Staring Down the Barrel of a (Hot Glue) Gun

Sometimes your mind can be so open that your brain falls out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I know -- I'll fill the pinata with liquid nitrogen!

How to Overshoot at a Birthday Party, or She *Is* Only 3, Right?

After a last minute, morning-of purchase of a gift, the fam and I piled into the car for the birthday party of a friend of Mags', ironically enough named Maggie. Maggie, the daughter of a co-worker of Husband's and a very sweet little girl, was turning the ripe old age of three. As with all things that might involve balloons, Mags was very excited.

Now, Maggie's mom and dad are extremely nice people. She's a stay-at-home mom with a Ph.D. and he's the CTO of Husband's company, probably with a pocketful of degrees as well. Neither of them sew or enjoy being naked in public, so you can imagine we don't have a ton in common, but we all get along well enough. We've had playdates at the beach or at their house, and they even invited us over for Thanksgiving this past year. I'm happy to hang out with them anytime (please remember this.)

At Thanksgiving, in fact, they were playing with some dry ice they'd 'borrowed' from work, so I wasn't super suprised to see a group of toddlers ooohing and aaahhhing around a large tub of cascading 'smoke' when we got there. In fact, I thought it was pretty cool too. S, Maggie's father, was even trying to explain to the kids what was going on. He talked about the gases involved, showed them an experiment with a candle; that sort of thing. Wow, I though, that's really...thorough! Parents hovered nearby, pretending not to pay attention over their paper plates of organic veggies and hummus.

Then all the kids were shown into the living room, where the next 'experiment' was waiting. S had reversed the blower on a vacuum and was showing the kids how to make a beach ball float in the stream of air. Again, more explanations of the physics involved, airflow, blah, And again, very cool, if not a bit noisy. As the kids took turns holding the nozzle, I started to feel a little lame. Geez, I thought, for Mags' last birthday all I did was let them run around and decorate their own cupcakes.

Then they handed out the gift bags for the kids. Guess what was inside. No, really -- guess. Lab-quality safety goggles for all the kids, and a test tube/dropper kit! Plus, a printed page of scientific explanations for the things we'd be seeing/doing today! Of course! I sank deeper into my funk. Jesus! I berated myself. Maybe I should spend less time teaching Mags the importance of running jokes and nonsense Dr. Seuss snippets and more time teaching know, other stuff. Like, ummm, the physics of.... airstreams.

That was, until, S announced to the group that we should all go into the other room where they had... a camera obscura! And no ordinary camera obscura - but one that was tall enough for 6 toddlers to walk into and stand inside that they had built from scratch!. I burst out laughing and had to stifle myself by jamming my face into Husband's armpit, lest I seem rude (if not a little strange.) Suddenly I felt much better. I realized most of the parents present were out of their league, much less the kids, who were having a good enough time but were probably not gonna go home with more than a cool pair of glasses after the party. Again, S went through explanations to all the kids (and parents) who crawled inside. Mostly they just blocked the lens trying to see in/out of the box.

Then came the liquid nitrogen experiment with the frozen flowers. And then came the announcement that everyone was to go to the bedroom where they'd be doing an experiment to play with - get this - color blindness. I couldn't help it. I turned to Husband next to me on the love seat and whispered, "Yeah, and then we're gonna check for head lice and scoliosis!" He choked on his lunch laughing. Thank god I wasn't the only one who remembered we were dealing with three year old here.

Shortly thereafter, I had Husband drive me home as I was feeling like ass and needed to nap. Husband brought Mags later. At the end of the day, everyone had a good time; she came home with a bag full of stuff she promptly forgot about ("Do I get a balloon?") and I came home with the sense of being a great, totally normal and average parent.

I'm thinking maybe I'll shake things up at Mags' birthday next month with cupcakes and a pinata. Arming kids with sticks inside a house? I'll give you physics!!

That Didn't Work At All

Mags and I did some shopping at Target the other day. We were in need of a birthday gift for a friend of hers. I figured that picking out a gift would be a snap. I mean, isn't taking a three year old to the toy section the toddler equivalent of walking down the beach with a metal detector?

