Thursday, May 31, 2007

Poopy Mosquitoes

a conversation in our house today:

Me: "Dan, I smell poopy diapers."
Dan: "Mosquito."
Me: "The mosquito is poopy?"
Dan: "Mosquito."
Me: "There is a poopy mosquito?"
Dan: "Ober there." (he points at the door)
Me: "There's a poopy mosquito over by the door."
Dan: (pauses a minute) "Me."

Yet another partially finished novel

I stalled on my other two novels, so they are fermenting for a bit. I have a rule that I never should force myself to work. When I do, I end up having to delete everything I write. If I can't figure out the next line, I walk away. So I did. The Western and the Thriller are resting for now, hopefully improving with some age and distance (and hopefully in the meantime I can figure out how to get my heroine from the sub-basement of a casino up to the penthouse office on the seventh floor without her being seen by the Tenth Intelligence, who are swarming the building and have a contract on her head).

Now, after something like two years, I picked up a project I set aside with just the first two pages written. They were good and charming, but I didn't know where to go with them.

But I felt drawn to the pages, and to a plot I had assigned to the character but not to the pages. I slapped them together and wrote two chapters. Then I deleted them. I did this five or six times, and now I have a book I'm excited to be working on.

The progression of this book has been startling, though:

Step One: Took the plot of a 16th century irish arthurian legend, "Orlando agus Melora" that I was enamored with. Initial concept: retell the legend setting it in our world.

Step two: take the first two pages in which an eighth grader, Melora, is given the Maltese Falcon by a dying gumshoe in an alley.

Step three: Try to write Orlando agus Melora as a YA (Young Adult--11-13 year old readers) urban Fantasy, where the Maltese Falcon triggers an ancient curse and Melora sets out on a magical adventure to break the curse.

Step Three: Delete all but the first two pages.

Step Four: Try to write Orlando agus Melora as a YA coming-of-age novel.

Step Five: Try not to gag and realize I can't stand to read coming of age crap, so I wouldn't have fun writing it.

Step Six: Try to write Orlando agus Melora as an adult urban fantasy.

Step Seven: Delete the first four chapters. They're not detailed and flowing enough, and I can't get beyond meeting Mr. Babylon.

Step Eight: Realize the problems in the story and start over. Try to write Orlando agus Melora as a mystery, in which Orlando gets kidnapped with the Maltese Falcon and Melora sets out to rescue him. Ah-hah! It flows. It works. I'm excited about it. The outline pours into my mind and I have a delightedly busy day trying to get it all on paper, and a week after playing with the weak points. Then start writing again, and it all comes easily. This is the story I should have been telling.

So I'm writing a mystery that marries a 16th century Irish Arthurian Legend with the lives of both Cellini and Caravaggio, the Maltese Falcon legend (based on history but largely created by novelist Dashiell Hammett in the 1930s), the real theft of a movie prop from a San Francisco restaurant in February of this year, and the research on art forgery and detection that I did for an article for Randall Wilson.

I never thought I could write a mystery. But a good story is a good story. And, working through all of this, the story itself hasn't changed. Just the trappings have changed. Even the characters are mostly the same. Amazing how similar all the genres are, in the end.

So now I've tipped myself into a new world, and it's a lot of fun.

Sometimes Mommy is Funny, too

So last night I decided I needed to know how much I weighed. I'd seen several of my previous drivers' license photos and I was really round after Anda was born and after Caleb was born, so I wanted to know how much I weighed after Ben.

So I stepped on the scale. Ten pounds more than last time I weighed myself, earlier this week. I have been eating lots of carbs (no time to cook real food, and I'm sick of carrots and red delicious apples), but TEN POUNDS! So I zeroed the scale. No good. Stood forward and back. No good. So, with a resolve to eat more healthy and start walking, I gave up.

An hour later, I still couldn't believe I'd gained ten pounds. So I went back and weighed myself again. Back to my normal weight!

Only then did I realize that the first time I weighed myself, I was holding the baby. I had gone into the bedroom intending to find out how much he weighed, and then got distracted taking care of other kids and forgot both that I was going to find out how much he weighed AND that I was holding him, and only remembered that I wanted to step on the scale.

