25 December, 2012

Tree Sniffin'

The day is finally starting to settle down.  With the Bug just reaching 18 months, she's not quite at the point of tearing through everything with a bow on it.  She is old enough to understand some presents are for her and some are not.  Each of her presents demanded the enthusiastic toddler's attention span.  We capped off our drawn out day around five o'clock, complete with a nap, west coast family video calls, leftover meals, and much, much joy.

Then we had dinner.

Then we cleaned up.

A few days ago, whilst playing with the Bug, she accidentally jabbed my eye with her finger.  It's still quite red, but feeling less bruised.  It didn't hinder my ability to celebrate this time of year.  Only, my dull pain reminded me to find less full-contact interactions with the Bug.  (less, not none)

She really likes having a pine tree in the house.  She'll smell it, hum her approval, and then guide the closest adult by the hand to the tree.  That aforementioned adult is expected to kneel and smell the exact spot of the tree that she found so appealing.  In case there be any confusion as to where that particular branch can be found, the Bug will grab the back of your head and guide you to it.  And you better note your appreciation.  If not, you probably didn't smell it quite right and should try it again immediately.

In similar fashion, adult hands are pulled toward anything the Bug wishes to have a demonstrated.  Where on the pony's ear do you squeeze to make it whinny and move?  Where on the turtle do you press for what song?  How do you peel this clementine?  How do you open this drawer/door?  How does this cat like to be petted?

One of the great joys in watching the Bug's development is her growing collection of silly walks and dances.  My personal favorite we call the Quasimodo walk.  It's not unlike an old man with a swinging left arm, but really all she lacks is the tell-tale hump on her back.  I've got a great idea for a cardio workout, too.  I call it, "Dancing with Toddlers."

That's all for now.  Merry Christmas to you all from the Bug, Grandma, Wifey, me, and all the animals.  If you'll excuse me, I have a tree to sniff.

12 December, 2012

Now I Know My I T Cs

For good reason, parenting classes never tell you that you'll wind up spending half an hour dancing in a circle singing the alphabet song on a loop. There's no way to adequately explain how much fun it can be.

We have a great number of toys to give the bug familiarity with the letters. Now, whenever she see them, she starts signing "I T C, I T C, I T C" and quickly requests hearing the proper "words" to the song one more time.

I can tell it will become dizzying soon to keep up with her new vocabulary. She can accurately tell you the difference between arm and leg. Almost hourly, I hear a word from her and can't be sure if it's the first time she's said it or not.

Much to our delight, she has a new found penchant for hugs and kisses. Even more happy is how much better she is at playing by herself.

04 December, 2012

Two Two

I'd like to know the Bug's inspiration for her latest game. She flips over her little plastic stool, sits me down on it, pushes me over (with a bit of help from my playacting), and then screams and laughs. Sometimes, she'll even tumble after me.

Where do kids come up with this stuff?

The Bug uses the word "up" quite effectively these days. Typically in the imperative form. Even if it's been the twentieth time I've reset myself on the stool, I get up. An obedience I've taken some criticism for. My feeling is it's better to encourage the Bug's verbal communication than go easy on my knees.

She is picking up words with a bit more regularity. "Hug" and "kiss" have been mastered. Mastered, and demonstrated on the likes of kitchen cabinets, the dishwasher, and toys.

One of the Bug's great joys right now is to count two. Not to two (one is a little tricky), but she recognizes pairs and counts them. It might be "two, two," but I'll take that at seventeen months. She finds the counting of ears and eyes especially hilarious. When she's on a roll, everything in sight gets counted... as two.

28 November, 2012

East Coast Buggin'... Again

Once again, Wifey and the Bug have moved to our North Carolina home.  This time, with Grandma, too.  The Bug was a very good little traveler, in spite of the confinements inherent to two-and-a-half-hour flights.  We are told it is typical that flying toddlers fall fast asleep as the plane lands.  By omission, that also makes it typical they are wide awake during the flight.

Any seventeen-month old requires constant stimulation and activity.  We managed well on the plane.  And we're managing even better these days back at home.  All of her old toys have been welcomed in turn with an improved skill set that makes them more appreciated.  Everything thrown deserves a shout of "Oh, yay!"  And sometimes kicks are in order.  When the Bug wants to see me kick something, she'll grab my leg and pull it toward the object.

Some toys, buttons, and touch screen options require the use of grown up fingers.  The Bug knows which ones these are and will not hesitate to grab the most convenient finger and put it to good use.  Her manipulation of the world and it's inhabitants have improved with her level of communication.

It seems she's learning at least one new word a day.  "Kitty" and "Mommy" still stand out as the most clear and oft used words of her vocabulary.  "Turtle" is right next in line.  "Turtle," by the way, can just simply mean "green."  Now that all four cats are together in the same house again, there are frequent happy sightings throughout the day accompanied with a series of thrilled shrieks.  You can imagine how happy the cats are.

The Bug will correctly announce when she is up and when she is down.  When she says "uh oh" it's always best to check, but usually just a dropped book.  She is very good at saying "bye-bye."  She calls out all of the birds in view.  And she loves to tell us where the lights are.  She makes it easy for us to know when she's done eating now as she waves to the food and says, "bye-bye."

It's a relief to all be back together again.  I look forward to being able to post more first-hand accounts in weeks ahead.  For now, "bye-bye, post."

06 November, 2012

Bug For President

Just kidding.  Yes.  It's election day.  Whilst I await the maelstrom of electoral votes to report in, I decided to write a long overdue and non-political update on the Bug.

She and Wifey are still in California with Grandma.  Grandma is doing much better and we're in the middle of preparations to move her into our North Carolina home.  Reunited, again, as it were.

I'm not updating as much because I'm not gathering any firsthand accounts of the Bug and her development.  Better to condense all hearsay into these quasi-monthly updates.

The Bug's animal awareness has now extended to impersonations of animal sounds.  The two chief ones being a bee and a crow.  For the bee, she hums and waggles her head.  To make a crow sound, she opens her mouth quite wide and caws.  These impersonations probably result from a desire to communicate with her world.  Something she improves upon daily.

As most children her age, she understands more words than she can speak.  And equally appropriate, she tries harder on the words that mean the most to her.  As an example, Angel Cat's name.  She can't quite get it right, but she sure is cute trying.  Sometimes she'll default back to imitating his shrill, staccato, triple meow.

She's very good at helping to unpack any box and subsequently fill any container, regardless of size, with a seemingly non-random collection of items.  She could be imitating the near daily process of sorting and packing Grandma's stuff.  Every little bit helps, I'm sure.

Most sixteen-month old toddlers are enthusiastic, indefatigable wrecking balls of cuteness.  However, if the Bug can maintain her stride, she just might be President someday.

02 October, 2012

A Bug Blog Year

It was September 27 of last year when I first started this blog. So, it's been around for a year. I haven't posted every week. I stopped the Writers' Wednesday and Family on Friday posts back when transitions and computer woes made keeping up with three updates a week too much of a hassle.

I can say the blog is still alive, if for nothing else, to chronicle my daughter, the Bug. I guess it also keeps the Russian spam commenters busy. (You wouldn't believe the number of spam comments I get to delete _every_ day.) I know they're Russian because Blogger tells me which country each view originates from.

It's been a crazy year. Started out with me being a write-at-home dad, then Wifey and I needing to switch roles, my work requiring me to move to the opposite coast and spend five months away from my family, getting them moved out here and into a routine, and now they've been back on the west coast for over a month (shortly before my previous post in August) since we found out that Grandma has cancer. The good thing is that Wifey and the Bug can be there for Grandma and Granny (my mom) is there to help as well.

The Bug has improved greatly in her walking, climbing, and dexterity. She attacks every challenge of baby-proofing Grandma's house with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. It's become safe enough that the Bug requires being chased around the couch until she's worn out enough to sleep through the night. Requires. You'd think multiple trips to the playground and beach walks would be enough.

Her vocabulary has been expanding as she examines one's mouth intensely to discern how one can create such clarity of sound. Her versions of what few words she likes become sing-song and surrounded with her own language that sounds like Hindi mixed with Korean.

Earlier today she off-handedly said, "all done." Her astonished mother called her out on it and sought confirmation. Apparently, once the Bug realized what she said she was stunned into a wide-eyed, slack-jaw stupor in her high-chair. Recovered, she spent much of her bath time rehearsing the phrase.

Now that a year has elapsed for this blog, feel free to peruse the archives for ones you may have missed or ones you'd like to have another look at.

28 August, 2012

Brushing Bug Teeth

I guess it was a few weeks ago now (around the time that the Bug's teeth came out like popcorn), that Wifey and I felt like it was time to get her first toothbrush.  The Bug agreed wholeheartedly.

What the Bug doesn't appreciate very much is taking the toothbrush away.  She'd brush for half an hour, if we'd let her.  We're left with either trading for something, or waiting for her to put it down so we can snatch it up without her looking.

