Monday, May 30, 2011

May Creations

This month's creations happened a little more smoothly (and legitimately) than last month's. After all, I was sick for most of April.

 First off: a most embarrassing endeavor to create a booster seat cover.

Yes, you may laugh. I plunged into this project with a measure of irrational recklessness. Not only had I finished a heroic undertaking of cleaning the kitchen floor (vacuuming, sweeping, spot cleaning, mopping, was so perfectly spotless and breathtaking that it was the first thing Michael noticed when he got home)..Oh, here's a picture of the loveliness which was much better in person...

...I had also just cleaned out inch-thick layers of grime from the grooves in his booster seat, and I felt that this would be the solution. I jumped in without planning and just hacked into a plastic tablecloth and old towel with my scissors. I made a crazy mess. 
A couple weeks later, I ripped it off of Ender's chair. It was getting torn, it was actually HARDER to clean than the booster seat, it kept slipping around, and it looked really stupid. Besides, the kitchen floor had returned to "normal." Bah. So this project = FAIL. But it makes me laugh finally, so whatever. And I am so willing to be the first to admit that I have projects like this. Total rejects. Projects that could have been done better in a bazillion different ways. Or shouldn't have been done at all! Yeah, it happens. 

On a better note, I had a wonderful success of a creation this month when I completed a doodle for Rae's (and therefore, my) friend Sarah. Tada!

My scanner's screen is too small to take it all in--it's about 18"x13" I think. That's why the top part is a little smeary looking (the paper wouldn't lie flat on the screen without me creasing it). If I get a better picture, I'll share it. I'm very happy with this doodle! It took me about 8 hours from start to finish. That might sound insane--I don't know, does it?--but I have a process. 
  • Start: I consider whatever my Doodlee (uh, client?) wants in their picture; I ask questions, we talk about personalities, hobbies, etc. 
  • Reference: I collect photos of my Doodlee(s), especially face shots and family group pictures.
  • Research: I do "research" on their hobbies or favorite things. For example, with this picture, I wanted to make sure I knew what Captain America's outfit looked like. I wanted to get the right shape for Tinkerbell's wings. I looked up the Disney castle and various attractions at Disneyland for the signpost. 
  • Sketching: I practice by sketching the various things I've researched. I also practice sketching faces. That part can be tricky; if I'm not already familiar with the faces, I have to figure out what features are the most defining and which of those fit in a doodle face. It can be hard. It's often the most intense, brain-consuming part of the task.
  • Composition: This is where I figure out where everyone will be. It usually comes pretty naturally, but there's always some tweaking with spacing and placement. 
  • Doodle! Here I repeat my sketches onto the main paper (which I haven't touched until now). It involves a lot of erasing! :) I noticed when I was finished with this one that there was a massive collection of eraser gloobies on the floor by my chair. I thought they were bugs at first. It made me laugh.
  • Outline: After my pencil marks are finished and satisfying, I trace over with a fine permanent marker. Sometimes this is stressful because marker, no matter how fine-tipped, is just not as precise as a mechanical pencil. It's okay though. I just have to pay attention. It's maybe the next-most intense thing I do in the whole process because the time for mistakes has generally passed.
  • Color: So fun. I use anything from crayons to permanent markers. My art supplies are not fancy, but I sure love them. There might be last minute touch-ups, but I'm typically finished with a careful scribble of my signature. It's a very good feeling.
This month I've had some bouts of nesting that got me to rearrange Ender's room, organize closets (is that a never-ending thing?), and end up with room for a crib or cradle finally. It makes me smile when people ask what we're doing for the nursery...*sigh* If we had an actual nursery, I'd sure have lots of fun decorating. But that's not how it works in our apartment. A crib is as far as Scarlett's very own space will go. And that's okay. Babies don't mind, and neither do we. 
Nevertheless, I have hopes for a very pretty June Creation that will decorate Scarlett's little area. :) 

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm Asking Politely do Mexicans all seem to like the same music? And why do they all seem to like blaring that music with their car windows down as they drive by?

Please, I'm trying so hard not to come off as racist or something. I love these people. And I'm sure that what I'm seeing (hearing) is a generalization...but then why does it happen all the time?

I have to laugh when the Doppler effect makes the Mexican music warp as they drive past. One time the driver's CD even had a skip, and for some reason that made Michael and me laugh like crazy.

It's hard for me to imagine being so tied to such a defined culture that I would be so exclusive about something like music. There are certain things tabbed as more American than other things--beyond music, too--but the whole point of being American is having variety, diversity. So it's really hard for me to imagine being anything but.

Am I narrow-minded?

