Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:50 AM
This morning I gave a 45-minute presentation on speculative fiction to 65 second-graders. I was quite nervous about the whole thing. When I began, I told the kids that I would rather talk to 650 adults than 65 eight-year-olds; I couldn't imagine a tougher room as I prepared my remarks.

But these kids were amazing. They stayed focused as we discussed the difference between science fiction and fantasy; they enjoyed making up their own "What if...?" scenarios. They asked me a lot of questions about what I write, and how, and why. They asked whether any of my books have been made into movies yet; I replied that this had not yet occurred, but that I was hopeful that it might happen someday.

I read them a bit of Jill Paton Walsh's excellent The Green Book. We mused about what it would be like to leave the earth behind forever, and what one book each would take with him or her in the spaceship if forced to choose.

We talked about the very recent discovery of a possibly habitable planet in the solar system of Gliese 581. One boy volunteered that it could be our back-up plan when our own sun turns into a red giant and then goes supernova. We remembered together that this eventuality is many billions of years in our future and felt some relief.

I told them that Albert Einstein, when asked how to develop intelligence in young people, replied, "Have them read folk tales. Then more folk tales. Then even more." We talked about how reading speculative fiction stretches the imagination, and that limber imaginations are what make great discoveries possible.

I gave them a little information about George Orwell and how his book Nineteen Eighty-Four changed the world. They had trouble believing that governments would actually ban books; they also had a hard time imagining the world before Harry Potter. "Writers are powerful," I reminded them, "They can change the world and the way we think."

I asked them what they thought is wrong with our world; they worry more than perhaps we would like eight-year-olds to worry about wars and pollution and global warming. I then asked them what is right with the world, and their enthusiastic answers--everything from "Trees" to "Music" to "Being kind"--were heartening.

I told them a secret: many people, as they age, let their minds close and harden, making new thoughts difficult for them to think when they grow up. I told them that they are the leaders of tomorrow, and that if they will keep their brains open and their imaginations active, they'll be able to come up with solutions for the plagues and problems that beset us, then put the solutions into action.

I closed by telling that 'hope' is one of my favorite words (my own Hope smiled incandescently at that point). It means dreaming about things being better, then working to make those dreams come true. I encouraged them to be dreamers and doers, and as I looked into their bright faces, I felt the enormity of their potential and an increase in my own hope for the future.

And speaking of children being the luminous hope of the future, please go spend some time with the Tumaini Kids. Have your children visit, too. A blogging friend introduced me to the site, and I am better for having visited. I plan to go back often; these children and their leaders are an inspiration.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:25 AM
Well, what a relief. Tess's surgery is behind her and she is recovering nicely so far. My anxiety level has abated sufficiently for me to be able to play some blog catch-up.

The fabulous and articulate Bub and Pie was interviewed meme-style recently; after giving her answers, she asked her readership if anyone was interested in being tagged. Of course I raised my virtual hand! Here are her questions and my answers.

1. What are your favourite D.E. Stevenson books?

First, thank you for pluralizing the question; I never could have chosen just one. But if it were a life-or-death issue, I'd pick Anna and Her Daughters. I also love Bel Lamington, Amberwell, Listening Valley, and Mrs. Tim of the Regiment. Mrs. Tim is written in diary form, and I recommend it highly as a model for any mommyblogger. If Mrs. Tim were in possession of a computer and internet connection (and if she were not a fictional character), she would be at the top of my blogroll. The Young Clementina is also terrific, but has a higher ratio of bitter to sweet than is usual for Stevenson (not a bad thing).

Actually, I've never read a book by Stevenson that I didn't like. She was a prolific writer, having had over 40 books published in her lifetime. Riches! I tend to hoard unread books by dead writers I love. I parcel them out to myself slowly, because I dread the day when I come to the end of his/her body of work. I realize that this is a bizarre habit.

I love Stevenson as much for the lovely images she conjures as for her characters and stories. Examples: the children’s secret rhododendron hideaway, Ponticum House, in Amberwell; Bel’s rooftop garden in Bel Lamington; the bucolic Scottish village of Ryddelton in many of her books; the old grey church with the leper window in The Young Clementina.