Turned out not to be the case. Not once did she beep loudly, blink brightly, or exclaim that "That toy is really cool, Mama!" Apparently the lollypop I gave her just before entering the store totally shorted all of her circuits. Dammit.

I am once again super appreciative of the fact that my kid doesn't expect/demand a toy when we go to the store. Just, y'know, coulda used a little help on this one. :)

We went home empty-handed.

Its Like Trying On Shoes. For Your Face.

Ahh, my continuing adventures in sleep technology!

I've not blogged a ton about my CPAP machine since finally getting it back in November. Mostly its just been one of those things I kept meaning to write about and never did. Bet you're dying for an update, no? Read on!

For the record, its been a long strange trip. I remember the first time I went to get the machine; I sat in a room lined with glass display heads, all sporting a different style of the most ridiculous and ugly head gear/mask combinations you could even begin to imagine. (It was practically an out-of-body experience: You're kidding me, I thought to myself, this is now my reality? Similarly, when the woman came in to help me get fitted for a mask, I watched her putter around her highly unusual job and thought, wow, this is her reality?)
It wasn't an overnight miracle cure either. There've been what feels like a dozen trips back to the Sleep Clinic as well to get the pressure adjusted. Its a balancing act, finding a pressure that's strong enough to be effective and keep your windpipe open, whilst not inflating you while you sleep (or more importantly, causing your mask to leak.) Not to mention just getting used to having something strapped to your head; the new positions you have to sleep in to be comfortable and not knock the mask askew.

But in the words of Hedwig, the strangest things seem suddenly routine. The kinks started to work themselves out, and my sleep did improve. I no longer sank into depression at night when I geared up. Mags and I have had a few good laughs about the mask, but she now too gets that it helps Mama. Now, in fact, it feels odd to sleep without it (sometimes.)

But lately I have been having more problems with leaking. The machine is doing exactly what it should, specifically, making me fall into deep, deep sleep. Problem is now, I'm out so cold, everything goes slack, my mouth drops open, and all that fabulous pressurized air goes straight out my gaping maw, negating any benefits I might get. I've tried a 'chin guard' (read: a jock strap for your face; amazingly even uglier that the mask itsself IMHO,) and just flat out taping my mouth shut at night (which still leaks and gives me the added bonus of a semi-permanent sticky residue on my face. Its like making out with a Post-It note. Sigh.)

Time to try new styles of masks. I got one about two weeks ago that covered not only my nose but my mouth as well. Hmmm. Tried that all of twice. It leaked more that the condom Husband wore when we begat Mags, so I went back in to the store today to evoke my 30 day trial period, and tried on several new versions.

There's not a ton of variation that you can have between very specific-purposed masks like these, but they all have just enough differences in fit that you do need to try them all on. And try them all on I did. Here, try this one. No? How about this one. Hmmm. What if we try this mask with this head gear? This one adjusts like so... What if you put your head back? No, that's definitely not working...Well, we can take out the liner like this....

You get the idea. The guy had to keep running back and forth to the storage room. At one point the table was covered with masks, and I had more than a brief moment of fear that nothing would ever work. But we eventually found a mask that should work without any additional Super Glue or staple guns. If in a week it works, I go back in to get a non-loaner model. If not, its time for my new best friend Andrew to pull out more shoe boxes, which hopefully for both of our sakes, he won't have to do. Wish me luck!
Oh, and for the record, this is oddly less depressing than shopping for shoes, one of my least favorite pasttimes in the world. I might have a slightly less-traditional shaped face, but you'd think I was the last woman on earth who wore a size 12 shoe. Truly. If I've got a choice, give me a jock strap and a sticky face any day. (Wow, now there's one for the quote book!)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Like A Bolt of Cartoon Lightning

I've come to an important realization.

Dr. Seuss books that are not illustrated by Dr. Seuss are fairly lame. There were a good number of these, written under the name Theo LeSeig (which is 'Geisel' - his actual last name - spelled backwards,) and are often more Beginner Books for young readers than his regular stuff.

