Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas is Not Yet Over here

There was supposed to be another blizzard starting right now, but it turned into a rainstorm. It will probably develop into nasty snow overnight. I'm just glad the garbage man made it....

And the mailman. "Santa Clause" hasn't stopped giving yet. I don't know if it's the same anonymous person who provided such a delightful Christmas for my family or another generous soul, but we got a gift card in the mail, for WalMart (just what I needed, actually), for $200! I can hardly believe it. And, to add to the mystery, the package came via regular postal mail, but without a postmark. I have no idea where it came from. I was expecting a gift card from Grandma Jones, but she told us she was sending it--no reason for her to sign it "Santa" and be anonymous....and I doubt she has that much to give since she provides gifts for 6 children, 6 spouses, and 15+ grandchildren.

This on top of the $100 to King Soopers and $50 to JC Penny the ward gave us. And on top of the bishop racing down to Denver to get 2 weeks of food for us before this new storm hit. So now we have fancier food than we usually get, money for things we need, and hope for a job soon.

So who is the mystery person/persons? I have no idea. I keep trying to guess, but I'm a miserable failure at that. All I can do is promise to do the same for someone else some year when I am able. And I have this inkling of an idea that maybe when I know a family that is unemployed, I should be doing like things for them when it's not Christmas. Maybe someday when we're comfortable and can sacrifice $200, I should get the gift card from Wal-mart in July and give it to the bishop to deliver to a family that he knows needs it...

I hope that when I do have enough to share, I WILL share. Being poor can make people miserly, and I hope that doesn't happen. I hope it makes me frugal so I can be generous with my excess some day.

So if any of you happen to know who has helped us so much, tell them Thanks. Big Time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas For Mommy

Thanks to a couple of sets of Grandparents and a wonderful anonymous, we had a nice Christmas. The kids all got new clothes and jammies that I looked at and said, "Too Big," but that actually fit. Anda put on all of her new clothes at once and wore them as she opened the rest of her presents. Daniel didn't really "get" it except that each package that did get opened was suddenly his favorite--especially the doll that "anonymous" gave to Anda with three little bottles. Dan really wanted one, too. And then a package from Anda's cousin had Another doll--and she very generously gave it and its bottle to Dan. Once Caleb found that he DID get a train for Christmas (from Anda), he could appreciate his other presents, too. So all the kids were happy.

They spent all day sharing their toys, taking turns playing with everyone's everythings happily. We all played six games of Candyland together--that, too, was a success from anonymous. Daniel discovered that painting is great fun. Everyone colored in coloring books, did crafts, ate candy, "went shopping", and generally had fun.

Tim had already informed me that they didn't buy me anything, and I knew it was okay. I only got him lunch meats and swiss cheese--that's all. But then Christmas Eve, as I put presents under the tree, I didn't find a single one for me from anyone. I learned a few years ago that I really DO want something for Christmas--just one package that I don't know what's inside that I didn't buy for myself. So I went to bed sincerely praying that I wouldn't care in the morning, and that I would have a genuinely happy day. Then I had a terrible night--Dan was up every hour or so.

Then I woke up enough before the kids that I got a shower before they got up--how often does a mom get a peaceful shower alone? And it turned out there were two presents under the tree from Anonymous for me--nice things, too. And some for Tim, too.

And then I realized that I got everything a mom REALLY wants for Christmas. Tim and the kids cleaned the house for me. It hadn't even been picked up since my birthday, so it was a disaster, and they got it clean. Even mopped the floors! Then everyone was happy with their presents and felt like they got what they wanted. Tim moved all the big furniture I wanted moved--even the piano. And Tim made breakfast for everyone.

And then I had the one-in-a-million absolutely peaceful day. Nobody fought all day. Nobody got hurt. Nobody cried. Nobody was sick. Nobody was mean. Nobody broke or spilled anything. Nobody demanded my time. Nobody made me get up and do anything. Nobody screamed in the other rooms, or played loud music, or made me watch their TV programs with them. Nobody even made me read to them, which I don't mind. Everyone helped pick up the wrapping paper messes without being asked twice. Everyone was patient as we struggled to open and put together myriad new toys. Everyone SHARED everything--even the crafts they got to do, and the paints, and everything.

Then Tim prayed a good night's sleep for me--and it worked. For the first time in over a year, nobody woke me up all night and nobody slept in my bed. Even Daniel slept all night in his own bed in the other room without waking up once. I actually got to wake up by myself in the morning an hour before anyone else and laze around like I used to before I had kids.

What else could a mom want for Christmas? And it's all stuff that you can't ask for and get. Nobody plans those things. Nobody can just try really hard and make them happen. And nobody can predict them.

So it was a really nice Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Those Darn Jones Kids

Right now the kids are looking up Israel on the globe, and Bethlehem on the map in the Bible. Anda told Caleb the Christmas story, and they stopped just as baby Jesus started looking for a pet store because they determined there were probably no pet stores in Bethlehem. And where is Bethlehem, anyway? Thus the globe.

They've been cute all day.

Dinner conversation, for example. (This is not exact. I can't remember the exact words they said. This is the gist of it. Remember, Caleb and Anda are only 5 and 3):
C: This is perplexing.
A: No. I'm perplexing you.
C: You can't perplex me.
A: You can't perplex me either. Only I can perplex me.
C: You can't perplex yourself. It's not possible.
A: I can't perplex myself? Outside can be perplexing.
C: I can't perplex myself. But I can perplex the Perplexing Pool [a level in a nintendo game].

Other cute stuff:
Daniel is sitting on the floor singing along to the timer beeping as he pushes the buttons. Earlier, he was dancing to the beeping of the timer.

And, on a very sweet and touching note, Caleb wrote Anda a Christmas card on a scrap of newspaper they were using to wrap presents. He taped it to the present she picked out for him to give her at the Dollar Store yesterday. The note said, "Merry Christmas, Anda. I love you as much as God loves me."

Now that's the way it should be.

Food Storage and Emergency Preparedness

Merry Christmas, everyone.

We had a nice church time (Tim sang "O Holy Night" and it was beautiful. Made me cry. We got so many comments afterward that it made us uncomfortable in the same way you feel awkward when someone says, "Congrats" when you get made Primary President.). Then we came home and slept some.

We're still digging out from the blizzard, and most of the merchants in the area are saying they lost several key days of sales. Judging from the stream of cars outside, people are making it up today. Merry Christmas and Happy Sabbath Day to you all, right?

Anyway, we did our shopping last night, calculated for a time when the grocery store would be empty of the crowds. Everyone, suddenly freed from the freeze yesterday, hit the stores to replenish and Christmas shop. And Tim and I were no different. We'd stocked up before the storm because we thought Tim was leaving town, but we had to face two days (Sunday and then Christmas Day) with no restocking possible, so we had to go out and get milk and bread, mostly, and a few other thisses and thats.

Amazingly, there was almost no bread in the store. Only specialty loaves that cost $4.00/loaf, and not even much of that. And who wants peanutbutter on marbled rye? Not my kids. And we can't spend $4.00/loaf anway. The store was mostly or completely out of a few other things (eggnog, chips, sugar, flour, shredded cheese, etc.). This was something that made perfect sense, considering that no ground or air traffic moved for several days through the entire state, but it was a surprise nonetheless.

I stood there looking at the empty bread row and said to the kids, "That's okay. We'll just go home and make bread. It's cheaper anyway."

And then I started thinking about food storage and emergency preparedness. Granted, we don't have a year's supply of anything right now. But we do have a supply--more than a couple weeks usually (now is an unusual time for us, but I still have 20 lbs of flour left). And--the key thing that I realized they talk about but I never focus much on--I know how to make bread.

It seems like everyone in the US, unable to fathom any but the most unusual emergency that would require a year's worth of food on hand, justifies the requirement for a year's supply of food by saying, "You never know when your husband will lose his job." I've heard it a hundred times in Relief Society. Usually paired with, "Besides, obedience has its own reward." The problem with that justification for food storage is that it brings to mind a different sort of food storage requirement. When you are storing in case the world still functions but you don't, you store things like a year's supply of cheerios, and a year's supply of canned chili, and other things that you eat everyday--usually you can come up with a few dollars for what you lack, right? This is the kind of food storage we've usually had. And justifiably. Don't they say, "Store what you eat"? So I always have, say, 30-50 lbs (3 months supply) of frozen hamburger on hand.

But the church ALSO says to have the basics on hand, and to know how to use them.

Why? For our family, today, it is clearly because there are times when the world DOESN'T function, no matter how much we trust our governments to dig us out or fix what's broken. And it's not so distant as the once-in-a-hundred-years New Orleans Disaster or World Trade Center Disaster or ....okay, maybe even in America it hits frequently. And when the world doesn't function, we suddenly need that massive amount of flour and sugar. It really doesn't take much to disrupt the shipping lines--and without shipping, our cities shut down very fast. And then you not only need flour, and yeast, and sugar. You need to know how to make bread and tortillas and you need to have canned stuff (fruits, veggies, protien) around. Because sometimes the stores actually DON'T have it. And then what?

I have a friend who has a year's supply of money on hand. Been useful since her husband lost his job 6 months ago. Wouldn't have helped her get bread this weekend. Fortunately, she has the other food storagey stuff, too.

Luckily for us, we got to the store right after the first truck did--so they were completely overstocked on fresh fruits and veggies, which was a main thing we needed. And they were stocked with milk. But I definitely came away saying, "Wow. I suddenly wish I had just one or two sealed cans of powdered milk on hand." Sure, it doesn't taste good. We'd almost never use it. But, you don't have this stuff for everyday (okay, you have to rotate it). But I understand now why we're instructed to have enough of the basics on hand to keep you alive FIRST, and then worry about the cheerios. Even in America. Lucky for us, this emergency didn't last a year. And it didn't include loss of heat or power (then we would have been in trouble). But having some on hand left us with enough to share, had we needed to.

And we are thinking now about what to do if we did have a loss of heat and power. Already I've said, "Maybe we should have the coleman stove in an accessible place. Maybe we should test it occassionally--have a yearly outdoor barbecue on it to keep it functional and make sure we both know how to use it. Maybe we should make sure we can a can of fuel for it also accessible. Maybe we should think about how would we keep warm in an emergency since we got rid of our (nonfunctional) standalone fireplace."