Ahh, the joys of new motherhood. My brain might come back some day. Maybe.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Been Reading Again

I found Tim had gotten some books from the library, so I started reading again. Non-fiction. I read 280 pages on the bios of the groundbreaking studio recording producers. George Martin (Beatles), Phil Spector (the '60s girl groups), Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), the guys who invented rap, the guys who invented Ska/reggae recordings, etc. There were two major themes in common with all of them: drugs (even Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was over-the-top drugged out), with LSD and pot being the drugs of choice, and they hung around in the industry "making a name" for ten years or more before they got to be free to work and get paid. I guess Tim has 2 years to go.....if it's possible to be a musician without drugs.

The other book I've been reading I found in the garage: "Penny Candy," by Jean Kerr. I LOVED "Please Don't Eat the Daisies," also by Jean Kerr, about ten years ago, so I had high hopes for this one. I was a little disappointed. Perhaps because now I have my own set of boys, and our lives are actually MORE chaotic and funnier (I would guess) than hers. She does have a nice way of putting things, though. The two things that stood out from the entire book were, 1) the observation that it's harder to get a driver's license than a marriage license, and which is more important to society?; and 2) When you have a large, "nicely spaced" family, you end up saying, "Don't put your milk there; it might spill" at dinner every day for twenty years. She had 6 kids in 20 years. I figure her problem was the "nicely spaced" part. If she'd had 6 kids in ten years, she would have only had to say it half as much because you say it to several kids at once each night for ten years instead.

I must admit, I've said that my fair share of the time. I finally figured it out, though. You don't say it. You just reach over and move the cup. I figured this out after cleaning up spilled juice literally every night the entire year Anda was 2. She also fell off her chair every night at dinner, and I still haven't figured out a solution to that. She grew out of it, but what if someone else starts doing it?

Why have I started reading again? Well, there were books available that I hadn't read and that were longer than 20 pages and had no pictures. And night time has become exceedingly stressful, disjointed, and brightly sunlit, to my great disappointment. The problem isn't Caleb this time. The problem is that Dan and Ben each wants me to rock him to sleep first, and they keep each other awake fussing about it. I haven't been able to drop into bed until after 6:00 am even once this week.

I take comfort from the fact that this happens every time I have a baby--I remember missing church one Sunday because Dan kept me up until 8:00 am and church started at 9:00.

In the meantime, I have grown to loathe sunrise.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Green Pepper

A couple of nights ago, I was trying to distract Dan so he would stop crying until I finished nursing the baby. I told him "Tomorrow we need to go to the store and get a green pepper for dinner."

He toddled off into the kitchen and I heard him say, "Kitchen. Found it. Green salt. Green salt. Green salt."

My addiction retired....

Miss Snark, a literary agent blogger, spent the last two years telling new writers what they were doing that annoys literary agents and editors. By knowing what we were all doing wrong, many of us have been able to fix the problems and get more attention to our writing. I think she single-handedly coached thousands of writers through the mystical query process.

Unfortunately, her blog was taking lots of her time, and she is actually a real agent (although nobody seems to know who she is, really).

So she retired from blogging!

Now what will I look at about ten times a day to get my fix? My manuscripts, I guess.....

Anyway, a big thanks to whoever you really are. You will be sorely missed.

Fortunately, she's leaving the blog intact, so it can be searched still as an encyclopedia of information about publishing and what to do and not to do to get published. I'll leave the link on my sidebar. It's still worth perusing. Just won't be updated any time soon.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

US Gov't + Computers = a mess

So we got a letter the week before Ben was born saying that my medicaid had been terminated no less than twelve times. In November 2005. This came as a surprise to me, the doctors, the pharmacy, and the hospital, since they had been putting things through since then and Medicaid had been paying for it. The reason I got terminated? Because "REBECCA's income is over the allowable limit." This is a joke. Since I quit working to raise Caleb, I have made $162.50. All of that in March, 2007. I don't think that qualifies as over any limit. It's not even gas money anymore.

Then we got a notice that Dan was terminated because he didn't ask for medicaid. He's one year old. Nobody told him (or me) that he needed to say "Please" to get coverage.

Then we got a notice that we needed to fill out reapplication/recertification paperwork for everyone. The notice was dated April 16, 2007. The Instructions said to return the paperwork by January 9, 2007.

