Monday, September 29, 2008

a not-atypical evening

Quite sick, Caleb got a blessing, which I juggled Ben through.

Very late, I remembered I was supposed to edit a paper for a sister-in-law who has gone back to school. It's too late for her to get any benefit out of my help before her students-reading-student's papers session (why do teachers do that?! It's totally useless and only serves to intimidate everyone--the blind leading the blind, often coached, unfortunately, by the blind). Anyway, it takes longer than it should because Benji pulled both shift keys off the laptop, and the hyphen key randomly falls off and must be replaced. While I was working on that, I looked up to see Daniel shoving a king-sized sheet into the kitchen garbage can. When questioned, he said he was keeping it away from Ben. Anda helped resolve that one for me--I'm not sure why Dan thought the garbage was safe from his brother, since Benji spent a great deal of time throwing toys into the same garbage can today, while Anda stood by and rescued them. He also spent a great deal of time pulling things out of the garbage, even after he cut his finger on a can lid.

As I finish that, everyone is leaning on me and whining, literally. So I get up and change a poopy diaper. Then I change a wet diaper. Then I make a floor bed for Caleb in the living room by my chair, which entails help from several people in clearing enough floor space for a seven-year-old to lie down.

Then I make Caleb some spiced cider. He has a horrid sore throat, and I'm hoping he'll manage to eat something. Tim is printing a 200-page document, and I promised to make gingerbread man cookies with Dan, so, despite the fact that it is well after 1:00 am, I start that. Caleb liked his cider, so I turn the molasses bottle upside down to get every bit out I can, knowing we have too little anyway and will have to augment with corn syrup and start getting water to make cup o noodles and tomato soup so that everyone gets something.

Meanwhile, Benji has gotten to the printer, and he pulls all the paper out of the paper tray. While I'm fixing that, he climbs up and turns off the computer that runs the phone system. While I'm fixing that, the kids start arguing over the jello powder that has been sitting in a bowl on the stove for at least 3 days because someone wanted to make jello and got going without me and then lost interest waiting for me. While I'm solving that, Benjamin gets into the printer again. While I'm fixing that, he turns off the phone computer again.

I get back to the stove to boil the water and discover the kids have poured cold water into the jello powder and are stirring. Frustrated, I get them moved to the table, get the stove cleared off, and get the water heating to boil. Then I chase Ben away from the computers again, and come back to the table, where the kids are spooning jello water into their mouths and spilling red jello liquid everywhere. When Benji comes to join them, I get frustrated and put all three kids and the bowl of jello into the tub.

I come back and cut cheese for Caleb's soup and get the boiling water poured into everything that needs it except the jello, put more paper in the printer, and go back to check on the kids. Some are naked and some are fussing and someone is poopy again (I can smell it!), and they've emptied the whole bowl of jello liquid--onto the walls of the shower, where it sticks. It's an old shower, and I'm sure it will stain, so I shower the whole thing off and scold everyone, who are now busy at the sink making more jello powder into jello juice.

I come back, serve the soup to Caleb, dress Anda without bathing her first because I'm too tired and the bottom of the tub is now covered with red jello. Then I go back into the bathroom and find Dan playing in the tub with the red jello, and Ben playing in the potty and licking the water off his hands (at least this time it had been flushed first!). I close the potty and before I can grab him he adds a few more lines to the fingerpainting he's made on the lid of the toilet. He lets me clean him up at the sink and chase him out of the bathroom, change his diaper again, and then everyone eats cup o noodles and tomato soup.

I suppose I should have started back a couple of hours to when Tim was packing, and Benji was helping by adding his bottle to the suitcase, full of milk, naturally, and walking on the clothes, and pushing all the buttons on the computer, and pulling down equipment, and jumping from the back of the couch onto the seat of the couch, and turning on and off the other printer, and tasting the printer cartridges. Anda was begging me to get working on sewing the skirts we planned for her, so I was searching everywhere for the boxes that hold my thread and elastic (which I never did find), and
Dan was jumping on Anda until she screamed, and the house was too hot and not cooling down because I can't keep the cooler pads wet.

And now I have to go. Ben is alternately pushing and pulling off keys on the keyboard, and I just noticed he dumped a half-full cup of noodles all over the kitchen floor, and he stinks again, so I either have to track down where he threw up or change his diaper AGAIN.

Oh, and while I was writing that paragraph, he managed to turn the chair upright and get onto Caleb's computer, which Tim's file is printing from.

That kid never stops! If he's not emptying the silverware drawer, he's pulling the clothes down in the closets, typing on someone's computer who doesn't want their files ruined, or drinking his bottle sitting in the fridge, holding the door closed with one hand so only his little feet poke out!