Tents and Bad Logic (thankfully unrelated)

As a very early birthday present, I bought Michael a tent. I was going to save it as a surprise...but it was too exciting! And the cool part is it was all paid for by money sent with surveys in the mail (gee, thanks)!
Last night, we dropped our schedule down a few notches by having a snack between breakfast and lunch and then having a late we had a late dinner.
It was so nice outside, we decided to play with the tent and put it up while the pork sirloins sizzled on the grill...with baked potatoes, it really felt like a campfire dinner (even though our campfire was some candles we had to bring out since it was already dark by the time we ate)!
It didn't take long to convince ourselves we should sleep in the tent, too. Ender was committed long before we said anything about it. He wanted to bring his whole bedroom out to the tent! Every toy he owns! All of his pillows and blankets!
We even completed his experience by letting him pee on a tree. Woohoo...

We finished the evening off with mini ice cream snacks, family scripture study by flashlight, and a very cozy family prayer.
It was a late bedtime for Ender, but 10:30 is a luxury for  us. It took me a long time to fall asleep (having taken a mid-day nap), but I enjoyed listening to Ender's gentle snore and Michael's even breathing. I didn't mind the uneven ground too badly, either. I woke up every time I had to turn over, which was often, but that's not far different from any night. And even though I felt wide awake every time I woke up, it was pleasant to hear birdies or enjoy our closeness and the simple excitement of being in a tent. The only time I worried was when I woke up to hear sprinklers. :| Thank goodness it was the neighbors'!

I drank a glucose drink this morning for a test, chugged it down and tried to doze off again until it was time to head out to the lab. As I settled back into my pillow and blanket, however, I realized that my planning was not so brilliant. All I had in my mind was that I should do the test as early as possible in the morning since I'm not supposed to eat before it's done. I knew the lab opened at 8am, so I took my drink the hour before. What I realized (too late) as I laid down again was that the lab is barely opening at 8am, and they may not be ready to go for me the instant I arrive. And the test should be done as closely within the hour as possible. Oops.
One other thing? I had to pee so badly. And I thought I might have to do a urine test, so I held it all in. I sat on my foot the entire drive. When I got to the lab early, I paced in front of the door as casually as I could manage for about three minutes and finally got back in the car so I could sit on my foot again. Someone finally arrived and informed me that I could go to the bathroom. Oh.

If I have to do it over, I don't mind, actually. The glucose drink is disgusting, but I don't have to suffer much if I drink it all fast. And the needles for drawing blood don't bother me. But really, if I have to do it again, I won't torture my bladder.

Why didn't my brain work? Why is my logic so warped when I'm pregnant? I don't like bad-logic days. They throw things off. Like when I'm supposed to bring Michael lunch quickly, and I think about some groceries I need for his lunch, so I do the grocery shopping first (thinking it's such a great idea) instead of making something else for his lunch. Argh. Duh, Qait, duh. Don't do that.
I don't blame it ALL on pregnancy. I have bad-logic days anyway. But when I'm pregnant, it's worse and more frequent.
And it's different from blonde days or blonde moments because I actually TRY to think logically and sort out a great plan for the order of my errands or whatever. :(

All blondeness aside, tenting was very fun. It's made the weekend feel longer, and it left us feeling cheerful and adventurous. Even breakfast still felt like a camping thing, pancakes and fried eggs. And so far, it has been a genuine experience! I have yet to shower or brush my teeth, and I'm still wearing the clothes I slept in. :D

April's Creation

I can't say I slacked off because I'm always busy. But my creations were a little less artsy in April. My qualification is that it needs to be artistically satisfying. Our bedroom was mostly a March thing, so I don't feel like counting it. In April, we bought a filing cabinet, and I sorted and shifted from room to room making lots of space and organizing all of our closets and putting things where they belong-- I can't believe what a big difference it makes to just put the papers away!
So the house got most of my attention, in organizing ways. It really was artistically satisfying. I still want something more fun to show for the month, though. :) This isn't especially exciting, and it's not even my own artwork (boooo!), but that's okay. April's work was a different sort.
Here's Ender's new potty chart (and yes, I found the image that not okay? It's a potty chart...). I meant to do this ages ago! And I meant to hand-draw it, since that sounds the most fun to me. But Ender really loves Thomas the Train...
He's got two stickers so far, and he wants more. 
I really hope this works.

This month, I'm working on a Doodle for Rae and another for her friend, Sarah. :D And maybe something else...(I'd LOVE to, we'll just have to see).

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Guts to Speak

I finished my book: "Speak," by Laurie Halse Anderson.
And when I finished, I cried a little and thought a lot. I didn't fall asleep for a while.
It is on my mind, and I want to share.