We also got a notice saying we couldn't get CHP+ coverage for our kids in January 2005 because we were approved for Medicaid.

Then we got a notice that the kids were terminated because they didn't turn in the paperwork by January 2007. That's the paperwork we got in April 2007.

So then today I got notification that I was terminated again in 2005. And another letter that said that the kids were denied CHP+ coverage again, this time a couple dozen times from February 2007-June 2007 (which, Caleb pointed out, hasn't even happened yet!). Why were they denied CHP+ coverage? Because they have medicaid!

Except nobody told me they have medicaid! And what about me? Do I also have medicaid backdated to February? That, at least, would cover the $9000 hospital bill (that was just me!).

So, in the midst of all of this, we spent weeks and weeks calling people, and nobody would get back to us for the longest time. Finally the caseworker called and reported, very kindly but sounding rather tired, that they are understaffed and overworked, but she'd put the baby, at least, at the top of the pile so he could ge the care he needed in Denver. She was really nice.

I think all those notices and decisions were made by a computer program. Thus the over-the-top kind of notification (being denied and terminated dozens and dozens of times) and the weird dates and stuff.

Anyway, as a result of all of this, we have had some problems. For one, Ben needs to see a urologist at Children's Hospital in Denver. He needed to see the urologist within the first two weeks of his life to make everything easy for everyone. The trouble is, they wouldn't even let us schedule the appointment because he didn't have medicaid. So that, right there, complicated things immensely.

Then, we got in with an organization that works for, but not in, the hospital getting public aid for people with no insurance so they can afford their hospital stay. They called us so we could get everything taken care of regarding the labor and delivery. They informed me that I have to have birth certificates and state-issued ID cards for everyone in order to apply for aid. Especially, they said, for the baby.

So then, when my caseworker called back, she confirmed that new laws require everyone applying for aid to have a birth certificate and state-issued photo ID to prove you are citizens or legal aliens. She said the baby was exempt for the first year.

The trouble was, I didn't have birth certificates for anyone. They're too expensive. These programs are for the desperately poor, living at 80% below federal poverty level even to qualify. So requiring people to come up with these documents is not as reasonable as well-paid lawmakers think. Birth certificates cost about $17; state IDs cost about $8. So it cost me almost $90 just to apply for medicaid. That's a lot of money for someone who only can qualify for the program if they don't have ANY money. Duh. Good thing Mom and Dad are generous is all I can say.

To the government's credit, you can now order birth certificates online. In Utah, you have to do it through the state website or you get charged $6 extra for handling. In Colorado, you have to order through the County website, or you get charged $6 for handling. But everyone got the birth certificates to me within 5 days. Boulder County mailed Daniel's so that I got it Thursday when I ordered it Tuesday afternoon. Not bad.

So today we got everyone cleaned up and dressed and threw them all in the car and braved construction to take four kids down to the Driver's License Division to get IDs. I was dreading this. For one thing, they didn't list anywhere online what documents I needed to have. For another, the DLD is known for long lines, being hot, and grumpy workers. And I have four kids and the oldest is 5, and nobody had eaten because we woke up and ran. We got there ten minutes before they closed. We thought they were closed because there were four workers and nobody else inside. No line. So we got to work. Turns out you have to have a birth certificate and social security number to get an ID. So it was fortunate that I wrote all the kids' social security numbers on their shot records, which I carry with me all the time so I won't lose them. (I hope my purse never gets stolen.....). Anyway, we worked through the system really fast. The workers said they're never that empty on a Thursday right before they close. It was a "fluke." I say, "It was a serious blessing for a tired mommy with four babies!"

So we got three IDs. Why only three? Despite the fact that the aid-getter insisted Benjamin needed an ID, you can't get one for a newborn. Why? Social Security numbers are issued for newborns, true, but you turn the paperwork in to the hospital for the birth certificate, and they take 7-10 days to process it. THEN they turn it over to Social Security, and they take 7-14 weeks to process it and another 2-10 weeks to issue the number and card, according to their paperwork. I've received the kids' numbers a lot faster than that before, but it usually takes 4-6 weeks. So you can't get a state-issued ID for newborns. By the time you get the required paperwork, they're not newborns anymore.

