Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My very first board game review...

http://deathofmonopoly.blogspot.com/2011/09/first-plays-asara-and-uluru.html


Don't know how to link posts the way my brother does, so here's the address.

My mother-in-law gave me a wonderful little board game for Christmas called Uluru. It's a riot. I'd review it here, but why bother when my little brother has already done so over at his blog. So... check it out!

Then get the game and play it.

Off to see if there is an online version now...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The semi-annual Santa photos

I am very pleased to announce that we had NO TEARS when we went to visit Santa this weekend. Of course... that's because the boys absolutely refused to go near him. So... here's my solitary Santa photo for 2011.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just a little brag before I hit the sack...

24 hours before the deadline... I typed my 50,000th word (it was clearing). I now have a 180 page pile of ... ummm... well, not sure yet, actually because I haven't re-read any of it yet. It could be brilliant, more likely it's rambling crud. I do know that the last chapter and the epilogue were both written this weekend while I had the flu... so they could be interesting and cringe-worthy in the re-read.

Either way, I accomplished something pretty freakin' crazy... again!

Man I love November!!!

Now seriously, I have 3 unfinished, unpolished drafts... who's going to get on my case and harass me into bringing at least one of them up to publishing potential before I go stupid next November again (and I will, no doubt in my mind)?

And who around here actually likes proof-reading... cause have I got a doozy of a job for you! :)


"My Grandfather's Clock"

180 pages

50,022 words

November 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gladiator Crows

Okay, I'm taking a break from Nano'ing (I feel like Mork when I say that), to blog about something that we witnessed yesterday that was really horrible. I felt somewhat traumatised and really guilty about not doing anything.

We stopped at 7-11 to fill up with gas before heading to the city for swimming lessons yesterday morning. The sky and the power poles surrounding the parking lot were filled with crows. At least 50 of them, maybe more - felt like hundreds. They were all cawing loudly, over and over and over. In the parking lot, lying on his back on the ice was a small to medium size crow (Let's call him Little Crow), and circling and pecking at him was a larger crow (let's call him Asshole Crow, shall we?) He'd give him a few pecks and then back off, Little Crow would right himself and flutter a few feet into the air only to be knocked down and pecked by Asshole Crow again. It became pretty obvious that Asshole Crow, egged on by his horrible audience, had no intention of stopping until Little Crow was dead.

It was awful. It reminded us of when kids got into fights in high school and a crowd of kids would surround them watching, making the fight go on far longer than it probably would without the audience. Cory said that the crows were chanting, "fight, fight, fight", and that's probaby exactly what they were doing. Only problem is, this time there were no teachers nearby to intervene and pull Asshole and Little apart.

Ugh. I shudder to think about it.

Now let me first confess, I hate crows. They're ugly, noisy, dirty, garbage strewing birds that killed the nest of baby robins we had in our carport two years ago. I hate when they fly overhead because I always think they're going to dive-bomb my head. I hate when they tear apart our garbage, or worse, drag someone else's into our yard So, this scene creeped me out a bit. But I felt sorry for Little Crow who was seriously getting his ass kicked. I stood there pumping gas and trying to figure out what to do. I wanted to throw something at Asshole but I had nothing handy, and with my luck I would have hit Little instead. I wanted to chase him away but I couldn't bring myself to get near enough. I was feeling kind of paralyzed by all the creepy low-flying crows chanting their horrible battle cry, and I'm pretty sure Cory was too, so we just watched with morbid fascination. And even if we had intervened, what would we do with a dying crow if we did manage to save him? So we did nothing.

Eventually, Little Crow did manage to hobble over to the wall and hang out by the store, where a very kind (much braver than I) woman stood in between him and his tormentor. I'm not sure whether or not he survived. He wasn't there when we drove home in the afternoon, but that doesn't mean anything. Cory did a few circles of the van trying to chase Asshole away, but he was stubborn and didn't fly to far.... plus it didn't help that I was saying "Please don't run him over," over and over. Thankfully, the scene took place behind our van, so my kids don't share my trauma, they were blissfully unaware in their forward facing car seats. I have never seen anything like the arena style fighting and those horrible birds cheering it on.

