Friday, December 31, 2010

Leaving Fear in 2010

I have been gimped by fear.  I've known for a while that it is a problem in some areas of my life, especially considering the phobias I have developed for no apparent reason, but I had not realized how bad it has become until this week.  Insidious, sneaky fear pervades everything I (try to) do.  Caving to that fear has messed up large portions of my life.

You may have noticed that every tab on my page has something under it except for Writing.  I have been working on a book for over two years now, and I had made great progress.  At 2/3 through, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And that is when I stopped.  I found excuses--I was pregnant and tired, I'd just had a baby, Kira didn't take long enough naps, etc--to not write.  The reality?  I'm afraid to finish.  When I finish, I have to do something with it.  I have to send it out to face possible (and likely, at least a few times) rejection.  And if I succeed, if my book does get published, then others will read it.  They will see what I think.  That is an even greater possibility for rejection.

This epiphany actually came to me right after I got my Yudu machine.  I had been imagining all the cute gaming onesies I could create, but when I actually had the machine, I was nervous about making anything.  I was so surprised that I started wondering why.  Why had my excitement turned to a feeling akin to dread?That question let me to realize the true problem: I would have to put something of myself out there

Fear has been stealthed deep in my psyche for years, ganking me randomly just when I thought I was about to level up.  I love T-shirts with goofy sayings, but I don't wear them because someone might see and laugh.  I hated writing papers in college and would procrastinate until the last minute because I dreaded putting my thoughts on paper to be graded and criticized.  Even though I generally made A's on my papers, there was always, always something wrong somewhere, and I didn't realize at the time how personally I was taking it, how it built my fear of expressing my thoughts.  (Ah, hindsight.)  I started projects that I never finished or never showed anyone.  I don't talk much at parties because I'm afraid no one will care about what I have to say.

Well, the list goes on.  It is actually something of a surprise that I started this blog; it took more courage than you might expect to hit "Publish Post" and then link my stuff on Facebook.  But I am tired of letting fear rule everything I do.  It won't be easy, and I know I will backslide.

In 2011, I'm going to finish my book.  I'm going to make and wear goofy shirts.  I'm going to finish projects and actually show them to people. 

Fear = Pwnd  

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Motherhood: The New Competitive Sport

If you are expecting a child or are a mother already, chances are you have gone on at least one pregnancy/parenting forum.  Most of the ladies on these forums are nice and helpful.  But no matter how good the online community, there are certain subject lines that make you groan.  Why?  Because you know that yet another argument is about to happen.  Seeing titles with words like breastfeeding, vaccinations, cosleeping, CIO, solid foods will either make you move on quickly or get on your (metaphorical) boxing gloves.  It doesn't matter what side you are on.  The battle has already been orchestrated; all that is needed is for the unwitting to ask an innocent question.  I've seen this countless times, and my daughter is only five months old.  The arguments aren't limited to forums, either; they happen between friends who have children and are a close relative to the unsolicited advice heaped on new mothers. 

But the question is--why?

Why do we treat these issues as earth-shattering, my way or the highway debates to be won At All Costs?  We get so caught up in our love and concern for our babies that we don't stop and think.  How important are all of these things in the long run?  Look at all of the successful, intelligent people in your life.  Do you know how they were fed?  Diapered?  Where they slept?  I'm guessing not.  These are all very important parenting decisions for each family to make, but they are not so life-altering that we need to bash each other for them.  A formula-fed baby can grow up to be a successful, happy person if they try hard enough.  We are what we make ourselves.

So why do we, as mothers, feel the need to defend and promote our preferences so virulently?  It is as though we are insecure about our abilities.  After all, there isn't a secret manual given out to all new mothers with the secrets of perfect parenting.  We are all guessing, really.  But if you can say "I am a good mother because I do X instead of Y," then you can validate your choices and feel better about yourself.  How easy is it to turn that statement into "She is a bad mother because she does Y instead of X.  Aren't I so awesome?"  We need to stop relying on criticizing others to boost our own confidence.  Is your baby happy, fed, clothed, clean, played with, and loved?  Do you ignore your baby's needs to play WoW or watch t.v.?  If you answered yes to the first question and no to the second, then you are a good mother.  There.  Stop stressing.