Note to Publishing Universe: Stevenson needs to be back in print! I keep hoping that Persephone, with their high regard for female writers of the early 20th century, will get on the stick. They republished Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Making of a Marchioness and Winifred Watson’s Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. They’re a perfect fit for my dear Dorothy Emily.

2. What is your Myers-Briggs personality type? (And did you know it off the top of your head or did you have to go to to find out?)

I totally had to go to the website. I loved taking that test! It was like one of those Seventeen magazine quizzes from when I was a kid. (Trying to look intelligent after that disclosure.) But I do realize it is serious science.

The results: I am an INFJ: Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging. The I, the N and the J were expressed moderately, while the F was expressed distinctively.

According to the website, my type makes up less than two percent of the population. The explication of my personality was all very flattering (Eleanor Roosevelt and Mohandas Ghandi were also INFJs!!!), but I suspect that everyone is rewarded with an ego boost when they read his/her results.

3. What are the most important rules to follow in naming one's children?

Ahh, grasshopper, we have indeed had much experience in this area. I'll list the guidelines we used in order of ascending importance.

a) Consider using names of relatives or close friends whose character attributes you would like to see embodied in your child.
b) Enjoy the happy coincidence when the names you've chosen are those of favorite literary characters, songs, prophets, and/or versions of the Bible. (For parity's sake, this link and this link, too.)
c) If you have a common last name, choose a more unusual first name.
d) If you have a difficult last name, give your child a break with something easy and/or short.
e) Check the monograms of your potential choices; eliminate any that might cause embarrassment.
f) Say the full potential name aloud and ensure that it flows metrically.
g) Go to the SS website and check the popularity of your candidates. Consider avoiding any in the top ten unless you really, really can't.
h) Research the meanings of the names you are considering.
i) Ignore lists you made when you were 12 years old. Unless you are naming a cat. Even then, tread cautiously.
j) Have a back-up name, and resist definitely settling on one choice until you have seen the child.
k) Compromise amicably with your spouse and work as a two-person team. Try to ignore suggestions from other people, includng in-laws and your other children, no matter how adamant they may be. If we hadn't done this, Hope would instead be named 'Sedutto,' after five-year-old Christian's favorite Manhattan ice cream shop.

4. What is your favourite colour and what does that reveal about you?

I immediately thought of The Holy Grail when asked this question. In order to foil the maniacal bridgekeeper, I will counter with a question (favorite color of what?), then give a multi-part answer:

Chocolate: Brown
Ice Cream: Caramel
Baseball Uniform: Blue and Orange
House: Roycroft Bronze Green
Horse: Palomino
Rose: Sharifa Asma pink
Sky: Maxfield Parrish blue
Wool (this week): Two-way tie between Hollyhock and Northern Lights
007: Three-way tie between Ash Brown, Chestnut Brown, and Blond

What does this reveal about me? That I can’t for the life of me give a simple answer to a simple question.

5. Do you live to work or work to live?

Ummm, may I live to play?

I ask that question seriously. I am handsomely provided for by my prince of a husband, which means I have the great luxuries of staying at home to raise our children and spending my spare time pursuing my various obsessions: writing, reading, knitting, cooking, eating, and gardening.

My gratitude to God for this great gift does bring with it a sense of obligation to find ways to give back something meaningful to society. This recognition also makes nearly all (but not ironing) of my work feel like play most of the time. Sorry to sound like a Pollyanna, but it's true.

Thanks for the honor, B&P! Now it's my turn. If any readers, onymous or lurking, would like to be interviewed, leave me a comment, and I'll think up some questions just for you.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:50 PM
Pardon the fuzzy image; I'm so excited I can barely stand it. My lilacs are budding for the first time ever! I'll refrain from getting all Whitmanesque or Eliotish on you, but you have to understand.

We moved here in the summer of 2001. That fall, a kind lady in our congregation cut several suckers from her bushes and brought them to me after hearing me rave about how much I wanted to have lilacs in our yard. I planted them, knowing virtually nothing about gardening at that time.

Later I read that lilac suckers take four to five years to bloom. I was a little crestfallen, but I had already begun to learn that a lot of the gratification in gardening is deferred.

Last spring I allowed myself to hope, but the lilacs weren't yet ready. After this crazy winter (which lingers overlong), I didn't know what to expect. But I checked the bushes just now and was thrilled--so thrilled that what looks like a snake hole right near them didn't really faze me. (I'm sure it will later.)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:49 PM
Here's a quick recap of a conversation with Tess on the way to the doctor's today. We were listening to Annie Lennox's cover of "Train in Vain" in the car.