Oh sure, the kids still like 'em. But what do they know? Seuss prose without Seuss art feels just kind of 'eh' to me. Hell, *I* could make up nonsense rhyming books if I didn't have to illustrate them. Yawn.

Who's with me? Would the Lorax be the same if someone else illustrated it? The Grinch? Or the Star-Bellied Sneeches?

And for those interested, check out The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss. I've hung copies of some of these prints as art in our house. Its a great book, and shows an incredible array of different types of art that Seuss did, ranging from sculpture to political in nature. I'm particularly fond of the faux taxidermy heads he made of some of his creatures.

He was a neat guy.


I've had a few reminders lately that Mags' isn't exactly a baby anymore. When people ask me how old she is, I tell them she's three and their eyes bug out. But really, she's less 'three' and more 'almost four', which at the very least makes her look a little bit more size-appropriate.

A few things that have been happening:

*She's gained about 10 lbs. She gets harder and harder to carry all the time.
*Her new favorite story is a good 40 pages long. Full paragraphs! No rhymes!
*She was next door at Whizz's house yesterday playing the game Sorry...and she actually pretty much got it.
*She's adding and (sort of) subtracting
*She's discovered the fine art of lying (just once, but it was a doozy; designed to manipulate)
*Next week she offically starts four year old preschool
*Dressing herself is a constant, as is the phrase "I can do it myself, Mom!"

I realize these are not huge things. Every child goes through these steps. I do not feel as if rays of light bathe my child as she walks the earth. They're just a few eye-opening things that remind me that however much Mags likes to pretend to be a baby and wants me to carry her around baby-style, that however long and neverending some of those rough newborn/baby/toddler days were...she's growing up.

My god, does anyone else hear the strains of "Sunrise, Sunset"?

Is this the little girl I (ooompf!) carried,
Is this the little girl (my spine!) at play...

I'll be right back. I obviously need to go get all verklempt with "Fiddler on the Roof" for a while.

Technicolor Yawn

That certainly was unpleasant, to say the least.

I had a bit of a match with either food poisoning or the stomach flu last night. Either way, we went five rounds and I lost every single one of them. Ding, ding!

Don't feel feverish or achey, but not sure what I ate that no one else in our house consumed. Husband suggested the mustard I put on my tuna sandwich yesterday, which I am skeptical of. I'd be more inclined to place my vote with the mayo, but all three of us ate the same mixture, and I was the only one shouting obscenities into a porcelain bowl at 2am. Go figure.

Barfing is never pleasant, but there is a certain kind of relief after just getting it over with. Whew! Now I can just start to feel better, you think to yourself (while using your Husband's toothbrush to clean your mouth.) Hell, I'd even started to compose a little vomit haiku while cooling my cheek on the toilet seat.

Storm in my tummy
Like the winter winds outside
I'll knock down a fence

But it just kept on and on, every 40 minutes or so. And every time I went to the bathroom, I'd drag another pillow or blanket in there. By the time it was all over, I'd built quite a nest on the floor. At one point, while limply drooped over Mags' stepstool and the blankets carelessly draped around me, my pose reminded me of a nightmare-ish Olan Mills photograph, sans the 1970's barn scene behind me.

And then I threw up again.

While still completely exhausted, the cramping in my stomach has significantly abated, and I am well enough to stagger downstairs and regale my adventures. Fingers crossed that whatever this was its done with, and that neither Husband or Mags comes down with it. We've been very lucky - knock on wood - that Mags has only thrown up once in her life. If we could continute that streak so that she doesn't throw up again - say, until college when I don't have to deal with it - I'd be much appreciative.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Chapter in the Instruction Manual, Hopefully

Around these parts, Husband and I tend to give Mags every opportunity to correct a mistake/change her behavior before really getting in her face. This normally involves some sort of attempt at rationally discussing something, some amount of explaining why we're using said boundaries, or the like. (If you asked *my* family, they'd give you a whole earful about how we're too lenient with Mags, but thats for a different post. )

Anyhow, in our house, if you've been threatened with a time out, Mom and Dad must be Really Mad. And a few nights ago, Mags got scolded and (gasp!) threatened with a time out. She'd hemmed, she'd hawed, and finally Husband had had enough of being yanked around, raised his voice, and started The Countdown.


