Sunday, November 30, 2008

I won NaNoWriMo!

I just wanted to share that I have finished my first novel!

NaNoWriMo08I started my first in a string of uncompleted novels at age 10, after reading an inspiring young writer's handbook. (It was, in fact, The Young Writer's Handbook
along the side there. Look how you can now purchase it for a whole cent! In my heart, I know it's worth more than that.)

Twenty-two and a half years later, I have finished one to completion.

Take that, lack of ambition!

Now I just need to revise the snot out of it, then start sending it off to agents, and simultaneously start work on the next in the series and finish up my other uncompleted novel that's nearest to completion (not the one from when I was 10). All this while taking care of a 17-month-old and running our own business.

But it will work. See how I chose the NaNo winner badge that celebrates my Viking roots. We are tough. We loot and pillage. We prevail.

I am a writer. I will be a published novelist. I will never be embarrassed at school reunions again.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's Christmas music time!

I love the day after Thanksgiving, because it's the day I can officially start listening to holiday songs.

Now, by December 26, I'll be sick of them all, but at this point I haven't heard them for almost a whole year!

Oprah Holiday Hits 2008Oprah's giving away some Christmas mp3s, if they're your style:

Have a Thrifty Holiday: Holiday Hits 2008

It's traditional favorites by Harry Connick Jr., Amy Grant, Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Faith Hill, and some people I haven't heard of but presumably are famous if Oprah knows of them. The songs are up for only a couple days, so download 'em while you can, along with the cover and label PDFs.

Another great find I've discovered for Christmas music is the local library system. If yours is like mine, you can search online by subject and sort by audio CD, so it's easy to find a list of all holiday CDs and place holds on the ones that appeal to you.

Now, I'm a little late at telling you about this if you haven't thought of it before, because the most popular CDs are already going to be on hold through the end of the year. But, leave yourself on hold, and go ahead and get the CDs when they come to you in January or February. I know you won't want to listen to them then, but give them a sample and rip the songs you like and save them in a holiday folder on your iTunes or iPod or whatever you have that doesn't start with a little i.

Then they'll be all ready for next Christmas, and will surprise you with how fresh and new they sound when they start playing in your holiday shuffle.

If you have any PepsiStuff points from drinking too much diet cola (ahem...), Amazon has alerted me that they will expire at the end of the year. You can use just 5 points for each mp3 download, so use up any by getting your favorite songs. Maybe whatever's still on perpetual hold at the library!

Happy holiday listening!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

colorful cornI have been racking my brain to think of something to write about. I'm hiding from relatives, see, and this is a justifiable reason to do so.

Yes, it's almost 10 p.m. and we still haven't eaten Thanksgiving dinner. It has to do with my sister-in-law eating two meals today (which, even on such a feast day, smacks of gluttony and future tummyaches), and the upshot is that there's still a batch of people in the kitchen, and then there's me sitting out in the living room, pretending to be Very Busy.

Help me out, Internets, what can I write about?

I know -- I will reprise last year's post and make it an annual tradition.

What am I thankful for?

  • It seems obvious to say family, but just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not true. I love you all, even if I am avoiding you.
  • Mikko is walking. He loves it, and we're getting a kick out of it, too. He's got at least a dozen signs, and I love knowing what he's thinking. He's becoming his own little person, and it's thrilling to watch.
  • I'm within 7,000 words of my NaNoWriMo finish, and I'm in the climactic, heart-stopping scene right now where the killer catches up with the heroine! I left in an exciting place specifically to motivate me to get back to it and finish up tonight.
  • Just in general, I'm glad I'm feeling like me. I'm writing, I'm taking ballet classes again. I'm not just a mother, not that that's a bad thing to be -- I'm myself again now, too. Sometimes when I'm stretching during ballet, lengthening my back and smelling the leather of my slippers with my nose to my toes, I just feel so centered, so present, so myself. I'm grateful for that hour and a half away every week.
  • Mrs. Pim the kitty is still a furry, well-cared-for little soul. Now that it's colder, she sits on our laps all the time again, demanding attention, as is her due.
  • This is a today one, but I harvested a gazillion tomatoes today. Yes, on Thanksgiving! I love the Pacific Northwest. The red ones all went into the freezer to make sauce when we're feeling winter-bound, and the mature green ones I'm saving out to make green tomato salsa, after I can get to the grocery store again for the rest of the ingredients (read: everything but the green tomatoes). It sounds delightful, so I'll have to let you know if I screw it up.
  • But, in good news, I got to cook tonight. I made the stuffed mushrooms. They're so easy to make that even a complete...well, even I can make them. But it went to feeling creative again. When we were first married, Sam and I traded off cooking more. I think I was trying to impress him with my wifeliness. Eventually, I felt secure enough to give up and let him at it, since he's so much better at the culinary arts. But now I think it's just laziness that I never take a turn. I forgot that it's fun.
  • As Sam answered during our dinnertime questioning (yes, we finally ate), Obama. And then Sam continued that he's glad it's been a no-drama year. As much as we sometimes miss our pre-parenting lives of being able to travel and do a lot of events and museums and such (we tried to fit those things in during Mikko's first year and exhausted ourselves), this year has been a good quiet. We're still in our little cottage by the sea, still working from home, feeling stable and content. 

