Evangeline...

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    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Holiday Misfires

    So, like every other mother in America, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks running around like an elf on Ritalin. Now the kids are out of school and we’ve all got the sniffles, but things are finally starting to slow down. I thought I’d share some Christmas funnies in the off chance that you have a slow moment to read this week.

    We'll start with children and gifts. I think Chunky has written a dozen letters to Santa asking for things like a billion dollars and to be turned into a dragon. He has us scratching our heads. Even Santa was a little baffled when Chunky sat on his lap and asked for, of all things, a lava lamp.

    Monkey is a little more straight forward. In fact, subtlety escapes him entirely. A few weeks ago he came up from downstairs with a wrapped gift. He showed it to me and said, “Mommy, this is for you, but you can’t open it until Christmas, and I’m not going to tell you what it is.” Chunky wanted in on the secret, so Monkey went over to tell him. Monkey got right up next to his brother’s ear, started whispering then looked over his shoulder at me. “Mom, what are those things you wear in your ears called?”

    Without blinking, I said, “Earrings.”

    I did blink, however, when I saw these in a store recently.


    I’m not going to tell you what store because I love the place and consider this to be an error in judgment best left to the ghost of Christmas past. I have to wonder what Mary would have to say about this pink sparkly representation of her. After all these years in blue and white, maybe she’d appreciate a little bling.

    Speaking of Mary, I’d like to write a letter to the folks who made my nativity set.

    Dear Manufacturers of Porcelain Nativity,

    Why have you left Joseph out? Every year when I unpack my set, I wonder if one of the FOUR wise men is supposed to be Joseph, but since they’re all holding a gift—gold, frankincense, myrrh, and fruitcake?—I figure they have to be the magi.

    Then there’s the shepherd carrying his sheep. Clearly, he’s not Joseph.

    The camel and the donkey are a nice touch, but still I think you could’ve left one of them out in favor of Mary’s husband. I know, biologically speaking, Joseph wasn’t necessary, but having given birth myself, I can state with certainty that it’s nice to have a man to yell at. I think Mary was glad he was there, and I’d be glad if the arrangement on my hutch was a little more balanced.

    If you ever make a Joseph, please let me know. Unless, of course, he looks like this.


    Sincerely,
    Evangeline Denmark

    If you have a Christmas funny to share, please leave a comment. With all the stress and rush of the season, it helps to share a little merry.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    How Evangeline Couldn't Steal Christmas

    The Season is here with a vengeance.

    I have already:

    1. Injured myself putting up decorations
    2. Spent too much money
    3. Decorated sugar cookies with white, green, and pink frosting
    4. Donned a little black dress
    5. Sat on a large replica of a sea turtle



    Aren’t the holidays magical?

    Actually, if I’m honest with you, I’m not feeling very Christmas-y this year. I think, like the Grinch, my heart is two sizes too small, leaving me cranky, selfish, and slightly green.

    I feel sorry for the Whos affected by my deficient heart. But, well, they are annoyingly chipper, and they sing nonsense songs, dress funny, and then there’s the noise. NOISE, NOISE, NOISE.

    You know, it’s not a totally bad thing to feel disconnected from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. My state-of-mind has made one thing clear to me. Christmas is not found in the ginormous boxes that hold the sections of our twelve foot tree. I can’t bring it home in a shopping bag. And I can’t put it on with my party dress.

    But I think its spirit was here when my six-year-old insisted that we make a cross cutout cookie because Jesus came to die for our sins. And I think Christmas whispered in my nine-year-old's ear as he added the words “and that everyone would have a good Christmas” to his list for Santa. And the merry part of it showed up when I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t buy the all-over squeezy thing to go under my black dress, and my husband quirked a brow at me and asked, “Who is Oliver?” and then told me I looked beautiful.

    If, like me, you’re feeling that your Santa costume wouldn’t fool Cindy-Lou Who, then I encourage you to at least recognize the moments when God reaches into your cold cave and touches your reluctant heart. I'm glad my Grinchyness can't stop Christmas from coming. I hope at some point this holiday season that I can be talked down from my ledge and convinced to join those weird little Whos in celebrating Christmas.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Attack of the Giant Mutant Barnyard Fowl

    I have to say, thankfulness was not my first emotion when Mom informed me she’d ordered a turducken for me to cook for her sixtieth birthday celebration. I have difficulties eating, handling, and even thinking about meat. No one understands this, least of all me.

    A chicken stuffed inside a duck that is stuffed inside a turkey sounded like a monster from a horror film in my opinion. I pictured a giant, featherless mutant bird stomping down a deserted city street, flapping its naked wings while I desperately tried to get away. Needless to say, I had more than one nightmare about the whole thing.

    When the turducken arrived last Friday, it looked innocuous enough in a vacuum-sealed cooler plopped on my doorstep by the FedEx guy. I was all for leaving it in the neat packaging, but since I was supposed to cook it the next day, I knew I’d have to lift the sarcophagus lid and remove and defrost the mummy within.

    Having cooked a Thanksgiving turkey before, I knew what I might be facing: raw, yellowish skin, that horrible, gaping cavity, the disgusting stuff they put back in the cavity, maybe a feather or two.

    Excuse me, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

    Ok, back to the turducken. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as a turkey. You see, turduckens come already assembled. I assume the folks who do this are pitiable inhabitants of a mental institution. After all, if you told me I had to stuff a chicken inside a duck then stuff that duck inside a turkey, I’d kill you and then plead insanity.

    Thankfully, the only drastic measure necessary for our turducken was an extra-long ice water bath. The next day, Mom’s birthday, all I had to do was unwrap the thing, put it in a roasting pan, and stick it in the oven.

    Here’s proof that I did it.


    It came out so well, I didn’t even have time for a picture of the finished product before it was eaten. A few of Mom’s birthday guests volunteered to let me take a picture of their full tummies, but I told them that was just weird.

    We had a wonderful celebration but never managed to agree on exactly how the chicken came to be inside a duck that ended up in a turkey. Here are a few of our theories:

    1. Time-travel
    2. Alien abduction
    3. Genetic engineering
    4. “Beam me up, Scottie” gone terribly wrong
    5. Splinching, similar to #4 but with a Harry Potter twist. After all, if Ron Weasley can’t apparate, then how can we expect dim-witted barnyard fowl to do it?
    6. “A turkey, a duck, and a chicken walk into a bar…”

    If you have any ideas of your own, please share. Let’s remember to keep it PG, shall we?

    Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Christmas: The Joy of Giving, Celebrating, and Doing Time

    My mom is going to jail! Apparently, she's been found guilty of being big-hearted and will be locked up for GOOD next week. You can help post her bail AND help kids with muscular dystrophy by donating at the following site.

    MDA Lock-Up

    After you've done something good for someone else, then it's time to do something good for yourself.

    To celebrate the release of Mom's Christmas novella, Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group is sponsoring an awesome contest. The winner gets two tickets to the Glen Eyrie Castle Christmas Madrigal Banquet plus airfare to Colorado Springs, plus two copies of Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball!

    How cool is that?!

    Kory and I have been to the Madrigal Banquet, and it is truly a unique and wonderful experience. Most guests wear formal attire, but since this is Colorado a few misinformed cowboys might show up in jeans. Be nice to them. They didn't get the memo.

    Here's how the Glen Eyrie site describes the evening:


    The Glen Eyrie Christmas Madrigal is a gourmet 5 course meal surrounded by all the glorious pomp and circumstance you can imagine, reminiscent of a bygone era!

    Be greeted with complimentary valet at the entrance to the Castle, warm by the fire with a cup of wassail, immerse yourself in the joyous festivities of a Renaissance Castle Christmas where you will enjoy a variety of song and dance, musical instruments and tales presented by the Lord and Lady of the Manor.

    Be treated like royalty in an unforgettable night!


    If you'd like to enter the contest (I sure wish I could), go to the following link and scroll down until you see Two Tickets Sweepstakes.

    Waterbrook Multnomah Contests and Giveaways

    Oh, and donate and enter today. Mom's scheduled to be arrested November 18th, and the Two Tickets Sweepstakes deadline is November 17th! That's next week, people!

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Things You Shouldn’t Do After Eye Surgery

    Ok, it wasn’t exactly eye surgery, but a week ago I had a mole removed from my eyelid. Since it was so near my tear duct, I went to an ocular-plastic surgeon for the procedure. He was a nice guy and did a great job, but I thought it was sort of strange that he numbed my eyeball with drops and gave me the first of several shots before asking me to sign a waiver. I’m pretty sure my signature looked like it was written by a second-grader on a sugar high.

