Saturday, March 29, 2008

Terry Fator

Stuck in my novel again. This time I'm trying to figure out the logistics of two women lowering a 150-200 lb frog out a window that is at least 3 storys up, with only a rope, a four-poster bed, a stool, and a fabric bag. I know in theory how it might work, but having never dealt with anything that small and yet that dense, I don't know the realities of it. Of course, it isn't real at all--it's fiction--so the "realities" of it are not real, but it needs to feel authentic. To complicate things, the frog is actually a prince who is married to one of the women, so they can't hurt him, and the women have been up all night, so they're tired.

I never thought that I would be using my mental gifts to solve impossible problems that could never exist in real life that I just made up in the first place.

So last night we went to see Terry Fator's show at the Hilton Showroom. Terry is the guy who won America's Got Talent. He said the Hilton Showroom is the same stage that Elvis was on last time he was in Vegas (he himself, not Trent Carlini or one of the other impersonators). We got comped in because Terry's agent is also the agent who got moosebutter on tour to all those state fairs, and he and Tim have kept in touch and intend to work together more on future projects. And the agent is LDS, so we have a lot in common on those grounds. Nice guy, too.

As usual with comps for friends and family of the performers, we got VIP tickets. This always makes me laugh. Our seats were right on the stage, off to Stage Right in an extended part of the stage, not really in front but not on the side either. VIP tickets are almost always the worst seats in the house, and this was no different. We could see Terry fold up his puppets and chuck them into the cabinet after each "visit". We could see the puppets some, but not full-on without watching the screen, which was right in front of us. Up close, but bad view. Even the V-Theater has terrible seats reserved as "VIP" seats. Real VIPs, though, get put in the best seats in the house. I think mostly those VIP tickets with bad seats are for people who want to pay more to feel important. And, to the agent's credit, he tried to get us the best seats in the house but they were already sold out. (It ended up okay--the VIP section was mostly empty, so it was okay that Caleb kept jumping up and sitting back down and Anda was real squirmy--the babies were perfectly behaved, though).

It was a great show. Really really fun. I loved the puppet impersonations, and was fairly impressed with the speed of his banter. He had some great jokes, told well, so that even I laughed, and I rarely do at shows. The show wasn't perfect by any means. It was about an hour too long, and I really didn't like his Michael Jackson impersonation. REALLY didn't like it--to the point that I found it embarrassing that he was doing it and kept thinking that Paul Sperrazza, in Toxic Audio, is SO much better at Michael Jackson that Terry couldn't even compete at all. At ALL. The band leader in the background was so dynamic that his motions drew my eye away from the action, but that was probably because I could see him better than Terry and the Puppets. He did have a live band, though, and that was cool. I thought he chose his material (except for MJ) perfectly. The things that he did best were the old standard ventriloquist jokes (setting it up, for example, for the dummy to call the puppeteer a dummy), which didn't feel old or tired when he did them. His very best bits were when the puppets were doing impersonations. That was cool. Overall, I liked the show. It should have been a more standard Vegas 70 minutes, but the audience seemed to truly love it.

Terry is all over YouTube, but this video is one that had none of the "America's Got Talent" human interest stuff tacked on. It's just the puppet, so you'll have an idea of what we saw. Very cool. Two hours of it was bum-numbing.

It was cool to try to wrap my brain around the fact that I knew--and he made it clear--that he was doing the voices for himself and for the puppet, but I still believed it when they had an argument--even when the argument was about whether or not the puppet could do something Terry couldn't, and if the puppet was real or not. He was arguing with himself about whether or not his puppet was a real person. It was interesting because it forced the audience to come face to face with the fact that characters are real to us even though we know they aren't real. As Tim put it, it's one of the few times we get to simultaneously believe and not believe something, and that is part of the humor of the experience.