I think the cookies will have to wait.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

General Women's Conference

Apparently, the church has a new video player available that never buffers, can be paused and restarted, and works better. Watching conference could be a whole new experience!,6220,285,00.html

Also, I highly recommend listening to President Uchtdorf's message from the women's meeting, even if you are a man. It gives, first, a suggestion that we stop focusing on the things we aren't good at and start focusing on using our talents to build the kingdom--focus on the things we are good at, just like a recent article from Orson Scott Card said. Then he gave a fantastic discourse on two ways the sorrowful or otherwise heavy heart can be gladdened without removing the trials that afflict us. This was a talk for me today, I guess. At least, I suspected he wrote the talk for me personally.

He said that the keys are creativity and serving others with compassion.

I really needed the lesson on creativity and it's value in our souls. Especially since I got a very nice rejection from an agent the other day that came on the heels of me deciding to start writing again without regard to the marketability of the story or idea. I think it was my 50th rejection on that manuscript, and, despite the incredibly nice and helpful nature of the rejection, I cried. It was the first rejection that made me cry, and I suspect it has something to do with my very pregnant state, but I couldn't write the story I wanted to--I was all hung up on marketability again, and the story was all tied up in Mormon culture, and the agents have informed me that Mormon culture, in particular, is anathema in novels. (Which is funny because Jewish culture isn't....).

Anyway, Pres Uchtdorf said not to let the critics--the external or internal ones--silence your voice, and talked about the value of doing creative things--not for the acclaim but for the doing. Not the value for the world, but for our own souls.

Sister Beck, who has been vilified by "mormon" feminists (who are not really Mormon, even if they were once baptised, and who are doing a great deal of harm to the cause of righteous women everywhere) gave a fantastic, intelligent, inspiring talk on the purposes of relief society and of women in God's plan, saying that God's work can't be accomplished without the women--and she wasn't talking about our wombs. She said something my dad has said throughout the years, but it was good to be reminded:

Without personal revelation, we can't succeed. With personal revelation, if we obey it, we can't fail.

President Uchtdorf echoed this, with the promise that if we live faithfully and obedient to God's commands, all things will work together for our good.

All together an inspiring meeting that I very much appreciated.

more dishwasher woes

After all my work, the dishwasher still wasn't working. It left a gritty mess on all the dishes, and a white film, even after I spent several hours cleaning out the spray arms and stuff.

So I googled it. Honestly, you can solve almost any common problem with the help of the internet.

Turns out this is a common problem with lots of solutions, many of which I had already tried, including running a dish cycle with yellow koolaid in the dish soap cup.

So I tried more. I ran the water in the sink until it was HOT before turning on the dishwasher. Then I put in only half a dishwasher soap-cup-ful of dishwasher soap, with no overflow or filling the open cup, despite the fact that both the soap and the dishwasher say use MORE soap with hard water. I added to this a half a dishwasher soap-cup full of salt. I already had white vinegar in the jet dry dispenser, so I figured the salt would be useful, since salt followed by vinegar is a fairly standard folk washing suggestion. This was counter-intuitive, because we have extremely hard water here (something like 3 times the amount of minerals in the water than the definition of 'hard water' required). And, finally, in the open dishwasher soap cup, I put a tiny squirt of regular liquid dish soap--like the amount you'd use to wash your hands.

It worked.

Unfortunately, and also typically of me, I changed so many things at once that I have no idea if all the changes were required, or if just one or two would work. I did try just the liquid dishsoap thing, and that didn't help by itself. And I tried just cutting the amount of powder I put in, and that helped some, but not as much as the whole package.

Whatever the key, I am once again on the path to having a functioning dishwasher.


I am a firm believer in the idea that the less processed a food is, the healthier it is for you. I figure anything I can do to food at home is okay, but the stuff they do in factories is suspect.

Given that, it should come as a surprise to people that I have never canned my own fruit, and, until yesterday, had never actually ground wheat and made bread from the flour. I've made flour before, but only a cup or so because first I didn't have a wheat grinder. Then I borrowed my parents, but forgot the pan. Then my dad made me a pan, and I had a new baby. Then we moved.

But yesterday, I was busy making "Pulla Yeast Coffee Bread," purportedly a Finnish treat, and discovered after everything but the flour was in the bowl that I had about 5 cups of white flour, and needed about 9. So Tim dug up the borrowed wheat grinder, and I dug up the very old cans of food storage wheat, and we had a little (noisy) adventure.

