The Art Of Doodling

last weekend, our Girl Scout troop worked on the art badge. Some of the girls were worried that they couldn’t draw, so I thought we would try doodling instead. I’ve recently picked up a bunch of books on doodling, Zen Tangles (TM), etc. I love to doodle, and I’ve been spending a lot of time doodling lately. I also picked up a bunch of blank cards with envelops for a really good price, so I spent an afternoon working with the girls on making greeting cards as part of their art badge activities. And I enjoyed that so much, that I decided to finish my card up and send it to mym mom for her birthday. Here are some pics of the artwork in progress.



Move It Mama Monday! The benefits of karate

I went to our dojo’s Winter Karate Camp two weeks ago. One of the weapons I took a class on was the jo, a staff about 4 1/2 feet long. I spent an hour working on Jo Kihon, or the basic jo kata, and I’ve probably already forgotten most of it because I’ve got a lousy memory. But I did come away with a few basic jo skills that I was able to put to use the next day at Princess’ birthday party.

Get ready…..



If that looked painful, don’t worry. Sponge Bob deserved it.

Of course, looking at these pictures now, I can tell you what my instructor would say. “Your hands are too far apart! Choke up on your grip!”

Oh well. Maybe I’ll learn better next year?

Episode 27 – Now We Are Forty

My birthday was yesterday, but my warrenty ran out a looooooong time ago. In the last forty years, I have…

  • Split my scalp (I was jumping on the bed, missed, and landed on my noggin; I know, explains a lot, doesn’t it?)
  • Smashed my middle finger in a weight machine (not fun)
  • Ended up in the emergency room puking my guts up four times over a gall stone no one could find (but my mother knew it was there!)
  • Had surgery to remove gall stone no one could find (damn thing turned out to be as large as my thumbnail)
  • Broken my nose
  • Broken my ribs… twice
  • Screwed up my right knee (my husband’s fault – he mistook me for a 900 lb. gorilla and attacked me)
  • Screwed up my left knee (someone else’s fault – apparently they also thought I was a 900 lb. gorilla)
  • Screwed up my right knee again (completely random sparring accident – my opponent did NOT think I was a gorilla, but did get her leg tangled in mine during the match)
  • Fractured my sternum (once again, someone mistook me for a gorilla, only this time I must have weighed 1800 lbs. given how hard I got hit)
  • (BTW, these last six injuries all happened during martial arts classes, in case you haven’t guessed.)
  • Had a c-section (for Princess)
  • Had a VBAC – Vaginal Birth After C-section (for Pixie, and I split right up the front into the naughty bits when she came out!)

I’m pretty sure I’ve done some other things to myself, or been injured by others who have feared my inner gorilla, but these things are too numerous to be recalled. In any event, what I’m trying to say is, I’m damned lucky to still be alive!!

There will probably be a two-week break between this episode and the next. It’s not that I don’t love you all, but this weekend I’ve got a 3-day karate camp to attend (yay! more opportunities to get injured!) and the next week I’m headed out to Las Vegas for EPICon 2009. If you’re planning on attending EPICon, I should be doing a panel on podcasting for writers. And yes, I will be wearing my horns, so you’ll know me when you see me };)

Until the next episode, see ya!!

Move It Mama Monday

Well, I’m finally going to declare 2009 officially started because I have no choice in the matter. Yeah, yeah, I know. 2009 started almost two months ago. Well I had so much stuff from 2008 left hanging over my head that I wasn’t really ready to start 2009 until today. And I’m starting today because (drumroll please)…

I turned 40 today. That’s right, I’ve hit not-quite-middle-old-age.

I have to say 39 was pretty rough. I had a lot going on – the podcast, promoting my first book, writing and publishing my second book, the webcomic, Princess starting kindergarten, Saint Michael the Magnificent’s work schedule (he’s telecommuting with a NASA center on the opposite coast). I’ve been struggling to keep up, and I finally hit the point where I decided to start shoving stuff of my plate and not adding anything else on. This year I’ve decided to focus on certain basic things that I need to do, that I really want to do, that I enjoy doing, and nothing else needs to be added.

