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    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Mom's Twelve Days of Christmas

    On the first day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    Don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the second day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the third day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the fourth day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    Gum drops aren’t Legos,
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the fifth day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    Try thinking of others,
    Gum drops aren’t Legos,
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.


    On the sixth day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    The dog is not a reindeer,
    Try thinking of others,
    Gum drops aren’t Legos,
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the seventh day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    Wear a clean shirt for pictures,
    The dog is not a reindeer,
    Try thinking of others,
    Gum drops aren’t Legos,
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the eighth day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    Find me some earplugs,
    Wear a clean shirt for pictures,
    The dog is not a reindeer,
    Try thinking of others,
    Gum drops aren’t Legos,
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the ninth day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    Santa’s never coming,
    Find me some earplugs,
    Wear a clean shirt for pictures,
    The dog is not a reindeer,
    Try thinking of others,
    Gum drops aren’t Legos,
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the tenth day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    I’m calling Grandma,
    Santa’s never coming,
    Find me some earplugs,
    Wear a clean shirt for pictures,
    The dog is not a reindeer,
    Try thinking of others,
    Gum drops aren’t Legos,
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the eleventh day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    Fudge is not for finger-painting
    I’m calling Grandma,
    Santa’s never coming,
    Find me some earplugs,
    Wear a clean shirt for pictures,
    The dog is not a reindeer,
    Try thinking of others,
    Gum drops aren’t Legos,
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.

    On the twelfth day of Christmas,
    my mother said to me
    Surely school is coming,
    Fudge is not for finger-painting
    I’m calling Grandma,
    Santa’s never coming,
    Find me some earplugs,
    Wear a clean shirt for pictures,
    The dog is not a reindeer,
    Try thinking of others,
    Gum drops aren’t Legos,
    Don’t pinch him,
    You still have chores,
    And don’t eat all the sugar cookies.



    Merry Christmas to all you frazzled moms out there!

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Crouching Caterpillar, Hidden Unibrow

    Last week, on a whim, I got my eyebrows waxed. As you might’ve guessed, I’ve never gone under the wax before. Somehow I grew up blissfully unaware of my own forehead fleece. I’m not sure when I realized my brows were denser than the rainforest. I think it slowly dawned on me, not unlike my need for a training bra in fifth grade.

    A couple friends have invited me along to their regular brow waxing appointments. Not like, “You get eyebrows waxed, me give you banana,” but in a friendly, non gorilla-hating way.

    So, I figured, what the heck?

    But I wanted to experience my first de-browing alone. I mean, it is sorta personal, right?

    I went to the salon where mom and I get our pedicures. When I walked in without her, they assumed I was there to buy a gift certificate. When I boldly stated, “I want a manicure and brow wax,” Vivian beamed her approval. I like Vivian. She always adds cool water to the pedicure basin because she knows I’m a wimp and can’t take the hot stuff. And she’s not overly enthusiastic with the heel file. In short, she doesn’t make beauty hurt.

    Unfortunately, Vivian doesn’t do the waxing.

    But I didn’t know that, so I relaxed while she gave me a gel manicure. I admit, her drawn-on purple eyebrows gave me pause. Would I have to draw my own brows back on when she was done with me? Surely sweet Vivian wouldn’t be that extreme.

    When Vivian finished with my nails, she sent me to a closet room in the back and went on to her next client. That’s when I got a little nervous. The woman in the wax room didn’t offer her name, but pointed to a blanket-covered cot with a pillow for my head.

    I tried to subtly scope out her brows while I got situated. What I saw didn’t put my mind at ease. Did this woman understand I just wanted a trim? Or would I leave the salon pink, shiny, and permanently surprised?

    I tried to explain. I told her I was used to having heavy brows. I almost ran. But then it was too late.

    The first strip wasn’t even as bad as pulling off a band-aid. No sweat, I thought. By the third I was wincing. But it didn’t take long. Pretty soon she gooped the space between my brows, smoothed the paper on, and worked her magic.

    I prepared to leave, confident I at least had some remaining hair. That’s when the tweezers came out. She yanked away at my newly-waxed skin and actually started talking to me.

    “You beautiful.”

    The way she said it made it sound like I was due to be sacrificed to a volcano any minute. I was confused but responded with a “thank-you.”

    She pursed her lips, plucked, shook her head and again said in a tragic voice, “You beautiful.”

    I half-expected her to add, “too bad you’ll turn back into a Yeti when you leave here.”

    Again I mumbled my thanks.

    Finally it seemed like she was wrapping up with the torture. She sighed and held up two fingers. “You come back. Two weeks! You come back. You beautiful. Go see.”

    She directed me to the mirror, and I peered in to discover she had indeed left a few of my dark brows—and a lot of pink skin.

    “See. You like. Not so messy. You come back. Two weeks!”

    I promised to return for more pain and beat it out of the room. I’m still not used to the new me. For one thing, my street cred with the native Sasquatches took a huge hit. And I keep getting carried away with the eye shadow. And then there are the bumps. An uncooked Christmas turkey’s got nothing on me in the dimple department.

    Yeah, I know, you want a picture. All I have is this one of me trying to figure out how to use the camera on Persephone. You can’t see my eyebrows, but I think my confused expression says it all.


    Does every new iPhone owner have similar picture? I’m just curious.

    But I do have something almost as wooly as my pre-waxed eyebrows to share with you. Yes, these guys have way too much time on their hands, but their dogs are awesome!

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Intelligent Women with Interesting Names

    We'll get to those smart ladies in a minute. There's always a lead-up, you know?

    Poor Monkey got hit with a whammy this weekend. He is still recovering from an awful case of stomach flu. We went to Urgent Care on Sunday when he couldn’t keep anything down and couldn’t stop crying. At first they told us to prepare for a trip to the hospital in case it was appendicitis, but thankfully it turned out to be a virus. They gave him a magic dissolves-on-contact pill that not only allowed him to keep those vital liquids down, but also made him inexplicably chatty. He went from a moaning lump under a blanket to a pale but animated boy, detailing the war between medicine and sickness going on in his body. Kory and I laughed and cringed at his added sound effects, especially the explosions.

    During all of this, my phone died. I mean really died. For the last time. Kory tried to resuscitate it, but this time there was no Lazarus moment for the old Blackberry.

    We’ve both had our Blackberry Storms for a few years now and have talked about upgrading, but we tend to put off those expenditures until they’re absolutely necessary. Yes, until no amount of prayer, techno wizardry, or duct tape will do the trick.

    I’m not sure why this is the case because Kory loves gadgets. But, you see, I also love boots, and it could be that my boot budget is stomping the gadget budget. Gadget budget. That’s fun to say. Go, go Gadget Budget!

    Ahem.

    Knowing his wife could not go long without a phone—and, more importantly, knowing she’d be late to or forget every appointment without one—Kory started shopping for a new mobile right away. He sent me a few links and asked my opinion. When he couldn’t get more out of me than, “The iPhone is pretty,” he took matters into his own hands.

    I walked through the office on the way to the bathroom, and he gave me a look that either meant, “Don’t go in there” or “I’ve done something out of character.” Naturally, I froze and lifted one eyebrow.

    “I bought us new phones.”

    I said, “Oh, you got one, too? Did you get the really fancy one you were talking about?”

    “I got us both iPhones. Yes, I got you the white one.”

    Squeal!

    I can’t wait to interact with my intelligent assistant, Siri, who comes with the new iPhone. I’m hoping she’ll be something like Siri Mitchell, one of my favorite authors. The next time I get stuck on a plot point in a novel, I’ll just ask Siri for help. I can’t lose! Siri and I are gonna write some awesome stuff. Well, the real Siri Mitchell already rights awesome stuff, but her namesake and I, we’re gonna make waves.

    Despite the whole virtual assistant thing, I thought naming my new iPhone Siri was a little on the nose. Since it’s white and sparkly, I briefly toyed with naming it Edward, but then I decided to act my age.


    All the snow/ice/winter names went through my head, especially since we’ve just had a cold snap. But then I hit on the perfect name. I’m calling my new phone Persephone, after the albino heroine in Leanna Renee Hieber's Strangely Beautiful series. Isn’t that perfect?

    If, right now, you’re scratching your head and wondering who in their right mind names their iPhone Persephone, then clearly you’re reading the wrong blog.

    Come on, I know I’m not the only one who names my phone, my van, my credit card debt. What’s the strangest thing you’ve named? And no, this is not the forum for divulging nicknamed body parts. Yes, we all do it, but my mother reads this blog, so we’re gonna pretend we don’t. Deal?

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Wuthering Wednesday

    “A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.” –Charlotte Brontë


    I can’t read this quote without picturing feathers poking out of my ears.

