June 30, 2006

Strange Piece of Paradise

Since my computer's been offline, and Matt wasn't here to entertain me, my library addiction had quite a flare up during the last month. One of the books I read was Strange Piece of Paradise; since it's the story of a vicious attack that occurred just over the mountains, it's even more compelling that it would be anyway.

It's *long*. It's printed on some kind of really nice paper, so it looks like your standard 300-page book. It actually weighs in at over 500 pages, and I'm not sure they're all necessary. Helping is that the writing is engaging, the story is absolutely fascinating, and, of course, remembering the local angle. Still, if I'd been the editor ("if I ruled the world!"), I would have tried harder to pare down.

Part of the problem is that the book has two tracks, winding around each other, but essentially separate. One track is the exterior story of the woman who wrote the book: she, along with her college buddy, was viciously attacked as they camped. Some guy drove his truck over the tent in which they were sleeping, then went after them with an axe. Both still bear scars and have physical effects to this day (it happened in the late '70's). Eventually, she realized that she needed more closure on the incident; their attacker was never arrested. The second track is the story of what the attack did to her psychologically, and how her search for the attacker affected her, as well as the community from which he--the axeman--came. It is perhaps shallow of me, but I found the first track way more compelling. I was interested--fascinated, really--with how she dealt with the aftermath of trauma....but I could have used fewer anecdotes about it, I think.

Still and all, I'd recommend it. By the end of the book, I felt like I had real insight into the author's personality, courage, and character. Parts of it are brutally, brutally honest, and I have to respect that.

Week in review

I spent Monday and most of Tuesday and Wednesday trying not to do
anything. I was generally successful, and except for allergies, I'm
feeling much better.

Those allergies...I saw a news article a day or so ago that said our
lovely state is currently the WORST PLACE in the country for allergies,
measured in pollen counts and conditions. Yay. So if you're
suffering, and you live nearby, now you know why (N.B.: Grass is
particularly pernicious at the present time). I'm planning to finally
break down and get some of those goofy paper masks for when I work
outside; I borrowed a bandanna to wear over my mouth from Matt today,
and "looked like the gardening bandit" while I trimmed the camellia.
But you know, it really helped!

Since I've basically taken a two-week hiatus from getting absolutely
anything done outdoors, there's grass in the garden, weeds all over,
and all the things that needed to be done before, are needing to be
done still, only worser. On the up side, it's not supposed to be over
100 degrees again soon. I did get my herbs hacked down to size
(cutting the feverfew completely to the ground; it'll be back, and
besides, it had babies all over! Anybody want some?), curtailed some
nasty interlopers back to the property line (English ivy and
blackberries....shudder.), and watered thoroughly.

Yesterday was when we finally got my computer to the hospital; it was
obviously released today. Since we were in town (and the workers
needed to turn our water off again), we spent some time at Grandma Pat
and Grandpa Bill's. Among the highlights was seeing one of the local
raccoons feeding on their back porch. They have quite a few outdoor
cats who mingle with the raccoons; and the latter are happy to eat
close by, even right next to the sliding door, as long as it's closed
and the people stay on their own side of it. So we watched from only
about sixteen inches away. I was amazed at how opposable the raccoon
thumb is; the one we watched was scooping cat food out of a plastic
bucket quite tidily with her hand.

Wednesday we went to the library for story time, and to report the
girls' hours for the summer reading program. Two things of note there:
One, my girls "read" freakishly a lot. The girl (a young volunteer?)
who recorded their hours and distributed raffle tickets was wildly
impressed. I mentioned that we don't watch TV and that books are
Laura's favorite toys (Emily's pretty fond of them, too). While Matt
was gone, she easily got in four hours of reading a day; we would all
sit together for at least an hour in the morning (I read a board book,
and then we always hand it to Emily; she manipulates it while we read
the next one....), and she spent many of her spare moments, especially
while I was busy keeping things together, poring over books. (She has
recently graduated to being allowed to handle books with regular
paper--not cardboard--pages. A favorite now is one of Scarry's books,
"The Best First Book Ever!"--called the kitty book around here, since
there are giant cartoony kitties on the cover and starring in the story
(such as it is.) ) Now that things are more normal, she doesn't get as
much time in, but it's still two to three hours a day. True, she may
not always be technically interpreting the letters into words out loud,
but I figure it counts when she's turning the pages, pointing at
things, and (sometimes) repeating the story to herself. So she's
racking up those hours that translate into raffle tickets and "book
bucks".

The second notable thing was that there weren't very many kids at
reading time (ten?), and Laura was a happy maniac, dancing and singing
with abandon. Very different from our last trip (when she pretty much
stood and stared the whole time); I guess she just doesn't do crowds.
Emily, on the other hand, crawled around to strangers and tried to use
them as levers to help her stand up.

