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    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    The Great Christmas Puppy Hunt

    Well, last week I told you about our impending trip to the big house to interview a dog for possible adoption. Darbetta the Labradoodle turned out to be an entirely new breed of Labradoodle that looks nothing like a Labradoodle and in fact looks like a mutt. We have nothing against mutts, and it wasn’t her fault she was misrepresented. We met and interacted with Darbetta but quickly figured out she just wasn’t the dog for us. Also, she wasn’t finished with her training and couldn’t come home with us that day.

    So we headed back to the Springs—disappointed and dogless. A stop at the Humane Society yielded nothing so we picked the boys up from their grandparents and never breathed a word of our failed mission.

    Later that afternoon, I got a hot tip that Labradoodles were being sold in the Safeway parking lot in Falcon. Mom and I jumped in the car, but by the time we got there, they were gone.

    The next day we checked back. No Labradoodles. We hopped over to the Wal-Mart across the street just in case, but the dogs weren’t there either. We did get another hot tip though. Blue Heelers for sale at the Circle R. I understood four words of that sentence. What are Blue Heelers? What is a Circle R?

    The GPS units in the van and the Blackberry were equally stumped as to the elusive Circle R, but we did find Blue Heelers on the browser.

    “Are you sure?” I asked Mom, looking at the pic of a large, mottled gray dog on her tiny screen.

    “Oh, I’ve seen these dogs,” she answered. “They’re smart.”

    After doubling back between Falcon and the Springs so many times that I couldn’t rightly define ‘back,’ we finally located the Circle R—a feed store. Oh.

    We were greeted by Mommy-dog who happily showed off her babies, including this little sweetheart.

    Yep. She came home with us.

    Kory had Monkey and Chunky waiting in the living room when I walked in holding Willie, named after the whiny blonde in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Chunky’s eyes got big and a slow smile spread over his face.

    Monkey said, “You got us a dog. Great. Now we’re gonna have to pick up poop!” Since then he’s warmed up to our fuzzy new friend. Chunky is absolutely 100% in love with Willie. We’re amazed at her patience as he bear hugs her, carries her around the house, and over-loves the daylights out of her. She thinks he’s another puppy.

    The vet gave her a clean bill of health and told us we better give her a “job” or she will “dig up the backyard, take down the fence, and build a catapult into the neighbor’s yard.” Sounds like construction to me. Maybe a doggie hard hat is in order.

    Willie has become part of the family in four short days, and I think she’s the best Christmas present any of us could’ve asked for.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Labradoodles, Prisoners, and Johnny Depp--Oh My!

    So the big news in our house is the possible addition of a new furry member. No, we’re not adopting Jacob Black. Although…

    Ok, I’m back from my Teen Wolf fantasy.

    This Saturday Kory, Mom, and I are off on a stealth mission to meet a certain Labradoodle with the unfortunate, hopefully-changeable name Darbetta. We discovered the 11-month-old dog through a program that pairs inmates with dogs for the purposes of socialization and training. We’re not exactly sure if the socialization applies to the dogs or the prisoners, but we’re happy to support any ambiguous cause this time of year.

    When we called about Darbetta—cringe—we were told we were fourth on the list to meet her. We figured there was no way we had a chance since Labradoodles are the Johnny Depps of the dog world. They’re cute, smart, agreeable, hypoallergenic, and don’t shed. See, exactly like Johnny Depp.

    But last week we got a call saying she was still available. Being something of a pessimist, my first question was, Why?

    Does she bite? Are we dealing with Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street?

    Or maybe she doesn’t have the best personality—Johnny in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

    Does she steal things, drink too much rum, and wear eyeliner? Ok, I’ve taken the comparison too far.

    Needless to say, we’re excited to see this pooch—excited enough to drive to Canyon City and visit Darbetta at the Women’s Correctional Facility. Doesn’t it just give you the warm fuzzies? A waggedy-tailed, floppy-eared new dog. A Christmas surprise for two oblivious little boys. A secret trip to the clinker.

    And here’s what I need from you: Does anyone have any suggestions for a new name for our potential puppy?

    I lobbied for Leia since all my boys are Star Wars fans, but Mom says it reminds her of the thing you wear around your neck when you go to a luau. Since it’s non-stop grass skirts and coconut bras around here, I guess we better come up with something else.

    For some reason, I’m stuck on Ls.


    This is starting to sound like a Sesame Street song.


    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Indoor Competitive Walking for Seniors and Dumpy Stay-at-Home Moms

    This week I started a weight loss clinic at my doctor’s office. Because I dearly love the staff, I am not going to make snarky comments about skinny people trying to empathize with fat people. After all, why alienate the few who don’t leave a flaming pile of blame at your door, ring the bell, and hide in the bushes?

    So now I’m following the groundbreaking program of “Eat less, Exercise more.”

    I like to walk in the mornings, but it’s been a bit nippy here in Colorado. So the other day I went to the indoor track at the Y. This turned out to be more than a little humbling. I followed a trim sixty-five-year-old up the stairs to the elevated track. Grandma then left me in the dust with only a glimpse of her toned fanny.

    The only other woman my age was jogging—and clearly had developed the habit throughout all her adult years.

    I stuck to the inside track, the slow track, the arthritic track, the recovering from heart surgery track—you get the idea. I got excited when I caught up to one of the seniors. I knew the protocol for passing. After all, Mrs. Career Jogger had lapped me plenty of times.

    I sped up and moved to the right—the fast track!—to pass the gray-haired trotter in front of me. But he must have sped up too. Ah, he’s like one of those drivers who won’t go the sped limit but won’t let you pass. I sped up a little more. The old geezer stepped on the gas!

    So I’m huffing and puffing in the fast lane, eyeing Grandpa at my left, with Jogger Lady bearing down on me. Who knew you could have road rage on a walking track? Like any respectable, aggressive driver, I responded to the situation by cranking my music up. This backfired as I was wearing headphones and simply blasted my own eardrums with Matchbox 20.

    Finally, I managed to pass Gramps, and swerve back into the slow lane in time for Speedy to zoom by. But by then, I was too tired to keep up the pace. My victory was short-lived. Seventy-year-old Recovering Heart Patient passed me with a gleam in his eye.

    All in all, it turned out to be a good workout. I plan to go back for a rematch this week. And this time, the gloves are off. I’m bringing a bike horn.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Attack of the 12 Foot Christmas Tree

    I’d like to report that once again we’ve survived our annual “Man vs. Artificial Nature” encounter. It was touch-and-go there for a bit. My husband was very nearly eaten by our 12 foot monstrosity of a Christmas tree.

    Three years ago, we bought this mountain of synthetic greenery at Sam’s four days before Christmas. A steal at $150. That spring we started looking for a new house. One of the features on our list of requirements was vaulted ceilings for the tree. The other day, Monkey asked why we moved. Chunky quickly responded, “We needed room for our Christmas tree.”

    Every year the thing seems to grow. I have to wonder what it’s snacking on in our garage during its twelve-month hibernation. Every year Kory and I take longer to recover from battling the Spruce Brute.

    But all’s well that ends well.

    How about you? Did you run into any carnivorous evergreens this weekend? Do you have any funny, or maybe scary, Christmas decorating stories to share? I’d love to hear them.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Thoughts on Love Stories

    So, like the rest of the non-bedridden population, I went to see New Moon this weekend. A couple people have asked me what I thought. My official response is, “It was better than Twilight. I liked it.”

    This time I went in fully grasping that universal key to happiness: lowered expectations. I highly recommend you employ this technique in all areas of your life except, perhaps, personal hygiene. Let’s not lower those standards any more folks.

    Relax, I’m not going to defend or tear apart The Twilight Saga. I think, maybe, it’s been done already. Suffice it to say, I think the books are so wildly popular because they touch on that universal truth that we were meant for something more. Translated into Hollywood speak, this truth becomes, “Look at me. I’m pretty.”


    Ok, on to the purpose of this blog. Ha ha. Like I have some sort of plan, some thesis to my ramblings. Yeah, right.

    Anyway, if you’ve read New Moon you know there’s a kind of Romeo and Juliet theme. A few lines of the play are quoted in the movie. *Insert quiet cheer for culture, classic literature, and English geeks like me.*

    When Edward rattles off a few lines in a classroom scene—instead of thinking about his general awesomeness—I started thinking about one of my favorite movies, Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Here’s the trailer:

    William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

    I was 18 when this movie came out, and it changed the way I thought about Shakespeare, tragic love stories, and gaudy shirts. No, it’s not perfect. And if you decide to watch it for the first time because of my recommendation, you’re going to think I’m crazy. That is, until Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes spy each other through a fish tank. Then I promise you will be spellbound by performances that take a pair of tired old lovers and turn them into living, breathing, gloriously star-crossed teenagers in love.

