definitely a great way to loosen up and get out of Mom mode for an evening.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday....Random Wardroids Snippet

Six Sentence Sunday is a blogging thing where published and unpublished authors post six sentences of something they've written every Sunday. This week I've decided to participate. (All part of my ongoing goal of weaseling myself into a writing community of some sort).  Anyway, below is a snippet of my recently finished novel Wardroids.  The character speaking here is my protagonist Emily Reid, the only women on a third-class mining spaceship.  Other characters mentioned: Thirty-two Eighty the wardroid sex slave, and Adam Black the ship's Commander. Though you could probably have figured all that out. Here it is: 

I step over an unconscious man as I enter the crowded room and wonder if he passed out there, or if the men saw an opportunity and used him as a human doorstop.  I don’t see Thirty-two Eighty at first but then she emerges from under a table.  Someone shouts “my turn Honey!” and suddenly she’s pinned against the wall and pretending to enjoy herself.  Adam Black isn’t here.  Though he’s never had any qualms about using the wardroid, he doesn’t like sharing her in public.  The thought of what they do in private makes my stomach queasy.

So there you have it. Does it make you want to read the book?  Buy the book?  Publish the book? Comment below with your rave reviews of my writing prowess.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Appreciating Art

Today the family and I went to the Art Gallery of Hamilton because, being a dreary cold day, I was in the mood for some culture. If you spend enough time looking at art you begin to feel saturated by it, as though each painting, sculpture and installation imprints itself on you, exhausting your ability to perceive.  This is the feeling I anticipate every time I go to a gallery.  My family anticipates boredom.

Though I was the only one particularly enthusiastic about visiting the gallery, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves once we arrived.  Although Jadzia was afraid of most of the art.  No, really. She hid her head in my shoulder as we browsed through bold colorful paintings, black and white photographs, and African masks.  Adam and I tried to tell her that these were just pictures that people had made and weren't likely to come alive, but I don't think she quite grasps the difference between reality and fantasy.  She did, however, enjoy the quilts.  I was never that into textiles, but seeing my daughter delightedly point at the patchwork of flowers, animals, and colours made the exhibit worthwhile for me.

William seemed inspired, and only a couple of times claimed to be "hungry" (four-year-old code for "bored").  His favourite piece (everyone's favourite actually) was Kim Adams' Bruegel-Bosch Bus, an installation involving an old red VW van covered with various toys, trains, cars, models, etc.  (It's on permanent display, so you can go have a gander any time you want). It reminded me of one of those I Spy books.  The more I looked at it, the more details emerged.  The kids inched closer and closer as they examined the various scenes, and Adam became paranoid that they were going to touch the artwork, especially since a security guard with dreadlocks had been following us around the gallery since we arrived.

By the time we left, we had spent an hour and an a half in the building, seen pretty much everything, and no one had fainted from fright, whined to go home, or destroyed a priceless artifact.  I declare the outing a success!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Muppet Dream (Scenes unlikely to appear in the next movie)

I don't remember my dreams a lot but when I do I like to write them down and share them.  Indulge me:

I was in the Muppet movie.  The dream began with a typical Muppet scenario, a man behind a desk told Kermit and his friends that he couldn't loan them any money and made a point of telling them that they now had ZERO funds. Disappointed, the Muppets and I went outside into the rain.  Standing in a field of flowers, I bent over to hug Kermit.  With tears in my eyes I told him that I loved him and that it would be okay.  "It's okay right now," he said.

What followed was a scene that I am pretty sure will not be in the upcoming Muppet movie.  The Muppets spotted a playground on the other side of the field.  Though it was rainy and dark, they eagerly ran towards it.  There were people hiding in the shadows, wearing bunny and chipmunk costumes. They attacked the Muppets.  I was on the ground, under the play structure, defending Kermit against a young woman with a sharp kitchen knife. She sliced up my skin pretty bad, and made a diagonal gash across the palm of my hand before I was able to grab the knife.  I threw it and the blade stuck into the trunk of a tree.

After that I was able to overpower her easily.  It turned out the woman was a troubled youth, who the Muppets took pity on.  They allowed her to stay on the couch in their apartment, which was crowded and disorganized as only a Muppets' residence can be.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

In honour of Thanksgiving I will be writing the rest of this post in Turkey (not to be confused with Turkish). Here's what we did this weekend:

Gobble Saturday gobble gobble gobble gobble wedding gobble gobble gobble friend gobble gobble. Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble Polish Hall, gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble.  Gobble gobble pierogies gobble gobble gobble gobble fun gobble gobble gobble gobble.

Gobble Sunday gobble gobble gobble hot outside. Gobble gobble gobble gobble park gobble gobble gobble sweltering gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble swimming gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble beach gobble.