Speaking of which...the reason I say she's kind of a daredevil is that
she's so focused on the task at hand that she endangers herself
constantly. I swear, she's got an Olympic (gymnastics?) trainer on ice
somewhere, and she's on a deadline to get her regimen perfected. She
wakes up in the morning, and wants to stand up, or, preferably, walk
(except she can't yet.). From then on, anytime she can, she wants to
practice standing. The fact that she can't stand unsupported, however,
seems to get forgotten quickly. Typical event: she pulls herself ever
so carefully up by the edge of the couch (hardwood floor and rug
below). There are two board books on the couch (deposited there by
Laura, who "cleans" the rug rather quickly when she's in the mood to
dance). Emily grabs one in each hand. Wait! There are no hands left
to hold on! Boom. Bonk! Waaaah! [scoop. "Oh, Emily", said with a
sigh and a shake of the head...]

O.K., I can see this happening once. But she'll get right back up and
do the same exact thing again, over and over. Perhaps this is the
universe's way of teaching me that stubbornness and stupidity start
with the same letters for a reason....I am now actually hoping she'll
just hurry up and get strong enough to walk. She'll probably still
fall down, but perhaps not as often!

And we're back...

Ahhhh.

I am at last sitting in front of mine own computer, typing away. It
may not be ergonomically correct, but my wrists are definitely used to
typing HERE (Matt is considerably taller than I, after all, and so his
office is set up for him. And his height!)

It was, as it turned out, the power supply that needed to be replaced.
Judging by its behavior recently, it was probably dying for some time.
I haven't checked every nick and cranny yet, but there appears to be no
loss of data or other damage. Yippee!

This should provide me with slightly more time to write. :-)

June 25, 2006

What a Week!

Well, Matt's back home, safe and sound. He enjoyed Dallas, and of
course Nationals is always fun (though hard work, too.)

I am trying to take a few days off from the long, long list of summer
projects that is calling out to me; since I had a very nasty cold the
whole time Matt was gone, I have a bit of recovering to do. It was not
a fun week, although we survived. In fairness, I have to say that
Laura was wonderful, all things considered: she helped out in a lot of
ways, and was much less obnoxious that in times past, even though she
missed her Daddy quite a bit. (I wrote all the days of the week he'd be
gone on the whiteboard in our kitchen, and we crossed one off each
night, so she'd have a visual--and countable--reassurance that he'd
return.) Anyway, both of the girls also had the nasty cold (Laura
caught it last, and got over it first--ah, to be young and have an
undamaged immune system!), and then eventually even Mah--my main
support/rescue/emergency person--caught it, too! So we all just limped
along.

One welcome diversion was the work the city did on our street all week.
The Water Department was putting in new meters, and incidentally (since
they were in there anyway?) newer and bigger pipes between the meter
and the main. So we got to stand at the window and see them using the
diggers and cutters and jackhammers and pavement-smasher-downers and
regular ol' shovels, and special shovels, too. It was pretty exciting,
actually (I think Laura got bored before I did....), and knowing it
wouldn't go on all summer made the noise and the rattling of the house
bearable. There are now a bunch of patched places in the street
(watching them scoop the pavement off in big chunks was a favorite
moment), and an equal bunch of missing squares of sidewalk, filled in
with gravel. My only regret is that they didn't remove more of our
sidewalk; I could see the square next to the one they removed, being
lifted up a bit with their work....in two pieces, since it's cracked
down the middle. Oh, well....some other time, maybe.

Another interesting side effect of their work is that the massive
"water hammer" that has always been part of life in the house has
apparently gone away. (No one mourns its passing, especially since it
was loudest in the nursery). Something else probably nobody but us
would notice is that the toilets have a lower water level in their
bowls now. Gotta love water pressure and all it can do....carve
canyons, power machinery, lower toilet bowl levels!

On a completely other note, Emily very nicely waited until her Daddy
was back home to perfect pulling herself up. She did the deed today,
and I'm certain will soon have a whole new set of bruises to show for
it. Obviously got a bit of the daredevil somewhere in her genes,
judging by her lack of hesitation after spectacular falls!

On a completely *other* other note, we got the house appraised two
weeks ago. We still don't know what it's value is (haven't gotten our
copy of the appraisal yet), but obviously the bank DOES, since they
sent us a note saying we had achieved the object of the appraisal:
removing the private mortgage insurance from the loan. Considering the
housing market, we figured it was a shoo-in, but still, it's nice to
have it go away earlier than scheduled. We'll probably spend the extra
bit of monthly money on bandaids and Neosporin (see previous
paragraph.)