    The potential for this blazing display of human experience exists in The Twilight Saga because, like Romeo and Juliet, Twilight taps The Love Story. You know, the one on which we build our every understanding and expression of love.

    “Once upon a time, there was a love that conquered death.”

    I find it funny, ironic, and awe-inspiring that we spend our lives retelling this story over and over again. It will never get old.

    So if you find yourself embarrassed to admit your Twilight fanaticism or devotion to the romance genre in general, RELAX. No matter how we may botch the delivery, the message remains imprinted in our DNA.

    Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has planted eternity in the human heart.”


    “Once upon a time, there was a love that conquered death."

    By the way, for more on this concept, I recommend John Eldredge's Epic.

    Saturday, November 14, 2009


    So for my birthday, Kory and I went to Denver and saw Wicked—a play about the Wicked Witch of the West, in case you’re not familiar. Every time we go to the theater, I wonder why we don’t go more often. I wonder this because I have not just bought the tickets. In fact, I’ve had several months to forget how much they cost.

    I loved Wicked! I confess I secretly wish I could get up on stage in costume and belt out emotionally-charged ballads. Please no one tell my mother because I tease her about having the same dream.

    Sadly, I have a mousey voice, no coordination whatsoever, and the acting chops of a shy first grader. I’m not even qualified to play the Cowardly Lion. But that’s ok. Someone needs to sit in the audience and wonder how it feels to have the power to affect other’s emotions.

    Of course that’s what I try to do with the written word. I’m in awe of authors who manage to move me, not to mention artists, musicians, actors, and the inspired folks at Godiva.

    A friend of mine applies the term “singing” to a piece of writing that really showcases an author’s voice and talent. Makes sense, doesn’t it? The first time she wrote “La la la” on my chapter I thought she meant I’d taken a trip to La La Land.

    There’s nothing like the rush of knowing that you’re part of something beautiful. That in a miniscule way, you’ve emulated your Creator and produced something that wasn’t there before. And maybe it’s hard to explain to non-artistic people. You know, the ones who actually keep our world running? It’s not that they lack imagination. Their dreams and fantasies produce things like suspension bridges, satellites, vaccine, and stomach-slimming undergarments. They’re artists in their own sense.

    Every once in awhile, I wish I had a practical skill—like adding, growing tomatoes, or programming the DVR—but I wouldn’t trade my form of “singing” for all the useful skills in the world. I’m guessing those fabulous folks on stage know—in the midst of their biggest number, when their voices are pure magic, and they have the audience holding their breath—that they are doing exactly what they were meant to do. I have no doubt we were all designed to recognize that moment for ourselves.

    Friday, October 30, 2009


    I’m pretty sure God is the only one who knows how truly neurotic I really am. But my husband is a close second. The other day he told me that if I get any more germaphobic he’s gonna have to put me away. Provided my padded cell is regularly sterilized, I think I could live with that.

    In addition to Cloroxing doorknobs, household surfaces, and random strangers at King Soopers, I also lace my kids’ orange juice with Echinacea and have achieved the enviable title, OCD Handwashing Nazi.

    I’ve also introduced Family Gargle Time. We tried to come up with a catchy slogan. “The family that gargles together—something something something—together.” Turns out the word gargle rivals the word orange in its dazzling array of rhyming options.

    You might be surprised to hear that my boys don’t give me any trouble at all about their nightly warm saltwater gargle. If you know me even in passing, you know I have a top notch gag reflex and the projectile power to back it up. Each night I struggle not to puke while I gargle. But the boys? They love it! I’m not kidding. And to prove it to you, here’s a sound clip of a special performance they gave a couple nights ago.

    That was a real treat, wasn’t it?

    And now, it’s time to go wash my hands, and my keyboard, and my earphones, and that plastic pumpkin over there, and the neighbor’s dog, and the sidewalk…

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Please Pass the Brain

    Just a quick update before I get into today’s weirdness. Monkey did better with his flu shot this year. He didn’t hide under the couch, climb the walls, or kick anyone in the solar plexus. It was traumatic, yes, but we made it. Kory helped by making the boys laugh with his tough, pirate grunts and manning up for his shot first. Thank God for daddies!

    Okay, now on to something completely different.

    “Please pass the brain,” is one of my favorite phrases. Like so many things worth discussing, this expression is rooted in my teenage years and has to do with my brother and zombies.

    Case had this game, possibly called Please Pass the Brain. I can’t remember for sure. But the premise of the game was this. All the players are zombies working in a fast food restaurant. In order to do your job—flip burgers, clean the bathroom, refill the salt shakers—you had to have the brain. Of course, there was only one brain and you had to roll for it. Highest roll gets to use the brain, complete their task, and get ahead.

    Now even if you never got the brain, you could still achieve minimal success. There were cards with various cheeses on them, and you could substitute cheese for brains and sort of “get by.” The catch phrase went something like this, “You can use cheese in a pinch, but you can’t win the game with it.”

    Lately, I’ve suspected that the space between my ears is filled with a glob of runny mozzarella. I’ve been engaging in relationships, nurturing my children, balancing motherhood, wifehood, and womanhood, and writing a book with nothing but cheese!

    And so, if you’ll forgive me, I must loose this desperate cry. Would someone, for the love of all that is holy and decent, PLEASE PASS THE BRAIN?!

    I need it!

    I’m the mom who forgets she’s supposed to be volunteering in her son’s classroom and arrives breathless, fifteen minutes late. I’m the mom who forgets that people expect dinner every day. I’m the mom who puts a load of laundry in only to find it still in the washer, crunchy and stinky, a week later.

    And what’s worse, I have two little boys who have not yet learned to get by with cheese. I have every hope that one day they will possess brains sufficient to win the game, but for now, let’s be honest; we’re working with sharp cheddar.


    They need me, ME, to make sure they eat regularly, wear clothes out of the house, and go to bed before 10. And those are just the basics! There’s homework to inch through, music class to barely make it to, vitamins to take, social development to foster, ethics to teach, college to plan for. Folks, I’m doing the best I can with my hunk of oozing mozzarella.

    I have the sneaking suspicion that other moms might feel the same way. Do you secretly suspect you’re a moldering zombie with limburger in your skull? If so, couldn’t we form some sort of co-op? We’ll steal a brain from one of those well-dressed, career women who give us dirty looks in the supermarket when our kids touch everything, sing loudly, and hit each other. Then we’ll share our prize. You can check out for a bit when your kids are at school and loan me the brain so I can make it to my dentist appointment. And when you have that PTA meeting, I’ll willingly lob the brain your way.

    Who’s with me? Let me hear it, ladies.


    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Monkey's Lizard Brain

    Poor Monkey is terrified of needles. He’s never had a horrific experience with shots, well, not in reality. In his mind? Who can say what dreadful imaginings lurk in the brain of an eight-year-old boy?

    Of course I don’t blame him for not liking shots, but as he gets bigger, his fight-or-flight response gets harder to manage.

    In our house, we sometimes talk about the lizard brain. It’s that instinctual part of your mind that reacts like an animal’s. There’s scientific mumbo jumbo to go along with this term, and educated folks might even be able to point to this part of the brain on a diagram. I, however, would point to the entire brain and say something stupid like, “There’s the chocolate zone.”

    What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Monkey’s lizard brain. He looses all rational thought when confronted with the prospect of getting a shot and becomes a fifty-pound Juggernaut. He will do just about anything to get away, including:

    • Pummel whoever is holding him,
    • Fling shoes, equipment, whatever is in reach, across the room,
    • Single-handedly fight off parents, doctors, nurses, technicians, and recruited bouncers,
    • Wedge himself in a corner, four feet up the wall, like Spiderman,
    • Hide under the waiting room couch (which had to be lifted off of him),
    • Writhe, scream, and—between the time he finds out about shots and the time he goes into animal mode—bargain and promise like a politician.

    Poor baby. He makes it so much harder on himself than it needs to be. But there is no explaining that concept to a lizard. Or a monkey. Or an eight-year-old.

    This Saturday our whole family is scheduled for flu shots. Of course I haven’t told Monkey yet. But come Saturday morning, he’ll figure it out quickly.

    We do have a fun surprise planned. No, not a straightjacket. If we all survive our shots, and don’t have to stick around for assault charges brought by the medical staff, then the whole family is going to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I’m hoping this dangling carrot will help Monkey retain some portion of his rational mind, and maybe, just maybe, we can get by without the hazmat crew.

    Whatever the case, I’ve been assured that our doctor’s office will be prepared with extra personnel, protective gear, and tranquilizers.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for me? When flu shot time comes around, do your kids turn into lizards? Ninjas? The Hulk? I’d love to hear how you deal with it.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Bubba and I Hate Each Other

    Awhile ago, I became aware—mostly through my husband’s theatrical sighs when paying bills—that I had a credit card addiction. In order to make myself care about this nebulous problem, I decided to think of my credit card debt as a person--a massive tent-wearing, wobbly-type person. You know, the “before” picture. And so, Bubba was born.