Because, really, do we gain anything from this competition except a way to pat ourselves on the back?  The truth is, whether you cosleep, cloth diaper, and breastfeed or put baby in a crib, use disposable diapers, and forumla feed (or any other combination), your child will grow up to make their own life.  Decide what works for you and your family, own your decision, and move on.  Our children will probably never remember if they drank formula or breastmilk (I had to ask), but if we make this cycle a habit, they will remember us bragging to / bashing others about how great our parenting skills are or waffling back and forth because another mother convinced us to do something we didn't really want to do.  Remember that the example we live has the biggest impact of all.

Embrace the diversity of mothers everywhere.  We don't have to agree on every point to be friends.  And, hey, we might learn something new if we keep an open mind!  Motherhood is a tough enough job without alienating those we could possibly get support from.

Note: This is not intended to be a sexist article.  I am just not certain if this kind of competition exists for fathers because I have mostly seen women on these boards.  Any Dads out there with some input?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

YuDu Part 2: An Actual Project

Last night, I decided to practice with the screen I showed on my last crafting blog post.  While I didn't do the best job preparing the screen, I thought at least a few of the words I burned in would come through okay.  I decided to start with "1337." 

In the last post, I mentioned that I thought I had messed up because the words came through fuzzy instead of crisp.  Well, at least concerning 1337, the problem was with how I pulled the paint.  There is an art to this.  If you pull too much paint across the screen, the design will not be crisp; if you pull too little paint, you won't fill in the entire design.  And if you think you haven't pulled enough paint, DON'T lift the screen to check, then put it back down.  It does not tend to want to go back to the exact same place, so your design will be messed up.

After practicing my pulling technique on paper, I finally got the courage to print on a onesie.  I think it went pretty well.  For the first one, I used light purple dye.  On the second, I tried pulling more than one color at once.

Now Kira can proclaim her uber leetness to everyone!  What Mom wouldn't be proud?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Adventures in Reading

Unfortunately, I can't say a great deal about the book I just finished reading, Must Love Lycans by Michele Bardsley.  Why can't I talk about it?  I got a (very) advanced copy of it when I participated in one of her writing workshops, and the book isn't due out until September 2011.  As I am a person of honor and respect the author, all I will say is: It Is Awesome.  If you've never read anything by Michele Bardsley, check out her website: The Official Website of Michele Bardsley.  I'll post a review of the book closer to its release date.

I had started a book by Dakota Cassidy, You Dropped a Blonde on Me, but it just isn't my thing.  I am saddened by this because I love her other stuff.  She is an excellent author with a very vivid writing style that captures the imagination.  However, I found that to be a problem with this book.  Being pulled into the story of a 40 year-old woman going through a divorce made me feel like...well, a 40 year-old woman going through a divorce.  I stopped reading about a fourth of the way through because I started feeling depressed.  I'm sure the story will turn around and that the protagonist will recover from being broke, desperate, and feeling like crap.  But considering my tendency towards depression already, I don't want to spend the time going through those negative emotions to get there.  I'm sorry, Dakota Cassidy!  I really am a fan!

Last night, I decided to try a historical romance by Lorraine Heath, Passions of a Wicked Earl (Avon).  So far it is okay.  If it doesn't fit my mood, I may go back and read Must Love Lycans again.  So.  Good.

YuDu Screen Printer: Trial 1

After the Great Computer Virus debacle and a failed attempt at printing my own template (Epson + transparency paper=fail), I finally got to try out my Yudu Personal Screen Printer.  If you aren't familiar with screen printing, the short explanation is that you take a screen, which looks something like this:
 (Well, okay, this is a screen after I've added the stuff to it.  Pretend it is blank) and add an emulsion sheet, then use the machine to burn in the image or words that you want to paint on something.  Here is the machine:
 Once you get whatever you want printed on the machine, you place it on the top, like so:
 You put your paper, shirt, hand, etc under the screen, then you run paint over the screen.  The image is (theoretically) transferred, and you can print as many things as you want with that screen.

