Monthly Archives: March 2012
I mentioned in a previous post that last November I planned to take part in NaNoWriMo, and I introduced my main character, Stacie.
Well, then, on October 30, I had this crazy idea about a crazy plot and decided to ditch Stacie, even though I’d been whittling away at her for six months. Thus was born Tara, my newest main character. And a very exciting experience followed: in thirty-two days I moved from the initial germination of an idea to a complete first draft.
I’ve said before that a common objection to NaNo is this one: “You can’t write a novel in thirty days.” And my rebuttal: “What you mean is that you can’t write a good novel in thirty days.” So for over three months now, I have been working this manuscript over. It’s been a joy, seeing it perhaps … becoming good.
A certain exhilaration came over me this morning when I felt the third draft falling neatly into place, and to celebrate that, here is a scene from my third chapter, provided for your pleasure.
… Hopefully. :)
The day [my twin sister] Marissa and I met Nate, we were eleven. We were wandering around our little neighborhood in a Portland suburb with Mom. We lived an hour out of town, in what our friends called the boondocks, meaning two things: one, she and I were each other’s best friend for more practical reasons than our matching DNA, and two, we took every opportunity that we could to get downtown and see our other friends. Today the opportunity had come in the form of grocery shopping and some other miscellaneous errands of our mother’s. Unfortunately none of our friends were available to entertain us (being accustomed to not having us around to entertain), but a change of scenery was always worth the drive.
While Mom weighed tomatoes and flipped through the coupon section of the newspaper, Marissa and I were free to roam the store and find ways to spend our weekly five dollar allowance. Today we were looking at magazines and books. Both of us loved to read, and often we surprised our parents by bringing home books like Oliver Twist and The Giver. Then again, we were also eleven-year-old girls, and such reading material as Vogue and Cosmopolitan had a certain, sometimes taboo, sway over us.
We were crouched down in front of the magazine rack, reading an article together called “Ten Steps to Skin So Soft He’ll Melt,” when a foul odor of alcohol (though of course we didn’t recognize it as such) wafted over. We both registered it at the same time – I distinctly remember the split-second sensation that I was looking in a mirror when we gave each other the same disgusted face.
We looked up at the same moment, too, to see a man shuffling toward us. He was tall and thin and kind of sallow. His hair was graying and close-trimmed but, at the moment, unkempt. He wore slacks and a button-down, but the buttons were done up lopsided.
At first I thought he was shuffling at us to kidnap us, the way he walked with such certainty in our direction, and I startled and stood. Marissa did, too, mostly because I did, I think. It became immediately clear, though, that his determined step was focused not on us, but on the Motor Trend which was in the display rack directly above where our heads had been. Only after he reached the magazine and snatched it to himself – he opened it and greedily buried his face in it – did I see Nate directly behind him, just a few feet from me.
There was nothing unique about Nate, looking back. He was an average gangly pre-teen, although he did have cute, shaggy hair. It was a not-quite-blonde sort of color, but I don’t think I noticed it then. What I noticed then was his eyes. They were brown, which I suppose sounds pretty run-of-the-mill. But they weren’t a normal brown. Maybe they’d be better described as ‘amber.’ They seemed like maybe the colored part was made of liquid.
“Dad,” he said, exasperated. “Are you ready to go?”
“Nah,” Dan answered. “I’m reading.” His words ran together. They were a little hard to understand, like his mouth didn’t work exactly how it should.
“What are you reading?” Nate’s tone suggested that he didn’t believe him. Dan flipped the magazine shut and read the cover article, squinting his eyes.
“Car of the Year or whatever. Hey, Nate, maybe if I get a hot car then I’ll find some hot lady to put in it. That’d show her, huh.”
“Dad!” Nate snatched the magazine from his hand. “There are people here!” He pointed behind Dan, who turned and seemed affronted.
“Girls! Whoa. You’re too young to be listening to men’s talk like this. Go on, now. Git.”