Turns out that home-ground wheat is a little coarser as flour than storebought, overprocessed wheat flour. But I followed the instructions closely and let the dough sit for 15 minutes before I let my kitchenaid knead it, and the dough came out smooth and satiny and soft and tender and just perfect. I was floored. The "chewing on a kernel of wheat" flavor disappeared, too, leaving us, in the end, with the tenderest, best-textured wheat bread. It was really good, and, even with half white flour, really filling and nourishing-feeling.

So now I'm fairly satisfied that home-ground wheat CAN make good, soft, pleasant-textured bread. Now I have to see if it can be done without any white flour added. Just as soon as we finish these 3 big loaves of braided coffee bread.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Benji loves to play ball

Lately, Benjamin has been mad at me multiple times for not giving him the ball that he's sure I'm hiding underneath my shirt. I've even shown him my pregnant belly, and explained there's a baby in there, and he just looks at me like I've totally lost it and asks me to give him the ball.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I finally got my driver's license here. It took two visits to the DMV because it turns out Nevada is the only state I've lived in that requires a wedding certificate for women to get a driver's license.

The funny thing was, they didn't want to see proof of residence.

So they don't really care if you actually LIVE in Nevada. They just want to know you are really married.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bad writing can be so funny!

Now, keep in mind what Snopes says about this. It is NOT accidental bad writing by high school students. It was all intentionally written to be as bad as possible, and it's hilarious!

Read it because..."her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever" and "He was as tall as a six-foot-three tree." Oh, and numbers 18 and 19--you gotta love those....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008's still hot here. What happened to Fall?

Everyone I'm related to is enjoying cool fall weather. It's still a hundred degrees every day here--and muggy at least once a week, so then the swamp cooler doesn't work.

Still suffering from writer's block. With a dozen good, fully outlined books I was anxious to get to, you'd think I could get to them. But no.

So instead I went to get a Nevada driver's license. Turns out you have to have a marriage certificate on hand unless your birth certificate was made out in your married name. I never bothered to go down and spend the ten bucks to get a real marriage certificate. Even the Social Security people took my temple certificate when I got married, and I've had two different states issue me a drivers' license in my married name, but not Nevada.

So I went to order a Marriage certificate. Utah doesn't give them. They provide "certified copies of your marriage license". Good enough. If you order online, it costs $30 and goes out the next day or day after that. If you call the office and give them your info, it costs $5, and they mail it the same day.

I also spent some time working on the dishwasher again. It was leaving dishes dirtier than they went in! I discovered there's a spray arm at the top of the dishwasher that was plugged with dirt and mineral deposits. And you can't remove it without removing the entire dishwasher, which I wasn't willing to do. So I took the trays out and spent a couple of hours on two different days cleaning the thing out. I ran the spider snake through it, washed with vinegar and with lemon kool-aid in the wash, and finally took the water-pik to it. Finally got the thing cleaned out, and now we're running a test load of dishes to see what happens. I'd hate to have to pull it out and replace the whole thing again, but I MUST have a working dishwasher. It's like having a washing machine in the house when you have kids. Not really optional.

Also I spend a little time every day looking for jobs for Tim, holding kids, fixing meals, and wandering the house looking for something to do that doesn't require me to sit on anything hard or bend over (darn sciatic nerve!).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A 3-yr-old's answer to literary criticism

"Mom," Dan said, waving a page in front of me that was covered with squiggly lines. "I wrote a story. You can tell it's good because it has lots of letters in it."

Well, I think that pretty much covers it!

Also, his answer to cooking problems:

"Mom, let's make yogurt."
"Well, there are two problems with that. One is...."
"Well if we just made the yogurt, there wouldn't be any problems with it."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Computer woes

I've been busy the past few days trying to make our phone system work.

See, the phone runs through the computer. And, despite the fact that we have seven computers, this has been a major problem. Here's the issue:

Computer number 1 is Tim's laptop, and therefore isn't home all day. Plus it tends to run hot, and he runs music software on it, so he can't have all kinds of extra stuff running all the time interfering with the music software. Plus it doesn't have enough usb jacks for his necessary peripherals and the phone.

Computer number 2 is also a mac laptop, but it's the other kind of mac (intel based), so it doesn't support the usb phone. No good.

Computer number 3 has no usb jacks at all and runs happily using windows 98, which is great since the thing is about 10 years old and I use it to do all my writing. But it won't support the programs required to run the usb phone, even if I put in usb jacks.

Computer number 4 also has no usb jacks and was designed for pre-windows 95. It runs windows 98. Barely. It is Benji's computer--we use it to play old dos-based pc games like Commander Keen.