The toothbrush has become a pacifier of sorts.  If it weren't a narrow spire of plastic perpetually protruding from a not-too-careful toddler's mouth, there'd be no problem letting her hold on to it all day.

Some credit may be due to the Very Berry toothpaste we got for her.  (Is she really brushing her teeth with sugar?)  Doesn't much matter, though.  We wouldn't want to discourage a good habit anyway.

Last week, Wifey and I were on the couch watching the Bug slow down on her evening play.  We mentioned something regarding it looking like time to grab her toothbrush.  As soon as she heard the word "toothbrush," the Bug stood up, laughing, and toddled her way to the bathroom as fast as I've ever seen her go, jibber-jabbing all the way.  She didn't even look back to see her mom and I saying through dropped jaws that we've reached the spelling stage.

21 August, 2012

To The Letter

Recognizing the the Bug loves to play with magnets, wifey and I decided to splurge on a two-buck set of her own (after a couple nice clay ones broke). The set is, or should I say, was, the English alphabet.

I almost managed to arrange three neat rows before tiny Bug hands raked through them with gusto. They make a satisfying crash of plastic on wood as surprisingly few wind up under the fridge. Since we have cats, retrieving toys from such dark, narrow passages never takes much time or trouble.

So well received were these magnetic letters, that other toys needed to be carried to the kitchen for joyous communion. Not all toys could make the grand opening, so the Bug thoughtfully organized a tour of several choice letters at a time.

Only so many letters can fit baby fists. What's a girl to do? Oh, right. A couple more letters can ride comfortably inside one's mouth.

Such letter carrying behavior adds an equally amusing and concerning element to her newfound habit of alternately waving her arms whilst making growly noises, much like a b-movie dinosaur might.

Remind me to write about her toothbrush next week.

07 August, 2012

Silly Sneezer

Excluding my sneezes, the Bug finds most sneezes amusing. Not fall-out-of-your-high-chair-with-half-a-noodle-coming-out-of-your-nose hilarity. But, worthy at the least of a smile and probably not to exceed a giggle with applause.

At some point recently, she made the connection between the phonetic spelling of a sneeze in her books and the actual percussive phenomenon. Now a certain amount of every play time involves fake sneezing. With a series of drawn out "aaaaaaaaaaaaaathu's" and appropriate responses.

However, I'm calling her first word, "uh oh." She knows it when she hears it, she says it quasi-appropriately, and I can't quite make heads or tails of the Hindi-esque babble she ordinarily runs with. (Or maybe it's Urdu... I would definitely need a different alphabet to spell it out.)

We have confirmed molar sightings. We're finding it rather hard to keep up with such things. The Bug has proven rather splendid at grinning and bearing it.

31 July, 2012

Sitting This One Out

Sometime Saturday night, the Bug accidentally sat on one of her big block toys from a standing position. She was overjoyed. The maneuver required much repeating with happy dances and squeally jabberjaw.

The block wasn't sturdy enough to be used as a proper chair. So, Wifey and I picked up an upholstered Tinkerbell armchair the next day. (We also got her a toothbrush, but that'll have to wait until next week.)

The chair quickly became a Bug favorite where, although she can't sit still, she sits frequently. The chair games have begun.

Aside from your garden variety chair wriggling, going from the chair to a pillow face plant never gets old. And by "never" I mean at least not in the last couple of days.

We noticed within the first thirty minutes that the Bug stood more often and longer even than when inspired by Panda Cat. By the end of the second hour, she probably had stood more by her chair than the rest of her life combined. (Granted that's not a difficult record to top.)

It seems the Bug wasn't resting on her laurels yet. With great pleasure, pride, and aplomb, the Bug walks from her chair to her mom and back. (And sometimes to me or Panda Cat.)

My girl's got steps.

Strange how a purple cartoony miniature replica of furniture designed for sitting has become a catalyst for walking. Thus opens a new can of worms.

17 July, 2012

All Rise...

Okay. Yeah. 4th of July kinda got me off my posts. My lack of computer makes blogging undesirable. And then last week I completely spaced about Tuesday until Thursday. Excuses, excuses.

Without further ado, we've catching up to do.

Teeth are coming in. I believe the count now is six with some more at the gate. I miss the toothlessness, and I just started getting used to the goat-mouth look. However, the Bug is sporting a rather adorable smile.

If she's awake, she never runs out of things to smile, laugh, and or talk about. Every now and then a random gush of emotion winds up manifesting in special where-did-that-come-from ways. We can call them Happy Baby Freak Outs. And I'm not sure how best to describe them. Hasn't seemed to be the same way twice.

Even more specialer, she stands up on her own, unsupported. Apparently she's been able to for some time, but hasn't really seen the point. So, it may happen when crawling after Panda Cat requires a Happy Baby Freak Out pause. When holding something by a gate that requires a good tossing over. Or when she feels like repositioning her legs to resume crawling from play.

Regardless, she's rather nonplussed at our exuberance over her standing. She doesn't see us have any problem doing it. It's not like she goes crazy and digs out her phone ever time we stand up. And no. She doesn't really want us to stand her up again. She's over that and would just like to crawl somewhere else now, thank you very much.

By the way... loves the water table. Life should be one big water table.

But, the even most specialest, the bug has taken her first step. And yes. By "first step," I mean, keeping herself from falling on her face long enough to make it into wifey's hands merely inches away. I say it counts.

26 June, 2012

One Year Bug

The bug is officially a one-year old now. She had a well attended party and is enjoying a week long visit from grandma.

Presents abound and each one has been appropriately hugged or beaten repeatedly with tiny open palms. We told people no presents, thereby ensuring space on the floor for walking.

The cake event ended up a very dainty mess that cleaned up easier than I had hoped. Particularly considering how nice her birthday dress was.

Looking back on the first year of her life boggles my mind. As if her developmental changes weren't enough, Wifey and I went and added some significant environmental changes, too. Crazy times.

Everyone said having a baby will change your life. I can't deny our life is very much changed. How many of the changes really came about because of her? Wouldn't many of them have happened anyway?

I'm glad I didn't have to find out.

19 June, 2012

Short In The Tooth

The sudden appearance of a full set of teeth that I was expecting isn't exactly being sudden. There have been a few nighttime teething episodes, and only one hurry-to-the-drug-store-and-back-with-pain-killers screamfest.

And yet, only a couple more teeth are poking out enough to be considered part of the "in" crowd.

The bug hasn't started standing on her own, but has been diligently working out the muscles. Albeit mostly for crawling faster or forcing mom and dad to back up countered items an inch or two more.

The crawling sprint has reached a new cuteness level. She tucks her head like a charging bull. Sometimes, such action involves sounding like a siren.

As we prepare for her first birthday celebration this weekend, we'd be okay with her remaining a pre-toddler for just a little while longer.

12 June, 2012

Shiver Me Timbers

How long has the bug had only two teeth? Seems like years and yet her first birthday is just around the corner.

That may change very soon. As in she could wake up with eight teeth tomorrow. The tips are showing just below the surface.

Well, we finally finished off the teething gel tube we got in a baby shower gift and bought a new one. We don't apply too often, but generously.

As another remedy attempt, we've given her ice cubes to play with. Even after mastering the art of holding a grip long enough to be able to put it in her mouth, she never really did. Seems the cold hand sensation and magically appearing water were fascinating enough.

She has a wide range of teething toys (official and otherwise). However, they're better received before pain, not so much after.

So, we broke down and stuck a few wet washcloths in the freezer. Comedy. Ever see an eleven-month old do the bad-actor shiver? I have.

The best though, is when she bites into it. The random reactionary faces that result are funny enough to get her laughing. Once she laid her head down on it for some reason. Not for long, though.

05 June, 2012

Patient Panda

As previously posted, Stinky Monkey Cat convalesces in California with Grandma. Woolly Rhinoceros Cat sightings are quite rare (contributing to the extinction myth of the woolly rhinoceri), but paleontologists need only look under the bed.

Panda Cat, on the other hand, will go so far as to squeeze and angle herself through the baby gate to enter the same room as the Bug. Once in the room, she willingly becomes fair game for chasing, fur pulling, and happy baby screeches of nearly point-blank range. It's crossed my mind that Panda thinks she's training a cub to hunt.

Wifey and I are close at hand to prevent any claws from scratching the baby. However, Panda handles the rough play with the sort of grace and dignity that becomes her genus. There are a few safe havens in any room where Panda can take a break and she does have the option of leaving the room.

To the Bug's credit, she is learning gentler cat handling. Not to mention chasing the cat only represents a cross section of a more intricate play scheme. All the same, a cross section taken very seriously by Panda.

Panda has been spending most of her nights under the crib, eliminating any monsters that may appear and threaten the Bug's serenity. A more dedicated nursery guardian would be hard to find.

