Friday, December 28, 2007

I've been assimilated

Remember the Borg from Star Trek, who went around turning other races of beings into cyborgs like them? My dad gave me a Bluetooth headset for Christmas. Now I walk around with this piece of hardware in my ear and a flashing blue light that blinds anyone who looks in my direction. The silly part is, only my parents and Hubby ever call me. Yet I know the minute I take it off I'll miss a call.

Hey, if anybody has Cingular/AT&T, email me and we'll exchange numbers. We can talk for free, you know.

We are the Bluetooth. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Your dog is dying.... or not

We took our dog to the vet Thursday night. She had been very lethargic, not eating or drinking, and was having trouble walking. He examined her and told us she probably had a bleeding tumor that was slowly sapping her energy. Based on her rate of respiration and her heartbeat, he estimated she had less than 24 hours.

So we took her home to say goodbye to the boys. The vet assured us that she wasn't in any pain, she would just get weaker and weaker until she died. We had a very tearful night of farewells, and the boys slept down in the basement with her since she couldn't climb the steps.

That was Thursday. She's still alive. In fact, she's acting almost completely normal - going up and down steps, eating and drinking, even stealing food off the table. Now I'm wondering if I should take her back for a new diagnosis, or just leave well enough alone. I mean, the girl is 14 next week. It's not like I haven't been expecting her to die for the last two years. But if it's something simple we can treat, I want to know about it.

At least the boys don't have to remember their dog dying at Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Girls' morning out

Mom and I went for a girls' morning of shopping today. There's a consignment shop I've been wanting to check out. I've got to do something with all these clothes that don't fit me anymore, and I figured they'd have some nice stuff in my new and improved size, too. Well, I was in the dressing room trying on a few things, and she comes knocking at the door.

"Jana, you have to try this on!" I opened the door and she's holding a leather skirt, size 10. "Okay, sure, why not?" So I tried it on. Wow, it fit like it was made for me. And it's a nice modest length, below the knees. For $7? Yeah, I bought it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poetic License - The cinquain

Mid-month Every Month at PENSIEVE
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I always liked writing poetry that followed a formula. Of course, the cinquain has several formulas, but that's okay. Sort of like tollhouse cookies, they're all good. Here's my tribute to celebrations:

Family, friends
Gathering, sharing, laughing
Fellowship of the season

Monday, December 17, 2007

I. Am. Cold.

Talk about a shock to the system - we had to wear short sleeves the day we left Florida because the temps were in the 80s. Now it's 31 and so windy not even the cat will go outside.

Here's something I've discovered about being thin: I am cold all the time. Hubby bought me a long underwear top because I kept talking about being cold. Don't get me wrong - I still like winter better than summer. But I think I'll be needing my heavy coat this year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In the week after Thanksgiving...

Before going to Disney, we spent the week after Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house near Tampa. She has an awesome heated pool, so even at night when the temps dipped into the 50s, we were able to go swimming. The boys loved it. One day we spent pretty much the entire day in the pool. That was nice.

We also saw some of the sights around the area that we hadn't seen before. We visited a park that was built around a natural spring.

We went to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and saw all kinds of neat exhibits, including one about shipwrecks and pirates.

We visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is a small rescue and rehabilitation facility near Clearwater Beach. I learned more there than at any other aquarium I've been to.That's Winter, a dolphin who lost her tail to a crab net. They have a prosthetic tail they put on her periodically so she can learn to swim correctly again. Pretty cool.

So overall we had a fantastic week and got to see lots of amazing things. And that was all before going to Disney World!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

We've got character

One thing almost everyone with little kids has to do at Disney World is get pictures taken with the characters. It makes a great souvenir, and the kids love it. Now, the autograph thing I just don't get. Why get somebody dressed in a costume to sign a name that isn't theirs and will never be worth anything? I don't know. But hey, at least they hold up the line nicely for everyone else. So here are some of the characters my kids got to see.
That's Rafiki from The Lion King.
Pocahontas - whose song got stuck in my head and wouldn't get out. Lilo and Stitch - a dream come true for my guys, let me tell you! Woody from Toy Story. Buzz Lightyear was there, too, but his line was crazy long. And I got to meet my girl, Kim Possible and her guy Ron Stoppable. Yeah, we hung out for a bit. Hey, Kim, you can call me or beep me, you know - if you want to reach me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pirates are thieves

