Yesterday morning at 9 my phone rang. The first thing I thought was, "Crap, I forgot to turn the ringer off." Because going to bed at 4:30 am means you don't want to wake up at 9.

Then I noticed a 212 number on the caller ID and I was suddenly awake. Whenever anyone calls from New York it's exciting. Good news, bad news, it's thrilling, because the only people I know in New York are my agent and my editors.

So I hopped out of bed and talked to myself for a minute to try to shake the sleep out of my voice. Then I listened to my voicemail and called my editor back.

He was calling to tell me that Gahan Wilson has agreed to illustrate my zombie book. GAHAN WILSON!!! New Yorker cartoonist, Playboy cartoonist, National Lampoon cartoonist, Amazing Stories cartoonist, friend of Charles Addams, ladies' man, mans' man, man-about-town famousy famous Gahan Wilson.


This is so exciting I can hardly stand it. Gahan Wilson apparently loves the manuscript and really gets what I'm trying to say. It's surreal to even write that sentence.

With all of the packing and freaking out, I barely have time to process this, but when I take a minute, it's absolutely thrilling.


Trip prep!

and my teeth are chattering
getting packed, ready

We're leaving on Sunday. My husband has spent all day on the phone with the airline, the hotel, the medical supply companies, the milk bank, the hospital, and more. I have spent all day wandering around in a kind of fog, trying not to be too freaked out. We're going to have at least 6 carry-on bags and all of them will violate a TSA rule of some sort. We have doctor's letters that should help us get through security, and we've notified the airline, but it still makes me nervous.

As you can see, I've been extraordinarily helpful.

But if I can sit on the couch and fuss over Ike-a-saurus, rather than shouting things at my husband while he's on the phone, then maybe that's helpful, right?

One thing I've done, though, that's helped a lot, is to test out the Xanax.

Oh yes, you laugh, But I'm serious. I've never taken it before, and I tend to not do well with tranquilizing type drugs. I have this superpower to fight them. So that even Ambien and Stadol (not at the same time, yikes) can't even fully knock me out. They make me loopy and nauseous. And they make me feel like I'm drowning and/or suffocating and/or falling from a really tall building. But they don't make me very restful.

So I was hopeful, but skeptical when I got my prescription for Xanax. I broke one in half and tested it out the other night. Much to my delight, it didn't seem to do much at all. I felt vaguely drowsy, I stared at my pants for like ten minutes, I realized I had been staring at my pants for ten minutes, and then I went to bed. I woke up precisely four hours later, then fell back to sleep. The next day I was the most rested I have been in months.

Xanax win!

I'm not sure if there will be a time during the trip when I can allow myself to sleep, but at least now I know if I really start to lose my shit, I have a plan.

I am going to try really hard not to lose my shit, though. My husband has been shouldering too much of the burden lately, while I wallow in a self-imposed aloneness. I need to snap out of that and help more. Sitting around, wringing my hands, and working myself into a frenzied rat king state of "what-ifs" is not healthy and I need to quit it. 

There's just so much riding on this trip. Yet that seems secondary to the worry I have for Ike-a-saurus going through all of these procedures so many days in a row. Three mornings of fasting, two mornings of being anesthetized. Plus, scopes and scans and images and biopsies and something called a "lung wash" that sounds unpleasant to say the least (at least he'll be asleep for that). So many strangers messing with him, and even though my husband and I will be right there with him to comfort him, it physically hurts me to know that he will hurt. He will be scared. He won't understand what's going on.

See there? I'm doing it again… working myself into a rat king frenzy. No Xanax tonight, though. Just some Advil and laundry. Talk about a sedative effect.

Another anniversary

On 7/25 last year I went into the hospital. We thought I was going to deliver at 23 weeks 6 days. My husband and I were met in the L&D room by one of the neonatologists. And as my IV was adjusted and I was given steroid shots, we were asked if we wanted heroic measures to be performed when the baby was born. Or, did we want to comfort him and mourn him without medical intervention?

It was a terrifying day. But even with the grim faces and horrible decisions, it was a hopeful day, too, just because I had made it to the cusp of viability when I had been told even just getting that far was impossible.

Then… the baby didn't come.

The next day arrived. I was dirty, starving, bleeding, crying, but still no baby.