The Bug will occasionally break out with maniacal laughter and/or cackling during play and has been making frog calls. I'll post more about this next week if the trend continues.

29 May, 2012

Bug Bites

My computer died on me after I had it hooked up at the new place for, what? Two weeks? Time for another motherboard and more phone updating.

This holiday weekend, we got to take the bug to my Uncle Blackbeard's swamp camp to introduce her and wifey to some east coast family. Over the course of the weekend, all nine blood relatives and four significant others from my mother's side were present. Big intro.

Yes. There was heat. Humidity. Pests. Rain. Napping challenges. And a nearly ten-hour round-trip car ride with an eleven-month old passenger.

But more importantly, there were good people. S'mores. Food. A/C. Dogs. A boat tour. One of Painted Cousin's sons, Stretch, caught a prehistoric leviathan. Guitar. Fire. Laughs. And the bug had a blast being a dirty swamp baby.

We had put a blanket down under her play area. It seemed to be perpetually in the way of her getting to the ground where she could pull up little fistfuls of nature. At least she loves bath time.

Somehow, the bug made it back without the itchy afflictions of her parents. I'm thankful for that, but taking note to use her insect repellent next time.

The irony is that the bug has entered an adorable biting phase. Especially big toes. The going-to-market piggies. She still only has the two lower teeth (though I swear I'm seeing uppers starting to show), which I find closely related to how there are really only two teeth one needs worry about with vampires.

22 May, 2012

Matryoshka Bug

The bug abhors finding the star-shaped nesting blocks stacked properly.  She must immediately pull them out of one another until no two are touching.  Sometimes, her dad (namely, me) cannot even finish restacking them before she has dismantled his vain attempt at order.  Given enough such back and forths, the bug will not only separate the blocks, but also scatter them to opposing quadrants of the Universe after beating them into submission against each other.

Oh, how quickly the hours pass...

Less cute, but along the same vein, if the bug loses interest in a toy, that toy will be banished from her presence.  The subsequent whining shall not be misconstrued as a request to have the aforementioned toy returned to the bug (issuing no such command from her highchair, carseat, or stroller) and doing so will only result in jettisoning said rejected toy forthwith.  Rather, attending adjutants are expected to offer a fresh, more captivating toy.  Peace prevails.  The system works.

All in all, wifey and I keep coming across new games, faces, and sounds to add to the repertoire of ways of keeping the bug smiling, happy, and exercising.  And... as the saying goes - what goes around comes around.

15 May, 2012

Beep-Beep. Beep-Bug. Yeah!

I'm finally back to updating with my computer.  And just in time for an important development in the bug's world.  We got her her first car!

I call it a bumper car, but apparently it's official title is an "activity walker."

Bumper car.  That's what it does.  Chairs.  Cabinets.  Trashcans.  Refrigerator.  The Wonderbug.  Cats.  Ankles.  All with impressive speed, accuracy, and attitude of that one kid at the fair that always guns for T-boning unsuspecting prey.

As far as the activity portion...  Distracted driving at best.  She will pull over to smack Pooh down into his honey pot enough times to find some cruisin' music on the "radio."  Otherwise, the dashboard clutter is well on its way to becoming a pull-over-able offense.

The bug likes to make her own engine noise.  I can only spell it like: mpbaht; and explain that the sound is rather like striking a tennis ball.  She mpbahts all over the navigable areas of the house and has become rather adept at backing up when in a tight spot.  However, I have to add the backing-up beeps.  Afterall, she's not quite eleven months.  Beeps take time.

All in all, Wifey, bug, and Panda Cat have adapted well in the last week to this new life.  Woolly Rhino still hides under the bed for most of the day and anything with a shock value equal or greater than a rustling curtain makes him jump.  Wifey has come to know the major roads of our new burg faster than I did (I still tend to use my navigation system.  You never know...).

Improvements abound.  I may even get back to finishing the first draft of my novel.  Only about thirty more pages to go... for the last four months.

One more thing on the bug.  She's always enjoyed a good face plant into a pillow, bed, blanket, toy, or adult.  But now, she's taking it up a couple notches -- face plowing across the carpet.  By "face" I really mean forehead, not that it makes it much better.  How she avoids carpet burns I cannot say, but it looks like enough fun that I am taking notes.

On the teeth front, still holding out with just the two lowers.  The two upper incisors haven't poked through yet, but the two beside them (#5 and #6, I think) are starting to show.  I'm having concerns about goat-like first birthday pictures.  We'll see...

08 May, 2012

East Coast Buggin'

Wifey and the bug flew into the east coast this morning. Feels like a few days ago. I haven't had this full of a day in a long time.

Shortly after arriving, wifey caught up on some sleep. The bug and I played in her well stocked baby jail. Thankfully, we were far enough away from wifey that she could sleep, because the bug does not play quiet.

She's developed a new happy dance that involves throwing her hands up in the air, waving them around like she just don't care, and sustaining some sort of shout out that could be taken as a means for all the party people to come on over to this side of the club. When it's really off the hook, she bounces on her knees during this dance.

She's taking assisted steps now, but with only one successful observed free-standing moment, we're still probably a good ways away from walking. Not to mention she only seems interested in going fast.

Before speed crawling across her new room, she makes a special lunge motion that looks as if she's popping a wheelie or building up momentum to shave a few tenths of a second off her 0 to 60 time.

Wifey is still adjusting to being on the east coast. She's doing very well actually considering how positive she is on the first day. It sure is incredible having her around again.

Stinky Monkey Cat has elected to stay on the west coast with grandma, so Woolly Rhino and Panda Cat are finding a new rhythm and staking claims on secret spots.

Normalcy, or something like it, comes closer to focus.

01 May, 2012

40 Again...

So I missed a few posts. It's been a busy time of getting the new place fairly well set up prior to the big flight west.

Grandma, wifey, and the bug greeted me at the baggage claim. After I said hi to wifey, the bug gave her mom a very sad face that could have meant, "who is this freak and is he going to suck my face, too?" She just kinda spied on me the rest of the way to grandma's and I didn't press my luck with trying to carry her.

If she remembered me at all she may have assumed I was some imaginary friend and her hallucinations were starting back up. Over the last few days, we've reclaimed our normalcy. Normalcy with the delightful additions of her new skill sets. Quite the little climber.

The way mirrors work: a ten-month old girl puts her face right beside the mirror and sees her mom. Her mom. Not her dad. Quickest way to make the bug cry is for the mirror to show her dad. Think Twin Peaks. It's that brand of terror.

As I write this she's busy having a one-girl cage match in her crib. She's winning, laughing, and ready for the next challenger.

Speaking of next challenges, tomorrow morning, I will drive our very packed V70 across the country with our bearded dragon as my copilot.

18 April, 2012

You've Gotta Fight For Your Write

Writers' Wednesday!!!

If writing comes easily to you, you're either doing it wrong, or you're so experienced that your formula has become a kind of fill-in-the-blank rote.

The first couple of drafts may come together like a pre-packaged meal. I can only hope that you realize by the third draft that something in the taste was lacking.

Don't feel bad for being exhausted after a few pages. You're doing it right.

17 April, 2012

A Handle On Things

Brief moving update: This Friday night I will spend the first night in the new home. After at least a dozen ticket changes, wifey finally has the flight she needs (one where they'll actually help her board the cats pn change-overs so that she can concentrate in the bug). The V70 is almost road ready. And we just might be able to pull this off with a few extra dollars.

The bug developed a fascination with handles. More the movement and sound they make than their practical application. But, that doesn't mean she has any problem opening doors and drawers.

Over the phone, I've heard the first devious giggles that I was assured were accompanied by equally devious faces whilst the bug engages in play she seems to know won't be allowed when the cuteness wears off. She's definitely having full days with her mom. Even falling asleep before she lays down.

13 April, 2012

Furry Family

Family On Friday!!!

As wifey continues to face difficulty in arranging for the cats to fly across the country for our move, I'm inspired to comment on how pets become part of the family.

Yes. Pets often are a responsibility that tends to get passed around like a game of hot potato.

But, they can also show us an untethered capacity for love. They seem to know when to give us that necessary cuddle our own species is either too busy or oblivious to provide.

Even if we would consider making the move easier by finding the cats new homes, there probably isn't anyone in this country thinking, "Gee. I sure wish I had a cat. I just can't seem to find one. Let alone a full-grown one." Chances are better that someone willing to take a cat shouldn't have anymore.

We want our cats and our bearded dragon in our new east coast home. They are a big part of making it (and us) feel complete.

11 April, 2012

Say It. Don't Spray It.

Writers' Wednesday!!!

Easier said than done.

It's also easier to write it. As writers, we get to stay clean and fresh regardless of what we make our characters go through. We're also safer and more comfortable.

So, how can we effectively capture the unsavory or unsafe for our readers/audience to feel like they've experienced it?