And one of these things is getting back in shape. I know I said back in January that I wanted to lose about 10 pounds. Well I hadn’t made much headway in that as of a week ago. Being so busy means lousy sleep and eating habits for me, which means low motivation and a sporadic exercise schedule at best. But on Valentine’s Day weekend, while I was away at a sci-fi convention pimping the new book, Michael picked up a Wii for the family, and now everything has changed.

I got to play with a Wii a bit back in December when we went to visit my in-laws. One of my brothers-in-law brought his over for all of us to play, and I thought it was fun. I also thought that maybe playing DDR would be a fun way for me to squeeze in a little exercise every now and then. I hadn’t seen the Wii Fit yet. But when Michael showed me the new set up in our living room, he handed me the Wii Fit disk and I thought, “Hmmm… this might be interesting.”

I had seen the Wii Fit demo online at Nintendo’s website, and wasn’t sure I’d be getting much of a workout from the program. Boy was I wrong about that! I’ve been doing Wii Fit for 8 days now, and I can honestly say it’s a butt-kicking workout. I put in between 30-60 minutes a day on that thing and I’m always dripping sweat when I’m done. I haven’t seen much change in my weight yet – I’ve lost one pound since I started 8 days ago – but I did notice a difference tonight when I went to my evening karate class. I’ve been struggling the last several months in karate. My knees have been nothing but trouble since my first pregnancy, and after Pixie was born, they were pretty much shot to hell. Constant pain in my knees plus extra weight plus being tired all the time has added up to me really not wanting to go to karate… and I’m a second degree black belt! I’m supposed to be good at this stuff, but I’ve been sucking wind for ages trying to keep up in class. I have to wear these humongous braces on each leg to protect my knees, which really makes it tough to do class. It’s a fight to kick or lift my legs, and my balance has been so off that some of the katas and stances have been downright painful.

Well not tonight. This evening I went through two hours of class, and I don’t hurt at all! I’m a little tired, but that’s nothing compared to how I usually feel after an evening of karate. I was able to do everything with no pain today, and I saw marked improvement in my stances and balance. It’s all due to the Wii Fit. That thing measures and tracks my balance and gives me instant feedback throughout the workout so I can correct myself on the spot. It’s really been a workout for my legs. I can actually see my hamstrings, and I know from working with a physical therapist that strong hamstrings alleviate a lot of knee problems. This is nothing short of a miracle for me!

So in honor of my new found energy and to mark my 40th birthday, I’m thinking of doing a regular bit on Mondays called “Move It Mama Monday,” where I’ll blog a bit about what I’m doing to get myself back into shape and stay there. If anyone is interested in contributing ideas for this particular series of posts, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at helenmadden (at) cox (dot) net. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can get my thirty-something body back now that I’m forty.

What I Learned On My 39th Birthday

I learned that…

If you agree to let your five-year-old help you bake her birthday cake and yours, you will end up waiting until the last minute to do it because of scheduling conflicts.

If you wait until the last minute to bake the cakes, you will have to kill yourself to get them done in time for the party. And you will still have to let the five-year-old help.

If you agree to let your husband go to VIRTUS training at the church instead of staying home to help with the party, you’re not going to have enough adults on hand to handle the upcoming disaster… er, party.

If you get the cakes backed, but then you leave the cake in the pan too long or too little, one layer will split right across the middle when you try to get it out. And your five-year-old will have a heart attack over this.

If you call often enough and frantically enough, and if you leave a really big note on the door, your husband will get home from VIRTUS training in time to fix that stupid cake.

If you look like you’re still pulling your hair out, your best friend will come to the rescue by picking up the sodas, chips, and dips that you forgot to get for the party. Never underestimate the miracle of a best friend.

If you put all thirty-nine candles on your birthday cake and light them, you will set off the fire alarm.

