Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Did I just read that?

From the Longmont Times-Call: "A year after fatal accident, Little Britches returns"


Monday, June 28, 2010

Did I just read that?

A friend linked me to this: "I just want to move on, says lesbian in sumo wrestler suit assault on ex"

Headline from here:

I think that's all grammatically correct, but it's still hard to believe I just read that.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Did I just read that?

Check out this snippet I found tonight:

Note the date and TIME this was posted, and then the text.  BEFORE the eclipse even started? Seriously?  Yes--because I'm reading it before the eclipse even starts!


Tonight, I began revising.

I always thought I'd hate the revision process. I thought it maybe was a waste of time unless directed by a professional editor. And I've read brilliant manuscripts before that were rendered completely lifeless by overzealous revision.

But I like polishing. It's fun to discover what I've written that's good, fix what's boring, and make the writing beautiful. It's also a rather intense, creative process that involves going beyond "what happens next" to "and how do they feel about that?" and "what are they experiencing with their senses that I want the reader to experience, too?".  Plus it's much MUCH easier to pick up and put down with distractions, so it's more conducive to work while mothering than drafting is.

So tonight I started. In the first half hour, I turned one chapter into three and cut 600 words. And the beginning is SO much stronger now.  I find that sometimes I try too hard to justify an action. When the story is "right," it just comes quickly and easily, without a lot of tedious explanation or justifying motivation. It makes sense, it flows naturally, and it doesn't get bogged down in details. And the previous first two chapters (now the first 4--this is why my rough drafts have no chapter numbers anymore. I got sick of changing them all down the line every time I divide or combine) were definitely bogged down.

I have struggled with the first chapter of this novel for YEARS. I had to get the heroine to turn a key and walk through a door, and I used an number of reasons over the years to make her do this. FINALLY this revision, it flowed. 600 words shorter, more compelling, and she didn't have to be coerced through the door (and we readers no longer have to be coerced to keep reading. Whew!). She just opened it. I mean, really--how hard is it to get a character to walk through a door? Sheesh.

So now I have to decide: Is it okay to explode a dog, or not?

Did I just read that?

From the Deseret News today: "Both are in the Army Reserves, serving at the Utah National Guard Base, and both boarded the Delta plane carrying hundreds of fellow soldiers."

Strongest soldiers EVER.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Learning to Write from my kids

My two big kids are in the target audience for my book, which I just finished and am already into rewriting (which, actually, is my favorite part!).

They've been reading it for me as I've written, and they provided the motivation to dive back into the manuscript and finish it (Anda asked for a printed copy for her 7th birthday, which was this month).

And they've given me the most valuable feedback I could have because they experience the story from a kid's point of view. So where adults might say, "That wouldn't happen--no grown up would let her do that....", the kids say things like, "This part is my favorite. I keep reading it over and over."

That's helpful because then I know exactly what appeals to them.

They're also helpful because they read a BUNCH of children's/teen literature and are also extremely smart, verbal children. So they can relatively eloquently express what they are seeing and experiencing, and, being my own kids, they have no fear of offending me. (Your own kids are the ones who say things like, "That skirt is ugly, mom.").

Anda and Caleb gave me some of the most helpful feedback I've ever received. In addition to the "I keep reading it over and over" comment, they have said things like, "Like most children's books, this one has a boring beginning. But don't worry--a lot of kid's books start boring, so you don't expect the first chapter to be very good." (So I knew to rewrite the beginning--and the kids approved of the new version.) and "The ending isn't very satisfying. Kate needs to fight in the battle. I really want HER to be the one who conquers the bad guy at the end."

You can see why that kind of comment might be helpful!

They also tell me when my fixes are good, which is helpful. And they fix typos and misspellings in the manuscript as they read (and yes, they are good enough with language that I trust my 7 and 8 yo to do that!).

What I mostly get from them is not so much the technicalities of a story ("this is a plot hole" or "you need more description here"), which I have plenty of help with from adept editors in my life, but the experience of reading the story. And THAT is the best help I can get.

