Archive for July, 2008

Comic-Con Recovery Time: Four Days

July 31, 2008 @ 7:53 am | Filed under: Clippings, Comics, Family Adventures, Fun Learning Stuff, Uncategorized

And I was only there for half of it.

Whew. As has always been my comic book convention experience, the weekend was exhausting but sooo much fun. That it fell on this particular weekend was a bummer, though, because a bunch of my girlfriends were at an entirely different conference on the other side of the country, and I (sob) could not be in two places at once.

Looking at all the beautiful pictures from the FCL Conference gave me such a smile, because talk about a study in contrasts! Here’s what their weekend looked like.

Here’s what mine looked like.

Scott had to work at the con Wednesday night, Thursday, Friday, and through the weekend. My mother arrived bright and early Saturday morning, and I brought her home from the airport, gave her a hug, and abandoned her with the children for the next two days. More or less.

On Saturday, while Scott worked at the WildStorm booth and did portfolio review and all that editor stuff they pay him for, I strolled up and down the convention center taking in the sights. There is always a lot to take in.

View from the DC Comics green room.

Saw eye to eye, Yoda and I did.

After a while, you’ve seen so much it all becomes a blur.

Sometimes you just need to sit down and take a little breather.

Fortunately, Scott got a late lunch break just in time for us to hook up with our beloved (and gorgeous) college friend Kristen, her husband Vinny, and Vinny’s Attack of the Show co-producer, Joshua. We survived the cattle crossing that is the big intersection right outside the convention center

and wandered into the Gaslamp District in search of a good place to eat.

Speaking of cattle crossings, we passed these characters just hanging out on a streetcorner.

Rumor has it they were a promo for the TV show Fringe.

The restaurant that boasted of having award-winning meatloaf had a 45-minute wait, so hmph to them. We found ourselves at Fred’s Mexican Cafe, and oh my goodness. The complimentary chips and salsa were so good they nearly made us weep.

Kristen took this picture of me basking in post-salsa contentment.

She also got much better Comic-Con pix than I did.

After stuffing ourselves with cajun shrimp tacos (oh. my. goodness.) and carnitas burritos, we waddled back down the street toward the Con. OK, I waddled. Scott had to dash ahead to get back for booth duty. Kristen and I took our time. We passed Joss Whedon on the street. Kristen greeted him with what is now my favorite greeting ever. (“Hey, Joss Whedon! Yay!”) He grinned. Then we reached Kristen’s hotel and said a weepy goodbye. L.A. is just too dang far away. At least, as the car drives.

Back to the Con for me, where I visited artist friends until Scott was finished at the booth. Tim Sale shook his head in amazement at the news that we are expecting again. I told him we figure there won’t be any Social Security by the time we’re old enough to draw it, so we’re making sure we have plenty of children around to take care of us. He said, “Good point. It’ll be an agrarian society by then anyway, so you’ll need all those kids to work the farm.” Ha.

It was around that time that I had a little bag crisis. The bag I’d brought with me (this delicious creation by Beauty That Moves) turned out to be just a leetle too small for the event. My camera was perched too near the top, just begging to be snatched. What choice did I have? There was this booth full of big ole bags with zippers, and one of them was lime green. Seriously, what choice did I have. OK. I admit it. I have a little problem when it comes to bags. In fact, just minutes later when my husband was introducing me to one of his favorite writers in the comics industry (Kelley Puckett, whom I’ve been hearing about—and reading—for fifteen years, but somehow had never met until this weekend!), he broke off in mid-sentence and said, “Hey, is that a new bag?” I said, “Hmm? What?” And he turned to Kelley and said, “My wife has only two flaws.” (He’s wrong about that, but it was sweet.) “Number one: her ridiculous affection for me. Number two: her compulsion for bags.” I can’t deny it. I am so thrifty and purchase-cautious when it comes to clothes and furniture and household items and pretty much everything except books and handbags. I mean, it’s not like I buy a bag a month or anything like that. But three or four a year, yeah, maybe. It’s a quest, see, for the perfect bag. As pretty as this one but with lots of pockets and a sturdy bottom and some kind of inherent magic that will make me always be able to locate my keys when I need to. That kind of bag.