It was like a scene out of a bad horror movie.... so of course I wrote 500+ words about it and threw it in my novel!

Anyway, here's the scene in my Nano novel (unproofed and unedited, so be kind). My character was braver than I and did what I wish I could have done. So now my character has morphed into a literary version of my Grandfather, who in his later years was a bird-lover.

And now I must get back to novelling... 10.5 days left in November and I am no where near wrapping up the story!

***



Chapter 11


The sound was shrill and grating, cacophony; the redundant, insistent cawing coming from the murder of crows that circled above the trees. Joe set his axe down against the house and arched his back, stretching out his muscles, flexing. He watched the crows for a few minutes. Curious, he followed the path to the treeline. The noise grew louder, insistent. A chanting, as if the crowswere crying out in battle. Joe snaked his way through the trees following the worn track beaten in to the ground since childhood. He dodged brush and branches easily, the woods as familiar to him as the back of his hand. The clearing. His clearing, the sanctuary where he and his brother played and later his sanctuary to which he’d escaped the realities of his home life. Now, however, it was an arena. Fifty or sixty crows circling in the air, more settled in the trees; calling incessantly, loudly.
Caw, caw, caw...
Fight, fight, fight...
In the middle of the clearing, lying on his back in the snow, a small crow flopped around, wings fluttering feebly, as he struggled to right himself. A larger crow, fat and swollen with the spoils of a recent meal, circled him, pecking and taunting.
Fight, fight, fight...
Joe watched the scene, ignored by the bloodthirsty spectators who continued their cruel chant, providing an unsettling soundtrack to the carnage below them. Joe wondered what the smaller bird had down to evoke the wrath of the larger; the bully. Possibly stolen his prey. Perhaps interrupted a mating ritual. Encroached on another murder’s territory. Joe watched, cheering for the smaller, but it became apparent as he righted himself and attempted to rise into the air, that this was not a fight to be won. The larger crow allowed him to hover mere feet off the ground, then dove at him, knocking him down; pecking him without mercy once again.
Fight, fight, fight...
Coming to a decision, Joe picked up a chunk of ice. It was cold and it burned his hands. He
stepped into the arena. His aim was true. The ice hit the larger crow square in the chest. His
body flew back and he flapped his wings angrily, rising into the air, fluttering to the edge of the clearing.
Fight, fight, fight...
The spectators jeered at Joe, circling his head and threatening to strike. He waved his arms above his head, irritated, as he walked towards the injured bird. The bird hopped away from him, frantic with fear and adrenalin.
Fight, fight, fight...
Now the spectators chanted him on. The tormentor flew back to his victim, landing twenty feet from Joe, eager to make his move but not daring to quite approach.
“Oh no you don’t,” Joe hissed. He stopped and pulled off the thick flannel jacket that he favoured in this weather.
Fight, fight, fight...
Spurred on by the eerie song, Joe tiptoed close to the bird. The aggressor cawed, his rage evident as he voiced his opinion; his intention to finish what he’d started. But that was not to be. With a sudden lunge, Joe dove at the injured crow, covering him with his coat, and wrapped the sides quickly underneath him. He scooped the bundle up into his arms.
Fight, fight, fight...
The cries of frustrated bloodlust followed him as he carried the thrashing bundle back through the trees to his house.

Monday, November 7, 2011

10,000 words!

Well, I have to say, this Nanowrimo is going really well. I am thoroughly enjoying the story that is typing itself (I'm helping a little, but this year it's just coming out naturally). My characters and plot have already started developing in ways I hadn't originally anticipated. It's a lot of fun.


The kids have been sick so I only managed a mere 800 words on Saturday and a mere 252 words yesterday. 1667 is the daily goal to hit 50K in 30 days. I've used up my excess words from last week and am not a bit behind the ball, but I plan to have a really good writing session and catch up tonight. I've also already sneaked in two writing sessions to the tune of about 1100 words this morning, so I am caught up to yesterday's 10K goal.