Oh, and we HAVE been using our food storage to supplement Tim's job when he was teaching choir and also his joblessness now. It's good for that, too. And we do have a lot of the recommended emergency supplies on hand--candles, matches, first aid stuff (and the knowledge and resources necessary to use it), medicines, bleach, diapers in all sizes, warm clothes, consecrated oil, ward list, etc. We have also (wisely, I see now) kept a year's supply of "something to do" for each of us in the house--things to do with and without electricity. That's been nice, since everyone still needed to stay busy, and we couldn't rely on the library to entertain us like we usually do.

And now I'm thinking, "How easy would it be for something to not only foul but also completely disrupt the water supply? Phones? Heat and power?"

Probably not so hard.

Once again, the Lord is right, and I am grateful for the limited amount I obeyed, and anxious to become completely obedient in this thing.

Now if he will just bless us with a job so we can.....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Blizzard--for real

It's never been so quiet outside our house during the day.

I woke up at about 8:00 am because there were sirens outside that stopped somewhere near the house. When I got up to look and make sure my neighbors were okay, it was just barely snowy. But it was windy. An hour later, Tim got up to drive to the airport to fly to Las Vegas for BYU's bowl game--moosebutter was performing at the tailgate party. He made it six miles to the freeway and about four miles down the freeway before he heard the radio announcer say that flights were being cancelled--so call the airport before you go out there. He pulled off and called--his flight was cancelled. So were all the rest. So he came home--back that same ten miles. Driving the ten miles each way got him home TWO HOURS after he left. To drive 20 miles. WHY?

Because the entire central part of the entire state has been hit with a massive blizzard. A real blizzard--the first I've ever been in. Tim couldn't get another later flight, and then at 2:45 pm they closed the airport entirely--until Thursday night at the earliest. All the freeways are closed, too, from Wyoming to New Mexico, Denver to Kansas and Denver to Nebraska. So we're snowed in.

It's actually been really fun. We ate turkey-broccoli-corn with rivels soup, and the kids and Daddy played outside until they were freezing. We turned on Christmas music, and we're going to make cookies, and Tim is finally getting to watch "Nacho Libre". We did all our shopping last night in anticipation of Tim being gone, so we have everything we need. We kept water warm on the back burner of the stove all day for hot cocoa. It's like a holiday for us--and so nice to have a holiday with all of us here and feeling festive (I don't often feel festive, after all. Holidays usually make me just tired).

There is so much snow we can't really believe it. There was so much in the back yard that the kids sledded down the balcony steps to the yard below--without any bumps like you'd expect from sledding down stairs. The UNDRIFTED snow was up to Tim's knees at six when he went out to shovel the walk--and it's snowing harder now than it was all day. The drifts are so high that we left the garbage can out by the street and Tim stuck a shovel into the drift on the other side of the driveway so we can find the way in and out. Our privacy fence has about 18 inches showing at the top, with a foot of snow balanced on the top of the slats. The two dead cars (which we actually sold last night for $60 for both--but the guy couldn't get a tow truck up here to take them away yet) are totally covered with snow. You can see by the lumps where they are, but not an inch of car is showing--not even on Hector, that tall old Toyota van. Tim had to dig paths out of the house using a large toy bin to scoop the snow away--and now the part he shoveled by the back door is snowed in again. When we open the door, we're met with a foot deep undrifted layer of white stuff.

Now it's just after 9:00 pm, and the places that Tim shoveled earlier have well over a foot of snow on them. Tomorrow he's going to have to climb up on the roofs and shovel them, too. That's the routine when you have a flat roof, I understand. Fortunately, the snow is all powder (I'm sure the people snowed in at the ski resorts think they've died and gone to heaven). It's not as heavy as it could be. But three or four feet of powder is still heavy. We're praying the power doesn't go out and the furnace exaust vents on the roof don't get plugged. Maybe we'll have to shovel the roof tonight....

And the storm just keeps getting worse.

How's this for how bad it is: They even closed the malls at 5:00 pm--five hours early, and just a few days before Christmas.

For us, though, all snug and together in our home, it's been really fun. Just what Caleb told the bishop he wanted for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas decorating

We adopted some other country's tradition of hiding a glass pickle on the tree (whoever finds it gets good luck for the coming year). Anda liked that idea. So she hid a pink stuffed bunny on the tree--the "Christmas Rabbit." That lasted a few days. Today, I looked on the tree and found she had replaced the bunny with a small pot. From the kitchen. WIth a stuffed gingerbread man in it. I didn't even ask what she's thinking. I suspect we are the only family that has decorated their Christmas tree with such utilitarian kitchen items.

Mom and Dad lent us their wheat grinder for a while, and yesterday we discovered that Daniel had found the hole in the top (where you put the wheat) and stuck a lollipop in it. We had to get tweezers to extract it. We did make "homemade flour" though, and the kids really thought it was cool. They ate it plain. Uncooked. By the pinch.

I keep having nightmares that we are on the road full time traveling in one big van with the rest of moosebutter, wandering from the back stage of this theater to the back doors of that university like gypsies. When I wake up, I'm glad to be home, even if two kids managed to pee on my bed last night.

The kids are really funny lately. There are wrapped presents scattered all over the house, unhidden, and nobody has even mentioned them. They don't touch them. They don't shake them. They don't open the creases and peek. They don't even ask about them. Wow.

They did ask about getting the stockings out tonight. I didn't feel like going out in the garage, so Caleb went down to the drawer I keep full of stray socks that I let the kids use for art and craft projects (socks make GREAT teddy bear shirts). He came back up with five long white socks, none of them the same, and pulled out the stamp kit Julie bought him at the dollar store. Then all three kids sat happily at the table stamping red and green designs on each of the socks. Caleb found a permanent marker and wrote one person's name on each sock, and then Anda found push pins and we hung up the stockings. I suppose Mary will forgive us for not using the ones she made for us that we usually use. This year we have REAL socks for our stockings. The kids were so delighted with how they turned out that they dug up the fanciest socks they could find in the drawer and made more stockings -- and labeled them "Julie", "Mary", and "Ben." One for each of the single people, plus Julie for some reason.

They also informed me that if the baby is a girl, we could name it Julie, Mary, Beth, Chas, Lindsey OR Madeline, and if it's a boy, we could name it Ben, or Joe, or Jon, or Ryan or Jared or Daddeline. Then they went down and got stockings for Everyone in the extended family that they forgot. I guess you all have to come here for Christmas.....or maybe we'll mail your stockings to you.

So now it's 2:30 am and Anda and Baby Kitty are racing around the house killing invisible Pikmin monsters while Caleb decorates the additional stockings and Daniel salts the chairs (I don't know HOW he got the salt--I hope he didn't pour it into the wheat grinder). They started killing monsters after the batteries in all three smoke alarms went bad in one day--so occassionally we hear chirping in the house, always coming from a different room, like a wandering monster.

It's nice to be home.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Decorating for Christmas

We finally made the trek out to the garage and dug up the old Christmas tree, which is looking pretty ragged to me. Caleb declared it "Beautiful."

We put 3/4 of it up on a low table against a wall--that way it stays flush against the wall and takes less space. Nobody was going to look at the back anyway. Caleb said, "It's an evergreen." Anda added, "It's a dark green."

We pulled out our lights and found a box that we'd never opened. It had this warning on it: "Handling the wires on this string of lights exposes you to lead, a substance known to the state of California to cause birth defects. Wash hands after exposure." Who knew Christmas lights were deadly?

And then we decorated. I decided I'm not a good decorater of trees. At least, it didn't come out exactly how I envisioned it. For one thing, the silver balls kind of disappear in a green tree with white lights. And then the problem came because Dan decided to have a nap in the middle of the festivities--so I couldn't teach the kids how to decorate in a hands-on kind of way. I guess that's okay. The tree is for the kids, anyway. So now we have invisible silver balls all over, and ratty gold and silver ribbons that the kids literally tossed up onto the tree (the fun way to decorate, they say). There's a band of equally -spaced marshmallow snowmen the kids made with Mary a couple of years ago in a nice even line as high as Anda can reach, and another as high as Caleb can reach (I told them not to put the snowmen where Dan can reach and eat them). I moved a few of the decorations that were touching each other up to the completely naked top of the tree (with the kid's permission) after Dan woke up.

Finally awake, Daniel took one look at the tree and began happily ripping almost-invisible-except-to-him silver balls off the branches and started banging them together and throwing them joyfully around the room. I was instantly glad that I had replaced all the glass balls with plastic last year when I found them for 10 cents a box at the dollar store after Christmas. So now we have a tree that is naked around the bottom (or, at best, sparsely and unevenly decorated), heavily snowmanned around the middle, and sort of evenly decorated around the top. And it's only been up for about 15 minutes.

Caleb declared it "done" and "beautiful."

I guess he's right.

Friday, December 15, 2006

gone and back again

I haven't posted anything in ages because, well, because we were with most of you in person. So there.

It was a nice trip.

The van's suspension wasn't shot, like Wal-Mart said. It was the tires. So Taysom Tires got $257 to fix it, instead of them getting $100. So blah to Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, right after we got home, the plastic/rubber wheel well guard behind one of the rear tires completely fell off and got shredded on the road. So much for that.

Now we're done touring. Tim said so. Next time we come to Utah will probably be for Ben's farewell party. Probably. That's probably good because our van wouldn't last too long on that heavy travel schedule--we put 16,000 miles on the van since we bought it in May. That's a lot. Especially for a car that started with 139,000 miles in the first place.

Job search continues. Tim is looking at applying for a job in New York City as the production manager for a choir there. Also picking up as much contract work as he can in the mean time. We just have to get these last few shows with moosebutter out of the way so he has time for things like eating, sleeping, breathing, and signing applications.