So what I've learned by listening to my kids (and then sometimes analyzing why they are having that experience):

It is most satisfying to the kids when the main character is acting to solve problems. Even if she's a kid, the protagonist needs to be the main movement to the solution.

Regardless of how realistic it is for the child protagonist to end up battling an adult antagonist, it MUST be the hero (regardless of their age) who takes out the bad guy in the end of the story--and NOT by accident. There has to be some moment where the hero faces the bad guy and makes some kind of heroic action to conquer them, or the story is not satisfying.

It's okay for adults to act like adults in the story--and for them to have significant roles. But it is imperative that the hero of the story--the kid--be allowed to be as smart as kids are and as able as kids are to themselves (which is MUCH more than adults allow for in real life). When I was a kid, I didn't feel less capable or less smart than the adults around me. The hero of the story can't either. She can be less confident, for sure, and have the same kinds of struggles kids have--but at her core, she needs to be as competent, as smart, and as good at solving problems within her own realistic limitations (not Laura Croft-style battles where the kid physically beats the tar out of the ninja master by sheer strength and skill) as an adult, even if she's afraid to be so.

The parts the kids like best are the parts that are "out of the nursery"--the parts where the hero is on her own, surviving and acting without constant adult supervision (with adult help, sure, but on the hero's terms, not the adults).

The kids also tell me that it is NOT OKAY to blow up a mangy stray dog at the beginning of a book, but it's totally okay to blow up a castle in the middle--and maybe the hero should be inside with the several dozen other people who are in there when it blows up.

Go figure.

I told the kids my goal is to write different than but as well as JK Rowling in her first 3 books--the ones that had adequate editing. Anda told me the other day that the section I had just handed over for her to review was as good as Kathryn Lasky, "Who writes way better than JK Rowling! You just have to play her books when you're done."

I'm really flattered!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Did I just read that?

From the Adobe Reader Help Page: "For better results when creating PostScript files, use the Save As PostScript command. The Save As PostScript command isn’t available in Reader."

Well, now. Isn't that helpful?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Marriage Thoughts

My sister got married yesterday; we had a reception today. It was a lot of work and a lot of joy, and it left me thinking all week about marriage, naturally.

I kept wondering what you tell someone who is getting married about marriage that will help them have a happy marriage.

I can only think of a few things I might tell my sister:

I distinctly remember when I was a teenager and I went out walking with my best friend, who I married many years later. It was night, and as we walked, it got colder and he gave me his coat, which I gratefully took. We kept walking, and several minutes later I realized he was shivering. Foolish me--I hadn't realized that when a man gives a woman his coat, the man is COLD.

So that's one thing I kept thinking about. Somehow, we women seem to forget that men have feelings just like we do. Men are culturally presented as stoic and strong and hormonal, but the reality is they have feelings. And they want their feelings taken just as seriously as we want them to take ours. They want to love. They want to be loved.  Just like I took Tim's coat without it ever occurring to me that he would be cold, I see many marriages where the woman expects to be loved and romanced and cared for with no thought that perhaps her husband might be feeling exactly the same way. It's worth it to share the responsibility for the love in a marriage--you fill your spouse's needs (even the ones you might not realize he has!--he'll tell you if he finds out you want to know) and it's more likely he will fill yours.

The other thing I keep thinking about is how women find a man who has been living on his own for who knows how long--years usually--and successfully taking care of his own shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, appearance, car, job, meals, family relationships, etc.--successfully enough that the woman fell for him, at least.  And then they get married, and the wife instantly starts treating this person, who has been a competent adult for years, as if he is incompetent at everything. Suddenly he doesn't dress right, he can't be trusted to cook or clean or show up on time or express himself in a socially acceptable way. His life must be micromanaged and his decisions and actions--especially regarding practical living and home life--questioned and challenged and corrected, almost like he's a child needing to be taught or, worse, an animal that must be trained.