Then, the next day. The doctors relented and let me eat.

Then, the next day. A shower!

And so on, for five more weeks.

My breath catches in my throat, thinking about that time in the hospital. It was so hard to be in that bed, a ticking time bomb, only seeing the wee one and the wee-er one for a few minutes everyday. Never knowing what the next minute was going to bring.

My arms were bruised all over from so many shots and blood draws. My legs were clad in awful legwarmer "massage" things to keep blood clots at bay. Days would go by when I would barely dare to hope things would be OK, but then something would trigger a round of contractions, doctors would be called, we'd get more visits from the neonatologists with professional, kind faces, but dire warnings.

And then more time would pass. I would hold my ipod to my belly and play Gonna Fly Now, the theme from Rocky. I would relish visits with friends, and feel constantly thankful that my husband only left my side for coffee and a quick chance to put the kids to bed at night.

Five weeks later, my sweet Ike-a-saurus was born. So tiny, and yet, so big compared to what could have happened. He had reached the magical 28 weeks.

I thought those five weeks were the scariest weeks of my life. But really, they were boot camp. A trial by fire, setting us up to weather the truly scariest part of our lives seven months later. And now, are there more "scariest parts of my life" in the future? I can only guess that yes there are.

My chest aches thinking about this time last year. How hard we were fighting, how much we didn't know, the things we didn't dare to think of or wish for.

I know it's not healthy to live in the past, but I can't help reliving these moments. Yet, so much has happened since then. Wonderful things, terrifying things, shocking, incredible, horrible, amazing things. And whether the memories are good or bad, I think back on how those five weeks in the hospital taught me so much. How to be patient and how to be a patient. How to be an advocate. How to live only in the moment. How to be thankful for every small thing. How to love friends. How to release control. How to channel sheer force of will. How to savor limp green beans because the next day might bring IVs and stadol and no food for 24 hours.

It was a hard time. But because of that hard time, I am as prepared as I can be for this hard time. And that makes me thankful. Who would have ever thought you could be thankful for being soul-crushingly terrified for five weeks on end?

What a hell of a year.

Another book!

middle school zombies
plus chupacabras, humans
quite the melting pot

So when you're up til 4:30 am everyday, suctioning your wee dude's trach and administering around the clock meds, you find yourself with a whole lot of time. Sure, you're busy with him, but there are pockets of time when you can watch a show or fart around on the computer, or contemplate what it would be like to be a zombie in middle school.

You might think about being a zombie and how zombies have a halting speech pattern. It might strike you that this speech pattern sounds a lot like haiku. So you write down a few of the zombie-speak haiku and they seem sort of funny. You write down a bunch more. Then, before you know it, you're emailing your agent with a middle grade novel, written as an epic poem (with about a bazillion haiku), all about a day in the life of a zombie middle schooler. It's about his relationships with his friends, and the charged atmosphere of the school filled not just with hormonal zombies, but with smartass chupacabras, and Lifers (regular humans) with a chip on their collective shoulder.

Much to your surprise, your agent loves it! He begins shopping it around and BAM, just like that, you have a done deal.

The Neal Porter imprint of Roaring Brook Press is going to be publishing my next book! It's tentatively titled BRAINS, and it's going to be an illustrated novel.

Kick ass!

I'm SO EXCITED! In the middle of all of this, a new book deal. I can't wait for you to read it!

Maybe it didn’t hear me

You know how, when there's a thing you really want, you say over and over to yourself, "Man. I really want that thing."?

Sometimes, if you're the praying type you will say, "O, God, can you help me get that thing?"

And if you're the Oprah Secret type you will say, "Hey, World, I'm totally gonna get that thing."

If you're the Universe-y type you will say, "C'mon, Universe, please spare some thing mojo for me."


Except that, a lot of the time, it doesn't seem to matter who or what you talk to about your thing, there is a kind of evil laugh somewhere in the distance and then exactly the opposite of what you wanted or asked for or tried so hard to make happen, happens.

Say, for instance, you've been trying to get your baby to see some specialists that are 1200 miles away. You've been planning the trip for months. Your husband even figured out how to get Medicaid to pay for the plane tickets, hotel and food. Everything is set. So you throw out your desire to the Universe, to God, to anyone who will listen: Please have everything be OK. Please have us get some answers. Please have my baby stay healthy and happy so that the trip can be as successful as possible.