The kids are happy to be home, but having a hard time adjusting to having a big house. Especially Daniel. Any time anyone walks out of the room, he panics--he can't figure out where in the house to look for us. He also hates the mess--he can't walk over it. I am trying to work on that part, but my back is hurting so I can't bend or sit on anything hard. If I do, I can't stand up straight or walk--literally. I stand there and can't move my feet forward or lift them over the junk if I manage to shuffle sideways. So reaching the floor is even harder than it already was. Still, I did the same thing this time as I did last time we were away from home for a while. I came in and immediately could see some things I could do to make the house run smoother--things that involve major moving of furniture. Tim will be able to help me with this next week, but I am impatient. I want to move the guest bed upstairs to give it to Daniel, and move his dresser/shelves thingy downstairs to become the linen closet. Then I want to rearrange the bedrooms so every kid has their own bed that they'll actually sleep in. Then I want to move all the adult books (not that kind of adult books....) and Tim's choral music collection into the library, which will entail moving lots of the shelves from other places in the house into the library to hold those things, which are scattered around house and garage right now, mostly not on shelves and getting ruined. Then I want to get rid of the hide-a-bed (it's so old it's uncomfortable to sit on), except the mattress, of course, and replace it with a couple of rocking chairs in the family room, and maybe one in the library along with the desk that's there so people can use the room comfortably. Lots of work, but it should make the house easier to keep tidy. I might also take the couch out of Tim's office (it usually just holds junk) and put it in the living room, and put the living room couch in the family room (since it's the prettiest couch we own).

By the time I get all of this figured out completely, we'll probably be moving and I'll have to start over.

Anyway, cute kid things:
Daniel found a cassette tape today. He's fairly mechanically inclined usually (he figured out how to use the CD player all by himself yesterday--now he can insert his cd of choice and play it, even setting the volume where he wants it), but he couldn't figure out what the cassette was for, even after I showed him how to put it into the tape player. He finally took it out and turned it round and round and apparently concluded it was a harmonica of some kind--he tried to play it by blowing into it for several minutes.

Writing update:
I got another rejection yesterday, so I sent another query. At some point, I hope someone looks at my stuff and says, "I know JUST who wants this." Someone who read a big chunk rejected it for fear it couldn't stand up to Jasper Fforde's stuff. Unfortunately, only the first book in the series compares to his. The rest take the same concept but apply it to other source material--but an agent couldn't know this from reading 50 pages of Poison Spindle. Oh well. Now that we have food in the house and I've figured out where to put the Christmas tree, I'm ready to start writing again--on both the Western and the first Maggie Book, which is 10,000 words long so far--1/10th done.

So Merry Christmas!, and I'll write more later.

Oh, and thanks to everyone who gave us gifts, especially for the kids. Thanks for the shoes for Anda, too. She LOVES them and the socks. And thanks to the mystery person who gave us Christmas for the kids, whoever it was. A relative, we're sure, but WHO? Everyone denies any involvement.....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

addendum to kids are funny

Today Anda revised her opinion of Teletubbies. Now they have bums--that have horns (there's no right way to say that in this context....beepers, honkers, tweeters, etc. all have "issues"--So think Car Horn--they go beep beep or aaoooga) and bells in them so that when the teletubbies bump into something, they know.

Caleb also said something funny today. "Nobody knows everything," I said confidently. "Except me," he said. "I have a lot of knowledge, just like Nobody."

Wow. Double--or is that triple--funny in one conversation.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Funny kid perceptions

I'm having to type one-handed a lot again. Not so bad until Caleb used my computer and now the S key is sticky and stiff...

The kids have a totally different view of the world than I did when I was five. When I was five, computer still meant "one who computes." Now computer stuff fills our minds and lives. For example, Caleb was supposed to be going potty so he could go to bed, but instead he was standing in front of the potty, dry, but not letting anyone else have a turn. And we were all waiting. Finally, I said, "Caleb, do you even need to go?" He replied, "Yeah. I just have to wait for the pee to load."

I understand that finally being fully potty trained, even at night, makes going potty an interesting thing in Anda's world, but I was pretty surprised when she announced, "Mom, the Teletubbies don't go potty." "What?" I said. Then, trying to teach a little science whenever I can, I said, "Anything that eats has to go potty." "No, Mom," Anda said. "Teletubbies eat, but they don't go potty. They don't have bums." "They don't?" I said. "Nope," Anda said. "I looked. I watched on TV, and they don't have bums." Caleb, too, informed me later that day that Teletubbies don't go potty. Maybe I should watch TV with them in the future so I can hear what they talk to each other about....

Next time you happen to see Teletubbies, you might take note. The kids are right--they DON'T have bums.

Dan is getting precocious. He climbed up on the table today. Yesterday he tried to run his own bath. Fortunately, he was out of the tub, he got the plug in crooked so no water accumulated in the tub, and he could only reach the cold faucet. His new hobby is taking all the cans out of the cupboard and putting them back in. When he can, he takes all the food out of the fridge and puts it back in. He also spends dinner putting the lids back on things like sald dressing bottles. And he can't stand to watch movies downstairs unless the ficus tree is standing up in its corner and the piano bench us in its place. How any child could get the idea that things should be in their "place" in my house is a baffling mystery. Things actually have a place?

Yesterday I was humming a tune, and Anda came to listen. Finally she said, "Sing it again." So I started over. Then she interrupted with, "No, Mom. Use your tongue." She wanted me to Sing, not Hum, I guess.

For our bedtime story a couple of nights ago, I told the kids the story of the premortal life, and the war in heaven, and Adam and Eve. They were enchanted. When I finished, they said, "Tell it again." They requested it the next night, too. It's received far more attention than any other story ever at our house. It's the only story Anda has ever sat all the way through. It was exciting and fascinating to her. Wow. Now she runs around telling stories where Heavenly Father and Jesus are the superheroes killing bad guys. And Caleb tells stories of how all his "sons" (trains) conquer Satan. I guess they "got it".

Anda and Dan have a neat little racket going. Anda won't use crayons unless she's taken the paper off first. Then Dan finds the stripped crayons and eats them. He won't eat the paper, so Anda's discarded crayons are just his thing.

Caleb has refused to eat oranges for two years. So the other day when I bought a box of clementines, he didn't want any. Then he saw that the side of the box said, "Mandarin Oranges." He likes the canned stuff, so now the little fresh ones are his snack of choice, and he'll eat a big one if he has to--as long as it doesn't have seeds. Labels seem to be everything in his world.

The kids have this new habit of trying to manipulate things with artificial cause-effect relationships. Like this: "Mom, I want to use your laptop to play a PBS kids game." "I'm working on my novel right now." "Mom. If I fall down here, and then pop up, you have to give me a turn right now." Or: "If I flap this flap on the couch, then it won't be bedtime any more." I wonder if it's a result of us counting to three to get the kids to do something. It really is a totally artificial thing, but the kids respond, even though the set punishment is "I'll carry you to your room" (not so terrible...).

Anda is suddenly into the "Why?" thing that Caleb never did. "Don't kick me." "Why?" "Because it hurts." "Why?" "Because bodies aren't made to be kicked." "Why?" Suddenly, in her mind, Mommy has a cartoon fit. Anda doesn't seem like she's trying to be malicious, but I can't figure out what she is doing. I try to answer, but some things either are circular after some point, or too complicated even for a bright three year old ("You see, there are nerves in my legs, and when you kick them.....").

Caleb has informed me that we won't be having as many kids as he thought (am I that mean when I'm pregnant?). That's good. Last I heard he was planning on having 12 brothers and 12 sisters--before you add the inlaws. Now he's saying we'll have three more kids, including the current tummy baby. What a relief! I wonder where he's getting these numbers? I told him more than four but less than elevan kids, and he concluded six all on his own.

Meanwhile, the kids have chosen names for the baby: Madeline if it's a girl and Daddeline if it's a boy. I suppose this came from an analogy like Madeline:Mom, so Daddeline:Dad. Funny, I was thinking more along the lines of Elizabth or Benjamin.

We shall see, I guess.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Research Help Request

I am doing research for my new book, which needs a title. It's set in the Old West of american folksong (think, "Clementine" or "Oh Susanna" or "Sweet Betsy from Pike.")

These are things that I want input from people on:

If you can think of a folk song or a list of folksongs, I'd like that.

What are different ways you could rob a bank in about 1870? Kate is trying to get something from the safe, so she can't just get money out--she needs to actually look into the safe. Brainstorm any and all ideas. Creative is good.

What are different ways you can break someone out of jail, also around 1870? The person on the inside is a man, good with a gun, but injured in a gunfight (probably shot in the shoulder because I'm actually aiming to use cliched conventions for stuff like that in the story). They have horses available after they break out, but how are they going to get him out of the jail? Again, any and all ideas work. Creative is good. It's just mostly to get me thinking.

Finally, what is some place you could look through the door into and immediately identify as familiar? I want it to be some place unexpected--not "Mom's house in the kitchen" but more like "the bathroom in the high school". Except I think she probably wouldn't recognize this out of the blue. The situation, for background, is Kate is standing in the old west looking through the door, and needs to recognize the place even though her surroundings are completely out of sync with what's on the other side of the door.

So there you go. I hope I haven't given away too much of the plot by asking for help. I ask because your ideas on waking a sleeping beauty using science helped me organize The Poison Spindle Problem so well.

Email me your ideas, or post them as comments on the blog and they'll come to my email automatically.

Thanks for your help!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Bookstore Series

Out of nowhere, when I was trying to do research for the next book in the Bookstore series. I got the idea that catapulted me into the outline of the fourth book, which is the direct sequel of the first! So now I have 4 book for that series, but only one written.

Here's what I'm thinking will happen:

Book 1: The poison spindle problem--Kate gets kidnapped into a world peopled by fairytale characters where the witches have taken over the kingdom and are planning to execute the handsome princes unless she can find the missing heir to the throne in time....This one is finished.

Book 2: Needs a title--Kate goes to a world peopled by the characters from American folksongs and western lore. She chases down a ring of criminals that are selling women into slavery, helps solve a murder mystery, finds a lost mine, and stops the US Cavalry from wiping out a tribe of Native Americans.

Book 3: Porphyra--Kate finds herself in the Victorian England of the horror lore. Vampires are after the heros of Bram Stoker's Dracula again, and Kate helps them track down the source of the vampirism and destroy it, killing all vampires at once--except the one that escaped to Provo, UT. She finally meets Uncle Stan and helps him in his own adventure--saving a kidnapped Egyptian Princess from the men who want her prematurely mummified so they can take over the kingdom.

Book 4: The Icicle Dagger--Goldie and Jerusha (from book 1) set out to get revenge for their humiliation at the end of Book 1. They collect the "bad guys" from Oz, Neverland, and Wonderland, kidnap both Dorothy Gale and Elizabeth, Kate's sister-in-law who is 9 months pregnant, and set a trap to catch Kate and get rid of her permanently.