Ususally this is all it takes. But in keeping with our new trend of 'all things dramatic', Mags dissolved into tears. "Why are you crying?" Husband asked exasperatedly. "Be-be-cause you hurt my feelings!" sobbed our distraught daughter. Now, I can't speak for Husband, but this made me grind my jaw and roll my eyes. Frustration - the likes of which only comes with having a child - was instantaneous. Kid, you didn't listen to your parents and they got mad! We're not trying to hurt your feelings, we're trying to discipline you! Arg!

But later, after the storm had passed, I realized something fairly frightening: I tend to do the same thing too. I totally cannot hear criticism without taking it personally and getting upset (well, rarely, anyhow, or only with very specific people under tightly controlled cicumstances, and the planets aligned just so.) Hell, I'm ashamed to admit, sometime even *I* get sort of verklempt if I get told. I don't like to hear that I've done something wrong. And yes, I know no-one really likes to hear it, but I REALLY don't. Like, to the point where I feel like its a moral failing, or somesuch.

So now I'm worried. Fine, I'm a big freak and have made it to 34 years old and still easily get my feelings hurt. That's my baggage to carry through the terminal of life. But how do I teach my daughter how to not be this way if I can't even figure out how to do it for myself??!? Gaaa! I know I have many fine qualities that hopefully will stick on my kid, but this is not one of them!

So, if anyone has a book titled something like: How Not To Be Insecure And Especially How Not To Pass It Onto Your Kid, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

Dead Bird

How does one explain death to an almost 4 year old? I've tried a couple of times now, and its not going so well.

At school, the class is made up predominately of boys, so Mags gets a LOT of exposure to superheroes and guns and bad guys and things of that gist. We've been trying to enforce a 'no guns, no playing 'dead' rule at our house, but Mags keeps trying to skirt it. "But Mom, I'm not doing it at you," or "I'm just pretending with myself, Mom. You don't have to worry!" So we keep trying.

The other day, Mamacat brought home a bird she'd caught. She was very excited, and I congratulated her mightily before scooping up the ex-parrot with a paper towel and dropping it into the trash. When Mags got home that night, I asked her if she wanted to see the bird Mamcat had caught. Thrilled, she peered into the trash can. "Excellent job, Mamacat!" she exclaimed. Then she asked to play with the bird.

Me: No, honey. You can't. Its dead.
Mags: But why not?
Husband: No, dead is like its broken.
Mags: But we can just fix it, right Mama? We have tape! And scissors!
Me: No, baby, beig dead is like being so broken you can't fix it. Being dead is for always. That's why we don't like to joke about being dead. Because once you're dead, you can't stop being dead. There's no more.

And so on it went until both sides agreed on an unspoked truce. We were fumbling mightily, and her mind was too filled with people no longer being dead on the playground. Guess I really don't have to cement the idea with her now, and frankly I'm afraid of saying too much and scaring the crap out of her so that she never wants to go to sleep again or somethign equally traumatic, but I wish I didn't feel like such a putz tripping through an explanation....

Some days, I'd give my kingdom for an instruction manual.


Unlike many (most?) folks, I really kind of enjoy having scars. From what I can figure, most people think they're flaws, or imperfections. Detract from the big picture, or something.

But not me. More often than not, they have a good story behind them ("Well, I had the baby in one hand and a chainsaw in the other..."), but more importantly, having scars kind of makes me feel like I've lived. Y'know? Participated. Done stuff that was dangerous. Looked into the face of death. Lived on the edge.

You know, like ironing.

Yes, the newest addition to my scar collection I got while ironing my dress. It was crazy! Outside, the world rolled by, unsuspecting. Inside, blithe pop music filled the air, giving no hint of the doom about to befall me. The iron rested on the blue and white striped board, burning with pent up fury. Like a coiled spring, it waited. And waited. Oh, how it seethed.