A very happy Thanksgiving to you.

Colorful corn photo courtesy of George Bosela on stock.xchng

Monday, November 24, 2008

Idle parenting is very continuum

A friend sent me this link to a Telegraph UK article describing the practice of "Idle Parenting":

Idle Parenting Means Happy Children, by Tom Hodgkinson

It cracked me up while at the same time reassuring me (his manifesto includes lines like "We drink alcohol without guilt" and "We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work"), and it seemed very much in line with my Continuum Parenting ideals.

Hodgkinson describes the birth of his idle parenting epiphany with this Fight Club-like quote from DH Lawrence:

"The welcome discovery that a lazy parent is a good parent took root when I read the following passage from a DH Lawrence essay, Education of the People, published in 1918: 'How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning.'"

The basic idea of Idle Parenting is to let children play and do what they want to do while the parents get on with their sedentary, boring, grown-up lives, which is exactly what I crave.

Maybe it's because we had our first child in our thirties rather than our twenties or teens, but I find myself worn out when I try to play all day. That might be why Hodgkinson's insistence that since children like being busy and parents like being lazy, "it makes sense for the children to do the work."

That's one reason we're trying to train Mikko to stuff DVDs in envelopes, so that one day he can carry on our family business while we read library books.

Jean Liedloff's The Continuum Concept casts a vision that, though less light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek than Hodgkinson's, mirrors his insistence that children don't need constant attention of the sort that Western parents think their children crave. Based on her observations of tribal societies, Liedloff recommends a childrearing practice in keeping with what humans have evolved to expect: first, constant physical contact during babyhood while the baby passively observes what the adults are doing, and then, when the baby becomes mobile, increasing journeys away from the safety of the mother, eventually coming to rest within the peer group of other children for most of the day.

Obviously, most of us reading blogs don't live in tribes anymore, so in most families it's unlikely that there are enough children in the household to create a varied peer group for a Western child. But I do agree with the general idea that there are some things adults want or need to do, and there are some things children want or need to do, and we can both just get on with it. If Mikko wants to join me in my adult activities, such as helping us cook or clean or wash dishes or wrap packages for our business, then he's welcome and invited, as he learns the ropes of being an adult. But if he wants to hare off and enjoy himself in some childish giddiness, that's also perfectly acceptable, and I shouldn't have to feel guilty that I don't always join him in that. I can, if I want to, but he can enjoy his time as a child without my interference.

Here's another quote from Hodgkinson's article:

"Paradoxically, the idle parent is a responsible parent because at the heart of idle parenting is a respect for the child, a trust in another human being."

Children don't need to be raised in some heavy-handed fashion. They grow. They grow the way our cherry tomato plant grew this summer. It was a gift, so we paid no money for it. We planted it, and it took off. We provided some soil and some water on dry days, and God and the plant's inherent developmental arc did the rest. I know plant-to-parenting metaphors have been done to death, but seriously, people -- kids will grow all on their own, too. You provide the basics of nourishment, physical and emotional, the supplies for growth. But don't fool yourself into thinking you're creating a human being. That work's being done next to you, ahead of you, despite you, but not by you.

A final quote, but then go read the whole article if you haven't already, and also visit his site, The Idler.

"My idea of childcare is a large field. At one side is a marquee serving local ales. This is where the parents gather. On the other side, somewhere in the distance, the children play. I don't bother them and they don't bother me. I give them as much freedom as possible."

I'm living my life, writing my novel, being unambitious and thrifty and content, not impressing anyone at high school reunions or mommy gatherings, watching my kid grow and celebrating it with him. I don't trick myself into thinking I have more power than I do. I just let him run around me in a blur, wearing me out with his enthusiasm and energy, and refuse to feel guilty for sitting on the sidelines, watching him raise himself.

Hilarious photo by Andrew Crowley, from the article referenced

Monday, November 17, 2008

Essential breastfeeding product: Save your shirt & your dignity!

Welcome to the November Carnival of Breastfeeding: Product Reviews

This month we're bringing you posts on the topic of nursing products. Be sure to check out the links at the end for other great shopping and gift ideas.


