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    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Birds, Bees, and Baby Squirrels

    On our last trip to the orthodontist, Chunky accompanied his brother and me back to the large, open exam room where patients wait in snazzy recliners for their monthly combo of metal and rubber bands.

    While Monkey fidgeted in his chair, Chunky looked out the wall of windows. He pointed toward a couple of pine trees near a fence. “Mommy, look. I see two squirrels playing.”

    I smiled and said, “I bet it’s a mommy and a daddy squirrel.”

    Chunky’s eyes got big and he nodded. “I think it is a mommy and daddy squirrel because I saw them kissing on the lips.”

    Without thinking, I said, “Oh, it’s spring time. Soon there’ll be baby squirrels.”

    Later that afternoon, I performed my own little spring ritual of lying on the couch with watery eyes closed, desperately trying to escape the misery of my allergy-afflicted sinuses for a few minutes. Chunky arrived on the scene with a whump to my stomach. I knew my attempt at a nap was over but resolutely kept my eyes squeezed shut. Chunky declared, “I love you, Mommy!” and deployed Operation Attack Kiss.

    I know families deal with kissing differently, but in ours, the rule is, only Daddy gets to kiss Mommy’s lips. That’s why I jumped when Chunky planted a smacker on my mouth. I gave him the sort of half-hearted reprimand one gives cheeky little boys.

    His Adorable Innocence responded, “But Mommy, I had to kiss your mouth so you’ll have another baby.”


    “Sweetie, that only works with Mommies and Daddies.”

    “Oh, well, when Daddy comes home I want you to kiss him on the mouth so you can have another baby.”

    Deploy Evasive Maneuver #312: “But why would I want another baby when I have you?”

    “I’m not a baby anymore.”

    Evasive Maneuver #457: “That’s right, you’re a super fun six-year-old.”

    “But I want a brother.”

    “You already have a brother.”

    Chunky wasn’t having any of it. He kept arguing the merits of lip-kissing and baby brothers until I was out of tricks. Finally, genius struck. I looked him in the eye.

    “You know it might not be a baby brother. It might be a baby sister.”

    Disgusted silence. Then, “Well, she’d have to sleep in the guest room because our room is full.”

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Contest Winner and Some Blog Changes

    Just a quick post today to let you all know that Renee won the Saint Patrick’s Day drawing for a copy of The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari. Renee, if you didn’t see my comment on your blog, please email your address to evangelinedenmark at msn dot com. By the way, Renee has mad cake decorating skills. Check out this gorgeous cake she made for a baby shower. If I’d been invited, I would’ve brandished a pair of deadly plastic forks and prevented hungry and misguided guests from destroying/eating her art. Perhaps this is why no one invites me to parties anymore.

    I also wanted to let you all know that I hope to bring some changes to Breathe In Breathe Out. In an effort to post more often, I plan to incorporate stream of consciousness writing and random selections from the phone book.

    Or, if it turns out that Abe Aarnt and Adele Abercrombie don’t want me to post their phone numbers on my blog, I may dig a little deeper for quality content. I’ll still be posting mom humor because, frankly, I need to in order to stay sane. But I’d also like to explore my passion for supernatural stories.

    My friend, Sarah Sawyer, does an awesome job of exploring fantasy elements on her blog. I admire her for her scholarship, elegant writing, and treatment of spiritual themes within the fantasy genre. While I know I don’t have Sarah’s style or skill, I’d like to follow her example and be part of the discussion in my own superficial, romance-junkie way.

    I’d also like to bring more book reviews to the blog. One of the first questions I ask my girlfriends when we get together is, “What are you reading?” I don’t expect a book report, I just want a quick recommendation on where I should spend my limited reading time and even more limited brain power.

    So far, I have no official plan for implementing my proposed changes. I know some folks would take a Monday/Wednesday/Friday approach, assigning a specific topic to each day. But that’s not how I roll. We’ll just do this Forrest Gump style and chew on whatever we happen to pull from the box.

    I hope you'll enjoy the selection.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    A Day at the Spa, Or, How I Got That Bruise

    Occasionally, one becomes so psychotic with stress that one’s family demands action be taken. That is why last week I found myself entering a dimly lit room with candles burning, tranquil music playing, and massage table waiting.

    My mom, God bless her, is forever trying to get me to relax using strange and suspicious techniques. She buys me vitamins and gift certificates for massages, facials, and pedicures. I know. I know. She’s up to something.

    Anyway, after being shown into this little cocoon of warm earth tones and Chinese letter art, my matronly massage therapist instructed me to “undress to my comfort level.” She then left, shutting the door behind her.

    I have no comfort level with nudity. I’d prefer to take my showers fully clothed.

    But I gave it the old college try. I removed one or two articles of clothing and quickly slid under the fluffy blanket on the massage table. After awhile, my therapist came back.

    Even from my face down position, I could tell something was wrong. Her Danskos appeared in the blurry oval of my vision and she clucked. “You don’t want your back done, then?”

