Thursday, December 28, 2006

Paddington Scare

The other night we popped in a DVD called "Paddington Bear Goes to School." Arthur was fairly bored with it (he was having a post-holiday day) and wanted to destroy the decorations in the other room and we were trying to get him to fall asleep. Then, about fifteen minutes into the DVD, Paddington started to dance the can-can.

Arthur went nuts. In a bad way. I don't know if it was the music, the stop-action high kicks, or Paddington's costumes, but he started crying and pointing at the screen. When we stopped the DVD, he cried and signed more. He cried if the can-can was going, but he didn't want it to stop. It was like the can of snakes.

I guess we'll have to watch "Moulin Rouge" when he's asleep; although, Mark and I have been can-canning for him yesterday and he seemed to like that.

Monday, December 25, 2006


When I checked my e-mail last night (between cleaning the house and getting the tree ready) I saw an e-mail from the Writers of the Future folks. "Uh, oh," I thought, "here it is -- another e-mail thanking me for submitting and informing me that my story placed at quarter finalist level (meaning K.D. Wentworth, the contest judge, managed to get through the story without putting it into a reject pile)." When I read the message, I learned that my story, "Glass Mask Magic," had reached finalist level. That means that it's in the running for first, second, or third place for the quarter. If the story doesn't win, there's a possibility that they might choose to publish it in the Writers of the Future anthology anyway.

This is really good news. I've been a semi-finalist three times before (meaning that K.D. Wentworth thought my stories were in the top 20 for the quarter, but didn't make the cut to finalist level). As a finalist story, "Glass Mask Magic" goes to a panel of other writers, and they decide the first-, second-, and third-place winners. Even if the story doesn't place, it means that it's certainly marketable. Of course it would be vindicating to win the grand prize (best first place story), but I won't know for a few more days if I've placed first (or at all) and nobody knows who the grand prize winner is until August 2007.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gift Exchange Shove

We survived another Burridge-Miller Gift Shove.

For those of you not in the know, here's how it works.
  1. A year ahead of time, someone offers to host a family party.
  2. On the day of the party, everyone gets into their cars and starts driving.
  3. Relatives arrive at the party site, and we all have a very pleasant time. Activities may or may not include
    • Singing Carols
    • Eating
    • Watching Football
    • Assorted Party Games
  4. At some point someone -- usually the person who drove the farthest -- will look at their watch and utter the magic words: "We have to get going."
  5. Mayhem. People rush around, sometimes from car to car, with boxes of gift-wrapped loot and shove them into the hands (or trunks) of recipients.
  6. Someone yells, "Wait! You can't go yet!"
  7. Rapid fire hugs and kisses preceed the emptying of the host and hostess's driveway (and adjacent street).
  8. Invariably, a gift is left behind or misdirected

This year was a lot of fun, and Arthur got to meet his first cousins twice-removed, Andrew and Zachary. And their toy trains.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Maybe His Own Room?

Scene: John is sewing a stocking for Arthur while Arthur and Mark are having a sword fight with spatulas in the living room, while the Blue Footed Boobie and the Racoon watch.

Mark: "What's daddy working on?"

Arthur: "Stocking" (a word he learned fifteen minutes earlier). (pause) "Elmo!"

Mark: "He's in daddy's bag on the chair next to the stereo."

(pause while Arthur turns around, walks to the chair around the corner, locates Elmo and returns to the living room.)

Mark (laughing): "Wow."

John (counting on fingers): "That's more than ten words."

Mark: "We're really going to have to watch what we say."

John: "I suppose we could speak in Spanish when we have sex."

Mark (archly): "Olé!"

Arthur: "Olé!"

John: "Perhaps we could use sign. Oh. Wait."

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Scene: John, Mark and Arthur pull into the driveway after Christmas gift shopping. Arthur has passed out in the car seat during the twenty block trip home.

John (turning off the ignition): "Honey, the child's asleep; you know what this means?"

Mark (from the backseat of the car): "Uh, no."

John: "Cookies!!"

(re-wind to earlier that day)

Scene: John stumbles out of the bedroom and into the kitchen where Mark is feeding Arthur nutritious oatmeal.

Arthur (upon seeing John reach behind a pile of gifts on the table and pull out a cookie): "Cookie!"

Mark: "Honey, are you modeling good eating habits for the child?"