But I digress.

Our Saturday evening wrapped up with what is for me the best part of a comic book convention. We wound up in the Hyatt bar eating appetizers and drinking beer (ginger ale for me) with a group of writers and artists. I love this, the jovial camaraderie and stimulating discussion of a community of creative colleagues. Our Barcelona pal Andy Diggle was there (but no Jock, alas), and Kelley Puckett joined us, and Fiona Staples (Scott’s artist on Jack Hawksmoor), and a bunch of WildStorm people, and assorted other folks wandering in and out. We stayed up talking too late and dragged ourselves home well past midnight.

And then poor Scott had to start all over at 9 a.m. on Sunday. I lingered at home, took the girls to Mass, played with my little ones. I didn’t want to take a second car into the convention-center madness, so I parked at the trolley station near our house and took the orange line downtown. And what an interesting trolley ride that was. I Twittered the experience (scroll down to “waiting for the trolley” and read upwards) and was probably lucky the Loud Girl didn’t know I was recording her rantings for all the internet to see. I told Scott you know it’s been a freaky train ride when it’s a relief to get back to all the nice, sane people at Comic-Con.

Like these guys.

I am proud to say I bought no bags on Sunday (although the blue soldier guy’s messenger bag up there is kind of cute, isn’t it). I took in the sights and drank free DC Comics cranberry juice and met more nice artists and attended the WildStorm panel. And then it was back to the Hyatt for more food & fun with Fiona and Andy (but no Kelley this time) and Mike Costa and Neil Googe and other engaging, talented folks. Scott, Mike, Andy, and I spent a good three hours talking about the nature of story. That, my friends, is why I go to comic conventions.

Later we stopped by a party hosted by Mark Buckingham, Bill Willingham, and Matt Sturges, but I was too tired to stay long. My obliging hubby took me home where I snuggled up next to my baby who is no longer a baby and dreamed about absolutely nothing, because I was that wiped out.

Pass the Bon-bons, Please

July 24, 2008 @ 5:32 am | Filed under: Family

Last night was, as I mentioned, the first night of Comic Con, and Scott didn’t get home until after 10 p.m. Shakespeare Club didn’t happen yesterday because a number of the kids were out of town or had relatives visiting, but my gang and I had a busy afternoon nonetheless. Them: running through sprinklers. Me: plugging away at the decluttering project. More progress, woohoo! But I have decided that clothes storage, as in the handmedowns I’m saving for the next younguns in line, is the bane of my existence. Just so you know.

Around 7:30 in the evening I was folding a load of laundry while the younger four played a rowdy game of hide-and-seek. Curiously, most of the hiding took place in the room where I was folding laundry. Do the older girls not know that I always tip the littles off to where the big kids are hiding? Dinner was cleared away, evening chores finished, kids ready for bed, most of the dishes loaded (thanks largely to Jane), kitchen floor swept, and the ginormous pile of unfolded clothing that had been occupying the best hiding place of all, behind Wonderboy’s bedroom door, was now completely gone. Folded, sorted, put away. I was down to a few last items from the load fresh out of the dryer. Major accomplishment, especially with Rilla “hiding” under my feet.

Right about then the phone rang. Jane answered it and I heard her say: “Oh, no, Mom’s not busy at all!”

That’s right, just basking here in my life of leisure. Peel me a grape, somebody!

Nesting Rocks

July 23, 2008 @ 6:24 am | Filed under: Family, Family Adventures, Uncategorized

Last Friday Jane and her friends had the great fun of making blankets together for a service project headed by my sweet and generous friend Katie. All the volunteers were sent home with giant bags of fabric, fleece and cotton, to be used in making more blankets for the pro-life center and anything else the girls want to tackle for themselves or their families. Jane spent the weekend making fleece blankets and pillows, some knotted, some hand-sewn. I promised to work on making a space for her to have easy access to the sewing machine: all three big girls very much want to learn to sew, really sew, on the machine. So that was Monday’s project: finishing the big overhaul of the craft room that I started while the girls were in Colorado.