I have some ideas for other books in the series, too, with Kate playing sidekick to superheroes, going to outer space on a mission to save the galaxy, finding herself in the amateur detective role to find out who is murdering the Easter Bunnies (at a convention of all holiday-related folktale characters), wandering a world peopled by Shakespeare's characters but controlled by the conventions of musical theatre and light opera (especially Gilbert and Sullivan), wandering a more traditional fairy fantasy in which malevolent fairies are kidnapping human girls to act as slaves, and lost as the female romantic lead in a gothic romance inspired by a story from Wilson Family History that Grandma Wilson told me. I also want Kate to be in a pirate story, but I don't even have a brief plot for that, only the name of the other main character, and a picture book in which each page is written and illustrated in the style of a different famous author or author/illustrator combo. I need a plot for that, too. And, I guess, I'm digging for a plot for the Shakespeare--I can't decide if I should steal a plot from one of the plays, or one of his rival's plays, or make a conglomerate plot, or just come up with my own.

Anyway, to put this all briefly, I am having a lot of fun. But I think I have a whole career's worth of writing here--and this doesn't even cover the young adult series I have three books outlined for (and one chapter written), or the Maggie the ex-spy Mormon Housewife series that I've started the first book in the series and outlined at least 4 more for. I don't seem to lack for ideas.

Now if I could just get an agent. Or a publisher. Or maybe not. This way it's all just for fun. Maybe I'll let my kids publish it all after I'm long gone--as a sort of inheritance for them.

Anyway, what' I've discovered is that when things are rough in one area, there is often some delight sitting right there to distract me, or lighten things, or give me joy despite the stresses of life.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My View of the New Yorker

A friend gave me an old copy of the New Yorker a few months ago, and I didn't really look at it until now. I knew it was the entertainment magazine of choice for intellectuals, so when I found the magazine in the pile of toys on the floor the other day I rescued it and started poking around. Just for background, my favorite "entertainment" magazines are Smithsonian and National Geographic. That gives you an idea of the kind of writing I prefer--lightweight, full of facts and informative, not dry. I also like a magazine to cover a broad variety of topics, and not play with my emotions at all. Especially when I'm pregnant.

I was sorely disappointed with the New Yorker. It is the intellectual equivalent to Especially for Mormons, or Reader's Digest. The New Yorker is full of intellectual smaltz. Of course, if any of my intellectual friends read this, they'll disagree. But there is a culture of intellectualism (perhaps I should capitalize it: Intellectuals), and the New Yorker feeds the sensibilities of that culture, with articles intended to manipulate the emotion just as much as the "my three kids died in a car accident but everything will be okay because I _felt_ something" or that stupid kid on the train tracks movie that Mormons get fed. Just instead of being fed warm fuzzy Heavenly Father Loves me stuff, the NYer is full of warm fuzzy liberal we are above traditional morality but part of a higher morality stuff.

And, for all of its acclaim, the writing was poor at best. It was wordy, rambling, "artsy" stuff--like "literary fiction" that I find so gaggy. It took each author at least a thousand more words to say what they wanted to say than they needed, and, in the end, I could restate most of it in one sentence--and a short sentence at that. Without leaving anything out.

And I was disappointed that, just like the pulp fiction they so disdain and the pop movies they disregard, the Intellectuals filled their magazine with sex and violence, just couched in many many words, or done openly (cartoons of naked women) with the attitude, "If you're offended, you are provincial, and Everybody Knows that provincial is Not As Good As I Am" because everybody who is anybody in the Intellectual world knows that people have sex, and so we should not ever need to be discreet about it, right? Of course, the Intellectuals would never admit that sex and violence are still tantalizing--even to them--so they verbalize it differently. But it's all the same stuff, just wrapped in different paper.

I finally threw it away.

Just for balance, I'll mention that I also hate The Reader's Digest. We got it for a year, and I read it cover to cover every month and felt like I'd wasted several hours each time (at least it was readable--the New Yorker is so poorly written that it's unreadable). It is the semi-educated housewife's equivalent to the New Yorker. Different audience, same goal and same result: we want to "entertain" by tickling your fancy and manipulating your emotions. Both magazines even use the same formula, with a combination of "news" (mostly science, health, and political news that is full of spin, several months outdated, and not truly informative or accurate), emotion-manipulating "real life" stories, and humor. Both magazines are a waste of time.

Most magazines are a waste of time.

Maybe I'll go bury my head in that article on the history of wigs that's in the old Smithsonian magazine I got in the free pile at the library.....

Saturday, November 04, 2006

update on the magic marker on the wall

I got it off. One of my friends suggested alcohol on cotton balls. I didn't have cotton balls (the kids played with them until they got lost), so I used a wash cloth.

I got the magic marker off.

The paint on the wall came off with it.

I don't know if this was a good solution or not, since I doubt I'll get around to repainting that spot any time soon, despite my best intentions.

Oh, well. Next time I'll try toothpaste on a toothbrush.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Creativity in Kids

Right now, all three kids are sitting in the kitchen playing (I'm not making this up) spin the frozen turkey. Whoever it points to gets to spin it the next time. They're laughing and enjoying themselves, and I think they're taking turns riding it occassionally. And they're singing, "The turkey in the straw" and "The turkey in the well." Now they're pushing and carrying it. Hopefully the thing survives to become our meal. I suppose the evening's activity is "What can you do with a frozen turkey"-- 3 and 5 year old style.

It's a very hands-on version of the old game I used to play with my school class: 101 uses for Alligators. It was a game suggested by the artist James Christiansen to awaken creativity in your students. And it always did. You try it--try to come up with 101 uses for alligators. At first, you get things like shoes, luggage, purses. Then you get to things like "guard dog". Eventually kids come up with stuff like "swimsuit model" and "ferry." And other equally creative things. This game is too abstract for small children. But hand them a new object (Anda is now sitting on her "turkey burkey" the way a duck sits on its eggs) and give them full reign to explore, and they do. A friend once told me that the best toy for a three year old is an electric typewriter. My kids played for hours with theirs. I guess any new thing works though. Like a frozen turkey.

I was at a party with some friends on Halloween and we were talking about our yards. A few of us have partially or completely unfinished yards--full of dirt. And I was the only one who let my kids go out and play in the unfinished yard. The rest couldn't stand the mess that came inside. I said, "That's why my house looks like it does." And then I realized that I was right. It's not just that I'm disabled by fibromyalgia. It's not just that I can think of a hundred things I'd rather do than clean up. It's also that I hate to stop the kids from learning stuff. So I don't. And so my house looks like it does. And my kids are like they are. It's a package deal.

What I didn't tell my friends was that not only do I allow my kids to play in the dirt, I taught them how to turn the hose on and make mud so they could play in that, too. I'm also the one that taught them how to cut magazines into bitty bits, and blow bubbles in their milk, and paint with watercolors, all manner of other messy but fascinating activities. And I buy them "kits"--like train tracks, or cooking sets, even though lots of my friends avoid those kinds of toys because the pieces get spread everywhere. They do. But a cooking set can give a kid hours and hours of creative, educational fun. Why would I give up on that? Besides, they entertain themselves with creative toys, so I get time to read or write....

I'm not saying my friends are wrong to avoid the messes. We all do what we have to in order to survive with the kids we got. Their kids will all grow up with a strong sense of social propriety, and with the ability to fit into sequential systems, and will be less likely to challenge "the way it is" and authority. My kids will struggle with those things.

What's been interesting me is the idea that Heavenly Father knew I would parent like this, and so I suspect he sent me kids that need this kind of upbringing. It's the kind I got. Mom once said she wondered how she got all these creative kids, when she "doesn't have a creative bone in her body." (I would take issue with that, by the way. Problem solving is, by nature, a creative activity, and Mom is a great problem solver.) I think it's in the upbringing. If kids are allowed to be creative, and to try new things, and to play spin the turkey, and to pursue their interests relatively unfettered, why wouldn't the creative sides of their brains be developed?

Messes may be impractical and socially anathema, but they are so good for creativity. I once told Tim that the kids see a clean floor as a blank canvas, begging for a project. That's why the floor doesn't stay clean for long.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Pot of Gold At the End of the Rainbow

Daniel asked me to blow his bath water because it was hot. It was cute.

Caleb told me the other day that "There isn't Really a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It's just a story."

That got me thinking. Rainbows are a gift from Heavenly Father. They are both a sign of His promises to us, and a blessing in and of themselves. It is a shame that we have attached a pot of gold, the ultimate in worldly rewards for many people, to the end of that. It's like we're saying that the end result of God's promise is monetary reward.

Unfortunately, I see that kind of thinking in the church (myself included) all the time. We think that, one way or another, the blessings from obeying this or that commandment should come in a worldly form. Conversely, I often get the impression that people think that if you are poor, you must be sinning somehow, because God blesses the righteous with money. A prime example, of course, is with Tithing. We all quote the "windows of heaven" scripture, saying that God will pour out blessings on us if we pay our tithing "that we'll not have room to receive." So we expect that if we continue to pay our tithing, we'll never go bankrupt or be without food, or whatever.

Of course, we all know that's not true. In fact, we are still poor, despite paying our tithing, but we have blessings that there is not room to receive them. For example, both Tim and I right now are completely overloaded with GOOD creative ideas--him for songs, me for novels--that we don't have time in the year to develop and pursue each one. Even in worldly things we've been blessed. When we pray for some object we think we need, more often than not, we're blessed with many of them. Like when Tim's bike got stolen, we prayed for a new bike and within a month he had four bikes, all good, that cost a total of $25--most of them were free. And just this last week, I prayed that we'd be able to get a color laser printer so Tim could produce the press materials he needs without the extreme cost. We didn't get a sudden extra $500 to buy a new one. Instead, unexpectedly on craigslist, someone posted a Color Laserjet 5 that worked for FREE--just come pick it up. When I got there 24 hours later (usually too late for to catch the deal) not only was it still there, but a newer Color Laserjet 4550 that is compatible with Tim's computer was also there, also free. We prayed for what we needed, and we got two--free.

And a laser printer is a "stuff" kind of thing, even. But it's not a pot of gold. Instead, it's the object we needed, which we might have spent the money on. Or we might not have. It's like giving a homeless drunk man a sandwich instead of $10 that he might or might not spend on the food he actually needs.