Except, when these words came out of your mouth, they must have sounded a lot like, "Please wait until 11 days before the first appointment, and then make sure my baby has a respiratory infection. Make it a good one, too, requiring lots of supplemental oxygen, two different kinds of antibiotics, nebulizer treatments every couple of hours, and loads of suctioning. In fact, if you could just make sure that his his airway is as irritated as possible before the trip, that would be awesome."

If you even get to go on the trip. Because, if he doesn't get well, it's canceled.

Call whatever you want… Murphy's Law, bad luck, whatever, it just fucking figures some little asshole germ is going to come in right at the home stretch and ruin everything.

Well not if I can help it, asshole germ. We're throwing everything we can at you. Because this trip? It's happening. We're going to see the fancy pants doctors. We're going to get some answers. We're doing it if I have to walk the 1200 miles up there, with the baby in my arms.

Why do things have to be so hard? Why the last minute shenanigans? I mean, really. Isn't there enough drama over here already?

Suck it, germs. I hope you heard that loud and clear.




Impromptu haircut

it's all fun and games
until you're cutting your hair
with the chicken shears

The wee one and I were up in his room today, having a nice, quiet moment together. He was playing with his snap circuits and I was going through a box of old stuff, showing him things from when I was in elementary school. (Example: local newspaper clipping showing that I had solved a riddle from the previous week's paper and won five lottery tickets donated by the sheriff. Exciting!)

So we're hanging out and chatting and it's nice, because we never really have a chance to do that.

Then, all of a sudden: BZZT!

My head gets yanked to the left.

Sharp pain emanates from my scalp.

A small, "oops." and then a "let me fix it."


More yanking, scalp pain, yanking, scalp pain, etc.

The wee one has introduced his snap circuit motor to my hair.

Before I even had a chance to yell OW, QUIT IT. He said – and this is a direct quote – "I think if I turn it back on, I can get it out."


By this time I am completely, painfully, irreversibly attached, via hairball, to the snap circuit motor. Finally I manage to actually yell, OW, QUIT IT. The wee one instantly drops the motor and backs away, with his hands in the air like I'm going to shoot him.

The motor hangs limply off the top of my head like a tiny leprechaun hat made of a battery and a ball of hair.

"I'll go get the scissors!" he yells gleefully, still not fully understanding the situation, and as he runs from the room, I think "FUCK." because having a leprechaun hat made of your own hair and a snap circuit motor, while sounding fashionable, is actually quite painful and unattractive.

That's when I started to laugh. Because how could you not? I vaguely wished to be the kind of mom who, upon finding herself in an unwanted, painful leprechaun hat situation, would strike fear into the heart of the 7-year-old. The kind of mom would would be all, "Oh no you di'int," in a menacing voice feared throughout the land.

Instead, I laughed and laughed. And when we couldn't find the hair-cutting scissors, I used the kitchen shears to hack out the leprechaun hat and hand it over to the wee one. "You have to get the hair out of it," I said as gruffly as I could manage. "And don't ever do this again. What if I had been your sister?"

Then he scampered off to disentangle the hairball from his motor, and I went back upstairs to put away my box.

Afternoon mother/son bonding achieved? Check. Though when I orginally had thought of "bonding" I hadn't really imagined it would mean bonding my scalp to a battery-powered motor. Next time I will be more specific with my plans – and they will not include leprechaun hats of any type.

The time is nigh

It is time to stop
when they stretch out like taffy
without bouncing back

Well, I think it's time to quit. Hooking myself up to the Princess Bride "I have just sucked a year of your life away" torture device every 2-3 hours a day for the past TEN AND A HALF MONTHS has worn me out.

The pumping is done.

Well, it's not done yet, but it will be soon. I really wanted to make it until Ike-a-saurus' first birthday, but y'all, I can't take the pumping much longer. In fact, I'm sorry we're renting the damn thing, because when I'm done I would like to run over it with the car. And then set it on fire. And then run over it again.

Admittedly, I probably wouldn't be stopping if my doctor would refill my prescription for Domperidone. But there's apparently some kind of rule about not using it for more than four months or something like that. So now that I'm off the dom, my supply is tanking. And when I think of that, combined with the inevitable stress the Cincinnati trip will cause, I just don't think I can keep a decent supply going, even if I try all the herbs and whatnot (which, frankly, after all this time, I am loathe to do).