I thought about what products I use in breastfeeding, and it hasn't been much. For one, you need a nice pair of breasts. Just a joke -- one will do.

But seriously, as far as things you can buy, the few things I've gotten I've mostly written about before: supportive and well-fitting nursing bras, helpful clothing, a nursing necklace for twiddling, and a simple pump (a nice manual like an Avent Isis works if pumping is only occasional). For the early days, I also used a little lanolin -- generic worked fine, and now I use the leftover to lanolize my wool diaper covers -- and pillows to bolster my newborn up to the right height (such as a Boppy, My Brest Friend, or, you know, a bed pillow or two!).

So, the only other thing my mind went to, as far as breastfeeding products I still use at 17 months, nursing pads.

They were absolutely necessary in the first months, when otherwise my shirts ended up soaked within minutes, but I still wear them now, and I can tell that they continue to prevent the odd embarrassing leak. There's nothing like sporting two big wet circles like targets painting your chest!

I tried out disposable nursing pads first, but they were crinkly, wrinkly, and obvious even through my bra and shirt. I didn't usually leak through them, but they often felt uncomfortably soaked before I had a chance to change them. Plus, they were difficult to readjust when I was nursing in public, and I would often find one flapping its way out as I was trying to fasten things up.

I thought I'd look for something better. I saw that the major brands had reusable cloth pads available, but I was already looking on eBay for diaper supplies, and I discovered that several sew-from-home moms create their own versions of cloth nursing pads, from wool, cotton jersey, flannel, fleece, or some combination.

I tried a few kinds, and the best for me are made from what seems like one layer of thick flannel and one layer of soft microfleece, serged together at the edges and contoured in two places so that it has a nice curved shape to it. I can put either side next to my skin, and they've been comfortable, discreet, and leak-proofing. Unfortunately, I checked and the person selling them hasn't had any listed in awhile, though other sellers have similar and affordable kinds available.

Another option is to make your own, adapting the pattern and materials to suit your needs. I liked these instructions from Exploring Womanhood:

Craft Projects -- Cloth Nursing Pads

It looks simple enough but thorough, and it allows you to make flat or contoured pads. If you want to contour even further, to give more of a rounded than a pointed top, just repeat the contouring instructions on the opposite side of the circle.

The suggested materials are cotton, terry, or flannel, which provide absorbency. You might try adding or substituting a wicking material as well -- something that's popular in cloth diapering or elimination communication would work, such as microfleece or wool. That will help keep the moisture from making its way onto your clothing or keeping the wetness against your skin.

You can start off with any fabrics you have at home. For ultimate discretion, follow the article's instructions about matching your skin tone. But if you have an opaque bra, you can use even kicky patterns without fear, so try cutting up old receiving blankets, diapers, or towels.

You can find other patterns online, and some will have you start out with a larger diameter circle (5" or 6"), acknowledging that the sewing will cut in on the diameter a little. You can see what works best for your shape and size. Some suggest that the pads should fill the cup of your bra, so there are no telltale lines around the edges. I've found that mine are thin and molded enough that it isn't a problem. Breastfeeding in public, too, is easier if the end result is flexible and on the thin side, so that the pad just sort of stays tucked and folded into your bra's cup until it's time to pull it up to close.

Caring for the pads is easy-peasy. I don't have a washer, so I just wash mine in the sink with my bras, with Eucalan or Woolite or, if I'm feeling plebeian, dish soap. You might be able to throw yours in the washer and dryer, depending on your fabric choices. Wool will need special care.

Feel free to experiment, and let me know how your pads turn out.

Or be lazy like I was, and buy some from a work-at-home mama, which is not a bad idea, either!


Please read our other carnival participants:

Breastfeeding Mums reviews The Food of Love, a witty book about breastfeeding
Babyfingers raves about her Bravado nursing tank
Half Pint Pixie finds gorgeous nursing bras for smaller-breasted mamas
The Motherwear Blog checks out breastfeeding and pumping CDs
Mama Knows Breast suggests breastfeeding and pregnancy pillows
Blacktating gives tips on products to boost milk supply
Mama's Magic blogs about basics and bling
Breastfeeding 1-2-3 finds comfort with the Medela Sleep Nursing Bra
LaylaBethMunk @ offers a selection of favorites

DIY photo from the Exploring Womanhood project

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Salma is breastfeeding "like an alcoholic"

Oh, why not?

I'm feeling all worn out by this NaNoWriMo dealio, so all my writing energy (and, incidentally, all my cleaning energy, though that's easily dissipated) is being poured into this novel.