“Excuse me,” I said. My head popped to one side and my eyes tightened. “We were here first, weren’t we?”
“Hey now, Missy –”
“Dad!” Nate said. “We’re leaving.”
“No, sir, we’re not,” Dan said, wiggling his head absurdly back and forth. I held my stare. “These girls need to learn to respect their elders. Now, you listen to me. I have worked my – my whole life. And here you come along, invading space, my personal space, and, and I won’t stand for it!”
He was beginning to look dizzy, now, and Marissa reached her arms out at him, like she’d catch him if he fell. He didn’t fall. Instead, he turned, leaned one hand on the magazine rack, and doubled over. His body convulsed once, the movement starting at the base of his spine, and then he vomited one long solid rope which splattered all over the speckled linoleum. I jumped back, at first thinking he’d get it on me. Nate had rushed forward and grabbed his arm, but not to pull him or scold him – to steady him. After a moment my shock dissipated.
“Tara, go get someone –” Marissa said, stepping toward him. Her voice wasn’t quite panicked, but enough so to put a fire under my feet. I rushed off to find a clerk. There was a red-vested guy a couple of aisles down, restocking macaroni.
“Hey – there’s a guy throwing up on the magazines –” I said, and then realized it was a lie, because he’d thrown up near them but not on them.
“Oh –” he said. He reached above his head, grabbed a tub of cleaning supplies from the top shelf, and rushed off. I followed close behind.
When I got back to the scene, Nate’s dad was sitting on the floor, head in his hands, doing something I never would have expected – crying. Marissa was kneeling next to him and rubbing his back, murmuring comfort. Nate stood a few feet away, watching. The bottom of his face was crumpled up like he wanted to cry, but his eyes were wide and his brow high. He wasn’t watching his dad. He was watching Marissa.
So I’ve written about my whole living chartreuse concept before. Well, it started in the kitchen. Okay, that’s not really true. Really, it started on Netflix. It started with Food, Inc.
I don’t remember a whole lot from that movie, but I remember that my husband and I both had fires lit under us to change our eating habits, and I remember the huge motivation my son’s health was (and is).
We got started at adjusting our kitchen the very next morning. Since then, we’ve established some Chartreuse Kitchen Principles. Here’s what we live by.
The first rule is simple: we don’t eat food if we don’t know what’s in it. For example, I had never heard of disodium guanylate … but it was in a lot of my food. We always read ingredient labels and avoid the ones that read like a drunk scientist’s monologue.
No Red Foods
No, that doesn’t mean no ketchup. It means no ketchup with high fructose syrup. A ‘red food’ is a food which contains ingredients that are detrimental to your health, like high fructose corn syrup or MSG. Yellow ingredients don’t have any nutritional benefit, but they won’t kill you. Examples: corn starch and caramel. Green foods only contain ingredients that are beneficial. This means green beans are green. Green beans with added salt, on the other hand, are yellow.
I use the glossary at Label Watch to keep track of food color. I printed off a list of all the red ingredients on the website. Sometimes, at the store, I find a food I want to buy which has an ingredient or two that I don’t recognize. If they’re not on my (alphabetical) list, the light is green. Although, as I’ve said, I’m careful with this. I’d rather know what I’m eating.
Food From Scratch
This became a rule when I discovered that any bread on a supermarket shelf that retails for less than five dollars a loaf contains the dreaded high fructose corn syrup. (Seriously? Also in a lot of crackers. And everything else, too.) I also discovered that making bread at home is eeeeeasy. I throw together a loaf every three or four days, when I’m being good about it. It’s about ten minutes prep time, then an hour and a half of rising time (read: sit-on-your-butt-watching-a-movie time) and a half an hour of baking time.