    The procedure was quick and painless, aside from the numbing shots. When he was done, I asked, “How bad does it look? Is it really gross?”

    He laughed. “No, not at all. Here, I’ll show you.”

    He held a mirror up to my face, and even half-blind I could see the bloody hole in my eyelid. So I asked him, “What is your definition of gross? Because this is mine.”

    He insisted that I did not need an eye patch despite my argument that it would get me cool points with my boys. So I put my sunglasses on and stumbled out to the waiting room where my Mom waited to drive me home. And here begins my list of things you should not do after having eye surgery:

    1. Drive. The doctor warned me about this one, so I brought Mom along to help. He did not warn me about the next thing on the list.
    2. Walk. We had to stop at Walgreens for my prescription. At this point I could see out of both eyes, but I didn’t know my depth perception was off. I walked into the car in the parking space beside us.
    3. Read, upside down, in the dark, to 25 third-graders. Yeah, perhaps I shouldn’t have volunteered to read scary stories for the fall party the day after my surgery.
    4. Stare at the laptop screen.
    5. Watch TV.
    6. Wear eyeliner.
    7. Light jack-o-lanterns.
    8. Gaze romantically into husband’s eyes. “Ew, honey! Your eye is oozing.”
    9. Do anything that makes you cry, including chopping onions, paying bills, and watching Toy Story 3.
    10. Eat Thai food.

    You’ll be happy to know that, a week later, I’m nearly healed. I still wish I’d gotten that eye patch though.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    Storycrafters coming to Denver on November 13th

    Just a quick note today to tell you all how excited I am about Susan May Warren's Storycrafters Seminer coming to Denver. Below is all the pertinent info you need to come to this fabulous workshop, but let me just say that to character-driven, seat-of-the-pants writers like me, Susie is a superhero. She completely throws herself into helping other writers take their plot inklings and turn them into workable novels. I think her middle name is Brainstorm. And if you're looking for an all-around good read, pick up any of her titles. The PJ Sugar series is one of my faves.

    If you're interested in writing, I hope you'll join me November 13th. Remember, registration ends November 1st.

    The Storycrafter's Seminar
    Featuring Susan May Warren
    RITA Award Winning Novelist and Writing Coach
    Saturday, November 13th, 2010—8:30 am - 4 pm
    Registration check-in and continental breakfast begin at 8:30 am, seminar begins at 9
    Graystone Castle Event Center
    (formerly Radisson Graystone Castle)
    I-25 & 120th Avenue
    Thornton, Colorado

    Have you always wanted to write a story but didn’t know where to start? If so, the Storycrafter's Seminar is for you! RITA Award-winning author and writing coach Susan May Warren will teach you story structure, go step-by-step in the character creation and plotting process, then show you how to apply it to your story. She’ll brainstorm your idea, share essential secrets of storytelling, and finally, you'll take home a plan that will act as a map for your novel. With time for writing, as well as learning, it’s a day for writers of all levels that will jumpstart your novel onto the road to publication.

    Speaker


    Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A RITA winner, as well as a four-time Christy award finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at www.susanmaywarren.com.

    Registration

    Cost is $109 and Registration ends November 1, 2010.
    The event will be held in Thornton, Colorado, 12 miles north of downtown Denver and 30 minutes from the airport, in the Graystone Castle Event Center (formerly Radisson Graystone Castle). Admission to the event includes:

    Storycrafter's workbook
    Continental breakfast
    Deli lunch buffet

    Register on-line at www.acfwcolorado.com/events

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Stuck Alive

    Is it selfish to go to church because it inspires you to write? That’s not the only reason I go to church, but I confess I often find myself walking down the aisle on Sunday morning (late as usual) and thinking, “Man, I need this.” And it never fails. Something in the music or the pastor’s sermon starts my brain whirring with ideas on character, plot, or theme. Then I have to struggle not to zone out, thinking about my Work In Progress, for the rest of service.

    Last Sunday was no different, but who would have suspected I’d find a correlation to my WIP in Luke 2, the Christmas story? And who would have suspected that we’d be studying Luke 2, the Christmas story, in October?

    Despite my church’s apparent calendar confusion, the following passage was very timely for me:

    At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
    “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
    I have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared for all people.
    He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
    Luke 2:25-32

    Cool, huh? God would not allow Simeon to die until he saw salvation, the Messiah. I wonder how old Simeon was. Did he wake up every morning and wonder if that day was the day he would see Christ…and die? Did he get tired of waiting? Did he ever feel like going to look for redemption instead of waiting for the promise to come to him?

    We get the sense from the passage in Luke that Simeon was a good guy, and the promise of living to see the Messiah was a gift, even if somedays he woke up cursing his arthritic knees.

    But what if you resolutely refused to see the Messiah, as many do, and God decided to keep you alive until your stubbornness ran out? Talk about extreme octogenarians!

    That--minus the gray hair and degenerating joints--is the concept of my book, The Immortal Heathcliff. Although at the end of Emily Brontë's classic tale, Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff recognizes that his elaborate revenge has left him hollow, he still goes to the grave unrepentant. In my novel, he climbs out of the grave still unrepentant and wanting nothing more than to die for good like normal folks. Instead he’s stuck in an immortal state, searching for deliverance, atonement, and release from his unnatural life.

    But what he views as a curse is actually a gift. He will not die until he sees redemption. He sets about looking for it, trying to earn it, instead of waiting for it to come to him. After two hundred years of failing to obtain his freedom, grace breaks down the barriers he's constructed. Now all that remains, is for him to finally open his eyes and see his salvation.

    The idea of being stuck alive fascinates me, and I hope it will fascinate readers as well.

    Question: What would you do with immortality on earth? Would you accumulate wealth? Visit every corner of the globe?

    Me? I'd read. Everything.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Singing, Sailing, Speaking


    Last January, my friend Beth Vogt (aka The Evil Editor) asked me to speak to a group of writers. Beth is the kind of friend who makes you see yourself as you always dreamed you could be, which for me means covered in green paint and belting out Defying Gravity on a Broadway stage.

    Naturally I agreed.

    After the exhilaration faded, and I realized I would not be singing in green body paint, I got nervous.

    As the February date of my workshop drew nearer, my nerves turned into a clump of cold spaghetti. I practiced and practiced my talk on Moving Beyond Clichés. The day arrived and with it a snowstorm. The event was cancelled, and my spaghetti knot unwound.

    Beth and Scoti at Springs Writers rescheduled me for October, which was far enough away for my spaghetti to be lulled into warm, buttery sense of security.

    But, as you know, time tends to pass. Autumn arrived, and I started having internal pasta trouble around October 1st.

    Last night, at 6:30, time was up. I finally gave my first workshop. Beth Vogt and Mild-Mannered Missionary Mary came along to heckle, I mean, cheer me on. During my talk I had a little moment when a realization hit me. It went something like this:



    No, I wasn’t tied to the podium, and there was no deranged psychologist waiting in the wings, but I did experience a tingle of exhilaration when I realized that I can do this. I speak now. I’m a speaker. Isn’t this some kind of breakthrough? I’m a speaker!

    Ahoy!

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Picture Day Meltdown

    Have I mentioned that I hate Picture Day? I don’t remember it being traumatic as a kid, but as an adult, this school event always has me flummoxed.

    On the night before Picture Day, I usually lay out the boys’ outfits from the previous Easter--which they didn’t wear because we always have blizzards on Easter—only to discover the next day that they grew three inches overnight and can no longer wear the Easter outfits they never wore in the first place!

    This year, I bought them short-sleeved, button-up shirts with stripes. Yeah. Thrilling. I couldn’t be more excited. Really.

    At least I bought the shirts one size up so as not to be caught off guard by a visit from the Miracle Grow Fairy.

    But this year, I had a new challenge to tackle. I didn’t have time to make sure Monkey took a bath last night, so I had to get him to take a shower this morning before school. Do all nine-year-old boys loathe bathing? Is it normal for them to come out of the bathroom after a shower just as filthy as they went in? Do other moms besides me have to stand outside the door and remind them to wash their faces and armpits?

    I wasted too much time narrating my son’s shower from behind the bathroom door this morning. When he finally finished, I raced upstairs to brush my teeth and get dressed, hollering to Chunky that he needed to get dressed. (His picture day is tomorrow. Yay. I get to do this all over again.)

    I’d just starting brushing when the smoke alarm went off. If I was the sort of mom who actually served a home-cooked breakfast in the morning, I might have been worried. But I knew kid-tampering was the only reason the fire alarm would go off on a Tuesday morning at 8:20 AM with me still in PJ’s, brushing my teeth, and already horrendously late for Picture Day.