I do hope I can keep up the level of motivation to actually finish a story this time. Instead of pushing it aside December 1st, in favour of the Christmas season... and then resolving to get back to it in January... and then finding myself working on a completely different story come November. As history has shown that I'm apt to do.


So, for my Aunt... here's a teaser... This is the paragraph that contains my 10,000th word, "at". I know, I know... boring word, right? But it's actually the 50K word that truly counts. Please remember, the goal of Nano is quantity, not quality... so I corrected the one obvious typo and left the rest of the prose as is. Be kind... it's a bit "gagworthy and fluffy," I know.


"And so it continued for Nellie for a year. She no longer cried herself to sleep at night pining for a love that was as unhealthy as it was satisfying. She grew strong in her maternal desire to provide for her family and she vacillated between breadwinner and homemaker, spending long hours AT night carrying out the domestic tasks she used to have the luxury of completing in the morning. She never failed. Ever. Until Benny got sick and her world started crumbling all over again."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It is November 1st today...

... which means NANOWRIMO has officially begun! I am so excited! It's ridiculous. I'm completely capable of writing fiction any other time of the year. But I don't. I store it up and expel it in November. And I LOVE doing it.

This is my third year and hopefully my third win. Check out http://www.nanowrimo.org/ for rules --- and maybe to sign up, too!

Crazy, huh?

And I'm getting braver. I'm outing myself before I start the challenge, instead of after. I guess I'm pretty confident that it's an entirely achievable challenge.

I haven't typed a word yet. But I did spend my morning coffee break scribbling ideas into a notebook. Got three pages of fluff. I'm very pleased with it. I can't wait to see where it develops.
So... tonight after the kids are in bed, I am going to be typing my heart out and hopefully hammering out chapter one of a 50,000 word novel (which is about 200 pages from start to finish).

I have Nano 2009 and Nano 2010 unfinished on my desk (and on my hard drive). Maybe Nano 2011 is the draft I will finish and allow people to actually review for me.

Welcome my two Nano buddies, my cousin Rebecca (joined and won Nano 2010) and my old high school friend, Courtney ( whose a Newbie Nano'er this year, but if you check out my blogroll, you'll see that she's written some cool stuff under the pen name April Raines)

So here's to a month long burst of fertile creativity... see you on the other side of November!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creative Writing

My boys are very creative (in my mama-biased opinion). I think they are fantastic little artists and I can't wait to see where their talents take them. Here's a little sampling of some of the work that is produced at our kitchen table:

Connor - "The Pants Pirates"

"Once there was pants pirates trying to find an island, looking for buried treasure"



"and then they were trying to find some more buried treasure. And then they started swimming with their boat there."


"and then the pants pirates are starting to dig."


"And then the chest popped out of the sand. And then the chest started to mess up the rainbow."


"and then it started messing up the colours of the ocean."




"and then there was a copy of him with banana and orange eyes." (Not too sure where my little guy was going with this train of thought. I think he probably just really wanted to draw fruit in his book)



"Kaboom!" (obligatory explosion)


(pictures of gold exploding from the chest)


"And all the gold flyed out everywhere!"



Alex: "Socks at the Circus"

"Socks at the Circus: A book"


"When the socks go to the circus, they're charging to the line. They don't want to miss the juggling or the sky jumping."


"When the sockkeeper starts talking, everyone is quiet. And then they turn to the plays."


"They see the jumping and splooshing and everyone claps."



"They dive off the board and make a big splash and you suddenly hear claps."


"They go and watch the juggling and they juggle their friends. They juggle socks and underpants and shirts and pants."


"And they see the lion tamer and it is a blast!"


"Then the Master Sock is done the fair; he tells everyone to go."


"And every sock went back to their house and they were all sad. But then the circus opened up next Thursday!"

Something else that I discovered...

This discovery made me giggle. I call it, "Fun with fridge magnets!" We have a magnetic hangman game... and a 911 reminder. Never thought to pair them up!