    Since I have Creative Personality Disorder, Bubba soon became an all-too-real imaginary friend. I imagined him waddling behind me at Target, huffing down my neck as I shopped on Amazon.com, and demanding extra whip cream for my frappucino at Starbucks.

    Since my mission—which I never had the option of choosing to accept—was to trim Bubba down a bit, I figured the least the behemoth could do was help me shed a few pounds. You know, I don’t add $4.50 to his swollen waist and he, in return, does not add extra whip cream to mine. Makes sense, right? Somehow I entered into an accountability relationship with a figment of my imagination.

    Shockingly, this did not work. I’m here to say that Bubba and I now hate each other, as evidenced by my suicidal scale and his rent-sized minimum payment. In the name of friendship, we’ve sabotaged each other. He offered to pay for my vanilla bean scones and I, like a weak-willed enabler, let him. Now both of us are huge.

    Which brings me to a ridiculous question, is there therapy for people who have relationship issues with their imaginary friends? Or maybe there’s a prescription that takes care of things like this.

    I’ve heard of this radical freezer therapy where you put your “friend” in a plastic container, fill it with water, then stick him in the deep freeze. As much as I hate Bubba for letting me get even fatter than I started out, I still can’t justify such cruelty.

    What am I to do, folks? Bubba and I are headed for a show-down. I can see it now. I lure him to the Cheesecake Factory, promising to only add a small salad to his straining balance. But just as I’ve duped him with the illusion of my restraint, I add a basket of calamari, a plate of Pad Thai, a couple of girly cocktails, and then four different kinds of cheesecake!! Die, Bubba, die! Bwa ha ha!

    But! Oh, no! What’s this? Just before my credit line draws its last breath, Bubba manages to get one more parting shot in. The cheesecake! Who could have seen that coming? Now my behind is the size of Canada, AND I’m stuck with the colossal carcass of my credit line!

    Okay, okay. Maybe I need to get out more. Take a pill for my hyperactive imagination. Get real friends. Go on a diet. Make a budget.

    I think I’ll call my budget Romilla. Romilla the Red Witch! Romilla the Red is my nemesis! While I do my part to nourish an anorexic economy, Romilla foils my every move, zapping me with lightning whenever I reach the checkout. My husband is Romilla’s unknowing pawn. I must liberate him from her iron fist of cruelty and teach him the ways of gracious overspending.

    Oh dear. I think I have a problem.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Garlic and Grace

    Chunky is in a whiney, temper-tantrum stage. Groan! We’ve punished, ignored, and even laughed through his repeated trips to Camp Pitch Fit. But all of us, even Monkey, are worn thin by Chunky’s loud wails and floor pummeling.

    Of course you can’t give in. But standing your ground is so much easier said than done.

    This morning, we all woke up a little late. I got my sleepy boys downstairs, asked them what they wanted for breakfast, and rushed about making my own peppermint tea and their cinnamon toast.

    I don’t know why I did it. I knew, even as I cut the crust off their toast, that no good could come of such an action. I’ve always made them deal with their own crust issues, and slicing off the edges for them set a dangerous precedent.

    I handed them their plates, and Chunky immediately went into whine mode. “I didn’t want mine toasted.”

    Thinking it was entirely possible I’d missed his request for non-toasted toast, I told Chunky to give his brother his square of warm, buttered bread, and I would make him “cold toast.”

    Time was slipping away, so I buttered a slice of bread, sprinkled cinnamon on it, and gave it to him—with the crust still on.

    Mount Vesuvius erupted on my living room couch. “I don’t want the crust! You didn’t cut it off! Why didn’t you cut it off! Waaaaah!”

    Totally unacceptable. I ignored my spewing five-year-old and gulped my own tea and yogurt down while Monkey simply turned the volume on his cartoons up to 50.

    Then I told Chunky that he could either eat what he was given or go to school hungry, and I headed upstairs to brush my teeth and throw on clothes.

    I came back down, shouting to the boys to get dressed. We were dangerously close to late. Entering the living room, I caught the distinct whiff of garlic. What in the world, I thought, but continued into the kitchen to pack Chunky’s snack.

    That was when I noticed that he’d thrown away the cold toast I’d given him, gotten a new piece of bread, and cut the crust off himself. He was sitting on the living room floor with his new breakfast. I should have stopped to deal with his sneakiness right then, but time was ticking away.

    I turned off the TV, threw socks at my boys, stuffed my towel in my gym bag and said, “We gotta go” the requisite four times.

    Again I puzzled at the strong garlic odor, but I figured it was somehow leftover from the garlic cheese biscuits I’d made the night before.

    After my fifth “We gotta go,” I noticed the sad little heap of kindergartener on my floor.

    “What’s the matter?” I asked.

    “I didn’t get to eat my toast.”

    I looked at the square of toast on his plate and realized that instead of cinnamon, he’d dumped garlic powder on his bread. He’d taken a few nibbles, but his sad little face clearly stated the nastiness of his concoction.

    “It doesn’t taste very good, does it?” I asked him.

    His lip wobbled, and he shook his head ‘no.’

    Quickly I explained that he deserved to either have to eat his mistake or go without breakfast, but that I was going to give him what he didn’t deserve. Grace. And a new piece of buttered, crustless bread, with cinnamon on top.

    At five, I’m not sure Chunky can fully grasp the concept of grace. But I do know that he was incredibly glad that he didn’t have to eat his bread with garlic powder. The few bites he took were enough to temper the sweetness of defiance—and give him some pretty potent garlic breath.

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    I Write Books--Duh!

    Later this week I will make the danger-fraught trip to Denver for the American Christian Fiction Writer’s annual conference. Last year was the first time I attended, so this year I’m an old pro and not nervous at all. Yeah right, last week I tore all my clothes out of my closet, dumped them on my bed, and moaned myself into catatonia over the fact that I had nothing to wear.

    Then I went shopping. Don’t tell Kory.

    And then there’s my anxiety over the most important thing I’ll be presenting. No, not my shoes. My writing! This year I’ll be pitching (insert snigger here) two novels. Brandy and the Vine is about a Goth girl who struggles to fit into a new mold. And Flower in the Sky is about a young woman who discovers a house spirit living in her wall. Apparently, these concepts are edgy for CBA, that’s Christian Booksellers Association—at least I think that’s what it stands for. It could be Categorical Barnyard Assembly. Or Cat Bagger Attempts. Or Cardboard Brain Association.

    I digress.

    I intend to have a great time, despite my tendency to say really stupid things when asked “What do you write,” “Tell me about your novel,” and “Would you please hold the elevator?”

    If any of you live in Colorado and would like to pick up some great books AND get them signed by the authors, there will be a booksigning this Saturday. See info below.

    Wish me luck everybody!

    Sunday, September 6, 2009

    Manners 2.0

    Little girls confuse me. True, I used to be one. But now I’m so surrounded by boy stuff that I’ve forgotten all but the basics of girlyness.

    1. I love shoes.
    2. I have so many words buzzing around in my head, and I feel I must use them ALL.
    3. Please, please, please, tell me I’m pretty.

    These fundamentals haven’t been of much use when I’m trying to figure out why girls the same age as my boys are so vastly different. I’m convinced girls come complete with a Manners 2.0 program. But with boys it takes forever to install.

    Not only do boys resist the Manners download, they actively sabotage the program—delighting in bodily functions, demanding things in monosyllabic grunts, and appearing stone deaf when told to apologize, say thank you, say hi, say anything at all.

    This week I was shocked to discover that one of my boys had added the Mind Your Manners book to the charity pile. I snapped a photo of their unexpected donation, took the book out of the box, and hauled the lot to the ARC drop-off site.

    Later I confronted my wrestling, burping, smelly boys about the incident. Chunky informed me that they no longer needed that book and that it was a baby book. Really? You’ve mastered the fine art of manners?

    I have a plan. I’m going to hang on to this book for a few years and when my boys are teenagers, I’m gonna pull it out when they so much as belch out of the corner of their mouths. At the dinner table, in front of friends, on prom night—I don’t care—you’re reading Elmo’s Mind Your Manners until the rules stick. I’m not above planting it in their dorm rooms.

    For those of you with girls, please go easy on us moms-of-boys. Not only are we mystified by the caveman natures of our little men, but slowly, we’re losing touch with our own inner fairy princesses. And if we should ever burp while out to lunch with you, forget to say please and thank-you, or appear in mismatched clothing and smelling of cheese, please present us with a copy of Mind Your Manners and gently guide us back to The Girly Side.