A little familiarity and a lot of imagination go a long way. Maybe you've never had to flee attackers after being shot in the foot. But, if you've ever had to walk to the couch after banging your toe on the coffee table's leg and can exaggerate, you might be able to live out the moment on paper.

Talk to some people that may have gone through what your scene relates to. You'll start to pick up on a common language that you can use to make your material relevant.

Basically, it boils down to getting creative with research. You may need to amplify. You may need to take it down a notch. That's between you and your characters.

10 April, 2012

A House To Fill

The bug continues to explore the world of standing and the new ways to frustrate mommy that her newfound muscle control allows.

Meanwhile, I have put a deposit on a rental house, signed the lease, and been sucked up into the maelstrom of the logistics involved in moving ourselves from three locations into one. Wifey is doing a great job of handling what she can from the left coast.

I have two weekends and one day off from work to try and ready the house enough that they all can go to bed when they get here and worry about unpacking what remains the next day.

Our schedule, as we know it, is that I'll fly in two and a half weeks, start driving in three weeks, they fly in four weeks, and that leaves only one month before we're together again as a family under one roof. One more month. We can do it.

06 April, 2012

Thrill Of The Hunt

Family On Friday!!!

You've got to enjoy being part of a culture that trains children to find brightly colored objects hidden in random places while adults will check three obvious places for keys before calling them lost.

Adults could learn a lot from the determination of a child. We should strive to be childlike, not childish.

Your child may seem lazy in the way s/he avoids doing things of little interest to them. But, take note of the gusto they are capable of to get or do something they do care about.

If we could do that, our keys would never be lost. We just haven't found them yet.

04 April, 2012

Making The Doh!

Writers' Wednesday!!!

There's a certain kind of genius involved in creating stupidity.

Sure you can create a character that always runs a gallon shy of a quart. But, doesn't it read/play more credible to have normal, or even highly intelligent characters, rationalize courses of action that violate our fundamental understanding of evolution?

It doesn't have to be just a gag for some comic relief. Those sorts of moments can become major plot points hurling our hero(ine) over the threshold and firmly slamming the door behind them. Or their momentary lapse of judgement might be just the own-worst-enemy obstacle you need to show your character being dynamic and growing as a result of action in the story.

The point is: you should be smart enough to allow any and all of your characters an off night. Watch how the ripples play a little distortion over your story's harmony.

And, let's face it - it's fun!

03 April, 2012

Anticipatory Tears

The bug had her ten-month doctor's visit and only had to have one shot. Apparently, her long-term memory is fully functioning. As soon as the needle nurse showed up, she started wailing. She wasn't buying the whole it's-only-going-to-be-one-shot story.

It might have been the most she's ever cried at the doc's. Anticipating the pain was worse than experiencing it. Poor little bug.

Speaking of anticipation ...

Our months of living on opposing coasts have nearly come to an end. Should I cry with joy in anticipating the new house coming together and tucking the bug in at night? Or cry in anticipation over the pain and difficulty from the process of getting them, the three cats, the bearded dragon, and our remaining things (not the least of which is a V70 that could benefit from a repair or two) moved 2800 miles?

Either way, sounds like I'll be going through some Puffs™.

30 March, 2012

Breaking Spring

Family On Friday!!!

'Tis the season to vacation...

Whether you're having a staycation or off to some exotic location, like orbiting the moon or something, taking the time midway through a serious holiday lull is key.

Depending on the age of your kids, plan some family time as well as some independent time. Your kids will be going to be having Spring Breaks long after they leave your house. Showing them good ways to have fun and allowing them to explore a little of their own will start them off with some good skills.

28 March, 2012

Trust Issues

Writers' Wednesday!!!!

Your readers/audience want to trust you. Very few would ever start your work looking for justification that they shouldn't read/watch you. If they didn't trust you, they would avoid you.

That trust is yours to lose.

Serial episodes of television shows broadcast before home recording was considered a possibility would often end on some bizarre cliffhanger. The next episode's opening scene showed a different cut of the same scene, completely changing the direction of the scene's impact.

Your readers/audience may forgive a few contrivances (don't abuse that). But, if you lie to them, and then retell the story to make it sound like it's their fault for not understanding earlier, they will abandon you.

Use genuine intrigue and double check to make sure new information builds on previous knowledge, even perhaps showing previous knowledge in a new light.

27 March, 2012

If You're Happy And You Know It

No word yet on the second tooth. If it's poking through, it's not by much. The bug is, however, working on a revitalized teething session.

In spite of the suspected waves of pain, she continues to take advantage of any opportunity to laugh and scream with delight. Even if doing so gets her excused from the dinner table.

Now that the bug is all of ten months old, she has added a new expression of happiness. The swinging-arm clap.

The milestones are mounting as she has also successfully pulled herself up to a standing position. The subsequent mouthful of paper gives wifey and grandma a new baby proofing challenge. The baby corale should arrive any day now.

23 March, 2012

Lift The Fallen

Family On Friday!!!

Just a quick post today.

When someone from your family does something bad, it doesn't mean you've failed. But, it could mean they need your help and support more than ever.

20 March, 2012

Feed Your Characters

Writers' Wednesday!!!

No internet until next week, so I'm posting through my phone. The good news is that means I'll be brief. The bad news is I'll be limited.

What your characters eat and how they eat says so much about who they are. Never take this for granted.

And be sure that they do eat. It always bugs me when characters seem to be in pursuits that last days and they never eat. I might be able to go about eight hours, but I hope I never have to find out.

Food is culture. And many cultures from around the world prepare food with the same basic idea, but wildly varied preparations. Exposing your characters to new foods could be quite fun.

Speaking of fun... enjoy the research!

19 March, 2012

Forward Progress

Tooth number two might show up soon, but the bug ain't waiting around. She and her big toes have figured out how to move forward.

Forward to the kitchen where the cats have squishy ookie food. Forward grandma's shelves of bric-a-brac. Forward to dark and dusty recesses previously unexplored by mankind.

Emergency trip for baby gates and creative uses for boxes from Diapers.com.

There is now a deliberate pause for happy dances when obstacles have been overcome. And a new kind of shriek for when the bug buts up against her new nemesis...

The baby gate.

It's a kind of "Mom! I'm right outside of the kitchen and there's this thing between me and under-oven treasure!" Not in a completely unhappy way, but certainly with an expectation that once the adults of the house see what they left sitting around they would move it.

At least there are still toys to examine and cats to chase.

16 March, 2012

And In This Corner... Part V

Family on Friday!!!

For the last several weeks we've discussed handling confrontations more constructively and generally about setting a good example for expressing anger without losing control.  Now let's finish this series with a big why.

Children who learn effective arguing techniques from their parents are less likely to respond to peer pressure.

One of the trickiest of life's lessons (I see many older adults that still haven't learned) is to say no to someone you care about.  Forget pushers and bullies.  Your child's greatest threat to doing something they don't want to comes from their friends, teachers, and older siblings.

If you only teach unquestioning obedience, you risk them agreeing to bad ideas, even if that means they're disobeying a previous instruction.  You're not there at that moment.  This robot you've raised is receiving a new set of instructions that will override yours.

Relish in your kids' expressions of their own will.  Help them learn that they will be listened to and taken seriously without resorting to violence, insults, screaming, and/or whining.  Even more importantly, they need to know that disagreeing with someone they care about will not end a friendship/relationship.

How spectacular would it be if your child's resolve and poise in an argument with their friend steers the friend away from making a potentially fatal decision?  I'm sure that friend's parents would appreciate it.

You'll have to pick your battles to lose.  If the youngun' asks politely to stay up an hour past his/her bedtime to finish a movie, relent before whining and throwing ensues (and don't negotiate with terrorists).  Chances are the kid won't last another hour.  Sometimes, edifying strong negotiation skills outweigh a strict adherence to house rules.

Letting your child win an argument/confrontation after both of you have been (mostly) calm and have had a chance to state your cases, boosts their confidence as well as helps them remain calm the next time.

I hope these discussions have helped lessen the anger you feel (and show) during familial bouts, showed you that having them is a functional and natural process, and explained that these times can wind up playing a pivotal role in your child's preparedness for the rest of the world.

14 March, 2012


Writers' Wednesday!!!

If you've ever written in earnest, you've reached a place where no word seems to fit and the thesaurus is no help.  A perfect time to invent a word.

Inventing words requires an above average understanding of how phonetics invoke emotional responses and often the use of a wide variety of prefixes and suffixes.

If I told you a puettrangilia is a type of flower, could you describe it?  It doesn't matter if everyone reaches the same description.  Chances are that the writer would mention its characteristic attributes.

David encountered a nevsist while crossing the park earlier today.  Is that a good or a bad thing?

How many different ways can you use conmotraflict in a sentence?