Connor assembled the magnets initially. Alex, upon finding it when he got home from school, added the caption.

Quiz time!!!

Well, no free giveaways or prizes or anything... but you get Supreme Bragging Rights if you can tell me what these block creations are that I discovered on the piano the other day. A true follower of my blog should be able to figure it out! I'll give you a hint... Alex made them! :)




















Friday, October 21, 2011

The changing seasons...

I used to write a lot of poetry when I was a kid. And I was pretty good at it. I won money for a poem I wrote about Remembrance Day when I was in Grade 6. That was cool!

But, then I grew up. And suddenly life got excessively busy and I turned to far more practical hobbies --- like scrapbooking, facebooking, laundry and spending time with my children --- in no particular order!

So the only real writing I do now is emails and blog posts, save the odd creative spurt in November (10 days to go and counting) when I indulge in the whirlwind world of Nanowrimo.

Still... inspiration struck me this morning when I awoke to the first signs of winter.

The trees stretch out their naked arms,
The leaves give up their valiant fight.
Autumn lays to rest its weary guard,
Brother Winter now in sight.
Outside my frosted window,
The white flakes slowly whisper down,
The quiet morning glitters,
On the dusted white, wet ground.
The cool dawn air is crisp and clean,
The snow blanketing the grass,
A telling chill kisses the morning,
Mother Nature, can kiss my ass!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sweetest thing ever...

Alright all you Mamas out there... try and top this one!

Kirstin comes out of her room at 9:40pm. I say, "Why are you out of bed?"

Kirstin: "I need to look out the window."

Me: "Why do you need to look out the window?"

Kirstin: "I need to see a wishing star."

Me: "Why do you need to see a wishing star?"

Kirstin: "I need to make a wish."

Alright. I'll play along. We go to her window and look out the window. I say the poem (starlight, star bright...). She repeats it verse for verse. I say, "Okay, make your wish now."

She says...

"I wish I had my teddy bear!"

Friday, August 5, 2011

New fur babies!

I dropped a lot of hints this year as to what I wanted for my birthday. First I said that I wanted a bike. But then I fixed up Cory's old one and it works good enough for the speed at which our family bike rides go. So then I said I wanted a composter. Cory vetoed that one. He said, "There's no way I'm giving you a container to hold garbage for your birthday!" So then I threw out the idea of getting a pet. And he liked it. So I sweetened the deal. I said, "If we get a cat (or two), I will not expect anything else at all!"

Faced with the prospect of not having to take the children gift shopping, my husband heartily agreed! Yay! How could he not. He's a cat man at heart. He's just been wary of having any type of pets since our last one passed away. He even turned down a free aquarium because "fish die too often." But if you see him around animals, you know that he really loves to have them around.

Free kittens are a dime a dozen (well, actually they're "nothing a dozen", but that doesn't have the same ring to it). Our last three cats were freebies. This time, though, we thought we'd explore our options first before jumping at one of the many freecyle posts offering up kittens to good homes. We also decided that we wanted two cats. Back in 2000 when we brought our beloved Percy home, we lasted 2 weeks as a one-cat family. As much as we snuggled and played with him, it wasn't quite enough. He was crazy. And needy. And lonely (especially in the middle of the night). When we went back and picked up his sister, Shelley, he suddenly had a 24/7 playmate and he became the sweetest, gentlest little fellow. Three months later stumbled across Dinah and the three kittens became fast friends.

So, for us, two cats is the way to go.

So, on August 2nd (our adoption day) we loaded the kids in the car and drove to the city "just to look" - ha! Our first stop took us to Petland. What an amazing store that was! Animals everywhere (including a rat at the till... ugh). We really enjoyed that place. They had two white kittens and three orange kittens. I was quite taken with all of them. Until I learned that at this pet store chain the cost to adopt is $248 each.

Umm... seriously?

Yes, but that includes the coupon for the spay or neuter.

Okay, thanks, we'll keep looking.

Freecycle was looking pretty good at this point...