Oh, and this was the first time I've seen real live showgirls in action. They really do wear feathers on their heads. And one of the eight was actually a good dancer, although she hardly had a chance to dance--they all looked worried that if they tipped their heads, the feathers would tumble off. And only one didn't have "rolls" on her sides and back when she moved. So I guess they were mostly real girls in stupid costumes and too much makeup. Hope they got paid well for their two minutes on stage, cuz I doubt it was furthering anyone's careers much to have them there. What a weird city!

We had to walk through the casino to get to the showroom. I told Tim that if his show was in that kind of theater, I wouldn't go or recommend it to my friends because of the casino. He said he wouldn't have taken the job if he hadn't known the V Theater was in a mall, not a casino, and I was glad. It would be hard to rest easy at night if part of your job was to use your God-given talents to draw people in to gamble. As it is, Tim's job now is to help create a little edifying oasis in the middle of a pretty anti-spiritual place.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Walking on the Strip

I realized I haven't said much lately. Sorry about that. Moving is traumatic for all of us, and we're just now getting adjusted.

Today the inlaws went to see Toxic Audio. This is the last month the show will run at 6:00. After March 31, the show will be at the same place, but at 5:30 because they have put some new shows in there and shuffled some others to be a different times, including Toxic. The show, which was great to begin with, has just gotten better. I like the new costumes better, and the cast really looks like they're having a ton of fun doing the show. So I was excited for Tim's parents and sister and her family to see the show.

Meanwhile, we went to look for the "showbot"--a robot that has recently taken up residence at the Miracle Mile that advertises the show. It wasn't there today. The kids and I were disappointed. It apparently is cool enough that it's done a stint at Epcot Center, in Florida, so were were excited to see it. We'll go back another time to catch it, I suppose. We did see the Captain Jack that gets pictures with people outside the V Theater. I don't know if it's one actor or many, but he's really GOOD. Fun to watch, and gets pictures with people all the time for free. We also saw the end of the laser show. We like that--Anda dances to the music on the big dance floor under the lasers. We missed the rainstorm, but had a great time watching the construction equipment working just below the balcony outside the bathrooms.

Anyway, the kids and I didn't see the show tonight, but we were there waiting for everyone else to see (and be in) it, so we decided to walk to the M&Ms store that's just a few stops down the strip. Everyone's always carrying bags from there, so we thought it might be cool. (The other day we were watching the traveling masses pass in front of us at a light and I commented that most of these people weren't locals. Caleb said, "How do you know?" Anda said, "Is it because locals don't carry those M&Ms bags?" I looked, and sure enough, everyone crossing the street in front of us was carrying the distinctive bright yellow bags! It was funny. It was even funnier the next day when I discovered that the kids thought I had said "vocals." "None of these people are vocals." They know vocals. They had no idea what "locals" meant, nor why I would identify vocalists as their product).

What we discovered in trying to get to the M&Ms store is that everything in Vegas has been supersized. So, while the M&Ms store is just a couple of "doors" down, it's more than a mile away from the V Theater. It was an unbelievably long, hot walk. Then the store was so crowded we managed to knock all the puzzles off a shelf, and it was hot, and there wasn't anything worth looking at, unless you are a fan of kitschy fridge magnets.

Hot and tired, we went up to the food court to look for drinks. There was a Wendy's so we stood in line and ordered frosties. Just as the guy said, "7.71", Benjamin peed and it exploded out his diaper. Being a mom, I caught it in my hand. Being Pee, it escaped all over the floor and down my front. The other, clean, hand was holding $25 in cash, so I told the guy to just take that so his hands would be clean. He did. And gave me $2.29 in change. I said, "I gave you $25." He said, "You gave me a ten." I said, "I didn't even HAVE a ten!" So he took the whole $25 and gave it back to me. I said, "Now I have $27 and change, and I owe you for the frosties still." He said, "You do?" "Yes. Here's your change back." Then he was totally confused, even though I had completely negated the entire financial transaction and we were back where we started. He called the manager over, who cancelled it all and started over. "Don't you know math?!" the manager said. "NO!" the cashier said. So they rang me up again. Meanwhile, the line behind me was getting longer and the frosties were melting. They put into the computer that I gave them $25 and they were going to give me $17 or so in change. I said, "I don't have to give you $25. You're just going to give me the five back." Then I looked them each in the face and said wearily, "Never mind." and handed over the $25 and they gave me $17.29 and I took the frosties and we left.