The key to communication is ensuring that the person receiving the communication understands what the sender means by the words s/he uses.  That's how malapropisms can go unnoticed and aposiopesis doesn't doom conversations to an endless waiting game.

Context and character reactions can go a long way in defining new words.  Maybe a new use for an old word is what you really need.  The process of inventing the perfect word can even help you decide which existing word fits best.

Lexigenesis also serves as a welcome and fun distraction to staring helplessly at the wall.

Now, inventing words and having them catch on... that's a different challenge entirely.

13 March, 2012

The Bug Goes To The Zoo

When one isn't quite nine months old, even a small zoo must feel like guided backpack tour through the world's jungles.  Small zoos are probably the way to go for ones so small.  Who wants to be thirty minutes from the parking lot when a macaw's accusatory squawking is ill received by a stroller's passenger?

The bug instigated her fair share of screeching.  Wifey and grandma took her from continent to continent and expanded her perception of what odd forms life can take.  Some odd forms seemed to require very loud and shrill communication.

The turkeys couldn't have agreed more.  A couple of them that approached the fence in search of handouts were offered ear-fulls instead.  Whether they intended to clarify their requests or polite fowl communication ensued, they returned each of the bug's sonic volleys with equal grace and aplomb.

Maybe there's something about the bug and turkeys.  Grandma was randomly visited by a turkey when the bug was born.  Perhaps she'll grow up to be the Turkey Non-Whisperer.

09 March, 2012

And In This Corner... Part IV

Family on Friday!!!

Sometimes being a parent means being a good actor(ess).  Not breaking character by falling over laughing when the little one trips and face plants into the dozen eggs they were carrying (unless you're making a video for a nationally broadcast television show, which, for some bizarre reason, makes it socially acceptable).  Not dancing around like a maniac in front of their friends when you learn they have been excelling in high school (betraying their apathetic domestic zombification).

And not raging in their face like carnage incarnate because you just can't sit through one more presentation of why a bunny, kitty, puppy, piggy, pony, piercing, tattoo, and/or motorcycle would be an essential part of their optimal development.

The litmus test of whether you are being angry or acting angry is your level of control.  For the record, hitting, throwing, screaming, slamming, and/or squeezing would count as being angry - loss of control.  The best actors(esses) out there can use subtle facial expressions, a stern tone of voice, deliberate wording, and fierce eye contact to let everyone know that the tiger is gnawing at the lock - but is controlled.

You may want to go berserk.  And very likely on someone else's kid.  Or some kid's parent.  Don't.  When you lose control of your anger, you lose control of the whole situation.  Remember, the anger you're feeling and the decisions you have made (even if they're wrong) all come from love.

Perhaps that old china cabinet was sitting around, waiting for an excuse to be thrown out.  That doesn't mean you should shrug it off when it breaks.  No hockey in the house means no hockey in the house.  Act angry.  Next time, it might be that custom-made hutch you haven't even half-paid for.

Hold back your real anger and just act out enough anger to get the message across.  Your kids learn by valuable example of how you conduct yourself with your extreme emotions.  Speaking of learning, next week I'll try to wrap the series up with why it's important to have arguments and confrontations with your kids.

07 March, 2012

Turn That Clown Upside Down

Writers' Wednesday!!!

There are many ways to prevent characters reading flat and predictable.  A quick fix is to give them more than one function from the start.

The love interest or femme fatale can serve as the comic relief.  The expository characters (both know-it-alls and newbies) can be saboteurs.

And just because one character typically runs point as your go-to girl/guy, that doesn't mean you can't trade duties a few times.  Let another character steal their thunder.  Their reaction could be interesting.

Try it out.  I'm sure you'll see your story improve along with your characters.

06 March, 2012

Running The Laugh Track

My favorite message of the movie Monsters, Inc. is the part about the power of a child's laughter being able to energize whole city blocks.  If that were true, the bug is currently supplying the state of California with an abundance of free, renewable energy.

Scarcely a phone call goes by without her full-on belly laughs filling up the background.  I swear I can feel the electricity all the way over here on the other side of the country.

She laughs at a lot.  From her holding up a WubbaNub to the light, to rolling around on the bed.

She's also talking more, and with inflection.  With only one tooth, that must be quite a sight, too.  Apparently, she can also tell when conversation at the dinner table isn't focusing on her.  So, she pulls focus with her banshee calls.

Is there such a thing as a baby laughing too much?  Is it, like, a symptom...  of something?  I prefer to think of it as a frequent reminder to focus on the joyful moments of life and get all you can out of them.

02 March, 2012

And In This Corner... Part III

Family on Friday!!!

Last week we continued discussing resolving confrontation within the family by underlining the importance of not escalating a bad situation by losing control of your anger.

Let's get the cliches out of the way:  You can't fight fire with fire.  You don't want to pour gasoline on the fire.  You shouldn't fan the flames.  You wouldn't want to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.  And so on and so forth.

How about this?  Don't piss on the fire that's cooking your food.

When a member of your family is obviously upset (even lashing out at you) and you have already acknowledged their feelings, apologized for you part in their pain, and reminded them that your position comes from your love for them, the next big step is to carefully consider what they want.

S/he may have a point.  You could very well be wrong.  (And just because you're wrong, doesn't mean they're right.)  As long as you haven't brought down the thunder with ultimatums, decrees, and gavel smacks, you still have a chance at incorporating what your family member wants without looking like a flopping fool.

A few suggestions for finding out their true wishes:  Ask them to calmly explain why they feel their position is superior.  Ask them if something else had upset them.  Ask them for their input to a compromise.

It's important to note that if you are going compromise or even agree that your family member's idea is better, that you only do so after they have calmed down.  This minimizes the chance of justifying their angry outbursts.

There is still a good chance that they are way off base and will have to obey your law to the letter.  If you checked your anger, allowed them to express themselves, and at least made a demonstration of considering that eating ice cream in bed might be an acceptable alternative to putting away their things, you've at least simmered the confrontation down significantly.

Some confrontations reach an impasse.  Can you act angry without being angry, even if you are angry?  We'll see next week.

29 February, 2012

Once Upon A Blue Moon

Writers' Wednesday!!!

Happy Leap Year Hump Day, dear readers.  The extra day falls on Wednesday only once every 28 years.  That means that most of us will only see it three times and a lucky few, four.

So...  what does that mean?  Absolutely nothing.  It's another mark on a yardstick made by mankind to make up for our inefficiencies (<-strange.  a word that violates "i before e except after c twice.") at establishing a calendar that accurately measures events in the natural world.  So much for the metric system.

But...  what if it wasn't?  As humans we have an innate fascination with rare events.  The fewer the opportunities to witness the event, the more precious they are.  We know just enough about the natural world to know how little control we have over it.  That may frighten us, excite us, or inspire us.

I'm steering the conversation toward the inspirational spectrum.  As writer's, we can draw so many stories just from our birthright as a sentient species that can't tell time.

How often does the Winter Solstice coincide with a new moon?  How often are babies born to cancer survivors broke down on Underhill Road outside of the Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts because of an inexplicable electrical malfunction during a new moon on the Winter Solstice?

What kind of life would that baby have?  What kind of life would the parents want him/her to have?  What kind of life would a group of nutjobs that think the baby's a punctual messiah want?

You know...  as an example.  Temporal conflicts/climaxes don't have to be the focal point of your story to have a powerful effect.

Please resist the temptation to contrive your way out of a plot hole by using them.  Better to use them as a dire deadline that can't be extended or negotiated with.

28 February, 2012

Not The Whole Tooth

The bug has her first tooth coming in!  So far just one lower incisor.  It's buddy is being shy.

According to wifey, the tooth is a little shy itself.  Just poking up enough to be noticed, but not so much that you could easily see it.  Probably why I haven't seen any pictures of it yet.

Perhaps the couple bites of egg on the bug's eight-month birthday helped do the trick.  Regardless, she won't be the ruthless, toothless one anymore.

She still favors crawling in reverse and spinning around to get from point B to point A.  But, her rocking motions while on hands and knees could be for building up the necessary momentum to move forward.

24 February, 2012

And In This Corner... Part II

Family on Friday!!!

Continuing from last week's edition of Family on Friday, I'm going to explore the concept of feeling anger without being angry.  That degree of control comes in handy when you need to be part of the solution to a confrontation.

Let's pretend that this whole country is a family and the President is the parent (Supreme Court is the grandparents, and Congress is like the creeeepy uncle/aunt that no one lets you ride alone with).  When was the last time that no one was angry with the position of the President?  Like, really, really angry.  Spitting mad.

When was the last time you saw any President "go off?"  The temptation for them to get all Christian Bale on the media alone must be overwhelming.  So why don't they?  Training, coaching, and possibly performance enhancing drugs.

Now let's pretend they are angry because they love this country and they're trying to get us to agree with what they think is best for us.  We get angry because what they have done/asked/refused goes against what we want and upsets us.  Confrontation ensues.