Time for some pictures from our trip! Naturally, the first ride we went on at the Magic Kingdom was...
There was a cute pirate show outside the ride, starring Captain Jack himself. He ran off at the end of the show, but I managed to grab his sidekick for a picture with the boys. Notice the 8-year-old's shirt:We had an unfortunate incident in the ride, though. You know how pirates are always taking things that aren't theirs? Well, one of those scallywags made off with the 2-year-old's right shoe. Totally gone. Now this was the first ride of our first day at Disney, and he didn't have other shoes with him. But in a clear act of mutiny against the pirate kings, the people operating the ride gave us a voucher for a free pair of shoes from any store in the park. So he got a pair of Buzz Lightyear sneakers, and had fun telling everyone in the park that Captain Jack stole his shoe.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Too much for one post -look for installments

Wow, what a fantabulous vacation! Usually by the end of a trip I'm ready to be back home, but I had such a great time, I could have stayed another week or two easily. However, I will say that I figured out why Disney doesn't charge for under-3s to visit the parks: they know that anybody stupid enough to bring a toddler to Disney World deserves a little break. The 2-year-old (who turned 3 today, by the way!) had major meltdowns at least twice a day. I know it was mostly from too much activity and too little sleep, but no fun for the rest of us!

Some highlights include:
- oldest son riding roller coasters with us and loving it!
- the new Expedition Everest coaster at Disney's Animal Kingdom (it goes backwards through a dark tunnel - awesome!)
- the boys getting to wish Lilo & Stitch a Merry Christmas in Hawaiian (Lilo was mighty impressed)
- seeing Captain Jack in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride - too cool!
- getting picked on in the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
- talking to Crush the sea turtle

More later! And pics to come!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The age-old question

Jana, you've just written a 50,000 word novel to win your third NaNoWriMo in a row! What are you going to do now?


See you next week - though I might post pics and stuff this week, you never know.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In which I realize I'm more busy on vacation than I was at home

I'm coming into the home stretch now - I'm less than a thousand words away from 50,000. In between writing we've been swimming, seeing the science center, a local aquarium, and today we're going back to the science center (a year membership was the same price as a day so we just got that). And we haven't even gotten to Disney yet! Not to mention I'm expected at the Enterprise Christmas party!

New Johnny Depp movie

It's no secret I'm a big fan of Johnny Depp. Specifically, I love the character of Jack Sparrow and everything he's done with it in the three Pirate films. If I had to pick my favorite Johnny Depp moment, I think it would be between two different Jack Sparrow scenes.

The first is the initial entrance of the character Jack Sparrow in The Curse of the Black Pearl. I love the look on his face as he sails into port on the mast of his little boat, and the camera pulls back to reveal the boat is almost completely underwater. Nonplussed, he walks off the mast onto the dock. You know that here's a guy who's not going to be easily bothered when things go wrong. It's possibly the best introduction to a character ever done in a film.

My other favorite scene is in Dead Man's Chest, when Jack and Elizabeth are discussing doing the right thing. She tries to convince him that a moment will come when he will have to decide whether or not to do the right thing. And he says, "I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by." Again, a quintessential Jack Sparrow moment, and one that truly defines the character. Because you never know, is Jack going to do the right thing? Or is Jack going to do the right thing for him? Just like the scene in the first movie when Elizabeth asks, "Whose side is Jack on?" and Will responds, "At the moment?"

So I guess when it comes right down to it, the second one is my absolute favorite. It foreshadows a lot of the events to come in the second and third movies, and it clearly defines Jack Sparrow and what he's all about.

Now Johnny's in a new film. I had a chance to visit the official Sweeney Todd movie site and I think I'm really going to enjoy him in this role. It sounds like he's using the same accent again, which I love. And any time he gets together with Tim Burton, great things happen. If you get a chance to visit Sweeney Todd on MySpace, you can check out more about the movie there. I'm positive this is going to be another great, memorable role for Johnny Depp!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dancing in the dark

At 8:50 last night, the power went out. This was, of course, ten minutes before the finale of Dancing was supposed to come on. It did finally come back on a little after ten, so we got to see Helio and Julianne win! Hooray!

My five-year-old was wandering around the house with a flashlight, bemoaning the fact that he couldn't watch the movie he'd been watching. All of a sudden, he got this horrified look on his face. "Oh, no! We'll have to sleep in the dark!"

Is it wrong to laugh at your child's fears?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dancing with the 8s and 9s

I know I'm on vacation, but I couldn't miss last night's Dancing With the Stars. And naturally, I have my prediction for you. Unless things go horribly wrong, I'm predicting Helio and Julianne as the winners.