Now We Are Thirty-Nine

The past two weeks have hit me like a steam roller. First, everyone had the stomach flu. Then Michael left town on business for a week — more work at Johnson Space Center. Then we had Cassie’s fifth birthday (the day Michael left) and of course I had to plan a party. I am one of those moms that refuses to do a huge party where Cassie can invite all of her little classmates from preschool. I don’t have the time or energy to invest in that sort of 3-ring circus, and quite frankly, I hate those sorts of parties anyway. I don’t know any of the other moms of Cassie’s classmates. I live in an entirely different world from these people. I’ve been to a couple of the parties they’ve thrown for their kids and quite frankly, I’ve either felt like a complete outsider (a feeling I should be used to, but still don’t enjoy) or else I feel overwhelmingly disgusted by the sheer excess of a party thrown for a four- or five-year-old that involves an inflatable moonwalk, an over-priced magician, some clown doing balloon animals, face painting, a five-tiered cake, pony rides, and a visit from Spiderman/Sponge Bob/Dora the Explorer. Cassie would love to have a party like that, but you know what? I can’t afford it, time or money-wise, and I think that kind of excess for a kid’s party is just a really bad idea. Birthday parties should be spent with family and close friends. They should be a celebration of life, not a gift grab. My girl got presents all week long anyway, and I swear her grandmother knows no limits on sending presents. On her birthday, Cassie received more Barbie dolls in one day than I ever owned in my entire life. Yep, she got five Barbies… IN JUST ONE DAY. A bit much, neh?

But we did have a party, and though it was a small affair, it was just big enough to nearly kill me. Since my birthday was Saturday, the same day as Cassie’s party, I decided to do two cakes. Cassie wanted this princess cake from one of her kids’ cook books, and I thought that would have been too small to feed all the guests (but in hindsight it probably would have been just right). So I decided to do a cake for me as well. The only problem was, I had almost no time to do it in. Cassie wanted to help make both cakes, and while I am not huge on over-indulgent parties, I am big on mommy-daughter bonding activities, and cooking is one of them. So I set up a schedule that a) allowed Cassie to participate in the making, baking, and decorating of both cakes, and b) nearly insured that we had no cakes at all in time for the party. See, she could only help me when she was awake, and given our hectic schedule the previous week (remember, Michael was away), my free time during her waking hours was just about nil. I actually got up at 5AM on Saturday morning, the day OF the party, to bake my own cake. Then Cassie got up around 7:30, and by 9:30 we were all dressed and ready to make her cake. Unfortunately, we needed to leave the house at 10:30 to meet people at the Virginia Living Museum for a pre-party play date, and one hour just ain’t enough time to bake and frost a cake.

We did get the cake baked, but then when I tried to remove the layers from the pans before racing out the door to the museum, the bottom layer split, in half, horizontally. Imagine the swearing that accompanied that event. Then double it, because by that point, I was ready to tear out my hair and someone else’s.

Fortunately, Michael was home by then, although he had to go to VIRTUS training for the Catholic church. Boy, was I swearing about that too. Of all the mornings to not be available to help, that was a baaaaaad one to pick. I let him know that later. What made it worse was the fact that he did not get home from his business trip until almost midnight the night before, so I only got to see him for five minutes the next morning before he headed out for the church. But he did get home before the party started and he did manage to fix and frost Cassie’s birthday cake, and he ordered all the pizzas, so we did manage to pull off the party, and Cassie enjoyed it even if we didn’t hire Ringling Brothers to provide the entertainment.

My biggest disappointment over all this is the fact that all I can remember of the weekend is all the swearing and shouting I was doing, and the momentous struggle I felt like I was going through to make things happen. The same damned thing happened over Christmas — illness, business trips, too much work, not enough sleep — and the holidays were gone like that. I didn’t get to enjoy Christmas, and to be honest, I didn’t get to enjoy my birthday either. I had a brief period where I got to enjoy Cassie’s birthday, but that was only after all the screaming and ranting were over and we were in the middle of the party. The whole mother-daughter bonding while baking thing just added to the stress, so I didn’t even enjoy that like I thought I should have.

So what to do? Obviously, things are out of control here at la casa de Madden. I’ve got too much work, not enough time, not enough sleep, and Michael will be heading out on even more business trips in the upcoming months. It’s killing me, and I need to find a way to slow things down. But it’s going to take some effort.
The first step will be to clear some of this work off my desk. I’m proofing one book, writing another, putting together three art commissions, putting together articles for ERWA and doing the podcast. Plus I need to work on promoting my writing, and I’ve got EPIC VA events to coordinate. That’s a lot of work. I need to winnow it down, and then I need to not take on anything else for a while.

I wonder if it will ever really slow down though. I’ve already been approached to do some artwork for a major website, and I’ve got some conventions coming up that I’ll be participating in. And I don’t want to turn away paying work or promotion opportunities. I’m going to have to make a decision soon on how to handle all this. Cassie is going to be home this summer before starting kindergarten, and I don’t want the entire summer to steam roll over us the way our birthdays did.