I’ve discovered that a lot of foods you can buy commercially are easily made at home, from simple ingredients and without fancy gadgets. Crackers have four ingredients – oil, salt, water, and flour – and require an oven, a bowl, a cookie sheet, and two hands to make. Other good prep-at-home foods: pasta, pasta sauces, ranch dressing, cream of chicken, cream of [insert any vegetable here], onion flakes, tomato flakes, and more. This feeds into our next principle:
Yes. It’s more work. I’m not going to try to evade that one. It takes more time to cook a loaf of bread than to buy one, and it takes more time to make homemade mac’n’cheese than it does to whip up a box of Kraft. It can also be more expensive. I’ve whittled down the cost of healthy eating to roughly what we were paying before, but it took some time and practice.
Honestly, though, food tastes better and is more rewarding. If my husband says, “Thanks for dinner, love,” it means a heck of a lot more when it’s homemade tomato pasta than when it was hamburger helper. Not to mention the whole health thing, which is why we started this in the first place.
You Don’t Have to Moderate Spices, Baby
Humans favor three particularly unhealthy flavors: salt, fat, and sweet. All of these are fine in moderation, as most people know. But you know what? You don’t have to moderate oregano. You can dump as much mustard seed in that polenta as you want. You could even eat basil straight, if you’re weird and everything. I love that! Our menu is much more varied and interesting now. Cooking is an experiment and an adventure; we have discovered probably twenty new flavors to enjoy.
We’ve gone mostly meatless. This one isn’t so much a health concern as a fiscal one. We simply can’t afford to buy lots of meat. I’ve heard, though, that a plant-based diet is much healthier, and if you look back over history, it’s conveniently true that most people only ate meat when they could get it, which was much less often than us, and they did just fine. I’ve learned a lot of vegetarian recipes and I limit myself to two carnivorous dinners per week. And it is downright exciting to see my grocery cart two thirds filled with produce!
Principles to Come
I’ve always said I have a black thumb instead of a green one, but I do have a small plot of dirt I can play with and they say vegetables are the easiest plants to grow. Since it’s not yet planting time where I live, I haven’t been able to try this yet, but soon. Very soon.
There’s not a whole lot of food available to can right now, since the farmer’s markets won’t open for a few months and I don’t yet have a vegetable garden. But this is another one I’ll be doing, to take advantage of the summer bounty all year round, without worrying about additives or questionable processing.
… and, hey, anyone got any other ideas for me?
Even in peacetime I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged to read the newspapers. Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be known before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance. Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn; and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France, and quadruplets born in New Zealand.
–C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, 1955
Since I’ve started cloth diapering, a few of my mom friends have started, too, and they’ve been asking a question repeatedly when they get started: How many of what kind of diaper do I buy? With that in mind, here is a (hopefully) concise and thorough explanation of the five major diapering systems, meant specifically for new cloth diaper-ers.
(Okay, I need a better name for people who cloth diaper. Perhaps I will run my first poll soon. Leave ideas in comments?)
Before we classify the diapering systems, some quick beginner’s shopping pointers:
Get a variety to start. Buy a few waterproof diapers, one cover, and a few non-waterproof ones. Buy at least two brands and know which brand you’re getting, so that you know whether or not to buy from them in the future (and whether to recommend them to friends!).
Another thing: eBay. It’s more than worth it to buy at least your first diapers used. This gives you the financial freedom to try a few options. A brand new pocket diaper will cost you at least fifteen or twenty dollars; a used one is only five to ten dollars.
Start with 4 to 6 diapers total. Use those diapers, wash them, and while you’re washing leave your baby in disposables. If and when you decide to cloth diaper full-time, you can buy a big enough stash to leave your baby in cloth while the laundry’s going. By then you’ll know what species you’re fond of and can buy accordingly.
There are five main kinds of diapers. And before buying any diapers, I seriously recommend knowing them.
Group A: Not Waterproof Alone
These diapers are the more economical option, but they take a little more work than the cushier waterproof options. They all require covers. You’ll only need a third to a half as many covers as diapers, since the covers don’t get soiled easily and can be reused. Covers are almost always made of polyurethane laminate or PUL.