    Sunday, August 30, 2009

    Just Between You and Me

    I confess I’ve gotten a little frustrated with some popular fiction out there. You know, those books that get made into movies, so suddenly everyone is reading them, and you read them, thinking, I’ll just follow the other literary lemmings off this deceptively-bland looking cliff. And then you’re stuck treading water in a meaningless story, hoping the author will come along and throw you a plot-saving life preserver.

    No, I’m not bitter. I just won’t get those hours of my precious leisure time back. And, really, that’s nobody’s fault but my own.

    This is why reading Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones was like sailing away from a brain-clouded existence and discovering life, love, adventure, and orange soda-loving natives in a tropical paradise.

    What? You don’t get the metaphor?

    Ok, I’ll be plain. Just Between You and Me is a perfect example of what women’s fiction is supposed to be—moving, meaningful, and freaking hilarious.

    From the get-go, I was in love with the author’s style, her stellar one-liners, the expertly woven threads of tension, and the sizzling romance. A word on the yummiest part of any women’s fiction, romantic tension:

    Less is more.

    Less is more.

    One more time.

    Less is more.

    That being said, Ms. Jones gets it done, ladies. The tension between the hero and heroine made my mouth water, their banter is divine, and their kisses had me searching out my technology-addicted husband and surprising the glasses right off his face.

    And yet, I did not feel like I’d mistakenly wandered into the wrong bedroom and reluctantly received the education of a lifetime. One delicious kiss is worth a thousand tawdry euphemisms. And so, I thank Jenny B. Jones, for giving me exactly what I wanted without making me blush.

    On the more serious side, the drama in this book has depth. I was impressed with the way the author portrayed some harsh realities about mental illness and its effects. The character of Riley, a neglected little girl, is drawn so clearly that I could see her hardened little face and hear her angry words. And, as in the real world, there are no pat solutions, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but please don’t read it unless you like to be entertained, to laugh out loud, and be reminded that life is about more than self-preservation. However, if all of those things are as appealing as a dentist visit to you, then I can recommend some truly boring slogs for your reading pleasure. Just don't say I didn't give you options.

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Not Your Average Interview

    I have known Kim Woodhouse all my life. As proof of this statement I offer the fact that I do not actually remember ever meeting her, though by the most traditional, boring definitions of time and reality, this must have happened approximately two and a half to three years ago.

    If you haven’t met Kim, either literally or figuratively, chances are you’ve heard of her, the incredible Woodhouse family, and their Extreme Makeover house. The Woodhouse family has lived in the media spotlight because of their daughter, Kayla, who has a rare medical disorder that does not allow her to feel pain or sweat.

    Kim’s book, Welcome Home: Our Family's Journey to Extreme Joy, chronicles their road from struggling to find a diagnosis for Kayla all the way to being selected by ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover. Here’s my review.

    Now, if you want to read more about Kayla’s unusual condition, the family’s journey, or Ty Pennington’s mysteriously ill-fitting jeans, you’ll have to go buy Kim’s book. (Okay, okay. Kim is much more of a lady than I am and would never mention Ty’s drooping drawers in her book.)

    Kim has agreed to do an interview here on Breathe In Breathe Out, and I have promised not to ask her anything boring like how many dessert spoons she has or what kind of fabric softener she uses. So here goes.

    ED: Kim, thanks for letting me ask you weird questions.

    KW: Thank you, Ed. May I call you Ed? I too, feel like we have known one another all our lives, and I must say that you are one of my favoritest, and most funnest people in the world. (I figure with weird questions - all grammar, spelling, and syntax flies out the window. Yes, I’m a writer.)

    ED: Feel free to call me Ed and let the grammar slide. You know I’m a fan of letting it all hang out. Ok, let’s get right to it.

    No. 1: Kayla has a head of hair that would make a Barbie jealous, but in the photo section of the book we see a cute pic of Kayla in a swimming cap at the edge of the pool. How exactly does Kayla manage to cram her gorgeous locks under that cap without looking like an alien with an inside out brain?

    KW: If I told you, I’d have to kill you. This is a top-secret, highly entertaining process that has been mastered over hours of trial and error. And she has a really cute head. That helps.

    No. 2: Your son Josh has an affinity for dragons. If given the choice, which of the following dragon powers do you think he’d like to have?

    a. flying
    b. breathing fire
    c. hording gold
    d. strategic ability to land on enemy armies thereby crushing their threat

    KW: d. At least, that would be my first choice, and I’ve got the hips to assist in that process.

    ED: As do I. Together we could wipe out legions!

    No. 3: Explain, please, the correlation between a dirty penny and a good roux.

    KW: Well, Ed, real gumbo requires a good roux. The roux should be the color of an old penny when it’s done, without burning it during the process. The roux is what gives gumbo and other classic Cajun dishes its hearty, deep flavor.

    ED: By the way, Kim's gumbo will fill places you didn't know needed filling and generally make you think that life, the world, and everything will be ok as long as you can keep eating her gumbo.

    No. 4: Without going to check, can you tell me the contents of your candy jar?

    KW: Which one? LOL! And an even deeper question could be, “Without going to check, can you tell me the contents and age of said candy in the candy jar?”

    No. 5: When you and your hubby, Jeremy, met. Did you think he was:

    a. pretty cute
    b. a nice guy
    c. way too into _______ (sports, music, collecting butterflies, fill in the blank)
    d. a & b

    KW: d. Most definitely. He’s so amazing.

    No. 6: How would he answer that question about you?

    KW: a. (He actually still remembers that! After almost 20 years.)

    ED: I am very glad he would not choose b.

    No. 7: Rate your shoe collection on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being an engineer’s and 10 a movie star’s.)

    KW: Can I plead the fifth to this question? I would most likely act like Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner—sacrificing myself for a beloved shoe.

    No. 8: Describe in five words or less, or in haiku form, how Josh would eat his favorite meal.

    KW: I can do it in two syllables: IN-HALE. (He’s fourteen. And a swimmer. I think that about sums it up.)

    No. 9: Describe an outfit Kayla would never be caught dead in.

    KW: Wonder Woman’s costume. My very logical and down-to-earth daughter would say, “Totally impractical for saving the world.”

    No. 10: Do you have an opinion on Ty Pennington’s pants?

    KW: Well, you know they say you really don’t know someone until you’ve walked in their shoes. I have a hard time understanding his dilemma because I don’t have that problem. I have a superfluous amount in the area he is lacking. Maybe I could give him a transplant.

    ED: Put me on that donor list as well. Thanks for giving us the answers to some important, never-before-asked questions about your wonderful family.

    KW: Thanks, Ed. It was definitely my honor and privilege to be here today. And if there were awards for interviews, yours would definitely win one.

    ED: Aww, thanks. I try.

    As you can see, Kim has a fantastic sense of humor. Welcome Home is full of funny moments you might not expect given the serious nature of Kayla’s condition. I hope you’ll check this book out and enjoy getting to know Kim and her fabulous family.

    Welcome Home: Our Family's Journey to Extreme Joy

    Friday, August 21, 2009

    Stay Tuned

    Dear Blog Readers,

    It has been three weeks since my last confession. I felt compelled to tell you that I am not dead, merely languishing in the alternate existence known as back-to-school time.

    Beginning on Monday, I’ll be trying my hand at Influencing. No, not my usual “Honey, you cannot wear that striped shirt with those plaid shorts” type of influencing. I’ll be sharing about a few books I’ve read lately that I think you ought to know about and go out and buy.

    I’m new to the world of Influencing and maybe I’m not supposed to use that term, but it’s not as though I’m knocking on your door in a white shirt and tie, or picketing the capitol building with a sign that reads “No communist healthcare.” No, I respect your right to believe the way you want to about God, politics, and bikini waxing. But, unfortunately, you are going to have to hear my opinion on books.

    So tune in Monday. Yes, you have to. Or I’ll picket your house in a shirt and tie with a banner that reads “You must read this book or I’ll call you politically incorrect names and force you to get a bikini wax.”

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    The Princess and The Pee

    Have you ever felt vindicated? Yes, I know God says vengeance belongs to Him. And truthfully, I seldom seek revenge. Yes, I might, on occasion leave certain lacy supportive garments on the bathroom doorknob, and maybe that’s a subconscious payback for all the socks my husband leaves on the floor. But, on the whole, I don’t tailgate people who cut me off, or leave poor tips for lousy service. I leave vengeance to Someone better suited for it.

    But this week, I confess to enjoying a sublime moment of vindication not of my own doing.

    Monkey and Chunky started swim lessons on Monday. Monkey loves water. He’s a second generation Monkeyfish. Put that kid in water and he’s as happy, as, well, a clam.