    I ran downstairs, saliva pooling around the toothbrush still in my mouth, and glared up at the smoke alarm. Why do we do this? Why is our first reaction to stare at the screeching device instead of look for fire?

    Anyway, as I dragged a chair into the hall and climbed up to push the button, I hollered around my mouthful of toothbrush and drool, “Monkey, what did you do?”

    “Nothing,” he muttered.

    I silenced the alarm then looked at Monkey, who stood there with hair combed, wearing his Picture Day best, and holding the carbon monoxide detector.

    “Why did you unplug the carbon monoxide detector?”

    “I dunno.”

    At this point Chunky shows up, completely dressed, but without socks.

    “Go get your socks on, Chunky.”

    “I threw them downstairs.”

    “Then go find them and put them on.”

    “Here they are.”

    “Those aren’t your socks. Those belong to one of your brother’s friends.” (If I knew which friend, I’d return them.)

    Chunky starts bawling. “Where are my socks?”

    “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL, go upstairs and get new ones! WE’RE LATE!”

    Chunky sobs back up the stairs. I go spit.

    Chunky comes back down the stairs holding thick dinosaur slipper socks.

    “If you wear those socks, your shoes will be too tight! Get new ones. Never mind! I’ll do it!”

    I go up, get his socks, come back down, sit him on the chair I used to reach the alarm, and cram his feet into socks and shoes. He wails the whole time, and Monkey says, “Mom, why are you yelling at Chunky?”

    “Because it’s PICTURE DAY, that’s why!”

    As we're trotting into school, long after the bell has rung, I notice Monkey buttoning the top button of his shirt.

    "Don't do that. You only button the top button if you're wearing a tie."

    "But I don't want anyone to see my neck?"

    What is that about?

    "Sweetie, you will look like a dork if you button the top button."

    "But I like it this way."

    And that's when I officially gave up. I can’t believe I actual pay for this nightmare. Every year.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Things a Nine-Year-Old Does


    Monkey will turn nine in a few days. Apparently, the little twerp has decided to grow up. Fast!

    The other day he sighed and said, “I’m getting older and that means more chores. Like taking baths. Because bigger bodies get more stinky.”

    You can tell what topic of conversation has come up in our house recently.

    His last growth spurt rivaled the Hulk’s transformation, but thankfully my not-so-little-anymore boy isn’t green. Unless he’s eaten a green popsicle, that is.

    The grown-ups in the house have marveled at the recent changes in Monkey’s maturity level. As a late bloomer, he’s always been behind the curve, but now he seems eager to dash ahead.

    He made a splash in swim lessons this year. His instructor said he was the strongest swimmer in his group. We’ve finally managed to get him to piano lessons regularly, and his teacher calls him “a natural.” When he was assigned “Ode to Joy,” I told him it was my favorite piece of music and that we played it at our wedding. Now when I tell him to practice it, he rolls his eyes and says, “Yeah, I know, Mom. It’s your favorite song.” Then he plays it, looks at me with a twinkle in his eye, and asks, “How was that, Mom? Was it good? Did you like it?”

    Yep. Puddle of mom right there on the floor next to the piano.

    I think part of being a late bloomer is being a bit of a mama’s boy. Sometimes I don’t mind. Like when he holds his little, brown, Cherokee-kissed arm out next to mine and says, “We have the same skin, right Mom?”

    But there’s another side to being mother to a clingy boy—always being the security blanket, having to push him to take responsibility, to remember the simplest things, like brushing teeth and wearing clothes, without being reminded.

    My good friend whose son is a high-functioning autistic says, “Someday he’ll be a rocket scientist, but I’ll still have to pack his lunch and drive him to work every morning.”

    I can totally relate.

    But recently Monkey hit a milestone in his journey to becoming a healthy, well-balanced, apron-string-free man. Mom and I had picked the boys up from school and were heading to another author’s booksigning at Mardel. The boys were talking about their day at school and Monkey piped up.

    “Mom, did you know they’re going to have career day at school?”

    In fact, I’d already signed up to be involved, excited that this year I could participate as a published author.

    “Yes,” I told him, “and Grandma and I will be there, and we’ll get to talk about The Dragon and the Turtle with all your school friends.”

    It was quiet for a second then a hesitant voice said, “Well, ok, Mom, . . . but doesn’t Dad build things that go up into space?”

    Ouch.

    Yes, my feathers were just a teensy bit ruffled. I mean, come on, my book was published this summer! That’s gotta earn me some cool points with the offspring, right? But at the same time I was cheering inside. If you have boys, then you know how important it is for them to loosen their koala-tight hold on mommy and look to dad as their role model.

    We talked for awhile about Dad’s cool job and how the products he works on go in rocket ships and satellites and help keep our country safe. Monkey quickly concocted a special ops scenario in which bad guys were trying to steal Dad’s plans for a super secret totally awesome weapon. I gently brought him back to reality and silently wondered if we might have yet another storyteller in the family.

    I guess we’ll find out when Monkey grows up.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Cub Scout Mom

    Monkey and Chunky are Cub Scouts! When we starting looking into Cub Scouts naturally the first thing I thought was, “Oh, they’ll look so cute in their uniforms!” The rest of the program sounded good too. Character training, fun activities, positive socialization, summer camp, lots of opportunities to wear out the boys.

    Summer camp was our initiation. After hiking half a mile in my flip flops to drop the boys off at the camp location, I began to suspect that I was not quite prepared to be a scout mom. The other women I saw were in tennis shoes or hiking boots, and furthermore, seemed to possess some hidden control over their little Cub Scouts. While my kids darted around and shrieked like pterodactyls, the other scouts stood quietly waiting for the day’s activities to begin.

    Undaunted, I returned the next day with my tennis shoes and Willie, our Blue Heeler, who is convinced that Monkey and Chunky are her cows and must be kept in line. Hey, whatever it takes. We managed to get through the week of camp, and the boys had fun once they quit acting like prehistoric terrors.

    The start of school has also brought the start of regular Cub Scout meetings. This week it was finally time to get those adorable little uniforms. I made the trek to what is known as the Council Store and had what can only be described as a completely novel experience.

    I didn’t know how to shop!

    That’s never happened to me before!

    The shirts, pants, belts and hats weren’t intimidating. But an entire row made up of bin after bin filled with mysterious patches was enough to make me shake in my destroyed denim. Then there were neckerchiefs, slides, insignia, badges, belt thingamabobs, and socks, and even Boy Scout party supplies.

    I must have looked lost because a very nice, insignia-bedecked young man asked if he could help. I told him I had no idea what I needed, and he started asking questions.

    “What pack are you in?”

    “Um, I have a first grader and a third grader.”

    “Ok, that means you have a tiger cub and a bear cub.”

    “Tell me about it. They’re wild.”

    “But what pack are you in, ma’am?”

    “You mean the numbers?”

    “Yes, the numbers.”

    Once I remembered what pack we were in, he handed me number badges, a council patch, and some other things I still haven’t identified. Then he loaded me down with the rest of the paraphernalia. I followed dumbly as a man did my shopping for me.

    We’ll pause here for me to recover from the humiliation. I’m gonna need a moment before we go on.

    Ok. So we finally made it to the register, and I plunked my armload onto the counter. My friendly personal shopper began ringing me up, and I pawed through the various patches, trying to sort them out.

    I turned a patch over and without giving it much thought, asked, “Are these supposed to be sewn on?”

    “Yes, ma’am, they’re sew-on.”

    “But I don’t know how to sew.”

    Awkward silence.

    I cringed. I’d failed again at being a good scout mom. I’m pretty sure my polite, bearded friend behind the cash register could sew on a patch with his eyes closed.

    “We have Badge Magic.”

    I breathed a sigh of relief and followed my Boy Scout Guide to what I’m guessing was the Single Dad section of the store where they have ready-made kits for home-economics drop-outs like myself.

    I had this wild impulse to tell the guy that I can cook—like that would redeem me in his eyes. But I didn’t. I mean, let’s face it, Kraft Mac n’ Cheese doesn’t exactly scream June Cleaver.

    I made my purchases, thanked him—he really was nice—and fled in shame.



    Today I pulled all the stuff out of the bag, read the instructions on Badge Magic—So Simple, Even a Scout Can Do It!—got all the patches ready, and ironed the shirts. I know! Ironing! I haven’t done that in years! Then I traced the badges, cut out the shapes, affixed the Badge Magic to the badges, and stuck the badges onto the shirts. I only had one snafu and it was easily fixed. But the real test will be Monkey’s den meeting tonight. We’ll see if I managed to get all those patches on in the right spots. But for now, I’m pretty proud of myself.