What I had done while they were gone was: tidy and reorganize the shelves, especially the craft-supply shelves under the window. Now it was time to tackle the closet. Jane was on hand to bag the trash I pitched onto the floor behind me. One of the first treasures I unearthed was a big book of placemats to color in, a German publication I remembering buying two-for-a-dollar at a Hearthsong sale many years ago. This felicitous find kept Beanie busy for most of the day, perched at the table behind me in the middle of the craft room. And Rose worked her magic on the little ones, entertaining them, guarding them from harm, answering countless requests for the refilling of sippy cups.

About this “craft room.” It ought sensibly to be a bedroom. We are (for now) seven people in a 1700-square-foot house. Rilla still sleeps in my bed. She’ll most likely move to a toddler bed next to mine sometime before the baby comes. That’s been our pattern with all the others and it has worked beautifully four times. Wonderboy has his own room, sort of: it’s also Scott’s office and laundry-folding center, and the boy’s closet absorbs a lot of the overflow from the rest of the house. The three older girls share a bedroom, from which we can hear them giggling and talking until late into the night.

The craft room (I call it that because it’s where the girls do most of their drawing and painting and Sculpey-ing and snipping of tiny bits of paper for their own inscrutable purposes) has three tall bookcases full of kids’ books, one tall bookcase full of Scott’s CDs, a fifth tall bookcase half full of more books and, until yesterday, half full of craftsy overflow such as crumpled origami paper, dried-up glue sticks, and eraserless pencils. We must make a lot of mistakes around here, because never in my life have I seen so many pencils with erasers worn away to the metal.

There’s a small desk in the craft room amid all the bookcases. This used to be my desk—since college days, actually—but in this house I wanted to make sure Jane had a corner all her own, so it’s her desk now. She has my old laptop set up there (no internet access, unfortunately—it’s too old for anything but dial-up) as well as all her beading, crocheting, sewing, paperfolding, etc, supplies. What we did on Monday was clear off some shelves beside the desk for her personal use and add a small end table in the corner for the laptop to go on when she wants the desk clear for sewing. And we moved the sewing machine to her desk. Jane’s in heaven.

Rose has long wanted a desk of her own too, and as soon as the dramatic emptying and organizing of the craft-room closet (you can imagine what it looked like before) was complete, she claimed her nook. We have an old children’s table from IKEA in there—I was using it as a kind of shelf. It’s Rose’s desk now, and I think what she loves about it is that it is inside the closet. Safe from sneaky spies, you understand, and prying toddler hands. She found a chair that fits the table and discovered she can store it on the table when the closet door is closed.

Beanie does not yet crave a desk of her own. “I like to be wherever you are, Mommy,” she says, causing me to kiss her all over her face.

Yesterday, Tuesday, we tackled the laundry room and Wonderboy’s room. Stunning progress, if I do say so myself. It may be the last boastful thing I’ll say all week, because the San Diego Comicon begins today (at least, Scott’s work-required wining and dining of the talent does), and just knowing I’m on bedtime duty for the next three days has already sapped all my energy. Also I have to go grocery shopping today and you know how that brings out the wilting lily in me. Do you hear that swell of sad violins? Waaah…

But my marvelous mama arrives bright and early Saturday morning and then I’ll become, for the weekend, a Mary Lennox’s mother kind of mother, gadding off to parties with an airy farewell wave of the hand. Okay, maybe that’s overstating a bit. (Tangent: a Rose quote from the other day: “Mom, I can definitely tell that Rilla is our baby. She’s prone to hyperbole just like you and Daddy. I just offered her a drink of water and she was grumpy and shouted, ‘NO! I never gon’ have water a-more!”)



Poor Rilla. Is it her fault she’s not a morning person?

