Monthly Archives: January 2015

On Pens and Writing

It’s never been a secret that I am a stationery geek. I love pens and blank notebooks of all kinds.

Recently, my love of fountain pens has been rekindled. My four fountain pens have been in their glass cup on my desk for a few years, ever since I ran out of ink cartridges for them. I own a Sheaffer Javelin with a F nib (which is my favourite), a Parker Vector with a F nib, and a Waterman Kultur with a M nib, as well as a standard Sheaffer calligraphy pen that came with three italic nibs of different widths. I use the smallest italic nib for regular writing. Nothing high end, mostly student-level models that I like. (I mourn my lost Pelikan fountain pen, which had a perfect nib for my handwriting style; not too wet, not too scratchy. I also have a collection of dips pens that is stored in a writing box.) I do so much work on the computer that buying new cartridges seemed wasteful. Besides, the only cartridges I could find for them were filled with black or blue ink, neither of which are colours I enjoy working with very much. I love brown ink the best, and while I used to be able to buy brown cartridges at local office supply stores and even pharmacies, those days are gone.

But a couple of spinners I follow online mentioned they got orders from Goulet Pens, and one day I clicked through to the website and fell into a deep rabbit hole. There is a very healthy market for fountain pens of all price points, and better still, there are inks. Oh, the inks! All sorts of colours and effects! But they’re mostly sold in ink bottles, and my fountain pens take cartridges.

A bit of sleuthing turned up a couple of options. I could wash my empty cartridges and refill them with syringes (this is perfectly acceptable and operable, but apparently the cartridges can begin to leak over time), or I could buy converters for my pens. Converters are essentially refillable ink reservoirs.

And rather than dropping thirteen to thirty dollars on a bottle of ink, I could order 2-ml samples to experiment with and help pinpoint the right colours I wanted to invest in to use! An average pen cartridge takes 0.5 to 1.5 ml of ink at a time, so it’s a decent amount for a trial. Shipping from the US and our feeble Canadian dollar led me to find Wonder Pens in Toronto as a Canadian alternative to Goulet Pens, and I used the last of a prepaid Visa card to order some samples of brown ink and a couple of syringes. I’ll save up for converters. (Of course all my pens are from different companies, so I need different converters. Figures. I suspect I may not get a converter for my Waterman Kultur; I tend to prefer using finer nibs.)

Tied to this is my investigation of pencil grips. When I handwrite for a long period of time, my hand cramps up. I looked into this and discovered that there’s a whole subset of pediatric occupational therapy devoted to pencil grips, examining efficiency and physical issues arising from the odd grips children develop to offset various obstacles. I use what I have discovered is called a thumb (over) wrap grip, where the web space in my grip is closed and my thumb wraps over the pencil and my index finger. This leads me to use my whole hand as a writing unit, making larger movements from the wrist instead of just moving my fingers. In addition to this, I grip my pencils tightly, which leads to fatigue and stress in the hand and forearm. My handwriting is neat (although less so when I write quickly) but I have to rest my hand frequently.

With the desire to begin using fountain pens again, I’ve started thinking about how I hold them and how I can make handwriting a less tense experience. Since most of my work is done on the computer and I only take brief notes with pen and paper as I work, it isn’t generally an issue, but I’ve begun working on a new story and it wants to be handwritten, so I’m running into these issues again after a long time. It’s interesting to look at this from an adult perspective, as opposed to a child learning cursive. I’m aware of the smaller elements, requirements, and stresses in a very different way. Having new inks to play with will encourage me to practice a new adapted grip, too.

Catching Up

December was, predictably, somewhat frenzied.


I edited a math book (or rather, a parent guide to math from pre-K through grade 5), and found a case of plagiarism in the second chapter, plagiarism so glaring that the author had even copied the mistakes and misspellings from the website. This is not the way to my heart. I documented it thoroughly, finished copyediting it, and sent it along to the editor, whose problem it is. It took me a while to calm down, though.

When I handed that in, I got another project immediately, which I edited over Christmas. It wasn’t as intense a schedule as last Christmas when I worked on a manuscript three times as long (with issues, oh, there were issues with that one), but it was enough to keep me busy. (And stressed out during yesterday’s ice storm that had our power flickering as I raced my deadline. Fun times.)