Tess (referring to the song's lyrics): "Who didn't stand by her?"

Me (guessing): "Her boyfriend."

Tess: "Oh. That's naughty."

And who can argue with that?
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:14 AM
1) How does she do it? I don't understand how Hope makes pigtails look far more runway model than Little House. (Perhaps it's the faux leopard collar on the sweater Carmen brought her from England.) She's just so gorgeous, gushed the completely objective mother.

Hope's Irish Dance recital was very exciting last Saturday. Hope has only been taking lessons for a couple of months, but she and the other beginners did very well during their three-minute performance.

The three-hour recital was quite the interesting introduction for this mom into the world of junior Riverdance wannabes (and their parents--oy vey iz mir). For one thing, I don't really understand the concept of the dance wig. Especially not the team wig. The tiaras, I get. But if anyone can enlighten me on the wig whys and wherefores, I'd be grateful.

All befuddlement aside, there were a lot of very talented and experienced kids up on that stage. Hope's dance school is apparently quite prominent in the close-knit world of Irish dancing, and for good reason. Many of the numbers were a genuine thrill. Hope came away very inspired.

2) Memorable quote from Tess this past Sunday: "My favorite kind of dog is puppies." Indeed. Tess's surgery is this Thursday; we so appreciate your prayers and well wishes on her behalf.

3) I so wish you could see Daniel's dance interpretation of Diego's 'Rescue Pack' song. It is entertainment of the highest order. Especially when he is wearing his footie pajamas with the lobsters all over them.

4) James has got himself a bran-new blog. He'll be posting the thrilling details of Saturday's (Little League) Mets vs. Dodgers game very soon.

5) Christian is going to start a fencing class. He had it in his mind that it wasn't going to be very hard, saying something like, "It's just waving skinny swords around." I hastened to disabuse him of that notion.

I took a fencing class in college; I will never forget the first day of instruction. We practiced forward lunges for a solid 45 minutes. BYU alumni, you'll get this part of the story. There are about a million (okay, maybe 150) steps up the hill from the Richards Building (gym) to the Maeser Building (where my next class was). It took me at least ten minutes to get up that flight of stairs. I thought my quads were going to explode. I don't care how carefree Errol Flynn and 007 make it look; fencing ain't easy, son.

6) Goldberry has been much more docile and easygoing about feeding times since we took her off her diet. Instead of waking me up at 4:43 a.m., she deigns to wait until 5:58.

7) Patrick is working hard down in the Bat Cave. I discovered a new treat for him yesterday: Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough Cone. It's an American version of Patrick's childhood love: the cornet (non-Francophiles: think 'drumstick'). Which reminds me: today is B&J's annual Free Cone Day!

8) It's a good thing Melissa didn't peek through the garage doors when she came to pick up the milk pails this morning, because I was giving my all as I lip-synched my way through the Communards' "Don't Leave Me This Way" while finishing my workout on the dreadmill. (AaahhhhhhhhhHHHHHH, Baby! My heart is full of love and desire for you!) That song makes me want to run as fast as I can no matter how tired I am. Maybe I should put it on again right now to get myself psyched up to go and do some laundry.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:31 AM
The lovely and talented Annette tagged me for a round of History Tag. Fun! I won't comment on the answers, since I'm short on time today, but a lot of interesting stuff happened on my birthday.

1. Go to Wikipedia and enter your birthday without the year:

November 4

2. List three events that occurred that day:

a) In 1677, the future Mary II of England marries William, Prince of Orange. They would later be known as William and Mary.

b) In 1948, T.S. Eliot won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

c) In 2003, the most powerful solar flare as recorded by satellite instrumentation occurred.

3. List two important birthdays:

1470--King Edward V of England, one of the two princes in the Tower

1946--Laura Bush

4. List one death:

1955--Cy Young

5. List one holiday or observance:

It's my turn to tag. Will you play: Amanda, RaJ, Adriana, Christie, and Jenna?
Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:50 AM
The internet is a lovely thing sometimes. I did a Google search this morning to find a copy of my first book (sadly, out of print) to give as a gift, and I found a girl on Zaadz who listed it as her favorite book. Her favorite book. To this bibliophiliac, that is weighty indeed.