    Next challenge. Popcorn sales. Are scouts wearing braces exempt?

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Claim


    I recently read Lisa T. Bergren’s novel, Claim. I’ve never read one of her books before, for which I should be flogged. But really, having missed out on her excellent fiction is punishment enough, don’t you think? Now I’m wiser and will be stocking up on Bergren novels like I’m anticipating nuclear winter.

    I was a little concerned about reading the third book in The Homeward Bound Trilogy before reading the first two, but I had no problem diving into the lives of siblings Dominic, Moira, and Odessa St. Clair.

    Claim is primarily Dominic’s journey to love, home, and his place in the world, and right from the start I felt like I knew the guy and understood where he was coming from. Bergren is fantastic at conveying the little pieces that add up to make an authentic character. Her pacing is flawless as well. She kept me wondering what was going to happen next but never frustrated me by jumping too soon to another character’s point of view.

    Moira, Dominic’s sister, also has a journey to take in Claim. The bulk of her story is told in the second novel, Breathe, and I look forward to reading it. But I liked the way Bergren showed that even if you think you’ve found where you belong, you still need to deal with your past in order to heal. The twist at the end of Moira’s journey surprised me and added an unexpected level of tension.

    I took Claim with me on a camping trip, and the surroundings were perfect for reading a story set in the Colorado mountains. That is, when I managed to block out the sounds of the horde of wild children roaming the campsite.

    Kory took this picture and said it was me in my natural habitat. He’s wrong. This is the equivalent of a goldfish in a water-filled baggie. I’m far from where I belong—a comfy chair INDOORS—but I still have what I need for survival. A good book.

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    School Supplies Make Me Cry


    The Dragon and the Turtle releases today! Look for it in your local Christian bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon—anywhere but my garage.

    To celebrate the release of our children’s book, I went shopping for school supplies today. Yeah, that was a joke.

    Just once I’d like to go back-to-school shopping and not end up blubbering in the junk food aisle. Seriously, those school supply lists make me question the goodness of God.

    I have a theory. I think teachers make these lists with the intent to torture parents one last time before the kids return to school. Most of the time, I like teachers. Several of my close personal friends teach, and my boys have been blessed with some really dedicated educators in their short school careers. But as I squeeze through the school supply aisle at Wal-Mart, I lose touch with reality a little bit.

    I mean, come on. How can I not go bonkers when instructed to purchase three packages of Crayola Washable Markers, 10 Count. You can buy REGULAR Crayola Markers, 10 Count. And you can buy Crayola Washable Markers, 8 Count. But you CANNOT buy Crayola Washable Markers, 10 Count. Apparently, they don’t make them.

    Then there are the index cards. I’m supposed to buy pastel index cards. Pastel! Guess what my choices are in office supplies. White and NEON! I smell Conspiracy to Drive Parents Insane, don’t you?

    And then there are items like this:

    1 package colored copy paper (NOT multi-color) Huh??

    2 red felt tip pens (fine tip, NOT permanent) Um, this is in addition to the three packages of Crayola Washable Markers 10 Count?

    Chunky is supposed to have 24 No. 2 Standard Yellow Pencils (Papermate Brand) and Monkey is supposed to have 48 (forty-freakin’-eight?!) No. 2 Standard Yellow Pencils (Papermate Brand.) I could not even find ONE Papermate Brand pencil, let alone SEVENTY-TWO!

    Now I know someone is going to say I’m over-thinking this. People are always telling me I’m over-thinking things. My mom says it. My husband says it. My counselor says it. The guy who gave me a tissue next to the Little Debbie display said it. But what can I say? I’m just trying to follow directions and keep either of my boys from being known as “that weird kid who only has 8 markers instead of 10.” Or worse, “that freak with the neon index cards.”

    I know if I can survive this crisis, my kids will go back to school next week, and I will have eight blissful hours of quiet time every weekday until sometime next June. But for now, I have to count crayons, organize folders by color and type (pockets or brads?), and make sure the box of Kleenex I bought has a minimum of 175 tissues in it.

    Please go buy The Dragon and the Turtle. My mental health bill is going to be high.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Lucky Baby


    Meredith Efken’s Lucky Baby could not have come at a better time for me. Feelings of inadequacy in the mom department all but smothered me this summer. And although my boys are adopted from another planet, not from China, I had plenty to relate to in this fantastic book about a woman's journey to become a mother in all the real and good senses of the word.

    Meg Lindsay, the heroine of Lucky Baby, seeks to repair her wounded heart by stitching together a family of her own. She and her husband, Lewis, set out to adopt an orphan, Zhen An, from China, but their journey exposes more than their own hurts.

    Wen Ming, a slightly older blind girl, is Zhen An’s only friend in the Chinese Orphanage. Her side of the story is one not often heard in the typical adoption account. Wen Ming—with her strength, tenacity, and fierce love—serves as a counterpart to Meg Lindsay’s desperate but at times tentative affection for her daughter.

    The two struggle to forge the true bonds of family and move beyond the losses they've suffered.

    The author weaves Meg and Wen Ming’s tales together with exquisite prose. I loved her use of magical realism. Each of the symbolic elements felt like a feast. I told myself I’d savor the delectable words, and then I gobbled them up anyway. But the best thing about a good book is that you can always read it again.

    Lucky Baby is a fragrant and satisfying story of family and healing and how the two are possible despite the pain of rejection. I highly recommend it for moms and anyone who enjoys rich, evocative, magical tales.

    You can find out more about Meredith Efken and her books at her website.

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Pink Hair and Jury Duty


    My friend Daphne, The Perky Pessimist, is the kind of friend who keeps you young in the best, non-night-in-jail kind of ways. A week ago, Daphne dyed some of her hair pink and posted the pics on Facebook.

    I loved it and told her so. A few days later, I somehow ended up with pink hair of my own through a blurred process that involved lots of laughter, margaritas, and some very strange smells.


    We started out by dying just the tips of my hair pink so I could cut them off if it was too much. The opposite was true. I loved my pink ends and wanted more pink. So Daphne obliged. We used a different brand of dye mistakenly labeled something innocuous like Sweet Ruby. Unfortunately, on me it looked like Bozo’s Wig.


    This time it was too much and I had Kory cut off a few inches of pink. But I still have a lot in my hair even though it doesn’t show up on camera too well. We discovered that the “food” setting on the camera works best for picking up paranormal hair. Just a hint for all you color junkies out there.

    I still forget about my pink hair and wake up every morning startled by what I see on the pillowcase or in the mirror. This is a nice break from waking up every morning startled by the number on the scale.


    When asked “Why pink?” I usually say, “I had to cover up the gray somehow.” But the truth is, it was time for something fun, and . . . I thought maybe the color would help me get out of jury duty.

    Yep, that’s right. I got the dreaded notice in the mail last month. I arranged for my mom to watch my kids in the morning and a friend to watch them in the afternoon so I could go have a fun day at court. I ended up in the jury box—much to my horror. Even worse, it was a criminal trial. Incidentally, you know that questionnaire they make you fill out? There’s no box to check for “Is your hair an unnatural shade and does that reflect your outlook on life?”

    For awhile it looked like I was going to have to resort to favors, bribes, and complicated scheduling charts to arrange for child care for the rest of the week. But, where my pink hair failed to get me off the jury, my conservative views on prior felonies did the trick. The defense sent me packing, and—forgive the cliché—I was one happy camper.

    Don’t get me wrong. I support and believe in our justice system, but, HELLO? Summertime! The kids are more than just home. They are black holes of summer boredom, restless energy, and brother-bating power. They managed to put my mom back on oxygen after she spent only a few hours with them. I’m not kidding. My boys are forces of nature not to be taken lightly or even approached without proper protective gear.

    So, I’m now off the hook in more ways than one. I’m relieved of jury duty and a pretty hip mama if I do say so myself.

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    And the Winner Is

    So last week when I announced my little contest, I didn’t know that we would receive our advanced copies of The Dragon and the Turtle this week. I thought I’d be telling the winner, “I’ll send your copy as soon as I can get one.”

    But on Tuesday our beloved UPS man delivered our first copies. I screamed. The boys screamed. The dog barked. It was exciting.


    After the screaming, I sat down and read the book to my boys. They loved seeing Roger and Padraig on the page after hearing about their many adventures in bedtime stories.