    I know we're all struggling to get back into routine after Thanksgiving plus get a leg-up on all the holiday stuff. I’m certainly hurting for sleep, but when I finally go to bed, my mind scours endless lists. Last night I actually prayed I’d remember to call the insurance company and pay the toll bill today. I know. Lame, right? Here there’s famine and loss and disease and I’m like, “God, help me remember to pay the stupid bills.”

    Every year I tell myself I’m going to be smart, restrained. I’m going to make time to enjoy what really matters in the Christmas season. And every year, I spend way too much money, frantically bake a bazillion cookies, and make one or two poor gift choices.

    For instance, last night I was determined to take advantage of any and all Cyber Monday deals, even if that meant sitting glued to a chair, endlessly clicking through clogged websites. My mom’s been looking for a new handbag, and Sam Moon had free shipping. I figured, if I can’t find something there, then the right bag just doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, Chunky kept trying to help with my Cyber Monday shopping. His tastes run a little flashy.

    Once I reigned in my 7-year-old fashion guru, I clicked through page after page of purses. And you know what? I DID NOT find the right one. So I didn’t buy anything. For me, this is growth. I still went to bed and imagined all the names on my list and mentally arranged purchased a yet-to-be-purchased presents beneath them, and, then, yes, prayed about the bills. Come to think of it, I’m sure I’m not the only one doing that right about now.


    It’s not all fuss and bother though. I love opening our box of Christmas books every year. I love that my boys still let me read them aloud. I love that every year we wonder how in the world we’re going to put up a 12-foot tree in our living room and every year it fits.

    I love that Kory and I have the same argument about white lights versus colored lights. We'll be in our nineties, and he'll still be trying to string those obnoxious neon LED lights all over the house, and I'll shake my cane at him and say, "You can put those outside! Only classy white lights on MY Christmas tree." And I love that we watch the same stupid movie every year—Just Friends, which is NOT a traditional family film but somehow has become a tradition for the two of us.

    I look forward to the annual Christmas party our friends' give that lasts longer than planned because of a board game or heated round of Guitar Hero. Inevitably, several children lose the battle to exhaustion and have to be carried to the car, arms dangling limp over Daddy's back. I think I may have exited the party in the same manner a time or two.

    And then there are the dozens of letters Chunky will write to Santa. (This year he discovered the Amazon wish list and asked me what Santa's email address was.) I look forward to the hours Monkey will spend quietly absorbed with new Lego sets on Christmas day. Legos are the only thing in the universe that CAN quietly absorb Monkey. Oh dear! I just had a horrible Lego/Borg mash-up vision starring my ten-year-old pop into my head.

    It's time to put the feathers to rest.

    So what about you? What gets you ruffled this time of year? And what bits of craziness do you savor?

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Not As Planned

    I have survived another turducken feast. I’m a little bit terrified that this will become a family tradition for my mother’s birthday. It all started last year when she announced she wanted to order a turkey, stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a duck. And she wanted me to cook it. Being a turducken virgin, I listened wide-eyed, mouth agape. People really eat such abominations?

    It turned out to be much less grisly than I thought. You can read an account of Turducken: Year One here.

    This year, things did not go as planned. A few weeks ago Mom informed me that she’d ordered two turduckens with seafood stuffing. I reminded her of Kory’s shellfish allergy. She rang up Cajun Grocer and changed the order to pork-stuffed turduckens. That’s right, turkey, chicken, duck AND pork. Oh, my!

    Imagine our surprise when two giant Styrofoam crates containing FOUR turduckens landed on our doorstep last week. The Cajun Grocer shipped both orders, and I had four, obscenely-filled birds to wrestle into my freezer. Luckily I hadn’t been to Costco in awhile. Mom’s assistant, Becca, and I rearranged, hoisted, hauled, and grunted all that poultry into the chest freezer. At one point I thought of sitting on the lid while Becca tied it down with a rope, but in the end we declared victory over mutant barnyard fowl.

    Our two extra turduckens found homes of their own without us having to set up a pen in the Wal-mart parking lot, trusting their cuteness would ensnare passersby.

    We cleaned and cooked all weekend and Sunday evening our guests arrived. The five boys immediately suited up in a mixture of Clone Trooper gear, knight costumes, and Nerf weaponry. Then they staged a medieval Star Wars smackdown before dinner. In the process, 7-year-old Chunky got his feelings hurt. You know how these political conflicts can be.

    We sat down to eat, and I noticed Chunky sitting in an armchair, refusing to take his place at the table. But I was too busy serving to deal with it. A few minutes later I looked over and he’d vanished. I found him in his room, underneath his giant pillow pet, bawling. He explained the situation in Snot Cry, which most people can speak but very few can interpret. Distracted, I gave him a hug, delivered the you-have-a-chance-to-forgive speech, and told him to come down to dinner when he’d finished crying.

    I returned to our guests wondering how I could get Chunky into acting and siphon some of the drama from his personality. He never came down to dinner, so when all the other kids finished eating, I called Monkey over and told him to go up and tell his brother that the others were done and he should come down and eat.

    Moments later Monkey returned with a note from Chunky. It said, “Tell her to bring it up.”

    I laughed. Ah, the audacity of a wounded 7-year-old. I sent Monkey up again but he returned with another note.

    “And bring a table.”

    Clearly Chunky was enjoying his role as little lord of the manor.

    I sent Monkey up again and after awhile he came back with yet another note from his brother.

    “I’m still hungry.”

    This time I went up. Chunky and I had a chat that included more Snot Cry. Eventually, he pulled it together and appeared, pale and sniffing, to devour two turkey legs. Drama makes a boy hungry.

    Thankfully everyone else behaved much better and we had an enjoyable evening. When our friends went home I collapsed on the couch, only waking when Kory said he was going to bed.

    This morning I awoke to a terrible realization. I never put the rest of the turducken in the fridge. All that meat gone to waste. I felt like a pile of discarded gizzards as one by one my family members asked, “Where’s the turducken?”

    I can only hope this means that next year I will not be trusted with the bird of many names. With my luck, we’ll go luau and I’ll have to roast a pig in the back yard. Can I just say now that I don’t want to wear coconuts and a grass skirt in November?

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Wuthering Wednesdays

    For some time I’ve wanted to incorporate a weekly post sharing fun and interesting Brontë quotes and facts with you, my hapless blog readers. In order to give you fair warning, I’ve come up with the tidy moniker Wuthering Wednesdays. So when you see Wuthering Wednesday in your inbox or on your blog feed, you’ll know the post will be Brontë related.

    As I said, I hope to make Wuthering Wednesday a regular thing here on Breathe In Breathe Out. Naturally this means it will be hit and miss, half the entries will show up on Thursday because I’ve forgotten whereabouts in the week Wednesday is, and I will likely go off on tangents about footwear or cheese.

    As an introduction, the Brontës were a nineteenth-century family living in Yorkshire where Patrick Brontë was a curate. The siblings’ creativity is legendary, with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights hailed as classics of English literature. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this extraordinary, tragic family so I’m not going to give you a history lesson or rehash any of my college essays. I’d rather give a brief background or relevant info with each quote, so let’s get to it.

    “A person who has not done one half his day's work by ten o’ clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.”

    This quote is from Wuthering Heights. Nelly, who plays many roles in the novel—from nurse, to servant, to confidant—is chiding Mr. Lockwood, renter of Thrushcross Grange, for staying up late and sleeping in come morning.

    In the scene, Lockwood begs Nelly to continue her story—that of Heathcliff and Catherine—even though it’s eleven o’clock and Nelly wants to go to bed. After all, she’s the housekeeper and she probably gets up before everyone else.

    I have to say, I have sympathy for both the characters. Like Nelly, I’ve been on the receiving end of pleading eyes and “it’s not that late really,” and “please, just one more chapter.” Of course, those requests come from my kids, not from a grown man who is also my employer. But I feel for whiney ol’ Lockwood, too. I’ve become engrossed in a story and stayed up way too late greedily consuming every word. Last night was one of those nights. I blame Lisa Bergren and her River of Time series for that.

    The difference, of course, is that Lockwood can sleep in, and neither Nelly nor I can. We have work to do. And a ten o’clock deadline, apparently.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Of Birthdays, Bags and Robots

    Yesterday was my birthday but I believe in celebrating pretty much all week. I started on Saturday by shopping with my friend, Steampunk Beth. Here is what you should know about Beth:

    1. She has an engineering degree and a cool math/science brain. She actually understands what my husband does for a living.
    2. In an extremely unfair double sprinkle from the talent shaker, Beth came into some wicked creative skills. She writes fantastic fiction and non-fiction.
    3. She’s an artist who specializes in octopi. Yes, octopi. Multiple octopuses.
    4. She has great legs that make me jealous.