With an innocence usually reserved for infants, I approached the board with fabric in hand. Tension mounted! The universe held its breath! I picked up the iron, ran it over the fabric. Oh! This was the final injustice! It could take the abuse no longer! Coming to rest back on its base after this indiginty, it lashed out at its abuser --


Burned my index finger and knuckle pretty good. Purt near had to have it amputated. As it was, I had to suck the venom out myself, which was hard to to on account of the fact that I'd gone nearly blind by that time. It felt as if the demons of hell themselves were a-chasin' me, and it was all I could do to crawl to the freezer and get some Cherry Garcia to help with the pain.

Yyyep-pah. That's what happens when you live life on the edge, all right....

(See?? Good story!)

My Kid Rocks

Amazingly enough, Husband and I had weekend plans last week. An invitation-only rave, and we miraculously ended up on the invite list without even trying! Dancing! Grown ups! Babysitter! The mind boggles! But I knew, realistically, even under the best of circumstances, I couldn't have gone. My sleep is just too precariously balanced, even when I'm not behind. I'd known going into the weekend that I probably wasn't gonna be able to go, short of some miracle.

Saturday night my mood was even more blue that usual. I've been pretty worn down from the dress, on top of my usual exhaustion issues. So literally, by 2pm that day, I was a wreck. Easily could've gone to bed. In fact, should have napped, but I was trying to be a hero and push through. Yeah, someday I'll learn...maybe...

Night rolled around and I found myself barely awake on the couch at 830 while Husband prepared to head out. I'd told him he should go - there was no logical reason for him to stay home if Mags and I were just gonna be crashed out anyhow - but I was still in a foul mood. It rolled over me in waves, anger and frustration and self-pity and anger and just...everything. Quietly I started to weep.

Mags had been puttering around the living room, getting her myriad of books, animals and random tinkertoys ready for bed. Husband told her it was time to head upstairs. But before she jumped into his arms, she grabbed her doll blanket and laid it over my torso. "Here you go, sweetheart," she said, not noticing my tears. "You get some good rest and I'll see you in the morning." She leaned over and gave me a sweet kiss.

I started to cry harder, amazed by the selfless love I was receiving from a 3 year old. "Mama!" she asked, shocked. "Why are you crying?!"

I tried to explain how even Mamas get tired of being sick and having headaches and being sleepy all the time, and how grown ups get frustrated too. "But then a friend comes and makes you feel all better," she said, crawling onto the couch next to me, "by snuggling and giving you hugs!" She closed her eyes and carefully placed slow kisses on my chin and cheek.

"Yes," I replied, still crying, but with a chest full of love. "Yes they do."


Mags and I are heading to Boston tomorrow (Husband follows later in the week) to see various friends and family. Some of these folks we've seen as recently as December, but the other half have not seen me since before the tumor -- that is to say before I started looking pretty wrecked (IMHO.) I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror this morning - something I usually try to avoid - and all I saw were huge dark circles under my eyes, ill-fitting clothes, a distended and lumpy body; just not a pretty picture. I'll admit, I'm embarrassed and worried about what folks will think. I'm already feeling defemsive, and lining up all of my explanations about how the tumor f***s you up, but I always feel like I'm desperately handing out excuses to make up for character flaws when I give them.

I'm probably not giving folks enough credit here, but one has to admit that it'll be somethng of a shock to see, especially because photos of me have dwindled greatly in the past year or two.

Golly, I can't wait to get back on anti-depressants...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Oh, And...

Did I mention this dress is made from more that 100 indifidual pieces? And I'm *not* talking about the sequins....

Out, Out, Damned Dress!

Miracle of miracles, it is finally done. And only a week late!

I *never* thought that fucking thing would be done. Everything took longer than it was supposed to. I had a sick kid. I lost an evening of babysitting. It 'shrank' during sewing and I had to fix that. The sleeves did this weird ripple thing. Most of the sequins got totally screwed up during the sewing process and I had to re-sew them all again. No lie.