Today gobble gobble raspberry picking gobble gobble parents gobble gobble gobble gobble farm.  Gobble gobble gobble gobble few berries gobble gobble, gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble small container.  Gobble gobble turkey dinner gobble gobble gobble berries gobble gobble gobble cheesecake.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!  

Friday, October 07, 2011

Celebrating minor achievements

  • Walked to the vet with a four-and-a-half-year old, a very slow two-and-a-half-year old, and a dog who can't seem to stop pulling on his leash and jumping up on strangers.
  • Took the children to the library at children's request. Left early due to younger offspring's lack of listening skills.
  • Served four peanut butter and jam sandwiches, two slices of leftover pizza, two apple sauces, two oranges, eight cups of milk and approximately 800 pieces of cheese.  (Not including breakfast) Percentage of that food that was consumed by me: .01%
  • Emptied the dishwasher.
  • Put breakfast and snack dishes into the dishwasher.
  • Put away one basket full of laundry.
  • Changed the batteries in my husband's mouse to facilitate my son's computer addiction.
  • Mediated several disputes between the children and the dog.
  • Dealt with four freak-outs. One computer related, one to do with leaving the library early, and the last two because I didn't serve enough cheese.
  • Researched publishers to send my book to.
  • Wrote half a paragraph.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

I won!

My first time entering the #HumpDayChallenge, a flash fiction contest over at Tracy's Tavern and I won!  The prize: bragging rights and a cute picture to display on my blog.

The challenge: use these words in a 100-word story: labor, corrupt, horseradish, aces, and turf.

So of course this is where my mind went:

The queen spreads her six legs in a starburst before me. Her vulva smells of horseradish. Despite her cruel and corrupt regime, I pity her vulnerability. For the first time, I don’t envy the mothers of our race. She contracts her muscles to turf the first egg from her womb. I catch it with my outstretched mandibles, letting the rest smash against the stone ground. As her labor nears its end, I thrust my pincer through her quivering body, bathing myself in her yellowish blood. She’ll never know why her aces turned against her.

Labour without the "u" looks wrong to me.  Also, I thought the use of "aces" was a little forced, and I have no idea why alien bugs would know what horseradish smells like, but that doesn't matter.  Winning is the important thing. 

Voting is important too.  So if you live in Ontario, and you haven't already, please vote today.  There's still time!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

How to write (and raise two small children)

Today is insecure writer’s support group day, so I thought I’d write something that will (hopefully) help writers and mothers alike.  Like any mom and writer, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy.  I feel like I’m either neglecting my writing or my children or both.  Nevertheless, I have been doing this a while and I have some tips to share that might help other writers and/or mothers in my situation.  (These tips are in no particular order).

Tip # 1  Use indoor playgrounds as your office.  I watch for coupons for these places because I have neither the desire nor the funds to pay full price.  The kids have fun, get exercise, and require minimal supervision because there are no roads to run into or creepy men who came without a child. Most indoor playgrounds have WiFi, which is unfortunate for those of us who find the web a distraction.  Also when it gets busy, it gets loud.  The morning is the best time to go for low crowds.  Anyway, even writing with a little background noise is better than hearing “Mommy” every five minutes.

Tip # 2.  Let things slide.  Chores that will not get done when I’m on a good streak with my writing include (but are not limited to): laundry, dishes, general tidying, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, walking the dog, washing my hair, washing my children.  If you’re worried about visitors, know that no one will disown you if you have a messy house (at least, no one important).  Children, of course, do need love and attention (and food) but they will whine when they are not getting enough, so there’s no need to worry.

Tip # 3.  TV is not evil.  If you’ve ever sat down and watched television for preschoolers you know that it is educational to the point of being vomit-inducing.  Through schmarmy plots about love and friendship they are learning about science, reading, math, geography, history.  You name it.  And they do retain the information.  If you don’t believe me, have a conversation with my four-year-old. When I don’t have the money or energy for indoor play places, the tube helps me get my quota.

Tip #4. Remember that it is good for your children to see you doing things for yourself.  I do not want my kids (particularly my daughter) to grow up thinking that they have to put everyone else before themselves.  I want them to follow their dreams, and do what makes them passionate.  The best way to do this is to lead by example.

Tip # 5.  Have a writing quota.  And make it fairly small.  My quota is 500 words.  If I kill myself I can make it.  A lot of writers  have quotas of 1000 or even 2000.  Well La Tee Da.  Those writers don’t have small children to take care of.

Tip # 6. Make a “Winner List” and a “Super Star List”.  This one I borrowed from Margie Lawson. A winner list is for things you must get done today (make it small and achievable) and the super star list is for things you would like to get done if you have time.  I don’t always keep up with this, but when I do it really helps.