    Ok, I think that covers it. Hmm, it sorta looks like I hate Steampunk Beth. I don’t! She’s awesome and even though she’s off-the-charts talented, she’s also really nice so I don’t club her knees or anything when I see her.

    So Beth and I have been trying to go to The-Store-That-Is-Never-Open for months now. I’m not sure how Beth learned of this little place, or if she’s ever actually been into the store, or if anyone has for that matter. But we’ve both stood staring into the window at normal times of the day, like 11:00 AM on a Saturday or 2:30 PM on a Tuesday. The sign on the door helpfully proclaims their hours as 10:00 AM-4:00 PM Monday through Saturday, or something like that. And yet, they are never open.

    Saturday was no exception, so we window gazed at the retro fashions and intriguing items that hinted at steampunk flair possibilities in the hands of someone fabulous like Beth.

    Then she took me to the surplus store in Old Colorado City. I have never been in a surplus store and rather wondered if they’d take a look at my high-heeled, lace-up boots and make me leave, especially when Beth disappeared and left me--surrounded by racks of camo--alone in a foreign land.

    Turns out surplussy folks are nice, and they really admired Beth’s handmade-by-her, embellished military messenger bag. You can buy one of these cool bags on Etsy. I, however, am getting one for my birthday. See, it IS possible for people with shapely legs to be incredibly sweet and not at all worthy of incineration by death ray vision.

    Next we hit Manitou Springs, which, if you’re not in The Springs and don’t know, is where cool people shop and hang out. I pretended I was cool and bought this hat!


    Awesomesauce!

    When I got home, Kory and I went out for a celebration date. We saw Real Steel. If you’re wondering how it is that I ended up seeing a robot boxing movie for MY birthday, let me just say, you’re not the only one. But it had Hugh Jackman in it and turned out to be pretty good, if a little manly.



    The next evening, Sunday, the boys insisted on celebrating my birthday by watching a family movie. They informed me that I got to choose the movie, as long as it wasn’t girly, grown-up, or scary. As you can imagine, it was pretty hard to choose given such freedom, but we ended up watching Despicable Me, which has one of my favorite lines: “That book was accidentally destroyed maliciously.” The same thing may have happened to one or two of my boys’ books over the years.

    Yesterday, on my actual birthday, Mom and I went out for pedicures and Greek food—finally some girl time! Then Chunky helped me bake a chocolate chip cookie boy when he got home from school. Using the gingerbread boy pan was his idea. So was using extra chocolate chips to make hair, shoes, hands, etc. Willie the Heeler decided she should help celebrate by eating one of Choco Boy’s feet while he was cooling on the counter. Thankfully, she didn’t get sick.

    And there you have it, my very self-involved blog about my birthday. But maybe it’ll be okay if I end by saying thank-you to my awesome family and friends for celebrating with me. I am blessed.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    The Peanut-Free Ninja

    Like most moms I don’t buy candy on a regular basis, so Halloween is a big deal for my kiddos. It’s funny because they actually don’t gorge themselves. It’s all about numbers. They love counting their candy, sorting it, and hording it, much like Smaug the Dragon in The Hobbit.

    And I can’t complain because for me Halloween has always meant an excuse to eat Snickers, Peanut M&Ms, Reese's, Butterfingers—anything with peanuts! With Kory and our youngest son both allergic to peanuts, it’s always been my job to purge dangerous goodies from Chunky’s stash.

    But this year, Chunky wised up.

    Dressed as a fire ninja (red costume with black wrappings I kept calling ribbons much to his chagrin), Chunky bolted from door to door like a tiny streak of lightning. When the door opened, he'd holler, “Trick-or-treat-I-can’t-have-peanuts!”

    He said it so fast that most people didn’t understand, so Monkey (dressed as Bobba Fett) stepped in to explain. Naturally, this baffled the average person who just wanted to get back to their dinner or Castle episode as quickly as possible.

    House after house, we heard some variation of the following:

    Ding dong.

    Chunky: Trick-or-treat-I-can’t-have-peanuts!

    Unsuspecting neighbor: What?

    Monkey: My brother can’t have peanuts.

    Neighbor: You can’t have peanuts?

    Monkey: No, I CAN have peanuts, but he’s allergic to them.

    Chunky: I’m also allergic to eggs and grass.

    Neighbor *confused silence, awkwardly rifles through candy bowl*: Do Butterfingers have peanuts?

    Monkey and Chunky: YES!

    At this point they'd take matters into their own hands, pointing to acceptable candy and sometimes just relieving the person of the candy bowl and pawing through it themselves while Kory and I winced from the driveway and called out vague reminders to be polite.

    It probably took us twice as long to trick-or-treat. At first Kory and I chuckled at the boys’ routine, but it got old fast, especially when I realized there’d be no stash of peanut-y goodness for me.

    Recognizing my growing alarm, Kory swiped a Reese's for me at a neighbor's house that had games, a bonfire and other distractions to cover adult candy pilfering. I jammed it in my pocket, but it must’ve fallen out at some point because it wasn’t there when we got home.

    The boys counted their candy. (Monkey=126, Chunky=116) I whined about my lost Reese's but tried to be grown-up about missing out on my usual haul. Then Monkey disappeared to the other room where he’d stowed his pile and returned to present one Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and a package of Reese's Pieces to me.

    So it looks like our Halloween tradition has changed a bit. We may have left confused neighbors in our wake, but Chunky learned to be proactive in his candy quest. Monkey not only looked out for the brother he usually tortures but also shared some of his bounty with his deprived mother. And next year, I'll know to buy my own bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Psych. You'll See.

    Ugh! The past few weeks have not been kind. I’ve been in hiding, editing like a mad scientist, eating like a sumo wrestler.

    I’m telling you, I’ve really done it this time. Last night I had the opportunity to speak to a writing group in Denver. This meant wearing something other than yoga pants. Why doesn’t someone design a line of professional-looking yoga wear? The tag line could be something like “Now Every Day is Casual Friday.” Or, “Too many business lunches? Don’t worry, our fashions hide the bulge.” Or something really catchy, like “Pro-ga.”

    I’ve been trying to ignore some weird symptoms, telling myself I’d get things checked out when I finished editing the novel.

    Some stuff happened—you don’t want to know—I ended up at the doctor’s office yesterday. Our family has been going to the same practice for at least six years. I consider the staff friends. Which is why I had a heart attack when I heard, “Oh my goodness!” outside the exam room door after the PA decided to run a pregnancy test.

    Wouldn’t it be cool if the eating and the yoga pants and the symptoms were all leading up to a big reveal?

    Cool for you maybe. Not for me.

    No, not pregnant.

    So what is wrong with me? Darned if I know. The PA sent me home with muscle relaxers for back spasms and a strict warning that, even though he gave me the prescription that doesn’t cause drowsiness, I was not to drive a car until I’d gotten used to the side effects. My husband quickly echoed this caution. Then my friend Steampunk Beth added cycling to the taboo list just to be safe. The last time I took muscle relaxers, I couldn’t even walk like a normal person.

    So I’m back to sitting in a chair and eating. Oh, help.

    The good news is, today I finished my first round of edits on The Immortal Heathcliff.

    I now solemnly promise to:
    Start eating something besides apples, cheese, and peanut butter.
    Go back to Zumba before my butt-a won’t fit-a through the door-a.
    Take something besides dark chocolate and Coke Zero for my migraines.
    Feed my family.
    Clean the toilet.
    Tend to the grays.
    Return phone calls and emails.
    Figure out what Occupy Wall Street is about.
    Figure out what Occupy Evangeline’s Closet is about.
    Take the dog in for her heartworm test.
    Take the Wookies in for their haircuts.
    Do something, er, fun with my husband.
    Blog.
    Sleep.
    Brush my teeth.

    During my house arrest, I did read two awesome books. My friend Brandy Vallance's not-yet-published Victorian novel The Covered Deep, a delightful mix between Anne of Green Gables, Indiana Jones, and Around the World in Eighty Days. I know! You can't tell me you don't want to read that book. Brandy is going to do awesome things for the historical romance genre. I also read Jenny B. Jones's There You’ll Find Me. I’m being honest here. I didn’t realize how much I needed this book until I read it. It blessed me. Read it.

    That’s all for now, folks. The laundry’s calling and who knows how long it’ll take to get out of this chair and across the house to the laundry room.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    She's Alive!

    Yes, this post is long overdue.

    At the St. Louis Arch

    No, I didn’t get lost between Colorado Springs and St. Louis. Although Kory did joke that since this was my first solo flight, he was going to have the flight attendant hold my hand and walk me to my connecting plane.