One thing that's helping me feel a little better is that we still have a prescription for milk from the milk bank. So as long as they have plenty in stock we'll still get enough milk to keep Ike-a-saurus on a mama-milk diet. It's not a guarantee, and their supply is limited, but it's something.

Still, though, I can't help but feel a little bad. I HATE to stop just before the Big Bad Fall and Winter of the Swine Flu Apocalypse. It seems like that's when he's going to need those breastmilk antibodies the most. But, really, I just can't keep doing it that long. I have to hope that the milk bank has enough milk and that it's chock full of apocalypse-battling antibodies.

On the other hand, I've made a Pro list for stopping, and it's very appealing:

1) Cheese
2) uninterrupted sleep
3) Not having to acquire a jigsaw to cut two holes in my mattress so I can sleep on my stomach without worrying about crushing my boobs.
4) Xanax
5) tequila
6) the real Pill that actually works
7) non-disgusting, non-over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders
8) no longer having to hear the pump alarm on my phone

And yet, the con list, while short, is compelling:

1) No more mama's antibodies for Ike

Ah well. I know it's time to stop. And, honestly, I'm pretty happy about it. No more pump? Hooray! It does feel a little selfish, but 10 1/2 months is a really long time. And by the time I've "weaned" it will be closer to 11 1/2 I imagine. It's driving me crazy to not make it a year, but you know how when you get an idea and it won't go away? Not pumping is that idea for me.

I want to be done.

But I want Ike to be OK.

It's hard, but I think it's right.

Book launch success!

The event at BookPeople was AMAZING. It was standing room only, and the books flew off the shelves!

The whole evening was simply too good to be true. It was a wonderful celebration of books and community and friends and fellow space-geeks. It was a chance to talk to starry-eyed kids who are desperate to be writers when they grow up. It was a brilliant flash of distraction from everything that has happened this year.

There was even one young girl – and I am so sorry I don't have her name, or a picture – who painted her fingernails with little designs from the book. Mars on one finger, a spaceship on another. She had an entire hand dedicated to Larc's blue braces. No one has ever painted their fingernails in celebration of something I've written before. An enormous compliment!!

The liquid nitrogen ice cream went off without a hitch, the space helmet crafts were a hit with the kiddos, and the Moon Pies were gobbled up with lightning speed.

It all went by in a blur for me, and I spent much of Sunday staggering around the house, exhausted. It's been a long time since I went out and spoke – with energy and waving arms – in front of a zillion people. I am, admittedly, very rusty. But it sure was fun. It has made me even more excited to get some school visits scheduled for the fall (and I was already pretty excited about that).

Thanks to everyone who came out, and thanks to everyone who wanted to make it, but couldn't. It was a great, great, event. And, of course, thanks to BookPeople for hosting. They did a fantastic job keeping things in order, even though I think we were all a little surprised by the turnout!

The pictures below were taken by David Gilder, a very talented local photographer. I'm going to post pictures over at in the blog area, so be sure to check in over there…

It was a great night. I can't say thank-you enough to everyone involved!


Me being awfully smiley


making the liquid nitrogen ice cream


 A zillion people – and this was still before everyone was there!

Holy Mother of Donkeys!

The book release party for Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel is Saturday 7/11 at 6pm! That's tomorrow!

If you're in the ATX, swing on by. I'll be reading, answering questions, and signing books.

ALSO we will:

Watch the real space shuttle launch at 6:39pm!
Make ice cream with liquid nitrogen!
Make space helmets with paper grocery bags and shiny things!
Take pictures with Mike Stellar himself!
Eat Moon Pies!
Drink beer from the Whip In!

For real, you have to come by. It's going to be so much fun.

39 days until impact!!!1!1!

If you want to see the live blog of the first half of this glorious made-for-TV movie/mini-series thing, have a look here.

OK, let's go!

Oh – and because this isn't actually on TV right now, I'm not sure what to write for the time. I'm just going to write what time it is now, even though that's confusing. We can just call it a live blog of my evening on the couch, how does that sound?

8:53: Just finished my Batter Blaster pancakes and bacon and now I'm going to poke the little TiVo man in his belly until he spews forth some awesomeness.