Just before Christmas, I also got a very interesting query from a major game studio concerning my availability at certain points in 2015 and wondering if I’d be interested in talking about handling some copyediting work for them. Of course I was. Am. Whatever. Let’s see what happens. Today I had my small panicky meltdown when I was asked what my rates were, and now I’m fine. It just needs to go through the contracts people in HR or whoever it is, now.


My teacher’s studio recital was a couple of weeks later than usual this year, taking place on December 21 instead of the first weekend of the month.

I am very happy with how my piece went. HRH filmed it with his iPhone for me, and I finally watched it a couple of days ago. While it sounded like the intonation was a bit odd overall, I suspect that is more due to the church and the poor wee iPhone striving mightily to record me seventy-five feet away, because it sounded fine under my fingers. Did I mention how happy I was with how it went? As in, no qualms or destructive self-criticism whatsoever? I don’t think that’s ever happened. I think doing this Wagner piece was very good for me. I’m sure my teacher will have comments when we view her (much better) video of it this weekend at my first lesson of the year, of course, but I am sure she will also be very excited about how well it went.

Christmas break:

We hosted Christmas at our house this year again, and both sets of grandparents joined us. Dinner was lovely, and we even managed to get the good china out this year. (We didn’t go so far as to dig out the good cutlery. Let’s focus on the small victories, though.)

I think the gift we were the most excited about receiving (apart from watching our kids be thrilled about everything they unwrapped) was our set of Paderno pots and pans. We gleefully stripped all the mismatched and bent stuff off the pot rack and hung all the new shiny ones. Cooking with them is a dream: they’re heavy but well-balanced, they sit level on the elements, and they clean up in a breeze. We adore them. The other big thing was that HRH designed and built Owlet a dollhouse for Christmas:

More details about that will come in her 41-months/January post, whenever that happens, since the 40-month/December post isn’t even up yet. Maybe I should declare amnesty on that one and just jump to the January post.

HRH and I took Sparky out to see Big Hero 6 after Christmas, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. Two days later, HRH’s parents came to spend the afternoon with Sparky and Owlet while we went out for lunch and to see the last Hobbit film. It was so unusual for the two of us to be out together, let alone without kids, and the experience was very enjoyable. Sparky told us how lucky we were to see two films in one week, and I had to point out that since HRH and I only see two or three films in a theatre each year, it was more like we were just fitting them in before the calendar restarted.


Sparky completed his first session of art classes in mid-December. Before it ended I asked if he’d be interested in registering for the next session, and he said ehn, not really. I gently pointed out that we’d have to figure out another extracurricular activity, then, and he buried himself in a book and ignored the situation. But when he brought all his art home the following week and we went through it, we saw some really good stuff, and told him so. We hung the canvas he’d painted, and framed a beautiful multi-media piece he called “Birch Trees in Winter” that he’d done at school, and suddenly he was very excited about going back to art. He got a pile of art supplies for Christmas from us, too (thank you, Michaels, for your crazy sales and decent-quality student stuff) and was thrilled. This year he also told us (repeatedly, in whispered asides) that he knew we were Santa. We’ve never really perpetuated the Santa thing; we’ve always told the kids that Santa is an idea, a representation of love and generosity and sharing, one of the spirits of Christmas. So this wasn’t a disappointment or a betrayal; it was more like he was confirming that he knew he was part of it, consciously helping to spread the joy and love associated with the season. He’s growing up.

Solstice also celebrated his one-year anniversary with us. We call it his birthday to keep it simple, even though we know he’s actually eight weeks older. Happy birthday, fuzzybunny Solstice!

Owlet: 41 Months Old!

Yes, two! Two Owlet monthly posts in close publishing proximity! This will be backdated soon to 4 January.

Christmas happened this past month!

The dollhouse. Oh, the dollhouse. HRH designed and built this for her. Every day he’d post pictures from the workshop of how it was progressing, and it just got better and better. Shingles! Siding! The round windows in the attic! The facade with the trompe-l’oeil portico!