(I describe the book in spoiler style; back off if you must, but I trust it would be just as beneficial a read if you knew the story. It's that kind of book)

You only suspect what's happened at first; you don't get the whole story of why Melinda is suddenly very unpopular and hated by her once best friend. She's become a reject, and on top of that, she's become very withdrawn--to the point that she doesn't talk to anyone about anything. All you know is that Melinda called the cops and busted an end-of-school party she was lucky to attend. But you learn later that she wasn't calling the cops for that. She wasn't calling to tattle on the seniors' drinking. She was raped, and she was so afraid and confused that she couldn't even say anything to the woman on the phone after dialing 911 in an automatic reaction. She snuck out of the party unnoticed and walked home alone.

The school year goes by, Melinda fails her classes, makes a mild yet desperate attempt to make a friend or two, and freezes in terror every time she sees the guy she thinks of as IT. Andy Evans. The guy who raped her, a guy who roams the school halls with a carefree smile, flirting with the girls and being so nonchalant as to twirl Melinda's ponytail if she's in range.

I'm not shocked by rape, not by its existence I mean. This book didn't "teach" me anything, it just opened a typically closed door into a very sad world to which I offer much sympathy. What did shock me was coming to a point in the book where Melinda suddenly wonders "was I raped?"

I gasped. Oh, this question. The fact that a girl is left to doubt. A girl will think that unless she was superwoman and managed to drop-kick the guy across the continent, maybe it was her fault. Maybe it didn't count because she wasn't clear enough in her plea. As if saying "no" isn't enough. Melinda had only been able to choke out a whispered "no" before the guy smothered her mouth with his palm. She couldn't conjure a scream.

Guys can be too good at convincing the girl she misled him. They can be very persuasive in their argument that they thought she wanted it, that they didn't understand. Even a small "no" is a no, but I believe there are so many girls who feel that because their defense was weak, it didn't count. They think that if they brought it up, the guy would win the case. IF they brought it up.

Melinda finally gears up the courage to write a note to her once-best friend in the library. She finally tells her friend the real reason she made that call at the party. She tells her friend because there's a sudden, new urgency--IT is dating her friend. Melinda is left crying in the library when her friend lashes out in disbelief, claiming that Melinda is jealous. Just sick and jealous.
In further desperation, Melinda writes on the wall in the privacy of the girls' bathroom:
Andy Evans

And at the end of the year, she discovers an endless list of agreement from various anonymous girls in the school. They didn't add names, they added comments and paragraphs and exclamations. And Melinda feels like she could fly...she no longer wants to hide.

There's an abandoned janitor's closet Melinda used all year to disappear to when the need for solitude grew too strong. She returns to the closet a last time to clear it out, leave it untouched, "unclaim" it and be done with hiding.

That's when IT finds her. The girls in school have started talking about him, and he hates it. He knows she started it because the anonymous rumor of his attack on a 9th grade girl at a party is not so anonymous to him. He's just as bad as before, locking the closet door behind him. But this time, Melinda pushes through her strangling fear to scream. To fight. She breaks a mirror and grabs a shard of glass as a convincing weapon to convince IT to finally back off. A passing hockey team still in the school pounds on the door, comes to the rescue. And Melinda's free. Hurt, still healing, but free.

(Guess what? That kind of resolution is rare. Revenge on the rapist? Hardly ever happens. Just like girls hardly ever speak up. Girls trap themselves in the past with the what-if cycle, wishing and wishing and wishing they could alter history).

Rape is ugly. That's no reason not to talk about it, though. I'm grateful among all the information that managed to break through to me as I grew up, what impacted me the most was the fact that so many women say nothing. I grilled it into my head that if anything, anything like that happened, I would speak up. I would talk, I would tell.

But I still know the feeling of withdrawing into a silent world. The damage is an awful kind. I have not been raped. And isn't that put it even as "vaguely" as that. But as with any abuse, there's an undercurrent of spiritual damage that can be so crippling. It's so hard to get past it. It separates you from feeling normal anymore, and you want to be invisible. It's too frightening to be noticed by men because suddenly you understand that danger could be anywhere, anyone. Even if a girl is left with her virginity intact, her virtue is sensitive enough that being forced or hurt at all leaves her sense of virtue in a fragile, vulnerable state. The instinct is then to protect. And the instinctive way to protect? To hide. It's easy to let life become a layered existence, working behind a mask that feels like a shield.