That seems unfair to me. It seems like we ought to be giving our spouse as much credit and respect as we give the grocery store clerk, the stranger on the street, co-workers, ward members, and our other friends. If you treat someone like they're incompetent long enough, they stop trying (they just get criticized for it) and live up (or, rather, down) to our expectations. And then women complain--publicly and in detail--that their husband won't help with anything in the house! Perhaps it's because the woman won't let them? Or criticized them for every effort (either verbally or just by doing it over when he's not looking)?  Would YOU keep helping someone who kept telling you everything you did was wrong (or even just correcting it "gently")--even if it was something you'd been doing for years? I doubt it.

Ironically, if women get treated the way they treat their husbands (but not most other men), the behavior is labeled abusive and the woman is encouraged to leave.

So that was my second thought: we ought to make every effort to remember that our spouse is a competent adult who can do everything we can do--and many things better, even in the traditional "woman's" realm. Different is not necessarily wrong. There are many right ways to do things. And you never know--you just might discover that his way is both easier and more effective than yours!

I also thought I might tell her that men just like to be told (vs. hinted at, bossed, or nagged). They also like to be asked nicely--like you would your sister, or your friend, or your mother. Like you did when you were dating him. Men don't want you to drop hints that the garbage needs to be taken out OR say, "Why don't you ever take the garbage out?". They want you to say, "Honey, would you please take the garbage out?" They don't want to be hinted at that you're mad or sad or hurting or hungry. Don't break the dishes in the sink and hope they notice. Just say, "I am so angry!" and tell them why.

I didn't tell her any of these things, though. Watching her and her spouse, it seems to me that she already knows.

What I ended up telling her was, "You look beautiful."  She did.

And if she doesn't already know it, she'll figure out the rest.

Did I just read that?

from's home page today, the first headline: "Poles vote to replace president killed in crash"

That's good. A dead president probably isn't very effective. I wonder what would have happened had the opposition won--you know, the side that was rooting to NOT replace him?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Did I just read that?

From provo Craigslist today: "I am 201years old and most the stuff is size Medium or Small "

Wow. Forget the stuff. I want to know where she found the Fountain of Youth!

Benji says, "

"Mommy, will you make this umbrella to giant?"

He wanted me to open it!

Did I just read that?

from Fox today:

"Police, firefighters and relatives found the victims when they broke into their home at 11:30 a.m. after other family members said they had not been able to reach them since Monday night, the prosecutor said." (

Pretty tricky, the murder victims breaking into their own home. I wonder why Police, Firefighters, and Relatives were already there waiting?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Off we go again

Wednesday morning sometime, Tim got a call informing him that he had been selected to sing with and open for Imogen Heap. In Salt Lake City. On Saturday.

At 3:00 he finally woke me up to tell me. I said, "So we're leaving tomorrow?" He said, "How about tonight?"
We figured if we left by 9:00, we'd get in at 4:00 am, and that's the time I was going to bed anyway....

So I hopped out of bed and we rushed to work--washing dishes, sorting laundry, picking up, packing....all the stuff we'd planned to do for the next 3-4 days before we left on Monday the 14th.

At around dusk, Tim came in and said Dan had been helping him clean out the trailer and had accidentally pulled out some wires and could I come check them. They were pulled clean out and had a splicer on them, so it was an easy repair.

Except then the trailer lights wouldn't go on.

3 hours later, after working in the dark with the help of 3 kids and re-doing five wire splices twice and cleaning all the copper I could find, we managed to get enough of the trailer lights going on that we could go. Couldn't do anything about the check engine light that was on, too, or the missing front turn signal light, so we decided to pray we made it (and we did).

But then we still had to finish dishes, laundry, taking out garbages, packing, etc--all the things that have to be done when the tour is more than 4 days long.

So we left for Utah at 1:30 am, tired and hungry.

And we drove. And drove. And drove. And drove.

Every river we drove past or over was raging, full, overflowing its banks.  Lots of flooded fields and campgrounds. We went through a couple of rainstorms.

We had a toddler cry for an hour before we discovered his car seat was cutting into his neck (there's still a mark there, 3 days later).

We got in to Lehi at 10:51 am, and didn't get everyone to bed until about noon--Nathanael was so happy to be out of the car he ran around chasing chickens and dancing his guts out all over the house.

And now here we are in Utah.