It's just a shame that we equate keeping covenants with getting worldly reward (fame, wealth, etc), especially when those things often aren't in our best eternal interest. Satan is clever. If we can become convinced that money is the reward for righteousness, then when we don't get the expected reward, we may be vulnerable enough to blame God for not keeping his promises instead of blaming ourselves for trying to control Heavenly Father by mandating the result of obedience. It's like all those stories we hear about people who were in car accidents or house fires but were wearing their garments and so were unhurt. That's wonderful that they were blessed that way--but hundreds of people are keeping the commandments and get hurt, or bankrupt, or "fail" in their eyes. Or are thrown into a flaming pit with all the scriptures in the city--or worse, have to watch their wives and children being thrown into the pit and not being allowed to stop it. And that doesn't mean that Heavenly Father failed to keep his promises.

Instead of spending our time predetermining the rewards we "will get" for our obedience, it seems like it would be smarter to enjoy the rainbow, trust the promises that it is supposed to remind us of, and stop searching for the pot of gold that probably would poison our souls anyway.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Home with the Kids

It's not the rejections that get me nearly as much as the "rules" I can't seem to follow but feel like I should. So today I felt vindicated. The first page of The Poison Spindle Problem breaks all the rules of TWO top agents, and I tried and tried to fix it but couldn't. So I left it as is and was ashamed, but comforted myself on the fact that the first five pages are what most agents take with the query, and those are okay. Today I got a response from an agent I had queried--she wants to see a "partial" (part of the manuscript to see if she wants to read the whole thing). And this request came based on (drum roll) the query, synopsis, and first page. She said it sounds "charming." So the kids and I gathered all the spare change we could find and made a trip to the post office to mail the three query packets I had set aside, plus the partial. It cost almost ten dollars, most of which will result in letters saying, "No thanks." Turns out writing is a cheapish hobby (cost of paper and ink if you decide to print it), but trying to get published is not so cheap.

We stayed up literally all night last night helping Tim pack and keeping him awake so that he would be ready to leave at 6:30. I told him I couldn't drive him to Denver at 9:30 am--I'd have to get up at 8:30, get the kids out in the car, and survive 2 hours of driving, half of which I would feel incredibly sick and the other half I'd have to try desperately to stay awake driving on Denver's messy freeways towing the trailer, which I would then have to get the neighbor to come unhitch from the van because I'm not strong enough. Then I would spend the next three days trying to recover from being that sick. So Tim and the guys took the shuttle. But we did have to drop them off there, across town. We watched a beautiful sunrise--better than any sunset I've ever seen--on the way home, and then the kids burst into tears because they didn't get to sleep and it was already tomorrow. I told them it was still night in our house, and everyone went to bed and right to sleep. We slept until 5:00 pm. This was weird, because it then got dark again at 6:00. I hate "vampire" days.

Anyway, "today" we had a nice time depositing checks in the night deposits for moosebutter and for us, and having an adventure at the post office with all our spare change. It would have been more fun if the two big kids didn't suddenly "have to go potty right now!" They eventually peed in the parking lot--one on my hand and one on my foot. And on a stuffed animal. Don't ask how we managed all that. It was one of my least favorite trips to the post office.

So I was finishing the last few copy edits in my novel (just in case anyone actually wants to read the whole thing), and I heard one of those sounds that makes moms alternately turn white with fear and red with anger: someone coloring on the wall. It turned out to be of those "couldn't be worse" times. Daniel was scribbling all over the wall with a black permanent marker. The big kids, trying to be helpful, managed to cover the marker with toothpaste (this does often help). We let it sit for half an hour (it has to sit in order to work), and only then did I notice that they also managed to coat Tim's rocking chair with the stuff--and it dried while we were waiting for it to suck up the ink on the wall. This was not pleasing to me. Then, to add to the stress, they used a kind of toothpaste (at my instruction) that has a smell that makes me feel sick. That's why I didn't want to use it to brush my teeth. It also made me not want to scrub the wall with it. And then, when I did scrub, it didn't work. So while I wasn't looking, Anda covered the wall with toothpaste AGAIN! So now I have to start over.....

Maybe not. Maybe I'll just go to bed and pretend the toothpaste will disappear over night. And that the lost library video will appear magically. And that the living room will clean itself. And that Tim really didn't fly to Boston for five days.

A couple of days ago we went to WalMart to look at toys while Tim recorded some parts for his new Christmas album (You're gonna love "In the Corner all Alone"--musical AND literary). Daniel looked at all the toys and finally pulled out a box of crayons. He crawled over and put it in my hands. "Oh, Dan," I said, "we aren't going to buy this." He smiled, pointed at the box, and then started spitting like he was spitting out yucky stuff. Then he pointed at the crayons again. Guess what Dan usually does with crayons? He eats them, and then spits out the bits when I catch him. It was like he was saying, "Don't worry, Mom, I'll spit them out again!" Very cute. A non-verbal one year old trying to negotiate for what he wants.

I've had to learn a new langauge lately as the big kids make up lots of words with few or no consonants and assign meanings to them. They're speaking "baby". And they remember the words, sometimes. So I walked into the bathroom and found Anda playing on the potty (lid closed). "I need to go potty, Anda. Can I go in here, or should I go to my room?" "Beeday-it," she said. "What?" I said. "That means go to your bathroom in baby," she said. "Oh," I said. This is a fairly typical occurence around here lately. "What cereal do you want?" "Uuuooo." "What?" "That's the word for rice krispies in baby." "Oh." Or "Ohohboo." "Is that rice krispies?" "No. That's Uuuuooo. Ohohboo is fruit loops." "Oh."

The irony is not lost on me that Daniel is spending all his time trying to become like the big kids, and they are spending all their time trying to be like he was three or four months ago. Except they insist on standing on their chairs while we eat dinner because they're babies. I don't know where that one came from.

Dinner has been exciting in other ways, too. Caleb insists on making a menu for each meal, which can be annoying when we are about to say the blessing and he won't let anyone eat until he's drawn a menu (pictures, not words, which would be a lot faster). This was tolerable, though, as long as the menus were descriptive of what I was making anyway. At our last meal I looked at the menu as we sat down, and Caleb had added "Gogurts" to the menu, which everyone ordered with glee as soon as Caleb announced they were there. He also refused to put fruit cocktail on the menu because he hates it, and then he said that nobody could eat any because it wasn't on the menu. That was irritating. Daniel saved us, though, by spontaneously learning right at that moment how to say "Peaches!" Renamed, the food was suddenly acceptable, and everyone but Caleb was allowed to eat it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Writing and Why Editors Reject It

Somehow I always swing to extremes when contemplating my own writing. I suspect it has more to do with how much I've eaten and slept than the actual value of the writing, but today (Sunday: not enough sleep, and thus too sick to eat enough) I looked at my manuscript again (which yesterday I declared, once again, "Finished!" for maybe the fifth or sixth time) and said, "Oh no! It's boring, abrupt, longwinded, and doesn't compare favorably with what's out there. Not to mention it's only down to 166,900 words, and many publishers cap their books at 150,000."

So instead of fixing typos Mom and Dad found (and some serious logic and motivation problems which, when I saw their notes, I had to laugh at myself over), I was surfing the "agents who tell us why they reject things" pages online (mostly blogs like Miss Snark and The Rejecter, both famous and excellent resources for writers), and I found a link to a posting from some other blog in 2004 from an editor that spelled out why most authors are rejected. I post the text below, since it was enlightening and made me laugh out loud.

It also gave me hope that perhaps it's not the manuscript that's poor. Perhaps it's my blood sugar levels.

"Manuscripts are unwieldy, but the real reason for that time ratio is that most of them are a fast reject. Herewith, the rough breakdown of manuscript characteristics, from most to least obvious rejections:
1. Author is functionally illiterate.
2. Author has submitted some variety of literature we don’t publish: poetry, religious revelation, political rant, illustrated fanfic, etc.
3. Author has a serious neurochemical disorder, puts all important words into capital letters, and would type out to the margins if MSWord would let him.
4. Author is on bad terms with the Muse of Language. Parts of speech are not what they should be. Confusion-of-motion problems inadvertently generate hideous images. Words are supplanted by their similar-sounding cousins: towed the line, deep-seeded, dire straights, nearly penultimate, incentiary, reeking havoc, hare’s breath escape, plaintiff melody, viscous/vicious, causal/casual, clamoured to her feet, a shutter went through her body, his body went ridged, empirical storm troopers, ex-patriot Englishmen, et cetera.
5. Author can write basic sentences, but not string them together in any way that adds up to paragraphs.
6. Author has a moderate neurochemical disorder and can’t tell when he or she has changed the subject. This greatly facilitates composition, but is hard on comprehension.
7. Author can write passable paragraphs, and has a sufficiently functional plot that readers would notice if you shuffled the chapters into a different order. However, the story and the manner of its telling are alike hackneyed, dull, and pointless.
(At this point, you have eliminated 60-75% of your submissions. Almost all the reading-and-thinking time will be spent on the remaining fraction.)
8. It’s nice that the author is working on his/her problems, but the process would be better served by seeing a shrink than by writing novels.
9. Nobody but the author is ever going to care about this dull, flaccid, underperforming book.
10. The book has an engaging plot. Trouble is, it’s not the author’s, and everybody’s already seen that movie/read that book/collected that comic.
(You have now eliminated 95-99% of the submissions.)
11. Someone could publish this book, but we don’t see why it should be us.
12. Author is talented, but has written the wrong book.
13. It’s a good book, but the house isn’t going to get behind it, so if you buy it, it’ll just get lost in the shuffle.
14. Buy this book.
Aspiring writers are forever asking what the odds are that they’ll wind up in category #14. That’s the wrong question. If you’ve written a book that surprises, amuses, and delights the readers, and gives them a strong incentive to read all the pages in order, your chances are very good indeed. If not, your chances are poor."
From (most of the rest of the stuff is details about why authors are just too sensitive and think way too much about each rejection they receive.)

So I looked back at my rejections. I thought I had been rejected a lot and that's why I rewrote the book again, cutting those 44,000 words. I had 4 rejections. Now I have 5. I hear that you have to get between 25 and 100 to get an agent, but if you get 12-25 form rejections with no requests for sample chapters, it's time to reevaluate and rewrite. So I'm way jumping the gun on thinking it's terrible.

Probably I should have a snack and go to bed--I'll look at it again in the morning and think I'm a genius and have written the best escapist entertainment in the world and its only a matter of time before it's published, right?