My initial reaction to this was, "Sweetie, have you read To Kill a Mockingbird or Gone With the Wind? Or A Wrinkle in Time or The Diamond in the Window?"

But my initial reactions are often exactly this ungracious, a habit of mind I have resolved to reprogram. I am therefore now trying to convince myself to be enormously complimented that something I wrote resonated with this person more than anything else she's encountered thus far in her admittedly short life. So, Sara, thank you. You lifted my spirits on this monsoony morning.

Much more on my own writing. This week I've had some good breakthroughs working on one of my novels-in-progress, ZF-360. In the process, I've discovered a quirky thing about the way I write. (Many of you might wish to stop reading here to avoid utter boredom; click on to your next favorite blog. What follows will be the electronic equivalent of thinking out loud.)

I started writing ZF more than a year ago. I used the first chapter as part of my application to Readercon's Writing Workshop, then found out that the workshop's leader required a synopsis to be turned in as well. I cranked one out and proceeded to have a marvelous time at said workshop.

ZF progressed a bit more when I got home, but felt my interest in the story slipping away like sand from yesterday's castle. No matter, I thought; I've got a million ideas where that one came from; I'll work on something else for a while. I turned to a ripping ghost story-in-embryo called The Holly Place, about which I could get obsessed to the degree required for me to have decent writing momentum. I worked on THP for a while, but then Patrick begged me to go back to ZF.

"I'm in a good groove right now with THP," I protested.

"But I want to know what happens in ZF," he persisted. (He had read the first two chapters, but refused to read the synopsis.) "Please?"

Well, he is my patron, as it were, if you will. I went back to ZF, but it has been a chore lo these many months, I tell you. I couldn't understand this for a long time. I mean, it's a good story.

I have finally figured out why. I don't like knowing how my books are going to end. Or really, even how the middle is going to go before I get there. In the ZF world inside my brain, the story has already happened; therefore it is much less interesting to me.

It's like the way I read. It's also the way I see a movie. I want to know as little as possible about it before I go. I usually don't read movie reviews, and I usually only read non-fiction book reviews. I want surprise and delight. I write for the same reasons. Partly for the sheer sensual joy of bathing in language. But mostly for pure escape, more of that yummy agony as I race to find out what happens next.

I will often re-read favorite books, but nothing compares with falling in love with great characters for the first time and then watching how Scout/Scarlett/Frodo/Christian handles what's been thrown at her/her/him/him. It's a delicious suspense, far more addictive for me than chocolate. Which is a lot.

A genius blogger recently polled his readers, asking whether there would be any takers for an opportunity to travel 500 years into the future: one-way, solo flight. I replied off-handedly, "No thanks; I'd rather read about it." I realized later how true that was.

I do love my actual, real, day-to-day life; it's pretty near perfect. But the worlds in books and inside my head are sometimes so much more interesting and appealing--and I can walk away from them if they get too intense--I know those of you still reading know what I'm talking about.

This synopsis-killing-the-story thing has happened to me once before. My Senior Project in college was to do all the background research for a fantasy novel, including character sketches, a lengthy world-building exercise, and a very detailed plot synopsis. My Project sits bound in leather on a shelf, its gold-stamped title winking at me as I work. As much as I love the world, characters, and story I created therein, I don't know that I'll ever actually write that book. (Oh, calm down, honey. I probably will at some point.)

Shannon's Mirror, the above-mentioned favorite book of Arkansas's own Sara, was almost entirely unplotted when I started it. I began it by asking, "What if...," which is how all of my good ideas get rolling. I vaguely suspected it would end one way, but one of the most thrilling writerly moments of my life was jolting awake one night and realizing something else entirely was going to happen.

I wrote that book in three weeks. Of course, it's very short. And it's YA. And I only had one three-month old child at the time, and a husband who worked 18 hours a day, six days a week. And it was a bitter cold February in which no sane Manhattanite ventured outside (except my husband). In other words, the distractions were minimal. But still. Three weeks.