As a (Co-)President of your family, you will meet with dissension, organized protests, and vetoes when you are just trying to keep your family on what you've decided is the right path.  Get Presidential.  Walk calmly to the disenfranchised, acknowledge their pain, apologize for any part you may have played in it, tell them that your position isn't going to change just because it met with opposition, because it was formed by the love you have for them, and that love isn't going to change.

Obviously, the President isn't always right.  Next week, we'll explore how handling confrontation calmly can change policy without waffling, back-peddling, flip-flopping, or calling the Supreme Court.

22 February, 2012

Fresh Baked Writing

Writers' Wednesday!!!

Every career has a recipe for success.  Let's take a peek at the recipe for writing.

First let's look at the recipe for making bread.  Just search for "bread recipe."  Yeah.  That one.  It's a lot like the recipe for writing.

There are basic universal ingredients for writing/bread.  Quantities change.  Substitutions, additions, and variations in the process all complicate the recipe search until you don't know which one will work for you.

Basic ingredients:  concepts, words, classes, books, friends, notebooks, pens, computer, dedicated hours in a day
Some possible additional ingredients:  editors, music, paint, animals, office, sacred outdoor spot

The exact types of ingredients, quantities, additional flavors you want to add, and what you choose to substitute with what is all up to you.  Yes.  There is a wrong way to make bread.  Yes.  There is a wrong way to write.  If it comes out too dense, flat, or dry, throw it away!  Make another one, varying the process and recipe.

The most important part of the recipe is understanding that success comes from learning what not to do as much as what to do.

21 February, 2012

Rotisserie Baby

I hope everyone is having a fun and full Mardi Gras.  Laissez les bons temps roulez!

Speaking of rolling...

The bug has a new skill/habit/trick.  Once wifey puts her down for a butt change, she starts barrel rolls.  Changing table, bed, floor, car seat.  No place is without quality of a turning experience.

A well placed WubbaNub can greatly reduce the number of rotations.  Window blinds and/or shadows can distract for a moment.  Still, it's hard enough to start and finish the diaper in one angle, pants are a multi-phase process.

She's also started scooting in reverse.  (the bug, not wifey)  Apparently the objects in front are not as alluring as they appear.

Still no teeth.  But, her hair will need clips soon.

17 February, 2012

And In This Corner... Part I

Family on Friday!!!

Back in early December, Brian had made a good comment regarding confrontation within the family unit.  To paraphrase for those too lazy or busy to click on the hyperlink, he noticed that confrontations with his son improved when he didn't fan the flames with his own anger.

One blog post would not adequately cover the issue of familial conflicts.  So, I will attempt to make a sensible series of the matter starting here.  For now, I want to just make it perfectly clear that anger, frustration, and even loss of control come from love (continuing on this whole Valentine week and segueing into Presidents' Day).

Confused by the source of their own emotions and excusably out of practice, kids will yell that they hate their parents when they become angry, frustrated, and lose control.  Ya always hurt the ones ya love, right?  Our parental brains need to be able to translate this proclamation of hatred as "I love you, but what you have done/asked/refused goes against what I want and upsets me."

Allowing for a few exceptions, if we didn't care deeply for someone, we wouldn't exhibit any strong reactions to them.  They would be practically invisible to us.  When we become upset with our family we should take at least one breath to recognize that we feel this way because we love them.

Recognizing the love we have should begin to help us with the most important next step that Brian touched upon - being angry and frustrated, but not losing control.  However, that will be the topic of next week's President's Day analogy...

15 February, 2012

Defining Love

Writers' Wednesday!!!

Valentine's Day seems like it was just yesterday and yet, love is still in the air (and on clearance).  Sure.  We have one day of the year dedicated to loving, or (depending on your age) liking.  But thankfully, love lasts longer than a pink Twinkie that rolled under your car seat.

As writer's, we must find a way to inject love into every story to remain relevant, marketable, credible, and universal.  If your main character is incapable of love, it has to be shown by contrast to a love interest with the potential to warm him/her up by the end of the story, even if the Grinch ends up staying Grinch-y.

Everyone can relate to love.  And if another character loves your central character, it makes it easier for your readers/audience to love the character.  Love is also a great motivator for rational characters to do irrational things or take on insurmountable challenges.

That's all well and good, but how does one write love?  It isn't an easy thing to define, and once you have, you've opened your story up for debate.  It's in the action.

Any woman can tell you that actions speak louder than words.  The most silvery of tongues will tarnish in idle hands.  Conversely, a cold tongue can melt butter with a demonstration of the heart.

Don't try to shortcut the process of love in your story.  Even if it's a survival-horror and that whole extreme-situations-can-create-extreme-emotions thing applies.  A compelling subplot of love can help your story stand out in any genre.

14 February, 2012

The Love Bug

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you from the bug, wifey, and myself.

It's a hard one, being separated from my wife and daughter by about 2,800 miles.  After nearly three days of trying to watch nothing but mindless action flicks, I can attest that every movie made in the last two decades is a love story to some degree.  The first Predator movie is the most recent one I own with no discernible romance.

Distance does make the heart grow fonder.  It also makes stilted grade-school flirting between Adrien Brody and Alice Braga feel like sappy romance.

I'm not going to complain though.  There are many, many couples separated today by many more miles with one of them working their tails off in a combat zone.  At least I can say for certain that I will see my family again.

For all of us that can't be with the ones we love, I want all the rest of you to love the ones you're with until somebody rolls their eyes.

10 February, 2012

Comfy Genes

Family On Friday!!!

Let's face it.  99.99% of us are unhappy with something about our appearance.  Even if we thought we could be happy if we just changed one thing, once we got that the way we wanted, we'd find something else to change.

There's something inherently human about dissatisfaction.  It drives us to continuously build upon previous experiences and discoveries, reaching for the unimaginable.

Flip the coin over, and the ugly counterpart to that drive rears its head.  We risk damage, pain, finances, and even our lives to fight against our genetic makeup.  All in the name of some amorphous concept of beauty.

How does a parent tackle his/her own demons and help bolster the confidence of their children?  Surely, the line between constructive and destructive runs very fine and delicate.

We have a natural tendency to expect compliments from parents as part of their job, and the effect of such flattery fades quickly.  Conversely, because compliments are expected, insults come down harder than an anvil and hurt a little worse.  (Gifts of plastic surgery to a body still developing is especially bad.)

Parents also control the variety and quantity of foods available at a young age and can instill a positive lifestyle early that will hopefully carry on as the parental influence wanes.  Moreover, children who hear their parents speaking confidently (not vainly or boastfully) about their own appearance are more likely to feel comfortable doing the same.

08 February, 2012


Writers' Wednesday!!!

I don't like to harp on pet peeves.  But, certain ones warrant discussion.  For now, I have to bring the vocative smackdown.

Out of all the comma use rules, separating the vocative case from the rest of the sentence might be the simplest.

Use a comma before and after the name or descriptive phrase of the person(s) or thing(s) you are addressing.

For example, the following sentences mean different things:

  • Where is that pencil neck?  Where is that pencil, neck?  Where is that, pencil neck?
  • I don't know how to explain John Carter.  I don't know how to explain John, Carter.  I don't know how to explain, John Carter.
People tend to drop punctuation in texts, chat, status updates, and tweets out of haste, laziness, apathy, or ignorance.  But, pretty please, with sprinkles on this half, dedicate one or two of your allotted characters to commas that will tell everyone when you are talking to someone/thing or about someone/thing.

Failure to obey the vocative case rules, my fellow writers, will result in slugs parading up your nostrils for the entire duration of a jazz cover of "Crazy Train."  'Cause they kinda remind me of slugs.  Commas do.

07 February, 2012

Six More Weeks Of Cuteness

For all the research and development into stimulating toys for babies, the simplest prove the most cherished. The bug is no exception.

Toes are/were a reliable stand-by.  But, shadows can pull attention away from any light and sound show now.

Wifey boasts an improving repertoire of shadow puppets, especially rather convincing renditions of rabbits.  But, not all shadow shows are deliberate.  Depending on the angle of the sun, even the bug's own shadow merits investigation, play, and delighted squeals.  (ever toothless squeals)

All the same, I'm rather glad not to have been stuck in an eternal loop of living the same day over.  Being nearly three thousand miles away is that much more bearable knowing that every day I wake up, I'm one day closer to being with my family again.

03 February, 2012

Good Habits Die Quickly

Family on Friday!!!

Families (blood related or not) share genuine concern for one another's well being.  We can get all Florence Nightingale around a sick member until we're all driving the white porcelain bus.  Any of us get injured, we rally.

So.  Why is it so difficult for us to take care of ourselves?  B'gosh it sure would make the rest of our family worry less, sleep better, and spend more time returning the favor.  Then there is that old adage that says you can't take care of anyone until you've taken care of yourself.