Just When I Thought It Was Safe – Blergh!

After Sam and I had our bouts with the stomach flu, Michael came home early on Friday and announced he was setting up office in the bathroom. I thought he was just joking. I mean, I knew he meant **he** now had the stomach flu, and therefore would be spending a lot of time in the bathroom, but I didn’t realize he was actually going to be **working** in there at the same time.

The man actually took a phone in there and his laptop, set them on the edge of the tub, and listened in on a teleconference while he puked his guts up in the toilet. Of course, he kept the phone on mute except for when he needed to answer a question, but my god. Working AND puking at the same time? I was so sick on Valentine’s Day I couldn’t roll over in bed without puking, so I put Sam (my work) in her crib for two hours just so she would stop climbing on me and I wouldn’t end up puking on her. She cried the whole time, but hey, she didn’t need **my** lunch all in **her** hair. And I didn’t get out of bed until late the next morning. But Michael was actually doing this teleconference, answering questions and everything. That’s commitment for you. Commitment to an asylum!

Cassie came down with the stomach flu the next day, just as Michael was recovering. Actually, she ran into our bedroom at 3AM saying, “Mommy, my tummy hurts! Blergh!” I got her to a bathroom just in time. She spent the rest of the night vomiting and tossing and turning. I had to put her in our room on an air mattress and keep a bucket on hand. Every fifteen minutes, I had to hold it for her so she could heave into it. She seemed much better later that day, and waaaaaaay better on Sunday (yesterday). So much better that Michael fed her a cheese sandwich and grapes and all sorts of goodies.

All of which she promptly projectile vomited across the dining room at dinner last night.

I swear, it looked like someone turned on a fire hose inside that kid. She covered the entire table. We had to take everything off and wash it. Michael made the mistake of thinking the silverware in the dishwasher was actually clean and put it back in the silverware drawer, only to find out that no, that was stuff I had just taken off the table and it had some puke on it. So we had to wash ALL the silverware. And we had to throw out everyone’s dinner. Not that it was the greatest dinner I’ve ever made (new recipe didn’t quite work out as I had hoped) but we’ve all been sick so we’re all starving right now. Ah, throwing out the egg rolls was the worst part. I didn’t even get to finish mine.

So now Cassie is in bed again today, on a very strict, very simple diet. Her 5th birthday is tomorrow, and I do not want her to get sick again. I’ve got party planning and shopping to do and Michael leaves town tomorrow, so her being sick another day would a) be a sucky way to celebrate her birthday, and b) really screw up the party preparation. Plus it would kill yet another work day for me, and I’ve lost a week already to this damned flu.

Here’s hoping everyone keeps their dinner down tonight, because last night was the scariest vomit I’ve ever seen and I don’t want to see it again anytime soon!


The Mad Month Of June In Review

Usually, when I don’t post much, it means there’s so much going on I don’t have time to sit down and breathe, let alone blog. This past month has been just such a case. So to quote Innago Montoya, “Let me explain… No, no that would take too long. Let me sum up…”

2 June – Sam’s first birthday.

9 June – Michael’s birthday (all I gave him was a CD because…)

9 June – the same day as Michael’s birthday is also the deadline for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association theme week this month. And the theme was speculative fiction erotica, and there’s no way in hell I’m missing that particular theme (they liked my story, by the way, and will be publishing it on their website next month. More details later). Of course, the writing came in the midst of…

24 April to present – picked up some actual paying work that is eating up all my free time!

15 June – Cassie’s first karate belt test. She was so cute! Hiya! Pictures later, I promise.

17 June – Father’s day. Michael got a picnic, my Dad got nothing, nadda, zip (see note above about having paying work which eats up all my free time).

19 June – our 14th wedding anniversary. I spent the evening at home feeding dinner to the kids. Michael spent the evening at the dojo getting ready for…

21 June – our 2nd degree black belt test! Which left us so exhausted that we barely made it to…

23 June – our next door neighbor’s wedding, which was followed by…

24 June – Sam and Cassie come down with a cold.

25 June – I come down with a cold. One of my cats is also very, very ill, so I take him to the vet. Now I have to keep him in the garage and feed him food with crushed up pills in it six times a day, which is a lot of work, but it beats cleaning up cat diarrhea six off the carpet six times a day.