This overabundance of paperwork is a little silly, anyway. You get a birth certificate for being born. How do you get a social security number? Show your birth certificate. The SS Number is really proof of birth certificate. Then how do you get a Photo ID? Show proof that you have a birth certificate (SS number) and the birth certificate. I understand that they want a picture to prove that you are who your birth certificate says you are. But you see the problem?

I must admit, I'm really tired of winding my way through this jungle. It's not easy to get aid. It's expensive and difficult to sort through. And we haven't even dealt with the fact that we can't prove no income (we gave them bank statements and our business financial records and hoped that covered it). Can I jump through a few more hoops? I guess so. But it sure seems like someone could simplify the system. And I'm an educated person. What about people who are mentally disabled? They're the ones who really need the aid, and I can't see how they would ever sort through this mess. Especially if they got letters like I did.....

And I'm still not sure exactly what we do about the fact that we went through a whole pregnancy approved and then got unapproved. I guess nothing until they send us a bill. But it wasn't our fault that we were not approved--we qualified in the first place, and notified them of the pregnancy, as required. Then the computers got involved.

It's like the billing lady at the doctor's office said, "How many phone calls would you make for $13,000?"

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cutting Down the Maple Tree

Yesterday Caleb ran through the living room with a butter knife in his hand. He'd been playing outside, and he looked like he had some plan brewing.

So I said, "What do you need the butter knife for?"

"Sam's rocket got stuck in the maple tree," he said. Sam is the neighbor boy.

"So what do you need the knife for?" I asked again.

"We're going to cut down the maple tree to get the rocket," Caleb said.

I was so stunned I couldn't even laugh. After a minute of silence, he walked out, and I called after him, "We are not cutting down the maple tree!"

"Okay," he said. He put the knife away and ran back outside.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Baby Wipes

Dan, Ben, Tim, and I all have checkups this week. So far, all the boys look healthy. Dan had to get four shots. Now he hobbles around the house and fusses a lot. Not fun for any of us. He DID sleep in his own bed all night, though, which was fabulous for me--except that Ben wanted to eat every hour and a half instead of every three hours last night, so I didn't really get to sleep better. Oh well.

Anyway, I showed the doctor Ben's cherry-red bum and said, "None of my other kids looked like this...." except for the yeast infection on the leg-creases, which they all had. She said, "Stop using baby wipes." I guess any little rash, when wiped with baby wipes, becomes a huge big nasty deal. The kids had just used all the rest of the baby wipes on themselves (arms and feet, and a few windows and walls), so I had just switched back to my mainstay: wet paper towels. Within 24 hours, the cherry red was gone, and Ben stopped crying during all diaper changes. I guess I was right all these years when I said, "I don't like to put chemicals on my baby's bums." The doctor also said, "Switch diaper brands. Most people don't have any trouble with the cheap diapers--only the expensive ones seem to cause rashes." This is the second doctor's office I've heard say Don't Use Wipes if your baby gets rashy.

So being poor maybe is actually better for the kids--I can't afford wipes or expensive diapers, and it turns out they're not good for sensitive skin anyway. Same with laundry soap--I buy the cheapest kind and use ammonia in the water (gets the clothes cleaner than Tide), which, coincidentally, has no dyes or smells that stick to the clothes. When we switched to church-brand detergent, Dan got eczema from it! And we buy Jergen's soap because it's cheap, but I had a nurse tell us once that only ivory and jergens are safe for baby's sensitive skin--if you use anything else, you have to buy separate soap for babies. And, in fact, I'm allergic to both dial and church-brand soap.

Anyway, I'm down to my "regular" weight (still 10 lbs over the top "healthy weight" for my height) so I pulled out my normal "big size" clothes--and they fit! That was fast. Unfortunately, I looked in the mirror and didn't much like my profile, so I'm going to go to my post-nursing diet right away: no candy, drink mostly water instead of sugar, eat carbs with protein, and all sweets are okay IF they're home made and I eat something good for me first. I crave carbs when I'm nursing, so we'll see how this goes. Eventually I'll add pilates back to the list, too, since I lost 6 inches around my middle in 3 months last time I was diligent at it.