You may be wondering why I don't have any pictures of what I painted.  Well... I was able to tell you the fundamentals of using the screen printing machine, but I have yet to master it.  The paint came through kind of blotchy in places so I'm thinking that either I didn't get the emulsion sheet (the dark colored part) on right or I messed up somewhere else in the process.  I may have simply not pulled the paint across the screen right.  But I can tell you what I learned:

1) The tutorial video shows a lady wetting the screen with a wet paper towel.  She made it sound simple, but she LIED!  Wet that screen A LOT.  I messed up the first emulsion sheet because I foolishly followed her directions.  The sheet didn't stick, but I didn't know any better.  The one you see in the picture above still wasn't quite right.  There is a learning curve for this.

2) Not all inkjet printers will print your design on the transparency.  My Epson printer made the words look like text from a psychedelic 60s band poster.  Amusing, but useless.  I had to go get the transparency printed at Kinkos, but that only cost about 85 cents so no big deal.

3) Pulling the ink across the screen isn't as easy as you might expect.  Have something to test on first.

I did have fun, though.  Hopefully, I will have a finished product to post soon!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Making Baby Food, Attempt One

Over the course of two nights, I made baby food for the first time.  Now, before you think it must have been a horrible experience to take so long, I can say that it wasn't.  It was lack of preparation that caused the delay.  Learn from my mistakes!  :)

I had seen a recipe book at the lactation boutique and thought making baby food was an interesting idea, but I didn't think about it too seriously until my friend sent me a link to a website with recipes.  I decided to buy foods for Kira to see if she liked them before I made a bunch of anything, and there are several organic brands that are pretty good. 

One of Kira's favorite foods so far is sweet potatoes, and the recipe seemed easy, so I decided to make those first.  I bought two organic sweet potatoes and baked them.  It took about an hour and fifteen minutes at 400 degrees in my average-quality oven.  Getting the 'meat' out was pretty easy.  I could pretty much pull the skin off the potato after it had baked (and cooled, of course).  I tried mashing the sweet potatoes with some water by hand, but it was a little thicker than I wanted.  I think the consistency would have been fine if Kira was a month or two older, but at five months, I wanted it to be smooth.  This is where the second night came in--I had just put Kira to bed, and there was no way I was getting out the blender at that point!

So the following afternoon, I put the refrigerated sweet potatoes in the blender to finish smoothing them out, then put the mix in a couple of ice cube trays to freeze.  Two sweet potatoes filled two trays!  Considering how little Kira eats at this age, she will have sweet potatoes for a long time.  Thankfully, they will last a while in the freezer!

I'm pleased with this first experiment.  It was very easy, and I could do other things while the sweet potatoes were baking.  If I'd known that I would want to put them in the blender, I could have skipped hand-mashing and finished this even more quickly.  And best of all?  We spent about $3 on about 24 servings of organic sweet potatoes, compared to $1.50 for two servings of store-bought organic baby food.


Yay, I have followers who aren't my husband!  (Hi, hun!)  Welcome.  :-)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Belated Merry Christmas

I hope everyone (who celebrates it) had a wonderful Christmas!  I would have posted yesterday, but I got a nasty computer virus while searching the internet for ideas for gaming-themed shirts.  Merry Christmas to you, random hacker! 

Maybe today I will be able to try out my Christmas present, the Yudu Personal Screen Printer.  You see, to make the screen that you use to paint images on objects like T-shirts, you have to have the image on transparent paper.  And how was I going to get my design?  Printed from my computer, of course!  Well, thanks to 5+ hours-worth of work by my programmer husband last night (I wasn't joking about the virus being nasty), I should be able to try it out today.  Expect to see something in the crafting section soon!

Other than computer annoyance, we had an excellent Christmas.  Kira was very cute when we opened presents with her.  At first she was intrigued by the paper, but she soon got this bored, kind of resigned expression.  She loved the actual presents, though.  Santa brought her the Fisher-Price Precious Planet Kick and Play Piano and various rattles and teethers.  She also got a jumperoo, a vtech rhyming book, a tea set, and tons of clothes.  We put her in her crib for naps yesterday, and I could tell she was awake by the music from the piano.  So cute!

Our Christmas dinner was inspired by A Christmas Story; Ben went out and got us Chinese takeout.  There was no duck with attached head, though, and as far as I'm aware, no Chinese men trying to sing Christmas carols at the restaurant.  This may sound like a disappointing dinner to some, but we actually weren't in the mood for a big meal.  We will probably do more when Kira gets older.     