I have the same sense of urgency with The Holly Place, which keeps pushing its way onto the stage in my brain even as I plug away on ZF. How is Cathy going to help Blake? What will happen to Richard? What about Cathy's mom--how will she react when she finds out the truth about her new husband? It's calling to me. But I think I'm nearly done with ZF. And I do think it's going to be good, even though I'm turning up my nose at it right this minute.

I also know that I work very well with deadlines, so here's what I'm doing, web-friends. I'm telling you all right now that 30 days from today--May 15th--I'll be ready to send that puppy out the door. Or at least let my patron read it. Hold me to it; knowing that you are keeping accounts will get me through the doldrums.

Caveat to would-be writers: Nearly everyone in a position of authority says you should write synopses. So don't go by what works for me. Do your own thing.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•1:38 PM
So I thought I'd cheer myself up and play a fun game I saw over at The Electronic Replicant. It involves mucho technology, and you all know that I, like Kip Dynamite, love technology.

Here's how to play, according to Erik: "If you load your music player with your entire collection, then set it for random play, it will somehow predict the soundtrack for an imaginary upcoming film about your life."

Well, my entire collection won't fit on my iPod, so I went with what was there. (Note to self: it's probably time for some purging in that arena.)

I find the results of this little experiment very interesting--some might say spooky. I don't think I would say that. But some might.

Opening Credits: Renee Fleming, "Ombra mai fu" from Handel's Xerxes
Hmm, yes, suitably somber and ethereal for an aerial shot of our darling little village nestled on the edge of the mighty Hudson. It's good that nothing a cappella-boys' choirish came up first, because then we'd know it was going to be a horror flick.

Waking Up: London Symphony Orchestra, Vaughan Williams's "Fantasia on Christmas Carols"
Oh, goody! It's going to be a Christmas movie! If you set at least part of your film at Christmastime (The Family Man, It's a Wonderful Life), you pretty much guarantee that I'll like it. And no movie of my life would be complete without a little RVW.

First Day of School: Queen, "Somebody to Love"
Pretty perfect for summing up not just my first day of school, but also my entire school experience. Melodramatic, yet with a strong 6/8 beat; that call-and-response bridge full of irony. Yes. We can work with this.

Falling in Love: Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, "Heartbreakin' Old Achin' Blues"
This plucky bluegrass ditty is a perfect foil for all the bitter, unrequited crushes of teenagerdom.

First Song: The Police, "Message in a Bottle"
My iPod is a mind-reading genius. More irony, folks.

The first time I saw the Police in concert (CA State Fair at CalExpo, 1982), I was 15. My boyfriend David held me on his shoulders so that I could have an unobstructed view of my tripartite obsession: Andy, Stewart, and the lovely Sting. Heavenly memory, marred only by this: on the way home, we got into a fight because David was jealous of Sting. I rubbed salt in his wound by laughing incredulously when he admitted this fact and saying something like, "Dude, that's like a streetlight being jealous of the moon--totally pointless." We broke up pretty soon after that.

Anything by the Police also serves well to underscore the crucial scene in the movie where, bored out of my mind in Senior Civics class, I indulge in an endless daydream about flying to Montserrat so that I can more efficiently stalk said Sting.

Breaking Up: Rush, "Closer to the Heart"
Uncanny, since the above-mentioned David was obsessed with Rush.

Prom: Bryn Terfel, "Younger than Springtime"
Ahhh, Bryn. Would that you had been my prom date. If you had, perhaps I wouldn't have had that nearly fatal asthma attack that landed me in the emergency room for the better part of the night. The incredibly kind male nurse pinned my gardenia corsage to my hospital gown. Come to think of it, he looked a bit like you, Bryn, though he had neither your darling Welsh accent nor your swoonworthy baritone voice. Ironic coincidence: that night was the first time I'd ever heard The Police's song "Every Breath You Take."

Driving: Sister Sledge, "We Are Family"
Baby, not only do I have this song on my iPod, it's the extended play version--what we used to call a 12-Inch Disco Mix. It's a good driving song, especially because many of my best road trips have been either with my fab sisters or with really good girlfriends. Love it.

Flashback: Mariah Carey, "Joy to the World"
Poor Mariah. Such gifts, yet such a mess. But she does know how to put together a darn fine Christmas album. This is a great one to put on when doing Christmas party prep chores. The brilliance of pairing this standard carol with the chorus of "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog" is alone worth the price of the CD.