Tip #7.  Write a sentence at a time.  Including thinking and typing, it takes me about two hours to get my quota.  I don’t always have two hours at a stretch, so sometimes I take ten minutes and write a sentence (sometimes even half a sentence) whenever I get the chance. Sometimes, I find I have more time than I thought I did and I get an hour when I thought I only had ten minutes. (More often it works the other way around).

Tip #8.  Don’t beat yourself up.  This is the hardest thing of all.  I read over the first three tips and thought “I sound like the worst mother in the world.”   I feel guilty when my laptop sits unopened for three days, and even guiltier when I get my writing done while the offspring enjoy their third viewing of Ratatouille. I write for myself, so I shouldn’t feel guilty about not doing it.  I need to do things for myself, so I shouldn’t feel guilty about doing it either. (Neither should you).

Peruse the links below for more insecure writers writing about their struggles.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Interview with me!

During our writing retreat Elaine Cougler interviewed me for her blog.  That interview is up now!  Of course, being a written word person, I feel like a bit of a dork in front of the camera. So, now that I've had some time to think about the questions I'll post some different answers here.

First, here's Elaine's video (for those of us too lazy to click a link):
My answers after thinking:

1. Tell me something wild about yourself.
Could this answer have made me seem more nerdy?  I think not!  Here's something wild: I had two kids. I know this is typical of a lot of women, but that doesn't make it less bizarre.  I opened up my girlie parts and out came a human head.  Twice!

2. What is your background and how much of it includes writing?
While I absolutely credit my mother as a big influence in my writing, I do have a writing background of my own. I currently freelance for Today's Parent Toronto, something I've done for some time. I have a recently published short story in a YA anthology called Cleavage. I have a minor in professional writing only because no major program was available, I also have a certificate in magazine publishing which included several writing courses. I've excelled in pretty much every writing course I've ever taken. Putting words together just feels natural to me.

3. You write all the time, tell us about that.
I need to be a little less honest sometimes.  Do my legions of future fans need to know that I majorly procrastinate with my writing?  Yes, I write all the time.  I am actually super-duper diligent, and yes, passionate! Of course I'm a real writer.  I am super mom!

4. What does writing do for you?
It gives me a sense of accomplishment that playing computer games never could.  Something I hope will make my children proud.  An example for my children, so that they will pursue their dreams.

5. How do you deal with sensitive topics in your writing?
I think my answer here is pretty good.  As to Elaine's question about "Native" vs "Indian", of course writing historical you use the historically appropriate term regardless of how offensive it is today.  One thing I should mention is that I do deal with topics outside my comfort zone in my writing including, but not limited to: sex, swearing, violence against women, violence against children, drugs, torture, etc.  Whatever the story calls for. The key is to not make it gratuitous, and at the same time to avoid sugar-coating something because your kids/mother might one day read it.

6. Do your friends understand why you write? Do they even know?
No it's a big secret. Nobody knows that I write.  I hide in a hovel and lock my words in a vault at the end of the day.  Of course my friends know! My friend Columbia has babysat my children so that I can get my words done. My answer in the video I'm afraid did not do justice to my truly amazing friends who absolutely do understand me, and understand the struggle to be creative while raising children.

7. What is the best thing you see yourself accomplishing with your writing?
My book is published and I have legions of adoring fans.  Pretty much what I said on the video.

8. What is the worst thing?
I am terrified whenever I hear about how many hundreds of times writers have to submit places before getting published. I don't know that I have the ambition or the confidence to go through that.

9.  What my books are about.
Goodness me, I could not have made my books sound more boring.  Really my book is good. Funny and action packed, with romance and suspense and everything.  Book 1 (which absolutely is ready for publication for whoever wants it) is about a woman with amnesia, the man who loves her, and a wardroid sex slave uprising.  Book 2 (in progress): is about a three-gendered matriarchal society and an alien family with a human hybrid child.  Does that make them sound a little more interesting?

Anyway, thank you Elaine for taking the time to interview a budding writer like myself.  This will surely help me gain those legions of fans we talked about.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Celebrating Minor Accomplishments

Dressed the children (including socks).

Managed to have a nap today.

Helped out at my sister's Stag and Doe without feeling like the nerdy sister (even though I so am).

Won a raffle prize (Toys for Jadzia. We're hiding them until Christmas/birthday).

Got several achievements on the Sims facebook game.

Paid exact change for jar of mayonaise.

Finished all the levels of Factory Balls 4 without a walkthrough.

Made dinner yesterday for the family in less than 30 minutes.

Participated in a family outting to the pet store.  (Bought a leash, food, and a squeaky foot for Worf).

Received unsolicited I love yous from offspring.
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