27 June – my cold is now a sinus infection. I am so dead tired…

And that is a quick review of the month of June in the Madden household. Now you know everything, so go to bed!

Happy Birthday Samantha Ann!

Okay, so her birthday was actually Saturday, but we’ve sort of had a weekend-long celebration from which I am still recovering, and which I will now relate the details of here.

Rather than throw a big party like we did for Cassie’s first birthday, we opted for something different. Not because Sam is the second child and we’re slacking off, but mainly because 1) we have a diarrheic cat in the house that would give all new meaning to the term party-pooper, and 2) the usual suspects- er, party guests, were not in town this weekend. Both sets of grandparents were unable to attend this weekend’s celebrations, so Michael and I decided to keep things strictly between the four of us. Besides, we do not have $150 to rent a cat-poop free facility to hold a big bash.

Happily enough, there were plenty of activities to choose from this weekend to help celebrate Sam’s big day. In Hampton, thousands of people turned out for the annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival, while in Newport News one of the local Greek Orthodox churches held its Greek Fest. The plan was to hit the pirate fest first, as early as possible, then spend the late afternoon enjoying Greek food and music. We had to adjust the schedule when Sam fell asleep about 15 minutes before we were set to head out. She took a two hour nap which threw all our plans out of whack, but Michael said if the birthday girl wants to sleep, hey, it’s her day.

Cassie and I passed the time by baking a birthday cake from scratch. We even made the butter cream frosting! Once Sam woke up, we headed out for downtown Hampton to enjoy all sorts of pirate-y activities, only to be overwhelmed by a large assortment of inflatable kiddy attractions. You know the kind – big bloated canvas contraptions hooked up to an air-blower that the kids crawl into and then bounce around in until they’re ready to puke. Cassie loves these and she had to try out every one of them at the festival. Sam, of course, is still too little for such things, so we walked around a bit and looked at pirates while Michael watched Cassie leap about in puffed-up cage dubbed “The Moon Walk” (I swear, it looks like a professional wrestler’s nightmare and an orthopedist’s dream).

After a fifteen-minute tour of pirates and boats, Sam and I returned in time to see Cassie disappear into the mouth of a gargantuan caterpillar. Now as much as I dislike the Moon Walk, I hate the caterpillar even more. With the caterpillar, kids go in the mouth and get pooped out the other end. At least that’s the theory. The reality is that kids go in the mouth and run amok inside the stomach area, forgetting entirely that the rest of the family is outside waiting for them to come out. There are no windows in the caterpillar’s stomach area, so you can’t spot your kid inside, tap at the clear plastic and gesticulate wildly that it’s time to go. No, you’ve got to stand and wait at the ass-end of this thing and hope that eventually your child will tire of bouncing around inside a smelly, inflated bug and come out on their own. It’s either that or else you’ve got to pry open said caterpillar’s backside, stick your head in and scream until your child finally gets the idea that hey, Mom and Dad might want to move on. Fortunately, Michael did not take pictures of me with my head stuck up a caterpillar’s ass, though he had plenty of opportunity to do so.

After the inflatable caterpillar, there was the inflatable pirate ship. At least that one wasn’t completely enclosed and we could get Cassie out of it without too much yelling. We did have to drag her kicking and screaming to the docks to see the pirate ships and displays. Sam all the while just fussed in her stroller. I bought her fries to keep her happy. I never bought Cassie fries when she was little. In fact, I don’t think Cassie even so much as tasted a fry until Sam started eating them. Maybe I have slacked off with child number two. Or maybe I’ve just relaxed a bit. Yeah, we’ll go with the latter I think.

So we ate fries and looked at boats and pirates and then Cass decided she wanted to go play in the sandpit where kids could dig for buried treasure (who’s birthday was it again?). This would have been okay except that there was a puppet show in progress directly across the square from the sandpit and Cassie was too distracted by the puppets to do much digging so she wasn’t finding anything. After about ten minutes of watching Cassie stare vacantly at the puppet show while standing in sand up to her ankles (she flat out refused to leave the sandpit to watch it up close) I decided it was time to head out. Naturally Cassie howled as we dragged her off. In fact, she howled so much that I decided to give her another crack at digging for treasure – they were getting ready to re-seed the sand with loot when we left – and we took her back… only to watch as she stared vacantly at the puppets again while everyone else dug for treasure. I decided to let Michael take over at that point and I wandered off to nurse the birthday girl.