I don't know if it was on the walk there or the walk back when we had just come to a bus stop with a bench. A tall, wiry guy suddenly jumped up and turned to the bench and said, "Watch my stuff, man. Don't let anyone take my junk!" And he dashed away. By then I was up at the bench and I looked over--and there was a bunch of little junk arranged on the bench, and an empty suit coat that completely DIDN'T match what the man had been wearing, and NO PERSON on the bench. I was glad the kids missed the whole thing. I wasn't sure how I would explain that to them!

We saw a guy who was supposed to be a living statue, but he was so busy getting pictures with people that he just looked like a silver man. There was also a couple of live M&Ms and a giant-headed Elvis down there.

We got back to the theater just at the right time, and the show was just done. Gina, who works there and is an absolute angel, had some coloring toys for the kids, so they sat down and colored quietly. Gina has been a mother's lifesaver more than once. That woman deserves a raise for how well she treats guests there. And me.

We had called ahead because we were bringing at least 13 people to a pizza place. It turned out it was a little cart in a casino. Why the lady didn't mention to me that they couldn't even SEAT 13 people because there were no seats at all was a mystery to me. We ended up at the Metro Pizza on Flamingo and Decatur, and they had GREAT pizza. Unbelievably good. The stuffed pizza was my favorite. The kids loved the cheese, pepperoni, and mushroom pizzas. All together it was good and they were extremely good with the kids, and tolerant with them running around and being messy. IT was really fun. In some ways it felt like when both families of a couple get together at the odd "everyone's here and we've already met a couple times" times in your life, like baptisms. Our Toxic family was interacting with our Jones family, and it all went pleasantly, but was really kind of odd to experience and watch. Not at all awkward, thanks to everyone being friendly and relaxed. Just odd.

Inlaws liked the show. We liked seeing them.

It was kind of an insane day, though. Oh, I forgot to mention that lunch was a picnic in the park. We were really busy all day. Now I'm really really tired.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Favorite Treat

I happened upon this accidentally at dinner tonight, and it's really tasty: fresh ripe bartlett pear slices dipped in plain old natural sour cream.

I have dipped all manner of peach slices in vanilla sour cream (1 tsp vanilla for each cup of sour cream), and sweetened with brown sugar sour cream, but I'd never tried plain, and the fruit at dinner tonight was fresh sliced bartlett pears. Really tasted surprisingly good.

I may just be picky about my pears, but I really do find a massive difference between varieties (D'anjou just don't ripen as sweet as bartlett!), and how ripe it is (if you can't pull the stem right out without twisting, it's too green). I don't know if it would be as good with green pears, or d'anjou, or "unnatural" (ie regular) sour cream. (I'm very partial to the "natural" kind you buy at Smiths/King SOopers/Food4Less because the list of ingredients is short and sweet, with no preservatives or chemicals--not to mention it tastes better).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Crazy Week!

"Mar 23 - $1250 / 3br - Brand New Beautifull House, Never Lived Before - (Las Vegas)"

Amazing what words you really can't leave out of an ad. Who knew that "in" made such a difference!

This has been an interesting week.

I got a rejection from an agent. It was a nice rejection, "with regrets", but said the main character isn't compelling enough. Here we go again with compelling! That's okay, I guess. Based on the comments from another semi-rejections I got, I've rewritten the whole book again. I just have to do the last hundred pages and we've got draft 62,543. Just kidding. But how many times have I said it was done? Following the suggestions from the agent, the book has now dropped below 90,000 words. Normal novel length. Go figure. It went from 214,000 words at its longest down to 87,000 (right now. I have to rewrite those last hundred pages still, so I don't know how long it will end up--under 100,000 words, though, for sure).