I think we think we are fine.  (yes, yes...  most of us are)  We don't feel sick or injured and are perfectly happy to press ourselves until we do.

Moreover, I believe a lot of us have bought into the idea that concerning ourselves with ourselves is narcissistic.  It's not about us.  It's about them.

We have no control (and shouldn't) over how other people live their lives.  Conversely, we are the only ones who can control our own.  If we are a cause of worry to those we love, we can't just break a bad habit and develop good ones.

Habits don't work.  We need conscious lifestyle changes.

01 February, 2012

Cardinal Points Of Argument

Writers' Wednesday!!!

As a helpful writing exercise, pick three main topics of contention.  Best way to start would be to write a page on each, detailing your arguments for how you see the issues.

Now flip it.

Write a convincing counterpoint to the three pages you just wrote.  If you go back and read them with a clear cut winner, strengthen and edit the weaker argument until it becomes stronger.  Then work on the former winner until it makes a definitive comeback.

If you do this properly, you should have two very well thought out positions on issues that may very well be eternally debated and it should get harder to say which one is the stronger.  Now write a third position until it practically invalidates the first two and then challenge it with a fourth.

Not an easy exercise, but a helpful one.

You could add a couple more arguments to each issue, but we'll call four good enough.  Two is not good enough.  You may not be able to adequately write four separate opinions on each issue and some research will be required.  That's a good thing.

Until you can see at least four sides to every issue and write each one as if it were your own personal conviction, your characters will suffer.  Not drag themselves across lava beds suffer.  More like why does everyone else seem to have it all together suffer.

Characters represent cross sections of society.  They have to be convinced and convincing of their world view or they will never seem real to the reader/audience.  In order for them to be convincing, you have to be convincing as the writer.

Evil for the sake of being evil isn't nearly as interesting as evil that believes wholeheartedly that it's doing the right thing.  Of course there are good people that do bad things and vice versa.  I assure you that nothing will build up sympathy for your main character like having him/her be called, shown, and/or proven wrong and then have to struggle to make his/her case.

31 January, 2012

Four And A Half Cats

The bug has certainly upped the mobility, flipping and flopping around like a little play machine.  She is still sitting with assistance of a well placed Boppy, rather than free-styling it.

It seems that when one sits inside of a Boppy, one should stretch oneself backward, almost upside down, and reach for any toys in need a fresh coat of one's slobber. Especially when one is now able to right oneself back up into a sitting position.

Video calling keeps getting better with the bug quickly learning her way around a touch screen.  Specifically, how to hang up on daddy.

However, I think it's time to update on the current cat condition.  You see, grandma already had a cat (we'll refer to him as Angel) and now our three (Panda, Rhino, and Monkey for those who don't remember or haven't read the cat post) and the bearded dragon live at grandma's with wifey and the bug.

Angel has welcomed his cousins warmly and seems to be even relieved to have Rhino to play chase with.  Panda is still working on sharing space with any cats, but that also is working out.

That our three are so tolerated by Angel is interesting because, prior to their arrival, Angel had a neighborhood friend we call Dolores, due to sad looking markings around the eyes.  Dolores does have tags, but never gets close enough to let us look at them.

Angel has firmly put his paw down.  Dolores is no longer allowed to come inside and help his/herself to the food.  Apparently, there are enough mouths to feed.  Angel is fine with Dolores hanging outside, just not inside.  Any more.

As far as the bearded dragon goes - he has a heat lamp - in the middle of the living room.  Cats like that.

27 January, 2012

Refrigerator Art

Family on Friday!!!

One of my favorite Monty Python sketches involves Eric Idle working in the coal mines and his playwright father, Graham Chapman, blows a gasket.  After all, coal miners never get invited to galas or rub elbows with the intellectually elite in orgies of culture.

Before we any of us were old enough to go to school, we likely made such a library of works as to wear out a few magnets, and leave more than a few marks on table tops.  However, hardly any of us had the aesthetic edge to warrant display beyond third grade.

That's a good thing, too.  If all anyone did was beautify the world and distract with tales of false ones, the people that didn't starve to death would succumb to exposure to the elements.

No matter what it is that a person has a talent for and enjoys doing, the job exists.  A child is a boundless avalanche of potential, cascading upon the world with terminal velocity in hopes of finding that perfect niche they can fit into.  Still, it seems parents, more often than not, try to direct the avalanche's direction.  As you can imagine, steering an avalanche has a narrow margin of success.

We can go on and on about the reasons parents try to tell their kids who to be (legacy, failed dreams, prestige, etc.), but I'd rather keep this post about parents realizing that when it comes to avalanches, get out of the way.

And if the bug decides to go work in the coal mines when she's older, I'll buy her a canary and ask myself if she's happy making a living doing something she loves.

25 January, 2012

Bendable Ears

Writers' Wednesday!!!

There comes a time in every writer's life when his/her family and friends don't really want to hear anymore about the story.  That being understood, make the most of what time you have until that happens.

Writers need sounding boards.  Vocalizing is an important tool for organizing plot points, describing concepts, and testing where the readers/audience will want more information (and especially where they won't).

In order for these chats to be as effective as possible, listen.  Listen to yourself tell the story.  Listen to your family members and friends.  Not just for what they say, but also for the subtext behind what they say.

The first big alarm that should go off in your head occurs when you hear yourself actually get into story-telling mode after knocking around with backstory.  Don't write the backstory!  Start with where you started story telling and keep the backstory in mind, revealing the important bits as they become relevant.  (Had Tolkien done this, he could have spared us decades of waiting in the Shire, which Jackson astutely truncated.)

The first big alarm you get, whilst listening to aforementioned sounding board, happens when they switch from interjecting their oohs and aahs with casual references to your genius, and get involved with the world you're creating.  They will ask for more detail, speak of your characters as real people, and put pieces together before your very eyes.

Should your trusted listener begin offering suggestions on how to change your story, or slip into a writer mode all their own, that's a big (and valuable) hint that your story just isn't doing enough for them.  You've lost them and, if it keeps happening, spend more time developing your story.  The exception to this usually involves at least one person we all know who compulsively fixes things that aren't broken until they are.

This technique is especially helpful for people who say they have a hard time explaining their story.  That just means you need more practice.  The better you get at it, the more it will improve your writing style.

24 January, 2012

Faces From Afar

I've pretty well adjusted to life in the bungalow.  Admittedly, I haven't done much more than that in the first full week of living on the N.C. Coast.  I've reached that magic moment when I can confidently use the major roads to get where I'm going without the assistance of Google Navigation.

Video calling wifey and the bug helps me stay connected in a my-daughter-thinks-I'm-Max-Headroom way.  After a few calls, she's become more interactive with the screen.  It's very therapeutic to be able to make her (and her mom) laugh from a distance.

An interesting related development:  She actually moves her hands and fingers in a convincing imitation of typing. I tell you, kids haven't changed a bit.  The world they grow up in has changed.  It's a good thing.

The bug will be turning seven months old this week.  No teeth yet, but something is going on in those gums.

20 January, 2012

One Man's Treasure...

Family on Friday!!!

There are many versions of this week's tip.  My favorite goes something like "Never look down on another man's blessing."  Another popular way to say it is, "Don't laugh at another person's dreams.  It might be all they have."

They have different meanings, but they meet at a common point.  We should try not to feel superior when we see someone with clothes, cars, job, home, food, or the like, that we would rush to get rid of if they showed up in our garages.  It may be the best thing that ever happened to them.

We especially send a bad message when we do so in front of our families.  It validates bullying.  It can also create distance and distrust for family members to share their opinions or express their likes.

I know it's hard when you pass a car with more primer than paint, a floppy oversized spoiler, a sad sounding muffler, and twenty-two inch spinners.  Those kinds of things catch you off guard and you can't help but laugh.

That's okay.  Laugh.

What we don't need to do is follow it up with disparaging remarks or tirades regarding wastes of money.  Best thing to say in a situation like that would be along the lines of "I hope they're happy with that when it's finished," or "they really have been working hard on that."

I recently passed a Toyota Prius (Hybrid car, for any of you who just came out of a time capsule.  Half-gas, half-electric) with the license plate: GAS HOLE.  I laughed.  Hard.  But, then I became self-conscious about my fuel-efficient-but-not-as-fuel-efficient car.

My fight-back instinct wants to point out that I haven't seen a hybrid vehicle, or fully electric, that wasn't hideous.  My logical instinct wants to point out that if there were a desirable model on the market, I'm still a good two years away from having a chance to buy it.  My mediating instinct shuts everyone up by saying I have what's right for me now and so do to the Prius owners.

We can never truly know the situations in the lives of other people.  If we can remember that, more often than not, and curb our desire to kick someone we see on the ground, then our families can make a crucial step to helping others rather than judging.

