Tag Archives: Fiona

Quiet Day In

Fridays are usually adventure days around the Sutherland household. I’m home from work, the kids are home from nursery, and we tend to go out and find something fun to do in town.

For two reasons, we didn’t do that today.

One: Disease Girl

This little darling was up and down between 3:30 and 4:30 am, coughing her wee tiny throat out. Even cough syrup couldn’t settle her. I finally got her back to sleep by lying in bed with her singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and my own version of Rockabye Baby. She was no better in the morning, moving slowly and eating little.

Two: The White Stuff

Lovely, isn’t it? First snow of the year, falling thick and fast in the midmorning. The chilly air meant that it lay on the ground for several hours, looking peaceful and bright. I love the snow and the light that comes with snow, particularly from inside a nice warm house.

So we stayed in and watched Harry Potter DVDs. It was kind of a disparate day, one I would like to remember because it was so unfocussed.

I took snow photos out the windows.

Alex needed a quiet day, too. It’s been a busy and exciting time for us lately, and he decided he wanted to lounge around in his pyjamas for most of the morning. He wasn’t in the mood to be photographed, but I got some good shots of him as he watched the climax of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Fiona watched the snow.

About midmorning I popped popcorn.

This is a fine art, by the way, popping on a stove. My mother taught me how years ago. You cover the bottom of a pan with kernels, then pour enough vegetable oil to well coat the kernels. Cover the pan and heat it over a high flame, shaking the pan constantly. The trick is knowing when to stop, so that all the kernels are popped and none burned. Like this!

In the afternoon, while Fiona napped, I made Alex a new shield, as I’d been promising for ages. (He loves playing with swords and shields, and just got another wee sword in a parcel from California. Thanks, Trish!) The shield is made of medium-weight bookbinding cardboard, with coloured paper over it and a leather strap. The whole thing is protected with sticky-backed plastic. Alex loves it.

In between all these activities, I got some cooking in – goulash for dinner tonight, and a chickpea soup for Saturday. That recipe, from the ever magnificent Oswego Tea site, has been tempting me for weeks. Unfortunately, it came out bitter and bland at once. I think I’ve rescued it with some sausage and some balsamic vinegar, but the soup was the point of the day when things started to turn.

In contrast to the rest of the day, dinner was decidedly not peaceful. Alex decided he wouldn’t eat the goulash (though he had promised me he would earlier in the day). I decided I was tired of his fussy eating. So I took him upstairs and put him in his bed. He apologised, came downstairs, and still wouldn’t eat it. So his dad took him upstairs, forcibly dressed him in his pyjamas, and put him to bed. It was an epic wrestling match, with screaming, hitting, and numerous bolts for freedom. He shouted and carried on for 10 or 15 minutes after the bedroom door was closed, too!

Having Alex get that fussy took much of the joy out of the memories of the day. But our lives are rarely unmixed tragedy, any more than they are unmixed comedy. The light relief in this case was provided by Fiona, who decided, halfway through Martin putting Alex to bed, that she wanted to go to bed too. She climbed down from her seat, toddled upstairs, and clambered into her bed on her own, barely attending to the tantrum going on a few feet away. While her brother howled and carried on, she laid her head onto her pillow and pulled up her duvet (my offer of assistance was spurned with an “I do it!”). By the time Martin had left the room, she was asleep.

Back from Worldcon

Martin posted a blog entry from our hotel room, in the middle of our attendance at Worldcon. I agree with everything he said. The con was exhausting, busy, and an intense family experience. Both kids wigged out from time to time, but also had some really good moments. I saw people from work, from our St Andrews days, and from previous social groups here in Edinburgh. And like Martin, I only made it to one event – in my case, an informal discussion on the future of the book, both as a concept and as a physical object. It was a great discussion, with plenty of debate and no actual conclusions. I wonder whether I would have enjoyed all the programme events I marked out and subsequently missed as much (I doubt it).

But I wasn’t just at the con as an attendee and a parent. I was also there as a bookbinder, and it was the culmination of three very intense weeks in that world for me.

As I noted in a previous entry, I spent a fortnight doing the binds for the Guests of Honour. This was more difficult than I expected. Not only did it take longer (of course – everything always takes longer than you expect it will), but it was also more emotionally challenging than anticipated. Unlike at work, I had no human contact to speak of. I found myself intensely lonely at times. I also found that when things went wrong, I was less able to keep a positive outlook and to develop alternative solutions to problems that arose.