More Recipes

I have finally tweaked and fiddled enough with some of our favorite recipes that they are now both easy and kid-friendly. So I share my modified recipes with you:

Beef Enchiladas:

Mix 1 can red enchilada sauce with 1 can tomato sauce and 1/2 c water. Brown 1 lb hamburger. Sir in 3/4 c sauce and 1 c grated cheese. Put some in each of 10-12 flour tortillas with a sprinkling of more cheese. Roll and place seam-side down in a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Pour remaining sauce over top and sprinkle with more cheese. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
I suppose you could make them layered, like a casserole, but we like them rolled, served half at a time, sometimes on a bed of lettuce. You could add any number of enchilada-friendly things to the filling (olives, onions, tomatoes, diced green chilies, etc.), but you don't need to.

Cajun Chicken

Slice 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts into thin slices. Stir-fry in 2-4 tbsp margarine until no longer pink. Stir in 3-4 tbsp flour and 1-2 tsp cajun or creole spice (you can usually get it at the dollar store). Slowly add 1 c milk and heat, stirring, until thickened. Serve over "confetti rice" (make rice and stir in 1-2 c peas and 1-2 tbsp pimentos if you have them).


In a bowl, mix 1 egg, 1/2 c milk, 1 tsp salt, dash of pepper, 1/4 c barbecue sauce, and 2 slices worth (about 1 c) of bread crumbs (blend in blender to make crumbs). Squish in 1 lb hamburger. Form into a loaf shape in a 9x13 pan and baste with 1/4 c more barbecue sauce. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

My family loves this so much I have to triple the recipe for one meal. And yes, the barbecue sauce is even better than worcestershire sauce.

Great Kids' Educational TV

My kids are fascinated with a new discovery we've had on YouTube--Pitagora Suicchi, a Japanese Educational Math/Science show. It's all in Japanese. Some of it is subtitled, and some is not. You can access it from this website: There are several links at the bottom of the page, and you can also follow the links in to find more episodes. Both kids are absolutely fascinated with the whole thing, but especially the "incredible machines." And they might learn some Japanese in the process!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Genre

It's important for an author to find their genre. Not from a writing standpoint, but from a publishing standpoint. If a publisher can't market a book, they won't publish it. It's a business thing. So authors are encouraged to find their genre.

The trouble is there are hundreds of genres and subgenres. Miss Snark, the leading Agent-blogger, says that 25% of the authors who query her (ask her to read their stuff) don't know their genre at all and label it wrong. 25% more get the general genre but not the subgenre. So half of us don't know what we're doing. lists genres with this (paraphrased) introduction: It's an easy question to answer for some people. Like "Where are you from?" If you've always lived in Ohio, that's not a problem. But if you were born in Indiana, grew up in California, live in Wisconsin, and work in Illinois, it's harder to answer.

So I got on AgentQuery again to read their description of genres, and then I furthered my research to include Wikipedia, my favorite online resource, and discovered I do write in a specific single genre. One that started the fantasy genre in 1858 with George MacDonald. They call it "Fairytale Fantasy." And, surprisingly, even my other planned works in the Bookstore Series fit the mold. The next book, as yet untitled, is set in the American West. But it is also set in the world of the American folksong and folklore, just like Poison Spindle is set in the world of Grimm and Andersen folksong and folklore. But the actual story, and the way the characters interact and the conventions of the tale are the same, despite the fact that they are set in the American West (which is, I might mention, the Enchanted Wood of American lore--I might cite "In a cavern in a canyon, excavating for a mine" or "Pecos Bill" or even "Johnny Appleseed.").

So I'm delighted. Now I can find an agent. Further, the genre itself took care of my audience problem. The genre is generally written for this certain unnamed unidentifiable audience of fairytale lovers--written for adults, marketed to Young Adults, but not strictly. LIke the works of Robin McKinley--read most widely by intelligent high school girls, so marketed both to YA and Adult audiences, often in different covers. Or Patricia Wrede--read most widely by smart 9-12th graders and beginning college students (she wrote "Dealing with Dragons," which Beth loved). Also marketed to YA, but not in the "high school drama/relationship drama" way. More in the way that Tolkien is often marketed to YA. But, because the readers are intelligent, the books aren't written with that "high school" or "junior high" feel--they just tell great stories.

Unfortunately, no agents list themselves as covering "Fairytale Fantasy" because its a subgenre. But many of the agents on my lists do both fantasy and YA, so I have a place to start. With a real name for my genre, even if I just go with Fantasy, I have a direction to look.

I also finished the most recent edit of my novel. I ended up cutting out 44,500 words---that's 133 pages. And I think it's better. Most of the cuts were like this: "She lay down on the floor and peeked under the door" became "She peeked under the door." Over and over and over.

Hopefully I didn't ruin it. NOw I have to reread to get out the "edited here" errors--like "he said" twice in one sentence where I edited dialogue. And then....we look for Fantasy agents.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Kids say funny things

From Caleb, teaching Anda to read: "TH is called 'eth'; SH is called 'esh'; CH is called 'etch'."

From Anda, out of nowhere: "A bowling ball is too big to swallow. It's also too big to put in your mouth."

From Caleb, on seeing the first snow of the year: "Oh Joy! Happiness at last!"

From Caleb: "I speak six languages: a little Chinese, a little Russian, a little French, a little Spanish, all of English, and all of baby."

Really Funny Stuff

I've collected (and written) some of these funnies. Time to share:

On a Subway in Provo: "Today is the first day of your life."

On a craigslist "free" posting: "Free Afghan from Afghanistan--with 2 pillow cases!"

On a poster at church: "We specialize in abuse by trained professionals."

On the One Step Home Pregnancy Test: "Step 1....Step 2.....Step 3....Step 4.... Step 5....."

From a file on my computer called "Stupdi Lines Written by Accident", all by me:

"You and your team start interviewing people who are alive. "

"Nobody's sure where Ebola comes from, but it always comes from Africa."

"You need to find everyone who has the disease and take them to the hospital or it will keep spreading." (the hospital is malignant?)

And lines cut from The Poison Spindle Problem:

"She sat with her back in the corner where the two walls met and looked around."

"Pulled the chain from her neck, breaking it."

"The only thing they disturbed were the flies on the compost heaps, which rose in annoyed, buzzing clouds."

"Kate wasn’t a decorator. Not even a chair."

"Pipes appeared wearing a long white nightshirt holding a candle."

"He shuffled across the room and picked it up, turning it over and over."

"When Kate had stepped out of the bath dressed in the gown, pantaloons, and petticoat...."

Thus we see clearly why I keep rewriting. My pronouns and modifiers tend to dangle, become vague, or otherwise mangle the sentences. My favorite is the one about the flying dungheaps, which made it through three versions by me and three other readers before I caught it.

Hope you had a jolly laugh. Now, back to work.

Happy Birthday to Me

Tim surprised me for my birthday by inviting my friends over from the ward. He even cleaned the house. It was really fun. Some even brought us chocolates!

Daniel surprised me for my birthday by taking his first steps. That was cool.

I got to talk to family. That was fun.

And now I'm 30. Wow. Finally I'm a grownup.

Finally I'm old enough in Boulder to start thinking about starting a family. Oh, wait....I'm on number 4 already. I'm not old enough for that, out here, but nobody ever is. So--Hooray!

It was a nice birthday.

And I got a new alarm clock and a new nightgown. Am I obsessing about sleep or something?

And the kids let me make a round birthday cake, one layer. That's wonderful.

Happy birthday, me!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Scary Moments and a Reset

I had a doctor's appointment today and--horror!--they couldn't find the baby's heartbeat. I was in a mild panic, and they took me across the hall and did an ultrasound. Nobody else panic. The baby is fine. Cute, in fact. He's?SHe's just wiggly wiggly wiggly. While I was watching the small person jumped and rolled over at least five times. THe ultrasound only lasted one minute. So we have a wiggly person with arms, legs, a nose, eyes, mouth, head with a visible brain. What a relief.

Also, I found a great new blog for "newbie" writers: Six romance writers give their advice on writing, and all of them said their pet peeves include the "rules" for how to write a novel. I had come to this conclusion myself: the rules only work for the person who wrote them. So I threw them all out. But the bloggers (all professional writers) also said don't use too much description, which was one of the rules. So what do I do?

My general conclusion has been that writing is like teaching. If you don't trust your readers/students, they won't get into what you're trying to say. But if you trust them, and talk to them as people, you all have a wonderful journey together. Beyond that rule: trust and respect the people you are teaching/telling a story to, there seem to be no hard and fast rules.

My other general conclusion is that I am so blessed that (1) I have to sit down a lot because of fibro and (2) I can jump my thoughts around all over the place and follow many distractions while writing cohesively ( perhaps because of ADD?). Because of this, I have been able to be a mom and write, which is consistently something writing moms complain about. Apparently most writers need a clean house and 2+ hours uninterrupted to write. I can't keep the house clean anyway, so I gave up on that a long time ago, and I don't have to be uninterrupted to write. So I can write as a Mom, while most writers have to wait until their children are at least all in school. So maybe these physical handicaps are a blessing. Or maybe writing is the blessing, given to help me not only survive, but create wonderful things out of my weaknesses. Don't they say with faith weaknesses become strenghts? I think maybe I understand a little bit what that means now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cute Baby Tricks

I logged on to blogger last night and noticed that, at 2:00 am, you get lots of foreign blogs being updated. Lots in Portuguese. A few in Finnish. Maybe I should move to Europe--our schedule would be right on there.

Daniel is at that "Does Something Cute Every Day" Stage. I was counting at him (I don't know why, but it wasn't a "I'm gonna count to three and then...." kind of count), and I said, "One," and he piped up with "Two!" I said, "Three, four five!" and he said, "Six!" Surprised me.

He also now says, "Woof" and "Meow", and he thinks that "Mama" means "Kisses."

He also just developed stranger anxiety, so we missed the "get him used to a babysitter" window. Shoot!

Tim is downstairs recording new songs (big surprise, right?). He wrote this gorgeous Christmas Pop song, like something a boyband would sing in perfect harmony and all the teenage girls would cry along with. Sounds like it should be on the radio. And he does this off the top of his head, without any agony, and then doesn't take it seriously because it's so easy. Naturally, this one is going to be a comedy bit. That's what he does. But it just amazed me that he can write classical AND pop AND jazz AND comedy, and it's all so easy that he doesn't even try to sell it or anything because, you know, it's like breathing. You don't sell that. Go figure.