What a great holiday!  I hope everyone else had a good day.  :-)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Photoshop Fun

Okay, I'll admit it.  I totally botched Kira's Christmas photo shoot. 

Santa was at the courthouse, and on Saturdays, you could bring your own camera.  Fresh from my first photography class at Made in Murfreesboro, I was confident that I could do an excellent job.  But it was a rainy day, we had just fought our way through traffic after having lunch, and we were dreading going back through said traffic for Christmas shopping after the pictures were done.  So, I took a few pictures that I thought would be fine, packed up, and rushed out.  Bad plan!

When I got home, I found that I had set my shutter speed too fast when compensating for the flash.  I ended up with:
The background is terribly dark.  After getting over my initial upset, I got plugging on Photoshop.

First I tried adjusting exposure in Camera Raw.  If you already know how to use Camera Raw, then you can skip the next part.  I'm not pasting the pictures in, otherwise this post will be really long.  To see how to get into Camera Raw, click: Picture 1 and Picture 2.  To see how to adjust exposure in Camera Raw, click Exposure Adjustment.  Anyway, after I played around with the exposure, brightness, and color saturation, I ended up with:
It is a little better, but it still looks pretty unbalanced.  The foreground is quite bright, and the colors look off.  I was okay with this picture, but I wanted to mess around with it more.

Next, I decided to use some of the techniques I'd learned for teeth whitening from the book Photoshop CS4: Top 100 Simplified Tips and Tricks (Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks).  I used the quick mask method to select the area I wanted to adjust.  Basically, after you click on quick mask (Quick Mask 1) and select your brush (Quick Mask 2), you just have to paint over the area you want to select (Painting what you want selected).  My example picture isn't as detailed as what I did for the end picture, i.e. I didn't paint over every part I would want to change; this is just so you can see how to do it.  Once you get the desired area painted, you want to click the quick mask button again, then go up to Select and hit "Inverse" (Getting the area selected).  You'll see the dotted lines around the stuff you want to adjust.  Now, to change the exposure of that selected area, look for a button on the right that says "Exposure."  The last example picture showed you where the button is.  Once you get that button clicked, you can alter exposure as much as necessary (Changing Exposure).  See how drastically different that is?  You can use this same method of selecting to change other things in your picture.  To whiten teeth, you would click the button on the right to alter colors and adjust your yellows.  I think that if you want to do more than one thing (exposure, then color alterations), you have to reselect the area, though.

This is the end picture from using the second method:

I think this picture looks the best.  The background is properly exposed without making the people in the foreground look overbright.  It isn't as good as the picture would have been if I'd have gotten the settings right in the first place (or if I had a professional flash), but I'm happy enough with it.  It is certainly better than no Santa picture at all!

And yes, I'm sure there are easier ways to select part of an image and alter it.  I'm a Photoshop noob, so I'm basically sharing with you my experiments.  This is not the blog for pro tips.  LOL  It certainly is a lot of fun learning, though.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Children's Products and Gender Stereotypes

It begins as soon as you find out you are having a baby: "Oh, are you going to find out what you're having?" "You should hope for a girl.  Girls are so nice and sweet"  "Boys are the best.  You can do all kinds of fun things with boys, even if they are really rowdy."  You get so many opinions on which gender is the best when all you want is a healthy baby.  And are any of these people right, anyway?

The more I look at children's things, the more I realize just how far our culture goes with these ideas.  It's as though someone, somewhere, has already decided what my child should be like because she is a girl.  And in case I am confused, everything is conveniently color-coded pink.  If I am STILL confused, there is also a picture of a female child (wearing the appropriate color, of course) for clarification. 

Take a stroll through the clothing section.  Girls' clothes have flowers, butterflies, and angels; boys' clothes have trucks, tools, and dinosaurs.  Boys' clothes have slogans like "Champ" and "Daddy's Helper"; girls' slogans are things like "Sweety" and "Little Princess."  The overall trend is this: male=useful, female=decorative. 