Daniel had developed some kind of horrid allergies that act like hay fever but come with a rash that acts like eczema. So we're up all night with itching and stuffiness.

I punctured my little finger with a fork trying to cut fudge that I made accidentally. Now that I write it, it seems completely unlikely that the situation would exist, much less that you could actually puncture a pinkie finger with TWO tines of the fork. I guess I have excellent bad aim. Oh, and it hurt. And yes, I did make fudge by accident.

I spent lots of time driving around and found a LOT of places we don't want to live. Most of Las Vegas seems to be unsafe, crowded, or master-planned. I read that Vegas and San Francisco are in similar housing trouble: unwise borrowing lead to foreclosures, which lowered the overall value of all the houses, and that lead to more foreclosures (apparently people don't like to pay for or sell houses that are worth less than the mortgage is for, so they walk away). To prevent future foreclosures, lenders stopped being so generous about who could get loans, so suddenly there were too few buyers, and that drove the overall house values down even more, exacerbating the problems. There are now many many more houses than people who can buy, so the values continue to drop and will for at least the rest of the year, despite the promises by those master-planners who insist that houses still gain 10% in value per year and are still building new houses! The result of all of this is there are some great houses on the market for cheaper than rent, but nobody can get loans to buy them so the rental market is awful. And you can't convince the owners to carry the loan or rent-to-own with you because the houses are owned by the banks, who just want to unload them--onto someone who can get a loan.

I, unfortunately, right now fall into the category of people who can't get a loan (gotta sell that old house first!), and I also can't find a suitable rental. What's a woman to do?

What with holidays, visitors coming, cleaning girl not making it twice this week, and the regular stresses of life, it's been a rather unpleasant week, despite really nice visits from my parents.

One last random thought: Why is it that the two holidays that are supposed to be Christ-centered are the ones that we celebrate by telling children they are being visited by mythical beings who give them things? Nobody really waits for the Great Pumpkin on Halloween or Thanksgiving, but we have very clearly associated Christ with magical creatures that, oh--sorry--don't really exist! And why the emphasis on stuff and wanting stuff? All of that is very anti-Christ.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kids say the darndest things

Each kid said something laughable in the last 24 hours.

First, Anda was asking for a snack before bed. She said, "Can I have peanut butter and jam on my hot dog." "No," I said. "Why not?" she said. "Because that would be yucky. But you can have peanutbutter and jam on a sandwich," I said. "Oh, I meant could I have ketchup and mustard on my peanut butter sandwich!"

We eventually got it all worked out.

Then today, Caleb was on the swings at the park. He jumped off a little higher than I (or he) thought he would, so I said, 'Be careful--you can break your arm jumping off swings.' He said, 'Don't worry. The damage wasn't too severe.' The teenage girl next to him burst out laughing.

Later, Dan was in the swing at the park but it was time to go. He didn't want to leave, so I said, "Do you want more time?" "Yes," he said. "How much?" I asked. "Seven," he said. "Seven?" I said. "Yes. Three," he held up three fingers. "Three minutes?" I said. "Yes, three minutes," he said, and he looked at his fingers and added two more. Then five more, so all ten were up. "Three minutes," he repeated, holding his fingers out. All ten of them.

About fifteen seconds later, he said, "Okay! Time for a last slide!" and that was that.

The nice thing that happened at the park was I was talking to another mother, and she said, 'It's just not the same when you're in your thirties. You can chase four kids when you're in your twenties, but it's just not the same when you're in your thirties!' I didn't tell her that I AM in my thirties. I was flattered that I look younger. Until about twenty minutes later when I realized she probably thought I got pregnant when I was a teenager!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mensa for Kids

I didn't know kids could join Mensa. I'm not going to pay the membership fees for any of us to be tested and possibly join, although at least when I was a kid I qualified (who knows about now!)