Michael the Ever-Patient Dad managed to coax Cassie into a little digging, so she eventually found two strands of beads and a cheap plastic pirate, and then even he was worn out with “treasure” hunting. So once again we dragged a screaming Cassie back to the car and headed off for Greek Fest.

Because we hit the Greek Fest late, we decided to go straight for the food lines. The Newport News Greek Fest has the best food and we all ate enough to choke a horse. At least three of us did. Cassie somehow manages to subsist on air and two-percent milk. I fed Sam, the baby with a hollow leg, some of my meal and then most of Cassie’s meal and then some of Michael’s meal until ol’ chubby cheeks decided flinging food was more fun than eating it. Then I took Cassie over to yet another display of inflatable kiddy attractions while Michael took Sam to buy Greek pastries and deserts. Two giant slide rides and a couple of moon-walks later, we coaxed Cassie back to the parking lot with promises of sweets, only to discover that we were completely blocked in.

We had made the mistake of parking in an unattended, unmarked lot and some fool had decided to park his big-ass truck smack in the middle of the only route in or out of the back half of the lot. So Michael headed back to the festival to see if someone could make an announcement about the truck blocking people in while I waited in our car with two very cranky kids. I lucked out and the people parked in front of us showed up five minutes later to leave, so I pulled through and spent the next five minutes warning folks off from the parking lot. I pissed off one guy when I pointed out that he had just triple-parked his vehicle and sandwiched another car in between his SUV and someone else’s van. Too bad. At least I was polite enough to let this idiot know he might want to move his car before someone else moved it for him.

Actually, he wasn’t the only idiot I ran into during our whirlwind birthday tour. At the inflatable caterpillar, I saw a woman pull out a toy gun and fire it at one of the plastic windows near the tail end. I had a heart attack when I caught sight of this out of the corner of my eye. At first look, all I could see was someone pointing a gun at an attraction full of kids, and my kid was in there. It took me two seconds to realize that she what she was pointing was a pirate-style pop-gun, but in those two seconds I almost leapt onto that woman and snapped her fool neck. Fortunately for her, I managed to restrain myself, but I did tell her in no uncertain terms that she needed to stop pointing a gun, even a toy gun, at the kids inside, otherwise someone might report her to the police. Did I over-react? Maybe, but see how you feel when you glimpse someone pointing what might be a deadly weapon in your kid’s direction. It’ll stop your heart, that’s for sure.

Anyway, after pirates and Greeks and stupid people, we made our final stop on Sam’s birthday tour – Rick and Cindy’s home. Cindy and I met when I was twelve and we’ve been best friends ever since. Cindy was pregnant with her daughter Izzie while I was pregnant with Sam, and the two girls were born ten days apart (Izzie is the elder baby). We arrived at Chateau Rindy with Greek deserts and greasy kids and spent the evening chatting, pulling the kids out of trouble, eating, pulling the kids out of even more trouble, watching TV, yelling at the kids to PLEASE STAY OUT OF TROUBLE SO WE CAN ENJOY A LITTLE ADULT CONVERSATION WITHOUT CONSTANTLY CHASING AFTER YOU, etc. Cassie watched three full episodes of live-action Sailor Moon. It was all in Japanese, with English sub-titles which Cassie can’t read yet, but she understood enough to know that for Halloween she wants to be a cat princess soldier girl with really long hair and a necklace. Wait till I explain that one to the great costume maker, a.k.a. Grandmama.

While Cassie drooled over a Japanese kids’ show (okay, I liked it too, even with the ridiculous costumes and ludicrous fight scenes), Sam just drooled. She drooled on Izzie’s toys, and on Rick and Cindy’s papers, and on Rick and Cindy’s cats. We had a little excitement when we put both babies in the play yard. Sam started to howl and I thought for sure we were going to have a little baby cage-match, with Izzie and Sam fighting it out for the best toys, but then I realized that Sam wanted Mommy, not toys. Actually, what Sam wanted was boobies, so we finally packed up and headed home.