Now toys are somewhat interesting.  Girls get the V Tech Fun Shapes Jewelry Box - Pink (like there is any other color).  The manufacturer's description: "The V Tech Fun Shapes Jewelry Box features three accessories for learning fun - a square-based lipstick, a circle-shaped comb and a star-shaped perfume bottle. Open the box to reveal a mirror for role-play action as your little girl applies her jewelry. Close the box to view the huge light-up heart button. With two modes of play, girls will never be bored between learning and playing make believe."  Never bored?  I'm bored just reading it! 

If you look at its apparent counterpart, the V Tech Learning Fun Tool Box, you get the description "The Learning Fun Tool Box features play pieces including a screwdriver, wrench, saw and hammer - with realistic sounds. With a little imagination, baby will get the job done using the screwdriver to turn gears, the wrench to turn bolts, and the hammer to tap nails. This box has all the tools to teach shapes, numbers, and colors and features three light-up buttons and two modes of play: Learning Mode and Play Mode."  Notice something different?  There is no "he" or "she," just a gender-neutral "baby."  That type of neutrality is even becoming common for things like kitchen sets.  Well, except for the Step2 Lifestyle Kitchen at Walmart--because all women should aspire to chatting on the phone while cooking dinner.  Hey, at least she's wearing shoes!

Am I putting too much thought into this?  Maybe.  I wore pink, frilly dresses as a child (and liked it), but little of that carried over into adulthood.  The things I wore or played with did not restrict what I have become.  I do think this issue is worth thinking about, if nothing else as a representation of what OUR generation thinks of what it means to be male or female.  After all, the children aren't making these things; we are!

And yes, I do dress my girl in pink clothes.  Sometimes they even have butterflies and say "Little Sweety" on them.  But she has stuff with dinosaurs on it, too--some of them are even colored blue.  :-)  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lynsay Sands' Hungry For You

I guess this isn't so much a "currently reading" as it is a "flew through in under two days."  Let's just say I didn't get much done during Kira's nap time besides reading Lynsay Sands' new book, Hungry For You.  It was fast paced with a good, believable couple.

*Beware: Mild Spoilers*

I thought this was a much lighter book than some of her more recent stuff.  While there was danger, there was much less of the murder-mystery feel than the last few books in the Argeneau series.  This book reminded me a lot of the earlier stories, where the danger was present but didn't lead the plot.  I did like the last few books, but this was a really refreshing change of pace.  Sometimes plots with serious, overriding danger get to be a bit too much for me.  A break from the whole no-fanger conspiracy was nice. 

I'm glad to see that Sam's third sister finds a life mate.  It makes me wonder if there is something genetic that makes a person a good life mate.  Maybe other newly-turned immortals should be pushing relatives at the immortal population.  ;-)   

I guess I'm not giving a lot of plot details, but I don't want to just sit here and repeat what you can read on the back cover of the book.  Cale and Alex are very good together--and now she won't have to find a business manager!

If you haven't read the other books, this won't make sense, but . . . I'm thinking Bricker will be getting a book fairly soon.  He plays the matchmaker / prankster role much like Thomas did, and Thomas got his own story moderately quickly.  I'm still waiting for Christian Notte's book, though.  What's taking Marguerite so long?

From Bassinet to Crib

I'm beginning to think I made a big mistake.  Kira turned five months old a few days ago, so we decided it was time for her to move to her crib.  The bassinet is not too far from being too small for her, and the greatest SIDS risk period has passed.  Last Monday night, we put Kira in her crib, and she HATED it.  She woke up crying about every two hours.  Not fun when you are used to getting a full night's sleep.

We decided to wait until the weekend, when Ben will be home to help more, but I'm dreading it.  Now Kira doesn't want to nap in her bassinet anymore.  It takes 20-30 minutes to get her to sleep.  I'm starting to wish I'd left well enough alone for a bit longer!  Now she has started a new game.  Take paci out, wave it around, try to get it back in, drop it, and cry.  Mommy puts her paci back in.  Repeat for 20 minutes.  Sigh. 