    His class consisted of four or five young swimmers just confident enough to cause trouble. On Tuesday, I noticed the whole class was riled up. At one point the instructor sat them all on the edge of the pool and laid down the law. Bravo, I thought. He’s in control of his class.

    I returned my attention to the book I was reading only to be interrupted moments later. Another mom came over to inform me that my son was “torture splashing” the other kids.

    Really. Torture splashing? Isn’t that a bit of an overstatement? I’ll be the first to admit that Monkey enjoys a splash war as much as the next seven-year-old. But it’s not like the kid is waterboarding his classmates.

    I should have smiled and told the mom that I would watch my son more closely and intervene if necessary. Instead, I went to the side of the pool, crouched down, and chewed out my bewildered child.

    Yeah. Bad Mommy Award for me.

    Later that evening, I explained to Monkey that some kids are more sensitive to splashing than others, that he was not the only one at fault in the class, and he should just give that particular kid a wide berth.

    He understood and continued his lessons with only minor splashing and acceptable cavorting.

    But, today, my moment to smile came. See, I’ve been bouncing back and forth between the large pool, where Monkey has lessons, and the small pool, where Chunky has lessons.

    More than once, I giggled about the class one level below Chunky’s. Taught by a tough-guy lifeguard, the class consisted of six adorable little girls. Too tiny to be in the water alone, they’d all sit in their frilly Disney Princess swimsuits on the edge of the pool, while Buff Guy showed them the very basics.

    Today, after their lesson, Buff Guy lined them up on the wall and sang “Six Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree.” Every time the “alligator” snapped, one little girl jumped into the waiting beefy arms of the instructor. Yeah, almost too cute to be legal.

    Except one itty bitty princess should have been wearing a swim pull-up. She pranced. She danced. She squealed. She peed.

    Buff Guy immediately enlisted the help of another nearby, very reluctant, lifeguard, who whisked the Peeing Princess off to the restrooms for probably no reason at all considering she was, by then, done.

    I, and the other parents, looked around for the unfortunate mother of the pool-christening toddler. Who should come hurrying over but the mom who’d accused Monkey of violating The Geneva Convention.

    Yes, I smiled, which was maybe not so Christian of me. But I did not go tap her on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, your child is using biological warfare against my child.”

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    This is Better

    Last week brought bad news on more than one level. No, no one is dying. Except for my women’s fiction novel’s chances of getting published. I know in five years I’ll probably be thankful my early attempts never reached more than my supportive critique circle. But I’m not there yet. And I’m thinking, “Why isn’t it good enough?”

    Even as my agent broke the news that my proposal was on life support, she encouraged my most recent efforts in a different genre. “Keep working. Keep going in this direction. This is better.”

    Her words came back to me on Saturday when we took the boys on a surprise trip to Santa’s Workshop. We piled in the van without telling Monkey and Chunky where we were going. But, of course, they could read the fun mood in the car and began peppering us with guesses. My husband and I grinned at their excruciating excitement.

    “Are we going swimming at the Y?”

    “Maybe,” my husband said. But we soon passed the turn off for the YMCA.

    “Are we going to Art Sports?” they asked.

    “We could do that, I suppose,” Kory said. But we didn’t.

    We drove by the putt-putt course and the boys frantically begged, “Can we play golf?”

    When we passed the exit for mini-golf, the kids got upset. “Dad,” Monkey whined, “why can’t we play golf?”

    I turned back and smiled at him. “Don’t worry. This is better.”

    My boys were impatient for the good thing to happen now. They would have settled for swimming at the Y when we had something much, much better planned for them.

    And here I am getting worked up, just like an over eager seven-year-old, because my writing path hasn’t gone where I thought it would. I want to be at the destination now, but what if God has something even better planned for me?

    Kory and I had so much fun keeping our wonderful secret, but, of course, we didn’t enjoy our children’s panic and frustration when we passed by the places they thought we should go. Luckily, they listened when we told them to trust us and wait for the treat that was coming.

    Can I do the same? Trust and wait. Yes, on a good day. On a bad day, I still ask, “Why isn’t this good enough?” Silly Evangeline. Don’t settle for the neighborhood pool when you could go all the way to the amusement park.

    Saturday, July 18, 2009

    How to Behave in a Coffee Shop WITHOUT WiFi

    Should you--do to some unforeseen, catastrophic event--find yourself in a coffee shop without WiFi, there are a few steps to take in order to preserve sanity and, indeed, even life.

    1. Take a deep breath. Realize that life is full of these little trials and navigating them builds character.
    2. Go ahead and order a double shot of espresso. The stimulant will take the edge off your panic attack.
    3. In a casual voice, ask the barista if the bagel shop next door has WiFi you can access. Note: Do not scream hysterically at the person behind the counter as this leads to spilled coffee, frightened whimpering, and, in the case of more proactive baristas, expulsion from the premises.

    Once you’ve gotten your coffee, find a seat. And here’s an unexpected benefit: you don’t have to fight anyone for the table near the outlet. See, there can even be a positive side to this situation.

    Go ahead and check your mobile device at this point, just to reassure yourself that the Internet has not vanished even though you find yourself in this backward, wireless-handicapped place.

    Once you’ve stowed your Blackberry or Smartphone, you may develop a moderately severe condition known as “What do I do with my Hands? Syndrome.” Relax! It’s temporary.

    In the absence of a keyboard to keep your fingers busy, you can:

    1. Fold your hands in your lap.
    2. Wrap them around your coffee cup.
    3. Wave casually to other stranded caffeine addicts.

    Do not, under any circumstances, pick something. This includes your nose, your wedgie, and the fake flower petals at your table.

    When you’ve finished your coffee, grab your unopened laptop bag, exit the shop, and continue with your day, confident in the fact that you have overcome one of the foremost obstacles in the path of Internet dependence, the Medieval Coffee Shop.

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    Chicken Fingers and Romance

    Today I happened to drive by the church where Kory and I got married. I pointed it out to the boys, which got them wondering about Mommy and Daddy’s wedding. They insisted on watching our wedding video and then couldn’t understand why they were nowhere to be seen in it.

    We laughed and explained that they didn’t show up until a few years later. But apparently the seeds of romance finally cracked Monkey’s girls-are-yucky shell. We went out for dinner, and who should happen to sit in the booth next to us, but a certain cutie pie classmate of Monkey’s.

    The two chattered happily over the back of the booth, but soon I noticed Monkey slouching back into his seat, randomly hiding his eyes or his forehead or his cheeks, and wearing a decidedly goofy grin.

    Soon he whispered the reason for his agitation. “I want to ask her to marry me, but I don’t know how to do it.”

    Kory and I grinned to each other then explained that maybe, instead of proposing matrimony, Monkey could simply ask his friend over for a playdate.

    But the heart will do what the heart will do. Monkey shuffled through the napkins, sweetener packets, and silverware on the table until he found the complimentary crayons that came with his kids’ menu. Then he smoothed out the strip of paper that had secured the napkin around the silverware and began to write.

    Like a caricature of a lovesick poet, he crumpled his first attempt and tossed it aside. He started over with another scrap of paper and this time, he managed to convey his crucial message.

    He passed this compelling note over the back of the seat and was favored with a shy smile from his beloved.

    I’m sorry to say, this story has a sad ending. The lady in question turned him down. We explained to our moping son that he should wait until he’s grown up and then perhaps try again. He promptly pounced over the seat and proposed again with the “grown-up” proviso clearly stated.

    Alas, shut down once again.

    He collapsed back into his seat. His dejected little face made my heart squeeze. I searched for words to console my seven-year-old, but as it turns out, the stages of rebound are considerably shorter for an elementary kid.

    He stuck his lower lip out. “I really wanted her to marry me.”

    He sighed and crossed his arms. “Now what am I gonna do?”

    His brows lifted and his eyes widened. “Hey, I could find another girl!”

    And there you have it, the age old truth from a seven-year-old. There are other fish in the sea.

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    Accidents Happen. Or Do They?

    My boys have a hard time understanding that accidents happen. For spilled milk and missed turns, they demand a reason.

    I have a theory on this. I’m sure you’re familiar with that automatic “It wasn’t my fault” reaction when

    • Something gets broken
    • Someone gets broken
    • Something nasty ends up someplace it doesn’t belong

    A child, particularly a boy child, learns to say “Was an ackydent, Mommy” about the same time he learns basic cause and effect principles. Like, if I pull on the table cloth, everything on the table comes crashing down on Mommy’s newly cleaned floor. Or, if I whack my brother with a toy hammer, he cries.

    “Accident” to a little boy means, “I did it, but I don’t want to get in trouble.”

    This is why, last week, my boys had trouble understanding when we explained that our family doctor had a hiking accident and broke his kneecap. We stated that we needed to pray for Dr. Vogt to get better, and Chunky quickly agreed. “I’ll pray for Dr. Vogt.”