    Since then, they’ve been handing out The Dragon and the Turtle bookmarks everywhere we go. It’s pretty funny actually. They’ll go up to other kids in the store and hand them a bookmark. Sometimes they say things like, “This is from my grandma” or “My mommy and grandma wrote this book. For me.” Sometimes they just throw the bookmark at the unsuspecting child and run away. When that happens I feel compelled to explain, or maybe laugh, point, and say, “You’ve just been bookmarked.”

    So far, this family marketing thing is pretty fun, but I’m a little worried that we’ll end up traveling the country in a VW van, putting on The Dragon and Turtle Family Show in libraries, bookstores, and schools. My kids will suddenly sport bowl-cuts and bell-bottoms. My husband will start using words like “wholesome” and “groovy.” And I will take up playing the tambourine.

    Help! Help!

    Breathe in. Breathe out.

    Okay. Panic attack over. This is 2010 not 1970, and no one can make me play a tambourine and wear polyester if I don’t want to.

    I bet you didn’t come to this blog to read about my Partridge family nightmares. You probably want to know who won the contest. All right, without further histrionics from me, the winner is:

    Andrea Downs, who suggested I sign my name with the tag “Every day can be an adventure.”

    I loved this and have already used it when I signed some books for friends. Andrea is the brave mother of three boys and can testify that every day is an adventure. Unlike me, I bet she never hides from the day’s adventure under the covers or in the bathroom.

    I also must give an honorable mention to Corey White whose clever “May there be nothing rotten in your state, E. Denmark” cracked me up, but would go over the heads of most 4 to 8 year olds.

    Colorado Springs folks, don’t forget, Mom and I will be signing books August 14th at Mardel from 1 to 3 PM, and August 21st at the north Barnes and Noble from 1 to 3 PM. We’d love to see you and sign a book for you.

    I’m sure we’ll be giving more copies away in the future, so watch this blog and Mom’s blog, Dragon Bloggin'

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Win a copy of The Dragon and the Turtle!



    My husband took this picture at Colorado Gators when we visited the San Luis Valley a few weeks ago. It reminded me of the picture book Mom and I wrote together that will release August 10th.

    The Dragon and the Turtle is a story about the fun of making friends with someone who is different from you. Obviously the alligator and the turtle in this picture have worked out some system of friendship since they live in the same pond. I wanted to ask someone why the alligator didn’t attack the turtle, but nobody was around for me to question.

    Monkey and Chunky were a little reluctant to visit the alligator farm. They kept asking, “Won’t the alligators get us?” Kory and I wondered if they really thought we’d take them someplace where alligators roamed free in search of tasty little boys. Maybe we should stop threatening them with Death by Alligator when they misbehave.

    Once we got to Colorado Gators and the boys saw that all the animals were behind fences, they relaxed and had a blast. What is it about reptiles and amphibians that fascinates little boys? I could barely get past the smell.


    Mom and I hope the scales, claws, and tails factor will attract young readers to our Dragon and Turtle stories. We had two particular little boys very much in mind as we created the characters. And for you moms out there, you’ll be relieved to know this is not a scratch and sniff book.

    If you’re in the Colorado Springs area, we have two booksignings in August. The first is at Mardel on North Powers on Saturday the 14th from 1:00 to 3:00. The second is at the Briargate Barnes and Noble on Saturday the 21st from 1:00 to 3:00. We’d love to see you there!

    Which brings me to a dilemma that only occurred to me as we were arranging the B&N signing last weekend. How am I going to sign my name? I mean, I know no one really cares. Anyone standing in line to get their book signed is there for Donita K. Paul’s signature. I could sign my name:

    Your very own raving lunatic,
    Evangeline Denmark

    and no one would even notice. Still, for my own satisfaction, I’d like to have a cool signature line. Any suggestions?

    Hugs and kisses,
    Evangeline Denmark

    A little too touchy-feely?

    Your rockin’ friend,
    Evangeline Denmark

    A little too 1950’s?

    Chillax,
    Evangeline Denmark

    A little too middle-schooler?

    See, I need help. Let’s make this a contest. Submit your suggestions and if I pick yours, you’ll win a copy of The Dragon and the Turtle. Next Friday, July 9th, will be the cut off for submitting your suggestion. Then I’ll pick my fave and announce it here on Breathe In Breathe Out.

    Don’t worry, I’ll have Donita K. Paul sign the winner’s copy too.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    The Hidden Talents of Little Boys

    I’ve long suspected that my first son has a career as a professional interrogator ahead of him. All kids have that special ability to ask “Why?” until their parents would joyfully swallow nails in order to get them to stop. But Monkey—Monkey is something else. With his auditory processing disorder and the hyper-focusing that sometimes accompanies ADHD, Monkey could get innocent men to confess to murder with no other weapon but the word why.

    I’ve expanded my theory about Monkey’s usefulness in the interrogation room and come up with, what I think, is a brilliant method our military might want to look into when trying to get information from suspected terrorists.

    I’d like to put forth the hypothesis that using no means other than a group of little boys, our military powers-that-be could get more intel faster than they do with their current methods. And so, I’d like to present my top ten list of ways to use the mysterious, obnoxious power of little boys to break hardened criminals.

    10. Star Wars references. To one not enamored with all things Skywalker, the ability of boys to endlessly discuss Star Wars can, AND WILL, drive the non-little boy mind quite thoroughly mad.

    9. Beans. The concept is simple, yes, but mind-blowing in its implications. Feed five little boys beans. Wait two to four hours. Release . . . um . . . well, just release on suspected criminal.

    8. Cafeteria line. This sorta goes with number 9. Why not make the suspects feed the five little boys? Anyone who has ever tried to fill the hollow, gaping black holes that are little boys’ mouths will know that it’s a task similar to spinning plates. As soon as you’ve shoveled chow into the mouth of the last boy in line, you’ve gotta go back and start over again.

    7. Yellow alert. It’s crude, yes, but this is for the really bad guys. Suspect must clean up after little boys take a bathroom break. “You missed a spot.”

    6. Transformers: Give each boy a brand new, still-packaged Transformer. Suspect must remove toy from packaging, then transform toy from character to vehicle following directions in Japanese. (Unless, suspect is Japanese, then I recommend Icelandic instructions.) This also works like the spinning plate game. No sooner will the suspect finish with the last Transformer than he’ll have to start over again and transform them back to vehicles.

    5. Stupid jokes. Boy Number One: “Two guys walk into a bar and FART!” Boys Two through Four: “HAHAHAHAHA!” Repeat indefinitely.

    4. Legos. Put boys in room with approximately 1 billion Legos. Come back and remove boys in one hour. Put terrorist in room barefoot. Turn off lights.

    3. Put your shoes on. This is like those horrible word problems you had to do in elementary school math. You have five boys. Each boy has two feet. How many shoes do you need? 10. How many shoes do you have? 9. And none of them match. “Show your work.”

    2. Car ride: All the fun of numbers 10 through 3, but in an enclosed space.

    And finally, the number one way to break a terrorist suspect using the incapacitating power of little boys:

    1. My Turn! One game system. Two controllers. Five boys. Terrorist must negotiate turn-taking.

    Moms of boys, am I on to something here?

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Un-Camping and Other Adventures

    Why does it take more than a week to recover from being out of town for three days? Maybe the recovery time is proportionate to the number of children taken on the trip and the intensity of activity performed. Makes sense, doesn’t it?


    Last week our family went on an un-camping trip to the Sand Dunes in the southwestern section of Colorado. There were no campsites available so *insert dramatic sigh* we HAD to stay in a hotel. This suited me just fine. I don’t even like to be outside in my own backyard, so having an indoor pool, TV, and comfy bed instead of a sleeping bag was definitely my kind of “camping.” We even had a microwave in our room so we were able to make s’mores. I know some of you outdoor, granola types are rolling your eyes, but this city girl enjoyed her warm showers, thank you very much.


    The boys loved the sand and the undulating creek. They each brought an entire dune home in their pockets. I had to use that fire-fighting nozzle attachment on the garden hose to clean their clothes out. I considered using it on them, but thought peeling the top layer of their skin off was going a bit too far.

    All three of my boys have affectionate relationships with water. Chunky loves it with the enthusiasm of a typical 6-year-old. It seems to tame the ADHD beast in Monkey. Get him near water and he’s happy. And Kory could sit by a lake and throw pebbles in for hours. I think it has something to do with the fact that most of the time his brain is crowded by all things technical and engineer-y. When he’s in nature, simple pleasures take over.