Despite being motivated by vanity, the goal really is to get my body in shape enough that I can carry yet another pregnancy off. I figure I have 18 months to do whatever I'm going to do for my health, and then we start over again...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Food and stuff

You know, fish sticks are worse than hot dogs.

How do kids eat all this stuff? Is it the mask of ketchup they slather it all with that makes it palatable?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I haven't thought about quilting almost since we moved into this house. Sure, I have a quilt that is just a few hours from being done. I always do. The current one was promised to a friend for the birth of his first child. That child is now 4. They have two more children, too (or maybe 1 1/2--I don't remember).

When we moved in to this house, I had the living room set up with a writing station, a sewing station, and a quilting station all ready for me. I never used the quilting station, and the last of the quilt frame went outside just before the baby came. I was too busy writing. I did finish a quilt while we were living in Colorado Springs and house hunting. That was the last.

So it was a great surprise to me Sunday morning when I got back into bed after getting all the kids ready and off to church that, as I stared at my ruby-red curtains with the light shining through just enough to make them glow, the image of a quilt appeared in my mind. Complete. All my quilt designs come that way--the entire quilt "appears before my eyes" (in my mind, but just as visible as if it really were printed on the ceiling, wall, or, this time, the red curtains). So, well-trained from many years of other quilts appearing, I grabbed a pen and paper and sketched it all out.

It's not easy designing from a finished image that fades unless I sketch it out (and even then). What I see is the finished product, not any of the intermediate steps or how to get there. I can't turn it round and round in my mind, or feel it, or examine how this effect or that shadow was constructed in fabric. Being away from quilting for years made it that much harder. It actually took me three tries (I could get that effect this way:......) until I realized the lines in the quilt were--duh!--quilted in.

So now I am fighting the urge to run over to the fabric store. I need undyed muslin (my background of choice anymore), ruby red alligatorskin textured vinyl (I often have to find these kinds of things in the form of old clothes, linens, tablecloths, or fabric remnants at thrift stores), cream-colored flannel, and the riches jewel-toned red velvet they have. Plus, possibly, red chiffon to match (and overlay) the velvet. I don't know about the chiffon yet--I have to go to the fabric store and play with it and velvet to see what effects I get. I might have to go with rich red satin, instead. I just don't like working with satin much because it fades, and red satin so often is more "scarlet" toned than "wine" toned. Or it's just wine colored, and I want red wine kind of color. So so picky. I suppose it's a miracle that I usually find everything I need at thrift stores instead of regular fabric stores! All of this nitpickyness is just why so many art quilters just buy undyed, unbleached muslin and make their own colors.

My problem with quilts (and watercolor, actually) is that I am completely in love with COLOR. I want bold, bright, strong colors. I want the texture and tones you get from oil paints. They DO make these kinds of fabrics, but I always have to take into account the extra cost and the print style on the fabric (most bright colors come in some variety of calico, not plain). Not being able to mix colors to create the perfect shade and feel used to hamper me a lot more--until I figured out how to layer chiffon over another color. Now I have lots of options.

So much of the joy of designing quilts comes from the limitations. Dad used to say that great art comes from working within restraints. It's true. Working with fabric had definite restraints. You really Can't do some things. Defining the work as a quilt adds further restraints. For example, a work is not technically an art "quilt" unless it has three layers: top, batting, and backing. On the other hand, some of the joy of making art quilts comes in the breaking of the rules, like using vinyl as one of the fabrics (technically, even art quilts are "supposed" to use cotton or cotton-poly blend) or putting in "not enough quilting" (the comment the judges gave me for the brick wall quilt when I entered it in a quilt show). I have added further limitations to myself: until Sunday, all quilts I designed were designed to be created using patchwork techniques, any single top could only use one patch shape (or that shape cut in a clean half from a corner to a corner), all quilts had to be hand-quilted. I especially love working within the "rule" I have for myself that all three visible layers must be intentionally designed (the top, the quilting, and the backing--thus no machine-quilted "filler" patterns) and the quilt must be attractive to look at from the back as well as from the front.

I have come a long way, I guess, from my early "rules". Grandma Wilson showed me that embroidery has a good place in quilting a long time ago. She also introduced me to the idea of using tying (old view: "the abomination!--that's for bed quilts") as an effect. Other art quilters introduced the idea of using non-fabric things (paint, buttons, baubles, etc) in the quilts and making them not bed-sized.