    Writer buddy Beth Vogt


    With new friends Gina Conroy, Andy Meisenheimer, and Randy Ingermanson, who has awesome steampunk duds


    The conference was amazing. Although I got very little actual sleep, the time spent with other writers studying the craft refreshed and energized me. I had great appointments with two agents and came home psyched to edit my novel and send it in.
    Flat on the floor of the hotel room


    "Distressing Potatoes" from breakfast at conference



    Things were slightly bumpier on the home front. Kory took time off work (translation: he worked from home and only drove in for one meeting) to take care of Monkey and Chunky. While I was gone, Mom was admitted to the hospital for an infection. Kory called me from the ER, and in the background I heard the boys’ voices. I may have freaked out slightly and ordered him to dip my children in Purell.

    For reasons unknown, Chunky’s eye swelled up. (I swear it wasn't related to overuse of hand sanitizer.) When I got home my 7-year-old looked like he’d wandered through a bar fight. We never figured out exactly what caused it, but the doctor attributed it to allergies.

    Believe it or not, this was no worse than the last time I went away for a few days. At least on this trip I didn’t hear an account of how daddy threw rocks at a rattle snake from my four-year-old. Not to mention my then six-year-old’s incident of public nudity.

    On the drive home, after picking me up at the airport, my husband said, “Well, I hope you had a good time, because I didn’t.”

    Naturally this earned him a “Welcome to my world, Sucka!”

    Since I’ve been home, things haven’t calmed down. I’ve brought Mom home from the hospital, been attacked by a vacuum cleaner that smelled like cat pee, visited a school with two box turtles, done a book-signing, staged and executed a party, nursed a sick kid, dealt with a dental disaster, helped Mom pack for her cruise, driven her to the airport, and attended a memorial service for my husband’s grandmother.


    Mom and I at a booksigning


    My edits are waiting. My enthusiasm for my project went on the back burner, but it’s still simmering. I’ve promised to submit my edited novel by the end of October. And so, I’m taking this month off from blogging.

    Unless, of course, one of the boys does something hilarious, like lean over at a memorial service and loudly whisper, “Mom, I forgot to put my deodorant on!” If something like that happens, I’ll let you know.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Creative Frustrations

    Tomorrow I leave for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in St. Louis. I’ll be talking with editors and agents, presenting my work, and hoping, always hoping, to get one step closer to publishing a novel.

    It seems my son is in the same boat.


    Yesterday, Chunky ran out of school waving a stack of papers. He couldn’t wait to tell me about it, so he started yelling the minute he saw me across the school lawn.

    “MOMMY, I WROTE A MONSTER BOOK!”

    He jabbered on about it as we walked to the car, ran a couple errands, and then drove home. Once in the house, he set to work adding pages to his book. What once was The 4 Page Monster Book became The 7 Page Monster Fun Book.

    Finally I had a minute to sit down and go through each wonderfully illustrated page with him. He was so proud. With good reason. The 7 Page Monster Fun Book is a masterpiece!


    But then we hit a snag. Chunky wanted to print a copy of his book for each of his classmates because, and I quote, “I want to be nice to them, and I want them to think I’m a nice kid.”

    But our printer isn’t working right, and, let’s face it, 25 color copies won’t be cheap.

    He fussed and fumed about his frustration until Kory came home from work. The minute his dad walked through the door, Chunky assailed him with his dilemma.

    “I wrote a book and our printer doesn’t work! And I want to make one for every kid in my class. I want them to like me. But our printer puts a black line through everything, and if it puts a line through the Domo monster, he’ll just be Do!”


    Kory looked to me for an explanation.

    I shrugged and said, “He wrote a book. He needs a publisher.”

    Kory laughed but kindly and wisely didn’t draw any comparisons between his whiney 7-year-old and his career-frustrated wife.

    I’m thinking maybe I should take Chunky’s approach at the conference. I’ll just start yelling across the hotel lobby or conference room about my creative masterpiece the minute I see anyone who can help me reach my goal. And I won’t take “no” for an answer. After all, I want to be nice to people, and I think giving them something fun to read is a nice thing to do. And I want them to think I’m nice too (translation: a good author.)

    Too bad I’m not an adorable 7-year-old with a fresh literary voice and kid-approved illustrations.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Boys!

    Yesterday my almost 10-year-old tried to convince me that he couldn’t possibly make his school reading goal if I continued my unreasonable requirement that he bathe regularly.

    We finally had to tell him that bathing was one of his chores, and if he didn’t do it, he would not get his allowance.

    As is often the case, once I got him in the tub, I couldn’t get him out.

    Exhausted and ready for some grown-up time, I trudged back and forth between the boys’ bedroom and the bathroom, hollering at my kids to finish their bedtime tasks.

    Eventually I gave up and flopped down on the bedroom floor where my youngest cuddled our dog with the dedication of an alligator wrestler. Chunky squeezed Willie, making comments like, “Her heart is beating really fast. I think she might be sick. I can hear something in her chest.”

    I ignored my little wannabe vet until I heard it. The unmistakable rolling heave of a dog about to hurl. I jumped up, yelling for Kory to call the dog and get her outside. When he didn’t respond, Chunky and I ran down the stairs, urging Willie to follow. We raced for the back door.

    She stopped in the kitchen and hunched.

    “No!” I screamed and flung the door open. She made it to the rug in front of the door and let loose.

    At this point, Chunky was beside himself with excitement, squealing, “Willie barfed! Willie barfed! Willie barfed!”

    Monkey, wrapped in a towel and dripping, showed up to inspect the vomit.

    Grumbling, I retrieved paper towels and carpet cleaner—really she had to get the carpet, not the deck or even the wood floor. I returned to my defiled doormat to find my boys standing over the dog puke, my youngest giving a blow-by-blow account of the incident.

    “And then she put her ears down. And then it sounded like she was coughing. And then her tail did this.” (He demonstrated tail tucking with his hand.) “And then she puked! And I see her dog food and the carrots from dinner in it.”

    I got that mess cleaned up and almost had the boys in bed when Willie lost it again on the stairs. This time Kory got the honor of cleaning it up but not before the boys tumbled out of their room to gawk at the spectacle.

    After devotions I noticed Chunky was pale. He huddled on his bed, whimpering. “Mommy, I don’t feel so good. I think it’s because of Willie’s barf.”

    “Stop thinking about it,” I told him.

    “I’m trying to, but I can’t.”

    “Maybe next time you shouldn’t describe it to your brother in such detail.”

    I got him calmed down and put a Phinneas and Ferb CD on to distract him, but all the while I was thinking, “This kid’s gonna make a great writer someday!”

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Wrapping a Novel

    So I’ve been out-of-sorts lately. In fact, I texted my husband yesterday and told him I was out-of-sorts. For the rest of the day, he texted me back, asking if I was “sort-of-in” yet.

    “Sort-of-in” is a great way to put it actually. When I was on the migraine meds I was sort-of-in a fog. I lost a week and a half chasing words around my brain, only to have them fly away whenever I got close.

    Finally I decided to take a break from the medication since it turns out I’m pretty miserable without my ability to catch words. Things have been better, and though I’ve had headaches ever since, none of them flared into migraines.

    I'm preparing for a conference next week, trying to assemble all the proper tools writers use to try to sell their work. One sheets, synopses, proposals, hooks and one lines. These tools can be tricky. On the one hand it’s vital that an author be able to convey in succinct fashion what her story is about. On the other, it’s hard to boil down a ninety thousand word novel into a paragraph.

    I’ve also done my homework, checking out agents and editors and what projects they're looking for. That prompted a brainstorming session with my personal novel doctor, my brother. Then yesterday, as I struggled to pull together the beginning threads of two story concepts, I realized why I’ve been so frustrated.

    I’m not creating. It’s like I’m wrapping a ceramic vase carefully in packing peanuts, the right-sized box, and the perfect wrapping paper that will say to the intended recipient, “I know how to make a package look pretty.” But I'd rather be sitting at the pottery wheel, my hands covered in clay, forming that vase.

    But I’ll get back to the creative process soon enough, and knowing that will get me through the polishing and presenting—the whole “I know how to use scissors, make a nice crease, and exercise restraint when it comes to tape” thing.

    But since I’m thinking about trying my hand at a YA novel, I wanted to ask a question of the women out there. If you’re twenty or older, what draws you to a young adult novel like The Hunger Games or Twilight? Since many YA titles cross generations, I think it’s reasonable to find out what readers my age expect from those titles. Is it the nostalgia of teen topics like first love? The freedom from the boring responsibilities of adult life? The possibility of a more unique adventure than you might find in adult fiction?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    New Wuthering Heights Movie

    My friend, autor Kristin Billerbeck, mentioned the new Wuthering Heights movie on her blog today. Since I’ve been immersed in all things WH for the last two years, I was aware that the movie was being made, but until recently could find very little information about it.