Cassie was out cold when we pulled into our driveway. Sam woke up long enough to nurse then passed out again. Both kids slept through until about 6:30 AM this morning, and then we got up for our usual routine. While Michael was at church, I let Cassie decorate Sam’s birthday cake. She poured on every bottle of juju beads, candy glitter and sprinkles that we had. There is so much sugar on the top of that cake that you can stick your finger into it up to the second joint and still not touch the butter cream frosting. Made for lots of fun when we blew out the candle. Sprinkles and glitter went flying everywhere.

We opened Sam’s presents after lunch. She got lots of new outfits for the summer, plenty of books (Yertle the Turtle is sure to be a hit if I can get Sam to sit still long enough to read it), a set if piggy finger puppets, a cow with a giant computer chip in its butt that allows it to interact with an accompanying DVD, and two Little People play sets. Michael and I got Sam the Little People bi-lingual super-market and the Little People airplane. Fisher Price had a buy-one-get-one-free deal, and you can tell which set we got for free. There was practically no packaging on the super-market, whereas the airplane was secured with enough wire to set up a trans-Atlantic telegraph line. But the super-market is way cool, with a cart and lots of little items for sale and a refrigerated section and a talking cash register. Makes me want to run right out to our local Food Lion for a little grocery adventure.

The plane is pretty cool too, with a female pilot (how very PC) and a couple of touristas in Hawaiian shirts. If you press down on the pilot, the plane sings about how all the passengers go up and down as they ride on the plane, and when you roll it across the floor, the people really do go up and down. The last time I saw people bounce around like that on a plane, I was watching the very first episode of Lost. Perhaps I’ll call one Little Person Kate and name the other one Jack. Or should I go with Sawyer instead? Hmm…

Anyway, Sam loved the bows and the wrapping paper and Cassie loved playing with the toys. Our big girl got a few gifts as well from her grandparents and great aunt – books, clothes, and a plastic novelty cup with a light up ice cube. After gifts, we did cake. Sam, who will eat just about anything, decided she would rather fling cake than eat it, so most of her slice ended up on the carpet. Just enough ended up in her hair and clothes that I had to give her a second bath, after which I tried to put her down for another nap. But our new big girl was having none of that! So she ended up downstairs with Michael and Cassie while I snuck off to do some work. Dinner was a quiet affair, aside from a repeat performance of food flinging from Sam, followed by bath number three (perhaps I should just install a hose in the dining room?), and then a final nursing before bed.

I truly love those last moments of the evening, when Sam is just a limp bundle of sweet cuddly baby-doll in my arms. Her little head droops over my arm, exposing the neck I can otherwise never find beneath all those extra chins she has. And there’s always just a little breast milk drooling out of the corner of her mouth. She’s so relaxed and content, so warm and sweet. She was like that tonight when I put her in her crib. Then as I leaned over to kiss her good night, she startled and popped her head up, smashing me in the mouth with that rock-hard cranium of her. I’m not sure which one of us howled the loudest as I staggered from her room. Sam’s probably okay, but I think I swallowed one of my front teeth.

So that was Sam’s birthday weekend – two days of pirates, Greeks, idiots, presents, cake and minor injuries. What a way to celebrate my baby’s first year.


In honor of the big day, I’ve uploaded some photos to share. Yeah, I know, this is a first!

Okay Izzie. You go that way, I’ll head over the couch, and we’ll see if we can defeat these tyranical fascist adults and steal their sodas.

Are these for me? You shouldn’t have. Let’s open them right now!

Cassie: How do you like it Sam? I decorated it myself!

Sam: Really? I thought Martha Stewart did it!

And here’s a close up of the cake…

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Happy Birthday Cassie!

My little girl turns four today. I can’t believe how much she’s grown. It really is amazing. She can run, jump, sing, dance, wrestle her father, and wear out all four of her uncles. She recognizes all of her ABCs and can even write some of her letters. She draws the most amazing pictures of me, her father and sister, and the occasional monster from under her bed (which looks a lot like me, her father, or her sister). She has a whole slew of friends at preschool. She likes to help cook and hold the beater when we make cake. She still wakes up in the middle of the night and runs into our room screaming, but that only happens a couple of times a month. And she’s tall! Man is that kid tall.

And of course, right now she’s crying. I guess I’d better see what’s going on.