Computer number 5 functions fine, has usb 1.0 jacks, but was built for windows 98, and it has windows xp installed on it. It runs too slowly, even optimized every way I can learn how, to make phone calls possible. We wanted to switch it to Linux, but the usb phone doesn't support Linux yet, and the computer wouldn't load the linux live cd--it said it has an EDID error, which has something to do with the monitor and the BIOS and I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Computer number 6 would work, even though it's just a little slow, but Caleb has claimed that one as his own, and with all his game-development software running most of every day, it is too slow to run the usb phone. Honestly, at any given time, Caleb has 2 or 3 game-creator programs running, plus graphics programs so he can edit and create "sprites" for his games, plus firefox so he can google answers for his questions. He keeps the thing so busy that he does school on the laptop!

So that leaves us with Computer number 7. It's fast enough. It has ONLY usb ports. It has windows xp running. And it tends to freeze randomly. Totally randomly. Sometimes it will run for a day, sometimes for 3 minutes, and then it's totally frozen and has to be completely rebooted. It's been doing this off and on for a while, and I had accepted that it was the way things were going to have to be until I sold my novel or we got a job and could save some money to buy a new computer.

So I prayed for a computer to run our phone. Then I started watching craigslist for computers, and started trying to fix the only one I have or build two of them into one functioning one.

I have tried everything to get this stupid computer to stop freezing. A couple of different tech people told me to try replacing the memory cards. So I did that. Consensus online (and I saw some evidence for this in comp 7) is that computers freeze when they overheat, so we cooled the computer and put it in a cooler room. Helped for a while, but the problem has grown increasingly worse.

I won't go into all the details about everything I tried to fix this computer, but I'll tell you some things I've learned:
--if the keyboard is broken, editing the BIOS is really hard; just using windows you might not know if the keyboard is broken--you have to get out of Windows to find that out.
--if you push F1 when the computer tells you its name while it's loading Windows, it kicks you into this nifty thing called "setup", which is the BIOS. There, there's this nifty thing called "power management". On some of my computers, the power management options look like jibberish (you'd swear computer geeks talked in just the first letters of the words in every sentence, the way they shortcut things!), but in some you can turn power management to "disabled" and the whole computer runs Tons faster.
--if the computer slows down, some updater is probably running, and you can turn it off in the task manager by ending the process. It'll run again later, believe me, but you might get a break while you work on whatever it is you need to do.
--computers come back from screen saver a lot faster if you set the screen saver to "blank" and turn off all the power management options in windows, too.
--I can not only find the processor inside the computer now, I can take it out and put it in!
--That orange goop on the processor is "thermal paste". It's okay. You can leave it there.
--not all processors have the same number of pins on the bottom, and not all motherboards have the same number of holes for pins, so you can't really swap processors willy-nilly.
--I can change out memory cards.
--Computers don't power up properly if you don't have the memory cards pushed in hard enough.
--Linux live cds don't run linux properly if your cd player in the computer runs slowly.
--but I can download linux live cds, now, and I learned how to "burn an iso"
--there is this list of "services" that you can access in two ways from Windows xp, and most of them run all the time but aren't necessary for most people. If your computer is going slow, or freezing, you can turn some of these off and speed things up considerably. Google them first, though, so you know what you're turning off and if you need it or not. On the list, it specifies "necessary" services--and there are only 3 listed. There are also some, like the event viewer, that can't be turned off.
--there is this thing called the 'event viewer' that you can also access in two ways from windows, and it keeps track of everything windows is doing. If there's a problem, you can go there and look for patterns.
--tons of non-geeks online have complained on geek forums about this certain message in their event viewer "computer browser service has stopped", which precedes windows xp freezing up. All the geeks agree that's a nothing, and it must be the computer overheating. Windows, naturally doesn't acknowledge this is a problem. Nobody knows what the heck is going on with that and so it must be you non-geeks not running things right.

Well, that was the problem on my computer, too--same error message, same behavior. So I found the computer browser service in the "services" list and disabled it. I figured it can't be stopped if it never starts, right? The computer froze twice immediately, and then went on and has run smoothly now for over 24 hours--a record! I even talked to both my parents on the phone today, and the phone didn't hang up on them! That's the first time in months we've been able to do that. I gave the usb keyboard a bath because it acted like someone spilled soda in it. It's drying right now, and we'll see what happens. You can run a computer sans keyboard, but it's awfully hard to use the internet that way, so for now the computer is only a phone computer.

It will possibly freeze again, but for now I am once again grateful that my prayers were answered and I was able to learn the things I needed to learn in order for my needs to be met when we have no monetary resources for them.