We had a fairly intense Thursday, with sleeping all the wrong hours and then visiting with family (11 children, 8 yo and under, running crazy all at once). Lots of preparation for the wedding next week.

Few hiccups: Tim found he couldn't do the video editing with the equipment he had, and then the studio he thought he'd be able to use was really busy and needed all their machines. Thanks to some friends, that got worked out and we will still have an income next month. So today was a little stressful.  There was a minor family crisis (of a rather private nature) that caused a great deal of distress in one sister's family on Tuesday and Wednesday, and by coming here we managed to jump right into that as well as the wedding preparations/moving my other sister into her new home.

And I discovered that, for a person who was just barely making it through each day before (me!), jumping into a public place full of work and crises has not been so easy.  It's bad enough to let everything slide when you're at home. It's really embarrassing to let everything slide at someone else's house.

It's also been really hard to be here and see my siblings struggling--some with happy hard things and some with sad hard things--and not have the physical or emotional energy to take them in and love them and pay attention to them as intensely as I want to. Thank goodness there are other people who also love them and have the physical ability to help right now!

Coming out here early made me miss my self-imposed deadline for my novel. It's not done today like it was supposed to be. That's not entirely bad. During the long drive I figured out something I'd done wrong in the plot that was detrimental to the main character's character arc. So now I can fix that on the first go-around instead of in a later revision. Hooray!  And I still have time to finish the book and print a copy for Anda's birthday (which is what she wants).

So here we are!

Come visit. We'd love to see everyone.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Benji says, "

Benji values play and fun more than almost anything. Teasing is a great joy for him. So is activity.

So when it's time for a diaper change/putting on a nighttime diaper (now that he's getting potty trained), I have learned to allow for some play if I want a smooth, cooperative experience.

Lately, the play has taken the form of being a "super hero." I come to the corner of my bed where I always change diapers. He goes to the opposite corner and stands on the night stand. Then he says, "I going to do a Super Hero!" and he LEAPS across the bed, always managing to land with his head toward me (on purpose).  Then I'm supposed to swing him around as fast as I can....and then he lets me do the diaper thing.

So today the game changed.

He went over to the night stand as usual, but then looked at me in all seriousness and said, "Use your mouse to move the Benji to the diaper change" in his best fake-toned, happy and sweet computer game instructions voice (the one they use to give instructions to kids on ALL the kids games).  Then he grabbed an imaginary computer mouse and manipulated it in the air--and jumped totally the wrong direction.

"Nope! Try again!" he said cheerfully, and returned to his corner. "Use the mouse to move the me to the diaper" he said. Then he leaped onto Tim's pillow, then my pillow, and then the diaper change corner. "You made it! Great job!" he said.

And THEN he let me put his diaper on for bedtime.

That's Benji for you. Life is a computer game.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Today's "adventures"

So, today....where would I start?

We're shifting our schedule forward again, so we slept from around 8:00 am until 5:00 pm and woke up really tired.

Also hot because the A/C in the house isn't working (I think it just needs to be recharged), so I didn't bother to turn it on. The new swamp cooler I got free off craigslist works great--for a 15' square room--but the humidity was around 50% all day, so it cooled, but only to 78 degrees. Still hot.  We did manage to get the whole house cooled right chilly by dawn, though.

What else?

I got to work on my novel for several hours. That was WONDERFUL. Everyone just played around me and let me work.

Benji managed to:
      poop on the back porch
      throw up all over the office
      take 2 baths
      and turn the plugged up sink on full and then close the bathroom door, flooding the entire bathroom and into the basement.

Lovely day, this.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Did I just read that?

from the Deseret News: "But the vast majority of the time capsule was full of sepia-tone wedding announcements of friends and members of their LDS ward, which had once been stapled to the stairwell between the two apartments."

That's a funny place to keep a ward, stapled to the stairwell. I wonder how the bishop felt about that?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Did I just read that?