    But my water-crazy boys got a little out of hand when we hiked up to Zapata Falls, a 30 foot waterfall cutting through a rock crevasse south of the Sand Dunes. Monkey and Chunky whined all the way up the half mile hike from the trailhead but stopped complaining as soon as they spied the rushing, frigid stream. Kory hiked upstream and into the cave to see the actual falls while the boys and I scrambled over rocks and caught tiny blue butterflies. Only one butterfly didn’t survive the experience.

    When Kory came back—his feet numb from the just-melted snow—we went downstream to the sluice gate where a deep, icy pool overflows its barriers and tumbles on down the mountain. Kory introduced the boys to his favorite water-related activity, throwing rocks, then he set off to explore the surrounding area.
    Things got out of hand fast. My boys quickly tired of throwing pebbles and small stones into the pool. Everybody knows bigger things make better splashes. Soon they were digging up the largest rocks they could find and carting them over to the edge.


    I twitched as I watched my kids lug heavy stones to the pool, teeter on the rim, then hoist the rocks into the water. Back and forth I went between Monkey and Chunkey, who naturally had chosen separate spots for their aquatic experiments.



    Kory’s exploration had taken him out sight, but finally he returned.“Whew,” I thought. Now I have another set of hands to shadow my daredevil boys.


    Nope. Wrong. Kory began helping the kids dig up bigger and bigger rocks. When the stones were too heavy for the boys, he carried them over and launched them into the clear, green depths himself.

    There are times when a mom of only boys feels very alone with her femininity. I knew it was pointless to bring up my reservations about safety, so I contented myself with watching very closely and taking pictures.

    Friday, May 28, 2010

    Stupid Pet-Owner Tricks

    I’m writing in hopes that there are other families like ours who have stumbled into a problem they don’t quite know how to handle. I’m talking, of course, of owning a pet that is smarter than you.

    If you follow this blog you know the story of how we ended up with our Blue Heeler, Willie. She was not the breed we set out to adopt, but we fell in love with her cute face, beautiful markings, and silly, long legs.

    We looked up Heelers online and pretty much ignored all the “negative” things said about them. Let me re-phrase. There aren’t tons of warnings about Heelers out there, it’s just that many sites say they are one person dogs and not right for a family.

    No one ever told Willie she was a one person dog, so she seems to love us all equally.

    The herding thing—well, that is something to contend with. We quickly learned that Willie prefers the whole family to be in one room. If most of us are in the living room and one person is upstairs, she will go back and forth between the separated people, whining until the rogue member is back where he or she belongs.

    This really isn’t too bad because usually you can tell her to mind her own business and she’ll slink away with a few reproachful glances. But when the kids get riled up, Willie’s patience is severely tried. We’re pretty sure she thinks of Monkey and Chunky as her cows. If they run ahead of her, she runs and circles them, then runs back to Kory or I, making loops between cowboy and cattle.


    She doesn’t understand that sometimes boys are just wild. They’ll bounce off the walls, she’ll try to corral them, and then look at us as if to say, “People, don’t you see what your cows are doing?”

    When we don’t do anything to calm the kids down, she whines and barks at us in a little doggie lecture. I can almost hear her say, “You do not know how to control your cows. If you’d just let me give them each a good nip, they’d get in line. I know it.”

    Poor, harried herder.

    Our vet told us that she was so smart she would need a job to do or she would dig up the yard, build a catapult, and conquer the neighbors. He was right. Unfortunately, we’ve been a little busy lately, and Willie has had some quantity (not quality) outdoor time. She has begun what appear to be preparations for a siege in the backyard.

    She’s also learned how to operate our automatic trashcan. The lid opens when you wave a hand over the sensor. Willie is now so good at this that she checks the trashcan for snacks the way the boys check the pantry every time they go by it. Yesterday, I found her like this.


    I have to wrap this blog up now. Willie needs to go outside, but she won’t go unless I give her a treat.

    Are any of you other pet owners out there so well-trained by your pet that you’re thinking about handing over the mortgage to Fido?

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Full of Surprises

    Yes, you haven’t heard from me in awhile. That might be a good thing.

    It’s been a rough couple of weeks. I feel like a dried gourd, all scraped and hollow on the inside, but still round on the outside.

    The last thing I wanted to do this week was accompany seventy-five second graders to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Well, obviously it wasn’t the last thing I wanted to do. My bathrooms still need cleaning.

    But Monkey wanted me to go with him, and I thought, before long he’ll be begging me not to go with him because I’ll embarrass him in front of his friends.

    So I went.

    It. Was. Exhausting!

    The second graders were “hunting” animals, which meant they had to buy a license for a certain animal, find the animal (this involved lots of stairs), then once they’d “caught” their quarry, they had to fill out a bunch of paperwork. I don’t know about you, but I’m thirty-one and I hate paperwork. Asking over-excited eight-year-olds to find information on a museum placard and transpose it into a report using complete sentences is like asking a Chihuahua to read the nightly news.

    Poor Monkey with his ADHD (Advanced and Dedicated Hooligan Disorder) was really out of his element. But his team—three other classmates, one other mom and myself—hung in there and ended up winning the most prize money for our hunt.

    If you have any experience with ADHD kids, you know that their thinking processes can be mystifying. For instance, the team had chosen to hunt a tree kangaroo. We found the right exhibit and were attempting to extrapolate the information we needed. Monkey appeared to be off in La La Land, hanging on the edge of the group and barely attending to the task. The team was trying to list the distinguishing characteristics of the tree kangaroo, when out of nowhere Monkey says, “It has a long tail and sharp claws.”

    My eyes bulged. Up until that moment I thought my child was far away in his own world where life is an endless video game and someone is always there to bring you snacks. But instead he was thinking about the assignment, making good observations, and—miracle of miracles—paying attention.

    Yesterday I got another completely unexpected surprise from Monkey. It seems that while I’ve been thinking about how tired and drained I am and how I really don’t want to do extra things for my family right now, he’s been thinking, well, this…

    I love you
    You are the best mom ever
    So you love me and you make me happy.
    You’re the true mom I could ever have
    So why won’t you be mine
    You are so pretty and beautiful
    So that is why I wrote this poem for you


    Wow! I am full and overflowing. And so unworthy.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Maybe it's Maybelline

    I hope all you fabulous moms had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

    In general I’ve given up on making plans for Mother’s Day. Just like Easter in Colorado, Mom’s Day often involves nice dresses, picnic plans, and snow. This year all I wanted was to go see Ironman 2. I am, after all, the mother of two boys.

    But since those boys are not old enough to see Ironman 2, and no one wants to babysit on Mother’s Day, and Monkey and I came down with Strep, we had to put the movie on hold.

    But it turned out to be a pretty sweet holiday despite being Robert Downey Jr-less.

    On Friday I went to the Mother’s Day Makeover at Chunky’s kindergarten. Thankfully, I’ve already been through this adorable, tear-jerking event with one son, so I knew what to expect.

    Chunky escorted me into his classroom and to my seat. Then the kids presented a musical performance designed to wring every tear from every female eye within a ten-mile radius. It worked. Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day like a room full of bawling kindergarten moms.

    After the tear fest, it was time for the makeover. Chunky painted my fingernails and toenails and did my makeup and hair, all the while telling me, “You’re bootiful, Mommy.” You know what? When your six-year-old tells you that, you just believe it. If I looked like Scarlett Johannson and my husband told me every day I was beautiful, I still wouldn’t believe him. But, coming from one of my boys, well, it just has to be true.

    This is why I’m still wearing the green fingernail polish he painted on my nails.

    After the makeover, we headed straight to the doctor for Strep tests. I quickly forgot that Chunky had streaked plum-colored blush on my cheeks and decorated my eyelids with extra emphasis on the dark-shadowed corners. I also totally spaced the hot pink barrettes he put in my hair.

    We had several errands that day. I explained the reason for my chic Shrek nails to everyone I met, but didn’t once think about my imaginative makeup job.

    On Saturday, Kory went to work while I lay around trying to breathe around tonsils the size of bowling balls. Mom took the boys Mother’s Day shopping, and they came back with flower bouquets they’d used as light sabers in the store.

    They giddily wrapped the presents they bought then spent the rest of the day trying to get each other to accidentally spill the beans. They did manage to keep the gifts a surprise. On Sunday I unwrapped a lovely green ring that matches my nails, a bead necklace, and a red hat which they say makes me look like a pilgrim.



    I can’t say I disagree.

    So, though it didn’t go as planned, I had a fantastic Mother’s Day and I have my family to thank.

    Did anyone else have a non-traditional Mother’s Day? Or receive gifts that could rival mine in splendor and specialness? As if that were even possible.