Hopefully, a gradual approach will work next time.  We are going to try to move her bassinet to her room first to get her used to sleeping in another room.  When the new SIDS monitor arrives (the Angelcare one with two sensor pads), we will try having her nap in the crib since the single pad version didn't quite detect well enough.  I know it is paranoid to need to wait for the monitor, but I lost a sibling to SIDS.  I'd never be able to sleep without it!  Now I can keep the old one in her bassinet or travel bed.  :)

Saturday night will probably be when we try again.   Wish us luck!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gaming Decisions

Quick quiz:

Your baby has finally gone down for her nap.  You have 30 minutes to an hour of free time.  Do you play:

A) The Sims 3
B) Civilization V
C) Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
D) The first thing you can put your hands on.  Hurry!

Something tells me the baby will wake up before I make up my mind.  I really enjoyed Oblivion after she went to bed last night, but I saw on Facebook that Civ V has a new patch out.  Could they have fixed the bug that prevented my large civ from crashing the game just prior to complete world domination?  Hmm...

Confessions of a New Mom

So for nine(ish) months, you are pregnant and sometimes miserable.  Every time you mention a pregnancy symptom, from morning sickness to back pain, you hear, "Oh, it will all be worth it when you hold your new baby in your arms."  Now, I won't argue with that statement; for me, it was certainly true.  The problem is, the advice always ends there.  You are left with the image of two happy parents gazing endlessly into their new baby's eyes.  There may or may not be beams of light and soft, fuzzy clouds involved. 

Unfortunately, that's not the whole story.  Sure, you will spend time staring lovingly into your baby's eyes.  But there are some things that people, for whatever reason, don't seem to want to warn you about (or at least they didn't warn me).

1) You will remain hormonal.  Your hormones don't go back to normal instantly just because you gave birth.  In fact, I think hormonal reactions are actually worse.  You will cry at random, stupid stuff.  I remember once, about two weeks after I had my baby, when my daughter peed all over the changing table while my husband was changing her diaper.  I stood there sobbing because I would have to give her another bath.  I mean just weeping.  My husband looked at me like I was crazy.  LOL.  I cried more in the first two weeks postpartum than during my whole pregnancy (and possibly my whole life)!

2)  Having a baby is hard on even strong relationships.  Remember the image of two happy parents gazing lovingly at their baby?  It seems like this ideal is all we think about.  Now, I'm not saying that having a baby will ruin your relationship forever, and this surely varies for everyone.  But those first few weeks, when you are trying to establish who does what, can be rough.  When you are up for the third time in four hours and your significant other is sleeping peacefully, you will contemplate smacking him with a pillow.  Getting past this will require plenty of communication, honesty, and compromise. 

3)  The first month is likely to make you feel like a survivor of the zombie apocalypse (except you won't be sure that you aren't one of the zombies).  Your baby will be scared and uncertain after being thrust into this bright, loud, crazy world, and s/he will let you know it.  They will not like being put down.  They will not enjoy being put in their bassinet or crib to sleep.  You will grow more skilled than you can imagine at doing things one-handed.  That's not even considering the multiple night-feedings!  But it WILL get better.  Try not to feel bad if your house isn't spotless or some things have gone undone.  You can do them later.  Guilt helps nothing.

Are these things scary?  YES!  Can you get through them?  YES!  I'm not posting this to scare other women but to prepare them.  Come up with plans to combat these situations before you have your baby.  I recommend multiple plans.  :-)   

If I think of more things, I'll post them.  Feel free to add your own to the comments.  :-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eclectic Mom?

So a lot of the blogs I have seen are fairly focused.  Some people write about parenthood, others about saving money, etc.  But me, I'm all over the place.  I don't think that's a bad thing.  I may be a mom, but I'm also my own person--an interesting person.  More than that, I think it is important that I remember to BE my own person.

Don't get me wrong: my husband and my daughter are the two most important people in my life.  I adore Kira, and I love spending time with her.  I would never neglect her for my own interests.  However, I want to teach my daughter to be happy and to follow her dreams.  If I neglect myself to the point of misery, I will not be the example of that that she needs. 

I may not have a lot of time to spend on my hobbies, but I do what I can.  I certainly won't be able to post daily on every topic listed.  But if you like variety, maybe you'll enjoy reading my point of view.  :) 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Getting Started

If you've managed to stumble on my blog already, then be prepared for construction.  This is my first blog, and I'm just figuring stuff out.  :)