Arthur: "Cookie!"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Twinkle What?

So far things are OK here in the southern Willamette Valley. We've had a bit of wind and rain, but the power's stayed on. I think I might be able to hear some thunder. We'll see how many trees are in the roads tomorrow morning, and if there's snow.

Earlier tonight, Mark, Arthur and I were in the kitchen. Arthur had a piece of paper and was forcing me to draw simple shapes on it, like "O", "E", squares, and hearts.

"Oh, I know," I said. "I'll draw a star." So I did and then said, "Star. Star."

Arthur pointed into the air and sang (more or less) "up above the world so high."

Since Arthur hasn't sung anything recognizable up to this point and most of his sentances have been one-word commands, Mark and I were about as floored as when he sat down in front of a computer for the very first time and started typing and using the mouse. Before he was one year old.

I've been signing (and singing) "Twinkle Twinkle" for a while, but "The Itsty Bitsy Spider" gets far more air time, followed by "La Petite Lepine Fu-Fu."

I guess I really do have to be careful about how much Annie Lennox I play.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Liquid Nitrogen

Yesterday on NPR, I heard a piece about eggnog. At the end of it, the interviewee and interviewer chilled eggnog with liquid nitrogen.

"How fun," I thought, and told Mark that for my birthday I thought it would be cool to make eggnog with liquid nitrogen.

Mark donned his safety hat, informed me that folks at his lab who get to play with liquid nitrogen have to go through a training, that liquid nitrogen was much much colder than dry ice, and that if I wasn't careful I could lose an eye.

Hhmph. Alton Brown gets to exhale nitrogen on NPR, and I don't see his safety glasses. At this rate I'm never going to invent a flaming tequila snow cone.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Sit down.

Are you sitting?


Denby is cancelling their Storm pattern!

Why God, why?

Thankfully, Mark grabbed some ramekins; but will they be enough? We live with a toddler! If you haven't gone Christmas shopping for us yet you know what's at the top of our list.

Snakes and Frosting

Last weekend Arthur was introduced to gingerbread and frosting. It wasn't exactly my idea, and the increased intake of sugar contributed to Arthur learning the word "cookie!" in about ten seconds. For the record, I have photos of Mark and my Mom introducing Arthur to the world of art as food as sugar.

As we put Arthur into the car seat to go home, he did a high-energy gyration that only little kids hyped up on sugar can do. It wasn't quite a scene out of The Exorcist , but it was close. I think we could have used him for the car's gyroscope.

Arthur has created his own sign for "snakes." We have a can of "Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle" that is -- you guessed it -- a can of springy snakes. Arthur has a fascination and a repulsion to it. He is always concerned that he knows where in the house the can of snakes is, and when he signs "more" for it and you ask him if you should open it (and launch the snakes) he quivers his head "no" and walks away at an oblique angle. Then he'll sign "more" again, and point to the can. If you do let the snakes fly, he becomes really excited and wants you to do it again.

It got worse when we re-issued a toddler's book of animals into the living room; it and a library book both have pictures of -- snakes! Simply turning to the page will elicit the "where is the can of snakes?" response.

I don't know where Arthur came up with this sign. It's not baby sign or ASL and if it were me, I'd simply pantomime a snake with my arm. No; Arthur has added "snakes" to his personal lexicon of made-up signs: he crosses his hands at the wrists and brings his fingers up to his throat as if both of his hands had been transformed into attack serpents. I'm slightly worried that he's going to give himself little hickeys (uh, no, doctor; he did that to himself...)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pre-Holiday Post

Arthur woke up this morning at 6:15. He usually wakes up about ninety minutes later. I think this is a part of the latest teeth installation, as he's been sleeping for about two and a half hours during his naps. Today he was kind of "bonky," which is what I call the tendency to bonk into things like sinks, tables, chairs, the walls, the floor, or windows.

Speaking of bonking into windows, the other day at the mall, he walked right into a very clean plate glass window. Luckily, he wasn't going too quickly. Mark and I were bad parents and had to hide our faces behind our hands.

Arthur has a new script in his Master Thespian Schtick. He'll place his fists over his eyes; if he's really into it, he'll tilt his head a little and yawn. When you ask him "Are you sleepy?" several times, he'll whip his hands away from his face and bug his eyes out to look very awake. Then he'll smile and laugh.