    Friday, April 30, 2010

    Mom of the Year Award

    Well, just in case any of you got the mistaken impression from Tuesday’s post that I am some sort of cool mom, I thought I’d give you a laundry list of this week’s foul-ups.

    Tuesday night I continued with my excellent tradition of throwing dinner together at the last minute. We had breakfast. Monkey has refused to eat pancakes for all of his almost nine years. I never pushed the issue because, pancakes are, well, pancakes. By no stretch of the word can they be deemed healthy.

    But I just wanted to fulfill my responsibility to get something down his throat and into his tiny belly. A jar of sprinkles sat on my counter next to the stove, and I got an idea. Cut to the dinner table—a pile of pancakes with cooked-in sprinkles awaited my undernourished family. Monkey broke down in the face of my novelty flapjacks. He took one bite and proclaimed, “I love pancakes. I want to have pancakes for breakfast everyday! And syrup! I can’t believe I’ve missed out on syrup!”

    Please nobody tell Jamie Oliver what I’ve done.

    On Wednesday, Monkey woke up with a sore throat. I told him it was allergies and made him go to school. He came home with a 101 temperature. I never can call these things. He’s faked me out so many times I wish there was a lie detector app for my Blackberry.

    Wednesday afternoon I managed to lock myself out on the back deck without shoes. I was trying to bring a really heavy pot inside and not drop it on the dog who thinks she’s my appendage. Anyway, while I went out the back door, Chunky went out the front door. The air pressure slammed the back door shut. To make matters worse, Chunky then started ringing the doorbell. My boys think they should never have to open a door for themselves and will do all manner of annoying things to get others to do it for them. So I’m pounding on the back door and Chunky is marathon-ringing the front doorbell. Monkey, sick and lying on the couch, hollers, “Can you get that, Mom?”

    On Thursday, Monkey stayed home, but I couldn’t miss an opportunity to screw up, so I sent Chunky to school in a sweatshirt. It snowed.

    Today I wrapped up my Mom of the Year weekend by buying something I swore I would never buy. Cheeseballs. I have many food weaknesses, but Cheetos, cheeseballs, and most puffy, orange foods are not among them. I think they’re junk so I just don’t buy them. But Monkey has been sick and watching Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Squeakquel A LOT. Cheeseballs are the chipmunks' food of choice, and Monkey kept asking for them. I caved and bought him some.

    Turns out Willie the Healer likes cheeseballs too. I accused Monkey of getting a third helping, then turned around to see Willie, paws on the counter, munching neon orange snack food.

    I’ll end with this. I’ve succeeded in really freaking my boys out. They are constantly telling me I need to trim my fingernails. I occasionally consider fingernail hygiene but never manage to follow through. I’ve grown a truly scary pinkie nail, and my boys look at it the way one might look at a rat with two tails.




    There you have it folks. My week’s been stellar. Happy Friday everybody.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    Here There be Pirates

    So I’m a recovering pirate. Piracy, it seems, is an addiction and before long you’re using ‘Argh’ and ‘Matey’ in everyday conversation and this gets you frowned at in the grocery store.

    I’m wondering if there’s a twelve-step program for moms who’ve thrown their six-year-olds a pirate-themed birthday party and now just can't leave their bandana and eye patch behind.

    I know, I know. You want pictures. And honestly, I had every intention of posing in my pirate get up and posting the proof on this blog. But I got too busy! My husband had the camera, and in true traitor-male fashion, only managed to capture unflattering angles of my costumed splendor.

    Chunky’s party was an epic success despite the spring snow storm we had the day before that prompted the district to cancel school.

    We had 34 mini-pirates. No one mutinied. No one was shipwrecked. No one got scurvy. No one walked the plank. Well, ok, they did walk the plank, but not into Davy Jones’s locker.

    It turns out I had no real concept of what 34 kids in one house looks like. Thankfully, my husband, my mother, his mother, and several friends rescued me from my own madness by stepping in to help. I owe these people all the buried treasure on my island!

    I should have known better. My brother and I grew up with this kind of huge home party. We never had any money, but we always had these spectacular and unique birthday parties. I remember one I had where the guests were told to bring their teddy bears. My family built bleachers for the bears, and during the party, our favorite toys got to watch us play games. We even made pennants so they could cheer us on.

    I don’t think I’ll be repeating a legendary bash like this one anytime soon, but that’s ok. I’m pretty sure Chunky will never forget his sixth birthday. Sunday night we put the boys to bed then Kory and I headed to the living room to watch Sherlock Holmes. Monkey and Chunky were making lots of noise in their room and were told to settle down and go to sleep several times. Finally, Chunky called down, “I just can’t go to sleep because of my awesome birthday party yesterday!” A good excuse if I ever heard one.

    What about you? Do you remember any special birthday parties from your childhood? Have you done anything really unique for your child’s birthday? I’d love to hear about it.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Not Impressed, Mom


    So last week I was thinking I was pretty cool stuff for being the author, ok co-author, of a real, live children’s book. Mom and I got an email from our publisher with the initial sketches for our second picture book, The Dragon and the Turtle go on Safari (WaterBrook, January 2011.) We were also asked to go through the text and come up with six more illustration ideas. So we printed the pages we had, arranged them on the floor, and I literally crawled through the story with a pair of scissors and a pen. It was so fun!

    Mom and I love our illustrator, Vincent Nguyen. He has really brought Roger the Turtle and Padraig the Dragon to life. There is nothing like seeing a character that existed in your imagination suddenly on the page with expression and personality and LIFE. It’s awesome!

    I was in the middle of this creative high when Chunky came home with the dinosaur book his kindergarten class wrote and illustrated. We were supposed to read the book together then write a note on the last couple of pages about our family’s impressions of the book.

    I offered to endorse the dinosaur book.

    Chunky said, “What’s endorse?”

    I explained that when someone writes a book, they look for other authors to endorse it or say it’s really good. I told him that his grandmother and I were real authors and thus qualified to say that the kindergarten dinosaur book was really good.

    “So, do you want Mommy to endorse your book?” I asked again.

    Chunky thought a minute then said, “No. I want Willie (the dog) to say she really liked it.”

    There you have it. The opinion of the family pet out-ranks mine. Which begs the question, how do I earn my son’s approval—aside from serving chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese at every meal?

    I’m not sure, but I will try again this weekend when I dress up as a pirate and throw an epic birthday party for my soon-to-be six-year-old. If that doesn’t do it, I’m not sure what will.

    Any ideas?

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Green Tea

    You know you’re sick when you get excited about new ways to remove mucous from your sinuses.

    And while we’re on the subject, there should be a name for the feeling you get when you blow a pound of gunk from your nose. It’s a weird/surprised/proud/relieved kind of emotion and, inexplicably, you feel the need to share your experience with the person you love the most. Thus the unfortunate announcement, “Honey, you’re not gonna believe what just came out of my nose!”

    I say we call it Mucous Satisfaction.

    You might have guessed that I have a cold. Yesterday I finally went to the doctor because it felt like I had a Pomeranian crammed in my right ear. The doctor looked in my ear, leaned back and said, “You actually have an infection in there. Adults don’t usually get ear infections.”

    Nice to know one part of my body is still youthful.

    He fixed me up with some meds, so off I went to Walgreens. While waiting for my prescription to get filled, I discovered the Neti Pot. It looked so homey, so comforting, so British. I thought, Wow, this has got to be gentler than the sinus rinse. You know the sinus rinse? You fill a sports bottle with warm water and saline, cram it in your nostril, and proceed to irrigate your brain. It’s . . . unpleasant.

    An aside: Now is as good a time as ever to talk about what I call The Denmark Mating Call. My husband, while possessing some really spectacular genes in most regards, unfortunately has a cursed sinus cavity. It runs in the family. As we were dating and I got to know his family, I discovered that all the males emit a certain sound almost unconsciously and entirely without warning. It sounds something like this:

    Shhhhhrrronk!

    I liken this noise to the calls of certain wild animals one sees on the Discovery Channel. You know, where the male of the species puffs up his feathers or fur or whatever he has and screeches and you think, how is that going to get him a girl?

    All this to say, I’m well-acquainted with the sinus rinse. It’s a fixture in our bathroom—along with body glitter. But that’s another story.

    I didn’t buy the Neti Pot. But I told my husband about it at dinner, because when you’ve been married eleven years, you talk about drainage at the dinner table. My husband looked at me and said, “You have to be coordinated to use that.”

    “Oh,” I said, shoulders drooping. We both know that excludes me from the possible benefits of the Neti Pot.

    “Well, I thought it looked gentler than the sinus rinse,” I told him.

