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.