But you have access to their site even if you haven't joined. This is the site that I was particularly pleased with:

It has games, links to other cool sites, a feature of the month (on Pi this month), and a true understanding of what gifted kids are like. For example, you can click on a game link and play a word-unscrambling game, and then also color the picture on the page. That's cool. Often "advanced" stuff forgets that kids are still kids.

So this is definitely a go look. The adult mensa site also has games you can try. I am going to pass or I'll get addicted, but there are lots of word games. Very cool.

Friday, March 07, 2008

More recipes

The Lion House International Cookbook has a fabulous recipe for Cajun chicken, but it's a little involved (dirties 3+ pots) and includes making your own spice mixes and using ingredients I don't have on hand usually, like tarragon and pimientos. Still, my family loved it.

So I messed around some and came up with a great clone that is quick and easy--quick enough to make in the amount of time it takes to cook the rice and set the table.

Quick Cajun Chicken with Confetti Rice

2 c water
1 c rice
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts partially thawed
2 tbsp margarine
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp cajun seasoning (you can often get it at the dollar store)
1 c milk
1 c frozen peas (still frozen)
1 2-oz jar pimientos (opt)

Following the directions on the rice package, get the rice cooking.
Slice the chicken into thin strips (this is easiest done when the chicken is still partially frozen). Stir fry over high heat in a lightly oiled frying pan until it is just barely done. Turn off the heat and stir in the margarine until it's melted. Then sprinkle on the flour and cajun seasoning and stir this in, too. Turn the heat back on to medium or medium high and add the milk slowly, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn, letting it boil if necessary until the sauce thickens. This should be ready about the time the rice is cooked. The instant the rice is done, stir in the frozen peas (so they'll thaw by serving time) and pimientos and put the lid on to hasten their cooking. Serve the chicken over the rice.

Even my picky eaters love this, and I love that it's easy. It only serves 4-6, with some of those being children, so double it for a big family (or cut the chicken in smaller bits and double everything else).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

It's a wonder I get anything written at all

I've been doing revisions suggested by that agent, and it's been the hardest thinking I've done in my life. The agent suggested I take out as many characters as I could. Unfortunately, every character actually played a role in the story, so in removing them I had to reassign those roles to other characters, and then deal with the fact that Tory would handle something differently than, say, Hansel and Gretel, and Tom would do things different that Arvense, and Prudence than Grandma, get the idea. Plus, I did want the novel to hit some key, not-needing-to-be-rewritten points. But it isn't enough just to take the narrative there--I had to get the characters to the same emotional state, and in a way that is believable and legitimate.

To complicate things, this is how writing usually happens in my house:

(It's not a great picture because it was taken on a kid camera by Anda).

That was followed by this:

Note that I am interacting with three children--a sleeping baby, a toddler who is trying to poke me in the eye with sunglasses, and a four year old who is saying "Smile Mom!" Not to mention it is probably 3:00 am and I look like it. In fact, ignore how awful I look in both pictures.

Looking at these pics, I wonder how I've managed to write a novel and re-write it at least 3 times, plus do detailed outlines on at least 3 more novels. It's even more of a wonder that anything I've written makes enough sense to get the attention of agents enough to get personalized rejections with helpful comments.

Hopefully we'll get beyond the rejections part soon.

If I can just get Kate to a character who has a different name in this draft, and then to Mother Goose, and figure out (once again) why she's traveling alone (since that doesn't make sense in the new draft).

But hey, I worked it out twice so far. I can do it again. It's just the hardest problem solving I have EVER had to do. Partially because my usual MO for solving these kinds of problems is to let them ferment, but I want to get this revision done before the agent loses interest, so I am pushing it through. No time to ferment.

We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Yahoo Group for Gift LDS Homeschooling Families

Here ( is the link to a Yahoo Group for homeschoolers with gifted LDS kids.

I don't know how good the group is, but I thought I'd pass the word along that it's there.