I rewrote the beginning of my novel over and over following all the instructions from well-respected people online. And then I thought it was done, and gave it to Tim, and looked at it again, and it was Total Crap. So I went back to square one and said, "Time to delete and start over--just the first chapter"--and I came up with this great first line for a novel: "Kate hated to read." Then I remembered that That was the first line before I started messing with it. Oh. So I went back to the way it was before, and, lo and behold, I LIKED it. It wasn't any of what I had imagined it was. I would say the editing was a waste of time, but it actually got me into one more rewrite where I found several more rather big inconsistencies in the characters' behaviors (like why does Robin Hood explain Everything to Kate? Head Spy in Serious Trouble wouldn't give all his secrets away to a stranger. Duh. And its not necessary for the story). So, with those fixed, I managed to cut 28,000 words (yikes! that's a lot of dead wood) from just the first half of the book. I thought I might cut 20,000 more from the last half, but the last half is already really good. It was just the beginning that wasn't. Hopefully now it is because I found several more agents I'm interested in working with.

Just now I have to determine once and for all who my audience is. It doesn't feel like a Young Adult novel (think "Over Sea Under Stone" or "Ella Enchanted" for YA). But it's not chick lit (no sex or corporate stresses). So I need to figure out what to call the "16-26 year old smart female" audience--a book for the same age/gender as chick lit, but for people who want escapist fiction, not relationship fiction. What is THAT audience called?

We aren't wandering--yet

A few days ago I heard Anda say in the bedroom, "Uh, Oh! Dan's doing something really bad!" Then it sounded like rain. Naturally, I ran in. Daniel was cheerfully dumping an entire box of Rice Krispies (the new box, of course) onto the bed and floor. He was MAD when I took it away. Then it took me twenty minutes to find the vacuum, which was holding all the shirts I hadn't felt like hanging on hangers. We did eventually get everything cleaned up. I actually had to use the vacuum twice in one day (I imagine it felt overworked, since it usually holds shirts), and we got the shredded styrofoam off the floor in the family room.

The next day, a sociology PhD student came by to interview Tim about home recording and see his studio. I imagine it was the only studio setup in his research that was constructed from turning a bunkbed on end and strapping the mattresses to the outside with bungee cords.

Later, I once again heard a commotion down the hall. This time, it was cheering. So I again went to find out what was going on. I found Anda and Caleb cheering for Daniel, who was standing up and sitting down over and over again in the middle of the hall--without help, and without pulling up on the walls or anything. "Hooray!" Caleb said. "Daniel's a toddler now!" Dan thought it was great.

Nice to see that all three kids like to play together, even if they sometimes dump the cereal in the bedroom.

Today, the kids informed me that they are planning a surprise party for my birthday. "What is your favorite thing?" they asked, wanting to know what shape I should make my suprise birthday cake in to surprise me with. I told them I would really really really like a round cake. Just plain round. Maybe with a smiley face on it. Not shaped like a kitty, or like Caleb and Anda together. Funny kids. They have a grasp on "Let's do something for mom," but not on "So we'll ask DAD for help."

When they asked what I wanted for my birthday, I almost said word for word what Mom always said, "I want everyone to be good." I understand now what she meant. When I was a kid, I thought she just was trying to save money. I don't think I ever really tried to be good. Now I wish I had. The other thing I want is for everyone to sleep through the night. Not for Tim to wake up with the kids, because I'll wake up, too, out of habit, and lay there wondering if he knows the fast way to get them back to sleep, etc.

I suppose I'll get that once before the new baby comes. Maybe. I comfort myself with the fact that Mom gets to sleep through the night every night now. And she doesn't have people dumping cereal everywhere, or playing in the toilet (except maybe the dog), or writing on the walls with markers, or spitting on the couch, or any of those other things I hate. And I seriously doubt she gets koolaid spilled on her feet on a regular basis any more. There is something to look forward to...

We were about to wander out to Boston, but moosebutter really preferred not to go for two and a half weeks, so now we're staying home and the guys are all flying out for the two weekends. This is a way I prefer--costs less, too, and we'll be travelling plenty later, hitting Utah for a month in November/December. So we're not putting Melody away yet.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Why do I think about food so much?

Jon's blog is about helpful, useful, spiritual things. Mine seems to be about food and hormones. Hmmmm.....

If you want to try a completely unsatsfying treat, try fat free no sugar added creamsicles. I bought them by accident. You know how advertisers use the strongest language they can to sell their products? This product's strongest claim in "Quiescently Frozen Confection." It's right on the box.

Another new thing in food we tried this week that was a serious flop was Shake and Bake, the Albertson's version. It turned three perfectly good chicken breasts into dog food. Amazingly yucky. And not easier than your usual tastes good made at home chicken coating (you know, where you throw a half-cup of flour into a bag and shake in some salt and pepper, maybe a little paprika and poultry seasoning, and a bit of powdered sugar if you're feeling frisky). You still shake the chicken. You still cook it the same way. Just home-made doesn't end up quite so thick on the chicken. But it tastes good.

So the pregnancy hormones are affecting my system in weird ways. For example, if I don't eat and sleep enough, I become convinced that someone is around every corner ready to jump out and get me, but only after the sun goes down. I believe they call it paranoia. Also, every person I see, I imagine a grisly death for--not at my hand. Things like trees falling on them, or their car plummeting into the ocean, get the idea. It's not something I enjoy. Let's call it SERIOUS motivation to eat and sleep enough. My doctor said, "You know, we have medicine for that. Let me know if it gets so you can't let go of the dark thoughts, and we'll get rid of them for you." Zoloft, they call it. Or just eat and sleep enough, eh? Why give the baby drugs?

The other weird hormone thing is that "13 years old" feeling again--that one that every time someone you know turns their back or is talking to someone else and you can't hear it, they must be talking about you? Julie knows what I'm talking about. So I hesitate to write in my blog because I'm afraid I'll annoy you all by filling up your email boxes. But, at the same time, I would love to get an email from each of you every day, and I love to get Jon's blog in MY email box, no matter how often it comes. Go figure. Hormones. Nine months of insanity.

Meanwhile, the baby that's causing all this upheaval, making me haunt the kitchen, and forcing me to face the fact that fibromyalgia can be a lot worse than I usually have it (right now, I'm experiencing the "real deal")--he's only as big as my thumb. Caleb says his name is James Tenors Jones. Anda says it's Madeline.

We finally got smart and made a prayer/last story chart so that I wouldn't have to say every family prayer every day anymore, and so that I wouldn't have to keep reading one book for each kid each night. It's really helped. So we added family home evening jobs to it, too. The kids love it. They even made a pocket for Tummybaby. He gets to plan the FHE lesson next week. The kids told me I can help.

So that's us right now. Melody sits idle in the driveway, limiting herself to trips to the library and grocery store because that's all the energy I have.

Oh, and moosebutter has a couple new promo videos finished. They should be showing up on google video soon--check moosebutter's website, I guess, and email your comments to me or Tim. We'd love to hear what you think.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sometimes You Have a Bad Day

Yesterday was a bad day. The agent I wanted to work with rejected my stuff. I was sad. But then I looked at her website again and reminded myself that she really IS a romance expert, and I don't write romance. At all. I'd probably be better with a YA expert. And, reading her blog every day I've learned a lot, and, what's more, her site linked me to some other incredibly valuable sites, including other agents that, from their entries in agent guides, I wouldn't have considered, but reading their blogs I am interested. So that was hard, but okay. I have been praying that I get accepted by the right agent because, if my experience with OBGyns is any indicator, given the choice of many myself, I usually choose the wrong person first and have to change around--and that's not so easy with agents as it is with doctors.

Meanwhile, I've been reading online Novel Workshops by experts, and have gleaned some information that is consistently the same from everyone. Everyone agrees that the first chapter of the novel needs to have some serious action, and put the characters into the position that they can't turn around and go back. Everyone writes chapters before that, and you're supposed to delete them. So I went back to Poison Spindle and discovered that, lo and behold, the first chapter and the introduction have zero movement in them. And that everything that happens in them can be summarized in three sentences--which can be put into other parts of the book. So I deleted them. The other consistent advice that's given is that if you read a scene, and nobody moves and nobody feels anything but pretty good, cut it. Makes the book stronger. So I started going through and found bunches of paragraphs that actually DON'T move the story along at all. They are stagnant. Most of them could be re-written into a single sentence, or even a single adjective.

So the short of all of that is: I'm rewriting again while I research another set of agents to contact. The book was 100,000 words too long anyway, and I managed to cut out almost 20 pages from what was the first three chapters of the book--7,000 words gone, with no loss of action or character development. I feel like I did in journalism in high school, when I had to cut 500 word articles to 250 words with no loss of content. It actually makes the writing stronger, more clear, and more powerful anyway. Still contacting agents, though. I've found somet that I don't understand why I wasn't interested in them before--they seem more ideal than any on my first list. Perhaps because I needed to first submit to people who would say no while I learned from them what to do and what to do next.

To add to my bad day yesterday, I felt sick all day.

Caleb was sick, too, and ended up throwing up in the middle of the night. Luckily, for the first time ever, he made it to the potty, used it, and flushed it all away without needing my help.

Also, I went shopping (hard when you feel sick) and got $180 worth of groceries on sale for $100. I was tired, and the kids were fussy, and it was 11:30 pm when we finished and went to check out--and the system wouldn't take my check because it was tagged as "possible fraud or identity theft"--probably because I spent so much so late at night. No matter that I gave the guy my ID and everything. So I had to use a different account, and Mom bailed me out so that would't bounce. So irritating. I got it all straightened out today. I just hate it when people point out that I'm weird. I know it. I don't need to be reminded that nobody takes three kids grocery shopping at midnight to buy 50 lbs of frozen meat and 30 cans of soup. Duh.

Anyway, today is better.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Waiting for Melody's return

I'm sitting here waiting for Melody (and Tim) to get back.

I got another rejection from an agent today--not what she was looking for, but at least the rejection was professional.

I also got a letter today that began, "Dear Rebecca Jones, It's hard to think about, even harder to talk about, but...How would yoru family get by if they didn't have your salary?" I wanted to laugh. The other piece of junk mail said that I won the jackpot (it's a car ad), but, try as I might, I couldn't find any mention anywhere on the ad of what the jackpot IS. Just the cryptic line "Must be present to claim prize." Probably a low interest rate on a car loan? Great mail.