Anyway, so maybe I won’t be quite as bad as Mrs. Lennox, but I do plan to spend a good bit of time at Con-related festivities. That’s the whole entire reason my mother is flying out here this weekend. Isn’t she the best? (And that, my friends, is no hyperbole.)

Ahead today: Shakespeare Club. I hope. In my closet-cleaning frenzy yesterday I forgot to send out a reminder email to the other moms. Even Mrs. Lennox had better manners than that.

Links for July 23, 2008

July 23, 2008 @ 6:00 am | Filed under: Links

Links for July 22, 2008

July 22, 2008 @ 8:00 pm | Filed under: Links

Reprise: The Speech Banana

July 20, 2008 @ 8:33 am | Filed under: Hearing Loss, Sign Language, Special Needs Children, Speech Delay, Wonderboy

Originally posted in June 2006.

Wonderboy’s hearing loss came as a shock to us. Sure, we knew he’d failed the newborn hearing test. Three times. But those rounds of testing were administered in the NICU where there is always a humming and beeping of background noise, and the tech had told us that ambient noise could skew the test results. We had more pressing things to worry about: his (minor) heart defect; his recovery from omphalocele repair surgery; the genetic testing necessary to determine whether he had a potentially serious chromosomal syndrome; the fact that he was going home on oxygen. At least he was going home, and we tucked the hearing-test business to the back of our minds and focused on the immediate business of keeping him alive.

Every month the health department sent us a letter reminding us to have the hearing screen repeated. Sure thing, we said, just as soon as things slow down a bit. We were constantly having to take him to some specialist or another. The chromosome study came back negative: his medical issues were not due to a genetic syndrome. He was just one of those babies for whom something goes slightly awry early on in utero, resulting in a number of physical abnormalities down the line. An MRI had shown brain abnormality, but what its effects would be, no one could say: time will tell, they said. (They are still saying that.) He had extremely high muscle tone (hypertonia) and could not stretch out his arms and legs very far. His fists were tightly clenched. He started physical therapy at four months of age. He required emergency surgery to repair a double hernia with incarcerated bowel. The cardiologist was still keeping a close eye on his heart. The hearing test would just have to wait.

Besides, we told ourselves, we know he isn’t deaf. He startled to loud noises. Of all the things there were to worry about, we really didn’t think hearing loss was one of them.

But by six months, we had suspicions. He wasn’t babbling. He didn’t turn his head at the sound of my voice, lighting up with recognition before even seeing me, as our other children had. We took him back for another hearing screen.

He failed.

The audiologist said something about a “mild” hearing loss, and I thought that didn’t sound too bad. “Oh, no,” she told me, hastening to set me straight. “It isn’t like a ‘mild’ fever. ANY hearing loss is serious. Most speech sounds fall at the bottom of the scale, so if you have any hearing loss at all, you’re going to have trouble with speech.”

Speech
As it turned out, Wonderboy’s loss was a bit more serious than the audiologist first thought. Further testing placed him at the “moderate” level on the scale of mild—moderate—severe—profound. Unaided, Wonderboy’s ears can’t detect sounds softer than 50 decibels. Most speech sounds fall in the 20-decibel-or-lower range. Our little guy can hear vowel sounds, the louder middles of words, but few of the consonants that shape sound into speech. For Wonderboy, people probably sound a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Wah-WAH-wah-wah-waahh-wah. We learned about the speech banana: the area on a graph that shows where speech sounds fall in the decibel and frequency ranges. Wonderboy can’t hear sounds above the horizontal 50 line on that chart.

(More or less. He has a sloping loss which is slightly better at the lower frequencies.)

By his first birthday he was wearing hearing aids, and what a huge difference we could see! Aided, he tests around the 20-decibel range. He hears and understands a great deal of what we say. He is two and a half years old now, and he is finally beginning to add some consonant sounds to his verbal speech. Daddy used to be “Ah-ee” and now he is “Gaggy.” (This cracks me up. You can get a lot of mileage out of calling your husband Gag.) Grandpa is Amp-Ha. Wonderboy’s baby sister is “Gay-gee.” As you can see, he doesn’t have a B sound yet. His M is perfect, though; I have been Mommy, clear as a bell, for over a year.