Since there would be no debate without two sides

There can be no debate without at least 2 sides talking, and we've all heard plenty of the media's side on this one. So here is an excellent analysis of the other side of the homosexual marriage debate. Not the "it's not fair that you can express your love and I can't express mine" side, but the "marriage shouldn't be messed with" side--and, lo and behold, there are good reasons. Logical reasons, not entirely based on religious doctrine reasons.

Read here:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

writing and reading and other misc. stuff

We went to the 5 Browns concert today, me and Dan (since it was his birthday). It was nice to see the cousins before the show, and the show was fantastic. I had almost forgotten how much I like well-done classical music. It feeds my soul. Good music (and theirs was) is like a good kiss--you can get lost in it and forget even that your body exists. Dan loved the concert, too, almost leaping from his seat before intermission (that's all we could stay--he was waiting for his birthday cake and presents) to applaud when Gregory played the piano with his foot and hollered in the song. I highly recommend their show--it's a lot of fun.

Anyway, I resolved to fill the house with classical music again, like I did before I had kids, because it soothes and calms and feeds my soul, and (and this has always been true) makes me feel like a queen, instead of a pawn, in my life story. Music speaks to my soul in a way that not many things can.

Anyway, I mailed out a full manuscript last week to an agent in California. Today another agent requested it--mercifully by email so it didn't cost me almost $8 for shipping again--and I sent it right away. So the novel is not forgotten. I opened the file before I emailed it to make sure I had the right one, and I read some and liked it a lot. I guess that's a good sign.

I've had writer's block since I finished it. I ought to work on the one set in Vegas, since we're here, but I want to work on the retelling of an arthurian legend as a mystery, but I just can't get myself to start. Normally when that happens, I fill my days with quilting, but we only just found my sewing machine, and I have no place to set up any of my quilting stuff, and I can't even find the lap quilt or the thread to finish it with. And there's always that question of if we're leaving here in a couple of weeks, do I really want to get a quilt going? It's a lot of mess to have to take out and then re-pack. But with no quilt and no book to work on, I've been doing a lot of wandering the house.

I did install a swamp cooler, which works fine. It would work better if the house fan didn't keep coming on and sucking all the cool air up into the attic and spitting hot air down into the house. Very annoying. It's on the list of things to talk to the landlord about (along with the cats, which have started coming indoors again, and other things).

I have been reading the Oz books to the kids, and having a great time. Especially since we took a small sidetrack--Baum wrote a trilogy of "Trot and Cap'n Bill" books, the third of which is also an Oz book. We decided to read the whole trilogy in order, instead of just reading the Oz book, and it's been really fun. I'd never read them before. I highly recommend the Oz books. Some are heavy on the catalog of creatures and places in Oz aspect of the stories, but others are wonderful, engaging plots, with fantastic characters that are a lot of fun. If you read the books in order in a short amount of time, the inconsistencies in the world-building are glaring, but make sense when you consider that Baum never set out to be famous for the books and tried to end the series more than once.

I also read the Chronicles of Narnia finally. I know. I should have done it years ago. I read "The Lion, the Witch, and the wardrobe" when I was a kid, but I wasn't into heavy fantasy, so after "prince caspian" I gave up. They're short, though, and were sitting there when I was bored, and I read them--and really enjoyed them and will probably read them to the kids. Like most traditional fantasies, the books were a little tedious for me at places. Well worth it, though, and the spiritual messages in them were much appreciated the week I read them.

I also started reading the Book of Mormon again. I just couldn't make myself start over at the beginning, so I started with the last book and am reading the chapters in order, but the books in reverse. And this time through, I found the literary structure of the whole work not only appealing, but downright beautiful (and so tragic!). Since I consider the Book of Mormon a work of scripture primarily, I'd never looked at it as a work of literature, but that really struck me this time. Mormon was a literary genius, although I doubt he considered himself such.

I was also struck by the story that's told and re-told throughout the book of small families journeying to what is promised to be a better place, although they have never been there, and how they struggle and suffer but keep going, always finally, after years of trouble, settling down on a pleasant beach only to be told they're not there yet. So they build boats and pack everything up and leave, praising God in the darkness and the storms and hoping for a better place. And He does eventually bring them there. It's kind of a work and suffer and work and suffer and willingly give up paradise to work some more and then hold on tight because God will carry you through to the end if you don't stop believing in him when the seas get rough kind of story.

I guess I relate because I feel like we had settled down on our beach, and now we have to let go of our paradise, and build a boat, and push off into the ocean. I hope we eventually get to that kind of a "promised land", too.

And that is the power of great literature--it sticks to our ribs like a nourishing meal, helps us sort through our lives, and, hopefully makes them richer and fuller and more worth living. Just like music. The benefit of the great literature also being scripture is that it can guide, comfort, heal, direct, and also give us hope and faith as well.