8:58: recap! Greatest meteor shower in 10,000 years. What could go wrong? OH SHIT. THE MOON. Mr. President needs answers. A brown dwarf is lodged inside the moon! (poop joke here) It's causing magnetism eff-ups galore! Pregnant girlfriends are trapped in trains that are being magnetically sucked towards the moon because gravity is going craaaaazy! The Moon is being pulled towards Earth like I am pulled towards the Cheetos in my pantry…. quickly and without remorse. OH SHIT, you guys, 39 DAYS UNTIL IMPACT!!!

9:01: Pregnant girlfriend is on the train that got sucked into the air and then dropped KABLAM. She's taking control! Pregnancy makes her strong and not exhausted or constantly urinating like the rest of us.

9:03: Road trip, kids! Dad with the hot dead wife wants his kids in DC with him, but the effing brown dwarf is jacking with the phones (why are brown dwarves such assholes?). Grandpa has given up on the helicopter that was supposed to come and he's taking the kids to DC himself!

9:04: In a boat!

9:06: OH SHIT. Fake CGI freighter has no gravity! Grandpa is trying to outrun no gravity in beat up cutlass!

9:07: Grandpa FAIL.

9:08: Or Cutlass fail, you be the judge. Stupid American cars.

9:10: Oh, gravity, the President is PISSED at you.

9:12: Meanwhile, the Lady Scientist wants to use the "brown dwarf to our advantage." By nuking it. To nudge it toward the sun, so that the sun can fix the moon orbit. I don't know either, people, but there's a nice sunshine drawn on a fancy whiteboard.

9:14: Uh-oh, Lady Scientist has to go meet with her shady soul-patchioed journalist ex husband. He's all, "You're lying to me. I can totally tell because we were married for ten years." She's all, "Hey, dipshit, try not telling people they're going to die in 39 days EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE."

9:18: Lady Scientist splains the brown dwarf advantage to the President. Blah blah blah. Old man in wheelchair – with glasses – has to translate into Old White Man Language so that all the President's men understand.

9:20: OH SHIT, YOU GUYS. The Old White Man translation has failed! The other old white dudes want to use 87 nukes to destroy the moon! But what about the tides? All the calendars will be wrong! THINK OF THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE BACKLASH.

9:22: "As my grandmother used to say, 'leave the frosting in the fridge'" That's what the Pres just said. About science and imminent death. Huh?

9:24: Uh-oh, soul-patchioed journalist is spilling everything on "CLN" His soul patch is blowing to and fro from the  breeze of imminent panic.

9:26: The Pres announces "Operation Safeguard." The world will band together and launch a billion bars of soap up at the moon to wash that brown dwarf right off of it. Not really. But that would be cool, no? Instead, Operation Safeguard will launch the 87 nukes at the moon and cause the brown dwarf to land with a splash into the roiling toilet of the Atlantic. Doh.

9:29: Kids smile gleefully and yell Hey Look! They are pointing at upside down cars on fire. Kids are so desensitized these days.

9:31: The nukes are in the air!!!

9:32: The Old White Men were WRONG. The moon has gobbled up the nukes. OH SHIT, YOU GUYS. Now it's FIVE DAYS until impact.

9:33: And that's what you get for ignoring Lady Scientists, assholes.

9:34: now they have a guy with a British accent explaining the new plan. Whew. That's better.

9:35: They're going to make a thing to turn the moon's core into a magnet. But they have to send dudes up to the moon to find a canyon to shoot a missile into. Insert missile into canyon. bow chicka bow wow.

9:37: Basically, they're creating a giant suppository to push out the brown dwarf.

9:39: Space elevator wire! the space elevator idea freaks me out, y'all. Totally freaks me out. I can't look at artist simulations of the space elevator without my sphincter clenching. It's like the opposite of claustrophobia. I hope the moon doesn't feel the same way, because these guys are totally going to use space elevator wire to weave the suppository through the moon. All sphincters go.

9:41: Back to grandpa and the kids. He totally made this "uuuhhhnnn" noise which in movie language means "internal bleeding." Also, oboes are playing. That's never good.

9:43: A mean man won't give grandpa any aspirin! OH SHIT, YOU GUYS, the little girl just beaned the bad guy in the head with a water bottle! Take that, asshole.