Our second stop was Total Pet. They had three little black fuzzball kittens. So cute! And the cost to adopt there was $70 each. Much more reasonable. It included first shots but NOT the spay/neuter voucher, so that would be an expense to save for for the next three months.

Our third stop, the one we saved for last on purpose, was to the local SPCA. Before they let us see any cats we had to fill out an application.

But we're just looking.

Sorry, that's the rule.

Okay, here's all our personal info.

I guess that's to weed out the window shoppers from the serious potential adoptive parents. After I'd filled the application out, we were allowed to go into the room and mingle with the pets. So we did. We petted them all. We let the children play with them all. We watched how they interacted together. We noted which ones came up to us and which ones completely ignored us. We watched to see which one shyed away from the kids (none!) We voted on favourites. It was truly a fun family decision. And we walked out of there with two older kittens, a 6-month-old black one that had been abandoned by her previous owner, and a 5-month-old orange tabby that had been picked up as a stray.

The cost to adopt a cat from the SPCA - $95 each. This includes a vet check-up and shots --- and the spay/neuter operation, which is done before new parents are allowed to take the pets home. So, cost-wise, adopting from SPCA is the best way to go all around. Not that I want to put a monetary value on a family member. The better bonus, the SPCA is a wonderful organization with altruistic goals, so we feel good about our decision to put our support there and teach our children that there are better places to obtain pets than pet stores. And how wonderful it feels to have given these two sweethearts a permanent home and family that will adore them.

***



This is Lily. She loves to sleep during the day and run around the house at night sounding like a stampede. I think she jumped on my forehead last night around 4am. She's fully litterboxed trained and she loves being purred. She's very happy to play with the children.




And this is Sophie. She's a big snuggler. She's also very quick to explore the house. She spends far too much time on the kitchen table that I care to admit. She's hard to see in the dark and on the couch so we have to be careful not to step or sit on her. She's also fully litter-box trained. She has already decided that my bed is a good place for her to sleep. She, too, loves to engage in a good game of tag in the middle of the night. For someone so tiny, she sure makes a lot of noise tearing around the house.



And this is the two of them, sisters from different parentage, but friends by fate. It's hard to get a photo that shows both of them well. So far, when they're together their backs are to me --- or they're moving at light speed. Happy Birthday to me!!! The gift that keeps on giving. So much fun having kittens again!




(Maybe next year I can sell Cory on a puppy...)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Freeman Family 3rd Annual Camping Trip

Well, this year's trip was WET, WET, WET! It started raining at 9:30pm Friday night and it stopped raining at 4:00pm Saturday. Seriously. I timed it! Thankfully, we had canopies for the picnic tables, rain capes for the kids, and board games to while away the hours. Sunday was marginally better, raining with scattered patches of blue sky.

Still... no campfire ban this year and no sunburns, so there were definite pluses to the weather.
Our campsite...

Kirstin and Taylor deep in conversation...

Connor, undeterred by the damp...

Qwirkle! Definitely a popular game. Kind of like scrabble... kind of not.

Yatzee Jr., Mickey Mouse style!

What happens when you leave your baby alone with Grandpa...

Aunty Lindsay, Dmitri, and their new baby, "Blue" (Kirstin - "That's a silly name, she's not blue!")

Uncle Mark and their newest recruit. Mark's been raising RCMP pups for the last two years. This is their third, "Dave". We're rooting for him!

See, no campfire ban!

When the adults use up all the table space with their board games, the kids have to improvise!


Hmm... that one didn't post very large, did it?


And now, just a few cute shots of some cousins.


Too cold to swim, but wading is an option!




And Sunday night... a double rainbow. A promise that maybe August will be sunnier! :)


And now... back to the laundry! :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekend Birthdays

Aah, birthday weekend... the start of the sugar buzz that rolls right on through to the first week of August. Yup, it's birthday season again! Not sure what fate smiled on us when our first born showed up smack in the middle of hubby's already too close birthday and mine, but he did. So, it's Cory, then Alex, then me. Which inevitably means three cakes in less than two weeks. Yum. Ugh.