18 January, 2012

Sensing Your Mind

Writers' Wednesday!!!

In many ways writing is meditation.  It helps us make sense of the swirling intangibles of our mind.  Vivid visualization feeds vivid writing feeds vivid visualization and so on.

Thoughts rattle off in rapid fire mode and (especially when they're really good) we let them flick around like a bad music video.  That type of visualizing is not helpful.  To write better, we need to hold on to one thought at a time.  Write it out thoroughly before letting it move on.

For example, if I told you that three ducks attacked a hedgehog, your mind would try to picture the action and the events surrounding it.  Break it out slowly before the ducks wind up in court.  What color are the ducks?  How effective are their attacks against the hedgehog?  What's the hedgehog's disposition?  Where are they?  Back alley?  Woodland stream?  Purple meadow?  What can you smell?  What is the weather like?  Are there any witnesses to the attack?

I've "slowed" your mind down to just the moment of the attacking.  Actually, I just added more detailed information about the attack.  It's still working just as fast.  Don't worry.

Obviously, not every moment of your writing need be as thorough, or you'll have a terribly slow pace.  (But, that's what editing is for.)

As you prepare to write, your senses become engaged in the ideas you organize.  Try to focus on them and build as complete a picture as possible before moving on.  You'll discover after utilizing this process that your mind becomes sharper in the mental images it creates.  And that makes describing it in words so much easier.

16 January, 2012

Coast To Coast

After nearly a week of driving across the country and unpacking in my temporary bungalow, the jet lag leaves a faint recognition of the absence of road hiss as it moves from behind my eyes and makes one last stand in the motivational center of my brain.  I could have sworn the reality of what I have done would sink in after I saw my belongings set up in a strange place without the bug, or wifey.

There's still the vacation-esque feel to the whole move.  I've decided that's hope telling me they will be able to move out here with me very soon.

In the meantime, frequent phone calls with the little bug voice filling in the background help me feel connected.  She has selected a new group of toys and settled into a nice daily routine with her recently "retired" mommy.  More flavored foods than not are greeted with gusto, chatter, and the rhythmic slamming of palms on the high-chair tray.  A few foods have been outright rejected.

I'm rather amused that after driving 2,800 miles and successfully navigating all over town I now have to wait at the DMV and be tested on my ability to drive.  Speaking of being amused, stay tuned and find out if I wound up failing that test.

13 January, 2012

Division Of Labor

Family on Friday!!!

We all have things we're good at and things that other people rush to do for us before they have to fix it after us.

You may take your shortcomings as a challenge to get better, or inner demons to conquer. I say let 'em go. (Unless you don't really have anything else to contribute.)

All households/families work best by capitalizing on the strengths of their individual parts. It may be that no one is particularly good at a few chores. Up to your family to decide how to tackle that. May I suggest outside help under some bartering arrangement?

The point is not to get hung up or twisted over someone failing to impress when they should be applauded for what they do do. And if one task has been designated to one person, no fair telling them how to do their job.

Furthermore, don't try to take on everything yourself. Delegating saves time, sanity, energy, and marriages. Martyring yourself in the bathroom is just plain creepy.

Finally, cross-training works best for ensuring duties can be covered by a tolerable back-up. Putting all your eggs in one basket can make an accident that much messier.

11 January, 2012

Thick, Rich Consistency

Writers' Wednesday!!!

You can probably name dozens, if not, hundreds of examples of inconsistencies you've found in your life. Books, movies, television, songs, and even commercials are full of them.

That doesn't make it okay for you to use them. The more fictional your story is, the more important the act of writing material you don't publish becomes. Don't be the writer who thinks s/he can just keep track of everything mentally. The mind has a way of contriving and conveniently changing facts when ever it realizes your hero should have been able to turn into a sconce all along. It's too late now.

And for the love of Tebow and everything that is Holy, do not be the writer who thinks everything s/he wrote to keep track of details and special rules needs to be included in the final draft. They have a name for this: exposition dump. Emphasis on the dump. If you suspect that a chunk of your writing might could be called an exposition dump, give yourself a swirly and say ten times, I am a waste of this water.

Where was I? Oh yeah ...

Don't worry about whether or not your rules are debatable if they are consistent. Some readers/audience want it spelled out, drawn in a picture, and wrapped in a bow. (Lite subtext, please.) I find that more people want to have enough information to put it together themselves. Makes them feel smart.

How do you know when there's enough information? Easy. Plenty of people will be reading your work before it gets published. Right? Right?! They will let you know when you don't have enough. But, they won't always know when you have too much.

I have five different notebooks going with separate purposes for the novel I'm writing. I refer to them and previous pages constantly. And I add to them regularly. I have no idea if any of that stuff will ever be published, but it sure is nice to have on hand.

For now, it's Wednesday in Oklahoma, but Tuesday in California? Should I wait to post? Can I feed my mogwai?

10 January, 2012

A Brand New, New Direction

Back in September of 2011, wifey and I started a new-parent routine that involved not having the same day off, taking turns caring for the bug, and generally avoiding having to pay for any childcare. Well, after a few months of that, we decided it wasn't going to last.

On a side note, allow me to point out that if you know any recent mothers returning to the workplace, I assure you they are forcing themselves to be there and finding any way to justify working instead of caring for their baby. The last thing they need to be told is "oh, it goes by so fast. If you blink, you miss it." When they hear that (several times an hour), don't be surprised when they stop showing up to work.

As I was saying, we needed to find a new routine. One that would allow wifey to be a stay-at-home mom, open the possibility of a sibling for the bug, and give me plenty of bacon to bring home. Yes. Bacon.

I scattered probe droids throughout Australia, Canada, the U.S., and France to see where such a routine might exist. Turns out the Rebel base and the mother of bacon generators is in North Carolina.

Naturally, I loaded up my Imperial Star Destroyer and am en route to make a home for us. Wifey and the bug will stay with grandma until the rebel forces have been thwarted.

I apologize for all the Hoth references, but I'm posting from Flagstaff, AZ and it's not warm.

I'm not going to be the write-at-home dad anymore and, for at least a few months, I won't be able to post any first-hand bug development updates. I can tell you she has started sleeping in a variety of extremely cute on-the-side and on-the-belly positions. I'll also need to change my banner once I get my computer hooked up again.

For now, it's time to burn up a fresh tank of gas.

06 January, 2012

The Strength Of Your Resolve

Resolutions are a popular thing this time of year. Goal setting and all that.

Do you shoot for the moon and set yourself up for failure? Are you consistently swearing to start your resolution tomorrow? Perhaps you're busy coming up with resolutions for other people.  Good luck with that.

As far as your family, especially your children, are concerned, the actions you take toward meeting your ambitions mean the most. Go ahead and resolve to compete in a triathlon this year in spite of the fact that last year walking the dog was too much exercise. You'll at least take a few pounds off of yourself and Lucky by trying.

When people see you lace up, soldier through the shin splints, and stick to a routine, you earn credibility along with respect. That credibility will pre-win a few arguments for you. Can't complain about mowing the lawn to anyone wearing ice packs under their knee braces.

Even if you never cross a starting line this year, you can still inspire those closest to you to take action. Go ahead, let them see you sweat.

03 January, 2012

New Year, And An Attitude To Match

Writer's Wednesday!!!

Here I am posting from my phone's app, again. I figure I can only get better at it by doing it.

Which brings me to my point and this year's first writing tip!

Try new and unfamiliar aspects of writing.

You may be anxious about tweeting, blogging, or other social medias and I can almost guarantee you that anxiety stems from inexperience. Get to know it and your confidence will elevate.

Perhaps you scorn specific genres of writing because you can't fathom how they could be written with any discernible degree of talent or interest. Read some of them. You may be surprised.

Then again, you might just justify your belief that such things are not for you. Even if you find you're into anti-social media and can only stomach historical fiction, there will be valuable take-aways that improve your writing style and identity.

02 January, 2012

That's How She Rolls

Over our Christmas visit, wifey's aunt asked if the bug had started rolling over yet.  I updated auntie that she had rolled over a couple times over the last month or so, but didn't seem especially interested in it.  That she just did it when she felt like it.

As I was saying that, the bug flipped onto her stomach.  Then back to her back.  Then rollie-ollie-ollied from side to side several times.  Six months old and already trying to prove me wrong.  She gets more and more like her mom everyday.

Ever since that day (for the last... what?... five?  sheesh), the bug is a flippin' fool.  Rolling around is a chief component of her floor play, and if she's not on her side in her crib, she's belly down and head up.

She's quite proud of herself for gaining a little extra mobility, too.  These movements are typically accompanied with the sort of loud whoops reserved for athletes after making a big play.

No crawling as of yet.  She can get her butt up on knees or toes, but she hasn't quite got the hang of forward motion or lifting her chest off the ground.  Stay tuned.  The race is on between teeth or crawling.