9:45: The Pres wants the dad with the hot dead wife to be one of the dudes to go to the moon. Even though it's a – wait for it – one.way.trip.

9:48: Lady Scientist promises to say good-bye to DWTHDW's kids for him. They do a little necking.

9:50: For some reason the Moon Suppository Training is taking place in Germany.

9:51: Also in Germany, or thereabouts? Pregnant girlfriend of the british accented guy! Some guy keeps hitting on her. He's really annoying. Maybe he needs to find himself a Lady Scientist.

9:53: time to put the oximeter probe on Ike's toe.

9:54: He stayed asleep. Yay!

9:58: The dude hitting on Pregnant Girlfriend finds out she's pregnant and helps get her into some kind of German FEMA truck to go find her accented boyfriend who is also going on the Suppository Mission. She asks him his name. "My name is Pierce. Bob Pierce." Then she answers, "I'm Ety-eyeg-flurg" or "ety-eyeg-muh" or "ety-eyeg-man" I can't understand what the hell she's saying.

9:59: He's definitely wishing he had impregnated Ety-eyeg-flur.

10:01: boring grandpa is back. He's making the kids cry by telling them about their hot dead mom. Stop it, grandpa!!

10:02: OH SHIT YOU GUYS, boring grandpa is dead! I told you oboes are bad news.

10:03: Speaking of round exploding things, it's time for me to pump. Can I live blog and pump at the same time? Let's test it out.

10:10: Pregnant Girlfriend got her boyfriend to marry her! Funny how quickly he agrees to it after he thinks he's going to be sharted out of the moon.

10:12: Back to the boring kids. Water-bottle-to-the-head guy just abandoned them in his meat shack. No wait! He's back! He's going to drive them to DC to be with their dad. Except that their dad is in Germany. These kids can't catch a break, can they?

10:14: Rocket footage from 1969 or something shows that the Suppository Team is on their way!

10:17: Already the
kids are in DC, interrogating their father via NASA-TV.

10:19: The kids are freaking out! Why does daddy have to help the moon poop? Why? It's not fair!

10:22: meanwhile, on the moon… everyone is lumbering around like they have on wet jean shorts. They are inserting a giant glow stick into a thing. A red light turns on. Bad! Re-insertion. Red light. Bad! I warned them about the sphincters.

10:23: OH SHIT YOU GUYS, five hours til impact!!!

10:25: Dudes are riding a thing covered in tin foil down into a moon crater. The thing has green blinking lights. This means it is Highly Technical and you don't really need to know what it is.

10:28: They're "mapping the crater." That isn't a euphemism for anything. Too bad.

10:30: And now we get a montage of what everyone in the world is doing as TEH END DRAWS NIGH. Old people are going to the beach. Some guy is playing golf. A couple of scrawny teenagers are totally going to do it.

10:31: Insertion win! The green light has lighted and the big thing with the plasma ignition is blinking and flashing. It's creating the world's largest Fleet suppository! Go go go go go go!

10:32: OH SHIT YOU GUYS! The guys in the crater who are driving the tin foil covered Disney World ride have lost control! The chick has fallen into the deep part of the crater! DOH. Luckily, she has no kids and no pregnant girlfriends.

10:35: the Lady Scientist is breathing really really hard while she watches the moon monitors. She is either worried or enjoying some ben wa balls.

10:37: The missile is launched! It's going to drag the suppository into that crater and shoot that brown dwarf right out of there! Somebody get the moon a magazine. STAT.

10:39: The accented boyfriend is going to be shat out of the crater if he isn't careful.

10:40: He's writing "Roland Loves Ety-eyeg-flurg" in moon dust. That is the moon version of grandpa's "uuuuhhhnn" noise.


10:44: The moon has cracked in two! It looks really cool.

10:45: DWTHDW is alive! And so is Other Random Dude With him! Lady Scientist is so excited she embraces the children and gives them a "I'm so going to be your stepmom soon so buck up, suckas." look.

10:47: Operation Make The Moon Poop has worked! There will be no impact! There is now world peace! A second chance! More making out with Lady Scientist!

10:49: And now there are two moons. What does this mean for the tides? the Earth's temperatures? The periods? Only time will tell, my friends. Only time will tell.

10:50: Fin