Starting a New Relationship: Natasha Bedingfield, "Unwritten"
My dear sis Steph introduced me to this fine pop anthem on a recent road trip. Can't get enough of it. It's a perfect metaphor for shaking off the chains of old hurts and being willing to jump into love again--of course this time (in the movie, as in life) with my peerless husband.

Wedding: Ben Harper, "Church House Steps"
Hmm. Though I adore that delicious Ben Harper, at first listen this would appear to be a bad omen foreshadowing problems for our young couple. But when the Blind Boys of Alabama start crooning the bridge, "If these wings should fail me/Meet me with another pair," I take it to mean that the young lovers will triumph over any challenges by meeting them together, clear-eyed and hand in hand.

Birth of a Child: "In the Merry Old Land of Oz"
"Ha, ha, ha; ho, ho, ho/And a couple of tra-la-las...." All that false joviality rising to an unbearable crescendo, only to be interrupted by the Wicked Witch of the West sky-writing "Surrender, Dorothy" in the air above the Emerald City--what portent can this hold for the poor new baby?

Final Battle: Hem, "Betting on Trains"
It's good to have some Hem in my movie. Because when Hem goes to see it, they'll realize that as lovely and talented as Sally Ellyson is, I should really be their lead singer instead.

This song works for a battle scene only if it's one ripped off from the end of The House of Flying Daggers. Come to think of it, I should have been in that movie, too. Maybe the American remake is in my future....

Death Scene: The Wailin' Jennys, "Firecracker"
Oh, so perfect. Those Jennys, with their tight harmonies and artless melancholy. The lyrics work, too: "It's late night getting into morning...." Come to the light, baby.

Funeral Song: Alison Krauss and Union Station, "The Road is a Lover"
And we restate the trope of bouncy bluegrass as counterpoint to deep mourning. Symmetry: me likey.

End Credits: Willie Nelson, "Shall We Gather at the River"
Good, good. Contemplative, but not beating us over the head with it. If I had been in charge instead of Apple's random number selection subroutine, I would have chosen Michael Andrews's cover of "Mad World." Oh, wait--that's Donnie Darko, not my movie.

Well, random is as random does. I was disappointed when none of my beloved uber-geeks (They Might Be Giants, Cake, Elvis Costello) made the cut. Same goes for those obscure Celtic folk (Niamh Parsons, Danu) I love, and for all the punk/metal/Goth I have in running mixes with titles like "T-Shirt of Pain" and "Endorphin Junkies." But no movie can be an accurate portrait; they always have to leave some stuff out. And you can't expect decent coverage when you are looking at 16 songs out of 2,060.

Thanks, Erik! I'm feeling much better about my day now.

*We do love Nick Sharratt at our house.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•5:24 PM
If you want to read some bloggity brilliance (and why wouldn't you?), go over to Bub and Pie's and read this post. That woman floors me, as you'll see if you read my frothing-at-the-mouth comment at the end.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:14 PM
Tess-Tess, the Tester, our own Tesseract, my little Tesla Girl. Here she is in a photo I took last fall; it captured a rare moment of stillness for our sweet cyclone--raincoat, Tinkerbell tutu, and all.

Tess is as smart as a whip and has near-perfect musical pitch. She is incredibly kind, with a gift for empathy that belies her tender years. She is the happiest child I've ever seen, almost always with a 500-watt smile on her face. She will swing and jump and spin until the cows come home. I don't know whether 'whirling dervish' is a politically correct way to describe her, but it certainly seems accurate. Capricious? Volatile? Precious? Maddening? After almost six years, it seems like I am finally understanding Tess.

Tess is the fourth of our five children. When we found out I was pregnant with her, we realized we could no longer make life in Manhattan work. We lived in a 900-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment; the five of us did okay, but we knew another baby would bring us to critical mass. For one thing, we wouldn't all fit in a taxi anymore. We found our lovely house in the Hudson Highlands and began preparations to move.

During my pregnancy with Tess, I had amazing help in the form of several angelic humans, but there was still a lot of work to do. Was it the stress of moving? The packing, sorting, and lifting? Or just a timetable other than my own? Whatever the cause, and despite midwife-mandated bedrest (with three little kids? really?), I went into labor with Tess five weeks early.