Therefore, I will once again bring to your attention the latest in celebrity breastfeeding news.

Salma HayekSam was reading The Huffington Post and happened across Salma Hayek's admission (as referenced from the UK Times) that she's still feeding her 14-month-old.

"'I'm like an alcoholic,' she shrugs. 'It's like, I don't care if I cry, I don't care if I'm fat, I'm just gonna do it for one more week, one more month, and then, when I see how much good it is doing her, I can't stop. Eet's a very powerful thing you know.'"

(NB: I'm not the one transliterating her accent.)

All right, fun things from the article. First of all, the opening sentence from the Times is, "It’s hard not to notice Salma Hayek’s bosoms." Looking at pictures of her in all her mammary glory, I can confidently assume that we have the same ginormous cup size. Granted, I don't have the tiny rest of the body, but as Salma herself says, it's not always easy for nursing mothers to lose weight. Salma is admittedly drinking beer to increase her milk production, so that's part of her issues, but from the article it sounds like both of us have the same underlying reason for why it's hard to slim down while breastfeeding -- we're so dang hungry all the time.

"'And by the way, the myth that says you lose all this weight when you breast-feed? That is sooo not true. Look,' she protests, grabbing her tummy and then reaching for the plate of biscuits the waiter has set down on the table, 'it’s like, "Please, everyone, can you stop telling me I look really

I'm sorry to hear that she's in pain while breastfeeding and hope she can get that worked out (although at 14 months, things are usually well into a routine), but I'm glad she's open and enthusiastic about being a mother and is taking such good care of her daughter.

NaNoWriMo 08I'm hoping this post makes any sense, because I've needed to stay up until 7:30 every morning for the past week and a half to write my word count for NaNoWriMo. Mikko decided to make my life more interesting this month by combining my ambitions with a sleep strike of his own. He's been refusing to go down to bed until 3 in the morning, then getting up after six or seven hours of sleep, and his naps have dwindled, too. I'm hoping it's a temporary aberration as he excitedly exercises his newest skill: walking. Yes, we have a full-fledged Frankentoddler on our hands, lurching around the house on flat feet all day long.

It's impossible to type a novel when he's awake, so I have to suck it up and just use his sleep time to catch up on work rather than sleep. I guess if November is Novel Writing Month, then December can be Sleep Month. Cooperate, Mikko? Please?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sleeping like a baby

Sleeping ToddlerI have come to a revelation in the difference between adults and toddlers in terms of falling asleep.

To illustrate, picture going to bed. What do you do? First off, of course, there's all the rigamarole of brushing your teeth and getting ready, but I mean the very basics, after you've turned off the light. You climb into the bed, lie down, pull up the covers, and ...

.. you close your eyes!

Yes, that's the difference. Toddlers skip this crucial step. And that's why it takes my 17-month-old so dang long to fall asleep each night!

Is it against any sort of legal or ethical codes to Super Glue little eyelids?

Yeah, thought so. Sigh. Maybe just Elmer's?

Now imagine how not to fall asleep, supposing some giant had cruelly placed you into a bedroom and snuggled you close in the bed, trying to convince you to give in and lower your defenses with sinister back rubs and a warm drink. You might keep your eyes strained toward any movement of interest, refuse to lie down in case your body took that as a sign to relax, squirm and kick the wall to keep the adrenaline pumping, screech and sing to keep your mind active, and when the giant was distracted (say, while typing a blog post), you might attempt a stealthy crawl for freedom.

There's Mikko right now, fighting hard at 1:23 a.m.

Toddlers act like sleep is a surrender, a capitulation, rather than a goal to be sought.

Silly toddlers. Don't they know how much they'll miss sleep when they're our age?

Image courtesy of Dez Pain on

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Novel beginnings, 1 & 2

Here's a cool story to illustrate my last post. Read at least the last few paragraphs:

Dancing in the Streets << Yay! Pigeons

This brought tears to my eyes.

NaNoWriMoThe blog above also references another item I'd love to bring to your attention: November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month!

The crazy goal is to write 50,000 words of continuous fiction in 30 days! Word count and speed count; quality doesn't. So, if you're wanting to join me, get to it!

I'll blog more about it at my writing site,

Onward and upward!

Picture the change

I am giddy with joy that we elected Barack Obama as our next president. I know about half the country isn't thrilled, including many of my dear friends and family members, so I've been trying to be gracious in my glee.

I think, I hope, though, that we can all agree that this is a historic and incredible step for America. A nation built by slaves, a country where within a decade of the time I was born there were public places that made it illegal for black people and white people to sit near each other. This illustration from Patrick Moberg really says a thousand words:

Patrick Moberg-Nov. 4, 2008