I have noticed in my life that working at something doggedly and then taking a complete break from it actually increases my skill at the thing. For example, when I took typing 1 in high school, I ended the first year typing about 45 wpm. I took the summer off and didn't type a single thing. The next school year started, and I found myself in typing 2 because none of my other classes worked out (who knew that the Lord was giving me a vital skill for my future as a writer--I thought He was frustrating my plans somehow at the time). When I took the typing test, I could type 60 wpm. Huge increase from time off. For me, time off is just as vital as practice.

So I had time off, and then sat down to design this quilt and found that it didn't fit into many of my old rules. It's about a yard square. It is still pieced, but not patchwork-style--and I might applique it (which I always shunned before because I wasn't good at it and because it took away the constraints that helped me work). It is an artwork made to be hung on a wall instead of a "quilt" made to be hung on a wall. It only has batting in the design because of the effects batting will produce in the background, not because of the need to define it as a "quilt" by someone else's standards. I finished the design, and it was good, and I realized that I had just mentally exercised all the skills that all the years of "following the rules" taught me--and created something that didn't follow the rules!

The other breakthrough with this quilt is that my mind was designing to finish--easily and quickly--instead of to craft the most perfect quilt by quilter's standards.

So my mind is opened suddenly to me as an artist as well as me as a writer. And I have found that even thinking the art--even designing the quilt, despite the fact that I cannot finish now--is immensely satisfying to me. I get as much delight from a beautiful artwork that only I can see in my mind as a beautiful artwork that I see in a museum. Color, line, form, and visual rhythm are an intense joy. What a blessing to rediscover art!

And then yesterday, staring at the new shelf Dad built in the living room, I figured out how to put a sewing station back together in my bedroom. I've been without a sewing station for a year. This is a happy thought for me.

Oh, and the design was a pomegranate.

Friday, May 04, 2007


I'm becoming convinced that while labor and delivery are easier with an epidural at the hospital, recovery is easier if you go all natural at home. Most of my current aches and pains are direct results of the hospital, not the labor and delivery. For example, I have six needle marks in my body that are still bruised--at least one on each hand, two more on my left arm, at least two in my back--that make it hard to function. One of the needles was for a tetanus shot (because they also have pertussis in them, and it has recently been discovered that childhood immunization doesn't provide lifetime immunity as previously suspected--and adults with whooping cough often don't feel particularly sick, so they give it to infants, who die). That needle mark is still red, swollen, and sore enough that I can't sleep on my left side or let anyone touch it.

The epidural itself has caused me grief in recovery EVERY pregnancy. This time I have no severe headache, but parts of my back and bum are still either numb or hurt like crazy, my tailbone is swollen and hurts, and my feet and ankles get severely swollen by nightfall every day. This is supposedly a side effect of an epidural--one that I had last time I had more than one dose of epidural medication (when I had Caleb). Looks like I either get one dose with a headache or two doses with swelling afterward. Or labor pains. I can't win.

Fortunately, the kids have recovered quickly. Daniel is finally not afraid to touch the baby. In fact, today he was going outside with the big kids and he invited Benjamin to come, too. All the kids love to talk to and kiss the baby. Benjamin is heavenly, too--he even puts himself back to sleep at night, so I can nurse him and then lay him in the crib wide awake and go back to bed, and he plays quietly for a while and then puts himself back to sleep.

Today Anda decided to play that she was me, and we had a little stress when Benjamin woke up and needed to nurse. She insisted that since she was Becca, she should nurse the baby. Finally, I said, "Why don't you sit in your chair and nurse your baby, and I'll nurse this doll." She got the hint and found a doll to be her Benjamin and pretended that my Benjamin is a doll.

Caleb keeps trying to get a response out of the baby, and so far hasn't gotten so much as a squawk for all his talking and funny noises.

Thanks to frozen foods and paper plates, we're all eating fine, and finally sleeping relatively well, and Dan is patient when I have to nurse right when he wants to be rocked to sleep. Everyone's playing nicely. Nobody has tried to carry the baby or feed him yet.

So far, so good. Now if I can just get so I can sit comfortably and roll over in bed....not to mention walk, bend over, etc.....