We hoped that at 35 weeks, her lungs would be past the critical point. However, Tess ended up having to stay in the NICU at St. Luke's-Roosevelt for 10 long days. I couldn't hold her for the first week of her life; even my touch through the incubator gloves seemed to distress her. After what seemed like forever, she was disconnected from her breathing tube and all of her IVs, and she came home to a relieved and grateful family.

Tess was a great nurser, and I wore her in my sling almost constantly. She quickly gained weight and thrived, but she was much more difficult to soothe than our other three kids had been. Through trial and error, I discovered the best way to calm her: a) firmly wrap her up in a receiving blanket, burrito-style; b) hold her tightly and vertically against my chest, with one hand cradling her neck and head; and c) bounce hard, sitting on the corner of our bed, for as long as my thighs could stand it.

When she was about 18 months old, we realized she was having some vision problems, and Tess embarked on a long course of patch therapy and glasses. When she was 3 1/2, surgery on the muscles of her eyes was necessary; she came through it like a trouper.

It wasn't until last year that I finally admitted to myself that perhaps Tess's dramatic mood swings--from wild joy to prostrate frustration--were a little off the normal scale. I confided my fears to just the right person; my dear friend's son had just been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, and this friend suggested I look into it.

I bought and read a book called The Out-of-Sync Child, instantly recognizing Tess in its pages. There are several subcategories of SPD; Tess is hyposensitive. This subcategory is also called 'sensory-seeking.' She has three challenges: her vestibular and proprioceptive senses both need extra stimulation (thus the constant spinning, swinging, hugging, etc.), and she has a hard time self-regulating when it comes time to make a transition (going to school, leaving school; starting an activity, stopping an activity; any change is hard). Tess is on the mild end of the SPD spectrum (her OT diagnosis at school was at the low end of the normal range), but SPD can also occur concurrently with ADD/ADHD or autism.

What a relief it was for me to have a framework for our experience. And how great it is that Tess's condition is entirely treatable. We are very blessed to live a half-mile away from a skilled and intuitive dance therapist named Suzi Tortora. Suzi wrote a book outlining her highly successful method called Dancing Dialogue. Her work with Tess and the things she has taught us to do at home have helped us tremendously.

I'm not a big fan of bringing more 'stuff' into the house, but tools are an exception. We've found a few things that help Tess be more aware of her body in space: we already have a tire swing and are looking into getting a trampoline. Rocking horses are also a safe outlet for kids who crave motion. Chewy tubes and weighted vests like the ones at Pocket Full of Therapy help calm sensory seekers as well. (A chewy tube is worth its weight in gold; our pen and pencil supply is now safe from constant munching and mangling.) Suzi also recently recommended that we get Tess something called a Body Sock; it looks like so much fun that I'm sure the other kids will beg to borrow it.

Toys and tools aside, Tess is not too big for me to roll into a blanket and hold on my lap like a big, smiling burrito; this helps us both take a moment and calm down. Tess's future is bright; her fondest dream is to become a pediatric ophthalmologist, so that she can work next door to her beloved Dr. Steele. She certainly has both the brain and the energy to become anything she wants to be.

Which reminds me: we saw Dr. Steele last week and determined that Tess needs another round of surgery on her eyes; this will take place on April 19th, and your prayers on her behalf are very welcome.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:10 PM

I think I've come up with a solution for reading Proust together: a new blog! Here it is, in all its newborn bloggy splendor. If you'd like to join as a reader/writer, please email me: luisa at novembrance dot org. Christie, Kara, (hopefully) Shannon, and I would love to have you along.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•1:04 PM
"And sometimes to a sky and sea uniformly grey a touch of pink would be added with an exquisite delicacy . . . this 'Harmony in Grey and Pink.'" — Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove

After a chat with my best pal Kara, I've definitely decided to re-read Proust. I read Remembrance of Things Past in my late teens/early twenties (it's a looooonnnnnnng series), but when I mentioned this fact to my future mother-in-law back when Patrick and I were dating, she opined that one couldn't really understand Proust until one was at least forty years old.

Well, I hit the big 4-0 last November, so I've been contemplating for months that perhaps it was time to see whether Mother was right. Last week, Kara mentioned that another mom we both know is going to tackle the French giant, so I'm going to give her a call and see if we can offer each other support along the Guermantes way.