    There still not a whole lot out there, but I did find this great >review from The Guardian. (Profanity warning!)

    This particular sentence from the review caught my eye: As youngsters, Heathcliff and Cathy (played first by Shannon Beer and then by Kaya Scoledario) exist in a kind of primitive Eden where they are neither quite siblings or lovers but some innocent hybrid of the two.

    I’ve heard this take on the novel before, and it actually fits better than trying to view the story through the traditional framework of a romance. In fact, I think we’ve done ourselves a disservice in continuing to remake Wuthering Heights as a love story. It’s more of a need story. And “need” can be an ugly word.

    Maybe it’s because of where I’m at in life, raising kids, watching as their emotional needs grow deeper day by day—but I find I read Wuthering Heights differently now. Basically, I see a story of two people who had the one thing, or person, they needed taken away.

    Heathcliff and Catherine were everything to each other. It's hard to overstate this fact. They believed they had one soul between the two of them. Juvenile? Yes, sure, of course. But when I look into my son’s eyes and see an utter need for an anchor in an unknown world, it doesn’t matter to me if his emotional framework is immature. The need is all the greater for it. It breaks my heart to think of my little boy without a tether—without any link at all to the love a human being cannot survive without.

    Emily Brontë, genius freak that she was, dared to write a book about a boy just like that.

    I could not write that book. It would break my heart.

    The novel I just completed, The Immortal Heathcliff, takes that ruined man and sends him on a journey for redemption, and ultimately, a love that will anchor his soul. My job was far easier than Emily’s, partly because I could never claim to have her insight into suffering and human nature, nor her tortured genius. But also because writing hope is easier on the writer’s heart than crafting ultimate despair.

    This may sound absurd, but Brontë's greatest feat as an author may have been to leave her characters in the ashes of their choices. There is no happy ending. The woman was as unrelenting as a Pilates instructor!

    So, anyway, what do you think about the upcoming movie? Please someone out there tell me you’ve read the book! Much is being made of the choice to have a black actor portray Heathcliff. Scholars agree it is unlikely that the character of Heathcliff was meant to be black. For a break down of the textual support of this claim click this link and scroll down to the heading “Was Heathcliff Black?” But putting that detail aside, I think it’s a great move from an emotional and artistic standpoint. I’m more excited about the apparent choice to take a young adult approach since the main action of the story happens when the characters are teens.

    You might as well go ahead and comment with whatever comes to mind about the movie, WH, or crazy/lovely Emily Brontë. You should know I will keep talking at you about the subject regardless. By the way, the UK release date is September 30. I didn't find a date for the US.

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Would you like some blood with your coffee?

    This morning I was lying in bed, dreaming about my husband’s grandparents. An instant later I was awake, my lip bleeding, with a wrestling match involving a 7-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a Blue Heeler happening on top of me.

    My husband opened the sliding door between the bathroom and bedroom and said sarcastically over the noise, “Are the boys awake?”

    From underneath the chaos I told him, “You know, at least you can count on boys to be obvious.”

    He went to shut the bedroom window so the rest of the neighborhood didn’t have to wake up to WWF. Then he handed me a tissue for my lip and escaped downstairs. Luckily, the circus soon followed him.

    Chunky did apologize for the stray head butt that split my lip. And in the boys’ defense, staging the wrestling match on top of me was just their way of including me in their enthusiasm for the day.

    When it’s Friday morning, and you’re already bruised and bleeding and you haven’t even gotten out of bed yet, the only real option you have is to jump up and yell, “Bring it on! Where’s the coffee?”

    So that’s what I did.

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    The Boys' Table

    On Tuesday Monkey had four baby teeth pulled. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize this would have a significant impact on his diet. Maybe because at the beginning of this week I could only spare brain cells for my novel, WHICH IS DONE!

    Anyway, back to Monkey. Except for the back molar on each side, he has no grinding teeth in his upper mouth. The following is a list of foods he will eat, in these, the most trying days of his existence so far:

    1. mashed potatoes
    2. pudding
    3. applesauce
    4. jello
    5. ice cream

    He was inconsolable Tuesday night, knowing he’d have to go to school the next day, until I promised to meet him for lunch and bring the required five food groups.

    That is how I ended up sitting at "the boys’ table” in the school cafeteria. On bean burrito day.

    There are things women should not have to endure. Bean burrito day with fourth grade boys tops the list. Right up there with being allergic to chocolate and being weighed in front of a panel that includes Angelina Jolie, your high school boyfriend, and your mother-in-law.

    As the boys crashed into their seats, lunch trays wobbling in their hands, I noticed bigger than usual grins on their faces. Whispers, punctuated by highly descriptive words, spread from one end of the table to the other. Then delighted laughter erupted as one buzz-cut boy took his seat. But soon after his arrival the other boys pulled their shirts up over their noses. The fact that they continued eating in this position is a tribute to male ingenuity. And Tide with Bleach.

    I must’ve looked worried. Or horrified. One boy surfaced from his shirt and told me matter-of-factly, “He has a tendency to let really stinky ones.”

    I immediately felt for Buzz Kid's mom. I mean, when your son can intimidate a table full of accomplished farters?—that’s serious.

    Needless to say, I gave up trying to eat the salad I’d brought and all but spoon-fed Monkey in my haste to get the pinto outta there.

    That night I related my experience at the boys’ table. Monkey informed me that the kid who gave me the skinny on the stinky was the General of the Boys, having been elected to this enviable position by his peers.

    Apparently his duties can be summed up in two words: Torture Girls.

    Naturally this led to a discussion of peer pressure and whether or not it's right to torture girls just because your friends do. (If you are unclear on this subject, you are probably reading the wrong blog.) Finally, Grandma asked Monkey, “If the general jumped off a cliff, what would you do?”

    Monkey looked at her and said, “Get a new general.”

    I’m hoping the positions of General of the Boys and Chief Officer of Flatulence never become available. In Monkey’s case, neither campaign has home support.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Push!

    I started this summer off with about twenty thousand words left to write on my novel. If you’re not a writer, then to give you a clue, one chapter (for me) is around three thousand words. So I needed approximately six chapters in order to make my final wordcount goal. Right now, if you’re NOT a writer, you’re thinking, “Something’s wrong with her math.”

    Anyway, I usually average about a chapter a week. But, it being summer, and me being on the brink of hurling myself into a kiddie pool filled with Ho Hos all day every day, I only managed to get around ten thousand words out.

    The kids went back to school on Monday.

    Let us now pause to give thanks. And snarf a Ho Ho from the stash we kept in case of emergencies.

    So. On Monday. I wrote. FIVE THOUSAND WORDS!

    I was pretty excited. I mean, compared to my summer average of one and a half sentences per day, FIVE THOUSAND is pretty good, am I right?

    What’s even better is that this is the climax, the most exciting part of the book. Action. Danger. Suspense. Wuv! Truw Wuv! Aside from a brief detour where I had to rethink a Stupid Heroine Moment—“Oh, maybe I should run to safety instead of investigating the scary noise”—the words were flowing.

    My critique group meets on Tuesdays, so Monday night—feeling a little giddy and punch-drunk from my writing spree—I sent them an email promising that my chapter would contain a . . . wait for it . . . SHIRTLESS CONFESSION TO MURDER.

    How much better could it get, right? Hunky guy, sans shirt, drops a bomb on unsuspecting, love-blind heroine.

    Squee!

    I even told my husband about the exciting SHIRTLESS CONFESSION TO MURDER. He immediately assumed his best East German accent and confessed to murder while demanding that I “watch his pecs dance.”

    Men! They just can’t take these things seriously.

    At least my critique group responded more appropriately.

    “Is it hot in here?”

    Nearing the end of a book is intoxicating. No, this isn’t my first novel. But this one was a doozy—the equivalent of giving birth to a 10-pound baby after thirty-six hours of labor. And two years of pregnancy.

    The nice thing about birthing books is that it’s common practice—even recommended—that you put them on a shelf for a week, maybe longer, and take a breather after typing “The End.”

    I expect to be breathing, relaxing, having a mani-pedi, and chowing on Ho Hos (of course) about this time next week.

    I’ll send you a birth announcement. And maybe a picture of my sweaty, bloated, happy face.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Heartbreak! With Unicorns and Aliens

    My baby’s in love. Again.

    No, I’m not talking about almost 10-year-old Monkey. He still thinks girls are water gun targets.