Boy1But Wonderboy’s verbal speech is only part of the picture. His actual vocabulary is enormous, thanks to sign language. We are huge fans of the Signing Time DVDs. He uses a combination of sign and speech; we all do. Although it appears he will be primarily a verbal person as he gets older, sign language will always be an important second language for him. Hearing aids, incredible as the technology is nowadays, don’t do you any good at the swimming pool. Just for instance.

Hard of hearing. It used to be a phrase that conjured up in my mind the image of a grizzled old man with an ear trumpet. What? What’d ye say? Speak up, lad! (Apparently he is a grizzled old Scotsman.) Now it applies to my son. Words pop up on a TV screen, “closed captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing,” and I’ll give a little mental jump: Oh! That means Wonderboy!

Watching our children learn to speak is one of the great delights of parenthood. We mothers tend to collect their funny pronunciations, their experimentation with the meanings of words. This time around, my joy has been doubled, for I get to see communication unfold in two languages. His funny little toddler signs are just as endearing as any “helidopter” or “oapymeal” ever uttered by a two-year-old. (“Oapymeal” was one of Jane’s. It meant oatmeal. I served it often just to hear her say it.)

There are some links to American Sign Language resources in the sidebar of my old site. (I’ll set up a page here soon as I get a chance.) I can’t say enough about the wonders and benefits of ASL, not just for deaf and hard of hearing children, but for all babies and toddlers, especially those with any type of speech delay. ASL is a beautiful, nuanced language, a visual poetry. I count myself privileged to have been put in the way of learning it. Jane is determined to certify as an interpreter someday, and I have to admit I’m a little jealous. I wish I’d learned at her age.

Wonderboy makes a fist and touches a knuckle to his cheek, wiggling the hand. “Ah-hul!” he shouts. Apple, in two languages. The speech banana? We’ll get there, one way or another.

*Audiogram image courtesy of GoHear.org.

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Links for July 20, 2008

July 20, 2008 @ 4:00 am | Filed under: Links

Links for July 19, 2008

July 19, 2008 @ 6:03 am | Filed under: Links

  • Frustrated parents sneak ‘old math’ to kids – CNN.com – “They call it the Math Wars: The debate, at times acrimonious, over which way is best to teach kids math. In its most black-and-white form, it pits schools hoping to prepare kids for a new world against reluctant parents who feel that the traditional way is best and that their kids are being shortchanged.” (See comments for a link to a very interesting blog post on this topic.)
  • The Yale Law Journal – “Home Schooling” in California – Yale Law Journal report on CA homeschooling case: "The views expressed above are consistent with the amicus brief filed by the Department in the Rachel L. case on behalf of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell."

Yup, She’s Mine All Right

July 18, 2008 @ 6:06 am | Filed under: Family

Rilla’s speech has rocketed forward into adorably articulated complete sentences. The other night, when Scott walked in the door after work with a grocery bag in his hand, she announced authoritatively: “Mommy! Daddy bringit you more choc’wat!”

And indeed he had, a whole sackful of my beloved Ritter Sport bars (dark chocolate with marzipan). Mmm. Two or three squares of this around three o’clock in the afternoon is better than a nap.

As Lilting House readers will remember, Scott goes to great lengths to keep me supplied, but nine bars all at once? Such superfluity of treasure! What on earth?

Turns out there was a good news/bad news story. Nine bars, because: “Honey, it was a closeout sale.”

Oh, the pain.

No, the manufacturer isn’t ceasing to make them. At least I don’t think so. (Flood of horror at the thought.) It’s just that our local grocery chain has (foolishly) decided to stop carrying them. Me say hmph.

Which is exactly, EXACTLY, what Rilla said when she requested some chocwat and I said, “Not now, sweetie.” No one taught her hmph, but she is a master. Sometimes at night she even hmphs in her sleep. Dreaming, no doubt, of mommy hoarding that bag of Ritter bars.