    “It’s basically a tea pot for your sinuses.”

    “Oh. I thought maybe you just breathed the steam. “

    “No.” Kory mimed holding a tea pot up to his face, tipped his head and said, “You have to poor it in one nostril then let if flow into the other and drain out.”

    I assume this process creates the most disgusting “tea” ever concocted by mankind. But I’ll never know. The Neti Pot is not for me and my lack of fine or gross motor skills. I’d probably manage to spill it all over myself and the floor. Then I’d slip in the puddle, smack my head and end up in the ER, where I would have to explain that the accident was caused by “green” tea.

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Wuthering Heights


    This week I’ve been slogging through Wuthering Heights to the accompaniment of howling winds buffeting my house. Spring in Colorado means wind—cold, strong, inescapable wind. I have to say, it’s perfect weather for Emily Brontë’s passionate, disturbing novel set in the harsh Yorkshire moors.

    When I mention Wuthering Heights and the research I’m doing for my next novel, most folks say, “I hated that book,” or “I just couldn’t get into it,” or “the characters in that novel are monsters.”

    Then there are the wacky English majors like me who find it fascinating. Although cruelty and obsession reign in the novel and religion is presented as little more than vindictive judgment, this song by David Crowder Band has come to mind as I’ve studied the suffering.

    Like the characters in Wuthering Heights, we often find it impossible to escape the mire we’ve created with our own poor choices and selfish desires. Indeed, we cannot escape the mess of our sin without His mercy. I think that’s what strikes me about the book—while the characters are exaggerated, intense, even supernatural, their essence remains so very human. So very in need of a Savior.

    I know this hasn’t been my usual light-hearted post. Don’t worry. I can’t stay serious for long. But I thought Good Friday was an appropriate day to share these thoughts. I love that redemption waits even for a heart as black as Heathcliff’s.

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Watching New Moon with my Husband

    My husband is pretty secure in his masculinity and thus able to withstand most chick flicks I hurl at him. Although his tastes run more toward Face Punch that Love Spelled Backwards is Love, he tolerates almost anything as long as it doesn’t have Meryl Streep in it.

    The other night I lured him into watching New Moon with the promise of decent special effects. I felt slightly uncomfortable, just like I did when we watched Twilight together. I kept waiting for him to turn to me, raise one eyebrow and say, “Really?”

    But like I said, he’s pretty tolerant.

    Then about the time Bella starts to figure out that Jacob is a werewolf, Kory let out a small exasperated sigh and said, “Why don’t they throw in a couple more mythical creatures for her to fall in love with? Like a warlock or a goblin…”

    “Or a troll,” I suggested.

    “Right,” he muttered.

    We went back to watching the movie. All was quiet. Then my husband grunted in mock torture, “Thag love Bella.”

    I dissolved into laughter but pulled it together to play my part. “I love you, too, Thag. But you’re too good for me.”

    “Thag will always be troll. Always live under bridge. Bella must live happy life without Thag.”

    “No, Thag! Make me a troll too! Then we can live under the bridge together forever!”

    “But, Bella . . . oh, . . . hold on a sec. Hey you! Yeah, you in rain jacket. You no cross bridge. You bring Thag two juicy goats. Then cross bridge.”

    That’s about the time I lost it. Ever since my first pregnancy when Kory discovered that if he made me laugh too hard I’d pee, he’s regarded that ability as a super power and sought to repeat those moments of glory. Cruel, cruel man.

    I recovered--after a trip to the bathroom--and Kory restrained his extracuricular comments for the rest of the movie, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to watch New Moon again without thinking of poor Thag and his undiscovered storyline.

    Anyway whether you’re a troll, a vampire, a clumsy girl, or an ordinary person with an unreliable bladder, one thing is true: All relationships require compromise. I think I owe my husband a guy movie night. Any suggestions?

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Good News is Way Better than Dieting

    First, congratulations to Atypical Girl. You won a copy of Tracey Bateman’s Thirsty. I know you’re going to love it. I encourage everybody else to go out and buy it. And if you like to read Christian fantasy/allegory/speculative fiction/COOL stuff, then go to your local Christian bookstore and ask them to order it for you if they don’t have it. I, and other bright and attractive folks like me, would love to see this genre grow.

    Have you ever had something wonderful slap you out of your own miserable belly-button contemplation? That happened to me this week. I’ve been on an angst-ridden what-do-I-do-now treadmill since Secret Agent Man called and said we weren’t getting anywhere with my supernatural romance. (See above sentiments about speculative genres.) He asked me to come up with a new project to pitch.

    I brainstormed with my mom, my brother, and some other trusted writer friends, sent off a couple emails, then boarded a flight to Poor Me Land. I haven’t heard back from Secret Agent Man, which means he’s

    A. Really busy
    B. Afraid I’ll cry over the phone
    C. Captured by the enemy and being tortured for information

    I hope it’s not C.

    In the midst of my career hiccup and corresponding with my children’s spring break, I decided to go on a diet. My husband tried to convince me this was a somewhat dangerous idea, but I assured him that—despite knowing me better than anyone else—he was mistaken.

    Seasoned dieters know what the day before you start the diet looks like, so I’m not going spell it out, but the initials are P-i-g O-u-t. The fun thing is, the diet I’m on actually encourages this and even has a technical, guilt-reducing name for it: Loading. Doesn’t that sound official and medical and reasonable? I like it.

    I met my friend at PF Chang’s in order to load, and she shared some wonderful news with me. It was as if some giant hand reached down and picked me out of my stinky, self-absorbed swamp. I was and am so genuinely happy. For someone else!

    Maybe this doesn’t seem like such an accomplishment to you. And no, I’m not some selfish, stingy jerk who can never celebrate another’s success. But the moment I experienced the other day was just so completely joyful that I had to stop and take note and just revel in the Wonderful.

    I hope your spring break brings some Wonderful your way. And for those of you asking, what was the news? Well, it’s not mine to share. Besides, this blog is about me.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Thirsty



    I’m giving away a copy of Thirsty by Tracey Bateman! See details at the end of this post.

    I felt like cheering when I heard that Tracey Bateman was writing a vampire novel for a Christian audience. With the recent surge in popularity of all things blood-sucking (well, maybe not mosquitoes), I was hoping a Christian publisher would see the value in exploring the depths of metaphor within vampire lore.

    Let me take a step back for a second and say that my love for finding symbolism within legends, myths, and ghost stories is rooted in my highschool discovery of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Contrary to pop culture treatment of these Halloween monsters, the actual literary works dealt with heavy themes of good and evil, mankind’s thirst for power, and God’s ultimate control.

    I’ve pretty much been enamored with the vehicles of metaphor ever since. I probably drove my college professors nuts with my endless interpretations of symbolism in the driest and most straight-forward of texts. Apparently, my physics professor didn’t want to hear my extrapolated thoughts on Newton’s Laws of Motion.

    I’ve learned to chain my inner allegory addict when I’m around science-y types, but I’m pretty sure none of them read my blog, so I should be safe as I applaud the exquisite use of metaphor in Thirsty.

    In my opinion, Thirsty is a dead-on (notice I didn’t say undead-on) example of how and why we can, and should, use a vampire character to bring scope and breadth to the theme of a Christian book.

    Nina Parker, the protagonist in Thirsty, is a recovering alcoholic. Her addiction has destroyed her marriage and her relationships with her family, and now she’s forced to move back to her hometown. But something other than Nina’s personal demons haunts Abbey Hills, Missouri. As the origins of Nina’s curse surface, she struggles to navigate her new path of sobriety while piecing her life back together.

    Nina’s striking neighbor offers support, friendship, and the possibility of new love, but something about Marcus is unsettling, alien, or maybe all too familiar. As their friendship grows, Marcus recounts the story of another family curse, couched in local legend, that bears an alarming similarity to Nina’s own destructive legacy.

    As two obsessions collide, Nina and her daughter, Meagan, are caught in a very real nightmare. Desire and addiction threaten to consume Nina’s existence as she takes step by tenuous step toward the only true source of strength.

    Thirsty is a satisfying and, yes, uplifting read. I think no one is immune to the call of addiction in some form or other. If we’re honest, we’ll see shades of ourselves in Nina’s story. But we’ll also see grace and strength for the battle.

    The visionary folks at Waterbrook graciously provided me with a copy of Thirsty to give away. Leave me a comment and tell me your favorite vampire or monster story or your favorite character in one of those stories. I’ll draw a name on Friday, March 19th.

    I’ll start.

    My favorite vamp has got to be the charismatic and ever-searching Lestat from Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles.
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