    It’s Chunky who’s met the girl of his dreams. For the third time. We knew we were in trouble when he came home from preschool declaring he was going to marry one of his classmates. He spent the rest of that year telling me how things would change when he and Chante married and moved into our house. And painted it green.

    But time moves on. Girlfriends throw temper tantrums and move to China. You mature. Your tastes change. And kindergarten hits! There you meet a tall blonde with glasses who gives you hugs when you fall off the monkey bars and sits at the peanut-free table with you even though she isn’t allergic.

    Chunky was devoted to his precious Kari all through kindergarten AND first grade. They even got married during one of their playdates. Kari told him firmly that they would be skipping the kissing part of the ceremony. Chunky married her anyway.

    But, alas, it seems elementary school relationships are as changeable as the cafeteria menu.

    A couple of weeks ago, Chunky came home from science camp and informed us he’d met someone new.

    “What’s her name?” I asked.

    “I don’t know. But she has blonde hair and she likes me too.”

    “Maybe you should introduce yourself,” I suggested.

    By the next day he knew all he needed to know. I asked him about his new friend and he said, “Her name is Catherine, and she’s a unicorn underneath her skin.”

    Oh dear, I thought. If he marries someone as creative as he is, they’ll starve.

    Things got a little bit worse from there. I said something to the affect of, “Oh, she likes to play pretend like you?”

    “No, Mom. She really IS a unicorn. AND she’s seen a dead alien. It washed up on the beach.”

    Houston, we have a problem.

    My voice went to that hanging-on-by-a-Hershey-bar pitch. “The beach? Here in Colorado, honey? Because we don’t have a beach.”

    This fact was apparently irrelevant. Catherine has seen a dead alien. Phinneas and Ferb, eat your hearts out!

    The two exchanged phone numbers. Chunky promptly lost hers. So on the last day of camp I introduced myself to her parents and we talked playdates. I’m no better than my son it turns out. I gave them my contact info but failed to get theirs.

    And Catherine hasn’t called.

    Every day my freckled-nosed 7-year-old says with his sad little voice, “When is Catherine going to call? I WISH I hadn’t lost her number! I miss Catherine!”

    Sniff.

    My poor baby! Why must girls be so cruel? Especially the really cool, popular ones. You know, the undercover unicorns who think they’re all that because they hang with washed-up extra-terrestrials. Sheesh! Some things never change.

    I have a feeling Chunky’s teen years are going to be very hard. On me.

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Cooking with Love and Gas

    It might behoove me to learn a little more about the devices installed in my home that are supposed to keep my family alive.

    See, the other day I was cooking chicken. Let me just say right now that cooking meat is not my thing. I don’t really care to eat meat myself, but for some reason my family likes it—still—even after eating my charred attempts throughout the years.

    I fail no matter what cooking method I use, but the other day I was using a particularly troublesome stovetop grill doohickey. My mom picked up this gadget in one of her optimistic attempts to help me not ruin dinner. Theoretically, it combines grilling with the healthful benefits of steam cooking. You add liquid (we’ll talk about what constitutes liquid in a minute) to the metal ring that circles your stove top burner. Then, you place a metal plate on top of the ring, and you’re ready to half-steam, half-fry your food.

    Naturally I’ve lost the directions to this device, which is why I have to call it a device when it probably has a catchy name like Food Blackener or The Inferno. But I did remember the crucial step of adding liquid to the ring. I remembered you could add water, broth, or even juice for added flavor.

    Since I was making Italian chicken, I thought I’d use the Marsala wine I’d had in the garage fridge for ages. Wine is liquid, right? Well, it pours anyway.

    I had the chicken sizzling and the water for the pasta boiling when a high-pitched screech blistered my eardrums. Being an idiot, I started for the smoke alarm, realized I couldn’t reach it, turned around and grabbed a kitchen chair, then dragged it across the floor and stood on it. I yanked the battery out of the alarm while yelling at it to “Shut up!” It didn’t.

    The boys were now circling me, Chunky crying, “It hurts my ears!” I got down and grabbed a paper bag to fan the malfunctioning smoke detector and told Chunky to find my cell phone so we could call Dad.

    I climbed back on the chair with my paper bag and phone and dialed my husband’s number while frantically waving the bag at the alarm. I can only imagine what he heard when he answered.

    Kory: Hello?

    Smoke Alarm: SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH!

    Me: THE SMOKE ALARM IS GOING OFF!

    Kory: You don’t say.

    Smoke Alarm: SCREEEEEEEEEEEEECH!

    Me: I TOOK THE BATTERIES OUT AND IT WON’T SHUT UP! HOW DO I MAKE IT SHUT UP?!

    At this point, for reasons unknown, the smoke alarm stopped beeping.

    Kory: What are you doing?

    Me: Cooking dinner.(Duh!) When will you be home?

    Kory: 15 minutes.

    I hung up and went to burning the chicken, but no sooner had I returned to my domestic duty when the blankety blank thing went off again. This time I decided to try a different approach. On a different device. For grins, I unplugged the carbon monoxide detector which promptly changed sounds from a horrendous screech to an equally piercing series of beeps. It also started flashing codes at me. So while yelling at my crying children to open the windows (did I mention it was raining?), I ran upstairs and grabbed the other carbon monoxide detector which was also going off, wrapped them both up in a sleeping bag, and chucked the whole thing into the garage.

    While all this was going on Monkey doubled over and complained that it hurt to breathe. We searched for his inhaler, and I made him stand by the door where the rain now pelted into the kitchen. But the fresh air and Albuterol quickly counteracted my poisonous food preparation.

    Ah. No more beeping. Child breathing. I finished burning dinner.

    Kory came home to a quiet house and a disgusting meal.

    But before we sat down, he retrieved the carbon monoxide detectors and read the instructions on the side. (There are instructions on the side!) Then he started quizzing me on what the beep sounded like.

    Me: Awful! Horrible! My brain was bleeding!

    Kory: Was it a continuous beep or a series of beeps?

    Me: I don’t know! It just wouldn’t stop!

    Kory: And that didn’t concern you?

    Me: OF COURSE it concerned me!

    By now we were both wondering if we shouldn’t get out of the house all together. I finally determined that the beep was continual, and Kory went to look it up online. I called after him, “It displayed some kind of code. 228, I think.”

    A few minutes later, he said, “I couldn’t find 228, but did it maybe say GAS?”

    Me: Um, yeah, it said GAS too.

    Kory: It was detecting explosive gas. What were you cooking with?

    Me: Wine.

    Now, people cook with wine all the time. In fact, there are sites you can go to that will tell you HOW to cook with wine, such as the very helpful What's Cooking America which told me this:

    All wines contain at least some small amount of sulfites. They are a natural result of the same fermentation process that turns grape juice into alcohol. …

    When cooking with wine containing sulfites, you do not concentrate them as you would flavor, but rather they evaporate like alcohol. The sulfite goes through a conversion in the liquid of the wine to produce sulfur dioxide. This is actually the compound that prevents the oxidation. It also is a gas, and when subjected to heat, it dissipates into the air.

    Well, ok, now I know. I still don’t know why it set off the carbon monoxide detector. Maybe I used too much wine. Maybe it was too old. Maybe the carbon monoxide detector, like all the other members of my family, just doesn’t like the way I cook meat.

    One thing’s for sure, I found a good tactic to get out of cooking. Now if I could only find a way to subsidize our restaurant budget.

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Cabins are for Me!

    I’ve made no secret of the fact that I find camping unpleasant. If I wanted to sleep on the dirty ground surrounded by wild animals, I’d throw a sleeping bag on my boys’ bedroom floor.

    That’s why I was glad our annual we-live-in-Colorado-and-should-go-to-the-mountains trip involved staying in a cabin at the YMCA of the Rockies. Aside from uncomfortable beds and one dead spider, the cabin pretty much rocked. Translation: it was clean, had running water, and some retro Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys to entertain the boys.

    The information packet we received upon checking in instructed us to dial 222 in case of emergency. I nearly called twice. Once because my laptop detected no Wi-Fi. And once because, although the cabin kitchen had a coffee maker, there was no coffee provided.

    My husband informed me these were not actual emergencies.

    Whatever.

    The cabin also came with a “stocked” reading shelf. These were my options:


    Thankfully, I brought my own book.


    The boys spent a lot of time theorizing on whether or not a bear could get in the cabin. My favorite scenario involved the bear climbing down the chimney. We didn’t bother to point out the unlikelihood of this event because their paranoia had them cleaning up after themselves to avoid attracting bears. I may start faking bear sightings around our neighborhood to duplicate this effect.

    Willie the Heeler got to come along on this trip, and she was thrilled to be able to keep track of her herd—us. She even met two other Heelers. The first we met at the camp-sponsored Yappy Hour. All guests with pooches were invited to attend, and they even had a contest for best pet costume.