    But when it came to bedtime prayers, we found ourselves explaining once again.

    Me: Dr. Vogt fell and broke his knee.
    Monkey: Why?
    Kory: Maybe he slipped or tripped.
    Monkey: Why?
    Kory: We don’t know. It was an accident.
    Monkey: Maybe somebody pushed him.

    Let me take a time-out to say that Dr. Vogt is in the running for Man of the Year every year. It’s hard to imagine a kinder person. I’ve called him after hours, panicked about Chunky’s Croup. He’s helped Monkey with his fear of shots by screaming right along with him. Just a few weeks ago, he and his wife visited Mom in the hospital, not just in a medical capacity, but as friends.

    So my response to Monkey went something like this: No one on the face of the earth would ever push Dr. Vogt!!

    Chunky pipes up: Maybe it was a raccoon.

    Then, in Chunky’s typical creative style, he improvised a story about a “bad, mean raccoon” who climbed out of his tree, snuck up behind Dr. Vogt, and pushed him over a cliff!

    Since then, Chunky has added a raccoon hero to the tale. Apparently, this masked, vigilante coon is even now, scouring the foothills for Dr. Vogt’s attacker. Rest easy, citizen hikers. Super Raccoon is on the job!

    We all got a chuckle out of Chunky’s version of the accident, and we’re very thankful that our favorite doctor is on the mend.

    Here’s a picture of him smiling after he hiked back down the mountain with his broken knee.

    Friday, June 26, 2009

    Love at First Scrape

    Since no one was asking, I thought I’d share the story of how Kory and I got together.

    It was January of 1997. I’d finally closed the book on what we’ll call The Neverending Breakup. You know that story? One minute you’re skipping school to read a book and the next thing you know, you’ve been in a dysfunctional relationship for three years, flown on a weird puppy dog beast, and sought advice from a really old turtle. The end is bewildering, and the only thing you can do is hope there won’t be a sequel.

    Anyhoo. A friend had been bugging me to go to her college group, so I finally agreed. A day or two before the meeting, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and opened my bedroom door smack into my face. Those of you who know me know that I really am that clumsy.

    An impressive bruisy/scrapey thing resulted. But I went to college group anyway. After all, the Official Rebound Rules prohibited me from even considering checking guys out. Being eighteen, I broke the rules and met a very skinny guy named Kory. I thought to myself, “I could never marry a man that skinny. I’d feel fat the rest of my life.” Dang it!

    While I was pondering Kory’s excessive skinnitude, he was thinking, “Wow. This girl must have a great personality if she’s secure enough to go out looking like that.”

    Yes indeed folks, sometimes the old “great personality” line actually applies.

    A week later (my face looked considerably better) we had our first date. I dragged my girlfriend along because, well, we women enjoy sending mixed signals. The college group was going to a club in Denver that played swing music, so the three of us--Kory, me, and my security blanket--drove up together.

    Kory bravely tried to dance with me. I led. It was embarrassing.

    On the way home, I leaned forward in between the seats of my friend’s little car and chatted. Somehow, I fell asleep that way, and Kory witnessed my secret superpower—the ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, in any position. Someday I’ll save the world with a power nap.

    I must not have drooled too much because he asked me out again.

    I knew it was love from the get go and set about fattening him up. Once I’d gotten him to a healthy weight, I sat back and waited for a proposal. But apparently we’d forgotten to sync our dating watches.

    Finally, light dawned for Kory. One Saturday, while he worked in the university lab with another engineering student, an approximation of the following conversation took place:

    Kory: So, my girlfriend is at some bridal expo thing today.
    Other Guy: Silence
    Kory: What do you think that means?
    Other Guy: Dude, you’re getting married.
    Kory: Really?
    Other Guy: Yeah.

    Being a very cautious, analytical person, Kory mulled this conversation over for possible hidden meanings. Eventually he concluded that Other Guy was right, and on a beautiful summer day, he proposed to me on one of the many large rocks in our Rocky Mountains. Don't ask me which one.

    We’ve been married ten years this year. Not a bad testimony to the seldom-credited feminine wile of clumsiness.

    Anyone else out there catch your man in less-than-mainstream style? Or do you have a funny dating story to share? We all love a good old “meet cute” (or in my case, "meet ugly.") Do tell!

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Paper Pants

    Some of you know that last Sunday night, my mom was admitted to the hospital with three severe infections. After nearly a week, she is home and doing much better. Now that the worry is abating and life is returning to what we call “normal,” it’s time to laugh about Mom’s hospital adventures.

    Sunday night Mom was in really bad shape, as you might’ve guessed. She could barely take two steps without having to sit down or pass out. Climbing the stairs from her basement apartment took an enormous effort, but when we finally got her into the car, it took less than five minutes to get to the hospital.

    I parked in front of the ER and flagged a scrub-clad guy with a wheel chair. I told him Mom was near fainting, but when he came to help her out of the van, her comment was, “Why are these guys always so cute?”

    I was in no mood to notice, and apparently the personality pepper shaker passed over this guy. He didn’t laugh.

    We got Mom into the hospital and then into a triage room. Very soon they determined to admit her, so I was sent home to get the breathing machine she uses at night.

    When I returned, Mom’s little room was full. I stood on the edge, but Mom told me, “Come on in. I’m in a room full of beautiful men.” I guess it was true. The guy doing the ultrasound of her leg obviously made time for the gym. But there in the corner, fumbling with a needle and a couple vials, was Mr. Personality.

    Mom—despite looking like death in a casserole dish—joked with Big Biceps Man. But judging from Mr. Personality’s aloof expression and overly-gelled hair, he was too cool to even consider a pleasant bedside manner.

    The ultra sound tech left, and Mom and I were stuck with Mr. Personality, who poked Mom’s arm and grimaced for probably fifteen minutes. Mom made jokes about being a vampire’s worst nightmare. Finally, he managed to get a vein and famine turned into feast. (Gross, I know.)

    He left Mom’s room, swaggered over to the nurse’s station and said, “Oh, yeah. I got it.” I scooted around to the side he’d been on and discovered a few drops of blood on the floor. I told Mom it was slasher-film-gruesome, and we laughed about her being such a “hard stick.”

    After awhile, Mr. Personality reappeared, and I moved out of the way. It took me a few minutes to realize what was different about him but when I finally did, I had to hold back my laughter. He was wearing paper pants.

    Now I know this must be a safety precaution. Obviously a little blood got on him, and he had to switch out his scrub bottoms for some spares. But here was this young guy with a robust ego standing around in paper pants. It was hilarious.

    I guess, if there’s a moral to this story, it’s this: You never know when you might look ridiculous. I’ve had my share of baby-decorated clothing, miscalculations with doors, walls, curbs, and let’s not even get into the stupid things I’ve said in front of people. You can’t take yourself too seriously, and if you happen to be wearing paper pants, you can be sure that no one else takes you seriously either.

    Friday, June 12, 2009


    I had trouble coming up with a blog topic this week. I mentioned my brain dead condition on Facebook, and one of my especially helpful readers offered some suggestions. Rather than pick just one, I thought I’d give you my useless thoughts on all of her clever ideas.

    So here are my topics courtesy of The Perky Pessimist.

    chocolate. your car. limed government. antidisestablishmentarianism. cartoons. other bloggers. potato salad. gardening. music. sculpture. the czech republic. body hair. consipiracy theories. area 51. insects. the american revolution. stuffed animals. hyperboles. superbowls. kitchen gadgets. home improvement. coming to my swap party.

    Here goes.

    Chocolate: I’m on a diet, so the only chocolate I can have is the 85% cocoa that takes just like baking chocolate. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m desperate enough to eat that, too.

    Your car: Home to soured juice boxes, petrified nuggets, about a dozen hats, countless Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons, crumbs as multiple as beach sand, and a mysterious, yellowish stain.

    Limed government: This sounds like a great name for a cocktail.

    Antidisestablishmentarianism: I actually used the word antidisestablishmentarian in the first chapter of my novel, Brandy and The Vine. I know what you’re thinking, that I’m an overgrown teacher’s pet. But the word fit the character of Brandy, who did not want to be anything like her hippie grandparents.

    Cartoons: Did you know there’s a Super Mario Brothers cartoon? It’s stupid.

    Other bloggers: Probably don’t waste your time on stream-of-consciousness entries.

    Potato salad: Is Amish potato salad made by Amish people or made out of Amish potatoes?

    Gardening: I don’t like to be outside.

    Music: I make soundtracks for the novels I write. My current one features a lot of Dido. Also, not that it matters, but David Gray’s music turns me on.

    Sculpture: I can make an awesome Play-do worm.

    The Czech Republic: Also mentioned in Brandy and The Vine.