Now, I'm a self-proclaimed perfectionist. I was even putting more effort into this dress because a) I wanted it to be somethig I could use as a portfolio/resume piece, and b) I fantasized constantly about my dress being voted the best for its category at the museum showing. (Yes, I went so far as to start planning what I would say when I was interviewed by the Chronicle for the article they don't know they're gonna write about the event yet. For the record, I was very witty.) But after getting two extensions from SVdP and still having to pull an all-nighter, even I reached the 'fuck it'. point. It was done enough, it was good enough, and I needed my life back. Besides, I saw what sold last year (coat made of stuffed animal pelts, anyone?), I knew it would sell and SVdP would make $$ on it My dress was a shoe-in in that respect, anyhow.

Once it was on the dress form and properly lit for photo taking purposes and I could step back from it, I actually liked it and was happy. Not thrilled, mind you, because I've not yet come to realize that my level of perfection is not realistic. But, it is still a pretty damned good dress. Oh sure, I can see tons of flaws in it, but I figure what I lose in flaws I more than make up for in ambition, and that's gotta count for something. Satisfaction! A job well done!

Like most of my homework assignments in high school, I completed the registration sheet at the last minute while Husband drove the car, right down to making sure I met the minimum word count for the item description. Not a memory I enjoyed reliving, but it got done. Groggily, I staggered into the office, dress in hand.

One of the perks of turning in your garment last is that you get to see what's already been turned in. The office was filled with dozens of dress forms sporting the latest in thrift store reject fashions. There were ever 6 or 7 that had been pulled aside as an obvious nod to their excellence. These were the first ones I saw. Remeber those good feelings I had about seeing my dress all finished? All gone. Some of these garments were truly stunning and wildly creative. I suddenly felt like I had just wasted a lot of time. Was reminded that designing is not really my strong point. Good bye Chron, that's for sure.

We took my dress to where the bulk of the garments were, and I have to agree with Husband's opinion; my dress at least 'met' if not surpassed this batch. There were plenty of really fun and beautiful things over here, so at least I wasn't being banished to some 'special' scrub rag department. Plus. seeing the other items helped bring me back up to some level of satisfaction with my dress. It was also a good time to remind myself that the purpose of making the dress was first and formost to help a charity, not build my portfolio or become internationally known via the local rag (although those things woulda been nice, lemme tell you...)

So, long story short, its done and gone. Its weird to be at home and not have it on the dress form, or spending every waking moment working on it. There's something missing; its almost like someone has moved out. Now I'm trying to catch up on my life. Emails, calls, doctors appointments postponed while I focused all of my energy on this. I really have never been to good at taking care of myself.

It was a learning experience, and as foolish as many of my choices were surronding this dress, I'm glad I did it. Probably do it again.

Oh, but next year? I'm making pillow cases.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Baby Steps

Got my intake call from the 3-4 week wait doctor today. They still have to verify insurance AND then transfer me to the actual department to make an appointment, but at least the ball is rolling.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Milestone of Fear

So, I have officially completed the 'construction' phase, and am ready to begin the 'assembly' stage. Well, maybe saying I'm ready is a gross understatement -- I'm terrified I'm gonna fuck something up. Connecting the skirt to the waist is not just simple straight seams; c'mon, this is *me* we're talking about here. The waistband of the skirt needs to be cut into a VERY SPECIFIC shape before being attached, and that's what scares me. Once this is cut, there's nothing I can do if it gets screwed up. Hell, I've even gone so far as to start considering alternatives for attaching the waist that don't involve cutting.


Other than being paralyzed by fear, its coming together *so* well (knock, knock.) In between guffaws, Husband is very impessed. Mags is being very cooperative and is occupying herself (with some help from Husband.) Still fighting the urge to just stop. Watch a movie. Read a book. Sleep. Bathe. ANYTHING besides this dress.

Ok, fingers crossed, here's the rest of the schedule:

Today: panic
Later today: attach skirt to waistband, waistband to top (in that order.)
Super Dress Sunday: lining, zipper, hem?
Monday: details (fix sequins, hem sleeves), photograph and take to SF

Dear Universe, we're still tight, right? You got my back on this one? Please?