These are the diapers that our grandmas used. They are square, flat, absorbent pads which you fold and fasten in place. (You could use pins, but the Snappi is much better.) Most people are turned off by this option because it seems like a lot of extra work. The truth, though, is that putting this diaper on is as simple as folding the back edge down, pulling through and laying in place.
A contour diaper is just like a prefold, except that you don’t have to prefold it. It’s thinner in the middle to fit between Baby’s legs, and wider at the front and back for extra coverage. Downside: with a contour, you can’t add folds meant to catch any poo attempting escape.
Fitted diapers are a lot like contours, except that they have elastic around the edges so as to catch any runoff that a contour would idly let by.
Group B: Waterproof Alone
This second kind of diaper is, basically, a Group A diaper with the cover sewn on. These function the most like a disposable diaper, and because of that I recommend owning at least a few of them for babysitters and lazy days.
As the name suggests, AIOs are meant to make diapering as easy as possible by eliminating all the extra pieces. They are diapers meant to slip on and off in one piece. There is an outer layer of PUL, and an inner wicking layer, usually fleece or polyester. Sewn into the soft wicking fabric is an absorbent pad (made often of cotton, hemp, bamboo, or other materials). The downside of AIOs is that over time, the inner part is more and more difficult to get clean. Many AIOs now have an opening in the back end of the diaper to allow water and detergent into the diaper, getting it much cleaner, thereby avoiding this problem. I don’t recommend these diapers without that opening, as they will collect stink.
Pocket diapers are the most expensive and arguably the nicest diapers on the market. They’re also the most common (which makes sense despite being the most pricey, since over time they’re still only a third of the price of disposables). They’re mostly the same as AIOs, but they have a removable insert in order to combat the stink buildup I mentioned previously. Sometimes they’re called AI2s, since they’re all-in-two, but this always makes me chuckle since the same is true of any non-waterproof diapers (excluding Snappis, I guess).
My number one tip: Don’t worry. If you aren’t totally sure what you want to buy in the long run, start small. Ask questions. Take your time. Have fun.
In a month or two, you’ll be dispensing advice to your new cloth diaper-er friends.
Okay, seriously, guys, I need help with that.
I don’t respond to the tone in my home. I set the tone in my home.
You know how women tend to process things verbally? Well, look at me go.
Sometimes setting a positive tone in my home is easy. It just means smiling when my son wakes up in the morning, and how hard is that, when he comes pattering out of his room with bed-head and bed-eyes, clutching his blankie and jonesing for a hug?
Sometimes it’s more of a struggle, like when the dishes are piled high and – just like always – I have no desire to break out the Dawn and the sponge (how I long for the day when we own a dishwasher).
And then there are Those Days. When the baby is screaming, the laundry is piled to the roof, you’ve got a headache, you need to run to the bank, your hair is greasy, your fuse is short.
Even on Those Days, I set the tone in my home. When I’m feeling grumpy, having another grump in the house doesn’t make me feel any better. But so often that’s just what I do; when I nurture my grumpiness, my son picks up on it and feeds it right back, only making me grumpier.
Moms have ample reason to be occasionally frustrated, and there’s no reason to hide the feeling. I think letting our children see our frustration, our weakness, can be a powerful thing. We’re not perfect, and we don’t want our children laboring under that delusion.
But that only applies when imperfections are handled gracefully. Walking around the house sighing and rolling your eyes only breeds disrespect and more complaining. Instead, we can let our children know we’re frustrated or tired in whatever direct or subtle way makes sense at the moment. Then we can shower our children (and anyone else within firing range) with love and grace – by choice – and in so doing demonstrate something incredibly valuable, for our lives and our children’s.
When a child sees a bad day handled with grace, it’s a positive, potent, faith-instilling event.
Plus, then Kiddo’s day gets better, which just makes Mom’s day that much better. Misery loves company, but so does cheerfulness.
… Do you see the power we moms have? I hope the thought makes your next One of Those Days a little smoother; I’m sure it will help me.