    Body hair: One of the many things I don’t like about summer is shaving my legs every day. I inherited my dad’s prolific follicles, but at least they’re not sprouting from my ears, or my nose, or my back, or my chest.

    Conspiracy theories: The government is watching me through my Blackberry.

    Area 51: A cover-up for Area 52.

    Insects: Monkey and Chunky ate them at The San Diego Zoo.

    The American Revolution: Freed us from British rule as well as their unimaginative culinary skills.

    Stuffed animals: Chunky’s favorite is Goobert.

    Hyperboles: I cannot believe that I had to look this up even though I majored in English! Isn’t that insane!?!

    Superbowls: I hate football.

    Kitchen gadgets: The boys think my salad spinner is the coolest thing ever. I’m constantly finding it around the house, loaded with Matchbox cars, Legos, underwear.

    Home improvement: These words in any way connected with me will send my husband into uncontrollable laughter. I’m not handy.

    Coming to my swap party: Now I understand that I can bring clothes or scarves or jewelry that I don’t wear or household items I no longer need. But can I swap my children?

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    Summer Fun?

    Summer is here. Are there any other moms out there who feel like Princess Leia, chained to a demanding couch potato and forced to either entertain him or be eaten? Show of hands?

    I feel like I’m alone in my humiliating role as “the entertainment.” Surely the rest of you have this figured out. Yes, we’re enrolling in the library’s summer reading program. Yes, I’ve ransacked my brain for creative things to do besides sit around the house. But is it too much to ask that they do a little thinking of their own?

    When I was little, I didn’t dare tell my mom I was bored. I knew what she would say. “Bored people are either stupid, selfish, or lazy.” Then she'd give me a choice of what chore I wanted to do. Why does this not work on my kids?

    Oh right, because—like Jabba the Hut—they’re convinced they’re the center of the universe. (Actually, Jabba probably was the center of gravity on Tatooine.) Folks, I promise I am chiseling away at their massive egos. But I don't think even Michaelangelo could carve those blocks of marble overnight.

    Now we all know how Jabba ended up. Well, at least those of us with little boys or husbands or brothers know. If you are, by chance, a nun, raised in an all girl family, I’ll give you the low-down. Luke comes to rescue his sis, Leia—who is disturbingly dressed in a metal bikini—tension ensues, Han gets melted (but you don’t really need to know that part), Jabba decides to throw Luke and newly-thawed Han in the pit/mouth of some creature, Luke has other plans, there’s a fight, and Leia (still in tiny bikini) chokes Jabba with the chain he imprisoned her with.

    Do you see why I’m alarmed?

    Number One: I don’t want to get so fed up with my forced role of Summer Fun Director that I turn on my kids.

    Number Two: I would look really bad in a metal bikini.

    These are heavy concerns. My husband and I have discussed solutions for both problems, most of which involve duct tape. But as we are still out-of-work, we simply cannot afford the quantity of duct tape required to produce the desired results.

    So what am I going to do with my little Jabbas?


    Turn the backyard into a mud pit. Throw them out every morning. Hose them off before bed.

    Empty the playroom. Give them finger paint. Shut the door.

    Play hide-and-seek where they are always IT and mommy is ALWAYS HIDING.

    Watch Star Wars movies until they can quote every scene perfectly. Wait, we already did that.

    It’s gonna be a long two months.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Chinese Neck Massage of Death

    I’ve been dizzy for five days now. Since I’m not blonde, I find this sensation troubling. I haven’t got a clue what’s causing it. The only other symptom I have is a very stiff and sore neck.

    Those of you who’ve been with me for awhile know that I’ve had problems with my neck in the past. For my misadventures in the foggy land of prescription pills, read "Muscle Relaxer Hangover."

    With no relief from the prescribed vertigo medication, I decided to resort to alternative medicine. Actually, my mom sternly informed me that she was taking me to her “Chinese friends” for a massage.

    Mom discovered her “Chinese friends” a year or so ago. In a strip mall on a busy Colorado Springs street, there is a sign that reads simply “Massage.” Next to this incredibly informative sign is a large, neon green foot. How self-explanatory can you get?

    Actually, behind this store front there exist several wonderful people, who will, for a fee, plunk your feet in a steaming bucket of mysterious tea. Once you’re thoroughly steeped, they perform magic on your legs and feet so that when you’re done, you resemble not so much a person as a pile of pudding.

    And they don’t just do feet. Today I had a chair massage from our very nice friend, David. When I told David that the doctor recommended gentle massage for my neck, he must have been pondering the unknowable intricacies of his craft or perhaps wondering if his lunch would grow cold before he returned to it. Whatever the case, the term “gentle” failed to successfully traverse the air between my mouth and his ear.

    After a few preliminary pokes, David placed his fingers at the bottom of my skull and, with indescribable pressure, pushed upward. I was sure he would separate my head from my neck. I told him so.

    He replied, “Don’t worry. We have insurance for that.”

    I laughed nervously.

    He said, “We have insurance for all kinds of crazy things.”

    Was that supposed to make me feel better?

    To change the subject from my probable decapitation, I told David I’d been dizzy. Immediately, he located and probed a very tender spot on my neck. I protested. Loudly. He suggested the possibility of a pinched nerve.

    Being less than intelligent, I asked what he recommended for a pinched nerve. I should have kept my mouth shut.

    He mumbled something. I could tell he and the woman brewing Mom’s feet were puzzling over the proper term for my “therapy.”

    “Press?” He muttered to her.

    “Pump?” She replied.

    “Beat!” He exclaimed. “Yes. Beat!”

    “You’re going to beat me?” I whimpered.

    “Yes.” He sounded so pleased. “Chinese people beat their bodies for ten minutes every day. It make their bodies strong.”

    While not prepared to argue the veracity of this statement, I had no intention of finding out for myself if he was, indeed, correct. David continued with his “gentle” torture while I tried not to whine like a giant baby.

    As I bit my lip to keep from hollering, a profound truth penetrated my fuzzy brain. All of these professionals, from massage to physical to occupational therapists, operate under the principle that if they hurt you severely, when they finally stop, you will undoubtedly say, “I feel better.”

    How could you not? Relief is inevitable the instant they stop touching you.

    And should your head happen to disconnect from your body, there is no need to panic. They have insurance for that.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Study Tips from Case and Evangeline

    I’m excited! My brother and sister-in-law are coming for a long overdue visit. I almost don’t mind cleaning the house. I’m that excited.

    As a way of sharing my happiness with all my Internet friends, I thought I’d tell you one of my favorite stories about my brother and I. I know you’re thinking I’m going to make your hair stand on end with a wild tale of childhood pyrotechnics or pet baptism.

    Sorry. My brother and I were good kids. And he was a good teenager. We never got in fights or played pranks on each other. So this story involves an activity that all well-behaved, nerdy kids are familiar with. Studying.

    My brother, Case, and I had the same major and went to the same college. We ended up in class together on more than one occasion, which caused embarrassment for me. You see, professors tended to dote on Case, delightedly calling upon him to read Hamlet’s soliloquies, offer his exalted opinion on Beowulf, or share his most recent ground-breaking thesis with the class.

    When a professor would discover that I was Case Tompkins’ little sister, they’d turn to me with an “Are you brilliant, too?” question in their eyes. The best I could offer was a “No, but I do my homework” grimace in return.

    Toward the end of our undergrad years, Case and I landed in "History of the English Language"—arguably the hardest course in the English major. We’re talking impeccable grammar requirements, all the name and date memorization of a history class, and some scientific facts thrown in just to torment creative types like me.

    The professor was amazing. We loved him. But nobody would call his tests easy. So one afternoon, while struggling to memorize yet another block of information, Case and I came up with a different study method.

    We hauled out a couple of old t-shirts and some permanent markers. We then wrote our notes all over the shirts. We had a great time, and by the end of our project, we really felt we knew the material.

    That didn’t stop us from wearing our shirts on test day. We walked into class and sat down. No, not side-by-side. This isn’t a Dick and Jane book. Pretty soon our classmates leaned in to get a better look and started laughing.

    Case causally threw out, “Five bucks and you can sit next to me.” I piped up. “Ten bucks to sit next to me cuz you can actually read my handwriting.” The class was still tittering when the professor walked in. After a moment, he too squinted at our textbook shirts and then let out a whoop of laughter.

    We did have to remove our shirts before taking the test (yes, you gutter minds, we had shirts on underneath), but we both got A’s. When the course was over, we bequeathed our “study notes” to the professor. I wouldn’t be surprised if he loaned them out to overwhelmed students who took the class after us.

    Yes, folks, that’s what geeks do for fun. I doubt Case and I will need to cram for any tests while he and Eden are visiting, but you never know. Maybe I’ll whip out a ratty t-shirt and see if he’ll brainstorm plot ideas with me.