Then we had a houseguest. Liza Groen Trombi, to whom I hadn’t even spoken for nearly fifteen years, came to stay with us for a weekend. We had been close in middle and high school, but gone our separate ways after that – me to Scotland, her to singing in a band, managing restaurants, and finally working as an editor for Locus. My instinct, when we got back in touch, was that I would like her again, and I invited her to stay when she was coming over for Worldcon. I think that was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. We spent the entire weekend chatting, and I could easily have spent a week or two more listening to her stories and telling a few of my own. She was patient about the fact that I was still binding (and gave very balanced feedback when things went badly). We rode bikes out to Craigmillar Castle, visited Mary King’s Close, drank whisky, and laughed a lot.

And, finally, the Sutherlands went to Worldcon. I was doing two things at once, as a binder. First off, I was co-ordinating the bindings to go to the Guests of Honour. Most of this involved being ready to meet the Publications manager, Steve Cooper, when he had gaps in his schedule and bindings needed signatures put in, or needed to be delivered to recipients. I got to see a lot of the Secure Storage area at the convention during this phase of things. At the same time, I was entered in the Art Show, hoping to sell some of my bindings.

I had four items entered: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, The Hobbit, Frankenstein, and a copy of the Worldcon Souvenir Book. And throughout the convention, I fretted. I went back and back to the art show, checking to see if anyone bid. I worried every time someone had moved a binding. I fussed at Martin (who has the patience of a saint for not throttling me!), at Liza (ditto), and at the boyfriend of the Art Show director, Pat (see previous comments). Two items got bids – the Hobbit and Frankenstein.

In the meantime, on of the Guests of Honour – Jane Yolen – had to go home early for family medical reasons. We arranged a swift presentation to her, and I got a chance to see her reaction to my book. She seemed to like it. (I will post photos of the presentation when I get them).

Thus matters stood this morning. Due to some significant sleep disruptions (thanks, Fi!), my memories of today are best summarised in list form.

  1. Alex and I, along with much of the Young Adult Fan Activities group, dressed up in masks and goggles and assaulted a panel on the Future of Fandom with inflatable weapons. The point was to remind attendees what the future of fandom really looks like, and perhaps to have a bit of fun on the side. Don’t pity the panel too much – they were forewarned, and forearmed with water pistols.
  2. Neither unsold binding sold during the after-auction sales. I collected them and left the Art Show. Then I rang Steve, the Publications manager, who immediately offered to buy the Souvenir Book binding. I was delighted, not only because I wanted to sell it, but because I wanted him to have it. After all the work he’d done on the book, I reckoned he would like something special. I understand he has all editions of Splitting Infinity now.
  3. The person who bought the Hobbit binding – Pat, who had been a friendly face throughout the con – asked me to sign it as the bookbinder. He then tracked down Alan Lee, the illustrator of that edition (and the designer who created the look for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films), and got him to sign the book while I was there. So I got to meet Alan Lee, an artist whom I respect greatly, not just because he does beautiful work, but also because he is so single-minded about doing it. We talked a bit about the binding, and exchanged email addresses. I even got a photo, with Fi in as well:
  4. During the closing ceremony for the convention, the co-chairs not only showed the entire audience one of my bindings, they incited them to a round of applause (mostly puzzled, admittedly) for me for doing them.
  5. I said goodbye to Liza – the only relatively down moment of the day. I miss her already.

Now I get to go back to real life. It’s been a good time, rather like being tossed up and down in a blanket while slightly drunk. In other words, I’ve been to Worldcon.

Almost One

Fiona turns one in 2 1/2 weeks. As always, being a parent, I feel two mutually exclusive things. On the one hand, it seems just yesterday that I was sitting at this same table, doing a jigsaw puzzle, when the first contractions started. On the other, I can’t imagine life without her.

That second thought – the inability to even contemplate a life that didn’t include her – is a particularly poigniant one these days, as we watch the families torn apart by the tsunami try to find their loved ones and, too often, discover that those loved ones are dead. What parent doesn’t picture themselves on the beach with their children, with the wave coming, wondering how to save their precious lives? Who can’t empathise with the survivors afterward, wondering where the family members they lost in the maelstrom will turn up? And for the locals, with no safe home to go to to deal with their grief, things are even harder.

So, since Fiona is too young to notice whether she gets a present at all, Martin and I would like to ask her friends and family to give her small gifts this birthday. She’d enjoy a rattle made from a box and some split peas and taped shut as much as she would some Super Magic Whizz-O Gadget with bright sparkly lights. So give her a small toy and a big hug, and give the money to the tsunami victims this year. She’ll never notice the difference, because the hug is what really matters.

And she has lots more birthdays to come, where we can all splash out on gifts for her. Would that the families of the tsunami victims had the same.

Thank you.

4-hour Flu?