    We’d intended to bring Willie’s Native American princess costume for this event, but we forgot. Probably just as well. We think it embarrasses her. She didn’t need any further humiliation at Yappy Hour. Apparently, female Heelers don’t like each other and aren’t shy about saying so.

    All in all, the trip was a success. We took nature walks, swam, made crafts, played Bingo and had meltdowns over hiking (Monkey), mini-golf (Chunky), being left alone in the cabin (Willie), bait (Kory), no blow dryer (Evangeline), and lack of chimney access (bear), but we can’t wait to go back.

    How's your summer going? Had any vacation adventures?

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Let Me be the First to Reassure You

    I know we’re not supposed to worry about what the neighbors think. But I’m pretty sure that advice applies to comparisons over whose grass is greener and whose car is nicer and whose kid is smartest.

    For a little over a week now I’ve become increasingly concerned about what our neighbors think of my husband’s latest construction project—an elaborate turtle habitat for Roger and Molly.


    I feel compelled to knock on the doors of the folks living near us and explain to them that he is NOT building a coffin in our garage, and that every member of the family is still very much alive.

    Furthermore, this is not a sleep-during-daylight-on-your-home-soil type of situation. We all drink Coke Zero not blood, and with the possible exception of a questionable bag of sweet potatoes, we are not undead.


    However, knocking on people’s doors to tell them the above information might be termed “fishy” or “disturbing” or “wacko,” so I really think in this case a sign would be a good idea. Something in a nice friendly font that reads: We’re alive and kicking! How ‘bout you?

    Or maybe just an informational notice: Turtle habitat under construction. It is NOT a coffin.

    Or, the very subtle: No, no vampires live here. Not a one. Thanks for asking.

    I’m thinking that to make it look not quite so weird, we could put some other signs out. You’ve probably noticed the trend among roofing companies and landscapers of putting signs in yards that say: Another Quality Job by Nail in Your Foot Construction. Well, we could make a couple of those signs and stick them out there to camouflage my attempt at reassuring passersby that hubby hasn’t gone off the deep end.

    Then again, he has been working a lot of overtime lately. And there’s the talking to himself, the lab experiments in the basement, the strange smell from the closet. And, of course, the sweet potatoes that seem to be forming their own civilization.

    All coincidence, I’m sure. At least he hasn’t asked me to climb inside and lay down so he could check his measurements.

    You’ll be glad to know that Kory’s team made their deadline last Friday and now we have a week off to relax, have some family fun, and build whatever pet habitats we please. If you drive by and see a crypt in the front yard, just keep going and don’t worry. The boys have been asking for a pet zombie.

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    It's Harder Than It Looks

    With the exception of housework, I don’t like to leave things undone. So much so, in fact, that when I’m singing a song and I can’t remember the words I will finish it by saying, “The rest of the song.” My husband finds this hilarious and will wait for me to hum myself into a corner and be forced to sing something like, “la, la, la, yeah…the rest of the song.”

    Right now I’m just about out of my mind because I’m nearly done with the novel I’ve been working on for a year and a half. But it’s summer, the kids are home. They are so home. So very, very home. Help! Somebody save me! They’re HOME!

    I try all day to keep them busy, entertained, and not killing each other. Bedtime comes late. I wish I had the energy to write once they’ve finally gone to sleep, but instead I end up slouched on the sofa, watching Mr. Bean and thanking God that I made it through another day. And hoping my ADHD kiddo doesn’t grow up to BE Mr. Bean.



    Even though I’m not getting a lot of writing done, my Work In Progress is on my mind all the time. Kory is forced to live in whatever story world I’m working on and has become accustomed to me rattling on about fictional characters and problems. Sometimes he listens and gives me great feedback. Sometimes he nods and says, “Uh, huh.”

    The other day I was rambling about a plot problem, just thinking out loud while he relaxed on the sofa—probably wishing for some peace and quiet. I finally figured out how I was going to cause the disaster I needed to precipitate the book’s climax. I must’ve stopped babbling abruptly because Kory looked up from his position on the couch, quirked a brow at me and said, “The rest of the book?”

    Exactly. I wish it were that easy!

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    British Television: A Rant

    What is with those Brits anyway? Why can’t they make TV shows like regular people? Don’t they know it’s frustrating when they produce riveting programs like Downton Abbey and Sherlock Holmes but only offer the public a diet portion?

    Seriously!

    So lately my hubby’s been working bizarre hours which translated to a few nights of solo telly for me.

    For you criminal types who read my blog: He’s back to his normal routine of being home at night. And during the day, for that matter. And at dawn, and early evening, and late evening, and at 2:00 in the afternoon. And should he ever step out, we have a cattle dog who’s turned herd protection into a psychosis.

    Back to British television.

    I’m prone to watching odd programs on Netflix on the rare occasions when Kory’s not around. See this post about my traumatizing All Creatures Great and Small experience.

    So after a couple of strange movies—Ondine and Working Girl—I decided I needed something more classy. I checked out Downton Abbey and was immediately hooked. But here in the US, even small children know that a season consists of around twenty-two episodes aired weekly from some time in the fall to some time in the spring.

    In the UK, seven episodes are considered sufficient for a season. Seven episodes are just enough to keep you awake for nearly two nights in a row. They are NOT enough to be dubbed a season. I’d like to go ahead and officially demand more of this show.

    Apparently, others have voiced similar opinions because according to the Wikipedia article a new “season” will start in August of this year. However, this “season” consists of only eight episodes plus a Christmas special.

    What?!


    As if this wasn’t bad enough, along comes the Masterpiece Mystery series, Sherlock. Set in modern times with an aspy Sherlock and a Watson who reminds me of David Gray, this adaptation has all of the fascinating cerebral details of earlier renditions with the added fun of technology. If you haven’t seen the show, you might think that CSI units and DNA testing would ruin Sherlock’s brilliant deductive reasoning technique. But I think the concept has always been about mind games, and I like the way they’ve incorporated modern gadgetry into the show. For instance, when Sherlock or Watson receives a text, we see the message float on the screen. We also see bits and pieces of Sherlock’s thought process in the same manner. Quite fun for a modern audience used to ingesting data in abbreviated formats.

    The only un-fun thing about Sherlock? Its season consists of three, yes three, episodes. Apparently, the Powers That Be have deigned to give us three more episodes later this summer. I’m not sure if I should be happy about that or not. Seems more of a cruelty than a kindness.

    So there you have it. My rant against the stingy makers of superb British television. Now it’s your turn. What are you watching this summer? Any shows got your knickers in a twist?

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Wheels, Trees, and a Little Cheese

    So my husband is an optimist. Who knew?

    A couple weeks ago, out of nowhere, he said, “I was thinking we should get you a bike.”

    My first thought was, But I don’t go outside.

    My second thought was, Has he forgotten what happened last time I was on a bike?

    When we were dating, he witnessed my first bicycle ride as an adult. I rode into a tree. Sadly this wasn’t the first time I’d ridden into a tree. I drove a snowmobile into one when I was around 13 or 14. I’m pretty sure if I’d ridden a horse more than once in my life, I also would have somehow managed to navigate the both of us into a tree. It seems that riding astride of things (ahem!) is not my strong suit.

    But Kory had faith in me, and after my initial resistance to the idea of two wheels, I actually got excited about getting a bicycle. Especially when Kory started sending me pictures of cute cruisers and comfort bikes with seats like sofa cushions. Not to mention the baskets! I pictured a 50s version of myself riding down the street in bobby socks and a ponytail. Oh, I would immediately drop 30 pounds and be adorable on my retro bike with a basket and fancy rims and maybe even a bell.

    We finally found the right one and ordered it AND the basket AND the matching helmet (Wait! What about my ponytail?) It came today, Kory put it together—he has the necessary education for such a task—and I took my first ride.

    Oh. My. Gosh. As it turns out, one needs muscles to ride a bike. I seem to have none. Whatsoever. But going downhill was fun. I can’t wait to get on it again and build up some strength. Maybe I will get rid of that 30 pounds after all.

    At the risk of sounding a little corny (ugh! Hate corny!), my husband has no idea what this pretty bike means to me. I had no idea when he suggested getting me a bicycle that it would actually touch my heart. (Ew! I know, I know. This is so not me.) But when I was a little girl I desperately wanted a pink and purple ten speed. And the permed, blonde 80s hair to go with it. What I had was a hand-me-down dirt bike. And straight, almost-black hair.