Anyway, having almost recovered from the rich food weekend, I thought I'd post some photos of Cory's birthday and Alex's birthday party. Alex isn't quite yet 7, as that's still 3 days away, but we always throw his party on a weekend, being more convenient to our work schedules.

Saturday morning... Cory walks in the door from his 8 hour shift. The kids accost him with well wishes and gifts they've each carefully chosen. I loiter in bed wishing, yet again, that they'd learn how to sleep in on weekends. That's my qualifier... Cory looks like crap cause he's worked all night, I look like crap because I just woke up - it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he's just crossed over the halfway point of his thirties and I'm soon to.

Kirstin giving her Dad a birthday snuggle after he opened the lamp she picked out for him.


Alex being thanked for the "Spiderham" comic he picked out for his father. They've already read 60+ pages!


Alex's terrible photography skills... yeah, that's why I look so puffy! And yes, that it my super-awesome birthday gift for him (no help from http://deathofmonopoly.blogspot.com/ whatsoever) :)


And Cory trying to steal a birthday snuggle from Connor, giver of the Dr. Doofenschmirtz doll.


I love taking the kids shopping for gifts. They each have their own personalities and perceptions of what makes a good gift. For Father's Day, for example, my dad-in-law recieved a lovely red plunger from Connor! :)


After Cory crashed for the day, the kids and I set out to make him cupcakes for supper...


... proving yet again, exactly why I ask Grandma to make cakes for my children's parties! :)


And since I didn't have 35 candles kicking around... we chose to go with 1 rather large, rather tacky one. Connor was determined to blow it out before Cory. I don't think he succeeded, but the effort was cute!


Which brings us to Sunday and to celebration #2 - Alex's birthday party. My "baby" is just about to turn 7. It's pretty crazy and cliche how fast the years go when you have children. But they do. When I asked him how he wanted to celebrate his birthday, he said "Exactly the same as last year!"


Here's last year's post, if you missed it...




So... we did. Almost. We changed a few things and kept a few things. And I do believe that the children had a blast, went home high on sugar, and made a few memories along the way.


We were lucky enough to have decent weather for our party. I really didn't want to have to do it indoors, but since it's pretty much been raining since the first day of summer, the odds weren't in our favour. At 12:15, 45 minutes to show time, the rain began. So instead of setting up in the backyard, we backed the cars onto the road, moved the bikes and recycling bins, and swept out the car port. But the rain stopped and we managed to pull off a pretty successful event.

A recycled poster from last year saved me a good evening's work!



The bouncy house that serves as entertainment AND a good place to sit and eat watermelon.


The party-goers lined up with their water balloons...


...to toss at Bowser of course! (Lots of little balloon bits lodged in my tree now)


The updated Yoshi Egg on spoon race... this time forget about running in a straight line, run the obstacle course with your egg, instead. (Connor's the one in the background retrieving his fallen egg)




Kirstin is wearing her red Donkey Kong tie... we made those instead of party hats this year to differentiate between the two teams for the mini games. Half of them red, half blue.


And yet, the kids all played in one big chaotic muddle after all. Another recycled mini-game... Bean Bag Boo... too cute not to re-use!


This year instead of Pin the Moustache on Mario, we went with the classic, "Pin the Tie on Donkey Kong" instead.




And this. I'm actually pretty pleased with this one in particular. This is the pinata I built. It's not very square and it's not very pretty, but a true Mario fan would recognize it for what it is, so that's all the counts.








And then Alex got to open his gifts. Some pretty cool stuff (Eric, how about reviewing "Candyland" with Alex next time you're up?) Including a Light Sabre! Umm... thanks, Mom and Dad, Cory loves it...



And the cake my Mom made. See, compare it to my cupcakes and give me one good reason why I should attempt baking again!


Winding down after an over-tiring, over-stimulating, sugar coma kind of a day... Blowing bubbles with Grandma, a perfect tantrum taming activity.


Happy Birthday to two of the men in my world! Blow out your candles and make a wish...

... cause mine came true 7 years ago.