You’ve heard of 24-hour flu. But these are modern times; everything is speeding up. No one has time to do things slowly. And, apparently, flu viruses have caught up to the trend.

Suddenly, at about 7:00 last night, I started shivering uncontrollably. I was already feeling wintry and depressed, but those are primarily mental effects. This was most decidedly physical.

I simply couldn’t get warm. My muscles started to ache, and my joints became sore. By about 7:30, when Fiona was ready for her feed down (time change, you know – she usually feeds down at about 8:30), I was feeling nauseous as well. So I took her into bed with me and fed her, and we lay there in a little pool of warmth while Martin put Alex to bed.

I was hallucinating by that point. I remember listening to them reading Sitting Ducks, in which the line “and suddenly the sky was full of ducks.” Suddenly I saw the ducks as being like autumn leaves, as though one could walk through a pile of them and kick them (non-cruelly) into the air in thick clumps, which then separated into individual flying birds. They filled the sky with gold.

After Martin got Alex to bed, he came for Fiona and I went for a hot shower. I shivered as soon as I got out of bed, though I was still fully dressed. Even the scalding hot shower couldn’t warm me up. It took a mug of hot broth and a hot water bottle to stop the shivering.

At the same time, Alex was screaming and crying hysterically in his bed, sobbing so hard we couldn’t extract from him what, if anything, hurt. He finally settled on it being his ear, and we gave him some Calpol. But I don’t think he was actually awake through either of the two iterations of screaming; I don’t know if his ear really hurt, or if he dreamed it.

When Alex was finally settled, and Fiona (who had awakened with the racket) was down again, I went to my bed. The shivering had passed off, and I was feeling fevered, so hot that the duvet was uncomfortable, my pyjamas unbearable, and my pillow too warm. I tossed and turned and drifted into a sleep full of fever dreams.

When I woke up this morning, I was fine.

Alex, where’s yer troosers?

Alex, where’s yer troosers?

OK, the short story is: Cameron (Martin’s cousin and a groomsman at our wedding) and Clare (a very beautiful woman) got married last weekend. We all went. Alex wore (in the loosest sense, at times) a kilt, which was cute and funny. We had a great time.

Below are some pictures, as evidence. They aren’t all the pictures from the wedding, nor necessarily the best ones. They’re just what I picked out to get something onto the web.

Dada and Alex

Kissing the Bride

All the kilted folk…spot the one whose shirt is coming untucked!

Mama & Fiona

Sharing a joke with grandda

“Everybody look left and laugh!

Family portrait 1

Family portrait 2: Kyle is ready to dance!

Family portrait 3

Cam & Clare under an onslaught of confetti

Kyle jumps the gun on tea

Swinging boy

William Wallace, eat your heart out

“Yeah, the kilt is a babe magnet. I know.”

Dada agrees about the babe magnet

Dancing with Grandma

Dancing with Beth and Anna…wardrobe malfunction immanent!

Needing a little help pulling the kilt back up.

Fiona takes a break

Tired after the party.

Playing the Percentiles

Fiona had her 8-week check and immunisations on Thursday. They measured her weight, height and head circumference, and all of these measurements came out extremely large for her age. Specifically:

Measurement Value Percentile 50th Percentile at
Weight 6.32 kg (13.9 lb) 98th 17 weeks
Height 60.5 cm (25.2″) 98th 15 weeks
Head Circumference 41.5 cm (17.25″) 98th 16 weeks

So, in other words, she is a perfectly normal 4-month old baby…at eight weeks.

Fiona Sucks

…but in a good way.

When Fiona is fussy, we tend to offer her something to suck on. This comforts her, and allows us to determine if her fussiness is due to hunger. (It usually is.) Martin tends to offer his nose; I generally alternate between nose and chin. Or I used to – after this I’m thinking nose only, or maybe finger.

On Sunday, she was so hungry that when I let her suck on my chin, she gave me a hickey.


A week ago today, Fiona looked me in the eye and smiled. Twice.

I immediately ran for the camera, at which point she screwed her face up, turned bright red, and wailed.

She has since smiled at her grandparents, her father, her brother, and at least one friend. I’ve been trying to capture a smile on diode for seven days now, and I give up. She’ll smile for the camera when she wants to, but let it be known:

She can do more than cry. She just chooses not to.

On a Roll

Well, it’s started.

I left Fiona lying on her back on the changing mat (on the living room floor) while I went upstairs for a minute. Came back and…

It’s not true rolling – she’s thicker than she is wide, it’s easy for her to wriggle till she turns over. She has learned this at night, since she prefers to sleep on her side. And the downslope of the changing mat will have helped. Still, it’s already time to be careful about leaving her unattended on table tops. At 20 days.