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Maxi Dress or MuuMuu? You Decide

    I noticed the Maxi dress trend last summer. Maybe the long, flowing sundresses were around before, but my fashion awareness went down a notch with each child I bore, leaving me not so much oblivious as simply late.

    Anyhoo, I liked the idea of a long summer dress. I’ve always liked dresses, except for during that stint working for They Who Must Not Be Named where I was required to wear dresses and nylons every day. Can I just mention here that I’m pretty sure nylons are the handiwork of the devil?

    I got excited about the Maxi dress because this dress, unlike most sundresses, would cover my ankles. Specifically my right ankle, which looks like an about-to-burst water balloon.

    For reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, I did not buy, or even try on, a maxi dress last summer. And so it is that my first Maxi Dress Encounter occurred a few weeks ago when I was out shopping for Easter clothes for my boys.

    A brief rant: Why don’t the stores carry anything cute for boys around Easter? I had the hardest time even finding an interesting button-down shirt that wasn’t boring old blue oxford cloth. Hello! Moms of boys want to buy cute clothes too. Turns out, I needn’t have bothered. It snowed soggy cotton balls all day on Easter Sunday.

    Back to the Maxi dress: Chunky and I had already hit the boys’ section of the department store, and I felt it couldn’t hurt to swing through the ladies’ area. Despite the fact that winter lasts till May here in Colorado, the store already had an optimistic selection of summer wear on display. And there, on the rack, was a flirty, Bohemian-style Maxi dress.

    Chunky agreed that Mommy should try on the pretty dress (after I promised to visit the toy section later.) In the changing room, I slipped the long dress over my t-shirt and jeans. Chunky, who is prone to flattery, said “It looks bewful, Mommy. You should buy it.”

    While I hate to dampen any form of shopping enthusiasm in a male, especially a young and impressionable one with such potential to be molded into the perfect, indulgent future husband, I had to disagree.

    What I saw in the mirror was not myself in a slimming, graceful ankle-length dress, but rather, me in a floral tent. And then I knew that, like so many things that claim to be flattering to curvy girls like me (ie., stretch pants), the Maxi dress is really an imposter.

    Designed for skinny girls who don’t have to hide their sausage ankles, the Maxi dress can still accommodate those of us who are more substantial. But the truth is, in its expanded form, it closely resembles its ugly cousin, the MuuMuu.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Top Ten Things to Enjoy when your Husband is Laid-Off

    In case you missed the Twitter announcement, my husband was unexpectedly laid-off last week. While this is absolutely no fun for a shoe-addicted, mocha-guzzling, Amazon-ordering Stay At Home Mom like me, I know of some families who have experienced far, far worse recently. I can't help but think of myself as fortunate.

    So, here's my little twist on our current less-than-splendid situation.

    Top Ten Things to Enjoy when your Husband is Laid-Off

    10. Rediscovering good movies in your own DVD library. (Fun with Dick and Jane currently tops our list.)
    9. An extra driver for kid pick-up and delivery duty.
    8. Cultivating your inner frugal chef ("Would anyone like some more Herbert?" In case you missed the post, Herbert is the name we gave to the butchered cow who now resides in our freezer.)
    7. Skipped calories from forgoing expensive Starbucks drinks.
    6. An ever-ready, appreciative audience (Dad) for boys’ burps, farts, wrestling and other manly pursuits.
    5. Hubby is never late for dinner. ("How did you cook Herbert tonight, Honey?")
    4. Already bought all four books in the Twilight series. (Phew! Now that would have been a hardship.)
    3. A rock-solid reason for sending door-to-door salespeople packing.
    2. Incredible support of friends and family.

    And the Number One thing to enjoy while your husband is laid-off . . .

    An extra 2.5 kisses a day!

    Sunday, April 5, 2009

    Wii Are Not Fit

    I’ve long suspected that those awful weight charts littering medical offices are developed by twiggy dieticians who actually think their low-fat nutrition regimes are responsible for their teeny figures and not the fact that they won the genetic lottery. If you are one of those people, please be advised that I will consider your sanity on a case by case basis. I happen to know at least one nice registered dietician. Yes, she’s an infuriating size 1, but it’s not her fault, and she never claims that her eating habits are responsible for her body type.

    Perhaps you’re wondering what brought on this rant. Or, if you happen to be my husband, you’re just saying, “Here we go again.”

    The other day, my mother brought home a Wii. The thing was an immediate hit. We all loved bowling, golfing, and such because, unlike in real life, we’re actually good at it on Wii.

    But when we broke out the Wii Fit program, things got a little ugly. In order to use the various training opportunities, you must first go through the horrific and painful Body Test. You enter your age and height, indicate that you’re wearing extra heavy clothes, then step on the balance board. A tiny automated voice groans when your foot makes contact. That same voice then squeaks “measuring.”

    After the measuring, your Wii Fit will tell you where you fall on a scale from amoeba to elephant. Then, to add insult to injury, after a few bogus balance tests, the helpful gadget will give you your Wii Fit Age. I knew when my seven-year-old, beanpole son came up as 27 that I was in trouble.

    But here’s my protest. I think all this should be relative. The Wii asks me how much my clothes weigh and BELIEVES me when I tell it I’m wearing a parka instead of my shorts and t-shirt. So why doesn’t it ask me what my stress level is? How often I exercise. If I’ve had children. (Yes, I’ve had five, thank you very much.) And if I’ve won the genetic lottery or am, in fact, descended--not from gorillas--but hippopotamuses.

    We know all the above factors affect weight, so why are they not calculated?

    It should go something like this. Say my actual weight is 150 pounds. Wii Fit asks me what I’m wearing and I say, a hazmat suit. It subtracts, what, 10 pounds? (150-10=140) Next Wii Fit asks if I’m stressed. Why yes, I am. So Wii Fit subtracts five pounds for water weight and such related to being stressed and having eaten half a bag of potato chips purely because I needed to unwind. (140-5=135)

    Next Wii asks me if I exercise. Of course I do. It never seems to help, but Wii Fit gives me points for trying. Another five pounds. (135-5=130) When Wii Fit asks if I’ve had children and I say 5, the little squeaky voice says, “Oh my goodness!” and takes 20 pounds away. (130-20=110) Finally, when I reveal that my ancestors didn’t swing from trees, but lumbered around in muddy rivers, the Wii Fit takes 10 pounds from my actual weight because they shouldn’t count. It’s genetic. (110-10=100)

    There you have it, folks. My actual weight minus all those crappy, unavoidable factors like leftover baby weight and genetic blubber. 100 pounds! And since, according to Wii, I have the balance of a 44-year-old, I’d say I actually need to put on some pounds. I should definitely increase my ice cream consumption. It’s never too early to start worrying about osteoporosis, especially for someone with my tiny stature.

    Friday, March 27, 2009


    It’s fascinating to discover how your kids are like you, how they are like your husband, and how they are like the alien species populating your favorite sci-fi novels. That last category is useful to consider before screeching questions like, “On what planet would it be okay for you to PAINT your brother with peanut butter?”

    But unusual artistic endeavors aside, it really is fun watching physical characteristics, habits, and personality traits surface.

    My oldest, Monkey, has his dad’s math/science brain, adoration of logic, and musical talent. But he loves to hold his hand up to mine and say, “Look, Mom, we have the same fingers!”

    With his olive skin and dark hair, he looks much more like me than we expected he would when he arrived with vivid blue eyes. Those eyes have since turned an untraceable green. That’s probably the alien in him.

    Chunky, on the other hand, looks just like his daddy, but has a few more of my personality traits. Love of story pervades his little life, and it’s rare to pass five minutes without Chunky explaining that he is an astronaut cat on a dangerous mission, or his dinosaur must rescue a baby from a volcano, or the living room is a mess because it was hit by a meteor.

    He’s also inherited some of my domestic instincts, so I wasn’t surprised yesterday when he came to me and said, “Mommy, we need to bake cookies because it’s snowing outside.” I often feel the urge to bake when it snows, so I agreed.

    We had a gingerbread cookie mix, but we didn’t have any frosting. So I convinced him to make gingersnaps instead of gingerbread men. But rolling and flattening dough balls wasn’t creative enough for Chunky’s imaginative soul.

    And so, he made "gingersnakes." He happily rolled the dough into dumpy, worm-like shapes and plopped them onto the baking sheet. That’s when I started giggling. I called Kory into the kitchen because I couldn’t share the joke with my innocent (at least at this moment) four-year-old.

    Here is what had Kory and me in fits of laughter.

    If, like me, you’ve had more experience with diapers and potty training than any one person really needs, you’ll probably see the similarity my husband and I saw. Needless to say, we weren’t too keen on eating Chunky’s "gingersnakes." We cheerfully told him those were his, and he could eat them . . . all.