    Me, out loud: “Yes, I want my back done.” Me, not out loud: My back is the only part of me I want you to touch!

    She gently informed me that I’d failed at basic undressing and suggested ways to rectify the situation. Since she was nice and very non-threatening, I complied.

    To my surprise, even as a near nudie patootie, I was able to relax and enjoy my massage. We talked about Crocs, her vacation plans, and my poor posture.

    Everything was fine until she finished and told me to stay put for my facial.

    She left and I was once again alone in a room, listening to Sounds of Nature for the Small of Bladder.

    Oh, a gentle spring rain.

    Oh, a trickling brook.

    Oh, a thundering waterfall.

    Oh, a tidal wave.

    It became harder and harder to relax.

    But what could I do? Any moment the aesthetician would walk through the door. I was stuck. Naked and uncomfortable. Every moment she didn’t come became a wasted opportunity to bolt out of my cocoon, toss on my clothes, and make a run for the restroom.

    Tick, tick.

    Don’t they usually provide robes?


    Not a robe in sight.

    Tick, tick.

    Ok, now I’ll go.

    No, wait. What if she comes?



    No, no. I can’t risk it.

    Tick, tick.

    Finally I could wait no longer. I decided a Shock and Awe approach was my best bet. I tossed away the blanket and tumbled off the table, completely forgetting my well-oiled feet. The following spectacle involved one or two squeals, a crash, some mild bruising, and way too much exposed skin.

    Too traumatized to slow down, and convinced that any moment alarmed staff would arrive on scene, I pulled on my jeans and top, skipping certain items supportive in nature. I tiptoed out to the lobby and asked for the restroom in a hushed and appropriate, only slightly desperate tone.

    The attendant, who looked like a bouncer, informed me the restrooms were outside the salon in the lobby of the building. As I jiggled my way to the door, I heard him mutter, “We’re not offering that one any water.”

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Leprechaun Traps and Book Drawing

    Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. I love the story of Saint Patrick. So much so, in fact, that Chunky’s middle name is Padraig, the Gaelic version of Patrick. More on that later.

    Of course everyone’s familiar with the tale, but if you’re interested in a good fictional account of Patrick’s life, I recommend Stephen Lawhead’s Patrick: Son of Ireland. Or, this informative short (9 minutes) from Big Idea.

    I have to admit, whenever I use a metaphor in my writing, I find myself mumbling, “Oh great metaphor” in a cheesy Irish accent.

    So we always celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in some form or another. We’ve tried attending parades but Monkey is very sensitive to strong odors and loudly objects to the horses and a few of the bagpipers. I usually make corned beef and cabbage or Guinness stew, which Monkey also loudly objects to.

    For several years I tried to make Irish soda bread, but I’ve only ever managed to make Irish soda rocks. This year my brother is in town, and since he’s an accomplished baker, he’ll be the one cutting an X on the dough to let the fairies escape.

    Speaking of fairies, my six-year-old constructed a leprechaun trap out of a cardboard box, wrapping paper tube, and popsicle sticks. This required the poor kid to eat five or six popsicles in a row. I’m not sure how he survived the brain freeze.

    If you follow this blog, you know about our recent Epic Tooth Fairy Fail. I’m worried we’re headed for the Great Leprechaun Disappointment. So worried, in fact, that I tried to convince my husband to let me buy a hamster to put in the leprechaun trap. I planned to tell Chunky the legend of Binky the Leprechaun, a rather jumpy member of the wee folk, who turns into a hamster when startled.

    Being sane, my husband gently discouraged my scheme. So I found this instead.

    I’m going to leave it in the trap with a note from the “real” leprechaun. I just hope this doesn’t lead to a new tradition of yet another benevolent fairytale creature funded by Mom and Dad’s savings account. But if it does, at least we’ll make some fun memories along the way to bankruptcy.

    I’m curious. Do you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day? How? If you leave me a comment about how you spend your St. Patty’s Days, I’ll put your name in a drawing for The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari. After all, it’s not a coincidence that both my son and the little red dragon are named after Saint Patrick.

    To give you time to party, sober up, and make up a good story, I’ll give you a week to make comments. I’ll do the drawing next Thursday, March 24th.

    Now get your green on!

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Books I Love

    First, an update on Mom: The surgery went well and she is on the right track for recovery—working hard for those meanie physical therapists. Yesterday she moved to the rehab floor at the hospital. We don’t know how long she’ll stay there, but since she’s struggled with a little dizziness when she gets up, her progress has been slowed just a little bit. Thanks for continuing to pray for her! We so appreciate it.

    Now, I thought I’d share some decidedly delicious books I’ve read lately. Reading is definitely stress relief for me, and my first choice of brain candy is a good ol’, toe-tingling romance.