Apparently I've been collecting these for a lot longer than I thought. We unpacked a box that we packed when we left Utah--in 2004.  In it, I found a couple of clippings from an old Macey's ad, with a couple of these circled:

"Clean and Smooth 64 oz Anti-Bacterial Soup $2.99"


There was another one. When I find it, I'll post it, too.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My new pondering

I had one of those stupid experiences today that left me with hurt feelings--and feeling stupid that my feelings were hurt.

First, Tim and Caleb RUSHED off to Scouts, only to find they'd cancelled it for all age groups but didn't bother to tell us. No phone call, no email...except last Sunday when we got a call asking if Tim would be around Tuesday to help and I assured them he would be back in town. Hmmm. Shrugged it off.

But then Tim said, "They're setting up for a Relief Society Dinner of some kind at the church. I asked one of the sisters what's going on, and she said she's in primary all Sunday, so she didn't know except they asked her to bring cookies." No clue when it was supposed to start.

Hmmm.... and then I forgot about it.

I was too busy being "at the crossroads" with Tim as he got home from a successful audition in Chicago, plus 32 hours of driving in 48 hours, so we were catching up with each other. We took the kids for a walk and ended up at the church to let them run on the big lawn there (the kids LOVE doing that). We arrived just as the last few straggler sisters arrived for the dinner. I wanted to be with Tim, though, so I didn't go in until later, when I needed a drink. And I passed the gym on the way and saw a bunch of the Relief Society all sitting around having a fancy dinner on fancy China--and I got the distinct feeling they were having a party and I wasn't invited.

Tim told me I should go in and join them, that he would take the kids home himself, but I was late enough that I felt deeply uncomfortable walking in and getting a plate, and I couldn't face finding a place to sit when everyone was settled. And I couldn't face the questions about where I've been for 2 months and how I'm feeling now--or worse, if nobody even asked. So I told Tim I didn't want to, and we went home.

And I felt stupid that my feelings were hurt that they had a big fancy party and didn't invite me because I've been sick for 2 months straight. They didn't even put it on the ward Calendar online (which I have email updates set up for). It was kind of a "active sisters only" party, and I felt excluded. And also stupid for caring.

Anyway, it got me thinking about an interesting question:  are we giving the most attention to the people in our wards who need it the least?

How many people, like me, would BE THERE if they only knew about it? And how many just don't get told because they had to work Sunday morning (like Tim did this week), or were suffering with an extended illness (like me), or are in Primary (like my friend who didn't even know what the event was, but was faithfully there helping set up anyway because she found out somehow--perhaps because her husband is in the bishopric).

Are we lavishing all our attention on the people who are able to easily make it to church on Sunday, and completely ignoring those who need the special attention and help?

I am ashamed to admit I have been. When I'm not struggling to just survive myself!

Then I started thinking about my own visiting teaching list, and was horrified at what I discovered. MORE THAN ONCE I was told by more than one person that my list consisted of, "Sister W., who you won't have any trouble seeing, and Sister X, who is a snowbird and in Arizona, so you can ignore her, and Sister Z, who never comes; I think she has cancer or something. So anyway, you pretty much only have to worry about Sister W."  Sister W, who is fully active in the ward, in contact with half the relief society on facebook, and has family in the ward who watch out for her. Sister W, who surely needs visiting teachers because everyone does and because we are all sometimes barely making it, but who is certainly not struggling alone.

And this is what killed me: Sister Z, who has cancer or something and so she's hard to get ahold of and nobody's seen her, so don't worry too much about that. WHAT?  THIS is the person who needs us most. Just because we don't know her and nobody's seen her doesn't mean she doesn't want and need us. She might not, but....I have been sick for 2 months and was devastated that nobody bothered to tell me about things going on in the ward. How might she feel, when she should be getting meals brought in, or her house vacuumed, or at least a VISIT and a "how are you feeling" or a "I brought you a plate from the RS Dinner." But no, my instructions were, "You don't have to worry about her."

So now I'm asking myself, "Am I paying the most attention to the people who need it least?" And also, "How do you solve this? How do you inform everyone about things that are happening, instead of just the active members?"  Even if you put it in the ward announcements--they're only printed in the program. Nobody has a budget for mailing a calendar to every member family on the list even if they aren't active.  So what's the solution?