I'm hoping this will be the beginning of a return to more faithful
blogging. The pumpkins already have little buds on them (I did manage
to get outside to water them a few times last week), and I'd hate for
anyone to miss the excitement! ;-)

June 24, 2006

What We Do on Weekends

Matt called me this morning from the Grassy Knoll. (I asked if he still thinks there was just one shooter. He does.)

I stumbled across these videos that the Dallas Morning News put together about Nationals. They give a nice flavor of what we do:

Part One, preliminary rounds (note the people talking to walls and sleeping in corners), and
Part Two, finals: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.

Since it's a news source, I don't know how long the videos will stay available. Enjoy!

More news later....

June 10, 2006

Recent Events

...or, why you might not hear so much from me in the next few weeks. Nothing too traumatic, don't worry!

Reason Number One: My beloved computer is currently deader than a doornail. It will have to just sit until Matt gets back from Texas, since all the obvious solutions have been attempted, and we still can't get a pulse (and there's no space in the schedule to get it to the ER. Fortunately, computers are resurrectable in ways that people aren't.) Also happily, we are a two-computer family, so whenever I can get to Matt's, I can at least check my email, surf the web as needed, etc. Time for blogging will, however, be in shorter supply than usual. (But hey, I have all summer to bore you, right? ;-) ).

Reason Number Two: Matt's last week of school is this week, and then he's off to play...er, supervise a student who's competing at Nationals. (His plan for Father's Day 2006: Six Flags Amusement Park. You can bet I'm refining my plans for Mother's Day 2007....) I will be a single parent for a while, and while I have (drum roll!) gotten Emily to sleep in her crib quite a bit this week--thus ensuring my sanity and, possibly, cleanliness while I fly solo--I expect I'll be mentally tired, if not physically tired, at the end of each day. So I might or might not feel up to writing; only time will tell.

Reason Number Three: Emily has started crawling! While temporarily this is great in that she's been kept very busy lurching around to things she's previously only been able to look at, I see the future. The future involves Emily getting into *everything*, especially things we've gotten relaxed about, since we've either trained Laura to leave them alone, or she lost interest in them on her own. Besides, Laura has always been a *cautious* child; Emily rushes in where angels fear to tread! So I expect that shortly I'll be running after the baby, averting disasters wherever I can. This, more than anything else, could curtail my writing. We'll see!

June 7, 2006

Scenes from life...

Baby Sign: Emily doesn't participate much in the signing yet, but she
seems to have created her own little sign. Disconcertingly, it seems
to mean me.

She stares at the audience in a deep and meaningful way, starts saying
"Mmmmmmmmmm. Mamamah!"....and thrusts her right index finger firmly
into her right nostril!

Is this based on confusion over just how she connects to the feeding
apparatus? Or a comment on my accuracy in the middle of the night? I
don't think I want to know...
~~~~~
Alternatives to the Heimlich: Emily again, eating some more-solid
food. She gags--not choking, but obviously with something teetering on
that tickle spot in the throat where you're not sure which passage it's
going to go down.

Matt says, "Does she need help?" I say, "Yes, I think so!" He gasps
and reaches for her. *She* gasps...and, seeing what has occurred, I
say, "Or, you could just scare her so much that she aspirates the
offending food particle. Problem solved!"
~~~~~
Been there, Done that: I give Emily back a toy she's dropped out of her
highchair. Laura, from another chair, shakes her head and says, with
the voice of tired experience: "You know she's going to drop that
again."
~~~~~
And last but not least:

Mending Tape, Yet Again: The library's bookstore (run by "Friends of
the Library" as a permanent fundraiser) has been having a special on
kid's books this month, mostly those that have been withdrawn from the
library proper for one reason or another (two for one; get 'em while
they're hot!) My operative, authorized to make some minor purchases,
returned from perusing them with some good ones, but of special note
was a board book, "Mrs. Wishy-Washy."

The whole series (I think there are four or five of them) have become
favorites in the house, so it was welcome. But upon closer inspection,
I realized that the spine had been taped. Hmmm. I'm pretty sure
that's MY handiwork! So, (evil glint in my eye), now I know how to get
books for cheap--just tape 'em up, and wait until they're withdrawn!
(In actuality, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the tape per se, but the fact
that by the time we got the book [checked out the last time, not now
where we own it], the binding was about a third missing. But I enjoyed
the brief scheming moment.)

June 1, 2006

Codex update

_The Codex_ turned out to be so good that I stayed up far later than
was wise last night to finish it. In the end, it read quite a lot like
an Indiana Jones movie--which I think is FUN. Goofy in places, sure,
but exciting, adventuresome, good jokes....I will definitely read more
by this author.