Last night, I have to say, was probably the worst finals I've seen on this show. It was great to see the judges wielding their paddles responsibly and not handing out 10s willy-nilly. And while sometimes I disagree with them (for example, back when Mario Lopez was on and they were judging him as if he were a professional), last night they were absolutely right. Helio's footwork was off on the jive, Marie's free-style was definitely not good (though points for lots of cool lifts), and Mel B could have done SOOOO much better on her freestyle.

The reason I'm picking Helio to win is that he came in second last night. I think there will be an outpouring of votes for him that will push him up to the top spot. I really felt bad for Mel B because, just like Laila Ali last season, she could have done so much better, and frankly, Max let her down with his routine. Marie, well, I never thought she had a chance, so if she wins, I will be shocked.

So, all in all, a disappointing final round. When was the last time there were NO 30s awarded for a freestyle? I'm thinking never. Wow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Poetic License

Mid-month Every Month at PENSIEVE
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As if I don't have enough to do with NaNo going on, I thought it would be fun to participate in Robin's Poetic License. So here is my limerick.

My daily routine is quite busy,
The children were making me dizzy
So now we have run
To the state of the sun
And next week we're going to Disney.

Okay, not prize-winning, but there it is.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Serve me with lemon and sugar

Someone told me today that I'm like a cup of chamomile tea - it calms her down just being around me. That just seems really bizarre to me. I certainly don't feel like the calm relaxed person who has everything under control! It's always interesting to see how other people perceive you, isn't it?

This was another mom of four boys, by the way. So she needs all the calm she can get.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Death by pole vaulting?

Yesterday, the main character in my novel got shot with a bow and arrow. I didn't plan it, it just came out that way in the writing. My first Nano novel had a character who got hit by a javelin. I'm beginning to sense I have some sort of deep-rooted fear of track and field events.

Next year I bet I could do a lot of damage with a shotput.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cultural Literacy

Years ago I got a book called Cultural Literacy by E.D.Hirsch. It contains all those little things you should have learned in school, but might not have, or that you learned and have now forgotten. The idea behind the book is that there are so many references in everyday life to events, people, places, artwork, and literature of world history that anyone not familiar with them ends up being culturally illiterate.

I remember at the time I read it thinking, "This is all well and good, but where's the entertainment category?" People reference popular entertainment of the past all the time without even thinking about it, but if you've never seen that movie or heard that song, it goes right over your head. I was reminded of this recently when my kids listened to a radio play which was a sort of parody of The Wizard of Oz. They had no idea. They had never seen it.

So yesterday, we sat down and watched The Wizard of Oz. They enjoyed it tremendously and we had fun seeing it together. Right after that, since we're heading to Disney in a couple of weeks, we watched Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. And guess what the kids say right after they get shrunk? "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto." Funny, huh?

What's your favorite expression that comes from a movie or television show of the past?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I watch too much TV, part 27

You've all probably been dying for my commentary on this season's television offerings, and I know I've been lax in this area. So sorry! Let's talk TV!

If you are watching Heroes this season, you know that, much like Lost, for every answer you get ten more questions. I think the Peter storyline this year is fantastic. He's the best one of all of them and he deserves the best story. The Hiro storyline totally made me fast-forward. SNORE! I honestly did not care what happened four hundred years ago, and I still don't understand why I should. Did they really need to spend all that time establishing that Adam is not to be trusted? The Nikki story is the same way. Oh, boo hoo, poor Nikki is too stupid to take her meds. Please. But the whole story about the older generation of heroes being killed off is great. More of that and more of Peter, please!

Then we have Journeyman. It has more than lived up to my expectations as a time travel show. I started out disliking Dan's wife, but now I love her, and I love how they've become a united front. True, neither of them is very happy with how he keeps disappearing into the past, but at least she has accepted it and they work together. And I am fascinated by the mysterious scientist who keeps showing up and hinting at reasons Dan might be traveling through time. I also love the Quantum Leap-like aspects of the show, how he never knows for sure what he's there to do, but he manages to change history for the better. I hope this show goes on for a long time.

Dancing with the Stars this season has been full of twists. I still can't believe Sabrina got kicked off so early on and Marie's still there. Of course, Marie has 20 million relatives voting for her. Now don't get me wrong, I love Marie Osmond, but I don't think she can win this thing. I think Jennie Garth is fantastic, too, and has improved SO tremendously, but again, I don't think she has what it takes to win. It's down to Helio and Mel B, and really, it's anybody's guess. I love them both and I can't pick a favorite. Hubby just likes Helio's partner, I think, but Helio is his pick for the winner.