    Time passed. I forgot about the pink and purple ten speed. 80s fashions wilted, thank goodness, and I learned to like my straight, dark hair. I didn’t know there was a part of me that still longed for a sleek, stylish bicycle. Until my husband said, “I want to buy you a bike.” Then he let me pick out the prettiest, most girly one we could find, and when I balked at the price he said, “You’re worth it.”

    All that remains is picking out a worthy name for my lovely cruiser. Any suggestions?

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Lemonade Economics

    We tried an experiment this week. We’ve been looking for new and effective ways to promote books and subsidize my mom’s jewelry-making habit, so we decided to try our luck with a booth at a local farmer’s market.

    Thinking this would be a good opportunity for the boys to learn a little about commerce, we suggested that they run a lemonade stand next to our table. They really got into the idea, so on Wednesday we loaded tables, chairs, a canopy, boxes of books, jewelry, a cooler, and two little boys into the van.

    Setting up was a nightmare. Just putting the canopy up requires an engineering degree. I’d only had a crash course on the front lawn given by my overworked hubby. When I couldn’t get the framework in place, I called him. He was on his way home from working a night shift at the test lab but agreed to come to my rescue. Thankfully, help came from several of the other folks at the market, and Kory got to go home and sleep.

    With everything set up, more or less, we were open and ready for business. That’s when we learned a hard truth about retail. Selling something is easy when you’re seven and nine-years-old and adorable. In fact, you can sell a small cup of lemonade for twenty-five cents and people will give you a dollar and say, “Keep the change.”

    The boys made a killing.

    Monkey, in particular, got into the whole salesman thing. He hollered, “You want some lemonade?” at every passerby, and when things were slow, he went out and tracked down customers. He hounded the other merchants in our row so relentlessly that I thought he’d get some cross looks. But they were all patient, and most eventually gave in and bought some lemonade. Unfortunately, being Monkey, he didn’t remember they’d already bought some and continued harassing them.

    It’s nice to know he has career options if his whole playing-video-games-for-money plan doesn’t work out.

    But you should have seen the boys' faces when we told them they had to pay Daddy three dollars for supplies. “What?” “Are you kidding?” We explained that in a real business, you have to purchase your supplies and that money comes out of your profit.

    I almost told them they had to pay me for actually making the lemonade, but they were so indignant about their overhead I didn’t want to bring labor costs into the picture. Next time.

    As for the other, less adorable and less obnoxious members of our enterprise, well, we did all right. Decent, in fact. But I’m not sure if we’ll try again. The canopy snapped halfway into the afternoon, and we had to enlist the help of some customers to take it down before it crashed on our heads. We lost a few necklaces to the wind. They were blown off and broke on the pavement. We did sell some books and met some great people, but it’s kind of humiliating to be outsold by a couple of little boys trying to earn enough money for a Lego set.

    Then again, if anyone ever tells you the life of an author is glamorous, they're probably trying to sell you something.

    In honor of the boys success, I think it's appropriate to share this YouTube of a clearly ADHD duck and his take on lemonade stands.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    The Birds, the Bees, and the Turtles?


    So Roger and Molly, our box turtles, went on their first vet visit today. We have the best vet ever. He’s a man of remarkable dedication. I’ve seen him cuddle a snake.

    It was basically a Well Turtle check-up, but even though we’ve done our research, he had some excellent advice for taking care of our herptilian friends. I learned:

    1. That it’s illegal to “trade” in ornate box turtles. Oops! I feel like a criminal! Actually, we didn’t buy these guys. We got them from a rescue, so I think we’re ok.

    2. Proper turtle care requires that I buy two thermometers. Thankfully, they’re not for taking the turtles’ temp but to monitor their habitat.

    3. Iceburg lettuce has no nutritional value. Actually I knew that from all those 80s movies about Anorexia.

    4. Crickets are the equivalent of Cheetos for turtles.

    5. To make crickets healthy, I must Gut Load them by placing a slice of apple or potato in their container for the crickets to munch. I should also purchase a product called Reptical. I’m supposed to put the powdery Reptical in a baggie, then place the crickets inside and “shake to coat” before I feed them to Roger and Molly. Yep, you got it. Turtle Shake ‘n Bake!

    6. Turtles, like most reptiles, pee when they’re nervous. I’m guessing our vet has experienced much worse. He took it in stride.

    Unfortunately, I neglected the most crucial question: Is there such a thing as a Depo shot for a turtle? What exactly do we do to keep our turtles from getting that lovin’ feeling? We’ve already severely restricted the amount of Barry White music played in their earshot. And, of course, we have a strict ban on candle-burning. Having once burned my big toe on a candle flame, I can tell you those waxy traps are far from romantic. But Roger and Molly don’t know that, so no candlelit dinners for them!

    We’re settling in to turtle ownership, and Kory plans to build an elaborate habitat for them. I suggested a combination coffee table/turtle enclosure with Plexiglas sides so we can still see them when they burrow. We’ll keep you updated on Project Turtle Palace.

    Hope your summer is off to a good start!

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    Summer Reading


    I just finished Lisa Tawn Bergren’s Waterfall and can’t wait to get the sequel Cascade. With satisfying doses of romance, action, and time-travel for us paranormal fans, the River of Time series couldn’t be better for your summer reading list.

    When Gabriella and her sister, Evangelia, enter an ancient Etruscan tomb at an archaeological site in Italy, they have no idea they’ll emerge in medieval Tuscany—in the midst of a battle no less. Gabi cannot find her sister anywhere and is soon carted away to the Castle Forelli. Taken in by the powerful Forelli family, Gabi struggles to adapt to everything from the language to the customs to the barbaric realities of medieval war.

    Marcello Forelli, the second son and leader of the knights, is practically a fantasy hero with his Italian good looks and abundance of virulent manliness. Too bad for Gabi, the guy is taken, engaged to the daughter of the Forelli’s political ally. But that doesn’t stop a sizzling bond from growing between the two. And as the friction between the Forellis and their enemies mounts, Gabriella and Marcello find themselves enmeshed in a dangerous plot to rescue Gabi’s sister and conquer their treacherous adversaries.

    I particularly liked the heroine Gabi, who has the strength and fortitude to thrive in her frightening circumstances, but also has all the vulnerability and self-doubt of any modern young woman. Bergren does a superb job of crafting a heroine that both teens and women will embrace. And, of course, Marcello is a drool-worthy hero with an honorable heart and lovely, big muscles. Sigh.

    I’m curious to see how the time-travel element plays out in the rest of the series and anxious to get back to Bergren’s vivid Tuscan setting. Warning: This book will make you want to go to Italy. Probably not Italy in the 1300s, unless you think using a chamber pot would be a hoot and a half. But what girl doesn’t want to visit castle ruins, stroll through a breath-taking piazza, and eat pasta in a local café? Sign me up!

    So, has anyone else read any great books lately? What’s on your summer reading list?

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Purple Hair, U2, and Field Trip Fun

    Things in my house which are now purple:

    My pillowcase
    My hairbrush
    My fingernails
    My scalp

    Every time I take a shower a certain Prince song takes over my bathroom. Even the ceiling has little purple dots on it. I had no idea I washed my hair so enthusiastically.

    I’m not sure why the purple stain we put in my hair last week is still washing out. All I can say is that I’m sure glad it has come off my skin, mostly. I did come up with some fun story ideas about The Purple-Eared Fairy though. My stylist and I thought it would be a good name for a drink. Can’t you see a brawny guy walking into a bar and asking the bartender for a Purple-Eared Fairy? That’s something I’ve just got to use in a book.

    So last Saturday Kory and I went with friends to the U2 concert at Invesco Stadium in Denver. This was my third U2 concert, and they were just as awesome as ever, even from the nosebleed section where people huddle together for warmth and make geeky Star Wars references about doing what you have to do to stay alive.



    Like I said, this was my third time seeing U2 and you know what’s weird? Their fans are getting really old! We played an ongoing game with our friends called “Can you spot a teenager?” I got excited when I found a whole cluster of young people in the mad crush of folks exiting the stadium after the concert. They probably wondered why an old, purple-haired lady felt the need to congratulate them for having good taste in music.

    Today I had the pleasure of herding third graders around downtown Colorado Springs for a scavenger hunt field trip.

    Highlights included:

    Rain and sleet
    Lots and lots of walking
    Finding “Phil” (each adult with a clue was called Phil)
    Street names unpronounceable by third graders
    Being offered “brownies” by strangers in the park

    Actually, stranger danger aside, it was a lot of fun. After our soggy hunt we went to the Pioneer Museum. I got all excited about a TB exhibit since I’ve been researching tuberculosis for my work-in-progress. Sometimes being a writer makes you awfully weird.

    So that’s what I’ve been up to. Purple hair. U2. Field Trip.

    Anyone else done anything exciting in the past few days?
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