That's why I felt shocked yet again when I read through the author's Q&A section at the end of the book.
"Have any readers ever asked questions that shocked you? 
     I have gotten one question repeatedly from young men. These are guys who liked the book, but they are honestly confused. They ask me why Melinda was so upset about being raped.
     The first dozen times I heard this, I was horrified. But I heard it over and over again. I realized that many young men are not being taught the impact that sexual assault has on a woman. They are inundated by sexual imagery in the media, and often come to the (incorrect) conclusion that having sex is not a big deal. This, no doubt, is why the numbers of sexual assaults is so high.
     I am also shocked by adults who feel that rape is an inappropriate topic to discuss with teenagers. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 44% of rape victims are under the age of 18 and 46% of those victims are between the ages of 12-15. It makes adults uncomfortable to acknowledge this, but our inability to speak clearly and openly about sexual issues endangers our children. It is immoral not to discuss this with them."
If we won't talk with our children about it, where will they turn? Likely nowhere. Perhaps a peer can listen with some sympathy, but they're likely as helpless as the victim feels (catch that please--feels, not is). I would mention here, in case a silent observer has found this, that the Rape, Abuse & Incest  National Network ( comes highly recommended as a source of help for victims who have been assaulted, both recently or long ago. Especially if they're holding back from talking about it.

I think one reason girls don't want to talk--(it happens to boys too, I recognize, but I would rather use the word "victim" less often because it sounds so helpless)--is that people rarely want to hear it. Doesn't it make you uncomfortable? When a girl begins to launch her story, doesn't it make you cringe, ducking into your seat? You don't want to know. Because rape is ugly.

Another reason, like Laurie Halse Anderson said, is girls are afraid of being brushed off-- with that very painful evidence of boys not understanding what the big deal is. That was my main reason for shedding some quiet, rough tears last night. Boys...oh, boys. You uneducated boys. I suspect they don't even mean to be insensitive-- they probably posed their question with deep honesty: What's the big deal? I don't understand.
It's all wrapped up in a person's agency (appropriate substitute word in clarification here: rights) and chastity (beyond virginity--though I believe a great percentage of rape victims are virgins, less apt to grasp the situation or know how to react in the horrifying newness of what's going on).

What's been lost in the sexual media avalanche is the fact that sex is an intimate, private thing. It ought to be the exclusive (and wonderful) right of a married couple, yet here it is for the world to devour as a pleasure activity common like dessert. Uncomitted like a vacation. Shared like a phone number, and sometimes even less guarded than that.

There are all sorts of problems rape could trace back to. It's not all pinned on the media. But for an average teenager who hasn't had to deal with family problems, pornography, abuse or even the growing confusion of gender roles, the outrageously incorrect message is still being broadcast that sex is not a big deal. The matter of consent or age plays only a side role in media attention. That's the yucky side, so no one wants to hear about it. It's usually presented as soap opera scandal if it's ever addressed--overdramatized and nicely resolved so that you can forget about it when it's over.

Don't get me wrong: I am grateful that "Speak" presents a closing that involves hope, because hope is why victims are not helpless. If they can dig out of the overwhelming despair long enough to simply believe hope exists, that's all the access they need. I don't think resolution would be possible without the Atonement. In fact, I know it. That kind of spiritual scarring is not eraseable with a self-help book or classes in yoga. No amount of positive thinking and deep breathing will do any good without the healing love of the Savior, the very one who knows your heart through the core. Because He understands (perfectly) and because He loves (purely), all victims of rape or abuse have someone who can lift them up and make their spirits whole.

It's not easy (can someone say DUH?). It's not exciting or desireable--a lot of soap operas give drama-hungry girls the idea that rape is a thrilling, awful tale to add to your list of what makes you an interesting person. Rape usually has the opposite effect, making its victims withdraw from life and abandon confidence.
In fact, even with remarkable healing, rape leaves stubborn scars. Those scars burrow deep into the brain. They're ugly, and they don't go away without a fight.

Is there any way to further convince those uneducated, confused boys that it's a BIG DEAL? If they only thought a little harder, allowed some room for sensitivity, wouldn't they see that? Are they really so blind that there's no hint in their minds of the seriousness of it all?

As much as it has the potential to "get old" in assembly halls of high schools like abortion and drug abuse, the effort has to keep moving on. It takes bravery, it takes guts, to talk about it as it really is. To say WHY, not just WHAT. They all know what rape is. But how is it they don't all know why it's a big deal?
I think of the title of this book as more than just an action. It's an order.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Reveal

First, check out the BEFORE.
The headboard here is actually the front of our old antique piano (the only bit we have left of it).
We love it--a better picture would be nice, of course. It has beautiful, detailed carving. 
Maybe we'll use it as a headboard on a guest bed someday.