    Kristin Billerbeck has been one of my favorite authors since I discovered her Ashley Stockingdale series. Her latest novel A Billion Reasons Why is a classy, rich read packed with sizzling romantic tension. I could identify with heroine Katie McKenna, who felt she always had to make the safe, “right” choice to make up for past mistakes. When Katie is forced to return to New Orleans, she must deal with the events that caused her to choose her current risk-free life. Top of the list is Luc DeForges, her college boyfriend who broke her heart.

    I love Kristin’s vivid storytelling. A Billion Reasons Why is full of 1940’s flair, and Kristin’s descriptions make you feel like you’re watching a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie in color. Katie’s love of all things retro had me searching the Internet for 40’s style dresses. But even though I can’t help wishing for a little more glamour in my life when I read a Billerbeck novel, I always feel grounded by her characters’ growth throughout the story. She has a knack for gently yet firmly presenting truth. One of the themes of A Billion Reasons Why is that you must be who God created you to be and not who other people tell you to be. I could see my own issues and hang-ups in Katie’s struggle to choose to shine as God made her, and I think many women will feel the same as they read this book. Check it out if you haven’t already!

    My other recent favorite read is Jenny B. Jones’s Save The Date. Jenny’s blog is a thing of beauty, like a free sample at the Russell Stover’s store. Her books are like eating the whole box.

    Jenny’s characters are people you want to know, but at the same time they’re larger than life. You can’t help loving Lucy, the big-hearted heroine who agrees to an engagement of convenience in order to save her home for girls who’ve aged out of the foster care system. But while spunky and sassy are expected in this genre, Lucy isn’t the typical romantic comedy character. She’s a sci-fi nerd for one thing. I loved all the geek references and could totally picture her group of friends, The Hobbits.

    Alex is romantic lead worthy of the best rom-com. I wanted to hate him because he’s an ex-football player and I hate football. But darn that Jenny Jones, she made him lovable. As the story progresses you see behind Alex’s persona and it’s impossible not to root for him. Plus, the pages all but smoke with the romantic tension between Alex and Lucy.

    There are some wonderful secondary characters in Save The Date. Julian. That’s all I’m gonna say. Read the book.

    I hope you’ll pick up these two books. You won’t be sorry, unless, well, unless you’re a guy and then you might be like, “Where are the car chases and exploding buildings?” In which case, you’re reading the wrong blog.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    That's Life, Baby

    Things come easy to my second son. Compared to his ADHD brother, Chunky lives a charmed life. That’s why this last week was so devastating for him. I’m afraid reality invaded his bubble.

    First came what we’re calling the Epic Tooth Fairy Fail. It’s exactly what it sounds like folks. Chunky woke up, ran to check the special tooth pillow we hang on the doorknob and managed to catch the wall at just the wrong place. He went sprawling but picked himself up and limped on, only to discover the Tooth Fairy had forgotten our house.

    After curling into a ball and sobbing on Mom and Dad’s bed, he decided the Tooth Fairy must’ve been out of the country because it was the end of the month. I enthusiastically endorsed this theory.

    You’ll be happy to know, the Tooth Fairy came through on night number two.

    But that wasn’t Chunky’s only brush with disappointment.

    Saturday the boys attended their first Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. We didn’t know what to expect, but since the boys both picked the same design—an army tank—we figured we couldn’t go too far wrong with nearly identical cars.

    Monkey’s tank won every heat and came out the overall winner for his den. Chunky’s car—the exact same design—came in fourth for his den, just missing a chance for a trophy. Oh, the bitter tears.

    We hung around for the finals in which Monkey placed seventh, earning an opportunity to go on to the district finals.

    There’s no logical explanation for why Monkey’s car did so well and Chunky’s didn’t, and that makes it all the harder. We told him all the things you tell your child in this situation.

    “It’s not winning that matters, it’s having fun.”

    “There are lots of other boys who didn’t get a trophy.”

    “We can be happy for your brother and your friends who placed.”

    And Chunky tried. He accepted hugs from his brother and cheered for his friends’ cars in the finals. But all he really wanted to do was huddle in Mommy’s lap.

    I posted about the difficult lesson we were learning on Facebook, and a friend commented that adults struggle with similar emotions.

    I agree. Every time one of my manuscripts is rejected, for no good reason it seems, I want to curl up in a ball and cry. I want to point to some published book and say, “That book isn’t as good as mine. It doesn’t deserve to win!”

    But that doesn’t make the pain go away. In the end, I have to crawl up in my Father’s lap and just wait for the ache to subside.

    The good news for Chunky, and for me, is that we can try again. We can keep building, keep creating, keep racing. We can learn to rejoice with our friends even as they commiserate with our frustration.

    And those of us who remain stubbornly out of touch with reality can tell ourselves, “It’s okay. The Book Contract Fairy is on vacation today. Maybe she’ll come tomorrow.”

    Our family would appreciate your prayers in the following weeks as my mom goes in for hip replacement this Tuesday. I’ll keep you posted on her recovery. Thanks!