Nana was in on the plan and bought a family of dolls, pets (a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and they all have food bowls — too cute) and some furniture as Christmas presents. Her friend Ada’s nanny also gave her a related gift, a little Calico Critters set of twin bunnies in a pram and their female adult companion. (Mother? Grandmother? Nanny?) (Oh, the Internet tells me they are Connor and Kerri Snow-Warren and their mother, Shannon. Thank you, Internet. And thank you, Carmel!) She plays with it all the time, usually pulling Sparky into her games. He brings along various toys to include, most notably the Transformers Beast Wars Transmetal 2 Megatron dragon Ann gave him, and Qui-Gon Jin in a police car. (It makes sense if you’re nine.) She is very inventive about sleeping arrangements, stuffing the rabbit into the desk, the cat into the oven or a cupboard or drawer, the dog anywhere except his doghouse, and the baby bunnies in the fireplaces. She also uses it as a stalling tactic if you’ve asked her to switch activities in preparation for going somewhere. “I just have to put everyone in their beds,” she says. And then it takes half an hour, because apparently all the dolls are just as bad at going to bed when they’re told as she is.

Her other exciting gift was her Meowsic keyboard. This is awesome because The Doubleclicks use one in some of their songs, and they’re her favourite band. The best setting is the one where it meows the notes when you play. (Wait, did I ever tell you that Sparky, Gryffindor, and I participated in crowdsourcing one of their videos this past fall? Cats at Parties! Okay, tangent over.)

Dancing has become a big thing. She loves to dance to music, dancing fast or slow to reflect what the music is saying to her. I’d love to put her into ballet, but the local schools are very expensive. That’s our stumbling block right now; it’s way out of our budget. The arts centre that Sparky does his art classes with offers affordable ballet, but only starting at five years old. (Which, now that I think about it, is only, like, a year and a half away. WHAT. You may proceed to panic, dear readers.)

She especially loves snow dancing. If there is a new blanket of snow on the driveway, she will dance in it (the more area covered the better) then stop and look at the design her footprints have made. “Look at my dances!” she says. One of her favourite pretends these days is being a snow fairy, a combination of the ‘snow bugs’ she saw in an episode of Aria the Animation (Season 1 episode 10, if anyone’s interested) and the snow fairies from Tinker Bell: The Secret of the Wings.

In the category of Weird Things Three-Year-Olds Do, one day I put her down for her nap on her day off from daycare. We’d been having trouble with her not horsing around after we close the door, so I stayed nearby listening in order to nip any unallowed behaviour in the bud. She was pretty quiet, but then I heard an odd creak, so I went in. She’d crawled into her pillowcase, pillow still inside, and was lying with her feet at the head of the bed. She turned her head to look at me and froze. We stayed like that, looking at each other for a moment, and then I cracked up and couldn’t stop laughing. Eventually I got it together enough to pick her up and reverse her so that her head was at the right end of the bed, so I could pull the covers over her. I had to go in one more time to pull the pillow out so she could be less crowded, but I let her fall asleep in the pillowcase. She hasn’t tried it since.

She can arrange the first six letters of the alphabet in order. After that, it gets… creative.

Owlet has been doing a lot of “reading” to herself, going page by page through a book and telling herself a combination of memorized phrases and description of what’s going on in the pictures. Sometimes she doesn’t tell the story that she knows the book tells, but a different one inspired by the pictures. I find that really interesting, because it means she isn’t locked into the story she knows is on the pages. And she doesn’t limit herself to what’s in the pictures, either; sometimes she’ll pull in characters from other books to join the story.

Lots of her spontaneous narratives involve purple horses or unicorns. “I’m the baby kitten, you’re the mummy kitten” is another popular pretend.

We are working on interpreting emotions. If I am cross with her (for whichever of the zillion reasons three-year-olds push us over the edge), she will often shake her finger in my face and say, “I am very cross with you!”, turning it around. (This does not usually fly so well.) If she does what she has been told to do, she will say “Are you happy?” hopefully. And while I want to be honest and say that yes, I am happy when she does what she’s been told because she’s been asked to do it for a specific reason, I also don’t want to set a precedent that she has to be compliant in order to make other people happy. That’s a bad path to start her down. I still struggle with my sense of self-worth being tied to keeping other people happy with me or my work, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

If she knows I am upset or sad, though, she will often come over to me and say, “I will make you feeling better.” She’ll stroke my back or pat my arm, and ask, “I am feeling you better?” It is an amusing syntax error.

To her great delight, I knitted her socks from the DK-weight yarn I spun from the second fibre she chose at Espace Interstitiel, the Louet Corriedale in ‘Grape Jelly.’ She was very excited until she put them on. Then, two minutes later, she said they were making her feet cold and wanted them off. No, I have no idea. She’s three.