For weeks I have had severe writer's block on both novels I'm working on--I'd write and delete about 2000 words on each every couple of days (that's about 10 pages). Couldn't get it right. So I moved backward and started doing character development on Maggie, my ex-spy housewife. Mom suggested that Maggie had to have some demon she was fighting, so I went there. And suddenly I had lots to write--flashbacks that I will insert throughout the novel of what happened in her past that made her quit her job and makes her reluctant now to get involved. The key, it turns out, was that her husband has to not know she was a "real" spy--he thinks she had a desk job at the CIA and quit because she got pregnant and wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. To find out what really prompted her to quit, you'll have to read the book...... Anyway, it's suddenly fun to write that one again, and the pieces are falling into place properly now. Writing is supposed to be a delightful journey, not a chore, so this is a relief.

So I went back to the drawing board with the second book in the Bookstore series, too, and realized I don't even know what the bad guy looks like, and Kate has to be attracted to him. So that was a problem. Then I started doing research on Western lore and the conventions of Western Lit and Film, and I have been having SO much fun. It's the same research I would do for a college course on the subject, but with a much more fun result. Instead of a research paper, I get to mine the data for cool character ideas, concepts, motifs, and legends that I get to incorporate into Kate's experiences in the Wild Wild West. So the story has taken on a few subplots, the biggest of which is the Legend of the Lost Dutchman, which I heard in Arizona. Now one of the male leads is the son of the Lost Dutchman's murdered partner, and he's come from Germany to find out what happened to his father, and maybe get to the goldmine his family technically owns half of. It's a lost goldmine on Apache sacred ground, and the other male lead has actually found it and is trying to get the Apaches to let him mine it. And I get to incorporate the tradition that people who go looking for the mine get beheaded, and a crazy prospector who actually lived there in the 1870s, and there's now gonna be a jailbreak, and a bank robbery (pulled off by Kate, of all people!), and a rattlesnake cave (have you heard that legend?). And, of course, buried treasure, crumbling saddlebags full of gold, shootouts on the main street of town, and white slavery. And Kate gets to face off the entire US Army to save the Apaches at the end. Very exciting stuff. So I'm excited to work on that one, too. You'll have to read it when it's done.

I suppose I should pick just one project to finish it. Arizona in the 1870s is pretty different from Las Vegas nowadays, and shootouts at the saloon are a far cry from superspies with their special equipment. I don't want to get it all too mixed up.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What Happens When You Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast?

Pregnancy is this weird experience. It's at once profound, unique, and completely annoying. It really baffles me that I'm going through this incomparable thing--and that I've done it three times before, and that 90% of the women in the world do it too.

Anyway, morning sickness is becoming a controlling factor in my morning. I wake up okay, but then quickly descend into feeling gross. And, having three other kids, I know I will soon have to face the usual morning onslaught of stench as Daniel has his customary stinky diaper, and Anda needs me to wash the bottle of milk she slept with and rotted, and I can't seem to avoid opening the fridge. The fridge stinks when I'm pregnant. No matter how clean it is (I actually recently washed every part of it--it's clean. It's the only thing in the house that's clean, but it is), and no matter how well I wrap and seal last night's leftovers, when I open the fridge in the morning, it stinks. All these things conspire to make me run to the bathroom.

So today, when I went out to the outside freezer to get chicken to defrost for dinner (see how with it I am? I'm thinking about dinner even when I feel gross and have six hours before I need to start on it). Anyway, I was out there digging up the chicken and I managed to unearth orange vanilla cream "tiger" ice cream. And it looked good. When something looks good in the morning, I'm elated because eating makes the morning sickness disappear, but getting to eating often exacerbates it.

The trouble? If I was going to eat ice cream, everyone would want some. And nobody had eaten breakfast yet. So what to do? I dug up the sugar cones and passed around the sweets. Elation! No more morning sickness.

Flash forward twenty minutes. Suddenly everyone is crying and I feel sick again. Guess what? Ice cream is not a breakfast for champions. I know it has the same or better nutrition as cold cereal. Guess what else isn't a good breakfast.....

So I needed to make real food, and fast. Protien. That everyone would eat. So to the fallback easy fast protien: scrambled eggs. I scrambled up a dozen eggs, thinking the circus would end, but it appears it was just beginning. As I got the grill hot, Daniel crawled up and started tugging on me and the kids started the early "conversations" that lead to fights. Just then, the spatula leapt from the counter (I really don't know how else to describe it) and gouged my toe. The grill was hot and Dan was tugging on me and screaming, and I was holding a too-full bowl of uncooked scrambled eggs. You should be proud of me. I didn't swear.

Instead, I stomped my foot and shouted until Dan let go and crawled away quietly. Then I proceeded to scramble the eggs--no mean trick on a griddle that is made to drain fat from bacon, and apparently liquidy eggs (I don't care what the picture on the box showed...). When I finally turned around, Dan was sitting in a puddle of milk that had dripped from his bottle. He was helping himself to a bagful of mint chocolate chip pop tarts. I didn't stop him. Anda was crawling around my feet trying to confirm that the toe that was bleeding really was the one that was hurting, and Caleb was eating every bit of egg that came off the griddle.

So finally we all got eggs and were happily eating when I looked at the griddle and realized--guess what? The spatula I had used to cook everything was the very one that tried to cut my toe off.

Have you ever been so grateful just to have the food that you ate it anyway?.....

So, in the midst of this chaos (during the Twenty Minutes of Post-Ice Cream Joy), I watched a video Mom sent over of a home birth. It was sweet and touching, and I cried when I looked at the baby. And then the movie ended, and I dried my tears, and, as the emotions faded, I said to myself, "What am I thinking? She's nuts." How did they get the gross water out of the pool in the bedroom? And who had to clean all that stuff up? Birthing is not exactly a clean process. And, oh my goodness, that poor woman was literally up all night in labor (in a hospital, with an epidural, she would have been fresh and happy, having slept all night, ready to push at 9:20 am and welcome her new baby.). And the other kids--even well prepared, they would want mommy to get them stuff, and she would hear them start fighting in the other room or wake up in the middle of the night--and that would, at the minimum, break her concentration. And I can get a water birth, with massage and midwife and everything, in the hospital here. Where someone else cleans up, feeds me, takes the baby while I shower, etc. Okay, I might try to check out of the hospital three or four hours after the baby comes this time because I don't sleep AT ALL in hospitals (they want me to live on a 6:00 am to 9:00 pm schedule--are you kidding?!). But that's where I want to birth.

Of course, there's that other extreme that you find occassionally in Colorado: Home Birth, locked in the bathroom with nobody else there with you. Now THAT is insane.

So I can see the sweetness and intimacy of a home birth. I want that, too. But the practicalities of it all (not to mention we've almost lost three babies at birth or just before) outweighs the ideals. I want my doctor there, and I just don't want to wash the sheets afterward, you know?

Besides, Tim's take on epidurals is significant to me: "I'd rather you have an epidural. I can't stand to see you suffer."

So...pregnancy and childbirth. What am I thinking? Ice cream for breakfast, anyone?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Melody Gone Along Without Us

Melody has gone off on her latest adventure without us--just with Tim. I get carsick driving half a block to Safeway--9 hours to Provo and then six more to Vegas didn't sound good.

Dinner tonight: I don't know yet. Thinking about it makes me queasy. But last night we had Cuban Picadillo--very tasty and easy--at 11:30 pm because I finally realized everything was getting to be worse than the process of making dinner seemed.

There are only a few times in life when I have total concentration and can block everything out. Like when I'm kissing Tim. Or throwing up. Since Tim is gone, the other one is the one that has been occupying me. It's not that I'm throwing up all the time. It's that I'm trying hard not to. All day. And you know, some things are worse to throw up than others. Oreos? Not so bad. Sugary drinks? Doable. Lettuce? Kill me now. I still have a hard time eating it since I was pregnant with Caleb five years ago. Enough on that.

Babies have forced me to be selfish in some ways, though. If I don't take care of myself, they punish me, starting from the time they appear as a tummy bump. If I don't eat, I get to vomit. If I don't eat, too, the kids won't eat, and then life is hellish. If I don't get enough exercise, they don't either, and everyone gets antsy and picks on each other. If I don't get enough sleep, they don't either, and they fight. I hate fighting. So we sleep selfishly. They force me to make dinner every night or we get grumpy chaos. That (the dinners, not the chaos) saves us lots of money (cheaper to cook real dinners than snack on pre-prepared things), and it's keeping all of us healthier and happier. And they force me to develop my talents, as they insist on singing songs and telling stories together, or making things.

Their stubborn insistence on doing things themselves makes me selfish, too. Daniel MUST climb the stairs by himself now. He throws a fit if I help him with that. Or if I feed him. Oh, selfish me--I get to skip those two things that I hate. And, darn it, they make me sit in my rocking chair cuddling someone warm much of the day, forcing me to either read fascinating nonfiction books or write fascinating (to me) novels. Punishment? I think not.

Overnight somehow Anda taught herself how to say the "L" sound. Now "Wizard" and "Lizard" are not the same thing. I had wondered if she'd ever learn because she didn't just say them the same; she heard them the same. But she really wanted to say "Talulah" properly, so she learned. Cool. She's learning how to read, too, and can identify the letter that begins any spoken word. She's reading three-letter words, and is intensely fascinated with typing real words ("How do you spell Winnie the Pooh, Mom?"). So that's exciting. She's only 3 1/2.

Caleb, meanwhile, has become fascinated with multiplication. He is constantly asking, "What does five fives make?" Or worse, "What does 27 forty-twos make?". So kindergarten math ("Let's count to ten....") is really boring for him. Anda loves it though.

Daniel is verbalizing more and more. Today he climbed up on my lap and said, "Daniel!" and then clapped his hands joyfully and giggled. The problem with his speech is that he says all the vowels, an occassional beginning consonant, and not much else. So we get long explanatory paragraphs from him that we can't understand, and he expects us to act on them. Oh, well. He's only just barely 1. He's a little cautious, too. He won't walk, but he can stroll down the hall holding just one of my hands. Just won't do it himself because he gets scared.

All of these things are fun (except the vomiting), and not easy to notice when we are with Melody as she wanders the country. It's an interesting dilemma: do we have no home, or no Daddy?