(And also, How can I get my visiting teaching done properly when I am sick, awake only at night--but all night--and usually alone with 5 kids and no car about 80% of the time?)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Weird homeschooling day!

I spent the last week creating custom curricula for all my children with  They have complete pre-K through 3rd grade curricula available, free, including art and music (which most free programs skip), and we've been using them happily for months, even though I worried that Caleb was definitely NOT being challenged enough. Last week they introduced the customize curriculum option, to my great delight.

With the custom curriculum option in the program, you can draw from any of their thousands of resources and/or add your own from external websites, which then show up on the child menu alongside the Head of the Class activities.

So I chose what I wanted for my kids from their stuff (all interactives for Benji, for example, and for Nathanael), and then added what they wanted (Caleb wanted ALL the "fun" lessons, Pre-K through 3), and then I browsed my catalog of online resources over at Learning Lynx and picked a few things I thought the kids might enjoy learning from there, including supplementing Head of the Class's music lessons with films of people playing famous solos on each of the different instruments that Head of the Class introduced with animated movies. For Caleb, I pulled supplemental online music lessons from a college textbook's online learning center.

Caleb and Anda both wanted to study biology (which, for most online resources for kids now, is almost completely replaced with eco-science--so much so that the kids yell at me when I throw anything away because I should find a way to compost or recycle it! MOM!). Because of the overwhelming eco-focus of most of the kids' biology resources, I didn't want to use them--I want the kids to learn traditional biology, too. Things like organ systems in plants, and photosynthesis, and cell structure. You know--biology.

So I found an e-course over at Hippocampus: Biology for Non-Majors. It's college-level Bio-101. I didn't put in all the nitty-gritty lessons about things like cell respiration. But I linked over half of the course into the Head of the Class system for the two big kids.  I should have put in the AP biology stuff for Anda--it's all video-format lessons instead of textbook-format lessons.

Anyway, then I put in a 7-12th grade health course for both big kids, too, from e-Learning For Kids. And then, at their requests, I put in a bunch of the Head of the Class materials.

So today Caleb and I sat down to do his school day, the first with the new curriculum.

First we had a college-level video showing someone playing the alto saxophone, and Caleb verbally compared the alto to the tenor sax we watched last week as a test lesson, and we briefly discussed where you might see a saxophone. With my kids (and especially Caleb), we go for short lessons so he can focus and retain the info.

Then we had a college-level lesson called "Kinds of Science" that discussed the different ways of dividing science up: empirical/formal, pure/applied, natural/social, etc. We also discussed the scientific method, looking at two different models of it and discussing it as a guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule, and also the places where some scientists get hung up (like on thinking only a positive result is valid, or trying to force a result because of the funding source, designing a poor experiment, or just plain having bias). Then we discussed experiments--that they should be objective and reproducible, and also structured right (and we got a little side tracked discussing placebo effect). Anyway, it was fun, and I could see Caleb's brain going (and I haven't seen that in ages), and the text was right on his reading level (finally!) and not over-simplified (finally!), and once he figured out I was going to ask him a question at the end of each page, he tuned in and paid attention (finally!).  It was really stimulating. It took about 10 minutes, too (like I said, short lessons, rapid-fire info, and then move on).

Anda stood on the other side of the room listening, and then said, "Do I get to do that lesson, too?" I said, "yes," and she got all bouncy and excited and said, "Good!" I guess she's anxious to sink her teeth into some real learning, too!

Then we turned on the next lesson. It was a 3rd grade spelling lesson, making Caleb practice spelling the words for the numbers one through nine.  Ouch! He had 3 spelling lessons on his list today--all covering the same material, it turned out. (After he was done, I went and customized all the excess spelling practice right off his list).

And then the next one was a little video on Cows that included the sentence, "Can you say 'moo'?"

Oh, my!

Caleb definitely doesn't belong in elementary school!

Thank goodness for a customizable curriculum and free, ready access to college materials. The only problem I'm beginning to see now is what happens when he gets to college and they make him take Bio 101 again? I guess we'll deal with that when the time comes.