Arthur has pretty much gotten over Halloween -- now he waits for Mark to come home from work and ring the doorbell. But he really wants the beeswax candle on the mantle to be lit. Almost as much as he wants to eat a bannana. A typical conversation goes something like this.

Arthur (just finishing a banana): "'Nana."
John: "You just had a banana."
Arthur: "'Nana!"
John: "You only get two bananas a day."
Arthur: "'Naanna!"
John: "Bananas tomorrow."
Arthur: "Dandol."
John: "Arthur."
Arthur: "Dandol."
John (realizing Arthur didn't say "Dad-o"): "Oh. Candles at five o'clock."
Arthur: "Cock." (Points at mantle clock)
John: "Yes. That's the clock."
Arthur: "Dandol."
John: "Candles at five."
Arthur: "'Nana."
John: "Bananas tomorrow."

Arthur's latest new words are, car, tea, out, up, down, off, on, and bop.

Actually, bop has been around for a few weeks, and we're trying to teach him the word gentle. Arthur's favorite things to bop are the windows and the walls. And our new floor lamp. Usually with the heavest toy he can find. He's already put some long scores into the front door.

Let's see. After about five weeks, the bookshelves have been primed, painted and forced into position in our bedroom. There's scuff marks on the ceiling and my left index finger is still sore after five days from where I wholloped it with a hammer. Ninety-five percent of my books are in place. And I had to say to Mark, "Honey, you were as right as right can be; I have more books than I thought." So, there's an auxillary bookshelf in the opposite corner of our bedroom.

After I managed to fill the final portion of my five, eight-foot-long shelves with books, I got a sense of peace. The south wall of our bedroom is floor to ceiling books (except for the one two foot section that will become a desk). It reminds me of the old study in my parents house -- it had a bookshelf that was a eight foot wide, thirteen foot tall expanse of books (in fact, the planks in our house now are from that old shelf). I feel comforted knowing that I'm sleeping just three feet away from my large, consolidated library.

I think Mark's a little frightened.

Now the question becomes, what to put on the auxillary bookshelf -- Arthuriana, oversized fiction, or all those chatty little tomes by Dion Fortune?

Arthur's picked up some of our house decorating; last week we hung some photos. Arthur saw and now he wants to tape his his flash cards onto the walls. Mark let him.

The other day Mark got a taste of the Mother Grizzly Treatment. He had given Arthur a paint brush to play with. I was talking on the phone at the time, so I was in one of those states where I was speaking to my Dad on the phone and watching events unfold in front of my eyes. Now that I know better, I will simply hang up and call folks back. But since this was the first time, I watched Arthur toddle around with a paint brush in his mouth while Mark walked away to do something else. Half of my brain predicted that Arthur would fall with a paint brush in his mouth while the other half was speaking to my Dad about tiles for a counter. When my prediction came true (apparently), my Dad got an earful.

Arthur fell down. In retrospect, I don't think he had the paint brush in his mouth, but from where I was sitting, it looked like he fell and jammed it into the back of his mouth. What my Dad heard was me saying, "Are you all right?" Arthur crying, and me telling Mark (in no uncertain terms) that giving Arthur a paint brush to play with was NOT a good idea.

Later that night I apollogized to Mark for yelling at him. In an odd way, Mark's OK with it. "Wow," he said, "I won't mess with your kid again," he said the next day.

Arthur is spontaneously identifying "E", "O", and the number "2" when we read to him. Mark is unnerved by this. "I don't wan't to raise an idiot/savant," he said. "I don't want to raise a savant/savant, either." I guess that he's afraid that Arthur will figure out how to drive the car next week.

Mark's worries about raising an idiot/savant don't prevent him from showing friends and co-workers how Arthur can identify an "E" or an "O", and the two of them have a routine.

Mark: (Making a "V" sign with his fingers) "Hey Arthur, how many fingers am I holding up?"
Arthur: "Two."
Mark: "Very good." (Brings his index fingers together.) "What's one plus one?"
Arthur: "Two."
Mark: "That's right! How many ears do you have?"
Arthur: "Two."
Mark: (Holding the "V" sign behind his head) "Wow, that's great; Now how many fingers am I holding up?"
Arthur: "Two."
Mark: "That's incredible; you're psychic."