Anyone want to join me? I'm reading the 1981 Moncrieff/Kilmartin translation, which is now out of print. I've linked on the side bar the nearest approximation I could find. Maybe after we're done, we'll read this and see whether our experiences compare. Let me know!
Other things I need to start this week: the tomato, melon, and cucumber seeds!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•12:48 PM

The fabric and patterns for our pioneer costumes arrived today. I've never bought fabric online before, and I'm pleased to say that the gamble paid off. I HATE shopping in general; the thought of lugging a frisky almost-three-year-old to a fabric store so that I could spend hours trying find some inexpensive calico was more than I could bear.

I found a discount online store during naptime, crossed my fingers, and chose fabrics I hoped would match based on the on-screen swatches. I didn't pay more than $3 per yard for any of them, which was great. Even better, the fabrics really do coordinate in real life (I put my fledgeling shawl on top in the photo, because it matches, too). Serendipitous internet!

Now I need to get cracking on the actual sewing part. I'm looking forward to trying these old-fashioned patterns.

Also in mail news: Lori sent me the most lovely handmade cards today. Thank you! I'm putting together a little reciprocal package for her--very fun stuff.

Author: Luisa Perkins
•11:31 AM
I saw this cute meme on Suzanne's and TXMommy's blogs. Why not join in the fun?

1) What are your Easter traditions? On Easter itself, we go to church, sing in the choir, then come home for a big family dinner. This year, Patrick is speaking in Sacrament Meeting, so it will be an extra special Sunday.

During Holy Week, we have two non-LDS traditions that are dear to me. The first is Passover Seder with our friends the Leibowitzes. Tonight will be my 17th seder with them; Patrick has been celebrating Passover with them since he was in college. Can't wait!

The second is Tenebrae service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This year it is being held on Wednesday; I'm trying to work out my schedule so that I can go. Though I am not Episcopalian, I find Tenebrae incredibly evocative of the events and feelings around Christ's Atonement. During the service, St. John's choir sings Tallis's haunting Lamentations of Jeremiah, one of my favorite pieces of sacred music. The service is always wonderful, and I come away pondering Christ's many gifts to us.

2) What is your favorite Easter dish? Roast Leg of Lamb and homemade French Fries

3) When did you learn the truth about the Easter Bunny? Sad story: It was December; I had just turned nine (yikes). Mom broke the news that she was really Santa. I was furious, and replied sarcastically, "I suppose the next thing you'll tell me is that you're the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, too." The look of panic on her face told me everything I needed to know. Sorry, Mom; I'm sure it was a traumatic experience for you, too.

4) How do you decorate for Easter? Huh?

5) How many Easter Egg hunts does your family participate in? Just one. My father-in-law hides the eggs around the house and keeps a meticulous list of where they all are.

6) What is your favorite flavor of jelly bean? Jelly Belly Sour Cherry

7) How do you decorate Easter eggs? When we do it at all, it's with the regular old PAAS kit. The irony is that before we had kids, I had a bit of a Martha Stewart phase, and I got really fancy with the eggs then. For better or for worse, that phase has passed. We don't decorate eggs every year. We also don't carve jack-o-lanterns every year.

8) Do you make/buy special outfits for your kids on Easter? I used to buy matching polo shirts for the boys. Last year I bought matching dresses for the girls and myself because Hanna Andersson was having a massive sale. Since they still fit us, we'll wear them again this year.

9) What are your favorite Easter hymns and/or choir arrangements? This Joyful Eastertide

10) Do you spend Easter at home, on vacation, or with family? At home with family

11) Do you make deviled eggs out of leftover Easter eggs? I make deviled eggs whenever possible. They are one of my favorite foods.

12) Are you tired of eggs by the end of the Easter season? No.

13) Are Peeps good or gross? Peeps are a sure sign of the impending Apocalypse. I'm not kidding.

14) What company makes the best Easter chocolate? Lindt--their Spring Truffles ROCK.

15) Do you find plastic Easter grass hidden in places for months after Easter is over? No; it is banned from my house. Here's what my deprived family gets for Easter: one basket for the whole family (lined with some paper shred) containing Lindor balls and a few jelly beans to share, and one book for each person.

That's it! Everyone reading is tagged; if you participate, leave me a comment so that I can come visit you.