This dresser is part of a bedroom set Michael grew up with (the remaining pieces are in Ender's bedroom, and this dresser is now our makeshift TV stand in another room). 
The mirror was free at a trading event our stake organized a year ago.

Michael and I have never been ashamed of our's a great place to be. 
And we've always done what we could to make it beautiful and inviting. We were given great advice as newlyweds; I don't remember if it was a book or a friend, unfortunately (the two are much the same thing in my mind). The advice: don't leave your bedroom as the last thing to get attention in your home. It's easy to make other rooms a priority since anyone visiting your home will likely see the living room first and you probably spend a lot of time in the kitchen. But the bedroom should be a room you and your spouse love to be in, a room that shows your personalities (and yours only--don't bother with pictures of the kids) and is something of a sanctuary even from the rest of the home. Your marriage is of  utmost importance, and since the bedroom is quite a strong symbol of that unity, respect it.

Over the years, we've made little changes to dress up the atmosphere. We finally had the opportunity to do that in a big way this year, and the only thing that is the same between the Before and After is those mirrors in the corner! We're still not finished, but that's the way this kind of thing goes. Bit by bit. We're just glad we could jump in with a big change for once.

With a big thanks to IKEA, 


We absolutely love our plant. It completely changes the atmosphere...and it makes us smile.
It hangs over the bed just enough to give the romantic illusion of a canopy without invading the room.
The bed features sliding night stands--they're like miniature bookshelves that can recede into the headboard. They are pictured halfway out.
Our mattress can be raised at the foot and/or the head for better reading comfort. I loved this feature for when sitting up was the only way to keep my cough subdued, and it's very nice to have the option of lying on my back without the full weight of the baby crushing my ribs. We'd do it more if it weren't a little awkward for Michael to sleep that way!

Obviously, our room gets a lot of light now! 
What you can't see is that the white, sheer curtain has an artsy pattern to it. Somewhat floral. The lighting in this picture might not also show how the red tinge of our record player and jewelry cabinet compliment the red on our bed (and the green of the plant).

I LOVE the way the plant's leaves curve into view with the round mirror.

This dressing table was added to our new furniture collection at Michael's insistence. 
I didn't fight hard-- but it really feels like a gift to me because I love makeup, and Michael loves that about me. He thinks it's wonderful when I can pamper myself and dress up. 
I love being able to sit down and relax while I spruce up (even though my pregnant belly keeps me from pulling the drawer out while sitting).

With a view of our boring closet doors, :) here is our full-length mirror over a storage trunk. 
I know it's hard to see details--blame it on me!--but that's a bowl on the trunk. 
We put little slips of paper in the bowl with romance ideas for dates and favors.
We even have a cute little name for it: the Desire-a-bowl.
Yes, we are cheesy. No, we are not ashamed.

The mirrors are a project in the works; we have more to add to the walls in a similar pattern.
The idea currently on display here is that it makes our plant look deeper, and since that corner is one that draws your eyes when you come in, it plays with the light just enough that you don't feel like your eyes have walked into a corner when you walk into our room.
Figuratively speaking. Whatever.

As for further ideas in completing our room, we plan to add portraits of ourselves, hem the sheer curtain, put up more mirrors as mentioned, and perhaps play around with some more lighting tricks (specifically targeting the ceiling light). What you couldn't see for my lack of photography skills is our lamps on the bed and dressing table. They're like this, in varying sizes.

We love our room so much.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Oh Wow...

That's a lot of poop-themed posts at once, isn't it?
Hm. I'll try to have more intelligent thoughts next time.
The mommyness must be getting to me.

Poop or Chocolate?

I came to the bathroom to discover a long smudge of brown on the toilet seat cover.
I thought if Ender had made the effort for once to actually poop in the toilet but wasn't fast enough, I could forgive him. Because that would be progress in the potty training saga. 
But if it were chocolate? What was it doing on the toilet seat cover? 
On closer inspection, I discovered what had to be crushed peanuts in the brown. We had eaten some chocolate covered peanuts with Grandma, after all. 
But what if he'd just pooped some of the peanuts? 
I bent low to smell it...nothing. 

(And I did think of a certain movie where the mom actually TASTES the brown when her son won't answer her question of whether it's poop or chocolate...but no, I did not get that adventurous).

I think this has happened a number of times. Oh plus there was that one time that my toe kicked some dark little ball across the carpet, and when I investigated more closely, I discovered it was a poop pellet. Aren't animals supposed to be the ones who leave pellets?

Eventually we learned it was indeed chocolate (further evidence of a brown smeared hand towel helped solve the mystery).
I'd have taken a picture except it looked so remarkably like poop that I couldn't bring myself to risk it being mistaken for poop. 
Well, and I just never got around to it.