And finally, I'm going to talk about Pushing Daisies. Here is a bizarre and clever show that had me hooked from the beginning. I love the characters, and the storybook quality of the narration. Visually, it looks very fairy tale-like, too. The mystery aspect of the show is fun. And then there's the horrible reality that Ned and Chuck (that's short for Charlotte Charles if you don't watch the show) can never touch or she will die. So bittersweet! This show is funny, beautifully done, and wickedly entertaining. If you liked Men In Black or the movie RV, this is the same director. Check it out!

More tv talk to come!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How many years of college will he need first?

The five-year-old has a huge list of his future professions. He wants to be a firefighter, an astronaut and a professional dancer (he loves watching Dancing with the Stars), among other things. The other day, he added video game programmer to his list. But then he announced, "I don't want to be in the Army when I grow up."

"Okay," I said, "but why not?"

"You have to fight people, and I don't know how to fight people."

"Well, if you decided you really wanted to be in the Army, they would teach you how to fight people," I told him.

"Oh!" He contemplated that a moment. "I still don't want to be in the Army." And he walked away.

It's probably just as well. I'm not sure how he'd fit it in among all those other things he's planning to do!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why TV writers deserve more money

I can sympathize with the television writers. Writing is hard work sometimes. Other times it's no work at all, and waiting for the next residual check to come in. And let's face it, without the writers there's not much show. Just a bunch of attractive people standing around on an island staring at each other.

This line from last night's Heroes totally knocked me out. To whoever wrote it, thanks for the laugh. (Note: this is not word-for-word, just from my memory):

"...the shrinks locked me in here. They said I was a sociopath with paranoid delusions, but that's just because I wanted to kill them and they were out to get me."

Monday, November 12, 2007

So You Think You Can Pun?

I had this friend in college who used to challenge me to pun. It usually started by accident. One of us would take whatever subject the group had been discussing, and make a really bad pun. Then we would look at each other and the challenge was on. Back and forth we'd go, and the first of us to not think of one would lose. Once we went through something like 30 puns about cows. I don't remember who won, but in games like that you tend to remember the match and not the winner.

Yesterday when I was writing, I had a scene where the two main characters are playing off the names of television shows. He's a singer being stalked by a fan, so we had "CSI: Concert Scene Investigations," "Law and Order: Special Vocalists Unit," "How I Stalked Your Father," "Stalking With Celebrities," you get the idea. I had fun thinking of new ones. So here's your assignment: combine stalking, singing and t.v. show titles and give me your best shot! Alternatively, if you want to use cooking instead of singing, my other character's a chef.

Have fun!

Friday, November 09, 2007

NaNo Tips - really this time

Many of you know my background in writing, and specifically that I have a BA in creative writing from a college with a well-known writing program which has produced more Pulitzer Prize winners per capita than any other college in the country. While I am relatively certain I will not soon be added to that list, I do happen to know a thing or two about writing. So today, I'm going to offer some actual tips on getting through NaNoWriMo.

The problem I keep seeing all over the blogosphere is that people get stuck. You reach a point in your story and have no idea what should happen next. Assuming you didn't write an outline before beginning, the first thing you should do is sketch a quick outline showing where you want things to go. Skip the next step in the plot (since if you knew that, you'd be writing it!) and pick up the story somewhere down the line. Then brainstorm different ways to get your character over that gap in the plot to where he/she needs to be.

And while we're doing that, here's an essential tip that really helped me the first year: no one says you have to write these 50,000 words in order. If you already know how a particularly dramatic scene is going to happen, go ahead and write it. You can cut and paste later, but for now you're writing, and writing something that is presumably exciting is a great way to kick-start your novel again.

A fun thing to do if you can't figure out the next scene is to introduce your character to someone he/she has never met before and have him/her reveal his deepest secret, either on purpose or by accident. Then imagine what might happen because of it.

Another good way to get back in the groove is to figure out what your character's lowest point is going to be. When is he/she going to be closest to giving up? Then make a list of things he/she will need to get back out of that hole. Does he need to learn a lesson first? Will he need some vital piece of information? Is there a prop she's going to use to escape? Whatever it is, write the scene in which he gets it.

And finally, if you know where your novel is going to end, go ahead and write the ending. Sometimes your characters will surprise you and reveal their own stories, and then all you have to do is go back and write it. Happy writing!

Excuse me, have you seen my crown?

Some of you might remember a little thing called a root canal that I went through earlier this year. I'll never forget how it started. I bit down on something and suddenly a blinding pain shot through my jaw. I was sure I had broken a tooth, at the very least. But as quickly as it came, the pain was gone. The next few weeks, every now and then I would feel a twinge of pain, but knowing I had a dentist appointment coming up, I ignored it as best I could.

Unfortunately, the dentist didn't find anything wrong with an x-ray. I went through six more months of pain before finally seeing a different dentist and getting the root canal. I can't help but think that if I had possessed some manner of temporary dental repair, I could have avoided a lot of that pain. I mean, even not knowing for sure that I had a cracked filling (which is what it turned out to be), I think trying a little Dentemp OS on that tooth would have helped.

Now that I have a crown on that tooth, I have a new concern. What if the thing comes off? I like to eat crunchy foods like nuts and celery. What if I break another filling? Sometimes I'm almost sure I can feel the crown moving when I floss. I'm thinking I should keep a vial of Dentemp OS in my purse at all times. It can be used not only to replace lost fillings, but to temporarily cement loose crowns. There's no mixing required, and I could even eat on it in 30 minutes, thus avoiding a lot of pain and embarrassment, until I could get to the dentist.

I'll tell you one thing - I never want to go through that whole thing again!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Some NaNoWriMo tips

Stuck on your NaNo novel? Here are some tips for reaching 50,000 relatively painlessly.
  1. Do not use contractions. It is perfectly normal for people to speak without them, is it not?
  2. Give your characters four-part names. Think about it: every time Felicity Ann Holton-Smith talks to Garrison James St. Cloud, that's eight words just for the names!
  3. Likewise with place names - set your story in Littleton-on-the-St.-John, and have your characters go out of town a lot, so they can say they're returning and use the name again.
  4. Become well-acquainted with "well..." It's an all-purpose word you can use almost every time a character speaks. "Well, I don't know." "Well, she said she would be here." "Well, this is ridiculous." You can go back later and take them out, but they'll get you to 50,000.
  5. Um, people say "um" in real life, so they definitely should in your novel. Um, I think.
  6. Have your characters sing a lot. Inserting song lyrics will bump your word count nicely. And then you can remove them later to avoid any possible legal entanglements.
  7. Adjectives are your friends. Why just drink coffee when they can drink a hot, bitter cup of joe? It's not just a room, it's a small, cramped room. You get the general idea.
  8. If you really get stuck, you can always have your character go nuts, a la The Shining. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work...

I'm a little over 12,000 words right now. Going for the three-peat! (which, by the way, counts as two words)

There's something in The Mist!

I don't think anything freaks me out quite as much as the unknown. Walking into a dark room, opening a closed door, stepping into the fog and out of the safety of the house lights. Not being able to see what's in front of you or behind you, whether it's pitch blackness or heavy fog, can be scary. I think it's even scarier when it's silent. I enjoy thunderstorms, but silent fog can be terrifying. Sometimes, finding out what's actually there can be even more terrifying.

I suppose I read too many ghost stories as a kid, or watched too many scary movies. Any time I am in a situation where I can't see, especially when it involves fog, I just can't look. I close my eyes as tight as I can, because if my eyes are closed I can pretend everything is normal.

Watching the trailer for The Mist by Stephen King, though, I don't think closing their eyes is going to work for these people. They are stuck in one of my worst nightmares. Something is out there, but what? Some people think they're safe, other people freak out. No doubt I would be cowering in a corner somewhere, especially when those things start attacking the windows...

The school of Disney

As I may have mentioned, we're planning a trip to Disney next month. I love Disney World - it is one of my all-time favorite places. In fact, I think I've mentioned on more than one occasion that I would live there if I could. Anyway, it's been almost six years since our last visit and I am so excited for the younger boys who have never been, and even for the eight-year-old, who was too young to remember much.

Anyway, it's hard to get the boys to concentrate on school right now with all the excitement about Disney World, so I came up with this great idea: I'm making up my own Disney curriculum. I printed out lists of the attractions in the four parks, and I'm giving the boys a little bit of information on a lot of different subjects. It will give them a baseline for learning once we get there, plus I won't have to try to do all my "teaching" while we're in the parks. So many things there, especially in Epcot, present almost endless learning opportunities. Who knows, we might even continue our special Disney units when we get home!

I'm thinking I'll post some of my lesson plans here so if anyone else wants to do the same thing, they can. The boys are really enjoying it, and I think it's going to make our trip even better than it normally would be!